December 31, 2008
New Year’s Eve used to be my favorite all-time holiday, back when I was single. Getting all gussied up, dancing, drinking, hugging everyone at midnight – ohhh, the evening was ripe with opportunities for spontaneous make-out sessions!
Now I’m a devoted wife, and I still love New Year’s Eve, but some of the “oooh-what’s-going-to-happen” fervor has naturally abated, and it’s no longer the highlight of my year – that’s officially been replaced by Christmas, with Halloween coming in a close second. In the past few years, our New Year’s Eve celebrations have seen quite a surge in Mellowness.
2001: Pre-Herbie days. Bow-chicka-bow-bowww…
2002: In love with Herbie! Trip to Bellingham to party all night long! (We got in one of those delicious oh-GOD-I’m-in-love-with-you-but-do-you-love-ME?! angsty fights, but happened to be in one of the most romantic hotels ever for the make-up the following day.)
2003: Heaven and Hell Ball in Seattle! (It was actually a terrible party, with mile-long lines for alcohol and toilets, but it turned awesome when Herbie almost punched out the “host” for being such a huge asshat.)
2004: Dance party in Seattle! Oh, how I miss dance parties…
2005: New city, new (old) house. Pancakes at home, and a champagne toast.
2006: Preggers. Movie and ball-drop. Much fond belly-rubbing.
2007: Midnight pancakes with Rosalind and Herbie’s parents while Moo slept soundly down the hall.
2008: Dinner and a movie. Home for the ball drop. Admire the ball’s use of new energy-saving lights!
Part of me misses the old extravagant New Year’s celebrations, when I had my outfit ready a month in advance and daydreamed about meeting the man of my dreams on New Year’s Eve. But then I did meet the man of my dreams (on a Friday night in October), and tonight I’m going to get nice n’ drunk, and see if he wants to make out.
Anyone have any exciting New Year’s plans? Or fascinatingly boring New Year’s plans? Do tell.
December 28, 2008
Back in 1988, I started high school at a private girls’ Catholic school, a magical land of short plaid skirts and cheesy pretzels for lunch. Hoping for a fresh start from my more nerdy days in grade school, I carefully scanned all the girls during those first few days. I spotted them quickly – my ideal group of friends.
They were perched on a picnic table during break, talking and giggling. They looked pretty but not intimidating. I had World Cultures with one of them and she seemed really smart. One of them had really pretty hair. Pretty hair is always the kicker for me.
So I scoped them out and tried to determine how to make my way in. I realized the window was quickly closing, and soon, everybody would be firmly settled in cliques for keeps. My mom and I had discussions over dinner – maybe I should compliment the girl with the pretty hair… maybe I should ask the smart girl a question in World Cultures… maybe I should just go up and introduce myself. That’s such a mommish thing to suggest, and unfortunately it’s the one I chose.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, I just remember finding an open spot in their circle one day and laughing at somebody’s joke. They didn’t shout, “Ignore!” and push me to the ground, or mark a big black X on my forehead. They just refused to make eye contact with me, and slowly closed the circle until I was pushed out. Boom. Rejected.
I didn’t hold it against them – my attempt at clique entry was lame at best. By sophomore year I found a wonderful group of friends, in which I attained entry after interviewing with the queen bee and making her laugh with a joke about Mountain Dew making guys impotent – that is true, isn’t it? But I always admired the other girls from afar.
Flash-forward almost 20 years, and here I am, best friends with Rosalind, who just happens to be dear friends with most of those girls from my most-desired clique. She deviously hid this fact from me when we became friends at the end of high school. Now, every Christmas when they all come back into town, they get together. Rosalind always mentions it and I think, ooh, maybe this year I’ll get invited too! But, alas, no invite. Finally, when Rosalind mentioned it this year (and after I’d had two Bailey’s-on-the-rocks), I blurted out, “I wanna go!” And instead of the circle quietly closing and pushing me out, this time I was allowed into the circle. They even made eye contact with me!
