Posts Tagged ‘april’

The terrified cell-phone salesman story

November 19, 2013

In April of 2006 my husband took me downtown to replace my cell phone before I left for a road trip to Sacramento.

The 20-something ringing up my new Back in Black Razr looked anxious. I thought he had to pee.

He said to my husband, “You’re a teacher, you said? I need some advice.”

No one ever said this to me. Instead people say, “You’re an editor? I don’t ever want to talk around you or let you see something I wrote.”

But I’m not bitter. Try to stop me from giving advice.

The kid proceeded to tell us that a friend of a friend had cornered him in a bar the night before asking to buy 999 of the $10 pre-paid cell phones, cash. He asked for anonymity. The would-be customer was Middle Eastern.

I asked the kid if large transactions raised red flags, triggered investigations.

Yup, any sale $10,000 or more attracts attention.

The kid started sweating and shaking.

“What should I do? I think I need to call the FBI, but if he gets caught, he’ll know it was me.”

He was making me nervous.

“Have you talked about this with your mother?”

Yes, she told him he should do whatever he thought was right for him.

Thanks, cell-phone mommy who made it my problem. Next time remember I never want to be a knower of this kind of business.

I told him I thought it was his duty to report anything he thought was suspicious. I implored the child to imagine how responsible he would feel if something went down because he kept mum.

My husband said, “Yeah.”

We left.

At the post office, our next stop, I was playing with my new phone, which wasn’t working.

We went back.

The kid was pacing behind the counter, and his hair was pasted straight up with sweat.

“I did it. I called the police,” he said.

My eyes went wide. Good for him, but now I wanted to get lots of distance between us.

“I used a pay phone and didn’t give my name, but he’ll know.”

The guy looked positively rabid. I said something about not wanting to stand in front of the windows and earned an elbow jab in my side.

My husband was calm. He said, “The Razr won’t make calls.”

I gotta hand it to this kid. He was the AT&T Employee and Mr. Hyde.

“Let me see it.” He gave it his full attention — even chuckled when he realized he hadn’t put a SIM card in it.

I told him he was the bomb. No one thought I was funny.

I don’t know what became of the boy or the call, but when I got back from Sacramento, the business was gone.

The three-little-words story

July 11, 2013

A month after I met my husband I flew out to spend Easter weekend with him in Colorado. I ended up calling my professors and declaring illness. I stayed a week, adding a day at a time.

The only one who seemed to care was a photographer assigned to an untimely story I hadn’t written yet.

Late one night we had put on Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, opened a bottle of wine and were slow dancing by candlelight. My boyfriend said something that I was 80 percent certain was “I’m in love with you.”

It was muffled by my hair.

Though we had said things like, “You’re the one;” “I’m done looking;” and “I’ve never felt like this before,” the word “love” was as yet unuttered.

I was in a fix. What if he had said something else, like, “I’ve an oven flue,” and I said, “I love you, too”?

I would sound dumb.

I didn’t want to sound dumb, so I said, “Huh?”

“I wanna live with you,” he repeated.

Ah! Good thing I asked.

“Yeah, no.”

Things need to be said in the right order.

(For anybody getting ready to disapprove, we did not live together before we were married in 1992.

. . . When I discovered I was pregnant.)

Call 911!

May 31, 2013

My daughter loved A.A. Milne poems. One evening while my son and husband were at Little League practice, she was reading When We Were Very Young — My Oldest Friend’s favorite book, which she gave as a welcome-baby gift.

The Baby was cheerfully reciting Rice Pudding.

She stopped abruptly. She was struck with an idea. “Can we make rice pudding?”

I called Mom, the knower of how to make everything. She came right over.

I opened the door to see red splatters across her T-shirt on her abdomen. She was urgent, ‘I’m bleeding! Call 911!’

I must introduce you to my mom here. My mother is not a practical jokester. She’s not even a laugher at practical jokesters. What she is is a worrier. For instance, she can’t watch when people on TV go up high. She begs me not to let my teenagers ride roller coasters. You get the picture.

