Sunday, February 28, 2010

You've Read of Several Kinds of Cat

“But,” I can hear a percentage of my readers saying in increasing plangent tones, “what about the new kittens?”

Well, you cat-people, the kittens are fine. They are now half-grown girls, being of great length and some width and having had their Very Special Operation. Their names are still Anne and Diana, which made more sense when they were only staying a month or so. Anne and DiANA are entirely too similar for ease of differentiation; usually, we just say “Annandiana,” as if they’re conjoined. Consort avoids the whole situation by referring to both girls as “He.”

I kept waiting to write about them when their shadow-side appeared, figuring it made for better writing. Also, having lived with Lulabelle lo these many years, I assumed they’d be nothing but a shadow side, with briefs shafts of psychic light between the dark clouds of mouse-death. But these girls are so darling it almost cloys. They wear dolls dresses; they not only consent to being carried around like babies, they purr while it’s happening; each one chases her tail. If they could, they’d braid each other’s ears. After having lived for many years with the cat version of Marianne Faithfull (the heroin years), I’m now roomies with Vanessa Hudgens (the High School Musical years). Which is how I finally came to give them their first nickname:

Readers, may I present…the ingénues.

All round cheeks, round eyes and perfectly clean little paws, their greatest goal in life nothing more than twenty minutes bossing around the felt mouse followed by cooing attention from a small girl. I didn’t know Lu well at their age, but I can guarantee she had already felt the singular joy of a bird’s neck snapping in her mouth. The ingénues are like those kids who think hamburger meat grows at the Piggly Wiggly. They are no more allowed to go outside than the star of a Disney sitcom is put on the interstate and told to hitch her way home. My job with them is to protect their innocence; my job with Lu was to keep her inside often enough so the local fauna could replenish itself.

They have exactly one oddity; at 10:30 every night, on the dot, they race around the house very, very quickly. Then, having warmed up for a few minutes, they stare fixedly at a spot on the wall and jump at it for about a half-hour. Did I mention this spot is visible only to them and is about five feet off the ground?

Because in my house, even the ingénues need a quirk.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Video Killed the Radio Star

I love "The Moth." For those who think I've become an entomologist, "The Moth" is a podcast based on a live show in which people- famous, unknown and in-between- get up and tell a story from their life (I heartily dislike real moths, though. That powder on their wings is nothing but wrong). On the show, there's a theme for the evening which the story must address in some way; other than that, the only requirements are the story must be live and without notes. It's fun to hear people tell good stories off-the-cuff, even stories you know they've told a thousand times around a dining-room table or over a bar-counter. Keeps things fresh.

Fresh is good. I need fresh these days. It's rained intermittently in Los Angeles for the last month and while that's nothing like THE SNOW WHICH ATE THE EASTERN SEABOARD 2010, and while I adore rain after a while, it starts to make me plod. Life is precious and I don't want to plod. I'm timid and neophobic and it was time to shake things up a bit.

Here's the newest leg of my journey. Occasionally when the kid is in afternoon classes, I'm going to tell a story into a Flip-phone. It will be without notes. It's not live, but it will be in a single take, no re-dos. You will know this is true because the first one was done during the heavy-mist phase of the most recent rainstorm; I appear to have six head-hairs, at most. But I made my promise and I didn't redo it. Please note that when I do this again, I'll make my friend Veronica run the Flip-phone, because while Consort loves me and is a wonderful cameraman she's a girl and would have noticed.

The name of my newest endeavor? Q-tea. Not because I think I'm cute, because a Flip-phone has a slightly fish-eye lens and my nose alarmed me and the six head-hairs and when did I get so old and all that. No, Q-tea is because, hopefully, these stories will be kind of like meeting me for tea for a few minutes before we go rushing off again to our complicated lives. I hope you like it.

I had a ball.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I Really Wanna Know

I'm having an idea and with any luck you're going to help me. Is there a question you want me to answer?

My, that sounds self-involved.

