Friday, September 28, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chock Full 'o Drunks

When I was a kid, mothers used to bond over something called the "coffee klatch" (not mine, of course, who thought bonding with anyone who wasn't a blood relative a complete waste of time). People owned huge percolators meant to serve the minions who showed up for holidays, or just Sunday dinner. Walking into someone's home for even five minutes would elicit a "wanna cuppa cawfee?" which was both required and sincere.

I could post dozens of photos of our family gatherings that include a dining room table dotted with coffee cups. Coffee in the morning, with lunch, in the afternoon, and definitely after dinner. I posted about the coffee addiction of my late ex-husband Tony.

At one point in the 80s, I quit drinking coffee altogether. At breakfast in a restaurant, the poor waitresses didn't know what to do with me. There was no time-killing coffee order prior to bringing the food. I disrupted their whole world.

Now, it seems, alcohol has replaced coffee as the beverage of choice in suburbia. I didn't experience this when I was raising my daughter in NYC, but here in the 'burbs, someone is always trying to shove a glass of wine or a cocktail in my noon.

My son made friends with a kid a few years ago whose parents started inviting me over for various social functions. I was relatively new here and single, so it was nice to feel like part of the community. It soon became evident that these people had a serious drinking problem. The kids would be running around playing while the parents would blow through bottle after bottle of wine like it was water. No, scratch that. I couldn't drink that much water without having my bladder explode.

I gradually stopped going to their house because I just couldn't relate to all that imbibing. Then one night I ran into the dad and his son about an hour from our homes. He reeked of booze. Before I could do or say anything (and I'm not quite sure what I could do or say), he got into his car, with his kid, and drove. Lucas and his son drifted apart and that issue went away for us.

Lucas, who doesn't make friends easily, has bonded with a kid named Max over the past two years or so. But I find myself in the same situation. I went to drop him off at the kid's house on a Saturday morning and was greeted by the dad who was VERY happy and repeating himself a lot. He offered me a drink (it was 11:30 AM and I was literally dropping off my son and getting into my car). I politely declined and he badgered me until I finally said, "You know, I just really don't drink much."

Every time I see these people (intelligent, middle class folk) they have a drink in hand, and when I consistently decline their offers to partake they stare at me with the puzzled expression of someone looking to unload a winning lottery ticket. They have three young boys, a big aggressive dog, a swimming pool, and the father hunts so I know there are guns in the house. My son found a bullet on their patio. I view them and their house as a tragedy waiting to happen.

I don't want my kid in a car with them, and I'm not crazy about having him go there to play. But it's so hard to get him to socialize that I also know that if he doesn't play with kids whose parents drink he won't play with anyone at all.

So the friend comes here. Almost all the time. And when Lucas goes there, I drive him and I pick him up and trust that his instincts for danger will kick in if he sees something bad happening.

As for me, I'm going to grab myself a cuppa cawfee. Want one?

Saturday, September 15, 2007


OK, so the main reason I haven't blogged much is because the weather has been gorgeous and I've taken full advantage of that this summer. I'll be back in full blogging mode over the next month or so, but in the meantime a few sound-bites.

I had a birthday on Thursday. Although I didn't get a nifty plastic Barbie case this year, I did get some other cool presents including a Boom Bucket, nice lacey PJs, and Season 3 of "Grey's Anatomy" on DVD from my kids. I played a round of golf, had dinner with my favorite boys, and enjoyed the glorious sunshine and cool temps.

"The Biggest Loser" is back. I love this show, and I've gotten my son into it as well. He was weeping as he listened to each contestant tell the story of how they got to be, in some cases, 400 pounds. It's a great show, and there's a lot to be learned about healthy eating, exercise and how sheer determination can reap amazing results.

If you really want to see the Biggest Loser, just watch the video of Britney Spears from the VMAs. Bloated, lethargic and ready to topple off those stilettos, she has redefined "triple threat": Bad singer, bad dancer, bad parent.

I've gotten sucked into "Big Brother" since the first awful season. There is something so cheesy about this show and its contestants, but I always seem to get drawn in.

This season, Dick and Daniele Donato, an estranged father and daughter, have dominated the game. She is a terrific competitor and deserves to win. He gives me the creeps because there's something about him that reminds me of my late ex-husband Tony. If he continues to chain smoke, he's going to be Daniele's late-ex-father. Anyway, the season finale is next Tuesday and I'm looking forward to seeing Daniele win.

Lest you think I'm nothing more than a shallow reality-TV-show watcher, I've also been quite busy listening to the audiobook version of "A Thousand Splendid Suns". I loved "The Kite Runner", but I daresay that this book may be even better. Although written by a man, it is a story about women from a woman's perspective (similar to the amazing "Memoirs of a Geisha"). And although the characters are fictitious, the events that take place in Afghanistan are not. The fighting, the politics, the oppression... it is unreal to think that these things take place in the 21st century. There are moments in this book that will make you wonder if you're reading about ancient Rome or a modern-day nation.

Last, I want to call your attention to this sad news story about the death of a NYC carriage horse.

For years I've wanted to see the carriage horses gone from the streets of Manhattan and from Central Park (as a kid, I fantasized about starting an organization called "H.I.T.C.H. - Halt Inhumane Treatment of Carriage Horses"). They have died of heat stroke, lack of water and shade, and now this.

If you come to New York City as a tourist, do your part and do NOT hire these carriages to cart you around the city or the park. Walk. It's better for you, and better for the horses.

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Makes a Bad Parent?

There are two news stories this week about parents who have lost children, and the role that they may or may not have played in their child's death or disappearance.

For one of these parents, I have deep pity. For another, I have less. I am sure that where my sympathies lie, and do not lie, may run counter to what many others are feeling. But I can only relate to what I know as a parent, a single parent, a working parent... and a parent who puts the safety of my children above all else.

