This is No Jock

Anyone who has known me from my childhood or teen years knows that I am not an athlete. Until I began working out at age 24, the most athletic thing I had done was run amok. OK. I also was known to throw a tantrum on occasion. But my aim was terrible. And, I am proud to say, I did kick a habit. Don’t worry, though. No nun was in it at the time as it was lying on the floor in a Halloween costume shop.

But I am an armchair athlete. I watch a lot of college and professional football. I watch college basketball, too, particularly during March Madness. I did have an interest in pro-basketball until the Seattle Sonics were kidnapped and held hostage in Oklahoma City. As a result, I don’t even watch the NBA Championship Series.

Although I am not a great baseball fan, I do watch the World Series. I do not, however, have any interest in ice hockey or rugby as they are far too rough and I do not want to witness a player breaking a finger nail. I should enjoy soccer as my uncle was quite a good player in his youth and was considered a potential member of the German National Team in pre-Nazi Germany. But my uncle was disqualified once Hitler rose to power because Hans had a circumcised penis. I know this, not because I’ve seen it, but because I’ve seen his yarmulke.

I have been known to watch golf if I need a nap and figure skating when I need to be reminded that I am a card-carrying homosexual. But my favorite sport to watch is tennis.

I began watching during the Jimmy Connors-John McEnroe Era. They were the best at the time, were from the US, and had a rivalry. So, I watched them play. I didn’t particularly like them as people, though—each struck me as a bit of a jerk. But I learned to understand and like the game through them and that era. Years passed. Their careers faded. I watched an occasional major match, but was not a fanatic. Nor did any players, male or female, grab my attention or warrant my devotion.

Then, in the early 2000s, a Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, stepped into the World of Tennis. And my world. Even though Rafa was young enough to be my son, even grandson, I was mesmerized by his beauty, impressed with his athleticism, and fascinated by his game-time quirks and rituals. For nearly 20 years, I have been a devoted fan.

If Barbra is my goddess, Rafa is certainly my god. And, oh my god, what a god.

Rafa is now in his thirties. He is tied with Roger Federer for having won the most Grand Slam events at 20. He has won the French Open, the only Grand Slam event played on clay, thirteen times and has earned the nickname “The King of Clay.” I still am mesmerized, impressed, and fascinated by him. When he plays in a tournament, I schedule my life around his matches. During that time, Rafa is as important to me as air, water, and dessert.

But several younger, attractive players have entered the scene, teasing my loyalty, trying to lure me away from Rafa. There’s Dominic Thiem, the possessor of an ass so incredible even straight sports commentators admire it, Germany’s Alexander Zverev with his gleaming smile and wavy hair, Greek god Stefanos Tsitsipas with his incredible facial bone structure, and Novak Djokovic who has among the best man’s legs I have ever seen. But the player I most relate to is Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman a fellow Jew whose short body-type is similar to mine. All are successful, accomplished tennis players. And all constantly tempt me to cheat on Rafa.

But I won’t. Even if he is married now. Maria can’t live forever.

I need help, I’ve been told, with my Rafa obsession. But those people have their own fixations: murder mysteries, the Kardashians, Hummel figures, and navel lint. Who are they to judge me? So, I say to them, “I don’t need counseling, like you think. I am not sick. Having a sports hero is normal. I have this under control. It’s harmless. So, shut the fuck up, you damn Rafa-haters!”

Oh, dear. I’ve gotten all worked up. I need to calm down. Therefore, I’m going to end this now and put on my Rafa-patterned pajamas and look at my Rafa scrapbook for the seventh time today. See you at Wimbledon.

The Dude Who Sold Sour Cream

He bounded through the high school’s halls like a giddy gazelle, greeting everyone he passed with a smile, high-five, handshake, or pat on the back. He seemed to know everyone. Countless other students rushed by, but he stood out. Who is this guy? I wondered as I stood next to my classroom doorway.

It happened again the next day. Lunch was over. Fifth period was about to begin. And there he was navigating the hall like a one-man welcome wagon. He’s just a kid, I thought, a sophomore at most. How does he know so many upperclassmen?

Weeks passed. I’d see him in the halls, joyfully rushing to class, but acknowledging everyone, he with his red hair and impish smile. But I didn’t know his name until I attended a drama department production and there he was, center stage. I perused my playbill in the darkened theater, searching for the cast. His name is Roscoe? I thought so loudly several neighbors shushed me. Seriously? Roscoe?

