Single File, Please By: Christine Sohmer ______________________________
Enough friends, family members and acquaintances have suggested I narrate the events of my life on the pages of this site; they have worn down my resistance to penning this chronicle. Personally, I do not think my life is all that interesting (not true, it's seriously interesting), but the people I meet are -- so, you decide:
Best Yet? January 2014
Writing for me is cathartic. In the intense life experiences lies purgative involvements. At Best Yet Supermarket on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I met a man in the meat department. We spoke of sale items and beef for stewing. Moving on to other departments, he caught up with me again in floral. I smelled and selected white mini carnations because of their sweet aroma and innocent physical beauty.
Pete, as it turns out is his name, spoke of his work at CBS as a video editor. He wore a beret and said he has lived behind Sarant Cadillac for his entire life. I found him redeeming enough to exchange numbers. A brief text chat and telephone discussion resulted in a meeting at the Little Lounge on Broadway.
Saturday night, I drove in the snow over to the Little Lounge and parked in front. Inside, I met Pete at 8:00 p.m. and he introduced me to an old friend of his, rooted into the center bar stool. The barmaid poured a Coors Light into a tall glass, wedged a lime along the side and settled it on the bar in front of me. Pete ordered a bottled beer and paid with a fifty.
We settled into a corner by the pool table and sat so close, I had to back up twice so as to not smell his breath. A couple of “regulars” were racking up the balls on the pool table so I jumped at the opportunity to assert I was giving them space. I had heard that the Little Lounge serves a great lunch, so I wondered aloud what the menu looked like. Pete thought it wasn’t a good idea and offered chicken soup back at his place.
At the risk of sounding rude, I flat out rejecting the prospect of soup at Pete’s house. Segueing that somehow into, “Weren’t there two guys here setting up to shoot pool; and, if so, why aren’t they playing pool?” Pete responded with, “They’re probably in the bathroom doing a couple of lines…” Ladies, I don’t know. Figurative red flags are blazing.
I excused myself and went to the bar for a napkin to dispose of my chewing gum (not that it doesn’t go great with beer, mind you). Anyhow, I returned in a moment and sipped my drink. It tasted a little “off,” so I took a good look at it. There was what looked like a mini tornado spinning from the bottom of my glass all the way to the top. I pointed this oddity out to Pete and he nervously said, “That must be some good beer; drink up!”
Holding the glass up to the light, I saw what resembled a small pebble at the bottom of my glass that spewed this mini tornado. In my mind, I heard my son’s voice, “Read the situation Mom!” Tragically, I was perplexed about how to proceed. The Catholic-Italian training bred me to do as I am told. The independent, liberated “take no prisoners” lady in me thought about spilling the drink in his lap.
With great self-control, I walked the offending drink over to the barmaid, who apologized and poured another. SHE apologized. I don’t really know how I got through the balance of this date. My underlying motivation was to stay safe and I couldn’t run the risk of escalating what was already deviant manners.
Having not written in such an unbelievably long time, is an overt display of being out of my pain. It pains me to write and I write from pain. What can I say, it moves me.
So, what is the latest wound I am working through? The physical manifestation is a tender left knee and a harsh left jaw. My body has basically stroked down the entire left-half side of my body and I wonder what relevance and double entendre "left" holds. As a verb, Dictionary.com interprets "left" to mean:
There are moments in my life that I am so extraordinarily observant, that I shock myself. People don't particularly respond positively to being observed, but animals do and I'm learning a lot!
When I go downstairs into my basement, which is typically daily, my two cats follow me. I could be laundering clothes or tinkering (yes, I tinker) and they are right with me. Over time, they have associated the sound of me walking down the stairs as their cue to halt all activity (or inactivity) and in a mesmerized manor, head down there as quickly as possible. Sometimes, they are under foot as I'm on my way and a couple of times I damn near fell down the stairs.
In my basement, aside from the boiler and other normal basement stuff, you will find a grooming table for Antigone and Ophelia. Antigone is the older "fat" cat that I adopted back in my Sophocles days and Ophelia is the younger "feisty" cat that I adopted during my Shakespeare phase. It's important to know their different characteristics.
Ophelia is great with waiting her turn and defers to Antigone's "alpha" status. Her personality is such that she bounces around the house and takes in as much attention as she can. Unless she knows you already, she'll disappear so fast, you'll wonder if you actually saw a black and white tuxedo fur of a blur pass you by. Also, when I pop the lid of their cat food and Ophelia scampers to be first at the feeding dish, she shrugs off each failed attempt as if it never mattered in the first place.
Antigone, however, is not just the dominant cat, she is the "all about me" cat. Either Father Time or Mother Nature hit her with the "fat stick" and she sluggishly moves her gray Tabby mass about the house. When you visit our home, Antigone will expend enough energy to make her way toward you only if she's relatively certain you will pet her. I am the main provider and Antigone mostly keeps me on her "pay no mind" list.
Between the two cats, Antigone poses as the greatest "flight risk." I've cared for her since birth and regardless of how many roofs I've put over her head or meals I've provided, each time the door opens, there's a good chance she's nearby waiting to pounce. She's run away a handful of times throughout her tender 12 years, as recent as two weeks ago.
Ophelia, however, is content to live within the four walls of our home. When we moved from North Michigan and emptied the contents of the house, she was the last to be relocated. As we carried her (big mistake), she clawed us and bolted back toward the house. Of course, the door was shut, the house was locked and new residents moved in. She just refused to leave. I went back daily and sat on the front porch calling for her, "Ophelia...here cat..." I cried for days until I pulled up one evening and there she was laying in the driveway with her paws properly folded in front of her. Waiting for her to come to me, she settled into our new home and is once again happy to "just be."
They enjoy being brushed and in a mental note to myself, I am reminded to groom them more frequently. Well, I brush each of them and am careful to spend equal amounts of time on each cat so as to be fair. They purr, fidget and clearly enjoy being groomed. Now, during the shedding season, this grooming is especially beneficial in a way that they are probably ingesting less hair and thereby coughing up less hair balls (too much information).
I have even positioned myself between the two and simultaneously pet and/or brush them together. Sometimes I pause long enough to hug the two of them and thank God they are mine. You can really feel the love. As the provider, I believe I am fair and just. Well, Antigone feels differently and will cue me when she believes I've spent enough time with Ophelia. When she's ready for more attention, she will take a few swats at Ophelia. Antigone just doesn't like to share and it occurred to me: I have a lot to learn about me.
The Art of Receiving, December 2010
Managing in an uncertain economy, my family decided after Thanksgiving dinner that instead of each of us buying for each other, we were randomly assigned another family member to whom we would anonymously give a gift. Since we are NOT the secret-keeping kind, I knew early on that my Sister Jen would play Secret Santa to me. As instructed, I listed the items I wished for and went about the Advent season with confidence that all that I dreamed of would be delivered on Christmas day.
By now, I have come to identify and accept the certain "things" I am drawn to and for purposes of my Secret Santa wish list, they included: Ralph Lauren's Blue perfume, Brilliant's manicure/pedicure; Pier 1's Asian spice, David's sunflower seeds, and a WalMart gift card. For those of you that know my sister, you understand that she is thoughtful and funny, easy-going and completely complete (redundancy intended).
As I opened my gifts, which were separately wrapped in a beautiful basket shaped like a sleigh, I was damn near paralyzed by a Starbuck's gift card. Warning bells of alarm went off in my head, as I thought, It's not on the list, it's not on the list... I think I even uttered aloud, "It's not on the list" and prayed no-one heard me. I looked up from my compulsion to react negatively, and realized that not only did no one hear me, but no one even noticed. Thank God. To change my mind-set, I physically moved from the living room to the dining room and continued to open my gifts. When I was done, I said to Jen, "The Starbuck's gift card wasn't on the list. You went above and beyond and you didn't HAVE to. Thank you, that was really thoughtful."
This experience reminded me of one of the most unbelievable gifts I ever received. That I was handed the literal gift in 1991 and received the figurative one this year is in and of itself hard to believe, but true. It was my first Christmas as a married young lady and my father-in-law beamed with anticipation. "Pop" as I still refer to him, had each of us own the limelight when it was our turn to open gifts. New to the family, my pile was HUGE and I excitedly opened gift after gift after gift.
When I got to the one from Pop, I tore open a box wrapped in thick green Christmas paper. I pulled out the contents and tried to conceal a "what the 'f'' is this!" expression I was fearful I conspicuously displayed. Saying nothing at all, just holding up my new portable iron, I just looked around the room in disbelief and tried to gauge everyone else's facial expression. Surely there's been an accident, I thought, a horrible, terrible freak accident, whereby my REAL gift was mixed up with this disaster of a present. Unable to hide my true colors, I asked my father-in-law, "What is this?"
"It's a portable iron, Chrissie," Pop said with real excitement. "For what?" I asked innocently enough. "When you and BillyBoy go on vacation, you can iron his shirts!" he said. Sometimes I just don't know when to stop talking and I responded with, "I have to do that?" "Well...no" he said, "You don't HAVE to do that, but it would be nice...when you two go out to dinner...that he have on a crisp, button-down, collared shirt." Again, I could have stopped talking, but I didn't. As I handed my husband the iron, I said something like, "This is for you."
Throughout the years, Pop gave me a lot of tools and each one, like the portable iron, took me another step closer to being a giver of care.
Settle, December 18, 2010
I started reading Eat, Pray, Love with the best of intentions and now that I feel compelled to write about a grilled cheese sandwich, it is ridiculously obvious that I got stuck in the "Eat" section. Last time I checked, my bookmarker (which is a BIC brite liner GRIP yellow highlighter) was on page 127 and my connection to Elizabeth Gilbert stopped there.
About that sandwich...I left work at 12:40 without a coat on even though it was 32°. While I was suffering from a lack of imagination earlier, it occurred to me that grilled Swiss on rye with thin tomato and a side of chicken noodle soup was the ideal lunch. I ran across the street to Be Bop to grab lunch in a hurry. Be Bop is an unusual name for a deli, but since an Asian couple own it, I dismissed obsessing on it and figured it must be culture-related. ANYwho, the female proprietor took my order and while she was at the grill, I helped myself to the ladle in the urn on the counter that separated us.
Back at my desk, I uncovered the piping-hot soup and unwrapped my grilled Swiss. Much to my surprise and chagrin, the grilled Swiss was NOT a grilled Swiss AND it wasn't even on rye bread! This lunch was a grilled American cheese on white bread. Yuck. Now, I was contemplating bringing it back while the steam rose from my cup of chicken noodle soup. So, I bit into the grilled offense of a meal and pondered the viability of settling.
Chewing on the idea of accepting that which I know is not for me, left me with a literal and figurative bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes I really wish I was the settling kind, life would be very simple. Looking at my soup steaming one last time, I packed up the mistake and walked it out of my life because that's just the type of lady I am.
My Favorite Flavor, December 2010
Writing about something as simple as one's favorite flavor gets complicated when I'm the one writing. How can something as effortless as what your taste buds naturally pull you to be complex? Well, I'm glad you asked; here it is:
Prior to attending the Bruce Blakeman fundraiser at Glo this past summer, I may not ever have narrowed down my preference. However, that night I figured it out even though that was not my intention. My two motives for the evening were to (1) find out about the candidate and (2) meet a marriage-worthy man to date. So, I dressed monochromatically in a white Marilyn deep V halter, empire-waist, pleated cocktail party dress and topped it off with a white shrug. Wearing a shrug makes me want to shrug and as I gave a final "once over" in the mirror before I left, I actually shrugged.
Admittedly, I moved about the crowd and stopped long enough to ask, "What are your thoughts on this candidate?" As I listened to the answers, I considered the intelligence level of each response and the delivery (including eye contact, hand gestures and an equally impressive and effective, melodious voice). Most answers were more about the speaker as opposed to the candidate and that went a long way with my dual agenda: "What do you think of Bruce Blakeman?" ("Are you marriage material?"); "Can you see this candidate as a New York State Senator?" ("Would you make a good husband?")...
Then, I noticed a gentleman standing at the bar drinking what looked like sumptuous and warming, single-malt scotch whiskey. Holding the glass at chin level, his pinky extended out, but not so far as to be construed as arrogant. I imagined he was "the face of Glenmorangie" and before boarding a plane back to Scotland in the morning, was here making an appearance. He noticed me observing him and when I approached, I could tell he didn't see this coming.
"What is your opinion of this candidate?" I asked him. He just looked at me for a moment and I wondered if he heard my question. When he next tilted his head and looked up and to the right, I wondered if he understood what I asked. In what seemed like a ridiculously long "pregnant pause" of a response, I was fearful that this gentleman possessed a subnormal intellectual ability. In retrospect, what I actually witnessed was this man "visibly" thinking. After placing his old-fashioned glass down and touching his chin, his response was simply, "I don't know enough about this candidate to formulate an opinion either way."
Truth be told, I wasn't just enamored with his pure, plain vanilla response...
Robert, September 19, 2010
Each year around the time of my birthday I ponder how meaningful my life is and just where, how and why I fit into the world. For me, it's a yearly organizational way of understanding existentialism. (Yes, by all means, look it up.) I could sum the last year of my life up in one word - Robert. The name Robert is a Germanic given name, from hrod meaning "fame" and beraht meaning "bright." For the purpose of "the big scheme of things," Robert is as absolutely inconsequential as you interpret him to be.
It was a Saturday in June when I was hosting a garage sale. I grew up with garage sales being an additional means to produce income and actually enjoy the manual labor, verbal combat and thrill of selling. Anyway, Robert was a customer that caught my attention initially because he pulled up in a paint-splattered car. He and his father browsed my garage sale wares for about an hour and made small talk. He spoke with an accent and although he mentioned where the accent was from, I didn't retain that information.
Robert left and came back later with his Aunt. She was magnificently beautiful and when she revealed her age, I just couldn't believe it. I think it was my sister that overheard us talking and chimed in that she thought Robert looked like Orlando Bloom. For all I knew he could have been Orlando Bloom, I just wasn't THAT tuned in. I do have a point and I'm getting to it:
Finally, Robert found his way over to the car battery I had for sale. "How much you want for this?" He asked in that accent I couldn't quite place. "Twenty Dollars," I said in a "take it or leave it" kind of way. Robert protested at first that a NEW battery was $50, so I challenged him with, "Yes, well this one's less than half price!" He conceded and asked me how old it was and why it wasn't in my car. The funny thing about this car battery is that it was never used as a car battery. I purchased it to juice the laptop computer and web camera when we shot the celebrity golf outing with Alec Baldwin. We didn't have access to electricity and ran the equipment all day on the golf course.
This was the tipping point in selling the battery because it came with a fantastic story. But, again he asked how old it was. While I calculated in my head how many years have passed since the Baldwin celebrity golf outing (four), Robert spoon-fed me the "right" answer, "If this battery is more than a year or two, it probably isn't good..." I lied and assured him that it was only one year old.
Next, he asked me if I immediately re-charged the battery after running it all day. Of course, I asked why because I needed to prepare the "right" answer. Now, I knew full-well that I DIDN'T re-charge the battery, but I was in too deep and wouldn't control myself. Robert explained that re-charging it immediately after full use, would likely guarantee its viability even now. "Yes, yes I re-charged it just as soon as we got back to the NEWSroom!" He beamed and pressed on with, "How did you know you HAD to re-charge it?" This was when I offered a glimmer of truth, "My systems integrator is really knowledgeable about this stuff and made me promise I would." We all know that I didn't.
So, I took Robert's $20 and watched him walk away with a battery that I KNEW wasn't for him. He carried my lie and I let him. I was fixated on how deliriously happy Robert was each time I told him what he wanted to hear. I wanted to say what he needed to hear or I needed to say what he wanted to hear. Either way, the $20 in my hand felt like an untruth and I filed it away, separate from what I honestly earned because I knew it wasn't mine.
When Robert returned (you knew he would), I apologized. I confessed that I couldn't help myself. As much as I wanted to tell him what he wanted to hear, it never would have amounted to reality. He accepted my apology and refused to take back his $20. With it, I will always carry the parable of all parables.
The Storm Off, August 27, 2010
Every so often in life, you will find the need to "storm off" and when you do, you must be relatively certain that you look good doing it. I can not stress this enough, people. Any deviation from looking good places you in an "epic fail" category and that is the last thing you need in a good and successful storm off.
Specifically, when you "hit the skids" in a break-up, there is a pivotal point in between your final soliloquy and the actual storm off that will define whether or not you achieve success. In that pause, you should exhale loud enough to be heard and when you take that first step, all of your people must stand up and walk with you. Anyone still sitting qualifies you for an epic fail of a storm off.
If you don't want to run the risk of stragglers ruining your big storm off, you can cowardly storm in a "Dear John" letter via e-mail. Technology allows you to be confrontational in a non-confrontational way. If you list "10 Things I Hate About You," you must take great care to at least be numerically correct in your itemization. Imagine, the grand finale of deal breakers concluding with a number one instead of ten, "(1) I don't want to listen to ANYONE bad-mouthing their ex-wife, mother or daughter... ESPECIALLY after systematically destroying one's life and showing no remorse whatsoever."
You can't be taken seriously if you're dropping typos and leading with no followers. If you run those risks, try storming in. What that means is you walk into a room with enough storm already brewing that people run out. While I'm not entirely certain you should be proud of this method (o.k., be a little proud), imagine the power of clearing the contents of a room with your simple presence.
So, here's the thing: prepare an epic success exit strategy, rich with your parade of supporters or make sure you spell check! Otherwise, there is no one to blame for your epic failure of a storm off and you must rely on storming in.
