Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conversations with my four-year old

Out of the blue:

"I don't like Daddy."

"You don't like Daddy? Why not?"

"His poops are really stinky!"

Stuck in traffic:

"It's taking a very long time to get there! Is this traffic?"

"This is terrible traffic."

"Well. This is really irritating."

At the DMV:

"Mama, this isn't a disgusting stinky bathroom like you said was going to happen."

"You are right. It's clean."

"It's clean!  Are you going to poop?"

Dressing for success:

"If I open my bead necklaces and connect them, I can make a belt!"

"You certainly can."

"Look! I'm putting on my belt! It's purple! And gold! And red!!"

"It's beautiful! What a colorful belt!"

"And now I'm going to go to work!"


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No. They live this way.

Australian Builder asked me last week if I remembered the Mt. Pleasant drive-by shooter from the early 90s. And I immediately said yes.

He actually played an important role in our lives, in a weird way.

So this confluence of things has had me thinking about living in my first apartment with Maude.

That conversation plus state of our house - and telling people who haven't seen the house in it's normal state that we're living with all these open walls and ceilings and plastic and waiting...but it's fine living like this (which is true)...

And most importantly, seeing Maude recently, who added a detail to the story of the night of her almost-rape....

Because, like my farting-on-the-plane incident, this is one of our stories, to be repeated forward forever and ever.

I've written about this before, but instead of sending you back and forth, I'm just going re-tell it here, because I believe I'm a better storyteller than seven (yes, almost seven!) years ago.

So. Here you go.

Way back right after college, my friend Maude and I lived in this sketchy apartment in Mt. Pleasant, back when the neighborhood was considered marginal.

I had an entry-level job at a non-profit and Maude worked at a day care, and $700 rent was about what we could swing. We had a slum lord whose name I cannot remember; Lyrae, who lived with us the first summer, named him Mr. Mostaccioli, and that's what's stuck in my mind.

The wonderful neighbors, the fun parties, the furniture acquired from the curb, the bodegas that sold the flavors of Tang Maude and I grew up with, Mr. Mostaccioli, the drive-by shooter, the rapist.


During the spring of 1993, there was a drive-by shooter on the loose, and, it turned out, a serial rapist, who ultimately broke into our apartment and attacked Maude.

We had lived in our apartment almost a year. We were both, to put it mildly, rather casual housekeepers. Which is to say, our place was always a wreck. Piles of clothes, piles of books, newspapers, mail.

We weren't hoarders. We just weren't tidy. 

That night, I wasn't home, because my brother, who was visiting, and I were at the house of friends until late. Somewhere around midnight we called to say we were sleeping there because we were afraid of being shot on the street coming home that late.

I do not exaggerate here. It was a scary time.

Maude. Maude had fortunately dozed off in a big comfy chair waiting for her in-a-band boyfriend, and at 3:00 am awoke to a half-naked man about to put one of my sweaters over her face. He'd found it on the floor. Which, as mentioned, is where we tended to keep much of our clothing.

The half-naked was his M.O. He left his boxers at every scene.

Kind of an expensive habit, actually.

We were shocked that the police weren't interested in taking the boxers, although this was prior to DNA evidence, Nick has since pointed out.

And the police didn't jump at Maude's band-boyfriend's suggestion that since each person has a personal smell, wouldn't they want to take them to maybe match the smell when they ultimately caught the guy?

(Look. He was very cute, and in a band.)

It is that night, past 3:00 am. Maude is asleep in the big squishy chair in the front. The chair that makes it impossible for anyone to get a good grip on her.

Serial rapist, we later come to understand, has been watching our apartment. He knows to climb over the wall in the back. To stack up bricks high enough to get to the back window. He is thin enough to fit under the bars. He is strong enough to break the flimsy lock.

He undresses in the back, which is Maude's bedroom, leaves his boxers in the bathroom on the way to the living room in the front.

Our living room lights are on, because Maude was up reading while she was waiting.

Maude awoke, she says, not because she heard anything. She just sensed a presence.

And when she saw the guy and the sweater - a black alpaca cardigan - she immediately began to scream very loudly. She screamed and struggled and he hit her and tried very hard to subdue her but to no avail.

She is tough.

Our walls were thin, and our neighbors were good friends, and they heard her and called 911 immediately.

And this is where the drive-by shooter is important.

The rapist knew that because of the drive-by shooter, the police were all over our neighborhood. They were a block or so away when this happened, in fact. He knew there would be a cop nearby. So when he could not subdue her, he stopped attacking and ran.

