Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Ten

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).



Evelyn and Judy’s drive to the city is uneventful. The traffic is relatively light, as is the conversation…

“So, I understand Zoe lost another tooth?”

“Oh, God, that girl looks like a losing prize fighter these days.”

“The six-year-old smile,” Evelyn says, herself smiling. “So proud and also so vacant. Hmm… So, what does the tooth fairy pay these days? A dollar?”

“A dollar?” Judy laughs, remembering her own twenty-five cent reward for lost teeth. “Oh my God, the tooth fairy would be run out of town if he or she did not leave at least a five.”

“Interesting,” comments Evelyn, playfully. “So there’s a lot of money to be made in lost teeth. Maybe I should pass that info along to Marilyn.”

Evelyn is baiting Judy, and she knows it’s wrong. She should not involve her daughter-in-law in her daughter’s alleged dilemma. But, she’s been thinking since the conversation yesterday… Maybe Marilyn could get into real estate. Maybe Judy could help make that happen.

Judy doesn’t bite, not even with the obvious Is Marilyn looking for work? Judy’s too smart for that. She simply provides an echo. “You’d better believe it—there’s a lot of money to be made in lost teeth.”


After the concert—a celebration of Baroque music that both Evelyn and Judy find tranquilizing—the pair go to a nearby cafĂ© for dessert and coffee, Evelyn’s treat. They sit in the outdoor terrace area and enjoy the breeze of pedestrians hurriedly passing by.

Judy smiles and throws back her head with pleasure. “God, I love being in the city! It’s so alive.” She then looks directly at her mother-in-law. “Thanks for inviting me, Evelyn.”

“Oh, Judy,” Evelyn feels energized by Judy’s enthusiasm. “Thank you for coming. I really appreciate your filling in on such late notice!”

The waitress places their lattes on the table, and both women acknowledge her. As Judy then reaches for a packet of Splenda, she asks, “So what’s happened with Angie? Isn’t this a standing date you two have?”

“I thought it was. But, I don’t know. She seems to be ‘going through’ something right now.”

“That’s too bad,” is all that Judy can say.

Judy’s lack of a poker face resonates with Evelyn. Evelyn knows that Judy is paying attention. Evelyn knows that Judy has observed reactions—to Davy, to the situation in the Bennett household, maybe even to Evelyn’s own plight.

Judy has observed. But Judy—being an in-law—has not spoken up.

When the tiramisu is delivered (they each had ordered one), it gives Evelyn a chance to change the subject. “Tiramisu! Joy’s favorite!”

“How is Joy?” Judy asks. “God, I haven’t seen her in ages!”

“Ah, well,” Evelyn says, exhaling thoughtfully while scooping up a forkful of the delicious concoction before her. “Joy is Joy. Always into something new.”

“Is she still living in Brooklyn?”

“Yes. She’s still in that apartment in Fort Greene."

“Do she and Adam get together much?”

“You’d think they would. I mean, it’s not like they don’t get along. But…” Evelyn continues, her voice assuming the lilt that comes when one is reiterating rationale from another party, “Brooklyn and Washington Heights are pretty far apart. Adam is actually closer to us!”

“Has she been up to visit you and Davy?”

“Not recently. She doesn’t get to Westchester much.”

Evelyn begins to play with the tiramisu pieces on her plate, moving them about as if they might prefer one side of the plate over another. “But it’s interesting. Of all the kids, she seems most interested in Davy’s condition.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, she calls me with leads on groups that might help. Of course, they’re all—I don’t know—kind of new age, I guess. Or, she’ll read an article and call me with names and phone numbers. You know—groups, doctors, healers.” Evelyn looks up from her latte and states what she sincerely believes. “She really is trying to be helpful.”

“But she hasn’t visited.”

“No. She’s busy. Really busy, I suppose. I don’t know— she has something called poetry jams. She goes to workshops and something called drum circles. I don’t know. A full life, I guess.”

Evelyn looks at what’s left of her tiramisu and wonders if it could possibly still be Joy’s favorite… Where are the whole grains? The electrolytes?

“I don’t even try anymore to keep track of her activities,” Evelyn tells Judy, “but it is nice when she calls. It is nice that she’s thinking about Davy.”

* * *

to be continued on September 4th.

