Tag Archives: blogging

The Curse of an Empty Head

Two weeks have passed since my last blog post and my head is utterly and completely empty.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – a lot has gone on, and there’s much that needs to be done.  But when it comes to blog ideas – or to any deep thoughts at all, frankly – I’m at a loss.

It’s just that my gray matter has been occupied by the usual nonsense, to wit:

(1)  Taking on more work so that I can earn money to pay bills.  One may think that, now that my house is effectively done and my daughter’s college is almost all paid for (thanks to a Parent Plus loan that will cover not only this summer’s courses but also a bulk of the Fall semester, which will thankfully be her last), I should be swimming in excess cash.  NOT SO.  There was my hospital stay that will need to be paid for somehow (given that my so-called health insurance carries a $6,750 deductible that has to come out of my pocket before they’ll pay for ANYTHING), not to mention the City MD bill (no reduced rate for a follow-up visit during which they basically just sent me to the hospital, evidently). And now my little Munchie needs not only bladder stone surgery (his second, which I expected) but also knee surgery (which I didn’t). There is no insurance (with or without a deductible) for THAT. Every time I think I’m out of the hole, something tosses me back in.

(2)  I wake up every day (usually later than I’d intended, reluctant to emerge from the safe cocoon of my bed, entertained by silly dreams rather than having to face the drudgery of my real life) wondering what new nonsense our ersatz president has gotten up to overnight. I never thought I could hate a public figure as much as I hate that man. I want him DISAPPEARED. I still ravenously read every critique I can; I follow Robert Reich and Keith Olbermann religiously (and Rachel Maddow, who’s been “under the weather” and absent from her namesake show for nearly two weeks and I’m going through withdrawal); and I hope against hope that someone with ability, power and good sense will take the reins of the government away from what Charles Pierce of Esquire has fabulously called the “vulgar talking yam” and MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN.

(3)  I had barely recovered from the Gizmo finger biting infection when, lo and behold, at the Best Friends Adoption Event in NYC this past Saturday, a big jerk of a cat named Buster decided he’d had enough of my affection and bit the hell out of my right hand.  My poor right hand!  I’ve had to learn how to be more ambidextrous over the past month due to the fact that, before now, my left hand has been basically useless.  And I am so paranoid now about infection!  I have been washing and wrapping both bite spots on my hand obsessively, checking for the telltale red streaks up my arm (which have not appeared this time, thank goodness).  I’ve heard from various sources that cat bites are even worse than dog bites, but so far I seem to have dodged a bullet.  The oddest thing about it is, I’ve been bitten by shelter cats before and, for the first few months that he lived with us, Gizmo must have bitten my fingers and hands at least once a day, but there was never any infection.  Someone said it might be that my diabetes has compromised my body’s ability to fight infection, and that brings me to . . .

(4)  My health. Although I haven’t necessarily felt any specific physical effects, my “numbers” (sugars, A1C, thyroid-related hormones, cholesterol, lipids, etc.) have all been lousy over the past few months.  I believe this is directly attributable to the fact that I gained back the 30-plus pounds I lost a couple of years ago, primarily because I can’t seem to stop eating CRAP.  I also haven’t begun my walking regime.  My injured big toe has been to blame for that, although when the nail finally comes off – which the podiatrist said could be any day now – I’ll hopefully be able to begin in earnest.  I finally have a comfy pair of walking sneakers, so that’s no longer an excuse.  If I could just start walking regularly and cut back on my food intake – including a major reduction of CRAP – it would undoubtedly have a positive effect on my blood numbers and my general health and well-being.

But despite all of the above contributing to the empty-headedness that has plagued me for the past couple of weeks (actually, it’s been a lot longer than that, which is part of the reason why my blog has been biweekly lately), I have managed to enjoy some diversions, including going to a local music venue last Friday with my sister to see a few not-very-good bands, although the people-watching alone provided a couple of hours of amusement.  The evening was suggested by my cousin George (of the George and Tony Entertainment Show podcast), whose childhood friend was the drummer for one of the not-very-good bands (in their defense, it was in fact their first gig together), so he and his wife Connie had driven up from their home outside D.C. (eight long, torturous hours for a trip that should not normally take eight hours) for a reunion of old friends and family.  We ended up at a local diner after the show, where we could actually hear each other talk and had some laughs amidst good company and pancakes.  I didn’t get home till 2 a.m.!

