Archive for July, 2011

The Case of the Absent Parent DNA

Perhaps because we are descended from the apes, algae or whomever, we share similar DNA. We all, for example, have two eyes, a nose and hair, the need for love, shelter and entertainment, the need for food, for the good old pat on the back and for clean laundry and socks and maybe a vitamin or two.

Although still in the early testing stages, studies have shown that there was once some kind of parent DNA that has gone by way of the pager and the typewriter. Before it started getting phased out en masse around the seventies, it was so ingrained and encoded that it crossed borders and seas and made its way around the world.

Take the case of a man from south of the border whose mother had dominant parent DNA genes and wasn’t afraid to show it. Before a certain incident during his young life, I didn’t think our parents shared much of it, though I am now convinced. The place was somewhere in Mexico, the year back to a time before parents started befriending their kids shortly after they started weaning them onto solid foods.

Mr. South of the Border said that when he was an hombre of around eight or nine, he had a job cleaning the barn of a woman whose son was around the same age, but who was a bad hombre, either from nature, nurture, bad churros or maybe all three. The bad hombre approached him as he was cleaning and started laughing, making fun of the menial task and smacking him around a bit. On the way out, opened his mouth for one last laugh, but the door swung back and hit him on the face, and he ran home crying.

Moments later, the good hombre’s mother appeared with fists clenched.

“But I didn’t do it,” he said while she slapped over the head. But his mother, apparently in full possession of the DNA, wasn’t having any of it and continued slapping him while telling him that she was going to teach him a lesson.

My father must have shared some of this woman’s deoxyribonucleic acid, although he was from Hungary and she from south of the border. Had that been me in the barn that day, he would have given me one across the shoulder, asked me why I put myself in that position, and wondered why he hadn’t taught me better than that.

Mainly because of this, the good hombre and I never got in any real trouble, never cheated anyone, had a restraining order taken out against us, a credit rating below 650 or had our names and mugs appear in a police blotter.

On the positive side, it may help the labor force in the building of city jails and the purchasing of vending machines and deputies’ uniforms and such.


American Hari Kari Time?

Forget what you’ve heard or read. The real reason why some of the biggest ding-dongs in the GOP are at loggerheads with Obama is because we’re in the Age of the Narcissist. It is a logical progression, after all. We’ve had the Iron Age, the Gilded Age, the Age of Aquarius, and the Bank and Auto Industry Bailout Age, which led to the biggest granddaddy of them all, the Narcissist Age.

That is why they won’t raise the debt ceiling or close those tax loopholes benefiting the rich. It might put a dent in their campaign coffers and ruin their finances. Far flung conservatives like Michele Bachmann, will not vote to raise the debt ceiling though they must know that our credit rating will plunder, the stock market will crash and the people’s confidence in the government, not to mention the world economy, will go by way of the Edsel. They know it because ex-President Bill Clinton and some economists told them so, which may be why they don’t want to listen. It’s the messenger they are judging and not the message, that and that darned age we are in.  

So here’s an SOS from a registered Republican with a credit rating that qualifies for special finance rate offers: Raise the debt ceiling, avoid cutting programs that help the elderly, limit campaign contributions and close the tax loopholes for the rich. If that doesn’t raise the anthem and battle cry, then Obama is going to have to ditch the “can’t we all just get along?” mantra, for not working, and invoke the Fourteenth Amendment.

Otherwise, it’s going to be hari kari time.

Amy Winehouse, the Ultimate Chick


A few weeks before Amy Winehouse’s death, her name and face flashed in front of my eyes with a sense of dread, but I thought no more about it until the news came last Saturday.

In spite of this, I still gasped when I learned that Amy Winehouse, that sultry-voiced, beehived mega-talent, had died at only 27.

I initially thought that if she knew of her fate, then she would have stopped using. But never having been an addict, I have no idea what it’s like. It took comedian Russell Brand’s observations to wake me up, for if anyone knows about addiction, it would be Russell Brand. A former addict who attends AA meetings three times a week to keep himself in check, he said that addicts strive for a dream-like state when they’re awake and stumble through life in a brown haze.

I now know that Amy Winehouse had been forewarned but was too far gone to even care, though her genius and her ability to blend jazz, blues, pop and soul into one, couldn’t be drowned out by booze and drugs. The very definition of genius, after all, the ability to combine the old and come up with something entirely unique and new. And that was Amy Winehouse, a genius who was infinitely likeable underneath it all.

Maybe it was her integrity and in spite of stumbling and getting in her own way, that she was here to live life on her own terms with verve and vigor and style.

When I first saw her in “Rehab,” I thought here’s the ultimate chick, a cross between a fifties waitress slinging hash in a roadside diner and a smoke-filled lounge house chanteuse,  strutting around in that black beehive, heavily lined eyes and sailor tattoos. I tried imitating that style, but I couldn’t because there’s nothing like the original, and Amy Winehouse was nothing if not an original.

