Sunday, December 30, 2012

Limbo Lower Standards

Yesterday someone congratulated me on the success of this blog.

I waited for the punchline – like you, I want people to think I can laugh at myself -- but there wasn’t one. He meant it.

He really, really meant it.

Come on, when was the last time someone complimented something you did? It just doesn’t happen.

Our best work is at best taken for granted, and at worst, dismissed.

The real world won’t give you an A, a brownie point, or a merit badge. But screw up and you’re like a pregnant pop star surrounded by paparazzi.

The reaction to a mistake falls somewhere along the spectrum from casual mockery to condemnation – not because of the flaw, but because of who sees it. That’s when it helps to be able to laugh at yourself. (Give it time. It gets easier, I promise.)

So what did I do when I got a real, honest-to-gosh-darn-goodness compliment?

I screwed up. I wanted more.

I wanted to know why he thought this blog is a success.

Turns out it’s because I keep it going. Most blogs don’t last for a dozen posts, I’ve done 441.

Make your own quantity/quality joke. I’ve laughed at myself enough for one day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pick Your Poison

Make up your collective mind. Is this when we look back and catalogue the events of the previous year or the time when we resolve to ameliorate the coming one?

In other words, pick your poison: Top 10 lists or New Year’s resolutions.

Auntie hates them both.

At best they’re meaningless, for the most part they’re fatuous.

Let’s take it chronologically. If we as a culture have devolved to the point where something that happened eleven months ago is historic and we need to be reminded that it happened at all, then that reminder isn’t going to do a damn thing.

Sure, with some analysis and/or insight we could learn and improve, but Top 10 Year In Review lists aren’t about either analysis or insight. They're usually about celebrities. Yay, history!

As for New Year's resolutions, I don't like them mostly because they don't work.

Of course Auntie believes in change and growth and all that hippie-dippy-psychobabble-y goodness. I’m just a skeptic with a decent memory and I don’t remember a New Year’s resolution that took, for anyone.

There’s a reason why you never do, or always stop doing, this stuff. Until you fix that reason, a burst of temporary discipline isn’t going to make a long-term difference.

Oh well. I’ve been slacking since Thanksgiving, just like most of you. And I look forward to catching up and getting back in control, just like some of you. But I make To Do lists, not resolutions.

What’s the difference, you ask? Despite your snarky tone, I’ll tell you what the difference is.

I’ll actually finish a To Do list.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Middle Age Lang Syne

When I was your age and I’d hear adults complain about the passage of time, I found it disingenuous – although I doubt I knew the word back then. Come on, time passed. They had to notice that was happening, how could they not?

Heh. Hubris.

Karma SMASH!


One of my newspapers prints celebrity birthdays every day. I’ve been reading it for years, but I never remember any of it because it doesn’t matter. Like the comics, it’s just a break from the news.

Still, this means that every year around this time I’m freshly surprised that Ralph Fiennes is younger than I am, the way that every day I’m surprised by who is younger than I am, even though I had to have seen it last year and the year before, not to mention the year before that.

You don’t get used to this stuff. You’ve been warned.

Last Friday, the petite and very young cashier at the movie theater automatically gave me the senior discount. You should have seen how scared she was when Robert nearly laughed his ass off. I kept it, and framed the ticket. You can see it if you come over, but it’s not worth a separate trip.

My hair isn’t as gray as Carmen Dell’Orefice’s, and she is lovely, which I am not. The boomers are making it okay to be a grandma, which I also am not.

I’m just trying to get used to whatever it is I am, in time for the next evening in an Improv theater filled with 20-somethings who see the camera in my hand but won’t look me in the face. It’s not like my house is made of candy, and besides, I’m a vegetarian.

(Don’t tell them. If I can’t be cool, I can still be scary.)

The only wisdom I can give you at this point is that the thing about getting older is that there is no thing, you just get older. If you're lucky, and you remember to floss.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Dinner Without Andre

As much as I love your company (every single one of you, just not all at once, please) it can be wonderful to eat alone.

Admit it. When you pile up a container – it doesn’t even have to be a plate, what the hell, you’re alone! – with whatever you actually want to eat, in as much quantity as you feel like, and settle down with a book or TV or whatever you like to look at while wearing your comfiest comfies, it’s deeply satisfying.

But what I really love, and very rarely do, is to go to a restaurant by myself.

When I say “rarely”, I mean it. Until about two weeks ago, it had been years since I took myself out for a real sit-down meal.

Okay, it’s a bit of a chore to convince the hostess, the waiter and the busser that no, I’m not waiting for anyone. Gray hair helps, they believe me more quickly now. It’s not flattering, but it does save time.

When you’re alone, you can go nuts. Not that I was in the kind of place that serves nuts, except for the people at the table behind me. Ha ha.

No, really, I had nothing to do but listen. They were arguing about whether something was a cow or not. It wasn’t their food, or the art, or anything apparent. What could be mistaken for a cow? I never figured it out. Never mind. I have to learn to let these things go.

Yes, there was dessert but the best part was when I asked for espresso.

When I refused sugar and lemon rind, my waiter told me about waiting on Al Pacino and how Mr. Pacino took his espresso.

He was so proud. It was like the story was his gift to me. Now there are very few people whose taste in espresso would interest me and, as fine an actor as he is, Al Pacino is not one of them. Still, I loved the story. It was told with great feeling.

Of course a waiter in an Italian restaurant in L.A. has a story about serving Al Pacino. I might never have heard it if I wasn’t alone.

Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered what shocks the jaded L.A. social scene, enjoying dessert in public will do it. Gluten, sugar, salt and butter give them the heebie-jeebies.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vanished Like Smoke

This happened long ago, when your Auntie was but a child herself, back in the days of the kind of cocktail parties you see on TV.

Auntie’s aunt, a woman who was never an “Auntie”, used to make a very nice hors d'oeuvre. It was a salmon ball rolled in nuts, which was spread on crackers.

Auntie’s father liked it very much, so Auntie’s mother asked for, and got, the recipe.

That’s really where this story began.

No matter how many times Auntie’s mother made the recipe, it never came out right. She finally gave up.

Years and years later, a lovely friend read the recipe and said that it was missing an ingredient called Liquid Smoke. That’ll tell you how long ago this was, people used things called Liquid Smoke.

Auntie’s mother made it again, this time with Liquid Smoke and it was perfect.

(Anyone interested, I think I still have the corrected recipe, but I’d put it on baguette slices and not crackers.)

Fast forward a bit and we have Scary Cookies. I mean the cookies, not the blog. Auntie’s mother’s lovely friend created the recipe.

This time of year, I make a lot of cookies. Yesterday I was able to give a selection to @rmangaha and his sweet lady, who were here to help me through yet another computer crisis.

Today he asked for the recipes. Because of the Liquid Smoke debacle, I painstakingly typed out the exact recipes, which I hadn’t followed, then added copious notes explaining what I had really done.

I didn’t want him to think I left out the Liquid Smoke on purpose.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Different Kind Of Jingle Bells

Do you remember “Morning is your time of day, the earth wakes up with you”? Don’t worry if you don’t because it’s not and it doesn’t.

(Dear antediluvian geezers, my apologies for getting that tune as stuck in your head as it is in mine.)

Don’t worry. Auntie isn’t going off on a typical curmudgeonly rant against morning people. Auntie doesn’t like morning people, with a possible exception for the one who lives here. ‘Nuff said.

What Auntie does like is a challenge, so let’s spin this thing and see what we get.

Mornings suck. Cold mornings suck more. Compared to languishing in a toasty bed, ablutions and dressing are a chore for which coffee is the reward. But, having had the coffee, then what? Work, school, whatever duties comprise your day, you know, the usual.

Hm, that’s not so fun and happy. There goes the spin.

Wait, let me try again.

Once you’re amped up on caffeine and whatever you call breakfast (not judging your Cap’n Crunch™ and/or cold pizza,) then you’ve got a flurry of practical activity. By lunchtime, you have a sense of accomplishment.

There! That’s the spin.

It’s hard to beat a good feeling of accomplishment, and there’s no fuel like that second cup in the morning.

Unless you’re a morning person. In which case fuck you, go chirp someplace else, Sunshine.

Or maybe tonight around 1:00 a.m. when I’m hitting my stride, I’ll call you and sing the “Morning is your time of day” jingle into your voice mail.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Denial Gloss

Denial is great. Denial makes the world go round. I love denial. Often it’s what gets us through the day.

For once, your histrionic and hyperbolic Auntie does not exaggerate. Denial got me through the last few days and it’s time to give some props.

Y’all know the thick throat, that vaguely dirty feeling under the skin. You slow down just a smidge. You’re a teensy bit tireder than you ought to be. There is phlegm.

That’s when denial becomes a superpower.

Da duh DAAAAH! Denial jauntily tosses its cape over one shoulder and launches skyward.

Okay, in reality I just swallowed a handful of Wellness Formula™ and kept going. It amounts to the same thing.

You keep going until you can’t.

It’s so true for so much. Whether the problem is physical, emotional or even social, you keep going. One foot in front of the other, one minute if not one hour if not one day at a time, one after another item crossed off of the list. You do what you can, until you can’t.

This time I was lucky, knock wood. I never got to “can’t”. The ickiness is gone, and I’m not so tired anymore. I haven’t needed a Kleenex in hours, yay! Ergo, my point.

Denial won again, like it usually does. It’s one tough sonofabitch.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rut Row

Say you do something twice in a row.

It could be anything, like saving the comics page for last, avoiding one side of a street or putting dingleberries in your greeble pie.

The first time you didn’t even notice. The second time could have been pure chance.

But the third time, what happens then?

By three, you feel like you’ve always read the front page and business sections first. You barely remember what it was like to walk on the other side of the street and you wouldn’t even think about having a greeble pie without dingleberries.

Okay, I made the last one up. Don’t roll your eyes. The premise holds.

By the third time, it’s tradition. It’s the way things are done. It’s a habit. It’s ordinary. It’s the rut that you would have to break out of if you were so inclined, which, most likely, you’re not.

After all, there’s a reason why you’ve always done it that way.

Superstitions probably got started like this. You notice when you do something different, and if a random bad consequence happens to happen, it’s easy to think of the difference as being bad luck.

