Sunday, August 13, 2017

SCRUFFIES...

Having lived my first five decades on the male side of Gender Street, I am naturally familiar with the ever-ongoing masculine imperative to be obsessed with all manner of “guy” things: Cars, sports equipment, firearms, motorcycles, snakes, knives, cherry bombs, dirt, profanity, fake rubber vomit, enormous dogs, itching powder and so forth. It’s all perfectly natural, and to be expected; as the old rhyme goes: “Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.”

But perhaps the most guy-ish, testosterone-y thing of all is... wait for it... drum roll... FACIAL HAIR. Beards, mustaches, sideburns, muttonchops, handlebars, the nubs; by whatever name, they are all variations on a hirsute theme that’s as old (maybe even older) than homo sapiens itself. Have you ever seen a depiction of a clean-shaven Neanderthal? I haven’t.

Now, back in my guy days, I too harbored a powerful longing to obscure my distressingly smooth features with coarse black hair... although, in my case, the coarse black hair never really materialized, or even got much past the silky fuzz stage. Possibly my body was trying to inform me that I was really a girl and that I should abandon such a futile endeavor, but in any event, my efforts were... well, somewhere between pathetic and dismal. Being a bullheaded sort of fool, however, I did  finally manage to grow a meager mustache –it took me three years– that would have made Fu Manchu die of embarrassment, which I mistakenly believed made me look more manly. (To this day, I cannot look at old pictures of Mustachioed Me without wanting to hide in a cave somewhere.) In the end, I shaved it off the same day I quit wearing a filthy disgusting baseball cap and initiated my gender transition. The ‘stache has been gone for going on two decades now (hallelujah) and will never come back, thanks to five years of incredibly painful, incredibly expensive, and incredibly worth-it electrolysis... yay!

Where am I going with this? Well, I’ll tell you. One of my current pet peeves/rants/diatribes has to do with the fact that nowadays so many men of all ages run around sporting the wildly-popular, damn-near ubiquitous Unshaven Look... what I refer to as The Scruffies. As you may have guessed, I am NOT a fan of this trend; to me, it makes guys look unkempt, shabby, lazy, smelly (even if they aren’t), unsavory, and generally primitive. Plus, looking at these horrible facial umbras always makes me itch. What on earth possesses guys to do this?? I simply can’t see the attraction; although, full disclosure, my beloved Significant Other assures me that LOTS of women not only don’t mind, but actually LIKE fields of bristles on their men’s cheeks. Well, possibly so... but if you ask me, they need to have their heads examined.

When did this Scruffy phenomenon start? Where did it originate? Well, here’s my theory: Those of us getting on in years surely remember the 1980’s television series Miami Vice, with its pastel colors, cigarette boats, non-stop gunfire, and criminal druggies being dispatched by Detectives Tubbs and Crockett... the latter played by perpetually unshaven Don Johnson, who, I firmly believe, established for all time the archetype of the Scruffy Sexy Hero. Thanks a lot, Don... I loved your show, but why-oh-why couldn’t you find a damn razor??

Of course, many –in fact, probably most of today’s young Scruffies never even heard of Don Johnson or Miami Vice... and yet, here they are by the millions, polluting the landscape with unshorn facial follicles by the trillions, and it just drives me nuts.

As it happens, I am greatly blessed to have two magnificent young gentlemen in my life. One is a nephew, brilliant beyond words, thoughtful, kind, with a heart bigger than the planet Jupiter. The other is my soon-to-be stepson, a genial six-foot-five ripped Adonis who is so blindingly gorgeous that he blots out the sun... I kid you not. Do I even have to bother telling you that BOTH of these incredible male specimens are card-carrying Scruffies? With heavy facial growth?? Whenever either of them comes for a visit, I cringe inwardly, hoping against hope that they will have picked up a Bic or a Norelco or a machete and MOWED THE LAWN... For the love of God, Montressor!

Needless to say, my wishes go unfulfilled, and I end up being heartily kissed by what feels like a wire barbecue brush. Naturally, with typical male good humor, both my beautiful boys find Lannie’s "Scruffy" issues quite hilarious. They chortle, tell me how much they love me, kiss me again (ouch!) and promise to shave the next time.

