Category Archives: death

It’s True: I Read Playboy for the Articles

imagesHugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, died at age 91 on Sept. 27. Loved, reviled, admired, despised, seen as an icon of sexual liberation and a pornography promoter, few people stood in middle ground when discussing him, his empire and his life.

My dad was one of those millions who bought Playboy for something other than the words, and then hid the magazine, figuring the kids would never find it.

He was wrong. And not very good about his hiding places. I found his stash and actually did read them. The naked ladies didn’t mean much. I did not, and do not, look like them, and never associated with anyone who did. I don’t recall feeling personally slighted by the photos. I just never made any real connection to them.

What mattered were the words: the poetry, fiction, short stories and essays by the influential and still unknown. Renown writers I later studied in high school wrote for the magazine: Joseph Heller, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson and Gabriel Garcia Marquez contributed to Playboy. Women’s writing appeared as well: Ursula Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates and Germaine Greer. And there was The Interview, where the famous, the illustrious and the controversial agreed to a let-it-all-hang-out-sit-down: Jimmy Carter, Donald Trump, Miles Davis, Bette Davis, Stanley Kubrick, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Siskel and Ebert…the Interviews comprise a time capsule of  history as no other print publication ever captured.

If I write well today, it’s because I was influenced by those early readings, and I am grateful for them. I don’t know how the history of the sexual revolution will handle Hugh Hefner, whether he will be embraced or excluded, but this is one writer happy to acknowledge his daring, at least as far as the written word is concerned.

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Filed under Careers, Current news, death, freelancing

A nation at half-staff

flag

Once again, our nation is in mourning.

We hardly had time to digest the idea of dozens killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting, and now this. Five dead in Dallas. Police officers all, but human beings with spouses, friends, children and lives. Killed by snipers who did not know them and did not care who they were outside those uniforms. To their killers, they were nothing more than symbols and targets; representative of an idea so hated and reviled that to end their lives was worth the snipers possibly losing theirs.

Are you asking yourself where we went wrong as a society at this point? Or just moving on from the headlines and twenty-four hour news cycle, certain that something else will supplant this story, as it always does?

The uniformed professions – police, fire and paramedic – are not only noble and proud, they are necessary. Who are you going to call to save your burning house, catch the thief who stole your car or aid a loved one in a car accident if not any of them? Are you going to learn all those skills, and practice them enough to not only become good at them, but conquer your fear of walking into a burning building, chasing an armed suspect or crawling under a gasoline-drenched wreck?

I get that people are angry, frustrated and looking for justice after a number of recent police-involved shootings and deaths of unarmed civilians. Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, Corey Jones, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner are some of the more famous names. In 2015, over 100 blacks were killed in police incidents. That’s 100 too many if none were justified use of force. If 100 whites were killed the same way, the outrage would bring more than just protests. It would change laws.

But trying to even the score by dealing death from tall buildings and dark corners does nothing to change history. It only perpetuates the us-versus-them acrimony over a gulf so wide that soon, no bridge can ever be built to bring both sides together. Change has to start now and with the youngest and most impressionable: the children. You can teach trust as easily as mistrust. Outreach has to come from both sides: police officers have to make the split-second decision to defend themselves and others, but also have to see their role inside the community as one of peace and leadership, not just continually on the defensive role.

There will be another Dallas; there’s no question that crazy attracts more crazy and they try to outdo each other. But there is something more ominous in this kind of crazy: the fact that people feel left out, angry and unwilling to wait for solutions. And with that disenfranchisement, you often find those willing to deal in desperate measures.

 

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Filed under Current news, death, Murder, Police brutality, Police shootings, thought

Using the pen to beat back the sword

Last week, the terrorists tried again. They tried to silence the voices they did not understand, did not agree with and therefore insisted were wrong and dangerous.

Last week’s attacks against Charlie Hebdo in Paris, resulting in the deaths of more than a dozen journalists, police officers and civilians, hurts anyone and everyone who has ever picked up a pen, a camera or put fingers to keyboard in an attempt to express any opinion.

