Marion on May 31, 2010

(This was originally posted in 2010. I’m bringing it out today in honor of the current GOP shitshow. Have you called your Republican congressional rep and senator yet?)

It’s time for me to come clean and admit how much I scam and rip off the government. Yes, it’s people like me that keep your taxes high (not as high as all the other industrial nations, but still, it’s your money).

First, I should tell you, I’m a third generation grifter. My grandparents arrived on these shores via Ellis Island. They were even given an alias. You think Stein is our real name?

They immediately benefited from soft immigration policies, “give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.“Yeah, baby!They couldn’t wait to come in and start working that system.Soon they were having babies and sending them to public schools on the taxpayers’ dime.They also enjoyed all those freedoms — religion, expression, press.They even got involved in trade unions and collective bargaining!

Then came the Great Depression. That could have set things right, invisible hand of the market and all that, but noooo! They used their vote to get that disabled guy and his commie cronies in and before you could say WPA, tons of people were grifting the government, building roads and dams, even making art — all kinds of nonsense that the feds had no business going near.

The feeling of unity was downright socialistic! Despite the Depression, both my parents got college educations without paying a dime in tuition! They didn’t even have to fake transcripts or forge checks. The local government made it easy, only requiring they do well enough in high school to get a spot in its city university system. Back then the powerful actually believed that educating the masses would help make life better for everyone and prevent political extremism. The naivety is astounding!

Then World War II came and all that touchy-feely propaganda actually helped strengthen the country.I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

My father, always the schemer, joined the army.What did he get out of it?A little something called the GI Bill.That’s right, folks for a couple of years of service, (more like a paid vacation to the exotic Philippines) my father came back to find graduate school paid for AND a rent subsidy.Talk about living high on the hog!

He was then able to grow a business because he hardly paid any rent! Not only did New York come up with a sweet scam called “Rent Control,” but they also had housing projects, which before they were allowed to fall into decay and dangerousness, provided housing to plenty of opportunistic ex-army guys and their baby mommas.

As for my mother, she put her “education” to good use getting herself a cushy job as a “teacher” in one of those public schools. Union benefits! Set up for life. Sweet.

With that government tit to feed us, my father continued to build his business. He didn’t even complain about the “tribute” his Uncle Sam wanted every April 15th. Figured it was his duty or something. Guess he was getting soft.

And even into old age, both my parents kept up their ripping off the government ways, benefiting from those major giveaways — social security and Medicare. They didn’t lose all the money they’d saved when they got old and sick. My mother cleaned up in the end, selling the house, cashing out, and spending her golden years in a swanky assisted living facility. Give me dignity or give me death, baby!

With this kind of background, of course I was heading toward a life of stealing from hard working American taxpayers!

Not only did I attend public universities, I also didn’t have to shell out much for cars because here in New York, we’ve got a little thing called mass transit. There aren’t as many opportunities to feed at the trough as there used to be, but thanks to the “education” I was able to acquire, I found some creative ways to beat the system. There are little things that I hardly even notice most of the time like the fact that I have “protection” in the form of police, fire fighters and even sanitation workers who work for “the public”. Yup, that’s me! Jane Q Public, enjoying those services! Hey, unlike most of “the little people” in those poor countries, I even get safe drinking water and a system that keeps people from selling spoiled and unsafe food. It’s like having a personal food taster or something!

So given that it’s a beautiful Memorial Day, I think I’ll go out and enjoy myself.Maybe head over to a nearby locally supported park like that big one in the middle of Manhattan, or the state park they built over the sewer treatment plant a mile or so north. Sewer treatment! That’s something. My government even cleans my shit! What a country!

Or perhaps I’ll just head a couple of blocks west, pay my respects at the national park which happens to be a government supported mausoleum for some old President who was himself a welfare king who never made a dime at his failed business attempts, but managed to graduate  from a publicly supported military academy and went into politics — that last refuge of the scoundrel — after his army stint.

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Marion on September 3, 2017

I’m sitting around on a bleak Sunday afternoon. The sky is white and it’s unusually cold for Labor Day Weekend. The better-half is away on one of his work-related do-gooding trips to a developing country.

Usually, I use his away time to get shit done, by which I mean household crafty stuff like redoing the kitchen floor in green paper,

Painted those cabinets too!

or hacking an IKEA table by gluing pages from an iconic 70’s veggie cookbook on it and “marblizing” it with more green paper,

Things to do in Manhattan when you’re bored.

or creating a faux-slate floor on the terrace using (wait for it) leftover package paper!

You can probably hire me to do this crap in your home or coach you through it.

Sometimes I write snarky blog posts that people actually pay me a pittance for, or fiction that people can buy on the cheap.  It’s not that the better-half’s presence keeps me from writing. He’s at work most of the time anyway. But being alone, not feeling a need to plan dinner with someone, or do the dishes, or anticipate conversations about my day, helps me focus on the writing. Plus there is some feeling that because he is out in the world “doing” something, and being his best self, I should at least make an effort to do that thing I used to think I was put on this earth to do.

