Thursday, May 01, 2014

Turn It Off, Like a Light Switch

It would appear that the case of sexual predation of teenage boys leveled against certain powerful figures in Hollywood is getting wider. The lawyer at the heart of this case, controversial Florida-based attorney Jeff Herman, is quoted as saying of the new plaintiffs, “They are ready to come forward” and that the case “cuts across all of Hollywood: studios, agents, directors, producers, and actors.”

"And," I thought to myself, "managers."

It was the early eighties. I was thirteen years old. While shepherding me to one weird child-actor event or another, my mother developed a casual friendship with a manager escorting his young clients to the same activities.  "Mitchell" was funny, witty, well-educated; exactly the sort of person you rarely get in a room full of people who happily describe themselves as "Momagers." My mother stayed in touch with Mitchell, to the point where they became friends. We'd go to his house for barbecues. It wasn't onerous for me; there were always kids for me to hang out with. Actually, there were always boys for me to hang out with. Mitchell only represented boys between the ages of twelve and about sixteen, young-looking, similar in features, hairless. I knew they were hairless not only because I’d see them swimming on those hot afternoons but because Mitchell had big blow-up pictures of them mounted throughout the house, brooding into camera, hair swept just so, shirtless and in cut-offs. The pictures were all taken by "Patrick," who had been Mitchell's client when he was in his early teens but was now a professional photographer. Patrick lived in the house with Mitchell, as did a rotating collection of younger boys, shuttled into Los Angeles for months at a time by their parents, to attend school and audition for Hollywood. In all the time I knew Mitchell, I don't remember a single boy getting a part above a walk-on. After a couple of years, they'd stop living there and be replaced by yet more boys, fresher boys.

There was one boy, though, who stayed past the usual sell-by date. I liked "Bryan". He was a couple of years older than me, gentle and funny, easy company to be around.  When I was about sixteen, my mother told me that Mitchell had discovered Bryan had been using drugs in the house. She said that while Mitchell had tried to help Bryan, Bryan had run away and was living on the streets. Two years later, I heard that Bryan had come back to live with Mitchell. We came over and saw him; he was as gentle and funny as always. He was also dying. Bryan was the first person my age I knew who died of AIDS. 

I never saw Mitchell doing anything to those boys. I'll never be called to testify against him or any of the other managers I heard whispered about -- the ones who always seemed to have parentless boys nearby. But here's the thing: I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old and I knew something was...weird. Why didn't any adult see fit to question why a grown man needed a constant flow of underage boys? I don't blame my mother for missing what might have been some pretty damning clues. Mitchell was her friend and at that time society understood sexual predators to be strangers in vans. My mom was a recent widow with a teenage daughter so it’s safe to assume all her vigilance was pretty much used up on me. But there were other people who knew Mitchell, and other managers like Mitchell, and as far as I know, no one ever stood up to any one of these grown men and said "This must stop." Like everyone else in town, I knew the names of certain people, the people you'd never let alone with your young sons. And like everyone else, I did nothing. I rationalized. I didn't have evidence. This city loves to gossip. If something was going on, someone would have been arrested by now, right?

And the predators used our desire to avoid social discomfort to continue hurting children. 

Do I think all names we're about to hear will be guilty? Maybe not. Do I think opportunists will make financial hay out of whatever is going to come of this lawyer's case? You betcha. Do I think that some young men who are legally underage are capable of making decisions sexually and may consider a relationship with an adult to have been consensual? Oh, absolutely. But I'll tell you this: when each name of a famous or important person come out, someone in the business is going to read it and think "Yeah. I knew that.” I wonder how many will add “...And I should have tried to stop it."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I Want the World To Know

I really, really don't want to be the Person Who Keeps Talking About Vaccinations, if for no other reason that I have sat next to these people, on both sides of the coin, at dinner parties and I'd sooner eat an oyster than be that person and oysters make me vomit.

And yet a couple of items slipped under the door today and I felt as if I should give them attention, which is another way of saying I'm currently avoiding writing something and aggravating people is possibly the second-best way of procrastinating and I've already cleaned the copper-bottomed pots. 

First, a Berkeley student with measles rode BART over three days, potentially exposing tens of thousand of people to measles. Unfortunately, San Francisco has a lower-than-average rate of vaccination, which means that people who might normally be protected, aren't. Also, there were people on those trains who were under the age of six months, or going through chemotherapy, or living in some immune-compromised way or another and they are now at risk. People like my daughter's friend who, because of poultry allergies, cannot have the usual course of vaccinations and must rely on herd immunity to remain healthy. Enough of the population gets sick and she's at risk, and since she has underlying respiratory conditions, this is a higher risk than her family would ever have taken.

When families choose not to vaccinate, they are making that decision for other families as well. "So?" people might ask, "It's just measles. People get measles all the time; it's not a big deal." In fact, I got a totally respectful comment to the last blog I wrote about this: I think that vaccinations have gone too far. When I was a kid i had chicken pox and therefore got the lifelong immunity. Also German Measles. Never got anything else, like mumps, but got vaccinated for those. I don't think every little childhood disease needs a shot, but having said that you must consider the overall health of the child, family history, etc. Love the blog. Thanks for your kind words about the blog and thanks for not escalating this.

I've already lost people in my life over my belief and had people unfriend and unfollow me over this; polite disagreement is a glorious thing. Now, let's consider what you said: You had chicken pox and are now immune. Good! But thanks to and the CDC, here are some potential side effects of having chicken pox:
  •  pneumonia 
  •  bleeding problems 
  •  infection or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia) 
  •  bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections 
  •  blood stream infections (sepsis) 
  •  toxic shock syndrome • bone infections 
  •  joint infections 
 [On an anecdotal level, my mother was permanently deaf in one ear because the fever from a "Harmless childhood illness" was so high it cooked the nerve to the ear.]