Or, I suppose, if you’re an optimist (nice to meet you, I’ve never met an optimist before) then it would solidify the rut as good luck.

To be fair, I prefer to read the rest of the newspaper first. Except for the New York Times which has no comics, but I’d rather read that paper before I read the two with comics so it kind of counts.

And I’ve never walked down the same side of the street where, five years ago, a large angry dog once mauled Jonah even though I don’t think that dog is even there anymore.

As for dingleberries, well, they may not exist but there’s no way I’d try a greeble pie without them.

Laugh if you want to, but my first thought was unicorn sausage. I didn’t go with it because as you know, Auntie is a vegetarian. That’s another rut I can live with.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Think Fast!

When you were a kid, did the asshole kids still shout “Think fast!” and throw something at your head?

They did when I was a kid, but I grew up in the Norman Rockwell-esque West Hollywood of the 1960s.

That’s a joke. It wasn’t Norman Rockwell-esque, but it wasn’t Norman Bates-esque either so I’m not complaining.

I am, however, getting off the point. Let’s go back. They’d shout “Think fast!” and throw something at your head. It’s a metaphor for my day today.

Plans got derailed by other plans which progressed until they also got derailed.

Think fast! Disruptions are coming for your face.

The question is how you handle it when the ball hits your head and/or your day hits a wall.

Do you cry? Do you get angry?

Do you shrug and add it to the list for your therapist when you’re old enough to have one?

Or do you laugh it off, however insincerely?

Forget Norman Rockwell and especially Norman Bates. The Norman who was huge when I was a kid was Norman Cousins. He believed that laughter was the best medicine.

Thus I wanted to say to the myriad petty little obstacles in front of me, har de har har. But I didn’t think fast enough.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hindsight Rx

They say hindsight is 20/20. It isn’t.

I have beaten myself up about things I should have said, actions I should have either taken or avoided. So have you. It’s part of the human condition.

When things don’t turn out the way we want, the normal reaction is either to blame other people, and/or to punish ourselves – usually at around four in the morning.

Well, stop it.

You did the best you could have done. You spoke or acted based on impulse or the perceived alternatives, conscious or sub. Go back in time and that’s still all you’ll have to work with.

I bet you’d end up making the same choice, if not the exact same choice then as close as doesn’t matter.

That’s why I say hindsight isn’t 20/20.

In hindsight, you think about things that might have caused you to hold your tongue or do something differently.

Sure, it’s easy to see the pattern after the dominoes have stopped falling.

Time passes and the consequences play out, by then what was important and what wasn’t is stupidly obvious.

However, when you’re in the moment you don’t realize that you’re about to knock over that first domino. You can’t see what will turn out to matter most, or what was really at stake.

But wait, there’s more.

When the moment passes, when dominoes cascade and the consequences loom up out of nowhere like a corpse in a slasher movie, you’ll be so focused on the situational afterbirth that you won’t remember what it really felt like in the beginning, how limited you thought your options were, or even that you tried your damnedest.

Like I said, hindsight isn’t 20/20.

Hindsight actually has severe astigmatism.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Twas The Month Before Christmas

The path of least resistance is never paved with things we ought to do.

Decorations abound. It’s still November, so the music has yet to cloy. Last-minute panic is but a distant memory of years past. At this point holidays sparkle like fun on the calendar’s horizon.

“Ought to” is even duller than usual.

Excuses and rationalizations will soon be as abundant as tinsel and brightly colored plastic. Auntie herself sat down to write this rather than be useful, but there were plenty of other excuses. I mean rationalizations. I mean reasons.

By this time next week, I’ll be able to substitute baking for blogging if I want to, and blogging is an avoidance technique already.

I’m starting to see why New Year’s resolutions are so popular. When January finally rolls around, postponed duties will be metaphorically piled higher than the very real discarded trees on the curb.

But even if your fridge already oozes eggnog, there are important things that Must Be Done. ASAP even. And I’m not talking about putting up twinkle lights. That can wait.

It’s time to walk the little dog.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Open Books

Did you know something like 85% of people think they’re good at reading people? You’re good at reading people. I do okay, I know people who are better.

The problem is we might be wrong.

True story: Once upon a time while I was at summer camp, I thought a cute boy was waving at me. I smiled and waved back. He and his friends (including the one standing three feet to my left) all had a good laugh. I got my first pair of glasses when I went home.

That wasn’t the first time I misread someone, nor was it the worst. I still trust my instincts though, just like you do.

Call it whatever you want. Empathy, vibes, gut feelings – it all amounts to a sense of knowing what the other person is thinking. We pooh-pooh ESP, but we believe we know how someone is reacting to us. We make no sense sometimes.

If we get angry when we’re wrong, we get angrier when someone reads us wrong. See previous example.

Public humiliation aside, my real bugaboo is when people don’t think I mean what I say.

I avoid subtext, it’s too much work and your Auntie is lazy. Most of you know that. Every once in a while, someone – even someone who knows me well -- will be surprised that I meant what I said literally.

@rmangaha was here today. We ate leftovers and he laid hands on my sick computer and healed it, praise his techie heart.

But while he sat at my desk, he was surprised by how well he could hear my Loud Neighbors’ conversation. He’s seen the tweets and read the posts, but he was still surprised that every word was as audible as if they were in the room with us.

He’s known me since he was a teenager. Granted that wasn’t all that long ago by my reckoning, but he should have read me better.

Pop quiz: You, who only know me through this blog, test your skills. Do you think I said “I told you so” to the person who single-handedly saved me from having to get a whole new computer?

Well, do you?

Ha. I only implied it. So you were 85% right.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Digestion Digression

It was the best of times, full stop.

Like those old biorhythm charts, everything came together on a high note. The dogs got along, the food worked and my dears, I have to tell you that the cranberries brought by my brother-in-law-extraordinaire transcended anything you ever thought a cranberry could achieve. And he made bread from scratch, something I’ve never even attempted. It was all glorious and comfortable and perfect.

Okay, the lemony couscous wasn’t nearly lemony enough and the Brussels sprouts with avocado and pecans could have used more avocado. So what? The wild mushroom barley with macadamias was fabulous, if I do say so myself. The creamed kale with gruyere was fine. The gougeres were adequate. Both kinds of sweet potatoes got compliments, as did both of the pies though only one of the pies deserved them. Robert's home-made ice cream was terrific and the caramel sauce I made was a hit.

You’ll be happy to know that Stanley the turkey did not give his life in vain. In death he was appreciated, just not by me.

Ask and ye shall see pix.

The weirdness happened after I took Melva home. I drove past a dark, closed mall and saw a line half a block long of people waiting to shop at midnight. Alone in my car, my brain replete with good company and conversation and my belly full of food, I almost couldn’t process the sight of all those antsy people thumbing their phones.

If I wasn’t so content I’d envy their determination, but nah. I’m good.

I hope you are too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving (2012)

You can have Christmas. Thanksgiving is mine.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love Santa Claus, but that’s a year-round thing. The spirit of joy and generosity shouldn’t be restricted to one day a year even if that restriction does explain a lot of what’s wrong with our society.

My Thanksgiving starts around August. That’s when I begin to talk about what I’m going to make. The menu shifts and changes for months. Pie or cake? Gougeres or bread? And the eternal vegetarian question, da da dummmm…

Will there be turkey?

Don’t even think about tofurkey. We’re talking about Thanksgiving. It’s dead bird with a cornucopia of delicious plant food or just the delicious plant food. There are no imitation edibles in my kitchen. Begone, thou foul fake fowl! Ahem. Moving on.

By Halloween, I’ve narrowed it down. As soon as the calendar page turns to November, the lists start to sprout. Menus, chores, about the only thing I don’t list are guests. You’re all welcome, but it’s a first response thing due to the tiny-ness of our home.

The table is now full, sorry.

I spent the morning doing one of my very favorite things of all, the breakdown and shopping charts. Okay, I did the breakdown chart a week ago, but I copied it out today.

Nobody ever credits the up-side of neurosis, but I burst into spontaneous smiles and happy little mini-dances just thinking about all this. Yes, your dour old cynical Auntie really does. Like I said, I love Thanksgiving.

It’s backlash, of course. Years of tortured stress, anxiety and concomitantly induced ailments from gatherings filled with relatives now either dead or estranged built up a lot of karma on the plus side of the nonexistent metaphysical ledger.

Our table is filled with people I love who say nice things and bring a great dog with them. And my stuffing doesn’t come out of a box. Yay!

To end your suspense, yes, there will be turkey. I’ve already named him Stanley. I’ll bring him home on Tuesday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making A Hormone Think

A couple of juiced-up muscle boys were talking in the gym today.

By the way, here’s a DIY superhero tip: Gray hair makes you invisible. These guys were almost right next to me and they didn’t see me at all.

Anyhow, Beefcake and Juicer-boy were complaining about hot flashes. Seriously. They sounded just like me, only less bitchy.

I glanced over and, yeah, Juicer-boy had roid zits.

Gratuitous Public Service Announcement: Juice is for smoothies. Muscles won’t make you more attractive if you have Mauna Loas sprouting all over your face and back. Stick to whey powder and BCAAs.

Moving on. Long time readers have heard me go on about how bodybuilders gossip like the little old ladies in my mother’s building, or whine like teenaged girls in 70s sitcoms. They do, they really do.

Newbies, welcome. All you need to know is that I’ve been around bodybuilders since the late 80s, except for a 5 year gap which we won’t discuss. Also the last month, ditto. The point is that I know my way around a hardcore gym and its denizens.

So I’m back in the gym now, and there’s a fresh batch of new blood. Apparently they have strangely familiar-sounding hormone issues, although this is the first time I’ve ever heard one complain about hot flashes.

Of course it makes sense if you think about it. Androgens and menopause have a poetic symmetry, if not a biochemical one. Heh. I can just see the looks on their faces if I tried to explain that their physicality has anything in common with mine.

What made me laugh is an out-loud thing and I don’t know how well it’ll read, but here goes:

How do you make a hormone? Don’t let her work in on the bench.

You can lead a hormone to culture, but you can’t teach it to read a newspaper.

