Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

‘The Gruff’

In The 60's on September 10, 2020 at 5:20 pm

One of the highlights of second grade was the annual school play. Everyone was in it (by law) but it was common knowledge that there were only a few lead roles that could make or break a reputation. I mean-let’s face it-in first grade, there really were no good parts or good actors. And the chorus was a wasteland of anonymity-you may as well be in the audience.

I knew that as a five-foot-tall second  grader, I had no chance of playing anything ‘princessy’ (unless the janitor, Mr. Mulligan, took the permanent toothpick  out of his mouth and decided to play prince!) I could not be any character whose name started with ‘little’ anything, say ‘little sister’ or ‘little baby’. So I really lucked out when it was revealed that our upcoming class play was to be ‘The Billy Goats Gruff’. This was a fairy tale about a family of goats trying to cross a bridge ‘owned’ by a cranky troll who went to great lengths to impede the goats from crossing said bridge by threatening and cajoling them. (An old timey take on the  modern day guards who work the booths in front of fancy gated neighborhoods and the burly bouncers outside of hip night clubs)

This play held two possible roles for me: The Nasty Troll, and the Big Billy Goat. Being only minimally- and wonderfully- unaffected by the whir of what a girl should be (dainty, silent, starving, taking up minimal space) I began to actively campaign for both parts.

Yelling like a pirate for no apparent reason-“Get Off Ye Swing!!” and then (gently) bucking a classmate off of said swing with the top of my head for good measure, helped spread the word. (I kid)

Alas,  I was beyond pissed when the roles were filled with (surprise! surprise!) two boys. Sickly Daniel Colston as Big Billy (a sympathy vote if I ever saw one) and -of all people!- Joe Miller as the Troll! I happened to be ‘going out’ with Joe Miller at the time (what did that mean? Climbing the jungle gym together? Not giving each other cooties?) Anyway- I was furious with Joe for taking the part, and refused to share my devil dogs with him at lunch. Joe didn’t even care that he had the part, at least from what I could tell during my impromptu and extensive interrogation:

Me: “So, what will you bring to the part?

Joe: “What?”

Me: Who will you channel?”

Joe: (squinting eyes) “What channel?”

Me: “Do you even know  who Lee Strasberg IS?”

Joe: “What?”

Fortunately, the next day, when I arrived at school, I was greeted with the most wonderful and unexpected news. Sickly Daniel Colston had taken ill again and had been admitted into the hospital in the middle of the night! I could barely contain my joy! I felt like God had been looking out for me, and had pulled a few strings, maybe even made a few calls.

“My acting career’s on Fi-ya!”

I wished  Daniel to recover and come back to school of course, but the day AFTER the play and not a minute sooner! I knew he would be fed endless bowls of ice-cream in the hospital (the rumors had been flying for years!) so there was no need for me to feel guilty- even if I’d had the capability.

To decide on Daniel’s replacement, the first grade teachers slid open the dividing wall between the two classes, and  explained to us in hushed tones about Daniel, and in louder, happier tones the fact that we would need a new lead. Miss Almond asked if anyone was interested in playing the part and many hands went up. None as enthusiastically as me and Chad Reed’s though. Chad was even taller than me, and quite a bit heavier. He had the rarely sought after ‘male-pear’ shape, and had stayed back a year. I decided to throw out the race card of the day.

“Why does it always have to be a BOY?” I boldly yelled to Miss Almond and Mr. Speck. A hush came over the two rooms. Women’s Lib was becoming a huge issue in the late 1960’s, and political correctness was knocking at the door…..

The two teachers looked alarmed, approached each other, and went directly into conference mode. Mr. Speck cupped his hand over his neatly bearded mouth as he murmured, and Miss Almond raised the plastic bound script she held in her hand in front of her lower face, like an NFL coach calling a play on the sidelines. They conspired with each other, their eyes darting from Chad to me and back again. After what seemed like a long time -an entire episode of  ‘Courageous Cat’ could have played (and we wouldn’t have objected, had it!) and having been hit three times in the back of the head (two paper clips and an eraser) by obvious ‘Reed’ supporters, I was relieved when Miss Almond finally cleared her throat and approached the middle of the two rooms.

“Children- after much discussion. Mr. Speck and I have decided to go in a different direction this time. (A loud “boo!” was heard from the back of the room) “We have chosen Lisa Cee to play our first female Big Billy!!” This was met with lots of clapping, and more deep throated boos from the back, where Chad and his minions sat. I was usually seated back there with them, picking up tips on how to defend myself from my two brothers with simple household items like rubber bands and paper-clips, but I had purposely worked my way up front and center for the ‘BGG’ casting call.

Margaret (l) and Robby (r) thrilled to hear me brag about my roles.

I knew that beating Chad Reed to play a big-ass goat was a definite sign that I would be soon fighting for roles against Hollywood heavy-hitters such like Kathy Bates and Liz Taylor for the rest of my life. I also knew I’d be ‘discovered’ during this production, so I was of the ‘any press is good press’ school of thought, and I was elated to be starring in this Naramake Elementary off-off-off Broadway production.

I didn’t flaunt my win over Chad Reed too, too much, but I was no fool. I immediately began to call the play ‘The Gruff’, ratcheting up it’s cool factor. (Though some might argue it sounded a little like a musical starring Wilford Brimley) My character’s proper name was BIG Billy Goat, whom I referred to as “Biggie’- long before that Smalls guy took his first hit of crack in kindergarten. I started signing my schoolwork “All The Best From Broadway-LC” and began scouting the local Sears and Bradlees for possible head-shot photographers. I was no dummy.

I took the role seriously. Every day after school, I’d wander through my neighborhood, seeking out steep hills and stone walls, and once found, I’d climb them on my tippy-toes. I started shaving the tip of my chin with my Dad’s Remington, praying for a goat-like soul patch to sprout (it did, but not until 2012, when it was far less welcomed…) I wore pig-tails high on my head, and insisted everyone call them ‘horns’….I attempted to chew on Chicken-Noodle soup cans, but couldn’t get my mouth to open wide enough, which might surprise several of my future ex-boyfriends.

I took to calling my Dad ‘Baaaaaa-b!’ (his name was ‘Bob’) and was accused of being a ‘smart aleck’, but he was more riled up was when I tore the sports section of the Norwalk Hour into long strips and tried to ingest it. Luckily, he caught me before I’d rendered the Mets-Dodgers score from the night before unintelligible. When I tied two Spaghettio’s cans to the end of a string and tried to wear them to school as a necklace, my mother threatened to have my role terminated, and that’s when I finally picked up the script.

There wasn’t a lot there. Some braying, some huffing, kicking around some invisible dirt with my ‘hooves’ and having words with an ornery Troll (and really, is there any other kind?)

From what I could gather, all my character wanted to do, in this case, was cross this dude’s bridge! The story itself was exasperating to me, and I wondered which crappy sitcom writers were behind it. I mean-if it bothers this Troll soooo much that we’re crossing his bridge (and I’d like to check with Parks and Rec. about that!) -install a tollbooth (‘Troll booth?’) I’ll gladly pay! Better than all of this back-and-forth with each member of my family! The baby, for instance is practically a carry-on for God’s sake! Couldn’t we just have ONE BIG FIGHT and let the whole family cross as a group? I mean- why negotiate each member of my family separately? Do I have ALL day? I think not! And what about the trip back? I’m already dreading it! Although it did ready me for modern day air-travel, the story itself was maddening. I wanted to exclaim: “You MADE me lose my temper, Mister!’ (blatant entrapment!) but I had to stay within the shackles of my pre-written lines.

