my life, circa 1970s
Monday, September 7, 2009
If only I’d known then how cool my life was, I’d have taken better notes.
I kept a diary every night from the time I was 12 years old until I was 28. I’ve been rereading my diaries from the 1970s, when I was a teenager in New York City. While many of the entries are hilarious in the way of adolescent profundities and trauma, they also are a microcosm of a time and place.
April 6, 1972
I’m going to see the Allman Brothers, Edgar Winter and Dave Mason.
April 16, 1972
Jesus! What a concert! Berrie Oakley is absolutely fantastic! They’re so good!
November 12, 1972
Berry Oakley is dead. And thus endeth the Allman Brothers. That’s awful.
(I’m going to skip a few particularly self absorbed years here)
April 20, 1976
Tonight was Max’s (Kansas City). It was OK. (One of many, many references to Max’s—although I rarely bothered mentioning the bands I saw. Mostly I wrote about boys I had crushes on.)
April 30, 1976
I went to see Monte Python tonight. The show was great.
May 1, 1976
We went back to the City Center. Got all the rest of the (Monte Python) autographs. Terry Jones picked me out of the crowd and spoke to me. He was really nice.
July 4, 1976
I had a shitty bicentennial July 4th.
July 21, 1976
A pleasing evening. I came home & watched Nadia Comaneci win the gold medal. I idolize that girl.
August 25, 1976
We went to see the Laughing Dogs at CBGB tonight. (Again, one of many references to what I usually called “GBs”)
Sept. 20, 1976
The most amazing thing happened today! Robbie Gordon came to my counter. (I was selling designer handbags at a long-gone departments store called Franklin Simon.) He was looking for a friend of his, but when I recognized him he stayed and talked to me for a couple of minutes. He’s leaving, left, actually, the Tuff Darts. I can’t believe it. No more Darts. They were just on the verge of being incredibly famous, too.
Sept. 22, 1976
It is actually Thursday morning. We stated at C.B.G.B. all night. The Eels didn’t record until 5:00 a.m. (The Eels was my brother’s band.)
Nov. 26, 1976
I saw Ella Fitzgerald tonight. She was great. I am really glad I stuck around. In the beginning, when Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass were playing, I was so depressed I felt like just walking out. But Ella was worth it.
Dec. 23, 1976
Nick’s at a hot shit party tonight running the sound. Barbra Streisand’s new movie’s opening night party. I’m so jealous.
Jan. 7, 1977
I saw “A Chorus Line” tonight.
Feb. 3, 1977
I saw the Ramones tonight. They totally knocked me out. I may go see them tomorrow night, too. They were just great.
March 11, 1977
I saw the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with Monte tonight. It was the best fucking movie. I have to take Sue to see it. I loved it.
March 18, 1977
I saw “Rocky Horror” again. I love that movie. I lust after Tim Curry. I want to see it again tomorrow night.
March 25, 1977
I had a shitty day at work but saw “Rocky Horror” tonight.
April 1, 1977
Saw “Rocky Horror” at the Waverly.
April 2, 1977
Sue and I took Oliver to see “Rocky Horror” at the New Yorker.
April 7, 1977
Tomorrow night should be great. First Laughing Dogs, then “Rocky Horror.”
April 22, 1977
Sue & Lynn & I made a really good dinner at Lynn’s house & then walked over to the Waverly and saw “Rocky Horror.”
April 27, 1977
I saw “Annie Hall” tonight.
July 13, 1977
I am in Denver, midway through my first cross-country trip—three girls in a baby blue Plymouth Duster.
There’s a blackout in New York tonight. I feel so far away. A NY disaster & I’m not there. An American chopper was shot down over North Korea. War peeks up. Scary.
July 25, 1977
Tonight we went to the Whiskey a Go Go to see the Dictators. I really like that club. The people are completely trendy, but entertaining. The Dictators were great.
July 28, 1977
We hung around the Tropicana today and watched the punks. The Dictators, the Nuns and the Ramones were all staying there.
Aug. 26, 1977
I saw an absolutely spectacular Talking Heads/Laughing Dogs gig tonight. Amazomatic.
Oct. 17, 1977
I saw the Talking Heads tonight with Dave & Chris. C.
Dec. 27, 1977
Nada much to say. I bought “Young Americans” and a John Lennon album.
Feb. 11, 1978
I went to the Ice Palace with Monte & Bert tonight.
Feb. 19, 1978
Annie Golden is on the cover of the “News” magazine. It’s so strange to start seeing my contemporaries make it.
Feb. 25, 1978
It’s 5 a.m. and I feel exhilarated. I had a wonderful night. First I went to Jerry’s party, which was dull, & I left before his band played. Then I went to CBGB where I just watched everybody go by & cruised and got cruised & fended off pick-ups and listened to “The Shirts.”
April 11, 1978
I saw Crystal Gayle tonight with Alice & Bruce.
April 20, 1978
I went to CBGB to see Jerry’s first gig as a Void Oild
May 20, 1978
I went to The Bottom Line tonight to see Lou Reed. It was a less than satisfying experience. I waited in line to pay seven dollars to be mashed in with the rest of standing room to see a mediocre show that started 3 hours late.
Well, that’s enough for now. I sure had fun.
please protect me from motormouths
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
“It’s like you have a sign on you that says, ‘Tell me about it,’” Tom marveled.
Something about me attracts people with way too much to say.
I went to a new hairdresser yesterday. He was a lovely young man who did a great job on my hair. However, his monologue started the minute I sat in his chair and didn’t stop until I fled the salon two and a half hours later. Not only that, but he talked fast and he mumbled, forcing me to strain to hear him.
He talked about his techniques, his talents, his artistic aspirations, his job. He left me alone for a while to let my color set up, but soon returned and started poking at my head and talking again. While cutting my hair, he frequently paused to gesticulate with scissors and comb. By the time I got out of there, my head hurt and I was so stressed as to be a danger to myself and others in rush hour traffic.
This was first thing on my mind when I woke this morning and I may choose not to return to the salon because of it. I have ill will towards the guy—perhaps he was nervous about a new customer or felt obligated to entertain me—but I can’t endure that again.
