Saturday, November 28, 2009

Your Property Is Needed in a Movie

So says the subject line of a recent email I received. According to this email, I can get up to $10,000 per day! Boy, what I could do with $10K per day, so I wrote to them immediately. They came and checked the joint out, and shared with us the screenplays to the following films that would be suitable for filming on our property. Here, a brief synopsis of the offerings:

Lil' Appalachia
A down and out couple find themselves the bane of the neighborhood when their children turn feral and begin living in the woodshed. Special Guest Appearance by Macaulay Culkin as Ju-Ju the Dog-Faced Boy.

The Chamber Pot
Ten years ago, a destitute old Granny took up residence in the attic, and has not been seen since except to exchange the daily chamber pot for a platter of gruel. But when the house is sold and a happy young family moves in, Granny is accidentally left behind...and she is very, very angry. Cameo appearance by the ghost of Shelley Winters.

There's something brewing in the compost heap, and it hasn't got any legs! Terror ensues when the creatures commandeer some moldering Jack O'Lanterns and bring down an ass-kicking post-Halloween Apocalypse. Starring Sandra Bullock as Juicy Goodheap, the village constable's wife.

Ninja Assassin Back to the Future to Get You, Suckah!
A couple who move into a charming, 1890s Victorian home invent a time-travel machine so they can go back and beat the tar out of the former owners, who tore all the crown moldings out and installed acoustic tile ceilings. Currently attached to project: Jackie Chan as "the husband."

It seemed like a good idea to rip out the old 1970s shag carpeting from the new house. But the seemingly innocent action releases the spirit of Shag, a beast with a musty, teal-green pelt, piggy red eyes, and the funk of 40,000 drunken swingers' parties and dropped glasses of red wine about him. His bumbling attempts to find love in 2010 will have audiences giggling at this heartwarming, romantic comedy.

Schtinky Teddy: The Vengeance
A sweet but fragrant teddy bear comes to life and engulfs a lot of innocent folk with his stink. Music and lyrics by R. Kelly.

Dude, Where's My Stash?
A perennially drunk, suburban couple become obsessed with the notion that gold, jewels, cash, or drugs is hidden somewhere in their home. As they wantonly tear their house down to the foundations with axes and hammers, they discover that the only true source of wealth lies in organic veggies, and start a beet farm atop the ruins. Unfortunately, the immense quantities of lead paint, acoustic tile, and shag carpet remnants in the soil sicken an entire generation of beet-eating children, and lead to a lawsuit and a furious court battle. Based on a novel by John Grisham.

The Faux Wood-Themed Wallpaper
A mentally ill woman comes to the country to recuperate, but she starts to see bulbous eyes and creepy aliens in the disgusting wood paneling of her bedroom. In despair, she does a lot of laundry in the dank and dripping basement, where she is maimed by large crickets. Starring Angelina Jolie-Pitt as The Woman.

New Moons
Vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen comes creeping around the perimeter of the property, but happens upon an ill-timed gathering of three be-wigged ladies and a skunk. Lots of pre-prandial cocktails ensue, which are quickly interrupted by small children who have to go piddle.

Rumbling Toward Gomorrah
Michael Moore heads to Mamaroneck to investigate why the neighbors are so durned suspiciously friendly and why they keep coming by with fruitcakes and pies. When he makes a wrong turn off I-95 and winds up in New Rochelle by accident, he is swept away in the yearly Great Mating Ritual of the abandoned shopping carts and decides to make a nature documentary instead. Cameo appearance by Our House in an overhead aerial shot of the Great Trek of the Carts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Invitations to events that already happened. A long time ago.

Found these in the "drafts" folder of my email...which apparently has never been cleansed. Do I discard nothing? And why aren't both these events happening next week?

1. Subject line: ORGANATRON

Bizarre! Outlandish! Terrifying!

It's "organic" improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater.

Organatron has it all for the discerning theatergoer: dance, poetry, opera, monsters, mayhem, doo-wop, ritualistic sacrifice, and lots of creeping about on the floor and making odd noises.

Watch their evolution from primitive, amoebic lifeforms...into comedic gods!

Two nights only:
Wednesdays, 9/12 and 9/19
Both nights at the absurdly late hour of 11:00 p.m. (People who wish to kill time until 10:59 by drinking are encouraged to do so.)

The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater
161 West 22nd Street (btw 6/7 avenues)

For other shows and info., check out

Please note: The troop will be clad in form-fitting black unitards and snoods*

* Not guaranteed. Snoods and unitards may be purely imaginary and used only as a snare and an enticement to the unwary. No money will be refunded in the event that we are actually wearing Old Navy sale bin items.

2. Subject line: Boo(ze)!

Hail fellow Brooklynites (and those few fearless Manhattanites who dare ford the great, foaming, sea-monster-infested East River)!

Join us for a mid-week Halloween birthday maelstrom in the borough that rocks the most...Brooklyn, New York.

Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2001

First Location:
Located on trendy, fashionable Smith Street between Wyckoff and Warren
(East side of the street)
Closest Subway: The F or G to the Bergen St. stop is about 1 block away.
There is no sign; however, you can spot it by the red curtains in the window and the blue lights above the door. It has a red exterior.
We'll be there somewhere between 7-8 p.m.
I recommend their Sapphire and Tonics.

After much merriment (perhaps by around 10:00 p.m. or so) we shall be shuffling onward, but a few minutes away, to our...

Second location:
LAST EXIT (home of fruity martini-like concoctions with names like "The Gowanus" )
136 Atlantic Avenue btw. Clinton and Henry
Closest subway: 4/5, 2/3 at Borough Hall
(There's an N/R as well, but it's highly suspect, and may take you to unknown locations in Queens.)

I will no doubt be wearing what my brother recently described as "whatever offense against decency you'll be calling a costume this year." So fear not--don your fright wigs, ballet tutus, flying monkey wings, pita-bread brassieres, Scottish kilts, and rubber nose extensions--you will all be accepted! So will any friends you choose to drag along.

Questions and complaints about this excessively long e-mail, or about any aspect of my personality: call me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Playing at Draughts

Checkers game after dinner with the boys. I am on a solo team, while Eldest Son and Middle Son both align themselves with Daddy. They've seen him at games, and know on which side their bread is buttered.

It started off okay. But at a critical juncture in the game, Daddy set a vicious trap, and I walked into it like a lamb. I was ruined in one blow. "The trap! The trap!" screamed the boys, giddy with battle-lust. Middle Son practically did a "boo-yah!" in-your-face you're-going-DOWN dance.

Now it's looking quite poor for Mommy. Eldest Son, with the evil, Machiavellian help of Daddy, moves across the board with rapacious glee. Many of my poor black pieces fall under his sway. He quickly Kings at least four pieces, and the Kings move like deadly puff adders to corner Mommy's sad, remaining black pieces.

I'm really scared, okay? My black pieces are backing away toward a Last Stand type of thing, and I feel the blood-chilling fear of a lone soldier who is out of ammunition. It would not have been so bad if Eldest Son had not turned to me with a deadpan expression and said, with those big blue eyes devoid of warmth: "There is nothing you can do to stop this from happening."

"Cruel child!" I shouted. The younger one sniggered in vicarious excitement. "Evil," he said. "Evil is his one and only name!" I probably shouldn't have been singing Austin Power riffs during the first heady moments of the game, when my fate was not yet apparent.

