Category Archives: General Musings

Last Stand

I peer out a crack in the wall and see the grisly, salivating maw of the German Shepard on the leash of his handler searching for us, waiting to tear us to pieces.

I have been in hiding in this bunker for 60 days now with a number of others. We are starting to run low on food and supplies. We are being hunted relentlessly on the orders of the Supreme Commander in Chief, who has decreed that all subversives be rounded up and imprisoned and if they resist, killed on the spot. This includes political opponents as well as all Democrats in Congress. Having gone through the voting records of citizens, the TAF (Trump Allied Forces) are conducting door-to-door searches for people who voted for the other side.

Some people saw the signs that this Democratic government would fall, but others could not face reality. They insisted that “this was their country too” and would stand and fight. But, for many it was too late and they could no longer escape.

The lucky or smart ones escaped to other countries, but the unlucky ones or those in denial had no choice but to either be rounded up and jailed or go into hiding. I am one of those unlucky ones who watched as the Democratic nation I loved became increasingly unstable but stood by in disbelief as one institution after another fell until we faced an autocracy ruled by a strong man.

I am now ensconced in a secret underground bunker, making do with whatever medieval supplies we could pilfer from old warehouses. We watched as the political storm became increasingly volatile knowing that we would reach a point of no return, where it was either sit by or take action. We have been preparing for a “doomsday” for a year now, stockpiling supplies and weapons, hoping we would never need these. A network of secret communication was created so if and when the day came, we would be ready, and when it came we said, “Now.”

So we fled with our lives, and some of our meager possessions, hoping we would not be betrayed by any TAF spies who might’ve infiltrated our group.

We each had our assigned role, and mine was to keep watch on the outside world through that crack in the wall. So today I have climbed up to the top of the bunker where I can peer out at the horror of what has become of the United States of America.

Each day our small TV shows the good and dissenting citizens being rounded up and shot, or jailed in deplorable conditions. We watch as the U.S. rule of law and Constitution is being destroyed.

How did this happen? How did we come to this? Looking back I remember being told over and over that the American People are smart and would not elect a charlatan and con man, but it happened. How could people continue to support him even after a damning report came out detailing all the lies and criminal activities he was engaged in and still is?  But the report was ignored and the majority of the people fell under his spell. They were already anchored, and just as human nature is, refused to admit they were wrong. They gradually let it happen, with the help of his minions and sycophants in Congress, the Russian bots, and Trump News. They were mesmerized and no matter all the warnings, believed all the lies. The American people were duped and now here we are, just a few pockets of dissenters left in this country to carry on some day.

But we have a new leader who has been gaining ground and each night we sneak out and flood the streets with flyers. So, I have hope in the goodness of humankind and that people will rise up against this evil regime. I must pray that we are not too late and believe with my soul that we will prevail in the end.

The Traveling Umbrella

My name is FiFi and I am a traveling umbrella.

I was born in a Totes factory 10 years ago. During that time I have traveled all over and have had many different owners, each with a different story.

When I came off the assembly line I was shipped to Macy’s with all the concomitant hopes of acquiring an upscale owner, preferably a liberal, since it was Manhattan. I figured this human would realize my quality and take good care of me. But since I was not the only umbrella on the shelf, it took many months for someone to notice me and to fall in love. It was such a sad and nerve wracking time for me and I thought it would never happen. Each time I saw someone perusing the isle I wanted to jump up and say, “Pick Me, Pick Me”, but I guess that was impossible. I probably would’ve caused a heart attack or stroke if I had done that.

But one day, when I had given up hope of ever getting a home, a fine young man named David recognized my intrinsic value and glow on my face and said, “That’s the one!” I was literally (at least in my mind) jumping for joy. But the joy was short lived because he didn’t really love me, no—he was gong to give me away. Not even one hour after rescuing me, I found myself practically smothered in giftwrap. With a heavy heart, I knew I would have a new owner. I could only hope and pray that she was responsible and would properly care for me. A few days later, I had a new owner named Camille, David’s girlfriend. She seemed very pleased at the time and in the beginning took me with her anytime there was rain or even a threat.  But one day, while riding the subway, she left me on the seat. I tried to call out to her, “Wait, wait, you forgot me,” but she couldn’t hear my silent scream. Suddenly, and without warning, I was alone again—on the subway, no less, with all kinds of undesirables and that dirt.

