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Senior Lives Matter Too

This is an update to my June 3, 2016 blog post:

Many of us have been around long enough to have seen the rotation of special attention focused on various members of our society. They have all been worthy concerns and extra amplification of the problems of some certain groups of our citizenry is to be applauded. We have dealt with the plight of the Native-Americans, African-Americans, American war veterans, Hispanics, Dreamers and illegal immigrants. Their lives and concerns definitely matter. The attention has been merited. The black lives matter movement has been countered with blue lives matter. Everyone is right; no one is wrong. Everyone matters.

Over the years we have also given special attention to teenagers with depression, homosexuals, obese people and those with every imaginable difference, disease, problem or affliction. These also have been worthy of some extra governmental help. There is only one group of our population which has not received any recognition or help: senior citizens of America. Why?

Before anyone goes there, yes there was briefly a gray panther movement and yes there is an organization named AARP. Both have done next to zero to promote the respect and well-being of almost 15 percent of our population. What has the rest of the country done for its older citizens? The answer in one word is squat. This large percentage of America’s citizenry is, on the whole, totally ignored. Seniors are most often expected to stay quiet and simply go away. (They all do eventually.) Even our government appears like the three monkeys on the subject of seniors.

This year was not unusual. Social Security beneficiaries were told they would finally have a coast of living allowance (COLA) of two percent. It was certainly better than the zero percent from prior years but wait a minute. After the bureaucrats jacked-up Medicare premiums (which are deducted from Social Security payments), most seniors were left with a zero increase or slightly less. Even a four-year-old could do the math to make the numbers wash and screw seniors. Yet at the same time more money was appropriated by our government for programs for the underprivileged, illegal immigrants, and virtually every other special interest group living in this nation. Why? Because being a senior citizen does not include you in a special interest group. You are just plain old and no one really gives a damn. The news media certainly doesn’t care. There has been a great deal of flap over the Dreamers as of late but not one single word from the main stream media about the plight of older Americans: Not one word about the millions of senior citizens who built a country where you could even consider having a conversation about “dreamers.”

A demographic consisting of 15 percent of the entire population deserves better. Contrary to popular myth, very few seniors are wealthy. Most live on their meager Social Security checks. Some in rare cases have even been reported to have eaten dog food just to stay alive. Have you seen any media outlet wailing about seniors eating dog food? Of course not. We should at least throw seniors a bone (pun intended) and maybe even help that group as much as we help other groups. Wouldn’t that simply be fair?

The greatest misconception about seniors is that they are living off the government dole in the same way as welfare recipients. Wrong! Older Americans are receiving a pittance of what they put into the Social Security system and it’s being refunded without interest in minuscule amounts as the government sees fit. In fact, most Americans will not live long enough to recover anything near a large percentage of their Social Security contributions. This is especially true of self-employed individuals who pay both the employer and employee portions of Social Security contributions. Government lackeys moan that the Social Security system is bankrupt. It is bankrupt but not at the hands of older Americans but rather by greedy politicians who have “borrowed” from the system to pay for everything from welfare to wars.

The recent fanfare over lower tax rates, increased minimum wages and bonuses paid by large corporations did not enter into the equation for most seniors, save the wealthy. It was a good thing for America but did any Social Security recipient receive a bonus? Of course not! A thousand dollar “bonus” would have gone a long way with any senior but it sure wouldn’t have made sensational evening news. There’s not much sizzle in a story about old people.

Seniors in this country tend to be a little docile, which is a shame. Imagine if all seniors went on strike for a month and didn’t buy anything: No cars, no houses, no televisions, no stocks, no nothing. The national economy would actually collapse in a month. Other groups would happily take to the streets in riot and boycott businesses at the drop of a hat if they didn’t get their way. Seniors just sit at home and patiently hope that things will change for the better. (They don’t!)