It turned out, once he was caught, that his girlfriend lived in the neighborhood. He knew it well.

A police officer arrived almost immediately, walked in, looked around at the chaos of the living room: clothing strewn about, books on the floor, general calamity. He did a double take.

"Did HE do this?!!?"

Maude said, "Uh, no. We live like this."

This is the story I know by heart.

What I didn't know was the following. Minutes later, more police arrived. The next one to walk in looked around and began, "Did HE do this?!!?"

To which the first officer drily replied, "No. They live this way."

Monday, August 26, 2013

The state of the house

Some of you have been wondering about the state of our house, and if it's all back to normal.
So I thought I'd just give you a little update. In a word: NO.
We are waiting for two things: one, for Australian Builder to have time to fix these things, and also for us to summon up the fortitude to live through top-to-bottom construction again.
The one thing I think is cool is that you can see some very old wallpaper at the very top of the dining room wall. I'd actually like to get a better look, but of course I'm not up for ripping out more plaster.
It looks worse than it is to live with, except for the fact that my mother has a big rack of clothes in her sitting room because there's no point in putting them back in the closet with just a plastic wall between it and the hallway right now.
I also find it rather interesting to see some of the innards of the house.
Not so interesting that I'd have chosen this.
But now that it's all dry and there's no urgency, it's really not that bad. Just not so pretty.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars

At our B&B in New Hampshire, Nick saw a brochure for biplane rides. Spoiler: he talked me into it.
You can't tell I'm twitching hard, can you?
Specifically, this biplane. This wooden-propellored, cloth-winged biplane named Francesca.
Flown by a charming, skilled pilot named Phil.
So Nick saw the brochure, and his eyes lit up, and he immediately said, "Please please please oh please would you go for a ride in it?"

To which I responded, "I think it's best that one of us is still alive to take care of the kids." And other things along those lines.

But I thought he was talking about a sea plane ("bi" standing for ability to land on ground or water, naturally), and I figured that if all went terribly, well, they'd just land in one of the lakes and we'd be fine.

Which I told Nick on the way there and he was all, um, no, not so much.

But Phil was very reassuring, and he promised not to do any flips. So, there we were.

Since the wings are covered in cloth, you have to get on in a very specific place, and in a particular way. Lest you step through the wing.
It's easier for the first (larger) person. But we squinched in just fine. Phil sat behind. We all had on headphones with microphones.

It was spec. tac. u. lar. It was actually quite relaxing, oddly enough. And the view was extraordinary.
I didn't take a lot of land photos because the wind was really strong and I was afraid of dropping my phone and killing some poor soul below. Which, you know, would be bad.
But the experience was tremendous.
In fact, halfway through the flight I said, "If you want to do a flip, I'd be up for it."

Alas, he couldn't with two passengers.
If I do it again, however, I'm wearing a scarf.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In TSA's defense, I've always said that one man's penis is someone else's suspicious package

So last week Nick and I flew - just the two of us!! - to New Hampshire.

There's much to say about the trip (using adjectives such as beautiful! fun! fantastic! and lots of exclamation points), but that's a whole nother couple posts.

Those of you who know me know I'm a twitchy flyer. My preference is to arrive at the airport hours ahead. I like to be securely on the plane with plenty of time to spare.

Whereas Nick is all, why waste time at the airport? Why get on the plane before you have to?

Well. So you have time to stow your luggage, securely fasten your seatbelt, read the safety instructions, locate the flotation device and make sure your seat back is upright and your tray table is in the locked position and then take out your snacks, your book, your bottle of water?


We celebrated by getting lunch at the airport TGI Friday's right outside of security. I wanted to get through security first - who cares where we eat? But Nick wanted to eat, and anyway, we had so much time. And security was like 10 steps away. Lisa.

But lunch took a little longer than anticipated. He could see me getting worked up, and kept pointing out that the security line - right next to us! - was short. It would take seconds!

What he didn't notice was that there was a trainee looking at documents. So we got in line and didn't move. And didn't mooooooove.

Finally, fiiiiinally, we got through, with me on the verge of shrill and pinchy.

We're both used to going through security, and thus efficient about shoes, laptops, etc etc. I was ahead of Nick. I walked into that machine that closes and they make you put your hands up, and then they had to pat my ankle or some random thing, and then I was done.

That part went rather quickly.

I put my shoes back on, gathered the various pieces of whatever that had been pulled out and put in separate bins...and then I waited. And waited.

