Saturday, December 11, 2004

Santa Unwrapped

I've been wrestling with a fat man, this guy with the jumbo-holiday that shrinks my free time down to zip and puts a half-nelson on my credit card. Nothing jolly about it - it's time to sweat the small stuff - the tree trimming, the holly hoarding, to the point of wanting to roast a few nuts over the fire. It's too much, but I can't stop until I've turned the exterior of my house into a giant lite-brite and baked cookies for half the county. I can't, and I won't....and I shouldn't.

Because I've found out Santa's secret, why he does what he does. I've attained the "runner's high" in holiday giving. Like a fruitcake that tastes good, my hosanah moment shocked the bell off my jingle. It came as I shopped for strangers, for a family I will never know, except that they needed Santa's help. And now I know why it's so great to be Santa, to swoop in and light a candle in the darkness, to light a spirit that was dulled.

Funny how the biggest warm fuzzies can happen at the coldest time of the year. Granted, here in Los Angeles, that's not saying much. I won't flaunt stories of wearing shorts while baking Christmas cookies or wrapping presents outside under the palm trees. But it's not the heat, it's the timidity. At the holidays, most people are so busy within their own lives that they seldom reach beyond to find, however hackneyed, overlooked and trampled, the true meaning of Christmas. And that's a shame, since it's often as close as a whisker, a neighbor, a friend of a friend. And the feeling of giving, that rush all Santas live for, is a plush, velvet glow that lights candles, hearths, and hearts.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Yankee Fan's Lament

Once upon a Wednesday dreary
As I toiled weak and weary,
Rose a blood red stain on baseball’s final chore.

So full the moon, but quickly shaded
Eclipsed by shame and sadly faded
Went the redbirds, swept in four.

Til a blood red moon appear
Til then no Bosox bat to fear
Gently tapping, tapping, tapping at Bambino’s door.

A freak nocturnal apparition
In the spookiest tradition
Only this...and nothing more.

Await the Red to win again?
Not in this lifetime, my friend
All I know is...nevermore.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Reading Me

I just peered at an online column for guys on how to be romantic. Maybe I shouldn’t go there, like a peeping Thomasina, but I thought that if I knew how they functioned, maybe it would be easier for me to figure them out. Then I would cry, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Yes, I’ve heard - men are simple beings, nothing tricky really. Making things complicated only complicates things.

So strike one on me, but I’m not changing now, and that’s a whole ‘nother story. The title was, "Use Romance Novels to Woo Her," by Jason Davis. Guess I was drawn by the use of the word "woo." Funny word in an unfunny place. If you want to sweep a woman off her feet, Mr. Davis revealed, find out what her favorite romance novel is. All women, he explained, read these trashy paperbacks, and typically reread their favorite passages over and over. Well now, this was getting amusing. Woo, woo, woo on me. I looked at my bookcase and its inhabitants – the Bible (in case Mom visits), the Book of Irish Curses (in case Dad visits), various biographies (that scream "THIS person was successful – what’s YOUR problem?"), and Shakespeare to impress the hell out of any visitors. Sorry, no romance novels here- guess I’m a failure as a woman.

But if you were to snoop in the nightstand by my bed (don’t - I have a security system and you will be prosecuted), you’d find hope. After smashing a window and disarming the dog, my imaginary beau would encounter "Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris. And if he were dumb enough to break into my house, he’d be stupid enough to consider this a romance novel. Taking the book, he’d follow the columnist’s advice, holding the book with the spine to the table and gently letting it fall open to the most read passage. This, by the way, was the key denouement of the column. So sneaky – breaking and entering AND divining my reading passion with such a tricky trick!

I took "Holidays" and put it to the test. Not once could I get it to open to something other than the front or back cover. It would just flop over dead like a guy with a tv remote. Finally I examined the spine to see if it was perhaps tweaked to one particular page. It did indeed bend a bit on page twenty-two. I read eagerly, as if it was a fortune cookie divulging my wildest dreams, unknown even to me until now. It was the part where Sedaris works as an elf in a department store, helping Santa process all the Christmas rugrat requests. A mother places her daughter, dressed in pink lace and pigtails, on Santa’s lap. The daughter whispers giddily what she wants in Santa’s ear, but the poor man is struggling because, well, because the daughter is forty.

