Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Reruns: Common Idiosyncrasies

(original post-date: January 27, 2010)

What is it about bubble wrap?

I mean, really. What’s the deal? Why is it that we all want to pop it? What is the weird thrill we get from that routine?

I can’t figure it out.

Sure, it’s kinda gratifying to hear the sound. That POP. And maybe there’s something about de-activating each bubble so it will never pop again. But… seriously: what’s the deal?

Has there been a study? I wonder. And wouldn’t it be cool, by the way, if the National Institutes of Health actually put out grant money to find out why we all like to pop bubble wrap? If that ever happened (if the NIH actually invested in the research), I’d take it as a good sign. I’d take it to mean that the national economy had bounced back and there was finally peace in the Middle East.

… It’s been a long time since I thought about writing for television. It's also been a while since Frasier was part of the prime-time line-up. But I had this great idea once…

What if Niles Crane (Frasier’s brother, in case you lost your cliff notes) discovered bubble wrap… And: what if he had no idea that other people liked it, too.

Think of it: Niles Crane with bubble wrap.

Niles Crane not knowing of the common idiosyncrasy.

Can you imagine?

I envision him with a small square of bubble wrap in the side pocket of his newly dry-cleaned Armani blazer.

I see him entering Café Nervosa and becoming quickly giddy after surreptitiously putting his hand in his pocket and doing a quick POP.

“Ooh!” he says, cutting himself short.

Later that same day…

I see him moving about furtively in the kitchen of Frasier’s condo. Daphne is there, and because it’s the 5th season, Niles’ crush is obvious to everyone but her. So, there they are, “doing the dance,” and for whatever reason, Niles’ jacket pocket hits the center island every so often.


“Niles!” Daphne says, responding to the sound, her tone vaguely flirtatious.


“What am I hearing?” she asks then, her smile charming.

Daphne gets that knowing look on her face.

(She’s psychic, you know.)

“Is that… bubble wrap?” she asks, raising her eyebrows seductively.

“What are you talking about?” Niles replies, his face white.

“What’s in your pocket?”

“Oh…. Nothing.”

“Oh!” Daphne says, scolding him in the way he craves. “Don’t say nothing! There’s something there! I think it’s bubble wrap!”

“Bubble wrap?” Niles repeats, his eyes melting (his brain genuinely not comprehending the common popularity of bubble wrap).

“Cough it up now!” she insists.

Daphne then meets Niles’ hand as they extract, together, the small square from his pocket.

“Bubble wrap!” Daphne exclaims. “It’s so much fun to pop it!”

“Yes,” says Niles, looking lovingly at her as they pop some bubbles together.

“Yes,” he says. “It is.”

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Thirty

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. 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).


Evelyn settles Davy into his chair in the family room, and she clicks on the television with the remote control. The feature appears to be some horror movie, and already there is too much blood on the screen. She scans the channels. There’s a game show on one of the cable networks, and she believes Davy will like that. He seems to respond to letters and numbers, and this particular game seems to be all about numbers, most of them preceded by a dollar sign.

“Thank you,” Davy says to his wife, in a tone that reveals exhaustion. “Thank you,” he repeats.

Evelyn leans down and kisses his forehead. “You’re welcome, Superman,” she says lovingly.

Before returning to the living room, Evelyn stops at the kitchen counter. She holds up the bottle of wine that Angie brought and studies the label. Returning the bottle to the countertop, she shakes her head. “Cheap bitch,” she mutters.


For the next hour, Evelyn and Angie take turns going to the door. The trick-or-treaters seem to come in waves. There will be nothing for ten or fifteen minutes, and then, for the next twenty minutes or so, the stream of costumed visitors is relatively constant.

Evelyn prefers the business at the door to the lack of business in the living room. It strikes her tonight that Angie never asks Evelyn a personal question, never inquires how Evelyn is doing. In fact, Evelyn muses silently, the focus is never on her—not even on her kids or her grandchildren. Not even on the fucking leaves that are piling up in the yard.

As she half-listens to Angie’s incessant chatter—this man; that pair of shoes; the admissions department job from which she cannot wait to retire—Evelyn notices how Angie’s eyes dart around the room.

Is she telling this to me or the lamp? Evelyn wonders. And, if I stand in front of the lamp, will she begin to speak directly to the chair I have abandoned?

Evelyn refills her wineglass and offers more to Angie.

Angie indicates “no” by covering the top of her glass with her hand. “Thanks, but I’ve gotta drive soon. On a night like this, I need all my faculties. You never know what ghost or goblin might suddenly scoot across the street!”

“How about some casserole?” Evelyn says, not particularly in the mood to eat, but anxious for an opportunity to leave the room for several minutes.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass. I had a late lunch, and a huge one, to boot! Do you know Mary Holliwell? Works in the music department over at school.”

“Holliwell?” Evelyn asks. “Not sure.”

“She’s been there for years. I’m sure she started before Davy retired. Anyway, she’s about my age, maybe a few years younger, and she’s a hoot! Mouth like a sailor. Married and divorced more times than she can count even. A real card.”

Angie then laughs and shakes her head, perhaps replaying to herself some stream of four-letter words once uttered by that card, Mary Holliwell.

Evelyn just sits there, knowing that her reactions must be unnerving Angie in some way. In the past, she would have asked Angie why she was laughing. Or, she might have said, “So, you had lunch with Mary today?”

But Evelyn doesn’t feel like asking any questions. She’s too tired, and she really doesn’t care. Besides, she has this feeling—just a hunch—that Angie will not let the silence last too long. If Evelyn doesn’t ask the obvious question, Angie will imply it by providing the answer.

“Anyway,” Angie says after thirty seconds or so, “that’s who I had lunch with this afternoon. Mary Holliwell. And you would not believe the ruckus we caused! Giggling like two schoolgirls. We actually got glared at by a few other diners.”

Evelyn continues to observe Angie, and she envies those other diners for the anonymity that permitted them to glare. She also envies the thinking behind their responses. How could they have figured her out so quickly? Evelyn wonders. What has taken me so long?

After another thirty seconds of silence pass, Angie takes a final sip from her wineglass, places it on the coaster on the table beside her chair and says, in a tone that seems hyper-apologetic. “Ev, honey. I wish I could stay longer. But, really, I think I’ve got to go.”

