Thursday, November 30, 2006

frozen in time

I remembered today that I never posted the photographer's pictures from my Cape May photo shoot, so I'll throw these on. If these are the best, then I suck. Ya see how far away I am? There's a reason for that. "Yeah, could you cover your entire head with a scarf? And while you're at it, throw these sunglasses on. Damn, don't we have a spare burqa lying around we could use? No? Ok, now, I'm going to back up about 10 feet and take your picture upside down so you're virtually unrecognizable. And this one? Yeah, could you please NOT look directly at the camera? Thanks. Yeah, that's right, like you're looking out at the ocean! Sure! Now, I'll just back up here another 12 feet or so...

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Not that anyone was asking for them--in fact, most people head screaming for the hills when faced with my picture--but in reviewing photos from my niece's wedding, I'm once again reminded of how truly unphotogenic I am, and it's gotten worse as I've grown older because, well, I've gotten uglier.

This isn't me feeling sorry for myself, I'm just stating a fact. Most people get uglier when they get old. Women get chin whiskers and warts and jowls and their eyebrows disappear. Spare me the bullshit about being beautiful inside and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yeahyeahyeah. We all know what looks good and what doesn't.

My niece had maybe a thousand or more pictures to go through online. I read Corinthians at the ceremony, so the photographer was more or less obligated to take some shots of me. It was windy, so my hair was blowing all over the place, plus I wore this ridiculously short dress. The result, of course, is that every single picture of me sucks completely.

Now, I'd like to think it's my animated, expressive personality that resists getting frozen in time, given my fear of commitment. If someone takes a picture of me explaining to my boys why George Bush is an idiot, he's probably going to wind up with a picture of me with one eye shut, arms flailing, teeth gnashing, wrinkles and jowls and zits all clamoring for the spotlight.

But something about freezing one moment in time in a photograph spooks me a little, just like it did to people 100 years ago. Every photo steals a little something from your live soul. One fleeting glance at your life, at the image you project to others, with no chance to change it or take it back. So many of those frozen moments are particularly unflattering to me that it makes me wonder what do people see when they see me?

But then again: maybe I simply just look like crap in pictures. In real life, I'm much better. Check the video.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I think my boys have finally caught on to the fact that I'm a woman. When I'm playing softball, or most recently, basketball, they'll snicker and say "bah-BUM, bah-BUM, bah-BUM, bah-BUM"...

While I'm kind of offended by this, it's funny at the same time. I mean, my kids are looking--and laughing--at my tits.

That can be a bit of a problem, when my immature sense of humor intersects with theirs. E was watching Scary Movie 4 this weekend, and there's one scene in which Charlie Sheen's penis grows to immense proportions and out of control, propelling him out a window to the street below, where he appears impaled by it. I was on the puter at the time and happened to look out at the movie, and while it was a really, really stupid scene--every adult, mature bone in my body told me to stop watching this, this is stupid--E caught me laughing at it.

"Mommm! You think that's funny?!"

"Uh, no. No I don't."

"But you're laughing!"

"Yeah? So?"

"Well then you think it's funny."

"No. Just, uh, something here on the puter made me laugh."

"You thought it was funny."


Hard to tell who's the child from that conversation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

greetings from earth, chris

This is just an acknowledgement of the first anniversary yesterday of Chris Whitley's death.

Taste in music is a funny thing; you like what you like, you can't always explain why you like it. Sometimes you like music that seems to run totally counter to what you think you should like.

When I was about 12 or so, one of my favorite songs, one that actually made me weep, was "I Need You," by America. I cringe now to think that I liked it, but hey. It's a pretty song, and it was 1972. That's why those of us who were teenagers in the 70s are so schizophrenic in our musical tastes: we went from Bread's "Guitar Man" in '72, to Aerosmith's "Dream On" in '73 to the era of disco with Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" in '75, to Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" in '77. In five years!

This explains why we needed a wide variety of liquor and drugs to accompany the variety of music. Pink Floyd on acid? Great. Pink Floyd on crank? Not so much.

Since then, musical trends have come and gone, and say what you will about a lot of the crap that came out of the was probably the most musically diverse decade ever.

But sometimes, something sticks. An artist, a take it into your soul, and you love it always. In the early 70s, for me, that would have been Elton John...before he started wearing the stupid platforms and glasses. I can't stand him now.

In the 90s and beyond, that artist was Chris Whitley. With his bluesy voice and sexually charged songs, he provided the musical accompaniment on my hump island. (If you were a guy and you took a gal to see a CW show, you'd have no trouble getting laid afterward.) We shook hands once, and if I'm not mistaken, which I probably am, we had significant eye contact on the street before a show at the Tin Angel.

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His songs can be difficult, esoteric, filled with metaphor and philosophical challenges that are beyond the reach of the mainstream. Sometimes beyond my reach.

