Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Good Ways to be a Bad Influence

In the matter of consistency, one looks at the total of life's experiences and tries to find the constants.

Well, I'm honest to a fault, but haven't always been; loyal -- but I've had my moments of betrayal; intelligent, but have done many outrageously stupid things......so it becomes a challenge to find the constant.

The one thing I've always been to all people I've known is a bad influence. However, that is not necessarily a negative. Some people just need someone to tip them. Like a cow asleep in the field. It wakes them up and reminds them they are indeed alive.

1. If you have a friend who is afraid of heights, trick them into going to the top of the Empire State Building. Later, they'll thank you.

2. If your best friend only shops at second hand stores and wears stained t-shirts, take him or her to Macy's and make them splurge on something utterly expensive that they'll wear and cherish forever, guilt free.

3. Convince the teetotaler to have more than one glass of wine. Watch what happens. It will cheer everyone.

4. Take an overweight, constantly dieting friend out for pizza.

5. Convince someone to call their boss and say, "I'm calling in well today; I just feel too good to come to work". Then go to the beach with a picnic basket and a bottle of wine. No cell phones allowed.

6. Convince a miser to go to the casino with you. When he or she loses all their money, laugh it off and say, "but wasn't it fun, and think of how you're repaying the debt this country owes to Native Americans".

7. Smuggle a can of heavily caffeine laden soda into the hospital for the patient who is too drugged to stay awake for your visit. The patient will remember your visit and actually feel better.

8. When your best friend tells you she can't afford it, convince him or her she can't NOT afford it.

9. Give a fat dog a big cookie.

10. Give a skinny cat a Weight Watchers ice cream bar.

There are numerous ways to be a bad influence in a good way. People will always remember you and love you for it.


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Joy of Not Working vs. the Unjoy of the Uncash Flow

I used to look forward to Fridays, but now I don't have a job so everyday is a big fat Friday rolling into a bigger, fatter weekend. It's not at all bad!

The Joys of Not Working are Many:

1. Alarm clock - thing of the past
2. Getting up while it's still dark out -- so over
3. Sticking my fingernail through a brand new pair of pantyhose - not happening
4. Grabbing a can of beer out of the fridge, mistakenly thinking it's V8 because I'm in a rush --- not happening. Popping the beer open in front of the boss at 7:45 a.m. --- faux pas no more.
5. Sleeping until I wake up, or my husband wakes me up with the question "what time do you want to get up"? Priceless. He's still working. My sleeping, sheet-covered mass seems to annoy him on mornings he has to get up early.
6. Saying "fuck" six times before I open the door to leave. I hardly say "fuck" at all anymore. I'd like to say never, but hey, it is the fucking world I'm living in.
7. Not paying money to park my car in a crumbling concrete parking structure with no elevators, dark and dangerous stairwells, and across the street from a VD clinic and a soup kitchen.
8. Not having twenty new e-mails and ten new voice mails every morning, all of them complaints. Not having to be nice to the complainers when clearly, they have created their own problems. Not having to hear any more apologies from idiots who have left me ridiculously rude voice mails and now feel apologetic and sheepish. Change the word sheepish to Ass-ish and I will be forever grateful.
9. Not watching the blizzard outside my office window, knowing by the time I leave, my ten minute ride home will stretch into the better part of an hour.
10. Not having to pay taxes bi-monthly.

The Un-joy of the Un-cash Flow

1. Haven't bought anything in a long time.
2. Haven't paid for things bought in the past in anything more than a "minimum balance due" sort of way.
3. Can't afford cigarettes. This is a good thing. I've needed to quit smoking for a long time. However, the decision to quit smoking was forced on me. Loss of free will. Fuck.
4. Playing with dog is prime form of entertainment.
5. Have to borrow money to take my friend (who is even more poor than I am) on a picnic tomorrow. I figure it will cost me $25 for a picnic lunch for two, including beer. She'll get to drink most of the beer since I'll be driving. If it rains and I have to take her to a restaurant, I'm totally screwed.
6. Spending some time worrying about tomorrow --- which is bothersome bullshit wrapped in neurotic paper, tied up with fear and loathing ribbon. I used to be so.....um.....free of the mundane? What are you going to do about tomorrow? I don't even know what I'm gonna do today! I sure as damn well know what I'm gonna do today, now! Worry about fucking tomorrow.
7. Contemplating buying a tube of mascara. I've bought cars with less debate inside my head,
8. Looking diligently for jobs and knowing that absolutely no one wants to hire someone my age. It's like a Catch-22 Torture Game. How many rejections can I amass in one week?
9. Making home made dog treats for my pet because they're better for her and less expensive than store bought. Contemplating learning to eat these for breakfast and lunch myself. They're bland, but there's pretty good stuff in them.
10. Not regretting retiring from a stinking government job I hated, surrounded by talentless bureaucrats who came from the "no creativity" gene pool. Not missing anything but the paycheck.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Zero Geniuses on Board

