Thursday, September 29, 2011

Me and Mr. Jones

Here is a repost of an old favorite from the first week of the blog that most of you have surely missed. I hope you enjoy it...

                          Me and Mr. Jones

What I am about to say may alarm you but I hope we can still be friends. Do not be frightened but last night, I went to a Tom Jones concert.

That’s right. Tom Jones. 

Perspiration. Tight pants. Chords pulsing in the throat and veins throbbing in the forehead. And that was me on the drive there— the Long Island Expressway was sheer madness, as usual.

You may be surprised to learn that my husband accompanied me to the concert.

One reason was the he didn't entirely trust me to drive on the LIE and not wind up incarcerated for road rage. The other was pure curiosity after very positive reports from a Tom Jones concert I attended a few years ago with several friends from town.

You know who you are, ladies, and can thank me privately for not naming names. 

When we arrived, the crowd milling about the parking lot was definitely festive. There were women of all ages but there was so much wrinkled cleavage that I felt right at home…as well as a little frightened.

I was a meek eleven year old girl when I first set eyes on Tom. Though decades have passed and Tom and I have both grown older, we have always been a part of one another's lives.

I like to think of it that way. Tom, of course does not know I exist except in the nameless expanse of die-hard, world wide fans who still get a twinge of something when we hear the familiar strains of "It's Not Unusual."

All these years, he's been head-lining in Vegas, wearing bulky golden pinkie rings as he cradled the microphone in his own signature style. Me, I’ve been right here, wearing elastic waist pants and cradling a plastic cat scooper as I clean the litter box in my own signature style.

Though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, Tom's and mine, we’ve made it work.

So, there I sat, waiting for him to come prancing down the aisle, leap onto the small circular stage and kick-off the excitement.

We politely tolerated a comedian sent to warm us up even though we were already quite warm, thank you but the moment finally arrived...

Now, he's Sir Tom.
His name was announced and the music blared but instead of Tom Jones, out came an elderly gentleman wearing a snazzy black suit and sporting a full head of white hair. 

The crowd, to a woman, froze.

We sat still as stone as our fevered brains made the necessary adjustments and, realizing that this, indeed, was he -- minus the Just for Men shade of Dr. Pepper that he's been using for years -- burst into delayed but sincere applause. 

He spent the next hour or so guzzling water, sweating (literally) through his suit, making self-deprecating remarks about his age (he’s 68) and attempting to revisit the past with an occasional creaky gyration or two. 

The young girls got up and danced only to be immediately shouted down by those of us whose dancing-in-the-aisles days are on the wane. The husbands brooded, visibly annoyed that a geriatric male was getting underwear, in every color of the rainbow, tossed at him, bitterly asking themselves, “Why does no one
throw panties at me?” 

The older women sat, some with their folded walkers neatly stowed in front of them, remembering younger, more limber times.
Elvis Presley was a fan of Tom's.

And the women my age -- the 50’s crowd -- enjoyed the spectacle, resented the hell out of the leggy back-up singers and wondered if we could make it from here to wherever home might be, without another trip to the ladies room. 

Sir Tom (I have no doubt that Queen Elizabeth knighted him because she could find no other excuse to summon him to Buckingham Palace) put on a good show.

He can still belt out a ballad although frequently used throat spray between songs and performed much of the show with a lubricating mint tucked into his cheek. He also had a new repertoire of more thoughtful numbers which put less stress on the ol’ pipes. 

Despite his age, a few extra pounds and a head of white hair, he can still whip a crowd, albeit a tame one, into something resembling a frenzy. He can still instill something resembling jealousy into the men in the audience and can still motivate longing in women who, with heads bobbing and toes tapping, still vaguely resemble the young girls they once were.

That kind of thing works for Tom and me.  It always has.

                                             Take a minute to listen to a classic...if you dare.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Up in the Air: Conclusion

Due to my difficulty
comprehending how gigantic, heavy objects -- like airplanes, for example -- stay up in the air, I forced my family to drive all over the landscape when the kids were small. 

And, as far as air travel is concerned, I am worried about many things. Just to name a few: passengers with exploding underwear, drunken pilots, improper de-icing, incompetent mechanics, lightening, turbulence, geese being sucked into the engines and getting locked in the bathroom. I'm only stopping the list for the sake of brevity.

When we drove, our destinations included Minnesota, Chicago, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida and we had lots of fun in the car, didn't we? I said, didn't we? Snacks and singing along the way certainly made me feel better.

There were times, however, due to time constraints or pesky bodies of water that got in the way, when flying could not be avoided.
While alcohol played a huge role in stress reduction, drinking was often combined with other strategies used to ease my troubled mind...

