Friday, December 31, 2010

When copy editors ruled the earth

I love it when a typographical error is perfectly spelled and grammatically correct and precisely contradicts the writer's intended meaning. Like this one from "Tales of the Yoga Studio," by Rain Mitchell: "As causally as she can, Katherine asks, 'Everything okay?'"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow under the stinkwood tree 1

Promises, promises

Argh! I love my yoga teachers each and every one, but a few have an annoying habit of breaking promises:

 "O.K., we're going to hold this [utterly excruciating, exhausting] pose for five breaths."
[TEN breaths later] "O.K., two more breaths now."
[TWENTY breaths later] "O.K., on your next exhalation, go even deeper."
[THIRTY breaths later] "O.K., inhale and move into [an even more excruciating, exhausting iteration of the original pose]."

And so forth.

No wonder people who don't already love yoga sometimes hate it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Narcissistic optimism

The other day I heard an interview with Laurie David, an environmentalist who is also Larry ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") David's ex-wife. "Because I'm an environmentalist, I'm an optimist," she said.

That puzzled me. If you're an environmentalist, I thought, you must be devastated by the awful state of the earth. But this morning I was looking at my narcissuses and marveling that in just a couple of weeks they have sprouted more than a foot (and produced stinky blossoms!)  from dried-up, dead-looking bulbs stuck in a layer of pebbles and doused with water—when I remember. They have thrived so well on so little. And thinking about that has made me feel like an optimist too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jefferson Market Library, shrink-wrapped

I can't remember which came first—Christo's wrapping buildings for art or construction companies wrapping buildings for renovation? 

Some things really do change

Add to the list of things that have vanished along with the once-ubiquitous Andean flute-and-fife quartets: plastic bags in trees. Used to be that plastic bags were common as leaves on New York’s trees. But lately, not so much.

If it's not one thing ...

Stretch tops are the most practical garments for yoga since they cling to your body and don't have wardrobe malfunctions when you're, say, doing a headstand. But I stopped wearing close-fitting clothes after my mastectomy because they highlighted the gouges in my chest. For the past few years I've been wearing T-shirts. I tuck them into my pants and hope for the best when I do inversions. But lately I've been trying to wear breast forms to prevent confusion about my gender. Today I put a pair into a stretchy yoga top and headed off to class, feeling a little self-conscious. A few minutes into the class, I sensed that something wasn't quite right about my clothing. I checked my boobs, and they seemed to be in more or less the right place. But something was off. Oh, right, I put my pants on backward.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

No regrets

Today is my 38th anniversary of mating up with Other. No regrets.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Antique reference

Many obituaries of Elizabeth Edwards describe her breast tumor as the size of a half-dollar. I used to get a 50-cent piece every week for my allowance, so the image of that coin is deeply embedded in my memory. But I don't think my kids ever saw a half-dollar, and I'm wondering how many other young people are puzzled by this reference. But then how many young people are reading the obituary of a 62-year-old woman who never performed on Dancing with the Stars or starred in Nip/Tuck? Oops, my youthism is showing!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Poor, dear, old Elizabeth Edwards. She was not perfect. She made some mistakes. But she was a living example of how people don't get just cancer. They get all the shit everyone else gets, PLUS cancer.

A dreary media binge

I've been on another media binge, gorging on 1) the book Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; 2) HBO's In Treatment; 3) Showtime's This American Life; and 4) HBO's The Comeback. And I have to admit I'm perplexed and saddened.

Is it true, as Freedom and Comeback would lead you to believe, that men are interested exclusively in sex? Is it true, as Treatment suggests, that life is pain and even the best analysis cannot buy happiness? And is it true, as Comeback and one installment of American Life declare, that no one cares what old people think, and in fact they're seriously annoying to everyone around them?

Re the last question: At first I dismissed Comeback as a one-note, funny-only-because-it's-relentlessly-annoying show that wasn't particularly funny. But as I've mulled it over, I realize that Lisa Kudrow's character is ... me at work (and perhaps in other venues as well). The oldest and most senior member of my department, I'm invested in the old ways but struggling to master the new, working hard to keep a smile on my wrinkled, age-spotted old face, sadly aware of younger folks avoiding me in elevators and hallways ("Ach! What if she tries to talk to me?" I can hear them saying to themselves). Is this how life ends—with total irrelevance and humiliation? No wonder people opt for retirement homes. It's just too dispiriting trying to stay in the real world with all the pretty, young people who wish you would disappear.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Downsize 'em!

Mostly, package downsizing is a bad thing: Pay more, get less. But there's one grocery-store item that is ripe for downsizing: cranberries. The turkey's been hashed, souped and sandwiched. The stuffing's long gone. The pies are a distant memory. But the cranberry sauce lingers forever. And there aren't many ways to dish it up as something new. It comes out of the fridge the same as it went in, just a little more congealed than the previous night. Or worse, stays in the fridge until it's discovered months later in its still gelid state or with a thatch of gray fuzz. Even if you make cranberry bread, you never use the whole package, and the berries left in the bag are never quite enough for the next loaf, so you keep on buying and buying and buying and never come out even. Is this a marketing oversight? Or a marketing strategy? And what the hell can I do with this stuff?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Half full or half empty?

I've been feeling a little sad about how much my yoga practice has fallen off over the past couple years. I used to take yoga classes five or six days a week. But changes in my work schedule and class schedules have whittled the frequency. I mentioned this to Other, and as I was saying how much I regretted the diminution to only four a week, maximum, I listened to myself and thought, Gee, if someone told me she was upset because she could get to soccer practice only four days a week, I'd think she was crazy. That's plenty! And so it is. Saturday at Integral Yoga, Sunday with my favorite teacher at Crunch, Monday with an Anusara teacher named Ellen Saltonstall, possibly a Tuesday-night class at Crunch. Good! Not bad!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I know these narcissuses will be beautiful one day ...

... but right now they're kind of gross, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In one ear and in the other too

This week, two people (one was my son) told me I looked like a lesbian (not that there's anything wrong with that), and several others called me Sir (not that there's anything wrong with that either).

I began life as a tomboy and bloomed in the flower-power era and never progressed beyond my hippie style. I never permed or straightened my hair or shaved any body parts or mastered makeup or found the perfect bra. And the bohemian look worked (at least I thought so) until I got breast cancer.