It is way past time that Americans recognize their senior citizenry for who they are: The backbone of a great society that was built by their very sweat and blood. They deserve a better treatment from their government and fellow citizens alike and not just concerning monetary issues. But why not a COLA adjustment commensurate with increases given other groups? Again, it is actually their own money after all. It is not a gift from the government coffers. At the same time they don’t deserve to be mocked and taken advantage of just because they have patiently grown older. We all grow older eventually. The next time you see a senior member of your community, you might want to actually thank him or her the same way you would thank someone in our military. They deserve the thanks for making this country great and would be happy to hear so once in a while. Even a smile would be a nice non-cash bonus for most of them.

At the end of the day, just like you, me, us and them…. senior lives matter too!

These are some of my thoughts on the subject of seniors and why senior lives matter. Let’s hear yours.

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The Fear Of Dying In Walmart

Everyone has a phobia or two. Mine is dying in a Walmart. I always imagine cashing out in the presence of all those Walmartians – yikes, it makes my hair stand up!

Over the years, when I must, I enter a Walmart very cautiously for this reason. First I check at the entrance to be sure the greeter isn’t wearing a hooded robe and carrying a sickle. If it’s just another challenged person, I feel I’m good to go. But once I am fully immersed in the Walmart experience, my anxieties begin to come in waves.

First there is the questionable clientele. Actually, that’s an awfully nice way of describing the average Walmart shopper. Usually, the clientele is comprised of overly aggressive, self-absorbed psychopaths who range from demented seniors to the criminally stupid teenagers. What they all seem to have in common is scale smashing obesity and the desire to shop in their pajamas. It is a ghastly sight and the thought of croaking among this rabble makes me shiver. More than likely I would apt to be trampled by this herd before the coroner even arrived on scene.

I once was purposefully rammed at full speed by an angry old lady who was driving her handicapped cart at me as if to win a destruction derby. As I limped to the side of the aisle, I asked dumbfounded as to why she hit me on purpose. Her answer? “I’m a senior and I can do what I want!” I could only reply honestly, “Fine, I’m a senior too but I don’t come here set on doing bodily harm!” Then I thought I saw that guy with the sickle peaking around the next aisle so I quickly added, “Have a nice day.”

Then there are those wonderful people who Walmart employs. I once encountered a young employee in the hardware section of our local North Carolina store only to find that he spoke no English at all. Thankfully I speak Spanish but what would have happened if I fell stricken to the floor in front of this person. Would he have screamed, “Ayuda, creo que está muerto!” or would he have just walked over my corpse? Scary stuff to ponder while roaming the aisles looking for a box of screws.

I’m all for hiring the handicapped but I have found in Walmart too many employees who seem awkwardly mentally handicapped to the point where they are of little help to the shopper. Again, I get this horrible cerebral image of me on the floor as a guy in a blue vest rolls up in his wheel chair accompanied by the manager with his toupee on backwards and a strangely familiar looking fellow who blurts, “Me think he no alive no more!” All of this is too heavy to comprehend so I grab my stuff, pay and head for the sanctuary of the in store McDonalds. Ah, safe from the grim reaper at last!

Well, actually not. Now I learn why Walmart shoppers are so fat. There are free refills of all those 44 ounce sugar drinks. As I order my mini-burger with a senior drink, I watch a slow parade of fatties file by in their pajamas, a 44-ouncer in each hand. I gasp in the knowledge that these folks do indeed walk among us. Once I am seated, I continue to watch, trying not to stare at the circus of irregulars who dine here. There’s the fat mother with three fat kids who is upset that McDonalds doesn’t accept unlimited food stamps. There’s the lonely senior pretending he’s presiding over the last supper by himself as he nervously looks side to side for his imaginary disciples. There’s the soccer mom with a cart full of useless crap to be later dispensed upon a lethargic family. She’s counting the items bagged in her cart as she stuffs a double something into her jaws while fiddling with her smart phone. I look, I gasp and reach for my inhaler as I imagine dusting out in the midst of this crew and an overwhelming stench of stale french fries. Jesus, it’s plumb scary!

I bolt down my mini burger, declining the free refill on my senior Coke, and head for the car. After clearing the obstacle course of unschooled drivers and loose carts, I am on the road again and heading for home. I check all of my appendages to make sure I am still intact. It’s another day with the fear of dying in Walmart but I’ve made it back to the safety of my house. Now, all I have to worry about is the evening news and the prospect of North Korea nuking us. Ah, the simple pleasures of life!

