Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Evil Midget Boss, Chapter the Third: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

My deepest thanks to KS for breaking through my fog of memory loss! Thanks to her, I have booked 10 new therapy sessions.

During the Queen's tenure, my hapless coworkers would often arrive to find the red light on their phones blazing. No matter the time and the topic, the phone message would be marked "Urgent." In a panic, one would await the beep. The message would invariably be one of the following:

"K____, I noticed that you were tardy this morning. Please make an effort to arrive on time in the future or we will need to have further discussions."

"R____, my computer is not working. The screen is entirely blank. Please come to my office ASAP." [The computer was not turned on.]

"Dear staff, I have the remainder of a roast beef sandwich from my lunch that I would like to share with one lucky recipient. Please report to my office if you're hungry!"

"J_____, would you have a safety pin/piece of tape/Tylenol capsule/chunk of crack at your desk? Please bring it right away."

"Dear staff, from now on, NO art person is to make changes to text in a file. Not even a comma! Art people meddling with text can result in serious errors. This will not be tolerated."

But the most eerie "red light alert" would occur when one was at the desk, typing away busily. From the corner of one's eye...the red light would flare into being. No ring. No nothing. From her dark cave, the Queen would issue commands--sent entirely through the phone system, which she would access and then type phone extensions to send her "urgent" messages.

We realized at a certain point that The Queen's phone password was the very same as her extension. That is, I realized it. I got in the naughty habit of getting "into the system" and sending peculiar messages marked "urgent" to various staff members, sometimes with the aid of a little CD I own called "Fun With Sound Effects."

The most tortured individual on our staff was no doubt the art director, who suffered until midnight and beyond to meet her crazy needs. She'd hover over his desk and demand that he "lighten the tint by 10%" repeatedly, or ask him to shift a block of text "three picas." Once, the following text revision took place at his desk:

Version 1: "Members of the editorial team worked hard to bring this technology report to you."
Version 2: "My staff and I worked hard to bring this technology report to you."
Version 3 [published version]: "I worked hard to bring this technology report to you."

The Queen insisted that everyone on staff remain until the last page went out to the printer that day. No matter if "your pages" were done, you had to wait. She would retire into her office with her ubiquitous pencil and mark changes in a scribbly scrawl on the proofs. This could sometimes go on for two hours. I think she thought she worked at Vogue. (In fact, she always wanted a Fashion Section in our magazine. Let's just say it's not quite appropriate for the subject matter.) Comments included:

"What's a right triangle? Are people supposed to KNOW this?"
"Sex this up."
"See me."

To give her some credit, she was a talented copyeditor. Copyeditors are a rare breed, capable of being thrown into a frenzy by a misplaced comma or a wrongly-hyphenated word. I have a titch of the illness but no more. Copyeditors--and this is not meant to be a slur--have a dusty, old library quality about them. They often wear glasses, but not always. Don't get me wrong. Some are sexy. They are extremely valuable, and good ones are becoming more rare. She had a skill at this sort of thing.

Because I'm such a sweetheart, I'll leave off at that--with the lovely memory of a dangling modifier, fixed...or a split infinitive, beautifully repaired.

Tomorrow, or thereafter, I will return with more tales to tell.

The Same 10 Questions I Always Ask Myself

In a soon-to-be recurring series, I will ask myself the same 10 questions every time.

1. What are you wearing?
Clam diggers with pink, preppy little tennis racquets all over them. A sturdy brassiere donated by my mother--no man could bite through it. A collared white shirt with gemstones for buttons. A necklace purchased for ten dollah on Broadway, in SoHo. A pair of short, white athetic socks. A red Swatch.

2. What's the nature of today's hypochondria?
A bit of a rash on my arm might turn out to be something mysterious and tropical. I expect a heart attack within a few days.

3. What was today's workout?
189 flights of stairs on the StepMill (a very bad name for the unit, as it resembles an escalator that keep revolving into itself). That's 79 stories higher than the Twin Towers. For some reason, as I climbed onward and upward, I thought of them.

4. How do you do what you do and stay so sweet?
Vigorous scrubbing.

5. What's that burning smell?
My wasted youth, and an overcooked yam.

6. If you were an animal, what kind would you be?
I am going to eat you if you ask that again.

7. What are you drinking, and why?
The sweet nectar of oblivion. So that I don't accidentally encounter any Harry Potter spoilers while I read.

8. In what ways hast thou offended?
I thought bad thoughts about the woman at the supermarket today who pulled out her coupons, whipped her cart back to the cash register, and insisted she had not not gotten the two-for-one deal on the English Muffins. Her mottled, beleagured husband waited in the aisle, as henpecked as he had been for the last 25 years. Shuffles, the bag woman, was there as as well. She was bagging.

I also have not filled out the request for money from GreenPeace.

9. What's the next big thing?
Jesus' visage appearing in florets of chilled butter at the finest New York restaurants.

10. Music selection?
Rob Dickinson, Fresh Wine for the Horses
Do buy it. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I Haunt Your Photo Albums

I don't like to brag, but I have a thriving side career as a model and film star "extra" in a great number of photographic portfolios and movies. I get the roles almost as if by magic, lacking an agent or manager of any kind. I have been discovered on any number of occasions and my performance is always natural and assured.

Here is a perfect example. At a local pool the other day, I passed before the camera of an excited father as he attempted to capture his child cavorting in a spray of water. Without wanting to steal the scene, I ducked too late and was caught in the frame, no doubt in a crouching, apologetic cringe that will be memorialized in the family albums, electronic and otherwise. I can only hope that my bathing suit was not askew and that my expression was reserved, yet emblematic of all the greatness and sadness of our times, and particularly of my generation. (I work on such gazes before a mirror nightly.) That I held the promise of the future in my eyes, and that my feverish squint (blinded by sunlight) does not beg deletion. But I do have a talent at this sort of thing; I am exceptional as a "background character" to add local color and verve to any photograph.

My film resume also includes roles as a bit player in the family "beach vacation" videos shot at Sea Island, GA, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, and the New Hampshire shore, Perhaps you've seen me? In several, I am seen laboriously jogging in the background, and in others, pensively picking up shells and rocks. Sometimes I gaze into the lens with a piercing look that has merited cries of "Who IS that?" during screenings. At the wrap parties, no one speaks to me, but I eat plenty of the crudite.