But without my breasts and my wild-'n'-crazy hair (it grew back sparse and gray after chemo), I no longer have the usual female markers. So I've been working harder to broadcast accurate gender information. I've been strapping on breast prostheses (seriously uncomfortable) and applying makeup (not very expertly) and wearing girlier clothes (pink shoes!). It's been a lot of thankless work, and I'm sick of the whole charade.

I was whining to my friend B this weekend about my efforts and my failures. "You don't need all that stuff," she said. "All you need is earrings." Wha?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Boobs talking boobs

Here's the conversation (roughly) I listened to on the radio this morning:

Male announcer No. 1: So did you hear about the German guy who's suing his girlfriend because he paid for her to get a boob job on the condition that she stay with him for at least a year?

Female announcer: And she left him?

Male announcer No. 1: Yeah, and he'd made her sign a contract that she'd pay him back for the boobs if she didn't stay with him. So he's suing her for breach of contract and demanding that she return the implants.

Male announcer No. 2: If that was my girlfriend, I'd pay for one boob and make her live with me for two years before I'd buy her the other one. That way no one else would want her and she'd be stuck with me.

Female announcer: Ew! But you'd have to look at her for two years with one boob bigger than the other.

Ode to 87

For me, driving is what war must be like: long hours of boredom punctuated by bursts of mortal fear.

The limitations you experience behind the wheel are as fundamental—in good ways and bad—as those you face in life: the imperative of staying with the crowd to avoid censure, the blind spot that results from your own presence, the inherent danger of a journey of any kind, and, for me, the sense of undertaking a task that taxes my skills but feeling successful no matter how many mistakes are made as long as I don't kill anyone.

Safely home from driving my daughter back to school.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Life is change, the Buddhists say. Which makes New York feel quintessentially Buddhist. Where are the whores who just a few years ago plied their trade along lower Third Avenue? Where are the crack addicts who stored their stolen goods in an abandoned building on East Fourth Street? And most sadly, where are the Andean pipers and drummers whose melancholy mountain music once wafted surreally through every urban landscape from the bowels of the subway to the spires of the skyscrapers? They've taken their wooden flutes and their brilliant serapes and their glossy black butt-length braids—and vanished.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Where did I ...?

Here's the answer to the question I ask myself every day:

There are seven, count them, seven pairs of reading glasses in this picture, which I swear is unposed. I came across the assemblage this morning when I was looking for my ... oh, never mind.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Faux-bedbug hell

There's a species of little kid that simply cannot abide uncomfortable clothes. My daughter was so allergic to seams over her toes that socks were virtually an impossibility in kindergarten. My kindergarten son, on the other hand, adored the constriction of neckties and sports jackets.

I'm afraid I have never outgrown my youthful aversion to clothing that rubs me the wrong way. So when I get home from work, I rip off my work clothes and put on my nightie. And once in my nightie, I climb into bed. I love my bed. It is to me what a charging plate is to a cordless phone. I run out of juice if I don't unite with it.

My bed is my sanctuary. So it was extraordinarily stressful to wake up last weekend with a line of insect bites down my right ribs. You see, I've been on a few planes in the past few weeks, and I live in a city where it's estimated that 1 out of 10 households has bedbugs, and I work on a floor that recently had several areas of infestation. So it didn't take a big mental leap to arrive in bedbug bedlam.

The next day I woke up with a line of bites down my left ribs. Other and I lifted the mattress, pulled up the sheet, examined the seam of every stuffed thing in the house for "fecal smears" and molted skins, and vacuumed—twice—even though the house wasn't dirty.

The next day I had a bite on my leg, but I saw—and killed—the mosquito that did it.

Throughout, I slept no more than an hour or two a night, spending my considerable waking hours planning how I could exterminate the bugs while sparing the humans in my house. I printed  instructions for a home-made bedbug monitor invented by a Rutgers student that uses dry ice and double-bowl cat dishes. I Googled the names of sniffer-dog operators.

And then ... there were no more bites. Of course, it's possible that my six bedbugs are sleeping off their vast meal and will shortly come back for more. Or it's possible one now-dead mosquito ruined my life for three days.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I've never had an eating disorder, but I do have a little media-bingeing problem. And so it is that I spent much of my weekend watching "The Big C" in a bulemic fashion: gorging on 12 episodes of it and then purging myself by telling everyone how much I hated it. If only I could get ahold of the latest season of "In Treatment," I could call myself a gourmand.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Is it just me?

Here are some of the things that I did NOT do when I was diagnosed with breast cancer: 

* Flirt with my doctor

* Show my breasts unasked to my doctor (and later to a couple of police officers)

* Refuse treatment out of hand

* Take on extravagant home-improvement projects and invite the contractor to charge me double

* Deliberately pour red wine on my old couch

* Fill the bathtub with fake blood and pretend to be dead to scare my son

* Buy a new red sportscar

* Tell a fat girl that she could be either fat or bitchy but not both, then offer her $100 for every pound she loses

* Launch into a chain of cartwheels

* Barge into a neighbor’s house without knocking and scream at her for not being friendlier

But those are some of the things the protagonist in "The Big C" does in the pilot. Am I just weird?

Inquiring mind needs to know

Is "The Big C" the gut-busting comedy it was billed to be? Hard to imagine, but I like to keep an open mind until the stink of shit slams the door.

Friday, November 12, 2010


With multiple sclerosis, a colostomy and a knee-replacement-gone-wrong that resulted in an amputation (and you thought you had troubles!), my mother-in-law must live in a nursing home. Despite every effort to keep the place clean, cheerful and sanitary, the air has a whiff of feces and urine, and the ambiance stinks of sadness. Hoists and wheelchairs transport aged bodies to bed, bathroom and beyond.

It’s like a sick science experiment, where nutrients are spooned into one end of an alimentary canal and caught with diapers and pans from the other end. There are a few working brains among the dozens of bodies that exist there in suspended animation. And those brains exude a mist of wistfulness and longing—for some dimly recalled self, for the grandchildren and great grands whose photographs beam from bedroom walls, for a phone call from an adult child and, above all, for a visit from anyone at all. 

Sometimes the ones with brains vie among themselves for the status of most beloved. One will introduce her adult daughter to everyone she passes, flaunting that she has a relative who loves her enough to visit. Another will announce loudly that her son arrives in a few days for a weeklong stay. Another will brag—and this boast trumps all others—that when her relatives come, they pay their own way.

