Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Snot Heard 'Round the World

Do you need a Kleenex? Because I have one. Actually, I have two in each back pocket and one in my front pocket. Of course, none of them are what you might called virgin. And I had really hoped to forget they were in there so I could wash the jeans and find what appeared to be an exploded sheep in the dryer, but if you need one, it’s yours.

Two weeks into the school year and Daughter has her first cold. It’s like Old Faithful with phlegm. Her version runs about five days, with not one of those days being compromised by anything but a general all-over increase in Child Moisture. Consort and my version, on the other hand, is going on its seventh day with no end in sight with a brain-clenching headache and a constant background mantra which sounds like:

“You know what you should do right now? You should nap.”

“But…I’m driving.”

“Here’s a little more head-clenching for not obeying me.”

This cold is behaving as if I owe it money.

And when I am not sniffing over a rampant rhinovirus, I am sniffing over Randy Newman, which is all Garrison Keillor’s fault. The week after Katrina decimated New Orleans and parts of Mississippi, NPR re-ran an earlier broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” which featured singer/songwriter/composer Randy Newman playing a song he wrote called “Louisiana 1927”. If you have never heard Randy Newman sing, imagine your uncle who gets drunk at holidays and sings “Danny Boy”, then mix that voice with a soulful frog; it’s not always tuneful, but it’s always heartfelt. Randy Newman is a New Orleans native. He had written this song years ago about a devastating flood which hit Louisiana in 1927. It includes the following lyrics:

The river rose all day.
The river rose all night.
Some people got lost in the flood.
Some people got away alright.

This lovely song, sung by his fallible voice and accompanying himself alone on the piano, sent me into tears. I promptly ran to the computer and downloaded it onto my IPod. I’ve listened to it several times over the next few days, crying every time. I guess someone needed a catharsis.

A few days later, I noticed the song wasn’t making me cry anymore. Do you suppose I decided to cross back over to the sunny side of the street and switched over to my IPod workout mix -- which includes such emotional powerhouses at “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real” by the eternally falsetto Sylvester? No, not me.

I bounded back to the iTunes music website and searched out Randy Newman again, as I remembered he had other songs which made me cry (In case you’re curious, I also enjoy sticking my tongue against a canker sore to make sure that it still hurts like crazy). Mr. Newman has written wonderful bouncy, silly music for such children’s films as “Toy Story”, “Toy Story 2”, and “Monsters, Inc.”, and the eternally flip “I Love LA”. But if I wanted happy, I would have stuck with the “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” soundtrack.

I honed in on his work in dramatic soundtracks; “The Natural”, “Ragtime”, “Seabiscuit”, “Pleasantville”. At his best, with only a piano, Randy Newman can make you think of the last summer Sunday afternoon you all spent as a family before Grandma became bedridden and Dad took to drink; it’s all sunny amber late-afternoon light and melancholy wisps at the same time.

I listened to “Ragtime”; I listened to “Seabiscuit”; I dabbled in parts of “The Natural”, and I was melancholy. Yea verily, I was melancholy. But I wasn’t getting that satisfying “BWAH hah hah” for which I had been longing, with the sodden tissue pressed to my nose and a bag of mint Milanos evaporating supportively at my elbow.

So I went back to ITunes and briefly considered Chopin, but determined he makes me wistful, not tearful. I lingered over a few songs I had played obsessively during certain break-ups, but quickly realized these would just make me embarrassed over the time I had wasted mooning over idiots rather than cathartically sad. Damn it, I wanted sad. Back to looking at the Randy Newman catalog again, I saw it.

The “Terms of Endearment” of songs.

Oddly enough, it’s in a children’s film. In “Toy Story 2”, there is a song which is played during a montage where we find out about how a doll had been loved by a girl who had grown up and moved on:

When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful.
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart.
And when she was sad, I was there to dry her tears.
And when she was happy, so was I when she loved me.
Through the summer and the fall, we had each other, that was all
just she and I together, like it was meant to be.
And when she was lonely, I was there to comfort her.
And I knew that she loved me.
So the years went by, I stayed the same
and she began to drift away, I was left alone.
Still I waited for the day, when she’d say I will always love you.
Lonely and forgotten, never thought she’d look my way,
She smiled at me and held me, just like she used to do,
Like she loved me, when she loved me.
When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful,
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart
When she loved me.

The song was written and sung by Sarah McLachlan, a woman who can make me cry by singing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, and the music, thanks to Randy Newman, was almost painfully poignant; it is the perfect storm of musical misery.

I sat in that theater and cried into my hand (who thinks to bring Kleenex to a PIXAR film?). I wanted to call my mother and apologize for something. I wanted to grab every child in that theater and moan “Just promise me you won’t have your assistant call your mother on her birthday”, because I wasn’t weird enough being an adult alone in a kid’s movie in the middle of the day.

I downloaded and happily cried. While blotting my eyes, I remembered that she did a version of “Blackbird” I seemed to remember as also being terribly sad. Also, Randy Newman created a score for a movie called “Avalon” which was a veritable mantle of gentle misery.

Neither exists on iTunes, but I am in active pursuit, and I will find them, and I will cry. And when I have used every tissue in the house and two washcloths, I will play “Tell Me Something Good” by Chaka Khan and Rufus, as a post-lachrymal cool-down and cheer-up. And I know I will emerge from this spent, but happy, brushing mint Milano crumbs from my cleavage. .

Think of it as Spinning for the tear ducts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Roman Holiday

They’re attractive, they’re rich, they have marvelously long and classical noses, and yet they still aren’t happy…

Yes, my friends, we are going to visit…the CRANKY ROMAN FAMILY!

(Read first, if you are new around here).

I am still trying to learn this language, albeit at a glacial pace. The pronunciation rule is going to kill me. Try this one for size:

“The only two syllables in a Latin word which may receive accent are the penult and the antepenult. Accent is determined by applying the law of the penult: In words of two syllables, the penult receives the accent, while in words of two syllables the penult receives the accent if it is long; if the penult is short, the accent is placed on the antepenult…

(But wait, there’s more..)

“…A syllable can be long in one of two ways:

1. Length by nature. If the syllable contains a long vowel or a diphthong, it is said to be long by nature.
2. Length by position. If the syllable contains a vowel which is followed by two consonants, it is said to be long by position. X is said to be a double consonant.”

Read this over a few times, if you like; it doesn't get any prettier. Hey, ancient Latin people, there’s something called an accent mark. You might want to look in to that.

Anyway, without further ado, here is today’s chapter of Cranky Roman Family…

Bag of Julius not small is. In sac his is plural money. Julian money in sac has.
[Yeah, I got that. He’s rich. Think Bill Gates in a toga. Next?]

