Marv Rubinstein has had dozens of articles published in newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Japan Times, the Village Voice and the Puerto Vallarta Bulletin. Many of his articles have appeared in technical journals such as Metal Finishing and in journals about translation such as the ATA Chronicle.
A Gun Story
I used to own a small business with agents, distributors and salesmen around the country and all over the world. On one occasion, an agent of mine (let’s call him Sam) from South Carolina was visiting my office and lab in New York City for a refresher session to update his knowledge of our latest product developments. He spent two days with us and, on his last evening, we had dinner together.
The dinner was full of small talk. I don’t know what led into this subject but, after a couple of after-dinner drinks, he looked at me and asked, “Marv, how many guns do you own?” The unexpected question startled me. I did not own a gun, had never used a gun and had no desire to own one. I told Sam this. He looked at me quizzically. “You live in New York?” he asked. I told him that I lived in Greenwich Village not far from the center of Manhattan.. “Do you have a family?” “Yes, Sam” I replied. “A wife and three kids.” Sam looked astonished. “You have a wife and three children in New York City, and you don’t own a gun. How do you protect yourself? How do you protect your family?”
I looked at him and decided that he was dead serious. As a New Yorker, it had never occurred to me that I needed protection. Protection from what? As far as I was concerned , the Police Department of New York, while not perfect, provided me with all the protection that I might ever need. A former girl friend of mine had had two purses snatched while we were visiting Rio, and I had had my pocket picked coming out of a subway station in Barcelona. Neither event involved being roughed up. But in New York City, never a problem. Nada. What the Hell was Sam talking about?
But, as I mentioned above, he was dead serious. Apparently, the Southern culture into which he was born and where he had lived since childhood inculcated in him a fear of strangers, a fear which would never leave him. To him, leaving home wthout a gun in his belt made him seem naked. Without some artillery in his house, he could never relax, even in his home. It was my first realization of just how strong the gun culture was in the South and in the West. To Sam, the thought that someone like me could feel safe in New York City without a gun was unthinkable, as was the though to me that I needed to buy a gun.
I have lost track of Sam with the passing of the years but, if I ever hear from him again, it will delight me to tell him that my children are 47, 51 and 55 years old respectively. One lives in San Francisco, one in Seattle and one in New York City. None of them own guns, none of them have ever felt the need for them and none of them have ever been attacked. A good case for the books on statistics.
Ask Your Doctor
“Ask your Doctor if *** is for you.” “Ask your Doctor about ***.” How many times a day do you receive these or similar messages from pharmaceutical advertisers on TV? Whenever I do, I snarl under my breath, “No! Absolutely not. If you want Doctors to promote your product, hire someone to visit the Doctor’s office and directly discuss its virtues with him or her, as your companies have done for many years.”
My Doctor is too busy to have all his patients calling to see whether your product is worth its salt. I already find it difficult to reach him by phone if I have a significant medical question about something bothering me. I usually need to have my question filtered through his receptionist, and the Doctor may phone me that evening.
If and when I do speak to my Doctor with a worry about my health, at least half the time he or she will advise me to contact my cardiologist or proctologist or whomever he has previously referred me to for similar complaints. I will not ask my doctor about your product. I am not your promotion agent.
Separation Anxiety of Our Canine Friends
My Chie and I own (or are owned by) a delightful three-year old, Brussels Griffon named Chibi (Japanese for “Little One”). Chibi has a small body (10 pounds) but a huge personality. She is extremely friendly, full of piss and vinegar and very playful. My favorite game with her is fetch; her favorite is tug of war. Like most members of her breed, she loves all human beings and most dogs. Sometimes too much; she is what is called “a Velcro dog.” Once she has decided who the leader of her pack is, she clings and clings, follows and follows that individual, in this case, my wife, Chie.
So, why am I writing about this canine paragon? Dog lovers do not need to be enlightened. Others will be inclined to say “So what?” Chibi has one distinctive imperfection, a supposedly minor but very troubling one––she hates [and I mean HATES] to be left alone, a condition Psychologists call Separation Anxiety, a trait shared by some humans. Dog books have chapters on this subject, with suggestions for handling it, some of which occasioinally work. None that I have read provide readers with any idea of the intensity of this syndrome.