These are the parents for whom I do not have a lot of sympathy. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine leaving three tiny children alone in a hotel room, or apartment, for 15 minutes... nevermind leaving them alone while I go have dinner with my husband and friends. While I am not yet convinced that they played a role in Madeline's disappearance or sadly what may be her death, I hold them absolutely accountable for what happened.

In an attempt to portray them as intelligent, good people in the aftermath of them being named as suspects today, one news reporter pointed out that they are doctors. Who was it that said one can be intelligent without being smart? It may have been me.

I've seen them interviewed on The Today Show, and didn't hear any anguish over the choice they had made. Yes, they appeared to be distraught over her disappearance...but where was their deep regret for violating Parenting 101?

This is the parent I feel deeply for. I watched the video of her on the news last night, anguished and despondent over what happened to her child, and could barely sleep afterwards.

You see, this wasn't the case of someone who routinely left her kid in the car while she got her hair done, or while she shopped (like my parents did, btw). This was someone who was trying to do everything she needed to do, to be a good parent and good worker and good person, and she screwed up. Big time. When my son was a baby and I was taking him to daycare every morning before work, I often had to repeat over and over to myself that I had to drop him off before going to the office. My mind was applesauce, between a stressful job, raising two children, and having a husband who barely pulled his own weight. My biggest fear was that I'd drive to work one day and leave my son sleeping in the car, in the garage of my building, while I rushed upstairs to get to work on time.

And then I saw a news story about a woman who did just that, with tragic results. Like this woman did.

Honestly, I don't know how she will live with herself. But I also do not see why people are calling for her prosecution while pitying the McCanns. They intentionally and irresponsibly left their children alone. She, on the other hand, made a horrible mistake that will haunt her for the rest of her days.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Crash - The Real Story (Redux)

As documented in a previous post, I come from a long line of car lovers. My parents would get *almost* more excited to hear that I got a new car than they did when I announced the conception of a future grandchild. They'd squeal: "Congratulaaaaaaaaaaaations!!!!!!" (Then again, they used to say "Happy Bowling!" to my sister as she left to play in her weekly league game. Weird.)

Any-who, if you've read my 100 Factoids, you know I've been in 13 car accidents and one moped accident (I wasn't driving any of the cars). Most of these took place during my adolescence and teenage years, not so coincidentally because my father was the King of All Tailgaters. Several of those accidents were with him, one on the way home from the showroom with our brand new Mercury Lynx. I was about 9, and clearly remember him yelling "Son of a bitch!" when he rearended the car in front of us, also sending our groceries flying. Pears on the floor and my father swearing...vivid memories.

One incident involved my mother, stopped at a light in our 1967 Toyota Corolla. We sat paralyzed in horror as a truck careened out of control and crashed into us. No one was hurt, not even the truck driver. The rest were mostly fender benders, but I was always sitting in the passenger seat. I say "mostly" fender benders because there was one serious crash.

I was 16 and had gone to my cousins wedding, riding from Brooklyn to Connecticut with my sister C. (the one I don't speak to now). My parents and grandmother rode in my father's car. During the wedding my sister was drinking quite a bit, but no one hesitated when it was time to leave and she got behind the wheel.

As we drove down I-95, I was aware that she was swerving a lot and that we were going over 75mph. At the time there was a concrete divider on the highway, and I felt our tires hitting it several times as she raced on. Finally, just as I thought "Shit...the people behind us must really think this chick is drunk..." our left rear tire blew out. The car did a 360 (at least one) and flew broadside into a pole.

The next thing I remember was waking up, laying on the ground, unable to move. I opened my eyes and saw my sister stomping around in the grass, grabbing hands full of weeds and saying "My car! My car!" over and over. A group of people had stopped to help us, but what they soon realized was that the reason I could not move was because the car had done air time (there were scratches on the pole 8 feet off the ground) and landed on my HAIR.

My hair was pretty long at the time, but the tire had come to rest about 2 inches from my head. Probably against their better judgment, the good Samaritans collectively lifted the car to free me (How many people get to stare up at a car tire, hovering over their face? Hopefully not too many). And then, in another lapse of judgment, they lifted me and laid me on a board they found in someone's trunk. (Thankfully I had no internal or spinal injuries).

In fact, with the exception of some minor lacerations from the safety glass, a head full of leaves and twigs, and split seams on all of my clothing from the impact, I was fine. My sister hit her nose on the rearview mirror, but that was it for her. I was transported to a nearby hospital where my parents were notified (they had not gone straight home from the wedding, or they would have seen the accident as they went by).

My father went to the State Trooper station the following day to see the accident report. In a really bizarre twist, a neighbor of ours was a trooper. He had some reason to panic when my father walked into the station, but was probably relieved to find out I had been in a car crash and that my father wasn't carrying a shotgun. Anyway, he told my father that the cops at the scene knew my sister was drunk, but decided not to do anything about it. They were more appalled at the fact that she showed no concern at all for me, just cried about her car.

The car, a 1970 Mercury Comet (we called it the Vomit), was not just was destroyed. It had hit the pole so hard that the chassis was broken in half. The impact was directly behind the front passenger seat, which is why I was ejected. I was not wearing a seatbelt, and in this case that probably saved my life, but I know that's the exception to the rule and would never ride without one now.

That was the last of the crackups until the honeymoon of my second wedding, where I became yet another statistic in Bermuda's long line of dopey tourists who crash their mopeds. I skidded on a gravelly road, crashing head first into a stone wall so hard that my helmet cracked along with my sternum. I managed to retain my sense of humor, however, when we went back to visit the scene of the crash the next day: