Crap Day: I’m a Clown AND a Narcolept

I feel like all I really did was fall asleep and noodle around on Facebook looking for people who wronged me 30 years ago.

ciown dog (1)What a crap day it’s been weather-wise. I have to admit it’s gotten to me; it’s had the effect of scrapping all my plans.

Here I was all set to go to Yoga for starters. I was up and dressed before 7:00 even.

Well, not fully dressed. 

I had on my clown-pant pajama bottoms and my favorite too-big tee. On a day with many tasks ahead,  I like to first fire up the old neurons by hitting the treadmill upstairs, and I’m totally fine with pulling on socks and sneakers even while still IN the clown pants because who knows what I’ll end up REALLY wearing for the day? Plus, you know, who’s going to see me? Thirty minutes and done, I thought.

But first, I reasoned, I’d better eat a bite, and it was while my egg was boiling that I looked out the kitchen window at this cold grey rain. It was also then that I saw our magnolia with its buds littering the ground, murdered in their little bed back a few weeks ago when we had that freeze. In this time of vernal yearning, the tree is as bald as Walter White’s head.

And somehow that fact alone brought me down enough that I never did climb the stairs to do those miles.

To say nothing of going to yoga. Or doing my real work. Or filing away those old photos I dug out last week. I was going to foodshop, and hit the cleaners. I was going to get stamps as well, and swing by the Apple store for yet another one of their quickly fraying chargers.

But exactly none of that happened. David is away tonight so I was also going to call a pal and catch a movie but that’s not going to happen either. 

I feel like all I really did today was fall asleep repeatedly and noodle around on Facebook looking for people who wronged me 30 years ago. 

And now here it is after 5, and me still in my clown suit. How I’ll spend my remaining six hours of consciousness I have no idea.

Maybe the thing to do is pull on those sneaks and see if can find my way to that treadmill. Yeah, I’ll try that. And maybe also send up a prayer that this rainy cold ‘down’ day gets followed tomorrow by a sunny ,warm ‘up’ one. 

fingers crossed!





Prince and Michael

Sexuality is a mystery to us all. It’s the sacred fire, the thing that brings the babies – or doesn’t – and in his celebration of it, Prince gave a whole lot of people the courage to be who they are .

prince & michael.jpegI remember just where I was sitting when the news of Michael Jackson’s death flashed onto my phone: a conference room in a Santa Barbara hotel where the annual conference of The National Society of Newspaper Columnists was about to commence. Those of us of holding office in that organization were gathered at an oval-shaped table making last-minute plans and back then, in long-ago 2009, I was probably the only one impolite enough to have my phone out. (Nowadays even at weddings ceremonies you wouldn’t be surprised to see the bridal couple tapping and scrolling, tapping and scrolling during snoozy moments in the very service.)

For whatever reason, in in that room, I was the one who knew first. “Michael Jackson died!” I exclaimed, interrupting.

You just couldn’t believe that Michael was dead. You thought he would go on and on, having cosmetic surgeries and then corrections on the surgeries ad infinitum. You thought he would always be giving himself whole-heartedly to his audiences the way he did. (How many shows did he have booked for his upcoming London concert run at the  time of his death? Fifty, wasn’t it?

And now, these eight years later, it any easier to accept the fact that Prince too is gone? We’re not even used to the idea that Bowie will never again sing for us.

Still, there’s a new immortality available to us with this miracle of technology that we take so entirely for granted.

When the news of his death went out yesterday, I spent a solid hour watching YouTube videos of Prince, the mischievous lad, the intelligent man. In 1981, when he opened for the Stones in nothing but bikini bottoms and a trenchcoat, he was booed and had things thrown at him by the audience. Afterward, Mick Jigger called him to offer comfort. “You’re ahead of them, is what it is,” Mick told him. “The world will catch up” and he was right about that. In the early 80s the Stones drew a macho crowd. Think of the way the Hells Angels themselves were hired to provide security at the testosterone-drenched Altamont concert where real violence erupted and one person lost his life. Big swaggering males aren’t a big part of the audience at a Stones concert now, boy. The Stones evolved, and so did we all.

Michael, in his teen years was marketed as a nice hetero boy, though really he was just a nice boy. (I never believed for a moment that he was seducing children there at his Neverland ranch.) The victim of parental abuse himself with the hitting and the shaming he suffered at the hands of his father, I believe he took refuge in a kind of permanently childlike, asexual realm.

