Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010? That's So Five Minutes Ago

I don’t know how you all do it. I haven’t had a moment to write a blog post in a week, due to ChristmasBedlamFest2009. All the shopping, all the wrapping, all the packing up and driving all over New England. Well, it’s over. And in a few hours the year will be over as well.

So, tell me Internet, what do you think 2010 will be like? I remember seeing movies when I was a kid that depicted 2010 in a way that looks radically different than 2009 actually looked. In those movies, all the people walking around in 2010 were wearing a lot of silver clothing. Their homes looked like laboratories and not a place with a cushy couch and brick fireplace. Their hairstyles were cut bluntly, and were angular looking. The family dog was replaced by a four-legged robot that chirped mechanically instead of woofing. Here it is 2010, and I do not own a stitch of silver clothing. My dogs are of the fuzzy and shedding variety. My home has the cushy couch and the fireplace, and I do not bark commands at some unseen computer when I want the lights to turn on as I enter a room.

But then, if you think about it, a lot of the things we say in everyday conversation are things that we hadn’t even heard of 20 years ago. While we are not walking around in silver clothing, I am sitting here writing on a blog that is broadcast to the world via the World Wide Web. It wasn’t that long ago when the word “blog” didn’t exist. (The word has become so commonplace that the spellchecker in Microsoft Word didn’t even flag it. The word “spellchecker” wasn’t flagged either. Telling, yes?)

And now, in 2010, state lawmakers are passing laws that prohibit motorists from writing text messages on their cell phones while driving. Lawmakers are banning a practice that did not exist 20 years ago. I remember a scene in one of the “Airplane” movies in which a character was speaking on a phone while driving in his car. It was one of those desktop phones, with the curly cord and everything. I watched this movie a few years ago with friends, and none of us cracked a smile as the man spoke into the phone while he drove. I broke the silence and said “You do realize that when this movie came out, the idea of a phone in a car was fricken hilarious, right?” Yet now we (not me, I refuse to carry a cell phone) carry phones around in our pockets, and we use them to access the Internet everyday, without thinking twice about it.

If we have made such amazing technological strides in the last 20 years, imagine what 2030 will look like. Maybe by then the silver clothing will be in style.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Shame of It All

I have a guilty pleasure to admit. Actually, I don’t know if it’s even a pleasure. I don’t really know what to call it. It’s something of a fascination, I guess.


Here goes nothing.

I am fascinated by Sarah Palin. (I know! I KNOW!) The presidential election is long over, and I didn’t vote for McCain/Palin anyway. Yet I still find myself clicking on links to news stories about her. It started out with “Oh what dumb thing did she say now?” And, well, that’s still on my mind as I click. But it’s a compulsion to read about her latest exploits.

Let’s be clear. I don’t like her. I don’t like her politics. Her voice makes my teeth itch. I think she did a lousy thing by quitting her job as Alaska’s governor and leaving her entire state hanging. (Honestly, she couldn’t wait until her term was over and just not run for re-election? Really?) But I still click with the same curiosity that causes my head to turn and my eyes to look when I drive by the scene of a car accident on the way home from work. A few weeks ago, while I waited for Todd to join me at the blood donation center, I read the article in the Vanity Fair in the waiting room in which Levi Johnston was interviewed. He totally scorched Palin in the article, and I wonder how much of it is true.

I don’t like her, but so many people out there do. And I want to know why. WHY?? I mean, I don’t care for marshmallow fluff either, but people out there love that too and I don’t quite understand that either. (I wonder if there’s a correlation between people who eat fluff and like Sarah Palin.) I’ve asked the question to friends, but didn’t get an answer because their political leanings are the same as mine. I’ve heard people say that having Sarah Palin in the White House is the same as having your big sister in the White House. (I find this offensive, as I am certain that my sisters are way smarter than Palin.) My response to this has been, “Well, I don’t want my sister in the White House. I want someone who’s really really smart in there. I think my sisters are smart, but not White House smart.”