Actually, a few people have died in Walmart throughout the years. Most recently Rhubarb Jones, a popular Atlanta based radio host, died in a Walmart in Tallapoosa, Georgia on April 2, 2017.

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The Rhyme Doctor

I probably started liking poetry and lyrics as an infant and I cherished the rhymes that went with them as I grew into my youth and was later propelled into my adulthood. Now that I am an old man, I look back through the decades and feel a great pride for being known as the Rhyme Doctor for so many years. The Rhyme Doctor? Yes.

The nickname has its early roots in my high school years when I was an aspiring poet. I had studied poetry intensely and learned all of the styles very well. While I excelled at free verse, I was always drawn back to the good stuff that rhymes. Though my friends were rowdy surfers and not the stuff of Rhodes Scholars, I persisted with my poetry. My first poems were published when I was 14 and I received my first check as a writer at the same age. In an attempt to blend my poetry with awkward teenage socialization, I would also make up off-colored lyrics to popular songs at the time. Finding it entertaining, my friends gradually bestowed the moniker Rhyme Doctor on me. It was nothing serious, just an inside joke that seemed to have been shared with half the student body. (Kids are cruel!)

I left high school determined to write the great American novel or at least something damned close to it. The trouble was that I thought in the condensed language of a poet which made it difficult to write anything near the length of a novel. I rectified that problem years later when I began writing both novels and screen plays. But in the interim, I was writing poetry and loving it. To be able to write an entire book in a few stanzas became a specialty. In my university classes I was once again called the Rhyme Doctor because of my scholarly pursuit of poetry and the the fact that I was a nationally published poet.

The poetry finally gave way to lyric writing and song writing as I entered the music business in 1973. I was convinced that I could make the tough transition and I did. In the mid-1970’s, I was making a good living writing songs and also fixing other’s whose lyrics needed help. In many instances, I found well-written songs that employed faulty or lazy rhyming. Being the doctor of rhyme, I healed many a song. It was during this stint as a fixer that my colleagues in the music business also coincidentally started referring to me once again as the Rhyme Doctor. Although I considered myself more as a rhyme mechanic, after a couple of years I accepted the name wholeheartedly with a great deal of pride. During this time, many people knew me solely by my nickname. For the last 40 plus years I have continued to ply my craft on a daily basis as well as assist those who need the doctor. This doctor is always in.

Why is rhyming so important in poetry and song writing? The answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that we like hearing sounds that are similar.It is as natural as the human heartbeat. However, there is a more complex answer. When the human brain hears rhymes, it releases endorphins that feed the pleasure centers of our brains. Simply put, rhyming makes us feel good. Think back to your childhood. Why did you say: “Liar, liar – pants on fire?” Right! It felt good and it was certainly better than, “Liar, liar – pants too short!”

Well over a half a century after publishing my first poetry, I decided to publish an anthology of some of my very early poetry along side that which was written in the last few years. It is presented as bookends to my literary life in a volume entitled Prescriptions from the Rhyme Doctor. Please give it a read. At $2.99 it is very indispensable and inexpensive prescription indeed!

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The Tirolean American Experience

I am not a comedian but I was persuaded recently to give comedy a crack. But of course, being a writer, I wanted to get this puppy down on paper before hitting the stage. So sit back, pretend you are in a noisy, dimly lit “club” with a dingy, tiny corner serving as a stage.

The Tirolean American Experience
(15 Minute Stand-Up Routine)

Good evening folks – my name is Allen Rizzi. I know what you’re thinking – “Madonna, another WOP comic!” Actually, I’m Tirolean…. (pause) What the hell is a Tirolean? We are Northern Italians that are a little Germanic and walk with a limp (Heil Hitler imitation with dragging foot – back and forth on stage twice.)