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Help Not Wanted: Comment Editor

Several months ago, I was having lunch with a gaggle of gals. The conversation turned to a magazine interview that had recently got some attention. A popular musician had made some comments about himself and others, and many of those comments were either prurient, potentially offensive, or both. I won’t mention the musician now because it’s old news and it’s not important to this essay. What I will mention, however, is one of my friends’ statements. Referring to the musician, she said, “He just doesn’t have an editing mechanism when he speaks.”

I did not contribute to the dialogue, but I listened intently. I also felt self-conscious. Why? Because I don’t have that mechanism either.

And you know what? Thank God I don’t! If I had that editor, I would not be able to write fictional dialogue. It would not flow from me. I’d undoubtedly stifle it.

Now, I’ll admit that this deficiency comes at a price. Sometimes, I say things that are utterly inappropriate. I could give you several examples, but I’d rather not embarrass myself. And trust me, the examples I’m thinking of are embarrassing. I recall them with a certain amount of shame. I should, though, also share that – in my adulthood, at least – I don’t think I’ve ever hurt anyone with my off-the-cuff remarks. A desire to hurt people is simply not part of my make-up, so if anything “bad” comes from my lack of editing, it’s generally just bad for me.

But despite those moments when I’m not altogether pleased by hearing what I’ve said at the same time that you hear it, there also have been numerous instances when my spontaneous, unedited remarks result in a hearty laugh. So, in my opinion, it’s a pretty cool deficiency to possess.

Admittedly, a hearty laugh is not always elicited without the participation of a foil. I am therefore grateful that I grew up with a few folks who enjoy this type of humor. There was an occasion when one of them (oh, what the hell, let’s call a Dad a Dad) seemed to not mind his foil status at all. Here’s the story:

I was in my mid-twenties, and I had traveled from Manhattan to Cape Mey, New Jersey, where my parents were gathering with a close circle of friends for their traditional Fourth of July weekend of bridge, tennis, partying, and fireworks. It was good to join the group, as these couples (nine, in all, I think) had been in my life since I was a kid. At one time, the original Bridge Group (a number divisible by four) all lived in the same small community in Virginia. And although their proximity to one another began to change in the late 60’s, when families moved by choice or due to the husband’s employment, the group remained close. (They are to this day.) The Fourth of July weekend was therefore always filled with love and laughter.

The particular weekend I am recalling, I enjoyed hanging with the group as a “fellow adult.” I felt comfortable and relaxed, knowing I’d grown out of that phase of my life when I was destined for the Kiddie Table. Sure, I wasn’t really their peer (let’s face it, they had been driving for probably 20 years when I was walkng to school as a first-grader), but with the collective easy-going attitude that always permeated this group, it was easy to sit back and join the circle.

And we were, in fact, in a circle when the moment occurred. It was a circle of chairs. In the backyard of one of the rental houses. It was the before-dinner hour(s), and everyone had their beverage of choice. To my right and left were many of the wives. I don’t recall where most of the husbands were, but I do know where my father was. Standing. In the middle of the circle. Holding court, as he loved to do. His audience, primarily female.

At one point, he reached for a handful of peanuts from a bowl on one of the small tables. In doing so, he bent his lower torso to such a degree that the inseam of his shorts split from bow to stern. He acknowledged the incident with a grin and a subtle shrug, proceeded to stand tall, and then he casually scarfed down his handful of peanuts.

Which is when one of the wives said, “Oh, Robbins, you show great aplomb.”

Which is when I blurted out, “That’s not a plum!”

Immediately, several women who had known me since I was “yea-high” doubled over laughing.

And Dad – his true reaction hidden behind those WWII Ray Bans – just smiled and kept eating peanuts…

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Nine

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).


Evelyn is cleaning up the spoils of thirty-something bagel consumption when the phone rings. She hopes it is Judy, saying she’ll be available for the concert the next day. She takes that hope with her to the telephone, and when she hears the disappointment in her own voice, she regrets having entertained any expectation.

“Oh, hi,” she says to Marilyn. “What’s up?”

“Barry and I just had the hugest fight. I’m really pissed off.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I mean, don’t you think it is just so fucking ironic? He’s an architect, and he can’t afford a house! How much bullshit is that?”


“I mean, Jesus, I know he’s helping to pay for his mom’s expenses, but couldn’t his sisters chip in a bit more? And do they have to have her living at the fucking Betty Ford equivalent of a retirement community?”