A previous effort at engaging with the universe , which you might have missed.

But yesterday I “did” nothing. And today? Not very much. Am I depressed or worried? Well, I’m ALWAYS depressed and worried. The things I should be doing to alleviate those “feelings” or conditions seem impossible at the moment. But I’m not not contemplating ways to end my life. My mind has not been taken over by thoughts of some horrific looming catastrophic – although given the current political situation, such thoughts, while not helpful, might not be unrealistic.

Probably a good time for depressives to stay off of twitter.

But I’m not out womanning the baricades, nor is  my lack of social life an issue. People are harder than math! What keeps me from brooding that my solitude is NOT healthy, that my disconnectedness is hardly an achievement, that I can and should be an active participant, if not the major character in my own life story?

It’s the cats. They love me. I know this not only because a Facebook quiz tells me so. I know this because the little bastards constantly show me and tell me how much they love me. The one we still refer to as the feral – though that’s probably not his real backstory – insists on nuzzling next to my chest even as sit typing these words. His purr is as loud as a fancy Italian milk steaming machine.

The feral beast at rest.

The others are nearby, sleeping, but liable to stir if I move. The old one comes to me less, but if I’m out of his sight for too long, he’ll look for me, and harangue me until I follow him. His love requires work. He wants to be brushed, to be fed, to be told repeatedly what a good boy he is while his tummy is rubbed. (And yes, some cats are totally into that. But do NOT try it on the feral. He’d tear you to shreds.)

Like a human parent he is capable of inflicting guilt, but at least he’s never suggested I get electrolysis if I expect to keep a man.

The middle-child cat is the one who most loves to share the bed with the humans. Do not let anyone tell you that cats don’t know their names. He runs to me when I call him. He’ll allow the others on the bed if I’m watching, but he won’t let them get too close. They’ll stay by my feet.

Please, no mustache jokes. He’s a tad sensitive about his resemblance to Charlie Chaplin.

The husband and I are those people – the couple without children who’ve replaced human larvae with pets, but they are more than surrogate kids to me. They are best friends, companions, and more. I now make sure a dining chair is pulled out to make it easier for the senior cat to climb down to the floor from his favorite spot on the kitchen table.  I cook his special chronic renal deficiency diet because the commercially available prescriptions just aren’t good enough. With all the eldercare I give him, he has become a parental replacement.

Their care regulates me. Keeps me grounded. Jump out the window and end it all? Who’d feed them? And besides unless I stood on the ledge and shut the window before I jumped, which doesn’t seem possible, they might follow me and I wouldn’t want that to happen. Besides the husband has made it clear that if anything were to happen to me, he wouldn’t cook for them.

They are entertainment when I’m bored with traveling the world wide web, and reading is tiresome. They are even something I can share with my virtual friends and followers on social media. The feral likes to go out and see his fans in the neighborhood. Yes, he is that cat on the leash, which you either think is totally something you’d like to do or just weird depending on whether or not you live with a cat.  He forces me to go outside where I must answer – always sweetly – the same questions again and again:

“No, I didn’t train him to do this.”
“Yes, I do think he likes going outside. You can’t make a cat do anything they don’t want to do.”
“Just an alley cat. I found him out here. No special breed.”

People say dogs give unconditional love and cats are in it for the food. That’s not it. Both animals love us because we are kind to them, because we take care of them. Both would give us up if we turned on them. Cats maybe sooner  than dogs. But here’s the thing: Humans don’t love other humans because they are kind. We don’t love other humans because they take care of us.

Humans are ungrateful savages. Dogs and cats are better than this. Even the least pedigreed has had love bred into them. And while that love may involve a contract of sorts – feed me, change my litter box, allow me to experience the warmth of sleeping next to your belly – it is not a love that judges.

My cats don’t really give a shit about my salary. They don’t care if my last novel was “agented” or self-published. They don’t care how many followers I have on twitter or which celebrities are among them. It doesn’t matter to them if my family disowned me, if my lovers leave, if my body odor offends most of my own species. My weight is meaningless to them, unless I drop dead and they have to scavenge my fat.

The need to connect is part of being human. It’s why artists of all kinds do what they do. But we don’t necessarily need to connect with other humans. That’s why AI has inspired so much science fiction. In the future, the perfect companion may not be human at all. And we won’t just have robotic spouses or children. Think of a future where you could be the friends with the coolest people who ever lived, or at least facsimiles thereof. Well, until that comes along, a warm furry wannabe vermin catcher will have to do.

If I didn’t have my cats to give me a feeling of love and connection, would I go back to writing because creating something, telling myself a story, is one of the best ways I’ve found to both harness the chaos in my mind, and give me that sense of connection to others (even if those others consist of an audience which is almost entirely imaginary)? Would I be attempting to make plans with friends, even if picking up the phone or texting makes me feel horribly self-conscious, and I’m certain people sense my desperation? Would I get done the many things in the house that I need to get done despite the anxiety and second guessing that comes from “doing” almost anything?

