Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I love my rich friends

Went out for a much-needed gno last night with the regulars. The barkeep concocted this fruity thing for me with pineapple juice and dark and light rum. With an orange slice. All that was missing was a colorful plastic monkey (do they still make them?) and an umbrella. I'm not a very sophisticated drinker.

There were four of us; two live in a tony neighborhood in rather nice homes, with the requisite weekly cleaning woman. They're not snobs by any means. Both grew up in families with money. They're not rich, but they're well-off. They're both very dear friends, and while I can't trash them directly, I can bitch about their lifestyles.

It's always interesting, hearing their stories about their kids and their neighbors' kids, and how life on that end of the economic scale differs from life here in the middle class swamp.

In this particular neighborhood, kids who have summer birthdays are routinely held back a year from school, not because they're not academically able, but so they will be the leaders of the next class of kids. They will be smarter, bigger, faster. It's an intentional parental decision. And there is no such thing as preschool. No, they call it "developmental kindergarten." To give these latecomers the skills necessary to lord it over their classmates with regularly scheduled birthdays.

One friend, L, was moaning about her fear of her 6th grade boy getting a blow job. What??? Apparently the kids are starting younger these days, but since real sex is icky, they start out with oral sex in the middle school. Which, in my mind, can be just as icky, but try explaining THAT to a 6th grader.

"How could you possibly think Bob will get a blow job in 6th grade?" we asked.

"Well, that's what they're doing now. Plus, Bob's so cute and nice."

"No, it doesn't work like that," H explained. "The bad boys get the blow jobs. If your kid is quiet and nice, he'll be sex-free through high school. No need to worry!"

"Or perhaps he'll be gay!"

"Well, that wouldn't eliminate the blow-job problem, would it?"

We all pondered this a moment, our youngsters having sex at an even younger age than WE did (the winner, L, came in at 15. I believe that's statutory rape now. "But I LOVED him!" she said.) And that brought about a collective shudder, as we all reached quickly for our drinks.

Friday, June 23, 2006

there are no cute doctors in the ER

I thought I'd be able to sneak out of the house on Monday about midnight or so, just leave a note so as not to disturb anyone...and drive myself to the ER. I figured I'd get there, they'd shock my heart back into a normal rhythm, and I'd be home before breakfast. Nobody would really need to know I'd been gone.

I didn't know how it would turn out. I'd never been to the ER before, much less spend any amount of time in a hospital, other than for childbirth.

An anticipated 6-hour adventure turned into a 4 1/2 day gala with a floorful of elderly cardiac patients, most sprawled out immodestly in their beds, their mouths wide open during their daylong naps. And, because my timing always sucks, I managed to miss one kid's all-star tournament game and the other's 5th grade graduation.

As it happens, I'm extremely healthy. I don't get sick, I don't get colds, flus, whatever bug is going around. I've never been severely injured. I'm VERY lucky. Of course, now I've just blown it; tomorrow I'll go outside and get beaned by a huge frozen chunk of airplane waste.

But I've had this funny heart thing, a-fib, for years. And blew it off because, well, I'm very healthy. I figured everyone had a funny heart thing every once in a while. But in the past few years, these little episodes have gotten longer, lasting hours and hours, disturbing me to the point where I actually WENT TO A DOCTOR. It's his fault I went to the ER; that's what he told me to do, but I'm usually not good at following orders.

So the heart thing starts up, I give it a couple of hours, then hop in the van to the ER. It's a Monday night, I thought; how bad could it be in the ER?

I was there for 12 hours.

Finally, they found a room for me and my old (and I mean, old) pal Gloria, a retired math teacher with a pacemaker, rheumatoid arthritis, and lord knows what else. She passed out on Tuesday and came to the ER by ambulance; after 3 days of poking and prodding, they determined it was from the heat. She wasn't a moaner--thank god; didn't talk too much, and best of all didn't require the freestanding commode in the room, so. She was ok.