Finally, finally Nick made it across the Rubicon.

He was laughing as he put on his shoes and fished his belt, wallet, spare change, BlackBerry, keys, and bag out of the bins.

Me: WHAT took you so long?

Nick: The TSA woman asked me to empty my pockets. So I did.

Me: And then?

Nick: Then I tried to walk through, and she stopped me and said, "You need to make sure your pockets are empty." and I said, "They are."

TSA Lady: Are you sure?

Nick, again trying to walk forward: Yes.

TSA Lady, stopping him: No keys? Change? They need to be completely empty.

Nick, giving her a look: They're empty. What are you implying?

TSA Lady: I...Nothing!

Nick: Are you sure you're not implying something? Just tell me if you are.

TSA Lady: No!

Nick: Well, this is awkward.

TSA Lady: Go ahead.

And then she let him go through, and he was so delighted with the whole thing that he even stopped to tell the ticket-takers at the gate even though we were the absolute last people on the plane with NO MINUTES to spare.

Monday, August 19, 2013

And now you are FOUR!

Dear Jordan,

For weeks now, when people have asked you how old you are, you have enthusiastically responded, "Free! And then I'm going to be FOUR, and then I'm going to be FIVE!"

(And I have thought, oh, to be in the hurry-up years! Because leading up to my birthday, I certainly wasn't saying, "Forty-three! And then I'm going to be FORTY-FOUR and then I'm going to be FORTY-FIVE!)

But back to you, my sweet love.

You've said these words with so much gusto, and with the proffering of the appropriate number of fingers - FOUR! - and the whole hand - FIVE! - which almost knocked you over over every time.

But now, now you are FOUR.

You are my first born, the one who made me a mama. You are charming and lovely and hilarious. And sweet. Boy howdy, are you sweet.

Your sister follows you around, and wants to be everywhere you are and do everything you do. She wants to hold whatever you are holding, play with whatever you are playing with, and eat what you are eating. Right off your plate.

When you see her coming, you gather up your things and get all panicky. She will walk over and grab and shove. This, understandably, upsets you no end.

I want to tell you to just haul off and whack her, but it seems inappropriate.

The other day she was pushing or pulling you - I can't remember which. You started to shriek, and I finally cracked. I said, "You're bigger than her! Just shove her!"

And you replied, "But Mama! I'll hurt her!"

Today, however, I saw you fighting back. I see this as a positive.

You refer to her as your baby. As in, "My baby and I like to eat waffles."

She drives you pure up the wall, but you also love her tremendously, and you don't want her left out of anything. But she does need to stay the fuck away from your Lego. And your cement mixer. Oh, and your crane.

You still love all things construction, and you are quick to correct when I refer to an excavator as a backhoe. It was a word I did not know until you learned it. And now they're all backhoes to me.

You and Daddy once got caught in the rain and had dinner at the bar at the Hilton, and now sometimes, when you're not interested in what's for dinner, you'll turn to him and say, "Why don't we have dinner at the bar at the Hilton?"

It sounds bad, my friend.

You are so kind and loving. You're effusive. You make proclamations like, "I really enjoyed that!" and "That would be just perfect!"

You love your mama and your daddy and your baby and your nana.

You love waffles, Oreos, and cupcakes. You love mac and cheese and grilled cheese, even though you hate cheese. You love McDonalds' Happy Meals. And milkshakes. Except when they're too cold.

You love cars and trucks and the aforementioned construction equipment. You adore monster trucks. You love Mater and, as you call him, Lightening LaQueen (as my friend Jeanne says, "a true drag car.")

You still have a slight lisp, and you pronounce many words with a New York accent. And lisp. For example, "cars" is pronounced "cwaath."

It is charming. We do not know where this comes from.

You love your purple crocs - which you chose - and truck and car and bulldozer shirts and the pink hat with the butterflies.

You love rocks and sand and you would dig all day if you could. You love spraying the hose on the deck with Nana. You absolutely insist on being naked for this activity. When we have company and are sitting out back you keep your clothes on as long as you can, and then you hit a point where you can bear it no longer.

I take it as a sign that you are very European. Naturally, I'm in favor.

You have always loved books, and now that you watch videos, you love Bob the Builder, and Curious George, and Fireman Sam, even though they have those Welsh accents.

You are my lovely lovely boy.

I realized this past weekend when I met so many of your dad's camp friends, many of whom he has known since he was maybe 11 or 12, how fast you will grow up and away from us. I need to savor these times. I need to embrace the fact that you still want me to kiss your knee when you bump it, and you believe that makes it better.

