Thursday, June 27, 2013

If I took all of my Solitaire time and added it up... No, no, let's not go there.

When I first discovered spider solitaire I played it for three straight hours.  I noticed a crease in my arm where you could hide a quarter.
I thought:  Oh, good, I’m going to lose weight now because who wants to eat when they can play spider solitaire? I will probably never get up again.
One Sunday, one of my children came over.
Do you know this game?  I said.
Look, this is how you play it. For once I was the advance team.
His last words: Oh, I see.  You play like this.

Evening was approaching and I went to turn on a light and noticed his convertible being pelted with rain. 
The top is down, I said.

This would upset normal people and galvanize them into action.
Pretend spider solitaire is Johnny Depp/Mila Kunis and three inches of water resting on Italian leather is a gnat.
We rolled up the top and went back to Johnny/Mila.
That was many game moons ago before Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga

If I took all of my solitaire time and added it up. 
No no, let’s not go there.
Just a rough estimate. 
What? Too much?
Just shut up, okay.

Before the internet, I used to play solitaire with a deck of cards. I applied magical powers to losing and winning. (Yes, I was already an adult.) It was my dirty little secret but I knew that I was not alone.  J. P. Morgan was a solitaire addict and played non-stop for thirty-six hours during the Banking Crisis of 1907.

My daughter in law aka the Pope of all digital media told me on Sunday that three quarters of casual games are bought by women.  Men vs women who play games are roughly equal until age 35+ after which women take the lead.  Duh.  Guess whose life gets more interesting after 35+ and whose life has to cope with baby weight and baby bladder?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Concierges and destinations

 Note:  As summer begins and lethargy arrives for a long visit, I dug up an old post about concierges because I wish I had one along with Benny the Butler (from the Plaza Hotel) and Hazel, the maid from the sit-com of the same name.  Hazel didn't talk back like George Jefferson's maid.  My favorite butler on television was not Mr. Belvedere but Niles from The Nanny.  Niles was sarcastic, humorous, affectionate, accepting and nosey. I just found out that Niles wasn't British but from Arkansas!

Sometime at the turn of the century (this century) an industrious copywriter decided that the word “concierge” was more compelling than “information desk” and suddenly there is an embarrassment of “concierges” all over the United States.  

In olden times (1999) a concierge was a cranky stout middle-aged French woman who answered your questions with a frown.  She was installed in almost every French apartment building and hotel. A concierge was the manager of information. She might receive packages, hold keys for guests and (if in a good mood) dispense building gossip and give you romantic advice. You were scared of your concierge and grossly dependent on her.

The term “concierge” here in the U.S. is mainly a marketing tool.  If you want to live in the Park Millennium or buy one of the condos in the old Plaza Hotel or possibly in any of the Trump buildings, you probably get a “concierge” for your $6 million dollar one bedroom.    At the Plaza, you not only get a concierge but “Benny the Butler” who will wake you in person, pull the drapes open and draw you a bath. Uh huh uh.

Like everything else (including hot sauce, pesto and yogurt) the concierge concept has been terminally corrupted. The majority of concierges are now virtual.  Instead of dealing with the cranky stout Frenchwoman, the exchange is conducted online or over the phone. Services provide concierge “solutions” for condominiums, corporations, hospitals and individuals. Yes,Your HighnessConcierge Services (do I smell sarcasm here) puts few boundaries on what they are willing to do for you. We lug furniture, arrange flowers, source insurance quotes, reorganize pantries, fly in overseas friends for the weekend, ship cheese to Hong Kong and pay your parking fines in person.

I don’t have any room left for talking about destinations except that the word has been corralled into adjective land as in “destination wedding.” I live in a destination.  I arrived here after my "destination divorce."  If you want to have your wedding here I will gladly be your concierge but it's going to cost you and I will be cranky.

Friday, June 21, 2013

One narrow inlet of guilt, wonder, fear, apprehension, anger, joy and WTF.

Today on Facebook I saw a video that urged me to “live life to the fullest.”  I would totally do that if I didn’t have to leave the house.   “Live life to the fullest” is one of those sayings that is so lacking in specifics that you just slosh around as if wearing regret galoshes that are ten sizes too big and you have no solid footing. 

Oh, my god, I’m not living life to the fullest.  What to do?  Hey wait, what does that mean? When I hear that phrase I see some foolhardy athletic activity as in when one of my children jumped off a cliff in a foreign country with only a rubber band tied to his feet to keep him from plunging.

In my teens and 20’s I did about fifty “life to the fullest” things that could have ended in me being dead or randomly hurt or going down a bad road that would have altered the entire direction of my life. The direction of my life was altered anyway and some of it was good and some of it was bad.  Discretion and my children’s sensibilities keep me from spilling some of the stuff.  At 20, I left the country and my senses while I traipsed (love that word) through Western Europe with a movie group. At 18 I went to Miami and lived for a year first working as a waitress (half of a day) at Jersey Charlie’s, unwittingly as a jewel thief's assistant and then as a telephone operator at the Eden Roc Hotel. I lived in a hotel room in not yet trendy South Beach.  At 23 I quit a dream advertising job to lead a penniless life in Greenwich village. At what point does “living life to the fullest” and acting like a dodohead merge?