Last night I stopped at my local branch of the library and grabbed my reserved copy of “Going Rogue.” I tilted my head down as I retrieved it. I’ve become friendly with the librarians, and the one working the desk subtly raised her eyebrows as I took the book from the counter. I couldn’t look her in the eye.

But I am totally going to read this book. I didn’t buy it. I didn’t support Palin with my hard earned dinero by buying it. I will read it, and I will see if there’s an answer to my question in there.

I’ll let you know.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Resolve

I am standing with my feet firmly planted, shoulders squared, and fist waving triumphantly in the air. It’s time to think about a few sentences starting with the words “I resolve.” It’s New Year Resolution time.

There are probably billions of people out there, staring down at the end of 2009 and thinking about what they’d like to do differently next year. Some are excited. Some are looking at things they don’t like about themselves that they want to improve. Some are taking this as an opportunity to make someone else feel better. A whole new year is only days away at this point. It’s a whole new opportunity to do something, anything, and to make something, anything, happen.

I fully believe in New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always loved the idea of starting a new year with a plan to do something different, and I’ve always made resolutions. When I was a kid I resolved to give my mom and my teachers less attitude. I was a cantankerous little kid who hated rules for the sheer fact that they were rules. I rolled my eyes in a way that sent my mom into a full boiled rage. That one didn’t last long.

One year I resolved to go sky diving--which I ended up doing as a tandem jump in September of that year. For this last year I resolved to compliment one woman every day—whether she’s a stranger or someone I know. I’ve gotten strange looks from the strangers, but mostly smiles. For just about every day in 2009 I’ve made some woman smile.

Now I am reflecting on my past year and looking about the things about myself and my life that bug me.
I think the biggest thing that bothers me about myself are the fact that I am *thisclose* to wearing out the snooze button on our alarm clock. I use it. A lot. Too much. What if I were to resolve to not use the snooze button, and just get my punk ass out of bed on the first ring of the alarm?

Resolution #1 Do not press snooze. This is your life we’re talking about. Are you going to hit snooze on your life? Get up and get your day started. You can’t get those minutes back, my friend. Get vertical and tackle the day.

Another thing that bothers me is that I am not a very good cook. I try like hell, with mixed results. I usually get home from work before Todd and stand before the stove trying to come up with something new to have for dinner. While I cook, Todd calls on the way home and asks what’s for dinner and then I have to hear the trepidation in his voice when I say “I am trying the recipe on the back of the turkey cutlets…” sometimes it turns out. Sometimes it’s mildly edible and I stubbornly eat it anyway while he makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Other times it goes into the trash and a half hour later a pizza shows up at the door.

I feel this is my biggest failing as a wife. I know it’s not a very enlightened thing to say, and just by typing it I’ve probably set the women’s movement back a few minutes. But I like making dinner for my husband. Even better, I like it when he can actually choke down what I’ve made. Even more better if he actually enjoys it. (More better? What?)

He tells me that I don’t have to feel like a failure as a wife because cooking isn’t my forte. But this is also the same guy who says that he feels it’s his responsibility to provide for me, and then I have to tell him that before we married I was the one who did that for me. So, we both have a prescribed gender role that we’re stuffing ourselves into. But that’s a post for another day.

Resolution #2 Take a cooking class.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Probably One of the Dorkier Things We’ve Done in a While

“No dogs alloooooowed! And biiiiirds!” I sang to Todd one day several years ago.

“What’s that from?” he asked me. I explained that it was from the perennial classic “Snoopy Come Home." He hadn’t seen it; my childhood was riddled with Peanuts cartoons. Dad and I used to read the Peanuts comic strip together every Sunday morning. It was the first one on the comics page, and took up most of the above-the-fold real estate. It stayed in that spot for years, and Garfield, my second favorite at the time, was just below it. A double whammy of awesome without having to turn the page, life was good.

