Thursday, January 31, 2013

Things That You Do That Your Children Think Are Sad, Hilarious, or Unacceptable, and Usually Result in Screaming

1. Dance
2. Sing
3. Be Joyful
4. Talk About Sex
5. Walk Down The Hall Naked Looking For A Towel
6. Cry During A Sad Part of A Movie
7. Forget The Name of Their Friend, Teacher, or Favorite Singer
8. Wear Tube Socks and/or Shorts
9. Fail To Proceed In Line (driving or walking)
10. Laugh at Your Own Joke

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Spa--aaaaah

I love this song, even though I'm not sure what the guy is singing about.

My friend Erin is taking me to a spa tonight, so in honor (preparation) I am reposting.

I recently soaked myself in a giant swirling bath of mugworts tea with three Korean women and a 70-year-old granny. Does that sound weird? It was supposed to be cleansing. It made me a little dizzy, though I’m not sure if it was my toxins being released, the realization that we were all soaking in the same"juices", or the shame I felt trying not to stare at everyone’s privates. I closed my eyes but that only raised the volume of my interior narrator: Oh grow up, everyone’s nude, what’s the big deal, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re all the same, basically. No one has pubic hair though, so strange, do they wax or are they just hairless, maybe because they are Asian? or Californian?  I popped my eyes open and focused immediately on a woman across the room squatting openly (yes I said openly) like a Chinese farmer in a paddy field. Ok, time to get out! I raised myself from the bath and tried to walk up the stairs, clenching and sucking in. I almost fell forward reaching for my robe that was on the hook 5 feet away.
“Giselle?” I don’t know why I turned my head, they obviously weren’t talking to me, but I looked and was glad to see it wasn’t, you know, the real Giselle, but instead a 45-year-old with a tattoo of an arrow pointing down right above her ass-crack. Say no more.
 Over by the steam room there was a row of tables where women lay face down getting massages and scrubs, their bodies shellacked and glistening with oils. I suddenly felt like I was in a Texas whorehouse. The masseuses (masseurs?) wore stylish black 2-piece bathing-suits and worked efficiently and silently. I watched Giselle shyly follow her girl to the tables with her head bowed and her hands clasped in front of her. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, my girl, "Michelle", smiled and beckoned me with her finger. Since I was getting a facial, we had to go in another room that was through the cafĂ© and upstairs. I held my robe closed tightly and followed. I have been to this spa a few times and it always struck me as a little odd that they serve Korean food only a few yards away from, well, vaginas, but I’m getting more used to it. Upstairs I got dizzy again from the calming smell of eucalyptus and lavender and jasmine and chamomile; I felt relaxed just from breathing. I loved Michelle, I loved myself, I loved everyone.
Take off your robe, Michelle said. For a facial? I thought, but she patted the table that had 3 quilts folded back and it looked so enticing I did as I was told. Then "Hannah" came in with a big jar of almond butter, which might have been alarming except that I knew she was going to be using it for the foot massage. Yes I got the foot massage/facial combo, how amazing, and though I hadn’t realized they were going to do it at the same time I was back in love. Ahhhhhhhh. At that moment I became a dog; I had no thoughts except the present: smells good, mmmm, rubbing, patting, drumming fingers. 

All was going great until Michelle started up with the extractions, which is the sterilized term for squeezing the blackheads on your nose and chin. Jesus, Michelle, come on! I tried to concentrate on my foot  massage but it was really difficult with Michelle thoroughly going at the little area between my nostrils with what felt like a mini pair of pliers. I felt like I was getting a blumpkin. Tears were pouring down the side of my face and I almost sat up and hugged her when she stopped. She put a cool and aromatic mask on my face and then massaged my head to the point where I began to hallucinate pinwheel stars falling out of the sky.
Finally it was over. I sat up and adjusted my eyes to the light and looked at my skin in the mirror, it was glowing. My face was completely relaxed and rosy and hydrated. I instantly forgot about the discomfort of being nude around nude people. I instantly had the thought that everyone, every man, woman and child, should have this experience once a month. It should be obligatory, like seatbelts, because the second thought I had as I looked at myself was: I wish that was me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Watching the Watcher

