April 10, 2012

Alice may once again blog, periodically

Alice has taken up blogging again, at no regular intervals, because she misse the community of bloggers, before Facebook came along and we gave away the remainder of our souls and that 20-century concept, privacy. It irks me to be so stripped of mine, to have to key in the same numbers over and over before our phone calls have a chance in hell in going through.

I was recently asked to fill out a questionnaire with 2 truths and a lie, not saying which was which. In the end my truthful one came down to, migraines have made my life hell. The lie I remember is, technology is for boys and their toys, and they should either get a hobby or get laid -- anything to keep them away from another "upgrade."

If you didn't complete your task sufficiently, why should I want to try your new latest--and-greatest, when it is evident that you, like most boys, failed to put away your toys and left your underpants on the living room floor, so to speak, for me to clean up what you were incapable of learning.

Did I sign up to be a beta tester on your software? Did I have any input whatsoever, when you were busy making Word a lovely piece of software on which to turn your blue italic prose in an obscure font in a strange type size? Or when you decided it was more important to choose the proper header and drop in a photo or a chart in lieu of making more editing choices available? I thought the program was called "Word" for a reason. I didn't realize the Word was having its sunset years.

And user-friendly? Try user hostile. It is way more apt. Before the mouse came along, I never needed "customer care," which does not imply what "support" would it my mind. "Service" and "support" went the way of all flesh, based on consumer need for cheap appliances, which thus far strikes me as the opposite of "going green."

If everything is going to break down after 2 or 3 years, where is it going to go? Last I heard, plastic electronics, are not the quickest thing to break down in a land fill. And how many fleece items do plastic soda bottles consume?

Then there's the big companies idea of going green -- they are simply too cheap to print the manuals. I bet the cost saving on the tech "support" end of things would be more profitable if someone wrote a manual in plain, layperson's English. That, I doubt, will happen any time soon. Why not have you use paper and ink to get the information that used to come packaged neatly with the computer. Now, we're lucky if we get pictograms. Great for the graphically inclined, for the literary, not so much.....

As for photo editing, here is another task I did not sign up for. With the digital camera, it is difficult to compose a shot, as we did for film. When you were getting charged by the photo, and retained the negative, it was much easier to duplicate and much less trying on the eyes.

I also did not sign up to be a travel agent, much less one who writes companion tickets, or for me going somewhere more complicated than going from point A to point B and back again. Also, she refuses to rely on such sites as Trip Advisor. I don't want to know what the masses thought and decided was worthy of the Web; she would rather stick to her travel agent of 30 years, who knows Alice's preferences cold -- and hot.

So that is part I of Alice's return. She will write again; she hopes to avoid this topic. She has had many more thoughts in the past year, most of them floating through her mind and out again. If she can latch on to them, she will blog more often.

September 18, 2011

Alice doesn't blog here anymore

Alas, it seems that Alice is on permanent hiatus. She hasn't blogged in so long, she's not sure she remembers how, or whether she has anything to say that she hasn't said since 2004. Still, she is available. If you'd like to Go Ask Alice, email her at alice.uptown @ gmail.com.

P.S. She misses the days before Facebook, before blogs carried more ads than Alice has shoes, back in the day when blogs flourished and bloggers were a cult unto themselves, a group of people who knew how to express themselves without taking a Learning Annex-type class for an education they continue to lack. Those days are gone, and for that, Alice is sad.

Still, the blog will remain in cyberspace for now. Given Google's propensity for swallowing information, Alice suspects that should she remove the blog, someone would find it somewhere regardless.

Alice is sitting at her computer, waving good-bye to any notion of privacy or civil rights as she once knew them. She is not a happy camper. All her blogging friends have ceased writing, and while she wishes everyone well, she wishes her former peeps would express themselves in more than 10 words of a status update on Facebook, the final nail in the American productivity coffin.

Also, if you tweet her, Alice will neither notice nor care. She has no plans to reduce her life to 140 characters, nor does she need to hear about yours so concisely. Email is quite enough, thank you. Texting is a horror. Alice would prefer to pick up the damn phone, if only her landline company were capable of repairing the line so that the hard-wired phone didn't drop calls.

Communication used to be so much simpler, more direct, and took place in full sentences. Alice hopes she will make it through with fragments.

