When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I can not put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
And I have become
We sat and bitched over lunch at Houlihans. Though we were each anxious for our own turn, we listened attentively to our friends. None of the grievances were particularly new.
She always complained about the house she purchased two years ago with her mother. Didn’t make sense then. Still doesn’t.
He talked again about the partnership that he’s been waiting five years for. One by one, in no particular order, we sipped our Mooseheads, or white zinfandels, or in my case a club soda with a twist of lime, and talked about the past week. Finally it was my turn and I didn’t know what to say. Business has been great. The kids are fine. Even my golf game has improved. Yet I felt that I belonged at this table.
How do you describe the dull ache of sleep-walking through life? I was numb. I couldn’t seem to enjoy the good around me. Nor could I seem to be affected by the bad. No highs. No lows. No depth to my feelings. How do you bitch about that? I tritely stated that I wasn’t happy.
Two hundred years ago the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that we each have the inalienable rights of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. You have the right to try, but there are no guarantees.
I watch enough T.V. to know that happiness is defined as a house in the suburbs, a fast car, a well stocked refrigerator and lots of small electronic appliances. I’ve got all that. And more. But I wasn’t happy. And I couldn’t even explain why.
Since I had nothing worth sharing we went back to my friend’s blow by blow description of his weekly fight with his employer. I admit that my mind wandered to a familiar daydream about an idealized life. One I’ve never had. Nor never will. Sometimes our dreams prevent us from adjusting to our realities. Sometimes our dreams prevent our realities from conquering us.
I listen to song lyrics. Hard Rock. Soft Rock. Lite Rock. It doesn’t matter. I believe that the lyrics are important.
This month’s column is going to be a contest. I went into my album collection and found the first lines of ten songs. All of these came from albums that included printed lyrics so that I couldn’t screw up.
To enter: Identify the song and performer. Each is worth one point. Mail your entry to: Lyrics, 673 East 185th Street, Euclid, Ohio 44119. The entry with the most correct answers will receive a CUT AND STYLE at CHAZ HAIR OF LAKEWOOD (good for men or women). Second prize is a gift certificate for EXCUSES, the new pastry shop on Larchmere by Shaker Square. Everyone who enters will be eligible for a free PERSONAL AD donated by OHIO’S FINEST SINGLES. The decision of the judges (me) is final. Please enter. No one will get them all. I promise.
1. We’d like to know
A little bit about you
For our files.
We’d like to help you learn
To help yourself.
2. If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
Cause there’s too many places I’ve got see.
3. There’s a black man with a black cat
Living in a black neighborhood
He’s got an interstate running through his front yard
You know he thinks he’s got it so good.
4. It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Making love to his tonic and gin.
5. Stone love-she kneels before the grave
A brave son-who gave his life to save the slogan
That hovers ‘tween the headstone and her eyes
For they penetrate her grieving.
6. Blue Jean baby,
L.A. lady, seamstress for the band.
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry
A music man.
7. Just yesterday morning they let
Me know you were gone
Susan, the plans they made put an
End to you
8. New York New York is everything they say
And no place that I’d rather be
Where else can you do a half a million things
And all at a quarter to three.
9. Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your new town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
10. When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right.
Name the song and writer and earn 4 points and my undying admiration.
Ride with me, Fly with me, Teach me how to care
I’ve been alone for too long
I’m already half way there
Ride with me, Fly with me-anywhere.
T.S. Elliot said that the world would end not with a bang, but a whimper. All last Tuesday, I prayed for a terrorist bomb or a plane crash, but it didn’t happen. Thirtysomething passed on, May 28, 1991. ABC turned off the respirator and the show faded, faded and died.
Gary was lucky. His character grew, flourished and then died with dignity. Ellen got her life together. Nancy beat cancer, got published and got her husband back. Not bad. The real losers (other than the strung along viewers) were Michael and Hope.
Remember Hope? Radiant. Maternal. Bitchy. Emotional Hope. Four years later, Hope has evolved into a woman whose only redeeming trait is a sudden desire to help the homeless. Her naïve assessment of the advertising business couldn’t possibly come from someone this close to an agency. Where the hell was she when Michael and Elliot owned a business?
