Archive for May, 2012

Some people have nothing but answers

May 22, 2012

My mother-in-law is one of those problem solvers.

These people’s social skills are completely dependent on their giving advice. I always seem to know one person who has this personality trait.

When that person moves away, another one comes into my life. I picture a nondescript person on deck, rocking in readiness to advise me.

My mother-in-law must write to every comedian she’s ever seen on TV: Dear Mr. Seinfeld, why don’t you pack your own tuna sandwich when you go to the airport. . . ?

In the movie, “White Men Can’t Jump,” there’s a scene where Rosie Perez tells Woody Harrelson she’s thirsty. He gets her water and she explains to him that she doesn’t want someone else trying to solve her problems; she wants someone to say, ‘I too have experienced drymouthedness.’

Can this concept really be that complicated, if people who watch Wesley Snipes movies can get it?

So last week I’m at my current problem-solver’s house making conversation. I say, ‘I spent the silliest time this morning trying to clean the shower curtain.’

The whole bottom two feet of the decorative outer thing always gets covered with fur.

‘I was sponging the fur off, but, because I was there, so was the dog, so he was putting it right back on.’

I did that burst of exhaling through the nose thing that’s the offline equivalent to LOL.

I was looking for this: Boyohboy, dogs are hard to get mad at when they’re so darn cute.

Or maybe even: Ha ha ha. One time when we had our black Lab….

She said, ‘Why don’t you tuck the curtain into the tub?’

I never know what to do at this point.

I have my reasons for not tucking it into the tub, but I don’t think she’s really asking why. Plus, if I tell her, she’ll give me more suggestions.

In my mind I’m saying this: Lady, you don’t know what the Internet is. You’re not my go-to.

But I just say, ‘Well, I suppose I could.’ And we sit there in silence.

Anyone have any advice for me?

My friend, the dirty old man

May 15, 2012

I have a friend who just turned 84. Shame on me for not running this on his birthday, which is one month gone.

He is probably the most interesting person I know. He is a published author of fiction, photography and a memoir; a celebrated photographer (Those famous photos in LIFE magazine? His.); and a survivor of Nazi Germany.

He once told me a profound story of his childhood at the beginning of the Holocaust, which would have made my greatest post to date, but he won’t let me blog it.

He told me, “It’s not your story.”

What can I do? He’s my most faithful reader; I’m at his mercy.

But this story is mine:

One night my poker league was over for our weekly game. The table was down to three players. Several of us were  in the kitchen area, dancing to “Shake, Shake, Shake Senora.”

Fred called me the next morning, as he usually did, to tell me a joke. I’m pretty sure it was about a matador and his balls.

Before he hung up he said, “I tell ya girl, the way you were shakin’ around that kitchen, why, if I were two years younger… .”

The leg waxing

May 12, 2012

Many of the guys in Boulder were cyclists, including my close friend Jer.

They had to keep their legs free of hair or it would get caught in the gears. I have this wrong. Please see the comments for a correction.

My roommate was from San Clemente, and we used to joke that the only way to tell the guys from the chicks in that hippie town was that the guys shaved their legs.

One year a girlfriend of mine got her esthetician’s license and was preparing to hang her shingle in a spa. She invited Jer and me to get a free facial or something so she could practice.

I’m not the facial type, and neither was Jer, so we asked to get our legs waxed instead.

I should have taken the facial.

Even after Jer hollered like a little girl, she told me I was the biggest baby she ever heard.

The angel story

May 11, 2012

This morning I was reading a book we bought at the Winchester Mystery House. It’s California ghost stories.

I was reading one to my daughter while she skimmed the pool, and she said to me, “What if you were those people? Would you move?”

This made me laugh. “I didn’t.”

Tonight we were at my mom’s for Mothers Day dinner, and I told her what my daughter had asked. She laughed and said, “We didn’t.”

As you know, we lived in a haunted house until I was 18. Just like in the story I read my daughter, we heard voices and footsteps. The appliances turned on. We got the whole show.

Before we moved in, it was vacant and the toilets flushed. We were standing right there.

Anyway we got to talking about spirits contacting the living, and I remembered when I wondered if my grampa had reached out from beyond.

He had been a watercolor artist before he died. Everytime we see a sunset I announce he painted it for me.

I don’t believe it. I just say it.

When he died the mortuary gave us a selection of sappy poems for the program. I rejected those and wrote my own sappy poem. I ended it with a take on something I stole from the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’ A character said some angels walk around this earth disguised as humans.

