Thursday, February 01, 2018

And Justice for All: Victims of a Broken Promise

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr...

“How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

It must be terribly exhausting to try and defend yourself continually when confronted with the prejudices and misconceptions of others. Racism prompts a natural procession of despair and hopelessness, and everyone who participates, whether from the front or the back of the bus, is guilty of perpetuating it. For countless generations, our nation has been socially irresponsible in promoting racist ideology that has greatly impacted our culture. This was particularly true in the past, when the lack of humanity inherent in racist views necessitated the non violent direct action of the Civil Rights movement followed by the slow, arduous process involved in repositioning an entire class of people to their rightful place of equality within a society that so often rejected them.

We are all created equal, but we do not treat each other as such. How many countless opportunities to meet and embrace those who are different do people discount within the confines of their prejudice?

Unfortunately, it is difficult at times to remain wholly free from the insidious perceptions of prejudicial thought for recipients at both ends of the color spectrum. As Dr. King states in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, his daughter experienced “ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky,” when confronted with petty, illogical racism, while black nationalists descended into a self imposed abyss of “bitterness and hatred,” and white moderates “remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.” It was the stance of the latter, safely ensconced within the safety of their churches, that may have enabled the suffering of those oppressed to continue unabated far longer as a direct result of their inaction, prompting Dr. King to ask poignantly “what kind of people worship here? Who is their God?”

Prejudice, defined as an irrational attitude of hostility that causes injury, damage, or disregard for the rights of others, is both spiritually as well as morally corrupt. Prejudicial thought disallows for the acknowledgment of our common ancestry as children of God, with legally mandated segregation promoting a “separateness” that is contrary to the law of God. As Dr. King so eloquently stated “all segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality, giving the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority,” a stance which was rightfully presumed to be unjust in the eyes of God and therefore necessitated abolishment. “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the depths of despair,” Dr. King lamented. In seeking to eliminate such despair, participating in non violent direct action is therefore both a legally and morally responsible act, intended to bring injustice to light and consequently serve as a catalyst for positive change.

Historically, engaging in non violent direct action has proven a profound and effective means of encouraging individuals to “see the moral light and give up their unjust posture.” In having recognized that not all opinions are created equal, Socrates, for example, stated “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and championed the concept of philosophical enquiry via application of what is now defined as the Socratic Method. As a proponent of dialectic practice that compelled others to either further substantiate or reject their previously held beliefs as a result of posing relentless questions regarding such topics as virtue, knowledge, morality, and justice, Socrates was considered a “gadfly,” or nuisance, in Athenian society. Because virtually any thought or idea that effectively challenges the status quo may be perceived as anarchistic to those who cling to it, Socrates persistent questioning of traditional thought angered many who deemed him a harbinger of chaos, and an ultimate threat to complacent society. Following his imprisonment, Socrates steadfastly refused admonishments on behalf of his supporters and friends to escape his decidedly unjust fate as a political scapegoat, reasoning that it was not morally acceptable to do so. If he chose to escape and thereby evade the Athenian justice system, he believed he would in effect be guilty of “inflicting evil” on society by failing to obey their laws. As a pioneer of non violent direct action, Socrates, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., remained a modicum of the virtue and justice he so diligently supported.

The tremendous communicative power inherent in non violent direct action lies in its ability to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.” In presenting himself as the quintessential living sacrifice, Dr. King embodied what Paul preached in Romans 12:1. “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” As an integral part of this spiritual act of worship, Dr. King embarked upon a “process of self-purification”, wherein he repeatedly asked himself “are you able to accept blows without retaliating? Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?”It was this Garden of Gethsemane~like willingness to reflect upon the challenges that lie ahead, and his willingness to seek justice on behalf of the multitudes as mandated by his godly heritage, that enabled Dr. King to become not only a voice within his generation, but one of the most respected men of this century. By invoking non violent direct action, his words became the source of strength upon which the power of his conviction was carried, lending credence to a message far greater than any jail cell could contain.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. successfully brought to the light of human consciousness that fact that we are genuinely equal, and without the fear and strife that we allow to separate us, we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

At least that's the way it should be.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Midnight Raccoon Rescue

rac*coon (ra-koon') n., pl. -coons or -coon.
1. A carnivorous North American mammal having black masklike facial markings and a black-ringed bushy tail.
2. And a bad attitude.

On this episode, while other people with complacent lives were relaxing and watching TV before going off to sleep, I found myself enmeshed in a high tech raccoon rescue melodrama.

Sitting quietly in my house minding my own business, which is no easy feat for me, I was startled to hear a high pitching crying sound coming from outside. Walking out on the front porch, the light of the full moon (along with my next door Italian neighbors 400 watt light bulb porch light and motion censors) illuminating my path, I went out to investigate.

It seemed to be coming from across the street. It was a trilling, chirping sound, a terrified whine, like one might sound when discussing their bank account three days before payday. I crept slowly across the front yards of my neighbors towards these pitiful cries, all the while hoping no one was heard to say “there’s Kim Riley out on our lawn at midnight! Call the authorities!”

Tresspassing tenatively onto my neighbor's property, I was startled to come across a Raccoon Convention being held in their gangway. The larger ones, the size of wildebeasts, began hissing at me in unison. Stopping in my tracks, I wondered what one does when being approached by hissing raccoons the size of wildebeasts. I then realized simultaneously that the cries of a baby raccoon, the source of all the commotion, were coming from directly above my head where the baby raccoon appeared poised to jump off of my neighbors roof with the intent to land on my upturned face. As the mother raccoon advanced towards me, teeth and claws gleaming in the moonlight, I hastily decided that what one does when under seige by wildlife in a neighbors gangway at midnight is let out several high pitched screams and start running.

Appraising the situation from the safety of my house that offers no greater wildlife encounters than my son and his friends, I decided I needed to call in some reinforcements. So I called the police.

Me (in a state of raccoon induced trauma): Hi, rescue 911?

Police(sighing): Well, sort of. How can I help you?

Me: There is a family of raccoons in my neighbors gangway, and one of the babies is trapped on the roof, and the mom was chasing me!

Police (still sighing): And? Your point? We don’t arrest raccoons, lady.

Me: Well, I want to help the baby get down, but I’m scared! Can you send someone from your raccoon rescue division?

The cop was probably thinking, it’s always during the full moon that we get phone calls like this one. I was directed to call a “pest control” service, and after whining as petulantly as the baby raccoon that I didn’t want him to be hurt or captured, I was politely wished a good night, lady, and told to work it out with them myself.

Scanning through the phone book, I was pleasantly surprised to find a 24 hour animal control service, complete with a happy raccoon cartoon graphic that illustrated their obvious raccoon awareness.

A call was placed.

Raccoon Avenger Man: Guardian Animal Control Services.

Me (sounding desperate and therefore a moving target for a sale): There’s a baby raccoon trapped on my neighbors roof, and he can’t get down! He’s crying.

Raccoon Avenger Man (sizing up his sales options) : Well, we can send our low flying plane to swoop down over the house, hover momentarily or make several passes as need be, and attempt to scoop up the baby raccoon, at which point it will be airlifted to safety. That will be 800.00.

Me: You have got to be kidding! This is a one story brick bungalow, not the Sears Tower! I could probably jump up and touch the gutter with my hand, and I’m only 5’7!