They hooked me up to a heart monitor with at least 1/2 dozen wires stuck to my chest, providing a computer readout that I'm pretty certain no one was paying attention to back at the nurse's station. Because I was forbidden to remove the monitor, I was under strict instruction--and clearly, I am someone who would buck the system when I could, perhaps by ordering 2 desserts--to not bathe. It was horrible.

I refused to pay for TV, so I passed the excrutiatingly long and boring days with 2 books and several magazines. I also entertained patients and staff with an elaborate series of stretching exercises in the hallway, all the while keeping my hospital gown tied and secure. I wish I could say the same for Clarence across the hall.

I had an ultrasound and a few EKGs performed, with the threat of getting shocked and paddled if I didn't convert to a normal rhythm--and Christianity--by Wednesday evening.

By Wednesday afternoon I'd converted, and it took another 2 days of bloodletting and poking and prodding and pills to convice them that, yes, she won't stroke out immediately upon leaving the building.

I left on Friday afternoon, armed with scrips and follow-up instructions and all sorts of ways in which I now have to "watch myself." No caffeine, for starters, which blows. No vigorous exercise, at least, not yet. No aspirin. No vitamin K. Checkwiththedoctorbeforetakinganyherbalsupplements.

When I was young, these little electrical disturbances were of no consequence. Now that I'm older, my heart--while still very strong and structurally sound--is getting older too, and may not efficiently withstand these little dancing electrical freak-outs. So I guess I'll do what the doc says. For a change.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Me, 46; Schileens, 5

It's my birthday today. The kids gave me their little cards this morning: J drew a cartoon heart that explained that it loved me. E created a computer-generated card filled with pictures of Bush being an idiot. Oh, and he added he loved me. One goes for the heart, one goes for the humor.

More importantly: we beat Schileens, the 2nd place team in the league! This is the team that allegedly used the illegal bat last season (which led to the meeting, which led to the sex conversation in the archives). They hate us, they're loud and last night they were particularly grumpy. The ump, a nice, elderly gentleman, had a pretty inconsistent strike zone, and both the other pitcher and I were equally affected. They stood behind the backstop and whined at every pitch they thought was called incorrectly.

My theory is: it always pays to be nice to the umps, especially when they're grey.

So we just boomboomboom hit little singles here and there, hard shots, pokes, line drives...it's like we were playing in an alternative universe. We never do that. Had one good inning, and that's all we needed. They couldn't catch up, and they lost. When the game ended and we came off the field, we didn't whoop and holler, nosir. We just coolly walked off, like we play like this every day. Ok, I was smiling a little.

And then we went out and had beer and chocolate cake shots, a tasty way to celebrate a birthday AND a win.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

good enough

Somewhere in the middle of the road of parenthood, I'm in danger of getting run over every day by an 18-wheeler full of bad decisions and overindulgence.

Perhaps because women come with an inordinate level of guilt, we take the slightest misstep by our children as a sure sign from god that we are bad parents.

Not bad parents, really. Just not good enough.

I don't need to be a perfect parent. Logically, I know there's really no such thing, and even the most outwardly appearing perfect parent probably downs a fifth of scotch daily and wears rubber underwear. I simply want to be good enough, and even then, I feel like I often fall short.

My kids are good kids, not perfect by any stretch. E, who's 11, is tall, handsome, gifted and talented. He's also emotional and sensitive (we cry at the same movie scenes, including the scene in Toy Story 2 at the end of the song when Jessie is left by the side of the road; when then Iron Giant decides to sacrifice himself for the lives of the townsfolk; the yellow tulip scene in Big Fish). However, he can be rather self-absorbed, and one of my goals as a parent is to get him to think outside himself.

Yesterday in class, his teacher--an older woman who clearly has lost her teaching edge--yelled at one of his classmates to "sit in your damn seat!" The teacher then started to cry and went to the principal's office to fess up. E has been complaining about this teacher all year, how she yells, how she's always behind, how they don't get to go out for "fun Friday." He has said he hates her, as kids will often say about their teachers.

Last night, we were discussing the event at dinner. He tells us what happened and then he pauses and says, "you know, I felt sorry for her." And we talk about it further. He starts to see the human being inside this mean, old horrible teacher that he's bitched about all year. With those words, he's thinking outside himself.

