The First Olympics

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Before the gladiators started sticking it to each other, before men in tight shorts started running and jumping around for the benefit lusting female fans, there were the Greek gods themselves. These were the original players, inspiration for the first game developers to keep the gods amused so they’d leave us the hell alone. Let the Games begin!

ZEUS:  The supreme ruler of heaven and earth from Mt. Olympus. Overthrew his father Cronus for the spot. Often cheated on his wife Hera, and was once forced to turn a lover into a cow to disguise her. (He might have turned a cow into a Jessica Simpson lookalike, as in “moooove over, Extreme Makeover,” but we’ll never know since Homer doesn’t tell us.)

POSEIDON:  Lord of the seas. Brother to Zeus, he cruised for chicks in an amphibious chariot pulled by mermaid-like horses with gold manes. This macho display of horsepower led to his scoring with the stunning Medusa in Athena’s temple. Too bad for Medusa, though, because when Athena found out, she turned her luscious tresses into snakes. From then on, anyone who looked at Medusa got turned to stone. (Was Athena jealous, or what??)

ATHENA:  Goddess of wisdom, peace and war. Scholars may debate whether she had the hots for Poseidon, but they generally agree she was one powerful and crafty bitch. She even went up against Poseidon once, and got the Parthenon built in her honor by the Athenians. Then, when she was challenged to a weaving competition by Arachne, she not only beat Arachne, but turned her into a spider to keep her weaving forever. (Now you know why Poseidon didn’t buy her any drinks.)

HADES.  God of the underworld, this brother of Zeus tormented hordes of sinners and fallen Demi-gods. For instance, for trying to trick the gods, Tantalus was placed before some fruit trees beside a lake, which disappeared or stretched away whenever he tried to eat or drink. (Hence, the word “tantalize.”) Sisyphus once snitched on the randy Zeus, and was doomed to push a boulder uphill, well, forever. Then, with Zeus’ permission, Hades kidnapped the beautiful Persephone for himself. . . that is, until her mother Demeter found out and brought winter on the world. That’s when Hades relented and let Persephone visit her a few months of the year. That’s also when crops were allowed to grow, and why we have what we now call “the seasons.” (Try telling that to Sports Illustrated, though!)

DEMETER:  Goddess of the harvest. (In case you were wondering.)

APHRODITE:  Goddess of love. One hot mama, Aphrodite nonetheless married an ugly, lame man because it made her seem all the more beautiful.  Still, she was no saint. (None of the gods were, by a long shot.) In a beauty pageant judged by a prince of Troy, Aphrodite won by bribing the judge with a beautiful woman of his own. She went on to have an affair with Ares, the god of war, that produced two offspring–Phobos and Deimos. (Meaning “Fear” and “Terror.”)

APOLLO:  God of music and poetry, Apollo was the original rock star of Ancient Greece. Young and handsome, he had groupies, a pre-Fender lyre given to him by Hermes, and numerous affairs with both women and men alike. (Naturally enough, one of his conquests was Dionysus, the god of wine.) His ill fated tryst with Cassandra, though, resulted in the fall of Troy when Apollo shot an arrow into the foot of a famous warrior named Achilles (to spite Cassandra after their nasty breakup.)

HERMES: The messenger god Hermes is the one to whom everyone drank, with hopes of receiving good luck in return. But one of his children was truly spooky.  Pan was half man and half goat (wonder how that happened?), and would follow people into the woods and play an insane but soft tune on a flute from somewhere behind them. This usually resulted in what became known as “panic.”

PROMETHEUS:  Legend has it that this god stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans he’d been empowered to create. This angered Zeus (the control freak), so Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock and let an eternally ravenous eagle feast on his liver forever.  (Do you see a pattern here?)  Zeus was not done there, either. Oh, no. He also gave a human named Pandora a box that looked like a present, and told her never to open it. When she did, evil and misery flew out, but not hope, which had no wings. (Zeus, you’re one sick, vindictive son-of-a-)

EROS:  At last, the god of love. Son of Aphrodite, Eros went around shooting arrows at people to get them hot and bothered. One time he shot Apollo, who fell in love with a river goddess named Daphne. But he shot Daphne with an arrow made of lead, which turned her off to him. So Daphne turned herself into a laurel tree, and that’s why Apollo began the custom of crowning the Olympic Games winners with laurel leaves. (Sorry, Daphne, you’ll grow more.)

ECHO:  This was a minor deity who was cursed by Hera, the wife of Zeus, after Echo delayed her with endless talking while she was trying to catch Zeus in the hay with some other forest nymphs.  After that, Echo couldn’t talk except in echoes, and so was rejected by Narcissus, the man she fell in love with.  After Echo ran off, other nymphs then cursed Narcissus so that he would only love himself, and so when he tried to kiss his own reflection in a pool, he fell in and drowned. (Nonetheless, he’s still Trump’s favorite.)

