Kindly file this under “Do Not Let This Happen to You.” It all might have started when I decided to move, or even when I was conceived. I do not know. I noticed it when I walked past a mirror outside a store and noticed that my lips were moving and it looked like I was talking to myself.
Or when I invited my sister over for dinner and forgot to show up because I decided to go shopping. I tried making amends by springing for some Chinese take out that I brought to her apartment. But any any make up mirth did not last long after I accidentally spilled some wine on her new couch. Several years prior, I coaxed her out of the house during a rainstorm, even though she had a cold, with the promise that I would buy her the raincoat she wanted for her birthday. Shortly after she found the item, I asked her to stand in line so I could go to the fitting room and try on a blouse I liked. When I came out, she had already gone through the line and paid for her own gift.
As I drove back home, she cried, “It’s not that you are bad. It’s just that you are Spaaaacey!!”
I was glad that she at least understood. The problem is that I never mean any of it even when it backfires on me.
It popped up again, during the time of the move when I will make the trek across the country past the snow-capped mountains and across the fruited plains to my hometown of Chicago.
But having things on the moving van requires some organization and preparation. So somewhere between one box and another, I packed away some of my shampoos and conditioners and packed them into the trunk of my car. All that was left in the hair care grooming department were my dogs’ conditioner and a people shampoo we both use because the vet said we could.
But after shampooing my own hair, I realized that my conditioner was in the trunk of my car and that my dogs’ salon formulated one was the only one that was left.
I then recalled a math theorem and reasoned that if A equals B, then B must equal A, then I should be able to use my dogs’ conditioner on my head. So I poured it on and awaited the results. It was not the best idea because while my mane was soft and fluffy, it looked like I stuck my finger into an electric socket. And as a caveat for anyone in the same position, it does not come out so easily. So, if you ever come across animal grooming products remember that they may not be formulated for human consumption. That, and try and rememebr dinner dates and your obligations to others amd when moving, always remember to pack the grooming products last.
I’ve been planning this move for twenty years, which may rate on the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s longest move. The earliest stages started almost the day I moved from my beloved Chicago to sunny and smoggy Los Angeles. I talked about moving back so much that I sometimes felt like the Kunta Kinte on “Roots.” Unfortunately, Kunta Kinte died before he got back home, and there were times I was afraid I would suffer the same gate.
I was between jobs anyway, and my parents thought it would be a step up because I wanted to be a screenwriter at the time and because screenwriting does not exactly happen in Chicago like it does out here. To some sunbirds, Los Angeles with its year-round sunshine is a Mecca, but those of us with Midwestern souls never quite get that or many of the nuances out here. We like our sunshine, but we also like our rain, hail, sleet and snow, too, and we get plenty of that out there.
And the culture doesn’t register with many of us. There were times I thought that if English wasn’t the official language, I would have thought I was in a foreign country. Like the times people in supermarkets waited for me to move rather than using their words and saying “excuse me,” or the times people looked through me like I was invisible. This is Los Angles, so maybe it is part of their cool mystique.
Besides, I missed the way the grass rustles in the Chicago breeze at springtime, the first snowfall and the gleaming glass buildings on Michigan Avenue. Any Chicagoan knows what I am talking about.
Chicagoans have a sense of pride and ownership in the city that comes from being born and raised in a place and from having grandparents and aunts and uncles who live there and from going to school there. If ever there were a place where the six degrees of separation ring true, And Chicagoans are polite on the whole. Even busted ex-Governor, Rod Blagojevich, never lost his temper or his cool after getting busted. That is Chicago.
Besides, it is different being in a place you know is right for you or have to flee for political reasons. I know an Afghani man, a lawyer in his country, who came to this country because the Taliban jailed him for telling women they had rights.
I’ve thought of my city almost every day for the twenty plus years, and I visited as often as I could, sometimes in the dead of winter to see if I could tolerate it. One November when my father was ill, I went back to see him, and I looked out the window at night and noticed the bare branches of the trees blowing in the wind as the clouds raced by and thought that the place has passion and that this is where I need to be.
Maybe that’s why we produced some of the best and most notorious politicians in the world from the late Mayor Richard J. Daley to Rod Blagojevich to Barack Obama. It’s because no one is neutral on anything, ever. Everyone has an agenda and an opinion. On one visit, I saw a guy trimming his fingernails on the el train, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he wasn’t in his bathroom as his nail trimmings flew all over the train. It was a real gaffe, but then it was all so earthy and and all Chicago. On another visit, I was standing at a stoplight downtown and saw a cabbie running the yellow light to avoid getting ticketed by the policewoman who was walking alongside the cab. Through the closed windows of his cab, she threatened to “ticket his ass” while he slowly drove through the intersection and off. This is all so Chicago, too.