With no way out, I waited. Then Daddy (who was sweating with delight over the prospect of winning! On behalf of his son, of course) got careless and made a real dumb-dumb move--a corker of a stupid move. As he removed his hand from the piece, he blanched. But it was too late. In one victorious sweep, the game was over. I gave a cry of triumph.

Eldest Son immediately collapsed over the table as if stabbed, and began to wail piteously. In the very next moment, Middle Son leaned over the table conspiratorially, with bright, shining eyes:

"I was on your team the whole time, Mommy," he said.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Halloween Costumes of Years Past

This blog has been about as fallow as my pumpkin patch. I have a good excuse! I am working on my novel, which will bring me infinitely more money and fame and all that rot.

Tonight's entry is an exercise in my mental acuity, as I attempt to recreate the Halloween costumes of the last however-many years.

2008: DJ Lance Rock, star of the children's show "Yo Gabba Gabba." My nighttime costume: The board game "Twister," complete with a blue wig.
2007: A frightful orange-wigged witch. Hey, I had never been a witch before. EVER. It was new! It was fresh!
2006: The Snow Queen. I wore a white flimsy thing and some fake lamb's wool, and a glittery mask. And boots covered with white fabric. My children were a moose and lamb.
2005: Having just moved and had a baby, I was a goddamned chicken again. The kids in New Ro thought I was practicing some kind of hoo-do voo-doo with my Martha-Stewart-clever chicken feet made out of yellow dishwashing gloves.
2004: A big old malevolent chicken.
2003: I was a pumpkin. Nine months pregnant and angry, and overdue, I sat on my stoop and handed out candy for one of the first occasions in my life.
2002: The Radioactive Rabbit. This consisted of a horrible headdress made out of a paper bag, with plastic Easter eggs and Easter grass glue-gunned to the top of the bag. The mask had tennis balls cut in half for eyes, and studded with huge fake flowers. Oh, and the ears had leopard-print fabric accents.
2001: Methinks this was the first year I was a Snow Queen. We had a party at Boat, a delightful little bar in Cobble Hill. This time, I wore a very long and elegant white formal dress, which was originally employed during a Newport Party of very extreme good taste.
2000: I was a beautiful flower. I wore long white gloves, a flower headdress, and a dress I had staple-gunned together that was covered in small green leaves. If I have the dates right, this was the year I had a Halloween party during which my friend T. served cheese to random passersby from my stoop and my friends E. and T. and I wandered over to my brother's apartment to "spook" him, but wound up on the wrong floor trying to insert a key into the wrong door.
1999: Good luck remembering what I was this year. I am almost certain it was a Purple People Eater. I wore purple jeans and a purple top, and a big old horn in the center of my forehead. And I had wings!
1998: Okay, this was the costume that probably caused my husband to second-guess our entire marriage. I was the OCTO-MOOSE. I wore a green uni-suit made of green flannel, purple Converse sneakers, and a giant moose headdress. I also had this most bizarre homemade Octopus skirt, which my friend had picked up at a flea market. It included eight stuffed men's socks. And then I think we went out on the streets and played music on guitar, and I danced and ran about in the hideous costume. And chased my new husband saying "yah yah yah!" Enough said!
1997: The Reptile Queen. I had a hideous headdress made of snakes and lizards, and a green gown. With a reptile belt! This costume was HOT!
1996: This may well have been the year that I was Leguma, the Vegetable Goddess. I strode the streets of New York with a carrot headdress, and a slim green outfit accentuated by a belt made out of dangling produce. I believe I may have spent a significant amount on bell peppers this year, as I needed to costume for more than one event. At one party, a friend began to snack on my outfit.
1995: Oh Lord, my memory is hurting. Could it be that this was the year I was the Beast of Many Colors? I wore Leopard, Tiger, and a host of other animal pelts. I was walked around by my young friend H., who was dressed as an "old crone."

Any years missing or erroneous? Friends, please fill them in! And send photos! I could go back in time to the year that I was a little black cat in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

And the best costume of them all. The year is unknown, but it was early 90s for certain. I had not planned properly, and on Halloween night had to fashion a costume quickly with little at my disposal. Yet I had a tutu! And a pumpkin mask with snaggly, fabric teeth! And a Russian fur hat! Thence was born: BALLET PUMPKIN.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Wretched Little Punkin Patch

This year, we decided we would have a charming little pumpkin patch to entertain our boys and provide hours of delight, not to mention Halloween manna like the gods write about.

Let me just explain that we may as well have lain prone in the back forty and let the birds peck at our eyes. Such torment would have been preferable to watching the feathered blight DESTROY ALL OF OUR DREAMS.

It started when our six maturing pumpkin plants begin to burst forth in a fecund froth of blooms. We were excited! We watched them, waiting for the elusive female (with its fatter bump under the flower), so that we could take our friend's advice and manually "sex" the pumpkins by "inserting" some pollen from one of the male flowers. The females were rare, but the males were popping up all over the joint. Then one morning, we awoke to discover that every last male flower had been bitten off at the stem. Some females were still there, waiting expectantly, but like a bunch of haggard spinsters they withered on the vine. (Later--too late--we realized we could have stolen over to the neighbors to borrow a male appendage from one of their flowers, but the stud-farming of pumpkins might have caused some tongues to wag.)

We blamed the bunnies, of course. First, we purchased dried fox urine, marketed as the "scent of fear." The rabbits were supposed to have heart attacks within 50 feet of the stuff. Next, a friend suggested that the cookbook The Splendid Table said that human urine was more effective, and that with four males in the family we could fortify the perimeter most effectively. Other voices chimed in, some offering to send us bags of dog hair. We slathered the patch with pee (the boys enjoyed this aspect immensely) and rimmed it with reflective tape and mesh fencing. We hung a pie tin from a stake. The owl and its cousin, Creepy the Squirrel, got into the game to rough up the hordes of rodentia.

The creatures, whatever they were, kept at it. Finally, the truth dawned. Birds! Filthy, dirty, disgusting boids! Then we got "scare eye."

Scare-eye was no joke! It hung from an old fence pole next to the pumpkin patch, making the whole decrepit scene look even more like Lil' Appalachia. Occasionally the scarecrow's head would fall off into the mud, and its paws (encased in awful gardening gloves) were often resting near its privates.

Amidst this horror, one tiny pumpkin emerged and began to grow. It grew bigger! It turned orange! It was a beauty. It was worth all the pain and frustration. Then one day it immediately rotted on the vine and was chucked into the compost.

That was it. Our dream was over. We dismantled the leering scarecrow and left its body parts on the garage floor. Creepy the Squirrel was banished to the Hosta patch, where he waits to bite the unwary skunk. Scare-eye was unhooked from its pole and sent away, where it can do no more harm. Only the owl stays, wearing a slightly rakish fedora hat, to guard the one remaining pumpkin plant. This last, poor specimen has a few wan male flowers, but females have not emerged.

