Saturday, May 28, 2005

In the Movie Version, Leslie Nielsen Plays Me

Miss Sasha has lived in Charleston, South Carolina long enough to attend some weddings. She enjoys the traditions her new friends incorporate into their nuptuals like softball games, organized visits to beauty parlors, tons of gifts, dinners, barbecues and shopping excursions. What she failed to realize in the planning of her wedding was that neither the families nor the ceremony were located in South Carolina. We're in New Jersey. Here, we bathe and primp, attend the service and/or the reception, and gifts are offered in a whirlwind of love, resentment and hair care products while everyone taps their watches. Thus, we gather for a barbecue at 1 p.m. the day after the wedding with a mixture of impatience and condiments. My mother calls twice before 10 to discuss that mass grave of fried chicken parts occupying the top shelf of my fridge.

Tata: I was planning to throw the whole tray into a 250 degree oven while I shower and dress.
Mom: Have you looked under the foil?
Tata: No. I can't meet a friend or blood relation without them shoving food at me this week. The fried chicken had no reason to fear me.
Mom: Look under the foil.
Tata: It's Chicken Armageddon in there! Why are we cooking anything else?

While I walk around a one bedroom apartment picking up detritus from my week of running from room to room shouting, "I MEANT TO DO THAT!" and "I MEANT TO DO THAT TOO!" the chicken heats on three big pans in my oven. I have all the time in the world to do this because Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, decided at 5 a.m. it was time for me to wake up and play with him. Just before Mamie picks me up, I toss the chicken into one of those blue speckled roasting pans, which I tie shut with some tulle. Yes, I ALWAYS have tulle. The storebought pies go in a department store bag with handles. It's a lot to carry. Unfortunately, every member of my family brings twice as much.

Originally, the barbecue was going to be at Mom's house but that plan went straight to Hell when Sister #1 had her baby and Mom spent two weeks changing diapers, so we're setting up at the clubhouse in #1's condo development. Mamie and I show up half an hour late. For the next hour and a half, members of Miss Sasha's family show up and ask the same question: where're the newlyweds?

We have a fine barbecue without them. We eat, sit around talking, eat again, sit around talking, eat a third time. We aren't making a dent in the food. Three dozen people stare at each other with horror when Mom suggests we're not eating enough. Some conversations happen over and over all day.

Topic A: Fashion

Celebrant 1: Did you see that guy in the guinea T at the wedding?
Celebrant 2: NO!
Celebrant 1: Yes! I looked over and there was a guy in dress shoes, dress pants and a guinea T!
Celebrant 2: Was it his formal wifebeater?

Topic B: Hotel-Related

Celebrant 1: Did you go to the after-party?
Celebrant 2: I didn't. I heard the party didn't break up until 11:30 this morning.
Celebrant 1: Going home in daylight sucks. I don't do that anymore.
Celebrant 2: When other people are on their way to work, put down your beer and go to bed.

Topic C: Sharkey

Tata: Wonder where Sharkey is...
Celebrant 1: How long have you two been dating?
Tata: We're not dating. He's my friend. I told you that yesterday.
Celebrant 1: You're not dating? I thought you were dating.
Tata: When my lips move do you think you're hearing voices?

Topic D: The Cake

Celebrant 1: We're having the Gaston Avenue hazelnut cake because the wedding cake was wrong.
Celebrant 2: Wrong? What was wrong with it?
Celebrant 1: Did you notice the display cake at the beginning of the reception was different from the one half an hour later?
Celebrant 2: Cardboard? Legos? PlayDoh?
Celebrant 1: The Pines put out the wrong cake. Then they put out a second wrong cake. They served the second wrong cake. So we're having Gaston Avenue now.
Celebrant 2: Awesome. I'd eat that off a garbage can lid!

Topic E: The Kids Playing Outside

Celebrants 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: Who's crying?

Topic F: The Future

Celebrant 1: I am so glad that fucking wedding is over!
Celebrants 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: Me, too!
Celebrant 1: I get my life back!
Celebrants 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12: Me, too!

The happy couple arrives around 6. I take one look at her and start twitching again. At the rehearsal, several members of the bridal party wore tshirts:

best man
maid of honor

Miss Sasha is wearing a tshirt so post-post-post-feminist, I am speechless with rage for half an hour:

Mrs. [insert groom's last name]

She doesn't come near me. Later, Mamie is introduced to Darla, Dad's third wife. She is brilliant, confident, cuter than bright buttons and Canadian. Darla, Mamie and I sit with Dad. Dara, bored, sits down. Mom, who is not Dara's mother, asks if Dara's had enough to eat. My little sister - like everyone else - is stuffed and says so.

[By the way, if you're reading this and you're a Brit: I know exactly what you're thinking and you're thinking it about a thirteen-year-old, you freaking pervert. Quit it!]

A thing unprecedented happens. Mom addresses Dad, slides her hands under Dara's armpits, lifts her a bit and shakes. This is highly uncharacteristic behavior. It hangs in the air for a second, then Dad doubles over. She is making a joke only she and Dad understand. In my 42 years, this may never have happened in my presence and since the seventies, they have few nice things to say about one another. They tell us a story I've never heard before.

Dad: There was a restaurant in a house on Easton Avenue in Somerset. The restaurant was run by a big woman and there was no menu. Mama would take a look and decide what you wanted. "You will have the pork chops. You look like the turkey to me." And then she would bring you that.
Mom: Vegetables came in large bowls.
Mamie: Served family style -
I kick Mamie under the table. She wordlessly threatens me with a plastic fork. The story continues.

Dad: Exactly! Family style. There was no such thing as "I'm full." Once, I said. "I'm full" and she grabbed me under the arms -
Mom: She lifted him up -
Dad: She shook me from side to side like this -
Dad shakes himself like a ten-foot Eastern European woman is making a heavily-accented point with him.

Dad: Then she says -
Mom: "Now you eat more!"
Dad: "Now you eat more!" In self-defense, I DID!

My brother and Sister #1 - younger than me, and who may not remember when our parents were still married - sit at a table maybe 15 feet behind Mom and Mom's husband Tom, who sits down between Mom and Darla. I wish desperately my siblings could eavesdrop on the conversation but jumping up and down and shouting, "GET A LOAD OF THIS...!" would disrupt the congenial mood.

We are drinking white wine. Mom, Darla and I are very concerned when the wine we're drinking runs out. Mom opens two bottles. Dad picks up one and shakes his head. Jubilant in a moment of experimentation, we all talk at once.

Mom: So regular bottle or Dysfunctional Family size?
Dad: Don't drink that. You will find it very un-tasty.
Darla: This is terrible! Taste that!
Tata: Go put the regular bottle on the table with all the nursing mothers. They won't drink it and we look very generous!
Mom goes, comes back with the bottle.

Mom: #1 said the same thing.
Dad: The pinot grigio in the Dysfunctional Family size, then.
Tata: I wonder where Sharkey's been all day.
Mom: I like him. How long have you been dating?
Tata: We dated years ago for a matter of minutes. We're friends.
Dad: I like him but -
Mom: He's not our favorite of your exes.
Dad: We liked Ned but -
Mom: We liked him but not for you -
Tata: Did you say "we"?
Mom: We liked the most recent one.
Dad: He was smart.
Tata: You said "we!" Paulie's great. We're fast friends.
Mom: So who's next? Got a new amour?
Tata: I can't be trusted to pick a lover without a Sherpa guide and a guard dog?
Dad: How about a quorum and a detective agency?

