Monday, December 17, 2012

The Newtown Shooting: The Sorrow and the Media

This morning, as usual, I turned on the news as I prepared to face the day. 

This day, however, I was hoping for more than the current temperature and traffic report. I was hoping for inspiration for my column since I’d lurked at the computer for hours yesterday yet written nothing.

The morning show I prefer, on CBS, is the more serious of the three major network's daily offerings--not because I'm serious but because if I want tabloid crap (and I often do), I'll watch the likes of Inside Edition. But, if I want actual news, I try to find it despite how tricky that has become.

The two female anchors were seated in high director's chairs, all bundled up---exactly like when covering the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Behind them, a line-up of tents and canopies erected by the army of media has encamped to provide the latest information of the horrific events in Newtown. Today that will include the first two funerals slated to occur later.

Great idea, media! What better way to elevate the name of a twisted killer to universal notoriety and make it irresistible to others (and we all know, there are others) to commit similar crimes! Why not provide a pipeline to infamy by endlessly pumping the shooter’s photos and pathetic life story out to the public? When did you all lose your minds, your dignity and your self-control?

Some may defend this blitz, saying that the more focus put on Newtown’s misery, the better for the reinvigorated arguments about gun legislation. Others will claim that the public has the right to not only every new development but also be privy to every expression of grief, sorrow and despair. I say that a welcoming environment for the next lunatic is being fertilized.

The reporters I know from my years of addictive TV viewing (including the news) are more affected than I've ever seen them. Many are parents, I’m sure, and like our president whose unmistakable sincerity has given him one of his finest hours, the nightmare of last Friday feels very personal.

This week's column was going to be about Christmas. I was going to recount how hilarious it was when I ran out of tape while wrapping gifts. Or maybe I'd aim for your sentimental side by dragging out another holiday memory from my well of anecdotes but, not surprisingly, funny is gone. Even sentiment is shattered. 

Christmas, itself, is in question while sanity has certainly taken a powder—both in the nature of the actual events of last Friday as well as in the fact that it’s being covered like a goddam holiday parade.

I am not going to discuss gun legislation, mental illness or Nancy Lanza's questionable parenting but as I write this, it feels like the Newtown tragedy happened well over a week ago. Was it just three days ago? Is it really possible that I am reading the names of 26 souls who were gunned down in a town in which I shop, meet friends for lunch, have sat on sunny baseball fields to watch my children play against yours?

As I look at the photographs of those killed, I can only think "This is where their story stops." But, I also think of the daily joy I experienced on the most routine of days as I picked up kindergartener Tommy or Charlie--their coats buttoned by a teacher, their boots put on by a classroom aide in whose care I had unquestioningly placed my trust.

I remember the big green pompom of Charlie’s hat as he was led from class, holding hands with his partner and smiling. I remember how happy we were to see one another after no more than three hours apart. I see a tiny Tommy sitting in a booster seat in the barber’s chair as we make eye contact in the mirror while he gets an after-school haircut.. I was, and still am ridiculously happy to be their mommy. 

To love your own child is to automatically understand how another parent feels, put yourself in their place and, to some degree, feel their pain.

In the current tumult of my mind, I believe solutions are far more complicated than we think. 

Those determined to hurt others will always find a way to do so....for many reasons including through the vulnerability of good people because, in their goodness, they cannot fathom -- or certainly expect and adequately prepare for the type of hell unleashed at Sandy Hook Elementary. To believe that people exist who are capable of such incomprehensible evil means accepting it and that, in itself, is unacceptable.

After this, there will more rules, more restrictions as well as media coverage until we’re dizzy. There are already reports of Newtown residents wanting the”journalists” to pack up and leave. There will be more bad dreams at night, more fear and more anxiety that can’t be talked away by the well-intentioned grief counselors deployed across this little state.

As kids return to school all over America, I find myself grateful that mine are not among them. Yet I worry about my grown-up babies shopping in malls, on line at the supermarket or at their desks at work. This kind of fear, and ultimate desensitization, has become the new normal.

I cannot pretend, even to myself, to comprehend why anyone would do what was done last Friday. I, as will many, continue to pray that those who need comfort will receive it as well as for the safety of the innocent everywhere. 

