Saturday, February 26, 2011


Today Armageddon or the Apocalypse (I get them mixed up) came a little closer. It snowed here! It had been raining on and off all day, and luckily we happened to look outside and there it was. White piles drifting down like good CG. I took pix. I even tweeted one, to the utter boredom of my 130 followers I’m sure. They’re all used to it. They don’t Know.

If I wake up tomorrow and find the asphalt outside changed to yellow bricks, it will only be slightly more surprising.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Scotch Tape

My father’s mother wasn’t a particularly gentle person. Most of her life was movie-of-the-week hard, but she survived well into her 90s. She was one of the few people I’ve known personally who enjoyed the discomforts of others, especially when she was the cause. There was a particular secret smile she’d get when a barb hit home, or when someone blew up. It wasn’t a nice smile, but it was a happy one.

Some of her lines were almost funny. The first time I brought a boyfriend to visit her, she showed him some old pictures and said of me, “She was cute as a child. It’s a pity she changed so much when she grew up.” She meant it. He was horrified, but it was so mild for her that I didn’t notice at the time.

Here is the story: Her remains are in a crypt next to her husband’s. He died before I was born. His crypt has the usual plaque, with name and dates and the obligatory phrasing. Hers has a piece of scotch tape with her name printed on it, the kind they put up as a temporary measure until the plaque is made. She died in 1995, and the tape is still there.

I try to visit it every year. I don’t always, but we went today. The tape is still there. Over the years, on the rare occasions when I spoke to that part of my family, I mentioned it. They always act surprised. They say something should be done. Nothing ever is.

Sure, I could buy a plaque. I’m sure the place wouldn’t care who did it. But I haven’t. That scotch tape has become a symbol for me, in a way I’m not sure I can explain. It reminds me about what matters in this world. Besides, it doesn’t seem right to put up a plaque that says “A real bitch.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's About Time

The set up: Richard was here. We were looking through the food pix from Las Vegas (okay, there are lots of other pix, but we ignored those.) Robert started pulling up pix from previous trips, in previous years, scenes of us in the same places, with equally happy expressions and different but equally delicious-looking food.

What’s the big deal? Thanks for asking. The big deal is time.

It was like stop motion photography. Boom! There I am with cascading black hair and a surprising lack of road years. Boom! There I am now. No, this isn’t about aesthetics, though I can see how you’d think that. In those days I both dyed and Botoxed. I do neither now, but my short gray hair is cute and I’m used to my wrinkles.

No, this is about time, vis a vis Time Immemorial and the passage thereof.

Everything above this point was written months ago. While cleaning out some old partial blog-drafts, this one hit home because I’m turning 50 in two weeks. If that’s not getting bitch-slapped by Time, I don’t know what is. Turning 60, maybe? Two people close to me have done that recently, but they both did it with grace and style. And they had ten years to prepare. And they’re both men. If you think that doesn’t make a difference, you’re either kidding yourself or a guy.

50 is a turning point. I can join AARP. I can’t wear stupid trendy clothes and get away with it because it looks hot. My patience with stupidity has dwindled, and I want people to stand up straight. I’m going to sit in my living room now and wait until I can yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


When I was about nineteen or so, I came up with Three Rules For Life, as follows:

1. It can’t be helped.
2. It’s got to be done.
3. People are stupid.

Within a few years I amended Rule Three to read: People suck. Stupidity, whether as boorishness or simple lack of intelligence, was inadequate for an absolute statement. Nearly thirty-one years later, that’s still the only correction. At least one of those rules can apply to just about anything that happens in the normal course of a day, from laundry to unpleasant weather.

It’s not the chirpiest world view. It’s not even light gray. It’s dark. I’ll admit that, because it would be foolish not to. So what? Lower expectations are more easily met. Simple pleasures mean more. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to get to “happy ever after” with realistic expectations.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Judgment Day

Some of the most tolerant people I know are also the most judgmental. I know how tolerant they are because they tell me so. I know how judgmental they are because I know them. Besides, it takes one to know one.

