18 November 2011

Times Like These

My hearing still hasn’t returned. I still sound like Harvey Fierstein. I’m still taking ibuprofen for some overall body aches sustained during the three-hour Foo Fighters show at the Garden on Wed night.   It was well worth the agony. 

For the record, the aches and pains aren’t from hurling myself off the balcony onto the hydraulic lift where Dave Grohl performed his acoustic set.  (Though if I were more spry, it could’ve happened.)

We were an assorted bunch in our friend Andy’s company box.  Life-long friends, some random cops, two amateur porn stars that one of our friends brought as dates (“We had to come together, we’re a threesome.” OK.), and a couple in their 60s who were all prim, swaddled in sweaters and suede.   All prim, that is, until the Foo’s first chord smacked them upside the head. Next thing you knew they were rocking out huge, as if high on bath salts.  

Early on, I was certain someone was going overboard, knocked off the balcony by an overenthusiastic hip check or a flailing limb.  For a few songs, I bounced around, white knuckled behind the highest glass partition. But soon I was confident I would float off the balcony, and not crash headfirst onto the unassuming Foosters below.  Thank you, high spirits.

I’ve always loved the Foo Fighters but the Dave Grohl issues are well documented.  The man is pure energy and hotness.  The music was loud, the pace frenetic.  The show, beginning to end, was an all-out assault on the senses. Grohl used the whole arena as his stage, granting everyone a piece of his intensity. On the big screen, we got some gratuitous close ups of him, head banging and wailing on his guitar and letting loose his trademark throaty growls.  We saw Taylor Hawkins beating the living shite out of his drumkit and screaming into his mic.  For a while, we ladies in the front row of the box could only stare, transfixed by rock star magic. We were absorbed into the show and were on the inside of the music looking out. It was getting hot and tingly in there.

Woo hoo, rock star magic.

James has hair

Soon, however, everyone in the box, even James, had violated the “Hands over Head” rule

Aside:  The “Hands Over Head Rule” was created by my brother several years ago as a benchmark of self preservation.  It’s typically applied to dancing, but can be applied anywhere when you're out.  The moment you raise your hands over your head, it’s time to go home.

In the Herald's early review of the show, the critic wrote something like "It's the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s 'Nevermind,' but when you see the Foo Fighters live, you can't help but think, 'Nirvana who?'  So true. Grohl won’t be remembered as the drummer from Nirvana, but as one of the great rock stars in his own right.  In 16 years, he’s more than earned that.  

“The fact that he can keep that up is fucking ridiculous.”  -- DT on Grohl’s tireless energy.    And he never appeared to break a sweat.

The songs:  A back-to-back trio of some favorites --- “The Pretender,” “My Hero” (which included the loudest sing-a-long I’ve ever heard), and  “Learn to Fly.” 

The acoustic set with “Best of You” (raw and awesome) and “Wheels.”  I’d entirely forgotten about the song “Wheels.”  You never hear it on the radio and the band said they never play it live because the only people who like it are the Germans. That was proved false. The band said if the audience sang the chorus louder than the Germans, they’d promise to play a small dive bar in Boston the next time they're in town.  Apparently, we'll see them at Sully's Tap some time in the near future. 

Other favorites:  “These Days,” which Grohl said was the most favorite song that he’s ever written. “Walk,” which is uplifting  and a regular on all of my playlists.  A bluesy cover of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown” which was absolutely riveting and even had the random cops on their feet.

I know I’m leaving so much out, there are too many stand outs to mention.

There were some long meandering guitar solos that were a bit much, but the high-energy more than compensated for them. 

The band closed the show with the the rocking, frantic "Everlong."  

The chorus:  

"And I wonder, when I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again."


This left a box full of concert veterans asking the very same questions.

Breaking it Down

Without getting all “Nowadays” and “Get off my Lawn-ish” – I will say  Grohl does seem like he’s from another time.  You don’t get these types of shows any more. Bands don’t put that much effort into it.  To play a three-hour show, including a six-song encore on the final date of a long US  tour is unheard of.  The last time these sweaty, marathon shows were prevalent was in the 70s and 80s when arena rock was mainstream, before Kiss 108 and country crossovers became king.

Earlier this year, Grohl said, “Just because rock ‘n’ roll isn’t No. 1 in the commercial mainstream doesn’t mean it’s gone. All I know is what rock ’n’ roll means to me. It’s this living, breathing thing that you can see in someone’s eye.”

It’s this passion for his music that was so striking on Wednesday night. (And did I mention he was hot?)  While the set list was identical to many other shows on the tour, there was never a sense that the songs were well-worn, never a hint of been-there-done-that.  

It’s clear from his energy and enthusiasm that Grohl  loves what he does, and it’s clear he wants his audience to share in the love.  At one point, he joked: “I hate all this attention. It sucks. Being a rock star is such torture. I just want to go home.”

After more than a year of touring, they could've easily phoned it in and gone home with zero repercussions.  But instead, as a three-year-old Paulie once said, the Foo Fighters always "break it down and bring it home." 

