Archive for the ‘Noho’ Category

The Problem With Going Home

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

my beeeeeeach

Leaving my hometown is like being shoved from Narnia into—well, here: nicked, scuffed and bruised around the edges NoHo, where some residents use tin foil or bedsheets as curtaining. Here, there are multi-colored pedestrian crossings, a low-slung library named for Amelia Earhart (who lived in nearby Toluca Lake until she vanished) and snarly pavement sweepers who don’t mind letting you know they’re outraged you’re strolling your baby and talking on your cell phone at the same time. And there’s that park as large as a small sea—flanked by incessantly hissing freeway. And here there are many vacant lots losing all of their prosperous-potential via massive sinkholes from the recent rains, rusting chainlink fencing afflicted with a sag and sway lacking any poetry. Any.

Not that I haven’t found beauty in NoHo, in our own silly, sad vacant lot that sticks around, or in some trees.

But though Santa Barbara was encased in gray cloud on my last visit—still my beach offered a quiet walk next to ruffled surf and wending dolphins, a brisk/brusque wind in my face clearing NoHo from my eyes. Though I couldn’t see Santa Cruz Island offshore, just knowing it was there was certain antidote to stressing over house hunting. Peace. I felt some peace for about 53 hours, give or take T’s middle of the-night-wakings. And joy. I felt some of that, too.

When my husband returned from work this evening to tell me our offer was not accepted on the little house we’re rabidly interested in, when he told me there were 17 offers on the little house with the huge yard we so coveted, 8 of them cash offers, finding, or rather recalling that Santa Barbara peace here, in NoHo, is the test, my test, especially tomorrow, when, beach-deprived, I drive my son to yet another park as substitute for no back yard. Becuase I’m not going to cry. Or punch holes in walls or closets, or all alone bemoan our outcast state. Obviously, we’re not outcasts—we’re lucky lakeside condo owners. Obviously, I’m not alone–and by the beard of Zeus (or somebody’s beard or, more likely, boobs) I have that baby. I will keep having faith—in that I can have faith—faith in the universe, say, and its winking favorably on house hunters wishing for back yards and, someday, ocean views in my hometown where my small family will be casually, causally (right? right! because, Auntie Em, I want to come home) living, faith-held. And with Obama as President.

The problem with going home and feasting on excessive beauty? No problem. No problem at all. Just—

by the boobs of Zeus, give the kid a yard. Please?
giant baby needs yard!
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O Lot…

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Now that we are house hunting, the silly sad vacant lot that sticks around next door doesn’t seem so hideous. In fact, today our usual eyesore is not even a lot, but a beautiful, shimmering lake after the rains. We are suddenly the owners of a lakefront condo. Ah, life and all its quirky turns!

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The white heron/egret elegant creature that decided to visit has made the lot a mini-wetlands. Perhaps I should take T fishing over there, or clamming…

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I do like being NoHo lakefront condo owners as opposed to this charming previous view with the infamous squirrel killing pole in the background:

Charming Prev. View

Lakefront is a definite stress-lessening agent for the sleepless mommy as she reclines on the king sized bed forever (hah!) dominating the living room, notebook (I mean real paper) on her lap, pen poised, musing on the lake’s sparkle and profundity of the stunning wading bird—as her son—naps…

Prison? Noooooo. Paradise.

sparkle baby

It’s all in the sparkle, baby.

UPDATE: GEESE
Man, add a little water to a vacant lot and the fowl just keep coming! This morning: a mad honking overhead and then touchdown—Canada Geese. I hope the water and its visitors stay for the winter—but I’m afraid our annual February heatwave will turn the lake back into a vacant lot, with steaming, stagnating puddles and madly darting larvae.

Amazing Geese!

But it’s beautiful for now and as close to Bradford-On-Avon as we’ll get this year.
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Interlude: Pancakes

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

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O Pioneer Woman! Grasshopper has failed you. Everyone knows your pancakes would never come out brown. Okay, black. Try as I might, I can’t reach golden/fluffy. I think because I get paranoid the cake isn’t cooked all the way through, thus—burnage (reminds me of my cookie exchange experiment). I hated eating half-cooked pancake when I was a kid (and attempting my own cakes because Pater and Mater were—not home). I shall keep trying. Some day, perhaps when I have a griddle and not an electric stove from the 1950’s, I shall—no, I will definitely be successful.

Luckily, though, the little boy loved them. His first multi-grain-sauteed banana-OJ-plain yogurt-wheatgerm pancakes. Wolfed ’em down. I love my baby.

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Happy Barfing New Year!

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

2009 Baby!

The PF (pater figure) visited NYE and day, taking the train up from the fabulous ocean cool of Dana Point, arriving with a Trader Joe’s bag chock full of that store’s mmmmms, including amazing pecan toffee types and a tall bag of white popcorn to go with serious Rose Bowl watching 1/1/09. I’d had the foresight to drag my vaguely recovering cold/flu hiney to pick up potato soup fixings, remembering the cilantro, even, and cooking sherry and a super soft ciabatta bread tucked in garlic and cheese and lo and behold despite a stuffy head needing to explode, despite being a sleepless mother, I made my first potato soup of 2008, enough for left-overs in 2009. The PF arrived shortly after T’s morning nap and we headed for the inert trains of Travel Town, where my camera died just in time for T’s first miniature train ride, but the sun was glorious and Griffith Park green for a change and the train driver waving and friendly, so the camera was forgotten in lieu of family funnish things, like setting T loose in a train car, where he toddled delightedly from one end to the other as the PF expounded about steam engines so old they are disturbing ghosts unto themselves—even in the glorious sunlight.

Not to wax on, but perhaps it was all the running in the train car, or December sun overload, or just too soon after T’s cold (nose still leaking like a sewer) for him to be out. Because he ate the fresh yam I made him, enjoyed his post-dinner bath, ignited in a fever and, all changed into pajamas, barfed up his meal on me as I was carrying him to bed. S quickly ran the shower and I rinsed T, fresh pj’s were procured and all was well, meaning T went to sleep, and we even witnessed Universal Studio’s fireworks show from our balcony, and though we stayed up until 1am, all was okay, the PF jolly, myself: jolly-in-my-Advil—until 3am when one of the cats started barfing and wouldn’t stop until three separate barfings had been committed, fortunatley not on the king sized bed. Exhausted, we vowed to clean it up in the morning and S did so and an hour later PK(psycho kitty) was barfing on the kitchen table, right in the middle of the Rose Parade and the PF’s feasting on browned-butter eggs and during nap time T woke up sobbing and barfed over the edge of his crib onto the primary colored mat and shortly after that my bare foot stepped on a recently regurgitated hairball and then I really, seriously wondered why I’d greeted the New Year when I should have been sleeping having had the stomach flu and then the cold/flu and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it was definitely time to lie down and I did, while S and the PF watched football elsewhere, and I tried not to think about being all on top of each other here in the NoHo condo with the terminally vacant lot next door and to remember all that I have—devoted barfing cats, beautiful barfing baby, a husband who is great with the shamelessly candid PF and previously barfing, irritable wife and so, so tender with his barfing son and we don’t live in a bombing zone or the wretched Congo and now we even get KCET since the TV turned digital.

