Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Sugar In Your Bowls

I'm not giving you any candy tomorrow.

Don't come to my
darkened door. Don't look for my jack-o'-lantern. You can play all the
"tricks" you want, but there will be no treats to be had at Casa de
Mayrav this All Hollow's Eve.

Store's closed. Goodbye.

quit your whimpering. You had your chance. For years, I bought great,
big Costco bags of candy, rushed home early from work, set up families
of lovingly carved pumpkins on my doorstep and waited. And waited. And

You never came.

I have always loved Halloween – the
pageantry, the costumes, the candy. As a little Jewish girl, I
appreciated any holiday that didn't begin with long hours of prayer and
end with brisket. I could never understand the people who turned the
lights off in their homes and waited out the night without passing out
a single piece of sweet holiday cheer. What kind of witch would
actively avoid a holiday as cool as Halloween?

So when Hubby and
I got our first apartment, I was so excited to give out candy I could
hardly speak. I wanted to dress up as a witch and deliver sweets from a
dry ice-filled caldron. Hubby talked me out of it, but he couldn't
dissuade me from buying three different kinds of mini chocolate bars
and a large orange bowl to hold them.

"No one will come," Hubby
said. Our street was populated by musicians and artists and stray cats.
There were exactly no kids on our block. Plus our wood gate largely
obscured the view of our front door from the street.

"Of course they will come!" I said.

course, you didn't. I was waiting for you, you massive throngs of Darth
Vaders and Dora the Explorers. I had dreamed of adorable little faces
and grabby, sticky little hands. Years after being young enough to go
trick-or-treating myself, I wanted to feel part of this ridiculously
fun holiday. You were supposed to give me a role in all this revelry.
So where were you?

That first year, exactly two kids showed up,
Dracula and his little princess sister. I was so overjoyed to see them,
I gave them each two giant fistfuls of candy and made them pose for a
photo with my stuffed gorilla. The following year, not even they

Since then, I've spent every Halloween like a grown-up Linus, waiting pathetically for the Great Pumpkin to appear.

we moved to our first house, Hubby and I went to a party on Halloween,
but we were careful to leave that big orange bowl full of candy at the
door with a note, saying people should take just one piece.

Either we had very conscientious neighbors, or – more likely – the Halloween Horde failed to show up again.

candy bowl was similarly untouched last year at our apartment. So this
year, when Hubby offered to do the Halloween candy shopping, I told him
not to bother.

I'm sick of snacking on all the Snickers you fail
to claim. Sick of waiting like someone's neglected grandmother for you
to show up at my door.

You had your chance, but now it's too
late. We're not buying any more candy for you – and we always bought
the good stuff, too. None of that candy corn/circus peanuts nonsense.

don't know where you've gone all these years, what pleasant little
cul-de-sac you favored in place of my eager abode, but I hope you're
happy there. Because this year, there will be nary a Butterfinger to be
had around these parts. We're taking Zev (or, as he'll be known that
night, "Chewbacca") to a carnival, and we'll be leaving our front porch
lights off.

That's right. All those years of rejection have
turned me into one of those darkened-home witches who always puzzled me
as a child. So this year, I'm greeting you all with the Halloween
equivalent of "Bah humbug" – namely, a doorbell ring that goes

(Unless, of course, you really are going to be coming
this year … in which case, well, maybe I should buy one little bag of
candy. Or three.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Snoring in the Lap of Luxury

There must be another Mayrav Saar out there, one with a much bigger
petty cash drawer than mine, because I've been getting a ton of
catalogs and e-mails for luxury goods lately.

Every time I open
my inbox, I'm confronted with things I could not possibly afford. A $16
bar of Coco Chanel soap? Seriously? If I don't go to the grocery store
soon, I'll be showering with Windex.

The only reason Coco
Chanel (and Coach, and Louis Vuitton, et al.) is likely targeting me is
because it's banking on my weak constitution and need to be liked.
Surely, if I want to be in the "in crowd," I'm going to seek to wear,
drive and, apparently, bathe in the "in products."

But these
agents of opulence are wasting their time on me: I've evolved beyond
the point of coveting my neighbor's Italian handbags. Right now, all I
aspire to is a good nap.

