Monday, June 29, 2009
When he wasn’t focused on his termination, he focused on ours. He was a man that was always convinced one of us would be snatched up by a scruffy pedophile that smelled like fried chicken and drove a white, rusting van with no hubcaps. Being a writer, a poet and as paranoid as a meth addict at a swat meet, he was always going into great detail about how this oily ne’re do well would drag us off to be chopped up into liverwurst, keep us as child slaves to polish his collection of shot guns and antique tractor parts or simply sell us to rabid gypsies for the price of a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Besides discussing the myriad of ways young girls could be duped by crafty, balding predators, he also felt it was extremely important to teach us his version of CPR, just in case we needed to save his life. These lessons did not involve an instructor, a rubber dummy, mouth to mouth (thank God!) or even a poorly written pamphlet with drawings of oddly shaped, lifeless victims lying in repose. He felt that the only true way to be prepared for a real emergency was to fake his own death as often as possible. His favorite scenario involved having a heart attack while driving his 1971 VW Square Back down a busy street, at least 35 miles per hour to insure authenticity and risk. When he got the car into third gear he would suddenly clutch his chest, cock his head to one side and slump over. He would then close his eyes and wait for me to grab a hold of the wheel and calmly veer the car to the side of the road, where it would come to a gentle stop with my precise, one handed driving. Before I even got the car in park he would congratulate me on a job well done and plan his next staged death as if nothing had happened.
This is the same man who would follow me through the grocery store limping and dragging one leg behind him, drooling uncontrollably in order to prepare me for the day he would be tragically diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy or a sudden, inexplicable case of advanced mental retardation. Once he even lay in our foyer with his mouth agape and a pool of spit collecting under one cheek while waiting for me to return from my first day at a new high school in a new town. I had brought home my new friend, Sarah who knew nothing of my family, other than we were from California and despised yard work. When I opened the front door and saw him flat on his back on the faux, Oriental rug he was convinced was authentic he resembled a small squirrel who had been hit in the head by an anvil. I stepped right over him and invited the girl into the kitchen for an afternoon snack but she began screaming as if my father were legitimately in need of either medical attention or a skilled mortician. I casually assured her he did this sort of thing all the time and as I finished, what I thought of a boring explanation, my father popped up like a deranged Jack In The Box and introduced himself.
This morning I came into the living room after preparing Otto’s breakfast and found him playing dead, spread out on the floor like very small, very cute road kill. He was next to his huge, plastic dump truck he rides around the living room, a truck he had skillfully overturned to simulate a horrific highway accident. I looked down at him and asked what he was doing. With the same open-mouthed, rigamortis inspired expression that so often crept over my father’s mug while he was preparing me for his imminent demise, Otto looked at me, looked back at his truck and said, “Kaboom!”
Friday, June 26, 2009
Yesterday, two icons from my childhood passed on. No, I am not speaking of Melissa Gilbert or Kim Richards from the original Escape To Witch Mountain. I am also not referring to Grizzly Adams or Polly Holiday, Flo to her friends. And do not be concerned because I am also NOT talking about Lindsay Wagner, Sean Cassidy, Kristy McNichol, Leif Garrett, Mr. Whipple, Orville Redenbacher (already deceased), Rerun from What’s Happening or Mikey from the Life cereal commercials. Contrary to popular opinion, he did not die of a POP Rocks+Coca Cola overdose. Not to worry. Tatum O’Neil is surprisingly still alive, as is Steven Tyler, Steve Miller, Donna Summer, Eddie Money, Keith Richards, Penny Marshall, Ben Gazzara and Abe Vigoda. Lauren Tewes has not jumped ship yet, Adam Rich and Willie Ames are still hanging on, while Lance Kerwin, my James at 15, is still going strong with the help of Jesus Christ and multiple stints in rehab. I am not even suggesting Robbie Benson is gone, and Nancy McKeon continues to be Jo in my heart, while still breathing and playing women in their late forties on cable. And my dear Molly Ringwald is alive and well and apparently now very French and very chunky. Last I heard from our precious Charlene Tilton, she was still clutching onto her super, blond tresses and Abdominizer. Olivia Newton-John, Joyce DeWitt, John Boy, Carl Weathers and Adam West are doing their best to keep it together. And, Burt Reynolds and his rug and Loni Anderson and her boobs have not evaporated, although their marriage did, long ago.
