Archives for March 2009
Those kind of cones.
I loved them even without ice cream scooped on top. They were a nice cardboard-flavored snack.
I reckon biting into stale ice cream cones is a fine way to hurry along loose teeth and considering I was fairly cash-strapped at five, gnawing on these things until teeth fell out was probably a small price to pay for dividends from the Bank of Tooth Fairy.
“MOM!” I yelled. “COME HERE!”
Pointing to the crumbs, oblivious to where they’d come from, I explained that the tooth fairy must have left dust in my room.
My mother, amused and well aware of my sloppy eating habits, let me believe the crumbs were fairy dust and entertained my request for a sandwich baggie so I could bring them to kindergarten class that morning for show and tell.
A few days later, when my teacher saw my mother, she said, “Nice touch with the tooth fairy stuff. Crumbling up food and calling it fairy dust. Cute.”
My mother replied, “It wasn’t me, Kathy. She walked into her bedroom that day with an ice cream cone and dropped crumbs all over her bed. When she woke up in the morning she was convinced they’d come from the tooth fairy.”
Thank you Mom, for letting me believe in things like this. I love you.
PS. That’s me up there in the pumpkin patch, showing off my baby teeth.
The process is usually … how I do I put it?
As a 16-year-old cub reporter (or as my first editor called me, “a stringer”) I would drive home after covering three-hour town board meetings in a rural town where the council members’ various concerns included accidental or deliberate manure seepage by farmers driving their tractors up village roads.
I had to summon an army of self-disciplined brain cells to write about this stuff. When I’d return from these meetings, I typically had two days to produce a story, which I understand is a virtual god-send for daily newspaper reporters.
(I’ve always written for weeklies. I still haven’t decided if it’s because I’m too slow or too intimidated by the pace. I think it’s the latter. Daily newspaper reporters, if they’re lucky enough to still have jobs, can’t afford to lollygag. I have a good friend who works at a daily newspaper in Southwest Florida, who often returns to the newsroom after beastly city commission meetings, and busts ass on a story until midnight with his editor lurking over his shoulder, insisting he call a source who just a week ago announced at a planning board meeting that all reporters are lousy muckrakers hellbent on manipulating quotes.)
So, yes. I write for weeklies. To motivate myself I often set Reese’s Cups beside the computer. For every 300 words written, I get one Reese’s Cup. Depending on the length of the story it’s possible that I’ve consumed an entire 8-pack of Reese’s in just one afternoon.
It’s a motivation/reward system.
Back when I still worked in a newsroom, before I started doing this job from home, I would reward myself with several vodka cranberry cocktails at a bar down the road, where a guy named Nick played Spanish love songs on a small guitar.
The motivation/reward system is precarious. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly failed to achieve many of my personal deadlines, which means I’ve plodded back to the kitchen with handfuls of uneaten Reese’s, pissed off at my lack of ambition, or even worse, my propensity to procrastinate.
I knew I was a glutton for punishment when my high school newspaper internship turned into a reporter gig that lasted an excruciatingly gratifying three years.
Things I used to do the day after town board meetings to avoid pumping out 500 words on the board’s decision to turn down the construction of a telecommunications tower:
1. Walk to the bathroom and put on my mother’s red lipstick. Wipe it off with toilet paper. Reapply. Wipe it off again.
2. Perform handstands against my closet door.
3. Call my friend Ro and gossip about nonsense.
4. Eat dinner with my family extra slowly, impersonating a councilwoman whose voice sounded like Lily Tomlin sucking tennis balls through a vacuum cleaner.
5. Tear out useless notes, crumple them into balls and chuck them at my sister Heelya, whom I shared a room with.
6. Sign onto AOL and submit poetry to writers’ Web sites.
7. Re-read dogeared pages from Alice in Wonderland and type sentences only the Mad Hatter would say.
8. Hold down the fast-forward button on my hand-held tape recorder, amused by how council members sound less irritating as chipmunks.
9. Do homework.
10. Daydream about becoming a marine biologist.
Ten years later very little has changed, except of course that I’ve fine-tuned my motivation/reward system.
Yesterday after finishing a story on deadline, I rewarded myself with an Adirondack chair.