In short, I have become one who counts blessings and have determined I have everything to be grateful for. 2009—the year of the family. I’ll give it all I’ve got. Happy New Year!

Eve Ensler’s VDay Campaign
Mia Farrow in the DRC via UNICEF: Help!
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Ornament Alley

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Because T’s been walking since he was 11 months old, we’ve modified our Christmas tree this year to fit on top of the piano, the keys of which we encourage him to tinkle as he toddles to and from the living room, the back of which he can’t reach. Yet. S fixated on a live tree from Target. Somehow, it wasn’t until we got it home that we discovered the needles are of the blood-drawing variety. I wore oven mitts to help hang the lights. Tucked in his high chair, T practiced the finger foods thing while S and I decorated, using select ornaments from the Xmas Box due to lack of tree mass.

Brace for favs (it’s late–I’m up–insomnia brought on by getting barfed on by T right before we put him in bed–he won’t throw up in his bed, will he? Jimi Hendrix style? I worry, I worry…Bring on the eggnog…):

Oh! A penguin straight from the Galapagos Isles, delivered by bro and sis-in-law who went Darwinian for a week last year. He’s been sitting on a bathroom shelf just waiting for his first tree hanging (the ornament, not my bro-in-law). Little guy! Little Galapagotic wonder. Galapagos penguins breed three times a year and predators include sharks and fishing nets. I love him. (More eggnog, plzzzz…)

Galapagos Penguin!

My sis-in-law reported disturbing tales of massive Galapagos Islands underfunding and poaching and I hope I am able to litter the sacred volcanic landscape with my footprints before the whole archipelago is completely ravaged and the wildlife poached to extinction, including the Galapagos penguin and the Blue Footed Booby. Which brings me to the seahorse from Bloodsister:

seahorse from bloodsister!

As everyone knows, male seahorses carry the “fry” (babies), possibly 200 fry at a time. Pregnant for two or three weeks. Then intense, color-draining labor. It’s a wonderful world. Enter mousie:

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For an Xmas boutique in Honolulu. I created 5 mice, sold one—to a stately looking woman-psychiatrist the chick in a mumu next to me (selling Xmas leis!!!) knew. I’ve given the other mousies away over the years, but kept this one to remind me, I suppose, of that other life I lived so long ago in the tropics (I could have used that psychiatrist in a big way then). There are, in fact, Boobies on Kaui. I’ve seen them. En masse.

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S and I had known each other barely a year when we picked this up on Martha’s Vineyard. We rode bikes by beaches that made me think of “Jaws” and we hunted for James Taylor in Edgartown. It was post Labor Day. The island was preparing to shut down. The two elderly spinstery ladies who sold us the sailboat ornament said they chopped wood for cash during the no-tourist Winter months. Island life. A far cry from Honolulu. Or the gritty Galapagos. Martha’s Vineyard hosts the little known Red Footed Falcon, which has caused “justifiable excitement” island-wide. The hero in my children’s novel sports the tail of a Great White Shark. Rumless eggnog is still potent, in its quiet way. And now, a final couplet:

To bed, to bed! I leave you with my 71 year old mo-in-law
standing on her head.

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Oh yes—and the tree.
Nighty night—better you than me!
(wait, I take that back)

hallelujah
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Cookie Exchange: Ouch

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

One of the mommies in the group I’m a part of posted a Pre-Thanksgiving Cookie Exchange on the mommies-message-board. I’m in, I thought immediately, even though I had no idea what a cookie exchange consisted of apart from the obvious: I get to have cookies—maybe lots and lots of cookies.

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According to the message board, I was to bring one or more bag(s) containing 6 of my own cookies. Breezy!

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T has been sleeping for longer periods at night due to a little tough love on our part. Thus, I’ve felt more awake lately. When I RSVP’d a big enthusiastic “yes” for the cookie exchange, I was sure I could make at least 3 dozen cookies if necessary. From scratch.

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What I couldn’t account for was the nasty colds T and I picked up the week of the cookie exchange. Nor did I account for a lapse in his previously encouraging sleeping habit due to not feeling well: all that tough love out the window. Nor could I (as I languished on the king sized bed continually dominating our living room, nose on fire, baby passed out in his crib) remember the last time I made cookies from scratch. Too bad. Because it’s a lot of work for cookie-making-impaired types. Like me.

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So I bought a box of Trader Joe’s gingerbread mix which also doubled as a cookie mix and started off the baking experience the night before the cookie exchange by adding an egg when I was supposed to: not add an egg. Then it hit me to add shredded coconut after the first batch of plain-jane cookies with oddly cakey centers came out of the oven. And then I added dried cranberries with orange flavoring which I had in the cupboard for my salad making ventures. Then I added powdered sugar. Then cinnamon and allspice. And my cookies taste okay. Better than okay, according to my husband (he’s a nice guy).

But they’re the ugliest cookies I’ve ever seen.

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Like the bride of Frankenstein casting her eyes upon her groom for the first time, I freaked and immediately Googled “cookie exchange rules”. There are some pretty tough-nut mamas out there participating in these things each year. Very strict rules—like no pre-made cookie mixes. These mamas would label me a cheater for sure. And never allow cookies as ugly as mine in the exchange. They, like me, would run screaming from ugly cookies, or perhaps spray them with Raid. Speaking of labels (Cheater, Corners-Cutter, Maker Of Misshapen Cookies) we are short on them in this condo. But I scrounged up a sheet left over from a previous life in the 9 to 5 world:

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Once T wakes up from his nap, we’re off to the cookie exchange at the park with our ugly cookies. I hope I’m not the only Cheater. And I hope I get to choose a few fresh bags of tasty cookies and not be disqualified and so return home shamed with only my own cookies in their stupid bags.

At least our colds are gone.

FIRE, FEVER

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

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Once again, fire in Santa Barbara/Montecito. Blood Sister phoned two hours after the blaze ignited. Her power was out and I became her eyes with our TV and laptop. She and her family had rushed to the hill at the top of their Mesa street. They watched flames illuminate the ridge of Santa Barbara’s riviera. Then the smoke hit. Then ash. KCAL 9 was the only station in LA reporting consistently on the fire when I tuned in–but they didn’t know much, I told Blood Sister. One of the KCAL newscasters asked a Santa Barbara official on the official KCAL 9 Newsline/Hotline if the Starbucks on OLIVE HILL ROAD was threatened. Slight hesitation from the Santa Barbara official. No, the official replied in a terse monotone, Olive Mill Road is not threatened as of now. Well, thank the stars Starbucks is okay, Blood Sister commented wryly. Then the newscaster wanted to know about Oprah’s mansion. There are many homes up there, the Santa Barbara official stated (as would other Santa Barbara officials in days to come for newscast after newscast). From mansions to modest. I don’t know about Oprah’s place at this time, the Santa Barbara official concluded. Well, the newscaster pressed, how about Rob Lowe’s estate?

