Living in Paradise

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The Clinton Competition

I don’t mean to sound petty, but when I read that Hillary Clinton is teaming with famed mystery writer Louise Penny to “co-write” a novel, it made me mad.

It was bad enough when her husband, Bill, added his thoughts to co-author The President is Missing, a reasonably entertaining book. It starts out with the president’s wife dead and him facing impeachment. They say you write what you know …. or wish for, I guess.

That was followed by The President’s Daughter, set to come out this June.

I’m figuring James Patterson or his stable of co-writers knocked out those two books in a couple of months. Then Bill grabbed the headlines and partial credit.

Hillary does have a string of books with her name on the cover. I don’t know if she wrote them or – a more likely scenario – had someone ghost-write them for her. In the mystery department, Louise Penny is no slouch. She doesn’t need Hillary grabbing onto her mystery coattails and going along for the ride just to get her name out there.

So why did the two ladies team together? It’s all about the money and the fame, isn’t it? And although Louise Penny has undoubtedly sold millions of books, what’s a few million more garnered by “working with” her friend, Hillary.

The genesis of my anger with this scenario began about six months ago when I was diligently working on three books at a time. Two I was writing on my own; the third was a family bio I was doing in partnership with my former boss.

My first book was a rewrite of a novel I did about eight hours ago and which sold about 150 copies. I named the new version Leslie’s Voice because it needed a better title. I also took out some of the gratuitous sex scenes. I knew they were such because the lady who is the choir director in our church and so sweet said she could barely get through them they were so explicit. She did, however, manage to read my book from cover-to-cover.

Those gratuitous paragraphs are gone now, which I guess is why the choir leader bought my revised book and re-read it, even though I insisted she didn’t need to do that.

The second book is a mystery and a sequel to Leslie’s Voice. I’ve worked on this book, Scavenger Tides, for five years, off and on. This summer, as we were all hibernating because of Covid, I managed to finish it. My two editors said it was good enough to submit to a real publisher.

Turns out my son was dating a woman who worked for Simon and Schuster. He had me contact her and she gave it to me straight. “Unless you’re an established author or a celebrity (think Hillary and Bill) publishing companies aren’t interested – and neither are agents.”

“Please don’t sugar-coat it,” I wanted to say but didn’t.

“Now if you want to self-publish, we would be happy to help you,” she hastened to add.

“I have a self-publisher, BookBaby, who does as good a job as any of you folks.” I let her have it straight too. It caused no ripples on the home front because my son wasn’t all that interested in her anyway.

So here I am, hours, days, months devoted to my old book and my new one, and I’ll be lucky to sell a couple of hundred copies because I’m not a celebrity or a writer with name recognition.

So, yes, when I watch TV personalities and celebrities hawk their books it makes me angry. They get tons of free publicity for materials I’m pretty sure they didn’t write, and I get nothing – except the satisfaction of having created what my two editors think are entertaining novels. Maybe that’s all I really need. Or deserve.

That’s Leslie’s Voice, available on Amazon, and Scavenger Tides, which should be coming out at the same time as The President’s Daughter.

After writing this blog, I shared my author woes with an artist friend, and he had the line of the day: “Well, it’s appropriate that Hillary is working on that kind of novel because she’s always been a mystery to me.”

There you go, folks. Please read my books.

A Rush to Vilify

It must have been 15 years ago that I walked into a paint store and was stopped dead in my tracks by the sound coming out of the shop’s loud speaker. It was Rush Limbaugh spouting something derogatory about women.

I contemplated leaving as his words droned on, but I really wanted that gallon of Misty Green I needed to finish painting my living room. I stuck it out and tried to keep the eye rolling and harrumphs to a minimum.

Over the years, I paid scant attention to Mr. Limbaugh, who by the time he died a couple of days ago was a household name with 15 million listeners. I was not one of them. I didn’t really care what he had to say. Still, to my surprise, I found myself thinking that in death the poor guy didn’t get a fair shake.