“I’ll get your coat.”

* * *

to be continued on February 5th .

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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Some People Who Attended the UCLA-Live Event This Past Saturday

Greetings from another member of the audience:

Before I address you individually, I should probably provide a little background regarding my experiences with live theatre…

Throughout my childhood, my parents were actively involved in two community theatre groups. One group staged three plays during the school year, while the other – an open-air venue – had a summer season comprising five plays. When my parents first became involved, they signed on to do props for one of the summer productions. Within a few years, though, they both had moved on to the stage, where they would, over the years, fine-tune their acting skills with style and grace.

When my sister and I were old enough to participate, we, too, volunteered for assignments, and while Martha would certainly accept production work, she really enjoyed acting more. (And, like my parents, she was quite good.) I, on the other hand, never got bit by the bug, and so – with the exception of a few very small roles that I performed quite poorly – I preferred to make my contributions as part of the backstage crew.

More often than not, though, I was in the audience, and I learned, at a young age, that the audience of a live performance should be respectful of the time, energy, passions, and talent that have gone into the mounting of a theatre production. Which is to say, the audience should give its full attention to the stage.

When I lived in New York, I continued to enjoy attending theatrical events. Broadway was affordable then, and with the option of placing the word “off-” in front of that concept, and then repeating it – as many times as you please – there was never a shortage of productions taking place in smaller venues throughout the City. I probably saw more than 50 plays and musicals during my 15 years in New York.

My theatre attendance in Los Angeles has been a bit more spotty. While I have seen several remarkable shows at some of the area’s larger venues, my having to be a bit more careful with money in recent years has put a dent in my theatre-going. Part of the problem is that I have “open space issues.” In most theatres, the balcony area (that is, where the cheap seats are) is way too high for me, and the grade is much too steep. I simply cannot enjoy what’s happening on the stage when I fear I will topple over my fellow patrons as I make my way, headfirst (and quite fatally), into the orchestra section.

(I realize, by the way, that there are terms for these “issues:” acrophobia, in regard to the fear of heights; and agoraphobia, in regard to the fear of open spaces. But I prefer simply to call the combination a profound and deep respect for the concept of gravity.)

Anyway, because of the economy, I’ve curtailed my theatre-going in recent years, and I even had to think about it for a minute, last week, when my friend Maria asked if I were interested in attending the Wallace Shawn performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall. But I’ve admired the writer/actor ever since I saw My Dinner With Andre back in the 80s, and the $45 ticket price didn’t seem like such a huge amount after three busy weeks of billable hours.

Which brings me to you people: you five or six people who also had forked over some money for tickets; you five or six people who were sitting nearby…

Some words first to the couple three rows ahead. I am very happy that you found each other. Your common need to fondle the hair and ear of your partner will probably make for a long relationship. But, seriously, get a room. Even with the house lights down, it was impossible not to be distracted by your public displays of obsession, and you need to cop to the fact that, because neither of you is petite (especially not you, sir), you will never be able to enjoy this shared fetish in a manner that is discreet.

Now to the two young ladies sitting behind my friend and me. Yes; you two. I appreciate that you probably got a student discount to attend the event, but that doesn’t mean you are entitled to chatter away while the performer is on stage. I am glad that when I turned around and glared at you, you stopped talking. I also was pleased when the man across the aisle silently got up from his seat, approached you both, and let you know – in a stage whisper – that the light emanating from your blackberry was bothering him and others. But don’t think for a moment that I didn’t notice your continued attempts to sneak back into that little machine and do whatever technological task apparently could not wait. I noticed it, and it bothered me.

As to the dude sitting in the row in front of us... Yes; you -- with the bright and distracting handheld device. My friend shared with me later that you were playing a video game on your little machine. Really? So, what happened? Did you win? And, why, by the way – if you were wanting to play computer games – did you choose to do so in a theatre?

As for the folks down the row, my peripheral vision also caught your illuminated screens. Was there an emergency? Was that the deal? Or maybe your text simply stated: yeah, I’m at the theatre.

To the five or six of you and whoever else was multitasking in Royce Hall, shame on you. Not behaving properly at a public event is equivalent to having a lack of social skills. And, in my opinion, you people are lacking in social skills.

Shame on you.

…Of course, before Shawn took the stage, the usual announcement was made. You know the one – it’s the same as is made in movie theatres: please turn off cell phones, pagers, and any illuminated handheld devices, [etc.] What’s interesting is that, while this request was being abused all over Royce Hall on Saturday night, I have rarely seen it abused in movie theatres.

Maybe people just need to see what they see on screens. And if that’s true, then what that means, I guess, is that a movie can replace those handheld devices, but a live human cannot.

Hmm, are we really so screen-addicted?

I realize, of course, that I am looking at one now.

And so are you.

But I also am not pretending to do, hear, or see something else simultaneously. And I hope the same goes for you.

…After his performance, which included readings (from his own work and others) around the theme of Real World, Fake World, Dream World, Wallace Shawn entertained some questions from the audience. A few of those questions provided him with an opportunity to elaborate on what a mess our world has become and how we should, in fact, be worried.

I appreciate his perspective.

And if he was aware – during his 90 minutes on stage – of the multi-tasking that was occurring in the audience, I also appreciate his ability not to give it any power. I could not have done that. Had it been me behind the lectern, I would have stopped in my tracks, shut my mouth, and refused to continue talking until the collective rudeness had virtually left the room.

Good thing, I guess, that I’ve always preferred the backstage assignments.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Reruns: Some Things Just Take Time

(original post-date: January 20, 2010)

I smile every time I drive by the Baskin Robbins on Western Avenue.

(Baskin Robbins – renowned for its 31 flavors.)

I don’t smile because I love ice cream (which I do). I don’t smile because I particularly love their ice cream (I actually haven’t tasted it in years). I don’t smile, for that matter, because I’m proud of resisting the urge to turn into their parking lot. (Most often, in fact, when I drive by the local franchise, I’ve just been to the grocery store, so if I were craving ice cream, I would have bought some already.)

I smile because of their new logo.

