Archive for December 2009

Star Spangled Babes

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Check out this article from today’s New York Times about Operation Bombshell, the burlesque class my friend Lily Burana teaches to fellow army wives with deployed husbands.

The story of how she came to teach such a class is beautifully told in her latest memoir, I Love a Man in Uniform. One of the things that blew me away about the book was how thoroughly I was able to imagine myself in her shoes.

My husband was a Marine and it informed a lot of who he is today. A couple of years ago, Weezer played at the old Naval Air Station in Alameda, where Scott had been stationed once upon a time. It was really moving for him to come full circle like that, to be living out his dreams in the same place that they once seemed unattainable.

I Love a Man in Uniform is a story about a woman’s struggle to integrate the different facets of herself and to find a way to feel whole in the world. In many ways, I believe that 2010 is going to be all about that same struggle for me. I hope I can pull off an outcome as graceful as Lily’s.

Here’s a picture of me from my burlesque days- just to prove that there was a time I didn’t live in t-shirts encrusted with boogers and applesauce.

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Give Me Your Red

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I’m not very good with years. I’m not one of those people who says, Remember New Years ’86 when we went to Lulu’s party and you got wasted and barfed Chinese food out of your nose? Or, remember in ’04 when I wept for two days because Bush got re-elected? Or, remember in ’90 when I didn’t graduate high school?

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I remember things more in terms of food or songs. I remember events by the details, like the odd way someone held their hands or the way my mother’s sweater smelled after cooking latkes or the way that David Bowie looked onstage awash in blue light. I remember details well, but years lose their edges as soon as they pass. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t even tell you what year I met my husband.

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I get a strange anxiety when looking at all of those end of the year lists and wrap up of the decade special features. But I know it’s important to mark time, to asses ourselves, to get a chance to start fresh. I was in Iran during the Persian New Year (a few years ago- I couldn’t tell you what year) and my group found ourselves on a beach in Bandar Kong, a town on the Persian Gulf where they construct traditional lenj Gulf boats by hand. As the sun went down, a few of the carpenters built a fire for us and taught us the traditional way of greeting the New Year, which involved taking a running leap over the fire while saying something that roughly translates to, “Take from me my yellow and give me your red.” Take my sickness away and give me health. Renewal, light.

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The one commonality between all of the holidays that meet at the Solstice crossroads seems to be the ritual of bringing light into these dark days. And I can get with that. Also, I appreciate any opportunity to get crafty and to break out some vintage table linen.

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In ’08, I boycotted the holidays. I think about what Tariku’s room looked like this time last year. There were lists taped to every surface, open suitcases, every baby and adult medication known to mankind, piles of baby clothes in two different sizes, jars of baby food wrapped in baggies, cans of formula, hats, blankets, hiking shoes, “modest” clothes, water purification tablets, a first aid kit, boxes of donations from friends to take with us for the other kids at the care center etc etc etc. Blanketing our dining room table was incredibly important paperwork, which I examined and re-examined obsessively, trying to insure that no detail was out of place. Plus Scott was on tour and I was completely re-organizing the house to get ready for T’s arrival. I was a wreck.

Ten days later, we left for Africa. 2009 was a year when a couple of personal dreams I had for a long time were realized. And on a global scale I felt a glimmer of promise. Though I’ve subsequently been disappointed on that level, nothing can change the moment of sitting in the living room of the guest house in Addis Ababa and holding a sleeping Tariku in my arms while we watched Obama’s inauguration via satellite.

In 2010 I’m looking forward to the publication of my memoir, which is going to force me into a whole different level of honesty. It isn’t that I was particularly secretive before. I don’t think anyone was under the impression that I was a nun. But the level of vulnerability in the book is a different story. The thought of people reading it is scary, but it’s freeing at the same time. What are people going to say about me now that can hurt me? I’ve already said it all. So bring it on 2010.

Other good things: for Christmas I got exactly what I asked for. Scott really does read my blog after all. Hi, honey.

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Happy holidays, all. And thanks for reading.

