Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Dear Friends, Followers, and Passers-By:

I had planned to do my usual Wednesday post this week, but Monday's rerun seems an appropriate way to end the year. Besides, I need a break...

I'll return to regular blogging on Monday, January 3rd.

Happy holidays!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Reruns: Grand Central Christmas

(original post-date: December 23, 2009)

My verbal skills include the ability to take an acerbic path. That's not necessarily a gift. It just is. And it is, among other things, potentially misleading. Contradicting that caustic edge is another part of me -- the part that is moved to tears by a profound sense of what I can only describe as universality.

That connection.

That feeling.

That “brotherhood of man” thing.

Although I claim no religious affiliations, Christmas carols have always pushed that special button for me. I don’t care if it’s about some little town named Bethlehem, a drummer boy catching Mary’s eye, or whatever it was that came upon a midnight clear… if you put me in a room where a bunch of people are singing those songs, I guarantee you, I’ll start crying.

(I might even embarrass you.)

Back in my New York years, I worked for a time at the Ford Foundation, and so my commute to and from the office involved walking through Grand Central Station. One December evening, I was in the main concourse area when I heard some familiar songs, and so I was drawn to a circle of people. Among them was a man in his late twenties (I’m guessing), dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. His guitar was strapped on, and his enthusiasm in leading the group of carolers was charmingly genuine. As for the group, it appeared to have a core: young people. Specifically, teens.

I’ll never know the actual story behind the gathering, but I made one up on the spot, and I’m sticking to it. Here’s what I think was happening at Grand Central that evening: teacher man, who had grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, had an altruistic heart (quite different from his peers, who were – at the time – all wearing yellow ties and working on Wall Street). He successfully recruited about a dozen of the ninth graders from his Connecticut classroom, and together, they rode the train into Manhattan earlier that afternoon. Then, just in time for the rush-hour madness, they formed their circle. For anyone who joined the circle, they had prepared – and happily distributed – sheets of lyrics.

They were armed and ready – to promote joy to the world in Grand Central Station.

When I first approached the circle, it was simply out of curiosity. Once I realized I could do some caroling on my way home from work, I was more than happy to join in. I accepted a copy of the stapled collection of lyrics (though I didn’t need them for the most part), and I participated with enthusiasm.

But as we were into the second verse of Angels We Have Heard On High, I realized I had to make an adjustment. I had to hold the stapled lyrics a little higher. I had to hide my face. I was hard-pressed, at that point, to hold back the tears, and while I’m not ashamed to cry at anything, I didn’t want to disturb someone else’s good time…

I should note, though, that part of what compelled that maneuver was the observations I already had made. Before allowing that lyric sheet to hide my emotion, I had looked around. I had taken in the faces and bodies who had joined this circle of impromptu carolers. There were homeless women (at the time, we called them “bag ladies”); there were businessmen and women executives; there were local service workers and tourists just passing through. There was teacher man and his students.

There was, from what I could tell, everyone.

Everyone – singing together in a circle.

Everyone – creating a sound of joy.

The beauty of the noise emanating from Grand Central’s main concourse was so powerful. The familiarity there was so universal.

In that moment, all else seemed secondary or obsolete.

I hid behind the lyric sheet.

I sang and I cried.

And when I’d had my fill, I left the circle and caught the shuttle to Times Square.

From there, I transferred to the Broadway Local and headed home.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Twenty-six

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 the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).


“So, which storage facility are we checking first?” Joy asks her mother, as they climb the stairs to the second floor to make a little headway before dinner.

“The former Marilyn bedroom facility,” Evelyn responds, adapting her daughter’s vernacular. “I already know what’s in Patrick’s old room.

“Oh!” Evelyn then says, excitedly. “That reminds me! Don’t go away!”

Evelyn leaves Joy in the hallway and quickly dashes down to her quilt-project room. A few moments later, she emerges, holding up the navy dress. “Remember this?” she asks her daughter, as she dances the dress up the hall.

“Oh my God! Are you kidding? I was actually thinking about that dress recently. I just saw a similar one in a trendy vintage shop, priced at $120. But, it’s here! It’s still here!”

“It’s still here, and it’s still yours,” Evelyn says proudly, handing the dress to her daughter.

