Sunday, September 30, 2012

#SampleSunday. Meet Angel Hilario.


A short sample from "Softgoods" a novella of high fashion and low murder.
(to read a free sample or buy any or my books, click the title to the right of this post.)
Ralph Lauren, Anna Sui, Donna Karan Todd Oldham Bill Blass Versace, Gucci, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Chanel, dolce & gabbana, Diesel, Dior, Tom Ford, Betsey Johnson, Paul Smith, John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld, Nicole Miller, Vivienne Westwood, Issey Miyake, Zac Posen, agnes b, John Varvatos, Eileen Fisher, Narciso Rodriguez, Issac Mizrahi, Missoni, Norma Kamali, Jean Paul Gaultier.  All have to leave their ivory towers and descend to these mean streets into the hands of Angel Hilario.
It was a bright sunny Wednesday but as everyone knew the narrow streets and tall buildings in the Garment District didn’t let the sun in until later in the day and then only in glancing stripes. Angel Hilario liked it that way.  He had worked as a floater for the past seven months and the job suited him.  He was not the type to keep still and the work of pushing racks of fancy clothes from truck to showroom was something his nervous system could handle.  This morning, he was pushing a rack of printed silk David Meister evening dresses and thinking about his girlfriend who had broken up with him for the tenth time.  Her name was September Valez and that suited him just fine.  She was high strung and could hold her own.  He knew she would come back.  You could see by his swagger and the quick violent pushes and saves he played with the rack that he was both restless and distracted.
On the fourth violent push an Anglo-Saxon thirtysomething caught the rack and stood between the clothes and Angel.  Bradford Jennings III was not your typical cop or your typical plainclothes detective.  For one thing he had the calm demeanor of someone who didn’t scramble for attention or for money.  He was not a pretty boy but he was good looking in a preppy way.  His eyes were a different story. If you had any idea that he was soft, his eyes persuaded you otherwise.  His eyes gave him a different dimension and few people looked into them without wondering what had happened to him that hurt that much.  Plainclothes detective Bradford Jennings, III, 32, gently muscled, unblemished, sockless, wearing jeans, loafers, button-down shirt stood firm between the clothes and Angel making him stop. Jennings had had enough conversations with Angel to put them on a level a smidgeon above acquaintances.  They would never have had drinks together but they might have confided personal information given the right circumstances. Bradford acknowledged that Angel - although his job and clothing pointed to the contrary - exhibited an air of superiority.  Go figure.
“Angel you were here yesterday morning.  What did you see?”
“Hey, detective,” said Angel, “when you gonna learn to pronounce my name. It’s Anhel, broad A and G like H.” He paused and put a finger to his forehead. “Yesterday I was moving evening sweaters with feather collars.  If the birds’ rights people throw blood on the merchandise, I’m dead.  I wouldn’t have noticed King Kong.  I didn’t see your man, Lieutenant.” He paused again and this time looked at Bradford with a brazen grin. “The guy’s got guts.  Santa Baranza!  He hits every week.  In your face.  You ain’t gonna get him.”
Bradford responded with good humor. “He’s a worthy opponent.”
“Hah!  He’s a fucking genius magician,” Angel answered. He was certain that his knowledge of human nature was superior to the guy in the button down shirt.
“He’s a criminal with a lucky streak,” said Bradford, still unperturbed.
Angel’s shrug said he was betting on the hijacker. “Where’s your socks?  You’re gonna catch cold.” Angel gave the rack a healthy shove that sent it racing down the crest of the road.  It looked like a sure crash but in one bound, he had it back.  You could hear his cackle all the way down the street.  When he reached his destination, he looked back to see if Bradford was still looking at him.  He wouldn’t admit it in a million years but he wanted the detective to think well of him. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

A young, crazy girl


I was once a young crazy girl, the kind parents hope they will never have. With my new degree from George Wash. U. I set out for New York City cutting myself loose from family. These are the things I did upon arriving in New York:

I enrolled at the New School for Social Research that, at the time, had a socialist tinge but taught excellent courses.  I was hoping to become an intellectual and I chose that path because a smart girl I admired from Costa Rica had mentioned casually that she was going to move to New York and attend the New School.  What I didn’t know is that the girl was a real socialist and had thought things through while I just overheard an idea on the fly and planned a pretentious life around it.