And from WebMD:
  • Pregnant women who have chickenpox during the first half of pregnancy may go into labor early (premature labor) or have a miscarriage. 
  • Pregnant women who have chickenpox in the last part of pregnancy are more likely to develop varicella pneumonia. Even a healthy pregnant woman is at risk of dying if she develops varicella pneumonia. 
  • Up to 2 out of 100 fetuses whose mothers have chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy will also get chickenpox. This is called congenital varicella and can cause birth defects that can include one limb (usually a leg) smaller than the other, scars on the limbs or eye problems such as cloudy lenses. Low birth weight (weigh less than expected at birth).
  • Seizures. The baby can have seizures after birth.
  • Intellectual disability.
  • Shingles. Fetuses who have chickenpox will not have chickenpox again. But they can still have shingles, even as babies or young children. 
  • Death. Up to 7 out of 100 of the fetuses who get congenital varicella die. 
So, those can happen, but let's assume most of these complications don't happen that often. Luckily, there isn't any complication with a high rate of probability, right? Except, there is. Once you have had chicken pox, you carry the virus for the rest of your life in your nerve cells. As you grow older, or have secondary health issues taxing your immune system, or are just under the stress that being alive can offer, the virus can flare up and cause shingles. If you've never experienced shingles, count yourself lucky; I've been told the pain is terrible.

The CDC says that 1 in 250 people will be diagnosed with shingles annually, but when you consider that shingles is not usually a disease of young adulthood, the odds of getting shingles get higher as you get older. My mother-in-law developed shingles and then developed a secondary nerve condition where she was in agonizing pain nearly all her waking hours. For years, every day she'd have to decide whether to stay alert and in agony or take her pain pills and feel better but be completely zonked out. My mother-in-law was a wonderful person. I loved her and I smile when I think of who she was, but part of me wishes she had died the day before all of this started, because I don't think she had a good day for the last five years of her life. People suffer terribly from shingles, and anyone who doesn't vaccinate their child now is as much as saying that they are prepared to let that happen. Chickenpox isn't nothing.

Yes, most people get through German Measles without incident, but there is a percentage of the population for whom it can be catastrophic. If a pregnant woman gets German Measles, she can miscarry or have a stillbirth. If the developing fetus makes it to term, there is up to a 50% likelihood of  Congenital Rubella Syndrome, which is devastating.

Imagine that Berkeley student on the BART was infected with German Measles. How many pregnant women, how many fetuses, could he have risked? This used to happen all the time, and then we decided as a society that vaccinations were for the common good and pregnant women, and mothers of infants, and people like the family of my daughter's friend could go out and not worry about dying of certain diseases. That luxury is being taken away from us as a culture, and a small percentage of our population is doing it.

[Assuming I just lost another chunk of people who read me. Sorry.]

If you have less than two minutes to spare, I think Penn and Teller did a lovely if profane job of summing up the cost/benefit analysis of vaccinations.

That's it. I'm done. I promise I'll try to go back to being the other person you don't want next to you at a dinner party, the one who fishes out her phone while hooting "Wait! Let me show you my cats!"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You're Building a Mystery

Called Los Angeles Unified School District for homeschooling housekeeping question. Me: I wonder what standardized tests you recognize besides the ones taken in the classroom. Person on Phone: No. I actually laughed. Me: You do realize "No" isn't an answer to that question, right? Oh, LAUSD, you overworked behemoth, never change. Right, you won't.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm Coming Out

(Written in response to this article.)

 For the last few years, I've added "...and vaccinating" to the end of "In polite company, never talk about sex, politics or religion" adage because, honestly, I'm no better educated than Jenny McCarthy and who needs another marginally-public figure running their mouth? Also, I know I've got readers who believe deeply in certain things and if the following hurts your feelings or makes you think "Quinn doesn't GET it" or boycott my writing then I'm sorry. But here goes.

 I'm Team Vaccination.

 While we're at it, I think antibiotics are an awesome invention and are the reason I didn't die of one of my numberless sinus infections, throat infections and bacterial lung infections. Antibiotics are the reason my daughter is here to complain when I insist she brush her teeth, another thing which, like vaccinations, prevent bad things from happening.

Side note: I do not think antibiotics are awesome for feed animals nor do I think people should get them for viral infections and I happen to be very concerned about overuse of antibiotics, which is not the same thing as being concerned about the use of antibiotics.

 I'm Team Herd Immunity.

The educated bohemian parents who are deciding not to vaccinate are putting not only adults whose vaccinations have worn off at risk, they're putting my daughter's oldest friend and people like her at risk. "Layla" cannot be vaccinated because of allergies to eggs and chicken. Her parents would LOVE for her to be protected from diseases which could kill her, but they have to rely on the rest of the population to be vaccinated and not expose Layla; they can't rely on that any more. Now the only tools they have are reminding Layla to wash her hands constantly and prayer. As far as disease prevention goes, Layla now lives in the 18th century.

 I'm Team Science.

The original study which set this whole thing off was debunked. I quote:

 An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible. 

 For those who thought it was the mercury in the vaccinations doing the harm, I give you Science Daily, 1/8/2008:

 Autism cases continued to increase in California after the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal was eliminated from most childhood vaccines, according to a new report.This suggests that exposure to thimerosal is not a primary cause of autism. 

 And for those who've told me not having diseases mean the body is losing opportunities to grow and develop, I give you my mother's first memory, which is of the priest over her bed giving her last rites. She had mumps; she was three. Her mother had made the dress she was to be buried in. Yes, my mother pulled through, with only lifetime deafness in one ear to show for it, but several other children in her small town that winter didn't. I assure you they weren't less healthy or worthy than my mother. My grandfather died of a burst appendix because there were no antibiotics at the time. People died of infected cuts in within the last century. Life before modern medicine was a crapshoot and I'm no gambler.

