I reached a milestone birthday this past weekend. No parades, no fireworks, and I respectfully social-distanced with my friends by not inviting them to a party. Instead, I passed a quiet evening with my honey at our favorite Italian restaurant, outside of course. And no gifts, please. I live in Florida now and have no need for any more scarves.
But now that I’ve crossed over into a new decade, I couldn’t help but wonder where exactly I landed on the aging spectrum. As many of you know, my chosen career path as a clinical speech pathologist was working with an “elderly” population. As a young middle-aged professional, I studied the field of aging and learned from the social scientists, Gerontologists I believed they’re called, about the arc of aging. They wrote about the “young old” and the “old old,” and the boundary between the two being defined by your last birthday.
Well, given that I was now four-score, that certainly was a sobering concept! And, while I’m still able to propel myself out of bed each morning, I was not going to take this lying down. Surely by now, with the ever-increasing life span, I suspected the parameters for what is old age must have shifted. And I was correct.
To demonstrate that my essays are not merely irrelevant, but also educational, I am about to share with you the latest studies defining sub-groups of the aging process. I discovered several hypotheses. To be perfectly honest, I rejected the study that defined “very old” as 80+. Instead, in the interest of staving off the inevitable, the following results were more to my liking: Young Old: 65-74; Middle Old: 75-84; and Old Old: 85+. (Sorry, honey, maybe you want to skip your next birthday.)
But if you, like I am, are an adherent of the “age is just a number” principle, you reject the notion of categorization based on chronology. Instead, you believe that functionality should be the guidepost. With that goal in mind, I present you with the following checklist. Rating yourself in the following categories should result in a more accurate representation of your true standing among the hyphenated numerical groupings stated above. Please respond honestly.
Dinner at 5:30? You’ve got to be kidding! Where do you think I live, in south Florida?
Well, truth is, I do live in south Florida, but dinner at 5:30 has nothing to do with the Early Bird Special, or a 7:30 bedtime. It has everything to do with filling the rest of the evening immersed in as many episodes as possible of whatever it is we are currently watching on Netflix. Or Hulu. Or Acorn, Apple TV, or Amazon Prime. Or an occasional 7-day free trial of some other streaming app, in which case dinner might collide with lunch since we have only 7 days to complete 3 seasons of 10 parts each of another irresistible series.
Yes, COVID has certainly changed our lives and our daily habits. No more meeting friends several times a week for a recreational dining experience. The kitchen stove, which used to be an ornament, is now in need of nightly wipe-downs with Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. And evenings which might have been spent at a theater or a movie house, are now passed in front of a smart TV. The couch cushion has a permanent indentation which can no longer be plumped away. And beware of pressing that “Play” button on the remote because once you do, a binge is likely to follow.
The immersion into this other world becomes so deep that once the series has concluded, I am totally bereft. I need a new fix, and quickly. Is this what it’s like to be an addict?
And I know I’m not alone in my neediness. On Zoom calls with friends the topics of conversation have switched from politics and other intellectual pursuits to “what are you watching?” Hopefully, you and your friends have the same propensities when it comes to selecting TV shows and movies. If not, you might have to consider a new group of friends.
My own personal tastes, and fortunately, those of my husband since he still controls the remote, lean towards mysteries, detective shows, crime dramas. And the internet does not disappoint. Interspersed with my favorite reruns of “Law and Order,” I now have access to police procedurals around the globe.
It’s amazing how much crime occurs in quiet English or Irish seaside villages. Or sleepy little, snow-filled towns in Scandinavia, complete with subtitles. An entire cadre of multilingual male and female detectives who never shave or change their clothing, have become my new best friends.
I was most recently besotted by an intrigue which took place in Holland. This one had it all: Sex, murder, crooked politicians, corrupt businessmen, more murder. I have to say the Dutch penal system was most impressive. If I ever entertain a life of crime, I’m heading to Amsterdam. The confinement spaces were quite comfortable, as well as private. Visitors seemed to come and go at all hours. And it appeared the detainees were allowed to wear their own clothing, rather than prison attire. Although, if it was required, I personally wouldn’t mind an orange jumpsuit. It brings out the blue in my eyes.
But Man cannot live by forensic autopsies alone. So to lighten things up, there was the Korean sit-com, at least 120 entertaining episodes from several Australian TV shows, the delightful French show business series, women wrestlers from Las Vegas, and everyone’s favorites, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Grace and Frankie, and Schitt’s Creek with the generous bonus add-on season for those of us who couldn’t get enough of Moira.
