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.