Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer in The City

Malibu Mart

“In a battle between a hotdog and a corn on the cob, who would win?” Harry asked this from the back seat.

I envisioned the battle, for some reason it took place on horseback: “I’d have to say corn.”

We were on our way back from the Malibu Mart, one of those places where you can buy a $300 t-shirt, visit a gallery of enormous photos of nude super-models, catch a glimpse of Mel Gibson eating ice cream with John Cusack, or swing on a tire-swing with a 4 year old.

“Did you say corn because you think it’s stronger?”


“Because what if the hot dog was smarter.”

“In a battle, stronger wins.”

While we were on the playground, I saw this young woman with a blond ponytail and white shorts. She looked French or Swedish, and she was pushing her baby in a swing and arguing with a man who looked like Ed Asner with a curly black wig.

At one point, the girl took the old guy’s face in her hands and said Oh Honey! Then she ran her fingers through his hair while he stared at her helplessly, like a St. Bernard.

“No it doesn’t.”

“Yes it does.”

“What if he plans an ambush?”

“Then he has a chance, but more than likely the corn will get his bearings.”

I imagined the two of them having sex; there wasn't a single scenario I could come up with that wasn't creepy or upsetting. I know these things happen. I know there's a part of the ordeal that makes sense in a completely twisted way. But it doesn't mean it's not alarming to see right in front of you. Even at the Malibu Mart.

"But I thought you liked the underdog."

"I do. Unless he's a show-off. And hotdogs are always show-offs."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Day

In my day we only had two graduations: after 12th grade and after college. Now they happen more frequently, after preschool, after kindergarden, after elementary etc., maybe six times before the final high school one. It's hard for me to feel enthusiastic when they happen so frequently, or at least that's what I think until I sit down in the auditorium and listen to a sixth grader playing a piano concerto as everyone walks in. That's when I start weeping. Here's the song they played 20 years ago at Mo's preschool graduation. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I'm not ashamed.
Dar's graduation began with each kid walking out on stage, saying their name, where they were from (their heritage) and their definition of friendship. Everyone was beautiful and perfect. One girl drew a blank and couldn't remember her line. There was a five second moment of silence during which we all felt nervous for her, and then another 3 second pause where we looked at each other and thought who cares, she's fine, this is fantastic. Then she remembered and we went crazy with the applause.
To anyone who says this is spoiling our children, making them feel they can do no wrong, I say Balderdash! And in fact, I think it's not a bad idea to continue with graduations each time you switch jobs, get a divorce or have a life changing experience. What better way to reflect on and be grateful for an experience than to have an audience of supporters cheering you on? Nothing's better than that. And now excuse me while I go listen to Bette Midler.


I used to wake up at 4 am, which is a not completely ridiculous time, but lately I’ve started to wake up at 2:30, which is. Today I woke up at 3 because a helicopter was circling my house. I thought it was landing on the roof actually, that’s how loud it was. In my half dream I imagined it flying low down my street, hovering outside my window.

Some guy was on the loud speaker: “Deirdre Lewis. We know you’re in there. You need to stop worrying. Millions of people have more serious problems and obstacles than you do. You have a great life. Enjoy it. Try to get some sleep.”

Then he just stayed there, hovering. Beating the point in. What the hell was I supposed to do with that? I tried to meditate on this but it wasn’t easy. I focused on the part “millions of people have more serious problems and obstacles than you do”. Somehow that was comforting. At first. But then I started thinking of the kinds of problems that were worse than mine and they were really bad. They went beyond relief, into grief and rage and doom.

I started thinking about the oil spill. It just won’t stop. It’s like the voice in our heads that won’t leave us alone, the drunk guy at a wedding giving an inappropriate toast, the religious lady on the street corner blathering away: spewing, spewing, spewing. None of these things are distracting, none are comforting. Inside my head I go from one helpless room to another.

Anyone there? I peek my head in the doorway.

Oil spill.

I close the door and go to the next one, Hello?

Debt and financial ru-

Oh God. I turn the corner and go down another hallway. Anyone in here?

Single for the RESTOFYOURLIFE.


By now it's 5:45 and there is light starting to peek in through the curtains. Birds are singing. The homeless guy outside is starting to dig for bottles and cans in the trash. It's a new day. There has to be hope.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why Not?

Good Morning Everyone,

   It's been a busy week, but I promise I'll be back on Monday with something new. Find a sunny spot this weekend and do something fun.

Or if you have to go to a kid's party, consider this:


Most kids' parties are the same. There's a clown or a storm trooper or a princess or a bouncey or bowling. There is one parent in charge running around like a car spinning out at the Daytona 500. There are the hoverers who want to stay and get involved and show everyone how they really have a handle on the parenting thing. They go on the bouncey (Come on!) or they try to make some spectacular artistic creation at the craft table that's better than any 7 year old's can hope to be. There's other parents who sit on a couch and text the whole time. There are others who just drop their kids off, driving away with a skid before the back door has even closed. After the first activity, there's pizza and soda, hot dogs and hamburgers or (if the host is a new parent) carrots with dip and salad. Then everyone watches the magician. Then everyone sings. Then there's a sugar injection overdose (or worse, a sugar-free, gluten-free, all organic straight from farm to table pile of cat-turd) and gift bags filled with more sugar or crappy plastic things that you'll later find under your sofa or stuck down the back seat of the car. Then everyone is asked to get the hell out. Done.