Hormone? I was only doing 15 lb kickbacks.

Hahaha! It’s menopause humor and weightlifting humor! Two obscure humors that still aren’t funny in one – well, not to anyone else. It cracks Auntie up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day O Mayo

You’ve heard me talk about how much I like to feed people. That said, in food as in life, it sucks when something doesn’t come out right.

I’m either a decent cook or I’ve been lucky. It doesn’t happen often. The Moroccan stuffed-zucchini-in-yoghurt-sauce was salvageable. Melva said it was fine. She’s my mother, so take that the way I took it, with a pinch of Hawaiian pink salt.

But then there was the Ranch Dressing. Cue ominous sound effect.

My friend is a phenomenal cook. It was her recipe. When it didn’t come out quite right, I knew the error was mine. I dumped it out and tried again. I minced chives. I measured ingredients with more care than a pharmacist. I couldn’t lose that mayonnaise-y aftertaste.

I stood there glaring at the jar of mayonnaise. (Trust me, you get loopy when you’re alone in the kitchen.) Then I saw it.

“Best by Feb 02 2011”

Insert the cuss words of your choice here. Mine were fairly obvious and unimaginative.

I got suspicious. I went to that shelf in the fridge. You know the one, with the jars of stuff you used maybe twice after you got it.

Cue montage.

Besides the expired mayonnaise, I just threw out: ketchup, yellow mustard, low sodium soy sauce, tamari, a fossilized tube of anchovy paste, three jars of curry paste (two Indian, one Thai), three jars of salad dressing (two more were fine), that yellow Peruvian sauce that’s so delicious in the restaurant and so bad in a jar from the supermarket and a spray bottle of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” that expired in 2007.

The moral of this story is – nah, I got nothing. There is no moral. I just wanted to vent.

Cue credits.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Boo Humbug, Redux

Well, here we are. Almost two weeks into November, and our next door neighbor just took down his elaborate Halloween decorations. No, I’m not bitching about that.

He replaced them with Christmas ones. Already.

I’m bitching about that.

Granted, he’s in his 30s and doesn’t remember a time when the forces of Good prevailed and no one put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.

Hell, I’m a lot older and I barely remember it.

But I promise you that there was a time, once upon a time, a Golden Age – or at least an Un-Gilded Age -- when people would put up paper leaves in red and orange, and cornucopia(s? or is it already plural?) and ugly fake turkeys in the weeks between jack o’lanterns and twinkle lights.

Ok, it wasn’t pretty. But you know what?

That green tinsel they’re hanging won’t look so great in another couple of months, and I’ll be lucky if he takes it down before Valentine’s Day.

Author's Note: If you noticed the title change, and you're a doll if you did, it's because I realized that there was a post called Boo Humbug back in November of 2011. Who knew? Not me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Joy Toy

When did being unhappy become fashionable?

I shouldn’t phrase it like that because it becomes too easy to answer. We look at magazine archives for when smiling faces became gaunt and scowly, write down the date and you go away. Don’t go away.

Let me try again, when did it become uncool to be happy?

We act like a smile is a target, or a sign of unintelligence. We don’t advertise a good mood because someone might take advantage of it or kill it.

Think about it, if you happen to be smiling at something in public, and a stranger catches your eye, what do you do? I bet you don’t keep smiling. That wouldn’t be cool, and you’re a cool dude.

Don’t tell me about all the bad things in the world. Yes, there is tragedy and catastrophe. There’s also triumph and exhilaration. There’s stuff you need and don’t have. There’s stuff you want now, and may have someday. Hopefully you’ll still want it when you get it.

But there’s your life right now, and it’s what you’ve got. Somewhere in there, there’s at least a speck of joy.

You’ve heard of joy.

No, not that decaying bottle of perfume in your grandma’s bathroom. Joy is when you feel good without having been medicated to do so. Joy is happy. Joy is fun.

Aha! Gotcha. You like fun. Let’s start there.

Fun is good. (Baby steps.) Fun makes you happy. Therefore, it’s good to be happy.

See? That wasn’t so hard. Don’t go away yet.

It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to feel good just because you feel good.

When you were a kid, you had a favorite toy. Whatever it was, you probably have something right now that makes you as happy as that toy made you back then. When you figure out what it is, go ahead and smile about it.

No one’s looking.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Twitter Veritas

I’m a huge fan of online chat.

“But Auntie,” you say, quite reasonably. “You’re cynical. You hardly ever believe what people say, and you know for sure everyone lies online.”

Ahem. Not everyone. Some of us just choose our words very, very carefully.

Be that as it may, I treat live conversations with liberal (albeit metaphoric) pinches of salt, and I enjoy my online buddies… whoever they really are.

How people say what they say is just as important. That’s not my cliché so let’s stipulate it and move on.

More interestingly, a similar effect happens online.

You might not be the a/s/l you advertise. That’s none of my business, nor do I care.

I do care if you get my obscure 70s TV reference, or have the good manners to claim to hate a film I loathed. Have you read a book I love? Cite it and earn my eternal devotion.

Manners, in fact, show up as clearly online as they do on the street. Appropriately timed responses show interest. Nice ones bring smiles. If someone favorites my tweet, that can be anything from a pat on the back to a hug. It’s all good. (Sorry, Sis, but it is.)

I don’t care if you chuckle, snort or lol, as long as you liked my joke.

When you’re chatting with someone online, your personality is right there on their screen, plain as day. You can hide behind an abstruse avatar or a false i.d., but you can’t hide your character.

If you’re whiny or self-obsessed, that will show. If you’re pleasant and kind, that will show too. A sense of humor shines like a beacon in the vast beigeness of Internet blather just as much as it does in the gridlocked monotony of the real world.

But the real reason why I love Internet chatting so much is that, lipstick be damned, you can’t see me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

(Auntie) Scary Science

Superstition in its most basic form is really all about cause and effect, which makes it scientific-esque.

If I make a u-turn to avoid crossing the path of a black cat, then I am preventing an undesirable sequence of consequences. The same goes for scattering spilled salt over my shoulder, walking around ladders, all those boringly obvious behaviors.

Avoiding the cause to prevent the effect is science-y. Yes, indeed.

Oh, you’re still not convinced. Fine. Let me channel 10th grade. It’s all about proving a hypothesis. Knocking on wood may not avert the Evil Eye, but if I think it does, then I’ll adapt accordingly and not make stupid choices. At the very least, I might make less stupid choices.

Obviating a self-fulfilling prophecy is an improvement based on logic and deduction. Ergo, knocking on wood is scientific-ish, Q.E.D.

The ways to make good things happen are less reliable. My lucky socks are only usually effective. The ratio goes up if I invoke the “could have been worse” clause, but it’s still not 100%.

That said, what do you think I wear when I know I’m about to enter the jaws of a potentially dicey situation? And I ain’t talking Vegas here, folks.

Let me tell you this, if you’re meeting with a lawyer, lucky socks are the way to go. I’ve proven this scientifically. You can trust your Auntie Scary on this one, totes for sure.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


It’s ridiculously easy to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Yes, even that smug co-worker can be damaged with a flick of the wrong word. The same goes for a loud-mouthed drunk at happy hour. I’ve inadvertently bruised a few of the biggest and meanest muscle guys at my gym(s), but I fixed it right away. A puzzle with only a few pieces can be put back together quickly and there was no lasting damage.

No matter how impervious someone seems, they’re not.

No matter how much they want you to think they don’t care, on some level they do or else they wouldn’t be listening.

Caveat: If they’re at work, then they might genuinely not give a damn, but they might not really be listening, either.

Whenever two people interact voluntarily, there is the opportunity to do harm. Which brings me back to my point, it’s easy to hurt someone’s feelings.

I know you didn’t mean it like that. You were trying to be honest or helpful. You might even have thought you’d finally found the myth, the legend, that elusive “constructive criticism” we’ve all heard so much about. Well, guess what.

It doesn’t exist. There is only criticism.

Not only is there only criticism, a lot of innocent stuff that isn’t supposed to be critical at all is heard that way. Blame human nature. We’re a fragile and defensive bunch.

So if it’s so easy to hurt feelings whenever we open our mouths, what do we do?

I could say pay attention to what you’re really saying, not what you meant to say. I could say that, but there’s no point. If we could do that, then we wouldn’t need to be told to.

The best Auntie can offer is this: You should clean up after your words the way you clean up after yourself in Starbucks.

You don’t have to be a doctor to try to do no harm.

Also you should pick up after yourself in Starbucks. No one wants to deal with someone else’s crumbs and cups.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scary Thanks

Dear Aunt Scary,

How do I say "thank you" when saying "thank you" isn't enough?

Three people went out of their way to make my life better. They didn't have to, though two of them may think that they did.

I'm enormously grateful and appreciative, and I have no real way to express it. What do you suggest?


Dear Wondering,

Well, if you have either a blog or an advice column, you can always pretend to write a letter to yourself, publish it, and hope that the people you want to see it, see it.

That's what I just did.

Thanks, Sis. Thanks, T. Thanks, Bubble.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shut Up. It Was A Question. (Ask Auntie)

Quick question:

Have you made $100 today??

If not, go here:

To your success,

- Mack

Dear Mack,

Thanks for sending your question to Ask Auntie at Any and all questions are appreciated, as can be seen by the publication of yours.

In response: No, I did not make $100 today. My car was in the shop.

By the way, if you ever need any work done on your car, you should go to Burbank and ask for either Charles or Bob at Mountain View Tires on Magnolia at Catalina. (818) 843 - 6933. They do all kinds of repairs, not just tires. Seriously, they're the best.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Say Cheese!

So I was sitting in a coffee shop, as I often do. (Shout out to @RealBobWilson and @RudeMorgue, waving hi guys!)

As sometimes happens, there was a lull in the conversation. I looked around, as one does. There was a young man with unfortunate facial hair in the next booth.

My brain automatically clicked over a couple of punch lines at his expense – none of which I voiced, thankyouverymuch. I felt sorry for the guy. He looked both miserable and pathetic.

Then he smiled. That’s when I realized I knew him. Until he smiled, he was just some random stranger in a coffee shop.

