Wednesday, December 30, 2009


As we come to the close of my first full year as writer of the (now) infamous “Mom to Mom” column I would like to present awards to those people who inspired me during the course of this fantastic year.  Unfortunately, Joan Rivers could not be here to host the fashion segment, so for the benefit of our home readers, tonight I’m wearing Target -- a sequined robe (and by “sequined” I mean that my kids’ art-project glitter got all over it; and by “robe” I mean my husband’s XXL thermal-zipper sweat shirt lifted from the 75% off rack.)  Now, let me just belly up to the podium (bar), grab the microphone (bourbon) and begin the ceremony. So without any further adieu (cue music) I present the first annual Bewzie awards.
          The first Bewzie goes to: the Mexican in my trunk. (Applause.) Unfortunately the Mexican couldn’t be here to accept this award in person tonight because he has taken out a restraining order against me and I can’t be within 500 feet of him. Who knew he was documented after all? Congratulations Juan!
          The second Bewzie goes to: the maid-of-honor who, while liquored out of her skull, had the nerve to call me a whore while I was stone sober leaving me utterly defenseless! (Applause.) It’s the first Floozy Bewzie. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be here to accept her Bewzie because…who cares?
          The third Bewzie award goes to:  “Kenneth” from a branch of my bank who had “Security” detain me for theft simply because I produced my husband’s ATM card as I.D.  Although a step up from Guantanamo Bay, this detention did cause me to miss most of the wedding I was attending and resulted in a pull in my CVS pantyhose. If I had known that I would be called a whore by the maid-of-honor upon my return to said wedding, I would have not resisted arrest.  (P.S. Although reluctant to mention the name of the bank, I will say that a significant amount of their green pens ended up as stocking stuffers for just about everyone on my Christmas list.)
          The fourth Bewzie goes to: my beloved dog Burkey, who has soldiered through insufferable amounts of playdates, homemade haircuts, and (I’m not kidding) a nasty skin rash due to stress that cost my husband in excess of $300 in vet expenses. (To which he replied, “I’ve been scratching my ass for 18 years and you could care less; the dog scratches hers for a week and you call specialists in to examine her.” My response, “When you lick between my toes, and fetch my paper, perhaps I’ll treat you with such care.”)
          The fifth Bewzie goes to: whoever at The Bergen News buries my column behind the automotive section almost every week allowing my column to suck on the exhaust from all those used tailpipes.
          The sixth Bewzie goes to: my mother, who despite all of her hairy-eyeball-warnings, has yet to disinherit me because I have begun to dig into the family archives of memories.
          The seventh Bewzie goes to: Shop Rite Liquors who continues to carry the best bottom-shelf bourbon around! (Read: brown-bag affordable!)
          The eighth Bewzie goes to: the little Asian kid who was using his pumpkin carving knives as nunchunks and hasn’t hunted me down in the school playground for retribution, preschool style.
          The ninth Bewzie goes to: my son, Jack, who still insists that we are an African-American family despite the fact that his father burns, peels, and scabs whenever he walks out into the sun.
          The tenth Bewzie goes to: my husband, Jim, who has been such a great sport about letting me write about him in my column and, thankfully, is too poor to file for divorce.
          Well, that wraps up this year’s Bewzie’s!  (Applause) Congratulations to all our winners and thanks to everyone who continues to read my column each week! It’s been an absolute blast, and I look forward to a great 2010. Thanks to all the many, many people who continue to send me emails and share their life and their memories with me every week.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve been to more grade school “Holiday” concerts than I care to own up to. I was thoroughly distracted from the performances by the fact that I was huddled with the tired masses at a bacterial happy hour (with a multitude of viral chasers). All around me the air echoed with the seasonal sounds: hacking coughs, sneezing noses, and the occasional sonorous sinus moan I like to call the “Elongated OOOOOH.”  Dusting off my college statistics, I mentally calculated the probability of being tagged by contagions. I mean, when you’re seated among 200 people there has to be at least one person secretly secreting fluids and hiding a raging fever so as not to miss little Johnny shake his jingle bells behind the tall girl with the big hair in the third row.  However, it wasn’t until last week that I focused on the music and realized that every concert celebrated Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but Christmas was summarily dismissed.
          I cerebrally indexed the dreidel songs and Kwanzaa dances. Rudolf was given his own audience-participation sing-a-long; but poor Jesus--there was no room in the auditorium for him.  To add insult to injury, I made the secular-sacrilegious mistake of congratulating one principal on the school’s beautiful Christmas tree, only to be told in hushed conspiratorial tones, “It’s a musical tree—we’re not allowed to refer to it as a “Christmas tree” so as not to offend anybody.” Well, what about me? I’m offended.
          Look, even though I was born Catholic, when it comes to any celebration I wholeheartedly welcome Mohammad, Buddha, and even Abraham, despite the fact that it always bothered me that he fathered his first born son with his wife Sarah’s maid. (No doubt, Abraham’s story was the first recorded soap opera, but I digress.)The bottom line is this: all these men came into the world bearing messages of peace, and isn’t that what this season is really about? It became my mission to determine where on Earth, or at least New Jersey, Jesus would be welcomed.
          I received a beautifully engraved invitation from my two lesbian friends inviting me to a Christmas carol sing-a-long they were hosting at their freshly-painted condo. “Wow!”  I thought, “Jesus will love this!”  Sadly, he was forbidden by Pope Benedict to attend an event hosted by an unsanctioned union. I’m sure the Pope would have invited Jesus to Rome, but unfortunately he was going on a skiing trip with some Cardinals to the Swiss Alps and wouldn’t be home.
          Okay, if we can’t go caroling with the lesbians, where can I bring Jesus to Christmas? Then I had an epiphany (sort of). Surely we’d find Christmas at the mall! Well, I was wrong—there were designer labels and knock-off labels, but no Christmas labels. It didn’t matter though; Macy’s denied Jesus credit. However, the buyer for Bergdorf’s thought his sandals would be a fabulous metro-sexual addition to next season’s men’s cruise-wear collection.
          Wait!  “I’ll take him to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center!” Where better to find the spirit of Christmas than in the heart of New York City in mid-December? However, I feared he’d be mistaken for a terrorist by one of those militant Christian Midwesterners who invade the Big Apple around this time every year. I didn’t want to be the one responsible for Jesus spending his birthday at Guantanamo Bay.
          Then I thought, “I’ll take him to the rectory to break bread with the priests.” Alas, we were turned away by a sign on the door that read, “Closed for lunch. Come back at 2.” Jesus queried, “What happens if someone has the misfortune to need Last Rites administered during lunch?”  I replied, “God only knows.” Jesus said, “Unfortunately I don’t.”
          So even if you can’t bring Jesus to the office party, bring his message of peace into the world; perform random acts of kindness; be bold and don’t be afraid to wish the world a Merry Christmas. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Mother's 12 Day's of Christmas

