Wednesday, June 30, 2010


“Dear God, the stripper’s here,” a perfectly clipped Yankee accent announced as I walked into the lusciously landscaped New England backyard. Anxious to get a look at her myself, I whipped my head around, only to see my shadow. “Good grief; they’re talking about me!”      
It was August of 1993 and I was invited by Kate to a “lawn party” at her parent’s Connecticut home. Having never been to a “lawn party” (or Connecticut) my curiosity was piqued. Was it like a bridal shower? Should I bring something for the lawn? Weed killer? Rose Spray? Perhaps something organic like fox urine to repel those pesky little chipmunks and groundhogs? I decided to cover my bases and brought a chilled bottle of Chardonnay and a plant. 
          Kate hailed from a family of Protestants who booked passage on the Mayflower (they really did!) and followed the social register like my family followed the New York Yankees. Ignoring the stripper remark, I followed the white-pebbled path to the cool plush carpet of green grass. Consciously, my toes death-gripped the thong of my platform flip-flops in an effort to avoid kicking-up too many pebbles. I suppressed the urge to yank on my shorts that were dangerously defying gravity with every step I took.
I never attended a party where the congregation made no noise. It was like someone pressed the “mute” button. You could hear my family’s dinner-table conversation three blocks away. As foreign as the silence was the fact that there was not one strand of frizz, everyone appeared cool, and without exception, every hand held a perfectly leveled martini glass.  
Kate introduced me to her parents, Thurston Howell the Third and Lovey, who greeted me like I was an exotic…dancer. With eyes cast critically down, Lovey informed me, “Dear, no need to bring your own wine. We have a fully stocked bar.” Apparently, people in this social sect do not bring “gifts” to parties—they send monogrammed thank you notes afterwards. In my family, you bring a little something and leave with a lot of generic foil balls.
I left the Chardonnay to sweat on the butcher-block countertop, dumped the plant on the table, and made my way outside to the bar. I asked for a beer. Amused, the bartender stepped aside exposing the shelves of liquor. There were so many 750ml bottles of Beefeater Gin that it looked like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Apparently, only Beefeater martinis were being served. I suppose the label’s Beefeater Yeoman was reminiscent of the motherland from whose shores their ancestors sailed. Also, except for triangular cucumber and butter sandwiches, there was absolutely no food. The Pastor, ordering his third martini, informed me that the congregation suppers at the club on Saturdays, and cucumber sandwiches are light hors d’ouevres. Personally, a tray of ziti would have been the perfect hors d’oeuvre, but that’s Jersey talking.  
Halfway through the martini I felt a radiating loss of sensation in my pelvic region which is the supporting beam of the body. When it goes, it’s like a wrecking ball to the central nervous system and takes everything with it. My body became an amoeba that’s been sliced in half; each half uncontrollably slithering in different directions. I tried to sit on the cushioned patio chair, but, to Lovey’s consternation, I kept sliding off. The Cool Connecticut Yankees were confidently drinking their fifth or sixth martini, eyeballing me like some outlandish curiosity. Clearly, there’s an inherited talent to drinking martinis in the blazing August sun without physically dissolving. A talent this Jersey Girl did not possess.
I measured this experience against the previous week’s where I attended my friend’s mother’s bat mitzvah. There was so much food that I felt like I was a member of a wandering tribe on the buffet line. Everyone mingled, danced, ate, drank, and ate more! I fished someone’s grandmother’s teeth out of the toilet bowl after she switched from white wine to red. By the end of the night I was a member of the family. They even sent me home with an enormous tray of food and an invitation to Bubbie’s 80th!
These two seminal experiences taught me that the secret to having a great time is to drink like a Protestant, but party like a Jew.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mom to Mom's Serenity Prayer: A Special Edition Comic Strip

This comic strip was included in a special insert inside the Bergen News today. 

God grant me the serenity to accept the fact that there will always be another load of laundry

Courage to assist the dog’s evacuation process because both egg rolls and Polly Pocket are Chinese food to her

And the wisdom to know that my house will never, ever be as neat and clean as my mother’s. 

Help me to live one late payment at a time

Accept playdates as my ticket to heaven

Take motrin according to the dosage directions and not as I would have it—every half-hour

Trust that if I surrender to my inner screaming-mimi to get the kids in bed before midnight

A martini will make all things right

And may I be reasonably happy with a vodka martini if the bottle of Gin has kicked.


