Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Look Who's Shoving For Dinner

Among the childhood episodes Zev will likely recount to his inevitable future therapist, I imagine “the thing at the diner” will come up a lot.

“I’m sitting there between my mom and dad,” he’ll probably begin. “And mom’s furiously cutting up a goat-cheese and Kalamata omelet on my plate while dad is trying to shove half a buttermilk pancake down my throat.”

“Uh-huh,” the therapist will say, her mind wandering off to visions of fabric swatches and yacht interiors.

“And they’re each piling it on, Mom with her lox scramble and Dad with his sugar-coated blueberry muffin.”


“My mouth is opened and stuffed like a garbage disposal, grinding away all these incompatible flavors while my parents battle for the bragging rights to cultural dominion.”

After Hubby converted, we thought we had worked out all the ethnic kinks: Any kids we had would, of course, be raised Jewish. All trans-Atlantic travel would include a stop to Israel. And, it should go without saying, no Christmas trees.

But there are subtleties to mixed marriages that we had never considered – bittersweet subtleties that play less on our ideologies, and more on our tongues.

Hubby is a thirteenth-generation American, raised with no religion, but plenty of divinity (as in, the meringue cookies his Kentucky-bred grandma used to make). He grew up with caramel cakes, milk chocolate and breakfasts sweetened with all the syrup this proud nation’s cornfields could produce.

I, meanwhile, am a first-generation daughter of Israeli immigrants who carted cream cheese and olive sandwiches in my lunch box along with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. I prefer fish with the head still on it and had never tasted a s’more until the age of 27 (I didn’t care for it).

When we were dating, Santa Claus and haftarah portions made each of us seem exotic to the other, but our cultures were not nearly as foreign as our cuisines. There are five taste sensations: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami. (Umami is that indescribably wonderful taste of savory, meaty, delicious food. Think mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and anything cooked with monosodium glutamate.) Hubby’s taste preferences lean toward the teeth-coatingly sweet while my tongue tends to wander to the rich, sophisticated spectrum of umami.


For years, Hubby and I have gently ribbed each other for our perceived “strange” taste in foods – I’d threaten to kiss him after eating an olive and he’d subject me to big pancake breakfasts.

But after Zev came along jokes turned to competition: Whom did Zev take after the most? Yes, he has his dad’s lips and his mom’s nose, but what we each really want to know about is his tongue. Does it take after the pedestrian sweet side or the discerning umami side? (I know, I know, but if Hubby wants fair, he can write his own column.)

At the impressionable age of 3, Zev has not yet decided his culinary identity – he’s as happy dousing his food with hummus as with ketchup. We’re trying to play it cool, but as our recent feeding frenzy at the diner demonstrated, we desperately want to know which side of the table Zev will choose. The love of food, after all, is the love of life – who doesn’t want to share that with their child?

Neither of us has bad-mouthed our spouse’s taste buds, but I fear that Zev is starting to realize that the fissure in the united front of our parenting runs right through the kitchen. Never mind his aching tummy, what is our endless jockeying of sweet and savory going to do to his psyche?

“And in the end,” I’m sure he’ll say to that future therapist, “I feel like, whatever flavors I am more drawn to, I’m letting one of them down. Like I’ve delivered some decided blow to my parents’ personal culture war. I feel sick to my stomach – and not just because I’ve eaten my weight in breakfast foods.”

“Yes,” the therapist will nod, adding, “Our time is up.”

Having unloaded his neuroses, Zev will walk out of the fluorescent light of the shrink’s office, blinking in the afternoon sun. He’ll get into his car and drive somewhere where he can unwind and collect his thoughts.

I can only hope now that it’s a Chinese restaurant.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I must have re-written my condolence card 500 times.

“I wish there were something I could do…” Too hopeless.
“I’m so sorry for your loss…” No. Sure it’s true, but it sounds so impersonal.
“This is horrible…” Yeah, that’s a great opening line. Why not just say, “Sucks to be you” and tie it to a bottle of gin?

When the aliens land, let’s hope they don’t mistake the rolling green hills of a cemetery for a landing pad. Because if they do, their first impression of us will be that we’re a stupid, stupid species.

After someone dies, we have clearly defined rituals – crystal clear instructions about what to do: Order a quick burial, sit shiva, recite the mourner’s kadish. We know how to mourn, but we have no clue what to say to those in mourning. And so, inevitably, we say all the wrong things.

