January 2007

Check Your Bags, Sir?

I love gizmos and gadgets and things that go whirrrr.  I like easy-to-use pieces of technology like iPods and scales that register not only my body weight but provide some sort of fat calculation, too. How do it know?   And whether or not I’m liquidy enough.  I like the stores that sell gizmos and gadgets and things that go whirrrr.  Toy stores for adults.

But my favorite novelty item whenever I’m in such an establishment is on the lowest rung of technology.  Invariably there are half a dozen models with varying features.  Some are the standard model, others have sophisticated circular illumination systems. Just a few years ago, models offered only 3x magnification, then out came a 5x magnification, 8x and now ten times the magnification.

I’m talking about those magnifying mirrors with lights that some approach with trepidation. Not me!  That is the first thing I head to in any Brookstone Store. My wife absolutely refuses to look at her face in one of these devices.  I can’t wait.

Whoa now.  If you have any feelings of permanence or that Mother Earth somehow isn’t calling you home, take a look in an 8x illuminated mirror and gaze with wonderment.  Any illusions that you are immune from gravity are quickly dispelled.   Ha!  I love gravity.  I have a bumper sticker over my computer that states: Gravity is what makes work possible.  Gotta love the obvious.

Over the last few years, I’ve started growing jowls. One of the definitions of jowl is the cheek meat of a hog.  C’mon!  I’m not particularly overweight.  I have a bit of pooch (sadly) yet I’m getting these jowls just below my mouth.  Why?  Why does God do this to me? Initially I only had the beginnings of one set of jowls but blessed be the inexorable pull of gravity and Mother Earth and damn, if I haven’t started yet another set.

The magnifying mirror shows it all.  Oh, and just about every other abuse you’ve ever foisted-off on your body.  I marvel at the sun spots and my pores.  I’ve pores that NASA could explore with a Moon Rover.  Oh, and red veins that not so subtly pop out of my nose.  And wrinkles.  My gawd, the wrinkles!  I don’t so much mind the wrinkles. Wrinkles are fissures, canyons but at least they don’t droop like my jowls.  Not yet anyway.

Before my jowls became my focus, I marveled at all the different hairs that can grow errantly out of one’s ears and nose.  Once, about age 45, my barber clipped a hair out of my ear.  MY EAR!  I said, “What the hell was that?” He laughed it off, said something about that’s what happens as you age and I just knew AARP wasn’t far behind. Hell, you can have hairs growing out of the side of your nose.  What’s the point of that?  Some divine plan!  And God said, “Let there be ear and nose hairs!”  And it came to pass.  Thank goodness for weaving!

Did I mention the bags under my eyes?  Ha!  Check your bags, Sir?  That’s what the plastic surgeon says. I understand why folks have surgery but it’s not for me.

I pull the skin taut under my eyes, squint a bit and think I could pass for 38 but then my eyes inevitably lower to my Mr. Piggy Jowls and I laugh at it all. I don’t have enough hands and fingers to pull taut all that is slowly being pulled south. Sigh.

Aging certainly lets you know your outcome.  And that’s okay.  One of my inspirations, Joseph Campbell said it best,  “Let it go.”  I love looking at fresh, firm, youthful flesh, it makes me have an awe for our species and the process by which we come and go.

I read in the Orlando Sentinel that PBS is bringing one of my favorite TV programs to Orlando in June, Antiques Road Show. I registered online to attend.  I have been mulling over what to take and have appraised.  I so like old stuff.

I decided I’d take my face.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


The Bill You
Get With William

It’s been a bad few weeks for men. Let’s do some quick math.  A recent survey was released stating that for the first time 51% of American women were living without a spouse. That is, without a man in the house.  Well, that doesn’t sound so bad what with increased economic opportunities for women, the ability to control if and when you have children, just a general sense that women are taking control of their lives and making important life decisions for themselves.

And one of those decisions includes living without men.  But that is only part of the equation.  Another, different survey, asked married women about their marriages.  So we’re down to 49% of adult women.  Remember 51% already do not live with men. Out of those polled married women, 36% said, in essence, no way would I ever (shoot me first) marry that SOB again. Hmmm?

