Friday, September 30, 2016

Pennies From Heaven (Or, in this case, New Fairfield)

Today's post is not going to be funny…or smart-assy…or nostalgic. This column is simply going to say thank you to a town full of friends and acquaintances and, in particular, a whole bunch of people I’ve never met. And it involves pennies…a lowly currency that has systematically been demoted by the government, dissed by the banks and relegated to little dishes next to the register in places of business.

I’ve always liked pennies.

Honest Abe has always been my favorite president and when I was first allowed to go the corner candy store for a treat, a Hershey Bar cost six cents. I’d usually slide six of my own pennies across the counter and feel like a vital part of the economy after the purchase. But, now, pennies are even more special to me.

Recently, during a disappointing visit to my local bank, I was told they could do nothing for me in my quest for the 2016 pennies I needed for the favor for Charlie’s wedding (Yes! My baby is getting married for those I haven’t yet buttonholed in Stop ‘n’ Chat and regaled with every possible detail).

I wanted 2016 pennies specifically because Charles and his lovely bride-to-be are getting hitched this year and I am hopelessly into “cute” right now: “Wouldn’t it be cute?” I thought. “Yes, it certainly would,” I answered myself, wondering how in the name of Pinterest, I might procure such a large number of 2016 pennies without the help of the US Mint?

Well, New Fairfield, as you always do – in big times and small -- you came through. Via Facebook and a page dedicated to all things local I have visited many times for advice, suggestions and the name of a good plumber (and other contractors), I put a request out into the universe and, New Fairfield, you answered with a veritable roar of enthusiasm and good nature. In other words, in a typical response for you.

I have seen you rally around the bereaved, displaced and ailing. I have seen you raise money and  awareness for those in need, fill their fridges, rebuild their homes, actively seek lost pets and hail hometown heroes. I’ve seen you go out of your way to help, console and comfort and now I’ve seen you get involved with a small, happy little project that will neither change the world nor affect the lives of its citizens but made my life easier.

Your actions and willingness to lend a hand to a wacky small town columnist in pursuit of “cuteness” made my life, and by extension, the lives of my family better…and is it not true that if you change one life, you change the entire world?! Didn’t Maimonides, Gandhi or Martha Stewart say something like that?

For a solid week after going public, I received a steady flow of pennies in my mailbox…in paper bags and zip-locs, in plastic containers with tight lids and envelopes of every color. Most had notes of congratulation on the upcoming nuptials and expressions of happiness for my family. In addition, I also visited many mailboxes on several “penny-runs” to retrieve more of the same in the manner a bee collects pollen in any of the lovely gardens I passed along my way.

George Bailey had nothing on me because I was the star of my own “It’s a Wonderful Life” here in New Fairfield, Connecticut with all of you saving me again and again, not only helping with wedding favors but reminding me how great people are one bag of pennies at a time. As each penny clinked its way into my bowl, I have no doubt somewhere an angel got a new set of wings…over 300 times.

So, in essence, you did change the world for the better, New Fairfield. There is no such thing as a small favor…all favors are big and that, my friends, is a reflection of my immense gratitude and appreciation of you and this town and all that your goodness represents.

My family thanks you for the bright, shiny 2016 pennies I received. The favors are assembled and, after the wedding, I will share photos of them. Please be assured that without your generous spirit, I would be nothing more than a little smear of protoplasm on the carpet. So rock on, New Fairfield, Susan Says is a big fan of yours. XOXOXO

                                                                    Have a listen....

Monday, September 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

And Jimmy was nasty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Remember Mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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