In retrospect, I should have bought that Jesus statue I saw at a tag sale around the corner. Jesus would have protected our pumpkins, with the Owl as his mute disciple. Together, they could have triumphed! A Mary on the Half Shell would have been the perfect complement, perhaps with a garden gnome or two as protection. Next year, Jesus, you will have a place in our garden, where you will smite the feathered host with deadly bolts of lightning and fiery hail!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Have Had All These Weird Thoughts

1. When I was little, I used to run after flushing the toilet, because I thought if I didn't make it back to my bed in time before the water stopped running, something was going to "git me." Heart pounding, I always made it into bed just in time, so I never found out what that something was.
2. A while back I became convinced that I had an asymmetrical face, and the reason I could not noticed it in a mirror or photographs was because of the asymmetry of my eyes, which "corrected" the flaw and made it look normal from my viewpoint. Of course, everyone else noticed it and tried not to stare.
3. During a trip to see the Grateful Dead in Cincinnati at age 19, I believed that the burger I'd eaten had reformed inside my stomach and was causing me grief because it remembered its origins as a cow. Later, I saw a woman carrying a sack and decided that the sack was filled with stolen ankles.
4. When I sit on my front porch I cannot help but trace in my mind imaginary railings where railings ought to be were the porch appropriately child-proofed. I do this sort of thing with all railings and fences (absent the childproofing aspect) if I think they don't look "complete."
5. I can "try on" just about any stranger's face and know what they are feeling and who they are innately, but the faces of some close friends elude me.
6. Sometimes I think if I were just hit on the head with a brick or a falling piece of architecture I would become an artistic genius.
7. When swimming in the lap pool I have occasionally worried that the person swimming behind me is going to try to bite my feet.
8. I still have the delusion that I might wake up and this will all be a dream. I'll still be in kindergarten. But then I'll have to suffer through 9th grade again. But this time I will be extremely savvy and wise. I'll show those rotten buggers!
9. Does the manner in which we were conceived ever determine a part of our personality?
10. As a child I used to think that at the end of our lives we might be shown a video during which our most embarrassing secrets were revealed.
11. One time I was fairly convinced that the squirrels and the pigeons at Madison Square Park were mating and producing some very unpleasant looking squidgeons.
12. Rutabagas, turnips, and other unattractive vegetables can communicate with one another.
13. You can speak to cats and dogs by placing your hands atop your head like ears and moving them about.
14. If I think hard enough about you right now, you might get a little jolt to the duodenum or the medusa oblongata.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Mint Incident

My company has a health center on the premises, which is super convenient except for the fact that the doctors and nurse who work there are all a bit cracked. I was having weird leftover symptoms from what I believed to be the Swine Flu, so I went down yesterday and visited the doctor.

A white-haired old crank with red-rimmed eyes, he made some stupid jokes and then asked me what my symptoms were. I explained that I had an extremely painful, stiff neck. Doctor so-and-so asked me to sit down and put my head between my knees, and then he put a hand on my forehead and "whipped" my face up rapidly.

"Does that make you feel dizzy?" he barked. Why, yes, it does. And thanks for giving me whiplash.

"No fever, no throat redness. You're fine! Go back to work! Stiff neck is from lying in bed all week!"

But sir, I did not "lie in bed all week." He wasn't having none of it. I think he had to get back to his bourbon in the desk drawer.

Today, I was having even worse symptoms, including swollen joints all over my body, so I went back down to the health center. I was hoping the same doctor would be sleeping off last night's binge, and I could see one of the other weird yet more approachable women who work there. But there he was, hunched over a desk and ordering more Viagra from Canada.

The same nurse/receptionist had me fill out a form and took me into the same office to take the same vital signs. Except this time, I had a mint in my mouth--plucked from a bowl in the waiting room. Since she needed to take my temperature, I took it out and searched in vain for a trash can. Then I spotted a large metal one in the corner, flipped up the lid, and threw the mint in. The nurse/receptionist turned around just in time to see me do it, and her mouth fell open.

"That's the medical waste can!"


She snatched a paper towel from the dispenser and held it out to me. I took it gingerly, and looked at her.

"Go in there and get that mint," she said. "That's not the garbage."

I stepped on the footplate to open the medical waste bin and peered inside. There was my mint, resting amongst a pile of bloody bandages, rubber gloves, used tissue, and other offal.

"You want me to go in and get the mint? In the medical waste container?"

She nodded. I threw down the paper towel and walked out. I think I said something like, "I'm outta here!" On the way out I saw Creepy Doctor Whitehair, waiting for the appointment. He looked rheumy-eyed and fresh from a recent bender. He made a kind of surprised chuckle as he saw me go, and then turned back to his computer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Several years ago, I submitted this piece to a teacher magazine at my place of work for their "End of the Day" column. "End of the Day" usually featured mawkish, sentimental stories about how a teacher had changed a child's life for the better. Several consecutive issues ran stories for "End of the Day" that were about how troubled children had made a dramatic turnaround. At their best, they were heartwarming. At their worst, they made one slightly apprehensive that the children described were still at large in society. I packaged up the following story with the requisite SASE and delivered it, via mail, to the executive editor at the time. She was taken with the unusual nature of the tale, and passed it on to the then Editor-in-Chief. After much debate it was deemed unsuitable for publication due to the violence in the story. "It doesn't send the right message," the Editor-in-Chief said. "Some teachers might even find this slightly...offensive?" The real perpetrator was later revealed, causing my coworkers to mistrust me to this very day.

You be the judge of poor Mooky! Discovering this in the files has led me to the belief that a life without pranks is a life wasted.

By Henrietta Figglesworth

During my first year of teaching, there was one special child who touched my heart and helped me to remember why I chose this noble profession. His name was Mooky.

Mooky was an unusually gifted child. He constantly astounded me and his classmates with his thoughtful responses, his wisecracking, and his artistic skills. Although Mooky was born without a nose and any predisposition for social skills, he did not let it get him down. He often lashed out uncontrollably, sometimes spearing other children with the scissors or filling students’ mouths with glue. Occasionally, Mooky would go into the corner and gnaw on his own arm. More often, however, he would viciously bite other children on the nose. I knew why—Mooky felt himself to be different, and he wanted the other kids to be just like him: noseless. His rather unconventional habits did nothing to mar the image of the bright, beautiful child that I, as his teacher, saw.

The other children were often cruel, and made fun of Mooky. “How would you like it if you were born without a nose?” I admonished them. “You’d probably bite people, too!” I had trouble keeping my temper in check, but Mooky’s sunny countenence never dimmed. One day, however, I saw him sitting alone outside the classroom. I went up and sat with him. Mooky looked up at me with tear-filled eyes. “I’m a biter, aren’t I?” he asked. “Yes, Mooky,” I said gently. “But we’re all special in our own special ways.”

Since Mooky was unable to smell, he had a great deal of pent-up rage at others who had that gift. I sometimes saw him in the school garden, trying vainly to shove daisies up the nostrils of other children. “Smell this!” he screamed, spittle flying from his lips. I knew that Mooky was troubled, but he was my special angel. A child like no other.

I recommended to Mooky’s parents that they purchase him a prosthetic nose. At first skeptical, they eventually had a plastic nose fashioned for their son. I remember well the day that Mooky walked into my classroom, proudly thrusting forth the prosthesis. “My very own nose!” he said. “Mooky, it’s lovely. Would you like to study some new vocabulary?” I offered. Mooky nodded his head joyfully. Then the nose fell off and was crushed under the foot of another student. That day, several children were beaten and brutalized under the force of Mooky’s fury.

