What a heathen gives up for Lent.

This is Joe’s senior picture. He graduated from an all-boys Jesuit high school in 1993 when I was 11 years old. I’m weak for bow ties, so you can see now why I fell for him. I needed some information about Lent, so I figured I’d go to the source.

I was jawing with my best friend Ro last week and she casually brought up this business of Lent. She said she was giving up pasta, and naturally I responded by saying, “What? For Jesus? Jesus wants you to give up pasta? If I were Jesus, I’d be like eat the pasta. It’s just a starch.”
And she responded (as she does every year) that Lent is a Catholic tradition, that she’s been giving up beloved foods since she was a kid, and like all good Catholics, she must sacrifice something she loves for Lent.
“Is it really a sacrifice?” I asked.
“Yes of course,” she said. “I love pasta.”
So I mulled it over – this hullabaloo over Lent – as I’ve mulled it over for years. Raised by an atheist mother and a non-practicing Lutheran father, who has an appetite like a bear, I’ve never been asked to give up pleasurable food for 40 days.
I could give you my heathen opinion on the matter, but who am I to tell gluttonous Catholics there’s a chance this ritual pleases Jesus less and Richard Simmons more? I’ve got plenty of asinine rituals myself (ie: crossing my fingers and kissing them twice before taking off in an airplane), so who am I to knock Lent when I believe crossing my fingers and kissing them twice keeps airplanes in the sky?
So I hung up the phone with Ro, and told Joe I was giving up sarcasm for Lent.
“Why sarcasm?”
“It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile.”
“What about food?”
“Nope. Who gives a shit if I give up a food? Jesus? This whole Lent thing seems bunk. If Jesus were in our kitchen right now, he’d make himself a turkey sammie, and tell me that when he gave up sarcasm he noticed a huge improvement in his gospels.”
Now understand: Joe is a writer too. A writer and editor at Tampa’s snarktastic Creative Loafing. Telling Joe you give up sarcasm is like telling Mrs. Butterworth you give up pancakes.
As I left the living room and turned the corner into the hallway, I shouted, “I want to return to writing more meaningful things! Things that make people sigh!”
Last night I interviewed Joe about Catholic sacrifices. The transcript is below.
Hey Joe? Can I interview you about Lent?




Before you became a heathen, what did you give up?
Chocolate ice cream.
You always gave up chocolate ice cream?
I always gave up chocolate ice cream.
Because you love it madly?
I was obsessed with the fact that I could have it for breakfast one day a year.
What day was that?
Easter. I had a deal with my folks that if I gave up chocolate ice cream for Lent, I could have it for breakfast on Easter.
Did you think you were a better person because of it?
I probably dug the God part of it then.
When did you stop giving up chocolate ice cream for Lent?
By my early teens I was off the religion bandwagon.
Yet you continued to go to an all-boys Catholic school? That’s like being a member of Styx and hating your No. 1 song.
Yes it is. It’s like being a member of Styx and hating Come Sail Away.
Why do people always give up food?
People typically give up things they do or enjoy that are frivolous or pleasurable.
What did your parents give up?
My dad gave up ketchup.
Do you know what a sacrifice that was for him? He puts ketchup on ketchup. You know, on Fridays during Lent you couldn’t eat meat either.
Yeah, I know. How did you survive without chicken and chocolate ice cream?
We had pizza night and tuna fish sandwich night. My mom used to make a giant plate of tuna fish sandwiches with potato chips. It was always more than we could ever eat. It was like nature’s bounty on the table.
I was always jealous of that part. I used to claim I was Catholic when my parents would force me to eat meat on Fridays.
Do you often interview people in a towel?
Only you.
Is that all m’am? I don’t usually talk to the press.
Yeah, I guess I’m done with you.
If you’d like to know what it’s like to eat a pound of chocolate ice cream for breakfast, I’d be happy to fill you in.


PS. Joe’s senior quote is from Guns N’ RosesEstranged. W.A.R = William Axl Rose. He felt the lyrics were a perfect senior quote. Melodramatic and angtsy … because nothing says Fuck You like a bow tie.


