Thursday, June 30, 2011


This is a good song to listen to in the dark (maybe because the guy who wrote it was blind). I heard this today here.

Part of What is Normal

My Dad lost all his teeth when he was 15. He didn’t lose them really, he had them pulled out. The story is that he had a lot of cavities and rather than pay for the treatment, my grandfather, a legendary pennypincher, had the dentist “extract”. My Dad, at age 15, had to go to school for two weeks, maybe longer now that I think about it, without any teeth, while they made his dentures. At the height of puberty. In High School. Obviously there are worse things to endure, but I think it’s one of the defining experiences of my Father’s life and goes a long way to describe the funny/sad/rageful part of his personality that all of his children seem to have inherited. Ahem.

The weird part is that my grandfather was a nice guy, well nice isn’t the right word, he was interesting and he was smart and funny and we liked each other, though maybe if I had been around him more, he would have tortured me too. It seems like something more than just frugality would cause a father to make such a decision for his child. Still when my Dad recalls this story, he doesn’t say it with bitterness, so much as a shoulder shrug. Yeah, I had all my teeth pulled out when I was 15. In the middle of the school year. No big.

It reminds me of the things we get used to, in our families mostly, like the three-legged bed or the drawer without a handle I wrote about a few days ago: things that seem like they’d be easy to fix but just get overlooked until they become part of what is normal to you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Lonely At The Top

Sometimes I worry about the fact that I am a champion time-waster. No one can compete with me. You may think you can, I can give the impression of getting a few things done, here and there, and you may have the thought, no, no way, I can waste twice as much time as she can. But you are wrong. So very wrong. So very, very wrong. See that was just a little sample of two maybe three milliseconds of time wasting; the fact that I wrote a sentence with the words “very very” in it. Right there. Like it was nothing. See how good I am? Also the fact that I have now written the words “The fact that…” three times even though Strunk and White (Elements of Style, google it babe) have written that you should never do that. What would Strunk and White say about LOL, I wonder, or WTF? See? I just did it AGAIN; I distracted myself from my main focus with a question. Three points. Shabam. You don’t stand a chance.

Ok so anyway, I’m writing this because I am sick of staring at a script I have been working on for almost ten years. I’m on page 34. I’m still staring at this. When will it end. The thing is, it’s fantastic. The script I mean. Of course it is. How do I have so much confidence when I am a failure at so many things? I just cried as I wrote that, cried and then laughed. Is that a bad sign?

I have an image of myself sitting at a table in front of the computer just clicking through different sites, just navigating through, from house decorating to amazon books, to wedding decorations, to shoe sales, to different blogs, to entertainment “news”, to Huff Po, to medical diseases most common to those in my family, to a photo of George Clooney in 5th grade. I need to see that, I need to have a good, long look. See George was a dork once, how about that? He may have even possibly cut his own hair with a pair of nail clippers. And now he’s, well he’s George, he’s charming and funny and politically correct. That’s got to be a good sign. There’s hope. Although he did just break up with another girlfriend. Hmm.

Omg, I just distracted myself. I’m that good, people, while writing about wasting time, I distracted myself. There’s no way you stand a chance. The image of myself, that’s what I’m talking about. (Did you notice how rhythmically similar that sounds to “To Be or Not To Be, That is the question?”) The image of myself is this: Of a person stuffing all these thoughts, sites, videos, photos, into my mouth, like a squirrell stuffing nuts. It’s soul crushing: this information stuffing as a way of distraction thing that I do and yet I can’t stop. That’s what all the champions say: I can’t stop.

There should be an award for this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


On the radio yesterday, they were talking about the sound of summer. This is mine. What's yours?
Here's another one. This drives Mo crazy but I love it.
Oh and one more. Philly yo!

Broken Things that Go Unfixed or Unreplaced

I remember a bed in my mother’s guest room that only had three legs. Sleeping on it felt like floating on a raft in the high seas.

I have a few pairs of glasses with one arm missing and even one pair with both an arm and a lens missing which I wore once because I couldn’t find any others and I really wanted to read before bed.

I once bought a new pair of beautiful shoes for my sister’s wedding and didn’t open the box until the day, and when I did, both were for the left foot. I actually considered wearing them anyway because I loved them so much, and if you go to your closet right now and try on two left shoes you will know exactly why this makes me laugh out loud every time I remember it.

Darla’s favorite toy when she was three was a porcelain cat that she would drop and shatter once every week. Bub put it together with special glue and seemed to enjoy the process of fitting it back like a puzzle so much that I sometimes wonder if he was the one who kept knocking it on the ground. We never got another one, or even tried to encourage a different toy.

We lived in an apartment once where you could lock yourself into the bathroom accidentally because the lock was on the inside of the door and not on the knobs. Instead of changing it though, we took the risk, and once I got locked in there for half an hour before Mo (age 15) was able to shimmy a screw driver in the side and push the button.

I had a pair of black pants that I loved that I spilled bleach on, and rather than get a new pair, I colored the stain in with a black sharpie pen.

