Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aw, nuts

I’m having a very, very bad day. It’s so bad that this is just an insignificant negligible part of it: I picked up what I thought was a sunflower seed from the floor and ate it and only realized as it was going down that it was a bit of litter scattered by the cats. Sigh.

When life hands you bagels, make bagelade

So I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for how to use all those bagels I inadvertently bought my parents. They could pass string through the holes and hang them on their balcony as edible bird feeders. They could dip them in lead and use them as free weights. They could … oh, hell, they could just freeze the damn things and eat them for the next 12 months.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Old lady who can't keep the order straight

Every couple of weeks, my dad faxes me a grocery list, I input the list on here in New York, and the next day, someone at Safeway in San Francisco picks off all the items on the list according to my instructions (“4 green bananas 4 ripe”; “2 zukes no dings”; “4 peaches no bruises”), loads them into a truck, delivers them to my parents’ house, and carries them up the stairs to their apartment—for $6, no tips allowed. It’s a fabulous service. Without it, my life would be ruined.

Usually the whole thing goes without a hitch. But occasionally there are snafus. Once I accidentally ordered 11 pounds of potato salad instead of 1. Weirdly, that turned out fine. I came to visit a week later, and while I was there, a lot of people came for dinner, and it all vanished by the time I left.

This week it happened again. I accidentally ordered 36 bagels instead of 6. That’s a lot of dough for a couple of frail old geezers. The funny thing is, they don’t seem to mind. They’re mildly surprised, and then they just chow down. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next grocery list has bagels on it again. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sneaky old lady

I did something a little sneaky today. I have a particularly large keratosis on my temple. For years, I've wanted to have it removed, but since keratoses are benign, removing them is considered cosmetic, and insurance won't cover it, so it's an out-of-pocket expense. This morning when I saw my dermatologist, I told her I was thinking of putting wart remover on it. "Oh, no!" she said. "Let me take care of it for you." A (free) spritz of liquid nitrogen later, I'm feeling a little guilty and a little proud of my cleverness.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A movable feast

Every once in a while, Other makes a delicious, spicy meal that is so fragrant and bursting with flavor that the odor lingers for days. It hangs in the air, oozes from your pores, clings to your clothes—even ones you weren't wearing during dinner folded innocently in your bureau. So it was with last night's sausage, sweet peppers and pasta. It was the feast that kept on giving. Today I showed up in yoga class reeking like a side of ripe beef.

I wonder what it means

This morning I woke up and suddenly realized I was muttering to myself, "Numb nuts, numb nuts, numb nuts ..." I wonder what I was dreaming?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lying mudballs

The other night, my friend S and I attended a launch party for a documentary, “Mr. Rogers & Me.” A slight, quirky little hagiography, the movie conveyed, with some charm, the wonderful, weird persona of the gentle children’s-television icon. (Indeed, there’s a posthumous scene that takes place in a church that features a plaque with Rogers’ face haloed in gold.)

Anyway, my friend S said that when she told a colleague that she was going to see a movie about Mr. Rogers, her colleague said, “Oh, I heard he was a perv.”

Oh, dear, I thought, saddened by this mudball wantonly slung at a pure spirit by a dirty mind—and saddened also by the possibility that the dirty mind might have it right. After all, so many mentors of children have turned out to be tormenters. It cast a pall on the evening.

So I did a bit of Googling when I got home, to put my mind at rest. So far as Dr. Google knows, Fred Rogers was the genuine article, a wonderfully odd and thoroughly benign character, likable just the way he was.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Welcome back, OWS

Children are the best teachers

I don’t take pride in the meanness and cowardice I displayed as a child: spreading cruel and false gossip about a blameless classmate, allowing another child to take the punishment I provoked, mercilessly tormenting a teacher. Indeed, I am ashamed of them. But I’m a little surprised by my behavior. I was generally considered a “nice” child, well behaved and eager to please. But there you have it: even a nice child can be a shit.

This truth was brought home, literally, when I had my own children. My beautiful sunny babies, innocence and sweetness incarnate, occasionally behaved in unkind ways. It shocked me, and my moral outrage made me, at least superficially, work on being a better model. My children’s bad behavior made me a better person. 

In part this was because children are the best critics, observant and eager to point out hypocrisy, so castigating them for their misdeeds inevitably provoked a fusillade of defensive counter-accusations (“But you do it, Mommy”). I acted like a good person—and sometimes it was indeed just an act—to make myself appear blameless. In part it was because I was sincerely shocked by their behavior and wanted them to be better people, and if it meant I too had to be a better person, then so be it.

