Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Three Cs.

The readers of this blog--all three of them--have each, individually, said my outlook on life is a tad on the down side.  They used the three Cs, and not the program ones about cause, cure and control. One called me crusty, the other crotchety, the third curmudgeonly--the perfect Rooneyesque trifacta. 

Personally, I feel that even if I am no Erma Bombeck full of love, cheer and rosy expectations, neither do I have both feet planted in the dark side. I am merely a bit... soured by recent events, admittedly mostly financial. I am resentful of the anonymous brokers/bankers who stole my retirement double-wide by placing my savings in crappy investment vehicles, and then told me they'd really done the best they could. I couldn't fail but notice my former money guy's Jaguar collection is still in his garage, and the sailboat he keeps in Siesta Key has a fresh jib and spinnaker.

This being said, I here and now promise to make an effort. I will not write about my cat, nor my cars, nor my collections of various and sundry artifacts illustrating a life. But I will attest to the fact that I treasure my friends; they bring me joy, succor, and strength. They make me laugh, challenge me when necessary and sometimes when it's not. Over the last few years I have winnowed away the people who take without giving, and now I am left with a stalwart platoon of men and women for whom I have the deepest love and admiration. 

I value my serenity which, though far from Zen-like, has given my life value and a certain amount of meaning. I can now tolerate reject slips from publishers who cannot dedicate 10 minutes to something that took me 10 years to create. Not that long ago, I would have agonized over their words and felt their lack of interest was in fact a damning denial of my talents. I don't do that anymore. And I don't panic, I plan. 

Increasingly, I've come to depend on the philosophies espoused by 12-step programs. Yes, I am powerless over a titanically large number of people, places and things. But I am not helpless, I have an endless choice of possible actions I can take in any given situation. The right choice is never assured, and in light of this I have realized the importance of taking responsibility for what I do. Or, as a friend once said, "If it rains I can take an umbrella, and if I poke some guy's eye out while opening it, that's my fault, not the rain's."  Not the strongest of analogy, but it makes the point.

I like the UFC. That's the Ultimate Fighting Championship, for those of you not in the loop. As a dedicated pacifist, I find I can channel a lot of my aggression into watching a couple of athletes beat the crap out of each other in a chain-link-fenced octagonal ring. As a former martial arts guy, I can appreciate some of the moves. As a man who dislikes pain, I can be thankful for the fact that it is not me in the ring. 

I've discovered I like to drink a mixture of one-third Lipton decaf ice tea and two-thirds Pellegrino. 

I've planted yellow peppers for someone who likes them and this had made me happy.

Here's installment 87 of Wasted Miracles. 

As on every other ship belonging to a major cruise line, women passengers--mostly single, widowed or divorced--outnumbered the males by an uncomfortable margin. To correct this disparity, the ship employed a dozen or so males--the Gray Panthers--ranging in age from their late 50s to early 70s. These men--always presentable, good manners, above average conversationalists capable of playing a decent hand of bridge and dancing the fox-trot, tango and rumba--traveled free of charge. They neither smoked nor drank overly much and were expected to devote their time to entertaining--quite properly, for the most part--clients of the opposite sex.  If a shipboard romance thrived, so be it. It was not the Captain’s duty to enforce morals among his passengers. It was, however, his responsibility to see that the Gray Panthers behaved in a fashion befitting his ship’s good name. Dealing cocaine, even in minute amounts, was an unforgivable offense.

“Castro saw Robinson do this?”

The mistress shook her head. “Not exactly. First he saw a passenger giving Professor Robinson some bills. He thought this was odd and a couple of days later witnessed the same thing again, this time with another passenger. And yesterday evening, three men asked him whether Robinson was around. The Professor apparently spends a lot of time in Castro’s bar. Later that night, one of the men had too much to drink and spilled a drink on himself. He emptied his pockets, dumped everything on the bar and Castro thought he saw a small plastic bag with some white powder in it. Obviously, it could have been anything but he said the man snatched it back and walked away--or staggered--very quickly.”

The Captain carefully replaced the cap on his Mont Blanc fountain pen, blotted the latest entry, closed the logbook and placed it on the shelf above his desk. “That’s all?”

His mistress nodded.

The Captain sighed. According to Interpol, virtually every cruise ship asail carried between 20 and 200 pounds of illegal drugs at any given moment. Even senior citizens were not above making a few thousand dollars by shepherding caches of drugs--usually not more than a pound or two--from one port to another. The smugglers were often  women in their 60s who had been on cruises at least once before. They were rarely caught.

The Captain sighed again, rubbed his forehead. “Have Professor Robinson’s cabin searched. If you find anything, have one of the men bring him to me.”


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