May Day Alert! May Day Alert!

Now that the budget is tighter than a high wire string and Congress some Republicans are so tight, they squeak as they walk (and it has to be bad if I’m saying that because I tend to lean to the right), one portion of the budget that should be expanded is mental health services as we are in an emergency.

 Someone on some message board pointed out that there is neither more nor less all-around craziness just that it’s better documented. The Internet and all the world is flat theories aside, this is a special Rogues Hall.  

Moments before flying a plane into his mother’s house, 47 year-old Konrad Schmidt, called her to make sure she was home. He was allegedly angry about his parents divorce, though it appears that something else was bothering him.

Most people get angry at their parents at some point, but they usually take less drastic measures. Had Schmidt gotten help, he most likely would have emoted in some other way. He might have written in a journal, a letter to his parents that he never mailed or gone out for a drink or two. But now he’s either taken up residence in a jail or a psych ward.

Seventeen year-old Tyler Hadley is another member of that club. The Florida teen bludgeoned his parents to death and covered their bodies with books and papers before hosting a party for 60 teens that he posted on Facebook. His best friend called the police after he showed him the bodies. They are treating the vicious attack as a premeditated crime.

In my day, about the worst thing that any kid did was fail to clean his room or run away from home for a few hours. Even so, about the craziest incident that happened was when a neighbor decided to take the family car out for a spin on his learner’s permit when his parents were out one night and wound up driving the car through a neighbor’s living room window. But he didn’t first call to see if they were home, though it did cancel his learner’s permit for a while.

Then everything bottomed out with Woodstock, the free sex and love era and when someone decided to tell kids that they are geniuses, even if they didn’t know how to add or read and write.

I don’t know if it is hands off parenting, lousy movies and videos, drugs or something else, though the parenting gets my vote because someone had to (sort of) raise them. Let’s face it because so much can go wrong, mental health services or a meteor may be the only answer.

Lizzie Borden was just one nut, but today there are the Konrad Schmidts and Taylor Hadleys and child-killer Levi Arons to contend with. If they aren’t signs for a massive mental health budget, we might as well send out that mayday falert now.

Rupert Murdoch and the Laws of Physics

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive. And so it goes with Rupert Murdoch and his eavesdropping titans at the now defunct World News.

Being a native Chicago girl, I first heard of Murdoch in the 80’s when his empire began to unfold like an inflatable raft filling a small apartment with hot air. Amid protests, Murdoch bought the then illustrious Chicago Sun Times. The late, great columnist, Mike Royko said that “no self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper,” and defected to the Chicago Tribune. Others followed, and the building began to quake from the pitter-patter of big feet. Many Sun Times readers then defected to the conservative Chicago Tribune.

My parents switched, too, even though my father hated politics and hadn’t voted since the Eisenhower campaign. But Murdoch, setting his sights set on being king of the rag world, said “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” with an Australian accent and continued the ascent which, according to a law of physics, led to his eventual descent. Whatever goes up must come down, the law reads, and it holds true most of the time except for people like Oprah. It is especially true for people who hack, are rude, act bizarre, honk at other drivers for not hitting the gas quickly enough at stoplights and commit other crimes against humanity.

What do kings like Rupert Murdoch and Idi Amin do? They expand their empire through corruption and intimidation. That’s what, and so it began, or continued. It’s one thing for a country to spy on another to gain access to secrets, like what date and time they intend to drop by for a hostile take over. It’s another to pay the police for information and spy on private citizens all in the name of sales. And their power expanded, as Andy Coulson, one of his rag princes, wound up as a Press Secretary at 10 Downing Street.

But now that is all over. Why, oh why, couldn’t Rupert Murdoch been content to join an organization like the Sierra Club and hike through the woods classifying flora and fauna? Maybe then the state of journalism would be well, more journalistic.

The Aron Levis of the World


Some have called the murder of eight year-old Leiby Kletzky senseless. But it wasn’t that. It came at the hand of out-and-out negligence.

 Allegedly, thirty-four year old Aron Levi, the accused murderer, had had scrapes before. After he admitted to the crime, a neighbor reported that he also tried kidnapping her son a few years before, but that she screamed and scared him away. Someone else came forward with a similar complaint. Things might have played out differently had they also gone to the police.

A while back, I befriended a woman who many found tightly wound and quirky. Her friends and acquaintances thought that the backpack loaded with papers she carried around peculiar and her insistence of whispering in certain rooms because someone might be eavesdropping, odd.

 One day, she asked me to meet her for lunch. As we sat at a table with that loaded backpack next to her, she told me that the police were after her and that they’d burned her bandaged arms with lasers.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“They said I stole books when I was in college.”