The smart girl is still really smart. The girl with pretty hair still has really pretty hair, and she says “shit” a lot, which makes me like her even more. And though I would never want to go back in time and trade in my own treasured group of high school friends, I still glowed from finally being allowed into the clique of my dreams, for one glorious night of pear martinis and coconut gelato. I made it! For one night, I was cool. Yes, all my dreams from freshman year in high school have finally come true. Maybe I’m on a roll – I should call up the hot guy from “Sixteen Candles” and see if he’s finally ready to admit his love for me.
December 20, 2008
When thoughts of mall shootings and car accidents start to overwhelm me, I try to stop and remember the baby birds.
When Moo was just a few weeks old, my fear of Bad Things threatened to overtake me. Every perfectly happy moment holding my sweet angel baby was interrupted by the realization that loving somebody so much made me so vulnerable to complete and utter destruction if something bad (please God no) ever happened. I couldn’t breathe.
In one such moment, I handed Moo over to Herbie and headed outside for fresh air. After a few deep breaths, I grabbed the hose to water our neglected pants. I held the hose over the fairyduster, and just as the water splashed into the soil, I saw something move. I yanked the hose away and peered into the pot. Two tiny baby birds, no bigger than my thumbs, squirmed helplessly.
I looked into the hanging pot above and saw an abandoned nest, no sign of mommy bird. The babies must have fallen out of the hanging pot, and thankfully there was a soft bed of soil just below to catch them.
What to do? I ran inside, blabbering about baby birds to Herbie, and got a shoe box. Somehow, I coaxed the baby birds inside. Then I gave them some water from an eye dropper and smushed up some bread and mixed it with milk, because that’s what we used to do when I found injured birds as a child. But these weren’t doves with sprained wings, these were tiny helpless creatures with beaks tinier than Moo’s smallest toe, gaping open and dying for food. I knew I couldn’t help them, but I had to help them. So I got on the phone and found a veterinary hospital where I could take the birds. A group called Liberty Wildlife would pick them up from there and care for them.
Herbie, Moo and I piled in the car and drove out to the vet hospital, me holding the precious cargo in my lap with one hand, and caressing Moo’s fingers with the other. When we got to the hospital, I signed some papers and handed over the birds to the nurse, who assured me they’d be just fine.
I rode home feeling enormously relieved. I’d saved the baby birds. Everything would be okay. But then back home, I got on the Internet and looked up Liberty Wildlife. They have a handy dandy page on their website that tells you what to do if you find an abandoned baby bird.
I did everything wrong. You’re not supposed to give a baby bird milk. You’re not supposed to give a baby bird bread. You’re absolutely not supposed to give a baby bird water in an eye dropper, which can result in aspiration, causing a bird to die. Oh God. It occurred to me that maybe the nurse was lying, telling me the birds would be okay when she knew they were doomed.
All night I worried about the baby birds, wondering if they were alive, if their little mouths were still gaping. I would never know. I wondered if I was making huge mistakes with Moo like I made with the baby birds. I wondered what would happen to them. I wondered what would happen to Moo.
And then at 3 a.m., as I rocked Moo back to sleep once again, I realized something. I had to believe that those baby birds would be okay. I couldn’t know what would happen to them, just like I cannot know what will happen in Moo’s future. But unless I want to miss every happy moment in her life, I have to believe that everything will be okay. I have to believe that those baby birds are right at this moment sleeping in a nest in a big beautiful tree somewhere in the East Valley, and I have to believe that Moo will have a happy and healthy life.
It’s fear or hope, isn’t it? I must remember to choose hope. The baby birds are just fine. And so is my Moo.
December 19, 2008
I can’t stop thinking about Adam Walsh.
If you don’t already know, he was the little boy who disappeared when he was six years old. His head was found shortly thereafter. His murder was never solved, and his dad ended up devoting his life to solving such atrocities by launching the show, “Unsolved Mysteries.” A few days ago, the police announced that they finally know who murdered Adam Walsh – some guy who died in prison years ago.
