Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kate Winslet Wants to Kill Me

911 Operator:  “911, what’s your emergency?”

Susan Says:  “Kate Winslet wants to kill me. Please hurry.”

911 Operator: “Kate Winslet? Isn’t she the one who got naked in Titanic?”

Susan Says: “That’s the one.”

911 Operator: “Is she there now?”

Susan Says:  “She sure is.”

911 Operator: “Does she have a weapon?”

Susan Says: “No but she’s really frowning….and her eyes are dead. It’s like something out of 
Zombie Apocalypse.”

911 Operator: “Oh my God. So she’s in your home?”

Susan Says: “Well, actually, she’s in a fashion spread in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal Magazine.”

911 Operator: “So, she’s not actually there?!”

Susan Says: “No, but I’m very scared. Remember, she let Leonardo DiCaprio slide off into the ocean after promising she’d never let go.”

911 Operator: “Lady, that was a movie. It was very upsetting, though.”

Susan Says: “Well, now she’s looking really mean and wearing awful clothes and I’m scared.”

911 Operator: “Ma’am, this number is for emergencies. I am going to end this call.”

Susan Says: “Please don’t. I’m also scared of the rest of the models in this issue. They’re all emaciated and look like zombies, too.  Why do they think this kind of thing will sell clothes??”

911 Operator: “To be honest, ma’am, I don’t understand that myself. You’d think a smile and a little flesh on their bones would be more enticing.”

Susan Says: “I know! Now do you understand why I’m scared?”

911 Operator: “Yes, but I am not sending the police. Why don’t you have a nice snack. You’ll feel better.”

Susan Says: “I’ll tell you why! In another section of the same paper, they’re carrying on about this amazing new chef but he’s only making herring roe on kelp with charred dandelions!”

911 Operator: “God, no! That must have scared you more than Kate Winslet’s dead eyes.”

Susan Says: “It sure did. I just want some onion rings.”

911 Operator: “Me, too, ma’am.  Me, too.”

Susan Says: “Well, thanks for talking. I guess I can just recycle the paper and put Kate Winslet face down.”

911 Operator: “You do that, ma’am. And please, next time only call 911 in case of an emergency.”

Susan Says: “Okay. Sorry.”

911 Operator: “That’s alright, ma’am. Enjoy your onion rings.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What the Leaves Want You to Know

Whatever you may be doing right now, stop it immediately. 

Grab the sweater on the back of your chair or the hoodie from the weird pile of stuff near the door and head outside and turn slowly until you have covered a full 360. Now, remind yourself that life is still beautiful. The autumn leaves are here this year to remind you of that.

I’ve had the pleasure of living in my little town here in Connecticut for 21 years and have never seen a display of gorgeous color like this---the reds are flaming, the coppers virtually aglow and the yellows, oranges and golds are varied and burnished. Peer through them to that special shade of sky I call “October Periwinkle” or even a brooding grey wash of clouds and you have something to remind you of the indefinable majesty of life. 

It’s something bigger and wider and kinder than the media’s crass agenda, the stupidity promoted on TV or the fact that Hannah Montana has become Miley Cyrus in all her ridiculous and sad vulgarity.

It is said that in a dry year, the trees perform some natural magic that helps preserve the moisture in their roots and that a fortunate by-product of this process is brighter than normal foliage. We’ve had a significant rain deficit so this all makes sense.

I prefer to interpret what’s out there—a display that’s caused people to, literally, pop from their cars and clamber up on rocks to snap photos they will email to friends who live in parts of the world where leaves simply do not do this – as a reminder that, no matter what, good things happen, too. 

I’m not suggesting we ignore reality. How can we? We are plugged in all the time. In restaurants, nail salons and at gas pumps the unsettling ubiquity of cable news fills our hearts with utter dread. Personally, it wears me down, creating a perpetual sense of personal unease.  

TV screens used to be in bars so sports fans didn’t have to miss a play but now they’re everywhere. Just the other day, while getting my hair cut, every head in the salon was turned to the TV as an awful scene right here in Connecticut was unfolding before our eyes. Thankfully, it was a false alarm but it scared every single one of us in there. Yet, despite the fears these ever-present screens create, we are also becoming somewhat anesthetized to the horror. None of that is good.