Aemilia bag observes Julius ask: What numbers are in sac yours?
[Right, like she doesn’t know. Well-bred Roman women never left their houses; one long afternoon, she probably counted the stitches on that sac.]

Julius answers: Hundred.
[This may not sound like a lot, but he has no-bid development contracts in the construction of Gaul.]

Aemilia: Is not a hundred there are?

Julius money counts: One, two, three, four…nine, ten.

Number of coins not is hundred, but ten only.

Julius: What? In sac mine not hundred, but only ten coins are! Where are hundred coins? Servant mine is where?

Medus: Servant yours Medus is here.
[Sneaky servant, just standing around watching his master count up to ten without even making his presence known.]

Julius servant his Medum here, Davum not here. Medus present, Davus not present, but absent. Julius and Aemilia and Medus here, Davus the other servant absent.
[Me, student old and dim, they are repeating themselves for.]

JULIUS: What? One servant only present? [Did you miss the previous three sentences, Julius?] Where is Davum? Davum call!

Medus David call: Dave!
[Pronounced Dah-vay, like “Maria”, not Dave, like Letterman, in case you plan to act this out in your house.]
But Davus Medum neither hear nor come.

Medus repeats Davum call: Dave! Come!
Dave comes. There are two servants present.
[Even me, student old and dim, that understands]

Davus, who master does not see, Medum asks: What is, Mede?

Medus: St! [Hey, I know that one!] Master here. Salute master!

Servant master salute: Health, master!

Master servant salute: Health, servant!

Davus: What is, master?

Julius: St! [Just wait until the first ancient Roman says something insulting to me. I’m going to say “St!” back at him, and won’t he be surprised.]
Quiet, servant! Quiet and listen!

Servant quiet.

Julius: In sac mine are ten only coins. Where are hundred coins mine? [Julius, don’t mean to cavil, but you are missing ninety. Not centum. Did you get those no-bid development contracts in Gaul through your father-in-law?]

Davus silent, nor responding.
[Probably thinking of a way to bring up the whole ninety/one hundred thing without being fired. Or killed. Or sent to convince the Celts to take off the blue paint and put on some togas.]

Aemilia: Answer, Dave! Master you ask.
[She’s probably grateful that Julius isn’t asking her why she needed the expensive hiking sandals when she isn’t allowed to leave the house.]

Davus answers: Money yours here not is. Ask Medum!

Julius Medum asks: Where are coins mine, Mede? Medus none words answer.

Julius repeats his question: Where is my money? Answer, servant!

[Has it never occurred to Julius that a toga, while a fine and versatile garment, certainly useful when you have a runny nose, isn’t known for its secure qualities? His ninety coins might have fallen out when he was walking the shady streets near the Coliseum, or while socially vomiting with friends. Perhaps he was pick-pocketed (pick-sacked?) while negotiating with a harlot. Hey, Rome is a big city. Anything can happen. ]

Medus Davum accuses: Money yours in sac Dave is. Davus money yours have.

Aemilia: Listen, Dave! Medus you accuse!

[She’s enjoying this way too much. The great tragedy of this woman’s life is that she will die two thousand years before Ricki Lake goes on the air.]

Davus: Why Medus accuse I?

Julius: Silence, Mede! Servants who servants accuse improper are!

Medus silent.

[Improper servants, he has heard, are frequently sold cheap to the Visigoths for unspeakable purposes.]

Julius Davum not accuses, but asks him: Is not money mine in sac yours, Dave?

Davus: In sac mine not is money yours, Master.

Julius: Where is sac yours?

(I want credit for the cheap joke I have not written here.)

Davus: This is. Here is sac mine.

Julius: Sac yours on table put!

Davus sac his on table put. Now sac his on table is. Julius cane is on table put. Cane of master on table is.

[I see. It’s a threat. It’s a Roman threat. Give me my one hundred coins (which are actually ninety), or I shall beat you with this cane, and then sell you to the Visigoths, who travel and maraud with a wide selection of women’s Visigoth dresses in large sizes and haven’t seen real Visigoth women in many years.]

Davus: Observe: in sac mine no money is.

Julius no money sees in sac. In sac Davi no money has. Sac empty is. [Getting that, thanks.] Davus money master not have.

Julius: O! Davus good servant is: money mine not have. Here is money you, Dave!

Julius one coin put in sac Dave [Julius, you spendthrift.] Now sac Dave not is empty: in sac have is one coin. Dave happy is. [Clearly, Dave has kind of a Stockholm Syndrome thing going with Julius.]

Julius: Take sac yours and leave, good servant!

Davus takes his sac and leaves.

[Dave, please. Find an excuse, go out of the house, buy a cup of stewed eels with your one coin and stop to consider whether being a Roman slave is enough anymore. You’re better than this.]

Medus cane, which on table is, sees. Medus then leaves! Why leaves Medus? Medus leaves because that money Master in bag he has!

[Da DUM.]

Well! Medus! I never!

Actually, I suspected, but I have an advantage over you; I have seen the pictures of Cranky Roman Family and four of their centum servants. Davus is smiling and bald. Medus is hulking, his fists clenched upon his powerful thighs; this is a man who should never have been bought as a house servant, as he looks strong, angry and shifty to the degree these things can be determined from a one-inch sketch. In case you’re curious, Davus appears to have self-esteem issues, Delia is pensive and Syra is angry and frustrated with how her life turned out.

But now I place a coin in your empty sac, and you all know that means it is time for you to leave.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Cook's Tour

There are many things to dislike about Los Angeles, but since that isn’t the topic for the day, I’ll just pick three: it can take you forty minutes to drive five miles; the air has a chewy quality three months of the year (which might have something to do with those people idling while trying to drive five miles); and virtually no one in this entire city understands the concept of “dressing your age”. Really, people, it’s not hard. If you wore it the first time, you are too old for it the second time it comes around, and if you have a weekend house, teenage kids and a three-picture deal with Paramount, could you possibly stop wearing Converse high-tops, baggy shorts and a wife-beater?

But, I digress.

One of the benefits to living in Los Angeles is The Cook’s Library, an entire bookstore dedicated to cookbooks. Stop to consider the idea that no matter how obscure your culinary interest, they have a book for you. More likely, they have three. For example, I walked in to the store today and without moving my head more than 45 degrees, I saw Kosher Cajun on one display table and Matzoh Ball Gumbo on a shelf. The door hadn’t closed behind me and my mind was a-whirl in possibilities. Jewish cooking can be delicious and heavy; Southern cooking can be delicious and heavy. Combine these two cuisines and you can create a meal which collapses gravity. I had to peer through these books!

