Archive | December, 2013

12 Things Learned in 2013 (Add On, Reader!)

31 Dec

me writing 1) Driving across country isn’t that hard. 2) Starting a new life isn’t that hard. 3)Not looking back is hard:IMG_1339 my desk

4) Two things are sacred in Beverly Hills:

poodle in SUV     Large cars and small dogs. (This is Spinky-Spanky, mayor of BH.)

Oh, one other sacred thing:

Dr T

5) If  you invite a man to see how cool your little apartment is, the message is: “Make Haste! The only reason for renting this place, Fool, was for you to bed me!”

There is no photo of this. (Got ugly.)

6) The sea is balm for uncertainty and loneliness:

me in sea

7) House cleaning is little different out here:

topless maids

8) Christmas is a little different out here:

santa and me

little xmas tree

Christmas beach with Nic and Noah

9) The Play Boy Office looks like this:

playboy officer(Had a meeting with Hef; I was pitching an issue on menopause.) (Yeah, Got ugly.)

10) Some people keep turning up in my life, over and over:

Melissa on bday      Former student, current friend, and adopted daughter (don’t tell her parents).

Peggy, Pasties, me     Former and current babysitter.

Nic at pool     Former, current, and forever dear friend.

Angel, Devil, etc.    The usual (archetypal) suspects, stalking me coast to coast.

11) And some people keep reading my blog: Thank you, Dear Reader! Tell me something you’ve learned this year?

12)

Nick Metropolis                                                                    HAPPY NEW YEAR’S!!!

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Christmas, All Its Glory and Ghostliness

26 Dec

Christmas, All Its Glory and Ghostliness

26 Dec

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Last year at Christmas I said to Noah, “Next Year in Beverly Hills!” A desperate prophecy, or unsuccessful joke? A few weeks later my bags were packed, my furniture in storage, and the Ithaca apartment rented. Noah was setting up a (precarious) life in Queens.

I drove out in a blizzard;  six days later I arrived at my old friend Natasha’s tiny apartment on Reeves Drive, right across from *my* new tiny apartment on Reeves Drive. Eleven months later, I am spending Christmas in the unholy Holy Land, City of Angels, Demons, and Highly Desirables. (This is my tiny tree in the tiny apartment on Reeves):

IMG_1606Spending it with Noah:

Noah, thoughtful, at Malibu And Natasha:Nic and me  arrival in LANatasha is single again.  She had moved into a place with Marcus a few months after I arrived. And then last week, she found her own place, a few blocks from here.  To quote T.S. Eliot:

Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past.

(Burnt Norton, Four Quartets.)

I won’t quote the rest because it’s a little depressing, and basically I just want to say that “all time is eternally present.” As it happens,that’s what Eliot said too. I also want to say what you know well, Dear Reader: This Christmas makes you think about last Christmas, and every other Christmas.  It’s a holiday that frames one’s sense of family, community, God knows what else.

I already mentioned last year. Going back in time, (you do that too) here’s a memory  from three years ago–when Noah was off to Ithaca College. When I was trying to sell the big old farmhouse. When Felix the dog was alive (note ribbons around Felix’s neck; that’s how you know it’s a Christmas pic–he insisted on wearing our presents’ ribbons):IMG_1605

Further, much further. (What is your picture?)

IMG_1601This was taken by my mother. She was still alive. And Noah was three. I was. . .young.

Further back:

IMG_1595 That was the year that my mom got me the book Little Raccoon And the Thing in The Pool.  You can’t tell it’s Christmas, but the tree is in the background. As is my dad, who took the photo.

Way way back:IMG_1602I am holding some kind of ornament–all of my German-Irish tribespeople were crazy about tree decorations. I’m saying, in Holiday Red Tights: I got a thing here, right?

And here are Audrey and Dick, before me, before all the trouble:

IMG_1594So  that’ s as far back as I can go.  Ghosts of Christmas past. . .they always visit this time of year. Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present…

This year, Noah and I went to a performance of the Messiah at the Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. My stepmother Cleo gave us the tickets as a Christmas gift. She is the woman who loved Dick after Audrey did.  And  divorced him after Audrey did.  And has mothered me, after my parents died fifteen years ago.

Noah, fascinated by all things religious and musical, loved the performance. I told him about how my dad and mom, separately, (atheists both) played The Messiah very loud every  Christmas and Easter. I told him how Grandpa Dick would bellow,  “WE LIKE SHEEP” making it sound as if it meant simply that we sinners were fond of  wooly creatures.

This is the 2013 Christmas picture I insisted on:

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After the Messiah, I drove Noah to his apartment, and he told me what he knew about Jesus (from Cleo).  Then I turned around and drove back to the tiny apartment in Beverly Hills, thinking of my parents, Noah, Natasha, some layered history.  (I had to stop to get espresso at Starbucks.) And I kept thinking of this bit in Part The Third, after the Hallelujah chorus (how to follow that?!)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we/shall not all sleep but we shall/all be changed in a  moment, in/the twinkling of an eye, at/the last trumpet.

