Monday, September 19, 2016

Review of the 2016 Emmys: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I murmured quietly to the Emmys as I attempted to break up with them last night. But, as the opening began -- with a interminable parody featuring Jimmy Kimmel of O.J. fleeing in the white Bronco, I inwardly sighed.

I knew this parting wouldn’t go well….after all, the Emmys and I have been together for decades.

I tried to convince myself that it might work out…that despite years of missing the chemistry that makes a relationship sizzle, this year might be different.

It was, however, exactly as I feared: a total romp for Mr. Kimmel, inane patter between presenters and wide angles of an audience who appeared to be suffering from some sort of ill-timed anesthesia.

And Jimmy was nasty.

I love nasty…but only when it’s funny, and Jimmy’s attempts fell with a thud into the laps of a disinterested audience.

Even his attempt to skewer Donald Trump by pushing a bit with with Mark Burnett didn’t work as he blamed the smiling super-producer of shows like "Survivor" and "The Celebrity Apprentice" for unleashing The Donald upon an unsuspecting America. Thud.
Interesting hair choices for both.

As the cameras searched for an animated soul among the congealing audience, one could espy John Travolta, with yet another incarnation of hair sutured to his scalp and his beard, er, I mean wife Kelly Preston, both of whom looked bored as hell. Maybe they actually all were hungry as Jimmy later proposed, so he handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the crowd which received the biggest reaction of the evening: people chewing.

Soon after, it was announced that Bill Cosby was about to take the stage. That woke up Tina Fey (and me) who swiveled her cleavage about a bit in her seat, eyes fully open for the first time all evening until Jimmy popped out, minus sandwiches, to announc that it wasn’t true. He just wanted to see how the audience would react. Thud.

The Susan Says' pick for the Best Moment of the 8-8:30 segment of the show: A commercial for the movie “Storks.”
Why, Mandy?

There were Asian jokes, Black jokes, Jewish jokes, more Donald Trump references (yet no one expressed support for Hillary) and the annual transgender love fest started by the ever-appealing Jeffrey Tambor as he received another Emmy for his performance in “Transparent.”

I found myself paying more attention to the antics of Tito the Cat rather than focusing on all this but perked up when Mandy Moore took the stage wearing unfortunate make-up and a lampshade from Frederick’s of Hollywood instead of a dress.

Susan Says Pick for Best Moment of the 8:30-9:00 segment: Julia Louis Dreyfus’ genuine emotion as she acknowledged the recent passing of her father during her acceptance of an Emmy for her performance in “Veep.”
....just no.

Soon, the hilarious but slightly scary Leslie Jones missed the comedic mark with her usual brash shtick and Kerry Washington also missed something---the hair stylist’s chair as she presented an Emmy with Scandal’s President Fitzgerald Grant, who seems like a viable alternative for the oval office in view of our actual choices.

Sarah Paulson’s new eyebrows gave me a good fright but I pardoned her when she used the word “alchemy” in her acceptance speech.

Susan Says' Pick for Best Moment in the 9:00-9:30 segment: There is a four way tie between Regina King’s beautiful mother smiling at her daughter from the audience, Priyanka Chopra’s sensational matte-red pout,Tom Hiddleston just for being Tom Hiddleston and Terence Howard’s fabulous plaid tuxedo jacket.

and yes.

Tina Fey, still smarting after being faked out about Bill Cosby soon took the stage. with a newly brunette Amy Pohler, glued to her as always. Amy wore a green tablecloth from Home Goods while later, Keri Rustle appeared draped in several yards of paper she’d ripped from one of those rolls that covers the exam table in a doctor’s office.

Susan Says’ Pick for Best Moment of the 9:30-10:00 segment: Jon Snow. No need to say another word.

In the absence of substantial content, we now jump to…

Susan Says’ Pick for Best Moment of the 10:00-10:30 segment: There is another tie—Margo Martindale’s sensible shoes peeking out from the hem of her gown and Minnie Driver’s pronunciation of the word “bastards.”