 I'm Team I Don't Want to See My Daughter Die of Something Which Was Avoidable. For that matter, I'm Team I Don't Want to Die of Something Avoidable. I have asthma which is aggravated by coughing. I could be that luckless bastard who gets whooping cough and dies of an asthma attack. Which means I just realized I have to get a Pertussis booster. And I say while I hate parking at my doctor's office, I thank God the vaccination is there.

 To sum it up, we can be friends, and we can agree not to talk about this, but I'm not going to just smile and look pained any more if someone starts slamming modern medicine.

 I've got too much team spirit.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I've Changed My Routine/Now I'm Clean

It's not that I hate the dishwasher, exactly; it's just that the position of "Thing which does nothing but sit around the house and not work" in this house is already filled by the cats.

 When we first got the dishwasher, it was replacing the dishwasher which had come with the house, a house which had been owned by people with deep ties to the shoddy appliance industry. If it was an improvement of the 20th century, we had the crappiest version of it, always with some name that almost sounded familiar: Amenna; Kenmoore; Mootag. The stove celebrated one Christmas Eve by propelling the oven door halfway across the kitchen into my abdomen. Luckily, I think the thing was made of pressed cardboard covered in asbestos, so it didn't hurt as much as it might have. The dishwasher, in cycle, made noises like it was washing Augean stables;. There was so much chugging, groaning, lamenting went on that we arranged to run when we were out of the house because it frightened the then-baby. And yet, for all that noise, the dishwasher had only two speeds; anemic sneeze and throat-clearing. It wasn't that the dishes got washed so much as the food particles got a spa day.

 Being as money was going elsewhere, we made do. We washed the dishes ahead of time, which always struck me as enabling that thing. We ran rinse cycles in between loads, the clear any particles which might have accidently been shook loose from a dish. We treated the washer like it was half invalid, half dish storage unit. It's fair to say our expectations were very realistic. When it died and we were obligated to buy another washer, a great cheer was heard as we piled into the car and headed to Sears.

 New dishwasher was solidly middle: middle-range price; middling degree of extra cycles; it's even sort of a middling beige. As we were filling out the delivery paperwork, I patted it and whispered "We're fond of you. Now let me never think of you again." And the first few months, it appeared my pathetic little dreams were to be realized. I would open the dishwasher and LO! Dishes which were clean and there was a great joy among the people, mostly this people.

 A few months later, I started to notice something. Yes, the dishes and glasses were cleaned of their particles, but it seemed that new particles were being left in their place. Honestly, I'm not that obsessive that I know what particles go where; there was a bit of sand/coffee ground/microsludge on everything and I haven't served sand/coffee ground/microsludge in years. I showed it to Consort. He informed me that I wasn't rinsing the dishes sufficiently. I briefly hated him for always taking the appliance's side and sullenly washed the dishes. The ghost slurry went away. Consort didn't gloat.

A month later, even though I was still pre-washing, the ghost slurry was back.

I did gloat.

Consort did that thing where he brings the tools from the garage and made a great deal of noise and swore and there were little washing machine partlets all over the kitchen and the ghost sludge went away again.

 And then it came back.







 "It's the drain-trap!"



 "No, it's the crimped intake pipe!"



 "How did you not notice there was a spoon caught in the drain trap?"



 There's always a reason, there's always a fix; there used to be hope. Now there is only the cynicism one feels when a friend is heading to her fifteenth trip to rehab, swearing that this time, it's definitely going to stick! Sure, honey. Let me just keep the vanilla extract and the Sterno at my house, okay? For the moment, we can't replace it. Frankly, I'm not sure I even want to. Before we went to Sears, we read Consumer Reports; we got reviews raving about this exact dishwasher. Maybe it's not that the previous owner bought every crappy appliance on the market so much as living in this house causes appliances to give up hope. We're prison, they're here for life, and the only joy they can find is to screw with our heads and carefully apply ghost sludge. Fine, I say. FINE.

Now, if you will excuse me, the dishwasher ran last night; I have a lot of dishes to do.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This is the End

I start this by noting that until he met me, Consort had exactly one pet in his lifetime. It was a spaniel named Brownie when he was a child. Brownie destroyed a few things and was sent by Consort's parents to live on that wonderful farm all obnoxious pets went to before 1980. Not only was he not used to animals, the man is allergic to cats. I repeat; CONSORT SPENDS EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE SNIFFLING JUST SO I AM HAPPY.

Consort is a wonderful man. So wonderful, in fact, that he has never, not once, not even in a covert way, suggested he'd be happier with only bipeds in the house. Doesn't mean I don't think it, though. At least once a day I'll catch Consort running the defurring roller over a sweater, or blocking a cat trying to make a landing on the kitchen table, or letting the dog outside to pee for the fifth time in an hour (he's an old dog.).  I'll think to myself "That man never wanted pets." And then I Swiffer to atone. We go through a great many Swiffer pads. With all this in mind, I will tell you the following story. I will attempt to keep it dainty, but make no promises.

The cats, Diana and Squeakers, also known as the Merry Mistresses of Mayhem, have habits. One of these habits is that before they go to sleep for each night, they must mightily use the litter-box. Usually, I take care of any litter-boxish chores. If I feel like listening to whining and mutinous mumbles, I make the kid do it. I try very hard to keep this from being Consort's responsibility (See: Never Wanted Pets, above). But this late-night ritual, mystifyingly, must not happen while I'm awake. If I fall asleep at 9, it will happen at 9:30. If I stay awake until very, very late, with the specific intention of tending to this chore - because Consort has had an especially pet-laden day and doesn't need more - the cats will wait until late, late-thirty to finish off, as it were.

