Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why Don't You Smile, Angela Merkel?

Sitting in her housecoat, the drapes drawn for privacy from the young neighbors who always seemed to be in their lounge staring, Penelope pored over her favorite read, the local tabloid.

"Why does Angela Merkel look so glum on her holiday? She's in the mountains of Italy, for goodness sake. Her husband looks like Ian McKellen."

Walter shrugged, deep in the rugby section. As if he could last one second on the field these days, she thought to herself, staring at the shelf of belly on which his paper was perched.

"I wonder if they've had a row," she wonders, her tone suggesting she had it on good information this was not an unfamiliar situation for the Merkel-Sauers. "Look at him, he can't even bear to look at her."

From out of the corner of her eye Penelope thought she saw Walter's eyes roll. She stopped, looked at him closer. Nothing. Honestly, it was hard to tell if he was even alive sometime.

She turned the page. Prince Philip was retiring from public life, after seventy years at the Queen's side. She'd always liked the cut of his chin. And even now he had the trim figure of a soldier.

She sighed, staring into his watery blue eyes. Thinking how much he would be missed. But also--really, what was Angela Merkel's problem?

She turned back to her photo, holding hiking poles and staring out as though into some distance. Really it was Ian who seemed cross, as though he'd just found out about another infuriating thing Angela had done. "The way she dumped all those refugees on her country like that? I'd be furious too."

Walter looked up. Really looked at her. She'd never liked his brown eyes. They had no luster; they reminded her of the eyes of a rag doll made in China. And not even a human rag doll, some kind of big dog. Walter -- her big, dull mutt.

"What?" For a moment it looked like he was about to say something. Then he shook his head and returned to his paper.

Did my oaf of a husband just dismiss her, she wondered with shock. I think not.

She said it again, no longer a question but a command. "What?"

He looked back at her, looked a long time, really considering her up and down. And his face -- what was that strange look he had on it? She couldn't quite say, but it was making her furious.

"When it comes right down to it, most of the time we're each just lost and alone."

What an incredible thing to say! And he said it with such warmth. She realized what his look was -- it was pity.

(Actually it was kindness, but for her that was a distinction without difference.)

She stood, as shocked as if he'd slapped her. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He looked at her one moment more, as though sending a last message of hope out into the darkness before the signal faded. Then he shrugged and returned to his box scores.

Still Penelope just stood there. Stood so long it felt like the sun moved while she was standing. (In fact she was only standing for ninety three seconds.)

Finally she sat back down and returned to her paper.

She stared at the photo and sipped her tea. Angela did look lost. And sad.

She snorted and turned the page.

"Well Theresa May is staying nearby. And apparently she's just fine."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Covfefe is Twitter for "Help Me"

                                            -- Vanity Fair, 7/31/17: The president feeds on other people's credibility.

I'm not having fun any more, the President tweeted as he raced around the maze, devouring everything in sight.** It's just the same thing over and over again. I swear, it's like I'm in a prison.  

His tweet actually read, "Beleaguered Beauregard has betrayed me and the American people. What is he still doing here? Sad!" It was the three hundredth time he had tweeted something like this. He still didn't feel better. It was him that was sad. He kept eating.  

I wonder if this is what the Israelites felt like in the desert. The manna never looked great to begin with, but after a couple weeks of the stuff? Come on. 

"The Democrats and the Republicans, united in their inability to fix your health care. Drain the swamp!" Would someone please free him from his swamp?

Turning a corner, he found himself face to face with his new communications director. The director immediately headed his way. With a couple quick turns the president knew he could power up and devour him. Until recently, that's what he always did, and took great joy in it. 

But stuck here in a Beltway every bit as daunting as the Minotaur's maze, he considered another course. Let the man come, without repercussions. Let him say or do what he needed to. Stop eating. Stop running. Be. It sounded exquisite. 

But there was something about the man's face. Something handsome. And he was still hungry. And honestly, the past that chased him was too enormous for him to ever stop running. 

"Good riddance to low energy trash. #MAGA" he tweeted as a whole new screen popped up, filled with more of the same. Jesus, help me. 

** Pac-Man was the brainchild of Toru Iwatani, a Japanese video game designer who came up with the idea of a game about eating while eating a pizza. (The only idea I have ever had while eating a pizza was "I should eat more pizza." Then again, maybe that fits.)

Seeing his pizza missing two slices gave Iwatani the idea for the look of the character. (Imagine if the pizza had been ham and pineapple. Or he had been eating haggis.)

The name "Pac-Man" actually comes from the Japanese word to describe the sound our mouths make when open and closed quickly over and over, "paku-paku". Which means today the game would be called Nom Nom Man. And to my mind that insight alone justifies the time I spent looking into this.

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Scaramucci

My freshman year of college I did work study in the kitchen of our dining hall. My job was gathering the dishes from the trays students more or less threw into our area (no conveyor belts back then, dear hearts), putting them into thick mental-institution-blue and green plastic racks which were then inserted for ninety seconds into our super fast industrial antisepticizer. Then I was to pull the steaming rack out and stack the dishes so that they could be whisked back into the line for some other hung over freshman to immediately slather with eggs, "fresh fruit" and genuine artificial butter product.

My first shift was a Saturday morning. I stood in back with full-time employees who actually knew what they were doing, doing my best to gather the plates while avoiding having to touch things that really disgusted me (like ketchup). I stacked, shoved, slammed the iron gate of the antisepticizer down, pushed the satisfyingly-big-red-missile-launch button, and watched as steam immediately shot out in a fantastic echo of carbonite freezing.

Ninety seconds later, the plates were ready, and the nightmare began, as my decidedly-non-calloused hands attempted to manipulate now-super-hot plastic dishes. It was like playing hot potato with real potatoes cooked in volcanoes. Meanwhile more dishes covered in ketchup and mustard and other things that make me sick were piling up, many left by smirking guys from my floor who went that extra mile with their refuse.

Everything that looks incredible when it's brought out to you 
is the stuff of nightmares when you're done with it. 

Pretty quickly, one of the full-time employee very quickly started shouting at me. He was speaking Spanish, a language I should have understood, as I'd studied it for years in high school; but we'd never done a unit on "conversational dishware workplace" (or conversational anything, believe it or not), so I didn't know what he was saying.

But hey, at the same time, let's not kid ourselves, I knew exactly what he was saying, and the louder and more frequently he shouted it, while I began to wonder at what temperature the top layers of your skin melt off and whether I had fallen into a cool episode of "Tales from the Crypt", the more I shared his concerns.

Things went on like that for about 50 minutes. Then I saw a bunch of my friends in the dining hall. One of them looked my way, smiling. His plate was clearly going to be a real treasure chest.

I kept at it a few more minutes. Then I went to my boss, quit, got in line and joined my pals for breakfast.