Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Back to School (Not Really)

I’m in the library at Moorpark College after accompanying Alyssa while she drove to her Jazz Dance class, where I then took the car to a public parking lot and walked to the library. I’m now sitting and waiting for her class to be over at 10:50. We’ve been planning this for a while, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it given my health concerns.

However, I did get a heart monitor yesterday and it’s important I conduct myself as normally as possible so we get plenty of data in order to more accurately assess what’s going on. The short walk here with about a 10-pound backpack (I brought my laptop so I could get some stuff done with a full-size keyboard) got my heart rate up to about 106, which seems kind of high. After finding a desk to set up at, it’s now down to 66 which, given that I’ve not been terribly active lately, seems a bit low. Part of me is wondering if my Fitbit tracker is on the fritz, as it’s given me some fairly strange readings lately.

At any rate, I’m going to keep on keepin’ on for the next six days, then remove the monitor and send it to the vendor who supplies it, then wait a few days to hear from my doctor. I’m also waiting to hear from Kaiser regarding an echo cardiogram, which has also been ordered. Overall, I’m feeling reasonably good. Time will tell.


Hot Lather is the Bomb!

I’ve long enjoyed shaving with hot lather, applied with an English boar bristle brush purchased up in Carmel-by-the-Sea over twenty years ago, when we attended a round of the AT&T golf tournament at Pebble Beach. My wife-to-be and I drove up with a couple we were friends with and we spent the weekend attending a round of professional golf and sightseeing. It was while we were in Carmel-by-the-Sea that I added this luxurious brush to my shaving routine.

I had been using a brush I somehow—the details have receded into the mists of time—inherited, which was worn down and sparse compared to the new one. I didn’t even realize just how sparse it was until I first shaved with the new one. The difference was immediately noticeable and immensely enjoyable. I’ve used shave cream from the can and shave gel that foams up as you apply it, but for me there’s nothing like running a thick brush under the hottest water available, whipping up a nice lather with a creamy shaving soap (Colonel Conk’s Almond is my current goto) and applying it while it’s still hot and wet. It not only feels good going on, but it softens the beard and makes shaving much more pleasurable. At least that’s my experience.

My Shaving Accoutrements
My Shaving Kit

When the pandemic hit and we were locked down for a while, I stopped shaving and grew a beard. I kept it until this past August, when I decided to shave it off for a job interview I was going on. I’ve gotten kind of lazy in my old age and I don’t shave as often as I used to. I also use an electric razor when I’m feeling particularly curmudgeonly. All that, coupled with the over a year and a half I went without shaving, meant I had forgotten how I used hot lather. It wasn’t until today that I finally put it all together. Believe it or not, it takes a little planning and coordination to get the lather at the right richness and temperature for a truly enjoyable shave. I look forward to my next shave, though I’m unclear on when that might be.


Adulting Not Parenting

They say that getting old isn’t for the faint of heart. I tend to agree with that sentiment, but I’ve managed to add an entirely different dimension to the equation. I did’t become a parent until I was 55 years old. That’s when we adopted our oldest daughter from the People’s Republic of China. When I was 59 we did it again. Now I’m 75 and I still have a 19 year old living at home, as well as a 21 year old.

When my oldest graduated high school, I kind of panicked. I hadn’t been thinking much about what happens when the kids grow up and go out on their own. Everything I’d done for them was with that end result in mind, but I hadn’t given much though to how it would affect me. I took it hard. Even though she wasn’t leaving anytime soon, I went through a painful cycle of distress and remorse. I was certain I’d messed up somewhere along the way and it was too late to fix it. I spent an entire day drying on the shoulders of several friends, just to get it off my chest. I finally discovered that spending a little time talking to her, and being the recipient of her ‘tude was enough to set me straight and I was able to get over it.

Still, last night she went to house sit for some friends for the next 10 days and I already miss her. Even though she barely came out of her room and I could go a couple of days without seeing her, the knowledge she’s not here is somehow distressing. I think maybe it’s because I really want to spend some quality time with her, just talking about life and family, etc. Every since we adopted our second daughter, she needed so much attention I wasn’t able to give my oldest the kind of attention I had been giving her previously. Thankfully, it turns out she’s strong and independent – just like I had hoped.

I know I’ll get over this feeling. After all, I’ve been patiently waiting to get back to a little adulting after all this parenting. I am looking forward to both of them getting a bit older and more independent. That’s when I think the really good conversations will happen. I just hope I live long enough to see, and experience, it.