When Joe and I first moved into our house, we pedaled our bikes on a cobblestone roundabout, where we passed a small house with one Adirondack chair in the front yard with a sign tacked to it that read: ADIRONDACK CHAIRS FOR SALE. CALL ###.
I made Joe memorize the phone number and when we got home I jotted it down on a piece of cardboard torn from an empty case of Pepsi. I decided when I was ready to jazz up the front yard, I’d call and purchase a proper chair from a craftsman in my neighborhood.
Yesterday, while blundering through a halfway interesting lede for a mostly boring story, I decided to fish through the kitchen junk drawer for the chairmaker’s phone number. When I called it, an old guy named Ernie answered in a Long Island accent.
“Hey there,” I said. “Do you sell Adirondack chairs?”
“Sure do,” he said.
“You make ’em yourself?”
“Yes m’am. I got two right now. One made out of cypress. One made out of cedar.”
(When he said cedar, he sounded like seeda. Oh, downstaters!)
“How much you selling them for?”
“Listen,” I said. “I’m on deadline trying to finish a story. As soon as I crank it out, I’ll be over.”
At 5:30 I headed over with $125. I wanted a table too and Ernie had suggested he had other bits and pieces of furniture for sale.
When I got to his house, eight blocks away from mine, I knocked on his front door and heard a woman say, “Ernie! We have company.”
Ernie opened the door, shook my hand, and took me to his back porch, where he told me how he makes his chairs using plans designed by some Bob Vila-type guy on PBS, and how he purchases his wood from a guy who lives in the sticks an hour outside of St. Pete, and how cypress is insect-repellent and how he and his wife are going on a cruise next week through the Panama Canal.
“You know much about the Panama Canal?” Ernie asked.
“Not really,” I said.
“Ya know 27,000 men died building the Panama Canal.”
“Yellow fever and malaria. They didn’t know about mosquitas then.”
“27,000 men. Jesus.”
“I know,” said Ernie, wringing his head. “The French tried to build it in the 1800s, but after so many men died they gave up on it and Teddy Roosevelt stepped in and finished the job.”
“Wow, and now we motor up and down it in luxury cruise liners.”
Ernie smiled and hoisted a cypress Adirondack chair into my trunk.
“Do you have a little table I can set beside it?” I asked.
“Sure do,” he said, pointing to a crude plywood table by his garage with a dusty flower pot on top. “I’ll sell it to you for 25 bucks.”
“How about $15?”
He paused for a second, reached for the flower pot and said, “Ahh, alright,” tying the table to the Adirondack chair with a piece of twine and fastening my trunk shut with a bungee cord.
“Where do you live?” He asked.
“30th and 2nd Street,” I said.
“Ah. The center of the universe.”
“Yeah!” I said, reaching into my wallet for cash.
“‘$114,” he said.
I handed him $115 and told him to keep the buck.
He thanked me, tugged on the twine and the bungee cords and declared the rigging safe for at least 10 blocks.
“I tell ya what I do in my Adirondack chair,” he said. “I get me a cold drink and I set it on the arm rests, then I lay back with my feet out in front of me and I think to myself, life is great and I’ve got no complaints.”
PS. I tried to write this post from the Adirondack chair, but it’s too bright in my front yard. Must build porch!
It’s beautiful and clever, simple and joyful. I wanted to bump Steve-O’s ugly mug down a notch with something Zen and inspirational, and when I saw this stop-motion video on my friend Ricci’s blog, I gasped and said A-HA! I had not heard of Oren Lavie until this afternoon, so thank you Ricci for giving me something pretty to watch/listen/ and reflect to.
For those of you who’ve filled up on ugly stories today, consider this dessert:
I apologize if I’m late to the game here, but after watching The Insider tonight I learned that Steve-O, the jackass (at left) with a lobster clamped to his tongue, was hauled off Dancing With the Stars by an ambulance last week, after injuring his back rehearsing the tango.
ABC, stop patronizing your viewers.
You expect people to believe that Steve-O, a man who stapled his nuts to his thighs, pierced his ass cheeks together, swallowed a worm through his nose, injected vodka (intravenously) though his legs and pole-vaulted through glass doors, ceiling fans, tables, and trees; Steve-O has a bad back.
ABC, have you no shame?