Mooky was different. But it’s the different, special children who remind us why we teach. No, you don’t have to have a nose to be special—just a great deal of heart. Mooky had heart, and he touched mine.

Monday, June 29, 2009

They Have Secrets

When I passed by the boys' room earlier, they jumped out at me.

Elder son: If you hear us talking about a QUILT, don't listen, OK?
Younger son: Because it's a supwise!
Elder son: You weren't spying on us talking about a quilt?
Me: No, no. I know nothing.
Elder son: You don't know nothing, OK? If you hear the word "quilt," you don't listen. Because you are NOT supposed to know that we are making a quilt.
Younger son: Because it's a big SUPWISE.
Elder son: So get out and don't come spying around!

[The door is shut rudely. Then a head pokes out again.]

Elder. Mommy-did-you-hear-me! You know nothing about a quilt!
Me: I never heard about a quilt! I don't know anything about a quilt!
Elder son: About a what?
Me: A quilt.
Elder son: Aha! You WERE listening to us. Get out!

[The door is shut, more firmly this time. I slink away.]

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Outie Becomes an Innie

If you are ever to have surgery and need to change the dressing, I would advise you not to look at the wound. Ye gads! All my poor stummick needed was another ghastly scar, to complement the hideous "mauled by a wild lion" look with which birthin' babies leaves some unfortunate women. I had this little bitty hernia that was growing bigger by the year and threatening to turn my tummy button into an "outie." I fear the incident happened during this life-changing event. I wish I could say it was cute, but it wasn't. There's nothing that will ruin a nice new shirt like a poky outie shimmering through the fabric.

It's all horribly unfair. I used to have a very nice tummy. I wore bikinis, even. If I wore a bikini now, it would have to be one of those high-waisted ones that goes all the way to your neck and contains a wonder bra. I have noticed that all the one-piece bathing suits for sale are horribly boring and mono-colored, while the bikinis for sale are always in bright, fetching patterns and look adorable on the models.

I certainly cannot tell if the outie is even gone, due to the black and blueness of the region and the grotesque swelling. I have a cute little band-aid over the area that I think would look fine were it in a paisley or geometric print.

Right after having the surgery, I relaxed on the porch while reading Assegai, by Wilbur Smith. I opened to the chapter when someone gets gored through the tummy by an irate African buffalo. Ouch! Wilbur Smith is an incredibly prolific author who writes all about Africa, and his books invariably feature big game, wars, angry elephants, guns, strong drink, and scenes of frightful yet poetic violence. I read my first Wilbur Smith as a tween on the island of Crete--stole it from my dad when he was done. It was called Men of Men. I was hooked.

Yet Smith is rather difficult to read when he writes of big-game hunters being gored through the tummy and tossed into the air. I seem to have a knack for this sort of thing; soon after giving birth I read this.

Back to my vanity, and enough of literary ramblings! I used to think that a tummy tuck would be a nice resolution to the horrors bequeathed by childbirth, but no more. It sounds like no fun at all. Besides, if you plan to hunt big game, you might as well accept the fact that you are going to wind up with a few scars. When I look at my three boys, I wouldn't trade one of them for the greyhound-like stomach I used to have. (Sssh. It WAS greyhound-like!) I wouldn't trade a hair from their heads.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Scent of Fear

I have to go in for surgery tomorrow to fix two little bitty hernias and I'm sure I shall die during the surgery. There! I've said it! I recently heard about someone who died during surgery for something minor like this and of course I will suffer the same fate. I've really been panicking all day because if I had really had one day to live I wouldn't spend it:
1. ruminating about death
2. cleaning out the front hall coat closet
3. sending a few work emails
4. walking around aimlessly biting at my lower lip

I tried to figure out the source of my distress and then I hit upon it! It was surely the arrival of a bunny-repelling product from Critter Repellant. That, and the presence of a plastic horned owl with glittering, orange eyes perched just outside my kitchen. The owl must be filled with rocks to prevent it from tipping over in a light wind, but it is fearsome indeed. I sometimes see it in my dreams, descending with claws outstretched.

This morning, the Shake-Away (aka Shake Away Your Composure) product arrived via a visibly-disturbed UPS man and was unveiled within my home. It stank of Fear.

The product is basically made up of the urine of very bad and feral animals who wish to bite bunnies. Upon smelling it, I became alarmed and ran about the house in mad, wild-eyed panic. The Scent of Fear is supposed to hit these creatures where they live and scare the living bejeezus out of them:


We have all these animals on our property! Well, not any more. I would suggest that they are ruminating in their little dens right now, wondering why they never wrote that novel nor pursued their dream career. They are lousy with FEAR!

Honestly, I just wanted to save my punkins. Now I have the Scent of Fear in my backyard! Some have suggested that the Scent of Fear is really Paco Rabanne cologne. I had once thought it to be the Stuffed Scrod at the work cafeteria.

Obviously, I won't die during surgery tomorrow because this post would be a really stupid and lame epitaph to an otherwise dazzling career.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Waiting for Godot at the A & P

When we moved to Mamaroneck, our proximity to the New Ro Stop-N-Shop came to an abrupt and tearful end. No more would we see Shuffles, bagging with an alacrity rarely seen in these here parts. Trader Joe, always a favorite, became our go-to destination for all things edible.

But woe: There are items that Trader Joe does not carry.

For that, we must turn to the local A & P, the branch of Mamaroneck Avenue fame. First of all, the place does not even have a sign out on the road, so unless one is in "the know," one would never happen upon the store for any reason whatsoever. We got the tip-off from a neighbor, and felt very smug about our little find. That is, until we realized that the A & P is merely a front for an old-age swinger's club. As relative youths, we had obviously trespassed into the forbidden zone, where cantankerous old birds nearing their 90th birthday pushed carts down narrow, wanly-lit aisles.

Everyone is the A & P is at least 76 years old, and there are usually about 345 of these individuals patrolling the aisles during any one visit. The lighting is ghastly, and doesn't do much to help the poor dears' complexions. The produce (which, by the way, is of very fine mettle--who knew?) looks yellowed and decrepit under the dim lighting, and some of the aisles are practically pitch black. You can hear the canes thwapping at the cereal boxes and the shouts of the geriatric patrons, trying to find Cream O' Wheat and other toothless-friendly foods. Sometimes an arm will reach out from the gloom and grope for assistance.

The store is also organized just to meddle with its elderly clientele. Where else can you find ant traps in the aisle next to the baby foods? I went looking for breads near the bakery, but they were down near the peanut-butter, mustard, and ketchup area of the store. I've been in the place several times but find myself wandering, hopeless and confused, unable to even consult my list in the inky darkness. I invariably return without a crucial item, and am at a loss to explain how I failed to see it. Someone is having a laugh at an old biddy's expense, no doubt!

It is when one enters the checkout lanes that the true "Waiting for Godot" nature of the A & P becomes apparent. The lines move sluggishly, if at all, and one can see the oldsters reading whole novels and withering away into nothingness as they wait their turn. Shoppers have vacant looks, and their hands dangle uselessly at their sides for whole minutes. Carts piled high with meat and Cheez-Its seem to simmer under the lights, and the air grows hot and stale. Sometimes, one feels like weeping. Each person brings 58 coupons to scan, and there is invariably a problem with 57 of them. Crabby Tina or Crabby Gert the cashier has to call the manager, and all the old ladies down the line moan and groan like a bunch of histrionic dominoes.