I settled on a comfy chair and was lost in the blending of the tribes. Considering how one cuisine venerates the pig and the other cuisine frequently forbids it, the recipes were far less ungainly than you might think. But my time was short, and the stacks were tall.

I moved on.

There is virtually no cuisine in the world, from Afghan to Uzbek, which is not represented on these shelves. I say virtually because when I asked the owner, Tim Fischer, if they had a cookbook for Ethiopian cuisine, he frowned slightly and said “We had one. It was written by a church in North Carolina, but we haven’t had it in a while”.

And that, my friends, is the genius of The Cook’s Library. As many questions as are answered (What should I do with the salted cod my great-aunt sent me?), more questions arise (Is there an Ethiopian religious enclave in North Carolina and if so, why? Did they like the climate or was it that they wanted to try some of that Jewish/Southern fusion cuisine? Or perhaps this church did missionary work in Ethiopia and brought back recipes? Did they feel badly the Ethiopians didn’t have their own cookbook?).

And then there are the Junior League contributions. In case you are not from the United States, let me explain this organization quickly. In their own words, they are “…an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers”. They do very good work and a lot of worthwhile causes benefit from these trained and able women. But, how shall I say this, they are not the most diverse lot. In the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that I belonged to the Junior League of Los Angeles. I think I was the most exotic person they had ever seen, what with my not having belonged to a sorority and all.

Most of the major Junior League chapters publish a cookbook for fundraising, and these are compelling reading as both a dietary and cultural bellwether. For example, you cannot believe how many recipes involve mayonnaise or rum. The Cook’s Library has an entire row of Junior League cookbooks and I love to wander through them, imagining a world where I am required to create appetizers to eat gracefully with gin and tonics while Consort and his old fraternity buddies finish up the back nine. These appetizers would include mayonnaise, mild cheddar and pimentos. So imagine my delight unearthing a Junior League edition called Adventures in Taste from around the World. I frowned in confusion; Junior Leaguers do not return home from back-packing through Nepal and try to recreate the wonderful street cuisine they enjoyed in Katmandu. I paged through the book, landed on the chapter entitled “Casseroles”, and breathed a sigh of sheer delight. Clearly, we were in for some jarring collisions of world cuisine and Junior League sensibility.

I was not disappointed. “Cuban Dinner” called for a whole clove of garlic - serve it if you dare! The “Italian Ground Beef Casserole” requires cottage cheese, an ingredient which would make any true Italian chef start clawing out his eyes. Obviously, cottage cheese is a Junior League substitute for ricotta – itself a cheese with almost no noticeable flavor, but possibly too much zest for the more…delicate palate. Any casserole with the word “Asian” in the title demanded soy sauce and sometimes pineapple. In short, this volume was a breath of 1961 and a perfectly giddy mix of irony and nostalgia.

But, you say, what about social lubrication? The Cook’s Library has two rows of cocktail books and four rows of wine books. There aren’t any books specifically geared to hangover cures, but the long row of “Frying” cookbooks could be a reasonable stand-in. For those who prefer a slightly naughtier form of relaxation, there are several marijuana cookbooks. I saw them, but I didn’t inhale, which is good, because I think I saw How to Eat Like A Republican looking at me oddly.

Deviled eggs or Devil’s Food Cake, The Whole Pig or The Virtuous Vegan ,The Joy of Cooking or The ‘I Hate to Cook Book’, --it’s just a hugely fun store. Places like this make living in Los Angeles and seeing grandmothers in crop tops more bearable.

The Cook’s Library can be found at 8373 West Third Street, LA 90048, (323) 655-3141, and their email is

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tea Wrecks


Have you seen a box of green tea?


How about seven boxes of green tea?


Oh, well. Thanks.

Would someone please come to my house and find lost tea? I drink green tea, because green tea strengthens teeth and I enjoy chewing . I drink caffeinated green tea so I can feed Daughter breakfast without weeping. I drink a lot of green tea, so I buy a lot of green tea. Until about three weeks ago, I could also say “I buy a lot of green tea, so I drink a lot of green tea”, but those halcyon days are no more.

One morning, I staggered to the stove, fired up the pot and blindly put my hand where my box of tea always lives, only to feel my hand slap down on an empty counter. I stared at my un-tea holding hand for easily ten seconds, trying to comprehend what this might mean; my morning brain reacts mulishly to change. Finally, a thought bubbled up from the brain cell which keeps me upright until I have tea.

The cell said “Go to the cabinet”.

I obediently walked to the cabinet and opened it. There were eleven cans of white beans, but no tea. Starting to wail, I thrashed my way through four bottles of soy sauce, a tin of anchovies and, oddly, some athletic socks, and finally found an incredibly elderly tea bag in the back of the cabinet. I stared at it suspiciously. It clearly wasn’t green tea or white tea, and I had no recollection of buying black tea in the last four years, but my brain was starting to sag under the weight of its own misery so I couldn’t afford to be picky. It was a…singular cup of tea. It is entirely possible this tea bag came over with one of the Chinese workers who toiled in the Gold Rush. It is equally possible this was a potpourri of desiccated moth corpses wrapped in lens tissue. Whatever it was, it had enough caffeine that I could form the first coherent thought for the day: “Must…buy…tea.”

So, I bought tea that day. As I popped it into the grocery bag, I smiled fondly at it and said softly “Soon I shall drink you, my pet”. Upon reflection, this might be why the cashier at the grocery store always seems to go off shift just as I get in line.

I brought the tea home, placed it in the tea spot, and moved on with my life. The next morning, I staggered out, fired up pot, reached over to grab the box of tea bags and found…nothing. I even brought my empty hand close to my face and inspected it, as my single morning brain cell posited that the tea bags had gotten hidden between my fingers.

Thrashing through the cabinet not only did not produce the new box of tea, it did not produce an antediluvian tea bag from the Tang Dynasty to hold me. As if mocking me, it produced a full box of tea bags with a picture of a bear in nightwear on the box; apparently, this tea encourages sleep.

It is possible I threw it across the room.

I decided that, somehow, the box had been left at the grocery store, which is not only exasperating but impossible to prove eighteen hours later. It is especially hard to prove when you are still in your pajamas and you are raking your fingers through your hair while keening “Please, just let me grab a tea bag to suck on until I can get to a kettle!”. I went back to the store, grabbed two tea boxes with a death grasp, and scuttled home.

I made tea, and life got better.

About a week later, I staggered out, fired up pot, reached over to grab the box of tea bags and found…nothing. This time, however, I was not rattled; I went to the cabinet, where I had placed box #2 and found…the bear in the nightgown.

Both boxes were gone. I called Consort, who had left early that day.

