Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reading Between the Lines: Conversation with My 14 Year Old

My conversation with my son yesterday morning went something like this:

Him: Can I go to Kareem's birthday party tomorrow?

Me: Sure. What time?

Him: 12 am.

Me: 12 am? At night? Or do you mean pm in the afternoon?

Him: I think the one in the day time.

Me: Okay. But we need to get him a gift.

Him: (Pause)

Him: Okay because we're going to shoot guns.

Me: What?

Him: For the party, they're taking us to shoot guns.

Me: What?

Him: (looking exasperated) What?

Me: No. No way you're going to shoot guns with Kareem. I don't even know his parents.

Me: (I'm lying. I did meet his mom once and briefly spoke with his dad when he came to pick up Kareem. Mom is Lithuanian I think and his father is Egyptian)

Him: Fine.

Me: You can ask your dad but my answer is no.

Him: (walks off)

Me (now upstairs talking to my husband): Did you hear that conversation?

Other Him: No. What?

Me: He wanted to go to a birthday party for Kareem where they are going to shoot guns.

Other Him: Who's Kareem?

Me: You know Kareem. He came over here one time with Knife Boy. (Knife Boy. That's another interesting story. Gave my son a knife as a birthday gift.)

Other Him: I don't remember Kareem.

Me: Yes you do. You thought he was a girl. (Kareem is an extremely handsome kid with long, dark hair)

Other Him: Oh him. You know I think I actually called him a girl. I can't remember.

Me: Perfect.

Sometimes I think I'm going crazy. Literally. I later explained to Will that I can appreciate that he wants to go, but there's no way I'm letting my only child go shoot a gun with somebody I barely know. And yet here I am up at 5:49 am still thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The First Day in a New School

On August 30th of 2012 my son started high school. He is a freshman. This reminded me of a funny story that I've often told, but never written.  It was my first day at a new middle school in Westport, CT. Here goes.

When I was in the 7th grade, we moved mid-year from San Marino, California to Westport, Connecticut. I suppose in some ways the two towns are similar, but geographically they couldn't be further apart. One is in sunny Southern Cal, the other in frosty New England. The fact that we moved to Connecticut during what is now known as "the Blizzard of 78" only exacerbated the situation.

My mom is an adventurous sort so she decided to take the train cross-country. The trip took her about 3 days as I recall. Then it took another day or two to get from the City to Connecticut because of the blizzard conditions. Normally my mom would get us ready for our fist day of school. In this instance, my dad had to stand in.

We did not have appropriate clothing for the East Coast. I had some cool Vans and OP shorts, but those shorts weren't going to help me now. My dad decided to take us to the Army/Navy store in downtown Westport to buy us clothes for the first day of school.  Interesting choice. I would say Guy Choice. He also cut my brother's hair. My poor brother.  At least he was still in elementary school.

I remember wearing my new camouflage painter pants and a dark brown jacket to my first day of 7th grade. I could have gone hunting later and passed stealthily through the woods without detection. 

Thank god we were moving from California with our camo clothes. There was a certain mystique about California girls that I vaguely recall being associated with episodes of James at 16. When I walked past the office in my new school, a fellow student winked at me. Marlon Acuna you know who you are.Thankfully the Connecticut kids were able to look past my camo suit. Or maybe they just couldn't see me?

Some of the kids did pick up on my fading Texas accent. Born in Arlington, TX. That's right. I grew up surrounded by cowboys like my Uncle David.

"What's a pin," they teased. A pen is a writing implement. A pin is something with a sharp point. Thank you for that insight. I really appreciate it. I learned to say ten not tin, and you guys not y'all. And a new one the kids in Connecticut were using - coming with? Meaning will you be joining us? Even Texans know you don't end a sentence with a preposition, y'all.

As I was wandering around the Internet looking for the perfect image for this blog, I stumbled upon That's right people. You can get hitched wearing a camouflage wedding dress. This is the most awesomest website in the WORLD. Makes me want to get married again so I can wear these...