For some reason, I find it impossible to extricate myself from one-sided conversations. I’m a sitting duck for chatterboxes. And chatterboxes seem to know that. I’m a magnet for them.
In similar situations, Tom has a way of staring into the distance and becoming nonresponsive until the chatterbox falls silent. But I do all the wrong things—I make eye contact, encouraging noises and murmur appropriate responses—even as I become increasingly desperate for the words to stop. For the love of god. Please.
Being a good listener and having an ability to draw people out are skills necessary for a reporter. I just don’t know how to put people back again when I’m done.
It’s difficult for me to imagine producing that many words in a stream. I can hold up my end of a conversation and love lively discourse. But I am bumfuzzled by people who can stretch an anecdote to 20 minutes, with digressions to god knows where, around the block a few times, downtown and uptown and crosstown before bringing it home--and then take a deep breath and start again. When a chatterbox starts in on me like that, I’ve lost the battle before it even starts. I go conversationally limp.
My policy is: Say what you have to say and then stop talking. Sometimes I even have to force myself to finish sentences, if I feel the gist has already been aired.
I like the short form, in conversation and writing. That’s one reason I enjoy blogging. (Maybe this is my way of getting my monologue in—but I’d prefer a conversation. Yes, that’s a hint.)
A standard-length newspaper column is 700 words. Love it. David Remnick has a 20,000-word profile of Bill Clinton in the current New Yorker. I couldn’t write that. I’m not even sure I can read it. I’d rather read a book (average 60,000 to 80,000 words). I’d rather write one, too. At least the reader knows what he or she is getting into. Getting ambushed by a 20,000-word magazine piece is like a surprise phone call from a long-winded friend.
And now, I think this blog has gone on too long. So I’ll let you go.
the burdens of stuff
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I am recently home from three weeks in New York City sorting through my late parents’ possessions with my brother.
Wow. I have something to say to all you parents out there: If you have a lot of stuff, as a loving gesture to your children, get rid of some, OK? My parents had a lot of cool stuff but they also had a lot of junk. A lot. See the photo? Multiply it by an eight-room apartment. Where they lived for nearly 45 years.
Books. Books. Books. My dad loved books. “Dark brown books,” my mother called them. Hundreds of them. Some might have been valuable if they had been cared for, but they spent their lives in steam heat, drying out. When I visited last year, Dad gave me a book I’d wanted to read, but when I opened it on the airplane home, it crumbled to dust in my hands.
I know that people who love books love having lots of them. “Too many books? No such thing!” I understand the wealthy feeling a full bookshelf inspires. But friends, hear me now: There is such thing as too many books. Really. They are bulky and heavy and nobody really wants most of them. No, not even libraries. Not if they’re old, brittle, out of date. Sure, I took a few of Dad’s books. Not many, though. Just a few. We threw a lot away. We’re not sure what to do with the hundreds remaining. We organized one roomful, more or less, and then grew exhausted and left the rest, and further decisions, for another day.
Going through the detritus of a long life is fascinating and depressing—and not depressing just because it is related to loss. Here are notes for books my father never wrote, books he wrote but didn’t sell, hopes and dreams crammed into a filing cabinet. Here are souvenirs of trips that no one remembers anymore, heirlooms with stories lost to time (although my brother is doing an amazing job assembling our family history), bits and threads that mean nothing to us but might have been rich with sentimentality for Dad. Have we thrown out his “Rosebud”?
We had appraisers in and found treasures that had been buried from sight behind decades of indiscriminate accumulation. We found treasures of value only to us, flotsam that coaxed out memories from the deepest corners of our minds. And we found junk, worthless and ugly bric-a-brac kept only because Dad’s default was “keep.”
I am having nine cartons of stuff and several pieces of furniture shipped home and the apartment is still crammed. I barely made a dent.
Back home, my attitude towards my own stuff has changed. I’m not half the pack rat Dad was, but I still have shoes in my closet that are never worn but with sentimental value, a file drawer full of aborted creative endeavors, bric-a-brac kept for no particular reason. I brought two cartons of books to the library yesterday. I have put some clothing on e-bay. I’m just getting started.
But then there are the photos. My gosh, the photos. What’s to become of them? They are the most haunting aspect of my stuff.
My brother and I love looking at photos of our youthful parents and their friends, at photos of our own childhoods, and at the rarer photos of the generations before our parents. But we have no children of our own, so no one will care about the photos we leave behind. I have thousands of photos, not just of friends and family, but also of my travels. Photos that will mean nothing to anyone after I am gone.
Perhaps, when I see the end coming, I will build a bonfire of my books, photos and failed manuscripts and let them flame out with me.
midlife crisis du jour
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
OK, so now I’m looking down the barrel of 51 and you know what that means, don’t you? I’m almost 60.
Life is still good but I really hate the birthdays after milestone birthdays. The anticipation (fear, loathing, horror) of the big birthdays is so great that when I get through them without the world crashing around my ears, I feel I should be allowed to simply stop aging—at least for a few years. OK, I survived 50. Now let’s take a breather. We can resume the aging process in a year or two. Or not. I’d be OK if we stopped here.
This is the first year I’ve noticed stuff hurting. The first thing to go is the feet. I enjoy looking at the blog about stylish seniors, Advanced Style (although I think they often set the bar a little low). But I’ve noted that no matter how stylish (or not) these advanced stylistas are, they all are wearing comfortable shoes.
It seems a little rude that my feet should hurt since I’ve never been one for cruel shoes. I didn’t wear heels at all for many years and I haven’t tottered around on anything higher than about three inches since I was a teenager. Am I paying a penalty for my five-inch disco heels now, all these years later?
A friend told me that lose fat on the bottom of our feet as we age, which is why they hurt. Somehow the fat defies gravity and moves up, I guess, to our bellies. But if this is the case and our feet do lose a comfy layer of fat, how about all those people who are perfecting ways to inject fat into our lips start concentrating on fattening up our feet instead? Much more practical.