Good luck to those prayers…they're going to need it.   

The best I can do is Ieave you with a line from a poem called "Desiderata" by Max Ehrman...”with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Review of the 12/12/12 Concert for Hurrican Sandy Relief

I made it through most of the 12/12/12 concert last night. 

Organized to aid the struggle of the many here in the tri-state area after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, it was as Mick Jagger -- stick-thin and suggestively squirmy as ever --  said: "the largest collection of old, English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden." He wasn't kidding.
The "Boss."

Throw in Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel -- looking pretty gnarly in high-def (not that I'd look any better), a satin-skinned Alicia Keyes, the ever-sexy Jon Bon Jovi, the grizzled Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey (wearing a suit from the 70's) representing "The Who," and you have an idea of some of the rock royalty in attendance.

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd showed up, still agile and rangy in his black tee and funky sneakers. His hair totally gray, he sang with Eddie Vedder, who can do no wrong but may not have been faking it about being "Comfortably Numb."
Smile, Mike, you get
residuals, don't you?

Chris Martin of Cold Play, not only did a nice acoustic set but also lured the perpetually melancholy Michael Stipe of REM out of his mausoleum for a song. And, yes, he is still losing his religion. It is reported that he did, indeed, smile last night but confirmation is pending.

Bruce Springsteen brought all his guys with him except, of course, for the incomparable Clarence Clemmons who passed away not too long ago.

His wife, Patty, was there, but shook her tambourine across the stage from her husband reportedly because of his display of the most amazing pit-stains ever revealed at the Garden...and that includes Elvis. Patty has obviously had it with Bruce and his refusal to wear a good Sports deodorant. She is, however, very relieved to have finally solved the "plumber's crack" issues that have plagued him in the past.

Joined by Jon  -- Oy, what a man! --  Bon Jovi, the two did some predictable but ever-enjoyable New Jersey rocking-out.

All Eric Clapton has to do, in my opinion, is simply walk onstage. Dignity and talent, thou art Eric Clapton. Remember, around thirty years ago, when I made a fool of myself in Manhattan when I saw you, Eric? You dont? Good.

Amidst all the warmth, high-fiving and rampant thumbs-upping that was going on, the Disney villain of the evening, Mr. Kanye West showed up decked out in a confusing combination of a black leather skirt and leggings underneath. 

He bounced around gamely but whether he'd pissed the lighting guys off before the show or, himself, chose the weird effects, his set was back-lit and strobey...and he seemed slightly off.
Back-lit and be-skirted.

He was neither rude nor overtly malevolent but he was something worse: he was boring as hell. Having seen him before, I was expecting better but wonder if, under the weight of all that heavy leather, he might have lost some of his steam. That was some skirt--pleats and all.
A kilt can be a very sexy thing on a man....those socks, that waist pouch, those laced shoes....think Sean Connery. But this was no kilt. Kanye wore a skirt. Perhaps he accidentally grabbed something discarded by his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian. Or a vengeful Taylor Swift may have been behind it, though that's doubtful since that would have forced her to take time off from her spree of promiscuity soon to be seen in a city near you. 
                         Her motto in this quest: 
                    "I shall leave no testicle unturned "

I love Billy Joel. Yes, he's a cranky old man now with a gigantic head that has, apparently, never known the benefits of sunscreen. Those crazy eyes have gotten droopier and his voice has been  roughened by years of God knows what but he still sounds great to this old girl.

Commanding the stage from a piano bench, he never fails to bring me back to a time when I didn't have all that much to worry about other than whether I'd wear my buffalo sandals or my Dr. Scholls to the beach that day.
Remember these, ladies? Did you know they were called "Buffalo sandals?"

My favorite act was The Rolling Stones. Mick simply has not slowed down at all. Prancing, sliding, side-stepping and flapping his pipe cleaner arms in those unmistakable signature moves, he is as apt to thrust his impossibly narrow pelvis at us at the age of 69-going-on-70 as he did when he was 25...and it still makes me feel young. 
Still has it...
...lost it a while ago.

Unlike Roger Daltrey's insistence on revealing his aging chest, the Stone's lead singer can still get away with it.

"Why? Because he is Mick Jagger, of course.

During the set, I realized that Ron Wood and I have the same hair-do and that Keith Richards may be the most amazing guy in entertainment today. I don't think I have seen anyone look worse...except my friend's 96 year old grandpa at a wake I attended many years ago in Brooklyn....and he was the one in the coffin.

Paul McCartney is a quintessential showman. Closing the show, he did a new-ish song about yet another wife (please, Paul, after you divorce this one, give up. You simply cannot recreate what you had with Linda) and some Wings but I admit that I also wanted a flat-out Beatles medley as well as a mention of John Lennon who was assassinated thirty-two years ago this week not all that far from Madison Square Garden.
Always cute.
Will he be sued?

All in all, despite some dozing and laser pointer playtime with the cats, the unflattering lighting of Billy Crystal's neck, Brian Williams acting like an idiot at the phone bank and my concern for one of my favorite people, Adam Sandler who, likely, used the tune of Leonard Cohen's magnificent opus "Hallelujah" without legal permission, it was a great night of entertainment.
Available in every dressing room
of the evening.

I hope Billy Joel starts using at least an SPF30 on his head, Roger Daltrey gets some new clothes (and glasses), Mick Jagger had enough Tylenol Extra Strength to endure his transatlantic flight home today and Taylor Swift wasn't hanging around backstage last night. 

In the old days any one of those guys could have handled her easily but times have changed and I suspect they were just all hoping Mick had enough Tylenol for sharing and weren't thinking much about their prolific, groupie-filled pasts.

I also hope the money gets to the people and the enightmare of Sandy can be put behind the thousands affected by the storm. And, as Billy Crystal said as the show ended, "Please don't light me from underneath again and God bless America."

And why, oh why, was Kristin Stewart dressed
like a football ref from Liverpool?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Vegetable Family

Unfortunately I refer not to actual vegetables such as the crunchy crucifers that scrub the interior of our intestines clean or propel slap-happy antioxidants throughout our systems to fight disease.

Nor do I cite the brightly hued carriers of beta-carotene crowed about by Dr. Oz in his quest to get us to slim down and live longer. 

Why he cares, I’ll never understand.

Sadly, I am not speaking of positive habits so much as the lack of human initiative (and by that, I mean any sort of movement) that took place in my home immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday. The kids were home, no one had any pressing engagements (and by that, I mean showering ) and there was a working TV and comfy couch within staggering distance of the left-overs.

The boys, having recently been involved in the excitement of a presidential campaign, wanted to keep the momentum flowing by watching the fabled television series from several years ago, “The West Wing.” And I just wanted to sit near the boys….so through the magic of the digital age we were able to create a scenario that pleased us all: unlimited episodes of the show as well as cozy seating for Ma Barker and her boys.
The real Ma Barker.
Wow, she was mean.

We were immediately sucked into the snappy dialogue, good character development and tightly paced drama of fictional characters running  America.  And, soon, we hazily observed that bright daylight had a habit of slipping into shades of dusk, then night then –  What? Is it that late? – three in the morning. 

Exercising only our “clicker muscles” we cared neither about time nor place as our very own Black Friday referred not to retail but to the loss of brain cells and progressive dimming of our futures as we emulated cooked vegetables in the flickering light of 60 inches of high def.

For the first several hours we sustained ourselves with half empty bottles of water that were strewn about but within reach, sipping judiciously so as not to disrupt our cocoons for the exertion of bathroom visits. 

Secretly, I couldn't
care less what you people

Haphazardly abandoned bags of chips and pretzels nourished us once stomachs started to growl and Dr. Oz himself, would have been proud of how overjoyed we were to discover a nearly full Tupperware of baby carrots wedged under the recliner. We ate only one or two every few hours since none among us had any intention of leaving the couch, the reassuring banter and patriotic idealism of the cast nor the fact that every problem was wrapped up to our satisfaction every sixty minutes.

We also all agreed that Martin Sheen must be our next president.
Call me "Mr. President."

As the food dwindled and the hours became what may actually have been days, we dozed fitfully only to be awakened by gnawing hunger and were forced to search between couch cushions for sustenance. Charlie found two fun size Snickers from Halloween and I, a few linty m&ms in the pocket of my sweat pants that we divided with the precision of prisoners in the gulag. But later, after another season or two of a benevolent president with a great head of hair, we were reduced to licking each others elbows for salt and swapping stories (between episodes) of memorable meals from our past. 

There was a sleeve of Ritz crackers across the room but if it was beyond the reach of our fingers, it might as well have been on Mars.

We tried to get the cats to fetch things from the fridge upstairs but they had problems of their own since no one had refilled their dishes since this TV orgy had begun.
What? No rice ball?!?

I have no idea where Seth was during all this but at some point, he entered the room surrounded by a pool of light and accompanied by what I believe to have been celestial music, yelling something mean and confusing about both unfit parenting and elder abuse.

I have little memory of the confrontation and ensuing redemption but it involved calzone with sausage for all and Diet Coke administered to my withered lips through an eye dropper.

In conclusion, I would do it again in a heartbeat. After all, isn’t spending time with one’s family what holidays are for? Christmas is almost here and we have always wanted to catch up on “Breaking Bad” in its entirety…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spider With Your Grapes? No, Thanks.

The Black Widow
For the past few years, after having learned about the dangers of the pesticides used on our fruits and vegetables, I have been spending a little more -- but less than you might imagine --  on organic produce.

Those days abruptly ended today as a result of a story in a local paper about a black widow spider that "popped" out of a bag of organic grapes, "surprising" the woman who'd purchased them from a Whole Foods Market.

I am not trying to make light of sudden death in any way, but if that had happened to me, you would be reading my obituary with your latte the very next morning. I would never survive such a thing.
A Wood Spider similar
to the one in my pantry.

I am not alone when I say that spiders horrify me. Fear of spiders, or "arachnophobia", is very common among those with fewer than eight legs. I have a long list of gruesome anecdotes involving spiders that involve hysteria, running, crying and near divorce when, one morning, Seth refused to turn around and drive the two hours home from work to look for a giant wood spider that was doing the can-can in the pantry.
I don't even like cats
dressed as spiders.

I eventually duct-taped the door shut, sealing every crack to trap the spider who was, indeed, later found and proved to be as large as I'd frothed and sobbed about on the phone.

Years ago, after my son found a giant spider among the bananas during his very first job as a produce clerk, I screamed in the supermarket after mistaking my own shadow for what I would have sworn was a tarantula.

I consider spiders terrorists.

Spider-hate is ingrained in my family's culture. It's in my DNA just like long nostrils, love of mayonnaise and crepey skin on the back of my hands. As I was growing up, if my mother so much as dreamt of a spider, it meant bad juju and we were on guard until my psychic Aunt Mary gave us the green light to relax.
One of the worlds
most dangerous
type of spider.

And yes, I realize how helpful they are in the garden as well as the fact that they -- just like puppies, ponies, kittens and koalas -- were created by the God of the Old Testament, saved from the flood by Noah and received top billing in a favorite movie from childhood.

I don't care. And, God, I apologize but in my book spiders+ peri-menopause=mistake.

If you are a spider, I hate you.

I also realize that the arrival of a Black Widow in a bag of grapes is a one in a million but since the article explained that besides killing us with their toxins, pesticides also kill Black Widow Spiders, I am now ready to eat said pesticides with a spoon and a napkin tucked under my chin rather than risk a similar confrontation.

Hey, kid, you've got
a spider on your face.

I would also like to issue a formal complaint against the woman who found the spider. Not only does she apparently have nerves of steel, since she calmly posted about it on Facebook after it happened (while I would have been dead on the kitchen floor), but her boyfriend managed to catch and release it into their backyard where it is now using Spider GPS to locate my house so it can sneak in and spend the holidays before scaring me to death

"That's how we live," she explained. It's a living thing and we have no hard feelings."

No hard feelings?

Honestly, good for you, lady. Would you be saying that if you were now full of neurotoxins and that thing had jumped on your peaceful, nature-loving face?????

Hippie freak.

The spider, set free in a city not too far from where I sit (encased in a Haz Mat suit and eating a Xanax sandwich) is doubtless on his way here so I am doing the only reasonable thing under these circumstances--I am putting the house on the market and moving.