Joy holds the dress up to her body and checks the waistline against her own. “Fuck!” she says, smiling at her mother. “I think it might still fit!”


Evelyn’s and Joy’s first hour in Marilyn’s former bedroom did not result in finding Davy’s architectural drawings. But they worked well together, with a relaxed efficiency, and they were able to organize the various boxes and bins so that their after-dinner scavenger hunt might produce results.

Now, as she works with Claudia in the kitchen, doing final preparations on the evening’s steak and potatoes dinner, Evelyn is looking forward to the night ahead. It will be interesting to go down memory lane with another member of the family.

As she slices cucumbers for the salad, Evelyn looks up and smiles at Davy, who is sitting on his stool at the counter. Although he has an issue of The New Yorker opened in front of him, he does not, at the moment, appear to be “reading.”

“Davy,” Evelyn says to him, her smile almost teasing.

“I don’t anymore,” he replies, firmly shaking his head back and forth and reinforcing that claim with a waving-off hand gesture.

“I know that, sweetheart, but right now I’m talking about something else.”

Claudia, clearing from the counter the salad ingredients that Evelyn already has used, shares a smirk with her employer.

“Davy,” Evelyn says again, “I was thinking today about my friend Angie.”

Davy looks at Evelyn, and because she is smiling, he smiles back.

“I’m thinking, Davy, that Angie once had a crush on you—”

“Once?” he asks.

Claudia, having returned from the fridge to the counter, joins the conversation. “I think more than once.”

Davy nods. “It’s probably right,” he says. “I think very so,” he adds, still nodding.

And Evelyn is happy with the revelation. A fact Claudia had apparently been aware of as well.

The new silence in the kitchen allows them to hear some enthusiastic footsteps—bounding down the stairs and heading in their direction. Joy slows a bit before making her entrance, and when she does, twirling in the navy dress that fits perfectly, Davy is the first to respond.

“Oh now!” he says, stretching his arms out to his sides, his smile as broad as possible, “Oh now!”

“And who is your most beautiful daughter?” Joy asks her father, while looking to her mother for the scolding glance that she knows she’s earned.

“I don’t know,” says Davy. “But, oh! Now!”


“Did your sister’s relationship with your Dad bother you?” Evelyn asks Joy, as they each begin to sift through a box in Marilyn’s former bedroom.

“Oh sure,” Joy responds. “To different degrees at different times. But that’s family, right?”

Joy then extracts a framed photograph, looks at it and smiles. “Check it out,” she says to her mother, passing along a moment in time.

“Yup,” Evelyn says, absorbing the energy in the photo, taking in the desperation with which Marilyn clung to her father as he walked her down the aisle.

“Not like how you remember your dad, huh?” Joy says then.

“Nooo,” Evelyn responds, fighting a twitch of anger that would ruin her evening, “not at all like my experience.”

“That’s good, you know,” Joy suggests, with a peaceful assuredness that brings Evelyn back to the moment.

“What do you mean?”

“A lot of girls marry their dads. Not literally, but, you know, they marry the type. In an effort to get the love that they always missed. You didn’t do that, Mom.

“And—” Joy adds, “I say ‘good for you’.”

* * *

to be continued on January 8th .

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Get Glasses, Alice!"

Back in the ‘80’s, when I lived in New York, there was a television commercial that came on quite frequently. The protagonist – a yuppy’ish, urban woman – kept running into things. And so her friends kept imploring, “Get glasses, Alice!”

Needless to say, the ad was for a glasses-making outfit.

It might have been LensCrafters. In fact, I think it was. (And who knew, by the way, that they’d make such bank – 25 or so years later – when a certain perky pitbull from Alaska took center stage at a certain convention, but… that’s another story.)

Lately, I’ve been remembering the ad. I’ve been hearing someone whisper into my ear: “Get glasses, Alice!”

I am desperately in need of a visit to the eye doctor. (So desperate in fact that my audio-hallucinations allow someone to call me “Alice.”)

But it’s not that I don’t already have glasses…

I have three pairs.

From front to back, they are: the reading and beading glasses, for those activities that take place about 9-12 inches from my eyes; the computer glasses (which I am wearing now) – recommended for a 17-inch or so distance; and the movie and driving glasses, which I’ve lately worn on occasion when watching TV in my living room.