So, folks, what will happen post-Pandemic? Will on-line life continue to prevail even after our stay-at-home life has ended? Will we return to a movie theater once it is deemed safe or remain on the couch? When we can safely patronize a restaurant and comfortably sit inside, will we prefer to stay at home with a pizza in order to watch a few more episodes of some import from Turkey?
I like to think I will want to pick up mingling where I left off about a year ago, but who knows? So until the day we’ve all successfully been through the vaccination lines, tell me what you’ve watched recently. I would really appreciate some good recommendations!
“The older you get, I have to say, the funnier you find life. That’s the only way to go. If you get serious about yourself as you get old, you are pathetic.”
The quote above is from Diana Rigg, the actress, born 1938, died 2020. I found it in the New York Times on Monday, December 28, 2020 on a page that was a tribute to culture notables who died in 2020. Diana, I couldn’t have said it better myself!
I, like many other vintage Americans, was introduced to Diana Rigg when she played Mrs. Emma Peele in the 1960s TV spy import from Britain, The Avengers. She was 27 at the time. Younger fans remember her as the sharp-tongued Olenna from Game of Thrones. She was then 75. In between is a long list of other roles, from Shakespeare to James Bond.
If I’m correctly interpreting the intent of Dame Diana’s statement, I believe she’s saying that if one laments all of the indignities of aging, there is a great risk of seeing oneself as a sad and pitiable creature. In other words, pathetic!
When I started this blog nine years ago (has it really been nine years?) the goal was to exercise my third act privilege of commenting on life with a bit of cynicism and satire. So it was inevitable that as I moved further along the aging spectrum I would turn that irony upon myself. After reading the words of Diana Rigg, I took stock of the occasions when I had actually made fodder out of my own condition.
I have questioned the wisdom of, at a certain age, paying a higher price for a product because it comes with a life-time warranty. I applied the same logic before I chose to undergo some very expensive dental work. Did it come with a guarantee that I would outlive my teeth?
Skewering fashion and our changing body image is something that has brought me joy. The foolishness of trying to navigate a journey of a quarter mile wearing four-inch heels. The trauma of needing a new bathing suit. The question of whether going sleeveless was permissible after a certain age. Or creating a new publication, The AARP Fall Fashion Preview, after recognizing that, as an “older” woman the glossy fashion magazines had nothing in them for me.
And talk about losses! And who at this age doesn’t talk about losses? And losses come in many shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, there is the loss of friends, which is never funny. But what about the informal agenda of my husband’s annual high school reunions? First there is the rundown of the condition of one’s body parts, who knows the best doctors, and a drug update. All of which leads to the inevitable “alive or dead” game as they try to figure out if so-and-so, whom no one has heard from in quite a while, is simply ignoring the group or something worse.
I’ve written about losing my fingerprints, my left shoulder, the ability to sleep through the night, and almost two inches of height. Losing my cataracts was a welcome loss, but not without its downside. Seeing my face after the gauzy film was removed from my eyes made me want to consider cosmetic surgery as part of my after-care.
And, of course, who could resist taking stabs at a society which tends to devalue us as we age. I say rail at those who judge us as dinosaurs because we still use AOL. And fie on the media who insists on describing anyone over 60 as “elderly.” Or those that say “she used to be very pretty” about a woman of a certain age because she doesn’t look like she did when she was 16.
There are more essays I could mention, but I think I’ve made my point about a shared philosophy. And so dear Diana, it’s too bad you never got to read my blogs. You would have been very proud of me!
And let me end this with some wisdom from another celebrity icon, Betty White, who turns 99 on January 17th. In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight she said that she planned to spend her upcoming birthday in quarantine. And what did she say was the secret to a long life? Why, a sense of humor, of course.
Hey, 2020. Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?
I think the sentiment is universal. Perhaps even interplanetary. Most of us can’t wait for 2020 to be over. I know I can’t. What a year! A devastating pandemic, a Presidential impeachment, Giuliani’s hair dye bomb, transition chaos, and a toilet paper shortage. Can things get much worse? Fortunately, the year is ending with some good news – a COVID vaccine and plenty of toilet paper.
But even as we were all social distancing, Big Pharma was busy once again, not just producing vaccine, but naming hundreds of recently released new drugs with high-scoring Scrabble letters. Yes, those Scrabble players were at it again, this time tossing tiles in the air, and naming the new medications with a bumper crop of unpronounceable labels. So here, for your final mental challenge of 2020, is the annual year-end Stupid Drug Names quiz.
