Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Green Eggs and Ham in a Thanksgiving Traffic Jam

I am man.

“Man-I-Am, Man-I-Am, hear me say that Man-I-Am.”

Do you like this traffic jam?

“I do not like them,” said Man-I-Am, “I do not like this traffic jam.”

Why can’t you get from here to there?

“I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere. I do not like this traffic jam, I do not like them Man-I-Am.”

I am sitting beside you my darling spouse, so do not act like such a louse.

“I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE! I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere. I do not like this traffic jam; I do not like them, Man-I-Am.”

Can you make a turn down any blocks? And this traffic jam outfox?

“There are no blocks, this jam I cannot outfox; my dearest spouse, I AM NOT A ******* LOUSE. I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere. I do not like this traffic jam, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

Would you, could you, calm your nerves? Or the children will repeat those words.

“I would not, could not calm my nerves!”

And did you have to flip that car the bird! You must stay calm and you will see, an exit sign to Fort Lee.

“I would not, could not, see Fort Lee, not in this mess, so let me be! I cannot turn down any blocks, this traffic jam I cannot outfox; I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE! I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere; I do not like these traffic jams, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

A ramp, a ramp, please find a ramp; because my stomach has begun to cramp.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, before we left I told you to go! I cannot turn down any blocks, this traffic jam I cannot outfox; I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE; I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere; I do not like these traffic jams, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

Say, will we arrive in time for dinner? Would you, could you before dinner?

“I would not, could not promise to arrive in time for dinner.”

Would you, could you before dessert?

“I would not, could not promise before dessert, so your mother you should alert! And oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no, before we left I told you to go. I do not like them, don’t you see, these traffic jams are not for me. I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE, my dearest spouse; I cannot get from here to there; I cannot get to anywhere!”

Would you, could you get a GPS?

“A GPS will not get us out of this mess!”

Would you, could you next year leave on time?

“I would not, could not leave on time, to miss the football pre-game shows would be a crime; I will not get GPS, for it will not get us out of this mess; I will not get there for dessert, so my mother-in-law you should alert; oh, no, oh no, oh no, oh no, I told you before we left to go;
I cannot turn down any blocks, this traffic jam I cannot outfox; I do not like them my dearest spouse, and I AM NOT ACTING LIKE A LOUSE! I cannot get from here to there, I cannot get to anywhere; I do not like these traffic jams, I do not like them Man-I-Am!”

You do not like them so you say, and now you’ve ruined Thanksgiving Day!

 “Please, can you just let me be; all I want is football on T.V. Say, the traffic jam seems to be thinning, I’ll get to see if the Giants are winning!”

And that’s what this day is all about for sure, getting Man-I-Am to Thanksgiving dinner in time to see the Giants score.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sesame Street Class of ‘69

I was four when “Sesame Street” debuted in November of 1969. My father was immediately suspicious about the show. The idea of a public-supported, government-subsidized television station encouraging the children of America to sit in front of the T.V. at the same time every day, and be fed repetitive information by smiling fluffy-haired “muppets” amounted to nothing less than “Commie brainwashing,” to coin his phrase.  My old man firmly believed that there were hidden messag­es contained in the constant repetition of the alphabet, and that Big Bird was a metaphor for Maoism (all that happy yellow marching around the screen).
There was also “Sesame Street’s” initials, SS, the meaning of which was not lost on him, especially since his brother fought the SS during WWII. So, he forbade me to watch “Sesame Street” because no child of a decorated WWII veteran would be innocuously indoctrinated by Commies in his house!  Let’s forget that the show’s lessons were taught from the stoop of a New York City brownstone on a street peopled with residents who spoke fractured English. His feelings about that still hover like a storm cloud above our white-shingled house on Fifth Street.
All his protestations made me want to watch “Sesame Street” more, but I understood how he felt. I was just as suspicious about my impending attendance of Kindergarten. Taught by my old man to think like a WWII infantry soldier, I knew the Germans invented Kindergarten, and who was better at mind manipulation than them? Most importantly, how could I go from mixing cocktails for WWI veterans at the VFW and the neighborhood bars (that my mother made me go to with my father so he wouldn’t “get lost”) to mixing paints in a classroom?
“Sesame Street” seemed harmless enough to me. It was so different from every other kid’s show on television. I watched it whenever I could; sitting close to the television set, poised to change the channel should my old man walk in on me. You see, my father was a mailman in town, often coming home for a coffee break in the middle of the morning. Whenever I heard the stressed screech of the screen door, I would immediately grab the television’s cold silver knob and turn the channel as far as my little wrist could rotate. Somehow, I always landed on the “Jack LaLanne Show” and thought, “What’s worse for my brain development? Watching fluffy-haired muppets recite the alphabet, or watching a post-middle-aged man wearing a uni-tard and ballet slippers bend and crouch before my eyes in black-and-white close-ups?”
One day while surreptitiously watching “Sesame Street,” I was so absorbed in a segment where a bearded long-haired man wearing a beige “peeping-Tom-like” trench coat walked uninvited into an office and painted a number on the glass door, that I didn’t hear my father walk in. Without warning, I heard, “What the hell are you watching? I told your mother I didn’t want you watching this commie crap. Look at that hop-head with the paint can! He’s probably on welfare!”
I didn’t blame my old man for being upset. 1969 was a tough year for him and his generation of John Wayne’s. They had to deal with Vietnam War protests; draft dodgers; and racial unrest. For goodness sakes, he was still freaked-out from inadvertently driving through Woodstock the day after the festival and wading his Ford Falcon through the hippie generation as it made its barefoot, muddy retreat back to civilization. So, he controlled what he could. And “Sesame Street” was something he thought he could control, at least in his own house.
I wanted to obey my father, but the whole world was giving in to the changes that were taking place, and, refusing to be left behind, I succumbed to the new world order.  In defiance, I continued to watch “Sesame Street.” I learned Spanish words, and for the first time I was introduced to African-American children, Hispanic children, and Asian children who were just like me. And I felt connected to them all. They were just like me except my street looked just a little different from theirs.  