In New York, I got a secretarial job at an advertising agency and began a company newsletter to delay boredom.  The newsletter was poorly written, sophomoric and full of mistakes but one day - as if I was in a Sandra Bullock rom-com, the president of the company Emil Mogul (yes, that was his name) told his secretary to ‘get that little Indian girl up here.’  I was sure the secretary was joking but she pleaded with me to come up to the executive office. Just like in the movies, they asked if I would like to write advertising copy. (You are thinking this sounds preposterous. I agree. Out of a movie.)  Next thing I knew I had a private office and three accounts.  Ronzoni Macaroni, Barney’s Boystown (the precursor to the pricey store) and a British car called the Sunbeam Alpine that was so popular people had to wait their turn to buy one as they came over the ocean. 

At night I took courses in philosophy, the Lake Poets and writing and went out drinking with my fellow students.  I had the same writing teacher as Mario Puzo and one of his early short stories was in the anthology we used.  How I had the sense to actually enroll in the school, find a place to live and find a job in a Madison Avenue ad agency that plucked me out of the secretarial pool (Like Peggy in Mad Men) is a huge mystery because, trust me, I was not a sensible person which I will now prove. I had this fabulous opportunity to be an advertising copywriter with national accounts and was doing very well.  They loved my sappy copy.  Seth Tobias, a charming and brilliant copy chief regularly called me into his office to hear my ideas. 

Did I mention I had a self-destructive streak as wide as an eight-lane highway?  At the height of my popularity, I quit. I quit to write a novel.  I did not write one word of that novel.  I retreated to my studio apartment on Bedford Street in Greenwich Village and began what was a slow descent into poverty and a few strange escapades (one of which involved going to Italy and being the script girl for a film with the famous director Vittorio De Sica.) When I returned from Italy I had no money, no job.  A friend (who became a real estate mogul) had sublet my apartment but now I had to take it back and pay the rent.  I became a Kelly girl for a few months and when that dried up I had to face my folly. I had to ration my spending to two or three dollars per day.  I decided to try to get back into advertising.  I went to an employment agency and they sent me to Newark, New Jersey to interview for a job in the copy department of the Bamberger chain, part of the Macy Corp.  I got the job.  I had to commute ‘in reverse’ on the old scary Path trains that had no doors and rattled so violently you could catapult out in Hoboken.  Never mind, I had a job!  The phrase wasn’t trendy then but I did look in the mirror that night and say, “I’m back.”

Next blog I will tell you how it is to work in a block-big department store - a weird little staged world.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Does anyone else see the "All About Eve-ness" of this?


This a.m. I looked in on that weird marriage:  Charlie and Gayle over on Ch. 2  CBS used to be known as the Tiffany network.  CBS was the network of Edward R. Murrow, Sixty Minutes, I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke.  William Paley ran a sterling news department with the help of Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, et al.  Fred Friendly who invented practically everything good about television headed the news division. Time went by. Wm Paley died. President Frank Stanton died.  Another century rolled in and a bunch of high school kids took over CBS. They decided it was time for perky on the evening news.  They hired Katie Couric at a staggering salary and the first night, seated at the iconic evening news desk of the Tiffany network, she said, “Hi, everybody.”  

I wrote off CBS as the dumb ass network until recently when it became the wacky, monkeys-throwing-darts network and the darts landed on the slow-spoken Charlie Rose and the blindly confident Gayle King.  Why this duo isn’t beating the rating pants off of NBC and ABC is a mystery.  It’s like watching a movie called “The Professor and the “most-improved” student."  CBS not only thought outside the box, they pushed the envelope and crashed right through the bubble wrap.  I would say it was inspired except that --- okay it was inspired.

One of the ironies here is that while Oprah lost some of her muscle futzing around with OWN, her tag along sidekick Gayle, became an anchor at the Tiffany network.  Does anyone else see the All About Eve-ness of this?  The morning I watched, Gayle interviewed Oprah and she seemed to know more about her than Oprah knew about herself. Charlie asked Oprah if she was upset because she had slipped a couple of rungs on the “most powerful women” list.  Oprah said she wasn’t upset. Oprah, by the way, looked very good.