Things would get interesting when "Beau", as directed by the column, would emulate my alleged favorite passage by growing a grey beard and packing on an extra seventy pounds. Or maybe he’d dress in elfin garb and bring in a fat old guy for a menage-a-yuk. Put your mistletoe back in your pants, I’m not sitting on anyone’s knee. Bye-bye, Beau.

My favorite passage from a romance novel? The one I made from being a put-upon working wife to owner-operator of my own life. It’s still being written. And yes, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

It’s Ok – He's With God

Holy hall pass - I watched the minivan careen through traffic on borrowed time. “Powered by Jesus” honked its bumper sticker. Weaving and swerving, it was all the Moses bobblehead on his dashboard could do to stay upright.

A few drivers were trying to get his attention by waving and yelling “Jesus!” at him, but to no avail. Perhaps the saintly driver was chatting on his cell phone with God. It was obvious he was in a bigger hurry than the rest of us because he was on the way to do God's work. All I knew was that if he kissed bumpers with the semi in the next lane, he would need more than Mapquest to find Saint Peter.

How would the Saints drive? St. Francis would probably be the worst. Run up a whole bunch of speeding tickets, then, just as they were going to take his license away, he would repent. God would give him his ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, and off he’d go, all smuglike in his trendy hairshirt, rattling the keys to his Porsche like a spoiled teenager. St. John the Baptist would sport about in either an old VW bus or an economically friendly electric car, depending on how well his stir-fried grasshoppers were selling. St. Paul would have road rage issues. Mary Magdalene’s convertible would have a St. Jude medal hanging from the rearview. St. Mary would probably have a “Jesus on Board” sign in the back window. And of course, St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, would be stuck in traffic on the 405. A few choice words of frustration and bam!- he's bumped from saint to sargeant.

It was easier, in the good ol’ holy days, to be serene. No traffic jams, spam email, or commercials. The complete lack of telephone solicitors alone would be worth at least minor sainthood. Maybe we needed a modern day St. Patrick to rid the world of phone salesmen. I would definitely vote him into the Saints’ Hall of Fame.

As the "Powered by Jesus" minivan floated through another amber light, I wondered if, for everyone's sake, the world would be a better place if the zealots had their own lane. They were obviously more important than us, destined for greatness by the sheer aura of their bumper stickers. It could be like the caste system in India, the great unwashed unwelcome, a golden halo logo stamped on the street for members only, reserved for his chosen people - the promised "holy lane."

The only issue would be when two saintly commuters collided. If both are without sin, who is at fault? Maybe the devil made them do it. Regardless, one quick trip to the confessional and, erase, erase, off they would go again, ready to share God's word with the next poor soul they bump into.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Miss Annie and the Psycho Sexual

Crawling around on the hairy underbelly of the Internet were some rather interesting characters. No one I wanted to get to know too well, but there’s the upside. On the web, nobody needs a rabies shot. I was just there to monitor the class, or lack thereof.

It was late. It was always late. I’m not making excuses, but things happen. I was traversing part of that vast waistland of girlie diets and pipe-dream he-man hubbies, looking for the key to finer abs and learning how to meet Mr. Right in the liquor aisle, when I bumped square into a "famed pyscho sexual." "Increase Your Sex Appeal," the title teased, followed by a photo I assumed was the "before" shot. Turtleneck, short, blahnde hair, blander smile –basically someone’s mom in dire need of a makeover before making out.

Nooo – it was a headshot of our sex hostess, ever ready to offer tips on how to be irresistible to men. The whiplash of the soccer mom’s wan smirk poised next to the words "Sex Appeal" made me more likely to ask her for advice on how to be psycho than sexy. Nutso, I suspected, was one topic for which she was certified. I clicked on her double chin, following the link to where her bio should have been. But it morphed into another "sexpert’s" headshot – this one vertically stretched to make the vamp in it appear thinner. "Lou" could have been the "after" shot in the voyage to Kamp Kissy, but only if it were a transsexual horror flick.

By now I had to take her quiz, "How Sexy Are You?", so off I went. After passing with flying colors, I couldn’t resist checking out what advice the losers needed to bone up on. One of the first things she mentioned is to take a good look in the mirror. Golly. Did you know you could hire this person to advise you, pay her real cash to be told gems like this? Her second nugget was to learn to love yourself. I’m guessing she has personal experience on this one, and that’s as far as I want to go down that cul-de-sac.

