Friday, June 30, 2006

Jon Stewart for President

Here's another one that I'm sure everyone has seen, but Jon Stewart wiping up the floor with Bill Bennett on the subject of gay marriage is certainly worth watching again. [link from Dru Blood]

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Because people in real life keep asking me about it,

and some of them probably read the blog, and some of the blog readers might be wondering about it, I thought I should say that S has found a sous chef. And the vacation is back on.

It's Only June

And I am always negative, as S pointed out, angrily, when we had a genuine huge fight last weekend over whether to be excited about the Red Sox winning eight in a row. I pointed out that six of those wins were against the Braves and the Nationals, which just isn't something to crow about. And I made some points about the Yankees and the Tigers and the White Sox, and he made some counterpoints about the Yankees and the Tigers and the White Sox, and K got kind of uncomfortable, because we really were having a genuine huge fight about the Red Sox (though of course it was about some other things too, even though we were only talking about the Red Sox).

But now it's twelve in a row. And we've climbed up the ladder of the NL East, sweeping them all.* And we've just beaten the METS three times in a row. And the Yankees are four games out. And there's David Ortiz. And Coco Crisp's catch. And not a single error in sixteen games. And David Ortiz. And twelve in a row.

And it's only June. It's only June. But still.

*I know, we didn't play Florida, but I liked the way it sounded, so I figured I could slip it in.

Meghan O'Rourke on Linda Hirshman

I've pretty much avoided the Linda Hirshman discussions, because I kind of agree with her bottom line (though not her self-righteousness, her absolutism, or her unwarranted attacks on people I think are great), and I don't want my stay-at-home mom friends to hate me (because it really really is fine with me that they stay home, in fact, it's none of my business; I just think that the decision to stay home has political implications that need to be acknowledged). Now I can continue to avoid the topic, and I don't even have to read the book, because Meghan O'Rourke sums it up beautifully in Slate:

But—though I almost hate to say it—buried beneath Hirshman's overblown rhetoric is a useful idea, now set out in a short book titled Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World: namely, that our obsession with choice prevents us from asking tough questions about how to achieve further equality. "Deafened by choice, here's the moral analysis these women never heard," she says: Until there is more equity in the cultural norms for child-rearing and household tasks, each time a woman decides to "opt out" she is making a political decision that reinforces an already ingrained social inequality. Women who believe otherwise suffer from a mixture of false consciousness and impractical idealism. It's when Hirshman is at her most radical—when she sets aside the language of personal fulfillment in favor of injunctions about the collective good—that she is at her most valuable. I would never write this book, but I'm glad somebody did.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books is closing too.

Money and Friends

A couple of news stories from the last week have stayed on my mind, so I might as well blog about them.

Re: Money

Warren Buffett has gotten a lot of press for his announcement that he is giving away most of his money, and why not? 85% of 44 billion dollars is a staggering amount of money, but it will still leave him and his heirs with enough cash to cover the drycleaning bills (bad Hathaway joke), not to mention buy nice homes and send grandchildren to good colleges.

My feelings about capitalism are well-known (let's just call me anti, and leave it at that), but, let's face it, capitalists made possible the social and cultural infrastructure of this country (hmm, I initially typed "company"--Freudian typo, anyone?). Libraries? Carnegie steel. Museums? Rockefeller oil. Research of all kinds, not to mention a whole lot of cool community organizing and anti-poverty work? Ford cars. The fact is, capitalism is what we've got, in which case I'm all in favor of capitalists giving it away, especially to support education, medical research, and reproductive rights.

Still, the, well, the I don't know what...the radical agitator? the Marxist? the subverter of the dominant paradigm? let's just the naysayer in me hates the idea of rich people determining the non-governmental agenda in this country, even if they are smart, well-intentioned rich people (which I do think Gates and Buffett are). On the other hand, the pragmatist in me is just as strong as the naysayer, so I think I'll be getting in touch with Gates and giving him a few ideas for how to spend some of his new billions.

Re: Friends

Everyone probably saw the stories about the new study that says Americans have fewer close relationships than they once did: an average of 2 confidants, whereas 20 years ago the average was 3, and 25% report that they have none. The other interesting result was that people are more connected to family than to friends. And what I found most interesting about the study was that it was conducted by people who set out to refute Robert Putnam's work in Bowling Alone which argues that Americans are increasingly isolated. If the putative debunkers end up validating, you've got something going on.

And yet. I just don't know anyone who has such a dearth of meaningful connections. I am totally willing to recognize myself as an extreme: I couldn't even count the number of people I confide in: we'll start with my mother, mother-in-law, and sister, to whom I certainly do not confide everything, but with whom I discuss many important things at great length and depth many times a week; then we can go on to...well, I don't even know where to begin, but I would say there are probably over a dozen people with whom I regularly have meaningful conversations, and if I needed help I could knock on six doors on my block alone, and another six or more in the immediate neighborhood, and so forth and so on.

Maybe I'm just a super-social kind of person. Ok, I am. But there are a lot of people like me, like most of my friends (come on, you know you are, especially if you count online friendships, which I think you have to count in this day and age, because we all know the difference between an online interaction and an online friendship). And I know you can't build an argument on anecdotal evidence. And I know the data says 25% have nobody, which balances out the freaks like me. And I know people in my neighborhood who don't know a single person in Town. And yet...

It just seems more complicated. (Does it help to know that I am almost as skeptical of social science research as I am of capitalism?)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I Just Can't Bear It

As I write this, Israel is invading Gaza, though of course the U.S. media won't call it an invasion. I'm not one to get all excited about the possibility of Hamas supposedly, kinda sorta recognizing Israel, but the timing is nonetheless striking, so to speak. I hate this. I hate this all so much.

M's Summer List

As might have been predicted, M had a difficult first real day of summer vacation yesterday. G left for six weeks on Sunday, and she tried to call a bunch of friends but nobody was home, and she wanted to go to the spray park but she didn't want to go alone, and she was hot, and things got a little teary and fussy. Then I suggested she take a bath, and then she ate a lot of food, and then we had a little talk about summer vacation, and then we made a list of things she could do when she had nothing to do. It was a collaboration, but I won't tell you whose ideas were whose.

- Learn to type
- Read
- Find a recipe and cook
- Write a letter to [list of people]
- Play solitaire
- Roller blade
- Go to [neighborhood park where there is usually someone hanging out and playing]
- Draw fashion (crayons, paints, markers, fabric collage)
- Play clarinet
- Write a story, poem, play
- Dance
- Compose a song
- Take out American Girl magazine and find activity to do
- Go to spray park
- Do chalk
- Play in pool
- Pretend you're at the beach
- Paint toenails
- Make mini spa
- Bead or sew
- Play Polly Pocket, paper dolls
- Make ice cream
- Ride bike
- Scooter

It's funny: the list makes her seem a lot more girly than I think of her.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wasn't Salon Supposed to Be Hip and Cutting Edge?

Oh no, that was 1995...

As if being months (if not years--there's a Washington Post article from 2004, but I can't find the link) behind on the girls-kissing-girls story wasn't pathetic enough, today Salon discovers hip kid music--and their lead is that oh-so-undiscovered ex-Del Fuego of the crazy hair and wild outfits, Dan Zanes!