The most important conversation of the day isn't a joy for anyone. Darla, Mamie and I are minding our own business - possibly talking writing or politics - when Mrs. Lost Her Own Identity makes her way over to us.

Tata: It is taking every ounce of restraint I have not to rip that shirt off you.
Mrs. Missing: Mommy, I'm just going to enjoy this for one week, then -
Tata: Enjoy WHAT? Being someone else's PROPERTY?
Darla: I can't believe you took his name!
Mrs. Missing: I'm just going to enjoy being Mrs. Sasha for one week -
Tata: You can be Sasha or you can be Mrs. [insert his name] but not both. Miss Manners frowns on it.
Darla: It's true! One or the other. And the meaning of it is ownership.
Mamie gets up. She's been listening to me bitch about the blood vessel I almost burst at the reception last night and she knows I'm going to bitch about this topic for weeks to come. She figures she'll get ten minutes of Shut Up, Tata now. Darla takes my point and runs with it. For once, when I'm tired of talking I tag a teammate who doesn't turn out to wrestle for the other team. Mrs. I Won't Think And You Can't Make Me dismisses us with a good natured wave and sashays off to play with the kids.

A good time is had by all. A stroke is not actually had by me.

By the time Mamie and I leave, my braces have stabbed very painful holes in my tongue and I can't talk anymore. That's okay. Everyone knows what I think without another word.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Chapter 6: In Which I Am Absent

Mamie: After you left, Lala, Ned, Uncle James and I went to the after-party across the street at the Clarion. I was glad we went. We were the only people there from Miss Sasha's side of the aisle.
Tata: So who was there?
Mamie: The groom's parents and their friends.
Mamie: Yes! They were drinking Jack Daniels. Remember that guy who took his own picture? He spent ten drunken minutes shouting, "Mamie! Maaaaaaaaaamie! Mamie!"
Tata: Christ! You enjoyed that, I'm sure.
Mamie: He went to every table and took his own picture.
Tata: What a prick! He was chatting you up?
Mamie: He was chatting up a lamp. I was incidental.
Tata: How long did you stay?
Mamie: Hour? Maybe an hour and a half? The happy couple didn't come down for a while. We were waiting for Miss Sasha. The whole thing was pathetic.
Tata: I'm so appalled!
Mamie: You would've been really appalled when your new arch-enemy the mother of the groom was hugging and squeezing on her son and she said, "I thank God for him every day!" and I said to him, "People believe in God! Isn't that hysterical?"
Tata: Good thing he's fucking used to you!
Mamie: We left right after that. We figured if they had any brains left they might organize and kill us.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

What the Right Hand Is Doing

Sharkey gets me a glass of red wine because after three martinis I slur the absolute truth - and no one needs that until after the food's served. During the cocktail hour, while we wait for the bridal limo to circumvent the accident on Route 1 by scaring the same sheep Sharkey narrowly avoided turning into fender-kebabs, we nibble bits of salmon, crostini, pineapple and mozzarella. The room has too few chairs. I have one eye on the doorway and one on the guests, who continue to arrive in waves. Catering at the Pines Manor does a mediocre job of keeping the appetizer trays filled. I'm nervous about my role here, but I needn't be.

Traditionally, Mothers of Brides plan weddings and execute anyone who crosses them. When Lacy Peterson went missing, 19,000 other people were unaccounted for in California alone. I bet at least half of them refused to serve proper canapes or wear seafoam green dyeables. With help from my sisters and the professional planner, Miss Sasha planned her own wedding; technically my responsibilities end at chewing with my mouth closed. As I look around the room, I see my family talking to everyone. Dad, who has been in a mood, turns into Maurice Chevalier in the presence of guests, as he always does. He charms young and old. friend and stranger alike. Mom, who's fretting because the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm)'s girlfriend is wearing the same ensemble, talks to guests about the choir, the ceremony and her look-alike granddaughter. My uncle, whose oldest daughter - my first cousin - is engaged, practices on the family of the groom. It's like the Ice Capades in a warm room with tuxedos.

As an aside: we must take note of the obvious. The groom's mother wears a shiny, blue dress that is in no way described by the words "shiny," "blue" or "dress." It's a giant, formless, potato sack of a garment made of get-well-soon balloon mylar on a nice-looking woman who ought to know better. Now, back to the reception.

The limo arrives. Doors to the reception room open and guests shuffle toward their tables. I put my formal cigar box purse down on the table and dash off to join the bridal party. The wedding planner lines us up. I'm first, and I'm escorted by Tippycanoe and Tyler Two, who passed their nap-needing social peak an hour ago. They don't want to hold my hand. They want to fight like superheroes. The wedding planner says the boys and I walk across the dance floor and I leave them with their moms, Sisters #1 and #3.

Tata: Boys, hold still and listen to Auntie Kathleen.
Tyler Two: No! I'm a bad guy getter!
Tata: We have to be good for five more minutes, then we can get all the bad guys.
Tippycanoe: Act like a gentleman!
Tyler Two: Okay.
Tata: Huh! Wonder why I didn't say that...

The doors open. It's all I can do to get two five-year-olds across the dance floor, between two tables and back to their moms before the kicking starts again. I barely notice the DJ's playing "Who Let the Dogs Out." My Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm)'s introduced, the groom's parents, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen. I find my own chair with Sharkey, Lala, Ben, Trout, Mamie, Uncle James, Creese and Ned. It's a good thing I'm sitting down with my oldest, dearest friends (minus a few important people) because when the happy couple is introduced as "Mr. & Mrs. [insert groom's name here]" my entire family has a collective aneurysm, and I feel like I've been punched in the face.

The next few minutes of who-dances-with-whom are kind of a blur. Toasts are made. I don't actually care. The highly flammable maid of honor - another of my first cousins - gives a little speech about Miss Sasha. They were born eight months apart and have been fighting over accessories all their lives. My mother, who is demure and ladylike in public comes to my chair and speaks firmly.

Mom: At last, someone mentioned the bride at this wedding.
Tata: What?
Mom: This has all been about the groom.

Fortunately, the bar is open and my friends have lined up glasses of red wine in front of me. Mamie's downed a few and hates the music. A person we don't know approaches the table.

Stranger: Hey, you're supposed to open the disposable camera and take pictures -
He takes a picture of himself.

Stranger: No, you take pictures of yourselves and -
Laughing nervously, he backs away with his hands where we can see them.

Mamie: Lala! Meet me under the table!

Nobody argues. We all climb under the table and take pictures of each other. Well, mostly.

Mamie: My knees hurt so only my upper body was under there. I hope the camera was behind me so Miss Sasha sees video of my giant ass sticking out.

We do this twice more before my family notices. We know we've been caught when we hear Sister #1 gasp, "They're all under the table!" We get up in a hurry. Ned adjusts his clothes theatrically.


We're creative boredom fighters and we have a camera.

Mamie: Ben, do you think you can carry Tata on your shoulders?
Ben: Sure!
Mamie: To the Pines Manor sign, away!

As a table, we bolt from the room and outside. The rain's stopped, the sun's out. I climb on Ben's shoulders and pull myself up to the best spot on the sign. Mamie takes pictures. A passerby shouts, "Does that mean you're on the menu?"

Lala: You can't afford to pick up the check.

Uncle James climbs on Mamie's back for more pictures. We return to a party in need of food in a hurry. The banquet line is moving too slowly for our taste. The music takes a turn for the better with some Bobby Darin, then Dean Martin. After we eat, we all decide we've had enough to drink so we go back to the bar.