Consort inevitably stays up later than I do because he needs a quiet house to work so, all too frequently, he deals with it. Them. It's quite horrible. I feel terrible. He has sworn it's not that bad, because he's wonderful and also lies. Two weeks ago, I awoke early to find a note on the table. When one partner is a day-person and the other flies by night, a lot of your relationship is conducted by Post-It. The note said only "HAVE YOU CHANGED THE CAT'S FOOD?" I was baffled by this. Just because he's tolerant of our plethora of pets doesn't mean he notices their culinary details. Hell, Consort still refers to Diana and Squeakers as "The boys." So why would he even notice the cats had a different kind of --


"The worst thing I've ever smelled in my life," Consort announced that evening, when we had a chance to talk, "And I've smelled death." And readers, I was left with a conundrum. The food was, of course, not cheap and need I even mention I had gotten the larger size? On the other hand, for weeks to come Consort was going to have to stop working on an Excel spreadsheet to confront genuine evil. (I'd suggest that just meant he was going from evil to evil, but Consort and I have agreed to disagree on the relative merits of Excel.)

The money! The odor! The waste! The odor! In the end -- you should pardon the expression -- there was no question of what do do. We went back to the regular spread. The food of evil emanations went to Sante D'Or who passed it on to a woman who feeds a feral population she's trying to get spayed and neutered. I figured it was healthy, the fish oil would help their shabby coats and if she did manage to catch them and wrangle them to the vet, they'll avenge their lost gonads in the stinkiest way possible.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Same As It Ever Was

Here's the problem with waiting to write until something worth writing about happens: something worth writing about has to happen. Or, rather, if you're me, something worth writing about which hasn't happened numberless times before.

Earworm holding me hostage? We've covered that. (Although I would love a moment of renewed pity  as I've been listening to "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" carom around my head all day.)

My love of a classic (read: stunningly dull) wardrobe contrasted with my need to simultaneously worship and make fun of VOGUE magazine? I believe you know how I feel about that.

My vague desire to adopt yet more animals? Well, good Lord, I got an entire book out of all the blogs I've written.

I mean, there are new things. Blogger is eating comments and indicating I've deleted them, which I haven't, but that strikes me as a less than completely captivating subject. Although if it was your commment, please know that I DIDN'T DO IT AND AM ABOUT TO SIC CONSORT ON FIXING IT. Which could lead to the blog "Consort swears when he fixes things". But guess what? Yes, I've covered that. It's just all so humbling.

Sure, I can intellectually say that we're born with a set of specific character traits and only by possessing  a heroic will or living in a war zone might change these traits, but it's another thing to realize that I am almost exactly the same person I was ten years ago. Actually, it gets worse; I realize my quotidian wardrobe was set in the 9th grade when the best-dressed girl in class was Lisa Katz, who wore 501s, loafers and striped shirts. My closet is still being informed by someone whose greatest life-struggle was Geometry and whose president was Reagan.

Yes, there are new things. is new and, if I say so myself, pretty darling and useful. If you're thinking about homeschooling, if you wonder why anyone does, or if you just want some of the tools homeschoolers use for their families to supplement your child's education, go see the website. Honestly, go see it even if none of those apply to you, because you can see video of me and see what our home office looks like when it's clean. When we shot this, Daughter came into the office and said "I've never see the office like this!" She then pointed to the corner where I had haphazardly jammed all the stuff which was usually strewn about and said flatly, "Now that, I recognize."

And there are other things I've been bashing away at, but the former actor in me is superstitious enough so that you'll hear about it when and if a contract is signed. Backsies on good news is never a fun conversation. Ooh! Here's one. I bossed Consort into being vegan and it seems to be helping him. He's not congested in the mornings and an old injury hurts less. On the other hand, I slide out of the house at least once a day to sneakily eat something which could be best described as "Butter in a Light Butter Sauce", the kid has informed me that almond-milk cheese is just weird, and Consort has been quoted as saying, bleakly, "I'm a little tired of hummus." I know, baby, I know. Here, have some salad.

This means I'm cooking more than I was, which is easy because when you start at zero, anything above that looks impressive. In sum, I'm back. And no better than ever.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Money, Money, Money, Always Sunny

I just wrote my first check to Sante D'Or from the proceeds of PET SOUNDS. This is awfully exciting and yet makes me long to write larger checks; I'm like that. So I am going to do something insane and possibly foolhardy, but unlike the last time I did something which could accurately be described that way it won't involve a knife, a slice of whole wheat and a red-hot toaster. (After the initial unpleasantness, it worked beautifully.) Here's the offer; if you buy PET SOUNDS and don't love it, I'll buy it back. I think you'll love it. I hope you'll love it. And I'm prepared to put my Paypal account where my mouth is. Now, it's time to see what the radio sounds like in a full bathtub.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Farm Living is the Life for Me

I stand in a grocery store tapping and investigating the watermelon as if I am learning anything about it besides the fact that I'm pretty certain it's a watermelon. And my mother's agrarian ancestors gaze on in spectral disgust and whisper to one another "This is what you get when you marry city people."

Lookin' For a Better Way To Get Up Out of Bed

Yep, going to try for a small blurb each and every day.

So, I can tell you how the summer is going or I can tell you three things:


2. THE YEAR OF LEARNING DANGEROUSLY comes out in paperback on August 6th! It's cheap, it's easy! I'll come interact with your friends and loved ones at book clubs if that tips the balance towards buying it! If the thought of me near you is off-putting, I promise to stay many feet away.

