After the humorous but mortifying story of shopping for my brother’s jock strap, I thought I would post a nice memory of my brother’s companionship. It comes at the end of this meandering trip down memory lane, so stroll on with me for 800 words or so.
My brother was in high school when I was in college. Actually he was in grammar school AND high school when I was in college, since I liked college and stayed there as long as possible. And by as long as possible, I mean until my parents insisted I wrap it up. So I reluctantly graduated. You needed 120 credits to graduate. I had 148.
During the decade or so that I was in college, I worked summers and semester breaks at The Phone Company. Yeah, the old Ma Bell. As Lily Tomlin said,
“We’re the Phone Company. We don’t care. We don’t have to.”
And Ma Bell was one strict Mama. Skirts and pantyhose, no slacks, no snacking, no chatting, and you had to ask to use the bathroom. And no air conditioning. And the pay sucked too. But it was easy, and my sisters worked through college for even suckier pay inspecting springs in a sweltering dirty factory. So I was actually lucky. And I knew it.
It was the end of an era at Ma Bell. Pre-computers, Directory Assistance meant sitting at a station with humongous phone books for every city in Connecticut. You heaved those big hinged books and looked up phone numbers – all day long – wearing a big Ernestine headset that made your head ache in four places. You’d look up number after number, and then you’d look at the clock and three minutes had gone by. 477 to go.
But Long Distance was more interesting. And a dying skill that I was probably one of the last people in the universe to learn. An old World War II era switchboard with the ancient frayed cords and plugs – half of which didn’t work – so you had to learn which switches functioned and which had died years ago. Some people though never learned that. We had one old lady who, when she couldn’t hear the customer, would lean closer to the little holes – like the customer was in there somewhere. And you sat up on high stools and placed person-to-person calls and collect calls, and calls from pay phones where you had to listen to the dimes and nickels drop and the customer was calling his Mamere in Canada where the phone number was “2″. (The whole phone number. Two.)
I was a hippie back then in the early seventies. And I was kind of the token liberal at the Phone Company. Sometimes I think they found me quaint and humorous, like a harmless little raccoon that you find on your porch. In my novel, I described a dress that my protagonist buys for her newly acquired daughter – a purple tee-shirt dress with a yellow lightning bolt down the front. Well, I had that dress. And one day a guy came in from corporate headquarters to interview employees for the company newsletter, and I was wearing the purple and lightning bolt dress and my wire-rimmed John Lennon glasses, and so guess who he interviewed.
“What would you do if you were the President?” he asked.
“I’d stop the war right now,” I said. (Of course.)
“I meant the president of the COMPANY,” he explained with a smirk.
“Oh, then I think I would buy better pencils,” I said with my own smirk.
The worst part of my job was the hours. The year-round employees got the best shifts, which was only fair, but that left me most days with 2:00 – 10:00 PM. Not exactly conducive to a college girl’s love life. Good thing I didn’t have one.
But the best thing about the job was my teenage brother.
I was not allowed to get personal phone calls. But he would call at least once a week around 9:45. He’d just dial (yup, dial phones back then) zero for the operator, and whoever answered, he’d ask them to give me a message. And he was so sweet and the message so family-oriented, that the message always got delivered to me, rules or not. Someone would pass me a note, or even the supervisor would come up to me and say,
“Your little brother called. He wanted to remind you that you are supposed to pick up your aunt on the way home from work.”
“Oh, thanks, I had completely forgotten,” I’d say in my ditziest hippie-voice. No one wanted to see my poor aunt get stranded late at night.
But by “aunt,” my brother meant “pizza.” He had called Main Street Pizza, right near the phone company, and there was a medium pizza with peppers and meatballs waiting for me at 10:00 PM.
And I’d pick up my “aunt” after work and my brother and I would share a late-night pizza in front of the TV after my parents had gone to bed.
It was really good pizza and really good company.
In honor of my brother’s birthday, here’s a old post from 2011 – since how better to honor a sibling’s birthday than with the most embarrassing anecdote ever:
HOW TO EMBARRASS A TEENAGER
I don’t have kids of my own, and perhaps it takes a hell of a lot more these days to make a kid blush, but here’s the most cringe-worthy event of my teenage life (apologies to my sweet – and very manly – little brother):
I must have been about sixteen. I was on my way downtown for a little shopping. Yes, we had a downtown. No malls yet. And it was certainly a “little” shopping because I never had much more than two dollars in my pocket at any time during those years.
My little brother was about to start Little League.
My mother, always a lady, asked me to do her a big favor.