Prince, by contrast, was never asexual in his presentation He played with the idea of gender norms and rightly so when you get down to it sexuality is a mystery to us all. It’s the sacred fire, the thing that brings the babies – or doesn’t – and in his celebration of it, he gave a whole lot of people the courage to be who they are. We will miss him.

for prince

San Francisco’s City Hall, lit up in Prince’s memory


 Give Me the Manual

reading the instructionsI just listened to a podcast where a political commentator talked about covering a speech Bill Clinton recently gave on his wife’s behalf. He said the thing he couldn’t get over was the way Clinton “did this thing your uncle or your grandpa would do: He kept saying ‘there was an article on the Internet that I saw this morning,’ and ‘I read on the Internet where…’  “It was so…endearing!” the podcaster chuckled and his team chuckled with him.

Now if you’re like me and you too don’t see why someone would find it richly comical for a person to say he or she read something on the Internet, it’s because you and I, dear reader, are ourselves no different from our own old uncles and grandpas: We just don’t ‘get’ what younger folks assume, which is “OF COURSE you read something on the Internet! Where else does anyone read anything?”

Well now.

Some of us read things in the paper. And in magazines. And in books.

Me, I love reading an instruction manual.

Time was, we had in this house a first-generation sprinkler system with a big old wheel showing the days of the week and the hours of the day, all represented by wee white buttons that you pulled out or pushed in to arrange your irrigation. My dog could have operated it, and yet it came with a manual.

Time was, we had a car with a clock whose time you could change just by poking the point of a ballpoint pen into this little bellybutton of a place right under the display. It had a manual too, but it’s sure not like that now, boy.

A kind of missionary from an energy-saving arm of our state came to look at our thermostats and ended up replacing what he called the “outmoded” one in the kitchen.

“Ok, here’s how you program this baby,” he told us breezily, talking a mile a minute as his fingers went boop, boop, boop on the instrument panel.

“Then you do this to change your hours, – boop- and this to change your temperature, and then you save your settings this way – boop – and that’s it!”

There was no printed set of instructions. He left us with nothing but our puzzlement.

David and I actually read quite a lot “on the Internet” so I suppose we could go there and start noodling around for a tutorial on the darn thing, but … I don’t know. I feel too cranky to do that, so we’re mostly hollering to each other to ask, “Did you turn the heat [up] down in the kitchen?”

I guess I’m just a give-me-the-manual kind of a gal. And if it takes me 30 minutes in the car rental garage to go over all the operating instructions for the vehicle I am about to cross some entire state in, so be it. At least I’ll be able to quick turn on the wipers when the next frog-strangler of a rainstorm hits.


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Spring Cleaning

Worked all day yesterday around the place. Found mouse tracks both in the seat of high chair and in the little plastic ‘canoe’ you use to bathe an infant in.

A friend who cleans for us now and then swears she saw a red squirrel zoom along the baseboards while she was dusting the bookshelves the other day so there’s that too.
This is our summer place, which we come to as many weekends as we can all year round, but much of what I’m finding today seems fall-related:

Like the mouse tracks.
And the squirrel fur.

And the acorns I keep finding in this one bed. Acorns and tiny little seeds, tucked neat as a folded pair of pajamas and hidden under the pillow! 

There was more archeology when we turned to the fridge:

Half a can of frosting cracked like ice on a pond! 

A tub of cream cheese completely fuzzed over in green!

And finally this skinny tall can of grated parmesan cheese from …2002.

parm in a can

Buyers remorse here all right, because who on earth think parm in a can tastes okay? I did once but that was a lifetime ago.

Before I know any better.

Back when I got all my pasta from the Franco-American people. (Ah their spaghetti was wondrous! Fat red worms in a can!


Man, the food of the late 60s and early 50s was weird but it had its appeal, yes it did. If they told us we’d all be eating kale one day who’d have believed them?

it's the 50s! canned supper
















Keeping Track

a list & diary entry
Last spring I took this picture of what both my diary and my planner said I was doing a year ago now. Oh, I use Google’s calendar too with its alerts and reminders, but man:

I do love writing a thing down.

I love writing it down both beforehand and afterward. I love the planning and I love the living-out of what I have planned

A year ago today, according to my paper planner, it says that I:

One, went to the dentist’s to pay a bill;

Two, bade farewell to the  8th grader who came to look at our town’s awesome A Better Chance program;

Three, went through a bunch of old columns I had written (always a humility-inducing exercise);

Four, called Verizon – and the scowly face I drew shows I was not happy even then with the streaming speed in our kitchen;

Five, – Verizon again! –  met my grown son at the Verizon Wireless storefront with the hope of getting him to eat a bite with me afterward.

