Archive for November, 2008

Fall Out for the Boy

Bronx Mowgli. It took almost a week for me to try to suck out all the future pain of that kid’s life, but no dice. I’m an empath, but obviously not a very good one. For even I could do nothing to mitigate the years of torture that will be endured by the new son of Pete Wentz and Ashlee “I thought hyphenated names were still cool” Simpson-Wentz’ baby boy.

By the time BM (those initials alone are suicide-worthy) is in grade school, his parents’ celebrity factor will be permanently extinguished, and BroMo will be left alone to deal with the kind of fall out that no boy should ever have to bear. Come to think of it, how famous are you now when the media has to identify you by the name of your band? And any effort to let the non-cognoscenti know who Ashlee Simpson-Wentz is was abandoned a long time ago. Which is a good idea when your best- known performance involves flipping out on Saturday Night Live.

Explaining why he named his son after the main character in Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book, Pete said it’s “a cool name” that he and Ashlee “bonded over.” OK, they like the same cool book, they bonded, and maybe they even read it to each other as foreplay in some hotel room during the last Fall Out Boy tour. I can buy that. So why not make Mowgli the kid’s middle name and give him a decent first name-a name he can depend on to get though school without scars or missing limbs. For example, Josh Mowgli Simpson-Wentz. The only way he’d get the crap beaten out of him then was if there was a kid in his class with the same first and last name, say, Josh Baloo Simpson-Wentz, and the teacher had to resort to calling out middle names. No such luck for this newborn. Like every dippy parent who wants their child to have a distinctive name, Pete n’ Ashlee have exponentially added to the anguish with the geographically correct name Bronx. Brooklyn was already taken, of course, by David and Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, so there were only four New York boroughs left. (Note: Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens are still up for grabs.)

Why do parents, especially celebrity parents, seem so willing to toss their newborns into a linguistic minefield? Is it a sacrificial gift to the gods who changed their crappy pre-fame lives into something less crappy?

Two things come to mind. When my now 90-year-old aunt was going though an especially bad time in her youth, she changed her name to Letty, because as she always told me, “you change your name, you change your luck.”

And many experts believe that after adopting a rescue animal, you should change its name so it will lose all association with its former (and presumably bad) life.

So we can only hope that Bronx Mowgli either has a run of bad luck, or is given to an animal shelter.


November 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Creosote on my nose

It rained here today for the first time in months. Rain is irritating in the east, but in the west, it’s a godsend, giver of life, a living being and object of awe. And it smells so damn good.

After years of living in the desert, I can smell a scosche of humidity anywhere within a square mile. In the east, rain and wet are the prevailing smells, and dry doesn’t smell like anything. But here, when the rain comes, the dust and mold and spores and crap are washed away, and the smell of wet is inescapable.

Some of this is due to the smell of creosote. Not the carbon that builds up in chimneys, nor the stuff you paint on wood to protect it, but the desert creosote bush, Larrea tridentata. The smell is spicy, moist, green, brown, industrial, natural: impossible to forget.

For years after I left Arizona and toured the country with my microphone and my dog, I smelled creosote.  In my dreams, during work, while walking, I developed the ability to call it up when I was homesick for the place I wasn’t born in, but belonged to.

I wish I could insert a scratch n’ sniff strip right here, but so far, smellcasting has yet to permeate cyberspace. Better add that to my list of great ideas that will never go farther than my mouth or my keyboard.

November 26, 2008 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment

Loser Thanksgiving

How few people does it take to have a pathetic Thanksgiving? Two? One? Twenty? It depends on how hung-up you are on the “more is better because it means I’m wanted” philosophy. I wish I didn’t succumb to that school of thought, but I have.Though decades of Thanksgivings should have carved the knowledge into my thick head that a crust of bread in peace is preferable to a feast in chaos, I still seek shelter in the extrovert side of my Myers-Briggs when I hear that gobble.

My worst Thanksgiving was in San Francisco. I had just moved there to pursue my dream of being a stand-up comedian. I knew very few people, and the ones I knew, I knew on the level that even someone who tends to call acquaintances “friends,” would call acquaintances. I thought about dishing out food to the homeless, or even joining them at their homeless people table, but I wasn’t in the mood for colorful stories of travels or woe.