There's a fat bald dude who has been sitting in an amc pacer parked in my neighborhood for three days.  I'm pretty sure he's doing surveillance. I'm assuming it's for Carlos, though I suppose he could be doing a repo, or maybe serving papers for an eviction.
Hey Chunky, I see you.
I don't say that but I want to. Instead I just walk by with the dogs, giving him the stink eye.
Why am I like this? He's just a guy, doing his job, trying to serve justice.
It's creepy, that's why. He's like the bratty tattle-taler. The silent stalker. The sad lonely person with nothing better to do than watch someone else.
Uh...That's not me though! I am not you. I'm minding my own business. Walking the dogs. Protecting my people.
"Beat it pal. Go watch someone else's neighbor", if I was a real tough guy, or from South Philly, this is what I'd say. I'd walk up to his car, slap the hood a couple times, point my thumb in the opposite direction. "Yeah you.. Fuck outta here"
But I'm not. So instead I walk past him three days in a row, gathering steam, fueling my imagination.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Customer Service At Your Service

Hi Friends, I'm reposting an oldie again today and I'm feeling bad about it but I'm trying to get some work finished, so I hope you don't mind. Hopefully if you read this before, you completely forgot about it. xo

I go to the grocery store almost every day. Sometimes more than once. I know the full layout of the place: produce, frozen, dairy, cereal, dish soap, water, etc. I recognize some of the people who work there, and we know each other well enough to ask, how are you? or have a chat about the latest People headline, but that’s it.
Recently the employees at my store must have been given a pep talk about welcoming customers when they walk in the store, and it always makes me uneasy and a little bit annoyed. Why am I instantly suspicious, hateful and chafed? I DON’T KNOW WHY. 
Hello, welcome to Piggly Wiggly.
Hello, welcome to Piggly Wiggly, can I help you find something?
Hello welcome to Piggly Wiggly, can I help you find something today?
Back. The Fuck. Off.
I’m sorry. I just don’t need you in my face right now.
But I-
I just had to avoid those freaks outside with the clip-boards and their blue pinnys, asking me "if I care about the environment".
Well, uh—
Seriously? Do I care about the environment? What kind of lame passive/aggressive question is that? Of course I care about the fucking environment. I just don’t want to stand in a parking lot talking about it.
And now you’re right up in my face.
Oh, sorry--
No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that out loud, but seriously, give me a minute before you viciously accost me.
(chuckling) What—
I don’t even know what I want yet. How could you help me if I don’t even know—
I was just trying to be friendly.
But, see a friend doesn’t get all up in my face like that. A friend takes one look at me, assesses my situation, gives me a little space, and then decides what to say.
See you’re missing those crucial first steps. Don’t just spout out the same little words to everyone, you gotta read the person first. It only takes a few seconds.
Ok, ok let me try: Hi welcome to Piggly Wiggly, what the hell’s wrong with you?
See, that’s better, but you know, only a few of us can get away with that kind of aggression; if you can’t say it with love, then I think you’re just being mean.
Okay, how about: Welcome to Piggly Wiggly. I love you. I’m here if you need me.
That’s IT. See? Now you’re on to something.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Falling Down and Getting Up

Yesterday I was walking the dogs down the back alley way; it's a short cut from the street one block over from mine. It's not an alley like an east coast city alley but more like a long connected driveway to the back of people's houses. Coyotes gather back there, occasional crimes take place, but for the most part it is safe. Anyway it was morning and I was walking and I knew there was someone behind me because I could hear plastic bags swishing. I wasn't really paying attention but then I heard a heavy thunk and when I turned around there was an old lady flat on her face. Her bags were strewn, one of them was filled with cut up chicken, and her comb and keys had spilled out of her purse. I turned and ran to her and tried to help her to sit and we both talked at the same time, she in Spanish, I in English. I rubbed her back while she tried to pull her pant leg up. She had pebbles and dirt on her face and down her shirt, and her jacket had come off  at one shoulder. My dogs kept trying to go after the chicken and I shifted gears from yelling and kicking at them to soothing her, which made her giggle. I listened to her talking and then I told her that just two nights ago, my mother who was visiting from out of town, had fallen on the steps near my house, and that a week before that I had tripped and fallen over this weird garden ledge on the sidewalk. We nodded and pantomimed and laughed. I'm not sure if she understood any of what I was saying and I know I didn't understand what she was saying. I got her to her feet and helped brush her off and then we walked up the rest of the hill together.