He was living at the time in Somerville, the Boston-area equivalent of Greenwich Village

The planner doesn’t show what my Google Calendar says I also did, like run on my treadmill for 30 minutes, catch a Stretch Class at the Y and take a moment to ponder the fact that it was the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. 

But now I look at the diary entry, and see that it speaks only of meeting my son at the Verizon store and talking with him at dinner.

What we talked about if, you can’t read the writing, was how happy his college pals sounded when he told them that after almost four years in New England, he would be returning in August to the town so nice they named it twice, to get an MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Management.

He used to work as an artist, which means he is a creative person. I am a writer, or a ‘creative’ too, so he has always kind of ‘gotten’ me. He has comforted me so much the times we have spoken about the creative life.

But now he’d be joining the business world.  My two other kids are in that world too so there it is: As my husband David merrilyput it, he who has been in manufacturing all his life, “That’s three for me, TT, none for you!” (He calls me ‘TT’.)

Since the MBA is a two-year program our son is still there in New York, learning all about the wide world of the marketplace. By all the signs, he loves the whole experience, loves being near his college friends again, loves the million new friends he has made and loves all he is learning, so I guess for sure he’s headed for that world. 

Me, I’m not in that world. I’m more in the noticing and remembering world.

The pay isn’t great and let’s face it who is ever going to do more than groan over the sight of these bookcases full of planners and diaries I leave behind, but still: I am happy I have been a remembererI remember so I can be ready for that final moment they say we all get at the end when our whole life flashes before our eyes.

“Hey!” I’ll say. “There goes April 13th!

Good times on that date, year after year whether recorded or not, whether planned for or not. Almost too many good times to count  and I thank you, God, for that.


These only LOOK like National Geographics. They’re really Nat Geo cases with all my diaries inside .


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Here’s a Fun Thing to Try


Colonoscopy2imgTestI was closing in on 50 when, at my yearly checkup, my doctor asked that question we all understand to be key these days, about the medical history and cause of death of my two parents.

“My mom: heart attack,” I said “but my dad left before I was born, so I have no clue how he died.”

“Find out,” the doc said. “Do some digging if you have to.”

So, I dug. It took months, but by the time I came back I had my answer. “’Intestinal cancer’ it says on his death certificate.”

“OK, then. You’re overdue for  a colonoscopy.”

“ Hey come on,” I said, going for the joke. “I didn’t even know the guy!”

 He didn’t laugh. “A colonoscopy is indicated for anyone past a certain age either of whose parents had cancer ‘below the bellybutton’. Here are the names of some people who do this procedure. Pick one and get it done.”

So… I picked one, and in a month’s time found myself seated across from a white-haired GI doc for a little facetime. Did I have any questions? he wanted to know.

I did indeed. “My sister has had this procedure and she says it’s super uncomfortable and I should ask for medication, so I wondered: what do you give people?”

“A muscle relaxant of course, as well as a drug called Versed  which acts an amnesiac.”

“An amnesiac?! You want us to forget then, which means it MUST hurt!

“But does it, really?” I asked, hoping against hope.

“Oh, I won’t say I haven’t heard a few good groans over the years,” he answered cheerily. “I mean think about it: You’ve got a five-foot probe and…three right angles.”  

I thought about it; pictured that flexible wand and its seeing-eye fiber-optics. Then I pictured the colon itself, an inverted letter “U” that you explore by ‘driving up’ a squiggly on-ramp.

I went head anyway and booked the procedure.

When the day came the two drugs, administered in painless I-V fashion made me feel fine. Wonderful, in fact.

“Let’s see that five-foot probe!” I gamely sang.

“Here it is!,” the genial doc sang back.

I turned then to look at the monitor – and then somehow a 90 minutes swath was cut from my life. I was lying on my side and it was 8:41; then suddenly I was sitting up and it was 10:11.

I do have a vague memory of turning in protest once, but it seems more dream than memory and, as the saying goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a noise? If a highly ‘personal’ but beneficial experience is visited on you and you don’t remember it, can you call it uncomfortable? Maybe not.

