Saturday, February 27, 2010

Check out my new blog with Mo

Butt Crack Mannequins

A good name for a band.

Maturity or Stiff Upper Lip?

When an English person says, “fair enough” it not only means ok, I see what you’re saying, it also somehow implies non-judgment, like “all right, you’re entitled to your opinion and it has no reflection on me”.

Random person: I can’t look a person in the eye; it’s against my religion.

English person: Fair enough.

There is no American equivalent. If it’s not our own opinion, then there's nothing fair about it. In fact we can’t even say it without subtext or inflection.

Random person: I can’t look a person in the eye; it’s against my religion.

American person: (a.shrug, b.head tilt or c. eyebrows down)Fair enough. (Seriously? That’s a.ridiculous, b. fascinating or c. a shame)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Never Gets Old

My neighbor's baby just learned to walk a month ago and every morning he follows her around the block. She stumbles, wobbles, crawls and spins, all while drooling and babbling to herself; and (almost) every time my neighbor and I have a variation of the following conversation.
Me: She walking it off again?
Lex: Yeah we were asked to leave and she got a little belligerent.
Me: She is out of control.
Lex: We don't know what to do.
Me: Sorry man.
Lex: Yeah it's hard.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good One

In his list of 10 bits of advice for writers, Roddy Doyle puts this as number one:
1 Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Heavy Load: a perspective; Part One

I’ve always thought it’s weird that the laundromat, a place you go to clean things, is so filthy and disgusting. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to see a water-logged rat in or under one of those rusted out machines. And what would you do? You’d move down to the next machine. No one ever goes there because he has a choice. I think of depression, feeling sickly, being fixated on a negative idea. Everyone is angry. And why shouldn’t they be? They had to lug their filthy clothes in heavy bags, swung over their shoulders like a dead animal all the way from their home. They are reminded of their own poverty. Even their grandmother who lived on a farm had a washing machine, a big one to fit quilts and overalls, and a clothesline outside for the sheets to dry on a beautiful sunny day. The City Laundromat: house of misery. Step inside but don’t drop your underwear on the ground because hundreds of diseased and troubled people have walked and rolled across and spat on the tiled floor.

I’m saying this and then I think: but still. I can remember cold snowy days when my friends and I would walk home from the bus stop and, not wanting to leave each other, ducked in to the Laundromat to get a bubblegum ball from the machine or play pinball. We’d take off our wet socks, our feet corpse-white and frozen, and put them in the dryer for a dime. Then we’d play the games in bare feet, still wearing our coats and backpacks. The socks would dry for 20 minutes and when we put them on we’d collapse on the bench: ahhhhhhhh.

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Anyway. I was in the Laundromat recently because that’s where my neighborhood Starbucks is, as well as a few pinball games. Sometimes I go in there with Harry who likes to try his luck with the Claw. I used to think that the Claw was a carny invention built specifically to rob people. I couldn’t believe he really wanted to give it a try.

You might as well throw your money in the trashcan.

Throw my money… wait, what?

In the trashcan, throw it in the trash, save yourself the heartache.

In the trash?

Yes honey.

Noooo. Why?

You can’t win anything in that game. It’s just a piggy bank for the Laundromat.

Mom you’re crazy.

Well go on then give it a try.

I sigh and wait with the other exhausted, crap-coffee drinking, Laundromat-using people in line.

Five minutes later there are purple rabbit ears being waved under my chin.

Oh Maaaaaaaaaaaam, look at thiiiii---is.

His secret is that he doesn’t think of it as a game of chance. He just picks what he wants and grabs it. Metal-claw-that-doesn’t-clutch-properly be damned.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Check Yourself before You Wreck Yourself

I wasn’t going to say anything but now I can’t help it. Too many people are judging. I’m talking about Tiger: a person I have no feeling for one way or the other. I know him more from the Swiss-army watch billboards I drive by, than his golfing ability, or his role as a humanitarian and sports icon. I do know that there are many people who call him the greatest golfer of all time and I think that’s cool. Anyone who can be called the greatest anything of all time has my respect, even if I don’t know one single thing about what it is they are great at. That’s me. That’s something I believe. I also believe that public apologies are, for the most part, phony. They are somewhat necessary, I guess, but for the most part: a sham (see any of the S.C. politicians, Chris Brown, Michael J.’s doctor, for example). The apologies that matter are the ones to the person who was wronged. After that, it is the apologetic-wrongdoer's actions that people can look to (if they have nothing better to do) for proof of sincerity.