One of the biggest problems for me was the fact that my ‘boyfriend -Joe Miller-was playing the nasty Troll. This meant that a)I had to yell at him as if we were married, and he hadn’t even disappointed me yet, and b) I had to ‘buck’ him off the bridge at the end of the play. Even then I knew how to play the game, that feats of strength would only be congratulated when used by boys and men, and that shoving him too hard off of that bridge could threaten the balance of whatever being a boyfriend and girlfriend in second grade actually was, which although we didn’t know, we seemed to enjoy.

I was criticized for being ‘too soft’ on Joe during the rehearsals. Miss Almond, the play’s director was a hard-ass, and she loved to bust rocks! Shorter than me, weighing 90 pounds soaking wet, and sporting a brunette pageboy, Miss Almond appeared to be a gentle, soft-spoken woman who looked like an airline stewardess in a print ad. But put a script in her hand and her inner General Patton terrorized the first-grade acting community.

“Stand Here! Stand there! Get your hand out of your pants! Read verbatim!” Verbatim? Hey, Lady-I’m barely finished with ‘Dick and Jane’ and this show’s about to go into production! This Verbatim book is gonna have to wait. It’s like she thought we were machines!

I tried to get Joe to emote. I had hoped that while I barely tapped him, he would pick up on the cue to exaggerate the hit like an NBA player trying to force a foul, but this was way too complicated for him. He had the range of a bloated, middle-aged Steven Seagal, and he moved just as fluidly. We had to repeat the scene over and over again (and remember, my head was awfully close to his ass for much of the storyline, so don’t even get me started on the logistics) There was no sympathy to be had though, as we were under the Almond Regime.

I kept telling Joe, as we sipped milk out of our waxy red-and-white Borden’s mini-milk container (two straws, one love) at lunch ,”You hafta help me with the shoving part! I don’t want to hurt you, so please don’t make me hafta!”

Joe just stared blankly over my shoulder, like a cat peeing in a litter box, while sucking the milk dry-the kazoo-like call of only bubbles left on the bottom giving me an immediate headache as it echoed through the cafeteria.

“Listen!” I said, firmly banging my fist on the sticky, laminate table top, hard-but not hard enough to draw attention from the lunchroom chaperones:

“I’m going to the Book Fair for a few minutes” (read: an hour)

“We have ONE (I held one finger)-just ONE day till the play! YOU-NEED-TO-GET-PULL YOURSELF-TOGETHER!”

With that, and my finger jabbing towards his nose- I turned and sashayed away, purposely displaying my now perfect goat-gait, leaving Joe to empty our plastic lunch trays into the nearest available receptacle.

The opening night of the play finally arrived, and the gymnasium was filled to capacity with mothers and fathers, babies, grandparents, and of course, professional talent scouts and famous movie directors. I heard the crowd as I sat on a beat-up bar stool backstage, having toxic Halloween make-up applied to my face by Mrs. Maroney, the music teacher- who,  for some reason, seemed to think goats had cat whiskers. The ‘costume’ I wore consisted of an altered bed-sheet, stretchy pants and the creme-de-la-crap: aluminum foil horns! Really? I suspected the jokers in the ‘Lost In Space’ props department had donated these frocks. (Next thing you know we’ll be suspending a just-popped jiffy-pop container from the ceiling with fishing wire, and calling it ‘space exploration!) Do we have no budget at all,  people?!

Once in my ‘stage clothes’, I paced back and forth in the backstage area, chain ‘smoking’ candy cigarettes, swallowing handfuls of Chocks and throwing back shots of Tang. When the lights went down, and the play began, I got woozy with nerves. I watched nervously from the side as my fellow cast-mates took the stage. I couldn’t help but be critical. Scott Rudner blew his introduction paragraph , and just as I had feared, it took Sally Bantam eleven and-a-half minutes to read two paragraphs. I heard babies crying in the audience and was instantly horrified. Who would bring a baby to this? Do you take him to the movies as well? Babysitters  are a dime-a-dozen, but there will always be that family-loaded up with excuses and bothering everyone with their little ‘sweetheart’ who will not shut-up. It’s criminal. (Just where is Patti Lupone when you need her?)

I waited patiently as all of the bit actors got their moment in the spotlight. Joe was onstage practically the entire time, and I was already planning to ignore him for a few days, just to prevent his head from getting too big. I’d be leaving him regardless, once I set off to Hollywood (I’d wait till the end of June, tying up my second grade education  and picking out a proper ‘on-set’ tutor for the future) But until then, in my mind, Joe and I would continue to reign as the Brangelina of the back row of Room 2B.

Onstage, Jeff wore what looked like a leftover St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun get-up, with a cheesy neon- green beard and mustache combo that looked an awful lot like fiberglass insulation. It both itched (he couldn’t stop scratching)  and smelled like stale beer. His ‘acting’ was stiff, but he knew most of his lines. Pretty difficult (wink! wink!) when they were such complicated fare as: “Grrrrrrrrr!” and the ever-challenging ‘Get Off My Bridge!!”

I would never have admitted it to any of these sniveling second-graders, but I remained nervous. I paced back and forth, and kept checking my Snoopy watch to see where we were at time-wise. Sally’s lack of reading skills had really thrown everything off, and with my math skills still at a second grade level (much as they are to this day), it was difficult to make adjustments. I felt like my entrance would be called willy-nilly so I could not prepare.

Miss Almond stood directly across from me, on the other side of the stage. She wore a simple birds egg blue shell, with a rhinestone brooch and tasteful cream pumps, but I knew better than to be lulled into thinking she had softened. I noticed she seemed to be searching for something, which I assumed was a shepherd’s hook with which to remove me from the stage should I decide to ad-lib. (The irony of the shepherd’s hook was not lost on me!)

Suddenly, I was thrust into the limelight! Mrs. Maroney hustled me along, pushing me firmly by the small of my back (way to treat the talent, lady!) and I found myself out on the stage, bathed in the red, green and blue spotlights. I looked out onto the vast sea of parents and children, when suddenly it occurred to me, as if by magic-there really was no reason to even be nervous! I was the one on stage, I was the one with the future, I WAS ALL ABOUT EVE!! (and not the old one, but the one who took the old broad’s fame away!) Most of these people watching me had missed the brass ring, and now they were saddled with whiny kids and wood paneled station wagons, but I- I was going to show them all!  Sure, I was standing on a gymnasium stage, wearing a cut up sheet and Reynold’s Wrap, but my acting would transcend all of that. I began to confidently belt out my lines to the audience of losers and has-beens.

It  went swimmingly. I was completely caught up in my role, hamming it up to the gills. Before I knew it, I had only one more task, and that was to buck my boyfriend off the bridge. I don’t know what came over me, but in all of the excitement, and with my adrenaline soaring, I decided to really charge this annoying Troll/boyfriend combo. I huffed and I puffed, and I went at him with such force that he was thrown clear across to the other side of the stage, out of the audience’s site.