I used to long for longevity and feel cheated by my cancer history. Now I wonder if I am not one of the lucky ones, whose body and brain will die in synchrony.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The in crowd

My friend H’s mother lives in the same Florida nursing home as my mother-in-law. So H and I decided to fly down together.  On the plane, H was saying that her mother always felt that my mother-in-law was “popular” and she was not. Ah, we clucked, how sad that such adolescent insecurities persist into old age. Later I was making plans with my mother-in-law and a friend of hers to go to dinner, and they made sure to arrange for a third friend to join us so that our table of four would be prefilled and no one they didn’t like could join us. Ah, I thought to myself, how sad that such insecurities continue to be justified.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cancer sucks, but so do a lot of things

I hate it when people say cancer made them a better person or was a blessing in disguise or ... But I cannot deny that there have been some fringe benefits to my illness: the get-out-of-jail cancer card (along with the ever handy chemo-brain-made-me-do-it voucher) and the honorary degree in medical science—but most of all the cancer friend.

I met J in radiation chambers. I had been rebuffed in the waiting rooms of doctor's offices and chemo clinics often enough that I wasn't making any overtures. But J reached out to give me a crash course in Radiation 101—and even wrote my notes for me: where to get a free radiation bra, what unguents to use on my burnt flesh and, most generous, her phone number and e-mail.

Since then she has given me crash courses in other areas of her peculiar expertise: how to raise my children (she doesn't have biological ones but earned her chops from eons of volunteering in after-school programs), which '70s sitcom that familiar-looking actor starred in, how to create a high-culture experience out of a low-brow cruise.

Now she's teaching me a lesson I don't want to learn: how to survive a mortal shipwreck. No, she's not dying of cancer. But her brother is. One brother has already died of the rare intestinal malignancy, and now the other brother is dying of it too. Alzheimer's took her father last year, and her mother is slowly  slipping beneath the waves of dementia. That leaves J, who herself is none too steady on her feet, to haul the masts and bail the ballasts—whatever the hell you do in a shipwreck, she's doing it.

Oh, and the ship's going down in Florida, and her crew is in New York, so she's all alone in the stormy seas of family. And has been for nearly a year. So what do you do when you're shipwrecked and surrounded by gnashing sharks of fear and loneliness and sadness? You get out your handy-dandy camera and start snapping pictures of the flora and fauna. You learn how to drive so you can have a secret life. You sign up for quilting classes and make a quilt for your dying brother. You join Gilda's Club, because Trouble is everyone's middle name there.

But mostly you just make do, because you have to.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Precision is important

Lately I've been taking yoga classes with an Anusara specialist who teaches in her Union Square loft. This teacher has very acute alignment-spotting skills and is direct and matter of fact in correcting wayward form. She was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying "Precision is important." I think she was embarrassed by that prosaic statement, but it has stayed with me. It's so simple, just three words, easy to remember, and really the core of what I need to focus on in yoga--and in life. Anyway, I've been enjoying this class, and at first I was perplexed by my determination to be there every Monday. Yes, she's a good teacher, and, yes, it's helping me, I think, to do yoga more safely, and, maybe, my back feels a little bit better, and Mondays are convenient for me. But it's more than that. Last Monday I looked around and realized that every single one of the 10 or so other students had gray hair or hair that was clearly dyed to cover the gray. I had never noticed before how OLD my fellow students were. Usually I'm the oldest person in any yoga class I take. But in this class, it's possible that I'm the youngest. And I had never noticed because these elderginis are so strong and adept and alive. What a relief! Hovering, unspoken, in the back of my mind had been the fear that someday I might be too old for yoga. Not.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paying it forward keeps me back

In my work as a volunteer for a breast-cancer hot line, I try to help women manage their cancer diagnosis, cope with the emotional fallout and, eventually, get on with their lives. Ironically, this work keeps my focus on breast cancer and to some degree restrains me from leaving my own diagnosis behind and getting on with my life. But I remember how grateful I was when I was diagnosed to be able to talk frankly to real people who had survived the disease. I knew I wanted to offer other women the gift I had received. And so, every Monday, I go back into Cancer World for a few hours. And when it’s over, I try not to think about it till the next Monday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Numb and Number

And tonight I watched The Social Network and wished I hadn't returned Dumb and Dumber. A movie filled with beautiful young people, and every one a wretch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dumb and Dumber is too dumb even for me

Because I have a low tolerance for raunch and violence and sadness in entertainment, I'm limited largely to sitcoms and romcoms and shows about nothing like Seinfeld. I have a deserved reputation within my family for picking bad movies. My kids tell their friends with wonderment that my favorite film is Dumb and Dumber. And it was true in spirit if not in fact. But last night I tried to relive my belly laughs by watching it again—and just could not stay awake. And today I returned it to Netflix half viewed. Oh, well, there's always 27 Dresses ...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The view out my window

Too bad there's no longer a little boy in my household. That would make this view a delight. Without that little boy, it's just a clamorous nuisance that has been going on way too long!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Untouchable me

The hierarchy of airline passengers is as complex and rigidly observed as the Indian caste system. I believe these were the categories I heard tonight. No matter how you mince it, my caste is Untouchable:

First class
Executive class
Spa Alliance 
Economy Plus
Economy (Me! By the toilet! Ready to harvest the night soil!)

Working class

My dad has his set pieces, little speeches he gives to friends and cabbies alike. Often they’re well-rehearsed showcases for his views on the war or the organic-foods fad. One of my favorites is his spiel on the two smartest moves he ever made: marrying my mother (my parents fight like adders, but he’s a dedicated chivalrist) and becoming an engineer. The other day, I interrupted this now-familiar soliloquy to ask why becoming an engineer was such a good move. “My job gave me joy,” my dad responded. I asked my mom, a driven careerist before her stroke, whether her job had given her joy, and she said she couldn’t remember. So I asked a few of my friends whether their job gave them joy. And nary a one could say it did. One friend, K, said her husband’s job gave him joy—but resulted in loneliness and solitary dinners for her.

Crazy talk

San Francisco has even more visibly homeless folks than New York. And I had a couple of wacky encounters with two of them. One day I was walking up Chestnut Street and a vivacious young blonde accosted me to say “We should hang out sometime!” A few days later, on a grassy knoll not far from the same spot, a brackish young man came flying at me with fists raised and shouted, “You bitch! You deserved to die on September 11! It’s people like you the Muslims should kill, you cunt!” I don’t get the “c” word much, though the “b” word is sadly all too familiar. It kind of shook me up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mom butt

Hanging out with my childhood friend R takes me back to my painful adolescence: the dread, the self-consciousness, the awfulness of being a kid trapped in an adult body. It must be even worse nowadays, when there are names for the conditions that were not crystallized in words then. My daughter C and her friends are ever on the alert for nipplitis, the unseemly puckering of nipples through shirts; camel toe, the unfortunate highlighting of the crotch by certain clothing; VPL, visible panty line (which thongs were invented to address); matchy-matchiness, the impression of being overattentive to color coordination; and mom butt.