We’ll Always Have Paris

Paris

“We’ll always have Paris…Texas.”

Just got to Greenville SC after a drive from Tucson (and a cruise to Alaska.) Observations:
1) There are no bears or whales to be seen in Alaska from a cruise ship, although the staff frequently sighted many from the bridge and excitedly told everyone to look either to port or starboard. (Favorite awe shucks: “Must have gone under the ship to mate with Nessie.”)
2) The only calving of glaciers to be seen from a cruise ship are on the videos they attempt to sell you (along with photos of you taken by them every chance they get…plus liquor.) The ship (Holland America) turned around some four miles from the glacier, and didn’t approach another for safety reasons “because of icebergs” (although in the publicity shots you see the ship surrounded by icebergs.) I think this is to sell more shore excursions. Indeed, I took a shore excursion to one of the glaciers, but had to run part way to it due to “time constraints.” (The driver joked, “You know what the bears call tourists five minutes late for the bus? Lunch.”)  Again, and alas, no calving or bears. Or bald eagles. (“Look, there’s one! See it?” Everyone in unison: “Nope.”)
3) Cruise ships burn the equivalent of two swimming pools of fuel every week (yes, with a deep end suitable for the Olympics), and there are hundreds of such ships, along with dozens of tankers transporting the oil from the Persian gulf. Not to mention thousands of jets and millions of cars in operation at any one time. In fact, we’ve gone through millions of years of fossil fuels in one century, and this last year was the hottest on record. So why can’t I see one sheet of ice fall from a glacier while being asked to buy videos and tee shirts featuring whales and bears and eagles…and rum drinks?
4) Alaska is wild and cold and huge. Driving across Texas is wild and hot and (according to Sarah Palin) “a cute little place.” That cute little place took the better part of two days to traverse nonetheless, with drivers who imagine themselves NASCAR racers (complete with tee shirts.) I heard on the news that Texas needs so many new prisons they’re thinking of letting reckless drivers and drug dealers out early to save on bed costs.  Why not let loose the serial killers too? Sure, just take away their driver’s licenses and put them to work in road construction. Then the DUIs and NASCAR wannabes will take them out, two jailbirds with one stone(d). Better yet, we should charge admission to prisons for tourists, like at theme parks. Bring the kids, make a picnic of it. A year in fees of $20 a head would pay to keep Gitmo open for one more week.
5) I never made it to Paris, and who knows, maybe I never will. Never got married either. (Nor did my sister, with whom I traveled to Alaska and across the country…she’s nine years older than I, legally blind, and can’t drive OR spot wildlife.) A girlfriend once told me that she couldn’t wait until I became rich and famous as a writer. The next day I learned that she meant it, literally. She couldn’t wait, and didn’t. Me? I’m still waiting. Next up, my memoirs. Fiction, I think, mostly. My real life is just too boring. In my fictional life, I married Kim Kardashian (IQ 175), went to Paris, bought a big house with a tall white picket fence for the bald eagles to land on…and to keep out the bears. We have a yacht bigger than James Patterson’s, and as it roars past the glacier, engines burning its $20 per gallon fuel, huge blue slabs of ice fall into the aquamarine waters. And then, inexplicably, a charming and friendly whale, rising from beneath us, (fresh from his tryst with Nessie), smiles on us and breaks one of the floes into fragments small enough for our rum drinks.

Sitka

Got Jokes?

agingYoung people make fun of old people when they’re not ignoring them, but that’s okay because old folks make fun of forgetting them when they’re not remembering being them.  The good thing about being senile is that you can hide your own Easter eggs, but the hard part is trying to figure out why the April calendar brings to mind Colonel Sanders.  When you reach 100 you no longer have to worry about peer pressure, but then those cranky old farts in their 90s can really give you hell.  Did you know the average cost for a nursing home room is $200 per day, while a cruise ship room only costs $135 per day?  That leaves $65 for Viagra therapy and after dinner mint julep.

pac man

Being middle aged, of course, is like being between a rocker and a card face.  Both play us for a joker.  But who are we fooling?  We all start out with the mind of a child, and it comes full circle.  We all enter with nothing, leave with nothing.  So why is it that in between everyone is in denial?  One wrinkle, and it’s off for Botox, a face lift, a tummy tuck, or a surgical Hoover vacuum cleaner with tornado action.  Now if only there were a pill to take to stop all this nonsense!  (Actually, they’re working on that.  It’s called gene manipulation, genetic engineering.  I got the heads up on it from Dr. Cynthia Kenyon’s research, along with advice from a Pfizer pharmaceutical scientist on the plausibility of my plot relative to what may emerge in the next decade or so.  That hardcover novel is now on audio with a new title.)

Hollywood