“Your brother needs something in order to play baseball. Stop in at the men’s store and buy …” she lowered her voice to a whisper, although we were alone in the kitchen…”an athletic supporter.”
I begged her not to make me do it, even a good size bribe didn’t make me feel any better, but my brother needed it for the next day, and I couldn’t make her change her mind.
So I reluctantly dragged myself to the unfamiliar store. Since they didn’t sell girly things, music, or snacks, I had rarely entered that dreary place.
I looked around. I didn’t see anything that looked like what my mother had described. I figured it came in a little box, like a Playtex bra, and I thought maybe even Playtex would be a good name for a jockstrap. But they weren’t anywhere.
I had to ask the salesman. I put on my nonchalant face.
“Excuse me,” I said to the tall gray-haired man in the ugly sportscoat. “My brother needs…” and I dropped my voice discreetly like my mother had done,… an athletic supporter.”
“Sure,” he said, and he went to a stack of drawers behind the counter. “What size?”
And I said: “I don’t know. He’s only ten. How big could he be?”
And just to make sure my humiliation was complete, I even demonstrated with a lovely little gesture!
And the tears began to flow. HIS, not mine. The old guy was crying and choking and quivering pretty much from head to toe…
As he was falling to the floor, he explained: “WAIST SIZE!”
Every year at this time, I remember my Dad’s birthday with a small tribute.
But my Dad was just a guy after all, and he could be just as annoying as any guy.
Like his housework mentality.
My mother worked for many years as a nurse at the city hospital. This meant working every other weekend, and on those weekends she was scheduled at the hospital, my father was in charge at home.
And when I was a teenager, he developed a special method for weekend housework. The method was this: he got up at dawn and did it all.
As I said, I was a teenager. Teenagers need a lot of sleep. Right? A lot more than grownups. Right? I wasn’t lazy; I was tired. Right?
And it wasn’t my fault that Dad did all the housework before I ever got out of bed. Right?
Because Dad’s motives were not exactly pure.
He loved – and I mean LOVED – to greet my mother when she arrived home with the following announcement:
“I did all the housework and the kids didn’t even help!”
Yeah. All you women are nodding your heads right now.
My Dad was a guy after all.
My mother once told me (in private) after he tattled on our Saturday sloth , “Don’t worry about it. Your father likes being a martyr. He’s a man.”
Every day I miss my father’s sweet and generous nature.
- like today -
I miss his annoying self too.
Will be back tomorrow with my regular silly nonsense….
But in the meantime:
Now through Sunday, October 19:
Amazon is offering the Kindle version of my book for $0.99!
This is a great time to try a brand new author!! (namely, me)
And the reviews are really good! You could add one!
PS – I might add that the paperback isn’t a bad deal right now either…. less than $0.03 per page. Why, the paper alone is worth more than that! And there’s a picture of me on the back that you get absolutely FREE!
As I was driving home from Mom’s a few days ago, I rounded a curve and saw that some poor schmuck had been pulled over by a cop.
Probably speeding, and although I felt sympathy for the hapless driver – (I’ve always loved that word -’hapless’- who is that guy, and why has he no hap?) – but I was also secretly relieved that the cop was thereby occupied. Because it could have been me.
Yeah, I was zipping right along.
When my husband does it, it’s speeding. And I ALWAYS point this out to him in my gentle wifely way. As in: “For Chrissakes, slow the fuck down!”
(By the way, a couple of people who have reviewed my book on Amazon liked the book but said I had too much bad language. I had to go back and look through the book again. Obviously living with my husband for all these years has had an effect. Because I didn’t really notice any bad language.)
As I was saying… when my husband does it, it’s called speeding. When I do it, it’s called zipping right along.
I think it’s perfectly okay to zip right along if it’s a road you’re very familiar with. You know the road so well. You won’t make a mistake. And yeah, I’ve seen a bear run across that road, but come on, how often does that happen?
Years ago, a co-worker came to work a bit late and extremely irritated, because he got stopped and ticketed for zipping right along. The cop didn’t call it zipping right along though. He called it 88 in a 45 zone.
But what really made my friend angry is the unfairness of his ticket. Because his sister was stopped in the very same town just the week before (she’s a very zippy driver) and got off with a warning.
“It’s just WRONG!” He shouted in my office, and not in his inside voice. “My sister has been stopped a zillion times and she never gets a ticket! And you know why? Because she’s pretty. That’s why!”
I actually have never been stopped for speeding. But I did worm my way out of a ticket once. And it was a good thing I didn’t have to rely on my looks, as I had an unfortunate perm, oversized glasses, and linebacker shoulder pads back then.