Wardrobe was next – find clothes that make you feel "sexy yet sober." Judging from the photo example, this meant a turtleneck paired with a "come wither" look. Mirror, mirror, on the walleye - the only turtleneck I recall in the Playboy mansion belongs to Hugh Hefner. I guess once you hit eighty, the skin on your neck just naturally surrenders to gravity, so he’s got an excuse. But what’s hers? We’re then told to wear clothes that feel good – guess I’ll have to toss that straitjacket in the trash. A shame, too, since it’s such a great color on me.

Granted, I’m glad she didn’t post some silicone bimbo shot – there’s obviously more to sexy than that. But I’m paying nearly twenty bucks a month to surf the Internet, so I deserve a decent bang for my buck. Is that too much to ask? It’s not even the money – isn’t my time worth more?

Perhaps not. I was home alone, dateless, on a Saturday night, unwilling to pay extra for a digital line. The epitome of pathetic, and desperately needing to learn how not to let that happen again. Mrs. "Sexpert" Turtleneck promised to change all that, and I bit, only to find she was using phony bait. I even suspected she posted really feeble tidbits just on Saturday nights for the superlosers. Whether that was generous or cruel, I hadn’t a clue.

So that’s it? There’s no secret, magic way to that happily-ever-afterglow? To admit that whopper meant giving up hope, giving up the dream that someone would someday sweep me off my feet, even if he threw his back out in the process. I wasn’t that dismal yet.

Maybe I had been a little hard on Mrs. Turtleneck. After all, she was published, someone had to think she was worth paying to post. And here I was, a jealous imp, picking on her stuff.  Did I need to lower my standards, both on men and mentors?

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Faith, Hope, and Clarity

“Jewelry is a distraction, a ruse designed to divert a viewer’s eye from the flaws of the wearer. It is for the realm of the older woman, much like vertical stripes, oversized sunglasses, and hats with their own zip code.” My friend Faith paused from her slurred diatribe long enough to take a sip from her 3rd Bloody Mary. Luckily she wrapped up her babble by gushing how I was far too young and beautiful to need jewelry, so I knew she was still sober enough to buy the next round.

Not need jewelry? Since when does “jewelry” have anything to do with “need”? It is one of the few things that not only doesn’t have a justification, it refuses to acknowledge that one might be required. When Faith says she “simply must have that emerald brooch,” it is not because it holds her scarf together oh so nicely. She needs it because she wants it. To venture further down that “why?” path only invites catastrophe.

Enter the modern male, replete with his invitation. He blinks, stares and shrugs, ensuring his demise. Or worse, he gets it completely wrong.

A long-suffering friend was once asked by her goombah boyfriend whether she preferred platinum or gold for Christmas. Thrilled, she told everyone she knew that he was finally going to get the hint she had been klonking him over the head with and, you know, ask her. Christmas morning, the look on her face was unforgettable as she opened her new platinum blender. It was, he added gleefully to his emotional dungheap, so she could make protein shakes for him.

Clue number one - when the better half is about to launch a key announcement, there is a hitch, a shift in the voice. Sometimes a weighted pause announces that something BIG is in the wind. It is clear from the tone a Woman uses that Man needs to sit up, suck up, shut up, and take notes.

Yes, no one likes to have instructions force fed to them. But for once, let’s look past the initial uncomfortable event. For the sake of argument, let’s say Man took notes and (gasp!) acted upon them. Emerald brooch in hand, he delivers the precious sacrifice to his female shrine. What would happen? After so many, many years of lowered expectations, of phony smiles and broken dreams, a dim light would flicker. Hope would warm the caverns of Womanhood again. And Man would be, well, happy. Men, proceed to your happy spot and remember that feeling. Simplistically, for your sake, jewelry = happy spot. Fair enough?

For a while anyway. Eventually the brooch would get dull and Woman would need a shiny new one to rekindle the light, so off Man would go again, if he knew what was good for him.

“Jeremy is a distraction, a rube designed to divert a viewer’s eye from the flaws of the world.” My friend Faith pawed at her emerald brooch that was a gift from her 3rd boyfriend this year. Jeremy the Man kept Faith very well distracted. For a while anyway. Eventually he would get dull and Faith would need a shiny new one to rekindle the light, so off he would go again, if he knew what was good for him.

