On Smocking… and Hope

I’ve promised not to get political but this was too good to pass up. I am officially changing the title of my novel to “Smocking In Bed.”  No explanation necessary. Smocking.  Over and over again. Hee-hee.  Tried to find a picture of someone smoking in a smock.  Plenty of smoking pics, and a lot of smocks, but only one of someone smoking in a smock.

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Woman smoking in smock. Can I get in trouble using this? Condé Nast seems very serious. Oh well, here goes.  (Photo by Alex Chatelain/Condé Nast via Getty Images)

Incidentally, the word “smoking” can be found only 15 times in Smoking In Bed, including the title.  That’s in over 400 pages.  So while it’s fair to say that the novel isn’t smoking-free, or smoke free, it’s not nearly as bad as living two doors downwind from someone who smokes outside, like our dear neighbor Farouk does.  Sure, there’s some second-hand smoke in Smoking In Bed, but it probably won’t kill you.

The book is completely smock free.  It does have the word “besmocked” in it, however, but who knows if that’s a real word?  I certainly don’t.  Therefore, it doesn’t count.

Another Wednesday trying to ignore the news in order to write something funny here. The news keeps getting in the way.  Of course, there’s the daily drama-dy coming from Washington, D.C., but also death and destruction all over the freakin’ place.  Another mass shooting in France.  The fires are extinguished in California, but the damage was widespread and devastating. And we all know it will happen again eventually.

When the world gets depressing, just turn that depression outward into rage and anger toward whatever is depressing you, and then make jokes about it.  That’s my M.O. Yes, the BP spikes, but it’s a good time.

Still, I refuse to get political in this blog. Why?  I don’t want any assholes trolling me, that’s why. And that’s my former high school classmates I’m talking about.  Who needs the headache?  Let’s just call me a left-leaning pragmatic centrist who believes in leaders who value honesty, integrity, and a desire to help those who need it, and leave it at that.

Speaking of those who need our help and support, we took a couple of drives between here and Malibu last week, and saw the destruction.  Acres upon acres of completely burned out vegetation, leaving slopes of dirt and rock susceptible to landslides.  Many homes were lost, leaving only, ironically, fireplaces and chimneys, and a few pool slides.  One house had a blackened rectangle in the driveway. The house seemed fine, but the car had burned up.  On some properties, you could tell where the garages once stood: burned out automobiles marked the spot. One property, the entire home was lost.  Next door, the house looks just as it did before the fires.

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That white material covering the stones and fireplace? That’s a melted roof.
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Imagine driving home to this. Still has a view.

But another thing we noticed was how many houses and entire neighborhoods were saved by the firefighters setting up perimeters around them.  Many times we saw burned ground right up to the backyards of houses, but no further, as the Cal-Fire and the local departments were able to stop the flames in time.  On top of that, a lot of the burned acreage had already been bulldozed and cleared, and new green was already starting to show after the rains. It was incredible, actually, to see how quickly and well all this work was being done.  All the overhead utility wires melted throughout the canyons and the poles burned like matchsticks. They all have to be replaced. And there were some signs of hope and rebuilding.  One homeowner in particular sent that message very clearly.

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We’re still here.  We will rebuild. These folks also had Ol’ Glory flying on the lawn.

So it is with hope that we tackle the rest of this blog post and present the next installment of “Things I Think About” which we hope will be less depressing than the above, but who knows?

– First, a correction, or at least clarification.  Last week I wrote that with all the zoos and circuses closing or at least discontinuing animal acts and cages, only hunters would get to see the wild animals.  More precisely, however, most of these hunters will probably just see the back end of these animals because: 1. Most of them don’t really know squat about sneaking up on a helpless baby deer, even if they have a nice gun, and 2. Most of them suck at aiming, even if they have a nice gun.  No need to take hunting rifles from these people. The rest of us, and the vast majority of the animals, are safe.