PS. I think this foot model has mosquito bites from sleeping in the woods all night.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Eine Kleine Bikini

Before I get too far let me say this, I was right all along. When we left for Miami I brought my little bathing suits because even though I frankly would never be caught dead in a tiny bikini back home, I wear them freely when I travel. I just pretend I'm German. Luckily there are plenty of Germans in Miami as well as some rather hefty Latin Americans.

Everybody is fat now. I think there used to be a time when Americans were the the main fatties in the Universe, plus the Germans and pretty much anyone born in the former USSR. Now we are all fat, which is at once sort of reassuring, yet frightening. Even the gay guys in Miami are fat. I'm sure not all of them are. But the two gay guys I saw running down the beach this morning will never work in drag.

Which brings me back to my point. Before I left for Miami, I was discussing with the girls at work all the thongs I would be seeing. And I explained to them my bathing suit theory - that I'll wear whatever little bathing suit when I travel because I just pretend I'm German. Germans are constantly throwing on tiny bathing suits over their ample bodies and parading themselves around the beach. More often than not, they are also topless and their boobs meld into their stomachs. Their boobs and stomachs are as one.

I just need to remember a few key vocabulary words from 6th grade German class at Huntingdon Elementary School in San Marino, California.

-- Ja, das is wunderbar!
-- Ich heisse Becky.
-- Was machten Sie?

Etcetera, etcetera. Armed with my vocab and my bikini I am free to expose my nether regions to some much needed sun. It's a win for me, perhaps a lose for those around me. I don't know and I don't care.

What I remember when I travel is the person I can be, the person I am deep down inside. The person who thinks, "Hey I don't look too bad in this bikini."

PS I hate to break it to you girls but with a nice tan and a mojito, we all look good in a bikini. Go on, get one and a spray tan. I'll teach you some German.

PSS The secret to staying thin in Europe is smoking. Works well in the short-term but the long-term side effects are a killer.

PPSS I added this picture of the 86 year-old Duchess of Alba for Will the smartass.
This is for all the girls at work. Love beck

Monday, July 30, 2012

Inherently Unfair

My friend Julie and I were skimming the party photos in Greenwich Magazine today and had a revelation. We're not rich Greenwich housewives because we couldn't imagine marrying any of the men. These two (above) really aren't that bad. You should see the ones with toupées. I think Julie and I would make awesome rich Greenwich housewives. We could tell some seriously funny stories about going to the Big Y grocery in Monroe.

Unfortunately, the only guy we thought was attractive in Greenwich Magazine was a waiter. And let me tell you those photos go on and on and on. I mean there must've been 100+ photos. 
Now the women, that's another story. In fact, it's just unfair what you have to do as a woman to get a rich Greenwich husband.
I would commit hari-kari in my gigantic, Viking range, Sub-Zero kitted out kitchen if I had to wear one of those party dresses. I'd need judiciously placed fly paper to keep my hair from escaping a tight bun. Lipstck, mascara etc? Total disaster.

Greenwich, I'm out.

PS Our convo about the waiter went something like this. Finally. There's a cute one. Hold on. Why is he carrying a tray? Are those bacon-wrapped scallops? He appears to have some kind of biz logo on his shirt. Oh I get it. He's a waiter. Perfect.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Long Ride Home

Patty Griffin is one of the best writers I know. The fact that she writes songs seems even harder to me. Somehow the words have to go with music and timing, phrasing and the rest of it. She sings many sad songs, but I can't help myself.

I don't think I get depressed by listening to her music. I just think wow. Amazing turn of phrase. Unbelievable irony. And I love her voice.

Her song Long Ride Home is about a husband attending his wife's funeral after a marriage that lasted 40 years. This is one of my favorite parts of this song:

Forty years go by with someone laying in your bed

Forty years of things you say you wish you'd never said

How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead

I wonder as I stare up at the sky turning red

In June I went to a baby shower for one of my closest friends. Note I didn't say oldest. I've known her since circa 1978. She's having a baby. Actually she just had a baby named Maeve.