Now we uncover the buried lead of this piece with a flourish and a ta daa: Yes, a smile makes that much of a difference in life.

To be fair, I don’t know the guy well and hadn’t seen him since last spring, but I know him to talk to. Frowning, he was literally unrecognizable. The smile transformed him from some poor shlub into someone from that place where I used to go.

There’s a book about smiles, called “Lip Service” by Marianne LaFrance. It’s filled with useful if unsurprising wisdom like:
1. Food servers who smile more get bigger tips, and
2. People respond better to photos of smiling faces.

There’s lots more of the same, with a huge amount about how babies learn to smile. Yawn. Sorry. Please excuse me. I didn’t exactly make it through the whole book.

People like smiles. I like smiles. Let a smile be your umbrella, as long as it’s not actually raining. But until Tuesday night, I didn’t realize quite how much of a difference a smile can make.

Think about it. The next time someone tells you to smile, maybe they’re just trying to figure out who you are.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jalapeno Hellfire

This is about machismo. Well, machisma. That, and chili.

I make meaty chili. You’d think I wouldn’t given the whole vegetarian thing, but I do. It has pork and beef and pasilla because I can never find fresh poblano, not even at Vallarta.

More relevantly, it has lots and lots of teenily, tinily minced jalapenos. I can’t call it a brunoise because my vision hasn’t deteriorated quite that much, but I aim for that classic 1/16” dice.

I don’t wear gloves.

That’s where the macha comes in. I’ve made this chili at least a dozen times, not once have I worn gloves and not once have I had a problem.

Until today, obviously. Otherwise you’d be reading about something entirely different.

Ow! Ow, ow! Jalapeno burns.

Yes, I know water doesn’t help. I remembered that mere minutes after I tried it and before I tried olive oil. Capsaicin is fat soluble, the oil should have worked. Obviously, it didn’t. See previous.

Next I did what any red-blooded American would do. I ran to the Internet.

Turns out this is a real thing. People do suffer from jalapeno burns. At least they claim to and if they’re going to lie, I’d like to think the public is smart enough not to lie about something that makes them look as stupid as I feel right now for having done this.

Testimonial cures include: bleach, milk, olive oil(!), sour cream, lime juice, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, Vaseline and Advil. The last is taken internally.

So far I’ve tried lime juice, milk, rubbing alcohol and even bleach. I just rubbed some herbal Vaseline-equivalent salve on, enough to gunk up the keyboard.

Yeah, no.

Still ow.

That’s where the metaphor comes in. Sometimes when painful things happen, the only cure is time.

Gotcha. You've just been ambushed by a platitude. Auntie wins, but it's a Pyrrhic victory.

P.S. The superb chili recipe is Dan Chaon’s, from “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. For further testimonial, ask Scott. He’s coming to dinner tonight. Given the vegetarian thing, I have no idea what it tastes like.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

La La La

What are you good at?

Har har. Not funny. What are you good at besides that.

You don’t get to decide if you’re good at that anyhow. I don’t care how many times you’ve asked. Asking sounds needy and besides, if you’re in that sort of situation then most people won’t want to hurt your feelings.

So I was driving around today and the guy on the radio kept saying over and over, “People are good at doing things they love to do.”

Stop with the entendres. I’m trying to have a conversation here. From now on, I’m just going to “la la la I can’t hear you” if you do it again.

Where was I? Right. People are good at doing things they love to do.

It took me a while to realize I don’t believe it. I mean, obviously it’s often true, but enough to qualify as a cliché or truism?

I think not.

There’s two ways to hit it. (La la la, I can’t hear you.) The first would be by looking at things you love to do and deciding if you’re good at them or not. The second would be vice versa.

Some of you would cite your professional achievements, which are varied and impressive and often intimidating. Good for you.

Others of you might mention your Sky Rim or Guild Master scores, which I don’t want to encourage despite my being 21% of the way to my 7th degree black belt in Pop Fu. Yes, really. Save your applause.

Game theory says that people love doing things they’re already good at. Makes sense, I can kind of see it.

But the radio guy’s point was about making money.

While it’s impossible to play Pop Fu professionally, it’s illegal to earn a living doing that.

La la la, I can’t hear me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shining Time

Andy Warhol said "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

Fifteen minutes. Everyone.

Right. Let me grab a Ouija board so you can hear me clearly when I say fuck you, Mr. Warhol.

So far that quote has messed up at least three generations.

Mine was perhaps the first generation to somehow have the idea that we all, each and every average ordinary nondescript one of us, will have fifteen whole minutes of fame in our lifetimes. Guaranteed (or at least promised) by a celebrity who understood (or at least revered) fame.

Yeah, subsequent generations have the Internet, but that’s really not much help. While the Internet grants fame more generously than a drunken lottery winner, it rarely lasts as long as fifteen minutes.

It’s a problem when we assume we’ll have our turn, if not at fame, at least in the spotlight of our own lives. Our time to shine, our place in the sun, whatever you want to call it, we’ve been conditioned by popular culture to have that expectation.

It’s hard to be happy when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for some external acknowledgement that may never be there.

We, and the people around us, are pressured to provide what amounts to “Thanks for playing” trophies in daily conversation.

Focus shifts from achievement to perceived achievement, from humility to hubris, from contentment to “What do you think?”

It’s easy for Auntie to type ever so earnestly that you should be happy in yourself and stop looking around for validation. It’s even easier to say that fame is irrelevant without respect, and how much do you respect most people on magazine covers?

I could do all that but I won’t. I’m too busy checking my stats to see how many of you are seeing this.

Your quote stinks, Mr. Warhol. May you rest in peace.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Auntie Scary's Household Hints

1. Always wait til after company leaves to do your big cleaning. That way there’s less pressure.

2. Just once in your life remember to dust first, sweep second.

3. Do it the hard way. You’re just going to have to go over it all again anyhow.

4. Don’t listen to @rmangaha. Even with a diagram there’s no easy way to fold a fitted sheet. (But follow him if you’re on Twitter, ok? I owe him a lot.)

5. “Clean as you go” applies to cleaning, too. The last thing you want to do after your arms and back ache is clean up your cleaning things. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’re either a slob or have a maid.

and finally, most importantly:

6. If there’s cleanser left in the bottle then you’re not finished yet.

Friday, September 28, 2012


We’re not superheroes. At least, I’m not. I don’t know about you.

This probably isn’t news. You spend your days being pushed around either by people or by circumstance. Some days you feel lucky when nobody at all notices you, at least for a little while. I’m right there with you, this whole week was like that.

Still, we’re more powerful than we think we are.

Yes, you are.

For example, right now you have the power to hurt my feelings.

Sure, it’s not flying, or invulnerability or even talking to fish. But it’s actually quite lot of power, and I probably don’t even know you.

I’m not kidding, by the way.

Total strangers can, randomly without reason, throw contempt at you and rattle you down to your bones. It can be just a look or a word, but it stings. Oh, you recover. You’re not stupid, you know it’s meaningless, but for a minute there, it stung.

You know when people do it to you. Do you know when you do it to other people? Do you know when you’re stressed or pissed off or really tired and somebody gets in your face or even just slows you down and you lob a shot of scorn at them?

Most of the time I bet you don’t. The stress or the anger or the fatigue is too big, smaller stuff just slides off. Other people, by definition in this context, are smaller stuff, just like we sometimes feel like smaller stuff.

There’s a flip side to this. Good things can be done to make a good difference. (Bam! You’ve been ambushed by a pep talk. Don’t go, I’m almost done.)

Someone held a door for me today. Yeah, it’s puny. It’s not a transfusion or organ donation. But you know what? It mattered. I was in a bad place in my head and someone waited an extra few seconds for me to get to the door. With a smile, like it wasn’t annoying.

In the midst of being around people we wouldn’t choose to be around, of being disliked for no good reason, of all the tiny discourtesies that pile up when you’re in a society, in the midst of all that there are glimmers. Bits of courtesy, the occasional kindness.

It’s powerful stuff. Maybe more people should wear capes.

In any case, it’s better than talking to fish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Post-Mortem than Postscript

Dear Auntie Scary,

If you’re not going to send in that form, would you give me the address so I can?


{So redacted, as if I wouldn’t recognize the email address}

Dear officially-anonymous person,

Thanks for your note. I’m a little scared you weren’t kidding. The answer is no.


Aunt Scarycookies

Sunday, September 23, 2012

He Meant "Dear Aunt Scary" Yes, It Counts! (Ask Auntie)

I got your email contact through a personal search and decided to let you know about this packaged financial transaction that will benefit us. I am Mr. [redacted] the Group Executive Director/ Group Finance Director of the Bank Of [redacted]. On the course of the 2011 end of the year's report, I discovered that my branch in which I am the Chief Auditor had Ten Million Five Hundred Thousand U S Dollars(10,500.000.00 ) of which no body/staff or director is aware of and will never be aware of, I have also PLACED this fund on ESCROW CALL ACCOUNT without a beneficiary.
As the Group Finance Director, I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I am compelled to request for your assistance to receive this money into your bank account. I will compensate you with 40% as gratification while 60% will be for me. In course of this transaction, there are practically no risk involve because It will be a bank-to-bank transfer. please this is very confidential transaction please.
(1)Your Full Name……………………….
(2)Your Age……………………………….
(3)Your Sex………………………………..
(4)Your Occupation……………………..
(5)Your Country…………………………
(6)Your Telephone Number…………….
(7)Your Fax Number……………………
(8)Your International Passport for more Identificatin
I will appreciate your timely response.
With Regards,
Mr. [redacted].

Dear Mr [redacted],

No, but thanks for asking.


Aunt Scarycookies

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Farts & Recreation

Let’s talk about your feelings.

Don’t get scared, this isn’t going to be one of those talks. I want to talk about reactions, gut reactions, the things you feel then discard as unworthy.

By the way, I’m proud of you for that. I wish I could do it myself more often instead of being judgmental. But sarcasm is my hobby and snide is its hobbyhorse. I don’t know what that means either, but it sounds cool and decisive so it stays in.

Example: The other day I was sitting here at my desk, minding my own business, when I heard the guy next door fart so hugely and loudly that it was like automatic gunfire. Then he said, almost as loudly, “Ahhhh!”