I yelled, ‘Oh my God!’ and she smiled. Then she bent to pick up a dripping flat of strawberries.

Who was this woman?

I don’t know what made me remember this story, but it visited me early this morning.

Later I had to call Mom about something else. Before I hung up, I asked,  “Mom, do you remember that time you came over to make rice pudding–”


“–and you had some strawberries–”


“You’re laughing?”

“That was a good one.” A good one? It was the only one.

She defended herself,  “I didn’t plan it. I noticed that juice looked just like blood. It was spontaneous.”

Spontaneity makes it OK to scare my intestines clean?

“You had such a look of horror on your face . . . ,” more laughing.

“Well, yeah. You scared me.”

‘”Yeah, that was a good one.”

The lump in my breast

February 24, 2013

One of  my favorite girlfriends just told me she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer.

It’s Stage 0, which is good news, but I know good news like that isn’t as calming as logic would suggest. When you’re faced with losing a breast, it’s hard to see the cup as half full.

A few years ago I was in a hotel six hours from home when I found a lump. My husband was home. Both kids were on the hotel bed playing video games.

I had barely settled into the bathtub when I felt it. My mother had had breast cancer. I went from zero to panic with one touch.

We were in Sacramento for an academic competition, which means we were with a group from the school.

As calmly as I could, I hollered for the kids to run across the hall and get my girlfriend. To their credit, they didn’t say anything about the bizarreness of my asking them to bring my friend to join me while I had a bath.

By the time she came in I was wrapped in my robe, sitting on the toilet. I was hysterical and couldn’t get the words, “I found a lump in my breast” out.

One of the other girls in our gaggle had had breast cancer twice. We knew this danger was real.

I pulled my robe aside to expose my breast and put her hand on the spot. I was breathing like a machine gun and my eyes were beginning to swell.

She ran out of the room to get one of the other moms, who’s an OB/GYN.

My poor kids must have been crazy with speculation. ‘It’s nothing, kids, just a little bathroom party,’ I would have said, if I could have said. ‘Got any of those blowy horns?’

Our doctor friend was comforting. She said the soreness and the jumpiness of the mass ruled out cancer. She told me not to worry.

I worried. For Pete’s sake I could see it. And it felt hot, but maybe that’s because I wouldn’t stop rubbing it.

I didn’t sleep that night. I thought of all the things I want to do before I die. I thought of every person who might attend my funeral.

Even knowing my lump didn’t fit the cancer-lump profile, I was afraid. I was terrified of the small chance I would hear I had cancer.

I thought of our friend, who heard it twice. She was at the beach when she felt her lump, and must have felt like this. Worse, her fears were validated. I lay there realizing I hadn’t imagined her going through this frantic dizziness. Wow, my mother went through this. And worse.

Now another friend is going through it. And worse.

My doctor girlfriend was right. I had a biopsy that confirmed it was nothing but the flotsam of my breast — milk duct tissue or some such. I felt like a drama queen.

My girlfriend who was just diagnosed caught it early through a routine mammogram.

I’m helpless to ease her anxiety. The best I can do is be her bosom buddy.

A celebrity sighting

November 5, 2012

One afternoon a co-worker friend and I went to Los Angeles for thermal imaging.

My friend had had a mass show up on a mammogram, and I’m just plain freaked out about breast cancer, so we were going to have infrared photos taken of our chests.

This is an exciting technology, I think. Cancerous tumors give off heat, and heat photos don’t expose a patient to radiation, like mammograms do, adding to the breast cancer risk.

Also, we didn’t have to wait for results. We got our photos right then.

There were also downsides. Each of us during our individual appointments had to strip from the waist up and sit with our arms above our heads. This was to cool the body heat in the armpit area, which would show up red on the photo and hide a tumor.

It was also embarrassing. The guy, who may have been a doctor, I don’t remember, made conversation with me as if we were at the corner coffee house, only with my breasts a-dangle.