The baby shower hostess lives in a grand apartment on Park Avenue. In fact her home was featured in the New York Times because her architect/interior designer decided to set up a series of puzzles in the house à la Rube Goldberg. Okay this is where the weird confluence of events begins.

Weird coincidence #1 was my husband and I attended a lecture given by David Isay from NPR's Story Corps on Valentine's Day, He was promoting a compilation of their best love stories from Story Corps called All You Need is Love. One story was about a couple who met in New York on a rainy night when a man sitting in a cab spotted a woman walking down the street crying. He was so moved, he got out of the cab and came to comfort her. Apparently she initially thought he was crazy. But like all great love stories, what might seem crazy suddenly becomes a good idea.

I realized the baby shower hostess was the woman walking in the rain when I googled her. My friend having the baby had explained to me one night at her swanky NYC 40th birthday party that you have to google everybody. So I do. Weird coincidence #2. After googling the hostess, I found the story about her eccentric home in the City that had Rube Goldberg-type puzzles.

When I was a young woman, I worked at the Washington Post for a wonderful man named Herb Block the editorial cartoonist for the Post for 70 years. After Mr. Block's death, he established a foundation in his will - the Herb Block Foundation. You should look up the Foundation They do great things including awarding much needed scholarships.

Anyway, from time to time I get a parcel in the mail from Mr. Block's longtime associate and friend (also my friend), Jean Rickard. One time she sent me a Rube Goldberg book from Mr's B's library. Mr. Block knew Mr. Goldberg because Goldberg was also a cartoonist. I still have the book and thought of it when I went to this baby shower at the so-called "Rube Goldberg" like house. Weird coincidence #3.

I was a little late for the shower because I was working and then I needed to make it into the City on the train. Plus I think it always takes me a little extra time to make it into the City because I have to figure out what to wear that doesn't make me feel like a gal from the Coldwater Creek collection running around Manhattan. You know sort of slouchy, with elastic waistbands and weird sandals.

I made it finally and was on my best behavior in front of the cool NY girls. Instead of having one too many Skinny Girl margaritas, I hung out with my girlfriend's mother Mary Agnes. I've always felt a special bond with Mary Ag as we call her. I think because my granny Helen was also an Agnes. Helen Agnes McDowell. Weird coincidence #4.

There actually aren't that many people named Agnes anymore. There was Agnes Moorehead from Bewitched. Not the Bewitched with Will Ferrell for you youngsters. The one before that with Elizabeth Montgomery and Darren who changed characters once or twice. Mary Agnes is Swedish where as my grandma was Scottish. But they share the middle name.

At the end of the shower I'd arranged for a car to pick me up and take me to Connecticut. The train into the City is fine, but the trains out start to get few and far between around 9pm. Mary Ag hitched a ride with me because we were going in the same direction.

On the way home we were talking about stories from back in the day. This was the 70's mind you so our stories are pretty fricking great. Mary Ag brought up the time she got so mad at us for being "lazy bones" - that's actually what she called us - that she started throwing our clothes out the window of my friend's bedroom. I'm thinking that one of our guy friends had also spent the night and was in bed with us too that morning.

So Mary Ag is chucking our clothes out the window because we'd overslept instead of cleaning my friend's room like we said we would. No, she was not chucking our clothes out the window because a guy slept over. Remember? It was the 70's.

Mary Ag said, "I don't know why I did that." And I said, "I think you were just sick of us not cleaning up. I totally get it." In a way, I think it was an apology. Something rare from Mary Ag because she has very strong opinions and in many cases she was dead on right.

I do totally get it, now. I really didn't think it was that strange then. Just very matter-of-fact. Get your butts out of bed or your clothes are going out the window. Makes complete sense.

We talked some more about husbands and wives and grandchildren. Her granddaugher was coming to visit from Chicago for Father's Day. I asked what they were going to do and Mary Ag said that she was worried that her granddaughter might be bored. The girl is 15 and Mary Ag and her husband are in the 80's.

She told me the granddaughter had visited them another time when they were staying out in Palm Desert, California. So I asked her, "Well what did you do when she was out in California?"