So, yes, I have glasses, but it may be time to make the leap.

I love it that what were once “trifocals” are now called “progressives.” That is, dare I say, progressive.

And while I am also of that ilk (progressive, I mean), I dread the next step.

The last time I was at the eye doctor (which was more than a year ago), I asked if it were time to “go there.”

He didn’t think so. “As long as you go through part of your day without glasses, then it isn’t time.” Because, as he explained, once you wear progressives, you’re committed to wearing glasses. All the time.

So that’s my dilemma. When I’m not reading or beading; when I’m not at the computer; when I’m not driving or watching a movie… I am generally not wearing glasses. And so: I don’t think of myself as a person who wears glasses.

But then… there are times when I look very closely at a shelf in my bathroom.


Maybe I need bathroom glasses, I think.

Or, there are those occasions when I’m meeting with a new client for the first time, and because my purse isn’t all that big, I’ve not brought along the various glasses. The driving pair is in the car, but otherwise, I am free of corrective lenses… I ask my new client for a business card, and she hands it to me. I then look at it, and I hope that those blurry lines I am looking at include an email address and a telephone number.

Of course, if the meeting’s going particularly well (and they usually do), I can just make a joke as I stretch out my arm so as to view the card.

But… even that move is getting dicey. So I wonder… should I shop for a purse large enough to carry all my glasses or should I see if any stores sell arm extenders – in which case, I suppose, I’d still need a larger purse.

I guess the best next step is to schedule an appointment with my eye doctor…

Actually, I’d like to see him again.

We always enjoy talking about current events and so forth.

We respect each other’s views.

Which is to say, we share a vision.

Which is to say… he’s delightfully progressive.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Reruns: The Subtext of Texting

(original post-date: December 16, 2009)

I’ve said I’m not gonna do it, and I really hope I stick with that plan.

Of course, I said I’d never buy a cell phone. I said it for years. Now, I have one. (I still prefer my landline, though. I like the way the phone feels. And I’m not fooled for a second by the concept of “free minutes.” If they were free, I wouldn’t get a $40-plus bill every month, right?)

I also resisted the blogging thing. Yet – here I am, doing what I know I have to do as a writer. …Looking for an audience. …Hoping that some agent will drop by and want to know more.

Texting, though? Not sure I’ll get into that… I like my thumbs too much. After all, isn’t it our thumbs – and what we can do with them – that set us apart and put us further up the evolutionary chain? It worries me that the generations younger than I might work their thumbs so hard that they fall off…

When I was in Virginia recently, I caught the local eleven o’clock news one night. They showed footage of a community parade and a particular school’s banner within that parade. If you close your eyes and imagine that picture, you might envision the scene: Ten students have been selected to represent their school. As a team, they proudly carry the banner, contributing equally to its even, horizontal display – holding it, in unison, somewhere between their chests and their ankles.

Not so in the footage I saw. In the footage I saw, only the kids at either end had hands on the banner. The group in between were all texting. No faces could be seen. Just the tops of heads. Looking down.

As tempted as I am to curse technology, I can’t do that. In many ways, I am extremely grateful for it. As a person who earns money by helping nonprofit organizations find funders, I am so happy to have advanced from the days of large foundation directories. When I think of the hours I used to spend sifting through those tomes – the pages as thin as onion skin, the typeface easily a six-point font... Now, when I need to find a funder’s guidelines, I just go to their website. And when I need to learn about funders I might not otherwise know, I can use software. The Internet is my friend in these moments.

Likewise, as a writer researching agents’ interests, perusing their websites is so much more helpful than reading the profile in a published directory. The websites are current, colorful, and complete. The information is firsthand.

As for querying those agents, I am grateful that I can use email. Back in the old days, I would have sent slews of queries out by “snail mail,” and for each I sent, I would have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope. That’s a lot of paper, a lot of postage, and in the end… a bit of money.

So, yes, technology has its merits. No doubt about it. But… every time some new trend emerges, I ask myself the same question: why can’t we evolve as remarkably as the machines we create?

As I go about my day and see so many people texting, I fear for all the thumbs that might soon fall off. And I wonder: with so many heads cast down… will anybody notice?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Twenty-five

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 the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).



