New Gods For Old Age

Although old is a relative term, generally, old people never get anything and (some would say) deserve even less.  Children annoy them, teenagers avoid them and adults talk to them in that voice we reserve for pets.  Their stories are long, their habits are confusing and they play way too much “Remember When.”  However, old people have it over everybody else on the planet because they have their own set of gods!  These gods and goddesses, like the pantheon of Valhalla or Olympus, govern all aspects of “older” life.  They appear to us slowly as we tack on the years.  They slyly watch as we slowly trade in our tequila for iced tea, push-up bras for baggy sweatshirts, stiletto heels for comfortable shoes and muscle cars for minivans.  And by the time we’ve replaced vodka shots with a glass of wine and clubbing with crossword puzzles, they have our fate firmly in their hands.  These gods should not be ignored because we’re all going to have to deal with them one day.

Cutonya – The goddess of beautiful grandchildren.  With one glance, she turns any grandchild into the cutest, funniest, most talented little kid on the planet.

Kwikus – This is the god who manipulates the calendar so that days, weeks and seasons magically disappear, and suddenly it’s Christmas– again.

Noxia — This is the god who finds joints and muscles we never knew we had and torments them with annoying little aches and pains.  This is punishment for all the times we were mean, thoughtless and rude when we were younger.  Get used to it!

Poof — The goddess of the unexpected fart.

Scritch – The god of the inappropriate itch.

Folus — The god of aggressive nose hair.

Wat – The god of selective hearing.  This god saves us from all the stuff we didn’t really want to hear in the first place.

Notagin — This is the most helpful of the gods.  He’s the one who protects us from all evil.  He keeps track of our experiences and steers us away from making the same stupid mistakes we made when we were kids.  We should never overlook Notagin, because old people who do, end up giving all their money to Nigerian princes or greedy grandchildren who have no honour.

Myosotia – Sometimes called the Goddess What’s-Her-Name, she takes proper names and puts them just out of reach.  She also hides small objects like keys in the very place we left them.  Oddly enough, Myosotia doesn’t bother with memories that are 20, 30 and even 40 years old — which remain crystal clear.

Metamorpho – This god transforms professional people like doctors, lawyers, accountants, police officers and even judges and politicians into children – who get younger and younger every year.

Kilomornow and his twin sister Saggeth – These two tricksters love practical jokes like shrinking clothes that hang in the closet, adding extra numbers to bathroom scales, distorting mirrors and moving body parts just a little lower to the ground.

But mostly, old people’s lives are governed by the Queen of the Gods:

Idonkare – The most powerful goddess of all, Idonkare spends her time lounging around with her indolent lover, Sowat, playing backgammon and eating nachos, yet her power is so awesome that merely invoking her name brings harmony and comfort to the universe.  For example:

“Looks like you lawn is gettin’ a little long there, Herb.”
“Idonkare!”

Or:

“It’s the trendiest restaurant in town and I’ve got reservations!”
“Idonkare!”

And, of course:

“Grandma, nobody wears a Hawaiian shirt and Lederhosen!”
“Idonkare!”

Firenze — Fini

It was sometime after the Tagliere that Emily finally just couldn’t stand it. “Dreyfus, you look ridiculous.”

Dreyfus, who was actually the only one of the three of them who had extra clothes, had chosen to wear the red “Italia” sweatshirt he’d bought on the first day in Florence.

“I’m a tourist” he said, pulling the Italia logo.  “And don’t throw stones.  You and your girlfriend look like a couple of cougars from Blackpool.”

Emily’s face registered the surprise insult.  “It’s not as if anybody would let us go shopping.”

But then the Tagliatelle fungi came with another bottle of wine and Emily dismissed him with a chop of her hand.

Dreyfus had gathered Emily and Janet from the hotel.  Now, as night fell, they were sitting at an outside table in a nearly deserted restaurant (a couple of Swedish boys, Gerry and Laurie from Ohio, and a tour group of five who were eager to get the bill before dark) on the Piazza Something-Or-Other, across from a dance club (ironically one of the Ciampi’s) that was just cranking up the music.  Long-day tired, they were relaxed and relieved and feeling the days of tension slipping away.  The wine helped and the food helped, and the music was just tough enough to suggest a party.  Then the music stopped and waited and started again and …

Oh. My. God!  Jans!  Listen!”