But he wrote and sang and played guitar with soul and a depth of conviction that seemed not of this world. He was an artist who stayed true to himself, and did not roll over and conform simply to sell records. Which is why he didn't sell many.

But that wasn't the point.

He profoundly affected my appreciation of music in general, and his sound reaches in and pounds my heart and nourishes my soul. He got inside me and set up camp inside my bones and visits me still.

He was my age, and he died young. I think he knew he would:

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"There's a dirt floor underneath here
To receive us when changes fail.
May this shovel loose your trouble;
Let them fall away.

Well the mist shall be your blanket
While the moss shall ease your head.
As the future is soon forgotten;
As the dirt shall be your bed."

--Dirt Floor

I miss you, Chris.

Monday, November 20, 2006

lost in the supermarket

Often I go grocery shopping late at night...I prefer it because there aren't many other people shopping at, say, 11pm on a Sunday night. My fear of the supermarket (not a fear, really; perhaps an unease) stretches back decades, and the only reason I can come up with that it makes me uncomfortable is the residual feeling of shopping while stoned.

Not that I was stoned a lot back in the day. That wasn't really my thing; pot made me too sleepy and stupid. I can manage that quite nicely without narcotic intervention.

I do remember feeling vaguely claustrophobic back then. People were EVERYWHERE. And they were all in my way. And then there were all those choices I had to make! It's worse now; there are a lot more brands and reconfigurations of the exact same thing (Now New and Improved! Now Even Better! Same Thing, Just New Packaging! Don't Be Alarmed!). Whatever happened to me in the supermarket 30 years or so ago left a lasting imprint on my brain.

But last night, I decided to try something different. I took the ipod. The first four songs that played took me back to my teen years: "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" by Traffic; "Day After Day" by Badfinger; " "Love Song" by Elton John; "Down by the River" by Neil Young. (I really do have lots of songs from the 21st century on the ipod, really, I do; please, I'm not ready to die yet...)

The effect? I completely zoned. I sang along. Sometimes it was hard to concentrate.

I grew rebellious and goofy. I moved the expired yogurt to the front of the case, and wrote a little note to alert people that they expired. I cringed at Rachel Ray's perky, greedy, smiling face on the box of Triscuits, and wrote "EAT ME!" on the box and left it on the shelf. I finally plodded my way to the checkout.

Whoa. I had been there for 2 hours. How the hell did THAT happen?

Like I was stoned again. Maybe they oughta outlaw ipods.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

sara's on drugs

E finally had his first paying gig yesterday, shooting an industrial for some new ADHD medication. He was not selected as the ADHD victim, but served in a more honest capacity as one of the rowdy boy classmates.

About a dozen kids were involved in the shoot, and they had a great time, throwing spitballs at the pretend teacher, teasing "Sara," the poor misunderstood ADHD gal, playing kickball...just like a real school day except they got paid, and rather handsomely too. Hopefully it will be soon be floating around on an internets near you!

It was an all-day shoot, so parents sat in the holding area of the school and made small talk. I view these types of days (similar to an all-day, all-weekend, excruciatingly-boring-until-your-own-kid-is-swimming swim meet) as a good opportunity to read a book, rather than actually attempt to be civil to strangers.

I started the day trying to finish Bobos in Paradise, by David Brooks. I couldn't do was basically just the same sentence over and over again, about how the new bourgeois bohemians have taken over the country. Who cares. So I put that aside and started The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs; one man's journey through the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica. It's pretty funny so far, easy reading. Seems like I can't pick up a book these days without some kind of guarantee that it will make me laugh.

Afterward I regaled E with my story as an extra in Age of Innocence. To sum it up: Daniel Day-Lewis has a huge throbbing blood vessel on the right side of his forehead. And Winona Ryder is a teeny tiny little bitchy teacup.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

make it stop!

I like SpongeBob, really I do. But I swear to frigging God Almighty if I hear that relentlessly upbeat, Brady Bunch-inspired "It's the BEST DAY EVERRRRR..." song again I'm going to slice up every sponge in my house and ram every tiny little piece down someone's throat.

There. I feel better already.

Monday, November 13, 2006

sleeping in

I’m a pretty low-maintenance gal; always have been. Someone else might call this look “easygoing” or “effortless.” I call it “haphazardly careless, who-the-hell-gives-a-shit.”

That look extends to my choice of sleepwear. I’ve never been big on fancy nightgowns (hell, do they even call them that anymore?) or negligees or teddies or anything that might threaten to make me appear even the least bit sexy.

Used to be a t-shirt and some kind of pants or shorts. Wow, someone alert Frederick’s of Hollywood!

When the kids are babies, you get out of bed three or four times a night to feed them, so you want to wear something with easy access. Then when they’re older, and they call you in the middle of the night for water, or to check under the bed for monsters …you have to be wearing something. No need to traumatize them by wandering around naked in the dark night, bumping blindly into walls or practicing your golf swing.

But as I’ve gotten older, I find everything I choose to sleep in pisses me off.

