Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I'm Gonna Knock Me Out

I'm out. 

Roughly translated, it means I'm done, I'm leaving, I'm over it, this is a pain etc. But are we really out? Can we ever be out? 

I can be a hermit. Winter is a trigger for my hermit-like behavior. And I wonder to myself could I really just disappear for awhile? Like Howard Hughes living in the penthouse at the Desert Inn. Except I would never let my nails grow the way he did. That's just weird. Plus he was a millionaire, so I would have to be "out" middle class style like at a Hampton Inn. 

I was talking to my neighbor who is a Staples grad a little older than I am. Her brother was one grade above mine. We know many of the same people like the Shaughnessy gang. I asked her about a cool necklace she was wearing and she said, "Oh I wear this when I need a little something extra." Or something like that. Like when she needs super powers. 

She went on to explain that she had a lot on her plate. She and her brother had recently met with their parents and decided they could no longer navigate their family home on their own. In her own family, she has 3 kids, 1 out of college, 1 in college, and another taking a break. Then she told me it was her first day back at work in the school system because of a "self-inflicted concussion." I asked what is that? 

She said she was taking laundry down to the basement and when she turned around, she ran smack into an iron pipe and knocked herself out. Like out cold. Thankfully, it was the weekend and someone was home. She didn't just lie there prone in the basement like I sometimes think they'll find me. 

Personally, I believe a "self-inflicted concussion" occurs when you're racing around trying to do too many things at one time and/or when you're pretty much like every mom I know.

I bet she wishes she could be out, this neighbor friend of mine. If you've cold cocked yourself by accident, then you've probably earned the right to be out.  

As a parent or a partner or a pet owner, I feel that we don't ever get to be out. Until we're finally out, the last hurrah, the big sleep. But a girl can dream of one day being out. Just for a bit. 

NB Mama Said Knock You Out is one of my faves from early rap from LL Cool J who was just honored at the Kennedy Center Awards where I was for the briefest moment ever a waitress during an event honoring Jimmy Stewart.  They probably should've told me I needed to carry a ginormous tray to be qualified. Instead, I think I just bussed tables for the rest of the night.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Ciao Bella! The Italian Blog

I suppose like any writer, I am constantly composing in my head. I'm writing and rewriting all the time. That's one of the things about writing that will make you crazy. There are so many ways it could go. 

Most of my funny blogs are the result of collaboration, improvisation based on conversations I have with other people. I blatantly steal funny stuff from friends and family. Here's some bits from my Italian friend Julie and the conversations we've had. 

An American Is Anyone Who Is Not Italian

I'm an American and Julie is Italian. Even though she was born here in the US as was I, I'm an American and she's Italian. Even though my ancestors are Europeans like Scots, Germans, Finns, I'm an American to Julie. Or my friend Lucia. If I make lasagna, it's American lasagna. My sauce will always come from a jar and I say ricotta wrong. And prosciutto. I also say that wrong.

The Impreza Italian Package

The Italian package is a new feature that will be added to non-Italian cars with Italian sounding names like the Subaru Impreza. The Italian package allows Italian mothers to make chicken cutlets while driving home from work. The car will be slightly modified to include a hot plate for cooking in the center console. When the kids start calling and asking what's for dinner, this on-the-go Italian mom is already half way there. Maybe in the back, there could be a smoker for curing prosciutto. BTW, when you say it correctly aka like an Italian, prosciutto has no "o" sound at the end. It ends at the t's and sounds a little like a curse word or a violent sneeze.

The Not So Hotline

Julie and I had this long conversation about how we could make extra money. I said, "Jules, you can make extra money if you combine your amazing Italian cooking with your still hot Italian looks." From there we decided Julie could start a video chat line where she cooks Italian sauce and then provocatively talks to the camera about how "hot" it is. She could threaten viewers with wooden spoons if they're bad. Wear skimpy aprons, etc. She could pronounce ricotta correctly and sound kind of dominatrix.

Then she came up with a genius name for this middle-aged, naughty Italian housewife video chat service - the Not So Hotline. 

NB: Coincidence that I'm publishing this on Columbus Day? I think not. Ciao!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Our house has had 3 owners us, the Longs, and Per and Anna Swenson according to the census records. We bought the house from the Longs who lived here for nearly 45 years, happily raising a family of 6 children. When we moved in, we found a handwritten note from one of the Long's kids, Jane. Here's what it said:

To: The new people who will live in this house.

