Friday, April 25, 2008

Is the Tide Turning?

While the Obama camp would have us believe that Clinton’s win in Pennsylvania on Tuesday was of little consequence, it looks to me – and, apparently, to many in the media who started to sing a somewhat different tune this week – that the tide may be turning in Hillary’s favor. For awhile, I was among those who felt she should quit lest the party become hopelessly divided. Then, I decided that was bullshit and the interminable length of this campaign should not stop us from seeing the election process through to the end. What’s wrong with giving every state an opportunity to have its primary, then choosing a candidate at the convention? Isn’t that what conventions are for?

With each passing day, The Pragmatist is looking better than The Idealist, mostly because Clinton has never said she wants to transcend politics; she wants to play a good political game, fight a good political fight. Obama, on the other hand, is starting to fray around the edges. His fatigue is showing and his strategy is weakening. We now know that when things don’t go his way, he can be petulant and imperious. And when political push comes to political shove, his team will try to play a traditional political game, even if he resists. Earlier this week, Hillary told Larry King she’s been enjoying the campaign process, which is entirely believable, given her history, perspective and style. She likes it in the trenches. Barack clearly does not, he prefers it in the bully pulpit – but he hasn’t won that prize, yet.

Last week, Clinton’s campaign sent an email to supporters asking for our input on the campaign so far and for suggestions for the future. I wrote back saying that from hereon in, she should just ignore Obama and go after McCain. A few days later, the Obama campaign announced they would [essentially] ignore Clinton and henceforth go after McCain. Good idea. That’s what they should both do.

Obama is not the enemy, it’s the clueless (and often heartless) Republicans who are. I say again: if Hillary doesn’t make it, I will vote for Barack, because I believe he is a caring person and a true Democrat who can be a good President. I greatly prefer Hillary, but I’ll take any Democrat I can get. In my voting lifetime, I’ve had to choose between far less palatable lessers of two evils. Of course Obama can beat McCain – if Democrats don’t forget on which side they’re increasingly expensive bread is buttered. But Hillary has a good shot now. Here’s hoping she gets a chance to aim at the real target.

Slave Shrimp – Time To Buy American Again

On Wednesday, just a few days after my Passover post about contemporary slavery (see Let All People Go, April 18th), there was an important story on CNN about the horrors of the foreign shrimp trade – particularly shrimp harvested in and exported by Thailand. I learned that America gets a full 80% of its shrimp (the #2 most popular seafood in the USA after canned tuna) from abroad, and a good deal of that from Thailand – where, good authority has it, young women are routinely forced into indentured servitude to process the shrimp and are subjected to cruelty and violence to prevent them from trying to escape and punish them when they do (one young woman was severely beaten and had her head shaved to “make her an example” to her co-workers).

I had shrimp on my dinner menu for Wednesday and promptly examined my unopened bag of frozen shrimp – and sure enough, it was clearly marked as being from Thailand. I cooked 1/3 of the bag that night and will finish it over the course of two more dinners, because I can’t afford to waste it (and doing so would accomplish nothing) – but there’s no way in hell I’ll buy Thai or other foreign shrimp again.

Indeed, I am beyond weary of looking at the labels on everything I buy or want to buy and seeing the words “Made in China” (that’s the one we see most often, of course). I don’t feel any better when I see that products have come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and other “third world” nations where labor is cheap and human rights are an inconvenience. American workers have their troubles, to be sure, and as I said in Let All People Go, contemporary slavery is alive and well in America, too. But one has to start taking action somewhere.

I will stop supporting the export of American jobs and the importing of foreign goods whenever and wherever possible. I just bought an indoor, reversible, stove-top grill/griddle and found one made right here in the USA by a company named Lodge – and it was no more expensive than the ones made in China and sold with the name of a celebrity chef plastered all over them. From now on, I will be buying American shrimp (online if necessary) and I’ll be looking for other products, from groceries to clothing, from American producers.

Unfortunately, that’s no easy trick – but I’ve located a few Web sites that I hope will make it easier for me, and I’m pleased to share them with you:

Specifically for seafood, check out Wild American Shrimp, Wood’s Fisheries (based in Florida), Pearl/Louisiana Shrimpers, and Fish Ex Alaska Seafoods. For information about other American-made products, check out Made In and How Americans Can Buy American.