Consider what The New York Times had to say in his obituary:

He became a singular figure in the American media, fomenting mistrust, grievances and even hatred on the right for Americans who did not share their views, and he pushed baseless claims and toxic rumors long before Twitter and Reddit became havens for such disinformation. In politics, he was not only an ally of Mr. Trump but also a precursor, combining media fame, right-wing scare tactics and over-the-top showmanship to build an enormous fan base and mount attacks on truth and facts.

Well, that was brutal, I thought when I read it. And as an aside … right-wing scare tactics? What’s that all about?

I know a lot about obituaries, having written my fair share when I was a reporter. Even in recent times, I have helped friends craft final remembrances for loved ones. I always looked for the positive: they were kind to animals or gave money to the needy. It didn’t feel right for The Times to treat Mr. Limbaugh like he was Hitler, even if he was a political shock jock.

It seems to me okay to attack someone when they are alive; when they can defend themselves. Once they are gone and there is no way for them to deflect the slings and arrows directed their way, maybe they should be given a break.

The phrase “controversial figure” comes to mind or “loved by some on the right and hated by the left.”  That’s what Walter Cronkrite might have said. Instead, The Times wrote that he had a “slashing, divisive style of mockery and grievance reshaped American conservatism, denigrating Democrats, environmentalists, “feminazis” (his term) and other liberals….”

As I thought about Rush, my mind wondered over to Howard Stern and his obituary. Would The Times call him a disgusting misogynist pervert who used sexual depravity to become one of the highest paid radio hosts of all time, or would they praise him as ground-breaking and ahead of his time in the discussion of modern sexual mores? I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say.

Other reports of Mr. Limbaugh’s death said there was much celebrating going on. I don’t remember ever wishing that someone was dead. Well, maybe on one or two occasions. But nothing serious – which is why I was shocked at a friend’s recent reaction when she learned an acquaintance of mine was suffering from terminal cancer.

“He’s a white supremacist. I’m not sorry to hear about him,” she said.

“Really, how do you know that he’s a white supremacist?”

“It says so on the Internet,” she replied.

“Oh, so that makes it true. I have never heard him express those kinds of opinions,” I said, “and, honestly I feel bad that he and his family are having to go through this.”

“Sorry but I don’t share your compassion,” she said. I’m guessing that she also celebrated the death of Rush Limbaugh.

It’s a vicious world we live in. Some would say that people like Mr. Limbaugh helped make it that way. I say it falls on all of us to avoid giving cruelty and judgmentalism a platform, no matter what our political beliefs. And if we have to aim arrows, let it be at the living, not the dead or dying.

Bring it on, Joe

The story is that President Biden wants to forbid travel to and from Florida over fears that there is some strange mutation of the virus going on down here.

I don’t know if it’s true. There has only been speculation. But if it is, it sounds like it could be a political “virus” caused by the success of Governor Ron DeSantis and his plan to open up the state while others were shutting theirs down.

And why pick on Florida when I’m guessing a lot of our cases were brought here by people fleeing other jurisdictions? That was the case on our little island. Fly down from New York to come stay with mama and bring her a case of Covid.

In a January interview, the governor pointed out the following statistics:

Florida’s total deaths rank 4th nationally. Florida’s contagion rate is below the national average with 70,002 Covid cases per 1 million in population compared to a national average of 70,982 cases.

Perhaps our president isn’t interested in data … like the numbers of jobs lost and the potential impact on the environment by his policies on oil. But that’s another matter.

“This is clearly unconstitutional…I think they are embarrassed by what Florida has done,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio told Fox News Host Tucker Carlson the other day. He pointed out that New York and California are rapidly losing residents to Florida. He suggested the president was trying to punish the Sunshine State.

I say if you want to ostracize Florida and its 12 million registered voters, bring it on, Joe.

I have long suggested to my man that Florida secede from the union and set up barricades on our northern border. We’ll allow the people we like to cross over; we’ll keep out the undesirables.

