Archive for April, 2012

April 28, 2012: Bully Shit

Tevye and I went to see Bully the other night at Camelview. Bully is the documentary all about kids picking on other kids for being fat or gay or ugly or not looking enough like Zooey Deschanel, whoever that is. In other words, it’s a movie about public high school in America.

If I have a criticism of the film (and of course I do—have you met me?), it’s that filmmaker Lee Hirsch depicted only kids who live in backwoods communities. Where was the rich kid in the private school in Chicago who’s being bullied? Or the upper-middle-class fourth grader in the Los Angeles public school with the same trouble? I worry that audiences will watch the under-privileged hillbilly teens being picked on in Bully and leave the film with the impression that bullying is something that happens among poor, under-educated Appalachians who live in places with one traffic light.

It isn’t. Tevye and I both grew up in middle-class homes in one of the largest cities in the country, and attended decent public schools run by adults whose job it was to protect us while we were trying to learn the alphabet and the history of the world and New Math.

For the most part, they didn’t. On the way home, Tevye and I talked about having been harassed for being fags when we were young, and how teachers turned a blind eye to it.

What my memories of fourth grade look like.

“The difference between you and me,” my husband said, “is that you told the kids who were picking on you to go fuck themselves, which I couldn’t have done.”

“Sure,” I replied, “but what about you? After being picked on for 12 years, you one day grabbed one of the little ass-hats who’d been bugging you and slammed him against a locker. Which I was never able to do.”

“Yeah,” Tevye said. “And that kid left me alone after that. But the others didn’t.”

I thought about this for a minute. “Let’s go home and look that guy up on Facebook,” I said. “I’ll write him an email telling him I hope he grew up to be fat and ugly and hates his job and is miserable.”

Tevye took my hand. “You’re such a bully,” he said.

“Go fuck yourself,” I replied.

 Thing I Hate Today: My jowls


April 27, 2012: Time

It’s funny. I didn’t realize I’d missed Dan and Jim until they were back in my life again.

This whole middle-aged thing, where people you knew a lifetime ago begin resurfacing, takes a little getting used to. But it has its upside. Like reuniting with Jim and Dan, two of the guys I was friends with in grade school. We’ve been getting together lately for lunch, and the real surprise is how comfortable we are with one another—as if we’d remained friends all along, instead of hooking up again after getting through our twenties and our thirties and forties without one another.

Jim, Dan, Bonnie Paul and I were all 11-year-old pansies together in 1973. Although we were quite different from one another—Jim was popular and quiet; Dan was an artist and an athlete; Bonnie Paul was a clothes horse; I was a bossy know-it-all—we had a special bond. It wasn’t dangerous to be arch and witty in the company of these boys. We could discuss what Linda Evans had worn on a rerun of The Big Valley we’d all watched the night before, without fear of reproach. We quarreled and bickered, but we also swapped clothes and liked the same books and comforted one another when The Partridge Family was canceled.

Left to right: Dan, me, Bonnie Paul, Jim. February 2, 1973.

Bonnie Paul has since left us. About 15 years ago, he became a Born Again Christian and therefore isn’t allowed to speak to me or Jim or Dan, I guess because we might try to entice him away from religion with the new issue of French Vogue or a discussion of Tom Selleck’s chest hair. In Bonnie Paul’s absence, Jim and Dan and I have one another. And for me, as I plow my way through my fiftieth year, it’s comforting to spend time with people who knew me when, and still like me now.

Thing I Hate Today: Gravity

April 26, 2012: Things I Am Frightened By, Part One

1. Marlo Thomas’s current face.

2. The thought that I won’t ever make enough money to buy an island so that I can go live someplace where I get to decide if other people can be anywhere near me or not.

3. Fundamentalist Christians.

4. Some of Cher’s wigs.

5. The fact that pasta fagioli occasionally appears on restaurant menus. (It’s peasant food.)

6. The possibility that my spouse will die in an automobile accident, thus leaving me with no real reason to go on living.