We, the comparatively fortunate few of Fairfield County here in southern New England -- though we occupy a world of madness and are certainly not untouched by the daily pain of the world -- can monitor it on our high def televisions and fancy phones behind artfully placed hay bales, mums and pumpkins that adorn our front steps every fall.  We are certainly blessed to live where we do yet we all know too well what life is about.

But forget it for a moment and run and look into each other’s eyes and swoon together over the graceful tufted grasses, crimson sugar maples, golden sycamores and rusty sedums that are right outside our doors.

Stop for just a second as you emerge from your office, garage door or before you board your little tractor for a final mow and let this natural antidote lift your hearts and make you feel that life is wondrous. In a world where colors like this can appear on trees, briefly forget the fresh daily hell that the default page on your browser is serving you and breathe. You may need a Zyrtec afterward but it will have been worth it.

No, Susan Says has not become an optimist. Don’t worry, I am still the paranoid, hypersensitive and often gloomy wreck who won’t get on an airplane without having eaten a Xanax sandwich washed down with a slug of tequila. But, this year, the autumn leaves reminded me of the day when I wasn’t quite this crazy, worried or nutso. 

Go take a look before they’re gone. And smile, because life can be beautiful, too.

All photos in this post were taken here in town by either me or Seth "Ansel Adams" Szold.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Time Tunnel

I first joined Facebook for one reason and one reason alone: to stalk my children.

In fact, I was so determined to participate in intrusive subterfuge that I signed up under a fake name but my son Tom sniffed it out and warned Charlie that I was up to no good.  It took years to regain their trust but now I wrestle with myself constantly to obey proper mother/son social media protocol.

Facebook is a wonderful tool for people of my generation.

Buzzy channeling Donald Trump
We do not bully, use it for shaming or the exchange of gossip but, instead, are able remain in touch with distant friends and relatives. I get to meet someone’s new grandchild, enjoy photos from a wedding, check in with wonderful people from my youth and, obviously, spread pictures of Buzzy in a Zappos’s box throughout the universe.

Recently, Facebook facilitated a reunion between me and some old friends. Driving back to the old neighborhood, I enjoyed spending time with former public school classmates
Friends since kindergarten: Louise, Susan, Terri and Stephanie
We were there to see
the world famous Ramin Karimloo.
What? You haven't heard of him?

A few weeks later, I reconnected with another friend and playmate from the past for dinner at a club in Manhattan where someone we both enjoy was performing. How grow-up is that??

Seeing Lisa again was, to say the least, wonderful.  Admittedly, many decades of no contact and the process of developing into fully-formed humans with new habits and routines can make reconnection a bit of a challenge but chemistry is chemistry and after accepting the fact that while the bags under my eyes were carrying suitcases of their own and Lisa looked young enough to be my daughter, I had a great time. 

We did plenty of reminiscing but also learned about who we’ve each become over the years.

P.S. 103...where it all began.
The strange part for me -- besides the dozen or so disheveled Elmos and seedy Disney princesses I had to body check in Times Square -- was that when I was with Lisa, I was a girl again. On some subconscious level, the clock had been reset and the Elmos were gone but Tony Manero still walked the streets of Brooklyn and my mother was waiting for me at home, eager to hear about my evening.

At the BB King Blues Club on Forty Second Street, you are herded in like cattle and seated with strangers so our table consisted of several young women in halters, heels and very short skirts. 

Flouncy and jouncy, they tossed their earrings and flipped their hair and leaned forward to whisper as their eyes took in their surroundings with the cool scrutiny of secret service agents looking for a potential assassin. And they scared me….just as they would have 40 years ago.

Today, if necessary, I could have easily withered them with the caustic bitterness achieved by decades of cynical thinking or, if I chose, I could mother them in case of an emergency. But, sitting with Lisa, I worried, “Oh, no. Mean girls!! I hope they’re not mean to me.

James Darren.....swoon. "The Time Tunnel"
was a TV show from the late 60's.
Ironically, a few minutes later, they spoke to us. I don’t remember the conversation but after I responded, one of them answered “Oh, you remind me so much of my mother!” and it was as if a portal opened. Like some low-budget science fiction movie with cheesy special effects, I was sucked backward through a spinning time tunnel.  Heels over head, arms flailing with a terrible roaring in my ears, I was deposited back into the body currently wearing sturdy walking shoes and eyeglasses around my neck on a chain.