Tata: The only way this Hell could be fresher is if the DJ plays "The Electric Slide."
(Less than 10 seconds later, I swear.)
Uncle James: Coming right up!
Tata: If only I'd asked for your head on a platter full of Jell-O.

Mamie grabs Lala and makes for the dance floor, where every female member of the groom's family demonstrates the idea that rhythm might be subjective. If I slap my forehead any harder I might hear my brain go splat against the back of my skull. Everyone twists to Chubby Checker. Miss Sasha plays a tremendous trick on us all by requesting "Rock Lobster." Miss Sasha knows her parents, her aunties, and our friends. Though I have been reasonably well-behaved until now, now I am a New Wave girl, surrounded by the same people I danced with in high school. When Fred shouts, "DOWN! DOWN!" I do the backstroke lying on the floor, as Miss Sasha knew I would, and I am not alone. When the song ends, we are breathless and exuberant - until we realize the DJ's started "Hava Nagila." The groom's family stares as my family - not Jewish except me - and her Dad's family - all Jewish - dance the hora. The bride sits on a chair her male relatives hoist up on their shoulders. Everybody shouts! Mamie's shouting out dance steps. When the song ends, we are thrilled! Plainly, it's time for another drink. You know - to rehydrate.

Now that we've eaten, had a few drinks and danced ourselves lightheaded, we're having a good time. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and his brother - two of the funniest pranksters I've ever known - are tangoing cheek to cheek as I cross the dance floor. A person I shook hands with in the receiving line grabs me by the arm. There's an ax-grinding look in her eye as she tosses her head in their direction.

Steffie: DID YOU KNOW?

I burst out laughing and point at her as I walk the last three feet to the dancing brothers, where I tell them what just happened, and they burst out laughing as we realize what the groom's family thinks.

Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm): "Did you KNOW those brothers were QUEER FOR EACH OTHER?"

We gasp for breath and they go back to dancing together. This moment, more than any other, encapsulates the evening for me later on. As the music of the last song winds down, the DJ tells us the party's over. A microphone ends up inexplicably in the hands of a member of the groom's family, who drunkenly warbles the Stone Temple Pilots song "Plush." If you're not acquainted with this song, it's the musings of a serial killer about the girl he's left on a hillside.

Tata: Sharkey, drop me home, willya?

Friends, Sharkey does.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Wedding Part of the Wedding

On very few occasions have each and every member of my family agreed - to the very last man, woman and English-speaking child - about anything. In small groups, we agree on relatively minor things, say:

+ Broccoli and macaroni can make a tasty salad.
+ ...
+ ...okay, we agree broccoli and macaroni can make a tasty salad but only if the broccoli is crisp and the macaroni is al dente and the salad dressing is spicy and not too heavy on the olive oil and you present it in a beautiful bowl with nice serving spoons and the temperature outside is a pleasant 74 degrees with a light breeze. Did I tell you to use the extra virgin olive oil three times because you never listen?

Another small group agrees to all those conditions and freshly ground black pepper but the temperature has to be more like 80. I fall into that faction. I don't know what made me say this.

Tata: Ever watch that show Monk? It's about an obsessive-compulsive, phobic detective. I know in every scene what's going to set him off.

Everyone dropped forks, swallowed in a perilous hurry and squealed, "Me too! Me too!" Families have their own kinds of crazy. We count bathroom tiles, level picture frames, wash our hands a few dozen times; none of us can tolerate accidental asymmetry. It's a good thing we're good looking because we're one prescription pad away from medical experiments.

I wolf down lunch. Sharkey's coming to pick me up at 1 for the 2 p.m. ceremony. Sharkey's always late - fine by me since Bianca's making guest appearances on All My Children. He will escort me down the aisle, through the wedding ceremony and throughout dinner so if I throw down my formal cigar box purse and go after a bridemaid, Sharkey will toss me over his shoulder and take me to Time Out. Yes, I've got my own bouncer. In the car, I'm too nervous to make conversation. At the church, guests fill the atrium. The same conversation recurs.

Tata: This is my friend Sharkey.
Guest: Your Friend?
Tata: No, my friend. You have friends, right?

Sharkey is a handsome, olive-skinned man with impossibly blue eyes. His black hair is always perfect. My family met him years ago, forgot and met him again, which is fine because despite his prodigious IQ he has the memory of a tse tse fly. We stand in the lobby well after the guests are seated and bored. With the rain, it takes three people to get 90 lb. Miss Sasha out of a limo and into the church's glass atrium. Bridesmaids and more bridesmaids spill from the long white limo and dash in behind her. I'm standing around without a clue. They ask me what to do.

Five Girls In Navy: Where's the bride's room?
Tata: about this one filled with papier mache?
Five Girls In Navy: Okay!

The wedding planner and Miss Sasha have evaporated into thin air. Sharkey and I stand around picking lint off each other like primate grooming partners. Other than latecomers, the only other people in the lobby are the parents of the groom and the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm). Something's up. The wedding planner runs by and gives us permission to use the restroom. Someone's in the stall when I walk in, so I examine my hair.

Tata: Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

I pass the groom's mother and lock the door behind me.

In the lobby, we line up and march in. Sharkey's got me by one arm and good thing because I keep trying to sprint in silver brocade slippers with an adorable kitten heel. I sit down next to my former Mother-In-Law, who couldn't be more marvelous if she were dipped in gold. Sharkey slides in next to me. My five-year-old nephews Tippycanoe and Tyler Two march to the priest with all the dignity ring-bearing little boys in suits can muster just before they need cookies and naps. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) delivers the bride to her groom in an arcane series of steps. Yesterday, I described this to Sister #1.

Tata: This. That. This. That. This. That. I said to the priest, "We will never, never remember all this."
Sister #1: It's that complicated?
Tata: This Virginia Reel had better have a really good caller.

He sits down next to his mother. The bride and groom turn to face the priest and then it happens. Simultaneously, every member of my family sits up straight and starts twitching. The priest talks. The choir sings. The priest talks. The choir sings. The priest talks and talks. The back of Miss Sasha's wedding dress has my complete and undivided attention. A bow in the middle of her back appears to have unsnapped and it dangles. I whisper to Sharkey, "The whole left side of the church is trying to fix that bow telepathically." Meanwhile, my former Mother-In-Law is narrating in the way only older people get away with.

fMIL: That is a lovely dress. Of course, she's a beautiful girl. It's too bad about the rain. Your cousins look marvelous in their gowns. Which one is your sister? Have you ever been in this church before? That's your mother's choir, isn't it? They're not with the church. What beautiful voices! Isn't that Tom with the choir too? Is he singing? I'm so glad, that makes it special...

I am not at all encouraging her by asking questions. That would be rude.

A year later, the best man comes to escort me to the altar, where I am inexplicably trusted with something ON FIRE. Up the steps, off to the left and my wrist corsage gets caught on a flower arrangement behind me. The assembled gasp. I yank my arm free, though I fail to break anything. I light the candle and CLOP CLOP CLOP back to my seat. Everyone laughs.

fMIL: That really lightened the mood!
Tata: Thank you, darling!

The priest talks some more. The choir sings. The priest talks. He announces the happy couple's going to give their mothers flowers and mmmpyouhhyyyoppphhhhh. That's what I heard. The kids hand me a bouquet. I buss them both on the cheeks. They give his mother flowers and everyone kisses some more. They have a third bouquet.