[I am sitting here puzzling over whether there should be a hyphen between Cutting and Edge, but really, I have better things to do, so I'm just going to hit "Publish Post" and live with my error, if it is an error.]

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Which I Am Subtle and Allusive

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of rain.

Christmas won't be Christmas without any rain.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the rain.

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the rain...

Call me rain.

The world was all before them, where to choose their place of rest, and Providence their guide; they hand in hand with wandering steps and slow, though Eden took their solitary rain.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Things I Am Sick Of

I'm sick of having to be reasonable while dealing with unreasonable people.

I'm sick of having to take my children's feelings and opinions seriously.

I'm sick of asking people to do things over and over again.

I'm sick of waiting for emails.

I'm sick of having to do every single thing that needs to be done myself.

Becca Blogs

I was wasting time. I was clicking "Next Blog" (see upper right). I came upon a blog by Becca. And she linked to a blog by Becca. So then I started looking for Becca blogs. The most famous, of course, is DasBecca. Also Beccary. Then there is SimplyBecca (who seems like my kind of girl, just from her links). And BeccaU who knits. And another Becca who knits (and lives in San Francisco and cooks and reads cool books and links to Bitch Ph.D.). And Becca in Hawaii who vlogs. And Becca in Arizona who is out to get the Republicans (you go, girl!). And thoughtful Becca. And random Becca. And babe Becca. And Taoist Becca. And Becca who is on a grand adventure with Brian. And Becca. And Becca. And Becca. And Becca.

Friday, June 23, 2006

On the first full day of summer vacation,

M slept till 10:16. And she's not even a teenager yet!

I Won't Be Reading It After All

Given my minor interests in rock history, the sixties, and creative communities, I got all excited when I heard about Laurel Canyon, a new book about--duh--Laurel Canyon and the L.A. music scene in the 60s and 70s. It got a good review in Salon, so I hied me to the library request site, requested it, and forgot about it. Earlier this week I got the email telling me it had arrived, which is one of the great things about requesting books from the library--not the email, but the surprise of its arrival and the realization that you have a new book to read!

Not so fast, Charlie. (For some reason, I'm thinking that's a line in the old Starkist tuna commercial, but actually I don't think so. Why on earth would it come into my mind to say "Not so fast, Charlie"?!) (OK, clearly I meant "Sorry, Charlie," which would be just as good, in fact, better, but I'm still wondering if there is some other Charlie that goes too fast?)

The first bad sign was the cover which is a total knock-off of Positively 4th Street, which is a great book about rock history, the sixties, and creative communities, in this case Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Richard and Mimi Farina.

Then I went to the pictures. I'm flipping through the book now, trying to remember why I got so annoyed at the pictures. The pictures themselves are fine, though pretty chintzy--blurry black-and-whites of various sixties folk-rockers--but the captions are just annoying, only I'm not sure I can communicate why. Like this:

Morgana Welch, 1972. Morgana was typical of the very young groupies who cruised the Sunset Strip in the early '70s and made the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Continental Hyatt House (a.k.a. the "Riot House") their second homes. Though only sixteen, she was soon cavorting with Led Zeppelin, "There was a power in being able to provide fulfillment of fantasies of these men [who] were older than me."

Isn't that a pretentious caption? OK, just take my word for it: it is.

Then I went to the beginning of the book, and this is the first sentence:

In 1968, a British pop star and the refugees from two seminal Los Angeles bands gathered in a cottage on Lookout Mountain Avenue in Laurel Canyon, the slightly seedy, camp-like neighborhood of serpentine one-lane roads, precipitous hills, fragrant eucalyptus trees, and soft crumbling bungalows set down improbably in the middle of Los Angeles, and sang together for the first time.

Now I like modifiers as much as the next self-important writer, but that is ridiculous. I had to read the sentence three times. And the next was the same, and the next, and the next. I kind of want to quote the full first two paragraphs, because I am just so indignant at how badly written this book is, but I will limit myself to one more sentence:

The refugees were Stephen Stills, late of the Buffalo Springfield, writer and singer of "For What It's Worth," who had three years before auditioned for the Monkees and, having failed, recommended his friend, a folkie named Peter Torkelson; and David Crosby, late of the Byrds and "Mr. Tambourine Man," possessed of a Buffalo Bill mustache, an immaculate harmony voice, and piercing eyes that Mitchell, with typical literary flourish, likened to star sapphires.

Now, I can see why you might want to include all that information in your book, but there is simply no reason for it all to be in the same sentence.

OK, I can't help myself. The other problem is the absurd superlativity of the book's claims, so I will just quote two more sentences:

It was Brigadoon meets the Brill Building, and the repercussions thirty-odd years later continue to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world.

Actually, I'll limit myself to that one. "Thirty-odd years later" should come before "repercussions," or you need some commas, and how on earth do "repercussions" "pour"? Not to mention "pour from...concert stages"? (Repercussions reverberate.)

I skimmed through a bit of the book to see if the narrative would be worth the leaden, purple prose, and it didn't seem like it. I already know a lot of this stuff, if not the exact specifics of who slept with who while listening to which song in which cottage in April 1969, so I don't think the gain will justify the pain.

Much better to reread I'm With the Band (which, if you're at all interested in pop culture, rock history, and the sixties, is top of the must read list) (and in case the Powells link doesn't convince you, here's Pamela Des Barre's website).

[You know what another bad sign is? I just remembered that the other reason I wanted to read the book was that I loved the movie Laurel Canyon. Except then I looked it up for the link, and realized that I thought the movie Laurel Canyon was totally stupid. The movie I loved was Sugar Town which is set in Laurel Canyon. And the way I realized that Laurel Canyon is not the movie I loved is I knew that in the movie I loved, John Doe lived in Laurel Canyon--and how can you not love a movie with John Doe living in Laurel Canyon?!--so I went straight to the cast list of Laurel Canyon to find John Doe, only he wasn't there.]

[I'm not quite sure why I have devoted all this time and space to a book I am not going to read. I think, perhaps, because I was quite looking forward to it and am disappointed, and because I am so disgusted with the writing, and just hate the idea that such a badly-written book could garner such good reviews.]

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Oh Brit...

Now they're going to go after her about dying her hair while pregnant.

Edited to add: One thing you certainly can say for Britney is that she has that baby around all the time, and she carries him herself, rather than handing him off to a nanny. More power to her, I say.

School's Out for SUMMER

OR The Summer Has Begun


I actually cooked, last night and tonight! Summer food. OK, pasta. But summer pasta. Last night: farfalle with zuchinni (sp?), spring onions, spring garlic, little tomatoes, and feta. Tonight: the first pesto, made with spring garlic, and about as good as could be; garlic bread made from scapes; salad with new lettuce, sorrel, and cucumber. Yes, the CSA has started up. Yes, everything was delicious. Tomorrow? To the in-laws. Saturday? To the restaurant.


