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.   

Thursday, July 9, 2015



Okay, I’m a sucker, ready to be exploited, I know that already. I also know there’s one of me born every minute.

Somehow I drifted into this PCH prison months ago, when Publisher’s Clearing House first offered to put my husband on their list of possible winners—you know, the roster that promises somebody will soon win $5000 a week for life. When I first signed up, “soon” was touted as the end of June. Yes—last month. The date has now been extended to end-of-August.      

I never should have read their literature--never should have given them the slightest nod. Most important, I NEVER should have shared my email address. 

Since that moment of passing stupidity, my inbox has been bombarded with two to four messages every day, which vary from bright, golden promises “Just press this button and you’ll be forever on the list—don’t you WANT $5000 a week?”  to threats—“If  you don’t sign in NOW, you’ll forfeit every chance . . . ” and I find myself thinking, “Well, I’ve come this far . . .”

Any jailhouse crew would call this the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” approach, which seems to work fairly well with criminals and  . . . well, me.        

Oh, they use it, all right. But nothing is as simple as pressing a single button. Once tapped into their site, you’re bombarded with bells and kaleidoscopes and music, and then a continuous parade of bargain merchandise, a list that, if scrolled on paper, would reach from my second floor office down to the basement (if we had one), a list you can’t get out of until you’ve viewed each and every item—or alternatively, turned off your computer. 

Most days I bravely ignore PCH . . . until finally an irresistible message arrives, and I once again press a button and walk where only fools would dare to tread. And once more I put myself on a merry-go-round from which there’s no escape.

But here’s the amazing part—this isn’t just crappy merchandise. 

Among the “stuff” are dozens of household items I’d like to own . . . and more than that, hundreds of  merchandisers who are so respectable you can’t imagine why they’d stoop to advertising on Publisher’s Clearing House. Time Magazine. The fancy Atholl Palace Hotel (already booked by us in Scotland), every insurance company, every magazine, every household item, every gadget, every business service you’ve ever heard of. Like me, PCH has roped them all in.

How did they do it?  How does it happen that their list gets longer every day--and yes . . . more respectable? 

Somehow PCH realizes they’ve gotta keep us pigeons going, must keep harvesting those millions of dollars in sales . . . a tactic which is now heading in the direction of ending months from now—long past August.  

When you think a little deeper, the answer is simple: as we all know, there’s a sucker born every minute. But a whole lot of them happen to own businesses.