PU Flashback:  Paulie, 3 ½,  bringing it home with his best Dave Grohl mugs and moves


Set list, Nov. 16 2011

Bridge Burning
Rope
The Pretender
My Hero
Learn to Fly
White Limo
Arlandria
Breakout
Cold Day in the Sun
Stacked Actors
Walk
Monkey Wrench
Let It Die
These Days
This is a Call
In the Flesh?
(Pink Floyd cover)
All My Life

Encore:
Wheels
(Dave Grohl acoustic)
Best of You
(Dave Grohl acoustic)
Times Like These
(Dave Grohl solo acoustic into full band)
Dear Rosemary
Breakdown
(Tom Petty cover)
Everlong

16 November 2011

Updates: "Keep Calm and Carry On"

Like intuition, writing/journaling is a muscle that needs to be flexed to stay strong.  I sat down a few weeks ago to churn out a post and realized I’d become completely blog atrophied. So, here are a few narcissistic updates to clear the cobwebs before (hopefully) getting back to the business of the PU.

Update #1: I tried to start the PU back up again earlier this year and then kind of puttered out. Somewhere between March and September, I fell through the cracks of society.  I spent a lot of time light deprived in my basement office, unshowered beneath a dropped ceiling.  There, I toiled away in my little cubby with exposed insulation hanging like a fluffy pink thundercloud over my head.  (Good morning, fiberglass.) I shuffled to and from the kitchen for tea refills on the shattered remains of Wii games that have become encrusted in the carpet.

Encrusted because I still can’t vacuum without having to lie down. I got winded slicing a crusty baguette at a friend’s birthday party a few months ago. The physical atrophy remains and is hopefully the next to go.

Update #2: Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been having a ball, living a bit too high on the hog and justifying it like Steve Dunne: “I’m not wiggy. This is hang time. I’m regrouping and thinking about regrouping.”  All the while becoming one hot stone pedicure shy of insolvency.

During the day, I was carrying on like Brett Ashley, enjoying long lunches and day drinking at the Scarlet Oak with my other friends down here beneath the cracks.

Update #3: At some point over the summer, I morphed into Donatella Versace. This video hits a little too close to the mark.


Update #4: So, I was having a lot of fun practicing these avoidance behaviors, knowing full well they were unsustainable. I’ve had up to three jobs, coupled with full-time momma hood.  Running frantic, willy-nilly, undisciplined in a non-routine. In a million places at once and never truly “present” in any of them.

Update #5: Rotational neglect has its side effects.

I mumble to myself when I’m out in public like some cracked-out degenerate.

It’s been taking an unreasonable amount of mental gymnastics to write a simple paragraph.

Update #6: Rotational neglect causes anxiety.

My counselor/energy healer who is like a Cesar Millan for humans has been helping me see the upside of anxiety.  Take your natural neuroses and channel them into something productive.  If you don’t mix it up now and again, life stagnates and you never leave your comfort zone. I’ve seen what that looks like. It’s cringe worthy.

The freelance lifestyle isn’t working anymore. I need a place to show up, at least a few days a week.

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

Sometimes you receive little signs, flashes of intuition, that gently nudge you toward a certain path.  Sometimes you get actual, concrete signs that become a new mantra.

Over the summer, I found a card with a portly pug on it. The pug was wearing a sign around his burly chest: “Don’t Feed the Pug.” The photo’s caption: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I was familiar with the photo because I’ve had an 8x10 glossy of it posted over Vito’s food dish in my kitchen for 5 years.  It was the October photo on a 2006 calendar, except the caption on mine is: “Round Mound of Hound.”

“Keep Calm and Carry On.”  I liked the sentiment so much that I stuck it on my whiteboard as a wee mantra.

About two months ago, I got a part-time job at a local make-up and skincare boutique.  I’d been looking for a way to supplement my infrequent freelance checks, and honestly, just wanted to have someplace to be other than my basement office.  At the very least, I figured being surrounded by anti-aging products would keep the inner hag at bay.

To the contrary, it awakened her.

The last time I worked in retail, it was 2001. It was pre-kids, pre LOTS of things, pre the past two years of shite. Pre-perspective.  So, after spending a few Saturdays being run ragged by a mannerless and self-entitled clientele (a.k.a missing my kids’ games to wait on hags), I realized that this was not going to work. Either that or that I was going to end up going all Ninja with a bottle of Glycolic Wash on the next person who came in with Wellbutrin eyes.

I walked to my car that evening, quietly berating myself for making another poor occupational decision, even a part-time one.  I was wondering if I could even trust myself to make the right one; to not waste my precious times on things that are clearly not right.

There’s a store near the boutique where I covet everything in the front window. They sell trendy clothes, bags, cool jewelry, trinkets, vintage reproductions of old signs, old postcards with kitzy bumperstick philosophy and punchlines: “I Childproofed My House But They’re still Getting In.”


This night, right there in the window, like a blue and white beacon, was a painted sign, blaring my mantra:  “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I ran inside and purchased it, along with some vintage postcards.
Keep Calm and Carry On.  There is still a certain weariness (as Pablo says) here, but I’m continuing to clear out the cobwebs and get back (as the Beatles say).

So, PU, let’s try this again...

10 November 2011

I'm Tired of Chickens

 *** A pre-post poem from Pablo Neruda says it all, but I will say it in my own words as soon as possible. More of my own nonsense coming soon. *** 

Excuse the melodrama; I've been drinking. 

I love this.

"A Certain Weariness" by Pablo Neruda

I don't want to be tired alone,
I want you to grow tired along with me.

How can we not be weary
of the kind of fine ash
which falls on cities in autumn,
something which doesn't quite burn,
which collects in jackets
and little by little settles,
discoloring the heart.

I'm tired of the harsh sea
and the mysterious earth.
I'm tired of chickens-- (best line of a poem ever)
we never know what they think,
and they look at us with dry eyes
as though we were unimportant.