If Seth and I had to fly without the kids, in order to quell the burgeoning hysteria connected to the possibility of leaving our young sons parentless if the plane went down, I would schedule two separate flights. I would arrive later so Seth would be there to meet me at the airport.

Of course people told me I was totally insane. And that was when they were being nice.

I didn't care.Those kids were going to have at least one of us to cripple their psyches raise them if I had anything to say about it. We flew separately as recently as five years ago when the boys were already independent. To be quite honest, I'd still do it if Seth wouldn't have me installed in a padded cell.

The first time we split up to fly, coming home from Chicago, I had been drinking steadily in order to simply board the plane.

Since I was flying alone and didn't want to attract attention, I had no merlot-filled plastic stegosaurus from which to sip, so I threw back a few glasses of wine in the airport yet somehow managed to not be barred from boarding due to the fact that I was totally blitzed.

"Blitzed" for me, is very easy to achieve. Two glasses of wine and I am singing "You Light Up My Life" in a falsetto and looking for a lampshade to wear on my head.  

My unlucky seat mate for this flight was, of all people, the famous folk singer, Pete Seeger

I recognized him immediately and gleefully plopped down beside him, excited to tell Seth once I arrived in New York, as well as everyone on the plane--at that very moment.
"ImthittingnextoPeteTheegerisndatwunneful?" is what I think I said. Very loudly.

People stared. Pete managed a weak, frightened smile.
The plane was full and he was aware that he was trapped.

I realized, even in my haze, that if I misbehaved before take off I'd  be ejected from the plane, so I sat quietly until we were in the air. As soon as the wheels left the ground, I leaned closer to tell poor Mr. Seeger who he was (as in, "You're Pete Seeger!"), about ten thousand times, in a crazy little voice until we touched down at LaGuardia.

I have never seen anyone grab a banjo and exit a plane as fast as Pete Seeger did that day.

I believe I have made it quite clear over the course of the past few blog posts that I am stark raving mad do not enjoy air travel.

If possible, I will always choose to drive, but I am aware that there is a big world out there. I may be going "up in the air" a few more times, after all.

Maybe "sky-blogging" will be a good distraction. I'll have to try that.

                                               Mr. Seeger performing "If I Had A Hammer."*

*And, if he'd had one on the plane, he would have --most likely -- used it on me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Up in the Air, Part II: Drunks On a Plane

Some years back, when young(ish) mothers were forced to fly against their will with their small children and doctors were less likely to hand out Xanax as freely as homeless men, used to distribute flyers for peep shows on the streets of New York, "alternative fear alleviation tactics" ( or AFAT) had to implemented.

If one was not of the stiff-upper-lip-grin-and-bear-it-variety of young(ish) mother, one had to figure things out for oneself.

One mother with whom I share shoes, car keys, initials and a soul, saw an opportunity in the bright green plastic dinosaur canteen that her youngest son used for juice while joy-riding in his stroller. 
After all, wouldn't the pink plastic straw just as easily dispense red wine while giving the appearance of complete innocence?


Wouldn't this approach be less expensive as well as more efficient than bellying up to the airport bar with the other nervous flyers--the sour smell of their combined anxiety wafting upward and mingling in the stilted atmosphere of preflight terror?

Of course it would.

Could it not, just as easily, be hung around the sweaty neck of the nervous mama by it's plastic strap as slung over the shoulder of the small thirsty boy to whom it rightfully belonged?

Why, yes, most certainly. 

Would it not do it's job and enable the sipping scaredy cat to feel invincible as she stumbled across the threshhold of the airplane, averting her face from the flight attendant who welcomed her with a sunny smile, so as not to be suspected of total, freakin' public drunkeness?

Damn right.

There were a few problems connected to this method of fear management, however. 
One was that the total pain in the ass innocent child to whom this cunning little canteen belonged would repeatedly ask to drink "his juice" from it and could not be easily subdued after each of the young(ish) mother's repeated refusals.

Another was that when the small boy was no longer small, the no longer young(ish) mother looked completely out of her mind somewhat eccentric, sipping from a bright green, plastic dinosaur canteen in the airport.

These issues precipitated the personal discovery of Xanax, a frightened flyer's best well as the drug of choice often featured on the popular television show "Intervention."

Luckily the heroine of our tale exhibits no sign of an addictive nature as far as actual narcotics are concerned...only chocolate and cheese.

Tune in tomorrow for more about when one has no choice but to be "up in the air....."
I'm the one waving.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Up in the Air, Part One.

What are you doing this weekend? I'll trade you.

I have to schedule a couple of flights.

The kind you take in an airplane. In the air. High up.

Have I mentioned that I'm afraid to fly? If I haven't, I know you're not surprised. It makes perfect sense based on all the insanity I've already admitted about myself.