Evelyn pours herself another cup of coffee and scans the spice rack for arsenic. A part of her wants to hang up on her daughter.

“I’m just so pissed off,” Marilyn continues. “God knows I do my share—raising the kids, keeping the house. And, hell, if it weren’t for me, we’d have no social life whatsoever. Barry’s so damned glued to his drafting table.”

Evelyn looks at the photograph on the kitchen wall. Their family, twenty-five years ago. Marilyn in the middle, desperately engaging the camera’s lens. Typical.


Pause. Oops! Evelyn realizes she is supposed to say something supportive. She thinks for a second.

“Well, honey, um—the kids are certainly old enough that they don’t need full-time mothering. Maybe you could get some form of income. Something to help raise money to buy a house.”

“Oh, right!” Marilyn snorts, dismissively, “I bet there’s just tons of work for an English lit major with no experience!”

“You don’t have no experience—”

“Hello? Hello? Hello?”

It is Davy. He has picked up the extension upstairs.

“Is that Dad?” asks Marilyn.

“Davy: I am on the telephone,” Evelyn says firmly. “Talking to Marilyn.”

“Who’s Marilyn?”

“Oh, wonderful!” says Marilyn, with bitter sarcasm. “That’s just what my ego needs right now.”

“Davy,” Evelyn pleads, “please hang up the phone.”

Evelyn then hears the authoritarian voice of Mrs. Krosky in the background.

Then, her authoritarian voice in the foreground. “I am so sorry, Mrs. Bennett.”


“Marilyn,” Evelyn injects, her exhaustion difficult to squelch, “I am sorry. I am sorry you are going through a difficult time.”

“Well,” Marilyn responds, not in touch with her own particular exhaustion, but feeling something she doesn’t like, “I suppose it’ll pass. I mean, Barry’s not a bad guy.”

“No. He isn’t.”

“I should probably hang up and figure out what to do about tonight. Maybe if I made him a nice dinner, we could get back to some sort of sweetness.”

“I think if you have that option, you should go for it.”

“Maybe so. Thanks, Mom. Uh, have a good weekend.”

“I’ll do my best. You, too.”




Evelyn has learned to sleep when she can, and when she takes a nap that Saturday afternoon, on the lounge chair in the family room adjoining the kitchen, she is not expecting to sleep for three hours. But, she does. And, when she wakes up, Mrs. Krosky is busily preparing dinner in the kitchen. And Davy is sitting at the center island, still enthralled with a particular article in the current New Yorker.

“Mrs. Krosky! That smells wonderful! What are you preparing?” Evelyn asks, still feeling a little dreamy from her respite.

“Beef. Dumplings. Beans. Good protein.”

“Sounds great,” Evelyn says, thinking to herself that she’s had far too much beef lately.

“Will you be eating with your husband?”

Why, for the witty repartee? Evelyn wants to ask. But instead, she just says, “I don’t know.”

Before she goes upstairs to take a shower, Evelyn stops by the study to check the answering machine. One message.

Careful not to repeat the experience of yesterday, she gingerly hits the New button.

“Hi Evelyn. It’s Judy. Checked with the family, and they’ve given me a one-day pass. So, I will indeed join you for the concert, and I’ll be more than happy to drive. We’re crazed tonight, so just call me in the morning with the ETD, and we’ll have a nice afternoon. Look forward to seeing you! Have a great night!”

“Saturday,” says the nasal-voiced man. “Four-forty-seven p.m.”

A great night, Evelyn thinks. I wonder what that would be like.

* * *

to be continued on August 28th .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quit Your Honking!

Having lived – and therefore driven – in Los Angeles for 20 years, I’ve developed some serious ‘tude behind the wheel.

I know that friends who have ridden with me will question that statement, and I don’t blame them. Fact of the matter is, when I have a passenger, I drive much more cautiously (and therefore rarely reveal my ‘tude.) …I don’t know, maybe it’s some kind of hang-up. Something to do with feeling responsibility for another life. (I guess I’m quirky that way.)

BUT: most of the driving I do, I do alone, and so most of the time, I am as willing as the next reasonable person to take a few highly calculated risks.

However, when the driver behind me suggests, through the honking of a horn, that I take a risk I am not willing to take, I am tempted to throw it all into park and pull out a picnic lunch.

Seriously. Do NOT tell me I should make the left now.

Just. Don’t.