Delilah, January 25, 2010
You would never know that Delilah was different from you and me. She works full-time as a librarian, goes to church and treasures her kids. Delilah dresses her phenomenal shape well, takes equal pride in her intellectual and physical beauty, and you get the feeling when you're in her presence that everything is just fine. Actually, when you're with her, you take on her dynamic, euphoric aura.
I've walked with her through the mall on many occasions and she holds her head high and carries herself like she has not a care in the world. Delilah is really polite when speaking with salespeople and funny in a self-effacing sort of way. Kids flock to her and even though men are drawn to her, she's a "girls' girl." Even the most hateful of women would be hard-pressed to dislike Delilah. I'm one of her biggest fans and with that comes the privilege of calling her "Lila."
Life is really easy around her and if there's any one else in this world that I would even consider being for a day -- it would be Lila. I would get inside her head and have all the answers. Normally, she would illuminate a dramatic comedy as she spoke of her tumultuous relationship. Depending upon the day, she was either victim or perpetrator. In the circles we traveled, rarely would anyone mention this unusual aspect of Lila. Why, why would this fabulous lady spend years engaged in an injurious relationship?
During a cold November rain in 2009, she and I spent the morning at a day spa and I caught glimmers of answers. On this day, her voice was gone. Her spirit dimmed. Lila was vastly different. In the privacy of the ladies' room, I watched her disrobe and without saying a word, her body revealed why she was uncharacteristically obscure. Around the circumference of her upper arm were fingerprints in black and blue. Where her back met her right hip was a scrape that looked like a carpet burn. It was still raw. Along her limbs were random bruises in no particular pattern.
I didn't think this disturbed relationship existed like this from inception and hoped this escalation would be the catalyst for Lila's exit strategy. She didn't want to talk and she didn't want to listen. Lila simply let me hug her. Not one to lecture (not true, I'm big into lecturing), I simply affirmed, "Your body should be touched with the hand of love." When she left, I followed a safe distance behind her so as to not be detected.
When she pulled up to her home, he was sitting in his car outside. I watched her take notice, flinch and hesitate. An inner conflicting monologue played out in my head, Dial 911...Get out of the car and confront him...Call the police... but all I did was sit hamstrung with horror and watch. She took a deep breath, got out of her car and walked methodically toward him. He got out of his car and arrogantly greeted her with open arms. Lila went right to him.
It was the turning point for Lila. Instead of falling into his arms, she stopped dead in her tracks about two feet in front of him. He looked confused. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I saw her take the ring off of her left-hand and throw it at him. He didn't see it coming and where it hit the ground was a hint of what might have been a sparkle at some point in the far away past. As he bent down to pick it up, Lila kicked him. He wasn't on solid footing to begin with and fell. I let out a nervous laugh -- he looked like a dog that just received a command to "roll over."
As I got out of my car, Lila was standing over him and they both noticed me walking toward them. (Even the most vile of individuals shouldn't be kicked when down, right?) He didn't bother to get up and said, "Did you see what she did!?" And I thought, It doesn't matter what I see, it's what Lila sees. Ignoring him, my attention was on Lila and while her stance was combative, her eyes cried surrender. Once inside the shelter of her home, she confided in me, "I can't do this anymore." From the window I watched him drive away and Delilah didn't even notice.
December 27, 2009
What I learned in 2009
If you find the courage ask questions, you should graciously accept the answers. If you lead by example, you will become a vicarious student. If you attract morally up-right, honest and faithful individuals, you are emitting that energy. If you are doing your best by day, you will sleep soundly at night. If you grow up with altruistic parents, you will sacrifice your own well-being for your child. If you want something so much that when you think about it you can taste it in your mouth, you should go to the end of the earth for it if you have to. If instinctively you believe a man is a provider, protector and professor of love for you and only you, you should marry him. If your work is good, you will take pride in it. If your ex-husband's girlfriend is smart, beautiful and kind, he still has high standards. If you take care of yourself, it will show. If your mother takes a "tough love" approach toward you and your choices, you will think long and hard. If you are brutally honest, people will come to you for brutal honesty. If you know what you want, you are beginning to obtain it. If your teenager views you as intelligent and resourceful, you are becoming a good parent. If you lose a lot, you will gain more in the appreciation of what still exists. If you are living your dream, you are your most authentic self.
Christine Nicoletti & Spot Photo by Kris Schmidt, 1978
NEWSiE Circa 1978
If there was ever a place to begin, this would be it. To the best of my recollection, I am delivering papers around the neighborhood and enlisting the help of a local supermarket shopping cart, my best friend Kris and her cat. Judging by the hairstyle, it is late in the 1970's and I am barely a teenager. Brooklyn Avenue School separated Sixth Street from Fifth and the background view of the School is the angle from Kris's house.
Kris was one of my closest friends growing up. She shot this photo more than 30 years ago and couldn't possibly have known its brilliant composition back then. This photo captures me developing a dream with motivation, resources and fun. My job was to deliver NEWSpapers around the neighborhood and in order to turn a decent profit, I had to circulate more than would fit on my bicycle. I wasn't old enough for working papers, but was old enough to know better than to "borrow" a supermarket shopping cart...
June 11, 2009
"Tying the Knot"
What scares me most about me is how once my words "walk" out of my mouth, they become my actions. While I know a lot of people that stay in the talking stage for an excessive amount of time, that's just not me. You see, by the time I reach the word stage, I am already in the action stage.
Behind the scenes, there is an intricate evolution that leads up to my deeds and here is the inside information: My actions moved fom my words after taking up residence in head and prior to that in my heart. So, in the beginning there is a baby seedling of feeling that takes root and grows within that very muscular organ. My heart doesn't just pump blood through my veins, it emotes an obsessive sentiment.
This infatuation develops wings and soars through my mind. Its progression stems from emotional and grows into intellectual. These developing thoughts fly about their new home as they organize their strengths and weaknesses, positives and negatives and finally their true viability. Only the fittest beliefs survive long enough to tell their tale.
Up until now, all thoughts and feelings were mere perceptions. Reality sets in the moment I articulate. Darwin would have loved the evolution and adapability of that which rents space in my heart and in my head becomes reality.
June 4, 2009 In the End, We Put Her Down
For the 89 1/2 years that my grandmother lived, she was held in the highest esteem and sat icon-like at the head of our family. If I boasted about the pedestal we placed her on, it would be no exaggeration. Her life was devoted to the family she created and if you were loved without condition the way we were, you would be complete.
Years ago she fell ill and for the first time in my life I thought about her mortality. Being the writer I fancy myself, I began writing a narrative of her life. I wrote about growing up in the projects of Manhattan, living through the Great Depression, her marriage, child-bearing, multiple wars, working on an assembly line in a cigarette factory, being a cashier at a supermarket, becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother, and enjoying clipping coupons, playing Scrabble and the card game, May I.
Finding the eulogy-like chronology of her life to be somewhat macabre, I put the pen away. Instead of wrapping my thoughts around her dying, I got busy with her living.
We would food shop at the local markets and fluctuate our dialogue between the increasingly high prices and our savings with sale items, coupons, double-coupons and senior discounts. Each excursion what quite a trip! Most cashiers knew my grandmother by name and the employees over-30 years of age referred to her as "Mrs. Nicoletti." In the later years, my grandmother would steady herself by pushing the shopping cart. She would position herself at a central location and suggest that my cousin and I go find specific items and meet back by her. While my cousin Carla and I would rely on cell phones to update each other on location, mission status and ETA, my grandmother would simply shout, "Cris! Where ARE you? Carla?" Thankfully, most shoppers would understand and forgive such public displays. There were times that the ratio of our grocery bill compared to what we carried out of the store was so obscene, I wondered how the store could afford it.
We would stop at garage sales and my grandmother would generally just sit in the car with the window opened a little bit. I found a fabulous mirror at an early 1900's colonial house out east. The homeowners were just lovely and the husband asked if my "sister" would like something to drink. My grandmother just laughed and blushed. While the wife was conversing with my cousin Carla, the husband gave me the history of this "antique" mirror and a price of $700. I didn't like it THAT much and moved toward my cousin. The husband was muttering under his breath as he went inside the house. I whispered to my cousin details of my dilemma and pointed toward the mirror. Without skipping a beat, she asked the wife, "What do you want for that junky mirror?" The wife seemed very uncertain and replied, "Oh, I don't know...twelve dollars?" My cousin is a master negotiator and replied, "I'll give you six." I really tried to conceal my excitement as the wife agreed. We synchronized my cousin pulling the car up with my paying the wife, all the while the husband was returning!
We would gather at lunch time and chop salads, roll dough, and drink wine. There was coupon cutting, Scrabble playing and card sharking. Talking, laughing, shouting and sometimes crying was a part of the mix. Lunches began with Carla, my grandmother and me and grew to include my Aunt Margie, Cousin Lucy, and sometimes Nichole and Angel. There were days that our lunch gatherings grew so large, my grandmother was lost in the anarchy. She would generally come out with something like, "Hey, who's going to pay attention to me?" We would just laugh and remember it was all about her. She brought us together and kept us together.
It wasn't just me. All of us shared a similar bond with my grandmother. She was an amazing care-giver; we learned from her how to care, how to give. In the later years of my grandmother's life, she learned how to receive care. It was a strange phenomenon for all of us - her included. We cooked for my grandmother and sometimes even fed her. We colored and cut her hair and sometimes even washed and brushed it. We clipped, filed and painted her fingernails and toenails. Those closest to her washed and changed my grandmother.
All but one of her siblings were deceased. Years ago, she found her husband dead in his bed one morning. My grandmother even watched her son die. She was done here. In the end, she felt dizzy and nauseous most of the time. She complained that her eyes were "sunken in" her head. Her stomach bothered her and she rarely ate much at all. She was tired and couldn't even get out of bed. Her body ached and she couldn't bare to be touched.
When faced with subjecting her to invasive testing and high risk surgery, we gathered outside of her hospital room. My Aunt Margie, cousins and I decided to put her on "comfort care." As her pain increased, so did the morphine. As her morphine increased, her vitals dropped. She laid with her arms stretched out in front of her with her palms facing up. We sat around her crying and what I remember most is my cousin Carla sharing the last discussion of my grandmother's life, "If you die and go to Heaven tonight, know that I love you very much and I will miss you. Find my dad and Dakota, kiss them for me and tell them that I love them..." My grandmother faded in and out of consciousness as she called for HER mother and drifted off to a forever slumber.
April 9, 2009 - "Spy Wednesday"
Today is the day in Catholic history that Judas arranged to hand over Jesus Christ. Instead of proclaiming Christ, Judas conspired against and betrayed the man that entrusted him to lead his Church. The very next day, twelve apostles broke bread with Jesus and shared wine from the same holy chalice. Known in modern times as Holy Thursday, we stop to consider Jesus Christ's self-fulfilling prophecy. He knew he would be betrayed and said as much during his last meal. Leonardo da Vinci portrayed the reaction of his Twelve Apostles in The Last Supper when Jesus revealed that one of them would betray him.
Sold for 30 pieces of silver, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, was crucified for claiming to be the son of God. He carried the very cross he was nailed to and spent six hours agonizing with two criminals. Good Friday is the day we commemorate the insults, the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. We understand today how our sins impact others and are careful about the crosses we carry.
February 13, 2009
Every year on September 27th, a floral truck would pull up and deliver flowers on North Michigan Avenue. The first time I remember was in 2001. My son, Steven, had just come home from school and I was still in front of the house, waving to his bus driver. Young enough to still want to hold my hand, we skipped hand-in-hand from the sidewalk, up the path and onto the front porch.
As we walked through the front door, I noticed the flower truck pulling up the block. The driver moved painfully slowly toward my house, eyes darting between each house and sidewalk -- searching for an address either subtly spray-painted on the curb or obviously displayed on the house. Guardedly optimistic, I went inside the house with my son and closed only the storm door. Mixing up chocolate milk at the dining room table, we talked about a day in the life of a second grader. I fixated on the bottom of his glass while the chocolate integrated with the milk. His spoon circled the glass and his words syncopated with the sound it made as it completed each rotation, gadush, gadush... and as if on cue, we heard the sound of footsteps walking up the steps of the front porch.
Like Pavlov's dog, Steven ran for the door before the sound of the bell and abandoned his chocolate milk. I could see from the kitchen, down the hall, the delivery man standing on the porch with flowers. Oh, the thrill of receiving flowers! He handed me the clipboard and asked me to sign on behalf of my neighbors. What? Sensing the crushing of my spirit, he gently explained that my neighbors weren't home, would I take care of the delivery in their absence...
Every year since, I would accept delivery of Tony and Mary's flowers and let their fragrance fill my home. I would devour their aroma until dinner time and walk them next door. Their expression mirrored mine each year they opened their door and saw me standing there like the delivery man. They would celebrate another anniversary of marriage and I knew, one day, that would be me.
December 10, 2008
A famous or not so famous person once said, "A dream is the answer to a question we haven't quite figured out how to ask." What is my question to this answer of a dream:
I was standing next to a prominent man in my life and said, "I will run a marathon." His response was that he didn't think I could. Reiterating my resolve, I stated, "I can and I will." No sooner did the words leave my mouth, did I begin actually running the race. There were runners surrounding me and he ran next to me. Very soon thereafter I encountered hurdles along the way. The first puddle I ran around; the second I jumped over, the next I ran through. Each time I journeyed through such obstacles, I felt a renewed enthusiasm. There were marathoners crowding the course and I jockeyed around them. I couldn't see him anymore and happened upon a set of stairs leading up to the next platform. Mustering even more momentum, I fervently scaled the steps. I lost sight of him.
The dream was over and reality set in.
December 4, 2008 Without Speech
Back in college, my business management professor assigned us the task of interviewing two managers. If that sounds like a broad topic, that's because it was. One of my classmates decided to interview the McDonald's/Burger King store managers and I over-heard another classmate discuss interviewing two retail clothing chain managers. Boring.
Well, I decided that I was going to interview managers of massive organizations, Town Supervisors: Town of Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone and Town of Brookhaven Supervisor John Jay LaValle. I think very much like I dream: BIG and in color!
Step 1: Convince professor that Town Supervisors ARE managers -- they manage municipalities.
Step 2: Locate and dial each Town office.
Step 3: Begin dialogue with each receptionist, "Hi, this is Christine Sohmer, I am a student at Adelphi University majoring in business management and I am calling to schedule an appointment to interview the Supervisor as part of an assignment."
Step 4: Schedule the dates and times.
Step 5: Thoroughly research each "manager."
Step 6: Nail each interview.
To the best of my recollection now, the Supervisors lead parallel lives and drawing similar management styles was a cinch. As I compiled my research, it occurred to me that Supervisor LaValle possessed a charismatic leadership style that I found enthralling. Handsome, educated, single...I grew nervous.
Aside from getting caught at the last minute without a babysitter, the interview with Bellone went swimmingly. He didn't seem overly annoyed that I brought my son and kept his cool as we spilled Coca Cola all over his conference room table. I followed the outline of questions faxed over to Mr. Bellone earlier in the week and as he methodically answered each question, I took notes. He smiled a perfect smile, spoke perfect words and struck me as oddly perfect. As if on cue, his beeper went off as I fired off the last question and he answered hurriedly as the interview was concluded.
Within days of the Bellone interview, I was scheduled to meet with Mr. LaValle. Growing increasingly eager, intrigued and frightened, I woke up that morning without a voice! Trying with all of my might, no words would come out -- just air. Yes, I was completely fascinated with this man, to the point that I was completely disarmed. How do you interview someone without a single, solitary weapon such as a word? I was speechless.
September 30, 2008
Months ago, I was standing around the Farmingdale lanes with a bunch of other parents just watching our kids bowl. It must have been a practice and not a game, because I was more focused on chatting with the other moms instead of watching the kids bowl.
We got on the subject of "cutting" because I overheard one of the kids use the term in a way that I didn't fully understand. This is what it sounded like:
Me: "What do you know about cutting?"
Another Mom: "The School has a strict policy on cutting and prevents kids from leaving the school in between classes."
When I was in high school, cutting meant ditching class. Today, it means injuring yourself on purpose by scratching or slicing your body with a sharp object. Yeah. It's hard to believe, but cutting is a form of self-injury and kids that "cut" are cutting themselves on their wrists, arms, legs, and/or stomachs.
It's hard for me to wrap my thoughts around why people cut themselves on purpose. Is it a means for coping with pain? Is it a solution for dealing with strong emotions or intense pressure that seem too difficult to bear. Is it a manifestation of emotional pain or pressure? An expression of strong feelings of rage, sorrow, rejection, desperation, longing, or emptiness?
Well, I went to the party of all cutting parties in March when I underwent surgery on a hernia. (Yes, it's hard for me to admit that I have imperfections.) Believe me when I say, "It was no party."
August 1, 2008
What precedes an actual column entry is a fleeting thought that continues its journey to and from my consciousness. Sure, I think about a lot of things, so many in fact that Jodi Markowitz back in high school once said to me, "You think too much." Back then, I didn't think it was possible to "think too much" and I've learned over time that recurring thoughts become your words, actions and a physical manifestation of what rents space in your head.
Back to the persistent thought: my father died on Friday, May 2, 2008. My mother and I had just hung up the telephone after arranging to meet in the NEWSroom within the hour to finalize the print edition. With the organization of distribution out of the way, I shifted gears and dialed Assemblyman Joseph Saladino to discuss his thoughts on the Board of Education candidates that were scheduled to discuss their campaigns on-camera later in the early evening. Being the diplomat that he is, Joe recommended that we focus on the "issues."
