Everybody Drink!

Flying home from my little vacation I had a chance to check out billboards and posters in what seemed like dozens of eateries and I have to say: Some of them are wicked lame.

Take the fuel that “America runs on” for example: the poster I saw for that shows a big white Styrofoam cup imprinted with the familiar orange and pink colors and the phrase “Readin’ Emails!” That was it, that was the whole ad, as if there could be no higher kind of fun than readin’ emails while sippin’ your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. “OH yeah,” we’re supposed to say to ourselves. “I’m a cool person now!

Still, the Dunkin’ posters are better than the ones Starbucks comes up with. Up until this past week my favorite has been this misty-looking painting-like poster showing a path (from coffee grower to coffee drinker) that looks exactly like somebody’s colon, right down to the little off-ramp at the bottom. Where it starts there are happy cartoon peasants driving cartoon tractors; where it ends, happy cartoon people holding coffee cups the size of their heads while the words wind up down and around like ant tracks, set off in odd little sentences, like Buddhist koans perhaps, pearls of wisdom for you to ponder while you’re waiting in line for your $5 fix. Also some are capitalized, and some not, and for no apparent reason which I find incredibly annoying. See?

“Of the earth but heaven sent, coffee starts out as a CHERRY.” (OK, now here imagine a gong sounding: whaaaaang.) “Within the cherry you have the taste of the PLACE it was grown.” (Another gong-dong, bwaaaaaang.) Fire is the magical element for it is in the ROAST that it truly becomes coffee upon the SECOND POP” (Double bwaaaang.) And now here you sit with a cup in front of you, ready to ENJOY. A sip leads to an EPIPHANY. INSPIRATION and IMAGINATION await. The journey goes ever ON …”

Is it me or is this NOT ONLY AMAZINGLY STILTED AND NON-CLEVER BUT OBSCURE IN ITS MESSAGE? It’s as if it was written by people who speak a whole other language than English, who, like, use a different alphabet.

I just thought that was the dumbest Starbucks poster I ever saw – until Monday morning when I caught sight of the brand-new March poster for the a mint-flavored drink. “Leprechaun Latte” it says over the image of a capering member of the wee people, and then “I looked into my literacy-loving soul and AIEEE! there was a latte!”

“Aieee there was a latte”? Why don’t these people just become accountants?

You want to see some good example of advertising go to the site where you can see all of this year’s Superbowl Ads. My favorite shows a real baby sitting at a seeming keyboard in his nursery and talking in a deep male voice. What’s great is this ironic and laid back voice coming out of a real baby’s mouth. Also the fact that it has a little throwing-up in it of the kind that a person comes right back from, the way my godmother did as a young woman in the 1930s. This lady, born in 1909 if you please, had had a few, sure, but no more than anyone else at the party. She was playing sing-along tunes on the piano for a gang of tipsy revelers and singing herself – then glanced down to see that oops! she had thrown up all over her dress without knowing it and c’mon, what’s funnier than that?

Well let’s close this high-minded post by looked at that great ad right now.It has a sister ad that came on later in the game so we’ll put that in here too.


Babies, man: you can’t beat babies for funny. Maybe some of these corporations should hire THEM to write their ads.

Saturday Night Fever

So here we are on vacation in Paradise and our little boy is sick. Somebody has to stay with him at all times since when the fever decides to spike he can’t even wake up never mind sit. Yesterday afternoon his poor sun-starved mother spent three hours in the hotel room while he snoozed on, simmering like a little tea kettle in his fold-out bed. She is such a good mother, this green-eyed girl. You can tell just by looking at her what a nice mother she is. Here, ha ha see if you can pick her out in this photo with her grad school classmates. (My kids tell me everyone already knows this but clicking on any picture in this kind of setting makes it VERY BIG. (It’s fun, try it! It’s like accordion-folding the paper that comes wrapped around your drinking straw, then S-L-O-W-L-Y releasing little drops of water on it, see? Cool, right?)small-ctm-mba-men.jpg

    Anyhow just as she was getting ready to dress up and go out to this fancy dinner with the rest of the family when he woke up from this three-hour nap.

    And his temperature in the ear was 103.8 .

    Which is why she had him in the tub when I knocked on the door of their hotel room.

    I had long ago offered to do babysit on this night. I have trouble with long fancy meals anyhow: ninety minutes in I’m either fighting the urge to lie down under the table and blow spit bubbles or else I’m saying things like “What about the POOR? Why don’t we give all these food dollars to THEM?!”