I refused to go home and eat a frozen Turkey dinner, nor did I want to order a catered dinner for one. I felt so alone and loser-ly at this point, I decided to go for it. The Buddhists call this “residing in the eye of the poostorm.” I’m sure it sounds a lot more spiritual in Sanskrit. So I went to a Denny’s or an IHOP some other 24/7 black hole of humanity, got a table for one (there was no way I was going to spend Thanksgiving sitting on a stool-even I have my limits) and ordered the Turkey dinner. The one available 365 days a year. Masochist that I am, I forced myself to look around and smile at the families who gathered here for an All American Feast. Then I went home, sat around with my dog for a few forevers, and then fell asleep while counting friends I wish I had.

I often revise this story as a personal best in my file of cool, ballsy, fun, things I’ve done in my life. But I know even though I know that being a liar is infinitely more pathetic that being alone.

November 25, 2008 at 11:14 am Leave a comment

No, mom, I know what happened at the end

At least mom is good for comic relief. That’s what my sister said after one particularly grueling conversation with the woman who was the catalyst for my three-thousand-mile move years ago.

Some of our lighter, yet exasperating, discussions have been about movies. A few lives ago, she was a regular on my radio show. Her “Mom on Movies” was an instant hit, due to verbatim comments like the following:

I saw Titanic yesterday. What did you think? I left before the end and got my money back. It was wonderful in the beginning, but I didn’t know the boat would sink.

So this morning I call her -opening with the topic I can always count on for small talk.

Berta, I saw a great movie yesterday. What was it called? The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Never heard of it. It’s new-it just came out. What was it about? These two boys who become friends in Europe during the Holocaust. One’s a Jew and one’s a German. I don’t want to hear it, ma. Oh stop it, Berta! So the Jewish boy is wearing the striped outfit and the German boy wants to try it on. He sneaks to the other side and puts on his striped pajamas. OK, that’s enough-I’m sick of Holocaust movies. Do you want to know how it ends? No, mom, I know what happened-the Jews die. No you don’t know what happened. The German boy is the son of the commandant and they both try to the find the Jewish boy’s father. They’re ordered to take their clothes off and go into the showers together. OK, I was right. The Jews die. But the German boy died, too-it was very moving. The Jews and a German kid die. What a twist. Berta, I tell you, everyone was so shocked at the end, they just sat there and no one said a word.. I told you I hate Holocaust movies. We’re Jews. I don’t like to see us exterminated. I’ve seen it enough times. But this one, wouldn’t believe it-the silence-no one got up-not a word. It was something. I’m telling you, you’ll love it. Ma, I gotta go,

This is the same woman I took to the Holocaust Museum in DC, whose assessment was, “Beautiful. And the food in the cafeteria is very good. Nice portions. Probably because the Jews didn’t have enough to eat during the war.”

Yep. Comic relief. The one quality that keeps me from throttling the woman.

November 23, 2008 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

Menopause or Hypochondria?

Ah yes, another day of aches and pains and all the crap you don’t want to hear about, but I’m narcissistic enough to force upon strangers.

When the hell did menopause involve aches and fatigue? I thought it was all about the hot flashes and night sweats. I honestly did not believe it would suck this much, despite evidence to the contrary. I chose to believe my friend Janet who entered the gates of old egg expulsion with lighter periods and no discomfort. A bit of weight gain, perhaps, but all that extra food she was eating didn’t help.

No, I chose to do what I’m so well practiced at-denial. Why would I ever think that I would be like my sister-my sister who going crazy throwing out buckets of sweat any time of night or day, only to succumb to the shelter of hormones that made her bleed and resulted in the ol’ D and C-dilatation and cutterage. Or, the hot-sounding burning off of the uterine wall. Or Lourdes who needed to change her sheets twice a night-and not because they were soaked with the fluids of passion.

Are you guys still reading this, or did you run off to vomit? Trust me; given a choice between watching your woman flood the couch with fist-size clots, and turning the ceiling fan and thermostat on and off every 10 minutes, I’d take the latter.

November 20, 2008 at 10:53 am Leave a comment

Hook Boy


What do you do if you’re a group of women with time on your hands, and an empty beach? You drink, graze over and over again on Trader Joe’s quasi-upscale snack foods, do yoga/slo-robics and walk the requisite five miles a day. It’s boot camp for Y-chromosomes.