And by undesirables, I mean the politicians who have criticized our governor for his handling of the virus, along with others who think our state is filled with old people who are no longer relevant.

There’s a reason Florida hangs out at the bottom of the country and is surrounded by water everywhere except on our northern border. It’s special and deserves its place in the sun. And you only need to live down here to figure out the truth of that remark.

We are the land of mostly beautiful weather, sandy beaches, no state taxes and three championship sporting teams. We are a fun-loving, diverse people who seem to get along with each other. We dress down. We let it all hang out. Think Key West. And five o-clock often comes early. It’s only when the undesirables show up to disrupt our lifestyle that things get testy.

Our attributes are especially noticeable this time of the year. In a recent family Zoom call, when everyone was talking about the snow and ice in Indiana, I was looking at the 75-degree temperature number on my cell phone and wishing we would move to a livelier topic, like the recent Trump impeachment or the increasing censorship in our society.  I’m only kidding. We don’t dare talk politics in our family.

The reason I moved to Florida eight years ago was so that I would never ever see another snowflake or have to navigate icy roads to get to work. I don’t like hurricanes or the threat of nasty weather, but I’ll tolerate that to avoid the violent thunderstorms and potential tornadoes that threaten the Midwest most of the year.

Like all states, we’ve struggled with Covid and had our hot spots (thanks to northern travelers). But we are hanging in there. In feels like Captain Ron is doing a good job leading our little ship.

So, stay away and out of our business, Mr. President. We already have a former president to deal with and that’s enough for us.

Mollie for President

I’ve always liked Mollie Hemingway and what she has to say. She’s a conservative, a senior editor of The Federalist and a contributor to Fox News.

My man and I have seen her frequently on the Brett Bair show as a panelist. She’s smart, perceptive and articulate, doesn’t appear to lose her cool and she’s only 47, which gives her a refreshingly youthful perspective.

But she really captured my heart when she took out after Bruce Springsteen and his odd Super Bowl Jeep ad in one of her columns the other day. Before I talk about what Mollie had to say, let me take you back to our TV room and our reaction to the Super Bowl commercial.

“Who is that old guy,” I asked my man when the commercial started. He looked familiar but I honestly didn’t recognize “the Boss.” He had that weathered look that old male celebrities often achieve … with a little help from their plastic surgeons. Okay for a 70-year-old but not swoon material like, for example, Sean Connery was even until his death.

Sorry for sounding petty here but Bruce got on the wrong side of me decades ago. My daughter, her teenage friend and the friend’s mother had gone to a Bruce Springsteen concert in downtown Indianapolis and didn’t get home until 1 a.m. on a week-day night; she had school and I had to go to work the next day.

The concert lasted four hours. Wasn’t that great, my daughter enthused. Not so much from my perspective. This was before cell phones. My daughter was 13, and I was worried sick by the time she finally arrived home. I never liked him after that. Too much ego.

Back to the commercial with its phony-sounding message about unity and love and seeking the middle. As Mollie pointed out, Bruce has never been a man interested in the middle.

She wrote: “Springsteen’s posture against Republicans is well known and goes back decades. He was angry at President Ronald Reagan’s positive mention of Springsteen’s ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ He endorsed and campaigned for John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden.

“One reason the middle has been a hard place to get to is because of wealthy and powerful people like Springsteen spewing hatred toward Republican presidents and their voters dating back to the 1980s.”

And to that I add, where was Bruce’s angst when the pipeline was cancelled by the new president, putting thousands of the singer’s “people” out of work.

Bruce is entitled to his opinions and allowed to support whatever candidates he wants. He has every right to be liberal in his attitudes and thoughts. What he doesn’t have the right to do is expect credibility when he puts himself in the posture of “savior” and suggests that we should all reach out and embrace the middle just because he tells us to.