But Michael and Farrah are gone now and I must bid a fond farewell to the gloved one and hottest angel ever. You both made me feel inadequate and under developed but I always loved you anyway.
P.S. Right before posting this piece, I asked my husband Dave who his top three 70’s icons were. He told me in this order, without hesitation, Richard Mulligan from Soap, Benny Hill and Gene Simmons. He grew up with a color television. I, clearly, did not.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
When I went into Otto’s room he was standing up holding his bedtime pals Bundy and Dun Dun and waiting for me to take him out of the crib and clean his nether regions, which I did with unbridled enthusiasm and precision. We then went down stairs where I proceeded to make him a “Daddy’s Pasta” frittata from scratch. There was no cold pasta or cooked zucchini so I had to kill some time with laundry and dishwasher unloading while it all sautéed and boiled. Otto had specifically requested this dish this morning after I asked him three times what he wanted for breakfast. Like a good mommy slave driven to any task by the cuteness and unending demands of her tiny five star general child, I whipped up the feast, timing perfectly the toast, the pan, the juice refill, the bib set up and the table setting. Just as I put the frittata in the broiler for the final bake and sizzle, I smelled what all of us parents know as the shitting time bomb.
I didn’t want to burn anything and ruin a good, hot meal but at the same time I could not allow Otto to sit on a clump of his own excrement while I tried to enjoy my first meal of the day. We ran upstairs and surprisingly took care of the cow patty in record time. I have a germ issue and have to immediately bag and toss every poop that comes out of Otto. I cannot tolerate his diaper pail filled with a mountain of stinky pebbles but can somehow put up with a garbage bag of urine filled bricks that together in an enclosed space for long enough, gather the strength and odor of Zeus’s private urinal. My obsession with poop always adds time to the changing ritual but today; I was determined to salvage the frittata.
We returned to the breakfast table where the food was still hot, sat down with clean hands and empty bellies and I proceeded to eat my share of the fabulous egg dish while Otto pulled it apart, literally and figuratively, insulting my use of ham, eggs and cheese. He then ate only three zucchini pieces, glared at me and demanded to be released from his prison chair after all my hard work and mental strategizing.
This rejection of my food, of the fifteen minutes of multitasking, of chopping and breaking and flipping and frying made my anus curl into the shape of a Crazy Straw. Why do I get so bent when he chooses not eat? What do I care if he is on hunger strike half the day and only wants apple sauce and left cheek kisses? “He’ll eat when he’s hungry”, all the-know-it all moms say. I try to convince myself that he can survive a few hours without a substantial amount of protein and carbohydrates. I tally up the amount of juice to water ratio he has sucked down, hoping that his natural sugar index has not reached the levels of, say, a crack head with a taste for Mountain Dew and Suzy Q’s or a Beverly Hills hausfrau with a strict diet of Mike and Ike’s, Diet Coke in the can and central air conditioning.