True to his PBS self, Charlie also interviewed Elon Musk, an important person I had never heard of.   Elon Musk is the genius that co-founded PayPal and the innovative CEO of Tesla, the electric car company.  Currently, he was also the CEO of SpaceX and has been encouraged by Nasa to get us all up to Mars in the next few years and make it possible to walk around that planet un-tethered and have a good time.  Charlie asked Mr. Musk what was the one thing about him that made him not only think about but implement all of these fantastic ideas.  And here was his answer:  Most people take a new idea and think of it through analogy, I take it down to a fundamental principle usually physics.  Ok. I don’t even know what that means but I know it’s more interesting than hearing Matt Damon talk about his latest movie or Beyonce talk about what it feels like to be a new mother.

Immediately after the Musk interview, Gayle led us through the daring rescue of a goat by a pig.  Yes, a pig rescued a goat.  Well, he nudged the goat in the right direction to get out of a pond and pushed it a little with his snout.  In this content starved society, that pig/goat nudge made the morning show and the Yahoo home page.   

Back to the weird marriage. Charlie is someone who has made us believe he is smart by interviewing accomplished people most of us have never heard of. Charlie is not a particularly brilliant interviewer but people will say, “Oh, I love Charlie Rose.”  Charlie makes us feel smart and responsible, otherwise why would we be watching PBS and listening to Aung San Suu Kyi, Dick Costolo, Bill Browder, Salman Rushdie, or Martin Amis, a British novelist who has appeared with Charlie 11 times.

As for Gayle, she is just this side of brash - saying exactly what’s on her mind rather than what the earpiece is feeding her.  Maybe that confidence comes from the power of Oprah behind her.  I like Gayle although I could never be her close friend.  She doesn’t have enough angst to understand my references and that’s the important point. The book in my kindle shop that sells the best doesn’t have one funny line in it and no irony.  It’s just a good story.  So maybe Gayle and Charlie are just straight out being themselves - not trying to be funny or annoyingly self-aware and that makes them sell well.  I’m going to watch some more.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SampleSunday “Yes. Uh huh. That’s the way it goes.”


(Haven't done Sample Sunday for many weeks but today I decided to showcase the novel that's close to my heart.  Reviewers said it made them laugh out loud)

It’s tax season and I’ll get to visit the senior center again.  Last year I spent four hours getting my taxes done at the senior center. My regular tax preparer had gone to rehab without telling anyone.   Once I heard that the senior center did taxes for free and did them immediately, I headed there without a qualm.   The preparer assigned to me had once been the chief financial officer of a multinational conglomerate.  He now helps comatose seniors to sort out their tax returns.  Why does the government bother these people?   Leave them alone. They’ve done enough for you.
While we were all waiting for our turn, there was inter-taxpayer conversation.  One tall man who had the exaggerated gait of cowboy said:  “They raised the property taxes big time but I see the supervisor gave himself a nice raise.”  The full figured woman across from him who had on a green nylon warm-up jacket with the New York Yankees’ logo on the back, said,  “Yes. Uh huh.  That’s the way it goes.”
I went to get a cup of coffee in the senior center dining room and there was a worker handing out bagels. The room had the institutional cleaning smell of my old boarding school refectory.  I put my hand out and she gave me one of the bagels.    This place was probably in my future so I looked around and it was one continuous surprise.  They offer a lot of free stuff and free services.  Free yoga to begin with and then free transportation and free home repairs.  Free food, too, or hot meals delivered for a couple of dollars. The only deficiency I could see was the excess of laminated plastic in the d├ęcor.
 I had my coffee and bagel to nibble on and I got to listen to all the seniors bitching about this and that.  It was pleasant. A new arrival, a man, came in and said he could not find tax forms anywhere.  “Mind if I sit here,” he asked the woman with the Yankee jacket.
“Be my guest,” she said. 
He told her he had been to the library for forms and they were all out and the library sent him to the post office and they were all out. 
“Yes.  Uh huh.  That’s the way it goes,” she said.  I thought, this woman knows how to attract men.  She just says ‘yes, uh huh, and that’s the way it goes’.  Maybe I should try that instead of talking so much.  The other thing I realized about senior life was that you could make continuous conversation about what had just happened to you that day and it was okay.  You didn’t have to be witty or ironic.  In fact, it was preferable to be a little dull. You could just barge in and talk as if you had known these people your entire life.  It was also okay to whine because the seniors considered themselves a unit of solidarity and were not judgmental about each other.
 Imagine being able to whine to your heart’s content?  Everybody whines.  Winston Churchill whined.   Just read the letters to his mother during the Boer War. “Can’t make sense of the foxholes, my clothes are damp…”. The only person I can’t remember whining was Mary, Jesus’ mother.  The only time I remember her saying anything was when Jesus’ stayed behind on some trip.  I think she said, “Why did you do that?” which is almost exactly what I would have said.
So this was senior life and it was not unpleasant.  You could spend the entire day at the center and participate in many activities. From what I could see, you didn’t even have to be a senior.  There were people in their forties having taxes done and doing yoga. I wanted to tell my friend, Delores all about this bonanza so she wouldn’t be so harsh on the government. She called our former president an inchoate mass of deception.  “Look, Delores.  Look at all the free stuff the government is going to give you. You think they want to take everything away but it’s not true.”  They even have a Sunshine Club although I don’t think I would join that.
If Delores went to Capitol Hill and they did everything she asked them to do and she was suddenly living in a country that carried out her ideals to the letter, including making animals more important than people, I don’t think she could adjust.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Free The Wales (redux)