“Hi!” he said, clearly delighted to hear my voice. “I was just thinking how much I miss having breakfast with my girls!”

“Yeah,” I said dully. “Did you touch my tea?”

“Your tea?”

“My tea, my tea…bags, where…tea…go?” It was getting harder to hold back the sobs.

“I don’t drink tea. I drink coffee. I don’t touch your tea bags. I don’t know where they are.” He listened to me hyperventilate for a minute and said with concern “Do you need me to call someone to come help you?”

“YES!” I said in a strangulated cry. “People…who…make…tea!”

I took Daughter to the grocery store with me and again bought two boxes of tea. Daughter chose this moment to whine at the first Halloween candy display of the season. I hugged my boxes of tea closely and bared my teeth at her. Being a wise child, she avoided eye contact with me until we got home.

I fired up the pot, and made a cup of tea. I stared at the tea bags bleakly and said softly
”I’d ask you to stay, but I think we all know that’s impossible”.

Sure enough, within five days, both boxes were gone. A week later, the box which had replaced them was also gone.

I’ve moved through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and have now reached acceptance. Something beyond the power of human imagining likes green tea and lives in my kitchen.

Which is why I am now hiding my tea bags in the glove compartment.

Tell no one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Crowded House.

Apparently, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, although married, kept adjoining houses with a walkway connecting them. While I would not have gone to Mr. Rivera for dietary tips or Ms. Kahlo for face-waxing suggestions, I am starting to think they were on to something with their living situation.

Is anyone else starting to doubt the sanity of sharing a dwelling with someone you love? It would be one thing if Consort and I were roommates; I’ve had housemates with some serious quirks, and as long as it didn’t affect my quality of life or bring FBI agents to our door, I cared little. But there is something about knowing someone so intimately and loving them so deeply that, occasionally, makes you want to hit them repeatedly.

Case in point #1: Towels. Consort and I have a slightly different interpretation of what towels do. I believe they dry your body when it is wet. Consort believes they are an art installation. He must believe that, otherwise why does he leave the bathroom [passing both towel rods and towel hooks en route] and carefully create a hillock of wet terrycloth in the middle of our bed? And if it’s not “Towel Lump Crowning Bed, #45”, it’s “Pima Protuberance on Couch, #17” or “Swelling on Office Table, #28”. He doesn’t even know he does it; I know this because he’ll be chatting away about his day to me while putting on shoes, all the while my brain only hears Wet towel on bed, Wet towel on bed getting quilt wet, Wet towel on bed possibly creating mold.

When I finally scream in agony “Oh, would you please put the towel in the bathroom before the black mold takes over?”, Consort looks at the bed, startled. He has no idea where that towel came from, but if it will make me stop clawing at my throat, he would be more than happy to take the towel into the bathroom and arrange it in a fetching mass behind the toilet.

Case in point #2: Mechanical objects. I suspect I am not the only one in this house with the occasional longing for a room of one’s own, preferably attached to a very attractive beach house fifteen miles away. As it would come as no surprise to anyone who has read more than three of my blog entries, I can be a bit of a chore, with aspects of my personality that are both quirky and deeply held. For example, Consort is forced to live with a woman who believes any machine making a strange noise will repair itself if given enough time. He walks through the back room as the dryer is making a noise which sounds kind of like “WHEEEEEEEEEE whack WHEEEEEEEE whack”. I sit at the kitchen table attacking a crossword puzzle.

CONSORT: I don’t think the dryer should be making that noise.

QUINN: It’s getting better. It used to sound like “WHEEE whack whack hssss”.

CONSORT: How long has it been making this noise?

QUINN: This particular one? Oh, maybe a couple of days.

CONSORT: I see. Any other unusual noises?

QUINN: Oh, sure. Lots of them.

This is right about when his lips get all thin and he mumbles for a while.

Case in point #3: Familiarity does not breed contempt in this house, but it certainly produces a fine case of aggravation. Consort believes I cannot sleep if he reads in bed; he believes I lie there and only pretend to sleep, so as not to hurt his feelings. He believes this even though I have assured him for years that his bedside light being on doesn’t affect my sleep. He believes this even though I have never given him any indication that hurting his feelings bothers me at all. And yet, even though he believes this devoutly, he persists in the following gambit at least twice a week:

I am in bed, in traditional sleeping position, eyes closed. Consort comes in with pile of newspapers and turns on his bedside light.

CONSORT: Would you mind if I read in bed?

QUINN: No, not at all.

CONSORT: I better not, it’ll keep you up.

QUINN: Really, it won’t.

CONSORT: Yes, it will.

QUINN: No, it won’t.

CONSORT: Of course it will; you were nearly asleep and when I turned on the light it woke you up.

QUINN: No, having this conversation is what woke me up.

CONSORT: I’ll go read at the kitchen table. Go back to sleep.

Consort turns off his light and leaves. I flip around like a fish on the back of a trawler for a few minutes, and then turn on my light and start reading.


Consort comes in looking mournful.

CONSORT: I knew my reading would wake you up.

Case in point #4: Consort has to live knowing that anything especially maddening or entertaining he does will be put into a blog read by people around the world. So I’m thinking if anyone should be wishing for a walkway, it would be him.

But the way he removes the toilet paper roll from the holder and leaves it on the bathroom cabinet is really more than any one person should have to stand.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Sometimes I wonder if anyone reading this thinks I’ve been exaggerating my utter geekiness. “But,” I can hear someone in a sparsely populated county saying plaintively, “You live in Los Angeles. Los Angeles! Why, I bet you can walk out your front door, go to the nearest Starbucks to see Brad and Angelina making out next to Keanu while Britney nurses her son over by the cream counter. C’mon, you do go to clubs, right?”

If any of you have the image of me finishing a QC Report, and then slipping into something plunging and taking my pearl-grey Porsche convertible to the hottest club in Hollywood and air-kissing Nicole Ritchie as I sashay past the doorman with a not-so-sotto “Hey, Bruno, keep that riff-raff out”, I want to present you with a more accurate visual. Last night, I hunkered down in front of the TV to savor a long-awaited documentary on the Spanish Influenza of 1918.

What makes it sadder still is that I already know about the Spanish Influenza of 1918. In fact, Consort declared a moratorium on book reports at the dinner table due to the most recent book I read on the Spanish Influenza of 1918. Yeah, I said most recent book; I have read multiple books on the subject. I also hold dear an out of print book on execution methods throughout recorded history. In fact, this was the first present Consort ever gave me -- after a few weeks of social interaction, he suspected I might like it (Hands off, girls. He’s mine). As a child, I read The Book of Lists until it fell apart in my hands. I could speak endlessly on the ten most brutal murders of the Victorian age. This, I imagine, has all but wiped out the image of my being cool to any reader, and replaced it with the image of the weird neighbor you never let baby-sit your kids.