The Real Thing

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Yesterday Scott and T and I were driving (no, crawling) home from a 5pm doctor’s appointment in Santa Monica, where we had just learned that I have bronchitis and a double ear infection.

Along with the bronchitis/ear infection thing, I also have in-laws coming to town and novel edits due soon and a baby who thinks that sleep is for losers. When T looms wakefully over me at five in the morning, I could swear he’s holding his fingers in the shape of an L on his forehead. But, I digress.

So I gave T his beloved little die-cast metal school bus to pass the time, but he wouldn’t stop banging (no, smashing) it against the window of the car and I had to take it away from him. As we drove down one of the hills near the Getty Center, my ears ringing and my head swimming, T had a meltdown of Wagnerian proportions. I mean screaming, non-stop screaming, for a full twenty minutes.

Have you ever had the feeling that you were in a movie? Complete with clever camera angles and a killer soundtrack? This was the exact opposite experience. I felt like I was categorically not in a movie right then and might not be ever again. The movie had ended and the credits had rolled and someone had forgotten to tell me.

Scott’s jaw was twitching and my chest felt like it was going to cave in. I was ready to climb out the window, claw my way to the side of the freeway and hurl myself off an overpass into the deep San Fernando Valley. And then the weirdest thing happened. It was as if my chest actually did cave in, as if every piece of resistance inside me crumbled. I put my hands over my face and started laughing. We were walking this hard road that a trillion parents before us had walked and I know it sounds dramatic, but I felt a sense of belonging- as in to the human race. Maybe my newfound sense of belonging was just a feverish hallucination, but if hallucinatory revelations were good enough for the Beatles, they’re good enough for me.

When we got home, the same Daddy who had been silently grinding his teeth an hour before threw a wicked Black Eyed Peas dance party, and you haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen Scott and Tariku dance to “My Humps.”

It was the worst day. But it was the sweetest moment.

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Groovy Greetings

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Every year I vow to boycott holiday cards and every year I find something too cute to pass up. These were designed by the folks at Rattle-n-Roll and 100% of the profits went to Water.org, an organization that develops high quality, sustainable water projects in hundreds of communities from Africa to South East Asia to Central America.

All I Want

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For my holiday gifts, I usually make it a practice to try to buy and request books by living authors- you know, the kind that need to make a living. But this Penguin Classic Limited Edition Bookset designed by Coralie Bickford Smith is just so gorgeous. And I’m a sucker for nearly all of the titles- Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice…My only complaint is that Emma is conspicuously absent. But I want them. I want all of them. I want to sit here in my office and stare at them during the eternal moments when the neurological connection between my brain and my hands seems to have been severed and no word, no sentence, no nothing is being transmitted.

I often stare at my books and wait for some borrowed muse to take pity on me. To me, books aren’t just a product of the muse; they’re often a muse in and of themselves.

I recently heard an interview with Will Self during which he referred to the book as an erotic object. There are, of course, different varieties of erotic objects. These books are all tarted up in La Perla lingerie. Maybe it’s wrong to say I love them. Maybe I’m just making that tired old mistake of confusing lust with love.

But still. Buy them for me.

Earth Angel

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Folk artist Shari Enge made us an angel for the top of our tree. The angel didn’t stay on the tree- she moved to the mantle. I’m not exactly sure why. She just wanted to be there instead.

Scott and I have been collecting Shari’s Old Soul Dolls for a few years now. I never get tired of looking at them. Each doll has its own story that’s wrapped up in family and magic and history. I imagine that all of the dolls I ever loved as a child went to some enchanted place where they transformed into these Old Soul Dolls and flew back into my life.

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Last year around this time, we got the angel that hangs over our bedroom door. We had hoped to already be in Africa picking up Tariku, but the trip kept getting delayed. The three months between receiving Tariku’s referral and actually getting on the plane were without question the most stressful months of my life. Writers are superstitious people (second only to baseball players, I hear) and I’m no exception. This doll was my lucky talisman. I imagined her guiding T safely home. And here he is.