Not that I would wear them out of the house or anything, but I’m wearing Crocs as I write this. They’re comfortable. And a sure sign that I’m pushing 70.
i'm totally milking the introversion thing
Monday, March 9, 2009
this and that re: relationships
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Hm, really? That’s sad, isn’t it? Is that why our divorce rate is so high? Gosh, if Tom let all my annoying little habits get to him, we would never have lasted this long. But instead, he just turns the oven off when I leave it on; he gets the mail when I forget to; he cooks dinner most nights since I consistently conveniently forget that a guy’s gotta eat; he mostly ignores my nagging. And, for my part, I let him go to sleep way too early every night. Too early by my standards, that is. He’s always been an early-to-bed/rise guy and as annoying as I sometimes find it, that’s who I married.
On the other hand (another of my overused phrases), I often enjoy the hours after he’s gone to bed--now that I’ve finally figured out that I’m not compelled to go to bed at the same time. That epiphany was decades coming. Somehow I got it into my head that my wifely duties included climbing into bed with him every night, even though he just wanted to sleep. I would fall asleep early but never could stay asleep. Now that I go to bed on my schedule—two or three hours after Tom—I sleep all night.
My friend Peter posted another spin on relationships on his blog, advocating the “good enough philosophy” of marriage. Put that way, it sounds a little depressing, but I can’t argue with him. To an extent, deciding to forsake all others is settling, I suppose. Settling for what you have rather than what you can imagine. Settling for an authentic human rather than an idealized vision. Settling for the comfort of security over the thrills of possibilities. “Settling” is a terrible word, isn’t it? How can we spin it to sound better?
Another aspect of settling are those “how did I end up with…?” moments, when your mate says or does something, or reveals a gap in knowledge, that is so shocking, you can't even imagine how your life took the strange turn that linked you with this person.
I had one of these just last night, as we watched A Night at the Opera. I grew up watching and loving the Marx Brothers—it’s partly a Jewish New Yorker thing, I think—but they simply were not part of Tom’s experience. I remember once, not long after Tom and I moved in together, one of his brothers came to stay a weekend. As part of the weekend’s planned entertainment, I rented a Marx Brothers movie. The two of them looked at me like I’d suggested we spend an evening at Chuck E. Cheese. They could not have been more puzzled as to why I imagined this would be entertaining for them. (We didn’t watch it.)
OK, I already knew that Tom is not a Marx Brothers aficionado, but I was still unprepared when I turned to him last night during the movie and said, “You’ve heard of the famous stateroom scene, right?” and he had not.
This was one of those “…how did I end up with” moments. How did I end up with a man who has never even heard of the stateroom scene? Incomprehensible. I’m pretty sure I was introduced to the stateroom scene the moment I left my mother’s womb.
I am relieved to report that Tom and I will be able to stay married because he laughed through the scene. His favorite line: “Come on in girls and leave all hope behind.” If he hadn’t laughed at least once, I might have contemplated divorce.
Remember the movie Diner, when Steve Guttenberg wouldn’t marry his fiancée until she passed a football trivia test? The idea doesn’t sound entirely outlandish when you have those “how did I end up with…?” moments. In fact, I enjoy playing “Name That Broadway Show” with Tom, since he claims to hate Broadway musicals but a lot of the crooners he does like (Frank and Tony and such) often sing show music. I am proud to report (and he is ashamed to admit) that he’s getting pretty good at the game.
And so, in conclusion, relationship-related cartoon du jour.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I respond to everyone who writes to me. (Everyone who is not unhinged, that is, and fortunately most of my correspondents seem perfectly lovely.) This time, I urged everyone who wrote to check out Dr. Helgoe’s book, Introvert Power
Maybe other books on introversion are just as good, but this is the book that came my way and changed my life a little bit. Coming to understand introversion better is making a difference for me, and Dr. Helgoe offers not only insight, but also tactics for functioning.
For example, I went to a wonderful party yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it and was happy to go. But I also noticed that halfway through, I started getting that familiar “my brain might explode” feeling that says I’m on introvert overload. For me, this is almost a physical sensation, a sort of mind-ache—which is different from a headache. It’s more pressure than pain. The conversations coming at me start losing meaning and everything takes on a swirling, dizzying look—like the drug scenes in the Movie of the Week version of "Go Ask Alice."
This time, when this started happening, I knew it was simply time to excuse myself from the party crowd and find a place for a few minutes of quiet. (And here’s where smoke breaks come in handy. I started smoking again about a month ago, I am about to stop again. I will miss it.) No guilt, no shame, no self-recrimination—just step away and let my brain smooth out before plunging back into chitchat.
Not that stepping away is always easy or possible. People are very generous and if they spot someone they perceive as lonely, they will often step up and try to ease the loneliness with a little friendly conversation. Had I been able to easily leave the party for a walk around the block, that would have been the best plan, but that would have been difficult. So I grabbed a minute here and a minute there as I could. And just these few minutes helped to me enjoy—really enjoy--this party for hours before I hit the wall completely.
It’s not that I’ve never done such a thing before, but this is the first time I’ve done it consciously, with a plan and purpose. It was a surprisingly powerful moment for me.
And it brings to mind a thought on therapy that I've shared here before. People often mistakenly think that therapy will cure us, will change us profoundly so that our problems cease to exist. But in fact, what therapy does is provide us insights, tools and new maps for navigating our inner and outer worlds. I am not interested in “curing” my introversion, nor would that be possible. But learning to respect it and developing new tools to work with it, as I have other aspects of myself, will make my life three hundred percent easier.
the thing about 25 things
Friday, February 6, 2009
Some of us shamelessly embrace this opportunity to reveal little-known facts about ourselves. Others sneer at what this Washington Post writer calls “just another online outbreak of mass self-disclosure and self-importance.”
In this NYT article, editor Telisha Bryan sniffed that she wouldn’t deign to participate.
“ ‘Whatever happened to talking to people face-to-face?” she wrote in an e-mail message. “Since when do we have to give our friends synopses or overviews of our lives? Anyone who wants to know 25 things about me can call me or ask me.’ ”
No, not so much. As another person interviewed from the story pointed out, “I’ve gotten 25 random things notices from people that absolutely fascinated me, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want to be stuck on a bus with them telling me these things.”
