Monday, December 17, 2012

The Newtown Shooting: The Sorrow and the Media

This morning, as usual, I turned on the news as I prepared to face the day. 

This day, however, I was hoping for more than the current temperature and traffic report. I was hoping for inspiration for my column since I’d lurked at the computer for hours yesterday yet written nothing.

The morning show I prefer, on CBS, is the more serious of the three major network's daily offerings--not because I'm serious but because if I want tabloid crap (and I often do), I'll watch the likes of Inside Edition. But, if I want actual news, I try to find it despite how tricky that has become.

The two female anchors were seated in high director's chairs, all bundled up---exactly like when covering the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Behind them, a line-up of tents and canopies erected by the army of media has encamped to provide the latest information of the horrific events in Newtown. Today that will include the first two funerals slated to occur later.

Great idea, media! What better way to elevate the name of a twisted killer to universal notoriety and make it irresistible to others (and we all know, there are others) to commit similar crimes! Why not provide a pipeline to infamy by endlessly pumping the shooter’s photos and pathetic life story out to the public? When did you all lose your minds, your dignity and your self-control?

Some may defend this blitz, saying that the more focus put on Newtown’s misery, the better for the reinvigorated arguments about gun legislation. Others will claim that the public has the right to not only every new development but also be privy to every expression of grief, sorrow and despair. I say that a welcoming environment for the next lunatic is being fertilized.

The reporters I know from my years of addictive TV viewing (including the news) are more affected than I've ever seen them. Many are parents, I’m sure, and like our president whose unmistakable sincerity has given him one of his finest hours, the nightmare of last Friday feels very personal.

This week's column was going to be about Christmas. I was going to recount how hilarious it was when I ran out of tape while wrapping gifts. Or maybe I'd aim for your sentimental side by dragging out another holiday memory from my well of anecdotes but, not surprisingly, funny is gone. Even sentiment is shattered. 

Christmas, itself, is in question while sanity has certainly taken a powder—both in the nature of the actual events of last Friday as well as in the fact that it’s being covered like a goddam holiday parade.

I am not going to discuss gun legislation, mental illness or Nancy Lanza's questionable parenting but as I write this, it feels like the Newtown tragedy happened well over a week ago. Was it just three days ago? Is it really possible that I am reading the names of 26 souls who were gunned down in a town in which I shop, meet friends for lunch, have sat on sunny baseball fields to watch my children play against yours?

As I look at the photographs of those killed, I can only think "This is where their story stops." But, I also think of the daily joy I experienced on the most routine of days as I picked up kindergartener Tommy or Charlie--their coats buttoned by a teacher, their boots put on by a classroom aide in whose care I had unquestioningly placed my trust.

I remember the big green pompom of Charlie’s hat as he was led from class, holding hands with his partner and smiling. I remember how happy we were to see one another after no more than three hours apart. I see a tiny Tommy sitting in a booster seat in the barber’s chair as we make eye contact in the mirror while he gets an after-school haircut.. I was, and still am ridiculously happy to be their mommy. 

To love your own child is to automatically understand how another parent feels, put yourself in their place and, to some degree, feel their pain.

In the current tumult of my mind, I believe solutions are far more complicated than we think. 

Those determined to hurt others will always find a way to do so....for many reasons including through the vulnerability of good people because, in their goodness, they cannot fathom -- or certainly expect and adequately prepare for the type of hell unleashed at Sandy Hook Elementary. To believe that people exist who are capable of such incomprehensible evil means accepting it and that, in itself, is unacceptable.

After this, there will more rules, more restrictions as well as media coverage until we’re dizzy. There are already reports of Newtown residents wanting the”journalists” to pack up and leave. There will be more bad dreams at night, more fear and more anxiety that can’t be talked away by the well-intentioned grief counselors deployed across this little state.

As kids return to school all over America, I find myself grateful that mine are not among them. Yet I worry about my grown-up babies shopping in malls, on line at the supermarket or at their desks at work. This kind of fear, and ultimate desensitization, has become the new normal.

I cannot pretend, even to myself, to comprehend why anyone would do what was done last Friday. I, as will many, continue to pray that those who need comfort will receive it as well as for the safety of the innocent everywhere. 