Tata: Where are they going?
Sharkey: They're giving flowers to the "Virgin Mother".
He makes little quotes with his fingers.

Tata: That's idolatry!

The happy couple says "I do" and "I do" early on in this ceremony so we all think we're waiting for a pronouncement of "husband and wife" or "bowling partners" or something recognizable. It never happens. The people with the new monogram smile and walk back up the aisle. The bridal party looks baffled. They get up and march out. The rest of us follow. A small army of women waving safety pins forms a wedding dress pit crew, spending the rest of the evening chasing and re-pinning that stubborn bow because we will all go mad if it's crooked another second.

Tata: Play Point&Laugh with these Italians you don't resemble in the least but are somehow exactly like.
Sharkey: I'm hoarse from laughing at you and my pointing finger is sore.

Receiving lines were invented by the Spanish Inquisition. It can be no other way. I smile stiffly and say, "Thank you for coming" to people I want to talk to and people I hope to never meet in small claims court. After the guests dutifully depart the church we're all photographed more. And more after that.

We hit the road and Route 1 is instantly socked in with an accident. The guests are on the other side of it; the families and the wedding party will have to be especially clever to get to the reception at all. Sharkey blows through the farm roads. Somewhere there's a bartender with our names on him. The hunt is ON.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Ceremonial Running of the Bridesmaids

At 9:50 a.m. on Friday, I park my convertible in front of a Ramada Inn on Route 1 in North Brunswick, where the water is ankle-deep and my ankles are perched atop water-resistant Italian summer scuffs, rendering my toes submarine. My clothes dangle precariously from hangers, wrapped together in plastic. The day's itinerary dictates that I dry off and slap on some makeup, pull on my Miss Sasha-approved Mother Of the Bridewear and smile pretty in ten minutes' time. I'm not worried. Members of my family are involved. You know how time is all relative? Get a load of mine: we meet in this hotel because every last member of the bride's tribe uttered the same horrified exclamation.

Greek Chorus: Take pictures at my house? What kind of crack are you smoking?!

We're insecure. My twelve-year-old niece Lois opens the door. Two days ago, she found herself in the path of Miss Sasha's rampaging future mother-in-law. Lois appears unscathed. Lois always appears unscathed. She has the magical power to sit through the antics of her batty relatives with a patient smile on her face. She's a beautiful girl. Her face may be frozen that way. Standing behind Lois is my thirteen-year-old half-sister Dara. They live 350 miles apart, have nothing in common and are two peas in one pod. Just beyond scurry my mother, Miss Sasha, the wedding planner, two cousins, the photographer and a cousin of the groom. The noise is deafening. Bob Barker pontificates on a television around a corner somewhere. I park my ovenight bag of makeup on the floor in front of a window. More than ten minutes pass before Miss Sasha notices I'm applying foundation with a spackle knife. The girls have returned from the hair salon on a rainy day with goo tacking up and down every last hair on all six heads; their hairstyles are a marvel of modern architecture. They're wearing sweats and every surface in this suite is covered with girlie debris. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) arrives and dresses in the twinkle of an eye.

Tata: So, what kind of mood is Daddy in?
Dara: Oh, he's in a mood, all right.
Mom: What? What's going on here?
Tata: Daddy's been in a mood since last week. Or last month. Or last year...
Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm): ...possibly since you've known him?
Tata: How was the ride up?
Dara: Well, he complained a lot, so I put on my headphones, and Darla was listening to a book on tape and he was still complaining.
Mom: What was he complaining about?
Tata: Dara's missing finals. I told him odds were terrible she was paying attention anyway.
Mom: Nobody was listening and he complained anyway for six hours?
Tata: Didja tell him to zip it?

The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and I are seated on a couch in the living room giggling when the photographer issues a signal only members of the bridal party hear. Suddenly, the girls are statuesque beauties in an improbable and dignified combination of navy and rayon. My mother bursts into tears when Miss Sasha zips her wedding dress. Everyone turns to see if I'm sobbing.

Tata: Um...nice togs?
Mom: You really were...raised by wolves...

I shrug. Miss Sasha is truly beautiful in an oversized t-shirt and jeans and though this wedding dress is very Audrey Hepburn it's still a human sacrifice suit and I'm put off. The photographer peels up layers of girlie debris, rearranges furniture and makes a calm spot near a window. A carefully placed curtain hides the dumpster in the parking lot, below. I feel classier already.

Pictures of Miss Sasha with her dad. Pictures of Miss Sasha with me. Pictures of Miss Sasha applying lipstick. Pictures of Miss Sasha with earrings she's not wearing. Pictures of Miss Sasha at the window. Pictures of Miss Sasha with the Maid of Honor. Pictures of Miss Sasha with her bridesmaids. I've been sitting on this couch for forty minutes when I finally notice my presence here is optional.

Tata: Can I go the hell home?
Photographer: You can go the hell home!
General Outcry: How's she get to leave?
Tata: You have all mistaken me for a nice person, and after this educational moment, you'll never make that mistake again. Adios!

I change out of my Mother Of the Bridewear and make a break for it. They're all younger and quick, but I am wily and out the door before they catch me. It's just before 11:30. I make lunch, send emails and set up the VCR. Erica Kane's getting married again, you know, and a girl's got to have her priorities.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Intermezzo, In Which I Hate Nearly Everyone.

Some people are naturally good parents. They have empathy for and interest in their little charges, and they have the patience and foresight to understand how their decisions will affect the futures of their children. My sisters and brother seem to be good parents to their growing mob of French fry thieves. I...should have pets, because I am selfish and animals nip as a form of behavior modification. Unfortunately this week, Tata has disappeared and in my 9Wests stands the highly porous Mother of the Bride.

After the rehearsal dinner broke up, extra food was portioned out to family members on the basis of refrigerator space because this is The Wedding What Ate Tokyo, and on Saturday we're having a post-ceremony, reception and after-party barbecue. Other people left the American Legion Hall with cakes and giant aluminum trays of tightly packed meatballs, ziti, kielbasa and beef with broccoli I suspected would reheat best as soup. Into my fridge I stuffed a huge buckling tray of fried chicken packed so solidly I was less afraid of it collapsing than sucking all the cold out of my dairy products, and two pies. These foods may have been truly delicious for all I knew or know now, Thursday, the day between the rehearsal and the wedding. I have been on a diet since 1968 because when I go off it I say yes to the menu. Thus, I can refuse food because this week I am eating like it is my job.

Mamie: What time is the actual wedding?
Tata: Two. The service starts at 2. You can be on time. I know it!
Mamie: What? It's not my wedding!
Tata: Be sitting in that church at 2, you heartless bitch!
Mamie: I am so gonna spit in your gelato...

Relatives arrive from Virginia, Los Angeles, Florida and all corners of New Jersey. The phone rings off the hook. By the end of the day, I can't answer any but yes/no questions, my fridge looks like Kentucky Fried Chicken made a house call, and I am slathering my face and body with moisturizer combinations that might stop the spread of the Sahara. The only normal thing about this day is that when I go to bed my tossing and turning goes on longer than I think possible. If I get any more tense I'm going to pop like a turgid tick.

I wake up Friday morning and it's raining like a son of a bitch. When my brain doesn't explode, I'm shocked.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pre-Wedding Titters

My auntie is lefthanded, as am I. This makes us pains in the ass at the dinner table, the sewing table and, whatever you do, don't buy us scissors - unless you're silly enough to think we're unarmed. Auntie InExcelsisDeo, whom we'll term a dainty I., went to Catholic school from the beginning of her academic career. The nuns taught her to use her right hand by slapping other-handed on their other hands with rulers. This training was successful until one day in the fourth grade, lovely Auntie I. grabbed the ruler and slapped the nun back. Auntie I. still has the ruler.