“Call him Mr. Wr …” Boom! Boom! Boom!

“Remember?”  Emily’s eyes were bright with excitement as the techno music beat across the Piazza.  There was a studied look and suddenly Ms. Miller grabbed a spoon and, with a makeshift microphone, was singing along, karaoke style.

“I know what I wa …”  Boom! Boom! Boom!

And Emily was singing too, pushing her face forward to share the microphone spoon.  And the beat changed to Rap and the two women pushed their chairs back and, hair flying, they Shuffle danced into the piazza.  Dreyfus laughed and pushed his own chair back, but he was too late: the Swedish boys — who were clearly interested in two cougars from Blackpool — had already jumped into the dance.  Then Brittany, walking by, thought “Swedish boys!” dropped her knapsack and stepped in, as well.  Not to be outdone, Dreyfus caught Laurie from Ohio’s eye and gestured.  She feigned reluctance but … a quick glance at Gerry, and she was on her feet.  She was of an age to remember the song and although a little rusty (she hadn’t danced in years) had some moves.  Gerry wasn’t sure what to do, so he sat there.  And the music played and the three of them danced — like primitive warriors sharing their victory with strangers.  Boom! Boom! Boom!

And, at about the same time, a couple of streets away and here and there all over Firenze, Albanian hard boys were being attacked, beaten and, in a couple of cases, killed.  Sometimes, the carabinieri intervened, but mostly they didn’t.  This was Martina Ciampi’s dish – eaten cold.   And the two men who could have (and would have) organized retaliation were driving hard for the coast.  They’d run with two cars, a small bag of weapons and a smaller bag of money.  They’d left the lawyers, the wives and the mistresses to deal with the mess and were headed for Ancona and an anonymous ship across the Adriatic to Durres.  The hope was the cars would pay for the passage — and if they didn’t, one of the two bags would.  But the real hope was they could disappear into the Albanian countryside before Martina Ciampi, the Italian Federal police, the British Secret Service or that madman Dreyfus Sinclair caught up with them.

The music faded, grew — Boom! Boom! Boom! — faded again and stopped.  Emily and Janet jumped at each other and hugged — and in the general chaos – people, tables and chairs – they were suddenly all together like old friends when the chef showed up with the biggest, rawest Bistecca alla Fiorentina any of them had ever seen.  There was general oohing and approval and then just confusion as everybody talked to everyone else.

“Are you two together?” Laurie asked, almost hopefully, “That’s okay.  I don’t judge.”

“No, Mr. Bad Taste is mine.  Jans and I are just old friends.  We used to dance to that song when we were teenagers.”

“Yes, we are from Lund, but we are going to school in Malmo.  And you live in London.”

“Not anymore.  The Midlands”

“We are going to London.”

“So, insurance eh?  Well, let me stop you right there.  I’ve got Whole Life – a million, five,” Gerry nodded, knowingly. “And we got Laurie Term — saves us a bit of money – but we’re pretty well taken care of.”

“No price on peace of mind, Gerry.”  Dreyfus said kindly.

And then the steaks came and Brittany, realizing the Swedish boys were occupied and no one else was interested in her adventures, grabbed her knapsack and said goodbye.  Ms. Miller fed most of her steak to Lars (or was it Gars?)  And they poured her more wine, a lot more wine.  Gerry explained his position in the Lions Club and suggested Dreyfus join a local branch while Laurie talked about her kids and was a little too touchy for Emily’s taste.  And the evening went on – through to the cantuccini with vin santo — until finally Emily caught Dreyfus’ eye, and the unexpected party in an ordinary piazza in Florence was over.

Later, with Gerry and Laurie safely back at their B and B and the somewhat destructible Ms. Miller gently snoring on their bed, Emily and Dreyfus sat together alone in the rooftop garden of their hotel.  Emily had her shoes off and her feet up on a chair.  Dreyfus slouched and stretched out with his ankles crossed.  They were tired, weary tired, with no ambition to move, and the last glasses of wine were nearly gone.