I heard, I think, most of Tiger’s apology and it struck me as not only sincere but thoughtful in a way that most apologies are not (and it was LONG). But LONGER was the deluge of criticism and judgment that came after: He sounded emotionless someone wrote it for him he’s a big baby he’s a coward he wouldn’t let his wife there he wouldn’t answer reporter’s questions mama's boy the hug with his mom was fake and for the camera. COME ON PEOPLE!! I am always surprised and amazed at how many of us think we are faultless. At how many of us have no listening skills.

Imagine: You are in the car and Tiger's apology happens to be on as you are pulling into your driveway. You sit and listen until you become so incensed at his monotone big babyishness that you leave your car, slamming the door for emphasis and march right inside to the telephone to call the station. You wait on hold for a good long while until finally the guy at the station takes your call and by now you're so worked up you just scream"HE DID NOT MEAN THAT. HIS VOICE SHOWED NO EMOTION. HE DOESN'T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING BUT HIMSELF. HE THINKS HE'S ENTITLED TO DO WHATEVER HE WANTS. HE HAS NO FEELINGS. HE NEEDS TO STRIP HIMSELF BARE AND GET WHIPPED WITH A MEDIEVAL CHAIN. Thank you, my name is Deirdre Lewis and I'm calling from Los Angeles California" and for the 45 minutes it took you to do that you forgot where you were, or who you were, or who other people think you should be, or how tired you are of following rules: just like Tiger felt while he was having sex with those strippers.

It's not fun to kick a person when they are down. Kick them, if you have to, when they are up.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Dogs in My Neighborhood: Withnail

Snazzy Boy


Today while doing a little research for something I’m writing, I read the following: “We’ve all heard of the man who wakes up after a wild night in an ice-filled bathtub with a bloody stitched incision around his side and a note thanking him for a kidney”.

No. Not true. I haven't.

I did know someone once who blacked out on occasion. He sometimes drank until he fell off the stool he was sitting on; but who is the person performing a surgical procedure on him and then dragging him into an ice-filled tub. I haven’t heard of that guy either. Seems like a lot of work, but evidently the going rate for a human kidney on the black market is $91,000.

Still, how much brewing and stewing and planning before the guy said: OK I’ll do it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What'll I do?

I don’t know if I’ve been doing this all my life but I just had an 11 year old point out to me that if I’m speaking to a person with an accent, I start speaking with an accent. Like Madonna. I am horrified and partly fascinated by this. Horrified, well, for obvious reasons. But fascinated too because I have absolutely no awareness that I’m doing it. It’s almost like there is a new side of me I never knew about, like finding out I can speak Portuguese or that I have a long lost twin who was raised in South Africa with my long lost real father.

“Do I bat my eyes when I do it?


Like this.

Ew no.

That’s what Madonna does when she talks in a bloody English accent.

What? Mom! Why are you doing that?

Why am I doing what love?

Mom stop.

Ok guvna.”

See now I can’t even joke. I’m ashamed of myself. She said I even do it when I talk to my black friends. I start saying Oh girl! And with gay friends I’ll say Oh no she didn’t, and do a snap and a head swivel.

Mom you are seriously out of control, Mo says to me.

I am? But I can’t stop something I don’t even have any control over. What’ll I do? Do I need to get someone to record me so then I can watch the tapes? Analyze myself like a play by play? Am I just a desperate pleaser trying to fit in? Or am I old and this is the beginning of senility?

There’s really no comforting answer to this question.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting Groove On

Yesterday I heard a lady on the radio talk about how if we could all spend time learning how to dance, the world would be a better place. We need to learn how to lead and how to follow and how to listen. And to listen, not with the mind, but with the natural flow. How do you listen with the natural flow? You don’t judge or let what you think get in the way. Keep moving.