– Funny commercials are in these days, like that Geico campaign, “that’s surprising.” The “triangle solo” is brilliant.  It’s a nice laugh even though I’ll never buy Geico because I’ve been with AAA forever so there’s no point. But it’s the thought that counts and I appreciate the effort that goes into trying to make me laugh at a 30 second spot, so if AAA ever dumps me (highly unlikely), I’ll just follow the gecko.

But then here’s a thought: how do these advertisers know who’s going to be watching?  On TV it seems to be based on audience demographics, but in the digital age, we can’t be so sure anymore.

On the internet, Big Brother, or maybe Google, controls advertising.  For example, once I looked up a particular species of blue-headed bird seen out in Malibu.  It was gorgeous, lovely plumage, pining for the fjords… turned out to be a pretty common bird in the US but it (intelligently, it would seem) doesn’t like being around humans and so it avoids us like the plague.  Of course, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the bird, though it was definitely not the Norwegian Blue.  (Wait. Maybe that’s why I’m seeing all those ads for memory supplements?  Wait. What was I talking about?)

Well wouldn’t you know it, the next couple of weeks presented me with several ads, on different sites, asking me to buy an Audubon Society membership.   And it works on location, too: drive through Cambria, California up near Hearst Castle, and you’ll start seeing ads for wineries or even CVS on the Central Coast.

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Random, gratuitous bird photo.  Hawk. Taken in Malibu.

That’s a long set up for what really has me obsessed and anxious: if I see Audubon commercials after researching birds, and get Central Coast ads after each visit to Cambria or Carmel, then do I have a serious illness?  Because if I see another cancer treatment commercial, or Crohn’s Disease, or FA, or mesothelioma, or City of Hope, there will be hell to pay, and doctors to visit!  Clearly, Big Pharma knows something I don’t.

One side of the Kleiman family has a long tradition of hypochondria.  The other side actually gets ill for real.  The last thing I need to see is a lung cancer ad.  Or commercials with attractive people suddenly freed from needing to be within 3 feet of a toilet at all times. Or the poor nurse with a-fib. Whatever happened to oatmeal ads?  Or Penzoil? Or Fletcher’s Castoria? Or Cross-Your-Heart Bras? Weren’t those ads good enough?

Please! No more illness! Don’t make me change the channel. New drugs that can add an entire 6 weeks to your life? Yes, if you have a few months left, I’m sure 6 more weeks is fantastic news, but selfishly, I don’t want to think about it.  “Certain side effects, including death have happened.” That’s a pretty major-type side effect, no? Depressing!  Please.  Leave us alone!

– And those Chick Fil’A ads with the cows trying to convince you to eat more chicken?  Or chikin?  One species of animal trying to get you to eat the other so they don’t get eaten themselves?  Depressing!  Why don’t they just have a cow out there screaming and sobbing? “Please don’t eat me! Plee-hee-hee-heease!  I beg you!  Don’t eat me.  Don’t eat my childrin!” I already can’t eat duck anymore because they’ve become my friends.  Hey, advertisers! Leave those proteins alone!

– And finally, not long ago, a couple of people independently told me I looked a bit like Robert Duvall, the actor. Or Bobby Duvall, as we like to call him in the industry.  Not that we’re in the industry.  Anyway, that was pretty flattering, right?  The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, two of my all-time favorite films.  I’m feeling pretty good. A lot of women find him darned attractive, right?…

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Robert Duvall, handsome American actor. Screenshot from The Godfather, one of the greatest movies of all time. If Paramount wants to send a C & D for this, so be it. Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

And then I realized that they meant Bobby Duvall, NOW. He’s 78. Depressing.

duvall recentpaul and kiki fireplace

Thanks for stopping by this week and visiting with smock and hope.  If you like the blog, and like to read books, then I’d say it’s a pretty good chance you’ll like Smoking In Bed: dreams of love, sex and terrorism, because it’s like a combo of both.

Smoking In Bed on Amazon.com

And Malibu (and Lake Malibu, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks and the other affected areas) will rise again!

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