Thursday, December 16, 2010


Last night Harry wanted to go see Santa. He is nine and has been mulling over this for some time. He still believes, but Darla told him he’s too old to sit on Santa’s lap, and there are kids at school who have told him Santa isn’t real, so he feels a little self-conscious. Mo believed until she was 13, I think, when she wrote him a letter saying she had been told he didn’t exist but she still loved him and believed in him and could he please just leave some proof, like come wake her up, it would only take a minute. Dar loves the idea of Santa but can’t help reasoning: Who can fly around the world in a sleigh with reindeer in one night, come on.

So we went to see Santa. The only other kids in line were two infants and a three year old on a leash. "See Harry?", Dar shrugged and held her hands up. I shot her a glare, while Harry walked away with his hands in his pockets and his head down.

I found him leaning on a column around the corner. “Come on Bub, you don’t have to sit on his lap or anything, you can just go over there and say hey how’s it going.”


We’re here. Might as well just say hi.

I don’t want to.

Really? You might feel sad if we leave and you didn’t even wave at him.

I’ll just email him.



Ok. Well let’s go say goodbye then.

I started to walk back to Santa’s throne, but he didn’t follow. I looked over at Darla who was trying on sunglasses at the Kiosk and looking in the mirror, turning her head this way and that. I walked over closer. Dar! I whispered. She turned her head slowly towards me like I was an annoying paparazzi. Go tell Harry you’ll come say hi to Santa with him.

She looked at me with her big Elizabeth Taylor goggle sunglasses.

If you’re rolling your eyes, I can’t see.

She took one last look in the mirror, took off the glasses, placed them slowly back on the table and brushed by me in Harry’s direction.

Be nice, I said. I walked over to Santa. As far as Santas go, this guy was the top of the line: real white beard, little chubby, twinkle in the eye. He was sitting by himself.

Santa? I whispered and he looked over at me. I actually got a little nervous myself. The guy’s a superstar. “My boy’s feeling a little shy. He really wants to see you but he’s worried he might be too old.”

Where is he? He got up out of his chair. Dar was walking him over; she had her arm flung around him like they were buddies back in Nam. I pointed with my thumb.

What’s his name, he said quietly to me. I told him.

Harry? He said and waved him over. Hi Harry. Come here, lad. He leaned on the white fence that divided his little area. I thought maybe in real life he might be a farmer, or a plumber. His voice was high, a little strained. He definitely did some sort of physical labor.

Dar kept her arm around Harry and walked over, like he was a helpless crippled child who couldn’t get by without her help.

Hi "Santa", she said.

Hello, what's your name?


He looked at Harry who was still looking at his feet.

Is this your sister?


How old are you son?


Nine! That’s fantastic. And what do you want for Christmas.

A Playstation 3.

Anything else?

Harry shook his head.

And you’re a good boy?

He nodded.

“I can see that. Your mother told me you are. Come here a second, son.” He let Harry in through the gate and put his arm around him and walked over to the throne. They were talking but I couldn’t hear because the photographer came over and began trying to talk me into a series of photos for 46.99. I shook my head and he said, Just a meet and greet?

Yeah, just a meet and greet, I said. I was trying to see around him to catch what Santa was saying, but by the time he moved, Harry was walking back towards me with a coloring book in his hands. His head was up and he was practically laughing. He could barely speak.

Did he tell you it was all a charade? This from Darla.

Dar, stop. I looked back at Harry, What’d he say, sweets?

He said you’re never too old for Santa.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bumper Car Conversations

I hadn’t been to a club in a long time, long enough that when the bartender told me my water was $7, I had a tourette’s-like reaction. Inwardly I was saying: wait, does that mean I should leave $10, but I can buy an entire case of water at Von’s for 3.99, how do people do this?, oh no I’m an old lady fussing about money! Outwardly I was completely cool and relaxed: Here’s my gold card babe, start up a tab. Inwardly: Oh my god I just said babe. Shit, I think I’m at my limit on that card. Maybe I should take it back and give him cash, no I need that for the valet, dammit. Outwardly: Thanks (subtext I’m cool and I totally belong here) Inwardly: I’m not cool at all and even when I suck in my stomach I have a muffin top.

It was my sister’s birthday and her husband was throwing her a huge party; there was going to be a burlesque show too. Everyone was happy and ready for fun and screamed when they saw each other. I looked around for someone to go up to and scream with, but I had already said hello to both of my sisters. I looked around and saw my brother taking photos of everyone.

Let me see, I said pointing to the camera.

He let me have a look at the photos. He never takes a single bad one, but still he said, I can’t see what I’m doing. He asked me what was up with our other brother, “I mean do you think he’ll ever get over it with Dad, do you think he’ll go, you know…”

To his funeral?


Really that’s what you were going to say? Dad’s funeral, Jesus I don’t know.


No, I mean, I don’t know…no, I don’t think he will.

Come on, how can he, I mean he has the same last name, that’s who he is, so he gets to say “I’m right”? What is that?

I don’t know; maybe he’ll go. It’s impossible to tell. It’s like 9/11; will you go to the roof or out the front door. There’s no way of knowing til it happens.

What the fuck are you talking about?

What the fuck are you talking about?

We laughed and each walked away in the opposite direction.


I sat down next to a beautiful couple. The guy looked like a young Spike Lee and the girl, his wife, had a perfect face with freckles and her hair pulled back tight. We had met once before at my sister’s house. She just had a baby and we talked about that. The guy kept interjecting but his face was still and serious, he was busy watching everyone else. At one point I asked him what his name was.

He said, you don’t know who I am?

No I don’t, I laughed. His wife laughed too.

I work on the same show as your brother-in-law.

I don’t watch TV.

Shit. (He still didn’t crack a smile but his wife was really giggling).

We didn’t say anything for a bit and then I said, I thought you were a super model.

He smiled and we clinked glasses.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Wish

Two years ago Harry went through a brief obsession wanting to be Jewish. When I say obsession I mean he wanted me to make latkes, celebrate Hanukkah and change his name to Eli. In addition he talked about being Jewish every day. He’d say “I’m Jewish” with emphasis on the last syllable, which I misunderstood for an attempt at a Catskills comedian’s accent. I later realized (how could I have missed it?!) he was saying he was Jew—ish. I fully encouraged his conversion because I once had an obsession of my own.

When I was 8 and we still lived in an apartment in the city, I was the only one of my friends who wasn’t Jewish: Saranne Rothberg, Shari Aronson, Debbie Ginsberg, Carla Elkman, Andy Appelbaum, David Epstein and Jimmy Gottlieb. These were my people, well except for Jimmy; he was a teenager and didn’t want to have anything to do with us but he also had glasses that were at least a half inch thick, bad skin and a sour disposition and wasn’t welcome in many other circles, so he’d occasionally hang with us.