(When my stats show someone has sought out an archival blog, I re-read it and sometimes like it enough to offer it again.  This blog is so appropriate for my current state of mind and also because of the press hounding Kate just as they did Diana.)

The other day I tried to imagine how it would be to live in a well-appointed, well-furnished house with big airy rooms and a semblance of elegance. First I had to imagine myself in decent clothes. I could not go into a house with coffered ceilings, a ligne roset sofa and an antique Mahal rug wearing ten year old j.crew madras shorts and a tee that says Free the Wales with a faded pix of Charles and Diana.
I imagined myself in a black linen suit with an a-line skirt and short double-breasted jacket with big white buttons. I wore platform pumps with the toe cut out. My hair was styled and I weighed thirty pounds less. I tried to imagine my face fighting the urge to see it drawn and saggy from the sudden weight loss. I imagined walking into the beautifully constructed living room and standing still. What would I do in there? In real life, I spend little or no time in the living room - unecessary space we’ve been told is necessary. In my new persona I sat on the short end of the sectional whose seats were molded to hold you and looked around. I glanced to my left and saw that someone had placed my mail on a small mission desk that backed up on the sofa. In front of me was a square coffee table made of a matte stone in tones of beige and black with tiny wormholes. I thought of looking through the mail but decided instead to look through my mind. How did I think in these unfamiliar circumstances?

I looked for my old thought catalogue: this house is falling apart I can’t stop eating Katie Couric looked good on The View. I haven’t been outdoors in two days the lawn needs cutting the big tree in back is going to fall over and kill me where is my hairbrush I’m afraid of taking Tylenol p.m. because I might not wake up my feet still look good the gutters are filled and there’s no one stable enough to climb a ladder and get them out I can't stop looking at J.Lo I need a manicure and a pedicure my eyebrows need shaping the ground turkey that is a staple has been recalled but I already ate it I love Alec Baldwin why did I think I could manage my own brokerage account if I thought about the money I’ve lost, it would make me pass out and why did I sell the New York apartment so soon when now it’s worth five times more the rich guy next door has the loudest air conditioner I’ve ever heard and it runs 24/7 he waters his lawn so much there’s a perennial puddle in front of my house where mosquitoes are breeding by the millions but I am annoying the neighbor on the other side with my huge tree that sheds leaves and other debris all summer long and keeps his driveway filled with stuff and oh, the kids.

That catalogue was back in my old house. In my new house the mind was quiet and the person thinking was calm and focusing on her surroundings with satisfaction. I didn’t know what to make of this person. She had no self-doubt. Her thoughts were sequential and outward directed: the masseuse was coming, the novel was at a good point, she would take a run at four and shower before dinner. There was not one thought in there that was trying to make sense of the world. She wasn’t wondering where she went when she was asleep or what dreams were all about. She wasn’t still brooding about the Yahoo news story where a mother had shoved her toddlers out of the path of a runaway truck or the girl who had sold more Girl Scout cookies than anyone and then died at her graduation dance.