I witnessed someone dealing with this type of dilemma last week – as I was driving on Hollywood Boulevard, heading west. I had just approached the LaBrea intersection, which comprises at least two times as many lanes as exist on most interstates in our country’s heartland. I was first at the red light, middle lane, when I saw what was happening to the poor soul in the left-turn lane of LaBrea’s northbound traffic. The car behind him had honked intrusively, telling the driver at the front of the pack that he should go now. And so, while the driver at the front responded to that honk by moving forward by about six feet, he clearly concluded – after making that honk-inspired move – that, in fact, it wasn’t safe to proceed at that moment.

And so he became stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock was the aggressive driver behind him who kept honking. The hard place was the east- and west-bound traffic that had now been given the literal green light to move along.

As I made my way across LaBrea (part of the privileged green-lit traffic), I really felt for the guy who had allowed the driver behind him to push him into traffic. And with that aggression at his rear, he had no options for backing up. He just had to remain there – stuck out and at risk of being hit – until the lights changed once again. I detested the guy behind him who so resented being second in line for a left turn. A part of me wanted to stop my car in the middle of the intersection, get out of it, and scold that honking bully! (But that’s a whole other risk, and I’m not stupid.)

I’m also not saying that car horns are without merit. In fact, just two or so years into my L.A. experience, when I was driving a pre-owned Civic, I became quite alarmed when I realized my horn wasn’t working. As a co-worker (who had grown up out here) agreed, “That’s a safety hazard!”

Damn right it is. The horn is an essential tool. There have been dozens of times when I have used it to alert someone to my presence and so to avoid the meeting of metal. It’s my way of telling someone who is being inattentive that this lane is already taken.

In fact, I think that’s the best way to describe the use of a car horn: to alert the inattentive. And sure, I’ve also been on the receiving end of that alert. I actually appreciate it when the car behind me taps quickly to let me know that the light has changed. In the event that I didn’t notice, that alert is helpful.

But: when the car behind me uses its horn to inspire a risk-taking move? Nothing is more likely to make me take my sweet, sweet time…

Hmm… as long as I’m talking about driving, I might as well use this post to share something I do that I consider the best way to secure one’s safety on the freeway (or whatever highly traveled roads are in your neck of the woods). I don’t remember anymore if this is something I came up with or if it is a lesson I learned from someone else. Regardless, it works like a charm, and it works like this:

If you are in heavy traffic and you see that, ahead of you, the traffic is slowing considerably, turn on your hazard lights. The car behind you will immediately begin to slow down. This tip also is great if someone is riding your ass. There is nothing like the blink-blink-blink of the hazard lights to turn that ass-rider’s aggression into “ooh, don’t wanna be near this problem!”

I’m telling you, in these 20 years of driving in L.A., I’ve figured some things out. And one of them is this: power steering isn’t something that comes with your car; it’s what you bring to the road.

Just be sure the power you are looking for comes from a desire for safety, ‘cause if you’re seeking something else – say, a compensation for bedroom failings or a desire to chew out your boss – well then, I got three words for you: QUIT YOUR HONKING!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Eight

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon where you can purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there.)


“Thank you so much, Ms. Bennett!”

“Phoebe, please! Call me Evelyn!”

“Thank you, Evelyn.”

“You are most welcome. More coffee? Guys?”

“We should probably be going soon,” Adam says, rather anxiously. “The demonstration starts in two hours.”

A part of Evelyn wants to confront Adam’s unwillingness to talk to his father, but she knows she can’t do so in front of his friends. If only she could come up with just the right words—

“HELLOOOO!? Anybody home?”

“Is that Angie?” Adam asks his mom.

“Sounds like it is.” Evelyn looks into her coffee mug, as if the swirls might have some sort of message. Then she calls out, “In here, Angie!”

“My God!” Angie exclaims, entering the room in a fit of her own energy. “You’ve got the troops here! Adam! Good to see you!”

“Good to see you, too!” Adam responds, returning Angie’s hug and kiss. “And I wish we could hang. But we’re on our way to Albany.”

Brian, Aaron, and Phoebe take this as a sign to stand up.

“What? You all runnin’ for something?”

“We’re protesting, and we’re going to be late if we don’t leave now. Mom? Good to see you!”

“You don’t want to say hi to your dad?”

“We really have to go.”

“Okay… Well.”

Evelyn smiles tightly as she walks Adam and his friends to the front door. “You staying in Albany tonight?” she asks.