Your picture goes dreamy woo-woo swirly as a number of years pass. Our journey through time stops on a dime at Miss Sasha's wedding rehearsal at Our Lady of Peace Church. This is a shocker because in the mid-sixties, my parents went secular humanist and decided to sleep in on weekends. Later, I chose to be Chosen, along with the delicate Miss Sasha who called me six months ago.

MS: Mommy! I converted back to Catholicism!
Tata: Hey! We were never Catholic!

Two of my sisters are Unitarians - we think. One is a fire and brimstone Baptist with a sensible firehose wit. One of my sisters is "some kind of Cape Cod Protestant" - as is my brother. Our children have been baptized in five different houses of worship. We've sat still in Quaker meeting houses, synagogues, churches our great-grandparents built by hand and great European cathedrals. When the priest joins us and members of the wedding party, we're sitting in the chapel outside the church in which Miss Sasha will be married. Auntie I. surveys the scene and is dissatisfied.

Auntie: They're chewing gum, laughing, and wearing dirty clothes.
Tata: They're young, stupid and not wading in your gene pool.

The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and I cannot spend ten minutes together without laughing hysterically. We place bets on who's going to face-plant on the altar steps. I'm at the top of the list! The priest directs a cast of thousands.

Fr.: You go here, you go there, then you walk around in circles, then you march over here and give your mother a flower, then march over there and give your mother a flower, then you turn this way and go back to the altar and where I talk some more and then you turn this way and the best man retrieves your mother and takes her over here and she stands behind the altar smiling and looking at the candle because that'll make a good picture and don't look at the photographer you'll look all cross-eyed...

I put the candle down. Holding it hurts my hand. The priest picks it up and puts it back in my hand. I put it down again. He is still talking. He picks up the candle and gives it back to me, and gives me the best man to boot. I am advised to lean on a smooth-skinned young man which I do in such a way that he finds it difficult to remain ambulatory. That's fine, I've stepped over less deserving persons on my way into church. Anyway, returned to my seat, I am advised to sit and a critical instruction is missing.

"Am I still holding a thing that's ON FIRE?" Everyone laughs nervously. The priest advises me to hand the candle to the best man who will return it to its holder behind my cousin, the highly flammable maid of honor. The priest stutters. I quote Young Frankenstein loudly, "Put. The candle. Back." My sister and the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) laugh into their hands.

When the rehearsal ends a week later, my cousin and I are fleeing to the parking lot when our private conversation is interrupted by a virtual stranger.

Tata: we were both shocked when he said, "Cupcake, don't you worry your pretty little head about it" and I let him live!
Priest: I hear you putting men down and...
Tata: I am so far beyond that I'm not going to listen to another word.

Half an hour later, we're sitting in a backwoods bar with a hall in which I learn Piscataway, NJ has a Hillbilly-American population. The groom's mother sits down at the table full of my family and tells us her terrible and uplifting life story. I see a lot of interesting things nobody else notices, so I'm used to staring wildly around the room to see if anyone else is confused. Aside from those daydreams about WCBS newscaster Mario Bosquez, this is the strangest foray into FantasyLand I've undertaken without a French maid costume and a bathtub full of Jell-O. Mamie's on speed dial.

Tata: Did I tell you the annoying thing she did over the weekend of the groom's graduation? She cornered Miss Sasha and said something about how she carried the groom, fed him, raised him, educated him and now Miss Sasha has stolen him away. Mama's opening salvo when she sat down was to explain how reasonable a perspective that was. I started laughing like Gilbert Gottfried was lodged in my throat.

Mamie: I'm somewhat comforted to know that there's insanity on his side of the family, too, so that if Miss Sasha goes 'round the bend completely, he shouldn't be too thrown.

If I insult this woman Auntie I. will reach across the table and give me a guinea-wop-dago slap upside my head. When Mama tells us her parents tried to marry her off when she was thirteen, I turn to my twelve-year-old niece and say, "No matter WHAT your mother says, I think you should date first and find out if his parents are CRAZY well before you get married." When Mama tells us her in her country a person's employer can toss her into an alley and say, "Your bedroom is this refrigerator box," I tell the niece, "It's about time you got a job, you shameless freeloader." When Mama tells us about the assault, I give up, cluck like a chicken and shovel salad into my mouth.

When it gets worse, I run out of salad. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) will not meet my eyes for fear we might decide I could take Mama in two out of three falls on her home turf. Fortunately, my mother arrives and all talk of the Old Country ceases. She's brought pie, and it's blissfully quiet in the hall once everyone's got a mouthful of supermarket apple. And the room is quiet, except for the classic rock soundtrack on the boombox and emanating from the bar. You've gotta know how much I love that hit parade.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Outside World Wipes Its Feet On the Welcome Mat

Bill emails from work, where he isn't doing any:

Bill: Dan was on the phone with a colorful story about his attempt at the avoidance of jury duty. They called him in yesterday for jury selection, so he went in wearing his straw hat and bib overalls and deliberately made himself as scraggly as possible, and sat wild-eyed while they addressed the candidates as a group. His plan was to wait til they had the one on one interviews and then present himself in as maniacal way as possible. Unfortunately, they just said, "You twelve, you'll do" and that was it.

Tata: I cannot believe I just read all those words in that order.

Bill: He said that even the twitching went unnoticed. He was all prepared to go into his "Bats! Bats! Bats!" routine where he sees imaginary bats and waves his arms as if to swat them wildly, had they gotten him on the one-on-one. Now he has three days of bullshit to sit thru. He's not pleased...particularly at the prospect of having to deal with 11 other people, of which 9 are statistical shoe-ins for idiots.

Tata: WAIT. Are you saying Dan was impanelled? Dan, straw hat and all, is deciding someone's fate? They didn't see the look on his face and realize he's dangerous to himself and others?

Bill: By the third day, the other jurors will kill him.

From trowels to towels; Margot's pet turns up forensic evidence of repairs and thievin':

Paul and I went camping from Friday to Sunday...when I returned, Smoochie brought me a nice blue paper towel, it had some bits of earth clinging to it, but other than that, no special toppings: turpentine smell, bird poop or human blood. The following day, yesterday, I was at home during the day (taught a consumer class in the evening) and she brought me another paper towel. This was the clincher, it was a different shade of blue, though very similar. Then I noticed that my next door neighbor was having her water heater replaced, and there were some workmen buzzing around. I envision these daring daytime paper towel forays, the selective search, the stalking, concealment, lurking, the inevitable chase and finally the kill, then up to through the window to present it to mom. Some people get cards or flowers on mothers day.

Paulie brought me a great tshirt from the Supersuckers show in New York last week. I would've gone but nobody gets back from these shows before 3 a.m. and I can't do that on a school night anymore. In 2005, there's just no such thing as going to work still drunk from a great rock and roll show the night before because the douchebags who didn't cut school to see the Ramones now hold all the pursestrings.

I swear to you: I know a woman consulting a fertility specialist about a possible third pregnancy. She doesn't seem to be getting pregnant when she wants to. This woman is very anxious and upset about it, and I don't want to belittle her anguish. No, I wouldn't do that - but I must. See, she got anxious and consulted the very expensive doctor without doing that thing most people do to make babies. In fact, she hasn't done that thing most people do in over two years.