Every cashier is old, funny-looking, and kind of crabby. Actually, some are nice, but you get the feeling that crabbiness is but one unscannable bar code away. One time, we actually brought a coupon. It was for something significant, like $5. Of course, the cashier didn't know what to do with it. She fretted over it for several minutes, turning it this way and that, before calling on Crabby Sally to come help her out. Crabby Sally had to finish with her own customer first, thank you! That took about 6 1/2 minutes, including a cawing conversation about so-and-so's relatives. We sweated bullets while the people in line behind us shifted and murmured and some old ladies made growling noises. Should we call it off, just say forget it? No! We would stick it out, damn it! For God's sake! We wanted our $5 off! We paid for it, my friends, in the glowering disapproval of the octogenarian army.

Despite its aged population, the A & P is very strict in its alcohol carding policies. The first time I visited was my 40th birthday, and I was carded for a 4-pack of Guinness. I danced and skipped all the way to the car. My youth! My youth! I still had it.

Later, I learned that they will card anyone, and they will card them every single time they come through. No exceptions. They will card every old goat who shuffles through with walker and cane. Then, after carding the guy celebrating his 100th birthday, they will enter the alcohol purchase on a little chart and run it through the register for some kind of official validation.

If you are ever feeling vaguely old and wrinkly, just head over to the A & P and fill your cart with beer. Not only will you get carded, but you will be carded in a manner that suggests that you, feckless youth, are trying to pull something over on the eagle-eyed cashier. Not on Crabby Tina's watch, sister!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All the One-Sentence Memories I Can Write Down in the 20 Minutes in Takes My Dinner to Cook

Sitting on our Brooklyn stoop at my birthday party several years ago, offering passers-by cheese from a tray.
The baby in the afternoon sunlight today, chubby legs pulling him upward as he bit my arm for leverage.
Chasing the full Allagash moon by canoe.
My eldest son on a scooter, sailing down "Big Boy Hill" at breakneck speed, and the sucked-in breath of my neighbor who was watching him go.
Hiding in a pile of leaves, with their suffocating lightness and the scent of fall.
Running naked with my cousin down the street to hide in a ditch in the woods, and the shrieks of our mothers on the wind.
A photograph of me, age 11 and looking for all the world like an unattractive boy, on the dock with my grandfather.
A walk with a good friend to the cemetery at the top of Swett's Hill, when we talked of a boy who had been raised by badgers.
The last dive I made into my parent's pool, before they left that house forever.
Once, I was riding the exercise bicycle in the basement, and noticed that the digital clock read 4:48, and that the day was almost over.
Reading Annie Dillard in a tent while the flashlight swung above on a thin cord.
My first night in my first New York apartment, and the fierce din from 6th Avenue and Bleecker Street below.
Running over the rooftops in London with Sully, and bending down to light a smoke on the Serpentine and singing my eyelashes off.
Those awful red pants I wore when I visited New Haven, age 19, in a failed attempt to make someone fall in love with me.
One night in Cabin 11, playing "Late in the Evening" on bongos and guitar.
I swung an axe while wearing sandals, and the blade of the axe struck the dust next to my toes.
My friend Jenny leaping from a tree fort we'd made into a hammock, and the rope breaking, and Jenny tumbling unhurt to the ground.
Picking off flakes of fresh-caught and grilled Lake perch in Michigan.
My friend and I were running around the perimeter of the college campus, and I carried clementines clenched in my palms to hurl at the men who heckled us.
My counselor at camp reading us The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test while we lounged on multi-tiered bunks in a hut high in the White Mountains.
A dancing lesson at the Colony Club, and how he said he liked my short skirt when we departed up the street.
My husband's pale hair glowing in the sun from the bathroom window, in Princeton; a nimbus of light.
Another photograph: This time I'm getting dressed for my wedding, and surprised into open-mouthed gaiety.
In the next photograph from that series, I am peering around my mother's slightly-anxious profile.
Sitting on my father's shoulders in Big Sur, and him asking me to remember that moment always.

Time's up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Loss of Loneliness

Loneliness is an option rarely afforded to me anymore. When I was about 25, there was no Facebook. I had no cell phone, no quick text messages. I was occasionally and intolerably lonely. When I was lonely, I wrote. Sometimes I fretted about writing, and instead made pointless phone calls, or wandered about the apartment smoking cigarettes and thinking about writing. I thought that I might die soon, and that I'd better write, or produce something of artistic merit. I had a postcard on my wall that read: "Time marches on. Better get with it before it's gone." It had a photo of a bearded old dude on it. I have about 85 unfinished projects from this time period, and a good number of finished ones, too.

The peril of a happy marriage is that it does not often allow for hours of endless, focused writing--or any in-depth artistic production. One of my former writing teachers praised his miserable marriage for giving him an excuse to escape to his writer's studio, just to evade the harpie he'd married. As a result, he became extremely productive. Not so for me. I'd really much rather spend time with my husband, talking about all the great things we are going to do in the future. We have a fine time doing just that. My latest idea is my new book: 101 Amazing Ideas I Had But Was Too Lazy or Stupid to Execute. I probably have at least 100 of the ideas needed to complete the book. I think I could sit around and open up an Idea Studio, but someone would have to pay me. Plus, I need about 8 hours off a day to wander the garden with my children.

I've been reading an article in New York Magazine about the Defense of Distraction. This is a really interesting piece and you all should read it. The writer purports to defend "distraction" but I came away with a stronger defense of "flow," that ability to really focus on something and sink into it--a joyful experience, whether developing a shitty PowerPoint presentation or an award-winning novel. I didn't buy the fact that multitasking is good for us. Maybe it expands our brains, much as the brains of the apes who first sporked around with tools in the dust. Maybe that's all good. But I much prefer the idea of focus, flow, and turning off the automatic email alerts.

I watch my kids, and although they are distracted from minute to minute they are incredibly engaged in each moment in the thing that they are currently working on. The older one can focus for one, two, three hours on a particular art project. I try to emulate them, and then I find myself clicking on "Stickies" to add a new item to my to-do list. I hate that scattered, ragged feeling. I hear the TV on behind my head. I sometimes turn when the music gets louder. I glance down at the phone in its cradle to my right.

I wonder if my children will ever feel loneliness? Now, if I were to feel deeply sad, I would post a wan little update on Facebook. I would expect 18 comments in as many minutes: "How r u?" "Why so sad?" "awww, i'm sorry!" I would appreciate every one of these remarks. But if there were silence? Would it lead me to further sadness, or to focus more fully on the experience of loneliness? Right here, right now. Sometimes silence is good.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Words of Mein Second Son

Breakfast table conversation.

Second son: For Halloween, Daddy will be a pancake. And you will be a fork. And then you can fork Daddy!

Mommy: And what will you be for Halloween?

Second son: Fusilli pasta.

Mommy: And what about your brothers?

Second son: They will also be pancakes. And they will be forked!


Second son: When I keep running, I lose mein energy.

Mommy: Where does your energy go?

Second son: It goes right into the ground! Mein Harry O [invisible friend co-opted from older brother] told me that.


Second son: I am wearing these pants because they have growed right out of mein brother. They is mein pants now! They have growed smaller to fit me.

