Thursday, March 27, 2008

J'accuse

I wrote to my friend Diana, a breast cancer survivor, about how great she looks, at least from behind, because she is always way ahead of me at bootcamp, but I wonder how this will be received. I have mixed reactions to being complimented about my appearance. I gobble it up but with a tinge of consciousness about how shallow this is. What’s weirder though is that in a way, compliments make me angry because there is an intimation that just because I look better than I used to, all of my suffering is over. People like it very much when they can perceive you as not suffering because it gets them off the hook.


The fifteen year old and I continue to cause each other to suffer. He delivers his indictment and tells me I should be the grown up, the adult one and practically orders me to make it stop. I don’t know how. Last night he raged at me. It began, perhaps, as a legitimate expression of pain but soon degenerated into a flagrant attempt to manipulate himself out of a consequence. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before and there was absolutely nothing I could think of to say, so I picked up a book.


A dullness and fearfulness has hovered with me for a few days. I want to engage the fifteen year old but everything comes out wrong. Business changes and grows challenging in a sucko economy and as technology seems to redefine the universe every second. It demands my wile and creativity to diversify but I distrust the accuracy of my inner compass. Often I feel beaten and discouraged and tired of having to get it up again and again, and suffer the weight of payroll. This began on the 26th and since I began to write here I have seen Leslie and had a chill dinner with my family. I talked with Leslie about how mediocre I was feeling. Desiccated. But I noted that in forcing myself to write for this blog yesterday and coming far short of a finished piece, I was at least able to give voice to what seems to be sapping me creatively and emotionally. I worry that I am a shitty mom and also that the way I am earning a living is not the way I should be earning a living.


I described how I struggle sometimes to come up with a few skeletal lines of prose, dicking back and forth to Chowhound and e-mail and nabbing rice cakes smeared with hummus, frustrated that the words won’t flow and always fearing they never will again. I close the little file and save it by date in the blog file. Some of these scant paragraphs are never revisited but often after a day of stomping around and just being me, I return to these fragmentary emissions and find it suddenly easy to flush fears out into more fully formed thoughts and ideas and lift myself out of the morass and closer to a state of self confidence and hope.


The fifteen year old drives me out of my mind and it is ok (says Leslie) to protect myself. I see too though that I sometimes overact and unfairly lay unwarranted weight on the fifteen year old (and also on Himself too apparently, as he hurt my feelings but accurately confronted me with my frequent dramatic desperation) because I remember being fifteen and remember the friggin’ torturous pain of the age and also, what, at age fifteen, I was capable of. The depth of the pain and fear and frustration of being me at fifteen is fucking terrifying and my own fifteen year old is slapping me back there again and again. But it is 2008 and not 1972.


I feel like an asshole holding myself superior to my dead father and my faded far from me mother. Perhaps it is only the dumb luck of circumstance but my fifteen year old lives in a home where he doesn’t have to be afraid of being slapped around. He lives in a house filled with music and with a mom and dad who sleep there under the same roof with him every night and who love each other and love him and tell him so. I never had more than a glimmer of understanding of my parents’ pain but I can look at both of them and list with specific detail how their pain caused me pain. It is revealing to meet the parents of someone you are close to. Those close to me who were also intimate with my parents have a more refined understanding of what makes me the way I am. I never really knew my grandparents and I suspect that a connection with them would have been a Rosetta Stone towards filling out the picture of what made my parents who they were and perhaps this would have led me to live with them and/or remember them with greater compassion. My parents are far away now and I do not know how much, if any, insight they ever had into their own suffering. I think it is safe to say that neither of them really had any but the most superficial insight into mine.



When we see people suffer we feel guilty and uncomfortable. My parents saw a fat daughter for many years and I think they assumed that when I was fat I was unhappy and that this was the source of all of the unhappiness in my world. My folks felt my fatness was an indictment of them as parents and because of the harshness of their responses to it, I came myself to perceive my fatness not only as an indictment of them as parents and was also conditioned to hold the very core of my self suspect. I am just a bit overweight now and my body is probably in the best condition of my life. My parents would look at me now and assume I am happy. Perhaps this is why it is double edged to be told I look good. From my parent’s point of view, thinness was the key to the kingdom and it makes me sad that they understood so very little about who I truly am and that they will never beg me to forgive them for not making the effort to see me more clearly. The fifteen year old’s indictments of me have some validity but he cannot accuse me of not trying to see and feel who he really is. After I am gone he may resent my failing him in ways I never apologized for, but I hope that he never has to demand my contrition for lacking compassion.


