Saturday, July 29, 2006

Keeping Her Distance - Redux

A summer rerun


I don't know anyone who is as removed from her emotions as my mother is. (New readers can find other posts about her here and here. )

She never really understood sentimental things (which is why she thought nothing of giving away our toys and games to cousins as we stood there, heartbroken), stuffed animals (hence the previously mentioned incident where she threw my treasured stuffed poodle into the churning garbage truck as I sat in stunned silence), or even to people.

The first inkling I had, about the people-part, was when a young couple in our neighborhood had a baby which tragically died a few days after birth. My older sister was devestated by this news, but when my mother saw her crying she said "Oh don't worry...they didn't even have a chance to love it yet." While she considers herself 'close' to her sisters, she's always kept non-relatives at arm's length, and often referred to our friends as "strangers".

As with most of the stories about my mother, the tragedy is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of hilarity. That same sister was married for 29 years to a man that my parents welcomed into the family as a beloved son-in-law. However when they got divorced and my mother saw him for the last time, she waved and said, "Nice knowin' ya!"

She has talked about donating her body to science when she dies, and frankly I'd love to know what they'll find between her ears!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

He Put a Spell on Me

I saw Leon Russell in concert in 1971, at the then-new Nassau Coliseum. My best friend and I "charmed" our way into the FIRST row of a packed house, where we jumped and screamed and were completely convinced that Leon was singing a song for US. I don't remember much else about the concert, because another friend was with us...the son of a dentist. And with him? A canister of nitrous oxide. Anyone else out there who got high on laughing gas and promised to make out with a security guard to sit in the first row of a Leon Russell concert? I didn't think so.

Fast foward to yesterday, when I saw a poster in my local pharmacy window advertising a Leon Russell concert this weekend. At the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, CT.

I was simultaneously thrilled and horrified. Wouldn't it be fun to see Leon again? Or would it? Should I just remember him as he was, and me as I was? (Fans will still probably have canisters...of OXYGEN!)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Honk If You're An Asshole

I spend way too much time in the car these days. Having grown up in NYC, I didn't even get my license until I was 23. Since moving out to the 'burbs, though, I've resigned myself to a life that is spent behind the wheel. And most of THAT time is spent in shock and awe at the limited driving skills of others on the road. (I often note to myself that the same person who turns without signaling is the one who can't seem to work out the physics of proper grocery bagging. The only difference is that no one is going to DIE when she puts all your heavy stuff in one bag.)

My father was a terrible tailgater and often on the receiving end of road rage. People would get out of their cars and scream at him, or just pull up along side him and mouth all kinds of nasty stuff. My sister and I fashioned ourselves after The Bowery Boys and gave the other drivers "Routine Number 59", which amounted to nothing more than funny faces. But we thought it was an effective defense.

One thing I liked about driving in the city was that people had car horns and they weren't afraid to use them. That joke about the definition of a nanosecond can ONLY work when a New Yorker is part of the punchline. (The time it takes between the light turning green and the horn blaring.) When I moved to CT, I discovered that no one uses their horns. I'd punch my steering wheel to alert the woman in front of me that it was time to stop applying lip liner and MOVE, only to be glared at by other drivers and onlookers.

Eleven years later, I moved back to NY but still outside the city, and even one honks. But what occurred to me yesterday is that honking is pretty useless anyway. What I want is a car equipped with a selection of sounds and comments that I can direct to the proper audience. For example:

"BACK OFF" for those annoying tailgaters. Look, I'm going 75. What is your problem? I can count your nose hairs from here. Especially helpful when there's another car directly in front of you, and the tailgater still won't let up. Without this handy feature, I find myself making wing-flapping motions in my rear-view mirror, the universal sign for: "Whaddya want me to do, FLY over him?"

"HANG UP AND DRIVE", for you-know-who.


"[wild applause]" for those wonderfully satisying, but woefully infrequent, times that the person who just blasted past you at 120mph gets pulled over.

This would also eliminate the need to set poor examples for our children with endless namecalling and bird flipping. One Christmas, my friend Seth's 2-year-old daughter got one of those driving toys with the steering wheel and little red horn in the middle. While the extended family was noisily chatting and opening gifts, it became apparent that the toddler was off in a corner, wildly yanking the wheel from one side to the other, banging on the horn and yelling "IDIOT! IDIOT"


Friday, July 21, 2006

Photo Friday: Common

How common a face is this? Why do kids hate haircuts so much? Lucas was 3 and this was his first real haircut. He was one of those cueball babies, who went from having absolutey NO hair to having a head full of wild curls. The curls are gone now, but a full eight years after this photo was taken, he STILL hates haircuts.