Check out the remarkable art on Shari’s website.

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Craft Massacre

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It’s not a holiday around my house until two things happen:

1. My dining room looks like someone set Dexter loose in the sale aisle at Michael’s Arts and Crafts.

2. I dress my kid in a hat with ears on it and take him somewhere festive, wherein I force him into a photo op that makes him cry. (That’s a reindeer hat in the picture. And he actually quite enjoyed the lights in Griffith Park until I tripped him while trying to get the perfect picture of his smiling face.)

And in the grand tradition of holidays, it’s not a holiday until I feel underappreciated for doing a whole bunch of shit that no one asked me to do anyway. This holiday I’m vowing to change that, because it’s not much fun for any of the parties involved. But I’m going to start adhering to that vow tomorrow. Today, I have a grievance I’d like to air.

Scott came home late last night to find me crafting away and so stressed that I had broken into the baking chocolate. But I was excited to show him my newly-adorned fig preserves. I did two versions, one for our Christian friends and another all-purpose design for the Jewish/Athiest/Pagan/Buddhist/Undecided folks in our life. He looked at the jars and said this:

I DON’T REALLY SEE A DIFFERENCE.

Talk about underappreciated. So I’m taking an informal poll. Which of these two jars do you think I’m taking to Hanukah dinner tonight? If you guess right, I’ll send you a formal invite to attend the Michael’s after-Christmas sale with me. You won’t believe the bargains on cookie tins and fake mistletoe.

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MAMA!!!

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This morning, T pointed at a Vampira magnet on the fridge and said, “MAMA!!!”

Last week, Scott and T were listening to Ella Fitzgerald. Scott asked T who was singing and he replied, “MAMA!!!”

I love that kid. He looks at me and sees my soul.

Nina Loves Me, This I Know

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There are Hollywood nights in which Jesus lets you down and a porn star lifts your spirits. It’s just that kind of town.

Last night I went to Hustler Hollywood for Stan Kent’s Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll series. Rachel Resnick read from her amazing memoir Love Junkie and legendary porn star Nina Hartley co-hosted. Ricky Berger (think snow angels, fuzzy bunnies, mmmmm warm brownies) provided the music and the innocence in an otherwise bawdy evening. I went with Stephen Elliott, Michele Matheson and Shira Tarrant, fabulously talented all.

I’m honored to say that both Nina and Rachel gave me blurbs for my memoir. I signed my very first book last night and I signed it to Nina Hartley. Whenever I have a minor panic attack considering the fact that this book of mine, this sheltered baby, this enormously intimate endeavor, is about to be available to every creep who ever tortured me in junior high, it’s the uncompromising honesty of people like Nina, Rachel and Stephen that fortifies me. At least I’m not alone up here on the pillory with my skirt up over my head.

Jesus came to the reading, too (pictured above with Ricky Berger and me). I’m not sure if he was just wandering by or if he’s a regular. I talked to him afterwards. Call me sentimental, but when I’m talking to a bearded man dressed as Jesus, even if he’s bonkers I still want him to be Jesus-y. I want him to talk love and selflessness. I want him to say, “God bless you,” at the very least. This Jesus just wanted to tell me how lame he thought it was that I had to conceal people’s identities in my memoir when bloggers were free to bandy real identities about at will.

So Jesus wanted to bitch about bloggers, while Nina wanted to hug me and support my writing. And that’s a Hustler Hollywood holiday. I’m thinking of designing a greeting card around it.

Szechuan Santa

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Okay, I’d like to say that the Santa at The Americana in Glendale has a great beard but is a huge asshole. On Sunday morning, T and I put on our best Christmas sweaters (no one appreciates baby Christmas sweaters quite like a Jew) and steeled ourselves for the mall Santa experience, which was every bit as sucky as I feared it would be, if a bit more surreal.

We got there before Santa and dutifully waited in line. Santa made an entrance as if he was Elvis or something, flanked by two heavily made-up elves who looked like they should be starring in the kind of movie that my husband hides under the couch. He wore this giant gold SANTA belt buckle that reminded me of the kind of belts we used to wear to clubs in the early nineties, except those said things like SLUT or FUCK.