But perhaps having these terms of art makes it easier to fend off embarrassment. Could defining the enemies corral them into a manageable herd?

Late middle age is another adolescence. Only now I’m a kid trapped inside a geezer body. No matter what my gym routine, mom butt is an enduring affliction. And for a woman who’s had breast cancer, nipplitiis may be a thing of the past, but there is an additional glossary of embarrassments to be mastered: pink patch, premature hair-thinning; slumpback, shoulder-rounding caused by self-consciousness not about breasts but about breastlessness; lost-lump emergency, breast-form slippage; joining the shmoos, having a belly bigger than your chest (but not as big as your mom butt).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Religious inversion

When anyone asks my religion (a rare occasion, I admit), I always answer “Yoga.” It’s a joke, but not really. Yoga is the closest I can get to dealing with issues of mortality and suffering, and my “faith” has survived some pretty grueling road tests. Yesterday, however, since it seemed to mean a lot to the ‘rents to have me go with them to church, I gave Unitarianism another try. But sitting still on a hard bench for an hour and a half, listening to unnatural rhetoric enunciated in affected cadences, made me long for the mat.

So in the afternoon I attended a fairly pedestrian gym-club “fusion” class, with none of the liturgical trappings that yoga classes often feature, and even in that bare-bones forum, I found what had eluded me on Cathedral Hill: patience, fortitude, attention to the moment and a renewal of good intentions. And that was without inversions!

But then, I’ve maxed out on inversions this week: this week I’ve attended three “antigravity” yoga classes, which use nylon hammocks hung from the ceiling as props to enable you to get deeper into poses. You insert various body parts into the sling of the hammock, which steadies you and perfects your alignment. For inversions, you gather the fabric into a thick rope and monkey-wrap your legs around it and suspend the rest of your body in inverted free fall. It’s like traction, only better. Your blood and all your other fluids flow to your head and rinse it out. It’s a little dizzying—like going through the spin cycle of a washing machine—and the pressure on your legs and sacrum can make you feel as if they’ve been put through a ringer, but it’s thrilling, and cleansing.

I didn’t get that from church.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blue devils

San Francisco is about halfway through an assault by the Blue Angels, stars of the Fleet Week air show that takes over the skies and sound waves every afternoon for four days. These nasty little buzzers roar through the Marina like a swarm of angry wasps. I know the whole display is supposed to inspire pride and patriotism, but mostly I feel sympathy for the enemy.  

(Image borrowed from

Friday, October 8, 2010

Family secrets—no more

Last night my mom and I were joking about the improbability of Jews in my father’s family: Why would a Jewish guy moved to Presbyterian Harrisburg? And another family secret popped out: Turns out my father’s mother’s sister was married to a Jew—and he was murdered. My late great uncle (is that right or was he a cousin or once removed or ...? ), a shoe-store owner named Richard Goho, married my grandmother’s sister but had an affair with a female employee with 11 children. When he tried to end the affair, his mistress shot him to death. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

That patchouli you smell isn't pot

For the first time in two years, my presence in my parents’ home is  superfluous—in a good way. I booked two weeks since previous visits have often been too short for me to manage the backlog of tasks, but really two days would have been adequate to fulfill my parents’ practical needs this time. I think we’re all a little mystified about why I’m still here. The correct answer: my plane ticket out isn’t till next Friday.

Idle hands are the devil’s playground, as an old boyfriend used to say. So I’ve begun to stir up some dust by attacking the hygiene problem. The home aides keep the visible dirt down, but the smell of mold and mildew is patchouli-strong in places. So yesterday I took apart the downstairs linen closet, which was particularly offensive, and rewashed everything that could be washed and aired out everything else on the deck in the sun and scrubbed the walls with Lysol. Not 100% odor-free now, but better.

My brothers and I have been talking to my parents about having a cleaning service come in regularly to dust and vacuum the house and swab down the bathrooms. My parents, naturally enough, are somewhat defensive. “We don’t do anything to make it dirty,” my mother said. “Why do we need that?” She’s forgotten the truly dispiriting thing about housework: that you have to keep doing it even if you’ve led a soil-free life. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A trip down Amnesia Lane

I’m in San Francisco visiting my aged parents, but this time they are in relatively robust health, so instead of meeting with social workers and hanging out in hospital corridors, I’m mostly (cross my fingers, knock on wood) running a few errands and taking yoga classes and visiting with a few friends. 

So yesterday my childhood friend R and I took a trip down Memory Lane. As we caught up and reminisced, she drove us down to our old hometown in what is now Silicon Valley. Once mostly blond hills freckled with scrubby oaks, it is now thick with McMansions. Main Street, once a drab, dry little street with secret pleasures (the bead store, the yardage shop), now smells lush with money but fails to feel alluring (“nice” clothes, tasteful restaurants). 

Could I possibly have attended that high school and felt that turmoil behind those featureless walls? Behind that spread-eagled ... eagle? Could I possibly have lived in that upmarket house that breathes wealth? (I know for a fact that we never, not once, flew an American flag.)

I was hoping for an “Up” moment, in which a glimpse of my childhood would foretell my adulthood, or vise versa. But the big surprise was my failure to recognize the landscape—at all. It wasn't that it had changed. It was that it held not a smidgeon of familiarity. 

And visiting that alien place has left me with a weird, empty feeling. If I didn’t live there, where is the place I lived? Or did I live at all?

From Jew-ish to Jewish

I've always been a bit marginal as a Jewess. Like Steve Martin in The Jerk, I didn't find out I was Jewish until I moved from rural Los Altos Hills to New York City when I was 25 and discovered that my maternal relatives in Manhattan ate in Chinese restaurants on Christmas. Now it turns out that it is not only my mother's family that is Jewish but my father's too. Last night at dinner he told me that his mother's father had emigrated from Germany to America, changing his surname from Kleinbaum to Smallwood in transit. Of course, that wouldn't actually make me more Jewish, since Jewishness travels through the female line, so even my father's mother was merely Jew-ish, since her mother was a shiksa. Still, it makes me want to hang fortune cookies on the Christmas tree this year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

You CAN go home again

But you may not recognize it. This is where I grew up:

This is where I went to high school:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Up and away

The last three installments in My Life According to Up:

At 42: After years of fertility treatments, Other and I had a daughter when I was 40, roughly a decade after the the birth of our son. The goal of the second child's being a playmate of the first was foiled by the 10-year age gap. Instead, the second child has, in effect, three parents. I am exhausted from working overnights closing the international edition of the newsmagazine, but I am ecstatic about Motherhood 2.0. This time breastfeeding went well, even when I went back to work after a yearlong maternity leave, and the baby didn't starve. And my job is interesting. I write a weekly column, Talk of the Streets, on tabloid stories from around the world, and it's fun!