If you know Assemblyman Saladino, it's not shocking for me to write about how talkative he is. On any given day, his highly communicative nature is welcome; today, my mother was ringing me back on the other line. It is unlike her to call me once we have solidified plans, so I searched for a moment to politely interrupt Joe's soliloquy. There was no awkward pause and my mother hung up. Joe recommended a provocative question to reveal the true foundation of each candidate, "In times of austerity, what would each candidate cut from the school budget?"
When my mother rang through again, I knew it was serious and I rudely interrupted and hung up with Assemblyman Saladino. This is what bad news sounds like:
Me: "What's up?"
My Mother: "I want you to drive over to your sister's house so that she's not alone when she finds out."
Me: "Finds out what?"
My Mother: "That her father died."
Me: "HER father? You mean MY father? OUR father? YOUR husband?"
My Mother: "Yes."
Me: "When? I just got off the phone with you."
My Mother: "I hung up with you, went downstairs and he was on the floor."
Me: "Where is he now?"
My Mother: "Still on the floor."
Me: "How do you know he's dead?"
My Mother: "I touched him."
Me: "You DID?"
My Mother: "Of course I did, he's my husband."
Me: "Then what happened?"
My Mother: "I dialed the police."
Me: "What did they say?"
My Mother: "That they're on their way."
Me: "I'll be there within the 1/2."
I gave up my desk, found my son and dialed Travis at the Massapequa Funeral Home on the way to Valley Stream. There were two police cars and a herse parked at the dead end. As I approached the front door to the home I grew up in, this stranger of a police officer suggested I not go in, "Your father is still inside." "So is my mother and I'm going in," I asserted as I pressed on.
No sooner did I reach the front door did I see my mother almost hiding in the hallway at the top of the stairs. I was never consciously aware of fear within my mom, but I saw it then. Climbing the staircase (the very same stairs we slid down on pillows as kids) took on a whole other meaning in those few moments. I counted in my head the steps as I climbed them "One, two, three (is my mother devastated), four, five, six (can she survive this), seven, eight, nine (will we be able to take care of her), ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen (there's no more time for questions, only answers)...fourteen."
Standing with my mother, I watched my father's fate, sealed in a bag, being carried away on a gurney. Sixth Street was suddenly lifeless - devoid of any noise or activity. I could barely breathe. The herse backed out of the block I grew up on and I couldn't see beyond it, not even Brooklyn Avenue School's stickball court.
July 1, 2008
Twice this week (and it's only Tuesday) my staff quoted me.This may not be monumental to most, but to me it is the equivalent of having "arrived."I quote people frequently and my two favorites are:
Rudyard Kipling in If, "...talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch..." and Martin Luther King, Jr., "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." The first quote resonates in a quantitative sort of way and the latter in a qualitative.It is a little too late for either speaker to appreciate the impact their words have on me; however, the timing is right for me to appreciate the impact my words have on others. I am passionate about words, not only because of the sheer magnitude of their power (or the absence thereof), but because of the highly subjective nature of such expressions.Words are where I step out onto the wild side when the daily doldrums of objectivity get in my way.
About my staff: Dave is a "newbie" and doesn't know me well enough to live inside of my head. -- yet. He was relaying an earlier conversation about the sharing of information and said to me, "I told them what YOU told me, 'people don't tell me things because I lock information up in a vault; people tell me things because I tell other people.' " I'm usually half-listening as I am multi-tasking or "ocd-ing," but hearing my words from his mouth made me stop, think and laugh. Is that what I sound like?
And Sabrina, my Bean, my baby-girl, my child protege, the reincarnation of me, said to one of her assistants, "That's personal and this is business --I'M the Queen Bean." This one hurt a lot! Actually, a direct quote would have sounded something like "massapequaNEWS.com is not the forum for your personal agenda; I'm the Queen F#&#ing Bee!" (Mental note to self, 'watch the language.')
February 25, 2008
Visiting my sister down in Pennsylvania seems to be my ideal vacation these days. Her home is about 3 hours from here and the drive down this weekend was pretty entertaining, because each time I stopped at a toll both, I would look the toll-taker in the eye and say, "I'm running away from home."
Anyway, I get to spend time playing cards with my sister and when the baby is awake, I get to bathe, feed and diaper him. Also, I play with P.J. (the family member of the canine-sort) and hang out with my 15 year-old niece. Well, on this particular weekend my niece, her friend and I were sitting around the dining room table, talking about nothing in particular in between cell phone text messages. Everyone else was asleep.
Well after midnight, we began prowling around the kitchen, raiding the snack cabinets! So as to maintain some level of consideration, we moved about with very little light. Chips here, sandwiches there...I poured soda into a Styrofoam cup and noticed it wasn't as cold as I usually like my soda; so, I reached into the freezer and found the zip lock bag that my sister keeps ice in. I felt the chunks that seemed like two and three cubes stuck together. None of them felt smooth -- sort of like what freezer-burn feels like -- and I didn't even care, I grabbed the smallest one and dropped it into my cup.
Getting back to the business at hand, this random, fleeting thought crossed my mind: "my sister must have picked up a sleeve of misprinted Taco Bell cups at the dollar store..." And then I thought I knew why: the cup began to permeate an onion scent! I wasn't even sure this was possible, so I kept drinking. I hopped up and went over to my niece and asked her, "What does this taste like?" She drank it, and said, "onion-flavored root beer."
We walked the cup over to the light above the stove and found the ice wasn't ice at all. It was a quartered onion, thawing in my root beer. My NEWSies would say I was "having a Julia moment..." The girls and I laughed so hard, we woke my humorless sister and her husband.
In my defense, I must ask (1) who freezes onions; and (2) why put them in a zip lock bag where the ice used to be?
November 6, 2007
L.J. and I grew up calling each other "cousin" even though we didn't share a blood-line. Our mothers began their careers in Manhattan together, married policemen and settled in Valley Stream back in the 60's. They dyed each other's hair, played Mah Jongg and vacationed up in Lake George most summers.
Lake George is where we first bonded in a friendship that was doomed. All of us kids put on a "variety show" for the parents one Saturday evening. L.J. and I wrote a screenplay about a bored housewife that accidentally set her kitchen on fire while fending off obnoxious children and cooking a lifeless meal. We were young enough to draft the idea in crayon and put the pretend fire out with a bucket of confetti during dress rehearsal. However, during "opening night" we filled the bucket with water, doused the audience and spent the balance of our vacation punished and separated from one another.
Even though we went to different schools, L.J. and I would communicate by passing notes to each other through Phil Nannery and ride our bicycles to the village green on weekends. Aside from crossing Sunrise Highway, our greatest deviance was getting hopped-up on sugar. Most adventures ended with my father pulling his VW Beetle dramatically across whatever lawn we happened to be sitting on. The frantic look in his eyes told me I had better spit out the wad of gum in my mouth before he detected it.
As a teenager, you would find me dancing in a 21 & over night club (with L.J.), breaking up a fight at a house party (with L.J.) and watching my first love be lured away (with L.J.). As young adults, L.J. and I commuted to and from Manhattan and people-watched on the stairs of the 42nd Street Library during lunch. She and I bought co-op apartments in Bayside and Great Neck, respectively. We were growing up in synch and learning how to balance the recklessness and responsibility that come with being 25 years of age.
She and I brought out the best and worst in each other. When I married and brought my son into the world, my perspective on life changed. Her resentment toward me built as she continued in her party girl mentality while I stayed close to home and nursed my baby. Soon thereafter, she married and had a son as well. Like our mothers, we migrated east only this time we settled in Massapequa.
November 3, 2007
The season of giving thanks is upon us. Into the mix of the daily grind, prepare for the end of daylight saving time (November 4th), Election Day (November 6th), Veterans' Day (November 12th) and Thanksgiving (November 22nd). I, for one, will set my clock back, vote, honor our veterans and be thankful for it all.
Widening the scope of being grateful, through massapequaNEWS.com, I appreciate the chance to report the stories of our Town. My way of "giving thanks" is this: be the Mystery Guest on the November 26, 2007 NEWScast! Before 11/15/07 enter to win:
What happens to your "break-up buddy" when you're no longer a post-relationship disaster? Everybody has a break-up buddy, right? You mean, some of you are fortunate enough to not even know what a break-up buddy is? If the phrase isn't self-explanatory enough, a break-up buddy is the one person in the world that loves you no matter how pathetic you can be.
Now, this piece can head in either of two directions: (1) I could pretend to be speaking in hypotheticals and act like I don't have the ability to be disastrous or (2) I can admit that, yes, I can be pathetic. As a truth-teller, why don't I just admit that I have a break-up buddy, her name is Kathy and she's been with me for years.
If you have a break-up buddy and she (yes, that IS probably a bit sexist of me) is anything like Kathy, she listens as you vent aimlessly -- even if you are repetitive -- assures you that you are doing the "right" thing and deserve far better. She will follow-up on whether you are eating and sleeping, knowing that both will suffer.
Again, what HAPPENS to your break-up buddy when you've sorted out your latest mistake and are finished being self-destructive? If she's anything like my Kathy, she's sitting in the front row, just outside of the ring, ready for the next round.
June 3, 2007
I didn't know my cousin Laurie very well at all. She and I met five years ago at her grandmother's funeral, which I believe was my grandmother's sister. Showing up at the funeral of someone you don't even know is extremely awkward and meeting the cousin you didn't know you had is weird; but in all of Laurie's grief, she was gracious and warm.
Laurie, I found out, lived in Florida with her husband and children -- five, I think. She had long, brown hair, sparkling eyes and kept herself in very good shape. When Laurie spoke, her words were spirited and her physical beauty was magnified. She stood very upright and confessed that after a surgery on her back, the "pins and rods" helped her to walk as tall as she did.
It was very easy for me to take an instant liking to my new-found cousin and thus began our pen-pal friendship via e-mail. At first, Laurie and I exchanged family history and each e-mail correspondence evolved us into "long-lost" friends. She confided in me that her back pain was increasingly unbearable and the medication she was taking was no longer effective. At times she seemed hopeless and I think I wished her Godspeed in her recovery. Laurie accepted the fact that she could no longer live her life in pain.
Flying down to Florida for a few days, Laurie asked me to visit her, see the house and meet the entire family. She was getting everyone together for what seemed like a final farewell. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't go. On the surface, I was caught up in my schedule. On a deeper level, I selfishly wouldn't say goodbye and unrealistically hoped that withholding my visit would give her a reason to hold on. When I got back to New York and resumed our e-mails, Laurie was very understanding and even sent her love.
It was soon thereafter that my e-mails went unanswered. I would send her pictures from each holiday and updates on our family in New York. Understanding how busy she must be with our family in Florida and doctor's visits, more than a year had passed before I heard anything at all.
I was with my grandmother on a Saturday afternoon when Laurie's father called. My grandmother asked how Laurie was and that's when we found out: Laurie took her own life.
May 22, 2007
A friend of mine recently cut his hair very short. You know, the militant-style haircut that is not quite shaved? It is cropped extremely short on the sides with just a slight amount of height in the front. He passed a mirror, stopped and looked at himself. As he turned each cheek, he squinted his eyes and asked aloud, "Does this haircut make my face look fat?"
Hmmm... Was I supposed to answer that? Honestly? He has put on some weight recently and is a little self-conscious; but he quit smoking 8 months ago and I guessed the weight gain was normal. I've sat through meals with him and long after he satisfied his sustenance quota, he would continue on and I would just sit and watch with amazement. Once, he caught me observing him and very coyly said, "I know, I'm a fatty, right?"
Again, who answers these questions honestly? As far as the haircut goes, "No, the HAIRCUT doesn't make your face look fat."
April 13, 2007
The "girly-girl" in me is more like a guy when it comes to shoes, "I know what I like and I like what I know." I'll wear shoes until they are completely spent, it's that simple. Because the winter is closing and spring is upon us (among other excuses), I broke down and actually shopped for a new pair today.
At the Macy's in Westfield Sunrise Mall, I browsed the shoe department with a variety of women and what I found was a manifestation of what was going on in their lives (or so I imagined)! Subject #1 was a black woman in her late 20's/early 30's. She tried on a pair of patent leather, midnight-blue spiked-heels with a very sharp point. Her shopping partner, who looked like her mom, seemed disinterested. When I caught her styling in front of the mirror, I grabbed her attention and simply stated, "YES!" To me, the shoes screamed, "I've been hurt before, but from this moment on, I'll be the one to inflict pain!"
Subject #2 was a white woman about 40 years of age that was sporting a wedding band, sensible haircut and comfortable loafers. She was shopping for a NEW pair of loafers and I imagined she was well-settled in her marriage. I looked down at my shoes -- Naturalizers -- and said to the happily married woman, "If these shoes could talk, they would say that I've been uncomfortable in a relationship for far too long." She agreed that comfort was critical. I directed her attention to the salesgirl that was on her way to me with a new attitude!
The irony of seeing extremes of black and white is that I am shaded gray. Somewhere in the middle of "I've been hurt" and "I am comfortable" lies a pair of elegant, smart beige patent-leather heels with an open toe by Nine West. A manifestation of what? I'm not entirely sure, but I'll let you know.
April 7, 2007
One of the many benefits of having my job is that I am privileged to meet hundreds upon hundreds of people! If you assume that the sheer volume would reveal outstanding individuals, you are correct. So as to not play the semantics game, understand that to me "outstanding" means "to be and remain exceptional and notable."
As analytical as I am, I seek out and find the common threads among all of the outstanding individuals I meet. Firstly, they embrace and honor where they came from. Whether it is a trailer park, a middle-class neighborhood or high society, they credit and respect their roots. They are the first to admit that without their parents and family shaping who they are, they wouldn't stand where they stand today. Forgiving your family's short-comings (regardless of how severe) and crediting their assets seems to be the high road all outstanding people travel.
Secondly, there is no discrepancy between how they perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others. Their words are in sync with their actions and they take responsibility for both. They make mistakes, they fail and sometimes even fall; but pause to reflect upon why. They say, "I'm sorry" and mean it. Individuals of outstanding status truly accept criticism. While a fact is a fact and there is no room to alter it, they allow for other people's opinions, even if they disagree. Agreeing to disagree fairly settles differing opinions. They align themselves with other outstanding individuals that share a high moral standard and similar values.
Finally, outstanding individuals set realistic goals for themselves and take the necessary steps to achieve them. They believe that success is not a destination, but a journey. Unafraid of hard work, they are tireless. They are more afraid of not confronting their fears. To be an outstanding individual, you see the life behind you and accept it. You see the life around you and thrive in it. You see the life ahead of you and anticipate it.
It is my hope that one day, I, too will be an outstanding individual.
February 7, 2007
There is a corner piece of floor moulding in my kitchen that when I'm rounding the corner into the hallway, will fall over and lay belly side up with a lethal-looking, tetanus-inducing nail pointing upward. I'll pause, consider how dangerous it is (while the Psycho shower scene noise plays in my head) and think about how I should grab the hammer and nail it to the wall once and for all. Then, I'll just prop it back up in it's usual unattached position and keep going.
Friends and family members will come over, round the corner from the kitchen into the hallway and kick my floor moulding over. Generally, they are very apologetic and can't believe how they could have done such a thing. I'll just look down at my shoes and agree, "I can't believe you just kicked my moulding off the wall." It always amazes me how many people think like me and suggest we grab my hammer and nail it. We settle on propping it back up and everyone keeps going.
This has been going on for at least a year and I know that because about a year ago I had a contractor working in the kitchen and even HE kicked the moulding off the wall. He promised to tack it back on the wall and settled on temporarily propping it back up. He finished working in the kitchen about a week after that and forgot all about the moulding.
So, why is it that most of us go for the quick fix and avoid truly fixing what's broken in our lives -- the literal and figurative. I think I'll grab my hammer now.
February 1, 2007: Wants and Needs
The downside of writing this column is that someone inevitably gets hurt. Dubbed the "mistress of words," I angle each entry toward the right, the wrong and never the indifferent. Here's my slant on wants and needs and this entry's "casualty" may just surprise you.
My ex-husband, Billy, and I met late in the summer of 1991. When September was ending and my birthday approached, he asked me what would be a good gift. As decisive as I am, I admitted that all I really "wanted" for my birthday was a bonsai tree. Looking at me cockeyed, I explained that the miniature tree would give me the opportunity to take care of and grow something. He shrugged his shoulders.
Well, my birthday came and I was presented with a beautifully wrapped large box. Hoping for the bonsai, my anticipation grew as I ripped into the paper and finally the box. There was a picture on the outside of the box and it looked like a box radio. Thinking that was odd, I opened the box and weirdly enough there WAS a box radio inside. Seeing the look of disbelief on my face, Billy explained that even though I "wanted" a bonsai, he thought I "needed" a box radio.
With each year that passed it became more obvious to me that my "wants" ranked low on his priority list and ultimately we divorced. Although the break-up was tumultuous and riddled with anxiety, we parted amicably and I accepted the dreams lost.
After spending time apart we re-connected socially at an event at our son's school. As we walked back to our cars, he reminded me of that first gift he bought me -- the box radio. I rolled my eyes back in my head and said, "That should have been my first clue..." We laughed, reminisced and he told me that even though we didn't exchange gifts anymore, he bought me something for the approaching Christmas holiday. He said he never forgot how much I wanted that bonsai. In the moments between hearing his words and seeing his gift I thought, "Is this really it? Are we about to recapture the dream?"