Montecito roads are narrow and winding—very pay-attention roads, especially at night. Horrible roads for fire trucks to maneuver in a major fire crisis.

Um–they’re evacuating above Westmont College, I told Blood Sister. All I saw on the TV screen was wind-fanned blaze. I touched my forefinger to the screen, counting out loud for Blood Sister. When I got to 24 houses burning, I stopped counting.

Not only the rich live in Montecito or the foothills of Santa Barbara. There are plenty of fixer-uppers, funky ranchstyles and tracts from the 40’s/50’s. It’s hard to make a living in Santa Barbara, but plenty of people find a way that doesn’t involve major moviestardom. My family have been there since 1968. My mom is a piano teacher. One sister, a realtor. The other, a gallerina. I have friends who are teachers up there. Poets, writers, artists up there. I’m going back for good one day with my little family.

When we can afford it…

Blood Sister’s power snapped back on and we disconnected. This morning she tells me my niece was evacuated and showed up on her doorstep at 1am, panicked, hoping she’d grabbed the “right” items—photo albums, her mom’s important file box. No one had been able to reach my niece’s mom vacationing in Virginia. She’s due back today, but won’t be allowed up to her home. Blood Sister’s ex-husband was also evacuated and many of her friends. Her house has become Fire Central (how her husband answers the phone). It’s terrible. It’s awful. And we’ve been through it before. My sweet little toy-town hometown is a fire magnet.

In 1977 the Sycamore Canyon Fire (Santa Barbara) burned 195 homes in something like a scant 7 hours. I remember looking up from my beach towel the day after and watching the wall of smoke approach the ocean at my back. At the time, I had no idea how devastating that fire was, or just how close it came to roaring into downtown-ish.

When we were kids and living with my dad on the Mesa, he was always spotting wildfires from our house and packing us up in the car—day or night—to go and have a look at the flames. Look at that, girls! he’d tell us as we gazed dutifully out our station wagon’s windows at firefighters battling vicious flames (these days my disaster-fanatic dad would be busted by CPS). This is a once in a lifetime sighting! my dad would proclaim, although it never was.

After hanging up with Blood Sister, I stared numbly at the fire on TV, then called it a night when my husband stuck “Madascar” into the DVD player, his copywriting homework for the evening. Around 3am I woke with a start. My son had been quiet for almost 7 hours. Unheard of. I snuck into his room and detected reassuring breathing, so returned to bed. At 5am he woke us with the usual gaspy/angry cries. I fetched him into our bed and noticed with horror that he was hot–hands, feet, head. On went the lights. We administered the Tylenol. We took his temperature. 100 degrees. We discussed the fever. T had been given 2 shots the day before and I worried he was having a reaction. We decided to wait until morning and call the doctor, vs. totally freaking and rushing him to the ER with our heads spinning around on our necks. We turned out the lights and all slept. By 7am my baby’s fever was gone and, according to the TV, 100 homes burned to rubble by the Tea Fire.

It’s 90 degrees in Noho today. The A/C is once again humming and rattling away as though having an agreeable conversation with itself (one we’re all forced to listen to). The devastating, scorcher Santa Ana winds are supposed to reach us any second now. I’m preparing for dust devils in the silly sad vacant lot that sticks around next door. How do I prepare for dust devils? With a sigh. I’m preparing for the eruption of more brush fires by keeping the TV on. My dad calls: Do you remember the time….He reminds me of various infernos he drove his little girls to witness. I glance at the TV as my dad reminisces from the extreme-ocean-cool of Dana Point, CA. Oprah is on. She is talking to Rob Lowe…

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11/21/08 For more information on the Tea Fire and the Santa Barbara Ten (I resort to: OMG!!! What were they THINKING???) check out the best source of information for all of Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Independent The goats are here, the goats are here…
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Boo Break #4

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

The thinking man’s mummy.
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Stream Of Pissciousness (Cat)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

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When he wakes up at 1:40am, 3, 4, 5, 6:45am for good and amazingly you feel not bad, ready for the morning walk, which you do amicably together with no stroller horror, a fun walk despite the guy sweeping steps in front of the post office who makes a rude comment about cell phone users as you pass with your cell phone glued to your ear and who won’t look at you when you stop and turn and glare at this nasty, pavement-sweeping stranger and grapple with whether or not to leave him in a bloody mess on the steps of the post office for someone else to clean up, then realize, watching him sweep and grumble that you should try the path of non-reaction and compassion, trying, taking that with you as you cart your baby into the condo to find you’re going to be late to Coffee Talk with the fabulous mommies-and-babies because the cats have pissed all over your baby’s room, I mean ALL over, hitting curtains, cushions, your treasured full length Boppy pregnancy pillow you wanted to keep forever, the spongy pads of your baby’s primary colored ABC’s rug and while your baby watches Elmo and totally misses naptime because you can’t put him in the room with the chemical smell of that ineffectual, cat-piss-odor-eating solution you’ve been scrubbing into the carpet on your hands and knees and that the stupid guy on the radio swears by, because of scrubbing, the morning nap is thrown off and that’s too bad because you were timing it so that the second your baby woke up you’d be off to Coffee Talk and now you’re just off to Coffee Talk with the reek of cat pee stinging your nostrils and a tired baby and at least you remembered to bring the pumpkin bread, but you hardly Talk because your baby obsesses on the doorstop in the home’s little hallway, away from the fabulous mommies-and-babies and you notice the tip is missing from the doorstop, but you don’t ask the hostess if there’s supposed to be a tip because he’s in the little ball pit crawling over a younger baby, smashing vital digits and then he’s pulling at your dress, ripping the ripped pocket and you realize he must nurse and you take him home but it still stinks in his bedroom so you nurse him on the living room couch and he knows something’s up and refuses to sleep so you put him in his chair and offer him spinach, but he refuses it, which is unheard of and you wonder if after all there was a tip on that doorstop and he ate it and you telephone the Coffee Talk hostess to ask, hoping that if your son has indeed eaten the doorstop tip you will nevertheless be invited back for future Coffee Talk and the hostess isn’t sure if there was a tip, but just in case wisely advises you to watch for it in your baby’s poop and as you’re examining your baby’s diaper your husband phones and says he’ll be home late for lunch and in the meantime the laundry remains on the front stairs waiting for cat-piss removal and feral-mama-cat who lives below the building and whose kittens you and your husband “rescued” by trapping and taking them away from her gives you dirty looks because she not only wants the food you’ve promised her, but her babies back and she makes this known by wailing endlessly outside your front stairs, wails that rip out your heart and now your baby is in the poisons cupboard which you forgot to close and he is just reaching for that useless solution stuff when you catch him and he scream-cries when he hears your NO, NO and you soothe him distractedly as you change his diaper again, looking for the tip of that doorstop and then your husband is home and he plays with your son while you slurp down some soup because you’ve started your new yogurt/string cheese/lowfat soup diet of all days and you can’t breathe you’re so hungry and 30 seconds later your husband is leaving and you nurse your baby and put him in his crib having decided the reek has aired, but he won’t go down for another two hours and sleeps for 45 minutes and wakes up scream-crying and won’t go back down until he’s screamed and hated you for half an hour and then when he’s suddenly quiet you get scared because what if the tip of that doorstop traveled from his stomach to his windpipe and you peek around the door and he sees you and screams and you leave, humiliated, and tired, and finally he sleeps, but you can’t, you can’t, so you call your husband and tell him things have to change, you need more room, you need a herd of nannies, you are useless, a disgrace to mothers and by-the-way you want the cats euthanized and your husband listens even though you hear people clamoring for him and you disconnect and collapse and instantly your baby wakes up and you repent for the day of dubious mothering by staying down at his level of baby breath and drool and wild gibberish playing and playing and playing and playing as the sun sets behind the vacant lot next door and feral-mama-cat wails and your husband phones to tell you he will be late.