I agree. I think the same can be said of driving. Here are some other observations about driving and dancing

1. Everything you need to know about a person you can tell by the way they drive or dance.

2. People from 3rd world countries are better at keeping the flow.

3. People who don’t allow you to merge are angry or self absorbed and are not good dancers.

4. People who don’t pull forward when making a left at a green light intersection are timid and will step on your feet or be self-conscious when dancing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Dogs in My Neighborhood:Pugglesby

Sharing moments with celebrities or Batman Saves the Day

Yesterday when I walked my dogs down this hill and around to the right, I met Banksy. He had five dogs. We talked about chess, clouds, snow and the fact that I looked like the michelin man because I was wearing a down vest under my down coat.

Once I was at a gas station and a big white van skidded around a corner, bumped up over the curb and pulled up to the tank on the other side of me. It was Peter Falk. We looked at each other and I shrugged (indicating that he had only hit the curb because it was on the same side as his glass eye).

Another time I was at a red light and I was picking my nose with two fingers: thumb one side, pointer in the other. I looked over at the car to my right, and Leonardo DiCapprio was looking at me. We both laughed.

Once I was stopped at another red light on Hollywood Blvd., on the way to school, and Darla and I were having an argument about purchasing songs for her ipod. Batman walked right in front of us, smacked the hood of my car two times, and kept walking.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Library Snap #1

I have noticed that a lot of people who hang out in the library (with me, I should point out) are mentally unstable. I watched this one guy who had a particular relationship with the printer. He walked back and forth from his spot at the table, a heavy guy with solid legs, wearing shorts, a button down shirt, and a short clip-on tie. He stopped in front of the printer and stared at it like he was going to burn a hot blade of metal through it with his powerful vision.

How am I supposed to get any work done?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Come On!

There are two kinds of apologies: those you really mean, and those you say so you won't get a time out.
Yesterday, a lieutenant governor nominee from Illinois dropped out of the race because of allegations of wife beating. He went into a sports bar with a camera crew, during the Super Bowl, and tearfully apologized.
All right , all right, you held a knife to your wife's throat. Now move!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

If I were a Principal

I read this morning that a California elementary school removed the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary from classrooms after one parent complained that it defines the term oral-sex. All they really needed to do was tell the 8 year olds what oral sex means and none of them would go near that side of the dictionary again.

Hole in the Sole

He offered me coffee and I took it only because he had been going on and on about the fine Nicaraguan beans he uses, the ones he special orders on line. I really just wanted to pick up the jumper cables he had borrowed last week. When he spoke he kept sliding his hand up his shirt and rubbing his belly. I noticed his stomach, how could I not? It was round and protruding (even though he was skinny) like someone with distressed bowels.
As soon as I said yes, please, he spun on his be-socked foot and headed to the kitchen.
I was still standing in the hallway with my coat on.
Take a seat in the living room, he yelled happily.
The living room had a leather couch next to a half-dead palm, a white furry rug and a flat screen TV the size of a ping-pong table. It was hooked up to video game paraphernalia, including a headset and some peculiar sort of helmet. Open cases littered the floor: Tour of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo. I eased myself into a chair thinking if I was a twelve-year-old boy I probably would have ejaculated by now.
Cream and sugar?, he sang from the other room.
No thanks.
I didn’t have the heart to take off my coat. In fact, I had the heart once but it was shot down with the realization that this guy was making a move and I hadn’t already hightailed it out of there. What’s wrong with me? Why do I always attract creepy guys with bad breath. Immature, creepy guys with bad breath. Am I just the female mirror image?
I actually have to go, I called out over my shoulder. Soon.
Hey no prob, I’ll just give you your cup of joe and we’ll get you out of here.
I imagined a conveyor belt out the back window, like a slide from a plane after it’s miraculously survived a crash by landing in the Atlantic. And is there a more annoying phrase than cup of joe? Home skillet? Back at ya? Why do people talk like that? It’s clever and desperate and just plain un-natural. What happened to simplicity? Grace? Everyone’s got to be laid back and cool, hey baby don’t sweat it, no prob, it’s all good.
Here’s the fine blend.
He stood behind me holding two mugs. I hadn’t heard him because of the socks.
I took a sip and literally, I swear this has never before happened with coffee, had to spit it back into my cup. It was swamp water. With cinnamon.
Too hot?
Mmm, I nodded.
Sorry about that.
We were completely quiet for 30 seconds.If I had openly farted it could not have been more awkward. And then I said: I didn’t realize it was already 4.
Oh yeah.
I have to pick up my daughter at 4:30.
Oh right ok, hey no probs, let me get you the cables . I’ll be right back.
I turned and poured half the cup into the plant next to the couch, and walked into the hallway.
I noticed a single shoe laying on its side with a hole in the sole the size of a quarter. I put my coffee mug on the entry way table.
He walked towards me holding his arm out in front of him. Here ya go. All good.
Thanks and thanks for the coffee, I said, looking back into the living room where steam was still rising from the plant.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Dogs in My Neighborhood: Cleo