I sat there silently crying when another miracle happened—just the right person sat down and, seeing nobody claiming me, came to my aide. His name was Mark and he was an investment banker. Wow, I thought, I hit the jackpot. Yes I was broken up about losing Camille, but this guy was wealthy and I definitely could live with that. I had visions of a penthouse on Central Park West, with a doorman and a nicely furnished, well organized closet for my home. But, unfortunately this guy was a total slob, and I was carelessly thrown into a plastic tub at the bottom of the closet.  I felt hopeless, not knowing how I would get out of this predicament. Was there a foundation that dealt with abused umbrellas—I didn’t think so—and how would I even let anyone know. But luck shined on me again, when my captor decided to clean out his closet and donate junk to Goodwill. Now, although I was glad he was doing this, I was insulted that I was being categorized as junk. Nevertheless, it was a blessing because within a few days, Sara, who was planning on moving to Augusta, GA, paid $4.00 for me. Granted, that was ridiculous for a fine Totes umbrella like me to be sold for so little, I was happy that I seemed to have acquired a new home. In addition, I would be leaving Manhattan where I could easily be left on the Subway. No subway in Augusta.

Within a week I was in a nice warm climate, with my new owner. Her house was lovely and, for the first time in a while, I felt content. She usually kept me in her car for those sudden downpours. I was beginning to feel settled and, dare I say, relaxed, when she visited her favorite coffee spot, Starbucks. It happened to be raining that day and for some reason I felt uneasy. I knew it was predicted as intermittent showers so there was the risk of forgetting me if it became sunny. My fear came to fruition when one day, she left me on the seat. I was bereft and felt my life was over. Someone put me in the newspaper rack where I sat, feeling abandoned and alone, for weeks. I began to see a woman every day and I telepathically pleaded with her to please adopt me. So one day, Marilyn who had gotten my message, realized that nobody was going to claim me, and being the brash New Yorker that she is, took me home. That was three years ago, and we have been through so much. She is not perfect, but she loves me. She keeps me in her car and takes me into the gym periodically. The problem with her is that she has “lost” me so many times I cannot count, but somehow always finds me. It seems that we are meant for each other and maybe, just maybe, I have finally found my forever home.

Moon Tales

We were a real family that night—just like any other.

It was four days before my birthday, July 20, 1969, and my most wonderful memory of that famous day was that my crazy, dysfunctional family, came together as one.

We were a family in name and proximity only—four people who just happened to be living in the same apartment, never spinning in the same orbit.  It is something I never really noticed before until my first husband brought it to my attention once.  As an outside observer, he said, “You just live in the same space—like you were just thrown together—and you all don’t even seem related.” That was us—each one going our own separate way.  It seemed perfectly normal for everyone to eat at different times. Nobody waited for anyone else because we were on totally different schedules. My dad worked two jobs and had to eat early to go to his nighttime job at the post office. I would always try to avoid him when he came home about 5 pm. If it were the summer, I would deliberately stay outside until he left. On school days when I was home, a distinct feeling of dread would engulf me when I heard the key in the door and I would think, “Oh, he’s home” and would have to endure an hour of criticism about everything under the sun—nothing was off limits. When he left, I breathed a sigh of relief.  My mom, who worked full time as a legal secretary, would always come home later than anyone so she would leave little notes on the small kitchen counter telling us what was in the frig that we were supposed to heat up for dinner. It was always something different for each of us but we would know who the instructions were addressed to by the title: M (for Marilyn), S (for Sam—my dad), and G (for Gordon—my brother). Those monikers stuck because I still call my brother G and he still calls me M.

I guess I didn’t know any better because my best friend, Janet, had a very strange, dysfunctional family too. In fact there were many parallels. I think living in a large apartment complex in Manhattan did not foster closeness in families. So, I simply thought it was normal to have everyone doing their own thing.

But when I look back on that magical late afternoon on Sunday, I can still feel the excitement. The anticipation was palpable and all our petty differences, and our apartness, were forgotten. I remember not even believing that a man was actually going to walk on the moon and that we would be seeing this on TV—it seemed more like a dream than reality. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this bright mythical sphere in the sky would become real and tangible. That afternoon we gathered together in our living room in front of our black and white TV—a family, an honest to goodness family—sharing a moment in history—awestruck. It brings a smile to my face when I look back at that day and I am still in awe. After many visits to the moon, it became almost commonplace, but in 1969, for that one moment in time, we, and the entire world were united and I had a real family.