Tito the Cat and I were getting a little excited now. He, because he knew that once the show was done, I’d haul myself into the kitchen to give him and his pals their evening treat of Nine Lives and an insulin shot and me, well, I was looking forward to watching the local weather which would be scads more fun than this.

Daenarys' is Seth's freebie.
As the 2016 Emmys wound down, there were some speeches from the “Game of Thrones” crowd during which a sleep-addled Seth stumbled down to mutter something about wishing he could take a ride on the back of a dragon…or was it a ride on Emily Clarke? I’m not sure. I just wondered why Peter Dinklage hadn’t  taken a shower for the occasion.

Susan Says’ Pick for Best Moment of the 10:30-11:00 Segment: Jimmy Kimmel, now in a white dinner jacket, saying goodnight.

In hindsight, it might not be “It’s me, not you.” It might be “Well, it kind of was you.” But award shows are like childbirth, you forget from one year to the next how painful they are…so, see you next year, I’m sure.
"Don't wake me until the Emmys are over, please."

I Remember Mama

As I write this, my mother would have been 85 today. Her late September birthday would herald the cooler days she looked forward to after an un-airconditioned summer in the city. We’d celebrate surviving July and August along with her birthday as I was growing up.

Birthdays were simple and gifts were modest but if I had provided her with the kind of festivities she deserved, there would have been a marching band, thousands of balloons restrained in nets until the exciting moment of release and a call from the president.

My mother was born in the house I grew up in, in Brooklyn. One would never have guessed that her first language wasn’t English because she spoke it better than most.

She loved words and was an amazing writer who wrote fairy tales, poetry, short stories and letters that were so entertaining that no one lucky enough to receive one, ever threw it away. She was also a gifted artist whose drawings and paintings hang on my walls. Come over and I’ll show them to you.

She attended the Arts Student’s League in Manhattan and won an award, presented by Fiorello LaGuardia, for designing a coat that was produced and sold in Macy’s. When I was growing up, every single morning for about ten years, there would be a new, freshly drawn cartoon scotch-taped to the mirror in the bathroom.  It was a running comic strip starring our cats and I began every single day with laughter.

I have them all in a book now and when I need to, I bring it out and laugh and cry for a while.

She was a single mother way before it was the norm and, until the fifth grade, I was the only child in school whose parents were divorced.

We moved back to the house where my grandparents, aunts and uncle lived and I was treated like a princess by everyone within its’ sheltering walls. My mother saw to it that I wanted for nothing. It was a struggle for her but I was so busy being bounced from knee to knee that I didn’t notice.

Things, then, were repaired not tossed out once they broke, frayed or faded and she covered my books in paper supermarket sacks and made sure I used both sides of my notebook’s pages. She also made her own patterns and sewed my clothes. I would have been the best-dressed girl in Queen Victoria’s England.

The things she made were fabulous but insanely out-of-style and once I was old enough to realize this, I was pretty conflicted.

She came to her senses in time for my adolescence, thank God.  I got my first job then and have paid for my own clothes ever since.

Money was tight but books, records and an occasional trip to Broadway (we paid $4 for a mezzanine seat) were always squeezed into the budget.  By the time I was a teen, I’d seen Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, the original cast of Man of La Mancha and had enjoyed my share of ballets and concerts.

We’d always eat a pretzel from a cart on the street afterward or stop into a cafeteria on Broadway called Hector’s which is long gone but upon whose smooth railings I would slide my tray, still humming the music from the show. Rice pudding, served in a fluted dish, would always round out a meal there.

She’d take me to film festivals at the Regency Theater on the West Side and we’d walk for miles, taking the subway back to Brooklyn with aching feet and a grand feeling of accomplishment.

She was very mischevious.  When I was old enough to know better, she convinced me that plumbers used “plumber’s monkeys” that had been trained to do simple tasks and go into small spaces and I believed this until very recently.

She and I would laugh at everything, our sides aching and I never so much as stepped out for a carton of milk at the corner without kissing her goodbye. I would then kiss her hello, upon my return, five minutes later.