Would you send a loved-one for treatment of a major illness to a facility where the top administrator had no clear understanding of the illness? Of course you wouldn't. Welcome to Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division.

I am still appalled at what is going on in this facility at it's top levels. I know that the doctors there do their utter best to deliver excellent care to the patients, that is, when the administrators aren't on their backs to discharge people who aren't really ready to be returned to the streets and neighborhoods from which they hale. I'm not so sure about the nurses. They all seem dismotivated, more interested in a variety of other issues, most regarding pay rates, seniority rights and time off, than providing a quality service. I say this, because there are so many of them; nurse staffing at this facility has the highest per patient ratio in any mental health facility in the state, and yet, there happened to be several sexual assaults on their watch. Hello! Did anyone recognize that this is a rather large problem? It wouldn't take a genius to figure out quantity versus quality. Of course, there are no geniuses on the administrative board at MCBHD.

Let's get down to the politics of this situation. The Administrator of Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division was, is and always has been under-qualified to run a facility of this size and complexity. However, he aligned himself with the top County Administrator, County Executive Scott Walker, who is truly not a genius but rather a Republican hack who once possessed that Republican look that sells elections so well (squeaky clean, conservative, anti-anything for the common good or benefit of less fortunate citizens) but who now looks like he's attended one too many $100 a plate dinners. He's a fat cat. He picked another fat cat, Mr. John Chianelli, to run the behavioral health division. Mr. Walker truly does not believe in mental health service delivery; and he found a willing accomplice in Mr. Chianelli. The end result of this is the disgusting mess that exists today at the hospital. Kudos you two! What a couple of nimrod morons. The only thing you should be running for is the outskirts of town, on two big rails. You should voluntarily remove yourselves, you're an embarassment to yourselves. And you're too STUPID to grasp it.

Mr. Walker is currently running for election as the Governor of the State of Wisconsin. He is crying wolf and asking his opponents not to turn the sexual assaults "situations" into a political issue. Maybe if he had taken the appointment of the administrator at this hospital seriously, and avoided politics in the name of professionalism, we could believe him. It is politics baby, even for a numbskull like you who has no clue what real politics should be. DO NOT VOTE SCOTT WALKER INTO ANY POSITION OF POWER. We should commit him for 30 days to Milwaukee County Behavioral Health so he can see first-hand the result of his "political" appointment. Obviously the decision on the appointment of a mental health administrator took a bad turn and is reason to suspect Mr. Walker's mental status, or lack thereof (politics aside). As for Mr. Chianelli, he should just be sent to a fat farm to get rid of his extensive lard, most specifically the thick layer of fat encasing his brain and obviously leading to errors in judgment.

Let's get rid of both these clowns.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nina Gets Her Degree!

Tonight, my husband and I will attend a ceremony for my best friend, Nina, (an original Chicago bus riding B), who will graduate, with honors, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Nina is originally from Poland, is now a U.S. citizen and is receiving a degree in Slavic languages. She spent a few semesters studying in Russia. She speaks English and Polish fluently, and continues to study Russian. She's smart, serene and spiritual, and I'm thankful I know her.

Congratulations to Antonina (Nina) on this great accomplishment. I can't even think what it would take for me to move to a foreign country, learn the language, and then obtain a degree in that second language. Oh well, maybe I can ..... it would take a miracle in my case. I have watched Nina's academic progress since she started school and I applaud her. She's overcome a whole boat load of challenges and obstacles to be sitting where she'll be sitting this evening --- and I hope she feels as proud of herself as I feel pride in her accomplishments.