Marley & Me

Lucas and I listened to "Marley & Me" this week, finishing it in a few days even though we only listen in the car. (Yes, that often means sitting in the parking spot outside our condos while we hang onto the last few words of a chapter.) I've been lauding the audiobook/iPod format a lot these days (hell, I've listened to more books in the past two weeks than I've read in the past two years!) but this time I *really* mean it. If you have not read this book yet, LISTEN to it. (see the link in my sidebar)

I'll admit, at first I wasn't sure I liked John Grogan's voice (sorry, John). He sounded a little too much like Misterogers to me. But hearing first hand every emotion that the author and his family experienced in their life with Marley...somehow conjuring that voice up in my head would not have had the same impact. And, of course, being able to read WITH someone else just adds to the whole experience. Lucas and I laughed and cried together as we soaked in the story of Marley...much of which we could relate to, for many different reasons.

Best of all, John Grogan has a blog. If you've read the book and loved it as we did, go visit John and tell him I sent you his way. He's way cuter than Misterogers.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Chix with Dix

Just finished watching Felicity Huffman's tour de force performance in Transamerica . I was aware that she had done an amazing job as a pre-op transexual (a woman playing a man who wants to be a woman), but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film as a whole. All the performances are excellent and it's smartly written. Highly recommended.

The film also reminded me of a pre-op tranny in our own lives. We had a "manny" when my daughter was born, in 1985. Who knew we were such trend setters? Anyway, the story of Arthur our manny is fodder for entire blog post, and he's not the tranny, so I'll get to the story at hand.

Arthur had a childhood friend named Frankie who, at 40, was a pre-op transexual. She had breasts but still had her male goods as well, and went by the name of "Miss Pearl." Always over-madeup, over-accessorized and overdressed, she looked more like another "Miss":

She was unintentionally hilarious. She took herself very seriously, strutted her stuff with confidence, swinging her bleached blonde ponytail from side to side and sending us into fits of laughter with her endless Brooklynese malaprops. When writing a thank you note one day, she looked at Arthur with a puzzled expression: "I want to write, 'Remember the fun we used to have'. How do you spell "Yoost?"). Or she gravely reported that a friend who had been killed in a car accident was "Very dead."

The most memorable moment, however, was the day she got into an argument with a woman over a parking space in her very straight-laced Bay Ridge neighborhood. She was pulling into the space, the woman was trying to back in simultaneously, and they were at an impasse. Finally, the woman got out of her car and marched over to Miss Pearl's driver side window. "If you don't get out of this space I'm calling a COP!" she hissed. And without batting a false eyelash, our leading lady shot back, "Suck my dick."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Photo Friday: Remarkable

Remarkable to think that exactly FIVE months ago, this was the view as I walked Kelso down my street. Today? 90 degrees with sweltering humidity. I'll take the heat, thanks. ;)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

If You Read No Other Book

The Kite Runner.

(Actually, I listened to it which I think added SO much to the experience. I can't get his voice out of my head.) If you don't find yourself double-checking that this is a NOVEL, and not a MEMOIR, a million times while reading this book I'd be amazed.

Do yourself a favor, though. Don't read the Publisher's Weekly review on Amazon, because it gives away all the important things about the story. What's up with that?

I've moved from that to another sad book, Night, the Holocaust memoir by Elie Wiesel. Really hard to listen to, but so important nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Factoid #65: The Shooting Gallery

Greg&Marian 1972, originally uploaded by panthergirl.

Another entry in the series of expanded explanations of my 100 Things.

#65 reads: "I sat in a "shooting gallery" in Brooklyn when I was 15 years old with my 22-year-old heroin addict boyfriend. Thankfully, I was terrified of needles."

This is a photo of me and said boyfriend (I was 17 here). At the point that this picture was taken, he was in a Methadone program. I remember riding the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan, him slumped on my shoulder, the other passengers clearly wondering what I saw in this drooling junkie. The Methadone was given to him at first as a liquid he had to consume in front of the administrator, but eventually in tab form to take home. He let me try a quarter of a tab one Saturday night. After a night of vivid and amazing dreams, I woke up to find myself hiding upstairs in my grandparents' bathroom, projectile vomiting. The high lasted for three very scary days. I was convinced that the drug had permanently altered by brain and that I would never be "normal" again. And remember, I was both living at home with my parents and still attending Catholic high school. As frightening as it was, it also gave me a clear understanding of why people become addicted to heroin. It was the most euphoric feeling I've ever experienced.

I was 15 when I first met him in the neighborhood and, flattered by his puppy-dog attention, began to hang out with him and his stuporous friends. While they languished in their drug-induced hazes, they would give me all of their "works" (needles, etc.) to hold because I was underage, and therefore wouldn't have gone to jail if caught. (I didn't consider the prospect of Juvenile Hall.)