And, guess what! I was happy to be back. 

I realized that I am actually quite comfortable being me…. with where and who I am. Note I did not say how I look….and, as I glanced over at Lisa, I noted that my return to the present had not aged her a bit. She still looked 35 years old and pretty as a picture.

The mean girls were not mean at all and suddenly I was reminding them to make sure they knew where the fire exits were located and assuring them there was nothing to fear since I never go anywhere without a flashlight in my bag. 

They smiled at me indulgently and I settled back in my seat, surprised at my sense of contentment even though my ass was already getting stiff from sitting too long. It was a wonderful evening.

It's not so bad being grown up after all, is it, Lisa?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer, Part Two

If you remember, the last time we met, we were enjoying lunch after a morning of playing outside. It was a summer day and we were children and the days were long and filled to the brim with fun and life and noise.  

Plus, if it was noon, I’d already skinned both my knees.

See the bells on the handle....

The morning was spent climbing and jumping, smacking springy pink balls against walls and wondering when -- exactly -- the Good Humor man would push his cart down the street, jingling bells announcing his arrival. Very few of us have money but we're excited nonetheless.

After lunch, the weird twins from around the corner might stop by. Two pre-adolescent fraternal lummoxes, they are – in theory – too old to play with us. They wear matching sundresses and have wild hair and the red head will soon teach me how to swear. It is with her that I discover my love of profanity and receive encouragement on how to artfully combine these robust new words into useful combinations. 

Her sister, Lummox #2, will tell me grisly stories about ghosts in graveyards that will not only make me sick with fear but will remain with me to this day, causing vague unease when I recall the details. 

Stoops are for sitting.
If the afternoon got rainy, we’d disperse. I would sit in my vestibule with a book and a bowl of dusky grapes or juicy cherries and read. I’d tilt my folding chair farther and farther back until my grandma would intervene and the warm pavement would emit the distinctive aroma of summertime rain. 

Sometimes we’d even be treated to a “sun shower” during which we’d prance about, literally shouting with joy.

Look at the size of that trunk!!!
My grandfather didn’t like the heat and prevailed upon my Uncle Tommy to procure something we’d only dare dream of. The day the air conditioner arrived, lifted out of the cavernous trunk of my uncle’s 1965 Pontiac, I marveled at its size which was, approximately, that of a piano. Way too big for the bay window, it sat on the floor of the living room and made the room so frigid that we’d wear sweaters. It was fantastic. In the winter, we kept plants on it.

But night was the best. 

When I was very young, it meant a bath, fragrant talcum powder applied with a huge puff and fresh pajamas. Put to bed before dark, I resented my early bedtime only until I fell asleep which was almost immediate. 

But, when we were older, extended families and friends would gather on the stoops as the kids played under the street lights. Every night on his way to work, one of my friend’s fathers would trudge to the subway station.  Head down, in shirt sleeves and a brimmed hat, he’d already worked a full day and his obvious fatigue was a disquieting  reminder that, apparently, it was a lot harder to be an adult than a kid.

Our biggest problem was choosing what flavor ice pop we’d pull from the refrigerated case of the bakery around the corner. They cost a nickel and cherry flavor would dye our lips bright red and we’d pretend  we were wearing  lipstick. My favorite flavor was lemon which was white as snow. We’d saunter home with sticky hands and faces and the mosquitoes, alerted by the sugar, would flit around our heads and whine into our ears.

Each day flowed into the next. Summers were long but inevitably we’d notice the days growing shorter but back then, everything seemed to happen in its own good time.

We didn’t go on vacation. We didn’t need to “get away.” Every day was already vacation.

Enjoy your summer, dear readers. There’s still plenty left.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer, Part One

When I was a kid, summers were a rough and tumble affair.
Each glorious day was greeted with the anticipation exclusive to childhood.  If I concentrate very hard, I can almost still feel it.
After a breakfast of brightly colored and sugary cereal, running high on the ensuing sugar rush, my playmates and I were unleashed upon the sunny streets. There, the stink of yet uncollected garbage collided with the floral breeze of the mock orange that thrived in my tiny front yard, creating a pungent blend of sweet and sour that if I sniff today, rockets me right back to Brooklyn in July.
The memory of the aroma of the Mock Orange brings tears to my eyes.
Status symbol
Contrary to popular belief, our days were not unstructured--we had our own standards and routines. Dressed for duty in cotton play clothes and summer sneakers, some of us sported the distinctive blue status rectangle of Keds on the backs of our shoes. I was a PF Flyer girl—something years of therapy couldn’t erase and, if I’d lost the battle with my mother on a dreaded “pedal pushers” morning, it could be a dark day despite the radiant sunshine.
Unfortunate wardrobe choices were forgotten once the group convened. Lucky to have a household of kids next door, we were often joined by friends from down the street in either direction and we’d choose our games depending on the assemblage. No one would look for us until lunch time. 
Freedom was ours.
When we were very little, time might be spent floating sticks competitively in puddles that had formed after an overnight rain. Or we’d take our “route” which meant climbing over a prescribed course involving ledges, walls and fences. Feet mustn’t touch the ground or you’d be “out” and this game meant lots of injuries. 
Often, by evening, we’d sport a patchwork of bandaids and be smeared with various antiseptics. Most mothers preferred brown pigmented peroxide and Mercurochrome which was red as blood while my mother chose colorless approaches like Bactine and witch hazel. No one used bug spray and we were often bedaubed with Caladryl as the mosquitoes celebrated the succulence of our youth. Sunscreen was also unheard of and by summer’s end, we were well-browned.
We played games called “Johnny, May I Cross Your Golden River” and “Green Light Red Light 1-2-3” as if our lives depended on it and there was never a day without a fresh hopscotch board carefully drawn on the sidewalk using the pavement squares as a guide. 
The configuration we drew
was different but you get the idea.
We didn’t use chalk. We used a variety of plaster chunks we’d scavenged near construction sites, unconcerned that we might be releasing toxic materials into our lungs, tossing pebbles into the squares again and again until it was time for games played with a pink Spalding ball. 
“Stoop Ball” meant tossing the ball against stone steps or we’d place a penny on a sidewalk crack and bounce it back and forth, trying to hit the coin. These games were catalysts to conversation and we’d chatter and gossip about the things that mattered: what flavor ice pop we’d buy later, was Davy Jones was cuter than Mickey Dolenz (obviously) and how, in the name of good God, did Mary Poppins get all that crap into her bag.
When it lost it's bounce, we'd refresh it by rubbing it on the concrete. We'd
have to buy a new one every few weeks,

Interrupted by lunch, we wore no watches but knew when we were due home thanks to apparently innate homing devices and were rarely late for meals. We’d run home to eat, refreshed by strategically placed box fans and linger in un-air conditioned apartments. Window shades might be drawn halfway to block the heat as we washed down our sandwiches with Hi-C or Kool Aid.
“July” will continue after lunch and next time I see you here at “Susan Says….” Until then, enjoy the summer!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Give me Electricity or Give me Death--Almost Literally.

This morning, just as I was about to start making the magical elixir of life, aka a pot of coffee, I heard it.
The click.

Then the beep of my carbon monoxide detector as it lost power. Then the silence. The power was out.

Those who know me are familiar with what happens next. I, literally, flip out. 

When the kids were little and my mother was around, I would control my irrational behavior to a point--participating in the family activities of lighting candles, telling stories in the dark and passing out whatever ice cream treat was in the freezer before it melted.

I could take this up to a point but would soon punctuate the festivities with bursts of hysteria, "What if the power never comes back on?" was a favorite refrain. Sometimes I would actually burst into tears as I suffered almost immediate withdrawal from the busy whirring of appliances. I'd hover by the television, trying to will it back to life like Uri Geller used to bend a fork.

I'd threaten to check into a motel. Run away. Put the house up for sale. Return to the city where this only happens once a decade.

When the kids got older, we'd manually heave open the garage door and drive all over the neighborhood, curious to see where the line of darkness ended and blessed normalcy began again.

Today, upon hearing the dreaded click of disconnection and then the ensuing silence that settled about the house like a heavy blanket, I stood and blinked in disbelief. My cable box, dead and unlit, stared back.

The sun is brightly shining. There is no ice storm. No gale force winds. No lightening. Why, I asked the universe, WHY????

Since the phone goes dead when the power is off, I must resort to using my cell to call the power company. Since I forgot to recharge it, the cell is also dead. I do more staring. What to do?