I do not believe that man was meant to travel by air. It's a total cliche but wouldn't we actually have wings if this weren't the case? Of course we would, people. Snap out of it.
 Oprah has wings.

Many middle-aged women develop "wings" in an unfortunate sense but this has nothing to do with actually flying and everything to do with wearing sleeves.

But no amount of dawdling (see above paragraph) will eliminate the inevitable and I must force myself to do what must be done.

Seth and his family (including the insensitive traitors to whom I bestowed the gift of life...and, in particular, a pair of Ray Bans for a recent birthday) do not even attempt to understand my anxiety.

They are naturally thin. What can you expect?

Seth is constantly reminding me that I am far more likely to perish in a car accident close to home which always makes me wonder what he has up his sleeve.

Once upon a time, he suggested one of those programs sponsored by the airlines in which you take simulated flights for a few days. That would be fine. Simulated flights do not leave the ground.

The problem lies in the fact that the culmination of the program is a real flight.

Why would I do that? I'm scared to fly, remember?


I first flew when I was 21. All alone to visit a father I hadn't seen in over fifteen years, not only was I terrified of my destination but I had already realized that this ridiculously heavy metal tube I was about to board had no business lumbering about on the tarmac much less attempting take-off.

It was a large plane, but the seats on my side were two across. My seat mate was a huge air force officer on his way home to California.

In full dress uniform, he seemed pleased to be sitting next to a young girl who could still wear tight jeans without the dog catcher trying to coax her into the back of his impound vehicle--if you catch my meaning. And, upon discerning that I was nervous (the weeping and hyperventilating may have given it away), took it upon himself to explain, in excruciating detail, the laws of thrust, speed, wind and lift.

Since this is all fabricated nonsense that can be replaced with one word--magic, these explanations did not help.

Not only that but, since I was scared, he insisted upon -- and I swear this is true -- holding my hand. I was mild mannered at 21. He was older and, based on the aforementioned destination, I already had some issues with men and didn't want to offend this weirdo/predator/authority figure. So I allowed it, grateful when he fell asleep so that I would be able to extricate my hand.

Today, I would have told him that when strangers talk to me on planes, toxic gas comes out of my eyeballs. Not that any of this would have happened to a woman of my current age. The same guy whose tail started to wag when he saw me approaching, would put a magazine over my face and rest his can of pineapple juice on my head today.

But back to my imprisoned hand...

As I tried to liberate my fingers, despite his apparent slumber, upon each attempt, he would simply tighten his grip. At one point, he opened his eyes, looked right at me and said, "Baby, we're following the sun." 

He really said that. Total ewwwwwwwww.

I was so flummoxed by all of this that I gave up and sat for nearly six hours (bladders are cast iron when you're 21) with my hand in his. It was horrible. I kept making desperate eye contact with the stewardess (still stewardesses back then) but she thought we were together and made no attempt to save me.

As I mentioned before, this is ALL true. Only it was worse than it sounds because not only was I terrified to fly but I was now terrified of him.

That was my first experience up in the air, ladies and gentlemen. It is small wonder that I still dread the idea of flying....but there's more and it involves drinking and prescription drugs. Look for the next installment on Monday.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Corn Maze

I've received several requests for a rerun of this post which originated during the first week of this blog's existence. Originally a column, it explores an aspect of fall that sends shivers down my spine. Read why.... 

                                       The Corn Maze

Tomorrow is the first day of fall. 

With it comes warm, golden days and cool, refreshing nights, flaming maples--their scarlet leaves bright against the deep blue skies of the season and gleaming pyramids of rosy, locally grown apples for sale at outdoor markets.

There will be hay bales and mums adorning our front steps as well as the rumble of yellow school buses carrying eager youngsters back to class. 

And corn mazes.
I harbor certain fears in life -- terrorism, airplanes, dental drills, any old movie with Tony Randall….and corn mazes.

Signs advertising their whereabouts start popping up about now. Often rustically hand-lettered on cardboard, they line the sides of local roads. I avert my eyes and step heavily on the gas.

Who came up with this madness?

A sadistic farmer with bodies already buried under the barn but who’d lost his spark for procuring fresh victims, perhaps. “Yes, I will trap hapless souls by ensnaring them in a maze of towering corn! And I shall charge them a fee for it--woo hoo!"
Long ago, when I was a very Brooklyn-ized young lady and the only indications of a change of season were the new displays in Hallmark store windows, my idea of a lovely fall excursion meant a subway trip across the Manhattan Bridge to a museum. 

One crisp day I was invited, by an equally Brooklyn-ized young man named Anthony (I only dated guys named Anthony—it was a strict rule) with a penchant for high-waisted  pants,  to “go the country” to see what there was to see. 