No, I ceased to be a Springsteen fan a long time ago. Mollie Hemingway? That’s a different story. As my man likes to say whenever he sees her on television: “Mollie for president.”

Wallpaper Woes

I have a long history with wallpaper. None of it good.

So, when my man and I were looking to buy a condo we could remodel for future use, I ignored the beautiful view of the Intercoastal Waterway and focused instead on the walls. The condo was 26 years old and so was the wallpaper.

“Look at this view,” my man enthused.

“Look at this wallpaper,” I responded. It had big bold putrid prints, and it was everywhere.

We had just been through a remodeling project in our current residence. Removing the bathroom wallpaper that had lizards and flowers that looked like they were from the movie The Little Shop of Horrors cost as much as my new undercounter microwave.

That’s because we made the mistake of asking the painters to get rid of the offending wall covering and then paying them by the hour. It was a nightmare project.

Now, as my man stood entranced by the bright blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I could only imagine how much time and money would be involved in the removal of the ugly aqua patterns in the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Thank heavens the living room had been spared this creative touch.

I still remember, when back in the 1960s and wallpaper was in style, removing the hideous wall coverings in my tiny kitchen on Indianapolis’ northside. It was a three-weekend project, despite my best efforts and some goo I applied to “loosen” paper that had cemented itself to the wall over a couple of decades.

I talked a friend into hanging blue and lime green vinyl wallpaper as a replacement. My husband at the time wanted nothing to do with it. I later learned why. The lime green might have been okay but the blue flowers were almost scary. What was I thinking when I selected that particular print?

They say that color can affect your mood. Maybe that’s why my husband and I were divorced within a year of the application of this new wallpaper. Apparently, he got mad every time he walked into the kitchen.

After he left, I replaced it with a peaceful pale yellow – and life was much better.

I tried again in the late 80s to hang some lovely dark green wallpaper in my bathroom. The printer who insisted he was a pro at such installations spent two days putting it up. When it dried completely there were little lines of exposed wall between each sheet. He was sorry there was nothing he could do to fix it. So was I.

Why anyone would want to install wallpaper is a puzzle to me. Styles change; colors are also transient. In South Florida you might get by with a seagrass look. But even palm leaves against a white backdrop get old, leaving your house dated in short order.

While I was still pondering who we would get to remove the ghastly wallpaper and the swags over the windows in this new condo, I received an email from one of my favorite retailers: Annie Selke. They specialize in rugs, but this particularly message had to do with creating a “home office oasis” that makes “working from home a little more fun.”

Their recommended trick was to plaster some exotic design on the wall behind your desk. A link to the wallpaper section revealed brightly colored patterns and options.

Not only was I not impressed; I was horrified. The “rhythmic and lyrical paisleys, floral and foliage” pictured in a bedroom would surely give you nightmares. The “happy fish multi” wallpaper would leave your brain swimming. In truth, their suggestions looked a lot like the 20-year-old wallpaper I couldn’t wait to remove from the condo we were considering buying.

“No!” I shrieked and hit delete. Others may choose wallpaper; I’m sticking to paint.

Age-Old Questions

No one on our little island cared about how old anyone was until the clinic started dispensing the coronavirus vaccine based on age and Florida residency.

“I heard your husband got his shot. Uh, just how old is he?” I asked a vivacious woman many weeks ago when vaccinations began, and I heard they were injecting 90-year-olds.

“He’s 88,” she said. And giggled. She looks 50 and fabulous, although I’m sure she is, um, older.

“He can’t be 88,” I responded with genuine surprise both at his age and my reaction every time I see him. The fact that I could be attracted to someone who is 88 was a bit shocking to me.

That was at least six weeks ago. Since then, age-checking among islanders has escalated, especially during the short period when the clinic ran out of the vaccine.

“Has the clinic called you yet? I heard they are into the 70s,” an acquaintance inquired recently.

Oh, you think I’m in my 70s and perhaps older than you? “No, but I’m hopeful and will let you know when I get the call,” I said.

