Monday, February 27, 2006

Improbabilities, Fatigue and the Desire to be Free

I don’t know which is more improbable, that I played a cult-like dice game with the moms at Nick’s school Friday night or that I WON the cult-like dice game Friday night.

The cult-like dice game is a group of VERY saucy dames. The major criterion for a coveted invite, I believe, is a hollow leg. Check!

These dames can swill the sauce, lemme tell ya. But they also wield some very rapier wits, darts, barbs and jabs. They treat me like an innocent piker which, for those of you who know me personally, is probably hilarious.

There was talk of lipo, white girl hair extensions (who knew?), good boobs, flat roll up boobs, mini orgasms, weight loss and gain, midwyffery, and what to do with difficult children. All amid a steady flow of margaritas and cosmos. SERIOUSLY!

When I put Nick in Catholic school I envisioned myself as a perma-pariah amid a gaggle of Lily Pulitzer wearing suburban troglodytes. Not so! You seek your own level, as they say, and I have managed to find the smartass rebels! You see, the beauty of Catholicism is: It is the religion of the Italians and the Irish. PARTY!

Saturday I took the bambini to see my mother and that was nice.

Sunday was another improbable experience, Moira, Sheila and I took the younguns to see Clifford the Big Red Dog at the Warner Theatre. Mmmm hmmm. SCARY! There were lots of Washingtonian yuppies in evidence, “Abigail! Abigail!” “No, Jeremy, you may not have more cotton candy.”

I had no idea how the bambini would react/behave. It’s pretty much a crap shoot with any kid under 5. They did great! I was so proud. Ian sat there, rapt, and watched the whole thing. Daisy sat on my lap for most of it and clapped when she was supposed to.

It was emotional to see my kids loving the theatre—theatre was a big thing in my family—yes, a slightly psycho big thing. So to see their chubby cheeked little profiles, set against the ornate gold filigree of the Warner theatre, where I saw my first rock concert—Meatloaf--was sort of life cyclical. Yup. WEIRD! I also saw Lena Horne there with my whole family. Meatloaf, Lena Horne and Clifford. How’s that? It was also SUPER cute to see my lifelong compatriots, Moira and Sheila, all lined up in a row with all of our pups. It was fun. THANKS AUNT MOIRA!

We came home and it was kind of exciting because Nick went to “8 Below” with one of his friends, MZA stayed home and napped, and the bambini had their own special experience to share. We divided and conquered as a family and it was nice to all get together and debrief. You know?

We ate dinner at TV tables in the family room so we could see the closing night of the Olympics. (Real reason: So I could see the replay of my boyfriend, the lambchop Apolo Ohno, win his 500 meter race. Scrumptious!)

This morning came all too quickly. I can’t get out of bed anymore. I CAN'T GET OUT OF BED ANYMORE. The olde Clydesdale is fading, kids. I lay in bed this morning and thought, “Why can’t I get out of bed anymore?”

It reminded me of an old joke. This really old woman goes to the doctor and she tells him she has a big problem,

She says, "Doctor, I can't pee anymore."
He says, “How old are you?”
She says, “I am 95 years old.”
He says, “Ninety-five years old? You’ve peed enough!”

That’s it. I have worked enough. The olde Clydesdale is ready to be put out to pasture and chomp on oats and run free without the bit and the harness and the saddle.

FREE THE CLYDESDALE!

Happy Monday.

P.S.--As we were winding our way out of the parking lot after Clifford the Big Red Dog , I was behind a plodding green Range Rover (the Official Vehicle of Washingtonian Yuppies) and Ian, out of the quiet innocence of the back seat, piped up and said, "Could you go any SLOWER, knucklehead?!"

No idea where he learned such disrespectful epithets...

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Beach Blanket Bingo

We repaired to the beach--Ocean City, Maryland--for the long weekend. Swellegant! We got an ocean front suite because we could afford it! Because it's the middle of winter! Kids ate free at the restaurant--great concept.

There was a sinister Romanian waiter I remembered from when we were at the beach two years ago. MZA asked him some questions and said, "My wife remembered you." The waiter, Adrian, looked at me with these shark cold blue eyes and said, "Your wife has a good memory."

Mmmmwaahahahaha.

We had a jacuzzi tub, two large remotely controlled cabinet encrusted TV sets, two queen beds, two DVD/video players, a full kitchen, a BLENDER, an indoor pool and a roll out couch. Think of the seaside glamor of it all!

Please note the hot dog below and assess the "glamor" for yourself...

My job has turned the job that ate Tokyo the past coupla days, so here are some snaps for now...more on the Heartwarming Key Ring Story (I know! The suspense is killing you!) and the marginalia of sanity as it relates to being in a suite with three kids for three days (and nights).








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Friday, February 17, 2006

Jane Fabulous

Jane Fabulous regained a little footing yesterday.

I tend to plunge into the depths of despair and become convinced that everyone hates me, etc., if I make a mistake. I HATE making mistakes. But then I realized, duh, you know, I am not a copyeditor.

I had my three month review with my boss—whom I respect and like so much—and I finally had to say to her, “Is everything all right?” Which was code for, DOES EVEYONE HATE ME? And she just kinda looked at me like, “Huh?” And I explained that I thought my colleague was a little torqued because I had missed some inconsistencies in a document that is this big fat deal that’s going to be professionally printed and all that. I said, gulp, “I am not a copyeditor, you know.” And she said, “I know! I know a copyeditor is a whole different thing. Unfortunately, we just don’t have the budget in this contract for a copyeditor, so it falls to you.” AND SHE JUST TOTALLY understood.