And you wish that, after all, you had beaten up that pavement-sweeper who made the rude comment because somebody should pay for this day and you really, really want it to be him, even though by thinking this you have taken 1000 steps back in the line of your personal evolution, back to babyhood, baby, big baby and you conclude there should only be one baby in your condo and you take a breath and grab the board book your son tried to eat and you read it to him over and over and over and over again until you’re sure he’s ready to move on—-

and then you move on with him.

Get the kitty
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Finally, Change

Monday, October 13th, 2008

When I surfaced briefly from babyworld today I received a baffling surprise. I could not figure out what happened to my arm. What the heck! My eyes drifted to the front door. Closed. I smelled biscuits drizzled in butter baking to the golden brown it’s just always best to achieve—-in my own oven. I felt strongly about purchasing a pumpkin for a centerpiece on our little dining room table. And had the urge to pull my ceramic turkey from its home in the picnic basket on top of the broometcetera closet. Then I was slammed by the silence in our condo–and not silence just because he was napping. That was when I “got” that my arm was sporting a sleeve–a looooong sleeve, that the air conditioning wasn’t running for the first late-morning since the first day of Fall and that, no, I had not broken a sweat, either. It was possible, in fact, that Fall had actually arrived in Noho. I gazed at the sleeve.
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Then wandered to the king sized bed currently centerpiecing our living room. I lay down on it, closed my eyes—and dreamed of snow.
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Fodder While I Ponder—–

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

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My Pyrate Boy

He’s next to Smudge-The-Family-Rabbit’s cage, being walked by a generous auntie. Noho relief in Santa Barbara. Seeing things such as: 18 finches—i.e., real live birds—vying for seeds on droopy sack birdfeeders outside my sister’s windows. Fog floaty, pleasingly surreal, veiling beach as we walked and talked softly. Over baked yams, faux-sausage, smoky wine and a sippy cup, much was discussed among many, including pending debates, the SNL parodies, of course whether the economy would be—solved?—by today, Monday. Back to NoHo. Despite the fog, everything is so clear up in Santa Barbara. Easier to move, to breathe, to get to the beach. Hello, NoHo condo. Now what?

Oh Smudge!
The Family Rabbit

Here’s What I’m Talking About

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

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Mommy Weirdness

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

gross LA leaf example
los angeles leaf study in black & white

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Perhaps because these were the days prior to the annniversary of 9/11. Perhaps because the wind arrived and blew the drought-stricken leaves into confusing spirals, making it suddenly feel oddly like an East Coast Fall in Los Angeles (no matter our leaves are the dead-gray of thirst-stricken foliage vs. that special prismatic amber) wigging us natives out since all week was I’m-frying-your-bodyparts, summer-heatwave-ish territory. Or perhaps it’s simply the usual weirdness. I can’t decide. But I’m haunted. Oh, no, I don’t mean that haunted, I’m over that, whatever that hauntedness was. Here’s what I’m talking about:

1. THE SAD, SAD TALE OF SABRINA
T was enjoying his stroller ride for once and I was thrilled I’d only negotiated one mattress dumped on the spotty pavement vs. plenty more junk, when a woman with a young girl neared us. The woman, without breaking her determined stride, yelled over her shoulder, “SABRINA, NOW!” The young girl walking with the woman was so concerned about scouting for said Sabrina that she didn’t see me, T and the stroller. With a quick and kind, “Careful, honey,” I stopped this girl from walking into us. “ARE YOU SO STUPID YOU DON’T LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING? YOU ALMOST–” the girl’s mother (I assumed it was her mother), shouted at the girl. I interrupted with a quick, ultra kind, “It’s absolutely all right.” To which the mother replied, gruffly, and with a dirty look at her kid, “Well, okay then.” As T and I carried on with our walk, the mother again yelled, “SABRINA!” Adding, “GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!” I glanced across the street. Sabrina was ducking behind a battered minivan, audibly sobbing. “No,” she responded feebly. “You’re mean to me!” To which the mother replied, “F*** IT, SABRINA! I’M NOT YOUR F***NG MOTHER! THIS IS MY DAUGHTER RIGHT HERE! THIS IS MY DAUGHTER! YOU’RE NOT MY F***ING DAUGHTER! GET YOUR F***ING ASS OVER HERE OR I’M F***ING LEAVING YOU THE F*** BEHIND!” By this time I had stopped and was gaping at the mother, which she noticed, and which is why, I think, she made the distinction of who was and was not her daughter, as if the distinction justified the “f***ing” this-and-that meted to Sabrina. The woman’s daughter, sucking nervously on an index finger, her expression both rapt and terrified, stared mutely across the street at her sobbing friend. “COME ON!” the mother reiterated to one and all and marched off around the corner. Sabrina, sobbing, sobbing, loped reluctantly across the street and followed–a good several yards behind mother and child, but she followed. I’d say the girls were about 9 years old.