Five Minutes to Live

The alarms are blaring outside and the TV has the shrill piercing beep and a warning to take cover immediately—that North Korea has launched missiles that will reach the U.S. in less than 5 minutes.

I’m so scared that I am almost in a catatonic state, finding it hard to believe that this is the end for us all. For weeks we have been getting dire predictions that war is imminent but like everyone else I did not really believe it. How could that be? How could any rational person let the rhetoric get so out of hand that here we are. But when you have so many lickspittles in Washington not willing to stand up to this administration, it was inevitable. When you have an unbalanced President who stokes the fires and provokes, and thinks it is macho to use the nuclear weapons at his disposal, it is bound to happen. I go through the motions of grabbing my birds and jumping into my bedroom closet—the safest place. But, as I am doing this I know there is no safety anywhere and I am doomed. Well at least I will die fast.

I close my eyes, think of my children and feel so sad that I will not be able to say goodbye. I harken back to when I was a child and I used to play the game of what if: what if the Russians launched a bomb and we were told it would hit us in 5 minutes? I remember saying that I would hide in the closet with no other thought of what would become of us. I remember hiding underneath the desk at school for our bomb drills and cannot believe that this is it and all that practice was for naught. However, I take solace in the fact that at least I won’t get any older, and that maybe I will see my boy in heaven, all healed and beaming. A feeling of peace and calm comes over me as I pray. Those sweet parrots of mine know something is wrong and instead of squirming and squawking they are quiet and strangely attentive, just sitting with me. I think of all the things I wanted to do and never did. I oddly worry about my computer and laptop, and my beautiful camera equipment. I think that nobody will ever know I existed because all traces of my life will be obliterated with everything else. I wonder if by some chance I do survive the initial impact, how long will it take for the radiation to travel and how us survivors will die a slow and agonizing death. I think back on the movie, “On the Beach” where survivors who lived in Australia waited for the inevitable. I remember the ominously preternatural TV movie, “The Day After” and try to remember how long it took for Jason Robards to die of radiation poisoning. I think of my friend whose entire family moved to Australia during the cold war, only to move back to New York a few years later. I wonder who will succumb first—me or the birds? I think that if only I had taken my phone into the closet I could at least say farewell to my son, but in my haste I left it outside on the counter. I wonder if anybody will be posting on Facebook or the Kardashians will post doomsday selfies, maybe burying them in a time capsule to let the future inhabitants of the world know who the beautiful people were. Will my pictures or paintings survive? How about my IRA—will I have money to live in the new apocalyptic world. Will I lose my hair and where will I get my hair done in the new world if I don’t die, knowing full well all these thoughts are totally ridiculous?

Then during my foray into the dire future or lack thereof, I suddenly become aware that the sirens have stopped and there seems to be some announcement on the TV. I wonder if I am just dead already. I listen carefully and decide to venture out of the closet only to hear the amazing announcement that a miracle of sorts has happened—the U.S. has intercepted the missiles and the strike has been averted. We will live—I will live—my children will live. The announcer is saying that the threat is over and during my rejoicing and relief, a cold and dark shadow appears to pass over me making me shiver and I sigh and say, “For now.”