And yet, I stand by it: Is there a question you've always wanted me to answer? I cannot help but think I've covered most of the waterfront about my personal life that I'm comfortable airing. And yet, the Quinn Cummings Seemingly Endless Blog Book 2009 shook loose some really good questions from you all. Better than I would have gotten from most reporters.

So I come to you again. Anything you want to know?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Go here.

And here.

And here. Take a gander at that picture. I have never before seen a picture of a person which so completely summed up why they were good company. If you didn't know her, you missed a hell of a person. We walked our dogs together around the reservoir. We drank together (Me: tea; Mary; hot chocolate) and talked theology together. Lest you think it was entirely a Victorian epistolary novel, we also shared a deep cackling love for the monumental inanities of "Hello!" magazine. No one in my life will ever care quite as deeply about the wives of British soccer players again.

When I first I met her, she was living with metastized breast cancer in her liver. 85% of patients with breast cancer in the liver die within five years; she lasted nearly nine. I think this is because Mary was better at being alive than nearly everyone I know. She loved her husband and she loved her food, her dogs, her writing and her friends and she woke up nearly every morning curious. Once, when her cancer-marker numbers were going up again and her doctor was figuring out the next cocktail she said, "I have to stay around. I want to see how things turn out." Even consciously knowing what she was battling, what the odds were, I always assumed she would. Our stories circled around like the reservoir and there was always a point when Mary would say breezily, "Oh, remind me to tell you about that." In my mind, we'd keep walking and talking and the reservoir would never end.

Finally, go here and meet her. Good writers aren't always good people, but she was a good writer and a great person. I'm honored to have known her and so sad to see her go.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

She Flies Through the Air

I just cleaned the walls in my house and pondered one of the mysteries of the universe. My cat-graceful daughter is a human who participates in no fewer than three sports and does, I might add, pretty well in all of them. Her reaction time is fast enough so that more than once when I've dropped something from the kitchen counter and she's caught it before it hit the ground; one time she did while balancing on one foot. She is, in sum, an agile child.

And yet she cannot walk down a hallway, or into a room, or around a corner, without touching the walls. It's like a chair-rail of fingerprints. Either the god to whom children answer demands sixty-eight wall-contacts each day, or moving while not on a sporting field makes her dizzy.

Or, more likely, healthy and active children do, in fact, bounce off the walls.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Boyfriend's Back

Dear Gap Kids,

Perhaps there was a misunderstanding. Perhaps no one who works at Gap Kids actually has children. So as the mother of a child, let me illuminate you. Describing a pair of pants that come in a size 7 as "Boyfriend Jeans" isn't cool, it's Creepy Uncle. I know that's a particular way of describing jeans for teenagers and women, but you have many hours a day to do nothing more than think up names for clothes and colors (You have three names alone for "Jeans we already tore up for you"); I have every faith you can think up another way to describe these pants.

I don't want this to be unremittingly negative, so let me commend you on your restraint in not calling your shorts "Hootchies."

Yours truly,
Quinn Cummings

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Swiftly Fly the Years

Sobering thought: When for the fifth time in as many months, you look at a candid snapshot someone has taken of you and exclaim "I look so tired in this picture!" it's time to consider whether the fault might not lie with the camera.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ah Yes, 'Tis Something By Your Side to Stand

The names and some details have been changed to keep people from having to have uncomfortable moments.

The kid was at sports and my friend, Laurie, was shopping near the athletic field so a spontaneous tea-date happened. I arrived a few minutes late and found Laurie sitting next to a very large package with a fetching and expensive bow on top. She wore a decidedly glum expression. I pointed to the box and asked “Is it ‘Buy a friend farm equipment day’ again? Already?”

She patted it unaffectionately. “I can’t read German," she muttered. "It’s either an espresso maker or a trash can. This was the cheapest thing they registered for. I’d have paid another fifty dollars to feign my own death and avoid the whole thing.”

“Not too excited about the wedding, are we?” I asked. We were not. Here, in sum, are the details:

The groom, “Chad”, is her nephew, a man in his early twenties who has ADD or depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder or Creeping Malaise. His symptoms have included dropping out of high school, a disinclination to work and a deft hand with making a bong out of nearly anything. He lives with his parents who are now paying for classes for their son to become a sound engineer, the tenth or maybe eleventh career he has considered. Classes would be going better if he were to attend.