Raccoon Avenger Man (realizing I may not be that easy of a sale after all, and adjusting his strategy accordingly): Well, for a one story brick bungalow, I could probably execute the rescue for 600.00. Our low flying plane, which is used for crop dusting and trips to Vegas on the weekends, is the method we employ to remove potentially rabid wildlife from elevated locations.

Me(pacing and gesticulating wildly): I don’t have 600.00 to pay you to fly a plane over my neighbors house in the middle of the night!

Raccoon Avenger Man (trying out Plan B): Hmmm. Well, there is another way we can do this. I can use a trajectile netting device. This device will enable me to shoot a rocket launched net in the general vicinity, where it will hopefully descend over the misplaced raccoon, allowing me wrangle it off of its current rooftop location.

Me: What do you mean, shoot a trajectile?

Raccoon Avenger Man (attempting to sound like the Voice of Reason) : I pull a trigger, and the net, at the end of a long grappling hook, is catapulted at the target, in this case the wandering raccoon. That would be 300.00.

Me(amazed at his complete lack of reason): 300.00?! Can’t you just put a ladder against the side of the house, and gently pick him up?

Raccoon Avenger Man: No, sorry. We don't use ladders. This is a high tech wildlife recovery establishment, mam.

Me: This is crazy! I think I’ll try and go over there with a chair, and climb up there myself.

Raccoon Avenger Man(tsking and most likely shaking his head): I wouldn’t suggest that mam. Raccoons are generally very wily and intuitive, and they would most likely sense that you are not a trained Wildlife Recovery Expert, and may attack accordingly.

Me: He’s the size of a kitten!

Raccoon Avenger Man (now so desperate to close the sale that he lapses into mental retardation): OK. Here’s another idea. I could throw a stick of dynamite up there.

Me (convinced that I have misdialed and accidentally contacted SNL): On my neighbors roof?! At midnight?! Are you kidding me?!

Raccoon Avenger Man (sounding suddenly like Barney Fife): This is a serious operation, mam. I can use, say, a half a stick of the good stuff, and I guarantee that raccoon will come down.

Me (not in the market for being arrested and taken to court): Yeah, along with my neighbors roof! And not to mention the property damage! If you blast a hole through their ceiling in the middle of the night, don't you think that they might notice that, and become a little upset?!

Raccoon Avenger Man (making one last pitch): I can wear really dark clothing, and run away very fast. That would be 150.00.

Oh my God.

Laughing hysterically, I thanked him for all of his wonderful if insane ideas, and went home to get what I decided would be appropriate raccoon rescue gear. I had A Plan. I was going to be my own Wildlife Avenger.

Sizing up the nature of the situation, I quickly decided what items I might need to relocate the baby raccoon, as well as extricate myself from potential attack from the Grand Poobah mother raccoon and other extended raccoon family members.

I quickly armed myself with a pair of Playtex Living Gloves, a dining room chair, a blanket, and a squirt gun. Dragging my supplies out the front door, the blanket trailing across the ground as I put the squirt gun in the holster of my pocket, bright yellow gloved hands clumsily grasping the wooden Windsor style raccoon rescue chair, I was going to just do it myself.

Creeping across the street well after midnight, I was momentarily
detained when my son called out to me from his second floor bedroom window "mom?! What are you doing?!" Wrestling with my cumbersome paraphernalia, I replied “I have to go catch a baby raccoon!” Dragging my supplies onto my neighbors property, I could still hear him yelling “mom, are you crazy? Stay away from the raccoons!” We’re going to end up on Jerry Springer yet.

Setting the chair down in the gangway near the side of the house, I scanned the roof to determine the last known location of the baby raccoon. Hearing what I though to be a rustling sound, I though, ah ha, while I quickly mounted my dining room chair, blanket and gloves prepared to wrangle, and peered up at the gutter. Where was the raccoon? What was that sound? I pulled my squirt gun out and whispered suspiciously "alright, where are you? I'm going to get you! I'm just trying to help!"

A scraping sound. Movement. A door opening? Footsteps? Boy, that is one big raccoon....

I almost had a seizure when a booming male voice, that of the homeowner, quickly disengaged me from my Wildlife Rescue Adventure. Startled, I pulled out my squirt gun and aimed without thinking at my disgruntled neighbor.

"May I help you?" he asks sarcastically, eying me as one might an escaped psychiatric patient with my Playtex Living Gloves brandishing a squirt gun, blanket draped over my shoulders like a cape, standing on a chair and hanging off of his gutter at midnight. "What on Earth are you doing?!"

Uh, trying to rescue wildlife? Hey, at least I didn't let anyone throw a stick of dynamite up there, it could have been worse.

In attempting to explain myself, I slowly realized that the raccoon, my alibi, was nowhere to be found. With my neighbor looking at me quizzically, his slippered foot tap tap tapping on the ground with impatience, I was forced to relent, release my grip on his gutter, and come down off of his roof.

Rolling his eyes, the neighbor went back into the house, telling me to ensure that I take all of my stuff with me when I went home now.

Once on the ground again, my blanket cape sliding from my potential hero's shoulders, I was startled once again to hear a rustling sound. Looking around hopefully, I peered into the darkness. There, in the yard, was the mother raccoon, the lost baby having been retrieved by utilizing her own raccoon ingenuity!

With no witnesses, she turned to look at me as they walked away, and I thought I may have seen her smile. I smiled back, happy to have at least tried to have been of assistance in this Midnight Raccoon Rescue.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chatting with Maria

It's always nice to talk to Maria.

Maria, as we know, is one of my very best friends. We remain as such because our personalities are well balanced, although she is decidedly the more balanced of the two. For example, Maria is concise and organized and always knows exactly where both her car keys and her kids are at any given time. I find this quite impressive, seeing as both my car itself, as well as my kid, are perpetually missing on at least 4 out of 5 days.

I look to Maria for support and direction in life, while I think she looks at me as a cautionary reminder of all of those things she should avoid to keep herself on the straight and narrow. While she is home watching tearjerker movies on Lifetime Television for women and sorting through recipes, I am instead watching politically subversive comedy shows and waiting for the Hot Pockets to be done in the microwave. When I'm not actually out in the world getting discombobulated on expressways, having confrontations with law enforcement, or forgetting to stop at McDonald's for all of our fine dining needs, that is.

I admire Maria's ability to run her house like a captain on a tight ship, while mine is more like a Ship of Fools in a perpetual state of mutiny just before it hits a sandbar. Maria has got it together, in a sense, while I have most definitely lost it.

Allow me to demonstrate.

On Cleaning

Kim: Wanna hear something funny?
Maria: Oh, here we go.
Kim: The other day, the sun was hitting the living room TV at such an angle that Daniel was able to write DUH and a smiley face on the screen because it was so dusty!
Maria: That's an indication that you need to clean it! Duh.
Kim: I think it was prehistoric monkey dust, and as such my TV is now a historical artifact, so I can't clean it.
Maria: You need to get a Swiffer.
Kim: I can't. My doctor said I'm not allowed to lift heavy objects.
Maria: It's a duster, it's not heavy.
Kim: Manual labor doesn't suit me.
Maria: Oh, all of the excuses already!
Kim: I'm not done yet. The TV is all the way on the other side of the room, so I can't reach it.
Maria: Well, you're in luck, because the lightweight Swiffer comes with an hand held attachment.
Kim: Does it come with a Consuela attached to it?
Maria: A Consuela attached to it!
Kim: How about a Juanita? Think of the millions they would make! Swiffer Duster, With A Juanita In Every Box!
Maria: You are insane.
Kim: It would be a very big box, but I would buy it.
Maria: I know you would, but wouldn't it just be easier to dust it yourself?
Kim: What, and deprive Dan of his God given right to create spontaneous artwork in our household dust? I couldn't do that to him, it would hurt his self esteem.
Maria: Then live with your dust!
Kim: That's prehistoric monkey dust to you, Consuela.