Michael Stedman fell the furthest. Had he been a horse, he would have been shot. Pulling the plug on this show was an act of charity. Michael was introspective, but strong. He was, at times, consumed with guilt, and yet, he was a leader. He rose above his peers and they followed by choice. How painful it must have been for Ken Olin to portray this whimpering, indecisive jerk that moped across the screen like dark rain clouds on an otherwise pleasant June day. If Hollywood remade the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers again, this is what it would look like.
The opening credits listed eight writers on this last show. Whether to spread the blame or to hide in the crowd, no writer would claim sole responsibility for this mess. Written by committee, directed by a film student from Hollywood High, produced by accident, Thirtysomething dies an unfulfilled promise. So much potential, so little accomplished. Thirtysomething uncovered truths and then squandered them with overwrought writing and angst ridden characters you’d sooner slap then love.
I watched the final episode of Thirtysomething with a growing sense of betrayal. They had the subject matter. They had the budget. They had the palate. They had the moment. And they threw it all away. There may never be another television show with the potential to explore the world my friends and I face. It’s a shame they blew it.
“Just hold on loosely
But don’t let go
If you cling too tightly
You’re going to lose control”
She felt a presence. Slowly she saw the pillow descend towards her. She couldn’t struggle. Couldn’t cry out. The pillow was coming closer. She couldn’t quite see who her attacker was. Suddenly, she heard that laugh and that familiar grave voice. Her attacker was…
Katie awoke with a start. It took a moment or two for her eyes to focus on the familiar radio-alarm on the nightstand. This was her bed. And John serenely snored to her left. His pillow was safely under his head instead of hovering over hers.
The alarm wouldn’t ring for another three hours, but sleep really wasn’t possible now. Instead, Katie slipped out of bed and covered her shoulders with the velour robe John had given her for her birthday six years ago. He didn’t stir. True, it didn’t make sense for her to be wandering around the apartment at 3:30 in the morning, but this had become her special time. For the second time this week, the fifth time this month, she gently shut the bedroom door, put the water on for tea, and turned on VH-1 for background noise.
It hadn’t always been like this. Katie and John had been Katie’s idea of the perfect couple. Dual incomes. Shared responsibilities. Mutual respect. Space. Air. But things changed. Slowly she caught John making more and more demands on her time. He followed her around the apartment from the moment she returned from the office until he finally succeeded each night into nagging her into their bed. He even called her at the office, a practice that didn’t sit well with her employers or co-workers. There seemed to be no escape from him.
John had worked the graveyard shift for almost twenty years. He had complained through most of those years, and Katie had serious scheduling problems when they began dating. At first it was difficult but eventually Katie found their separate schedules to be liberating. Now that was over. Now he worked during the days and shadowed her around their apartment in the evenings. Her time for herself was now the twenty-five minutes she had each morning on the way to work, the ride home at 5 PM and her nocturnal flights to the living room for a cup of tea and the latest Danielle Steele novel.
Katie’s teacup was about empty and “Passion’s Promise” lay on the couch beside her. She realized that she had a decision to make. She remembered what Ann Landers wrote years ago. Was she better off with John or without him? She knew the answer. Katie shut off the lights and the T.V. and crawled into bed.
My friend Jim is fond of citing Dr. Hunter Thompson and refers to Pat Buchanan as the Anti-Christ. We don’t have a direct parallel in Judaism, but I have no difficulty in envisioning Mr. Buchanan owning an apple stand in the Garden of Eden. Standing in front of the booth imploring Adam and Eve to take actions he himself would never take, would be Rush Limbaugh.
As many of you know, I took an involuntary vacation in February after I screwed up my back in a basketball game. For two weeks I was allowed to walk a little and lie down a lot. Bored, and with enough chemicals coursing through my body to inhibit prolonged concentration, I spent much of my time engaged in light reading with the radio on for background noise. The repetitious nature of our local FM stations quickly forced me to the AM dial. And there, waiting like a tuna fisherman with a mile long net, was Rush Limbaugh.