Three years after Grampa’s death, we took a road trip in his van around the whole USA. At sunset on the last evening of this month-long adventure, we drove straight into a beautiful sky of purple and yellow. I said, “Look at the sunset Grampa made us!”

And everybody yelled, “Whoa! Look at the cloud! It’s an angel!”

It was clearly a full-body profile of an angel crouching and blowing something off the palm of her hand.

I didn’t think it was a supernatural occurance. At first.

But then Aerosmith’s ‘Angel’ came on the radio.

A linguistic distinction

May 7, 2012

Same-sex marriage was legalized in both New Hampshire and Maine yesterday.

I’ve been convinced, by acquaintance and scientific reports, that people who are gay are born that way.

In light of this, I don’t think ‘sexual orientation’ is the right term.

Gay, straight or bisexual, I refer to it as one’s ‘sexual affliction.’

And to maintain a sense of reality, when we play The Game of Life, I make all the players draw their spouse pegs blind.

Might be pink; might be blue. You get what you get.

Apparently this is the way it’s meant to be done. Imagine my surprise when I went to the official site to link a photo of the spouse pegs .

The song story

May 6, 2012

I was driving home one morning from dropping kids at schools, and I heard a snippet of ‘I Wanna Kiss You All Over’ by Exile.

When I first met my husband, this song ran through my head every time he held my hand. After I flew home, I recorded it on a cassette and mailed it to him. I couldn’t help it.

He thinks it’s a dorky song.

He told me he had a Peter Gabriel song he was going to reply with, but he had to get his record player needle fixed first. I have no idea what song it was going to be.

So 17 years later this snippet reminds me that he has never sent me a song.

I was all kinds of mad walking into the house.

I recognized I was unreasonable, but I was mad, and that was that. It was one of those times I felt sorry for anyone married to me.

I headed for Internet poker, my drug of choice for an unbalanced chi.

When I turned on the monitor, I got the e-mail ding.

My husband had sent me a short note, “Let’s see if this works.”

There was an attachment. It was this song.

I cried all over myself.

It was way better than my dorky song.

I was touched and amazed. How many days are there in 17 years? Those are some long odds. Maybe we have one of those psychic connections I’ve heard tell about.

It was one of those times I felt anyone married to my husband was very lucky.

The pool

May 5, 2012

I love to lie on a raft with a book. This is the first time I’ve ever had a pool, and I’m enjoying it every chance I get.

I was puzzling over why my raft always goes to the shallow end. I have to shove myself back toward the deep end, but it just goes right back.

This is bad, because the shallow end is shady. I don’t understand wanting to be in the shade.

I finally figured out why it does this.

The pool is tipped.

Boulder weather

May 4, 2012

We’ve just pulled into the driveway from my daughter’s Bach concert this morning.

As we wended our way home through the palm trees and orange blossoms, a hawk soared above us. The sky is a perfect blue. People are out walking their dogs.

It’s 83 degrees.

As I got out of the car I heard maybe four varieties of birds singing. Our property is in full bloom, and the greenery is lush.

According to the Internet, it’s 41 degrees in Boulder, Colo. There’s a little picture of an angry cloud spraying a black sky.

I lived there for nine years.

That’s a solid 3,287 days I was a complaint machine.

In the winter, which begins in September, it’s cold. We had a heating system, but it was not possible to warm the house. In season, the best we could do was keep it warmer than outside.

When I have to wear a coat in my home, I get pissy.

Then summer comes. It’s miserably hot, and the only air conditioning is at the grocery store.

It’s not sunny heat, either. The days are gray, and there’s a thunderstorm at 3 p.m., come hell with high water.

I have nothing nice to say.

Compounding my thermal discomfort were all the people from Minnesota — how can so many people be from Minnesota? — who found Colorado weather mild. That was their favorite conversation topic.

When we started talking about moving back to California, which you may remember was largely because of the JonBenet Ramsey murder, it was January. The temperature had not reached zero in 16 days. And by ‘reached,’ I don’t mean ‘dipped to.’

There’s also something called ‘wind chill,’ which I do not fully understand, but I get that I don’t want any part of it.

Then one day in March the thermostat hit 60. Everyone went outside.

People put on shorts and grabbed their Frisbees.

I needed a sweatshirt. I can’t think of how to phrase how crabby this made me.

My girlfriend and I put the babies in the stroller and went for a walk. I was thinking, ‘Why do I live here?’

