Painting the Kitchen

There are some things in life that you don’t retire from. A few years ago we did the living room, and hallways and bedrooms. I remember thinking, actually promising myself, that I would not be painting this house again. Even then, this body was declaring clearly that it was no longer the appropriate tool for all of the squatting, bending, stretching and lifting required for the task.

So, of course, here I am on this cloudy Friday afternoon, the last day of Winter, painting the kitchen.

The word ‘painting’ is inadequate and misleading. When you paint a room, the spreading of paint on plaster walls is the least of the required activities. There is, in no particular order, moving furniture (in this case the refrigerator), sweeping all cobwebs and woogies out of the line of fire, emptying cabinets, repairing dings and dents in the walls, taping corners, and of course hosting the extended philosophical internal monologue on whether we all should have moved out of caves in the first place.

It is, I’m happy to report, a smallish kitchen and the color chosen is similar to the old color, so it should be a relatively quick job (I love that word ‘relatively’; it colors reality, it obfuscates, it sometimes flat-out lies, but it does so with elan and panache).

I heard once that the quickest way to get a divorce was to wallpaper the bathroom with the one you love. So, I was smart enough to wait until Dolores was out of town for a few days. When she returns she will inspect my handiwork for globs where I bobbled, and speckles where I spackled. But I’m sure my handiwork will pass muster. I just hope she remembers to pick up some Advil on the way home.

Here’s Laurel and Hardy doing a little painting.  I’m almost as neat as they are


A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.     — Groucho Marx


People find different ways to relieve stress. Some shop, others workout. Some drink, others catch a movie. I go to a library. I realize that brands me as a nerd/dork/dweeb/goober, but it works for me, and has for a long time. When I lived in Queens, two or three lifetimes ago, the Jamaica branch of the Queensboro Public Library was just across the street from the bus station; warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and filled all year round with quiet spots to read.

Now, there are three local libraries that I can borrow from, and I’m still amazed that all their borrow-able entertainment, books, books on CD, magazines, music, are all free. Still. Yes, I know it all comes from taxes, but in this century, ‘free’ is a relative term.  When I was doing a lot of driving for work, books on CD were what got me up in the morning and what got me through the day.  Everything from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Now that I am home more, I am remembering the heft and texture and mood of a book under a good strong lamp.

Here are some things I dug up about libraries… pretty much at random:

  • The Sumerians are generally credited with developing (not discovering) writing. There are tablets from The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, dating from about 700 BC—mostly records of business transactions, but also a version of The Epic Of Gilgamesh, considered by some the first great work of literature. Thanks Gil!!

  • The Library of Alexandria, set up around 300 BC and destroyed, possibly accidentally, by Caesar in about 30 BC.

  • There was a public library in Rome during the reign of Caesar. Perhaps he felt bad about destroying the one in Alexandria. Thanks, Julius!!

  • The Ming Dynasty in China had a library of over 11,000 volumes. That was some time in the 1400’s.

  • In the European Middle Ages, books were considered valuable property and often chained to the shelves.  (Hey!! Put that back!!)

  • Public libraries, i.e. free loaning libraries, disappeared after the Classical period, but have come roaring back.

  • In the US, the library established by Ben Franklin in the 17th century was a ‘subscription library’. i.e., available only to members. Thanks, Ben!!

  • The Public Libraries Act was passed in England in 1850, to allow local governments to establish libraries.  Thanks, fellas!!

  • In the US after the Civil War, Andrew Carnegie funded the building of over two thousand libraries. (Thanks, Andy!!)

  • Today there are about 120,000 libraries in the US, of which about 10,000 are public libraries.

I can just hear Cliff Klavan of Cheers saying “Here’s a little known fact; there are more libraries in the U.S than there are McDonald’s in the world.”

Oh, sorry, I have to cut this short. Dolores just came home from the library with an armful of books, and I want to see what she got.

Catch 22

Right now, I am about half way through Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. If you don’t know the book, you’re probably at least familiar with the phrase. A ‘catch 22’ is a logical inconsistency that baffles and frustrates. For example, ‘you can’t get a job without having some experience, and you can’t get experience without first having a job’.

Yep, been there, just not in a long while, thank you very much.

The ‘catch 22’ in Catch 22 is about a World War II bomber pilot who is terrified of being killed and wants to stop flying missions. He is told by superior officers that all he has to do is claim that he is crazy, and he’ll be let out of active duty. Sounds simple. The catch, catch 22, is that if you want to get out of the army because you’re afraid of being killed, that proves your sane. Saying you are crazy to get out of being killed proves that you’re not crazy, and so you have to keep flying.

The main character in the book, John Yossarian, says to an army doctor, “That’s some catch, that catch 22.”

The doctor replies, deadpan, “It’s the best there is.”

I think it is one of the best and, in some spots funniest, books written in the 20th century. I have mentioned it to several people of late, and, surprisingly, only about half knew what it was. As Caesar once said to Shakespeare over a latte in the Coliseum, ‘Sic Transit Gloria Mundi’. We’re just lucky that Brian Williams was there to translate it into English for us. “Thus passes the glory of the world.”

Here is a clip from the almost-as-good movie.



Hello, my name is Gene and I am addicted to Netflix.

It all started out innocently enough: a movie now and then, a PBS documentary on occasion. But that early taste quickly led to other, more serious viewings. On a week night I would watch three straight hours of The Office even though I had seen them before and even though they were the ones after Michael Scott left and weren’t that good. Eureka and Warehouse 13 soon came to dominate my leisure time. But it was Last Tango in Halifax that set me on the course as a binge viewer. Two seasons with septuagenarian newlyweds Alan and Celia, six shows per season at 45 minutes each, and I was hooked. Over one rainy Sunday, I watched the whole series, all 9 hours and longed for more. The children were ignored, the dog went unfed, and the marriage took some severe hits. But that was only the beginning;

Mad Men, –total of 60 episodes at 45 minutes each,

Doctor Who – total of 98 episodes at 45 minutes each

The Tudors, The Borgias, Marco Polo, Serenity, Arrested Development. I hesitate to even add up the hours. I just couldn’t stop myself. I watched on a laptop, on an iPad, even on my iPhone during lunch. Pathetic.

But it was the British murder mysteries that finally did it for me.

Sherlock weighed in at 18 episodes of 90 minutes each.

Inspector Morse proved to be the final nail in the coffin, and where I finally hit rock bottom. Thirty-three episodes at an hour and a half each. I started watching on a Monday during vacation. I woke up Thursday morning in my garage wearing slippers and a bathrobe, my hands wrapped protectively around my drained and empty iPad. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten. I needed a shave, and my family had moved out.

It was the end for me. I realized I needed help, and that’s when I found Netflix Anonymous, and why I’m here talking to you today.

I would just like to end with a little prayer;

God grant me the serenity to press that little power button and turn the damn thing off.