A palpable ‘Huuuuuuh’ rose from the crowd, which then went sickly silent. (I briefly considered what kind of liability insurance my father might carry)-until thirty seconds later when Joe magically reappeared, knot beginning to sprout on his forehead, his hair disheveled, fist pumping like a champion boxer after a hard won match and the crowd roared. Whistles and applause-even a standing ovation ensued.

It was a s if he had done something! I’m the one who punched up the finale! I hoped he didn’t think he was riding my coat-tails to stardom anytime after this moment, but I was uncharacteristically willing to let him bask with me in the moment. Give him a taste- and a little something to tell the grandkids, courtesy of moi!

Soon after, General Almond herded us to center stage, adjusting horns, straightening tails and slicking back cowlicks with her saliva covered fingers. She began literally pushing and pulling us into position for the final number. Each time she corralled me to the back (“You’re so tall, dear! Talls in the back!”) I would simply leave and position myself again,  front and center. After the third or fourth time I did this, she barked her command at me like a dog:  ‘STAY LISA! STAY!!’ and rather than continue this petty battle, I obeyed- but made a mental note to invite, and then secretly ‘UN-invite’ her to my red carpet premiere. Let’s see her get past THAT security!

Using a ruler as a makeshift maestro’s baton, Miss Almond cued up the closing number. We all sang:

‘On a Bluff, On a Bluff

There Lived three Billy Goats Gruff

Little Billy Goat, Middle Billy Goat

(insert me here, yelling this next line out with gusto, thumbs pointed at myself:)


It was a night to remember my friends. And though I wasn’t approached by a single Hollywood agent that night, I knew it was a just a matter of time and I set my sights on our next play, ‘Goldilocks and The Three Bears’ I would definitely canvas for the Father Bear role, and play it to the hilt just by observing my own burley dad in his natural, suburban habitat. aptly called The Den. The future looked bright and Hollywood, I was sure- was waiting with open arms!

The Woods: Part 2

In The 70's on August 23, 2020 at 12:46 pm

While I had nodded off, the toe bled out a little more, depositing even more gruesome stains on the baby blue towel Michael had put over the bedspread.  It looked like the drop-cloth from a crime scene,   My mother, of course, was freaking out. Before I was fully awake, she reached over to try and touch my foot, and I jumped sky high, scaring me and her equally.

DON’T TOUCH IT!” I screamed. Halfway  across the room at this point, she put her hand over her heart, her mouth open in a little ‘o’. 

“Well, for crying out loud! How am I supposed to help you if I can’t see what’s going on?” she said, offended.

“What’s going on is that my toenail is cracked in half, and I don’t even think I can walk! I’m crippled!” I retorted.

“How did it happen?” she asked. She squinted her eyes down, and looked at me in what I felt was a suspicious manner.

“I was running and I fell” I answered.

“Running?” she asked, incredulously “Since when are you running?”

“I RUN!” I said, “I run a lot!” 

I can run!

“Oh, pssht!” she said, nodding her head back and forth, and throwing her hand as though swatting a fly “Walk: Yes! Ride your bike? Yes! Get in cars you’re not supposed to? Yes. But run?”

I felt defensive and insulted. Because she was right. Running was not on my agenda, and I wouldn’t do it in public except when required. Like in gym, or if the house was on fire, or if Joe Perry was at the end of the street. Oh-and also if I thought the cops were  invading our secret hang-out while pot was being smoked. 

“Well!…..I guess I won’t be running anymore, anyway- now that I’m ruined!” I said, dejectedly.

My mom rolled her eyes, shook her head and said unsteadily- “Oh, for heaven’s sake- you’re not ruined!” but when she looked in the general direction of my foot she added, “I don’t think!”

I gasped. She sighed.

“Let me go get my glasses!” she said, sounding put out and I understood she meant her regular reading glasses, not the Jackie O’s she was now grasping in her hand. I also knew she was more worried than she was letting on.

“OK… I guess” I said, dejectedly. Now that mom was here I could be as pathetic as I wanted to, and use the sympathy I was going to get to my own advantage. Even so, looking down at my battered toe, I knew I’d  be paying a disproportionately high price for a little extra attention.

“Can you flick  my stereo on, please?” I asked, pouting. She pushed the power button, and my Realistic’s dash lit up in green and gold. ‘Fooled around and Fell In Love’ was playing. It struck me that I’d fooled around and fell on a log. My mom left to find her glasses.

When she came back into my room, she began adjusting her readers forcefully, really jamming them up against her eyes.

“Ok, now!” she said, approaching the bed “Hold still and let me look. I won’t touch it.” She slowly leaned over, hovering above my foot. She cleared her throat, glanced at me, then  bent further down. I was wide eyed and ready to spring at the slightest touch. Within a split second (and as predicted) things went haywire. My mother’s reading glasses skied down her nose, then swooped down dead man’s drop, heading straight for my toe. Luckily, because of my inborn mistrust of people in general, I had expected some sort of disaster, and was poised to abort the mission. My leg snapped back with the velocity of a mousetrap. The reading glasses landed with a thud, where my toe had just been.

“That’s it! Nope! Not doing this!” I yelled, my leg pressed up against my wall, jazz hands flailing, blocking my mother’s access.

She knew she was wrong, but after she swept up her glasses and tsk, tsked, she folded her arms across her chest, rolling her tongue against her cheek, and tapping her foot against the floor. Like had committed the dangerous faux-pas!

My Mom really needed to work on her game face!

“This isn’t very funny, young lady!’ she admonished “You’re making me a nervous wreck! Now let me look at the damn thing!”

“Funny? Who the heck’s laughing? You almost killed me” I screeched “Please just leave me alone! Do it later!”

“Let me look without my glasses. Then I’ll leave”

The ‘thinking cap’ music from jeopardy played, while I squinted my eyes down and considered the risk. I knew I’d be nagged to death until I showed her. That would almost be as brutal as the injury.

 ” ALRIGHT. But hurry uuuuup?!” I moaned. 

I offered up my leg gingerly. She got up close and personal. Her hand went up over her mouth, and the color drained from her face. She looked away quickly. 

“Come on. Get in the car. We’re going to the Emergency Room” she said, and I hated how serious she sounded. Maybe I really was going to become disabled, or lose my toe! I actually felt scared.

Magazines: Young, Old, Single, Married, Cat, Dog, …You Name It: We’ll Name Your Poison!! (Part1: Women’s Mags)

In Books, Should I Even Be Talking About This? on June 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

How do I get so many magazines? Almost every day a new one comes in, and old ones go out- there isn’t enough time in the day-and anyway, I’d rather  read books.  However- since print media is so desperate as it’s being muscled out by the internet- I’m getting these magazines for free. There are recycling sites that offer magazines as rewards (ah- the irony!) and ‘Get a free year of Magazine X’  offers are all over said internet. There is a subscription to Maxim that has been coming into my house for ten years, that I’ve never paid for once (nor would I!)  More, Cosmo, Seventeen and Nylon that can’t stop, won’t stop- despite the fact that no wealthy, leaner’s in, single women, Beleibers or hipsters live here. So- at the end of each week, my yellow recycling bin is full. There’s a flurry of contradicting messages in that bin- let me tell you!


