Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stomping on the Level Playing Field

Well, I don't figure I'll be back
There for a spell,
Even though Rita moved away
And got a job in a motel.
He still waits for me,
Constant, on the sly.
He wants to turn me in
To the F.B.I.
Me, I romp and stomp,
Thankful as I romp,
Without freedom of speech,
I might be in the swamp. - from Motorpsycho Nightmare, Bob Dylan 1964
Corner 58th and Second
Last week I posted about old people and drinking cappuccino, at what was then, my favorite brunch restaurant - the Zebu Grill.

But as the song says, "Well, I don't figure I'll be back there for a spell."  As to why, the lest said, probably the better.

This week my interest is in economics, rationalism and "Obama care" - the name being given to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010  bills that could have lead America into the 21st century, albeit grudgingly.

I just don't get it. The health care "system" in America is so inefficient. Since 1986 everyone in America has a right to health care treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. So the insured people are still paying for the uninsured,  just in an inefficient and round-about manner.  The hospitals providing the "free care" do not get  reibursed by the government. So it's the insured users who have to pay even more.

So this past week I decided to listen to Mitt Romney in the hope he would explain why it isn't a good idea for all Americans to have health insurance.

I tuned in to CNN and listened to Romney and his guys explaining how unfair everything was, and how China was a bad country because China can manufacture products cheaper than the US can. "We want a level playing field," one of them whined.

Huh? "Level playing field". Isn't that what Republicans DON'T want. Certainly they don't want every American to have health insurance. And what about capitalism and competition?  Not to mention the proclaimed benefits of a free market economy.

In my opinion, the Republicans are the new socialists - socialism for the rich. For the big banks. For Wall Street.

Bail out General Motors but heavens, don't provide health insurance to the poor and unemployed.

Yes a true socialist, Mr Romney is all for the workers.

According to the Sun Times, "Romney's campaign released a new ad on Friday - titled 'First 100 Days: Ohio,' where an announcer says, 'Day One, President Romney stands up to China, demands a level playing field for our businesses and workers.'"

It must be about having one's cake and eating it too. Or let them eat cake. Someone Left the Cake out in the Rain. Divying up the cake.

And as for the photo above, it has nothing whatsoever to do with health care, China or Mitt Romney. I took it because I just liked the sign. The smaller sign on the left says, "Feed a pigeon, breed a rat".

Yep, I just don't understand Republican logic.

Perhaps it's a rat thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No Country for Old Hippies

Carpe diem, carpe diem
Carpe diem, carpe diem
Well it’s an old cliche
Yes, it’s an old cliche
But you better make your love today
Death is a’coming in - from 'Carpe Diem', Tuli Kupferberg (The Fugs) 1965

I did a double take. I was crossing 42nd Street, having just emerged from the Second Avenue bus and a daydream.

The daydream was about the reaction to my last week's post, Rated Oh! for Old People. People had emailed me, berating me for writing about being old.

Yes they were right, I mused. Think young.
And then I saw it. A huge poster. You can see it here  above left. A poster proclaiming loudly and boldly, "Get Old".

Had I entered the Twilight Zone? Twilight years, more likely. Walking west down 42nd I saw even more posters telling us New Yorkers to "Get Old".

Some of the posters had little word-bites, meant to be encouraging. Such as, "Live longer. Live Better". And "Live long enough to see them make the same mistakes".

On and on they went, poster upon poster. Encouraging us to teach our children, to think "I told you so", but all with the same tag line, "Get Old".

"Who was putting these out?" I wondered. And then I saw in small print at the bottom of the posters. "Pfizer". I googled "Pfizer Get Old" when I got home, only to discover that Pfizer has applied for a TRADEMARK on  "Get Old". Milking the baby boomer generation for all they can get!
So much for getting the getting-old idea out of my head!

Which reminds me - I thought of another worst thing about getting old. People calling me "dear". Or even worse, "sweetie". When did this horrible thing start happening? Is is purely an American thing? Lots of people use these "terms of endearament" when addressing me.  People I know. People I've never met before.  Friends. Bank tellers. Waiters.

I have decided to counter-attack. Anyone calling me "dear" or "sweetie" gets it straight back. Let's see how THEY like it!

And so to Sunday. Father's Day here in America. I decided to go back to my favorite brunch restaurant. I was dreading it, fearing I'd see the waiter who had thought I was dead (Rated Oh! for Old People). But I decided to be brave ad venture out.  Then, oh no, I got another getting-old reminder. Second Avenue was full of old men. It should be Grandfather's Day. Old hippie men. They were everywhere. Long gray hair. Jeans. Generation X-ers in tow.
From my table at Zebu's - Father's Day 2012
All that was missing was the beads. Was that marijuana that I could smell above the pollution of the Second Avenue subway construction?

At the restaurant I took a table near the door, all the better to observe my generation on the sidewalk opposite.

The waiter-who-thought-I-was dead wasn't there. He must only work on Saturdays. And the new one, being VERY young, around ten, didn't call me anything.

Things were looking up! I started reading my new book. "Cain" by José Saramago. I love Saramago's writing. Sentences that span pages. Hardly any paragraphs. "Cain" is Genesis for atheists. It's excellent. So good I had to put it down to savor what I'd read so far.

Over my cappuccino I reflected on life. On Adam and Eve and getting old. On the wonderful Fugs. Carpe Diem. My generation.

Oops. What was I thinking? The words from "My Generation" by The Who came  blasting  their way into  my new-found short-lived moment of tranqulity.

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old

My generation.

How little did we know!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rated Oh! for Old People

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedroll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college - from "Tombstone Blues", Bob Dylan, 1965

Youth and Age - Me and my Dad many years ago! 
My mother misled me.  "The worst thing about growing old," she told me, "is that your toenails turn yellow."

What a thought!  Mine aren't yellow yet though. Perhaps when THAT happens I'll agree that it's the worst thing. But not now.

I have a whole heap of worst things about growing old.

People saying I look like Maggie Smith is just one of them.

And people thinking I have possibly left this world!

Last weekend I went to my favorite brunch place - Zebu Grill. They make the best eggs benedict. I went with a book. When I first came to New York I imagined I'd make heaps of friends and have a busy social life, just like I'd had in Melbourne. That was before I knew that Americans - or is it just New Yorkers - aren't so much into friends. So I brunch alone with a book for company.

I generally go to the Zebu Grill every weekend, but I'd missed the week before. When I got up to leave the waiter said, "You weren't here last weekend? The waiter who is generally on in the weekends noticed, and asked if I'd seen you. He was concerned."

What did he mean? And then I realized.

Yikes! I went pale. He'd thought I'd carked it. Passed on, ceased to be, expired. Surely I didn't look THAT old. The feeling of enjoyment I'd had from the eggs benedict and my book, "Bring Up the Bodies"  died.  The very title of the book evoked death. The world turned gray.

Is this indicative of a new phase where people see me as something akin to the John Cleese parrot? Another worst thing! Even worse than being compared to Maggie Smith!

I am so sensitized to growing old, so obsessed, that I experience its awfulness when it isn't even there. Walking back from shopping last Sunday,  I noticed the poster on the left in the window of a laundromat. What did it mean? Where was the name of the show? I stopped, transfixed.

I must have read it through three times trying to figure out the name of the play, before giving up and assuming I was losing it. Aging had done me in! I could no longer make sense of a Broadway poster.

Perhaps what I hate most about growing old is losing the ability and the chance to redefine oneself. To imagine a different self. In my younger days I'd think things like, "I am going to change and be a neat person." Or "I am going to be more tolerant and cheerful".  Now I'm just me and stuck with it! Nothing's going to change. I've been me too long for any significant change to happen. So boring!

A bored Maggie Smith. Scary. What could be worse?

And back on the topic of Ms Smith ... I had quite a bit of feedback to my post, I Ain't Gonna Be Maggie Smith No More. Most people felt I should be honored at being told I was like her. "Such a wonderful actress", I was told by several friends. ASIF people thought I was like her for my acting ability. Clearly I was like her because of the nasty characters she played. Or her looks.  My uncle emailed, commenting on Maggie - "As my old man would have said : 'a face like a pound of tripe'". Charming!  It has not been my week!

There's not much worse than looking like Maggie Smith, having no dreams for the future,  not understanding Broadway posters, and having waiters thinking you've died when you don't have brunch one Saturday.

Unless it  is perhaps the color of one's toenails.

I daren't look ....