And the runner-ups include: Klisyri, Oxlumo, Inmazeb, Evrysdi, and Uplizna
So how did you score? If you have any interest left at all, the real answers are below:
Orladeyo: treats angioedema; Danyelza: for neuroblastoma; Imcivree: control obesity; Winlevi: treat acne; Monjuvi: for lymphoma; Qinlock: treat gastrointestinal tumors; Xeglyze: treats head lice; Gallium: prostate cancer; Rukobia: HIV; Orgovyx: advanced prostate cancer.
Once again, from our house to yours, a very happy, healthy, and hopefully COVID-free New Year! We are hunkering down tonight, and with some effort, we’ll make it to see the ball drop in Times Square, on TV of course! And thank you for your readership and a year’s worth of lovely comments. I couldn’t be having this much fun without you!
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, arrived at sundown on Thursday, December 10th. No complaints this year about the holiday arriving too early or late. In my humble opinion, it arrived at the best possible moment. The eight nights of candle-lighting, ending on December 18th, along with the lights of Christmas, illuminate the longest nights of the year, and usher us to the Winter Solstice (December 21). Although unnoticeable at first, it quickens my step just to know that after this date, the days are gradually getting longer.
But perhaps most significant this year, the lights of Hanukkah coincide with the true light at the end of the tunnel, the arrival of the COVID vaccine, and brightened hopes for a better 2021.
So while it’s all about the light, let’s not forget the oil, and my favorite symbol of Hanukkah, the latke! And once again, I offer you my annual tribute to this humble delicacy.
Fried White Potatoes
As much as I gripe about the tedium of the holiday season, I must confess that there is one time-honored December tradition to which I happily succumb. As soon as the calendar informs me that we are about to embark on the eight days of Hanukkah, I am overtaken by a compulsive urge to make latkes. Completely forgetting the horror of clean-up, I am motivated by visions of the succulent food with the delicious, crispy brown edges.
As an aside, one must always consult the calendar to verify the arrival of this holiday, because, unlike Christmas, it has no specific designated date. Rather, from year to year, it tends to hover over the month, and its descent is always a surprise. Not being a student of the Hebrew calendar, its landing always appeared to me as being completely arbitrary, although I’m sure that’s not the case. But, like all Jewish holidays, it’s never on time. It’s either early or late. In fact, I can recall one year, in the not-so-distant past, when Hanukkah was so eager to arrive, it actually collided with Thanksgiving.
But back to latkes. For the uninitiated, a latke (pronounced lat kuh, with emphasis on the lat) may appear to be nothing more than a fried potato pancake. But in truth, the little latke is so much more. It’s a fried potato pancake with a soul. The making and the eating is a treat for all the senses. Therefore, once a year, I say throw food caution to the wind, swallow an extra statin, and prepare to enjoy starch cooked in oil.
Actually, as a holiday tradition, it’s all about the oil. Cooking with oil is a commemoration of the ravaged temple and the miracle of the small amount of olive oil that kept the eternal light burning for eight days, instead of just one. But it is not my intention here to retell the Hanukkah story. If one is interested, one can always consult Rabbi Google. Rather, it is to praise the latke.
Latke. I even love the sound of the word, which I find somewhat sensual. Uttered slowly and softly, letting the tip of the tongue rise to plant a gentle caress just behind the teeth, could there be a more loving term of endearment? Come to me, my little latke.
But like all things Jewish, the proper preparation of latkes is not without differences of opinion.
Traditionalists claim that the only authentic way to make them is to grate the potatoes by hand. Since I don’t believe that a preferred methodology is discussed in any biblical text, I stand with those who shred by food processor. The outcome is just as good, and one’s knuckles remain intact. (Contrary to popular belief, knuckle blood is really not the secret ingredient in a good latke.)
I prefer to get my tactile fix from squeezing the liquid from the shredded potatoes, then combining the other ingredients with my 10 digits. Want to release your inner child and relive the early developmental gratification of playing with your food? There’s nothing like being up to your elbows in potatoes, onions, eggs, and flour (or matzoh meal if you prefer).
And what can compare with the aroma of frying the latke? Nothing, except for eating the latke. Garnish as you like – apple sauce, sour cream, even caviar. And voila! The dull potato has been elevated into a luxurious treat.