There are things that frustrate and frighten me but the truth is, keeping my body thinner and stronger is part of my repertoire for remaining an essentially happy and optimistic person. I am actually one of the happiest people I know and I guess it’s ok to be told I look nice, even if it does let my parents off the hook.


I am letting myself off the hook a bit now too. Writing these words here convinces me that I while there will be small failures and missteps, I am not destined to fail as a mother. Professional challenges and my enormous, literally and figuratively, payroll still dogs me and I admit my sleep has been broken often by the cold sweat of financial worries. However, just like I rely on Leslie’s professionalism to keep me on course emotionally, my brutish Welsh trainer to whip my body into shape and our sweet smiling Yogi to help me integrate the two, I am also surrendering myself to professional business consultants and taking on what I refer to as a financial therapist.


Plus, I spill it all out here, challenging myself to stay clean and honest. I am surrounded by friends and I have smart children who make me laugh. I wake each morning beside a man I’ve been in love with for nearly twenty years but with whom the definition of being love lifts further beyond the realm of mere words with every breath. There are those who I love and have loved who will treat and have treated me unfairly and failed to see what is beautiful in me. And, inevitably my selfishness and imprecision will cause me to treat the ones I hold the dearest unfairly and make them feel diminished. I strive to feel forgiveness and to feel forgiven and while it’s like Atlas holding up the fucking world, I know that as I get closer and closer to this light, I’ll need less to be told that I am beautiful, but when and if I am, I will hear it more gracefully. And fragments of fear will spin out into pages of prose.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Greetings from Sami's Desert Ranch House



Today is Holy Thursday or to those of the Protestant persuasion, Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, "that you may love one another as I have loved you." It is also erev the full moon of Purim, a Jewish holiday celebrating not only bloody revenge but also honoring a Jewish woman of pluck and wit, and a sexy one at that. We are headed off to the desert me and mine and my mission is clear. The fifteen year and I ebb and flow and his indolence during the week of vacation ( in all fairness, most of his friends are not on break) has gotten on my nerves and we have had our share of brittle moments. He is suspicious of being confined with us in a rural environment for more than 72 hours and I myself have trepidations. I so long for both of us to put down our guards and maybe it’s hard to impossible at fifteen, I do want him to have a moment when he consciously feels loved by me.


It is six months now since my father died and his office is still untouched. He took movies and slides and photographs throughout his life. When I was fat, it was difficult to be photographed and my father’s constant presence with his camera caused embarrassment not only in the moment but also weeks and now years, down the pike. My dad’s imperative to photograph seemed very much in defense of the quality of his life and person. He worked painstakingly on large albums and it is thanks to him that I have documentation of my wedding and my growing children.


I have carried a camera with me for the last several years. I take a lot of pictures of the kids and other weird stuff because digital is so easy, particularly easy to erase, but I don’t do a large amount of photo sharing. Sometimes I want to take a picture but don’t because it seems that it will intrude on an experience but conversely, there are sweet seconds I remember fleetingly in my mind’s eye that I regret not having preserved more permanently. I write these words here a couple of times a week, much in the same spirit my father would pour over his albums with visitors, trying to assure myself and others of the quality of my life and the person I strive to become. I realize that since my father’s death I have assumed the solo role of family photographer and that there are very few pictures of me with my children. As they grow more independent it seems more incumbent to record their faces is the same frame as mine even at the cost of interrupting a moment.
***