Inspired by actual events, I give you another year of
A Mother’s 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my children gave to me, a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the second day of Christmas my children gave to me, 2 overflowing toilets (I don’t know how our socks got in both toilets!), and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the third day of Christmas my children gave to me, 3 near concussions (let’s ride the skateboard inside!); 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the fourth day of Christmas my children gave to me 4 “Jack shot my eye out!” (Jack! Give me that goddamned Nerf Blaster before I beat you with it!); 3 near concussions (whoa!); 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the fifth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 5 shots of bourbon! (do any of you kids have parents? It’s 6:30 for god sakes!); 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the sixth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 6 bald spots on the dog (daddy’s electric razor was just sitting there, so we…); 5 shots of bourbon! (Mama needs more Makers Mark!); 4 “Jack shot my eye out”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the seventh day of Christmas (Only day seven????) my children gave to me, 7 stains on my new Target rug; 6 bald spots on the dog, 5 shots of bourbon!; 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets (unsuction the plunger from your sister’s forehead and GIVE IT TO ME!); and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.

On the (What the hell day is it?) eighth day of Christmas my children gave to me 8 naked bodies (Everybody--swim party in the bathroom!); 7 stains on my new Target Rug; 6 bald spots on the dog; 5 shots of bourbon!; 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions (honey, are you sure you weren’t born with that lump on your head?); 2overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of  their closest friends.