I tear out into the garage and--get this--turn on the engine of the car to plug in the phone and make the call with the motor running. I never said I was smart, remember?

Of course, I have opened the small door (can't open the big doors since they are electrically operated) but by the time I get through to the cheerful automated whore on the other end, I have used up every combination of foul word mathematically possible and am, literally, starting to get nauseous from the carbon monoxide.

Usually it's a simple phone call.

Years ago, a caller would receive a little good-natured sympathy from a human at the end of the line but, lately, it's an electronic voice.

Today the voice has all the info wrong---address, phone number--so I wonder if I have been turned off as a result of mistaken identity. But I can't stay on the phone much longer. If there had been a parakeet in the garage, he would have already been feet up.

As the fumes build, I call Seth and ask him to make the phone call from work, running out to the driveway where I breathe fresh air to clear my lungs. I realize that I won't be able to post my blog, flush the toilet or wash my face (the water pumps are all electric) or brew coffee. I feel the old hysteria rising as I head back inside.

Just as I am about to start chewing on coffee beans and sniffing Sharpies, I start to feel calmer.

Suddenly the quiet of the house is less a threat than a tangible peacefulness. I am confused by this as rarely do I react to anything with calmness. My personal immaturity is legendary.

But the rage continues to dissipate and I pick up a book that I've been reading half-heartedly since last week.

Buzzy climbs into my lap and we sit for about an hour. The book transports me as Buzzy makes little running motions in his sleep (he is chasing a mouse-sized Justin Bieber in a dream, no doubt).

When the electricity clicks back on, I am startled. Back to my routine now, the enforced dreaminess of the power-outage is over....

Thank God. It wasn't as bad as I thought but this ain't Little House on the friggin' Praire, now is it?? Time for Cash Cab and coffee.

What? Did you think I was going soft on you, people? Not likely.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Small Town Fourth

When I was a kid, the Fourth of July meant hiding in your house all day.

Firecrackers were a popular projectile in the 70’s and my mother was firm about not going far from home but we had our own anticipated traditions.  

Though way too “off the boat” to grill,  we still made sure to have hot dogs and other things American to enjoy until it was time to sit on the stoop in the evening and watch distant (therefore, safe) fireworks over the apartment building across the street. 

We ate ice cream from bowls as the smell of gunpowder hung in the sultry air over 55th Street. The next day the garbage trucks would rumble through the neighborhood  and tired men would sweep up the thousands of fire cracker wrappers that had collected against the curbs.
Here, many miles and years away from childhood, the Fourth of July is more as I imagined it should be: smiling and waving at familiar faces in a local parade, hot dogs on the ball field with home-town politicians making speeches and grills getting fired up in too many backyards to count—the combined aroma of sausage, steaks and burgers forming an aromatic haze over the entire town. 

Though I tend to be more inclined to feel estranged from the mainstream, I get into it on the Fourth whether at my house or yours and proudly scratch my mosquito bites the next day, happily confident that the ketchup stains on my jeans and the sunburn on my nose make me as American as anyone whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower.
My sons are home for the weekend and, since it’s been a cherished tradition since our very first year in New Fairfield, again they sat—side by side—on the curb, watching their town parade go by. We knew what to expect once the festivities began. 

There would be local teams and scouts, political hopefuls, fancy cars, gleaming fire trucks and my favorite part— the veterans, visibly older but carrying their colors, some proud, some sad, but all determined to be counted on this day. Each Fourth, of course, there are fewer who remember World War II, their numbers thinning as the years fly by.     

One particular gentleman caught my attention as he approached. Straight and handsome in the passenger seat of an open Jeep, this veteran of the Second World War noticed my boys in the summer heat and looked at them very specifically, his head turning towards them as he rode by. Tom and Charlie were unaware but my husband and I both took notice.  

Whatever this fellow may have been  thinking as he looked at my sons, his actions many years ago—whether he served stateside or on his belly in a muddy trench across the ocean, laid the groundwork for their presence on that curb, squinting into the sunshine, enjoying hot coffee and bacon, egg and cheese on a roll.  

What privilege. What plenty. 
A classic--rent it!
I’ve seen enough Jimmy Stewart movies and hummed along to enough Irving Berlin medleys so that this moment was not lost on me. The tears rolled down my face until I was hit by a Tootise Pop thrown into the crowd. Since it was cherry, I gave it to my husband—that’s his favorite flavor. 