Having my kid home has also been fun (if expensive). She’s been decorating her room and it really captures her personality.  It makes me feel like bit of a sluggard because I’ve barely done anything to decorate or even organize the rest of the house and I’ve been back home for over two months.  It is true, though, that in order to do so, I need to replenish the coffers, which hasn’t been easy (see #1 above).

I’m glad that the summer is finally here (although the weather has been anything but summerlike for the past couple of weeks now), most of all because, now that I have PARKING (!!), I can actually go out and have meals with friends, enjoy some live music under the stars (my friend Chris’ CSNY cover band Four-Way Street is playing right nearby in Island Park in July, which should be great, weather permitting) and generally engage in some semblance of a social life.  It’s so liberating not to have to worry about where I’ll be able to park when I get home, at any hour of the day or night.

Hopefully, a few solid days of rest and relaxation, not to mention some power walks, will clear my head enough to allow in some ideas of substance that I can explore in future blog posts.  I also need to broaden my exposure beyond Facebook and watching reality competitions on MTV.  I haven’t read a meaty, thought-provoking book in ages, although I just finished Call Me By Your Name  by André Aciman, a lovely gay coming-of-age novel whose main character I envisioned as my daughter’s former therapist (and mine before hers) and I’m finishing up The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, who I like a lot but whose memoir-light doesn’t provide much food for thought (with the possible exception of a powerful piece about an abusive ex-boyfriend that should be required reading for every young woman).  I also haven’t seen any quality films lately other than Mad Max: Fury Road, which was visually arresting but ultimately kind of bleak.

So I here and now commit, in virtual print, that I will devote this summer to filling up my empty head with beauty and art and deeper thoughts about humanity and the planet to share as they come.

Four Thoughts

Much to my chagrin, my writing lately has been suffering from a few blocks.  One of them is a seeming inability to hold on to a single train of thought for any extended period of time.  I don’t know what the cause is; it’s probably just an excuse that I’m making to myself to explain away my lack of writing.  But I WANT to write, I WANT to get back on the blogging track.  So this week I’m posting a prime example of what I’ve been suffering from:  four separate thought trains that have been running through my mind at various times, but none of which I’ve been able to develop into something larger (nor has something larger appeared in my brain to take over instead).

(1)  I’ve been awash in emails from politicians and organizations that want me to sign petitions or answer survey questions, all of which support the anti-Trump agenda, and I am in total agreement with them – with one exception: MONEY.  I do not have a dime of spare money right now to contribute to a candidate or a cause, and that’s always the last page in the survey or the petition request:  “Can you donate (a) $5 or (b) more?”  (I note there’s never an option for “(c) Sorry, can’t contribute at this time but I’m fully behind you in every OTHER way.”)  Which raises the question:  All that money that goes to support candidates and lobbying efforts – where does it actually go, and what exactly is it used for?  And how does a recipient of all that money account for spending it?  Knowing a little bit about how non-profit organizations work, I am aware that even the smallest grant requires reams of periodic reports to explain where every penny was spent (not to mention the detailed measurement metrics of outcomes and line-item budgets that go into a request for such sometimes measly funds).  Who keeps track of the campaign contributions and the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured by lobbying behemoths like Big Pharma, for instance, into an organization like the one in Arizona whose sole purpose was evidently to oppose the recreational marijuana initiative?  Or do those funds even need to be accounted for?  Is it like a blank check?  And what actions do these organizations undertake – with or without coffers full of Big Pharma money?  Ads, transportation, printing and copying, phone bills — what could possibly cost so much money?  I mean, clearly the denizens of Big Pharma have more money than they know what to do with but, of course, rather than lowering drug prices for the needy public, they’d prefer to spend huge sums to fight unnecessary political battles and create even more unnecessary and inane advertising campaigns.  Could the blank checks be nothing more than – dare I say it? – bribes to have political influence, to convince politicians and also the public that whatever Big Pharma wants, Big Pharma should get. But who cares about the public interest, really?  To Big Pharma, regular people are mostly idiots but are valuable for putting even more money into the pockets of the 1 percent (who don’t already have enough, right?).  I’ve always said that I hate money, and this is yet another reason why.