You would have been happy for him that his gastrointestinal distress had abated.

You’re kind and charitable.

Me, I was snide and tweeted about it.

To be fair, I deleted the tweet eventually. To be fairer, I did that because I didn’t like my “love thy neighbor” and “turn the other cheek” punch line, not because I felt that it was in bad taste.

Like I said, I want to discard the judgments. They’re snarky and unworthy of the person I’d like to be.

But let’s face it, no matter how puerile, fart humor works.

Monday, September 17, 2012

O Frabjious Day!

Sometimes life sucks. This isn’t news. Your life has sucked occasionally, and I’m sorry about that.

There are different kinds of suckage. There’s the generally shitty day. It’s the kind of thing that produces platitudes like “door opening” and “silver lining”. We’ve all had those and I certainly hope your today isn’t one of them.

The thing about a shitty day is that it ends, and you deal with it. Whether you want to or not. You clean up and you cope.

Not so with the long-term decline. It doesn’t matter if it takes weeks, months or years.

The decline is insidious. You can reach a point where if things were only as bad as a few weeks ago that would be great. The decline feels like the air has turned into doom. The decline is a rusty suit of corroded mental armor that lets every attack through.

Of all the ways that life can suck, right now I think that the decline is the worst.

I had a decline going on around me. (I wasn’t depressed, this was external.)

Then something good happened.

In the midst of a decline you forget that’s even possible. But it is. It did.

And you know what? The decline went away.

That’s like Newton’s apple falling up. It's like finding out that Cheetos are rich in antioxidants, or that you persuaded somebody not to vote stupidly. It just doesn’t happen. But it did. I’m knocking wood things stay this way.

At least I finally understand that boring old story about Pandora, because now I know what hope feels like. It feels fairy-tale-ending good.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Tomorrow is his birthday.

Yeah, I found something to get him. I’m not saying I hit the office supply aisle at CVS, but who can’t use a mini-stapler? I didn’t even blink at the $3.49 price tag. Plus tax, mind you.

Besides, I found the perfect funny/hip t-shirt and it actually came in his size. Ok, they were sold out. It’s the thought, right? I’m sure he’ll love the one that isn’t as nice and is a size too small. Who wouldn’t?

Hey, I never said I was good at gifts.

I’m good at birthdays.

There’s a difference.

As I type this, I’m bringing a vat of water to a boil so I can peel tomatoes for his favorite gazpacho. My schedule for the afternoon just says “make cake.” Tomorrow there will be coq au vin with plenty of bacon. I’ll get the crunchy bread at the last minute, that way it’ll be fresh.

So when I write the words “Big Pretty Bow” on an unopened shipping box with a third-choice whatever inside, that’s not completely unromantic.

It’s meta.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Whither Winter Weather?

It’s 100 degrees outside, and almost that inside. Depending on where you are, your reaction could range from “Oh my God, 100 degrees? I’ve just put on my winter coat and checked the storm windows” to “Only 100 degrees? Whiner.” (I’ve heard both.)

It’s that time of year, folks. Hotter here than it was in July, but the calendar and the window displays say it’s time to gear up for the holiday trifecta.

Halloween is arguably more fussed-over than Christmas in my neighborhood. By “neighborhood” I mean most of Los Angeles County, though my immediate neighborhood goes psycho-nuts with the decorations.

Put it this way, they’ve already begun building haunted houses in front yards. Seriously. I can e you some pix if you don’t believe me.

I’m the only one who appreciates Thanksgiving, but any holiday that’s all about the food without having to deal with gifts appeals to me. Like… oh, never mind.

Right now, in this betwixt and between moment, nature is holding its metaphoric breath. As am I. Soon the weather will break (knock on wood) and the Autumnal Equinox will pass. When that happens, the calendar gate opens and the holiday races begin.

Gentlefolk, warm up your credit cards and prepare to start your shopping.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do, Do

If you’re a grownup, getting through the day can be difficult. Just to start with, you have to decide what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

Motivation helps. If you’re at work, you’re motivated by a paycheck to do work. If you’re at home, you’re motivated by other things. You rest when you’re tired. You do laundry when you run out of things to wear. You watch TV or play video games when you’re awake, stuff like that.

But when you come down to it, motivation doesn’t matter. It’s all about the verb.

Sometimes you do what you need to do. Usually you do what you have to do. If you’re very, very lucky then you get to do what you want to do.

You may think it’s how you feel about it, or why you’re doing it, but like I said, it’s really all about the verb.

You think it’s about the need-to or the have-to or the want-to, but it’s really about the do.

At the end of the day, how you were motivated or what you decided or how you feel about it doesn’t matter.

The only thing that counts is what you got off your ass and did.

Like I said, it’s all about the verb. You just don’t get to pick the verb.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fat Chance

Let’s try this again. “You’ve lost weight” is still NOT a compliment.

Yes, yes, we’ve covered this before. Apparently some of you need a refresher. Thinner isn’t necessarily better.

Losing weight to prevent or combat a medical condition can be helpful. Healthy is more attractive than unhealthy. I’ll stipulate all that.

But face it: A little extra weight won’t give you a stroke or diabetes, and losing it won’t make people think you’re hot even if you have the personality of a constipated toad.

Oh sure, I grew up with TV. I saw magazines. I went to movies. I even had a grandmother who wept tears of disappointment at my obesity when I was a 5’8”, 115 lb teenaged ballet student. And I’d probably look better now if I dropped a few pounds. So what? It won’t change who I am or how you feel about me.

If you want to give somebody a compliment, like with any other dialogue, say what you mean.

Are you glad to see them? Do they look great? Then just say that, dammit.

True story, this morning a guy said to me, “You’ve lost weight.” I said, “Oh, no!” He looked puzzled, and said, “You’re not trying to lose weight?” I said, “No, I’m not.” He had trouble with that. I knew he was trying to be nice, but it whiffed big time.

So if you’re the one who is trying to be nice, stick with the weather. Or, even in a contentious election year, politics is a safer topic. We show our values in our politics, and it’s better to insult someone’s morality than it is to risk bruising their delicate self-image.

Saying just about anything else is usually better than a failed compliment. And assuming someone is on a diet is like assuming someone is pregnant.*

Guess what, you’re not making an ass out of me, you’re on your own there.

*I wanted a gender neutral example, but I have it on good authority that guys don't make comments to other guys about their appearance. Which ought to make me rewrite this whole thing as a feminist rant but I won't.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

An Alternate History Of Starbucks

Once upon a time, this conversation might have occurred. Then again, it might not have.

Decorator #1: “I just got the greatest gig! I’m going to decorate a coffeehouse!”

Decorator #2: “Big deal. Some bad art by local artists and mopey pretty young people. There’s no money in it.”

Decorator #1: “This one is called Starbucks. It’s going to be huge, bigger than you can imagine.”

Decorator #2: “As big as a movie theater?”

Decorator #1: “No, I meant it metaphorically. There’s going to be one on almost every block in the whole world. Besides, movie theaters are going to get really small, so that’s a bad analogy on every level.”

Decorator #2 snorts scornfully: “I think somebody’s been sniffing wallpaper paste again.”

Decorator #1: “I thought I’d have a laptop on all the tables. You know, as a kind of themed centerpiece.”

Decorator #2 snorts again, more scornfully: “Laps go under tables, not on top of them. That’s the whole point of sitting in a chair.”

Decorator #1: “No, I mean a small, portable computer.”

Decorator #2 gives up snorting, blows nose in a nicely monogrammed linen hanky: “Stupid idea. Nobody wants to take work with them everywhere.”

Decorator #1: “Trust me.”

Decorator #2: “Hmm. I get it. A small computer would cost much less than a normal-sized one. That could still end up being really expensive.”

Decorator #1: “It’s okay. There’s an infinite number of people in Los Angeles who want to be screenwriters. We’ll have plenty.”

Decorator #2: “A screenplay on every screen? How monotonous and utterly boring.”

Decorator #1: “You’re right. Every once in a while, we’ll set one to Facebook, just for contrast.”

Decorator #2: “What’s Facebook?”

Decorator #1: “Don’t ask.”

And so it came to pass. This is dedicated to everyone without a laptop in any Starbucks in the Greater Los Angeles area. All five of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wisdom in (Re)Verse

Arrogance and Insecurity were sitting in a tree.


First came love, then came marriage,

then came the rest of us in a baby carriage.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Warning: The Food Post


"What I Ate On My Summer Vacation"

Author's note: Feel free to skip this. It's kind of a love-it-or-hate-it tradition for my regular readers, some of whom complain if I don't put it in. Yes, really.

A slow start during a long, hot drive, just a Boca burger and fries at Bob’s Big Boy in Baker. Then almond brioche and apple strudel at Jean Philippe Bellagio. After seven hours in traffic we didn’t want dinner.

Bouchon: chocolate-almond croissant, wild blueberry muffin, strawberry croissant, all served warm. Salmon rillettes with a steady stream of hot crispy baguette toasts. Spinach sautéed in butter butter butter with shallots and whole cloves of garlic. Fluffily moist scrambled eggs. A sliced red juicy tomato.

Fleur kinda sucked. The gazpacho wasn’t helped by the addition of honeydew and cantaloupe, and I never felt the watermelon flavored poprocks. My adored truffled onion veloute is off the menu, in case you were wondering what that Boschian noise in the distance was last Monday afternoon. The ceviche was only fine. The perfect tuna tacos aren’t anymore. Pickled cabbage on top of the fish, when there already is slivered fresh cabbage underneath it, somehow kills the otherwise glorious texture. The interlude was saved by the tiered charred-pumpernickel and smoked salmon sandwich with crème fraiche and fresh dill. Ergo, my former favorite-restaurant-in-the-whole-world has been demoted to a place for snacks in my lexicon. It’s the end of an era. Please don’t tell M. Keller, because I still love him to pieces.