Mommy: How convenient!

Second son: Are you working on Daddy's pancake costume? Halloween is tomorrow!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just Say No to Summer Camp

I want everyone to know that I loved summer camp. I loved every filthy moment of it, from slogging up the Presidentials with a frame pack, to singing "three cheers for the bus driver" to making homemade candles and leather bookmarks at YMCA Day Camp. I loved the movie Meatballs because it's about a summer camp. I went to day camp at about age 8, and overnight camp at 11.

However, I am not sending either of my boys (age 5 and 3) to any sort of summer camp whatsoever. Why would I deprive them of such a rich experience? Here in Westchester camp, like preschool, is something "to be expected" of well-to-do parents. There are swim camps, nature camps, ballet camps, and full-on everything from archery to arts and crafts camps that run from dawn until dusk. About 85 people have asked me lately where my boys will be spending the summer.

"In our back yard," is my answer. Although our house is a run-down dump with rotting holes and a 45-degree slant in the front porch (step lively!), we are lucky enough to have half an acre of property. This property has lots of grass, mud, a water spigot, a splintery old playset, a compost heap, a pumpkin patch, a strawberry patch, and a vegetable garden. It also has a long driveway filled with ruts and crumbling asphalt, just perfect for learning how to navigate a bike or a scooter.

Nature camp? Why bother when your property has a giant hedgehog, a raccoon, and a skunk in residence? Recently sighted: A pair of mallard ducks, strolling about the lawn. Also, most unfortunately, sighted: the nether half of a mouse, victim of the fat, fulsome hawk.

Really, I just want them to run like free range chickens. Let them dig up worms, and toss useless tomatoes into the compost heap. Let them pick the first raspberries of the season off the raspberry plants that we transplanted from New Rochelle. Let them strip off their clothes and piddle on the "pee tree" behind the decrepit old shed, and fire the hose at each other. After that, they can walk to the beach, or go throw rocks in the river, or get a slice of pizza in town.

This is what summer used to be about, and if every kid on the block rebelled against the overly structured "summer camp experience," what need would we have to pay a single dime—except for the ice-cream truck that rolls down the street in summer with astonishing regularity. Some parents in our neighborhood are going to do just that, I'm told. The kids will run wild, and the parents will sit on comfortable chairs and occasionally call out "Car!" to warn them from their ball play in the street.

I realize my neighborhood is unusual, and that my boys have each other—hence no need for others' company over the summer. They simply want to be together. Indeed, for some, summer camp represents child care while the parents are at work (an option I don't have with a one-year-old at home). Or it provides playmates for a bored child.

Aw, maybe I'm just complaining because I don't have the 10 grand it would cost to send both my older boys to a deluxe summer camp experience (where they would no doubt be separated because of their age difference). 10,000 dollars, people. One of my favorite summer memories was soaking the patio steps at my friend Sarah's house with a hose, and watching the toads creep out of the nooks and crannies in the stone. Then we would race to catch the toads while they hopped frantically hither and thither. Then I remember we played intricate war games in the back yard, with forts made of sticks and pine branches. Nary a parent in sight, and no end to the day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baby Sunshine, Le Petit Lemur, and Mini Machiavelli

On Saturday the boys and I, along with visiting friends, decided to make the best of a gloomy day and have a parade. Hurrah! We donned lemur tails and ears, made a flag that read "The Prwade," and marched down the street to much fanfare and song. But our merry parade turned into a diabolical death-march in icy winds, with a tyrannical 5-year-old as our leader.

This is that story.

In the driveway.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Everyone needs to do what I say. I am the leader!

BABY SUNSHINE: Yayayayaya.

LE PETIT LEMUR: My Band-Aid fell off. It must have runned out of stick.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Stop talking about that. We are now marching in a prwade. I am the leader of the prwade. You will follow me.

The parade begins.

LE PETIT LEMUR: [Hums a song.]

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Your humming is annoying to me. Stop now!

LE PETIT LEMUR: [Continues to hum.]

MINI MACHIAVELLI: This humming is aggravating. You will not get a prize!


LE PETIT LEMUR: I want a prize.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: No prize for you!

He stops to state the rules.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Number One Rule: Do not go in the street.

Number Two Rule: Do not step on the grass.

Number Three Rule: Do not climb trees.

Number Four Rule: Do not chop down trees or houses.

Number Five Rule: Do not kill people.

They march. The winds grow colder. The singing is weak.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Stop! I do not hear singing.

LE PETIT LEMUR begins to dance.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Did I say dancing was okay? Be still now.

BABY SUNSHINE: Nanananana!

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Halt! [All stop.] If you see an animal, don't touch it. Look at it, and let it go on its own.

Many grueling minutes later.

MINI MACHIAVELLI: Baby, you will get a prize. Mommy, you will not get a prize. You did not sing when you needed to sing, and you took your clothes off during the pawade.

MOMMY: Clothes?

MINI MACHIAVELLI: You took your tail off.

LE PETIT LEMUR: Prize! Prize! Prize! [Wild tears.]

MINI MACHIAVELLI: I will come back to you later. Silence! Now, who is next? I will decide on the prizes.

All are silent.


He gestures to the door. The parade members meekly obey.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Top 10 Home Decorating Tips

Since I live in a home worthy of the pages of Beautiful Home or Country Living or some other lovely rag that has no doubt gone out of print or is about to, I feel I am uniquely suited to dispense home decorating advice. If you have seen my home you know that my style and flair are unparalleled. Therefore it is my beholden duty to share my wisdom with you, the reader.

1. When in doubt, always tear off the back of the house. If you are ever standing around in your kitchen saying things like: "Hey, should I just burn this sucker down?" or "I'm gonna take a power saw to this mutha!" you should immediately start saving large quantities of money so that you can hire a wrecking ball to take care of the situation.
2. A home's beauty and value is deleteriously affected by the presence of any of the following: gun turret, live skunk on property, illegible grafitti on living room wall, angry ghost of grandmother, really creepy basement with biting spider(s), too many strange foil-wrapped mysteries in back of old rusting fridge.
3. That portrait of your mother's vagina above the glass-topped dining room table is really inappropriate.
4. If you tear out that original crown molding from your beautiful Victorian home, it is guaranteed that the future owners of the house are going to track down your ghost and beat the tar out of it.
5. Three phrases that should not go together in home d├ęcor: clowns, framed psalms, gynecological exam table.
6. Dead snakes and poo are not something you want on your nice wood floors. Remove them before guests come over and store them in a closet.
7. Lime green and teal wall-to-wall carpets are acceptable, but only if they are constantly in flames.
8. The foyer is the entry point to your home, and will present the first impression to visitors. Therefore, it is best to locate your wet bar and liquor cabinet in this area.
9. Bathrooms should feel like a zen-like retreat, riddled with all sorts of Feng Shui. Clumps of urine-soaked kitty litter granules, pressing into one's bare feet when one steps out of the shower, will ruin just about everything you have tried to achieve in your life thus far.
10. Shells should stay on the beach.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Paean to Poo

Tonight second son insisted on shouting out rude words during dinner, so husband put him in a time out.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I did buy the Captain Underpants series for my sons, but can the excessive potty humor in those books really be responsible for the torrent of doo-doo words now uttered in my household?]