And, you know, bless their hearts, once in a blue moon they actually do... but not nearly often enough. And it grows back overnight! Hopeless...

Envisioning a clean-shaven world,
Until next time,
Lannie Woulff

Sunday, July 16, 2017

SCAM DOGS...

Another fine Sunday morn here in blistering hot Palm Springs... perfect time for another unhinged rant, so let’s have at it, shall we?

I am not a dog person. From earliest onset of awareness, I have been a cat fanatic. (Actually, thanks to gender transition, I can now proudly claim to be a Crazy Old Cat Lady, which pleases me to no end.) Now, I don’t mean to re-ignite the eternal Cat vs. Dog debate (the conclusion is obvious, anyway) and I hasten to point out that I am, and always have been, an all-around animal lover. In my view, ALL the beasties are fabulous creatures and more-or-less preferable to homo sapiens: Aardvarks, kinkajous, macaques, lemurs, iguanas, flying squirrels, cats, tigers, lions, leopards, panthers, black widow spiders (whose habit of devouring their male counterparts after mating is extremely cool), and yes, dogs too; especially wolves, who are indescribably magnificent.

But having said which, I repeat: NOT a dog person. To me, dogs’ servile adoration of humans, aside from being wholly unwarranted, isn’t an appealing character trait. Neither is their happy willingness to chase sticks, bite at tires, bark incessantly, and leave steaming piles anywhere, any time. I just don’t see the attraction, y’know? I mean, if your kid did these things, how long would you stick around??

But there is one dog-related issue that chaps my butt more than any other: the whole “service dog” thing.

Now mind you, there is no question that so-called “Service Dogs” do exist; absolutely they do, and what’s more, they are extraordinarily brave and devoted animals, deserving the highest admiration. My parents owned a retired service dog once, a Golden Retriever named Newman, and by gosh that pooch was a hell of a lot smarter than 98% of the people currently serving in Congress, to say nothing of more honest. Newman passed away years ago, and I honor his memory to this day.

But what drives me hopping mad is the way so many undeservedly-entitled dog-owners assign the respected “Service Dog” designation to any old undistinguished cur, just so they can take it places where ordinary dogs aren’t customarily allowed. Seriously, where do they get off?? Just because it’s easy to buy some cutesy red dog vest online that says “Service”, that doesn’t mean you can bring your hideous Patagonian Poop-Yap into a restaurant where I’m eating! Bloody outrageous, I say. Especially repugnant are these teacup-sized little horrors who are lovingly referred to as “Therapy Dogs”... gimme an effin’ break. Their owners need therapy, all right, LOTS of it, but they ain’t gettin’ it from some misbegotten mutt.

The worst part of all this is that by co-opting a title that rightfully belongs to the highly-trained GENUINE service dogs , these canine frauds diminish the respect level that the others have rightfully earned... and I think that’s just plain wrong.

Nonetheless, it bears pointing out that, as is always the case, the fault here lies entirely with the humans, not the animals. Whatever else they may be, like them or not, dogs –and all other animals­– are permanently, unassailably innocent.

Uh-oh, I better shut up now. My Therapy Cat, Xena, is fixing me with a baleful glare that says, “Dammit, are you scribbling away in that idiotic blog again??)

Until next time, take care, have a good’un.

Lannie Woulff

Friday, July 7, 2017

OF INDOLENCE...

It’s been six years since I posted an entry in this blog. Six years... wow! That may strike some as an astonishing display of idleness, but the fact is, it’s quite consistent with my lifelong habit of being spectacularly lazy. You see, I am inordinately fond of Doing Nothing, and in fact have perfected it into something of an art form. Whilst the rest of humanity ceaselessly scampers hither-and yon with almost frantic haste, I am perfectly content to sit on the sidelines, my mind in neutral, in a bemused state that, at full strength, leaves me only dimly aware that I’m alive.

Now, lest you think otherwise, this is not the same as meditating. From what I gather, meditation actually takes some effort; which, of course, is utterly incompatible with sure-nuff sloth. I mean, if emptying the brain requires any concentration at all, it’s far too much work for the likes of me. Not that sitting cross-legged for hours droning OMMMMMMMMMMMMMM isn’t an admirable way to kill time, but it’s still activity (sort of), and consequently far “outside my wheelhouse”, as the saying goes.