But not everyone does!!!! I had to tell my colleague, let’s call her Sally—and her reaction was kind of funny, like I had just used the Twinkie Defense or something. Or said, “I don’t do windows,” or “I’m not a writer but I play one on TV.” It just didn’t wash. And I could hear her snickering and telling her assistant about it. Like, heh heh, ooooooooo, the little princess is a “writer” but she’s not a “copyeditor.” Heh heh heh. It’s a little awkward.

The rest of my three month review went swimmingly, however. And that made me feel better. My boss just looked right at me and said, “You’re smart.” Which made me want to cry a little bit. Isn’t that silly? But honest, my chin started to quiver slightly. Not because it was an affirmation or something, like—finally! Someone figured out that I’m smart! Not like that. But in a way like she appreciated me. And she appreciated that aspect of me and she GOT SOMETHING ABOUT ME.

The reason that made me happy—and a little tearful—is that it has taken me a fuck of a long time to get to this point in my career. I have had some really bingbangawalla jobs in my life.

The two years I spent on this one project almost put me in the grave. Seriously. Like nut farm walla. You can read about some of those stellar experiences here and here.

While I was going through it all, I went to this FABULOUS 40th birthday of a friend of mine and I got to see all my excellent women-dame friends. I have this one friend that I just adore and I don’t get to see her too often and she asked how I was doing and I said, “Well, I hate my job.” She looked at me—she’s a big advocate of my writing—and said, “There is no reason for you to be in a job that you hate. None at all.”

For some reason that was this gigantic epiphany for me. I really thought about what she said. She was saying that with all I have to bring to a job, there is no reason for me to be miserable. THE MUSIC SWELLS!!! Doves fly free. Water laps on the sand.

I am a big believer in making a positive out of a negative, tho, and during that two year project I learned A LOT of things. Oh kids, I learned a lot of things. And that project is the reason I started this website—because I HAD to have a creative outlet in my life. I HAD to write and I knew I couldn’t write stories right then because my life was CONSUMED with this project, so I started this so I wouldn’t go completely nuttyfuck.

I didn’t write about the job, per se, or my colleagues because the job itself was pretty interesting and I loved my colleagues. I just HATED Ratalie, my boss. She finally left and we all thought—we were like the munchkins when the Wicked Witch of the West died—I AM SERIOUS—that NOTHING could be as bad as Ratalie. Until Maralago the Dishonest Water Buffalo came. She will go down in history as THE vilest entity I have EVER worked for. I would tell my mother about the Dishonest Water Buffalo and she would be LIVID. She would say, “That makes me so mad I want to come down there and snatch her baldheaded and hide her hair.”

That’s my favorite expression of hers.

Good things happened from those two difficult years. I learned how to work my ass off and meet deadlines and WORK MY ASS OFF. And it has toughened me and made me a lot more confident in what the hell I can actually accomplish.

I’m sorry, this seems to have turned into a Stayfree commercial inadvertently.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: KEEP GOING!

Here’s one more poignant little acorn from that whole experience. When I first started on the project, it was in this horrific 17 story monstrosity in ROCKV-I-L-E Maryland. It was one of those ghastly all-inclusive Starship Enterprise kinds of buildings with its own dry cleaner and florist and BANK and stuff so you would NEVER HAVE TO LEAVE the sinister enclosure.

I was on the 17th floor and I had my own large office overlooking all the broccoli treetops of suburban Merland, and I would sit in that office and cry and cry and cry. I’d have to go to the bathroom and splash cold water on my face and I had to keep a double-powder compact of Clinique foundation in my purse to hide the red splotchiness. I had this one colleague who would always ask, “Um, are you OK?” Yeah I’m fine. I’m just having a slightly protracted nervous breakdown is all.

I didn’t have anything to do when I first got there (and oh, that was to change), so I started re-writing this story and it just about ripped my heart doing it. That story means so much to me now—because it’s about a real person, and I loved writing it, and I loved re-writing it, and it is representative of that time I spent on the 17th floor of that wretched building, crying, and pumping breast milk into little plastic bottles for my baby Daisy.

That story, “Sam Flute” is coming out this summer. Watch this space.

From the ashes comes the phoenix.

Sometimes.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cranky: The Opera

There was pandemonium in the house this morning. I went downstairs and MZA was standing there, GRUMPY, and said, “How hard is it to take the paper off the butter?”

And kids, we were OFF to the races.

Here was my clever retort: “If it’s not so hard why are you complaining?” GOOD ONE, eh?

Then he started in with the, “I am so tired of cleaning up after all of you…”

lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala...

Nick said something and MZA looked like he was about to jump out of his skin and said, “Sshshshshshsh!!!!!!!! Ian is SLEEPING!” (We treasure those dulcet, silent times of Ian's slumber). I said, "Welcome to Daddy's kingdom." Nick said, "I don't think I want to stay in this kingdom."

Then I was upstairs getting dressed—wearing a black turtleneck and just my tights; Daisy was on the bed talking about “conies” (translation: “coins”); Ian was also on the bed, all ruffled rock star long blond hair, saying things like “I had a dream last night? It was scary! I was going to Nina’s? And then...”

Nick came in as I was standing with my tights-clad back to the repertoire, staring into the closet, waiting for a Hail Mary outfit to present itself. Nick said, “Hi Mommy!” I said, “Hi, welcome to my butt.” Ian said, “OH MY GOD that’s iss-gus-ting!"