Was she perfect? Although I thought so when I was little, of course not. Did we fight? Like mad dogs let out of the pound. Did I rail against her restrictions when I was a teen, convinced that she was the most old-fashioned fuddy duddy on the face of the earth? You bet. Do I miss her every single day? You know I do. Happy birthday, Ma. See you in the funny papers.
Even though she's not smiling, this is one of my favorite pictures of my mother.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Tropical Dreams

We’ve had some seriously warm temperatures and high humidity around these parts lately. In fact, the weather has felt downright tropical. 

Recently, as a result of the sultry nights where my curtains have not stirred and the frogs out back were busily singing the song of their people in the most lusty of tones, I had a series of disturbing dreams.

About two weeks ago, I dreamed there was a large crowd gathered in a huge hall which appeared to be festooned in patriotic colors. It was full of people, some angry, some jubilant and many wearing foolish contraptions on their heads. These people didn’t appear to be cowboys yet were wearing their hats while others wore headgear resembling an elephant but this was neither a safari nor a rally to protect endangered species.
The very next week, I had another dream. Again, many people in various stages of emotion were gathered in a large space and they, too, wore silly things upon their heads. This time, the hats resembled donkeys but many wore little green Robin Hood caps, too. Odd, I thought, as I wondered if, like that storied denizen of Sherwood Forest, they advocated stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

Claime to fame: Starring role on hit TV show
Claim to fame: His father invented
a duck whistle
In my dream, these gatherings had more in common than not. There were many idiots who received a turn to speak but, as the tropically induced images unfolded, they possessed nothing but the spectral illusion of minor celebrity. Yet, in both dreams, there were other speakers who made valid, authentic and even emotionally wrenching pleas to follow one way or the other and each group presented a balance of pathos and rage, stupidity and inanity. 

Troubled, I struggled to wake as I do when I realize I’m having a bad dream. Seth tells me that, in my sleep, I mumbled things about a “third party,” but he just thought I was dreaming I was at a party and let me sleep on.

Both dreams hosted a large percentage of prominent speakers who appeared to have benefited from the privilege of good orthodontics. Was this a dental convention, I wondered but soon understood that these dreams were actually about leadership. As the discord levels in the large gathering spots swelled and ebbed, my sleep grew more restless.
"How big of an ass am I? This much!"
"Well, duh. I'm loaded.

Soon the leaders’ spouses took the stage. One appeared to be some sort of trophy wife qualified to speak by a great ass and good make-up while the other was, apparently, a former leader beset by scandal both sexual and financial who through hollow charm has managed to keep himself in the public eye. 

Later, in both dreams, each aspiring leader was introduced….one by a well-spoken, life-size Barbie Doll, the other by a spooky robot .
Spooky vs. Barbie
I continued the battle to wake but, instead, remained mired in what was now a full blown nightmare as each leader emerged.

One had beady eyes and a head of hair that defied the imagination of even the most phantasmic hairdresser. It was more like the floating gables of the Sydney Opera House than hair, more like a tumbleweed caught in a bramble, unable to continue its journey back to the desert. 

The second aspiring leader wore all white. Was she a virgin, a bride, an orderly in an asylum? Or, was she the leader of a terrifying cult? Was that a leftover speck of soylent green from lunch on her otherwise pristine vestments? As both leaders spoke, they alternately covered doom and redemption or sharing and caring. 

Both did a lot of pointing into the audience to imaginary friends as they attempted to connect with their be-hatted public but, to me, they were both scary, both equally full of testosterone and both pretty lousy speakers.

The two nightmares ended on a good note: more balloons than I have ever seen in one place, cascading from some hidden cache and -- since this was a dream – inflated by magic as opposed to what, in reality, would have been thousands of balloon filling minions who later died from both exhaustion and helium toxicity. In my sleep, Seth says I reached out, accidentally hitting him in the head as I flailed but I was simply batting balloons about, enjoying the one truly uplifting moment in each dream.