At 49: I'm now working for the domestic edition of the newsmagazine, writing longer stories on education, social issues, even business, traveling occasionally for reporting. From the outside, I seem successful. Inside, I'm exhausted. Having it all is wonderful, but I'm too tired to enjoy it.

At 56: I requested a transfer from the reporting staff to the copy desk when I was 51, thinking I'd return to writing after I had a chance to rest up. But at 56, I'm still at the copy desk, and I don't anticipate reviving my writing career. I am in the last stages of treatment for breast cancer, which resulted in a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, a year of Herceptin infusions. I am old beyond my years: scant gray hair, spavined chest, arthritis. I'm alive! But I don't want to resume the stress that I believe was a factor in my illness.

The deck in fall

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ante-ing Up

In my previous post, I gave the first two installments of my Up-scale life. Here are a few more:

At 21: I had left Sarah Lawrence after a drunken, drugged year to become an au pair in Williamstown to Clara and David Park, whose daughter Jessy was a kind of autistic celebrity, thanks to Clara's detailed case history The Siege and, later, Exiting Nirvana. As an adult, Jessy was the subject of an Oliver Sacks documentary and of a magazine article written by ... me:,9171,1101010416-105619,00.html. So I guess you could say I'm name-dropping here. I spent the spring in Paris when the Parks traveled there for David's sabbatical, and I was about to enter Williams College as a transfer student in the fall. If you'd asked me what I wanted to do for a living, I probably would have said clinical psychology—Jessy was a delight—and psychology turned out to be my major at Williams. At 21, I was in the process of a long-distance breakup with a guy named Bob, whom I'd met at a summer camp in Colorado where I worked as a laundress. And I was definitely going to be a hermit when I grew up.

At 28: Other and I had hooked up my senior year at Williams and after my graduation spent several months traveling through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Britain before settling first in San Francisco (where I did research in a methadone clinic in the Tenderloin), then in Brattleboro (where I started drinking at noon and spent most of my time watching Mary Hartman reruns), then in New York, where we lived in a 350-square-foot, seventh-floor walkup (no exaggeration). I was struggling to write, but finding it hard and lonely, and working as a night proofreader at a newsmagazine.

At 35: After celebrating my graduation from Columbia journalism school by studying fiction-writing with Paul Bowles in Tangiers, I began to hear the tick-tock of my fertility clock. I shouldn't have worried. Within two months I was pregnant. When I was 35, my son J, the smartest, sweetest kid who ever lived, was 4, and Other and I had bought a loft in Noho. I was aching to have another child. Between ovulatory cycles, I worked as a reporter at the newsmagazine. If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said a stay-at-home mom. Really.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gorging on Up

Recently, at my daughter's urging, I got a Netflix account. When she gorged on Nip/Tuck. I was censorious: "Get off the couch!" "You'll need a nip/tuck if you don't move your ass!" "I'm going to change the password if you don't take a break!" But then I fell victim to Michael Apted's Up documentary series, which follows 14 Brits at seven-year intervals from ages 7 to 49. I gobbled up the whole 14 or so hours in a week.

The slogan for the series is "Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man." At some points, some of the kids go off their rails—conventional upper-class Suzy drops out of school at 16, and sprightly Neil in his teens falls into what turns out to be a permanent depression—but most appear to live out in event and experience and character the destiny that revealed itself when they were 7. 

It made me wonder what my life might look like if captured at seven-year intervals. Apted pursued questions that ran roughly: What do you do in your free time? How do you see yourself as an adult? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Do you want a family?

At 7: I was a garrulous student who was frequently sent into a corner by my teacher, Mrs. Keepers, because of my disruptive chatting. If asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said I wanted to be a ballerina, not because I'd ever had a ballet lesson but because that's what little girls said in 1957. No boyfriend, though I did have a crush on a boy named Chris. Did I want a family? I don't think so. That would involve sex. Eww.

At 14: A competitive swimmer who trained five hours a day but was sidelined by painful and copious menstrual periods five days a month, I was big for my age and shy. My best friend had a "make-out" party and didn't invite me. I was humiliated—and relieved. Still had a crush on Chris, but he was in the regular track, and I was in the honors track. My career goal was to be a writer. I read a lot. I would have said no to marriage and family. I wanted to be a hermit.

Stay tuned for age 21—or rent Up on Netlix.

I love New York

You can hate New York and think about how you can't take it anymore—the noise, the yuppies, the filth, the corruption, the hopelessness—and talk about how you're going to leave and where you're going to go ... and then along comes a day like today, and you wonder why anyone would live anywhere else.

First, there was the weather: Warm, blue skies.

Then, there was Union Square: An exhibit called "Sukkah City," displaying the winners of a competition to "explore what happens when a structure that is biblical in origin is relocated from the desert to Union Square, from a nomadic past to an urban center." Let's just say these were not your traditional sukkahs. On a grassy area just north of Sukkah City, a young woman was walking a tightrope secured by two trees. She invited passersby to give it a try—and some did! She said the reason she loves walking the tightrope is that it requires total concentration, shutting out thought and keeping her totally in the present, like meditation. And a little farther up in the park, a guy wearing a Duncan T shirt was teaching kids yo-yo tricks.

Now it's clouding over, and we're back at home, feeling very pleased that we live here and nowhere else.

$#*! My Dad Says

My dad has a rant for everything. And often the rants are polished bits of comedy that are quite amusing. His latest has to do with the sentimental and self-righteous attitude about "free-range" farm products, especially chickens and eggs. My dad grew up on a farm, back when all animals were free-range. The chickens on his farm spent most of the day pecking at the manure pile, he says. Occasionally he'd go out and sprinkle some dried corn for them for variety. So much for the purity of free-range poultry, he sniffs.