June 06, 2011

You sell them, I'll smoke 'em

Doesn't matter if I want 'em or not. It's called solidarity, and smokers seem uniformly despised, albeit their tax dollars are still welcome. Oh, and by the way? It's harder to kick a nicotine habit than heroin. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Mayor Mike really went bonkers this time: Now he's Captain in Chief of his very own Police State, one of his making. As of last week, smoking -- not clearly defined as "no cigarettes, no pipes, no cigars, no drug paraphenalia" specifically, has been banned in New York City's parks, on our beaches, our boardwalks, and probably a thousand other places that my tax dollars support. So, along with knowing that the police here can essentially search you at any time you are on public property, i.e., bring a large tote bag on the subway, and you have lost the right to keep the contents private, remember that you've also lost a few Constitutional rights along the way.

For the civic-minded nicotine addict, it's the sidewalk, the middle of the road (so long as it hasn't been claimed for plaza space), or the parking lot as a choice of smoking venue -- 'cause if it's not the parking lot -- of which we have fewer and fewer now that real estate is so valuable you can build a glass box and convince people to spend $1 million-plus essentially to live in a glass house -- it's that or the middle of the road.

As for the parking lot, I don't own a car. Never have, and doubt I will. My carbon footprint is a size 6. So chances of my screwing up the environment with car emissions is very slim. Can you say the same? (Try to tell me that car emissions are good for you, and I will laugh you into the East River.)

So I'm basically headed to the parking lot to stay, because it's that or the middle of the road. And which would you prefer? Fatal car accidents -- for when woman meets speeding car, she loses -- or a slight willingness to concede some air space for those of us not using up any of our other pollution credits. Fortune 500 companies have been trading their pollution credits since the mid-1990s, so I see no reason not to apply that logic on a personal level.

You don't want me smoking in your office, well, I can live with that. You don't want me smoking in your home, well, if you can offer a nearby indoor venue, I can live with that. But the idea that you can't light up in Central Park is beyond me. This is, after all, the park where, in the 1970s, people smoked a lot more than cigarettes.

These days, it's hide and seek with a cigarette. I think people would prefer I brought a loaded gun to any nonsmoking venue than that I dare light a cigarette. This is, after all, still New York. You want clean air, move to Vermont.

Oh, and as for smokers creating high medical expenses? We all know we're dying one day or another -- unlike the anti/non-smokers, who seem to think this is a world without end. Ultimately we cost the country less in health costs than you might think, for the simple fact that a) we die sooner and b)what we have already kicked into Social Security will leave more for you. I'd like a little bit of gratitude for what I'm doing on that front.

You might also want to check the stats for how much money smokers cost in medical vs., say, obese people. One in five smokes, but one in three is obese, at least across middle America. And it is no fun sitting next to a person overflowing her seat in economy class on a plane.

What's next, a ban on sugar?

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May 21, 2011

The young and restless

I've just spent a week watching my brother with his 4-year-old daughter, my niece. My mom was along for the whole ride -- and I felt like I were 4 again, being cajoled into being in a good mood or else I would be punished. Or is that how you discipline 4-year-olds?

What is the message we're really giving? That it's not okay to be in a bad mood? That's the part that resonates with me. Oh, the threats of childhood: my mom's "parenting techniques," in current vernacular -- she went in for bribes, whether in cash, opera glasses (how someone got me to believe they were better than sucking my thumb is beyond the adult me), or simple threats, i.e., I'm going to crack your skulls together. Or, my favorite: "I'm going to break every bone in your body,"

"How many bones would that be?" I used to ask. 206, I knew. 211 until the last few bones knit together, at what point I don't remember. How did I know? My mom's favorite suggestion if we asked her a question and she didn't know, "look it up." A little knowledge was a lot of protection, and it was fun to use her mandate against her.

Sometimes being a smart-ass kid pays off. Sometimes it didn't. Must say, though, every chance I got to come back with a clever remark, one that made the grown-ups laugh, I took it. If my parents, my-mom-the-disciplinarian in particular, broke out laughing, chances are I was way ahead of the game.

That is, to my eyes, a lot of what child-raising and disciplining is all about: while parents rule the young and restless, once the restless acquire a good vocabulary and sense of what brings ironic laughter to the parent, it's a whole new ball game.

Between my niece's mother sharing my sense of irony and humor and what she'll pick up from my side of the family, I suspect my niece will be firing back some really funny remarks, sooner rather than later. She's a bright kid, reciting "Madeline" from memory. She already knows about the Eiffel Tower.

So my Auntie Mame-ism, begun at my niece's last birthday, when I picked the book to read her to sleep and try to interest her in Paris -- is already working: five months later, she's drawing pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Show me another child from Tiny Town, Sleepy Southern State who is learning about Paris as fast as she's learning about Wonderland from all her trips here.

I'll bet she makes it to Paris before her mother, my ex-sister-in-law (what is a better description of my niece's mother?) leaves the U.S. Or is that just my projecting the happier part, the not-at-home portion, of my childhood onto her? I can't tell.