You know you’re at a great party when someone leaves in a body bag. But, I’m getting way ahead of myself.
Jim and I were invited to our friends’ dual 40th birthday celebration at their house. Let’s call them Tony and Tina. Tony’s Greek, meaning that like the Italians, Irish, Jews…they throw an outstanding over-the-top, standing-room-only party that’s talked about for years.
There was a live ‘80’s band and a fully loaded bar equipped with bartenders. Guests giddily approached me--drink in one hand, finger wagging on the other saying, “I hope I don’t end up in your column!” Are you kidding me? With all this free-flowing booze, adults gone wild, and…did I say free-flowing booze? I was like a kid in a candy store…if that candy store served Jack Daniels shots. Lots and lots of Jack Daniels shots. And had its very own weekly column.
Most people our age can handle their liquor. Oh, who am I kidding? We were unchaperoned 40-somethings! And there were Jell-O shots expertly prepared by Tina’s mom! As fast as she could pull her jiggly-gelled culinary creations from the fridge, Tina’s friend, let’s call her “Foam Girl,” was serving them up. (Remember “Foam Girl”—she returns in paragraph six.) 
There were so many highlights to this party, but my favorite was that fabulous drunk party game “Are they her boobs or did she buy them for her birthday?” which (after a few drinks) morphs into, “Did she marry that boob she dated in high school?” and often ends with (right before the last guest leaves), “Did I just spend the last two hours talking to that boob with the toupee?” only to be informed that it was not a man in a toupee, but your husband’s divorced friend’s new trophy girlfriend wearing extensions that had been mangled from her hair-bending returns of the Jell-O shots to the porcelain Gods of war.
Re-enter “Foam Girl.” No party would be a success without a “Foam Girl.” She’s the first person to get the party started and the first person to “hit the floor.” Admittedly, I was “Foam Girl” at many, many Fort Lee Fire Department parties back in the ‘80’s. And 90’s. In fact, I reclaimed the title at Fort Lee’s 2008 Fire Department Inspection Dinner. (That bartender made one mean martini. The problem was I had five of them. Or was it six?)
Tony and Tina’s “Foam Girl” was K.O.’d by Jell-O shots. Now, when I’m not writing fabulous stories, or reading the bitter rejection letters from every major publishing house and magazine, I teach preschool. So it makes perfect sense that when “Foam Girl” was discovered in the fetal position it was moi that everyone called, and not the 58 certified EMT’s toasting each other with shots while Tony and his brother were flinging tropical fruit over the heads of the party guests with a bra-like contraption they called “The Flinger.”
When I arrived on the scene, “Foam Girl” was plastered to the ceramic tiles of Tony and Tina’s upstairs bathroom floor; her fingers were locked in a death-grip on those unexplainable plastic knobs on the base of every toilet bowl. I donned my “Don” and in my perfect Marlon Brando as the “Godfather” voice slapped her around like Johnny Fontane yelling, “You can act like a man!” She donned no response, but her cheeks now had a healthy rosy glow to them. Unable to find her pulse (my fingers were drunk) it was determined that 9-1-1 should be called. With the help of the lovely Maureen, and Tina’s mom (Cleopatra of the Jell-O shots) we cleaned her up so that she resembled a respectable corpse.
Unbeknownst to Maureen, Cleopatra, and me, there was 9-1-1 confusion. Two towns showed up. After Tony averted an “ambulatory” fist-fight “Foam Girl” was ready for transport. However, because of all the parked cars from the party they had to Hefty bag her to get her to the ambulance. We stood at attention as the EMT pallbearers hauled her ziplocked body down the road and over a block.
As we sent our fallen warrior off to battle dehydration, nausea, and the double bill her insurance company would undoubtedly send for the two ambulances, a lemon came hurling through the air just missing Foam Girl and sparking the conversation, “Guess what boob’s flinging the bra?”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