Do you remember when you first realized that your parents couldn’t keep you safe? That horrible things happen, and something horrible could happen to you? I do. I was seven when Adam Walsh disappeared. My mom and I were shopping in Diamond’s department store, and I had crawled into a round rack of clothes, in search of a quiet place to read my book. A few minutes later, I heard my mom crying out for me. I had never heard that panicked tone in her voice before, and I scurried out from the clothes rack. She grabbed my arms and yanked me to her chest, hugging me tight before pulling away and scolding me for disappearing. I didn’t see what the big deal was – I often turned clothes racks into reading nooks – I just didn’t hear her calling me.
I don’t know if my mom would have told me if she hadn’t been still recovering from that moment of panic when I was nowhere to be found. But she must have made the decision, in a split second, that I was old enough to know, maybe needed to know, that bad things can happen to good little boys and girls. So she told me about Adam Walsh. I remember specifically holding her hand and shuffling my shoes on the hunter green carpeting in the men’s department. I remember looking up and seeing the sunny exit doors just ahead, and then she told me about Adam Walsh’s head.
I don’t remember if I cried. I just know that I have always kept his horror story in my heart, and that on the day he died, I said goodbye to a big huge chunk of my childhood innocence.
Twenty-seven years later, my niece Clara is struggling with her own fears. She recently watched “The Wizard of Oz” with her older brother, and although the Wicked Witch is a fictional character in a silly costume, to Clara she is so real and so very frightening. Now she’s afraid of the dark.
When we were in California this past weekend, she spoke up one morning while we lazed around the bedroom.
“Sometimes I’m just scared,” she said.
“Of what?” I asked.
I tried to empathize, to tell her that I remember being scared when I was a little girl. Then she brought up the Wicked Witch, and I talked about how she was just a lady wearing green makeup.
“I know,” she said. “I know.”
And then I knew that anything I said wouldn’t help.
Life is so full of fear. I remember more than just being scared as a little girl. I remember laying in bed terrified. I used to surround myself completely with stuffed animals, a circle of plush love to protect me from my fear that there was a man with a shotgun under my bed. I don’t know how that specific fear formed, but I have a feeling it had a lot to do with Adam Walsh.
I still struggle every day with thoughts of Bad Things. Ever since Moo was born, I fight fear almost constantly. My eyes catch a headline about a baby dying after being left in her car seat in the summer sun, and I am haunted for days, imagining that child’s screams for help. Last week I read about how Tina Fey got the scar on her face – she was the victim of a random knife attack when she was five – and the scene plays out in my head, over and over again. Sometimes I’ll be at the mall with Moo and find myself wondering, “What if someone started shooting right now? How could I get Moo to safety? Where could we hide? How could I save her?”
Does anyone else do this, too?
November 10, 2008
I was watching “Shopgirl” last night while Herbie was passed out on the couch, and it made me recall my most awesome celebrity encounter, with Steve Martin.
I was working at Banana Republic in New York circa 1995, and had already amassed a string of celebrity sightings – Kathleen Turner, Nathan Lane, Katarina Witt, and Christina Ricci can all be counted as Banana fans. But it was a busy Saturday afternoon as I was working the cash register when Steve Martin walked in the store and headed straight for me.
“Socks?” he asked.
I hesitated, wondering for a moment if he meant Where are the socks? or Do you carry socks? or Do you like my socks?, and then I pointed toward the display of argyle and stripes. I didn’t even have a chance to poke anyone and whisper, “ohmygodit’sstevemartin!” before he popped back up in front of me.
“I’ll take these,” he said, pushing a pair of socks in my direction.
“Certainly,” I answered, choosing to remain professional instead of shouting, “GENIUS! GENIUS!”
I rang up the socks and was reaching for a bag when he stopped me.
“Could you gift wrap those?”
“In separate boxes, please,” he added.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” I said.