“I thought Ms. Miller was going to grab the Swedish boys and teach them the ways of the English countryside.”

Emily smiled, “Men have it easy.  A little heat, a little friction.  Girls need a lot more heat and a lot more fiction.  Besides, it’s the wrong phase of the moon.”

“Oh.  Still leaves the question, where are we going to sleep?”

Emily chuckled, “I don’t know about you, but this cougar’s going to kick Jans over to her side of the bed and I’m done.”  There was a pause.  “Are we done?”

“Yeah.  It’s over.” Dreyfus said solemnly, “The brothers Kovaci are probably back in Albania by now.”

“Is that who?  No, I don’t want to know.  Don’t tell me.  I just want them gone.”

“They’re gone.  And they’re going to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders.  It’s not going to take them too long to find out what frightened feels like.”

“Good,” Emily said, with a touch of acid.  She reached over and touched Dreyfus’ fingers. “Thank you.”

Dreyfus shook the solemn out of his face and smiled. “But I still get the sofa.”

Emily picked up her glass and drank the last swallow of wine. “Yes, you still get the sofa.”

Summer Complaints (Again)

It’s not even midsummer and I’m grouchy already.  One more 50 calibre motorcycle screaming through my tranquil afternoon and I swear I’m going to ….  Actually, I’m probably not going to do anything except grumble about it in the privacy of my own head.  That’s the problem with summer: ya can’t do anything about it.  And now that I’m on the subject, here are a few other things — ya just can’t do anything about.

The price of airline tickets is never the same as the one they advertise. — According to some recent TV ads, I can go from Vancouver to London and back for $799.00 — except I can’t.  I guarantee you, if I show up at the airline ticket counter with $800.00, I will NOT — I repeat, NOT — get a return ticket to London and a dollar change.  Why?  ‘Cause there’s the fuel surcharge, the airport fee, the sales tax. the departure gouge, the baggage scam, the seat selection swindle, the in-flight menu con job and, I’m sure, the You’re-A-Dumbass-Tourist tax is hiding in there somewhere.  The truth is, by the time the airlines get finished with all their extra charges, the price of your $799.00 ticket is so outrageous that the only thing you’ll be able to afford to do, once you get to London, is beg in the streets!

Fast food never looks like the picture. — Take a look at a photograph of the Burrito Supremo, and it’s huge: fat and round and bursting with meat, peppers and melting cheese.  You can practically smell the fried onions.  Buy it and what you get is this sorry, deflated tube of hamburger and diced veggie surprise, wrapped in an dingy grey tortilla.  Pick it up and it sags in the middle and starts oozing orange out the bottom.  (Cheese sweat?)

Nobody but Stephen Hawking can understand a contemporary telephone plan. — Like everybody on this planet, I have a mobile phone and like everybody on this planet, the person who sold it to me gave me 20 minutes of gibberish and 30 seconds to make up my mind about “Which plan is right” for me.  King Solomon had more time to make a decision, and he had information he could understand.

And there’s more:

Emails that keep on giving, even though you’ve unsubscribed — daily — for the last two weeks.
The parent in front of you at the ATM who’s trying to teach their 4-year-old how to electronically renegotiate a mortgage.
The pedestrian who’s halfway across the street and can’t figure out whether to walk, run or hide from oncoming traffic.
Coffee drinkers who abandon their empty cups wherever and whenever the whim takes them.
Joggers and cyclists who insist on traveling side-by-side and driving anyone coming the other way into the weeds to get around them.  “Yeah, you’re healthier than I am.  Big wow!”
Wine snobs.
Trump haters who refuse to change the subject — even though you’ve told them 12 times that you’ve already heard what an idiot the guy is.

And finally:

There’s going to be somebody out there who’s more than willing to point out that these are all First World Problems. — Yeah, I know, and I’m sure you’re a better person than I am — but I’m hot and sweaty and I’m not hurting anybody.  Besides, admit it or not, sometimes, it just feels good to bitch.