This suggestion was anxiety producing (what was this place called “the country?”) but wanting to impress Anthony, I slapped on some blue eyeshadow and off we went. 
To this day I have no idea where we were. I know it involved lots of sneezing, acres of pumpkins,countless signs announcing the elusive presence of fresh pies...and a corn maze

My date wasn’t sure what a corn maze was but it appealed to him. 

Having had problems with mazes in Highlights Magazine as a child (I also preferred Goofus to Gallant-- a harbinger of personal conflict to come), the word “maze” conjured feelings of confusion and inadequacy. 

Wanting to appear fun-loving and agreeable, I smiled as Anthony forked over money he’d earned shoveling popcorn at the Loew’s Oriental on 86th Street and in we plunged.
It was very crowded. There were armies of small “country children” gurgling gaily, their hands sticky from country goo as they pushed past my city legs.

I became separated from Anthony almost immediately. Unable to find him, my cries for help were  absorbed by the dry stalks around me and I stumbled about for what I believe to have been several days. 

At one point I heard someone shouting my name but panic already had me in its grip and, as I turned corner after corner, choking on some sort of toxic dust piped in by the farmer to numb his victims, I was unable to answer. 

It soon became a full blown horror movie filmed in slow motion and I have no recollection of how I eventually escaped. 

If my date hadn’t been nearly as strung out as I was, I would have been very angry but it seems that he was having a similar experience somewhere else in the maze.

On the way home, we agreed never again to venture out of the four boroughs (we said four because, at the time,  Staten Island was considered the country) or speak of this to others. 
We'd reached safety.

We ended up at the diner, comforting ourselves with slabs of strawberry cheesecake, the official post- date snack of all Brooklynites and glasses of cold milk which caused, shall we say, "digestive” issues with poor Anthony whose Saturday Night Fever pompadour was already seriously compromised by earlier trauma.

Sadly, it was one of the better dates of that period of my life.
Anthony and I never went out again. If we ran into one another, he with another blue-lidded young lady and me, with another Anthony, we’d nod silently, the unfortunate combo of corn and cheesecake forever in the rear view mirror of our youth. 

I'm pretty sure I saw him in the maze.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Where the Pets Go....

I rarely go to Petco.

It's kind of expensive and all the seasonal costumes and accessories for dogs tend to make me nervous (as in, I feel I should stock up on them despite not owning a dog).
Thought I was joking?

Based on what I saw, your dog will be trick or treating either as a pirate or a witch this Halloween.

I was there for a new litter box. Since it was for Charlie's cat Tito and no expense is too great for my first grand cat, I was there to check out the 2011 models but the cat section is n the back and there's a lot to see on your way there.

I don't like snakes but when I see them coiled up in small tanks under bright lights wearing resigned expressions on their faces, I get very depressed. And the countless cages with idiots hamsters frantically racing on their wheels also upset me because they so undeniably exemplify the futility of life.

As I passed the fish tanks, though I valiantly tried to suppress the memory, I had little choice but to relive buying my mother, in her older age, a small but fully equipped tank for her birthday.

It had a tiny, plastic castle, pretty blue gravel and a colorful pirate's chest which said "treasure" on it so the fish would know it wasn't for recyclables or anything other than their gold doubloons.

And, yes, it also had some fish.

As per the instructions of the odd, but very nice, Fish Boy, I taught my mother exactly how much and how often to feed them lest they "explode" (Fish Boy's word, not mine) from overfeeding but she absolutely did not believe me.
I learned that you cannot convince a woman who strongly connected food with love that the fish could be satisfied with a scant daily pinch of feathery flakes and they were dead in a week.
As I approached the cat aisles, I passed an assortment of brushes, combs and grooming products for canines that would have made Vidal Sassoon need a Xanax, plus a salad bar set-up with dog treats that looked so delicious that I realized my mouth was watering.

I also encountered a real, live dog.

I always forget that pets are allowed in Petco. All alone, but focused and well-behaved, he appeared to be shopping.

In fact, I saw three dogs in total and, for some reason, became very disoriented. Just as I was getting my bearings, I met an actual ferret wearing a little vest.

In the arms of his owner, he appeared very relaxed as she scanned a large array of ferret supplies. The ferret and I made brief eye contact.

Finally, I found myself amidst the litter boxes.

There were electric, self-cleaning boxes for hundred of dollars, ones in the shape of igloos, ones with portals with swinging doors, ones with deodorizing inserts and ones so large that I could have comfortably used them, myself.
Hey, I wanted the igloo!

I chose a no-frills litter box for Tito and headed for the cashier, standing in line on the only open check-out in a store as a large as a football field...behind the woman and the ferret.

On the counter was the item she'd chosen. It was called "Ferret Sheen." The ferret looked very happy with the purchase.