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April 24, 2011

A long time ago, we used to be friends...

...but I haven't thought of you lately at all.
If ever again, a greeting I send to you,
Short and sweet to the soul is all I intend.

Yes, but during my Veronica Mars marathon, the Dandy Wharhols tune reverberated, until I did think of you, and you, and others lost along the way, whether through my choice or theirs.

First, Jennifer, who is seated beside me toasting at the bar in Lake Placid. She, almost 2, and I, almost 3, settled in our mothers' favorite banquette, Shirley Temples in hand. We had our summers together until I was 18 or so.

I have found Jennifer again (through Facebook, which knows us all); now she lives in India at an ashram and does yoga almost full-time. We were the only children in her uncle's hotel in Lake Placid -- two toddlers well acquainted with the cocktail hour.

I have reminisced about our adolescence in fiction: smoking our parents' cigarettes, drinking wine the bus boys brought in to the kitchen when we were on glass-washer duty, getting stoned with one of the waitresses and gobbling entire boxes of Freihoffer's chocolate chip cookies.

All Jennifer has said is, "I don't think of the past very often, but those days -- they were golden." So they were, days crafted by a generation that believed in leisure and escaping heat: my family stayed at our uncle's hotel every year for the month of August.

We swam, water-skied, pretended we were bicycling on the white fiberglass paddle boats; We played tennis, backgammon, all manner of card and board games; we ice skated at the 1932 Olympic rink; bowled in Saranac, the next town over; stole chocolate chips from the pastry chef's kitchen and gobbled them up on the 18th green of the golf course next door where we practiced gymnastics.

When it rained, we went next door to the big hotel's game room, playing pinball at ten cents a throw, back when the scores were analog and digital was a gleam in no one's eye. We also excelled at shoplifting from big hotel's gift shop.

We dressed formally for dinner -- preening in our fancy outfits when our moms let us wear mascara, non-waterproof variety, that made black tears pour down our cheeks when we laughed so hard we couldn't but cry. We had manners, drilled into us as toddlers, corrected when we were teenagers who couldn't be bothered. Yes, those days, that way of life -- it was golden, and I miss it.

Then there's Jamie's mom -- my friend from college who decided, belatedly, that she didn't like the way I behaved in front of her kids one day, after 8 or 9 years of being perfectly content with my role as Aunt to her kids, Aunt verging on Auntie Mame, the one who always played with the kids and brought them presents galore.

I spent hours on the phone with her when her husband was on a nuclear submarine in waters unknown, before email and other electronic means of communication. At the time, I believe I was the only adult voice she heard during the day above the clamor of her three children.

Her conservative husband, when I did see him, humored me: he didn't know anyone else who would so appreciate the irony of a coffee cup that read "U.S. Navy Earth Friendly." He called her diploma "your father's receipt." I refer to it as my mother's picking up a four-year bar tab, but the sentiment is the same.

I missed the memo the year she was evaluating and dropping friends with abandon -- in retrospect, it seems clear: I was far from the only one dismissed, and, presumably, I was among the last. Still, I spent hours worrying about her and her family when communication lurched to a sudden halt, only to discover she was angry at me -- but phrased it passive-aggressively: the children, she said, couldn't understand my sleeping late, for example.

I wondered why she couldn't explain to her kids that my way was different from hers, for whatever reason -- she was fond of reminding me that we shared an education, but evidently hers didn't lend itself to bringing up her children the way our generation was brought up: the adults were always right. She could have used one of those T-shirts: "Why? Because I'm your mother. That's why."

Who else, cared for one day and always in memory, regardless of how our connections were severed: the college BFF, for whom that second F had a timer on it; the stockbroker who was once my financial planning study buddy, and who wanted to continue our business relationship minus the friends part.

She, like Jamie's mom, was a Republican, and that ultimately would have broken that camel's back. But there were years that I was at her house so frequently that her 6-year-old son asked her if she and I were getting married -- little boy gender-bender circa 1995: I loved him for that alone.

I miss her about as often as I miss my manic-depressive friend who took it upon herself to call my shrink and tell him things I had told her -- hello? If you benefit from my illegally obtained largess, shouldn't you just say thank you and keep your mouth shut?

When you reach a certain age, you have enough detachment to think of friends in a former life as just that: people in a life you no longer live, or even remember all that well.

Still, it saddens me to hear the lyrics: "...we used to be friends."

April 18, 2011

Oh, to sleep-- perchance to dream, please?

For just about half my life, my synapses have been ordered to sleep by my pharma-copia of drugs. They have taken their marching orders grandly, but recently, it seems some synaptic connection has frayed.