(2)  I know I am not alone in thinking that current U.S. administration and Russia were in collusion on the Syrian chemical attack as a way to deflect from the election intrusion / ongoing influence mess.  I also know it sounds like a cynical tinfoil hat conspiracy theory, and an unimaginably tragic way to do it, but I wouldn’t put it past them.  What’s the cost?  The horrific deaths of a couple dozen Syrian children?  We’re all just pawns in their global realpolitik game.  Those “beautiful babies” were probably going to die anyway in one way or another, whether as a casualty of the interminable war itself or by drowning in the Mediterranean trying to escape.

There was an email from the resistance watchdog group Countable the other day asking “us” (i.e., right-minded people) what advice we would give Trump.  They required you to make a video, which I’m not equipped to do, but I did have some advice for the ersatz president:

(a)          RESIGN.

(b)          Divest all of your business holdings or put them in a truly blind trust, run by someone who is not a friend or family member (and especially not your children).

(c)           Release your taxes if you’ve got nothing to hide.

(d)          RESIGN.

I still find it hard to believe that so many people in this country were conned by this bozo (and continue to be – a recent poll said something like 96% of the people who voted for him are still behind him, despite his daily display of idiocy).  He is in a position of unimaginable power (especially given his party’s dominance in Congress and now the Supreme Court), and yet he is mind-bogglingly ignorant, incapable of thinking about anything outside of his own self-interested perspective.  He is, literally, a danger to democracy and the health and safety of the American people.  I saw a powerful post the other day by a guy named John Pavlovitz called “Let the Record Show” [http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/01/19/let-the-record-show/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=John+Pavlovitz] that exactly captured my sentiments about him.  He is horrible in every way and at least once a day I am sickened by something he or one of his cohort has done.

(3)  This has been a very weird hockey season for me. I have barely listened to the Marek v. Wyshynksi podcast and I don’t obsessively read every article I can find on the interwebs, even after a win.  The Rangers had moments of real brilliance during the regular season, but especially toward the end they were playing some pretty damn boring hockey.  Maybe it’s because they had sewn up their preferred playoff spot quite a while ago (even if not officially, it was a reasonably foregone conclusion), crossing over into the Atlantic Division to play the “weaker” competition.  Their malaise on home ice has been pretty embarrassing at times.  So now that the playoffs have begun, when I normally would be pumped to the gills and thinking about it every waking minute, it almost became an afterthought. (Well, not exactly, but Rangers hockey hadn’t been generating the enthusiasm in me it once did.)

But in the first round, against the Montreal Canadians, they managed to regroup to play some impressive hockey after a real stinker of a Game 3, their first game in the Garden, which scared all of us fans into thinking that maybe the MSG curse was real.  In fact, I would describe their last three games in the series – all wins – as “mature.”  It probably has something to do with the reams of playoff experience this team (led by their coach) has, so they know what to expect.  That is just one of what I believe are their four keys to their success, which have been ignored by seemingly every professional pundit (and even the amateurs), even considering that I’ve been reading and listening to less commentary than usual.  When I do read and listen, no one ever gives the Rangers credit for these things:

(a)          The aforementioned playoff experience – according to The Hockey News, in the past five years, New York has played in 13 playoff series, better than Pittsburgh (11) and Los Angeles (12) and tied with Chicago. [Ryan Kennedy, “Rangers Mix of Depth, Youth and Experience Makes Them A Playoff Darkhorse,” The Hockey News, 3/13/17, http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/rangers-mix-of-depth-youth-and-experience-makes-them-a-playoff-darkhorse%5D.