Then MZA was changing Ian and Ian kept saying over and over and over again, “I want my Redskins shirt, Daddy? Daddy? I want my Redskins shirt. Can I wear my Redksins shirt? Daddy? Do you know where it is? My Redskins shirt?” MZA said, ALL RIGHT! OH MY GOD, THE DEMANDS! Here! Here is your Redskins shirt!

I think he was exasperated.

As I was leaving, Daisy spilled her yogurt smoothie on her jammies and MZA groaned, “Ooooooooooo, Daisy!” Which made her cry. (It hurt her feelings). I peeked back in the dining room and said, “Goodbye guys,” and Ian said, “Goodbye Mommy! Have fun!”

I came to work and had The Bad Email from The Client (rabbit pulled improperly from hat sort of thing); followed by a Mistake I Missed on The Agenda.

One of THOSE mornings where you realize that instead of being Jane Fabulous, you are actually a DECREPIT FAILURE with no talent or future or raison d’etre.

You know how it is. The Disillusionment Rhapsody. Which always seems to be preceded by the Delusional Round of Happiness. I was JUST saying to MZA last night, “This project is going really well!"

I jinxed it didn’t I? Just HAD to say it.

Fortunately I bought some Chex Mix yesterday on my way back from the Client Meeting, so now I am drowning my sorrows in a gross mélange of salty weird flavors, washed down with a Diet Coke.

Pass me a disillusionment hanky, wouldja?

OK—here’s the creamy nougat center: I am staring at the two Valentine’s projects Ian and Daisy made, and honest to God they are the cutest dern things I have ever seen. One is a panda made of heart shapes with a sticker that says “Hottie” and the other one is a ladybug with spooky eyes that has a sticker that says, “Kiss kiss.”

Yes, we rely heavily on the poignant treasured totems of love that signify what REALLY MATTERS in this random world that puts too many pretzels in Chex Mix when everyone knows the butter laden Chex squares are the best part. So much time, so little justice.

PS—did you find yourself wondering how fast the Republicans would have eviscerated Clinton [or insert any Democrat—Kerry will do] if he had been hunting illegally, nearly killed his hunting companion, and then buried the story? Hmmmm? That’s all I thought about on the way into work.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Optimist Goth with a Side of Brilliant Short Story

Ooooooooo we’re all in Meeting-With-the-Client mode this morning. Mustn’t tarry, what ho!

I can’t really write anything, although in defense of Trixi the Dominatrix, I must say that I LOVE my hair, even tho Nick still contends I am trying to look young for my age (MZA chivalrously disagrees).

I think what Nick is really saying is, I don’t look like the other mommies. Which is what he told me one time. He was talking about these two (very nice) mommies and I said, “Am I like them, Nick?” And he just looked at me, stupefied, and said, “No, you’re not a traditional mommy.” MY FAVORITE COMPLIMENT!

So the other day he was asking me what "category" he fell into because at school they are going through the Breakfast Club classification nightmare, as in, "jock," "geek," etc. I said, "Well what category do I fit into?" He regarded me steadily and said, “You, Mommy, are an Optimist Goth.”

Optimist Goth.

That is the name of my new band.

I am so not “Goth,” for crying out loud. It’s just because I wear black all the time.

I am wearing pumps for the Client Meeting and I feel like the houseboy in La Cage Aux Folles who keeps veering all over the place and falling and walking crooked because he has to wear shoes. It’s a little scary. They are Dansko pumps, tho, and sing MUSE they are comfortable. A wee bit too high on the heel, which puts me into Wilt Chamberlain territory, but that’s OK.

One final thought before I tout you onto this short story that KNOCKED ME OUT yesterday: Bode Miller--party boy, frat-goob, hype-buddy--needs to dust off his copy of the Myth of Icarus. That is all I hope.

Now, read this story by Tao Lin. Note the elegant dissection of life in real time. This, ladies and germs, is talent in its purest form.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Sweet Comic Valentines





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Monday, February 13, 2006

Vague Entropy

Hair cut on Saturday at new strip mall place. Foolishly assume it will be Hair Cuttery rates. Quickly become disavowed of this notion upon sight of CRANBERRY HERB TEA decanter and smart chocolate biscuits in the waiting area.

Suck it up.

Thank God I put on make-up.

All umber Italianate décor. Stylist is named “Trixi.” Quell all smartass porn name thoughts/comments. Trixi looks like Phoebe Cates WITH a really large ass.

I fall under the sway of the new salon. Honestly, It’s like falling in love—all those tremulous, hopeful thoughts—will this be my new place? So convenient to home! So close to Trader Joe’s! Is this a find? Is it…SALON LOVE?

Trixi and I converse. It is effortless—the salon blind date voodoo pas de deux is going so well! I like her! I tell her I do! I say, “I am so glad I found you!”

And she says, “Well, you were lucky. We have a new receptionist and she doesn’t understand…[can’t hear this part, self-preservation deafness kicks in]…I don’t normally take appointments…such short notice…”

Crest.
Fallen.

She asks what I want my hair to look like. I point to a picture of Joss Stone. Take it as a good sign she doesn't laugh.

She asks how I wear my hair and I say, “I like it tousled—scrunched, I DO NOT want it blown straight.”

She says, “I am going to blow it straight today so I can see the cut.”

DOMINATRIX!