I decided to stay for the masseuse and then go back home.

Now that I think about it, I wrote a book with a similar plot. It’s called One Hundred Open Houses.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Please, don't give up.

As Roseanne Rosanadana used to say: "It's always somethin'." Yes, it is and this week - since last Sunday - Blogger is having issues that make it impossible to access this blog using: consuelosaahbaehr.com. For now, I've reverted to the old url www.setthiswriterfree.blogspot.com  I don't know when, if ever, Google will resolve this problem but I'm still here.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Limited mobility



There is a commercial for something called The Scooter Store that is always asking me if I "live with limited mobility." This perky name has nothing to do with real scooters that require excellent mobility.  I used to think I was targeted for this commercial because the sponsors were sure only people who were imprisoned by non-working limbs would be watching "I didn't know I was pregnant" and  "Backyard Ambush"  That wasn't it.  The other day I was watching the financial network and right during Power Lunch, The Scooter Store spot popped up. 

What caught my attention in this commercial is that they offered me something for free just for calling the number on the screen.  They offered me a deck of playing cards. The word free kept pulsing on the screen as if to alert me to the importance of it. I guess if you have serious limited mobility, a lame deck of cards is a lifeline to an interesting life.  I guess if you have limited mobility you learn to play Bridge or Poker or Old Maid or War with other people who are in the same limited mobility boat.  I haven’t used playing cards in thirty years so I sneered as I normally do at offers that are designed to trick older people into doing risky things. 

The Shark Steam Cleaner (an infomercial that I could watch for several hours when they clean the filthy Gas Station Rest Room and make it so sparkly it hurts your eyes) offers me a free hand steamer that I get to keep if I try their floor steam machine and then decide to send it back.  As tempting as this is I do not believe that I can send something back that I bought during an infomercial and have an untroubled transaction.  In my mind, and I’m not proud of this, anyone in infomercials is an out and out charlatan who will disappear the minute he gets my money.  That includes Ron Popeil of the “set it and forget it” Rotisserie Ovens who seemed so genuine and even appeared on Larry King Live. I must be in the minority on this "not trusting" issue because infomercials take over almost all the airwaves late at night (except for re-runs of Law and Order). Somebody is buying.

As a matter of fact I do have limited mobility but it has nothing to do with not being able to walk, it has to do with a corrosive laziness that propels me to the couch.  I like to sit around.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Babies Love Hummus

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I’ve been around a lot of babies in the last few years and one thing is true:  they all love hummus.  They can even say ‘hummus’ and it’s cute as heck. Do all the Ayatollahs know this?  I wish Hillary would take a u-tube selection of babies eating hummus to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so he could see for himself.  She could say, “You’ll be happy to know we are raising a generation on good protein from hummus.” (She can also give them the money but this would go a long way to squelching the idea that we are bloated close-minded know-it-alls.)

I have seen picky toddlers who shake their heads at everything except pizza (we don’t have to tell this to the Italians who already like us), open wide for hummus.  The thing about hummus is, it’s like flattery - you can hide any number of unpalatable stuff in it without incident. I have used carrots, string beans, cucumbers, even zucchini as delivery vehicles for hummus and they all go down. BTW there’s no reason to use bread (empty calories) as a delivery vehicle. Carpe Diem, for heaven’s sake.

My Palestinian ancestors were gifted cooks and even I (the mixed breed dolt) learned to make decent hummus from scratch.  With an assist from a good blender it is simple and rewarding. 

Ingredients:
One can of Goya garbanzos (also knows as chic peas)
(I didn’t like the results from organic garbanzos.  They were too tough.)
Juice of one and a half lemons.
1/4 to 1/3 cup of tahini (sesame paste)
salt to taste
one clove of garlic (optional) I normally don’t use garlic because I like the clean, tangy taste of lemon juice as the only dominance.  Also the baby might not go for the garlic taste.

Garnish:
In my family, we used chopped parsley to place around the rim of the finished hummus and dribbled a little olive oil in the center.  You can skip this for baby but leave in for adults.