Ms. Bryan, the holdout, is the editor of a women’s magazine (a quick Google revealed it to be Cosmo), and the stock-in-trade for women’s mags is TMI and celebrity chatter, so I’m a little confused by her attitude. Why should I consider the details of Jennifer Aniston’s life more relevant than the details of people I actually know? (And yes, I do know the majority of my Facebook friends in some capacity beyond Facebook.)
The NYT writers says, "The idea that real intimacy is achieved by telling 25 people about the first time you saw a horse or the name of your kindergarten boyfriend is, admittedly, worthy of ridicule." But that's so missing the point. Who says this is about intimacy? Totally missing the point, dude. This isn't intimacy, this is entertainment.
People who choose not to participate in things like this do so with a holier-than-you losers attitude, but who cares? I filled out the 25 Random Things and passed it along, and I read other peoples’ and comment on them. Why? Because they’re fun. Lots of fun. They’re fun to write and particularly fun to read.
If I were a smart fiction writer, I would be keeping a file of other people’s 25 Random Things because, you know, you can’t make this stuff up. Each list is full of details that could make a character come alive. (Hm, that would be a cool writing exercise: Take a random 25 Random Things list and invent a character around it.)
I love what my friends choose to write about, love how they choose to write them. Are they one-liners or full paragraphs? Are they boastful or self-deprecating? What do they view as significant moments in their lives, what are they confessing to?
How can anyone find stuff like this uninteresting?
one last on loss
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The day after my Dad died, I apologized to a friend who lost her mother a few years ago, leaving her without a living parent. I’d tried to be supportive at the time, but I realize now how little I understood. Not really. I understood “sad” and "loss," but not all this. Until it happens to you, the full impact of losing both parents is incomprehensible. Parents anchor us to the earth, they are our most essential touchstone. With them gone, the world tilts off-balance.
My relationship with my parents was fraught and distant. This is a sad fact of my life and I have come to terms with that. My loss does not actually affect my day-to-day or even week-to-week. But my world has profoundly changed.
I’ve heard people say that even as adults, they felt orphaned when their parents died. That is not my experience. Rather, I feel untethered, like a wagon broken loose from the horse. How do I know where I’m going now? Whose approval am I seeking?
And when you lose your parents, your most essential and concrete past slips away, with all its textures and complexities. Your parents are now photos, memories, mementos and whatever you carry of them in within yourself. They become ephemera.
You'll understand when it happens to you. And, very sadly, it will.
one lousy moment times six
Saturday, January 31, 2009
I was leaning over my desk at The Dallas Morning News, jotting something on a legal pad. Waltrina came over, leaned in close, and said quietly, “Stan passed away this morning.” Whatever I was writing trailed to a scribble.
I arrived at the hospital to visit Kevin as I had every day since he went in. As I reached for the door to his room, a young orderly stopped me. “You don’t want to go in there,” he said.
Tom picked me up at the airport after my trip to London and we went straight to the hospital. Russell’s friends and family were gathered around his bed. I stood near the foot of the bed, between Tom and Russell’s young niece, whom he adored. We all had hands on Russell. I don’t recall the ventilator being turned off but Russell hung on a minute longer. “Let go,” I whispered, and his niece turned and said sharply, “What?” I guess she thought I was talking to her. A moment later, it was over.
I was sleeping on Monte’s couch when my cell phone rang. I got up to answer it, knowing what it was. “Mom died this morning,” my brother said.
My brother, his girlfriend and I were sitting on the couch in my parents’ apartment watching a Saturday Night Live special. My brother’s cell phone rang. It was the hospital where my dad was. I met my brother’s eyes. He nodded.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Welcome to Hell's Rollercoaster.
Thanks for your kind thoughts. I will think of something compelling to write soon, I promise. I just need to get through this little stretch.
sorry for this post
Monday, December 29, 2008
Movies are good escape, although Rachel Gets Married was not the best choice. Slumdog Millionaire worked well. I highly recommend both movies, but save Rachel for a day you’re feeling sturdy.
And I’m trying to stay busy. The kind of pain I’m in is non-negotiable in its inevitability. All you can do is acknowledge it and ride it out. It comes in waves—like nausea—and you grit your teeth until it subsides a little and then continue what you were doing.
Dad is 90 years old and ill. Man, woman, birth, death, infinity.
ho ho holiday blues
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Common wisdom says the holiday blues are due to high expectations of the season and memories of joyous childhood holidays. Yeah, maybe. Except I had the holiday blues as a kid, too. Christmas to me was a few hours of cozy family togetherness that ended as soon as the last gift was unwrapped. I started mourning the end of holiday magic before it even started.
Mine was not a warm family. Interesting, yes. Intellectual, in our way. Creative, certainly. But not loving. Hugs were rare. Emotional support was mostly left to professionals. Depression was a family affair. We all rallied as best we could for Christmas Day, but nobody could keep up that kind of thing for long.
So really, my expectations for the holidays are pretty low all around.
I haven’t been “home” for Christmas for many years. My family and I were estranged for the better part of a decade, reconnecting only as my late mother’s health started declining. Now, our family of five is down to three surviving members—me, my older brother and our father—and I see no point in trying to reinvent anything with them around the holidays. If family Christmases made me blue in the past, can you imagine how they would feel now? As far as I know, they ignore the whole business anyway.
I am proactive about the holidays. I bake and decorate the house. We throw parties. I have festive lunches with nearby friends and make or buy gifts for far-flung friends.
Some years, the effort pays off with a warm holiday glow. Some years, it mostly feels like a pain in the ass. This year is one of the PIA years. Money is very tight. I was sick this week and fell behind on shopping and shipping. Our holiday party was a lot of work for a small turnout. I can think of nothing I want or need that we can afford at the moment, and Tom feels the same. But the idea of nothing under the $10 Target artificial tree is a little too sad to contemplate so we’re forcing ourselves to shop with a strict budget.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m feeling sorry for myself and it’s not attractive. And I try not to present problems without solutions, if I can. So, what now? I just did a cardio workout. That always helps. I put the kettle on for tea, that’s cheering too. I’m researching volunteer opportunities for Christmas Eve because I’ve heard volunteering can bring all kinds of meaning to the season. It’s time to test that theory. We’re going to one party tonight and three events tomorrow. Surely, surely it will all work to turn my gloomy mood around.