Eventually, he went back to shooting up even while he was on Methadone and things got very bad. His mother called me an "angel of mercy" for sticking with him, which was a big wakeup call. I wasn't in the Angel of Mercy business, and left him shortly thereafter. His poor, sweet mother had to suffer through his drug addiction, and as if that wasn't pain enough, lost her eldest son to combat in Vietnam.

A few years later, my uncle spotted my former beau digging through a dumpster in a subway station, filthy, down and out. I was sure he'd wind up dead before 30.

About 4 years ago, I was stunned to receive an email from him. He had found me through, and told me that by that magical age of 30 he had hit rock bottom, lost all his teeth and was at death's door. His family dragged him to rehab and he was able to get a menial job at a convent, determined to stay clean.

He managed to get back on his feet and married a woman with a daughter that he loved as his own. Describing the home he now cherished, he said that he still loved music and had built himself a listening room and still had all of his old albums. He told me that he often played a Nina Simone record that reminded him of me. Although my memory, especially for sensory triggers lke music, is usually excellent, I had blocked out everything but the painful stuff. I had no recollection of Nina Simone or anything else pleasant from that time. I did not let on. He sent me this picture of us (nice makeup, eh?) and said he couldn't believe he had been given a second chance at life.

Scratch that -- a third chance. He had been working in Food Service at Cantor Fitzgerald in 2001, but left his job just 2 months before 9/11.

His is a true story of survival, in every way.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Week in Reviews


The Sea Inside. Intense film that explores the real life struggle of Ramon Sampedro, fighting the Spanish government for the right to kill himself. It's an emotional and compelling look at euthanasia, and Javier Bardem does an amazing job. It's no surprise that this film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and even LESS surprising that it won for Best Makeup. You have to see it to believe it.


Anderson Cooper's Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters and Survival. I love Anderson Cooper, and this book which is a combination memoir and an insider's look at field journalism, did not disappoint. I knew a little about his personal life, but not the things I found out from reading this. I listened to the audiobook, and couldn't turn it off. Four hours later, I decided to save the last 30 minutes for my drive into work. Just didn't want it to end.

Currently reading "The Kite Runner". (link in sidebar)


Big Brother All-Stars. A guilty pleasure, but at least I'm not paying for the live feeds (anymore). Please get rid of "Chicken George". Season One was such a disaster you would think they'd have disqualified ALL of the contestants from that season for being terminally boring. Like this reporter from MSNBC , Panthergirl likes to pretend she has better things to do than watch Big Brother 7 three nights a week. She does not.


Ken Lay. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Although he really deserved to get some prison-lovin', so he could experience what it's like to get fucked by "management". I still think he killed himself, rather than take what was coming to him.


Kim Jong-il (or "Kim Jong the Second", as Cheney called him). Check him out in Team America: World Police. The guy would be laughable if he wasn't so damned frightening.

I par'd a par 4. OK, so that's not news for most people, but it is for me!! I have THIS to thank ...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Photo Friday: Summer

Lucas and me, Tods Point CT ... 1997. The only thing I miss about living in Greenwich.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Idol for Cool People

It's Rockstar: Supernova, baby. And I'm in summer TV heaven. I *loved* Rockstar:INXS last year (although I was pulling for my fave, Jordis Unga, to win), and this year's season is proving to be just as good. The rockers are GRRRRREAT (for the most part, with a few clunkers including one woman who appears to be the lovechild of Pam Anderson and Barbra Streisand, and another who I *swear* is Ann Coulter, doing research for her next book, "Rock Music: Can Our Children Be Saved?"). I voted for the South African chick (seen here) who sang "Lithium" and the Australian guy who sang "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". I think I'm in lurrrrrve.

Taylor who?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sweet'a Hitchhiker

Remember hitchhiking? Ok, if you are less than 40 years old, you probably don't. Either because you already knew how dangerous it was, or because you are dead. (in which case, I'm delighted that my blog is popular in the afterlife)

For those of us who grew up in the hippy-dippy 60s and early 70s, hitchhiking was practically a rite of passage. I had friends who thumbed their way across the country, with nary an incident. (Oh, a pantless guy here and there. But they *usually* passed on those rides.)

My best friend "Minnie" and I (she has made me pinky-swear that I will never use her name on this blog) would regularly hitch rides from our Brooklyn neighborhood to Rockaway Beach. This usually entailed flashing our 16 year old bodies on Cross Bay Boulevard, in bikinis. It was a wide expanse of a road, three lanes in each direction, with several traffic lights before the causeway to the beach. Those lights were our only nod to safety. They were our exit ramps, if need be.