“Good morning, Claudia,” Evelyn says somewhat groggily, as she enters the kitchen at 9:00 on Friday morning.

“Good morning!” Claudia responds, always surprised to see Evelyn at an “early” hour. “You’re up at the crack of dawn! What’s that about?”

“It’s just so nice to have Joy here,” Evelyn explains, walking to the coffeemaker. “I want to spend as much time with her as I can.

“Do you know if she’s up yet?” Evelyn then asks, yawning like a lion on some Discovery Channel special.

“Oh, Evelyn,” Claudia chuckles, “you make me laugh.”

“So glad to provide a service.”

“Joy is already out. She is taking Davy for a walk.”

“Really?” Evelyn asks.

“They left thirty minutes ago.”

“God bless the child,” Evelyn says, shaking her head, as she meanders out of the kitchen.


Evelyn is enjoying her coffee on the front steps when she hears the phone ring. “Claudia!” she calls into the house. “Will you pick that up?”

A few seconds later, Claudia appears at the door. “It’s a woman named Ashley Morgan. Do you want to speak with her?”

“Ashley!” Evelyn says. “Oh, shit!”

“Ashley!” Evelyn repeats, a half minute later, this time into the telephone and without conveying any “oh shit” nuances, “I’m so glad you called.”

“Yes, hello, Mrs. Bennett. I wanted to confirm our appointment for this weekend. Um, should I come up tomorrow or Sunday?”

Having not begun to look for the drawings she’s promised to the auction, Evelyn goes for the option that will buy her more time. “I think Sunday will work best,” she tells Ashley.


“I’d love to help you look for the drawings!” Joy says, pouring herself some coffee after returning with Davy from their walk. “That’s so great that they asked for them, and I’m glad you said yes. Will you go to the event?”

“I think so. Ashley said she would give me two comps.”

“So, I guess you’ll be taking Angie?” Joy asks, refilling her mother’s mug.

“Not sure,” Evelyn responds, her mood changing subtly. “Angie’s been a bit of a flake lately.”


Then, off her mother’s glance, Joy adds, “Sorry. That was a little catty of me.”

“That’s okay,” Evelyn says, “I’m actually curious about your opinion. Angie seems so different to me these days, but maybe she’s always been this way.”

“Well,” Joy says, mirroring her mother’s now pensive, analytical tone, “how do you see her these days?”

“I don’t know,” Evelyn responds, hesitant to articulate, yet knowing the words are probably there. “Insincere, I guess. Self-involved. Her energy seems a little compensatory, you know, a little—”

“Frenetic?” Joy suggests.

“Maybe,” Evelyn replies, nodding. “Maybe. So, what do you think?”

“Not a fan,” Joy responds, matter-of-factly.


“Nope. I’ve never trusted her.”

“How do you mean?” Evelyn asks.

“I think her interest was always in Dad. I think she had a major crush on him when you two first met and started hanging out. I don’t know if she thought she could do anything about it, but I think that attraction is what kept her coming back. Now, unfortunately, the object of her affections is M.I.A. So, what’s in it for her?”

Evelyn lowers her head as the tears well up in her eyes. “That’s sad,” she says quietly.

“I’m sorry, Mom. Candy-coating it would have been disrespectful. And, it’s just my opinion. I could be completely off the mark.”

“No, no,” Evelyn responds, her voice cracking a bit. “It’s okay. And I think you might be right. I think if you were completely off the mark, it wouldn’t sting so much.”

“I’m sorry,” Joy says again, as she brings her mother into a hug.

* * *

to be continued on December 18th .

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Charisma 101

I attended prep school for three years, starting as a sophomore. And within just a week or two of that boarding school experience, I was aware of a student in my class whose energy was engaging.

Julie, who hailed from Alabama, was loud and fun and inviting.

You wanted to be her friend.

I got to know her during that year, and although I don’t remember specific times together when we were sophomores, I know we had a lot of laughs. I remember, too, that I always felt special in her company.

During the summer before our junior year, Julie sent me a letter. (This was back in the days of the pony express.) Having ended the previous year without a roommate lined up, she realized she was in the random sampling. She didn’t want to be placed with just anyone, so she wondered if we could room together.