I was on my way to work. There was a busy intersection where I had to make a left-hand turn. The cars were always backed up because there was no left-hand arrow on the light, and the traffic was so steady that you had to wait for the light to turn yellow and sneak through if you could. Cars were always backed up trying to find that small break to turn left. Often several cars would try to get through on the yellow.
On this particular day, I was last in a string of five cars trying to get through the yellow light and not be stuck waiting for another cycle.
And sure enough, after I went through, there was a cop waiting there – pointing at me to pull over.
Who, Me? I gestured with a big questioning innocent shrug.
Yeah, You. he responded with a head nod and a smirk.
The cop came over to the car and after the usual stuff I knew from Adam-12 (“License and registration, please”), he said in an almost friendly way, “I could have stopped about 3 cars ahead of you – the light was that red. What’s the hurry? Are you late for work?”
“Yeah. I’m running a little late,” I said as convincingly and sweetly as I could. “I was hoping to make up some time.”
“How late are you?” he asked.
“Four hours,” I said.
And he let me go.
I’ve done several posts celebrating really good days.
Today is another one!
My local newspaper gave me a half-page interview (with photo that is not so hot, but I am overlooking that) on my new book. They interviewed me
AS AN AUTHOR!
I am an author. And a good one. Me. Really!
Here’s the link, if you want to see what local newspaper coverage is like (admittedly, on a slow news day… Page One was “Car Show Draws Hundreds For Fundraiser”).
My Mom was thrilled.
So I was having a pretty good day.
Last week I wrote a little note to Marlo Thomas. Several years ago, she included an essay that I wrote in her collection, “The Right Words At The Right Time, Volume II.” So I wrote and told her that I had written a novel, and truly felt like I was reinventing myself, which is the topic of her latest collection, “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.”
And today, she posted this on her Facebook site (sorry it’s a bit blurry – I may be a ‘real’ author not, but I am not a ‘real’ techie):
And she has a link to my Author page on Facebook AND my Amazon page for the book! And although it says “7 people like this” – as of 10:29 tonight, I hit 103 likes (which is more than the Page One car show drew).
I am naturally thrilled (and a bit Starstruck – I love Marlo! Since 1966, when I wanted to be just like her on “That Girl,” and forty years later, when she liked my little essay, and oh, my, especially now!)
Can I challenge you to go to Marlo Thomas’ Facebook page, and like that post, so I get lots more than 103 likes?
I’ve always wanted to be well-liked.
Driving home from the small town that is bigger than the small town we live in – which is sort of like going to the Big City for lunch – we passed a housefront. A housefront is like a storefront for someone running a business out of a house. There are lots of those where I live. Old Victorian houses or farmhouses that are now businesses.
But anyway, there was a sign in front of this housefront that read:
I jumped out of my seat. That’s figuratively, of course, not literally. And here’s another by-the-way: some
idiots wise decision-makers at Webster Dictionary have chosen to add to the definition of “literally’ a second definition: “figuratively.” So now “literally” means not only “literally” but also “not literally.” Well, let me just say that this literally makes my head explode.
But anyway (again), my seatbelt held me in, and I managed not to scream “Stop the car! Stop the car!”
But I totally wanted to.
Can you just imagine what’s inside that housefront? With cheese and hip hop and spiritual advice, I’m sure that my life would change. And to think that I usually feel that just cheese is enough.
But I’m glad now that we didn’t stop. Because I have found lately that real life usually does not match my sweet imagination (thank you, Paul Simon, for one of the truest lines in music).
Especially at The Huffington Post. I love Huffpost. Where else can I get in-depth reporting with the liberal slant that matches my own slanty self and at the same time watch videos of kittens being surprised by mirrors?
But the downside of Huffpost is that the headlines are SO MUCH BETTER than the stories. I have discovered that if I just read the headlines and skip the stories I enjoy myself oh so much more.
Last week, In a SINGLE DAY, The Huffington Post offered me the following entertainment:
“MAN FOUND WITH 51 TURTLES BENEATH CLOTHING”
“DONKEYS REUNITED AT POLISH ZOO AFTER SEX SCANDAL”
“PRISONS ARE ADOPTING THE WAL-MART BUSINESS MODEL”
“BODYBUILDING CHRISTIAN SWINGERS START SEX WEBSITE”
“BASEBALL PLAYER’S HOMERUN TROT SHOWS WHAT TOUGHNESS REALLY MEANS”
“BACTERIA PORTRAITS ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THEY SOUND”
“WOMAN DROVE 12 BLOCKS WITH COP ON HER CAR”
*PLANE MAKES UNSCHEDULED STOP DUE TO ALLEGED MASTURBATION”
“WOMAN SPENDS A MONTH IN JAIL AFTER COPS MISTAKE SPAGHETTIOS FOR METH”
and my very favorite of the week:
“DRUNK MOOSE TERRORIZING SWEDEN PROBABLY NOT EVEN DRUNK: SCIENTIST”
Now why would I read the stories and jeopardize my sweet imagination?