I'm overworked, stressed out and, I
suspect, not alone in feeling this way. Drive on the freeway at rush
hour and peek through the windshields of the cars behind you. You won't
have to look hard to find the bleary-eyed guy in the Benz yawning into
his Bluetooth.

Every high-end designer on the planet is
clamoring to create "affordable" clothing lines for Target and other
hoi polloi hot spots. But instead of a lifestyle of luxury, what they
really should be marketing is a lifestyle of lounging.

I'd buy it in a second.

months, a furniture store near my house kept a big Moroccan-looking
daybed in its window. And for months, I'd walk by the window and
fantasize about buying it, but I couldn't figure out why. It wouldn't
go with any of the furniture in my house. And, really, it looked a
little cheaply made.

It took me awhile to realize: I don't want
a daybed. I want the time to recline on a daybed. I couldn't envision
the thing in my house, but I could (and did) see myself curled up on
it, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other.

realization served me well for a while. But I recently suffered a
momentary memory lapse (probably due to lack of sleep), forgot all
about my daybed epiphany and impulse-bought a couch. I walked into a
furniture store, saw a big, overstuffed couch. And I bought it.

is not the way I normally make large purchases. But, oh, this couch.
It's so deep my feet barely dangle off the edge of it. I don't really
even need an ottoman (but for an extra $600, I bought one, too). It's
fluffy. It's seductive. It requires its own ZIP code.

I had to
sell our coffee table to make room for it, and its monstrous size means
I'm going to have to buy a larger area rug. But, I told myself, just as
fashionistas make sacrifices for fancy clothes (try walking a mile in
their 5-inch Christian Louboutin heels), so, too, does this comfortista
give up a few things for the sake of something soft to sit on.

is quite pleased with my purchase (which is good, since I told him it
is his anniversary present). Toddler Zev is equally pleased with our
"brand-new, pretty couch." But now that it's in our home, sprawled
across our living room in all its overstuffed glory, I'm having second

It's not that the couch doesn't look great in our room
(well, actually, it doesn't; that will be remedied with the new rug).
It's just that my beloved couch has been in our home for a few weeks
and I have yet to spend a relaxing afternoon cuddled deep into its

In fact, at this very moment, it is sitting there,
eyeing me cruelly while I write this a few feet away. I'm working, but
it's beckoning me to rest.

Come here! Ignore your deadlines, and let me hold you. Why did you buy me if not to snuggle?

a woman pulling a maxed-out credit card from a Gucci wallet, I'm
finding that having the appearance of something – whether it's wealth
or leisure time – isn't enough. I may have the world's best couch
potato couch, but it's doing me no good while I'm in the fryer.

Buying into a lifestyle – whether it's one of luxury or lounging – requires more of a commitment than I was willing to admit.

no, I don't want any of the sparkly, leathery things being advertised
in my stack of catalogs. But I would love to lie on my couch, thumb
through those pages of luxury goods and dream – perchance to sleep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Facebook: I Don't Get It

I've been be-Friendstered. I've been 'Spaced. I've been Linked In and
Twittered. And now, I guess, I'm Facing yet another social networking

But even as I build up my profile and choose my "friends,"
I know that in a few short months I'll have completely abandoned this
"community" that now occupies so much of my time.

I have joined
Facebook, the social networking site that had previously been available
only to college students. Initially, I ignored all invitations to join
the site, but then Kate started a page for me (thanks, Kate), and so I
ventured online to see what, exactly, I was up to.

Back in the
Stone Ages of Friendster, I was gung-ho about social networking. I saw
it as a natural extension of the increasingly immediate, connected way
people were communicating. Why call someone on the phone when you can
convey a message to a whole swath of people that includes video,
graphics and sound? It's like you're saying to your friends, "Take a
look at the inside of my brain."

But as these sites progress and
morph and compete, I'm finding that the content of my brain has become
dull and stupid – as has everyone else's. A quick run-down of the
Facebook messages I've gotten recently:

"You have one Vampire invitation!"

"Your friend Anne sent you a Hot Potato!"

Victim, you have been bitten by Luke! Click the 'Start Biting the
Chumps" button to become a Werewolf and start biting other chumps! You
can also fight other Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves now!"