When my father passed away 13 years ago, I sat aghast as one of my
mom’s friends told my then 12-year-old sister that the pain Sis was
feeling “will never go away.”

“It will just get worse. Every day.”

The woman – a psychologist, I feel compelled note – then rambled on and
on about how she has never gotten over her own father’s death and how
Sis’s loss would be like a giant hole in her heart for the rest of her

I’m amazed she didn’t underscore her point by handing my sister a rusty
razor blade and bottle of sleeping pills. Saying “it’ll get better in
time,” might have been reductive, but telling her she’d never be whole
again doubled her losses – first she loses our father, then she loses
all hope. We throw dirt on the caskets, do we really have to throw mud
on the bereaved?

I was furious at the woman (and still haven’t quite forgiven her), but
less than a year later, I was confronted with my own awkward moment of
post-death wishes. A co-worker was in her office, next door to mine,
when she learned that her mother passed away. I heard her sobbing and
rushed next door. When she told me the news, I stood dumbstruck.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“Thank you,” my colleague said.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m so …” it went on and on like this for several minutes before I
realized what I was doing. I was at such a loss for words that I kept
repeating the few I could think of. Finally, I left the poor woman
alone – truly sorry for forcing her to play bereavement volleyball.

So, when a friend recently lost her newborn twins, I was determined not
to say the wrong thing. Everyone around her was making all the usual
funeral faux pas: “They’re in a better place.” “Everything happens for
a reason.” “This will pass.”

My friend was getting more and more agitated. She was clearly touched
that people came out to support her and her husband, but did they have
to say such patently stupid things? When it was my turn to approach
her, I just grabbed her hand and let her dampen my shoulder with her
tears. She spoke to me of her anger, of her numbness, her shock, her
confusion. I spoke little. Just hugged her and stroked her hair.

I didn’t end up finding the right words to say in a bereavement card,
so I didn’t give her one. Words may be my living, but in the end, I
discovered the only right thing to do was to shut up and listen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Rabbi Is Mightier Than The Pen

I told myself not to look over. Don’t turn your head! Don’t do it!

The rabbi was seated next to me in the audience at a recent lecture. He needed a pen, and I lent him one. Now, as the lecture was wrapping up, I could tell the rabbi was getting ready to bolt. I could also tell, using my superior intuitive powers, that he likely forgot that he had borrowed my pen.

Would he make off with it?

Simple non-verbal communication, of course, could provide the answer. A quick turn of the head, would allow me to get a visual read on my pen – was he holding it out for me, or stuffing it into his pocket? He would see my silent gesture, and respond in kind: Raised eyebrows (oh! I’m sorry, I forgot. Here you go.) or a wink (one step ahead of you.) would tell me all I’d need to know.

Either way, I’d get my pen back and everything would be cool. So why was my brain telling my neck to play dead?

Don’t turn your head!

I have recently made peace with the idea of seeing a doctor who is my age, and I long ago accepted that I could hire a lawyer whom I’m old enough to have babysat. But I can’t get comfortable with the idea of having a rabbi as a peer.

My whole life, rabbis were always older than my parents – even when
they weren’t. They were wise, never goofy or surprising. And they all
talked in that same uniquely rabbinic cadence: Introducing thoughts
through questions, with the emphasis always on the interrogative and
the last word of the sentence (So, WHY are we afraid to let the rabbi
see us looking at our PEN?).

Other cultures believe their clergy to be uniquely chosen by God, with
some special, divine powers. Ours says any schlub who wants the job,
can have it. Still, I have always conferred a kind of superiority on
rabbis. In my heart of hearts, I know they’re just people, but they’re
people who have dedicated themselves to the study of Torah, so they’re
automatically deserving of my respect – or at the very least, my

So when the rabbi (who I think is a few years younger than me) was
about to pilfer my pen, my first thought was, “Let it go. He’s a rabbi.”

My second thought was, “That’s a really good pen.”

Uni-Ball Grip. Four bucks for a pack of two. Makes my handwriting look
positively sophisticated. Maybe I could just lean forward a bit, and
see if that would make him take notice of me – thus inspiring the
thought, “Oh, I’d better give back this pen.”

Didn’t work.

