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Welcome to the newest section of artistinsane.com. Intended to serve as something of an online journal, here you'll find informal explications on various  thoughts, selected segments from my works-in-progress, and other scattered "rants" that might offer a bit of insight into this insane artist's mind...and, it is hoped, which you'll find relatable to some thoughts running around in your own head as well.

And, of course, as with all other aspects of this website, I invite any and all comments, suggestions, etc., and encourage you to share these via the online Discussion Board...or, if you prefer, you can send them to me directly using the Contact Mil e-mail form.  



     I remember seeing TV commercials for FedEx as a kid — though in the pre-abbreviate-everything era it was still known back then as Federal Express.  There was actually quite a variety of spots for them as I recall, but the one that specifically comes to mind here involved a businessman in need of documents for a presentation the next day.  He kept reiterating to some imaginary competitive shipping company’s representative, “They have to be here by 10:30AM.  They have to be here by 10:30AM  No documents; no presentation.”  Then they flash to the next day, and a full conference room with a projector on one end.  On the wall at the other we see hand shadows of animals and birds being made by the desperate businessman whose documents never arrived.  I can still hear the closing line intoning the importance of using FedEx “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
     Mostly, of course, I remember laughing hysterically at the businessman, hearing his “they have to be there by 10:30AM”, and seeing his small hand shadows on that enormous blank wall.  Sure, I felt sorry for the poor fellow in the abstract.  But, these things didn’t really happen, right?  It was just TV.  It was only a commercial.
     Within the past week, however, so many years after watching the hapless businessman whose probably long since retired (or died of embarrassment), the laughter at his predicament has finally stopped.  Ironically, this isn’t because I made the boneheaded move he did of using another carrier; rather, it’s because I made the clearly boneheaded move of using FedEx.  Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.  And, the journey to that clarity far too often involves seeing massive amounts of red.  But let me start at the beginning.
     At one point in
Gone With the Wind, Rhett says to Scarlett, “Always take advantage of new experiences.  They enrich the mind”.  Scarlett’s answer:  “My mind’s rich enough.”  While I by no means advocate ignorance in general, I must confess there are moments when Scarlett’s stubborn resistance does have a certain appeal.  Partly because there’s a post office just down the street from where I live (and partly despite the fact their high fees and not always wholly satisfying service make them more the devil you know who’s probably better than the one you don’t), I’ve always used the good old U.S. Postal Service for every one of my (not really all that frequent) shipping needs.  The third part of the reason for this, of course, is simply that I’ve never got around to checking out the alternatives.  And, were I not faced suddenly with the need to ship a package that exceeded the size requirements for Priority Mail, I doubt I would have done so anytime soon.  As Parcel Post would take 4 days, however, and I really wanted it shipped in 2, I did a bit of comparison shopping on the web, finding FedEx offered not only a great deal, it also allowed the whole thing be set up online.  And, of course, I made sure it could all be arranged for same-day pickup since although I was shooting for Monday as the fateful day I was fully aware Tuesday was the much greater likelihood for having the whole thing finalized.
     I therefore didn’t panic in the least when it was somewhere around 1:45AM Tuesday morning that I finally sat down at the computer to begin the shipping process.  Of course, I suppose a warning bell should have gone off when merely setting up the account took about 15 minutes to fill out not more than a dozen or so lines — thanks to a maddening system that won’t process the form until all the information requested is filled out...but which doesn’t direct you in any way as to what portion of it’s missing or wrong.  As a result one gets to play a guessing game I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly in the mood for at that — or, okay, any — hour.
     Aware this package “absolutely, positively” had to leave my house on this particular day (even though it didn’t “have to be there overnight”, so a job like this for the mighty FedEx ought to be a breeze), I fought through the site’s less than user-friendly tangled web until I was offered the magic words:  “Arrange for pickup”.  I subsequently clicked on the “today” option for shipping date, made the various other choices for the job at hand — including e-mail verification of delivery just to insure groundless fears didn’t start me unnecessarily practicing my hand shadow skills at the last minute), and was finally met with two shipping labels I could print out for and affix to the packages (in addition to the oversized one mentioned above was a second smaller sidekick that had to come along). It was 2:15AM by this time and I finally went to bed with the peace of knowing everything was under control.