Dan Castellaneta, who plays Homer Simpson on the “Simpsons,” is from Chicago. In the mid-80’s, we worked together on a kid’s show called the “Magic Door.” I always knew he’d hit it big even when playing the bumbling and confused Detective Farblunget, (lost and confused in Yiddish) or writing scripts for the show. John Malkovich is from there, too, and it is the home of the famed Second City theatre company where many of these people are discovered by Los Angeles talent scouts sitting in the audience. Maybe it’s our passion they pickup on; maybe it’s our Midwestern work ethic. I don’t know, but they pick up on something.
So now that I am able to and have breath in my body, it is time to go home. I have been patient, and I waited long enough. I will miss certain things about LA but my heart and soul are in the land of the amiable yet crooked politicians and the tree branches swaying against the sky in winter and hanging on for dear, sweet life.
The idea took form after watching Disc Two of the adaptation of the late English writer’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” starring Colin Firth beautifully cast as Mr. Darcy.
Disc One was missing from my borrowed set from the library, but I was able to piece the plot together after reading the book during a recent literary kick. (By the by, I’m going to report the absent disc to the librarians. Hopefully, they won’t blame me because last week, I upheld my civic responsibilities by replacing a book after my dog chewed the cover, so I believe they now trust me. They’ll probably sigh their tired librarians’ sigh, stick a post it note on the cover and drop it into a bin.)
The novel, set in 19th Century England during a time when women wore bonnets and dresses with silk sashes, is about the five Bennett sisters, and the marriages of the three of them. But it wasn’t all smooth riding because, let’s face it, without conflict, there isn’t no story and without no story, there is also no publisher or sales. In this one, the main heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, thinks that Mr. Wickham is grand but that Mr. Darcy is spot on arrogant and conceited. But it turns out that still waters run deep and that the opposite is true. In the end, the youngest Bennett sister, the air-headed Lidia, marries the irresponsible Wickham, Elizabeth marries Darcy and her younger sister, Jane, marries his best friend, Mr. Bingley.
There was not one bedroom scene, one button a’flying or anyone shacking up after knowing each other for only a day. And everyone maintained their boundaries and wound up happy. That is Austen’s formula and maybe a good formula for a happy life. Show some modesty and some respect and restraint. And I don’t care how un-liberated it sounds, but the man should actively pursue a woman and not the other way around, and people should get to know each other first before they even hold hands or smooch. It helps lower the divorce rate and the occurrence of half-siblings with different baby daddies. And it would put the divorce courts on hiatus and send “Jerry Springer” to the bin.
While patronizing a Subway sandwich shop the other day, my sandwich reverie was interrupted by a grating voice at the counter.
“Give me jalapenos,” said a woman who acted as if her sandwich was going to be nominated for the Nobel Prize for sandwiches, “and tomatoes and cilantro. I don’t want that tomato slice, but that one. Give me peppers and plenty of olives, too. And pour plenty of dressing on it.”
Elizabeth Barrett never would have behaved like that even in the confines of her own home. She would have been more quiet and subdued or at least bestowed some please and thank yous upon the beleaguered sandwich maker.
In the end, Elizabeth got what she wanted, and probably what we all want. She got someone who loved and respected her, who accepted her on her own terms and who was willing to wait for her. And it doesn’t get much better than that.
What this world needs is not love, sweet love, but a meteor with a GPS system programmed for certain people and neighborhoods. If that can’t be arranged, then we need to bring back the idea of consequences. (Con’se’quences, n. to put the kibosh on those who have been nasty, rude, unseemly or utterly obnoxious, pg. 65 in the “Saunders’ Dictionary of Favorite Rants.”
But since most consequences have been lifted from state government from sea to shining sea, here are some for the more unsavory crimes.
1. Littering: The severity of the punishment will depend of the severity of the refuse. Kleenex and gum wrappers… lose a fingernail, even an acrylic one. Fast food wrappers… the nail and a finger or two. Beer bottles, broken or otherwise… several fingers and an eye, for having bad beer breath, a beer belly and for putting humans and animals in danger with the broken glass. Used condoms… (Don’t even get me started) the dangly bit, for being rude and unsanitary.
2. Stealing: Removal of the offending appendage. For regular bank robbers, cut off a hand or one of the feet they used to get there. The same for grand theft auto. For bank robbers with masks, glue the mask to their faces with airplane glue as well. (The exception being a mother stealing food to feed her children, though this doesn’t apply to those who just don’t feel like paying for it.)