A sucker for beautiful talented people.

I have never, ever tired of the Oscars. Even when the show crawls past midnight, I never turn the TV off.

Even as a kid, when I had no clue who the nominees for Best Supporting Actor were, I’d root for the guy, who when the camera panned his face, seemed humbled by the nomination.

Even when my father bitched that the only movies to ever win Oscars were boring ones he’d never seen, I’d righteously back the Academy’s choices. Even as a 12-year-old.

Even when my mother suggested I go to bed before Best Picture had been announced, I’d weasel my way through the end of the telecast.

Even when I went to school the next morning gibbering on about animated short films no one in my rural high school gave two shits about, I never scoffed at the Oscars.

It was my Super Bowl.

I was insanely jealous of the actresses. Their dresses. Their bodies. Their skin. Their grace. Their effusive speeches. I wanted their talent. Their dates. Their doe eyes and bee-stung lips. I was fascinated by the way they tiptoed to the podium and clutched their golden barbells like freedom fighters in silk Valentino, forging forward in battle.

When I bought my first pair of high heels in 2004 – just before moving to Florida to become a newspaper reporter – I practiced walking from the living room to the kitchen by conjuring up images of Charlize Theron accepting her Oscar for Monster.

I realize the awards themselves are mostly overblown. In the scheme of sobering world affairs, actors congratulating actors seems almost bombastic. Yet I’m swept away by the industry’s enthusiasm, even when Roberto Benigni clownishly accepts a Best Actor award and I can only understand two words of his speech.

On a frigid February night, in my parent’s living room, on a worn sectional sofa in a Western New York farm town 2,500 miles from Hollywood, Calif., the Oscars were a glitzy portal, bloated with beautiful people applauding high stakes creativity.
I even baked special blueberry muffins before watching the ceremony; the same blueberry muffins I baked before watching Ally McBeal.
Naturally, I had crushes on the screenwriters.
I had a good hunch Quentin would win for Pulp Fiction in 1994, as I had read a profanely eloquent interview with him in Talk magazine several months before the awards. In the year of Titanic, when Matt & Ben won for Goodwill Hunting, I considered writing them a congratulatory note on my Christmas stationary set. And last year, when Diablo Cody nabbed an Oscar for Juno, I considered a career in stripping to support my novel-writing.
To Joe’s delight, I did not apply for a job at Mons Venus for fear that the opposite shifts would kill our evening Rummy games.
Anyway, I’m a sucker for the Oscars …

And if I were Mickey Rourke, I’d get me a haircut, a new Chihuahua and start baking blueberry muffins for Jon Favreau.
PS. Killer Marisa Tomei illustration by Rob Kelly for Time Out New York.

Moobs vs. Boobs: The double standard

I don’t get it.
I’m watching a rerun of 20/20 tonight and there’s some segment on about moobs, as in man boobs. It’s apparently a British term I’ve never heard before, which is weird because I’m usually hip to such lingo.

As I’m watching these men and their nasty, hairy moobs flash across network television, I can’t help but think of Janet Jackon’s nipple slippage five years ago.

Now seriously, people. Which is more offensive?

(Yes, this milkweed is a man.)

Why is it I can watch a 20/20 special on moobs, ripe with images and videos of … MOOBS, and no one in the nation bats an eye. But Janet Jackson sticks a throwing star over her nip and gives America a 4-second peek of her bosom and suddenly we’re collectively distraught. Our children can’t sleep. Our dogs are having seizures. A nipple, they say, concealed by some sort of ninja weaponry, is not fit for network television. The (female) nipple is too racy for the Super Bowl, the wholesome/god-fearing event it is. The nipple is too taboo. Send out the skeez patrol. We’re sorry Ms. Jackson. You tipped the slut scale during the Halftime Show.

Don’t you know?
You can show 96% of your boobs, as long as your nipples are covered.

And if you’re a dude and you have MOOBS, you can show it all.


PS. I understand the moobs thing is an actual “condition,” called gynecomastia. Newsweek ran a story on it last November.

"She’s the other half of my zipper."