So, I sat through this documentary to see if it had any new information; and to feel smug. There are armchair quarterbacks. There are armchair golfers. I imagine there are armchair bowlers (the armchair bowler being in slightly better physical condition than the professional bowler). Me? I am an armchair pathologist. But I don’t rely on CSI; CSI: New York, CSI: Miami, CSI: Cleveland for my fantasy exhumations. No, for me it must be a real medical situation and, ideally, feature a bow-tied British PhD with a boiled-egg complexion, a frothy comb-over and, I can only hope, a mildly heretical new theory about the subject at hand.

So last night, as the narrator intoned “…The rapid transmission of the flu can be attributed to…“ I hollered “…Movements of huge amounts of troops who had grown up in small towns, leaving them relatively unexposed to disease!”

Narrator: “…The first suspected case of the flu was recorded in…“

Me (hollering at screen): “…A soldier in Kansas!...”

Narrator (simultaneously): “…an enlisted soldier in Kansas”.

It was a pathetic little party.

But then the narrator said, in what I took to be a smirking tone, “…But Dr. Oxford thinks the point of origin might lie elsewhere…”


Cut to Dr. Oxford, his comb-over undulating in the breeze, suggesting that the first cases were at a military camp in France, about a year before the actual epidemic started. Such temerity! My blood boiled.

“But where is the VECTOR?”

For those of you with lives, let me explain. Influenza begins in wild birds, mutates into domesticated birds such as chickens, and makes the leap into mammals, usually pigs. Only then can it be contracted by human beings. As if he heard me [which wouldn’t be surprising, as our neighbors have heard me yelling at such times], Dr. Oxford then presented pictures of young men living at the camp smilingly holding up live chickens, and then pictures of other young men posing among pigs. I guess even when you are saving the world from the Huns, you can find time to get snapshot for the folks at home of you pointing at a pig.

“Yeah,” I sneered at the uncaring television. “But everyday livestock does not a flu make. Where were the cases?”

We armchair pathologists don’t just roll over for a photograph or two.

Obviously hearing me, he next presented evidence of a young man who had died at the camps in 1916 displaying the same distinctive symptoms, including a face which turned the color of heliotrope (so hard to find lip-gloss to go with that). Grudgingly, I -- the person who attended two years of college – had to concede that the man with a lifetimes’ work in communicable diseases might have a valid point.

Please don’t think I’m a complete obsessive here. I don’t just make time for documentaries on Spanish Influenza, I also love a good “Separating Conjoined Twins” documentary; the “Large Man About to Have Surgery to Become a Very Large Woman” documentary; and who doesn’t enjoy the occasional “Black Plague Takes Out One Third of Europe!” recap? And let’s not forget the History Channel has a category I like to call “Those Darn Invaders!”. Romans, Vikings, Huns, doesn’t matter to me -- as long as I am seeing some modern men with cheap wigs and bare knees being forced to run around in sodden grass whomping on each other.

Let’s just call it by name; I’m a documentary hag. I love documentaries about cane toads in Australia. I love documentaries about Scrabble championships. I love documentaries about mid-century propaganda musicals from Soviet Russia. Given an unexpected six hours to myself in the house, I brought out boxes of family snapshots that needed organizing and Ken Burns’ epic “Baseball”.

And I hate baseball.

I watch so many documentaries I’ve started to see the same experts over and over again. There’s nothing like seeing a talking head on “The Mysteries of the Mayans” who I instantly recognize from last year’s “The Persian Paradox”. And where is Consort during all of this, you may ask?


He hides because one time (after Daughter was asleep) he crossed the living room and glanced absently at the television screen. “What the hell is THAT?” he yelped.

“Oh,” I said brightly. “It’s about the wife-swapping sub-culture in suburban America among the middle-aged and the elderly. Can you believe the woman in the leather swing has six grandkids?”

Another time, he came in while I was watching Trauma; Life in the ER and happened to see what a patella looks like after it has taken the full force of a pick-up truck backing into it. So, when Consort sees me holding a new Netflix envelope, he tends to scurry.

Oh, who needs him?

As long as I have a talking head in a bowtie, am omniscient narrator, and someone dressed up as Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian Countess who sought of hold off the ravages of age by bathing the blood of virgin girls, I’m happy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Latin Lover.

Rome in Italy is.

Italy in Europe is.

Egypt in Europe is not, Egypt in Africa is.

Is not France in Europe?
France in Europe is.

Sure, it’s not compelling, but it’s Latin, and I’ve translated it. And I know it sounds a little strange; I followed Consort around the house for the better part of an hour translating at him until he finally groaned, “I’m living with Yoda”. But I’m trying to keep the syntax in the proper place. So speak backwards I do.

Thanks to Lingua Latina, my compelling read on the bedside table, I have a new favorite family. Let others obsess over the upcoming season of “Lost”, or thrill to the lingerie on “Desperate Housewives”. I have “Cranky Roman Family”. There is Julius (Or, as we who read about him call him, Iulius), the Roman man; his Roman woman (I believe they are married, but the book has been coy so far), Aemilia; Marcus, their son, a Roman boy; Quintus, their other son, also a Roman boy; and their daughter, Iulia, a Roman girl (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?).

There are also, we are told, many servants although we only learn the names of Syra, Delia, Davus and Medus. Perhaps they are the personal servants to Cranky Roman family; hard to say. Maybe it’s a whole “Upstairs, Downstairs” thing, where next chapter the reader will get to translate “Does not Syra slaughter a goat?”. Perhaps Delia is carrying the next Roman boy of the Julian line! But that would involve the future tense and Cranky Roman Family lives for now.

I like starting a new language. No matter in what part of the world the language originates, beginning a new language makes you Buddhist -- for a magical time, you only live in the present tense. There are no awkward regrets of past actions which might cause an attack of irregular conjugations. There is no fear of the future and the looming indefinite article. There is only now, and all the verbs do exactly what the other verbs do. They march like placid soldiers across the page, each verb only the slightest variation of what came before.

Not that the Cranky Roman Family cares. They have countless servants. [Actually, they have ‘Centum’ servants. Look it up.] They have their health. They have a nicely drawn family picture of them wearing togas. They're Roman people who live in Rome when that meant something, for Heaven’s sake! But are they happy? Happy they not are. We’ve barely finished discussing their servants and admiring their togas before Iulia starts singing… Well, let my translation speak for itself.

Iulia sings. “Lalala”

Iulia happy is.

Marcus: “St!”
(Which I am guessing is what Roman boys used to say to their sisters, who were Roman girls, to get them to shut up)

Marcus happy not is.