3. Housing Fraud: Refusing to pay rent or mortgage but having money for trips, cruises, Disneyworld and parties. Make them live in a cardboard box along the freeway or put them on latrine duty at a football game.
4. Sexual assault: Lop off the offending appendage. No questions asked and no pain killers or anything nice.
5. Murder: Do onto them as they did onto others, the exception being self-defense when approached by a barbarian. It may not be nice, but we are not talking about nice. We are talking about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That don’t mean that the whole world will be blind and toothless, for heaven’s sake. That is a line from a movie, not a practice for from real life.
6. Drugs that cause people to do these things: Give them enough of the stuff to knock them out, permanent like.
7. Illegal Immigration: Have them crawl back to where they came from, and for heaven’s sake, don’t let them take part in medical care, and government sponsored programs like a free education. And don’t do what Governor Brown did by allowing kids of illegal aliens to get free student loans for college, mama mia and carumba!
8. Driving without a license: Impound the car then sell it at an auction while the ne’er-do-well watches.
9. Filching Money from a Charity: Make them live in the conditions of people they are supposed to be helping.
10. Animal and Child Abuse: All of the above.
11. Cell phone Abuse: The culprits should lose the phone down their throats as I don’t want to hear about your search for the perfect garage door opener or screenplay when I have problems of my own.
Once when I was in my modeling phase, I was in the office of a photographer with a bad roving eye. When he asked me to go topless, a picture of my father with a grimace on his face crossed my eyes, so I declined and left. A more scrupulous photographer I met during my short-lived acting phase said he imagined his father chasing him around the room when he was about to veer too far off course. But now we need these remedies for parents who think that their children can do no wrong even after having a rap sheet that is longer than the Nile, for heaven’s sake.
I know all about expressions like “Man proposes and G-d disposes” “Roll with the punches,” “Go with the flow” and others that are supposed to be uplifting. But that doesn’t mean that I have to buy into them when another curve ball comes knocking down the alley.
The latest one came when I tried to get an appointment with my massage therapist, Max, which I am sire isn’t his given name, as there few Chinese men named Max. On the year-end list of popular boys’ names in China, I doubt that “Max” never cracked the top eleven even once. Bar none, is the best massage therapist I have ever visited and about the only man to put me asleep, aside from boring professors, coworkers and the like.
He comes out looking like a college student with straight dark hair a clean-shaven face in jeans and a cotton tee with a logo from the Gap or another store. And I don’t know what it is about his technique, but after he covers me with the yellow blanket with the teddy bears on it, I drift off. “Did I fall asleep?” I ask him. He laughs and says yes.
Around the holidays as I was leaving, he handed me a Buddha necklace and said that it was for the customers. I thought the owner had ordered them and that all the massage therapists were giving them as gifts. Thinking it was only costume jewelry, I wore it and asked if I could have another one the next time I went back to the store, but Max said that he bought them for his customers hadn’t brought any more but that he would bring me a pale orange one the next time.
A few weeks later, a stranger at a grocery store complimented me on the necklace, and I told her it was plastic before singing Max’s praises and giving her the store’s number along with directions in how to get there, but the pale green necklace, cool to the touch, got me to thinking. After coming home, I asked a neighbor from India who said it wasn’t plastic but jade.
I wanted to see him a few more times and a day before moving back to my hometown of Chicago, which was something I’d planned on doing almost as soon as I got off the plane in Chicago. Los Angeles is okay, but it is not Chicago, and I never got the sight of the first snowfall or the sound of lightning and thunder or the way the trees change in autumn out of my system. I’d been planning on leaving for years and only could afford to after retiring, and I’d planned my final visit with Max where I’d explain that I was moving back home, thank him and give him a big tip. But it didn’t work out that way.
Last week, I called for an appointment, but they said that he was on vacation and would be back in a few days. I called again and again and finally learned that he’d gone back to China because it was a place he couldn’t get his homeland out of his system. I planned on saying goodbye to him but he said goodbye to me first.
In a previous installment, I bemoaned the fact that my wireless Internet connection went down. (Maybe I shouldn’t go for the public confessional here, but whoever I was piggybacking on somehow disappeared and went AWOL) so here I am back to a dial-up connection, and let me say that it has been one long foray into Internet hell. If I am not waiting for something to connect, I am worried about getting another $200.00 bill from my last venture into dial up.
