while bush was speaking, my kneecaps were turning to dust

Watching the old, somewhat confused-looking, Myrna Loy on Columbo (circa 1972) last night didn’t completely kill my crush on the fast-talking 1930s sexpot, but it slowed it down to an agonizing a crawl.

To put it another way, if my crush were a person, he had his kneecaps shattered with a lead pipe.

It’s truly amazing what time, and perhaps a few too many scotch and waters, can do to a gorgeous woman.

“Can you give us another example, Mark?”

I’m thinking about Veronica Lake. What happened to that woman was tragic. It was also decades ago… To use an example that’s somewhat more timely, let’s consider former Baywatch beauty Yasmine Beth.

One bright and sunny day you had this in LA:

And a few short years later you had this on the side of a highway in Detroit:

Granted, the syringes full of coke that she shot between her toes probably had something to do with that magical, butterfly-like transformation, but you get my point. It’s really criminal what can happen to even the most attractive person over time. In my book, it’s sadder than crib death.

This same thing has happened to me before though and I was able to persevere. I remember loving Katherine Hepburn in “Bringing Up Baby.” (She was incredibly smart and sexy in that role.) Then along comes “On Golden Pond.” Somehow that was easier for me though. It didn’t strike as suddenly. I’d seen “The African Queen” and I knew what was brewing. In the case of Myrna Loy, I was completely blindsided. It’s like Mike Tyson just came from nowhere and bit off my entire ear, right down to the hole. The last I’d seen of her was in 1946’s “The Best Years of Our Lives.” She was years older than she was when she did the “Thin Man” series, but she was still hot. Now, all of a sudden, I see her in this episode of Columbo, filmed over 25 years later, slurring her words, draped in polyester, and shuffling around on thick legs. It’s fucking sad.

On a different note, I just realized that I must have been watching Columbo last night while everyone else with at least the slightest sense of patriotic duty was watching the President of the US speak on the subject of Iraq. That makes me feel kind of bad.

racist? you decide

The other day, Linette and I went to buy new backpacks for our trip to Italy (my old backpack, when I found it in the basement, smelled like aged dog vomit). We ended up driving to some ritzy part of Michigan where there’s a huge mall with a camping superstore right outside. Anyway, after buying our packs, we got into our little hybrid vehicle and start peddling home. We got as far as the edge of the parking lot when we hit this massive wall of SUVs. It was this huge fucking traffic jam, as far as the eye could see.

The only thing worse than being stuck in that mess, from my perspective, was being right outside of it. At least the other cars were moving a little bit. I was just stuck there on the edge, wanting desperately to make my way into it.

So, the cars keep passing slowly. At a rate of about one car every three minutes, they move from left to right across my bumper. I sit there for a while, getting madder and madder, not believing that no one has stopped to let me in. They’re all avoiding eye contact with me. It occurs to me for a moment that it’s got something to do with the effeminate little gas and electric Honda that I’m in.

I don’t remember having this problem when I was the owner of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I just pulled up and people let me in. Maybe it was just me though. Maybe I was more assertive when I was surrounded by the Jeep brand, cloaked in the persona of the rugged outdoorsman. Maybe I made my way in because that’s what I wanted. Maybe I had self-confidence back then… last week.

Those thoughts quickly drifted away though as I made eye contact with a woman in a burka, sitting behind the wheel of Suburban-like vehicle. I lock eyes with her and smile warmly, feeling confident that she will give me at least the first five inches I need to wedge my front left bumper into the flow of traffic. I can’t see her mouth behind the black fabric, but I imagine that she’s smiling back at me.

A few inches open up and I feel hopeful, but then, suddenly, she lurches forward, shutting me out. She does not make eye contact again. I, somewhat flabbergasted by this, mention to Linette that this is terrible PR for the entire Muslim community of Detroit and that this woman is stupid. Sarcastically, I say, “It’s not like they’d want to make a good impression right now.”

It pissed me off. I recall saying, “If I were her, I’d be driving around all day, just looking for chances to let people into traffic.”

It pisses me off like bad customer service pisses me off. I understand the difference and I understand that there’s no law that says you have to let someone in; I’m just saying that in her shoes, I would have taken advantage of the situation to reach out and say, “Hey, let’s be friends, even if it’s just for a moment, just for the duration of a smile and a wave.”

I don’t think that’s necessarily racist either, even though a few people have indicated to me that it is. I personally don’t feel any different about Muslims as a result of what happened. I didn’t dislike them to begin with and I don’t now. I just think that if I were a blue person and I was living in a country of predominantly green people, and that if a bunch of blue people from somewhere else had declared jihad on the green people, that I’d take an opportunity to let a green person or two into traffic. Christ, I was only asking to be let into traffic. It wasn’t like I was asking for anything of value. I was asking to wait in a goddamn line.

So, you decide. Was that racist thinking or not? Should I be ashamed? Should I slink away from this website like Jimmy the Greek from television?

(I really wish I could figure out how to start a comment area after each posting so that you guys could leave your thought, insult me until I cry, etc. I’ll work on it when/if I make it back from Italy.)

my dentist’s father’s house

I found out today that my dentist’s father owns a house in Ohio that was ordered through the old Sears catalog, like 100 years ago. She said it came unassembled and the previous owner had been the guy to order it and put it together. (Her dad has had the house for over 50 years.) We got on the subject when I mentioned that the old Sears catalog sold foot-powered dental drills. (We were talking about how far things had developed in the last 100 years.) She said that Sears has been out to see the house, but they determined that it wasn’t the perfect example of the mail order house as they sold it at the turn of the century. (The porch had been removed and a few other rooms had been added on.)

You’ll also be happy to know that since I began wearing my plastic “bite-splint” to bed (to protect my teeth from the grinding), my gums are happier and the sides of my teeth are less sensitive. She said that I had great teeth and they’re getting better. All those years of grinding had done some damage, but things are getting better.

May that be a lesson of hope for all of you in these difficult times.

I’d like to end this story by saying that my dentist is a Muslim woman who looks a lot like Myrna Loy, had she lived a decade longer. After she cleaned my teeth, we went to Sears together, where we bought a gallon of Happy Dutchman paint and a cheap foam applicator. We spent the rest of the afternoon painting the window trim in her office and making jokes about each other’s outdated hats. (She was wearing a pastel blue pillbox hat and I was wearing a charcoal grey fedora.) After one particularly hardy laugh, I remember looking into her haggard, old eyes and thinking, “There really is nothing more beautiful than a mature woman, nor a religion quite as lovely as Muslim, as practiced by fanatics.”

OK, that’s all a lie but I couldn’t think of another way to tie all of those threads together and, at the same time, make it clear that I was neither racist, sexist or ageist.

Did you notice that I worked in a reference to blue people though? I thought that was pretty good.

Tomorrow, if you’re good, I’ll tell you a story about the fat people of the Old Country.

Good night, my children.

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