Tuesday, December 22, 2015



This all happened yesterday, in four different stores . . .

I was just leaving Cosco, walking slowly toward the backed-up line that exits the store. Suddenly someone came up from behind and slammed full speed into my cart. Without slowing down, the man veered off to one side. A quick glimpse . . . he was short and ugly.   

Dumbfounded, I suddenly found my voice. “What the hell are you doing?”

Without turning around, he shouted back, “You were going so slow!”

“You have no business smashing into other people’s carts!”

“You were nothing but a plug!”  

I stared after him as he disappeared deeper into the store. First time in years I’ve wanted to punch someone in the nose. 

The lady in front of me turned around, made a face, and sympathetically shook her head.  Like me, I suppose, she wondered at his sudden, unexpected display of violence.  It took awhile for the shock to wear off.   

My next stop was Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  As I stood at the counter to pay for three items, the sales lady asked if I had any 20% coupons.  “Oh darn,” I said, “they’re in the car. Maybe I should go get them.  Will one coupon do it?”

“No,” she said.  “One for each item.”  

Almost as if she were with me, the lady behind me spoke up. “How many coupons do you need?” 

I turned around, amazed.  It was a Steve Hartman moment; another beautiful person.

“How many do you need?” she asked again.

Feeling greedy I said, “Well . . .  actually, three.” 

“Here,” she said.  “Take these.” 

Once again I was staring, dumbfounded. “How nice,” I said. “How kind. Thank you.”   As she handed over the coupons, I said, “You won’t believe what happened at the last store.” While I finished paying, I told her the story.  “All this bad and good in one day.” 

She smiled.  “Then just remember the good.” 

Oh, I’d remember all right.

My next encounter was the check-out line at Trader Joe’s. Having just gathered my bagged-up groceries, I turned to go. Which was when the woman next in line said, “Here.  You forgot your purse.” 

“Oh . . . thanks.”  I wouldn’t have gotten far, but I appreciated her looking out for me.

At still a fourth place, Boston Market, where I tried to leave with both hands full, a man deliberately paused to hold open the door. As I always do, I gave him a genuine thanks.   

The tally was easy. One bastard. Three decent people—one of them exceptional. For me, that pretty much summed up the world . . . the good guys easily outnumbered the rotten apples three to one. And maybe even by a larger margin. Which I might have noted, except by then I had run out of stores.   



Sunday, December 6, 2015



It happened in the Oregon campus shooting. Two nearby spectators were armed. They knew full well what was going on. But they chose not to become part of the scene. “If we’d gone in and started shooting,” one of them said, “the police might have shot us.”

Think of it—during a mass shooting, every person using a gun becomes a target.

For starters, the real killers get the jump on everyone. Always.  If, as happens too often, the murderer comes in with an AK47, he has long seconds to spray the room before anyone else can respond. Unless people in the audience also have AK47s, or they’re sitting around with loaded guns on the table, they and their guns are useless. 

Additionally, by the time the cops get there, the “good guys with guns” can look exactly like the “bad guys with guns.”  How are police to know the difference?

Just ask your local policeman how well an armed populace works. Most will quickly respond, if asked, that more guns in more hands simply causes more problems.

This kind of multi-armed scenario didn’t work particularly well in the Wild West. It certainly won’t work in normal society. Yet sadly, our own decent citizens are becoming “radicalized.”  They think they can “fight back” if every one of them owns a weapon. They think a “gun free” area is an invitation to mayhem.

Well, remember the military psychiatrist on an army base who killed fifteen of his fellow soldiers? Tell us—was that a “gun free” zone?

Most of us are horrified at having no good answers for mass shootings.  Yet believe it or not, there IS an answer.  Multi-shot, repeater weapons in the hands of civilians should be outlawed, made illegal.  If you don’t believe this, tell us what they’re good for—what possible benefit they’ve ever provided . . . besides killing lots of people in just a few seconds.   

So it’s everyone’s choice: Any one of us can now choose to be the gun-ready mother in Target—the one whose three-year-old rummaged in her purse, found her loaded gun, and accidentally shot her.    

Or we can be one of the enraged male drivers on the freeway—the two who pulled off in a gas station to wreak their vengeance, and who managed, somehow, to kill each other.

One last thought: for every person who defends himself with a gun, statistics say that hundreds of others are killed with privately-own guns—accidentally or on purpose. 