It was then that I fully realized that I had entered a different world. I also think I developed a case of kennel cough while I was in there.

I wonder if I should go to the vet.
How it should be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Thank You Code*

Today, while waiting on line in our small post office, I witnessed a completely routine transaction between a postal employee and a woman who was mailing what appeared to be a perfectly ordinary package.

He wrapped some sort of tape with eagles on it around the box, slapped on a few stickers and vigorously stamped it a few times before money changed hands. 

She needed something mailed and he was doing his job, efficiently and courteously.

Simple stuff, yes?

As the woman prepared to leave the window, however, this is where it all went horribly wrong: She thanked the postal worker three times.

Woman (first time): "Thank you so very much!"
Postal Employee: "No problem."
Woman (second time): "I really appreciate all your help!"
Postal Employee: "Not a problem at all, ma'am."
Woman (third time): "Thanks again, so much."
Postal Employee: "You're very welcome."

Me, in my mind: "Listen, you crazy witch, if you thank him one more time I am going to totally flip out on your excessively grateful little ass so get the *&@#$& out of here before the cops have to pull me off you!"

What was she thinking??

By totally exceeding the number of acceptable thank yous for a routine transaction she not only broke the thank you code but also made the rest of us look bad.

I was not about to thank this guy three times, despite how much I may like him--not even if he chose to add a strip or two of packing tape to my package, offered me a freshly baked almond horn or even if butterflies flew out of his ass solely for my entertainment.

That last one might, and I repeat---might, warrant a second thank you or perhaps earn him one thank you and a smile (closed mouth, no teeth) but not three, individual thank yous.

Clearly, this woman was insane

Or, had he -- beyond the scope of my hearing -- whispered, that as a result of the wobbly economy and potential adjustments to his pension, that as a statement of discontent, he had immediate plans to dismember her and her entire family but, on a whim, decided to spare them?

In that case, a third thank you might, and I repeat--might, be warranted. But don't count on it.

When it was my turn, I was still so agitated by all this thanking that I was barely able to whisper a tense thank you of my own and muster a tight smile once we were done.

I've know this fellow long
enough for him to recognize that this was not my typically sunny(hahahahahahaha!) demeanor and, as a result, he asked in a discreet whisper, "Is there anything wrong today, Susan Says? You're not yourself."

Warmed by this kindness and personal recognition, I answered that I was "fine, thank you. Really, thank you so much. Tha-----," but just before the third thank you escaped my lips, I backed away from the window and ran out the door.

Yours truly was not about to be tricked into offering a third thank you to anyone due to the use of cheap special effects such as friendly, concerned knowledge of me as an individual instead of treating me like the faceless automaton that I am.  

As if I'd fall for this!

And, despite my almost breaking the thank you code myself as a result of all this hoo-ha, was I more empathetic towards Miss Thank You Pants and her over-the-top gushing?

Absolutely not.

In fact, if I run into her again, I plan on setting her straight in some yet to be determined manner.

Then she can thank me -- three times -- when I stop.

*Today's blog post has been brought to you courtesy of wildly fluctuating estrogen levels.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Damn You, TV! I Really Tried...

I know I promised to read more after our recent power outage but our old cable box died and the cable guy (the same one who came last year but, this time, he was definitely not high) did all kinds of magical things and left me with not only a shiny new cable box but also a brand new, right-out-of-the-box, freshly minted clicker.

Books are really great -- we can all agree on that -- but they're, like,  just words.

TV is pictures that move and voices and colors and music and Will Arnett in a new series, for God's sake.

And that clicker---ooh la la!

It's smooth and cool to the touch and designed more ergonomically so it fits into the hollow of my clicker hand just right.

Will Arnett--always hilarious.
It has more buttons and when  you put it in your mouth hold it in your hand, it feels really empowering and when you rub it against your face press the buttons, you can get picture in picture which is so much easier than turning stupid pages.

It's sleek and silvery and the buttons are red, green, yellow and blue just like M&Ms and I don't think "Southland" has been canceled, after all and even though I'm annoyed that they moved "The Good Wife" to a new night, I'm okay with it.

Not everything was sunshine and lollipops. With the installation of the new box, all the stuff I'd DVRed was, of course, lost.

Gone forever (or, until they rerun them for the millionth time) are all my "House Hunters International" as well as several episodes of "Las Vegas Jailhouse."  But no one said life was perfect.

By the way, did I mention that, after about six months with no caffeine, I had about 75  a few cups of coffee this morning

Clearly, I am going to hell. I hope they have television there.

What am I saying?  Of course they do. That's where it was originally developed.

Have a great weekend!!  Thanks for reading, signing up and commenting. See you on Monday!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beach Days, Part 2...Under the Boardwalk

Yes, beach days were blissful.