Never have so many people who think of themselves as “young” wanted to be “older.”

When I did hear from the clinic yesterday that I was scheduled for a shot today, I dutifully informed all my younger friends and told them their shots should be coming soon.

Once the virus is under control, I can go back to thinking that I’m in my late 30s. I’m hoping I and others can forget how old I really am.

* * *

Among the calls about the vaccine was an unrelated question from a friend of mine from up north. She just had to tell me the story of a man who was expelled from her church. It was surprising to her because she thought of him as likeable and a willing volunteer, and she was troubled by what happened. She wondered if I had an opinion on the situation.

It was a curious tale, but perhaps not surprising given that human nature often trumps the tenets of Christianity. Here’s how it went:

The elderly man was called in out-of-the blue for a conference with the church pastor and was told that another member of the congregation had accused him of being a “philanderer.” A somewhat old-fashioned term, a philanderer is a man who readily or frequently enters into casual sexual relations with women: a womanizer.

He told the pastor he was shocked at such an accusation. He said he was a divorced man who had dated, somewhat infrequently, and had recently been seeing a woman. However, they were no longer together.

Whether or not the man was given the name of his accuser was unknown. It also appeared, my friend said, that the accuser could have been passing on second-hand information.

Several days after the meeting, the man received a brief letter telling him he was never to set foot on church property again. If he did, the church would take legal action against him. My friend noted that the pastor’s letter expelling the member of his flock was less than 50 words and 12 characters over a standard tweet.

“Wow. That was pretty final,” I said to my friend. “What did the man do?”

“No one knows except the people involved, and they aren’t talking,” she said. “But the man is upset and believes he has been wronged.”

I shared the incident with my walking companion as we strolled the beach this morning.

“It feels like the man didn’t get due process,” I said, acknowledging that there must be more to the story. “If he committed a crime, I’m sure the police would have been involved. Apparently, that wasn’t the case.”

My beach-walking buddy also thought it odd. “I’m not a church-goer, but isn’t Christianity about helping people instead of kicking them to the curb?”

We both nodded. The story is scary and a reminder that words do matter no matter what your age – especially today with social media and the #MeToo movement figuring prominently in gossip and character assassination; some merited and some not.

I hate to admit it, but I’m curious about the next episode and the answer to the age-old question: victim or perpetrator?

Hardware Store Dust-Up

Apparently, there was a dust-up at the island hardware store about mask-wearing  the other day.

The story is that an island resident, a woman, entered the store and while shopping there asked either a worker or another patron to please put on a mask.

I’ve been in this store a couple of times and none of the workers wears a mask. Maybe it’s because most of the local tradespeople avoid wearing the protective gear and the hardware store wants to make sure its best customers feel welcome. That construction workers avoid masks was scary for me over the summer because we were remodeling. But we wore our masks when dealing with them and kept our distance and it worked out – somehow.

Back to the hardware store saga and the customer who complained.

It seems the owner appeared or was summoned – unclear at this point – and told the woman what she could do with her demands about wearing masks. I didn’t hear the conversation but the rumor is that it wasn’t pretty. It got heated quickly as those things often do.

The woman, feeling threatened, went home and called the sheriff whose office is just a couple of blocks away from the store.

The story stops there. It wasn’t reported in the local newspaper so I can only assume that cooler heads prevailed, with a little help from the law. Now it is being spread via the island gossip line, which often does not include key facts or accurate outcomes.

I smiled to myself when I heard about the problem. One thing I learned from the summer of the Covid was to keep my mouth shut and my opinions about mask-wearing to myself. You don’t want to wear a mask? Then my goal is to steer clear of you in any and all ways possible. I’m not about to ask if you have scrambled eggs for brains or confront you amid the nails and rubber hoses. It’s a losing battle.

I support mask wearing and will continue to do so until I get both of my vaccine shots and the country has been given the all-clear by health officials.