I have also been seen in "The Wedding Video" (dancer # 6), "Playland in September" (random passerby), and "New York Tourist Scene" (Hot chick in white). I am available for speaking roles as well.

It's odd to think that when I am gone, my image may be playing on some futuristic DVD player in a family living room filled with strangers. I'll look out from the screen, take a step or two, and then the camera lens will swing wide and I'll slide out of the frame, as if I never existed at all.

Speaking of photo albums and loss, I once picked up an old album in an East Village antique store for $18. It seemed a high price to pay at the time, but there was something desperately sad about the collection of family photos meticulously arranged and labeled. There were black-and-white images of the family trip to Niagara falls, Dad with his new car, the author of the album as a baby, and a row of young and happy individuals in bathing caps seated on a dock. Why was it here, for sale? Did no one want it? The owner of the album was a Dorothy Dubelbeiss, and I have tried in vain to find any of her descendant, although quick searches suggest that the family may have been from Rochester, NY. I guard it as carefully as one of my own. Something suggests that it is all that's left, and that this family vanished like a puff of smoke before the wind. I want to think that someone wants it, and I'll be ready with it to hand over once they come to my door.

The poet Tess Gallagher, wife of Raymond Carver, once wrote that "the poem is always the enemy of the photograph." Which would you rather have of me once I'm gone?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Throwing Food at the Moon

And now for something completely different.

A heartwarming blog entry "mom style" about the pleasures and rewards of parenthood! First of all, there's my German child, whom I will call Wolfgang on account of the fact that he has vampiric-like fangs where his eye teeth ought to be. Today we gave him a water bottle in the car and he gnawed it with the sound of a jackal guffawing and schkgnurfling as it tears the flesh off an antelope. Not yet sated with these guttural, horrible noises, he began to shriek with great glee and volume. The more we protested, the more his evil laughs and screams resounded through the car. This was an improvement on yesterday's car ride home from a birthday party, during which the liebchin vomited undigested grapes, chicken chunks, and a good part of a Carvel ice cream cake, the latter of which came pouring out his nose.

The elder child I will call Thieving Crow Deux, his Indian name, due to his early propensity for poaching food off a parent's plate. (Wolfgang also goes by the name "Thieving Crow Trois.") Thieving Crow Deux is a.k.a. Repetito, Casper, Lil Dubya (in honor of our esteemed leader), and Scooter-Pie. Pale as white on milk, he cannot go outside without a sunscreen "dip" which I hope to patent in the near future.

He is a charming child who behaves most impeccably when around strangers, and then transforms into a wild, flailing ball of pent-up angst when within the safety of his own home. Blessed with more than a touch of OCD, Thieving Crow Deux has been known to line up Clementine pieces, curve bending inward to opposite curve, until--finding that he does not possess the last piece to complete the pattern--collapses in a tragic rage. His uvula is a common sight around the dinner table.

Thieving Crow Deux likes to play doctor, applying Band-Aids to limbs for a headache and suggesting that the patient's head is full of monkeys and elephants, which can be coaxed out by a tune played on the harmonica. When accused of being a quack and a charlatan, he says "he can't do nuffink for you!" He also conducts a practice called "whacking," in which he lays a stuffed animal patient out on the kitchen floor and whacks them hard with an object. My son the doctor! The younger one plays the nurse and brings the patient varieties of birthday cake constructed out of Legos.

They are both wonderful and I will kill anyone who menaces them in word or deed.

One day the three of us had a picnic out on our back yard, which we affectionately call "the back 40." After eating his fill, the little one noticed the crescent moon in the sky, an orb of which he is quite fond. "Da moon is hungry," he announced, and began tossing food up toward it. It rained down on our little picnic blanket. We joined in, tossing food at the moon in an effort to fatten it. Planes passed overhead and we threw food at them, too. "This is not so sane," said Thieving Crow Deux who, like his brother, has an unusual vocabulary. We laughed, and apple slices, bread chunks, and cheese bits sailed up to the heavens. We rolled and tumbled and the two boys sat on my head, and the sun lowered past the Post Marine and the Toyota dealership in the distance. The moon waited, placid and waxing. "Naughty Tomato-Eating Squirrel" and his brother "Thieving Rodent Quatre" waited in the wings expectantly, and a flurry of birds passed overhead and shat on our car, parked in the driveway.

That's what writing this is like, at times. A happy exercise in throwing food at the moon.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Nice Wholesome Glass of Milk

A dear friend has suggested that perhaps I am a wee bit too "excited" about the virtues of wine on my blog. I assured him that yes, I am fond of wine, but I can get just as enthusiastic about a tall glass of cold skim milk! Milk is refreshing, and it goes with just about anything. It's good for your body, too. I choose skim to keep my cholesterol down. Not that I have ever had a cholesterol problem, mind you. The ginormous amounts of greens that I eat crush every stray toxin and fat globule, except for the deadly brain cancer that will soon overtake me.

I love milk. This sounds nasty, but when I was little I used to get a small dish of pimento-stuffed olives and a nice glass of milk and savor the olives, one by one. When they were gone, I would go to refill the dish and the glass of milk. Milk also goes well with Cheez Doodles, cookies, and a steak sandwich. When eating all these items, it is important to have a good book. Much of my library in my youth was soiled with various steak juices and Cheez effluvium. It was the hallmark of a good title to have a few food stains. Books and mealtimes seemed to go well together, even at a nice restaurant. Why talk to one's parents when one can delve into a good read? If I finished my book, I usually went into the women's bathroom and played Harriet the Spy, making excessive notes in a small notebook about suspicious conversations and activities. Sometimes I even carried a tiny dictaphone recorder and recorded all sorts of hot stuff. Then, I would usually finish the evening with a harmless prank, such as sticking the free Maxi-Pads to the wall of the stall or making fake fart noises while crouching atop the potty.

Did I mention how much I like milk? I know my dear friend is worried about me, but I will venture to say that he hasn't had a glass of nice, cold milk since 1978, when he spewed it out, rinsed out the taste with whiskey, and lit a filterless cigarette in its stead. Try some milk, buster! And maybe a piece of fruit or two. Fruit is not simply a weapon meant to be lobbed at unsuspecting passersby. It belongs in your tummy, cozied up to a zucchini and a fava bean or two.