     Ah ah ah...not so fast.
     Upon getting up for work about 4 and a half hours later the packages were immediately put outside lest the FedEx man started earlier than less time-is-of-the-essence occupations required.  Still, it wasn’t a surprise by any means that they hadn’t yet left by the time we did that morning.  The fact they were still there that night, however, was a far greater shock.
     Immediately I started searching for a phone number — discovering this the cheery, easy to remember 1-800-GO-FEDEX.  Needless to say, however,
I wasn’t feeling all that cherry at the moment.
     When I got a rep on the phone  — in itself encouraging after only about 3 rounds of voicemail requesting “main menu” for more choices...you know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever tried to call the phone company, etc. and been ultimately left to wonder if all intelligent life but you had relocated to another planet.  Of course, at that point you’re also pondering your own intelligence at trying to talk to a non-responsive non-person for the last 45 minutes.  But, I digress…
     Back to the story, the representative I finally got was neither all that friendly nor all that helpful.  I explained my situation to him, noting I was a new customer, had first set up an account, then arranged for package pickup, blah, blah blah.  With infuriating calm he first notes, “The system doesn’t let new customers arrange for pickup; you have to take the packages to a FedEx drop-off point.”  Okay, but, um, why then did it offer me the choice “arrange for
His response: “I don’t know.  But if you want to set up the account for packages to be picked up you’ll have to talk to another representative in a different department.”
My response: “Maybe later.  Right
now, I have packages that were to be put on one of your trucks today.” 
Him:  “Well, you couldn’t have sent them today, anyway.  Ground service online can only be arranged for the
next day.”
Me:  “Then why did it create labels with today’s date?”
Him:  “I don’t know.”
Me: “Okay, fine, I’ll take it to a drop-off center tomorrow.  Just one more question.  I see a $10 charge from my debit card,  I know the shipping cost is more, so what’s that for? 
Him:  “That’s the fee for home pickup.”
     I ask you, gentle readers...is it me????
     Oh, but it gets better.  The packages were dropped off the following afternoon (Wednesday) at the appointed FedEx center.  And, it was assured they would be delivered in two days.  The next day I go to my online FedEx account to check their progress.  Somehow I wasn’t surprised when only one package could be accounted for — and it was just the sidekick.  The day after that (Friday) I get an e-mail noting this sidekick had been delivered...alone.  Needless to say, this spawned a flurry of e-mails, each reaching a different representative who offered a completely out-of-left field non-answer to my inquiry.  The best one was “you should check online tracking before contacting customer service” in response to my message that began “after checking online tracking...”.  If you read last month’s column you’ll know what I mean when I ask… Does FedEx only hire people who used to work for the New Jersey DMV????
     Anyway, long story a wee bit shorter, the next day (i.e. Saturday) I finally got another e-mail confirming the main package had at last, too, been delivered.  Of course, given when this whole adventure started Tuesday morning it took 4 days to get there.  And, if you recall, that’s the exact amount of time I didn’t want to wait by just using Parcel Post.
     Is there a moral to this story?  Oh yes.  Although it’s taken a lot of years during which I never gave that poor businessman in the old FedEx commercials a thought, I’d really love to be able to write him a letter that says I’m not laughing anymore.  Actually, there’s a part of me that would like to track him down and give him a hug.  Of course, I wouldn’t want to rely on
FedEx tracking to try that...
     Be that as it may, I’ve definitely learned my lesson.  When you’ve got something important to send and it “absolutely, positively, has to be there” not necessarily overnight but sometime within your aggravation-from-Federal Express-now FedEx-spawned “abbreviated” lifespan, use a carrier pigeon or just take it across the country yourself.  Heck, I could have wheeled my packages to their destination 4 states away in a shopping cart about as fast as FedEx got them there. 
     Oh yeah, you can call me crazy for such a conclusion...but I’ve gotta admit — if “repeating the same behavior expecting different results” constitutes insanity, when it comes to shipping I’ve become quite frighteningly “normal”… and am not about to use FedEx again anytime soon.  Hey, I may be crazy — but I ain’t stupid.