7. The conjugation of the verb “pleuvoir.”

8. The very real likelihood that I will never publish another book.

9. The possibility that I will publish another book, and it will tank.

10. Death.


Thing I Hate Today: Running out of coffee

April 25, 2012: As Seen on TV: Giant Blueberries are Apparently Mundane

Four pints? Not a big deal, it would seem.

April 24, 2012: Mon Dieu to the 27th Power

            I’ve enrolled in a French immersion class. I figure, nothing else has worked in making me conversant in this language, which I plan to need again one day when I return to Provence to live. I’ve taken college classes, tried private lessons, and even done the Berlitz thing. Perhaps being forced to speak only French with a small group of clever students will finally do the trick.

            The language school where I’m studying is run by linguists who appear to have secondary degrees in disorganization. The nice young manager called me twice with two different starting dates and three different prices, and before it ever commenced, the class was moved from Wednesday afternoons to Tuesday mornings and back again. When I arrived last week for the first class, the jeune fille at the front desk handed me an enrollment form for the German class and the textbook for Beginning Spanish. But she was wearing a real cute top.

            Things had already been going badly. While driving to class, I had a phone call from my father, telling me that there was a fireman in their kitchen. You see? I thought to myself. I knew as soon as I attempted anything extracurricular, my parents would burst into flames.

            It turns out that some little kids on my parents’ block had caught their house on fire, and the local fire brigade was going door-to-door, checking to make sure that everyone had an operating smoke alarm in their home. I was still listening to the nice fireman lecture about the importance of rechargeable D batteries when I arrived at French class to discover I’d left my reading glasses at home.

            I’m blind without them.

            While we waited for our instructor to turn up, I chatted with the only other student, a better-than-middle-aged woman who stuck out her hand and said, “Hi, my name is Bronagiddle.”

            Oh, no, I thought. It can’t be.

       Bronagiddle is the name of the old lady nursing assistant I unintentionally had fired a few months ago when I found out she was calling people to tell them how well my parents were doing in daycare. When I called the daycare facility to point out that this was a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the manager agreed. And then she fired Bronagiddle. There couldn’t possibly be two old women named Bronagiddle in this city—or in the world. And now, here I was, trapped in a classroom, unable to see, with a woman I’d recently had sacked.

            It turns out that there are two Bronagiddles in Phoenix, and the one with whom I am studying French gave me a strange look when I asked if she’d ever worked in an elder care facility. Before I could explain, le professeur arrived. Incapable of not showing off, I rattled off the nine French words I know, meant to impart how happy I was to meet him and hoping his day was being plus more the very good.

            “Yes,” he replied, which made me wonder if I’d accidentally asked a question. “I am Monsieur Mailhairer, and you will now both be very smart and learn the conjugation of etre.”

            It turned out that Monsieur Mailhairer—who bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Bud Cort and is one of those maddening men of no determinable age; I still can’t decide if he’s 16 or 45—was mistaken. Not only were we unable to make it smartly through the verb for “to be,” but we sucked at Concentration—an image-matching game meant for five-year-olds—besides. We must have driven the poor man to distraction, because halfway through our four-hour class, Monsieur Mailhairer excused himself and returned with a large Styrofoam cup filled with red wine, and proceeded to get bombed.

            On the way out, Bronagiddle was huffy. “Well, I won’t be returning for any more of that,” she hissed.

            “Hey, he’s French,” I said. “Give him a break. It was just a little wine.”

            She glared at me. “I don’t care about that,” she said. “This is supposed to be a beginner’s class, and you’re fluent!”

            Qui, moi?

Thing I Hate Today: Telemarketers

April 23, 2012: Same Song, Different Day

            I phoned my parents’ general practitioner this morning, and spoke to his medical assistant.

            “Hey, Lori, I’m calling for the results of my mother’s urinalysis. Does she still have a urinary tract infection?”

