Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas Photo

Kids are strange. With every one, there is something that seems relatively simple that they WILL NOT do. In our house, it’s sit for a photo. You would think smiling for the camera would be painless, but it has morphed into a mountain I’m not sure I want to climb again after this Christmas.

My son hates the camera like most people hate my cooking, Barney, the hideous purple dinosaur, and fruitcake. He’d opt for all of those before he’d sit for a photo.

After last year’s ambush-and-chase photo session, this Christmas I pulled out my entire bag of tricks. First, I approached the subject gently with guilt.

Me: Hey Jack, you know how I promised you I wouldn’t cook on your birthday?

Jack: Ya.

Me: And you remember how I changed your sheets this month?

Jack: Uh-huh.

Me: Oh and remember how I didn’t ground you for a year when you picked up the other end of phone while I was interviewing someone and said, “Howdy, partner! This is Jack. Did you know my mother is wearing pajamas? Oh yes she is, the same ones from yesterday, people.”

Jack: Oh ya, that was soooo funny.

Me: Not really. And how about the fact that you got extra tofu last night? Doesn’t that count for something?

Jack: Why are you asking me all these questions?

Me: Well, how about you let me take the Christmas photo, as a way to thank me?

Jack: NO. I hate pictures.

Me: Come on, I’ll make it fun. I’ll tell you funny stories while we do it.

Jack: I’ve heard all your funny stories. STILL NO.

Me: I’ll do the pig face and make you laugh.

Jack: I’ve seen it. I’m 11. And STILL NO.

Me: Do you know how many relatives we have that are 3,000 miles away and never get to see you from year to year?

Jack: You can tell them all about me.

Me: What if there was money involved?

Jack: NO.

Me: Cold hard cash?

Jack: NO.

Me: Really? You don’t want money?

Jack: What are we talking about?

Me: (low-balling) Two bucks.

Jack: No deal.

Me: All right, three.

Jack: Higher.


Me: Four.

Jack: Higher.

Me: Five. Final offer.

Jack: Deal.

Wow, that was nothing. Fast forward through all the primping and staging, and my two, well-coiffed children are perched like China dolls in front of the Christmas tree.

Look at them. They’re smiling at each other. This will be cake.

Me: Okay, smile!

Click. Flash. Ally is looking at Jack. Jack is looking down.

Me: Let’s try that again.

Click. Flash. Ally’s smiling like a wax statue. Jack’s eyes are darting to the right in a scary, Chucky kind of way.

Me: This is not Halloween, people! Now look AT the camera. Not AWAY. Ready?

Click. Flash. The kids look at each other and giggle.

Click. Flash. Total mutiny. Jack tips his head back while Ally gives me an Elvis lipcurl.



Me: Okay! Apparently you want this to take all night! This could be over with and you could be off having fun. Look at the camera and just smile.

Click. Flash. Ally smiles sweetly while Jack puts his hand over his eyes.

Me: Jack! What are you doing?

Jack: I don’t like the flash.

Me: Well you need to like it for just one good photo and then it’s over. If you would just cooperate and EARN the five dollars I promised you, you wouldn’t have to look at the stupid flash anymore.

Ally: He gets FIVE dollars? What about me?

Me: You love the camera. If I start paying you to pose, I’ll go broke by this weekend. Now both of you, sit up straight and look happy.

Click. Flash. Ally’s brows are furrowed. Arms are folded. Jack is doing his ultra geek impression with the corners of his mouth turned in.

Me: Why can't you both just LOOK NORMAL?

Jack: What's NORMAL?

Click. Flash. Ally is sitting on Jack’s back cracking the imaginary rein and saying, “Ride’em cowboy!”

Me: LISTEN, YOU TWO. I GAVE UP MY CAREER TO STAY HOME AND MAKE SURE THAT EVERY NEED YOU HAVE GETS FILLED AND THIS IS WHAT I GET? I COULD SPEND THE DAY WITH ADULTS HAVING ADULT CONVERSATIONS AND WEARING COOL OUTFITS BUT NO. I'M HERE IN SWEAT PANTS WITH STAINS ON THEM FOR YOU. NOW SIT DOWN AND LOOK HAPPY!!!