Last week though, I went to one and the first thing I notice, is an entire table covered with shot glasses of vodka. Before I go on I have to mention that the family hosting the party was Russian. Of course. All Russians drink vodka all day long. 
Still, not only was there a table covered with shot glasses of vodka, but Gramps of the party child was standing there offering them as you walked by.
Oh no, no thanks. That's so nice, no.
"Why not?" It pissed him off a little, but he wanted to understand.
It's 12 o'clock?..I only drink once or twice a year?.. I have to drive later? Each response I gave was more confusing to him. He shook his head like there was a gnat flying around him. He held the glass out. "Come on. Have".
Then I thought, he's right!  Why not? What could be wrong with shots of alcohol at a kids party in the hot late morning sun? At the beach?
I took the glass and took a tiny sip, like an elf or a butterfly, and instantly the hair on my arms stood up, my head shook and I had to kick out my left leg. Oh!
I wish I could tell you I had a few, and met some of the parents and had a good talk and a laugh with my head thrown back. And we ate caviar and smoked and discussed adult things chess and Dostoyevsky. Then we all took off our clothes and had a big orgy under the boardwalk while the kids, some of them whimpering and frightened, others fearless and giddy, wandered through the crowded pier by themselves. But I didn't. I dumped the remainder of the glass in the sand and sat on a bench watching Harry and his friends play, checking my watch, waiting for 2 o'clock and the gift bag of plastic toys and candy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I have mixed feelings about cologne. Really, I hate it. But there have been people in my life, people I have cared about, who have worn it and worn it aggressively.

My step-dad used to get himself ready in the morning in a tiny 5 X 10 bathroom with the cologne and the hairspray. From the kitchen I could hear the sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss of the aquanet can. I could make myself a bowl of grapenuts, sit down, eat it, rinse the bowl and the spoon and it would still be going. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

Bub, enough with the spray! I’m trying to digest, I’d say.

Up yours, he’d yell back.

Then he’d start with the cologne. I don’t know if he lost his sense of smell in the war or if his 3 pack a day habit burned it all out, but he could go through a bottle a week. There was no dab or light spritz (or whatever the manly version of those words is). He’d pour a good cup into his one hand and then splash it on his neck. And then he’d do the other side. Dogs from across the street would start walking in circles with trembly legs, their mouths foaming. If he came into the kitchen and you were still eating, all your food would instantly taste like aramis. Your nose would burn. Your eyes would water. The corners of your mouth would turn down.

What’s with you, crab? Bub would say pouring himself a cuppa from the machine next to the sink.

I’m feeling light headed.

Christ, he’d say, what’s new? He’d stand by the open door and light a cig. All the smoke would billow back into the kitchen.

BUB! I’d yell.

WHAT? He’d yell back.

The guy wasn't stupid. He knew what he was doing. He liked cologne. He didn’t have a problem with it. Tough shit if it made you choke. I think he really thought that we were just making it up. That we were just yanking his chain. Maybe we were. It was one of those things that you complain about, fully knowing that nothing will ever change.

You've got to admire someone like that, someone who says this is how I am: Love it or leave it. There's something innocent and fearless about him, something joyful, not usual qualities you would associate with someone who douses themselves with a strong scent. Think about this the next time you find yourself at a mall walking behind some guy who is leaving a scented trail like a crop-duster.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Amazing Mother on Her Day Off

The announcer tapped his stick on the bottom of his shoe to knock off the dried manure. He cleared his throat in between puffs on his cigarette. He took one last look at the curtain behind him and then stepped up on the soap box.

Ladies and Gentlemen (he called as the people wandered past). Ladies and Gentlemen. That’s It. Step Right up. Each and Every one. Come one, Come all.

People began to slow and gather. Not because he was so interesting but because they felt it was what they were supposed to do. Some were couples, some loners, some confused. One drunk guy tripped in towards the group. A few kids ran by chasing a goat and then walked back shyly.

Step right up. That’s it. Watch yourself. Don’t be scared.

As the crowd thickened the announcer held up his hands to the sky and closed his eyes. He was a master, after all. He knew that silence would get their attention. The crowd slowly began to hush. They settled in. There was a cough over here, a child stage-whispered, "Ow", over there.

The announcer opened his eyes and looked around slowly. He stared into the gaze of each and every person and then spoke softly.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

(And then as if starting a prayer he said,) Ladies, (He paused) And Gentlemen. This evening we have a sight so astonishing it is almost a corruption. (He held on to the sound of the N for a long time) But it is a sight you all must see. For you all, each and every one, have judged, have passed your critical eye, have condemned. Yea, have condemned. And now I’m asking you to let it go. I’m asking you to let it go because what you are about to see is not something typical. It is a sight so rare, most of you have never seen it and may never see it again in an entire lifetime.

He hopped off the box and walked to the curtain behind him. He slid his hand between the folds.

And now presenting (he pulled one side open), The Truly, Amazing and Incredible: Mother on Her Day Off!

The curtains opened with a flourish to reveal a woman laying on a bed as though having fallen upon it from a great height, her head turned to one side, her mouth slack and slightly opened, legs and arms sprawled heavily askew, the rise and fall of her chest slow and even. She slept.

And the people in the crowd gasped in true amazement. It seemed that they held their breath. Then, at first slowly, then gaining momentum, they began to applaud until no sound, not even a heard of stampeding elephants, could be heard from a mile away.