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Pumpkin Snatchers-Monday, October 30, 2006
Somebody stole the pumpkin from our front stoop last night. We woke up this morning to find that someone had made off with it. I am torn. I don't know whether to be angry at the unknown thief or to feel sorry for him. You'd have to be in a pretty bad way to steal a pumpkin.
I should probably mention that ours was a designer pumpkin. Not to say it had a Pumpkin Klein label on it or anything, but it was not like all the other pumpkins. It was very large and white with pale salmony-orange veins all over it. I found it at the Laguna Honda pumpkin patch in San Francisco and put it in our wheelbarrow. When Tom was at the checkout counter he called over to me and said, "Are you sure you want to spend $26 on this pumpkin?" Not that he would have objected, but he knows I have this issue with spending stupid money. He would want to know that my pumpkin expenditure was mindful. I told him I was sure. I planned to keep my designer pumpkin on the stoop until Thanksgiving, and the ever-present gaggle of tourists who stand outside taking pictures of our house would get a nice fashiony pumpkin in the frame. I figured it was the least I could do, considering that I made no other effort to Halloweenize our house. Now you'd never know there was ever such an attractive gourd on guard, whatever the stripe.
Mental Kindling-Sunday, October 29, 2006
I have a newspaper fetish. Loopy as it sounds, I have real difficulty throwing a newspaper away. On any given day there is a pile between two and three feet high in our kitchen-more than enough to set the whole house on fire. It's been like this for years.
The reason I maintain this inferno-in-the-making that I'm afraid of missing something I need to know. I never watch TV news, which might come as a surprise to those of you who are familiar with my rampant series watching. So when I fail to read the paper an awful lot of what's happening in the world happens without my knowledge, which is fairly dangerous for a journalist. But my newspaper issues go deeper than that. I'm afraid that the one piece of knowledge I require to move my life forward is in that pile of newspapers, and if I throw them away I'm discarding some kind of missing link to my future.
Once in a while I sit down to a marathon paper-reading session, hoping to disabuse myself of this notion that there is anything dire in the pile, but every damn time I catch up I'm even more convinced that my theory is true. It's all in there-the story idea that will get that editor to accept my call; the name of the American school in Florence where our kids would go if we move to Italy for a year or two; the ideal quote to make a chapter of my current book come together perfectly. My pile of papers is a pile of absolutely flawless possiblity, thousands upon thousands of answers waiting for me which are-unfortunately-highly combustible.
A Story About Stories-Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I realize it might be appropriate to apologize to the five or six people who check this page regularly. I try to say something terrifically witty or salient twice a week or so, but my output has fallen off precipitously of late. I think it has to do with the relentless deadline I'm pushing toward: January 8, 2007, when my writing partner Helaine Olen and I have to hand in our book about office romance to our publisher.
Everybody is a magnet for something. My former nanny was a magnet for drama-whatever could possibly happen to keep her from coming to work, did. My father thinks he's a magnet for illness. My mother-in-law would say she's a magnet for accidents. I am a magnet for stories. Stories happen around me, and everything that happens to me becomes a story.
So I must conclude that being tied to my desk churning out book pages is preventing stories from happening to me. I am not trying to avoid being killed atop a fourteener. I am not swimming from Alcatraz (although I am very slightly training). I am not coming from or heading off on a fabulous vacation. I am not becoming pregnant with yet another daughter. I am simply sitting at my desk, co-writing my second co-book, and crafting other people's stories.
Shiny Happy People-Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Today I went to the Arthritis Foundation benefit luncheon, partly because a friend of mine is the group's new managing director and partly because my father has spinal stenosis, which is arthritis that affects the spine. The party was held in the St. Francis Hotel and included both an auction and a fashion show to benefit the foundation's work.