Well, at least I thought of something different than “certainly.” I mean, this was STEVE MARTIN. Mr. Funny Man. Wild and Crazy Guy. It’s a single pair of socks, and he wants each sock wrapped in a different box? Of course he’s joking.
He stared at me, stone-faced. At that point in his career, it seemed impossible that Steve Martin could even make such a serious face.
“HAHAhahaha ha? ohhhhh of course, sir,” I said, and hastily wrapped each sock in a separate gift box, hands shaking as I tried to tie perfect bows and think of the perfect witty thing to say.
But I didn’t think of anything, and surrendered the gift-wrapped socks.
“Thanks,” he said over his shoulder, and dashed out the door.
13 years later, I’m sitting in our living room watching the scene in Shopgirl in which Steve Martin purchases a pair of gloves from Claire Danes. She’s feeling very self-conscious, awkwardly completing the purchase under his watchful gaze, and for one perfect moment, I thought maybe, just maybe, Steve Martin’s character was about to ask Claire Danes to wrap each glove separately. Perhaps Steve Martin has always remembered that strange Banana Republic shopgirl who cackled at him when he wanted his socks in two gift boxes. Perhaps Steve Martin and I are actually CONNECTED through the cosmic inspiration of a magical pair of Banana Republic socks.
But Steve Martin didn’t ask Claire Danes to put the gloves in two separate boxes. He took them in one box, and later had sex with her and bought her an Armani dress.
Steve Martin never bought me an Armani dress. Or had sex with me, just to be clear.
So what did I learn? Well, clearly Steve Martin is not as smart as he thinks he is, because that would have been a really funny moment in the movie. Also, I really hope I own an Armani dress someday.
November 9, 2008
As we were helping the drummer packup his drums after rehearsal Thursday night, the conversation turned – as conversations often do among the young-20′s set - to fake i.d.’s. Sounds a little crazy for a cocktail hour lover like me, but I never had a fake i.d., not out of goody-two-shoes righteousness, but because I spent my early 20′s in New York, where they never card you. Or at least they didn’t – that was the Pre-Giuliani era, when everything was dirtier, and a little sexier, too.
I’d never even tried to go into a bar before I got to New York – when I was 19, I looked about 15, so I figured I had no chance. But on my third night in New York, my new next door neighbor and new crush, Hayden, invited me and my roommates to go out on the town. My inner prude was screaming, “No! Mother would not approve!” But I moved to New York to find, as I told myself in my head, “adventure, acting, and many passionate love affairs,” so there was no way I was going to be left behind in our dingy apartment.
Hayden and Freddy took us to a hole-in-the-wall bar, and as Hayden promised, the bartender didn’t even blink when I asked for a screwdriver (it was the only cocktail I knew at the time). The bar was nearly empty on a weekday night – only a group of men in suits sat at the bar, while we commandeered the table near the door. Pretty soon, the vodka hit me (after about three gulps), and I was giggling loudly and acting more drunk than I was so I’d have an excuse to be touchy-feely with Hayden.
A couple more suited men came in and joined the men at the bar, who glanced over often and shook their heads, smirking. Hayden and Freddy kept shushing me and my roommates, but I thought they were over-reacting. Isn’t this what going out was all about? Hadn’t I heard millions of stories about nights just like this – drinking, giggling, touchy-feeling – hooray! I was living the dream.
Then I realized that Hayden was kicking me repeatedly, and not in a sexy way. I looked up and saw a man standing behind us. Hugely fat, smoking a cigar, wearing a black suit and tie.
“You kids havin’ a good time?” he asked.
He shook Hayden’s hand, introduced himself, and said, “This is my joint. Anything I can get you – you just let me know.”
And he walked back to the bar, where the other men in black suits waited for him.
How charming! I thought. Everyone in New York is so friendly!
“We have to go now,” said Hayden.
But Hayden dragged me out the door, and all thoughts of the men in black suits were swept away by thoughts of Hayden’s hand pulling me down the street.