He had a supporting role, but he exuded an enthusiasm that drew attention away from the leads and he had a natural stage presence. He also showed enormous potential. This kid, I thought, has it, that “it” quality that goes beyond talent, that agents and casting directors look for. If Clara Bow was early Hollywood’s “It Girl,” Roscoe could be the future’s “It Boy.”

After watching him perform in several productions, I realized Roscoe took theater seriously. I had that confirmed when I finally spoke with him near the end of his junior year in a positive, upbeat conversation and learned he, in fact, did plan to pursue acting in college. But it was another snippet of that chat that has remained with me until this day. And it had nothing to do with acting.

As was the style, Roscoe’s pants always sagged, exposing at least two inches of underwear. Staff, of course, were not pleased with this trend, constantly reminding boys to “pull your pants up.” It was, however, a futile endeavor. Therefore, while I chatted with Roscoe, I was aware of the brightly-colored, whimsically-patterned underwear hugging his waist. “Why am I seeing your underwear?” I asked, hoping my question, rather than an authoritarian order, would trigger a trouser tug.

“Because they’re cute,” he said faster than a fly can be zipped.

And I learned, with that response, to let go of my old-fashioned perception of underwear. Roscoe taught me to appreciate “cute” modern boxers, to see them through the eyes of a teenager and to accept that manufacturers marketed them to be shown off.

We returned to school in September and I ran into Roscoe. He had physically changed during the three-month vacation. His boyish features were more manly. His shoulders were broader. His soft mid-section had been firmed up.

I looked at him. “Dude,” I said, “I’ve seen you in a number of roles, characters really. And now you’re ready to play leading men.” My saying this was a surprising contradiction because I had a vision of Roscoe, due to his outgoing and free-spirited personality, being cast in a TV sitcom, playing perhaps the quirky neighbor like Kramer on Seinfeld, or oddball best friend like Dobie Gillis’ Maynard G. Krebbs, or the weird co-worker like Matthew on News Radio.

Before he graduated, I took a picture of Roscoe. His red hair was shaggy, messy. His chin was covered in rust-colored scruff. He wore purple pants and mismatched tennis shoes. His belt, which rested on his hips, was a psychedelic mishmash of colors. “I want this picture,” I told him, “as proof that I knew you before you became a star.” He smiled, thanked me for my support, and went off to Southern California to study acting.

But I didn’t forget him. Several years later, about the time he graduated from college I began Googling him. Through Youtube, IMBD, and his own website, I discovered Roscoe’s determination, talent, and “it” quality had kept him afloat in Hollywood’s competitive and frustrating world.

But I did not see his commercials or small TV and film roles until I found them on Youtube. Therefore, there was no element of surprise and I longed for the day I would be watching TV and Roscoe would appear unexpectedly on my screen.

My wish came true recently. It was late-morning. I was channel surfing. And there was Roscoe, selling Daisy Sour Cream. It was but three brief moments in a backyard barbecue scene. But there he was, bearded and brushing thirty, and still flashing that impish smile.

I sat up so fast I spilled my umpteenth coffee. My heart raced. And, even though I hardly know Roscoe, I felt a special kind of joy, like the feeling a parent gets at his child’s graduation or wedding.

I then realized he’d entered that commercial’s backyard smiling and greeting the other barbecue attendees with the same joy, friendliness, and positivity he had had when I first saw him in that high school hall years ago.

Sitcoms are Funny . . . Sort of

I wake up to sitcoms. I go to sleep to sitcoms. I’m a sitcom guy. Always have been. Since we got a TV when I was ten.

Imagine my joy, then, when during the early stages of COVID-19 social-distancing and isolation, I discovered how many networks featuring old comedy shows my streaming service provides. I’ve added four to my favorites list; Antenna, COZI, Logo, and TV Land. I check on them frequently.

These networks claim to air classic comedy shows. But what constitutes “classic?” By my standards, classic implies a certain level of quality and a unique place in the American psyche. Well, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, it does mean “having a high quality that is recognized and unquestioned.” But, contrarily, it also means “typical, as in a classic case of malnutrition.” Therefore, the networks are not misleading viewers by describing their programming as classic. Some are of “a high quality” while others are “typical.” But I prefer the first definition.

I begin the day with the hilarious, unique, and original The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. I watch two episodes at 7:00 a.m. That is before I get out of bed. That is before I have my three breakfast margaritas. Not only did this show successfully transform George and Gracie’s vaudeville act into a totally different medium, but it introduced them to a larger audience, endearing them to many more Americans. Both Burns and Allen contributed to the act, and then sitcom, in a unique way. Gracie reimagined the stereotypical young, dumb blonde as a middle-aged brunette. She gave ditzy an entirely new meaning, misinterpreting the simplest statements and creating convoluted situations that defy logic. Of course, she did this with dialog. But her body language and the use of her eyes also were tools used to demonstrate her comedy genius. George Burns, on the other hand, playing the quintessential straight-man, asked questions and reacted with deadpan expressions. But he brilliantly broadened and adapted that character to television and became a national treasure, living to 100.