Anyway, the boys' potty talk has reached proportions unheard of in modern history. The conversation goes something like this most days:

Mother: Have you brushed your teeth?
Second son: Take a bath in the toilet?
Elder son: Put your buttocks in the toilet.
Second son: Toilet poo-poo weiner! Buttocks poo-poo stinky butt!
Mother: But, have you brushed your teeth?
Elder son: I brushed my teeth [long pause]. IN THE TOILET!

This goes on all day and generally involves putting lunch in the toilet, one's backpack in the toilet, and butts and winkies "into the toilet." The toilet is the receptacle that inherits the universe. It is the swirling nexus-lexus of our world, drawing all intelligent conversation into its gurgling depths. Don't forget to jiggle the handle!

So second son couldn't stop himself today, and wound up in a vastly extended time out. [Please note that as the purchaser of the aforementioned Captain Underpants series, I cannot in good conscience apply time-outs for potty talk. Those who enforce such time outs are not me. I am too busy laughing.] Every time a doo-doo word was uttered, the clock reset itself for three minutes. For close to 45 minutes the little mite sat in his chair and, filled with glee, prattled on the following paean to poo:

Second son: I think about winkies! I think about butts! Buttocks poo-poo toilet. I have a winkie, it's really cool. Another glorious day to celebrate our butts! Another glorious day to celebrate our butts!
Daddy: [from other room] Time out starts again NOW!
Second son: Winkies! Butts! Poo! Poo! Winkies! Butts! Poo! Poo! Winkie party, winkie party. I have a butt. Buttocks. Buttocks. Buttocks. I think about butts. And pooooop! {maniacal laughter}
Daddy: [from other room] Time out starts again NOW!
Second son: Doody doo-doo. Poo. Poo. Poo. Poo. Take a bath in the toilet. Toilet! Toilet!

45 minutes later....

Second son: Stinky Winkie! Stinky Winkie! Doo doo! Winkie butt! {maniacal laughter} Turds. Butts. Poop. Poop! Poop!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oh Belvedere! Go Home, Boy!

Here is evidence that Belvedere Vodka's ad campaign at the Bleecker/Lafayette Street subway stop has overstayed its welcome. And that Vincent Gallo is known among many as a "filthy turd."

This stoopid ad campaign has been irritating me for a while now, and I have longed to wield my own Sharpie. Other commuters were not so self-restrained. When the posters are liberally decorated with penii, fangs, and obscenities, it's probably time to remove them, eh?

Enough said.

The writing on the woman's face reads "Take these filthy sexist posters down before I blow up this whole goddamn subway station. Ka-boom, muthafuckah!"

What is with this wet, feral look? Does this make me thirsty? Oh, Belvedere! Come bite me, boy!

Vincent Gallo, Bush Supporter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fark This Old House

Our neighborhood is the kind where parents don't make playdates by phone--the kids just go up and knock on the door and ask if little so-and-so can come out to play. When they play, it's often in the street, and that's okay, because cars barely come by. And when they do they almost sail down the street, slowly, as if the great houses are white cliffs and the wind coming down from their eaves pushes the cars, imperceptibly, into a leisurely crawl. Windows roll down and everything goes into slow motion; the kids playing ball shift aside up upon the grassy lawns and wait. Spinnakers, deploy! Everything goes silent for a small moment.

The car sails by, and they all rush into motion again, bikes careening over the old bluestone slates.

If location is everything, then we are at the apex. Seven minutes walk to the train. Eight to town. Fifteen to the beach. Big space on a big block wide enough for the sky.

Our yard is big enough for a chicken coop, a nice tuft of fruits and veggies, and a goat. It might even sustain a cow and a couple of heirloom hogs. (The gun turret to shoot the foreclosure agents will go on the roof.)

But make no mistake: Our house is a real dump. Once, we imagine, it had charm. Built in the 1890s, it still deigns to call itself a Victorian. When I saw the hideous listing pictures, I fairly salivated at what treasures would lie beneath the vile, wall-to-wall shag carpet (putrid green) and the 1970s wood paneling. What beauties might hide behind the "Yellow Wallpaper"-style paneling in the master bedroom--the paneling riddled with weird fungi and creepy gnomelike faces (squinting and mad fevers not required)? Other people--those with no imagination--would not see the potential that WE saw.

Make no mistake, once again. There is nothing original in our house, at least not on the first floor. In the 60s, someone decided that she liked "modern stuff" and away went the crown moldings, original stairs, banister, doors, windows, and whatever else stank of the old days. Up went NU ECONO BRIK on the walls of the kitchen. (If I could catch her I would wring her size 4 neck. I have her dresses, left behind here, so I know she was about a size 4, the lil' harpy.)

Almost every night, though, we puzzle over the mysteries of the house. For every question, there is no answer. "Why would the front door be here?" "Why are there no doors on the master bedroom?" "Why is there no access from the front bedroom to the upstairs bathroom?" "What did the old granny who lived in the attic use to poop into?"

For a few weeks, we carried a prising tool with us so that we could tear up paneling whenever the mood struck us. One night, I goaded my husband into kicking a massive hole into the crawlspace under the front stairs. C.H.U.D. now lives down there, but it was worth the price of admission.

Ah, I am wrong about the lack of original features! There is lead paint in the joint. It's fairly lousy with lead paint. Missing doorknobs, spiders, les mouches, green mold, canted drainspouts, chipped paint, slumped porch.

And yet...there is that lawn. There will be fruit there, and fine fat veggies. There will be soccer games on the lawn, and mud pies, and exploration. We will always find animal tracks in the snow in winter, and in the spring we will start to smell the ocean. In late summer the cricket's hum will begin again, insistent, rising and falling, and we will hear the fountain flow into the neighbor's fishpond. For whatever fool's errand brought us here, it's ours.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

These Are the Rules; You Shall Obey Them!

The rules of the household are as follows. If you do not obey these rules, you will be taken behind the shed and shot.

1. When the Master of the House is cooking breakfast, do not touch the bacon. Do not ask for bacon. If you ask for bacon, you will get no bacon. If you try to touch the bacon before all the slices of bacon are cooked, you will get no bacon. If you plead for bacon, or look at the bacon with a gleam in your eye, you will get no bacon. Commentary on how the bacon is being prepared is unwelcome, and may get you shot.

2. Cheese must be sliced in one direction only. Slicing the cheese "against the grain," off kilter, too fat, or too thin will result in severe reprisals and occasional stabbings with the cheese knife. American cheese and "cheese food" are not permitted in the household.

3. Teabags are not to be left in the sink.

4. If someone in the household sneezes, you must immediately snap to attention and shout "bless you!" Failure to immediately shout "bless you!" will result in an aggrieved cry of "Nobody said 'bless you!'" Attempts to make good after the fact will not result in forgiveness. You will be watched most carefully.

5. If the younger members of the household are engaged in a musical performance, the guests must sit quietly. Talking during the song will result in your name being put on The List. Singing or movement during the song: Your name goes on The List. Clapping before the song is complete will get your name on The List. If your name is put on The List, you will be disappeared. Those whose names are not on The List will get a reward sticker.

6. Only the Master of the House shall be permitted to cook the following:
If this rule is not obeyed, it will result in aggrieved cries of "These are horrorful pancakes, mommy," "Why is my spaghetti all clumped together?," "Daddy's oatmeal is so much better," and "You messed it up AGAIN. This is horrorful!"