            “Um, did Dr. Animalai order a urine test?”

            “No. I always order one myself after a cycle of antibiotics. Mom had a UTI last month, and so I had the neurologist phone in a lab request to see if the antibiotics did the trick.”

            “Huh. Okay, I’ll talk to the doctor and call you back.”

            Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. “Hi, it’s Lori. Listen, it says here that the test came back positive, and the doctor already ordered a prescription for Sulfanamide.”

            “Right,” I replied. “That was last month. And I had you change that prescription to Keflex, because Mom is allergic to Sulfanamide. I need the results from last week’s labs.”

            “Oh. I see. Okay,” Lori replied. “I’ll talk to the doctor and call you right back.”

Hey, I just answer the phones around here.

            An hour later, Lori phoned again. “Hi. I found the new labs. Doctor says your mom’s positive for UTI and he’s phoned in a prescription for Levaquin.”

            “Mom’s allergic to Levaquin. It says so right on her meds chart.”

            Lori sighed. “Oh, you’re right. Okay. I’ll call you right back.”

            She did, only a few minutes later. “Hi. So, Doctor A. is going to phone in a script for Keflex.”

            “Okay. Thanks, Lori. But, um, Keflex didn’t get rid of the infection last week. Will it do anything this week?”

            “I don’t know. I’ll have to talk to the doctor and call you back.”

            Late this afternoon, Lori phoned again. “Okay. The doc says let’s go with Sulfanamide. And what pharmacy do you want me to phone it in to?”

            I counted to 10 and replied, “The same one you always phone to. It’s printed at the top of her meds chart. And can I get some Keflex, instead? My mother is still allergic to Sulfanamide.”

            Lori was quiet for awhile; perhaps she was counting to 20. Finally, she spoke. “I’ll have to talk to the doctor and call you back.”

Thing I Hate Today: Monotony

April 22, 2012: My Wife’s Good Fortune

            The woman in line behind me at the grocery checkout noticed the adult diapers in my shopping cart.

            “Are you taking care of a parent?” she asked.

            “Yes,” I replied. “Both of my parents, actually. I see them nearly every day, and they’re doing fine.”

            “That’s so nice,” she said, patting my arm. “I took care of my own mother, right up until she passed. You’ll never regret this.”

            She eyed my overflowing cart. “Your parents certainly are good eaters!”

            “Oh,” I told her, “this is the week’s groceries for my household and theirs. You know—two birds with one stone.”

            “Well,” my new friend confided, “your wife is real lucky that you do the shopping!”

            “I know,” I agreed. “And my husband is even luckier!”

Adult diapers at 9 o'clock: Always a dead giveaway.

 Thing I Hate Today: Cents-off coupons

April 21, 2012: 1987 Redux

            Today, I attended a gay pride celebration. First time in 25 years.

            The last time I went to Gay Pride was in 1987. Back then, I was the chairperson of the local organization that produced the event. In the Olden Days, it was difficult to get anyone to attend a queer event that didn’t include a beer bust and a drag show, but I was determined that we should stage a march, a rally, a protest—anything other than getting loaded while watching a guy in a gown lipsynching to a Dusty Springfield record. I prevailed during my last year with the organization, and we marched down Central  Avenue in Phoenix.

            I think we had 300 people that year.

            This year, the march went on for hours. The festival that followed was colossal—thousands of people milled around a local park, being gay and lesbian. I volunteered at the table for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, an organization that makes schools safe for kids of all orientations.

             It was good to see the ways in which things have changed.

             One thing that hadn’t changed was the comic hatred being offered at the entrance to the post-march event. Men with anti-gay placards stood on the sidewalk, denouncing pansies and bulldaggers, sentencing us all to an eternity in Hell.

              I blew them kisses.

God's spokespeople.

Thing I Hate Today: Cotton-poly blends

April 20, 2012: The Name Game

Topol as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

        For 15 years now, people have been saying to me, “How funny that you call Todd ‘Tevye’! After the guy in Fiddler on the Roof, right?”