Last week’s show of unity and strength among readers, writers, publishers and everyday people around the world who never read the targeted satirical publication was a message beyond “Je suis Charlie” and “Not Afraid.” It means we can and will read what we want, when we want and make fun of you while we do it. Everyone is fair game, anyone is a target when it comes to satire. We talk a big game when it comes to political correctness, and while we seem to be easily insulted by the smallest racial, ethnic or disability slight, we also get a real howl out of the humor that forms as a result of dark tragedy and suffering. There’s no sense to what’s funny, sometimes.

And there’s no making sense of what happened last week in Paris, just as there is no sense in the loss of 1,084 journalists killed in the line of duty since 1995. There’s no making sense of the fact that number represents one-fifth of my town’s entire population. Those were loved and respected people, with families, friends, interests, hobbies and lives outside the newsroom and beyond the sound bite. Just like there is no sense in dishonoring them, and their Parisian colleagues, by failing to stand up to the savagery disguised as religion but in reality a just-out-of-reach execution squad, capable of inflicting death at will, eluding capture and either unable or unwilling to consider that any way of thinking other than their own could possibly be legitimate.

Support the staff at Charlie Hebdo. Buy the publication, if you can find one of the three million copies slated to come out in this week’s run. Buy it even if you cannot read French, Italian or Turkish, the languages of the print edition. Or take a look at the digital version, which will also be available in English, Spanish and Arabic. And remember that you get to read this, and we get to write this, on this platform, without fear of reprisal. For many journalists, the right to speak their minds even one time is one time too many to ensure their survival.

An opinion well-expressed is never expressed in vain.

An opinion well-expressed is never expressed in vain.

 

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Filed under death, Murder, Violence

Leaving life in style and five-inch heels

Cousin could wear them, walk in them and make it look she was born in them. Wikimedia Commons.

I went to a cousin’s funeral yesterday. Hard to believe, even after nearly ninety years of a life well and usefully lived, she’s gone.

Cousin was just beautiful: tall, red-haired, impeccably dressed and coiffed at all times. She was in the workforce over sixty years, full-time and by choice. She raised two sons, lived in several fine homes, stayed married for fifty years and drove mostly big, showy American cars (one of her earliest was a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air). She was a rebel from her youth, leaving home at sixteen to work thousands of miles away because she needed an adventure. She fell in love with the airline industry in the 1940s after a twenty-six hour, nineteen-stop flight from Tuscon to New York. Hey, that was a “direct” flight in those days.

She worked for the airlines for almost forty years, retiring just ten years before she passed away. She loved her work and her coworkers, never forgetting a birthday, always remembering to treat them as special and worthy of attention. She was not fond of retirement, saying that work gave her a purpose and made her a contributor to society.

She had a repertoire of one-liner jokes, and her bluntness could invoke a blush from anyone who heard her opinions. She was not the type who called attention to herself; attention always managed to find her first. She loved old films; On the Waterfront was her all-time favorite. She was never the classic mother and wife; she loved working first and foremost. But she was there for her sons when it mattered, and they lacked for nothing when it came to parental love.

She was laid to rest in a designer suit and five-inch stilettos. A former foot and leg model, she made walking in those shoes look easy, right into her eighties. She was stylish to the end.

 

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Filed under death, family, travel

I Should Not Be Here Today

Smashed car

Crunched and smashed…or how I should have ended up yesterday. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

I nearly died yesterday. Or so it looked from my rear view mirror.

I was stopped at a red light, and I happened to look up. I saw the end coming in the form of a speeding pickup truck. The driver was not looking forward, possibly due to his attention being focused on a cellphone conversation, text or some other distraction. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do except brace for impact.

The impact did not happen. The truck swerved to my right, tires screaming, and went through the red light, missing the traffic that had the green light, and he just kept going. Until the gray sedan by the side of the road flipped on his lights and siren and went after him. Who says there’s never a cop when you need one?

