This Thanksgiving, try a full-body scan with a side of grope 6

As if high prices, airport food, and the threat of “Eat, Pray, Love” as your in-flight movie weren’t enough to make you consider staying home for Thanksgiving, flyers now get to choose between two equally distasteful anti-terrorism options before shoehorning themselves into their seats.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the news (I do, so you don’t have to), these are your options: a full-body scan, or a full-body grope. If it makes you feel any better, remember that both are done by someone who couldn’t make the cut to become a mall cop.

I don’t know about you but by my lights, a turkey sandwich at home is sounding better and better (and I’m vegetarian).

The scanners use X-ray technology to produce an image of the body’s outer several centimeters; this allows TSA employees to basically look under passengers’ clothes without ever touching them. This sounds very much like the x-ray specs I bought when I was a kid. Hope the scanners work better than the specs – those were a total rip-off. I should have gone with the sea monkeys.

The TSA says the scanners leave little to the imagination but are “relatively” anonymous. However, when similar machines were introduced at London’s Heathrow Airport earlier this year, it took only two months for the first sexual-harassment lawsuit to be filed. A young woman there got upset when a guard commented on her breasts after seeing her scan. So, apparently TSA’s definition of “relatively” actually means “holy moley – check these out!”

Option two is what TSA calls an “enhanced pat-down.” I read the description — what TSA calls an enhanced pat-down is what we used to call “getting to second base.”

Neither option is exactly popular, and some people are voicing their displeasure. John Tyner of Oceanside, Calif., has become a folk hero to some after posting a video he shot when he refused both the scan and the grope.

Tyner was trying to fly out of San Diego’s Lindbergh Field when he was selected at random for a scan. He refused, calling the scan intrusive. TSA’s reaction was pure federal government: Intrusive? We got yer intrusive, pal; step right over here.

When the TSA staffer detailed the enhanced pat-down, Tyner told the guy, “You touch my junk and I’m going to have you arrested.” This was an immediate red flag for screeners, because Tyner is a software engineer and not a dealer in scrap metal.

Tyner ended up missing his flight and being thrown out of the airport. He now faces a possible federal fine.

This is all in the name of safety, you understand. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “It’s all about security. It’s all about everybody recognizing their role.” Speaking for myself, scan me or grope me — just don’t make me watch a Julia Roberts movie.

Is there life after rock ’n’ roll super-stardom? You decide 7

The life of a rock demigod is not an easy one. Sure, there’s the money. And the fame. And the adulation. And the sex. And the drugs. But take those away and you might as well be a columnist.

And if the life of a rock demigod is not easy, what then of the life of a retired rock demigod? That’s a tough one to answer, because not many of them actually make it to the “retired” stage.

Some of them – notably Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd – make it to the “retired (if you know what I mean)” stage, due in large to their genius, their vision, and their being completely mental.

Plenty of them make it to the “late” stage – and oddly, some stars’ stature has actually improved posthumously – but you can count on one hand those who have actually decided to turn their back on the spotlight, put away the coke spoon, and spend the remainder of their years clipping coupons.

One such rocker is Bill Wyman. Wyman once played bass guitar for an English combo called the Rolling Stones (perhaps you’ve heard of them; they were all the rage back when the surface of the earth was still cooling). The Stones – as their fans were wont to call them – were second in popularity only to Paul McCartney’s pre-Wings backup band, the Beatles.

Wyman voluntarily left the Stones in 1992 and decamped to France, where he now spends his days puttering around the chateau, dusting his solid gold Rolls-Royces and polishing his diamond-studded guitar picks. I guess a man can take only so much fame, fortune, and casual sex. Frankly, I don’t know how he hung on for as long as he did.

But do you know what Wyman does today to make ends meet? He sells metal detectors.

How’s that for a letdown? One of the true godfathers of rock, rich as Croesus (maybe richer, as I don’t think Croesus ever had a hit record) – and now he’s selling metal detectors.

Don’t know what a metal detector is? Ever been to a park and seen an old dude wearing a cardigan and Hush Puppies and a VFW cap, walking  slowly and waving one of those things that look like a WWII mine-sweeper, and nearly having a coronary every time he finds a tab top? That’s a metal detector. And Bill Wyman sells ’em.

According to his website, Bill is quite the treasure hunter himself. Apparently not content with merely being a relic, he’s taken up searching for them, as well.

I’m happy for Bill. He’s alive – which can’t be said for all of his original band mates. And you never see him in the news, checking into rehab, or divorcing yet anther wife, or getting into a drunken fistfight with a flight attendant. So there’s that.

But still – metal detectors? Back in 1965, Mick Jagger couldn’t get no satisfaction; don’t know if he ever did – but if he ever needs help finding his car keys, he should call Bill.

