Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting Away From It All

Shortly after 9 p.m. on December 25th we got what our family had wished for since October—a White Christmas at Mohonk Mountain House.

Maddan, our grandson, was on the ice, showing his family his acquired prowess on skates—including his six-year-old don’t-puck-with-me hunched-over, hockey-player stance. His three-year-old sister Finley was perfectly content to sit on an adult’s lap in a chair equipped with skates while Maddan, showing his true nature, patiently propelled the chair around… and around… the rink.

What is a snowfall without gusts of wind? Compliments of nature, clusters of swirling snow occasionally blew in on us through the open walls of the wood-roofed skating pavilion, crystals of snowflakes dissolving on our faces. At one end of the pavilion, heat shimmers as flames dance and rise in a 39-foot-tall stone fireplace. Maddan and Finley huddled there for comfort, and a photo op.

It is a far cry from an open-air refrigerated ice rink to an outdoor heated mineral pool, but hours later I made the leap—into 100 degree water. And as the world slid ever further away, it snowed again. I don’t know what Maddan and Finley would have thought of my Indigo Herbal (hot) Poultice Massage earlier at the spa, serenity not being an operative word in a child’s word bag, though uppermost in mine.

Mohonk is no place for edgy politics or even for news. If you know of a breaking story, best you keep it to yourself. I surreptitiously read my New York Times. I saw to it that the front page was always folded inside.

Clearly, this is not how we holiday or idle in Manhattan. (But why not?) I asked Maddan what he liked most about our stay. He answered in his genuine, matter-of-fact style, “I liked everything.”

My only disappointment was the snowball fight with clean snow we anticipated that never happened. But I didn’t tell him that. Now we are looking forward to a white New Year’s. So we can have our snowball fight. May yours be merry and bright.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In Holiday Spirit

I’m making a list and checking it twice. Because I have more envelopes than ever to fill with money this Christmas. Because I wish only half the Senate a Happy Holiday! Because Fox News’ commentator, Republican Strategist Noelle Nikpour, said the Jews “have twelve days of presents” for Chanukah—and I only lit candles (as I always do) for eight nights!

Making a list, it never occurred to me to include the worst Christmas song… until I unavoidably heard, “Oh, by gosh, by golly/ It's time for Mistletoe and Holly.” It doesn’t get better. “Tasty pheasants… overeating… fancy ties an' granny's pies.” Time, by gosh, by golly, for Alka-Seltzer.

Fa-la-la. La-la. Irving Berlin knew better than to put an oy into White Christmas. Jerry Herman didn’t write, “We Need a Little Mazel.” So how did it take three Christians—including Frank Sinatra, of all God-fearing people—to express their delirious joy to the world for “carols and Kris Kringle” with gosh and golly.

Scholars can debate the origin or actual date of Christmas, but you haven’t seen Christmas in all its contradictions until you’ve seen Santa and his reindeer on a sun-drenched lawn in West L.A. Through a tinted windshield. Imagine if the manger had been on Sunset Boulevard. Or the three wise men had followed a floodlight emanating from a Hollywood premier!

Not to be outdone this season, California’s sun-struck Laguna Beach Jews mounted a Surfboard Menorah from donated surfboards. Where there’s an oy there’s a vey.

From the ridiculous to the sublime: I spent two Christmas Eve’s in Bethlehem. That’s one more than You-Know-Who. The first time was while I was traveling with Elizabeth Taylor, whom I and two others “ditched” for the evening, left behind in a hotel suite in Tel Aviv because she was being such a pain in the ass. If you’re gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, there’s no place like the Church of the Nativity for the holidays. And if you want to go spiritual and festive simultaneously, tingly and tender and roused, Manger Square on Christmas Eve is that memorable place.

On my second Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, I helped escort cast members of “Beverly Hills 90210.” We met with the little town of Bethlehem’s Arab mayor, who had no idea who the actors were. Then they prayed—I saw them.

So this year, all I want for Christmas is national health care. Oh, and a stocking-stuffer—a Christmas sock to stuff in Joe Lieberman’s mouth.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Trojan Horse and A Horse's Ass

We thought they were the decent guys. Maybe they weren’t our candidates, didn’t represent our party or politics, but we gave them this: they were decent.