In both size and the resonance of his voice, Rush Limbaugh closely resembles an old oak barrel. My first impression Mr. Limbaugh and his “Excellence In Broadcasting” network was that he was simply another right-wing fanatic/theorist who like his counterparts on the far left are hired to boost the ratings by inflaming the great unwashed. Cynical, but effective. I found him to be occupying that that space on the political spectrum that is just left of the John Birch Society, but to the right of “Me. Conservative” Barry Goldwater. Blessed with an Orwellian talent to rewrite recent history to suit his purposed and 20/20 hindsight, Rush at first appeared to be a bench player on the team led by Buchanan, Roger Ailes, and the late Lee Atwater.
The negative first impression dissipates as laughter sets in. Limbaugh is funny. His idea for a television show based on Desert Storm, “Gulf War, The Mini-Series”, was amusing.
The second impression doesn’t last long. The trouble is that you suddenly realize that all of his humor is at someone’s expense. Oh, some of the jingoistic Saddam jokes were funny, but it doesn’t take long to understand that Rush Limbaugh reaches for the lowest common denominator. He exploits our base instincts. That nervous guilty laugh you hear is your own.
Of course, once you remove the boulder barricading the cave’s exit, you have to be prepared for what’s going to crawl out.
Rush-“Let’s go to Mary in Shreveport.’
Mary-“Dittos Rush from the Bible Belt.”
Rush- “Thank you, Mary.”
Mary- “Rush, I think we should round up all those anti war protesters and ship them to Saudi Arabia and put them on the front lines.”
Rush- “Whoa. So much for the First Amendment.”
Limbaugh is steadfastly behind all of our country’s foreign military involvement. Be it Viet Nam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama or Iraq, Rush has been behind our troops. Way behind. Like a pyromaniac with a life time supply of matches, Rush Limbaugh has been unwavering in his determination to keep the home fires burning.
In spite of the obvious danger, reporters from around the world clamored for the opportunity to cover Desert Storm. Limbaugh, who prefers to see only televised action, was content to stay home and ridicule the real journalists who went. The air raid sirens blared and the reporters, exposed and vulnerable, were no less brave when their fear showed. But Limbaugh, safe in New York, rushed to deride those seeking shelter.
The apple stand in Paradise had fallen into disrepair. Its former owner no longer writes speeches for Presidents and now busies himself defending ex-Nazi war criminals. And its manger, Rush Limbaugh, peddles apples every afternoon on WWWE.
DOG UPDATE: After the recent television reports of a Chinese restaurant in Lake County serving dog meat, OFS has received numerous inquiries as the health and safety of my dog, Tommy. (OFS, Dec.’90) Relax. As you read this, Brain Dead is home dirtying the carpet.
It has been almost thirty years since my mother’s father finally succumbed to the cancer that invaded his body. I remember visiting him in the hospital before he died. I remember how the pain and the circumstances conspired to strip him of his dignity. And I remember how he fought back.
When I look at my children, Phillip and Jennifer, I think of my grandparents. Both kids have the beautiful red hair of my mother’s mother. There is no other red hair in any of our families. And Phillip was named in fond memory of Phillip Davis, my papa, who died when I was eight years old.
Phillip Davis had been born in Wales. He came to this country as a young man, but he retained throughout his life the poise and stature of a proper Englishman. He was tall (6’3”) and handsome and well aware that he stood out in any crowd, but especially in the Jewish neighborhoods of the turn of the century where he towered over the newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe. That confidence was displayed when he called upon a beautiful redhead for the first time. Her mother came to the door and he addressed her as Shviger, the Yiddish word for Mother-in Law.
I watched him come home from the Tip Top Bakery plant that he managed in Columbus, Ohio. He was so tall. So erect. And my parents would tell me that the way I was growing that I, too, would be tall like Papa one day.
Early on I noticed his reserve. It wasn’t a lack of warmth. It was more an internal switch that he controlled. Oh, when he was really provoked, he didn’t keep it a secret. But most of the time he kept himself in check.