“Probably not,” Adam responds. “Depends on who we meet, I guess.”

“Well, be safe,” she says, giving him a hug and then kissing his forehead.

Evelyn stands at the front door and watches the activist contingent take off in the small, beat-up car that must belong to one of them. She regrets that she never has time alone with her son. She feels she doesn’t know him.

She is about to return to the kitchen when a hand touches her shoulder. It startles her.

“Hey, hon,” says Angie, “I see Davy is getting a workout out back.”

“Yes,” Evelyn replies, still looking at the street. “Mrs. Krosky. Quite the task-master!”

Evelyn shakes her head, conjures a smile, and looks at her friend. “Coffee?”

“Oh, Ev, I can’t,” Angie protests, as if having coffee with Evelyn would otherwise be her first choice. “I’m so sorry, it’s just that I’ve got a load of things to do—” After punctuating her excuse with a roll of her eyes, Angie looks directly at Evelyn.

But Evelyn does not appreciate the eye contact. There’s something there that she’d rather not see. Is it pity? Disappointment?

Evelyn doesn’t let Angie’s look have the upper hand. Rather, she responds directly to the messages she played the night before. “I’m sorry things are so hectic for you right now, Angie. You know, if you ever need to talk—”

“Oh, Lord, listen to you!” Angie interrupts. “As if my problems mattered!”

Angie squeezes Evelyn’s wrist in an effort to slow her own pace. “Anyway, I put my concert ticket on the counter. I really hope you have a great time tomorrow. Were you able to find someone to go with you?”

“Mm, well, Judy is supposed to get back to me today. So—”

“I’m so sorry, Ev,” Angie offers, with the sincerity that is available to her.

“I am, too.”


Evelyn does not bother to return the overzealous wave that Angie delivers from her car. But seeing it—really looking at it—makes her feel tired.

“Are you going out?”

It is Davy, having been dismissed, apparently, from his fitness training. Evelyn turns to respond to him.

“No,” she says. “No. I’m just… standing here.”

“And I’m standing here!” he exclaims, with absurd enthusiasm.

“Yes, Davy. That’s exactly right.” She cocks her head and smiles because she loves him still. “You are standing there.”

(And behind you, she wants to add, is your Drill Sergeant!)

Still smiling and with practiced warmth, Evelyn says, “Good morning, Mrs. Krosky.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Bennett. I’ll just take him up now and see that he bathes himself.”

“Good idea. Thank you.”

Evelyn watches Davy obey his caregiver, and she wonders if there is some beefy, bone-shaped biscuit waiting for him when he comes out of the shower.

Evelyn tries not to follow the weekend routines too closely. And she has long since given up on asking that Mrs. Krosky call her “Evelyn.” She had suggested, during The Krosk’s first weekend there, that they establish a first-name basis relationship. But Mrs. Krosky would not even go there. Evelyn has since concluded that Mrs. Krosky has no first name.

* * *

to be continued on August 21st .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Perfectionist Dentist from Hell

I know a lot of people have dentist horror stories, and I also believe– from listening to those stories – that the horror stems not from what actually happened at the dentist’s office, but rather from what the individual’s own fear brought to the procedures. Some people simply can’t descend into that slick, contoured chair without conjuring up images from Marathon Man.

I never had those fears.

At least, not until I was in my early 30’s.

As a child, I’d had what were probably standard experiences for anyone born in the late 50’s. My earliest visits to the dentist – and specifically, those appointments that called for having a cavity filled – included no pain-numbing injections. My dentist – an old-fashioned gent who stood while he drilled and who played the sax in a combo band when he wasn’t wearing his white coat – simply took the process slowly. He pulled back when it was clear that the nerve was alarmed. After a moment, he would proceed. Sure, it hurt. But only in spurts. And only a little.

By my teen years, our family had switched to another dentist. This man, who was younger than the first, recommended the use of Novocain, and since I wasn’t afraid of an injection (I mean, you don’t have to look at the needle), I said, “Bring it on.”

After all those years of feeling the process of having a cavity filled, the numbing afforded by Novocain was an absolute treat. Beyond that, this younger dentist did what dentists have done from that point forward: he sat on a stool and put the patient in full recline mode.

For me, the opportunity to lie down in the middle of the day was a gift. The fact that I didn’t feel a thing made that gift an invitation to nap. I’m not saying I ever fell asleep in my dentist’s chair, but I was always phenomenally relaxed.