Meaning, I'm NOT sleeping through the night. No, it's more akin to sleeping like a baby: I wake up every hour and a half for no discernible reason. Seven nights running on interrupted sleep, and my days become as hideous as my nights have been.

It's as if I've been in a clinic for the sleep-deprived. Oh, wait: my health insurance would never pay for something that useful. My sleep clinic is my very own bedroom, without the hospital equipment to monitor my REM cycles. Obviously, affording personal medical staff is out of the question and out of my insurance company's interest.

Odd, that -- one would think that it would be beneficial to stop a sleep problem before it started affecting the rest of your life -- but the insurance fools seem to think that it has to start affecting the rest of your life and your day-to-day capabilities, and then insurance will step in.

Reminds me of the time I needed a PET scan to prove I had cancer, but insurance wasn't convinced of the fact that the only way to prove or disprove those overactive dancing cells is with, ta-da, a PET scan.

This week, it's time to schedule another scan, so I can be the radioactive lady on the sidewalk, not caring if pregnant women or young children are in my way -- we live in Wonderland: do you think anything here is solidly clean and PC?

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March 29, 2011

Where's the off-ramp for the info superhighway?

At this point, I would settle for a rest stop -- a la Bob's Big Boy on the New Jersey Turnpike. Don't care how long I would have to wait in line for the ladies' room, or to purchase an overpriced cup of coffee that resembles dishwater.

So long as no phones were beeping, ringing or otherwise making sound effects and the place sounded neither like a day-care center or a bar, I'm good. I also prefer no screaming children.

Discipline, parents: use it or lose it. Once it's lost and you've set bad precedent for kids' behavior, you don't have your children anymore; they have you, by the short-hairs. Once upon a time, "children should be seen and not heard" was not considered a form of tap-dancing on your child's developmental self-expression.

Also, note to parents and anyone else who avails themselves of the rest stop. Have you counted the 16-wheeler rigs in the parking lot? Added up how much they pollute the atmosphere, vs. how much I have done in my 5-minute cigarette break? Think about it. Do the math: that is, if lack of nicotine hasn't destroyed your logical and cognitive abilities.

Two weeks back from Mexico, and I would like nothing better than to return to the land where my biggest decisions were a) is it time to swim now? and b)what should we have for dinner. A blessed two weeks sans phone calls, cell rings, and, what could have been sans Internet.

The only reason I used any part of my 30 minutes a day allotment for computer access was to empty out my e-mail box, so I wouldn't come home to 500+ messages that didn't need to be delivered, seeing how quickly the delete key jumped on them. And to show off my knowledge of how to create an @ symbol on a Spanish keyboard. Alt 6-4 -- that's my contribution to the global village.

As for you, the lady with the stroller behind me waiting for the rest-stop ladies' room: no one wants to hear about your errant son or your mother-in-law's latest insult, or the status of your physical/emotional personal life. If you can't use your inside voice well enough, then don't use any voice at all.

Otherwise, your conversations are fair game to all within hearing range. If you won't turn yourself down, vocally, anyone who wants to is free to join your part of the call. Thus is my belated conclusion after overhearing one "my Pap smear was clean" too many on the cross-town bus.

I have also listened too many times to various imbeciles who can't wait to exit the plane before announcing to his/her spouse, "honey, the plane landed." Planes take off; they fly; they touch down. This used to be considered common knowledge. (Granted, the airlines used to be a lot more reliable than thy are now.) Plus, I doubt you'd be able to place a call to say, "honey, the plane crashed."

If the plane has gone down, chances are good so will you. And the cell reception won't be at its strongest in the middle of, say, the Atlantic, or flying over/into the Rocky Mountains.

Just a thought on my part, one I have returned to face in the so-called real world, that vacuous space of TMI. Another note to business execs: if your quarterly numbers are going to suck, do you really want the whole world to know? Should we passers-by be told what company you work for, is it public, and do these numbers mean your stock price will tank?

This is potentially useful info. Perhaps it's also known as insider trading, but that's a slippery slope. If Exec A phones Exec B so that you can overhear him at the departure gate, that little piece of knowledge has lost all its pretenses to confidentiality.

Cell phones and privacy don't mix: hello GPS? Whether you like it or not, it's easier to reach out and track someone than to call someone, or touch someone. Cell tower connections are only one of several devices known to keep track of one's whereabouts.

In the old days, it was ankle monitors for house-arrest prisoners. These days, you don't need to be fingerprinted to have your whereabouts available to any government body that has authorized itself to subpoena your cell number or your bank statements.

That large withdrawal in Brazil will set off bells at your bank. Or, should you require Facebook while abroad, it will ask you a series of questions to ascertain that you have indeed left your laptop at home.