We’d go to brunch together on the weekend at the Commissary, which was the restaurant in our building. It was exciting to be able to go by ourselves, I felt like a grown up, especially because I didn’t have any family members around to bust me on the fact that I was pretending (through my accent and food choices) to be a full-fledged Jew. Bagels, cream cheese, whitefish and lox: is there anything better. At home I began reading my books upside-down and backwards. David’s mother Hilda gave me my own Hebrew book and laughed till she had tears when I’d read it out loud.

What did I care, I was Jew-ish.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back To Quiet

Thanksgiving has always been a weird holiday for a few reasons: it basically involves a ceremonial feast with food, kind of bland, that you don’t (or rarely) eat at any other time. It’s based on an event that probably didn’t happen in the first place, sort of a whisper-down-the-lane evolution of a gathering between two groups of people who probably wanted to kill one another. Well, not probably. And now here we are centuries later. When you’re a kid, it’s hard to feel thankful for things because being thankful involves time (distance) and recognition (understanding), things that are not typically the strong points of anyone under the age of 11. But by the time you’re an adult, say 25, you’re supposed to understand gratitude, unless you’re like me and don’t really catch on to the whole idea until you’re in your 40s and just beginning to think about getting old and dying. Then feeling grateful is like that extra credit report that might make your grade a little higher, or make you live a little longer. Still you don’t want gratitude to start feeling like a chore, which is what it sometimes does when at Thanksgiving you’re asked to say what you are grateful for.

That’s why this year, when we were all seated around the table, I said we all know we are thankful for each other so let’s (cut the crap) and each say something about ourselves that no one else knows. What? Everyone screamed and/or laughed loudly and nervously. My brother Lightfield left the table. Some people thought I was kidding and the ones that didn’t hated me. I only meant to encourage things like “I have to drink chocolate milk with a spoon” or “Every morning when I wake up I have to say cockadoodledoo”, or even “I sneezed into the stuffing while I was making it”, nothing deep, nothing too revealing. But I couldn’t even make the suggestion; it was too horrifying. A few brave members gave it a go, Cam told how she pees in her pants a little when she does jumping jacks and Beau told a story about how he caught a hillside on fire when he was in some skateboard park by himself (see, that’s what I’m talking about!) but then it came back to quiet. Can you pass the salad? Mmm this is delicious.

I was thinking about this when I read yesterday about the Wikipedia leaks. I thought what are those idiots doing? What the hell? What do we need to know this stuff for? Who are these self-righteous wiki-holes and what is their purpose? And then I thought, wait, am I the same kind of idiot? I mean the information does not carry the same weight but am I being self righteous and inconsiderate trying to dig that up? I mulled this over and then decided no, I’m not a wiki-hole. There is a reason for diplomacy but not with your family. Maybe it will be less scary next year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seen and Heard: A Recent Inventory

Hollywood Brush with Greatness

Last week I was driving down Hollywood Blvd and I passed a double-decker bus. There was a crew of black-haired guys cheering and waving at the characters in the street: Marilyn, Spider Man, Darth; and a few people on the sidewalk were cheering back at them. I looked across the street at some guy with a camera hanging off the roof of the Jimmy Kimmel Building and he was surrounded by a few people chanting Chile, Chile, Chile. I realized the guys on the double-decker were the rescued miners. I waved, beeped my horn and continued on to school.

Metaphor For Life

If you blindfold a person and ask him to walk ½ mile, he can’t walk in a straight line but rather will walk in an overlapping series of circles. Try it.

Bubby’s Teeth

I don’t know how or why it happened but I have my step-Father’s false teeth in my drawer. Lately Harry has been playing with them along with his action figures and Bakugans. I can’t think of anything to say about that, except that in a strange way, this is very comforting to me.

Mr. Social

I read an article about some new facebook application that Mark Zuckerberg created because he believes that writing an email was too much of a “cognitive load” for people used to texting and instant messaging. The cognitive load theory has something to do with the idea that our working memory is limited (duh; and yes I looked that up on Widipedia) but the thing is, if we want our memory to improve shouldn’t we exercise it a bit by giving it something “heavy”. I hate that everything, even conversation, is becoming abbreviated. Maybe it’s less of a load for our brains but isn’t it also less of a connection? Maybe not, but I still think Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to make us be more like him, i.e. alone in his room, in front of a computer, wishing he had a friend.

Drugs and The Good Old Days

I took my Dad out for coffee recently and we were talking about the good old days when people took drugs and smoked out in the open. He said that on the famous album cover of Abbey Road, with the four guys walking across the street, that the cigarette in Paul's hand has been digitally erased. Weird. I've never taken hallucinogenic drugs, but I think if I blindfolded myself and tried to walk half a mile while listening to this beautiful song, I could recreate the experience.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My First Moviestar

I remember my grandmother wore a coat that looked exactly like this. It had deep pockets where she kept her peppermints, Salems, and tortoise shell hair combs. She'd wear it over a dress with nylons and clickity high heels or else over a wool turtleneck and some slacks and old brown wallabees. She wore red lipstick and Chanel perfume. She lived with my grandfather in a big farm house on a dirt road and later in the guest house on the same property. She knew almost everyone in the small town where they lived either because she had taught them in elementary school, went to church with them, or just chatted with them while waiting in line at the grocery. She drove an old Volvo with both hands on the steering wheel and she drove fast on the back roads so the car would hit the bumps and get a little air. We never wore seat belts then and sometimes our heads would hit the ceiling. She made us listen to NPR or classical music and we hated it and she'd pretend to cry because we weren't letting her enjoy it. She'd sing along with the opera so loud we'd cover our ears laughing. But she was fantastic and proud of herself. Her hair was thin, almost transparent, after it turned white, but it never mattered because her face was so beautiful. That's what my grandfather said. Sometimes out of no where, she'd look at me in the rear view mirror and say, I love you, Deird. Or she'd say: your mouth turns down like mine, you look like my sister Elizabeth. And I'd feel self conscious, embarrassed, and totally proud.

On the way home from errands she'd stop at Friendly's for an ice cream cone or at Dairy Queen if we went the back way. She'd ask for a taste of my rainbow sherbet and I'd ask for a taste of her butter pecan and then we'd both make faces like it was disgusting. Then we'd sit in the car and she would smoke and sometimes tell me about my Dad, her son, who I remembered seeing once between the ages of 3 and 15. He was an actor, a moviestar, who worked with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford. She'd say "He misses you and wishes he could see you more", and I believed her. Once we were driving home and black smoke started pouring out of the front of the car. We had to pull over on the side of the road and put the hood up. Nana and I looked at the engine and the smoke; neither one of us had a clue. My cousins and brother got out of the car and started throwing things at each other and it got a little out of hand. She yelled and told them to sit in the car. We waited and Nana said how everyone's true character came out in times of trouble, and we all felt ashamed even though we were all under the age of 9 and barely knew what true character meant.

