She's a Real Mother

Mutha's got eyes in the back of her head.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Age-Old Debate of Strength vs. Grace

This summer has featured many rounds of a game called, "Battle Tops." My kids, my husband and I regularly crowd around a tiny arena-type playing board and -- employing the high-tech method of "Ready...Set...Go!" -- we each pull our string to send our tops spinning into combat with one another. The rules are simple yet brutal: last top standing, winner takes all.

An interesting piece of flair in this game is that each top has a name printed on it. The choices are pretty butch, including "Hurricane Hank," "Dangerous Dan," and "Cyclone Sam." But there is an exception to this macho vibe.

One top is named "Twirling Tim."

This seems hardly fair. Tim could have been named "Tornado Tim" after all. That would carry on the destructive nature theme that Sam and Hank have already established. "Terrible Tim" would make sense along side "Dangerous Dan." But no, Tim is to assert his ability to twirl.

The result is that Tim is never picked by the males in my family. Not very hard to imagine, I know -- but it pisses me off. So, I have become defiant in that I now call dibs on Tim. He does win...occasionally. But I can't help but feel sorry for the little guy. Is it his fault he is the way he is? Is there any harm in twirling any how?

Grace does have its power, after all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Raising Your Son to Be a Red Sox Fan and Other Forms of Child Abuse

For those of you who don't know or care, the Red Sox are in a skid of epic proportions. As a long-time fan, I know a shrug can go a long way. But my nine-year-old son is growing up in a different era of baseball history. With a Red Sox team poster on his wall that declares they won the World Series just two short years ago he can not understand the generations of Fenway Faithfuls who never lived to see such a thing. In other words, he's taking it pretty hard.

What do you say to a kid that hasn't learned the lessons of Red Sox Nation? Who does not know the ghosts of late season catastrophe? Who looks at me with tears in his eyes and says, "Why do they keep blowing it?"

I tell him the only things I can, the only things that lets me keep being a fan year after year:

It's only a game, kid.


Who is your back-up team for the play-offs?

I like to keep my underdog theme going, so -- Go Tigers!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

I have never tired of hearing the story of how I am related by blood to gypsies.

An interesting wrinkle to the story is that it involves my father's side of the family, but he never told me about it. I only ever heard it from the Outsider, my mother. I remember my father rolling his eyes occasionally when my mother told it, but I never heard him deny it. Here's the story:

When my mother first saw the gypsies it was 1943 -- she was my father's girlfriend and fresh out of high school. Sitting in my father's house in Camden, NJ, she spied a woman who "had long hair, was wearing a big ring with a huge stone, had pierced ears and no shoes on." When asked for further details, my mother concedes that she was "dirty," but in fairness, Camden was dirty and if one chose to walk around barefoot, I'm not sure you could avoid it. My mother mentions that there were others, but this lady was clearly the "leader." My mom is 82 and does not remember the Gypsy's name, but always adds that she was my father's cousin by blood, as opposed to the many cousins who were actually pals and neighbors -- but had, perhaps, been raised in the same household as my dad.

Being related to this mystery woman has always made me feel exotic and unique. There were a heck of a lot of characters in that family, but none carry the weight of the Gypsy. She is linked to my grandmother's constant wish for us to wear shoes always, even around the house ("What are you, running around bare foot? Some gypsy?"). And my mother's response when I pleaded to get my ears pierced ("And look like some gypsy? No!"). Or when I went to college and to my parents' horror, I had my mattress on the floor ("Who raised you?Gypsies?!").

As a kid I imagined her with a crystal ball and a tambourine. As a teenager I imagined sex and opium. But what interests me know is the last bit of the story.

My mother says that she was over my grandmother's one day after she and my dad were married, for a extended family meal. Someone mentioned that the Gypsy had died and my grandmother and her sister asked in unison:
"Who gets the ring?"

I was shocked by that response when I was a kid, as my mother is to this day. But now I find myself with the same unanswered question as my grandma and it is for purely selfish reasons: I wish I had that ring. Not for the potential pay-off of selling it -- it could have been glass for all I know. I want it for all it's gypsy intrigue. It would be my claim to a blood-line not easily traced by my features. It would help me believe in what makes me exotic.

There's also a story about brothers (two more cousins) who robbed a mailcar on a train, got themselves in federal prison and were allowed to attend their mother's funeral, in shackles.

I'll save that one for another time.

Friday, August 11, 2006

This Is a Public Service Announcement

I am off to the ocean! Flip-flops packed, I am ready to go! The one-armed-bandit child is two-armed again and ready to frolic in the waves!
"See" you all in a week!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Thought About Kindness

"Try imagining a place
That is always safe and warm.
Come in, she said, I'll give you
Shelter from the storm."

Bob Dylan
Shelter From the Storm

An important woman in my life passed away yesterday, a grandma by marriage. And since hearing this news, I have found myself thinking about what brings positive definition to a person's presence in your world. This woman welcomed me, treated me like her blood, fed me, and made blankets for each of my babies. How lovely to end a life with so many acts of kindness in your wake.

It gave me a moment of clarity: how would you like to be remembered?

I believe sincerely that every act of kindness or nurturance has a tremendous effect on the world. There is no end to the comfort being that safe and warm place for another can give.