Brooch stays, Man leaves. I can dream, can’t I? By this time I’m dwelling in the realm of mystic fiction, but that’s where Hope lives, alone, but with a marvelous collection of jewelry. And this I do know – she welcomes visitors, anytime. Especially those bearing gifts.

The Heeling Process

Guys like simplicity. Sunday = football, one hairstyle for a lifetime (often outlasting the hair), a couple pairs of shoes max…. So why is it that when a guy sees a woman in high heels, his head rotates like an owl spying a limping mouse? Is he marveling at the torque mechanics of such a highly-leveraged load? Is he, like some NASCAR devotees, simply waiting for the crash that seems inevitable? Or is he responding to a trigger buried deep in genetic code? In this case, DNA stands for Do Not Approach.

And what better way to get his attention than to say ‘go away?’ Men have their own secret, daily ‘Opposite Day.’ “Whatever you do, honey, don’t take out the trash.” Ok, that one just might confuse him, but you get the idea.

The higher the heel, the higher the deal. It’s a simple girly warning that screams “I dare you to afford me.” It screams because wearing 3-inch heels can make you do just that – scream. “I’m pouty, but it’s my shoes fault and there’s nothing you can do about it, big guy.” And while we all know guys love dares, this guy’s in over his head. You think he would have learned from his past mistakes, or watching his buddies crash and burn. Touching a lit match once should be sufficient, but as the entranced bug so eloquently said to the bug zapper in “A Bug’s Life,” “I can’t help it – it’s so beautiful.” Zap!

On the flip side, there is no other reason to wear high heels than to attract attention. Sure, they make you taller, and by proportion, thinner. But the trade-off is the odds that at any moment your painted lips will smack pavement. And if you’re lucky enough to have mastered the tilting walk, your calf muscles have probably shortened so much that you’ll never walk flat-footed again, bound to tip-toe Grinch-like through Whoville the rest of your days.

So why do we climb up into these strappy deathtraps? Yes, I admit that I wear them sometimes, and if a guy turns to look, I snarl at the lout. What do I expect? Of course he’s going to look – I’m wearing heels! What I didn’t realize is that heads were turning not because I was the ultimate vamp, but that as a result of jacking my heels sky high, my knees were now making a bizarre clicking noise…

Saturday, June 5, 2004


Struggling with a recalcitrant spreadsheet, I grumbled a few choice words under my breath. A perky head, attached to an equally nosy body, floated its way into my cubicle. “You know,” murmured the head as it slurped its decaf, “Jesus loves you.”

“Jesus?!” I squawked, spooking the head and spilling its coffee. “Thanks for sharing. But right now I could really use somebody who knows Excel.”

“It doesn’t matter,” the head continued its catatonic monotone, “None of it matters. Jesus loves everyone.” The hand attached to the head put the dripping coffee cup on my desk and wiped itself on the head’s pants. Apparently Jesus takes his coffee very hot.

“If Jesus loves us so much, how come he let you get burned by your coffee? How come he didn’t say ‘Yo, don’t go near that chick with the spreadsheet or she’ll startle you and you’ll burn your hand?’” As the words left my lips, I realized my mistake. The head perked up, all ready with a canned reply. I’m sure they teach this comebacker in “Born Again 101.”

The head beamed, “Jesus sent me here to save you. It is God’s will.” I began to wonder how the head had gotten past security.

“I think Jesus would have wanted you to use a coaster.” I was starting to get the hang of this game – hang an aura on your head, and you get to tell other people what Jesus wants them to do. Sorta like “Simon Says,” only with a Super-duper holy guy calling the shots and eternity in hell waiting for you if you screwed up. I assumed the holy melancholy and intoned, “And Jesus would love you more if you and your holy mocha got the hell out of my office.”

It was soon evident that this couldn’t be a two-way game. Only one of us could claim to broadcast the Jesus channel. The other would have to settle in as blind-faith patsy. But I was confident that my Jesus could kick his Jesus’s butt.

“So, you say you know JC,” I sidled up to the head, as much as you can sidle up to a head. “How long have you known him?” First shot fired right across his bow.

“Since May 4th,1998.”

“Well, I was born knowing Jesus,” I strutted, “And after all this time, he’s never once mentioned you.”

The head bobbled a bit, then shot back, “To truly know something, one must first distance oneself from it to gain perspective. Only then can one truly and knowingly embrace it.”

“Fair enough,” I conceded. “Ecclesiastes?”