When I received that letter, I was beyond flattered.

To have this remarkable person want to share a room with me?

Of course!

So, Julie and I were roommates junior year. And we had a lot of good times. But there also were challenges. We were at such different stages of growth.

Senior year, Julie and I no longer roomed together, but we continued to bond. In fact, it was that year that we discovered a common repertoire … One day, we both happened to be sitting in “the Smoker” (i.e., the senior hall lounge with ashtrays), and we were watching the film version of Gyspy on television. Until that moment, neither of us knew that the other had grown up with the lyrics.

But once we learned of that common knowledge, I scored the vinyl from my parent’s collection (Funny Girl, too), and Julie and I sung along at the top of our lungs, absolutely annoying anyone within earshot.

Everything’s coming up roses…

Don’t rain on my parade…

Boy, did we belt!

I can’t recall how well we kept in touch after graduation. I do remember getting an invitation to her wedding breakfast. And a few years after that, there was the 10th year reunion in Virginia.

I enjoyed seeing Julie at the reunion, but I also appreciated that we were living in different worlds and that our paths may never again cross. She had married a doctor and settled in Mississippi, where she would ultimately fill her days raising a daughter and doing remarkable work on behalf of charities in her community.

I was still (at the time of our 10th reunion) living wildly in New York. Settling did not then seem an option for me. (In some ways, it still doesn’t.)

…Three weeks ago, I sent out one of my occasional email blasts. When I do this, it is to alert people to recent blog postings, and I send it to fairly much everyone in my email address book. Julie has always been included in that list, as has been Kate (my veni vidi vici buddy from our prep school Latin class).

Just a few hours after that recent blast, I got an email from Kate. She shared with me that my missive had made her nostalgic, and so she decided she’d like to touch base with Julie. (She, too, had neither seen nor spoken to Julie in ages.) Since Kate was at work and didn’t have her address book handy, she decided to do a quick Google search to see if she could get Julie’s phone number online.

But what she got was an obituary.

Julie died in October.

… Since learning the news of the brain tumor that was diagnosed 14 months before Julie’s death, many of us who went to school together have reached out to each other.

By phone. By email. By Facebook. Whatever works.

And through the internet, we have gained access to written memorials from people who knew her years after we did.

It has been heartening to absorb their testimonials, and to recognize – in this woman they describe – the girl we all knew.

… In the 25 years that have passed since I last saw or spoke to Julie, I’ve been blessed to know – and to become close to – a small handful of people who possess what I call charisma. And when I think of someone with charisma, I think of this: you just feel so damned special to be in their company.

There’s something about them…

Something they quietly pass along to you...

A gift of joy, laughter, wisdom.

A generosity of spirit.

A magnetic inclusiveness.

That was Julie.

My introduction to charisma.

I will always be touched by her life.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Reruns: Excerpts from my Self-Employment Manual

(original post-date: December 9, 2009)

Work Hours and Leave Policies:

Overview: Here at Katie Dot Com, we know that individuals are not born to produce on some kind of set schedule. Nine o’clock is as arbitrary a time as five o’clock, and why shouldn’t A.M. and P.M. be interchangeable? Who cares, really?

Sick Leave: Not feeling well? Then, for God’s sake, stay in bed! You’re a Katie Dot Com employee, so we trust you! We know that you’ll get the job done. Don’t feel that you have to show up simply because it’s a Monday or a Tuesday or a Wednesday or a Thursday or a Friday. Just get better! Take care of yourself!

Vacations: Okay, chances are, as a Katie Dot Com employee, you don’t have a whole lot of money to throw around on cruises and stuff like that. But: if you need to get out of town for a while, just make your plans, put out the word, give everybody the big head’s up, and be on your way. Rest assured, the work will still be there when you get back.

Personal Days: Come on, people! Isn’t every day a personal day?

Dress Code:

Here at Katie Dot Com, we pride ourselves in recognizing that individuals have their own style. We also believe that people are most productive when they are comfortable. Accordingly, we do not dare to impose policies regarding dress. We also believe that when an employee of Katie Dot Com arrives at her workstation, her primary concern should be coffee. Therefore, if the clothes the employee is wearing allow her to make coffee, then – in our opinion – she is pretty much dressed for work.