With those words, I hope that I am good enough.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

dead heads

I'm getting VERY tired of seeing al-Zarqawi's dead head floating everywhere. Look, here it is on the cover of Time magazine, a big X dripping blood slashed across it. Pardon the pun, but isn't that overkill? I mean, we GET it, he's DEAD. And Bush wants us to believe that his death will be the thing that really gets the Iraqis in gear, this will be the turning point.

Conveniently, Bush seems to have forgotten that Public Enemy #1 used to be bin Laden..until they couldn't catch him. Well, we can't find HIM, so let's make...hmmmm...who should the next scapegoat be? The Democrats? Wink Martindale? I know! Another "high-ranking Al Queda member!" That's it! Whew! Can't run out of other people to blame for this wretched war we're in!

I f**ing can't stand Bush.

On another note...what's with guys and spitting?

Everywhere I look, guys are spitting. Out their car windows while they're driving. Onto the sidewalk while they're leaf-blowing. On the baseball field. Honestly, spitting is truly uncivilized, and it seems to be a mostly masculine hobby. Why not just shit in a bucket and throw that out your window while you're at it? Is all this spitting really necessary? Do men naturally produce more phlegm than women? I don't think so. I think it's just a nasty, bad habit that makes them look very stupid.

Friday, June 09, 2006

peter's college fund

So this teenage kid knocked on the door as I was headed out this evening to pick up Chinese. I refuse to have food delivered to my house; it's the laziest form of self-indulgence.

"So." Big sigh, knowing eye-roll. "What's your gig?" I asked him.

"Well, my name's Peter, and I'm trying to..."

"Wait. You're not selling anything, are you?"

"No, no," Peter said, looking a little frightened. He had lovely blue eyes and a rather large zit on his cheek. He's very cute. "See, if you order the Times from me, I get points.."

"I hate the Times. Do you know what a crappy paper the Times is? Just look at this print quality. It's out of registration. How can you expect me to subscribe to a paper that referred to our ex-president--in its editorial, written by its editor-in-chief--as President 'Clifton'?"

"Well, uh...I get points for college, and it's half-price for a year."

"College? What are you, 12" I asked. He looked 12.

"I'm 17," he said indignantly. But he was smiling.

"What are you going to college for?"


"Sales? Not judging by THIS exchange. Consider another major."


"Better, but you have to be more specific. What do you WANT to do? What's your gut tell you to go to college for?"

"Psychology." He still looked a little tentative, but he seemed to be enjoying the conversation. Let's put it this way: the broad hasn't sent him running screaming from the porch.

"Hah. There you go. You can use psychology in sales AND in business. That's more like it. A major you can sink your teeth into."

"Yeah, I like psychology. I like to help people."

"Ok then." I didn't want to subscribe to this dirtrag of a local paper. Occasionally one of the boys might be in it for something, but usually other suckers who subscribe will alert me to it so I can get a copy.

I dug out ten bucks from my wallet.

"I can't subscribe to this nonsense. Here. Put this in your college fund."

He looked at me suspiciously, but then you could see he was debating in his head if it was a Big Mac or a six of Bud for dinner. He smiled.

"And I mean, your college fund. No booze. No broads. No drugs. No cigarettes. No gambling. No junk food. Got it?"

He got scared again. "Uh, yeah, ok.."

"I mean it, Peter. College fund. I know your name and where you live, I saw it on the form. Yes?"

I started down the steps and he joined me.

"Ok, sure. Thanks. You're a nice person." There, see? He was already putting his psychology major to work.

Then he scampered off to the the next-door neighbors. Nice to see young, enterprising kids these days are still trudging door to door, begging for money the old-fashioned way.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

no sex, please, we're dreaming

Do you think, when you get old, you appear to yourself in your dreams as you are? Or as a younger version of yourself? And if you have a sex dream when you're old--ugh--do you dream of being with people who are much younger?

When you appear in your dreams, is it as an observer to the action, or do you actually see yourself?

