Square Peg; Oval Office

I listened to President’s Obama’s speech.  I did not listen to the pundits.  But let me make some educated guesses:

If you are a GOP candidate or in the GOP leadership, you thought (i) he was short on specifics for economic recovery, (ii) he should have come out in favor of tax cuts, and (iii) he failed to vindicate the success of the surge in Iraq for enabling him to fulfill a campaign promise of ending the combat mission in 18 months.

If you are Keith Olbermann (and sometimes Frank Rich), you wonder why he didn’t renounce war all together, and how he could possibly mention George W. Bush and patriotism in the same sentence.

If you are Maureen Dowd, you wonder what happened to his passion and why, even though we elected Mr. Spock, he didn’t somehow morph into Dr. Spock.

If you are Chris Matthews, you are joking about how his eyes fluttered from time to time because you really can’t cope with your rock star hero’s having to represent the establishment he ran against.

I will go out on a limb here and have an opinion:  I liked his speech.  I thought he spoke movingly of the sacrifices of our troops.  He heard our fears about our economy and tried to be reassuring — as reassuring as one can be in the twenty minutes of prime time allotted.  He danced around the backlash against Muslims and building of mosques and community centers.  That was disappointing, but “politic”.

So, if you are the opposition, you hated it.  If you are among the democrats who wanted public health care and war crimes tribunals for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (I don’t disagree) you are frustrated to the point of distraction.  If you just want the President to do his job and you appreciate even a little what an impossible job it is, you thought he did fine and just want him to keep trying.

So, how did I do?  If I hit 75% accuracy, I will have saved two hours of my life by not watching talking heads or reading pout-y Op-Eds.  How liberating.

Working it

My dad used to say in response to someone asking whether he was doing something special “over Labor Day” he would respond, “everyday is LABOR day“.

As I get older, I feel his pain ever more acutely.  I did relax a little during my week away at the beach, but time with family is a “trip” and not a vacation, as those of you with kids understand.  When my blackberry accidentally drowned (accidentally, I SWEAR), I really got to relax.

Unfortunately, my blackberry dried out by Saturday.  I thought that the horror (and the happiness) of drowning (did I mention it was an accidental?) a blackberry is that it never comes back to life.  But the new improved blackberry must be the computer equivalent of a cockroach.  Humans will be eviscerated by nuclear holocaust, but our blackberries will live on, buzzing with pointless meeting and birthday reminders. Maybe the cockroaches will sprout thumbs and use them.  Darwinism gone horribly wrong.  Yet, there is something poetic about this.  A little crazy and unhinged, but poetic nevertheless.

Just you wait, it will be on Syfy and a runaway hit.  Soon, it will be cool to be kind to cockroaches.  They will become a protected species.  Now, THAT is crazy.

Wait.  Labor Day.  That’s where I was before my mind took a dangerous turn.  Doing anything day in and day out for decades just has to burden one’s soul and dim one’s sense of wonder.  But you all know that.  So, why pick that scab again.

But my new Syfy thriller idea — now that could be entertaining.  Thoughts?

What would you do?

A man with a battery operated, variable speed, hand drill (no bit in, though) is walking down the street holding it in his hand as one would hold a gun (ok, how else would one hold a hand drill?).  Do you suppose that even though it is Sunday he is doing home improvements?  Or do you think that he is so criminally insane that no one (even the bad guys) would sell him a gun, so he is relegated to using a drill for his nefarious ways?  Remember, it is New York City.

I AM crazy.

Summer is for kids

Memorial Day Weekend makes me giddy with expectation of a long summer of fun.  Labor Day Weekend fills me with a mournfulness about the summer-that-wasn’t, the kind of mournfulness that is rightly reserved for more weighty matters.

So this past week I was an interloper in my son’s summer.  We spent days in the pool or at the beach or on play dates.  Except he was the one who wanted to stay in the pool, dive into the waves, and had friends out at the beach.  I wanted to nap.  POB (partner of blogger) and I were relegated to the roles of adults and rule-enforcers.

We did have fun as a family and we giggled a lot.  And POB sent me off to the gym and for runs so that she didn’t have TWO kids to keep in line.  But those are not summer activities, as I remember summer.  We didn’t hop on anyone’s bike and ride on untrafficked roads to an old musty bookstore and then eat ice cream on the lawn of the town church or library.  We didn’t play tennis and then go to the lake for an instructional swim or make peach-pit rings in the art studio.  Those were the days of my childhood summers.