I got married and had children and my life contracted into one narrow inlet of guilt, wonder, fear, anger, joy and WTF.  If someone had asked if I was living life to the fullest I would have punched them.  I kept thinking I’m never going to get out of this.  It’s just going to go on and on like some Groundhog Day film.  BUT.  Something weird happened. During this time of guilt, fear, anger joy and wtf, I re-connected with my writing. With three kids hanging on to my nightgown and an ancient Royal typewriter with a missing N, I began writing and publishing op-ed pieces and columns and eventually books.  I was writing not in the luxury of an isolated Village apartment but within the chaos of a family of five.

I was creeping up on the “life to the fullest” road.  But that still wasn’t it. The kids grew up and I moved to a distant village where I didn’t know a soul and began what I can only describe as a ‘what fresh hell is this?’ episode that morphed into something decent. I made friends with my adult children.  I took on a job that could have been neurosurgery that’s how off base it was with my usual.  Taking that job and not even thinking of failure allowed me to re-compute who I was.  Live life to the fullest?  How about if I just don’t leave a big chunk of money on the table.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'll take "What are four soggy apples in the crisper for two hundred, Alex."

I once googled “How to get rid of belly fat” (okay, maybe twice). Today I googled Pope Francis the First, the Holy Father.  There he was with his Mitre and Shepherd’s Crossier and right above his head was that cartoon fat lady in her double D bra and panties squeezing her belly fat into a portrait shot. An ad for Rid-X for septic systems ran as a banner across the top of the page.  For goddsakes Google, it’s the Holy Father.
I was googling the Pope because of a headline that began: Pope Francis wasting food. At first I thought: Oh, good, the Pope wastes food, too.  Reading further it said, “Wasting food is like stealing from the poor.”

I forgot he was the Pope and then when I hear this - I don’t know.  I try not to waste food because I’m frugal.  However, when I see that a bag of onions that I bought with great intentions of making baked onions or adorning a pork roast have not only grown mushy and ugly but have also sprouted some little green tips, I have no remorse. Life is complicated.  I’d like for one month or two in my lifetime not to have some plumbing issue.

You can’t just say stop wasting food and have it mean something. It’s one of those exhortations that has no traction in this totally overwhelming life. When I see the food-stamp “poor” shopping in my supermarket they are not buying what I buy.  They are buying drinks in little pouches and frozen “pigs in a blanket.”  They are not buying blueberries and sweet potatoes.  There are heartbreakingly poor people in this world and if we want to get grotesque we can look at our total immersion in cooking shows and food as thumbing our noses at the real poor.  Look at us!  Food isn’t even for nourishment here, it’s for entertainment.  Take that, poor people.  I’m thinking if Pope Francis wanted to take his message up a notch, he could get Jay-Z to rap about wasting food and he could get Jeopardy to do an entire ‘wasting food’ show.  “I’ll take ‘What is stealing from the poor?’ for four hundred, Alex.” “I’ll take what are four soggy apples in the crisper for two hundred, Alex.”

It’s strange about food.  We all have our unique relationship to it. In my twenties, I used to eat at the Fifth Avenue Hotel that had a restaurant and for reasons unknown a  room with a lot of parrots and tropical foliage.  For all I know, it’s a crack den now, but I remember the glory days. I used to go to the Sunday night buffet right next to the parrot garden with a friend.  By the time the buffet began it was evening and they had covered the cages so the birds could sleep in peace Today a buffet would not be a good idea for me because I’ve become this stranger who sometimes acts as if she was raised in a Turkish jail.  My thinking is jail-ish, i.e. surviving and outwitting the buffet system.  At Brandon’s House of Buffet I once strategized for about fifteen minutes over what to load onto my plate that was expensive and had the fewest carbohydrate count. The “all you can eat” business plan must be based on a strict psychological profile.  For me, it isn’t about eating; it’s about facing off with management and eating in a way they had not intended. 

Back then, though, I had a normal small appetite and food was not very important.  I just this minute realized that.  There was a time when we did not think about food as a big life category that required huge bouts of thinking and was also a big part of our entertainment.  We would have laughed our heads off at the idea of watching cooking shows, back to back.  There was the Pillsbury bake-off but that took place once a year in some Midwestern town and then it was forgotten.  Once in a while, we would clip a recipe out of some magazine and maybe even cook it.  I owned the Gourmet cookbook, 90 percent of which was useless because it called for impossible preparation.   “Hang three ducks by their feet for four days.”  Yes, you heard me. The only recipe I ever made out of that book was Seafood Au Gratin.  It was all real seafood not that strange packaged stuff they sell.  Seafood Au Gratin was the dish I made to impress people. It was supposed to subtly impart a message to our guests:  in case you thought differently, we are rich enough to feed you lobster and smart enough to know how to cook Frenchy food and if you don’t keep up your end, we’ll drop you.   The dish took a lot of time and had so much butter, cream and cheese in the mixture it could now qualify as a murder weapon.

I was looking at an old New Yorker filled entirely with food and eating stories. They call it “The Food Issue.”  You can find out the history of pasta and the thirty-seven-course lunch and why ketchup never changed and why mustard did and the bright yellow French’s gave way to the Grey Poupon.  After reading all of that, I begin to think it might be okay to die.  No really. I’ll just finish with this.  Buying food is not just throwing it in the basket and la di dah.  It’s fraught with anxiety.  There is the responsibility of using the food, preparing it well, serving it to people who will judge it openly or privately.  In my years of marriage, I cooked at least 7000 evening meals.  Enough said.