Signs that summer has begun:

- Saturday: first trip to the spray park
- Sunday: first swim in Aunt E's pool
- also Sunday: first delivery of pizza to the spray park (OK, that was a first ever, but it was a huge success--happy parents, happy kids, much community spirit--and I have a feeling it will happen again)
--Monday: first swim at Historic Pond (where the water is so high the beach is practically gone--in my whole life of swimming at Historic Pond, I've never seen anything like it)
--Tuesday: first time fishing at Town Pond (OK, I skipped that one for a work dinner, but then I walked across East Coast Big City and it couldn't have been a lovelier summer evening)
--yesterday: first-day-of-summer/E's-half-birthday ice cream
--today: last-day-of-school ice cream


E, T (my niece), and I met M after school today. It was like Last Day of School: The Movie. The first kids came running out, screaming, and then the bell rang, and they burst out the door, hundreds of them, screaming and yelling.

On the last day of school, they tell the kids which class they will be in next year. It sounds kind of dramatic: the teacher writes the names on the board, and the kids watch to see which name it is. There's another girl whose name begins with the same three letters as M's, so that generated suspense. Then at lunch you find out from the kids in the other class which class they are going to be in, and there is much happiness, and it sounds like a bit of sadness, but luckily not for us. M was THRILLED. She likes all the girls from her class who will be with her, and all the boys too. Her foursome was split up two and two (which I figured would happen) and she is with G. The boy she hates will be in the other class, as will the boy she dislikes. One girl from the other class whom she dislikes will be in her class, but she will live. And she got the teacher that a friend suggested I request, but I decided not to. And she gave fourth grade, her first year of school in Town, a 9 1/2. So all is good as we leave East Town Public School behind until September.

The rest of the day was much excitement and very summery: ice cream, shopping, spray park (M and T), whining (E), cleaning (me), delicious summer dinner, playing outside with T and her brother and S down the street, more playing outside with G until dark, fighting E down into bed, letting M stay up, serious phone discussions about family matters, and, finally, exhausted peace and quiet. S? Haven't seen him.

Ten more weeks of this? Wait a second, maybe I'm already missing East Town Public School...

Could I Be Any More Excited?!

Pete Doherty's diaries, coming soon to bookstores everywhere!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Cousin

My cousin died seven years ago, give or take a few weeks (I don't want to figure out the exact day, because that would involve going to my journal and remembering what it was like when she died, and I can't go all the way there).

C came home for lunch, told her husband she wasn't feeling well, sat down on the couch, and died. She was 52, in excellent health, and had attended her first grandson's bris two days earlier.

We were supposed to see her six weeks later. My father, my sister, my brother-in-law, my nephew, M, and I were going to Israel to visit my aunt and uncle, cousins, cousins' kids, and cousins' kids' kids. I hadn't been to Israel in ten years, and we hadn't all been together since my sister's wedding four years earlier.

When my cousin died, we debated cancelling the trip, but decided it would be better to go.

It was.

On that trip I realized how essential children are to the familial ecosystem. The adults were devastated, bereft, shellshocked, but five of us were under the age of four, and they had no idea of the sadness that surrounded them. They needed to be fed and bathed and put to bed, but, as importantly, in their oblivion, they were happy. They dug holes in the sand and blew balloons and laughed at their crazy uncle's antics. They made us smile despite ourselves, and we knew that life would go on.

One evening I sat with my cousin's husband (who is actually my cousin, but I met C when I was two, and she was my cousin too) and he talked about her. Like everyone who dies suddenly and too young, C was remarkable, except that (like everyone who dies suddenly and too young) she really was. My cousin was gaunt and unshaven, and I held his hand, and we both cried.

What I remember most from that conversation is when he said that C was always even, that she had been moody when she was younger, but she had learned to control her moods. That comment stuck with me as the epitome of what an adult woman, especially a mother, should be.

Every day I feel my failure.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The other night I hung out with a woman I've been smiling and nodding at all year--her son is in M's grade at religious school and her kids go to afterschool at E's school, and eventually we saw each other enough times that we started to smile and nod, but that was it until we ended up sitting next to each other at Girl Authority, chatting during the intermission while E and her daughter shared snacks. She was very nice, but it was difficult to attend to her as her because she had the exact same voice as my friend S in California. Like the EXACT same. Like, not the first time she spoke I thought she sounded like S and then she just became herself. But like every single time she spoke I thought, she sounds exactly like S.


I've been at M's school more often lately, for drop-off and pick-up (she is fully capable of going to and from school on her own, but she likes company, so we accomodate, or rather, S accomodates every morning, and I accomodate maybe one afternoon a week, but last week I did a couple of mornings too, for various reasons, I think mainly having to do with E and kindergarten orientation, plus we were at school one evening for the barbecue). There is a kindergarten mom (I know she's kindergarten, because they come out a different door) who looks just like my friend P, stands like her and wears her hair like her and dresses like her too. Every time I see her, I do a double-take, even though I know there is no reason for P to be at M's school, since she is dropping off and picking up her own kids at their school in City. I'm getting used to it now, and I don't really think she's P, but whenever I see her, I still think, there goes that woman who looks like P.


I had a double in college. I wasn't too pleased with the situation, as I did not think she looked anything like me, nor did I want to look like her, but after the first several dozen times people said "Hi Liz!" to me, I accepted it. The thing is, she was the biggest coke dealer on campus, so people were always coming up to me at Sunday brunch and saying things like "What a party!" and "That stuff was great, can you get me some more?" and eventually I learned to just say "I'm not Liz," at which point they would inevitably stagger back and stare at me and say "Wow. You look just like her." The other thing is that her grandmother and my grandmother were friends in Brooklyn. But I never told about the coke.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Excuse Me While I Brag About My Children For Just A Moment

This is the dialogue M wrote about Grant Wood's American Gothic for an exercise on observation and asking questions in her ACE class:

Passerby: Matilda, why are you wearing a cameo pin?
Matilda: Well, it was my dear deceased mother's. So when Mr. Wood came by and painted the picture it felt like mother was with us.
Passerby: Harry, why are you wearing overalls?
Harry: Well, I thought overalls really portrayed America and the rural farming country.
Passerby: Matilda, why is your hair falling down?
Matilda: Well, it shows no one's perfect.
Harry: Actually, it fell down because we were standing for so long.

She is also almost done reading Jacque Pepin's autobiography.

Meanwhile, E is waxing mathematical. M was trying to figure out what half a tablespoon was, because she was making half a recipe of pancakes. I told her a tablespoon was three teaspoons. She puzzled. The listening E announced that half a tablespoon was one and a half teaspoons. M skulked back to the kitchen. E crowed, "I'm better at math than M!"

Now back to your regularly scheduled mocking deprecation of self and others.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Judith Warner, the End of the School Year, and Alpha Moms

Sometimes I think Judith Warner just needs to lighten up. I like Judith Warner. I think she’s smart and nuanced and makes a lot of important points. Unlike Caitlin Flanagan, she genuinely cares and thoughtfully writes about complexity, and she’s not afraid to be Not Quite Sure. However. I do think she is afflicted with an acute case of cultural myopia, and sometimes she takes things a bit too seriously.

Take this piece about the end of the year (yes, I know, it’s Times Select, but Dawn has labored long and hard on my behalf, with a little assistance from Phantom, and I now have the ability to go below the fold, so I have, in my continued efforts to subvert the NY Times powers that be, pasted the entire piece--you guessed it--below the fold). To summarize briefly: there’s too much going on at the end of the school year, the alpha moms over-achieve and make the beta moms feel bad, and Warner cries (Warner often cries, something else I admire about her, being someone who does a fair bit of crying myself).