Finally some guy in a truck came by, and of course she knew him because she had taught him in the fifth grade. Hey Mrs Lewis, he said, and then they talked and had a look under the hood. Put ya gran-kids in the back of my truck, he said, I'll go get Don. We all climbed in and Nana asked if she could have the radio on while she waited. Couldn't hurt, the guy said. We watched her sitting in the front seat, holding a cigarette and listening to Beethoven, the collar of her coat pulled up like she was lounging at a French cafe waiting for the garcon to bring her a glass of red wine and a light.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Few Ways I Know I'm Getting Old (and possibly senile)

I assume my children appreciate the animal videos I email them as much as I do.

What’s wrong with you guys: the hugging lion, the dog that says RI RUV ROO, the hippo that lives in the house. How can you not think these are fantastic? I called Mo to ask if she watched Patches the horse yet, and she said “Um… no”. Like I’m the one who’s nuts.

I freak out when someone leaves the lights on.

Come on! It’s not even because of the bill or the environment, why are there lights on the ceiling, it’s agitating, this is what they do in torture chambers, if I knew how to take that goddam cover off, I'd smash those bulbs with a broom(these are all things I walk through the hall in my house saying to myself in an enraged monologue).

I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to assume all bad drivers are Asian.

(me, after a car cuts in front of me) Oh my god, of course she’s Asian.

(Mo, Dar and Harry) Mom!

I think I look (kind of) cute and sassy in shorts.

Yesterday, I was about to get out of the car to hand Darla a book she had forgotten and she said, Mom don’t get out of the car!

I can’t stay awake past 10.

I can’t find my glasses when they’re on my head.

I can’t remember your name.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I don't think I ever saw one of these in my entire school career and here are two from Dar in the past month!

Observing Dressage

The guy didn’t walk, he pranced. I’m not making a judgment here, I’m just telling it like it is. Like those horses, you know the ones who lift their legs high at the knee and set the foot down just so. I can’t remember what they’re called but they’re beauties. This guy though, well that’s not the first word that would come to mind. He looked like he cut his hair with a butter knife. I mean it was short, tidy in its own way, but it wasn’t even. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He missed one or two good-sized clumps in the back. Obviously, he didn’t own a mirror. And here he was prancing. Anyway, so he comes on in through the gate to the pool, a book in one hand, a towel draped across his arm. He already had his shirt off and from the looks of him the last time he was out in the sun he was wearing a short sleeve shirt. He was buttery, this short-haired prancer.

He found a lounge chair across the way. Still right in full view, he was. Not that I would have turned my head away. How could I? This was a show. He set his book down and then lay his towel across the lounge, snapping the ends of it like an Italian woman shaking crumbs from a tablecloth. He put his hands on his hips and raised his face to the sun and took in a few good deep breaths. Ah this is the life! Then he undid his shorts, let them drop to his ankles, kicked them in the air with a little showgirl move, caught them with one hand and put them on the lounge next to him. Then he smoothed and patted, smoothed and patted like those shorts were his best friend who needed some cheering up. Those shorts, the smoothing and patting, it must have gone on for 5 minutes.

He was so busy that you could barely take the time to notice he was wearing a thong bikini. I said barely. He stood still for a second and then made the international hand sign for Oh I forgot my…. He marched over to the lifeguard stand with his hands on his hips. Not lifeguards really, they were two teenage girls chit-chatting away under the umbrella. I don’t think either one of them ever looked in the direction of the pool for more than half a second. Of course they stopped when he came over and when they got a load of his suit, they instantly made the international facial expression for deer in headlights. I watched them pretend to listen and try not to look at each other and try not to look below the waist. One of the girls got up and handed him a bottle of sun block and he read the entire thing front to back, top to bottom. He took a step back and started in on lathering himself up, the face, the nose, the tips of the ears, arms, legs, toes, in between his legs for the love of god and then you could see him formulating the question before it came out: he looked at the poor girl and pointed to his back.

Don’t do it! I wanted to yell like you do in a movie theater when the hero is about to go down in the basement. Don’t—oh there she goes, God! bless her she’s touching his back. 4 seconds it took. Completely unsatisfying I’m sure. But she finished and then shooed him away like she needed to look at the pool and he was blocking it. And off he went.

Added to my list of makes life worth living.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Not for the Faint of Heart

This picture may not seem so scary in broad daylight, but at night, in the dark, when you are out walking the dogs by yourself and you look up and see something hanging from a tree, it's a different story. The people in my neighborhood are serious about Halloween and when I say serious, I mean as in not funny. Dead bodies hang from second story porches, body parts (possibly from actual bodies) are growing out of the garden, and someone hiding under a bush might grab your ankle when you walk through the gate.

The first year we lived here, we went trick or treating on Carroll Street (where this was filmed) and there was a tall man in a black hooded robe standing on his porch beckoning with a bony finger. I said to the kids, ooooooo haha look at that! and then Hi there neighbor! (hellodiddly odiddly) thinking that then the grim reaper would say Hey Guys it's me Bob, Happy Halloween, come on up! But he just stood there silently. I could actually hear Harry's bag trembling from his little hand. I tried to keep walking but both he and Dar had stopped and were not about to take another step. Come on guys, it's just Bob.

We looked at the figure who slowly shook his head, No.

Harry started to whimper. You go, Darla whispered. All right, I said. I walked up and said Trick or Treat in a friendly way (translation: All right you can stop now, my son is only 4 and has just pooped his pants), but Bob was fully committed. He shook his head No again and pointed to the kids. I actually had the momentary thought that maybe this wasn't Bob after all and this guy was really going to pull out a scythe.

He doesn't have any candy, kids, I said and turned quickly back towards them.

Once we were off the walk way, Harry started to cry just from the relief of getting out of a perilous situation, and he was still crying when we got to Jim's. Jim is 80, bald and wears old topsiders. He is originally from New Hampshire and is not interested in foolery. What's the matter, buddy, he asked. We explained and he chuckled, said aa Christ under his breath and walked inside his house.

Why'd he walk away? Darla asked.

Now that I was spooked, I thought for a second that maybe he went to get a rifle but he came back with two extra large snickers bars. I usually keep these for myself, he said, and he invited Harry to sit with him and hand out candy while I took Darla to a few more houses.

This is the same script we have followed every year since except that now Darla and Harry go out on their own and stop at many more houses before they end up at Jim's

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What People Do

I used to drive from Philadelphia to New York twice a week and now it seems I spend even more time in the car. My ass is flat in the same way as a round ball of clay pressed under a heavy book. I wonder what the ass of the 63 year old restaurant owner in this article looks like.
And PS, neither the photo above nor the few sentences below has much to do with the article, but it's still interesting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sketch: Organ Transport

Part 1

We are in the desert, hot and still. Off in the distance there is a white shape. It could be vapors, it could be a mirage, it could be a white van. We go in closer. It’s a white van. On the side is a stenciled sign: Medical Transport.