Even if my son were amenable to recreating those days, I can’t quite imagine how one navigates the busy roads and fast cars that are everywhere in sea-side communities.  Maybe I am looking for a time that is just lost.  And maybe, like some things, those memories are sweeter in the rear view mirror.

My son had his own magical summer doing his activities.  I am grateful and happy that he did.  He looks and acts older.  He is tanned (even though he was slathered in sun block many times a day) and looks rested and ready for school.

Me, I have a sunburn.

Blogcation Year 2 Epilogue

We spent the morning by the pool and planned to have a leisurely lunch and be on our way home via East Hampton to visit the family of POB (partner of blogger).  So around noon, a van with bicycles on top drives up into the driveway.  Oh, I guess, the next renters are here.  (They are supposed to come after 4pm.)  Anyway, tall, gangly man, who looks like Steve Buscemi in the movie, “Fargo” (see http://www.funpub.net/poze/mare/steve_buscemi_1235391217.jpg), got out of the car and introduced himself in the deep voice, capable of cackles of ghoulish laughter, “My name is Mr. [Scary Guy from Hell]” and this is “Gizmo” (pointing to a little dog).  I am afraid she is high-strung and a little scary.”

Ok, a man who reminds me of a murderous movie character and Lurch (from the Addams Family) all in the same horrifying moment expects me to respond in a similarly mannered way.  I can only muster, “Hi!  We’ll be out of here shortly.”  Two women are with him, one looks like Uncle Fester and the other is hefty version of Morticia. I am freaked out about these people and ask POB whether she hid the knives.

It was hot and the women dark, long sleeves clothes.  Mr. Scary Guy from Hell was wearing tennis shoes, calf-high socks, a random long-sleeved shirt, with a bloody axe hanging from his neck (just teasing about the axe).

POB was upset that they came early.  I was upset not to have left sooner.  Perspective is everything.

In Memoriam — Yvette

Yvette died peacefully today at age 94. She was born in Paris, France in 1916.

I met Yvette many, many years ago, as a friend of my mom from their days at Revlon in the 1960s.  Rudy and Yvette were stalwart friends to my father and my mother when my mother was dying and then died.  They were a necessary part of every family celebration (except for Thanksgiving). 

Even though she had been in this country for over sixty years, she would still say things like, “let’s get together for — how you say? — lunch!”  As she was losing her beloved Rudy to renal failure, she would say, “this is le end, ne c’est pas?”  “Oui,” we would say, our hearts’ breaking.

Rudy was Jewish; Yvette, as she got older and more forgetful, gravitated to her religion of origin — Catholicism.  At the end of Rudy’s life, when he wanted them to be cremated and their ashes joined and thrown to sea where they met (see below), her response was, “pas catholique!”  I said, “Yvette, you’re Jewish!”  A family friend motioned me over and said that she had been taking Yvette to Christmas and Easter mass for years, because as her memory was fading she didn’t remember she had been Jewish.  I had been noticing she was making signs of the cross every now and again and more frequently over the years.

Their lives could fill adventure novels.  She was a nurse on the war front for France during WWII and then worked for the Resistance.  She was awarded two medals (or commendations) for valor.  Rudy’s family had fled their native Austria when the Nazi took hold and found their way to Palestine (pre-Israel).  They met on a boat taking Jewish Holocaust survivors to Palestine; she, the ship’s nurse, and he, the commander of the boat.  They fell in love.  These boats were being strafed by British bomber pilots because the international community didn’t want Jews to populate Palestine.  Yvette did what she did because her nature compelled her to help people in need.  She and her beloved Rudy were heroes in cowardly times.  Their wishes were that their ashes be mingled and cast out to sea where their love began so many years ago.

And she lived life with humor, perseverance and strength of character that kept her going 94 years. 

May her memory be for a blessing.

Blogcation Year 2, Day Whatever – Too Much Information

So, on vacation, one can lose track of days, especially when one has drowned one’s blackberry (accidentally).

Our G-d daughter and her life partner came over for a couple of days.  We gave them the downstairs bedroom (with two full baths – go figure) and POB (partner of blogger), our son and I took the two bedrooms upstairs (with one bathroom to share).