ST. PETE – Today I had lunch with one of my oldest friends in Florida.
It was at a Thai restaurant called The King & I, and we were talking about relationships – his not mine – and I could tell by his blushing and squirming that the chick he’s dating is turning his insides to goo.
If he hadn’t squirmed and hadn’t blushed, I’d be writing about his smile. His smile was a billboard that flashed: DUDE IN LIKE, as it was one of those punch-drunk smiles that you cannot, no matter how much you think you’re in control of your facial contortions, pinch shut.
Basically, the man is smitten and getting smitten-er by the day.
Before I tell you what he told me today, which I’m pretty sure you garnered from the title of this post, I’ve gotta give you context. I’ve gotta paint a picture of this kid so you can squint him into focus in your brain.
I won’t tell you his name for fear that She, whom he is falling for, might read this. We’re not Facebook friends or Twitter friends, but who knows? We might one day be, and just you watch this relationship go in the shitter.
Ey! I pray it doesn’t. At heart, I’m a romantic. By trade, a cynic. It’s just that in the event that She screws Him over, or He screws Her over, I don’t want to air His vulnerabilities on the Internet.
This friend of mine. He’s analytical. Nerdy in the best way. Wears T-shirts with ironic expressions and dinosaurs decals. He’s a whore for gadgetry and all technological advances. And despite his CNET membership and frequent use of the word, “app,” he’s devoutly religious. I think the only friend I have who goes to church every week.
For four years he has insisted on paying for our lunches and dinners, which usually run several hours long and have functioned, for me, as food-talk-therapy sessions.
Anyway. So he’s dating someone new. A girl I’ve never met, but whose name I’ve invented a song for. (Well, not invented, per-se since the song I sing is a real song with a refrain that sounds like this chick’s name, but more like a song I adapted in the spirit of her name.)
It’s a nice name. Makes me think of gingham curtains and Ashley Judd in bare feet.
As grease dripped down my chin from the tubular spring roll I was eating, this glowy friend of mine explained in the most rudimentary terms, how this girl is just about perfect for him.
“It’s like my zipper theory,” he said. “You know how a zipper has two parts that are a little different, but kind of alike? We’re like that. She’s just different enough.”
“You’re so head over heels it’s killing you,” I said.
He blushed. Smiled like clothespins were pinching his cheeks and nodded begrudgingly in agreement. My supremely picky, painfully rational friend had found himself a lass.
As I began pounding the table in approval, he began pointing out that there was, of course, one problem.
The Perfect Fit had been really busy lately. So busy, that last month they went one whole week without speaking or seeing each other. So my friend, the self-preservator, decided to end the relationship. Nip it in the bud, as they say.
But of course, there was one other problem, he said.
He liked her. Good and plenty. He liked her tons. And when he dumped her, he felt cinematic-ly sad. Couldn’t concentrate at all at work the next day.
“She wasn’t making time for me, so I figured maybe she didn’t like me. But when I broke up with her or whatever, I could tell that night, by her face that maybe she liked me.”

So he decided to call her a few days later to see if she wanted to meet for dinner. And without officially reconciling, they began dating again.

As he told me this story, blushing and eating spring rolls, insisting he wasn’t going to invest himself in the situation because he wasn’t sure how the gal felt about him, I couldn’t help but pound the table again.

“But she’s your zipper,” I cried.
“I know,” he said.

Lance spreads some love.

My boyfriend keeps hitting the snooze on his radio alarm clock.

It’s how he wakes up every morning before work – to 20-second blasts of 1980s pop songs.

“Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder? Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear the thunder? You better run. You better take cover.”

Me? I’m usually in my office by then, drinking Timmy Hos coffee out of an Artvoice mug.

Who would’ve thought when I swiped this Artvoice mug eight years ago from the dimly-lit, alt-weekly newspaper I interned at in Buffalo, that I’d be sitting in my office, in my house, in St. Petersburg, Fla., sipping Timmy Hos in a blue nightgown and red slippers?

“Buying bread from a man in Brussels.
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles.
I said, ‘Do you speak-a my language?’
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.”