My daughter told me to leave a note so you would know how important this house was to us all who lived and grew up here, the last forty-three years. There were nine of us originally and almost every night we sat down to dinner in the dining room together. My dad liked to talk politics which my mom hated, but the rest of us enjoyed talking about ideas – and I think this house will remain with us as an idea.

We loved, lived and lost while living in this house, or just visiting our parents. My youngest brother kept an alligator in the bathroom on the 3rd floor. My wedding reception(s) were here. All the holidays…

Best of luck. I hope you have an emotionally enriched time living here.


Here's what we'll miss about this house that we have loved for 15 years:
  1. Our wonderful neighbors who keep watch over us, who hired our kid to do odd jobs and gave him cards for birthdays and holidays. They all have interesting professions like professor, painter, engineer, coach, cop, lawyer and nurse. 
  2. Will's many special events that began here like his concerts, proms, awards ceremonies, first days of school, movie nights--even the day he got his license and drove off on his own.
  3. Welcoming our doodle dog Daisy here for the first time and watching her perch her chin on the window sill observing life. 
  4. The seasons, and how the garden and landscape changes--waiting for first signs of spring, the first chilly fall day.
  5. HALLOWEEN--with kids flocking here by the hundreds to safely trick or treat on our neighborhood sidewalks. Our neighbor screening the Great Pumpkin in the backyard.
  6. It's still a "borrow a cup of sugar" type of place where we know the kindness will be reciprocated. We meet kids at the bus when parents are running late, we help shovel, we share plants in our gardens.
  7. Wonderful schools where Will made many friends, got his start in music and was made to feel welcome. He went on school trips to China and DC among other highlights.
  8. Riding the train into the City to take classes, attend lectures at the 92nd Street Y, eat wonderful food, and take in the Christmas tree and decorations every year.
  9. Going to the beaches in the summer for cookouts or to the lake year round to hike and walk the dog off leash. 
  10. The live music scene at FTC, the Klein and other venues plus great restaurants, 2 movie theatres and a cool downtown.
Jane Long was right. We had an emotionally enriching time here. We hope the same for the next family. 

NB: That's Will with his friends Jordan, Jake, Emmett and Pedro headed into the City for his 18th birthday.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Love Is All Around & Mary Tyler Moore

My family and maybe some of my friends know I have a bit of the shine. I don't see dead people exactly but I have premonitions about things, weird hunches, strange dreams, one too many coincidences. 

I hear music a lot -- like in my basement I sometimes hear music. We have a stone foundation. I don't know if music is being carried through the ground and into the rock, but it's older music like Big Band era music so I wonder. Here's another thing, I like cemeteries.

Today I decided to go to Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield.  It's a beautiful old cemetery in what is nearly Southport. I've been there once before to visit the grave of a young man whose family established a music scholarship in his name. I wanted to say thank you to David John Nogan for his help with our music kid's tuition at Loyola NOLA.

This time I was going to see Mary Tyler Moore's grave. I loved Mary Tyler Moore. Her shows yes, but I also loved her great style, the way she tossed her hat, and swished her beautiful 1970's long hair. She was just cool. I remember reading her obituary and feeling so sad for all of us who lost her. And then I read that she too was buried at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield. I knew someday I'd visit her grave. 

I brought with me the following offerings: one of our son Will's old baseballs, a guitar pick from his new music school in Minneapolis-St. Paul and some Mardi Gras beads with trumpets on them. My feeling was these were symbols of the old Will and the new Will. I wanted to leave the guitar pick and baseball for Mary Tyler Moore, the patron saint of Minneapolis-St. Paul, to watch over our Will as he transitions from young boy to young man in Minnesota. The beads were for David John Nogan, the musician who died far too young with connections to Louisana, where Will went to college last year. 

I need a Venn diagram to explain this clearly.  But in my mind, it mad perfect sense. Say goodbye to Louisiana, say hello to Minnesota and ask two souls to watch over Will.

Our dog Daisy ate the cover off the baseball on the way to the cemetery. She's obviously feeling better. My offerings now shrunk to two.

I drove in slowly, respectfully, minding the narrow paths that wind through Oak Lawn. I saw baby deer and big deer and none of them seemed to mind my passing. They would slowly shuffle out of the way, like here comes another one out to ruin my lunch. 

I found the section where Mary Tyler Moore was buried and circled slowly. I saw two people sitting near the center of section D, but I didn't really make a connection. I finally decided to get out of the car and walk around. I felt self-conscious because I'd just jumped in the car without thinking about what I was wearing. And that would be -- ripped jeans, my painting Birkenstocks with colorful splatter all over them and a kind of macrame detailed Lucky jeans shirt. But I thought, "Hey Mary Tyler Moore was a 1970's kind of gal, she'll get my hippie vibe." 