Later I wondered if it was an ominous sign that I had been part of 3 falls within 2 weeks, or a sign of good fortune that each time we got up and walked away.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Oldie: Bigger Than We Were

                                        This was a few summers before we got to stay in the camp-house.

In the summers we stayed in a two story cabin/camp-house that was buried off the side of the road in the woods. We had to walk 1/2 mile down a dirt road from Nana's house to get to it. After baths and some toast she sent us all out the back door, Good night!, but we were together and were rarely scared. I think of it now and I know I could never walk down a dirt road by myself at night in the pitch black, the kind of black where you don't see anything until you bump into it. But then we did. I remember pockets of cold air, like in a lake, and our signal call to each other. We memorized the road with our bare feet, which side had fewer rocks and where the divots were. We walked quietly in single file, once in a while snapping a green branch into the face of the person behind us. We talked about the man with the ax, and laughed and screamed and yelled Quit it.

My aunt and uncle stayed there with us, but we rarely saw them unless it was raining and we spent the entire day inside together. Mostly it felt like we were on our own. We needed grownups to feed us and take us to the beach, but everything else we managed. We drove a VW bug down to the corn fields, sometimes straight through uncleared green stalks until it would get stuck and then we'd leave it there like a forgotten toy. When we needed it again, we'd spend an entire day trying to figure how to get it started. Sometimes we just needed gas. It's weird to think about how much we were alone, how we didn't feel unsafe, how we jumped out of trees and threw rocks and figured out how to jump start a car, when at least three of us still peed the bed at night.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Morning Prayer For Barack and MLK

(my sisters and their friend recorded this in the livingroom with my step-mother rockin the cello)

I don't usually listen to music like this; I think its earnestness makes me feel uncomfortable. But I loved this one as soon as I heard it. It leaves you with a question you know you can answer. Maybe that's what a prayer is like.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Difference between English and American

One of my best friends asked me to lance a boil on his ass. Except he's English, so it sounded like:
"L- ahnce a boil on my ah-ss".
Are you hitting on me?
Please. It really hurts.
Inside the ahss or outside?
I can't sit. Here, feel it.
Give me your finger.
That would be a HELL NO.
I'm suffering.
I would be too if I put my finger up in there.
Please, the pain is making me dizzy.
You want to pull your pants down, spread your cheeks, and have me go in there with a knife.
A razor (ray-za), but yes.
I suppose I should be honored--
--In a weird way.
You'd be doing me a favor.
I can't believe you tell me I'm vulgar.
You are.
Just because I don't talk with some fancy-ass accent?
I'd do it myself but I can't see.
That's what the fat girl said.
Just stop.
Badum pshhhh.
There's very few people I could trust to do this.
Oh, so now you're flattering me?
Come on then.
It's tempting but I just don't think it's an image I could ever erase from my mind.
Bollocks, I'll do it myself.
That's the American way!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When a Lie is Revealed

At a certain point after the liar reveals his lie, you have to figure out what you're going to do with that information:

The Morally Superior
Fuck you.

The Confused
What,who, how?

The Denier
No he didn't.

The Crushed

The Reasoner
He had to
His parents ignored him
His parents spoiled him

The Shrugger
Who gives a shit

The Existentialist
What am I doing?
Why did I need to have this experience?

The Weighed Down

The Italian
You are dead to me

The Grandmother
I'm really disappointed in you

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Trying To Get Up

It's cold. 17 degrees cold. It's times like this that I know for certain my ancestors are from a warm climate. I'm actually considering peeing the bed because I don't want to get up right now. My mind is frozen too so I'm posting an oldie.