Iulia sings. “Lalla, lalla”.
(That’s my girl, Iulia. Just because she will be married at fourteen to a fifty-year old Senator with a liking for her brother doesn’t mean she shouldn’t sing now.)

Marcus: “Ssst!” (Not much translating needed there). Marcus angry is.

Iulia sings: “Lalla, lalla, lalla”
(Iulia, I am on your side, but you could think about the second verse. Unless that is the second verse, in which case, I am starting to side with your brother Marcus, who is a Roman boy).

Marcus Iulia hits.

Now Iulia not sing, but cry: “Uhuhu!”
(Got to vote with the writer of the Latin text here; this is a far more onomatopoeic word for sobbing than “Boo hoo”.)

Marcus laughs: “Hahahae!”
(The “E” on the end of “Hahaha” makes him an obnoxious Roman boy. Otherwise, he would be an obnoxious American boy, and there would be no benefit to my knowing about him)

Now, isn’t this a vast improvement over your language books from High School? The ones where Pedro and Maria, or Francois and Pascal, decided on whether to go to the cinema or to the library? I’m not agreeing with the choice Marcus made but, considering that he is stuck in the present tense and Iulia refused to sing something besides “Lalla, lalla, la”, I understand why he made it.

And you know it didn’t end there. Quintus arrived! You know, Quintus, the one who Iulia’s future husband, the elderly Senator, secretly desires:

Quintus Marcus sees. Marcus not see Quintus.

Quintus: What? Marcus girl hit, and laugh!

Quintus angry is and Marcus hit. (A little clarity here; Quintus hit Marcus. You can’t look away, can you?). Now not laughing Marcus. Marcus angry hit Quintus

(Now I sound less like Yoda and more like Koko the gorilla).

Iulia: Where is mother? Iulia Aemilia not see.

Iulia Aemilia says: Mother! Marcus Quintus hit!

Marcus: (Angry) “St!” (You tell her, Marcus) Marcus Iulia hits.

And it just goes on and on. Mother Aemilia enters stage left and hears the whole story again, which gives us a frightening glimpse into past tense. Father Julius is awakened, possibly handed a fresh toga, brought in and hears the story again.

And then Julius spanks Marcus!

Marcus cries “Uhuhu”!

I hope to someday read the classic writings of Ancient Rome, the works which are the ancestors of democracy, western philosophy and drama. But it’s hard to imagine it will get much better than small rich children hitting one another.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Talkin' 'Bout the Car Wash, Girl.

So Daughter is back in school and this is a Good Thing.

I admit to a certain tugging melancholy when I packed her lunchbox for the first time in two months; a moment of “Hey, wait!” when she buzzed into class after an affectionate but perfunctory goodbye kiss. But, on the whole, our lives are better when she is in school. Because of the way I chose for us spend our summer, I got to the gym no more than twice in two months. It turns out, when I don’t get to work out, I am a yelling mom. Who knew?

I must begin by admitting something: I hate having my car washed. No, more precisely, I hate waiting to have my car washed. You would think someone who enjoys reading the way I do would grab a magazine, sit in the shade, and bask in the fact I can do nothing but read while someone else scrapes bird poop off my hood. Inevitably, what actually happens is I decide the car is completely squalid when I have exactly forty-five minutes to get somewhere. This means I spend the entire time the detail guys are hand-drying the car hovering around them like some sort of avenging angel hissing, “It’s fine. It’s good enough. I have to go”.

I then leave the car-wash, water droplets spraying off the bumpers like pinwheels, and park close to wherever I was in such a hurry to get to. When I come back an hour later, I discover an entire flock of birds in the adjacent tree has contracted the West Nile intestinal flu. This happens all the time so it’s hard to get excited about a process that is relatively expensive, time-consuming, and has the lifespan of a gnat.

So about ten days ago, on an especially warm day, I decided Daughter and I should wash the car. She could wear her bathing suit and frolic with the hose. I could wear my ratty clothes and apply all my upper body strength to removing a few hundred miles worth of dead bugs from the windshield. We did all of that and more. And by more, of course, I mean that my most exercised muscles became my vocal chords:

“…Sweetheart, don’t use the rags, they’re filthy…okay, you can use those…NOT THOSE! DO NOT CLIMB ON THE HOOD…I know you can’t reach the bird poop to clean it, I’ll clean the bird poop, I SAID I’LL CLEAN THE BIRD POOP AND WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT TOUCHING THE DIRTY RAGS?...Why don’t you start cleaning the back seat? Here’s the Hand-Vac…PLEASE STOP VACUUMING YOUR LEG…Yes, I imagine it does hurt…Do you want a tissue for your nose? What do you mean, you have one? WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT USING THE DIRTY RAGS?...”

You never see scrapbooking pages dedicated to these moments.

Somehow, we ended up with a clean car. I scrubbed the floor mats, cleaned the leather seats, got out Consort’s shop vacuum and sucked up seven pounds of food-like bits from between the seats. All I wanted to do was stand next to the car, look inside and admire its shine.

I certainly didn’t want anyone in there. Human beings remove shine.

The next day, we took a family trip to the Bloodmobile. This is the kind of glamorous adventures we have as a family. We took my car, because Consort and I both planned to donate, and he can drive my car more easily than I can drive his (His car is large; I feel like a Muppet behind the wheel). Why might he have to drive? Because the last time I donated blood, I left feeling as if someone had removed all the blood in my body, plus a lung. Thus I was not capable of operating heavy machinery. So this time we took my shiny-clean car and I warned everyone not to shed a single dead skin cell or loose hair during the entire trip. Consort was denied his coffee. Daughter was denied her second breakfast. I denied myself my lap-tea. We were in marvelous humor, but the car stayed clean.

Turns out, I could have stayed at home and attacked the bathroom grout with a toothbrush. After the preliminary screening, I was told my iron count was too low. This might explain why I felt like a papery husk the last time I donated blood. Consort went in and got drained while Daughter and I stayed outside the Bloodmobile and attempted to make our own fun. Considering that it was hot, boring and took far longer than anticipated, she was a remarkably good sport. So good, in fact, that when Consort came out he rewarded her by handing over a pile of the snacks they give donors to replenish their chemistry, post donation (human blood must be all sugar, salt and hydrogenated oils, because these were the three main ingredients of every bag of snack-food he was given). She merrily ate a small container of Oreos before we even reached the car. As she opened her door, I glanced into her laden arms; there was not a food product in there that, upon the gentlest contact with teeth, didn’t explode into a cloud of neon-colored food dust. I grabbed her hand as it attempted to rip open a bag of cheese crackers.