Red Square: “Siberian nachos” = more smoked salmon with crème fraiche, this time with two kinds of caviar. “Tsar’s Salad” = Caesar salad, get it har har, but it was good. Fettucine with heaps of shaved truffle and a mountain of gorgeous fresh lobster. OMG. Seriously. For once I had a chocolate dessert. Don’t be snide, it wasn’t a last gasp of vanishing estrogen, the waitress was super nice and she really wanted me to try it, so I did. No faux-Soviet cutesy name, they just call it “Candy Bar.” It contains toxic levels of chocolate and should come with a warning. ERRATUM: It was indeed called "Rasputin's Magic Chocolate Bar". This is what I get for typing from pix instead of notes. Sorry! c* 9/1/12

Back to Bouchon: Strawberry croissant, chocolate-almond croissant, chocolate croissant. I picked out the chocolate. After last night, I may never eat chocolate again. More spinach, eggs, tomatoes, this time with multigrain toast and fresh pineapple jam. Caramel latte.

Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental: Lounging each on our own couch, at the window thirty stories up overlooking the Strip. Jasmine Pearl White tea, exquisite delicate tiny sandwiches, yes, more smoked salmon – you say that like it’s possible to eat too much of it – egg salad, cucumber, you know. All arty and pretty. Miniature pastries, Parisian macaroons with raspberries and cream. Rose-infused crispy creamy somethings. Shortbread dipped in chocolate (I left the chocolate part on the plate. See previous.) Mango layered cheesecake-y goodness. But the star is the fresh (emphasize “fresh”) hot scones with house-made cherry and strawberry jam and real O.G. honest to fuck imported Devonshire clotted cream. Bliss.

Jean-Georges Steakhouse: We were just going to say hi to our buddy Juan (Hi Juan!) but we stayed to eat. Creamy tomato soup poured out of the cutest stone kettle, delectable breads. Comte & truffle fritters – stop reading. Click over to your favorite travel site, get a ticket, go and eat the comte and truffle fritters. Cheese and chopped truffles, nothing else, rolled into little balls, fried and served steamy hot. Tastes even better than you can possibly imagine. Hamachi sashimi with olives and olive oil, yum. Tuna four ways, yum yum yum yum. Beautiful fat chunks of lobster, with “gnocchini” in puttanesca. Yummillini. There’s no such thing as too much lobster, either.

Bouchon: Fresh hot beignets with blackberry jam and pineapple jam. I didn’t eat the Nutella. It’s chocolate, and I still haven’t recovered from Monday night’s overdose. More salmon rillettes, more spinach.

Jean-Philippe in Aria with our pal Juan, who was nice enough to visit us on his day off: Raspberry macaroon with rose-infused cream, fresh raspberries and candied rose petal. Bear claw. Some of Robert’s crème brulee gelato milkshake. Oh yeah, happy sigh.

China Poblano with a very pretty but horrible waitress. (Around 4:00 p.m., the place was mostly empty. Three full water pitchers on a shelf not far behind my chair and it took her more than 11 minutes to get Robert the refill he asked for. When I mentioned that I was about to walk over and get it for him myself, she replied, “That’s okay, forget about it.” I haven’t forgotten.) Spicy guacamole, handmade corn tortillas and miraculous tuna ceviche with crispy amaranth.

Dinner was a take-out picnic in the room. Great fun but only tuna sandwich and salad. No, I never had my traditional one alchoholic beverage. The year isn’t over yet, I have time.

Last breakfast at Bouchon: French toast, which is really bread pudding with apples and custard all baked together and topped with slivers of crunchy fresh apples and hot maple syrup. Eggs, spinach, tomatoes. Cranberry toast and sweet butter and blackberry jam. Fresh croissant.

Lunch was fish tacos at Rubio’s. Cookies at Freed’s. A gamble on the Mad Greek in Baker, which had been so awful last year we never went back. It’s good again, phew. One final caffeine infusion to survive the drive, a soy chai latte at Starbucks in Rancho Cucamonga. Say it with me, Cu-ca-mon-ga. It’s fun!

That was Thursday night. I still haven’t eaten chocolate, not even a chocolate protein bar, since Red Square. Just saying.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vegas Via Voce

When was the last time you saw someone who wasn’t drunk being happy in public?

That’s not rhetorical. I really want you to think about it. While a certain amount of fun may be acceptable in context, nowadays happiness is embarrassing. Sure, dour is cool, but that doesn’t imply the reverse.

Las Vegas rocks because – at least where we go -- even the rare sober people enjoy themselves.

We were at the end of another stupendous breakfast. The table next to ours was one of those big round ones. Only four women sat there, but they were having enough fun for a dozen. It was great.

That is, until the phone rang.

It wasn’t loud or rude. If we hadn’t been at the very next table and at a lull in our own conversation, we would never have heard it.

You could tell right away whose it was. She’d been sitting up straight, now her shoulders slumped a little. She hit a button. Efficiency and despair have never melded so perfectly into two syllables.

“Yes, sir.”

She wasn’t young when the phone rang, but you could see her face age visibly under her makeup. Her voice became elderly and quiet.

“Yes, sir.”

I wanted to punch her boss in the face. Her friends looked like they’d be happy to hold him for me.

“Yes, sir.”

By the time she hung up, she was completely deflated. This group, which had burst with jolly rollicking goddess-like exhilaration, was now a bunch of middle-aged hard-working serious Midwestern women.

But it was Las Vegas, and Vegas is magic.

Their breakfast arrived. Delicious and beautiful various savories and pastries and, yes, a round of mimosas appeared one after the other. By the time we left, they were laughing happy goddesses again, and I was happy too.

I still want to punch her boss in the face, though.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Broader Broad

Travel is broadening, but that can be fixed.

First, the obvious: Unless you’re (literally) a starving bohemian backpacking and hostelling your way through the world, you’re going to eat more calories when you’re away from home. It could be expedient junk food, or you could be like me and load up on scrumptiousness.

For whatever reason, you’ll get fatter. That can be fixed. Not easily, but it can be done.

Second, metaphysically: Even if you’re only on a Greyhound tootling through Podunk, you’re going to get a new perspective. It’s unavoidable. No matter where you go, at the very least, you should come home with an insight into something.

That can be fixed too.

I say this because I got home about two hours ago, bringing with me a pile of laundry and a freshly laundered perspective. My head was filled with New Thoughts and Ideas. I was looking forward to going through my little pad of scribbled notes, witty observations, and general joke material to parse for all of you.

So what happened in those two hours?

Reality bitch-slapped once again, which is one of the things it does best. The answering machine was flashing in a way I like to think of as Satan’s wink. Emails festered inside my computer. My lovely, fragile and delicate New Plans have been pummeled by my thuggish To Do list which has grown faster than Bruce Banner in a bad mood.

Never mind. The stories will keep until I regain control over both my To Do list and my waistline, or, at the very least, my laundry.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wait - Don't Wait

What do you do when you’re waiting for something? Of course I mean the kind of something that preoccupies your mind so you can’t be productive without metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot. The stuff you can’t help thinking about even when you know perfectly well that dwelling on it isn’t going to help or speed things up at all.

I start with laundry, because I don’t have to think about it and because there’s always laundry waiting to be done. Then I go to mindless computer games, even though my beloved Pogo is giving me grief about using the AOL browser.

Sigh. Of course, be my guest. Go ahead. Mock me for using AOL. I’ll wait. I was waiting already, it’s no trouble.

All done? Good, I’m properly chastened and not changing a damned thing.

Sometimes I read, but it can be difficult to get into a book if my mind is busy worrying about whatever it is I’m waiting for. For which I’m waiting. Jeez, enough with the mockery already. I get it.

Of course when all else fails, I write a blog post.

Then there are times when I give up the wait prematurely and dash forward un-forewarned and unarmed. That’s rarely a good idea, but at the moment it looks like a plan.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Age Before Something

I was going to take a nice bath, so I went to get some clean towels. On my way through the kitchen, I checked the dog’s bowls. They were fine. I tried to remember why I was in the kitchen and realized I had been on my way to get the mail.

Yes, I know. That's the point.

So I got the mail, dealt with it, then was about to take the bath. There were no towels. Of course I went to get some. On the way, I stopped to do something else. You know what? I don’t remember what that was, which is pretty funny in itself.

The punch line is it took four trips before I got the towels. I still haven’t bathed yet, I thought I’d write this first.

Four trips.

Count’em, four.

That has to be a personal best. Congratulate me.

Oh, go ahead and roll your eyes. I used to, when I heard stuff like this. You’re just racking up the karma, dude. Because, if you’re very lucky, you’ll survive to be as old as me and this will happen to you.

When it does, please try to remember to get a Ouija board so I can laugh mockingly at you for a change.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cliché Cliché

Sunday night was one of those Los Angeles clichés, but not Los Angeles as it is now.

Instead, the night – or at least 20 minutes of it -- screamed of the stereotypical LA of television and movies from the butt end of last century. It was a 3D cliché of why everyone comes here, and what they do once they’ve unpacked and figured out whose couch they’ll sleep on and where they’ll wait tables or tend bar.

You know what I’m talking about. Earnest artistic vision that thinks itself unique, transmitted through a lot of effort and a wisp of ability. Don’t even get me started on talent. I have none, so I’d prefer not to complain about anyone else not having any. At least I don’t get on a stage and expect people to pay attention to me.

These two were young. They were not particularly attractive, although the female had very nice boobs on display. He played guitar and sang. She sang and waved a plastic tambourine while the ghosts of Davy Jones and the littlest Partridge girl laughed and wept. (Yes, the actress who played her is probably still alive. Don’t be picayune. It’s poetic license.)

I couldn’t understand the lyrics, some were obscure and some were just indecipherable. Drugs, recreational or prescription, may or may not have been an issue. If you wanted to parody the performance, you wouldn’t have to change a thing.

In their own way, they were likeable and really enthusiastic. I keep telling myself that. Enthusiasm is good. Youth can be good. They had lots of both. That adds up to good, right?

Wisdom: If you’re going to listen to what amounts to angry-poetry-with-guitar on a blisteringly hot evening, make damned sure the place has functional air conditioning.

I should’ve run away the minute the guy at the door said, “Leave it open, we need the fresh air.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More Ask Auntie

Dear Aunt Scary,
See, I can get stuff cheap where I work and my friend asked me to get something for her so I did, and then I thought it was really cool so I used it but when I went back to work to get her one there weren’t any left and now she’s seen me with mine and she is so pissed. She’s kind of a drama queen anyway. Ok she’s really a drama bitch when she gets like this. What do I do?