So why me? People die on the highway, killed by distracted drivers, drunk drivers, ignorant drivers or their own foolishness many times a day. I guess I’ve got some unfinished business somewhere, or something I must accomplish. There’s no reason for that driver to have missed me.

I should not be here today. And since I am, I have to say that it’s literally a beautiful day in every neighborhood.

 

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Filed under automobiles, death, thought

Feel Better; Offend A Happy Person*

44/365 Today I shall be mostly in the fetal po...

44/365 Today I shall be mostly in the fetal position (Photo credit: smileham)

*I’M KIDDING ABOUT THE HEADLINE. HONESTLY, I AM.

It’s just that kind of day. Down, blue, out of sorts and expensive (a trip to the dentist and a new set of tires). The dentist was planned; the tires were planned for early next year. But sometimes, a nail in the sidewall, plus more than 40,000 miles, just won’t wait.

And it’s the time of year. I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing, and it’s the holidays. I’m fine most days, and other days, I do a very good job that would merit an Oscar for Best Performance by a Lying, Crying, Barely Surviving Individual.

On the bad days, I’m not fond of happy people. I ran into one this morning. Unfortunately, it was my dental hygienist, which meant I was a captive audience. She was so cheerful this morning, I thought she had coffee with a side order of laughing gas for breakfast. Truthfully, she’s a lovely person. Working wife and mother with successful husband and good kids and she does a heckuva job on my teeth. She deserves the money the dentist probably gets, when he spends all of two minutes chairside  to her forty-five minutes. But this morning, I just wanted to snarl or remain silent. No amount of caffeine would have helped me. Even a good dose of chocolate would have been wasted on me.

I got through the appointment without clubbing anyone in the office, and today I’d still be a malcontent if the phone does not ring, if no emails arrive and people just stay away. I’m sorry, Humanity. It’s not your fault. Some days are meant to be lived fully and joyfully. Some days are meant to be lived curled in the fetal position under the blankie. I’m learning it’s OK to have both kinds of days, and experiences all along the spectrum. Overall, it’s still good to be here.

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Filed under death, Holiday, mental health, thought

A Friend Recommends: A Day Off To Be Sad

December Beach

December Beach (Photo credit: DeusXFlorida)

A close friend asked me how I was doing with all the recent stress and insanity.

I had to take a deep breath and think of a reply that wouldn’t lead him to concern or outright panic.

“I’m doing OK, kinda, sorta, maybe,” I said. “I can manage everything, provided I don’t take time to think too much, or nothing goes wrong in any given day, and nothing breaks or needs attention that I didn’t plan on…”

Our eyes meet as my voice trails off. He knows why. It’s guilt, a lack of time and too much to do to take time to do “nothing.”

“Have you started grieving yet?”

I have, but it’s also been in a “sort-of, kinda” way. I start and stop. I go forward with it, then draw back, because there is a job to go to, writing to get done, meals to make, housework. I don’t know how much space to leave for grief and sadness, and how to get it done. My friend and I  are get-it-done, in-charge types who are used to managing things in a nice, linear sort of way. When life throws a stinkbomb into the works, we’ll do anything we can to fashion some kind of workaround, while we take care of others around us.

But sometimes, there are no means to go up, under or over the roadblocks. You have to plant yourself in a chair and let the moment absorb you, rather than the other way around. My friend recommended I take a day just to be sad. Go to the beach, he said. Sit and look at the ocean. Cry and remember the good and bad times. Just let it all go. You’ll never really be ready to move on to the next place if you don’t leave this one.

He’s right, and the day is scheduled. It’ s odd to take out the calendar and mark off “SAD DAY” for Saturday.Nov. 10. It’s just the next day I happen to have open and available (don’t laugh; I had to make a doctor’s appointment for December, and I had only one morning available for it). I’ll find a stretch of deserted beach, and take a chair, a cooler and my thoughts. Oh, and a notepad, of course.

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Filed under death, inspirations, mental health, Relationships, thought