Click. Flash. Ally is smiling with pain in her eyes. Jack is not in the frame.

Me: JACK, I CANNOT TAKE A PICTURE OF YOU WHEN YOU ARE BEHIND THE CHRISTMAS TREE.

Jack: Are we done yet? This is boring.

Ally: Ya, this is boring.

Me: Look at your mother! I AM NOW CRYING. Are you happy? These are real tears. Does this amuse you?

Ally: Nice going, Jack. You made her cry.

Jack: How did I do that?

Me: That’s it. You either smile or I’m leaving.

Ally: NO, MOM!

Jack: Where are you going? Can I come? Hey, can we get an ice cream?

Me: NO YOU CANNOT COME WITH ME. I HAVE HAD IT. [grabbing my bag and keys] I ASKED YOU TO DO A SIMPLE FAVOR FOR ME AND YOU CANNOT DO THAT FOR ME? YOU CANNOT SMILE? HOW HARD IS IT TO SMILE? DOES IT HURT YOU? DO YOU THINK THE CAMERA IS A GUN? WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST SIT THERE AND ACT HAPPY?

Jack: Stop yelling, Mom! It’s just a stupid photo.

Me: Then if it’s just a stupid photo, then let’s just DO IT ALREADY!

Jack: Okay. Geez. I can’t believe how important this is to you. You love the photo more than us.

Me: You’re right. I want to marry the photo. Now look at me. You don’t even have to smile. No, not you, Ally. You need to smile. But Jack does not need to smile.

Jack: Why does she need to smile but not me?

Me: Because you have proven that you CANNOT or WILL NOT smile! I am letting you off the hook!

Jack: What hook?

Me: It’s just an expression. Now, please, just look up at the camera the way you look at me normally.

Jack: Mom, I have no idea how I look at you. For your information, I can’t see myself.

Me: For your information, all I’m saying is just look at the camera and DON’T smile.

Click. Flash. Jack is talking to Ally. His head is turned and his mouth is open.

Me: ONE MORE TIME. LET’S DO THIS BEFORE JANUARY.

Click. Flash. Ally is picture perfect. Jack is now looking at the camera [good!] with his mouth open [not good!].

Me: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, just do it for Nana. Do it for all the relatives who live so far away and miss you so much.

Jack: Mom, you are NOT sending this out to anyone but
Nana and Grandma. That’s it.

Me: Rrrrright. Now here we go one last time.

Click. Flash.

Now that was easy.





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Sunday, November 16, 2008

‘Tis the Season to Prioritize

Fire season is upon us once again in Southern California. While Montecito and Yorba Linda go up in flames, San Diegans brace for another one. Years of little rain make the land brittle and ripe. A casual cigarette tossed from a window is all it takes for the Santa Ana winds to have their way with us.

If you haven’t lived through the massive blaze and ensuing evacuation of entire cities, it is surreal from your TV set. There is no way to fully grasp the fear it instills in you.


On the ground, nothing is certain. Streets and freeways are blocked off leaving many desperately searching for a way out. The fire weaves an unpredictable path through neighborhoods leaving some houses unscathed, others leveled.

The aftermath is like something from an Armageddon movie. For days, you’re lost in a dry gray fog. Ash rains down and masks are worn for safety. Schools and businesses close. The mail goes undelivered.
Bustling cities become barren ghost towns. Some families come home to celebrate their good fortune alongside families in ruins.

Our first experience with fire was five years ago. We awoke at 2:30 a.m. to pounding on our front door. It was our neighbor warning us that we had only seconds to get out. Fire trucks were racing by. Out our front window, the blaze engulfing 11 homes on the next street was four stories high and edging closer.

I shook my kids awake along with their two friends who were sleeping over, or so they thought. There was no preparation for this. There was no time to grab clothes or items of sentimental value or even food.

I reached for the one necessity: my son’s insulin kit. We piled into the two cars and suddenly it hit me. I had forgotten something very important.

“Hold on!” I yelled to my husband.

“We need to GO!” he yelled back, the car running.