From her husband's perspective, that right there has got to be the most effective form of birth control known to man.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Shocking the Monkey Since 1967

Mamie loves me. I know this because she ends plenty of phone conversations gasping for breath as she yelps, "Oh my God! I LOVE you!" Next thing, I stare at the phone waiting for the squeal of brakes and the perfectly logical crunch of folding metal. Mamie goes through a lot of cars. You'd think she'd quit calling me from 287 and 78, where my likeness should appear on those signs convicts and other state employees tow to embattled road shoulders to warn you of hazards. The sign under my face should read:


And Mamie should, but she's the uptight Shell Answer Man compared to Lala who casually says, "That's where I rolled the Jeep..." It's the phone, I think. If I had a dollar for every time I nearly broke my neck turning to gasp, "You WHAT?" I could quit my job and pay a beautiful burly man named Jurgen for daily Swedish massage.

Last night, Mamie called from 287. She, her cousin, two friends and a hanger-on were headed for the Somerset Diner in five separate cars. I felt a new hole open in the ozone layer as Mamie described the wrong turn the four other cars took as Mamie watched in her rear view mirror. About the fifth wheel:

Tata: Do I know her?
Mamie: Oh no. I've made sure you're never in the same room. She's shrill.
Tata: In close quarters? I can fix that.
Mamie: If I killed her I'd go to jail.
Tata: If I killed her, you wouldn't go to jail.
Mamie: What?
Tata: We're separate people. If I go to jail you're not there.
Mamie: How am I going to get through dinner? This is the most un-Mamie evening ever!
Tata: Make it more Mamie. When she says something you don't like squirt her like a kitten on the counter. You're not hurting her and she'll stop behaving in an irritating manner.
Mamie: She swore she could eat 4000 calories a day without gaining a pound.
Tata: Lean across the table and spritz. Make eye contact to discipline her properly.
Mamie: Would...Drug Fair have small spray bottles?
Tata: Try hair care products. Be firm! They need rules at this age.

Yes, the declaration of love that followed had the usual smashing consequences that didn't delay Mamie's evening plans because her cousin, friends and the hanger-on were driving in circles up in Bridgewater, causing OPEC ministers to watusi with joy. Possibly the most important element of this story is that Mamie tries to protect gentle people from my violent logic. This scene has occurred and recurred:

Random Weeping Friend: ...and then my boyfriend showed me his tax returns and he'd claimed our cat and I said, "Ralph, you're some kind of liar, aren't you? I bought all that plastic surgery and you know it!"
Tata: Oh. My. God. You cannot tolerate that kind of treatment from a man! You have got to sit him down and -
Mamie: Is that Normal Mailer in Vera Wang OFF THE RACK?

Lightning strikes. Horses whinny. Everyone looks toward the doorway she's pointing to with her left hand. With her right, she's grabbed the Random Weeping Friend by the collar. A terrible light comes up beneath her face. The room goes dark. She growls with a strange and fearsome power.


The lights come up. We see it's a stringer for the Associated Press in ill-fitting Jennifer Lopez by Kohl's and I notice my beer's empty. Our Random Weeping Friend is already dialing Ralph to apologize. It's like hypnosis. I never remember what happened until someone tells me I'm clucking like a chicken. All this is to say: there's what you say you'd do, and there's what I will do, despite the wise counsel of Miss Manners and those relatively civilized wolves that raised me. Thus, I was shocked when Miss Sasha crossed me on Friday night with a phone call I'll never forget, because I could've said or done anything, I still might, and the wedding is five days away.

I need a lovely bracelet with bells and an inscription: What Would Auntie Mame Do?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Praise Be To Dog! It's A Stupid Miracle!

Previously on Poor Impulse Control, I opined:

My many admirers bring news from far and near: the older gentleman who knocked on my door and permitted me the simple pleasure of assisting him at a difficult moment was reported missing three weeks ago. I stand at my living room window in the late afternoon glow, surveying the lovely new leaves on the city's trees, and as hope wanes I wish I knew where oh where he could be.

Paulie calls from the train to New York. He sounds thrilled and he is.

Paulie: Did you hear he was found?
Tata: NO!
Paulie: Yeah, and he's alive!
Tata: WHAT?
Paulie: Yeah, the cops found him wandering around disoriented and took him to the hospital!
Tata: NO!
Paulie: Yeah, after a few weeks they figured out he was a veteran and shipped him off to the VA hospital!
Tata: WHAT?
Paulie: Yeah, exactly what you said must've happened!

It is? It is! That's why the scenario sounds so familiar! I worked this out weeks ago in my tiny little mind. Now, the fun part.

Tata: You're saying the police picked up an old, old man on the streets of New Brunswick, took him to the hospital, filled out some paperwork and forgot about him, and when he was reported missing, the police, still not remembering, went to both hospitals, asked about any mysterious old, old men, and the hospital couldn't see him either, and then the hospital in question, forgetting that the police were looking for an old, old man nobody could identify, shipped him off to a VA hospital when he did the one thing he can be counted upon to do, which is talk about World War II, and I said this to you weeks ago?
Paulie: Yeah yeah, that's exactly what happened.
Tata: Damn it! People aren't supposed to be as stupid in real life as they are in my head!
Paulie: To their credit, the police found a distressed person before he was dead in the fountain. Though...they don't go around the corner and look at the missing poster they put up?
Tata: Got me! For all we know New Brunswick's full of milk carton kids.

I'm offering a new service. For an exhorbitant fee, I will figure out who the stupid party must be in your New Brunswick missing persons scenario. Hope the check clears because I've got a fine fucking head start...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blowdart That Charging Rhino. Now, the Other One.

The End Times, we are assured by ancient, miserably edited texts and modern miniseries alike, will not come upon us suddenly. No. There will be signs - not that these signs will do you any good because those misdemeanors on your juvie record are sealed by the state and not Heaven, and you are probably getting a sentence there you hadn't counted on. You can read signs all you want but your underwear better be asbestos and your SPF about a million.

So say our evangelical friends. You know what? Have a look at anime. If you study Japanese cartoon art you can learn something worth considering: after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some believe we have already lived through Armageddon. Everything blew up. The land was scoured by flames. Living creatures disappeared and their shadows were burned into walls. The Earth Game ended and we forgot to leave the stadium. It's a damn careless theology that doesn't take into account the notion that we may inflict the end of the world on others, rather than bring it on ourselves.

Miss Sasha, for instance, is getting married not this coming but next Friday afternoon. This means an entire wedding will be traveling five miles on Route 27 through New Brunswick during rush hour the day after Rutgers' main graduation. If there is a crowbar in the vehicle in which I'm a passenger, I bet it gets some use before the cocktail hour. There you go. Whore of Babylon sighting!

An afternoon wedding has other peculiar consequences, like that bridesmaids have 8 a.m. appointments at the hair salon. Parents and grandparents will be photographed hours before noon. The bride may have a 6 a.m. with a makeup artist. Staring at the itinerary at my desk, bashing my head on my keyboard to imprint QWERTY backwards on that subtle plane above my eyebrows and hollaring, "For the LOVE OF GOD, will SOMEONE please brew a vat of espresso and THROW ME IN!" I think I'm losing my mind. Trout summarizes this morning's jaunt through Penn Station:

Last week Elvis...this week cows! People dressed in cow suits handing out very small beverages. And 2 real, very young curled up sleeping calves.