On Cooking

Maria: I made chocolate covered orange peels today. I saw it on the Food Network.
Kim: The Food Network! I never watch that because a.) they won't give me samples through my remote and b.) they are not enabled for scratch and sniff interaction.
Maria: You're supposed to watch them cook and then write down the recipes!
Kim: That is a lot to ask. Really.
Maria: This was an easy recipe. First, all you need are oranges...
Kim: Do I need to go to Florida with Juan and Carlos and wander around in an orange grove to get them?
Maria: You go to Jewel, in the produce department.
Kim: Good, because going out all day in the Florida sun to get a bushel barrel full of oranges would be a bit much, don't you think?
Maria: For you, yeah.
Kim: I might fall off the truck. Or maybe Juan would push me.
Maria: If Juan wouldn't, Carlos would. So listen, now, I'm going to tell you how to do this!
Kim: I have a pen. I am ready to learn. But can we skip to the chocolate part now?
Maria: No! First, you have to peel the oranges, and then boil the peels.
Kim: That's weird.
Maria: No, that's cooking.
Kim: And then, you dunk them in chocolate, and we all live happily ever after!
Maria: No we don't! First you have to add sugar and cinnamon, and let the orange peels cool off.
Kim: This is getting complicated. Outrageous, even. Do they sell this stuff at Fannie Mae?
Maria: It's too expensive, and you can make it yourself!
Kim: I like Fannie Mae. Maybe I could get Juan and Carlos to take me there.
Maria: You are crazy.
Kim: I'm not the one who's been boiling orange peels all day.
Maria: I guess you have a point, but I'm the one with the chocolate covered orange peels right in front of me.
Kim: Oh, you are such a confectionery tease!
Maria: But not necessarily insane.
Kim: Maybe not.

On Transportation

Kim: I am suffering from Vehicular Envy.
Maria: Vehicular Envy?
Kim: It's a Freudian term. It means my car is a piece of bat guano, and that everyone else's is nicer and bigger than mine.
Maria: I've seen your car. Freud was right.
Kim: It's tragic, really. I went to Wisconsin recently, and even the Amish have better transportation options than I do.
Maria: When you're willing to ride an oxen, you know you need a new car.
Kim: I was thinking more along the lines of a Yakmobile. They get better mileage. Utilizing a beast of burden is usually a cost effect means of transport.
Maria: I had heard that.
Kim: I waved at Abraham Yoder and his wife Prudence when they went past me in their covered wagon, and I was jealous.
Maria: Oh, look at the spokes in that wagon wheel!
Kim: And that donkey's ass was the best!
Maria: Maybe you could ask Abraham and Prudence to take you to their neighborhood covered wagon showroom.
Kim: For all of my covered wagon needs.
Maria: You never know, they might be able to get you a deal.
Kim: Buy one horse, get one free! And we'll even throw in a case of Budweiser! And an ear of corn.
Maria: Maybe they would give you a sheaf of wheat as a lovely parting gift.
Kim: Or a loaf of bread, since I'm not exactly sure what a sheaf of wheat is.
Maria: If you watched the Food Network you would know!
Kim: Listen, I have enough responsibilities trying to buy a Yakmobile, so don't push me.
Maria: I hope Abraham's donkey bites you on the ass.
Kim: Too late. He already got me on a drive by.
Maria: I'm sure you deserved it.
Kim: No doubt.

And these are just a few examples of why I like talking with Maria. She's insightful, and almost never hides behind the curtains and pretends she's not home when I go over to her house unannounced. She even makes me soup and cookies without my having to ask, which is always greatly appreciated. Believe me, you can never have enough soup and cookies in life. It's just necessary.

Maria is a good friend, and I always like to chat with her. And eventually, if I pay attention, I just might learn something. Or at least one can only hope.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Dining With Pablo

Just to give you an idea of how ridiculously busy I have been, here is a story about something that happened several Fourth of July's ago. I am nothing if not a procrastinator...maybe I'll write something about that another day.

Ah, the Fourth Of July. A time of fireworks, celebrations, explosions, and absconding with a fine dining experience on stolen china from the Belmont Harbor Yacht Club.

Wanting to experience the bright lights of the big city on this holiday, I had gone downtown with my best friend Maria, her kids Frankie and Anthony, and Maria's collegiate niece Christina with her boyfriend, Silent Jonathan. Piling into Maria's big wheel funny car SUV, it was all systems go as we anticipated the adventure on the road ahead, and all while remaining relatively quiet in the back seat considering the number of passengers involved.

Thank you for your contributions in that area, Silent Jonathan.

Maria's husband Frank, who smokes a mean cigar and is a well connected outfit kinda guy (he always wears the nicest clothes) had made arrangements in advance for our caravan of as yet to be disclosed neer~do~wells to receive a police escort to a private lot originally intended for police use only. This of course made us all feel incredibly important, our heads all ego inflated to the size of the Bullwinkle float seen during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade while we followed a squad car with sirens screaming to our very own special parking lot.

Get out of the way, dorks and common folk dependent on the use of metered parking or public transportation! We have a date with destiny, or at least with the police!

When we arrived at the police station near the Belmont Harbor Yacht Club, we were motioned towards the lot with a nod and a smile, the officer making a quick getaway as he drove away with the sirens now silenced (just like Jonathan.)

Pulling into the first available space, and feeling incredibly PC and well within our rights to do so, we were surprised to be apprehended by another cop who did not share our delusions of grandeur.

Cop (rolling his squad car window down and eyeing us warily): Excuse me, are you authorized to park here?

Maria (prepared to make us walk from an alternate parking space in Wisconsin for lack of response): ?

Kim (leaning over Maria and saving the day): Oh, good afternoon, officer! Happy Fourth of July! We are authorized to park here, yes, thanks!

Cop (resisting the urge to smile at me to enforce his official copness): Well, okay. Go ahead.

Maria: !

Everyone Else : ?!

What? We're parking, aren't we?

Laughing at Maria's look of disbelief as she stared at me and shook her head, I advised her to "hurry up and pull in" before anyone else came and questioned us about our choice of spacious parking!

Once in, everyone finally climbed out of the SUV with enough coolers, backpacks, and steamer trunks to make it appear as if we were scheduled to depart on one of Gilligan's three hour tours. Heading for Belmont Harbor but not confident that we would locate the SS Minnow, off we went. And of course, as we walked away I couldn't resist commenting about our law enforcement encounter once the cop was outside of hearing range and we were on our way. I'm just like that sometimes.

Kim (mumbling under my breath like a homeless person with a shopping cart): Can you believe that? Are we authorized?

Frankie (11 years old and completely on board with my inherent sense of rebellion): Yeah, who did that cop think he was, anyway?

Kim (gaining momentum now that I had a fellow dissenter beside me): Who is he to question us?

Frankie (grinning broadly and picking up the pace): That cop should mind his own business!

Maria (inserting parental disclaimer here): Kim! Don't tell Frankie to question the police!

Kim (pushing the envelope while I wink at Frankie): Are you authorized to tell me that?

As it turns out, she was, and I was forced to rest my case, lest Maria rest it for me.