When I was four, I asked to take Papa his tea. He had been an American citizen for over thirty years, but he still drank tea like an Englishman. Just as I was about to hand him the cup and saucer, I tripped on the Oriental rug and poured hot liquid right on his lap. He leaped from the chair and my mother and grandmother ran into the room. I stood there in shock. Before I could apologize and tell him how badly I felt, I heard them screaming. “Tell Papa you’re sorry. Well, tell Him!”
I couldn’t speak. As my ears rang with the voices of my mother and grandmother imploring, then ordering me to apologize; as I watched the person I loved more than anyone else in my world dry himself off; as I felt all of the guilt in the world land on my little shoulders. I stood there silently. I could not say that I was sorry because now that they had ordered it, my apology wouldn’t have appeared to have been from me. It would have simply been me following orders. I stood there, holding my ground, hoping that I would one day have the opportunity to explain all of this to the man staring at me.
I don’t know if my grandfather ever understood. But I learned something very important. If I want to eliminate any misunderstanding, I have to communicate my thoughts and feelings to everyone involved. My writing has become my vehicle for expressing myself. Not just this column, but everything I write is in memory of that afternoon many years ago and in honor of Phillip Davis, my grandfather. May he rest in peace.
The quality of patriotism, like sex, should not be measured by the size of one’s flagpole. This is a monthly publication. God only knows what the world will be like six weeks from today when you read this. But today is January 24, 1991, and the United States has entered the second week of Operation Desert Storm. Please permit me a few observations as the war drags on.
ALL TIED UP. . . As my friend Gary noticed, the country is ribbon crazy. It all started in 1979 during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Americans tied yellow ribbons everywhere. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAADD) is responsible for the proliferation of red ribbons that decorate car antennas. One wonders how many drunks rushed to place the ribbons on their cars in hopes of escaping detection.
Now, in support of our servicemen and women overseas, people are wearing orange ribbons. Plans are underway for green and orange ribbons for people who support the troops and vote Democratic, purple and orange for Republican voters, and black and orange for the vast majority of Americans who don’t bother to vote at all.
WRAPPED IN GLORY . . . Many Americans have decided that the only things more valuable than ribbons are flags. AMERICAN FLAGS. Tie tacks. Collar Pins. On houses, businesses, and cars. Old Glory is everywhere. In 1988 we had a candidate wrap himself in the flag. Today the entire country is wrapped in red, white and blue bunting.
And Bush. . . it seems that every time I hear a Republican say, “Support our boys overseas,” they also add “and our President George Bush.” Are Bush’s handlers counting on today’s flag wavers to fuel 1992’s re-election? I hope not. Support of our soldiers and patriotism in general are not synonymous with either party or any candidate. There is a difference between being wrapped in the flag and being choked by it.
SHAW TO HOLLIMAN TO ARNETT. . . Was CNN’s coverage from ground zero a milestone in journalism? I don’t know about that, but it was damned good T.V. As the bombs fell that night and the security people pounded on the door to their hotel room/broadcast center, three men overcame their fears and gave the reports of their lives.
My son, Phillip, and I were glued to the set. We wondered if they were going to see the light of day as the ani-aircraft fire and tracer bullets lit the sky. It was morbidly exciting. American aircraft were overhead bombing specific (?) targets. The pilots didn’t seem to be nearly as vulnerable as the three reporters. Holliman, unable to control his curiosity, kept looking out the window to see for himself and to tell us what was happening over Baghdad that night.
When Phillip awoke the next morning, his first question was about the fate of Shaw, Holliman and Arnett.
Television has had a tremendous effect on this war. A Pilot boards his plane in Saudi Arabia a stone’s throw away from a reporter. He flies to Baghdad and drops his bombs on the Presidential Palace. The press runs out and take a picture of the damage, and you and I and the pilot’s commander see the results before the pilot can get back to the base.
PILOT: “Two direct hits, Sir!”
COMMANDER: “Wrong Soldier”. Saw your sortie on CNN. One hit on the side of the target, major damage. Your second hit the glass factory next door!”