To all people who take on and exceed at seemingly impossible tasks --- You're Fabulous! To Nina, you GO GIRL! And to anyone who needs a Polish interpreter, just contact me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers Day.....And the Secret Life of Bloody Mary's

To all Mothers who celebrate this day with their children --- I bestow on you honor and blessings. Motherhood is a difficult undertaking, fraught with endless worry and sleepless nights mixed in with joyous highs and unfathomable moments of pride. The rewards of all of our labors are our children, who reach their potential because of and despite our best intentions. I salute you Mothers of the World.

And for all the mothers who have lost a child and suffer, daily, the agony of that loss, I remind you that we don't own the tiny creatures we've brought into the world.....and we should be on our knees, thankful, that we have known them at all, for however brief a moment. They are gifts. Rejoice in them. They can never be taken away, not even through death.

I lost my son in the most unimaginable way, his own suicide. Not a day passes that I don't think of him, and I ache to hear his voice and one of his incredibly funny jokes. The "what if's" used to plague me constantly. What if he had health insurance and could have continued his medication regime for depression? What if the Veteran's Hospital had had a bed open and he could have been admitted the day he was released from a psychiatric ward after his first suicide attempt? What if someone had been there to advocate for him because depressed people don't care enough to advocate for themselves? What if he had never joined the Army in the first place? What if I had provided a better future for him?

But what if I had never known him at all? What if I didn't have a beautifully kind daughter-in-law and two wonderful granddaughters because he made some remarkable choices in his life. He had gotten his pilot's license only two months before he killed himself. It seemed he was capable of going after his dreams, but just did not believe in himself enough to capture them.

Life beats us down. Love picks us up. Without the love of a great many people, I would not have survived my son's death. And so, on Mother's Day, I remind all of you that the greatest gift you can give is your unconditional love to your children. That, and that alone, is the most important thing they will ever receive from you.


My daughter buys me lunch and a couple of stiff Bloody Mary's. She hands me $100 bill, telling me it is from her and her brother. I hold back tears, something at which I've become so very adept. The missing my son part just never ever goes away. We head out to the casino floor. I donate $60 to the tribe and win $108, she wins $56. We leave after an hour. It is not a large sum of money I come home with, but it keeps Discover Card off my back for another thirty days. I am content. I want for nothing. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back. I cannot ask for more. And sometimes, a Bloody Mary can make our secret pain a little more tolerable, especially on the "what if" days. I'm thankful I can manage my pain without alcohol, though. I'm a terrible drinker, throwing up and passing out well before my bar tab could ever reach $30. I suffer terrible hangovers after three cocktails.....so I try never to drink more than a good glass of red wine. But we all have our moments....and for me, Mother's Day is one of them. Salud.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lighten Up --- Erlaichda!

Okay, way too rabid lately. Let's enjoy Erlaichda.* (Latin for Lighten Up). (*Erlaichda -- Tom Robbins - Jitterbug Perfurme).

Let's pick a subject that's just plain funny, like the size and cost of designer handbags. I confess a certain prediliction for looking at glossy pictures of celebrity actresses on-line. I love "People" and "E-OnLine". It's true, movie stars are America's royalty and we all like to peep into the lifestyles of the rich, pretentious and surgically engineered beautiful people.

So, I'm doing my morning perusal of the beautiful people, and I can't help but notice the size of their handbags. The sticks with silicone breasts known as starlets could easily fit themselves into one of these things and spend the night there. Maybe that's why they have them......Papparazzi --- quick ---- get into the purse and hide. Anyhow, they are somewhat comical. There is nothing sillier than a 98 pound actress (6 lbs. being hair) toting around a tent sized handbag half her weight.

I get the New York Times every Sunday and laugh my butt off at the ads for these things. Is there any reason in the world that someone needs a crocodile tent bag/purse three feet wide and two feet high for $4,500? Symptomatic of too much money concentrated in the hands of too few people, with too little self esteem to feel worthwhile unless they're holding onto something ridiculously overpriced. It's the "stuff" pitfall. If you have the right "stuff" at the right "price", i.e., cost equals feeding a family of four in an African nation for two years", then you are somehow "Okay". My wish for these people is that in the eternity they are designing for themselves after this life is over, they have to actually carry a live alligator and put all their stuff in it. Forever and ever. Let's see you fish out your $129 lipstick from that.

Guess what. You're not "okay". You're basically out of your mind. That doesn't mean designers won't stop designing them, merchandisers won't stop selling them, or the world's pretentious won't stop buying them. But that lady on the bus who called me and my friends "bitches" isn't the only one with a mental illness. There is a new form of mental illness I am going to call Status Illness. All rich people suffer this......Hurray! It's so fun to watch rich people suffer from something....anything! It's a pretty horrible illness, though. I mean, you only have it if you can feel superior to honest people who are happy to have a roof over their heads and food in their mouths. Aren't YOU special!