And if not, to hell with it. Maybe next year will be better.
the look of love
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Today, I think I’ll share a photo of my late grandparents with you. My brother sent this to me just the other day. I’ve never seen it before.
These are my mother’s parents in by far the most touching photo I have ever seen of them. This is a photo of love. Look at Grandma’s face. I think everyone should be gazed upon the way she is looking at Grandpa. Look how they are holding hands.
Grandma Fanny was a kind of a kvetchy lady. She had a tendency to natter at Grandpa in a stream of haranguing Yiddish. Though I never questioned that they loved each other, I never saw anything to confirm this until now. The love is unmistakable in this photo. And Grandpa—such a mensch. He was a funny guy and his impish expression tells me he just cracked wise. Maybe he was teasing my father, behind the camera. And Grandma is laughing at his joke. The women in my family love a man who makes them laugh. I knew that about Mom and Dad, but never thought about it with Grandma and Grandpa.
You learn a little something every day.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I went through something similar a few years ago, when I started a Yahoogroup with my high school graduating class. We all rushed into each others’ arms, figuratively speaking, and had long, lively discussions that culminated in a real-life reunion.
Then, for the most part, we drifted. The discussion board fell silent. Certainly many of us kept in touch with a few people, but the group hug ended, our nostalgia was sated and we all returned to the present with a few new old friends in tow.
Nostalgia is a strange drug. I do crave a connection with my past and find it very soothing to find people from back in the day are still around. And it’s ego-gratifying to learn that they remember me as well.
At the same time, nostalgia feels a little bit dangerous. It is an appreciation of the past, yes, but indulging in it too deeply seems an extended form of mourning for that which is gone and irretrievable. What does it mean to remember the details of the past? Perhaps I will write about these things some day (indeed, I am considering it) but beyond that … ?
The memories we are sharing this week are very dear to us all. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to get verklempt at some of the photos and memories, especially since many are of people long gone. And having other people fill in the (many) blanks in my memory also is thrilling, making my sketchy memories more vivid. It’s also fascinating to view this special time and place from different perspectives.
But I am already looking past this flush of nostalgic excitement to when we have worn the memories thin. Will we have anything to talk about then? I hope so. I hope all this adds up to more than just some new photos for my album and details for my reminiscences.
Reconnecting with people from my past is exciting not only because they were important to me then, but also because they are interesting people now. My wish is that the past and the present will combine to create a future.
primitive writing tools
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The first draft, with my editors' comments in non-repro blue pencil, is typed on low quality onion skin paper. My editing own marks are in blue pen.
The full article appears to be a photocopy of that original without the mark-up.
You should be able to enlarge these images by clicking on them, should you be so inclined. I wish I could find the published version but it's buried deep in the garage somewhere.
Not bad for a first time out, IMO. (A moment to remember the late Tom Hynds and his wonderful store). And gotta love my prescient last line: "Looking ahead to 1990: don't throw out that lava lamp."
because even goddam shoe wheels need friends
Friday, October 31, 2008
Here we have my Costco folly. It has been sitting in my car trunk since I bought it with a coupon at Costco about a month ago. For a nanosecond, the giant box of food storage containers seemed like a good idea, and it was just $20, with the coupon.
By the time I got to the check-out counter, I was completely over the giant box of food storage containers and knew it was an ill-conceived impulse grab. But I felt strangely helpless to stop the march of events through check-out. Before I knew it, I was wheeling my giant box of food storage containers toward the car, already planning to return it.
It’s not that we can’t use some new food storage containers. Our collection is sad and stained. We’ve had to toss a couple that split at the seams. Some of it was supposed to be disposable but was never disposed of. It dates back a few Christmases, came to us filled with Christmas goodies.
That’s one of the problems. Believe it or not, some of my old food storage containers have sentimental value. We have the holiday treats memory. One of our containers has “Zsa Zsa Battles” written in Sharpie on the lid. We used it to send kibble to the kennel. We have a salad container that belonged to our late friend Kevin Findley. It was not significant to his life in any way, but it’s a homely little daily reminder of someone we miss.
In a way, my Costco folly is a hostile interloper, trying to force its fancy big city “snapware” ways into my cozy little ragtag collection.
Also, we really don’t need 32 food storage containers. The giant box contains enough food containers to contain the food of a family of 12. There are just three of us (we have already ascertained that dogs use food storage containers in this house).
I blame the coupon. I got a catalog of coupons from Costco and felt compelled to use some. Had it not been for the coupon, I wouldn’t have given the giant box of food storage containers a glance, despite its prominent display in the store. But I had been recently annoyed by our food storage containers, which are not the least bit modular and frequently topple out of the cupboard. I had a coupon and the giant box of food containers was right there in front of my face. A confluence of events forced my hand. I couldn’t not buy the giant box of food storage containers.
I considered trying to hide it from Tom but wasn’t completely sure if he would be disgusted or delighted. Tom can still surprise me sometimes. He’d been griping about our incorrigible pile of unstackable old food storage containers recently. Still, I wasn’t surprised when he expressed puzzled dismay at the giant box of food storage containers. I immediately assured him that I would return it.
But, as you see, that never happened. The thing has never made it out of my car trunk. It sits next to the plastic bags that will someday be recycled. Every time I open the trunk, I feel ashamed. Were it not for the shame, I might open the box and take out a few storage containers to replace some of our most tired old food containers. But as long as the old grotty ones work, that feels wasteful. And as long as the box remains sealed, I can delude myself that someday I will return it to Costco or give it away as a gift to someone I don't like very much.
Will that ever happen? Maybe. Or maybe someday I will take my Costco folly out of the car and put it in the garage where it will live a lonely and neglected life. Not unlike the goddam shoe wheel (which at least lives in the house).
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Today is the last day of the fair. I am proud to report that Tom and I returned on Friday, determined to do a better job of it than last time. And, in fact, we had lots more fun, although we did even less.