There’s the B (for Baskin). The straight-edged left side of that letter is blue (the rest is pink).

There’s the R (for Robbins). The straight-edged left side of that letter is pink (the rest is blue).

Combined, the initials make for a two-toned BR, and because of the colors assigned to those letters, the pink part of the B and the pink part of the R create “31.”

And here’s the reason I smile: Baskin Robbins has been around for decades. But it was only in the last year or so that somebody noticed the “31” within these initials.

I can’t help but imagine the pitch meeting, when the marketing people put up the PowerPoint presentation. There it was in pink and blue. Perhaps the most obvious logo ever to appear to mankind.

… So many of us work so hard, believing in what we do. We create product. We market our product as best we can. We find buyers.

As a very small fish in a very large pond, I appreciate driving by Baskin Robbins. I appreciate realizing how long it took for some wise soul to see it. The “31” and the logo that would eventually emerge had been there all along.

I visited my mother last October, and one evening, we were imagining what it would be like to have a substantial amount of spare cash. “If I had some money to spend,” I told her, “I would hire someone to do my marketing.”

My mother’s facial expression became sweetly curious. “You mean the grocery store?” she asked, with a certain trademark innocence.

“Right,” I wanted to reply, with my own trademark sarcasm. “The grocery store... Because if it weren’t for all those pesky trips to Ralphs and Trader Joe’s, I’d undoubtedly have a bestseller under my belt!”

Marketing is a science. The best methods change constantly, and the process takes time. It should neither be underestimated nor taken for granted.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Twenty-nine

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26 2010. 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).


“HELLOOOO!” Angie calls into the Bennett house, having let herself in as always. “Trick or treat!” she then yells, playfully.

Evelyn, heading from the kitchen to the front hallway, is struck by the option. Is this a trick or a treat? She realizes immediately that she doesn’t know. Nor does she know who will be tricking or treating whom.

Not giving away her silent musings, Evelyn greets Angie with a smile and a hug.

“You look fabulous as always, Ev,” Angie says with her usual energy. “Here,” she then adds, “I brought a bottle for your cellar.”

“Thank you,” says Evelyn, studying the label and recognizing it from the two-bottles-for-$6.00 special that the grocery store was carrying that day. She’s glad there is a bottle of a better cabernet already opened. “Would you like a glass?” she asks her friend. “I’ve got an opened bottle in the kitchen.”

“Sounds good to me,” is Angie’s reply, as they walk down the hallway.

As they enter the kitchen, Evelyn is curious to see how Angie will respond to Davy’s Superman costume.

“And there he is!” Angie says regarding Davy, who is perched at the counter with The New Yorker in front of him.

“I don’t know how this works,” Davy says, holding up his glass of soda.

“Just drink it, sweetie,” Evelyn tells her husband.

“Okay, but I have to—you know…”

“Do whatever you have to do, Davy,” Evelyn tells him kindly, smiling as she senses Angie’s mounting discomfort.

“So!” Angie blurts out, turning to Evelyn. “Any trick or treaters yet?”

“Not yet,” Evelyn replies, handing Angie a glass of the wine that was not on special.

“I bet you get a ton of them, though, once the parade begins.”

“We generally get quite a few,” replies Evelyn, already realizing that the evening ahead might bore her to death. “Anyway, I’ve got a casserole in the oven, in case we get hungry later, and I thought we’d park in the living room, so we can be close by the door.”

“Where’s Mrs. Krosky?”

“I let her go home early. She started to cop an attitude after Davy changed into his costume.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Angie responds, making little effort to cover the disapproval she apparently shares with Evelyn’s weekend help.

Evelyn feels remarkably strong in this moment. She is going to do what Joy suggested. She is going to observe. And perhaps by the time Angie leaves that night, Evelyn will have a clearer picture of the friendship she once valued.


“Anyway,” Angie continues, enjoying the comfort of the living room armchair, “I just had to tell him to quit calling me! He was so focused on getting married, and besides—the sex wasn’t all that great, anyway.”

“What’s that?” asks Davy.

“What’s what, honey?” Evelyn responds.

“Oh,” Davy says, waving his hand dismissively. “I forget.”

The doorbell rings.

“Should I—? Do I—?” Davy asks, rising and beginning to instinctively follow the candy-doling routine that Evelyn coached him through for the first ten groups of trick-or-treaters.

“Go ahead, sweetie, you’re doing great,” Evelyn responds.

As Davy answers the door, and the children respond gleefully to the presence of a Superman, Evelyn follows up on Angie’s story. “So you’re still dead-set on never getting married?”

“Jeez, Ev! I’m sixty! If I haven’t fallen for that legal trap yet, I’m not likely to do so anytime soon.”

Davy returns to his chair, which is closest to the front hallway but not outside of the conversational circle. He looks especially confused, and perhaps upset.

“Everything okay, Davy?” Evelyn asks.

“I don’t know,” he says, shaking his head. “I think I need to—do that thing. You know, I think I need—” he adds, indicating the direction of the kitchen with the thumb of his right hand.

“Does he need to go potty?” Angie asks Evelyn.

“Angie!” Evelyn responds, in a distinctly scolding tone. “He’s not a two-year-old!”

Evelyn then rises, sensing that Davy has had his fill of trick-or-treaters and would like to sleep with the television now.

“Angie,” she says, “would you mind answering the door until I get back?”

* * *

to be continued on January 29th.

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

50 Years Ago Tomorrow

I was nearly three-and-a-half years old on January 20th, 1961, and I had a prime seat for the event: atop my father’s shoulders.

He and my mother – staunch Democrats – had caught the bug during the previous November’s election. That feeling of Camelot was in the air and undeniable, and so the decision to join the hordes on the mall in D.C. was inevitable.

In spite of the weather, we made the drive up from the Shenandoah Valley, and I suppose there was talk – between my parents; perhaps on the radio – of Robert Frost having been asked to participate in the ceremony. I don’t remember any specific statements, but I do remember the inference I had drawn. And so as I sat atop my father’s shoulders, among the thousands who had braved the blizzard and were looking with anticipation toward that apparently very important building, I waited patiently.

I waited… for Jack Frost to appear on the roof and give a weather report.