And honestly, it wasn’t until almost three years passed that I realized that on my third night in New York, I got my very first New York cocktail in a mob bar.
September 24, 2008
Shortly after the Toad incident, I found myself sauntering down Broadway one evening, on my way to the deli for Sugar Smacks. I admit I was not at my best – my hair was suffering from ill-conceived home-highlights (“Caramel Infusion”), my face was blotchy, and my once-thin bod was turning paunchy from too many mayonnaise sandwiches. I dreamed of looking like Kate Moss (curse her return to ubiquitousness!), but I couldn’t bring myself to snort Afrin, much less coke. On top of all that, I was an unhappy girl, for my boyfriend Daniel was frolicking in Florida with “just-a-friend” Jen, my teachers at AMDA refused to give me a solo, and although I craved a club sandwich, I only had three dollars to my name (more mayonnaise for me…).
So it was that I shuffled along Broadway in an oversized t-shirt, cut-off shorts, and dirty Keds, dreaming of punching just-a-friend Jen in the face after miraculously morphing into Kate Moss. Just as my rail-thin dream arm was making contact, I became aware of insistent honking. Then I heard barking. I looked up to see three unwashed young men in a beat-up Chevy waving and barking at me. At first I wasn’t sure whether this was a compliment or insult in their world, but either way, I did as my mom taught me – put my head down and started walking away. Seeing that their attempts at communication were befuddled at best, they decided to make it clearer for me: “YOU’RE A DOG!” they yelled.
Ah. I see.
They shuddered off whooping, and my shuffle slowed to a crawl as the single ounce of self-esteem residing somewhere to the left of my liver evaporated. When even dirty creeps in an old beater find you repugnant, really, what point is there in going on? But – just when I was thinking maybe I could snort coke after all, or better yet, starve myself into lollipop-head desirability (although I could never do it – I do love mayonnaise), the beat-up Chevy came careening back around the block. I froze, unable to decide whether to flip them off or run away, when I heard them shout: “NICE LEGS, THOUGH!”
You’re a dog! Nice legs, though.
A reason to live.
September 18, 2008
I wonder if maybe I should have sung my stripper song at the audition.
In addition to the grand-poobah musical theatre showcase, my last year at AMDA also included a cabaret showcase, which turned out to be the highlight of my time at AMDA. I always thought of cabaret as some slinky woman with a cigarette sitting on a piano singing sexy songs – and actually, that’s pretty close. Cabaret theatres are super-tiny and packed with people getting drunk. As it turns out, drunk people are my ideal audience.
In rehearsal, I ran through a few options that were all received tepidly by the teacher. Then the semester break came along, and I left on a road trip to Maine with my visiting parents and no song in place.
Luckily, riding in a Chevy Malibu with my parents was somehow the perfect inspiration for me to write a parody song about wanting to be a stripper - to the tune of “Part of Your World,” from The Little Mermaid. You know, the one where she swims around in a cave marvelling at spoons. My song was similar, I just marvelled at silicone implants instead. My parents helpfully suggested rhymes for “tassels” and “pasties” (Mom: “Hasty? Tasty?” Me: “Ooh, that’s good.”) and in no time the song was complete.
A few weeks later, I performed at a club called 88′s and all the drunk people laughed – LOUD. I felt drunk myself, high off their approval and knowing that not only did they like my song – I even wrote the damn thing! (Well, some credit must go to Alan Menken I suppose.) After the show ended, I tried to scramble out the door, because small talk with strangers is around number 3 on my Big Fears list (after whales and auditions). But I didn’t get far before a small man with gray streaks in his hair stopped me. His name was Graham Brooks, television producer. He gave me his card and told me he wanted to meet with me, not about my singing but my writing. He wanted to see more, and discuss possibly developing a show with me.
I was twirling circles around the moon for about 20 minutes before my boyfriend Daniel told me he obviously just wanted to have sex with me. I mean, I sang a song about wanting to strip, so that MUST be it, right? My potential writing skills could not possibly be enough – it must be my body that he really wants.