I will confess one exception to that statement, and my dentist got a kick out of it. My appointment, you see, was about a day ahead of one of my prep school finals, and I needed to study. So… I brought my notes with me, and as my dentist worked in my mouth, I held the notes above me in the air, and I read them.

He drilled.

I memorized.

The numbing in my mouth was completely gone a full 24 hours before I aced the exam.

Fast forward to my adulthood.

More dentists, here and there.

In New York, never a problem.

In Los Angeles, somehow trickier.

And as I was looking for one near my then-apartment in what is called “Beverly Hills adjacent,” a co-worker recommended her dentist.

We’ll call him Dr. Blatt.

During my premiere visit with Dr. Blatt, I was struck by the seeming passion he brought to his work. He appeared to be remarkably interested in every tooth in my mouth, and as he conveyed his observations to his assistant (and she took notes), his statements straddled a fence between dental speak and English. I got the impression that he was a bit anal.

As I walked home from the appointment (yes, I walked home – in L.A. – that’s how convenient this dentist was!), I thought, Hey, a perfectionist working on my teeth? I could do worse!

A week or so later, I went in for the first of several follow-up appointments. On this particular morning, Dr. Blatt would be working on the upper left quadrant. Apparently, there was a cavity up there, and it needed to be filled.

Until the day of this appointment, I had never experienced a “dental dam,” and for those who don’t know what I’m referring to, I’ll try to paint the picture as quickly as possible. A dental dam is a very thin, round rubber thing that the dentist places in your mouth. In the middle of it, there is a hole that is flush with your throat and allows you to breathe. The remaining rubber is there to prevent uninteresting parts of your mouth from getting in the way of the procedure at hand.

As for the procedure at hand, that is accomplished by forcing the designated work area through the dental dam. I.e., if the dentist is working on a molar near the back of your upper left quadrant, s/he pushes the dam until that tooth – and, I’m guessing, a few neighboring teeth – make their appearance on the working side of the rubber barrier.

So, class, are you with me?

It was new to me, too, but it all went fine. I was reclined, I was relaxed, and since Dr. Blatt was speaking only dental speak with his assistant, I had nothing to listen to but the sound of my body not having to be at work.

I was so relaxed, in fact, that at one point, Dr. Blatt returned to using English words with which I was familiar: “Katie?” he said, soothingly, “ Are you still alive? Because if you’re dead, there’s really no reason to continue.”

Maybe that’s dental humor. Anyway, it didn’t offend me. (I took it as a compliment, actually.) I’m sure I smiled with my eyes.

A week or two later, I was back for more. Another quadrant to be dealt with. This time, it was the lower left.

I was relaxed, numbed and ready to go when Dr. Blatt pushed the dam over the designated work area. And that’s when my jaw moved a bit.

(You see, I have kind of a popping jaw. Not a big issue. Not one for which I have ever sought counseling, but, yes, it pops.)

Dr. Blatt began with his procedure, speaking dental speak to his assistant, and for the first 45 minutes or so, I was okay. There was no pain in the area that they were working on, but slowly… slowly… the jolt to my jaw was starting to mess with my sense of alright. I was beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable. I was beginning to feel downright nauseous.

I should mention now that one of the little quirks of Dr. Blatt is that, before any procedure, he provides his patient with a little hand mirror in case you want to watch his work!

(In retrospect, I could slap myself for not seeing the red flag in that! I mean, who the hell wants to watch that shit going on? Are you kidding?)

Anyway, I’m lying there, not nearly as relaxed as I had been during the prior appointment. The pain from the jaw pop is starting to get to me in a big way. And, I’ve got this damn dam in my mouth. I’m prone. This is so not a good time to be sick.

I’m seriously concerned, and the gravity of that feeling compels me to communicate as best I can.

I begin to make moaning sounds.

Dr. Blatt responds to those sounds by switching from dental speak to regular English. In a register louder than mine, he begins to tell his assistant about the luncheon he attended the previous week.

I’m lying there in pre-vomit pain and the bastard is ignoring me!

I tap my fingernails on the “patient mirror” that I’ve been holding in my hand. Those taps provide a percussive accompaniment to my continued moans.

Dr. Blatt speaks even more loudly about the luncheon.

I begin to kick my feet up and down, still moaning, still tapping the mirror.