Jessica Simpson was appearing that night—part of the impetus for going, just for grins—and the fair was packed. We mashed into the crowd for a few bars of her show and what a caterwauling that was. Yikes. Every time our wandering took us past the Chevy Stage we would watch from afar briefly (a much better view than from in the thick of the crowd) but mostly she was background music for dinner.
We started with a turkey leg. Tom was skeptical, he didn’t remember last year’s turkey leg discovery (thanks MsKrit) but after a few smoky bites he was persuaded. It’s a hideous mess to eat—many tendons involved—but worth the carnivory.
The good thing about the turkey leg, I explained to Tom, is that it allows me to feel a lot less guilty about the funnel cake than a corny dog does. I feel the same about my usual annual caramel apple. (I didn’t have one this year. The chocolate strawberry dipped waffle balls were my poor substitute.) But a caramel apple is an apple, so therefore I am permitted funnel cake as well, since it’s not really like two deserts.
We also had tornado taters and broke tradition with a Reuben sandwich instead of a brat at the Hans Mueller tent. The brats are better.
Friday’s funnel cake was of the highest quality. I will only eat funnel cake from The Dock and they outdid themselves on this one. It was golden crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Perfect. We ran into someone Tom knows there, and she said The Dock serves a grilled cheese that’s necessary to her annual fair-going experience. Maybe next year.
We ran into another colleague of Tom’s on the Midway (Tom has a lot of attractive young women colleagues) and she agreed with us that the chicken fried bacon was not all that. This appears to be the consensus on the chicken fried bacon: Meh.
The fair full of people is a lot more fun than the fair devoid of people. We arrived in time to catch the big beginning of the light show—with fireworks and bursts of open flame—but then when it got boring (classic rock and laser lights), we wandered off. We watched the rides on the Midway. Neither of us enjoy riding rides but we get a lot of vicarious enjoyment out of watching other people ride them. We sat on a bench and MFOPd. (Made Fun of People.) We somehow managed to kill three hours.
Eating and mocking. It’s our version of a good time. We have successfully done State Fair ’07.
my dirty house
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I feel a little guilty hiring someone to clean when it’s just Tom and Jack and me. And I work at home. Theoretically, Tom and I should be able to keep our little house clean.
I resisted the whole idea at first. It seemed so bourgeois. I was squeamish about it in a class-conscious liberal way. But after spending yet another weekend doing something I don’t enjoy, poorly, I finally succumbed. The first time you hire someone to scrub your toilet because you’re just too lazy to do it is humbling. But not that too humbling to have them back two weeks later.
Not only do I enjoy having others clean for me, they do it a thousand times better than me. They know what they’re doing. They’re Professionals.
My parents always had someone clean. They both worked full time, they had three kids and they had an enormous apartment. Something had to give. Our first house cleaner was a guy named Warren. He taught my older brother to play the drums when Nick was maybe 7 or 8 or years old. Warren suggested my parents buy a rubber practice pad and drumsticks and launched Nick’s career as a musician, which continues today.
A few of my parents’ cleaning ladies were Haitian. My parents tried to speak French to them, but their Haitian French was too different from my parents’ Continental French and so they muddled through with no common language. One broke the Tiffany lamp shade that hung above our kitchen table. I don’t think she came back.
Irma was my first house cleaner. She cleaned my house for a long time. She was obsessive-compulsive, which is not a bad thing in a cleaning lady, if you know what I mean. Once she decided she could no longer bear our filthy porch walls, so she dragged out the garden hose and scrubbed them down. (Never occurred to me. Now I do it regularly.) Irma also would arrange the coasters and remote controls into strange and haunting little shrines on the coffee table.
But Irma often broke things—including a beloved marble and bronze Art Deco figurine—plus we weren’t allowed to call her directly because her husband didn’t know she was working for us. Irma had a lot of demons, I think. We had to let her go.
The woman who has been cleaning for us the past few years, Maria, has suddenly become unreliable. I’m completely flexible about days if she wants to call and change them, but she hasn’t even called the past couple of times she couldn’t make it, so screw it. Last time she showed up a day later, this time I haven’t heard a peep out of her.
I’m actually relieved. I’ve been trying to work up the balls to fire her for a long time. She doesn’t clean that well, she puts things away wherever she feels like it and we could never find things after she left, and she often blew through here in two hours, which made her hourly rate pretty high.
But all that liberal guilt … For months now, I’ve been vowing to fire her but I just haven’t had it in me. But since she now seems to have quit, I am spared the effort.
Tom and I have been cleaning the house today, so it doesn’t get unbearable before we find someone new. We’re finding some very nasty surfaces and corners. It seems Maria only cleaned what she could see. I guess I’m not a very good employer, she might have taken advantage of me. Maybe I should have offered her more money. She never asked for a raise, she just sort of gave herself one by blowing through faster and faster. And we were paying the going rate.
Of course, I wouldn’t clean my house for the money I was paying her. But then again, you couldn’t pay me enough money to clean someone else’s house. You couldn’t pay me enough money to clean my own house. I’d much rather pay someone else. A Professional.
Friday, October 17, 2008
For example: I gave a speech about my Yankee Chick book this week to a local newcomers group. I have given dozens of speeches on the topic in the seven years since the book was released and I’m actually pretty good at it.
When I first started promoting the book, I simply decided not to be nervous about speaking in public. Most people under most circumstances, when they come to a program like the ones I give, are there with every intention of having fun. These audiences are mine to lose and seeming awkward and anxious is a good way to lose them. So when I step up to a lectern, I banish all anxiety and have fun through sheer force of will.
Of course, I have had some clunker experiences. There was a reading I did for book club that met in a noisy bar. I had to bellow over the racket and I still don’t think everyone heard me. Nobody had fun that night.
Then there was the time I was invited to speak at a community college. The room was full, which was great, but it was an unnervingly deadpan audience. No matter how hilarious I tried to be, I got blank stares in return. When I finally, finally, finally wrapped it up—the longest 45 minutes in history—I found out that my audience was mostly ESL students who had been required to attend.
Some sort of cruel joke?
So anyway, I suppose I have some reason to be nervous about an approaching speech. But nervous doesn’t do justice to the intense feeling of dread I experience as a speech day approaches.