Yes, we shall/could/should all be changed in a moment…

Looking at my years of Christmases, I am thankful for an unconventional cycle of  family and friendship. (Someone has a sense of humor.) And the ghosts of Christmas Past are around to remind us: Time Present. Merry, Merry, Dear Reader!

Bigger, Smaller, Tighter, Higher, Or: Dr Frankenstein Alive and Well in Beverly Hills

16 Dec

Bigger, Smaller, Tighter, Higher, Or: Dr Frankenstein Alive and Well in Beverly Hills.

Bigger, Smaller, Tighter, Higher, Or: Dr Frankenstein Alive and Well in Beverly Hills

16 Dec

I’m sure you realize, Dear Reader, that blogging isn’t all fun and games. There’s a certain amount of visiting the trenches required.  In LaLaLand, that means one must leave Wilshire Boulevard for the dark and air-purified office of a plastic surgeon. Because I am a research warrior.  Because I did not come here to sit idly by like Prufrock, “watching women come and go,” speaking of collagen, lipoplasty, augmentation, and not to know. . .I have to know.
Also.  There comes a time in every woman’s life where she pulls her hair very tightly, as if mom were putting it into a ponytail, and notes that that’s how she looked five, ten, or fifteen years ago. Then the ponytail comes down, and there you have it. The face of your mother. Or aunt, or some other old woman who resembles you. You can accept this and treasure your inner beauty, or you can start to scan the women all around you, wondering what *she’s* had done. In Beverly Hills, that would be everything: from Botox to tummy tucks to multi-tasking surgery that simultaneously makes some things smaller and others things bigger, everything tighter.  What do *I* need, you wonder. Which part  is the most egregious–the lines around the eyes, the jowly chin, or (new and revolting vocab) the puffy nasolabial folds?

So there I was, in the name of research and my nasolabial folds sitting in the waiting room of Dr. T with two other women and, on the table, an orchid as big as a golden retriever. Southern California likes things  BIG. Unless it likes things  SMALL. I could hear a man laughing behind the door to the office. Over and over he said, “Renee, Did you see that? Do you like my invention?” Renee seemed to be laughing weakly in response. I turned in the 10-pages of medical forms, and standing next to the secretary was a large orange-haired man with a face stretched from ear to ear. His eyes darted back and forth inside a mask of pink and blue veined skin.  He wasn’t unappealing; he was just. . .stretched. He smiled at me. I gave him my researcher’s stare, knowing full well he was sizing up my nasolabial folds.

I was led to a room by a nurse–Renee. She had boobs and lips as big as a golden retriever. But they weren’t friendly like a golden retriever; they seemed more German shepherd–like in their affect. I didn’t want to pat them.  She showed me where to sit, and then put a book in my lap. A book of photographs, hundreds of Before and After photographs.

I was looking at the egos and fears and fantasies of strangers as embodied in their surgically  “improved” noses and eyes and chins and chests and bellies and breasts and thighs and butts. Some of the Before bodies were to me a little alarming in their largeness.   In a world where symmetry and svelte is sexy, these people must have felt  their bodies were a burdensome, or worse,  disfigured. The after pictures were not exactly reassuring. . .smaller, more ordinary, less noticeable, yes, but how did that make the person feel? More acceptable?  Turn the page and there were small breasts that become large and round after surgery. Big to small, small to big. I had to put the book aside. The last section was concerned with genitalia.

“HELLO!”  Dr. T, the big orange-haired man walked in, looked hard into my eyes. Or at my droopy lids, difficult to say. He ruffled through my paper work and noted that I had lived in Ithaca before arriving in SoCal.

“Ever heard of Potsdam? I went to college at SUNY-Potsdam.”  I had heard of it, and said so, and he started to tell me about it, and then shone a big light on my face and asked, “What can we do for you?” I began by explaining that this was only a consultation, and that I didn’t like the way most middle-age Beverly Hills women looked plastic-y.

“You’ve seen my work?” Dr T pointed to his yearbook of surgeries. “I’m not like other surgeons. “I don’t do fake. I create beauty. I am an artist.”

“I see. . .”

“I’m also an inventor! Look at this!” He pulled out a piece of metal, about 5 inches long, covered in gauze. “Know what this is?” I had no idea. I really just wanted to talk about my nasolabial folds.

“This, Professor, is a penis-pusher.”  By calling me “Professor,” was he doing that coy/ condescending thing non-academics sometimes do, or did he love alliteration?

Dr. T showed me how his contraption would make a man’s stuff appear to pop out in a bathing suit or underwear. He’d just made it up, with a patient (who was, presumably, requesting a pop-out penis) a few minutes ago. I laughed until tears rolled down my nasolabial folds.