Let us for once--I invite you--
be tired of so many things,
of awful apertifs,
of a good education.

Tired of not going to France,
tired of at least
one or two days in the week
which have always the same names
like dishes on the table,
and of getting up--what for?--
and going to be without glory.

Let us finally tell the truth:
we never thought much of
these days that are like
houseflies or camels.

I have seen some monuments
raised to titans
to donkeys of industry.
They're there, motionless,
with their swords in their hands
on their gloomy horses.
I'm tired of statues.
Enough of all that stone.

If we go on filling up
the world with still things
how can the living live?

I am tired of remembering.

I want men, when they're born,
to breathe in naked flowers,
fresh soil, pure fire
not just what everyone breathes.
Leave the newborn in peace!

Leave room for them to live!
Don't think for them,
don't read them the same book;
let them discover the dawn
and name their own kisses.

I want you to be weary with me
of all that is already well done,
of all that ages us.
of all that lies in wait
to wear out other people.

Let us be weary of what kills
and of what doesn't want to die.

25 July 2011

27



Another beautiful artist's voice snuffed out too soon. RIP.

20 July 2011

Daughta Blogga


Caroline started her own blog today to document her summer vacation.  All her idea...be generous with the accolades at Those Awesomeee Days!  I hope everyone is having a fantastic summer.  Will be back soon!

28 June 2011

28 March 2011

I'm Down with Ghandi

It was an average Saturday morning; I was shaking the lint from my filthy reusable shopping bags on my way to the market.  Caroline always comes to Stop & Shop with me because she likes to use their EasyShop device where she can scan and bag the items herself as we go along. And she knows she can always sneak in a few extra 600lb Gorillas in along the way with zero protest. I like the bonding time and appreciate a shopping experience that affords minimal interaction with the deli counter and cashiers.  I hate small talk.

Aside:  EasyShop is also the milieu of (mostly) unintentional shoplifting, which is a post for another day.

Next to the scanning kiosk, a young woman and her daughter from the Unitarian Church were collecting items for the local food pantry – pretty successfully, considering the towering assortment of groceries stacked around them.  Also hulking over them: a 60-ish burly gent who was decked out in burnished denim and enormous white sneakers.  His neon white hair was shaking beneath his Sox cap as he spoke with animated gestures. From a distance, he appeared non-threatening, like someone’s grandfather who would jokingly shoot at you with a pricing gun while stocking shelves.

But after a few more steps we realized this man was ranting in the woman’s face, telling her, in no uncertain terms, that she and others of her ilk were going straight to hell.

Caroline and I joined the semi-circle of onlookers who kept their distance, eavesdropping, exchanging glances:  Who is this guy and what is his fucking problem? 

We were all fidgeting.  Do we say something?  I have my daughter with me. This kook is probably armed to the teeth! 

FOOD PANTRY WOMAN: "With all due respect, sir, what do you think happens to peaceful, God-loving Buddhists, Muslims, Jews?"

BIG WHITE SNEAKERS:  "They all go to hell too. It’s in the Bible!"

At this point, I was convinced John Quinones from “Primetime: What Would You Do” was lurking behind the Cheez-It pyramid with a camera crew.  It was hard to believe that a real person could be this mindfuckingly backward.  Or so unabashedly obnoxious.

The woman’s daughter was tentative, but unfazed.  She handed Carrie and I a list of items the food pantry needed, which included baby formula, school snacks, and juiceboxes. Heathens!

FOOD PANTRY:  "With all due respect, sir.  I disagree. I don’t believe God is religion. He’s larger than that." 

BIG WHITE SNEAKERS:  "No! This isn’t a matter of agreeing to disagree! You are wrong!  Get it through your head! You’ve been brainwashed!"

Aside:  This is a huge pet peeve of mine.  The moment someone tells you you’ve been brainwashed, they should be immediately disqualified from any debate.  What they’re saying is they’re too arrogant (or na├»ve) to believe that they could ever (ever!) be unduly influenced, regardless of how long they've been stewing in their own broth. You could be brainwashed, of course, but not them. Never them. They are right. You are wrong. There is no other side. In a situation like this,  a true exchange of ideas is impossible.

The Food Pantry woman continued to hold her own while this buffoon raved on about the fire and brimstone that await her.

I realized this guy is exactly the type of person who Ghandi was speaking about when he said: ”I love your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."


FOOD PANTRY: "With all due respect, I disagree."


It was probably the frustrated pacifist that lives inside my soul, because the words "with all due respect" made me dry heave a little. My words were projectile:

“Excuse me, please stop staying that! He’s not worthy of your respect.  He’s not trying to have a conversation, he’s just yelling in your face."

She smiled and said thank you. "It's ok." 

Then I turned to Big White Sneakers. My actual words are in quotes, my thoughts in parentheses:

“What is wrong with you?”  (Dickhead).  “You are harassing a woman and a child who are collecting food for the poor! “(Is this how you get your ‘Christ on’?)  “What else are you doing today, beside harrassing people?”

BIG WHITE SNEAKERS (he's got black eyes, lifeless eyes, like a doll's eyes): “I support what’s she’s doing, just not what she stands for.”

ME:  “Did she ask you?" (You narcissistic pig)

SEMI-CIRCLE BYSTANDER: (chiming in, thank Christ!) "Maybe your time preaching could be better spent besides, you know, screaming at people collecting food for the poor."

(Yeah!) 

A decent pile on ensued, but we stormed away in search of John Quinones, almost overturning an Entenmann's table in blind rage. 