The major food groups are not mini-muffins, oysters in oil, beer, and triscuits. Try drinking milk and you may feel as fit and fulsome as the young, delightful teens featured on the InterWeb. Hoo ha! I know I do.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's Magic! A Wine Recommendation

I used to be a drinker of "discount bin" wines, and even the occasional "box o' red" or "box o' white" (handy for canoe trips, as the wine bladder can be used for a lively game of "bladderball" when the wine is finished. Simply drain the wine into your tummy, then blow up the bag and engage in a spirited game of kick-the-bladder around the campfire. Also useful as a pillow once the gruesome truth of what you drank sinks in. And, you can burn the box in the fire!)

I can't do that anymore. It's not that I don't want to--I like a cheap discovery as much as the next person. But I have realized that drinking underpriced wine results in headaches, while drinking the pricier varieties is much more satisfactory. Could this be because one is aware that one is guzzling down 20s faster than one could burn 'em? Nah, it must be because of the quality of the bottle.

Here is a lovely shiraz that we have found that I must extol. It is riddled with virtue! It is, in fact, magic. So tasty is it that we bought not one, but two cases. And then a few random bottles. It is a full-bodied, rich red redolent with notes of "first love and pleather," not to mention blueberries, spice, and cream.

For those who are cringing at the price, don't. Just stop your cheap ass self right there! What are you going to do, drink Mad Dog? Night Train? That shit will rumble through your head in the morning as you stagger home from a disappointing one-night stand, wearing a rumpled prom dress (or worse, oversize sweats still stinking of the gym).

Of course, there is the "intermediate buy"--the ubiquitous $11 bottle. A category I have succumbed to on many occasions. It's a hit-or-miss proposition, that 'tween bottle. One could get lucky, or one could wind up with a mediocre stinker. Your miserable $10 would be better served by donating to a great cause rather than a cheap-ass lousy wine made from discontented grapes stompled by calloused, angry feet.

Feet. My college roomate had a fear and hatred of naked feet. What did this mean? I still wonder.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Evil Midget Boss, Chapter the Second

You've been waiting, haven't you? You diminutive imp...thought I wouldn't have the wherewithal to complete my tale of woe, eh? Think again, shorty!

So...my first trip with The Queen (as I named her in Chapter the First) was to San Diego. Yes, we were to share a hotel room. I arrived the day before she did, and spent a productive day working very hard as I am accustomed to doing. On the next day, I returned to my hotel room, realizing I had left my wallet (and needing money for lunch). The door was barred from the inside with one of those "anti-rape" units and there was a "Do Not Disturb" sign hanging on the door. I scuttled away, scared. What was she doing in there? I went hungry that afternoon.

Later, she sprang at me from behind a booth in the convention center. "Let's order room service and have girl talk tonight!" she cackled. "We can sit in our nighties and--" I stammered that I had a meeting to attend, and that I had dinner plans already. Glomming onto a group of sales reps, I stayed out much later than necessary and got perilously drunk, just to avoid returning to the room and seeing her waiting in her terry cloth nightgown. In the morning, I opened one eye to see her toodling about the hotel room, already dressed in her trademark red pumps and power suit. Yeekers! A close call. I checked out her bathroom kit while I was cursing my hangover. Her toiletries were aligned in neat rows, arranged by size and shape, atop a washcloth.

Later, she nabbed me to complain of an encounter with someone who had said "Sheesh, you're so...tiny!" Offended, The Queen had many foul things to say about this woman. Did she realize that we were going to put our magazine on the MAP, dammit? That we would generate BUZZ? That readers everywhere would salivate at their mailboxes each month to discover the TRUTH? She may have been small in stature but her dreams were BIG.

The second night in CA comes back to me now...we had dinner together. It could no longer be avoided. At the next table were two young children sharing a meal with their parents. They were well-behaved, except for an occasional merry outburst. The Queen shuddered. "I don't like children," she said conspiratorially. "I don't think they should be allowed in a restaurant at dinner." I tried to make nice, as she was my boss. After dinner, she announced that she was headed back to the room, where we could continue our chat. I opted for more excessive drinking, returning at 2 a.m. to her petite little snores.

The thing was, The Queen liked me. She really liked me! For my coworkers whom she did not like, times were much harder.

To be continued.

Culling the Shopping Cart Herd

In my neighborhood there's a fun game we play with the children on lazy afternoons: It's called "Count the Shopping Carts." 1-2-3-4...the first one to spot a cart still containing food products or garbage wins a prize. One has to be very stealthy when approaching the carts; if spooked, they will flee with their wheels wobbling higgledy-piggledy and most likely fall into a gutter.

The carts have become numerous through constant breeding. I often hear them banging and slapping together in the night in their dumb, animalistic love making. And in the morning...a new cart, still wet behind the ears and shaking the dew off its rattly little wheels. There is a fear of overpopulation, and a dearth of resources to sustain such an explosive growth of carts, but I am a scientist by nature and I love to watch them from a distance. So free. So wild.

Sometimes the carts migrate in small familial clusters down the street, pausing to stop in front of a house or two. They hover, and then they move on. Occasionally one slips and tumbles end over end into someone's lawn. It's charming how clumsy they can be! Sometimes packs of kids taunt them for sport, pushing them hither and thither with someone riding inside. But like ponies, the carts are meant to be free as the wind. Watching them through my telephoto lens, I give them names: Old Stop 'n Shop, Little CVS, Beer Can Cart, and Rattler. I wonder if they will survive the coming winter, with its cold winds, and if the spring will bring a new birth of shiny, gambolling carts beneath the leafy trees.

Another threat awaits them: I fear the herd is to be culled. A couple of well-placed calls to the Manager of Stop 'n Shop, and their freedom may be curtailed. I hope I am not home on that cruel day when the carts are corralled and "disappeared." Their presence is such beauty to our little street. What harm do they cause? But I know that no matter how many carts are culled, more will come to take their place. Such is the cycle of life!

I think I'm going to start painting still life portraits of the carts in their natural habitat...which appears to be my neighborhood. It will become a style, much as Cape Cod paintings often feature boats and beaches. "Cart Lopsided Under Vandalized Stop Sign" and "Cart Tossed Through Neighbor's Window (By Me): A Tryptich" will be among the works for sale, once I begin my portfolio. If I can memorialize them, I can raise interest in their cause, and their kind shall not disappear from the wilds of New Rochelle! When my works are for sale, I will post them here so that you may buy them. The money will not be spent in vain.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My German Changeling Child

Is it possible that my second child was switched at birth with a child of German origin? Several signs point to yes. For one, he requests "mein vasser," rather than the more Americanized "my water." Everything is "mein," in fact. "Mein Schtinky Teddy!" he demands, wanting his bear that smells like a ripe cheese dipped in a day-old yogurt bath.