Could you imagine having your boss know that precisely how well you’re doing? This is the first war in history fought both on and with T.V.
It is just about midnight. I turned on the news eighteen hours ago when I awoke and I’m catching the evening wrap-up before I go to sleep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga), the legendary warrior (verbal only), is standing on the steps of the Capitol describing how we are to “. . . kick Saddam’s butt”.
Congress has, for the moment, lined up behind the President. The weapons manufacturers are thrilled that all this expensive hardware seems to be working. And our troops are in a strange place, far away from home, counting on their equipment, their peers and their leaders to get them back safely.
As Thursday becomes Friday I wonder if, by the time you read this, the war will be over. Will most of our soldiers be on their way home? Will governments more to our liking be installed in both Baghdad and Kuwait City? Will Israel again be safe? That would be nice, but I think unlikely. No, this one’s just starting. I wonder if anyone today really knows how and when this war will end.
Ideal Macaroni Company
6001 Richmond Road
Bedford Hts., Ohio 44146
January 4, 1991
I purchased a package of your “Choo Choo Wheel” pasta several months ago at my local Acme grocery store. It was on sale. Sometimes I buy your product. Sometimes I buy the store brand. As I placed the box in the cart, I noticed a coloring contest on the back of the package. It occurred to me that one of my children might color the picture.
My daughter Jennifer noticed the picture while I was cooking dinner. I had forgotten about it. She read the instructions and asked if she could color the picture and enter it in the contest. I said “why not” and she excitedly began. She got a little done that night and I figured that by the next day it would be forgotten, but I was wrong. As she had time that week, after school, that Saturday, Jenny completed your picture. She agonized over the color selection. She cleared the final colors with her older brother and sisters. “There’s not too much brown is there? Could this be blue, too?” She was very serious, the way only a nine year old can really be. And when it was done, it was excellent. She is not the neatest of children. She is not the neatest of my children. But there it was. One super picture. I wanted to save it, but she wouldn’t hear of it. This was for the Ideal Macaroni Company. This was HER entry. We prepared the envelope together. And I mailed it the next day.
The UPS man arrived at my house today at 4:45. I wasn’t expecting anything. I looked at the label and told my son to have Jenny come into the living room. She dragged herself away from Mario 3 and came upstairs. I told her the box was for her. She didn’t understand until she saw that it had come from the Ideal Macaroni Company. We removed the packing tape together and then she opened the box. “I WON. I WON. I FINALLY WON SOMETHING!” She was so excited. She knew that a trip for four to Washington D.C. wasn’t packed in this box, but… Inside the box was a little brown bear. A stuffed animal with soft huggable fur. No notes. No letters. A bear. It was perfect.
I don’t know if my daughter has won first prize for December’s entries or a consolation prize, or what. It really doesn’t matter today. What’s important is how good my Jenny feels tonight. We all try as parents to give our children all of the love and support they will ever need, and yet it’s not enough. Sometimes it is the outside validation and recognition that means the most. Whether it is their peers, their teachers, or some contest judge in Bedford Heights doesn’t matter. What is important is that someone has found their work to be good and wants to reward their effort.
Long after her picture becomes frayed and faded, my daughter will remember the day she opened the brown box and removed her bear. The kids are still trying to determine whether she’s still in the running for the Grand Prize. I think she already got it. Thank you.
I bumped into John at the bagel store Saturday morning. He was there with Stupid. His kids refer to the dog as Sam, but John knows him as Stupid. I understood because I knew Brain Dead was waiting for me at home.
With apologies to Hilde, animal rights activist and former OFS pet columnist, pet ownership sucks. Of course this is simply a male view – mine. I’ve talked to many of my friends. The findings of my unscientific survey are:
(a) Men who have never had children own pets willingly.
(b) Men whose children have grown up and left the home or are divorced and don’t have their kids don’t mind pets.
(c) Hunters and outdoorsmen own pets whether or not they have children.
(d) All other men only have pets under duress.
I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’ll hold to my findings.