Although Valentines Day has come and gone, I’m going to put this post up now before it totally gets away from me.

Since I still feel like the new kid on the blog block, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to introduce Lance to some friends, which I did by following new peeps on Twitter. I hadn’t set out to befriend only mommies on mommy blogs, but apparently Lance likes moms.

“Lying in a den in Bombay.
With a slack jaw, and not much to say.
I said to the man, ‘Are you trying to tempt me
Because I come from the land of plenty?’
And he said …”

Not being a mommy, I didn’t think I’d be drawn to mommy blogs (oh, and to one pseudo-daddy blog), but upon further reading, I found myself oddly captivated by these men and women and their child-rearing highs and lows, the likes of which I won’t get into. That’s their job.

Suffice it say, reading mommy blogs has kept me equally awestruck and birth-controlled.

Jill over at Modern Mommy Blog, is a 29-year-old social worker whose New Year’s resolutions include ingesting fish oil every day and avoiding alcoholic beverages. I think it’s refreshing that she broke both of these promises by Super Bowl Sunday, because in my opinion, cutting alcohol out of your life while introducing your body to fish oil sounds grim.

Jill has a one-year-old daughter, and is rooting for Kate Winslet in the Oscars. She entered herself in a Valentines Day contest sponsored by Linda, a scrapbooking, stay-at-home mother-of-three in Mississippi.

On Valentines Day, Jill, the Modern Mommy, spread a little “bloggy love” my way by posting about Lance on her blog, which was so solid of her.

So …

In the spirit of paying it forward, I recommend Modern Mommy to those of you who have children/are about to have children/might one day have children/are parents to pugs (or other such animals)/can appreciate a network of supportive family-friendly folks even if you are crass, self-indulgent and light-years away from having children/enjoy a pretty blog layout with meaningful posts/appreciate good advice and loyal webships (web friendships.)

Oh, and Joe finally woke up around 9:30 a.m., throwing groggy daggers my way in Pat Benatar’s battlefield.

“We are young, heartache to heartache we stand.
No promises, no demands …”

PS. My father gave my mother 1,600 lb. of corn for Valentines Day. After receiving such an awesome gift, she helped him lug the corn bags into the basement to dump into their corn burner hopper.

Independence, 1950

This one’s for my Nana.

We were sitting around the kitchen table Christmas night – my mom, my sisters, Nana and me. And for whatever reason PK got on the subject of homesickness.

She remarked that she has good days and bad days. That some days, no matter how many romantic comedies she watches, or how much chocolate ice cream she eats, she cannot shed the veil of homesickness that shrouds her every move.

Because I’m hard-headed and fail miserably at making my sisters feel better when given the opportunity to do so, I didn’t tell PK that when I was 22 and living alone in Sarasota, I Googled the distance between North Collins, N.Y. and the Gulf Coast of Florida. And that every time I cried out of homesickness, I’d remind myself that 1,269 miles is pretty good chunk of space.

Putting my pangs of sadness to good use, I wrote a math equation.

For every one mile I was separated from my family I would devote one day to giving Sarasota a fair shake. Rounding up slightly, I divided 1,269 miles by 365 days, giving myself 3.5 years to make a go at in Sarasota. If after 3.5 years I was still sad as hell, missing home, or craving a new adventure, I’d throw in my beach towel, pack up my things and leave.

But of course I didn’t tell my sister any of this as we were sitting around the kitchen table. Because the happy ending to this story is, after 3.5 years I met Joe.

Instead it was my Nana who piped up.

“I was terribly homesick when I was living in Arkansas,” she said.

Dumbfounded, we asked, “WHAT? Arkansas? WHEN?

My Nana – who raised her family next door to her sisters’ houses, across the street from her brothers’ houses, and literally within footsteps of the house she grew up in – lived in Arkansas. Arkansas? I don’t think even my mother knew Nana lived in Arkansas.