Good luck to those prayers…they're going to need it.   

The best I can do is Ieave you with a line from a poem called "Desiderata" by Max Ehrman...”with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Review of the 12/12/12 Concert for Hurrican Sandy Relief

I made it through most of the 12/12/12 concert last night. 

Organized to aid the struggle of the many here in the tri-state area after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, it was as Mick Jagger -- stick-thin and suggestively squirmy as ever --  said: "the largest collection of old, English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden." He wasn't kidding.
The "Boss."

Throw in Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel -- looking pretty gnarly in high-def (not that I'd look any better), a satin-skinned Alicia Keyes, the ever-sexy Jon Bon Jovi, the grizzled Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey (wearing a suit from the 70's) representing "The Who," and you have an idea of some of the rock royalty in attendance.

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd showed up, still agile and rangy in his black tee and funky sneakers. His hair totally gray, he sang with Eddie Vedder, who can do no wrong but may not have been faking it about being "Comfortably Numb."
Smile, Mike, you get
residuals, don't you?

Chris Martin of Cold Play, not only did a nice acoustic set but also lured the perpetually melancholy Michael Stipe of REM out of his mausoleum for a song. And, yes, he is still losing his religion. It is reported that he did, indeed, smile last night but confirmation is pending.

Bruce Springsteen brought all his guys with him except, of course, for the incomparable Clarence Clemmons who passed away not too long ago.

His wife, Patty, was there, but shook her tambourine across the stage from her husband reportedly because of his display of the most amazing pit-stains ever revealed at the Garden...and that includes Elvis. Patty has obviously had it with Bruce and his refusal to wear a good Sports deodorant. She is, however, very relieved to have finally solved the "plumber's crack" issues that have plagued him in the past.

Joined by Jon  -- Oy, what a man! --  Bon Jovi, the two did some predictable but ever-enjoyable New Jersey rocking-out.

All Eric Clapton has to do, in my opinion, is simply walk onstage. Dignity and talent, thou art Eric Clapton. Remember, around thirty years ago, when I made a fool of myself in Manhattan when I saw you, Eric? You dont? Good.

Amidst all the warmth, high-fiving and rampant thumbs-upping that was going on, the Disney villain of the evening, Mr. Kanye West showed up decked out in a confusing combination of a black leather skirt and leggings underneath. 

He bounced around gamely but whether he'd pissed the lighting guys off before the show or, himself, chose the weird effects, his set was back-lit and strobey...and he seemed slightly off.
Back-lit and be-skirted.

He was neither rude nor overtly malevolent but he was something worse: he was boring as hell. Having seen him before, I was expecting better but wonder if, under the weight of all that heavy leather, he might have lost some of his steam. That was some skirt--pleats and all.
A kilt can be a very sexy thing on a man....those socks, that waist pouch, those laced shoes....think Sean Connery. But this was no kilt. Kanye wore a skirt. Perhaps he accidentally grabbed something discarded by his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian. Or a vengeful Taylor Swift may have been behind it, though that's doubtful since that would have forced her to take time off from her spree of promiscuity soon to be seen in a city near you. 
                         Her motto in this quest: 
                    "I shall leave no testicle unturned "

I love Billy Joel. Yes, he's a cranky old man now with a gigantic head that has, apparently, never known the benefits of sunscreen. Those crazy eyes have gotten droopier and his voice has been  roughened by years of God knows what but he still sounds great to this old girl.

Commanding the stage from a piano bench, he never fails to bring me back to a time when I didn't have all that much to worry about other than whether I'd wear my buffalo sandals or my Dr. Scholls to the beach that day.
Remember these, ladies? Did you know they were called "Buffalo sandals?"

My favorite act was The Rolling Stones. Mick simply has not slowed down at all. Prancing, sliding, side-stepping and flapping his pipe cleaner arms in those unmistakable signature moves, he is as apt to thrust his impossibly narrow pelvis at us at the age of 69-going-on-70 as he did when he was 25...and it still makes me feel young. 
Still has it...
...lost it a while ago.

Unlike Roger Daltrey's insistence on revealing his aging chest, the Stone's lead singer can still get away with it.

"Why? Because he is Mick Jagger, of course.