COSMOPOLITAN: Definitely one of the most sex-oriented of all of the women’s mags, it’s typical for a lot of women  to go through a Cosmo phase, often when under-25 years old. Although Cosmo claims to speak for the independent (rah!-rah!) working woman, it is uber-focused on trying to teach a woman how to ‘trick’ a man into loving her by perfecting a panther-like sexuality. Cosmo deals in the myth of ‘Good In Bed’ and mind-blowing, naughty sex. But what is ‘Good In Bed’ really? Does it even exist?  Don’t we  all suspect that there is no such thing as a magic position, and that ‘good in bed’ just means you’re having sex with someone you’re really attracted and they, in turn, feel the same way? 

Perhaps even the spikiest heels, the sheerest lingerie, the wettest lip-gloss will never win you the affections of a man who’s ‘just not that into you.’ Almost any women can get a guy into bed- the only ‘trick’ is having the opposite set of sex organs- but not all sex leads to a relationship or love. In fact, most don’t. We can argue forever over whether or not all women actually want love (it’s insulting, somehow to admit this-even though entire civilizations have been felled because of love) but I’ve yet to hear anyone in a good relationship curse their luck. Cosmo’s message seems to be: Work Real Hard At Your Office Job Until You Can Meet A Man You Can Trick  Into A Commitment’ Then they hand it off to the wedding industry.  It can never just be two people leveling with each other and not playing games. That, my friend, would be cray!

ALLURE, VOGUE: Vogue Magazine was once called the ‘Ground Zero’ for eating disorders, and I couldn’t agree more. But it’s not just that- it’s also very into Exclusion. Featuring ridiculous clothes no one can afford (though they love to imply that many people can) Vogue acts as the school bully of magazine land.  They bank on the fact that if –by some chance-you have access to anything vaguely (‘Voguely?’) approved by them, that you will be so flattered to make the cut, that you’ll forget what an asshole the bully is in the first place. ALLURE is basically the same magazine but for younger women who are in the market for LOTS of Botox and surgical beauty procedures.  The magazine tends to nit-pick their flaws until they cry. ( Allure will also often publish How-To articles on the latest insane way to lose weight (usually an eating disorder), under the guise of a ‘Warning!’ Readers often interpret this as an instruction manual. Wink, wink!

*TEEN Vogue, however…..is very good and politically aware.

Many Models keep their weight down by  actually walking around Naked with the Food Police.

Many Models keep their weight down by actually walking around Naked with the Food Police.

MORE: This magazine is for the older woman, but not just any older woman. If you are not at least borderline rich, do not pick up this magazine! MORE will insist that getting older is fine- as long as you  have fat stacks to spend on aging prevention. Botox, fillers, plastic surgery- it’s all on the table. The clothes and make-up are astronomically priced, and they begin almost every article about the mostly famous women they feature by writing some offhand wisecrack about how older women are not required to do cheesecake photos anymore (‘Oh, what a relief!’)-and then they proceed to show elegant, airbrushed photographs of middle-aged women doing cheesecake photos.

Women who look sort-of like twenty-five  year olds– but with something (we’re not sure what) a little ‘off’. They love to put a ‘stocking over the lens’ so to speak. They publish articles like ‘How Not To Be Old’ (don’t leave answering machine messages or visit Tuscany!) and feature twenty-somethings who tell the elders what bands, books and shows to pretend to like in order to be perceived as ‘hip’. (But if you’re NOT hip -how do you know what is? These twenty-somethings could be complete twits and you’ll be mimicking them! How embarrassing!) Every ad is for face cream, salads or cat food (the last one in case things don’t work out stellar for you) Although  the glossy celebs featured all insist they are thrilled to be aging (‘I can’t wait to be 65! they gush at 54), they spend millis on kick-boxing mother Nature through Expensive Gimmickry and Weird Science. I assume their readers see themselves in these airbrushed celebs and secretly think: Everyone else is going to age, but I’ll outsmart it!

The one thing all of these magazines have in common is that they are all dependent on your insecurity and willingness to spend money. No matter who you are, as a woman- YOU CAN ALWAYS BE BETTER!!  If you work out three times a week- you should do five, if you eat 1500 calories a day, cut it back 300 more, if you grow your hair, you should cut it- everything you do shifts slightly and constantly- so you can’t possibly keep up. The plates you’re spinning fall and shatter at an alarming rate!  And the only solution to any of your life’s problems as a woman (as we all know) is to look and dress better and the only way that can be achieved is by opening up your wallet to the very advertisers that pay for said magazine’s very existence. Which- call me crazy- but seems like a conflict of interest. But here’s the thing: the success of any of these advertisers depends completely on your buying into this stuff in the first place. A plastic surgeon can’t stay in business without customers. Designer clothes can’t sell unless someone buys them. Your happiness cannot be measured by the stacks (or lack thereof) in your wallet!



In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, The 60's on August 23, 2013 at 12:15 am




Me and Rob. I just won the tug of war for that book.

Me and Rob. I just won the tug of war for that book. And yeah- my hairstyle-it’s the ‘Eunice Higgins’



                       THE LADYBUG: PART ONE


    It was a Sunday. The sun shone brightly through the sparkling clean bay window, adorned in olive- green curtains with ruffles and matching cotton ball trim. The couch upholstery (presidential heads, covered wagons and old coins) was fluffed and pristine, the braided rugs freshly vacuumed, the coffee table lemon-Pledged.

My mother, Mary Jayne, worked the kitchen, replete in her cherry print apron, making h’orderves for the company that was set to arrive at any moment. The smell of vanilla and apple wafted from the oven. My brothers and I were in the Blue room (our den, named after it’s freshly painted sky-blue walls) watching ‘Casper: The Friendly Ghost’ (who I completely identified with as he struggled to fit in, but also envied because he could fly away at will and was barely visible…diaphanous in his ‘otherness.)

 My parents were having friends over on this crisp New England day in early May. Though it was still chilly outside, my father was determined to barbecue on his round charcoal grill, which he wheeled out from the cellar, cleaned thoroughly, then hoisted (along with a bag of Kingsford lump charcoal, and a can of lighter fluid) into the back yard.

  My mother filled the dining room table with platters of food- antipasto salad, deviled eggs, hard rolls, and two Lazy Susans-one with condiments: ketchup, mustard, relish and horseradish sauce- the other with finger-foods- black olives, green olives, baby gherkins, roasted red peppers. She’d also baked a ham, spackling it with brown sugar and pinning pineapple rings and cherries to it like badges. There was potato and macaroni salad in rooster adorned glass serving bowls and a vat of Boston Baked beans in a heavy, brown earthenware jug. I could always recognize a cooking-for-company frenzy by looking at mom’s two-tier wooden spice rack, the big gaps between the jars where multiple spices had been called to duty.   

  My Dad set up the drop-leaf rolling hostess cart with all kinds of liquors and mixes. There was a shiny silver ice bucket with tongs,  and a silver slotted plate with wedges of lemon, limes, maraschino cherries and cocktail onions. There were all of the fixings needed for Whisky Sours, Tom Collins and Martinis. He also filled a big white fishing cooler with beer (Rheingold, Ballentine, Schaefer) and ice. Waiting in the fridge was a colossal tray of hamburger patties, shaped and ready to go on the grill, along with links of kielbasa plus hot dogs for the kids. There was also a massive four pound steak, marbled with fat, a big bone running through its side that my father beamed at with loving eyes. 

