Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Suburgatory: ‘I Choose Hell’

In Television on September 30, 2011 at 11:45 pm

“When did the Tri-State area turn into Beverly Hills?”

I  go into new comedies with a positive attitude, hope I will be impressed with the cast,  writers, sets-and that I’ll get a few laughs. But oftentimes I  get side-tracked with the ‘wtf?’ aspects of the show, especially when they snowball, as they did in the first episode of Suburgatory.

According to the show’s (far-fetched) premise, The Altmans -Dad, George (Jeremy Sisto,who played ‘Billy’ on’ Six Feet Under’) and his daughter, Tessa (Jane Levy, ‘Shameless’) – have  relocated from New York City to the tri-state area which  I’m  guessing is Connecticut from the cartoon map in the opening. (Full disclosure: I grew up in Connecticut)

This, after Dad finds a box of condoms in Tessa’s dresser drawer.

Right off, this strikes me as an extreme overreaction for a hip guy who lives in New York City- but what really didn’t make sense was that the town he has chosen is,  inexplicably,  a weird mash-up of Wisteria Lane and Beverly Hills! It’s filled with ‘Barbie-Doll’ moms drinking sugar-free Red Bulls and doing spot exercises in the driveways of their million-dollar homes with their lookalike daughters.

One would assume that this ‘concerned’ Dad would have investigated said town (especially since it’s only an hour’s drive away) and that anyone with half-a-brain and five minutes of free time would conclude that this was a town awash in condom-filled dresser drawers, and rampant in rich-girls with fake boobs who aren’t waiting for marriage, or possibly even a second date. (Not judging the gals….because George Altman, had he been the father of a son, would probably have been proud to find those condoms!)

Curiously, Dad and daughter ( we’re only told that mom ‘took off’ when Tess was young) are savvy enough to make a life in New York City, so it makes you wonder why Dad is  buying into an over-the-top geographical ‘solution’ because his daughter might-or might not be-having sex in the first place. New York City was not the birthplace of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Beverly Hills might be. Just sayin.

One can tell that Tess-with her ‘Daria’ like attitude and dry delivery- is obviously the most grounded of the characters, and clearly doesn’t need to be blindfolded,  mugged and dragged away from her home based on a box of prophylactics and Dad’s sneaky suspicions.

What is it with dads and daughters anyway? The men engage in sex, and yet the thought of their precious female offspring engaging in natural sexual activity freaks them out! (They don’t seem to mind it when they’re banging someone else’s daughter! Because: new flash: that’s what your girlfriends and wives are!)

And yet:  their daughters being a part of the natural life cycle freaks them out enough to, say- impulsively move out of state! As if sex doesn’t exist in other locales!  Hardly anyone says to a 16 year old: ‘Hey-Go For it, Sexy!’ but doesn’t anyone have faith in their kid’s basic morals and that maybe they know what’s right for them? Maybe talk to them? Nor does having sex-or not- define a ‘good girl’ bad-girl’ despite the propaganda.

I can only conclude that a father’s insane discomfort must have something to do with his own ‘guilty conscience’ concerning the way he treated girls back in the day (or still treats them!) Which might mean that the more Dad freaks out, the bigger Cad he was- and that payback’s a bitch and karma is real? I don’t know- I’m just throwing it out there.

It is interesting how so many men are fine with their own desires except when it comes to a relative, particularly their own daughters. Narcissism is out there in great supplies. And –hey fella- contrary to popular belief, daughters are not your property.

Anyhoo-having grown up in Fairfield County, Connecticut, there were a lot of extremely wealthy people (my own family was middle class) but never once did it resemble Beverly Hills-aesthetically or otherwise  so I have no idea where the writers are coming from, ‘location authenticity’ wise in this sitcom.

Wealthy people in Connecticut are notably low-key. They tend to wear J.Crew sweaters and boat shoes,  drive expensive but subtle cars, play golf and tennis and put a premium on being refined. In fact, the longer you can hold a stick in your buttcheeks without flinching, the wealthier you are. The town in ‘Suburgatory’ is closer to ‘The Hills’ -which is quite a stretch, not unlike Taylor Lautner as the lead in a shoot ’em up’ movie.

Cheryl Hines ( ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’) plays a ‘Hollywood Wives’ type named Dallas Royce (really? Is Jackie Collins on the writing staff?) who, quite frankly, would be much better suited to- say-I dunno- Dallas? (The show or the place!) Somehow (?)- she hires Mr. Altman (an architect) to re-design her daughter’s elaborate ‘Clueless’ style closet system, and the chase is on. George being the pork-chop to Dallas’s wolf.