He has been dating the bride-to-be, “Brittany”, since high school. Laurie reports she is a sweet girl if you like talking about Taylor Lautner. The family owns restaurants. Brittany works up to eleven hours a week at one restaurant or another, usually until she breaks something. She also lives at home. Her purses and shoes are adorable. A year ago, the bride’s older sister got married with much spectacle and many parties. Within a month, Brittany was agitating Chad to make it official. No one expected anything to come of this, because the only long-term goal Chad had ever stated was moving to Amsterdam and becoming a pot reviewer, but for Brittany’s birthday, Chad got down on one knee and proposed, using a ring Brittany had bought for him. There are nine bridesmaids, eight groomsmen (two of whom work at Chad’s favorite pot dispensary) a meal of either salmon or steak and a long registry of things which are either espresso makers or trash cans. Chad’s mother estimates the wedding is costing Brittany’s parents somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty thousand dollars, even with restaurants at their disposal. Neither bride nor groom has five hundred dollars to their name.

After the honeymoon, they will move into Brittany’s room. We assume the espresso maker/trashcan will look nice in her parents' kitchen.

“Maybe I’m old-fashioned,” Laurie concluded, sipping her tea, “but isn’t the point of being married that you’re an adult? And doesn’t being an adult have something to do with going to work or to school or not paying your rent in hugs?” She glared at her croissant and finally said, “I blame reality television.”

Usually, she and I are on the same page about reality television being the source of our nation’s downfall, but this time I shook my head. “Sorry, not this time. Groom is a cute do-nothing pothead, bride is a pampered princess who wants to be the focus of attention for a year? I went to this wedding at least twice in my twenties. The marriage lasts until his hair falls out, which it always does. Two years later, she marries an orthodontist in Woodland Hills.”

Laurie looked thoughtful and said, “Yes, of course, that wedding. She’s bossy, he’s passive and they make each other nuts before the year is out.”

I continued, “The only people who benefit from those marriages are lawyers, Williams-Sonoma, cover bands and those people who make Jordan almonds. You know,” I said, warming to my subject and pointing with my scone, “we as a culture need to create a new ritual; a wedding to allow certain young women to be princesses for a day without creating a bond which will take many billable hours to undo. Think marriage-lite. Wait, I’ve got it!”

I gasped in delight, coughed out a bit of scone, then framed my fingers around my idea.

“Not a marriage, but a mirage. We, as a community, will spend many hours listening to the bride dither over flower colors and Empire waist versus dropped waist and we’ll care to the same degree we would have cared before, but now we won’t have a single moment of sorrow about how this marriage is probably a very bad idea. Because it won’t be a marriage, it’ll be a mirage! And if after the event, the groom suddenly grows up and stops thinking he’ll make his first million in hand-painted skateboards and, I don’t know, gets a job and the bride stops referring to her Kate Spade purses as “My retirement fund,” then after a few years, we’ll call it a marriage. If, as history has shown, no one changes and eventually they get tired of each other, there are no hurt feelings because it was a mirage!”

I leaned back and smiled. Laurie nodded slowly and said, “I like it. But what about wedding presents?”

I thought.

“I’m guessing for these women, the thrill is in creating the registry and opening the presents, not the owning of the stuff. How often do you use a bread-maker? If you participate in a mirage, you’d get to open the presents and then the Le Creuset pots and the flatware goes back to the mirage store. Cheaper for everyone. Very 2010.”

“What about babies? Once the novelty of the wedding wears off, you know these couples have kids.”

I stopped, stumped. I stared at the three women across the room, at their Bugaboos and Orbit strollers slung with Burberry diaper bags, at their small well-dressed accessories -- I mean, children -- cooing attractively. As if from the marketing God, it flashed to me.

“Not babies..." I announced. "...Maybies!" Temporary toddlers for holidays and mall trips. Pre-verbal, not teething, preselected for attractiveness and passivity.”

You heard it here first.