I dashed in and put on my bra like a good Bostonian girl. The thought of bouncing around at time like this was unimaginable.

“What were you DOING in there?” he shouted as I came back with nothing in hand.

“I needed to get a BRA on!” I called to him.

“WHY!!!???” he cried.

“High beams!” I replied.

We all have our priorities in life. The next fire (in 2007), I was prepared. Bags were packed (fully stocked with Maidenform, I might add) as we saw the red line spreading across the mountain’s edge, knowing the fire was headed our way. Videos were taken for insurance purposes. Photos and family movies were in the trunk along with teddy bears and laptops and tax records.

Each time, we drove away taking one final look at our home knowing it might be the last time we saw it. What hits you in moments like this is an odd perception of two opposing ideas: the possibility of devastating loss and ultimate freedom.

The thought that you could lose your home and every detail of your life in a matter of minutes summons up the sadness associated with a death contrasted by a strange sense of freedom. To be unencumbered, almost “cleansed” of all the trappings of your life, is a feeling of rebirth. You take notice of all that you hold dear: your family, your friends, your life. Everything else is replaceable.

Well, except for a good bra.










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Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Simple Plan

My husband is an excellent sleeper. I, on the other hand, have sleep envy. Don wouldn’t wake up if you stuck an apple in his mouth and put him on a spit over a roaring fire.

You could fold him into a Fed-Ex box and ship him to South America. He’d wake up two days later, unpack himself, grab a burrito and look around for a good place to take a nap.

He has only seen the first ten minutes of most of the movies that have been made in the last decade. Unless, of course, the movie was about things blowing up or hot chicks. But that’s a subject for another day.

My sleeping patterns have deteriorated since I had kids. I think I hear them yelling my name when they’re fast asleep. All night long, I hear every coyote wail and dog yip within a five mile radius. As the ice-maker clunks in the kitchen and my coffee maker spits out water randomly, a jolt of fear courses through me. I’m suddenly convinced we need to do an exorcism on the house.

So I sat down one day and devised a simple plan to tackle my sleep issues once and for all.

Step 1: Buy a sound machine.

I bought one with 25 different sounds to block out the 25 different sounds I am subjected to all night long. No doubt, some of them could put you in a mental institution. Here are just a few that made me want to suck up someone with my vacuum cleaner:

* Rainforest. It’s for those of you who love the mellow repetitive soun
ds of crickets bleeping and frogs croaking “ribbit” all night long. Just kill me now.

* City. I’m sure there’s a huge demographic of mutants who can’t doze off to anything but the sweet sounds of honking horns, screeching brakes and people getting arrested. If that's you, lose my number.


* Ocean Waves. Not quite the beach I remember. It sounds more like my drunk neighbor crashing through the glass door thinking he’s at his house.

* Tugboats. Are you friggin kidding me? Can’t you just picture the dork session for this one?

Verle: Hey Norbert, we need one more sound for the machine.

Norbert: Ya, Verle. I’ve been mulling it over. When I was a kid my granny used to rock me to sleep to the sound of my grandaddy’s chain saw. I get all choked up now when I hear one.

Verle: You might be onto something. But for me to really cut some Z’s, I need me some tugboat. There’s nothing like a 10-ton vessel giving off a sonic boom to give me that float-away feeling.

Norbert (having a total geekasm): Now that is genius! This thing is going to FLY off the shelves.

Conclusion: I’m sticking to Rain, volume 7. No deviation.

Step 2: Legs can’t touch.

Long pants are a necessity, preferably cotton due to San Diego’s temperate climate. Flannel and velour are on hand in the event of a sudden glacier.


Between the legs (as the second line of defense) is a strap-on pillow (yes, it’s velcroed to my leg to ensure that the knees never knock. Ever. It’s a bit unwieldy when rolling from side to side – making sure it stays in place and that the pants don’t bunch. But well worth the effort. My husband says my flipping ordeal pulls the covers off him. I told him, “Oh, it’s all about you, you, you.”

Step 3: Arms must be at least slightly covered.

