Thursday, March 31, 2011

Man on the Cusp

I am poised on the cusp of an age I always thought was exclusively reserved for people’s parents.

Or I have already cusped. I’m not sure. Both as to whether I’ve already cusped and whether cusped is a word.

My name is Perry Block. I am 61 years old, born September 12, 1950. I am a Truman baby. 

I hate all of these facts.

I don’t even know what to call myself.

Am I middle-aged? 

Once that very expression struck the same terror in me that Bernie Madoff  feels every time he hears the words “your new roommate likes you,” and yet now I cling to that status as if it were a deck chair from the Titanic.

Am I a Senior? 

Once a welcome and desired euphemism for elderly, geezer, and Joan Rivers,  Senior is now the most hideous word in the English language except when used expressly to refer to somebody's kid who'll be graduating in the spring, unless he or she is required to take math.

Yet the International House of Pancakes calls me a Senior.  So does Super Fresh Markets, but at least they give me a 5% Senior discount without my having to first order their burnt-to-the-ground tilapia.

But I don’t want to be a Senior!

A Senior is Mr. Kropopski, who makes keys in the back of the hardware store.  A Senior is Mrs. Berkowitz, the bulbous bejeweled lady in the front row at the synagogue whose face has all the suppleness of a Shar Pei.  A Senior is that sunken-chested guy with the faded sports cap and wrinkled burgundy warm-up jacket at the Little League game who's always pointing a bony finger  towards the players and saying:
Yessiree, that's me grandson Timmy!!!

And a Senior is also Dustin Hoffman, Richard Dreyfus, and Henry Winkler.  Once they were The Graduate, the young shark hunter from Jaws, and the Fonz.

Now they play Jewish grandfathers.

I am continually amazed by ads for so-called "Plus 55 communities" where the residents ostensibly my age and depicted as joyfully engaging in water aerobics, organic gardening, and the savoring of fine cuisine in the community's award-winning dining room which closes daily at 6:00 P.M. have the appearance of Gertie and Sol Goldstein in my 1963 Bar Mitzvah photo album minus a cumulative 185 pounds, dramatically sobered up, and dropped into golf clothing.

Why would I want to live somewhere where I have to spend my days looking at people who look just as lousy as I do?  

I have seen actors and movie stars who were in the prime of life during my childhood  and early adulthood grow old,  lose their looks and careers,  pass silently away, and yet continue to appear regularly on television looking young and vibrant, thoughtlessly reminding me whenever I see them that they’re dead!

I am closer to being 80 years old than I am to being 40.   

I always used to think that people who were 80 years old were perfectly happy to be 80 years old.  They were into being 80 years old.  They were good at being 80 years old.

Guess what? 

None of that is true. Eighty year old guys want to be 40 year old guys having sex with Scarlett Johansson and Sophia Vergara and Mrs. Pressman who lives on the next block and takes in the newspaper in her negligee.

Know how I know that?

I’m a 61 year old guy and I want to be a 40 year old guy having sex with Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara and Mrs. Pressman who lives on the next block and takes in the newspaper in her negligee.  

Especially Mrs. Pressman.  

I didn’t have to interview a shitload of 80 year old guys to ascertain that they feel the same way. So where does all this leave me?

My  17 year old son Brandon tells me that I should accept what is and embrace my age.

I say I should give my age A KICK IN THE BALLS!

My name is Perry Block. I am 61  years old, born September 12, 1950. I am a Truman baby. 

I hate all of these facts ….


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Go Down, Twitter

And it came to pass that Moses was wandering in the wilderness.

And Moses was without cell phone and laptop, and he came onto the farthest edge of the plain of Horeb, near the Mount of Midian, only a hop, skip, and a jump from Borax.

And there appeared unto Moses a bush that burneth with mighty fire yet wast not consumed, next to which wast a Dell Desktop. And Moses knew that he wast on Holy Ground and in the presence of the Lord because the Desktop employeth Microsoft Software, and yet did still respondeth and wast not locked up!

"Moses, Moses" tweeteth the Desktop. “I am the Lord, thy God!

And God tweeteth unto Moses  “I am the Lord who tweeted unto Abraham and tweeted unto Isaac but who Facebooked unto Jacob, because I was more into FB at the time.”

And Moses tweeteth back “WOOT! My Lord, is this about the bacon?”

“No, Moses,” tweeteth back the Lord. “I knowest not about the bacon, so now thou hast got even another problem with me. LOL!