I know he will eat like a pig the next meal or maybe even the one after that. But I will still suffer the entire day thinking my only child is withering away to nothing, hates my cooking and I only have one sink to spit in.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
- Waking up in the morning
- Walking out of an audition into a hip, cool crowd of gorgeous skateboarders who are collectively fifty years old and see you as an old lady in a business suit
- Wearing high heels and thinking how badly my bunions hurt
- Thinking Ed McMahon was always in my living room and how old could he really have been when he kicked the bucket
- Wondering what I’ll look like at Otto’s high school graduation
- Perusing high school photos that some twit twat just posted on Facebook
- Fondly remembering my first Walkman as the real breakthrough in technological genius
- Worrying that I drink too much iced tea
- Not worrying about smoking too much pot
- Comparing my arm skin to Otto’s
- Slathering Crème de la Mer all over my face to insure a fresh look the following morning
- Craving a 9 p.m. bedtime and lights out
- Watching famous actors age on television and realizing they might be younger than me but not knowing for sure because they all lie about their age and use Botox and sleep in oxygen deprivation tanks and hold on to their youth with a desperation reserved solely for a drowning cat
- Not loving any article of clothing I own compared to the years of pride and joy at having a denim collection that rivaled Justin Timberlake’s back in his Britney vagina days
- Staring at Then and Now photos of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall
- Guessing how many classmates are dead, in jail or filthy rich
- Re-runs of The Golden Girls
- The theme song to Animal House
- Eating bologna sandwiches
- Discussing motherhood with strangers at the park
- Not getting whistled at by creepy, day laborers
- Getting a sore throat and not being able to stay home from school
Monday, June 22, 2009
The neighborhood we have lived in for far too long used to be hip and cool and has slowly become a wasteland of empty store fronts and newly built fake Italian villa- inspired, puke-colored apartments that seem to attract a collection of people only found on the Las Vegas strip or at convention centers. I know the economy has wreaked havoc on all parts of the country but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Our apartment is a relic in an ever-changing sea of mediocrity. We have no stainless appliances, no built in dishwasher, no walk in closets the size of a city bus, no his and her sinks that scream disillusioned contentment and a garage only a serial killer could love.
Having lived in the same humble abode for such a long time makes one appreciate the little things. I love the chipped crown molding, the weathered wooden floors, the termite trails and the deep, wall cracks that resemble massive spider webs and neglect. I secretly fawn over the outdated and dangerous wiring, knowing that we are living on the edge as only true artists can. In fact, the only time it really gets me down is when something happens that forces me to go into deep clean mode and I realize that my dwelling is comparable to a thatched hut in a wet, hot jungle far from the beach with no rustic charm to save it from itself.
Last week Dave found our ancient, Plebeian era cat, Joey, accidentally locked in the kitchen cupboard. We came to the conclusion that he must have crawled in there to enjoy a dark, dank nap away from his screaming toddler brother, Otto and when one of us saw the open cupboard we closed it and locked him in. Hours must have passed and instead of enjoying his solitude, Joey chose to instead, do something special to ruin our week. Being of advanced age and small bladder he did what all cats are made to do and relieved himself inside the old, rotting doors of our cabinets. At first we had no idea that anything was amiss. When Dave found him innocently sleeping in our large, overpriced roasting pan from Williams-Sonoma, Joey languidly stepped out and we all went on with our tedious day of cleaning, diapers, writing and crying. But a few days later a smell began to waft through the kitchen, a smell of that only an angry, caged animal or an unfocused transient can produce with such force and commitment.
I stuck my head in the cupboards and took in a deep breath that brought not only oxygen into my lungs but a slew of painful memories of many a port-a-potty visit over my lifetime. I put on rubber gloves and an apron, grabbed a bottle of bleach and white vinegar and told myself I would make it out alive. All was fine until I pulled out the piles of baking dishes, bread pans and pie plates and found pools of dark yellow urine only a urologist could love. Joey’s pee sloshed around like a hot, stinky wave in my grandmother’s loaf pans, the single most important non-breathing items in my house. The odor made me dizzy and hostile and I began to doubt my ability to clean or even keep down my breakfast. I threw everything into the sink, filling it with a mix of scalding water and every household chemical that had a warning label and began a hissy-fit worthy of a C-list celebrity with a professional drug habit, a botched boob job and an overdue car payment.
Four hours later I had washed every single pan, pot or bowl by hand and calmed down enough not to euthanize the cat with a syringe of children’s Tylenol and crushed up Xanax. The shelf liners were finally spotless, the excess containers I hated were thrown away and my state of mind was finally back to my normal state, that of mild depression and severe confusion. The cupboards were as clean as they could get for a run down apartment built in 1934 for a family of four who average two outfits and one lamp per room. Dave returned and I apologized for my urine-fueled meltdown while he glared at me and questioned his judgment during our wedding ceremony all those years ago. My wedding dress had shoulder pads and I am half Brazilian. Just saying.