Alas, the current status illnesses don't have designer labels yet. Let's invent one. For all the people out there with $4,500 crocodile handbags, you're suffering from Humongo-baguglisima. This illness is characterized by the need to carry something completely out of proportion and unnecessarily ugly that comes with an astronomical price tag Congratulations, you have arrived. You have a status illness and a fuckin' ugly purse.

I love shoes, too! I have lots of shoes. I wish I could still wear high heels, but years of wearing them have ruined my once very sexy and now very painful feet. Again, I refer to the New York Times and an ad for a designer shoe that costs over $1,000. What a croc --- no pun intended. The shoes are wonderful, but no shoe is worth $1,000. Period. For all people who spend outrageous amounts of money on a pair of shoes, I dub the following Status Illness yours and yours alone "Stiltochooloublanitis". Ouch. It even sounds painful.....and trust me, it will be. I yearn for the days of P.F. Flyers, in three colors. I fondly possess six pairs of Birkenstocks and wear them proudly and comfortably. I will never suffer from Stiltochooloublanitis. I am special! And you, with your 500 pairs of $500 shoes, may you come back according to the laws of Reincarnation as an ugly, hairy, spotted centipede with good reason to have so many shoes!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The United States of America, Inc.

I just returned from the mall. I went there with my husband to buy a couple of books; one of the only worthy items for purchase that I can justify, since I recently retired from my job and have cut my income by two-thirds. Oh well. Money isn't everything. Wait.....did I just say that? This is, after all, America, the most consumer driven society of them all. If you don't have money, you're basically trash. I am trash, I guess. Fortunately, my husband has some money, so he sees me though. I've also shed my taste for designer handbags and ridiculously over-price lipstick.

I recently watched a movie, Food, Inc., which is remarkable and thought-provoking. My wish is that all Americans would watch this movie and learn it's lessons. It is a classic example of multi-national corporation's classic disregard for the American consumer. From the young boy, dead, because of food poisoning to the conditions that exist in the processing of America's food, this is a recitation of facts all Americans should be aware of. Alas, Americans aren't interested in facts, especially if those facts interfere with the great American Delusion of bigger, better, cheaper. But.....I'm getting ahead of myself.

My husband and I have eaten organic foods, almost exclusively, for the past ten years. Part of the reason for this is that I developed an autoimmune disorder which is aggravated by food chemicals and additives. Eating organic has minimized my symptoms and improved my health considerably. There are other reasons we chose to do this, not the least of which was the ethical treatment of animals. Yes, I'm an organic foodie, but I still love my meat. Especially my steak. After watching Food, Inc., I realized that I am on the right path, because the steak I eat is not, at some point, standing belly deep in it's own feces on it's way to the slaughterhouse. E-Coli, anyone? Neither is my steak raised on corn byproducts (something cattle were never naturally supposed to eat), but rather, it is fed on grass, which is it's natural food source.

There are five major food processing companies in the United States of America, Inc., and these corporations provide the majority of meat, vegetables, fruit and corn/wheat products. These companies have a callous disregard for the American consumer. That is nothing particularly new, corporate America, under the pretense of bigger, better, cheaper, has always had a cavalier attitude toward the American consumer. I ask all Americans to look at that attitude a little closer when making choices for their families. Without repeating verbatim every piece of information provided in the movie, let me just leave you with a few items that starkly stand out. The five corporations have hired illegal immigrants to work in their processing plants and slaughterhouse operations. When the same illegal immigrants complained about the working conditions (think Upton Sinclair's "Urban Jungle") the same corporations called Immigration authorities to have the workers arrested. Question: Why weren't the companies fined/arrested/brought up on charges for hiring the illegal immigrants? The United States Senate, House of Representatives and Executive Office are all fine (sometimes) and honorable (once in awhile) institutions, but the people really running this country is Corporate America.... and they don't give a rat's a-hole for you or your health. And believe me, they have plenty of rat's a-holes in their operations.

Food, Inc. See it. Believe it. Stop living it.