Not her sister

Dear Not her,

First, breathe. Inhale, exhale. Good. Next, learn to use Spellcheck. Auntie took care of you this time, but I won’t be there when you have to type something else.

As for Bitchy Bernice, you have options. Did you say you'd get her the mystery thingie? If so, you owe her a sincere apology. You have to say that you broke your promise and you’re sorry. Then again, you don't sound sorry at all. Maybe you'll want to skip the apology.

If you didn’t promise, then you’re technically off the hook. You can stay away from her until she forgets or stops caring. You wouldn’t be acting like a real friend if you did that, but it sounds like you’re not really that good a friend to her anyway, so she’s not losing much except for whatever the mystery “something” was that’s now yours forever.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fake You

Popular culture adores authenticity. “OG” as a pinnacle has topped “the real deal” even with people who don’t know or remember what it stands for.

Reality -- or at least the claim to it -- is more popular than anyone in your senior class ever was.

“Wannabe” is a taunt. You’ve said (or thought) it yourself at some point, if not in so many words. Oh yes, you have. Don’t distract me. Auntie is making a point here about the blur between real and fake.

That can of fizzy drink going flat next to your keyboard, I bet it’s got artificial sweetener. People Photoshop their Facebook profiles. Was that Advil or generic Ibuprofen? Did you have a turkey burger or a chicken burger for lunch?

An older gent of my acquaintance uses that spray-on hair from the infomercials. Seriously, he does. It looks like you’d expect, which is to say no worse than a bad wig.

Shaved heads and Cialis are replacing toupees and sports cars. Botox (for either gender) is slowly becoming déclassé, but only because there’s better stuff out there.

Don’t look at me. My gray hair and wrinkly forehead notwithstanding, I’m fine with fake. I work out, that’s artificially building my muscles, at least in theory. I wear makeup and a bra.

Embrace the fake. A lot of faking is really, really good. Reconstructive surgery can be miraculous. I genuinely prefer soy milk to the extraction from cow udders. I’m sure Furries are very nice people if you get to know them.

Let’s face it. Honesty may be the best policy, but I’d rather hear something nice.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Merrie Medley

When I was younger, so much younger than today, ahem, sorry, let me start over.

When I was young – and I’m talking 20s and 30s here – it used to seem disingenuous when older people would wonder where the time went. Come on, they lived through all those days one after the other. How could the aggregate come as so much of a surprise?

Surprise! It really happens like that.

On the one hand, it’s semi-reassuring to know that I was just as annoying as any ordinary 20-something. Goody for me, I’ve achieved retroactive normalcy.

But on the other hand, the one in a metaphoric fist, it’s true. Time really does fly faster than the speed of sound which, I think, is also why you seem to speak so quickly.

Yesterday (honest, it was yesterday, I’m not using gratuitous Beatles references on purpose) my late father’s former apprentice came over. I hadn’t seen him since well before 1993, the year my father died. Take a look at the closest 19 year old. He or she wasn’t even born the last time I saw this man. This is freaky stuff.

It’s enough to make me want to buy a ticket for the last train to Clarksville. You can meet me at the station.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lazy Daisies

Laziness is both undervalued and misunderstood. No, it's not. I don't know why I wrote that. Laziness is self-serving and pervasive but most of us understand it perfectly well.

Ironically, it often takes a lot of effort to get away with laziness. Damn. I’m supposed to have given up irony. Ignore previous.

Despite our putative work ethic as a society, the greatest rewards often go to those who only sit and wait. Of course, in Real Life just like in the movies, it’s only effective when you don’t do it on purpose.

Laziness is bad bad bad, do you hear me? Laziness is bad. Get up and do something this minute.

Oops. Sorry. I was just typing to myself there. It’s kind of like being caught talking out loud on the sidewalk when you don’t have a Bluetooth.

I’m going to kick myself in the ass right now. Metaphorically, of course. I lack the energy to attempt it for real. No, I mean it. I am now going to do something more productive than embracing my inner sloth. Right this minute. I may not finish this sentence, even. I’m alert and enthusiastic and about to take over the world!

Who am I kidding?

I’m too lazy. You can if you want to.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No Film At 11

The teenaged boys next door are in their backyard right now. They’re trying to make a video. Here are some excerpts, in order:

“If Andrew does it, will you do it then?”

“My shirt is covered in beans!”

“Can I hose you down?” “That depends, how cold is the water?”

And my personal favorite,

“Look at me, I’m a tiki man!”

When I decided to sit down and commemorate all this, I put on “First, Last & Always” to drown them out. “Black Planet” is being punctuated with screams of “Dog shit!” but I don't want to crank it lest it interfere with their artistic process.

Still, this is all you’re going to hear unless I get a link to the finished product, which of course I promise to give you. If there ever is a finished product... because uh oh. Dad just came home.

They're all going inside.

Ssh. Listen. It's so quiet now that you can hear the ultraviolet radiation filtering through the smog. There is tranquil silence -- except, of course, for the Sisters of Mercy, and now Jonah barking at the mailman.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Timing Isn't Everything

Timing is everything until the moment passes.

That wasn’t my original thought at all. First because there are no original thoughts – especially about timing – and second, because I was thinking about it, you know, sarcastically, the way we usually do.

We’re taught that timing IS everything.

We were taught wrong(ly.)

You set about to do something but (insert onomatopoeic sound effect in primary-colored geometric shape here!)!! Something else happens. Or some necessary step doesn’t happen. Doesn’t matter, you’re still derailed.

The moment doesn’t just pass. You see it go by like a little engine chanting “I think I can’t. I think I can’t.” It's true. In that newly redefined instant, you can’t.

Fine. So your moment, whether it was big or small, passed. Now you get to choose. Will you go down another path entirely (which is how this post is being written right now) or will you go back to it in a subsequent moment?

This is why we call it a “moment”. It doesn’t last long and besides, there’s another one every… well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dichotomy Du Jour, Revisited

Once upon a time (September 8, 2010 if you want to be picky about it) we talked about the dichotomy between obligation and responsibility.

Don’t worry, this isn't a quiz. It can't be because we never managed to conclude anything. We're only back to the topic because about half an hour ago, I realized this:

Obligation is endemic, whereas responsibility is assumed.

Yeah, it took a few years. Epiphany requires a catalyst and mine just began a few days ago.

Someone close to me had something not-good happen. I was there, and able to help, so I helped. The not-good is almost all good now. Credit for the newly recovered goodness was offered to me, but I declined it without explaining why.

Instead, I’ll tell you.

One of the few stated principles of my life is (say it with me, long time readers): if there’s a genuine problem, and you’re able to help, then you are morally obligated to do so. It’s not a Good Deed, it’s just normal. Not helping would be a Bad Deed, you get docked for that. You get no points for doing the right and proper thing. That’s life.

Accepting credit for helping would be fatuous. While I won’t say that anyone would have done what I did, many people could have. I was there, it got done. I don’t take responsibility for a moral obligation.

See where I’m going?

We accept responsibility (or we choose it. That’s another discussion entirely.) Obligations exist whether or not we acknowledge them.

I know, I know. You’ve got too many obligations, and your responsibilities weigh heavily on your heart and your schedule. You can’t spare the energy to differentiate.

Besides, thinking about it won’t make any of it go away so why bother? The answer to that is; you didn’t. This old philosophy major did and you got carried along for the ride.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Dream Of Meanies

What do you dream about? I don’t mean some kind of transcendent metaphysical Life Goal, simply the mental jambalaya your subconscious threw up last night. Are you dreaming more lately? I bet you are, and I bet it’s because of the weather.

Blaming the weather is useful. It’s an easy way to pass the responsibility buck, and half the time it’s true anyhow. We’re so civilized and so industrialized that we don’t realize how much weather affects us. It really does.

Yes, I’m rationalizing, but not by that much. When the air is thick and hot it’s the stuff of nightmares. For once I mean that literally, there is some kind of link. No one I’ve talked to is sleeping well. Don’t be surprised if you’re not, either.

Me, I’ve got a sort of unconscious reception line going, made up of dead people I used to know when they weren’t dead, in situations that would freak out Duchamp.

It’s starting to rain a little bit. Maybe the weather really has broken. Perchance I can stop dreaming.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Soap Opera (Of Sorts)

The woman in front of me in the Ladies’ Room didn’t wash her hands. Fine, that’s her personal choice. I’m no germ-phobe. I touch public doors with my bare hands, and hold the banister on escalators. I even drink tap water. We both know people who don't do any of those things. I also digress.

So she didn’t wash her hands. Big deal. However, you wouldn't believe the look of contempt she threw me while I stood at the sink. No, I’m not projecting, she had to retrace a step or two to make eye contact in the mirror to sneer at me. Maybe she thought I was judging her for not washing. I wasn't, there just wasn't anything else to look at. In any case, she was pissed and made sure I knew it.

I couldn’t help it. I chuckled. I had to, it was funny. She didn’t like that either. Don’t worry, no violence ensued. But it just goes to prove my point.

There’s always drama in the Ladies’ Room.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

People Talk

People talk. Many of the old folks in my mother’s Old Folks’ Home like to gossip. Wait! Don’t click away yet, I’m going somewhere with this.

People talk. You’ve seen big, brutish muscle guys like the ones at my hardcore gym. They’re kicking sand in the Charles Atlas ads and keeping overdressed kids out of nightclubs. Well, it turns out big sweaty guys gossip just as much as arthritic old ladies.

I bet you didn’t see that coming, did you? “Strong and silent” my ass. Muscle-y and chatty is more like it. Most of them are very nice. They natter together in a way that reminds me of the senior citizens in my mother’s building.

Surprise! People really are just people, and they talk. But not only people who see each other every day. Complete strangers talk, too.

I had to call the phone company yesterday for a friend. The call took about ten minutes once I got to a live person. She was very nice, the live person. She told me all about how she had her first child when she was 16, she married the father and they both managed to complete their educations while raising the child. She (the operator, not the child) now has a Master’s in some kind of counseling, I forget what. She had her second child in her 20s. I don’t know how long ago that was, nor why she’s still working for the phone company if she’s a trained counselor.