3. The kid has had a fully-realized summer. In related news, I drove 3,000 miles in two weeks.

Wait, there's another snapshot:

4. I spent this glorious summer afternoon sitting in my car eating a half-finished container of seaweed I found in the glove compartment while waiting for the kid to first finish sports-practice and then for her to finish being an altar-attendant at a funeral. On the plus side, ALLIE BROSH'S BOOK IS COMING OUT! I READ IT AND ATE SEAWEED! It's glorious! Get it at Vroman's in Pasadena!

Now that I think of it, it's been a pretty great summer.

Monday, July 01, 2013

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

Dear Southern Evangelical Christian Mommy-Blogger,

I read your blog. I started reading it while doing research for THE YEAR OF LEARNING DANGEROUSLY and never stopped. You and I agree that your daughters are adorable, your life seems happy and fulfilled and that no sane person should ever turn down a devilled egg. We're less in agreement over the inerrancy of the Bible, but no friendship is perfect. Yes, I used the word "Friendship" for someone I've never met. I know I'm wrong, but I feel as if I know you. I know what small city you live in. I know your daughter's names; I even know your daughter's middle names. I know where you like to spend Tuesday afternoons. Actually, I know more about your life than I know about people I have on my speed-dial.

Which brings us to this letter.You write with an assumption that your readers are mostly like you and while I imagine many of them are, some of them are not. Not everyone looking at your pictures of your pre-school age daughters posing in their swimsuits is benign. Those pictures don't just exist on your website; they exist on the Internet and can go where they will. Putting a watermark on it is nice, but that isn't going to keep those pictures off websites dedicated to people who find small children sexually appealing. And then you've given those people all the information they need to stalk you. You obviously adore your daughters,  and you're so cautious about outside influences in their lives, but this blog is no longer just read by their grandparents, which is what you've said was the original intent. As much as I enjoy watching your girls grow, I'm begging you to take them offline.

Yours truly,
A Concerned Reader

(Now it's your turn; am I being overly-vigilant and paranoid? Don't worry about hurting my feelings, I've been called both before.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Big Time

Me, to Consort:

You know what I'd LOVE for my birthday?

CONSORT: (After a beat) I stand by my earlier statement about owning chickens.

(He has vowed that the day after poultry enter our lives outside of the fridge he will put a car on blocks in the front yard. I have no reason to believe this is a bluff.)

QUINN: We're in agreement; no chickens until after you're dead.

CONSORT: You've thought this through?

QUINN: Not the point. What I want for my birthday is for you to clean the office desk.

(Consort brightens.)

CONSORT: What a great idea! As a matter of fact-

QUINN: No, just the desk will be fine. Not the-

CONSORT: I'll do the entire office! I'll bring out the-

QUINN: Please not the-


God, I hate the BIG TABLE. The BT is a nine foot-long folding monstrosity which every year or so takes over the living room when Consort takes my request for a clean desk as a suggestion to perform the office-cleaning version of Sherman's March. I hate the big table so much that a more cynical woman would assume Consort counters my offer for desk-cleaning with BT  as a way of getting out of cleaning anything, ever. I can see that argument but, strange as it sounds, Consort loves the big systemic office cleaning; it appeals to some hunter/gatherer portion of his brain. In the beginning of the process, there is the cleaning; everything is removed from the office and piled on BT and a great wiping is wrought upon the office-land. This is when Consort performs his traditional ballads Why Do We Have So Many Pets and I Am Nauseated By All This Fur and I Shall Die of White-Lung Disease Brought on By Fur and Only the Vacuum Cleaner Truly Loves Me. The other mammals hide in the bedrooms, not the least because, honestly, the fur thing is kind of gross. Still doesn't make BT's presence any more sightly.

After the cleaning is the sorting; lo, the sorting and the considering. All pieces of paper, no matter how arcane, wadded-up or fly-speckled, must be considered. Some of them have meaning; some of them will have meaning; some had meaning a while ago. Nothing, however, is without meaning. You know that dry-cleaning reciept, the one sticky with jam found under the desk behind a hair beach-ball? The reciept you thought "Well, here's at least one thing I can throw away without Consort inspecting?" You FOOL. Under the jam, was a phone number. This is why BT is nine feet long; detritus takes room.

What there is not is the disposing-of. You'd be amazed at how little actually leaves. Oh, it gets looked at, and considered, and made note of, and sometimes it becomes part of a new pile optimistically labeled "I'm going to file these," but we're loyal around here; just because you're a five year-old memo from a defunct company doesn't mean we'll give up on you. If time does, in fact, travel in circles rather than a straight line, we're going to look awfully prescient at some point down the road, knowing the travel plans for Denver before anyone else.

When Big Table arrives, it settles in. It can take up to two weeks for every single item--dusted, considered, repiled-- to be moved back into the office. I ceremoniously take out the five or six sheets of paper declared null and void out to the trash. Consort follows me out, waving a fond farewell to these friends of his youth and then his eyes sharpen. "Wait, I need that," he mumbles, grabbing the parchment sheet from the top, squirreling it back into the office, where it awaits another visit to Big Table, another chance to be noticed next year.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

And Wouldn't It Be Nice to Live Together

I'm thrilled to say PET SOUNDS has been selling well. Since this book has been published to benefit living things who can't thank you themselves, I am thanking you on their behalf and will be putting up a few videos on the animals at Sante D'Or. Today, for my friend Michele, it's Porky the Guinea Pig, who came to us shabby and afraid and has become a magnificent specimen of Porkyness.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Geek in the Pink

The effervescent  Melissa Wiley interviewed me for her Geek Mom podcast. I am a better person for it. With any luck, your feelings about me won't change once you hear what my favorite candy is.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Pomp & Circumstance

A little back story: If you've read "The Year of Learning Dangerously," you have come across one of the shining lights of academic goodness of the kid's first year of homeschooling. I refer, of course, to her math tutor Miss Frizzell, the woman who taught Daughter that Geometry doesn't make all grown women cry. I owe her a debt so when she asked me to come speak at a graduation for her class, I didn't hesitate.

"Ooh, a commencement speech!" a friend marveled. "Someone's moving up in the world!"

Sure, someone is. But before you imagine me hurling platitudes across the Rose Bowl into numberless hordes of waiting ears, you should know this: this was a sixth-grade graduation; there were three students. They are wonderful girls, all of whom have some vague desire to write and I'm the closest thing Miss Frizzell has to Kurt Vonnegut, so off I went, and I had a wonderful time. I have to say I will speak to larger groups before the month is out, but I doubt any of them will offer me a friendship bracelet afterwards.

Here's what I said to them:

Good Shepherd and Miss Frizzell’s class are a great place to be from. Everyone knows you; you’ve started to figure out who are you (trust me, you’ll be doing that for a while); you’ve practiced being yourself on a small stage. From what I hear, you are all very good at being your own unique selves. Now it’s time to take that show to a bigger stage. You’re going to be terrific, incredible middle-schoolers. But before you go, I’m going to give you two pieces of advice. Feel free to ignore them; I have a 12 year-old, I’m used to being ignored.

1. Keep Working Hard.

I know Miss Frizzell well enough to say that this year you’ve done more, and better, work than you’ve ever done before. Good! Keep at it. Hard work leads to good grades, and proud grandparents, and mothers and fathers who don’t ground you, and these are all good things. But some day, even with all your hard work, you will get a grade you don’t like. You might, even with all your hard work, have one entire class which never really does make any sense to you. If you stay in the habit of working hard, you will be able to look at that grade which won’t be an A and think “It’s not what I would have wanted, but I did the best I can do,” which I promise you feels better than thinking “I didn’t try hard and I didn’t do well and I’m never going to know what I might have been able to achieve.”

2. Bad Stuff is Sometimes Good Stuff.

Here’s the thing about middle school; it’s intense. You’re going to feel all the feelings you’ve ever had, sometimes in just one lunch period. It’s not middle-school if you don’t. Most of those feelings will be pretty good; great, in fact. You’ll be happy more often than you’re unhappy. But, when you’re happy, you think things like “This is awesome pizza!” and “I love pizza!” and “Yeah! More pizza!” You already know most of the things you learn when you’re happy. But when something goes wrong, someone hurts your feelings, something which never bothered you before now really bugs you, you’re usually in new territory. Take that opportunity—and it is an opportunity -- to inhale, calm your mind just a bit and think “Okay, what can I do to try to make sure this situation never happens again?” The next few years are when you get to take every problem-solving skill you’ve ever been taught and test them out. If you’re problem is something like “I really hate Volleyball, and I seem to be very bad at it, and we’re doing it in PE for the next six weeks, whether I like it or not,” then I will make one more suggestion: write. I’ve gotten through most of the really embarrassing moments of my adult life (and there have been so many) by promising myself “Yes, Quinn, you look like an idiot now, but later this will make a really excellent story.”

I’ve made a career of it.

Good days don’t give you anecdotes. Lousy days make great stories and the best opportunities to figure out who you are. As I said before, you’re going to be doing that for a while. Like, the rest of your life. But don’t worry, Volleyball only lasts one semester.

Today is the first day of a new journey. Think of it like a camping trip, only you’re going to be walking around the world. What’s the most important part of camping? Preparation. You want to make sure you have everything you need before you set off. Let me assure you, Maya, Natalia, Arianna, you have everything you need. And those of us who are walking ahead of you can’t wait to see what kind of adventure you have. Congratulations, good luck and make us proud.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Third Time Lucky


(Quinn runs in delighted pointless circles. People reading this start talking softly amongst themselves, in worried tones.)


"What book?"

"When did she write another book? Did we know about this?"

"Quinn, you know the vanilla extract is for cooking and not drinking, right?"

Yes, I do. I mean, I know that now.  The book is called PET SOUNDS and it's all about the animals who have been the boss of me. Some of the stories are among the most popular from the blog; other are new. For example, I finally explain why I am a pet-owner, even when I know better. Hint; it's probably genetic.

The stories have been polished and edited and I'm really pleased with how the collection turned out. I hope you are as well. A dollar from the sale of each book will go to Sante D'Or, a shelter on the east side of Los Angeles. My hope is that we can raise some money to help cats, dogs and the odd rabbit or two get healthy and happy before they go to be loved in their own homes.

The book will be available on Amazon and iBooks very shortly and will also be available in paperback; I'll let you know when it's officially landed. Thanks in advance for taking a look at it and do me a favor would you? If you ever see me in public and I ask you if there's some pet-hair on me, just lie and say no.

And take the bottle of vanilla extract from my hand.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

And It's Late In the Evening

I don't want to brag or anything, but I have insomnia.

Of course, we all have insomnia. It's a world of wonder and a world of fear and stress and short-term job contracts and sexting and bee colony die-off. No right-thinking adult should shut their eyes somewhere around 11 and not open them again until eight or so hours later. So when I say I have insomnia, what I'm flaunting is the sheer cussedness of my insomnia. When Daughter was a baby, she ate at 3:30 a.m. We could do what we liked during the day, she was game and up for new experiences, each day was a special snowflake, but I knew one thing; at 3:30 in the morning, I'd find myself halfway down the hall, having sleptwalked towards the sound of low-blood sugar.

And then at her six-month checkup, the doctor asked after her sleep schedule. I mentioned our standing date. "She can sleep through the night," he said, wiggling her toes in an affectionate yet professional manner, "Now, it's just habit. Tonight, don't nurse her, just give her water. She'll sleep through the night in a week."

And so she did.

[Well, until she turned 11 months old and molars became The Boss of All of Us, but that's another story.]