Retreat into lily-livered salon spineless coma. OK. Blow it straight. WHATEVER.

She blows it straight. Another stylist comes up and stands over me, curiously inspecting my hair, they talk about me like I’m in surgery, under anesthesia.

“What color did you use?”

“Just a toner, 10 and 20 and then…”

The other stylist is so close to my head it looks like she’s going to pick lice off my scalp and eat it. Fellow mammal grooming techniques.

I look at my visage, framed by ridiculous Desperate Housewives straight ass cinnabar colored tresses. I specifically said: I DON’T WANT ANYTHING TASTEFUL! God it’s hard to get someone make you look cheap.

God it’s expensive to have someone not make you look cheap. Sticker shock reality—this place, cleverly disguised in a strip mall, is just as chere as a salon in Georgetown.

Come home. Nick takes one look at me, puts his arm up in front of his eyes, and says, “Scary!” MZA says, “Um, it looks good? Why do you always let them blow it straight?”

That is a REALLY GOOD QUESTION.

Nick says, “It looks like you’re trying to look younger than you are.”

O swift cruel dagger of guileless youth!

The next day, after our "nor'easter," I see my neighbor building a snowman with his progeny. He humors me with stolen across-the-fence banter and says, “The snow is really packing well.” I take the bait, foolish naïf that I am, and blubber enthusiastically, doped with the potential of neighborly bonhomie, “I didn’t think we would get so much!”

He shrugs, dismissively, and says, “We’ve gotten more than this before.”

Which, you know, causes my heart to sink. Everything’s just a little, shall we say, deflated, anticlimactic. Everyone is hurting my feelings and THEY DON'T EVEN REALIZE IT!

I need a balm for my soul in the form of cheerfully touted products. I decide that it is time for Trader Joe’s. Fresh affordable zinneas, heavily scented soap, unbleached flour, virtuous, organic, wholesomeness. Nick comes with me. Just so he can go to Starbucks for a de-caff vanilla confection.

We’ve been having the Mrs. Puff Existential Breakdown all morning. Grasping at straws of other potentialities. I even thought this morning, “Maybe California?”

I think that was because of Trader Joe's—like I was thinking that if we move to California everything will be this well-meaning, cleverly packaged friendly fare, that’s all good for you, in warm weather, and I won’t have to face all these vague disappointments.

In the feathery white bright snow.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Love and Spirits

Some people have the year of living dangerously. Apparently I am having the Year of the Emergency Room.

A couple of weeks ago, m’daughter Daisy was hospitalized, and then Friday morning my sister called to say my mother had fallen and they were taking her to the emergency room.

I drove to Sibley Hospital, which always opens a Pandora’s Box of emotions—it’s where my father was first diagnosed with cancer, it’s where Moira’s mother and brother were treated, it’s where my two babies were born—Ian and Daisy.

Birth School Work Death.

“Winter” by the Rolling Stones was playing on my CD player. Sometimes I want to wrap my coat around you…It’s funny how we take comfort in the long dormant words of a song. I am glad Mick Jagger wanted to wrap a virtual coat around me.

I don’t know what I am facing. Will my mother die this weekend? That is the big bad horrible thought. That mortality question. I am driving, and it’s over long-traversed terrain—the upper skirted layer of DC, Bethesda, Westmoreland Circle, Dalecarlia Parkway (which we used to sail down backwards as teens—daft).

I arrive at Sibley—the unintentional harbor of so many events and emotions. They have no record of my mother’s admittance of course. Because that is The Way Things Go these days—this arbitrary painful indifference—a mélange of crapped-up details and false starts and no accountability.

I did not waiver. I knew she was there—the grand piano tinkled in the lobby, played by the white-haired, red-coated volunteer—the place is manned by older sophisticates in that way, a pleasing comforting atmosphere.

I find my mother in one of the shower curtained-off booths of the emergency room—she is somehow regal, elegant, even in her hospital gown. What my mother possesses is this absolutely artless joie de vie—which she pronounces precisely like the Oklahoman that she is, no pretense, all bad French, which makes the statement, in its way, even more lovely.

My mother is gallant. The ultimate optimist. All pumped fist greatness and just a slight patrician gentility—without a trace of ostentation. My mother has lived all around the world—Singapore, Japan, Australia, and India—and in DC in between, since 1948, AND YET if you ask my mother, to this day, “Where are you from?” She will say, proudly, unabashedly, “A small town in Okalahoma called Ada.” I thought about naming Daisy Ada. Maybe I should have.

I walked into the ER booth and my mother’s face lit up, “Oh, Lele, you came!” Is what she said. “You didn’t have to come! How did you get away?” I looked at her, over the metal barricade of the semi-stretcher, and the tears just started to fall—I knew I shouldn’t but I just couldn’t stop—and this is what kills me about my mother—she knew, she just knew that I was heartbroken to see her, the strongest person in the world, so vulnerable and so she did not say one single word about the tears. So I wouldn’t feel bad about crying. As in, “We’ll just brush it off! Right-o!”

The physician’s assistant leaned over my mother’s bed gurney and said, right in front of her, “Is she baseline?” And I just looked at her, like, I’m sorry did you just speak to me, right over my mother, without acknowledging her presence? And, you know, I could not just refer to my mother as this inanimate marginalized human being, right there in front of her. And I said, “Baseline?” And she said something about –is she always like this is this normal?

I dealt with it somehow but then I went up to the woman later and I said, “You know, it’s kind of weird to talk about my mother like she’s not even there.”