2. MICHAEL’S BLOODY FACE
I met the mommies at North Weddington Park. For two hours our kids gurgled and crawled and pawed each other. Then that bizarre wind arose, leaves spiraled Wizard of Oz style and everyone hastily packed up the diaper bags and strollers. A mommy-not-of-our-group materialized. She was frantic, holding a small girl in her arms. “Hey, do any of you belong to that kid over there?” We looked to where the mommy pointed. A boy, probably six or seven, Frankenstein-walked around the grass. I mean, he didn’t bend his arms or knees as he moved, his chin pointed at his skinny chest. If he’d been ten feet tall, we would have screamed in unison, in terror, fled. “He’s got blood on his face!” the concerned mommy not-of-our-group exclaimed. What??? Blood??? Suddenly mommies were as flurried as the wind-torqued leaves. A small cooing mob encircled the boy, the mommy-not-of-our-group roaming the playground in search of the bloodied boy’s parent. Every time a mommy touched the little boy, tried to help him, he jerked away, his stiff gait taking him farther from the swings and slides. The blood seemed to be specifically around his chin, as though he’d had a run-in with a jelly donut. “There!” a mommy near me cried. We had stayed behind with the blankets and strollers and babies. “I think that’s her!” the mommy cried, pointing at some picnic benches flanking the playground. The mommy-not-of-our-group was speaking earnestly to a mom calmly packing things up at a picnic bench. I watched the mother nod as the mommy-not-of-our-group mimed blood gushing from her chin, then pointed at the mommies corraling the little boy. The picnic-bench mom nodded again, slowly raised her face to the leaf-swirled heavens and yelled, “MICHAEL!” Then she continued packing up. “But,” I murmured in my shock and awe, “why isn’t she running over to Michael?” “I don’t know,” the mommy next to me murmured, equally blown away. Picnic-bench mommy never did go to her son. He made his stiff way to her as the rest of the mommies returned to retrieve their babies and gear. We murmured sounds of worry, watched as Michael stood before his mother, who did not touch him, make a fuss, but glanced at the blood, nodded and continued packing. “Does she know something we don’t?” I asked, but mommies were moving towards the parking lot. Everyone was leaving. Picnic-bench mom left, too, with several kids and Michael. She threw a glance I swear was humbly smug my way, but is that possible? Humbly smug. Smugly humble. Smrrrrg. When my usual nagging hindsight kicked in, I realized that smile was my cue to offer assistance, or wave, or smile back. My defense? I was: tired, so, so tired, so tired–as tired as Michael’s smrrrgly smiling mother looked. I numbly watched Michael’s mommy leave with her brood as the leaves tornadoed up again and T pinched my leg.

3. ZOO MADNESS
The zoo is a marvelous place now that school has started. If T and I are there when the gates open, stroller traffic is nil and we can gaze at the mountain gorillas sans a stampede from herd after herd of summer camp kids. T has been tolerating his stroller all September. One day, we’d been at the zoo for at least a good thirty minutes with no protest from him, no get me out or I’ll scream like I’m being knifed, just gurgles and kindly coos, a new stroller record so thrilling me I could have ripped my sunhat from head and tossed it in the air like Mary Tyler Moore her precious beret. Oh, the giraffes! Look how close that one is to the fence! I’ll take T up close! Was my thinking. I yanked out my camera from the diaper bag stuffed under T’s seat and started snapping away, trying to get just the right shot of the giraffe to show my husband later, so he might really appreciate how close we were, how–“Oh my god! Maam!” I peeled my eye from the camera to see a woman pointing down the hill, where the stroller, with T in it, his face lit in a goofy, adorable smile, rolled—fast. “Oh my god,” I echoed and bolted after my son. It’s not like he rolled into the lion pit. Or into the alligator pond. The stroller didn’t smash into anything, overturn, hurl my son onto zoo pavement before the wheels of the oncoming Zoo Tram. No, no–nothing horrid happened. Except that I was embarrassed, humiliated and forcing back tears as I retrieved the stroller and pushed it back up the hill, past the woman who alerted me, who I thanked and muttered, “Obviously I need more sleep,” which she didn’t find funny, nor did I, slinking away with T, the worst mother in the world—or at least in the zoo, surely. I always check the stroller’s brakes. I always automatically flip the brakes on whenever I stop anywhere with that stroller. How could this have happened? Furthermore, what kind of a mother screams “F***” this or that to a child, doesn’t run to her son whose chin is bloodied, allows a stroller to get away from her in a place where the baby is surrounded by wild animals? Back in the minivan, I gushed my fears to my husband on the cell phone. “Well, but people are weird, babe,” he said. “So what. You’re a fantastic mother. Focus on the positive. I mean, stuff happens.” Stuff happens? Come on, global warming–bring me an East Coast Fall. I’ll suck it in and spit it out in heated dreams I never, ever complete. Okay then—blow wind and crack your bossy autumn cheeks. I’ll rake your twisted leaves until they’re raked into oblivion. I can tell you: my son will never roll down a hill and into the lion’s den—or to the wall, electric fence and moat surrounding the lion’s den—ever. My autumn newsflash: bring it on. Bring it ooooooon.
But not too much.
So, where do I purchase a rake?

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Ghosts In Valley Village

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Ghost Gateway
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I’m not a ghost person. I’ve heard plenty of ghoul-geared stories. My mother lived in a house coveted by The Ghost of Hay Hill, a well-known former-farmer entity in Toro Canyon, spoken of at Montecito cocktail parties, heard coughing and using the stairs by my younger sisters. I knew a woman who knew a guy whose quiet campfire was crashed by Big Foot one dark, lonely Oregonian night–not that Big Foot is a ghost, but BF, Nessie, Yeti, Tasmanian Blobster, the haunted house at Disneyland–no, no, not for me. I start channel surfing at the first mention of Queen Mary hauntings or the tiniest glimpse of Linda Blair’s head twirling around.

But either my hormones are having fun at my expense, or something really did play the keys, just briefly, one, two, of the rickety old piano in the charming Valley Village house I’ve been visiting. And now, because I can’t explain what happened, I feel funky, hesitant to return to the house and perform neighborly bits like bringing in the mail (which means passing the piano), watering potted plants, eating someone else’s ice cream and giving my son pool time.

I don’t want to go.

So I Google Valley Village ghosts and come up with one site claiming that classic, Sleepy Hollow type ghost-activity occurs in Valley Village all the time–ghosts floating about Huston and Morella at night with their heads tucked under their arms, hatchets in their chests, bloody knives in their ghoul backs and such. I don’t believe this site–way too cliche–but still, l can’t shake the funky feeling. For me, sweet Valley Village has bared uber, blood-dripping fangs.

I’d like to ask the owners of the house if they’ve heard their piano playing all by itself, but they’re in rainy olde England visiting historic sites like the Tower of London (talk about hauntings!). I could ask the fabulous visiting-us Brits if during their stay at the house they’ve had “experiences”–but they’re up in San Francisco visiting historic sites like Alcatraz Island (hauntings!) and if they haven’t noticed anything unusual to date, I don’t want to scare them, or their nice kids. I might ruin their return and the rest of their stay in Stepford Valley Village. Way too much responsibility for me.