He popped open his trunk and you can only imagine what was inside. (I bet you guessed the bonsai -- everyone does.) It was ANOTHER box radio. I asked him, "Why?" and wondered if he was getting a good deal buying them in bulk, maybe through a friend at Radio Shack. He looked me dead in the eye and said, "I thought it would be FUNNY!" Tragic, right? From the moment we met, all throughout and even after our relationship, my "wants" were irrelevant.
So, who gets hurt with these truths? Believe it or not, it's me; I set aside my wants for seven years. SEVEN YEARS.
January 12, 2007
I went into the Deli on Park Boulevard this afternoon for a cup of coffee. The one that is two blocks south of Sunrise Highway (like most delis, I'm sure) has fresh baked muffins and cookies on the counter and whenever I'm standing around waiting, I "window shop." Rarely ever will I indulge, but if and when I do, it's the Linzer Tart, definitely the Linzer Tart! There's always at least one in the mix and mostly I'll just look adoringly at it, salivate and leave.
Today, there were no Linzer Tarts whatsoever. I asked the kid behind the counter, "Do you have a Linzer Tart?" A simple no would have sufficed, but his response was, "Do I have a Loser Card?" At first I couldn't comprehend what he was talking about and then it occurred to me, he heard "Linzer Tart" as "Loser Card." And he repeated it, "Are you asking for a Loser Card?" I'm not sure if what was lost in translation was his hearing or my speech, but I'm laying odds on his hearing being at fault because I enunciate pretty well. Actually, I enunciate to the point that my Dad will ask me, "what's wrong with your mouth -- what are you DOING?" My smart-ass answer generally sounds something like, "What's wrong with my mouth is that it is e-NUN-ciating!"
Back at the Deli with the "Loser Card," I'm just amused beyond words because random acts of erroneous tickle me senseless. While the question is still out on the floor (and this kid has no idea why I'm giggling), I assert that I already have a "Loser Card," thank him very much and ask him if HE would like a Loser Card. While he's at a loss for what I'm talking about and seems slightly insulted, I go in for the kill, "Oh, I see you already HAVE a loser card."
Still, I can't get over the miscommunication and even now I think about the space in between the giving and receiving of information. The pause between words being said and words being heard exists an entire world of perception -- the ever illusive, always intangible and generally incomprehensible -- purgatory!
My life is a series of Seinfeld episodes, strung together -- resembling a "life." Take for instance, the last 2 hours:
Shopping for a Christmas tree, Judas and I drove over to the corner of 107 and Merrick Road. There are a couple of transients that set up a makeshift Christmas shop in the parking lot at the northeast corner. Selecting the 6' frasier fir, the pseudo-salesman set out to find his drill. Watching him wander about the lot with no real results, I asked him, "Can I JUST have that tree..." He explained that I couldn't have THAT tree until he found his drill, because with his drill he would be able to remove it from the stand it was positioned in.
'Well,' I thought, 'If having THAT tree means that I am forced to stand around watching this guy search obsessive-compulsively for his 'flipping' drill, then I'll just take another tree!' So, I said to the guy, "Can I have a SIMILAR tree -- one that doesn't require drilling?" "Yes" he said as a stall tactic, and kept looking for his drill. While I'm thinking about how this guy MUST have been clinically diagnosed, I assert, "Can I have a similar tree RIGHT now?"
Forcing him to snap out of his drill-searching compulsion, his discomfort was obvious as he stopped his frantic search, bent over and picked up the first tree in eye shot. Passing it off as a frasier, he said, "How's THIS?" And he just stood there with a nervous smile, holding the tree upright. Now I'm wonder if this guy is on his meds or on the edge of breaking from reality. But I press my luck anyway and call him on it because I am a safe enough distance away and I've got back-up: "Hey, that's not a frasier, that's a douglas fir!" Alarmed for just a moment, he dropped it and picked up the next closest tree -- also a douglas fir. I saw this look in his eye that said, "Lady. Take the tree. Please. Let me get back to my drill search. Please, because NOTHING will be right in the universe until I am one with my drill!"
So, I took the tree and let him off the hook. I could see in that instant the wave of relief that washed over him -- the euphoria that came with knowing NOTHING would stop him from indulging in his drill obsession. Merry Christmas!
October 21, 2006
Friday morning, my pal Judas and I sat down for breakfast and before you conjure-up in your head a lavish breakfast feast, complete with fresh flowers on the table between us, understand that when I say "breakfast," it means coffee. Our breakfast meetings are typically a brief mention of how great the coffee is, a review and exchange of opinions on topics in the news and their relevance to Massapequa and finally a "think tank" of business ideas and implementations.
If you sat at the next table, you would have overheard a motivational speech on working "smarter" as opposed to "harder." In all honesty, I don't consciously grasp this concept on a daily basis. A lot of my days are spent putting fires out (figuratively speaking) and that type of work leaves me with a passive approach to everything else. This is anything BUT working smarter. If only for today, I would at least ATTEMPT to work smarter.
My next stop was the gym. This is where you will find me three times per week being the biggest offender of working harder. Most people would agree, it's easier to not concentrate on the muscles you're supposed to be working. With great purpose, I moved from the treadmill to each weight training machine, focused on working smarter. By the time the hour was up and my work out was complete, I was satisfied that I did, in fact, work smarter -- not harder! Certainly, I would feel it tomorrow, but today I was riding too much of a high to be concerned.
Leaving the gym at the same time as another member, he held the door for me and I thanked him. He commented on the lousy rain we were having and I admitted that I actually enjoyed the rain. He looked at me quizzically and asked me why. I didn't even have to think of why, I just swung my hair back, pointed my chin toward the sky and confessed, "I like the way the rain feels on my face." He was almost disgusted when he responded, "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."
Such admissions on my part are me going back to working harder -- not smarter, because it would have been smarter for me to say nothing at all. Now, every time I see this guy I am going to have to deal with his distaste for the rain and disbelief in me for liking it.
Cris & P.J.
September 17, 2006
My apologies. The best of my satirical and slanted writing, stemming from my cynical and contemptuous mind-set, is behind me. Love has a funny influence (did I write that out loud) and I am under its spell. Yes, you read it here first, straight from the source and you can quote me, I'm "in love."
Let's not get crazy though, it's with my sister's puppy. Although he doesn't belong to me, I convinced the entire family that "P.J." is his name and that it stands for "Paul, Jr.," named after my brother-in-law. Everyone took to the name (including P.J.) and no-one noticed the relevance of his initials transposed as we sat around watching the Video Music Awards.
Sean "Puffy" Combs was on stage and I tuned out what he was saying and thought about his evolution and changes in name from: Puff Daddy to Puffy to P Diddy to Diddy. This launched my soliloquy, "P.J., you're so sweet and I love you, I think I'll call you Puff Doggy or P. Jiddy and when I pack up my things, you come with me...o.k.? We'll make a break for it just you and me! I'll pretend like I'm just taking you out for a walk and they'll never know! You and I will be best friends for life and I'll love you until the end of time..."
Well, P.J. stayed right where he belonged and I left my heart, broken, with him. I know he's not mine, but that doesn't mean I can't secretly wish he was. Part of me wants to hold onto the illusion that he'll find me one day; until then, I'm back in business with my cynical, slanted writing.
September 15, 2006
Michael Harrison ("Harrison") called me yesterday and asked massapequaNEWS.com to sit on a journalism panel with Newsday, L.I. Business News, L.I. Press, etc. to discuss the future of Long Island media in print. Harrison will act as moderator this Tuesday along with a board of public relations and marketing executives. Since massapequaNEWS.com is the only panel member that does NOT print its news, it IS possible that I may be "sandbagged."
As a writer with L.I. Press, Harrison first caught my eye when he published an article on Bobby Kumar. To the best of my recollection, Bobby Kumar was reinstated on the Nassau Health Care board after staging his own kidnapping. The following NEWScast had me poking my fun stick at Kumar's mental capacity, his ability to sit with health care decision-makers and the lapse in judgment of the members that voted him in. And while controversy surrounded Kumar's position, Harrison wrote a brilliant argument for Kumar (not running for sainthood) deserving a shot at redemption at the very least, for the way he stood in the face of adversity.
Harrison brought me back to the January 7-8th piece I wrote about the yet-to-be-named gangster and I recalled my very words, "Everyone falls down on different degrees. How many of us actually get back up?" I stopped and thought about how all of us can be great standing in the face of greatness --how do we stand in the face of adversity? His words impacted me so greatly, I reached out to Harrison, asserted his brilliance and stayed in touch ever since.
Will I be sandbagged at the hand of Harrison while sitting on this journalism panel? Maybe, but I'll always appreciate his invitation to be disarmingly armed and dangerous.
Very often, I will hear how great massapequaNEWS.com is and how what I do for the community is wonderful. While I very much enjoy getting to know everyone and everything Massapequa-related and sharing with the world, altruism aside, I am in business to stay in business. Because, let's face it: doing the "socially responsible" thing, is only possible when you can afford to do so.
Thinking about Massapequans that are good for business has me drawing a stark contrast with the Massapequans that are not good for business. When I say, "good for business" that encompasses everyone that hits the site, offers what is right/wrong with its content and layout, spreads the word, recommends other business linking in, frequents the businesses already linked in, etc. At the end of the day, I think about how equally I give to supporters and non-supporters alike.
Before falling asleep, the last words I heard sounded something like, "Sweetest of dreams to you." The not-so subliminal message seriously had me playing out real life in a surreal way as I slept: I was in my own backyard, exploring the garden when I realized a litter of kittens had made it their home. They were running and playing and I stopped to pet them. Then, I happened upon a nest of bird eggs and other wildlife in varying stages of life. My thinking was, "they can all stay, but have to find a way to live harmoniously."
Although I would like to grow a vegetable garden, the reality is: I don't. But in my dream, there was edible vegetation and I distributed it throughout the yard for everyone to feast, survive and thrive on.
In the next scene, I was in the apartment of a man that took most of my belongings from my pocketbook. As I was collecting what was rightfully mine, I was thinking about his stupidity in missing the value of the bag -- it IS a Louis. (I value WHAT I carry and HOW I carry it --equally.) He was about to catch me as I was leaving through a door that was spackled over. I left my prints on the doorknob and knew he would catch up with me.
Back in the garden, I was among the wildlife, vegetation and all things mine. Soon thereafter, he did show up -- flailing and firing a gun. I heard each shot explode in the air, getting closer and closer. Instantly, he was upon me. We stood face to face and while he waved his gun and appeared intimidating, I planted both feet deep into the soil and stood firm.
August 11, 2006
Today was the day I thought I would lose my grandmother. For the first hour I was with her, she didn't even get out of bed. She could barely tell me what was ailing her, without losing her breath. Between heart palpitations, blurred vision and a numb left arm, I was convinced that this was no "dress-rehearsal." I kissed her cheeks and her forehead and when I held her in my arms, I whispered in her ear, "You're my real live teddy bear." She giggled and fell asleep.
Where getting to a point in life where you feel as though your work is done meets a diminished quality of life, it's easy to succumb to and welcome death. Although my grandmother has been dying for the last ten years, I've convinced her to hang in because I need her. I do need her; she's my closest confidant, my best advisor and my biggest fan. No one believes in me more than she does.
My grandmother will tell anyone willing to listen how amazing my accomplishments are, as trivial as they may be. I could fit in to the palm of my hand, everything I learned through under-grad, yet what I learned from my grandmother is immeasurable. She taught me by example how to love, how to care for "all of God's creatures" and the importance of forgiveness. My grandmother is the only one that I let call me "Chrissy;" anyone else even attempting to go there, gets hissed at.
Finally, she got out of bed and sat down at the table with me for lunch: two Ritz Crackers & egg salad. We played the six hands of "May I" and although she was just knocking at death's door, she basically "schooled me" once again. In between rounds, I played out in my head how I would tell her what's going on in my life. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was getting caught up in an illusion of love with a man that is simply not available. And even though I never spoke a word of it, I knew her advice: "Chrissy, you deserve to be with a man that is yours."
August 10, 2006:
To my Father on his Birthday
Today, my dad turns 70. If I said I was fortunate to be the product and beneficiary of the "World's Greatest Dad," most people would mock my use of such an over-used colloquial expression. But it's true; my father is the "goods."
The Fair Factor: Growing up, I seemed to always be in trouble and I know why: I was too damn smart for my own good. My mother, in the midst of sentencing me to some sort of punishment, would ask me, "When are you gonna be good?" I can still hear my words today, "It's all relative...just because YOU think I'm bad, doesn't make it true -- it's just your perception..." Then, I would get slammed with removal from the general population and sentenced to solitary confinement in my room upstairs. By the time I heard my father's car pull in to the driveway, I'd find my way to the top of the stairs and sit Indian-style with my elbows on my knees and my head held in my hands. My dad would walk in the front door, see me sitting there so often, that he stopped asking me what was wrong and released me.
The Cool Factor: My father, in all of his varied interests, would take us to James Bond movies, shopping for school clothes, to the doctor for inoculations, and sit around on Sunday nights, watching t.v. and painting our fingernails. One night, I woke up swearing "It wasn't a dream, there's a man breaking in to the house" and watched my dad hunt the predator with his gun in hand and secure the house. He would leave us notes on the bathroom mirror, saying things like, "Smile today and the world will smile back," "Life is not that serious" and "Your Daddy loves you!"
The Wise Factor: As a narcotics detective, my father was wise to all sorts of adolescent dangers and kept us on the "straight and narrow." Once, he even drove my brother, sisters and me in to the Bronx and pointed out a burned-out building with jagged glass in what used to be windows, a pregnant teenager and a rough-looking gang hanging out on a street corner. All the while, he talked about the dangers of drugs and pre-marital sex. We pulled in to the "four-eight" and just to wrap up this lesson in life, he locked us in a jail cell.
I know that in this world exists everything, and if I was looking for what was wrong with my dad, I could easily find lots of things. For me, I'd like to see what's right and hold on to what's good. So, to the "World's Greatest Dad" I say, "I'm smiling today, not taking life so seriously and loving you very much!"
August 9, 2006
Georgene was a friend of mine that I met in the business world. At first, I wasn't overly fond of her because she underestimated my proficiency and competence in business. From the instant she put away her pre-conceived notions and saw me in action, we got along famously!
Because we were both divorced, single-parents, we connected on a personal level and would take the kids bowling, lose the kids and have cocktails and trade war stories of dating gone awry. Looking like a cross between Ginger from Gilligan's Island and Renee Russo, you would think that men lined up at her door holding numbers, waiting impatiently to take her out. Oddly enough, that wasn't the case.
Stuck in a rut, all she really wanted was to get out of the house and feel like a "woman" again. I thought about John from the gym that I went on one dinner date with. He was extremely handsome in a Latino-way, but that's where it ended for me. This may seem unusual, but I gave each of them the other's phone number and they dated. Building on this oddity, each of them called me with their review of the date and since John was a smoker, Georgene wasn't in to him.
Next, I set her up with tall, dark, "boy in a man's body" Rob. While I prefer a man in a man's body, Georgene went out and had a lot of fun with Rob. Once the novelty wore off, she was jonesing for another date fix and I was running out of single men worthy of dating Georgene.
Pulling out my final stop, I dialed audio-visual magnate, Chris. I didn't just date Chris, I spent three years on a roller-coaster with him. The ride ended for me back in 1991, but every few years he turned up and each time he did, I understood more and more about why he was so not it for me. Anyway, he treated her well and for the few months they dated, she enjoyed some of the nicest restaurants in Manhattan, on Long Island and across Las Vegas.
In the end, Georgene is still pursuing her perfect mate and I'm fresh out of guys.
August 6, 2006
Filling up at a Levittown, PA gas station this afternoon, I was approached by a girl that I summed up the instant she got out of the passenger side door of her boyfriend's sketchy brown van that had clearly seen better days. While she was about to ask me for money, I cut her off in a way that made it seem as if I understood her to be asking for directions and asserted that I was from New York (translation: I'm not an easy target). When she was explaining her dilemma of needing money for gas to get to a veterinarian's office, I was observing track marks and scabs on her arms.
With a car full of kids behind me, I stood at the pump with only my debit card and defenses. You just never know what to expect from a confrontation with a stranger. But catch this, how did she know what to expect from me? I'm thinking this is a polite robbery and she's lucky I didn't lean in and grab her by the neck. You never really encounter this sort of thing in Massapequa, except for the time I was nearly car-jacked.
Stopped at the light where Broadway meets Sunrise Highway, I was sitting in the left-hand turning lane drinking coffee and thinking about the day's events. It was about 8:45 a.m. when this blonde-haired guy, dressed in hospital scrubs ran out from the train station parking lot and jumped in front of my car. He was flailing his arms and shouting for me to, "GET OUT OF THE CAR!" Strangely enough, the only thing that went though my mind was that he wasn't holding a weapon. Minus a gun or at least a knife, what leverage did he have to separate me from my car?
I could have just stepped on the gas pedal and took him down, but that didn't occur to me. What did cross my mind was, "Here's a man without a plan," and right in the middle of my thought, he ran toward my door and reached for the handle! Quickly, I hit the power door locks and "kicked-out" of there. I don't even remember if the light was green, I just took off and looked back once just to make sure he wasn't following me.
August 4, 2006
I met a man that accused me of avoiding relationships out of fear of getting hurt. A fearful person, I am not, Actually, I thrive in fearville and visit often. I do the "hurt" thing pretty well also, so I'm going to mark his comments up to bullshit. Looking back on the years following my divorce, I was a bit of a "serial girlfriend," as I was always in a relationship. For the first time in my life, I'm actually taking a step back from dating, thinking about the choices I make and "when in doubt," I don't.