There are two guys in the van; one is large, the other is wiry, but they are brothers. The wiry guy slumps over, his head on the steering wheel. The large guy sits in the passenger seat with perfect posture. He has one hand spread on each leg. He appears to be holding his breath. And sweating. The wiry guy’s name is Kenneth. The large guy is Jake. Jake speaks first.

I think it’s dead.

No it’s not.

I think it is.

We’re in the middle of the desert.

I’m aware of that Kenneth.

We would not be sitting in a dead car in the middle of the desert.

(Jake eyes him)

I’ll just try it again. (He tries it. Nothing. Just a click.) In a minute. I’ll just wait a minute. Give it some goddam time. Shit.

(Jake reaches down for a roll of paper-towels between his feet. This is not easy for a large person in a small car. He tears off a sheet and folds it neatly into quarters. He wipes the sweat off his face. He takes a deep breath before he speaks) You took it to Jiffy Lube, right?

That has nothing to do with it.

But you took it there, right? Got all the fluids checked? Water? Oil? Transmission?

(Kenneth slams his hand on the wheel) Fuck! Goddammit. Shit. Motherfucker. (He lets himself out of the car and has a full on tantrum, kicking stones, screaming, swearing. He finally picks up a handful of sand and rocks and throws it up at the sky. It showers back down on him and the van).

(From inside the van, Jake picks up his cell phone. It is ridiculously small in his hands. He dials and listens. No reception. Kenneth gets in the car. Jake clicks the phone closed and then he speaks) Let me try.

Part 2

They are walking through the desert with back-packs. Jake speaks first.

I’ll give you $20 if you can come up with a four-syllable word.

(Kenneth thinks for about 300 yards) Mo-ther fuck-er—

--That isn’t profanity.


And it has to come out naturally in the middle of the topic we are discussing. You can’t build a conversation around the word.


It will never happen.

Let’s see the twenty.

Oh I have the twenty.

Let’s see it then.

You’ll see it when the time comes.

I know plenty of four syllable words.

Don’t think about it.

You’ll see.

Part 3

They are still in the desert. Still walking. Kenneth speaks first.

Why don’t you talk to Dad?

(Jake stares at him)

Because I mean, he might have something helpful to say. He’s a good listener.

What are you talking about?

(Kenneth thinks for 50 yards) I’m talking about Dad. About why you don’t talk to him all of a sudden.

I haven’t talked to him for 15 years.


He means nothing to me. If he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t go to his funeral. I don’t like the guy. He was never in my life. He is nothing.

Ok, I get it… You’re pissed off about something.

Oh, I am.

So why don’t you voice yourself, Jake?

Because it won’t change anything. Our father is zero. A hurtful, self absorbed zero. He treated his children like stray animals.

(They walk 300 yards. Then Jake speaks)

Do you remember when you started stealing things?

When I was 11?

Yeah, then.


What did you steal?

Um, let’s see, candy, Pringles—

--That’s not what I’m talking about.

Oh, so you’re asking me a question you already know the answer to?

(Jake looks at him) I’m trying to engage you Kenneth.

Engage me? Ha, ok, all right. I hear you. What did I steal? Ok. Ah, I stole some casettes, the neighbor’s drill bits, some ah, maybe-- I don’t know I wasn’t taking inventory.

Keep talking.

Wait, hold on. In-ven-tor-y. Ha four syllables. That’s four fucking syllables, Jake. You owe me twenty bucks.

I’ll pay you when we’re done with this conversation.

That’s not the rules, Jake. I wasn’t even trying. It just came right on out.

It was a surprise.

Yes it was. (Kenneth has a good chuckle to himself) That was good. Don’t think I won’t forget the 20.

I won’t forget either. (They walk) Keep going.

What’d I steal?

Yes, what’d you steal, but also, why’d you steal it. Then. Why’d you steal it then.

You mean the money?


Look I told you I’d pay you back.

I’m not worried about it Kenneth, I know you will. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I stole it because I just wanted to have it. I think I gave it away. Some of it.

Think about it.

Oh, here we go.

Tell me.

No you tell me, Mr. Know-it-all. I don’t know why I did it. I was eleven. I didn’t think about it. I don’t think about it now.

Don’t you think you should?


Don’t you think you should examine that? Don’t you think that you need to ask yourself about that year in your life? That if you look at that particular day in your childhood when you snuck into my room, opened the drawer of my dresser, pulled out all the mismatched socks and clip-on ties, found a roll of money in a green rubber band and said to yourself: this does not belong to me, it belongs to my brother, the one person in the world I am most related to, who has always stuck up for me no matter how I annoying I am, this is my brother’s who I love, who is my hero and friend and the guy who will fetch a ball 16 times when I can’t help but throw it over his head because no one else would ever pay any attention to me, this is my brother’s but I am still going to take this MONEY ROLL ANYWAY. Don’t you think if you look at that moment that you might figure out what put you on your path what got you here right at this moment in the MIDDLE OF NO WHERE—

You don’t look so good Jake.

THINK, THINK, THINK, Kenneth. What makes a person, even a sweet pale, eleven ear old idiot cross the LINE, KENNETH. Ask yourself. What could be so strong and furious inside yourself that nothing you learned or felt in your heart could stop you from doing wrong.

You’re really pale Jake.

You don’t have to be afraid.

I’m not. Shit.

You are innocent, Kenneth.

Quit it.

Everyone does something wrong once in their life. EVERYONE. And each time it’s because what they are really saying is something simple, but difficult.


They are saying: help me.

You seriously look like you might pass out any second…Help me?


That’s what I was saying?

When I was eleven?


You think so? (Kenneth starts to laugh)

I do. Wait let’s stop for a minute. (Jake takes off his pack and squats) All you have to do is figure out why you were saying help me and then you’ll never do wrong again. You can get off this goddam path and I can get off the sideline watching it.

Well you’ve got this all figured out, Jake. I like that. I like that a lot. I like that you're on the sideline watching me. But seriously, you don't have to worry about me. I haven’t stolen anything since that time. (His voice trails off quietly. He stands in front of Jake trying to protect him a little from the blazing sun, but he is still thinking good and hard with his head down. All of a sudden his face lights up and he starts to giggle, then he whoops and hollers and jumps up and down) Hold on Jake, (he takes his pack off ) Hold the hell on a minute, (He unzips the pack and takes out a pair of Sunday shoes and some neatly folded clothes. He pulls out another small bag and unzips it. There are two bottles of water. He screams loud with his head thrown back, and then hands one to Jake) How about it? This is how I do. Yes. It. Is.(He holds out the bottle to make a toast.)

(Jake looks at him and can’t help smiling) Where did you get these?

From the nurses station in the ER.

Good thinking brother.

They click bottles.

