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.