Jack Frost; not Robert.

(You go with what you know…)

I am now nearly fifty-three-and-a-half years old, and I have a much clearer sense of what is going on.

The pendulum has swung back and forth numerous times in the last half-century, and while there have been glimmers of hope, we’ve never quite returned to that feeling of Camelot.

… Before my father died three years ago this March, he suffered from increasing frailty. For the last several years of his life, he also experienced occasional dementia, and on one of those occasions (probably around 2004), the visiting healthcare worker asked him who the president was. When my mother told me that his response had been Theodore Roosevelt, I said, “I’m jealous! I want to live in Dad’s world!”

But Dad wasn’t always in “that world.” A year or so later, in fact, his better grasp of reality was evident when he glibly stated, in response to the national and international situations, “Thank God I’ll die soon.”

That was Dad – sardonic in his description of an unprecedented, pitiful mess.

Because I am not likely to die soon, I cling to the other two memories of my dad: the one who trudged through the snow to listen to a young man breathe hope into the country, and the one who chose to remember Teddy Roosevelt when Dubya was the reality du jour.

We must have hope.

Even when it requires some temporary dementia, we must have hope.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Reruns: Jimmy Fallon is a Happy Man

(original post-date: January 13, 2010)

While I am not a fan of late-night talk show politics (an especially hot issue these days), I’ve always been a fan of the programming. And my earliest experience on this score was watching The Dick Cavett Show. Now, I’ve got to admit, if I saw a tape of that program today, I would probably be a little put off by the relentlessly bookish tone of the dialogue. But, at the time of my appreciating it – I’m guessing I was ten or so – I loved the repartee between the host and his guests. I just loved it.

I should probably explain (in case it isn’t remarkably obvious) that my parents were always rather lenient regarding my bedtime -- particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. And why shouldn’t they have been? It’s not like I was outside stealing hubcaps or smoking crack. I was inside. I was downstairs. I was watching Dick Cavett, for God’s sake.

But in my junior high years, something changed in me, and that’s when my parents started worrying. That’s when I started watching Johnny Carson. I can’t remember the moment when I switched allegiances, but the lure was strong. Maybe it was the show-biz nature of his program. Maybe it was the lack of outright, intellectual sparring. Maybe it was Johnny’s sexy charm. Regardless of the reason, I had changed teams, and this made my parents curious. One night, my father parlayed that curiosity into joining me for the full ninety minutes of The Tonight Show.

I remember turning to Dad throughout the program, smiling and wondering if he would smile too.

But as he sat there, Dad didn’t emote.

When the show was over, though, he did offer one thought as he stood and walked away. He told me that he really loved Ed McMahon.

Right, Dad, I thought, rolling my eyes.

And just as I knew my father was kidding, I also knew that he was expressing a truth. He didn’t love Ed McMahon. He just envied him. He envied the man who could make such a bankroll simply by laughing at his boss night after night.

Over the years, I continued to watch Johnny (remaining indifferent to Ed). And for many of those years, Johnny was followed by Letterman, whom I also grew to love. Classics, both. Their sardonic, often deadpan approaches defined late-night television for me. The dry delivery, the laid-back take – that was what I had come to expect at the end of my day.

When Johnny left, Dave was still there, so the attitude-torch remained lit. From time to time, I’d check in with Conan or Craig, but I could never embrace their higher registers. I wanted a bass, not a tenor. For me, late-night talk had a formula that worked. Why mess with it?

Enter Jimmy Fallon.

When his show debuted last March, I was curious to see what this SNL alum would do with Conan’s old spot on NBC. So, after Letterman, I switched channels and watched.

During the first week or so, I sensed a discomfort, particularly during the opening monologue. He didn’t seem up to the routine of a typical late-night talk show host. But… I kept watching, and as the weeks and months unfolded, Jimmy Fallon established his own routine.

And now? I am beyond impressed. With less than a year under his talk-show belt, Jimmy Fallon has done something I would never have thought imaginable in all my years of following Dick, Johnny, and Dave. Jimmy Fallon has made late-night talk not just a comic place, but a genuinely happy place.

The minute he steps through those curtains, he is more than comfortable and competent. He is – or seems to be – filled with joy. And that joy then gets spread – to the band (Roots; joyful in their own right); to his announcer, Higgins (Lydia’s non-smoking half); to his studio audience; to his guests; and to folks like me, who are relaxing on couches or in beds across America.

Late-night happy.

A new concept.

I, for one, have never needed it more.


I cannot resist adding a little 2-part 2011 postscript to this rerun:

(1) The Rolling Stone had the good sense to publish a cover story about Jimmy Fallon this month. That article, "The Eternal Sunshine of Jimmy Fallon," indicates that my observations from a year ago are not unique.

(2) And this, from the menopause files: a few weeks ago, I had a dream -- Jimmy Fallon and I were in bed together. ...He was wearing his suit.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Twenty-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 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).



“Mom! God!” Joy blurts out, sounding panicked.

“What, sweetie?” Evelyn replies, continuing down Main Street.

“That light was almost red!”

“Yes, and almost red is still yellow. I had the right of way.

“Joy?” Evelyn says then, appreciating that her daughter is acting distraught. “Does my driving make you nervous?”

“No. I mean, not usually. I would have stopped. That’s all.”

Evelyn smiles as she approaches the next intersection. And she slows, because the light is yellow. “I know it’s an issue—” she says then, “old people driving.”

“You’re not old!

“You don’t think so?” Evelyn says. “I don’t know. Sometimes the household makes me feel old.”

“Old, or under some kind of surveillance?” Joy asks, glad to be returning to Brooklyn the same day that Mrs. Krosky’s two-day stint begins.

“Hmm???” Evelyn asks, genuinely perplexed.

“I don’t like your weekend help.”

“Oh. The Krosk.” Evelyn says, accelerating back to suburbia’s tame thirty-five miles per hour. “She’s something, huh? I’m not wild about her, either. But, it’s just two days a week. And, if nothing else, she makes me extremely grateful for Claudia.”

Joy smiles at her mother in that moment—appreciates her mother’s sense of relativity. “Sorry if I’m sounding short, Mom.” Joy says then. “I think I’m PMS’ing.”