(b)          The fact that, all season long, their play has improved as the game has gone on.  Look at their scoring this season by period:  first period, 62 goals; second period, 85 goals; third period, 101 goals, which led the NHL pretty much all season, only overtaken at the end by Pittsburgh with 103.  And yes, you’d like to see a better start out of them, especially at home, but a solid second and third period will overcome a less-than-stellar first period almost every time.

(c)           They were the best road team in the NHL, at 27-12-2, which really helps when you have your struggles at home.

(d)           They have incredible scoring depth.  I admit that I have heard this from some folks lately, particularly since AV inserted the Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich into the lineup and now is able to roll four lines that can all generate offense.  They can match up against anyone, because if their first, second and third lines get nullified by the opposition, up comes the fourth line – with the two dependable Swedes, Oscar Lindbergh and Jasper Fast, and speedster and free-agent bargain Michael Grabner, who gets at least one breakaway a game – to chip in a goal or two.

So even though no one gave the Rangers much of a chance to be the ultimate champs this year, and while I am unabashedly biased, I think they’re in a great position to go all the way this year (finally!)  1994 was a long time ago, and King Henrik isn’t getting any younger.  It’s the last diamond he needs for his crown.

As a purist, I appreciate that the best hockey is made up of equal parts excitement and frustration in crazy momentum swings, but I also enjoy dominant performances, where a team is firing on all cylinders, making the opposition look like minor leaguers, in total control in every area of the ice.  During the playoffs, you don’t see too many of those types of games because the teams are so evenly matched – these are the best of the best, the last teams standing after a grueling 82-game season.  Of course the competition is going to be more fierce, the skill levels more balanced.  There’s also got to be some adversity at certain points in a playoff season, where you think your team is done but then they rise from the ashes, or the ultimate prize wouldn’t have such great value in the end.  It’s just one series of excellent hockey after another, four series in all, until you finally get to raise the Cup.  Man, I love playoff hockey!

(4)  I have recently been revisiting (in my mind) the “why” of this blog, now that my second anniversary has passed. It was a creative outlet, to be sure, and a promise to myself to “get my writing out into the world,” even if no one in the world (or very few people) actually read it.  Apart from a few posts of a link on Facebook, I’ve never really publicized it; in fact, I’m still a little afraid to, even though I think some of the stuff I’ve written in this blog over the past two years is decent enough.  But is it decent enough to actually convince someone to publish it more widely?  Is there anyone outside of my small circle of friends and family (and a few loyal WordPress compatriots) that would pay money to read it?  This is highly doubtful.  So there my aspirations lie (or die, as the case may be).

But it got me thinking about why people do things in life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that people do things for two reasons:  (a) they enjoy it or (b) it’s a means to an end, which is usually enjoyment.  I certainly have enjoyed writing my blog, although sometimes I feel self-imposed pressure to PRODUCE SOMETHING WEEKLY.  On the one hand, it’s good for me to push myself; on the other, there are no rules here!  This is a safe place, a free and easy space, meant to be enjoyable – and it truly IS.  I love to write my blog posts.  Sometimes they flow like water; sometimes they’re more work, especially if I don’t have a particular topic in mind (all the more reason to have a “stockpile” of blog posts that don’t necessarily need to be topical or timely).

I also started my blog because I presume that some of the things that I have to say are important.  I believe I have a positive, progressive world view that I hope/wish more people on this planet would share.  In other words, if more people thought like me, the world would be a much better place for more people.  And if I could change one mind, get one mind to think differently about something important (or even not so important, but at least important to that one mind), then I would feel as if I had accomplished something good on the karmic scale.  It’s a little frustrating knowing that I’m always preaching to the choir, but maybe, someday, someone will read something I’ve written and, as Urge Overkill once famously sang in “Sister Havana”, “come around to my way of thinking.”