Great. Now I'm going to have to show up at a vampire party, looking like a werewolf with potato-seared hands. Thanks, Facebook.

least on MySpace the silly garbage I got came from musicians that I
like a lot. And yet, Facebook is being portrayed as not just the Next
Big Thing, but the Future of All Things.

News stories hail
wunderkind Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, 23, as the next "Bill
Gates or Steve Jobs." The guy is worth about $3 billion, and says he
expects Facebook to evolve into the biggest database in the world – a
populist spreadsheet of all that is popular.

Kate says she thinks
Facebook is an invaluable tool for a freelance writer – which is why
she signed us both up. And a Wired magazine columnist predicted that
one day your Facebook page will serve as be-all identity document, with
hospitals logging on to check your medical records and the IRS "poking"
you for your 1040s.

It's hard to reckon all this hype with a site that suggests I while away my time posting "graffiti" on a friend's "Super Wall."

Bee may have the best explanation for the current Facebook frenzy:
She's on it because all the young people in her office are on it, and
she doesn't want to seem out of it.

"I work in an office full of
whippersnappers, and many of these people do not have MySpace profiles.
This makes me feel old," she says.

She has a "Facebook tutor," a
twentysomething co-worker, who walks her through the vagaries of Super
Walls and Compare Requests, a woman who wonders why Lisa Bee doesn't
use her real name on her home page.

"It's like, the Internet Igrew
up on? Mean streets, kiddies. Mean streets," she explains. "And
Facebook is all about getting every last piece of information about
you. At least MySpace felt fun."

I contemplated her response
for a long while. When we're pining for the "fun" days of MySpace
(which was all of, like, three months ago), it's clearly time to
declare social networking dead. We're not being social. We're not even
really networking. We're just typing in bits of data about ourselves
that one day will be sold to the highest bidder in a giant
direct-marketing campaign.

But because I feel some kind of
generational obligation, I, like Lisa, will continue to "poke" my
friends and to chug along until it's finally no longer cool to do so.

There are only so many werewolf bites one girl can endure.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cotton Balls And Vacant Stares

I need cotton balls.

I need cotton balls, and this need has
filled me with such dread I can feel the blood freeze in my veins.
Because needing cotton balls as I do means I need to make a trip to the
corner drugstore. And I'm fairly certain that if I step foot in that
place one more time, I will lose my mind.

I hear there was a time
in American history, when drug stores were hangouts. Places filled with
knowledgeable, friendly folks who were happy to fill a prescription and
fetch you an egg cream.

The only hanging out I've ever done at
drug stores is in the snaking lines at the cash register, waiting in
vain for some counter cud-chewer to comprehend why the 80-year-old
cancer patient at the head of the line does not want to go home with
only half the medications his doctor prescribed.

Now, I make no
claim to brilliance: I volunteered for a life of journalistic poverty.
I still don't know all the state capitals and sometimes I mix up my
right and my left. But I'm not in charge of dispensing life-sustaining
medication to people. And all that I ask, is that the people who are be
smarter than me.

"Um. Yeah," I had one vacant-eyed clerk tell me recently, "they, um, don't make this medicine."

"You mean, the medicine my doctor prescribed?"


telling me you have no record of the medicine my doctor prescribed?
That he just made up the name of a drug, wrote it down and sent me here
as a joke?"

"Oh. Um. No," she said. "It's in the computer, but we don't have it."

"So they do make that medicine," I said.

"Um. Yeah, I guess."

"Mind ordering it?"

"Let me get my manager."

sure not everyone who works at these chains is stupid. There are
probably some future MacArthur fellows populating the drugstore
workforce. And for all I know, I have even interacted with these folks.