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Evelyn replies. “If you’re PMS’ing, then you’re not pregnant, and that’s a good thing.”

Joy gazes out the window for a moment, appreciating the abundance of foliage that Brooklyn will never know. “I’d like for you to meet Chuck,” she then says to her mother.

“Oh my God! I completely forgot to ask about him! So this is the man who is not making you pregnant?”

“That’s the guy,” Joy replies, smiling at her mother’s ease with her lifestyle (feeling lucky that she was born after Marilyn). “Chuck’s great. I think you’d like him.”

“Then—” Evelyn says, pulling into the parking lot of the train station and trying desperately to squelch tears that want to speak through her voice, “I think I would like to meet him.”

“Oh, fuck!” Joy says quickly, looking toward the platform. “I think that’s my train! Can you open the trunk really fast?”

“Sure,” says Evelyn, as she reaches for the trunk release and simultaneously gets out of the car without turning it off.

The ding-ding-ding of “keys-in-the-ignition” provides an anti-melodic background to their quick hug.

“I love you!” Joy cries out, as she races to the train.

“I love you, too,” Evelyn says quietly, watching her daughter return to a busy and fulfilling life.


Evelyn stops at the grocery store before returning home, and when she enters the kitchen with the two, quite-full double plastic bags, The Krosk offers assistance.

“Thank you, Mrs. Krosky,” Evelyn says, as The Krosk places the bags on the counter and surveys the contents of one.

“What’s this?” Mrs. Krosky asks, extracting the first of many bags of candy. “Miniature Kit Kat?”

“Halloween, Mrs. Krosky. The kids will be coming around tonight.”


“It wasn’t my idea,” Evelyn responds, resenting the feeling that seems to permeate her home on the weekends.

While The Krosk continues to extract bags of candy, ultimately reaching the more gratifying cans of soup at the bottom of the grocery bag, Evelyn quickly takes the second bag into the dining room. There, she quietly pulls out the four bottles of wine, careful to create no clinking sounds as she places them in the dry bar.

Returning to the kitchen, Evelyn feels safe about letting The Krosk do the rest of the putting-away. The second bag now holds items that cannot possibly be deemed prurient: aluminum foil, whole black peppercorns, and olive oil cooking spray.

Placing the bag on the counter and heading for the coffeemaker, Evelyn asks, “Everything okay with Davy?”

“He exercised,” The Krosk replies, holding up the jar of whole black peppercorns as if she needs to read its contents.

“He showered,” she adds, placing the jar of peppercorns in the appropriate cupboard.

“And now he sleeps,” The Krosk states, looking at Evelyn with a coldness that is not at all personal but always gives a chill.

“And were there any calls?” Evelyn asks next, her smile strained at best.

“I believe you have a message,” Mrs. Krosky replies. “I was busy with Mr. Bennett and had to ask her to call back and speak with the machine. I believe it was Angie.”

“Angie?” says Evelyn, in a tone that sounds confused.

“Your friend, yes?”


Evelyn goes to the study to listen to Angie’s message, and immediately after listening to it, she calls Joy.

“Mom!” Joy says. “I’m still on the train. Everything okay?”

“Sure. I mean, yes. I mean, I just wanted to, um, run something by you.”

“Okay, but be quick,” Joy says. “We’re approaching the City, and I might lose you.”

“Okay, well, um, Angie called—”


“And she wants to come over tonight. Wants to join us for the trick-or-treaters on our street.”

“Right,” says Joy. “She wants to not be home for the trick-or-treaters on her street.”

“Hmm,” Evelyn says, fully understanding Joy’s train of thought. Maybe even agreeing with it.

“So?” she asks her daughter. “What should I do?”

“What do you want to do?”

“Well, I would feel bad if I said ‘no,’ but I—”

“But you what?”

“I don’t really want to see her,” Evelyn confesses.

“That’s okay, Mom. She probably doesn’t really want to see you. She’s just going through some motions.”

“So what should I do?”

“If I were there,” Joy says, with a clarity of tone that is refreshing to Evelyn, “I would invite her over simply for the opportunity to observe her. I think it would be quite fascinating.”

“I don’t know if I’m strong enough for that, sweetie.”

“I… think you are.”

“But it just seems so—Joy? Joy?”

A crackle. Then deadness.

Evelyn can tell that they have lost their connection.

And yet, when she places the handset back in its cradle, she smiles thoughtfully. Because, in actuality, their connection feels stronger than it has ever been.

* * *

to be continued on January 22nd.

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Distance from Our Corners

When I was a kid, our family had a summer vacation ritual that entailed a very long drive with a rich, two-week reward at the other end. Packed and ready to go on an early June morning, we’d put the suitcases in the back of the station wagon and then take our places.

Dad would be the first driver, while Mom sat on the passenger’s side of what were not yet bucket seats.

In the back, I would take my place on the right, while Martha would sit on the left.

That’s how it always was. Me on the right. Martha on the left. Not an indication of political leanings or which side of our brains we favored. Simply a routine that would remain unbroken for all of our lives in the backseat.

And then we would head north from Virginia on the pre-interstate roads. Occasionally, Martha or I would climb into the front seat to rest her head on Mom’s lap (unless she was driving, of course). There were no laws back then that would have earned us a ticket for this climbing-over-the-seats routine, and for many of those years driving up to Cape Cod, I believe there were not even seatbelts.

But we always made it just fine.

The first leg of the trip was the longest – about nine or so hours to get to our grandparents’ house in Connecticut. And because it was such a long stretch, it was not without its moments that would test our mother’s nerves.

When Martha and I – understandably tired from the unending asphalt; undoubtedly bored with playing Auto Bingo – got feisty with each other in the backseat, Mom would turn around, and say, in no uncertain terms, “Get in your corners!”

And so we did.

And I’m guessing that, at that point, we got a little quiet.

(Which is exactly what Mom wanted – and needed.)

… A few decades later and 20 years ago, I moved to Los Angeles. And 10 years after that, my sister moved from Virginia to the UK. When Martha moved, Dad was still alive, and although he quickly became frail, Mom still had him for company. They would remain in the Shenandoah Valley, where my sister and I were raised, and long distance telephone calls would keep all of us in touch.