Since my parents haven't got a lot of mobility these days, and they live in San Francisco and I live in New York, I order their groceries online at For a mere $6.99—no tipping allowed!—Safeway handpicks frozen, canned, baked, bottled and fresh food according to the specifications on the list I submit and delivers it to my parents, often within 12 hours. It's a wonderful service from a company that's often reviled. But I digress. I wince sometimes when I check off the house brand (as my parents request) rather than an organic brand. But after hearing about the manure-eating organic chickens of yore, I think I'll feel a bit better.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday morning wakeup

Because I cannot watch ordinary movies featuring ordinary sadness because they make me inordinately sad, I have been cribbing from my son's Netflix recommendations. Thus it happens that I found myself watching Jackass the Movie this morning at 6:30 after my cat Iggy woke me up by attacking the backboard of my bed (is there a mouse inside the wall?). This is not the best way to start a Sunday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Enough already

So some friends and I were discussing the annual 9/11 commemorations, which seem to be building rather than tapering off as the 10-year anniversary approaches, and some of us were saying how moving they are, and some of us were saying, Enough already!

I was in the enough-already camp. It's not that I feel people should stop grieving. Or that I don't share the horror. Or that I'm against celebrating the heroism of the "bravest" and "finest." But let's face it: most of those who died on 9/11 were not heroes. They were victims—ordinary people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were the victims of a crime. It's true that the poignancy of the reading of the names comes from the sheer diversity they represent. But while it may make us feel proud that our nation hosts such diversity, we should also feel shame about the raft of racist hogwash that erupts over 9/11: the Koran burning, the nastiness about the Muslim cultural center, the self-righteous demands by victims' families for the future of the site. Indeed, the backlash that has followed the 9/11 attacks has killed far more minding-their-own-business Muslims—here and in Iraq—than the 3,000 Americans killed at the World Trade Center.

Next door to my building is an Irish pub. And every 9/11 since 2001, cops and fire fighters have gathered there to get wasted—falling-down, wretching drunk. There must be a better way to commemorate their dead comrades, who truly were heroes, than making themselves sick.

Maybe they're getting drunk about something else now, the emptiness of their post-heroic lives, the lack of gratitude of the people they protect, the day-to-day dreariness that makes us all crave oblivion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Noho never sleeps

In case you had an image of Noho as a glamorous downtown scene, here is my stoop.

And in case you thought it was a quiet little backwater, think again. There's partying in the streets till 3. Then the drilling begins at 6 or 7.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Home alone

So, what do parents do when they've deposited their children at college? Well, it's 8 in the morning, and I'm watching Animal House. That's what I'm doing.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The good ol' days, a rant

When I first started using e-mail, back when AOL was not uncool (there really was such a time, briefly), opening my mailbox was exciting. There was actual mail in it from actual human beings. I might get a message only every other day, but it was real. Why does commerce have to ruin everything? These days I get scores of messages every day, and sometimes not one of them is worth opening. It's just like the U.S. mail now. Only the USPS has improved its real-mail-to-junk quotient. I have yet to receive a paper-and-ink ad from that company in Canada with the name in symbols that wants to sell me Viagra. I might actually read it if I got one. At least the snail-mail version wouldn't f*** up my whole computer.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bedbugs and lice and pinworms: how do they do it?

There's a question that has been tickling the back of my brain lo these many years of parasite infestations: How do bedbugs and lice annex a new location and proliferate so rapidly? After all, it takes not one but two to procreate. So two individual lice, one male and one female, must jump to a new head simultaneously and find each other in a forest of hair in order to begin an infestation. Or a single pregnant female must make the leap—but for proliferation to ensue in that scenario, brothers and sisters would have to mate. And isn't there a law of nature against that?

Ditto with bedbugs. There's rampant fear that a friend with an infestation will contaminate your home by transporting them in on shoes or clothing and shedding them on your carpet. But ... what are the odds someone would track in a male and female simultaneously, or a pregnant female?

I don't even want to think about pinworms long enough to formulate a question to express my confusion about them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Here and now

When I was going through yoga teacher training, one of my instructors gave the class a touching glimpse of her insecurities. This teacher was maybe five or ten pounds over her ideal weight. She said that she had been struggling with her weight her whole life and that the sense of being unattractive had colored how she felt about herself as a person. But recently she had been going through old photographs of herself and was struck by how great she looked. And she said she was working on bringing this sense of appreciation to her current self, so that she could have a present-tense enjoyment of where she was now.

I don't remember the precise context of this personal account, but I was struck by how universal the elements of her story are, at least among women. We find fault with our appearance, and our perception of being physically imperfect makes us feel imperfect as people, and even when presented with evidence that we looked/were fine then, we still judge ourselves imperfect now.

I was reminded of that teacher the other day when I was going through old snapshots for a gift I was making for my daughter's birthday. I have always thought of myself as a homely, gawky, mannish woman with freakish hair, prone to anxiety, depression and resentments. But I can see that I was actually quite beautiful—as a young woman. I looked happy and carefree with my adorable children and handsome mate. "Too bad I didn't realize it then," I caught myself thinking as I was going through the old photographs. "Now I'm really homely, gawky, mannish—and practically bald." Enjoying the here and now is hard!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Every summer, Other and I vacation on a little island in Maine called Bustins where there is no running water, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no landline phone service (though these days people use cell phones), no cars, no stores. There's nothing to do except figure out workarounds for all the stuff you don't have. I don't know why, but for some reason it's fun.

The interesting thing about living on an island, even for just a week or two, is that everything is finite. In ordinary life, if you run out of something, you go out and buy some more. If you have too much of something, you throw it away. But on a little island like Bustins, what you have is what you've got. And throwing things away is not an option.

If someone comes to dinner, you'll have less food to serve each person. If you don't consume your food according to plan, at the end of the week you'll have to figure out what to make with a tomato, three onions, a lemon, a can of liver paste, half a jar of peanut butter, six quarts of Parmalat milk and a past-its-prime banana—and you can't plug the ingredients into a recipe program on your computer because there's no Internet on the island.

If someone offers to bring something when she comes to dinner, you accept. If someone asks to borrow a cup of sugar, you think about it before you hand it over. And if you've got one clean towel, and a visitor decides to go for a dip and needs to dry off ... well, how squeamish are you about other people's bodies?

If you were in the mood for a retreat when you made your plans and decided not to invite any friends but then you begin to yearn for company, you'll be lonely.