                                                                   The Chance

Every once in a while I think about this guy I knew in high school. His older brother had died in a car crash and he carried around with him a cloud of melancholy. It sounds trite to say it, but it really was just like that: a cloud. Whenever you talked to him, you were not talking to him about something huge and obvious. He was skinny and quiet and shy. I have a picture of him in my head, smoking with his head down and one hand in his pocket. He had the longest eyelashes. He used to drive me home because we lived in the same area. I had a boyfriend then, and maybe because of that I didn’t feel self conscious, but I remember being surprised that he was so easy to talk to, and that he was really funny. Once he dropped me off the night before I was leaving to visit my grandparents in Rhode Island. He gave me a story he had written that I liked, and after a long silence, told me he wished I were his girlfriend. I don’t know if the memory is connected to the awkwardness that happened after, or the way I covered my face with my hands, or even that I stupidly said I wanted to but I couldn’t.  But the scene drops into my head at the strangest times, always seemingly unprovoked. It’s not that I have any regrets or false notions about something that could/should have happened, it’s more about that feeling of being so close to something that sweet without ever having it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Odyssey Part 3

We are sitting in the super king size Whole Foods that is on the way to the Army Navy. There are tables and chairs in front of what looks like a mall Food Court: five salad bars, juice bar, smoothie bar, sandwich bar and entrees made from all organic food grown by local growers, delivered by horse and carriage with a band of trumpeteers and great fanfare. Welcome to Whole Foods Tra La La.

My Dad has a plate of macaroni and cheese and sweet potato fries.

How is it we come to Whole foods and you don't have a single green thing on your plate?
I look over and his mouth is completely full of food. He has stuffed it completely full, (completely) and has now begun the slow arduous process of chewing. There are only two other people in existence who eat like this: my sister and my son.
"Can you even taste?"
He looks up at me and gives me a big open mouth smile. A hunk of mac and cheese plops on to the table.
I shake my head slowly.
He starts chuckling a little.
"If you start choking, I'm just gonna get up and walk away".
Now he's really laughing. He coughs. More food plops on the table.
"Here we go".
 He pulls himself together and gets back to the chewing. When he is done, he has to swallow three times, another long, slow process that takes about 20 minutes.
I eat plenty of salad, he says, finally.
My doctor says at my age I can eat whatever I want.
He's given up on you.

My Dad didn't really even start going to the doctor until he was in his 60s but now he refers to him like he's a personal coach, which he probably is in a way. I wonder if suddenly having this person in his world makes him feel like he is prolonging his life or getting closer to the opposite. I start gathering the trays and utensils and napkins and crumbs while my Dad sits in his seat, lost in thought, most likely reflecting on his life. If there is one place in the world to go and contemplate your own mortality, it's the super Whole Foods in Encino. When I come back from putting the trays away, he is still sitting and staring.
I think we should go to the country/western store and look at the jeans.
It's a good store.
You don't like jeans.
I like Wranglers.
Do they even still make those?
Maybe they have the pants I like.
Let's just go to Army Navy. I have to get back.
We can go another day.
When I have more time.
That's fine. (He hangs his head, shrugs his shoulders slowly. He sighs).
(I can't help laughing). Oh fucksake!

Inside the Country Western store, it smells like leather. There is a dead bear mounted on the rafters, its flat, empty arms and paws hanging down above our heads. I stare at that poor guy wondering where he started out and if he ever imagined he'd end up in a crusty old cowboy store on Van Nuys Boulevard in the Valley. The place is so jam packed you have to turn sideways to walk through the aisles. My Dad walks halfway down one row.
They don't have Wranglers here.
Dad, they have Wranglers.
I don't see them.
O.M.G. Dad.
Omg what's omg.
It's what you say when you're 13 and you can't believe the present condition of your life.
O.M.G.! (He says it perfectly, even adds a foot stamp).
And cut!
That's a wrap.