When it was my turn to be the Mama, we went very often but Brighton was exchanged for Coney Island based on majority rule.

Several mothers, with a few kids apiece, would caravan in the early morning and stay for long, lazy days--often dragging chairs to the water's edge, sitting with feet in the surf, while the kids splashed around us.
Most of us didn't have air conditioning but no matter how hot it was at home, there was a salty breeze and vendors selling ice cream and cold beer at the beach.

The ice cream was delicious and the kids seemed to enjoy the beer.

Although by that time, it was a new generation of vendors, they remained essentially the same: shirtless men in various stages of pectoral defeat or women missing a tooth or two, wearing sneakers with the toes cut out.
The Parachute Jump, a landmark.

Toughened to leather by the ocean air and well-crisped by long days in the sun, they pulled shopping carts and dry ice in the old days, later dragging heavy coolers by cords tied to the handle.

They sold knishes, soda, ice cream, beer, sun lotion, candy-- loudly barking out what they sold so you knew, in advance, to locate the baggie containing your keys and dollar bills. You didn't bring your wallet to the beach.

The boardwalk was always festive. We'd put on flip flops if we decided to go up but, more than likely, we'd go under the boardwalk...especially if it was very hot.

It was a different world down there.

Immediately ten degrees cooler, the sun pushed between the boards in elongated strips and the smell was, simultaneouly, both fragrant and sour.
Sounds were muffled. The stream of thumping feet above your head, constant.

Along certain parts of the miles of Brooklyn beach, you could cross directly underneath to reach the sunshine, bypassing the boardwalk entirely. But by Bay 8, the sand was higher and only small children could stand up under it. 

This only added to the mystery and appeal.

You'd sit in the dimness for a while, legs shoved into the cool sand, especially if you were within the no-going-into-the-water-for-an hour-after-lunch-because-you-could-get-a-cramp-and-drown rule.

This rule was strictly implemented by my mother. Being the horrible parent that I was (and still am--holla!), I did not enforce it. Thank God nobody ever got a cramp and drowned because that would have made me look really bad.

One day, my mother told me that if I saw any balloons under the boardwalk not to touch them.

Balloons? Why would there be balloons under the boardwalk? I'd never seen one but I was damn well going to keep my eyes open now.

And why couldn't I touch a balloon if I found one? I'd ask my mother but she'd become evasive and change the subject.

So the day I found the used condom in the sand under the boardwalk, it never occurred to me that this was what my mother meant.

I thought she meant inflated, floaty balloons not this mysterious slimy thing so I brought it over to ask her what the heck it was.

Her eyes bugged out of her head like a cartoon character.

Taking a reflexive step away from me at first, she then lunged to slap it our of my hand. "I TOLD YOU NOT TO TOUCH BALLOONS UNDER THE BOARDWALK!!!!" she hollered and then, if memory serves me correctly, fell backwards and went into a coma.

This event affected my attitude toward prophylactics for a very long time.

To this day, I don't really trust my right hand for not having had the instinctive wisdom not to have picked up a used condom.

Despite the infamous "balloon incident," summer days at the beach were magical times when life, for a child, could still be simple.

I can still feel the grit in my sandwich and smell the pungent air.

I can feel my mother briskly drying my hair with a towel and holding the blanket around me as I changed, shielded from view, out of my wet suit for the subway ride home.

I can still feel it.....still.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beach Days, Part One.

Beach season is over.

Despite a possible autumnal pilgrimage, people have put away their left-over sunscreen, beach umbrellas and completed their summer reading.

I realized that this year, at no point, did I put my feet into an ocean. That made me very sad. Is summer summer with no sand between one's toes?

My family used to love the beach.

Brooklynites can pick from a variety of different beaches and, when I was a kid, were militant about their choices--which they stuck to for life. Clearly, my beach was better than yours.

Some went to Coney Island, of course.
Others to Manhattan Beach while a tiny handful of renegades would make the trek to Jones Beach on Long Island.

Beautiful and deep with fine, white sand, we were devotees of Brighton Beach. Named to evoke thoughts of Brighton in England, it abuts Coney Island but was less popular than its more showy cousin.

We'd go nearly every weekday, avoiding the weekend crowds, taking three different subways to get there, laden with folding chairs, towels, blankets and enough food to sustain an army for weeks...possibly longer.

When I think about how much we carried and how many flights of stairs we climbed, I am genuinely amazed.

We'd show up around nine in the morning. Among the first to arrive, the tracks of the beach cleaning trucks were fresh and the sand was open and inviting. We'd keep the tide in mind so we wouldn't have to move later on and set up, more or less, in the same spot every day.