“Far be it from me to criticize, Lord” tweeteth Moses, “but shouldn’t I be the one to hand out the LOL, not thou? Thou madest the joke. I'm the audience.”

“IMHO,” tweeteth the Lord, “I am the Lord, thy God; I’ll give myself an LOL if I want!!! And that joke wast funny!"     

“Eeeehh...” tweeteth Moses.

Moses,” tweetheth the Lord, “tweet unto @Pharaoh to let my people go. That is, the Jews, I mean.”

“ULP! Oh, er, umm …. there’s the Failwhale!” tweeteth Moses. “Afraid I didn’t, umm, get your tweet. Yes, that’s it, didn’t get your tweet!”

“Don’t pulleth that one on me, Moses! I am omniscient. Whenever there’s really a Failwhale, I have already kicketh the desk a half dozen times before it even appeareth!"

Lord, if I tweet that unto @Pharaoh, the reply will be less in the form of a tweet and more in the form of disembowelment! Just sayin’.”

“Fear not, Moses,” tweeteth the Lord.  “In my very best form, I don’t plan to play fair. I will visit plagues upon Egypt!”

“What doth thou mean?” Moses tweeteth. “Doth thou have a blog or something that giveth details? And perhaps a contest?”

“No, Moses. These are #TheTenPlaguesoftheLord: #Blood #Frogs #Murrain …”

“Thine use of hashtags is cute, Lord, but don't expect me to check out the relevent tweets, I've only got 4,000 years! How didst thou come up with all this?” 

“I googleth plagues,” tweeteth the Lord.

“This last one, #Deathofthefirstborn, should be a load of laughs," tweeteth Moses. "What happens after the Hebrews are freed?”

RT: And to show His love for His people, @God parteth the Red Sea, gaveth them the Ten Commandments upon two stone tablets, and broughtest them to the Holy Land.”

“What wast that RT, Lord?” tweeteth Moses.

“I didn’t feel like working just then so I retweeted a pretty good overview from @PatRobertson. I farm out a lot to him.”

"Instead of inscribing thine Commandments on stone tablets," tweeteth Moses, "why doth we not just tweet them to the Children of Israel?”

“Because I only hath 74 followers!” tweeteth the Lord. “Look at all the Hebrews who doth not follow me back!”

“Well, thine tweets could use more bounce," tweeteth Moses.

“Now go, Moses, tweet unto @Pharaoh to let my people go. I must complete my #Follow Friday before Shabbot.”

“I see,” tweeteth Moses. “Hmm, who is this @GeorgeClooney, Lord?”

“Uhh, y’know, Moses ... since there’s no graven images of me, I had to .. er, uh .... base my avatar on someone, so … ummm ….”

LMAO!”  Moses tweeteth unto the Lord, his God. 

 "Think I can take it from here."


Monday, March 14, 2011

A Baby Boomer Looks (and Winces) at Tattoos

Back in the sixties and early seventies, we --- that is, we Boomers --- grew our hair to our shoulders, wore ripped jeans and open toed sandals, and sat in full lotus position on the grass around some freak with a guitar who was  playing and singing, often rather badly, “.... by the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong ….”

That was cool!

But today, Generation X and Generation Y have determined something else is cool. Something shocking. Something unimaginable.

Yep! Millennials, as you know, think tattoos are cool. 

The only tattoo Baby Boomers ever thought was cool was Herve Villechaize from Fantasy Island!

These days tattoos of all shapes and sizes sprout everywhere about our incredulous heads. They’re on movie and TV stars, younger office mates, dads and moms at the mall, and soon doubtless coming to doctors, lawyers, and --- despite biblical prohibition --- even rabbis near us!

We Boomers can only scratch our heads, lecture our children prophylactically, and have another drink.

Boomers connote tattoos with bikers, drunken sailors on shore leave, and guys with knocked out teeth and greased back hair who might have readily killed Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider if those two old rednecks in the pick-up trunk hadn’t done it first. We grew up thinking tattoos were low-rent, anti-counter culture, and totally at odds with whatever was natural and healthful for our bodies, like smoking pot.

But then came the 1990’s, a decade in which a long recessive mutant gene began to assert itself like Joan Rivers on the red carpet at some third-rate awards show. Placing sharp vibrating needles into human flesh as if it's cattle branding time at the Ponderosa somehow came to be thought of not as a punishment for serious turpitude, but as a joyful route to human disfigurement.  The new era of the tattoo was born.

