vendredi, avril 16, 2010

A mother's broken heart

When they get tired of watching ESPN at the place where I get therapy for my shoulders, they switch to Animal Planet.

Today, the joint was humming with the crowd eager to get their stretching and exercise in before they went out and played weekend warrior.

Usually I'm not paying much attention to the television. Frankly, I don't give a hoot what kind of hole Tiger has dug for himself now.

But today, as I stretched a blue band back and forth, I was glued to a show about big cats.

It opened with a scene that the expert said was "heart-rending." And, of course, I agreed. A lioness returns to look for her cubs, several of whom have been taken by a predator.

She grimaces...she walks back and forth on the plain. Then they cut away for a while to what's going on with a cheetah or a leopard as it sits in a tree, waiting to attack an antelope or some other unspecting animal (sorry, I wasn't really paying attention).

I do crunches, back stretches, tell the therapists they should avoid tragedies in the afternoon.

And then the lioness is back. She's found her cubs. One of them is fine. The other lies on the ground, legs stretched out -- a tawny body that will never again run, or jump, or hunt for dinner.

And what does the mother do? We watch her bathe her baby with her big tongue as the commentator asks -- doesn't she know it's hopeless?

And then he says, call it what you want to call it, it looks like affection.

I can't help it -- the tears leap to my eyes as I get on the treadmill, hoping no one will notice. Because really, I seem to be the only one in the room who is quite that sensitive. "It's nature" the therapist says to me.

Yet it is a picture now imprinted on my mind.

If we thought often about how elephants grieve the loss of a member of the herd, of how a cow moans for the loss of her calf, of the social networks dolphins and whales have -- would it change the way we treat them? Or allow them to be treated?

I hope so. But I can't answer the question. The instinct to rationalize is powerful among my species.

"I'm not your mother" I tell my black and white cat, Inky, as he jumps on my lap at night. Stretching out his paw, he kneads my stomach, his green eyes narrowing. As he gazes at me, I reiterate the notion, so that he understands it. " I'm not your mother" I repeat.

As much as I do believe that animals feel aggression and grief and affection for their babies, I don't go for that goo goo gah gah sickly sweet sentimentality some Americans take towards their animals.

Do I?

He purrs and looks up at me before settling down to doze in front of the computer.

"I'm not your mother" I tell him as he falls asleep.

Maybe if I repeat it often enough, he and I will both believe it.

Big news on the money front

If you have any interest in understanding how a group of Wall Street bankers impelled our economy and lots of us into financial ruin, you need to read "The Big Short" -- which is about how a few eccentrics bet against the derivative market, and made millions.

Ooops. Many of those guys made billions.

But in the meantime, here's some good news from the SEC -- it's suing Goldman Sachs. The grounds?


If I could, I'd put these jerks away for 50 years or so. As you know, what speculators and Wall Street bankers (not all bankers) did to this country makes me furious. And though I'm no finance geek, I have a better working understanding of the derivative market than I do of the adultery marketplace.

YEAH! Maybe a little justice will be done here.

Want standing room only? Hire a prostitute

In between reading thrilling (in a sick way) chapters of Lewis's"The Big Short" I've been digging into a book of snapshots of our national heritage.

Called "One-night Stands with American History" the volume strings together fascinating snippets on such topics as the Puritans, the Civil War, and David Rice Atchinson, (debatedly) President of the United States for one day.

So now and again, I'm going to share with my readers some of the data that I find compelling, funny or just strange.

If you don't like Americana, skip on to another post about faith, science, children and my inept research on why men and women commit adultery.

On the topic of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, here's a way that nineteenth-century promoters filled their theatres -- they gave away free tickets to the ladies of the evening. When prostitutes were in the upper galleries, paying customers would follow. Back staircases were built into the theater for those customers.

Often they would leave before the third act.

Just to be clear, that means the end of the play.

So is it so shocking the so called respectable folk of the nineteenth century (and lots of clergy) didn't like the theater?

Would you have seen the show?

Not THAT show.

The one on stage.

mercredi, avril 14, 2010

His cheatin' heart

One of the first things I messaged him was: I don't do the wild thing with married guys.

We'd stumbled across one another in that weird way people can when trolling online dating sites. This one, OKCupid, uses a robotic software app called Quickmatch to have you rate potential dates before you get their user name.

It was only when I saw his nomme de plume (the pen being mightier than the sword?) that I realized he was looking for a little side action. He's over here in school for a couple of years getting a degree so that he can teach. His wife is a native of another country, where he has spent most of the past 15 years. Maybe he is lonely -- or sex-starved -- or both.

Let me admit right now that I'm a total sucker for a fascinating life story. And his is most definitely intriguing. Plus, maybe most important, he seems like a very nice guy.

So we started emailing. Then calling each other. And then we met. Cute guy. Instant chemistry. Good conversation -- really good conversation about all sorts of political and spiritual and crosscultural topics.

He says his marriage is strong. He says he sees extramarital sex as "supplementing" what he's got going on already.

I suggested we get together for a hike and a picnic. Nothing romantic. Just time to talk and hang out and enjoy the beauty of a spring day. He told me that he'd like to do anything with me. I smacked him, of course.

But when I made it clear to my pal a week or so later that, as tempting as he was, I still wasn't a potential affair partner...he backed out.

It was naive of me to think that he would settle for anything less, or more, than a roll in the hay (which we have a lot of out here, in case you are ever looking).

Yet I am still stuck on the question: how do you do it? How do you have sex with someone not your partner, return to the marriage, and feel like yourself? Haven't you been changed? Haven't you lost something in the process -- or found out something else?

Of course, guys and women who have affairs don't like to have somebody ask these kinds of questions.

As curious as I am, I wonder if anyone can really provide a road map for the devious human heart.

And for those who seek to stray, the question is probably best left unasked -- and unanswered.

lundi, avril 12, 2010

Parliamentary trash talk -- could it help save Congress?

A few days ago I was driving...somewhere. If you live out here, you spend a lot of time in your car.

As it happened, the BBC news hour was on, and there was a lot of yelling, most of it in pretty toff English accents.

Generally, if you want that sort of thing, you turn to Fox News or MSNBC, not the British state-run news outlet.

Fascinated, I listened for a while. Of course, the story was about the British Parliament -- and that fabulous institution titled "The Prime Minister's Question Hour."

It sounded like a genteel version of a typical Phillies game -- a lot of hooting and hollering and the occasional complaint. I heard a member of the opposition say that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his currently reigning Labour Party "have got to go."

Well, didn't that get the faithful riled up?

Talk about an Amen corner.

And I loved the commentator, who described Conservative David Cameron as just the kind of third-form prefect one would not want to have had (Cameron was, in fact, a dormitory counselor at Eton).

What if our Congress had a "Question Hour" a couple of times every week -- when members could trash talk each other as much as they wanted to, but with certain rules of decorum?

We've had a spate of derogatory comments recently in our own Congress (see post linked above here).

And they probably continue to aid the loss public of confidence in elected officials, who are generally not chosen for their ability to come up with snarky insults.

What if we give them certain times when they could indulge their shadow sides -- and get it out of their bloodstream?

Kind of like recess for toddlers.

It's an idea. Either that or a stint as lunch monitor at a local elementary school -- with time off for good behavior.