I stole them. (He puts the lid back on the water bottle and starts repacking his bag) It’s my path, Jake. It just is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Last night I went to a PTA meeting at school because they are about to cut a few more positions in the main office and a few of the parents standing outside corralled me into going. Last year they had to pink slip some of the teachers and this spring they will have to cut a few more. Teachers. Because there is not enough money to pay them. Usually I hear about this kind of thing and I’m only half listening, but when I think about some of the big stories in the news lately: the growth of the tea party movement, bullying, the development of social networks (which some people aptly call anti-social networks) I can’t help seeing a connection to our schools. Out of 30 developed countries, the US ranks 25 in math and 21 in science. How can that be? We’re so competitive and aggressive, if people only knew about these stats, we would be ashamed, and if we were ashamed we would want to kick some ass, and if we wanted to kick some ass, we would want to come from behind and score some goals and teach our kids better so they could be #1. Or at least in the goddam running. Yes! But there’s no superbowl for schools, there’s no 24 hour talk radio station endlessly and tirelessly going over teacher plans, math concepts, historical connections, books, READING. No, there are just pink slips and budget cuts and tired people who send their kids to private school.

The one category US kids ranked highest in, was self-confidence. (In my mind I just jumped off a table saying HELL YEAH #1 and then headbutted the wall). Confidence means literally: with belief. I like that we believe in ourselves, but self-confidence without merit equals loudmouth, uneducated, bully.

Both of my Grandmothers were teachers. One of them, Mary, lived in the same town where she had taught (before I came along), and I can remember going to the grocery store or to the bank or to the beach and random people would come up to her and say Hi Mrs. Lewis, I’m So and so Biddyhoo, you were my fifth grade teacher, I’ll never forget you, and then they’d recite a poem she had forced them to memorize or recall something they had learned from her and inevitably she’d remember their name or something about them 5 minutes after they said goodbye to each other, and I remember feeling proud and slightly confused like she had an entire life before she was Nana. It’s hard to talk about how important teachers are without sounding corny or obvious. I know teachers have a hard job, I know they don’t get paid enough, I know they’re expected to teach boring and necessary things in a fascinating and exciting way, and how hard that is, I know that the best of them can make you believe in yourself, and can change your life in extraordinary ways and I know it sucks that they have to get fired because the state has a deficit problem, but what am I supposed to do about it?

I realized last night that the answer is simple: communicate. But before I can do that I need to do all the things my earliest teachers taught me, i.e. sit still and listen, keep my mind open, be curious, don’t judge, don’t be afraid, let it sink in, know that I am not entitled to an opinion, I have to earn one, think before I speak. I think there should be a national mandatory service at public school, like the Israeli Army, where you have to work there for one year. Maybe then we could get better at putting two and two together.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Choked Up

Yesterday I had a phone meeting to talk with someone about being in a webisode of some show they are doing. They mentioned they wanted to talk to me as a single mom so I took the call thinking that’s what we were going to talk about. She told me that in the show they are going to have a person ask a question and get random different people to answer it and then the original person is going to do something based on those answers. In this webisode the guy, a song writer, is going to ask people about love and then write a love song that is “real” not like the ones you hear on top 40. So as she telling me all this I got overwhelmingly and suddenly choked up. I said to her, (kind of chuckling) when you first explained this I thought you were talking about love for my children. She said uh, no, I meant romantic love.


I was completely quiet, trying to swallow and not being able to. She said (kind of chuckling) “I remember once you said you were always so busy with your kids that you don’t even have time to think about having a relationship, and we thought that was kind of funny, you could say something like that.” I still could barely talk so I just said Oh (again) but in the back of my head I thought, I only ever say that because it’s an excuse. All I want is a relationship. So, to her I say, in the shakiest voice ever, I don’t know if I want to talk about that, it’s kind of hard for me to talk about it, I wouldn’t know what to say.

And she said, that’s exactly the kind of thing we are looking for!!!

And I said, well let me think about it. And then we went on to have a 30 minute conversation about the internet and why I have a problem writing for a site: I don’t get paid, it’s just a million voices blathering at once etc and while I was talking I felt like an old librarian with 10 cats and 92 boxes of tea in the cupboard and no boyfriend ever again for the rest of my life, like one of those sad, gray women who is half giggly/ half morose. And she’s talking, a young, super smart and energetic girl who loves her family and she gets what I am feeling, but is young enough to still be enthusiastic about possibilities and I literally feel like I started the conversation as a grape and now I’m a raisin.

The point of the guy on the webisode, that love songs on the radio are generic and don't speak (sing) for the average person is something I disagree with anyway. Aren't love songs supposed to be as corny and (as Harry says) annoying as possible and have little to do with every day life?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back To The World

There are worse things than being stuck half a mile underground for 69 days with 33 other people in a pitch-black 90-degree hole, not knowing if 85 million tons of rock and earth are going to slam down on top of you at any given moment, but not many. I think I’ve been so distracted by this story because I’m curious about a person’s emotional survival skills. I mean everyone has had deadlines hanging over his head but not like that or in those conditions. I’m curious to know what they talked about, if there were any disagreements or grudges. My hunch is No. In those conditions everything is boiled down to a minimum. You can’t even really freak out or get depressed; anything that is detrimental to your survival has to be erased. Maybe that’s why we’re riveted; we want to see these survivors, these super-humans. Look at them. They made it.

Addendum: Take a look at this.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I met and interviewed Josh Stieber last year after I found his site online. He was in middle school when 9/11 happened and made the decision to join the army as soon as he was old enough. Five years later, a month after he graduated from high school he was in training camp, and was deployed a few months after that. A year later, he finished his second tour of duty and decided to become a conscientious objector. I don't know why his story rang such a loud bell in my head, but it did. The few times we met I couldn't help harping on him about how he was so completely focused and devoted to one thing and then he had a realization about it and turned in the complete opposite direction. I needed to understand how he was able to do this. Everyone of us has gone through different spells of devotion to something that turns out differently from what we first imagined, but usually we manage to somehow justify our actions, sometimes for a long while. He never has any answers for me, not specific ones, and I suspect he thinks I'm a bit odd to keep asking. But I like to check up on him from time to time and see where he is. Check his schedule and if he's in your town, invite him to speak at your school or at your library. He has some amazing stories and so does his friend Conor Curran who is touring with him now.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ass Burger

It’s weird that the facebook guy is anti-social. I wonder if he was a child now, if someone would tell his mother that he has Asberger’s. If she would have quiet conversations with his teacher in the hallway outside of the classroom, and sit at the park watching him lie in the grass while other kids jump over him. If she would feel sad and defensive about him, and a little self-righteous. And curse herself for getting him vaccinated.

When Dar and Harry hear someone use the term Asberger’s, they fall on the ground laughing. “That’s the best word ever!” Harry says, “I want an asberger”."With fries." It is just a word. A label. The wikipedia definition has a photo of a kid staring at some plastic puzzle pieces on a table and says, “People with Asberger’s often display intense interests, such as this boy’s fascination with molecular biology”. Shouldn’t that be called an extreme order, not a disorder, or at least, cause for celebration?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Connected By A Story

I read this post this morning here .