When we arrived at Belmont Harbor, we were pleasantly surprised to find convienently located picnic benches that provided a lovely view of the privately owned boats before us while the Yacht Club itself was a mere 40 feet to our collective left.

"Why don't we just sit here?" I said breezily. "We can watch all of the Bitsy's and Thurston's float around in their boats and use the bathroom in the Yacht Club if we have to."

And so it went, our wandering band of nomads settling in with our abundant assortment of rations. We had Twinkies (for the kids as well as the kids in all of us), sandwiches, crackers and cheese, wine, Gatorade, and Corona, all of which was deemed fully able to sustain us until the anticipated fireworks show began at sunset or the end of the world was upon us, whichever came first.

Ah, life was good. But after a mere 20 minutes of waiting for what was projected to be two hours until the show, I found myself quickly becoming restless.

I proposed that we walk out onto the pier and introduce ourselves to the various Buffy's and Chip's, who were all sitting comfortably on their own personal yachts right in front of us. Suggesting that we tell them that we were considering making a purchase of such an item ourselves once we won the lottery or someone's aunt died, we could then politely request to see the inside of the cabin.

Nice buttons and dials, Skip, I like it! It's much nicer than the yacht I used to own. What? Oh, I lost it in a poker game, but I plan to get a new one soon. Oh yes I do indeedy.

I knew exactly what I would say to get us on board with the in crowd! Once I had become immersed in an entirely fabricated conversation such as this and subsequently became Skip's friend, it was simply a matter of time before they would offer us to all join them, pull up their anchor, and invite us to go for a little test drive!

So, Chip. Buffy. How's the mileage on this thing?

Unfortunately, I wasn't successful in convincing anyone amongst my motley crew to get on board with this idea, and was then forced to sadly watch the the lifestyles of the rich (but most likely not famous) unfold before me without any hopes of participating. We were not going to crash anyone's boat parties, Kim. No way!

And then I was handed a Twinkie and told to Be Quiet.

Later in the evening, still restless and tiring of watching Anthony and Frankie chase each other with sticks and various blunt objects, I suggested to Maria that we go inside the Yacht Club on the pretense of using the bathroom. Could there possibly be a more staid or rational plan than this? At least it was something to do.

Let's go see how the other half lives, Maria. Do you think they use Charmin?

When we approached the very elite door of the club, I was only slightly deterred from entering by the fact that you obviously had to be a member with a key card to do so. Maria, ever the compliant non member, was ready to shrug her shoulders and walk away when I grabbed her arm and whispered "wait! We'll get in!"

Moments later, a society maven wearing a star spangled glitter top and too much perfume waltzed past us, key card in hand. When she opened the door with one wealth induced swipe, I quickly reached for the handle and said "thanks" as we walked in directly behind her.

"I cannot believe you just did that," Maria said with a laugh as she followed me into what was certain to be trouble. "You are too much!"

Shhh! We're in, aren't we?

We wandered around for several minutes, investigating T-Shirts under glass and nodding pleasantly at the bartender as if we belonged there. There was a juke box in one corner, waiters poised to take requests in all of the others, and then, what's this that beckoned to me from the adjacent room straight ahead?

Was it merely a mirage, or an actual members only buffet that served to tempt and tantalize us? Bam!

Kim (with the exuberance of one regarding her first buffet after arriving from Ethiopia): Oh my God, it's a buffet! Let's go!

Maria (ready to turn on her honest heels and run at any moment): Oh no, uh uh, no way.

Kim (tugging at her sleeve): They think we're members, it's okay!

Maria (tugging in the opposite direction): But we're not members!

Kim (cognizant of this, but not in the least bit concerned): Well I'm going! Watch this.

I winked at her over my shoulder as I smiled and walked purposely towards the buffet. A well coiffed elderly woman ahead of me was overheard to address the buffet server as Pablo, so I followed in like kind as she filled her plate and walked away. Stepping up to the extravagantly prepared candle lit buffet right behind her, I boldly picked up my fine china dinner plate and greeted my new friend.

"Well hello, Pablo!" I said with friendly bravado as I made a sweeping gesture in regards to the feast before me. "And what do you recommend tonight?"

He didn't miss a beat. As far as Pablo was concerned, I was Mrs. Thurston Howell III, and he was pleased to humbly serve me whatever I chose to have that evening. So of course I had him pile it on, and all while I looked over at Maria keeping her safe distance and tried not to laugh.

With two plates filled to capacity in the interest of sharing my spoils back at our non members picnic table, I politely asked Pablo if he would be a dear and make a separate desert plate for me too?

Oh, si Senora! Pablo likes Kim, in spite of her secret poverty and complete inability to own or operate a watercraft.

Thanking him profusely, I walked back towards Maria with a bemused smile and raised eyebrows as I sauntered right past the Belmont Harbor Yacht Club employees, heading straight for the door we had recently snuck into.

"It's okay to eat outside, isn't it?" I asked a waiter near the exit. "Oh, yes mam," he replied energetically. "It is quite fine!"

"See Maria?" I whispered as she snickered while holding the door open for me as we walked out, "they said it is quite fine."

Once outside, we weren't 15 ft away from the door when both of us burst out into such uproarious laughter that I all but dropped the plates I had been so skillful in acquiring. Rushing back to our humble picnic bench, everyone regarded me with wide eyed wonder as I set down my china dishes filled to the brim with high end food samples.

"I can't believe you did that," everyone said in grateful unison as they reached for silver fork, only then to turn to Maria and say, "and I can't believe you didn't!"

As we dove into and devoured our bounty like crazed pirates, I realized that we were only 40 ft away from the buffet we had sampled from. Looking over my shoulder, I noticed what appeared to be Pablo watching us with suspicion. Hey. Wait a minute. They don't look so rich from here. Are they really Belmont Harbor Yacht Club members? What about those two kids beating each other senseless on the lawn? And why did they bring backpacks full of Cheeto's and Gatorade if they're so rich, huh? Where is their yacht?

Pablo, Pablo, Pablo. *Sigh* Don't worry your pretty little head about it. Just be a dear and pass us another pastry, will you?

Of course, I found Pablo's spy demeanor amusing. Pablo the Waiter Cracks the Case of the Belmont Harbor Yacht Club Bandits. Story at 10! Maria, on the hand, was patently disturbed by it. Go figure.

We're going to get arrested. The police are going to come any minute! Hurry up and eat!

And there we were, with the proverbial silver spoons in our mouths for once in our sad and sorry little lives, and Maria wanted us to hurry? Yes. Now. As it turns out, she also wanted to intercept our silverware and hide the evidence as well.

After our feast, the now empty china and silverware taken away from us, Maria had A Plan. Insisting that we not simply return the plates for fear of being apprehended by a Yacht Club SWAT Team the moment we tried to reenter the room, she insisted emphatically on hiding the plates and making a run for it instead. Rushing towards the water of Belmont Harbor, ever the housekeeper even when at an outdoor picnic, she commenced to quickly wash the dishes in Lake Michigan, and all while looking around nervously and asking if the police were coming yet. Buffy and Skip meanwhile regarded Maria strangely as she knelt scrubbing dishes and mumbling near their yachts, and all I could think was "see, don't you wish you would have just gone along with my Plan A and tried to crash one of the parties, instead? Now look. We're wanted fugitives for stolen chipped beef, and you're washing dishes in Lake Michigan!"

It was sad, really. What had become of us?