Until last year, my bank never needed to know in advance that I might be taking out money in a foreign country: now, without giving advance warning, I get one swipe and stash of cash from my bank card, and then, if they don't know I'm in, say, even Mexico or Canada, my bank card is dead.

Whatever happened to the notion that ATMs were supposed to make it easier to access money in different countries? My bank, in particular, likes to slap me with currency-exchange fees, not to mention a $3 or higher levy if I use a machine other than one with their logo branded on it, or the fact I never see the currency exchange measurement in use.

Moral of these anecdotes: Bite your tongue. Spare me your life story. Consider that while, artificial intelligence has come a long way, it is still, in the end, artificial.

Meaning, some computer algorithm, minus human input, decided to make you validate your travels to MasterCard and American Express -- what happened to serendipity?

Spontaneous travel works only for those with enough cash not to need to register with the plastic-card people. At this point, it may not work at all should you desire an airplane ticket. No, those people want your name, gender, birthday, and, insult of insult, they want you to type your passport number into their computer.

Really? Big institutions lose track of their data all the time. There is nothing so charming as knowing some Large Company/Organization Inc. has lost your social security number and, oh, we're so sorry to inconvenience you, but you'll have to keep track of any credit fuck-ups we've helped create, much less identity theft.

Why is it that the people responsible for holding on to personal information can't manage to keep track of it, then turn around and ask us to clean up after them?

That is clear evidence of the death of privacy in this century. That's where I try to draw the line, with a heavy ironic note that my scribbles in cyberspace could be considered a breach of privacy for everyone I have written about.

Here, on my blog, I control what you see and how the people in my life are described -- most have pseudonyms, and I am a character in some of these entries. And you know me as Alice, she who lives in Wonderland, aka New York City.

It's my choice to add to information overload; yours is whether to consider whether it is of sufficient interest for you to hang out here, perhaps comment in a way that will move me to write another post, or at least let me know these words are not written all in vain.

Consider what content farms pay for writing -- $25 for 500 words? You've got to be kidding. I may write here for free, but it's on my terms. 500 words on the topic of someone else's choice? Not at those prices. I'm not sure that the minimum wage even matches how little writers are paid.

Or how little they are appreciated: my friends who write books are hustling all over the country to promote them, not necessarily on the publisher's dime; another has learned she's good at Skype book clubs, complete with her own glass of wine.

Anyone who wants someone to read their latest article puts a link to the story on Facebook, hoping some of her 200+ friends will be moved to read it, "share" it, and make it go as viral as a written article can in the video age.

Given the global economy concept and Google's omnipresent search engine waiting its turn in the background, your article could go anywhere -- and probably a machine has translated it into other languages, regardless of nuances lost.

Since the info superhighway grows exponentially, it is almost impossible to find a place on the planet without it. What I need is a driver to find a way for me not to have TMI meltdown.

Difficult, however, for once the Internet has been unleashed, it is hard to stuff it back into a jar.

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February 27, 2011

Losing my calls

Another gray day at home -- feel like I haven't seen the sun in years. keep staying home and nesting, if that's what you want to call it. that would, however, imply that I'm doing all manner of things at home. I'm not. I'm watching taped TV and Netflicks. I'm not reading. I'm not keeping up with my online scrabble games. What am I doing?

Making a transition between what once was and what will eventually be. Stuck in limbo, somewhere. Can barely remember what once was -- did the year of lymphoma take that from me? I assume that if I had really liked what once was that I would remember, I would want to do it again. But if that means financial planning, forget it.

For a time, it was a lovely gig. Then the economy tanked, and I felt like nothing I could do in the way of financial planning would be of any value to anyone, so I retreated from it. And took a long breath -- happy not to need to keep up on every tax law change, the health insurance bill from hell that has fucked me six ways from Sunday, and god knows how it's affected anyone else.

My phone just announced a text message, but I'm at the machine, looking at the time more often than I'd like, simply because it is there. Does it mean anything? Not so much -- only that I need to keep track because I have shrink appointment. and it's going to be by phone.

The sidewalks and corners are treacherous, and I'm not going anywhere outdoors that I don't have to, at least not today.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to do an open house at Spanish school, then go to a party in the Village. One of The Three Sisters called yesterday -- it's going to be a fondue party for reasons I have yet to discover. Apparently it relates to the Chinese new year, though I don't possibly see how. Still, it's The Three Sisters, my oldest friends, and, assuming strangers don't come streaming in the way they did at Xmas, it will be a good place for me to go, to see people who just accept me as I am, whether it's as cancer vic or trust fund kid or brilliant writer who just won't or can't get around to putting words on paper.