I had no option, then, but to either say goodbye to the pen or act like
a grownup, and face an only-slightly-awkward social situation involving
a Person Of Authority. I thought it over, imagining the kind of woman I
want my son to know me as. I considered the fact that I have seen this
rabbi give voice to a puppet on numerous occasions; I mustered my
resolve, and I made my choice: Goodbye, pen.

But then something happened. Without thinking about it. Without meaning
to, I turned my head! It was as if a little involuntary voice in my
brain kicked a message to my neck, saying, “Hey, moron. He’s a
rabbi, not George Clooney. Get the pen back.”

The rabbi laughed, when he saw my eyes light on the Uni-Ball – he had
used the metal clasp to clip his notes together, a sure sign of
premeditated pen-napping. He handed it back to me.

“WERE you worried I was going to steal IT?” he asked.

There was no hiding it anymore. Against my better nature, I had broken
down one of my last little mental blocks and treated the rabbi as a
peer. A rabbi is a person? Now, I know I’m a grownup.

“Yeah,” I laughed, taking it back. “I did.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pretty Astounding

  Zev’s classroom recently presented his teachers with a tile inscribed with the psalm “A Woman of Valor.” You know the one: “A 
woman of valor, who can find? Her value is far beyond pearls.”

It’s a nice poem, but not one that was ever recited in my house 
growing up. Praising a woman for her domestic and mercantile skills? Sure. We’ll get to that right after Benny Hill.

As Zev and I left the school, we spotted another preschooler in the yard, and Zev stopped to watch her play. This girl was about 4, a year older  than Zev, with flowing brown hair and the most mesmerizing green eyes I’d ever seen on a child.

“She’s pretty,” I said to my son, whose staring seemed
to suggest the same. I smiled sweetly at her, but the girl wasn’t going to have any of it.

“No I’m not!” she protested. “I’m human.”

“Yes,” I said, trying not to laugh. “You’re a
pretty human.”

“No,” she corrected, a little too loudly. “I’m 

She huffed off, insulted and seething. I felt like calling after her, “Jury’s out on that one,” but I thought better of it.

I have no idea what it’s like to raise a daughter in this era of  half-naked high school reality stars. It’s true that girls are under
too much pressure to look a certain way. I probably could have benefited from hearing more about the importance of brains and less about the loveliness of looks, growing up.

But I doubt that teaching a child to refuse a compliment is the wisest 
way to counteract all that. Even the “Woman of Valor” enjoys  adoration: “Her children rise and praise her, her husband lauds  her.”

I like my friend Taly’s approach, which was to tell her infant daughter, “You’re so pretty. And you’re good at math.”

It was a joke when Adi was in diapers. But now that she is pushing 5 --
  and is both beautiful and brilliant -- it seems to have worked as a kind of prophesy. I wonder what kind of prophesy being a Not-Pretty
        Human will turn out to be.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we Jews have been
training our daughters to be Not-Pretty Humans forever: “A Woman 
of Valor” makes a point to say that “charm is deceptive and
        beauty is vain.” (Only Jews would come up with a love poem that 
says, “Sweetheart, you may not be much to look at, but you make
great candles.”)

It’s no wonder we grow up confused. The world isn’t going to stop judging us on our looks, even if our parents don’t. Maybe
it’s time we throw some pretty in the mix. Add some rouge to the rocket scientist. Definitely slap some lipstick on that Valorous Woman and let her -- and our daughters -- know that being pretty and being brilliant aren’t mutually exclusive.

Having the best of both worlds sounds pretty good to me. We are, after 
all, living in post-feminist times when a potential Commander-in-Chief 
can wear Army boots as easily as Christian Louboutin heels. Why wouldn’t 
we teach our daughters to embrace that?

I decided to ask the Human’s mother that question; I watched to 
see whom the girl would run to so that I could make eye contact with her
  mom. But Mrs. Human was busy thumb-typing on her Blackberry and didn’t
look up. She had missed the whole exchange and running across the playground to explain it her might have come across as creepy. Our preschool feminism
tete-a-tete would have to wait.

Instead, I watched Mrs. Human shuffle blindly toward the playground gate, tapping on her Blackberry while Not-Pretty skipped beside her. It bears noting that Mrs. Human is also quite beautiful. And as ignorant as she 
was of her daughter’s self-image, I’m sure whatever she was
typing was very smart.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Jewish Ode To Coffee (Or, Is That Matzah In Your Colon Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?)

Steam rises from the placid ebony stillness of my mug, sending the richest aromas to my nose. Just the smell wakes me with sweet little angel kisses to my brain. I’m certain ancient kings did not know fragrances as luxurious as these, scents that have greeted simple lil me every morning of my adult life.

Well, almost every morning.

One year I foolishly eschewed coffee during Pesach. I believed a friend who said that all coffee was chametz (in reality only some of it is – particularly some of the awful instant swill I wouldn’t drink anyway). The Internet was still a new-fangled tool, and the friend in question was dating a guy whose brother was thinking about studying to become a rabbi. Who was I to question such a reliable source?

I hadn’t been drinking coffee long, but wow did I notice its absence. I’m not going to spell it out for you. I don’t need to. Suffice to say that without coffee we Jews “pass over” feeling human, clutching the pit of wet paper and cement where our colons used to be and cursing Moses for not having had the foresight to get a sourdough starter prepped a day ahead of time.

As a kid, I had a lot of erroneous notions about Halachic law: I
believed shrimp was kosher because there’s no way an exoskeleton could
be classified as a “shell.”  I thought duck had to be traif because,
well, who eats duck? And I believed that McDonald’s food was fine to
eat, just so long as my mother bought it for me.

So it wasn’t a stretch for me to believe that coffee – beautiful,
delicious coffee – was off limits during this festival of gastronomical

I was in my late teens, transitioning between two significant life
stages: The first involved being upset that I couldn’t eat my
non-Jewish friends’ Easter Peeps; the second, being upset that I
couldn’t meet my non-Jewish friends at the bar. The added insult of
removing coffee from my diet seemed downright cruel.

But, I was trying to be a good Jew, so I skipped the morning cup. And
the afternoon one. And, of course, the up-all-night-studying one.

I spent the holiday drowsy, achy and angry. I have never understood why
people say Pesach is their favorite holiday – that year, I understood
it even less. It was only after I made it through the holiday – curled
in the fetal position from the pain – that I learned my friend had been
mistaken. And to my constipation, er, consternation, she discovered her
error during Passover, picked up her coffee cup again and didn’t bother
to tell me!

We are no longer friends. And I am no longer eliminating coffee from my cupboards during Pesach.

Instead, I plan to spend Passover enjoying coffee in its two finest
forms: in my cup, and in my belly. If Moses hadn’t been so clear about
that false idol commandment, I’d build a shrine to coffee. Instead,
I’ll have to settle for this ode.

I’m not the first person to declare my love for coffee. So why, you
might ask, is this coffee ode different from all other coffee odes?
Because after being treated so cruelly, after being prisoner to
misinformation and pitiless oversight, I have vowed that it is my duty
(no pun intended) to retell this story every year.

Maybe not in these pages, but certainly to my children. And to my
children’s children. Sure, it’s not as riveting or universal as the
Passover story in the Hagaddah. And perhaps there will come a time,
when my great-grandchildren say to me, “You know what? This really
isn’t appropriate for the dinner table.”

But come, say, the bowel-aching sixth day of Pesach, they (and you)
will have to admit, the story of our freedom to drink coffee is one we
should never, ever forget.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Not Your Mammeleh's Brisket

Long ago, I learned not to be threatened by my husband’s cooking. His culinary skills are far superior to mine, so if he wants to cook, let him. After much soul-searching, I realized that I’m no less a woman for it; and we’re both much better fed.

But a sated tummy can’t always satisfy a fragile ego, and that queasy rumbling of insecurity (jealousy?), overtook me recently when Hubby started making brisket. He bought a slow cooker with the idea that he could fill it with the raw ingredients of dinner in the morning and come home from work to find the fully prepared meal that I am too incompetent to make.

At first I loved the slow cooker. It’s within eyeshot of my desk, and I can smell its savory goodness all day as I work. Then, one day when I wasn’t feeling well, Hubby made brisket.

Through the glass lid, I watched as globules of fat dripped off the slow-cooking meat. The hard outlines of vegetables eventually melted into something blurrier, softer-looking. Even through the glass, I could tell the onions would practically dissolve right in my mouth. The smell was heavenly. It was perfect.

It was infuriating.

I may not cook, but I do make the family’s chicken soup when one of us
is sick. I also brew tea by shoving fistfuls of fresh mint leaves into
cups of boiling water. And on those rare times that stuffed cabbage is
called for, I’m the one who rolls up the meat. I do this not because I
like to do this, but because my position as the household’s yiddishe
mameh demands it.