“Boy,” I said to Martha, during one of those calls – at a time when my Los Angeles hours and her England hours allowed for a lively conversation, “we sure did get in our corners, huh?”

She laughed, as did Mom, when I shared the observation with her later that week.

But these days, our geographic distance does not feel laughable. Dad died in late March of 2008, and although Martha and her best-ever husband made an unselfish and valiant effort before Christmas that year to bridge the proximity gap, their move “across the pond” and their plans for establishing a life near Mom did not pan out. The economy bit their butts, and they ultimately discovered how difficult it is – particularly in a small town – for “older people” to find work. They moved back to the UK this past November.

In the meantime, I’ve remained in L.A., where I have established a life for 20 years. Where my address is the one I’ve held the longest in my 53 years on the planet.

And so Martha and I – two members of what literature now calls the “sandwich generation” – are back in our corners.

My sister is a “true” sandwich in that she has a generation on either side. Mom, in Virginia (and the memory of Dad), represent the bottom slice of bread, while Martha’s daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law comprise her top slice.

As for me, I guess you’d have to describe me as more of an “open-faced sandwich.” Yes, Mom’s there (and the memory of Dad), providing me with that slice that anchors my ingredients, but above that – or rather, creating a bookend to that generation – there is nothing.

It’s interesting, the press that the current sandwich generation gets. So much of the news is about the combating needs on either end. How aging parents and growing children create a tug-of-war, causing “us” Baby Boomers to feel pulled in two directions at once.

For those whose sandwich is closed, I am not without empathy. I get it that you are answering to two distinctly different age groups, and you are concerned about them both. But, I’d like to shine the light on us open-faced sandwiches for a moment. Because, while the demands on us – as children of aging parents – may not be as complex, they still are emotional.

My decision not to have children was not conscious, but I believe it was smart. I believe it suits me to not be a mother. I’m not sure I could have pulled off the discipline it would have required to discipline others. And if I had, I would have lost a big part of myself in the bargain.

But I also am realizing now, as I witness my mother’s aging, the emptiness that will be my legacy. The emptiness of no family nearby.

And so these days, my empathy extends more to my mother than to my sister or to other members of the “sandwich generation.” I feel for my Mom, alone in Virginia. I feel for her, so far from the corners that Martha and I now occupy. If any of the three of us had some bank to spare, we could make some adjustments to this scenario, but… money isn’t our strong suit.

Mom and Dad did not raise us to pursue the almighty dollar. Rather, they raised us to follow our hearts and have faith in our paths.

It is for that reason that Martha shares a house in rural Scotland with her best-ever husband and two generations below her. It also is for that reason that I maintain a one-bedroom apartment in a decidedly urban area of sprawling Los Angeles.

We are in our corners.

We are…a sandwich-and-a-half of Baby Boomer daughters wishing the best for their Mom.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Reruns: Signs of the Times

(original post-date: January 5, 2010)

I try not to go to that “fear place,” but these days, the indicators of struggle are everywhere. It seems that the majority of apartment buildings on my block have For Rent signs out front. And on nearby commercial streets, there are more than a few empty stores. Other stores – not yet empty – soon will be. The large, brightly-colored notices of liquidation and huge discounts foretell their futures.

Must everything go?

As an independent contractor, I can only hope that the work will keep coming. Sure, I can take some proactive measures, and doing so might help, but there are no guarantees, and that precariousness can be a bit unsettling. Having an income that changes month-to-month isn’t new, of course. I’ve been self-employed, and therefore dependent on the needs of a collection of clients, for ten years. Some months are less lucrative than others, but I’ve always managed. And, until recently, I’ve never felt drawn to the fear place.

But, the unease is in the air. It’s around every corner. It shows up in facial expressions. It underscores overheard dialogues. It is the story behind the unprecedented number of signs placed in yards and windows.

Last Saturday afternoon, I decided to walk to my local triplex to see a 4:00 showing of It’s Complicated. When I called to check on movie times, I was grateful to learn that my neighborhood theatre has remained a place where one can see a matinee for less than ten dollars. And while the current $6.00 rate represents an increase over the $4.50 they charged for matinees six or so months ago, it still felt like a bargain. I’ll admit that the screen is not huge, the sound system is sub-par, and there was no usher to direct me to my pre-assigned seat, but the activity was well worth the price of admission. It helped take my mind off the signs.

Ironically, on my way to the theatre, I saw a For Rent sign that jarred me just a bit more than any I have seen since the downturn started hitting home. The sign was in the window of a small place on Franklin, just a few doors west of the Vermont Avenue intersection. For someone who is unfamiliar with this neighborhood and who hasn’t – as I have – walked past that property on a regular basis for more than fifteen years, the sign probably announces nothing other than the availability of yet another rental residence. But for me, the message was more specific. It told me that the Psychic Advisor has moved.

Seeing the emptiness of an establishment that once featured neon window dressing advertising Tarot Readings, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the lady who made her living envisioning other people’s futures. Did she not see it coming? Did she look at her palm with a new set of corrective lenses one day and realize, in that moment, that she never, in fact, had much of a wealth line? Or, was she running from litigious former clients whose own futures had not panned out quite as nicely as she predicted they would?

Of course, I could be wrong in painting the picture so negatively. For all I know, she might have cashed in her 401K and moved to Palm Springs. Or maybe she hit some lottery numbers and moved up the hill. Hmm… I’ll have to keep that possibility in mind next time I go on my mansion hike. Maybe I’ll see her neon sign in a bottom floor window of one of those houses that undoubtedly is equipped with no fewer than two elevators. And if I do see it… and if she’s still charging only $10 for a reading, I’ll invest in her powers.

But, I have a feeling I’ll never see her sign again.

(Call me psychic.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Twenty-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 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).


Returning from the first floor with two fresh glasses of wine, Joy says, “I found your shopping list on the fridge, and I added wine.”

“That’s fine,” says Evelyn, vaguely. “Whatever.”

Joy realizes that her mother is distracted. “Whatcha got?” she asks, settling into her chair.

Evelyn hands her a photograph.