So why am I so thoroughly annoyed? Is it because he presents himself as an all encompassing "it" man for me. More of a thinker than a feeler, the cynic in me wants to resist the idea that any one person could possess the three components that drive me toward a relationship: intellectual, physical and emotional. He asks me to look him in the eye and see in him a mirror image. What makes him think he knows me so well? Where does he get off claiming that he and I are so alike? Again, I'm infuriated.
Let me humor you for a moment and let's just say that he knows me better than I know myself and he's right, I AM afraid of getting hurt and I do maintain superficial relationships so that no one gets close enough to wound me even further. He sees that vulnerable, soft and sweet side of me and calls me on it. Follow me on this: he is completely intellectually, physically and emotionally ideal for me. He knows the worst in me and adores me anyway. Knowing all of this, he proposes we are ideally suited for one another. Now, the irony: he's not "free" to love and immaterializes before me, just like a good illusion would.
He seems so real and rents space in my head. His heart is sold on me and I'm still standing, holding the lease option.
July 29, 2006
Flying on the Southern State this morning, I drove with my right arm extended upward, out of the sunroof, with my hand feeling 55 m.p.h. winds. The air, like time, blew through my fingers and I tried to take hold of some of it. As the wind pressed against my hand, thoughts of time leaving its impression on me and me leaving a mark on it ran through my mind. Does time take a piece of you as it passes? I thought about the people in my life that slipped through my grasp and the imprints they left behind and wonder what of me they've retained.
What resonates in me more than that are the Massapequans I know personally that leave a fingerprint today and a palm print tomorrow. What they accomplish today that grows in to cumulative tomorrows. Specifically, Jim from the picture frame shop --you know the building, the one on Sunrise Highway with the painted mural. Every single one of you knows the building, but how many can honestly say they've stepped inside? Be honest. I've been here for a decade and I'm embarrassed to admit that it wasn't until recently that I walked in.
When you meet Jim, you will find his passion for art, knowledge of quality and sheer brutal honesty provokes strong emotion in you. He's not the type of picture framer that you will be indifferent about -- it's that simple. I assure you, you will either love him or hate him (but more likely than not, you will love him)! Convince Jim to give you a tour of his operation and if you e-mail me your review, I'll publish it!. If it's anything like mine, "mind expansion" will be in there somewhere.
If there is a subject I know less about than politics, it's art. When I walked in with my (framed with broken glass) 30th Anniversary Rolling Stone poster of the Seinfeld cast dressed like the Wizard of Oz characters, Jim was only too happy to have his staff swap the glass, but not before telling me I had no taste in art. If it wasn't true, I'd be insulted; and like I said, he's "brutally honest." The way I figured it was since it's signed by Jerry Seinfeld and he's from Massapequa, I could hang it in my living room and call it art-shmart if I wanted to.
Getting back to Jim, if he wasn't so impassioned, he could very well have replaced the glass and left merely his fingerprint.
July 23, 2006
My sister and her husband "checked out" of their miniscule yet affordable co-op apartment in Valley Stream, completely fed-up with the increasingly competitive, capitalist and unaffordable way of life we lead on Long Island. She had been secretive and absent for a couple of months, but I didn't see it coming. When she finally told me they bought a house in Pennsylvania, my response was simply, "No."
Like the majority of Long Islanders, they were transplanted from Brooklyn by second-generation immigrants. I'm not entirely sure of how our grandparents survived, but I am sure of how our parents did and it's nothing like how we live today. Growing up on Long Island was attainable when your father served our Country, received an education compliments of the government -- if he survived the Vietnam War -- and rose through the ranks of our police department. Your mom stayed home, played Mah Jongg with the neighbors (you called, "Aunt"), reared upwards of 3 children and took a part-time job once the kids knew enough to stay away from evil influences.
You shared a bedroom with at least one of your siblings and wore hand-me-downs. Meatless dinners were common and family night out, if not spent at the neighbor's home, was dinner at Nunley's, the IHOP or Sizzler. Jetting off to a secluded tropical island, complete with five-star amenities, was foreign as you broke a sweat in the back of your parent's station wagon, driving up to Lake George, inhaling their cigarette smoke. Most of your friends were siblings of your brother and sisters' friends and a lot of your neighbors were cousins, Aunts and Uncles.
The community you connected with was a greater extension of your family. Torn between pride and grief, I don't know whether to embrace my sister's move as a success in "survival of the fittest" or a failure in keeping connected life as we've always known it. Who's going to have me over for dinner and cards Friday night? Who's going to give me a lousy perm, a crooked hair cut and unnatural highlights? Who's going to put up with my bad attitude and opinionated personality?
July 21, 2006
As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my mother's mother, "Grandma Elizabeth." She was a heavy-set staunch Polish woman with a smart mouth that I just adored. Her home was always filled with the rest of my family, playing bingo and cards after a big holiday meal. I always wanted to know who was winning and would tug at her dress and ask, "who's ahead?" to which she would reply, "Cabbage."
My Grandmother lived on Autumn Avenue in Cypress Hills. I would sit in her kitchen and watch her as she scrambled eggs in bacon fat and sang country music songs along with her a.m. radio. We would walk up to the Fulton Street Laundromat and over to Blessed Sacrament church. Afterwards, she would take me to Jan's Ice-Cream Parlour -- the beginning of a life-long passion for ice-cream. All the while, she would hold my hand and let me swing our clasped hands back and forth. Life was really good even then.
When I was about eight years-old, I spent the Blessed Sacrament Festival weekend at my grandmother's. That Friday night, the money ran out quickly and the minute the games, rides and peel open lottery tickets stopped, I was left wondering how much fun Saturday night would be. I fell asleep that night with a plan.
After breakfast, when my grandmother was in her room dressing, I snuck over to her pocketbook and took two quarters out of her change purse. With no pockets, I tucked the money into my shoe and when I walked away from the crime scene, I noticed it made a noisy jingle. As we were ready to leave the house, I curled my toes inside my shoe to quiet the evidence.
Like an executioner behind a "dead man walking," she studied my every move and said, "Why are you walking like that?" Not thinking quickly, I told her that my shoe was bothering me. My grandmother told me to take it off and I didn't dare not. As I was slipping my shoe off, she knelt down beside me to inspect the problem. "No wonder your shoe is bothering you, you've got two quarters roaming around in there." "I do?" She demanded that I tell her where I got them from and I told her I "found" them. "Well, if you found them, then they're probably mine," and she put them back in to her change purse and never mentioned it again.
July 20, 2006
Driving from the exit ramp off the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway onto Boundary Avenue this afternoon, I noticed a spray-painted message on the southern wall of the over-pass. "Kid, I miss my friend." is what I read and thought about my pal Judas because he calls me "kid" even though I'm older than him. He's nutty enough to leave a message like that and I'm romantic (or narcissistic) enough to think for one second that it was meant for me. By the time you get a chance to look, it will likely be gone -- but think about my mystery-man Judas.
July 18, 2006:
A Confession for Judas
Back in my senior year at Adelphi, I was struggling through the last leg of my under-grad. Pressed for time, I was racing west on Hempstead Turnpike through a down-pour of rain. Late for class, I was stuck behind a slow-moving Toyota that appeared to be lost and refused to pull over. I flashed him a quick high-beam, to which he slowed even further. Unable to pass him, my frustration turned to amusement when I noticed a "For Sale" sign in his back window. Now, I'm thinking, "Definitely sell the car, you clearly can't drive it!" Pulling up close enough to read the phone number, I dialed it from my cell and watched him answer!
Me: "Do you drive a Toyota and is it for sale?"
Him: "Why yes, yes I do!"
Me: "You drive like a jackass!"
Tickled, I hung up on him and continued on to class. A week passed and just for good measure, I dialed him again:
Me: "Do you still have the Toyota for sale?"
Him: "Uh, yeah..."
Me: "Do you still drive like a jackass?"
Of course, that was a rhetorical question and once again I hung up. I still think about him from time to time, but lost his phone number.
June 8, 2006
You can always tell how well a company is run by the treatment you receive from the men and women placed at the "front lines." Think about all of the people you conduct business with. How well do they treat you? Believe me, I receive my fair share of maltreatment, but the hedonist in me consciously chooses to frequent the businesses that treat me well.
The second time I walked in to Cartridge World on Broadway, one of the men at the front counter said to me, "Hey, you're that NEWS lady...how ARE you?" Another, came from the back room, took one look at me, and said, "You took my picture at the Chamber Business Expo. Thanks from putting it on your site!" These guys go out of their way to recognize and appreciate their customers and I'll bank on the fact that most people would agree.
In time, I will write about the businesses run equally well as evidenced by similar outstanding service. For today, I would like to cross the concept over to my personal life...
May 13, 2006
"Even-Steven" is the best way to sum-up my life. Like everyone else, things come up that put me at a disadvantage but no sooner am I dealing with such issues that something else comes up that leaves me with an advantage. For instance, a friend of mine got tickets to a Yankee game and planned on driving us into the Bronx. (I'm at an advantage.) He cancelled at the last minute and I was faced with not going, or driving in to the Bronx myself. (I'm at a disadvantage.) Well, I drove in, met a great guy at the game and I'm back to being "Even-Steven."
All of the balancing of my luck ran out on Tuesday and now I am cursed. Any other day, I probably wouldn't have noticed, but I publish the NEWS every Tuesday and I need all of my "good luck stuff." Well, our internet provider wasn't "on-line" and the technician I wound up on the phone with ran all kinds of diagnostic tests only to claim our modem needed replacing. While I'm haggling with him to send someone over immediately, he's trying to convince me to disconnect EVERYTHING, drive the modem over to Lindenhurst and pick up a new one. I know it's not the modem (and I'm afraid I won't re-connect everything properly). Every time it rains, my neighbor around the corner and I have the same intermittent problems. Well, Cable Guy is winning our "battle of the wills," so while I'm holding for his supervisor, I get Mike, my systems integrator, on my cell, only my cell phone provider drops the call. Basically, I was stuck driving the modem over to Lindenhurst.
Leaving with the modem, I trip over this stupid little plant my local real estate agent leaves at my door. That and the mini-pumpkin she leaves in the fall -- you can do "you know what" with. As an aside, if your photo on your business card is more than 15 years old, it's slightly misleading. I back my car out and run over the "Yellow Pages" some dim-witted individual saw fit to leave under my back tire. What's gotten into people? Here's a stroke of good luck: I get back with the new modem, meet Mike and everything's all spiffy, right? No. It really wasn't the modem after all -- just a local outage.
Can you image, I had to drive to the other side of town to get an internet connection? Well I did. I gathered the NEWS, published it, had a nervous break-down and taped the NEWS commentary. It was quite a day!
May 7, 2006
Although keeping up with the growth of massapequaNEWS.com has me working over-time these days, it is not exclusively the reason why I've managed to neglect this column. While some of you are wagering bets that I've given up my jaded single ways and have succumbed to the "love bug," let me assure you that I remain committed to fighting that illness.
Among my very best friends are my siblings and first cousins. Growing up, we didn't really have a choice but to grow close -- literally when confined to close quarters and figuratively when living the same life experiences. We are as different as we are similar and it is my personal feeling that singularly we are great, collectively we are amazing. No one is exempt from passing a subliminal initiation when invited to enter in to our family and I trust that is more common in all families than any of us would like to admit
"Dee" is my cousin's girlfriend, has been for many years, and is a truly welcome addition to the family. That she puts up with and actually enjoys my cousin's wild antics in combination with her sweet nature locks up her membership. Over the years she stayed connected to us even when their relationship hit rocky ground.
Dee woke up with a massive lump protruding out of her chest this week. She is dealing with a tumor that wove its way around her chest cavity, had nowhere else to grow and began its pattern outward. The doctor that initially diagnosed her said things like, "99% chance that it is cancerous," "inoperable," "get your affairs in order." He began to treat her as if she was dying. Everyone's input amounted to her switching doctors to someone that is giving her hope. All of us need hope, even it is false -- it's something.
Every day, we show up with a hug, laughter, sometimes tears, advice, ice-chips, TCBY, nail polish, shampoo and hope. My bigger hope is that if just for today you grasp hope, it will carry you through each tomorrow.
April 25, 2006
If you're ever looking to burn money, reserve a room at the Four Seasons. I was fortunate enough to have stayed at its Miami location a couple of years ago and stole a page from their book of bathroom designs. That was a mistake!
Just off the main pool area is a ladies' room designed in glass tile walls and slate flooring. The combination stayed with me and is now coming in handy as I rip out my old bathroom and design a new one. Lucky to have found the glass tiles at Cancos, I innocently asked the saleswoman what the cost per square foot is. "Forty-dollars," she tells me with a straight face. Surely, I heard it wrong, so I clarify, "Four-Zero?" Now she's annoyed and starts spelling, "F-O-R-T-Y!"
What was I thinking? Of course it's expensive, why would the Four Seasons have it otherwise? Like I said, if you have money to burn..."get a room."
Christine Nicoletti and J.P. Abaunza, 1982
April 21, 2006
When I was Christine Nicoletti, I met and fell in love with J.P. I was 16 turning 17 and was completely awestruck from the moment I laid eyes on him. Knowing in an instant that he was "the one," I made sure to spend my lunch periods at Steve's Pizza on Mill Road playing Joan Jett on the jukebox and getting his attention. He followed me back to school one day and asked me my name. I gave him a "why do you want to know" look and just raised my eyebrows. Asking me, "Will you speak to me tomorrow..." got him a "Maybe."
We would meet on the Bridge at South High School during lunch. After school, we would walk over to the Green Acres Bowling Alley and play Asteroids or hang out under Alexander's. Like the rest of the crew, we went to Sweet 16's on the weekends. A couple of times we even drove into Manhattan and danced until the Fun House closed. At least once a month I would ditch school, ride the N-4 into Rosedale and spend the day with him. The teddy bear I still sleep with was a gift from J.P.
If you asked me back then how I imagined the rest of my life, I would have told you unequivocally, "I will marry J.P., have his children and spend the rest of my life insanely in love." He took the bread delivery job at Caiazzo Bakers in Cypress Hills and would begin his day at 4:30 in the morning. Once, he took me to work with him and taught me that simultaneously squeezing and smelling a loaf of bread is the best way to tell how good it will taste.
After helping his cousin in Queens move, J.P. dropped me off at my house close to midnight with every intention of going back to Flushing. I begged him not to go and pleaded with him to go home and get some sleep because he had to be at work in a few hours. We ended the night in a fight and that was the last time we ever spoke.
Jodi Markowitz called my house at 3:00 the next day. I was sitting in the living room with my brother and sisters doing homework when my father shouted from the kitchen for me to pick up the phone. It didn't sound like Jodi. She was barely getting words out and couldn't tell me what was wrong. Sometimes you just "know" there's something. I was screaming and crying into the phone when my father pulled it away from me. "This is Anthony Nicoletti, Christine's father, and I demand that you tell me what's going on over there!" I was still crying when my father hung the phone up. He looked at me very gently and said, "J.P.'s been in an accident and I'm going to have your brother take you to the hospital." My father wouldn't answer me when I asked if J.P. was o.k., he just yelled, "Gerard, get the keys to the Toyota."
My brother and I drove the thirty minutes to Jamaica Hospital in stone-cold silence. I'm not even sure how we found J.P.'s room. We walked in to find his parents sitting at J.P.'s bedside. They stood up and walked over to me immediately. I tried to look around them but it was no use. They hugged me and asked if I was "sure" I wanted to see him. A ventilator was hooked up to J.P.'s mouth and his forehead was sliced at the hairline. He wasn't conscious and his hands were swelled-up and round. I knew he was gravely injured, just not sure how the doctors would go about healing him.
April 18, 2006
While our children go through "growing spurts," we adults go through "aging spurts." Over the course of the last two weeks, I definitely aged!
First, I was hit with a cursing scandal. There are "four-letter" words littering the interior of the school bus that my son rides to and from school. Two kindergarteners were heard using foul language -- and it was implied that the older kids (including my son) helped them to sound out and pronounce these choice words.
Next, the neighborhood boys struck up an interest in "air soft" guns and now head in to the Preserve regularly to shoot "things." My son is making an argument for having one himself and participating in this hunting game.
Finally, my niece and her girlfriend are spending time at our home during this Spring break, and every neighborhood boy within a one-mile radius, ranging in age from 8-18 is now calling the house and hanging around.
Singularly, each episode is manageable; collectively, they are deadly! If it doesn't show on my face -- great! But, it really doesn't matter whether or not it shows, I feel it!
April 17, 2006
Easter Sunday morning, my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I didn't hit the snooze button, I unplugged the clock and went back to sleep. Within minutes my conscience woke me up. I promised Rev. Andrew Jackson ("Andrew") that I would attend the sunrise resurrection outdoor worship service at the Living Hope Fellowship Church. It literally took place at 6:00 a.m.
I met Andrew when he was giving a dual sermon at the Community United Methodist Church with Pastor Wells to launch Black History Month. I met Pastor Wells through John Lepre, a magician that was performing at his Church and whom I know through teaching after-school enrichment at St. Rose of Lima and the Chamber of Commerce. Who I meet next will still lead me back to John Lepre, I'm sure.
About that 6:00 a.m. thing: it was still dark when I arrived. Since the mass was given outdoors, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Rickenbacker was speaking from a makeshift alter with a reading light on her pulpit. I flashed my press pass as if I needed a reason to be there. She interrupted her sermon, greeted me and introduced her congregation. I moved about shooting upwards of 100 photos while she spoke and even when she passed the torch on to Andrew.