The piece below is pretty much self-explanatory so I'll add only that it was written for inclusion with the Christmas card sent to the relatives it speaks of, and that it follows the format of the weekly column also referenced in the piece itself.  Or rather, I should say, it "mock"-emulates that format in that the preface to each "real" installment states, "Enclosed is this week's outdoors column as requested."  Mine, by contrast, was prefaced, "Enclosed is an outdoors counter-column as [not] requested".   I only hope the recipients were amused by my use of artistic license in this case (especially given the fact that they obviously own guns!) -- and, of course, that those of you reading these words here (which, given that parenthetical notation above, just might prove my last) will likewise be amused as well...

A Season of Cheer

     Last winter my husband, Andre, and I embarked on a road trip throughout the Midwest that included re-connecting with several friends and relatives we hadn’t seen in many, many years – or in some cases, hadn’t ever met at all.  Among these was Andre’s Uncle George, his cousin, Walter and cousin-in-law, Joan.  And, in the course of that instinctive search for common ground that goes with making new acquaintances it was learned early in the visit that Cousin Walter and I share a common interest in writing – an interest in Cousin Walter’s case he’s turned into the modestly profitable enterprise of a syndicated column.  And, of course, given our common ink-driven pursuits, I was subsequently added to the mailing list of this weekly publication. 
     While that may sound innocent enough on the surface, there’s one catch – Cousin Walter’s column is about the great outdoors.  Now, of course, that’s not to imply I don’t have a healthy appreciation for nature and its non-human occupants.  And indeed I very much enjoyed the topics this column covered throughout the spring and summer – topics that included Joan’s preferred outdoor pastime of leisurely walks, and a brief explanation of the ground- training exercises used to break Cousin Walter’s new horse Roach (an acquisition necessitated by his prior mount’s persistent panic and resulting negative reactions to, of all things…wild turkeys?  But I digress).  In fact, I grew to enjoy these brief written diversions so much that I began looking forward to checking my e-mail inbox every Tues. evening at 9PM for the latest installment.
     That is, I enjoyed them until summer began to ebb into fall and Cousin Walter’s column likewise began to switch colors.  Rather than the sunny, warm discussion of various light and breezy concerns, it became instead a darker, colder conflict-filled journal of his efforts toward one end – deer hunting. 
     But, before you start raising objections to my objection with that topic, let me just preface my own comments on the matter with the fact I’ve heard all of the arguments supporting this activity – the statistics of how the deer population would outgrow that of humans in any given area in about a year, how many car accidents they cause annually, etc. etc. etc.  It doesn’t matter.  Despite the fully admitted hypocrisy inherent in the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed an enormous filet-mignon at the Iowa Beef Steakhouse as a part of the aforementioned vacation that introduced me to Cousin Walter’s writing endeavors in the first place, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that if my meat-eating habits were dependent upon actually killing my own dinner, I’d spend the rest of my life a vegetarian (a disgruntled vegetarian, to be sure -- but a vegetarian nonetheless). 
     That said, I must confess that somewhere around September when such phrases as “bow and arrow” and “lined up my shot” began creeping more and more frequently into Cousin Walter’s columns, I began awaiting every Tues. evening a bit less eagerly.  And, as the weeks wore on and I realized the likelihood of some unutterable phrase describing a poor dear – uh, I mean deer’s  -- demise might likewise be included, well, I ceased actually reading these potential casualty reports, and began instead scanning them warily while squinting through the slightly separated fingers of one hand squarely covering both eyes. 
     Now, I realize I could simply have begun deleting them as each arrived; but, as I said, I’ve just come to enjoy far too much the wonderfully amusing anecdotes so many of them contain. And, of course, there’s that horrible, inexplicable quirk of human  character that makes one somehow truly need to know even what one doesn’t want to know, if you know what I mean, and which made me keep reading in the hope that yet another week had passed in which nature (and, no not the human variety) had proved victorious.    And, of course, the inevitable column arrived in which I spotted something about “blood” and “down for good”, and I must admit that once I read those words I feared my days of deriving anything approaching pleasure from Cousin Walter’s column had gone “down for good” as well.
     But, never willing to give up without a fight (albeit invariably a bloodless one), I decided to persist in my resistance to the “delete” button and kept reading (or rather continued scanning through one squinted eye) as each new printed tale arrived.  And, as of this writing, I’m sincerely glad I did.  For, had I not done so, I’d have missed the beginnings of a wonderfully resounding comeback on the part of nature – including a torrential downpour that very nearly claimed the pickup Cousin Walter was forced to park in the creek, and more recently, the side-splitting depiction of a (far more literally than intended) gas-burning log-splitter.  I can just picture the families of the deer taken by Cousin Walter and his pals witnessing these hapless misadventures with glee…and given their “steak” – uh, I mean “stake” in the matter, very likely a glee even greater than my own.
     That said, yes, I admit I was encouraged during the many weeks leading up to an actual “kill” by the fact Joan had fixed a (truly exceptional) ham dinner for our visit last winter instead of a venison one.   Having come into my Outdoors Column “subscription” well after last year’s hunting season had passed, I was hopeful such “ill-fortune” as Cousin Walter recounted for much of this season had at that time resulted in a freezer full of supermarket-purchased-meat like most civilized humans possess rather than one filled with the evidence of skills arguably linking modern man far too closely with his caveman ancestry.
     Now, of course, (having committed such thoughts to paper) I only hope Joan will still make us dinner at all.                                                                                 



Since shortly after arriving home from nearly a month on the road to various parts of the country to visit friends and relatives, I've been putting off publishing a piece about these adventures to this website in the hope of presenting them in the form of a "finished" product, if you will.  However, I now think it's appropriate, particularly given the title of this page, that I never did complete such a polished piece of writing, but that I'm instead at last sitting here typing away on various random thoughts and descriptions of what took place.

To begin, I'd like to reference the 10/17/02 entry below, to briefly explain why our recent coverage of a few thousand miles was undertaken entirely by car.  For, while it was undertaken at all in part because (as you most likely already know if you've read other areas of this website) I'm strongly aware of the fact that life is short, neither my husband nor I are in any hurry to make it shorter (as we perceive a possible outcome of air travel...or more likely, the outcome of a heart attack brought on by the sheer terror of even thinking about air travel.)