As is often the case on vacation, everyone’s toiletries bags are open and strewn around the bathroom.   I was downstairs with our G-d daughter and her partner talking, and POB and our son were upstairs so he could get ready for bed.

Our G-d daughter’s partner overhears our son’s question to POB, “Mommy, what are Tampax?”  She repeats the question to us.  I jump up and ask, “[POB], do you need help?” “Ye-e-es” she responds in a way that says I am too tired to deal with this.

So, I run upstairs, my mind blank about the “Tampax” issue.  I get to the bathroom and say (because my son is a bit of a bird nerd), “You know how birds make nests when they are ready to lay eggs?  Well, imagine that we have nests inside us.  If we don’t produce an egg, then the nest has to leave our body and we use Tampax and other products to avoid the messiness that ensues from the nest disintegrating.”

He’s 8 years old

Blogcation Year 2, Day 3 (or 4?) — The rain has gone

The sun came out today — first as a faint orb in the gray sky and then in all its sunburning glory.  Now, all of us summer people can go back to our pools and the beach and not swarm the already overwhelmed (and wildly expensive) sea-side towns.

One thing I did learn was that when booking a house, one has to parse every single word of the ad.  For example if it says, “ocean view”, that could mean that one bathroom in the house has a slight view of the water.  In our case, there is some water on the horizon out of our second floor bedroom.  If the add says, “water view”, it could mean the pool or your neighbor’s pool.  Or for those really wanting to stretch (and break) the bounds of truth in advertising, water view can mean this:

A view of the Montauk water tower.  Yes, we have a lovely view of the water tower from almost every window.  But no matter.  We are close enough to the beach and we have a pool and the sun — hooray, the sun — is out today.  But really, the water tower?

The other excitement of the day concerned our rental car.  I got this huge, gas guzzling Mercedes.  Why?  The rental place had no Volvos (the safest family car) and no Mercedes had ever been recalled (and the rental place didn’t have just a family sedan) but it had more Toyotas than you might think possible in such a small rental place in a small (geographically speaking) city like Manhattan.  Toyotas — cars with brakes that don’t work; accelerators that have minds of their own?  Are you kidding me?  Nope. nope, nope.  No hybrids available either.  The place did have Chryslers and GMs but until ones come are assembled by non-disgruntled workers, I will take the car with the track record and pay through the nose for it.

The problem with the mammoth Mercedes is that I can’t tell my car from the other mammoth Mercedes (plural) in any parking lot out here.  Also, the air in tires needed rebalancing and the low beam light was weak, so I had to get it fixed.  As I rolled into the mechanic’s place with my mammoth car and asked about a light change and a rebalance of the air of my tires, there were enough smirks to go around that I figured, “this is going to be expensive.”  I know, I know.  It’s a rental car.  But having a blown left low beam can be dangerous as can unbalanced air pressure in the tires (I read that this “safe” care has a roll-over risk — awesome).

I hang out and talk to the guys while they are fixing it.  It takes a lot of unscrewing parts to get to the headlights.  Maybe easier in the assembly line, but not so much when trying to change a light bulb in the left low beam.  They keep teasing me about the cost.  And I tell them it is a rental car, to boot.  They look at me as if I am on drugs. I say, “I am not asking you to fix my cruise control or stereo system!  These are matters of safety for my family and others!”  One guy says he is impressed that I am not freaking out and calling my boyfriend.  If he only knew. We continue talking about life, what matters, and what Montauk is like when the summer people aren’t here, etc.  He is married (I tell him I am, too, which I am in spirit if not in paper) and I could tell he is flirting with me.  But it was a sweet flirting, in the way that someone appreciates that you are passing the time while he is at work and not talking on the phone while you wait for a “service person” to handle your problem.  He shows me pictures of old Montauk and it was a perfectly lovely way to pass an hour (plus he only charged me for 30 minutes).  And he did a great job and now I know that I have taken all precautions to be a safe driver and that lets me sleep at night.  (And, I am going to present the receipt to the car rental place.)

Anyway, all is good and I am slowing disengaging from my Blackberry.

Long Island — Heaven on Earth? Or the Other Place?

My son has visited his grandmother’s graves.  They are on Long Island.  Sometimes, as parents do when they have no answers to children’s questions about love and loss, we say, “Nana and Grandma are watching from Heaven.”   About two or more years ago, I had to tell our son that a family friend — family, really — had died and — well, er, um — gone to Heaven.  “Does that mean he is buried on Long Island?” our son asked.  I responded that while some people believe that Long Island is Heaven on Earth, we in Manhattan think of it as a place to keep and honor the bodies of our dead loved ones, but that Heaven was not a place on Earth and surely not on Long Island.

