Monday, December 21, 2009

Dig We Must

Years ago, there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Yosemite Sam was stranded on a desert island. It showed him feasting on a wide range dishes, all consisting of coconuts prepared every way you could imagine. Eventually he pushed them all aside and said, in a snarling drawl, "I...hates...coconuts." (

Yesterday morning the snow stopped. We were lucky here, about 10". A lot of places along the east coast got much more. Pretty, white snow everywhere you looked, the stuff of snowmen and strong forts for blissful snowball fights. And with my shovel and ice scraper, I felt a great kinship to the image of Yosemite Sam with his knife and fork. I...hates...snow.

It was important to get the shoveling done right, and on-time. My wife was coming home from the rehab center by ambulette around mid-morning, a few days earlier than we'd thought at first, and to ensure her safety as she was brought in, the driveway, sidewalk, and porch stairs needed to be more than shoveled the usual way; they needed to be pristine. (Fortunately - and unlike her transfer from the hospital - we actually had a couple of days advance notice of her release. This made it possible for me to make sure I was home, and that she wouldn't have to be left in the yard or delivered to a neighbor's house till I got back.)

My first task was making sure I wasn't awakened at 5 am by some shovel-toting local youth, looking to ring my doorbell before all the other shovel-toting local youths. (Initiative is a fine thing, just not when it involves ringing my doorbell while I'm in a deep sleep.) With the snow still falling the night before, I'd put a big marker-on-poster-board sign on my front door: "Please do not ring bell. We'll shovel ourselves. Thanks." It worked better than the small, cute snowman signs I'd printed on the computer for other snowfalls. Subtlety, which I was not in the mood for anyway, is not the language of Jersey City youth.

Dividing the project into tasks, ordered by priority, I fortified myself with a cup of hot coffee and began. My thoughts wandered - that torch-is-passed-to-a-new-generation thing of shoveling the same driveway my father shoveled; feeling grateful to have a driveway to shovel in the first place, and the strength to do it; suddenly seeing a possible ulterior motive in my sons' decision to dorm at school instead of living at home. A few thoughts about feeling ready for the task despite having recently turned 50, and about all the people each year who feel ready for the task despite having recently turned 50 and end up keeling over next to their shovels anyway. Eventually the shoveling was done, and after a little clean-up work with the mysterious dark brown ice-melt chemical stuff, we were ambulette-ready.

Much of the living room is currently taken up by the pull-out sofa we're camping out on while my wife completes her recovery, so there was no room for the tree and no time for other decorating this year. Still, fashioning a make-shift table-top tree from the top section of our artificial tree - selecting only ornaments than won't break if (and, by "if," I mean "when") they're knocked off by Willie and Lilly - and putting up a couple of representative decorations, I managed to get something up as a nice surprise for her arrival. Christmas albums (nothing like some Clancy Brothers followed by Motown) on the cd-player - and finding out the cd player doesn't play cd's very well anymore - completed the setting.

Waiting at the front door, sipping a hot chocolate while watching my neighbors still shoveling, was pure, smug wonderfulness.

Happy to say, everything went according to plan, which is something of a rarity around here. Normalcy is never possible this time of year anyway, but at least we can start the process of getting a little back.

My sincere good wishes to all for a fine Christmas and a good, healthy New Year.

Unrelated Item: Just wanted to say...

A quick note on the sudden passing of Brittany Murphy. A few years ago, I was walking past the Ed Sullivan Theater as she was leaving after taping an appearance on David Letterman. I had never heard of her, but the crowd she drew caught my attention, and out of curiosity I watched a while as she interacted with them. There was the usual celebrity-in-a-hurry thing, and her handlers were trying to get her into the waiting Escalade. What I still remember is how, in spite of the pressure to rush away, she patiently made it a point to take time for the children who were there: posing for some pictures, smiling and talking for a moment with them, etc. It was easy to see it meant the world to these kids, and her warmth struck me as genuine. It was very classy, and totally charming.

No doubt we'll be hearing and reading a lot about her death. When a 32 year old woman suddenly dies of apparent cardiac arrest, there's a good chance some of that will not be kind. For whatever it's worth, I thought what I saw was worth a mention.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Updating the Updated Update

A man died and found himself at the entrance to hell. He tried to explain to the Associate Devil on duty that it surely was a mistake and he didn't belong there, but the AD, having heard it all before, wasn't impressed. Because of the man's persistence, however, the AD did offer the man the chance to choose what job he would be given. Seeing this was the best offer he was going to get, the man agreed. They walked down a long hallway and came to three doors.