I haven't bought an American car in thirty years. There's a simple reason for this. American cars are junk. From the exploding Ford Pinto of the 70's to the bailout of Detroit in 2009, American car makers have failed to manufacture a car that will stand up to accidents, economics, or the test of time. From my bank account to my personal safety, GM and Ford have trampled all over the American consumer. My first Toyota (and yes, I'm aware of Toyota's current recalls and issues), ran for 250,000+ miles. I paid $5,000 for it, used, with 25,000 miles on it. I had it for ten years. I gave it away, and my brother-in-law drove it for another two years. I make this point, because I challenge anyone to tell me a story like that about their Buick LeSabre. American car manufacturers put out a piece of crap, charge $25,000 for it, and expect the consumer, in five years, to come in and buy another one because the first piece of crud no longer runs after 100,000 miles. In five years, your car will be junk and the junk will be paid off. Get the picture?

Now I don't know about you, but I don't understand how buying "American", i.e., paying a large amount of cash for a pile of crap and bolts, is the "patriotic" thing to do. Do you really care more about your patriotism than you do about your family's safety or economic health? Americans buy, hook, line and sinker, into the United States of America, Inc.'s soundbite, which basically sings out that to buy a foreign car is somehow unpatriotic. Nonsense! To put your family in jeopardy so a bunch of fat Grosse Pointe executives can live the high life while you never get out of the mountain of debt most of you are in, that's just good capitalism for them, and a really bad deal for you. Get real. Educate yourself. Buy foreign cars until American car manufacturers can rise to the task of producing a decent automobile that will stand the test of time. They can do it, but you haven't really given them any reason to, because you keep buying the rolling disasters they market, under the pretense of being "good" Americans. Being a good American means you're being a really stupid consumer, in this instance. Start making decisions not based on Madison Avenue advertising sound bites, but based on the state of your situation.

There's something wrong with America, folks. It's corporatized. The bigger the corporations, the more dictatorial things will be, the less choice you will have and the less voice you will have. Object now before your objections just don't matter anymore and you lose your voice altogether.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Introducing the Bitches on a Bus

My friends and I were rolling down Chicago streets, from Lincoln Park to the South Loop on a transit bus. Naturally, as women are prone to do when more than one assembles, we were discussing all things important to us, from the significance of having a black president to the best kind of moisturizer to use for dry, white skin. No topic is too much or too little for us, and basically, nothing is sacred. We are all reasonably bright, well-read, and successful people with good senses of humor and a variety of passions. So, when another passenger boarded and took the seat next to us, we noticed things like her beauty, her clothes, her handbag, her jewelry, her processed hair, and finally, the fact that she appeared to be suffering from a major mental illness.

After a few hostile glances in our direction, the woman had a long conversation with either herself or someone only she could see, then declared us "white bitches on a bus". Usually, one of us would have something to say about that, but we're all in possession of good manners and strong survival instincts, so we kept our mouths shut. I'm sure we were all silently praying she was unarmed, and we were all quite relieved when she got off.

So.... the first subject the Bitches on a Bus will tackle is the fact that there is an absolute failure of mental health service delivery to people in this country who are sorely in need of medication, therapy and/or committment to a locked facility. The United States of America is full of sick people. Probably one in one thousand mental illness sufferers is being treated properly. Mental illness is not even considered a "real" condition in terms of health insurance criteria and their "covered benefits". You can have your appendix removed in a hospital, but your schizophenia is probably your fault, and therefore, basically, untreatable, or at least, uncovered after a few days. You wonder why you see so many people out walking the streets or riding buses acting crazy? Our society treats mental illness as a stigma, a badge of dishonor, a lack of character and moral fiber. Why? Why are Americans so afraid of mental illness? Why is there such disparity between diabetes and bi-polar depression?

In the city where I live, the local public mental health hospital is under investigation for repeated sexual assaults of patients by other patients. One of the assaults resulted in a pregnancy. The administrator of this facility refuses to comment on the situation and is engaged, I believe, in a cover-up that goes right to the top of local government. Legal ramifications aside, the lack of acknowledgement of a problem in the facility by it's top administrator is a symptom of this country's failure to identify, treat and protect the most vulnerable members of our society. The road to recovery for the mentally ill is full of sink holes and speed bumps. I am appalled at what is happening in this facility and in this country. Where was the hospital staff when these sexual assaults occurred? Was their a union meeting on pay raises that day? Perhaps fresh Krispy Kremes at the nurse's station? Ask the questions, people. Demand accountability.