Similarly, brisket is baleboosteh territory –  the haute cuisine of
shtetl food. If I can’t make a brisket, I might as well surrender my
well-honed nagging skills and cancel the itineraries of every guilt
trip I’ve ever planned.

With this 5-pound hunk of meat, Hubby invaded my turf. True, that turf
was unpaved, shuttered by a chain-link fence and attracting stray cats,
but it was still my turf. And some primitive part of my brain told me I
must reclaim it. To make the next brisket. And to make it so well, that
I would become the household’s official brisket-maker.

Of course, I didn’t.

So when our family was assigned to bring the brisket to a recent party
at Maayan’s house, I started to fret. I worried that after one bite of
Hubby’s ridiculously tender brisket, all the yentas would surround him,
wanting to swap recipes and techniques. He’d be enveloped in
conversations about temperature settings, and I’d stand around bored
and humiliated, praying for the conversation to turn to shoes.

The morning of the party, Hubby woke up early and prepared the meat. As
always, his brisket filled our house with a mouth-watering aroma. I
tried to be OK with this, but I had to bristle a little when Hubby
scolded me for letting Zev run into the kitchen while he was trying to
finish up the dish.

“I need you to keep him out of the kitchen,” he said to me – in an
exact (but I think unintentional) imitation of what I sound like when
I’m trying to get something done in that terrifically foreign room.

At the party, Hubby’s brisket joined Maayan’s meatballs. Her sister’s
salads and her mother-in-law’s chicken. There was rice and a whole
assortment of vegetables. Everything was delicious – particularly the
meat. We sat down to eat next to a few friends and woman I didn’t know.
She complimented Hubby on the brisket, and I thought, “Here we go.”

But it was actually Ely who started asking the cooking questions.

“What did you put on this? Wine?”

The two men began talking, and the woman started asking me what I do.
Before I knew it, we were engaged in a conversation about
self-employment and unique networking techniques. Eventually, the woman
got up to find her purse so she could get me a business cards.

I turned back to Hubby and Ely. The two men were deep in a conversation
about chicken. Ely likes to soak the bird in beer. Hubby has found a
honey-based marinade he likes a lot. I was exchanging business cards,
and Hubby and Ely were exchanging recipes.

I smiled, helped Zev shovel another forkful of meat into his mouth and
whispered in his ear, “This is definitely not your mother’s brisket.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Howling Over A Painting

There’s a wolf staring at me, burning a hole in the back of my head with its unwavering gaze.

It’s smaller than me, but it feels like it’s taking up the whole room. That’s the thing about wild animals, and it’s probably why most people don’t let them into their homes. Of course, I didn’t exactly invite this wolf in.

My mom has been taking art classes for more than a year. She’s quite good. Her sculptures are incredibly life-like, and she’s even been commissioned to sculpt and paint a few pieces for friends and acquaintances. But it’s hard for her to create the pieces her customers want because she’s so busy painting wolves.

Snow wolves. Wolves in the forest. Brown wolves. White wolves. Mom has painted lots and lots of wolves. And now one of them is in my house. And I really don’t know what to do with it.


Growing up, my house was filled with my grandmother’s paintings. My
father was quite taken with his mother’s artwork and insisted on
filling our home with them. But these were not quaint sketches of bowls
of fruit. Grandma was an early Zionist whose family was wiped-out by
the Nazis. She watched war after war drive fear and a feeling of
hopelessness into the heart of her newfound nation – and she reflected
all of that in her art.

Mom always thought Grandma’s paintings were “depressing,” and I didn’t
learn to appreciate them until many years later, either. Our piano sat
right under a somber painting of a boy watching his friends march off
to war. The implication in the painting was that those friends weren’t
coming back – and that he was going to be next. I didn’t practice piano

So, I figured Mom would be sensitive to the idea that maybe art is
something a person needs to seek out for herself, rather than, you
know, have foisted upon her. But Mom is smitten with her grandson, Zev.
And since Zev’s name means “wolf” in Hebrew, she’s become pretty
smitten with wolves.

And now she wants him to have one. This one. The snow wolf that is staring at me.