“We just cleaned this car,” I said levelly, “so do not, DO NOT, eat this food in the car. We are a few minutes from home, where you may pick ONE MORE BAG to have. You won’t die from lack of artificial coloring until then. If you get really hungry, suck the Oreo crumbs off of your shirt.”

We drove.

Consort and I talked about this and that.

There was a pause.

I heard the rustling of a bag.

“Are you opening the bag of cheese crackers?”



I glanced in the rearview mirror. Daughter’s face was set in mute rebellion. The bag was nowhere in evidence; then again, neither was her right hand.


Small mumble from back.


Crackers were handed forward.

“THANK…I mean, thank you.”

The freeway traffic was unlovely, and getting home took a few minutes longer than anticipated. Consort remembered an errand easily be done on the way home. Suffice to say, we were on the road for a while and every ten minutes, regular as Old Faithful, Daughter would attempt to discreetly open a new bag of snacks, and I would go off.


(After a few minutes) “I BETTER NOT BE HEARING A BAG TEARING.”

(After another few minutes, to Consort) “DID YOU LEAVE ANY SNACKS FOR THE OTHER DONORS?”

This morning, when I came out to take Daughter to school, I found a thumb-sized, rainbow hued bird poop on the windshield.

Thank God.

Keeping the car clean was giving me laryngitis.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


I'm taking a moment out of your lives to point out there are people are there right now who would really love to read a good story.


My name is Amanda Mecke (, and I am a literary agent who has a friend, a mystery writer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who has arranged to take books directly to shelters in New Orleans. If you want to make direct donations of books, you can do so at Toni Causey”s address below.
If you prefer to donate money to funds which are distributing books to children through shelters and libraries, see also the links to FIRST BOOKS and the Louisiana

State Library Association.

……..Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Truly, when hundreds of people stare at the walls, absolutely destitute and destroyed and with nothing to do but think over the trauma, books will be a wonderful temporary escape and salvation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

High N' Dry

I was about to write an entry about how I am completely dried-up creatively right now, and then decided to spend the same time eating a pint of ice cream and reading Jean Kerr or Bailey White. If you are looking for something light and funny to read this weekend, I heartily suggest either.

Come Monday, I shall be filled with juicy observational goodness.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Game of Life

I learned something about myself today.

I wish I hadn’t.

For five months, the Hiphugger 1-800 number has been the subject of intense scrutiny and much paperwork. Thanks to having been slammed (that is, illegally appropriated by a rival phone company), the number didn’t work, and was no longer under our name, so I wasn’t even allowed to get it back up and running. It took no fewer than fifteen phone calls, filing two reports with the FCC (and then waiting for the results of those investigations) and a protracted three-way phone conversation today between a representative from the first phone company, the appropriating phone company and me to get the line back up and running. But, in the end, not only did I get my number back and in my name, I was credited for the five months I had continued to pay my bill while we teased this out.

I hung up, all aglow with smug accomplishment and then a flat little voice in my head said “You do realize all you have achieved is getting back to where you were five months ago.”

I hadn’t won the Iowa primary as a come-from-behind dark horse. I didn’t do an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen. I got my phone number back. Admittedly, it is a good thing to have a working phone line, but still. I sat at this very desk this morning and realized that 90% of my daily activity can be summed up as:

1.Moving objects, either living or inanimate.
2.Holding off entropy for another ten minutes.

You doubt me? Let’s look at the major elements of my day.

Raising Daughter? Candidly, most of my efforts would be moving Daughter from one place to another; were we to create a coat of arms right now, it would depict a car seat.

Co-owning a small business? That would be moving stuff from manufacturer to customer, from customer to bank, from office to Post Office, from Post Office to office; a small business is like running a relay race where the baton is Krazy-glued to your hand.

Consort is sort of a wild card. I rarely move him, although I do move ziggurats of his New Yorker magazines from room to room, so he doesn’t fit into category #1. As far as category #2 is concerned…how shall I put this? Consort and I do not act upon each other as a soothing spa weekend. Our proximity does not create order and calm. In fact, it creates a dynamic analogous to feeding Jolt Cola to ferrets and locking them up in your circuit breaker.

Once I noticed this pattern in my life, even my hobbies came under scrutiny. Due to some basic defect in my makeup, I have chosen, once I get Daughter back into school, to start training for an ascent of Mt. Whitney. I am also going to try teaching myself Latin. Notice I don’t promise to do either. I will train to climb Mt. Whitney. I will try to teach myself Latin. If I fail at either or both, let us all forget this conversation ever happened.

And why am I training to climb a big rock? Because I believe it will keep me motivated to go to the gym. Why do I want to keep myself in the gym? Because my family has only two gears: live to see ninety-five or dead before sixty. I haven’t started the Sue Grafton series yet so I’m thinking I want to stay around. Mt. Whitney would satisfy #1 and #2.

And why Latin? Because it’s hard, and my brain has been feeling spongy along the edges, and I don’t want to become the person who is really taxed by the TV Guide crossword puzzle (17 - Down: Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the ___). So teaching myself Latin from a book is all about forestalling chaos and entropy. Also, it would be cool to be able to read those mottos over doorways in the snotty East Coast prep schools we always see in movies. Here on the West Coast, our prep schools bore slogans like “Your father the entertainment lawyer underwrote this gym”.

Moving objects and entropy prevention haven’t always been my main objectives. In my twenties, I worked for a lunatic. Is my using the word “lunatic” an exaggeration? Not at all. In a sector of the entertainment industry where everyone is crazy, when I mentioned that I worked for this person, others would making that hissing gasp between their teeth which indicates sympathy and ask softly “Wow. The stories aren’t true, are they?” In fact, they were true. This person had several assistants quit before 10:00 am their first day. I once heard this person throwing a tantrum in the office when I pulling up outside. At that time in my career, my Standard Operating Procedure was:

1.Hide, and if found,

I must admit this was not my most attractive phase, but I was pretty much prey in that office. And I did live long enough to breed, so it must have been a successful adaptation.

In another phase of my life, my SOP was:

1.Wait for audition.
2.See #1.

This is what an actor’s life looks like when you have nothing else which requires your attention, and no one is relying on you. It’s fun to be that unfettered for a while, but then I started worrying about hitting my head on a cabinet in the kitchen, lapsing into unconsciousness and being eaten by Bella, my roommate’s sullen Persian cat. This roommate was fun, but the cat would have noticed my cold and stiff body a week before he would have.

I don’t lead that life anymore. All the living things in my life require my attention, and I like it that way. The downside is that I now do a lot of things which seem modest and small. Even silly. But every one I care for is getting their basic needs met.

The quadrupeds have shiny fur and are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

The bipeds laugh frequently and are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

The 800 number is mine again.