“Ah,” Joy says, studying the dog-eared photograph that appears to have never known a frame, “America’s most functional family, circa—?” Joy turns over the photo, in search of a date.

“I don’t know,” Evelyn says, her voice sounding a bit drained. “’52 or ’53 maybe.”

“Your dad was so debonair,” Joy comments, staring at the family portrait.

“Yup. That’s why the ladies liked him.”

“And your mom doesn’t look too bad here.”

“No, well, she still had Wesley and Brad to take care of. That helped.”

“And you!” Joy adds. “You’re what—? Thirteen here? Fourteen? You were still at home.”

“That’s true, but… Mother didn’t really take a lot of interest. Dad liked the boys, and so she liked the boys.”

“Poor thing.”

“It’s okay,” Evelyn says, waving off the pity she presumes Joy is directing at her.

“No, I’m not talking about you—I’m talking about your mom. It’s sad that she could never get the love she needed from her husband.”

“Mmm,” Evelyn responds, her lips somewhat pursed as she attempts to disregard the sentiment.

“Did Wesley ever come out to your parents?” Joy asks, abruptly changing the subject and causing Evelyn to shake her head quickly.

A mischievous, slighty self-conscious expression grows on Evelyn’s face.

“Is the story that good?” Joy then asks her mother, her smile broad, her eyes filled with curiosity.

“There’s no story,” Evelyn states. “He never came out to any of us.”

“No way,” says Joy. “But he is gay, right?”

“Hmmm…” Evelyn says, holding her index finger to her cheek and looking up at the ceiling in alleged deep thought. “A sixty-seven-year-old resident of San Francisco who has never been married but who has had the same male roommate for the past thirty years… I wonder.”

“That’s sad,” Joy says.

“What’s sad?”

“That he can’t tell you.”

“It’s okay. He’s happy.”


“I really hope this is the box,” Evelyn says, retrieving a rectangular carton from a stack in the corner and bringing it to the work area that she and Joy have created. “I’m enjoying this, don’t get me wrong. I just am starting to feel nervous about not being able to follow through on my pledge.”

“Oh, you’ll follow through, Mom. Even if you have to get Dad to do some new drawings. You won’t let those event folks down.”

“New drawings,” Evelyn says, as she uses her scissors to slip through the masking tape on the box before them. “That’s an interesting suggestion…”

“Yay!” Joy exclaims quietly, after Evelyn has pulled back the corrugated cardboard flap. “Dad’s art!”

“Doesn’t mean the architectural drawings will be in here.”

“Who cares?” Joy says, gingerly lifting up the piece on top of the stack. “Wow. Look at this!”

“He always was able to find my good side,” Evelyn comments, gazing at one of the first portraits Davy had rendered of his new bride.

“May I have it?” Joy asks, in a tone that seems to take nothing for granted.

“You want it?”

“Yes! I want to frame it and hang it in my apartment.”

“Okay,” Evelyn says, as Joy places the charcoal sketch on the floor beside her. “Just don’t hang it on the wall you share with that pyromaniac.”

“Not a pyromaniac, Mother.”

“How do you know?”

“I spoke with my super today,” Joy responds. “Seems the building had some electrical issues.”

“Oh my God!” says Evelyn, at once relieved that her daughter is in front of her, but also concerned that Joy will be returning to Brooklyn with no guarantees for safety. “Are the issues being addressed?”

“To my knowledge, they were addressed today. At least, that’s what the super said.”

“And your apartment?”

“He said I could go home tomorrow.”

But you’re home now, Evelyn wants to say.

* * *

to be continued on January 15th.

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

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For the Love of Rob

Five or six years ago, I was working regularly with a nonprofit youth drop-in agency based in South Central L.A. Though my role was as a consultant, I was given a desk to call my own, and so I was there, on-site, about two or three times a week.

On one of my on-site days, Dick Van Dyke dropped by. He had learned of the agency’s work through some community event, and he had come by to discover more.

Once he entered the development trailer, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to approach him.

I emerged from the office I shared with Miki and extended by hand. “Hello,” I said to the venerable showman. “I’m Katie. And I’ve just got to tell you that I grew up with your show, and I had such a crush on you.

“But,” I added, “it was kind of a weird crush, because I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know if I wanted you to be my father or if I wanted you to be my husband!”

“How about ‘Grampa?’” Dick Van Dyke replied, kindly, contorting his face to accompany his comment.

I raised my eyebrows teasingly and left him to his tour, realizing, as I headed back to my office, that his response had been a compliment: Younger than my Dad, he clearly is not old enough to be my “Grampa,” and apparently, I didn’t look old enough to be his daughter (or, for that matter, his wife).

So, that’s as far as our conversation went.

But it has stayed with me.

… More than a year ago, I ordered the entire Dick Van Dyke series on DVD (yes, there’s redundancy there), and I’ve really enjoyed watching the show that engaged me to such a degree when I was in elementary school.

Rob and Laura: the ultimate couple. Attractive and alive, they never fooled me or anyone when they climbed into those twin beds on Bonnie Meadow Road. They were in love and vibrant.

And I wanted him to be my dad…

But why?

I had a great dad… In fact, like Rob Petrie, my dad was quite funny.

Also, like Rob Petrie, my dad found ways to parlay his humor into creative pursuits.

So why would I want to replace him?

I don’t know. Maybe I liked the way Rob was at-one with his absolute klutziness. Maybe I liked the way he acted like a kid. Maybe, just maybe, it helped that Rob had a son. I know that my own dad would have appreciated having a son. It was apparent that Christmas morning when my sister and I entered the living room to discover Santa's delivery of… an electric train!

Insofar as I was elementary school age when I was developing my crush on Rob Petrie, it’s not surprising that I transferred my crush into considering his potential as a father. I mean, at that age, fantasizing about a husband?

Still, I couldn’t help but notice how he played that role so beautifully…

Especially in that era, Rob Petrie was a unique husband.

Sure, the household in New Rochelle was a sign of the times in some rather distinct ways. Laura was the housewife and mother. Rob, the bread-winner.

But: Rob worked with a professional woman (Sally Rogers), and he respected her. He respected that women could be bread winners in the world. Rob also respected Laura. She wasn’t just some “wife with an allowance.” She was a woman – a strong woman – who had opinions, dreams, talents.