For the most part, we'd get picked up by cars full of rowdy and randy boys, who were completely manageable. Once in awhile, we'd accept a ride from a man driving alone, and could usually tell within the first 30 seconds if we were going to jump out at the light. (Thankfully, these were the days before automatic door locks.) Aside from the technology, things were no safer back then. We could easily have been abducted and killed, but we were convinced that we were too savvy to die.

The most memorable ride we took did involve death, just not ours. While cruising back to the funeral home from a cemetary, a hearse driver thought (correctly) that it would be a hoot to pick up the two kooky nymphets on the side of the road. He let us ride in the back so we could pop our heads through the curtains and wave to the startled drivers behind us. OK, so it wasn't quite "Girls Gone Wild", but I assure you, the reaction was almost the same.

The hardest thing about raising teenagers is knowing what "invincibility" felt like. Outside our homes, we felt free, powerful, and utterly convinced that bad things only happened to stupid people. We'd learn otherwise, and soon. But our hitchhiking memories remain untarnished.

Book 'em, Danno

Thanks to blogging and blog-reading, I've become lax about reading books. This might not be so much of an issue if I weren't a compulsive book-buyer. (My daughter howled with laughter the first year that Amazon sent me a coffee mug for Christmas. She called it the $3000 coffee cup.)

To make matters worse, I joined a few years ago convinced that I'd listen to books in the car, or while 'power walking'. I neither listened nor walked.

I've turned over a new leaf. (har har) I am currently reading one physical book and listening to two. The first one I'm listening to is:

It's the story of the 12 days following the Lincoln assassination and it is fascinating! It reads much more like a novel than an historical account. Lucas is really enjoying it as well. (The iPod is great for book-listening, as it bookmarks the place where you stop, so you can go from one book to another, or to music, without ever losing your place. I have an mp3 jack in the car, so we listen there.)

When I'm not with Lucas, or have dragged my ass out 'power walking', I'm listening to:

I love Anne Tyler, but I'm hoping this one will pick up soon. The tale of two families in Baltimore (of course) who have adopted baby girls from Korea, it's an interesting premise but she is getting mired in the excrutiating details for the first 3 chapters. The only disadvantage to listening is that you can't 'skim'. If it doesn't start moving soon, I'm switching the "Marley and Me" (in my sidebar).

The physical book I'm reading is:

Possible Side Effects, by Augusten Burroughs. I loved "Running wth Scissors", and am enjoying this collection of essays about his adult life. This book is incredibly inspiring to me, because it's exactly the kind of book I want to write. A blog, bound. Funny, sad, poignant, snarky... he's my hero.

And while I'm plugging, my dear friend Joy Masoff has published another terrific kids' book.

It's an adorable, interactive board book for pre-schoolers. (Amazon says ages 9-12, but that's a boo-boo!!!)

(She's also the author of "Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty", and the upcoming "Oh Yikes! History's Grossest Moments"):

What are you reading?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Family Jewel - Redux

A rerun for the slow holiday weekend...


OK, out. I'm organizing pictures today and scanning as I go.

This particular photograph always makes me laugh. It's my mother's family, taken probably in the mid 1930's.

Bottom left: My grandmother, Lucy, previously seen sitting on a donkey. Probably the kindest person I've ever known. Kept us laughing with these attempts at English:

"Aunt-a Mary went to the Poconuts on vacation..."

"Aunt-a Jo Ann got a new car...a Veal Cutless."

"It's-a time for bed. Putta you pinjamas on..."

"I like-a candy, 'specially Hemena-Hemena Peanoots." (M&M Peanuts)

She cut the ends off most words, so "children" became "chill", etc. Once, when she asked me if I liked my aunt's new house, I said "Yeah, except for the living room floor." (which was vinyl) She bristled and said "Whatsamatta? You no like-a linol?"

Bottom right; My grandfather, Sal, who looks so mean in this picture...what a joke! Nice try, grandpa. He smoked those gross little Italian Panetela cigars that would make you puke if you just touched one to your lips (Yeah, that's right. I thought that was a good idea at the time.) He'd pronounce my name (Marian) as "Muddiyan", which spawned my childhood nickname: "Mudd".

Upper left: My Aunt Ginny, who is the only sane one of the four sisters. She's given me a lot of insight into why my mother is so nuts.

Upper middle: Aunt Mary and Aunt JoAnn, in this photo known as "The Fugly Twins". They, along with my grandparents, lived upstairs from us and got married very "late" (in their 30s). Apparently what they heard from the marriage downstairs made them a little gun-shy. (getting rid of those hair bows helped too. They look a little bit like Wendy Willcox in this picture.)

Upper Right: My mother, Margie-Dearest. The oldest of the four, and already in complete control of the clan. Here, she's thinking "That's right, Mom and Pop...someday I will be your LANDLADY!"