And I say fie on the spoilers who attempt to ruin the entire experience by suggesting healthy alternatives. Like baking, instead of frying. Or substituting other vegetables for the potato. A kale and cauliflower latke? Really?
And don’t even think about using a prepared mix!
I confess there is a downside to this otherwise joyous experience. I must now begin to repair the damage that used to be my kitchen. But not even the splotches of potato starch that have landed on my floor and counters, and the splattered oil on my stove, can detract from my satisfaction.
And the secondary benefit? The memory of the experience that comes from the lingering odor of potatoes cooked in oil which will permeate the house long after the eight days have run their course.
And once everything is nice and tidy, I know I will forget the mess and do it all over again next year. Whenever Hanukkah decides to arrive.
Today is blog day. But more importantly, it also happens to be my 40th wedding anniversary, and I have decided to honor the occasion with an essay. So what you’re about to read will be a little bit funny, a little bit serious, a little bit sentimental, and the rest of it downright mushy!
Given our respective ages, a forty-year marriage might seem nothing to pop a cork about. Many of our cohorts, some of whom met in first grade while struggling over their Dick and Jane readers, are boasting marriages of nearly 60 years. Very admirable. That’s a whole lot of evenings taking out the garbage.
Truth be told, I’ve actually been married longer than 40 years. So has my husband. Before we met, each of us had 15 years of conjugal life with another spouse. So in answer to the question “How long have I been married?” I believe that 55 years is an honest response.
Even convicted felons get credit for time served.
Did you know that the symbol for 40 years of marriage is the Ruby? Neither did I, until a few minutes ago. Why the Ruby, you might ask? Because “the Ruby represents an internal flame and could be considered a representation of the inner flame of a strong marriage that has lasted 40 years and is still burning.” What a relief to discover that my inner flame was ignited by romance, devotion and passion, and not indigestion!
(And now for the part that gets a bit more serious, sentimental, mushy.)
During our 40 years of marriage, we have helped each other raise five children, six dogs, and have lived to enjoy five beautiful grandchildren. We have confronted the turmoil and blessings of mix-and-match households, which now includes in-laws, and have more than earned our T shirts which read “I Survived a Blended Family.”
We have managed several moves and home renovations, the stress of which often had us teetering on the brink. I mean, what can be more detrimental to a relationship than arguing over where to place a light fixture?
We’ve weathered several career changes, both his and mine, resulting in periods of economic uncertainty, each of which just brought us that much closer.
There have been health scares, including a near-death experience, but fortunately, we’ve been able to come out the other side with smiles on our faces. And a few more little plastic bottles of pills.
Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit, which has provided many enlightening experiences and wonderful memories, and happily, not too many instances of lost luggage.
Reflecting on our marriage, I am very grateful. No one could have been more supportive to me in my second act as a humor writer than my husband. My web site and two books would not have been possible without his encouragement and his belief in me. And even more than that, I am grateful that living with him for all these decades has provided me with so much delicious fodder for my essays.
On at least a dozen occasions, I have poked fun at our marital bliss. Whether it’s the fact that my darling clenches the TV remote as if it was a life line, constantly gives me driving lessons, argues with me about the best way to slice a bagel, or his recent love affair with Costco, a long-term marriage has proven to be an endless source of material. And while I’ve given him veto power over what gets published, I have to admit he has been a most wonderful sport.
In our younger years, we would often joke about growing old together, and at bedtime placing our dentures side by side in a glass on the nightstand. Well, implants have shot a hole in that symbolic gesture. Instead we climb into bed with our respective iPads, and Sam the Dog, and side by side, read ourselves to sleep. And that’s just perfect.
Do I dare look back and ask the inevitable question: would I do it all over again? I don’t have to fear the answer, because it is “yes.”
So Happy Anniversary my darling. We may not reach the 60-year mark like some of our friends, but we’re sure not done yet. And please don’t ever be perfect, because I have many more essays yet to write!
PLEASE JOIN ME……
on Thursday, December 10, 2020 at 2:00 PM
at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
Meet the Writer – Women’s Book Series
Through the magic of Zoom, you can attend from anywhere!
For information & ticket purchase: www.kravis.org
With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, I have been contemplating my table setting. Some of the usual adornments shall remain the same. I will order a lovely floral centerpiece. I also plan on bringing out the special china reserved for such holidays, as well as the party silverware, even though the pieces require hand washing. Nothing’s too good for this lavish family occasion.