The worst factor was the doctor guy’s eyes were whack. They didn’t point in the same direction. He was very like Cookie Monster.

This would have made me uncomfortable under normal circumstances, but sitting there topless with my arms over my head wondering if one of his eyes was looking at my nipples was more than unsettling.

After we had each had our turn, Shannon, who had lived in Santa Monica before she started working at The Press, took me to her favorite restaurant. It was a take-it-home-and-bake-it pizza bistro that sold by the slice to walk-in eaters. It shared a wall with Blockbuster.

We sat on high stools, appreciating having covered breasts, and talked about all the celebrities she used to see when she lived in the neighborhood.

She used to see Meg Ryan running in the morning, for instance. Mel Gibson was more than once in line with her at the grocery store.

She listed so many I can’t remember them all. By the time we were tossing our plates and napkins into the trash, I was dying to see a famous guy.

Shannon poked her head out the door, “Well, Sting is about to go into the Blockbuster next door.”

Now, Shannon is funny. She’s always funny, and I would have expected her to say that.

But he really was.

I didn’t want to be that idiot that calls out, but I would have loved it if he had noticed me. Suddenly I didn’t appreciate having my breasts concealed anymore.

I punched a guy

October 24, 2012

When my grandparents took me to Mexico, I got groped a couple times.

I learned something about myself. I’m slightly violent.

The first time, the guy brushed my chi chis too close and too long to be an accident.

Without thinking first I slapped his face, con fuerza.

He just kept smiling.

Two days later we were boarding a crowded bus for an open air art market. A Donny Osmond-looking passenger motioned me go first and said, “Pasa-le.”

I gave him a nod-smile with a ‘gracias’ and squeezed by. My eyes were ahead, but I felt a grope, in front, down low.

In a split second I had Donny sucking wind from my fist in his gut.

I saw my grandparents go through three rapid reactions — surprised, concerned, amused.

It wasn’t until we were at the market that we could recap. They shook their heads at me.

“Why did you punch that guy?”

“He touched me.”

“I don’t think so.”

They said he was sincerely shocked, confused even.

Down went the Welcome-to-Mexico sign.

I punched the wrong guy.

My ex-boyfriends

October 3, 2012

I was adding a picture of The Smart Guy to Photos O’Mine when it occurred to me I should have put an update on the post, How I ended up in journalism, mentioning that he’s now running Yahoo!

Then it occurred to me I could write a post about Garth, who is also said to have risen to greatness.

Garth was my boyfriend when I was working as a hula hooper. At the time, he worked in a record store.

He was a good time. He sang, danced, joked and was up on his Broadway musicals. He appreciated that I was up on my Broadway musicals. Once I told him his hair was doing a Sweeney-Todd thing. He threw his arms around me and professed love.

His pick-up line to me was “Do you have any German in you?” No. “Want some?” I really liked this guy.

Many years after he threw me over I worked with a guy who said he was best friends with Garth’s father. I asked what he was up to.

He said Garth was in South America that day, touring on trombone and trumpet as an auxilary member of Green Day.

Finally my son said I was cool.

I really only bring this up to point out that not all my boyfriends ended up in prison.

The Carnegie Hall story

June 16, 2012

Years ago I got a call from my daughter’s voice teacher. She was putting a group together to perform at various charity events in New York City. Most of the performers were high schoolers, and The Baby was a young-looking 11.

The last stop on the tour would be in Carnegie Hall, the director said.

My in-laws were visiting when we got the call, and my mother-in-law told me this story.

“I sang in Carnegie Hall,” she started.

“You did?” She doesn’t sing.

“Yes, when I was a child. My father and I went there to see a barbershop quartet. At the end of the concert the performers invited the audience to sing along. I opened my mouth and sang. Technically, I sang in Carnegie Hall.”

Well, she came closer than my daughter did. That part of her tour was canceled.

Explaining Easter

April 30, 2012

It wasn’t until we moved to California that my mom introduced religion into Easter.

For me it’s all about the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

Everything I know about the Bible I got from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Monty Python.