FINALLY, Dr. Blatt acknowledges me, and in a tone that is belittling, he says, “I think Katie wants to tell us something!”

I sit up, and with all the Marcel Marceau in my soul, I mime, “Get this fucking goddamn dam out of my goddamn fucking mouth!” (Pardon my French, Marcel.)

Dr. Blatt removes the dam.

I take a deep breath, and I tell him, “I’m sorry, I feel like I’m going to be sick.”

He turns his head dramatically.

“And now I feel sick,” he says, “because now I am going to have to finish the procedure without the dam.”

Poor Dr. Blatt.

Poor inhumane, sociopathic, perfectionist, let-him-be-road-kill Dr. Blatt.

A week or so later, I was due to go back to him, and I guess I hadn’t fully processed the trauma he caused me because my intention was to keep the appointment. But, when I woke up on the morning when I was due in his office at 9:00, the first thing I did was cry.

I cancelled, needless to say, and I never saw that bastard again.

I’ve had the same dentist now for more than 12 years. He’s wonderful, as is his staff.

I’ve regained my ability to enjoy the opportunity that a dental appointment provides.


…During the day.

The work at hand? …Somebody else’s problem.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Seven

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here.

If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon where you can purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).



It’s ten past ten when Evelyn enters the kitchen the next morning, and she isn’t surprised to see that the counters are sparkling clean. Such is the rigid routine of Mrs. Krosky.

Mrs. Krosky is one of the reasons that Evelyn really doesn’t like weekends. Mrs. Krosky is the woman who plays the Claudia role on Saturdays and Sundays. And while Evelyn is grateful for the generous benefits that come with Davy’s long-term care insurance, she wishes she had someone more like Claudia on the weekends. She wishes Mrs. Krosky were a little more gentle. She wishes Mrs. Krosky did not appear to have retired from the military. She wishes she didn’t feel so intimidated by Mrs. Krosky’s airs of judgment and finality.

Crossing to the coffeemaker near the bay window, Evelyn knows that she will see more of Mrs. Krosky’s routine. She will see The Krosk (as she silently calls her) and Davy, doing calisthenics in the backyard.

Does she really have to wear that damn whistle? Evelyn muses, as she pours coffee into her favorite mug and watches The Krosk persuade Davy to touch his toes for the umpteenth time.

Evelyn grimaces as she observes the routine. The Davy she married, the Davy she fell in love with, would never have let a rigid woman with ex-army airs tell him to touch his toes!

Evelyn’s observations of the calisthenics session manage to put her in some sort of trance, and so she doesn’t hear the front door opening. In fact, Adam’s voice makes her jump.

“Anybody home? Ma? Dad?”

Evelyn quickly returns to the moment and listens to the sound that always seems to accompany Adam: other thirtysomethings.

“In the kitchen, Sweetie!” Evelyn calls, as she follows a maternal instinct to open the refrigerator door and survey what she might offer the hungry masses.

Adam saunters into the kitchen with his flank of fellow activists—two guys and a gal. “Ma! How ya doin’?” he asks, as he hugs her.

Evelyn, lingering in his hug, knows not to answer that question honestly. For that matter, she doesn’t even attempt to answer it dishonestly. She just asks, “You folks hungry?”

Adam and his cohorts exchange shrugs and grins that indicate they won’t reject any food that is offered, so Evelyn returns to her fridge perusal while Adam makes introductions.

Brian. Aaron. Phoebe.

“Where’s Dad?” Adam asks then.

“He’s exercising in the backyard,” Evelyn replies, retrieving from the fridge a bag of bagels and a brick of cream cheese. “With Mrs. Krosky.”

Mrs. Krosky? That sounds intense.”

Brian, Aaron, and Phoebe snicker a bit, and Evelyn wonders if they’ve been smoking pot.

“You should go back and say hi,” Evelyn tells her son.

“Well, he’ll be in soon, right?”

Evelyn tilts her head and shrugs her shoulders as she places bagels on the broiler tray. It strikes her as odd that Adam does not even go to the window to look out. It strikes her that Adam is, in some way, scared of Davy.

“So what’s the, uh, demonstration about?” Evelyn asks, knowing that a change of subject will make the room more comfortable for everyone else that is in it.

“State legislation,” replies Brian, with an orator’s tone. “Gay marriages.”