    I hurried right in to the bathroom, expecting to see a bright-red child, but no. He was pale and floating on his back, his little body stretched out full length. “Hi, TT” he said in funereal tones but then the Motrin must have started working because by the time his mum has left and I had dug into my pocket and pulled out the little gel capsules with baby dinosaurs in them he’d perked right up.

    The Sex Ed seminar he had in mind for me started there.

    I had told him about how we could just toss these capsules into the warm water and the babies would emerge, but no; he insisted we help “deliver” them.

    Which led directly to talk about the wonderful world of underpants. He pointed and said that HE had a penis whereas I was just flat on the bottom.

    “Wo!” said I and asked if he had never heard of Mister Rogers and “Everybody’s Fancy,” the world’s most instructive song. Then I sang it a few times. Care to join me?

    Some are fancy on the outside.
    Some are fancy on the inside.
    Everybody’s fancy.
    Everybody’s fine.
    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    Boys are boys from the beginning.
    Girls are girls right from the start.
    Everybody’s fancy.
    Everybody’s fine.
    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    Girls grow up to be the mommies.
    Boys grow up be the daddies.
    Everybody’s fancy.
    Everybody’s fine.
    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    I think you’re a special person
    And I like your ins and outsides.
    Everbody’s fancy.
    Everybody’s fine.
    Your body’s fancy and so is mine.

    Then we forced a couple of more dinosaurs into the world, he chanting “Come on Little Baby!” Then he turned to me and said “YOU never pushed anyone out.”

    “Oh I didn’t, huh? You know that green-eyed lady that just kissed you goodbye 30 minutes ago? You know the two others that look kinda like her only one of them has a hairy face?”

    “Did you push Mum out? And Auntie? And Mike?”

    “You bet I did.”

    He floated a little longer among his foam menagerie thinking and singing. Then I toweled him off and tucked him back into his little sickbed.

    “I need my children,” he said and gathered to him both Bruce the babydoll and Pedro Hispanic Boy, so named by the surely-well-intentioned but still-slightly-missin’ it toy manufacturer Kaplan, who, I clearly remember, also provided the cheerleading phrase “Multicultural Babies are a World of Fun and Snuggles” under Pedro’s picture where I first saw it on the Internet.

    “I pushed these two out,” said our little boy with sleepy satisfaction and who would argue with that? The point is they were here with him now. And for all I remember of any pain associated with the pushing-out that I did so long ago, my own kids might as well have been ordered up in gel-caps. And his fever was down, for now anyway. And I could go to the next room with my book and listen to his sweet breathing all free of the need to blow spit bubbles or denounce dining out in fancy restaurants.



    Posted in Uncategorized

    Nits ‘n Fevers

    You know you’re a parent when sweet tiny white lights strung across a quiet lane of grass stop you in your tracks because they look so much like nits on a strand of hair..

    Nits of course are the eggs that head lice lay and if you’ve cared for children at all in your life you have probably seen them. It happens on the day your child comes into the room scratching. Scratching in the morning, still scratching at noon. Along about suppertime you see him again and still his hands are in his hair and think WAIT A MINUTE YOU DON”T SUPPOSE?! And you pull him onto your lap and there behind the ear and along the hairline where it’s nice and warm you see them: elliptical shaped eggs sticky as all Hell. No fingers can remove them and no tweezers for they are too numerous. Only the special shampoos will do the trick which you must immediately rush out to buy.

    You lay the child back in the bath and soap him up. Many small bugs float out into the water and that’s the easy part. Then you towel the child off and do all you can to distract him from this next worst step which involves going at the critters’ eggs with a metal comb whose teeth are so close together that an angel’s daydreams couldn’t get through them.

    There is crying and lamentation and heavy sweating and it’s all coming from you, your child having passed out 90 seconds in.

    I thought about Bad Times on Vacation because here we are in a gorgeous oasis of a place called The Arizona Inn in sunny Tucson and what do you think? Within three hours of deplaning our little grandson Eddie got the flu.

    Kids always get sick when you travel with them. It was never vacation for us unless we were in some clinic or ER when our kids were small; watching the pretend television of the washers and driers at the Laundromat tumbling the clothes that had been so amply thrown up on etc.Tonight I got to stay home with sick little Eddie while the others went out to a fancy restaurant. I had already volunteered for this duty even BEFORE he got sick and was happy to do it. When I got to his hotel room his mum had him and his 103-degree-plus fever were in the bath trying to ward off whatever horrible things come to you when the heat gets turned up that high.

    Well I can tell more about what happened in that there room tomorrow but for now let us enjoy these images together because we are all God’s creature are we not? And the insects? Honey the insects are gonna be here LONG after we’re gone!