“I will never leave you; no matter what happens I will always be with you.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, those would be the last words that my father would ever speak to me. Those were the words that would carry me into my fatherless future, the road map that I would rely upon to navigate the sometimes perilous, sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious, always blessed journey of my life.
He was the one who taught me that in every seemingly bad moment there lies a great story. In the early ‘70’s Fort Lee went on this craze of turning many main thoroughfares into one-way streets. One night, while riding north on Center Avenue a fire engine, sirens a-blaring, was coming straight at us. My father, unfazed, just kept his hands on the wheel and foot on the gas. The fire engine slowed and swerved. The driver, thankfully, was a neighborhood boy, Jimmy Carney, who stopped and said, “Mr. Meyers! This is a one way street now!” to which my father replied in laughter, “Well then, you better turn around before you get killed,” knowing full well that he was the one traveling in the wrong direction.
Once, while driving my friend Judy home to Hasbrouck Heights, we ended up down the shore. In Fort Lee one road leads you to Routes 95, 80, 46, 4, 17… Needless to say, we ended up in Forked River that night.
How many times I wish he were here to turn to for a dose of wise counsel, or just to lean on to get through the sometimes interminable days. There was such an ease about him that I wish I possessed. It was impossible to be around him without his humor lifting you up.
One night when he was too weak to walk I carried him. I knew he was exhausted, out of breath, and in a great deal of pain, but he put all that aside to tell me, “Thanks for the ride, but next time I think I’ll take the bus.” It was more important for him to make me laugh than to succumb to the failings of his own body. He redeemed that moment with laughter because he refused to leave me to live with the memory of his weakness, and instead imparted to me his unquenchable strength. He died exactly one week later.
As year follows year, I find myself looking for him, and in moments when I really need him I follow his memory to the places he loved most—the cliffs of the Palisades, the banks of the Hudson River. But where he is always and ever present is here as I write.  Whenever someone tells me that something I wrote made them smile, or laugh out loud, or forget for one moment the pressure of the moment that came before, there he is. And when my column reaches out and touches the souls of people whose stories often remain unrecognized, as it seems my Mother’s Day column about mom’s who have lost a child, or have a child with special needs did, it’s the touch of his humanity calling out for the world to pay attention.
Every Father’s day I visit his grave to raise a flask, and pour a snifter of Irish whiskey upon his grave to honor the man who gave me life, good humor, and the gift for knowing that no moment is ever ordinary.  Most importantly, I toast him so I never forget all that he has given me and continues to give. I do it to remind myself that I have a father who is with me every day. After all, I came into this world his daughter; that did not stop with the beating of his heart; and it will not stop with the beating of mine. 
So, join me in the tradition of toasting my dear old Irish dad; and here’s to yours—whether their spirit dwells beside you or inside you…
“May the roads rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again may there be a generous bartender waiting to serve all us heathens in heaven.”  Thomas Francis Meyers, I hardly knew ye.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


With the parked Prius missing from 22nd Street, Diane, Liz and I found ourselves guests of the NYPD Tow Yard. Liz was sent on a search and rescue mission for Diane’s teen-aged daughter Emily, and friend Kyle, who were roaming 168th Street having taken the wrong subway from Yankee Stadium. My beautifully dressed dark-skinned friend (a.k.a. “Prison Husband”) gave me an eerie sense of protection as I swam (in 4-inch trendy platforms!) with the bottom-feeders of civilization in the polluted undertow of the NYPD Tow Yard. 
Finally, it was our turn at the bullet-proof plexi-glass information window. “I’m trying to find out if my car was towed,” Diane said.
“Wrphhhh, yrmnnn, lrmny, nbuuuu,” the woman responded.
You’ve got to be kidding me! It was like standing on a subway platform when they make an announcement over the loudspeaker. Repeating what she said, we both squinted hard to read her lips. It was like a sick game of charades. WHAT’S. YOU…NO. YOUR. LIMIT…NO. LIGHTNING…NO. LICENSE! PLEAD…NO. PLAY…NO. PLATE. I GOT IT “WHAT’S YOUR LICENSE PLATE NUMBER!!!” We jumped up and down victoriously.
Then Diane somberly answered, “I don’t know it, but it’s a champagne-colored Prius.” The bubble over the woman’s head read, “Good for you, college girl, knowing the fancy color! But it’s still lost, you damn idiot.” But she must have felt sorry for us because she slipped Diane a note with the number of the Police Precinct that covers 22nd Street.
The Desk Sergeant told Diane that cars are routinely towed at 11pm; he was sure her car was, too. Diane took my phone to call her husband, Glenn, while I entertained the Desk Sergeant on hers.
When Glenn answered she laughed, “Sorry I missed your 25 calls. What’s the Prius’s license plate number?” I could almost hear his head detach from his body. I imagined Glenn’s response bouncing from cellular tower to cellular tower causing them to angrily ignite like the lightning-rods in Frankenstein’s laboratory. The Desk Sergeant, having grown attached to Diane, inquired, “Is she okay? Should I talk to her husband? Does she date?”
At this point Emily charged into the Tow Pound bursting with energy and excitement followed by a very mellow Kyle.
Diane had hives thinking about Glenn; I was cringing because my husband, Jim, was threatening to send his father to find me because I’m clearly an irresponsible child, but Liz was cool as a cucumber. Her husband, Hector, was at a friend’s playing Scrabble. I couldn’t help but taunt her, “Hey Liz, what’s a seven-letter word beginning with a “D” for where my marriage is heading? What’s an eight-letter expletive beginning with “f” ending in “up” to describe tonight?”  Liz cast me a look that said, “five-letter word for ‘shut the hell up.”    
Diane was given a pass to search the garage for her car. We were allowed to accompany her into the garage, but we had to remain under the watch of two big intimidating prison matrons who read us the rules: “Don’t Move and Don’t Talk” before turning away. Diane was led away by another intimidating woman in uniform. I felt like she was leaving general population and being transported to solitary confinement. Meanwhile, Emily took cellphone pictures to commemorate this evening. She even took a picture of the sign that read, “No Pictures! Violators Subject to Prison!” I wish she would have gotten a picture of Diane driving towards us in THE PRIUS with the 350 pound prison matron in the passenger seat. That one would have made a terrific Father’s Day present.
Diane paid the ransom and called Glenn. He advised her to check for dents. I eyed the phalanx of prison matrons surrounding us guessing that if we dared to check for dents they would be more than happy to give us some.
Piled safely into the car, Diane drove out of the Tow Pound failing to see the red light. Like a seasoned pro she expertly avoided a collision with a NYC Sanitation Truck. We all broke out laughing. Imagine telling Glenn, “Good news: the Prius isn’t dented! Bad news: it’s totaled.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