Never a tank or a spaghetti strap (I’m from Boston. Only “those girls” wear tank tops. I think you know who you are). Short sleeve t-shirt in the summer, preferably a men’s XXXLLL, mid-sleeve T in the fall (same size) and a zip-up fleece parka in the winter. I usually go for fuchsia because I’m always bringing the sexy back.

Step 4: Eye Mask.

Lately I’m blinded by darkness. I cannot sleep without a mask. And not just any mask. It has to be made of satin or cotton so that it will stay cool. And they must have the little pads right under your eyes to prevent any extra darkness from seeping in. If, God forbid, my mask finds its way to an unknown location, it’s all-night infomercial bonanza for me. By morning, I’ve bought myself a Ped Egg, a Bedazzler, Dr. Ho’s Muscle Massager, the Ab Rocker, the Steam Buggy, some Mighty Putty and the Rejuvenique Electrified Hockey Mask Facial Toner.

Step 5: Essential Oils.

Due to unusually small nostrils, I require eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils to be placed two dabs per nostril and two on my neck and chest for proper breathing technique.

Step 6: Mouth Guard.

And as mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I am a biter. I clench my teeth and chomp all night sort of the way my German shepherd use to bite the air when she saw a fly. I finally bought myself one of those fabulous mouth guards. It works great but unfortunately, turns all my “s” words into “sh” words.

My husband tried to tickle me one night and I said, “Shop that!”

He said, “What do you mean, shop?”

I said, “Go to shleep.”

He said, “You go to shleep.”

Step 7: Roll pillow.

After purchasing 17 dud pillows that either put me in a neck brace or gave me nightmares, I have discovered the bomb of the pillow community: Latex, people. And we’re not talking the NASA hard-as-my-banana-bread memory loaf. This is soft! This is bouncy! It’s mini trampoline for your head! I roll it at one end and put the roll at the back of my neck.

Step 8: Knees Up.

I begin with ten minutes on my back with my knees up. I’ve been doing this since high school, right around the time when I allowed portly cheerleaders to use my back as a launch pad. Hey, so what if I have permanent nerve damage, the important thing is we had so much spirit!

Step 9: Hands on hip bones.

For most of my life I’ve slept with my hands folded on my stomach. My mother used to say, “You look like a corpse in a casket when you sleep. It’s so cute!”

Nowadays the weight of my folded hands feels like a piano crushing my ribs. Therefore, I strategically place each hand on my hip bones to prevent the crushing.

Step 10: Declare a No Spoon Zone.

My husband knows not to ever venture past the midline of the bed to spoon at any time. That’s the law. I told him it’s not that I don’t feel real love for him on some occasions but that the intense heat from his body scorches my back and the weight of his arm shuts off my central nervous system.

When my simple plan is in place, I toss to the right, yank the covers off my husband and drift off to a warm and woozy place.

Now that was easy.



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lunatic Cringe

Apple pie with lattice upper crustImage via Wikipedia

Why is it that when we’re doing something stupid, we have no sense of the stupidity? We have a blind certainty that whatever it is we’re doing, it’s good for us. We all have those cringe memories that make us want to erase, erase, erase. I probably have more than most people.

My mother said I’ve always been a little odd. As a child, I was like a time-share salesman in the pursuit of my latest ideas. At five, I left home to sell pies door-to-door, which involved crossing a freeway-like main street and masquerading as a “Girl Scout.” Problem was I had no pies. They were “future” pies -- pies for which you paid now and received “at a later date.” Somewhere I missed the part about Girl Scout “cookies” and was convinced they said pies. I came home proud of my pockets full of change to parents red-faced with worry.

In second grade, we were studying the southern states. I thought – hey! My cousin, Dawn-Adele, lives in Mississippi. Why not get “dismissed” from class and come back as my cousin Dawn-Adele? The teacher and the school secretary went along with the scam. At the office I changed into a short, dark wig, put on a different polyester pantsuit and went back to the class with a southern accent and a speech about my new “home state.” If the kids had tomatoes, I would have been standing there like Carrie covered in red. They teased me incessantly for years to come.