Caroline said, “Mom, that man was a butt.”

Indeed he was, Sweetpea (with apologies to the butts). 

By the time we were checking out, though, I was still seething, determined to EasyShoplift a juicer and hurl it at Big White Sneaker’s head if he were still there. (also very Christ like).

But he was gone -- probably off to deface some “Coexist” bumperstickers in the parking lot.

We donated some juiceboxes and gorilla cookies to the food pantry box. 

03 March 2011

Random Quizzilla

1. What is your favorite time of the day?
Usually the very beginning or the very end, depending upon the day.  Yesterday, it was lunch time. Had a superlative lunch and prosecco toast at Sportello with Doreen, one of my dearest friends, former editor and Eastie cohort who is officially five years cancer free this month. 
  
2. Tell me about your grandparents.
Maternal grandparents:  Aurora (Nana Rora) & Charles (Papa Charlie).  Nana Rora worked in town and also cared for my Italian-speaking great grandparents -- Big Nana and Big Papa -- who lived upstairs.  Papa Charlie worked as a bricklayer in the Charlestown Navy Yard.  Both died very young so my memories are limited (MF cancer).  I remember Charlie swirling ice in his drink and always having one of the grandkids on his lap.  I remember Nana Rora being glamourous. She wore Chanel No. 5 and was always dressed up, including hair and make-up, even while cooking four-course Sunday dinners. She brought us Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins after work every Monday night.  Paternal grandmother:  Mary Agnes (Nana Rie). I've written about her extensively on this blog. She went by "Marie" most her life, having told everyone her real name was Marie Antoinette. She always disliked her nunnish name, which certainly didn't suit her.  Nana Rie was a single mom who worked as a secretary. She took the train to work every day and once boarded it wearing only a slip because she'd forgotten to put her skirt on that morning. This may have happened more than once.  At age 37, she got breast cancer. This was the 1940s when it was a death sentence.  She died in perfect health after being struck by a car on her way home from a dance class at age 81.

3. When was the last time you were truly startled?
The other day, a freakish wind gust caught the storm door and slammed it so hard against the side of the house that I was convinced (convinced!) it was a home invasion.  Shit! I slid across the kitchen in my fleece socks and headed for the back door.

Of course, Vito was right on it:

Are you shitting me?

The V himself was startled moments later when some curious flamingos flocked our front yard.  He charged at them but quickly retreated when he realized they weren't dispersing the way seagulls do on the beach.

WTF.

4. How have you changed in the past year?
I'm more of a morning person and a homebody these days. I still love to stay up late and get out on the weekends, but during the week it's like Grey Gardens in here.  The house would have to be on fire to get me out the door after 6 p.m. on weeknights  -- except for Flash Mob rehearsals, of course.

5. Name something thing you consider a "bonus" in your life.
Having some friends who are musicians.  Winning!

25 February 2011

The Lure of the Velour

So we're finishing up school vacation week here on the South Shore. Mentally, though, I’m still planted on an overstuffed green velour reclining sofa, doing shots of Trader Joe’s corn and chile salsa.

Backstory: We packed the wagon and headed north to visit the Kielys in NH where they rented a house for the month. Both families were in dire need of a change of scenery on many levels. The only view from our front windows is of our retired neighbors Lou and Nancy going to and from dinner every night. We also needed a respite from Sponge Bob, Wii and Webkinz. Dr. Nic needed to get out of Southie after a menacing encounter with a DB neighbor who accosted her for trying to park in an unmarked spot on a public street that he'd claimed as his own. She said no and he threatened her. She had the kids in the car with her so she had to subvert her instinct to leap out, rip off his windshield wipers and beat him with them. She managed a "You're pathetic," before pulling away. She will flier the neighborhood upon her return to let everyone know there is a DB living among them that threatens women and children.

So, the fresh mountain air and plentiful parking were like nature's Ativan.

Their house is nestled on a scenic notch just south of Conway and surrounded by lush forest and snowy trails. Its wrap around deck and glass walls offer sweeping views of the White Mountains and look out over a steep hill dotted with scrubby pines. [This paragraph works best when read with a British accent.]

We were surrounded by all of this beauty and peace, but the strongest lure of all was the lure of the velour. Two hulking green velour reclining sofas served as the center piece of the living room, dwarfing everything around them. You know what I'm talking about. Those inertia-inspiring behemoths, the staples of man caves and your auntie’s parlor in Saugus. Many come with snack trays, remote caddies and cup holders. They feel like they should have a hot tub as a trundle. For aesthetic reasons, they're not something you’d ever have front and center in your home. But, now I’m not so sure. I may be a changed woman.

Sit on me.

We had no set plans for the weekend but, depending upon our whims, we had an ala carte menu of winter recreation at our disposal. We could ski, snow tube, ice skate, snowshoe, etc. But the wind was off the Beaufort scale; it brought the trees to their knees, and randomly hurled large chunks of frozen snow in your general direction. In short, you needed a rubber ski mask if you wanted to keep your face.

I generally don't engage in anything cold and outdoorsy if it’s under 40 degrees. I’m an apres-skier. I prefer skating in a rink. Snowshoeing – not so much. But, when you're with the kids, you suck it up like it’s your job (because it is your job.)

All of the kids were dying to go outside and play in the snow. They dressed in their snow gear in lightning speed and bolted outside with James and Paul K. right on their heels. Nic and I were a little more leisurely in getting suited up. I spent at least 10 minutes trying to find my high-powered mittens in our 10 bags of gear. I had one boot on when everyone came running back inside all torked up.