When I go to bed, I watch an episode of The Nanny, hardly a classic, before I turn off the light. It is just another variation of the traditional family sitcom. Roseanne depicted the lower-middle class family. The Brady Bunch followed a hybrid family. My Three Sons told the tale of a family without women. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was about a wealthy Black family. Will & Grace showed how “family” can be created by friends.

As a gay man, I watch The Nanny for the outlandish clothes. As a West Coast Jew and a first-generation American, I watch to experience the cast’s three generations of New York Jewish American Princesses. Fran Drescher’s nanny, Renée Taylor as her mother, and Ann Morgan Guilbert as her grandmother are brilliant creations, over-the-top creations, but funnier than a yarmulke made of gefilte fish nonetheless.

Countless other comedies air throughout the day. But, for the most part, they are, in my opinion, typical sitcoms. Nothing really sets them apart from other comedies. There are Dennis the Menace, McHale’s Navy, Hazel, It’s a Living, The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, 227, The King of Queens, Father Knows Best, and That Girl among so many more. Certainly, each has a quality that is its own. Dennis the Menace,for example, has a childlike innocence. But I wouldn’t consider it classic. Hazel, while it has a wonderful performance by star Shirley Booth, has little else to make it memorable. That Girl may have given us a charming, yet irritating, lead character, but little else to enjoy. Ann Marie’s father was unbearable, her boyfriend bland, and the scripts unremarkable. McHale’s Navy may have introduced us to Tim Conway, but it was more silly than classic.

On the other hand, many of the shows aired on these networks were Emmy winners, honored with numerous writing, directing, and acting awards. They featured sharp, sophisticated dialog, original concepts, and indelible characters. Maude, Barney Miller, Soap, Designing Women, Roseanne, Everybody Loves Raymond, and The Office are a few.

But why can’t I find reruns of more quality shows like Cheers, The Bob Newhart Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Taxi, Mad About You, Malcolm in the Middle, Our Miss Brooks, Mary Tyler Moore, Leave it to Beaver, The Wonder Years, Night Court, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman? What? You say they are available? I just haven’t looked in the right places? But finding them requires, as Maynard G. Krebbs of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis would say in a horrified squeak, “Work!?!?”

Then, there are those programs that fall in the middle, neither great, nor mindless fluff, like … oh, a Webster marathon is about to begin. I have to watch it. I gotta experience once more the marginal comedy skills of former pro-footballer Alex Karras and limited talents of cute but cloying Emanuel Lewis. Gotta go.

Say Goodnight, Gracie.

Good night.

Let’s Play Wheel of Jeopardy!

You take the Jeopardy! test You make the cut. You, with your Master’s Degree in Estonian History and a minor in Rocket Science.

You appear on the show. But alas, while you accumulate $6,500, you place third. Do you get to keep your winnings? No. You receive $1000. Only the winner keeps his winnings. The runner-up, a recent graduate of Cretonia Community College’s Automotive Detailing Program, with an emphasis on Backseat Vacuuming, earns $2000.

Your neighbor, who attended Averagelian College but dropped out during her freshman year— the pregnancy had nothing to do with it, she insists—applies for Wheel of Fortune. She gets on. During the introductions, she tells host Pat Sajak she works in digital consulting. When pressed, she clarifies, “I do nails.”

The neighbor goes on to match your $6,500 in earnings by solving one puzzle. “Hickory Dickory Dock” she screams moments after the contestant to her right erred by saying, “Hickory Dickory Cock” and triggering the longest recorded game show audience laugh in history. Like you, your neighbor places third. She, however, gets to keep her earnings.

Now, how is this fair?

It isn’t fair. Like the Electoral College, COVID-19, systemic racism, and the blatant bias against mediocre writers like me by the Pulitzer Prize judging panel isn’t fair.

These issues keep me up at night. I pace the floor over the Electoral College. I sit on the edge of the bed worrying about COVID-19. I beat my pillow thinking about racism. Likewise, the discrepancy between Jeopardy! winnings and those on Wheel of Fortune has had me tossing and turning at 2:37, 3:16, and 4:04 a.m. I have yelled, “How is this fair?” to Jeopardy! producers during many tortured attempts at sleeping. I get no response. Apparently, the program’s producers sleep in another room.

It isn’t fair, dammit.