Be that as it may, the other reason for referencing the 10/17/02 fear-of-flying tale is that one of the destinations of our February travels was, in fact, to visit the very pilot friend I wrote about in that essay.  (That's him pictured with me on the right of this page).  After starting off the month with some relatives in Great Barrington, MA, we headed for the home our friend had recently purchased in an Atlanta, GA suburb, where we stayed with him and his two adorable female companions (of the canine variety, that is, including the truly irresistible creature likewise pictured here) for several incredibly enjoyable days.  During this time, we renewed acquaintances with his lovely girlfriend (yes, I'm talking about a human one this time) and various other friends of his who increasingly feel like friends of ours as well.  We also experienced an IMAX theatre for the very first time, where we were treated to a very lifelike presentation of Jane Goodall's work in Africa with yet another group of amazing friends, these being entirely of the species Chimpanzees.

Next we traveled to the Midwest, a part of which (the Chicago area) has over the past couple of years become something of a home away from home in and of itself.  On this occasion, however, we were framing our stay -- and the essential Michael McDermott concerts that constitute all Windy City visits' first and foremost  incentive -- around a several day journey in the interim to see a number of Andre's relatives in Iowa.

While that may sound, on the surface, like a rather ordinary occurrence, in this instance it had been several years since we saw any of the people with whom we were about to become reacquainted, and a few others, in fact, we had never met at all.  Moreover, in contacting a couple of these by phone, I must confess Andre noted upon hanging up that he'd got the distinct impression they wondered if he was coming to ask for money, or dying, or otherwise arriving on their doorstep out of some such similarly dire circumstance.   (I swear I suspect at least one of these hid the family silver before we arrived...)

Actually, the most amazing thing about those several days is how indeed welcomed we felt by so many "relative strangers"....including a boyhood friend of my father-in-law's who declared our (unintentionally timed visit) the "best present" he received on what it turned out was his birthday.   Sitting around a half dozen different kitchen tables in about the same number of evenings, we feasted on both delicious meals and incredibly satisfying conversations.  And, although at times shocked (okay, briefly traumatized!) by such sights (to non-hunters like ourselves) as a foyer filled with taxidermist-prepared bears and other wild animals, we vicariously experienced lifestyles very different from our own, and found ourselves relating to emotions and admiring positive character traits at times exhibited through the very circumstances that most sharply pointed out our and our hosts' diversities.  

And, as part of these differences, we were exposed to umpteen new areas of knowledge and experience...for example the workings of state government through the firsthand reminiscences of an elected representative who had served in the Des Moines capitol building that constituted a part of one afternoon's sightseeing.  We also drove the very gravel roads to "Francesca's house" and other landmarks that appeared in the Clint Eastwood helmed film, "The Bridges of Madison County", and visited the birthplace of American legend John Wayne.  Moreover, despite a prejudice drilled into me by many years of actor training and involvement in "straight" plays such as the works of Shakespeare, I was forced to concede that the more "lowly" art form known as "musical theatre" might have a redeeming quality or two itself when Andre and I were treated (from the front row, no less) to the highly enjoyable experience of "Oliver!"  at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. 

In summation, I think the most adequate way to describe my thoughts about this journey is to note that having come from a rather small family unit myself, several members of which have already long since passed on, I arrived at the conclusion quite early in life that "family" is a term having far less to do with tangibly traceable blood connections than it has with invisible -- yet very real -- connections linking various individuals' hearts and minds.  That said, while it might be argued I'm a person of very few "relations", I nonetheless consider myself a person blessed with incredibly strong "family ties".   And, of course, I'm very thankful for the family ties created and renewed on this recent journey as evidenced by the photos peppering this "rant" --  as I am for those evidenced in words and pictures throughout this website as a whole.   But, in conclusion I must add that the greatest beauty of such ties -- ties that take up so little physical space they can't even be seen  -- is that there's always room for more.



I was going through some old notebooks and ran across a few (completely unrelated) thoughts/verses I'd jotted down on which to perhaps build larger works one day. Just thought I'd share a few here for your consideration...


       To become transparent can make you invisible 
            to those who do not wish to see themselves.


       Is love an obsession?
       Is obsession a form of love? 
       Or is there only madness...


      Moral Dilemma

      A fatalistic playground,
      Masochism in full swing;
      Integrity can be a sword
         that's double-edged....
      It divides one from oneself.


      The ground on which we tread,
      A slippery mix of rock and sand;
      A treacherous terrain traversed
      Together, hand in hand.


     Heedless to the odds set against winning this fight,
     And no matter how absurd, indeed abysmal, seems the night,
     I let go all I know; only faith do I hold tight,
     And believe in love, it's power and the richness of its light.



To begin, I have to explain that neither I nor my husband are very big fans of flying. Yes, I've heard all the statistics regarding its being among the safest forms of travel, and yes, I appreciate the fact that the time required to reach…say, Atlanta…by car can be reduced by about 11 hours or so by air, still there's something about the idea of what basically constitutes an oversized tin can hurtling through the clouds at blinding speed against which my mind inexplicably rebels. I don't know -- maybe, despite being perfectly aware of the laws of physics and the advanced technology that allow this to take place, still the nature I proudly profess all over this website to be ruled by "insanity" is, in fact, far more logical than I'm sometimes willing to admit. In other words, experience tells me that despite the very real possibility of a fatality occurring on the road, cars can frequently be involved in "fender benders" with no real harm coming to their occupants. Should one of those oversized tin cans, by contrast -- tin cans filled to a startling capacity with jet fuel, no less… and a tin can in which I happen to be traveling -- for whatever reason fall out of the sky… Well, let's just say that odds are the result ain't gonna be pretty. And, when so faced with thoughts of 11 hours extra travel time versus a speeded-up eternity, somehow 11 hours extra travel time starts to sound like a really good deal.