I also plan on contacting all the retailers I patronize, telling them of my preference for American-made goods and sharing with them whatever information I can gather about American producers. I’ll especially make every effort to support local/regional producers, particularly since here in NYC, we’re surrounded by fish and seafood from Long Island and fruit, vegetables and other food from New Jersey and Upstate New York (sorry, couldn’t find online resources for these). Lastly, I’m sending emails to all the Presidential candidates about this issue. It may not be a revolution, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Let All People Go

The celebration of Passover marks the Old Testament-period of Jewish enslavement in Egypt and the Exodus of the Jews, led to freedom by the prophet Moses. There are those who contend that Moses never existed and that Jews were never slaves, who claim there is no historical evidence to this effect, in the annals of Egyptian history, for example. I’m not going to get into that here, since I don’t know enough about this dispute to discuss it intelligently. Suffice it to say that the story of the Exodus is central to Jewish faith and tradition, and that the story of Jewish enslavement has, for millennia, inspired Jews to fight against the slavery of others and to champion human rights. (Yes, there were some Jews who owned slaves in Civil War-era America, but that’s beside the point; fighting slavery/championing freedom is a core element of Jewish morality.)

What is most important on this eve of Passover is that, according to the United Nations, 27 million people worldwide are entrapped in slavery today. In the U.S. alone, the trafficking of human beings for sexual slavery and indentured servitude as household domestics, garment workers and agricultural laborers involves 14,500 to 17,500 new victims each year and is a $9 billion industry annually. Another 800,000 people annually around the world, 80% of them women and children, are forced into chattel slavery, sexual slavery, debt bondage and forced labor, contributing to another $6 billion industry. Contemporary slavery is most prevalent in Africa, Asia and the U.S., but virtually everywhere on earth, someone is keeping someone else prisoner in a horrible, violent way.

There’s a lot of good information on the `Net about slavery today. iAbolish Slavery, America’s Anti-Slavery Group is a good site, as are and, if you would like to know more or contribute to the struggle.

Tomorrow night – whether we’re gathered with family and friends to celebrate the Jewish Exodus, or just having a quiet, secular evening at home – I encourage all of us to remember that slavery is not history and our beliefs (whatever they may be) don’t count for much if we don’t increase our awareness of the contemporary plight and do our part as modern abolitionists.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Going to Extremes

Yesterday’s news brought word that France is outlawing Internet sites that the government feels are promoting anorexia and bulimia by showing photos of super-skinny people and offering helpful hints for effectively starving and purging. They’re known as pro-ana-mia sites by their viewers. Indeed, the people who frequent these sites – primarily tweens, teens and young women – consider anorexia and bulimia lifestyle choices. They want to be extremely skinny, like the models and actresses they emulate. With classic ana-mia vision, many of them, although already quite thin, perceive themselves as fat and are panicked by every morsel of food they encounter. Are they tempted to eat? Yes, of course, which is why they look to these sites for what is known in their world as “thinspiration.”

This story is distressing on several levels. For starters, it’s apparent that many young women around the world have a phobia about being fat – so much so, that they have no concept of being a normal, average weight; only totally skinny will suffice. They've bought into society's strident anti-fat attitudes – to an extreme. Should they be shielded “for their own good” by a government that wants to keep them from killing themselves? France thinks so.

I'm not so sure. As an old-school American, I bristle at the idea of state-imposed strictures designed to save us from ourselves. It is why, as an obese person and a smoker, I rant against anti-smoking laws and society’s rabid fear of the “obesity epidemic.” However, I’m genuinely distressed that the international thin-obsessed fashion industry has, for decades, “thinspired” young women to hate themselves as they are and motivated them to go to shocking extremes in pursuit of a distorted standard of beauty – like the young woman who illustrates this post. Personally, I think super-skinny fashion models should be banned, along with their pop culture entertainment counterparts (but that’s me being extreme).

But it's a quandary. If I adamantly defend my “right” to be very fat, a condition that many people here and abroad regard as even uglier (and just as suicidal) as the opposite extreme of the spectrum, how can I sanction the suppression of pro-ana-mia Web sites? Wouldn’t I be enraged if pro-fat/fat acceptance sites were banned? You bet!

Our culture (ours, the French, almost everyone) has demonized and ridiculed diversity in body size and has thereby created the pro-ana-mia extreme. Millions of young women, and some men, have been terribly victimized. But as I’ve said before, I support the right of suicide. I was suicidal during a darker period in my life and I assure you, making the decision to kill myself and then taking the necessary action was very difficult to do (and, as you can see, I didn't do it). “Passive” suicide – by radical thinness, smoking, or hard drug/alcohol abuse – this can be considered a lifestyle choice – crazy perhaps, even tragic, but a choice nonetheless.