Nothing with buttons! Nothing that extends past the knees, because I get twisted up! Nothing that’s even a little big, because the fabric wrinkles and rubs the wrong way! Nothing with seams or those stupid little applique flowers! Nothing with sleeves! Nothing with straps, hooks or elastic! Nothing with a crotch that I have to dig out of my crotch in the middle of the night!

Which leaves, pretty much…nothing. And now I understand what grandmas around the world mean when they advise “airing it out.”

Thursday, November 09, 2006

J's bush opinion

I'll enjoy watching Bush twitch and spin in the refreshing democratic breeze that just blew in.

I was explaining yesterday to J about Rumpsfeld's resignation and how Bush has relied on his father's aging cronies to point him in the wrong direction. He weighed in with his own opinion about Bush:

"He's lousy and he's drunk and he can't walk around!"

Now, I don't know where he got that opinion. I've never actually summed up Bush's many shortcomings quite like that.

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J's picture of Bush from 2 years ago still hangs in my kitchen, and will stay there until we get a new president. My mother recently visited, took one withering glance at the picture, and scolded:

"You're teaching him all wrong."

"What? I didn't tell him to draw that. He did it on his own."

"Yeah, sure he did."

"Sure! He doesn't like Bush. Lots of people don't like Bush. Is it so unseemly for a 7-year-old to create a picture depicting Bush as the devil? At least he didn't draw him as a big pile of shit."

She stormed off after that.

To be fair, here's J's picture of Dick.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

blink and you'll miss it

If you have kids, sometimes you find yourself just staring at them for no obvious reason, but questions run through your mind: How did that stain get on your shirt? Did I give you allowance? Why did you DO that? Your mind has important things it wants to say to them…but the words never leave the brain.

The boys catch me staring at them sometimes. They look puzzled, embarrassed. “What are you looking at?” they ask.

“What’s that stain on your shirt?”

Which is really code for: “When did you grow up? Did I blink and miss it?”

Last night I took the boys to swim practice. E practiced, J decided he just wanted to play in the pool. He wanted to play catch with me so he could dive in the water after the ball. After a little of that, he went off on his own. I stared at him moving about the pool.

J was walking normally around the deck when suddenly and for no apparent reason he happily leaped into the air. It was a one-legged hop, followed by a two-legged leap. Then he started walking normally again.

Boys don’t simply walk. They hop, they leap, they run. Sometimes they do this little hippity hop, tiptoe run when they’re barefoot, kind of like they’re walking on hot coals.

You never see them do this when they’re older. Older boys and grown men don’t hop and leap about as they move through their daily lives. Maybe they break into a run every now and then, but that’s about it.

But little boys move whatever way they want to get from point A to point B, whether they skip, they hop, they slide into home. They’re all limbs flailing about, shooting imaginary basketballs into the air, playing air guitar, pretending to walk along an imaginary rope bridge high above a dangerous gulch.

And then--in the blink of an eye, while you’re busy staring at them--they walk. And all those times you’ve told them to stop jumping up and down, slow down, walk; don’t run…you almost curse yourself now for even suggesting that they walk normally.

But at least for now, while they’re still leaping and dancing…the good thing is, they’re probably not even listening to you.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

not such a bad day after all

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Who knew, with my disdain for Halloween, that both boys would go on to win several costume awards?

J's mime outfit won for best costume in his class and at his Adventure Guides

E's Chef Boyardee here also won him 2 awards, one for Most Original in his 6th grade class (minus the identity-protecting shrubbery). Plus, I'm pretty certain he improved his street cred with his classmates. I mean, what better way to earn the respect of your peers than to go trick-or-treating dressed as a huge can of spaghetti? I underestimated these boys; E went out with a group of about 10 boys, and I was certain they'd find a hill to roll him down. But they didn't, and he received compliments throughout the neighborhood.

Between the two of them, they came home with about 9 pounds of candy, less than last year's record-setting 11 pounds.

Halloween was also notable because I was called in for the first time to sub.

The teachers snickered when I came in, with knowing, snarky comments like "hahaha, they called you in on HALLOWEEN, the MOST STRESSFUL day of the year? Have FUN!" Followed by more evil laughter.

The day consisted mostly of just keeping the kids in their seats, keeping the noise level down, and judiciously doling out lavatory passes. Later in the afternoon they went home to put their costumes on. They returned for the parade, followed by their class parties, which was all they can think about all day so keeping them focused was a challenge. This being first grade, it wasn't all that difficult; I brought out all my cartoon voices and wacky blackboard cartoons and my big gorilla head, and they were satisfied. Or at least stunned into submission.

One kid was talking about Toy Story and I got right in his face and pointed at him and said, "YOU come down in your stupid cardboard spaceship and take away everything that's important to me!" He looked startled at first but then lightened up and said, "Hey, that's from Toy Story 1! How did you know that?" He was clearly impressed.

My job there was done.