To her credit, she gave me a little bit of warning – and even seemed to
indicate that she knew this life-like wolf wouldn’t really fit in Zev’s
sports-and-dinosaurs-themed room. But, still, she’s quite proud of this
wolf, and she wanted Zev to have it.

So now we have it. … And I don’t know what to do with it.

“We could hang it up whenever your mom is here,” Hubby offered.

“No. I think that would send Zev the wrong message.”

“Well, then we could just hang it up in is room.”

We both looked at the wolf. It’s fierce and lonely and standing in a
forest of winter-dead trees. Let’s see – would that look best next to
his ceramic duck or the giant rainbow he finger-painted on a coffee

Someday, Zev will really appreciate this wolf. Someday, it might grace
the walls of his home, where his wife will silently hate it but kinda
love it because it means so much to him. But that day is many, many
years from now. In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with

Usually, I have a system for dealing with tricky items: I put them in
my office and forget they’re there. Everyone has a room in their house
dedicated to cast-off furniture and unread magazines. I happen to write
in mine. So, after Hubby and I could come up with no solution to our
wolf issue, he brought the predator into my office, set it on the
neglected console table that I’ve been meaning to move to the garage,
and walked away.

Clever man.

A few days later, Mom called to ask me about the wolf. I hemmed and
hawed for a few minutes before admitting that I didn’t think it was a
great fit for Zev’s room.

“So where is it?” she asked.

I gulped.

“It’s in my office.”

“Oh!” she said, sounding delighted. “That’s actually much better.”

I’m glad she thinks so. Of course, I know better… and I’m guessing the
wolf does to: It (or is it my conscience?) keeps staring at me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cry Me A River ... Or, Maybe, A Brand New Car!

I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire because she choked up after Iowa. And neither does anybody else.

the implication that women voted for her because they "felt bad," as
many pundits have suggested, is simply insulting. Not to Clinton (who
cares about Clinton?) but to me.

I have cried my eyes out for
things I have really wanted – a pony, my own island, a "free pass" for
a night with Johnny Depp. Have I gotten any of them? No.



It is
possible that people – even those silly female people who have only
been voting since 1920 – do not elect presidents or presidential
nominees based on how sorry they feel for them. If they did, Lyndon
LaRouche would have been sworn in, like, nine times.

But the
"experts" have told us without a quiver of hesitation in their voices
that, post-tears, women wanted to give Clinton their vote along with a
cup of Camomile and a backrub. Never mind that Marianne Pernold Young,
the very woman who asked Clinton the question that inspired her eyes to
well up, says she voted for Obama. The pundits have spoken and the
pundits are always right!

This means that everything I have ever
known about why women cry has been wrong. I have always been under the
impression that when a woman wept it was because 1. She was sad, 2. She
was hurt or 3. She ran out of things to watch on her TiVo (when, oh
when, will this writers' strike end?).

I mean, any high school
girl would tell you that women are just as ready to bring someone to
tears as they are to bring someone a Kleenex. Or that crying is neither
a sign of weakness nor strength. Or that, when casting a secret ballot,
women will only vote for another woman if – and this is a wild concept
here – they truly want that woman to win.

But I guess those high
school girls would be wrong. And worse – they're apparently not getting
enough mileage out of their tears.

When I was in high school, I
remember crying when the first Gulf War broke out. I remember crying
when my boyfriend and I broke up. I remember crying when Melissa
Reisbord made fun of my acne by saying my face looked like "Mount St.
Helens ready to explode."

But I don't remember ever getting an
"A" on a test just for showing up to class with puffy eyes. And I
certainly don't remember expecting to.

Boy, was I a chump.

Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol assessed Clinton's New Hampshire win
this way: "It's the tears. She pretended to cry, the women felt sorry
for her, and she won."

Hear that, girls? You don't even need to really cry to get all kinds of goodies from your tears. Just pretend to cry, and you, too, can manipulate people into bending the will of democracy and changing the course of history. How cool!

Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm headed over the BMW lot to see if I can weep my way into a free new car.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mom Has A Gift For Inspiring Misgiving

For three weeks, Mom traveled around town with three garbage bags filled with clothes. She had seen some below-poverty-line-types outside a synagogue near my house, and each time she came over to visit, she vowed to donate the clothing for the synagogue to distribute.

Two problems: 1. The synagogue never seemed to be open, and 2. She had no way of knowing if they had any use for cast-off clothes.