    Mr. Fix-It Practices Home Repair

    “Hey, Mum,” says my son, “remember that weird single-serving coffee maker you gave me a while ago?” and of course I remembered it; it cost like $150 bucks.

    The way you get coffee out of this pricey gizmo is you stick in these small impregnated disks that look a little like diaphragms and cost like a buck apiece. Then there’s an almighty whirring noise and 30 second later out spurts the java into your favorite mug.I thought the kid would need a thing like this. He was just out of the College People Don’t Like To Name For Fear of Having Everybody Hate Them. I’m told they call it “dropping the H bomb” when you do this and like most nice normal kids, he does it very little.

    It’s not that Mike isn’t a great person; he is, as you can tell he is by the sweet mild look on his face as seen here a few winters ago holding our first grandbaby.

    He’s just a little .. strange; the kind of kid who thinks a T-shirt he imprinted himself with giant bloody-looking handprints all over it is just the thing not only to wear to the big Halloween party but who then insists I use this picture and not any other picture on the family Christmas card that year.

    I was pretty sure he couldn’t even make coffee on his own and a felt he would need some when he moved to New York mere months after graduation and was looking for a job.

    Turns out he used it for guests and not for himself. You know how the young are. “It’s such a cliché, ‘Oh here I am in my New York apartment drinking my coffee and surfing the net,’” he says to me. (Do you understand this? I don’t understand this but maybe that’s because my whole LIFE is a cliché.) Anyway so this other day as we four ate together he says, “I decided I needed coffee in my life again and so I pulled out that thing you gave me and opened the top to see if it needed cleaning. And out came all these exoskeletons. Insect parts, cockroach legs.”

    “Eeww!” we all cried. “What did you do?”

    “Well, shook it a little and more came out.”

    “Yeah And THEN what?”

    “I shook it again. I even held it upside down and they kept on coming.”

    “Mike, did you throw it away? “I hope you threw it away!” his two older sisters cried practically in unison.

    “Nah,” says Mike. “I filled the bathtub and submerged it.”

    “You put an electrical appliance in the tub?!” I said. “Then what? Did you get in there WITH it and plug it in?”

    No I just let it soak a while. Then I put it on my radiator to dry.”


    “And it works fine,” he said in his mild way and my first thought was “And THIS person is going to be caring of me in my old age?” But then maybe it’ll be OK after all. Because doesn’t everyone say God looks out for the simple-minded and the crazy? And isn’t that what’s protected ME all my life? ’cause one thing is sure-enough for sure: the apple just don’t fall too far from the tree.

    Big Night

    The Oscars are tonight and I know what that means: time to throw a low-cut gown over my push-up bra and those underpants with the padded fanny, prop my slippered feet up and catch all the action. (With no red carpet in your life it’s like being in your casket: footwear optional.)

    Time was, I always got ready for the Oscars by dressing up. Back in the 80s I used to go in for suspenders rising out of high-waisted black slacks with a stripe down the side, and this cute red bow tie. I did it as a kind of homage to all the tuxedoed gents up there on the stage. That worked great when I was still young and sassy-looking with my giant winged hairdo. I tried it a few years back though and I looked like Mork from Ork.

    But the real best way to get ready for the Oscars is by trying to catch all the nominated films ahead of time. I had the most fun doing back in ’97 when I asked my then 8th grader if he’d like to spend school vacation week going on a business trip with me that we would make 60% business and 40% fun.

    “Let’s go to Hershey Park!” I sang as I pictured it. It’s just a 14-hour drive!”

    “Sure!” he sang back and it wasn’t ’til we were halfway across Pennsylvania that he asked to look at the brochure and saw that the place WASN’T EVEN OPEN FOR THE SEASON YET. I made it up to him by saying “OK here’s what: we’ll go to three of the year’s best movies all over the state as we make our way home.” And we did just that: caught “As Good as it Gets,” “Titanic,” and “Good Will Hunting” all within the space of 24 hours and boy was that fun.

    This year though? Well I did see “Juno” but as for most of the other movies I got cold feet; I just couldn’t bring myself to watch them.

    I mean “Sweeney Todd” with some crazy guy singing and slitting people’s throats and what, getting his ladyfriend to cook them? I don’t think so.