The odd outcome of this whole exercise is that my children actually think I’m exemplary—and a little naive. Or at least, that’s what they say. They’re careful about what they tell me, because they think I can’t take the brutal truth. And they discourage me from reading certain books and seeing certain movies for the same reason. Their father, who is naturally a nicer person, they see as a little naughty. Weird, huh?

Friday, March 16, 2012

More horrors from Hillview

Will I ever forget how I tortured Mr. Wickstrom, my sixth grade teacher? Well, let’s face it, he was a little gropey, so maybe he deserved it. He would call us long-legged, short-skirted tweeny girls to his desk to go over a work assignment, and casually drape his arm around the backs of our knees. It felt like a violation, even in those naïve days half a century ago.

To combat a widely held conviction that I was teacher’s pet, I felt obligated to misbehave in a particularly obnoxious manner—screaming with laughter at his every serious utterance, whispering ostentatiously behind his back, making rude noises. I could tell he was miserable. Indeed, he would call me to his desk and speak to me privately, begging me to stop. But I was giddy with power and what felt like popularity for my leadership in hazing him. I heard he quit teaching the next year.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More confessions from the halls of Hillview Elementary School

Then there was the time that Miss Butcher’s fourth-grade class made abstract drawings. She chose a handful of kids to pin the pictures to the corkboard, handed them a sheaf of artwork and told them to consult the artists to make sure they were hung with the correct orientation. 

Candace got my drawing to hang. I started to fool around. “Not that way!” I said. “Turn it upside down.” Then “”No! Turn it to the right!” And so forth. It was the middle of a long, boring schoolday, and teasing her was fun. 

But then Miss Butcher noticed the protracted negotiation and steamed up like a locomotive, grabbed Candace’s arm and screamed at her for teasing me. She benched her for afternoon recess.

Did I go up to Miss Butcher and tell her that it was I and not Candace who was the wrongdoer? No, I did not. Did Candace out me? No, she did not. Did she cry? Yes, she did. Did I come to her aid then? Nope. I let a perfectly nice, helpful classmate take the punishment I had provoked.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Forgive me my trespass

Other felt I shouldn't take this picture of a homeless man's makeshift dwelling, that doing so was an invasion of his privacy and an exploitation of his helplessness. Other doesn't read this blog, but he would be even more appalled to know I'd posted it. And perhaps he's right. His disapproval makes me queasy, but I thought it was O.K. to post it since it was visible to any passerby. And I wanted to share it because this well-constructed makeshift structure (you try making a house out of garbage bags and string), erected outside a community garden, reveals so powerful a desire for a home in the face of the builder's homelessness. All around my now wealthy neighborhood, I see evidence of such domestic cravings: neatly folded blankets stashed behind the struts of scaffolding, carefully flattened cardboard boxes, cups with penned pleas for help.

True confessions

My children think of me as a paragon of uprightness, or at least a naïve innocent who must be protected from knowledge of their naughtier misdeeds. But my own sins are many and shocking, at least to me. Sometimes when I lie awake at night awaiting sleep, I mull them over and feel my shame anew. 

There was a little girl named Wendy who lived near me when we were in elementary school. She was sweet and well groomed and very popular. I was not so much of those. Nonetheless Wendy would invite me to her house, where we would eat a peculiar delicacy: Wonderbread, with the crusts cut off, rolled into little balls. I can’t tell you how delicious these were to an 10-year-old raised in a whole-wheat-bread-only household. Her stay-at-home mother was pretty and kind. The house was sunny and bland. 

I liked Wendy. I really did. So I have no idea why I created a pencil-and-paper newspaper dedicated to chronicling how horrible she was. It was several pages long and had satirical drawings of Wendy picking her nose (which I never saw her actually do) or wearing ugly clothes (ditto). I showed this hatemongering rag to our mutual classmates, and eventually it came to the attention of my fourth-grade teacher. It was only when my teacher confronted me that I had a moment of clarity, or rather confusion. Why on earth had I done such a vicious thing to someone so blameless? I really couldn’t answer Miss Butcher (her real name).

Looking back, I suppose it must have been envy for Wendy’s Wonderbread existence: the pretty clothes, the clean house, the nice mother, the processed food—and maybe even the social courage she showed in inviting a girl of lesser status to her home.