Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Ernie Saga

I feel sorry for Ernie, our cat. He sits at a glass door looking out longingly at the birds and the squirrels that flash playfully into view. I think he wants to eat them. Kibbles and an occasional indoor mouse just aren’t enough.
He meows pathetically and cocks his head to one side and licks his lips. I don’t let him out for a very good reason: he’s a house cat and there are perils out there to which he is not accustomed; coyotes, dogs, rattlesnakes and owls.
Yes, owls. Stories abound in Topanga of large birds of prey carrying off cats and even small dogs. One woman tells of an owl swooping off with her little Portia. That’s her Pekingese, not her granddaughter. She ran down the street in the direction of the bird, screaming and swearing. The terrified owl dropped Portia on the road.
The dog was OK but that wasn’t the end of the story. A car swerved to miss the Pekingese and scraped another car. There was a fistfight. Sheriff’s deputies were called. Meanwhile, a man who claimed he was once abducted by occupants of a UFO saw the dog drop from the sky and thought it was an extraterrestrial.
He summoned other believers by blowing on a ram’s horn. They surrounded Portia, who was pretty bewildered by all of the commotion. This also attracted a large group of Christian fundamentalists who thought the dog a manifestation of the Holy Spirit dropped from the sky to pronounce the end of the world.
The Christians began praying loudly and shoving the abductees aside, a confrontation that eventually turned into a riot. This attracted the attention of the sheriff’s deputies who’d been handcuffing the two fist fighting motorists. The deputies called for backup.
The media picked up the call on their scanners and sent in traffic helicopters to check it out. Since Topanga is near the ocean, rumors began circulating that terrorists had come ashore and Topangans, cooperating with local police authorities, were trying to repel the invaders.
Others from Malibu and Woodland Hills heard the reports on news radio, armed themselves and headed for the fight. When the chopper pilots saw the armed militia coming over the hills, they assumed that the terrorists had formed an army and a full scale invasion had begun. The U.S. Air Force was summoned.
Fighter jets roared over the Santa Monica Mountains blasting everything in sight, including a few collaterals who bled much like real people, but were only collaterals and shouldn’t have been in the way of the bombs in the first place.
Naturally, everyone ran like hell except for Portia’s owner who got so angry at the bombardment that she began screaming and running and shaking her fist in the direction of a fighter jet that had just launched a missile at a building that housed the Topanga Feng Shui and Yoga Society of which she was a charter member. The pilot of the jet swooped low and gave her the finger which really enraged her. She called an Arab friend who was a known member of Al Qaeda.
Word spread among Islamic radicals that America was in disarray and it was time to invade. They alerted cells in L.A. peopled by movie set designers and Hollywood extras who armed themselves and marched on Topanga. Naturally they were greeted as visiting foreigners who are always welcomed here, so everyone stopped fighting and organized a Welcome to the Mountains party.
Soon they were all happily guzzling Two Buck Chuck and making out, including the woman who owned Portia, leaving the dog to stagger back to its house alone and whine pitifully at the door. But the music and the moaning were so loud that no one heard the poor creature. Soon Federal authorities moved in and arrested everyone under the Patriot Act for collaborating with terrorists and for violating laws against passion moans that exceed a wren’s tweet.
Topanga is empty now except for me which encourages animal predators to roam free, and that’s why Ernie is not allowed to leave the house. The End. (That’s one hell of a story, Al. I know.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Brief History of Nudity

Ever since Adam and Eve discovered that there was more to life in the Garden of Eden than picking apples, the world has become obsessed with nudity.
It began with curiosity, segued to intense interest and then blossomed into lust, where it remained for a good many years, sweeping the world’s continents and finally ending up in America where it was forbidden.
Puritans believed that nudity equated with sex, which was also strictly forbidden outside of Christian marriage, although a few managed to work it in on the side.
We railed against what came to be called smut as it was celebrated in books, music, art, photographs, movies, neckties and stained glass windows. Most difficult to exclude was classic art, notably portrayals of naked women created during lapses in the world’s purity wars.
All was going very well for morality until the 1920s when a form of madness caused women to begin revealing more than was allowed, kicking and squirming to wild music in public places and drinking alcoholic beverages until their eyes went white.
Sanity was restored during the depression when we were too busy looking for work and praying for pork chops to be concerned with nudity. But then good times returned with World War II, restoring previous interests but without prurient content. It was, after all, the Eisenhower Era. There was laughter and sweetness in the air.
Who could have anticipated the 1960s?
They began when, for the first time in history, the sex microbe was isolated in a Berkeley laboratory to considerable fanfare, reviving interest in its potential when combined with nudity as a catalyst. The government immediately banned any use of an extract refined from the microbe, but it was too late.
Free love and free will were upon us.
During riots that accompanied sit-ins and protests on the U.C. campus, students broke into the endocrine lab, stole the sex formula and sold it to Timothy Leary. That was once more the end of a morality cycle in America.
Bras flew off, panties came down and bare nakedness in public soon became, for reasons obscured by the revolution itself, the new morality, created in the name of peace and freedom. Exactly why it was established as a logo for social change remains unclear, but it worked. The Vietnam War ended and we elected Nixon to lead us into the future.
But, alas, instead of once more retreating into a climate of purity, we continue to be obsessed with nudity, led by movies, the Internet and the hedonistic behavior of those such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and, to some extent, daddy’s little girl Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old Hannah Montana of Disney fame.
Photographs by Annie Leibovitz in Vanity Fair show daddy’s little girl in various provocative poses but exposing only a little of her midriff and a corner of her “pea green bra” as one writer put it. She did not bare it all as first suggested but revealed just enough to continue piquing our curious obsession with nudity.
While teenaged girls flash considerably more than pea green bras on the bikini-rich beaches of Southern California, those girls aren’t being promoted as Disney’s shiny little virgin while Miley Cyrus is. She’s supposed to be Tinker Bell, not Lolita.
Because she is worth a lot of money to Disney, Cyrus will no doubt continue in her role as the unblemished little girl next door until the day that she really kicks off her clothes and declares herself grown up. Then she will show us every aspect of the body God gave her and we will look upon it until we are drained of our drool and then we’ll return to other more profitable indoor activities.
Perhaps it is my age or my familiarity with human anatomy, but I am growing weary of our obsession with the human body. However, I do understand that there are men who have never seen a real naked woman and women who have never seen a real naked man, leaving them to wonder if the pictures they study are real or altered. Curiosity alone can keep them awake at night.
I suggest that for their sake and as a possible way of turning the titillating nature of nudity into just another boring aspect of neighborhood life, we appear every Monday at exactly 7 p.m. after the cocktail hour, standing naked on the front porches of our homes facing the street. By that, you see, first-timers will have their curiosities satisfied and we will all be so damned tired of looking at naked bodies that our obsession will pass and we can move on to other interests.
Stripped of our outer personages, we will appear as human beings, differing in details but the same in basics, and no matter how many of us you look at, it will always be just that. Now scoot inside before you’re arrested. All of you.