I Apologize

I apologize to all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives during wartime for this great country fighting what is just and right. I apologize to the brave soldiers who were traumatized and bore witness to the worst of mankind during the liberation of the concentration camps—grown men who cried during interviews, even 50 years later. Those are images they could never erase from their minds and haunted them the rest of their lives. I apologize to all the Jews who lost their lives in concentration camps during the Holocaust as well as being gunned down and buried in mass graves by the Nazis. I apologize to all the innocent African Americans who have been lynched at the hands of the KKK in the name of “White Nationalism.” I apologize to all of us who have been the victims of racism and anti-Semitism in the name of White Nationalists, the KKK, and other Alt-right fringe groups. I apologize on behalf of this great country of the United States for the insensitive, hurtful, unprecedented, and frankly dangerous stance taken by the President by not calling out these hate groups for what they are—hate filled anti-Semites and racists. I apologize to the brave people in Charlottesville who came out to protest the blatant Nazi, White Supremacy agenda who have been lumped together along with the “good people” “peacefully protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee” when we can see Nazi flags, swastikas, and Confederate flags waving proudly. I apologize for statements such as, “Don’t let Jews take our jobs” and calling out the President for allowing his daughter to be “taken” by Jared Kushner, who is Jewish. I apologize to the young woman who was mowed down and killed by a Neo-Nazi follower, who probably believes that she was just collateral damage. I am saddened that this sort of language does not seem to bother the President whose own daughter is now Jewish, as well as his grandchildren. I am frightened by the vehemence of these insane beliefs held by these previously fringe groups, that are now proliferating throughout the United States because of the lack of condemnation and frankly defense of these White Nationalist groups and the KKK. I am shocked, but not surprised at the belief that these sick cowardly groups feel they have a friend in the President. I am horrified that the formerly grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke, praised and thanked the President. I am disgusted at the spineless lack of strong response and condemnation, and any real action from the Congress. Words are meaningless unless followed by action. The good citizens of this country need to unite against hate groups and not let them become part of the mainstream fabric of this Country. Join me in the condemnation of hate groups before our beautiful, free, country becomes a fascist state. Open your eyes and see history for what it is; see what took hold in Nazi Germany, and how it started out in small ways. See how during the 1930s anti-Semitism began to take a foothold, with many people burying their heads in the sand and refusing to believe what was happening, all the while people were quietly losing their businesses, being denied basic rights, condemned without cause, culminating in the death of millions. Open your eyes everyone, no matter what your religion or race, and take a stand for what is right and just in this world because this affects us all.

The People Downhill

I am thinking evil thoughts—thoughts that a sane human being should not even be considering. I am trying to ignore the incessant howling, barking, and whining downhill from my bedroom but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so and I am getting blindingly angry by the minute.

I am so disturbed because no matter how many times we ask nicely, threaten, put notes on their door, that animal is still out there at all hours. I am most upset because by them ignoring our complaints they are essentially saying, “screw you!” Who are these people anyway and who the hell do they think they are to disturb a whole community? The next day, I go outside my back door and look down hill, beyond the pine trees on my property to where I think the barking might be originating. Suddenly the dog lets lose with the barking as if he is saying, “Here I am.” I take a picture with my phone and send it out to the board members and lo and behold, they say that these people live right next door to them and give me an address. I’ve been out there at all hours, screaming at them into the night to, “Shut that damn dog up or I’ll call the police” and in it goes only to return the next night to haunt and harass me—personally it seems. I wonder if others are as bothered by this as I am or is it just me.

I do research and find out that the owner of this property is deceased so I have no idea who actually lives there—are they renters or squatters?—nobody seems to know. I interview people living next door and find out that they leave the house at night, dump the demon dog on the patio for hours, and slink back just before dawn, following in the leader’s umbra. One by one, they enter the house, take the dog in, and do not reappear until the next night. That sounds suspicious to me. At this point I just want to eliminate that dog—maybe they are vampires but who cares as long as they don’t mess with my sleep.

My head is spinning with many unanswered questions and ideas. Maybe I can get rid of two menaces—I begin to fantasize about murder—but is it murder if the object of your hatred is the undead? What if the dog is not among the living either? Do I need a silver bullet to kill it and where can I even get a silver bullet anyway and would I need a special gun? Can you kill someone who is already dead and remembering True Blood, I know that you can by staking it in the heart or using a silver bullet to achieve the Final Death. On this night I have homicide in my heart and start planning how to rid myself of these tormentors—I cannot take it anymore.

The next day I decide to consult the Internet since everyone knows that is the most reliable source and everything is true. I Google “how to kill vampires”—then, “how to kill a vampire dog”—then, “how to get a gun”—then, “how to get silver bullets”. I start thinking of how the whole community will hail me as a hero when the deed is done—“Marilyn the Vampire Slayer” has a nice ring to it. I could even start a business or star in a new reality TV show. Who would’ve thought that this terrible situation would open the door to boundless opportunities?

I find many websites giving detailed instructions on how to deliver the Final Death to a vampire. I decide I will use a combination of wooden stakes and silver bullets to make sure these monsters will no longer walk the Earth. I look through my garage and find one long sharp wooden stake, but what about the others? I’ll have to go to Lowes and ask if they have any vampire killing kits. I have another problem because I’m not sure who exactly inhabits that townhouse, since it appears to be musical tenants (or whatever they are) that change every other week. I don’t want to be outnumbered and risk being turned too (although that might not be a bad idea either, because I will be immortal). But what would I do with my two parrots—can I turn then into vampire birds? I decide I do not want to become an undead unless I can take my birds into that world too. I may have to enlist the help of others but whom do I ask—who would believe me? How about putting an ad on Craig’s List that would read, “Vampire slayers wanted. Call Marilyn.”