It was incredible. The sun was rising and when darkness had subsided completely, the message was clear: all of us are faced with road blocks. Even if what's blocking your path is a bill that must be paid, your ability to pay it is an achievement in and of itself. Recognize that accomplishment and move on to getting passed the next blockade.
Communion was passed on a silver platter for us to help ourselves. We drank juice from tiny plastic cups. We sang and embraced one another. I was given a tour of the Church in its construction state and it looks promising. The drive home left me in a state of euphoria and I put the radio on and couldn't help but to sing.
April 15, 2006
massapequaNEWS.com has a "My Space" space and reaches out to on-line Massapequans. Douglas a/k/a Electric Eye 666 sent us an e-mail, inviting us to cover his band's performance at the Courthouse in Massapequa. He lives in Franklin "Squizzy" and is the lead singer of Electric Eye, a Judas Priest tribute band. Personally, I don't know anything (and I mean that) about Judas Priest, but I do know that the "666" thing is definitely NOT my speed. Danielle, our shining-star photo-journalist, really thrives on "unique" assignments and is gladly handling it as I write.
Not wanting to send Danielle in without at least a "head's up" on the bar's end, I called over to the Courthouse. One of the great perks of this job is that people treat you REALLY well. The barmaid that answered the telephone could barely hear me over the crowd that was already forming and before she slammed the phone down on me, she shouted at me to call back on Monday!
Next, I dialed information and asked for the number of a band in Franklin Square named "Electric Eye." Information connected me to a number in Rye of a radio station named "Electric Eye" and the guy that answered the phone was pretty excited that massapequaNEWS.com was calling to confirm coverage of one of their events. When he and I squared up the fact that I was looking for Electric Eye -- the band -- he went off on a ten-minute tirade about his ownership of the NAME "Electric Eye." Now, I'm getting shouted at again because if I don't TELL the band to change their name, not only is this guy going to sue them, but if I play ANY part in their promotion of the illegal use of the name, he's going to sue me!
"Pal, Pal...I'm just a lousy reporter looking for this Judas Priest tribute band in Massapequa." Then he goes off on which bands are THE best Judas Priest tribute bands and I'm thunderstruck. He wants to debate with me the validity of each band and I've already conceded to not knowing a flipping thing about ANYTHING. Rudely, I interrupt him to say that I'm pressed for time and must hang up. As I'm putting the handset down, I hear the beginning of his rant on how we should cover HIS events --in Rye. A dial tone never sounded so sweet.
April 10, 2006
I don't know if I ever mentioned this in my column, but I interviewed/auditioned for "The Apprentice" last spring. When Donald Trump first aired the show, a couple of friends of mine suggested I was entrepreneurial enough to actually be on the show, so I tried out for it. I figured the odds were stacked high enough against me, that worrying about the 8-week commitment shouldn't be an issue.
Well, I was dating Brian at the time and shooting for the stars was not something he looked upon favorably. He wondered if my being around other entrepreneurial types would lead me astray; I guaranteed him that I wasn't the straying kind. He feared having such aspirations would make me judge his lack of ambition, I assured him that I loved him for everything he was and accepted him for everything he wasn't. He was sure that the time spent apart would be detrimental to our relationship; I believed it would strengthen what we shared.
That morning, I dressed "corporate-casual" and swam into Manhattan. I would say it was raining, but that would be a huge understatement. By the time I arrived at Trump Tower, I had accumulated a mud trail up the back of my slacks from my heels to my thighs. This, I thought, was a good thing because how many other idiots would go to the lengths I was willing to? Lots. When I arrived, hours before the interviewing process began, I was one of several hundred that stood on line, in the rain. I spoke with everyone within earshot about where they came from and what catalyst brought them there. The football player from Ohio State, the legal secretary, the printer and even the entertainment lawyer were backed by someone that really believed in them.
By the time I entered the building, I was soaking wet and one of several thousand! Meeting Mr. Trump was unimpressive and I am not saying that to be mean, I'm saying it because it's true. When I shook his hand, it felt like he handed me a fish. When I looked him in the eye, there was no sparkle. Mr. Trump possesses the complete absence of charisma which is a little disheartening because as far as he's gone in life, you would think he had a magnetic personality.
Anyway, we were interviewed in groups of six, sitting at a semi-circular table, much like that of a poker table. We faced the dealer, uh -- interviewer, and each placed a resume in front of us like flop cards. We were dealt a series of questions that we were to debate among ourselves. It was interesting because at first all of us spoke at the same time. After the second question, I held back, listened to the other speakers and incorporated their answers into my rebuttal.
When the game was over and our resumes collected, mine was the only one written on. While that seemed paramount in importance, like my relationship with Brian, it amounted to nothing.
April 7, 2006
The last time I mentioned my great marketing plan of walking the massapequaNEWS.com Newsletter around the neighborhood, people thought I was bit of a kook. The response I still get is, "Are you crazy?"
Now, in my spare time, I'm entering all of the names and addresses from the Massapequa phone book into a database that I merge with a label program and in combination with my other marketing tools, I am now mass-mailing to every listed Massapequa resident a massapequaNEWS.com postcard. You HAVE to see the look on people's faces when I tell them, it's priceless! Now I hear, "Are you out of your mind?"
I don't think I'm crazy and I don't think I'm out of my mind. But, if I was, how would I know?
April 5, 2006
Tuesday, I threw on a white button-down, pullover gray, scooped neck sweater and dark jeans. It's a really cool look because the white button-down peeks out of the bottom of the sweater and looks very writer-ish.
My son came home from school, changed out of his uniform and re-dressed in several layers including his Yankee jacket as he was to begin baseball season with a practice later in the day.
When we finally sat down to dinner and he pulled off his Yankee jacket, I noticed he was dressed exactly like me: white undershirt, gray sweater and dark jeans. The white undershirt was even peeking out of the bottom of the sweater! It was really freaky because he's 13 and dressing like your mom is definitely NOT cool. When I pointed out this mirror image, he was speechless.
First, he tried arguing that he dressed first and I copied him. "No way man, I taped the NEWS segment at noon and it proves I dressed first." Then he ripped off the grey pull-over and swore it didn't happen. "Too late, you're already caught!" Finally, he jumped up, pointed his finger right at me and swore, "If you tell anyone..."
I couldn't promise that, because it's just too funny! So he tackled me.
April 3, 2006
Where do you break?
David Abbinanti is a songwriter, performer and fellow Massapequan that stuck around. I met him during one of his performances around town and grilled him like any half-baked writer would.
During the initial round of questioning, I went easy on him, asking him to tell me about growing up in Massapequa, the influences that shaped his career and at what age...blah, blah, blah.
David's eyes lit up when he spoke of his family -- not just his parents -- but his wife and extended family as well. He was sincere when he spoke of the artists that paved his way and I got the feeling that David was deeply grateful for everyone and everything in his life.
David is humble, sweet and talented. When you meet him, you will agree that he is just so damn likable. And this is when I clawed him, "Living on Long Island is pretty expensive, at what point do you pack up this singing dream as not 'bill-paying material' and move on?" The sparkle in his eyes turned to fire and I thought he would lean in and choke me. I could tell in that instant David never considered failure an option. This is how I know David Abbinanti is unbreakable.
March 30, 2006
The drive out east to visit my grandmother is my time get "centered." There is rarely any traffic at that hour and I open my 5-speed up as if she was a present under the tree on Christmas morning. I'll play Queen's "Under Pressure" (Live), Daniel Bedingfield's "If You're Not the One" and every genre of music in between. Sometimes a truck driver will catch me singing and I get a little embarrassed because I know there is an inverse relationship between how great a song makes you feel and how good you look when you're singing it!
Today, I was thinking about my cousin's advice to "jack it up." Let's call my advice-giving cousin "Jack" and imagine he's sitting in his Manorville crib on grounds large enough to qualify as a compound. From the outside looking in, Jack skid by in life and landed on Easy Street completely unscathed. But, you don't know Jack, like I do. He is brilliant both personally and professionally. Jack married well, made all the "right" moves in business and endured just as many trials as each of us, only he handles them better than most and in a way that makes them seem trivial.
Jack's advice is definitely sound but in direct conflict with that of my attorneys. I really want to "jack it," but I have to proceed with extreme caution. You see, I've been sued by individuals, corporations and even the State and it's just not that much fun. Plus, I've learned that "following" the law and "breaking" the law are highly subjective terms and open to extreme interpretation! Also, how many chances does one get to be a first-offender? (Yes, that IS a rhetorical question.)
I'm sitting on the fence with this one, Jack.
March 24, 2006
How many of us really know what the word "no" means? I had to look it up in Merriam-Webster's 10th Ed. Collegiate Dictionary and it says that no is an adverb "...used to express negation, dissent, denial, or refusal..." That's not what I thought.
"Negation" sounds so definitive and non-negotiable. To me, negotiations BEGIN with a "no" platform, always have. It all started with my mother, "Mom, can I stay home from school today?" "No." "How come?" "Because only sick kids stay home from school." (Hmmm. This is where "no" becomes "maybe.") "I'm really not feeling well, at all." "What's wrong?" "I didn't wanna to tell ya -- but I threw up." (This is where "no" becomes "yes.") Technically, I did throw up, but that was months ago and irrelevant in terms of my "no" misconception.
Teaching me the further flexibility of "no" was my sister, Madeline. "Mad, can I borrow your white, hooded sweater with the red trim?" "No." "Why not?" "Because I want to wear it and you'll stretch it out with your big, fat head." (Hmmm. Again, this is where "no" gets fuzzy.) To me, that meant that on a day she was wearing something else she couldn't possibly WANT to wear it and if I slipped into it, feet first, my big, fat head WOULDN'T stretch it out and this is where "no" actually becomes "yes."
Sometimes "no" really is just "no" and as an adult, I can accept that or HAVE to if a court orders me to. Of course it's possible that accepting "no" means I really didn't want it as much as staying home from school or wearing my sister's sweater.
March 21, 2006
I was meeting my I.T. guy for lunch today and as an aside, he's insulted that I have yet to write about him in my column. Sometimes, you just can't win. For the record, I'm not ready to share him with the world.
Anyway, this was one of the days that I didn't have to "dress," so I threw on a green t-shirt, oversized-beige cargos and chunky brown Skechers. I went with the brown shoes instead of the beige simply because I had brown socks that matched. Inspecting my "look" in the front-hall mirror and posing a couple of poses, I noticed my cargos were pretty wrinkled. How did I not notice until now?
I pulled out the iron, plugged it in and watched it set off some steam. Since I had already laced up and tied my Skechers and not wanting to waste time and energy having to take them off and put them back on (big effort, right), I went about ironing my pants while they were still on my person.
Don't even think about judging me because everyone has at least THOUGHT about doing something equally stupid. I just so happen to act on these impulses. Well, I burned my leg and spilled water from the steam compartment all over the floor. Then I tracked the water down the hallway before I treated the burn with Neosporin.
All the work involved with my time-saving technique landed me right back to where I began only now I'm crippled.
March 20, 2006
When massapequaNEWS.com was first launched, it began with a rigid business plan. It has since evolved into a community-directed, on-line NEWS magazine and a serious deviation from its origin. We didn't mean for this to happen, but it has taken on a life of its own.
When I came across "Model Behavior," in the April Entrepreneur, written by Chris Penttila, I laughed out loud. The article takes an extreme look at businesses' ability to recognize market trends and their adaptation to change. It drives a hard point: being inflexible gives your competition an edge.
The article even threads Darwin's theory of evolution and survival of the fittest concept into the business world. Having the ability to adapt, builds strength. It's extreme and simple: "...move on, adapt or die."
Connecting business and the science of evolution, are we aware of market trends and demands and are we forward-looking enough to constantly evolve and will we ultimately survive as the fittest?
March 18, 2006
The March 20, 2006 edition of Newsweek contains an interesting article on polygamy. If you are curious enough to read the article, it's a quick one-pager on 52. Centered, is a photo of a group of Arizona female activists looking to legalize polygamy.
Synchronized with HBO debuting "Big Love," a soon-to-be smashing hit series about yet again another unorthodox family whose actors will of course become household names, they make you wonder if polygamists are fighting the next civil-rights war.
Mainstreaming the argument: "If Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy," has me a little confused about where that leaves the traditional family and a gal like me looking to find it.
I don't even want to invest any time getting to know a guy who is multi-dating much less multi-married. Only to find out that he's a serial-dater, no thanks. My thinking is this: if you have 10% of your time and energy to devote toward getting to know someone, how can you present yourself well if you are trying to keep up with whom you last e-mailed, called, text messaged and went out with?
Here's the dead give-away: You repeat yourself. When you are serial dating and sharing events that shaped who you are, it's easy to forget whom you told what to and you become a skipping record: "One time, at band camp..." I don't mind telling you that it doesn't sound good and it definitely does not present you well. Yeah, I've done it and got caught and was forced to admit that I'm just no damn good at it.
For me personally, I am taking a stand against polygamy. Honoring my "live and let live" motto, I will not hold polygamy against anyone that so chooses. I can't say that I would march in any polygamy parades but I may just break down and order HBO.
March 14, 2006
I set up a MySpace space to further promote massapequaNEWS.com and after plugging in all vital stats, I ran a search of all Massapequans. Now I'm in contact with other businesses as well as residents and it seems like I NEVER stop working.
Well, I just so happened to recognize the uncle of a teammate of my son's and I wrote him, "Do you have a nephew that plays baseball..." Sure enough, he does, he remembers me and goes one step further, "I can still hear you cheering!" Subtle, I'm not. We exchange e-mails, phone calls and leave off with "We should get together..."
Meanwhile, I'm also exchanging e-mails and phone calls with "the skier" and I'm REALLY networking now. The skier and I actually make plans to meet for lunch on Monday and I meet him at that bagel place in the Southgate Shopping Center. Instantly, this luncheon takes the shape of a "date." "Not that there's anything wrong with it," but after surviving Brian-gate seven months ago, I could easily have sworn off dating indefinitely (or at least for another seven months).
So, the "date" is going well and after lunch we stroll down to Starbucks and he gallantly places his jacket on my shoulders to warm me (mental note to self, he's a "keeper"). This is where it gets really good! We settle into their plush chairs, way in the back where the lighting is dim. He's leaning in and I'm leaning in and he's talking and I'm laughing when something suddenly catches my eye. I look over, and who should be standing there? The baseball uncle!
Did I make plans with him that I forgot? Not likely. How is this even possible and who lives like this? Something's got to give because no-one can keep up with this. It's just wrong.
March 12, 2006
How do you market your business with close to zero dollars in your advertising budget? I'll let you in on my secret because more likely than not, you are in your "right mind" and will not follow my advice.
Put together a newsletter that covers the basics of your business. It should be eye-catching, simple, organized and neat. Price shop the per copy cost of mass-producing it. The UPS Store on Broadway charges .03/copy when I copy 1,000 at a time. This is THE best price I've come across so far, but let me know otherwise. Now, walk it around town. No, I'm not kidding. From sun-up until sundown, keep going.
Meeting Massapequans face-to-face is the best way to find out who we are, what we are looking for and how you can help us. Yes, it is very time-consuming, but the way I look at it is this: the time is going to pass anyway, why not enjoy it. And, who wouldn't enjoy hearing first-hand how to make their business a success? Think about it, the community you serve is telling you how to shape your business to best accommodate them. It's a win/win proposition.
My shpeal goes something like this: "Have you ever heard of massapequaNEWS.com?" I usually get, "Yeah, you took my picture at (the Mall, Community United... !" Thankfully nine times out of ten I did, in fact, publish their photo and they are pleased with my work. If and when I encounter a Massapequan that has never heard of us, I simply tell them, "we are an on-line newspaper that encompasses all of Massapequa." And I hand them the newsletter and give them an opportunity to peruse it. Now they know there is a newspaper on the internet that is all about them.
If I wasn't out walking the community this weekend, I never would have met Phyllis on Atlanta or liveaboard53. I probably would not have run into John and Angela nor one of the baseball coaches. Also, I never would have met Ken Wagner. Mr. Wagner remembers when the Massapequa train was grade level and used to be cranked. He is in a position to offer massapequaNEWS.com pieces of history that we may have missed.
My calves are on fire. It's a good thing it's raining today; otherwise I may have downed two ibuprofen and kept going.
March 7, 2006
Without disclosing my actual age in numbers, let me say that most of the women in my age group are considering or have had "something" done to change their appearance.
Run a search on Google for "cosmetic surgery" and forty-five MILLION results turn up. Alarming, isn't it? You'll be happy to know that only eight million results turn up for "botox" and half of that for "breast augmentation." I ran a search of "massapequaNEWS.com" and no more than 700 results turned up while a mere handful of results turned up for "Christine Sohmer" and one of them isn't even me or written in English! So, we're not as popular as collagen and implants, yet.
When I'm trapped in one of these "if I could change one thing..." discussions, I have to hear which horrible disfigurements prompt such a decision, graphic recoveries running amok and sometimes even see scars! Ewe. I'm like a guy when it comes to stuff like that: spare me the details and just get me to the point!
I can't even handle giving blood or undergoing a mammogram without passing out. One minute I'm cool and everything is swell, then my vision dims, all noises go silent and this wave of warmth overcomes me. I usually wake up on the floor with something cool on my head with people standing over me, shouting at me. One time I even fainted just VISITING my father in the hospital. Elective surgery is pretty much out of the question for me.
When the conversation rolls around to what I would change physically, I swear, "I wouldn't change a thing." And, I even clarify that I'm fearful of getting cut. Then, they all turn on me because surely I would change SOMETHING. Should I be insulted?