So our first Easter here, my daughter, by then 3, was confused. She entreated her brother for clarification on the way home from their first Easter church service.

“It’s all about ta-da,” he said authoritatively. “See, Jesus died and they put the body in a cave blocked closed with a boulder.

“When they moved the boulder, they saw an empty cave.

“But they turned around and Jesus was behind them going, ‘Ta-da!’ ”

I had no idea Jesus had so much pizzazz.

The lemon-drop story

April 12, 2012

When I realized I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband was preparing for an exam, the final step in getting his master’s degree.

He had had a vasectomy six weeks before, but hadn’t gotten the go ahead from the doctor. That’ll teach him.

At best, I predicted, he would be too distracted to study. At best was bad. He had even sent me and our son to California during spring break so he could concentrate.

I didn’t want to think about at worst.

Uncle Jer, one of our friends who lived with us, knew. He caught me throwing up.

Uncle Tug lived with us too. One night he said, “I think I’m coming down with you’ve got. My stomach is a little upset.” I kept a straight face.

I was waiting until after my husband’s test to break the news. That meant keeping the secret for a month.

On Easter night we sat around the dining table playing M&M poker. Uncle Jer was making lemon drops.

He passed shots of vodka to whoever won a hand.

I was concerned. I had a full house.

Jer waited until my husband looked away. He gave me a trust-me smile as he pulled a different Absolut Citron bottle from under his seat.

I did shots of water and chased them with sugared lemon wedges.

And in my sobriety, I won all the M&Ms.

Boom Boom cracks me up

April 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to Boom Boom.

One year, when my goddaughter was 6, I flew out from Colorado with the kids for Boom Boom’s birthday.

We showed up at my goddaughter’s school, pulled her out of class and went to Disneyland. My son was 4.

It was the perfect day — a drizzly weekday, just like today.

There were no lines. The children behaved.

I spent most of the day laughing, because Boom Boom cracks me up.

On the way home Boom Boom was looking out the window. Comet Hale-Bopp was supposed to be in the sky that night, and was hot news at the time. We wanted to catch a glimpse.

Suddenly Boom Boom yelled, “I see it. I see it.”

“What does it look like?”

“It’s really fast,” she described. “And it has red flashing lights.”

You hate to hear it

April 5, 2012

I’m fixing to stuff plastic eggs with candy and other goodies for a hunt at my pad. The kids and their friends’ families are coming for a pre-Easter potluck.

Filling those plastic eggs reminds me of a tragic story I heard on the radio last year. It’s a you-hate-to-hear-it tale.

A family matriarch died shortly before Easter. The offspring canceled the celebration on account of the grief.

They set to emptying the home for sale. Among the belongings they sent to the Salvation Army were the plastic Easter eggs, baskets and decorations meant for the skipped holiday.

Months later the oldest daughter had calmed enough to read her mom’s diary. The final entry was the morning of her death.

It detailed her plan for Easter. She knew this would be her final one, and wanted to make it special for the kids and grandkids. She had said to herself, ‘Why wait until I die to give them their inheritance? I want to see them enjoy it.’

She liquidated her assets, withdrew her savings from the bank and filled the eggs with $1,000 bills. I don’t remember how much they said it was, but I remember calculating how many houses it would buy. It was a lot.

The family rushed to the retrieve it, but the donation was long gone.

There are many morals to this story.

And a dye pun in there somewhere, but you’d hate to hear that, too.

My grampa cracked me up

February 10, 2012

When I was in San Cristobal de las Casas with my grandparents (see yesterday’s story), a little boy in a mariachi get up asked if I would pay him for a song.

He must have been 8 years old. He wore bottle-bottom glasses and carried a ukulele that practically hid him.

He sat next to me on a bench and performed La Bamba.

I had to turn my head so no one could see what a sap I am, getting teary over the sweetness of that little boy in the ridiculous hat.

When he left, Nana tsked, “He played in one key and sang in another.”

Grampa waxed taken-aback, “You think that’s easy?”

link to photos