Okay, maybe I am crazy. But that's still a separate issue.

I've read there's a chemical in the body that controls what's described as a "fight or flight" mechanism. Based on the preceding explanation, it’s arguable that my system has become slightly imbalanced and converted mine to a "fright of flight" mechanism instead. Be that as it may, this "ailment" has never really posed a serious problem in my life (nor has his similar "dysfunction" posed one for my husband) until about three years ago when a good friend of ours became a pilot for a major airline. And, of course, shortly thereafter -- in addition to continually repeating ad nauseam (not at all unlike an oversized parrot, it seemed to me) those statistics about the safety of air travel -- wouldn't you know he promptly started in on how we could now come visit him (in Atlanta) any time at virtually no cost using "buddy passes" with which he, as an airline employee, would be supplied. "Buddy passes". Ah yes, what a "buddy" he was indeed.

Well, to make a long story short, we staved off his advances regarding use of this tremendous "privilege" for over two years, and actually thought the matter we'd basically ignored would eventually go away when last winter our friend appeared on our doorstep for a three-day stay. We were thrilled -- truly. We've always very much enjoyed each other's company and by this late date felt certain we'd eluded danger for so long, there was no way it would catch us now. Until that is, just before leaving to head back for Atlanta, our friend rummaged through his bag to emerge with a sly smile and these two rather scary-looking cards. He said they were those "wonderful" things called "buddy passes" in real-life tangible form. We, on the other hand, saw them as a new variation on the "dead man's hand". Reluctant to even touch such dreaded objects, we nonchalantly suggested he leave them on the kitchen table. He (far too) cheerily did so, reminding us on his way out that they would expire in Oct. so we'd need to use them before that. Fat chance.

Sometimes it's really aggravating when you find you're a better person in some ways than you want to be. You know, like you really want to just be a self-oriented soul bent on preserving your beloved little quirk of viewing the entire planet as a no-fly-zone, but somehow the thought of disappointing a friend unwittingly gnaws away at your resolve until before you know it you're on the phone with him in August attempting to inquire how these "buddy passes" work exactly… just in case, you should….no promises, mind you…but theoretically if one were to…at least consider….possibly using them to (gulp) fly to…well, let's say…Atlanta.

And it's at that point precisely that the reason for this "rant" begins. For it's (indirectly, at least), the result of this whole circumstance that I've at last made the arguably cruel discovery it's not my "insanity" that makes me different from the rest of the world at all. It's theirs. No doubt about it. Let me explain.

Having never flown in our entire married existence, obviously neither I nor my husband had ever had any occasion to look into the procedures for doing so. As a result, we asked our friend for all the particulars we'd need to know…should we happen to….um, well, fly…to Atlanta, say, precisely 11 days after this conversation was taking place. He gave us the dimensions of the luggage we could carry on, went through the procedure for plane-side baggage checking, etc. And, just before hanging up he added, "and, of course, you'll need to present a government-issued photo ID to both pick up your tickets and board the plane."

Ay, there's the rub.

Should your brows furrow in confusion upon reading that line, allow me to conclude that you reside in a state where all drivers' licenses are of the photo variety. In NJ, where I've lived all my life, however, drivers have the option of renewing licenses either at a DMV office every three years (which is required if you want the photo-inclusive model) or by regular mail if you prefer not to show off a mug-shot quality likeness every time you open your wallet. My husband and I have always opted for the latter.

As we, however, suddenly found ourselves "in need", if you will (though given the circumstances for that need, still most certainly not "in want") of the photo variety, we naively trotted off to the nearest DMV on Thursday afternoon (the Thursday that is, just prior to our scheduled Monday evening flight) to trade in our non-photo licenses for ones sporting our cheery, smiling faces. Ah, ah, ah…not so fast.

Even before we could reach for the door to the DMV office, a sign in the window glared the warning: "No photo license will be issued solely on the basis of a non-photo license". Hmm, okay. Problem #1. Uncertain as to how we should proceed, we entered the office's vestibule to be greeted by a poster offering clarification. "Acceptable documents for obtaining photo licenses": "Certified copy of a birth certificate (not a commemorative hospital-issued one)", "Civil Marriage Certificate", "Civil Divorce Certificate"…(hmm, isn't that one an oxymoron? I love that word….oxymoron -- and what's more I imagine having married one often describes a woman's reason for obtaining a "Civil Divorce Certificate". But I digress.), "Citizenship papers", etc., etc. etc.

Without going into another story altogether to explain this separate frustration, let it suffice to say that both our birth certificates and our marriage certificate had been inadvertently misplaced years ago, meaning we would have to somehow obtain one or more of these forms of documentation anew. Okay, but precisely how does one do that?