When  George visits the local country club, he steps into a scene straight out of the Playboy Mansion (and it’s just as dated- all that’s missing is the Grotto and Pauly Shore!) Gorgeous, bikini clad women, rife with saline and plastic, recline seductively in lounge chair after lounge chair (an 80’s MTV video staple), all eyes following him like the man-meat he is assigned to be, but- as tv characters tend to do, George pays no mind.  (By the way, what season is this, exactly? The kids are in school, so it can’t be summer, and that is the only time people can sunbathe in the north-east!  I  could swear I spotted a palm tree over by the the fresh towel station! Where is the order, people? What’s next? Dogs and cats living together?!..Mass hysteria?)

George is at the club to meet up with a male  friend -someone he knew from the past- who brags to George about his newly gotten Jersey Shore tan and blond highlights (again, this is the northeast! Possibly in the Fall!) and tries to convince George that ‘this place is paradise!’ The waitress actually offers up herself  as the only other menu item besides ‘the shrimp’ -and since George chooses the shrimp- we are to understand that George is ‘deep’ and definitely not interested in getting laid – much like he wants his daughter to be! He’s a sitcom dad of deep, upstanding character, perhaps serving penance for a myriad of teenage transgressions.

“TheTwins in ‘The Shining’ taught me to ’emote’…”

In the end, it  is the ‘shopping at the mall’ scene that pushes me over the edge.  George, Tess, Dallas and her vapid daughter, Dahlia (the poison flower?) somehow end up driving  to the mall together in Dallas’s fancy automobile.  Predictably, the teen girls  hate each other, hissing like cats under their breath -my advice to Dallas and George: Next time bring a spray bottle! Two firm squirts and watch the claws retract! (I wouldn’t actually do this to a cat, but a teenager? Possibly)

The store depicted is obviously ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ (or whatever ‘Swear at your Mother and Hi-Jack Her Wallet’ store is presently all the rage with the kids these days) where George plays the ‘I’m outta place’ card like a champ. Whining about the bad lighting, high prices and loud music (According to the article ‘How Retailers Trick You’ on my Yahoo Homepage: they do it on purpose! Shocker!) George is not a happy daddy.

Luckily, Dallas thinks quick on her Louboutin’s and quickly regales him to the ‘Dad’s couch’ because she is a professional shopper, evidently once had a man, and knows these things. Somewhere along the line, the evil Dahlia convinces Tessa to try on the identical outfit she’s picked out-something I-as a member of the female species- have never seen done in any dressing room, at any age-ever) and their get-ups include silly pink swim goggles (no doubt, at least forty-eight bucks a pair!) as a wild and inexplicably hip accessory (haha-fashion is so stupid, huh?! The things we do for our kids!)

“After this we’re going to strip down to our undies and have a pillow fight”

Since the writers are aiming to portray ‘Tess’ as the teen who has it more together, it’s ludicrous to think that she would try on this outfit at all. Ever. Not even at matching pink water-pistol  gunpoint.

And note to the writers: In real life, when someone moves from New York City-The Big Apple! to suburbia- it is they who school the suburbanites on ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ not the other way around!  This show needs a major overhaul, or it’s not going to be around for the long one!!! And if this is ‘Suburban Purgatory’ please believe me when I say: ‘I choose Hell!’- if not for real, then just to get the ball rolling one way or the other….

I give it a ‘D’ for believability but an ‘A++” for mock-ability.

Breaking News: Tom Brady has cut his hair!!

In Game Day Sweet, GAME DAY SWEET: 2012 Season on September 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Breaking news and breaking hearts! I officially declare an emergency meeting of girls who love long hair on guys….because we have a rampant case of restless scissors and this has got to stop! Not all guys with long hair are hot, but it’s a shame when the ones that are lop it off! I have some of these guys in my real life (and thanks for that, by the way) and I’m being told that long hair is ‘out’. Well- speak for yourself, mister- coz I’m not buying it!

‘Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Cut!’

Breaking News: Tom Brady has cut his hair – Shutdown Corner – NFL Blog – Yahoo! Sports.

“Did you see ‘Dancing With The Stars’ last night?”