Then he opened his book and flipped to the back of the book. Please, no, I thought. And in the wink of an eye he reached in a drawer and pulled out a thin square of metal with ten or twelve perfect circle holes in it–different sizes. Please no.

“A template,” Dr. T explained. He turned a page and showed me a photo of a penis that was dangling through one of the holes. Turned the page and a penis was dangling through another–larger–hole. “I enhanced his size with his own scrotum skin.”

I told you, Dear Reader,  that getting blog material isn’t all fun and games. Right about the time he turned the page to the female genitalia, I announced, “I came here for a consult, and it’s not about my . . .well, I mean, that is just disgusting.”

Dr. T looked unimpressed, like he’d heard that before. “Well, you never know. . .” he smiled his waxy Santa Claus-y smile.

We had a consult. I will not lie; I let this insane wizard Frankenstein man put a vial of stuff in my face. He gave me a discount because, he said, “you lived in upstate New York for twenty years.”  And because “I know you will be back.” What did that mean?

Meeting me later in Starbucks, Noah noticed immediately, but didn’t say anything. When I confessed, he said, “I was thinking your face looked pillow-y.” That’s not exactly what I was going for, but it’s better than haggard old woman-y. Or not. . . Then we discussed beauty, body-image, and it eventually got around to the soul. I got a little pretentious and quoted a line from Donne’s “Ecstasy”: “Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,/But yet the body is  his book.”

Books are edited and revised, right?

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My body, my  book, chapter after chapter:  the story of being mortal.

Rodeo Faux Snow, Or: Don’t Know From Cold Out, Ho, Ho, Ho!

7 Dec

Rodeo Faux Snow, Or: Don’t Know From Cold Out, Ho, Ho, Ho!

7 Dec

I’m having a hard time taking very seriously the Christmas decorations in my ‘hood.

Evergreen on columnsHow is one supposed to feel the Greco-Roman New England Holiday Vibe, when one is wearing shorts and Ray Bans, and right across the street is this Sunshiny OZ Candy Land vibe:

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Don’t get me wrong, I am the ONLY one wearing shorts. The natives have donned wool caps, scarves, down coats, and they shiver when they step inside the juice store: “OOOOH, it’s so cold out!” (59 degrees.) I give them a look. You don’t know what “cold out” is. Cold Out is 10 degrees below zero. Cold  Out is your blue fingers inside your gloves, scraping thick ice off of the windshield. For the tenth day in a row.  Cold Out is when you don’t even register cold, you  feel only pain–in your bone marrow. Cold Out is when even the dog won’t leave the house. 

People accustomed  to warm sunny days, and birds of paradise growing year-round in the front yard have a unique struggle getting into the Christmas spirit–with its North Pole associations, and older Pagan rituals celebrating evergreen and light during the season of cold darkness. The only cold darkness in Southern California is the air-conditioned broom closet at the plastic surgeon’s office. (Don’t ask how I know.)

Not until December 2nd did I feel the need to turn on the heat.  This is my furnace.

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Yeah, it doesn’t look like much and it doesn’t do much either. Fortunately it doesn’t have to. I have yet to wear a coat, and all around my street  lawns are being mowed;  last week  the distinct smell of fertilizer floated in the winter air.

Those of us who know the meaning of Cold Out have to question the meaning of “Happy Holidays” in the land of  blue skies, temperate weather, and a notion of snow balls such as these: IMG_1495

(Beverly Wilshire in the background–the hotel in “Pretty Woman,” and where, rumor has it, Obama stays.)

Take a stroll with me, Dear Reader, down Rodeo Drive, where “Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” “Winter Wonderland,” and the like are piped in on speakers. Because there is no organic cold white stuff to be had, Beverly Hills does the best it can:

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Snow is so pretty! As is Mrs. Claus:

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And while you do see the occasional teenager wearing Ugg boots to protect herself from “the cold,”  most of the footwear demonstrates that Cold Out is really just a fashion statement.

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No one in Ithaca is wearing these to the Green Star Co-op, methinks.

OK. I. Admit. It.

I miss the fluffy flakes in the air landing on eyelashes, coming inside from the bracing air to make a fire and drink hot chocolate, then waking to trees glistening in crystals, the ground covered in mounds of sugar. THAT is the Holiday Season.  I. Miss. It.  And this will NOT suffice:

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Faux ice, faux snow being blown around with a fan. PUHlease.

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Well, despite the beautiful weather,  this year Noah and I will read, as we have for almost two decades, Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

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Snow figures large.

IMG_1521(1)“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea town corner and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”

(The man knew from a sentence.)

And I can’t remember whether it snowed for fifty two years or whether I exaggerate the weather of my past. I wonder whether these balmy and forgiving days are  some halcyon breeze  of a weathered yet hopeful imagination. . .

Enjoy what the season brings, Dear Reader.