7. If the Master of the House emerges from the shower to find no towel, you will be blamed. Return all towels to the bathroom after use.

8. Mein Schtinky Teddy shall always be referred to by his full and proper name. He is not to be called "that thing," or "that putrid bear." Mein Schtinky Teddy shall be honored and revered, flung down the stairs, and ritualistically gnawed upon.

9. Any inquiry made to the Eldest Son shall not be made during his working hours, when he is engaged in massive art projects, engineering contraptions, birthday-party planning for invisible friends, and the like. Any inquiry made during these times will result in an apoplectic fit and bites to the ankle area.

10. "Pizza patting" is not recommended. Anyone caught "pizza patting" will be subject to ridicule and ostracized socially for several days.

11. If a phone is not placed back in the charger after its use, your phone privileges may be revoked. You will also be beaten about the head with said phone, and made to wash the linens.

12. Wring out all sponges after use. If a sponge is discovered loitering at the bottom of the sink, you will be made to eat a "sponge sandwich," scented with mildew, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

13. In any dispute pertaining to these rules, Baby (aka "Baby Sunshine") shall be consulted to bring order, clarity, and a gummy smile to the proceedings, resulting in fewer purges, deportations, and executions than would normally be anticipated.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Word "Atop" Is Mentioned Twice Here

16 Random Things About Me [too lazy to write a new blog post so using this]

1. I once danced atop a fire truck to the tune of "Low Rider." I had red feathers glued all over my body at the time. Don't ask.

2. As a child, I forced my pet (feral) rabbit to try to climb a tree. She did not succeed. In the same year, I charged guests at my sister's wedding 50 cents to go to the garage to view the rabbit in its hutch.

3. I cannot ice skate for beans. The last time I tried, I fell and bruised my cheek.

4. I still find poop funny, but increasingly less funny as my children's amusement with the topic grows. I'm sure there is a math formula to represent this.

5. I like chicken pot pies. Especially the "Mrs. Budd's" brand.

6. I went to high school with Lyle Menendez. He was a dope. Once, in math class, I saw his weiner poking out of his ultra-white tennis shorts. It was traumatic and creepy.

7. I have been known to make "rutabaga noises." If asked, I will deny this.

8. In high school, my friends and I invented an evil bunny character named Lumpen. He had red, carroty hair and a mole underneath one eye. And he said things like "bok, bok, bok!"

9. My friends have dogs and horses with the same names as my children.

10. My sister and matron of honor vomited (repeatedly) on the morning of my wedding with a dreadful hangover.

11. I write snarky articles for and was once told in the comments section to "get out of this town and go back to Brooklyn."

12. There is a portrait of a devil in our closet. Red, with horns. Like, the actual devil.

13. I could eat a whole bag of Cheetos if given half a chance.

14. My brothers used to dare me to put "the entire sandwich in my mouth at once," and I always complied, with ill effects.

15. One of my favorite things is a figurine I made out of three rocks glued together. The rock on top looks like an egg, and so I call the creature "eggy."

16. I once leapt atop the bull statue down on Wall Street and rode the poor bugger. Now look what's happened.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Some sample audio specimens picked up in our household over a period of two days, beginning 5:56 a.m. 1/2/09 and ending 6:46 p.m. 1/4/09. The specimens were reported to be the work of a 5-year-old male and a 3-year-old male. These items are a representative sample that is approximately 1/16% of the total extruded over the course of the time period noted.

Put your elbow in the potty; it's fun! It's fun!
Put your buttocks in the potty; it's fun! It's fun!
Put your head in the potty; it's fun! It's fun!
[This was followed by screams and an incident in which the younger brother's fingers were slammed in the bathroom door.]

Come to my doody par-ty. Come to my doody par-ty.
Doink! I'm a turd!
[Sung while in traffic on I-95.]

Poop raining down from the sky, oh yeah!
Poop raining down from the sky, oh yeah!
Next it's gonna land on your head.
And cover you in poop! Even your nostrils will be made out of poop!
[Still stuck in traffic on I-95.]

You're invited to see
my poop in the toilet!
You're invited to see
my poop in the toilet!
[This was followed by a plea to send real invitations to a "Poop Party" hosted by the 5-year-old. The Poop Party would take place in our backyard and would include a game called "pin the tail on the poop." I was forced to write the invitations but have refrained from sending them, claiming that I "can't find any stamps." Soon he will be onto me and you may get such an invitation in the mail. Please ignore it, at all costs.]

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Curious Case of the Nutball Who Wrote on Our Ivory Piano Keys With Blue Marker

Normally, one has to keep an eye on kids with markers. When an adult is seen with a marker in hand, it's usually not a sign for alarm. This used to be the case, anyway.

A few weeks back my kindergartner had a playdate with a classmate from school. Because it was their first "date," the mom decided to stay for a while. I was working from home so I made polite chit-chat for a few minutes and then excused myself. Our nanny stayed below to get the kids some snacks, while the mom--who happens to be a piano teacher--played a few sprightly tunes on the 1910 Chickering piano that is a family heirloom of my husband. I worked upstairs happily while she played.

The next evening, my husband sat in the near-darkness, idly tickling the keys. Suddenly he gave a hideous roar of outrage. I ran in to see what was the matter. On about 12 of the piano keys, the notes (C, D, G, etc.) had been penned in bright blue marker. In a vintage music book of Christmas songs, the same blue marker had been applied. The notes were written very carefully, clearly by an adult hand.

We managed to get the marks off with some assiduous rubbing and pure, old-fashioned spittle. But I sent the following note to the mom:

"I don't know if you were aware of this yesterday, but someone actually wrote in blue marker on the ivory keys of our antique piano during our playdate. There were also notes written in the old music book we had on the top of the piano, in the same marker. (I assume this happened while I was upstairs working.) We are trying to get the marks off but worried about damaging the keys, since the marker used seems to be leaving a tint/stain behind....
We're not very happy about this so just wondering how it might have happened. This piano has been in our family for years.
Thanks for any insight."

I thought this was an awfully restrained note.

And she wrote back:

"I am so sorry. The best way to clean the ivory keys is:
I don't know how old this piano actually is, but if it is 50 or more years old, I am pretty sure that the keys are ivory, and ivory tends to yellow over age. DO NOT use chemical cleaners on the keys if they are ivory. The best thing to use for cleaning piano keys is a solution of vinegar and water. Ivory keys used to be the norm.

I can do this for you if you want. Also ivory is like "teeth" and many people use white toothpaste as well. Do not use water."

How about SPIT? I wanted to ask. And, if one is so knowledgeable about ivory keys, why would one choose BLUE MAGIC MARKER as a writing tool? Would you go to someone's house and write on their wall? What type of pen would you use? I, for one, would choose BLUE MAGIC MARKER.

A little while later, this email arrived:

" My friend a piano technician at the Steinway piano store also told me that rubbing alcohol mixed with water on a cloth is a sollution they use for their Steinways."

This was very helpful. I have learned a lot about caring for ivory keys through this process, and I hope you have learned a great deal as well. Remember, no water!

As for the book, I fear that none of these methods will make an impact. But at least I'll know what keys I'm playing when I launch into "Jingle Bells"!

A second playdate has not yet been arranged. When it is, I will be packing several Sharpies.