We were flipping though the channels a few weeks ago and Todd saw that "Snoopy Come Home" was on and set the DVR to record it. Last night we finally watched it. I was instantly transported back to when I was 8-9 years old and begging Mom to stay up late. By the time I was born my mom was pretty laid back about stuff like that. Most of the time she was about a half second away from saying “Here’s a Ginsu, go play in traffic, I don’t care!” That’s how it goes for the fifth child.

I hadn’t remembered just how bad the score was on these Peanuts specials. But it was great in its terribleness. We listened to the kid that did Charlie Brown’s voice sing terribly off key after Snoopy left to go live with his original owner. On the screen Charlie tossed in his bed, his heartbreak keeping him awake. He paced to the kitchen, then out to Snoopy’s dog house. Snoopy had somehow managed, without thumbs, to nail a sign onto it that said “For sale or to let.” His typewriter and airplane goggles likely placed into his suitcase to be used at his new home--where he would pen more letters to the editor, then fight the Red Baron, from the roof of his new dog house. It was a dismally depressing song, with weird jazz music accompanying it. Teeth-itchingly off key with an out of time modern jazz collision in the background; only in 1972, I suppose.

Todd Googled and found the name of the kid that did Charlie Brown’s voice: Chad Webber. Then he began to scour the Internet to see whatever happened to Chad Webber. Did he go on to perform in anything else? Did he grow up get married and have kids? Did he win a Pulitzer? Did he write a tell-all about the behind the scenes action on the Charlie Brown sound stage? Did he and Lucy hook up in Snoopy’s dog house, like the Brady kids were reputed to have done? Want to know what we found?


This kid, apparently, fell off the face of the earth after providing the voice for Charlie Brown. There are no pictures of him. There is no biography. There are no embarrassing mug shots on The Smoking Gun of him wacked out on goofballs, half undressed while smirking sleepily at the camera in some backwater police station after robbing a liquor store with a squirt gun while nude. No profile on IMDB, other than one sentence that said he did the voice of Charlie Brown, and the same on Wikipedia.

“This is so weird,” Todd gazed at his screen, puzzled. “I mean, you can Google me and you and our dogs and get something. This guy was the voice of Charlie Brown, and there’s nothing.”

“Maybe Chad Webber is a fake name. I mean, he was a kid when he did those shows. Maybe his parents made him do it under an assumed name to protect their privacy?”

“Even so, wouldn’t it say something like John Smith, also known as Chad Webber, was the voice of Charlie Brown?”

Then we had to know what happened to Chad Webber. We Googled, we clicked, we perused and scoured. We came across the woman who was the voice of Sally Brown, Charlie’s little sister. She works as a script consultant now, and has a long list of credits to her name. We stumbled upon her resume, and there we found her email address.

“Look! Her email address!” I pointed to the top of the screen. Todd smiled, and then opened his email application.

“You’re really going to email this woman to ask her what happened to Charlie Brown?” I laughed.

“Why not? The worst she can do is delete the email and not respond, right?”

I am sure that a grown woman, who once did the voice of Sally Brown, will appreciate getting a random email with the subject line “Regarding Chad Webber.” Never mind your own stellar career, sweetie. We want to hear about Charlie Brown. How about we rip that football away right before you get to kick it?

I’ll let you know if she writes back.


Monday, December 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Nativity Story

“Watch this,” my sister nodded toward her daughters, then age 6 and 4, playing in the living room. Rachael, the older of the two, rolled the Fisher Price school bus up to the nativity set my sister had set out on the hearth of the unused fireplace in preparation for Christmas. I had noticed that the figurines were askew when I came in, but didn’t say anything; I figured that they were a casualty of having little ones in the house.

Rachael piled the three wise men, and whoever else was present at the birth of Jesus, into the bus. “OK, let’s go,” she called cheerfully to them. She drove the bus in a loopy pattern across the off-white berber carpet, all the while chattering to her bus full of biblical vagabonds. The bus stopped at some unseen wonder on the far end of the couch, in front of the end table.