Paulie, effusive: “That was the best time I’ve ever had in my life!!” James came in behind him looking sheepish, but laughing.

Apparently, they were playing on some sleds out back when Paulie disappeared over the top of the hill and slid almost all the way down on the seat of his snow pants. He finally stopped after softly crashing into some small cone-bearing tree.

James scaled down the hill to retrieve him, thinking he was probably traumatized. Nope. He wanted to do it again.

My generalized anxiety disorder and I are grateful not to have witnessed this. Especially less then 2 months after the First Night travesty. James said they never thought he was in any danger but were mildly horrified by his velocity.

Aside: Of course, I started to unravel into a Sonny Bono-Michael Kennedy mindset. But then I didn't want to turn Paulie's "best time of his life" into a lesson on the ill-fated deaths of celebrities. I was also reminded that the sledding experiences of my youth amounted to coasting down a short hill in a vacant MassPort lot that dead ended into a fence separating the lot from the Blue Line tracks.

Still, something shifted. I'm not going out there to frolick in the snow. I'll have a stroke watching them teeter on the hill top. We decided the Dads and the kids would play outside for a bit, then we’d all go to lunch.

Nic and I set up shop on the recliners with some tea. We opened all of the blinds and let the mountains in. And then we unwittingly let the recliners in as well. While we were getting deep into the craic, Nic kept getting distracted by the show on TV.

NIC: “What the ffff…? What the feh…? What the feck are we watching? What is this shite, Kate?”

On the screen, Bruce Jenner was polishing a remote-controlled helicopter. We’d stumbled upon -- as the Church Lady recently called them --"the Holy Trinity of Sluts." It was a Kardashian marathon. Within moments we were transfixed, then catatonic. I don't even know how many episodes we'd watched when everyone came thundering back inside and found us strung out on the recliners like a couple of junkies.

Aside: It's not the first time something like this has happened. Last year, I got sucked into a Stars Wars LEGO Wii game. James returned home from work early to find me jumping around, still with bedhead and in PJs, looking like Gary Busey.


JAMES: What are you doing?


ME: Trying to get to level 5.


JAMES: What?


ME: Return of the Jedi.

Conclusion: Recliners = Ass Velcro. They also make you susceptible to reality shows produced by Ryan Seacrest. And you may find yourself barking at your kids to fetch your credit card from your bag ('cuz you're not getting up to do it) so you can order some Pajama Jeans.

I snapped out of the recliner spell after uttering the following sentence: “I’m craving a SlimJim. We may have to stop at the Mobil Mart.”

We all went out to lunch and had a big feed. Nic and I thought we'd completely recovered but then ordered salmon and steamed vegetables because it looked so good when the Kardashians ate it. Jesus. We had a couple of goblets of wine, steeling ourselves for whatever outdoor activity lay before us.

We asked the kids: Tubing? Skating? Hay rides? Nope. They wanted to go to the arcade and then back to the house. Apparently, they were under the spell as well, having planted themselves on the reclining sofas earlier that morning. The lure of the velour.

The Dads and the kids went to the arcade. Nic and I went outlet shopping a little drunk. Once we got back to the house, we all gathered together on the recliners and ended up ordering take-out that night.

09 February 2011

"Colder than a Midget in a 'Frigerator"



This is awesome. Megan McGlover, I hear you!

(hat tip: Bridget Duffy & Susan Howard)

04 February 2011

Check Your Baggage, Fear the Brownies

‘My Room, My Rules” – Caroline is coloring in a sign that she’s written in bubble letters on a piece of construction paper.  My little fascist has also compiled a visitor sign-in sheet to post outside her door that warns: “Keep Out, Evil Maniacs!”  (a.k.a Paulie’s friends).  She’s frowning, bearing down on the crayons as if she’s had to resort to making these signs, as if she isn’t enjoying every moment of this perceived unrest.
Don't mess with me.

This is my daughter.  She loves rules and loves to enforce them.  While she shares my general sloppiness, she doesn’t appreciate any loose interpretations of rules -- written or unwritten.  She gives me shit every day for not hanging up my coat.   Last week, I had to drive her to school and the bell rang when we were about 10 feet from her classroom.  She immediately did an about face and started running up the hallway, “I have to go get a tardy pass from the office.”  “But we’re right here,” I said.  “No, Mom, I have to! It’s the rules,” she yelled over her shoulder, her backpack careening from side to side. I’d like to think I bear some responsibility for instilling such a fierce sense of right and wrong, but it’s really just her nature. I’m sure it’s largely the result of having a flaky mother.  Despite our differences, we fall into a groove.  

****

She’s finished coloring her sign and is gearing up to go play in the slush.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, my dear little fascist.”

“I’m thinking I should become a girl scout.”

I froze. She may as well have said, “I’m thinking I should get a lower back tattoo.”

27 January 2011

Hello, My Deer

Whenever I catch a flurry of movement, a flash of fur out of the corner of my eye, I have a mini-heart attack.  Even after six years, the thought of roaming wildlife still freaks me out a bit. When I let Vito out early in the morning or late at night, I still stand at the front door with a hockey stick ready to chase off on any renegade coyotes looking to snack on my little pork chop. The vigilance has not waned. Get off my lawn! For the past two seasons, we've had a family of six deer traversing the woods and brook behind our house and they're so much fun to watch.  Yesterday morning, I caught this curious little one out of the corner of my eye.  Instead of having a panic attack, I calmly reached for my camera.  I think I've had a break through.