So there is less chance of the spider finding me, I am leaving no forwarding address. UPS, please leave all packages with my neigbor. Thank you.

The actual spider found in the grapes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Feline Mystique

The other day I awoke at around three in the morning.

I had fallen into a coma during the election coverage and all the lights were still on around me. 

On the TV, now way too loud for that wee hour of the morning, was an infomercial for a device that appeared to cut hair, raise your testosterone level and make pancakes all at the same time.

In the room were five cats all sitting close by and intently staring at me. They appeared to be awaiting instruction thus confirming my suspicion that they consider me their leader. Once I lifted myself out of the recliner, they all followed me up the stairs in a very orderly fashion.

It seemed pretty obvious they were expecting an assigment.

Since I'd neglected to buy milk for Seth's morning cereal and had been fretting about it, I decided I would ask the cats to somehow make sure there was a carton of 1% at the ready despite my forgetfulness. They were still staring so I gave them their instructions and staggered off to bed.

Fast forward to the morning. Seth has gone off to work and I stumble into the kitchen, open the fridge and to my amazement, there is a carton of milk and a used cereal bowl and spoon in the sink.
I turn and look at Buzzy who is curled up in his box but looking at me intently with one eye. Then I notice Elfie and Fritzi staring at me from the hallway. Nifi and Charlie's cat, Tito are sitting by the door. They are all staring. "Wow," I say to them all. Thank you! I can't believe you guys actually did it!"

I sat for a few minutes to contemplate this turn of events. Not only was this seriously convenient (I would no longer have to do my own grocery shopping) but, depending on how much they were capable of, I could use them to bedevil people I don't like (Rachel Maddow, in case you were wondering) plus maybe a little light cleaning.

Just as I was about to call Seth to tell him the cats were magic, I noticed their bowl of food was empty. Hmmm. This might explain why they were clustered around my chair last night and all the crazy staring but, nonetheless, I dialed Seth and explained the amazing appearance of a carton of milk in the fridge where there had been none.

"The cats are not magic, Susan Says..." said Seth in the same tired tone he'd used when I'd insisted I could now speak French since I'd fluently done so in a dream. "I bought it on my way home last night." 

The cats may not have put the milk in there but je pense toujours que les chats sont magiques. Comprenez? *

*I actually think I may have dreamed most of this, too.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vote For Me!

During the past several months I'm sure you’ve all been reminded, in one format or another, to not forget to get out and vote. There are billboards to prompt us, t-shirts, bumper stickers and buttons to encourage us. 

Many of us even look forward to an election worker pressing an adhesive sticker to our fleece lapel after we cast our ballot that says, "I voted!" 

After all, the privilege to elect our governing officials is the hallmark of democracy, is it not?

An informed voter.
I, too, have encouraged others to go and cast their ballots....but only, however, if I’ve made absolutely certain they agree with me. Why would I remind you to vote if you're voting against my candidate of choice. What am I, crazy?

 If I find you’ll be supporting another, I might suggest that you sleep late, try that in-home chemical peel you ordered from QVC or begin the herbal cleanse you bought last month. Surely other voters will take care of it for you…relax.

But, in any case, by the time you’re reading this, the election will soon be over.  
My favorite campaign of all time.

While it’s Iikely that armies of lawyers will be pouting and stamping their little feet in some of the so-called battleground states, the actual campaigning -- and by that I mean robo-calls, mud slinging and blatant lying -- is behind us. And, of course, unless the election was truly too close to call, some of us are happy and the rest of us are not.
"Do as I say, bitches!"

Susan Says..." did not endorse a candidate this year but not because she had no opinion. 

In fact, "Susan Says..." has an opinion on everything and will be happy to share all of them with you next time we meet in the produce aisle, but I also wish I had run for president. In fact, I’ve wanted to be president of this great nation since I was just a tiny little megalomaniac, ruling her Barbies with an iron hand, back in Brooklyn, New York.