I’ve already been through the trauma of Jax hacking his locks off this year on “Sons Of Anarchy’. This brings the eye-candy count down to zero on this show. At least until it grows in a bit… But what can I expect from a guy who is furious that his ‘gang’ is now dealing drugs, rather than just plain ole’ assault rifles. Murderer’s logic, I guess. But Jax- you don’t look half as cute killing people as you did last season…..(and don’t think growing that devil beard longer and pointier is helping, either! Maybe once your horns come in, I’ll re-evaluate)

‘Long hair ‘suits’ me just fine!’

Look- I know this is not exactly important sports related news, but Brady’s long hair has  brought a lot of joy to a lot of girls and women everywhere. When I say I want him to ‘go long’ I’m not always talking football. I hope he didn’t cut it after the Bills game, coz if so that makes five! fumbles for him that day!

Oh well- I guess there’s really nothing Tom Brady can do to make himself look bad (other than water slides and maybe dancing in Rio….) Looking on the bright side,  at least this will make it easier to NOT secretly wish him well all of the time, which will make pretty much everyone I watch football with very, very happy!

“You’ll never be able to wish me anything but well. And you know it!”Damn him.

‘Up All Night’

In Television on September 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm
'Now that WE'RE parents, the rest of the world needs to change!'

‘Now that WE’RE parents, the rest of the world needs to change!’

I wasn’t too thrilled about the premise of this show-(new parents, adjusting to baby) and I wouldn’t have watched if a) They hadn’t repeated the show at 8pm on Friday night, and I  happened to have the tv on that channel, and b) I could have found the remote. But- ok- I’ll give the show a chance- the cast list is surprisingly good. Christina Applegate (I always think of her newswoman role in Anchorman), Will Arnett (Arrested Development, married to Amy Poehler- instant points right there!) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids) A very likeable cast with plenty of talent.

The theme of this (second) episode is ‘Cool Neighbors’. The new parents, Reagan and Chris Brinkley (Applegate and Arnett) happen to notice a hip, young couple moving in across the street.  NBC’s interpretation of  ‘hipster’ is…. knit caps, english accents and interracial marriage. I would love to be a fly on the wall during that the casting call, just to see who they whittled it down to. A bunch of suits discussing skinny jeans and ironic reading glasses. I bet it was a treasure trove of unintentional comedy gold….

In any event, Reagan and Chris decide they must prove to the neighbors (to themselves, really) how cool they are (even with a baby! which is evidently unheard of…) They then proceed to mention the band ‘Train’ and cancel out any such hope that they are, in fact, cool at all.  They decide to bring the neighbors a bottle of tequila as a housewarming present (an unopened bottle they already have on hand for such an occasion) which seems presumptuous in this day and age- what with ‘Intervention’ and ‘Celebrity Rehab’ and the whole ‘hide your vice’ thing we have going on in recent times…I’m thinking hipsters might prefer fair-trade coffee, some artisan pickles and a hemp shopping tote–but maybe they didn’t have such items in their stash. (To be clear: I certainly would have liked to get the tequila!)

Luckily, the hipsters welcomed the gift, so much so that they invite Reagan and Chris to their housewarming party-which starts at 10:30 pm (horrors!) Reagan and Chris, upon hearing the scary start time, blurt out that they will be at a Radiohead concert that night, ‘backstage as usual’. Now, allow me to nitpick here, but a) Do Radiohead represent hip anymore (I don’t know…that’s why I’m asking) and b) If they do, wouldn’t the ‘hipsters’ be aware of this concert and couldn’t they find out with a flip of their phones to a Ticketmaster schedule? Or was Radiohead actually playing?

I’m teetering at this point, but still on-board.

Later we see the couple in their living room at almost midnight- crying baby in hand, and hear the raucous sounds of a loud party across the street. A discussion is had about calling the police. (Calling the Police?! Really? You have a new baby, were just recently ‘hip’ and are already calling the police on your neighbors?  I get that it’s a little loud, but who, that consider themselves ‘cool’- would call the freakin’ police for a minor disturbance?) We’re in goody-two shoes land!

Before I can even process this- they actually call the police!!  Not only is this couple not cool- they are obvious douche bags! (This affects my further judgement of these two, spoiler freakin’ alert)

Soapbox: Parents who think that the whole world should shut down, gather at the feet of their child and adjust accordingly, make me sick! There shall be no more noise! Ever! Hail Baby!! How could this couple have ever been cool? The obvious answer? They couldn’t have been! (Yes! I’ve had a baby! I can speak on it!)