I still love Joey, if love means hate but am now putting it in writing that I will NEVER, EVER, EVER get a cat again. Ever.
Monday, June 15, 2009
One benefit, however, is the amount of shit you can find to do with your small muskrat. Of the parks, museums, malls, fountains, hikes, indoor play places, kid friendly restaurants with food that a dog would vomit up and construction zones I have frequented in search of killing time to insure I do not kill myself, today, I discovered my newest, most favorite place of all. It is called Train Town and it is, for all intents and purposes, a small, enclosed train graveyard with a gift shop, lush picnic areas and a motorized train that will take you and your lovely mini me around the park twice, for a mere $2.50.
They also have old cars and fire trucks, a crane, trash cans AND recycle bins, clean bathrooms, a romper room area, gravel and rocks, authentically dirty train tracks, barbecue grills that have amassed enough bacteria to kill a herd of buffalo at a family reunion, an unobstructed view of the 5 freeway and free admission. Add to that a handful of old cabooses, black steam engines, boxcars and passenger cars that were once filled with people smoking willy-nilly, speaking like a drunk Jimmy Cagney and wearing hats without irony. They even provided a real, live pedophile type character that made the abandon train track motif that much more realistic.
At the beginning of our adventure in Train Town, while rounding the first corner in the motorized train, I spotted a, skinny, young fellow with beady eyes dressed in black work pants, a gray hooded sweatshirt, black t-shirt and black sneakers standing next to an equipment shed. He looked like a former member of Good Charlotte after being kicked out of the band for abusing cold medications and picking his nose on stage. When we passed him in the train, he pointedly waved to the conductor as if that were his job. I, of course, assumed this person worked at Train Town, collecting imaginary railway tickets or calling out “All Aboard” whenever someone needed to use the bathroom. On the second lap, I saw him again, this time noticing that his gaze was a bit too intense, more like that of a professional schizophrenic or a secret service agent, than that of an employee.
We finished our ride, spent a substantial amount of time in the gift shop ogling the overpriced Thomas The Train paraphernalia and walked outside to eat. There he was again, only this time getting off the kiddy train. After noticing that his pants were far too short and his socks were white as clouds, I assumed he was mentally deficient and most likely a slow yet friendly regular patron who loved trains and knew the whole staff by name. I was happy that the poor weirdo had a place to spend his days pretending to be a carefree railway hobo while drooling on himself. I thought it was really sweet.
We then ate lunch on a stone picnic table covered in bird poop, next to a listing, rotted out trolley car where Otto ate an open faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or, what I like to call, a real dirt catcher while Dave and I enjoyed a moment of quiet. We then packed up, gathered our overwhelming amount of shit and headed for the exit. On our way out, I spotted the man again, this time lingering next to the restrooms that were disconcertingly hidden from view. I approached a staff member, feeling terrible for complaining about their mascot, Melvin, the train buff but I felt it was my duty to say something. As a mother and a naturally paranoid member of society who had been trained from birth to be deathly afraid of white vans and men in ill-fitting casual wear, I had to speak up or know that my fear mongering parents would never forgive me. When I told the nice woman about Melvin, she quickly apologized saying that no one had any idea who he was and that the entire staff was on high alert.
I plan on returning to Train Town many times this summer. I will pack a lunch big enough for Spencer Pratt’s publicity team. I will enjoy the tiny train ride with Otto. I will relish in Otto’s unadulterated joy at touching a real steam engine. I may even purchase Otto a memento or two. But, if I see Melvin hawking around, waiting to touch a child or himself or even a helpless little caboose, so help me God, I will open my overstuffed diaper bag, pull out a kitchen knife and some masking tape, slather the psychopath in A+D ointment and apple sauce and make him wish he never read “The Little Engine That Could”.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
HE finally stopped crying after thirty minutes of hot snot running onto my right shoulder, making my black t-shirt look like it humped a horny chalkboard. His father is napping on the sofa after being put through the blueberry pancake, play date, dog walk, pick me up daddy, go away daddy, no more daddy, more mommy, no mommy cycle of hell. HE is in his crib, asleep and angry with me, if those two things could possibly coincide with each other. He refused to eat, refused to stop crying, refused to let go of my neck when I tried to change his clothes and continued to cry while speaking half sentences in what sounded like underwater Mandarin as I lay him down on his overpriced monkey pillow that doubles for a girlfriend.