He also has a rather strange way of pronouncing the sound "sh" or "ch." It sounds like he is gargling boogers in his throat. Cheese is "schgkhghneese." One of his favorite phrases is "schgkghnugga schgkghnugga schgkghnoo schgkghnoo," which, roughly translated, is "chugga chugga choo choo." The sound is impossible to commit to print and requires an audio file, which I certainly haven't learned how to place on my blog.

The third fact is that he was a rather wizened, empurpled lump at birth and now has an Aryan complexion and a head of blond hair. So unfortunate was his appearance that I said something to the effect of "we'll love him anyway." But he turned cute. Suspicious, jah? A A schgkghangeling for certain!

He is also extremely fond of sausage.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Death is a Media Conspiracy

OK, so maybe drinking approximately a bottle of wine for 12 nights in a row, give or take a day and a bottle, is not so good for one's mental configuration. Who knew? See, when one has a Midget Boss, an ant-infested Baby Alive doll, and an imaginary high school mascot named Lumpen with a mole and a curly-headed wig in one's history, only a certain amount of grape-juice-gone-bad can dull it. (Lumpen had friends, including a killer fork, a gimpy sheep, and a gay cat-and-dog duo named Honeybubbles and Moustache.)

I feel terribly bad about recommending drink to all the young people out there reading my blog. Don't do it. It's the debbil's own recipe. I ought to know; we have a painting of an actual devil hanging above our fireplace. With horns and everything. It's a long story, but it serves well to scare away the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who stop by occasionally. Anyway, using wine as a painkiller for my back seemed to have had the opposite of the intended effect. Methinks excessive wine no go so well with medication. Like...it makes it NOT WORK.

I am a hypochondriac. A year or so ago, my Google searches would have revealed a panoply of terms including the following:

Heart disease [who isn't going to get this?]
Lyme lisease [ticks! they're everywhere]
Lupus [cousin died of it]
Chrondromalacia [I have that]
Brain tumor [what else could explain my symptoms?]
Tonsil cancer
Lung cancer
Skin cancer
Breast cancer
Ovarian cancer
Other assorted cancers
Dry skin
Seeing spots
Back pain
Asbestos poisoning
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Bloated tummy

And finally culminating in a search for depression/anxiety which led me to the source of the whole durned thing. Hypochondria is always a wolf at the door, however. I've learned that it's wise to avoid any stories of people with chronic DISEASE who just felt vaguely unwell until a visit to the doctor revealed tumors dangling from every appendage and cutting off blood supply to every meaningful organ, and some of the less important organs, too. At this point, I'd rather read the business pages or even the horrifying OK, Star, and Us magazines which chronicle every naughty bit flashed by Britney, Lindsay, and Paris. This is good safe stuff, and also frequently features "man candy" without their shirts on. The only guiltier pleasure are Lifetime movies, which occasionally feature people with chronic diseases but are so shoddily written and acted that one can only surmise that
a) These sorts of bad, bad things NEVER EVER happen; and from this it follow that
b) Death must be a media conspiracy.

Can I blame Lifetime for this conclusion? Not exactly. I've never seen a dead person. Not a one. Some people seem to have "vanished," yes, and I find that very suspicious. For all I know they may be in an "after death" colony in Florida, hottubbing, eating Surf 'n' Turf, cavorting around, and catching STDs from one another, and laughing about those on the outside who have succumbed to the Big Lie.

Well, once I saw what remained of "Tammy," my Dalmation, in a paper bag after the vet cremated her. The bag seemed awfully small. But whose to know it wasn't just granola or pencil shavings in that bag? I didn't look inside the bag. Would you? Yuck-o.

How can someone who is as deeply hypochondriacal as me believe that death is a big sham meant to sell more fear to the public, which means selling more deodorant, fattening foods, booze, and shitty Lifetime made-for-TV movies? Ah! It is not belief. It is fact. Witness: Funeral homes just kind of seem to sit there, right? Nothing much going on. Very rarely someone enters and exits. It's a money laundering front if I've ever seen one.

Next: Why do old people have to look all wrinkly and stuff? Doesn't that limit their funtime in the "after death" colonies? Food for thought.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Drink Because of You

So I went to my doctor this morning and she didn't respond to my ceaseless whining about my back pain and misery, so when she left the room I slipped on my "Give me Painkillers, Now!" T-Shirt and she ignored that, too. I have never even had painkillers except for wisdom tooth removal, an occasional ear infection, and giving birth ("The baby is crowning? Wow, who knew!") but I just know I would like them very much and would like to become heavily addicted to them. I would make the ideal painkiller addict and I would like a stab at it before I die. But no one will give a chance to descend into addiction, battle it, and emerge a cleansed person with a story to tell. It's so unfair.

I am sure that happiness is an absence, not an addition.

But the addition of painkillers would be the perfect equation, yes?

Instead, the doctor said that if I tried to lead a healthier lifestyle I would probably feel a lot better very quickly. I talked a lot about our organic farm share and she seemed impressed. I waited for the painkillers prescription after that, but in vain. Did she realize how MUCH salad I eat? I have flavonoids and antioxidents seeping out my pores! Healthier lifestyle? I asked "Is it OK for me to drink?" She said, "Oh goodness, a glass of wine a night is absolutely fine! Don't worry."


Here are 10 reasons why drinking is so spectacular:

1. It drowns out your caterwauling, you mewling creatures.
2. It makes places like Juniors (North Avenue, New Rochelle) seem dreamy and avant-garde, even while a drunk is gnawing on your ankle and vomiting into your purse.
3. Everyone's prettier.
4. I can sing.
5. You have the right to hang a cocktail flag from your porch. Ours has a depiction of a martini with an olive. It's rather...unique in our neighborhood.
6. Pain go away!
7. It works equally well for celebration and a miserable, naval-gazing stupor.
8. It makes heatlh freaks and yoga addicts look boring.
9. Personality...enhanced!
10. It blocks out the memories of YOU, my Evil Midget Boss!

Chapter Two of the latter story to arrive suddenly, when you least expect it. Better check the blog.

I could do ten more. Send me yours.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Ro's Hottest Spot: Juniors!