Captivated, my sisters and I urged her to continue with the story, the likes of which goes something like this:

Nana’s father owned grape fields stretching the length of Brant-North Collins Road. Nana and her six brothers and sisters grew up in these fields. And if they were doing poorly in school their father, my great-grandfather, would pull them out of class and stick them on the farm.

My Nana, the middle child, was whip smart, with a wicked sense of humor, and strong arms from playing softball and picking grapes. When Nana was 18 her father sent her to Sturkie, Ark. for the summer, where he owned a strawberry canning factory with his brother, Louie.

“Dottie,” he told his daughter. “I’m too tied up in local affairs to travel south. I need someone to keep an eye on the Arkansas factory.”

My great-grandfather had gotten wind of some shady dealings in Arkansas, and Nana, being whip smart, was as good an ambassador as any, so he sent her.

It was 1950, and Nana, together with a girl named Vicky and a guy named Vinnie, crossed the Arkansas/Missouri line in a dusty Cadillac with the windows rolled down.

Nana, wearing a sundress and feeling ridiculously independent, remembers pulling over for breakfast at a diner with fly strip-yellow lighting. She remembers Vinnie, who was older, perverted, and a friend of her fathers, muttering under his breath that if the waitresses’ tits weren’t rubber, he’d eat them. She remembers she and Vicky slapping Vinnie’s hands away when he went to pinch the waitress’ ass, and she remembers thinking: my father sent me to Arkansas with this creep?

She was dating my Papa at the time, so of course she missed him and wrote him letters every day. When she heard that he was dating someone else – another girl named Dorothy – she brushed it off, because, as she says, “the other Dorothy wasn’t a threat.”

One time, Vinnie handed Nana a letter. He asked her to drive it to a post office in St. Louis, Mo. Any post office, so long as it was in St. Louis. Nana says she figured the guy was fooling around with some lass in Arkansas, but that his wife back home thought he was in St. Louis. Whatever the situation, she didn’t care. It was nice to take a break from strawberry canning and get behind the wheel of a Cadillac.

When Nana got back to Brant, she scolded Papa for “philandering around,” (with another Dorothy no less.) Two years later she and Papa got married. They had five children, including my mother, the second-to-the-youngest, who was born in 1960.

Nana says she found the other Dorothy’s sweater pin in Papa’s possession, and that Papa tried to pawn it off as a gift for her. But she knew better.

She held onto it for few years. It was after all, a name pin, and Dorothy was her name too. Whenever she’d see The Other Dorothy around town, she’d think, Ha! I’ve got your pin at home. But eventually she lost it, threw it out, or whatever happens to things like that.

As she talked about Arkansas (“It was awful. I couldn’t wait to come home.”) her eyes sparkled. Sure she was homesick, but I could tell, the memory of her independence thrilled her.

For the helluvit, I Googled the distance between Sturkie, Ark. and Brant, N.Y. It’s 946 miles. Or by my coping calculations, two and half years.

PS. Happy Birthday Nana, four days late.

Duly noted

Joe and I scribble a lot of notes to each other. They’re scattered all over the house in various places. I thought I’d pull a few from our collection.

This is Joe’s favorite most emasculating note. “Took 20 bucks for ammo. Have a good brunch. If you wake up for brunch …”

This note was edited due to explicit content. Note: Stein Mart. As a female who lives in Florida, I can’t help it. I’m a Golden Girl in waiting.

This note was rolled up, stuck in the pug’s tail and delivered to Joe in the living room.

Our first Christmas tree shopping list. Note: “Cranberries or some shit.”

We made this list when we moved into our old apartment. I like when Joe makes it a point to kiss me.

I wrote this note on the corner of an envelope and stuck it to Joe’s fridge the morning I left for my cross-country excursion to Oregon.

Like Donna Reed, I make Joe turkey sammies every day before he leaves for work. This one was because he “forgot” to eat a sandwich the day before and had to throw it out because the Mayo had congealed.
He forgot again and blamed me.

We play Rummy like two old coots. This game ended in Joe’s favor. As you can see, I’m a sore loser.

I really AM trying to become a better sport.

Finally. A Rummy game that ended in my favor. Step one to becoming a better sport: gloat via cartoons.