It was the typical charity fundraiser, with all the ladies wearing their most fabulous fall suits and tippy shoes, but the shiniest person in the room was actually a simply-dressed young girl who turned out to be the twentysomething daughter of a woman I know from the Opera Guild board. She was the guest speaker, and she revealed that she has lupus and her mother suffers from arthritis. She talked about what it felt like to be diagnosed with lupus while a student at Stanford, and the degree to which her life can grind to a halt at any second because of a flare-up or some other health crisis. And yet I couldn't take my eyes off her. She radiated not only health, but spirit.
I thought I might have to leave the ballroom because I was on the verge of tears thinking about when I was thirteen and my father was told that the shooting pain in his leg was caused by a pinched nerve in his spine, and how he told my mother that his life was over. And that is how he has lived ever since. He spent my teen years taking too many painkillers and drinking until he passed out on the sofa every night. He woke up every morning roaring if there wasn't enough orange juice in the fridge to nurse his hangover, and when my parents split up a few years later and he moved out of the house I was relieved. I wonder what his life would be like now-what all our lives would be like now-if he had faced his diagnosis like that gleaming young woman.
The Greta Chronicles, Part V-Friday, October 13, 2006
We call our six-year-old "The Greta" because she walks around with this air of total confidence as if she expects nothing less than the attention and admiration of everyone around her. Which you can't really knock her for because no matter where she goes, she manages somehow to become locally famous. Also, she does not do anything she does not want to do, which can be rather trying for a parent since it extends to things like eating food that contains vitamins. But the above three factors are so promising for her eventual adulthood that I'm convinced we will all end up working for The Greta one day, and on some level she knows it.
Last week we had two nights in a row when we came home so late that all three kids went straight to bed without stories and without, I regret to report, brushing their teeth. On the second morning it occurred to me that Greta hadn't necessarily brushed her teeth in the morning, either (see Greta Factor number two, above). To her great consternation Greta hasn't managed to lose a tooth yet so this has fewer consequences for her than for her big sister, but still. I said, "Greta, do you realize you haven't brushed your teeth for two whole days?" She said yes without regret or reluctance. Being discovered not doing something that an adult wants her to do doesn't concern her in the least. So I said, "Do you know what happens to kids who don't brush their teeth?" She said no. I continued, "Their teeth start to fall out of their head!"
Greta rolled her eyes in typical The Greta fashion and said, "But that's what I want to happen, Mommy. So what's the problem?"
Idiot Box, I Sing to You-Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I wrote a KQED Perspective a while back about what a bad mommy I am for letting my toddler Ava watch Sesame Street, but I really didn't tell the whole story. I mean, I told the whole story about what Ava watches-she really does watch only in the morning when I'm getting the big kids off to school and at night when I'm cooking dinner. And I did mention that some of my favorite childhood memories are of watching TV shows like The Electric Company and Davy & Goliath. But I didn't disclose the true extent of my relationship with television.
Let's get this over with: I love television. Not in the "I love rollercoasters" sense of the word. I mean it in the "I love sex" sense. Or the "I love chocolate" sense. No, I take that back. I can go a month without chocolate. Under duress.
I am now TiVo-ing, I am shocked and ashamed to admit, 10 shows. There's Project Runway, which I watch with Olivia. That one's not so embarrassing-these people make cool things from scratch using their brains and hands and Liv and I are fascinated. Neither is Lost too embarrassing, nor my new find, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (thank you, God, for creating Aaron Sorkin). And when I remember to do it I tape Inside the Actor's Studio because it teaches me so much about other people's creative process. But it gets worse as you go down the line. I watch Boston Legal because it's a kick to see William Shatner still doing it (watching Star Trek with my sisters is one of the favorite childhood memories I was referring to in my radio piece). I watch Desperate Housewives because all the actresses are at least as old as I am and I'm figuring out how to age. I watch Survivor-big yawn-because my friend Karen and I have been betting a dinner at the Buckeye Roadhouse on the outcome for the past six seasons or so, although I think this is our last go-round. I watch America's Next Top Model because it speaks to my teen self who felt so gangly and unbeautiful. And last, but not least, I watch CSI and ER because of habit. Wait! It's something I learned in childhood! So it's not my fault I'm addicted. Yet another thing I can blame on my parents.