The Rock’s Giant Heart of Gold

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Just as much as the rest of us, celebrities like to have fun, but sometime the weight of their public status weighs heavy on them. Their publicists warn them not to do anything to silly, not to have an unattractive picture go viral on social media. The stars become glum and withdrawn. Fearful of making a lasting bad impression, remaining home-bound, finally venturing forth for only the most closely-scripted media events.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson feels an obligation to his fan base. He wants to appear only in ways that would inspire and impress. His generosity is legendary, though the gentle giant has gone to great lengths to keep his acts of charity a secret. Few know that he donated one of his lungs to a child who needed one. “It’s OK, you’ve got two!” was all the Rock had to say on the matter. Doctors barely stopped him from donating both kidneys in another incident, despite his insistence to “give until it hurts.”

“I don’t mind dialysis,” said the highest-grossing movie start on the planet. “Gives me a chance to slow down and read stories to kids. Or if there’s no kid nearby, I can inhale pure oxygen to help my remaining lung do its job better.”

Indeed, the only photo of Dwayne at a dialysis center shows him with tubes inserted into his massive arms, an oxygen mask on his face, and an enraptured child in his lap, listening to a real celebrity read the antics of “Curious George.”

Fun comes in all shapes and sizes, flavors and textures, and for Dwayne Johnson, it doesn’t get any more fun than this.

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Sexy Fruit

 

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Is it just me, or does this mangosteen turn you on? I can’t figure out if it’s the plump, juicy ripeness of it that reminds me of an eighteen year old girl in the blush or her beauty, or the resemblance to the swollen nether regions of a baboon in heat. In both cases, it’s instinct on rampage that makes me find this so attractive. The fact that I’m 69 years old has little effect on my perceptions. My actions, yes, but not my perceptions.

 

In some ways, this dirty old man is more appreciative of the beauty of youth than ever before. I even find the bodies of athletic young men pleasing to look at. I haven’t a gay bone in my body, but I think I would spend a happy half an hour gazing at Michaelangelo’s David in the Uffizi in Florence. I was there last year, but the crowds of Chinese tourists dissuaded me from paying the entrance fee.

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Center of the Universe

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Sometimes I catch myself thinking that my life, my plans, my grand enterprises, my little schemes are more important than those of the people around me. The woman washing her face in a  commercial on TV in this coffee shop in which I am sitting is a common fool, but I am an undiscovered genius.

 

If only there were justice in this world, I would be the one on TV! Somebody would be paying me big bucks to peck away on my laptop.

 

Then, in saner moments, I realize that there is beauty all around me. That other people are often more diligent and hard-working than I, and quite often more physically beautiful. The fact that I’m creeping up on age 70 allows me this new glimpse of humility.

 

What if I’ve already lost the race for money, prestige and power? Would admitting that be so bad? Would I become crestfallen, humiliated, utterly defeated? Probably not. Sure, I can still entertain reasonable hopes for a future, but it’s time to let the other fantasies go.

Bargain Hunting Through Life

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The price of things is not as important as the things themselves. If promotions drive your decision making, then you’re a victim, not a player. What seems like  freedom is bondage.

 

“Think of all the money you’ll save!” screams the advert. You have to resist that notion by summoning a quieter voice that reminds you how much more money you’ll save if you don’t buy anything at all.

 

As pastimes go, recreational shopping is a relatively expensive one, with few ancillary benefits. If you buy something you don’t immediately need, then you have to store it and find it again. For some people, that is a nearly impossible task. The fact that the purchase was totally unnecessary and driven by a general feeling of emptiness only make the situation more demoralizing.

 

So we might as well do what we really want to do with our time and resources, price be damned.

Orange Moon Rising Over Tak

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A hot day,  a warm night with a steady breeze from the West. Across those mountains the sun is setting behind lies the country of Burma, or Myanmar as it likes to call itself nowadays. Happy teenagers crowd around the food stalls on the banks of the river, near the foot bridge that crosses it. There’s  still a lot of dust and smoke in the year, for it hasn’t rained in  months. To this Midwesterner it feels like October, but it’s almost March. Soon, hot season will arrive. The rains won’t come until June.

 

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Me, Hold a Grudge?

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After four hours of riding the motorcycle in the heat and dust, I treated myself to a ninety-minute Thai massage at the shop near our hotel in Tak. We’re two-thirds of the way home. Time to celebrate.

The shop was cool and quiet, the lady masseuse seemed to know what she was doing. But then the client in the next bed over was one of those Thai men who are totally addicted to his cell phone. Even while getting massaged, he needed to watch an action movie on his phone, complete with explosive sounds and occasional screams.

Surely, the sweet girl working on him would suggest he turn the phone off. No such luck. She worked away, smiling placidly, while I imagined getting up, calmly talking his phone and throwing it out the window. But then I realized, he would protest, so I might as well simply climb on top of him and pummel him in the face with my fists, as rapidly and forcefully as possible. Come to think of it, I might as well strangle him for good measure, lest he summon the strength to retaliate.

This train of thought did nothing for my mental of physical state of relaxation. I think my therapist might have noticed my tension, for she said something and the man turned his phone off. I managed to will myself limp for a few minutes, and that seemed to reset my racing mind.

Only a few minutes passed before I found myself recalling the treasurer of a self-help group of which I was once a member, who calmly announced at one of our meetings that since the mother of one of our members had recently died, she authorized spending forty dollars to send flowers to the funeral. She was sure no one would object, so she hadn’t brought it up before. I remember thinking, “That’s the last donation I’ll ever make when they pass the basket.”

Then I recalled that this incident happened at least twenty years ago. Why was it still floating around in my brain?

I used to think I possessed an especially easy-going nature, not harboring grudges due my my inherent sweetness. But then I realized I still remembered the time I loaned a boy in my third-grade class a nickel. The year was 1958. We were standing with some boys our age at the local five and dime, near some gumball machines. He asked me if I could borrow a nickel. I had a nickel, and I wanted to fit in with these boys and he was a “cool kid,” good looking and popular. His father had a good business. My father was unemployed. We had recently moved to town, hoping he would find work. So, I said “OK, I’ll lend you this nickel, but you have to promise to pay it back.”

He laughed and said “of course I will.”

The next week, at the same spot, I asked him to return my nickel. He sneered and barked scornfully, “it was only a nickel!” The other kids laughed. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. I remember where the others were standing, the way the light came into the store through the automatic doors out onto the street. Something calcified inside me at that moment, something that I have used as justification for harboring that resentment for sixty years.

No wonder I find it hard to relax sometimes.