As to secondary concerns, the work here at Katie Dot Com has everything to do with deadlines. Accordingly, if, during the course of meeting a deadline, an employee of Katie Dot Com needs to change her clothes, that is perfectly reasonable (and also encouraged).

Of course, even a business that exists in the corner of a kitchen needs to mix things up at times. Accordingly, Katie Dot Com recommends Not-So-Casual Fridays. While this is not a deal-breaker, and no employee will ever be fired for refusing to play a part in this concept, the wearing of underwear is encouraged on Fridays. It’s just our way of reminding us that the weekend is approaching…

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Twenty-four

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 the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).


Although the house is remarkably quiet for just past midnight, Evelyn does not feel alone. She knows that her daughter, who called it a night at 11:30, is probably already asleep or reading quietly in bed. And because Joy volunteered to move her father from his sleeping place in the family room to his actual bed, Davy is “put away” for the night.

Hmm, Evelyn thinks, as she approaches the dry bar and pours a glass of wine to take to the project room, I wonder what happened when Joy took Davy to bed. Did she tuck him in or did she tuck the sheets in?

Evelyn smiles at the thought. And she smiles at the sense of peace she is feeling, however temporarily.


Evelyn reaches into the glass bowl and extracts a sheet of paper: JOY AGE 15 - ? Though the open-endedness of the age range didn’t strike her the other night when she was creating all these folded-up squares, tonight it makes her laugh.

My God! she thinks, as she sets aside the paper and stands to retrieve the appropriate box. What if I open the box and see that sweater that Joy was wearing today? Then, I will indeed be spooked!

The first article of clothing does not spook Evelyn. But it certainly surprises her. She shakes her head in disbelief. “A dress?” she asks no one in the room. “Joy didn’t wear a dress until ten years ago.”

But as Evelyn stands up, so as to give the dress its full length, she remembers the occasion, and she particularly remembers the trip she and Joy made to the store so that Joy might have an appropriate outfit for Marilyn and Barry’s rehearsal dinner.

“PPppff!” Joy said, at the traffic light, her sense of disdain palpable and extremely irritating to her mother.

“What now?” Evelyn asked, hard-pressed to withhold her exasperation.

“You could have made the light,” was her daughter’s snippy response.

“But I didn’t, so please, please get over it.”

“PPppff!” the sixteen-year-old Joy repeated.

“What is the matter, sweetheart?” Evelyn asked her daughter, her struggle for patience evident in the white knuckles that framed the top of the steering wheel.

“Oh, nothing. I’m just getting my period.”

“Just getting your period,” Evelyn echoed, giving the statement a limited amount of support.


“It just seems like an excuse to me, that’s all. We didn’t have that when I was growing up, you know. We didn’t have PMS.”

“Right. You were just even-keeled all the time.”

“I don’t know. It’s just—I don’t know.”

And Evelyn really didn’t know, she realizes now. She just didn’t know, back then, that “things” like PMS were real. In some far corner of her mind, she viewed Joy’s generation as a group who was trying to explain away their responsibilities, trying to distract those who might challenge them by drawing lines between entities that were unrelated. Evelyn couldn’t see the connections because she had never made them. And she certainly hadn’t made the connection between body and mind.

“How ‘bout this one?” Evelyn asked, holding up the first size 7 dressy dress she came across once they’d arrived at the department store’s junior section.

“It looks like something a Republican would wear,” Joy said, sneering.

“Okay…” Evelyn replied, holding the dress out and giving it a really good look-over. “I won’t argue with that.”

Evelyn returned the “Republican” dress to the rack and continued to look through the selections. All the while, Joy stood there. Perhaps she wanted to look, but the impulse that didn’t want to look was winning out.

“Here!” Evelyn said, having come across a navy blue number that might be the ticket. “Look at this—”

Evelyn then held up for her daughter the dress they would ultimately buy. A beautiful summer frock with spaghetti straps, a full, mid-calf length ballerina skirt, and a smocked backing.

When Joy saw it, she almost forgot that her period was coming.

Gazing at the dress now, Evelyn realizes that it probably is not a very good candidate for the quilt. With no patterns or changes in color, it is simply too simple. It would appear, on a quilt, as one very large, same-colored square, with no particular story to tell.