Normally, since she is a member of the family, we take Chibi with us wherever we go, so we did not notice this problem until we first left her by herself, since we were going to a Broadway show. [In Puerto Vallarta, we actually take her to shows or Cabarets with no problem.] In New York, as soon as we closed the door, incessant barking. Since we live in an apartment house with neighbors, this could not be tolerated. We solved the barking problem (or so we thought) by fitting her with a collar that has a small container of stinky material attached, the smell of which dogs hate. Any bark produces a whiff of this unpleasant material. [A little cruel, but better than shock-producing collars.] This solved the barking problem, but led to something worse.
I once had another dog with a similar tendency. When left alone, she would chew furniture or poop and pee all over the place. When left in the back yard, her incessant barking led to neighbors reporting her to the police and our getting a ticket and a fine. Chibi did none of these. We were able to see her reaction by leaving a camera videotaping her in the apartment. She barked occasionally, but mostly whimpered. And she would park herself just inside the front door to wait impatiently for our return, whether it be one hour or five.
I did not notice the severity of the problem until I stayed home with her, while her idolized Chie went out. The whimpering went on and on, while Chibi meandered around in circles before settling in front of the door. I cannot claim to see into a dog’s mind, but she actually seemed to be in pain, much like mourning for a dead parent. How could her pack leader desert her like this, when she is so faithful? Any attempts on my part to comfort her were useless. She normally enjoyed sitting on my lap or sleeping next to me when I napped. None of this worked when Chie was not there. A doggy treat or a piece of apple would distract her, but only temporarily before she returned to her moaning, watching and waiting inside the entrance door. It was heartbreaking.
When Chie returned, there was a brief flurry of excitement, hyperventilating and jumping and licking before Chibi settled down to her normal delightful self. How have we solved the problem? We haven’t. We tried all the professional suggestions. Small incremental partings, first for 15 minutes, then 30. Then an hour or two. Didn’t work. Leaving behind a hollow plastic bone with meat inside that is hard to dislodge. She ignored it, that is until we returned. Best of a selection of bad solutions, we keep to a minimum the times we leave her by herself, and we try to make our (Chie’s) absence as short as possible. Giving Chibi away would break my wife’s heart (and mine), so we are stuck. It seems that love can be a curse as well as a blessing.
Both Sides Now
I am sick and tired of hearing or seeing in the media expressions such as : “Both sides do it.;” “Big industry donates to both Republicans and Democrats;” “All politicians lie.” “You’ll find voter fraud in both parties.” and numerous familiar claims. These are typical half truths, which are worst than outright lies.
Of course, all these examples of iniquitous behavior can be found on both sides. But what do these statements mean–that each side is equally guilty, that 50 percent of special interest money, for example , goes to Republicans and Democrats alike? If 25 percent of Democrats lie and 70 percent of Republicans lie to their constituents, does that mean that politicians on both sides are equally untruthful? Reverse the percentages, and the same question stares us in the face. Both sides do it. Does that mean that we should not trust the honesty of all candidates? Or should we weigh the relative dishonesty of both?
Believe the glib claims from both sides of the aisle, and you will never know for whom to vote. It pays to doubt the veracity of those claiming equal culpability. Think of a parody of a once popular song. “ I’ve looked at candidates from both sides now, from in and out, and yet somehow, its their illusions I recall, I don’t really know candidates at all.”
The Yes and No Problem – The Gentle Tango of Initiating Sexual Relationships
The subject of rape has been much more evident in the media of late. Statistics indicate that most rape cases involve two people who know each other and sometimes are related to each other. For couples like these, much of the sexual dialogue involves the question of when Yes means Yes and when No means No. Sounds like such an easy question . It isn’t. As a former womanizer with lots of experience courting women over many years, I am still not completely certain of the answer. Comprehending body language muddies the waters. Circumstances play a part. Interpretation of verbal communications plays another.
I know that many of you will think that my attempts of analysis is just aman making excuses for aberrant misconduct. You are entitled to your opinion, and I doubt if this column will change it. My experiences are that of a traveling salesman. However, there are no farmer’s daughters involved. Most of the women I have encountered while circling the globe were modern girls with at least some sophistication.