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time when game shows like Hollywood Squares and Concentration aired. When life was fair. Ah, those were the good old days. When Nixon was president of a Watergate-torn nation. And the War in Vietnam raged on and on. And the same racism dividing AmeriKKKa today was 50 years younger.

Ah, yes, those were the good old days.

I’m Done

I’m done. Over it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Fini.

It was in the shadow of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I tolerated their luring—no, race-baiting—the South, turning it from marginally Democratic to the core of the Republican Party. That change in political balance, that swing to the right has impacted everything in the US since.

I tolerated their “America, love it or leave it” ultimatum during the War in Vietnam when they told demonstrators challenging US policy, the status quo, or authority they should leave. I tolerated their blind view of patriotism and ignoring the Constitutional ideals of freedom of speech and democracy, because, I thought, we simple saw things differently.

I tolerated their reducing women who led the early feminist movement as man haters, lesbians, and anti-family.

I tolerated their calling pro-choice advocates baby killers.

I tolerated their rebranding equal rights for the LGBTQ+ communities as “special rights.”

I tolerated their dominance and control in the Reagan 1980s, passing laws that predictably would, and have, ruined and divided the United States.

I tolerated their heartless disregard for people with AIDS.

I tolerated their instant hate for Hillary Clinton when she became the First Lady because she, as a young First Lady of Arkansas, opted to maintain her career in law rather than be a stay-at-home traditional housewife.

I tolerated Newt Gingrich’s hijacking the already intolerant Republican Party and turning it into a party of bullies and blatant liars. The demonizing tactics used under his leadership in the 1994 midterm election to dehumanize and attack anyone who disagreed with them may have been effective, but they were despicable.

I tolerated the birth of Fox News, adopting the Gingrich playbook.

I tolerated the Shakespearian hanging-chad election of George W. Bush, because, even though it was obvious he was unqualified for the presidency, nor had he legitimately won, he appeared to be a “nice guy.” Logically then, I had to tolerate the appointment of his henchmen, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, who are not nice men, to run the country.

That is when I decided I would leave the US upon retirement.

But I didn’t change my mind when Barack Obama was elected president. While I was elated, I had a feeling it was too good to be true. In hindsight, I now wonder if Russia, knowing that race is at the core of everything political in the US, somehow manipulated those election results, infiltrating some key states’ voting systems, because they knew his election would create crippling turmoil.

I tolerated Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” quote, because I have the utmost respect for her. But, after decades of navigating the high road, I now disagree with the sentiment. Haven’t we endured enough shit? Isn’t it time to punch back? It is obvious Republicans can not process facts, science, and reasoning. They have a clear disdain for educated people. They only understand hate and fear. It is time to fight fire with fire. It is time to go low. Threaten. Intimidate. Scare the hell out of them.

I tolerated their lack of concern for the countless violent deaths of young Black people, often by cops, but always driven by hate, that lead to Black Lives Matter. I had tolerated their indifference through most of my life because as a White man, I wasn’t impacted. And I still had hope. Albeit, it was only a single strand.

But my tolerance shriveled when cell phone cameras began capturing the reality and brutality of these murders. I say some of their names: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Korryn Gaines, Ahmaul Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

And when Donald tRump, who I had considered a piece of shit long before his entrance into politics, even before his creation of The Apprentice, concocted the false racist Birther Theory to discredit Barack Obama and presented it to Fox News and they ran with it, my tolerance ran out.

That is when I emigrated to Mexico.

I did not tolerate for one second Hillary Clinton’s apology for calling tRump supporters “a basket of deplorables.” There was no reason to apologize to deplorable people who purposely use insulting language against groups to which they do not relate, citing their disdain for “political correctness” and their right to free speech, and then complain when they are the target of insults. Oh, dear. Poor deplorables. Their feelings were hurt. “You can’t call us that,” they wailed. “We are human and have feelings.” The hypocrisy of their “feelings” was exposed, their plea for “political correctness,” although they would never call it that, sanctimonious, and their claiming the right to free speech laughable. Hillary, regardless of the political fallout, should not have apologized.

I became intolerant when tRump was elected, not by the people, but by Russia and the Electoral College. That ended my naivete and hope, for as a guy from uber-progressive Seattle I had always been protected from the depth of the hate and stupidity in the rest of AmeriKKKa. I had estimated the racists out there numbered 20%, maybe 25%. I had never considered that someone as vile as tRump could maintain 40% support in polls as long as he did. And I realized tRump was only the tip of the iceberg, the visible part of the problem.