Loading the stolen china in her son Frankie's backpack, Maria was now determined to keep it with us for the remainder of the night to avoid being arraigned. Deciding that as fugitives we should relocate for the fireworks, which now paled in comparison to the excitement we felt while eating a dangerously acquired dinner, we picked up camp and moved on.

Clink. Clatter. Tinkle.

Maria's self imposed china burden was quite noisy from within Frankie's backpack, and she seemed only mildly amused when I insisted on teasing her about it. Hauling it all over the lakefront on her back like Quasimodo from the Old Country, she resisted all attempts to just toss the dishes in the lake and be done with it. C'mon, Maria. Just aim for the stratosphere and give it a hearty fling! It could be like a discus toss, or perhaps we could use the plates for skeet shooting.

Crash. Shatter. Clang.

Hmmm. So, whatcha got in that backpack? Sounds like stolen dinnerware to me. Looks heavy. I wonder whose idea that was, anyway? Hey, Maria, here comes the police! Let's ask them what we should do with it!

Smash. Boink. Broke.

After a very long walk, some anticlimactic fireworks, and the prospect of hauling the now cracked china back up the same hilly terrain we had just scaled on the way down, Maria finally agreed to dispose of the hot plates once and for all. We all congratulated her on her courageous move, except for Silent Jonathan, who never really says much about anything.

All illegal activities aside, however, the chipped beef was grand, the Twinkies were even better, and a good time was had by all. Except perhaps Maria, who has yet to be able to stand up straight after enacting her law abiding stance as Quasimodo of the Old Country with her backpack full of broken dishes.

Supporting her bowed frame as we walked happily back towards our illegal parking space, we wiped the last vestiges of powdered sugar crepes and raspberry jam tortes from our mischievous little faces.

Who said that fireworks were the main source of excitement on the Fourth of July? Personally, I think it was all about Pablo.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Backstage Pass on a Motown Saturday Night

Rerun! Rerun! Or is it redrum...

I always knew I wanted to work in the theater.

My opportunity came recently, when Triton College staged a Motown Saturday Night event featuring tribute singers who spend their time and talent replicating the acts, sounds, and persona's of others who have gone before them. As a singer myself, I would personally never choose to merely imitate another person's success. I would feel that I had sold out somehow, or that I was overlooking my own style or unique talents, but those who do opt to work as tribute singers often do a good job of it, even if it isn't entirerly original. In fact, the argument could successfully be made that because of the expectations on behalf of fans who are looking to be entertained by a beloved A-List star who for whatever reason (budgets, schedules, death) is not available, the tribute performer is the next best thing.

They have tough acts to follow, and in that sense they had better be good!

I met some of these good performers on Saturday night, my friend Kathy's husband Ken having approached me to help out with a concession stand where they were planning to serve fried chicken (which was somewhat stereotypical, incidentally, if you think about it.) I reluctantly agreed, as food service is not really my forte, but I reasoned that I may somehow be able to extricate myself from these planned responsibilities to seek out greater things if the opportunity presented itself.

And knowing me, of course I was determined to make sure that it did.

The concession line proceedings were slow, at best. It seems there wasn't much of a market for stereotypical fried chicken and grape soda, so I quickly excused myself to go wander around backstage to be where the action was.

Fashioning myself as the Best in Entertainment Official Event Photographer (as I was the only one who thought to bring a camera, even if the batteries were not reliable and the slightest movement on behalf of a subject caused the focus to become little more than a hurried blur), I purposely strode into the dressing room backstage to meet one of the performers. Hi! I'm here to talk pictures! And you are......

Kelly Owens, the Tina Turner tribute singer, was genuinely pretty, extremely nice, and ultimately proved herself to be quite talented as well. I wanted to encourage her to take her show on the road as simply "Kelly: Very Talented Person" and forget all of the imitation driven shows, but no one had asked my opinion as to what Kelly's long term career plans should be. So instead I just asked her to smile for the camera, and there it was. My first photo op.

And starring Kelly as Tina, with Melissa in the mirror in the background.

In the backstage area, I was excited and felt that I was doing something mischievous and unscripted as I investigated the makings of a show from behind the scenes. Walking out onto the stage behind the still as yet closed curtain, I surveyed all of the details of the trade, such as the carefully placed blocking on the floor to the positioning of the overhead lights. There were ropes and pulleys and cables galore, all of which I wanted to tug on to see what would happen if I did. Fortunately for me, my friend Melissa was in tow, and as an actual theater student who has worked backstage in a professional capacity, I was advised strongly not to do anything of the kind.

Fine then. I'll just loiter and take pictures. I am the photographer, you know. Gee, I wonder how that whole chicken thing is coming along, anyway?

When the show was ready to start, I was firmly ensconced to the right of the stage where the performers were planning on making their entrances, and I wasn't leaving for anything. I loved this vantage point, where I could survey the talent during their last minute preparations (the soloists reviewed their lyrics while the group performers did a last minute rehearsal of their carefully choreographed moves). I reasoned that I could get some really good pictures from here, and photos of the show would be of far greater interest in the long run than passing out food at a concession stand or making change without a calculator could ever be (which for me would be the equivalent of working without a safety net.)

So camera in hand, I took it upon myself to modify my job description, and may Colonel Sanders forgive me for it someday.

Hanging around backstage like that was where I was supposed to be, Ken deferred to my interests and gave me additional responsibilities that were directly related to the show itself. In retrospect, this may have proven foolhardy for all concerned, but I was anxious to try it anyway.

Ken (wary but desperate for the help): When I go out on stage to introduce the next act, slowly open the curtain behind me while I pull the mic stand back, and the Temptations will enter from the side.

Kim (excited and grasping the rope to the curtain in anticipation of my very important job): Okay!

Ken goes out onto the stage now, as planned, and introduces the act. I am peeking at him around the closed theatrical curtain, nervous and waiting for my cue. Confused when I don't see him moving the mic stand back as he talks, I wonder whether or not I really should open the curtains.

Kim (frantic and tugging on the rope): Melissa, should I do it?! Isn't that what he said?

Melissa (grabbing the rope too, both of us intent on either pulling it down from the rafters or swashbuckling out onto the stage like two erroneous Errol Flynns): I don't know! I'm not sure! Maybe! Try it!

Some help that was.

I gave the rope a hearty tug, and it flies back in an ungraceful manner, leaving Ken momentarily stunned as he feels a brisk breeze behind him. Suddenly deciding that I had opened it too fast, too far, and too soon, I then made an unprecedented stagehand move that will forever see me assigned to the concession stand in the future. Pulling the rope on the opposite side to correct what I viewed as a mistake, I now reversed the direction of the curtain, quickly closing it behind a stupified Ken now trapped on the other side.

Ken (sounding like the Wizard of Oz even though he was not as yet behind the curtain where I was): The curtain should be opening here, folks, and our next act, The Temptations.....

Kim (ready to swing from the rope like Tarzan now in an effort to correct the problem): Oh my God! Melissa, he does want it open!

I give it a yank, and the curtain parts with a sudden forceful surge like the Red Sea at high noon. But then, what's this? Another voice of speaks to me from on high!

The Temptations (in a chorus of confused directives that leave me longing to go sell chicken after all): No! Not yet! Don't open it! We're not ready! Leave it closed! Hurry! Close it!

Gasping in surprise at the forcefulness of their commands, I yank the curtain closed yet again. Whoosh!

Ken (frustrated now and about to come kill me, if only he could find the opening of the curtain to get backstage): As soon as the curtains open folks, the show will go on....