    I was in dress clothes against my will.  A long sleeved white cotton shirt with a red Winnie-the-Pooh insignia on it’s turtleneck, red corduroy pants, white socks and black Mary-Jane style shoes, a black leather rose on each strap. (I was very impressed that my mother had a style of shoe named after her, but I wasn’t surprised. She was a very good walker!)  

My hair was painstakingly brushed (tangles ripped out in a hurry by mom as I wailed)- and held up by cherry-colored butterfly barrettes on either side of my face.  My two younger brothers had been scrubbed and shellacked within an inch of their lives as well, and were not very happy in their Ban-Lon shirts and dress slacks, cowlicks wet down, hair combed back. Not to mention the stiff, brown dress shoes they wore with the grace of tennis racket-shaped snowshoes, their slippery black laces constantly untying.

  Rob, who was five at the time, couldn’t wait to shed these clunkers for his faithful P.F. Flyers and sulked about the humanity of being forced to wear the stiff shoes. David, who was three, was far more honest with his feelings, and repeatedly pulled his off, hiding them under the couch cushions, then sitting atop them to further the ruse. 

   The visitors began arriving shortly after noon.  Some were familiar- neighbors from Muffin Lane, along with my dad’s work associates from his Insurance Company and relatives -including both Nannys (each bearing one beautifully frosted cake, and apple cake, respectively)

  My brothers and I were introduced to all of the unfamiliar adults and did our part being polite, putting on our ‘such good kids’ show in the living room, even though we were struggling with each other like the Three Stooges in the Blue Room. Pinching, slapping and wrestling over  jacks, super-balls and the tv guide, stopping abruptly at the hint of any bystanders. Eventually Robby’s friends, Johnny and Kevin showed up, and the boys went outside to watch Kevin’s older brother pop some caps and hopefully  ‘find some snakes’

    The company spread throughout the living and dining rooms, drinks and cigarettes in hand, the murmur of chit-chat cresting and falling, punctuated by squeals of laughter. About an hour in, while Frank Sinatra sang about a very good year, the front screen door opened with a screech, and in walked a girl about my age who was everything I was not.

   Her name was Melody, and she took my breath away. She had long, silky, white- blond hair that fell almost to her waist and big blue eyes, like puddles of turquoise. Her nose was small and upturned, her lips bowed. She wore a sky-blue velveteen dress, with long white puffy sleeves, lace ruffles and coordinating ribbon stitched into the wrist and bib, along with white frilly socks, and patent leather Mary Janes.

Her skin was golden, like she’d been kissed by the sun just so. When she smiled, I noted perfectly straight, white Chicklets, and cute dimples. Naturally, she was petite, like a fairy princess who slept in a walnut shell, using a flower petal as a blanket. To ratchet up the envy I was already feeling,  she was carrying a blue Kiddle Kase, swinging it from it’s white strap. 



   It wasn’t just me that was taken with her. It seemed like the whole room erupted in ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and the words ‘beautiful’, ‘doll’ and ‘precious’ were volleyed across the adoring crowd. I had only gotten a lukewarm response from all of them I now realized. Melody looked down as she was being fawned over- flattered, but obviously used to it, batting her eyes like Bambi and feigning shy. To me, the only thing missing from the reception was the offering of a sash and a crown.

  Melody was the daughter of one of my father’s business associates and it  didn’t take long before my father was fawning over her, too- congratulating her parents on such a beauty, complimenting her dress, curious about her Kiddle Kase and what was in it. (Never once had he asked me about my Kiddles or any ensemble I wore)

   If only I’d been born looking like her, I thought. How happy my father would be! There’s be no more ‘moo’s’, no more mean limericks, everyone would like me -my life would be perfect! 

  Could it be that this girl was the daughter my Dad had wanted instead of me? All of my dolls, all of the girls in my storybooks were pretty. Only the mean ones were imperfect. It reached beyond my family, beyond Muffin Lane and across the world. If life was a deck of cards, beauty was an ace. I wasn’t even a picture card.

  After several minutes the crowd reluctantly dispersed from around Melody. People did need to refill their drinks after all. Her father let her down  and she continued to be complimented, her head stroked here and there as she worked the room like a golden retriever. In truth, she didn’t really ‘work’ anything. All she did was walk by and exist. People were just drawn to her.  

  Meanwhile, my father had a grill to attend to, and in turn, men with open beers followed him out of the room like he was the pied piper leading them to the promised land.

  My curiosity got the best of me, and I approached Melody, asking to see her Kiddles. She sweetly agreed, and we sat at the bottom step of the stairs, where she struggled a bit to open the case. The zipper was caught, but after a good yank, it burst open. Kiddles sprung out,  falling onto the steps and the floor, where I quickly jumped to collect them. She had five- all good ones: Liddle Diddle, Greta Griddle, Bunson Bernie, Lola Liddle and Calamity Jane. They all looked new. But Melody didn’t seem concerned with the dolls, she was too busy petting a metal Lady-Bug, winding it up by spinning its wheels backwards, then placing it on the floor, where it flew into the living room, sparks flying. Melody giggled and chased behind it.

“This is Lu-Lu!” Melody announced when she got back, holding ‘Lu-Lu’ within inches of my eyes. I was busy admiring her Liddle  Kiddles, but  placated her by saying “Hi Lu-Lu!”in a monotone voice.

  This cracked Melody up a lot more than it should have. She stood up and again put the bug on the wood floor near the front door, aimed it towards the living room, and rolled it several times backwards with all of her might.

  She let it go, and Lu-Lu whizzed and sparked, careening into the living room, right through a set of panty-hosed ankles and pumps, and straight ahead where it hit the edge of the braided rug, flipped into air and rolled like a car in a cop show.

  Mrs. Phillips- whose legs had almost been clipped, jerked her head around to see who the culprit was, an annoyed look on her face. It also caught the attention of  my mother, who was standing by and looked at me  sternly.  But when  Melody scrambled over to pick up LuLu, she was being ‘oohed’ and ‘aaah’d again, Mrs. Phillips stroking her blond hair. 

“What have you got there?” she asked, sounding completely enthralled, and taking another puff off of her cigarette “Can I see it?!”

  Of course, Melody was only too happy to show off her bug, and soon a small crowd was again focused on the little girl with the sugar-spun hair. My mother made a pass by the stairs, where I sat with Melody’s Liddle Kiddles, examining them for flaws, of which there were none. Mom looked especially pretty in her light yellow pastel shell, a single strand of pearls, white pumps and for the first time all weekend- no apron. Her dark blonde hair was in a bun, her pretty face complimented by the style.

“You’d better be behaving yourself, missy!” she said.

  I squinted my eyes at her, scrunching up my face. What the heck did I do? Was it possible that Melody could break the rules and get me in trouble? Evidently it was: She ran Lu-Lu all over the house, and rather than getting reprimanded, everyone was delighted.

  Mrs. Jenkins, who lived on Sunlit Drive and sometimes yelled at kids to get off her lawn and away from her precious petunia beds, almost tripped on Lu-Lu as she navigated the living room. I saw her startle,  the familiar dark clouds moving across her eyes, and expected Melody would get her just do. Mrs. Jenkins could yell almost as good as my dad. But moments later-miraculously- Mrs. Jenkins was hugging Melody, and petting Lu-Lu.