I write now on Good Friday/Purim from Sami’s desert ranch on the outside of Twentynine Palms. I found Sami’s ranch on a search for vacation rentals and chose it mainly for its remarkably low price and last minute availability this holiday weekend. Sami is of Middle Eastern descent. He owns an ironworks business in North Hollywood and offers another vacation rental in addition to this desert one in Branson, Missouri. The decor is an amalgam of Middle Eastern, American rustic, a few pieces of pure kitsch and lots and lots of iron. Objects that one could never dream being fabricated in iron, certainly can be. My kids filched a Cup ‘O Noodles from the pantry which also holds an industrial size container of cumin and some vessels I recognize as being used in the preparation of Middle Eastern cuisine. The house and kitchen have womanly touches. The book and video collection is far from extensive but is respectable. I wonder about Sami and Mrs. Sami and how they came to an ironworks just blocks from where I grew up. Tonight I will bake a Challah here and make Shabbat. I wonder what Sami and Mrs. Sami believe and how they worship and if the prayers that have been prayed here at Sami’s desert ranch are the same as the ones I pray.


After a snit about Elliot Spitzer I got myself into a bit of a froth when I was (respectfully and affectionately) compared to Carrie Fisher and I chewed on the stereotype of scrappy, wise cracking Jewish broads for a bit. I do think a lot of Jewish women have cultivated our wit and intelligence to compensate for the diaspora culture that renders us outside the norms for sexiness. At this season it is natural to think of clever Esther, the paragon of smart and sexy Jewish women. But, this brought me full circle to Elliot Spitzer’s big dick. Purim is a really fun holiday but an accurately translated megillah is a veritable bloodbath, a Tarentinoesque extravaganza, in the biggest of big dick kinds of ways. Smoot. Smote. Smite. A lot of Jewish stories, as they were most likely written down by men, revel in military superiority and the murder of foes with a bit of friendly rape on the side.


The humility of foot washing is one of the most vivid Christian images to me. When himself boarded the Maundy Thursday morning express, a man screamed, "You think you can take the motherfucking train but you’re still going to burn in hell." An evangelist who sounded like Cheech Marin, scolded on the radio as we made our way to Sami’s desert rancho that if we didn’t believe in Christ we were doomed to fiery hell. Can you imagine how this would have pissed Jesus off? But, he would have forgiven.


We told the boys last night, under the almost full moon, about how we met nearly twenty years ago, brought together by our love of words and of music and how lonely we both were before we found comfort in each other. The fifteen year old said it sounded like a John Cusack movie and I was touched that at least he could approach the history that resulted in his birth on some emotional level.


I was sure Himself wasn’t listening to me as I babbled on in the bed about the violence and hubris of the Bible and I suggested that perhaps the only true way for me to reject the big dickness and violence irrefutably ingrained in western religion was Buddhism but that I knew very little about it. Alternatively, a colleague made a movie recently about a group of women in San Diego who worship female bloodcycles. I have yet to see the film and remain completely open, but I doubt you’ll find me chanting on the beach in a red cape.


This morning I sat in a Jacuzzi, works in iron and desert horizon as far as they eye could see. I made Himself take a picture of me and Spuds, which not only intruded on the moment but has been erased due to what appeared on one of the subjects as a turkey neck in the INCREDIBLY HARSH DESERT LIGHT. There is one less photo to document the quality of my life and the person I have become. The fifteen year old sleeps still after having found a channel that seems to have Family Guy on 24 hours a day. Spuds rose at the crack of dawn to complete his usual rigorous calisthenic routine but even my little republican has succumbed to the spirit of vacation and he dozes on the sofa.


Himself sits on the porch. He is reading a book about Buddhism. He took time out of a hectic day yesterday to get it from the library and he is reading it so that he can tell me about it. This says more to me than any interrupted moment or vainly deleted photo about the quality of my life. I didn’t even think he was listening. It is very quiet here. My heart is full.
Shabbat Shalom. Gut Yom Tov. Good good Friday. Happy Easter and love from Sami’s Desert Ranch House.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spell Check Objects When I Don't Capitalize dick


I don’t know that much about Elliot Spitzer. He is putting poor Hilary in a bad situation because she can’t really denounce him without denouncing you know who. People often fuck people to whom they are not married. If every person who ever fucked someone to whom he or she was not married was prohibited from holding a position of responsibility there would be very few persons in positions of responsibility. There is a big stink because Spitzer spent the night with a hooker. Hookers hook due to market demand. Judah made a big stink when sister Dinah was treated like a prostitute but later succumbed to his own dick and patronized a whore himself. Perhaps it makes us feel like better citizens when we condemn Spitzer’s behavior but I bet there is an awful lot of hypocrisy that is part and parcel to this condemnation.