Get a parking ticket? Don’t have a tantrum – try a little tantra instead 3

Austin has always been a pretty hippy-dippy place. Back in the ‘70s, we had longhairs smoking dope with rednecks at the Armadillo World Headquarters, bonding over their common love of Willie Nelson. The Armadillo is long gone – replaced by a bank that is now also long gone – but today we have an ashram on the edge of town, macrobiotic restaurants that unashamedly serve barbecued tofu, and more Buddhist meditation centers than Katmandu (not really; I just like the word “Katmandu”).

But I am embarrassed to say that I think Cambridge, Mass., may have Austin out hippie-dippied.

I came to this conclusion after reading an article the other day that said that parking violations in that fair city are now helpfully illustrated with a series of calming yoga poses.

The article said the city printed 40,000 of these tantric tchotchkes as part of a public art project by artist-in-residence Daniel Peltz.

Austin has public art – we have a rotating statue of a giant bat, and another (non-rotating) statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan. And we used to have an Alice-in-Wonderland sized magic mushroom statue (this speaks — or mumbles  — volumes about Austin), but it still sounds to me like Peltz needs to take it easy on the hemp-seed granola.

Peltz was quoted as saying: “I started this process by wondering what would happen in a world where I received [tickets] with a set of graceful postures: a clean bend at the waist, a gentle lift of the windshield wiper. I’m going to get the ticket either way; my only choice really is how I’m going to receive it.”

Choosing how you’re going to receive it is also an option during an IRS audit, a colonoscopy, or shower time for the new kid on Cell Block D. Speaking for myself, I don’t think I could “receive” any of these with anything even vaguely resembling grace. And I know that for a fact when it comes to the colonoscopy thing — I’ve received a couple of those and, unless you consider whimpering graceful, my posture was anything but.

City fathers (and at least one city mother) say the tickets are a good-vibe kind of thing. Transportation chief Susan E. Clippinger said, “It’s trying to debunk the idea that all parking tickets are a hostile action. We’re not writing tickets to get somebody. We’re writing tickets to help make the city function.” Sounds like a New-Agey spin on the old “this hurts me more than it does you” song and dance.

The touchy-feely project doesn’t end with the yoga tickets. New street signs explain traffic rules in offbeat ways; “10,000 Excuses” is a mural of excuses given by ticketed drivers; and plush, stuffed “soft-boots” to give the ultimate parking penalty a warmer, fuzzier feel. About the only thing missing now is aura readings and Reiki massages.

Clippinger reports a mixed reaction from the city’s 33 parking enforcement officers, who write about 340,000 tickets a year.

“Some of them think we’re crazy,” she said.

Only some of them? No kidding? Lady, I’m from Austin and even I think y’all are crazy.

Relax, put your feet up, fire someone – it’s Bosses Day! 5

Have you ever really paid attention to how many holidays we celebrate in this country? We celebrate a ton of them. To begin with, you got your Big Three – Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day and Christmas (and I don’t care if you’re Jewish, Muslim, Zoroastrian, whatever; if you take the day off, that totally counts).

After those you got your lesser holidays, like 4th of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day. These are cool because you get the day off, the weather’s still nice and you don’t have to drive out of state. Big bonus points: you also don’t have to rack your brain trying to think of a present for your jerk-face brother-in-law (that cheap bastard).

Lots of holidays I understand and totally agree with – like those holidays that celebrate truly important people or characters or events. Mother’s Day? No problem — everybody loves their mother, right? (Very funny, Oedipus; now sit down and shut up). Nurses Day? A day in their honor is small recompense for a life of changing bed pans and giving sponge baths. Teachers’ Day? In my book, you can’t do enough for teachers; giving them a “day” is nothing. Most of them need a raise and a sidearm.

There are a few others but that’s pretty much the holiday “A” list. After them, you start getting into some innocuous but frankly pretty questionable holidays, like Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day. Past that, you kind of trail off into stuff that’s just … well … bogus.

I bring this up because last Friday was Bosses Day. Of all the bogus “holidays” we mark in this country, this has got to be just about the most bogus one ever.

First of all, Bosses Day? I don’t know about where you work, but everywhere I’ve ever worked every day is bosses day. A boss is someone who gets to tell you what to do and when to do it. A boss is someone who can fire you on a whim. A boss is someone you didn’t vote for, but has way too much influence over 40 hours of every week of your life (or more than that, if you count the psychotherapy and the heavy drinking).

And these people need their own day set aside for us working stiffs to honor them? To my mind, that’s kinda like having King Day; I mean, how much better can it get?

Maybe you’ve heard the axiom that your job is only as good as your boss. I’ve had a lot of jobs and I speak from experience when I say that, unless your boss is Tommy Chong, this is not the case. Or maybe you’ve seen those bumper stickers that say, “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter” If that makes you happy, great; but in my book, working for some dude whose dad founded the business is no day at the beach, either.