That seemed to hit some long forgotten chord of humanity in her. And she wasn’t a bitch at all—she was really nice and professional, but there is always time to learn bad habits of desensitation and unconscious callousness. Isn’t there?

My mother had fallen and had lain on the floor of her well-appointed apartment for an undetermined amount of time. So they needed to do tests—X-ray, CAT scan, blood work—to determine if the fall was organic or not. Or something.

They came to take her for X-rays and I asked if I could come and they said no and they rolled her off and she said, “Oh please let her come!” And I stood there.

She came back and we had the nicest time. She said, “Tell me about the little people.” And so, relieved, I started telling her a phalanx of stories about my kids and she threw back her head—deeper into the rubberized hospital pillow—and laughed these great life affirming optimistic thrilled laughs and I stood there looking at her in wonder—like, Oh my God, I have this person in my life who loves me and loves my children so much.

MZA has been my guide in all of this older parent agony because he lost his mother just before Ian was born. He tells me over and over again, but in the most beautiful, subtle and distilled way, that no one will ever love you like your mother and once she is gone, that is it. You can have children, a husband, siblings, but you will never experience the love you receive from your mother, never.

Which is good to hear because, as Americans I think, we all too often become consumed with moving on to the next chapter and closing off before we should.

I don’t know, my mother’s spirit really infused me with hope yesterday. Just watching her talk to the nurses—old Foreign Service hat tricks that might as well be Sanskrit they are such lost arts—drawing people out and getting them to talk about themselves.

The nurses were lovely, but they kept calling her “hon” and “sweetie” and “darlin',” which my parents would be the first to tell you is better than “Late to dinner,” or other epithets, but for some reason when you’re in a hospital watching this one-time fabulous person be trivialized by people who don’t even mean it—all the old saws come out—attention must be paid!

Let’s not forget that this person, with the gray hair and the slipped off tie-on gown, was once a horseback riding girl with her own airplane who flew WWII fighter planes and met dignitaries all over the world and voted Democrat all her life and read books and made people laugh and threw dinner parties and made people feel lovely and at home in her luscious house for more years than any of us can recall.

My father used to say to her, “Margo, you are generous to a fault.” And these are the stories that get lost and buried in the misconceptions and sound bitten conveniences of life.

She kept asking questions and no one in the room got to know about her—and all her life had encompassed. I stood there as a silent, but respectful, witness.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mrs. Puff Goes to Paris

I love you from the bottom of my pencil case…

I love those lyrics—“Song for Whomever” by The Beautiful South.

At dinner last night Nick said, “I want to be the ambassador to Thailand and win the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Talley ho!

It’s so weird to be shepherding someone through life who is so much smarter and more motivated than you are.

I said to him this morning, “What is that thing Mrs. Puff says? And he said, “ You mean 'Sorry I’m late class, I was driving into work and that whole I’m-going-to-be-doing-this-for-the-rest-of-my-life thing reared its ugly head’?”

Um, yeah. That thing.

Then Ian, who’s three, yelled, “YOU’RE GOING DOWN TUBBY! Next stop, Davey Jones’ locker!”

SpongeBob plays a big part in our lives.

As does Jean-Paul Sartre, naturellement.

I was reading this website of a guy who irritates me; he seems like the James Frey of the Internet, all these hokey quasi-sarcastic morality plays with canned “dialogue” and pat endings. And, as he was recounting another one of his suspiciously tidy life scenarios, he said to his co-worker, in order to explain the moral bankruptcy of mankind, “"Hell is other people,' I say quietly, quoting Jean Paul Sartre.” At which point I wanted to hurl my computer monitor across the room.

I mean, anyone with a half a keg for a brain knows that’s Sartre, even if it’s only instinctively. As in, who ELSE but a disaffected Frenchman with a tight beret would say something like that? Even if you don’t know who said it, there's always Grandmaster Google.

Here’s my Mrs. Puff dilemma, and I recognize that it is not really a dilemma. Am I starting to sound like JEAN-PAUL SARTRE?

Tres bien!

Anyway, I work for a polite, intelligent, highly motivated woman that I both like and respect. No need to adjust that monitor! And I am working on an truly interesting project that will, I hope, benefit many women. It’s a publication.

So this past couple of weeks I have been working with another writer and a graphic designer and I was also working with a graphic designer for my site (behold its glorious wonder!), and it was all this back and forth and creativity and working toward something—the professional equivalent of a simultaneous orgasm. Am I starting to sound like D.H. Lawrence?

Good.

So there’s no dilemma. And yet there is. But maybe it’s the stupid kind of “American” dilemma where we never know how to be satisfied and we just whine meaninglessly (Being and Nothingness!) about things because we are such an insipid immature culture that we have nothing better to do than compare our inner torment with a fat cartoon fish.

Hmmm.

I guess I could just kick Oprah’s erratically toned ass for EVER introducing the concept of LOVING what you do in life.

I suppose it's time to dust off the Gratitude Journal. Maybe I should watch a Lifetime movie too? Just to get the Gratitude Juices flowing?

Or maybe I should just read about what a shit Sartre was to his ladylove Simone de Beauvoir here so I can drop faux intellectualania around while I question the throbbing emptiness of the human condition, and my coffee cup.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My Top Three Tearjerkers

I've been memed! I don't even know what meme means! Belinda asked me to do it, and believe me when a Best New Blog winner taps you, you jump! I was a finalist in the category...it was an honor just to be nominated...I guess I have to return that Bob Mackie gown...