Anymore it’s hard to find an athlete or movie star who believes tabula rasa is an acceptable approach to one's epidermis.  Younger folk today adorn their bodies with all manner of floral and faunal designs, calligraphically rendered sayings and saws, and the inscribed names of beloveds, ex-beloveds, and ex-ex-beloveds until one’s thighs and buttocks resemble the innards of the Manhattan phone book!

Actress Angelina Jolie may be one of the most beautiful women in the world, but her body’s been marked up more thoroughly than the first draft of a term paper. With her lower back festooned with a crudely realized etching of Shere Khan rejected from a early edition of Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Ms. Jolie achieves the remarkable feat of being more appealing to most Boomer guys with her clothing on rather than off!

" Where is the Man Cub?"

It’s just another Generation Gap, you say? Not a bit different than when our parents gasped aloud that first Christmas Break we came home with hair that covered our ears? Well, maybe …. but just a few years later our parents were all growing their hair as best they could, wearing flared pants, and watching Dick Cavett.

I kind of doubt in a couple of years many boomers will be splashing into Plus 55 Water Aerobics with a “Hey, Bernie, dig this gigantic pulsating heart I got me etched in my crotch!”

I suppose, after all, that the lesson of our era, the sixties and seventies, was that all of us are different, and it’s not ours to judge each other’s tastes and preferences. So, I guess I’ll just leave the millennials to their beloved tattoos. I sincerely hope they’ll be happy for the rest of their lives with bodies that are oddly reminiscent of a walking Rorschach test designed by an insane psychiatrist.

Me? I’ll keep dreaming about that shoulder length hair I can never again re-grow. 

To each, his own cool!

Now that’s something I might be willing to have a tattoo of!

Look, Boss! Our Favorite Tattoo 


Friday, March 4, 2011

Rhinoceros Impoceros

Jean and I were sitting in our favorite café in Toulon, Gauloises in hand with yellow stains down to our fingernails, when I saw a quite peculiar thing. I just happened to be looking up from my Verlaine, and there, running down the streets of the town, was a rather large pink rhinoceros.

“Jean,” I said, “did you see that? A pink rhinoceros is running down the streets of Toulon. There he has mowed down Fat Francois and is now dancing with Madame De LaTour!”

“Non, il semble que j'ai manqué ça," said Jean.*

“Jean,” I replied. “Why are you speaking French?”

"Je ne sais pas," he answered. "Nous sommes français, ne sont pas nous?**

"Yes, Jean, of course we're French.  But this is a translation of an absurdist short story from French to EnglishAssistant Professor Herbert Mishkin of the University of Havertown PA is being paid good money by Shmendrick Press to make sure we’re all speaking English!"

"Eh bien," said Jean. "Vous disiez sur un rhinocerous?"

But the rhinoceros itself was of no moment any more! I was very troubled by this disturbing event concerning Jean, so I finished my Alsatian beer, bid him "Adieu" --- I mean "Goodbye!" --- and returned to my apartment.

As I departed, I did happen to notice the rhinoceros had formed a conga line with many of the townsfolk in tow.

Madame Foucault, my landlady, greeted me as I arrived home. A fine woman with a hint of wistful sadness and a wart the size of the Cathedral at Rheims, she began to beat at me with an enormous loaf of French Bread. You see, I owed her some rent stemming back to 1937, which was a bit odd since neither of us had been born then.

"Madame Foucault," I said, "a most curious thing. My friend Jean can only speak French!"

"Donc?" she replied. "Nous sommes français, ne sont pas nous?"

"Oh crap!  You too?!!  This is supposed to be an English translation by Professor Herbert Mishkin! He’s an expert on Romance languages! At least that’s what it said on his resume."

"Est-ce que quelqu'un n'ont pensé à vérifier son resume?" asked Madame Foucault. "Peut-être il a menti?" ***

"But how could that be, the guy’s supposed to be Jewish! He’s up for tenure. There’s going to be hell to pay!"

I ran out into the street and all around me I heard the sound of French:

"Vous êtes un cochon!"

"Quel est le problème avec vous, visage de merde!"

"Maintenant venir et écouter mon histoire d'un homme nommé Jed ..."

Every line of dialogue was in French.  Even descriptive passages were now in French! 

I was seized with despair! Had Professor Mishkin deserted us? In a Mishkin-less universe, was life nothing more than a pink rhinoceros leading a conga line?  Not that I hadn’t seen worse acts in Toulon!