Once again, I don’t quite get it. The end of the school year has always been crazy--I remember it from when I was a kid. And this year in East Coast Big City, it’s been even crazier because of the rain, which has meant postponements of picnics, and pile-ups of Little League games, and field day rescheduled three times, which means more emails and more volunteer sign-ups and more what have you. And I certainly feel the craziness--just the other day, E's friend's mom and I were wandering vaguely around E’s classroom, trying to corral our daughters’ wayward belongings, and agreeing that we were totally overwhelmed and could barely keep our heads on straight.

But. That’s just the way it is at the end of the school year. Then it ends, and we get summer. The best solution is to increase one’s intake of late-night vodka, which S and I have definitely done (though his late-night vodka is of the no-sous chef variety, not the overwhelmed-by-end-of-school-year variety, since he has managed to miss the vast majority of end-of-school-year craziness, though by a miracle of scheduling and rain date rescheduling, he actually attended both E’s end-of-school-year picnic and M’s end-of-school-year barbecue, though I made the potato salad).

Oh dear, this is becoming another why-can’t-I-get-to-my-point-already post. Because my point is not about the end of the year, it’s about alpha moms. More specifically, it’s about freaking out over alpha moms.

The thing is, I just have not encountered these people in my life with kids. I’ve certainly read about them in the NY Times, and I believe Lucy has encountered them, living as she does in a rich suburb and teaching in another (Lucy, are you there? can you validate?). But in my life? Not so much. I used to think it was because I lived in Red State Capital City Suburb, but now I’m in East Coast Big City, albeit the not-so-upscale end of an inner suburb that is getting increasingly upscale but nothing like Lucy’s, and still, the moms I encounter are just, well, kind of normal. And sympathetic. And incredibly helpful to each other. I mean, I don't want to drink margaritas with each and every one of them, but I don't want to drink margaritas with each and every one of anyone.

There are a bunch of moms who are at M’s school all the time, running things and helping with things and being generally alpha in that sort of way. But they are great--the school couldn’t function without them. I suppose I could be intimidated by them, but they are all perfectly nice. And they are not doing stuff like making picture frames for the teachers; they’re doing stuff like running the book club and organizing field day and setting up food for kindergarten orientation. And they don't make me feel bad for what I do or don't do; they're just grateful when I bake brownies for the teacher appreciation lunch.

So I return to cultural myopia. Warner lives in Washington, and I’m sure her kids either go to a private school or a fancy suburban public school, and I’ve never been a mom in either of those situations, so maybe that’s what it’s like. But an extremely small proportion of the population is involved in those situations, albeit an extremely high proportion of NY Times readers, and I guess maybe what I’m trying to say here is that I am so tired of those moms being the media representation of contemporary motherhood. Only I feel like I’ve said that before.

So the other thing I’ll say is that I just don’t see why an extremely intelligent and accomplished woman like Judith Warner can’t just say “the hell with this shit.” If she thinks it’s wrong (it being the compulsive parenting behavior she sees around her), why worry about it? If her kids are healthy and happy, which they appear to be, what’s the problem? If she’s worried the alpha moms will disrespect her food, I have super-easy potato salad and brownie recipes I can share with her. But really, ultimately, it’s better to resist the dominant paradigm--if it is indeed dominant--than to cry about it.

My Last Day of School
by Judith Warner

The tears were flowing fast and free at my daughter Emilie’s last-day-of-school party Wednesday morning. And it wasn’t just because the kindergartners were hyped-up and over-sugared.

One mom burst into tears when I went up to say hello. She’d had a little run-in with another mom, who’d scolded her for showing up late with the arts and crafts.

It didn’t matter that she’d been up until 3 a.m. gluing class photos onto little colored-paper frames. Nor that she’d made a special effort to provide both boy- and girl-friendly sponge cutouts for collage. It also didn’t matter that she’d provided plastic sheaths to protect and immortalize the crafts projects, nor that she’d discovered, one hour prior to party time, that the paper frames didn’t fit into the plastic sheaths, and she’d had to cut them down to size.

It didn’t matter that it was her son’s third birthday and that she hadn’t been able to shop for his party because she’d had to go to her first grader’s “author’s tea” — a catered school affair that she’d left scandalously early, because she just couldn’t take it anymore.

“I hate this [expletive] time of year,” she said, in between gasps of one of those efficient little cries with which I am so familiar.

“Everybody does,” I said.

There are five class mothers in kindergarten. For the end-of-year party, one of them organized all our teacher gifts into baskets. Another made a commemorative plaque. A third made an incredible CD of photos of the kids set to music. The fourth was my slacker friend who’d messed up the crafts. And the fifth organized the party, found the room, cleaned it, organized the buffet, baked something sugar-dusted with a name like Harvey Nichols cake (or something like that), and did it all with a huge smile and a genuinely delighted look in her big blue eyes.

I arrived at the party feeling quite proud. I had managed that morning to 1) take a shower 2) work for the better part of an hour 3) remember to bring the cookies I’d promised and 4) arrive a few minutes early, which gave me the satisfaction of seeing Emilie’s face change from anxious anticipation to pure joy as she entered the room and saw me.

In the previous 10 days, I’d been through three violin recitals, many half-days of school, a “biome presentation,” camp forms, doctor visits and an overnight trip to the mountains with Emilie (sheer bliss, a thunderbolt of stress before and after ) — all during work hours. Not to mention children at sixes and sevens with each other because, well, nobody likes transitions, and a bout of screaming at Max, who’d asked me, disrespectfully, I felt, to get off the phone.

(It was 7 p.m. on Sunday. The garden hose was blasting, mud was streaming, baths were running, the barbecue was cold, and I was on a work call.

He said: “If you’re going to yell at me, then I am going out to dinner.”

I said: “Couldn’t you just get the barbecue going first?”)

“I hate this [expletive] time of year.” I stared up from my pizza at yet another mom, skinny and wired, whose tears glazed her dilated eyes like stale contact lenses. She’d spent all morning at the pediatrician’s office, she said. She was supposed to be at work, and after two weeks of bucolic mountain overnights, soccer and ballet year-end parties, the biome thing and the choral concert (did I mention the choral concert?), she was in serious trouble with her boss.

“I gotta get out of here,” she said. She vibrated before me for a couple more seconds, and then she was gone.

“Don’t you just love this time of year?” It was Emilie’s best friend’s mother now, picking a popsicle out of her skirt. “She makes me show up for these things. I leave work, and then she ignores me.”

There came a scream: “It’s time to cut the Edwardian boudoir cake!”

The class baskets for the teachers looked fabulous, each with its own perfect tissue-paper flower. The class mom who’d made the slide show had copied program guides and CDs for every last one of us. I’d had to write at least half a dozen reminders on my hand to remember to go and print out two 8 1⁄2-by-11-inch photos of Julia for the memory books that the third grade class was forcing upon — I mean giving — the teachers as end-of-the-year gifts. (Julia’s quote: “I had so much fun in math!”)