ANYHOO, herein lie my top three tearjerkers--the movies that make me cry, A LOT.
Note: the answers are in the comments.


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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Interplanetary Quandries

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is these two people walking down the street and one says to the other, “What is this endless series of meaningless experiences trying to teach me?” Which brings me to today. I HATE it when I start questioning my direction in life. Oh yeah, I never stop questioning my direction in life.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been nailed into my bed at night—pushed deeply into the feather bed, the silky pillow—locked into a down-filled embrace of slumber.

I went to bed at 8:50 p.m. just because I wanted to be abed—cushioned, enclosed, warm, comforted. So I slept and awoke at 3:00 a.m. Lay awake until 4:30 a.m., not sure if I would be granted the blissful seduction of the second sleep—that fickle taunting bitchtress who all too often does not oblige. But I was pulled in—all laudanum airy unconsciousness.

Woke up in time to exercise. I wondered why in the HELL it is so hard to get out of bed—is it because it’s dark and everyone is all still snug in their beds? Is it because I know I have no choice? That I must get out of bed at 5:50 a.m. so that I will have that minimum 30 mins. of AEROBIC activity on the elliptical, with the Washington Post ruffling around me like paper in a hamster cage?

I walked up the stairs—all huffing and puffing and sweating and feeling VIRTUOUS and incredible but actually thinking—WHY DON’T YOU DO THIS EVERY DAY??? Exasperation. And then I had the Bad Thought—the kind you want to keep at bay—as I ascended the stairs from the basement I thought: Is it better to just keep going on this endless rat-in-a maze mode so I can’t stop for long enough to think about it?

Oh, yeah, we want to step AWAY from those kinds of thoughts. But we know, deep in our heart, that this routine—the 9-5 razzle dazzle—has worn down to the bone. The jobs have improved over the years—I do things that I like to do and that I am even good at, and yet. And yet.

So what do you do? Move to New Zealand? Move to a manse in Kansas with a fireplace in the kitchen and more square feet than the Taj Mahal? Because if you sell your house in the DC region, everyone knows you can buy a PALACE anywhere else in the universe. Except New York City. Ah, these tantalizing challenges.

DC’s my hometown, though. I mean as hometown as if I had grown up on Main Street in Pine River, Minnesota. It’s hard to think of DC as anyone’s “hometown” because it’s so marble-y and formal and political. But I have the same kinds of soft focus, hazy happy childhood memories of a banana seat bike and riding to school along Macarthur Blvd. in Palisades as anyone else.

I grew up in the leafy northwest region of Washington DC. And I can never extricate myself from this place for very long. It’s my home. The fat lush green trees in the summertime, the heat, the stupidity. My heart lies here—over the sulfuric brown Potomac River—I connect with something far more primal and undiscovered here—the river, the trees, the palisades above the river. The monuments are just trinkets—marble sugar cubes dotting the landscape.

My father is buried in Arlington Cemetery, so he’s across the river from me now.

Everywhere I drive; no matter how many concentric circles outward, has a place and a memory for me. It’s my place in the world. But maybe to achieve more wisdom you have to leave that world and learn a new one. I saw a bus ad for the Lonely Planet guides this morning that said, “Don’t let the world pass you by.” And it beckoned.

That is the state of MY union this morning.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Stupor Bowl Funday

Intellectually I know I should be a snot about the Super Bowl, but I’m not! I have some weird transgressive gene that allows me to appreciate large, crass, commercialistic, violent, morally vacant events, as long as they have a certain “spirit” to them.

MZA and Nick have treated me as sort of a pariah for these fascinations and Nick was this disdainful petit intellectual last year—he was only missing the beret and a haughty sneer—when he told me that the Super Bowl was STUPID and he certainly was not going to watch it.

Well, the American cheeseball machine has prevailed and this year both MZA and Nick were interested in the game. Ian was too, except he thought the Redskins were playing and he kept singing a really loud, bastardized version of “Hail to the Redskins.” Daisy was game and adorable about it all. Like, oh! My family seems to be excited about something, therefore I am too!

MZA offered to make his triumphant cinnamon beef with noodles (from Cooking Light) for dinner but I, in my American Velveeta Wisdom knew that This Would Not Do. So I did the only right thing and hotfooted it up to Safeway for Pillsbury crescent rolls, Li’l Franks, tortilla chips and Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches.

I came home and dumped the Li’l Franks into a sieve, to drain that disgusting hot dog juice off of them, and opened the crescent rolls and said, “Hey Nick! You want to learn how to make pigs in a blanket?” “Yeah!” And I put everything on the counter and he set about making them and did a bang up job. We baked them and they were SO GOOD! Nothing like a little puff dough and cow entrails to make a day festive.

I also bought a “Family Size” Stouffer’s lasagna AND I made garlic bread. As penance I made a wee salad of fresh baby lettuces too.

I set the bambini up downstairs with “Toy Story” and Nick, MZA and I watched the kickoff and were planted in our places for the game. We SCREAMED and clapped and said, “OH NO!” all together. Nick said, “Oh, that was a bad sack!” Wherein I got to display my incredible football acumen (that I learned from my friend Eve, who is extremely knowledgeable about football) and explained that it was not, in fact, a “sack,” but just a “tackle.” You want to be seriously scared when I am explaining football to you.