Pet ownership begins with a series of lies. Every spouse, parent, or roommate remembers those fateful words “Ill take care of the dog. I promise. You won’t have to do anything.” They Lied! The burden of care and the expense of maintenance always falls upon the individual least concerned with the animal. When the dog (or in the worst case scenario, the cat) throws up at 2:00 a.m., we know who is going to clean it up.
I remember when I got my dog. I got the dog the way most of us get dogs or measles; it was a gift from someone similarly afflicted. In this case my parents said that the children needed a dog. They (the kids) would care for him. We got a redheaded beagle, pedigree name Red Tomahawk that answers to Tommy or Brain Dead. As the leash hit my hand, I knew what my parents were thinking. “That dog will listen to him almost as much as he listened to us.” They were right.
Tommy made himself at home immediately. There isn’t an inch of carpet in my house that he hasn’t autographed. Doors and walls have been damaged, and the fence around the back yard has been dog-proofed twice and still can’t contain him. The enclosed porch, where Tommy was kept when no one was home, now needs extensive work.
Dog ownership can’t be kept a secret. Walk in my door, you can smell Tommy. Those of us with allergies sense his presence. His shedded hair decorates my clothes. And my ankles can attest to the fact that he’s had fleas. His gnawed basket sits in the living room and his barking reminds the neighbors that I have trouble saying no.
I will follow my parents’ example. My children will one day have children and they will need a dog. I think I’ll get them a mixed breed, perhaps half Llasso Apso, half basset hound.
That would be a great dog. He’d be short, yappy kind of dog that would shed everywhere. The kids will love him.
I wonder how the last dinosaurs died. Did they sense that their era was over and mindlessly, like ten ton lemmings, march directly to the tar pits?
Did the last dinosaurs see the advancing glacier and bravely attack in hope of saving their doomed world? Or was the last brontosaurus peacefully sleeping while the world around him came to a sudden end (sort of a prehistoric Ronald Reagan)? We may never know.
We do know, however, that if the last dinosaur was alive today, he would write a book and spend his last moments of life plugging it on Geraldo and Donahue. I know this because I saw a distant cousin of his on TV this morning.
On the TODAY show, Bryant Gumble interviewed Ralph Nader. Now before you get mad at me, I loved Ralph Nader in the sixties. Everyone, well almost everyone, did. I was very fond of him in the seventies. But by the early eighties I grew weary of Ralph and his inability to move forward. Today is October 1, 1990 and Ralph is pushing his newest book, Winning The Insurance Game. This book is supposed to be the final word for the general public about insurance. You can almost hear Ed McMahon say: “Everything you need to know about insurance is in THIS BOOK. Everything.
The interview began with Ralph earnestly telling Bryant how his new book will protect consumers from insurance companies and their agents. Some people will read the book cover to cover and become insurance experts, trained and prepared to educate the masses. Some people will simply check the book when they are about to make a purchase. When asked about those consumers who might not want to tackle Mr. Nader’s newest tome, Ralph advised that smart consumers would do well by simply placing the book on the table when discussing insurance with an agent. Like garlic and a cross, Ralph’s book might protect you from vampire insurance agents. Oh come on, Ralph.
Bryant managed to keep a straight face and asked Mr. Nader for some specifics. Could Ralph quickly name some super savers? Trap set! The last dinosaur reached deep inside himself and came up empty. “If you own a car that is seven years old, you might not need collision insurance anymore.” Gee Ralph, my twelve year old knows that. What other nugget can we recover from your empty mine?
Should we spend $25.95 to be advised to read contracts before we sign and to look both ways before we cross the street? When pressed about life insurance, Ralph endorsed both cash value and term policies. In five minutes, Ralph Nader exhausted a lifetime supply of common sense and, flogging the obvious, common knowledge. The pioneering author of Unsafe At Any Speed had become just one more guy with a word processor for a palette but no ribbon left in the printer.
The interview ended and as the TODAY show faded into commercial, I knew that Mr. Nader had a busy day ahead. Sally, Oprah, Phil and Geraldo would all squeeze him in between the daily mix of Siamese sextuplets and “men who kick their dogs and the women who love them”.
I wonder if Ralph can hear the tar pits calling.