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When I was about eight, my sister and our friend Melanie went around our apartment complex (a veritable village!), ringing people's doorbells and running away. I wasn't as keen on the actual activity itself as on the acronym I came up with: ROAR (Ring One And Run). I was not only proud that it took me about five seconds to come up with it but that the word was such a bold one. Never mind that the level of mischief wasn't even on par with a whisper let alone an actual roar. (I wanted ROAR T-shirts. We never got them.)
"No, I said I liked
, you jackass, " Sandra yells from the bathroom, stepping into the tub and turning the shower on as hot as she can stand without boiling herself into soup. Still, as hot as it is, the pee running down her back and legs feels much hotter. "Not PEE ON ME!"
Who the hell does that? Especially on a second date!
"I guess I heard wrong," Todd yells back from her bed. "But hey, it's better we did it in the beginning, right, so there will be no surprises later!"
Like there'll be a third date!
Years ago at Planned Parenthood, I was assuming the charming position that all the ladies are well-acquainted with and that you fellas have only fantasized about. A youngish chick in a white lab coat, all nervous-bird-like, entered the room to do the pap (ugh!) smear (ugher!) and other assorted fun-time activities.
"Hello, my name is Kina," she said in a monotone.
"Oh," I said, "like ... RHYMES WITH???"
"Whuuut?" she said, a question mark dangling like a speculum in the space between us.
If I had that name and her job, you'd better believe that's how I'd be introducing myself!
Joanna stands back and surveys her masterpiece. Never in the history of the creation of her art has she been so impressed with her craftsmanship. She blushes at the self-congratulations even though not a word has escaped her coral-lipsticked lips. She feels them curling of their own hesitant volition into what she imagines might approximate a smile. It's been so long since the last time.
Just look at that bed, made to military precision! Her laundromat quarters would bounce higher than ever. But tonight she's celebrating in style.
Wow! Would you look at those Susan B. Anthony dollar coins go!
Mid-conversation, my mother flushes the toilet. Over the rush of her hand-washing water, I ask, even though I know the answer, "You were *not* peeing while talking to me, were you?" How I didn't hear it when I've heard all this other water-based noise is beyond me.
"Yes, I was!" she says, laughing.
"Nice," I say.
So, if my mother can pee while we're on the phone, how is it that I can't bear to talk to her when I'm even just partially naked, that I don't want her to even *hear* me like this, even if she doesn't know?
I'm pedaling the stationary bike at the gym like I'm Gilligan on a bike constructed of bamboo and coconuts trying to generate enough power to simultaneously put on a talent show on his eponymous island and fuel a million tiki torches to signal for help on the off chance that an airplane appears overhead. On the not-so-off chance that I'm not merely grinning but laughing aloud at my own ridiculousness, I pretend I'm listening to a particularly hilarious podcast. No one has to know it's really Queen that's filling my head. This makes me laugh even more. Aloud, I hope!
Over the past few weeks I have come to an astonishing revelation -- nay, a lifestyle revolution!-- that is not only eco-friendly (buzzword! keyword! tag!) but time- and scalp-saving as well. Hold on to your hats, because it's a notion so bold and innovative that you may never be the same again!
I have started letting my hair air-dry instead of blasting it with artificially-generated heat, subjecting it only a few strokes with the flatiron when completely dry. The beauty is that no one can tell the difference!
This method is a triple threat: environment, time, and health all affected!
After the funeral, Randy's sister tells him that despite massive photographic evidence to the contrary, pored over by paper plate-clutching relatives already desperate for nostalgia, he wasn't the cutest baby ever to hit the 1970 suburban scene. See that floppy-haired kid with the yellow Tonka truck fused to his fist? See him laughing in the red bumper car? It's not even you, Rita says. I don't know where Mom found that kid, but we always brought him along so we could use him in photos instead of you. Funny, but until today Randy never noticed that kid's eyes were blue.
Rob is ready to stop pretending he has even the slightest interest in any of the black and white photographs on exhibit at the museum. Teresa’s not hot enough to warrant all the attention, no matter how specious, he’s been giving this stuff. You’d think he would’ve learned his lesson years ago with Missy. All those sarcophaguses! He’d gone along with that one without even knowing what a sarcophagus was because he really wanted to get back to her place and fuck around. But hey, look where that ended up –- in Greece on a honeymoon he couldn’t wait to escape.
Your age is barely into the double digits and you’re wearing an oversized red T-shirt whose entire front is an extreme closeup of Elmo’s face. His eyes are positioned precisely over your boy boobs, two sad little handsful of soft flesh that I envision you running your hands over when you’re alone, eyes closed, pretending they’re attached to a real live girl. You’re looking over at me out of the corner of your eye, hoping to latch onto my gaze if even peripherally. I raise an eyebrow. Do you have any idea I am old enough to be your mother?