If you guessed it would be hot and brought mostly wifebeaters and shorts and it turns out to be cold, you'll be wearing your one sweatshirt every day until it's stained and stinky. If, on the other hand, you planned for cold weather and got hot instead, you'll be tempted to whip out your scissors—if you thought to bring them—and hack off your sleeves and pantlegs.

If you forgot to bring something idiosyncratic or truly personal that you can't borrow, like a toothbrush or a neti pot, you're out of luck.

Everything you transport onto the island, you have to transport off the island, with few exceptions. Sometimes it seems as though you're spending all your time sorting trash—into burnables (including toilet paper), which can be incinerated in the woodstove; compost (but only uncooked food); recyclables (which you can carry back with you to the mainland recycling bin); and returnables (which you can carry back and redeem).

It's an interesting experience and not everyone's idea of a great vacation. But for me and Other and our fellow "rusticators," it's a chance to notice how much stuff we need, use and discard—and scale back as we kick back.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Photographic memories

There is nothing more depressing than looking through old photographs. Ours are jumbled helter-skelter in two really cheap plastic drawers that gape from their shoddy housings and shed their contents as you move them about. And those contents could serve as evidence for any theory of bad parenting you might harbor (like, if you were one of my kids). There are too many pictures of one child, too few of the other, too many forced smiles with lips pulled painfully back, too many averted looks. And there are all the stories that you know lurk behind the pictures: the hurt feelings, the parental lapses, the unassuaged fear and loneliness. And all the beaming strangers who look vaguely familiar. I must have known them once. They may have been close friends. Who the hell are they?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kids say the darnedest things redux

She was a precocious 3-year-old:

* [To me] “I love you very much—and I will not bite you anymore!”

* [To me] “I don’t need you anymore, but I’m letting you stay here because I love you.”

And then she became a teenager …

* [When I came home with bring pink sneakers] “Does Daddy know about those?”

* [To me] “If you dropped dead right now, Mom, I would think, Thank god the nagging has stopped!”

* [Looking contemptuously at my sturdy shoes] “Where do you think you are—the Midwest?”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kids say the darnedest things

My son J was, of course, brilliant. But my daughter C was no slouch in the wise-child department. Witness the following from when she was 2:

* "I'm a woman. [Later.] I'm a person."

* M: You're so special.
   C: I'm so short.

* M: What are you drawing?
   C: A young mom.

* "When I grow up I'm going to be a boy."

* "When I grow up I'm going to have a penis."

* "You're a mommy craphead, and I'm a baby craphead."

* "Water goes away."

* [Out of the blue] "We have mayonnaise."

* [Holding out a raisin] "Want a bite?"

* "Hold me—for God's sake!"

* "Mommy,  go away. Daddy, go away. Bobo, go away. And I will do the laundry."

* "Now don't say anything. I am the doctor."

* [To M] "You are pretty bossy!"

* [To brother J] "Go to your room and do your homework!"

* "When I'm a daddy, I will not wear underpants at night."

* [To Other] "You have a beautiful penis!"

* "I love you, Mommy. And I even love myself!"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No heroes

So I finally finished The Boys' Crusade, by Paul Fussell, which is a pretty devastating argument against war—of any kind, ever, for any reason. My father has made a thorough study of the book and written a detailed chart pointing out where his World War II experience and Fussell's overlapped and where they differed, and he's given copies of the book and his analysis as gifts to people who have helped him out over the past couple of years, particularly members of the Unitarian church who have driven him to his medical appointments at the VA. Seems like a not very cheerful gift, but relevant on such journeys I suppose. It's dispiriting reading, and I don't recommend it if you're already depressed.

But I was charmed by an addendum sent by my dad when he heard I was finally getting around to reading the book. It was a Wikipedia article on Fussell, with a description of his ex-wife's allegations of adultery highlighted in yellow, and in my dad's creaky, wound-blasted handwriting the words "This you must remember: There are no heroes."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy birthday, B

Today my friend B turns ... well, I won't say. I don't have a friend that I "grew up with" in the ordinary sense, no one who matched me step for step over the long haul of childhood. But B is the person I "grew up with" as an adult. I met her when I was in my 20s, and we have been fellow travelers—literally sometimes—ever since. She doted on my first-born, saved my second-born from abortion, walked me through the valley of cancer, flew from New York to visit me in San Francisco when my mother had a stroke and my father was hit by a bus. Mostly she's provided a moral compass for me whenever the dial on my own has gone into a spin. She's been my personal Emily Post and Abigail Van Buren and my rabbi too (since she's actually Jewish and I'm merely Jew-ish). It's not just pain we've shared but pleasures too: parties and trips and movies and books. Happy birthday, B—and lucky me!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wakeup surprise!

In the dim dawn I accidentally emptied a pepper packet instead of a salt packet into my oatmeal. And you know what? It's not that bad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The proof is in the error

In Paul Fussell's Boys' Crusade, which I'm still slogging through like a good soldier (when I can bear it), there's an account of a typo that turned out to be a test of bona fides when German spies tried to pass as Americans:

"Every American officer carried, in addition to the metal identity tags around his neck, a laminated card with his photo. These cards had one curious feature: an uncorrected typographical error. The top of the card read NOT A PASS. FOR INDENTIFICATION ONLY. Someone preparing the disguises of the Skorzeny spies couldn't resist—some will say 'in a German manner'—pedantically correcting the spelling on the false cards issued to those masquerading as American officers."

An error that becomes proof of authenticity: It calls to mind the value placed on a knitting mistake as evidence of the genuineness of a sweater advertised as handmade. Or the mole that highlights a beauty's otherwise flawlessness. Or, more in keeping with Fussell's context, the scars that allow identification of a mangled body.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

When he was 7, 8, 9 ...

When he was 7:

* M: I saw Wally Shawn on the street today. I think he lives in our neighborhood.
    J: Oh, is he a drug addict?

* [On receiving a Casio synthesizer from the tooth fairy] "This is how life was meant to be. You could say I'm happy two times!"

* "I just can't have enough of these kisses!"

* [After M uses spit to wipe jam from his face] "I didn't come here to have you ransack me!"

And when he was 8:

* "Mommy, will you take me to an open-casket funeral?"

When he was 9:

* J: You know what you are?
  M: What?
   J: Mrs. Dime Store Flatulence!
  M: What's that?
  J:  Someone who farts in the dime store.

* [Complaining about his baby sister C] "... and she has this weird vision thing that turns you into her love slave."

* "I'm going to give this green slime to C so she can socialize with it."