I hope, as the summer turns to fall and the weather cools, the fresh air will foster better dreams than those I experienced in July. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mr. Magoo and the Manhole

Watch out, for the love of God,
watch out, Mr. Magoo!!
Lately, I’ve been worried that I’m losing my sense of humor.

Having once been able to find the funny in just about anything, the constant stream of disasters has left me numb.

Full disclosure before we go any further: I was the kid who fretted horribly that Mr. Magoo would fall down a manhole, agonized over Herman Munster’s obliviousness to his social impediments and worried the castaways on Gilligan’s Island would never be rescued. However, I could also laugh at the hapless Nazis of Hogan’s Heroes and chuckled happily when Curly and Moe engaged in their sado-masochistic hijinks.

As a result of this schizophrenic approach to both TV and life, I developed into a hybrid--filling my emotional tank with the high octane of both joy and sorrow.

Recent events have altered me. Anxious about terrorism, travel, politics and social unrest (to name but a few), I am less inclined to mine the depths of life’s pathos in search of mirth.

You can say that again, Sebastian.
I found myself in a low place the other day. The news was very bad---again. But the television gods were with me as, clicking away from CNN, I stumbled upon a movie so reliably sweet that only the most lost among us could not be coaxed into the light by its good nature.

“You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks, the Jimmy Stewart of my generation and Meg Ryan in pre-cosmetic surgical radiance, was put there just for me…and a million others who needed a boost.

This perfect example of the “rom-com” formula: conflict that, over the course of  snappy dialogue and bewitching scenes of New York City at its best, blooms into true love, was just what the doctor ordered.

Settling back, I pushed the darkness aside with the intention of losing myself in this classic scenario but, almost immediately, started to worry that -- these days -- a bomb might go off while Tom Hanks enjoyed a busy street fair. Later, during scenes in a bustling store, I remembered how uncomfortable I now feel in crowds. Would Meg and Tom drop to the floor if disaster struck or hide behind that display of high-end cookware? Did they even know where the closest exit was?

I then realized just how deeply mired I’ve become in anxiety.

I know many of you feel it, too so I began to stew over the encroaching national, if not global, sense of angst and its destructive effects until, abruptly, I’d had enough of all the darn gloom.  

So, with a broad stroke, I pushed the goblins from my shoulder straight to the ground. Focusing on the movie with new eyes, I noticed that,in high def, Meg’s skin was not as flawless as originally observed. Immediately, I felt better. Next, a line of dialogue mentioning the need to move to Brooklyn because the rents were cheaper made me laugh out loud---albeit bitterly, but it was a start.
Huzzah--no where to be found!!!

Soon, I enjoyed the catharsis of a good cry thanks to a poignant moment and we all know how closely related tears are to laughter, yes?

Ultimately, I relied on my go-to standard for feeling happy: Is Adrian Brody anywhere in this movie? If the answer is no, you have reason to celebrate. He is not, I repeat not, to be found anywhere in “You’ve Got Mail.”
Do you really think Hanks is
the new me? I'm skeptical.

Soon, I was feeling better. I suddenly noticed how well my most recent pedicure has held up. The flowers on the deck were looking great. We’d recently had a lovely time with friends. I’d soon be visiting the kids…it had just rained and the air smelled fresh…the sun was shining  and -- come on, you know where this is heading – I am still here to see it all.

Don’t worry, I promise not to ask you to start a gratitude journal but I would like to leave you, dear readers, with a sense of hope that we all can share. Good things happen, too. More people are good than bad and, most of the time, Mr. Magoo manages to steer clear of the manhole.

Though we will all continue to be tested in a variety of ways, the sun will come out…if not tomorrow, the day after. Rent “You’ve Got Mail” from Netflix…I hate spoilers but, not for nothing, it has a happy ending.

Why, Meg? WHY????

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend

Did you know that baseball has a smell?

It doesn’t smell of one particular thing. It’s not just sweat, pine tar or unwashed uniforms. If Glade created a room freshener called “Opening Day,” you’d need essence of a well-worn mitt, old cleats encrusted with infield clay and the leathery aroma of the ball, itself. 