The more I think I have a solution, the more questions arise which lead to even more until I am overwhelmed with fear and I am getting cold feet. The What Ifs are starting to outweigh the benefits of riding the world of these bloodsuckers. Then a thought comes to my mind—why not call Animal Control in Richmond County and file a formal complaint? I had been told that they really take these complaints seriously and achieve results. I put my murderous plans on hold in favor of a more sane, less dangerous solution. I go on their website and record my complaint, including all the recent evenings that creature has been out. I also include the strange comings and goings of the occupants of this dwelling, leaving out my suspicions that they and the dog are indeed vampires.

It has been two weeks and all is quiet on the Whitney Place front, although I am still waiting for the “other shoe to drop” because it seems too good to be true. Although I still think they are vampires I realize I should not share that with other people. I’m still watching them and if this remedy proves untenable I’m ready with my gun, silver bullet, and special vampire killing kit. I have received numerous inquiries to my ad on Craig’s list so I am prepared to strike at a moment’s notice. I will wait and see how it goes.

A New World

I wake up with the sunlight filtering through the venetian blinds, leaving shadows on the ceiling and walls. I have a strange sensation—not sure if it is good or bad—but something feels different.

Suddenly I bolt awake, sit up and look at the clock. OK, it says 7 am so that seems about right. What is it then—what feels so foreign and misplaced? Things feel wrong! I look around the room and at first glance everything seems in order—the furniture, pictures on the wall, the color of the room, the bedspread, so I start to relax, thinking that maybe I just had a bad dream. Yet I begin to notice some strange alterations. The pictures have changed some how—yes, they are animated—my self- portrait is actually talking to me and it seems perfectly natural. I go over and gaze out the window, at the huge glowing chatoyant sphere in the sky, changing shape and form—not a normal sun—almost like an eclipse. I turn on the TV, waiting with anticipation and dread for the latest negative installment of what has become a reality show day after day. It appears that there is no news on The One Who Shall Not Be Named, almost as if he is not even the Commander in Chief anymore, or ever even was. I change channels and cannot find any mention of this person almost as if he never even existed. I look on the Internet and find nothing but good news—no mention of ISIS or terrorists or investigation or collusion.

So now I begin to think that I must’ve died and I am living in Heaven—whew, thank you God. I wonder if they have IPhones in Heaven and what version—are they up to at least 7 yet? Six would be OK too, but come on—if they are operating only on the 4 or 5, this must be the other place—the place I always assumed I would end up in. Much to my relief, Heaven has kept up with the latest technology and they are operating on a new IPhone 8 and I get to use it even before those poor Earth bound creatures do. This also confirms that I am indeed blessed. But wait, shouldn’t I be seeing relatives who have passed on or Sweetie, or Parky (my sweet pet budgies)? Oh no, now an uncomfortable thought occurs to me—maybe this is NOT Heaven after all. So, then where am I anyway? Maybe I am in a sort of in-between world, like Purgatory, where I am being tested to see if I am worthy of moving upwards? I go back to my self-portrait in my bedroom, and start asking her what is happening and where I am. She says I am neither in Heaven nor Hell and there has been a shift since I went to bed last night. I am now living in another world which resembles the old one, but without all the drama and horror. I ask about my children, friends, pets, and she says they are also in this new world, but better. I am not lonely, my son is well, I am happy at last—that empty pit in my gut, which is always there has been filled. I look at my contact list and see that it is basically still the same, but I see my son’s name has been miraculously added. I call him and we have an amazing conversation about how well he is doing, and that he is spending the weekend with his son. He assures me that he will be coming to visit soon and we hang up with “I love you.” I call some strange name on the list which has been added and discover that he is my boyfriend and we are on for dinner tonight, at which we will be planning a world tour—one which we don’t have to worry about being bombed, shot, run over by a car, or knifed at the airport. That anxious, sick feeling that haunts me day in and day out is amazingly gone.