Most of the time I see the dream unfold around my eyes, as in real life. But every once in a while, I see my body as it moves through whatever misadventures my subconscious has cooked up.

And oddly, my subconscious doesn't appear to want to allow me to have a, uh, climactic sex dream.

The other day, I'm on my walk, and suddenly I remember a dream that I'd had about a guy...I think I had wanted him to babysit the boys. But he was a young guy, with blonde spiky hair (which I wouldn't go for in real life)...and I remember he was kind of a jerk. But then he redeemed himself by coming in and, real slowly, kissing my neck.

And that's where it ended.

I had a dream last night, and this was one in which I was both IN it, and saw myself in it...and got into this thing with a guy who was a cross between Rupert Everett and an old Irish boyfriend. There was much flirting and provocation, and I think there was nudity involved (and a sports car that started up like a lawnmower)...but no sex.

It rarely seems to get that far.

Why? Why can't I just have a sex dream that leads to sex? Is it some kind of subconcious moral barrier I've built? Perhaps it's because the foreplay is usually more fun than the act itself? (Well, certainly not ALL the time, but you know.)

To be sure, once in a very great while, the act sneaks in there, into the dream...and I am always seeing it with my mind's eye...with surprising, real-life results. However, 95% of the time, even in dreams where it would be the most logical, perfect thing to do...I wake up unfulfilled.

40 years from now, am I still going to be dreaming about this stuff?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

block party from hell

Sunday was our town's annual block party. This year's theme was "The Most Unintentionally Evil Block Party You'll Ever Attend." I walked up to town with the boys and their friend, and quickly they were enveloped by a thick fog of silly string and fart spray. I lost them in the confusion, so I was free to move about unencumbered by the constant droan of "MomcanIhaveadollar, momcanIhaveasoda, momcanIhave5dollarsfortheinflatableSimpsonshammer, momcanIthrowyourmoneyawayonimpossiblegamesof chance..."

I was hungry, and I was relieved to see that among the various sausages and hot dogs and other phallic meats offered, there was a stand where I could at least get something healthy from one of the four food groups:

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How my heart ACHED for a fried oreo. And for the churros, water ice and cheese fries that belonged to the fried oreo. Not surpisingly, however, the line stretched around the block and I didn't want to wait. I moved on.

Nothing says "good eatin'" quite like the decaying barbequed carcass of a decapitated animal, its torso impaled from mouth to anus on a rotating rod, its juices dripping onto the street.

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This effectively eliminated my appetite, so I walked on to the inflatable entrance of "Survivor Island." But I dared not go in, because, all similarities to the TV show aside, I was afraid of the screeching, crying dwarf natives hopping around frantically inside.

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I started to panic as I noticed the crowd moving zombielike along the street, mindlessly eating their flesh sandwiches, dull-eyed and expressionless as they packed their plastic bags with cheap plastic promotional giveaways from dark entities like "the U.S. Marines" and "the Gloucester County Freeholders" and "Gutter Helmet."

I moved more quickly now, desperately hoping to see a friendly face in the crowd, when this man confronted me:Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting He smiled at me--a cold, glinty smile--maniacally waving and twising his purple phallus so fast I couldn't follow the blur of his hands....into the shape of...a sword? A dachshund? A monkey? He proffered it to an ususpecting toddler, who quickly popped it. She sensed the evil.

By this time I was running, frightenend, helplessly pushing my way through the b.0.-drenched crowd and finally found a hole of sunlight on the street, where this baby corpse had been left to rot.
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"BOYS!" I screamed. "Let's get outta here!" I found them, their eyes glazed over at the Rotary-sponsored game booth where, led by the merciless elders, they were trying to knock over cans with two limp beanbags in an unsuccessful attempt to win a plush Playboy rabbit head. Plush.

We escaped and ran down the street--clutching each other much like the Mod Squad during that scene in the alley during the opening credits—until we finally made it home, alive, still hungry and out only eight bucks. How much would YOU pay for an afternoon of…evil?