I’m memorizing her face – even those this isn’t the face I want to remember after she’s gone. I want to remember her without the cracked white lips, the gray skin stained with tears falling from barely open eyes. I want to remember her mouth animated in song or a full-voiced rant, not twisted in pain or quivering in a pained attempt to utter a monosyllabic plea to change the TV channel. I haven’t seen her real face for a month, and it kills me to know that this is the one that is real to me now – and to her.
It’s 1984, and I’m at my new boyfriend, David’s, parents’ for brunch. I’ve eaten with him before and know him to have lovely table manners, so why is it that the rest of his impossibly red-headed family, doctors and lawyers, not only chew with their mouths open to allow a full view of the food inside but to do so noisily with great wet slurps and slops and pops and gulps? And here I thought redheads would have better manners to make up for … all the red hair! I want to tell them that they really should know better.
He doesn't want tonight's dinner even though it is, according to the impatient attendants lolling around the nurses' station, his favorite.
"Eggplant parmigiana?" I say, smiling at him. "It's my favorite too."
"I don't want to eat! I just want to sing!" The bellow of his voice surprises and delights me.
"Then you don't get anything at all for dinner tonight!" an attendant yells.
I grab the wheelchair handles and accompany him downstairs to the nursing home activity room. We sit together and sing standards with the others, accompanied by a spinet.
Tonight, this is all the nourishment he needs.
Discovering who your seatmate is on a plane is almost as nerve-wracking as finding your desk in homeroom on the first day of school. You don't want to be stuck, thanks to the caprice of last names, next to the girl with the dirty homemade dress, the boy with the inexplicably wet hands, or anyone with a freshly-shaved head. Imagine my chagrin when I reach my seat and find a profusely sweating lump of woman flesh hunched over an overflowing meatball sandwich oozing grease and sauce, blanketed in sauerkraut, fuchsia panties riding high above the waistband of her jeans. Welcome!
My landlord is seated on the floor of the vacant apartment in front of mine, from which he recently ejected my pot-smoking, incense-burning, yellow-toothed, manic-panic loudmouth neighbor. He's scraping at something on the dingy flat rug.
"Man, this fucking WAX!" he says, scowling, indicating a patch about one square foot in the middle of the rug.
I look around the small room, at the anarchy symbols scrawled on the walls, the broken glass of the antique cabinets, the baked-on dust-encrusted filth, the scattered garbage, the cigarette burns in the mattress, the busted air conditioner
Yeah, that wax is the camelback-breaker!
We order sodas at the bar, like good nuns. As he fills our glasses, the bartender says, "Why aren't you drinking?"
"These two are alcoholics," I say, "and me, well, I just love Diet Coke!"
Although true, I don't.
"We're just not," one of us says.
This would be like a nurse, seeing someone peering into a maternity ward through the big glass window (ASIDE: Does that exist in real life?), and asking, "Do you have any of your own?"
There are just some things you don't ask. Except: "How did you ever get a job as a bartender, jackass?"
Sure, Margie may have longer, blonder, straighter hair than I do, and through the slightly sheer fabric of her smock-top I spy a white bra that has clearly progressed out of training into serious competition, and sure, bucktoothed boys flock around her at recess as if she were giving out free baseball cards and a full slab of white-dusted pink bubblegum, but does she know that it's "mothers-in-law" and not "mothers-in-law"? Does she know it's "different from" instead of "different than"? Does she even know what a homophone is? Why does no one else realize
the superior fourth grader?
My instinct when seeing a penny lying face up was always to pick it up and garner the day-long good luck guaranteed by the singsong rhyme. If face down, it had no value (other than its face), and, I surmised, may bring bad luck (which I never bothered to research). The only way to handle a face-down penny was to pick it up and hand it to someone else, thus conferring good luck on the recipient. Nowadays I just leave the pennies well enough alone, figuring someone else needs the luck more than I do. Or a piece of bubblegum.
A few random rules, general guidelines, or several suggestions:
If you are old enough to know that Santa Claus does not exist, you are too old to wear his hat.
Just because you have the ability to grow facial hair doesn't mean you should. This goes for you too, ladies.
When in a stall in the ladies room, please refrain from talking to me while you're peeing. In other words, when your twat is out, chat is out.
Do not eat pancakes/flapjacks/johnnycakes on the subway. Ditto for anything parmigiana. Basically, if it requires a fork, save it for the bus.
My nephew is maybe five or so, and he's lollygagging while going up a staircase with his dad, my brother. His dad exhibits trademark impatience and urges him to quit trying to take two steps at a time and just get a move on already. My nephew turns to look at his dad, his round little face obscured by his Halloween mask. All his dad can see are his son's big hazel eyes blinking from behind the almond-shaped holes. Whether blinking back tears or just blinking in general, it's enough for my brother to wish he had his own mask.
The when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade coalition behind my tenth-year high school reunion sent out a nosy little questionnaire before the big event so a booklet could be compiled for classmates' edification. It was a cross between a mini-yearbook and a gigantic nametag, which would remove the enormous task of actually having to ask questions face to face.