As you might suspect, some folks find my penchant for being lazy annoying, if not downright disreputable. This is especially true of my loved ones, who are mostly high-IQ go-getters with endless accomplishments and accolades to their credit. My late mother, a brilliant lady, never got anything less than an ‘A’ all the way from kindergarten through college –a feat which I easily managed not to replicate– and my lethargy drove her nuts. (Sorry about that, Ma.) The thing is, from the outset I found school to be a stupefying bore; pretty much the only thing I liked about it was the opportunity to sit for hours and daydream while the teacher babbled incessantly about things no reasonable person would want to know. I mean, who in their right mind gives a flying fick about the Gadsden Purchase??

Still, every rule has an exception, and on a few occasions I have “gotten it together”, as they say, and actually done stuff. When I was a lazybones thirteen-year-old boy I absolutely rocked my bar-mitzvah, blew the entire congregation away with my high-C soprano reading of the weekly Torah portion (the longest of the year, natch). I graduated from Princeton (God knows how), then in my early thirties I emerged from my comfortable torpor long enough to not only open a marine sporting goods boutique on the shores of the Red Sea, (which was madness) but to go bankrupt doing it (which was inevitable). There have been other minor eruptions of industry along the way, none of which had any real lasting impact.

But amazingly, and of most significance, I have written not one but two novels (pretty good ones, too) and am well into a third. How I’ve managed to do this is an absolute mystery to me, since writing is some of the hardest work imaginable. Still, incomprehensible or not, I must admit that it isn’t altogether unpleasant to be able to say “Hey, look what I did!” 

I’ll don't suppose I will ever understand the Type A workaholic busy-as-a-bee mindset, but so it goes. As far as I'm concerned, live and let live, and long may everyone prosper.

Good heavens... this post has gone on for far too long, and I’m much too lazy to write anything else... for now, at least. With luck, I'll be back before another six years has elapsed.

Bye-bye and be well,

Lannie Woulff

Monday, July 11, 2011

VULGARITY OF EXCESS: WEDDINGS...

Attention, all you (putatively) happy young couples out there who are in the process of arranging your nuptials: CAUTION! DO NOT READ. This blog post will undoubtedly rub you the wrong way, and far be it from me to tread on your bliss. May you be blessed and live happily ever after!  {Rice} {Cheers} {Tears} {Etcetera}

To continue: As humanity continues its downward spiral into madness, certain formerly agreeable rites and rituals have gradually evolved from sweetly sentimental heartfelt celebrations into massive vulgar orgies of conspicuous consumption that would beggar the spectacles once staged in Rome’s Circus Maximus. Baptisms, circumcisions, christenings, confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, quinceañeras; all of them have been whipped up into a loony meringue of excess, frequently leading to severe financial hangovers and years of indebtedness. Does it make sense? Of course not. (Any supposed religious overtones are steamrolled by the tsunami of expenditure; the Almighty cannot be invoked as a raison d’etre for this nuttiness.) So, what bizarre out-of-control engine is driving this crazy train?

Simple: I believe that the motivation behind such displays is nothing but plain old one-upsmanship, but taken to an extreme that is so far gone into the Twilight Zone that no one even realizes it anymore. Overindulgence has become the norm. By golly, if Larry down the street stages an absurd five-thousand-dollar extravaganza for his sweet sixteen princess, then Moe is damn well going to spend ten thousand bucks on his princess and make Larry look like a tightwad until Curly spends twenty thousand dollars to bury them both in humiliation and cause both their daughters to despise them for being such cheapskates. On and on it goes on, a never-ending carousel ride of rampant avarice, growing ever more outrageous, teaching the impressionable young greedsters to equate love with a willingness to abuse the plastic.

You know, I remember many, many years ago reading a story about some demented Miami businessman who rented the entire Orange Bowl for his son’s Bar Mitzvah. The Orange Bowl! I recall thinking at the time, “Whoa, that kid is seriously hosed.” Yeah, sure. More likely he’s a hedge fund billionaire battening on the corpse of our economy and perhaps renting Antigua for his kid’s Bar Mitzvah.