Paper? So 20th century. What I can't stand is how my computer has turned into a communications toy, so much that I rarely use it for the real, basic stuff -- the reason I went cyber in the first place: I wrote papers, short stories, essays, a novel...and kept track of all my financial data -- basic spreadsheet 101. And those functions still exist; I do remember the keyboard shortcuts for WordStar, before there were mice, before there was DOS, much less Windows.

There's so much other crap on the machine now that I've succumbed to computer as toy, seduced by the lure of FB, an invention that will end whatever productivity exists in this country.

Yes, folks, I am alive and typing -- but what my mind is trying to say, I don't have a clue.

I may try an exercise, looking at photos of Haiti and seeing what evocative descriptions I can glean from them, what memories they bring up -- and just write it all down, no rereading, but social commentary is okay, since it's all that I didn't know as I sat on the beach at Kyona, all those years.

That whole period of my life -- from Lake Placid to Haiti: that world is gone, gone, gone. And, having failed to plan for middle age, I come to it baffled. I come to it searching for a world that has different values than the one I see around me.

Jobwise, it doesn't seem to matter if you are intelligent. To me, it matters more if you can use the technology and not have it use you in offices or at home or any place on this earth. I suspect one may have to do more than fog a mirror, but it's been 20 years since I've had an office, so I don't know what constitutes good behavior at work. Twenty years ago, I could get jobs based on my brain, without having to pass a piss test.

Then, the piss test bothered me from a privacy angle. Now, there's no privacy left, so as long as I stay away from weed, which has turned into a huge no-no, I could pass the test -- assuming I resisted the temptation to throw the container directly into the face of the person who had requested it.

While I'm on this rant, I've had it with technology: with me, it's strictly need-to-know. These days, I learn as little as possible. Why bother? Nothing sticks except what changes and hence becomes obsolete knowledge as soon as I've memorized any of it.

Plus, I'm still battling my not-so-new "smartphone." It outsmarts me, and there is not much more to be said about it, except that while it may retrieve info accurately, it's not so hot as its alleged primary use: as a telephone. So I may speak to people when I'm not home, however well we got along before we had this whiz-bang opportunity.

I'm losing all my calls these days -- Verizon has yet to fix either phone line, after many conversations and three or four visits from their tech support people, who seem unable to manage to troubleshoot calls dropping out or getting static-y from landlines. Not sure if Verizon is getting metaphorical or just completely inept.

Honestly, technology consists of boys and their toys. Otherwise, we'd have robo-chef by now, not to mention silent vacuums and dishwashers -- all the things you need to run a household of any size. Clearly cleanliness is not high on the tech-lovers list.

If I were Queen, I would make sure that all the phone lines worked and the cable company could manage more than a day without the need to reboot. And I'd have a driver -- granted, it might be weird to have a driver take me to Costco, but I'd be safe.

Right now I can't do large stores -- the Petco store where we bought cat food for The Consultant's cats struck me as a shop for children's clothes when we first walked in. How to outfit your schnauzer. I'm assuming the margins are bigger on animal clothes than they are on animal food. I don't understand why she just doesn't get stuff delivered: she says, well, my ex was supposed to place an order this week, then makes an excuse for why the ex hasn't done her quasi-wifely duties.

Haven't figured that relationship out -- I know The Consultant is actively hunting on line, and I'm on hiatus from trying to date new people. After The Artist and I went our separate ways, I ran out of emotional space. I wanted simplicity, and I got it. I'm know I'm not in the best mood to be bright and shiny and sexy the way I have to feel if I'm going out on a date.

Bigger question is, what do I want in the way of a relationship, and what kind of mixed signals am I getting from The Consultant, who has made it very clear, and I've agreed, that we're good in bed together and fine for dinner, but no angels are getting their wings.

Except perhaps last weekend, when I took her out for dinner and she deliberately picked a "romantic restaurant," and the whole time we were out, she held my hand, or my arm. This is moving into the PDA world, and I hadn't thought we were there. Still not sure: are we there yet? or are we going anywhere?

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February 21, 2011

Groupon, groupoff: so much for that eyelash perm

In this day and age, well past the dawning of Web 2.0 and nearly, I suspect, near its sunset, many, many entities want to sign me up to spend more money. Their premise? Since we have such a large buying group, it's a bargain.

Oh, really?

Explain to me, please, why on earth I would purchase a Japanese eyelash perm, at any price, for any reason. I understand the Japanese are known for straight hair. I get it: I sent hair straightener for black woman to Dona, the year she lived in Japan. Not a lot of African-American or Caribbean-American women in Tokyo circa 1985, before the multi-culti globalization of our little world.