We walk through the aisles, past shelves of blue denim, rows and rows and rows. We see the biggest jeans you've ever seen in your life; just one pant leg is 3 feet across.  We turn our heads to stare but our feet keep moving ahead towards the shelf with the pants with the little leather tag.
No, that's not it.
It is.
It says Wrangler.
That's not what I meant.
But they're jeans. They're wranglers.
I see that but that's not it.
Do they sell guns here?
Up front near the bolero ties.

We have a stare off and this music plays.


Finally we are sitting outside the Army/Navy. My Dad still has his belt across his chest. He just sits and waits for me to unbuckle him, staring at the store.
Are you ready?
Are you feeling good about this?
Do you know where we are?
(He drops his chin to his chest and lets his mouth hang open. He drools a little).
Very funny. I'm glad you're getting a kick out of this. But if you don't get pants here you have to walk home.
(He nods, mouth still hanging).
Okay, let's go.

The Army Navy hasn't really changed for 50 years except that today, for some reason, it is almost completely empty. and I don't mean empty of customers; I mean empty of stock. Almost entirely.

We stand at the front and take it all in. There are rows of shelves with maybe 4 pairs of pants on them, a few racks with some some Pea-coats and Army jackets, a basket of skull caps and one full show-case with knives. What happened?
There's a kid by the register reading a comic book. He looks like he was told to sit there by his mother who is in the back cooking up some meth to keep the family business going. The top of the stool is about 6 inches higher than the counter and his legs dangle.
Do you have cargo pants? I ask quickly before reality sets in and we turn around.
He doesn't answer but slides off the stool and leads us to an aisle where, on a shelf, there are in fact about 7 pairs of cargo pants. I am so grateful I feel like falling to my knees and weeping into my hands.
This is it! my Dad says.
We load him up with a few pairs and send him into the dressing room, a room the size of a phone booth with a tarp hanging in front of it.
What is it about the Army/Navy store? All the uniforms, the green, the gray, the blue. The beanies, berets, the helmets and caps. Scratchy wool blankets, canteens with canvas straps, and the best thing of all: the gas mask. Adventure! Excitement! Courage and Bravery! You never think about killing people in battle, or holding your best buddy in your arms while he breathes his last breath. Jesus! What is wrong with me. All of a sudden I worry that my Dad has been in there too long.
I need your help.
I pull the tarp aside and see he has the pants on but can't get them buttoned.
They look tight.
They're not.

I have to pull hard on each side but I get the button buttoned.

If you sneeze, that button's gonna pop and kill a bird.
I like them.
Okay let's get them.
Are you sure?
Why do you keep saying Yes like a Stepford wife?
I really like em, they're good. Let's get em.
We have another stare-off. He nods. I nod back. Then I tear off the tag and practically run to the register to pay before he changes his mind.


On the way to the car he is putting receipts into one pocket, wallet into another. He's snapping and zipping. He is whistling. We walk through the nearly empty parking lot; it's starting to get dark. He swings his bag in his hand.
Let's go to Fred Segal tomorrow.
I take a deep breath and look at him.
What time?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Commercial Interlude

I didn't finish Part 3 on time this morning so rather than go dark, I'm reposting an oldie about a visit to the strip club...

Not A Cheetah

I went to a strip club called Cheetahs on Saturday night. This after going to two kid's birthday parties and sitting in a highway parking lot of traffic for an hour. I would have been asleep except for the crack high I still had going from the red velvet cake/brownie/pinatta candy combo I took. So when I got the text to come see a friend sing at the bar down the street in 15 minutes, I said Let me just change out of my jams, I'm on my way.

Cheetahs. If you say it with an English accent it sounds like the same word for people who cheat.

It probably seems like I go all the time, but except for the Chippendales, I have never been to a strip club. Josh met me outside. The place wasn't too crowded but the lights and mirrors and music made it seem like there was a lot going on. The first thing I noticed was three policeman (real ones not Chips) standing in the back, then the girls in bikinis, then oh my god there's the pole!