My latest book: “Revenge of the Jilted Draperies:  and other sweet-and-sour stories” now available through Amazon—or autographed, through me: maralys@cox.net.
A ten-dollar gift for Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2015



If you doubt this could be true, ask Donald Trump.

Or better yet, read Thursday’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: Trump's royal inheritance.  Michael D’Antonio has interviewed The Donald at great length—for hours, in preparation for a book—and it seems this one presidential candidate does see himself as king.

As I wrote in my prior blog, FUNNY STUFF YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED,  it seems clear that Trump revels in running for president, that he adores his freedom to say whatever he damn pleases.  (However--except for Air Force One--he won’t love the job.)  

But honestly, I never thought he saw himself as king.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015



When TV offers the mug shot of a cop on trial for murder, how come the guy often looks like a murderer—not a respectable policeman.  How did he look before the fatal shot? 

People still live and walk around in Beijing--in smog so thick they can rake it off the sidewalk. Why is anyone still there? 


Behind Donald Trump’s scowls you get the impression he’s in his glory, having the best time of his life.

Think of it--even more than serial killers, his name is known by everyone who can read.

Every word he says gets printed in newspapers. Every crazy thought that comes to him in the shower reaches millions of people within days. And the nuttier his ideas, the quicker we’ll hear them. If he happens to imagine that 81% of white murders are committed by blacks, he can go ahead and say it on—where else, Fox News? 

Even his jokey hair has stopped being a joke – those forward-leaning feathers  desperately trying to cover a bald landscape are now blessed landmarks.

Most important, think of his power . . . how his peculiar, unexpected renown is suddenly terrifying a lot of Very Important People . . . how some are afraid to speak up, lest the cobra turn on them, spitting out words that inflict a fatal wound. With such words, in fact, The Donald has nearly KO’d several presidential candidates.

Some of us wonder if the man even cares whether he becomes president. That would be work. In the meantime, he’s having a blast without all the bother of actually doing anything. When he looks back from the next decade, he’ll know that for a year or more, he was one of the best-recognized, most powerful guys on the planet. Even mystical. 

What more can he ask from life than that? 

My latest book: “Revenge of the Jilted Draperies:  and other sweet-and-sour stories” now available through Amazon—or autographed, through me: maralys@cox.net.
A ten-dollar gift for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015



Okay, it was an ominous lump under the linoleum. The kind you can feel, but only with bare beet.  A tiny ridge that sparks a silent oh, crap, when your foot happens to land there: Something’s wrong, the floor shouldn’t be doing this.  The thing was a few inches wide, located in an innocuous space, right between the stove and refrigerator. Mostly I ignored it, but once in awhile I said to Rob, “Shouldn’t we do something about this?”      

“Like what, Babe?  You mean, tear out the entire kitchen floor? Over a lump?”

Rob was right, of course. The linoleum was coved and continuous and covered four rooms. So mentally I backed off.  After you’ve lived in a house for  a number of years, you’re bound to find something that seems Not Quite Right. As long as that something isn’t making funny noises, or breaking into visible pieces, or growing larger by the week, you tend to think,  Maybe we should do something about this. Someday.

But when you’re busy writing books, or just living a normal, active life, Someday has a habit of fading away and disappearing into Never. 

Until something bigger comes along—like a flood.

Like Noah, we had to pay attention to a flood—when the washing machine backed up and discharged its water out through the toilet, and I finally saw soapy water snaking around the corner and into the kitchen.

“Rob!” I cried. “Come quick!”  And moving about as fast as he usually does, and I won’t say how fast that is, Rob came.

Together we attacked the overflow with mops and buckets, and half an hour later Noah could have stopped building his ark. But that’s not how life works.

The plumber we called to clear the drains called an environmentalist to start an insurance claim, who in turn called lead and asbestos experts to examine the linoleum and walls (the latter “wicking up water,” they said ), who in turn called contractors to tear out walls and flooring.

It multiplies.  While you watch and consider backing away, the list gets longer and people keep arriving. There must be a lot of profit in overflowing washing machines.

Now, two months later, we know what ELSE was going on. Under our kitchen floor a tiny pipe had sprung a small leak, which not only damaged the subfloor, but also collected into a “lump” under the linoleum. Eventually, the sneaky thing might have grown until Rob and I were forced to take it seriously and “do something.”  As most of you know, lumps anywhere are never a good thing. Happily, the flood made it happen sooner.

