Friday, August 21, 2015

Cloaked in Haze

Looking northeast from 94th Street and Park Avenue. 6:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, August 21, 2015. Warm summer day, yesterday in New York; light traffic, lots of clouds making threats but following through. Rain forecast. Not. Very hot in the sun but cool breezes coming off the river.
The news that you’re willing to read (especially if it doesn’t involve you). Ashley Madison. Sounds like a name you might see under a photo on the NYSD Party Pictures pages, no?

I never heard of her (or it) until some internet hackers decided to tell the world. Thirty-seven million men were visiting the site and leaving all kinds of sexual messages to their would-be/could-be/wanna be partners, and revealing stuff that people always keep in the home and with their mouths shut.

“A catastrophic leak at adultery website Ashley Madison spewed electronic evidence of infidelity across the internet,” was how one of the reports described it. The first thing that came to mind was a capsulized version of the typical marital discussion that began on learning the news. If, indeed, they’ve heard the news yet.
In a way it’s funny. Yes, these guys and girls are getting what they “deserve” (fooling around on their spouses; naughty naughty). Stories of marital infidelity used to make columns like NYSD a must read. Dishing the dirt. But they were fun. They’re not around anymore. Oh yes, they’re still getting divorced and having affairs, but it all sounds like a yawn, and the stories sound like sitcoms without the laughs.

Well, it’s smorgasbord that’s serving us now, and frankly I think we’re all sated enough, bloated and looking for our Bromo-Seltzer to quiet our rumbling stomachs. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop. In fact, now that all the cats are out of all the bags and a sex video will get you a multimillion dollar  income in the business of “Reality,” the race is on. What will stop it? Maybe a trainwreck?

Ashley Madison is not really shocking because it’s just about the oldest story in the book, along with the “oldest profession.” And there is something funny about people getting caught with their pants down, even if it’s figuratively. But this is what we’ve done to ourselves with our technology: we’ve altered our social behavior to accommodate our libidos publicly.  And all through the auspices of the internet, the greatest purveyor of sexual (and just about any other) fantasy in the history of civilization.
Our children, of course, have their own web sites (Tinder comes to mind right now – but there are lots of them) which are basically sex pick-up sites. And when I say “children,” I’m referring to all ages quite seriously.

I read an article the other day where a young woman talked about the drawbacks of Tinder. While she liked the access to “getting laid” at the drop of a ..., she acknowledged that  sometimes a partner and she would have a brief connection which left her wishing they could have pursued it for a “real” relationship. The problem is, this is what a real relationship is coming to for many many millions with their cell phones and their apps. And poor mugged Ashley Madison. Stripped bare as she was.

The other real problem arising from these stimulations is, again, the results of the social behavior. I’m not talking about manners  — although they are an imperative element in all social behavior no matter where you are; I’m talking about living together in communities. This is crucial.

For us at NYSD, the changes are reflected in the mail we get from our readers, many of whom are adults who are old enough to have seen it all in the past quarter century (and before). For example, this missive came from a longtime regular reader, a quite serious, sophisticated person of the world and no goody-two-shoes by any means. Still retaining the genetically predisposed sense of humor:

Yes, The Donald is making News ... The Iran Treaty Agreement is controversial and deserves a full hearing ... the Med and the Aegean are about to sink under the weight of desperate migrant vessels and luxurious 5 star floating hotels alike.

"The Chinese currency is devalued, and the Ruble is tanking ... Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment rumbles ... California is burning and Asia is facing powerful Typhoons.

"Yet, I'm thinking this Ashley Madison hack is the most interesting story of the day ... not that men haven't been cheating on their wives for centuries ... but up until recent times, paramours have been village librarians for some, Madame Claude assignations for others. Now, thru the power of the internet, all you need is a valid credit card, ten minutes to enumerate your fetish fantasies, a photo (optional) and you're off to the adultery races ... You can find the woman or man of your dreams, all dressed up in ribbons and bows, ready to heave and hump until the cows come home.

"37 million ... that's a hell of a lot of men (mostly men) on the prowl.

"Are there really all these unhappy marriages? And we're not even including same sex unions!

"Look at your neighbors ... your friends and family ... work associates and colleagues ... the world is a bee-hive of unhappy, unsatisfied, unfulfilled and ultimately lying, cheating spouses ... will you now wonder if your own spouse is rolling around in the sheets with the Maître D’ of that charming little bistro on Madison Avenue.

"The membership rolls at Ashley Madison are clogged with email addresses from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. Halls of Congress to The Pentagon to The Vatican. I hope the Nuns at the Monastery there are tucked in at night, away from the leering gaze and the rat a tat tat of the computer keyboard of a wayward Brother across the cobblestoned way.

"It will be interesting to sit back and watch ... to see whose reputation is ridiculed, who is thrown to the wolves, who comes up with the best mea culpas.  This is better than a fiery ten car mash up on the Interstate or a tragic car meets train at a railroad crossing.

"Life is sometimes funny, life is sometimes cruel. Was it William Shakespeare who said "all the world's a stage" in As You Like It? ... yes, hundreds of years on, we humans are still making fools of ourselves for all the world to see."
Meanwhile, on another subject, a letter from another longtime reader:

"I am late in hoping that you have fully recovered from the sucker punch you received last week. I was shocked reading about it. But today, one never knows what is in the mind of strangers on the street, especially the schizophrenic ones.

"As a nurse ... back in the '60s and '70s I never encountered any patients who wanted to do me harm, however, what you experienced is something that is commonplace for nurses as well as social workers in the community today. Very frightening how life has changed and makes you realize that you must always take note of your surroundings."

If you’ve got another minute or two, dear reader, the following note came from the same reader who we just printed on the Ashley M. subject. The posting referred to my Diary about the assault I experienced a week ago Thursday on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street:

“Your posting is a roundabout way of stating something that is becoming more and more obvious ... the pervasive effect of drugs on our society. There are countless stories of heroin and crystal meth epidemics in rural communities from Vermont to California. Weed is everywhere and can be obtained on any street corner in America. Corporate chieftains and large hedge funds are pushing for more legalization so that they can cash in on the growing, distribution and retail sale of pot.

"So many kids are on Adderall or Ritalin. Grade school teachers have to organize pill breaks to accommodate individual student needs.

"I saw a psychiatrist for a very brief time -- with an office on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Without even KNOWING me, he wanted to prescribe a psychotropic drug. I've read that many shrinks are now abandoning talk therapy, stereotypically a patient is laying down as the therapist takes notes in longhand, in favor of pill prescriptions, since they can see more patients in a day and make more $$$.

"I interact with many "ladies who lunch" and I am regularly struck by how vacant some are, or how hyped up some are ... anti-depressants, don't you think? Or appetite suppressants, hormone therapies, etc. etc.

"It should come as no surprise that those with the most aggravated mental illnesses or social phobias are cast adrift from family and hospitals because they are so "addled" by drug therapies ... And the hospital system is a joke ... Obamacare or no Obamacare -- stressed out docs, poorly trained staff and an insurance system that is impossible to navigate.

"Palm Beach County is Ground Zero for addiction facilities in the US. You land at the airport and there are lovely billboard advertisements for treatment centers greeting you as you roll your bag up the concourse. It is a multi billion dollar industry. If they successfully cured all their patients, the entire business model would be kaput. No, they love a world full of addicts!

"Off my soapbox ... gonna light up a joint and chill ... maybe meditate and do some yoga! LOL"

And continue to love thy neighbor. Enjoy the summer weekend.
Manhattan sunset.

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