Put your arm down, Josh said before going to get some drinks. Jason was there too but I didn't feel like talking, there was too much to look at. One girl with a spray tan and a muffin top walked around like a zombie offering lap dances. I was surprised at how unenthusiastic everyone was. I slumped in my chair and tried to fit in. It was a strange crowd. An old guy in a Brooks Brothers button down shirt walked by; he looked like someone's grandpa, like he read the NY Times and had a golden retriever. He was just there having a cocktail by himself, checking the titties, the buns. Across the room two girls sat together at a table, they were both dressed like oldtime newsies, one was doing a crossword puzzle the other was talking to a skinny girl with a mohawk and tattoos. We tried to figure out their story: they were buddies we decided, possibly room-mates and the skinny girl was their pet they kept in a cage during the day.

Once I felt adjusted to the pace and the rhythm of the place, I wanted to see The Show. No more talking, no more listening to music, just shut up and take off your clothes. I felt like a grown man. Two girls came out on stage, they looked exactly alike, in the same way that soldiers do, and they started their presentation. One of them strapped on a red glowing penis and pretended to jerk off while the other one got down on her hands and knees and gave the first one a blow job. They were all serious and businesslike, there was nothing fun about it even though the face of the girl sucking the glowstick lit up like a christmas ornament.

It was hard to get lost in this. I tried to man up and get serious but I couldn't. I know there are other clubs where the dancing is great and the girls look like Jessica Biel but I couldn't help feeling like I was at another kid party, waiting for it to end.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Odyssey Part 2

So, the pants. Cargo. Stretch waist. Hip and stylish. Does something like that really exist? I will tell you right now: it doesn't matter. It really does no good to even ask that question. Oh, they exist. Somewhere, some place: in Hollywood, in Glendale, in Topanga, online, in Korea, in Portland, inWest Katmandu, somewhere, those pants exist. My Dad had them. He wore them everyday. They were sporty and comfortable and cool. They were functional and fashionable. They were unique!

When I go to pick him up, my Dad is standing in the driveway wearing sweat pants and a down jacket. Hold on a minute, he says and walks back in the house to say goodbye. My brother walks back out with him. Then my brother's boyfriend comes out too, then my youngest sister, then another brother, a few friends, a couple of neighbors and the roof repair man, "Good bye! Good Luck! Be Safe!" They throw rose petals and rice. "Bye! We love you. Good bye. Come back soon". My Dad has tears in his eyes and is waving like a queen in a parade. "Bye! Love you. Mean it. Bye...bye...BYE!!!!"

We back into the cul de sac and head out.
Let's get the hell out of here, he says.
I reach across his chest and grab the belt that he's pulling from the wrong strap and get him clicked in. Let's get some goddam pants.


My Dad has bad vision, he can only see what's directly in front of him, and because of this and his bad knees, he can't do a lot of the things he has been used to doing: he can't drive, he can't walk at the usual pace. He gets a little nervous in big spaces with crowds. But he wants to go to the mall first. My Dad is a person who has a dangerous combination of bravery and delusion that I seem to have inherited. We circle the parking lot for a space. I ask him if he wants to get out by the front door. He says no. He has the heat up to 4 and we are both sweating like fat ladies in the sauna.

We are on the seventh spiral up in the parking structure and there's still not a spot. I point to his sweat pants. Do you like those pants? He looks down and then back at me. He eyes me like I'm up to something.
What do you mean?
Do you want to go to the sporting goods store across the way instead. It's easier to park. They might have some comfortable, sporty pants.
Sporty? He says the word like it's ridiculous, idiotic and insane.
"No, I don't think so". Then, he considers it more politely, "Naaaa. Let's go to the mall. They have those know...those little kind of...boutiques".

I don't think of a boutique as the kind of place that sells cargo pants with a stretch waistband, but: you never really know.


In the mall, we are laughing like drunk people. My Dad keeps pretending to walk into things and then I make a fart sound. This is something he has done my entire life and though I stopped laughing at it when I was 13,  for some reason, in the big mall, with the perfume and the lights and the people and the kiosks and my dad in his sweatpants and great big huge down jacket, it's funny. We've been walking in circles for an hour. We haven't found a boutique. In  my mind I am looking for a small-ish store with French people and Aladdin-style magical genies that sell silk scarves and cargo pants, but really I don't know what I'm looking for.