Every summer, my friend next door, Leslie, and I sat outside our neighbor’s chain link fence gazing in at them as they swam in their pool. I would shout to Leslie, “BOY AM I HOT!” Leslie would yell back, “I AM, TOO. I’M SWEATING.” Unable to enjoy their pool in private, Mrs. Boutelier would buckle, “Go get your swimsuits on and come swimming.”

I’d jump up and feign surprise, “Oh, look, I have my bathing suit on under my clothes!”

As if I didn’t torture them enough every summer, when I was in junior high, I begged my mother to ask Mrs. Boutelier if I could hold a boy/girl party in her basement. I liked the Boutelier’s basement better than ours, so to me, it was a natural question to ask. Theirs was “finished” whereas ours had cement walls and floors. Mrs. Boutelier went along with the plan and 20 some-odd 12 year-olds piled into her basement and played their first game of spin-the-bottle.

In high school I worked as the counter girl at the local dry cleaners. I marveled over the cashmere sweaters and puffy-sleeved blouses that came back as perfect as the day they were bought. Clothes were my drug of choice and I couldn’t be trusted around them. One night, giving into the addiction, I took a freshly-cleaned antique sweater off the rack and wore it to my friend’s party. It was a huge hit and I basked in the flurry of compliments. I’m pretty sure there was a mishap with some onion dip that night, but it wasn’t my fault. Because I had morals, I returned it to the cleaner’s around 1 a.m. and neatly hung it back on the rack for next-day pick-up.

I spent my four years of high school devoted to cheerleading. It was my religion. It never occurred to me that the prancing around, ponytail swinging, boobs jiggling, memorizing rhyming lines and robotic movements with stiff arms might make me look ridiculous. I let people climb on me and put dents in my neck. I behaved like a pogo stick every time some boy got a good pass. It didn’t hit me until college that cheerleading wasn’t quite the right ladder to the strong woman I wanted to be.

In college, I went with my boyfriend to a formal dinner-dance. I showed up at his parents’ house wearing a strapless satin dress so shiny it made you squint, earrings the size of a donut and hair in a mullet with electrified spikes shooting out the top of my head. Around my neck hung fifteen necklaces that made me look like a cross between a Christmas tree and Mrs. T. My entire body was so tan I could have made a belt. Sad part was, I thought I looked hot. I was sure of it. Even when my boyfriend’s mother gave me the what-the-hell-is-that look, I was certain she had social anxiety and trouble expressing joy.

In my roaring 20’s, my friend Leora and I turned crank phone calling into a sport. We routinely called our old boyfriends at 3 a.m. I would begin with a Lily-Tomlin-one-ringy-dingy voice: “Hello [old boyfriend’s name], this is Mrs. Trowbridge from the Thayer Public Library. I’m sorry to bother you at such a late hour but see, we’re doing inventory and apparently you have an overdue book. It’s called, ‘The Birds and The Bees by Dr. Ruth.’ Do you have the book?” They figured out it was me in very little time, so I had no choice but to ask the $10,000 question: “Are you still thinking about me?” I was surprised to hear that they weren’t. Not that I believed that.

When I turned 31, I went to London for 10 days to interview at three ad agencies. I was determined to live there. I had never traveled alone, and certainly never shut my mouth for that long. It was a daunting feat – more the shutting up part than the actual travel. I spent every day walking the city, alive with wonder. My stupidity kicked in around the ninth day. Coming out of a movie in Piccadilly Circus, a man with a Middle Eastern accent approached me.

“Excuse me, but are you Australian?” he asked.

“No, I’m American. But my mother was born in Australia,” I said. Suddenly, “Ali” and I were walking and talking. After nine days of virtual silence, I was wild for conversation.

It was dinner time. He asked me to join him at a Spanish restaurant. Before I thought it through, I was drinking Sangria and answering a barrage of questions. He took pictures of me and asked the waiter to take one of the two of us. Flattery and sweet wine canceled my judgment. We moved to hear Flamenco guitarists in another room. People were dancing. Another man asked me to dance and as I accepted, I felt a hard tug on my arm.

“SIT down,” Ali demanded.

“No!” I said.