Now, for pure runaway, bloated, maniacally costly overkill, nothing comes close to the modern wedding. Have you watched some of those wedding shows on television? Setting aside the monetary devastation, the level of angst and hysteria is so stratospheric that it absolutely astonishes me that anyone emerges from the process with their sanity intact, let alone happy. Months and months before the ceremony, the bride is reduced to a shrieking basket case by endless anxieties about the dress, (“Twelve thousand bucks and I look like an effing COW!”) the reception, (“I don’t care if Uncle Mario is doing life in Pelican Bay, we have to invite him and his family!”) the color scheme, (“Goddamit, I want purple and mustard, okay, and that fag wedding coordinator can just bite me!”) the flowers, (“Cricket Feldman had six thousand camellias, and she’s a cheap slut!”) the music, (“I don’t want a bunch of old farts playing songs from a million years ago!”) the bridesmaids, (“Courtney and Sarah are such bitches, I hate them!”) and of course, the mothers. (“Can both of you just please shut up before I lose my mind?!”)

The groom, naturally, is almost entirely excluded from these proceedings, since he is irrelevant. Every once in a while he’s collared and dragged into the mosh pit to be “consulted” about something or other, whereupon he offers a doomed grin like that of the male black widow spider, who knows full well what’s in store.

The crowning –and pitiful– irony of this lunacy is that a huge percentage of these marriages implode rather quickly, because wasted money is no guarantor of happiness, and in fact may even kill it. Sometimes it seems that the more outlandishly-priced the affair, the quicker it ends in ruin. The bride shows up in a flower-bedecked carriage drawn by twelve white stallions, the groom helicopters down in a Sikorsky, the guests slug down Piper-Heidsieck by the gallon and devour enough Beluga caviar to sink a barge, and five weeks later the joyful couple separates, citing “irreconcilable differences”.

The Beatles (anyone remember them?) had it right: “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Perhaps the song should be played at every one of these atrocities, until folks begin to remember why they get married in the first place. Hint, sweethearts, from your old Aunt Lannie: It isn't the par-tay.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CONFESSIONS OF AN EX-POLITICAL JUNKIE...

As we enter the opening phases of another interminable election cycle, I find myself curiously –and refreshingly– detached from the impending chaos and lunacy. For the first time in my adult [caution: suspect adjective use] life, I am not fastened like a squid’s sucker to every single political column, article, forecast, diatribe, prognostication and poll (straw or otherwise) that I can find. To my surprise, a great sense of peace arises in my breast from not caring in the slightest which one of the Keystone Kandidates made a better impression on last Sunday’s assemblage of gun-waving yahoos at the annual mudsucker fry over in the key bellwether hamlet of Throwback Notch.

Still, this serenity of mine is a trifle worrisome. I mean, what’s happening to me? Have I started my final descent into that rheumy-eyed Happy Realm where all I care about is another bowl of applesauce and a new hearing aid?? Consternation! I mean, everyone knows that it’s vitally important to remain completely plugged in all the time to everything that’s happening everywhere... isn’t it? After all, one way another, these pols are going to be running the country –and by extension, our lives– for the foreseeable future, and if that isn’t a reason for panic, nothing is. How can I not be obsessed?

Well, I may have a hunch. Over the past several years, I have come to suspect that all of this manic election hoopla really doesn’t amount to much. Sure, it’s the most wastefully expensive yell-fest in human history, but so what? In my jaded view, our “political system” is so hopelessly bollixed up that the whole nominating process resembles some sort of through-the-looking-glass freak circus, and following every bump, grind, waffle and self-implosion isn’t nearly as entertaining as watching desperate contestants get catapulted into vats of syrupy goo on Wipe Out. I don’t know how many years I have left on this earth, but surely I can find something better to do with my time than worry about whether Mr. Flip-Flop, Lady Screech, or the Bug-eyed True Believer is ahead in the latest meaningless newspaper sampling.

And anyway, what I think is of no significance whatsoever. Nothing I do will affect the ultimate outcome. Admittedly I never miss a chance to vote (it’s my Good Citizen gene) but that doesn’t mean I’m kidding myself. After more than six decades, I have come to realize that nine times out of ten the majority will elect the Most Unqualified Idiot, so why work myself into an anguished lather? “BUT (S)HE WILL APPOINT A RIGHT/LEFT-WING MANIAC TO THE SUPREME COURT”, I hear you scream. Yeah, maybe so. And? It’s happened before, and we’re all still here. As my daughter has observed on occasion: “Just chill.”