March 5, 2006
How do you handle driving through our town roads when they are hazardous with snow and ice? Throw into this mix wind and the fact that you are pressed for time. Now, top it all off with a Rubbermaid trash pail in the middle of the street.
Seriously, think about it. How many of us would pull our warm, safe SUV's over to the side of the road, step into traffic and move it to its rightful and neglectful owner? Be honest, it's only us here: I'm asking and you're confessing. I'm going to guess that most of us, when no one is watching (hell, even IF someone is watching), are just going to maneuver around it and get on with our own fabulous lives.
The gentleman that actually stopped --had no way of knowing I saw him. He wasn't as well-off and comfortable as most of us and I'll tell you how I know. On the coldest day of winter, with the hazardous conditions described above, he was commuting by bicycle. Yeah, he was getting around on two wheels, imagine that.
This trash pail wasn't in his way, it was in ours. And, he didn't just pull it out of our way and drag it to the sidewalk. Nope, he propped it on its side and scooped enough snow into it so that it wouldn't find its way back to annoy us.
He made me stop and think about how many people look out for us. How many people make our unfabulous lives a little easier. How many people we hardly notice at all.
March 2, 2006
Over the years, I have noticed that my Grandmother's health declines dramatically during six weeks out of each year. While normally relative to her 86 years, it is during this period that she succumbs to poor health and tells all of us, "Let's face it, my days are numbered!" Personally, I don't have to face it and refuse to accept it. I'm just not ready to lose her and I probably never will.
We take turns calling the ambulance, sometimes rushing her to the hospital ourselves, and regularly taking her to the clinic. Waiting to be seen by a doctor in the clinic's loud, over-crowded waiting room compounds whatever symptoms she's experiencing.
Once a doctor does finally see her, checks her vitals and listens to her ailments, his first course of action is to recommend she be subjected to lots of invasive tests. We've gone this route with my grandmother many times and the results (when conclusive) prompt further invasive testing, cutting, and/or removal, she can't handle it, she won't.
We put the kibosh on invasive testing and his second course of action is to pump her up with lots of confusing prescriptions. It's complicated for her and us to keep track of which pills should be taken when, and with or without food, and which side-effects she should look out for, and if any other medications should be avoided while taking. We've traveled this road with her for years, and understand that the side-effects are almost always worse than the symptoms she's trying to avoid.
Putting the semi-kibosh on pill over-dose, we are now faced with the doctor's final course of action. He wants her to talk about what's "going on" in her life during this same six week period every year. We shudder! She tells him about her game shows and supermarket sales and we just kind of look at each other. We know that the six-week period encompasses the brutal emotional events she avoids thinking/feeling about: the death of her husband, the anniversary of their marriage, and her birthday.
Standing frozen, we are looking at the doctor and can't believe what we're hearing when he tells my grandmother that he's sending her for counseling and recommends she talk about how she's "feeling." Avoiding eye contact with the doctor now, we bow our heads and look at each other. We don't dare laugh while my grandmother cuts him with the tone of her words, "I am NOT going to talk to some stranger about MY business, and YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!"
That went well. Inevitably, one of us will pacify my grandmother and assure her that we won't let anyone make her talk about anything she doesn't want to talk about. When she's calm, one of us will take the doctor aside and reason with him, "Listen, I know you mean well, but she's 86 years old. Forcing her to talk about what's troubling her is only creating more stress and 'let's face it,' she's built a life around denial. Now, do us all a favor and grab your prescription pad, write her up a scrip for those little happy pills, and we'll get her out of your hair."
The doctor's big concern is that these pills are a controlled substance as they are habit forming and addictive. At eighty-friggin-six is that such a big deal?
February 25, 2006
Every event I attend and everyone I meet, inspires me in some regard. As a writer, each experience has the potential to make it to this column. I am usually very careful with my words because I know my perception is merely that.
Take for example the reader that e-mailed me a picture of himself half-toweled, getting out of the shower. My perception was, "What a dumb-ass!" Odds are: his thinking was probably different from mine. Not inspired in the least and exercising severe discretion, I deleted the offending photo.
What I forget from time to time is that I am fair game as well and should always chose my words and actions carefully.
Covering the Trish Stratus/Chris Masters appearance at New York Sports Works last weekend and recognizing some of the wrestling fans, I stopped along the line to chat. The fans wanted to know about the "Master" and I told them that he was so handsome he, "looks like he's been air-brushed!" They were excited about seeing him and pushed for more, so I patted my forehead as if I was experiencing a hot flash. Then, I went on: "He's huge! He's massive! His head is the size of my torso!" And I pointed to my abs and crinkled my nose. Not knowing that I was being digitally captured, I wrapped it all up with, "I've got to go now and find out if he's single..." If this wasn't bad enough, I gestured my pointer fingers at them with my thumbs up and dropped my jaw.
Who's the dumb-ass now.
February 21, 2006
My ex-husband bought our son, Steve, two tickets to the WrestleMania event at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night. Of course, he opted to take his best friend and as you may have guessed, that's not me. This worked out really well for them because it was Dan's birthday and the two of them are wrestle maniacs. When you are 13 and faced with a night out on the town with no adult supervision, life doesn't look any better.
Where that left me, beside nowhere, was in the driver's seat -- literally! I was to drop the boys off, disappear for a few hours, not worry, and pick them up. Before I could even begin my argument, my ex was convincing me that the boys are old enough and responsible enough to be out alone for three hours. Then he pitches the idea that this was a great opportunity for me to go out and reminds me that I really haven't been. The whole thing stinks, but I'm tired of micro-managing everyone else's life.
Parked at the Marriott, I walked the kids across the lot and went back to the hotel. At the front desk, I explained my dilemma and a concierge took me by the hand to each of the Hotel's restaurants, lounges, etc. My first option was a nice and quiet family restaurant, but I knew I couldn't sit alone and eat for three hours. My second option was a quiet couples bar, but I had a funny feeling I wouldn't blend easily. My final option was Champions' Sports Bar which was very crowded and I knew I could get lost inside.
Scanning the bar, I found an inch of bar space and muscled my way in. I caught the bartender's eye and asked her for a menu. Ordering a killer margherita, I went about this business of having fun.
There was a group of four guys next to me sporting similar Hawaiian shirts. They were on their way to the WrestleMania event at the Colliseum -- how ironic. One of them took his baseball cap off, and what appeared to be hair pulled back into a ponytail was actually fake, and came off with the hat. When they left, I met the guys from Preferred Events. One was a DJ and the other was a photographer, taking a break from the sweet 16 they were working. They went back to work and I met an up-State coach. He got busy with the team's parents and I met a husband and wife from Islip. They were on a mission to find his brother a girlfriend and tried to convince me that I qualified. In the ladies' room I berated a woman for smoking in one of the stalls. Now, I was irritated.
When the Hawaii-four-oh guys returned, I knew it was time for me to leave. The boys got back safely and I could swear they matured a little. I can't say that I will make a habit of this, but I did have a little fun.
February 19, 2006
To me, writing more frequently would compromise the quality of my words. It is only when I have something to write about, am I marginally interesting and frankly, I don't have all that much to say. Think about it, you would be totally bored and tuning out if you sat down to read me bluffing something to say, uhh sort of like RIGHT now! That being said, quit yer pushing and satiate your thirst on what is.
There are two subjects that I will merely touch upon today, (1) talent and (2) marriage.
Firstly, there is a misconception about how what I do requires a talent and surely I must be talented. I am the first to readily admit that I have absolutely NO talent whatsoever. Actually, I enjoy telling people this because their response is usually something like, "Surely you have some talent...what about..." I can see them scrambling for an ounce of talent that I possess. "No," I assure them, "really, I have none and it's o.k." Knowing this, accepting this, I damn-well better be smart enough to seek out talented people and confident enough to surround myself with and not be intimidated by their presence.
Secondly, there is an almost disbelief about my marital status. I am not married and I'll tell you how that's possible. I am single by choice and I say "choice" because I choose to date men that are profoundly tragic. No names please, but think about a complex individual that you identify with and are inspired by. He has a deep-rooted goodness about him and is superior in some capacity. He is honorable but flawed, knows it and accepts his inevitable demise. Think about how powerfully you could love him, but would you marry him?
February 16, 2006
I left the house this morning with a yellow post-it note stuck to my back that read, "Hi, I'm CRIS!" This was my 13 year-old's practical joking humor at its finest.
So, I'm standing in line at CVS and this kid behind me (who is obviously in on the joke) taps me on the shoulder and when I turned around he said, "Hi, I'm CHUCK!" Usually, I am very talkative around strangers, but I stood there dumbfounded while I tried to recall who this Chuck kid was and from where I was supposed to know him. Because, if I didn't know him, why on earth would he be reminding me of who he was?
Next, I stop at the dry cleaner and pick up my clothes without incident. As I turned around to leave, the Asian woman behind the counter started giggling this "he, he" sound that's supposed to double as a laugh. I faced her and she covered her mouth and stopped he-heing. Her parting words were, "You very funny!"
I am pretty funny, but I wasn't trying to be funny so something was definitely up. By the time I realized my son had made me his walking billboard, I had tallied up a ridiculous amount of oddities. I didn't even get mad, I was just happy to finally be in on the joke and able to make sense of all the weird people I encountered throughout the day.
Here's the thing: If I don't make me look bad enough, I've got help!
February 12, 2006
At Bally's Total Fitness on Sunrise Highway in Copiague you will find that its majority membership does not exclude any shape, size, color or creed. I say this because when you live in a familial vacuum (very much like the one I do), you rarely encounter people that are ruled by differing and varying cultural norms.
Where I come from, you sport a "full-metal jacket" bra, enough clothing to absorb perspiration, and athletic footwear specific to your work-out. So, I gear-up and power-run the treadmill regularly. If you ever "run" into me at the gym, expect me to have styled my hair and applied enough make-up to be conducive to exercise -- not and none at all, respectively.
One day, I get off of the machine saturated in sweat and this beautiful woman with a body like a porn star says to me, "Wow, you really soaked, really soaked! I nevah sweat, nevah!" Wow, she's into the obvious, so I throw some sarcasm her way, "If you WANT to sweat, work harder." I walked away while she was mid-excuse and I just shook my head and muttered something I probably shouldn't recall.
Now, every time she sees me at the gym, she acts like we're pals and she wants to chit-chat and catch-up. I really want to hate her because she is a walking, talking center fold flaunting her sexuality, but she's so damn nice to me. If I wasn't afraid of being blackballed from the gym, I'd tell her to tuck her over-exposed cleavage in, wipe off the juicy, shiny red lipstick and lose the platform sneakers. But, I really think it would cause a riot: think about it, every guy in the place wants to keep her "as is" and in this day and age how could we be certain of how many girls don't want her just the way she is?
It's not for me to say what should and shouldn't be, so I just go about my work-out and accept what is. Friday, I was put to the test: this man was standing in front of the machine I was sitting on with his back toward me. His shorts were weighed down by his "fanny pack" and I'm eye-level with his exposed backside. Need I emphasize the contrast between his white buttocks and its dividing fur? Framing this picture was the strap of his athletic supporter.
Test or no test, this I could not bear, nor should anyone. So what if I am blackballed from the gym! I stood up and without a second thought I told him, "You NEED to pick your pants up in the back."
February 9, 2006
Back in the fall, I sat down at my desk to begin my day's work only to find my computer monitor had blacked-out but for one little message that I knew held great importance, "CAN NOT LOCATE HARD DRIVE." It seemed odd and I was a little confuzzled; but, before I rode THAT panic wave, I kicked it into damage control mode.
"Ctrl, Alt, Delete... Ctrl, Alt, Delete!" That didn't work. Then, I shut down they keyboard, the electrical socket on the wall, and everything in between in hope of the hard drive being located when I re-booted. That didn't work either. Finally, I called the Computer Commuter; surely, he would fix this. It was 7:15 a.m. and I only got as far as Bob's voice mail. The message as I heard it went, "Blah, blah, blah... please VISIT us on the World Wide Web." That's a problem when the brains of this operation were nowhere to be found.
When I estimated the extent of the potential damage (most of the personal and professional photos, writings and bookkeeping records I compiled over the last three years), I partied on pity and cried real tears. I figured, "Hey, it IS my party." That lasted for six and one-half minutes.
Bob confirmed my worst-case-scenario: my "up-to-the minute", on the "cutting edge" of technology "all-in-one" computer had cooked its own hard drive! To me, that's the equivalent of animals eating their young -- it's just wrong! No photo, word, nor number would ever be recovered. It was all over. There was nothing left for me to do beside accept it and move on. The funny thing about being given no alternative, is how easy it is chose a plan of action and go with it.
Looking back, I recognize all of the warning signs leading up to my computer "break-up" that I chose to ignore. Hell, I probably brought it on myself. I really do need to improve upon my listening skills.
February 4, 2006
Frequently, I travel north and south on Broadway, sometimes even five times a day! Lately, I've noticed a lot of cars being pulled over by the police and I'm sure it's because they were speeding. Minding the speed limit (as I think you should, as well) has me taking notice of what surrounds me.
Stopped at the traffic light by the train station facing Sunrise, I first noticed bunches of flowers attached to the north/west utility pole. Patiently waiting for the light to turn green, I watched a man pace back and forth, smoking a cigarette. Intermittently, he looked with great purpose at the flowers and paced aimlessly away.
To me, he looked like a biker guy and I can't even recall why. I felt a little guilty watching him because I knew he was clearly mourning the loss of someone very important to him. He was entitled to a little privacy -- even if he was on Sunrise Highway. But, the voyeur in me won that tug-of-war and I watched him until the light turned green.
I don't want to minimize his loss by saying "all of us have felt..." But the power of his loss reminded me that each of us lose at some point in life. Knowing the depth of our own losses should allow us to stop and feel for him even just for one minute.
As the light turned green and traffic moved forward, I caught my last eyeful. This man didn't jump onto some hog, rev it and ride wildly away. He threw his cigarette down, stepped it out, and got into his white Mercedes.
February 2, 2006
My Cousin Carla has been holding steady with her New Year's resolutions: Pilates daily and no more Wise potato chips. Over the last month she has actually seen results; I'm proud of her. She asked me what my resolutions were.
I confessed, "I resolved to stop working-out and start smoking cigarettes again." She and I laughed until we cried and agreed these were the sort of resolutions that anyone could stick to for a year.
Unfortunately, I caved and went back to the gym on the 23rd. Then I saw this anti-smoking commercial where they cut open a brain and show you that it is bleeding because the decedent was a smoker! So I pulled on my last Virginia Slim and envisioned my brain hemorrhaging and fouled-up that resolution as well.
Next year I'll be much more realistic.
January 30, 2006
Every few years I will unexpectedly come into contact with a person I knew a long, long time ago. Each time it happens I am blown away. The most recent encounter is so incredible, it's almost unbelievable: I was covering the St. Rose of Lima auction when a man walked right up to me and asked me, "Did you go to Holy Name of Mary School?" "Yes," I responded, "...but that was thirty years ago!"
Frankly, I am no more memorable than any one else, I just so happen to know lots of people with ridiculously sharp memorization skills. And here's the thing: you never know when someone will recognize you behaving badly, so you can't ever do it!
January 29, 2006
As you can tell from the Events Calendar page, I've been out and about Town capturing the spirit of Massapequans. If you do not see yourself on the pages of this site, you need to get out more. The events range in quantity (from 8 attendees to 800 plus) and quality (from beer drinking tunes to charitable cocktails), so pick your poison. It's exhilarating and exhausting and by the end of the day, you too may be sick of hearing the sound of my voice.
If you meet an incredible person, please let me know. I met the sweetest little boy that has no idea how memorable he is and I hope one day he does. He was one of 800 fans waiting to meet John Cena at the Westfield Sunrise Mall on Saturday. As I went about my business of photographing the event, he said to me, "You have a really cool job, don't you." And I thought for minute before I responded, "Yeah, my job is pretty cool!" His eyes were lit and he said, "I bet the best part of your job is getting to meet people like John Cena!"
Meeting people like John Cena doesn't stink. But, the truth is: this little boy had a far greater impact on me and he doesn't even know it!
January 28, 2006
In this field of research, writing, and reporting, it's critical that I stay focused on being observant. I say this because "observant" is not a cardinal nor secondary personality trait that I possess. In general, I let go of a lot of the negatives that I observe and hold onto the positives, but the following stayed with me:
Within a crowded shopping area, I walked behind two black men in their early 20's. Two white teenagers approached and were engaged in a conversation loud enough for us to hear. One of them said to the other, "Yeah, I also have a dream," and put his hand, cocked like a gun, to his head and pulled the trigger.
I am not going to say what happened next, you can only imagine.
January 26-27, 2006
Hearing the phrase "fall out," what's the first thing that comes to mind? A disagreement? Maybe something military? Ask most 13 year-olds and they might guess the musical group Fall Out Boy. If you asked me today, I would tell you that "fall out" is the way I left my house this morning. Yes, I fell out of my own home.
Someone told me that boiling water mixed with Dawn dish washing soap will melt the ice off of your front entrance-way and keep the surface from re-freezing. That's simply not true. It did melt the ice two weeks ago, but left a residue that didn't become slippery until it froze again.
At 7:30 a.m. I stepped out of my front door, hit this Dawn-slippery, frozen surface and slid and shuffled across my stoop until my legs gave out and landed my butt on three consecutive steps. It really, really hurt and my face, I'm sure, showed a lot of pain. Then, I looked around and saw that no-one was out yet. My neighbors hadn't witnessed a thing! Now I think it's funny.