The latter issue didn't bother her much. Mom has always been a giver. Know the line drug addicts give about just needing "35 more cents for bus fare?" Mom doesn't. She is always ready with exact change.

To eat with her at an outdoor restaurant is to dine with pigeons -- winged rodents Mom insists on feeding because, she says, "They're hungry." When I note that they've eaten more of her meal than she has, she gives me a dirty look -- almost as dirty as the mess the birds leave behind.

One Thanksgiving, Mom insisted on walking to the beach after our meal because she'd seen a homeless man there several hours earlier, and she wanted to bring him a bag of leftovers. It was a kind gesture, but -- of course -- the man was long gone by the time we got there.

Never mind, she said, we'd just leave the bag of food at the spot on the beach where he had last been.

"Isn't this littering?" I asked.

"We're leaving food for the man," she said.

"But the man is not here."

"But if comes back, there will be food here," she said.

"And if he doesn't come back, we'll have littered," I said. "And if
he comes back tomorrow, we'll have left him unrefrigerated food that
will poison him."

"He doesn't have any food," she said, annoyed. "We're giving him food."

I learned later that we also gave him one of my forks.

"How could he eat without a fork?"

How, indeed?
We all want to teach our children the importance of charity. And, no
doubt, my mom believes that my sister and I have learned much by Mom's
example of giving unnecessarily to drug addicts, imaginary people and
overfed animals. So it shouldn't have surprised me when, on her third
trip to my house, she would suggest that I let her take Zev down to the
synagogue with her.

"I don't necessarily want to teach Zev that it's OK to give garbage bags to homeless people."

Irritated, Mom set off without Zev, leaving three bags of clothes that
no one asked for on the steps of a synagogue that never seems to be
open. The next time she drove by, the garbage bags were gone. This made
her very happy.
In her mind, this means the clothes found their proper home on the
backs of people who really need them. And – for everyone's sake – I
hope she's right.

But, man, will I be mad if I find out she slipped some of my nice hangers in those bags.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mischa, Mischa, Mischa!

Well, I for one am grateful that Mischa Barton was arrested on DUI
charges. I mean, seriously, like, all her friends were picked up this
year – Paris and Nicole were even put in the slammer – and what do we
hear from Mischa? Just that she broke up with that weird-looking singer
guy. It wasn't right.

Now, with all of Hollywood's young woman
role models safely behind bars or making regular court appearances
(shout-out to Brit!), order has been restored to the universe and the
rest of us can get on with our burgeoning drug habits and body

That was a close one, though, Mischa. Everybody who
is anybody got busted for being intoxicated in 2007; you just barely
missed the deadline.

I had thought that maybe she was just being
fashionably late – you know how fashionable the former star of "The
O.C." is. But then I got a look at her booking photo.

Holy cow.

Red eyes. Stringy hair. For the former face of Bebe, she does not know how to work the mug shot.

all your gal pals looked great in their arrest photos – it won't
surprise me when the sheriff's photographer leaves for Vogue. The only
person whose arrest photo was worse than yours was Mel Gibson. (You
know who he is, right? The old guy who had a bit part in "Signs.")

you're going to get arrested again – and, let's face it, you will –
you're going to have to learn how to take a good police photo. You've
got the right friends around you to help out. I mean, the best photo I
have ever seen of Nicole Richie was taken by the L.A. Sheriff's booking

Paris Hilton looked downright glamorous in her mug shot.
Lindsay Lohan's photo is so good, she could use it on J-Date. And it's
not just the girls: I saw Haley Joel Osment's arrest pic and wanted to
set him up with my sister: He's got perfect skin – which is unusual for
a drinker. And Shia LaBeouf? I thought his hot shot was pullout poster
from Tiger Beat magazine.

I'm confident that with people like
this influencing you, you could do a better job influencing the rest of
society. We don't want little girls growing up thinking that when they
get arrested with marijuana in their cars, they can look
less-than-perfect. What kind of message does that send?

you know it, 16-year-olds will announce their "happy" pregnancies
without any makeup on. They'll get extradited to Norway without their
hoop earrings. They might even drive beaters when they run over people
in parking lots.

Oh, the thought of it!

Please, please
don't let this happen again, Mischa. If you're going to have a few
drinks and carry around a bag of marijuana, the least you can do is
throw on a little lip gloss before hopping in the car. Little
style-conscious girls everywhere look up to you.

Show them you can do better next time.