There was an announcement about a bike rider being struck and killed in Florida. The victim, whose name was Neil Smith, was 48 years old and a dishwasher at the Crab Shack. This news prompted someone to write in: " A man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48 is surely better off dead", which prompted Andrew Meacham to write about Neil, which prompted Austin Kleon to post it on his blog, which prompted Zan McQuade to post it on hers which prompted me to post it on mine, which hopefully will prompt you to tell someone else.

To Neil.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What it Smells Like

My friend gave me some special aromatherapy oil for my birthday. There’s a whole little ceremony you have to do to get the scent going; it involves fire and water and a glass/ceramic receptacle. This particular aroma is for prosperity and I have to say that once it starts to spread through my living-room: the lavendar, sandlewood, patchouli, coppertone smell, I honestly do feel like one of those Egyptian Queens who sits in a throne carried through the streets by 4 well-defined young guys wearing nothing but flip-flops and a small well-placed piece of cloth.

An Argument for Giving it More Time

It really does take about 40 seconds for me to be attracted to someone. Or not. And that’s weird because if you asked me I would say that physical attraction, though important, is not at the top of the list. But 40 seconds isn’t the amount of time it takes to see physical beauty it’s the amount of time it takes to run through the timeline of the evolution of the relationship. For example once I was talking to a policeman and at the same instant I said “Oh. Handsome.” a voice in the back of my head screamed NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, and while outwardly I talked and giggled and flirted, inwardly I imagined that he probably had a motor boat docked in Marina Del Ray and it would be romantic to sit under the stars on a warm night but as soon as we got married it would get dull, and then he’d use the boat as an escape from me and the kids and we’d argue about it and one night our fight would get especially heated and he would throw his cell phone at me, only I would duck and it would hit our toddler straight in the face. And things would never be the same after that.

Then outwardly I would say “Ok thanks so much”, and walk away and never think of him again.

Still, and maybe this is obvious and un-necessary to say, not a single one of my imagined scenarios has ever been correct.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red Sky

Red Sky at night, sailor's delight. Red Sky in morning, sailor's take warning. The red in the sky means there's moisture in the air so rain is coming which would be nice since the thermostat near Darla's school said 127 on Monday, but now they are talking about an earthquake too. I feel like if I mention it out loud, then it won't happen.
Ahoy, matey.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Such a Good Feeling

I was thinking about Mr. Rogers. I was thinking about him this morning because I was talking to the cat that lives here in a special meow language so he would get it, (yes, I have seriously lost my mind) and I had a flash memory to that weird puppet segment on Mr. Roger’s show. You know the part where he would set off the trolley to the neighborhood of make-believe, and then those freaky hand puppets would appear and they all sounded exactly like Mr. Rog doing a high voice. “I’m meow sad because meow I’m meow hungry”, and the queen who sounded (hello Frisco!) like a real queen if you know what I’m saying, and they all looked so endlessly odd and fascinating with their paper mache heads. I was riveted and not entirely un-giggly and light-headed. Something about the whole show felt weird and wrong, not in a perverse way, but sort of like it was made for crippled children in the hospital and NOT YOU.

But I always liked Mr. Rogers, although of course I went through the period of condemning and denouncing. I imagined that Mr. Rog was my father (this was a habit I had with pretty much any TV figure since my actual father was not in my life). I loved his whole coming home at the end of the day, walking in singing and changing into his comfortable clothes. How great would it be if your Dad really did that? Someone who gave you all his attention and time and took you to the crayon factory? Come on, don’t judge. My grandmother loved him too, though she used to say, “He’s a little light in the loafers but who cares”? She liked him because he was a good musician. His piano playing always went against the melody of his singing, like here and here. Sort of like Mr. Rogers himself: one flavor on the outside, another on the in.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Wire

I miss this show but I'm ready to watch the whole thing again.

Vague Ritual

When I stay in Agoura, as I did this past weekend, there is only one place to go for coffee, I mean unless I go to the gas station or the diner, I have to go to Starbucks. I don’t hate Starbucks (or really, the gas station or the diner) but for the first cup of the day I prefer something else. (I just sat here for 5 minutes trying to come up with a better description than “else”: less burnt, less corporate, less cigar-butt-like, less empty, but none of them really hit the nail on the head, so I went for vague, sorry.)(Actually, maybe “less vague” is the exact term I was looking for!)

So at around 5:55 am, I got into the car and headed to the town. The other people who are up at this hour are mostly middle aged (I now think of 60 as middle aged) men in full Lance Armstrong regalia, and horse people, identifiable by their footwear, and they are all friendly and wide-awake.

“Morning!” “Hello!” “Another hot one today” “Wooowee”

The best part is: No one is looking for conversation. It’s all business. (Although once one of the Lance Armstrong guys was sitting, with his tight blacks and his cap and his shirt with the built-in elbow pads, in front of a lap top saying “Would you look at that?” and pointing to the screen. “How is this possible?” he exclaimed, begging for someone to come have a look. I took the bait and saw some of the guys from the Tour de France riding up the hills of the French countryside. “This is happening right this moment…as we speak!” he practically had tears in his eyes. “Technology!” I said, and that was pretty much the extent of it).

Like I said, it’s all business. There’s no thought or emotion other than: Coffee. Get. Have (sometimes there’s a “People” in there). But this weekend there was a sign on the door that said “Take Comfort in Ritual” and I blew a fuse. First I thought: I hate (love) quotes or daily thoughts put up in public places; depending on my mood I can be inspired: Yes! I will! So true! Or annoyed: Oh fuck off. Stop shouting.

Take Comfort in ritual. First, I thought yes coffee, ritual, comfort but then I thought isn’t ritual religious, isn’t it something we study about a tribe or culture to learn more about it and isn’t it weird that coffee drinking could actually be a symbol of our time that people study about us thousands of years from now like cave paintings or weird rock formations?

Then I got home and looked it up on wikipedia and it said also:

In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

And then I thought, yes that’s it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hello Bessie

Last night we went to a party for my friend Holly's 50th birthday. I was going to start by listing all the beautiful and fun things about it but I think instead I should get to the point. There was a band and there was dancing. I am all for both of those things in theory. I love dancing; ask any of my kids who scream out Mom! on a daily basis. I can't get enough of it. But these bands with the Three Little Birds and the Hotel California. Come on. It's almost impossible. All the ladies run out with their turkey necks and Hello-Bessie arms* (* mo's expression for the part of your arm that flaps when you wave to your friend Bess)(and calm down, I'm talking about myself), they tilt their heads to the side and wave their arms up and down like butterflies. What other option do they have? I don't like getting pissed off at people who are dancing; but I can't help it, just like my kids when I--wait a minute.
It helps to have music that you can dance to. There was a time when a person could dance to Take the Money and Run but that window was small and has long since closed and been boarded up.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Libraries of Moments

A friend of mine was in a motorcycle crash a few days ago. He's ok, a little banged up, but feeling lucky. He keeps saying how he can't stop himself from replaying it in his memory all day and night: Car turning, hands gripping brakes, sky, ground. Now I'm thinking it too. Then yesterday I saw this vid and it made me think of the libraries of moments we have in our head. When you start recalling memories, it's much more fun than looking at a photo album. And it never ends!
This was made for Radiolab by Will Hoffman.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cool Pool

Wouldn't this be cool to have upstairs in your NY apartment? I don't like too much clutter(because that's all I have at my house) but I like this couple and their apartment

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Love This Guy

Now when you hear this song again, this is all you will be able to think of.