From the moment your alarm goes off, your life becomes a series of judgments. Up or snooze? Eyeliner or don’t bother? What about that extra cup of coffee? Do you believe what you see/hear on the news? Do you take the freeway or go by surface streets?

Here’s an anecdote for you: I don’t watch much TV. There’s probably fewer than half a dozen shows programmed into the DVR. It’s not a snob thing, I’d watch more if I wanted to. So I wasn’t too surprised when I got snubbed by an acquaintance who said he doesn’t watch any TV at all. “None?” asked I. “None!” he affirmed triumphantly, thus proving his moral superiority for all time, amen.

Then it turned out he follows “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” among many, many others. When my eyebrows went up, he made sure I understood that he doesn’t watch them, his wife does and he sits next to her.

This is an example of me being judgmental. I found that amusingly silly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bubble, Bubble

Nowadays we personalize everything from our ring-tones to our news. It’s a closed circuit of familiar individuality that excludes everyone else and fertilizes that old sense of alienation. It’s gotten to the point where feeling like an outsider is pretty much universal. Amuse yourself with the irony if you like.

No matter how intimate it feels while you’re listening to it, you’re not going for coffee with the people who do your favorite podcast. (I’m translating for you young people here, for me it’s the folks on the radio.) And when you do get to Starbucks and look at the people in line, you know that even if you end up voting the same way, they don’t listen to the same things you do.

This came to mind when I finished rereading (for the third time in as many months) a favorite book, and realized I had no one to talk to about it. I don’t know anyone who’s read it, nor do I know anyone who would enjoy it. I did eventually email a “thank you” to the author, but I’d happily trade his gracious acknowledgement for a real conversation with someone who didn’t write the story but liked reading it.

We’ve become a culture of bubble babies. Forget paper letters, we don’t even email anymore because everything we have to say can be sent in a text.

Except for the infinite soliloquies of the blogosphere, if it’s too long for a text, we send a link to indicate what we’re thinking. This, not dialogue, is how we get to know people.

I miss sitting around and talking to you guys. Starbucks, anyone?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Complimentary, My Dear Watson

Used to be, in times long gone, that a sign of graciousness was being able to accept a compliment. Big whup. Nowadays we all know to say merely “thank you”. Anything more is either superfluous or disingenuous.

No, my darlings, today I want to talk to you about the modern difficulty of GIVING a compliment.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t just say, “You look nice today” anymore. I know, I do it all the time and it just doesn’t go over well.

Conversation is not a food fight wherein compliments are pudding. Would that they were, life would be easier. We could lob some verbal nicety in a random direction and know that at least some spatter would hit.

Instead, a different metaphor applies: the minefield. Tell someone they look happy and they’ll deny it. (Evil eye, anyone? Avert, avert!) Tell someone they look well-rested and you’ll hear about the worst insomnia since finals week during their freshman year. And heaven forefend you compliment an article of clothing. You’ll hear where they got it, how much they paid for it, and the color they wish they’d chosen.

Be that as it may, let me tell you that you look quite fetching today, and I love what you did with your hair.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Single Panel Interlude

The Zen Garden at the Huntington Library was almost empty. Two of the benches in the huge raked rock area were occupied. On one was a youngish man with a book on Buddhism. He stared at the rocks, perfectly still, but with a slightly furrowed brow.

On the very next bench, ignoring the other empty benches, sat two classic Little Old Ladies. One was dressed to the nines, clasping her handbag on her lap. The other wore a pink track suit and lots of makeup.

I wish I remembered it verbatim, but the Little Old Ladies were making fun of the young man because he was trying to meditate. In a Zen garden of all places! Their laughter was as discordant as it was discourteous.

If they had been cows instead of just acting like them it would have made a perfect Far Side cartoon.