But hey, it all worked out. Our kitchen now has the world’s most beautiful hickory wood floor . . . a pale woodsy background that set off an interesting collection of grainy streaks and dark knots and little swirls, about which Rob and I keep saying to each other, “Isn’t this beautiful?”  

And nary a lump anywhere. 

My latest book: “Revenge of the Jilted Draperies:  and other sweet-and-sour stories” now available through Amazon—or autographed, through me: maralys@cox.net.
A ten-dollar gift for Christmas.

Monday, October 26, 2015



Suddenly Rob and I weren’t in Kansas anymore.  We were caught up in a tornado, only partly of our own making, and as innocently as it all began, we were spinning out of control and never quite sure where we’d land. 

It all began with a back porch flood.

Well, no, it all began with a river trip, planned at least nine months earlier—Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, with the two of us and various family members departing California on different days in October to join Tauck Tours in Basel.  

Some things I knew in advance: I’d have to add extra make-up classes to my normal teaching schedule; one week before departure I’d have to spend two full days at a writer’s conference; I’d have to finish my part in a breast-care book with Dr. John West; I’d have to go on eating and sleeping.  

What neither of us factored in were kidney stones, surgery, visits to Kirk, a suddenly-departed front tooth and a flood.

Rob’s unexpected flare-up with kidney stones in early August caught us by surprise. His urologist put him “under” and tried lithotrypsy but got nowhere; he couldn’t even locate the stones. Instead, the doctor inserted a ureter stent, and from then on, Rob bled gratuitously (but safely, the doctor assured us)  . . . though the stent kept poking him, which I knew because for months Rob groaned every time he moved.   

In late September, though water was in short supply everywhere else, in our house it poured. “The service porch potty seems sluggish,” Rob announced one day. “But I think I’ve cleared it. You should try the washing machine, Babe, and see if it drains.”  He should have ordered a rowboat.  

I turned on the washer and left the room. Twelve minutes later, I noticed water creeping around the corner into the kitchen. “Rob!” I shrieked. “Come quick! We’ve got a flood!”

In seconds Rob was there. By then the water in our bathroom was two inches deep. “Mops!” he shouted, “Buckets!” as the two of us stared at the potty, still disgorging sudsy washing-machine water. “Turn off the damn machine!”

We came up with different solutions. Whatever Rob intended, I simply grabbed a bucket and mop, and began sponging up and squeezing out water. Rob gave up on his own plan and ran my full buckets outside. Eventually, our back porch wading pool was more or less emptied—though clearly, we no longer had a useful washing machine or a usable toilet.  

The two of us figured we’d had a twenty-minute problem.

Not exactly.      

It turned out that plumbers, restoration folks, contractors, and our insurance company thought otherwise. After a flood, twenty minutes is a joke. Instead we’d embarked on a two-month Mold-Prevention Plan—meaning tear-outs of wet walls and floors and appliances and water heaters, not to mention re-flooring the kitchen and digging through old linoleum for lead and/or asbestos . . . plus two costly rotorings of drain pipes under the house.  (One plumber said with a long face, “If you don’t use our special diamond-bore equipment, you’ll have to tear out all the drains under the sub floors. We’ll only charge three thousand dollars—a lot cheaper than new pipes.”) 

Our own plumber did the job for six hundred.

Rob and I were no longer thinking about our trip, two weeks away. Instead Rob—between stent stabbings--started a file on all the services we now needed to restore the house. Luckily, we found a spare afternoon to go choose new flooring, figuring we’d start the job after we returned.

Suddenly a new idea struck us. Why not do all the tear-outs while we’re gone? Who needs several weeks at home with no usable kitchen? 
Meanwhile, the writing issues never stopped. With extra classes, I pedaled six hours on my stationery bike reading student manuscripts. I carved out untold hours at the computer, trying to finish the breast care book. I managed to squeeze in a Saturday and Sunday for the writer’s conference. And I do mean squeeze.

At Saturday night’s conference banquet, after a day of teaching assignments, I sat down beside two unknown women—both agents, I soon learned. We’d just begun eating when I suddenly bit down on a rock. Shocked, I pulled it out of my mouth. The thing wasn’t a rock. It was my front tooth.