I’d rather be dead than prevented from living as I choose, and I don’t doubt that the pro-ana-mias would rather be dead than fat. I'm reminded that the wonderful Gilda Radner once told an interviewer (during her SNL days) she would rather have cancer than be fat. Talk about be careful what you wish for! Mostly, I’d rather be dead than controlled by government policy (as the old saying goes, better to die on your feet than live on your knees). We are living in mean-spirited, judgmental, oppressive times – and I fear it will get much worse before it gets better. So, I say, let them not eat cake – and let them visit any sites they want to. They may be sick, but they have a right to be sick. Call me crazy, but I call that freedom.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

In Defense of Individualism

In the past couple of days, I’ve published two impassioned posts – one about the oppression of smokers, the other about fat-discrimination – but in neither one did I explain why I so fiercely defend my right to smoke and to be fat without societal interference. Our culture is so focused on Good Health and ostracizing the “risky behaviors” of smoking and obesity that my defending them must seem to many like philosophical bullshit at best, desperate rationalization at least, and insanity for sure. I disagree. Let me explain.

It has always been my nature to be the odd-person-out. I think it’s because I am an only child, as well as biracial, interfaith, and have never been a partner in a long term relationship, a parent, or a member of a close-knit clan. I’ve always felt like a social outcast because, indeed, I’ve always been one. I also spent my early childhood in the 1950s and came of age in the 1960s – decades that were the zenith of the traditional American dream and classic individualism, respectively.

Yes, conformity was the social order of the 50s, but it was still an era that celebrated the “rugged individualist.” And yes, the 60s were about creating a better world for all, but it was also a time when “do your own thing” and “let it all hang out” were the defining credos. It horrifies me that Liberal attitudes, which used to represent the epitome of personal freedom, have come to be synonymous with political correctness and an unflinching seriousness about everything. As a nation, we’ve forgotten that both individuals and societies are in deep doo-doo when they lose their sense of humor about themselves – and life itself.

I confess that I am a pessimist and a fatalist. Some people look at the glass and see it as half empty, others see it as half full. I see it and say “You call that a glass??” As Woody Allen said, “Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time, I don’t have any fun at all.” He also said “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.” I’ve never wanted to live to be a hundred and I’ve certainly never been willing to give up the things I like in order to make it there. I’ve always preferred sensual gratification (the more immediate, the better) to what’s supposed to be good for me. Why is this crazier than bungee jumping and plastic surgery?

I also believe in death. I don’t fear it and I think it’s highly under-rated as a natural, important part of life. I’m all for capital punishment (when necessary), euthanasia (on request), and the right to commit suicide. These ideas are an anathema in our culture, which prizes life at all costs and is currently obsessed with Going Green to “save the planet.” To me, this is bullshit; the concern is not really about saving the planet, it’s about saving ourselves and “preserving the future” for the children, grandchildren, and beyond. I might feel differently if I had children and grandchildren, but I don’t. I’m basically an “Apr├Ęs moi, le deluge” kind of girl – and I think the planet would be better off if we humans cleared out and let it rest up for a few thousand years. (Apparently, the planet thinks so too, if rampant viruses and killer weather are anything to go by.)

Mostly, I don’t want society trying to save me from myself. After reading my rant about the latest New York cigarette tax, a friend wrote to me – a man who smoked for decades before he gave it up several years ago – and said he believes cigarettes should be outlawed, along with the many other things “that are killing us,” including alcohol, religion, and anything that isn’t appropriately Green. This is precisely the kind of attitude I object to. When the Religious Right expresses its desire to outlaw abortion, birth control, homosexuality (and, so far as I can tell, heterosexuality, as well), contradictory science, pornography, and what they perceive as anti-family feminist values, the alleged Left goes nuts. But what’s the difference? If both ends of the political/societal spectrum want to outlaw whatever it is they happen to object to, isn’t it just a matter of taste?

I have friends who are vegetarian on moral grounds, who are animal advocates/protectionists in the PETA tradition, who are child-absorbed parents, who believe the Green Movement is a sacred quest, who view everything through the limited lens of their personal faith – and I am respectful of them all, even though I think some of the things they believe in span the boring to the ridiculous to the loathsome. But I believe in live and let live and making room for everyone’s life choices in a genuinely pluralistic/diverse society. Accordingly, I reserve my right to eat as I please, smoke if I want to, and die if and when my questionable behavior catches up with me – and all I ask is that I not be thwarted in my actions or despised for my opinions.