Here's where the shine part comes into play. 

The two people in the cemetery I would describe as a salt-and-pepper gentleman with glasses and a blond woman of a certain age, also with glasses and a vague European accent possibly of German or Austrian descent. With them, was an older dog who seemed friendly enough. But there are signs everywhere that say No Dogs Allowed. I felt sort of judgmental about them until I remembered my own dog was in the car with the AC blasting. 

I approached, said hello and met the dog. I asked the dog's name of the woman because he seemed to be her dog. 

The man answered, "Spanky." 

"Oh,' I said 'like that kid's show from back in the day?" 

He smiled. "Right," he said.

"Our Gang," I said. 

And I kept walking around in circles trying to find the place where Mary Tyler Moore was buried. The man, the woman and dog started packing up to leave.

There was something kind of strange about them. The woman sat upright, rather austerely, herding the dog as they left with commands of, "Heel!" The man sat on a stone bench in an enclosure surrounded by an orange mesh fence. I think he was reading a newspaper now that I think about it. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that this area surrounded by fence might be where Mary Tyler Moore was buried. I did see a large white statue but I couldn't read the grave stone and I certainly didn't want to cross the orange fence to get a better look. 

Then I saw the man walking back toward me. Maybe he'd forgotten something I thought. 

He asked, "Can I help you with something?" 

"I"m looking for the grave of Mary Tyler Moore," I said. "Is this it? Do you know?" I asked, pointing to the fenced-in area. 

"Yes," he said. "We haven't finished with it yet. Pouring the cement and," his voice trailed off. 

And then I realized. "Are you her husband?" I asked. He nodded yes. 

I'm not a person who is light on her feet - I don't think quickly in situations like these. In an emergency, I'm a champ. Public speaking, not so much. I started babbling, explaining the story of taking Will to Minnesota, and that even though I know Mary Tyler Moore's not from Minnesota, I just wanted to leave something of Will's for her. 

"That's very sweet," he said. I showed him the guitar pick. 

"He's a musician," I said. 

"Leave it here," he said pointing to a row of stones on her grave. "Weight it down so it won't blow away." 

I thanked him as he watched me place the guitar pick on his wife's grave. Her husband was Jewish I remembered that too. I looked it up, the reason why Jews leaves stones on the graves of their loved ones. Putting stones on a grave keeps the person's soul down in this world. That's what I found out about the stones.

He had kind eyes. I must've sounded crazy with my ripped jeans and guitar pick rant about my kid in Minnesota. He's a cardiologist her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, so my guess is he's seen it all.

"I loved her," I said, starting to tear up. 

"Me too," he said.

NB: I did some more research. Of course, Mary Tyler Moore started a wonderful pet adoption charity called Broadway Barks and Spanky the dog was a rescue pit bull belonging to her housekeeper Anna, likely the woman I saw today. Moore said that Spanky could sense when her blood sugar dropped which helped with managing her diabetes.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Same As It Ever Was

Last week I dropped Will off at school. He's a sophomore now in college. My friend Lou Lou just dropped her daughter Olivia off at Tulane - a second generation who will live and breathe the walls of Josephine Louise dorm at Tulane University. Please god, let them be freshly painted.

I thought it would be easier this time, easier than before when Will was a freshman. His first summer back from college was a challenge. It's a strange time in a young man's life where he wants to do and be all things men do - or at least the fun things they do. But he's not quite old enough, he doesn't have enough money, he can't figure it out, women are difficult, cars are expensive. Strange times indeed. 

I'm reading a book called Lift by Kelly Corrigan at the random suggestion of a friend. It's a letter to her children to help them remember their young lives. In a way, this blog has been the same. Not all my posts are about our son Will, but I like to think the good ones are like:

I have no real music skills, unlike most of the members of my family. Certainly, unlike Will. I don't play the piano. I'm just an okay singer. I do have one very unique musical talent however. I can remember the lyrics to many, many songs. Like the other day I burst into Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. "I'd be inclined," he sings. That's a twisty phrase for song lyrics. It would have no place in today's songs, but Neil Diamond rocked those lyrics and his denim jumpsuits back in the day. 