In any case, there is one tremendous additional benefit to be had by ignoring the political silly season: not having to listen to television pundits. To my way of thinking, few things –with the possible exceptions of junk hamburgers and insurance company executives– have done more to debase the quality of life in America than television pundits. I know, I know, the Almighty created all living things, including parasites, and I humbly accept that She had Her reasons; but seriously, even for a lower life form, the television pundit is so utterly lacking in worth that it truly boggles the mind.  

When my mind is boggled, it compensates in peculiar ways. Herewith an example:

The Pompous Political Pundit Show

Another dull Sunday... rainy and cold,
sitting around and beginning to mold.
Turn on the boob tube, hey, whattaya know?
It's the Pompous Political Pundit Show!

These pundits are usually good for some laughs:
the ill-informed statements, the blunders, the gaffes,
delivered with such a self-worshipping glow
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

One is a geek, and the other's a blonde;
smugly convinced that they've got us all conned.
Never make sense but they spin and they snow
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Eager by turns to go out on a limb,
making predictions that simply sound dim.
Somehow I doubt that they'll ever eat crow
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Hurling such rot from the left and the right,
ego-crazed bullies who just want to fight.
Being a jackass will get you a go
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Yelled interruptions too garbled to follow,
twisted statistics a dolt wouldn't swallow,
shouting out facts that you know aren't so,
on the Pompous Political Pundit Show.

Clearly they don't believe viewers can think.
That's why they waste so much airtime (and ink).
I'm feeling ill. For the Maalox I go,
from the Pompous Political Pundit Show.



Enjoy the show... or not. I’ve got a good book to write.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

THE GIZMOPHOBE...

You may have noticed that my blog (R4) is atypically uncluttered with pictures, icons, URLs, Google ads, Twitter come-ons, YouTube links, dancing rainbow Tasmanian Devils or any of the billion other little cyber-thingies that populate the blog world. Perhaps you suppose that this is due to a disturbing fondness on my part for expanses of abstractly-splotched pink watercolor background, but that’s not it.

No, the reason that stuff isn’t there is because... well, because I am a true gizmophobe.

gizmo·phobia (\'giz-mō-'fō-bē-ə) n.  Fear of or aversion to technology, especially computers and high technology. (See also: Luddite, Neanderthal.)

See, I have a serious fear of all things techie, geeky, nerdy, HTML-y, and so forth. (I suspect this came about because when I was still young and innocent my über-geek brother tried to ram DOS into my brain, leaving me cruelly traumatized and determined to forever avoid anything with a plug.) I don’t like cell phones (just looking at a Droid stresses me out), MP3 players strike me as alien and sinister, and I always offer prayerful thanks when the printer actually prints instead of exploding. (As for changing the ink cartridge... can I have a Xanax?)

In light of this, it should come as no surprise when I confess that as I was setting up my fabulous blog, the actual process of assembling the components filled me with dread. I was confronted with an array of mysterious items: “templates”, “layout width”, “hover color”, and the like. Then, after an hour of tentative key taps to see what might (or might not) happen, I came across an elongated outline that proclaimed, in words striking terror to my very core: “INSERT GADGET HERE”.  

Horrors!

Now, admittedly I’m a bit of a prude, but the thought of inserting gadgets anywhere is waay outside my comfort zone. What kind of gadget?? I didn’t want any stupid gadgets. I just wanted to write posts and have fun and try to be amusing and not be harassed and LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY WITH THE GODDAM GADGETS!!

Then, when I finally thought I’d gotten everything sorted out, I clicked on something called “Preview” to check it all out, and up popped one of those hideous messages that make 21st century life such a non-stop joy:


“Internet Explorer cannot display the page because scrammis bollafip can’t virp splignit when you ick the screeble. Press ‘retry’ to retry, or ‘cancel’ to waste the entire past three hours because you are a lame loser from the previous century who would be more at home attending a husking bee than trying to use a computer. Error message: ICUR12BAtwit.”

