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The File Cabinets In My Head

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I’ll admit it. Lately I’ve been struggling with a bad case of CRS. Can’t remember shit.

This is without a doubt attributed to the massive amount of text, video, audio, emotion, motor skills and innate revulsion to Tofurky Pockets that is clogging up my brain. Like when you can’t see the forest through the trees of tee shirts in your dresser drawer.

I feel sorry for the workers in my brain responsible for thought delivery. Those file cabinets are so overloaded that material is no longer being sorted according to any logical system. Wherever there’s space, data is jammed in.

Lately the workers, (who are always depicted in black & white), have been charged with handling the brain matter needed for me to play Pharrell’s “Happy” on the ukulele. They find it difficult to remain stoic about this task. This seemingly needless clutter impacts their ability to supply me with simple facts that once came tripping off my tongue.

Friend: “How many years have you lived in your house?”
Me: “Ummm, let me think.” (I usually count the American flags I get from the realtor each July 4th, but I’m not home.)

I start thinking of other milestones that might suggest a time frame. The workers upstairs run around frantically searching for the pets I had when I moved in, which car I was driving and how long my hair was. And how blonde.

Why does she want to know anyway?

A diligent worker proudly provides me with a memory of myself, dressed in an over-sized men’s white dinner jacket, striped French sailor’s top and black pencil skirt.

Me: “That’s the 80’s, stupid.”
Friend: “Whaa?”
Me (Deflecting): “Do you want to get a gluten-free cronut?”
Friend: “I’m doing karaoke yoga in an hour.”

Worker in my Brain: “How Kafkaesque.”

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The Magical Summer of Camp Runamok

Camp Runamok

Summers are already good, they embolden us with permission to show as much skin as we dare in public, to drink more, “We’re outside, for Pete’s sake!”, and to play childhood games that were dangerous then, and are now downright lunacy. (Think Lawn Darts.)

Occasionally one comes along that is more than good, it is magical. Mine came in 1985 and was called, “Camp Runamok”.

We were in our twenties, living in Manhattan in 5-floor walk-ups or tubs-in-kitchen or 300 sq. ft. rooms with Murphy beds. And no air conditioning. A summer share in the Hamptons was out of the question. So was staying in the City on 100 degree weekends. We found an affordable retreat in the form of a cabin on a creek in Phoenicia, New York. In the Catskills. Henny Youngman was extra and we were on a budget.

Every weekend we’d stop for corn, watermelon and some cases of Genesee Cream Ale, (brewed locally and dirt cheap), on the way upstate. The number of guests varied, but there was a core group who had all assigned themselves projects for the sojourn. Some busied themselves designing the perfect croquet obstacle course. In addition to the wickets, a successful round might include a pitch over the water hazard, (kiddie pool), a straight line descent down the slip n’ slide, and a tap on all four tires of the station wagon.

Others tended to our sustenance. Particularly getting the BBQ fire readied and keeping the watermelon properly marinating by pulling out a wedge and adding vodka periodically. No one was exclusively assigned this task, so efforts were often duplicated.

Third was the crew who had chosen hard labor. Beside the cabin was a brisk running creek that was no more than two or three feet deep. Their goal was to remove enough dirt and rocks to create a swimming hole. I’m not sure how successful they were, but we always had ice cold Genny Cream Ale.

July 4th was when the magic came into full bloom. It was four days of our own private Woodstock, “Caddyshack” and Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. Allow me to introduce the players:

“The Bodacious Love Birds”
Since they were to be married in the Fall we gave them the honeymoon suite, (basement). Theirs was, and still is, a perfect, wacky union. A “Bewitched”, “Dancing in the Street”, “Diner” kind of love.

“The Affable Frat Boy”
Always happy due, in part, to “brewskies”. Very likeable due to his “yupper” attitude.

“The Iconoclasts In Training”
Chipping away at norms, this group happily mixed campy tradition with alternative world views. Fashion experimentation flourished, one member sported a pot on his head all weekend.

“The Be Frees”
These folk, with their unique personalities, weren’t so much trying to change the world, they were happy running alongside it.

With a backdrop of Americana, we played a combination of “Murder” and “Sardines” all night, invented the bacon-burger-dog, (thereby efficiently covering all the food groups), and held a watermelon seed spitting contest, (which fizzled due the lack of enthusiasm in letting go of any bits of the spirit-laden fruit).

We successfully shed the wet blanket of pressure-filled weekdays, defined by forced conformity and office politics. We were kids again. Kids who could drink, make love, go in the water right after eating and laugh ourselves silly during a game of beerminton.

We called our place “Camp Runamok”, but in truth, we knew exactly what we were doing. We were becoming bodacious, affable, iconoclastic free thinkers. Something that has stuck with us to this day.

The Damn Birthday Song

Birthday Song

Here it is, the dreaded annual event. I don’t mean the day that marks another year of living, I have never been one to fret about getting older. That would be about as productive as watering a dead plant.