So, as they came from other countries to make their home in a new world where independence was eventually declared and later celebrated in countless cities and small towns across America, so we came to our new home here. 

Brooklyn is all hipster-ed out these days. It's likely no one throws firecrackers at kids anymore. They probably toss artisanal pickles at each other for fun. But we, former stoop-sitting city dwellers, sought something better. Whether we found it is not the point. The point is that we sought it—a yard, a parking space, a place to plant a garden, freedom from congestion and lousy air, the kind of place we dreamed of as kids as we hid from firecrackers in Brooklyn. 
Whether we like what’s happening in our country today or not, I challenge you to find a better spot on earth. Since I’m pretty certain that there’s something in the Declaration of Independence  about the inalienable right to be corny, I always exercise that right on the Fourth of July..   

I hope you did, too. 
There's always room for a fart joke.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cribbage, Baby!

If anyone notices Seth looking dazed and unhappy lately, it’s a direct result of a well-deserved come-uppance he has recently endured. 

I know. You’re all shaking your heads, muttering, “That man needs no comeuppance…he is a saint…after all, he lives with that crazy “Susan Says…”  

Allow me to explain........

Despite the fact that I am terrible at games, I have enjoyed playing cards with Seth over the years. A chronic “kibitzer”, I miss points, forget rules and am easily distracted by butterflies and such while he possesses strategic abilities light years beyond my scope. 

Factor in serious issues with basic mathematics and while he wins, I lose. I’m used to it. My kids were better at Go Fish and my mother used to beat me at Old Maid. Even Uno was a struggle. The numbers and colors were tricky and I would often shout Uno for no reason other than the simple joy of shouting.

This all suited (Get it? Card pun!) Seth perfectly since the modest and thoughtful man you meet at the supermarket just happens to be a relentless maniac when playing a game. 

As he is winning, he will crow and exult, leap up to pirouette or do the chicken dance, wag a finger in my face, perform joyful slapstick and call me names like “Loser Pants.”  All that niceness you see comes at the price of this behavior. I have learned to live with it.

Our long-standing game of choice had been Gin Rummy. As cocoa in the kitchen tuned to cold beer on the deck, we’d assume our roles of loser and winner and all was well.  But Seth got greedy. Deciding that Gin was too simple for a mind as clever as his, he became fixated on teaching me Cribbage, a far more complicated card game with a wooden board and pegs for scoring. 

“You’ll love Cribbage, “Susan Says...,” he’d say with a gleam in his eye. What he meant was “I will win every game, you blog writing loser.”

I finally agreed to learn Cribbage. It has lots of rule: suits, flushes, runs, adding anticipating, eliminating and deducing as well as things with funny names like "nobs" and "muggins." I longed for the comfort of a pleasant hand of gin.

I was very intimidated as Seth explained the fundamentals and my general apprehension caused a scene or two as I needed demonstrations repeated over the course of several days. I even visited Youtube for help. 

Seth assured me that I would soon understand the strategy and rhythm of this new game, barely containing himself as he envisioned endless wins. He preened in anticipation while I resigned myself to the glum certainty of loss.

He was generous at first. As I attempted to master the game, Seth mastered the inflections of dripping condescension. He chortled kindly as I screwed up--correcting me sweetly, tossing me an extra point or two but, all the while, basking in the certainty that he would soon be steamrolling his way to victory as I fumbled, my cards spilling this way and that as Buzzy watched sympathetically from his Zappo’s box.

Well, it just so happens that the scales of karma were just back from the shop. Their springs and cogs had been lubricated by a little thing called irony because suddenly I was not only understanding the game, but amazingly,  I was winning

A lot. 

And guess what!! It appears that winning is a lot more fun than losing!! 

Who knew?

Despite my husband’s half-hearted claims that he is “proud of me” and that it's “nice to have a worthy opponent,“ I watched his dreams of conquest turn to hollow congratulations and, eventually, sullen glaring as I racked up the wins. It reached a head on Father’s Day when he suddenly needed a morning nap, stomping off to the couch with his little blankie and itty bitty pillow. 

It was then that I momentarily considered throwing a game or two. The key word there is “momentarily.” I like winning.