Seriously (pause) “Abbiamo modi di fare con vostri tipi!” That’s right, you didn’t understand, did you? – “Vee have vays of dealing mit your kind!” (pause)

We are Tirolean and my father was concert master for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – that’s the one that was in Vienna not in Italy. (pause) When I was a kid of about eight, he thrust his Stradivarius in my tiny hands and hired an old German violin teacher to teach me how to play. Every lesson began with his question: “Und ven you grow up, vat vill you do? (looking sheepish with trembling voice) “I vill play for the poor people und orphans!” (pause) Now I’m poor as hell and no one has ever come around to play me a tune. (pause)

I failed violin, my sister failed violin and my poor brother never even got the chance to fail. My father once said, “How could I have bred three musical cretins?” (pause) Nothing like a little morale booster at the age of eight! But that’s okay – I did learn to cook meatballs!

When I was a kid growing up, I didn’t know anything about Italians or Tiroleans for that matter. I didn’t learn a thing until I was in college. I used to meet this sweet girl before classes in the cafeteria. We sort of started going out and our main entertainment was, of all things, target shooting… You know, with real guns! She was good but I was always better. One day, I met her as usual in the cafeteria but she was with two goons right out of the Godfather, replete with broken noses and double breasted suits. I didn’t know what was going on and I nearly wet myself. Finally one stepped forward and said: “We’se hear you’se pretty good with a piece!” (pause with quizzical look) Finally I replied, “A piece of what?” I thought maybe they were talking about a piece of ass and I certainly didn’t want to get popped right then and there. (pause)

Italians or Tiroleans or whatever are strange. Actually, I was baptized Piccolo Alessandro Eugenio di Eugenio Valentino Von Rizzi Regin. Good Lord, what a mouthful. My mother (not Italian) had the good sense to trim my name down to a mere three names. It didn’t work out well for the saints and Italian hocus pocus but at least it assured that I wouldn’t get beat up in school. (pause) (in character) “Oh, Piccolo, want to come over and see if you fit in this locker?” (pause)

When you have a name that ends in a vowel, you appreciate films like The Godfather. You watch them too much and you start talking like them: “Eh, Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?” (pause) My father used to also quote the film, a later scene where Don Corleone visits Buonasera’s funeral parlor. The Don looks at his bullet ridden son and says, (in character) “I don’t want his mother to see him this way!” (pause) My father always broke up laughing before he could get the whole line out.

So, finally as an adult, well actually a semi-geezer, I moved to Northern Italy with my wife to live in the village where my father was born. After telling everyone proudly that I was Tirolean and getting my ass kicked for it, I now just accept being a “paesan.” It turns out no one likes Tiroleans anyway! (pause)

Our little village has only 140 residents but 300 cats. (pause) We live on the border of the Italian and German speaking provinces so when cats come to our door when we’re cooking “pesce” (that would be fish), we often hear a mixture of purring Buon Giorno mixed with the guttural German growl and the threat of another Crystalnacht. (pause) It’s like a feline version of The Godfather III mixed with Schindler’s List. (pause)

But seriously, we love our Italian / German / Craut / Guinea neighbors but they just don’t understand Americans. When Thanksgiving rolls around, we go to great lengths to buy a whole turkey. Our friends ask, “Why don’t you just buy turkey slices? You’re going to slice it anyway! I explain the whole Pilgrim story in Italian. (Oh yeah, that’s a lot of fun!) A half hour later I have to repeat the whole mess. After three tries, I just say: “Enough! I want the damn bird whole!” (pause) (Quizzical look) It actually sounds better in Italian: “Basta! Voglio l’intero maledetto Uccello!” (pause)

We moved back to the states a few years ago and bought a house here in Etowah. (pause) We thought it sounded Italian! (pause) My son said he wanted to learn Italian so I bought him a language CD. After a year, I asked: “How’s the Italian coming? What have you learned?” (pause) “Si, no and stronzo.” Obviously the kid is no Rhodes Scholar! (pause)

When we moved back from Italy, our neighbors used to say, “Hey, let’s go over to the Italian’s house and have some wine!” I would always answer, “Do you know any? (surprised look) I’m Tirolean!” (pause) When they come to dinner at our house, they expect Chicken Parm, Steak del Monaco and other stuff I’ve never heard of. When I say: “We’re having Tirolean capusi – that’s cabbage salad,” they think I’m saying: “We’re having Mongolian pussy!” (pause) Not a great way to start an evening! (pause)

Have a good evening folks. You’ve been a so-so crowd. (pause) (in character) “You didn’t even think to call me Godfather!”