But tomorrow I may stop for some hip hop spiritual advice. And cheese.
Last week I wrote about cats and dogs, and I guess it was obvious to most people that I am a bit biased towards cats.
It’s true enough. My husband and I have had a bunch of cats over the 25 years we’ve been together. As a matter of fact, I brought home a kitten for him after we had known each other just a few months. And the bunch of cats we’ve had have often been all at one time. For one brief period, we had five kitties running around here annoying each other.
But I do like dogs.
My brother-in-law has two golden retrievers. Sophie and Stella are as sweet as dogs can be. (They are also as smelly as dogs can be – but I don’t hold that against them.) And my other brother-in-law just lost his best, most loyal friend, and I cried too when Woody died.
And my co-worker just took in a rescue dog – a happier dog you never saw. (or happier parents).
But my favorite dog of all time – and I don’t think anyone will ever beat him out – was my own dog, Sarge.
Sarge was part border collie and part… well, I believe the vet called Sarge, “part border collie, part shedder.”
I personally think he was mostly shedder. I have never seen a dog leave so much hair behind. I brushed him daily and filled a shopping bag. And filled another the following day. A friend once remarked about how shiny Sarge’s coat was – gleaming black and snow white. I said his fur was that spotless because it was always all new. He grew a new coat every week and left the old one on the kitchen floor.
Sarge could catch thirty popcorn in a row. He wished it were 300, but the rest of the family needed some too.
He couldn’t tolerate any fighting in the house. And he wouldn’t let anyone touch me. As I was a teenager at the time, I did not necessarily appreciate his vigilance. But my Dad did. “Good Boy,” Dad said as Sarge growled at the boy who put his hand on my knee.
But that doesn’t mean Sarge was mean. Or brave. He was quite a baby, and used to go hide when the doorbell rang. My father would answer the door holding Sarge by the collar, telling the salesman, “I’m not sure I can hold him,” which always scared the salesmen away. But Dad meant he couldn’t hold Sarge much longer from running upstairs and hiding under the bed.
Sarge couldn’t bear to be yelled at. If you yelled at him, he threw up. And then you had the mess to clean up, in addition to whatever you were mad at him for in the first place. So we always had to watch what we said to the dog. “He’s sensitive,” explained my mother.
He had a good sense of humor though. He liked to bump your elbow while you were drinking something. He did that a thousand times. That joke never got old. (For Sarge.)
But he was a runner. That was his worst fault. Open the door and he was G-O-N-E! Luckily, the one thing he liked more than running free was riding in the car. So when Sarge escaped, you got in the car and drove it down the road a ways. Then you stopped the car and opened the door, and called, “Wanna go for a ride in the car, Honey?” And he’d jump in. We did that dressed in our gowns the day of my sister’s wedding.
One day many years later, I was working near home and out on an errand at lunchtime. As I drove through the neighborhood, I saw Sarge. He was strolling down the street. Oh no, I thought, he’s loose again. So I pulled to the curb, and popped open the passenger side door, and said – as coaxingly as I could – “Wanna go for a ride in the car, Honey?”
And there on the sidewalk, previously unseen by me, with a very surprised facial expression, was the mailman.
Sarge – you practical joker, you!
A couple of nights ago, we were having dinner with some old friends. My husband has spent weeks under his classic car trying to get it ready for an upcoming show. So Friend-Hubby volunteered to help.
“That would be friggin’ great!” said Hubby enthusiastically. (I thought for a moment he might cry.)
“I can come over any night this week. When do you want me?” asked Hubby-Friend. (which is a synonym for Friend-Hubby – because I’m not sure which is the proper term)
“Let’s see,” said Hubby “…. tomorrow is Wednesday…”
(Which miraculously was correct…my husband never knows what day it is. And let me digress further. One November, he asked me what day Thanksgiving was, and when I told him it was the 26th, he said, “No, I mean what day of the week” – and so I told him that this year Thanksgiving happened to fall on a Thursday, and he said – seriously – “Oh. Okay.”)
Let me start that sentence again:
“Let’s see…tomorrow is Wednesday,” (I’m repeating this for a reason) ” and I have to put the oil pan back on and switch out the tubes” (okay, it wasn’t tubes, but I don’t know what the hell is was…), “and there’s the transistors” (I didn’t take notes, all right?) “and the gaskets, and Thursday I’ll be ready for the duvet covers. So maybe, Wednesday night.”