This is it! My Dad says, pointing to H and M.

Um...uh...I love this store!

The club music is thumping and I instantly get distracted. Oh my God, look how cute, I veer off towards the women's section. Dad shuffles off to Buffalo. I'll meet you in a minute. He should probably not be left unattended in a store but he prefers it that way and I keep an eye on him. He walks over to the skinny jeans. He stands in front of a table and takes it all in; he studies the mannequin with his hands clasped behind his back and head tilted. He does this for long enough that I can go through a few racks in ladies.

I walk over to him. Do you like any of these?
See if they have red ones.
Red like a fire truck or like wine?
Red like magenta.
Come on.
He points to the turquoise skinny jeans. They're not bad. All right.
We grab a pair and I steer him towards the dressing room. On the way we see a pair of pants that has a big pocket on the side and then some lounging pants with a stretch waist.
Lounging pants!
The clerk in the back counts the items and puts him in a room. I try to imagine what's happening behind the door, wonder if he needs help, but then I get completely distracted by David Beckham in the underwear display. What is it David Beckham? How do you exist? In my mind I am meditating in an Indian temple, surrounded by a shrine with thousands of David Beckham icons. Oh David Beckham! You are a wonder. You are---

What do you think? My Dad has a hand on one hip and holds his other elbow against his waist, palm lifted.
Don't stand like that, I say.
He drops his arms and stands like a soldier.
I think they look fantastic. What do you think?
I like em.
That's not very convincing, go try on the other ones. I'll wait here.

I hear my Dad whistling and saying This is it! This is what I'm looking for. These are perfect! He steps out smiling.
I take a look. I study the pants. I look at his face (proud!). I ask him to turn around. He does. I ask him to turn back. He does.
They're nice Dad, but you have them on backwards.
That square pocket right there? That's supposed to be on the back.
He starts laughing, What?...I mean... what am I. He suddenly can't speak he is laughing so hard. He is laughing so hard he has tears and I think for a minute he is yanking my chain, but he's not.
It's the waist band, I say. It's confusing.
He heads back to the dressing room, closes the door, he is still giggling. Then he lets out a long end of laugh sigh: aaaahhhhh. He stays in there for a while. I lean my head against the door to listen. It's very quiet in there.
Are you okay, Dad?
I think I'm done.
Those pants are good.
(He shakes his head).
You should get those.
I don't know.
They're 20 bucks. Just get em.
They're comfortable. They're for lounging.
They're not the right--
Dad! They're 20 bucks! They're just pants! You can get a couple pair. You don't have to just get--
I think I'm done.(He says it like he's lying on his death bed).
(I answer like a little kid who can not imagine such a thing).What?
Yeah, let's go.
You want to go?
Maybe you just need food.
I don't think so.
Yeah come on, we need some food. We need water. We need supplies.
All right.
All right.

to be continued

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Odyssey

My Dad's style is cowboy/soldier/dandy.

For the past three years I have been trying to help my Dad buy a new pair of pants. We have been trying for so long that "buying a pair of pants" no longer means, you know, purchasing something to wear, but rather: going on a quest with a trusty sidekick for something unattainable through infinity and beyond. What is the purpose? How do they stay motivated? Who is really the main character and who is the trusty sidekick? We go. We search. We get distracted. We fail, and then we drop it for a few months until it's time again.

When he calls, I am never quite sure if he is kidding or completely serious, so I always assume he is both.