And why did I yet speak English? I longed to be like all the others, speaking in my native tongue, pondering the meaning of existence, and insulting American tourists.

“Professor Mishkin!"  I cried out. “Professor Mishkin! When are your office hours?"

I heard a voice.

“They would have been in an hour, Berenger," it said, “but I was so wasted last night right now I’m home with the clicker."

"Professor, everyone here is still speaking French! WTF???"

“Truth is, Berenger, I’ve been so damn drunk this week the only character I’ve been able to translate so far is you."

"Why only me?"

"You’re not that difficult to translate, you’re fairly simple-minded. Now, Madame Foucault --- that’s a character!"

"Thanks, Mishkin."

"Oh, you're most welcome, Berenger."

"Now cut the literary slurs and get back to the job! Thousands of students taking Intro to French Lit won’t have anything to read along with their Cliff’s Notes!"

"Yeah, but it’s a Friday and, heh heh, I got me something going this weekend. I’m counting on you, Berenger, to stall Shmendrick Publishing until Sunday. Monday, if I get really lucky."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Just keep speaking English," said Mishkin. "Cut off any of the characters that try to speak in French.  Talk over any exposition or descriptive passages that creep back into French as well.  Just til I get back."

And so, I live in a land of desolation. Of lies and deception. Of creased pages, bookmarks, and chocolate stains.

Until Sunday.  Maybe Monday. 

Do I still believe in Mishkin? 

Yes, I do.  That is, provided he knows how to reciprocate.

You see, on page 47, there’s a character named Michelle la très chaude ….****


"No, I think I missed that."

** "I don't know. We are French, aren't we?"

*** "Did anyone verify his resume?  Maybe he lied."

**** "Michelle, the very hot!"  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vive La Revolution!

 Liberty Leading the People of Havertown PA

All across the globe,  the whippoorwill of freedom is spreading its wings and zapping people right between the eyes!

Which fucking hurts like hell if you're a zappee!

Nevertheless, in a distant Township called Haverford PA, ruled for decades by a corrupt and unscrupulous body known as the Township Commissioners,  a very brave man is single-handedly taking on this evil and oppressive regime.  Perry Block is that brave man!

For years the Haverford Township Commissioners have sought to bring the Haverford peasantry to their knees. Their tactics are as diverse as they are dastardly:

    * To restrict the flow of knowledge, they decreed that the so-called "Free Library" exact a penalty from those residents who keep books longer than the Commissioners deem acceptable!  (about two weeks)

    *To restrict freedom of movement and the ability to attend political meetings, they ordained that vehicle parking be quashed in front of silver structures excessively placed throughout the Township called "fire hydrants."

    *And to keep the indigenous population fat, lazy, and complacent, they banned basketball nets and backboards from curbsides of several roads which they capriciously designated as "bearing heavy vehicular traffic! "

In the early morning mists of February 25, 2011, buoyed by the events in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, Mr. Block walked out in the center of the street in front of his home.  Rumbling down that street in front of him was a heavily armored vehicle, its mission to deal with the element the Township Commissioners contemptuously and routinely refer to as the Trash!

As the vehicle approached, Mr. Block stood his ground. His weapon?

Flowers he held in his hand,  flowers left over from Valentine’s Day! Flowers which he had given himself.

Would the Metallic Monster of  Destruction run him down?  Would it, as the Commissioners hoped, dispatch the Trash once again?  Or perhaps, once and for all? 

“Hey, Dude!” menacingly yelled one of the Township blackguards manning the armor-plated behemoth. "Get the hell out of the way!"

But Mr. Block would not be Duded! 

He outstretched his hand, offering forth the wilted flowers before him! (Actually, he was ready to throw them out anyway.) For a moment, all was silent in the crisp early morning air.

The blackguard scowled, tucked his head back inside the mammoth vehicle, and then ..... the Mighty Metal Dragon of Death backed up, turned, and drove off! 

And went down another street.

The Commissioners had lost.    Liberty had won! 

Oddly enough, instead of being grateful, Mr. Block’s neighbors later that day beat the living crap out of him.  It is obvious many remain terrified of the Commissioners.

Yet thanks to the bravery of people like Perry Block,  freedom is taking wing everywhere we look. You say you want a Revolution?  Well, you know we all want to change the world!

Vive La Revolution!

(But for God's sake, let the trash truck through, or you're likely to have the living crap beaten out of you too.  Just like Mr. Block.)