An example. While visiting Malaysia, I was spending some time in my hotel room. The hotel had been recommended by an attractive young woman with whom I had corresponded, but had not previously met. It turned out that the hotel parking lot was on the side of the hotel, and my lady friend had parked her car there and used a side door for entrance, rather than going through questioning in the lobby, before knocking on my room door. Does that suggest a “Yes?”
In a second case in Singapore, I went to the hotel desk to check in and was told that my “friend “ (a different one) had already registered for me and was already in my room. Probably “Yes?”
In another case, a lady came to visit me in New York, coming from Canada by night train and, as previously arranged, arrived in my apartment at about 8:00 A.M. , much earlier than I had anticipated. She looked exhausted. Since I had to get to my office, I told her to get some sleep, and I went to work. I returned about noon to find her sleeping in my bed. I gently woke her and suggested that she shower and get dressed so we could go to lunch. She looked up at me and said, “Make my body happy.” Was that a “Yes” or a “No?’
In London, I met a charming woman for lunch. We had made contact through an ad in a magazine called “Time Out,” which boasted a meet-up column. After a delightful lunch, she asked to see my flat. When we got there, I gave her a brief tour. When we reached the bedroom., she plopped herself down on the bed, turned to me and said, “Marv, let’s get it over with, so that we then have time to really get to know each other.” Do any of you consider that a “No?” So we promptly got to “know” each other in the Biblical sense of the word.
Just a few examples of circumstances altering cases, and we frequently trust circumstantial evidence in our law courts. True, none of these cases is beyond doubt, but the preponderance of evidence leaves little doubt indeed. So much for circumstances. Deciphering body language under similar circumstances provides another vast area of confusing explanations. Saying “No” during a passionate embrace is often contradictory––just one of many confusions in the Yes or No dialogue. This is a dialogue which needs further exploration by both sexes.
Chance Encounter with Bill Cosby
This writer is 94 years of age. If you are a lively and active person, one of the advantages of being around so long is that you accidentally bump into many famous people In my case, Bill Cosby presently in the news again, was a prime example,
Ten or twelve years back, my wife Chie and I were wandering on La Guardia Place, looking for a decent restaurant. We stopped in front of a small Italian restaurant (long gone, like my memory of the restaurant name) to look at their menu posted in the window. An easily recognized voice behind us almost yelled, “The food’s great here. Go on in.” It was bill Cosby with two friends, all slightly inebriated and in a good mood.
“Why not?” we concluded. So, we entered the restaurant, which was obviously a favorite of his. Cosby had preceded us and, with a handkerchief draped, napkin like, over his arm, guided us to our table. After I thanked him, I told Chie that she had just been escorted to our table by “the best paid Maitre’D in the world.”
This internationally known comedian and philanthropist continued to minister to our needs by bringing over the wine list and menus. As he placed them on the table, he looked at me and said, “You have a very beautiful girlfriend.” I promptly told him, ”Bill, she’s not my girlfriend; she’s my wife.” Suddenly, previously very attentive to Chie,, his demeanor changed. With a guttural “Oh!” he promptly left us.
I guess that, like most of us, Bill Cosby had his own personal code of honor.
My Memory Loss Happened So Fast
I’m losing my short-term memory. I am 94 years of age, but this memory loss only started about 10 months back. It was so fast. What puzzles me, however, is that the loss is selective, I can still quote poems I learned when I was twelve, and my recall of song lyrics is amazing.
I still remember the song of my High School.
“Washington High School, school of endeavor
For truth and honor in word and in deed.
We pledge our loyalty and willing service,
Now and forever, thy light shall lead.”
The same is more or less true of poetry. It doesn’t always come back quickly, but it does come back. Sometimes I at first remember only the rhythm. For example, I recall the rhythm of an old English poem called “The Song of the Shirt” by a poet whose name evades me;
da-da-da-da-da; pause; da-da-da-da-da-da. It’s all coming back:
“With fingers weary and worn, with eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags, plying her needle and thread.
Band and gusset and seam, seam and gusset and band,
‘Till the eye is tired and the brain benumbed,
As well as the weary hand.”
“Oh, men with sisters dear; oh, men with mothers and wives,
It is not linen you’re wearing out, but human creatures’ lives.”