I’m feeling almost good enough to take on that discrepancy in our gas bill.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Flotsam and Jetsam

I need to clean out the cerebral pipes, so I am making this a Random Thoughts entry.

I never did tell you about jury duty. Well, I ended up spending eight hours sitting in the Jury Pool Room, never got called up, and have now served my jury service for the year. Whee! The only discomfort I experienced was eyestrain from having read three hundred pages of a great sweeping historical epic about London.

Got from the Great Fire all the way through the Blitz, I did. And without so much as a cup of tea or a restorative shot of gin.

There was an event worth recording, however. Every hour or so, a woman would walk into the boredom-stupefied masses and read off twenty names to go to one court or another. The way it was supposed to work was that she would read your name, you would say “Here” (or “Present” if you were feeling fancy) and walk up to join her. The way it actually worked was like this:

She came out the first time, squinted at the sheet of paper in her hand, and said confidently “May Gano Lary”.

There was silence. May did not stand up. May did not say “Here”.

The official repeated “May Gano Lary” in a slightly irritated voice.



Oh, May was gonna get it now.


A woman in the middle of the room raised a tentative hand.

“Um, by any chance do you mean Megan O’Leary,?”

The official looked at Ms. O’Leary as if she was stupid.

“That’s what I said. Ms. Lary, please come up.”

The official progressed on to mangling each and every name. Give the woman her due; many people find names from a particular country or part of the world challenging but, in the spirit of democracy, she treated all names equally strangely. She used a combination of weird stops inside words and an almost childlike disregard for traditional pronunciation to keep us all wondering.

“Armita Ryan?”
(That was actually Armin Tasserian)

“Hideous Shire?”
(Hideo Yoshiro)

“Ton Yawash Ton?”
(Tanya Washington)

As little as I wanted to be impaneled, I whiled away many a minute wondering what she would have made of my name.

Kin Con Ming?

Qui Nicom Ing?

Kim Cunningham?

Once you remove those tedious constraints of basic phonics, the sky’s the limit.


Let me tell you about my one and only blind date. It ties into jury duty because it was an unpleasant activity I should not have to experience more than once in a lifetime. Also, in the case of both, I would have been more cheerfully inclined toward the experience had I been offered donuts.

I was seventeen. He was eighteen. He was the son of my mother’s travel agent, which strikes me in retrospect as the perfect degree of separation to guarantee a bad blind date; the only information you are getting about him is from his mother, given to your mother.

I was told he was cute, smart and fun to be around.

Isn’t the love of a mother wonderful? Not to mention blind?

He was short. I’m not talking “Gosh, I prefer a man over six feet”, I’m talking I’m 5’3” and I was glad I hadn’t worn heels. He was skinny with an Adam’s apple which fairly pulsated at me. For reasons perhaps only known to his mother, he chose to wear madras shorts. Now, granted, this was a preppy time, and I had been known to dress as if I have rolled in a Brooks Brothers catalogue. But when you have legs the circumference of pipe cleaners, it’s just common decency to give them a full-length cloth covering with which to emulate muscle mass.

Did I mention the politics? I have no idea how we got there, but the entrée hadn’t been served when he got around to informing me that President Nixon had been framed. Whether you are a conservative, a liberal, a moderate or a ring-tailed lemur, that’s just a weird first-date topic, especially when you consider that this boy and I were in second grade when Watergate went down. And it wasn’t as if he was a political history buff; I’d respect an intelligent conversation about politics, however opinionated, but he was merely obsessed. Obsessed with Richard Milhous Nixon -- The Leader of Our Time. He told me he had no fewer than three pictures of Nixon in his room at home (I had a bad feeling one of them might be a coy lingerie shot). My contribution to this conversation was to frantically reorder Diet Cokes, smile weakly, and eat as quickly as any human ever has.

After dinner, we had arranged to see a movie, a mistake I never made again. [Since then, a first date must be dinner and “…maybe a movie.” If, during dinner, the guy wants to talk about the subtle charms of Richard Nixon’s necktie choices during his trip to China, you can develop an early-morning appointment.] We found ourselves walking down Westwood Blvd., heading towards our movie, when Mr. Madras spied some fraternity buddies across the bumper-to-bumper, four-lane street. Oh, did I not mention that his second-favorite topic was Fraternity Life? He grabbed my wrist, held it up like I had just won the title of Bantamweight Blind Date and screamed at the top of his lungs, “HEY LOOK, I’M GOING OUT WITH A MOVIE STAR!”

Had I been able to drop my hand the same way some lizards can drop their tails to save themselves, I would have cheerfully lived life without a hand. Now, which part of this was the worst? Was it the way people started looking out of their cars for a glimpse of Demi Moore or some actual movie star? Was it the fear that some stranger saw me, and thought “Oh, she was on television for, like, a minute, and now she’s walking around pretending she’s a movie star”? Or that someone I knew might have seen me and thought, poor kid; she’s dating a hypermorphic Adam’s apple. No, the worst part would have to be his fraternity buddies hooting like chimps and pointing at me while Mr. Madras’ Adam’s apple flared with pride.

Consort and I have never had a date where Nixon came up, which is why I believe Consort and I will stay together for a very long time. He’s a wonderful man, a terrific father and a really interesting friend.

Also, I fear Mr. Madras is the last single man left in my age group.


On a final note, I have no faith in my ability to write something worthwhile about New Orleans; far more eloquent people have already reduced me to tears ten times over. I can, however, do this-

If you have given what you can to the two-legged victims, please find a way to donate to help the four-legged ones.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

QC (Book) Report, Part Three.

Daughter was about six months old. She was sitting on my hip one evening as I attempted to make dinner when Consort walked through the door. Before he crossed the kitchen, he got an impassioned lecture on the subject of my not been able to finish a single article in the morning paper. I loved this child more than I could have ever imagined loving anyone, but I was convinced my brain was turning to goo.

As I was ranting, I knocked over a glass with my chopping arm. Before I knew it, I had dropped the chopping knife and grabbed the glass before it hit the counter -- all without dropping the kid. I stared at the glass in wonder.

"Huh," I thought. "I might be working on three hours of sleep a night, but that is definitely something I couldn't have done before."

For any woman who has ever suspected giving birth created some subtle physiological positives along with the much-publicized negatives, I suggest reading The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. In clear, readable English, writer Katherine Ellison presents some of the more interesting scientific research on how the female brain, post-birth, becomes a more efficient machine. I found it confirmed many of my inchoate suspicions about my new-found super-powers. I found it incredibly heartening.

Read it and know that being a mother made you stronger and more competent in ways you can't even imagine.

It helps for those moments when you can't remember your sister-in-law's name.