Tiring of the whole short-lived episode, this prompted me to seek comfort in coffee shops, the auto mechanic’s, and other places where I can connect to another poor soul’s wireless connection. The problem with going out is that you not only get exposed to other people’s errant two-year-olds and germs like when they sneeze and fail to cover their mouth but to a lot of errant weirdoes that make waiting for a dial up connection look like Nirvana.
One particular person, who I will call Exhibit A, was eating a bag of chips and bobbing his head to (what I imagined) was wearing earphones and bobbing his head to what I assumed was music when he saw me cleaning my keyboard with an eyebrow brush.
“That’s a good idea,” he said to me removing his headphones.
“Yes,” I said, “It comes in handy for hard to remove grease, lint and grime.”
“I’ll have to try it,” he said.
“I use a Mac cosmetic brush from Nordstrom’s,” I said, “but I’m sure you can find a cheaper one for removing lint at an art supply store like Michael’s.”
The first time I ran into him in that godforsaken coffeehouse, I found out some basic facts about Exhibit A, which only shows that we all aspire to our own version of “normal” regardless of how left of center it is. He loves music, he thinks I am strange for not wanting to listen to it 24/7, he likes to live cheaply, and for some strange reason, he thought I needed a yoga and meditation and bad, too.
During our second happenstance meeting, which was a one-way ticket to coffeehouse hell, he told me that he never got to know his parents and finds me judgmental, which brings me to my second point about judging people. Anyone who tells you you’re judgmental is judgmental himself, and anyone who has not somehow settled his relationship with his parents is not exactly going to be the Ward Cleaver of the dating world.
When I told him I thought he was being judgmental, he got up and left apparently without even forgiving me or wishing me a namaste or any of those other yoga-like things.
Which brings me to my next point about people who think that yoga and meditation are the answer to all of life’s woes. You could drop an anvil on their feet and they would smile and forgive and say it’s all good without even yelling or swearing or anything. It’s all a front. It is not all good and sometimes you have to grow a spleen and get mad. I thought about what my life would be like if I didn’t get incensed about something at least once every five minutes. I would probably spend my afternoons playing bridge or making potholders at a country club and develop ulcers and wind up in intensive care. I would also have nothing to say or write about and no one to irritate or annoy. Life would be one dull, endless round of Wonder Bread, instant oatmeal and decaf coffee, though it may help cure my newfound nervous twitch.
Thank you, amen and over and out.
All living creatures are born with certain traits and strengths. This is why
plants grow and bees buzz. Those are their strengths. They are configured that way and there’s little anyone can do about it.
My dogs also have strengths, and I am certain that one of them is a genius computer programmer wrapped in a mongrel body. I first learned this one day last summer when I was on the computer and he did the two-step on my keyboard and somehow rotated the screen. Although I tried imitating Mookie Moo’s the steps, I couldn’t not only because I am computer impaired but because he rotated the screen sideways and it was hard typing like that. The only way I could type was if I held it like a book while hitting the keys sideways. It got old quickly, so I called Dell computers where someone in the Philippines answered. The technician couldn’t figure it out, either, so he had to take remote control of the computer. Forty-five minutes later, the screen was back to normal while the dog, utterly not sorry, was either sleeping or licking his paws by then. I don’t remember which, but all I could do was tell him I wish he wouldn’t do things like that, over and over and over like a mantra.
That’s what I said when he wolfed down a canister of raisins and I had to rush him to the after hours emergency vet, because let’s face it, if a dog is going to scarf down raisins, which I know can kill them in large quantities, he is going to do it during emergency hours when the regular vet is closed. Sometimes I think that they can tell time, too. After that, they never forgot us because on subsequent tripe, they always bring it up.
Now I know to keep raisins and other food locked away, but the other day, he reconfigured my computer again. It happened when I was typing with one hand while holding a sandwich in the other. In the middle of an important keystroke, he positioned himself on the keyboard and the Internet went down. I tried recapturing his footwork but to no avail, so I had to call for help while calmly repeating, “I wish you wouldn’t do that” over and over and over again like a crazed woman’s mantra. The message machine at AOL said that there may be a button on the outside of my computer to turn it back on, but there weren’t any buttons anywhere, so after a failed attempt with the AOL technician anyway, it was back to Dell. However, during my attempts to be neat and organized for an upcoming move, I packed the computer’s express service code away and told the technician it had a bunch of X’s and C’s in it followed by some numbers and asked him to look it up. It was nothing doing on that end, and he had me reboot the computer while hitting some keys that displayed the express service code. After a few minutes, it was up and running again.
But one thing is certain: That dog knows more than I give him credit for.