We know better now. Let’s start with the man most detested by half of the country, Senator Joe Lieberman.

Having flipped on climate control and flopped on Iraq, he’s set his jaundiced sights on health care. “It’s time to get reasonable,” Lieberman declared last Sunday on “Face the Nation,” which CBS should have appropriately renamed “Two-Face the Nation” for him. Reasonable? A member of the Democratic Caucus, he’s threatened to filibuster against health care legislation if it includes a public option, threatened to join Republicans in opposition to legislation expanding Medicare coverage to people ages 55 to 64. What will he think of threatening to do next—outlaw band-aids?

He claims to be worried about adding to “tax-payer costs” and the nation’s deficit. How did he manage to be worry free when he supported the war in Iraq?

He claims to listen to his conscience. Since his largest campaign contributions stem from insurance industry sources and industry-affiliated political action committees, that would seem to mean listening to the voices of the people he’s heavily indebted to. He “owes” them. The Independent Senator from Connecticut is anything but independent.

Which brings us back to his membership in the Democratic Caucus. Many in his own party think he’s a Benedict Arnold. Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro says, "No one should hold health care hostage, including Joe Lieberman, and I'll say it flat out, I think he ought to be recalled…” Writer Tom Bisky thinks he’s a mole. I think he’s a Trojan Horse. I’m for setting Barney Frank on him.

Stop this man before he kills national health care. In his own words:

“We’ve got to stop adding to the bill, we’ve gotta start subtracting some controversial things. I think the only way to get this done before Christmas is to bring in some Republicans who are open-minded on this, like Olympia Snowe. You’ve got to take out the Medicare buy-in. You’ve got to forget about the public option. You probably have to take out the Class Act…” In other words, Joe Lieberman wants to accent the negative and eliminate the positive. Which brings us to Mr. In-Between, Joe’s bosom buddy John McCain. The Republican standard-falterer says, “Republicans see Mr. Lieberman as a voice of conscience. I'm proud of him for standing up for what he believes in.”

I’m tired of John McCain. He’s a nag.

Lieberman and McCain take their rightful places with Ralph Nader, George W—[add your own choices]—on a Mt. Rushmore of disenchantment.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"No Problem" a Problem

The lab technician I called this morning to ask if he could fax a radiology report to an MD’s office in advance of my appointment said, “No problem.” The data never arrived. Did I have a problem? A taxi driver, responding to my hasty instructions to take the fastest way, said, “No problem,” and promptly turned into a gridlocked street that indicated “No Exit.” Because I was late, I practically barreled into someone on the elevator who responded to my chagrin with, “No problem”—but although I was late, the doctor’s receptionist made light of it by saying, “No problem.”

This is what language has come to: the answer to everything is “no problem.” Music is no longer loud enough to drown out our inability to communicate. Now we have to obfuscate it with a ubiquitous non-sequitur so easy on the ear you don’t have to hear it to hear it. Read my lips, it says. Or my shoulders. Don’t you speak Shrug?

What the hell does “no problem” mean? Does it mean there was a problem? If I dispute that, does it mean let’s take it outside? Does it mean if anyone has a problem, it’s you, not I. If I can’t resist saying it’s I instead of me, does it mean now we have a problem?

Is “no problem” an answer? Then what is the question? Do you come here often? How long have you been having these attacks? Are you howling because I just slammed the car door on your fingers? As a ready answer to everything, “no problem” is a problem.

Most commonly, “no problem” seems to be a way of saying, “You don’t have to apologize” or, “I don’t need to apologize.” What happened to?:
“Excuse me.” Thank you.
“Sorry to take so long.” That’s all right.
“Believe me, I wish it were me under those wheels instead of your dog.” I understand.
“I didn’t know the gun was loaded.” God forgive you.

Multiple definitions come to mind—too many for three syllables. “Just doin’ my job.” “No big deal.” “It was nothing.” Nothing? From there, it becomes a somewhat condescending dismissal. “No sweat off my back.” “Don’t blow it out of proportion.” “Buzz off.”

“No problem” is not the answer to anything except “Problem?” As in, “Is there a problem, officer?” or “You there on the ledge… do you have a problem?”

Imagine. “Houston, we have a problem.” And Houston answering, “No problem.”