And around the table I shall set three place settings: one for my honey, one for me, and one for my iPad, upon which we shall connect, in two dimensions, instead of three, with the rest of our family.
It pains me to think that my granddaughter who’s in college might be a spreader, or, for other family members, it might be dangerous to travel. Therefore, there will be no “Over the river and through the woods” this year, because grandmother is vulnerable and her house is off limits!
Yes, it’s Thanksgiving in the time of COVID. And this year it behooves us to follow CDC suggestions to avoid generating more cases. It’s recommended that the holiday feast participants “should be limited to those who currently reside in the housing unit.” And our housing unit includes just the two of us and Sam the Dog, whose place setting is typically under the table.
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for two does indeed create some challenges if you are a traditionalist. I love the idea of turkey, but even a small 8 to 10 -pound bird means a lot of turkey sandwiches. Perhaps I should encourage Sam to invite some friends, even if we can’t.
I’m rather surprised that in light of the current circumstance, Agribusiness hasn’t created a designer turkey especially suited for low-occupancy housing units. For years, breeders have been doing this with dogs. Mate a large dog with a small dog and get a smaller version of the original. Tag the new version with the label “doodle” or “poo.” Mostly it’s some breed or other with a poodle. Why is it always a poodle? I’m starting to wonder about the morals of poodles!
In an effort to down-size the turkey, how about mating a Tom with, let’s say, a sparrow? And even when COVID is behind us, I’m sure there will continue to be smaller households who would be delighted to be roasting a “turkow” and a lot less stuffing.
I wonder what Norman Rockwell would make of Thanksgiving 2020? His representation of a beaming, multigenerational family around a table while grandma and grandpa proudly present the turkey, just doesn’t cut it this year. Could he have ever imagined a digital American tradition? And if so, how would he have painted it?
Things are far from ideal this year but we are resilient. Fortunately, there are iPads, iPhones, laptops, Zoom, and the rest of its ilk. So we will have our first course with the Boston clan, turkey and trimmings with the Connecticut group, and pumpkin pie with the dears in New York.
And Sam? Maybe this year you get a place at the table after all.
So there I was, 9:30 in the morning, indulging in my guilty pleasures — a second cup of coffee and my second crossword puzzle. As I filled in 13 Across — a four-letter word expressing sorrow — the proverbial light bulb flashed. Now there’s a fine word, I thought. Why does no-one say ‘alas’ any more?
I know that language isn’t static, and words seem to have an inherent expiration date. They can be cool for a while, then drop out of favor, and new ones take their place. That’s precisely the reason that each year I attempt to enlighten my generation with my “English as a Second Language” pop quiz. If there’s to be any hope at all for intergenerational communication, we must keep up with the neologisms invented by the Ys and the Zs.
But getting back to my puzzle, and the light bulb, there are many lovely words such as hie, or thither, that have been saved from the vocabulary graveyard by the sheer fortune of becoming a response to a crossword clue!
I’m not suggesting to reach way back, like, let’s say, biblical pronouns or all those “begats.” But methinks, perhaps, it’s not too far reaching to dip into another century or two for some good old-fashioned linguistic flavor. Help me make “alas” the new “Oy vey.”
So to kick off my campaign, I offer a brief list of words that I believe deserve a second chance.
EEK! A wonderful and succinct expression of alarm, fear or surprise that’s too much fun to be confined to cartoons or comic strips. Example: EEK, it’s time for my colonoscopy again!
SCORE. No, not the result of a sports competition, but another word for “twenty,” derived from counting sheep and making a mark when the number was reached. Probably not in use since Abraham Lincoln, I would like it reintroduced starting immediately. Example: When my next big birthday comes due, I shall be Four Score.
EVENTIDE. A melodic word that means “end of the day.” Example: It’s eventide somewhere; let’s go have a drink!
EGAD. Don’t you just love “egad?” Go ahead. Say it aloud. It’s an exclamation of surprise or anger. So expressive. Example: Egad! It’s 7 am and I’ve run out of coffee!
WAN. This sweet little word is way more than just Obi Kenobi’s middle name or an ancient Chinese dynasty. It has an identity all its own. It’s a synonym for “pale,” or “ashen.” Example: In the morning, after a night of drinking, Henry was looking more than a little wan.
TRUMPERY. Things that look good but are basically worthless. (I said THINGS, not PEOPLE!) Example: I know for a fact that she shops at the flea market, so her designer handbag collection is mere trumpery.