   When she came back by the staircase I asked Melody if she wanted to go play in my room, but she said no, completely uninterested. I  was insulted. I told her I had 16 Barbies and a real Christmas manger hidden under my vanity (my mom would kill me if she knew, but the family crawlspace was through a door in my room, and stuffed to the brim with holiday fare. Last week I’d made several of my Barbies sparkly boas with silver garland for their imaginary trip to Las Vegas)

  I asked again a few minutes later and Melody still said no. I couldn’t admit to myself that even if she’d said yes, I was probably going to stick her with Tressy, and the old Barbie whose hair I’d cut with safety scissors, the one who had a wire coming out of her wrist inside a circle of green mold. 

Trust me-my Tressy could only aspire to look as nice as this one!

   It was right around this time that Melody’s mother insisted that Melody ‘eat a little something’. Of course, Melody was the kind of child who didn’t like to eat and had to be monitored lest she starve herself-perhaps wasting away on a tiny tufted satin fainting couch.

  A few minutes later,  my father had brought in a platter of hot-dogs for the kids, and we all gathered around, grabbing for them hungrily. Melody didn’t want hers, even after my father mentioned he cooked it ‘special’ for her. I checked mine to be sure it hadn’t fallen off the grill,  rolled in the grass or been nibbled on by a squirrel.  Because, obviously mine wasn’t cooked ‘special’.

You Can Do It, Honey!

You Can Do It, Honey!

   A few ladies lured Melody to eat with a tiny plate of choices:  two  olives on tiny plastic swords, a saltine, a petite orange melon ball and some left-over garnish. A crowd gathered around the dining room table to watch.

  It was an eating play-off of sorts between the plate and Melody. I decided to go get some tutti-fruity ginger-ale from the kitchen, and cut through the hall in order to avoid the clusters of company sitting and standing by, coaxing Melody, poor thing, to eat.

  That’s when I spotted her. Lu-Lu. Sitting by herself in the corner at the end of the hall.  Lifeless and unsupervised. Vulnerable. I looked behind me, and seeing no one in the hall, I approached the black-dotted  bug. I reached down and picked her up with what I thought was the intention of returning her to  Melody. I heard the phrase “what a good girl you are,  Melody!”and a spattering of claps (no one clapped when I ate an olive! Heck- I could eat like seven of those bad boys!) And just like that I put Lu-Lu face down in my front pocket and felt as she dropped down  to the bottom, out of sight.



Name Your Poison! ‘Mommy Magazines’

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on June 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Ah, the Mommy magazine! The  cover cries out to motherly women in checkout lines everywhere: Lose Weight! (this, always- must be first….) After they’ve fat-shamed you, it’s time to Save Money! (on all of the overpriced  things they’re going to try to sell you) and- here’s some New Recipes, because for cryin’ out loud don’t you need to get in the kitchen and make someone a sandwich or something?!

These magazines are the mini-vans of the magazine community. To read any one of their covers is to wonder what ever happened to the good old days when your life was kick-ass and exciting! Sure, they try and reassure you that your life is still pretty rad (‘How To Get Your Hubby’s Attention!’)- but come on-when you’re reading ‘Secret Ways To Save On Your Car Insurance’ and taking notes, you understand it’s pretty much over for you. Being a mother is great, but the very act of giving birth demotes you from being the star of the show, to something more like the key-grip. From Queen Bee to worker bee. From Batman to Robin, and within a few years, I’m guessing- Alfred.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING: The Matron Saint of all mommy magazines, GH is very much like Buster Bluth in that it has very important ties with a seal because the products in  the magazine are anointed by the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Approval. This is an honor- like the seat next to Johnny Carson for comedians. (It’s pretty impressive:  any product which earns the seal and becomes defective will be replaced by the magazine . I wonder how much money I’ve lost over the years by not ever remembering  this guarantee when something broke. Maybe some of that stuff had the seal! I never checked! Who thinks of it? )

...and the Good Housekeeping Seal!

…and the Good Housekeeping Seal!

In all of these ‘mommy’ mags, the editor has the not-so-easy job of writing the ‘greetings’ letter to all of the readers, while tying in the month, weather, fashion trends and products they are pushing… then back-handedly bragging about her own humble husband, kids, pets, and antidotes. (I imagine that being an editor is a bitch of a job-deadlines, deadlines, sales, sales  and these days, throw in the death of print media. I always imagine these women going ballistic all over everyone, except for that one second when they pose for the ‘l’m so together’ monthly editor photo, looking calm and collected,  as if they’re flying on the butterfly wings of sweet Levitra…)

Example: July 2013 editor, Rosemary Ellis  describes summer like this: “It’s as if a 3 -year-old has filled the world with colors from the Crayola six-pack!’ but  I sense that underneath the baby-blues, she might slice me if she were to lay eyes on these words, or maybe if she was just given the opportunity in general. You don’t get to be Editor-in-Chief of a National Magazine by being a pushover ( and besides, it’s an 8 pack of Crayola’s. Six-packs are for beer) Don’t hurt me, Rose!

Good Housekeeping features articles about Husbands (the care and feeding of) and Children (the care and feeding of) and the Mother/Wife in you (the care and Not Too Much Feeding of!) At least 16 pages are dedicated to diets and losing weight, while the advertisements tout  cake mixes, chips and soda. The magazine creates recipes for alfredo sauce and hot dogs with all the works-these must be for the husband and kids. Other popular mommy print ads: Mini-vans, laundry detergent, diapers and drugs for depression. Go figure.

The non-controversial (and preferably ‘Country’) celebrity stops by to brag about their perfect parenting skills (which never include hiring a nanny) and perfect marriage, (and oftentimes, weeks later, announcing in People magazine a divorce or kid in rehab, or both) Madden Football isn’t the only cover with a curse!

Sometimes they quote celeb’s Twitter feeds.  Kevin Bacon says: “Chinese food with both my kids tonight. If I die in my sleep I die a happy man!’ You can hear a collective ‘awwwww’ from all of the mini-vans parked diagonally at Little League fields across America. All the little people in their cookie-cutter houses, mortgaged to the gills thinking Mr. Big Star would gladly trade places with them on the bleachers if only he could! Oh, you silly, naïve, rabbits! (Meanwhile, the greatest eulogy ever goes unread as Mr. Bacon wakes up the next day, and every day after that no worse for the wear! Which I’m happy for, but…’Had Chinese Food With Kids, Then Died Happy!’ would be some epitaph!)

Good Housekeeping has lots of photos of happy families having picnics, and socializing up a storm with brand new products! July is jam-packed with suggestions for mass-media beach reads (I guess Mom’s going to the beach alone if she’s able to read and not stand sentry) and the magazine is obsessed with all things weather!  Whatever season it is- they’re goin’ in, and they’re goin’ in BIG! 

It’s summer now in magazine land- so bust out the flip-flops and ice cream scoops and throw a Frisbee (see where to buy, page 77) or Hike the Local Woods (see parks guide, pg 82) with your new hiking shoes (see where-to-buy, pg. 77) The summer is full of all kinds of fun: blow some dandelion spores about the field (Zyrtec commercial on facing page)

Other summer activities: Go to the Farmers Market on a Saturday morning! Pick Your own Strawberries! Everyone is suddenly giggly and cheery (regardless of natural demeanor) and all into the festive summer scene, like it’s the law!  No one is grasping for babysitters- what with the kids out of school- or frantically trying to keep the toddlers away from the surf at the beach so they won’t drown, or eating soggy sandwiches (tip: to keep your sandwiches dry, buy this $15. set of Tupperware molded to look just like plastic bags!) No one is  covered in wet sand, getting bit by horse-flies or changing foul diapers ( Pampers! Luvs!) on personalized beach towels (see where to buy, pg. 77). No, no- it’s all sunshine and sparklers and kids with smiles pasted on their faces according to GH!  