I’m ashamed to say I let Daniel’s jab affect me and wondered every time I met with Graham when he might make his move. He never made a move – he just encouraged me and brainstormed with me and told me to send him more, more. But I kept thinking he was going to drop the whole thing at any second, so if he didn’t call right back when I left a message, I was afraid to call again. Now I know that’s what it takes – as Rosalind always reminds me, it all comes down to persistence. Time passed by, I got distracted by men, and eventually I let Graham drift away. I moved away in 1996 and never saw him again.
He started working for “Sex and the City” in 1998.
So yes I have buried my head in my knees and moaned quietly, imagining all the dinner parties I should be having with SJP and friends, drinking Cosmos and letting Patricia Field plop weird hats on my head. But if I had, what? - No Herbie? No Moo? No. No, I wouldn’t change a thing.
But I couldn’t help but wonder - if I had worked for Sex and the City, would I have come up with a line like this?:
“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we wouldn’t fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are.”
Nah – I probably would have just written something about strippers.
September 15, 2008
My education at AMDA (the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, but not as fancy as it sounds) in New York culminated with a much-ballyhooed, fringe-festooned ”Musical Theatre Showcase” (Ta Daaaaa!). The school divided our year up into three classes and each class had a shot at the showcase. The faculty always floated rumors that agents would show up at the showcases - but I never saw one. Although I don’t suppose they walked around with “AGENT” written in sequins on their jackets.
My class had about 15 students, and by the time it was our turn to be cast in the showcase, we had a pretty good idea of which musical numbers we were vying for, since we’d already seen the other classes do it twice. I was hoping for the sassy, dancey, belty, “Red Hot and Blue” number. We knew everyone would get a solo – except there was always that one sad sack who only got a duet. Everyone pitied that person, and my boyfriend Daniel and I laughed about how the most recent sad sack, Andrea, had better start applying to temp agencies, since obviously even our own faculty didn’t think she had any chance of getting on Broadway after graduation.
So. Guess who was the sad sack in our showcase? Yeah. I was shocked, and I think, rightly so. Even Lucy Shorner got a solo, and everyone knew she got accepted into AMDA because of her ballet skills - definitely NOT her singing voice, which was never more than barely tolerable. Up until then my confidence had been pretty high – I worked hard, got good feedback from my teachers, and felt I had the respect of my classmates. I never made waves – never had dramatic breakdowns in class, didn’t have a reputation as a diva – and maybe that was my downfall – I just got overlooked.
Crushed after hearing the news of my casting doom, I took refuge in a bathroom stall, wondering who could comfort me. I just couldn’t tell Daniel – not after we’d laughed at Andrea – and now here I was, just another sad sack doomed to be a temp for the rest of my life.
So I called Nick. And that move definitely contributed to my so-called downfall. I confided with Nick instead of Daniel, and suddenly Nick knew me, in all my sobby, boogery glory, better than my own boyfriend. But more on Nick some other time.
Nick encouraged me to confront the fat toad artistic director of AMDA known as, oh hell, Toad. So I did. The next day, I approached him as he was handing out sheet music and asked to speak to him. I had a little speech prepared, and told him, voice shaking, that I thought I deserved more than just a duet. I had all my arguments ready, but he surprised me by agreeing. “We had more in mind for you, actually – here.” He handed me a wad of sheet music: “You’re the Top,” by Cole Porter – a classic! “Oh, thank you so much!” I sputtered.
“It’s another duet,” he said.
And waddled back over to the chosen ones.
So I had two duets. I didn’t feel like I could complain again. I received the message loud and clear: You’re just not good enough. And even though the guest choreographer who worked on the showcase pulled me aside later to tell me, “You will get work in this business,” and my acting teacher told me at graduation, “Kid, you’ve got it,” I didn’t really hear them. I just heard the Toad.
Ironically, right now, a duet sounds pretty great.