How to do it:
Drain almost all the liquid from the garbanzos but keep it nearby.
Place the garbanzos in the blender with the juice of one lemon
Blend until almost a puree
Add the tahini, salt (sparingly) and the remaining lemon juice and blend
If the mixture is too stiff add a tablespoon of the reserved can liquid or more lemon juice.
I’ve never had anyone complain that there’s too much lemon juice.
If it doesn’t taste rich enough, add more tahini

*A word about tahini which is now readily found in most supermarkets.  Be certain that it says sesame paste and has nothing else in the ingredient list.  True tahini tends to settle in the container so that the solids go to the bottom and the top is oily.
You have to stir it thoroughly.  Turn the jar upside down for an hour to help dislodge some of the solids.

** some people microwave the garbanzos to soften them further before blending.  I don’t do that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Michelle/Barack E-mail Diaries


 


Today I received an e-mail from Michelle Obama that started out like this: Consuelo, thank you for an amazing week. Barack and I felt your energy up there.

I’m ashamed to say that while Barak was belting it out on the stage in Charlotte, I had dozed off and was possibly drooling on the small pillow holding my head.

This sounds hard to believe but I often get an e-mail from Barack himself.  Just before he accepted the nomination, he wrote and said: “It’s because you’ve got my back that I’m here.”  This kind of scared me because I didn’t know I was his back-up and I haven’t been paying attention to the economy or anything else. Maybe it was my fault that the jobless claims shot up.

Last week, Michelle wrote to say: I know your life is full -- with work, or school, or family (or playing computer games)-- and yet you still find the time to help out. (One family) skipped pizza dinner...so that they could make a donation.  Now here’s where I have to go to the bathroom mirror and face my horrid selfish ways.  I had not skipped my pizza.  I had, in fact, eaten pizza twice.

Usually, Michelle asks for $3 but just before she went on stage in Charlotte (looking really beautiful) she asked for $19.  I thought Oh, that darned Romney is getting too much money from his wealthy cronies and now I have to dig deeper.

I receive several of these e-mails from Michelle, Barack and others in the Obama team every day.  Some of them ask me if I want to have dinner with Michelle and Barack. They tell me that if I donate anything, even three dollars or less, I could win a pool and be picked to have a laid-back meal with the family.  One of the e-mails asked me to sign Barak’s birthday card the way we used to do in the office when someone had been fired or was leaving for a better job. The most fabulous offer of all dangled Barack, Michelle and George Clooney.

Today’s e-mail went on to ask me to donate money so Michelle could keep the momentum going and finish strong.
I can’t even keep the momentum going in my hand whisking to make scrambled eggs. Please, Michelle, pick someone else.

Not long ago I got an urgent e-mail from Bill Clinton who said: “Don’t think you can wait because your neighbor is stepping up.”  Holy Moly, that’s exactly what I was doing: waiting for the rich guy next door to step up.

Last week, I got an e-mail from Mitt Romney.  Friend, it began.  That was Mitt’s first mistake.  Barack’s e-mails always begin: Consuelo.

Mitt asked me for $20.12 to support Paul and me. He didn’t ask me to come over for dinner or to meet Clint Eastwood.  Mitt, you have to sweeten the pot for that much money. Barack offered me a seat on his campaign bus for a $3. donation.

The following e-mail was confusing
Consuelo --
If, for some reason, you don't want to meet the President before he accepts the nomination ... if you don't want to sit up front with the First Lady while President Obama takes the stage ... if you don't want VIP tickets to all three days of the convention, airfare and hotel covered for you and a guest ...  Then enter (before midnight) for the awesome confetti.

This made me feel bad.  It reminded me of how I used to trick my children into doing stuff.  “I guess you don’t want to get an Atari or you would stop teasing your sister.” It also made me feel that the Obama team thought I had been stupidly unresponsive to their fabulous offers.

I’ve learned a little something about raising money from the campaign team.  If all of you reading this blog donate $10,000. you will be entered to win a chance for you and a guest to have dinner with me. No, airfare and accommodations are not included although there is a cash bar.  And don’t  think you can wait because your neighbor is stepping up.  Oh, and I know it’s because you have my back that I’m here.