Abruptly my appetite vanished. How would I give two speeches, starting Sunday morning at nine . . . when I now appeared homeless? Covering my face, I jumped from the table, found a conference director, and said, “Look what just happened. No tooth. I can’t show up tomorrow morning looking like a witch,” and he gave me his cell number. “Well, keep me posted.”     

Dinnerless and back home, I found Rob had called our dentist. Finally, at ten that night, we reached him. He agreed to meet me in his Santa Ana office Sunday morning at 7:30. It was a miracle that this marvelous man had my front tooth re-glued by eight a.m., leaving me just enough time to drive ten miles and appear for my two, hour-and-a-half speeches. After I shared my tooth story with the audience, they practically gave me a standing ovation. One lady said to me and everyone else, “You just gave us the best talk of the conference.”  Which beat the hell out of how the world looked to me the night before.   

As I did writer stuff, Rob carved out time for other dentist appointments, for himself and Kirk. Besides the fact that we suddenly had to re-order mis-issued Britrail passes (with scant days to spare), neither of us gave our Europe trip more than passing thought.  

Meanwhile, Rob’s stents were still stabbing—and we no longer had a week left for safe  urological surgery. Still, the doctor decided to try. On the Thursday before our Monday departure, Dr. Norouzi, looking absolutely determined, said, “I’ll laser that stone out of your kidney. This time I’ll get it.”  His lips and chin had the steely, hard-set look of a man about to use dynamite.   

Early Thursday afternoon, the doctor caught me in the surgical waiting room. He was smiling. “I blasted that big stone into pieces,” he said. “I had to keep going back up the ureter to get the fragments. So I put a tube inside to save abrasion against the walls.” 

“Like an artificial tunnel,” I said.

“Exactly.” He nodded. “I also put in a brand new stent. He’s ready to go home.” 

As it turned out, Rob was not ready. He was awake, but drunk. Anesthesia drunk-- slurring his words as he flirted with all the nurses. They seemed to think he was cute.

I thought he was a bit much—less cute, and more of a limp lump—impossible for one female to get into the house. Now a huge problem loomed: four contractors due at our house in half an hour. Suddenly in a bind, I left Rob to sober up and rushed home. All our relatives but Dane had already left for Basel. Maybe the contractors could muscle Rob into the house. Knowing this wasn’t part of their job description, I used my cell to call Dane, just coming home from Las Vegas. 

“I can pick up Grandpa Rob,” Dane said.

And thus we conquered another obstacle. I felt like we were beating down the enemy battalions, one by one. Our whirling tornado was actually slowing down.

Finally sobered up, Rob was well enough on Friday to help me clear every surface in four rooms. I couldn’t believe we did it. But in two days, we had the business half of our house emptied out like nobody lived there. We even left ourselves one day to pack.

The tornado had finally set us down again. Gently. With one book finished, the writing classes handled, two speeches delivered with a toothy smile, one kidney stone mostly gone, Rob with a stent that didn’t hurt, and one front tooth restored.  

Above all, our house was now ready for new floors. Happiness floated through the rooms as we packed. Surely the trip would now be terrific. Practically a gift.

Well it was—nearly. Never mind that my front tooth fell out again as the plane reached London . . . (thank God for Swiss dentists), or that two weeks later, on the way home from LAX, Rob lost a big gold crown to a chunk of licorice, kindly sent by Tracy.    

To look at us now, you’d think we were nicely restored, as good as before. And restored beyond what we’d hoped, like photos out of “House Beautiful,” are all our new tile and Hickory wood floors. 



Monday, September 28, 2015



I learned this the hard way.

Right next to the red button that the president uses to begin setting off an atomic bomb, there’s another one, innocently called SEND.  Don’t be fooled. It’s not innocent.

I found this out the time I received an off-color book cover from my editor. The hue was awful, nothing like I’d agreed to.  Here it was, my precious book, its background shade some kind of purplish tint when I’d agreed to a gorgeous blue. 

Problem was, it was night. The artificial light made dark blue lean hard toward purple. The lateness also made my judgment lean dangerously toward stupid. Without much thought, I sent what was for me a “blast”—decrying the foreign printer, and somebody I can’t remember, and whoever else had a hand in turning my precious book  . . . well, ugly.