I saw Neil Diamond in the airport one time. I'd just spent a weekend with my Tulane roommate Lou Lou bumming off all the other recently graduated kids who were living in Aspen. We'd been to see Lyle Lovett and his Large Band featuring the super talented singer Francine Reed. We'd biked up to see Hunter S. Thompson's cabin in the woods, slightly fearing for our lives because it was rumored he shot at lookyloos. 

When it was time to head home, I cabbed it to the tiny Aspen airport. And that's when I saw him -- bathed in a beautiful light, talking on a pay phone no less, was Neil Diamond in full-on denim -- denim bell bottoms, denim jacket with sheepskin collar, denim shirt. Sweet Caroline, I couldn't believe it was him. I was suddenly back in 1970's Texas listening to my dad's vinyl. 

In New Orleans, I was lucky to see live music all the time. One of the most amazing concerts I saw while at Tulane - and there were many like Bonnie Raitt and David Crosby jamming at the Maple Leaf with Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes on percussion. Anyway, one of the most amazing concerts I saw was David Byrne's Burning Down the House tour. Incredible show. Incredible performances. Thinking of that show takes me back to college days. I don't want to romanticize that time or  gloss over the tough parts, but that was some kind of fun that night. 

The song lyrics I thought of as I dropped Will off at college were these words from The Talking Heads' more subdued song Once in a Lifetime:

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Look where my hand was
Time isn't holding up
Time isn't after us

This year Will is in school in St. Paul, MN - quite a departure from New Orleans. It was his choice and I think a very mature decision based on how he felt after his first year. I've never been to Minnesota until just now. People couldn't be nicer, just as you would expect from Midwesterners. I did feel that I shouldn't burst into tears there, on the street for example. Minnesotans don't cry. So I waited until I got back home and had myself a nice outburst at JFK airport in parking terminal 2. Ah New York, the land of crazy and plenty of crying. 

It doesn't get any easier, dropping your kid off 20 hours away in a place you've never been until last week. It's tough when they're freshman and when they're sophomores. Maybe it gets easier when they're a junior. For now, it's just me and the old man and our dog moping around. Same as it ever was, indeed. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tag Sale - Everything (Including this Lipo Machine) Must Go

My friend was out shopping tag sales last weekend and came across an estate sale for a doctor. The sale items included a "gently used" liposuction machine -- apparently the doctor was a plastic surgeon. 

His first thought was, "Who in the world is going to buy this?"

My first thought was, "How hard could it be?"

NB I love the bucket attachment in this image. Ewww....

Monday, July 31, 2017

IKEA Is Swedish for Crap

Yesterday was Sunday and I decided the lesser of two evils in terms of weekend days to go to IKEA in New Haven. Where to begin? First, the traffic was still pretty heavy even though it was a Sunday. Second, I hadn't slept well so never a good idea to go shopping when you're tired. Third, it's IKEA, the place that lures you into buying crap just because it's cheap. Oh and the kicker? It was almost lunch time, and what was once only a handful of food trucks has turned into a mini-Austin, Texas food truck fest.

I went in search of very specific items like a new duvet cover for the guest room to replace the old duvet cover that ripped in the washing machine. I also needed 2 new pillows and a bedspread for Will's room. Here's what I came home with:
  • Duvet cover that doesn't match anything in the guest room (to be returned)
  • Bedspread (keeping)
  • 2 pillows (keeping, already in use)
  • 2 storage boxes that look like mini-ottomans or stools (to be returned, what was I thinking with the white fabric?)
  • 4 small plastic bins I was going to use to organize tools in the basement but they don't hold anything (to be returned)
  • 3 tin planters that I was also going to use to organize nails/screws in the basement but we don't have any loose nails/screws so I don't need them (to be returned)
  • Gray stain to stain my back porch (already stained, looks good)
  • Set of three of the world's crappiest paint brushes to apply said stain (1 down, 2 to go)
When I finished staining the porch, Will took a look from inside the kitchen. He said, "I like it. It looks very rusty." Meaning rustic. #epicfail

I've decided IKEA should install a mandatory meditation room directly in front of check out as part of their corporate social responsibility. All IKEA shoppers would be forced to sit and stare at their carts and ask rhetorical questions of themselves like, "Do I really need this lucky bamboo? Am I actually going to follow these ridiculous anime assembly instructions?" No. At least 50% of the time, the answer will be no. 

The long and short of it is, I have to go all the way back to New Haven to return this stuff. On a positive note, it is IKEA so I can get a soft serve yogurt cone for a buck. 

NB: This is a picture of a small child wrapped in a bath mat that makes her look like a polar bear cub. This is what happens at IKEA people.