And I became angrily intolerant when Colin Kaepernik was demonized by tRump and his band of morons, those poor excuses for humans, for trying to end the US’s centuries of lies and hypocrisy.

And then, we witnessed Central Park’s criminal dogwalker Amy Cooper threaten Harvard-educated birdwatcher Christian Cooper by using White privilege and racist hate to intimidate him. But it got worse. Just days later, we watched a pig—I’m sorry. I mean cop—I’m sorry. I mean policeman—I’m sorry. I do mean pig—murder George Floyd.

And my angry intolerance became hateful intolerance.

And I decided my tolerance for 1960s,’70s, and ’80’s Republicans had been a mistake. We didn’t just disagree or see things differently. We did not share “American” values. Their conservative souls were dark, evil, and heartless. They just hid it well. And I decided that, unless individuals repudiate tRump and the policies of the 2000s Repugnicant Party, I would no longer allow them into my life. Unless a Republican goes on public record or tells me personally (s)he hates tRump and ALL that he stands for, I consider that individual deplorable and a persona non grata.

Those individuals will get no attention from me. They will not be allowed in my life in any way. Because of their party’s blatant hate for anyone who threatens their “values,” and its insidious deceptions and rationalizations, they have lost the privilege and good fortune to have me in their life. That means Facebook “friends.” That means people from the past. That means tRumpies here in Ajijic. It is pay-back time.

And they have the Republican Party, with a spotlight on Newt Gingrich, Fox News, and donald tRump to thank. They taught me how to hate well.

To those who think I need to “let it go,” I let it go for far too long. We all did. I tolerated. I hoped. I waited. I tried to find humor in all their shit.

The decent people of the US need to stop being tolerant of the right wing. They need to stop being reactive and become proactive, nipping bad behavior, hateful policies, and evil people in the bud. Stop it now even if that means extreme action!

If you are stunned by my words, remember, you were warned and you chose to read on. Remember the title of this article and its first ten words. I’m done.

Fault Lines

There are many people, groups, organizations, and countries to blame. Many people. A lot of people. I’ve been told there are over one million people to blame. But none of it was my fault.

The blame starts, of course, with Obama. And Hillary, too. There’s CNN and ABC and their “fake news”, and the LGBTQwhatevers and their fake Q’s. The Ukraine played a role in it as did China. Hollywood’s do-good lefties were involved. And, of course, the protesters in the US. Let’s not forget those thugs. They all are responsible for the crap I had to go through to get a goddam Mexican driver’s license.

Like I said, none of it was my fault.

I’ve lived in Ajijic for five years without a car and haven’t needed a driver’s license. Besides, I have my Washington State one, good until May 2021. I haven’t considered buying a car since I arrived. “I’ll get one when I can’t walk anymore,” I’ve told friends. “Ten years. OK. Maybe five. I’ll get one when I can’t stand riding crowded buses anymore. Ten months. OK. Maybe five.”

And then COVID-19 swept over the world like a coughing, wheezing tsunami.

The last time I rode a bus was March 18. The last time I left my property and walked anywhere was April 1 and that was to buy injectable disinfectant so I wouldn’t get the virus. But, alas, Disinfectants R Us was closed because all its employees had been hospitalized with broken hypodermic needles in their eyes.

But there were times when I just had to go somewhere. To the doctor, the porn shop, or, like the rest of the world, hell in a handbasket. It was time to consider buying a car. And I did.

The process went smoothly until I was asked if I had a Mexican driver’s license. “No,” I said. “First car in Mexico. Never drove on Mexican soil. And my US one is good for another year.”

“But you are permanente. You must have a Mexican license. That’s the law” I was told.

That is where Obama and Hillary come in. Surely when they had power, he as president, she as America’s most hated capable woman, either of them could have passed a law allowing decrepit ex-pats living in Mexico, like me, to circumnavigate that law. But they didn’t.

Because of their negligence, I had to take the test. So, the process began.

First, I learned that since I have a valid license, I would only have to take the written test, which could be in English, and would consist of only ten multiple-choice questions focusing on traffic signs. Easy, I thought. I can handle that.

Next, I acquired crib-sheets, pictures of common Mexican traffic signs. What each meant, however, was written in Spanish. Generally speaking, common sense crossed the language barrier. But there were several that required translating and, often, questionable results. For example, the sign that, to me, resembles Burt Reynolds’ ’70s mustache apparently means “Spaceship Ahead.”

I, then, began inquiring about the location of the nearest testing station. Luckily, a neighbor knew. It was on the outskirts of Guadalajara, about a forty-minute drive from here. I wouldn’t have to enter Guadalajara-proper, thank God, because that is a current phobia of mine. That metropolis has far more cases of and deaths from COVID-19 than it has traffic signs. Therefore, I have stayed away from Guadalajara for months.