New Rochelle is on the rise, baby. I can't say why, I just have a Michael Chertoff-esque "gut feeling" about this sort of thing, though this gut feeling is a happy ponies and butterflies kind of feeling and not an imminent death is coming dot com sort of thing.

I have the latter a lot. The Party Pony doesn't wish to bring the mood down, but I am suffering "anxiety medication burnout," which usually leads to lots of physical pain that results from hunched shoulders to ward off raining debris from explosions. Yeah! I start eating a lot of ibuprofen and wishing I had a decrepit doctor who would give me bagfuls of potent painkillers. Anxiety medication was first procured soon after I rode on the Metro North and thought musingly, "I wonder what it will feel like when I get blown up? Well, at least the pain will end."

That didn't seem normal.

What does seem frightfully delightful after such dark thoughts is the presence of Juniors, a curious little sports bar right here in the heart of downtown New Rochelle. The last place to succumb to the smoking ban within a 20-mile radius (it has now succumbed), Juniors is nothing special in any way, shape or form. It's a dingy little Irish dive bar, railroad style, with a pool table at the back and a bartender who hangs the latest holiday accoutrements (St. Patty's, Valentine's, Christmas) all over the bar back. What is special are the people who call it home. Take the story of a nice young man recently released from detox, who collapsed under the pool table and required medical assistance. Or, the night when my friends went to play a friendly game of pool, did rather well against some fellow customers (no money involved, mind you), and were accused of trying to "hustle the n-----." There are the usual assortment of regulars sipping dirty water at the bar, and the drinks are always flowing.

It is completely untainted by yuppies or expat New Yorkers of any kind! Which means that it is quite real, baby. It has not been gentrified. It is just as edgily unsettling, vaguely skeevy but ordinary, and underpriced as you expected. It's the next new thing. It's what you've been looking for. If you think you can find this sort of thing in the East Village, you are sadly mistaken. There will be a poet in the corner and a writer chalking up his cue, not to mention a wanna-be hip Wall Streeter stuffing his tie in his pocket. If you want to go among the people, go to Juniors. North Avenue. New Rochelle.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The "other" party pony

I have been checking out my alter ego and while I have nothing against ponies, this pony seems to offer "services" that seem vaguely distasteful. The pony offers different "packages" [quotes not mine] depending on one's needs, and suggests that it really LOVES TO PARTY. All night? Or just for an hour? Either way!

I am going to hell for those comments. That pony brings love and joy to kids everywhere.

I wanted a pony. I never got one. I'm still mad about it. I never even got a pony to come to my birthday party! All I got, for my Halloween birthday, was a brother-in-law dressed as a monster and my friend Molly Ishler (yes, sister of Anne!) to lie in a faux coffin (really a trunk) with white face makeup. I had just had knee surgery and was reduced to sitting at a table and inducing wee guests to dip their hands in cooked spaghetti (brains!) and peeled grapes (eyeballs!) with my gimpy leg stuck out before me to trip the unwary. I did not get to offer my little friends any special, customized "packages" or "rides" courtesy of a sweet lil' pony.

I like ponies!

And how did I get the name for this blog, one wonders? OK, OK, so I had a Pony Club and styled myself as Pony O (my former surname initial) and this went on until I was FOURTEEN years old. All is revealed. I also played with dolls until the same age. More is revealed. I also...never mind, I'll leave off. I have some dignity.

Of course, the classic
pony reference> came from Seinfeld.

But the thing that really burns me is that the OTHER party pony has a logo...a smarmy little pony with a feckless little smile. I want a logo, too! Anyone who wants to draw one for me is invited to enter my contest. All submissions become the property of ME and any entity to which I assign the rights. Contest ends when I have found just the right logo, even if I have to draw it myself, with its spindleshanks legs and bed-head mane and cock-eyes.

I said a dirty word.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Letters to MAD, Part 2

And here follows the second letter I sent. Next: I learn how to post photos!

May 13, 2004

J. Whozit, Editor
1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Dear Mr. Whozit,

By now convinced that you are not receiving my letters through the dreadful and inhumane Time Warner online recruitment “tool,” I have turned to the old-fashioned method of mailing you my letters myself. I’ve thrown in my prior letters for good measure. So there! Either you go through your Senior Editors like a scythe through wheat, leaving them weeping, pale husks of their former selves, or you still haven’t found a Senior Editor who will put up with your nonsense. Regardless, here I am.

In the past, I was prepared to offer you my cat, Potatoe, and varieties of meat products to sweeten my employment package (see previous letter for specifics). I am ready to up the ante, and offer you not one, but two (2) large turnips. One turnip is your ordinary, garden-variety sort of turnip. But the other, my friend, is a rather unique specimen. The two must remain together as a “package deal” for reasons that are of no concern to you.

I have been breeding my turnips in captivity since 1988, and I believe I’ve finally achieved my dream to build the “Über-Turnip,” which is familiar to every American schoolchild through those charming fairytales we all remember and cherish. (My favorite was “The Über-Turnip and the Unfortunate Engulfment of Little Buttons”—do you recall that one? Heartwarming! Grandpappy used to sit me on his knee and tell that story, ten or twelve times in a row, until I piddled in fright. But I digress.) Through a delicate process known as “turnip ‘n’ tuck,” I have created a turnip that comes as close as vegetatively possible to physical perfection. Not only that, it is clever and wily. It is smarter than you. It is better than you. Most strikingly, it is also bigger than you. My turnip measures 9 feet in height and 8.34 feet in width. Yea, verily may ye tremble before it!

The smaller, wizened turnip I alluded to in paragraph two will be delivered to your offices along with its godlike brother. Although it is dull and blotchy in complexion, I imagine that you will treat it well. (Will you? If not, retribution will be swift and unpleasant.) I have named it Lumpy. It enjoys a gentle pat now and then, and a patch of sunlight. The other is named Behemoth, but goes by Tubby in certain circles.

Neither turnip does anything at all, but they sure would look nice in the foyer of a professional office building! If you poke “Tubby” with a fork, you might be rewarded with a wee grunt…or a crushing blow to the duodenum.

I expect these turnips will “seal the deal” for my employment with MAD. Please let me know where I may send them and to whose attention.

Yours in perpetuity,
[my signature]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Letters to MAD, Part 1

Since I have been instructed by my beloved that I have to get cracking on my children's fantasy novel or he'll personally throttle me, I am taking the lazy blogger's path and posting pre-written material. The story of my evil midget boss will be continued when I have the fortitude for it. I suffered several panic attacks and nightmares looking back to that dark history, and three doctors have advised that I do not commit this story to printed or virtual word until I my new "psychotropic cocktail" takes effect.