I usually am booked for these things months in advance. When it’s four months away, Sure! Happy to do it! The closer it gets, the more onerous it seems. By the night before a speech, I feel like I’m preparing to face a firing squad.
Once I’m in front of the audience everything is fine (provided my audience speaks English), but what a lot of energy I waste on dread up until that point.
Today, my dread is about a trip to Arizona next week. It’s going to be a great trip, but it requires waking up early a couple of days. One day, I have to be up, dressed, packed and checked out of the hotel by no later than 6:45 a.m. And my flight home at the end of the week is at the appalling hour of 5 a.m. (Using frequent flier miles is getting harder and harder these days.) This means I’ll have to be out of the hotel at about 4 a.m.
I know, I know. Not a big deal. In fact, it’s a pretty small deal. A miniscule deal. Not really a deal at all. So I wake up early--so what? I rarely oversleep, so I’m not afraid of that. I’m just dreading… what? Feeling tired? Having bad hair? Missing an hour of sleep? I can’t figure it out and yet this dread is palpable and it will increase as those days get closer.
OK, I know you can’t face your weekend without your Dillard’s fix. And here she is. Twice.
Tom sez: “Ooh, which one is worse?” Good question, although the one in the foreground appears painfully crammed into her confusing outfit so my vote goes there.
Oh, and BTW, I got a call from the National Enquirer this week. They are hot on the trail of the Dr. Phil/Robin story. Evidently, they have evidence that the couple is living separately and they are seeking sources to confirm. We can only hope this big news will knock Joe the Plumber out of the headlines because I, for one, am sick to death of him.
when I shake my head, this falls out my ears
Monday, October 6, 2008
Last night, DJ MrRid came over with eight DVDs of The Midnight Special. You oldies remember those—the live rock shows on TV every week. Oddly, I didn't watch them back then but we had a blast last night. Earth Wind and Fire. Small Faces. Aerosmith. Kiss. KC and the Sunshine Band. Minnie Ripperton. Peter Frampton. Delicious and we still have hours to go.
I was struck, once again, how nice it was to see people on TV with lumpy hair, crooked teeth, pores. People who look like the people we see every day, only dressed up. Or not dressed up. Those were not dressing up days. Some guys looked pretty smelly. But still, it was nice to see people I could imagine hanging out with instead of people so perfectly toned, exquisitely groomed, and impeccably dressed, I would be struck dumb in their presence.
What are we doing to ourselves? We're beating ourselves up with relentless images of unattainable beauty. We're wasting countless hours and dollars on things that have nothing to do with our true potential value to society. We hate ourselves.
Has anyone every pined for you? I don’t think anyone has ever pined for me, and that kinda bums me out.
Our front yard swarms with busy, busy squirrels and I’m not the only one who has noticed. A red-tail hawk has been hunting here. The other morning, I saw him lift off with a squirrel. I’m haunted by the image of the squirrel’s little legs hanging down helplessly.
Tom and I went to the Fair on Friday. Funny how sometimes the Fair clicks for us and sometimes it’s just off. Last year was great, this year was off. We should know better than to try the exciting new fried foods of the year. They’re expensive and we’re almost always disappointed. The chicken fried bacon ($6, I think) was mostly salty, the chocolate dipped strawberry waffle balls ($5) were gummy. Nasty. I didn’t finish mine. Fortunately, my funnel cake was as good as I expected.
But I had the wrong shoes and my feet hurt and Tom had been working like a dog all week and he was tired. We saw a daredevil act, but heights make me so tense that I couldn’t enjoy it. We saw the dancing dogs, sat in a new car, saw a kid throw up, looked at the creative arts. But this visit, we weren’t feeling it. Mostly we felt sticky. The waffle balls were our last-ditch effort at fun and when they didn’t work out, we went home and fell asleep on the couch.
(State Fair 2007)
Although, lest I romanticize State Fair '07, I will report that the fabulous expensive pillows we bought last year suck. They are rock hard and I woke up with a stiff neck the two or three times I tried to sleep on one.
Last week, a friend and I went to a dance recital at SMU. Student dancers dancing student choreography. The kids were all very talented and it was a lot of fun.
I’m not big on regrets. I decided long ago not to nurse regrets and have been mostly successful. I acknowledge my regrets but don’t wallow in them. But one of my regrets is the way I ignored my body through my youth. I envy dancers for their control of, respect for, and joy in their bodies. I wish I could dance. I mean really dance—turn my body into a leaf or a stream, into anger or ecstasy. I think that would be swell.
back into the archives
Friday, October 3, 2008
Hey look! My first feet photo was not a photo at all. My toenails are like Monet's water lilies--I never tire of their many moods. I made this sketch on my first and only visit (so far) to Washington D.C., in 1976.
My best friend Susan and I went to celebrate our HS graduation. (Our nation's Bicentennial. We have the Bicentennial yearbook to prove it and a tassel with a little Liberty Bell on it.) We stayed in the Howard Johnson's where Nixon's henchmen listened to bugged conversations from the DNC offices across the street, at the Watergate. Too bad I didn't sketch the view of the room beyond my own feet. But drawing feet is hard enough. I probably exhausted myself on that.
Here is Susan lolling in the room.
I've never been good at sketching landscapes but at least I tried.
I preferred sketching the people. These aren't great but at least I was in there swinging. Haven't done it in years and I'm afraid to try 'cause I know I've lost it.
And there you go, today's Lazy Gal post.
jack is a good dog
Friday, September 26, 2008
The other day, I was introduced by a friend/blog reader as an “animal nut” who has a “horrible dog.”
I’ve known people a lot nuttier about animals than I, but “animal nut” is a description I can live with. Compared to some, I’m loony, I guess.
But I feel bad for Jack, being called horrible. That’s my fault. My friend has never met Jack but I’ve told such terrible tales about him on this blog. My friend was clear that the kind of behavior I described would never be tolerated in her home. Her husband agreed while a large cat practicing lap yoga inserted a foot in his nose.