My store-bought cookies were sitting in their plastic containers. I’d been told not to arrange them on paper plates. Did the class moms fear I’d drop them? Eat them? Get distracted mid-task and walk away? (How did they know?)

The kids inhaled the cookies in seconds. The plaque was presented to a lovely teacher whose retirement party I’d forgotten to attend at the exact moment when I was throwing a barbecue scrub brush at Max.

It takes only a few bad apples to spoil life for the rest of us, I was thinking.

The slide show began. And there were our children — all 28 of them — timid and little at the start of the year, bold and proud at the end, holding hands, making faces, climbing, painting, dancing, reading and grinning at us, and all of this set to songs like “All You Need is Love” and “Child of Mine.”

I was mortified to find myself crying. Not just tearing up, but really and, truth be told, uncontrollably crying. I hid behind Emilie’s head and soaked the back of it. I was about to wipe my nose on the hem of her dress, when another mother handed me a Kleenex. At which point I looked up and saw the red eyes, heard the sniffles and realized that we were all drowning together.

After the slide show, the other moms kept their heads down. They grabbed their kids away from the few remaining cookies, made for the door and snapped at their kids to say good-bye and thank you, and stop it.

“Mommy, why are you crying?” Emilie asked, as we left the party and the waterworks continued.

“Grownups cry sometimes when they’re happy,” I lied.

I don’t want to feel again what I felt while watching that slide show: that childhood is finite, that our days together are numbered, and that those hours in the mountains and at the biome museum are gone forever.

Better to be in a snit over cookies or phone calls or crafts. Better to keep on running, between work, home, school and the dry cleaners, between one day’s obsession and the next day’s fight.

Better to stay in a dissociated state of stressed-out busyness. Better to fight the Mommy Wars than admit how easily I can be destroyed by the wrong kind of glance from the wrong kind of person whose very eyes seem to contain in them all that I am not and fear I will never be.

Anything is better — at the end of the school year — than truly stopping to think.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Madonna's New Song

This video for Madonna's new song makes me want to go see her this summer. I like the song--it's catchy in that old-style Madonna way--and she looks great. However, given how much money we have just poured into our cars, a couple of hundred bucks for Madonna tickets is not in the cards. But hey, I got to see Girl Authority!

Why It Is Not So Bad to Have a Chef for a Husband

I have been not so into food lately, and especially not so into cooking. Which has, in fact, been pretty easy to get away with, because it is barbecue and picnic season, and there are dinners with grandparents, and before that there was the endless birthday celebration, and the children can often be satisfied with pancakes or coldy peas and cereal, and then after all that you can justify the occasional take-out, and at one point I had managed not to cook for ten days, and M was quite impressed.

But then the other night I was hungry. What had the children eaten? Oh yes, they had eaten pancakes, made by M, while I was at the MAKEOVER party, at which there was wine, but no food. Then I came home and put them to bed and it was late and I was actually hungry, for once, but as usual uninspired. So I called S to ask him to bring me something from the restaurant, but he was already on the freeway, so that was not an option.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had just received our first delivery from the CSA with all sorts of delicious springtime things that I had no desire to cook but would love to eat but not enough to cook them.

Then S got home. And I asked him to make me some food. And he sauteed pea shoots and zucchini and spring garlic and chive blossoms and green onions, and stirred in some leftover pasta, and grated asiago over it, and that's what I ate. Not so bad.

[On the other hand, in case you were getting too jealous, it's not so great to have a chef for a husband when the sous chef whom he was going to fire as soon as he hired a replacement quits before a replacement is hired, meaning that the goal of going from six days a week to five is replaced by the fear of going from six days a week to seven, and those four days in Maine over the fourth of July? Ha!]

Thursday, June 15, 2006

O Indie Gods

Verily I have sinned before you, this very evening, and lo, I am ashamed. Where I could have taken my children to see Smoosh, instead I took them to see Girl Authority.

I have reasons, o, I do:

- I did not know it was possible to see Smoosh until yesterday, when I had already acquired tickets for Girl Authority.

- Smoosh was opening for the Eels, a band about which I know nothing, and I am not comfortable taking my children to see bands about which I know nothing (lame, of course, for we could have left after Smoosh).

- My children wanted to see Girl Authority (though if there had been no Girl Authority, I am quite certain they would have been thrilled to see Smoosh, yet that is of no account, for there was Girl Authority, and their preferences are evident).

Then again, no excuse is of account. The facts are as they are, and I have sinned.

[So how was Girl Authority? I'm beyond not quite sure on this one, all the way to no idea what the hell to think. There's a fine line between cute and horrifying. The three girls who accompanied me all said "good," when I asked how they liked it. The nine girls on stage seemed to be having a great time, and two of them were genuinely talented. Their dance moves were sometimes energetic, sometimes too sexy. The canned dialogue was totally annoying. The girls in the audience (maybe six boys in the entire theater, and not too many men either) all looked very solemn, and barely responded to the exhortations to dance. Nothing like being with kids at a Dan Zanes concert, or at a Wilco concert, for that matter. There was a distinct lack of freedom, but I think that did not bother anyone under the age of 14. Like I said, they all said "good," and they meant it. As for the question of appropriate music, I'm all over the map on that one. I have no problem when my kids sing Pink's "Get The Party Started," so I shouldn't have a problem with Girl Authority singing it, and I like it on the album, but somehow when they're doing their choreographed moves up there on the stage, well, there's just something icky about it. And the boy songs and the shopping songs? Yuck. On the other hand, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"? "Dancing Queen"? "I Love Rock and Roll"? Lots of fun. And, I mean, they are far from the first choreographed bunch of pre-teens on stage--New Kids on the Block anyone? Britney, Christina, and Justin at Disneyland? As I said to N, another mom, as we left, "Maybe someday we'll be able to say we saw them when...but maybe not."]

If you care about mountains

and kick-ass women, this story will make you sad. It makes me sick to my stomach. [link from Postacademic who has a personal connection]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Because I Haven't Gone Celebrity In a While

Our man Pete has found Jesus. Or maybe not.

Charlie Sheen is clearly no picnic, and I don't know that I'd want him hanging out with my kids (though actually I'm not sure why a penchant for prostitutes dressed as teenagers suggests that he would do harm to his own toddlers--I'm totally serious). But. Denise. I really don't see how you can justify taking out a restraining order that forbids Charlie from seeing the kids, and then abandoning the kids to go canoodle in Paris with Heather's ex. They're toddlers. They deserve to have at least one parent around. (I know this is all kind of old, but I've actually been thinking about it.)

Back to today: driving home (from a MAKEOVER party at a fancy MAKEUP store with a lot of RICH moms who all bought the EXPENSIVE MAKEUP that they put on us which I did not buy because although I looked quite dazzling in my SMOKY EYES I knew that if I bought all those exotic shadows and liners I would get home and look at it and have no idea what to do with it and never wear it once and that stuff was too EXPENSIVE to buy and never use though it was awfully fun to go to a MAKEOVER party at a fancy MAKEUP store with RICH moms who were all very nice albeit very RICH), anyway, driving home I heard PARIS HILTON's new single, "Stars are Blind," yes, indeed, I did. I try not to blog about Paris Hilton because I think she is DISGUSTING and undeserving of anyone's attention (unlike, say, Denise, who is so sophisticated and interesting), but, I have to admit, and I'm not the only one, the song is, well, it's ok. HOWEVER, word is that perhaps she is not in fact singing, and that was certainly the opinion of the DJ on the station where I heard it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

We Never Need to Talk Again!