    And “No Country For Old Men” with its title yanked by the neck from sweet old William Butler Yeats? It’s from a poem about how he can’t believe how old he’s getting, a very big subject with these guys; Shakespeare couldn’t stop talking about it in his sonnets. “That is no country for old men” Yeats says, “the young in one another’s arms” etc. and while it’s true he doesn’t go ON and on the way Shakespeare does with the dying fires and the limp sad leaves and all, he does make it sound pretty bleak. He also says that an elderly man is like a coat on a stick and that age is like some nasty thing that gets tied to you the way mean boys will tie stuff to a dog’s tail just to confuse and disrespect him – all of which give you EXACTLY NO CLUE about what No Country really focuses on, which is this big droopy-looking guy with a Prince Valiant haircut and a Fred-Gwynne-as-Herman-Munster face who’s a cold-eyed relentless killer. A killing machine. Such an earnest snuffer-out of life that some viewers and critics are hiding under their seats by saying, “Oh it’s OK! Because the guy is allegorical, see! No REAL people could ever be that robotically murderous.” (Hel-lo! Can you say “The Twentieth Century?”)

    So I was going to go see that?

    And as for “There Will Be Blood” if that isn’t the most nakedly obvious thing you can say about human life I don’t know what it. Honey, there will be blood and there will be cramps. There will be cuts and their will be throw-up. And not only is it all completely obvious to say so, it’s dreary and boring. And it’s the night of the Academy Awards! How about “THERE WILL BE DRINKING”? It’s true my padded underpants make my spouse laugh so hard the veins stand out in his forehead; also true that I look like James and the Giant Peach in the push-up bras and the low-cut dresses. But I do still have the bow tie and the suspenders, though with these new hinge-marks appearing in my aging face I look less like Mork than Pinocchio. So the hell what though? Just for tonight I’ll be a real boy, Daddy, I will! So cut my strings, Papa Gepetto, and pour me some o’ that bubbly. It’s time to turn on the Oscars!


    I Begin on My 60th Year

    It was my birthday yesterday. I was at the lake with my old pal from camp days who came to see me from her home in Swarthmore.

    Bobbie was the counselor of my cabin for three summers running when I was 13, 14, and 15. She taught swimming and wore the baggy sweatshirts and the skin-tight Bermudas of the times over her two-piece bathing suits. Some nights after Taps she got to ride the ten miles to McDonald’s with the other counselors who were also “off” and came back two hours later and woke us up to give us flat little cheeseburgers and soggy sacks of fries which, coupled with extra-thick shakes made of honest-to-goodness ice cream, were about the best thing a person could imagine tasting at 11 at night.

    Bobbie comes up at least once a year and I go to her house in Swarthmore.

    This time she came to our vacation house at the lake where we all like to go in winter when we want to see what it’s like to be eyeball-deep in snow.

    Early on this morning of my birthday I was stilled holed up in my bedroom writing when the phone rang. It was my big sister Nan who for the last 20 years has greeted me on this day by saying “Happy Birthday, Little Wormhead!” We talked a while and she made me laugh as usual and by the time I hung up I felt so great I popped open a screen and wrote an email that went to all three of my kids at once and also their dad my husband holding the fort back home. “It’s my birthday!” I wrote, and “No need to call!” and “Drop me a line!” and other such annoying and typically maternal mixed messages.

    My middle child did call, halfway through the day. My oldest child later sent an email saying among other things that she thought I should quit writing a column and just blog full time. And at 7 at night my youngest kid, who leads the glamorous semi-poverty-stricken life of all young people living in New York City, texted me. He said he really enjoyed all the typos in my email, especially at the end where I tried to sign it “A girl who expects to be around for another 30 years,” but so mangled ‘girl’ that Word mistook my intent, did that blindingly fast mid-air correction that Word is famous for and wrote “grill” instead. My son’s message in brief: that you had to love any grille with THAT kind of durability.

    Someplace in there Bobbie and I went food-shopping and I overheard two young guys stocking the shelves. “No no, anyone can go to the frat party,” one was saying to the other. “You just have to bring two girls with you to get in.” An older man and I both heard this and traded that special smile, three parts delight and one part rue that the young always elicit in us the no-longer-young.

    Bobbie bought us a special New Zealand wine that the guy at the liquor store said was famous for its grapefuity flavor and we stopped in at an antique store where for 20 bucks I got a beautiful bowl to set fresh flowers in. Then we walked two miles just for fun and I holed up again to write some more.

    It was then that Dodson called. Dodson “became” our oldest child when he joined our family as a 15-year-old freshman at Winchester High, in our town’s chapter of A Better Chance. He was tiny then, the shortest kid in the school but he isn’t tiny now. Here he is with me nowadays, all grown up and remember, a mere click blows this way up:



    Anyway he called together with darling tiny Veronica of Buenos Aires by way of Sarasota Florida whom he married last March.