So...on another topic altogether, I thought the following would be insightful material for those job seekers out there. The history: Back in 2004 I was miserable at my job and was trolling the job postings on HotJobs or some other database for the work-weary. I discovered that a magazine I had loved in my youth, MAD, was seeking a senior editor. Although a step down from my position at the time, I was pretty frantic with boredom and hatred for my job—and I thought the folks at MAD would be fun, fun, fun. I wrote a very delightful and polite letter, but received no response. ( I shall not include this letter as it contains too many personal details. An expurgated version may be available within the next few months, upon request.) So my next letters was as follows. (For those who are reading now, please note that the small cat referred to in the letter is no longer available, nor are the meat products. They have all gone bad and I can't afford to buy more at the present time.)

April 8, 2004

Dear MAD Editors,

No doubt you have received my previous letter and have tossed it, with cruel and knowing smirks, in a nearby trash receptacle. Yet—noting that you still seek a Senior Editor for your magazine—I forge onward, compelled by the knowledge of what I could bring to your publication. Here is what I can offer you, and no more: I can bring meat products, and a small cat named Potatoe. (The “e” was added in honor of Dan Quayle, as the cat is rather slow-witted.)

Let us first turn to the meat products, which will require some explanation. I have in my possession a quantity of meat (bologna, steak, sausage links, and the flesh of other sundry beasts) that I would be happy to share with your staff. Do you like them smoked? I can do that. If you prefer them rare, that can also be arranged. The meat can also be frozen, or molded into many unusual shapes such as hats and cravats. With my meat, I have traveled to locations as far-flung as Des Moines, Iowa, and the corner of Henry and Kane streets in Brooklyn, New York. We opened for Up With People outside Poughkeepsie, and received a standing ovation. Skeptical? Don’t be! My meat and I have a large following.

Sometimes, when bored, I stand on the rooftop and fling little strips of meat at unsuspecting passersby. They are quite startled to be struck with meat from the heavens, as it were, and some have even scuttled post haste to the local house of worship to thank the creator for this manna. I like to do my part.

I hope that when I come in for an interview, you won’t take offense if I dress up in one of my meat fashions (strips of bresaola in an artful, body-hugging shape, coupled with a Spam belt...or no, perhaps the strip steak bustier and Jimmy Dean leggings. I can never decide, and both make me look dreadfully fat! But I digress.)

The small cat may be self-explanatory, but he has some unusual habits that could be of use to you. He fights crime, and likes to gnaw on upholstery. But he prefers upholstery that is made in the Ukraine, by women with wide, spatulate hands and overbites. Do you have any of that in your office? He will require two bowls of gruel (daily) and a bodyguard, but we can work out the details in my employment package.

I adore MAD, and so do legions of pimply teenage boys everywhere. Perhaps with my meat products and cat, we could widen your audience to include several housewives, a military historian, an elf, and an actor who works as an anthropomorphic chicken. I know people, and they know me. May their boots dig wide troughs in the landscape as they march toward magazine purveyors everywhere!

[my signature]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Evil Midget Boss, Chapter the First

The only person to reply to my Balderdash challenge won! I believe it was the mysterious TK, now residing in CT. The answer was indeed the comix squiggles. Trip was a former coworker of mine, and former employee of the equally mysterious Prezzie during the big Dot.com boom days. Ah, those were heady days, when we had a pool table at our disposal and riches beyond man's most opulent dreams.

Tonight I promised to tell the story of the Evil Midget Boss. And so I shall, dear children. It may take a while, so settle yourselves in a cozy spot. This story has oft been told, but never written. Her name was The Queen* (name changed to protect privacy). She hired me, and for that I thank her, for I am still with the company. (She is not, for reasons to be revealed.) She was small, yes, but not an actual midget. She was so small that her head did not appear above the level of the cube farm; therefore, she could appear without warning and terrify the pants off anyone who happened to be, say, involved in a non-work exercise on the computer. To compensate, she wore red high heels. Our office is deeply carpeted, so there was no clicking noise of warning.

She seemed fairly normal at first. Pleasant, even. I was given editorial control of the feature well of a certain magazine which must not be named. She would review my choices for the features and seemed to like my work. I respected her; even liked her. The came our first trade convention, in San Diego.

When I went to make my travel plans, the Queen insisted that I share her hotel room. "Every penny counts!" she said, suggesting that the need for savings meant that we would get to share girl talk in the hotel room late o' night. I must be clear here that my boss was a married woman, not out for dalliance. She would often crow proudly about the fact that she had stolen her husband from his wife and was "the other woman." There was also some comment about her orgasmic abilities that my coworkers and I have completely blocked out to this day. (Anyone? I didn't think so.)

Before the convention, my new coworkers and I went out for drinks. I wondered if it was company policy to share one's hotel room with one's boss. They all spewed their drinks in unison. "Stay away from that crazy witch!" one screamed. I was worried.

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Virtual Balderdash! (aka "Dictionary" before some smarthead decided to make a boardgame out of an old after-dinner favorite).

The definition of the above title is:

A. A dish made with sandalflower root and the flesh of three canids.
B. Four new elf-like creatures in the Chinese knock-off pre-publication version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
C. Various squiggles used to denote cussing in comic books.
D. The four stages of Delirium Tremens (the "shakes"), also known as the Jim-Jams.

Post your answer in comments and I will declare a winner for all the world to adore.

Today I promised to tell the story of The Dual-Diaper Poo-Mergency. But even better is the tale of the Bathtub Blueberry Poo. My older child had eaten what amounted to a crate of blueberries when I placed him in the tub. I was bathing the sweet urchin when suddenly he let out some piercing howls. Rising the the surface of the water--ping! ping! ping!--came the blueberries. Desperately I lunged for my son, scrabbling amidst the watery landmines to rescue him. We looked down into the tub. The only resort was to use a kitchen sieve to extract the fruit. As I played "fish for the poo" my son reached into the water, extracted a berry, and...HE ATE IT. Yes, friends, he ate it.