I promise Jack isn’t all bad. But writing about Jack’s wicked ways is simply more entertaining for everyone than if I wrote about the cute face he puts on when he thinks it will shake loose a treat. Or how, when you open the back door, he leaps to his feet from a dead sleep and streaks across the yard with purpose. I wasn’t sleeping! I’m on the job! Or how he climbs into my lap—as much as can fit in my lap, anyway—when I sit on the living room floor and brush him.
Jack is the Rorschach test of dogs. Some people look at him and see a ferocious beast, some want to throw their arms around his furry neck. (Not advised for anyone but me and Tom.) But either way, the real Jack is a chowhound and a goober and far from the noble beast I thought he was when we adopted him. When push comes to shove, he’d rather snack than fight.
He’s not a sociable dog but that’s partly a breed trait. (He appears to have Australian shepherd in him.) We’ve had lots of visitors in and out and if they do as we say and ignore Jack, he moons around them like they’re his long-lost loves. Try to pet him and he shows teeth. That’s just his little neurosis. Poor Jack is conflicted.
But he has changed. Really changed. Granted, he still doesn’t like his back feet touched and never will. We touch them sometimes just to annoy him. Mostly he just gives us a dirty look and leaves the room. He’s much more tolerant of tail touching these days, and with liberal application of weenie bits at the front end will let me vigorously brush his back end. He stills snap sometimes, but he doesn’t have his heart in it. It’s a method of communication for him. I bat him on the nose and he gives me puppy dog eyes.
Jack doesn’t lunge at fenced dogs anymore. His senses are alert as we pass his archenemies but no matter how they try to rile him, he just hustles past. He still barks at dogs on TV but that’s just cute.
There’s even one little dog on our evening route that Jack adores. He insists we pause at this yard every evening. If the little dog is asleep, we wait until he wakes up and toddles up a steep hill to greet us. He and Jack sniff each other and wag and swap a little urine.
We’ve been visiting this doggie for months. The dog often invites Jack to frolic along the fence. He assumes the playful doggie position then bounces in circles. Jack has mostly looked puzzled. It appears he never learned how to play with other dogs. But the other night, for the first time, he actually attempted a clumsy frolic of his own. I got all choked up.
Jack is playful in his own way. Sometimes we play a game I like to call “stick.” We go outside and I say “Where’s your stick Jack?” in that excited voice we were taught to use to engage him. He looks at me all happy and then bounds off into the woods and vanishes. I go back inside.
Tom has better luck with stick. They play each morning and Jack will sulk if Tom tries to cheat him out of his game. I think he’ll even return the stick to Tom a few times. When Jack tires of the game, he settles down to chew the stick into toothpicks.
We’re pretty satisfied with ol’ Jack. I mean, it does get on our nerves that he never closes the back door behind him, after butting it open with his giant head a million times day to stroll inside and see what we’re up. And it would be fun if he liked car rides so we wouldn’t have to lift his large ass into the car every time we want to haul him somewhere. And his plodding pace at the end of our walks makes me a little crazy every night. And I’d rather he didn’t wake me every morning barking his fool head off at squirrels. And he’s gloomy when it rains. We suspect seasonal affective disorder.
I suppose my affection for Jack reflects my allegiance to the underdogs of the world. Jack came from a troubled home. But he's conquered many of his demons and he’s a good boy. Yes, he is.
on being cheap
Monday, September 15, 2008
I’ve been house sitting in Austin for a few days. I brought along some good coffee from home but didn’t have enough for my last morning (today) so while I was at Target the other day, I grabbed a can of Maxwell House to tide me over. You know—a $4 pound of coffee. How bad can it be?
“Why didn’t you just go to Starbucks and buy a bag of coffee?” Tom asked. “Oh, never mind...”
He knows the answer. It’s because I’m cheap. And now, choking down my crappy cup of coffee, I am chastising myself for the kabillionth time for my cheapness.
Being frugal means you buy just what you need and don’t spend beyond your means.
Being cheap means you buy the cheapest version of whatever you need, bring it home and realize that it’s a piece of crap and you get what you pay for. And when it falls far short of your needs, or breaks down after two uses, or tastes like reheated swill that’s been sitting at the bottom of the coffee pot since last week, you have to replace it, thereby spending considerably more than you would have if you hadn’t been so damn cheap.
Essentially, I spent $4 on two cups of really lousy coffee because there’s no way I’m bringing this can o’ crap home. I’ll leave it at the house I’m sitting with a note of apology to my friends. And I’ll probably have to stop somewhere and get myself a decent cup of coffee before my drive home. Perhaps Starbucks, where my one cup of coffee will cost nearly as much as the pound of Maxwell House.
I do this to myself in restaurants, too. I might want the $15 entree, but I order the $8.95 one because I’m cheap. Then a have food envy, watching Tom dig into an “expensive” meals that look a lot better than whatever soggy afterthought has been tossed onto my plate.
I’ve done to myself over and over for as long as I can remember, and every time I do, I vow to change my ways. But cheapness is an extremely difficult habit to break. I need some sort of mantra to chant to myself every time I find myself drifting towards the bargain that isn’t.
Perhaps, “Don’t be so goddam cheap, Sophie.”
anxiety du jour
Saturday, September 13, 2008
You would think at my advanced age I would be long past such pointless anxiety, but no. Every social occasion for me is an opportunity for varying degrees of self-loathing. I talked too much, I talked too little. I was too loud, I was too aloof. I asked too many questions, I didn’t ask enough questions. I acted like a dope, I acted like a smarty pants. It’s always something. After any social event, I wish desperately for a do-over, during which I would be an entirely different person. I promise. Just give me another chance.
It's a form of narcissism, this delusion that all eyes are on me. Rationally, I know most people are busy enjoying themselves or worrying about their own presentation or wondering when they can go home or thinking about what to make for dinner tomorrow. Everyone has a million better things to do than scrutinize my behavior. I’m incidental to the movies in which they star, their own lives, as I should be.
But irrationally, when I’m back home, my head is full of invented conversations about the cloddish and irritating embarrassment that is Sophie.
Geeze, I sound like a teenager. When I yearn to stay forever young, this is not what I have in mind.
What is the secret to self-confidence, please?
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