Because he is extremely thrifty, I presume that my husband has not patronized prostitutes, although I do allow him ample free time. But, men do these things. They just do. I was once stuck for (what seemed) a very long time in traffic with my recently widowed uber-Catholic father-in-law who had been attending grief counseling with Sister Mildred. She encouraged him, for the first time in his life, to get in touch with his feelings and it seemed like he was making up for more than eighty long years during this foray through downtown at rush hour. The old man mused that some men sin by committing murder and that others sinned with women. He concluded that if he were to commit a sin himself he would prefer that it be with women.


Elliot Spitzer sought sexual gratification and it cost him his career. While he won’t be sentenced to prison like a murderer, it seems awfully harsh that he will have to walk away from the position he fought long and hard for and I doubt that poking his dick in what I imagine he now considers the wrong place, makes him any less competent to serve. Nor am I saying he ever was competent to serve, but NY voters seemed to feel he was.

I am not a man and do not have a dick and not being driven by a dick perhaps I am not truly qualified to weigh in on whether indulging in non-monogamous dick inspired activities, even ones that are (stupidly, if you ask me) illegal, automatically renders a man unfit for public service. There are lots of smart guys (and gals) who engage in sex outside of marriage. It is sad and wrong and also very American in the worst sense of the word, to judge and censure and brand flesh and blood human beings worthless. These attitudes do nothing to foster a climate of sexual honesty or encourage loving sex. The American way it seems just sows more repression and inevitably we will sacrifice more Elliot Spitzers. Our Puritan throwback uptightness that makes us blush at frank discussion about sex not only creates dick martyrs but stimulates business for ladies of the night and increases the spread of sexual diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Most people are driven by sex but I talk about the dick a lot because men seem to get in trouble way more frequently than women do. I’ve heard about gigolos and saw that stoopid movie with Richard Gere. Although Heidi Fleiss is starting a stud farm to serve ladies somewhere in Nevada, it says something to me about the dick and what’s attached to it, that the preponderance of clientele for the international sex industry is male.

I don’t know why our culture has such an investment in keeping sex dirty. Honesty about sex and our two fragile hearts is what makes me feel truly blessed to be a partner in my marriage and this is far more important to me than where my husband’s dick has been.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Work. Eat. Talk.

I visited the home of Julia’s parents in Sherman Oaks (nee Van Nuys), a few blocks from where I grew up, for a gathering following the death of Julia’s dad, Bernie. I hadn’t been to the Wayne house for many decades and was surprised at how easily I navigated the small residential valley streets to the low slung cul de sac home. The d├ęcor was the same as I remembered it, except for the addition of many portraits of grandchildren and a certificate that Bernie won for hitting a hole-in-one at the local course. I saw how painstakingly well maintained the house was.


That morning, I’d had a big tizzy fit about the condition of the fifteen year old’s clothes closet. I weirdly remembered the price of every wadded up shirt therein and felt that this carelessness was an offense to all of the hours Himself and I toil towards housing and feeding and clothing our progeny. I felt my work was not being valued and because I equate my work with showing love it was like the purest, finest part of me was being shat upon. The Waynes were hard working people. Daughter Julia is one of the hardest working people I know. Their house is one that people worked hard to build and furnish and maintain.



There were no speeches, only many tables laden with food but in many ways, it was the quintessential Jewish event. We talked and we ate. And then we ate some more. We eat when we are sad and empty and with every death we learn of, we ourselves come closer to the time when we too will eat no more.