Like the true masterminds they are (and because their life is part slapstick comedy- just like new parents in real life!) Reagan and Chris decide to go to the party to assuage any possible suspicion that they are the ones who called the police, which would prove they are in fact, the worst and most intolerant of all of the neighbors, even though they are exactly that.

Miraculously,  they procure  a babysitter- on the fly-at midnight-in the form of Nick Cannon (pickings are slim after midnite) who is somehow not only willing to sit, but appears immediately. The baby instantly falls asleep in his arms- but it occurs to no one to maybe rescind the cop call, as ‘problem solved’…(and the problem appeared to be the couple themselves and not the party music) but never mind, we have a story arc to follow here. Chop! Chop!

The Brinkleys walk across the street to join the party, lying incessantly about a concert they never attended (this couple has some character, huh?) until the police arrive on cue a short while later. The hipsters and hipster extras (fake sleeve tats, shoe-leather black hair dye, jewelry ala Hot Topic) go the extra mile with their ‘grimacing at the cops’ (such rebels!) but the party host manages to bleat out an important question before he wets his pants in fear:

‘Can we still stay if we turn down the music?’  Mr. Beck-Lite pleads, like a fourteen year old bargaining with his parents during ‘homework’ time. What a bad-boy!

‘Well, let me check!’ asks the officer, who not only has the Brinkley’s home phone number and permission to ‘negotiate’ with them directly, but speed dials! Chris’s cell phone number.

Chris’s way-too-tight (hurl!) skinny jeans pocket begins to light up intermittently and play an annoying ringtone (guess who? the subversive, underground band Train!) for all to hear.

(Insert the ‘Price Is Right’ you Lose! tuba in the background)

Caught in the act, Reagan and Chris  casually confess to calling the police, but miraculously, are instantly forgiven, as the hipster couple announce that they too are having a baby and will no doubt soon be as miserable and uncool as the Brinkleys. (This  couldn’t have been more predictable, as the sour-puss that is Mrs. Hipster makes the grand announcement at the front door to the Brinkleys that she’s not drinking tonight like it’s shocking, front page, world news)

Reagan and Chris have absolutely no remorse about being kill-joys, are not at all embarrassed at being caught in the act of narcing out their neighbors and proceed to casually leave the party-cracking rapid-fire jokes back and forth like seasoned toastmasters at a Don Rickles roast.

But-  rather than go home to their baby (who is their life, remember?) and relieve their emergency sitter, Mr. Cannon (whose own kids may be in some peril, having presumably been left home alone with Mariah Carey who theoretically may be in the hot tub fully dressed and forgotten she  has kids and is not 12 years old…) they decide to sit out in  front of their house reveling in the fact that they are grade A A-holes. Could some bitter-but-honest party goers walk by at this point, give them the (blurred out) finger, or hurl some expletives their way, since Reagan and Chris are sitting right across from the party they single-handedly ruined as the guests filter out?

The couple are positively gleeful, as they laughingly reminisce about their douche-baggery- enjoying every minute of it. ‘We suck, don’t we?’ they seem to be saying, clearly unaffected for a couple who was hell-bent only hours earlier, on proving their (non-existent) street cred.

Moments later they begin ridiculing  the ‘even less cool than us’ neighbors who live to their left (judging them by their mailbox, because-I don’t know about you, but it’s the first place I look to get a read on someone..) trying to persuade us that it’s all such a funny and insignificant pecking-order anyway!-haha!  At this point they predictably get caught talking shit by said dorky neighbors (who are out walking their dog at one am)- but –who cares? they’re not cool!’ The mailbox never lies!

The moral of this episode seems to be: ‘Look at us alienate the neighbors on both sides of the street! And if you (the viewers) are dicks, too-so what? It comes with having kids! Just go with it!” I’m here with a plea: Please don’t! Being an asshat is just as bad after kids as it is before. Just because you’re done with noise and fun, doesn’t mean everyone else is. Deal with your kid yourself, leave the rest of us alone.

It's true! Why should anyone else have fun if we can't?

It’s true! Why should anyone else have fun if we can’t?

In conclusion, what we have here is a typical sitcom, with a better than average cast who speak ‘dum-dum’ to the masses. It will probably be popular with people who watch American Idol, drive mini-vans and don’t like ‘thinky’ jokes. Maya Rudolph’s character, a take-off on ‘Oprah’… has potential by spoofing the talk show Queen, but so far she is only lukewarm.  The storyline in this episode was ridiculous.  I give it a ‘C-‘ with tons of room to improve.