During the set, I realized that Ron Wood and I have the same hair-do and that Keith Richards may be the most amazing guy in entertainment today. I don't think I have seen anyone look worse...except my friend's 96 year old grandpa at a wake I attended many years ago in Brooklyn....and he was the one in the coffin.

Paul McCartney is a quintessential showman. Closing the show, he did a new-ish song about yet another wife (please, Paul, after you divorce this one, give up. You simply cannot recreate what you had with Linda) and some Wings but I admit that I also wanted a flat-out Beatles medley as well as a mention of John Lennon who was assassinated thirty-two years ago this week not all that far from Madison Square Garden.
Always cute.
Will he be sued?

All in all, despite some dozing and laser pointer playtime with the cats, the unflattering lighting of Billy Crystal's neck, Brian Williams acting like an idiot at the phone bank and my concern for one of my favorite people, Adam Sandler who, likely, used the tune of Leonard Cohen's magnificent opus "Hallelujah" without legal permission, it was a great night of entertainment.
Available in every dressing room
of the evening.

I hope Billy Joel starts using at least an SPF30 on his head, Roger Daltrey gets some new clothes (and glasses), Mick Jagger had enough Tylenol Extra Strength to endure his transatlantic flight home today and Taylor Swift wasn't hanging around backstage last night. 

In the old days any one of those guys could have handled her easily but times have changed and I suspect they were just all hoping Mick had enough Tylenol for sharing and weren't thinking much about their prolific, groupie-filled pasts.

I also hope the money gets to the people and the enightmare of Sandy can be put behind the thousands affected by the storm. And, as Billy Crystal said as the show ended, "Please don't light me from underneath again and God bless America."

And why, oh why, was Kristin Stewart dressed
like a football ref from Liverpool?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Vegetable Family

Unfortunately I refer not to actual vegetables such as the crunchy crucifers that scrub the interior of our intestines clean or propel slap-happy antioxidants throughout our systems to fight disease.

Nor do I cite the brightly hued carriers of beta-carotene crowed about by Dr. Oz in his quest to get us to slim down and live longer. 

Why he cares, I’ll never understand.

Sadly, I am not speaking of positive habits so much as the lack of human initiative (and by that, I mean any sort of movement) that took place in my home immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday. The kids were home, no one had any pressing engagements (and by that, I mean showering ) and there was a working TV and comfy couch within staggering distance of the left-overs.

The boys, having recently been involved in the excitement of a presidential campaign, wanted to keep the momentum flowing by watching the fabled television series from several years ago, “The West Wing.” And I just wanted to sit near the boys….so through the magic of the digital age we were able to create a scenario that pleased us all: unlimited episodes of the show as well as cozy seating for Ma Barker and her boys.
The real Ma Barker.
Wow, she was mean.

We were immediately sucked into the snappy dialogue, good character development and tightly paced drama of fictional characters running  America.  And, soon, we hazily observed that bright daylight had a habit of slipping into shades of dusk, then night then –  What? Is it that late? – three in the morning. 

Exercising only our “clicker muscles” we cared neither about time nor place as our very own Black Friday referred not to retail but to the loss of brain cells and progressive dimming of our futures as we emulated cooked vegetables in the flickering light of 60 inches of high def.

For the first several hours we sustained ourselves with half empty bottles of water that were strewn about but within reach, sipping judiciously so as not to disrupt our cocoons for the exertion of bathroom visits. 

Secretly, I couldn't
care less what you people

Haphazardly abandoned bags of chips and pretzels nourished us once stomachs started to growl and Dr. Oz himself, would have been proud of how overjoyed we were to discover a nearly full Tupperware of baby carrots wedged under the recliner. We ate only one or two every few hours since none among us had any intention of leaving the couch, the reassuring banter and patriotic idealism of the cast nor the fact that every problem was wrapped up to our satisfaction every sixty minutes.

We also all agreed that Martin Sheen must be our next president.
Call me "Mr. President."

As the food dwindled and the hours became what may actually have been days, we dozed fitfully only to be awakened by gnawing hunger and were forced to search between couch cushions for sustenance. Charlie found two fun size Snickers from Halloween and I, a few linty m&ms in the pocket of my sweat pants that we divided with the precision of prisoners in the gulag. But later, after another season or two of a benevolent president with a great head of hair, we were reduced to licking each others elbows for salt and swapping stories (between episodes) of memorable meals from our past. 