My friend who wants to outlaw everything that isn’t good for us says the pleasure he got from cigarettes doesn’t hold a candle to feeling healthy and being able to run up a flight of stairs. I’ve never run up a flight of stairs in my life and can contentedly go to my early grave without doing so. I admittedly live in my head. I’m not a physical person, never have been. As a kid, I never skated or swam or rode a bike, and I avoided Gym and everything it involved. I can still remember arguing with one of my summer day camp counselors about the dubious value of standing out in a sun-drenched field playing softball instead of sitting under a tree reading a book; I wore him out and got to stay under the tree. As an adult, I don’t drive or work out or participate in sports (I hate sports!). Sex has been my sole aerobic activity, and food and cigarettes are my most stalwart companions – and pleasures. I also don’t like animals, children, houseplants, or Nature in general. But that’s me.

Disagree with me if you like, pity me if you must. But just because your choices are considered healthy and coincide with the majority opinion and mine are not, doesn’t make you a better person, it just makes us people with different values. In a free society, that’s called personal choice and you don’t have to like my choices any more than I like yours. Take heart in the fact that I’m in a tiny minority and probably won’t be around too many more years to disturb you with what you regard as my aberrant behavior. Meanwhile, I ask that you consider the importance of allowing people who make different choices to peacefully co-exist with the status quo.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Being Fat-Hateful Is Not Okay

Yesterday, Huffington Post published yet another fat-related story, this one entitled Study Concludes “Fat-ism” More Widespread Than Racism, which naturally brought out the fat-haters, this time outraged that something as inane as discriminating against fat people would be compared with real discrimination, like the kind based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

The core arguments for hating and discriminating against fat people with impunity seem to be the following:

  1. Fat people are ugly and when they eat, they’re downright disgusting;

  2. Being fat is an unhealthy lifestyle choice and everyone has an obligation to be as healthy as possible;

  3. Fat people make life logistically uncomfortable for everybody else;

  4. Obesity is weighing down the health care system and healthy people have to pay for it;

  5. Fat people want everyone to feel sorry for them, but they don’t do anything to help themselves;

  6. Fat people bring derision on themselves by being what they are.

I’m starting to feel that fighting these arguments is like pissing in the wind, but I’ll take another shot (and I’m sure this won’t be my last…)

Fat people are ugly and when they eat, they’re downright disgusting – There’s no sensible way to argue aesthetic values and people can’t control their visceral responses. Fat people can be ugly; anyone can be ugly, if they’re dirty, or poorly groomed and dressed, or rude, or ill-mannered. Lots of fat people are none of these things – and lots of thin and normal-weighted people are all of these things. But it’s been my experience that thin people can do (or wear or be) anything, even if it’s unpleasant, and nobody says boo. But put an ice cream cone in the hands of a neat, clean, nicely-dressed fat person and passersby go ballistic. Contemporary culture – virtually around the world – has decided that fat is ugly; it’s a learned response and it’s ingrained early. Not that long ago, being black was seen as ugly by people of no color; that’s what gave birth to a “Black Is Beautiful” campaign in the 60s. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A picture of Dawn French, the well-known English actress and fat advocate, illustrates this post. Is she ugly? I contend that if you think so, you’re prejudiced – or at the very least, possessed of a very limited idea of what can be considered attractive.

Being fat is an unhealthy lifestyle choice and everyone has an obligation to be as healthy as possible – This one troubles me the most, because it reflects enormous ignorance about the dynamics of obesity, as well as a twisted view of social responsibility. If you’d like to see documentation of the facts, just do a search for “obesity” in the archives of New York You’ll learn what many fat people already know: that actually very little is understood about what makes people fat and keeps them that way. Losing weight is not nearly as simple as eat less/exercise more. Of course some people are fat because of what they eat and not exercising. But many fat people go to great lengths to maintain healthy eating habits and a regular exercise regimen; it’s the core behavior of the Health At Every Size (HAES) component of the Fat Acceptance Movement. But doing so does not ipso-facto make fat people thin, it just makes them healthier. To a far greater extent than is known by the general public, fat, particularly what is called morbid obesity is NOT a choice. But even if it were, when did being healthy go from being a personal priority to a social responsibility? I think it began with the anti-smoking movement, as well as several decades of religious fundamentalism and largely conservative government, which also put affirmative action and welfare in such disfavor, and the availability of birth control and abortions in such peril. As a society, we’ve become more puritanical, judgmental, mean-spirited, ungenerous and unaccepting of individualism than we’ve ever been. We had a brief respite in the 60s (my formative years), but we’ve returned to our old ways (think Pilgrims, Pioneers and Prohibition) with a vengeance.