The next morning I realized what I’d done. For starts, in daylight the book looked pretty good. And second, my disappointment had gone out unfiltered. But you can’t “unsend” a “send.” In effect, I’d insulted my editor, the book designer, and a whole lot of foreigners I can’t now name.

I’d done myself in. 

Cutting to the chase, it took humble apologies, flowers, and a two-pound box of Sees Candy to partially undo the mess . . . if, in fact, the deed was in any way modified. Had this been a letter--not sent until the next day--I could have re-written it.

Too bad for all of us, Send is forever. There’s no second chance.

I hear there’s a computer program that puts a delay on that button. Well, hey, we all need it. Especially the guy that included me today in his blast of a girlfriend. He said all kinds of derogatory stuff, calling her names (practically a slut), describing her misdeeds in detail, spewing out that she wasn’t good enough for him. (Only to convince us, naturally, he wasn’t good enough for her.)

Twenty minutes later the guy sent a second e-mail, begging us in big letters not to read the first one. Which of course inspired EVERYONE to read it immediately. 

I trust that fellow has now learned what all of us eventually figure out. First, that such a message to the world means he’s forever killed his chances with that woman. Humiliated publicly, she will never forgive him.

But second, he’s suddenly and permanently aware that the Send button is lethal. If he didn’t know it yesterday, today he does. The most dangerous button ever created is right there on his computer. One little tap and he’s had it . . . he’s wiped out . . . destroyed.  And all he did, really, was type fast and furiously, committing his momentary anger to a screen, letting his venom carry the day.

And then, without further thought, he tapped the fatal button.

With that, “Send” finished him off.     

Thursday, August 27, 2015



            It doesn’t pay to think in the middle of the night.

            Even my computer messes with me, protesting that I should cease and desist . . . and a voice whispers in my head, Don’t write this stuff down. It won’t do you any good, and it won’t help the world. Besides, who wants to read it?. 

But tonight I can’t help it.

What set me off was a warning on TV about nuclear power plants—a pediatrician describing how nuclear plants spew carcinogens into the air, causing malignancies in those who live nearby . . . how Germany, having discovered their children dying of  cancer, is shutting them all down.  But here? Our country plans to power them all up, even extending the licenses of aging plants.

I’m in bed and can’t sleep. Power plants billow before my eyes. Then I see forest fires exploding in Washington, walls of flame raging skyward as though hurled by demons--and elsewhere, fields and forests alike burning freely, as though this is the natural order of things . . . and I think, God, please . . . can’t you spare some rain? Just three days’ worth? 

Like the fire, my thoughts rage on . . . houses swept into rivers, people escaping  city-wide floods in boats . . . tornadoes tearing up the land . . . and this winter in Boston, snow piled higher than anyone has ever seen. Every month a new disaster, until it’s clear that “normal” weather no longer exists. Yet the Florida governor will not allow the words climate change used officially--even as the ocean threatens to work its way inland. Meanwhile, half the members of Congress insist that global warming is a hoax. Don’t try to fix it, Obama. We’ll sue. 

What global warming doesn’t do to us, we do to ourselves. Half of us are dying to own guns. Well, we’re dying, all right, at least 30,000 of us a year, and the more guns we  own, the more of us will die. But the NRA doesn’t believe in statistics; they believe in firepower. If guns are good, assault rifles can’t be bad. If adults need shooting lessons, so do eight-year-olds. They also believe money buys votes. Who has more power in Congress, anyway? The dead children in Newtown, or the NRA?  

Just today, two women on a TV crew are shot—in daylight, on television.

Of all the bad things that occur to me at midnight, none are worse than ISIS. Not since ancient barbarians poured down from the hills and killed indiscriminately have we seen more brutality, more slaying without reason, more beheadings, more destruction of precious antiquities, more enslavement of women.

In the same area, of course, Assad is gassing his own people.  

Enough, I think. Here and there in our country we see glimmers of hope: Little children collecting groceries to help grownups who are hungry. A new head of the FBI whose principles are stronger than his ambitions. Kids learning to play violins. An old man setting up his sewing machine on a sidewalk to mend clothes for strangers. A cute little boy with two new hands. And miracle of miracles—a possible cure for melanoma. 

So it isn’t all grim, even in the dark hours of the night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015



            None of us lived through those days, but we all know about them.

            At first, everyone made fun of Hitler. He ranted like a fool, and he looked half-crazed—above that nasty little mustache were wild eyes, and pasted-down black hair.