Fast-forward to this week of vacation in rainy Montauk. Yes, on Long Island.  Heaven on Earth to some (not us, especially in the rain). Today is Day 3 on the road to Utopia.

For a retreat for the rich and even-richer, my experiences in the Hamptons and Montauk today were particularly democratic.  All of us thought we would be around a pool or at the beach.  But the weather is the great equalizer.  We stood cheek by jowl and vied for tickets at the local movie house or a table at the local pizzeria.  You may be a titan of industry when you are in NYC, but here, HERE, in the RAIN, don’t even THINK of trying to take THAT table in the greasy pizzeria.  I did offer a chair to a woman with a particularly large number of diamonds on her finger because the weight of them seemed to make her list to the left in a most unbecoming way.  Tragic deformities of wealth.  Good thing we are not at such risk; we will have good posture.

Julianne Moore was browsing the Montauk bookstore with her husband and daughter.  Of course, her children’s books were on display.  Since she was a lead in the movie, “The Kids Are All Right,” I wanted to kiss POB (partner of blogger) to show her that women of a certain age with children can still feel love and passion, even though she portrayed some of us as insipid, mousy individuals.  Ok, some relationships, gay or straight, are that way.  But, it would be great if a major motion picture about lesbians wasn’t a feel-good movie for straight people.  Am I ranting?  Ok, so I am ranting while staying on some people’s version of Heaven.  Is this the closest I will get to the Pearly Gates?  Oh, boy, am I in deep shit.

I also went to the gym in East Hampton, because the stress of staying in Heaven while it rains was getting to me.  A woman started to talk to me in the locker room.  Apparently, even in Heaven, I have “schmuck” written on my forehead and a magnet for random strangers.  She was telling me that she needed to work out, rather spontaneously, because she was upstairs at Citarella and some woman continually bumped into her in a rude manner and then blamed her.  Apparently, she thought I was staring at her bizarre work-out “costume” (ok, she was right).  I looked around for the Court of Judgment and listened for those trumpets, because since this is Long Island, and therefore, Heaven, there must be a divine court of justice.  Hmmm.  Must be on vacation until Labor Day.  Back just in time to render judgment on me for Rosh Ha-Shanah.  My timing is impeccable.

The other thing I realized is that Long Island cannot be Heaven because I recognized some business people who said they would see me in Hell, and given their business habits, I believed that they, at least, would be THERE.

Gosh, I would love a relaxing beach vacation.  Anyone know where I can find one?

Blogcation Year 2, Day 2 — The Shopping Expedition

We actually shopped on the first day out.  The King Kullen which is sooooo big (by NYC standards) that it could be its own Congressional voting district.  I have this image of someone being interviewed on CNN with the caption, “Representative [John Q. Public] [(D)/(R)] — King Kullen, NY”. But I digress, clearly.

POB (partner of blogger) determined that I should be in charge of stupid purchases, since she had the master list of all that we needed. How does one live up to that standard?  How many stupid purchases could there be in a supermarket.  Ok, let’s assume that I am not going to buy pet food for a non-existent pet.  Let’s assume that I am only looking for comestibles, as one would generally find in a supermarket.

Still, I was overwhelmed by the choices for stupid purchases:

Here is the cheesoid (the cheese equivalent of a factoid), complete with aerosol canister that is bad for the environment.

Then there is the life time supply of cheese balls (really? really), that contains no natural anything so it can survive any number of natural and unnatural disasters.

Then there is enough Reddi-Whip for dessert for the entire world.  (This is actually a red herring.  I have seen more in my sister’s fridge.)

In POB’s defense, I went in search of insane food stuffs (or quasi-food stuffs) to purchase.  Some were more gross than these, but I think the managers of the King Kullen thought I was taking pictures for the competition and I had to stop.

I was especially taken with the colors of frosting on the “home-made” cupcakes.  Those colors require lab scientists to intervene in the natural order and produce them.  So, I guess the quotes around “home made” are meant to tell us that these are home made only if you live in a lab.

So, what food stuff was my “stupid purchase”?  I am not telling.  All I know is that there is no expiration date on it.