And did you ever wonder exactly who came up with Bosses Day? I bet you a dollar it was someone at Hallmark Cards. And I bet you two dollars it was a boss.

Speak up – I can’t hear your whining over your SunChip bag 4

By now you’ve surely heard that Frito Lay is going to discontinue biodegradable packaging for SunChips. The reason? The bags are too noisy.

You read that right – the bags are too noisy.

I feel so naive. I’ve been worrying about global issues like overpopulation and pollution and the possibility of a Steely Dan reunion, and all the while overlooking a problem right here in my own backyard: the threat of too-loud snack packaging.

Apparently these bags, which are made of biodegradable plant material, make a lot of noise when you open them – or, if critics are to be believed, even when you look at them. They make so much noise, in fact, that loads of sensitive souls whined to Frito Lay about the ruckus.

PepsiCo, which owns Frito Lay, has heard the voice of the people. Or perhaps they saw it reflected in sales of SunChips, which are headed south faster than Congressional approval ratings. At any rate, PepsiCo has agreed to stop packaging five of SunChips’ six flavors in the loathsome biodegradable bags.

And not only is PepsiCo going to quit using the bags, they’re also going to recall all the bags that are already in the stores, so very soon America’s snack time reverie will no longer be disrupted by raucous, ecologically responsible packaging. In short, screw the polar bears – America wants quieter snack packaging and we are by God going to have it.

I’m a lucky guy – I don’t have a lot of worries. But honestly, how carefree does your life have to be that a noisy chip bag is an issue? Like I said, I don’t have many problems but even so, noisy chip bags are not on my radar. On my list of worries, they come in right behind my fear of being attacked by Donald Trump’s hair.

I also have to say that I really don’t see the problem with the noisy bags. Unless you’re a sniper or something, noisy snack food shouldn’t be much of an issue. And if you are a sniper, then you’re probably not eating chips on the job – you’re probably catching snakes barehanded and biting their heads off. But chips? Chips are for wimps like Green Berets and cage fighters.

Another situation where noisy snacks might be a drawback is the opera. And much like the case with the snipers, if you’re going to the opera you’re probably not a chip dude anyway — not even a fancy-schmancy French Onion chip dude. If you’re an opera buff, caviar is probably more your nosh.

But even that delicacy is not without drawbacks. While caviar does not come in a noisy, biodegradable bag, it does come in a smelly, biodegradable fish. And if you think opening a bag of chips during at the opera will get you some stern looks, you can forget about breaking out the beluga during “La Boheme.” And don’t ask me how I know this – just listen to the voice of experience. You can thank me later.

Trying to get into shape? Never mind the drugs — just say ‘no’ to donuts 4

For years I’ve been threatening to get in shape. Not that I was out of shape – as a t-shirt I recently saw correctly noted, round is a shape. But a few years (OK, decades) of making a living sitting at a desk had left me in less than fighting trim.

Working to stay fit is a fairly recent development. Not so very long ago, people did manual labor, and that helped keep them stay slim. Before that, they ran down their meals; if you lost that race you went hungry. But honestly, the last time I chased down my food was probably five years ago, when I sprinted two blocks after an ice cream truck.

For years I have been convinced that my wife was doing something to the laundry that made my clothes too tight, and I decided that I would do something about it. Divorce seemed unlikely (although not nearly so unlikely as me actually learning to do my own laundry) so I was pleased to discover that it was not my spouse who was making my clothes too tight — it was Krispy Kreme.

Anyway, I decided to make some changes and get into shape. If you’re my age you’ve probably been through the same drill – promising to develop some discipline, tighten up on your diet, and get up off your fat ass and get some exercise, for cryin’ out loud.

And, if you’re like me, this is going to take place at some much more auspicious yet vague and indeterminate time in the future – next week or maybe next month, or as soon as you get over the cold you feel like you’re coming down with, or perhaps when hell freezes over (this is my personal favorite — with the prospect of global warming, that might never happen!)

But acting contrary to character I got up off the futon, went to the gym and hired a trainer. And for the past six weeks, he’s been working my ass (and a fair amount of fat) off. Every session includes weightlifting, cardio and flexibility exercises. The only other time I’ve ever sweated this hard was back in 1973 when I got pulled over by a cop as I was leaving a Grateful Dead concert.

And so far, I gotta say I’m crazy happy with the results. My clothes are baggy where they used to be tight, and tight where they used to be baggy. I feel great, I sleep better and, perhaps most rewarding, people notice the difference in the way I look. So if you’re considering turning over a new leaf, I’d encourage you to do so.

You never know – there might be a donut under there.