Wednesday, April 27, 2011


"Hmmm...I must remember to tell Pat to have my tux cleaned so I can wear it to take Ann to the prom."

In 1981, while other 15-year-old girls were hanging pictures of rock stars on their bedroom walls, I was amputating the perfectly chiseled face of William F. Buckley from newspapers and magazines and scotch taping it with random precision to my floral papered bedroom wall as if Bill Buckley might just stroll one day through the pastel garden of my boudoir.  Bill Buckley smiling; Bill Buckley in tuxedo; Bill Buckley with his hair askew standing on the bow of his yacht. This was the collage of the man who spoke to me every week with such elegance and erudition.  I was simply in love with a man who was in love with language. 
          Our cerebral love affair (mine and Bill’s, of course) began when I first sat down to watch Firing Line with my union president father.  The first majestic note of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Third Movement, (allegro assai) ushered me into the cerebral cathedral of Compassionate Conservatives.
          Listening to Bill debate with his guests the sturm und drang of world politics; the responsibility of our leadership to retain our position of dominance while extending the rewards of our capitalistic philosophy to Third World countries—all this, made me fall in love with him. 
          Despite the great divide of our ages, I knew that Bill and I could form a perfect partnership. It’s because of Bill that I studied Latin at Paramus Catholic Girls Regional High School. As I sat imprisoned in my archaic wooden desk, diligently concentrating as Sr. Helen Rita dryly lectured on declensions and etymology, my thoughts ebbed and flowed with imaginings of my future with Bill.  Sitting elbow-to-elbow in a darkened corner of Elaine’s fluently whispering our private Latin to each other while Norman Mailer eyed us with drunken jealousy.  I wanted to be Bill’s muse, his tabula rasa, upon whom he could impart the worlds of his knowledge while Pat and Bill Blass did the Paris fashion shows. I didn’t want to have his name, or his child--only his vocabulary.  
          In the spring of 1983, my political science class was awarded an opportunity to attend a taping of Firing Line. As we walked onto the darkened set, I noticed the overflowing pile of notes by Bill’s chair. I lifted one of the notebooks and stared at the hieroglyphics of Bill’s handwriting with the same rush of discovery of a National Geographic explorer who has just unearthed the new tomb of an old pharaoh.
Then there he was, striding confidently into my life. The stagger of his swagger suggested he had sipped one too many gently shaken dry martinis at PJ Clarkes for lunch. He gently collapsed, rather than sat, into his chair. His broad smile metastasized into an annoyed grimace, his lips emitting a barely audible grumble, as he shooed away the make-up person, who was hovering directly above his face with a large black-bristled powder brush that dripped its incandescence all over his dark blue suit. His eyes looked beyond the bright overhead lights as he adjusted his tie—focusing his gaze on the black space beyond the lights, beyond the audience, to that space that held no reflection, only darkness.
After the show, Bill came over to our group. Overwhelmed with anxiety, I stood off to the side. After answering questions from my classmates, he strode away from the circle, approached me and asked about my future plans. I told him that I wanted to be a writer and was reading the ancients, classics, and my monthly subscription to The National Review.
 With a wry eye he proposed that while the ancients would impart to me substantial intellectual footing, his works would endow me with gravitas. And then, utterly charmed, I was moved to ask him to my senior prom.  He tossed his head back and released a sincere laugh while his eyes stared above me in the act of great consideration.
“Yours is the best invitation I’ve had in a very long time; but an old man like me escorting such a vibrant thinker as yourself would be a bore to both you and your friends.
 Before walking away he placed his left hand upon my shoulder and said, “Keep reading and writing and thinking. I expect to be reading you one day.”  And then as quietly and undisturbingly as he had walked into my life, he was gone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