I had a friend, a native of the region, take me to this suburban testing site. He also was to serve as translator, if needed, as I plodded through the process.

We arrived to discover the testing site had been closed for months. Googling other offices, we found one twenty minutes away, closer to town, and off we went. That office, too, was closed because, we learned, most offices had been closed due to COVID-19. And this is where CNN and ABC come in. Why the hell didn’t they tell me this?

We went home, where I asked my neighbor, the source of the erroneous testing site information. “From a friend whose friend took the test there,” she said.

“And when was that?”

“During the Benito Juarez Administration,” she answered.

That, of course, was before COVID-19.

So, I got wise. I contacted a law office and arranged to have an employee well-versed in driver’s test details bring me to Guadalajara to take the exam at one of the few testing sites remaining open during the pandemic. As we pulled up to the building, I saw hundreds and hundreds of people in various lines outside it. They were wearing masks, but social distancing was not observed. How could it be? And I thought, What the hell have I gotten myself into?

The guide led me past the crowd and to a checkpoint where my temperature was taken and I was allowed in. The building was crowded and chaotic. The process complicated, involving numerous stops and I believe I was served by seven different people. None were Ukrainian. None were Chinese. None appeared to be part of the LGBTQwhatever community. All wore masks. So, why am I assigning them blame for the horrors I had to go through? Because, while I was preoccupied navigating the process and trying to remember all those damn traffic signs, I’m not certain I saw clerks sanitizing their sites between clients. Had they been Ukrainian, Chinese, or LGBTQ, I am certain, they would have done a better job wiping down the desks and pens. Those people, you know, are very fine people, very fine, good people. In fact, I could see myself sitting down with one and having a cup of covfefe.

I’m pissed off at Hollywood, too, because, if they had made a movie about acquiring Mexican driver’s licenses, and included one scene with frontal nudity, I would have watched it and been better prepared for my ordeal. But no. They prefer to produce movies that make money than ones that could help addled, aging gringos get their Mexican driver’s license.

The test was much harder than I expected because the samples of traffic signs I had studied did not match those on the test. In fact, I had to rely on the cheat notes I had written on the small of my back. One of the questions showed a sign with people walking, but they did not resemble the people in my study notes; they could have been pedestrians or students, indicating a school zone. I, however, chose the third option, “Prostitutes Ahead.”

In the end, I got my license. It only took an hour. It would have taken less, but I got a late start because I had become obsessed watching the protesters on CNN. That’s why they’re responsible for what I had to go through.

If any of those thugs, especially those who speak Spanish—and you know as well I do that all the Spanish-speaking ones, even those who learned the language in high school Spanish classes, came to the US illegally—had stopped holding a mirror up to America’s ugly face and flown to Guadalajara to help me get my stupid license, they would have helped “Make America Great Again.”

Facebook: FB or FU?

Think back to the day you first heard about Facebook. Did you join right away? Did you impulsively jump on board because it was trendy, an en vogue replacement for the fizzling My Space or the tired email?

Or did you take a moment and ask yourself basic questions about expectations, how this new communication tool could be used, or who would be considered a “friend?”

I didn’t join right away. I purposely avoided social media because, as a high school staff member, I did not want students to find me and mix my semi-quasi-mildly proper professional life with my sordid social one. Therefore, I shunned easily accessed social media until I retired in 2014.

When I did join, it was for one reason: marketing. I planned, in retirement, to focus more on my writing, something I put on the backburner for most of my working years. But as a writing retiree, I could use Facebook to network, reach out, and promote my work. I could reach friends from the various chapters of my life.

When I entered the World of Facebook, however, I was presented with the term “Facebook friend.” This challenged my concept of the word ‘friend.’ Numerous FB veterans, I noticed, had many “friends,” some well into the hundreds. Are these people really ‘friends? I asked myself. I’ll be lucky if I gather 100 “friends” here. People from my past and present. I’ll stop at 100, I told myself. As if 100 is possible, I chuckled as an addendum.

Then I remembered my purpose for joining: marketing and networking. Expand your preconceived notions, I said. Let the whole world into your world of words.

I now have 250 friends. And because they are “friends,” I have close personal relationships with each and every one. Every one. Let me rephrase that. I know many of them. But I also have many I have never met. In some cases, our paths crossed just long enough for them to ask if I were on Facebook, followed by a “friend request.”

Of course, I could have lied and said I was not a FB user or I could have denied the request, but I remembered my original purpose as a writer; I should welcome them to my fold, and use the tool for exposure.