“Oh,” she comments, closing the oven door. “Are you for or against?”

“Mom!” Adam attempts a sarcastic admonition, and Evelyn senses that he is embarrassed.

“Sweetie, it’s just that it’s a loaded topic. There’s marriage. And… there’s being gay. Some people are opposed to one or the other. Some people are opposed to neither. Some people are opposed to both. Are any of you married?”

“That’s not the point!” Brian jumps in. “The government should not be in the business of defining relationships and deciding whether they are legitimate! The Conservative Right is pulling God and the Bible into the argument, and God and the Bible have nothing to do with it! It’s about the separation of church and state!”

Evelyn admires the fire behind Brian’s words. And though she wonders where the talking points end and he begins, she admires his confidence in making a statement that has been made for the past several decades. It’s good, she thinks, that there are still Brians and Adams and Aarons and Phoebes to fight the fight.

But what she really wants to know is this: Is Brian Adam’s lover? Or is Aaron Adam’s lover? And where does Phoebe fit in? Does Adam even know he’s gay?

She’ll have to ask later. The bagels are ready.

* * *

to be continued on August 14th .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This is Going to Sound Weird, but...

Last week, one of my favorite clients sent me an email. She let me know that they’d soon be “adding a sub-domain to their splash page,” and so… she might need my help with some language. Before ending her missive, she commented on the jargon she was using, and I could sense that her eyes were rolling with irony and amusement as she typed.

I appreciated what drove her comment about the jargon. The fact of the matter is, she and I have laughed – for a few years now – over our common (and often reluctant) emergence from the luddite trenches. Both of us baby boomers, we are doing our best to keep up with the times.

That same day last week, I sent an email to another client. This particular email was sent to assuage my client’s concerns. I wanted to ensure her that I had not missed a prospective grantmaker’s automatic reply to our online Stage One application. In fact, I had retrieved that reply from my “Suspect Mail” just an hour before my client sent her relatively alarmed message.

“Don’t worry,” I shared, typing quickly before hitting SEND, “I check my spam at least four times a day.”

And that’s when it hit me.

Imagine, for a minute…

Imagine if, 15 years ago, someone had said to you, “I check my spam at least four times a day.”

How many red flags?

Okay, the first and most obvious one is the OCD flag. And, mind you, I’m not belittling that issue; I’ve got some of my own OCD manifestations. I’m big on expiration dates, for example. (Don’t get me started.) And, the checking thing? There’s a pre-departure routine that revolves around my kitchen; I always do it at least three times.

So, okay, that’s one way the statement might have seemed alarming 15 years ago. The “checking” … The “four times a day”…

But what about the reference to spam?

And what's in those cans, anyway? Does that weird meat concept even exist anymore?

(Pardon me while I do a Google search...)

I’m back, folks, and guess what. Spam does exist anymore. Not only that, it was the first hit!

Forward-thinkers, those meat canners. How smart they were to grab the domain of “” and make it their own before the cyber-geeks had a chance to take it and run with it. Damn. Good for Spam. But still, I’m not quite sure what it is… And, that site of theirs (however primary on the search results page) isn’t helping.

(Pardon me while I go to Wikipedia…)

Okay, I can’t possibly paraphrase (nor do I want to, really), so I’ll just share here what we might as well call the Wiki Executive Summary of Spam. (And if this whets your appetite, I strongly suggest a nutrition counselor.)

Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite to help keep its color. Spam’s gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock. The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.

Pop culture and folklore, huh?

It’s kinda nice to know those concepts have a shelf life in our fast-paced cyberworld.

… I’ve never eaten Spam, and I don’t think I ever will (despite its undoubtedly seductive gelatinous glaze). And so I am especially glad that there aren’t seven or eight cans of it confronting me when I peer into the kitchen cupboard. If there were, I’d have to throw those cans in the trash. I’d have to make room for the seven or eight more that are likely to appear out of nowhere in the next several hours.


A Post Script to my Post: It's still Wednesday (barely, here on the West Coast), and what I've come to share has nothing to do with spam. Just want to alert you to my being a featured guest blogger on Eliza's Silver & Grace website, which is dedicated to "guiding graceful women into beautiful aging." Eliza has deemed me "spunky," which is not -- to my knowledge -- a synonym for "grace." Regardless, she is kindly featuring my little rant on menopause, which I originally posted here, some months ago. Go there, enjoy, and check out her site!