“Okay,” says Hubby-Friend, trying to follow (whereas I had completely given up). So tomorrow night.”
And Hubby said. “I don’t know. What day is tomorrow?”
When we got home, I heard that distinctive chirp that drives me crazy but that my husband has never heard in his entire life.
“Uh-oh,” I said. “I think we need a new battery in the smoke detector in the den.”
“Where?” said Hubby.
“The den,” I repeated.
“I know you said ‘the den’ – but I’m not sure what room you mean.”
“It’s the room off the kitchen. The one with the TV and the bookcases and the leather furniture.” I admit this explanation may not have been in my inside voice.
“Oh.” said Hubby.
“What do YOU call that room?” I asked.
“The room with the TV” he answered.
You may not believe these conversations happened. But I SWEAR. And the same evening, no less.
But here’s what he said the following day when I got home from work.
“Guess what I did today,” he said. “I went to the radio station. The door was locked and there was a sign that said ‘No Soliciting’ – but I banged on the door anyway. And when someone finally opened the door, I explained that I had a story they should cover. I said that they needed to interview my wife. That my wife was an English major in college and she was a really good writer and even won some awards in school. But after college she got a job and the company helped pay for an MBA, and so she gave up writing and worked for her whole life in Finance. But a few years ago, she realized how much she missed writing and so she spent two years writing a novel while still working full-time. And now she’s published her book and it’s really good. She did it – and she’s a good example for anyone who thinks it’s too late or that their dreams are impossible. And so you need to tell her story.”
Did that make the radio station want to tell that story?
But it did make me want to stay married. At least for a few more days.
When I was a little girl, I believed – for much longer than I should admit – that all dogs were boys and all cats were girls.
I believed this despite the fact that when I was about five I had a dog named Daisy. But I never for one minute believed that Daisy was a girl.
(I didn’t believe that Lassie was a girl either, even though Timmy would cry, “Go get help, Girl!” And it turned out I was right.)
I had strong reasons why I thought all dogs were boys: They were rambunctious, loud and smelly.
I rest my case.
Cats, on the other hand, were graceful and delicate. I think I was twelve before I realized that the word Feline was not a synonym for Feminine.
When I finally understood that there were actually girl dogs and boy cats, I was quite embarrassed.
But now that I think about it, I had no reason to be ashamed of my mistake. It’s actually perfectly reasonable to associate dogs with boys and cats with girls.
First there’s the way they play.
Dogs will chase a ball or a stick – over and over and over and over. They are never bored. There’s a mindless joy to their repetition. Sort of like Baseball. And whatever toy they have, you can be certain they will completely destroy it in no time at all. I had a cat however, who always took her toy to bed and cuddled with it. (I admit this may have had something to do with catnip.)
Then there’s the loudness – which I have already mentioned. I’m not saying women are less talkative than men. I am saying there is an astounding volume to boys. Especially when they are in a group.
And speaking of groups, men are much more comfortable in packs. Of course, they call them teams. But it’s really the same thing. Women need their alone time. So do cats. Cat-related alone time is usually about 19 hours a day.
Let’s compare Patience. Dogs are not patient. They will knock you over to get to the door first. Eat like the food bowl may explode in five seconds. And, rather sweetly, will greet you like you have been away for 3 weeks, not three hours.
And they hunt the same way. They charge after their prey, yelping and jumping and completely crazed. When a dog is successful with his hunt, it is mainly due to power, enthusiasm (and sheer luck). I have yet to see a dog sneak up on something. A cat gets her prey due to patience and strategy. I’ve seen my cat sit by a stack of boxes in the cellar for twelve hours.
Peeing. I learned very early on from my cousins that when a boy feels the need to pee, he just whips it out and pees. In the middle of a dodge ball game, and Johnny has to go…. Well, right over there by the bushes, Johnny. No need to even call a Time-out. Us girls need a bit more privacy. Cats too. They have their personal box and if you walk in on them during their nature call, they are not happy, and will usually walk away and come back another time. And they don’t need to pee constantly. I had a dog, Sarge, for seventeen years. Walking him a quarter of a mile meant stopping every seven feet to pee. Five minutes of walking and twenty-five minutes of peeing. Dogs love to pee. Boys think it is pretty special too.
And finally, while we are down in the nether regions, there’s grooming. Cats love to be clean. They bathe and bathe. They wash their little faces and their little ears and their little tails and their little paws.
Dogs? Only interested in their genitals.
I rest my case.