    As I raced to finish my column Old Dave called to say that yes the cats were fine and he was just fooling around with the taxes and I should cozy up and have fun with Bobbie – who really capped off the day by making me a wonderful dinner to go with our New Zealand wine, a recipe involving lentils and tarragon, chopped-up bacon and a fried egg of all things and for dessert a homemade fruit compote with Crème Anglaise on top.

    And we ended the night watching ancient home movies from our days at Camp Fernwood, movies in which Bobbie and Nan are seen to be dominating the Track and Field events with their long, long legs. Nan and I, we went to that camp through all of our young lives because our mother and aunt were the directors there. Our mother had in fact taken all these movies.

    Oddly enough the movies inched backward in time. Here we were one minute at 12 and 14 doing the Long Jump and practicing at Archery and now suddenly here I was only one while Nan was three. And then those scenes gave way to a wavery color film of Mom’s wedding day in 1946 when such a blizzard blew in that that the photographer never got to the event at all.

    Somebody with a movie camera did though and these images are all we have of our father, who was Gone Baby Gone not two years down the line. I never saw what the man even looked like ’til I saw this movie, as a woman grown.

    It’s funny though: it wasn’t his face I couldn’t take my eyes off as this very nice birthday drew to a close; it was Mom’s. She was 38 years old. She never thought she’d marry, but she did and had the two of us and almost 40 years later – the last time we saw this very in fact – she laughed and said to us, “Be careful what you pray for girls! I wanted children! I never prayed for a man!”

    I thought about my mother, now 20 years in her little grave. She gave me life and she stuck around to help me live it, guiding me through the vain, wildly fibbing, self-centered years to land me here, still feeling about 12 in more ways than I care to admit. Here, on this far shore of 59, where last night I watched large clouds sweep in out of nowhere and in one quick swipe like some angry teacher erase that lovely moon, so lately full and moist and brilliant.

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    So here’s a new low: the Postal Service swore at me.

    Hard to believe, I know, but I have it right here: a naughty abbreviation thickly scrawled on the envelope of my nice neatly-lettered envelope, which was only addressed a LITTLE wrong in the sense that I had a city that didn’t go with its state, and a zip code that didn’t go with either one.

    Somebody there at that Mississippi post office not only wrote, “No Such Address” – or I should say checked the “No Such Address” box on the inky, stamped-on grid that lists all the possible reasons why your letter is coming back to Sorry Old You – but then scribbled the naughty phrase on there too.

    “WTF?!” it said right there in black and white.

    Now not so long ago I wouldn’t have understood the meaning of this tidy little acronym, for I am old and limited in my understanding generally. I only know it now because I have so many young people in my life, most of whom can hang out a whole clothesline’s worth of vividly bad language once they get going.

    For others like me out there I will explain that the phrase means basically “What in tarnation?” (I told you I was old) or, more exactly, “What the HECK?” only with a certain other word in place of “heck,” the whole phrase perhaps being another one dreamed up by enlisted men, along the lines of “FUBAR” which we’re all now familiar with, having seen “Saving Private Ryan” back in the late 1990’s.

    I felt hurt a little hurt, I’ll admit. I mean, I make mistakes all the time and no one else in my life finds it necessary to talk in to me in curse words and the Post Office most especially. The Post Office is really nice to me.

    Last year I had a whole envelope stuffed with a whole month’s worth of paychecks sent me by the papers that subscribe to my weekly column, which instead of bringing to the bank I accidentally mailed. Mailed in an unsealed envelope, with no address on it of course and no stamps. (I was hand-carrying it to the bank so why would it have an address and stamps?) Luckily, I had used one of my business envelopes with my name and return address printed right on it.

    So even though I dropped it in the mailbox instead of bringing it to the bank back it came to me, the very next day: I found it in my post office box with not a single check missing and more to the point no saucy talk scribbled on the envelope.

    They look out for me there at my P.O. and I am very grateful for this fact. I get mail all the time with just my name and “Winchester MA” written on the envelope. Plus once some unsavory looking guy approached Sam at the window asking where Terry Marotta lived. “Why?” said Sam accusingly. “Because I want to mail her something.” “Give it to me and I’ll see that she gets it,” Sam said coldly and the guy turned right around and left. And once I walked in to the place and Sam said, “I don’t like the sound your brakes are making. Go right to the gas station and have them looked at,” and I did and they were on the brink of total meltdown.

    So with that kind of loving-kindness directed at me you can totally SEE why I’m shocked to receive this piece of nasty commentary, right? I mean right? Talking like that to a nice older person like me? Heavens my word! as my most old-fashioned friend regularly exclaims. Land sakes! Or, in common parlance and stooping to this guy’s level, What the frickity frick?!