Is Deirdre there?
Hi Dad, it's me.
It's Deird, you just called.
Which one are you?
I'm the oldest.
Okay, nice talking to ya. (he chuckles)
Is this about the pants?
Who? What the--? How did you know?
Just a guess.
Well, yes it is. Now listen, I had an idea.
I've been thinking about the pants, and I think I know exactly what I want.
What's that?
They're the ones with all the...all the... you know, pockets.
Cargo pants.
Yes. Cargo pants but they need the....ah, they have to have
They need the elastic waistband.
Yeah the stretch waist.
And "they have to be hip and cool"--
I'll say it. (long pause of silence)
They have to be stylish.
Yes! I want them to be a cool style so everyone on the street falls to their knees in jealousy and admiration.
We could go to Target.
You have no idea what you're talking about.
Target is good.
That's probably the worst store in the history of civilization.
It's not, Dad, they have cool stuff. People go to that store and they start crying they have such amazing and beautiful stuff.
All right we can try it.
Or we could go to Army/Navy.
That's it. What time are you coming?
I'll be a couple hours.
All right, I'm waiting.

Ten seconds later the phone rings again--

Hi, you know, I was thinking. I used to go to this store in Hollywood.
It's down near 3rd?
I'm not sure.
It's very elite.
It has ivy.
Near Crescent Heights.
Fred Segal.
Dad you can't get pants there for less than $500.
I know, they're great.
It's pretty far, Dad.
I don't want to have to drive all the way out to yours and then all the way back in and then all the way back out, and all the way back in again.
Yeah, it's too much.
Let's just go to Army/ Navy.
You think they have cargo pants?
Let's just go look.

And we haven't even started yet!!!

To Be continued...

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Graveyard

We are squeezing the last little drop out of the Christmas holiday. By we I mean I. And by Christmas holiday I mean state of denial; I mean period of time when you stop thinking about financial ruin, broken relationships, personal wounds and failures. Some of us have gone back to work, but not completely. There are still decorations up on the street, twinkling lights and glitter: still stale Christmas cookies on the kitchen counter, kids at home. We think we don’t want this time to end, but why not?

Oh yeah. That.

Well…enough is enough isn’t it? We can’t eat cookies and chocolate forever. I mean we can’t eat cookies and chocolate forever and still be healthy and productive, and clear headed and capable of moving forward.

I mean…

I was thinking this morning about how back in Philadelphia we always go to the cemetery at the end of the holiday. My grandmother died a few days before Christmas a while back, and we kind of just kept the tradition going. We all pack into the car:

  Fuck! It’s cold! Move over! Oh Jesus, how long is this gonna take? What a fuckin charade. Do you have to talk like that? Who farted? Can we please just have some common decency. Why can’t we just say "hey Gram" from inside, near the fire? Can we get donuts after? Dead people don’t stay in the graveyard. Fuck, get off! Can you not talk like that in front of the three year old. Where do you think I fuckin learned it? Ow! Oh my god, I'm gonna pee. What is wrong with you? Come on, stop it. Stop it. STOP.

Yeah, it’s fun.

Really it is. Years ago when my grandfather was still alive and came with us, he’d give a sentimental speech and grunt out a few tears, and we’d all huddle together suppressing giggles and rude, silly comments. Afterwards we’d rush back to the warm car, excited and smiling, glad to be done, ready for the fun to begin.

That’s the way to start a new year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


                    Yesterday I found this note that Darla wrote when she was 7 and Harry was 4.

My brother Pete once drove me insane singing Volare for almost a day straight. Just the chorus bit. I had a 600 page (or close) paper due the next day that I hadn't even started and he was fully committed to bringing me down. Fully, tirelessly, unstoppably committed. He followed me around like my conscience. He sang while I ate. He sang while I was in the bathroom. He sang while I was on the phone. Lets put it this way: he sang while I breathed.

The thing about being the oldest kid is that we are not prepared for this kind of determination. Part of our role is superiority: "You think you can bring me down you pathetic, tongue chewing, mouth breather? Pppssshhh. Go ahead and try". In a million years, I never would have thought he had a strategy. He wasn't capable.

But he was! He did!

He'd sing over and over  and over. That part was a given. I could handle that. But then he'd stop. Sometimes for a few seconds. Sometimes for five minutes. Sometimes to fuel up, have a sandwich, walk the dog. This went on for hours. HOURS! By then the song had already wormed it's way into my brain and was releasing the poison. Releasing the poison that turned me into a drooling, babbling weeping idiot.

Once it gets into your own head, it's over.