Since recovering from his bout of baby bulimia HE has turned it up to 11 and has insisted on asking for things with a excruciating whine, a soap opera cry or a right hook. So, Dave ran out yesterday after spending three solid hours with HIM as HE continually badgered Dave and purchased a book called 1-2-3- Magic that a friend recommended. It is supposed to change our lives as parents, teaching techniques in how to win every battle with calm and cool as your wildebeest toddler who hails from Hades, does his best to put you in the loony bin full time. Dave is halfway through reading the book and asleep, which might be a sign that the book’s theory of child discipline hinges on deep mediation and fluffy, cloud-like denial. We shall see.
But, like Princess Leia once famously said to Obi Wan Kanobi, while bent over R2D2 and wearing a bed sheet and two cinnamon buns on her skull, “You’re my only hope.” Somehow, we have embraced this book as our new People Magazine and intend to dive in like a C-list celebrity on a summer reality show with nothing but an ancient taste of fame and a mortgage that could swallow St. Louis. I intend on reading it to cover to cover by Monday or, so help me Lord of Darkness who resides in my house, my head will melt into a puddle and they will find me under a highway overpass speaking in tongues and knitting potholders with used dental floss to sell at swap meets.
Born: June 13, 2009
8 lbs. 9 oz. - 3:47 a.m.
Your dad changed my life forever and made me see the funny. Your mom always saw the funny and married your dad! You are so lucky to have landed where you did. Welcome to the world, little man!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Otto woke up Wednesday feeling just fine, ate the hell out of a frittata and then began to shiver, resulting four hours later in a torrent of vomit only an overpaid supermodel could produce. We took him to the doctor where he clung to me like a wet and sticky Koala bear and refused to take any Tylenol while his fever climbed to 103.6. We went through twelve cloth diapers, four pairs of sweat pants, ten shirts, two sets of sheets and eight pairs of pajamas before the river of waste subsided. That evening Dave cancelled his trip back east because of the collection of barfed filled linens and the fact I had two auditions the next day and no one to watch yakky yak. For two very long, very stinky days Dave has been catering to the every wish of our little recovering bulimic while I run around town as the “homely mom”, “below average everywoman”, “dumpy lady driving a van” or “the old housefrau coming down on her husband for complaining about her casserole”. Yes, the casserole is still an advertising ploy used by ad execs to imply frumpy married couples and their meal of choice in their blissful life somewhere in the great plains of America before they fall into a deep, dark depression and die alone after a bitter divorce.
In the midst of all this stomach flu drama, Tavo and his band of bonehead brothers arrived to drop off the carpet I hoped to never see again. Sure, it had finally dried. Yeah, he cleaned it and deodorized it. After they put in down on the floor we had to open all the windows and the front door, install two fans and avoid watching TV so as not in inhale the horrific odor that lingered between an expired bottle of Jean Nate Body Splash and a spring flower scented Massengale douche. The only benefit to having our home smell like the candle section at Pic’N’Save is that it masked the smell of toddler puke and exhaustion. The results of our week of upchuck? Piles and piles of unfolded, albeit clean laundry, frayed, methhead nerves, angry eating, cabin fever the likes only Grizzly Adam’s mail order bride could possible know, a refrigerator packed with rejected food and a dog so tired of communal living that he has now moved out to the porch, refusing to come back in even for a tummy rub or a meatball.