He grabbed me again and tried to pull me to the door. I yanked my arm away and ran to the restroom. A group of young Spanish women were applying lipstick. I asked for their help and they ushered me out of the restaurant in a large pack.

Now in my 40’s, I try to play it safe. Having kids makes most people’s winding path a little straighter. It certainly did mine. Someday I will tell my kids about the mistakes I made along the way. In the meantime, I will try to step back, as my mother did, as they make their own. I do believe that our lunatic cringe moments are there to teach us something our elders have been trying to impress upon us since we could walk: to think before we act. What a concept.


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Friday, October 3, 2008

Biter On First

We've all had moments when we could swear someone said something exactly the way we thought we heard it. Turns out, that's not what they said at all. I had a moment like that recently.

I went to get my teeth cleaned at a new dentist office. The hygienist was looking over my personal information and chart.

Her: So you live in the country?

Me: Yes.

Her: It’s nice there. I love the pumpkin patch.

Me: Oh, ya. I love that. (Can’t tear me away from the pumpkin patch!)

She pauses…scanning my chart.

Her: Hmm…I see here that you’re a biter?

Me: Yes.

(I clench my teeth every night.)

Her: That’s greeeaaaat.

Me: (Whaaaat?) Not really.

Her: Why -- you don’t like it?

Me: No. (And why would I like it?) It gives me headaches. I think I do it because I'm stressed.


Her: You do it from home?

Me: When I’m asleep mostly. Sometimes when I’m awake and don’t realize I’m doing it.

Her: In your sleep? How do you do that?

Me: I just bite down like this.

(I demonstrate the nightly bite)

Her: You do that when you’re writing?

Me: What? You asked me if I was a biter.

Her: No, I said, "writer."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Deep Thoughts...

Son Jack: “What are those blue things in your ears, Dad?”

Husband Don: “Those are earplugs.”

Jack: “Why do you need those?”

Don: “To stay married.”




"Mom, what is the circumference of an elephant?" -- Jack, age 11


“Mom, Dad was buzzing his hair tonight and his hair was just getting shorter and shorter. I started yelling at him to stop but he wouldn’t. He doesn’t really look good in a bald hairdo. But don’t tell him I said that.”

-- Jack , 9/08

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hell is for Massages

When I was 14, I got my first job as a waitress for a catering company. Hoisting fully-stacked trays of wedding dishes every weekend took its toll on my young frame. I spent years doing yoga, magnetic therapy and chiropractic.

In my 30’s, my back took further hits as a new mother of two very sweet and well behaved children I like to call “The Bull” and “The Wild Boar.” The level of noise they create rivals the entire Animal Planet network, even "Living with the Wolfman" and "Jessica The Hippo." Needless to say, I was really looking forward to escaping it all with massage.

In reflection, that first massage now qualifies as a sweaty flashback. Very much in charge was Halfrida, a beefy German woman who seemed to have an abundance of pent-up rage. She kept smacking her fist into her other hand before we got started, explaining that the only kind of massage she does is “deep tissue.” She emphasized the word “deep” with an intensity I’ve never experienced in the healing arts.

Ten minutes in and the “deep tissue” was more like a “removal of tissue.”

Lodging her knuckles into my neck, she mumbled, “Hmmm.”

Then she stopped.

I waited.

“Haff you been tested for da AIDS virus?”

“Yes, of course.” I hissed, her neck clamp cutting off my vocal cords.

“Well, your lymph nodes ahh inflamed. I’d get anudda test if I were you.”

I spent the rest of the massage planning my funeral and thinking it might be hastened by the flattening effect of the massage.

Several AIDS tests later and sporting a clean bill of health, I opted for “Earlene” at the chiropractor’s office. Earlene didn’t sound like a German name, and that alone made me feel safe. I was relieved to see her emaciated body in the doorway.

It wasn’t long into the kneading and compression when my feel-good moment was eclipsed by:

“I’m, like, getting married in a few weeks,” she reported.

“Congratulations.”
[Oh no. She’s talking. This was not in the brochure.]

“Ya, like, we met at this camp that my parents sent me to, you know, like,
for teens who don’t listen? Ya, it was, like, so military. So I saw this guy there, like, washing dishes in the cafeteria. So we, like, chatted and he was all, “Hey can I see your scar?”