GADZOOKS. Another word you will love to say. Just try it. And worth a lot of Scrabble points. It is an exclamation of surprise or indignation. Example: Gadzooks! My scale says I’ve gained the Quarantine 15!
ZOUNDS. An alternative to Gadzooks! Make up your own example.
PIFFLE. Say it fast four times. Feels good, doesn’t it? It means trivial nonsense. Example: Last night on Zoom my friends and I played Piffle Pursuit and I won!
HUMBUG. Made popular by Scrooge, this little-used word means false or deceptive. Example: The fashion model’s lush eyelashes were definitely humbug.
This is by no means a complete list. It’s meant to kick-start a trend. And please, feel free to add some old words of your own.
And just so I know you are truly with me in this endeavor, next time you send me a text, be sure to include at least one flapdoodle!
What Have You Done to My Bagel!?!Hey! I’m talkin’ to you. I’m from Brooklyn. And being from Brooklyn, I know a thing or two about bagels. And I’m tellin’ you that these days a decent bagel is hard to find.
Oh sure, there is no shortage of bagel establishments, but by and large, with large being the operative word here, the products they create and sell are just facsimiles of the real deal.
So why am I complaining about bagels when so many more important issues are at stake? Because pondering about politics or the COVID virus is overwhelming and sure to induce a migraine, while kvetching about the lack of decent bagels is something I can wrap my taste buds around. Besides, it’s a welcome distraction from the turmoil of the day.
Let me state from the outset that I am passionate about bagels. It’s a relationship that dates back to childhood. Back in the day in Brooklyn, I grew up one short block from an old-fashioned bagel bakery. I use the term “old-fashioned” because that was all they did, just make bagels. Bagel bakers were kings. They had a strong union. Why, a bagel baker from the 40’s or 50’s would be appalled to learn that today bagels and bialys are made in the same oven. Right away the integrity of the art form is compromised!
(Let me pause here and briefly explain the bialy, which, outside of New York City, never enjoyed the same popularity as its cousin. The bialy is not a sub-type of bagel, it’s a thing unto itself. Round, with a
depressed middle filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds, it is simply baked, not boiled first. The outside is matte, not shiny, and it doesn’t have that pull-away crust.)
Besides being weaned on hot out of the oven fresh bagels, there’s a human interest angle to my tale. The owner of the bagel bakery had two sons, who were my contemporaries. The older son, Marvin, had a crush on me, but alas, I was enamored of his younger brother. Marvin pursued me, while Marty ignored me. I don’t remember the resolution of this love triangle, but I have reflected many times during my search for a decent bagel, that I should have stuck with Marvin.
So what is the secret of a good, authentic bagel? I share with you a description written by a bagel maven and published in The New York Times:
A bagel is a round bread made of simple, elegant ingredients: high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast and malt. Its dough is boiled, then baked, and the result should be a rich caramel color; it should not be pale and blond. A bagel should weigh four ounces or less and should make a slight cracking sound when you bite into it instead of a whoosh. A bagel should be no more than four or five hours old when consumed. All else in not a bagel.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. My problem with most bagels today is that they are too big, no doubt over four ounces, too pale, not crusty on the outside, and too doughy on the inside. Biting into a contemporary bagel is way too frequently akin to biting into an entire loaf of white bread. And when a bagel has this bulk and consistency, no amount of sesame seeds or other toppings can make it right.
Bagel eating is legendary in my family. Those of you who have sprung for the price of the my first book, “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and actually read it, might recall the essay therein entitled “Bagel Sunday.” The essay was written as a tribute to my husband and our two Labrador retrievers, Bette and Davis. Each and every Sunday morning the three would drive off in our SUV to bring home fresh bagels for breakfast. I was convinced beyond a doubt that the dogs knew when it was Sunday, and enjoyed the bagels as much as we did. Sadly, the dogs have died, but happily, my husband is still with me. And the Sunday bagel routine continues to this day.
No bagel essay would be complete without a mention of its latter-day relative, the flagel. Introduced sometime in the 90s the flagel looks like a bagel that has been run over by a car. It is, in fact, a flat bagel. It is crisp and less doughy, and comes with a variety of toppings. I have to admit that I find the flagel a worthy substitute for a mediocre bagel.
And so the quest for the perfect bagel continues. We have not yet exhausted all of the bagel establishments on the east coast, but we’re getting close. I wonder if Marvin is on Facebook?