Why are they so stingy with the purples?
Like any candidate, I would have made certain promises (for ex. free Hershey's Kisses for all, a higher percentage of purple Skittles in the fun size bags, a TV channel that runs nothing but Cash Cab 24 hours a day and, of course, the permanent exile of the entire Kardashian clan...including Bruce Jenner), but I like to think I would be a fair and loving leader of the free world.

My sons, both of whom heard me shriek "What makes you think this is a democracy??? WELL, IT’S NOT!!!!" countless times during their childhood, might disagree but how hard can it be? 

Sharing, listening, kindness, honesty, open-mindedness, consensus-taking, frugality and surrounding yourself with people who are well-versed in the things you aren't is pretty much it, no?

Hmmmm. Now that I look back on that deceptively simple list, I realize it must not be all that easy. If it were, why else hasn't a president in recent memory been able to combine all those characteristics to be the great leader we’ve needed?

A full beard, really?
Not to mention, a candidate must be telegenic, as well. Ever since Richard Nixon grew a full beard and sweated through it during his 1960 debate with John Kennedy, it is common knowledge that a candidate must, to some degree, look the part. The charisma factor also counts but is less easy to define. 

Unsuccessfully trying to kill him with her eyes.

Bill Clinton’s personal charisma, according to everyone but Hillary, is legendary. And yet, to bring up Richard Nixon once more, it’s possible to win with neither looks nor charisma.

It really shouldn’t be such a mystery. Our next president, whoever he is, must be willing to persevere, make sacrifices, compromise, think clearly, project strength, help shape a bright future and lead us toward it.  

Whoever you turn out to be, Mr. President, I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes you the very best. Now about those Hershey Kisses……….

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Apologize for Over-Apologizing!

While I have ranted about over-thankyou-ing in the past, I realize I have  left a another syndrome unexamined. This is because I, myself, suffer from it and while I don't wish to cast further aspersions on my already, highly compromised persona, I am hoping that honesty may lead to a cure.

I am referring to too much apologizing.

I know I am not alone. I suspect this syndrome predominates among women since many of us were raised with the subconscious training to be mollifiers, to make people feel better...even total strangers.

Case in point: "Susan Says..." visits her local Christmas Tree Shop....

Many of you are familiar with this chain of wonderlands where you can walk out with a smile -- for less than a twenty -- as well as a large bag of Chinese manufactured crap for which you have no earthly need but fulfills that pesky chasm deep in your soul that can only be appeased by material things.

I go every few weeks when the despair within has sufficiently accumulated and the demons need to be dispelled.
Happiness comes cheap at the Christmas Tree Shop
In the very full parking lot, right next to where I parked my car, there were several empty shopping carts. Now I had nothing, whatsoever, to do with this blockage of a perfectly good parking spot but when a car tried to pull in and the passenger popped out to move the carts, I smiled and said, "I'm sorry..."

"Oh, that's okay, " was the response I received.

Now, not only did I feel sheepish for having felt the need to apologize for something that had nothing to do with me but now I was furious that this person excused me instead of grabbing me by the front buttons, looking directly in my eyes and shouting, "Don't apologize, you ninny! This was not your fault."

Fast forward less than a half hour later. My items are being scanned at the checkout when suddenly one of them will not go through. It has a sticker and a bar code but the computer will not accept it.
Aware that the line behind me is growing, I start to hear the tuts, tsks and clucks of what could soon easily become an angry mob.

The cashier, sensing the potentially incendiary situation on her line, is frantically typing in numbers by hand but that didn't work. She finally has no choice but to use the hot line by the register that broadcasts humiliating pleas like "Price check needed on paw print cat blanket, aisle 6!!!!"

As the crowd steadily became more restless, women buying ceramic snowman planters and seasonally themed nesting cosmetic bags are thinking things like "This crazy witch doesn't need a &*$%# paw print blanket!! Why doesn't she just put it aside so we can get on with our lives?!" I could feel their communal disgust, their shared hope that I would abandon  my purchase in order to avoid an insurrection.

But I wanted that damn blanket.
The actual blanket

It was just soft and squishy enough to lure the cats away from the good chair and, besides, it was only $5.99!

I resisted the urge to apologize to the mob simmering behind me.