25 January 2011

Mista Steamy

So this is what happens after a year's worth of inertia.  I ripped up my forearm in a senior citizen yoga class last week and am back in the land of limited motion. I can't even ball up my left fist in blind rage. Exercise-wise, I've been taking baby steps so as not to pop an implant, so this pathetic injury is all about being woefully out of shape.  These days, I get winded playing Wii and almost pass out after vacuuming a small room.  So I'm on the yogi DL for the week.  


In the meantime, I figured it was high time to venture back into the steam room. The steam room and I go way back.  Back in the day, I would slip unnoticed into the steam room at the Boston Harbor Hotel during lunch hour.  Today, in the post 9/11 world, you can't even breach an office food court without getting tazed.  Several years ago, I'd go for weekly steams at the local spa where you got your own private bath and unlimited (+free!) use of the spa products.  I'd steam it out, then moisturize myself to within an inch of my life with their $400 body cream -- Kanebo Sensai Premier.  


We became Y members a couple of years ago so we go there now. It's a beautiful facility and while the community steam room is no frills, it's clean. Mostly.  But I knew it would be different  from my past experiences when I spotted a woman eating a tuna sandwich in the neighboring sauna. 


Still, the Y steam room was especially dear to me over the past two years when I was going through treatment. It was a perfect place for visualization exercises.  I'd set up shop on my soggy towel and would envision myself sweating out cancer cells.  The only downside was feeling self conscious when other people were in there with me.  There's no need to make idle chit chat when you're sweating out toxic waste.  But it's even worse when you're bald and disfigured and just want to be invisible, an apparition in the fog.

An advantage of working from home though, is that I can avoid the throngs at the Y and sometimes even get the steam room all to myself.  Most days, I  find myself steaming among the elderly and Moms with jacked-up Madonna arms, taking advantage of the free babysitting.  That's all well and good.  However, I also have a nemesis. 


One of my neighbors is kind of a middle-aged version of "The Situation." He's one of these guys who finds it physically impossible to keep his shirt on. He mows the lawn shirtless, even if it's 50 degrees.  In the summer, he shuns his backyard and deck, props himself up on one of those rubberized chaise lounges from the 70s and sunbathes close to the street.  We see him all over town and he's a pleasant enough guy, just a little creepy. I once saw him leering at a table of young women at Uno's.  Leering at Uno's.  Really?  


And as much as he can't keep his shirt on, he can't stay out of the Y either.  He is always there. Always. And he frequents the steam room.  We'll call him Mr. Steamy.


Aside:  Not to be confused with Mr. Steamy dryer balls, which I have an unhealthy obsession with and will discuss on another post.

The last time we had an encounter in the steam room, my hair was in nascent stages of regrowth and I was bird-skinny.  I looked like Gollum wearing a furry bathing cap.  There were several people in the steam room that day and I sat on the far end, just wanting to close my eyes and do my visualization


Then I heard him:
.
"Hey, is that Kate over there?" 


Fuck. 


"How you doin? You look good. You feelin good? 


Then he proceeded to move over closer to me and ask if i had any recipes for stuffed mushrooms.  


It happened a few more times, but now I make sure his car is in his driveway before I venture over to the Y.  


Earlier this week, I suited up and headed to the steam room.  Sure enough, rounding the corner in full peacock strut -- Mr. Steamy, mindlessly fumbling his dryer balls. 

I did a mini cannon ball into the jacuzzi, splashing an older gent who muttered "Jesus" under his breath. Sorry.:)   


Mr. Steamy was heading in for a steam so I waited it out in the jacuzzi for a bit. When it was safe, I opened the door and walked in on a what felt like a scene from a mature porn film.


There were two older ladies exfoliating each other with sea salt from a Ziploc bag.  Another older man "Lou" was dropping some fragrant essential oils around the floors.  Then, lo and behold, Mr. Steamy comes back in with a vial of clear liquid that looked like some kind of lubricant. 


"Heyyyyy! Kate!  How you doin? Long time, no see. (slaps my back).  You look good.  You feel good?"


One of the women held out the Ziploc bag and asked me if I wanted some sea salt. She was gracious, but I just can't participate in public exfoliation.  


Mr. Steamy walks over to the place where Lou was dropping his oils.  "Ladies,Lou, try this..it's really strong eucalyptus.  A little different."   Mr. Steamy adds his concoction to the already overwhelming sinus-clearing cocktail that Lou had thrown down.   


"Oh, that's delicious," said one of the ladies, still rubbing herself silly with sea salt.


 Delicious. No..no..no.. it was like homemade tear gas! 


I was getting dizzy and anxious.  The exact opposite of my intent. 


It was time to blow out of this new age whore house.


Does anyone know how much it costs to install a steam shower or infrared sauna in the house?  The kids don't need to go to college, do they?






14 January 2011

Random Quizzilla

It felt like a Quizzilla Friday today.  It's high time -- the last RQ was Oct 2008. Let's do this thing.   


1.  Do you hoard anything?
Free perfume samples. It's the French whore in me. 


2. Name five things that annoy you:  Platitudes, guitar solos lasting more than 6 minutes, Eeyore-esque FB statuses about aches and pains, xenophobes, the Olive Garden.


3. What is the last song you had stuck in your head? 
For the better part of a year, I (and several pals) have broken out into the theme song from “What Up With That” from SNL, not unlike Kenan Thompson does in the skit. Watch this clip and try NOT to sing it the rest of the day.