Otto is on the mend but taking full advantage of his tattered, fragile parents by whining, yelling, throwing his food when we are not bowing at his feet in a submissive position and fussing over things like never before. I feel like I now live with Spencer Pratt, the early years. Otto looks at me with a cocksure, aggressive glint in his eye and I half expect him to pick up his cell phone, call Ben Silverman, Presi-douche of NBC and scream, “I am too rich and too famous to be in this apartment with all these cheap, Ikea towels, a carpet that smells like the middle class and two old people who always wear the same pair of jeans.”
I can’t even say T.G.I.F. and mean it.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
After spending a wonderful two days at the beach with friends and dogs and kids and Brad Pitt supposedly somewhere nearby, we returned to town and snuck out to see The Hangover while our awesome babysitter sat on our couch watching our cat Joey molt on one of the living room chairs. The movie was hilarious, the popcorn was delicious and the Hot Tamales were fresh from the candy jar. Finally, upon returning home, I slept like a drugged lion after a zookeeper attack. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.
When we all got up late this morning, I truly felt that the perfect streak was still going strong. Dave took charge of breakfast as usual and made me and Otto an amazing egg scramble, toast and bacon. I was so hungry and happy that I finished my eggs before I even noticed the bacon he had promised was no where to be found. Then, as if cued by a tyrannical director with a bullhorn in an old time movie, I heard an insane crackling sound coming form the kitchen. I asked Dave a few times if he was all right and he told me more than once that everything was fine. The dining room table is out of eyesight from where Dave was standing so all I could do was to continue to ask. Finally, the weird popping and cracking noise became unnaturally deafening. I ignored Dave’s innocent reassurances and walked into the kitchen where I was overtaken by invisible, toxic fumes. My eyes burned as badly as an unfocused, lazy sex offender’s eyes would have after encountering an angry, middle-aged she-male and a professional grade can of pepper spray on his first day of raping.
Dave is a great cook, a total food snob and bat shit crazy and absentminded when it comes to creating his masterpieces in our broom closet of a kitchenette. He once tried making a rue on an open flame on the stove using a Pyrex baking dish. When the glass broke and the unfinished cream sauce dribbled all over the floor he looked at me with an arrogant gaze and simply said, “What? It’s Pyrex. This shit never breaks.” He has set many a pot holder on fire, broken umpteen glasses, grazed the ceiling with flames of cooking Sherry and ruined a handful of pans by leaving them unattended while he read a recipe or watched Southpark with his pants around his ankles and a beer in his hand.
So, it was no real surprise when my house smelled like a Beijing chemical factory on a busy Monday morning. Dave and his culinary daring, no doubt, were at fault. Yes indeed, Dave had left a plastic plate in the oven while trying to keep the bacon warm and had forgotten all about it as Otto and I were discussing our day’s schedule of poopy diapers and people watching. Specifically, Dave left a melamine plate in a 1940 O’Keefe and Merritt oven, an appliance that is at a constant temperature of 175 degrees and can cook your ass cheeks if you lean on it for too long while the oven is off. Logically, one would think that we must not have any glass or ceramic dishware that Dave could have used instead. Maybe we never received any housewares off our early 90's wedding registry forcing Dave to put a small, non-heat resistant disk in the oven that contains the most famously toxic ingredient known to Chinese Officials and new mothers. He is so focused on using the best ingredients, delivering five star food presentation and serving at the ideal temperature that it never occurred to him that he could have murdered us all with a deadly mix of noxious melamine gas and bacon grease instead of just serving up lukewarm swine strips and calling it a day.
For those of you concerned for the health of my wonderful helper monkey, the moment I went blind I ran back to the dining room, grabbed Otto and ran out of the house cursing Dave under my breath the entire time. Otto, Brody and I then spent the next hour and a half outside memorizing the names of the native shrubbery while Dave pulled apart the oven and washed every inch of toxin down the drain. When the dust settled and it appeared that our apartment was back to simply being a rent controlled tenement instead of an illegal chemical plant, I calmly told Dave that if this ever happened again I would move to Chernobyl where I would finally be out of harm’s way.