Good night – Gutter Nacht – Buona Sera – and God bless!

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Once Upon A Time In California

I remember the distant day like this morning’s coffee. It was a cold May morning in the shadows of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and I had sloshed through a flooded cow field behind my father in the pursuit of German Brown Trout. The year was 1956 and I was six months shy of eight years old.

The Owens River floods its banks during the snow melt off in May rendering the whole of the river’s basin a mosquito infested swamp with occasional dry access to the river’s bank. My father had driven us there from our home in San Fernando, California the night before so that we could get on the river early. The 300 mile trip was planned to get us on the river just before daybreak. Although I was already an accomplished fisherman, I was still learning and this morning was just one of many lessons in the life-long pursuit of trout.

While I had mastered the cast, I still needed my father’s guidance in reading the water. I was still prone to tossing my fly mid-current and was in need of some stream-side tutoring. The morning wore on as my father caught a series of nice German Brown trout and tried to encourage me to do the same. My casts were met with underwelmed trout and the silence of the late morning grew deafening. In the midst of my frustration, my father approached and pointed to a side pool on the opposite bank. “Put it there, just a little upstream.”

I made the easy 20 foot cast and waited with anticipation as my fly drifted into the sweet spot. Bam! A large Brown grabbed my nymph and headed upstream like a train. I set the hook, palmed the reel and held on for dear life. This was no ordinary take! The reel screamed as line flew off the spool.

My father stepped back away from the bank and didn’t say a word. He had trained me for this moment and I was on my own. I kept the pressure on the reel with my right hand while occasionally taking up a bit of line.  The fish dove under a bank and the whole braking and take-up routine was repeated over and over again.

After what seemed to an eight-year-old as a true eternity, the fish was landed. As I turned around to find my father, he snapped this photo. It sits framed in my den after sixty years as a constant reminder of what fishing has always been to me: Family, fidelity and the constant hope for a better tomorrow.

Sharing this story with all of you is my way of saying, “Merry Christmas.” Keep your family close, be true to yourself and always hope for a better tomorrow.

For a full picture of what I mean, read my book: The Blackest of Canyons.

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When Cats Are Too Smart

According to researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, the physical structure of the brains of humans and cats is very similar. Generally, most agree that cats are intelligent and capable of learning new behavior. But what about when cats are too smart?

Take the cat in the above photo. Jessie was her name. She learned about every trick in the book and then some. But never trust a cat that can change the TV channel to a bird show! Jessie also knew how to turn a fresh-baked pie upside down on the floor and then eat the whole damn thing with her cohort, our dog Smokey. They were like the Poncho and Lefty of our kitchen for years.

As a general observer of the human condition, I firmly believe that no mere mammal should be smarter than human beings. That said, I have had my beliefs turned upside down like those blackberry pies so very many times. After we moved to Italy, we soon found a quintet of feral cats at our door every morning. Feeling sorry for them, we fed them (first mistake) and gradually agreed they could eat in our kitchen. After all, what could go wrong with inviting forest cats into your house in a foreign country? Then came a hot summer morning when my wife left the front door open for some air. She turned her back on the door for a mere minute and found the band of cats jumping up and down on our guest bed like the Jackson Five. How did they get in so quickly and with such a plan? They finally moon-walked their way out after I started yelling.

What do you do when cats are too smart? You try to get smarter than them in a hurry, usually only to find that Einstein’s time-space relativity thing just doesn’t apply to cats. Cats may have brains that are similar in structure to ours but those brains certainly are smaller, or are they? Being played and outwitted by pea brained mammals is not what I set out to do in life but it seems to be a recurring theme throughout my years. I’m sure there is a feline chorus that would agree.

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When Is Wrong Wrong?

When is wrong wrong? As of late in our Bizarro world, it seems that more and more often wrong is right.