So line up and get it done if you’re at the magical age. The dread snacks you get in the Recovery Room alone are make it all worth while.

colonoscopy fears


High Speed Chase

pursuit in woburnIt was the sound of the helicopters that I heard at first: never a good sound but I thought Well, carry on, and so started off for my exercise class, weights and sneakers and water bottle in hand. I was swinging along through the side streets of Woburn, the town next door to me where our local Y is, when I heard it on the radio: A car seen going 120 miles an hour south on the Interstate had been chased for miles on that highway, and was now being chased on the side streets of the very town I was in.

Two police cars came screaming past me and all I could think was, What if this fool is coming in this direction? I began eyeing places where I could dart out off the road entirely. These bushes wouldn’t be bad, I thought, or hell, I could swerve off into this brook if I had to.

I got safely to my Total Strength class in the Y’s basement-level studio but nearly jumped out of my skin when an ungodly crash came from the floor above us. “SOMEONE up there doesn’t know how to use the equipment!” quipped our instructor.

As far as I know, nobody in the Y knew of what was happening on the streets, but I knew. And don’t think I didn’t start eyeing places in the room where I could duck down and  hide.

They caught the two perps, but not before people in two schools had been told to shelter in place. The passenger perp had jumped from the car as soon as they got off the highway and had fled on foot into the neighborhoods. The driver was finally found hiding, ironically for me, inside the Woburn Racquet Club just up the street.

Sad it is to think that this wariness and jumpiness, to say nothing of the sirens and the news flashes and the sheltering-in place have become the new normal.



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On Entertaining

entertaining in the old daysSo what happened to entertaining anyway? These days, apart from your major  holidays, the only meals most of us eat outside our houses are the meals we pay for – and I guess it was in part to counter this trend that I decided to invite people over for a real St. Patrick’s Day corned-beef-and cabbage dinner.

The ‘people’ were my daughters and their four young children and I have to say, the daughters were all for it. “Only maybe no corned beef?” requested the one who in her own early years subsisted entirely on a diet of Smartfood.

“I’ll do a brisket instead” I cheerfully offered, “and serve Irish soda bread and… I know, bright green peas! And we’ll have tiny pots of shamrock dotting the table!” My zeal was like a delirium as I planned the traditional feast, though with certain modifications for the younger diners.

I decided, for example, to (a) scratch the cooked carrots, which strike many small children as repulsive, and serve instead cute individual ‘bouquets’ of tiny raw baby carrots;  and (b) also scratch the cooked cabbage, which, let’s tell the truth, smells to high heaven and instead set raw cabbage leaves on a platter to serve as pale-green “cups” into which I would spoon a sweet slippery sling of sliced canned peaches. Lovely!

I’d go ahead with the boiled potatoes, I decided, but mash them up with plenty of butter and milk, to make sure they got eaten.

I was on my way!

The afternoon before, I shopped with an eagle eye, pinching the bottoms of the spuds, the carrots – even the brisket itself. And then I started cooking. 

The morning of the big event found me ironing the napkins and the tablecloth, then  dashing to several florists, where the tiny pots of shamrocks proved neither as darling nor as plentiful as I had remembered. So Ok, I’d use plain white flowers, and lay them on a rectangular tray, on a bed of greens, I decided.

The whole rest of the day I sprinted from the kitchen to the dining room and back again, breaking only to speed-walk to the drugstore for some aspirin – where my eye fell on two bright-green baby dinosaurs, with big purple eyes and wonderful spangly scales.

I bought them on the spot, speed-walked back home, nestled the dinosaurs next to the centerpiece and was just fashioning blossoms of bright-green ‘curly ribbon’ around their necks when – yikes! – the doorbell rang. The company had come, along with a big dose of reality, which is to say:

The children gave the brisket a total pass. Ditto the pale-green cups of cabbage cradling peach slices. Ditto the Irish soda bread. And I forgot to even serve the baby carrots.

Perhaps to set a merry tone when we first sat sit down at the table, my husband and daughters each opened a bottle of craft beer – at which point I shouted, “No, no! GREEN beer!” then jumped from the table, rummaged in the cabinets for the food coloring, and proceeded to accidentally dye my whole hand green, which I must say looked strikingly vivid next to the blood that began gushing out  when I sliced the tip of my finger open on my own humble can of Bud Light.

“I hope the cloth is washable,” I heard one daughter murmur  as I sprinted upstairs to the bathroom in search of a bandage.

It was there in the quiet of the bathroom, while perched on the edge of the tub with my improvised tourniquet, that I began to see just why people don’t entertain very much. All that dashing about! And the headaches! And not even getting a single SIP of the beer!

Lucky for us all, we got invited out for Easter.

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