‘Monday Night Football Par-Tay!’ (pt. 1)

In Game Day Sweet, GAME DAY SWEET: 2012 Season on September 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I lawyered up, before I posted this pic. Jackie Chiles in da house!

So, we headed down to Miami on Monday afternoon, for the opening game of Monday Night Football, featuring The Miami Dolphins vs. The New England Patriots. To be honest, I didn’t expect the Dolphins to win, and I was hoping for anything but a blow-out.

I had to put on the ‘I hate New England’ act, even though I am secretly in love with Tom Brady. My theory on the rampant ‘Brady Hater-ade’ that is spilling all over the place lately, is that it’s being bottled by  a lot of jealous folks who can’t take that the dude has it all. Super-Model wife, check. Millions of dollars, check. Handsome good looks, check. My ‘game crew’ was so anti-Pats, that I wasn’t about to start up any debates-at least not until I could sling down a few $9.00 Dixie-cups of cheap White Zinfandel, and throw all caution to the wind. If my friends knew that I actually had a Brady jersey hanging in my closet, I probably would have been deposited onto the shoulder of 1-95. Hey!- it’s not like I sleep in it every night!

The Stealth is the Bomb (er)

The place was packed-a  sold out crowd-and we killed a couple of hours tailgating and wandering through the Fan Shop, eating and drinking, and listening to some pretty cool tunes- someone on the roof? was crankin’  Weezy, TI and Metallica. The drinks were small, and crazy expensive…but hey- it’s South Florida’s biggest ‘house’ party so wtf, right?

We headed up to our seats (my nose didn’t bleed, but I was prepared to tilt my head back if it did!) Besides, there were at least fifty rows of crappier seats behind me. The crowd was animated, to say the least. That’s a nice way of saying drunk. Hank Williams came out on the field and did the ‘R.U. Ready’ song, and then Fergie (snooze….) did the National Anthem. Because of all of the 9-11 stuff , there were killer fireworks and the freakin’ Stealth flew over the stadium. Whoah! That has to be thee most bad-ass  jet  there is.(Way cooler than Mark Sanchez, anyway! har har)

The Dolphins actually showed up!

So, anyway- the game starts, the Dolphins score first, and the whole place is rocking! We’re all high- fiving and toasting our love of the Dolphins, and I must say, it was a nice five minutes. The Patriots immediately answered back, and the third of the stadium that were Pats fans took over where we left off.  I was pissed I forgot my binoculars, but even from my seat, I could see how smokin’ hot Brady looked. I could- really!

They made a huge deal about Will Smith being there, in a sky box, with Mark Anthony and D -Wade. Why do I just LOVE Will without Jada? Is that mean? I guess coz then I can imagine he’s like he was in the old days, when he was the Fresh Prince, when he did ‘Summertime’  I liked the ‘Gettin Jiggy With It’ years and the ‘Welcome to Miami’ phase, Badboys and Badboys 2 days (they blew up a mansion five miles from my house for that one!), so I was cheering Mr. Will (and D-Wade) but Marc Anthony? Seems a little creepy. Sorry. It’s the eye-sockets.

Anyway, by halftime (after I’d seen at least 20 ‘Tom Brady Sucks/Bill Belichick Swallows” shirts- coz we’re nothing if not classy down here! ps: Who wears that?) it was clear the momentum was predictably swinging towards the Patriots, but we kept drinking, high-fiving and bonding with each other, and screaming LOUD for the ‘Fins. Personally, I (think) I drank $27.00 worth of wine -over the whole day, mind you!- and I swear-if all three drinks added up to 16 oz.’s I’d be shocked. They must make a billion dollars off of alcohol at SunLife Stadium!

‘We’re goin in again, bitches!’

The Skybox Worthy.

‘Monday Night Football Par-Tay’ (pt. 2)

In Game Day Sweet, GAME DAY SWEET: 2012 Season on September 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

‘Tom Brady: Dude Looks Like A Lady”

Ok- by now it was starting to appear that unless the Tom Brady ABOVE showed up- and apparently he didn’t….we were probably (and as predicted) going to L-O-S-E this game….but I don’t think the crowd was ready to face that yet. The hooting, hollering, the ‘Fuck You, Patriots!’ rang out left and right, and the vibe remained intoxicated and hopeful. Sure, there were a few close calls -no doubt involving Dol-and-Pat fan skirmishes- as the police, security and police-dogs flew by us on their way to the top tier, but it’s not a party till the police come, right?  (Seriously- we lucked out and everyone in our ‘seat neighborhood’ was cool, polite and just slightly profane, so I’d say we were all mirroring each other nicely.)

A few things I noticed, when the Dolphins began to ‘flounder’…..Brady had so much time in the pocket, he could have ordered a pizza (and had it delivered!) Almost every play he executed worked. At one point I commented: “Why don’t the Dolphins just lay a trail of breadcrumbs into the end-zone for the Patriots?”  Don’t even get me started on the Fins incomplete passes (though Henne looked decent) and failed schemes. As usual, I fear another season where the Dolphins fight their way up (and if need be, down) to the middle. At Best!! All of the coach’s promises tend to sound ‘cry wolf-ish’ after awhile…..

There was somewhat of a scare, when Mr. Jason Taylor ,who we are not sure is fully decontaminated from his little ‘stint’ with the Jets, twisted his ankle-or whatever -I’m not the team Dr. (but I do read the scroll at the bottom of ESPN!) and they say he’ll be out for 6-10 weeks.

“I’m hotter than you!”

But don’t worry, Taylor-ites. Even without full use of his leg he’ll still be able to ‘mentor’ and pose for pictures like the one below. Thank God! And let’s go get a god-damned snack!!!

And so the Pats prevailed. Brady threw for 517 yards- setting a Monday Night Football Record, Henne threw for 400 plus,  Jon Gruden said ‘shit’ on the national telecast, and someone (named ME) came home with a sweet (gifted!) Dan Marino throwback jersey (cha-ching!) and some good memories! What’s not to like?

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

‘Metal Shop’

In The 70's on September 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm

A new program that had been initiated at Nathan Hale Middle School in the mid- seventies involved the trade classes. Home Economics, Metal Shop, Wood Shop went co-ed, partly as a result of the women’s liberation movement that was suddenly front page news.

Home Ec. was desirable to both sexes, in that, for six-weeks it involved cooking and more importantly, eating. For a typical class, we were divided into teams of two or four and had to follow a recipe to completion in one of several mini kitchens. The best part was that we got to eat the assignment. (In the past, this task had been relegated to imaginary dogs)

My specialty was muffin pizzas, which may sound simple, but evidently was not, as we had to make them every other class. I vaguely recall cooking blueberry muffins, filling celery with cream cheese, and tossing cherry tomatoes around the room- but it is only the pizzas I actually remember eating.

Since I was usually teamed up with Chad Reed, it was difficult to get graded before Chad devoured the day’s assignment. I would complain to the teacher, Mrs. Barry- who would point out that it was partly my responsibility to control my partner by refraining to ‘serve’ the food until she made her inspection. Did she think that Chad would be deterred by not having a paper plate?! He’d grab a muffin or three right off the baking sheet like a crafty seagull,  while I was still taking them out of the oven or looking the other way. And why was I always serving him?!

‘Am I supposed to guard the oven?’ I would ask, to which she would reply, “You do what you have to do. Someday you’ll be in charge of your own kitchen!’

Obviously, this woman didn’t recognize the take-out type when she saw it.

Meanwhile, Chad, standing behind her, would be making faces at me, pointing, faking a belly laugh, and mimic eating more invisible food while crossing his eyes. When Mrs. Barry turned around, he would instantly look doe-eyed and apologetic, eyebrows knit, shaking his head like: ‘I know! She’s incorrigible!’ and then give me the finger after she walked on to the next group, marking another big, fat zero in her grade book for me and Chad.

“God-you take it so SERIOUS!” he huffed, reaching around me to wipe some stray crumbs off the counter, and licking his finger.

“Yeah- well it’s kinda hard to explain to my Dad how I can only pull a “C’ in Home Ec, Chad. He thinks this is a class that should (here I imitated a low ‘dad’ voice) ‘come naturally to all broads!’

“Well he’s right!” Chad answered, not surprisingly. At which point I faked punching him in his protruding stomach, just to see him jump.