If Japanese women were curling their eyelashes, they probably did it the old-fashioned way: with the type of metal eyelash crimper last seen by me circa 1970, when my bunk counselor -- at an all-girls' camp -- persisted in doing full makeup every morning.

In retrospect, who was the counselor primping for? Not the other female counselors, not circa 1970, when bras were flung with abandon, underarm hair and unshaven legs were a political statement, and the word "femme" had yet to come into popular usage. (Even now, it's only used in certain circles, and I'm not quite sure I understand the complete definition, or if it varies, city by city, urban by rural.) I'll never know, except to chalk it up to pre-feminist cultural conditioning.

But I digress: before chemo, I might not have realized that the everything-must-go sale my hair follicles staged was complete, and I would not have grasped the full extent of the loss-of-hair. It never would have occurred to me that my eye lashes were lacking.

(Yea, you -- tell me my hair will grow back and I will ask you if you've ever seen your pubic hair on a wad of toilet paper.) It does grow -- but not back -- it grows in textures and levels of curliness not found on any head of mine I ever brushed. My eyelashes hold mascara now just as well as years ago.

When my hair, now 3 inches in length, started its regrowth, it was not the hair I had cut off in the ponytail to donate to other women with cancer. That hair was thick, and long. I don't recognize myself as the woman in the mirror with short, curly, hair. She looks too old to be me.

That may be the woman I have become, but I've yet to adapt to her, the one with a scar down her chest where the surgeon opened her sternum, and the one whose other incision, now healing, came from inserting and removing the quarter-size port under her skin, at a level just above where my cleavage, such as it remains, happens to be. That, and having been a Superfund site for several months. Do the poisons ever leave?

Here is where I step sharply on "groupoff." I missed the day when my email bargain-getter sent trampoline lessons on sale. Groupon? Middle-aged women in circus school? In Brooklyn, on a street name I recognize from my childhood in the 'burbs, but not directly over the East River? Not part of any group that I can imagine, not without an ambulance and an orthopedist nearby.

If you're of an age to try the tramp or flying on wires, perhaps you have not reached the age where you understand the repercussions of signing a waiver of responsibility. Or, no one has texted the legality (or lack) of the form to you. Or you are one of the various lemmings comprising the group for which these "bargains" are targeted.

In high school, I loved the tramp (not the dirty little man outside the gym). But not now, in what I assume to be the midpoint of my life. No sane person wants me, veering on osteoporosis, to hop up on that tramp to jump and fly. My bones might not make it through intact, for one reason; another, bigger question: could I ever feel as free jumping now as I did at 14, when fear was not a part of my physical makeup? I'm guessing, not so much.

"Freedom's just another word for, nothing left to lose," or so sang Janis Joplin, at the ripe old age of 25 or so. Apparently it look me longer to lose my water-wings and training wheels. Twice as long, to be precise.

Having stepped over the medical threshold into the land of illness, of temporary disability, some of my fears have grown, but others? Not so much. Sure, there's the State Department. I hear it has issued a warning on travel to Mexico.

I'm sure there was one on Haiti, at least part of the time I was there. It didn't occur to me to be afraid. And Mexico? Border drug trafficking is not happening 1000 miles from the California state line. Where I stay in Baja, the only drugs on special are Viagra, anti-depressants, and Retin A. Each is freely available in pharmacies. I'm not even fearful of germs -- 20 years of visiting Haiti, and I know what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. (Cf. Superfund site).

My friends confuse the border with Cabos, 1000 miles down the peninsula. In timeshare-ville, guards blend in with the scenery, but I know they are there, just as I knew the staff paced the grounds in the Haitian beach where I went from girl child to grown woman.

Americans, except in war zones and potential political hotbeds (find me a dictator the U.S. didn't fly out of his country in the past 25 years, and I'll show you a dead man), didn't used to need private security protection. Now that we've globalized, U.S. citizens are easy targets.

Especially targeted are those those who give rise to the ugly American stereotype, one I've discovered is not without those secured to it, the ones who don't give a damn that, hey, no one speaks English here and speaking louder is not going to change that.

Volume is not the key to language comprehension, much to the chagrin of many. (Take that, groupon, and go global.) Hand signals are much more effective. In moments of desperation, you will get your point across -- perhaps not in a grammatical sentence, but in the way you most need at that very second.

Or so I continue to trust, as my attempts to learn Spanish (where is that group discount when you need it?) regress, and fluent French dating back 30+ years spews forth in in its place.

Why such an emphasis on group discounts in the cyber age? Because no one would ever leave the keyboard, the cell phone, the "smart" phone, or the PDA? Makes me think the Internet is not where we find each other; it's where our connections fray, and, if you're not careful, lose all meaning.

