Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Old Man (Lil Ditty Bout Jack n Diane)

He wasn't there today.

The man in the cemetery on the road I pass everyday at the same time was missing. Not missing as in “ we found his car idling on the side of the road and him no where in sight". He just wasn't there.

But I know his story.

I read it in his demeanor. The way he drooped as he leaned against his late-model Ford. The way his neck was cricked to the side, just so.

Jack had met Diane fifty or so years ago in a small café in Philly while there on business. She had slipped up to his table, youth swaying in her hips like an a cappella tango, and set the steaming cup of hours-old coffee on the table in front of him. The tiny white apron was snuggly tied at her waist, which was small for such a tall girl.

She looked down at him, hazel eyes meeting his with a smile, "Would you care to try the Shepherd's pie? It's the cook’s specialty, and we've got a little left."

"Yes. Yes, that sounds perfect, thank you", he smiled back, handing her the tattered paper menu.

That was all it took. Jack was married with three lovely kids, but the weekend he spent with Diane would change him forever. He hadn't had the courage to touch her, though her eyes invited him many times before he quit her, and one kiss as they parted ways left a taste on his lips sweeter than a ripened mango.

He left her with only his card, and the knowledge that they wouldn’t meet again.

One day months later when his secretary laid his mail amidst the piles on his worn mahogany desk, among it was a letter from her. He silently slit the envelope and pulled out the neatly-folded paper. It was the most moving and heartfelt letters he'd ever received.

They began to write and wrote back and forth for many years, rarely going more than a few months without some correspondence. Stories, poems, and rattlings of day-to-day events were shared with a flowering of words and thoughts that neither'd known they possessed. Jack saw her only once more, in a photograph she sent years later. Her hair had become dappled with gray, and the smile in her eyes had spread from their corners and down her cheeks. Though there was something romantically desolate about the picture, he found her lovelier than ever.

After his youngest child married, and his wife passed, Jack decided to find her. He needed to see her again. Feel her breath on his cheek again. Read to her as she fell asleep, and name every nuance in her eyes. He hadn't heard from her in a few months, but since his retirement, the letters had been necessarily less frequent.

He traveled to where she lived, and imagined the surprise she would find to see him at her door. She'd never married, though against acceptance, had had children by a man long gone. Stepping up the stone stair to her front door, he wondered for a moment if the time for this had not already come and gone, if he was too late to come back for her. He forced a quick rap at the door before he lost his nerve.

A woman, mid thirties, answered the door. She was tall and thin, and in everyway familiar except for the blonde hair that fell neatly onto her shoulders.

"May I help you?"

"Yes, miss. I'm looking for Diane Johnson".

"Can I ask why?" she said, the features of her face hardening almost imperceptibly.

"Well….I am an old friend, and I've come to town hoping to visit her. Can you please tell her Jack is here?"

"Jack?" She stood staring. A tear trembled on her eyelid and then slowly rolled down her cheek. "You're him, aren't you? You're the one she waited for."

Jack smiled, "She talked about me? Well, I guess I'm one and the same."

"But……well…..I'm so sorry. My mother passed away a month and a half ago.”

Jack spent the rest of the afternoon with Emily, talking about Diane, looking at the photographs that illustrated the story of her life that'd she'd been sharing with him all along. They went to her grave together and he traced the words on her headstone with his fingers. He knelt and wept.

A few months later Jack moved to the town where Diane was buried. He'd spent his whole life wanting to be near her, and living to be what he was supposed to be. He spent every sunrise and sunset at her grave. They were her favorite times of the day. The times he'd only once spent with her in life, and only for two days. For a couple years he did little but read, write, trek the few hours to visit his grandkids, and visit Diane.

Until finally the sun waned, and its setting would last forever.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Little Blue Vessel's of Afternoon Delight

I read an article earlier this week on Viagra being used to treat a side effect of antidepressants in women. While the first thing that elicited a good guffaw was the use of one drug to alleviate side effects of another, the thought of going to CVS to pick up my Viagra made the entire piece a little moment of mirth over coffee. In fact, I sat for a moment and envisioned myself, toddler in tow, chucking my basket-full of sultry-scented body wash, Trident White, Marlboro Light’s, Red Bull and a box of condoms on the pharmacy counter and watching as the young 20-something girl behind the counter smirks as she peels the little labels off my Prozac and Viagra for me to initial.