On the ninth day of Christmas my children gave to me 9 children crying (he hit me; she won’t talk to me; the dog scares me; this house scares me!); 8 naked bodies; 7 stains on my new Target Rug; 6 bald spots on the dog; 5 shots of bourbon!; 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends!

On the tenth day of Christmas my children gave to me, 10 fantasies about being childless; 9 children crying; 8 naked bodies; 7 stains on my new Target rug; 6 bald spots on the dog; 5 shots of bourbon! (Of all the towns in Bergen County I have to buy a house in a dry town???); 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends.    

On the eleventh day of Christmas my children gave to me 11 creditors calling (“Look, I covered Goldman’s debt, I think it only right they cover mine!”); 10 fantasies about being childless; 9 children crying; 8 naked bodies; 7 stains on my new Target rug; 6 bald spots on the dog; 5 shots of bourbon!; 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets; and a playdate with 10 of their closest friends. 
On the twelfth day of Christmas my children gave to me, a list of 12 baked-goods they volunteered me to bake for their classroom parties--tomorrow; 11 creditors calling (“No habla Englese”); 10 fantasies about being childless; 9 children crying; 8 naked bodies; 7 stains on my new Target rug; 6 bald spots on the dog; 5 shots of bourbon!; 4 “Jack shot my eye out!”; 3 near concussions; 2 overflowing toilets; and A PLAYDATE WITH 10 OF THEIR CLOSEST FRIENDS!    

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sinatra in Fort Lee--Part 2

Can you believe that I was expected to go to Kindergarten and give up the life I was making for myself? Who would mix drinks for the morning card players at the V.F.W.? Who would read the racing forms to the near-sighted World War I veterans? Who would advise Bunty what horse to bet on in the afternoon races? Who would feed coins into the payphone and dial the bookies to place the bets? Besides, when the horses hit, the boys filled my palm with closed-fist tributes—on a good afternoon I bet I had more money in my pocket than some of the men! Anyway, what did I need with school? I knew how to spell my name, and thanks to the horses I knew how to figure odds. And I’m sure no kid had a connection to Frank Sinatra, tenuous and twice removed though mine be!
 The only person who could get me out of this scrape with the German-engineered educational system was Uncle Joey. He was the one in the family who had the connections. I wanted to talk him into getting me one of those jobs that involved no work, but paid really well at one of the many construction sites in Fort Lee back then. I was five—old enough to have seen enough deals made and promises extracted by suit-wearing men on barstools and in back rooms to know how to get what I wanted. 
Uncle Joey knew the art of those deals—maybe he could ask Dolly to get Frank to intervene with my parents for me. I was sure of one thing: my mother could never refuse a request from Frank Sinatra. It was a really solid plan except for one thing. I had nothing of value to exchange for a favor so big, and in my fractured world where currency was not only measured in dollars, but in services performed -- when you had nothing to exchange you got nothing in return.
So, reluctantly, and with little illegal recourse, I readied myself for Kindergarten knowing that my happy days as a free-spirited waif were coming to an abrupt end. Grandma even took me to buy my first pair of school shoes at Schweitzer’s Department Store that sat directly across from Mr. Feiler’s Atlas Five and Dime on the southeast corner of Main Street. It was with a certain amount of sadness that I watched as Grandma exchanged her money for my new red tee-strap Buster Brown shoes with black rubber soles so thick I could have hauled used cars on them. It was then I knew that my life of adventure was dissolving and I hid behind the sale rack to conceal the bitter tears of my discontent. I was broken-hearted thinking about all the fun, adventures, and stories I’d be missing out on while forced to sit imprisoned in a classroom with 25 runny-nosed novices who knew nothing about life in the underbelly.
Once I had those red shoes in hand, I knew with great certainty that there was no way I was getting out of Kindergarten, so I looked at my situation the way most of the people who populated my first five years would look at it -- starting school meant that I was looking at a minimum12-year sentence with no chance of parole -- I should just take it on the chin like a man. I just hoped that I could stomach turning legit. I didn’t know it then, but I had nothing to worry about because the nuns took great pleasure in beating the legitimacy into me making me wish I was born a Jew.
However, those beatings made me realize one important thing-- most of the members of the mob were devout Catholics schooled by these very same nuns who, upon reflection, probably taught them everything they knew about throwing a good beating making these habit-wearing sisters perhaps the most menacing mob of all. After all, next to an outraged Italian mother, or an unpaid bookie, nobody could throw you a better beating than a pissed off nun.  Even Frank knew that!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sinatra in Fort Lee--Part 1