The piano keys incident: I was breastfeeding T on the lovely den couch, watching the Olympics on the massive, wall-hung flat screen TV while my husband was in the quaint Valley Village bathroom. During someone or other’s triple-double-flippish gold medal dive, I heard it: Plink, plink. I could see the piano from where I sat. Heart in my throat, I flicked my eyes back to the TV and kept on breastfeeding. The second my husband vacated the bathroom, I said:

The piano played.

What do you mean? he said.

It. Played.

Played what.

What do you mean, what?

A note, Beethoven’s Fifth, what?

Oh. Two notes together. Did it twice.

My husband nodded and looked around soberly, hands on his hips. Then he made an announcement:

Spirit, whatever you are, we love it here in Valley Village, we admire this house and wish it was ours, we bring nothing but good wishes. Peace! How’s that? he asked, plopping down next to me on the couch.

I regarded him wryly, amazed at how swiflty he believed there was a ghost and simply took action. Especially when what I really wanted to do was run screaming from the house and never look back. Because I hate ghost crap, the unexplained, or wasting energy freaking out when probably it was air on piano strings, or a heavy bug on the keys. But you can’t run screaming from scary situations when you’re a mother. You have to stay calm, be an “adult” and figure things out–fast–and let your husband in on the events. I mean, if it was a ghost tinkling the keys, if it was malicious or “Exorcist”-nasty then the owners wouldn’t live here with their three kids. The house wouldn’t look happily occupied, cozy, meticulously maintained. It would be empty with boards over the windows and signs spraypainted in blood-red, warning TRESPASS AT YOUR OWN RISK and GHOST LIVES HERE.

Still…Funky.

I want to leave, I told my husband.

Well, okay, sure, he said, glancing at our snoozing son. Whatever you want, babe. Spirit! We love this house and have enjoyed it and especially the pool. Thanks for having us as guests!

My husband talking to the “spirit” was freaking me out even more than eerily tinkling piano keys. Although I was impressed by his lack of fear, was it a good idea to admit the existence of an “it”? Was that just plain asking for a Mozart sonata played by invisible fingers? One thing is certain: I am no Jo Beth Williams in Poltergeist. I could never put a helmet on T and let some “spirit” push him across the kitchen linoleum.

We left.

Here’s the thing: the night before the piano keys incident I had a dream so horrible I woke Scott up with my odd moaning-yell. I dreamed I was in a bathroom drying my hands on a towel when the bathroom door slammed shut and a buzzing “thing” took over the towel and I couldn’t get out of the room, couldn’t move. The only thing I could do was stick my face in the buzzing “thing”, meet it head on and scream. And then Scott woke me up.

Am I ripe for a Freudian brain-squeezing?

Here’s another thing: an hour or so before the piano keys incident I was alone in the house while Scott was on a walk in the lovely V.V. neighborhood with T. I had just brought in the mail and had the oddest, strongest feeling that I was not alone. The feeling was so overwhelming, I looked around, checked out the cute rooms, peeked in some closets. Nothing. Until:

Plink. Plink.

And then there’s my novel, which I’ve been reading over, re-re-re-editing and procrastinating a lot about lately and which needs an ending. My novel is full of ghosts as seen by my heroine, a blocked scribe who may or may not be schizo.

Someone gave us The Secret DVD and if I’m to believe that, then I’ve “attracted” the piano playing ghost and have no one to blame for any haunting but myself. Even though I don’t want to attract ghosts, apparently just by saying I don’t want to attract ghosts will attract them. Or is that the law of opposites. I don’t know. Funky!

And there’s one other thing: the day after the piano keys incident I did a drive-by of the V. V. house. Not seeing any ghost from the outside, nevertheless I was still too chicken to go inside. I made an executive decision to drive T to a nearby park. My plan was to cool my heels by swinging my baby and desperately cultivate some backbone. As I waited at a red light to cross Colfax, which is seldom trafficky, I glanced left and saw a car fishtailing down the road. I watched it coming for a few seconds, then decided I’d better back up as it was heading for the minivan. I put the van in reverse, but before I could move, the fishtailing car fishtailed hood first into a lamp post. BAM. Colfax suddenly came alive. People vaulted out of their Valley Village homes. Many people dashed to the car. A woman in a white terry bathrobe appeared next to my van. I put the window down and we commiserated on the horror. Then, as we watched a woman emerge from the driver’s side of the mangled car, an orange kitten bolted either out of the car, out from under it, or from right near it. An orange kitten shot into the road and made for the other side. Bathrobe-woman and I gasp-screamed as the kitten darted before the wheels of an oncoming truck. The truck, horn blaring, missed the kitten by inches. The orange kitten shot through the white pickets of somebody’s fence and into their manicured V. V. yard and that somebody went looking for it.

I revved the van and got out the heck out of Valley Village. When I was safely home and feeding T lunch, I called my husband and told him we are never, ever moving to that pocket of town.

Currently, I don’t feel crazy, hallucinatory or that I’m the sort who hears dead people. I do feel tired, but that’s nothing new. And as I type this I am IN the sweet V.V. house. Scott and T are out walking. I am: alone. Except for the Olympics on the massive flat screen TV. It’s nice to be back here. It’s nice not to feel as freaked out as I did last week. I can’t explain what happened, or if it did happen or if I confused the piano keys with Scott’s cell phone or a passing ice cream truck. I don’t know. There’s no one in charge I can ask. There’s me: mother, “adult”, mother, “adult”. Perhaps my subconscious “created” the piano keys incident for its own reasons. If so, hopefully everything is worked out now in a healthy, conscious manner. I haven’t dreamed about buzzing ghosts again. We’ve had a fun day with T. All is well in our world. So I’m going to let the piano keys incident go–unless the keys start playing right now…

Here’s a picture of the possible ghost-plunked piano:
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Scarier yet, here’s a picture of my own piano—weird legs, clawed feet, bag of unused baby bottles and other baby giveaways and mail scattered about it:
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Inherited from my grandmother, Nomi, who would not be pleased with the old girl’s clutter, scratches and trick right leg from being moved up and down condo stairs (by old girl I mean the piano, not Nomi, who passed decades ago, RIP–PLEASE!).

Which is scarier?

Boo?

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And The Whole Lot Changes

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

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Then, suddenly, they came: cranes, bulldozers, dirt-removing machines and trucks, equipment resembling sad, slow beasts and dinosaurs with the grrr sucked out of them and tamed by men in their club of yellow hats. The silly sad lot that sticks around never had a chance: the infamous squirrel-killing telephone pole was removed like a wart from a troubled complexion; the crater—scene of recent squirrel annihilation—was dug into and expanded. For six days a week for the last several months our little NoHo condo has shuddered and been shook as the lot next door sank under the weight of progress. The shaking in our home has resembled earth tremors and once, just when I was starting to get used to the walls speaking their new language and the floor adding comment and the dishes in the sink chiming in, just when I put T down for his morning nap, the real earth joined in with its own 5.8 quake that halted the workers and had the sleepless mother out on the balcony with her bleary-eyed son in her arms, exchanging a shaky thumbs-up with the crew.