Thirty-six percent of 49% equals roughly 17%, so that leaves 32% of married women what, happy with men?  Wrong.  Another 23% said, “You know, since you’re asking, the question I’d have to give some serious thought to exactly how happy I am in my marriage.”

Oh my, we’re down to a quarter of married women actually happy with their marriages.  Argh.  That translates into one-eighth of America’s female population are happy with men.   Actually, I’m going to take a liberty here and toss in one-eighth of the not-living-with-men group that are dating men, seeing them, who generally like men but wouldn’t necessarily, actually, you know, live with them.

Voila, you have one quarter of the adult female population that are, to a certain extent, okay with men.

I made this observation (my calculations) to a number of gals and invariably it was asked, “What’s wrong with those women?”  That they still like men.

Ha! Ha!  Too funny.  But it does beg the question, has it always been like this?  It is said that feminism has been good for women but bad for marriage.  That is a sad commentary that the freer, more independent a woman becomes, the institution of marriage doesn’t seem to accommodate such virtues.

If marriage is no longer critical for a woman’s economic survival, if being married is not a prerequisite for having a child nor is there any particular animus or discrimination towards being single, what then do you base a long term relationship?  Sure, economic considerations and having a family are factors.  No denying that. But those factors certainly do not seem to be much of an impediment to divorce.

Why marry if you are only going to inevitably divorce?

My sister was married 37 years and said, “Marriage is the hardest thing we (humans) do.”  I’ve started asking people, which sex is more difficult to live with?   I’ve only asked women thus far and, guys, it doesn’t look good for us.  In my naiveté, I thought there would be an approximation of balance, Oh, 55% of the time women vs 45% of the time men are easier to live with.  Wrong curtain, Mr. Jepson.

Overwhelming, according to women, men as a group are frequently unpleasant.  Why is marriage so hard?  I’ll sum it up in a woman’s way: It’s the Bill you get with William.

William is this delightful suitor, caring, interested, generous, humorous and good in the sack. But then along comes (5, 8, 12 , 22, 37 years later) Bill, who’s moronic, myopic, indifferent. cranky and a limp noodle.

I don’t know which sex comes to this male/female thing we call “our relationship” with more baggage but the women I’ve polled would overwhelmingly suggest it’s men who do.  How much of our incompatibility is genetic, how much is cultural?

If women don’t like the way men turn out, if our unpleasantness, our inflexibility, our domineering personalities, our my way or the highway approach, hey, the list is reputed to be nearly endless, then I’ve a modest suggestion.

Instead of “Momma, don’t let your son grow up to be a cowboy,” I suggest it be, “Momma, don’t let your son grow up to be a misogynistic philistine of a human being.”

I argue (to a degree) that the hand that rocks the cradle . . .

Actually, I don’t particularly buy into a lot of this.   I think the Male/Female relationship is evolving like everything else alive. I suggest events (modernity, feminism) have outstripped our ability as a culture to move (mature), perhaps, as fast as we need to.

Yet, as long as men and women have a desire for one another, we have open, an inescapable line of communication.

“Do you feel me,” she asks?

“What next,” he responds.

Gotta laugh.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

A Father’s Gift

One of the things I kept of my fathers after he died was a small, rectangular shaped piece of wood, painted white with the words precisely printed: Basement Sale followed by a directional arrow and the words: Enter Here.  It sits behind one of those black Eight Balls with the floating answer and a graphic lapel button of a provocatively naked Betty Boop. I look at this stuff every time I sit down to write.

After my father died we conducted an auction. His accumulated flea market finds gathered in $41k.  Much of it I wouldn’t have collected but that wasn’t the point.  It greatly amused father to buy objects for three bucks and sell’um for four.

My old bedroom consisted of two rooms, actually and both were filled with lampshades. Every imaginable shape, size and color.  He must have purchased every old lampshade ever offered in Sioux City.  I never asked when visiting the point of cornering the market on old Sioux City lampshades.  There was no point.