As my left foot crossed the exit of Annie Sez it sounded as if I had hit the jackpot on every slot machine in the Tropicana. So startled was I by the incessant “beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep” of the security bar that I couldn’t move. Once again I had lost track of time and now I was running to pick up the kids from school. An older sales woman gently guided me back so that the noise would cease. Like a patient Brownie Scout Leader spending extra time with that child who just can’t quite grasp the craft of the day (that would be me), she checked my bag that contained a lone pair of $1.99 earrings purchased from the 75%-off sale rack. I had only gone in to browse for five minutes--an hour before.
          “Let’s see if there’s a security sticker on the earrings that we forgot to remove,” she kindly sang.
          As she and my new dangling faux diamond earrings walked past the security bars, all was silent. “Hmm, nothing seems to be wrong with the earrings,” she commented.
I took the bag and walked through the security bars,
          “Oh for goodness sake!” I yelled. “I have five minutes to get my kids from school!”
          “Maybe it’s your keys or your cell phone. Don’t worry, go ahead.”
          “Maybe it’s my artificial brain,” I quipped as we both giggled. I dashed across the parking lot fumbling for my keys only to have my cell phone smash to the ground.
          “Terrific!” I cursed. This phone has to make it to May 1st. That’s when my contract is up and I absolutely refuse to cave to that smug Verizon sales guy who informed me when I brought him my fractured phone, “Well, the cheapest replacement phone we have will cost you $300 since technically when you broke your phone you broke your contract.”
          I leaned in close to him and seethed, “Can you hear me now? I don’t care if I have to use Campbell Soup cans to make phone calls! Hell will freeze over before I give Verizon one extra penny before my contract expires!”
          “Make sure you get the Campbell’s Alphabet Soup if you want to text then,” he said as he went back to his Smart *** phone.
          As I drove up Route 5 to Leonia with my left hand on the wheel, my right hand reached over and into the glove compartment, grabbed the duct tape, ripped a piece off, and wound it around the broken back of my Blackberry.  
          With seconds to spare, I made it to the school in time. As I gathered my kids from the front door, I told my son we were going to Modell’s to get him his baseball cleats and run a few errands.
          I beeped both going into and out of Modell’s. I told the security guard “Oh, this has been happening to me all day! I feel like I’m going to be on America’s Most Wanted!” We both laughed.
          I beeped my way out of Mandee’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory and the library, each time laughing with Security as I joked, “Oops, you caught me!”
When we finally got home I kicked off my shoes and as I removed my jacket to place it over the banister something hard fell to the floor. Then something else. And something else. I looked down and oh the horror! THE HORROR!
          Lying on my floor were two $29.99 August Silk tee-shirts and a $24.99 Calvin Klein bra. All with those rectangular plastic security tags hanging from them, I have since learned are called “hard maxi’s” in the security trade.
What the hell?” I screamed out loud to no one in particular.
  That’s when I saw another plastic security tag hanging from the lining of my jacket. Inside the detachable lining of my L.L.Bean barn jacket hung yet another Calvin Klein bra.
“Who stuffed these down my back? How did I not feel someone do this? Am I a somnambulant kleptomaniac? Did I sleepwalk through shoplifting?” my mind raced.  
That’s when I remembered the Annie Sez dressing room. When I went to try on jeans someone had left clothes hanging on the room’s lone hook. None of those clothes were on hangars and I remembered thinking that was odd. I had hung my coat on top of that pile of orphaned clothes and when I left I must have grabbed the clothes along with my coat. They must have somehow fallen between the gap in my coat’s removable lining where I’m missing three buttons.
Panic set in. Dear God! Here I am running around Bergen County all afternoon, a mule carrying hot clothes, setting off alarms in store after store, and no one even asks me to remove my coat? It made me realize just how much a white woman with bad hair, no make-up, and a minivan can get away with! Seriously.  
          As I drove back to the scene of the crime I imagined a thousand scenarios to explain what had happened because the truth was just too unbelievable. But the truth was all I had left to give. That and the unintentionally pilfered clothes.
As I beeped my way back into Annie Sez to return the swag I explained to the perfectly coiffed, well-heeled twenty-something childless manager what had happened. She looked at me as if I were insane. Truth be told she wasn’t all that wrong.   