Without a hint of flower-child-flakiness, I say: go out there and care for someone.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My Baby's Got Pie

My husband comes from a long line of really good cooks. No chefs, ya' hear? Cooks. Oklahoma and Arkansas soul food the likes of which my North Easterner's mouth had never tasted before.

Comfort food for him includes black-eyed peas, corn bread, and greens -- don't forget the chow-chow. Many soul food purists would scoff at the fact that my husband fixes these things without meat. One former resident of Charleston South Carolina asked me, "What is the point of greens with no ham hocks?"

(Do you know what ham hocks are? Do you want to know? I don't -- so go google.)

But he sees the point, and so do I. I love his mom's biscuits and no one has ever made okra I could eat except his Grandma. But my belief in this down-home cooking gets no stronger than when it comes to pie. My husband makes excellent pie, God bless him.

Yesterday he asked me, "Should I make a pie?"

You silly boy...there is only one answer to that.

Who had nectarine and cherry pie for dessert tonight?


Whoo-hoo. I married the right man.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tom Snyder: Godfather of Punk

I recently had the chance to watch a DVD that presented a collection of the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, all featuring a punk or New Wave performer.

For those who don't remember the Tomorrow Show, it was on in the 70's and early 80's at midnight. A previously untapped audience to say the least. I believe the show only ran in the tri-state area (NY, CT, NJ) but Tom made a bit of a name for himself through it.

What I remembered about Tom Snyder before watching the DVD was the impression Dan Akroid used to do of him on the original Saturday Night Live. It was a wicked characterture, a little bit like Nixon, but complete with non-stop smoking and the catch-phrase, "Alright! I'll buy that!"

But this glimpse into Snyder's world was a lot more interesting, focusing on a show so edgy that it would book acts like the Stooges, the Plasmatics, and the Jam. It's worth mentioning that these were bands Saturday Night Live did not touch. All except Elvis Costello, who recalls as Snyder interviews him that it was the folks at SNL who forbade him to play the song Radio, his scathing assessment of the state of mediocraty in American airplay. As some may recall, when Costello defiantly went into the song live, NBC pulled the plug (literally, went to black and then commercial).

The performances in this collection are incredible, vibrant, risky, and at some points even cause property damage and physical harm. Wendy O of the Plasmatics flashes white cotton panties barely under her micro mini Catholic schoolgirl skirt and then blows the front off a car that is parked in the studio (did I mention there is a live audience? Some caworing middle age folks caught unaware and other wound up fans of the band?). Iggy Pop of the Stooges bashes himself in the face with his mic during one of his spastic jiggle jumps and is interviewed afterwards with blood on his face.

I love these bands, so seeing them perform with such energy and daring was the treat I'd been hoping for. It's the interviews that are the surprise, because there is much more than I would have guessed to be admired. Snyder has done his homework, but knows how to play off these genuinely bizarre characters. He jokes with an out-of-breath, wired Iggy until Pop starts talking about art history and his study of performance as a Dionysian experience. Snyder shifts gears without missing a beat, taking the conversation into a deeper level to discuss the band's process of putting the act together. John Lydon, formerly of the Sex Pistols, does not perform and barely talks --- but what's more is the answers he does give to Snyder are so clipped, so seethingly angry that it is genuinely unsettling. This is not the clowning associated with the Sex Pistols. It is real rage coming off Lydon. And to Snyder's credit, he gets through the interview somehow, refusing to take the bait of an argument and pushing forward with an ever-changing stream of questions. This is a professional kids, don't try this at home.

But probably the biggest tributes to Snyder come from the performers who are New Yorkers themselves: Pattie Smith and the Ramones. Smith is so nervous to be talking to Snyder that she actually seems to be blushing, repeating several times with a bit of an emotional gush, "I can't believe I'm on the Tomorrow Show!" And the Ramones sit dumbstruck with-- not Tom at all -- but a substitute host: some nondescript woman who looks like a Connecticut housewife. Joey speaks for the band most of the time in his customery drone and when the sub tries to make a joke about his dead-pan demeanor, Joey says, "Well I gotta say, we're really disappointed Tom isn't here." And the band nods solemnly in agreement.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What Rhymes with Mirabelli?

I love baseball, and the player I routinely find the most interesting is the catcher. It is logical therefore that I would be interested in the catcher of my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. But this goes beyond logic -- I have what is called in Boston a "Wicked Crush" on Jason Varitek.

Now this is all fine and good. My husband is all set with my open love for this man (he has such a love for Beyonce). All is well, right? No. Varitek needs knee surgery and may very well be out for the rest of the season.

Would it make sense to just jump my love to the other catcher? The stand-in guy? The knuckle-ball man? Ah well, that would be...Doug Mirabelli.

I must confess, I have real affection for Doug, but it is simply not like my devotion for Tek. My love will simply not jump. So, what to do over the loss of my favorite player?

Red Sox fans are very used to loss -- and as a result, resourceful. I have found what Doug can do for me: I rhyme things with his last name and tie them to him as bio facts.

Do you know what I heard about Mirabelli?
He is smelly.
His favorite food?
Wife's name?
Favorite expression?
"Whoa Nelly!"
Biggest handicap?
A fat belly.

Poor Doug. It may be a long second half.