“Fortune cookie,” he replied. “Look, I’d love to stay here and chat, but my boss will have my head if I don’t finish my report tonight. And I need to get something on this burn.”

“Nothing else matters,” I smiled. “Because Jesus loves you. And I do believe the burn was God's will.”

Head hung low, he sighed. “I’d appreciate it if you don’t mention this conversation to anyone. I’m supposed to attempt a few converts a day. If I fail, I fail. But I don’t need to get my butt handed to me like this.” He hesitated at the door. “Your the third column, 5th row, your macro is missing a paren.” With that he was gone.

A bright light shone upon my monitor, my rows and columns flowed in quiet exuberation, and the left and right lobes of my brain let loose great waves of relief as the truth revealed itself. “Thank God.”

He Said, She Said a Whole Lot More

Ah, the first date. Might as well swallow a bucket of Red Bull and then try to thread a needle. You’re both gonna be nervous, but that’s where the similarities end. They say women are from Venus. Well, guys are from Planet Simple, just past Planet “Huh?”, near the Moon of “Really, I was Listening, Please Give Me Back the Remote.”

For example, preparation – from the moment the date is confirmed, she is nervous and planning. He thinks he’s nervous, but soon realizes that it’s just hunger. A quick corn dog at the 7-11 and he soon forgets that he even has a date. By this time, she has gone through eighty-seven potential outfits to wear on the date, realized she has absolutely nothing to wear, and is at the mall trying to find something suitable.

Shoes! Goodness, what will she do? You can tell so much by her shoes. They can’t be scuffed or worn – that would make her look like she has to work for a living. (Of course she has to work for a living – who the hell paid for the shoes, Santa Claus?) And they can’t be too plain or too vampy – don’t want to convey the wrong impression. When the actual truth is the only impression that needs to be made is that yes, she remembered to wear shoes. And even if she didn’t wear them, he might like that. As for him, he’s all set – he has shoes.

Hair! Don’t get me started, I can do that perfectly well myself. All the wild things we women do to our hair, and the cruel twist is, boys don’t care. Watching the commercial in which two women are fighting in a fountain over a beer’s best attributes, all I can think is, they are totally messing up their hairdos. Guys are thinking, well, let’s just say that guys are not thinking with the upstairs brain.

All night, from salad to main course to remorse, she misreads him, frantically overthinking his underthinking. For some horrid reason, he left the room in the middle of dessert. Maybe, she thinks, she scarfed up the fudge flambee too quickly. Reality is, he just had to pee.

Then, you have the ‘legs akimbo’ possibilities. This is where the vastness of the gender gulf becomes obvious. She wonders if he’ll kiss her good night, and he’s thinking about whether the Cubs really have a chance this year. She wonders if she should ask him in, he’s hoping that she does ask him in because he has to pee again. She wonders what side of the bed he likes to sleep on, and he’s wondering if he should tell her about the booger she’s had hanging off her nose for the last two hours.

Groan Men

Somehow it’s only funny when the joke is on someone else. Grown men - I always liked that oxymoron. That is, until I actually owned an oxymoron.

Liberated, I was too smart to think I could change one. Tame a wild mustang? You bet. Mend a barbed wire fence with my teeth and some macaroni? Piece of cake. Get Gustaf the Hairy to put his dirty clothes somewhere near the hamper? What am I, a miracle worker?

Liberated – from what? From laundry, dish washing, vacuuming, ironing, dusting, grocery shopping, floor scrubbing??? Stop me if you see a chore that has recently become a bastion of male tradition. Bastion being a good thing. Somebody, stop me.

As a secondary option, I was able to train the dog to put “Hairy’s” stinky clothes in the hamper. The only downside was when Hairy was still wearing the clothes. And it became a real issue when any of his sweaty friends visited. On the bright side, visits were kept to a minimum, since smelly guests would usually be forced to leave scratched and naked.

In our early days, possessing a male of the species was considered by most women to be a status symbol. We all just had to have one. “Isn’t he cute?” we’d giggle, like it was a hamster. But a 200 pound hamster quickly becomes a B-movie nightmare - “The Man Who Wouldn’t Leave” starring Gustaf the Hairy and uh, me.

Why didn’t I listen to my mother? “Don’t feed it – it’ll follow you home and you’ll have to keep it. Now excuse me while I get a bib for your Dad.”