Within two nights, she was asleep at 3:30. I, however, was not. As if one of the world's atomic clocks was installed in my head, at precisely 3:30 every morning my eyes would snap open and I would contemplate the relentless dark which is 3:30 in the morning. In that darkness, my brain would inform me of every single thing I had ever done wrong, every stupid thing I ever said, every baffling financial decision I made. Well, it wasn't always about me; sometimes I wept for the dolphins. For the first few weeks, I would attempt to go right back to sleep, because I was foolish and thought I had some say in what my body did. What my brain was going to do was stay up for about an hour, maybe ninety minutes, itemizing my failings and then allow me to fall asleep as the sky started to lighten. That Daughter was going to wake up an hour later was immaterial to my brain.We had a job to do, my brain and I, and my selfish desire for a REM cycle wasn't going to keep my brain from making sure I know it was very disappointed with me. Reading never worked, as there is no book which mutes internal decades-long lists of failings. Experimentation taught me to get up and watch sitcoms, as the rampant dolphin-concerns were muffled by Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia. I tried melatonin, camomile tea, even prescription medication before bed; they acted upon 3:30 in the morning as a mosquito acts upon a herd of wildebeest.

Flash forward a decade. 3:30 in the morning and I weren't always hanging out, but I was still seeing a great deal more of her than I liked. One extra cup of green tea? 3:30. Political unrest? 3:30. Holidays coming up? Hi, 3:30; let me at least get some wrapping paper and make use of this time. A doctor told me it has something to do with the adrenals; you know how you feel droopy right around 3:30 or 4:00, go looking for something carbish to keep you awake? That is this feeling's more tractable twin, because a carb will wake you long enough to hold you through the trough, but it you take something to sleep at 3:30 in the morning that means at 7 in the morning, it's going to be 2:00 in the morning in your head and you'll be basically a houseplant, only mean.

Thankfully, I worked from home, so at the very least I wasn't driving at 8 in the morning, which is why I am not dead. Also, we had Roku, which meant I could get caught up on sitcoms in the hour and a half I was up every night; if it's formulaic, twenty-two minutes long and has a laugh-track, I've probably seen it in the last two years. I periodically have to remind myself the people on "How I Met Your Mother" aren't my friends and don't need to be on the Christmas card list. I grew sort of maschochistically fond of 3:30 in the morning. It certainly isn't cute and there's some pretty damning evidence that entrenched insomnia will shorten your life, but I knew who I was; the one who was awake at 3:30 in the morning.

And then, four months ago, I slept through the night. First for one week, and then two, and then a month. Stressful things happened and my brain shouted at me a lot, but I saw nothing of 3:30 in the morning, or 3:40 in the morning, or the underappreciated 4:10 in the morning. I fear even mentioning it, but it appears we are done with 3:30 in the morning for the moment.

I am, however, getting up at 5:20 in the morning; 5:20 is the new 3:30. Sometimes I go back to sleep at 6:30, when my alarm clock goes off at 7:15, which seems a little sadistic on the part of my brain and it's still disrupted sleep, not-enough sleep. And yet, I'm positively giddy about this new development. Why? First, daylight. If it's almost light outside, it's not a night of sleep brutally rent; it's just Tuesday, earlier than usual.

Second, there's Steve and Edie. The rescue-group I work with has a pair of Jack Russell terriers who were found literally dashing across the freeway. Obviously, they are very lucky and they also happen to be very nice. What they are also is very Jack Russell terrier and that's more dog than any morning volunteer wants to encounter, let alone two jumping higher than your head when you're trying to spoon out breakfast for forty animals. A request went out; could someone walk them in the mornings so they would stop molesting the morning crew? I could do that. In fact, I could go and get them and take them for a long hike before the sun was fully in the sky. By the time I get them back, all three of us are sweaty and smell a little less than flowerlike, but we're happy. It's not dark outside, it's light. I can start my day. And when the voice in my head whispers meanly "You haven't done nearly enough," I can snap back "No, I haven't, but right now I'm walking two maniacs who are thrilled to know me and that's enough. So shove off."

Friday, May 10, 2013

I Have Heard Among this Clan/ You Are Called the Forgotten Man

Fun fact; for the first time, in 2012 more people are now reading content on Smart phones or tablets than laptops or computers. I could have told them that, if for no other reason than I didn't make eye-contact with anyone in 2012. Honestly, I was blown off by infants who were checking to see what their buddies back in NICU were up to on Facebook. I could have also told them that writing long-form has felt increasingly less meaningful and God knows I can't be bothered to do things that aren't meaningful.

(Now if you will excuse me, I have to go stare at pictures of captioned cats.)

Also, I'm on my phone more often than I'm on my computer and it's less than completely enchanting to write a 1000 word blog on a phone. Even as I write these, I'm aware that I'm redefining the measurement for "Painfully clueless middle-class life of leisure complaints," but so be it. I'm a horrible creature of privilege and the only consolation you should take is that one of my cats, the dumb one, has taken to facing the wrong way when she uses the litter-box and I'm going through a bottle of Chlorox spray a week on the laundry-room floor. My privilege only extends so far.

"What's your point exactly, Quinn?" My point is this. I'm activating an account on Tumblr (, which will be where the shorter thoughts go. The longer thoughts will go here. The book reviews and anything which requires audio will go on Keek, under Quinncy. The kid's book reviews of soon-to-to-be-published middle-schools books will go on Pinterest, under Quinn Cummings. The random thoughts which go through my head and my need to make fun of Huffington Post can be found on Twitter (@quinncy). You can find me on Facebook, but I stand by my original statements that I hate Facebook worse than poison wrapped around okra in a light beet-sauce.  In sum, it's 2013 and you're going to have to work hard NOT to find me. You're going to find yourself thinking things like "Oh God, her? Again?"