Thursday, April 14, 2011


What should I wear on my walk tonight?

I have a bad habit of talking to people in line at the Shop Rite rather than doing what everyone else does—devouring every gossip rag until it’s time to load the groceries onto the conveyor.
“Bad Dog was a serial killer in a past life???” I answered her incredulously.
          “I’m just trying to explain to you that in my religion, animals hold a very special place. Divinity is found in the midst of everyday life and permeates all forms of being. All life forms are manifestations of God as limited beings.”
She asked me to consider the idea that animals were people who had made mistakes in their life as a human and have come back to earth as a lower life form in their quest for enlightenment.
          “So, Bad Dog did something bad in her life as a human and now she’s back as a dog to repent for past mistakes? Newsflash: she’s failing miserably,” I said as I thought of all the times she snatched my husband’s steak from his dinner plate, purloined the Sunday loin, and managed to claw open the refrigerator door and chow down when left alone in the house.  
          However, my conversation with this lovely lady has made me look at Bad Dog in an entirely new light. At night as Bad Dog snuggles up to me from Jim’s side of the bed I wonder if I’m really snuggling with Jeffrey Dahmer or Saddam Hussein.
          No, there’s no way that Bad Dog was ever a man. She’s entirely too smart in a cleverly manipulative way. No question—her karma just screams WOMAN! But which woman? I made it my mission to find out. There is no doubt in my mind that her Pomeranian friend Bitsy was Marie Antionette in her previous life. Her perfectly pouffed coif could display a naval ship, or a birdcage, no problem. Also, Bitsy’s regal carriage possesses a “Let them eat cake,” air of superiority. Of course,  Bad Dog carries a “Let me steal cake” air ala Les Miserables.
          I tried to see what Bad Dog gravitated towards that would help me to discover what notorious woman in history she was. You all know her recent penchant for drinking day old wine if she can get the bottle to fall to the floor at the right angle when she knocks it off the refrigerator shelf. Well, there’s an ancient Persian fable that credits the discovery of wine with a woman. Could this woman have been Bad Dog?
According to the fable a princess lost favor with the King and the shame was so overwhelming that she ate some table grapes that had spoiled in their jar in an attempt to end her life. Instead of dying she got so silly and giddy passing out. When she awoke she found that all her troubles had disappeared. She decided to eat more of the spoiled grapes and the more she ate, the more her mood changed for the better. So much so that she regained the favor of the King. Wine had solved and dissolved all of her earthly problems. Could this be Bad Dog?
          No, because no matter how much wine she drinks, she never regains the favor of King Jim who threatens to return her to the pound every time she pilfers his dinner. In fact, no matter how much wine I drink I seldom regain the favor of King Jim who threatens to return me to the pound—in his dreams!
          Then one day I walked into my bedroom and there, cuddled around the pile of my shoes that she had haphazardly, yet carefully, pulled from my closet slept Bad Dog. She looked so comfortable and peaceful dozing amongst the Madden’s, Weitzman’s, Edelman’s, BeBe’s, Dolce Vita’s, and Puma’s.  Then it struck me. Since the day she arrived from the pound, she has regularly feasted upon Jim’s two pairs of shoes, and gnawed on the kids’ rubber-soled sneakers like she was eating salt water taffy. However, she never touched my shoes. Not even my furry slippers. I now knew Imelda Marcos was living inside the body of Bad Dog.
Technically, Imelda Marcos is very much alive, but I believe that her old unreformed self, the Imelda of the martial law years, has taken up residence within Bad Dog’s body. It all makes sense. The disregard for Jim’s dinners, the wine, the shoes. The shoes, the shoes, the shoes.
          So now when we have a playdate with Marie Antionette, Bad Dog will fit in just fine. However, despite the fact that Imelda Marcos has attempted to transform her life within her lifetime, I fear that Bad Dog never will.