Sigh...

I think I’ll go have some prune juice and practice using the can opener.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff

Sunday, July 3, 2011

OF LOQUACITY...

“Moderation ought never be taken to extremes." – Anonymous

Well, okay. Anonymous didn’t say that. I did, during a recent doomed effort to transform myself into an aphorist along the lines of Messrs. La Rochefoucauld, Lichtenberg, and Wilde. I have always relished the keen or catty bon mot, and so I set out to become a master of the Pithy Truism.

All very well, but I ran into a headwind straight away. These sorts of wise quips and witticisms all have one thing in common: they are succinct. As anyone who knows me will readily confirm, succinctness is not my forte. I have something of a tendency toward volubility; as my spouse is wont to observe, I can “download” until people want to cover their ears and scream. (Just to give you some idea, I could hold forth at great length on the subject of brevity.) True story: When my daughter was about three years old, she made the mistake of asking me an innocent question, whereupon I launched into an encyclopedic discourse about lord knows what. She scrunched up her beautiful little face, rolled her eyes and pleaded, “DAD! Don’t say more words.” I was so stunned and proud that I actually shut up, and that remains one of our most precious father-daughter memories to this day. Which, naturally, I recite in great detail at every opportunity, to her endless chagrin.

Of course, this prolixity shows up in my writing, too. The first draft of SHE’S MY DAD emerged from my fevered mind at over 173 thousand words, from which I then cut almost 24 thousand. A lot of unnecessary long-windedness, to say the least. Determined to write more efficiently as I work on my new book, I sternly order myself to be concise and to the point, with no ruffles and flourishes. The result isn’t fewer ruffles and flourishes, but fewer words at all, since I’ve hamstrung myself from letting the prose flow naturally in a blathering torrent, which is the way I write. (Can you tell? Believe it or not, I heavily edited this entry.) That's what comes of trying to be brief, when one’s natural inclination is to be effusive.

The one area where I did have a bit of luck at keeping things short was in the realm of poetry, even though poetry is the art of saying much in few words, whereas my art involves saying much, period. Nonetheless, I did manage to compose a few reasonably compressed poems, which folks seemed to find engaging rather than embarrassing. (Whew!) Here’s an example of my attempt at poetic concision:


Calming Waters

When the common uncommonly riles
and constant strain of constant pain
pops rivets from sanity's support beams,
I yearn for refuge and renewal
someplace on a solitary seacoast.

Where salty waves mesmerize
with metronomic eternity,
isolated with my transience
I seek to rediscover the serenity
of relative insignificance.

Pretty succinct, right?

But, as is said of the dinosaur DNA in Jurassic Park, “Nature always finds a way.” Before long, this is what I produced:


The Porcine Pedant

It occasionally crosses my mind
-- as a termite will a hotplate--
while I wallow porcine, pompous,
pickling in the brine of my megamorphic rectitude,
that my wonderful existence as Emperor of the Over-Learned Bores,
attained after a lifelong struggle to absorb more useless mental chaff than
any mortal in history
to be spewed as water from a busted hydrant in blathering cascades without end,
may be placed in jeopardy by my own gluttonous disregard
for the mundane verity
that a subsistence upon swollen ego and
oleaginous orotundity and
animal grease
must inevitably result in ghastly bloat of form and deadly stress of ticker...

But then!

Secure in my conviction that the Almighty
daren't apply to my sociopathic rotundity
the laws of physics by which She governs the rest of the Universe,
I reach for yet another fistful of tallow
to pound into my over-clogged capillaries,
bravely marching in Strasbourg goose-step to martial strains
played by McDonald's Cholesterol Band
into a glorious future of back-pain and
wheezing for breath and
double airplane seats
to accommodate a posterior grown broader than a Simmental cow's,
over the cliff of myocardial infarction to that intellectually barren
Land of Rubber Tubes
which lies just short of the
Kingdom of Mental Parsnips
where nary an ignoramus can sight-translate
Trilobite me
from the original Aramaic
and enemas lurk behind green curtains
waiting to pounce with radiator flush
and Vaselined nozzles.

Alas for brevity!

Hmm... perhaps I should try my hand at writing a short story.

Until next we meet,
Be at peace.
Lannie Woulff