Well, maybe I’m missing a word or two, but I got the gist of it. And I even think I now remember the author. It was Thomas Hood. What bothers me, and I can’t explain it, is why the Hell I still remember songs and poems I learned eighty years back and still can’t remember the name of someone I met yesterday. Beats me!
I know that I am not the only one with this curse to bear. My mother, my brother, one sister and my ex-wife all had the same problem. And, as our population ages, we shall see more and more of this.
For 12 years, I have taken part in an NYU study of Alzheimers. Tons of research are going on, but the results are slim so far. Some medications exist, but they show limited improvement. Why long-term memory continues when short-term memory goes bad is still a mystery. Apparently each is served by a different part of the brain.
My scientist and medical friends, help us find a cure. This is a growing tragedy, possibly worse than cancer.
The Art of Doing Nothing
After 25 arduous years of running my small engineering business, I sold it to my major competitor and retired––retired, well, sort of. Following the advice of Doctor Ruth, instead of having retired, I rewired..
Returning to an interest of my youth, I became an Author. During the next 20 years, I wrote and had published 12 books on a variety of subjects. Two more are still on their way. In addition many articles of mine appeared in various newspapers and periodicals. I am now 94 years old.
Enough already. I am now really ready for full retirement, but I have a problem. Call it the Puritanical ethic or jut call it habit but, having been a get-up-and-go type for so long, I found doing nothing troublesome. More than that, strange to say, I felt guilty. What the Hell was I doing wasting all this valuable time?
It took me a while, but I finally got over it. I finally adjusted to finding unimportant things to do. I spend a little time watching TV. Since I have already gone through all the Law and Order and the Murder She Wrote episodes, there are still the news and commentary programs, depressing as they may be. I spend a little time reading. I spend a little time playing fetch with our dog Chibi. And, of course, there is breakfast and dinner. [We skip lunch.] Add showering and saving to the list and occasional visits from friends and family, and that’s about it. Not to mention 8 t0 9 hours of sleep at night and a periodic nap in the afternoon. Time passes by.
Strange to say, though, I have almost gotten used to it. Often, when we have had a visitor or I had to go out and see one of my many doctors, I feel happy to look at my calendar and see that there are several days ahead just doing nothing. It reminds me of a short poem by Dorothy Parker, an old favorite of mine:
“Travel, trouble, music, art, a kiss, a frock, a rhyme––
I never said they feed my heart, but still they pass my time.”
Circumstance Alter Cases
Chibi, our 4-year old Brussels Griffon is a wonderful dog, who brings a lot of joy to our lives. However, we frequently complain about a number of bad habits she has developed. Beginning about a year ago, she has started to bark, bark, bark, believing she needs to protect us. She barks whenever she hears someone in the hallway outside our apartment door. She barks when she hears loud noises, e.g. thunder or fireworks. When we take her for a walk, she barks at big dogs or tall people. My wife Chie and I are constantly admonishing her, “No barking!” to no avail. Living in an apartment building, we were also concerned about our neighbors.
Other bad habits. Chibi is housebroken, but she occasionally falls short of the wee-wee pad where she is supposed to perform. Despite our signs of displeasure, nothing changes. And she constantly begs for food while we are eating, her paws on my knee and her big eyes looking up at me, saying, “Me too.” She knows that I’m a soft touch, so orders of “Down!” are worse than useless. Very bad habits.
Recently, Chibi got very sick. She must have eaten something on the street (another bad habit) and became seriously ill with a bad kidney problem. She stopped eating and, worse yet, she refused to drink water. Consequently, she stopped peeing. She spent five days in a Veterinary hospital, treated with antibiotics and supplied with nutrients and other medications using an IV drip procedure to cleanse her urinary tract. Thank God she had an excellent Vet!
While she was sick, she stopped barking completely. When we brought Chibi back home, she started drinking water but ate only reluctantly. No more begging at the tableside. Our whole attitudes changed. We were delighted when she peed on the kitchen floor and for a while forgot about her wee-wee pad. While we ate, we called her to the table, hoping to revive her interest in tidbits and were happy when she started to beg again. And, I recall our excitement when we heard her first and subsequent barks. “Bark, Chibi, bark.” Return to normal.
Circumstances alter cases.