He has hopefully suggested that my new found status as a card shark is only a fluke. He may very well be right but, until then, watch out world---I’m a winner!!!

Not a winner.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Grouser and the House Diva

The archetypal diva...
The other day I announced to Seth, in a tone that even I secretly noticed was annoying, “We are going to watch a movie tonight!” 

Seth genuinely shocked me with his response, “Well, maybe I don’t want to watch a movie!”

What??? Who wouldn’t want to watch a movie? 

But, most importantly, was he defying me?

It appears that yes, in fact, he was. Not to mention that I think I heard him call me Atilla at some point in the fracas that ensued. 

Taking stock of my surprise at Seth’s attempted (we did watch a movie) rebellion, I conjured a mental montage of our marriage over the last several years and arrived at the conclusion that I might actually be just a tad bossy.The delicate angel on my right shoulder immediately suggested that marriage is a democracy, that I should soften my edges…that I should remember what happens to big-mouthed women. 

...and an actual grouse. You will
note that it looks angry.

The more robust devil on the left, however, was defensive, reminding me that big-mouthed women become secretary of state and get talk shows. Although the Hillary reference threw me, I whisked the petite angel off with a snap of the wrist and asked the busty one if she wanted a Diet Coke.

Over the next few days, while this situation was still on my mind, I sat beside Seth as we watched the news. As is his habit, he talked throughout the entire program--finding fault with our government, foreign governments, public leaders, the commercials, the anchor’s neck tie, the girl scouts and little baby bunnies. I turned to him and said, “You know what? I’d rather be bossy than a grouser.” This caused a lot more grousing and another discussion (or was that an argument since there was yelling?) of our various personality disorders patterns.

We agreed that we, like many couples, have some definitive roles--- I am the “House Diva” and Seth is “The Grouser.” 

This situation, of course, has guidelines…..

Maria Callas....a true diva.
The House Diva has an important role.

She is in charge of maintaining and enforcing the social calendar. The Grouser then bitches about her choices. The Diva decides whether to mulch again this spring and the Grouser rails against it. She suggests a drive to Ikea to investigate under-cabinet lighting and the Grouser carries on all the way there, later questioning the order of the universe as he eats his plate of Swedish meatballs with lingonberries.

The House Diva keeps the house humming. She checks the date on the sour cream and makes sure the Grouser has clean socks. The Grouser appreciates some of the House Diva’s ministrations yet grouses about things over which the Diva has no control. This might include mudslides in California (“Why the hell does anyone build a house on a cliff??), climate change (It’s solar activity, dammit!!) and why, if he is so darn smart, can’t Stephen Hawking be propped up more comfortably in his wheel chair?! The House Diva, though irritated by all this, usually allows it so the Grouser does not, literally, explode.

And, a Cleavage Diva.
The House Diva and the Grouser do have a few things in common. They both lose their phones and car keys constantly and enjoy pizza. The House Diva rants when her keys go missing but the Grouser blames society. The Diva chooses the pizzeria and toppings and the Grouser carries on about the lack of fountain root beer -- "I don't want it in a can.Waaaahhhhh!" -- and is furious that the levels of oregano in the shaker on the table are getting low.

These two also agree on certain television shows but the Diva will fast forward during the more boring vocalists on The Voice while the Grouser complains about song choices, Pharrell’s weird jewelry and the most recent incarnation of Adam Levine’s hair.

"You say diva like it's a bad thing...."
Occasionally, roles can be reversed. The Grouser can be a diva, too. In fact, Seth is the Travel Diva, forcing us to arrive at airports seventeen hours before our flight causing the House Diva to grouse bitterly about driving in the dark, short term vs. long term parking and (quietly) about how the pilot appears drunk. The Travel Diva will then join in the grousing so you’ll note that roles can overlap.

Both The House Diva and The Grouser agree on this point: this is marriage. There must be tyrants and complainers to make it all work. And you damn well better agree with that.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Oy Vey

It’s Mother’s Day. 

Did you think I was kidding?
The kids are far away this year but have acknowledged the day to my satisfaction. Since, they claim, there was no groupon for a gilded sedan chair carried by six brawny  New York City fireman (am I right, ladies?) wearing only their water proof over-alls to carry me around the house all day, we made do with phone calls and lovely flowers.

That, however, does not fill a day.