8:48 PM me: Hi, I'm iming you.

7 minutes
8:55 PM s: howdja do that!!???
8:56 PM Is E out of the bath yet

Protein Update

I am famous in certain circles for not worrying about what my kids eat. And generally I don't. M, as we recall, eats everything, and E eats what she eats. But I must confess that one reason I have not worried about E has been the cheese stick. To recall some more, E eats copious amounts of wheat products, significant amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, and a popsicle every night. She also has developed a sophisticated taste for diverse sorbets, but that is not germane to this discussion. This discussion is about protein.

I am also famous in some overlapping circles for being the vegetarian who has never worried about protein (and once I was famous as the pregnant/lactating woman who did not worry about calcium, except to up my ice cream intake). I figure that between cheese and eggs and fish, all of which I eat regularly, the protein thing is covered. Plus I think Americans worry too much about protein. Not to mention what their kids eat.

Really, though, the cheese stick was pretty important to my sense of maternal efficacy. E had a cheese stick every day for lunch, along with her bagel or pasta, fruit or vegetable, and treat. Therefore, I figured, her protein needs were covered.

Then she gave up the cheese stick. And cheese. Altogether. My sense of maternal efficacy was challenged.

Which led us to the egg white. I suggested a hard-boiled egg for lunch. E said no, she did not like hard-boiled eggs. I asked why. She said she didn't like the yellow part. I said what about the white part? She said the white part was fine. So we started boiling eggs, cutting them in half, taking out the yolk, and putting the white in a little tupperware for her lunch. Yes, indeed, we did.

Then she gave up the egg white. Yes, indeed, she did. She gave it up because it had water on it. S valiantly dried the egg white before putting it in the tupperware, but still the water persisted. I was distraught, or I would have been distraught if I were the kind of person who gets distraught about what her kids eat. Which I'm not.

Then I hit on the solution. What does E eat when we go out for sushi? What did E want for her birthday dinner? Yes! Edamame! Edamame are protein! And they are close relatives of the favorite food of M and E: coldy peas! E thought edamame in her lunch was a great idea!

So I bought frozen shelled edamame, organic at that, at the expensive organic store at that, and we put the frozen shelled edamame in a tupperware, and by lunch they are melted, and E gobbles them down, and she gets her protein, and everyone is satisfied.


One Year Later

The night before the first day of school last September, I promised M that if she did not have a single friend after we'd been here a year, we would move back to Red State Capital City Suburb.

Looks like we're staying.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Recent Movies

I finally saw the movies I've been wanting to see. Though for honesty's sake, I should say I only saw half of one.

The half movie would be Match Point, and now I'm trying to remember why I didn't watch the other half. In fact, I'm trying to remember what I thought of it. Obviously I didn't think much, or I would have watched the rest, but mainly what I'm remembering now is Scarlet Johanson's pout. Liked London; liked Scarlet Johanson; liked, at first, the fact that it was a Woody Allen movie without a Woody Allen character (unlike Celebrity, which was all Woody Allen even without Woody Allen). But then, as I recall, it got too mean and bleak and depressing and predictable. We stopped at the scene where the guy (can't remember a single character's name) is leaving Christmas with his wife's family to go to Scarlet Johanson. It seemed quite clear that no good could come, plus it was late. I thought I'd watch the rest the next day, and then I just didn't. I guess I'd like to know if something unpredictable happened (predictable would be general ruination and a lot of cringing on my part), but I didn't want to know enough to watch and find out.

Then last night I finally saw The Squid and the Whale which was really good, though I was startled when it just ended. It's a little too schematic (Salon kind of thinks so too) and it also made me cringe, but in a good way. Hmm, is there a good way to cringe? Let me put that differently: it made me cringe, but it was worth it. One thing I particularly liked was that the dad was clearly the bad guy, but the mom was no saint. It seemed a little more 70s than 80s to me, but perhaps that's because my recollections of my friends' divorces come from the 70s (my divorce was the 80s, but I was 19 and never had to deal with custody and such). Great acting, and the teenage boy who idolizes his asshole dad was particularly good--as a character and an actor.

Thematic connection to my post the other day: adults behaving inappropriately with their kids.

Thematic connection between the movies: tennis.

Edited to add: Thanks for the Match Point spoiler, Parodie. That was NOT what I expected. Kind of makes me want to get it again and watch the rest!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Family History (the novel, not mine)

After I read that Dani Shapiro essay in Salon, I did my usual sleuthing on Dani Shapiro. I found her website, I read a short story I liked well enough (what actually caught my eye was that the story appeared in One Story which I just discovered because a friend had a story accepted there), I read some essays about her mother (one of which, it turned out, I'd already read in a magazine, but I hadn't registered that it was by Dani Shapiro, because I hadn't registered Dani Shapiro), and then I moved on.

Then last week when we were moving things out of my dad's house, I found Family History, her most recent novel, on a shelf, and I stuck it in a box and brought it home. I started reading it that afternoon. M and I went to the cafe to recover from the day. It was the hipster cafe, not the families cafe. M was the only kid and I was the only fortysomething mom (or at least, the only visible fortysomething mom), and I sat there and watched the hipsters whiling away a rainy Saturday late afternoon in the cafe, reading, or knitting, or tapping on their laptops, and tried to remember what it was like not to have kids and to while away rainy Saturday late afternoons in cafes. Then on the third page of the book, the heroine, Rachel, writes about her daughter going away to camp and wondering what it would be like without her--and then discovering the pleasures of childlessness, and then missing her--and it was one of those moments of fiction/life synchronicity and I thought about coming home and blogging about it, but decided I should read the book first.

The other thing I thought, as I began the book, was that it was strikingly reminiscent of We Need to Talk About Kevin: a mother alone in a house after her child has done an unspecified terrible thing, piecing together the pieces.

Family History is not as good as We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is transcendently good, but it is very good indeed. If we want to continue talking about contemporary women's literary realism, which of course we do, Shapiro is truly adept. This is realism of the sort that feels absolutely real--real places, real characters, real feelings--yet takes you into places you hope never to go but are compulsively fascinated by: the terror of losing your child and all your bearings. The writing is not showy, not even beautiful, but seamless and compelling. The plot is convincing and never expected. Really, a very good novel.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thinking About Complicated Stuff

As I was driving in the rain this afternoon, it suddenly occurred to me why I was bothered by this article [link from Dawn] about parents who are letting their five-year-old son live as a girl (it 's funny, because I didn't even realize the article bothered me until I realized why it bothered me). The child wants to be a girl, prefers girl's clothes, plays with girl's toys, is friends with girls, etc. So they now call him Nicole instead of Nicholas, let him be a girl, and want to enroll him in kindergarten next year as a girl. Which is fine. What is not so fine, in my opinion, is letting the Village Voice write an article about it.