It made me laugh, however, to throw open the door to my youth and see it stuffed, floor to ceiling, with dusty old stuff.  If you ever feel there is permanence about life, let me disabuse of the notion. My closet was filled with shades, my bed stacked to the ceiling.

My lumpy, lovely old bed where I dreamed my wondrous, desirous dreams of girls, adventure and possibilities (Are they one and the same?) had become little more than a repository for many an Iowa widow’s yellowing artifacts.

The auctioneer who conducted my father’s estate sale did us a favor. There was no market for aging lampshades.  He hauled them away to the landfill.

The Basement Sale sign hung out virtually every day.  It informed folks to enter a side door to a never-ending sale, to walk down darkened stairs to our basement where father displayed his finds, mostly junk really. If, over time, you gained my father’s confidence he’d invite you upstairs to see his treasures.  A few of these folks actually attended his funeral.

After he died I went through this stuff, along with my siblings.  I took the sign and a few hand tools which I occasionally use with reverence. My brother took the dining room chair where everyday my father sat and ate.  Its worn, wooden arms are covered in sweaty old dirt and dad’s DNA. My brother will not wash it.

I distinctly remember when my mother and father bought that dining room set. We become so attached to things that were once part of a loved one’s life. Sentimentality, by any other name. I guess.

My father’s been dead for a decade.  I left my old home the last time in 1996 with dad’s massive Webster’s New International Dictionary purchased February 27, 1954 (neatly recorded in his hand writing). He truly loved that book. If there ever was a Bible to my father, Webster’s was the true word.

I also took his Leicas and lenses (cameras).

I took his word and view of the world.

About as much as any son can take from his father.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


The Meter Is Running.

On January 4, 2007, Democrats take control of Congress.  On January 4, 2007, the President’s war becomes the Democrat’s war and the meter starts running.

Without a doubt, President Bush’s Iraq war has been the worst foreign policy decision since Viet Nam, arguably the worst American blunder in the past 100 years.  The threat posed by Iraq to America was non-existent. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no nuclear weapons. No links to Osama bin Laden or Al Quaeda.  There were no long range missiles capable of striking America.

Iraq was not a terrorist threat to America and had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks of 9-11. Yet, President Bush and his advisors intentionally took the nation to war, a war of choice, under questionable and false pretenses.

The American Congress failed dismally in its Constitutional obligation to offer an effective check and balance to the government’s executive branch.  Congress is as responsible for this abominable war, by it’s failure to perform due diligence, as the President is for his administration’s out and out misrepresentations of the facts and threats posed by Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

The direct costs to the nation are measurable and obvious. Estimates of $2 trillion are suggested as to the actual long term costs of this folly of a war. Nearly 3,000 dead service men and women and tens of thousands horribly wounded.  And the devastation initiated by America to the nation of Iraq is worse than anything Saddam Hussein himself inflicted upon those unfortunate people.

There are other equally as important costs that are incalculable. America’s ill-conceived, poorly planned and dismally executed occupation of Iraq has destabilized an already unstable Mideast region. Where no terrorist threat existed (Iraq) before, there is today.  America has been shown to be a bungling, incompetent, inept and imperialistic nation. The Iraq war is a shame upon all Americans and a black, black mark on our history as a nation.

America created this problem in Iraq. We attacked and occupied a nation that was neither aggressive towards America nor particularly belligerent in word or deed.  We have destroyed the proverbial china shop by our bullish and boorish behavior with no real hope of ever putting it back together as a functioning whole. What then do we do?  There are any number of “reasonable” plans floating in Washington DC. Most include an Iraq in a federated state of three distinct regions (Shia, Sunni & Kurd).  America needs to withdraw its troops and personnel from Iraq as soon as possible. Today would be a good start. We do not need to “surge” our troop levels under the pretenses of withdrawing them.  That is borderline goofy. Catch-22 comes to mind.

But let the Democrats understand, the Iraq war becomes their war on January 4, 2007. Every day another serviceman dies or is wounded under their watch, they become as culpable as President Bush for that tragedy.

The meter is running.  Leave Iraq now!