Aww, that last little snackie part didn't really happen. But it made for a better story, didn't it? This speaks to the event I attended last night, a Story Slam (theme: Rivalry) at the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe in the East Village. The last time I was there was to hear spoken-rant performer Maggie Estep scream "I am not a normal girl!" as she poetically described rising from a toilet bowl to bite someone's privates. Last night was much more civilized. 10 people got up and told true stories ranging from meeting her husband's first love to losing 80 pounds. Ordinary judges from the audience voted on each reader. All enjoyable stories, some more than others. A couple of times the punchlines seemed vaguely suspect, as in the case of the winner whose story of the first love ended with her greeting a "10,000 pound woman." If true, satisfying. But if fictionalized, how much less so! It's too bad that the ravings of the closure-seeking, imaginative human mind are easy to dismiss, while the "true story" is deeply satisfying. If it really happened, there must be some intrinsic comic underpinning to the universe. If you made it up, you've fucked with us for the last time.

I was loath to participate, since my taste for public humilation has decreased significantly. I can only imagine how my wan little story of my deep rivalry with Anne Ishler and our quests to get a Baby Alive doll would have gone over. If given time, I would embellish the tale. I guess I'm a liar by nature. Can I tell the story? I shall. Not embellished. Not a word.

So Anne Ishler and I both wanted a Baby Alive doll. It was sometime in the 70s. Anne had everything, it seemed. She was pretty and petite and had experimented with makeup and seemed more together than I did, who wore raggedy cut-off shorts and dressed my dogs in tutus. We asked for the doll from Santa, each crafting a detailed and pleading letter. (Mine was better.) Lo! Our wishes were granted. We both received the doll that year for Christmas, and we would sit and feed the creatures together while chatting as we imagined moms would do. Baby Alive was a nasty little blonde thug of a doll, who would eat soupy powdered baby food with battery-powered jaws and drink from bottles until she peed/pooed in her little diaper (there's that theme again). She had vapid blue eyes and her hair was curly. Anne and I would dutifully change the diaper, vying to be the best mommy and take care of our babies even better than the other. Then we would feed, change, and repeat the whole disgusting process. Baby Alive did little but ingest and expel. Baby Worm would have been more apt.

I decided one day that I would better Anne. My Baby Alive was better than hers, because mine was real. Yes, a real baby! And as such, she could eat real, human food. I fed her cream of tomato soup. She gulped it down with those pulsating, horrible baby jaws of hers. I put her in the basement for a nap and went off to do something else.

When I came back, I realized I had sorely neglected Baby Alive. Her diaper had not been changed! So I went to remove it and...horror of horrors, her diaper was filled with ants! And not only that, SHE was filled with ants. The ants had decided they liked cream of tomato soup, very much. Baby Alive's every orifi was filled with nasty ants, all sated to the gunnels with tomato soup. (I wonder why I later had anxiety issues.) I screamed and hurled her from me, much as I do when one of my sons has a particularly nasty poo. It was traumatic. I don't remember what became of her, that Baby Alive. When Anne came over, all smug with HER pretty Baby Alive dressed in a new frock and ready to eat her powdered goop, I suggested we play forts and soldiers instead. Anne, not a tomboy, declined, so I took her sister Molly (much more boyish) under my wing and we sallied forth. Baby Alive was no more. (I just checked and they still sell this thing on eBay. I guess it did not fall under the "evil dolls that eat hair and must be recalled" category.)

Next time, I will tell the story of My Evil Midget Boss Who Wanted to Share Hotel Rooms With Me (and wound up with an eye patch). True story! For real!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fatboys' Pool Party

To begin...someone of dubious origins and questionable moral hygiene is harassing me about a lectern which I once offered for sale on Craigslist. I am no longer in possesion of the lectern (a fine 1800s piece from which I would deliver stern and unwavering speeches to my quaking toddlers), and it has been passed on to my beloved parents--who deliver fire and brimstone speeches to each other from it during the "After-Dinner Funtime Hour" as has long been the tradition in my family. Sometimes fists are pounded on the item, and it withstands all blows! Verily, I say unto thee that ye shall not possess it! Plague me no more, Prat Jones. I know what you intended to do with my lectern, and it's unseemly.

On my way home today I espied a creepy and foul sight--several men with large girths frolicking in the Radisson Hotel pool. Some of them had hairy bellies, visible even through the mesh grating that shields the pool from "OOG-eh-naught" street (as my child terms it). I imagine that by now these men are toweled off and enjoying a platter of Asian-fusion cuisine at Zen Tango, the restaurant that our friends once described as a David-Lynchian freak show. We did not find it to be so, but the martinis are excellent.

Our neighbors have an above-ground pool. Pretty picture it makes, eh? Yes, an above-ground pool, shielded by a living spite fence of American Arborvitae trees that we planted (we had to crack apart part of our driveway to do so). Watching them floating around and around the confines of their small, miserable pool, scooping up detritus with a net, is a bummer. Sometimes the resident's four evil sisters come by, and the song "She's a Brick...House," plays interminably inside my mind. They stare. They look like they might like to bite. One time we had friends over, four of whom happened to be black. This was before we planted the trees. The stares over the fence were not nice. We began to dream of the trees. I often dream of trees here...big, overarching trees that cast a shadow over the Radisson itself and drip pollens, cones, nuts, seeds, and squirrel dung into our neighbor's above-ground pool. Their kids are so cute, too. They have that frayed-around-the-edges not-enough-sleep 72-hours-of-TV-daily look, but when the weather gets hot, they can cool off. In the pool!

Here's the piddle in the pool. In the NY Times today, our evil skunk President George Booosh is pictured in an article about children's healthcare, and about how the Republican nutbags are politicking against getting more children coverage because it will pave the way for a Democratic socialized healthcare system, which is a dire evil. Linkypoo! Bush looks sly and shameful, like he's just gone potty on someone's gardenias. What's beyond that door that he's opening? "Sorry about the doodie, missus. Sorry I crapped on your uninsured child! Can someone come 'n' clean this up?" What's with that LOOK? What's wrong with this man?

Tomorrow: Why fireworks are a bad plaything for your toddler. Plus! Bonus section: Why do I keep referring to poo and urine in my blog? The true story of a dual-diaper poo-mergency.