I don't remember them. Because, unlike any other service industry,
ineptitude in a drugstore stands out as an affront to humanity. We can
all live with a flighty waiter or a bookstore clerk who has never heard
of Salinger. Or, even, a newspaper columnist who doesn't know Hartfort
from Helena. But we really, really need some bright bulbs at the

Drug stores are all we have when we have nothing – in
the middle of the night, when our health is poor, and for some, when
our lives are in jeopardy. How sad, then, that in our darkest hours, we
are forced to contend with people who pretty much scream, "We Dare You
Not To Have An Aneurism In The Face of Our Stunning Stupidity."

when all I need are a few cotton balls – cotton balls I stupidly forgot
to pick up with the groceries earlier this week – I think: "I can't do
it. I can't go in there." I will shred up an old T-shirt and use the
scraps until the next supermarket trip. I will rearrange my schedule
and go to Target tomorrow. I will…

"Sweetie," I say, throwing my arms around my husband. "Mind heading out to the drugstore? I need cotton balls."

"Sure," he says.

smile. I watch him from the living room window, waving as he disappears
down the street, and I think to myself, "Stupid people aren't all bad."

All I Really Need To Know I Learned From A Yes Chicken

On the slim chance that my son does not one day become president, I
feel a moral obligation to impart to the free world the crux of his
life philosophy. To share his guiding belief, a conviction that can be
summed up in two words: Yes Chicken.

Yes Chicken is the result of
Zev's apparent allergy to any conflict that may arise in a fictional
story. When I read to him, he constantly instructs me to make quick
edits – hence, Goldilocks always fixes the Little Bear's chair and
whips up a new batch of porridge. The Big Bad Wolf eats a sandwich
instead of Little Red Riding Hood's grandma.

Often he commands
that the stories I tell him be made up; he'll say something like, "Tell
a story about Chewbacca riding his bicycle on the moon," and like an
improv comedian, I have to run with it. So the other day, when telling
him a requested tale about a rhinoceros farmer (that's a farmer who is
a rhinoceros, not a human into rhino husbandry), I said that the
hapless hero came across a chicken who refused to give up her eggs. Try
as he might, I told Zev, the rhinoceros could not coax the hen into
giving up the key ingredient for his morning omelet.

"Each morning, the chicken said no," I told him.

of demanding that the characters (or I) solve the problem, Zev sat up
straight in his chair, extended his tiny toddler hand and offered his
own solution.

"I have a Yes Chicken, rhinoceros," he said. "This chicken says yes."

took the imaginary chicken from his hand, and thanked him. It may have
prematurely ended what (I thought, anyway) was a pretty good
made-up-on-the-fly story, but this Yes Chicken gave me so much more.

the face of it, the Yes Chicken is a cop-out – a little deus ex machina
designed to keep the rhino from having to either fail or use force. But
when I think of all the stories we heard growing up – the travails of
good vs. evil – I realize we all could have benefited from an
occasional Yes Chicken.

Too often we come up against No Chickens
and think, "That's that." Either you get that No Chicken to give up her
eggs, or breakfast is ruined. It comes down to win or lose. So rarely
do we stop and think that there has to be another solution. "Maybe I'll
have cornflakes," or "How else can I get eggs?"

So many times in
my life, I've found myself stuck in one way of thinking, unable to
recast problems in anything other than the starkest of black and white.
A lot of the decisions I've made were very No Chicken choices: For
instance, somewhere along the line I probably couldhave worked on a glass submarine in Hawaii for a year without compromising my journalism career.

Zev first presented me with the Yes Chicken a few weeks ago, I haven't
been able to stop thinking about it. Inventing a solution out of thin
air is not just the hopeful provenance of a toddler, but a
wise-beyond-his-age approach to life.

I read an article about
"The Death of Environmentalism," a book that claims the environmental
movement is its own worst enemy by being doomsayer rather than
innovator. And I find myself thinking, "What they need is a Yes

"This chicken creates as much energy as a coal-burning chicken, but without all the emissions."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spews hateful nonsense, thugs in Darfur
give President Carter a hard time, and I say, "A Yes Chicken would
solve everything!"

(Admittedly, I have no idea how in these cases, but I'm sure it would.)

managed to find its Yes Chicken. While the music industry wonders how
it's going to survive the digital age, the band just released an album
you can buy for whatever price you deem appropriate to pay. Maybe it'll
be a catastrophic failure, or maybe it'll be the chicken that laid the
golden egg.

I'm sure I haven't done justice to Zev's precious
philosophy. Americans will just have to wait until Jan. 20, 2040, to
get it in full. But until then, the next time you're faced with two
evils, don't just pick the lesser. Pick the poultry.