Opening the first door, the man saw hoards of pained, sweaty men shoveling coal into the fires of hell. He surely didn't want that.

Behind the second door, he saw even larger hoards of even sweatier men mining the coal that would be used for the fires. He didn't want that either.

Behind the third door, the man saw a small group of men and women. They were standing knee deep in mud*, drinking coffee and talking. This looked odd to the man, but it seemed preferable to either of the other two rooms. The man chose the third room.

"Are you sure?," the Associate Devil asked. "Once you're in, I can't change the assignment." The man assured him he was certain this is the room he wanted.

After the AD left, the man looked around to find someone to get him a cup of coffee. As he was looking around, another Associate Devil came in and cracked a whip. "Coffee break's over," he said. "Back on your heads."
* Not the substance in the original version of this story, but one more suitable for a general readership

A few moments to do some long-overdue catching up.

Between the last post and this one, my wife got out of the hospital and into a local rehab center. There are many challenges, and progress is coming a little bit at a time - getting up, walking, sitting back down, building up lower and upper body strength, tolerating the food. (The food reminds me of another old story, the one about two old women in the dining room at a resort in the Catskills. The first one says, "The food here is really terrible." The second says, "Yes, and such small portions.") This is tentatively to go on till about 12/31. Ouch. There's some comfort knowing they're giving her recovery the time it needs, but still...

There's little chance any Christmas decorating will happen this year. I was able to find the treasured Chanukah menorah - a years-ago gift from my grandmother - just in time for last night's first candle. In a nod to my childhood, a practice I find myself taking comfort in these days (including treating myself to a jar of Ovaltine at the supermarket the other day), I went to the yarmulkah drawer (yes, I have a yarmulkah drawer) and selected the one I used to wear in Hebrew school in the early 70's, the burgundy velour one with silver-colored trim. (Hey, I did say it was from the early 70's. Just because I wasn't old enough to have long sideburns didn't mean I couldn't participate in that era's fashion absurdities somehow.) Back to the menorah: usually my wife selects the different color candles to use each night and, after I say the prayers and light the center shamus candle, my wife uses it to light the remaining candles. Last night, of course, I was on my own. (Our other custom is that, on the last night of Chanukah, my sons say the prayers. As they're bapitized Presbyterians whose Hebrew vocabulary is pretty much limited to "oy vey," this is usually an interesting experience for all.)

In the meantime, we keep things going: handling phone calls (no mean feat considering I don't usually answer the phone at home); checking e-mails for my wife (no mean feat considering the literally hundreds of store-spam e-mails she gets); responding to selected e-mails on her behalf (no mean feat considering the number of people I'm responding to that I either don't know or don't like); going through paper mail; making sure she has clean laundry; and whatever else needs to be done. It's all about the to-do list.

Speaking of the to-do list, I just looked at the time. Coffee break's over, back on my head.

Unrelated Item: So When Did He Find Time for Golf?

As with previous celebrity news circuses, it's not my intention to devote a lot of pixels to Tiger Woods. Given the current high number of Google searches on Tiger Woods' name, I realize I could probably improve traffic to this site by writing about Tiger Woods, mentioning Tiger Woods this and Tiger Woods that. I just believe the problems Tiger Woods is currently experiencing are things Tiger Woods should be discussing with his wife and that, as an adult, Tiger Woods doesn't need our help dealing with all the headlines that mention "Tiger Woods." The journalistic integrity of this space is not going to be compromised by constant mentions of Tiger Woods, no matter how many search engine hits would send new readers anytime someone does a search for Tiger Woods or anything relating to Tiger Woods.

All that said, a couple of thoughts do come to mind:

1. Given the countless women, paid and unpaid, that we are now told he was, um, "with," I'm dismayed by his behavior, but impressed by his stamina. I guess the age-old question of whether golfers are athletes has finally been settled.

2. I am hoping - really, deeply hoping - that 2010 is the year Tiger Woods appears on David Letterman. How unspeakably cool would that be?