I was thinking about the way you are perceived vs. the way you are, how sometimes there are differences, and the ways these differences influence each other. For example, I talk slowly (which can be easily observed), but I’m also very impatient (which can’t) and while that’s going on, I also am desperate to be liked (which can sometimes be apparent, sometimes not), which I can manage by trying to be funny (same as last one). So I wonder if A (talking slow) + B (impatience)+C (eager to please) + D (humor) is the full equation of me. (i.e. the way I am) Or do they just hear the slow talking and think: airhead. (i.e. the way I’m perceived) If it’s that, then isn’t there also an element of: oh, poor thing. Yes, I sometimes think there is. In fact I have to admit, I’ve counted on it, because then when I do say something smart, it’s a total shock, and therefore worth more points, like a word with q or x in scrabble.

And does talking slowly influence my own impatience? And, though I’m not desperate to be liked by everyone, why am I desperate to be liked by people who want nothing to do with me? And while people who haven’t known me for longer than a week may read this and think it’s interesting, everyone else knows that all of this is simply my habitual disorder of wasting time.

Yet this is what is going on in my head this morning while I’m trying to get myself and two sleeping children, out of bed , dressed, coffeed up, fed and into the car before 7 am. The reason it was going on in my head is because at 5:30am while I was staring at my computer screen, I heard “Come out with your hands on your head. Your house is completely surrounded”. Carlos!

I ran to the window and saw 10 police cars in the street and cops lined in a U shape around Carlos’ house. All I could think was: how did 10 cop cars drive right beneath my window, unload a full force of vest-wearing cops and create a U formation in complete Navaho warrior silence, all while I was staring at my screen with nothing to write.

I’ve written about Carlos before. There is obviously a huge gap between the way he really is vs the way he is perceived. I mean I know he does illegal things, I just don’t know what. But I also know him as a guy with kids and a granddad and a dog with huge balls that we call Mr. Jing-Jangles.

So while I'm driving in a huge line of cars down the 101, I am thinking does the way that the cops perceive Carlos define who he is to himself, I mean partly? Or are they just an annoyance to him, usually outside of his realm of existence.

What is the equation of Carlos?

Friday, September 17, 2010


Whenever I read Deepak Chopra, I can't help hearing Apu.

"Whenever you are in the midst of movement and activity, carry your stillness within you. Then the chaotic movement around you will never overshadow your access to the reservoir of creativity, the field of pure potentiality."
Thank you, come again.


Every time I open the front door that goddam cat runs out. Well, not every time. When I actually want him to go outside he sits there and stares at me like I must have lost my mind. (This is just an aside but am I seriously talking about cats right now? Yes, evidently I am. Now excuse me while I try to get this hanky tucked up my sleeve.) I have always hated cats; they smell bad, are unfriendly and will rip the skin off your hand if you pet them one second too long. The owners of cats are worse, they’re slightly off, like bad milk; they’re superior and judgmental but don’t change their underpants for a week. You know it’s true. I have no time for them. But then Morgan got a cat. And I had to rethink everything. And after I rethought and fully accepted that he will jump onto the table while we are having dinner and will only drink water out of a faucet, she moved out and left him here.

He doesn’t smell though. I know you probably think I’m delusional (oh honey, he smells) but he doesn’t poop or pee in the house. He’s outside all day. He knows everyone in the neighborhood. People talk to him like he’s a human being. Even the homies across the street. (Once when I couldn’t find Leroy for 2 days, one homie said “If anyone ever hurt that cat…” and then he looked up and shook his head at the heavens, ashamed of all the medieval violence he would have to inflict). Another time I was out walking the dogs, and I looked over at someone’s huge front living-room window and there he was, in their house, all curled up like a cobra in the sun. When I called his name, he slowly turned his head to me and winked.

So, it was ten o’clock and I was turning off the porch lights and out he ran. I chased him down the block, under cars, over a fence and down a hill. Then I said screw it and went inside. At about 3 o’clock I woke up to the sound of a cat having his guts ripped out through his mouth. Coyotes! I had just seen one two nights ago and chased him down the center of the street (I was in a car, I’m not crazy). I went outside, in my pajamas and started calling for Leroy. I checked under cars and on the neighbor’s garage roof. I wondered if it would look odd to anyone who might drive down the street to see me crawling under the bushes. And what the hell was I doing, there were coyotes. I called his name once more and went back to my porch. And of course there he was.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trakr the Rescue Dog

This guy worked as a rescuer at ground zero. He found the last survivor who had been buried under the rubble for 26 hours. I heard that some of the dogs' partners would have to stop them from looking because they would keep going for 15 hours straight. Trakr died in April 2009 but his cells were used to clone 5 puppies. Cheers big ears!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Twenty Five

Today is Mo's Birthday and I don't like that we are so far apart. Instead of celebrating with her, I am left to review films of past parties like a drunk coach watching old game highlights in the dark: the first slumber party on Poplar Street where no one slept, the sweet sixteen with the awful band that no one could dance to, the house party on Queen St. with eight 13 year olds and Kyra's drunk Uncle Clive listening to music in our small yard, the pool party where Roni almost drowned after convincing us all she would be fine jumping off the diving board even though she could not swim. When people say about their grown children: "she will always be my little girl", I understand the feeling, but I have never felt that way about Mo. This is not to say that I would not (still) hold her on my lap or (try to) comfort her when she was sad. It is more that I have always looked as her (perhaps unfairly) as a person to learn from. She has always been adult-ish with her whiskey low voice and ease around grownups, but more than that she has made daring choices, in friends, in studies, in travels, with an amazing ease and commitment and I am often left thinking, How did you do that? Here are a few other interesting inspirationals:
She is left handed.
She can do a perfect imitation of the Greenfield lunch lady.
She can smack her lips.
She can belch for a full 30 seconds.
Children love her.
When she does not agree with you she is agressive and intimidating (and thinks that it is funny).
She touched a wild crocodile.
She is engaged to a person she knew she would marry five minutes after she met him.
She likes to exercise but will complain the entire time she is exercising.
She has crooked fingers.
Happy Birthday Mo. Wadoo. Mee-hoo.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Yesterday was Darla's twelfth birthday. She was gracious enough to share the day with Harry and we had a double party at the Pier. She is old enough now that I no longer have to hold her hand in the huge crazy carny crowd or stand in line with her for rides, and young enough that she still needs a nap on the way home. Dar has been independent since the age of 3 and dramatic since the moment she was born. Here are other things I find inspirational on a daily basis.