You are four. I mean, FOUR! (Too soon you will be FIVE!)

And I love you more than sunshine.

Love love love,


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

So please tell me I look like a French tourist because I am trying very hard to do so

So a week or so ago I asked Nick what he thought about these silver sneakers:

Nick suggested that it's perhaps not the highest and best use of our money (translation: dislike). But I kind of love them.

But I decided to be practical and get them in black (see above).

I opened the box with delight, put them on, and asked Nick what he thought. He made a face. He said, "I'm not a fan. You look like a French tourist."

I thanked him. I said, "That's one of the nicest things you've ever said to me."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Today I am 44

This much I know right now (not comprehensive, and in stream of consciousness kind of order):

I am older than many of our parents were when we were in high school. And they were old! So impossibly grown up!

My husband is that grown up. I will never be that grown up

I am OK with this. (Pretty sure he is, too.)

I like myself so much better than I ever have in my life. I have more wrinkles, more brown spots, and now my hair is blonde thanks to the good grace of chemicals, modern foil techniques, and a lovely woman named Sarah.

And yet, I also have so much more confidence. It makes the other things matter significantly less.

Which is not to say I haven't thought about Botox.


I have no ability to discern good music from bad. I embrace all things 80s, and 80s dance songs from 1983-1987 seem to be the only ones with lyrics I actually know.

I never know anything musically cool or new. Copacabana remains one of my favorite songs.

Happily, I no longer feel like I need to hide these facts.


Blogging changed my life. It made me realize that other people thought many of the same bizarro things that I do, and feel the same intense feelings.

And the people who were going to judge me for thinking and feeling these things out loud were not people I needed in my life.

It was incredibly liberating.


Right now I weigh about 10 pounds more than I did in high school Actually, 10-20, depending on the year. But I think I look better than I did back then. I'm stronger and healthier. So much healthier.

Well, not everything looks better. I had significantly nicer abs before babies. Same goes for my boobs.

I do miss my happy little cupcakes.


My kids are the best thing I have ever done, the best gift I have ever been given. I had no idea how much richer my life would be.

I also had no idea how much sleep I actually need. It is approximately 1-4 hours more than I get on a given night.


This is going to be the year I write my book. It is.

Saying that out loud terrifies me and pulls out all my insecurities.


And I still feel like an imposter when I put on lipstick. I don't know why.


The only thing that really matters to me is the people I love. That's all life comes down to. I love our house, and I do, of course, have some fantastic boots, but let's be honest: people are what matter.

And I have excellent taste in people. I do. This struck me the other day, and I know it for an absolute fact.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Which might even make some of you wonder how I managed to hold it together for so long in the first place

I had this job at this place that I liked so much that I stayed for almost eight years. 

Eight years may not be a lot to some of you, but I've always tended to live jobs in dog years, and thus there are number of one-to-two year jobs on my resume.

Eight, for me, is a very long time.

And I liked my job, and I adored and respected my boss and so many of my colleagues. But I have kids and I have a mom I'd like to spend more time with and so one day a couple months prior to my last day I told my boss that I needed to spend the bulk of my time working for much shorter and far less reasonable people.

(This had been in the works for quite some time. It's not like suddenly I was like, oh, I think I'll just step out of the paid workforce that I've been in for half my life. Cover me, would you, honey? And is the start of a whole nother topic or 37.)

All of this led me to my last day on my job and my goodbye happy hour. Actually, I had two Last Days. Because, gin. And fun friends. And lack of moderation.

And the fact that I really should drink alone.

I know this, and yet it's so much more fun to do out in public. With awesome people!

So. The Goodbye Happy Hour.

It started out all friendly professional drinksy. As the night wore on, the group whittle down to some of my closest people.

Ken! My dear friend and my New York work trip buddy! We've had hours and hours of conversation in transit, in train stations, out for dinners.
Things were still relatively normal at this point.

And here is Eric! My friend from the very beginning! And Kaysha! Who got me started reading Dooce and encouraged me to start blogging! In fact, thinking back, we had inappropriate conversations way back when.

And Jeanne! Makeup and pop-culture lady extraordinaire! We're slightly shiny happy people, but not yet nutso.

And here's where things start to get a little blurrier.

Look! We have mints! Awesome! Mints! Take a picture! We love mints!
Aaaand then we went outside. It turns out I thought it would be fun to lay down on the grate and look up at...the stars? The people we made walk around us?
Not so clear on this one. All I know is I thought it was a good idea, and Kaysha decided to join me.
We stayed for a while. We laughed so very, very hard. Holy cow, did we laugh.