First you script Bachelor Jason Mesnick’s “change of heart,” then you stick his jilted cheerleader on (surprise, surprise) Dancing With the Stars, and now you’re telling us that Steve-O, a scrawny coke addict who once turned his tattooed body into a human dartboard, has suffered a pinched nerve?
In other news, it’s me and Joe’s two-year anniversary. I insisted he wear his Area 51 T shirt to celebrate the occasion.
Man, he looks adorable in it.
1. Her voice is creamy. Seriously. Like vanilla pudding. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition – somewhere between angelic and fierce. If Ani were singing shit about my pug, I’d turn up the volume and sing along. She’s that captivating.
2. Her songwriting is AMAZING. I picture her scratching out lyrics between coffee refills in diner booths. Or on the back porch of her home in Buffalo, under an awning, in the rain, making sense of bad relationships, her 20s, her 30s, politics and pollution.
3. She’s from Buffalo. My hometown. And without too much preaching, she became the poster child for a steel belt city with a reputation steeped in bad football jokes, blizzards and economic woes. A few years ago she purchased a historic church on the corner of West Tupper and Delaware Avenue, rehabbed it, reopened it as a music venue and called it Babeville.
4. She is 11 years older than me, but it never felt that way. In the mid-1990s, when I first started listening to Ani, newspapers and magazines labeled her militant, angsty, angry, gay, bisexual, feminist, rocker grrrl, younameit. As a teenager, I couldn’t think of a better chick to idolize. She was complex; a Rubik’s cube of sexual identity, with song lyrics like poems, marked by peaks and valleys in an emotional landscape not unlike the one I pounded. Britney Spears and I are the same age. (Arrggh! It’s true!) Yet it was Ani I latched onto like a long-distance pen pal. (Ani and Jewel to be exact.) From my bedroom in the middle of nowhere, with its pink walls and quilted bunk bed blankets, I spent my nights alternating between Ani and Jewel, a cross-pollination of a fan. Romantic and wispy. Pent-up and pissy.
5. She can fingerpick a hoedown beat like nobody’s business. Ani could pluck a love song using her guitar strings to clean out the grit from under her fingernails. She’s that fast and that good.
6. She’s a journalist’s wet dream. She’s funny, disarming and ridiculously quotable. (“Some people wear their heart up on their sleeve. I wear mine underneath my right pant leg, strapped to my boot.”) Even her terseness is eloquent. (“My songs are just little letters to me.”)
7. She’s a stubborn success story. Ani has repeatedly turned down baller contracts with major record companies. She formed Righteous Records in 1989 with Dale Anderson, a writer from The Buffalo News, and renamed the company Righteous Babe Records in 1994 after she and Anderson parted ways. The company now produces a growing list of emerging artists – Andrew Bird, Bitch and Animal, Arto Lindsay, Sara Lee and Hammell on Trial to name a few.
8. Her song, Angry Anymore, was my anthem for years. Listen to it. It’s cathartic.
9. Fuck you at the start of a refrain never sounded so pretty or so appropriate. Untouchable Face is a lyrical feat of genius.
10. She is finally happy, and I’m happy for her.
PS. Joe took me to the Tampa Theatre last night to see Ani. The tickets were a Christmas present. (Thank you, Joe!) I cried tears of happiness during the show. It was dark, so no one saw.
Just called my father, expecting it to be my mother. Since I’m all lazy and easy-like-Sunday morning, I figured I’d sort out this Popple tail thing over the phone.
An ode to my pug’s paws:
Mail from my Nana is the best thing on earth.
Last month I scribbled her a Valentine on a maxi pad.
In return she sent me this note with a magazine clipping inside.
The note reads:
Just had to send you this article that I received from Aunt Shirl. Oh, how true it is! I certainly remember my first “rubber” Playtex girdle. Several of my friends were sold on them. They flattened your tummy, but pushed the excess up to your boobs. Really a tight fit. It would get mighty uncomfortable, especially if a girl had a large stomach and hips. God, what we didn’t do to try and look glamorous. Nowadays the girls go panty-free!
Well, I just had to get this to you for your Lance. I think it’s an article everyone will enjoy – I certainly did. Have a great week and say hello to Joe for me.Love,