“I’ve been clean for four days,” my friend blurts out as we’re walking our dogs in the park. “Wait! What?” is my shocked response. “I’m your best friend and you never confided in me that you had an addiction problem. What is it, drugs, alcohol?” “No,” she says, “the news, I’ve given up the news.”
Slightly bewildered, I look at her again. Am I wrong, or does she really appear calmer, more serene, more centered? Is she emitting a glow, or is that simply the sun in my eyes? As I reach to scratch a hive on my arm, I notice that her skin is, in fact, more radiant and the distracting blemish on her cheek near the left nostril has all but disappeared. Not knowing what else to say, I congratulate her.
Later that day I consider our conversation. Perhaps she’s really on to something. If she can dramatically improve her appearance in just four days, maybe I should also get with the program. And it’s way cheaper and less painful than a skin peel. I acknowledge the fact that I, too, am a news junkie, and it may well be ruining my life. So despite my somewhat limited capacity for self-control, I make the commitment.
It’s early morning. I lie in bed contemplating a strategy for my personal recovery. Last evening I asked my husband to join me on this journey. He flatly refused. I know this will make my rehab more difficult. Like trying to quit cigarettes when you’re living with a smoker. Nevertheless, I will persist.
So…. do I quit cold turkey, or do I gradually wean myself from the likes of Wolf Blitzer and Sean Hannity? Should the process include newspapers, web headlines, the satellite radio in my car? Do I give up podcasts? Political ads by candidates who approve this message? The scope of this endeavor is more vast than I realized. But I decide to accept the challenge. Cold turkey it is.
I leave the bed and stumble my way to the kitchen where my left hand (I’m left-handed, you see) reflexively reaches for the remote control. I catch myself just in time, although I do notice a slight tremor in my fingers as I prepared the coffee. This will not be easy. There’s a TV in almost every room of our home. Except the bathroom. Later that day, I turn on my computer wearing a pair of dark glasses in order to blur the news headlines that appear unsolicited on my home page. I switch my car radio from CNN to Julius La Rosa’s greatest hits. Limited, but soothing. That night in bed, I grab my iPad, insert my ear buds and find a Netflix war movie with enough exploding weapons to drown out the sound of the final hour of news my husband is watching before falling asleep. Day 1 is finally over and I have prevailed!
I awaken with new resolve. Believing I’ve made it through the most difficult 24 hours, I am empowered. I look in the mirror to determine if yesterday’s cleanse has diminished the worry lines in my forehead. I think I see a slight improvement. I am able to ignore the remote control in the kitchen as I make the coffee. I notice that today only one finger is trembling. Progress! I shall carry on today as yesterday, but believe I have the fortitude to spend less time in the bathroom. Also, I will switch the car radio station. “Three Coins in the Fountain” has run its course. Tonight in bed I tune into reruns of “Mrs. Maisel.” Not quite as loud, but way more amusing.
Definite improvement in my complexion, and I lost a pound. I hadn’t realized that a diet of politics could be fattening. Have a doctor’s appointment today and they have a TV in the waiting room. This could be a challenge. Hopefully, it will be tuned to QVC. To avoid watching the news, I’ve been engaging in other absorbing activities, like trying to teach Spanish to my dog. I think he’s doing well. Now he doesn’t respond to “Come” in two languages. I’ve taken up ironing. Did you know that pot holders look so much better when they’re pressed? Well, neither did I. But now I do.
I confess there was a lull in my day when I almost succumbed to the song of the Sirens luring me to the TV. But by sheer force of will I was able to resist. Instead, to satisfy the urge to indulge in small screen viewing, I rode to my local fitness store and test-drove a Peloton.
As I rise from my bed, I’m aware of a strange, but not unpleasant, sensation. It is unusual, but yet familiar, like something I remember from at least four years ago. It takes me a moment, but I am able to identify it. Calm. I am calm. My heart’s not racing, my pulse is normal, and my hives have receded. My aggression has abated. I’m able to recall the name of a certain politician and not precede it with a four-letter word.
I make the coffee without a single tremor as I stare down the remote which no longer has control over me. If I make it through today, that will be 96 hours news-free!
Detox accomplished! I call my friend to share the good news. “Listen,” she says, “I have to confess. I fell off the wagon. I watched the debate.” “You did?” was my shocked response. And with a great sigh of relief, I ask “So when’s the next one?”
About the Author
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page HERE.