* M: Does your friend Mohammed speak English or Arabic?
   J: English. He speaks it very well. He even knows curse words.
   M: Really? Like what?
   J: He said, "Go shave your pussy" and "Go find yourself a dick."

And there the record ends. Alas.

When he was 6

No topic was off the table at our house. Maybe that was a mistake:

* J: Mommy, I want to have sex with you!
   M: You can't. Mommies and their little boys aren't allowed to have sex together.
   J: Is that because their baby would be half your size and half my size?

* "Mommy, you know, you can't solve ALL your problems with magic."

* J: Mommy, have you had a heart attack?
   M: No, not yet.
   J: Oh, that's right. You had a nervous breakdown.

* "Mommy, if you let me watch you and Daddy have sex, I'll give you all my jewels."

* "Daddy let me use a knife once, or did he let me turn on the oven?"

* "I think I have the best mom and dad in the world."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And when he was 5

Maybe it's just me, but is there anything funnier than little boys talking trash? More from the mixed-up files of my son J:

* "I'm going to tell Alex that he's so crazy that his ass goes pee and his penis goes poop!"

* J to M: Nice butt, Mom!

* J: Here Mommy, I'm going to kiss your bosom [kisses my bottom]
 M: That's not my bosom.
   J: Too late! I already kissed it!

* J: Sexy! Sexy! Sexy!
  Alex: Don't say that word when girls are around.
  J:  Why not? My mom doesn't mind.
 Alex: Do you know what "sex" means?
  J: No, what?
 [Many whisperings]
  J: Ewwww!

* [Talking to himself] "Nobody's perfect, you know."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Paper tale

Other and I have sometimes felt annoyed by the mountain of paperwork my sister-in-law J left us to excavate. Particularly onerous have been her taxes. But in just the way a drop of pondwater can be a magnifying glass for viewing the flora and fauna within it, so my sister-in-law's taxes have become a kind of lens on her life.

My sister-in-law and I did not always get along. There were resentments that flowed both ways, and there are wounds that fester still. But when I look at how she spent her money and what it tells me about her, I feel only admiration and sympathy and affection.

She donated hundreds of dollars a month to nonprofits, particularly community-building ones. She bought self-help and self-improvement books, as well as books to satisfy her vigorous curiosity. Her medical expenditures were unending and heartbreaking: everything from painkillers and sleeping aids to feeding-tube supplies and emollients for her radiation burns. Even the little vanities that seemed extravagant—the monthly appointments with her colorist, the shopping sprees at H&M and Uniqlo and Zanna—are humanizing when I see them laid out in black-and-white receipts and totted up into a sum that is dwarfed by her charitable tithing.

It's hard to read the mind of anyone, much less a dead person—and J was particularly inscrutable and contradictory—but the objective record of her giving and spending is unambiguous. I wish my taxes told as moral a tale.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And when he was 4

Twenty-five years ago, he was already a smarty-pants:

* [Playing with Tinkertoys] "I'm going to make a very marvelous vacuum cleaner. It's very dangerous. It's called the snuffer."

* "Some people are called vegetarians. They grow up to be monsters."

* "I am the doorman. This is my gun. It kills fleas and ticks. I give animals this food. It's called Everything Good for Your Pet. When someone comes to the door, I ask them if they know someone who lives here. If they don't, I kill them."

* J: Mommy, sinkers [submarines] have doors that close automatically.
 M: How did you know that?
   J: I turned my face inside my head, and when I looked I saw a picture, and in the picture the sinkers had a door that closed automatically.

* "Two o'clock in the morning is across the table from two o'clock in the afternoon."

* M: So, overall, did you have a wonderful day or a terrible day at Sesame Place?
   J: It was overall.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Girl time

How perfect does your proctologist need to be? Now that's a question you don't hear every day, I'd guess. My gastroenterologist is wonderfully competent, pleasant, accommodating, prompt, etc. But yesterday when I went for a colonoscopy after the usual purgative (are "purgatory" and "purgative" related?), he asked me, "Are you a clean girl?" It has been more than 40 years since I could accurately be called a girl, but I figured it was just an awkward moment, and he was probably as embarrassed as I was by his comment. And he is, as noted, wonderfully competent, pleasant, accommodating, prompt, etc. But then he said, in answer to a question, "Just call the office, and one of the girls will help you." There are, obviously, no children working in his office. But then he is wonderfully competent, pleasant, accommodating, prompt, etc. But what kind of person calls grown women girls?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When they were young, part 2

The wisdom of my 3-year-old son:

* [Before bed] "Let's talk about how sweet I am."

* J: Are you going to die soon?
  M: Are you worried I'm going to die?
   J: What happens is you get fatter and fatter and then you die.

* "Encaprin [a pain reliever he'd seen advertised on television] makes your whole body light up!"

* M: Don't wipe your nose on me!
    J: I'm just nuzzling you, Mommy.

* "When things are far away they look smaller."

* "You know why I cover my mouth when I'm eating? Because I don't want you to stuff some more food in."

* [To Other at midnight after waking up from a nightmare] "Where are your pointy little ears?"

* [To his friend Shira] "I am a grandfather. I can fix anything. You are a grandfather too."

* M: I'm not going to talk to you if you don't listen.
   J: Mommy, I am listening. I'm just death.

* J: Did you take all the seeds out of my watermelon?
  M: Yes.
  J: You are a good woman!

* J: Let's just lie here and look at the stars for a minute.
  M: Aren't they beautiful!
  J: Let's not talk. Just look.

* "You know what, Mom? A picture in my head told me you could break that artichoke heart in two and give me half."

* "[About a big bottle of bubble goo] "I think I might die before we use all those bubbles up."

* J: Alex put sand in my mouth!
  M: How dreadful! Did you do anything to him?
  J: Well, my problem was he was so mean.
  M: So ...
  J: So I told him I would make him eat too much sugar.

* "Keep your eye open while I kiss it. I bet girls can't keep their eyes open very long."

* "Mommy, do you think life is but a dream?"

* "Mom, if you want to be grumpy, be grumpy. But do it somewhere else."

* J: I wish I was a girl.
  M: Why?
  J: Because girls get to chew gum but boys have to eat lifesavers.

* J: Mommy, I wish you would have another baby.
  M: Why?
  J: Then we could name him Rupert.

* M: Next week there's no summer camp because there's a holiday.
   J: You mean there's a holiweek!

* M: Time to put on your nighty-nights [pajamas].
   J: I can't. I'm asleep. I'm hibernating.

* "When Daddy throws me in the air, if there's no gravity I won't come down."