4.  When was the last time you slept on the floor? 
At Dreama's apartment in Manhattan last year.  

5.  What is your one of your favorite Urban Dictionary words?  












**If you clicked on the link, you've just been Rick-Rolled.

13 January 2011

Overheard in the Kitchen

JAMES:  Paulie, next weekend is a long weekend.

PAUL:  I know.  It's Martin Luther King weekend.

JAMES:  Do you know who Martin Luther King was?

PAUL: (disdainfully)  Of course I do, Dad.

JAMES:  Who was he?

PAUL:  A pirate!

The "duh" was palpable in Paulie's response. After being corrected, however, he realized he was thinking about Christopher Columbus -- also technically not a pirate, but more understandable with all the ship imagery and pillaging and such. It's a good thing they are learning about MLK in school this week, because this moment, in a different place, could rival the time Caroline told the cashier at Whole Foods that she had yellow teeth.

06 January 2011

"Ooh Hoo Makin' Money!"

The attendant at my regular parking garage looks like Pat Morita and I’m a bit obsessed with him.

I see him twice a week or so, whenever I have meetings in town.  Without fail, he approaches my car, a burning cigarette in one hand and a wad of cash in the other.  He hands me my parking stub and cat calls: “Ooh hoo! Makin’ money! Makin’ money!”

(What?)

Does he think I’m some pantsuit prostitute?  After a few times, I realized this was his trademark greeting, a pep talk of sorts to all us morose corporate souls, dragging our wheelie laptop bags behind us like balls and chains.

Today, a young man reeking of high finance (and failing to look hip in a fedora) looked affright as he grabbed his stub and quickened his pace to the stairwell.  Rookie.

“How long ya stayin, lady? Pat Morita says, as always.

I lie and say 30 minutes because I don’t want to leave my keys and get blocked in by the phalanx of cars and SUVs that will end up packed into every last inch of this garage by midday.  I made that mistake once and will never do it again.

“Ok, see ya latah,” he says

Pat waddles back to his tiny office, no bigger than an outhouse.  It has a small microwave with a piece of charred bubble wrap hanging over it.  A Healthy Ones frozen lunch sits on top of the bubble wrap next to a frozen 12-ounce Mountain Dew.

This garage is insane.  It operates like a nightclub – one out, one in -- with a “bouncer” standing by the ticket gates, waving in cars when spaces open up.  I use the word “spaces” somewhat tenuously. Spaces are irrelevant here. Cars are packed end-to-end, almost all the way to the exit for most of the day.  A line starts forming outside early and usually doesn’t subside. I’m sure they’re violating all kinds of codes, but I don’t care. Nobody cares.  It’s the cheapest garage downtown.  To get a rate this low, you’d have to park in the Seaport and then cringe in that icy head wind (hag face) over the Fort Point Channel.

If you get blocked in, though, you need a crash helmet and nerves of steel when it’s time to leave. When you return for your car, Pat Morita dispatches his posse of attendants who look like A Tribe Called Quest.  They fan out with pockets full of car keys and snap into action, moving the other cars around to dig yours out.  This is no small feat. These guys must be masters of sliding block puzzles.  They’re doing 18-point turns, swearing at each other, screeching in chaotic unison, like bumper cars trying NOT to bump each other.  Sometimes alarms are set off, and I’m sure there have been accidents.  But most of the time they get it right.  Even though it's terrifying to behold. 

The garage has been here as long as I can remember and the city has really morphed all around it.  I’m surprised it hasn’t been replaced by luxury condos or a Chipotle. They must doing something right. Still, it looks as out of place as I feel these days wandering around town.  

When I worked here, it was a giant construction site with a lot of jackhammering, dust and detours.  Now, it’s almost serene, walking down pretty, tree-lined streets that don’t dead end into glory holes (and having work days that don’t end with me drinking cheap wine out of a shoe at Weggie's Pub.)

Still, I'm happy to be back in here and makin' a little money (Ooh hoo!) from time to time.   Even Pat Morita is happy -- almost jolly -- in his work, even in his little outhouse office.  

At the end of the day, I retrieve my car and Pat’s still there.

“Hi, lady!  You make money today.”

“I did.”

“Good, good! Ya gotta make money! See ya latah!"

I climb into my unblocked car and maneuver my way down the ramp, trying not to sideswipe any cars illegally squeezed onto the median.

Then it hit me. “Makin' money” is not about Pat’s customers at all. It’s about him! It’s like his own personal ka-ching.  Every time he hands out a parking stub and crams in another car, he’s raking the cash in hand over fist.  Makin’ money!  Likely a lot more than most of us. Good for you, Pat.

As I caught sight of Pat in my rearview mirror, I swear he rolled up a dollar bill and began to smoke it.  

03 January 2011

7 Minutes in Hell (aka First Night)

I've always found New Year’s Eve to be a collection of common disasters and I tend to avoid crowds whenever possible.  But my kind neighbor gave me 10 First Night Buttons and some VIP passes and it was 50 degrees outside. So, in a moment of holiday cheer (or weakness), I indulged my delusions of family magic in the city. I pictured us drinking hot cocoa and watching fireworks. I thought the kids would just love walking in the Grand Procession alongside some of those crazy large-headed puppets shooting laser beams into the sky.  The plan was drama free:  Caroline, Paulie and I would meet KT and her three kids on the BPL steps at 3 p.m. see some ice sculptures, perhaps get some faces painted, watch the freak parade, and be home by 6 p.m.
Visions of face painting danced in their heads. But it was not to be.
Within moments of meeting, however,  KT and I realized we should've just gone to the W for drinks, instead of wandering into this Copley Square clusterfuck with five young kids.