I give the rope a pull yet again, and Melissa and I look at each other and try not to laugh in anticipation of being sent to the principals office for our inability to follow simple instructions and open a curtain. When Ken came bounding backstage after the Temptations finally entered at stage right, I apologized but couldn't help but see the humor in it. Didn't you see the humor in it, Ken?

Well, maybe he would see the humor later on. Right now, what he needed was a piece of chicken.

Without direct supervision and being quite the nuisances, Melissa and I wandered off to investigate other details of theater life. In the course of this investigation, I managed to knock one of Tina Turners wigs, needed for a costume change, off of a strategically located chair and onto the floor. Moving the chair to try and reach the wig, I managed to somehow push it underneath a complicated series of ropes and pulleys, where it quickly became entangled. At that precise moment, Ken reappeared, looking unhappy.

Ken (booming, and still recovering from Curtain Shock): Where's Tina's wig? It was right here!

Kim (pointing to what now looked like a dying beaver under a fence): Oh, is that it? There it is!

Ken grabs the wig, shaking his head in disdain while looking at me with suspicion. Holding it up in the dim backstage lighting, he hands it to me and asks me to "do something with it" as he walks away.

Kim (regarding the messy wig like it's the pelt of an extinct Mastedon): I wonder if a wig can be brushed? I mean, should I comb it?

Melissa (reaching out to touch it and speculate with me): I don't know! Maybe we could just shake it out or something?

It sounded like a good plan, and there we stood laughing and shaking the wig repeatedly like Italian housewives standing out on a balcony beating a rug. Failing to fully resuscitate the wig, I wondered momentarily if the concession stand was as successful as I wasn't in the backstage arena, and decided to return to my previous plan of being the photographer of the show, already in progress.

Ken with Kelly, who looks well coiffed in spite of certain stage hands who should know better.

Ken with Smokey Robinson tribute singer Alphonse Franklin, who insisted that there was no memo between he and Kelly regarding their complimentary red outfits.

A view of the Temptations from behind the scenes. Not the best angle, but I loved being a part of the Production Management Team, even though Ken would have probably preferred that I had simply remained on the Chicken Management Team.

Returning backstage after having gone up front to take a few additional pictures of the act, I happened upon Melissa wearing the directors headphones that enabled her to communicate with the crew in the booth. Having received an impromptu promotion, she was apparently now involved in giving directions regarding the lighting as well as the sound, and I of course wanted to try my hand as an aspiring Cecil B DeMille, too.

Melissa as Cecil B DeMille. We just liked wearing the cool headset, that's all.

Putting the headset on, I was now an Unofficial Event Director too. I quickly took it upon myself to ask the Triton employees in the booth to amp up the lights and give us some volume, please! I then instructed them to enable the bright pink and yellow lights to the left and right of the stage, and although I had not been instructed to do this, I assumed it would look just great! If not, we could always use the lights to make shadow puppets that would then be projected as monstrously large abstract works of art on the screen behind the performers.

I'm sure the Triton crew members had begun to wonder amongst themselves about the myriad voices asking them to do numerous things over the headset, thinking, Hey! None of these people are Ken Lena! They were a cooperative crew, however, and seemed willing to do my evil bidding. Turnabout really is fair play, though, and having just been asked by the crew via my trusty directors headset to pull the curtains back just a little bit more, Melissa was in the process of following my direction and doing just that when I was busted.

Uh oh. Here comes Ken. Apparently I was mistaken, and I was not the director, after all.

Now it was my turn to wear the cool headset, although I was apparently quite mistaken that I was the Unofficial Director of the show.

Relinquishing my headset with reluctance, I again reprised my role of photographer, the concession stand and it's stereotypical snacks now but a distant, fleeting memory. And thank God for that. Returning to my photography, I took a few additional photo's which turned out quite well, I think, even if I did have to ask for new batteries for my digital camera from the Triton staff.

Ken, the performing artists, and the Triton College sponsors who helped me enhance both the lights and the sound of the show as well as providing me with batteries for the camera that took this picture.

From left to right, The Temptations, Kelly, Alphonse, and The Temptations.

Finally, at the end of the evening as the theater emptied and everyone prepared to go home, I went forward onto the stage where I really wanted to be to pose for my own picture to be taken. As a singer, I missed the opportunity to be actually on the stage myself, although I was happy to help out by taking photos of the featured performers. I had performed for years when my son was small myself, and had recorded several songs, but then life happened and it all went by the wayside. I wanted to bring that back now, onstage, front and center, which was also the least likely place for me to get into trouble, too.

Kim. Chicken Manager. Photographer. Curtain Opener. Director. Performer.

I liked that last one best of all. Wish me luck!

Break a leg! But not really.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Big Date: A Review

It was a friend of a friend related fix up, and as such was being marketed as a "probable guarantee." "You'll probably really like him, " I was told with what was later revealed to be mock enthusiasm, "guaranteed!"

Like most results of marketing scams or late night infomercials, though, the product ultimately did not meet expectations.

On recommendation of a friend who apparently doesn't have a firm grasp of my interests or preferences (or of reality for that matter), I consented for my phone number to be given to an obscure Tony for what I was assured would be no more than a preliminary phone call test drive. "It's up to you," I was told with sincerity. "If you don't think you'll like him, then just don't go!"

Assured that I could default on the Tony loan at will, I agreed to talk to him with the intention to eventually meet without having read any of the fine print. This wasn't just a blind date fix up, but the relational equivalent of Stevie Wonder consenting to dance with Ray Charles in the midst of land mines.

Talk a walk side Kim! Bring a white cane and a helpful dog and live a little!

When we talked on the phone for the first time, Tony having been given my number and a specific time frame in which to use it, I was disappointed by the tone of his voice. It wasn't insolent or sarcastic or anything, which I may have even considered a challenge of sorts, but rather Mickey Moustonian. It was high, soft, inclined to spiraling upwards at the end of sentences in what almost sounded like girlish excitement. "Do you like moVIES? Do you want to go oUT?" Now, call me shallow, call me superficial, but just don't call me up and sound like Mickey Mouse.

I have an almost fetishistic obsession with voices. Some people go for feet, others have a fondness for piercings, and I just want to be enthralled, mesmerized, amused, and soothed by a warm, melodious voice. Like Kelsey Grammar when he's not singing, or Bing Crosby without the bing. Well okay, maybe not like Kelsey Grammar or Bing Crosby at all, but better. Seductive and confident, able to imitate others and do impressions, and always filled with ready laughter. I have initially fallen for guys based on their ability to seduce me with their voice, and have been repelled by others for lack of the same. Tony was definitely in the latter category. If I wanted to listen to a voice like that, I would just stay home and watch the Cartoon Network.

Not wanting to be overly critical, I thought, well, maybe his physical self is a startling contrast to his Jiminy Glick vocalizations. Maybe, I thought hopefully, he's a 7 foot tall bodybuilder with an IQ of 245! This could still be okay! Wanting to put my hands over my ears and repeat "la la la," as we wrapped up the phone call, I agreed to meet him at Friday's, insisting on taking my own car in case he was later revealed to be either a serial killer or a mouseketeer, whichever came first.

Like most people going on a near sighted if not entirely blind date, I met with certain socially acceptable prerequisites such as taking my car to the car wash and ironing creases into the front of my jeans to accentuate the pointy toes of my glamorous and dangerously exciting boots. In addition, I wore a half bottle of Ralph Lauren Blue and really dramatic earrings. Add my contact lenses and some good lighting into the mix, and I was ready to rock and roll!