I’d buy cans of it and spray it all over the house.

The smell of baseball makes me remember a brownstone in Brooklyn, packed to the gills with baseball-nutty immigrants who grew to love (and become slightly obsessed with) the most American of pastimes.

It will be no surprise to learn that my family loved the Dodgers, named -- legend has it -- due to the fancy footwork necessary to “dodge” getting flattened by a trolley car in the busy borough we called home. But that was a bit before my time.

I was raised on the New York Mets.

My grandpa and uncle, often joined by my mother, grandma and a constant stream of aunts and  cousins, spent hours watching them and cursing them but, really, loving them in front of one of the first color TVs in the neighborhood. Housed in its own huge veneer cabinet -- complete with doily and candy dish filled with colorful, cellophane wrapped sour balls -- the lure of that green field and the blue sky above it, showcased on that convex screen, soon sang its  siren song. 

How I loved these guys--each so different but
so good!

It was from my very own spot on the carpet in front of the men in their easy chairs that I learned the rules, came to recognize the varied styles of the commentators, and, most significantly, connected baseball to an unequaled sensation of safety. 

Yes, Ump. I was safe.
Cocooned in a space where nothing could harm me more than the tickle of the popcorn my uncle might toss and then pretend he hadn’t, I spent many happy hours and, soon, I, too, genuinely loved the game.

And, specifically, I loved the aspect of baseball that many people criticize--the length and pace of those nine long innings. A baseball game has no time limit---it takes however long it damn well takes.

 Accept it, people.

But baseball isn’t slow, it’s measured. It doesn’t drag, it’s nuanced.

You said it, George.
Bursting with the constant possibility of excitement, we delighted in the suspense of an apparently lazy inning only to be catapulted from our languor by the sudden drama of a great play or thrilling hit.
Even Chewie plays.

Those moments, however rewarding, are second to the epic arguments about the faults, foibles and strengths of the players…the bonding over hatred of the umps (based on their most recent call)…and plotting Draconian revenge for heinous trades (Tom Seaver in 1977 is the perfect example. I still haven’t recovered). We fretted over injuries, memorized stats and, simply put, united over true affection for a home team

Play-offs and pennants were icing on the cake (or should I say “field”) but when the Mets won their first world series in 1969, it changed our lives in an almost biblical sense. David defeated Goliath that year and the following season I began to nag my mother to take me (I was eleven) on the two hour subway ride to Shea Stadium.

My first time there was so memorable that I remember exactly what I was wearing, that I stood on the final leg of the trip so to fully experience the elevated Number 7 swing into the curve of the holy ground of Flushing, New York and that we sat* next to a cheerful man who, when he bought his family ice cream, bought some for us, too.

I defy any artist to mix a more beautiful shade of green than the sunlit emerald of the outfield. Revealed after winding through Shea’s concrete tunnels, perfumed by the pungency of  absorbing years of spilled beer and wafting smoke from grilled Italian sausage, I remember gasping as I stepped forth on that first visit and, blinking in the sunshine, saw it in person for the first time.

Shea. I shall miss you forever.
I agree, Yogi.

Aware that my passion for the game is flagging (it's not so much fun watching alone), Tom and Charlie have encouraged me to rediscover my interest so, I’ve begun watching again. The ghosts of my grandpa and uncle stop by occasionally but, mostly, I’m by myself--eager to email the kids afterward about that great play, hit, save or infuriating error.

Can I recreate the magic of my youth? It’s doubtful but, surely, there is more magic to be made.

I still love it. And it must love me back because baseball still makes me feel good. Despite all its changes and new faces, a home run is still exciting, the umps are still blind and the grass is still that crazy green.

I can still smell it. Let’s see what the season holds…..

*For you Shea fanatics, we sat in the green seats on that first visit but in the sunshine, not under the dreaded over-hang.

Put him him the Hall of Fame!!!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nothing Says "I Love Mom" Like a Pink Baseball Bat

This is just.....
Last week, after a perfectly lovely Mother’s Day, Seth wondered aloud as to where the boys will “take him” for his Father’s Day weekend. “Las Vegas?” he mused. “Although I hear Nashville and Miami are very nice, too!”