Fragile Masculinity is a Disease

As a genuine, card-carrying man I’d like to offer my opinion on the study I’m linking to here. In 1967 I set out to discover what was happening up in San Francisco, specifically in the Haight-Ashbury district of the city. It was the end of the summer. I had a little money and a fair amount of wetness behind the ears.

I spent the next couple of years living on and (barely) off the streets. I slept in parks during the day, on lots of couches, and was at times able to rent a room, sparse as it may have been. I spent a lot of time dealing with strangers, some of whom were possibly dangerous. Although I had some experience fighting (it was hard to grow up as a Jewish boy without running into some anti-semitism) it wasn’t something I relished or had a great deal of experience at.

I had to learn to protect myself and I learned two valuable lessons very quickly. The first lesson was that the best way to win a fight was to never get into one in the first place. The second was somewhat of a corollary and speaks to the substance of this article. I learned that even the appearance of quiet confidence (no matter how twisted your gut was with fear or anxiety) went a long way toward making all but the craziest think twice before going after you physically.

I also learned, as a part of the second lesson, that the men who exhibited the most braggadocio, the ones who (figuratively) pounded their chests or banged their fists on the table, were almost without fail the most insecure and fearful of failure.

In my less than humble opinion, any man who looks up to Donald Trump as a strong man or role model is seriously lacking in self-confidence and self-assurance. Trump (aka #TFG) is demonstrably one of the most insecure and unmanly men I have had the displeasure of encountering in my over 75 years. No man, in my experience, who is secure in his masculinity has to brag about the size of his dick, as if that had anything to do with his worth as a human being.

Fragile masculinity is a disease and is far too widespread, and paternalism and patriarchy are poisons to a truly just and egalitarian society. More men need to speak up, IMO, and this includes defending our LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters.

/<soapbox>


Neil Young Can Kiss My Shriveled Ass

So there I was, minding my own business, living my best life when all of a sudden this old guy snuck up behind me and took over my body. I don’t think I can kick him out, either. Maybe some day, but it will probably be fatal. Tis a bother.

You may find I will be harping a bit on this subject. You see, I’ve never been this old before and I’m learning how to be a senior, or an old fart. I’m not used to it. I find it interesting that I look far older in pictures than I do in the mirror. Why is that? (Don’t answer; it’s rhetorical.)

You may now move about the cabin.


Sour on Power

Or its lack during a blackout! I just discovered this poem I wrote on December 8, 2020 at 1:50 pm. Based on this text the power had been out for well over 12 hours and I was getting pretty anxious about getting it back. Since I forgot I wrote it, I’m saving/sharing it here, where I’m pretty sure I’ll forget about it again. At least it will be somewhere other than just on my phone or iPad.

Listen!
You can hear the wind howl
And feel it shaking the house
As the dog’s quick to growl
And is shushed by my spouse.

Patience!
SCE proactively turned off our power
Last night at 7 was when it went dead
Hoping now in the kitchen the milk doesn’t sour
Yet the butter I’ve found is so easily spread.

Worry!
It’s not just the reefer I worry about
It’s more than the food that might spoil
It’s my iPhone’s ability to let me shout out
When its battery gets low on oil.

Resignation.
So I sit here and wait for my phone to go dead
And try to ignore angry thoughts in my head
Cause they told us the power won’t be back ’til tomorrow
And I’ve little to do save to drown in my sorrow.


Transference

What follows is an attempt at writing a short story from something like ten years ago. It’s based on an actual experience of mine that was both enlightening and humbling.

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house. 

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak. 

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset. 

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.  

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.” 

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring. 

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t. 

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he wanted to do something about it. 

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business. 

James walked slowly over to the bed. Angela was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes. 

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room. 

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better. 

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle. 

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation. 

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring. 

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction. 

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on. 


First Week On My Own

This was my first week running the business I’ve been working at for nearly eight months. The owner had to return to England with his family to renew their visas and for him to take care of some family business.

One of our three warehouses

It wasn’t a surprise. He had asked me early on if I was prepared to do it and I told him I would be happy to. Today was fairly slow, but the guy who’s been helping me out—and who I’m training to replace me when I get a job more suitable to my skills—decided not to come in.

I had to do a bit more than I expected to and by the end of the day I was whipped. I don’t generally have any problems doing the physical work I have to accomplish each day, but I ain’t no spring chicken and some days I really do feel my age. Today was one of them.

Going to bed early so I have the best chance of getting a refreshing night’s sleep. It will be another two and a half weeks before the boss returns. Fortunately, there are cell phones, texting, and email.