         Wrong. I call my husband Tevye because that’s his Hebrew name, given to him by his mother in June of 1964. There are no musical theater references in this story, just some nice Jewish people who followed the tradition of giving their children both English and Hebrew names at birth.

            So. The guy I’m not allowed by law to marry is both Todd Daniel and Tevye Dove. And, since I come from a family where everyone has a nickname, I call him Tevye. Which is a lot less strange than the nickname our friend Paul, whom Tevye has known since high school, calls him: Taffy.

            Which is a story for another day.

Todd as Tevye in Long Island.

 Thing I Hate Today: Restless nights

April 19, 2012: Silver Bullet

Jonathan Frid’s family announced today that the actor died last week. Frid played Barnabas Collins on the Sixties gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. A feature film based on the show, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, will premiere next month.

As a kid, I had a deep crush on Barnabas, the darkly suave vampire who ran around biting people’s necks on the show. I wanted Barnabas, who wore a flowing black cape and had spiky little bangs, to bite me on the neck. I mooned over him throughout the summer of 1968, but First Grade put an end to my fantasy life: School didn’t let out till a full hour after Dark Shadows aired.

“Here’s the deal,” I told my mother as I slipped into my first-day-of-school outfit of patchwork elephant bells, ecru pirate shirt, and matching crocheted headband. “You watch the show every day at 11, and write down what happens. Then you can tell me about it when I get home from school.”

“Oh, hurray,” Mom muttered as I cinched my turquoise-encrusted conch belt. “I’ll lay around the house all day watching soap operas for you, and maybe the house will clean itself. You can watch TV during Christmas vacation.”

On the Dark Shadows LP, which I owned in 1969, actor Jonathan Frid recited the Christina Rossetti poem titled "When I Am Dead, My Dearest," which includes the lines, "When I am dead, my dearest, sing no sad songs for me."

She did it anyway. I got home from school, and Mom pulled out the Flintstones writing tablet I’d given her to take Dark Shadows notes on.

“Today’s episode was especially enlightening,” Mom sighed, eyeing her scribbled plot synopses about Collinwood, the mythical TV town Barnabas menaced each weekday afternoon. “In a plot lifted wholesale from H.G. Wells, your friend the vampire traveled back to the year 1841 by climbing something called The Staircase of Time.”

“Did he bite anyone on the neck while he was there?”

“Hang on. I’m getting to it. He was joined in the 19th century by a profoundly untalented actress pretending to be 30 years younger than her actual age—”

“That’s Julia Hoffman, Mom! She’s in love with Barnabas, and she’s trying to win his affections by giving him shots that will turn him into a mortal!”

“—and, much to your mother’s horror, he was also joined by Joan Bennett, who used to be a pretty good actress in her day and who looked plenty embarrassed to find herself involved in this mess.”

“How did Barnabas look in his Staircase of Time outfit?”

“Itchy,” Mom said. “And a little sad.”

“Maybe he needs a little boy vampire to keep him company,” I chirped. “I’ll bet he wouldn’t be sad if he had a nice little boy to play with.”

My mother looked at me for what seemed like a very long time. “Where did you get that cigarette holder?” she finally said.

“I made it,” I told her.

“Well, little boys don’t smoke. And if they did, they wouldn’t use sequined cigarette extensions to do it with.”

“Aunt Jay says it makes me look like a dowager,” I said, pretending to flick an ash onto the spotless carpet. “What’s a dowager?”

“It means old lady. You don’t want to look like an old lady, do you?”

I glanced at my mother’s shoes, then at her hair, just like Judy Carne, the British girl on Laugh In, always did before she said something funny. “It seems to be working for you,” I repied.

“Okay, Shecky Greene.” She gave me a little shove. “You go practice your deadpan. I’ve got to get back to making dinner.”

My mother never did know how to vamp.

 Thing I Hate Today: Typos.