But wait, I ask my self-portrait, “What is the catch—there must be a catch? There has to be something I must do to have this perfect life—so what is it then? Oh please tell me, my other self!” She smiles and proceeds to tell me what I must do to stay in this utopia. I must be totally unselfish and not self-centered; I must not have to have the last word; I must get rid of all jealousy and envy; I must be grateful for what I now have, even if it isn’t perfect; I must accept things as they currently are, not how I wish them to be; I must look in the mirror and love what I see, regardless of imperfections; I must be non-judgmental and practice tolerance and acceptance of others. My Alternate Marilyn assures me if I practice these simple principles in my life from this point on I can stay in this perfect world. Marilyn tells me that I have a week trial-period and if I cannot change after a week I will simply wake up, things will seem the same, but my world will return as before and sadly I will not remember. Now I am frightened because I just cannot fathom my life the way it was—all that time, just thinking there was no other way to live. I know I can do this—I am determined to change everything.

I wake up it seems the next day, I turn on the TV and there is yet another investigation of our President, there has been a bombing in the UK with dozens killed and ISIS has claimed responsibility. The world is back to the usual chaos and I blindly accept it with a sigh and resignation as I drink my morning coffee because I don’t know any better. I don’t know what could’ve been because I am back in the old reality—the old world. My self-portrait looks almost the same except for the small tear running down her right cheek.

Springtime

I still feel guilty for murdering my little friend so many years ago. The sadness pops up periodically out of nowhere, and I have to push it back down to keep from crying.

It was finally Spring in Stuyvesant Town—the yellow daffodils had finally started to poke their way out of the soil, the pink buds on the bushes outside of my building were about to bloom, and the grass was turning from Winter brown to a beautiful deep green. I began to dream of long, lazy school free days where I could indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, digging in the dirt, burying ants and other bugs, and watching them burrow their way out, only to be buried again. Maybe I was a little sadist but it was weirdly fun.

One day, I discovered a large bug, and not being squeamish the way I am now, began to play with it. He crawled up and down one hand then the other and I was delighted. I put it in a little jar and kept him and fed him worms. One rainy spring April day, my friend Janet and I could not play outside, so we decided to play in the main hallway where I lived. I brought out my little friend and allowed him to crawl up and down my hands, when suddenly my mother was standing beside me with a look of disgust on her face. She said, “What are you doing with that big bug, that’s terrible. You shouldn’t be playing with it.” At this point, I considered this creature a pet of sorts and could not understand why my mom did not like him. She went back into the apartment and suddenly I decided to extinguish the life out of this little innocent thing. I placed this poor little guy on the floor and proceeded to smash the life out of him—the crack of his hard shell sounded calliopean to me, although I’m sure nobody else heard it. Then I discarded him as if he was nothing at all, when he was, after all, my little buddy. The feeling of remorse and guilt immediately flooded my little girl mind and I just kept thinking, “Why did you have to do that. You could have just let him go.” I tried to continue on with my day, as if what I had just done was meaningless; as if I had just killed a nameless roach, not my friend, but I couldn’t keep from thinking of myself as a murderer.

All these years later, when I relive that moment I am inexplicably brought to tears. I don’t understand it, but I know that sometimes friends come in all different packages, and I know he is in bug heaven and he forgives me.

Misfit

I am a misfit. I do not fit into any particular group, nor do I even try anymore. I have never been a “click” person, preferring to be a loner, unless someone wants to engage me on a one-on-one basis. I really don’t like people all that much, although there are exceptions.

Growing up in Manhattan, I went to Stuyvesant Day Camp, out in Staten Island. Each day I would leave my house, stand on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue A with my canteen and lunch and wait for the bus to pick me up. Since all the counselors were liberal hippy types we’d sing Negro Spirituals all the way there.

I was always the person who somehow attracted the outcast, or oddball (you know that person that everyone basically rolls their eyes at, or ridicules behind their back). Although I was never the object of derision, the groups I was associated with engaged in it. All through my life, starting in day camp, I was somehow a person who the misfits looked to. I never understood why and whenever the poor person who was bullied by the popular kids, befriended me, I wanted to say to them, “Why me? Please leave me alone.” I believe that, although I didn’t speak up, I never took part in the actual bullying and what they saw was a person who was different from the others in the group—someone with a certain amount of, not only compassion but empathy. I believe I didn’t just feel sorry for them, I identified with them because I also felt like an outcast. I truly understood their plight, not because I was the nerd, but I was an outcast masquerading as “normal.” I just wanted to fit in. As children, any kid who is not white bread, any kid who is different, is in for a heartbreaking childhood.