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And now?

A dug, dirt-emptied, smooth and tidy lot and, this Saturday: silence.

I stare out the window at the silent lot as T messes with his exer-saucer. Sipping coffee I never get right (2 scoops, 1 scoop, 5 scoops–makes no difference), being very Californian by placing myself in the “now”, when everything—even dug, ugly scraped lots—becomes beautiful for a few seconds, feeling strained from T waking at 4, 430, 515 and 630am, wondering how we’re going to get to Valley Village, I ask my husband (in a sort of murmured panic) where the metaphor is in our current view.

Oh my god, babe, he replies, lacing up his running shoes. Can’t you see it?

I swig coffee. For the love of Gloria Steinem, I’m a sleepless mother working on a dubious cup of Joe.

No, I reply tersely.

He is on his feet, pacing the living room, gesticulating, captivating T. I watch him, too. He’s inspiring when he’s passionate about things. Excitement and energy geyser forth, his eyes bright and intense behind those Jeff Goldblummy glasses (it’s all in the rims). I feel like Marian The Librarian to his very-Robert-Preston Music Man . It’s a number to behold. No, not a sales-job–but a song with heart.

New beginnings, he says (pacing). Progress, building up from nothing–classic cliches, babe–don’t you see them? That’s us, the lot is US, babe (he stops and points out the window and concludes with a simile)–like the big B for Bat Man in the sky! (no, he didn’t say that, I’m paraphrasing, but such was the drift)

I turn to the lot.

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I can’t say that I don’t want him to be right. I can say I am an optimist-in-training. I can also say I want to be more than optimistic, especially for my son and the beginnings of his boundless energy.

I’m working on it–a little harder–each bitter-cup-of-coffee morning.

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Operation Valley Village

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Why I like Valley Village:

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1. The turtles

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2. Areas specifically fashioned for relaxing (as the squirrel obviously knows)

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3. Pleasant house bits that catch the eye

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4. Smart gardening: drought resistant-ish plantings everywhere

And most importantly I like Valley Village because:

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7. HE likes it

Hey, Valley Village, guess what? Yes, that’s right: We’re coming home. To V.V., where you won’t find discarded mattresses or grungy loveseats sans cushions on street corners.

I just need a little time to rustle up a few things that will get us into the neighborhood…Time? Time! What time! Shhh…

Om…

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When Comin’ Round The Mountain Goes Blank

Monday, June 16th, 2008

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They’re comin’ round the mountain of memory, all those ditties and lullabies my mother performed nightly for eons due to her popping out four children and due to the 7 year gap between me and my youngest sister, and the fact that we could hear my mother’s humming room to room to room (for eons). Her voice carried well (still does, only she doesn’t know it, that I’m holding the phone three feet from my ear as she explains things and emphasizes her own personal pronunciations of words like Ikea, which she calls EEE-KAY-AHHHHH–for some reason this makes me CRAZEE-AH, really, utterly CRAZEE-AH every time I hear EEE-KAY-AHHHHH, because it’s not EEE-KAY-AHHHHH, as everyone knows, but simply eye-key-ah, Ikea, that’s it, not EEE-KAY-AHHHHH, I must go to EEE-KAY-AHHHHH and purchase skimpy chairs and tea lights at EEE-KAY-AHHHHH).

One evening, quieting my son, I burst into lullabies, or rather they burst out of me like hidden grenades waiting, just waiting for me to have a baby needing soothing–EEE-KAY-AHHHHH (sorry). As the songs came forth I did pretty well with verses one and two and maybe three, but after that? What happens to the baby in the cradle besides the fall? Does Bonny ever come home? Who murdered Clementine? And most of all, after she comes round the mountain driving six white horses and we all roll out to meet her–then what? Some babies need to know.

Following are a few extra-added verses to Comin’ Round The Mountain, an obsessively used ditty in my condo. Because if your baby has lungs like my baby, tenacity like my baby, the will to hang with the adults at 7 months old like my baby and a knack for waking up at 3am despite having just been fed at 2am, then you, too, need verses and not just a standard two or three, but an arsenal.

SHE’LL BE COMIN’ ROUND THE MOUNTAIN

she’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes (Hi Babe!), etc.

she’ll be drivin’ six white horses when she comes (Whoa Bess!, Hi Babe!), etc.

and we’ll all roll out to meet her when she comes (Toot, toot!, Whoa Bess!, Hi Babe!), etc.

Here’s where my verses come in. The first is an homage to Bridget Jones. I read Bridget Jones’ Diary way back when it first came out, the unfamous Bridget years, before Helen Fielding could be Googled. I think I was 25. And I kept on reading the book, over and over, and was so grateful for a sequel and for the first movie, which I have seen–the FIRST movie–a gazzilion times. Thank you, Helen Fielding, for Bridget. When I was a Singleton, Bridget was a huge solace, especially after dates gone bad, like the time I started laughing hysterically in the middle of that one guy’s kiss and he was so insulted he left–oh, wait, that’s right–he married me. Anyway, here’s the verse:

And we’ll put on the turkey-curry buffet (you must pronounce it Brit-style: boo-faye–in fact, try singing the entire verse with a British accent) when she comes (I say!), yes we’ll put on the turkey-curry buffet when she comes, (well, I say!), oh we’ll put on the turkey-curry buffet, why we’ll put on the turkey-curry buffet, oi! put on the turkey-curry buffet when she comes (I say, toot toot, whoa bess, hi babe……)

The next verse is for my husband, the vegetarian, and I think aptly follows Bridget’s verse:

And we’ll also offer Vegan fare when she comes (tofu!), yes we’ll also offer Vegan fare when she comes (tempeh!), yes we’ll also offer Vegan fare, man we’ll also offer Vegan fare, yeah we’ll also offer Vegan fare when she comes (quinoa, I say, toot,toot, whoa bess, hi babe…….)

Then it’s time to work off some of that food (I know, I know–I skipped the chicken & dumplings verse–but turkey-curry and vegan fare go so well together and everybody does chicken–at 3am chicken is, frankly, booooring):

And we’ll all do the hustle when she comes (Barry White!), yes we’ll all do the hustle when she comes (boogie nights!), yes we’ll all do the hustle, oh we’ll get in a line and hustle, yes we’ll all boogie-woogie-booty hustle when she comes (oooh yeah, quinoa, I say, toot toot, whoa bess, hi babe…….)