Friday, June 5, 2009
For the last few months I had not been able to figure out why Otto refused to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. For anyone outside the parent box, this is a weird, acid trippy children’s show on PBS starring a skinny dude that looks just like Raj from What’s Happening if he were enveloped by yellow and orange spandex and being skull raped by a flokati rug. He and a band of merry robots cruise around a world of colorful make believe playing songs on an 80’s boom box worthy of Radio Raheem and singing about friends, ferries and food. We have one episode on TiVO guest starring Jack Black in the famous Yo Gabba unitard of creepy and it is, to put it simply, fucking hilarious!
We have watched it many times with Otto and he always smiles along with the bizarre twists and turns of Jack Black’s motorcycle riding adventure through magic mushroom land. He never likes it as much as we do but then again, he has not developed a sense of irony or a taste for ingesting illegal hallucinogens. God willing, he never will.
A few days ago I asked Otto if he wanted to watch a little Elmo while I fixed his breakfast. He said yes to Elmo but than quickly followed up with a random, “No Gabba Gabba. No Gabba Gabba.” I thought it odd that I never mentioned the Psilocybin inspired romp but quickly forgot about it, as I do about everything nowadays and put on Sesame Street. Much to my delight, there was Jack Black again, whoring himself on yet another children’s show to insure every man, woman and child gets the opportunity to discover that he really can sing just like Joe Cocker after a bottle of Jack Daniels and a speedball. His hair was frighteningly frosted at the tips but otherwise, he seemed as child friendly and funny as usual. Really, there is nothing more chuckle-worthy than a committed Jack Black talking to a large dude in an animal costume or singing along side a puppet with a hand inserted in a red, furry anal cavity.
Jack Black and Elmo had not been on for more than one minute when Otto looked at the screen and started to scream as if someone had pulled out one of his baby teeth with rusty tweezers. He threw himself into my arms and wailed, shaking like never before. He was clearly petrified and I thought maybe he had become lactose intolerant over night or that I scared him half to death with my blatant disregard for wearing under eye concealer and decent pair of pants. Then he pointed to Jack Black’s face and screamed again and it all made sense to my slow and foggy brain. He feels about Jack Black the way I felt about Lawrence Welk and the child catcher character from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. No matter what anyone said or no matter how many times I was forced to watch either one of these miscreants, they scared me shitless with their overtly trimmed eyebrows and double-breasted suit jackets. I thought to myself that maybe Otto had rented Shallow Hal or The Holiday. And then I took a closer look at Jack Black's face and there they were, the same eyebrows, different man.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
All I have been able to think about for the last five days was the rug debacle and how scared I now am of decorative flooring. It is now Wednesday and raining and no word from the carpetbaggers, which leaves me secretly elated. I am very relieved they have cut off contact with us so I do not have to go out to the van and smell the rug to see if it passes the stink test. There is water falling from the sky, for God’s sake and that means a multitude of moisture and dampness. And in this town, that never happens. Rain is as common in Los Angeles as real life C cups and dignity while driving. Now that two days have passed and the house it spotless I almost feel guilty for being so upset. But then I shove my head into the hamper where some wet washcloths are sitting waiting for me to wash and I suddenly have a sense memory of why I was so apoplectic. I actually never yelled or even raised my voice to Tavo. He just saw a shell of a woman shaking and furrowing her unplucked brows and he knew what to do. Get the evidence out before there is another victim.
Now, sitting quietly in my bedroom with the thunder and the rain and a healthy, sleeping baby I realize that the rug was really just a small bump in a stupid road. The reality of it is that real problems are not about stuff in your house or being late or schedule conflicts or a half empty diaper bag or even a diaper diarrhea explosion. The real shit is when you are in the real shit.
We have a lovely woman who comes in every two weeks to clean and help out with Otto for a half hour while we shower and dress in peace. She and I have always had nice, gesture filled conversations as the two of us have a bit of a hard time communicating. That being said, she seemed down and troubled today and as I walked by with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and my computer to come upstairs to write, I asked her how she was doing.