MZA is a natural and very gifted athlete who could give a shit about watching televised sports (reason #812 to love him madly). He is from Uzbekistan where soccer reigns supreme, and he doesn’t even like watching that on TV. But we were rapt. Then the Rolling Stones came on and I thought I was going to DIE! When they broke into “Satisfaction” we ALL got up and shook our tailfeathers, Ian did a dramatic bass player knee-dive and played some air guitar, Nick bopped around on the couch and I made a raving dork of myself. We all pumped our hands into the air and strutted like Mick.

This morning my colleague said to me, “Why don’t they get younger acts? They need to make room for new talent.” AS IF! Only the greatest rock band of all time. Hmph.

I got out the TV tables and we watched until the very end. Nick said, “I know it’s totally corny, but I want to watch the post game ceremony.” AND WE DID TOO! And Nick’s favorite player won MVP. After it was all over Nick* leaned over to kiss me goodnight and to thank me—because he got to stay up late and bake snacks and everything. I wondered if I should regret that I hadn’t coddled his effete rejection of these kinds of lardass pointless pastimes, but then I felt OK about it. He had learned a fundamental tenet of what makes America great (in a way): We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and when we do, it’s over a football game.

*Nick is 8 and he is a “good boy” but that doesn’t really cover it. He is such a complex mixture of things—he is fun, outgoing, polite, responsible, and deep.

We let him stay up for the Super Bowl, but he had to take a test today to qualify him for a special program he wants to do—one of the mommies recommended it to me. So I was getting ready this morning and I peeked into his room and he was already putting on his uniform, in the dark, quietly, so he wouldn’t wake up Ian. He doesn’t make a big deal of anything, he doesn’t drag his feet, he’s 8 years old and he gets ready on his own and gets his breakfast. He didn’t complain about the test or get nervous—he was just game, with it, all there.

We drove to Bethesda, parked. We were coming down the steps of the parking garage and he said, “St. Elmo?” And I said, “Yes, it’s the name of the street. Do you know who Saint Elmo is?” And he said, “I believe he is famous for fire—a green fire.” I can assure you, his Mama had to turn to our good friend Google to verify that and, as is often the case, he was right. St. Elmo’s fire is a blue or green aura caused by an electrically charged atmosphere.

We walked to the place. We waited in a waiting room and then a crisp little Asian man came out, took his form and said to me that he would be finished in 60 minutes. I looked at him, as we went through the door, and I said, “OK, I’ll be back in about an hour to pick you up. Good luck Sweetie!” And the Asian man kind of laughed.

I came to pick him up and he was just sitting in the waiting room and he looked up brightly and showed me a magazine and he said, “I’m reading a really interesting article on U2!” I said, “How did it go?” And he said, “Good.” We went back to the street and walked to my office and he said, “It was actually really fun!” And he told me about it and about how he thought he had done. He is confident, but not arrogant.

I brought him to my office and introduced him to a few of my colleagues. My boss said, “Do you have a brother?” And he said, “I have a brother and a sister.” And she asked him if he did his homework every day and he said yes and she said, “You’re so good! What motivates you to be so good?” And he said, “I don’t want my brother and sister to surpass me.”

I dropped him off at school and, ever since he was little boy, he has always run to school—he used to run with MZA toward his daycare place--so today he ran toward the school, rang the doorbell and was buzzed in.



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Friday, February 03, 2006

Dada Friday

Friday: A Haiku

Bloody hangnail
someone near me is wearing THE COLOGNE OF THE DAMNED
is it wrong to crave a Mai Tai on the way into work?

It is a bright sunny day. The frightening vertiginous spires of the Mormon Temple looked—dare I say—menacing this morning, all gilt and spike and crazy angelic flair. Who is the angel atop that marble behemoth? Please, God, don’t make me Google it. Is there a form of methadone for Google?

I'm back. The angel is Angel Moroni (we don’t have this angel in Catholicism, clearly a fraud) anyway, he is the one who buried those crazy gold Mormon plates!

Thoughts of lunch transpire, a revelatory sandwich from Café Gelato, or a sparing maguro sushi with an accent of California roll from Hinatu across the street?

Do you ever get randomly irritated that people keep walking by your office?

Here’s an excerpt from a story I am trying to get published:

Cynthia alludes to her life a lot. She doesn't think I can grasp all the finery and her descriptions always come with careful footnotes. It's my fault. I have a hard time telling people about my life. I don't say things like, My father drank Pimm's Cups, Black and Tans, Campari, and other potables after a round of golf at the Tollygunge Club. I don't mention his chestnut racehorse Pocket Money, the steak sandwiches under the rubber trees, or polo at the Calcutta Pony Club. These are silent facts.

I also leave out the part where my father's small plane goes down over Bombay and I have to fly home alone above his casket with a card pinned to me that says, "Unaccompanied Youngster."

Wouldn’t you want to read the rest of that? I must find a home for it. Believe me, I’ve tried.

It’s a silent, sunny, unseasonably balmy day here in BEAUTIFUL downtown Bethesda.

Isn’t there a dance called the Boney Maroni?

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Catatonic Nervous Breakdown Near-Miss

When you’re feeling like you’re about to catapult into an infinite chasm of charging, relentless despair (you know how that happens), I recommend watching a movie on the Lifetime Channel. Seriously! You will be so overcome with shame, disgrace, and humility that you will want to join the Mormon Church and run for the Senate and take over the world in small bite sized increments.