There was a sleeve of Ritz crackers across the room but if it was beyond the reach of our fingers, it might as well have been on Mars.

We tried to get the cats to fetch things from the fridge upstairs but they had problems of their own since no one had refilled their dishes since this TV orgy had begun.
What? No rice ball?!?

I have no idea where Seth was during all this but at some point, he entered the room surrounded by a pool of light and accompanied by what I believe to have been celestial music, yelling something mean and confusing about both unfit parenting and elder abuse.

I have little memory of the confrontation and ensuing redemption but it involved calzone with sausage for all and Diet Coke administered to my withered lips through an eye dropper.

In conclusion, I would do it again in a heartbeat. After all, isn’t spending time with one’s family what holidays are for? Christmas is almost here and we have always wanted to catch up on “Breaking Bad” in its entirety…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spider With Your Grapes? No, Thanks.

The Black Widow
For the past few years, after having learned about the dangers of the pesticides used on our fruits and vegetables, I have been spending a little more -- but less than you might imagine --  on organic produce.

Those days abruptly ended today as a result of a story in a local paper about a black widow spider that "popped" out of a bag of organic grapes, "surprising" the woman who'd purchased them from a Whole Foods Market.

I am not trying to make light of sudden death in any way, but if that had happened to me, you would be reading my obituary with your latte the very next morning. I would never survive such a thing.
A Wood Spider similar
to the one in my pantry.

I am not alone when I say that spiders horrify me. Fear of spiders, or "arachnophobia", is very common among those with fewer than eight legs. I have a long list of gruesome anecdotes involving spiders that involve hysteria, running, crying and near divorce when, one morning, Seth refused to turn around and drive the two hours home from work to look for a giant wood spider that was doing the can-can in the pantry.
I don't even like cats
dressed as spiders.

I eventually duct-taped the door shut, sealing every crack to trap the spider who was, indeed, later found and proved to be as large as I'd frothed and sobbed about on the phone.

Years ago, after my son found a giant spider among the bananas during his very first job as a produce clerk, I screamed in the supermarket after mistaking my own shadow for what I would have sworn was a tarantula.

I consider spiders terrorists.

Spider-hate is ingrained in my family's culture. It's in my DNA just like long nostrils, love of mayonnaise and crepey skin on the back of my hands. As I was growing up, if my mother so much as dreamt of a spider, it meant bad juju and we were on guard until my psychic Aunt Mary gave us the green light to relax.
One of the worlds
most dangerous
type of spider.

And yes, I realize how helpful they are in the garden as well as the fact that they -- just like puppies, ponies, kittens and koalas -- were created by the God of the Old Testament, saved from the flood by Noah and received top billing in a favorite movie from childhood.

I don't care. And, God, I apologize but in my book spiders+ peri-menopause=mistake.

If you are a spider, I hate you.

I also realize that the arrival of a Black Widow in a bag of grapes is a one in a million but since the article explained that besides killing us with their toxins, pesticides also kill Black Widow Spiders, I am now ready to eat said pesticides with a spoon and a napkin tucked under my chin rather than risk a similar confrontation.

Hey, kid, you've got
a spider on your face.

I would also like to issue a formal complaint against the woman who found the spider. Not only does she apparently have nerves of steel, since she calmly posted about it on Facebook after it happened (while I would have been dead on the kitchen floor), but her boyfriend managed to catch and release it into their backyard where it is now using Spider GPS to locate my house so it can sneak in and spend the holidays before scaring me to death

"That's how we live," she explained. It's a living thing and we have no hard feelings."

No hard feelings?

Honestly, good for you, lady. Would you be saying that if you were now full of neurotoxins and that thing had jumped on your peaceful, nature-loving face?????

Hippie freak.

The spider, set free in a city not too far from where I sit (encased in a Haz Mat suit and eating a Xanax sandwich) is doubtless on his way here so I am doing the only reasonable thing under these circumstances--I am putting the house on the market and moving.

So there is less chance of the spider finding me, I am leaving no forwarding address. UPS, please leave all packages with my neigbor. Thank you.

The actual spider found in the grapes.