Repeatedly we have seen football players and other athletes rape, beat and abuse women. Is it wrong? Of course! But what is done about these actions? Nothing is done and that makes it right in the eyes of the public. The “boys will be boys” attitude is the oldest and lamest excuse around. The NFL should stand for the Neanderthal Flagrant Lawbreakers. Add to their shenanigans the whole kneeling episode and it becomes apparent even to the dullest person that the whole outfit is just plain wrong.

How about drunk drivers? They kill and maim thousands of people including themselves every year and yet we continue to see this behavior as acceptable. We invent hundreds of programs for these ass-brained folks, revoke their licenses (for which they could care less) but we rarely if ever put them in jail where they belong. Why? It has become acceptable behavior and in the eyes of the public isn’t really wrong. After all, it’s not like they robbed a bank, right?

A mother lets her three-month old child go out into the freezing night and die while she comfortably sleeps with her “boyfriend.” We don’t say it’s wrong. Instead, we bemoan the poor mother’s social standing. She’s from a broken home and is on drugs, therefore what she did wasn’t really wrong. It was just a result of her poverty and the fact that her crack pipe was full at the moment. Not wrong? Bullshit!

What about politicians? They steal and lie and we say it’s okay because “they always do that.” It is still wrong, so why not say so? And when we do say so, we are accused of everything from not recognizing their societal value to being Nazis. It still doesn’t change the fact that stealing and lying is wrong. Or did Moses get those parts of the tablets all messed up? The sexual misconduct? Don’t get me started; I can already hear the chorus of defenders claiming these perverts are “icons,” indispensable and certainly not wrong. Al Franken’s SNL buddy Jon Lovitz’s characterization of Harvey Fierstien used to ask, “Is that so wrong?” Yes Al, you little pervert, it most definitely is wrong!

The list of examples is virtually endless, including everything from education to paying taxes. We now live in a society that will not recognize or verbalize when something is just plain wrong. It’s not politically correct or it isn’t nice to say, so we bob our heads in tacit approval. We have become a nation of whining, self-excusing, smart phone clutching, non-responsive nincompoops. The next time you see or hear something that is categorically wrong, stand up and say so: It is wrong!

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The Wiggling Toe

For some time I have had significant pain in my right big toe. It eventually led me to get a referral to a foot doctor, also known as a podiatrist. The appointment started out normal enough: The foot was x-rayed and I was immediately diagnosed with Hallux Rigidus, which basically meant that I had extreme arthritis in the big toe joint. I also learned that it is not the big toe but rather the great toe. I sort of already knew all of this except the proper naming of the toe so we proceeded to the dreaded “what to do about it” phase.

I asked about ultrasound. No. Cortisone injections? Maybe. The podiatrist offered no real solutions other than buying some custom insoles (which he conveniently sold) at a price tag of $460. Ouch! Didn’t he have anything more reasonable? No but he did offer an opinion that basically stated that over the counter insoles were no good and only his magical pair would do. I thanked the gentleman for his time, paid a large bill and proceeded to find another cure for my ailment.

I did some checking on the internet and was led down one rabbit hole after another. Most involved major surgeries that replaced or altered the Hallux Joint. Wasn’t there something less invasive? I returned to my primary physician and asked him for some other solutions. After some thought, he came up with physical therapy (PT). Not being a fan of this practice, I reluctantly agreed and was off to my first appointment.

It turned out that the physical therapy consisted chiefly of wiggling my big toe (great toe) and taping the toe and arch with sports tape. Not exactly rocket science! However, I faithfully made all of my appointments. As time went on, I kept asking the physical therapist for written instructions for the exercises he wanted me to do at home. The answer was always “Next time.” I also inquired about ultrasound and was told it wouldn’t do any good; only those toe wiggling exercises would help.

Now, I’m probably not the quickest guy around but pretty soon I was getting suspicious of the whole PT deal. Outside of scamming Medicare, what was really their end game? Still, I moved forward with the “treatments” until on two consecutive occasions my appointments were cancelled due to the two therapists not being available. With a straight face, the receptionist asked when I would like to reschedule. I paused about a nanosecond and responded, “Never!”