When I was about 11 and in day camp, there was a girl named Lorelei who was the object of cruel jokes, mostly because she was different—a very free spirit—and did not wear undies. That was noted when we changed into our clothes after swimming and she was relentlessly teased by the other girls. Sadly one of the mothers even wrote a song about her that became a chant every day. Since I did not sing the song nor did I take part in the jokes, she gravitated to me. One day she asked me over to her house for a sleepover, which was mortifying to me. I didn’t want anyone to know lest I become the object of the popular girls’ wrath. I put her off for as long as I could and asked my mom who said, “Just go over there. It will be nice.” I was hoping she would tell me not to go, but she didn’t so I bit the bullet and said I would go. She was SO happy that she had a “friend” but I wanted to keep it a secret. The day came for my sleepover and I reluctantly went over with my mom. I discovered that Lorelei was very wealthy and lived in a gorgeous townhome in Manhattan. Her dad, an older gentleman with gray hair, was a widow so she had no mother to pattern her behavior after. He also walked with leg braces and was very debilitated, but very nice. I think he was over the moon that his daughter actually had a friend over for a sleepover. I was determined not to have a good time and kept wanting to call my mom to pick me up, but I figured I’d stick it out. But something interesting happened that evening—I began to actually enjoy myself. Lorelei was actually a fun person and I have a good memory of playing with her parakeet, putting him under the cover and watching him burrow himself out. In spite of myself, and against all odds, I gave in and laughed and enjoyed the night. I remember thinking, “Ok, I’ll go over and get it over with. Then I will make an excuse and never come back.” So, although I had a good time, I still figured this was a one-time thing. Then, the inevitable question was asked, “Can you come over again next week?” I wanted to say NO, but I just couldn’t hurt her feelings so I agreed. Again, the next time I went over, I had a fun time. But, somehow the popular girls got wind of my fraternizing with the enemy and their rebuke was swift. My friend Denise said, “You know if you continue to be friends with her, you will not have any more friends.” At that point I decided not to listen to her and basically ignored her warning. I don’t know what would’ve happened in the future, but I never had to make that decision. The problem was solved because one day Lorelei stopped coming to the day camp, and I literally never knew what became of her. But that taught me a lesson that you shouldn’t be so quick to try to fit in. As the years have gone by, and as I have gotten older, I don’t care anymore about fitting in or being popular. I am who I am, and I am not a social butterfly—I often have to force myself to be in groups and interact. Do I care?—sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t.

Picking Our Families

If only we could pick our families. We could go online to a dedicated site named Design Your Family or Pick Your Family, and plug in specific criteria such as physical characteristics, temperament, personality, interests, etc. There would be almost unlimited choices and we could mix and match until we achieved the perfect combination of traits that would satisfy us.

The possibilities would be endless—parents, siblings, children, spouses, and maybe even friends too. For those who are not computer savvy, Walmart would offer a specific department where there would be a Kiosk. If you did not want to use the Kiosk, you could just find a limited selection on the wall being sold at a discount. Here you would have instant gratification and pay right then and there and take your new family home with you. But, the problem is what do you do with the old models—the parents, siblings, kids, spouses who drive you crazy? I guess you could trade them in for newer, more efficient models—with energy ratings. You can take your old husband who never satisfies you, trade him in, and depending upon how much you want to spend, can purchase the model guaranteed to induce an orgasm every time. No more family resentments, squabbles, or problem children either—all that would be replaced with a blank slate for you to muck up all over again. The beauty of this is that you can trade in your family members again and again so you never have unresolved lingering issues; just trade them in and start from scratch. This service can be expanded to EBay as well. But, an issue is what would happen to the models that don’t get sold, like those poor sweet lonely Christmas trees that are still waiting for a home by Christmas Eve. Where do they go? It is so sad to see them crying out, “Please BUY ME, PLEASE,” and you know they are unwanted.

Maybe that is what would happen to these discarded family members. And how about me—what happens if I get traded in? We’d all live in fear that we’d be sold in Walmart for a discount. Am I so perfect that my family would want to keep me; I think not? The more I consider the logistics and consequences, the more this idea needs more work and may have to be shelved, but can be revisited in the future. So, for now, I guess I will muddle through with the family God has given me. But maybe I need to get in on the ground floor of this innovation before Amazon picks it up and Jeff Bezos makes even more millions on my idea.