She has been in the gifted class at school since 2nd grade.
She talks in her sleep and once said "Mrs Sandoyen, Mrs Sandoyen I love you so much" (Mrs Sandoyen was her third grade teacher).
She decided in 3rd grade that she wants to go to Yale Drama School.
She loves to sleep and does it well. I could blow a tuba directly into her ear and she would not wake up.
She can start a conversation with anyone, but at a crowded party she is always drawn to the oldest person in the room. She once had an hour long conversation with an 8o year old man when she went up to him and asked what's your favorite movie?
She can cry real and convincing tears if you ask her to.
She can fold her tongue into a three leaf clover.
She had trigger finger until she was 5 (where your last three fingers get curled closed so your pointer and thumb look like a gun) when she had surgery to have it corrected.
She refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance at school because she insisted she was French.

Happy Birthday Dar.
So much.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Family of Dorks

We all went to Dar’s orientation for performing arts school. I was so excited, I could barely contain myself. I love school. I love September. I love new books and new supplies. I love new school outfits. I love meeting teachers and getting a schedule; I was totally acting as though it was my own first day, and could not have been more annoying to an 11 year old. But she cut me some slack; she was excited too. We got there half an hour early and got seats in the middle.
Mom, this is you, Harry said, and, scooting to the edge of his seat, he sat up straight with a huge open smile on his face and bobbled his head looking this way and that.
I mouthed the words I. don’t. care., but then I was self conscious, I have to admit. My sister showed up with her two girls and we waved them over. We were all going to orientation together! My sister was smiling too. We winked at each other. Then she took out a pen and paper to take notes! At the welcome assembly! (I just used three exclamation points)
The assistant principal came out and started talking, everyone cheered. He was completely hairless bald with a few neck wrinkles in the back.
He looks like Voldemort, Harry said.
He does not, Voldemort has white hair and a long beard.
No that’s Dumbledore, Voldemore is the Dark Lord.
Oh, you’re right, he does look like Voldemort.
“Mr. Whatdewhoo looks like Voldemort, pass it down,” I said to my niece. She started a chain through five of us. I stared at my sister waiting for her to get the news.
Oh my God, yes! She said. I nodded enthusiastically. We laughed. Someone behind us said ssshhhhh.
Mr. Whatdewhoo was telling us the schedule. “This is on Mondie, Then again on Tuesdie, Wednesdie, Thursdie and Fridie”. Every time he said the day of the week, I leaned over and repeated it to my niece. I could not get enough. Mondie. Tuesdie. I’d say it out loud like Beevus on the couch. We were all giggling like hyenas.
Thankfully, we moved in to the gymnasium where we had our second assembly, this one about rules and such. The head of security, who looked like Laurence Fishburne, (Laurence Fishburne, pass it down) did not smile once. He looked like he would have no problem handcuffing a small child to the radiator if they misbehaved. (You better not get in trouble, pass it down). He talked about theft: do not ever leave your backpack unattended it will be stolen (it will be stolen), and sexual harassment: Do not ever put your hands on another person’s person (person’s person) and dress code: no shorts above the length of your fingers when you hold them down, and no cleavage.
(Cleavage! I didn’t know what cleavage was until my college years, if you know what I mean, babe.)
SSSHHH. Someone kicked my seat.
After the assembly we went to find Dar’s locker. Before I go on, I have to say something about lockers: they are the single most exciting and important thing about middle school. No more cubbies, no more hooks, having a locker is as good as having your own apartment. Secrecy! Locks with numbers! Personal decorations! In every teen movie, play or TV show, this is where the kids: the jocks, the cool kids, the dorks, the emos, all hang out. This is where they go to mull things over. Where they confront their friends with some horrific rumor. Where they secretly take drugs or cut themselves. Where they kiss or want to kiss. This was where it all happens. We walked down halls and rows of brightly painted lockers, green, purple, blue, orange. I said Look!, and pointed. Some poor 6th grade boy was standing in front of a pink one. Aww, Harry look, I said.
Stop it! Dar grabbed my arm and hurried me along. We finally got to her row and there, right where her number was supposed to be, was a piece of sheet metal. Her locker did not exist. We stopped and stared. We knocked on it as though it would disappear and reveal a new and beautiful edition. My mouth hung open. I slowly turned my head to Dar, ready to console.
Oh well, she said, let’s go to the office and get another number.
Recovery! It is a beautiful thing.
We walked through corridors and courtyards, we checked out classrooms and rehearsal spaces, I saw some parents I knew and waved, I saw others I didn’t and gave the thumbs up. We looked at the cafeteria. We bought some sweatpants with the school logo on it. We got the new textbooks. And now, we will wait patiently til the 13th.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dilly Dally

Before I started working for the private investigator I had an interview on the phone. At the time I thought I was just calling to schedule. I didn’t even know what the job was for exactly, other than “Assistant: must have writing ability and office skills”. He asked me why I thought I’d be good for the job. I said, because I was desperate. He was quiet for long enough to make me feel I had said the wrong thing. How so?, he asked.

“How am I desperate or how does being desperate make me good for the job?”

“The second one.”

“Well,” I had to make something up, “ it would make me work hard to make sure you felt like you made the right decision hiring someone with no office experience.” I tried to laugh but he was quiet so I had to keep going, ” and also it would make me less afraid of making a wrong choice if I didn’t know what to do.”


I worried I sounded too much like an ass-kisser waiting for a head-pat, so I said, “After a while I would get more comfortable and slack off.”

It was the end of September, 2001. Rescuers were still searching for bodies in the rubble, I had had a baby 2 months earlier, my children’s father had told me that he was “kind of” seeing someone else, I had no money, my oldest child would soon be driving, and I was living at my mother’s house. I’m not saying these are the reasons I didn’t do a better job of editing myself, but they gave me a different perspective in talking with a stranger.

We set an appointment to meet the next day at his home near the Devon train station. I worried a little about meeting at his “home”, but I didn’t obsess. It was much easier to focus on worrying about childcare and transportation if I actually got the job.

When I checked the computer later though, I found an email from him telling me to just come in to work tomorrow, why dilly dally? I would have been more excited except that the last word stopped me in my tracks. Who uses the word dilly dally?

An insane murderer that’s who. I imagined the full scenario of him abusing me, and then cutting off my limbs with a chainsaw and throwing them into a plastic bag.

Dilly dally, dilly dally, DILLY DALLY.

I called my friend Amy to discuss. We agreed that it was possible he was gay though hard to tell because he had been so vague about the job description.

Gay people are not usually vague.


Maybe he’s old fashioned.

We practiced saying the word in an old fashioned way. Tossing it off with a shake of the head.

Maybe he wears spats.

And does the Charleston.

We laughed, and then when it got quiet Amy said, you’re doomed.