Speaking of sparklers- Good Housekeeping is very, very Patriotic, so make sure you pick up your stars-and-stripes paper plates, cups and napkins at Party City (for which they may offer a discount code if you spend $30 -which you will if you buy this stuff) and get ready for parades, flag waving and more corn on the cob than you can wave a novelty flag at. (Extra points if you show up at a small town parade with a Rhubarb Pie and a Golden Retriever who’s wearing an American flag bandana) If Good Housekeeping had a motto it would be ‘Always try and be something Norman Rockwell would like to paint’


Redbook’s claim to fame is admitting that yes, indeed-married women do have sex (often-I mean that’s how they get the kids) They love to print racy articles about sex within the marriage. Redbook feels married sex is all about re-igniting passion and overcoming boredom. They automatically assume you are knee-deep in the doldrums because evidently that’s where they are.

They gather up naughty little hints and create lists designed to save your relationship from tedium. They kind of whisper it, too- like they’re copping all of this info from a back-alley dealer and cleaning it up for print. They have an endless supply of suggestions for ‘spicing up your marriage’ – and bless their hearts- maybe they are effective for newlyweds or couples who met on ‘Christian Mingle’ or ‘For Farmer’s Only’ but I’m not sure they’re for those in long-standing marriages of say- over ten years or more. Behold some recent suggestions:

1. ‘Drink Together’. I’m thinking this one could go either way, depending on many factors. Who’s drinking what, and how much for instance. But of course, it does remind us of how we got together in the first place, so that’s good. And  at least they issue a Redbook warning: ‘Do not become a Tennessee Williams play’ ( Or any of the characters from ‘Cats’)

2. ‘Recreate Your First Date’  Oh, great! Now I have to go try and get Guns’N’Roses back together, (and we all know better people have tried and failed!)  Plus- I have to rebuild the New Haven Coliseum which they razed several years ago! So I’d better get started. Anyone have Axl’s number?)

3. ‘Take Your Hubby To Dog Yoga’ First off, we’re cat people. (Can’t you tell?  Snarky, Aloof,  Ability to Sleep 16 hour days?) Secondly: Dog Yoga? Is there no point where embarrassment forces one to look at oneself? And is it called a Double Downward Dog when the canine come? And what in the world does this have to do with sex- or let me rephrase that with: never mind!

4. ‘Underwear Swim’  Here’s how: Go to a public lake or beach, strip down to your undies and…..Cannonball!  Never mind that you’ll soon be starring in Cosmo’s catty little ‘What Were They Thinking’ section, wherein people take secret cell photos of unsuspecting bystanders, then ridicule them in a national magazine, but honestly: What have these Lake Goers ever done to you that they must now be subjected to your granny panties and his  tighty-whiteys, not to mention your body of not-steel?  Although, maybe  it’s worth it.   Explains a loyal Redbook reader: “It feels sort of like breaking the rules, but we won’t get charged with indecent exposure’  Thrill seekers and Goodie-goodies take note.

'Oh no! It's the Underwear Couple! For the love of god, run!

‘Oh no! It’s the Underwear Couple! For the love of god, run!’

5. Baristas play a big part in Redbook’s ‘Re-Charge Your Sex Life’ campaigns for some reason. (I think a lot of these articles are written on laptops in Starbucks) To use them to ramp up your own sex-life: ‘Flirt with that shaggy haired Barista-even if he let a Ryan Lochte like ‘jeah’ slip when you asked him if skim milk was a available’ (you are drinking skim, aren’t you?) Not only will’ Barista Flirting’ make you feel flattered, but you’ll make his day as well. (Really?! Are hot teenagers lusting for ladies twice their age and bragging about it on Tumblr? Who knew?)   Another tip from Redbook: When he asks your name tell him something empowering like ‘Beyonce’ or ‘Sasha Fierce’ which he’ll scroll across your cup. That won’t be awkward. Or misspelled.

Lucille 4

6. Try ‘down there’ hair colors, or apply Swarovski Crystal Tattoos to your nether-regions. I can give you three observations here: a) It brings new meaning to the term ‘shocking’ pink,  b) Neosporin (enough for the both of you) and c) try to avoid combining with Underwear Swimming. For the public’s sake. 

7. ‘Be A Sexy Surprise’ – This one’s been around forever, and is an homage to a simpler time. Wrap yourself in Saran Wrap and open the door (you, too can look like last month’s defrosted chicken breast! Tip:  Buy the plastic wrap at Costco- coz you’re gonna need more than you think!) There’s also the ‘Naked Under The Trenchcoat’ trick, but I’m afraid if I tried this, the first place my husband’s mind would go to is: Early Onset Alzheimer’s. 

8. ‘Moan In The Shower’- yes, moan like that classic Herbal Essence commercial. Again, my husband is more likely to call the authorities, and sign off on an ‘evaluation’. Or think I’ve fallen and rush in with the first aid kit. (Which I’m sure Redbook could suggest sleazy uses for! ‘Place two band-aids over your…’)

"Good To Know"

“Good To Know”

9. No Bedroom TV! If you can’t take the tv out of your bedroom completely, according to Redbook, then hang scarves over it to indicate it’s time for sex. (I bet Steven Tyler is really good at this) Redbook assures me the scarves will remind him of sex and that he’ll forget all about the game! But I won’t- especially when the Giants/Cowboys are tied with two minutes to go. If you don’t move those scarves I may just have to strangle you with them.

10. Take Off Your Bra. Yup. That’s the tip, plain and simple. Just unhook those babies and let’em fly. Just be careful not to get careless, less that sucker catches a draft and snaps that hot guy you’re married to right in the kisser!  What ‘generously cleavaged’ women  refer to as the ‘Slingshot Effect’ It’s taken out more eyes than the Red Ryder BB Gun.

And there you have it: ten out of ten thousand ‘sensible’ Redbook approved sex tips for your (their) boring marriage.

A subject as important to Redbook as Sex is ‘Anti-Aging’. Theses two words appear on practically every page. I mean, if you’re going to be anti-anything, it may as well be anti-aging. But over the years I’ve figured out that there’s only one true thing that works to anti-age. And it’s called Death. It may not be a preferred method, but you can’t argue with it’s effectiveness.

Redbook is now on a huge celebrity kick. The covers feature sexy-mom/wife types like Jada Pinkett Smith and Ivanka Trump – because no one has better tips for raising kids than a person with 17 assistants, and 3 Nannies…and of course- no one has better down to earth home decor tips than a billion-heiress. Nice Move, Redbook. Makes sense. Looks like my sex life will be the only thing I’m renewing this year!