Some of my “friends,” however, have become problematic.

They post pictures of restaurant meals or alluring new recipes, which has led to my embarrassing weight gain and borderline diabetes. They have posted comics and jokes so funny I LOLed myself into unintended urinary releases. In public places. They have posted pictures of pet dogs so adorable I have considered dognapping. Don’t even ask what I consider when pictures of cute grandkids are posted. Yes … and I am embarrassed to admit this … dognapping. They have posted pictures of their world travels which have inspired me to walk around the block once a week. They have posted “Throwback Thursday” photos which simply serve to show how much they have aged. Those pics also have inspired me to wear more makeup and hats with thick veils.

And then there are those FB friends who post multiple times daily. By multiple, I mean six, seven, eight, even 3,479. This would not be a problem were they my only FB friend. But they are not. Like I said, I have over 250 alleged friends…oops. It is now 255…and 83.6% are multiple posters. These countless posts, however, are not personal announcements like, “Just won the lottery; moving to Majorca,” “My new wife was one of my great-grand-daughter Britney’s bride’s maids,” or “I completed my most recent painting. It’s on my website and can be purchased for $575,000. But as a ‘Facebook friend,’ you receive a 10% discount.” Instead, most of their posts are “shared” items, many of which they deem funny. I’ve laughed at a few, four to be exact. These chronic sharers, it seems, do not realize that not all their “friends” find Erma Bombeck funny or videos of children falling off slides entertaining. Humor is personal. Time is precious.

But, for me, the most problematic situation created by FB “friends” are the political posts. I don’t wanna see ‘em. I’m being serious here.

I left the US because of politics and the decision was made in August 2004, long before tRump. August 2004 was after the hanging chad “election” of 2000 and during the ’04 campaign that put same-sex marriage on the ballot in eleven states. The purpose of this was to lure homophobic, irregularly voting right-wingers to the polls, dragging their states’ electoral college votes along. It worked.

That was, for this former political junkie, the proverbial straw. I was done being patient, done explaining and defending the US system, and finally over the hypocrisy and bullshit. I left the US within a year of retirement.

Yes, although I live in Mexico, I still do follow what happens north of the border. I remain politically savvy. I watch CNN, MSNBC, The Bachelor, and Live With Kelly and Ryan. But only as a channel surfer seeking headlines, not as an obsessed news junkie over-analyzing anything and everything political. I came here to find stress-free happiness and, for the most part, I have. I wanted to leave anger, frustration, and negativity behind. However, with a flood of political posts, particularly in tRump’s America, that is not easy.

Because I thoroughly vet every friend request, using private detectives, Ouija Boards, and zodiac charts—oh, my 250 has just reached 261—most of my friends, real and Facebook, share my basic political beliefs. Therefore, I wonder what is accomplished by the onslaught of political posts sent by preaching-to-the-choir FB friends. They waste my time, convince me of nothing, and are irritating. If these friends of mine have friends on the opposite side of the political wall, they should send these political messages to them only. I understand the senders probably think they are performing a service, sharing critical information. But, as I see it, they only are allowing stress, anger, and frustration to dominate their own lives and invade mine.

I have my interests. Would these people appreciate six daily reminders promoting TV’s Home Shopping Network, interviews with the Real Housewives of Peoria, and porn involving obese Serbs in rowboats just because I think everyone should enjoy and support it like I do? I think not.

Therefore, Facebook friends, I request more personal updates and fewer political crap or, even though I still like you, I will be forced to “unfollow” you like I regrettably have done to a number of othe —oh, gotta go. Anton, Balki, and Ludmila crammed into a weather-beaten dingy just popped up on my screen. Well, two of them are crammed in; one is sorta overhanging into the Jusna Morava River. I’m gonna share it with you as soon as I’m done…See? I can be irritating, too.

At 71

I learned the truth at 71

That life surprisingly isn’t done

That seniors with fanciful minds

Can untap hidden mental finds.

 

Like pleasant pastimes they never knew

Painting, acting to name a few

Or volunteering’s many doors

At 71, they find new shores

 

And those who have wrinkled bodies

Can still gawk at youthful hotties

On computers quick as a jet

While traveling through the internet

 

Their dogs and cats with loyal eyes

See their humans as a gold prize

And still provide them with playful fun

At 71

 

But now we face this damn disease,

And we watch as our comfort flees.

These times are scary, it is true

Depressing and maddening, too.

 

So in times of uncertainty

Focus on positivity

And you may happily explore

72, 83, or 94.