It was madness. It appeared that all of New England had converged on Boylston Street to take advantage of the balmy weather.  It was nearly impossible to keep the kids herded into our own personal space.  Worse, my kiddos aren't city savvy yet.   Without hypervigilance, they would wander into intersections, or stop short on a crowded street, sending disgruntled revelers veering into filthy snowbanks to avoid tripping over them.  This year, the sidewalks were narrowed further, partially roped off with yellow "caution" tape because of the ever-present threat of getting impaled by one of the death icicles dangling perilously from the buildings' underhangs. Every now and then, one would smash to the ground and it was like a window had fallen out of the John Hancock tower.  Mad crowds, hypervigilance, death icicles.  Happy New Year!  What the hell were we thinking?

I think Paulie knows the day is going to suck.  
What the hell were we thinking, part 2:  We purchased vuvuzelas for the kids.  

The First Night vendors are the creepiest lot, likely part of some prison work release program. And probably pedophiles. Another charming thought: Pedophiles selling light-up butterfly wands and disco ball scepters to legions of young children in crowded, chaotic places.     

First Night was not a great place for young kids, and certainly not for my generalized anxiety disorder.  

We walked up to the Hynes Convention Center in search of face painting.  Instead, we were accosted by a salesman who asked us if our basements were waterproofed.  We then learned that the line for face painting snaked around the entire convention hall. We decided to get the hell out of there.  "Hey guys! Wanna go see if the ice sculptures melted?"  

It was a 30 minute, two-block pilgrimage back to Copley Square.  It was a challenge not to lose the kids in the throngs.  The whole way, we were barking at them for their lack of spatial awareness. "Use the buddy system!" "Don’t space out on the escalators!" "Look out for that mailbox!"  "Watch the light pole!"  "Don’t blow the vuvuzelas in Starbucks!" I was starting to believe that people who leash their kids aren’t insane.  Finally, I just held onto their hoods.
Hold on to your hoods! Let's get some street meat!

And we thought the afternoon was bad so far? It hadn't even begun to suck!
Everyone was starving, so we got some fried dough and street meat and gawked at the sweating ice sculptures for a bit.  A couple of police officers asked if the kids wanted to sit on their motorcycles.  Paulie stood beside me eating a basket of chicken fingers, while the girls climbed into the seats.  


This was the final photo of the day for reasons that will become clear.
I snapped a photo of the girls, then went to grab Paulie’s hood and he was gone.  GONE!  I looked left, looked right, I spun around.  He was nowhere to be found.  We all started spreading out, calling his name.  I told Caroline to stay with KT, and I ran up and down the sidewalk with my hair on fire, peeking in between the throngs of people.  All I could think was: This is how it happens.  In a split second.  Someone took him.  He couldn’t have gotten out of sight in two seconds by himself in this huge crowd. With every frantic second that passed, it became more real.  I was shaking and running amok, screaming his name in a voice I’ve never heard before.  He was not anywhere in the immediate area.  I started running back to the police officers but was mobbed by Samaritans wanting to help: What does your son look like? What was he wearing?  How old is he? By now, I was hyperventilating, trying to get the words out:  Patriots sweatshirt. Brown hair.  He’s 6.

 Thankfully 10 –year-old DT (smart ) said “He was eating chicken nuggets!”  

One of the Samaritans yelled out: “I just saw a little boy in a Patriots sweatshirt with chicken nuggets.  I think he was up by the bus stop, just past Clarendon Street!”   This was a block and a half away.  We all took off – KT, the kids, the Samaritans. I was still convinced somebody had him.  I was in a full-on panic – an epic fail in the cool head department.  

Then beautiful words from DT :  “I see him! I see him!”  Then we all saw him at once. He was standing with a man, a woman and their two young sons, still holding his basket of chicken fingers. I screamed his name and he spotted me and ran to me crying.  The Samaritans and the young family that was watching him all broke into cheers.  I broke into convulsing sobs and just hugged Paulie for about five minutes.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.  

I’ve always told the kids if they get separated from us to find a policeman or a woman with children. But this woman found him first. She spotted him walking down Boylston Street, looking scared and totally lost.  She had the presence of mind to just stand with him there and not move,  "We are going to stay with you right here until your mom finds you.  She is definitely looking for you."  She also shared a simple but brilliant tip.  She writes her cellphone number on her kids’ arms so they can have someone call if they get lost. Paulie knows my cell phone but couldn’t recall it in the panic.  

How it happened:  Apparently, he spaced out and started following a woman who had a similar coat to mine.  I just can’t believe how far away he got in so little time.  This whole ordeal went down in about 7 minutes, but took about 7 years off my life.  
The single worst moment I’ve ever experienced. I don't even know what we would've done if KT and the sunshine band weren't with us.  Thank you, my friends.

Caroline, who was also shaken, piped up: “Quick! Let’s get out of here before someone else gets lost.”  Best idea we'd heard all day.  

When we got home, James tried to talk me down, saying it probably happened to about 100 people that day.  And that at least it happened in 2010.  True.  Best NYE ever: At home, everyone safe, watching Taio Cruz sing “Dynamite” in Times Square with Caroline and Paul in a bear hug on my lap.  And a gigantic goblet of red wine on the coffee table.