Thursday, November 12, 2009

If You Give a Mom a Cosmo

You know what happens “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” but what happens “If You Give a Mom a Cosmo?”

If you give a mom a Cosmo, she’ll want a cigarette;

Chances are when she finds a cigarette stashed away in the back of the junk drawer beneath a pile of torn recipes and Chinese soy sauce packets, it will be stale and deformed;

But her day sucked so badly that she’ll want to smoke it anyway;

And if she smokes it, she’ll have to go outside so her children don’t see her, and tell their teachers that their mother is a drug addict since schools now brilliantly teach that alcohol and cigarettes are considered drugs;

And she won’t want her neighbors to see her smoking while drinking a Cosmo especially since she’s braless, barefoot, and uncertain when she last found time to shower;

So, she’ll probably take her Cosmo and her bent butt and go to party behind an overgrown bush;

And if she drinks her Cosmo and smokes her crooked cigarette behind a bush, chances are she’ll eventually have to pee;

And since she’s left it to her husband to put the kids to bed she won’t want to go inside and get sucked into his drama;

So, she’ll simultaneously fertilize that bush, toss the twisted nub of the cigarette into her neighbor’s yard, and continue to drink her Cosmo because she is the consummate multi-tasker;

And while fertilizing that overgrown bush, she’ll start to think about her landscaping and decide that next summer she’s going to hire some Guatemalan day-laborers to plant her a vegetable garden;

Thinking about planting a vegetable garden will make her hungry, so she’ll take her Cosmo to the car and dine on a tapas of orphaned cheerios and motherless gummies crusted like infected scabs on the floor and car seats;

After she’s done crumb-diving in the backseat of her mini-van, she’ll find that tube of Revlon Cha Cha Cherry lipstick that she lost in 2003 wedged beneath the driver’s seat. Having survived six mid-Atlantic seasons of melting, freezing; melting, freezing; melting, freezing; melting, freezing; melting, freezing; melting freezing it now resembles the shriveled little finger of a very old arthritic man, providing for her the perfect metaphor for her life; 

But she’ll decide to color her lips with it anyway. And once she colors her lips, she’ll have to look in the rearview mirror to inspect herself;

Believing that her dim-lit reflection resembles Super Mario will remind her that she hasn’t waxed since Memorial Day;

Sneaking inside and reaching into the back of the linen closet she’ll find a mummified bottle of Nair that hasn’t been used since before she got pregnant with her last child, and she’ll lather it all over her body;

And while she’s waiting for the odiferous depilatory to work its magic, she’ll finish her Cosmo and turn on the shower;

As she waits for the water to warm, she’ll feel a burning sensation and realize that along with her unwanted hair, the Nair is also removing 3 layers of her epidermis;

She’ll hop into the shower and use the sacred scented LancĂ´me body wash she bought six years ago when she had both a life and disposable income, and use it to diffuse the stench of eau de Nair that fogs the air;

After her shower she’ll wrap herself in a towel and, feeling sleepy, will decide to lie down on the bed;

Exhausted, she’ll probably drift off just as her husband comes into the bedroom;

Seeing her lying on the bed wearing just a towel, he’ll think this is his reward for giving her a break by putting the kids to bed for the first time since June 2006;

She’ll think she might as well check him off her mental list of things to do, freeing up her nights and weekends for the rest of the month…

Crawling in the dark searching for where he threw her towel, she’ll feel like a cigarette;

And chances are, if she has a cigarette, she’ll want a Cosmo to go with it...    