I don't know much about transgender identity. It seems quite possible that the child truly is transgendered and will always want to be a girl, and, if all goes well, will eventually transition and become female. In which case parental support will make the process much easier than it is for many people, and that's great. On the other hand, it also seems possible that the child is going through some kind of intense stage and will eventually become a gay man or maybe even leave the whole thing behind him. After all, we are talking about a five year old, and if you think about people you knew when they were five, they are the same in some ways and they change in some ways. Even so, given the apparent supportiveness of the parents, my guess is that if the child ends up going in a different direction, the parents will continue to be supportive, and everything will be ok.

Still, I don't know what the child gains by being written about in the Village Voice. If you read the article, you'll see that the case (weird word, I know, but they seem to be gearing up for a fight with the local school system, in which case it will become a case) has been taken up by an adult transgender activist who wants to use the child as an example and persuaded the parents to participate in the article. And here my hackles rise. Is it really safe, physically or emotionally, to put this kid out in front of the world as an example? Does it really benefit the kid? Or does the kid become a pawn for the cause?

Then I question myself and ask how I would feel about parents of a disabled kid--say, a kid with that disease where you can't go in the sun, or a kid with no legs--who were telling their child's story to get equal treatment for her. I think I'd feel ok. So maybe I'm showing my own prejudice. Except that a kid with the sun disease or no legs is going to get sympathy, not ridicule or blame or condemnation. A kid with the sun disease or no legs who grows up and reads the story is, I would guess, going to appreciate her parents' efforts on her behalf. And it's quite possible that the transgender kid will too. Except maybe not. And that maybe not would make me wonder if it was worth it.

Edited to add: OK, now I'm doubting myself some more. What about Ryan White? Would I have used the above rationale to argue that he should have kept quiet about having AIDS, because certainly saying that you had AIDS back then laid you open to ridicule, blame, and condemnation. But his AIDS was not going to change, which is different. And part of talking about him having AIDS was making it clear that AIDS did not always have to do with sex and homosexuality. Whereas there is no way to talk about this kid's situation without entering the realm of gender and sexuality which is inherently vexed in our society today. I don't know. I just feel really uncomfortable with parents exposing a kid, especially in such a vexed realm, when the kid is too young to have a say.

The Money Quote

"Republicans have treated campaigns and politics as a business, and now are treating public policy as a business, looking for the types of returns that you get in business, passing legislation that has huge ramifications for business," he said. "It is very much being monetized, and the federal government is being monetized under Republican majorities."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Recent Events in the Middle East

I am no fan of Al-Zarqawi, in any shape or form. I'd rather he had been caught and put to trial, but I'm certainly not going to mourn him. Nevertheless, I do not see how his killing (and I still don't get how they could drop two 500 pound bombs on the house and flatten it, and still have photos of his body, but luckily I'm not a conspiracy theorist) can possibly be good for anyone's cause. And what happened on the beach in Gaza today cements my sense of things. I don't think the erroneous shelling of a picnic is in any way related to--or similar to--the targeted killing of an Al Quaida leader. But I do think that our model for targeted killings is Israel. And the people Israel kills are Palestinian leaders. And their war just gets worse.

Enough Already

I'm out of jokes about arks, rowboats, and shriveled fingers and toes. My children have forgotten what a blue sky looks like. Do you think if I buy a pink raincoat the sun will come out and it will be spring again? (Forget spring, we're supposed to be heading for summer, NOT THAT YOU COULD TELL AROUND HERE.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Why My Husband Loves His Life

He spent yesterday morning tromping around an organic farm in the pouring rain. The farm is run by some organic farmer dude who knows some of our old organic farmer friends (that would be old friends, not old organic farmers) and his workers are patients in a mental hospital or juvenile delinquents or both (I have to admit, I was not listening so closely as S rhapsodized), and they are going to be supplying vegetables to the restaurant.

Next week he gets to see the Buzzcocks.

Now all he needs is a viable sous chef and a weekend day off, and his life will be perfect.

Separated at Birth?

Kiefer Sutherland and Curt Schilling.

You gotta admit

Shiloh is pretty darn cute. Of course, so is Tori.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

What's Wrong with America 2

Here is the Constitution of the United States of America. Go check it out: it's in a nice outline form, so you can see what it addresses without reading all the text, though you should feel free to read away. But I'm linking to it because I want to talk about amendments and the purpose of the Constitution. Which I do not know much about, in the legal or political sense, beyond what I learned in 11th grade U.S. history, but I'm pretty good with texts, plus I'm a citizen and, last I checked, this is still America, so I have a say (that would be Amendment 1, commonly known as the First Amendment).

If you look at the amendments to the Constitution, you will see that they are almost all about how we govern ourselves: how the legal system works, how the army works, how senators are elected, who can vote, taxes, etc. There are also a few amendments that address the appalling mistake our founding fathers made with regard to slavery. Though in fact we can see even those amendments in the context of government, for they establish African Americans as full participants therein.

The one amendment that goes beyond how we govern ourselves is the 18th--oh yes, and the 21st. That would be Prohibition, of course, and its repeal. We sensibly realized, back in 1933, that the Constitution was not meant to govern how people live their lives. We certainly use it to determine lots of things beyond how we govern ourselves, lots of things that have to do with how we live our lives, but we do that in the judicial and legislative branches of our government, which have traditionally worked pretty well.

The Constitution is a serious document and I take it seriously. Regardless of how you feel about flag-burning and gay marriage, I can find no rationale for putting them in the Constitution. They have nothing to do with how we govern ourselves, and their presence would demean the Constitution itself.

Luckily, 48 senators agree.

What's Wrong with America 1

I try to curb my Marxist impulses (OK, I don't, but it seemed like a good lead), but I just can't imagine why anyone needs to make $363 million a year and live in a 15,000 square foot house.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I think I was in my house for the last time yesterday. I didn't even realize it. I had a meeting to get to, so S and I loaded the car for the second time that morning and rushed off. He went back for a third load, and that was it.

I'm talking about the house I grew up in, the one my dad just sold. We moved there when I was two, just before my sister was born. I left when I went to college, came back for the summer after my freshman year, and haven't lived there since. My mom left at the end of that summer too, and my sister two years later. My dad didn't live there either for much of the 80s and 90s, but my grandmother was there until she died, and occasionally my cousins or my aunt or uncle would stay for a while. The house has three apartments, and sometimes they all were rented, but often we kept one for whoever needed it. Eventually my dad moved back.

The thing is, the house was always there. For the last 39 years. And now it won't be.

When we were packing the car with the second load, R walked by with her new baby. R grew up down the street. She was a year younger than my sister, her middle brother was a year older than me, and her oldest brother was...older. They went to our school and our synagogue, and sometimes we played with them and sometimes we didn't. It wasn't a super-neighborhoody, hang-out-on-the-street-with-all-the-kids kind of neighborhood (for one thing, there were apartments at the end of the street), but a bunch of the families knew each other, well, forever.

R now lives in the house she grew up in with her partner and two kids. Her mom died and her dad moved and now he is getting married again. I walked her home and went in for a moment and held the baby, but I had to get to my meeting, so we exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together. I think maybe we will. E played with her older daughter once last fall and they had a good time, and I'd like to catch up.