Friday, June 02, 2006

check my meter, baby

So here's the sign, meter reader, the post-it sign on the door clearly says I'M HOME on meter reading day, just COME ON IN! I won't leave the house, I've cleared my calendar, I will not move...because I KNOW you're actually going to come and read my meter today! Yes, I'm SURE of it, it says so right on the bill here! It's OK, I don't mind waiting. It's been a long time, hasn't it? You just...show up, and I'll be here. Yup, yup, yup. No "estimated" energy usage for me, nooosir! You'll get an ACCURATE reading from the meter, because YOU will be here to look at it with your own two eyes! Why trust ME to hang the meter card on the door, when YOU will be here to witness the lazy tick...tick...tick of the meter? Puts on quite a show, doesn't it, meter man?

Meter man?

Hey...where's the meter man?

Where's the goddamn meter man?! I spent all day in my f**cking house waiting for this lamebrain, and he doesn't show. Now I'll have another month of "estimated" usage, which I'm pretty certain will be "estimated" higher than my actual usage. Bush figures into all of this, I'm sure of it.

In the meantime, both boys lobbed up wonderful little balls of mature thought tonight. We've been having some kickass thunderstorms (seems like we don't get them as often as we used to, or is that just me?) E was writing down his thoughts about the storm and mentioned that the sky looked like it was taking pictures. Yes, that's exactly it, isn't it? That quick, mythical heat lightning.

Then, after our evening of bedtime conversation, J reminded me that I had forgotten to give him the final hug in our routine. Arms outstretched: "are you forgetting something?"

Yeah, perhaps the hug. But not moments like these.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

can I get a witness?

I took my usual neighborhood route this morning for my training walk, but doubled it, so I did about 6 miles in about 1 1/2 hours. Not a bad clip. On my second swing around, I passed a group of well-dressed adults: 1 older white gentleman with glasses and a suit; 1 tall, young black guy; and 2 heavyset, middle-age black women. Of course, who else would be walking around the neighborhood in the middle of the morning so nicely dressed, accessorized with notebooks and briefcases--in that particular ethnic/age makeup--but Jehovah's witnesses?

I smiled and nodded and kept moving, quickly, making it more difficult for them to sneak up and tackle me.

On my third swing around, I passed them again. This time, one of the women pleasantly asked if I walked every day.

My ipod wasn't turned up very loud, so I actually heard her question. To prepare my answer, I took off my sunglasses, rather than take out my ipod earplugs.

Now, I had just about passed by the group when she asked this, so I didn't want to stop and really consider my answer, so I said "almost." Which, of course, is a lie. Great way to start the morning, lying to the Jehovah's witnesses. A better answer would have been "no." But, thinking about it, "almost" is one of the most subjective words going, so I stopped feeling guilty and pressed on.

I passed them again on my fourth leg; this time they had split up into same sex pairs and were swooping down on vulnerable neighbors who'd unwittingly left their front doors open.

Now, I really can't imagine this is a productive way to recruit church members: walking around hot and sweaty in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, knocking on doors during the day when people are at work. Honestly, don't you think most people would quickly hunch over to avoid being seen in the windows and run to lock their doors if they saw the Witnesses walking up to their doorstep? Just like they do when they see the Girls Scouts selling cookies, or trick-or-treaters? (Or is that just me?) I mean, it's a new century now. Surely there are better ways of selling a religion.

I also had the pleasure to pass a teenager with his sweat pants pulled down so his boxers were showing. Now, I could never really get on board with the "hello, boxers!" trend, but I thought the idea was that one's pants were 5 times too big, so they would naturally fall off the waist and accumulate at the crotch region, thereby exposing the jaunty boxers. THIS kid, however, was wearing sweat pants with an elastic waist, so he had to purposefully pull them down where they naturally cinch wherever they're pulled down to--in this case, below the ass cheeks, covered by, well, not very happy-looking boxers.

So what exactly is the point in that? It's not a fashion statement; I may be wrong, but I think that look is over, isn't it? It was hot enough where he could've actually just removed his sweat pants and walked around in boxers and nobody would've looked twice. But to deliberately push the pants down to expose your ass...I don't get it. I must be getting old.