There was a 60-something woman on her knees, gardening in a sun hat and Mickey Mouse gloves.

She looked up and smiled at us. She said, “Isn’t this wonderful? Days like this remind us why we live here.”

I hope I didn’t growl at her, but I kind of think I remember a growl.

Now that we’re back in Paradise, I think about that nutcase 330 days a year.

I think, ‘Days like today remind me why I don’t live there.”

The stewed tomatoes story

May 3, 2012

I’m taking a break from brewing up some spaghetti sauce with meatballs to write this post.

I’m not sure how much food will be left when it’s done cooking, because my daughter is stirring it.

My daughter is pigging out.

When she was a toddler I was making lasagne while she played with her blocks.

I put meat, garlic and onions in my pan. I opened two cans of stewed tomatoes and set them on the counter.

I prepared the cheesy layers, and filled the noodle pot.

Then I reached the first can to dump it with the meat, but it was empty. I peered into the other one, and it was empty too. Bizarre.

I thought of places I might have absent-mindedly poured them. They weren’t in the meat. They weren’t in the bowl of ricotta and parsley. They weren’t in the sink or on the floor.

Finally I decided I had to run to the market and buy more, but I was reluctant, because it was an admission the tomatoes were actually gone, which I couldn’t fathom.

I scooped up my daughter and called for my son.

Aha. She had tomatoey fingers and cheeks.

She must have sneaked in, stolen the tomatoes, eaten them and replaced the cans — all while I was filling the noodle pot.

That kicked off 13 years of having to guard my tomatoes.

On the other hand, I can leave a hamburger on the table and my dogs won’t touch it. They’re better trained than she is.

I hit a parked car

May 2, 2012

This morning on my radio show they did a round robin to see if people ‘fessed up when they hit something in the absence of witnesses. I did.

I had been at my friend Scotchie’s apartment playing poker with other friends from work. It was the best night of poker I’ve ever had, and I don’t remember if I won.

Rodney Dangerfield had died that day, and one of our photographers was doing impressions. He had memorized all Dangerfield’s best jokes. It was tons of fun.

At 6 a.m. we wrapped things up, and I gave one of the reporters a ride home.

He lived on the narrowest street I’ve ever seen. It was so narrow, as I came out the driveway I backed into a car parked across the street.

That car had about 20 political bumper stickers on it.

I left a note that said, ‘I backed into your car. Here’s my cell number.’

That morning I had a funeral to go to. A copy editor, a young one, had died of stomach cancer.

From the reporter’s house it was half an hour home. I primped and drove 45 minutes to the funeral.

By the time I was ready to head home I was a hollow shell of a woman. I was emotional from the service, I hadn’t slept, and I had hit a car. That’s when the guy called me.

‘I can’t believe you left a note,’ he said.

‘I liked your bumper stickers. We must stick together.’

‘In that case, don’t worry about it. I’m throwing your number away,’ he said.

I was terribly relieved. This meant I wouldn’t have to tell my husband.

I said to the guy, in my best Dangerfield voice, “Last night my wife met me at the front door.  She was wearing a sexy negligee.  The only trouble was, she was coming home.”

He hung up on me.

An out-of-print book series

May 1, 2012

This would have been my father-in-law’s birthday.

My father-in-law was a collector. He had old toys, Lionel trains and military artifacts. When he sent my daughter teddy bears, they were always limited editon. He sent the boxes separately. That’s how hardcore he was.

At the time of his death, I was reading a historical novel series that was eight thick volumes long. I was on book five. I owned the first six.

I knew that my father-in-law had read and loved this series. I knew he had tried without success to get his son to read it.

What I discovered when I was helping my husband empty the bedroom was that he displayed the entire set, still in its original shrinkwrap.

The painful part of this story is that the series by then was out of print. I had planned to hunt online for used versions of the final two books.

My husband said, “Look honey! What a big stroke of luck.”

“Oh no,” I protested. “Your father went out and got this set after he read a different copy. He knew they went out of print. He meant this set to stay pristine in its packaging. I’m not breaking that seal.”

My husband tattled on me to his mommy. She insisted I take the books.

I left New York without the books.

Back in California UPS brought a box with the clothes and sentimentals my husband had chosen to keep. At the bottom was the set of books.

My mother-in-law had put an end to the discussion. The cellophane was slashed in a big Z.

It bothered me to betray what was obviously my father-in-law’s wish.

I’m trying to even the score by fulfilling a different one. I’m reading the series aloud to his son. We’re on book three, and he’s loving it.