Another new co-ed class was a combo Metal/Wood Shop, taught in the same room by the same teacher, Mr. Gates.  He was the ‘good looking’ male teacher at Nathan Hale, and a fuss was made over him by the teachers, lunch ladies, substitutes and visitors. He was six-feet tall, with a slim, muscular build, and had surfer-blond hair, parted on the side, a bit longer than most teachers would normally wear. He had a rugged complexion, the hint of a tan even in winter, and smiling blue eyes. Everyone compared him to a young Robert Redford, and he did resemble the Hollywood star. (I knew this because I had actually seen Robert Redford and Paul Newman in real life, as me, the Wreath boys and Toni gathered by the woods one  day last summer.  Newman (driving) and Redford came whipping around the blind corner on Wolfpit Road in a brand new Porsche 911 Turbo. Startled to see a group of teens hanging out on the side of the street, they  suddenly downshifted, slowing to a crawl. They proceeded to drive by super-slow, and waved at us, flashing their hundred watt smiles. Newman lived the next town over, but we’d never seen him. At the time they were BIG Hollywood stars. We stood there, shell-shocked after they passed by, o-mouths, eyes popping! At some point we started screaming, high- fiving and arguing over who they actually waved at. (Of course-as you can probably guess- it was me!)

As for Mr. Gates- he had a ‘cool-guy’ vibe-and he was a very laid-back teacher. He  wore khaki pants and tucked in long-sleeved button down shirts, usually in pastel colors, with a tie which always looked half-undone, as though he might pull it off at any minute.

We loved that he didn’t yell and ran a very loose ship. He barely even took attendance, and taught by going from workbench to workbench, rolling up his sleeves and demonstrating the technique of the day to individual students. Most of the girls sat together and chatted, passing out gum (it was allowed!) and gossiping, and we rolled our eyes and giggled when Mr. Gates approached us with a demonstration.

“Isn’t that dirty?’ we’d ask, upon being presented with a sheet of metal. Followed by ‘Ewww!’ and ‘That’s gonna break my nails!’ We supported the women’s lib movement, but also embraced being girly-girls, when it came to getting out of class work.

“Well, at least read the worksheets, girls!” he’d say, before quickly moving on to the boys, many of whom actually wanted  to learn these skills.

Me and Toni were thick as thieves in this class, looked forward to a class where nothing was required of us other than to show up. We sat together and clucked like hens, traded jewelry, braided each others hair, and even painted our nails (not full manicures, but we fixed the chipped ones) We did all of this as we sat, twirling around in our high, bar seats in the back. We were constantly snorting with laughter, pointing at and mocking classmates, and doing busy-work- such as dividing up our cigarettes to be ‘even’, or seeing who could blow the biggest bazooka bubble. As long as we kept it on the down-low, Mr. Gates didn’t mind.

The only time Mr. Gates actually asked us to do anything was when he needed worksheets. He would hand me and Toni an example of which sheet he wanted, tell us to count the students (“and by all means, count yourselves in, girls!”) and then have us fetch them from a small storage room, located behind a door in the back of the shop.

Inside there were metal shelves holding worksheets and boxes of  metal bolts and screws. Several old, green file cabinets, and a heavily blinded, dusty window added to the overall drabness of the room. The window looked out onto the side parking lot, across to the tennis courts that no one ever used. Toni and I would play with the string on the blinds, up and down, light, dark, light dark and look for signs of life outside (there was none). We’d then snoop in the file cabinets (old instruction manuals- nothing good) and eventually  count out the worksheets, bringing them to Mr. Gates.

“Can you please pass them out to everyone?” Mr. Gates would ask, obviously expecting us to do so, to which we’d roll our eyes (haven’t we done enough?!)-sigh, and reluctantly make a pass around the room, snapping gum and avoiding eye contact with anyone except maybe the cute boys. But for everyone else, we’d hold each sheet up with our thumb and forefinger, hovering over the workbench in front of a classmate, until letting it go mid-air, leaving said student to either catch it, block it or hunt under the table to where it whisked off the desk, floating for a moment before winging sharply to the ground. It’s times like these when I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass.

And The Cradle Will Rock

In The 60's on September 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

It all started when I was born the size of a three year old. It was the early sixties, and  I’m sure the fact that their first child, a baby girl, was listed at 22 inches and ten-pounds-four-ounces came as somewhat of a shock to my parents. My father promptly nicknamed me ‘Moose’, and lamented that my bulk would be so much better served had I been a boy, ensuring my future as a linebacker for the New York Giants, and his future of free football tickets. As it was, an over-sized female was not ideal, and certainly less than desirable, as my entire future would attest to. I was literally born needing adjustments in order to fit in.