Waiting patiently for the cerebral chip implantation.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't Be Stupid, Be a Smarty

Consort explaining funding round he's managing:

"The concern, of course, is that we not be oversubscribed."

Having on some level never left the entertainment industry, where popularity is king, I say in confusion "But...isn't it better to be over than undersubscribed?" Consort remembers who he's talking to and briskly rejoins, "If we're oversubscribed, that makes me Max Bialystock."

"OH. We don't want that."

I hope you will all buy my upcoming book on finance, TRY NOT TO BE ANY CHARACTER ZERO MOSTEL PORTRAYED..

Monday, April 29, 2013

Studying About that Good Old Way

And how goes Awkward Social Interactions in Daughter's Chinese Workbook?

Well, let's take a look...

FATHER: What are you going to study in college?

DAUGHTER: I am going to study history. I like studying history and will like majoring in it.

FATHER: You are not capable of being good at studying history. You will not make money. You should study computer science. You will make money if you study computer science.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shelter Me

A favor:

Daughter is doing a project for her Statistics class and has decided on tracking rates of FIV infection in cats in shelters throughout the United States. If you work at a shelter or know someone who does, could you get in touch with me? This is anonymous, we're not finger-pointing, she'd just love to create as thorough a project as possible.

Thank you!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Radio Silence

I know.

I know.

I'm a wastrel.

A slacker.


Well, sure, I've been writing on Twitter (@quinncy) and you can find me on Facebook and I'm putting up reviews of books I've loved on Keek (thank you, Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena!) and the kid is putting up book reviews on Pinterest (thank you, Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, because, honestly, you're keeping us out of debtor's prison!) and I'm doing some actual writing but no, I've not been around here lately.

What can I tell you that's new? Well, I just realized the dog is no longer young. I mean, I understood that on an intellectual level, what with him having come to us as an adult almost five years ago and my having recently said things like "Has anyone seen the dog's antacid pills?" and all, but he's been keeping his age a closely guarded secret by being a buff-colored dog. Buff-colored dogs live what well-bred Southern women know; blonde hair hides the grey. He's one St. John's knit suit away from chairing a fundraising brunch. But I did realize this weekend that he's less cream and more platinum these days. This, of course, does not stop him at the dog park. The dog has three gears at the dog park:

1. Bully smaller dogs until they cry,
2. Attempt to have sex with dogs who are twice his size,
3. Run after any dog who appears to be joyful and bark at them to shame them.

He's like a reality show host with stinky feet.

Consort is well and sends his regards. Actually, I have no idea how he feels because he's in the middle of three separate huge projects, all of which have hard deadlines within three days of one another and I haven't exchanged an intelligible word with him in days. Could one of them have started back in January when he drifted around the house as lonely as a cloud? Could one be due in, say, the third week of June? No, Quinn, they are malevolent conjoined triplets and if you keep asking stupid questions like that, Consort will explain these projects again to you until you understand them or cry like a Pekinese being bullied by the dog. One horrible night, I came into the office and found no fewer than three computer screens glowing.

And they were all Excel.


He seems happy, in a "Distracted and swearing softly" way. Daughter and I wave to him tentatively yet supportively every morning and when he works at home I encourage him to stand every half day or so to hold off deep-vein thrombosis.

The cats are exactly as they always are except that Squeakers, if possible, has grown more oppressively enamored of me. Once, a long time ago, she slept at my feet.

(Actually, once she slept outside the bedroom so Consort could breathe, but let's not dwell on that.)

Then, she slept next to me.

Then, under the covers.

As of last week, Squea sleeps next to me, under the covers, with her paws encircling my neck. I frequently awaken not to the shrill sound of my alarm but to a raspy tongue and a devoted expression no more than an inch from my eyeball. Consort swears I'm the love of his life and I'm pretty certain he doesn't like me like that. I will predict this one is never going away to college.

In related news, Consort and I take a great deal of Benadryl.

The kid is well. Chinese continues apace; I'm thrilled to say that after seven months in the class, she finally knows a few colors. She also knows a great many more ways to communicate to someone in Chinese that they are never going to make something of themselves:

Man: Will you go to dinner with me tonight?

Woman: Why?

Man: It is my birthday today.

Woman: I do not know you. Go away.

Thanks to class, the woman can now add that she hates his blue shirt, too.

This last Easter was shaping up to be problematic because the kid is indifferent to chocolate but loves anything sticky, but we thought sticky was out of the question since she had braces on. A week before Easter, the braces suddenly were removed and I flew around like a maniac buying ever so much sticky to atone for the Easter basket of last year, the month after she got braces, which had such deflating things as socks. They were cute socks, she's still wearing them, but they weren't sticky candy and I had atoning to do. This year's basket was a nauseating display of any item I could find which might possibly pull out a filling and to keep her from eating all the candy, I let her binge for a day and then hid it. Which means, of course, I knew where it was and it turns out that a) I also love sticky and b) there is no frustration the modern age can throw at me I can't alleviate with sticky candy. It's possible we were hiding the candy from the wrong person. I've already had to replace several items in the basket. On the plus side of the "I have no willpower" ledger, it's financially satisfying to buy Easter candy two weeks after Easter.

On the wildlife front, It's springtime so the skunks are shuffling sullenly through our front yard with their tiny adorable offspring. We live in Los Angeles, so there's been a plethora of indoor-outdoor cats disposed of by coyotes in my neighborhood; I know I've mentioned this before, but if you live in LA, bring your cats indoors. I'm respectful of the coyotes, mean them no harm, this was their house first, but that doesn't mean we need to keep  buying them take-out.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's nearly one o'clock; it's time to turn Consort towards the sunlight.