Yah. I don't know either.

And then Eric, who doesn't drink much and offered to drive us both home, also offered to go up to our office and help me take my framed pictures down. Over eight years, I'd decorated a number of the walls. There was a lot of art to take home.

I was very grateful for the help getting them down and to my house. Since I walk to work or take the bus, I'd been planning to come down with my car another day and get help hauling them all down.

So there we were, at the office, collecting my art. Thank God, or rather Eric, that we all got home safely.

The next morning, when I got to my desk, I noticed that my trash can and recycling bin, among other things, were strewn about my cube. So weird.

Until Kaysha sent me the following. I have some vague recollection of thinking this was a good idea.

I mean, who leaves their job without taking CSI: Our Office photos?

And all I can say is that I may be crazy, but I haven't laughed that much in years. And I miss the hell out of my friends there.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Our Town

Last week I went to a funeral and a mini high school reunion, the latter of which would not have happened without the former.

The father of two brothers - both friends of mine from Delhi days - had passed away, and they came to DC for the funeral. One called me to give me the news, which I passed on to another dear friend, and those few of us in town jumped quickly to offer support.

We were so very sad about the circumstances, but delighted to be together. I remember this juxtaposition of grief and joy from my dad's memorial service.

I hadn't seen either brother - the older of whom took me to my junior prom, and hand-to-God was back then the most beautiful man I had ever seen up close in my life - since 1986. Which, if you don't feel like doing the math, is 27 years.

And yet, as I am reminded every time there is a Delhi gathering, it doesn't matter how long it's been. We will hug a genuine, warm embrace. We will catch others up on intervening years, introduce spouses, show pictures of children.

And then the reminiscing begins.

It was funny, you know, because next week Nick and I are going to New Hampshire, and ever since we'd booked tickets, I'd been thinking I should get in touch with my dear high school friend Paul, who played the stage manager in our high school's rendition of Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Here's my friend Paul. We're more grown up than I ever imagined possible way back in 1985.
Our Town remains, to this day, one of my favorite plays, and my only knowledge of New Hampshire.

So I thought about Paul, and the other friends in the play, and the hours and days and weeks we all spent working on our lines and what an extraordinary thing it was to be involved in, during what would turn out to be, except for marriage and babies, the best, most extraordinary time of my life.

It was the era of the Breakfast Club, but we were all jocks and nerds and queens and thespians and musicians. Some of us were even criminals to some degree.

None of us were unpopular. None of us were marginalized.

I thought about how it had been too long, and how we don't live that far apart, and how I should reach out and see how his life was going.

And then my life got in the way, as it does.

Then suddenly there we were, all crying and hugging at the funeral. And later, all drinking Taj Mahal beer and eating Indian food and laughing over antics from 30 years prior.

Here are two Pauls. Doing Zoolander. I know I look like a creepy intruder. But I wasn't. I promise. And the other guy in the photo is very private, so you only have a peek at his shoulder.
Here, here's how it mostly is when we get together. You laugh and laugh till you cry.

In a side conversation, I overheard Paul (in the stripes) telling his lovely girlfriend how hard our crowd can be for significant others. Not because we want to exclude anyone. But because we are all so focused on each other.

It is something I have never experienced in another group of people. It's a bit like being in love in the initial stages. Everyone is beautiful, brilliant, hilarious, and fascinating.

You can hear that story of that one thing that happened in 11th grade over and over and over, and still it is the funniest/most daring/craziest thing you have ever heard. And you want to hear it again. You request it.

(You could see how spouses might tire of two solid days of this.)

In this crowd, you are your very best self, not because you are trying to be, but because everyone sees you for who you are, and they love you for the you-ness of you. It makes you feel wonderful.

Beyond that, you do not have to explain anything. You pull words and phrases out that have sat unused for years: sports conventions, ACSA, proms, Pepperling, Janpath, camel treks, Malcha Marg, the Gunghroo, movies at the embassy, Claridge's, the Marine house. They all mean something to this group that they do not mean to anyone else.

It fills up my heart to spend time with these old friends. It's like I finally figured out after the last reunion: these people are home. It's a hard thing to come down from.

And every once in a while you get a terrible reminder of the transitory nature of life. An underlining of the fact that people you love are all there is.

I need to make sure I carve time out for more of them.

The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go, doesn't it?