I went from a Jewish affair to a distinctly non-Jewish affair, a birthday party on a part of the Bette Davis estate in the old equestrian section of Glendale. This was to commemorate an old friend and business associate of my dad’s and mostly in attendance were film collectors, a few old enough to remember my father. The bar was of much greater interest than the skimpy food. My dad, like Bernie Wayne, worked hard and taught me to appreciate hard work and inspired me to work hard myself. I feel disloyal for typing these words, but it is a matter of public record that in the 1970s, my father was arrested on charges related to film piracy. After many years and enormous legal expense, most the counts were overturned and he was left with a misdemeanor on his record, or maybe, I am hazy, with no record at all. Nevertheless, my father did some illegal and immoral things for money. I’m sure there are many things I don’t know about but there are a number of things I did know about and I registered my disapproval and was bitterly rebuked as a goody two shoes. There were also times when I kept my mouth shut.



I run the business differently than my dad did. I feel guilty often because I don’t work as hard as he did. I guess it is a combination of time and my redefining the business that for the most part separates the company from its scoundrel history. Yesterday, in front of Spuds, a colleague, at the party, mentioned what my dad always referred to as “the bust.” Today, I am here at the business my father started, trying to earn a living and provide more shirts for the fifteen year old to disrespect. I am the daughter of a hardworking scoundrel whose hard work provided me with the accoutrements to acquire the moral and ethical foundation he never had. I was reminded yesterday of my legacy, as my youngest child learned of it anew. A job I had high hopes for, is playing itself out differently than I had hoped and expected. Business is full of disappointments and sometimes I think I am on a hamster wheel, a prisoner of my father’s karma. Sometimes I think I just don’t work hard enough.



I sat in the front room with Julia’s mother Laverne yesterday, a hardworking woman of valor, now a widow. Laverne is suffering from ALS and she is unable to speak. She wrote on a pad to me, “It happened so fast” as she painstakingly tried to nibble tiny bites of food which had been cut up for her and bore no resemblance to the deli platters heaped in the adjacent rooms. She gave up and spit into a little wastebasket. Her grandchildren played on the manicured lawn. No words came to me. I held her hand but was relieved when other guests arrived so I could discreetly return to the array of lox and bagels.


I worry that my inheritance has doomed me to fail. I worry that the person I have made myself into is doomed to fail. I try to work hard and I pout when this isn’t appreciated. It makes me sad that my grief for my lost father is complicated by shame and that now, my boys must suck this up too.


I am ashamed of my tendency towards laziness as I remember my shirtless father erecting a brick fence on Fulton Avenue or lifting eighty pound film cases from high shelves. Sometimes I push myself at bootcamp but sometimes I allow myself to space out and go slack. My friend Diana has been in treatment for breast cancer for over a year and if you read her terrific L.A. novel BUMP you will learn that as a writer she is drawn to the idea of death, and like me, writes a lot to vanquish her own fear. Diana began bootcamp with us on Saturday and she propelled her poor body which has been cut and chemoed and radiated a hundred yards ahead of adipose, lazy me. Afterwards we sat and we ate and we talked and I hope to remember the fullness I felt from this when my doubts and fears render me frail and hollow.


There is death and there are miracles. Early retirement is not in the cards for me and there has never been a time when there wasn’t a big stack of overdue bills on my desk. My children will continue to thrash the meager possessions I am able to provide. But until I am no longer able, I will talk and I will eat.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Overdue Ode to Bootcamp

I was asked recently by a writer, who purports to read this blog, if I were doing any real writing. Therefore, it is particularly gratifying to learn that several of my bootcamp sisters are reading here and discussing this unreal writing. I was asked if there is a way to scan all entries to find writings specific to bootcamp. Yes. Use the search function at the top of the page. But, you won’t find much. Another reader e-mails to admonish my imprecise use of scientific terminology,"fuckedupness" instead of the more correct "fuckedupedness." The same e-mailer reports a decision to terminate psychotherapy which I pray won’t increase expertise in the subject of the correction.


I seldom miss bootcamp even though it means sacrificing dinner with the family two nights a week and getting up at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning. Since bootcamp started in September, I have challenged my body more than I ever have in my life and also discovered a level of human connection that has always been elusive to me. Perhaps I’ve hesitated to write about it because I am embarrassed about how deeply important it is to me. I guess that bootcamp is an anecdote for an ancient loneliness in me, perhaps nurtured by a mother who was always mistrustful of other women and a father who would feed his own ego by inciting women to get all riled up and nasty to each other.