No, I am referring to that unavoidable moment when a group of friends and colleagues gather ‘round to honor your time on earth with the most inane 4‐line ditty ever written, “Happy Birthday to You”.

Really? That’s all you can say after all these years? “We know you were born, and we know your name”. Let me fetch my box of medals.

Or is it just something to get quickly out of the way so that we can focus on the real star of the day, cake. If so, then shouldn’t the lyrics be, “I’m so happy there’s cake, I‘m so happy there’s cake, I’m so happy there’s ca‐ake, I’m so happy there’s cake”? Seems like a much more appropriate rallying song.

Even “Jingle Bells” has more of a plot arc. And there is tension. Why just one horse? Can he not get along well with others? Or is he just taking a break from equine relationships that invariably end in separate stalls? And the sleigh is open. Is that really wise during flu season?

The Birthday Song was written in 1893 by a pair of kindergarten teachers in Kentucky, and was originally called “Good Morning to All”. If I had been required to listen to that every day I would have begged my parents for home schooling.

The song has been translated into dozens of languages. Now how hard could that have been? Marilyn Monroe even succumbed to its allure when she slurred it to President Kennedy in 1962. Even in her inebriate state she felt compelled to expand upon the lyrics. Not that anyone was paying attention to the words.

It was the first song to be sung in outer space – by Apollo IX astronauts. Aliens are still hurling meteors at us for that.

And I’m told that Warner Chappell purchased the company owning the copyright for $15 million in 1990. Heck, I’d sing your entire life story in the style of Billie Holiday for a fraction of that.

Next week is my birthday. I will attempt to get through it aurally unscathed. But I know someone out there is humming “you know what” just as I type. It is even the appropriate length for a Twitter tweet.

If cockroaches learn to sing we are doomed for all eternity.

That’s soooo Hollywood.

Hollywood

It’s that time of year again.

On Sunday, the world will spend at least 7 hours focused on Hollywood and the movies. People will plan meals and cocktails around the Oscars, many will dress up and more will start the event early in the day watching the Red Carpet announcers try and remember the stars’ names. They’ll ask that most important question, “Who are you wearing?”. Just once I’d like one of them to instead ask, “What the hell are you wearing?”.

Every year at least one person from out of town asks me if I am going to the Oscars. As if distance is the only thing that’s preventing them from going.

Others find this event the appropriate time to mention their 6th degree of separation from one of the honorees. “My college roommate’s uncle used to date a girl from Vassar. She was in Meryl Streep’s class.” This is said softly with a discrete nod.

Personally, I like to celebrate the Hollywood moments that happen daily in this town of tinsel. You have to listen and watch carefully as they are performed without a blink. Here are some of my favorites.

At Party City, a Mom and her little girl and boy:
Girl: Ooh, look, a piñata.
Boy: A piñata’s a must.
Mom: Let’s not over-think it kids.

Two young women shopping at Whole Foods:
Woman 1: I’m invited to a Tapas party on Saturday.
Woman 2: Ew. Isn’t that like being told to eat before you come and expect cheap wine?

At the Malibu Farmer’s Market:
’50’s B Movie Star: What are these things called?
Farmer: Avocados.

On Melrose:
Pedestrian 1: Can you hold my dog while I go in for a wax?
Pedestrian 2: Okay, but I don’t have time for a Brazilian.

At Mitsuwa Japanese Market:
Guy: Should we get some fresh fish?
Girl: You never know if it’ll be good. I’d rather have sushi.

These everyday snippets are what make L.A. for me. They are the unforced, natural manifestations of a free-spirited life unsullied by what others think.

Will I watch on Sunday? Heck yeah. I’ll cheer and criticize and pass judgement on every nuance of a flaw I spot. After all, I’m only human.

Deconstructing The “Little White Lie”

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We’ve all heard them, and probably said some of them. Those polite little phrases and idioms that are anything but. In fact, they are delivered with a neon sign that says, “I’m lying to you, but I’m doing it politely.”

Finally there is a quintessential guide to the true meanings of these “little white lies”. Not since “What’s up, Tiger Lily?” has a translation been so precise.

“Let’s agree to disagree”
“You’re wrong but I don’t feel like arguing”
“With all due respect”
“You are an idiot”
“Just between us”
“I’m going to tell you something benign and you’re going to divulge a dirty secret”
“You never know”
“Pigs will fly first”
“Have you done something different with your hair?”
“Good God, I hope this wasn’t intentional”
“Don’t take this the wrong way”
“Stick your face out, I’m going to verbally slap it”
“Far be it from me”
“I don’t judge, wait, yes I do”
“My two cents worth”
“I’m going to ‘wow’ you with my false humility”
“You haven’t aged a bit”
“You’ve aged A LOT”

COMING SOON: The Little White Lie Translator App!