This verse just plain makes sense:

And we won’t be talking politics when she comes (Hillary, darn!), no we won’t be talking politics when she comes (Bill is bummed!), no we won’t be talkin’ politics, won’t be talkin’ dodo politics, no we won’t be talkin’ politics when she comes (Chelsea’s an adult now!, ooooh yeah, quinoa!, I say, toot-toot, whoa bess, hi babe……)

And in between verses or as I’m trying to remember what comes after quinoa! or toot toot! I fill in with a little babble:

oh here she comes, buh-buh, comin’ right along, buh-buh, and she is hungry, boh-buh, and here she comes, buh-buh, comin’ runnin’ like a bug, buh-buh, that’s right a bug, buh-buh, oh here she comes, buh-buh, he wants the boob, buh-buh, quick-whip-out-the boob, buh-buh, now the other boob, buh-buh, give him the boo-ooo-oob, the booooooob, hi babe, whoa bess, tofu!, etc.

EEE-KAY-AHHHHH!

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Moments to cherish.

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Barbs

Friday, June 13th, 2008

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A tree grows in Noho.

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Noho is prettier by morning light, before midday heat has a chance to searingly illuminate my neighborhood’s myriad of cosmetic challenges: bedding (or tin foil) as curtains on front windows, fly-worried dog poop peppering cracked sidewalk, weeds shimmering victoriously in the many once-prepped-for-new-buildings and now terminally-vacant lots, the homeless released from the shelter miserably loitering, palm trees shedding, the old fronds, heavy as limbs, falling like Skylab, randomly clunking pavement—trash and recycling bins stranded on their sides for the second or third day, fast food containers blossoming in gutters, squirrels fighting viciously atop telephone poles, etc.    

Before 10a.m., though, I spy prettiness–Mulholland Drive’s leafy riviera in the distance, wild parrots shrieking through plush blue sky, a balcony done in carnations and annuals. The air is cool, laced with marine layer seeped in from Santa Monica, the palm trees are nothing but shaggily pretty and the park spreads wide and tree-besotted, a minor sea of shady green speckled in curious squirrels. T and I make our way there. He sits up so well now in the jogging stroller, his tiny, deceptively powerful hands gripping the tray. I watch him look left to right, spotting the kitty when I do, cocking his head at the sound of the kids when we near the little school. As we pass one of the newer apartment buildings, one of the modern, multi-colored sparkly sorts that make the rest of the block dull and dubious (Noho is such a mishmash of old, new and inexplicable in between, like the rectangular apartment building/prison-replica—flat, low and mustard with tiny barred windows—right next to the charmingly shuttered Cape Cod affair heralded by thriving roses), as we pass the multi-colored sparkly building I see a boy ahead on the pavement and he’s probably six or seven and I’m always interested in little boys because I have one and I’m particularly interested in this little boy because he’s got a toy-ish bow and arrow and the arrow is aimed right at us.   

I stop, angling the stroller so that I am between my son and possible incoming. And then I see a mother standing near the boy. She is talking on a cell phone, a finger plugging her free ear. Maybe she says something to her son, maybe not, but he lowers the bow and arrow.   

Here, right here is where crucial decision making takes place. Intuition tells me to cross the street and carry on my way with a small river’s distance between us and that boy. But, as Scott says, repeatedly, at least more than six times a week, I’m stubborn. I continue on my original path, my limbs tensed, my reflexes on High Alert in case the boy takes aim at us again, which, of course, he does. I knew he would. I knew. Everyone knows that many, many little boys like to hold copies of dangerous weaponry and they like to point the weaponry at moving targets. This is where parents and their wisdom come in and it seems the boy’s mother is more engrossed in her phone conversation than her son’s experimenting/testing. I am so curious to see if she will do something, this mother, to stop her son from actually letting the arrow go—so curious I quicken the pace. And when the mother sees me, T and the stroller and her son taking aim at us, here is exactly what she does, all the while talking on the phone:   

She takes a step closer to her son.  That’s it. One step. Phone and plugging finger never leave her ears.  

Here is what I do when the boy releases the arrow: 

My lightning-quick reflexes have me in front of the stroller so fast I block the arrow (so what if it only has a suckered tip!) from reaching my son with post-C-section tummy bulge. I snatch the arrow from the pavement and bend it into a U-shape (it’s plastic and won’t snap in two–arrrgh). I throw the contorted arrow into the street, adding to Noho trash. I march T’s stroller over to the boy, yank the bow from him and ruin it by placing my red Converse, lace-less casual on the bow-string and pulling up on the bow’s handle until everything bends into a grotesque. That, too, goes into the street as I tell the boy he will never, ever point dangerous implements at babies or anyone and berate the indignant mother for allowing her son to utilize a weapon. It’s not your fault, I tell the boy. Your mother should have stopped you. Then I carry on up the street as the woman screams obscenities at me, the boy’s sobs hounding my ears. 

Don’t hate me. This isn’t what happens (although perhaps in certain dreams).    

The mother does take a step closer to her son, but this has no effect on him or his aim. What has an effect on the boy’s aim is that his father appears from nowhere and, his voice startling the boy so that the boy’s aim careens confusedly from me and T to sparkly building, declares the boy should be careful where he points that thing. The father appears before I can a) ask the boy to point the bow and arrow at his mother, or b) ask the mother to please ask her boy to point the bow and arrow at maybe herself vs. us. I would have stopped and I would have done this had the father—for some reason carrying, at 10a.m., a casserole dish covered in tin foil—not intervened, or whoever he was. The boy’s eyes were on me and T as we passed. He had dutifully lowered the bow and arrow. And here is where I feel badly: I didn’t look at him. Not even one flickering glance. No brief smile meted. I gave him nada. Poor little dude.   

And I know that whether Noho, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara or Beverly Hills, T and I could have come across the same bow-and-arrow-toting boy. It’s not Noho’s fault, its foibles and afternoon ugliness and occasional cool spots and stupid smelly roses, that I fantasized for the next hour about how I should have handled the situation, should there have been an arrow-leaving-bow situation, and how I should have looked at the little boy and—winked? Smiled in an I-know-you manner? Raised a brow, Spock-style?    

It’s not Noho’s fault Scott and I have a seven month old in Noho. 

But what I really, really want is to be out of Noho, no matter its Arts District, Metro station, popular lofts, or the promising holding-value on our condo, or that Noho is the future home of The Tonight Show. Before T, we jogged by the dog poop on our way to the park without a glance, happy to be homeowners and near Starbucks, theatres and Pit Fire Pizza and the park, even though it means we drive a long way to the ocean these days. We enjoyed living in funky/freaky. It totally suited us. But the older T gets, the more I want to not have to drive to fun, walkable areas, but emerge from our front door into a walkable area. Because although that boy with his faux weapon is everywhere, dog poop drying on a discarded mattress is not.

We’re moving.

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