So with pesto/sun dried tomato/goat cheese spread and pita chips churning in my “much flatter than it was 40 pounds ago but still spouting a pouch because of that splay me open hip to hip but I don’t regret leaving behind the fist-sized clots” hysterectomy stomach I clomp out with Dela and ponder the big choice. Right or left? It was left this time, because it was right last time.

We walked about a mile, talking about the kind of things that two Type-A Jews-one neurotic and one oblivious to neurosis-talk about. Business. People we know. Relatives. Spouses, Other women. Suddenly I turn around because I feel the vibe. The one you feel when someone is following you. Yep, a chubby Mexican kid about 10 years old is right there with a pole longer than he is topped with the kind of hook they use to toss some loser offstage. My husband will tell me later this is a gaff. Interesting, but not something you need to know when someone is following you. We walked away from the beach. So did Hook Boy. We moved toward the beach, Hook Boy did, too.

I’m going to kill him, I say, don’t get so paranoid, Dela replies. I’m not afraid of a kid-but that hook is a little intimidating. Yeah.

Intimidating as hell when you’re not carrying weapons. Why didn’t I bring my mace? Why can’t you have guns in Mexico? I’ll find a big rock and hit him with it. OK. I’ll hit him in the head and leave him for dead. No, don’t-just hit him in the leg. We don’t need to have to leave a dead Mexican kid on the beach. I’ll say it was self-defense-I told him to vamamose-andele-adios but he didn’t respond. That was creepy. He’s still following us. Don’t keep looking back; he’ll know he’s scaring us. I‘ll stare at him with fire in my eyes so he’ll get scared. I have to pee. Not now, let’s turn back. Can’t you hold it? No. Don’t go up by that vacant house, he’ll corner us and rip us up with that hook. I HAVE to pee. Ok, I have to go with you or he’ll kill you and I’ll feel guilty. Stop it, you’re way too paranoid. But it is weird that he’s following us-and then there’s that hook thing. Can you go in the ocean? No, not with him looking at us. Ok, I’ll follow you up to the dunes by that house and just go enough so you can hold it. I don’t know if I can do that. He’s coming up here! I’ll kill him-I will! Stop it-just let me pee. I want to go back. No!  I want to do five miles! Sorry your exercise was interrupted by Hook Boy-just eat less today. Look, he’s walking up to the deck of that house. Ok, let’s go! I HAVE TO PEE! Ok, pee but if we get killed or maimed it’s your bladders’ fault. OK, I’m done. Look, he’s not following us anymore. I still want to go back. It IS weird….Ok he not following us anymore-but he could start up again. He’s going the opposite way. Let’s get out of here. It unsettling. Unsettling? Hook Boy could have f-ing killed us!

We walked home without incident as Hook Boy faded in the distance, his short, chubby silhouette contrasting with the shadows of the long, thin thing that could have been the instrument of our death. Or maiming. When we got back, we polished off the rest of the pesto/sun dried tomato/goat cheese spread and pita chips.

November 18, 2008 at 9:47 am Leave a comment

Mouth Spa


When a group of woman spends a weekend together in a small space, an insidious but quick-moving gestalt occurs, and they become one organism by Sunday. By Monday, each person returns to her previous state. But the new organism isn’t dead, only hibernating. And when the right set of circumstances occur – like a return trip to anywhere that isn’t home, rich snacks, and mind-altering and/or numbing party favors- the organism awakens from it’s comatose state.

I spent such a weekend recently and it has changed my mind about a few things. I thought only a few women were as smart and perceptive as me. Nope, they’re everywhere, in every occupation and every town. I thought I was the only person with multiple mental and physical “issues”. Nope. If anything, I rate only about the middle high in that department. Pre-existing conditions-whether in the soul or in the sole- are rampant. Both men and women have issues. But only women turn their issues into “issues.” Women talk a lot. A hell of a lot. So much that they can push a woman who, up until that moment, thought she talked more than any living being on any galaxy and beyond, to tell someone else to shut up. It felt weird. And refreshing. A mouth spa.

November 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

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Roberta Gale

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