T hung in there until we got to the front of the line, at which point he decided that he wanted to play with the balls on the tree as if they were, well, balls. When that mission was thwarted, T asked if we could turn on the fan. All this kid needs to be content is a ceiling fan. But Santa refused to turn on the fan even for three seconds, stating that it made him sick. Really.

Well, T saw right through the faux fur suit and into Santa’s black heart. He looked Santa dead in the face and screamed at the top of his lungs. He wouldn’t sit on Santa’s lap, so we opted for the tricycle. This shot was the miraculous smile, but there is a better one that I’m saving for the holiday cards. T and I were both in tears by the end of the experience.

My neighbor Suzanne posed an interesting Santa dilemma. She has a really smart four-year-old who is young enough to still believe in Santa but old enough to read the labels that say, “Made in China.” How does one explain the fact that Santa’s been outsourcing because he doesn’t want to deal with the Elves’ Union?

NOTIS!

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Needless to say, these last few days haven’t exactly been the funniest I’ve seen. So I thought I’d share a few moments of levity that wormed their way into the anxious miasma that’s been hovering around us. Above is a particularly cheery little picture that Karl Kotch just took somewhere in upstate New York.

Also, mothers of the world, if you haven’t read Ann Brown’s blog, I’m about to make your life a happier place by insisting you go and check it out right now. She’s a parenting consultant in Portland and I think she might be one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read. Here’s a tidbit from her take on mommy profanity. It had me laughing for like two days:

I have a tendency towards the letters “f” and “s” and “asshole” in conversation and I did not clean up my language when I had kids. Oh, I tried but, honestly, when you walk by your four year old’s bedroom and see him with the dog’s tail in one hand and a greased up thermometer in the other, the only suitable response is, “what the FUCK is going on in here????” And when your four year old says to you, “the dog has a little fever but she still has to go to school today”, which means that – for one thing – you are never, ever, ever going to use that thermometer again, any response other than, “are you fucking SHITTING me?” is not going to cut it. And when he tells you that he’s been taking the dog’s temperature every day for the past week and you know for a fact that you put that thermometer in your mouth, IN YOUR MOUTH, only yesterday because you wanted to find out just how hot, exactly, a menopausal hot flash was, well, there aren’t enough “fuck”s and “goddamn”s and “holy shit”s in the dictionary to express your concern.

Crash

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On Sunday night one of the Weezer tour buses hit a patch of black ice near Albany. The bus fishtailed, plowed over a guardrail then crashed into a ravine by the side of the Thruway. Rivers and his assistant Sarah were both banged up pretty badly and Rivers is still in the hospital under observation due to some internal injuries.

I knew something was wrong when both the home phone and the cell phone rang at eight in the morning and it was Pat’s wife and Scott calling at the same time. A bus crash is one of those tour nightmares. When I’m out with the band, the possibility of an accident is something that always passes through my mind when I lie down in my bunk to go to sleep. Mostly, I love sleeping in the bus. I find the white noise, the darkness and the enclosed space to be comforting. But there is an underlying feeling of being out of control, an awareness of movement that always half wakes me when the bus takes a sharp turn.

So it deeply upsets me to imagine my friends, my family really, being pitched out of their bunks and knocked around. I hate to picture how scared Rivers’s daughter must have been. I know that everyone is going to be fine and I’m grateful that Scott is safely on his way home, but I find myself crying at odd moments the past couple of days.

Karl wrote a vivid description of the crash on the Weezer website. You can also check in there for updates.

Thank you if you’ve called or emailed to express your concern. It means a lot to us that so many people have our back.

Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes

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Check out my beautiful new website. My old pal Arthur Avary at Twiners designed it for me. Arthur was the one who first spotted what he calls my little inner blogger. I told him no way. I’d never blog. The rest is history.

If you subscribe to this feed, re-subscribe now because the URL is slightly different.

Let me know what you think of it!