“OK everyone, five minutes,” she instructed the wise men. With the help of Rachael, the passengers filed out and stood facing some unseen wonder on that side of the room. It must have been one of the wonders of the world, as that bus had to traverse the entire living room for them all to see it. I wondered whether they were viewing the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore, on the far side of the sofa that day. I wonder what Rachael imagined they were looking at.

“Time to go back, we're going to be late” she warned her passengers. They filed into the bus and stood on the seats. Their heads stood out of the sun roof, which I am sure must have been a chilly ride back to a manger in a barn at the end of December. She helped the “wise guys” and friends out of the bus and carefully arranged them around the manger.

She held up one of the wise men and examined the figurine carefully. “Hey,” she pointed to it, “Why isn’t he wearing shoes? Mom says I can’t wear sandals in the winter. It’s too cold.”

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Free Associating on Christmas

--I will always cry when I hear “Feed the World” by Band-Aid on the radio. I don’t know why, I just do.

--I hate to write Christmas gift wish lists. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel like a demanding bitch. Don’t ask me what I want. Surprise me. Or don’t. It’s all good.

--There’s nothing I want for Christmas. I have everything I could possibly need or possibly want. I love my life, my husband, my home and my dogs. What more could a girl need? (Well, I do need that awful orange paint to disappear from the guest bedroom, and that tacky mirror mosaic swirly pattern on the wall to vaporize…. OK, that’s my list.)

--I don’t really like Christmas music that much, with the exception of “Feed the World,” and last year I was digging on that a capella song by Straight No Chaser. However, that stupid “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney makes my teeth itch. How is it that the man who wrote many of the songs for The Beatles wrote this piece of crap? And more importantly, why is it still played every other minute of every day from Thanksgiving through Christmas? I once read somewhere that the guy who owns Clear Channel banned certain songs from being played on his stations. Why can’t this song be on his list?

--When I was a kid, we celebrated Christmas Eve with my Mom’s side of the family. I grew up with this tight network of aunts, uncles and cousins. It was like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but only with a bunch of Pollacks. Every year my cousins and I had to sing for our presents, per my Aunt Halina’s request. We always sang “Silent Night” and a Polish carol, the title of which roughly translates to “Today in Bethlehem.” And every year when we’d sing the Polish one, all of us cousins would start out strong in the first few lines or so. Then one by one the voices would drop out until the few cousins who knew all the words were left singing, and the rest of us were just mouthing along. To this day, I still do not know all the words to “Today in Bethlehem,” but I think my brother Kaz does. And I know a few of my cousins do.

--My nieces and nephews are getting older, and harder to buy for. It used to be that I could roll into “Discovery Kids” and come up with some very cool yet educational gifts for $20-25 a piece. With 12 nieces and nephews, that adds up fast. But now they are teens and pre-teens, and it’s harder to come up with cool gifts without draining the bank account.

--It’s a good thing that Todd won all that money at the casino last week. Our nieces and nephews will likely have a better Christmas this year.

--I love getting that “Feliz Navidad” song stuck in Todd’s head. His brain is like fly paper and it catches all the annoying songs that fly by. It’s fun to catch him absently whistling “Feliz Navidad” moments after hearing it on the radio.

--Because we are dog dorks, we tend to work the word “beagle” when we’re goofing around and listening to the radio. Just last week I sang “The beagle-y dog” instead of “Feliz Navidad.” It totally worked. Try it.

And now it’s stuck in your head too, isn’t it?

My work is done.

Happy Holidays.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Tailor

I could tell that the tailor used to be a smoker. Either that or he’s had to take his habit outside, now that it’s no longer legal to smoke inside buildings in the state of Rhode Island. The drop ceiling was the first thing I noticed when I walked in. A zillion years ago, when the joint was first decorated, those tiles were probably white. But they hung in yellowish grey, and the once clear panels barely allowed the light through. The fluorescent lamp flickered behind it. The tailor was probably used to the flickering by then, and used the swing-arm lamp over his machine anyway.