Germany’s intelligent citizens shook their heads and clucked in scorn. He makes a lot of noise, they thought, and says what he damn pleases, but to most Germans it was all  show and idiotic nonsense, aimed at people who didn’t know better. So who could take him seriously?  For heaven’s sake, he was a house painter!   

To this day, intelligent Germans cannot fathom why so many people were comfortable with Hitler’s venom, and ultimately accorded him power that the rest of the country could never take back. In “The Past is Myself,” Christabel Bielenberg, a Brit married to a German lawyer, described--with appropriate horror--what she and the vast number of intelligent Germans lived through. With amazing detail she records the surprise, and then dismay that this could possibly happen. Over the next eighteen years, her book was re-printed twenty-three times! 

Everyone I know or read about made similar noises of scorn when Donald Trump entered the Republican race. His message was ludicrous, and so disparaging of Hispanics it bordered on dangerous--and besides, he looked terrible. Even he admits people make fun of his hair.

The Hispanic comments supposedly finished him. Except they didn’t. Next he attacked John McCain, (who really was a hero), and said, “My heroes are people who don’t get captured.”

The McCain slur should have finished him.

But it didn’t. Next he made hash of another Republican.  And then he said, “Sarah Palin makes sense. She will have a place in my cabinet.”

To all of us watching in surprise, it seemed unthinkable that Donald Trump rose in the polls—and kept rising.

Surely, we think, nobody takes him seriously. But like the intelligent Germans who couldn’t believe what happened to them, a lot of us can’t believe what is happening right here in America.  

It seems that plenty of people take Donald Trump seriously. REALLY! How easily we dismiss them, how cavalierly we assume their hero will soon implode.

But will he? 

Don’t be so sure.   

Sunday, August 2, 2015



            First it was the HMOs.  Now it’s the Nerds. 

            Thanks to nerds who write computer programs for doctors without consulting doctors--and thanks to a government that insists all medical records be electronic--today’s medicine is a mess. Instead of treating patients, doctors spend patient-time staring at computers. In some programs physicians can’t, for instance, refer to the term “blood.” The nerds have decided the operative word for blood should be ostag.   

Computer systems written by techs with no medical input have created an expensive, frustrating electronic hodgepodge . . . in which computers from one doctor’s office can’t speak to those in another’s, in which hospitals can’t communicate with other hospitals, in which record-keeping in every doctor’s office is currently like dealing with an ever-growing but insane octopus.

Diagnosis codes, for instance, have expanded from 40,000 to a little over half a million—with huge penalties if the systems aren’t implemented. It’s so bad now that one or two-doctor offices can no longer exist. Doctors must practice in groups, because they need several people full time just to keep the octopus under control.

Did you know that most hospitals require their doctors to create a new password every month? Tell me . . . who can keep track, mentally, of twelve different passwords a year? Inevitably, doctors have to write them down. Which defeats the whole idea.  

I’m not a doctor, but I’m surrounded by them. One is my son, three are good friends, and another is a breast-care surgeon with whom I’m writing a book. Lately I’ve been thinking that America’s doctors—if they weren’t so busy—should rise up and revolt.

Somebody has to straighten out this mess.

If doctors were businessmen instead of doctors, the chaos would soon be gone. Think of aviation: when a pilot speaks to a control tower, every pilot in the world uses the same language—English. And every pilot communicates with the same alphabet:  Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot . . .

Think of the movies—when “color” first came out, all filmmakers began using the same technology.

And remember when Beta Max promised to be the sole means of recording TV programs? But then VCR came along and took over. Later, as a group, we moved over to DVD. But at least we’re all using the same system.    

The problem is, good doctors want to practice medicine. Most are in the business because they care about people. They want to communicate with patients, not computers. If they MUST deal with computers, physicians want them to make sense.  Today, few electronic medical systems make any sense at all . . . they merely waste time. So some very good doctors are giving up. 

If enough doctors quit medicine, something good will definitely happen. Wait and see. There’ll be a day when nobody will hire a computer nerd unless he’s also a doctor.    

Thursday, July 23, 2015



            Donald Trump is a “Jackass.”  

At least that’s what Senator Lindsey Graham called him, according to yesterday’s Los Angeles Times.