Would I be more functional or less functional without my animal companions?

I’d hate to find out.

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New Yorkers love to get away from the city, especially on long weekends during the summer, but if you didn’t make plans, it’s not too late to have a fun three-day weekend. There a lots of interesting places to explore within the five boroughs of New York City, and there are plenty of easy day trips outside of the city that don’t require finding a “last minute”  car rental.

Here are five ideas for outdoor excersions that will feel like mini-vacations.

  1. Explore Manhattan’s Northern Tip

You can start by catching the A train to 207th Street. From there you can visit Fort Tryon Park. The park offers beautiful Hudson River views on winding paths. This is also where you can find visit The Cloisters. You can then walk to Inwood Hill Park, which offers hiking trails with old growth trees. There is also a Nature Center there where you can learn more about the local ecology. Sometimes there are additional activities sponsored by the Parks Department, such as kayaking.

Along the route from Fort Tryon Park to Inwood Hill Park there are other attractions like the Dykeman Farmhouse Museum – the only remaining Dutch colonial house in New York (circa 1764). There are several good restaurants in the neighborhood. I would recommend Indian Road Cafe and Bocaditos Bistro.

Inwood Hill Park

Adjacent to Inwood Hill Park is a small park, Isham Park. In Isham Park, you will find Bruce’s Garden. This is beautiful community flower garden named for Bruce Reynolds, a local policeman who was killed on 9/11.

You can see the rest of this post at Perfect English NYC.

Marion on August 24, 2017

I was shocked to discover I hadn’t posted here since March. I feel like the dad who went out for cigarettes and wound up on the bum in Oakland. Really, I’d meant to come back. There has been some writing since then although not enough to justify my existence by any means.  You can find some of my snarky recaps and other snark about my mother television here. As you may also know, I’ve been gigging it  teaching ESL and doing some writing coaching, so there’s a language blog here, which may be entertaining even for native speakers, assuming you’re obsessed by the difference between “got” and “gotten” or you live in an actual democracy and are still trying to figure out how the electoral college works.

As to the reason for my “silence” — don’t get me started. It’s a crisis of confidence that’s been coming on a long time, a feeling that I’m shouting in an empty room, etc. You know the scene in Peter Pan where Peter shamelessly makes us applaud to save Tinkerbell, that’s got to be some kind of metaphor for the arts. No one writes for themselves alone.

 

Marion on March 26, 2017

the americans s5 e3 liz hatThis week on The Americans, Elizabeth proves once again how much self-awareness she lacks (all of it). Stan and Aderholt might want to rethink their recruiting techniques. The noose tightens around Oleg, and we get a surprise blast from the past. Catch my recap of The Midges, season 5, episode 3 at The Agony Booth.  

dar loveAnd when you’re done with that, you can also relive the joy you felt when Peter Quinn hit Dar Adal upside the head with a gun on Homeland, season 6, episode 9 by reading my ‘cap of that episode.

But that’s not all! This very week, I also posted about Whatever Happened to Baby Jane and other Feud related films that show older women behaving very, very badly. All this posting over there, may explain why I’ve been neglecting this blog!

They had to film this on the beach because these ladies had chewed up all the scenary.

They had to film this on the beach because these ladies had chewed up all the scenary.

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Let us not worry about too much about being “politically correct.” Politicians, including that great Republican intellect, the very conscious of his party, the Honorable Paul Ryan has struggled with this issue, yet even he has endeavored to use the utmost tact when explaining to the public that Obamacare is in a “death spiral” because it burdens the healthy with paying insurance premiums that would benefit the sick.

Critics have disingenuously stated that Congressman Ryan misunderstands the entire concept of insurance, yet a driver prone to accidents would expect to pay more for insurance, and so the elderly, who are most prone to illness, should have no complaint if they too must pay more for coverage. It’s perfectly logical, is it not? Of course, one might argue, that all of us are healthy until we are sick, and illness or accident can strike at any age, but even if this happens, frankly cancer moves more quickly when it strikes the young. They are like to die sooner, and if they recover from some unfortunate event, they will have many years ahead to contribute to the economy and their society.

That family man of moral rectitude, Congressman Ryan cannot say out loud, just yet, what some of his party have hinted at. (After all old people vote.) Nor would someone of such a kindly disposition suggest taking away all the income of people as they age. Even he understands that if every penny needed to go toward insurance and healthcare, other facets of the economy might suffer. The elderly might no longer be able to afford to house themselves, and would need to move in with their adult children. Once upon this was the norm, and some of us film buffs may even recall the depression era classic, Make Way for Tomorrow, which dealt honestly with the problem this presented for families, and ends with an elderly couple parting forever to live with different households in different part of the countries. The cruelty of the separation leaves “not a dry eye in the house.” Would the sweet mercy of death not be a better alternative? Read the rest of this entry »

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