See, we took the bambini out for dinner last night which we NEVER, EVER do. We are not an “out to dinner” type of family. Even though I grew up in a resolutely “out to dinner” type of family.

The dinner was in celebration of Nick’s stellar third grade report card that included 7 “E’s”—his first in math, etc. We were really proud of him and I wanted to do something, well something a little reminiscent of the gala celebratory nature of the way I grew up. As a semi-spoiled high priestess of softly framed indulgence and half lit glamour. Pass me a Shirley Temple and some lace anklets, wouldja?

ANYWAY, I told Nick that we would take him to Tara Thai, which is a kind of kid paradise in that it has an undersea motif—all blue walls and “jellyfish” halogen lights and an attentive lovely staff and etched fish in glass walls and big splashy painted booths and stuff. It is a mini-chain here in our DC region. We took him to the one in Bethesda once and he LOVED it. He had some zany kid cocktail and he loved the satay and a fan was born.

Well, there’s a much bigger one in “Rotten Rockville” (as Moira calls it) and so I proposed that location because I knew it would be “splashier” and give us more kid bang buck. Oh, we approached it, and the neon sign beckoned amid the large suburban nicely appointed outdoor mall type area. Nick said, “That is the BIGGEST Barnes and Noble I have ever seen! And there’s a Starbucks!” Sing miracle muse! A Starbucks! I love seeing what kids get excited about. Nick said, “This is going to be great!”

We walked in and they were all floored by the “fancy” imaginative décor. The fabulousness of it all! Who says you can’t live through your kids’ wonder, eh?

We ordered chicken with fat noodles for the bambini and when the waiter delivered it Ian said, “I thought you were bringing mini dumplings!” Ah, the fanciful tales we have to tell kids. Nick ordered DUCK on crispy noodles with a side of sweet soy sauce and MZA and I had Panang beef and Pad Thai. AND IT WAS SO GOOD! We had foofy drinks—a mai tai and a gold margarita (one each)—and the bambini had pineapple juice.

But as we were ordering, Ian provoked Daisy and she started to WAIL and Ian kept talking talking talking and I felt myself sort of have that internal goddam implosion, you know? Where you just want to CRY and dissolve and crawl back into an uncomplicated portion of your life where thoughts were completed and conversation flowed and you could LOOK AT THE MENU and THINK and and and…It just reached this fever pitch of, “We are going to go home RIGHT NOW” and then it subsided, just as fast as it began—like a summer squall. And I regained my equilibrium and the food came and the waiter was so kind, so lovely, so generous, SO THAI. I LOVE THE PEOPLE OF THAILAND AND THEIR FABULOUS, GORGEOUS COUNTRY. Let it be known.

We came home and I gave the babies a bath and we wrestled them to bed and then sat down, semi-catatonic from the food, the foofy drink and the EXHAUSTION OF TRYING TO CORRAL TWO SMALL BABIES AND ONE FANTASTIC 8 YEAR OLD THROUGH LIFE and on came a Lifetime movie.

You see, you have to be semi-catatonic in order not to change the channel when it’s a Lifetime movie.

The women, Mary Louise Parker (my lover Billy Crudup’s erstwhile ladylove) just gets the diagnosis that her TWIN sons are autistic. Subsequently, every door slams in her face, her boyfriend ditches her, she loses her job, her social worker, and YET they PREVAIL!!!! They hone their savant gifts into magical fantastic dreams and goals! And mom falls in hot monkey love with Aidan Quinn, and thus we learn a meaningful, timeless lesson of perseverance and fortitude and how to assuage small tremulous nervous breakdown fissures by watching stupid cornball movies that manage to gnaw into our souls like little blessed termites, teaching us lessons we thought our callow, hardened flesh could no longer absorb.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The State of the Union: Translated

In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline.

“isolationism and protectionism”=withdrawing troops

The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership.

“leadership”=killing people

So the United States of America will continue to lead.

“lead”=kill people

Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously.

I can’t translate that because I still don’t understand how Osama bin Laden’s attacks on New York and Washington justified our invasion of Iraq. In Bush’s simplistic cowpoke jargon, that dog still won’t hunt.

They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder.

“They” an amorphous, nameless radical Islamic blob, meant to hustle Americans into thinking that “The Middle East” is just one gigantic powder keg itching to decimate Americans. “They,” the vaguer the better—all the better to bomb the shit out of whomever we choose. Iran, watch your back.

Their aim is to seize power in Iraq and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world.

Would “their” aim to seize power in Iraq have ever existed if we had not initiated a war against Iraq? Hasn’t our saber rattling provocative aggression caused this nasty hive to agitate and consolidate against us? In other words, hasn’t our challenge backfired? Have we not enraged the enemy to the point that they are banding together and finding a central cause and unifying themselves against us? Have we not abetted this galvanized force?

Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear.

Because there weren’t any “weapons of mass destruction.”

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure.

The emperor’s response to the little boy who noticed he wasn’t really wearing any clothes.

Hindsight alone is not wisdom.

Never admit that what you did was wrong.

Second-guessing is not a strategy.

Ignore the facts.

American leaders -- from Roosevelt, to Truman, to Kennedy, to Reagan -- rejected isolation and retreat because they knew that America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.

"We" (Democrats) should not withdraw the troops BECAUSE our beloved Democratic presidents (Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy) wouldn’t have liked it. (What is Reagan doing in there anyway?)

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

Isn’t that like the pusher saying to the junkie, “Say, bro, you have a problem...”

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Cynicism is another word for reality

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