I was taught to regard other women with suspicion. How full it’s made my heart to learn to regard other women with trust and love. I have always had girlfriends, close ones with whom I share intimacies. I have been drawn though to most of the women and men I have bonded with over the years by the commonality of social awkwardness and peripheralness. Being affiliated with a group of women, particularly these fine buggers (as coach Rocky calls us) undoes a lot of that always being on the periphery stuff from elementary school, and junior high, and of course high school and, yeah, college. Not to mention that I am kick ass strong.


I met Kaz for a quick drink at the Whole Foods in Pasadena. The wine bar offered no organic wine which I tolerate better due to the lack of sulfides, by the glass so I stomped off to get a latte. Whole Foods sells alcoholic beverages, foods laden with butter and many of their products do not facilitate staying within the recommended daily range of sodium or fat consumption. But, there is no form of artificial sweetener (not even fuckin’ agave for chrissakes) available to put in a $4.00 cup of coffee thus rendering certain people who like their fuckin’ coffee sweet and are unable to tolerate sugar, shit out of luck if they notice this after they order the coffee and are stuck with it. Whole Foods is jive ass and the Taj Mahal flagship store in Pasadena is particularly puke inducing to me, but I splurged on some lamb chops for the sprats and a piece of sole for Himself and some incense that smelled good for me. It was a night that the kids weren’t scheduled to rehearse and I was looking forward to a quiet family dinner, followed by an hour of yoga.


I arrived home at about 6:15 and we discovered a schedule change and that Leo did indeed have rehearsal and was required to be in Hollywood at 7:00. I managed to get dinner on the table, my family fed and I drove Leo to rehearsal through rush hour, and was only four minutes late. I may not be doing any real writing but I live (usually) with finesse. This exquisite and very grown up sort of efficiency bonds me with the bootcamp girls. I am, at 51 about the median age. We all work full time and have kids and "advanced maternal age" was stamped on most of our obstetric records. We all do the dance with aplomb and dignity and we have fun. Plus lots of the time we are fucking terrified out of our wits. There at Griffith Park, in the dark and cold and damp, being stared down by glowering coyotes, we fight the terror. We traipse through the mud carrying those fucking balls (recently replaced by steel dumbbells) over our heads to help make our bodies strong and stave off as much inevitable decay as we can. I am encouraged to do just one more leg lift. I am encouraged not to let my children make me go insane. I get business advice. I am assured that there are other husbands who are even more high maintenance than mine. (Private note to JLM–don’t be surprised however if you meet one of my bootcamp sisters and she, in solidarity with me, shoves a cell phone up your ass.) I push my body more than I ever have in my life and more than once have surreptitiously wiped away tears. I am making myself strong and I am loved.


Bootcamp, like so many of my sweet blessings, exists because of friendships forged at the Silverlake Jewish Community Center. I have indicated before that the J.C.C,. and what’s from there sprung, has provided the most meaningful spiritual community (and we belong to two synagogues) I have ever been affiliated with. Bootcamp is not a church or a mosque or a shul but agonizingly strengthening my soul’s vessel amid these excellent women who nurture my soul and spirit reminds me not only not to run downwind of Madge, due to her legume heavy diet, but also that God is glorious and palpable and that my life is rich.


Himself becomes impatient about me blathering on about the fineness of my exercise companions. Nevertheless, any one of us could probably beat the shit out of him and we are all fucking beautiful.

To all who read here, real and unreal, I send my love, thanks and prayers.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I Got a Haircut


The jacket being worn by the fifteen year old which looks like something off the remainder rack at Fallas Paredes, was traded to him for a Cassio keyboard which he had retrieved from a dumpster. His fashion and business sense do not come from my side of the family.


Himself is egging the dogs on and they, all three of them, are running up and down the stairs with their unclipped toes and barking with much gusto. This is for his own amusement and apparently will not faze the teenage boys (3? 4?) asleep on the floor of the basement. Himself also writes passages in Irish to keep in practice every week. This, from his blog, is a translation of a translation. I love how aware he is of his limitation in the language and how adroitly he circumvents it:

Say your prayers!