When asked to list their "greatest accomplishment since graduation," a startling number of chicks answered, "breastfeeding my children". I wrote, "Meeting Audrey Hepburn and working with her to save the lives of countless Third World children."
And onto me they latched like babies to a breast!
Years ago someone stole a few plastic "sleeves" of my CDs from the gym. Quite a bit of the music was stuff I wouldn't have wanted my worst enemy to endure, but given the circumstances, I was thrilled to reverse that sentiment.
I'm sure the person who took it didn't take the time to scan the names of the albums first. My fervent wish is that, upon mere contact with their thieving hands, the songs would explode like a dye pack inside a money bag grabbed by a bank robber and envelope the thief in an unshakeable cloud of A-Ha.
Walking home from the salon, cuticle cuteness restored thanks to a masterful manicure from my Polish princess, I am stopped in my sunshiny tracks by something that catches my peripheral vision. It's neither bird nor plane nor Superman, but a squat, frizzy-haired fellow who looks like a cross between a wild mushroom, a toadstool/toad combo-pack, and Jackie Mason. Indeed, I am only a sliver away from being even marginally correct, because I realize it's Mason Reese. For the time it takes for only about three heartbeats to pass, I ponder whether I should backtrack and make his acquaintance.
Even without furniture or decoration, Cam and Peter's apartment is one of the most welcoming and beautiful I know. I can't believe that this time next week they'll be living in Pasadena. I'm cross-legged on a floor cushion, leaning against a teal wall, gazing up at the tin ceiling Cameron painted bronze, against which candlelight shadows flicker like tentative fingers. Lola, the Dachschund I have known since puppyhood six years ago, curls on my lap, looking at me with enormous brown eyes that I swear are as full of tears as mine. I am grateful for a lack of lamps.
PROGRAM NOTE: There's no continuation for 7/23.
Need anything more be said about running into the unmistakable form of Mason Reese on West 71st Street on a bright summer afternoon, and me backtracking to make his acquaintance, to let him know that I knew him from the Underwood Deviled Ham commercials from a billion years ago, and him adding that there were other products as well, and me grinning at him as if I didn't think he belonged in a sideshow, and him asking my name, and me thinking, "Does he think I'm cute?"
Nope. Didn't think so!
We're learning how to ask if Susanna is in the house and if so, is she in the living room, but then we learn that no, she is in the kitchen. We're also learning how to say we are cold and we are hot and that we would like to go to the beach or to the store. And of course we're learning how to ask where the bathroom is.
This is all going to come in handy on a trip to Mexico or Spain when it's all we remember decades after seventh grade Spanish class.
¡Muchas gracias, Senora Cook!
At long last, after 36 years of admiring from afar, separated by the glass of many television screens and way too many circumstances that would never conspire to bring him within arm's length, I am face to face with the man who was my first major crush: Henry Winkler. His pen runs out of ink just as he's about to sign the children's book he's hawking at Barnes & Noble, so I'm gifted with a few moments to chat with him, moments that no one else was afforded. I take a deep breath and plunge into my speech.
"I've been waiting 36 years to meet you," I say in a low voice, quickly, as if I'm dispensing international secrets to a spy in a dark alley, my voice trembling more than I find acceptable. "Thirty-four years ago you were hosting a telethon on TV and my sister and I called in and pledged $3 just so we could talk to you. We never paid."
My face is about a foot from his. I am close enough to kiss him. He looks directly into my eyes, smiles, and says, "Stop. Don’t. I still love you!"
He signs my book, but I'm too busy screaming inside that I am thisclose to him that I don't pay any attention. All I can think is, "OH MY GOD, FONZIEEEEE!!!" and "I hope my hair looks good!" because the next thing I know I'm handing my camera to his publisher and asking her to take our photo.
He stands up and I lean across the table separating us. He pulls me as close to him as possible given the situation, facing me, and kisses me. I kiss him back.
"I'm dying right now," I say.
The plane to Des Moines is smaller than I thought it would be. I suppose I was thrown off by the clog of people in the LaGuardia concourse near my gate. How was I to know that only about 60 of them were joining me to my destination?
Moments after I board, a woman peeks into the cabin as if entering a haunted house, and says to the flight attendant, "I'm anxious. I thought it was going to be a real plane."
Contrast this with my disappointment when I realized it wasn't a pterodactyl with seating, a la The Flintstones.
My right arm pulls him just as closely to me as his left arm pulls me toward him. My left hand dares to cross his chest and comes to rest below his right shoulder. We're cheek to cheek, like in the old song. Oh, we should be dancing.
I don't think to look at the inscription inside the book until I get home. From what I'd seen of other people's books, he wrote the same thing, something like, "You're wonderful!" and his name.
Inside mine? "I still love you."
Was the 36-year wait worth it?
Need you ask?
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