I waited for him to finish ironing a hem, while I examined his small shop. The wood veneer paneled walls were the same ones that we had in our family room when I was a kid. But his were a bit more yellow-greenish, probably from the smoke. Dad quit when I was 6, so our walls never got the chance to absorb the nicotine. Behind the counter, by the window, was a rack containing multiple spools of thread in an array of colors. In front of that was his sewing machine, and beside it the small ironing board and an iron—plugged in and ready for action.  The iron sighed and a cloud of steam escaped its pores as he set it aside.

Stuck to the paneled walls were clippings from the newspaper—articles and cartoons—that yellowed from either having been up for too long, or from the smoke. Pictures of a young woman, presumably his daughter, in a wedding dress were framed and hung as well. I remember thinking how handy it must have been for the bride to be the daughter of a tailor. The alterations on my no-frills wedding dress cost the same as the dress itself. She must have saved a bundle.

He turned his attention to me and wordlessly jutted his chin at the jeans I'd brought in.  I showed him the jeans I’d just bought at the used clothing store the day before, and explained that they were too long.  He cocked his head, his helmet shaped toupee stayed fixed to his head.  It was the color that his hair probably was in the 60s.  His lined face did not match the sand colored fake hair. 

“Go put them on,” he pointed to the curtain. “We get the right length.” He said in an accent I couldn’t place. I stood behind the curtain, trying to get it to close completely. The panels split in the middle, and left about an inch of visibility between them. I tried pulling both together, but then there was an inch or so on each side. I decided that 1 inch exposure in the middle was better than a total of 2 inches exposure on the sides and changed as fast as I could.

He cuffed the jeans, drew a chalk line on one of the pant legs and grunted, “Eight dollars. Ready on Tuesday.” When he said Tuesday it sounded like "Tuzdeh."  I ducked behind the curtains again, and tried without a different result to get them to close. When I came out from behind the curtain he handed me a slip and instructed me to fill in my name and phone number. He pinned one copy to the jeans, and I tucked the other into my purse.

On my way out I noticed the TV. It was off, but I wondered if he normally had it on while he worked just to keep himself company. It had an antenna on it, and I wondered if it was off because the tailor didn’t bother to get cable in his shop now that TV antennas don’t work anymore. The screen was a dormant greenish grey color, and one of the dials on the front was broken.

I forgot to pick up my jeans on Tuesday. Then I went to jury duty on Wednesday. Then Thanksgiving happened. And then I forgot about the jeans altogether until I noticed the slip in my purse. Yesterday I pulled into the tailor’s small parking lot, large enough to hold 1-2 cars. I parked behind a red Jeep Cherokee with an Armenia sticker on the window. I walked into the shop and the tailor popped out from the Cherokee and followed me into the shop. I wondered what he was doing in the car, and figured he was probably listening to the radio and smoking but couldn’t be sure.

I took in the faint scent of cigarettes, a worn out air freshener on the end of the counter, and the smell of other people’s clothes. It had a bar room Salvation Army store kind of a smell to it. The TV was on this time, and I watched it while he went into the back to get my jeans. A talk show was on, and the camera focused on an older woman in a tank top and black bra railed on about her teenaged son’s girlfriend. She gestured wildly at whatever offense the girlfriend committed, and the flab on her upper arms jiggled. The stretched out tattoo on that part of her arm swung with her flesh. I pressed my arms closer to my body out of reflex; I’ve become conscious about the extra flesh on the backs of my arms. Apparently the son’s girlfriend went and got herself knocked up, and of course the son had nothing to do with any of that.

The talk show host introduced the girlfriend, and the older woman leapt out of her chair and got into the girlfriend’s face. She pointed her finger into the girl’s face and screamed at her, most of it was bleeped, but her arm flab inadvertently got involved in her tirade. The show’s bodyguards stood by to intervene, if necessary.

“Wow. What are you watching?” I asked the tailor.

He scratched his obvious toupee and said, “I do not think this is even real.”  He thumbed through a wad of cash in his pocket and gave me change for my $10 bill.  The jeans are the perfect length.