Or maybe not. Advice from health officials is another dust-up in the making. Just today I was reading an opinion piece by Miranda Devine, New York Post columnist, who insists that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and medical advisor to our new president, has played loose and easy with the facts over the past year.

“Back in March, when the coronavirus was decimating New York, he suggested that masks were useless,” Ms. Devine writes. “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” he told 60 Minutes.

He later admitted to InStyle magazine that he was lying because there was a serious problem with having enough masks for health care workers and that masks had to be saved for people who needed them the most.

It seems he also fudged the numbers on herd immunity by changing them to suit his message at the time.

If we couldn’t believe him last March, how will we be able to believe him in the future – even if he does feel liberated to speak freely under a new president, Ms. Devine asks.

I don’t know the answer to that. I also have no idea when I will get my first vaccine shot. At the island clinic, they were moving along nicely with the 90 and 80-year-olds. Just when they were about to enter my age bracket, they ran out of vaccine. Not sure when more will arrive, they say. Note to self: Check and see if Republican states are getting less vaccines than those run by Democrats.

So, I’ll keep wearing my mask and, in the meantime, I’ll stay out of the local hardware store and listen to Dr. Fauci’s claims with my usual skepticism. Someday soon I’d like to feel liberated, too. From my mask, that is.

 

Canceling the Ladies

My Polish cleaning lady was unceremoniously dumped by Facebook the other day.

Yes, she believes that Trump won the election and that there is a vast network of celebrity pedophiles operating in the world who will soon be exposed. But she’s not aggressive about her beliefs. And her postings have more to do with spirituality and not killing and eating animals than politics.

“Did they offer an explanation?” I asked when she gave me the news.

“Nothing. I woke up and I was gone, along with all of my postings and about 200 friends. Cleaned out as though I never existed,” she said and sighed.

This was not a woman who marched on Washington, D. C. or even thought about it.  I’ve never heard her raise her voice in anger. She doesn’t become upset if you don’t agree with her. One of her hobbies is fostering older rescue dogs. She’s a vegetarian who likes doing yoga.

And this is a person that Facebook has decided is a threat to our country.

“So, you came from a Communist country to the U. S. where you thought free speech was one of our most important individual rights,” I said. “How do you feel about what happened?”

“I guess what really bothers me is that they didn’t give me a chance to appeal,” she said as she shrugged and ran her feather duster over the bookcase.

What she did after she was offed by Facebook was what you would expect from any red-blooded American who values free speech. She created another Facebook account using her full name.

She and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. But I’m still interested in what she has to say. And while I don’t agree with about the recent election and the network of pedophiles, who am I to criticize her or try to shut her down?

Obviously, that’s not the way ideas are being treated in our country today.

***

Glamour, the magazine founded in 1939 and which today carries such earth-shaking on-line stories as a celebrity denying that she got lip injections while she was pregnant, decided to take one final potshot at former First Lady Melania Trump the other day.

Melania Trump is the least popular first lady of the United States in modern history was the headline on Emily Tannenbaum’s little piece. It pointed out that Mrs. Trump’s favorability rating was 42 percent, while her disapproval rating was 47 precent.

“Traditionally first ladies are uniformly admired,” Ms. Tannenbaum quoted CNN as saying. “It’s hard to be unpopular.”

Where to begin. How about the nasty stories about how no designer wanted to dress the new First Lady at the inaugural ball? Or Michelle Obama’s petty comments about Melania for bringing a Tiffany present on the Trumps’ first visit to the White House? How about the criticism of every outfit she wore for almost every occasion? What about the ongoing inferences that she couldn’t stand to hold her husband’s hand in public? Or that the White House Christmas decorations were tasteless because they were too red, for God’s sake?

And those are just the few I can remember.

The Hill recently reminded me that even Melania’s accent was mocked on national television by Jimmy Kimmel while she was reading to children during a White House Easter event.