January 24-25, 2006
When I was 24 years-old, I bought my first residential investment. It was a one-bedroom co-op in Great Neck or as F. Scott Fitzgerald would say, "West Egg." My cat, Nelson, and I had no furniture back then and spent our first night sleeping on a frame-less mattress on the floor in the sweltering August heat without the benefit of air-conditioning.
The mortgagee approved my loan for 80% of the selling price, and since I only had 10% down, I took a cash advance against my credit card the day of closing. Drowning in debt, I worked a lot of over-time and eventually I paid down my debt, furnished the place, and even saved enough money to convert the kitchen from a 1950's double-sink (used to wash clothes) to a single-sink with a dishwasher. The kitchen contractor I hired charged me a lot of money and what I ended up with was a sink encasement that didn't even remotely match the rest of the kitchen. Since I was just meeting my basic needs, I felt fortunate that I had that much.
That was sixteen years ago and a lot has changed since then. Today, the contractor I hired to replace my kitchen counter-tops brought in a sub-contractor that installed beautifully man-made, Blanco Maple SandStone counters. I didn't see them until they were installed and I noticed they contained dark shadows that resembled aged and stained counter tops. My contractor didn't see anything wrong with them and tried to convince me that it's all part of the "natural stone look." The irony here is that the sub-contract is the Great Neck contractor that I ran away from 15 years ago!
My frustration was concealed as I gave them three options to complete this job: (1) repair them; (2) replace them; or (3) grossly discount them. I could live with any one of the three and it seemed fair to me. But, hey, I could just be "difficult."
January 22-23, 2006
Motherhood Maternity in Westfield Sunrise Mall seems to be my favorite store these days. Inevitably, one of the sales girls will ask me if I'm "expecting." We all have expectations and mine are no greater than the next. But, I know what she's getting at because why would I shop there so frequently if I wasn't with child?
You wouldn't believe this if you read it anywhere else, but since it's coming from me, you can bank on it. I shop at Motherhood Maternity for my Grandmother. It's not because she's "expecting" (that would be weird at her age), it's because Father Time and gravity have shaped her body so that maternity clothes fit her really well.
She loves the whole concept because I am her personal shopper and deliver clothes right to her door. Her home is her own personal fitting room. My Grandmother is looking pretty comfortable these days and she's "styling" at 86. And why shouldn't she; she dedicated her entire life catering to her 2 children, 7 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and countless friends, neighbors and pets. I should be so accomplished when I am 86.
January 20-21, 2006
Did you ever hear of MapToons? You know, the cartoon drawing of a town with local businesses and their locations as its focal point? I've heard of MapToons and have even seen them over the years and I always thought it was a pretty cool concept. But, I must admit, I've never owned one.
Well, I happened upon MapToons this week and decided I should have one of Massapequa. Sure enough, a Massapequa MapToons exists and I can find it at any of the Chamber of Commerce members' businesses.
But, before I do, I have to remove Dee Snider from the Who's Who page because he's not from Massapequa, he's from Baldwin. How do I know this now? The MapToon guys are Dee Snider's brothers!
January 19, 2006
A couple of weeks ago I heard that "Stuttering John" Melendez and his wife had a baby. Since he is from Massapequa, I thought it might be newsworthy. He's been away from Howard Stern for a few years and is working now with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. So, I e-mailed him a request for (1) confirmation of the facts as I knew them, and (2) an exclusive photo.
I had conversed with "Stuttering John" via this website in the past and before you ask, no he does NOT stutter when he writes. Months ago, he suggested which photo of him we should use on the "Who's Who" page and fought for positioning away from anyone Buttafuoco related.
Back to the baby story, his response was simply, "Can I have your phone number?" I thought, "Great! He's going to call with all of the details and I'll get a direct quote!" But then it hit me: why didn't he just confirm the facts via that same e-mail? A simple, "yes" would have done it. You can take this man out of Howard Stern...
January 18, 2006
I met a man who was standing in a batter's box of sorts. You could say that I was his number one fan. The stands were full and I sat near his cheering section. He stood at the plate with confidence and took a couple of practice swings before the pitch.
He watched the first three pitches come high and outside. The umpire called 3-0 and the batter turned to his fans as they re-assured him that he had a good eye. Swinging at the next pitch, he foul-tipped it and looked at me. I shot him back a look of confidence, I truly believed in him. When he swung and missed the next pitch, his cheering section quieted down and I over-heard one of them say, "He can't do it."
When the count was full, he stood at the plate, hamstrung by fear. The pitch was beautiful and he didn't even swing. He went down looking.
January 15-17, 2006
One Degree of Separation
What is the likelihood that my cousin Anthony and I, each traveling with separate groups, staying at different hotels, and without the benefit of contacting each other, would meet the same person in Atlantic City on the same day? When he and I did speak on the trip back and both told the same story, neither of us could believe the other was telling the truth.
Anthony stayed at the Hilton and heard that Larry Holmes, the former boxer, was staying at the Hotel. Knowing what "Mr. Larry" looked like, my cousin kept a watchful eye. Upon recognizing Mr. Larry, Anthony approached him, said hello, and shook Mr. Larry's hand.
I stayed at Caesar's and attended the Patty LaBelle concert. During the show, Mr. Larry was called up to the stage to sing and dance. Which, by the way, he dances very well. Until now, I had no idea what Mr. Larry looked like. The concert ended and I didn't think much more about Mr. Larry.
After the show, my friends and I were in the high-stakes parlor -- they were playing black jack and I was watching. The next table was empty except for an impressive "RESERVED" card, with a dealer and supervisor waiting anxiously. Mr. Larry and his entourage came in within the hour and occupied that RESERVED table right next to us. Each crowd that attempted to get near was escorted away from Mr. Larry. I watched the crowd and Mr. Larry's entourage thin over time as Mr. Larry threw $500 a hand.
When Mr. Larry's private dealer was shuffling a new shoe, I approached. What I expected when I met him was a punch-drunk Mike Tyson-type. Man, was I wrong. This is what Mr. Larry said as he shook my hand, "My name is Larry and I used to be a fighter, now I'm just a rich, black man!" I told him, "I heard that you were as good as Mohammed Ali!" As Mr. Larry leaned in and hugged me he whispered, "I was better."
Now that I think about how out-going my cousin Anthony and I both are, it doesn't seem like such a coincidence that we both met Larry Holmes in Atlantic City on the same day. Because each of us is willing to approach a complete stranger makes it almost probable that we would.
January 13-14, 2006
Karen has been my "life coach" over the last 10 years. Although we don't generally call confidants, role models, advisors, friends, parents, etc. coaches in life, they are. Their ability to help shape who we are is critical, so choose wisely.
Most recently, I was discussing with Karen how I was not getting along with my sister, Jen. After her husband walked out on her, my niece, and nephew last New Year's Eve, Jen has been living a passive, stoic existence, putting out emotional and financial fires as they spark out of control.
When my sister comes to me with each new revelation, i.e., he's been seeing someone else, the bank account has been emptied, he's seeking custody, etc., I offer my understanding first and my advice second. My advice does not seem to be well-received and I talked this over with Karen. Karen said something that resonated deep within my thoughts and has stayed with me and crossed over to each aspect of my life.
"People don't want YOU to solve their problems. All YOU have to do is LISTEN." These words are still with me today and I would venture a guess that they always will. I adore my sister, Jen, and when she talks now, I listen. Need I say that we are getting along famously?
January 12, 2006
Did you ever meet someone that is so damn attractive, it's hard to not look? What if every time you saw this person you were so very distracted by and lost in let's say their eyes? Would you say stupid things -- like I do?
There is something about this man that is so disarming, I lose my ability to think cohesive thoughts and verbalize audible and grammatically correct sentences. Where do I go from here, couch-jumping?
January 11, 2006
In marketing the massapequaNEWS.com website, we frequently send out newsletters to keep our readers up-to-date on the most recent items published. We collect names and e-mail addresses from multiple sources including the Chamber of Commerce meetings, personal contact, etc. How Brad from Massachusetts got into our database escapes me. But, as long as he's willing to stay with us, we're keeping him!
Let me tell you why I think we should keep him: Brad is a pilot on Boeing 757's and 767's for an airline that carries troops around the world. He spends a lot of time abroad and soon will be traveling to and from Afghanistan. In the past few months, he has been to Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Guam, Pakistan, Germany, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Ireland, and Egypt. Typically, he is carrying troops deploying, going on R&R, or rotating out.
Tonight, I will fall asleep feeling a little bit more patriotic.
January 10, 2006
Not My Game
If there is any other place two 13 year-old boys would rather be than Dave & Buster's, please let me know. This has become an expensive weekly ritual. My son and his friend will play video games for an hour while I shop at Borders and the three us walk down to the Chinese Buffet for dinner.
Settling on Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, I walked back into the game room only to be stopped by this guy playing a western game. He asked me if I was looking for my boys and I recognized him as the single-dad that had come in after us. He introduced himself as "Kenny," told me the boys were running around having a blast, and did I want to play his game. "Thanks, but I'm not into games." I did, however, pause to watch him play. As each bandana-wearing bad guy popped up, this guy, Kenny, would shoot them.
Against my better judgment, I take over and start shooting "from the hip." I get a couple of shots off, when my son and his friend come over and start tag-teaming me with, "What are you DOING?" "Who IS this guy?" "Are you flirting with him?" I'm thinking, "Who's the parent here?" And I answer the boys with, "I'm shooting the bad guys, this is Kenny, and no, I don't think I'm flirting." We left. Walking down to the China Grand, the boys step up their tag-teaming efforts and blast me with how I don't even know this guy, how he was not part of the plan, and how "not fun" it was. No sooner do we settle into a booth, do Kenny and his son come in. Only now, my son's friend recognizes Kenny's son, "the Jess," from school and all three boys are now pals.
Ironically, they kick me over to the adult table and while I'm indulging in and thoroughly enjoying crab legs, Kenny's confiding in me about how badly he handled his divorce and how unfortunate he was to have failed in business. What gains even more of my sympathy is that when his business went south, his partner, and best friend from childhood, ended their friendship. I listened empathetically, but that's were it ends for me. All I really want to do is get back to being a mom.
January 9, 2006
"It's all luck."
There is no one in my life right now (other than my son) that I would rather spend time with than my grandmother. Her Americanized name is Lucy and she is 86 years old. Having out-lived all but a few of her contemporaries, she has a lot of ailments that are mostly physical.
When you sit at my grandmother's table you will share great food, greater company, and the greatest Scrabble challenge on Long Island. Today, we enjoyed Gino's extra cheese Sicilian pizza, my Cousin Carla's cranberry/walnut salad, my homemade balsamic dressing, and Entenmann's coconut custard pie.
The usual suspects come in and out of the house all day long and the telephone generally does not stop ringing. She and I draw from the letter pouch to see who plays first, and I pull a "z." Delighted in playing first, my grandmother arranges all seven of her tiles on the game board to spell "DESTROY." I am injured. Her eyes are wide as she counts 80 points and repeats over and over again, "I don't believe it! I don't believe it!" I believe it. Throughout the game I grumbled accusations like, "That's 'cause you cheat!" In the end, she had me by 40 points -- not bad.
As a consolation, my grandmother tried to convince me that she's just lucky. I know that is simply not true because even when she picks lousy letters, she knows what to do with them. And let's just say that she is lucky -- if she wasn't skillful, all the luck in the world wouldn't help to her beat me.
January 7-8, 2006
Once a year, I rent the Rug Doctor carpet cleaner from Stop & Shop on Merrick Road. There is usually a line at the customer service desk, which is where you will need to return the machine, if and when you find the time to clean your carpets yourself.
Passing the painful waiting time, I am having what sounds like a one-way conversation with the woman standing behind me in line and it goes something like this: "I LOVE this machine! I SWEAR by it! I rent it ALL the time! I think I'll BUY it!" The gentleman standing in front of me is looking at me quizzically, that's how I know for sure that my carpet-cleaning soliloquy is random -- at best. He is balancing a dozen cans of Fancy Feast cat food and I sum him up instantly, "So, you thought you could get in and out of this store without a shopping cart, huh, without even a basket? I do that and it never works." I think he laughed. Asking him if he had a cat, I could hear my own words sounding rhetorical (if not dim-witted). And then I launch, "You have a cat? I have a cat! Actually, I have two cats!"
Here we are, two complete strangers talking about cats. When we get to the point of our conversation about how I write for massapequaNEWS.com (and I am not exactly sure what that has to do with cats), he offers, "HarperCollins made me an 'offer I couldn't refuse' to write my life story and I just signed the deal with them." Now, he really has my attention because cats are cool, but book deals rule (at least in this writer's world). What happened in this man's life that led up to a book deal? Handing him my card, I urged him to call because I knew I needed to know!
Months passed and when his call finally came, I knew it was him. Unable to contain my compulsive curiosity, I pressed him to reveal himself to me. He wouldn't (or couldn't) talk about it, but would e-mail me an article he had published and assured me that it was enlightening. Too late! From the time we hung up until the time I received his article, I had pulled his name off of the caller i.d., "Googled" him, and found his name linked with John Gotti's and last know address as a maximum-security prison.
Once I stopped saying the "holy s" curse, and calmed down enough to read his article, I was absorbed in and fascinated by his words. There is not much else I can say now without violating his request for privacy; but I will say this much: Everyone falls down on different degrees. How many of us actually get back up?
January 6, 2006
Coming Full Circle
There was a frantic knock on my door this morning, a harried, fast-paced rap that did not stop until I answered it. It was my neighbor Brigid. She had a look on her face that I read as panic-stricken. Toughened by a Queens up-bringing, Brigid does not scare easily so I knew it was serious.
"The police are on their way," she explains to me. "Someone left a clear, zip-locked bag full of some bubbling liquid with a cryptic message threatening 'Day 1' and it's dated yesterday!" Now she is really freaked-out because as we are standing at my front door, she notices the same thing in MY mailbox.
Our neighbor Dianne left in our mailboxes what appeared to be hazardous materials. Giving me a "head's up," I am unsure of why she didn't give Brigid the same courtesy. As the police are pulling down the block toward us, I let Brigid know that Dianne's mother had given her as one of her Christmas presents, an Amish Cinnamon Bread recipe wherein she would mix the ingredients and pass the batter on to friends to continue the process --"friendship bread."
Now, I am no rat and everyone that knows me, knows that I keep sensitive information in the "vault." But, when this cop got out of his car, I gave it all up and pointed the finger right at Dianne.
January 5, 2006
Destined for Greatness
Having a social life when you are a single parent is a luxury. There have been times that I have compromised my priorities in order to accommodate such opulent wants. Most recently, my son and I were vacationing at The Breakers in Palm Beach. With luxury to spare, it is one of my favorite places in the United States and since I already have a tough time securing reservations, please do not go.
Alan was going to be in Florida during our trip and suggested we meet. He is a former mayor of a small Connecticut town and is currently its financial counselor, attorney and entrepreneur. I agreed to meet him in the lounge for one cocktail since my son was well provided for. This was our conversation:
HIM: "When I was about your son's age, I vacationed right here in Florida with my family. My parents left me with my sister for the day and took off for another part of town. She was more interested in the lifeguard than babysitting me, so I jumped on a bus to Miami to volunteer for the Republican National Convention. Nixon was running for the nomination, it was 1968. I spent the day campaigning with my republican hat covered with buttons and waving flags. At the day's end, an adult helped me cross the street to board the bus back to the hotel. Two buses passed before I boarded the one that actually went to my hotel -- only the bus driver didn't confirm this, my MOTHER, sitting at the back of the bus, did."
ME: "I have to get back to my son now."
January 4, 2006
Sam is one of this site's most loyal viewers and someone Malcolm Gladwell would credit a "connector." Not only does Sam hit religiously and hunt for what is new, but will pass information he finds on to people he knows will benefit greatly.
During the holiday season, I found in my e-mail box a letter from Sam asking my advice on what would be a nice gift for a single, female friend. He was thinking along the lines of either an Ann Taylor Loft or local restaurant gift certificate. It took me a couple of days to respond because I was seriously considering how appropriate either gift would be if that "single, female friend" was ME.
Narcissistic or not, I came up with a great gift idea that was sure to be received well, regardless of the recipient. Responding to Sam's e-mail finally, I suggested he find out his single, female friend's favorite charity -- and make a donation in her name! He loved the idea and asked me, "So...what's YOUR favorite charity?" I knew it! Well, I received a call today from Jamie of YES Community Counseling Center thanking ME for Sam's contribution. If you are ever fortunate enough to happen upon Sam, you too will likely walk away with some of his thunder!
January 3, 2006
Pay it forward:
My brother, Gerard, was recently hospitalized and you will thank me for sparing you the graphic details of what landed him there. Although he and I have grown apart over the years, my Aunt Margie insisted it was life-threatening enough to warrant a visit. Within a couple of hours, she was at my door urging me to get into the car and drive into Manhattan.
Honestly, I was not prepared for the visit, the trip, or the rain. Once we found parking, my Aunt and I ran arm-in-arm through the rain without an umbrella, fighting the wind and crowded streets. A stranger caught our attention, stopped us, and offered his umbrella. The two of us stood frozen for what seemed to be a ridiculously long moment. This man explained that he was close to home and could not bear to see us unshielded from the rain. "Please," he insisted, "take my umbrella!" I reached out and took his umbrella, while staring in awe of this complete stranger with such a sweet gesture. Caught so off guard, I am not even sure I thanked him. He is someone that I will not soon forget.
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