Now I have seen cows on the streets of NYC.
Demand a basic skills retest! Underemployed actors in cow costumes - complete with napping free-range veals - hand out miniature caffeinated drinks in Penn Station and it's NOT a SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE? I am the mother of the bride, gently reminding people through clenched teeth to honor their damn obligations to a family event. Surely, God must be impatient, tapping her feet like a Greenwich Village PTA waiting for improved reading scores.

5.13.05 Update: Last night, Blogger ate the last three paragraphs of this entry. Mamie and I reconstructed it (Thank you, Mamie!) but it just doesn't have the same ire I loved yesterday. It may take gifts and flowers to rouse me from this torpor...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Frying Bigger Fish

Life is short, and Johnny's on a rampage:

Dear Editor:

I'm writing to inquire about submitting my original pulp/tough-guy/crime novel for your consideration. All the classic pulp elements are there. Mystery. Sex. Betrayal. Handgun violence. You name it. It's about a dope-shooting pill-popping gun-waving long-haired private detective searching for a missing executive. People ask me if my character is based on me. I tell them no. I have short hair. Please let me know if you'd be interested in taking a look and, if so, what submission guidelines I should follow.

Thank you very much.


When we were in high school, our writing teacher told us told us all literature contained only three plots. Johnny retorted, "Kid is born, gets expensive gifts." Damned if he didn't knock down all our classmates within a five-seat blast radius.

While I can't find an apartment in New Brunswick that doesn't include some disastrous condition like a pre-existing roommate with a sex offense conviction, Johnny and his hot veterinarian wife packed up and moved to the southwest. It takes a tremendous pair to enact your dream of never shovelling snow again for the rest of your life. I'm almost jealous. There are, however, new perils for one's pets:

We had a bad scare. Ernie wandered off Wednesday morning. As the days went by and we searched the desert for his collar or a crime scene or any sign, we gradually had to accept that he had wandered too far and that the coyotes had gotten him. We treat coyote maulings at the practice, where I'm working now in Client Services (i.e. receptionist) probably once a week. They're not entertaining. I've been holding up, strong silent type that I am, although for some reason people always laugh when I point that out, but the wife has been in bits. Last night we get home from work at about eight, phone rings. Chick on her cell. She has Ernie, by the side of the road about a hundred yards from our house. He's injured, but walking, she says. We burst into tears and get into the car and go get him and burst into tears and thank her and put him in the van and take him home and burst into tears.

Holy crap! Is Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, better off without the threat of coyotes? I'm pretty sure I am:

Anyway, it turns out that all he has is a superficial gash on his side, probably from a wire fence, and a few nicks and dings here and there. Whether he was set upon by coyotes and cut himself running from them, we'll never know. Once we got him into the house, it was clear he didn't need the emergency room, just a shitload of water and food and love. He's improving by the minute. We're taking him into the office later to throw a few stitches in his wound and clean up the other little scratches. He'll be good as new. Which, mind you, is not good. He's unbelievably stubborn and willfully impossible. He routinely wakes us up at four to go out and make a tiny bit of pipi. He mostly always doesn't want to come back from nighttime walks on the leash, so we have to drag him or pick him up and carry him. He's a goddamn stubborn obnoxious silverbacked old man. But we're overcome with relief and joy to have our most bestest of all possible boys back. I had forgiven the desert, I mean we're the intruders here, but the desert and I are back to best friend status.

So now I'm back to that question Mamie asked in October: if I didn't have to worry about anything, what would I do?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Dude, Where's My House?

Once again, I'm looking for a small apartment in a college town. This is roughly akin to searching for your own blackmailer. It's very depressing. There should be an affordable place for me and Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, but where is it?

Sad! I am sad. Our needs are quite modest. Why is this so hard?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Postcard #57


Fire the bricklayer.


Postcard #1


Went to the bodega for a pack of smokes. Back in 5.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Tappity Tappity Tappity...

Sister #1 calls this morning. My hunt for Mother-Of-the-Bridewear is going poorly and #1 has coupons because, as Audrey says, "Retail is for suckers." Sister #1 has a way with tone and inflection.


It is 9:28 a.m. and I've been at work just under two hours. Half my co-workers are out sick with a sore throat, fever and cough; the other half mock me for rasping like Lauren Bacall. Yesterday, the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't fever fogged my brain so completely I couldn't figure out how to roll up my car's power window. That's okay, the day before I couldn't remember where in a one-bedroom apartment I'd left my hammer.

Have you ever lost your hammer? I ask you, is this a problem people have?

Tata: I've been out sick and I'm finally returning messages.
#1: OH. (Pause) Sorry. The cleaning lady did the top half of my house yesterday. I'm writing some thank you letters. My husband has appointments at 5 and 6 tonight. I'm having contractions. What should I make for dinner?
Tata: Did you say...I thought I heard...I could swear you just said you were having contractions...
#1: Yeah. I've got a nail appointment for 11. Your nephews are with the sitter. Chicken or fish?
Tata: How about whatever they're serving at St. Peter's?

Sister #1, unlike Sisters 2,3 and myself, has only had induced-labor babies. She's calm about contractions because this is her third child and by her reckoning, there's no way a baby of hers is leaving a warm comfy spot of its own volition. Nope! Everything's under control. Far be it from me to contradict her. Five years ago, her doctor tried inducing labor the first time and it didn't take so well. Over 24 hours after she went into the hospital I was about half an hour into re-redding my bottle-red hair in My Little Tenement when I heard a voice in my head.

Voice in my head: Rinse out your hair and go to the hospital.
Tata: Now you're just being dramatic.
Voice in my head: The shower's that way. Scoot!

Well, I definitely heard the first part. Feeling a little silly, I rinsed out the dye and walked over to the hospital. Then I walked into through some doors and onto a secure ward. Nurses and other personnel greeted me as if I belonged there. I saw and heard them turn other people away. It was like a dream that smelled of bleach and made pinging noises. I pushed open a door and there was #1 hooked up to all kinds of devices and tubes and watching TV. Brother-In-Law #1 looked like death warmed over. He'd been up the whole time and needed some sleep and a stiff drink. As I later explained to our mother: I made unpopular statements for two hours. She pushed out that baby just to make me shut up.

Tata: Do you want me to meet you at the hospital?
#1: NO, THANKS! Uh, thank you, no, I'll be fine. Mom and I have errands. I'm in no hurry. I'll call you, okay?

Important note if you're planning on being cannonized someday: when you perform or participate in some sort of miraculous event like barging into a locked hospital ward make sure the crowd response is more stirring than, "What's with your hair?" And events will proceed more smoothly if you've organized a less schizophrenic answer than, "The voices in my head told me to go to the hospital." Trust me on this one.

So I've gone about my day and I'm waiting. The phone has not sat idle.

Mamie: So Trout got off her train this morning at Penn Station and at the top of the escalator there were six fat guys in white jumpsuits and when she left work, the Elvis impersonators were still there and they were advertising that CBS Elvis show thing! She had her picture taken with six false Elvises!
Tata: Are we out of Wayne Newtons?

Nothing to do but wait and tap my fingers.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Meme Quiz, Dancin' With the One What Broughtcha Edition

Jill over at Brilliant at Breakfast tagged me with the Meme Quiz. It's traveled up, down and all around, and become a moody thing. I'm struck by how differently I might've responded on a crappier day or if I'd just gotten off the phone with the single-minded Miss Sasha.

If I could be a scientist: I'd be Nicolo Tesla, ball of lightning in his right hand and hellfire in his eyes. Power, he thought, belonged in the hands the people, not the corporations and robber barons.

