Just bitchin'

Reality Check

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It was a headline in the September 29, 2015 New York Times online edition:

At the U.N., Obama States His Case for Fighting ISIS With Ideas

I couldn’t read the entire article or watch the full accompanying video clip. Mainly because I couldn’t help the laughter that started bubbling up as my mind leapt to an analogous situation from an old Hollywood classic…the Sigourney Weaver movie ‘Aliens.’

The futuristic marine toughies, armed to the teeth with a frightening array of weaponry…looking all muscled and fierce…were doing a cautious, battle-ready walk-through, looking for the enemy.

Despite their firepower, they were on the adrenaline edge, their reflexes primed for attack. Because their adversaries had demonstrated how little value human life had for them. Chitinous exoskeletons and acidic saliva rendered these creatures virtually indestructible.

The marines were deep in enemy territory…

…and that’s when it happened.

The command post observing this foray realized that firing powerful weapons could ignite a catastrophic explosion. Chagrined, the man in charge communicated to the soldiers that no guns could be fired. Absolutely none. No matter the provocation.

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Disbelieving looks were exchanged among the troops about to engage the enemy. And that’s when one particularly cocky enlistee responded…

“What are we supposed to use? Harsh language?!?”

And so, I’m really sorry to find myself laughing at the NY Times headline. Because so much consistent hate has been spewed by ISIS…just like the acid-laced saliva of the Hollywood creations that would give no quarter to any member of the human race…they’ve made it so abundantly clear that they will not rest until Western culture is obliterated from the face of the planet…that fighting them with ideas is, well, unthinkable.

I keep seeing the old news footage of laughter and celebration from that side of the globe when thousands of Americans were killed on 9/11.

I keep hearing the vows they spat that there would never be common ground between our cultures.

And, as much as I respect anyone who attains the office of President of the United States, I can’t quell the slightly hysterical giggling at that NYT headline.

And the frisson of fear that we’ll be standing naked and vulnerable with only ideas to shield us from the acid.

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Just bitchin'

Arachnid Syndrome

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There exists a hitherto unsuspected offshoot of Stockholm Syndrome.

You know…that condition where you identify with your adversaries…where you begin to appreciate them and teeter on the brink of joining them.

Three things must be understood at this point: 1. I am a terrible housekeeper, 2. I live in a house where nature tends to encroach, and 3. I live mostly inside my mind and only occasionally emerge to the reality surrounding me.

I didn’t realize the severity of my possible-Stockholm condition until I decided to have some new windows installed before the bitter Northwest winter hits. Having set up a day for a crew to bring out my new, weather-worthy panes, I raised my nose from the keyboard and wondered…

…When was the last time I really cleaned this place?

Blinking at the sudden intrusion of a real environment as opposed to the one spawned by my imagination, I scanned a full 360.

Cobwebs.

Spider webs.

Gauzy, grey filaments draping in corners…depending from light fixtures.

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First reaction: disgust. I can’t let anyone see this homage to my domestic deficiencies. I turn off the computer, intending to embark on a cleaning odyssey from one end of the house to the other.

That was the plan.

But somewhere along the way, my dust cloth hesitates, hovering over the sticky strands spewed by my arachnid interlopers. I stare. My arm lowers to my side, duster disarmed. Wow. Look at that. Must’ve taken a lot of work. Maybe a few generations of spinners.

What?! Wait!!! What are you saying!!?? CLEAN THIS PLACE!!!

I stand on tiptoe, reaching upward… My hand stops short…

Halloween’s coming. Wonder how much it would cost to fake-cobweb everything to look like this? Probably a lot…

My arm lowers yet again. I return my dust cloth to its cupboard clean and unsullied.

Because I’m already thinking that after Halloween, it’s not so very long until Christmas. And wouldn’t it be original to decorate this year with a cobwebby, decrepit, Scrooge’s house theme? In fact, if I put up the tree right after Halloween, I bet by December 25th there’ll be a gauzy, sticky halo around each light. Kind of like the angel’s hair we used when I was a kid…

I turn the computer back on and retreat into my fictional world.

I’m not sure, but I think I’ve gone over to their side…

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…lest we forget…

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MSNBC’s tribute ‘9/11 As It Happened’ begins with silent text tracking across the screen, saying that the broadcast is not only an homage to the terrible events 14 years ago at the World Trade Center, but is also intended for the future…lest we forget.

Stomach dropping, I stare at the bleak words.

Remember the Alamo…a ghostly voice whispers.

All I remember is growing up in Southern California where Spanish was a required class in elementary school. All I remember are the friends and classmates of Mexican descent and their wonderful culture and cuisine that spilled over into the lives of everyone who lived in that region.

Pearl Harbor…a day that will live in infamy…

All I recall is my oldest friend, my roommate from college, who is from Tokyo. I remember sharing holidays with her family and learning about the Buddhist religion from a charming people.

And I watch the words…9/11… lest we forget

…and I know

that someday

we will

forget.

And the cycle will repeat.

And that is the moment I understand terror.

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Just bitchin', poem

Cougar

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She is slinky.

She is of indeterminate age.

She prowls the night with avid eyes, searching for something to satisfy her hunger.

Glimpse her from the corner of your eye, and a sense of danger flicks your instincts to life.

She is watching.

You are wary.

In the shadows, tawny fur…tawny eyes connect with yours.

Noise and music and safety is a scant ten yards away.

No one will believe this.

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Having It All

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Ever since a friend drew my attention to television commercials and their insidious effect on his efforts to maintain a healthy diet, I’ve been fascinated by them.

On the one hand, I find them shamelessly destructive to their target audiences. ‘Spend! Eat! Beg Your Doctor For Drugs!’ seem to be the primary messages. As with many scenes of destruction, I find it difficult to look away.

And therein lies their power.

What’s fascinating are the demographic profiles they paint.

If I believe the portrait of America according to the advertising industry, we are a hopelessly obese, socially challenged, disease-ridden, lonely people suffering from erectile dysfunction. We tend to smile most when dinner is served or when we find a paper towel that’s really, really absorbent.

Our bottoms are fuzzed with toilet tissue. Our eyes are dry. Our insurance companies are either run by geckos with British accents, or by agents with magical powers of teleportation. Our teeth won’t last if we eat or drink anything. Our phones are our best friends. Every medicine we take today will involve us in a lawsuit tomorrow. Our relatives will shun us if we choose the wrong air freshener. Our hair is grey and our skin is wrinkled. Prowlers and vagabonds lurk in our yards, checking to see if we have the right home security system.

But don’t despair! If we work hard and are vigilant, we can remedy all the bad things and take advantage of all the good. All we have to do is listen and do as we’re told.

The problem is, if you do listen long enough, you’ll decipher the Master Message that hangs like a fearful pall over this maze of enticements and warnings.

YOU WILL NEVER HAVE IT ALL.

You slam into the realization like a crash-dummy into a brick wall. Having been drawn to the edge of your seat, quivering with greed and need, pupils dilated and respiration rapid, you stagger back from the impact. Your survival instincts click in and you finally understand: The only way to dig yourself out from under this morass of advertising directives, is to turn them off. Or at least mute them.

Because all you really need are your family, your friends, your health, and a really, really absorbent paper towel.

The rest is just noise and smoke.

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