I have a drawer missing a handle, and to open it I have to slide a fingernail into the crevice where it sits and pull. It hurts every time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Digital Age

At the movie theater last night Darla and Harry were playing with a 2 year-old while we waited to get in. Darla took some pictures with her phone and I thought I saw the baby’s father give a worried look, like maybe she should have asked first, so I said, isn’t funny how nothing goes undocumented now? And he said, watch this, and handed his i-phone to the baby who scrolled through the apps, found the camera icon, clicked it, held it up (sideways to include everyone!) and took a picture. This girl still poops her pants.

There’s nothing wrong with documentation, blogs are part of that category, but when it replaces actual reflection or solitude, it gets out of control. It seems like 1984 is happening, only Big Brother is us. Everything is revealed, there is no order or progression, no thought edited out, no nuance or subtlety. Look at Anthony’s weiner, look at Sarah Palin’s 65,000 personal emails, Alec Baldwin yelling at his kid, some lady on a train swearing at the conductor.

Do I have to?

Don’t get me wrong, I could look at weiners all day. But I have the maturity level of a 13 year old boy. Is it ever not funny and utterly ridiculous to send pictures of your crotch? Did Weiner think: there’s a cute girl, I know I’m married so we can’t actually have sex, so I’m going to send her a mysterious photo of my waxed, shiny gym-toned belly with a close-up of my giblets, Get it? because my name is--- I sent her a photo of my—like the double entendray—you see? Oh this is fun. No one has to know.

But we do have to know Mr. Weiner, we do, because we love distraction, we seek it out, it soothes us and whispers in our ear and makes us forget our worries and fears and problems. You have forgotten that we are comforted by roadside crashes. It’s ok, it happens, you have been in denial since the first time 38 years ago when someone laughed after you said your name. But now, because of your “problem” and because of our computer and digitalized time, you will be part of our history. At least, I hope you will, I hope this kind of information will never become so common and appropriate that it's how we introduce ourselves. Hopefully in a hundred years, some fantastic 7th grade teacher, who is an encyclopedia of historical trivia, will tell your story and some dorky little 12 year old boy, most likely my great, great, great, great grandson, will fall out of his chair laughing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reposting an Oldie: I Won in Vegas

Yes. I am officially an old lady. I went to see the Chippendales for my sister’s birthday on Friday night. It was also my first time ever to Las Vegas and I realized that the expression, “Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, is not a winking reference to the secret naughty experiences you have when you go there, but a literal explanation. Nothing you do there makes sense any place else.

It’s magical.

From the moment we walked into the hotel, there was loud music pumping into every room, elevator and alleyway; you are not even conscious that all thought and ability to reflect floats out of you, it just does. Lights flash, bells go off, people walk around in bikinis, sparkling ball-gowns, sweat suits, tuxedos, feathered headgear, pinky rings, chaps, and everyone is smoking and drinking. Everyone, everywhere, even granddad with the oxygen tank and tubes up his nose, has a cigarette or a cocktail or is looking for one. I saw a midget in a diaper and a T-shirt and I didn’t think “Oh my god there’s a midget in a diaper”, I thought, ”Hmm I wonder where he got that, it might come in handy if I have a run at the tables” (I just said run at the tables. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS).

Even though there are lights everywhere, you feel like you are in a cave because everything is dim or flashing. It doesn’t just serve to disorient you, it makes everyone look better. Everyone who works there, from the doorman to the security guard to the dealer to the waitress in the restaurant, looks beautiful and perfect and like they will rip their clothes off and twirl around a pole at any given moment. All you want to do is smoke, drink, win money and have sex.

Which brings me to the Chippendales. Maybe I don’t need to mention this, but there is not much sexy about them; they are basically football players in thongs, greased up and hairless. But WHO CARES? They are dancing and gyrating and smiling and perfect and gorgeous. We were screaming and laughing and holding on to each other just watching the slideshow before they even came on stage. By the time they got to the part in the show where one dancer fully makes love to a big bed in the middle of the stage, I mean flourishing thrusts to the mattress, my throat hurt from screaming.

There’s a part in the show when they pick 3 people from the audience and bring them up on stage. One of them WAS ME. I did have just a second of “No. No Way”, but then my feet were walking as one of the guys escorted me up the stairs. I need to point out that by the time I got on stage I never once had the thought “This is so weird, what the hell am I doing” (which is crazy because in the real world that is pretty much the subtext of everything I do) and it turned out to be a good thing because the first thing I had to do was give one of the guys a lap dance (don’t ask because I DON’T KNOW). I wasn’t even embarrassed. After all three of us had each taken a turn, we had to be judged by audience cheers. I won.