Well, we started by using my cell phone (an object I swear is linked to only bad omens in and of itself -- which sentiment is explained further in an essay I wrote last year -- and which you can access by clicking here, if you haven't long since done so) to call our state's Bureau of Vital Statistics, which is in Trenton. Unable to speak with a live human regardless how many of the options we selected via voice mail, we at last gathered that we could either make the drive to Trenton (which would take as long as the flight to Atlanta followed by a wait in line as long as the stay we'd planned once we got there) or we could place an order utilizing the Express Mail option and receive any or all of these documents (for separate fees, of course) in a matter of about 10 days. Hmm, I know I distinctly heard the term Express Mail on the recording. I just didn't understand at first that the state still used the "pony" variety. Maybe we wouldn't be flying to Georgia after all. Aww, darn!

Again, however, I refer you to that "better person than one sometimes wants to be" paragraph. For, somehow the thought of calling our friend to announce that we wouldn't be coming after all just didn't sit well with my conscience. And, as someone who's oft been accused of "thinking too much" (yes, and your point would be? i.e. one thinks -- or doesn't as the case may be -- as much as their nature dictates. Personally, I'm yet to discover a "standby" setting on my brain. So be it.) indeed the wheels were turning well in excess of overdrive. And, before long they crashed to a halt at the realization we were standing not more than four miles from the municipal offices of the township in which we'd been married. Surely they, having issued the original certificate, would be able to provide us with a certified copy, right? Back to the cell phone to call and test my theory. And, as expected, their response was essentially, "Duh."

As per the appointment we'd arranged, at 1 o'clock the next afternoon, we headed off to pick up our marriage certificate. My husband ran in and, after showing his (non-photo) driver's license as proof of identity, emerged with a smile of victory and this all-important shiny new document. And, of course, from there, we proceeded, document in hand, back to the DMV. We walked up to the information counter and presented our story, the fact we needed to trade in our non-photo licenses for photo ones, etc. and handed the clerk our marriage certificate as proof of identity. And, wouldn't you know that's when we ran into problem #2.

While the poster in the lobby clearly stated we'd need one of the following (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.) the man at the information counter heaved a great sigh and said, "I've been trying to tell them for almost a year that they've gotta update that poster. You can't get a photo license based on only a marriage certificate" (Hmm..how about a marriage certificate and a non-photo license? No, huh? Actually, it was beginning to seem one had to present both the number and type of proper documents in an exact combination rare enough to win the lottery.) "Men need just the birth certificate and women need the birth certificate and the marriage certificate. I didn't make the rules."

Clearly the person who did never planned on having to follow them.

Anyway, by this time it's 4PM on Friday, the DMV closes at 4:30, not to open again 'til Mon. at 8:30 -- on which day we're scheduled to fly. The wheels are whirring at Concorde speed this time. "You know," I said at last, "I was born 10 min. from here."

You guessed it. Back to the cell phone.

We got the number for the municipal offices of the town where I was born, and quickly called the clerk to find out if a certified copy of my birth certificate could be obtained by paying her a visit. Again, the answer was essentially, "Duh."

By 4:20 we were standing in the municipal office while the clerk dusted off this thick volume of original certificates from my birth year (on my birthday, ironically) and began typing a copy. In the midst of it she noticed the date and said, "Hey, happy birthday!" as she applied the seal and glanced over my (non-photo) driver's license for verification of the birthdate and proof of my identity. "Thanks," I said, with a huge and sincere smile. After all, in providing another of the "winning numbers" in this DMV photo-license jackpot, I truly felt she'd given me a pretty cool present.

Of course, by the time I'd reached the exit I remembered what the prize was. End of celebration.

By this time it was too late to return to the DMV, but we decided to stop by my husband's parents to pick up their copy of his birth certificate nonetheless. It looked more and more like we might be flying to GA after all. Oh, goody.

Needless to say, Monday found us once more facing the DMV employee at the information counter. By now it felt like we'd known the guy forever. Hey, we had seen him more frequently in the past week than most of our friends and family members in the past year. He looked over our documentation gravely, as though still not sure himself the planets would actually align in a way that might allow it all to be accepted at the next window. At last he presented us with a numbered card (again conjuring images of mugshots on the news and that card you always see them holding like a director's "Take 1" slate) and instructed us to wait. We pondered whether we had time to run next door and buy him cookies.

Something like two days later -- okay, it was really only about 10 min., a woman called us up to begin the photo licensing process. She, too, gravely examined and re-sequenced our documents before writing some illegible notation on a small form, handed them and our convict number back to us and likewise instructed us to wait. We did so, holding our breath, still half-certain things would turn out like in one of those movies where the hero makes it out of the burning building, through the raging river, unscathed by a hail of gunfire and then dies in the shower after he slips on a bar of soap. In other words, by now we'd learned to never let down your guard at the DMV.