Fat people make life logistically uncomfortable for everybody else – When the fat-haters post on blogs, they always complain about fat people on planes, buses and subways; we take up more than our fair share of room. I don’t doubt that some fat people indeed spread themselves out in public spaces without concern for the comfort of others. But many fat people – myself included – are obsessed with not doing so. When I fly, I go First Class or buy two Coach seats. When I ride buses, I make a bee-line for the row of single seats. I haven’t taken a subway in years. I also haven’t gone to a theater or cinema or most restaurants because I’m not comfortable and I don’t want to crowd other people. But fat people aren’t the only ones taking up an inordinate amount of room. So do men who sit with their legs splayed (got to give that package room!), shoppers who plunk their parcels on the seat next to them, and [generally] young people who think nothing of putting their feet on your arm-rest or intimidating everyone they encounter into making way for them. Fat isn’t the culprit, rudeness is the problem and it comes in all sizes.

Obesity is weighing down the health care system and healthy people have to pay for it – This is the big one, the reason that the haters cite most often to justify themselves. “Do whatever you want, you fat pig, but don’t expect me to pay for it.” Again, I refer you to the literature and data on health care costs (the New York archives can help you here, too). Fat folks are not the culprits. As I’ve said before, fraud, mismanagement and greed are what cost the most. The most expensive patient population is comprised of (formerly) healthy thin and normal-weighted people who are living longer than human beings ever have and are incurring enormous long-term care and end-of-life costs. Personally, I wish everyone a long, happy life; live `til you’re 150 and God bless you. For the record, fat people die younger and faster.

Fat people want everyone to feel sorry for them, but they don’t do anything to help themselves – Fat people aren’t looking for sympathy; we just want to be left the fuck alone and not be burned at the social stake. And unfortunate but true, most fat people are fat-haters themselves. They hate themselves and they hate other fat people and they spend their lives struggling to not be fat. The insidious weight loss industry in America alone is now raking in $64 billion annually (it used to be $40 billion). For the most part, fat people and people who just think they’re fat (such as most women who aren’t a size zero) are constantly fighting the battle of the bulge. Why do you think fat people are increasingly submitting to radical weight loss surgery (WLS)? The sad irony is, now that some time has elapsed since WLS became readily available, science is learning that not even surgery consistently produces permanent weight loss.

Fat people bring derision on themselves by being what they are – And women who dress provocatively in public are asking to be raped. Fat and fat people have been turned into a long-running joke by a culture that hates fat. I mentioned in a previous post that virtually every movie and TV program I see contains either a fat joke or fat insult or expression of dismay/concern about being fat. Movies from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, now, it doesn’t matter. Television sitcoms, shopping channels, game shows, reality shows, even news programs and documentaries: fat is fair game everywhere and one of the few areas of nearly complete social agreement. Everybody hates fat! So what’s wrong with me??

Today, Huffington Post published another article about why [romantic] relationships make you fat. For the moment, I just don’t have the strength…

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I’m Not Public Enemy Number One

New York is about to implement yet another cigarette tax. But you don’t have to be a cigarette smoker to feel assaulted, insulted and alarmed by the expansive growth of The Nanny State policies that continue to impinge on personal behavior in the name of The Public Good. Aren’t you at all disturbed by the none-too-subtle dangers of allowing government (local, state, federal, or all of the above) to increasingly legislate what we can do and where we can do it? No? Why not?!

Living in liberty – achieving it and maintaining it – has always been a struggle between the freedom from and the freedom to. My freedom to do something (or to have or to be) should not overly impose on your freedom from the impact of my choice. But the essence of liberty lives in compromise and tolerance. As a smoker, I don’t have a problem with smoking restrictions in [most] indoor public spaces; I understand that people don’t want to be exposed to second-hand smoke. But increasingly, smoking is prohibited outdoors, not to mention in all bars and restaurants.

Especially in cities, is there not something crazy about objecting to a smoker on the street corner while cars, trucks and buses zoom by and chimneys spew? And is it reasonable that there is no indoor place – no bar, no restaurant, no smoking lounge in an office building or transportation terminal anywhere – that a smoker can relax with a cigarette? If smokers have to control/limit ourselves most of the time, can’t non-smokers cut us a little slack some of the time? After all, cigarettes are relentlessly taxed; in New York City, a carton is about to cost $85-$90, after the newest tax increase goes into effect. But smokers have no rights or privileges whatsoever! Do non-smokers remember that the American Colonists fought a revolution over “taxation without representation?” What do you call this? High cigarette taxes discriminate against poor and working class people, who comprise the largest population of smokers, and these taxes have done little or nothing to stop smokers who are intent on smoking (we find ways...).