“Just don’t panic,” I kept repeating to Diane and Liz, as we stood in the middle of the now deserted 22nd Street. “The Prius has to be here somewhere.” Before I could complete that sentence both Diane and Liz were doing jumping jacks in the middle of 6th Avenue trying to hail a cab.
Occupied taxi’s whipped past us until, finally, a private black car service cut across four lanes of traffic and screeched to a stop in front of our outstretched cab-hailing arms.
“I think my car was towed,” Diane explained, “and I don’t know what to do.”
“Get in,” the young Middle-Eastern driver commanded. I asked how much. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “My car’s been towed before. Let me help you.”  
          As soon as we jumped in I pulled out $20. Liz lowered her eyes, shaking her head in a disapproving “no.” “Here’s a five,” she mouthed.
Our kind chauffer told us all about his life. Every time he told another story Liz pulled a five from her wallet. “Oh how awful, let’s give him another five.” Story about his mother, “Give him another five.” Story about his siblings, “Anyone got a ten?” By the time we arrived at the Tow Pound we had to keep Liz from writing him a check and naming him as beneficiary for her 401-k.
Add into this mix the fact that we were supposed to pick up Diane’s teen-aged daughter, Emily, and her friend, Kyle, from a Yankee game that ended thirty minutes ago. Which brings me to Diane’s phone. Por qua? She was avoiding every one of her husband’s numerous phone calls. By now he had left so many messages that the pinging “message-waiting” alerts made it sound like Vegas Night inside her purse. Also, Emily’s phone had no service. Diane was stalling informing her husband that she had temporarily misplaced both his new car and his only daughter.
Now, let me just say that the NYC Tow Pound is the closest I hope to ever come to the holding pen of Riker’s Island. I don’t know which scared me the most: the strong smell of fresh urine; people wearing “team” colors with thick chains attached to something heavy in the deep pockets of low-hanging jeans; or the Gangstresses hanging possessively onto the arms of their Baby Daddy’s giving everyone the “hairy eyeball.” I stood on line with Diane and my tribe of new BFF’s to belly-up to the bullet-proof confessional and patiently wait our turn to be extorted.   
Standing single-file in a line that did not move, I began to lose all sensation in my feet. Unlike Diane and Liz who wore low-heeled sensible shoes, I was sporting trendy four-inch strappy platforms and the straps had now turned into flesh-eating fiends. Just as I was about to abandon Diane to sit on a newly vacant mustard-colored plastic chair shackled to the wall, a muscle-ripping beautifully dressed dark-skinned man entered the room. I watched in awe as everyone cast their eyes toward the floor and stepped out of his way. He paused by me, bent his head to my ear and whispered, “Killer heels.” Thank God! My prison husband had arrived.
Diane’s phone rang again, but this time it was Emily. “Hey Mom! Me and Kyle took the wrong subway; we’re on 168th Street! This is SO GREAT!”
Giving Diane room to allow her head to explode, I went outside to call my husband, Jim. Unable now to walk, I wobbled arthritically down the makeshift plywood ramp.
“I’m waking the kids and we’re coming to get you, Baby!” he cried semi-hysterically into the phone.
“You’re not waking the kids!” I yelled in reply.
 “Then I’ll call my father; he’ll come and get you!”
I put the phone in front of my face and screamed, “Your father hasn’t driven into Manhattan since 1962! He doesn’t know that the El is gone! Unless he’s driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or his name is Sully, he might have a little problem when his car lands in the Hudson!”
Suddenly, my dark-skinned friend appeared and without moving his lips asked, “Everything okay, Baby?”
“Who’s that?” Jim cried in a jealous panic.
“I gotta go. My prison husband’s here.”

To Be Continued…