Things you can buy from The New Yorker

-a silver golden retriever pin
-a silver hummingbird pin
-a canoe
-a celebration bowl
-a knife sharpener
-the ultimate snow shovel
-a retreat for the depressed in an elegantly appointed environment

Write a story that includes 3 or more of these purchases.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Playing Possum

I mentioned once before that my neighbor Carlos is a known gang member. Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that. It’s true that his house has been surrounded by police cars on more than one occasion, and that I’ve seen him standing in the street with his hands on top of his head, but I don’t known any details. Maybe I should just say he’s had some trouble with the law.

Here are the things I do know: he lives with his entire family, including grandparents and children, in a lavender colored house. He has a dog named Chomper. He has a white BMW that he gets his brother to wash and wax once a week. Occasionally he'll come out during the day. He’s always smiling.

Howya doin?
Hey Carlos.

That’s the extent of our conversation most of the times we see each other, late at night, usually when I am out walking my dogs. He bends down to pet them, talks to them like they are babies. We chuckle a bit and then I keep walking.
Last night I was walking up the street. The dogs were sniffing and a white truck with huge monster tires drove slowly up the street. I could see inside: two people, a man and a woman; they were both smoking. I noticed that neither one had cracked their window to let the smoke out, but other than that, nothing odd. They continued slowly up the street and I continued walking. When I got to Carlos' house, I saw him standing out front, his hands resting on top of the gate.

“That look like a repo man to you?”

At first I wasn’t sure that he was talking to me but I looked around and there was no one else.

“Ah” I’m not sure what a repo man looks like, “No?”

He seemed to consider this. He nodded. “I didn’t pay my bill and now they’re after me”.
He laughed at this.
“It was a man and a woman though." I said, " A couple. Maybe they were on a date”.
He laughed at this too.
I laughed too; awkward. We stood looking up and down the quiet, dark street.
“Look,” I said pointing up to the phone wire. There was a giant possum frozen in the middle, 20 feet above us.
“Oh yeah, look at that guy”
“Is he alive?” As soon as I said it, he slowly turned his pointy head and looked right at me, his beady eyes fierce.
“Ooo, he’s mad at you”. He laughed, and put one hand on his belly.
“Yeah,” I said. “He is,” he really did look pissed off. “He’s scary”
“Go on baby, get down from there. Go on”. Carlos clapped his hands.
“He’s still glaring at me”.
“He’s just messing with you, “ he clapped his hands and shook the chain-link gate. It rattled. Just then the white truck pulled slowly down the street again. I froze. Every gangster movie-rap video-drive-by spraying bullets went slow motion through my head. The couple in the car never once looked at us but Carlos stared them down anyway. I stepped behind a tree (like I would be safe there!).
That’s when my dogs finally noticed the possum and started barking. I tried to pull them back. They stood up on two legs and went nuts while I was frantic with a stage whisper. “Daisy! Lester! Stop it! Stop!” They were like barking circus bears.
Everything was in slow motion. Even turning my head. Even blinking my eyes. The white truck passed by and I noticed the tail-lights as it stopped at the end of the street, and then a right blinker. Then everything clicked back to present speed. I looked up and saw the possum waddle forward and across to the telephone pole.
Carlos looked up too. We watched him step gingerly onto a branch and then disappear into the shadows “See?” Carlos said finally, “He ain’t gonna hurt you”.