‘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’

BOOKS: ‘SEX ON THE MOON’ by Ben Mezrich (Review by Lisa Purcell)

In Books on August 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm


    First, let me say that this is a very good true crime  story-and I’m not a ‘crime-story’ kinda gal. It’s fascinating to get inside the head of Thad Roberts who, at age 25, thought he was going to become a millionaire by stealing-then selling- the actual moon rocks brought back by the astronauts on the Apollo Space missions.

   The fact that this guy was ambitious enough to get a job at NASA, and had a science-and-numbers kind of brain (smartmakes it all the more bewildering that he would attempt such a heist. His love for astronauts (the ‘rock-stars’ of the skies!’), space, science and theory point to someone for whom the hallowed halls of NASA (in particular, The Johnson Space Center, in Houston where he worked) would be sacred, and therefore revered by him, as opposed to being robbed by him! You would think….

    The book was an easy read, and a somewhat geeky one as well. This is because there is tons of info relating to the Space Programs, both the past-involving the moon, and the future that is now Mars focused. The timing couldn’t be better for this book to be made into a movie, what with the recent and (for some of us) sad ending of the Space Shuttle moon missions, which ended this year. It’s especially hard for those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when Space travel was such a big deal, almost a back-drop to our culture. As kids, we watched ‘Lost In Space’, drank Tang  and watched the first moon landing on our black and white console tv sets! We have a deep, abiding nostalgia for the moon!

    In many ways the book reads more like a punched-up screenplay. Ben Mezrich, the author-who wrote ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ on which the movie ‘The Social Network’  was based, must have been thinking movie adaption.

   I must point out that Mr. Mezrich comes across as vaguely ‘pervy’ in his descriptions of the women in Thad’s life…..Because evidently, every female that Thad Roberts comes in contact with is at least a ten, if not eleven. At first, the descriptions are harmless: ‘her beautiful, reddish blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her white sweater tight against her curves. She pulled up the bottom of her sweater to reveal the flat plane of her toned stomach’ This, of Thad’s wife Sonya. Then, at an impromptu pool party at NASA, he watches a random girl, also swimming: ‘She brought her hand up behind her head, pinning back her flowing hair-and the motion did wonderful things to her bikini top’ I began to feel like Mr. Mezrich might want to be alone?Even though NASA is a place where brain-power rules, every female’s value in this story is tied to her appearance. Which is the norm, but I was hoping maybe not at NASA.

    Meanwhile, Thad’s young wife, a model (they married very young, they were each other’s firsts, and grew up in strict Mormon families) was left behind in Utah, while Thad broke ground in Texas.  Sonya is ‘always off  modeling’ or ‘always hanging out with her model friends’ in all sorts of shallow pursuits. But just when you might actually buy into Sonya and her hip modeling world you read this passage: ‘He (Thad) didn’t know how many of the buffed and polished specimens were gathered (at his house, while he’s visiting home) but he didn’t think he could handle another evening of mindless conversation in some loud, overpriced, overly trendy restaurant’…so…’He didn’t even notice as his green Toyota Tercell started up in the driveway, the tires spitting gravel as the group headed out to dinner without him’ and that’s when you’re ‘boinked’ back into the reality that this is the hard-core ‘modeling scene’ of Utah- where models are ‘buff’, and cruising the cool, mean streets in green Toyota Tercells.  (BTW: Who knew there were-overly trendy restaurants in Utah? Trendy, maybe- but overly?)

    Eventually, there’s almost a slip in girl-ogling, when (finally!) a girl at Nasa is described as ‘mousy’. Coincidentally, this is the only girl Thad ‘rebuffs’, though clearly she wants him! The ‘Mouse’ engages (entraps?) Thad in some innocent skinny-dipping (she started it!) until: ‘Thad could see the hint of pink nipple beneath the crook of her elbow, but he really tried to avert his eyes’ Since it was pitch black, and took place in the dead of night, I’d have to say-Thad sure had some x-ray-like, nipple seein’ eyes!  Likewise, when Sonya visits the Space Center, a gruff scientist, who barely speaks to anyone, despite being a ‘scientific legend’ immediately ‘softened upon the sight of her: ‘the nervous smile on her bee-stung lips, the way she pushed the hair out of her eyes’. Why- he even gifted her with a (nerd alert!) calcareous meteorite, though thankfully, Mr. Mezrich didn’t write that Cranky-Science Man slapped her playfully on her tight, well-rounded, rosebud of an ass before sending her on her way, though I won’t say I wasn’t expecting it!  But nothing could compare to the description of Rebecca (real name: Tiffany Brooke Fowler) the girl he would soon steal moon rocks with and for:

    ‘Physically, she was stunning. Her hair was jet black, framing a face that looked as if it had been carved from polished porcelain. Her cheekbones were unnervingly high, and her playful blue eyes lit up in a way that reminded Thad of the bio-luminescent algae they were on their way to see [that’s a new one- I’ll give him that!]  She was wearing a white t-shirt and extremely short shorts: even from a glance, it was easy to discern her tight, athletic form. The sliver of bare skin between her shirt and shorts sent chills down to his spine, and he actually found himself turning his eyes away. To his utter surprise, he was intimidated by this ninety pound girl.’ [One can only wonder how he managed to weigh her!]

    Thad’s stoner friend and accomplice Gordon (real name: Gordon Sean McWorter) was described so stereo-typically that I was literally picturing Jeff Spicoli. From the very moment we meet him, he’s toking away on a joint and talking in whacky circles- ( the same way I picture Matthew McConaughey always talks)- claiming the moon landing was a hoax and spouting Mormon scripture. Can anyone really be this one dimensional? His role-as deemed by Thad- was to help find ‘moon rock buyers’ on the internet, but it’s hard to believe that anyone with an ounce of intelligence would have trusted this guy with a litter of kittens, let alone priceless moon rocks!

    The book was fast-paced and full of insider NASA info. It made me wish I’d considered science more, as both an interesting subject and possible career path. Of course, I  don’t know if I’d have been hot enough to work at NASA even in my prime. It’s a model-superstore over there!

    I do recommend the book because it holds your interest, and it’s one of those stories that plays out in your head like the movie it’s destined to be.                                    LP

“That is one tight, well-rounded moon!’




In Misc. on August 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm

You know that show Intervention? I’m always watching it (my favorite was Christie- the stripper who was always naked-even when eating cheeseburgers and jacking up her sister. She’s the one who threatened to ‘go all Matrix on your asses!’ when she showed up to the intervention, semi-dressed, beer in hand) I know addiction is a serious thing, but the producers showcase the outlandish, so you can  accuse me of being cavalier about the episodes, and well….I can’t really argue.

I’ll never, ever understand how these people let themselves be filmed in such precarious a situations -often times while shooting up or buying illegal substances…I mean- you’d have to be on drugs to let them….oh. Then again, I never get why anyone anywhere would ever want to be in a reality show period (does anyone other than moi, recognize the sheer power of anonymity anymore?) so consider the source.

Anyway- you know the part at the beginning, where they play ‘happy’ music  to demonstrate how this was once a very lovely story, as they show baby pictures and talk about what a sweet, wonderful child the addict used to be? Well, just once I’d like to see a picture of a kid- I dunno- holding a candy cigarette, a bottle of Chocks or daddy’s empty beer, maybe sporting a rub-on tattoo?….and the parent would have to say: “Well, I kinda knew little Tommy would be trouble….”while ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ played in the background. There has to be a baby or two without angel wings, no?


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