Friday, April 29, 2011

Pain kills

We think of ourselves as cerebral beings, with most of our experience taking place above the neck. But recently I was reminded of a simple truth: Physical pain, even mere chronic discomfort, can very quickly erode your will to live. In just a matter of days, you come to understand why people elect to forgo treatment that may save their lives.

Conversely, however, relief from pain can instantly renew your zest for life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Springtime under the stinkwood tree

Do you see the guy with the pigeon on his head?

And on his vest and in his lap? Does he not know that pigeons are rats with feathers? What is the matter with him?

Luck of the draw

Sometimes I get lucky. About a week ago, I passed a clothing store that had what seemed to me to be a Danish name. Since my daughter is studying in Denmark, I popped in out of curiosity. Turned out it was a Canadian store owned by a Finn. No matter. I was asked if I'd like to sign up for a drawing. I did. A week later I got a call saying I had won $200 worth of Canadian clothing. These clothes are not my taste—too much polyester and gauze and ruffles. Still, they're free. Lucky me!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another dirty little secret of old age

It makes me want to cry. My parents aren't rich, but my dad has spent much of his retirement toiling on taxes. I've watched him hunch for hours over household receipts and IRS forms with his magnifying glass trying to be scrupulous and thorough. I've listened to my mom, who gets lonely during his tax-preoccupied periods, carp about his inefficiency and distractibility. I've seen them squabble when he dictates figures to her (his handwriting is warped by an old war wound) and she gets them wrong—in her majestic crystalline penmanship. I've heard him say he hasn't slept for days because of tax stress. Three thousand miles away, I feel his tax stress.

It's just pathetic. And it makes you want to yank it all away and do it yourself. But here's the thing: he actually WANTS to do his taxes, and he wants to do it in his overlaborious way. And if I took it away from him, I think he'd feel bereft. If only it were a little easier.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reading between the (bottom) lines

So my daughter C, who has been studying in Copenhagen, the most expensive city on earth, is now on spring break, touring the flossy watering spots of the Mediterranean and shedding cash like a millionaire’s giveaway. The other day we got an update of her doings that I misread: she and her friends had rented ATMs and were riding them into town. Oh, right, ATVs.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reviewing the alumni review

Could I really have gone to school with people named Sluggo, Skip, Chip and Spike? Not that there's anything wrong with those names. But they seem redolent of '50s comic strips. I wonder, Do their wives call them by those names now? All the time? Or just when they're pissed off?

Monday, April 11, 2011

What, me preworry?

Recently a friend introduced me to the notion of preworrying. Of course, I've been preworrying my whole life. Indeed, I swim in a shoreless sea of anxiety 24 hours a day, and preworrying provides much of the fluid for thought. But the word itself tickled me. But I see I am going where others have gone before. On Wordnik, Chained_Bear defines preworry as "Worry about things well before they need worrying about. Just in case you have to worry about them later—preworrying lets you avoid the rush." Reesetee advises, "If you don't properly preworry, then you end up postworrying about not having worried enough, and you waste precious worrying energy worrying about something that should have been worried about sooner. This, not surprisingly, worries me." I have found my tribe at last! Of course, I could do as Bilby suggests and "Don't preworry. Be prehappy." Nah.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Outclassed by my barber

There are times I feel quite sorry for myself because every week I have a workday that begins at 7 in the morning. That means I get up at 5, which means I have to go to bed at 9 if I want to get eight hours of sleep (which never, ever happens, because I'm addicted to "The Biggest Loser" and because I have insomnia every day of the week). It takes me just 15 minutes to get to work, but I need time to drink coffee, do the crossword and watch the dawn with my cats.

I've always felt morally upright for not whining about this workday more than I do. But yesterday (not the workday in question) I decided I couldn't stand my wisps of hair another moment and waited impatiently for Astor Hair to open so I could get them snipped. When I got to the door at 8, which according to the website was the opening hour, it was clear that Lenny, my haircutter, had been at work for quite a while. In fact, I had to wait for him to finish with a customer.

Lenny, it turns out, opens Astor at 4:30 a.m.—and works till 11 p.m.! AND he lives an hour away in Brooklyn. So if you back that up, and I did, it means he gets home at midnight, then leaves the house at 3:30 a.m. to get to work. Every day? I asked. Well, he demurred, once in a while he takes Mondays off so he can get stuff done. He loves the early morning because it's not so busy and he can watch free movies on his laptop, which he keeps at work. Aren't you exhausted? I asked. He shrugged. Not a drop of self-pity.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Springtime in Copenhagen

I was getting quite worried about not having heard from my daughter for a couple of weeks. But now that I've heard from her I'm more worried. Maybe it was the part about how she was riding in a car being driven at 180 km/h. Or maybe it was the part about how she's running short of cash because she bought herself a pair of $200 jeans. Or maybe it's the part ...

On the bright side, she's having a wonderful time. She said the chorus of one of the most popular songs in Denmark right now goes, "You wish you were Chinese in New York." The chorus of another hit is,"I've been a night raven for too long." The chant at a recent soccer game she attended went, "My girlfriend begged me for Sunday intercourse, but I had to go to the game."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mr. Perfect is no picnic

O.K., I know I’m the object of considerable envy because I live with Mr. Perfect. Mr. Perfect makes the bed and cooks the meals and washes the dishes and cleans the house. O.K., I admit it. He’s perfect. But how would you like it if you were imperfect and living with Mr. Perfect? Leave your clothes heaped up on the dining room chair, and Mr. Perfect wordlessly dumps them on your desk chair. O.K., it’s so he has room to sit in the chair to eat the dinner (that he cooked). But still. O.K., so suppose you just spent $20 on underwear and another $20 on a yoga book and maybe another $20 on some stupid thing you saw at a street fair, and you come home and Mr. Perfect confides that he’d really like to buy a book written by a friend of his about other friends of his but it costs $16.60 so he’s thinking he’ll wait to see if the price drops. WTF! O.K., so you worked a whole hour on your taxes so you could send your list of expenses to your tax preparer, and you felt very pleased with yourself because you did it early and you’re getting a big fat refund. Then Mr. Perfect spends the next month doing four sets of taxes (himself) for his sister who died, his mother who’s demented, our daughter who’s in Denmark, and himself. It’s just hell living with Mr. Perfect!