I have been working a lot lately. Therefore, I'm not able to send posts as often to this blog of mine. But, I learned new knowledge, when Niall and I went to the synagogue last Saturday. My son's started preparing for becoming "bar mitzvah" [= "son of the commandment"] when he's thirteen years old. He must be going off to Shabbat in the morning at the 'Knesset Israel' temple. It's near 'the wood of the holly" [= Hollywood] on the east side, near the community of 'The Happy Ones,' or "Los Feliz" in the broken Spanish language!

We went to the service sooner or later! Different people were gathered there. I estimate that half were Latinos and half of European descent. We came in when the Torah was lifted up. The cantor was singing loudest. I don't like singing with a loud voice. I think it's a big noise. It's a giant shriek. It resembles grand opera for me. It seemed that every one else liked it, however.

This section went very slowly. I played a game of skill with myself. I practiced speaking to myself in Irish about that Shabbat service. I could not remember the Irish word for "praying." I remembered the word "prayers," since that's a much easier word!

The rabbi told us about the hand. He taught us about the Jewish meaning of it. The thumb is for questioning. The outer (or starting) finger is for blaming. What about the long (or mare-- another word for it in Irish) finger? The rabbi spoke to us that "the Talmud [this word not to be found in this here dictionary of mine, or "Torah"!] tells us delicately" that "it is the finger of intimacy." The ring finger is for cleanliness. Finally, the little finger points to the Torah.

The rabbi finished giving his sermon to us. We heard about the most beautiful biblical story. I like it a lot. Elijah defeated the army of priests of Baal together at Mount Carmel. Jezebel and Ahab did not catch the prophet. He ran off from there. He went into hiding. He stayed in Horeb. But, God was not in the smoke and thunder. God was beyond. "And after the fire, came a still small voice."(I Kings, 19:12.) We left the temple that day peacefully.


The rabbi omitted that the middle finger is for people who will not turn on their cellphones.



At bootcamp breakfast we remembered a genteel lifestyle that some of us are old enough to have caught the last glimmering fade of. There were memories of formal teas at Wellesley in a living room designed by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek with a full-time fireplace stoker and the gown closets at Scripps.


I was not the only bootcamp broad whose college career was propelled almost solely by the need to get out of the house. I know a number of women whose children approach college graduation and probably look forward to returning to the homestead, even if they are not necessarily welcomed by their parents in return. Likewise, I have held out, as a carrot on a stick, to the fifteen year old a summer of driver’s education and an old Volvo wagon in exchange for decent grades and not driving me crazy and he is indifferent. I was desperate to get my license at 16 and I took the test on the exact day I was of age and then failed it. And then failed it again. And again. My kids have the trust that I, however will drive them where we want them to go and provide them with a happy home. Are we becoming such good parents that it’s going to be impossible to get our kids out of the house?


Both of my kids got their first haircuts at the time warp Guys ‘N Dolls children’s hair salon at what used to be the elegant old Bullock’s in Pasadena (now Macy’s). I took them for a clipping. Just like my husband amuses himself by tapping away in Irish and working the dogs into a frenzy, the fifteen year old has his own odd sensibility, which makes me laugh, but sometimes borders on disturbing, which I guess is the sure sign of sublime comedy. After the boys were shorn and slicked back, we walked through the old department store, one of the last vestiges of blue hair Pasadena, Leo approached shoppers and clerks we passed, made eye contact and spoke earnestly, "I got a haircut." Responses were uniformly polite in that tight assed Pasadena way. It was an amazing thing to witness and something I would never have the courage, as curious as I am about how people react to the unexpected, to pull off myself. The child is obviously exceptional, just not in the euphemistic sense of the word that his Macy’s victims may have assumed.


We are all very special, and we have special needs here at Casamurphy. We do not live graciously and I have no gown cupboard, although my husband did sort the laundry for me to wash, making me feel like a queen. Our dogs and children are untrained. Himself and I are engaged in a big power struggle regarding a cellular phone. But we are blessed that we can disturb each other and that we laugh.