I am off next week to see yet another professional who professes to be able to help me. He will look at the whole foot and probably prescribe shoe inserts again. The difference? Looks like it will be about 80 percent less. We’ll see! Maybe I should consider amputation. At least that would be covered by Medicare. Just joking… It’s the pain talking.

So here I sit (not stand) as I write this, wiggling my great toe and wondering what the hell ever happened to medicine as I once knew it.

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Why I Don’t Go To The Movies

I grew up loving the movies. Perhaps it was just instinct or the fact that my father was an actor. Who knows? I would go every chance I had, usually to Saturday matinees. When I was a child (again, not in the Triassic Era), my parents would turn me loose to go to the movies for an entire day. It required a walk of about one half mile and back in the 1950s it did not pose a risk of being murdered, mugged or terrorized.

Once we entered the theater, my friends and I felt liberated. For 25 cents, we could watch a serial or newsreel and a double feature. To boot, the theater didn’t mind at all if we stayed and watched the whole affair over again for another one or two times. We obeyed the rules of the ushers (yes, they had ushers back then) as we spent the remaining 25 cents on popcorn, candy and Coke. We watched the complete credits and memorized the actors’ names. It was a complete day in the presence of cinema and we never tired of it. Going to the movies was a cherished part of my youth, a soothing experience that I truly enjoyed.

The last time that my wife and I went to the movies here in North Carolina, we were appalled. Even though we are discountable seniors, the toll was a couple of sawbucks ($20 for you millennials). I stopped at the concession stand for some refreshments but found that I would need a loan co-signed by our son to consummate such a purchase. I’m sorry but where in the hell do they get off charging nine bucks for popcorn. I could buy stock in Orville Redenbacher’s or a local corn field for less money. I settled for nothing in the end using my saliva to quench my thirst.

Once we were seated, we noticed that there were only four other people in the theater. Not a good sign! We waited patiently until at last the projector went on. I’m not really even sure if they still use projectors but anyway some images appeared on the screen in front of us. Expecting the movie, I was only disappointed to see a non-stop parade of advertisements for local businesses and a blurb asking if we were interested in advertising in their theater. Advertise what exactly? The fact that we are retired? Lord, what low-budget hawking of air time!

Finally, the ads ended mercifully. Aha, I thought the movie was a about to begin. Damn, I forgot about those pesky previews. No problem but after the twelfth preview, I honestly forgot which movie we had come to see. Then I thought I heard a drum roll. No, we were blown out of our seats with the Dolby advertisement. I guess they want to prove their prowess in sound before actually giving you any soundtrack. I worked in the music business for years and never heard such a high decibel bit of nonsense. The long note finally faded and I sat up in my seat eager for the main event for which I had already waited a good half hour: Exodus – Gods and Kings.

When the first dialog was spoken, I looked at my wife in horror and whispered: “That’s odd, everyone has a British accent. I thought this was supposed to be in ancient Egypt.” She hushed me and together we sat tortuously for 150 minutes as we were treated to the worst imaginable treatment of the Exodus story. It was simply terrible in its every aspect. Even Moses himself would have said that this flick was a load of crap. He would have left his seat and scurried back down Mt. Nebo and asked for an eleventh commandment to prohibit such foul cinema.

Director Ridley Scott, who has given us many great films, laid an inexcusable pile at the feet of his audience with this release.  You could almost smell it in the Dolby. Responding to immense criticism about the all white London sounding cast, he stated: “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.” Well, Ridley old boy, a couple of actual mid-Eastern actors who could put a “T” on the end of “wouldn’t” wouldn’t have hurt. Aside from the excesses of British, the film was simply a load: Poorly conceived, poorly written, poorly acted with only overdone special effects as its sole asset.

I didn’t even stay for the credits. Who cared? The were probably going to be hyphenated British names anyway. As we walked back into the blinding light of the parking lot, I mumbled: “This is the last one!” In contrast, I remembered leaving the theater 60 years earlier with a smile on my face, confident that I would take what I saw on the silver screen and make it part of my life forever. Taken together and with declining film quality in the last three decades, these experiences are why I don’t go to the movies.

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