Preserving My Past

This is kind of a #FlashbackFriday#FF, since I missed #ThrowbackThursday#TT, though it’s more of just an addition to my life story as made possible through the wonders of Facebook and, especially, the Timeline. Since its inception, I have seen my Timeline as a way to share contemporaneously, as well as retrospectively. I have used it as a way to share both my present and my past, the latter being primarily with the thought my two daughters will one day be able to see who I was, in some sense from the beginning. If others enjoy it, that’s a bonus. Hell – I enjoy it myself once in a while and it gives me a reason to slowly digitize some of my favorite actual, printed photos, which would not be shareable other than in person if I didn’t scan and post them. This seems like as good a place as any; better than most.

The picture I am here sharing was taken quite some time after I owned the business that resided in this small, unassuming space. Nevertheless, the size and location haven’t changed since January of 1967, when my father (fearing I was on the road to becoming a bum) purchased what was then DEB’s Snack Shop and I began managing it. We were partners. My job was to spend 14 hours a day there and his job was to show up once a day and get pissed at me for something I neglected to do or didn’t do properly, as he saw it. He was very good at his job and so was I, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he performed his special task.

This little place consisted of 14 stools and about a 10′ takeout counter. It sat in a parking lot across the street from the main entrance of the May Company store on Hill St., between 8th and 9th Streets, in downtown Los Angeles. It was small, but it was busy . . . and quite lucrative, especially for a nineteen-year-old who had recently just barely escaped High School.

It was here I learned some of the more valuable lessons I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from. Perhaps the most important of them was given by my father when he admonished me to never ask anyone who worked for me to do something I wasn’t willing to do as well. I had five employees and every one of them was older than me, one by around thirty years. Earning their respect was of the utmost importance. Now that I think about it, I was fortunate to be raised with respect for most everyone. Another valuable lesson, which made this primary business one much easier to aspire to.

I also learned what I have always considered my first real marketing and sales lesson. This place was a snack shop. Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, ham sandwiches, fries, etc. We also opened up early enough for breakfast, so eggs, bacon, hash browns, etc. Of course, there were other items and most of the food was marked up 300%, that is the cost of the food item was generally 1/3 of the price we charged.

Then there were soft drinks, none of which were served in cans or bottles. We had a dispenser. The cost of a large soft drink was marginally more than a small one and the difference in cost of the cups was about a penny. The difference in profit, however, was spectacular, with the price of a large drink around two and a half times what the small one went for. I think it was $0.10 and $0.25. Let’s say I made $0.07 (in today’s money that would be $0.50) profit from the small drink. Since the cost of the large drink was marginally more than the small – let’s say $0.05 instead of $0.03 – I made a profit of $0.20 ($1.42 today) on the large drinks.

That’s the data behind it, but the real lesson was in behavior. Over a period of time, I did some experimenting. I didn’t keep a little notebook, nor did I design a devilishly clever test. People would place an order like “I’d like a cheeseburger, onion rings, and a Coke.” I merely responded in one of two ways and noted the difference in results. If I asked them “large or small” they would frequently opt for the small. However, if I merely said “large?”, they would seldom say “no”.

I don’t know how much more money I made by doing this, but I’m reasonably certain it was on the order of a few dollars a day. Extrapolated out over a year’s time, that would be around an extra couple of grand in today’s money. Not a bad result. Unfortunately, I didn’t last a year, but that’s another story. I have no regrets, btw.

PS – The name of the place in the pic is JEMP’s, which stood for Jerry, Eileen, Marshall, and Penny . . . the Silversteins. Jerry, who had worked at the Grand Central Market with my father for many years, bought the business at a discount when I kind of abruptly told the old man I was through with it. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. This was the Summer of Love, 1967. The rest, as you no doubt know, is history.


Speeding To Work

You may have heard of jury nullification, where a jury has the power to ignore the judge’s instructions and renders a verdict based on its belief in how justice must be meted out.

Since I started my new job in Agoura Hills, which involves a 25 mile drive mostly on freeways (118 -> 25 -> 101) I’ve noticed what I’m calling driver (or speeder) nullification. Shortly after transitioning from the 118 W to the 23 S there are numerous battery-powered signs on both sides of the freeway that say the speed limit is 55 MPH. They also have radar capability which shows the speed of approaching vehicles. If those vehicles are going too fast the sign says “SLOW DOWN.”

My experience is hardly anybody goes slower than 70 MPH and a large percentage of the traffic is moving at 80 MPH, though they may slow down when they see one of these signs. Not to 55, or even 60, but slower than they were moving a few moments prior to approaching the sign. Almost nobody goes 55 MPH and I’ve yet to see a vehicle pulled over and being ticketed. Frankly, I don’t see how they can, because just about every one of them is hauling ass (including me.)

It’s interesting.


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