Which meant that I got to sit in the center of the stage in a chair shaped like the palm of a hand while 5 of the Chips danced on, around and over me. I looked out into the audience and both of my sisters were crying they were laughing so hard. It was amazing. Maybe even a highlight of my life, which is sad because I think there’s a chance it may not have even happened. But I still have this in my head.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Holding A Black Cat

I don’t know why exactly but I was never much on marriage. It’s weird because I do believe in two people staying together forever, I believe in love at first sight and I believe true love conquers all. But there’s something about the ceremony and tradition that I never felt connected to, and the idea of planning and buying and stressing seemed really far removed from the idea of just wanting to be with that other person. In my head, the celebration of love had turned into the celebration of loving a dress and shrimp cocktail and a band playing bad 80s music. I felt like I’d have to be the girl who jumps up and down on her toes, clapping her hands and saying ohmygodohmygodohmygod, and couldn’t muster it for that particular occasion. Which is weird because I can easily, and without even trying, muster that kind of idiotic enthusiasm for almost anything else. What is wrong with me?

When Mo first told me she met the man she was going to marry, I think I said yeah ok, and then changed the subject. I said this to my sweet little precious girl! I think my idea was well, everybody says that when they meet a cute guy, and also if I don’t acknowledge this then no one will get hurt. But the thing is 1. Mo never says stuff like that and 2. Mo really never says stuff like that. So in my head I had the thought ok maybe she did.

Then I met Ryan, who is easy, complicated, funny, serious, generous and appreciative, in exactly the same way that Mo is all of those things. Plus he seems unafraid of addressing things that other people might try to avoid, which is an important quality to have in any sort of relationship. In fact, I suspect that it is fearlessness, of boredom, of conflict, of ugliness that is the second most important ingredient in marriage.

I mean come on, what do I know, but it seems true. At least now, knowing them both together, it's much easier for me to jump up and down, clap my hands and say ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Evolution of Preparedness

Before my Grandmother used to head out of the house, when she knew she wouldn’t be back for a while, she used to go into every room and check that the lights were out. She’d go into the kitchen and touch every knob on the stove and oven and say Off, off, off,off. She’d make sure the faucets were not dripping, jiggled the toilet handles, and shut the dog in the kitchen. I’m not exactly sure if she did this for my benefit, but if she did, it missed the mark. I never really mastered the usefulness of her actions, only the obsessiveness. Before I leave the house in the morning, I am usually running around in circles looking for keys or phone or shoes, making sandwiches, putting dishes in the sink, sometimes even sweeping, while the dogs stand at the top of the stairs, their heads tilted, waiting for me to say Let’s go.

Who sweeps the floor on their way out the door?

The reason I do this, the reason I bulldoze everything from the front of the house to the back (sometimes picking up a pile of jackets and bags and heaving them into the hallway) is that I want things to look neat when I first walk into the house when I come home at night. I want my eyes to rest on something uncluttered and calming when I first walk through the door. It matters less that the iron is on, or the oven, or that the dogs have eaten the crotch of Harry’s underwear he left on the floor, as long as the empty table, the chairs tucked in and the vase of flowers are the first thing I see when I come home at the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Evolution of Restaurant-Family-Dining

Last night we went out to dinner at this old pizza place that has probably been around since the 1950s. It’s still pretty cheap too. Pitchers of soda for $2.50 and iceberg lettuce salad for $2 (Calm down Mom, they have field greens!). The walls were covered with old photos of New York, gangsters and families eating pizza. The Miami-Dallas playoff game was on TV. At some point we started laughing, and then Harry imitated me laughing (like a hyena), and that made us laugh more (well, it made them laugh more, I had to ask him to stop pointing). I looked around, not wondering if we were going to be asked to tone it down, but thinking no one here is having as much fun as we are.
I was remembering when my brother and I used to go out to dinner with my grandparents at this dark Stouffers restaurant near the train-tracks. I only remember it was near the train tracks because the liquid in our glasses would shake every time one went by, which was pretty often. My grandfather could be very silly, he would shake with laughter talking about hineys and farts, but when we were out to dinner, he was serious and stern, all about good manners and behavior. This, combined with the “tinkling” water in the glass, set Pete and I off, but we tried to keep it under control.
My grandfather had this particular sigh he’d make when he was thoroughly disgusted with us, like air being let out of a punctured tire, and then under his breath he’d hiss, “this’ll be the last time I bring you here”. What did we care? It wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs for us. Still, we tried. Once we’d get outside of the restaurant he’d pick us up and hug us and tell us he loved us. He’d say to me, you’re my little doll.
It was weird, this duplicity. Gramp was Italian and I think part of it was that he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. When he was a kid and it wasn’t cool to be a foreigner, he was just desperate to fit in. He didn’t want to act crazy in front of someone who was going to judge him for it.
But then, he also really wanted to draw attention to himself. We’d get perfectly dressed up and coiffed to go out, sometimes he and Pete wore matching jackets. He wanted us to behave and act polite and not giggle and guffaw and point at each other, just exactly so everyone could see how fantastic we all were. It was too much to ask though. We couldn’t give a good impression and still enjoy ourselves.
I wonder if he saw us causing a commotion at the restaurant now, if he would be ashamed, or if he would think how far the next generation has evolved.