But… the dress is still beautiful and still in good shape. So Evelyn sets it aside. Perhaps Joy will want to own it again. If she can still fit in a junior size 7 (and Evelyn suspects she can), Joy might even be delighted to wear it again.

* * *

to be continued on December 11th .

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pat and Vanna: Saints in the Making?

When I was at my mom’s in Virginia recently, we got into an evening routine. We’d have supper at about 6:30, and after a brief time of eating, followed by my cleaning up a bit, we’d settle back in front of the television, just in time for the game hour: Wheel of Fortune at 7:00 and Jeopardy thereafter.

While I’ll admit that this is not a routine I would get into here in L.A., I also am not averse to indulging. I particularly didn’t mind indulging in Wheel. I am a consummate “word person,” and I also am competitive. So I enjoyed racing my mother to the puzzle solutions. We didn’t keep score, but I’d guess that each of us beat out the other a handful of times.

And I must say, too, that while I was working to solve the puzzles, I took notice of something else. Maybe this is just a reflection of the current economy and the challenges I face on a monthly basis, but here’s what I’m thinking: Pat Sajak and Vanna White have got to be laughing all the way to the bank.

I mean, come on, think about it. They’ve both been at this for well over 20 years. Undoubtedly, they each get seven figures a year (and I’m guessing that, certainly for Pat, “1” is not the first number).

And what is it they do?

Pat introduces people. And, working with a bit of information on a notecard, he adds a few ad-libs. Then, during the course of the half-hour show, he throws in more ad-libs, such as:

“Oh, the wheel is really not working with you.”

“Don’t anyone breathe!”

“That was a tough break.”

“You want to try to solve?”

“Sorry, but you’re going to have to pass me that Wild Card, too.”

As for Vanna, boy, does she have a gig. Until the show has come to a close, she doesn’t even have to say anything! She just walks to the lit-up letter, and she touches it. (As if her touch, and only hers, will make the “M” appear.)

Now, I don’t mean to be putting down either of them. Personally, I find Pat charming. As for Vanna, I could never do what she does. (Unless they’d let me do it in clogs.)

So, here’s what I’m wondering: how did Pat and Vanna get to be so lucky? What did they do? Was it something in a past life? Have their spirits been around since time immemorial and did they just keep coming back and overcoming incredible odds. Did they suffer adversity in past lives, fighting off some horrible evil through truth and justice? Were they heroic figures who came to the rescue, saving entire communities from some threatening plague?

And if this is how far they’ve come, what’s next for them? Will their spirits return, or is a game-show gig the end of the line?

I don’t know.

Strange, the hands that get dealt.

… Back in the late 80’s, when my then-husband and I were living in Brooklyn, I was poking around my neighborhood Christmas bazaar, looking for potential stocking stuffers. I immediately glommed onto a cassette tape of Vanna Speaks, the letter-turner’s autobiography. (She was in her late 20’s at the time, and for some reason, she had been compelled to record a memoir.) I handed over the two or three dollars and knew I had a stocking stuffer.

On Christmas Eve, I decided the Vanna tape would go to my father, and the next morning, as we opened our stockings in Mom and Dad’s bedroom, he seemed quite amused by the novelty item (though he hadn’t a clue which Santa had delivered the amusement).

Later that day, after we had gathered around the tree and unwrapped presents, we had some unplanned time before the afternoon’s leg of lamb. Dad went upstairs and returned to the living room a few minutes later. He was carrying his portable cassette player.

He also brought with him the recorded Vanna memoir.

Silently, he placed the cassette player on the coffee table and loaded the tape. Then, as we all looked curiously at each other (but did not otherwise make a sound), he hit the Play button and took a seat.

Within minutes, we were listening to Vanna tell her own story.

Within minutes after that, we were all doubled over, laughing.

We decided the memoir should have a different title. And we came up with this: Who Gives A Shit?

… Okay, I’ll admit, that was really rude of us. We should not have laughed at Vanna. She’s had her life and she’s had her difficulties, and well, we just really shouldn’t laugh so hard.

But, boy, I sure would like to understand the karma of it all. I’d love to know why Vanna sits pretty on some serious bank while I wonder about next month’s bills.

Hmm… maybe we should have listened beyond Chapter One.