For my portion of the conversation, I volunteered my friend’s telephone number and address and a few murmured courtesies. I keep to myself in the gym and unless I’m trapped in an elevator, rarely say more than hello to anyone at my mother’s.

People may talk, but I can’t keep up with them.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Funny Ice Cream & Bad Sex

Let’s say you just heard a joke that almost made you pee yourself. What do you do? You tell the next friend you see. They blink. Maybe they smile when they realize that really was the punchline and you’re waiting for them to react. Seconds would tick by if anyone wore a watch anymore. Eventually, somebody changes the subject.

It’s happened to you, don’t deny it. Be grateful that you didn’t write the joke in the first place. Whenever I did -- I mean, if you had -- the polite smile would contain a tinge of pity.

We assume that if something makes us laugh, then it will make anyone, and, by extension, everyone, laugh. We should know better, but we do it anyhow.

For all its broad social implications, humor is intensely personal. Look at how easy it is for an unfunny joke to be hurtful, when it should just be not-funny. If you got ice cream you didn’t like, it would still be ice cream and therefore more enjoyable than a lot of other things. (Notice I’m not making a joke about bad sex. Shut up, guys, it’s possible. There, I made a joke about bad sex. Are you happy now?)

Humor, food and sex, that one paragraph contained most of the social aspects of the human condition. It also avoided the reason why I started this in the first place, which was to examine an intermediate Improv show Robert and I saw today. We went to support a friend, who was terrific, thanks for asking. Some of the other performers were not terrific.

Never mind. I’ll just smile politely and change the subject.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When You're A Culpa

Everyone gather round. Today’s lesson is on the art of apology.

“You want me to apologize? Fine. This is me apologizing.”

Those words were spoken to me less than an hour ago, but don’t worry, not by anyone you know, and not by someone who reads this blog (though he’s welcome to.)

The basic requirements for an apology are, in alphabetical order: acknowledgement and regret.

Acknowledge the problem, whether it’s a failure of some sort or even “just” a miscommunication. This means noting that a problem occurred, and that it is indeed a problem. You may not be responsible for it at all, or only partially responsible, but it happened. Say so.

Regret is trickier, because it requires sincerity and most of us in that sort of moment are too defensive for that. No, you may not say “I’m sorry you’re upset.” Not ever. Not even facetiously. Yes, I know it’s true. You are very sorry the other person is upset. You still have to put on grown-up pants and deal with it properly.

Here’s the short cut to a functional apology: Acknowledge the problem, and honestly regret any part you had in causing it. Since most problems have at least two contributors, what you’re really arguing is ratio anyhow.

Take my example from this morning. I had a witness for my side, so technically I can prove I was right, but that’s not enough. I could have prevented the problem and I didn’t, so I have some responsibility.

Which leads me to the implied part three of a successful apology: Never apologize while on a cell phone. For an apology to work, the other person has to be able to hear you.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dialectic In Peril

When I was your age I did my bit to try to change the world. I volunteered, I proselytized, and the world did what it was going to do anyhow. My innate cynicism flourished, and now I stay informed and vote and even occasionally contribute, but I don’t talk politics anymore.

"Why not?" you ask, and it's sweet of you to do so. Well, if we agree politically, then it’s pointless to reiterate the issue except either to gloat or to bitch in unison. If we disagree, I’m not going to change your mind. I may give you pause, but you’re not going to get in your car thinking, “Huh. She was right!”

People don’t change their positions. Oh, they might appear to change their minds if you offer enough factual evidence to the contrary, but that’s different.

“I want to go to a movie” can change based on timing, traffic, parking, that everything playing is crap, those people in front of you last time you went, or any number of things. But the basic position of “I want to have a pleasant evening” doesn’t change.

Likewise, “That peach looks yummy” can change when you show them that something is moving around inside it.

See that? I used entirely non-political examples. Yay me. I also obscured my point, but I probably lost you during the movie bit so I don’t need to conclude with the following:

That’s why I don’t discuss politics on this blog.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another "Ask Auntie"

Greetings dear,
How are you?
I am Miss Miranda.

Dear “I am Miss Miranda”,

Thank you for writing to

The answer to your question is: Fine, thanks. How are you?

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I fell asleep last night reading a book. I woke up long enough to set it on top of the pile on the nightstand and turn off the light. I went to fetch the book this morning, when I was ready to leave for the gym. Of course it wasn’t there. If it had been there, this wouldn’t be a story.

Yes, I looked in and under the bed, on the floor, etc. If you’ve been here, you know how tiny our home is. I can examine three rooms in ten times that many seconds and still be thorough. Nothing.

Brownie points to anyone who wants me to think of three numbers and look in the numbers book. ( True story: I couldn’t find the numbers book.

I lost the book that tells people how to find things so I couldn’t find the book I lost. Even though I don’t believe in it, it’s still funny.

In the end I found the numbers book. And in the epilogue, I found the original book. It was in the kitchen, near the coffeepot. No idea why.

If you look at me, you wouldn’t necessarily see a daffy old lady. I can pass for un-senile even on a mediocre day. So you never know. Prepare yourself. It happens fast. It could happen to you.

Oh yeah, the book was pretty much exactly where the numbers book said it would be, but if you find a newspaper and read your horoscope that’s probably fairly accurate too, as far as it goes. Doesn’t make any of it true, so don’t start with me. By the time you see this I’m probably looking for something else.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Yes, I Do Mean You

Pay attention to this, copy and paste it somewhere if you have to: Whatever you did today was enough.

Look, there’s always going to be more that needs doing. You can’t help that. But you have to stop sometime. You did what you could do. If you could have done more, you would have. That’s what tomorrow is for, and the day after.

Of course you'd have liked to get further than you did. That’s understandable. You just underestimated how difficult what you already achieved was. Give yourself credit for getting where you are right now.

You have to sleep, and eat, even if it’s junk food and four hours of nightmares. Obviously Auntie would prefer you ate a nourishing meal and slept a solid eight, but let’s be realistic.

There’s too much on your plate, and I don’t mean that literally. I wish you had a full plate of food. Food is love. I’d feed you if I could.

You’ve obviously taken a well-deserved break, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Have a virtual hug and round of applause, and remember, this too shall pass. Someday you’ll be on the other side.

When you are, tell me and we can have cookies.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rules About Tools

There will be a quiz, so take notes. Remember Auntie’s Three Rules? (Richard, put down your hand. We all know you know them.) To recap:

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

While it’s been a particularly Rule #3 sort of day, I’d like to discuss something that hasn’t made it into the official rule set mostly because I didn’t make it up:

It’s not always about you.

Sure, you know that. I know it, too – in theory. But just try not taking it personally when somebody is being particularly douche-y to you. In that moment when the unforgivable words are snapped in your face, try to sit back and tell yourself that this douchebag – ahem, this individual – is under a lot of stress and you’re just the closest available vent-able surface.

Sure. You do that and let me know how it works out.

In reality, if it happens to you then it’s about you. It happened to me, ergo it is about me. Even if I did nothing to cause it, let alone deserve it. You didn’t either, and you had to put up with your share, I’m sure.

You know what? Now that I think about it, “It’s not always about you” doesn’t even deserve to be a rule. Never mind. We’re back to my three, and can skip the quiz. You all passed with flying colors, except Richard who got extra credit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Viva Las Vegas!

(Or, What Happens In The Elevator Stays In Vegas)

No, sugar-pie, Auntie hasn’t forgotten you. First we went away, and then I spent a few days trying to make sense of it all.

The weather wasn't bad, it never got above 104F. The food was good. There was quite a bit of it and it was different enough from what you’ve already read here before that I think I could make it interesting… but no. Maybe later. Maybe not at all. We’ll see.

You want to hear about something fun and new and Auntie has just the ticket. You all know what dinner theater is, well, this trip we perfected the art of Elevator Theater. It’s basically the same thing, without the food and the singing.

(Remember, there was NO singing. Dignity was maintained within reasonable expectation.)

Think about it: I’m a writer of comedy and he’s an improvisational comic. Our room was on the 34th floor. The hotel was fairly crowded, which meant that every ride provided a fresh audience, and plenty of new material to work with. Let me say for the record, watching someone pretend not to listen and then try not to laugh is even better than making someone laugh straight out. Try it yourself, you’ll see.

That's enough about that. This trip was about people. We saw many friends, though we missed two of the nicest.

My thing was asking couples if they’d like a photo of both of them. You know, when we’d see one taking a shot of the other (“of”, not “at”) I’d step in. One couple thought I was about to assault them. Another acted as if I was going to ask for spare change. Even the rudest ones ended up chasing after me and saying “please”. One couple was so sweet I hope I never forget them.

Story: I’d taken a mediocre picture of an elderly German couple. Oh, it was composed more exquisitely than most postcards, and in razor-sharp focus, but it wasn’t flattering. The people looked frumpy-dumpy and way too serious. I could do better. Their smiles came out after they saw it. They were so happy, they didn’t want me to re-shoot. They thanked me so warmly that I walked away thinking I’ve been in LA for too long if I think a picture has to be pretty to have value.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Someone Asked Auntie (Ask Auntie)

Dear Aunt Scary Cookies,
Every now and then I have to "work really late on a project" and I end up sleeping pretty poorly, or not at all. I'm afraid I look like one of the living dead the next day when I have breakfast with my friends the next morning. Is there something I can do so I don't look like crap after a long night of "work."
Having a new appreciation for blackout curtains

Dear “Curtains”,

Slices of cold cucumber on your (closed) eyes will reduce the puffiness. Invest in a Costco-size bottle of eye drops for the bloodshot. Switch from coffee to espresso to help with the rest. If you wear make-up, I’m partial to Dior Skinflash™, although any good light-reflecting concealer will do the job.

But really, honey, you should relax. Your friends know what you were doing all night. They know you never came back to the room. If you brought your “work” back to the room, euphemism isn’t the issue, tact and consideration are. Not to mention dividing the hotel bill by an extra person or two.

Oh, and if you’re at home and no hotels were involved, your friends still know because it’s a regular thing with you. If it wasn’t, they’d buy the “work” explanation.