REALLY!  How fascinating that Graham saw such a different image beneath the forward-leaning hair . . . but Graham ought to know, he’s from South Carolina, and maybe he’s seen other donkeys with a backcomb.

            Whatever . . . Trump is currently Number One in the polls, and for some of us it’s because we can’t wait to hear what he’ll say next—which insult he’ll hurl, or where it will land. Years ago he was simply “The Donald,” and he was basically a caricature you could cluck over and ignore. Now lots of voters are hoping he’ll hang in for most of the electoral season, because politics is seldom this out-of-control or this funny . . . and here’s this one-man wrecking machine, wildly swinging away at half the politicians in his own party.      

            But Trump can’t claim full ownership to “Startling and Shocking.” Other luminaries are shocking, too, only some are tragically unfunny, like Bill Cosby. Few of us can imagine that this once-paragon of family values and personal ethics has now been turned over and exposed, like a rock with bugs on the other side. Bill Cosby?  Really?

            I’d be more stunned over both of them--if I hadn’t personally known a couple of men who were also Startling and Shocking but, like Bill Cosby, were one hundred percent not the person I’d always believed.  

            I actually co-authored a book with a man who once stood out in my mind as the soul of ethics. The first time we met (in a restaurant, over breakfast), he took a couple of moments to pray quietly over his meal. We talked about his son and how he’d like to write a book about fatherhood. We discussed the failings of today’s prison systems, and why a different approach would “rescue” and “rehabilitate” young men locked up for their addictions. We decided, informally, to write a book on the topic. We agreed to collaborate, we shook hands, and that was it. We never felt we needed a written contract.   

After the book came out, we traveled to other counties in his official car—to TV appearances and radio shows.  We discussed ethics most of the way.

Newly elected to a high office, he was adored—first locally and then nationally. And suddenly it all fell—like a brick wall shaken to earth in a quake. He began to be discredited. The Los Angeles Times called me to refute certain parts of our book, which I wouldn’t do; I believed he’d told the truth as he saw it. Rumors appeared in the Times. Friends reported to me absolute knowledge of an affair—which I found hard to believe.

It got worse. He tried to “pick up” one of my writer-friends. Then it developed that the man’s closest two buddies were both crooks. Eventually he was tried as a crook—with so many misdeeds on the docket that only the Statue of Limitations saved him from a very long prison sentence. He did, however, serve four years.  

I was stunned. Who was he, anyway?  The man I once knew?  Or somebody else, entirely different?   

A second man that Rob and I knew well for over fifty years, became, after death, a complete stranger. Once a neighbor and, with his wife, a couple we saw frequently, the man was a respected local attorney . . . and in fact at one time he was president of the State Bar. Both Rob and I found his sense of humor engaging.    

Then the pair moved to the beach area, and we didn’t see them much. Yet after he retired, the lawyer spent time in a trailer in the desert, working on a fascinating novel, for which I did some editing.   

During this interval we heard a sad story about the husband traveling alone in Turkey, and how he woke up one morning to find himself tossed into a ditch. We were surprised at both the strangeness and his bad luck. 

Then, after a long dry spell, the four of us met at Soup Plantation for lunch. It was exactly like old times. The lawyer’s great sense of humor surfaced, and so did Rob’s, and the four of us spent about two hours reminiscing and laughing. Nearby, a lady leaned closer and said, “It’s good to see four people having so much fun.” 

For Rob and me, that lunch was memorable as an interval that proved old friends could still enjoy as much hilarity together as they’d once had.

Exactly four days later we received a shocking phone call—the wife reporting, in a voice thick with tears, that her husband was dead. We soon learned that a vagrant out in the desert had entered his trailer and killed him. 

But this wasn’t even a start to the story. Gradually it came out that the attorney had spent time in the desert for more than writing—that he’d employed a pimp to bring him . . . well, male sex partners. That fatal day our friend did something that so enraged his latest conquest that the man killed him. 

We never saw the wife again . . . and never learned whether she was told the truth. Both Rob and I had a hard time believing there could be a side to our friend that was kept entirely secret—until after his death. 

The short conclusion here is that a few individuals are capable of being two entirely different people, and you never know for sure which one was “real.”  Every new revelation about yet another such person comes as a  shock . . . until the group gets so large, with so many people out-trumping Donald Trump, you’re not flabbergasted any more.

And then there’s The Donald himself . . . the one man who can never totally surprise anyone.