I understand that people want to live in as healthy an environment as possible, but doing so at the expense of all differing personal choice is an insane and dangerous price to pay. Contemporary standards say that smoking is very bad – indeed, apparently worse than official intervention in the daily lives of ordinary citizens. But prohibitions that are instituted now in the name of good health can very easily become prohibitions instituted in the name of social decency (or whatever) in the future. Just look at the extent to which the Religious Right, including our Born Again loon of a President, have already eroded the separation of church and state!

Lots of folks don’t mind that smoking in workplaces has virtually disappeared. But increasingly, companies are mandating that employees be 100% non-smokers or risk dismissal. Lots of folks think that’s okay, too, because they believe it will “keep health care costs down.” But what happens if companies decide that unmarried people, or women with children, or anyone over the age of 50, are too unproductive or expensive to tolerate? If it serves The Public Good, will that be okay, too?

Anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany were created incrementally. At each stage, the public (including many Jews) believed that a particular level of legislation was tolerable. First, no Jews could be employed in certain industries, no Jews were permitted to live in certain neighborhoods. Then, no Jews could own a business or personal property. First, intermarriage was frowned on; not much later, it was illegal. First, Jews had to wear yellow stars so that good Christians wouldn’t mistake them for actual people. Not much later, the Jews and their identification stars were gone – out of sight, out of mind, and into concentration camps.

If you think such fascism in our society is unlikely, think again. Since we Americans are a plum ignorant people with little knowledge of history, we are currently living to repeat it, ad nauseum. Across the country, smokers are being rejected for apartment purchases by condo and co-op boards; neighbors are suing neighbors if a whiff of smoke wafts into an apartment building hallway or over a backyard fence; parents who smoke are threatened with losing custody of their children.

Since the early 1980s, society has been waging war on cigarettes. “Thanks for not smoking” morphed into “No Smoking – I’m Allergic,” which became plain old “No Smoking.” If you’re still unable to view smoking as anything but a health issue, consider that the same kind of prejudice and legislation is now being applied to fat people and society’s view of food. “Good health” has gone from being a personal priority to a social responsibility – and that sets off an alarm in my head. When a society legislates morality, that is a slippery slope. If you don’t want to smoke, then don’t smoke. If you don’t want your children to smoke, then teach them not to and supervise them. If you don’t want to associate with smokers, that’s your prerogative. But when you make me an outlaw for indulging in a legal adult pleasure, I must protest – and I do, most vehemently.

Please note: according to today’s New York Times, “The House Commerce Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would give the Food and Drug Administration sweeping regulatory authority over the tobacco industry, clearing the way for a floor vote on the legislation, which has long been sought by anti-tobacco activists…”

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thoughts of April

April has always been a tumultuous month in my life. Thirty-eight years ago, I dropped out of high school in April of my senior year (if you listen quietly, you can still hear the screams of my parents and teachers). Seven years later, I moved from my family home in Brooklyn to the apartment I still live in here in Manhattan. On several occasions, I quit jobs in April (I guess I came to associate April with letting things go). Speaking of which, I threw out the only man I ever lived with in an April. My beloved mother died on April 7th 13 years ago, and my dear Tom died on April 1st six years ago; he had a droll sense of humor, but I don’t think he meant it as an April Fool’s joke. And of course, April has long meant the annual IRS filing, which, when I was younger and got refunds every year, wasn’t nearly as odious as subsequent years; for decades, April has meant Pay Up!

This year, April finds me in better form and spirits than usual. I’m looking forward to Passover, also an April tradition, sometimes a happy one, sometimes rather forlorn; my stimulus payment check (thanks, George, but too little too late); and springtime. For the past few years, I’ve watched winter bloom into spring and spring morph into summer from my grimy windows. This year, I want to go outside, feel a balmy breeze, maybe take a spin through the park on my mobility scooter – which I call The Enterprise, because it goes where no fat girl has gone before.

Several dear friends (including one now long deceased) have April birthdays, so there has often been occasion to celebrate. This year, I’m just grateful that (so far) nothing tumultuous is occurring. I want to keep it simple: April showers, May flowers. One mustn’t be a slave to the calendar.