Within minutes, the truth came out in gasps and groans. Her three-year old daughter, an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy at the age of 47, had just been diagnosed with Autism, the father nowhere to be found and her heart, broken. She began telling me every painful detail and by the time she was finished we were both sobbing with her head on my shoulder and my hand on her head. Here was this wonderful woman, a native of Mongolia who just wants to return to her country but cannot not leave the States because of her daughter’s therapeutic needs. Her tears were that of an anger and frustration and helplessness I know nothing of.
Earlier in the day I was at the parking department office waiting in a ridiculously long line to renew our parking permits. It is a place that, when you first arrive you must take a number and sit patiently while watching people freak out when they are told they own $800 in unpaid parking tickets or that they do not have the correct information to obtain a valuable parking permit in a town where automotive real estate is as important as a yearly face lift. My number was 25 and I easily had an hour-long wait and thirty minutes to spare. Suddenly, the man next to me handed me the number 15 and said that someone had been given a lower number and that I should take his. I thanked him profusely and he looked at me and said, “Just pay it forward.”
I sat there and wondered what I it was that I would do later to pass on the good deed. And then, not two hours later, standing in my dining room I held a woman who was fighting to stay strong in a world of unjust outcomes and shitty luck. She needed a shoulder and mine was surprisingly free and clean.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I went back to bed with a sleep aid in my system and a t-shirt over my mouth in case I breathed in any spores that might decide to rent out space in my left chest cavity. When we woke up in the morning we opened all the windows and cleaned out a place in the dining room for Otto to play while we waited for Tavo and his under paid vacuum brigade. 9:30 came and went and 10:00 just mocked us. 10:30 took a shit on the floor in front of us and by 11:00 Tavo had called to say his van had broken down and he was waiting for a mechanic. Let me repeat that. HIS VAN WAS BROKEN DOWN.
Then the garbage disposal broke, filling our kitchen sink with nasty bits of carrot, egg and fury and we were now waiting for the landlord’s plumber to arrive as well. This dolt is as animated as a piece of plywood and had a keen ability to never do the job correctly. He had fixed the downstairs toilet three times in four months, the garbage disposal half a dozen times and always tracked in dirt on his boots while leaving behind a stench only a farm girl from the old country could truly distinguish between that of man or swine.
We put Otto down for a nap and crawled into bed to hide from the world until the Moe’s arrived. At 2:30, exactly five hours late, Tavo and a tan Lenny from “Of Mice And Men” walked into our house only to be enveloped by the smell of a rotting cardigan sweater the size of a Honda Civic. Tavo tried his best not to react to the odor but his sidekick had the poker face skills of a serial killer on a one hour NBC drama. Tavo tried to explain to me that he and Lenny would clean the rug again while we looked on and suddenly, my years of speaking grammatically incorrect Portuguese at home with my small, brown, Brazilian father, learning dirty Spanish words from cute Latin busboys while waiting tables and the two years of averaging a low C in high school Spanish suddenly kicked in. I told him in no uncertain terms that he and Lenny would be removing the rug immediamento and cleaning at un otra lugar and if it still smelled he would have to give us the dinero for it, por favor.
They agreed without argument as the fumes of a failed job overcame them and all four of us rolled up the stinky mess and carried it out to the van while I cracked a joke about a hauling of a dead body in Spanish. When they both laughed at my pathetic attempt at bilingual humor, I actually thought I might forgive them for ruining our entire weekend and our lung tissue but decided to wait a few more days for that Hallmark moment just in case they returned the rug in worse condition. After watching Tavo, Lenny and the putrid Wooly Mammoth drive away, Dave and I bleached the floors, high-fived one another and realized we liked the living room better without our funky shag.
I really did love that rug more than life itself but after being stuck with it decaying under my nose for three days and screaming at me with its rancid smell of failure, our relationship soured (no pun intended) and I do not know if it will ever be the same. Besides, our living room is now Otto’s very own tennis court and if it took this debacle to insure a place for him at the 2025 Wimbledon men’s finals, than so be it.