Sunday, May 27, 2007

Location, Location, Location

Big weekend here. We completed the purchase of some fine Bergen County (NJ) real estate. Nothing built on the property yet, and we're not planning on developing it for a while. Still, it's in a beautiful part of the state, right next to a golf course, and the area is quiet and private.
Ok, ok. It's a cemetery plot.
You might be thinking it's a little creepy to hold in your hands the very pieces of dirt they're going to be shoveling onto you, and I admit it gives one pause. I've seen the subtle recoil in several friends when I've mentioned the purchase to them. Buying it just seemed like a good idea after we counted the graves, both occupied and reserved, in the plot my grandmother bought years ago, and found there was one left for about six of us. (You want creepy? Now that's creepy.) Besides, everyone - even if they're horizontal - has to be somewhere. My main focus now is not to die within the next ten days, before the check clears.
I got to visit it yesterday, meet the neighbors, that sort of thing. It's in a new area of the memorial park, so many of the nearby plots aren't sold yet or, at the very least, haven't had anybody (perhaps that should be any body) move in. The plot is only 20 or 25 feet off the roadway, so if my kids can develop a good hook shot they won't even have to get out of the car to leave flowers.
If all goes well we won't be sowing anything there, as it were, any time soon. In the meantime, it seems a bit of a shame to let prime real estate sit unused. One idea I had was to put a metal storage shed there while we're, well, waiting. Keep the kids' bicycles there, the snow shovels, things like that. When the time comes, we can just clear out the stored items, or maybe just push them to the side, spray paint my name on the front and have a very reasonably priced mausoleum.
Another question I have to find out about: is our ownership limited to the first six feet of depth? It may not seem important now, but if oil or gold is ever discovered there it's going to matter.
Have I considered avoiding all of this by being cremated? Yes, but I quickly dispelled the idea. I just don't see the point of burning twice.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Letters, We Get Letters...

The previous posting got a number of great comments, both posted here and sent to me privately. One of them in particular, from a marvelous lady you've gotten to know as Oldhousegal, triggered today's thoughts.
She wrote, in part, "I heard that Oprah once did a show asking audience members questions about various general knowledge topics, such as whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa.  One woman (who answered the question incorrectly) stated that 'she never felt anything moving.' "
My initial thought, of course, was probably the same as most people's: it's a trick question - everyone knows the world revolves around Oprah. Beyond that, though, it reminded me of one of the finest mini-soliloquies I've ever heard in a movie. If you saw Men In Black, there's a good chance you'll remember the scene in which Wil Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are sitting on a park bench. Tommy Lee has just shown Wil that there are aliens on earth everywhere. Wil asks, "Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it." And Tommy Lee, bless his manly-man heart, had this response:
"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicy, dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everbody knew the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago everybody knew the earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago you knew that people were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."
I love that. It makes me think. And it got me thinking about other movie lines I keep as favorites because they make me think.
From Superman (the first one) comes the only quote that beats the Men In Black one as my all-time favorite. This is Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, after explaining his plot to do evil things:
"Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."
For me that's just a great description of what an eloquent friend once called our "sacred search."
And this from Clint Eastwood's great western, The Unforgiven. Eastwood is Will Munny, a retired gunfighter whose career included killing men, women, children and animals and, as one of his lines says, "deserve" had nothing to do with it. The Schofield Kid, a young, inexperienced gunfighter wannabe, has just helped Munny kill a man, his first. Shaken and looking for reassurance, the Kid turns to Munny and nervously says, "Yeah, well, I guess he had it coming." To really get this, as you read, squint, snear a little, and imitate Eastwood's trademark disengaged cynicism. Ok, ready?
"We all got it coming, kid."
Now that's something to think about.
I could go on - I love quotes, including movie quotes - but I'll keep it at these for now. Besides, I have to start working on the true meaning of gum base, corn syrup, glycerin and extract of peppermint.
In another unrelated item (there seem to be a lot of those in this space lately) I just saw a news item reporting that Dick Cheney made an unannounced visit to Iraq. How unspeakably cool would it be if, as he was preparing to leave in a day or so, he got told his stay was being extended an additional three months? Just asking...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

You Report, We Decide - To Lose Interest

Compiled from the Associated Press -- Former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey claims his wife knew he was gay before they married. "On the offhand chance she wasn't paying attention, I AM A GAY AMERICAN," McGreevey wrote, using capital letters and referencing the term he used to describe himself when he announced his resignation in August 2004. McGreevey says a snipe by his estranged wife about [his alleged lover's] appointment [to the position of state homeland security adviser] is "evidence of a bitter vengeful woman."

Dina Matos McGreevey, who is seeking custody of their young daughter, claimed that the ex-governor exposed the child to erotic artwork. McGreevey countered that his wife "HAS NEVER SEEN THE PHOTOGRAPH" of the nude male model, again using capital letters for emphasis, and that she "tries to remain on a pedestal while hawking her tell-all book." [His own tell-all book was published last summer.]

As vitriolic as their divorce proceedings have been (and no doubt will continue to be), anyone who's been involved with, or even a close observer to, a divorce involving child custody recognizes this behavior as typical. The only difference here is that this one involves a former NJ governor who resigned with the revelation that he is a "Gay American."

This labeling is unfortunate. As a society, we should be well past looking at McGreevey and saying, "I see a gay man." We should simply be saying, "I see a man. A corrupt man, forced to resign from public office in disgrace under the weight of more scandals than there are stars in the sky, but a man nonetheless."

I really don't need wall-to-wall news coverage of the McGreevey's child custody arguments, or the Baldwins', or anyone else's. Two people announce they're getting divorced, and suddenly we're a step away from CNN giving the story its own theme music. There aren't many rules governing my life, but one of them is this: there are more reliable sources of information about a person than their estranged or ex-spouse.

None of this, of course, is new. Years ago a television program I was watching was broken into. I don't know about you, but "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this special news bulletin" shoots a chill through my back. It means the president's been shot, or we've started bombing somewhere, or that something else has just happened, something big, and you must know about before 6:00. So what was the emergency? Woody Allen was holding a press conference to respond to Mia Farrow's allegations of improper conduct regarding the children. It was surreal, like something you'd see in, well, a Woody Allen movie.

Let's all make an effort to focus on real news, shall we? The things that matter. Things like videos of David Hasselhoff rolling around on the floor. Now there's a story.

An unrelated item...

You've probably seen the news items about a limited edition gold coin issued by The Royal Canadian Mint. Equal to $1 million Canadian paper currency (familiar to non-Canadians as Monopoly money), it weighs 220 pounds and is the size of a pizza.

Combining money and pizza - be still my heart! Now if the coin just had a picture of naked woman drinking a cup of coffee, everything important to me would be contained in a single place.