My Dad was a six-foot-three ex-football player (high school and college) so my size was attributed to his side of the family. They were of hearty Lithuanian stock, straight off the boat, and (I’ve always assumed) sepia-toned. I’ve examined pictures of my ancestors-particularly the women, and rarely have I seen a more intimidating bunch. Wide-bodied, dressed in frumpy, dark dresses, babushkas on their heads, aprons tied at the waist and wielding rolling pins-these were not ladies to be messed with. Their facial expressions went one of only two ways: Grim and Grimmer. I don’t know the exactly what went on in Lithuania, but as a child, hearing my grandmother’s stories I had my theories. I imagined cobblestone streets, with sheep and chickens roaming free among the crowds, children in knickers, livestock, and mobs of dark cloaked adults.  I imagined my large and in charge ancestor women-folk stirring boiled potatoes in large iron pots, grabbing chickens off the street randomly (through the kitchen window! By the necks!) with arms the size of Christmas hams. Then, in one fluid motion, axing off said chicken heads on blood-stained, wood-block counters in dismal kitchens, under pictures of Jesus, the reluctant witness, who hung in several places on the kitchen walls sporting different poses (portrait, panoramic, nailed to cross)  I assumed their lives to be difficult and stark, and secretly thanked god (and Nanny’s mom) they had gotten on the boat! (I didn’t know what boat, but pictured it  tied by a rope to the Statue of Liberty. As for the grim expressions:  Even when I eventually learned it was common practice to command people not to smile in the days of early photography, I had a feeling these women didn’t need to be reminded. No smiles were on the docket for that, or any other day. How do you say ‘dodged a bullet’ in Lithuanian?

On the day I was born, my mother was given a puffy, fabric covered baby book- little lambs danced across the cover, frolicking over the pastel word ‘Baby!’, the exclamation point seemingly demanding an exciting story. Inside were spaces to fill in all moments ‘baby!- height, weight, first steps, first words. I’m sure my mother intended to fill out all of the entries as they happened, but she became pregnant again- six weeks later!-with my brother, an ‘Irish twin’ and flagrant interloper- whose existence I would never NOT know. Oh well! At least I had six weeks of ‘me-only’ attention- God knows I didn’t want to be greedy! (In fact, rumor had it, I was pretty self-involved during that month and a half- thinking nothing of crying for bottles in the middle of the night and too lazy to even use the bathroom!)

Anyway- the baby book remains practically empty to this day, save for little tidbits. For instance, the first sentence ever written about me by anyone, is in my mother’s lovely cursive under the ‘First Impressions’ category, where she earnestly wrote:  ‘She’s really isn’t as fat as the picture shows!’ Somehow- my mother had nailed my life’s underlying theme, after knowing me for less than 24 hours!


Depicted here: Me as a baby, completely floored that I’ve got critics before I’ve even left the hospital for home.

It was also height that  set me apart.  I was roughly the height of someone twice my age, and there was constant dialogue about this from family, friends, and especially strangers. ‘She’s how old?!’ a ‘friendly’ neighbor would squeal, upon running into my mother shopping at  Grand Union, while I sat in the back of the grocery cart, chewing on a rattle or babbling incoherently . I’d already outgrown the shopping cart’s front seat by eighteen months. (Which was a good thing, because Brother was sitting up there anyway, riding shotgun, and rarely looking back- the perfect metaphor for his life!)

“Whatever are you feeding her?!’ a Donna Reed wannabe would gush, white gloved hand to her rouged cheek in mock surprise and catty judgement. And then-predictably the jokes would swirl: cliches about Miracle Grow, Popeye’s spinach and Baby Huey-we’d heard them all. An original -and may I say-sassy!bunch of amateur stand-ups they were, so clever and original, as comedy gold sprang forth! Right there in aisle 3, by the Eight-O’ Clock coffee grinders at the Grand Union. I hear Jerry Seinfeld got his start in Produce but understood the risk going in.

My mother was used to the reaction and always defended me (because a girl must always be defended from the implication that she is not petite and dainty!) by saying, ‘Oh! She’s just tall’ but it got old, the same remarks over and over, and she later confessed that sometimes she would lie, and up my age to strangers. In fact, up until the end of middle school, the revelation of my age could always be counted on to cause a gasp, a squeal, a ‘You’ve gotta be kidding!’- a constant conversational ‘commotion’. It was a huge pain in the ass. And it was the fabric of my life….

‘This turkey feeds 8-10’

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