“But the true low point came after Mrs. Trump had to undergo a procedure on her kidney, which required hospitalization afterward. Two weeks later, speculation of the grossest kind emerged after she wasn’t seen publicly while recovering,” says The Hill.

It pointed out that Jamil Smith, a Rolling Stone senior writer, guessed on Twitter that the first lady hadn’t been seen because she was being beaten at the White House by her presidential husband. Sorry to say that someone like him still has a Twitter and Facebook account and is considered a “journalist.”

The final criticism came when the Trumps did not follow the long-standing tradition of welcoming their successors into the White House last week. Credit them for not being hypocrites.

Perhaps Melania left a note for Dr. Biden, as her husband did for Joe. If she did, I’m guessing it would have said something like this: “Good luck. I hope you are treated better than I was. But don’t count on it. Wives are always easy targets for small-minded people.”

You were okay in my book, Melania.

Uncommon Courtesy

My mother used to say that using please and thank-you were a matter of common courtesy. So was saying hello to people you pass on the street, opening doors for seniors and waiting your turn, among other acts of polite behavior. Those were kinder, gentler times, I guess.

Today courtesy doesn’t seem to extend much further than the person in the mirror – looking back at you and saying how special you are.

I got that feeling recently when I was waiting my turn at a local frame shop. The woman in front of me, the framer and I were exchanging pleasantries when a blond woman strolled in looking as though she thought we were expecting her.

She was carrying what must have been a painting wrapped in a black plastic bag.

“Are you Cindy?” she inquired of me.

I shrugged. “No, I’m waiting to get some things framed.”

“Oh, I thought all of you worked here,” she said, surveying Joni behind the counter and us, the two customers. The blond then strolled to the counter and plopped her plastic bag on top of the two paintings that were sitting there, waiting for frame selection.

The three of us gasped, as the framer rushed to lift the blond woman’s package off the other artwork and place it on an empty counter nearby.

“I’ll just set this over here,” the framer said politely. Situation handled. Almost.

“It would be nice if we all worked here. That would mean the store was doing a bang-up business,” I said matter-of-factly as the woman continued to hang around the counter waiting for her needs to be met.

“Oh, I’m not the kind of person that cuts in line,” she said, glancing down at her watch as though time was money.

When the lady before me finished with her frame choices and placed her order, Joni indicated she was ready for me.

“Let her go ahead,” I offered. Was I being courteous? No, I just wanted the blond woman gone, not waiting impatiently for me to finish.

The artwork, a canvas print of tulips stretched over wood, needed a special frame. She spent the next 10 minutes rejecting the framer’s suggestions. When, at last, the woman agreed with the framer’s choice, I felt a sense of relief.

The framer measured the piece and then quoted the price: $155.

“What!?” the woman said. “That’s a lot of money. Way more than the painting is worth. I’ll need to think about it,” she said as she snatched up the tulips and departed.

Relieved that she was gone, the framer and I pondered what to do with the two pieces I had brought in. We were on our second framing challenge when several customers walked in the door. I thought of the blond woman and what my mother always told me about being courteous.

“Looks like this will take some time,” I said. “Why don’t you take this out of the frame and I’ll come back next week.”

It seemed like a simple thing to do. I was willing to share my time with others.

Later in the afternoon, I was struck by another example of what I consider to be discourteous behavior. And it came from then president-elect Joe Biden.

First, he criticized the Trump administration for what he considered to be a slow roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine. Then he said he would vaccinate 100 million people in the first 100 days of the administration.

Now that the election was over and Biden had been declared the victor, why didn’t he decide to be magnanimous in his comments. He could afford to be. Here’s what he should have said:

“It’s quite amazing that the Trump administration and the pharmaceutical companies were able to deliver a vaccine in such a short time. We owe them a debt of gratitude. And, as your president, I will continue that effort, making the delivery of these life-saving drugs my No. 1 priority.  It is my hope that by the end of April we will have vaccinated 100 million more Americans.”