Mary Ag explained to me that she'd taught her granddaughter Katherine, then 14, to drive. She said, "You know she did so well we just decided to let her drive us around town." And I was thinking about my childhood and learning to drive a tractor in Texas from my Grandpa Fred. Almost couldn't reach the pedals. Then learning to drive a truck in New Mexico that time when I almost hit a cow. Maybe I get it now what my mom is always saying to me. As the mom, you're hyper-crazy about safety and rules, etc. As the grandparent, you've seen more of life and you know that although you can't legally drive at 14, some kids just have a knack for it.

Mary Ag and I came to peace that night on the long ride home from New York. This week Maeve was born and Armin left this world. And that is the tragic, beautiful reality of life. We are only here for a short while as Cat Stevens would say. Enjoy the ride.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dogs Can't Play Poker

Daisy was on our bed again this morning where she is not supposed to be. She gave me this look like WHATEVER. Very blasé.

Then her tail started furiously wagging. Because Daisy is a very happy girl. And I thought to myself, dogs can't play poker. They have a tell that is their tail. 

Cats, on the other hand, could totally play poker.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Death Becomes Me

I'm exaggerating. I'm not dying. I mean I am technically -- but not right now. So this is just my high-larious death blog, sure to win over readers and the other 99.99999% who have absolutely no idea who I am.

Today my doctor told me I have high blood pressure. Now I have a couple of theories about that. One is that I don't like my doctor and going to see her makes my stress level go up. The other is my stress level is already pretty high, so it could be that she's right. I'm not on medication or anything. Yet. 

I have to start regularly exercising again and drinking water (blech). I don't like water. I'm sorry. I think it's because in the South, water comes in glasses filled with shaved ice like a snow cone. Now that's a water.  

For a youngish person, I am sort of obsessed with aging. When I was in high school, I had a job working at a nursing home for retired Jesuit Priests. The Campion Center in Weston, MA. According to their website, they are now a Renewal Center. I guess the priests have to go elsewhere when they retire. It's funny to me that all these places are now called some BS name like assisted living or skilled nursing center. 

Here's a good BS name for a retirement home. Putnam Ridge Rehabilitation Center. Tagline: A Refreshing Alternative. Or the Country House in Westchester. Website copy: Our beautifully appointed and spacious common areas provide an elegant backdrop for a vibrant and refined lifestyle. Really?

When I worked at the Campion Center, I figured out that older people are exactly the same as younger people. Some are grouchy, some are letchy, some are kind. Some are forgetful, some remember everything. Some hide whiskey in a pickle jar in their closet. "Oh Father Hegerty," I would say, "I think I can tell the difference between vinegar and whiskey." 

But the body fails us all, eventually.

This week I received the first email from our high school reunion committee. Get psyched for our 30th it said. Mmmm. That really doesn't seem possible. I don't think it could be 30 years since I graduated from high school.  Next year my son will start high school. A frightening proposition. Other friends have kids starting college. Even more frightening. It appears I am getting older in spite of my absolute conviction that I cannot be 30 years past high school days. 

I have decided to remain calm about this high blood pressure diagnosis.  I  took my blood pressure this morning on a home machine. It was actually low - like 100 over 70 (my original theory about hating my doctor may be accurate). I've been drinking plain,  non-snow cone water per my doctor's instructions. And before work, I took my dog Daisy for a walk. I was feeling pretty smug about the whole getting old thing. What am I thinking? I'm not getting old.

Then I called my dog Nancy. "Hey Nancy," I said to her. She looked up at me like, "Who the hell is Nancy? I'm Daisy, old lady."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Things I Invent at My Day Job

And by I....I mean we. Things WE invent at our day jobs. Because I work with some pretty creative women. There's Jules, Michelle, Lucia , Megan and Wendy. There was Deb. Technically we still work with Deb only it's in a different capacity. Long story that she should write about, if she hasn't already.