And he adored her. That part was always clear.

And, regardless of what a woman expects from her man, being adored will probably always take the top of the list.

So, between the ages of six and eleven (or so), I regularly watched Dick Van Dyke. Loving the father, who was so much like my own, and dreaming about a husband…

I don’t know that most husbands these days adore their wives. I don’t know that we have a lot of time for that. With all the multi-tasking, it’s probably a bit difficult for anybody to feel adored. But, back in my pre-pubescence, that seemed like a pretty good deal. It seemed like a pretty good deal to emerge – either from a day of housewifery or from a career – to find a charmingly klutzy, extremely comic man opening his arms to my opinions, my dreams, and my talents.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Reruns: Shopping at Trader Joe's: An Investment of Time

(original post-date: December 30, 2009)

Living in L.A., I can claim a connection to Ground Zero of the Trader Joe’s phenomenon. This is where it all started, and this is certainly where Trader Joe’s started for me.

I remember the first time I walked into a Trader Joe’s. I didn’t grab a cart or even pick up a basket. I was on my way to a dinner party, and I had just dropped in to get a reasonably priced bottle of wine.

The next time I ventured into TJs, I still didn’t need a basket. My two arms sufficed – for the wine and the cheese. (Another social gathering.)

But these experiences occurred before the introduction of the various sub-brands: Trader Giotto’s, Trader Ming’s, Trader Jose’s. These early experiences occurred when Trader Joe’s was just a friendly neighborhood franchise…

Trader Joe’s is still friendly, and I love it for that, but now that I shop there regularly (and I always need a cart), I can also state, quite emphatically, that good ol’ TJs seems to employ the most sadistic parking lot designer ever known to humankind. There are now dozens of the stores in the L.A. area (and hundreds more across the country), and I’ve yet to hear of a Trader Joe’s parking lot that doesn’t challenge the patience of the chain’s dedicated patrons.

Invariably, there is a long wait to find a parking space. Invariably, those circling the lot (entering? trying to leave?) are driving against the arrows (if arrows, in fact, exist). Invariably, the parking lots’ points of entry and exit (often combined) are completely inconvenient (and often downright dangerous) vis-à-vis the major thoroughfare on which that particular store exists.

Shopping at Trader Joe’s (here at Ground Zero, at least) is really a study in commitment. How badly do you want to shop there? What risks are you willing to take? What kind of time do you have to sacrifice?

As a self-employed person, I might be envied by other Trader Joe’s shoppers. After all, I don’t have to wait until after work or weekends to make my Giotto/Ming/Jose purchases. I have the freedom of time! I can go during the day, when – surely – the parking lot is not so full of nuts.

Guess again, nine-to-fivers. I’ve had that alleged freedom for more than a half-dozen years now, and I can’t claim to have cracked the code. The Trader Joe’s parking lot is always sadistic. It was just built that way.

And somehow, even when I don’t enter the parking lot, the time commitment is unavoidable.

Here’s a story, from a few months ago:

It’s midweek, two’ish, and I’ve just hit a good break in billables. I grab my TJs shopping list and head to my car.

Driving through Los Feliz is easy enough – maybe takes four minutes; five minutes, tops – but when I get to Marshall High (famous for the exterior shot introducing Room 222), I’m slowed down considerably. The kids have just been let out, and as they cross in front of my car, I am reminded of a riddle a peer recently shared:

Q: Why are teenagers afraid of zombies?
A: Because zombies can outrun them.

I sit in my car as the teenage zombies amble in front of it. While tedious and absurd, this delay is okay. This delay has nothing, really, to do with Trader Joe’s.

When an opportunity presents itself, I crawl on. And soon, I make the right onto Griffith Park Drive. I’ve now returned to normal afternoon driving speeds. (And I’m still making good time.)

When I get to Hyperion, the light is on my side, and there’s no oncoming traffic. I make the left. (I’m really cruising now.) Then, I see it: the ultimate parking space.

Granted, it’s a metered space, but, honey, it’s worth the price of admission. It’s the last space before that hellish TJs parking lot. And what that means is this: I can back into it easily; no other car can block me in; and when I’m done with my shopping, I can just zip right back into the Hyperion traffic. (I swear, I was able to park more quickly than it took me just now to articulate that rationale!)


So then, after my quick parking maneuvers, I leap out of my car, dash to the meter, and guess what? Thirty-six minutes, pre-paid. (I kid you not.) This is just getting better and better.

I grab a cart that is right there, and I enter the store. I then zoom, unimpeded, down the uncrowded aisles. Pushing the cart that greeted me (and that, remarkably, has evenly constructed wheels and no stubborn desire to make a sudden left turn), I quickly find everything on my list. Not only that, each item is exactly where it should be (i.e., the crew has undertaken no disorienting rearrangement of inventory since my last visit).

I head to check-out, and the options are unprecedented. There is no wait, and that fact is true for at least three cash registers.

I swipe my card without a hitch. Then, with two full bags placed into my smooth-sailing cart, I head out the door and make the quick left to the sidewalk.

I arrive at my car in less than ten seconds, and I open the trunk. I place the bags therein and put the cart back where I found it (flush with the sidewalk newspaper dispenser).

I notice the meter... 27 minutes, still pre-paid. A gift for the next shopper.

I get into the driver’s side and put the key in the ignition. I turn it. What?

I try again.



My car is not making a sound.

I am smiling broadly (and, oh yes, ironically) as I get out of the car and head for the trunk. I am still smiling as I open it and retrieve my groceries. I am even smiling when I approach the raised office area at the front of the store.

“Hi,” I say to the helpful crew member. “My car won’t start, so I was wondering? Could you keep these groceries refrigerated for me until I take care of the problem?”

Of course he can. After all, he works for Trader Joe’s. So he’s a friendly, happy guy.

Long story short: forty-five minutes later, I am back at Trader Joe’s. A new battery in my car, I negotiate the sadistic parking lot. Finally, I get a space, and I run in to retrieve my groceries. Fifteen minutes after that, I’m back home. Another chunk of my life has passed by; another chunk of my life dedicated to shopping at Trader Joe’s.