We never used a beach umbrella. We'd slap on some Coppertone in the morning, never reapply it and got so dark over the course of the season that somewhere exist pictures of us where we are barely recognizable--tan and grinning with blazing white teeth and sun-bleached hair.

Assorted family members would join us as the day progressed: uncles and cousins mostly, some of whom were very strong swimmers. They casually swam out to the end of the jetties, occasionally signaled to by lifeguards if they ventured beyond the limits of life-saving, God forbid.

Few people had heard of coolers back then much less owned one. Most sealed food up in plastic bags to be buried in patches of shaded sand to keep cool. You knew it was around noon when the grown-ups appropriated our toy shovels to dig up their lunches and, if you were the family who camped next to us, a nearly full bottle of vodka.

I never learned to swim. A huge liability which still causes me discomfort, I made sure my boys learned early but, other than a handful of hardcore swimmers, most people just played and splashed in the surf. 

The kids, between building things with plastic pails, would collect shells, pop seaweed and shudder at the carcasses of the dead horse shoe crabs that littered the water's edge.

My mother warned me that I should be on the lookout for giant turds that might float towards me in the ocean, claiming she'd come face to face with one when she was young. I totally believed this and warned my boys to also be wary of giant floating turds.

I wish I'd asked her, years later, whether this was true or yet another extremely effective ploy to control me. I was very careful as a result of the anxiety caused by the rumor of these buoyant but gross offenders.

Action from the lifeguards was rare. I can't even remember seeing the fit, wiry men, who sat on their big white chairs with zinc oxide on their noses and towels across their knees, race into the water to save anyone although I'm sure it happened. 

We'd pack up around four in the afternoon but occasionally stayed later. My favorite time on the beach remains to be very late afternoon when the sun made our shadows very long-limbed and our heads tiny.  

Staying late might warrant sending a consenting party to seek additional sustenance because the fruit, sandwiches, cookies, lemonade, hard boiled eggs and cold fried chicken would be depleted by then. 

We took eating on the beach very seriously. Didn't food taste better when eaten by the ocean? Besides, no one had money for the expensive treats available on the boardwalk.
Awful but I wanted one.

Plus, it was a very long walk from Bay 8 to the brightly lit food stalls from which
I desperately craved the unnaturally yellow cobs of corn hanging under the hot lights. The lights kept them warm but rendered the once tender kernels tasteless and indigestible. 

Distance brings me to another major component of a beach day...

Obviously, we all peed in the ocean. Occasionally someone would wander into a "warm zone" which meant that another bather had very recently done his business. You'd scream and move on...after all, someone had, more than likely, recently ventured into a warm zone of your own creation.

But poo poo in the wa wa was was a no no.

Other than the mysterious bastard who created the giant turd of my mother's youth, we all held whatever we had until we got home. I don't know how we did it but we did-- especially keeping in mind that we were eating constantly.

Giant turds aside, it certainly was a blissfully innocent way to spend a summer. I will address the boardwalk and what lay beneath it tomorrow....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stressed? Have a Chillax!

Based on current events as well as the anniversary of 9/11, I have been a little anxious lately.

But, after several days of darker than usual thoughts, tempered by the committment to transform them with a healthier mind set, I rose today with a positive agenda of optimistic strategies to replace the dour menu from which I've recently been choosing.

After a weekend with a heightened terror alert in the two cities on earth which, coincidentally, possess a disproportionate number of people I care about as well as reports of strong undertows on a beach where both my sons would be frolicking, I spent the weekend in a state of gibbering stress.

Those unfortunate enough to receive phone calls I made during this period, will attest to that.

I did, however, based on what was available in the fridge and freezer, create a noteworthy anti-anxiety concoction that deserves to be shared with mankind.

A delicious treat reminiscent of an old-fashioned ice cream soda, it consists of two generous scoops of Breyer's fat free vanilla ice cream floating in a sea of Mike's Hard Lemonade, flavor of berry.

I call it "The Chillax."

Goodbye old fashioned root beer floats. Hello delicious elixir of not caring what Diane Sawyer is tearing up over  on the world news tonight. Make yourself one of these before you go on air, Diane, you'll feel better.

But back to Monday morning...

With my new attitude precariously in place, here I was---blogging away, laughing indulgently at my own jokes when a distraction occurred.

Distractions, these days, make me totally forget what I was doing prior to their occurrence, regardless of external clues. Ex. "Hmmm....why is this toothbrush in my hand and the cap off the toothpaste? What could I have been up to?"

This morning's distraction was the phone ringing.

It was my daily phone chat with Seth. We briefly discussed his commute after which he submits to his daily instructions which include reminders to be sure to eat lunch, drive carefully and not, despite his inclination, pick up any prostitutes (kidding...Jennifer, your brother does not pick up prostitutes.....anymore). 