Why is courtesy and selfless action so uncommon these days? Particularly among politicians.

Hillary’s Revenge

Note: I would have posted this sooner but my site was hacked and it took weeks to sort things out. But I’m happy to say that I’m back!

The United States Electoral College met on Dec. 14 to decide who would be our next president. Proudly stepping up to cast her vote as an elector was none other than Hillary Clinton – failed candidate for the nation’s highest office in 2016. This is the same woman who the very next day called for the Electoral College to be abolished, but said she was glad to cast her vote for Joe Biden as president.

“I believe we should abolish the Electoral College and select our president by the winner of the popular vote, same as every other office,” Clinton tweeted shortly after doing her duty as an elector. “But while it still exists, I was proud to cast my vote in New York for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

I read her quote on my news feed and, well, nearly fell out of my chair.

How did Hillary Clinton get to be a member of the Electoral College – and for that matter – further research showed – her husband Bill Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo?

As an aside, missing from this year’s New York State electoral college team was New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who was an elector in 2016. He was booted off by Governor Cuomo, who, along with State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, nominated the New York state Electoral College at a meeting in September of the New York State Democratic Committee.

Jacobs said the decision was deliberate since de Blasio had run against Biden for the presidency and letting him vote would be unseemly. My words, not his.

The news about the Clintons and other Electoral College members came as a surprise to me and to my cleaning lady, who was born in Poland and, as of late, has taken a big interest in politics. We chatted about it this morning, deciding we were both naïve about such things.

“I didn’t use to care about politics at all,” she said, feather duster in hand. “Ten months ago, I was a Trump hater and then I saw the light. Now I see that politics is the same everywhere. It’s all about who you know. Connections.”

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t on her citizenship test. Clever woman picked it up on her own.

Neither she nor I had given much thought to the Electoral College, we decided, including how its members were selected. I assumed it was the average Joe or Jane who decided it was their civic duty to be able to cast the final vote for a president and then ran for the position. But I never remembered watching anyone campaign – openly – for a slot on the Electoral College or seeing names on a ballot.

I should have known better. That, in the end, us average citizens would not have the final say.

Many years ago, another reporter and I wrote an article about political patronage for The Indianapolis Star. It was the exploration of how favors were dispensed to the faithful political party workers after Evan Bayh was elected governor of Indiana.

The surprise was that everyone in the Bayh administration was surprised that we had written about something that was commonplace but seldom spoken about publicly. Political patronage doesn’t belong to one party. Both practice it. It’s the old “to the victor goes the spoils” adage in action.

And so it goes with the Electoral College it seems. If you are a party bigwig, you get the prize. A juicy appointment. A chance to hobnob with other bigwigs on Dec. 14. And, despite this being the age of Covid, a chance to cast your ballot in person and enjoy a few celebratory laughs at the other party’s expense. As Hillary did.

Revenge for her was sweet, it seems. Even though it meant participating in a process she apparently disdains.

You can stop reading here or you can proceed with a little history lesson, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Two sets of electors are chosen by the respective parties. If the Republican candidate for president wins, the Republican electors get to cast their votes. Same goes for the Democrats. Each state appoints electors according to its legislature, equal in number to its congressional delegation (senators and representatives). Federal office holders cannot be electors.

All jurisdictions use a winner-take-all method to choose their electors, except for Maine and Nebraska, which choose one elector per congressional district and two electors for the ticket with the highest statewide vote. The electors meet and vote in December and the inauguration of the president and vice president takes place in January.

The Huffington Post, stating the obvious, suggests that to become an elector you need a fair amount of political clout: “Dream big, run for office, or, at the very least, become really involved with party politics to be one of the 538 people who officially cast votes for the president.”

If you want to have a little fun, check out the list of 2020 members of the Electoral College – and try not to roll your eyes as you read through it. Kudos to Texas for including a 19-year-old student and a celloist.

Other than those few exceptions, some things never change. As my cleaning lady says: “It’s all about connections.”