Okay Tony, I thought curiously as I drove, lets see what you came up with.

When I parked in the lot at Friday's, I knew I was looking for someone driving a red car, but that was about it. When I got there, fashionably late by at least 20 minutes, I decided to get out and walk cautiously towards the entrance of the restaurant. There, in the parking lot, I noticed a man wearing jeans and a short jacket emblazoned with a Teamsters Union emblem, and my immediate response was "uh oh, " which quickly evolved into "oh no," as I got closer. Standing there in the cold night air, peering throughout the dimly lit parking lot like a captain at the mast of what was sure to be a sinking ship, I was disappointed in what I saw.

His clothes were frumpy and nondescript, and he appeared to have rolled out of bed after sleeping in them. Not good. His face was mildly handsome, and he was taller than average, but his demeanor was incredibly intense, and I almost felt nervous as I approached him. "Hi," I said "I'm Kim. Tony, right?" Looking me up and down without even attempting to disguise the fact that he was looking me up and down, he said "hi" in response with his cartoonish voice that was now a complete dichotomy from how he should sound. Gesturing towards the entrance as he said "shall wE," I couldn't help but think "it's going to be a very long night."

His next offense occurred at the door. He walked in ahead of me, holding the door open behind him as an afterthought! What? Listen, Cubby, apparently you've never been to a cotillion or invited to tea at high noon with the Queen of England, but in my world, the man always holds the door open for the woman! Commoner. Proudly flipping my hair as I walked imperiously behind him, I decided he was uncouth and I would order very expensive items as revenge for his having been rude to me, which at Friday's might be a cross between an appetizer, a large beverage, and some water. So there.

Seated in a booth that was mercifully fastened with a curious combination of objects on which I could focus my attention, I looked around at all the stuff while he simultaneously tried to look at my stuff. I suddenly regretted having worn this particular top, and I began tugging at it self consciously as he leered. Too bad he wasn't Denis Leary, though, or at least he could have at least made me laugh. Tony, being a benign and nondescript Disney character by contrast, was unfortunately not amusing in any way. I found myself virtually carrying him and the conversation throughout the entire date process, much to my exhausted dismay. He was not particularly smart or witty, and although he laughed at appropriate times in response to my inane remarks, I might as well have been a kid practicing my show in front of a mirror at home while talking into my imaginary hairbrush microphone rather than having a conversation with a grown mouseketeer.

Sensing my discontent, though I sincerely tried to hide it, he tried to regale me with flattery. I was pretty, I was a lot of fun, I was funNY! Okay. And you are......not? To be fair, I rationalized that he may simply be nervous, or shy, and I was still at least moderately open to giving him a chance to enthrall me with his wit and wisdom. Or to at least formulate sentences with words that were not monosyllabic. Hello, Tony? Are you in there? Is anybody home?!

He nodded his head while I talked, and said "hmmm" when he obviously didn't understand what I was saying, which was often. He was perfectly welcome to jump in at anytime, all he needed was to choose a topic! Thermodynamics? The DNA of chimps? How about the relevance of the Electoral College? Anything? No? I looked at him sitting empty and boring before me, and noted that there was no compensatory qualities that he could even offer in exchange for being dull. He was wearing a cheap watch with a cheap flexible band, no rings, no bracelets. I detected no cologne, his hairstyle was bland, his clothes unstylish. So much for going out with a trophy date! This guy wasn't even really cute!

All he wanted to talk about, in fact, was how much money he made and what his projected net worth was soon to be. He made union wages, he bought and sold real estate, he was a rich guy! So? Who do you think you're out with, Anna Nicole Smith before the Trimspa? If he really knew me (which he didn't) he would realize that was the least likely approach to impress me, as I simply didn't have the common sense to realize the value of a dollar. Or even thousands of them all together at once, for that matter. I had never had a lot of money, and I didn't particularly foresee myself as someone who ever would. And even if I was to become suddenly wealthy (or to even find myself mysteriously above the poverty level for a short period of time), I would most likely give all the money away to Streetwise vendors right before I lost the wallet that contained the rest, so money was definitely not an issue for me.

I think you meant to date the leggy blond in the next booth, Tony, because I really don't care. You're boring, sorry. Money cant' buy a good sense of humor or careful turn of phrase. Check, please! Give it to Cubby the Millionaire Mouseketeer.

I had sadly decided that the date was a bust, in spite of his interest in my bust, but he was determined to continue dating me till the bitter end. "Do you want to go to a movie now? Huh?! Do yOU?!" Suppressing the urge to tell Mickey I was really tired, I agreed to go so as to avoid hurting his feelings if nothing else. Because, after all, there was obviously not going to be anything else after this date.

"Sure, " I said without enthusiasm, "that would be fine."

Still insisting that I take my own car in spite of his enthusiastic offers to the contrary, I agreed to meet him at a nearby theater. When we got there, I was annoyed when he reached out and grasped my hand without asking while we wandered back and forth looking at the marquees. I was of course looking for a benign comedy to ensure that I wasn't subjected to gratuitous sex or full frontal nudity that might have enhanced his libido or encouraged him to formulate amorous plans without my consent, while he instead looked hopefully for something rated R+++ for just that exact reason.

Ew! And who said you could hold my hand, anyway?

In line at the ticket window, I looked around at all the happy couples silhouetted by the golden lights above us with quiet envy. They really wanted to be with who they were with, and here I was with Annette Funicello. When he began to gently squeeze and stroke my hand while he smiled at me with what I feared was longing of some kind, it was all I could do to keep from pulling away and asking a nearby couple if they would consider having me join them for a menage a trois.

Once inside, I politely declined his offers of popcorn and candy, imaging him to be such a materialistic person that he would somehow equate my accepting these gifts as bartered items for which I was supposed to give him something in exchange. Tony, there isn't enough candy in the world! This may be a blind date, but I have 20/20 vision, even in the dark of a theater, and it's not going to happen!

In the uncomfortably close seats, he was apparently incapable of keeping his considerable hands to himself. His right arm was around my shoulder, his hand somehow finding its way into my hair where it rested on the nape of my neck. I wanted to shake him off of me like a dog that had just ran through a sprinkler, and instead just found myself leaning away in quiet annoyance while he fondled my head and continued to lay little pats and strokes and squeezes on my one free hand, the other being preoccupied with clutching my purse like Estelle Getty from the Golden Girls.

God will you get off of me?! Touch my leg and you die.

I could hear him breathing, and I didn't like it. I wanted him to stop breathing altogether, after which I would not perform CPR like a good little nurse, no. I would let him expire, like a carton of milk, right there! I made a mental note to be sure and kick the ass of the well meaning friend who orchestrated this fiasco, and all while I remained determined to just say no to petting.

Sorry, Tony! The petting zoo is closed.

At the end of the movie, which seemed to last no less than 14 1/2 hours, I quickly excused myself so that I could go hide in the washroom and sit a spell in the lounge. I was gone, oh, maybe 15 minutes, and was ultimately forced to return to the lobby were Tony lay in wait as there was no window deemed large enough to accommodate my escape from the lounge area.

When I walked up to him, smiling pleasantly but not overly friendly, he almost made me laugh for the first time that evening when he leaned casually against the wall, one arm outstretched and supporting a ridiculous Lord of Flatbush pose against a movie poster, his other arm moving in swiftly for the kill when I least expected it. Pulling me up against him suddenly, he whispered huskily "I think you're very pretty, Kim," as he leaned in and tried to kiss me. I turned my head skillfully at just that moment, his kiss glancing off of my cheek as it thankfully missed it's intended target. We were in a theater lobby, not the Sybaris, and could you just back away slowly from the woman who is not your girlfriend, Frankie Avalon?