It appears that Seth was under the delusion, after having been exposed to the hoopla and huzzahs that Mother’s Day has become, that he is entitled to an extravaganza, as well---specifically, a "bachelor" type party complete with strippers, drunken tattooing and other shenanagins. 

Once I was able to convince him that this is not the case for Father’s Day (including that his days of strippers and shenanagins are now strictly visible only in his rear view mirror) and deal with the pouting and comfort eating that followed, I had to agree that Seth’s perceptions about Mother’s Day are correct.

A sweet little holiday has blown up into something unrecognizable from not only my youth where mom got a homemade card and a hug but even my years as a young mama where the card and hug rule still applied.

Our immersion in social media is greatly to blame, wouldn’t you agree?

Can you spare a few
wire hangers? I'm running low.
Several days before the second Sunday in May, many of us start searching the archives for adorable photos of ourselves with our mothers and we slap them up on Facebook, plastering our “walls” with cute sayings and art that has been created for this purpose alone.

I noticed that almost all of my friends’ kids were also changing their profile pictures to include their mothers and I spent the week in a cold sweat---would my sons do this?

My boys, who, for the most part, seem to like me just fine, are notoriously removed from most seasonal dictates and the corresponding social media mayhem. No, I reasoned….they would not.

I would be humiliated.

Come see, Woody! He looks just
like Frank Sinatra!

So I started my campaign: dropping hints, emailing them irresistible photos of us smiling into the camera—hoping they would choose to pin our private affection to the public busom of Facebook like those giant bubble gum corsages from many decades ago--penny Bazookas sewn together with a ribbon and worn for a special day. Well, hell, didn’t I always want one of those when I was little?

People will think those ingrates don’t love me, I privately lamented as more and more Facebook tributes popped up until finally, they did it (boys, I’ll put the checks in the mail later today). Whew!

See, world---they love me, they really do!

There are brunches and lunches with photo ops and exhausted florists making deliveries for 48 hours straight as they bunch posies, wrap raffia and exchange quizzical looks when faced with transcribing cards where one brother, who shall remain unnamed, horribly insults the other brother in the card of his own mother’s bouquet…just before signing it “Love, Charlie.”

The stores promote countless sales. Restaurants offer Mom free sundaes. News anchors smugly remind us again and again not to dare and forget the momentous day. Even professional baseball players are forced to wear pink cleats and helmets and hit with pink bats in honor of Mom. There was enough bright pink on the field last week when the Mets played, to confuse any self-respecting flamingo enjoying a Mother’s Day Mimosa in the stands.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved it. I ate it up like the attention whore I’ve always been (thanks, Mom).

Posting photos, opening cards, smiling at my reflection in the mylar of my balloons and fielding phone calls, I was Eve in the Garden of Eden on the very first Mother’s Day. 

She, too, wondered if her boys would remember and it actually did get a little dicey since this was before Al Gore invented the internet. But Eve’s kids managed to mail their cards on time and everything was just fine until all that unpleasantness began with the apples and the snakes.

I'm very worried the kids will forget it's Mother's Day! After all,
it's the first one!!
"Oh, Joffrey...come give mama a big hug."
My son, Tom, was home for Mother’s Day and we followed a drinking game’s rules while binge-watching Game of Thrones. Instead of tossing back a shot, Tom had to hug me whenever someone was disemboweled, mutilated or suffered a hideous amputation in a sword fight. This made for lots of hugging so mama was happy. 

Father’s Day simply hasn’t achieved the status of Mother’s Day. Oops, too bad. I take good care of Seth every day so if he wants an extra slice of cheese in his sandwich on June 19, I’ll see what I can do. Where he got this idea about a weekend of craziness in a penthouse suite in Vegas, I don’t know but if he calls you to organize it, please just hang up. 

As for “Susan Says,” she enjoyed her day greatly. I hope all you lovely mothers reading this did, too.

A philosophy I have tried to live by.