"There's a hole in your butt where the doodie comes out." --Sarah Silverman

Sunday, July 8, 2007

New Rochelle and Organic Glory

The (formerly) chubby and portly have taken to eating salad for dinner. In the past, this would have been a disgrace. However, the salads we make are the biggest, most delectable salads one might encounter in many moons. Thanks to our local organic farm share, a box of goods is delivered unto us every Wednesday morning. (Except two Wednesdays ago, when it was delivered to our neighbors, Lorraine and Vinny. She reported praising the Lord for our generosity and then devouring three heads of lettuce. The beets were given to a local religious man, but we did receive the turnips after the mistake was discovered.) So...the salads. They are a riot of color and beauty, chock full of red cabbage, golden peppers, scallions, lettuces of many hues, and something this week called "garlic scapes." target="_new">Linky!

Why have I lived this long and not eaten a single garlic scape? These things are the bomb! They are like the garlic's tender young cousin, or some such. They come in delicate little looping curls, which resist chopping, but once tamed they can be tossed into a salad or simply snacked upon.

We also have our own version of an "organic garden" out in back of our home, which is like a small green nirvana in the shadow of New Roc's Trump Plaza, the hideous Radisson, and other squat and ugly buildings designed by uninspired architects. New sod has completed the look. It's a lush green carpet of fun which one can run on barefoot without fear of discarded Taco Bell wrappers and empty Snapple bottles (the end of our street cannot say as much). When I learn how, I will post before and after photos. In our garden we grow tomatoes, peppers (hot and sweet), brussels sprouts (which are adored by butterflies and bees alike...who knew?), blueberries, wild raspberries (which our neighbors lay claim to), and celery. Anything that grows underground turns out stubby and runty, so we pick above-ground options. These all go into the miraculous SALADS which are also responsible for our svelte figures. Having salad for dinner requires several meaty/cheesy options during the day, so don't try this at home unless you want a headache and a grumpy attitude. Oh, and let's not forget the wine. If all you're going to do at night is eat greens and stare at each other glumly across a table, things may go sour fast. Drinking wine with salad is crucial.

I have decided on a new purpose for my blog...to bring live and love to the city that we proudly call NEW RO. New Rochelle, the sandwiched stepchild of affluent (and snarky-ass) Pelham which is hateful beyond all reckoning, and Larchmont (also affluent but less offensive and containing some nice and occasionally interesting folk). Oh, and Scarsdale on the northern border, where we once sent our cat to be schooled in the Scarsdale Diet. What can be said about it, except that the schoolchildren test rather well...most suspicous, that. New Rochelle, of course, contains many a beautiful 2 million dollar home, no doubt. These homes are not on my street. New Ro does have a bad rap, such as what my friend JD said about it when we moved here 2 + years ago: "New Rochelle? Watch it...you might get killed." That was a great thing for a pregnant mom to hear...hurrah!

So, here are five great things about New Rochelle:
1. The homes are still affordable here. No shit! Check out the 2 family Victorian down the street from us. It's like 100 years old and big and oozing with charm. I would really like you to move there. Please. Do you read good literature? Or any books at all? Please move here now.
2. Five Islands: This park is a 15-minute walk from my home and is incredibily beautiful. Never mind the discarded rusted metal things at the edge of the water. Never mind the scummy mung that was stuck to your toddler's shoes after a walk by the shoreline. Oh, and there's no swimming here. Ha, I was really tempted.
3. Story Hours at the Library (and other classes): These are FREE. The libraries are awesome, Especially the children's library, where there is an excellent playground accessible to kids in wheelchairs and hungry waterfowl that do not fear humans.
4. Easy Highway Access: To all sorts of other places. Do you like to go to VT and NH? You will get there much quicker from here than you do from Manhattan or Bklyn or just about anywhere else, including NJ. Today we went to Saxon Woods Pool. It is the biggest pool ever. It's filled with spraying fountains and swimmers in lap lanes and chunky ladies spilling out of their suits. It's really well run and the lifeguards are like Nazis. They will protect your child's life. Today they closed the whole pool for maybe two minutes to either check for a floating doodie or refresh their jugs of caffeinated ice tea.
5. Trump. He has put his name on a big-ass building here (right by the train station, which can whisk you to Manhattan in 30 minutes. Ha! Beat that, Mamaroneck!) Where he goes, we imagine fine restaurants and money will follow. So WHAT that there was an Easter riot right across the street from the giant Trump edifice. Easter is a time for rioting. People eat lots of sugary bunnies and chocolate eggs and they go MAD. It happens even in sleepy little hamlets. People eat Easter candy, fire guns. So common.

Oh, I could go on. And I will. Just wait!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Party Pony: At LAW!

The Party Pony wished to call me blog "The Disgruntled Pickerel," but it seemed very sad, very negative. So let us rejoice in the happiness that is The Party Pony! The Party Pony at Law will accept cases pertaining to religious matters, egg tossing, disembowelment, and small doodies that clogged up one's toilet after a big event, but is recused from cases that involve too much alcohol (that means YOU!), shenanigans with Swiffer (tm) Carpet Flik mechanisms, de-pantsings, Ferret-leggings, and burnt omelettes. The Party Pony Event Planner (trademark pending) will work only in events that concern territorial holdings in North Alaska due to a non-compete clause which still pains me to this very day. I gnash my teeth over it! But I will succumb to the rule of the law.

My daily thought is thus: The front porch in Americana has gone sadly out of style. I have a front porch of which I am very fond. But some people on this street (I wish to call them by rude names, and do so after dark) have covered their porches to make TV rooms. Fie! It's an abomination. Me no likee. Some neighbors still sit on their porches, rocking the night away and sipping cool sweet drinks. And our neighbors children even smoke POT fer god's sake. Blessed be the porch! We have a porch swing and we rock and talk and have a damned good time. Brick it up? I think not. Blast ye, ye scurvy rats! Our street is a constant shithole and even contains the abominable SHOPPING CART. And some sundry garbage. And one day I even saw a...(gasp)...a prophylactic lying all wan and sodden on the street by the Sunoco Station. What could this mean? A love tryst gone awry? Or something more sinister by the gas pumps?

My daily pain is thus: I do not continue my children's novel, my screenplays, nor my adult novel. I feel them all to be weights around my neck, when they should not be. I write scrawling, ink-smeared messages in a journal that will likely degrade with time and reveal to my great-grandchildren a tear-smeared mess of unintelligability. (Tears will result after I read it when I'm 80 and recognize all that I have not done and accomplished.) My father, seeking genealogical information, encountered such PEN degradation when he searched civil war records down in ole Virginney this Spring, to find ancestors that we had never even considered before. Who out there feels complete? Who has done what they wanted to do thus far, and feels damn good about it? I would like to hear from you.