I keep reading, and in my head, it only gets better.

"For women on antidepressants with orgasm problems, this may provide some wonderful relief," said psychologist Stanley Althof, director of the Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida in West Palm Beach, who was not involved in the study. "But it will not improve their desire or arousal."

Does the part where Dr. Althof “was not involved in the study” mean that somewhere in Florida doctors were drugging depressed women with the little blue pills and attempting not only to arouse them, but to “scientifically” ensure they could achieve an orgasm? Are women in West Palm Beach really that accommodating to their physicians? Maybe the offer to participate in this “study” came complete with a Mercedes and a new pair of jugs?

Again I’m picturing myself in my last OB/GYN’s office, knees up, heels planted firmly in the holsters. The practice at which I was a patient had me frequently seeing a Dr. McDreamy-rival with no wedding band, which even motivated me to shave “down there” before driving to the hospital to have my youngest, just in case he was on-call. He strolls in, leans against the counter, and explains that he needs women to volunteer for a study, and that all I have to do is take these pills every day for two weeks, then come back in for a “physical test” that would basically involve a little timed manual stimulation, and if necessary, penetration by a medical professional.

So after laughing myself through the rest of the article, which culminates in a statement by the pharmaceutical company that it has no plans to market or seek license for this drug for female “sexual dysfunction”, I started to wonder…

If Viagra can be used to make women climax as easily as men, would birth control pills make men as sensitive, and thoughtful as women?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Up the Stairs of Concepts, Into the Pit of Wrong

Maybe the problem with the world today isn't just rising fuel prices, tainted tomatoes or the Bush Administration. Maybe drowning our daughters in images of malnourished models, wrinkless middle-aged women, and thousand dollar shoes isn't why things seem amiss. It may even be possible that our increasing time at work or commuting, and waning hours spent in the not-so-great-anymore-outdoors is not effecting our lives at all. After all, what's life really worth without a fat paycheck, low interest rate mortgage, and hefty retirement account?

I don't mean to say that 10 hours a day behind a desk kissing some fat, cranky rich guy's ass isn't hard work and totally worth it. Sure, you're not likely these days to end up running the company, and handing it off to your eldest son. And maybe you won't live to spend your golden years blissfully drinking brandy on the (hurricane-torn) beach, but that's really not what I'm getting at.

I've been working in the yard as of late, since the sun has finally decided to grace us with her presence. You know, getting my hands dirty….breaking a sweat…. And it reminded me of something I recently read.

"And when that crop grew, and was harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod in his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron it gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had no prayers or curses." (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath- 1939)

Maybe we've forgotten our place here. That we, though we have advanced, and innovated, and "broken-through" with science and medicine and mathematics; have lost our place on the earth.

There was a time when we grew what we ate, we built our own houses out of materials we gathered from our own land, and we prepared the food we put into the bellies of our children. We didn't worry about pesticides or preservatives or active cultures. We didn't need pills to get us to sleep, because we tired ourselves by living. We didn't suffer from anxiety because we knew that God, or Mother Nature, or the harvest ruled our lives. We depended on the riches of the earth for what we had, and the earth received our blood, sweat, tears and honor in return.

When was the last time you gave thought to the animal that gave its life for your meal, or wondered if it was treated humanly before it did so? When was the last time you slept deeply after laboring over something you made with your own hands? When have you grown life-giving nutrients with care and patience, just as you would grow your children?

Maybe something has been lost on the world that we cannot get back. Maybe, like the tender blossom of a naive teen, we have lost our innocence, and in the pursuit of Escalades, vacation homes, and Hedge Funds, we have lost what matters most. The union of living things has become extinct, like the arctic creatures that will soon lose their homes to Greenhouse. And our ingenious cures for illnesses and disorders that we surely caused when we chose greed over knowledge will pay off in the end. We will die in multimillion dollar hospitals, with six figure balances, and almost no concern over the divorce of man and nature that we've left in our wake. We will have forgotten the days when sunrise was the only alarm clock necessary, and fun was little more than a favorite uncle with a gift for telling stories.