[Who doesn’t love a good scar story?]

“So, like, he’s all, ‘What happened?’ and so I told him about the accident and how I was, like, driving my Grandma’s Buick and, like, texting, because I don’t like to keep people hanging. That’s not, like, who I am.

[Of course not. You were raised right.]

“So, like, I don’t remember seeing a construction sign and so, like, I drove off this, like, cliff-thing and landed in, like, a lake. That’s how I, like, cut my chin and got stitches. And you know what he said?”

“What?”
[Waiting for the gem.]

“He was all, ‘Hey, no judgment. It’s all good.’ And that was, like, the beginning of our romance.”

“Wow.”
[What’s not to love about a man who wants to know more about your chin?]

“And you know, he has, like, really big goals, you know what I mean? Like, he loves parrots and hopes to get a job, like, in a parrot store.”

“Mm-hmm.”
[Men and parrots? I’m there.]

“So, like, we’re planning our big day. And there are, like, boocoo decisions to make.”

“Mm-hmm.”
[The French would kill her for me.]

“You know, like flowers and booze and, like, should I smash the cake in his face or not. And since my grandmother’s Buick is in the lake, we can’t borrow that to take us, like, from the chapel to the reception. So we’re thinking of, like, riding our horses there. Then we thought, like, maybe all the guests could, like, come to the wedding on horses. Like a stampede, you know?”

“Mmm.”
[This is why deaf people look happy.]

Suddenly, she paused.

I felt my body decomposing.

She was gulping, refueling.

“But, like, I’m stumped on the food.”

[Just take me, Jesus. I’m ready to come home.]

“My dad wants us to have, like, red mullet or beef cheeks. Like, he loves that crap.”

The buzzer rang.

[I’ve come to the conclusion that Earlene could be used in law enforcement as a crime deterrent.]

“Sit up but, like, go slowly. You need to, like, wake up before you drive home.”

Wake up? Did she say, “wake up?”

Oh, I was awake all right. I was so awake I bit a hole in my lip and was about to call an attorney.

Years later, I flirted with the idea of massage again. Time has a sneaky way of making you forget mental torture. I told myself there would never be another Halfrida or Earlene. With that assumption, I made my appointment.

In walked Rodge with an eager smile and a bouncy gait. No men, I had said emphatically. This instantly evoked a host of neuroses I didn’t even know I had.

It was too late. I was naked under a sheet and Rodge was ready.

“So, have you had a massage before?”

“No.”

[I had a plan.]

“Do you live nearby?”

“No.”

“So…do you have kids?”

“No.”

“What kind of massage do you want? Do you like deep tissue?”

“No.” (Halfrida flashback comes forth with a vengeance.)

“A lighter touch?”

“No.”

“Are you warm enough?

“No.”

“Do you want me to turn up the heat?”

“No.”

Silence.

I drift.

Soft music.

I float.

My plan is a success!

No is the ticket!

I’m hearing the wind chimes.

I’m feeling the gentle breeze.

The record scratches.

“So…did you go to Comic Con this year?”

“No.”

“Oh, you missed a good one.”

[I can only imagine the thrill of grown men in Vulcan costumes]

“Mmm.”

“I go in character every year. There’s no other way to do it.”

[Yes, there is. You could stay home with people who are not insane.]

“Ya, last year I was a Cling-on. The year before I was Rebi, a former Borg drone. Then I was Worf another year.”

[Perhaps I’ll go next year as the homicidal massage therapy patient.]

“Okay…so I like to think of massage as a vehicle that will transport you out of your body.”

[I’d like to think of it that way, too. First you would need to shut your pie-hole.]

“So let’s count backwards. Ten, nine, eight…”

[This man does not know where Captain Kirk ends and he begins.]

“Now picture yourself blasting off. Seven, six, five, four…”

I spent the entire massage wanting to blast off out the door.


Three massages, three strikes. I bought myself one of those home massage chairs.

Best part about it: it doesn’t beat me into a pizza and it shuts the hell up.