Groupon? Is this for 21st century groupies? If you're offering discounts, perhaps you or your oh-so-clever computer, could devise a few not designed to add to a woman's insecurities. Don't try to make me think my eyelashes are doomed, the way the teeth-whitening crowd has tried to convince me to add that task to daily maintenance. It's not working.

If that's groupon, stop the world -- I want to groupoff.

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January 27, 2011

No longer a port in any storm

My porting days are over. Translation: I no longer have a chemo-needle-friendly "device" implanted in my chest. It's a far cry from where I was a year ago, at this time -- between rounds 1 and 2 of chemo, with 5 more to go

I've gone, done my time, and walked by the "infusion room" aka chemo lounge at my doctors' office, and finally, had a sigh of relief. No port, no entry. Here's to hoping no one ever wants to appoint me as a Superfund site again. Or make me a one-woman radioactive blip on the sidewalk. The only exception to the latter is, there will be more PET scans, more signs that I am, I hope, home free.

Home, of course, will never be the same again. This season I am snow-bound, but it's better than being the girl in a bubble. Hello, normal white cell count. Hello, immune system. So long, fare well bottles of Purell. Return to regularly scheduled interaction with the public. That is, once I find my snow boots.

I'm all set for sledding, apparel-wise: boots, snow pants, ski mittens, down coat with hood, extra cashmere cap for warmth, all requisite long underwear and thick socks. Only thing I'm missing is the sled, and the assurance of normal bone density. What would it say about me if I took a hill too fast, clipped into a tree, and broke my hip? Age-appropriate? Ha!

For public consumption and to speak the vernacular, I am a survivor. Not at all sure the word is appropriate to describe the experience, but that is what our language, in the world of cancer patients, has labeled appropriate. I have, for the record, survived worse: 40 years of depression vs. less than a year with a cancer diagnosis. By comparison, cancer was a walk in the park. Without snow gear. I'd hardly call it a trek, considering how I've felt in other circumstances.

With lymphoma, the odds were in my favor: 90% "cure" rate is what I'm told. "Cure," not "remission." After two solid years off chemo, "cured" is what they will call me. But what term will I use?

They say you can't go home again, and while that sentence applies to me literally -- my aunt and uncle's hotel in Lake Placid burned to the ground, and Haiti had, well prior to the earthquake, become a politically untenable place to go -- Wonderland, my hometown, looks different as well.

Tourists may like Toys R Us in Time Square, part of the Disneyfication a la Guiliani and Bloomberg; those of us with memories oddly enough prefer the old days, when that was a seedy part of town. We miss the fake ID joints, the peep shows, the 24/7 porn palaces and all the people who frequented them.

What price safety? Total loss of character and place? I'm sure the hookers made a better living than the minimum-wage folk now operating every chain restaurant in the land that's open to reassure tourists that Wonderland is "safe."

Sure, I no longer have to defend my city's crime rate -- in the old days, Detroit's and D.C.'s murder rates made ours look like amateur night -- but I have less of my city to defend. So much has succumbed to another strip of the global village with all of its big-box, made-in-China-but-sold-only-for-export chain stores bleeding our local shops dry that we're losing our personality.

I love New York? We used to lure visitors with a huge advertising campaign. Now busloads enter voluntarily. I would enjoy those who commute much more if they had to pay a percentage of the NY City tax dollars from which they benefit. New York is a city of first-responders, but no one counts how much it costs us and how our neighbors beyond the borough lines have benefited since we stopped collecting income tax from them.

We should have a cover charge for entry, even if it is "congestion pricing" for cars in midtown. We should have neighborhood stickers for cars, so the locals have their place in the street and let the out-of-towners resort to a garage. That is, we should also have temporary windshield-visible signs for residents to lend to those who park here explicitly to see us. That is, for those of us -- most of us, I suspect -- for whom owning a car would be more challenging that learning to speak a new language.

I fall into that category: never have I legally owned a car. As a teen and college kid, I had one that belonged to my parents, but never did I need learn any maintenance skills beyond filling the tank with gas and checking the oil under the hood.

These days I delegate even that little knowledge to those who drive me the most frequently: bus and subway drivers, plus taxi cabs and other car services. For me, maintaining a car simply means I have discount coupons on my refrigerator for whenever I need a ride to the airport.

If you need outdoor camping or related skills, don't call me. If you need urban camping tips, from conserving water to overriding electronic stove ignitions, call me. Inside I have battery-powered lamps, radio and fan; for the great outdoors? Snow boots. If you need a port for an indoor storm, I'll see what I can do. Outdoors? Baby, you're on your own.

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