Be that as it may, soon after that another woman called us to the next window and asked us for a check. She processed the payment, took the pictures and promptly handed us brand new, shiny photo drivers' licenses. We stared at them in silence for a moment…I mean, there had to be a catch. But it didn't seem that way. The woman moved on to the next victim -- I mean, the next customer, and we hi-tailed it out of there before she or anyone else could change their minds.

Unfortunately, of course, that's not quite the end of the story. For, having obtained the means of obtaining the tickets for and actually boarding the plane, we found ourselves faced with -- short of death, anyway -- no way out of doing so. Ironically, the problem was I felt sure death would be the result; it was merely the order of events that would be reversed.

As I've said before, sometimes I hate being right. By the same token, however, that means sometimes it's fantastic to be wrong. And the fact that you're reading the tale of this entire (mis)adventure proves that I might have been just, well, a wee, tiny, miniscule fraction of a marginal bit off-course in my assessment of air travel. But don't let that fool you. I've heard it said one definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior while expecting different results. And since I have no doubt the next time I'm sitting in the airport waiting to board a plane I'll be every bit as convinced that death is imminent as I was on that first night, clearly I am crazy. But that's still a separate issue.

The point here is, the DMV (and by extension the air travel system that trusts them as the primary issuer of documents that allow one to board a plane) are far crazier than I am. Because, assuming you followed the logic -- yes, I again return to that cold, hard, rational part of me that continues to (despite my now very well-established -- indeed irrefutable -- insanity) rear its (well, not always so) ugly head, you'll recall that although we were denied photo licenses based solely on the presentation of non-photo ones, the sole means used to obtain all of the documentation that eventually prompted the DMV to issue our cheery, mug-shot quality government certified photo identification was in fact, the very non-photo licenses that could under no circumstances be used as the sole means of obtaining photo ones. Yes, that is a run-on sentence…representative of the run-around we endured to obtain photo licenses -- which, it turns out can not only be obtained solely on the basis of non-photo ones, but which arguably can only be obtained on the basis of non-photo ones (as a non-photo one was required to obtain both the birth and marriage certificates required to obtain the photo one).

And, again, I'm forced to ask…is it really me who's crazy at all?

Anyway, I would guess that if anyone who knows me well were asked what is the greatest (at least, apparent) paradox in my character, he would say that of faith versus common sense. For, in truth, the bulk of my "insanity" (I'm talking about the artistic variety now, not the "real" variety described above as it pertains to flying -- and, hey, we all know that's not insanity anyway…it's just plain fear) is really a simple matter of believing that more is possible than most people realize, that it's intangibles of beauty and greatness that add up to true success, that good is stronger than evil, that ultimately justice will prevail, etc. That's faith. And I'm not talking about just hoping that they might; I'm talking about really believing that they will. I mean, that's the whole difference between hope and faith, you know? We all hear the words faith and hope in religious services or on a warm, fuzzy family TV drama and throw them in one pot. But they're not at all the same.

Hope is the first step toward faith, but it isn't faith itself. Hope is merely opening oneself to the possibility that something less than concrete might be obtained. Faith by contrast is the absolute belief that it will…i.e. I hope the plane on which I'm traveling stays in the air for the duration of the scheduled flight. The pilot and flight attendants who view the same plane as their everyday workplace have complete faith that it will do so. There's a difference.

By the same token, I tend to proceed from my faith-centered life philosophy in a logical way…by which I mean, I use my God-given common sense to take what I perceive as logical steps to proceed through life in the direction of my goals. It's merely the goals and/or things on which I place extreme importance in life that many of the more "sane" (or more cynical, less faith-driven) inhabitants of the world question as logical pursuits.

Be that as it may, while it may seem I've gone off on a tangent and am indeed now merely "ranting", this very issue of faith versus logic/common sense is, in fact, the central point of the whole "government-issued photo ID required to fly" matter. For, if you again follow the logic of our journey to obtain photo ID's -- a journey undertaken merely because you can't board a plane without them, you'll ultimately realize that in essence boarding the plane without them is exactly what we did (since we got the photo ID's solely through use of the non-photo ID's, and subsequently used those photo ID's to board the plane).

In other words, we boarded the plane on faith. Faith on the part of the airline that the DMV had properly done its job. Faith that the DMV's system is truly the most secure system possible. Faith that we were indeed the "normal" American citizens we claimed to be -- that our identical deer-in-the-headlights expressions of fear really did spring from merely the thought of flying at all, not thoughts of hijacking the plane or committing some other crime. Faith.

Well, clearly sometimes both hope and faith do prove fully justified. For, we and all the other passengers with whom we traveled indeed safely made it to Atlanta and back again to tell the tale. And, based on that I must confess I'm encouraged to learn that the rest of the world may itself (even the airlines and DMV) be a little more "insane" than they care to admit…at least in their own way. Be that as it may, I still feel compelled to remind you of the aforementioned form of insanity that repeats the same behavior expecting different results. Because where flying is concerned, you can bet I'm certifiable…as opposed to our friend in Atlanta who's well, just plain unrelenting.