My Fair Lady/ My Scared Laddie

“Oy ain’t never done nuttin’ so hard in me life,” I told a neighbor in my best cockney accent. “Oy my a bitten off mor’n oy can chew. Oy’m one scared bloke, Oy am.” I switched to normal speech. “This was a mistake. Picking My Fair Lady as my first attempt at theater. The dialog, dancing, and, oh Lord, the singing are way more difficult than I ever imagined. I can’t remember any of it. This is scary.”

“It’ll get better, easier,” she, with her theater background, told me. “Muscle memory will kick in.” She was right, of course, but it took four-to-six weeks for that to happen. That is how long I struggled through rehearsals in panic mode. But then, about the time we moved from rehearsal hall to stage, it all began to make sense. My emotions went from fear to fair.

Participating in a theater production, particularly musical theater, had been a longtime aspiration. But now that I was in rehearsal, it became reality and an eye-opening, humbling, exciting, and rewarding experience. I have seen how difficult a job a director, musical director, choreographer, or stage manager can be. I have observed seasoned professionals accept direction without comment, learned to accept directorial vision even though it was contrary to mine, and have watched a work-in-progress, with its constant changes and evolving details, gel. I have observed a cast and crew of seventy-plus volunteer countless hours of time with minimal negativity.

The cast ranged in age from eight to ninety-something. It included the marvelous pre-teen Julian; the fascinating Swanson Family, especially the talented teenage Michala who became Eliza; Brian, Marsha, Catherine, the Marks, and the other pros who taught me so much by example; and the inspiring Chaloners.

For me, it started as a test. Auditioning for a role in a play. Oh, I suspected I could perform; I’d performed in front of others countless times. But I had always been in control and it always had been short and in somewhat improvised occasions. Could I actually memorize dialogue? In the past, when I had to make a structured speech or presentation, I always used 3 by 5 cards. I had never been a competent memorizer. Would I, with my septuagenarian mind, be able to memorize lines now?

Lakeside Little Theatre’s 2019-2020 schedule included My Fair Lady. I thought, That could be fun. There has to be a small non-singing role in that for me. I studied the script. Zoltan Karpathy, with his mere 131 words of dialogue appealed to me. He doesn’t sing and he speaks with a Hungarian accent, I noted. I can do that.

I met Director Dave soon after arriving at the auditions. I told him I had never done theater before, and, if not selected for the Karpathy role, was interested in ensemble positions that required dancing, but did not consider myself a singer. I even offered myself for backstage work. He apparently had heard similar pleas before, because, moments later, as he addressed the sixty-plus would-be cast members, he announced we all would be tested for singing and dancing abilities prior to the acting auditions. Swell, I thought, as echoes of college fraternity brothers telling me to lip sync when we sang reverberated through my head.

The dance audition was first. Two short, simple sequences. I did OK. Then came the dreaded vocal test. Sheet music for several of My Fair Lady’s classic tunes was handed out. The pianist sat down at the keyboard. Trained singers sang. Then it was my turn. I croaked “Get Me to the Church on Time.” Musically, I was horrible. But I sold the character. And I projected to the back row.

Acting auditions were the next day. When I was done, I heard Director Dave whisper, “I think we’ve got our Karpathy.” Therefore, I was not surprised when he called several days later to inform me of my casting. But I was shocked when he added that I would be dancing and singing as other nameless characters in ensemble numbers. “You did say ‘dancing and singing?’” I asked.

I gave my characters names, however, and Johanna and her Wizards of Wardrobe gave them costumes. I didn’t realize, though, until the first dress rehearsal, that the beige corduroy pants assigned my poor street-person Frankie Hopkins were women’s pants. They fit. But zipping and buttoning them on the opposite side was as challenging for me as singing Lerner and Loewe.

While I look back at the experience with countless fond memories, I have two primary thoughts: First, I apologize to those castmates who I irritated with my early self-doubt, panic, and over-analytical thinking. That apology is extended to Director Dave, choreographers Alexis and Mary, and musical directors Ann and Robert who I am certain were stunned by my inability to count to eight, my constant need for instruction and attention, and my unsolicited suggestions, as if inexperienced me had the background for “suggestions.”

But, more important, I recognize that I succeeded at a lifelong dream; I performed in theater in, of all productions, My Fair Lady without screwing it up. I did not humiliate myself so seriously a move to another Mexican gringo enclave was necessitated. San Miguel, Puerto Vallarta, Mérida, and Querétaro . . . you are safe. I will, however, consider relocating to Broadway if an all-male, septuagenarian revival of Annie were produced. I would make a fabulous Miss Hannigan.