Several bloggers coincidentally writing great blogs like So What Are You Making for Dinner? (Lucia), Closet Fashionista (Megan) and (Deb). Julie is working on turning her life story into a Chelsea Handler kind of a book. Wendy could design the cover. Michelle could make it into a movie.

We work at an agency but our offices are in the boonies. We have about 3 lunch options total. It's not like we're popping out to grab something from Cosi in the City. When noon rolls around we tend to take our weird leftovers, Smart Ones, vegan specials -- and heat them up in the microwave. Then we sit around and cook up ideas for inventions. What we would do if we didn't work at this agency in the boonies?

These are my favorite inventions so far:

Broken Spirit
A new fragrance for women who've given up on their dreams. This was GENIUS product naming by Deb. I think it would smell something like the skinny clothes you've put in a giant plastic tub in your basement. Slightly musty and let down.

Spankles would become all the rage in shapewear - for the gal whose feet and ankles are one.

Middle-Aged Butt Branding
Sure the younger set has embraced sweatpants with brands emblazoned across their butts. Juicy. Pink. UCONN. Whatever it is, just slap it across the back of your pants and go out jogging. Our idea is to brand sweatpants for middle-aged women. We'd embroider them with snappy slogans like: Flat. Bumpy. Cold. Worn Out.
Once Great.

Real-World Barbie 
Along the same lines as our sweat pants, these Barbies would represent real women. Jiggly Julie. Big-Boned Becky. Our caravans would be stocked with Cream of Mushroom soup and Smirnoff.

Fun Nursing Homes
In my last year of high school, I worked at a nursing home for Jesuit priests called The Campion Center in Weston, MA. At the Campion Center, the priests and brothers had happy hour in the evening. It wasn't wild and crazy, but they had a drink. "Why should people at the end of their lives be denied a glass of wine," said Lucia. Our fun nursing home would have happy hours like Mariachi and Margarita Mondays. Maybe date night? What the hell.

You may be old but you're not dead.

Fun Nursing Homes in Hawaii
Very similar to our other concept, except we get to live in Hawaii. And somehow Dog the Bounty Hunter would play a role.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm So Tough I'm Like That Guy in Silverado

Last weekend, we went to the not-so-nearby mall to look for a couple of obscure things. First stop, FYE for XBOX headphones for my son. In the store, there were bins filled with discount movies. One of my favorites - Silverado - was on sale for like 4 dollars. But it was some kind of 2-disk collectable set, and in my mind I couldn't afford to take on 2 disks. "It's just too much," I said to myself.

That's how I think.

Silverado reminds me of other Lawrence Kasdan films I love. His son is in the movie business now so you young kids might recognize the last name. Grand Canyon that was another good one. He's well known for The Big Chill, but that's not my favorite.

Silverado is just a fun movie with a great cast. Young Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Brian Dennehy, John Cleese, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Hunt, Lynn Whitfield, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, etc. You couldn't even afford to make this film today with all of these actors.

A pivotal scene in the movie takes place when brothers Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner learn their family has been targeted by the bad guys and their young nephew Augie kidnapped by the evil McKendrick clan. Scott Glenn's character has already been attacked by the McKendricks, beaten then dragged by a horse. He's barely recovering from his injuries in a cave when he hears his nephew is missing. On the brink of death, he musters all his strength to save his kinfolk. In a truly tough guy scene, he strips the bandage from his head, clearly showing he is not going to take any crap.

Now back to me.

I've been sick for about 10 days. But I needed to work. Because of course, this is America and what would happen if we took a sick day? I took half a day off then realized I needed to go in. People were counting on me. Not to rescue them like the young boy in Silverado. Because they had immediate copywriting needs for the purposes of marketing stuff.

The two are very similar if you think about it.

So I ripped that bandage off my head and went into work. To write draft number 7. Of copy that will appear only one time. In an ad that no one will remember. And that's how tough I am.

PS This is an actual line from Lawrence Kasdan's wiki...

He graduated from the University of Michigan with an MA in Education, originally planning on a career as an English teacher. Upon graduation, Kasdan was unable to find a teaching position, so he became an advertising copywriter, a profession he did not enjoy.