Still stinging from the cart incident in the parking lot, I reasoned that someone should be apologizing to me for this inconvenience as well the roughing up I might receive from the hostile crowd of young mothers wearing baby slings and middle aged matrons shopping on their lunch hour.


And then the woman behind me, who had already painstakingly unloaded all her crap right behind my crap, swept it back into her cart and huffed away.

I cracked.
I'm sorry!!

Shouting after her, "I am so sorry!!. " I found that I couldn't stop: "I'm sorry if I inconvenienced you...I'm sorry the polar ice caps are melting...that the coral reefs are eroding...that it may have rained on your birthday...that your mother had a difficult labor...that Val Kilmer has put on so much weight...that those 100 calorie snack packs are so unsatisfying...that Friday Night Lights was cancelled...that Destiny's Child broke up! I am so sorry!!!!!"
I am so sorry!!

By this time, the price check woman, grim and efficient in a navy smock, had come by and given the cashier a new code. My paw print blanket rang up for a dollar less than expected and I left...emotionally drained but happy.

I am going to try to control my apologetic impulses in the future. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

...Just Another Thing She Did.

Back in the days of small TV screens in large wooden cabinets, their one speaker camoflaged by textured fabric and tuning knobs a get-up-and-walk-to-the-set away, that was all we had for electronic entertainment in the home.

Yes, of course, we could listen to the radio. But unlike my mother's generation, for us, the radio was just for news and music. Or, you could turn on a lamp, lick a finger and put it into the socket like I did when I was old enough to know better*.

But if you wanted visual entertainment -- other than the spectacle of me being thrown against the wall as electricity coursed though my body -- TV was it.

There were no VCRS, DVD players, I-Pads or smart phones...nada. Zippo. Nothing. It's hard to remember a world without videos whenever we desire them, isn't it?
When Tommy was a baby, we bought our first VCR and soon video rental stores started popping up all over the place. It was a whole new world. We became members of one on our corner and I would walk there on cold evenings to pick a movie for a weekend or for my toddler to enjoy on a rainy afternoon.

Tommy's tastes were eclectic. As a child, he enjoyed Disney classics, all kinds of cartoons, old black and white films and when Charlie was old enough, they would watch together as I made dinner or threw in a laundry.

If you've never
seen this version of
Gulliver's Travels, find it
and watch.

When I was little, I also enjoyed movies and was reminded of all this today as I was clicking around and stumbled upon the 1939 animated version of "Gulliver's Travels." I watched it until the end and was surprised at how well I remembered the images of the Lilliputian prince and princess, bursting into tears as the benevelent Gulliver set sail from Lilliput at the end.

This and many others, like the ancient version of "Babes in Toyland" with Laurel and Hardy--shown every Thanksgiving when I was little, are familiar and beloved. I had many favorites and enjoyed them all on the convex screen of our old Philco black and white.
Babes in Toyland, 1934. The scariest movie ever made.

But how did I know when to tune in?

I didn't read the TV program (we saved money by not subscribing to TV Guide like the rich folk but, instead, pulled the weekly TV listing from the Sunday newspaper) so how did I know what day, what time, what channel?

I'll tell you how. It was Olga.

Red crayon in hand, my mother religiously read through the weekly program listings, marking the things she thought I'd enjoy. This included old movies both classic and obscure, holiday programming and many other shows aimed at children.

I never wondered how she knew to send me the TV with a plate of saltines spread with jelly or celery sticks and peanut butter. I just went, sat and enjoyed.

My mother and her red crayon made sure that each show was marked as if she had nothing else to do in the world but see to it that I swooned over Clark Gable in "San Francisco," howled with laughter as Abbot and Costello met the mummy and sobbed  when Old Yeller actually died.

As a mama of my own small children, we accumulated our own library of VHS tapes of children's entertainment so my boys had their pick of dozens of choices.

Was it an"Aladdin" day or a "Star Wars" afternoon? It was all as easy as walking over to the shelf, plucking out a clunky tape and popping it into a machine. Instant need for a red crayon.

My mother was a busy woman. In fact she was a lot busier than I was...but this was just another service she offered.

*If you must know, I was around 10. I wanted to better understand electricity and, after that, I certainly did. I'm still scared of lamps.