But after I hung up, for some reason, as if it were part of a strategy for efficiency, I hit the delete key and the nearly completed blog post disappeared. 


My go-to response was, of course, shock, rage, swearing and ultimately, despair.

And, it was the second time in less than 24 hours I'd had to summon this reactive foursome: Having recently reread my favorite book of Jane Eyre, I spotted yet another film adaptation in Costco last week.

One can never own too many adaptations of Jane Eyre so I bought it and was thoroughly enjoying it last night -- as I sipped my Chillax -- only to have the screen go blank, literally, right before the pivotal dramatic/romantic/climactic scene that every Jane Eyre devotee waits for, drooling in the dim light.

Not wanting to be a spoiler, I will not give it away but, no,
there is no sex in Jane Eyre. Sorry.

While there may, indeed, be a version called "Jane E. Does Dallas" or " Big Booty Sluts of the Gothic Literary Genre"" last night's version was clean as a whistle---just plot driven fun for nerds such as myself.

As the picture disappeared, enter shock rage, swearing, and, ultimately, despair. The Chillax did, however, soften the edges and keep my volume down a wee bit.

To make a long story less long, after the phone call, I could not recall the content of the blog I'd deleted to the point where it could have been rewritten.

I do know it contained the mention of some delicious crab cakes made by Seth's cousin brought back from his weekend away doing man stuff (hence the freedom to combine ice cream and alcohol as well as watch movies with girls names in the titles) but other than that, it's gone.

So is most of my mind. 

A Chillax for breakfast, anyone?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Tenth Anniversary: Some Final Thoughts About 9/11

In view of the fact that my two previous posts were on the serious side, I tried very hard to make this one light and fluffy. 
If this were 25 years ago and I were sweating over my ancient Smith Corona electric, you would have found me dramatically ripping sheet after sheet out of the carriage,  crumpling them before tossing them to the floor instead of just hitting the delete button again and again.
I forced myself to think about things that might make me feel some levity—Seth in a dress, Joe Biden’s hair, me walking in heels—but nothing worked. Not even Nick Nolte's mug shot.
When September 11 is approaching, I feel uneasy.
This weekend I will again be fascinated and sickened by the now familiar footage. The planes hitting, the buildings collapsing, scores of people fleeing, tissues pressed against their mouths and noses.
I will again, surely, see that snippet of film of a police officer walking into billowing clouds of choking smoke, arms raised to be seen in order to shepherd terrified civilians to safety. I always try to imagine how his presence and calm must have eased their fear. 
It gives me goose bumps.
It reminds me that most people are good. Isn't it always the bad eggs who get the attention? Isn’t it true that a few poorly behaved jerks receive the air time on TV? Or get a whole class kept after school?

Or ruin a whole goddam world... 
Bad behavior wasn’t tolerated in the classrooms I learned in. The stern teachers I knew would unceremoniously toss the disrupters into the hallways by the seats of their polyester pants. They knew to proceed directly to the offices of tired but tough principals who’d call home and get their tuchases into big trouble. 
In those days, parents were on the teacher’s side. End of story. 
The troublemakers were dealt with swiftly and guess what-- they didn’t do it again. At least the sane among them didn’t.
Obviously there is no comparison to the aftermath of 9/11 and the Class Bad Boy (with whom I am now friends on Facebook) crossing his eyes for the hundredth time in eighth period geometry. 
But, in that classroom, there was one offender and 35 others who obeyed the rules. That sounds like a comparable ratio of deranged jihadists to the rest of us. 
The way it was.
I think about pre-9/11 America with the nostalgic affection I reserve for beloved children now grown into savvy adults. We were blissfuilly spoiled and didn't even know it. 
After watching the footage, I will react as I do every year. 

I will want to leap into the car and drive to New York City -- my former playground, where I attended college, got my first job, strolled with my husband, wore my babies in carriers on my shoulders -- and hug the buildings, pressing my face against the rough granite, and whisper that I love them.  
Simultaneously, I will want to get as far away from the city as physically possible, never to return and set up housekeeping in the hollowed out stump of a tree somewhere in the wilderness.
I will be remembering the events of ten years ago this Sunday when the names are read and the bell is rung.
I will think of my friend Annette who was working in the Pentagon on the morning of the attacks. She was lucky to not yet have moved into her new office which was hit by the plane. I will think of the two friends she lost that day.
I suggest we all remember to remember.
Let’s think about what it might mean if we refuse to tolerate insanity and send the trouble makers to the principal’s office where firm discipline will be administered and asses will be kicked. 
Let’s remind ourselves of who we are as a nation. 

Let’s spread love, people, because as the song says, “that’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”  God bless America.

*Blogger has been a mess for two days. Please forgive the variation in font, size and spacing. Hopefully, they will correct the problem soon.