Late last week the phone rang. It was him. And, what do you suppose were the first words out of his mouth? "I just got the new year's supply of buddy passes. When are you coming down?"

I tried to swallow the lump of panic rising from the images conjured by that last phrase, but didn't bother telling him how much I resented his particular choice of words. In the face of his aviational faith, it just didn't seem a very logical response.

"I'm thinking after Christmas sometime," I answered his unintended double entendre, adding one of my own to clarify.

"Or, I should say… I hope."




A couple nights ago I watched a "Gilmore Girls" re-run I'd missed when it first aired a few months back.  And, as this dealt with a family's adjustment to its patriarch's recent retirement, I'm sure it wasn't a coincidence that this episode was re-aired now at this particular time, as Father's Day once more fast approaches.  

To summarize, the wife of a sixty-ish executive who had accepted an early retirement package following increasing frustrations at his company finds herself becoming increasingly frustrated at her husband's now constant presence in their home.  Having long since become accustomed to her own routine of doing many everyday activities on her own, she finds herself slowly driven mad by the judgments her husband is now on hand to offer regarding the various behavior patterns she'd previously engaged in almost unconsciously.  Feeling pushed particularly close to the brink one morning after he observes that she recently moved a vase a few inches from its prior spot and that on this day she's so far drunk three cups of coffee -- "three cups just seems like a lot of coffee for this early in the day," he mumbles "to himself" -- she (with determined sweetness) ushers him off to "the club" where he once hung with his corporate pals and makes a desperate phone call to her thirty-something daughter, begging her to take him off her hands that she might again enjoy just one more "normal" day.   

Needless to say, the daughter (who has a teenage daughter of her own) has likewise long become accustomed to her father as a working man, with little leisure time to hang around his own, or anyone else's house.  As a result, though things begin politely, they're clearly awkward from the outset.  And when her father finishes touring her town and decides to pay her a visit while she's working at the hotel she manages, they go from bad to worse...especially once he observes -- and sternly criticizes -- the manner in which she "manages".

Finally, after he overrides a decision regarding a certain permission she has already granted her own offspring, the inevitable blow-up between father and daughter occurs.  And, while the writing has been cleverly crafted up to this point to keep us firmly in the wife and daughter's corner(s), if you will, at last the father is allowed to quite suddenly -- and effectively -- offer his own perspective.  And as he does so we realize that at no point has he really intended to be critical or dominating, but rather has himself been acting out of a kind of desperation of his own...searching for ways to fill his own need to be needed.  And having failed miserably, he at last declares, "I know now what it's like to become obsolete".    Needless to say, the daughter is as taken aback by this revelation as the audience, but clearly it's too late to make amends.  The father leaves unappeased and goes home to his (oblivious, and herself now much happier) wife, with whom he does not share his burden.  Instead, he offers her calm assurances that all is well and "retires" to his study, where the episode ends with the final image of him sitting alone in the semi-darkness after emitting a heavy sigh.

While this is clearly a situation that would most likely touch anyone with a pulse, the reason I found it of particular interest is that as I watched it, I began wondering from the first scene where the father and daughter greet each other (very nervously) at her front door, what it would be like to suddenly meet my own father again.  As you may already know (from references in certain pieces of my writing located throughout this site), he passed away when I was a teenager.  And while I, of course, remember him from a teenage daughter's perspective, frozen forever in time to occupy the age at which he died, I couldn't help putting myself in the shoes of this adult daughter on television facing this former executive who was roughly the age my own former executive father would now be, and trying to walk around.  I wondered if he would still like to go fishing on Saturdays...and if he did, whether he'd still wear those funny sneakers without laces that my brother and I both swore we'd never be caught dead in -- the same kind I now (by my own choice) wear.  I wondered if he would still remember all the properties of algebra as he had so many years after college to help me with questions on homework in junior high.  I wondered what he'd look like...would he have ever actually gotten that first grey hair (that had already multiplied many times over on my mom -- unseen, of course, thanks to Clairol's "Loving Care").   Would he be fat (hmm, can't imagine that, somehow...)? Bald? Retired?  And, most of all, would I really know him any better than I do now.  Would we get along...or would he, like this TV daughter's dad did her, drive me crazy?

Needless to say, I don't know.  But I've gotta admit I wouldn't mind having just one chance to find out...even though, despite the sentimental mental pictures one is tempted to paint of such an imagined reunion, I can't help thinking that in some ways, maybe even a lot of ways, the truth is he probably would drive me crazy.  After all, who have you ever known and loved that didn't just make you downright nuts once in a while...albeit sometimes (maybe even more often than not?) for reasons similar to that discovered (in regard to a once simply maddening friend) by the Dickens character, Pip, (and by the daughter in the above-mentioned episode)..."the fault had never been in him, but had been in me." 

But be that as it may, and whatever the reasons, as you've probably already deduced by looking around this website (or just considering its identity)...I firmly believe sanity's long been highly overrated.  It's merely hoped  the preceding thoughts have explained one more reason why I'll long continue to hold fast to this conviction.  


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