Growing up in Fort Lee in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, I was weaned on stories about the mob, and stories about Frank Sinatra.  It’s no secret that the mob had a powerful presence in Fort Lee (Anastasia, Adonis…) because of, not despite of, the fact that it was a really small town. However, not just any small town; a town filled with many exits--the George Washington Bridge, New Jersey Turnpike, Route 80, Palisades Interstate Parkway, and Route 46. No doubt about it-- Fort Lee was a great place to make a quick get-away from, which is why (I believe) many notable mobsters chose to live there.
Then there was Frank Sinatra who bought a house for his mother, Dolly, on Abbott Boulevard in Fort Lee. My Uncle Joey, who had been a professional baseball player, was often invited to Dolly Sinatra’s elaborate parties.  I used to eavesdrop on his stories about the eclectic group of people Dolly regularly gathered together; I particularly enjoyed hearing about the men who made a profession out of having no profession. Now, I’m not suggesting that Dolly Sinatra was “connected” but those who were connected wanted to connect with her in order to connect with her son, and that gave me access to their world vis-à-vis my Uncle Joey.
          In fact, Uncle Joey, along with a lot of the local guys and made men, used to drink with Frank’s father, Marty, down at Frank’s Cozy Bar -- a neighborhood hang-out that discreetly sat on Palisade Avenue in Fort Lee just at the edge of “The Palisades,” which was, and still is, the swankiest section of town.  As bars went, I was never fond of Frank’s, although Gloria his barmaid was aces with me; kids annoyed Frank and that annoyed me. Anyway, I was more of a Krieger’s or Yellow Front Saloon girl.
Like I said, Uncle Joey was invited to many parties at the Sinatra’s house and I loved listening to him as he unearthed the details to Grandma while sitting at her kitchen table with the plastic floral tablecloth. He spoke of mod, starch-haired women with brightly painted turquoise eyes thickly outlined in black liner wearing sequined mini-dresses who would pile their furs onto Dolly’s King-sized bed making the bedroom look like a pile of fresh road kill, albeit, very expensive road kill;  thick-necked, scar-faced men dressed in coffin-lined silk suits doused in expensive cologne who drank nothing but single-malt Scotch in cut-crystal bourbon glasses; the ladies’ mammoth diamond rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings sparkling like a swarm of neurotic fireflies, their brilliant flames flickering  and leaping onto and off of the gleaming porcelain bodies of the Catholic saints that filled the empty spaces of  Dolly’s ornate living room. These characters that peopled Uncle Joey’s stories became for me the Prince Charming’s and Cinderella’s that other girls dreamed of.
As I inconspicuously listened to Uncle Joey’s Johnny Walker Black-tobacco-chaffed voice tell these tales, I would close my eyes and pretend that it was me elegantly glittering in my sequined dress sipping Asti-Spumante from a delicately carved crystal champagne flute laughing as Dolly Sinatra whispered closely held secrets about Frank into my ear. 
At the age of four-years old I knew I was living an exciting life. I mean, what other kid my age heard men tell stories that the mob allegedly favored the southern perimeter of Palisades Amusement Park because the screams from the Cyclone roller coaster drowned out the sound of people getting whacked?  What other pre-kindergartner knew from an original source, who drank Crown Royal with Ava Gardner while Frank performed at the swank Riviera nightclub in Fort Lee, that Ava was a first-class come si chiama who was prejudiced against Italians? What other pre-kindergartner poured whiskey sours for retired World War I veterans while standing on a red plastic milk crate behind the bar at the V.F.W.???
But my exciting life was coming to a swift end. The state sentenced me to Kindergarten and I was expected to turn legit. Can you believe that? How could I possibly go from mixing cocktails to mixing paints?
(To Be Continued)