I all but ducked beneath his arm as I made my escape, thanking him blithely as I headed for the door.

Once outside, he was not to be refused again. Hadn't he just spent 40.00 dollars? Did I think I was going to get away with not kissing him? Had I gone mad? When I reached my car, he all but pushed me up against the door as he put his arms around my shoulders and pulled me towards him. "I'd really like to see you again," he whispered, forcing a deep kiss on my unwilling mouth, complete with an intrusive tongue and obviously bad manners. Putting my hands firmly against his shoulders, I pushed him back sharply, now obviously mad myself. Looking at me with apparent amusement, he asked me incredulously if something was wrong. "I don't really know you, " I said with exasperation. "Well," he replied with all the subtlety of the Boston Strangler "you could know me if you wanted to" as he tried to kiss me again.

What is wrong with men, anyway? Do they think that they have the right to force themselves on women without consent or invitation and just kiss you for sport? Wasn't that a form of Lip Abuse? And of course, when you're out with someone that you really want to kiss you, all they inevitably do is sit there smoking furiously while they look at their watch and talk fervently about some Hot Chick who Done Em Wrong. The denial of a kiss is yet another form of Lip Abuse, but this situation with Tony was undoubtedly worse, and I felt a sudden need to go home and gargle with Listerine.

"Tony," I said firmly, suddenly very relieved that I had followed my intuition and taken my own car, "I had a nice time, but I need to get home."

"Can I see you agAIN?"

"I'm really busy right now with the holidays."

"How about tomorROW?!"

"Hmmm. Well. Tomorrow's not good."

"How about next wEEK?

"I might be busy." Or dead. Or something.

I finally consented that he could call me, and of course he did so the very next day. At 8:30am.

Hello? Oh, hi. No, I wasn't sleeping Tony, I was hanging wallpaper. Yes, really. I painted the exterior of my house earlier, and I was just about to go out and milk the cows that live in my garage. No, it's fine, really. What? Six. I have six cows. And a lama. Mmmhmmm.

This guy is insane. Who calls anyone at 8:30 am to request a second date for which they had been politely rejected the night before? A lonely farmer? A Russian cosmonaut that had just gotten in from hurtling through space and hadn't seen a woman in 8.5 years? This guy Tony?!

Politely declining to see him yet again, citing the need to get outside and shear some sheep just before I wrapped Christmas presents, I actually allowed my cell phone to remain disconnected for three days this week after I had been disconnected for forgetting to pay the bill. I figured he might get discouraged if he heard a recording that I was temporarily out of service, and go stalk some other early morning type person. I would be happy to introduce him to my ex-husband. Mike hasn't slept past 4:00 am since 1986, as far as I knew. They would make a great couple.

All I knew was that Tony wasn't going to be a couple with me. I would just end up returning him to customer service after the holidays, so it really wouldn't be fair to accept any future dates. If a potential relationship didn't have the ability to make me want to wander around the house singing one of my favorites, The Turtles song Happy Together, I simply wasn't interested. No sale. No deal.

So much for probable guarantees. Bye, Cubby.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Memoirs of a Moviegoer

My local Blockbuster store went out of business, and I cannot help but assume that these recent turn of karmic events are directly related to their having charged me late fees for years. I couldn't pay, and now you can't stay in the neighborhood! In a gesture of reconciliation, however, and to help them increase their rapidly diminishing bottom line in a moment of sympathy, I purchased a previously viewed copy of Memoirs of a Geisha and a bag of stale M&M's for a mere 5.99. I wish I had had the opportunity to go see Memoirs of a Moviegoer instead those of the Geisha you see depicted at your left. I'm sure it would have gotten a better rating than I'm willing to ascribe here. Read on.

This movie, striving to be an epic film of great sociological and soap operatic significance, was one of the most depressing things I had seen in a great while. Having accepted an invitation to go to out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant during which I would not be expected to pick up the check, it was a matter of protocol and good manners that I politely acquiesced to purchasing a Chinese movie to reciprocate.

Theme dating. You have got to love it. In retrospect though, I think I would have preferred mexican food followed by Zorro on DVD instead.

Memoirs of a Geisha opens with a bleak scene depicting a young girl (our friend Geisha) being heartbreakingly torn apart from her sister after her father sells her to a Geisha house. Just what exactly a Geisha house is still requires explanation, but suffice to say that she was not on an extended vacation.

Filmed almost entirely in what I would describe as gun metal grey or early nuclear winter, we watch this poor pending Geisha get beaten, whipped, and betrayed, and all while ferociously hated by a jealous current Geisha who has apparently made it her life's work to torment this poor kid. This rival, a formidable foe, is a bitter and vicious girl who sets out to undermine the prettier Geisha at every opportunity. Succumbing to a catfight with our lonely heroine in one disturbing scene, the rival succeeds in eventually burning the house down around them both, leaving our victim sobbing in a crumpled heap as flames threaten to engulf her.

Gee, I'm really having fun now. May I have some popcorn please?

As the movie drones on and on, I was all but wincing as I watched this unfortunate girl being manipulated and betrayed by virtually every person she came in contact with, leaving me no choice but to decide that everyone on this planet of Asian descent is inherently evil and must be stopped. And it rained a lot in this movie too, which added to it's starkly uninviting cinematography and all pervasive sense of impending Asian doom.

When the young whipping post finally comes of age, a "Mother" (the Asian equivalent of a Madame, I think) from a rival Geisha enclosure adopts her with the intention of grooming her to become THE Geisha around town. She will take the tea houses by storm, dance the dance of 1000 dragons, and finally sell herself to the highest bidder!

Great. I would like some M&M's please, to go.

Having fallen deeply in love with a politically powerful man who had shown her the only kindness she had ever experienced by buying her a snow cone and providing a handkercheif to hold it with, she determines to win him over by launching an international stalking campaign that traverses at least one world war while clutching his worn souvenir handkerchief to her faux white breasts. While she worships him from afar and yet loses him repeatedly, we are ultimately graced with an image of the shamed and lonely Geisha standing atop a mountain, where she throws the handkerchief from the only man she will ever love into the watery abyss below. A narrative voiceover informs us that she has lost hope, and I have now become inherently evil myself because I am longing for her to jump off the mountain in pursuit of the handkerchief so I can turn off the DVD in favor of watching The Three Stooges on VHS.

Yes. Just do it already.

Finally, our Geisha chances upon her beloved once again after WWII, recalling with great fondness how she had loved him through all manner of psychological torture and physical abuse as she pursued him in gratitude for the snow cone he had bought her all those many years ago. Amazing. Imagine what she would have done if he had given her a Moon Pie and a glass of chocolate milk.

At the end of the movie, our heroine finally finds herself alone in a garden with no brazen enemies left to watch her angrily from behind a Bonsai tree as they plot against her. She is at peace now, but there is of course one element still missing. Turning suddenly to face the one man she truly loves as he approaches her in the garden, the sun actually comes out in this final scene of romantic triumph. As the Geisha admits her feelings for him and yet fails to acknowledge that she lost his handkercheif, the camera pans out as they engage in a kiss that is many years overdue.

Well it's about time. What was she waiting for? A banana split?

I give it two fans and one and a half egg rolls, at best.