When we first decided to move back to East Coast Big City, we thought we would live in my house, but it didn't turn out that way, which is for the best.

I don't know what I would have done if I'd realized it was the last time. The house is pretty empty, and all the stuff that matters to me is gone, much of it to my attic. My room hasn't been my room for almost 20 years. I suppose I could have gotten sentimental, but it probably would have been because I felt I should.

My dad forwarded me an email this morning from his cousin's daughter saying that her dad's cancer is terminal. That cousin became a genealogy fiend several years ago and has written a book about our family that traces us back to the Baal Shem Tov, of course (just as all English families go back to royalty, all Jewish families go back to the Baal Shem Tov, or at least Maimonides). Every few months he sends out a newsletter full of pictures and family news. I sent him a note with our holiday card and he put us in the last newsletter and got everything wrong--kids' names, their activities, S's job.

I wonder if his wife will continue the newsletter. Somehow I doubt it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sisterly Scrambled States of America

M's absolute top-notch first-rate favorite game these days is Scrambled States of America. She and G play it daily for hours (which makes it incomprehensible to me that she does not know her capitals, but quizzing her on our walk home from Town Center today proved that she does not, so there will be much studying before next week's all-USA states test). She taught me to play, and it is quite fun. And as I type, she is teaching E to play, which is the cutest thing ever, because the game involves significant amounts of reading, so M has to read for herself and E, and she has to be patient and let E figure things out, and E is so excited to be playing M's favorite game with her, and it is just a lovely moment of sisterly specialness, and I am appreciating it.

Edited to add: E just won! And she is ecstatic. And M said, "I let her win," and I said, "I know you did, and that was very nice of you," and I said to E that she should thank her sister for teaching her to play, and E said "Thank you!"

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tabitha King has a new book coming out

and I probably won't be reading it. It sounds like the kind of horror/ghost fiction that doesn't do much for me. But seeing the publicity made me think of One on One [Amazon link for the details] which was the first Tabitha King novel I ever read. I think I picked it up in Maine (appropriately), it seemed like a trashy novel about teenagers to while away a vacation, I had no idea she was Steven King's wife, and I was totally blown away. Gripping plot, absolutely compelling characterization, seductive writing: I couldn't put it down (this was back in the day--before kids--when such a phrase could be taken literally). I was thrilled to discover that she had other books about the same characters, and I went on to devour Pearl and The Book of Reuben. I have no idea why Tabitha King has not hit it much bigger, she is that good.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

California Dave

I’m not quite sure about West of the West, Dave Alvin’s new album. This not-quite-sureness pains me deeply, given the depth of my love for Dave. And the fact that the album has a great concept: covers of California songs by California songwriters.

Dave is the ultimate California musician. X aside, he embodies 80s L.A. punk, and songs like, well, “King of California,” of course, but especially “Dry River,” embody California, and isn’t it obvious that “Fourth of July” takes place in one of those California two-story apartment buildings with the stucco walls and the red roof and outside entrances along the balcony with the rickety stairs at the end?

The songs--from Brian Wilson and Jerry Garcia to Merle Haggard and Los Lobos--are the kinds of covers that make the audience go wild when Dave breaks one out in concert. But somehow, in one big collection, he makes them all sound alike. He kind of turns them all into Dave Alvin songs, mainly Dave Alvin slow songs. And I love Dave Alvin slow songs. And I love the sound of Dave’s voice any which way. But it gets a little monotonous.

However, S likes it. And I’m thinking it may very well be the kind of album that grows on you. In fact, it’s already kind of growing on me. In fact, I need to remember that Dave grew on me. And there’s no question it will be perfect for those moments when you need an album of slowly rocking songs and Dave’s inimitably comforting voice. So I guess I’m kind of winning myself over. Because Dave is Dave and, ultimately, he cannot be resisted. (And he’s touring! And he’s coming to City!)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Popsugar and Me

[Should that be Popsugar and I?]

Popsugar is having a baby, as we speak. Bully for her and I hope all goes well, healthy baby, healthy mother, and all that.


I am bereft. I am without my fix. I am checking regularly, to see if the baby has been born, but also in hopes that once the baby is born, she will get back to it. Immediately. Or at least find herself an intern.

For a while, several months ago, I had half a dozen gossip sites bookmarked, but then I realized that they pretty much have the same gossip, plus they all link to each other, so there is no point in going to all of them. I cut back to one: Popsugar.

Even though everyone else appears to love him, I find Pink Is the New Blog visually unbearable, and thus unreadable. At Perez Hilton, the ratio of Perez to real celebrities is way too high. I have Gawker moments, but for a regular relationship, there’s just too much snark, plus the New York focus leaves out a lot. Too many words at Defamer. Jossip is too media-centric. A Socialite’s Life is OK, but I only discovered it after I’d pledged my troth to Popsugar. Etc.

So why Popsugar? Because she posts a lot, she has lots of good pictures, she does good links to other sites but also to the tabloids and magazines which she quotes liberally, she has a personality, she’s into Britney and Madonna. She just works for me. And I miss her!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Five Year Old For Sale

Can be adorable, articulate, and artistic but has developed a slight tendency toward tantrums (before school, after school, at bedtime, when hungry, when tired, when desirous of unobtainable object, when departing, when thwarted, when tormented by sister, when tormenting sister...really, hardly at all).

Comes with lots of toys, good book collection, ridiculous amount of clothes, very small baseball glove, bike, and booster seat.

Will go to highest bidder (we'll pay shipping) (hell, we'll pay you). No givesies backsies (OK, if you can eliminate the tantrums, we'll take her back) (better eliminate the baby talk too).

The Apthorp

Love love love Nora Ephron's piece on the Apthorp in this week's New Yorker (unfortunately, it's not online, so no link, and I haven't read anything else in the issue, so I can't say if it's worth buying, but if it just arrived and you put it in the pile, it's worth taking into the bathroom with you--oh, the other thing I read was the Talk of the Town about Meg and Jason getting married, which I'm pretty sure I blogged about a while ago--why, yes, indeed, I did--so scoop you, Rebecca Mead!).

Why I like the piece:

1) Aunt M and Uncle J live across the street from the Apthorp, so that's been my New York neighborhood for the last 30 years.

2) After college a good friend of mine lived in the Apthorp (I wonder how much key money her dad paid), so for a few years I stayed there whenever I went to New York.

3) Though Nora Ephron can be annoying and cloying, especially when she writes movies, this is her at her best: acutely observant of life as we* live it, and gently mocking of everything, including herself (Crazy Salad is one of the books I saved in last month's purge).

4) She takes on the Upscaling of Everything (my phrase, my caps) in contemporary America, especially contemporary urban America, something I too deplore, especially in City, which was a nice, quirky, homey kind of place when I grew up there, and is now full of Bugaboos and luxury condos. She gets over it, though, and maybe I should too.

*That is a terrible "we," because of course the piece is about life as privileged New Yorkers live it (and, let's face it, mostly white, Jewish, privileged New Yorkers), and I know I should change the phrase to "contemporary life," or "life as it is lived," or some such, but it sounds so much better the way it is that I decided to just go with the disclaimer.