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


The other day when I was shopping for wine I came across a crate that advertised “The Best Argentinean Wine You’ll Ever Taste.” I love wine, but I’m particularly fond of Argentinean wine. Bold, red, and audacious—not so much the wine, but my behavior whenever I drink it.

That crate of wine reminded me of a conversation I had with a young girl many years ago, long before I had children of my own. I was at a cocktail party hosted by a dear friend, and after quite a few large goblets of Argentinean wine, found myself conversing with the host’s niece who was about eight-years old and visiting from Israel. I’ll call her Rebecca. I found her fascinating—her father was a scholar on the Torah and her mother was a sexual psychologist. Rebecca was fluent in four languages, and had the most interesting and appealing accent.

Feeling the narcotic effects of the wine, I unexpectedly discovered myself seated beside Rebecca on the oversized Pottery Barn sofa in the far corner of this cavernous pre-war Upper West Side apartment. She told me all about her life as a young expatriate living in Israel; the culture, the people, the food, and the beauty of the land.

          This little girl also told me that her mother was different from all the other mommies because she was very open about talking to her about sex. At 28, I was still waiting for my mother to talk to me about sex, so I sidled up to this little girl thinking she might impart some of her wisdom upon me. As I poured myself another glass of wine she said, “You know, my mommy has a vulva.”

I replied, “Yes, I have one too.”

Rebecca: “Do you like it?”

Me: “I’m fond of it.”

Rebecca: “Have you had any accidents with it?”

Me: “Some close calls, but no, no accidents, thanks be to God!”

Rebecca: “God is good.”

Me: “Yes, he certainly is.”

Rebecca: “And all knowing.”

Me: “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Rebecca: “Did you order any add-ons for your vulva?”

Me: (Looking around at the lesbian couples.) “No, I married my add-on.”

Rebecca: (confused) “Oh.”

Me: “I’m not a…I mean…I married a man…never mind.”

Rebecca: “Mommy said that dummies rode in her vulva.”

Me: “Yes, we’ve all suffered through a few dummies in our vulva.”

Rebecca: “But it’s good they lived.”

Me: “Well…that’s mommy’s opinion. I’m not as passionate about the dummies who rode in mine.”

Rebecca: “Mommy’s vulva is great on mileage. Is yours?”

Me: (taking long gulp of wine) “Honey, I’m Catholic—I’ll never know.”

Rebecca: “Is there such a thing as a Catholic vulva?”

Me: (another swig of wine) “It’s one of our most sacred mysteries.”

Rebecca: “Do you lease or own your vulva?”

Me: “Neither; I’m Catholic—my husband holds the title to it.”

Rebecca: “Oh. Do you have an automatic or a manual?”

Me: “Again, Catholic. We’re not allowed.”

Rebecca: “My mommy’s mechanic takes good care of her vulva. After Daddy dented it she said Judah is the only man she’ll ever let touch it.”

Me: “The mechanic? Really? Most women I know prefer the UPS man.”

Rebecca: “What does a UPS man know about taking care of a vulva?”

Me: (Lifting my glass of wine up as if giving a toast) “Exactly!”

Rebecca: “Mommy never let any animals in her vulva.”

Me: “I wish I was as smart as your Mommy.”

Rebecca: “Are you drunk?”

Me: “I certainly hope so.”

Rebecca: “You shouldn’t use your vulva when you’re drunk.”

Me: “Lessons my mother never taught me.”

Rebecca: “Really, never use your vulva when you’re drunk. You’ll regret it.”

Me: “Ah, you’ll never know the regrets I have…”

Rebecca: “Are we talking about the same thing?”

Me: Silence.

Rebecca: “I’m talking about a Vol-Voh. You know, the car.”

Me: (Big gulp of wine with a trunk-full of embarrassment.)
And here’s the lesson: When an eight-year old Israeli girl has to phonetically get your mind out of the confessional gutter, it’s either time to call a cab, become a Presbyterian, or hit a bar and order a Presbyterian.