Especially one where women all over America are being rushed through rigidly enforced “seatings” and eating rubbery chicken marsala in crowded restaurants.  Sigh…that actually sounds really good to me.

Of course there is laundry and the litter box is a bit ripe in the mid-May warmth but the rule is that mothers are forbidden to perform unpleasant chores such as cooking, dishes and, especially, scooping cat poop. Also, Seth is out doing “stuff” which I suspect is husband-speak for “Quit pouting and stop drunk dialing the kids.” So I am alone. 

With the TV.

That means but one thing: watch something Seth would never choose to see. 

That might mean a frothy rom-com or one of those shows that chronicles the early weeks of a litter of kittens. For those who aren’t seasoned veterans of the remote control, those shows do exist…and I meow them. But, today, there is no room for cuteness. There is only room for one thing--pull down the shades with me, America: we are watching “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The movie, for those of you who have been hiding under a sedan chair or simply choose to live a life out of the gutter, is a clever idea: an actual love story cloaked in the extremity of black leather and chains. 

Exploring a menu of sexual dominance and submission was the vehicle which made this routine tale a boffo best seller, first in the form of a trilogy of books  -- which are little more than horrible writing punctuated by what, essentially, is porn -- and today’s movie.

It also made the writer, E. L. James, rich beyond measure. I have yet to stop asking myself why I didn’t think of this approach first. Ms. James says the idea came to her in a dream. 

I only dream that I’m running through the darkened halls of my high school wearing a panda costume not having studied for an important exam being given in a room I cannot find. These dreams, unfortunately, do not translate into successful fiction but, thanks to Fifty Shades, a sizable percentage  of women in America wish their husbands bough their underwear from Fruit of the Loom's new leather line.

Having recently come to “Demand” TV, Fifty Shades has been nagging at me for a while. I read the first book and half (okay, for God’s sake, three quarters) of the second but, after one too many “descriptive” passages, I realized there are only so many ways to “skin a cat.” *

I soon lost interest .

The real Fifty Shades.
In a nut shell, our leading man, Christian Grey, likes to boss his girls around. In a big way.

It also doesn't hurt that he is drop-dead handsome, dresses in the finest fabrics, lives in a zillion dollar apartment and owns the universe. Anastasia Steele, his victim/love interest is virginal, naïve and mumbles.

Starting to get the picture?

Bought in bulk by Mr. Grey...
Virtual unknowns were ultimately cast in the leads because no self-respecting actors would touch the parts. It will be interesting to see if Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson will ever work again…out of the porn industry, that is. Truth be told, they weren’t all that bad, but if I had been the director, I would have sent Mr. Dornan packing as soon as I noticed that his eyes often do not blink at the same time and that Miss Johnson has a facial portfolio of one and a half expressions.

Anastasia Steele, our heroine – who quickly goes from wearing dowdy skirts and peter pan collars to sleek dresses with no panty line, if you catch my meaning - -- is falling in love with the young multibillionaire who has little interest in personal ties (only cable ties). Emotionally stunted somehow in his youth, he is a mysterious mogul  who likes to give spankings. The catch is that Anastasia is crushing on this dashing nut job who has everything but a dental drill locked in his special “playroom.”

I prefer a game of Scrabble in my playroom.
Anastasia soon puts up with all varieties of lunacy (never once suggesting to Christian that he may want to chat with a therapist) including what I found much scarier than a riding crop and alligator clips: Christian’s penchant  (and, apparently, the  author’s vision of how seriously rich people recreate ): piloting horribly dangerous forms of air travel from helicopters -- where our hero pays zero attention to the controls -- as well as some sort of futuristic plane that doesn’t seem to have an engine.

All in all, there was lots of lip biting, meaningful eye contact and enough naughty bits to cause me to leap several feet in the air when Seth barged in, er, I mean arrived home.

Let’s face it--If  you’ve read the book, you know you are going to watch the movie when your husband is on jury duty. If you haven’t read it but want tips on etiquette when hanging  from the ceiling while wearing a blindfold and handcuffs, then I definitely recommend it.

As for me, if anyone ever uttered the words “This is called a flogger,” I would have immediately been clawing at the door but there’s nothing like a little sado-masochism to make your Mother’s Day more interesting. I hope you all enjoyed your day, too.

* Apologies to Buzzy for inappropriate use of a cat metaphor.

I do not accept your apology.