I knew she hadn’t been a student in years and told her that she sounded crazy, but she persisted. I thought she might need a rest and invited her to stay at my home, which is airy and quiet.

When we drove to her house to get her things, it looked like something from a “Beautiful Mind.” Closet doors were wired shut, light bulbs were missing from fixtures, and boxes and barricades were in front of windows and doors.

Having ample clues, I realized that she was schizophrenic when she thought that spies were crawling through my ceiling and sending poisonous gas through the vents. When she pulled out a gas mask, I invited her out for coffee to get her out of the enclosed space of my home.

After she became agitated and began yelling at me in my car, I became sacred to be alone with her. I also thought that she could be a danger to herself and others, so I drove back to my building under the guise of taking her to a burn center to have her arms checked, but she only went after I told her that she could never come over again unless she agreed.

 The fifteen-minute ride was the longest one of my life because she thought we were being recorded and wouldn’t let me talk.

 After she checked in, I went into the hallway, and she watched me pace back and forth through the glass partition while I called every buff male I knew asking him to meet me at my house in case they sent her back with me.

Fortunately, they didn’t.

When the male nurse asked what was wrong, she said she only wanted to talk to a doctor. He jotted this down and said she had to talk to him first. She then mentioned the burns on her arms.

“Remember you thought that men were hiding in my ceiling and that we were being gassed?” I said fearing that he might miss the real reason for our visit.

She told me to shut up and lunged at me, but he stepped forward. I called him aside and begged him not to send her home with me.

“Don’t worry,” he said summoning a doctor, “I already know she’s crazy.”

After the doctor was done talking to her, I followed him into the hallway just to be sure. I stayed by her side as the nurse shot her with a sedative, which she first refused because it was unfamiliar. He seemed happy to give it to her.

The nurse asked if she had any relatives I could call. I knew she had a sister in Vegas, so she gave me her cell phone and her sister’s number. Once I got a hold her, she said that she too thought her a little eccentric, but she never thought she’d be hospitalized over it.

She drove in from Vegas and stayed in the house during her week of her hospitalization. A few days in, she said she was feeling better and enjoying drawing pictures and talking to those people everyday, even though she still thought that they were trying to gas her.

She called me a week later when she was released to let me know that she wasn’t mad at me. But I understood and fortunately never heard from her again after that.

If someone had paid more attention to the Aron Levis, the Charles Mansons and the Casey Anthonys of the world, then maybe eight year-old Leiby Kletzky would be running and skipping and jumping like any other eight year-old kid, and his parents would still be tucking him in at night.



Immigration Problem? What Immigration Problem?

Years back, around the opening night of “Hair,” Karen, my BF from high school and I were drinking coffee in an East Lansing, Michigan coffeehouse on the last leg of our winter break in college. We just sat down when in walked a hippie chick with that certain je ne sais quois hippie-chick type vibe. Her hair was long and parted down the middle, and she wore desert boots (women always notice those things) and a flowing top made from a strong cotton blend.

Recognizing her from class, Karen invited her to join us. Now I have forgotten many things since that day in the time of love beads and Nehru jackets. I have no idea what I ate for dinner last Tuesday, I’ve forgotten the names of all my teachers from high school and I often lose receipts, but I will always remember something that hippie chick.

“Wherever I go, whatever I do,” she said, “I create a little dent in the earth and all the loose nuts and bolts come rolling down.”

The comment stuck like a bad tattoo.

Last week, the latest nut and bolt to come rolling down wanted to know if I am a racist. Me, of all people, me, an upstanding American citizen with a so-so driving record, who tips more than 20% at the car wash regardless of race, creed or national origin, if they are polite and everything is still there.

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have never joined a racist organization, not only because I hate going to meetings, but because I am not wired that way and my kin didn’t exactly get here on the Mayflower.

But I do have my boundaries and limits. I’ve got nothing against people from other countries because we are all from somewhere. It’s just the illegal, sneaking across the border type that don’t want to bother standing in line for a work permit or paying any taxes that do me in.

Though that is only half the story. I’ve been thinking things over since last week, and I am going to reverse my original stand, for I now believe that illegal immigrants help make this nation strong in three basic ways:

Way 1: They Create Jobs, especially in law enforcement, border patrol and the fire department. They also create jobs in hospitals after fights and for the media, who report on these things, and they have bolstered the court system from the translators.

Way 2: They Help the Environment. Many have taken up a gardening by growing funny little plants in places like the Angeles National Forest. Scientists know that foliage helps the environment by releasing oxygen in place of all the carbon dioxide that’s out there, so we should be clean pretty soon.

Way 3: They Add to the Census: Some countries, like Finland, have an almost zero population growth. We should only have their problem. It would be easier finding parking at the beach or the mall.

Maybe it’s something in their vodka or their dancing that keep people away. Or maybe they haven’t got as many liberals.