You give yourself away with accessories

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My Mom gave me that cautionary nugget way back when my accoutrement pretty much amounted to a Ponytail Barbie and her travel case. When a year later I was given her pink Corvette, well, I walked around with my head held up high, strutting all 3 1/2 feet of me. While this revealed my preference for heavy eye liner and a French stripe bandeau maillot, I was still able to maintain an air of mystery throughout the 2nd grade.

Today is a different story, sadly the Art of the Reveal is gone. We have so many ways to tell people about ourselves with accessories that we no longer have to even open our mouths. Let’s start with the basics.

Printed Tee Shirt:
1. Where I went on vacation/drinking/sports or music event
2. What I like to do/eat/listen to/watch on TV
3. My sexual preferences/innuendos “I Just Did It”
4. How stupid I am or all of you are

So now that you’ve introduced myself, let’s add some layers.

Ring Tone: Forgive me, but there are just some places where I don’t want to hear “Let’s Get It On”. The gynecologist’s waiting room comes to mind.
Smartphone Cases: In spite of all the technological breakthroughs that took us from a brick to a credit card-sized device, people seem to want to take a step backward and add a bedazzled case, or a purse with a strap or belt clip, a leather Harley Davidson pouch or a beer-themed case with a built-in bottle opener.
Pets: Animals provide a billboard for a whole other dimension to one’s personality. The type and breed are really secondary to its accessories. And their owners have a built-in “out”, they can disassociate themselves from the choices. “What?? They’re called doggles, he really loves wearing them.”

I could go on, but you get the point. With all this outward display, one has to wonder if these are reflections of an actual personality or just a private label version of a Kardashian.

I think it is time to pare down the visual and audible cues, to spend time developing and evolving from the inside out. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t wear short shorts while walking a Pomeranian, it just means that is all you’re giving up without a proper introduction. And at that point, as my Mom also advised me, “use your words”.

I think I just did.

Why Women Rode Sidesaddle

Sidesaddle

I know, this may not be a burning question in everyone’s mind, what with Bridgegate, the Flotus turning 50 and the scarcity of salty snacks in Denver, there are loftier issues to ponder. But I must admit that from time to time this muse perplexes me, it’s a conundrum, like Stonehenge, UFO’s and why you never see any baby pigeons.

Logic would say that, anatomically, it should have been the men who rode sidesaddle. But propriety stated that women in the Old West must be consummate ladies, and that ladies kept their knees together at all times. It’s a wonder we’re here to talk about it at all.

I’m not buying it. If a woman’s stance in the saddle was that important, then why did they have to scrub floors, skin rabbits and endure natural childbirth? Men got drunk to have a simple tooth extracted. Basic physics would tell us that childbearing requires a much greater displacement of matter and energy. Not very ladylike to me. No, I think it all comes down to handicapping. The day the first woman agreed to ride sidesaddle was the day we all agreed to take a disadvantage, to start a little behind the line.

Sure, today we women wear pants, ride horses astride, some even hunt. But are things really so different? Take hair, for example. Natural beauty notwithstanding, hair in itself is most women’s first handicap of the day. (There was brief period in the sixties when we didn’t care, we were young, free and hoped no one would be keeping a permanent record.) No, because of hair we get up earlier to endure a litany of tortures: we lather, rinse, repeat, comb, mousse, gel. Apply extreme heat, attack our scalp with coarse bristles, and finish with a strong cover of liquid glue that invariably gets misdirected to a sensitive, vital organ. All before our first cup of coffee. Why? We’re taking a handicap. The understood, but never acknowledged rules of the game.

In my youth, which was not so long ago, this handicapping really began with puberty. Recent studies postulate that prior to that fateful stage, girls are psychologically and physically confident, seemingly oblivious to the battle of the sexes. But when their androgynous bodies begin to change, rather than being a time of celebration for the onset of womanhood, this becomes a period of ridicule, separation and an introduction to life’s handicaps. Girls lose some of that openness, shun sports and alter the way they interact with the opposite sex. Why? There seemed to be a prevailing attitude that puberty marked the time when a girl must learn what she can’t do, not what she now can. As if subconsciously the beginning of menstruation was a signal to the male population that the games have begun. Time to batten down the hatches.

Thank God for the sidesaddle. Without it puberty might very well have been my Alamo. But when I finally emerged from that maze of overacting glands, still standing and able to face whatever came along, unknowingly I had learned the secret passed down from our pioneering foremothers.

So, why did women ride sidesaddle? Because it was harder, and they could. Why does anyone accept a handicap, we could have said “no”. Because it’s a challenge that we think we can overcome, and it makes the game much more interesting.

I don’t know what girls going through puberty today are told, probably nothing. But hopefully as the rite of passage begins, each new woman will discover the secret of the sidesaddle, and smile, knowing that every challenge met was conquered on an uneven playing field. I know I’ll sleep better tonight.

Now about those baby pigeons…