If I could be a musician: I'd be Dinah Washington, the bad girl's bad girl. You'd cross a dark city to see me, and my every note would be worth the journey. You bring to me what you do, and I come to you, breathy, sexual and sure, through smoke and booze and neon, and you'll abandon reason and daylight, and wake up in an alley with a smile on your face and a melody on your lips.

If I could be a doctor: I would explain a few things to Bill Frist. Publicly. Not that most college kids with a pamphlet couldn't make quick work of it.

If I could be a painter: I would paint numbers on the air so you see why I can't rearrange them in forms so pedestrian as adding and subtracting. I would paint light in whorling, melodic shapes so you finally see music for yourself. I would paint you aromas and flavors, and scatter them on breezes so pineapples fall gently on Ethiopian plains and apples waft over Madagascar.

If I could be an innkeeper: I would make up your bed with crazy quilts and stars on your ceiling and feathers over the vanity. Your nightlight reminds you of a song. In your dreams, you laugh and laugh. For breakfast, you find blood orange juice and warm butter and brioche on a tray outside your door and the scent of clean linen in the hallway.

To pass on this Rorschach test, I'm tagging Rosebud at such stuff, ae at Arse Poetica, and Alice at Alice In the Altered States.

Why? Because lightning doesn't just come in balls.

Monday, May 02, 2005


At 6:16 this morning, I climb on the stepper and start cranking. I think, 'Ta, this is never difficult. You make it so in your mind.' I make it and my rump less so for fewer than thirty seconds when I spot Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, digging near a closet door where no digging should be required. A tiny brown field mouse shoots across the floor, closely followed by Larry, now a predator bent on predation. About 1:30 into my workout, my blood pressure skyrockets as I try screaming but make noises only dogs hear.

Mouse: (muffled)
Larry: Hey! Professional at work, here...

Larry, for his part, catches and grips the hapless mousy in his mouth. The mousy is a big mouthful for a small cat. Larry walks a few steps with his plaything before the mousy makes a break for it. Larry stares fiercely at the fleeing thing as if to say, "Mrrrow, you are mine, mrrrow," before slapping a paw down on the escapee. Larry picks up the mousy again in his mouth. The mousy runs; Larry pounces. The mousy runs under the stepper.

Tata: GET HIM!
Mousy: A little help, huh?
Larry: Perfection cannot be rushed!

At 6:22, I dial Mamie's cellphone and go straight to voicemail. Angry and stage-whispering through clenched teeth, I leave a message.

Tata: It is TOO early to call SISTER #1 but I HAVE to tell SOMEBODY. THIS is the most TERRIFYING day of my LIFE. I am GOING to lose my MIND. LARRY is CHASING a mousy ALL OVER my ENTIRE HOUSE.

Mamie, that heartless bitch, declares this my "...funniest message without a threat to public safety." Another reviewer raves, "Girlie! Hilarious! I'd pay to see this movie!" The critics however are ahead of me as my fifteen minutes on the stepper turns into twenty-five when I try levitating to avoid the life and death struggle on my living room and bedroom floors. I surrender the idea of pushups and crunches and start a shower while Larry corners the mousy in my bedroom.

I. Do Not. Want. A Mousy. IN MY BEDROOM!

In the shower, I berate myself for not prising the wounded and now-crooked mousy from the jaws of the giant and seemingly expanding cat, but that's secondary to my new mantra which I loudly repeat to steady myself.

Tata: This is NOT HAPPENING...This is NOT HAPPENING...

I have GOT TO CALM DOWN! I respond to scents, so I wash my hair with Biolage Matrix Fortifying Shampoo, condition with Biolage Matrix Earth Tones Copper Color Refreshing Conditioner, and a second rinse with Biolage Matrix Fortifying Conditioner. I lather up with my favorite St. Ives Energizing Citrus Moisturizing Body Wash; slough with St. Ives Apricot Hand & Foot Scrub, and wash my face with Dove Daily Exfoliating Cleanser. You can bet your bottom dollar I bought every one of those items with a coupon except for the salon hair products for which I'd pay twice retail if I could because this is Jersey, and that is practically the law. Steeled by soothing aromas, I shut off the shower and toss aside the curtain.

A few weeks ago, I was talking on the phone while putting away my laundry when I discovered a giant dead bumble bee on my bedroom floor. I have become such an unbelievable pussy in my advanced old age that it took me almost a week to pick the thing up with a dustpan and broom and flush it to the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

A few years ago, when the rock star boyfriend was touring all the time, we had two cats who would sometimes kill fieldmousies. In fact, we humans counted on them killing the mousies. If the cats hadn't killed the mousies we would have awakened daily - me, the sometime other human and the cats - to mousy mosh pits in what passed for our living room. In this scenario, the cats let us - or me, rubber gloves and paper towels - take their mousy prizes and toss them out the back door into the yard I never saw anyone in without a raised machete.

Now, Larry is lounging regally just outside the bathroom door. It is his custom to lurk nearby while I shower in case I need rescuing. I sometimes remember he's a cat when I turn around in the shower and see him perched on the edge of the tub.

Larry: Dear God! Are you injured?

And I always remember he's a cat when I've bumped the shower curtain and he decides I'm prey.

Larry: Take that! And that! When will you change your soapy ways?

I am relieved when my eyes meet Larry's and then follow his to the tiny corpse near his front paws. Aha, the painful struggle of the mousy is at an end. I step out of the tub, towel dry and hang up the towel. When I turn back to look at the cat, his trophy has moved a few inches but it's still tits-up with little x's over its eyes. Larry looks at me. It's immediately clear to me this is a significant gaze: he is telling me something. I have no idea what the message is until, eyes still locked with mine, Larry takes a bite.

My mind has been boggled now for just over forty-five minutes and there is no power on earth that could force me to step over Larry while he is gnawing on the still warm corpse of the interloper. I can't even scream I'm so grossed out but it doesn't matter because I take one horrified look and reach for my Dove Original Clean Solid Antiperspirant. The situation that couldn't possibly get any worse gets a lot worse when the sound of Larry eating what he just caught becomes the sound of tiny crunching bones.

I dab under my eyes with Origins No Puffery, moisturize my face with Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF15, brush my teeth with Maximum Strength Sensodyne Extra Whitening with Fluoride, apply Philosophy Kiss Me Clear Very Emollient Lip Balm before painting on Colgate Simply White Clear Whitening Gel. As the crunching continues, I slather my entire body with Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, spritz on CK1 L'Eau du Toilette and apply an entire Bare Minerals light/fairly light tones kit with four components, add eye shadow I have lying around and a brown eyeliner. When the crunching stops I force myself to look at the cat. He licks his lips and gives me the kitty come-hither look.

Larry: How about some sugar?
Tata: Not on your life!

I leap over him and around the corner into the bedroom, where I throw on...something...In the hallway, I see there is nothing left of the mousy, not the tail or a foot or a scrap of internal organ. Nothing. I'm so upset I don't want to go to work and there's no way I can stay in the apartment. When I get to work, I'm still hyperventillating. My co-workers slap their desks and dab their tears discreetly.

Sister #1 calls because her Spidey sense is tingling. When I pick up the phone she skips past hello and says, "What happened?" This is not the first time I tell her Larry's thrown a banquet and invited someone delicious, but it's the first time a cat story makes her laugh so hard she nearly drives her SUV into a ditch.

Should I feel uneasy when Larry stares into that closet, searching the darkness for the reflective eyes of another snack?