Thursday, September 26, 2013

10 simple rules for being a good guest (an oxymoron because there are no good guests.)

Overnight guests were invented to introduce torment where none existed. if you are about to be a guest here are some rules to make you barely tolerable. (Family not included, of course.)

1. Upon arrival, give a precise (to the minute) departure time.  Even before you say hello, say “I’m leaving Tuesday at 9:35 a.m.” The most distressing issue of overnight guests (outside of having them at all) is not knowing when they are leaving.  The worst answer is “I’m not sure.”  No?  Why not?  My life is not an open-ended deal at your disposal.

2.  Make your footprint as small as possible.  If you are a large person, hunch into yourself.  There’s nothing less lovable than a big ole guest hogging all of the oxygen in the room. On this issue, don’t bring a large suitcase.  Nobody wants all of your stuff in their house or any of your stuff.  They already have too much of their own stuff.  Come with a backpack or a small plastic bag.

3.  Don’t ask questions about the habits of your hostess.  There’s nothing more annoying to the hostess than having to explain why she does all the weird things she would do in peace/privacy if you weren’t there to question.  Don’t ask anything.  Not even where she got the bayonet or the saber.  You don’t need to know.

4.  Don’t lounge on the hostess’ furniture as if you are in your college dorm.  Furniture, though it might look shabby to you is precious to her. In fact don’t lounge.  It makes you look as if you own the place and breeds resentment.  Sit up straight and keep your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap.There aren't words to address a guest who lies prone on the couch.

5.  Don’t take a long shower and leave zero hot water for everyone else.  In fact, don’t take a shower at all.  Hearing the shower running for more than twenty seconds makes the host see dollar bills flying out of the window. Showering is overrated and creates laundry.  Needless to add don’t leave wet towels anywhere.  There’s nothing that reminds a hostess of a recent guest more than a wet towel.  And it isn’t a fond memory. It’s up to you how you make the towel dry.

6. Just because you are a guest doesn’t mean you must talk.  Think of talking as a bank account that only has a hundred dollars left and you have to ration it out for a year. Besides showing up at all, talking too much is an indelible black mark that will be on your forehead like an Ash Wednesday smudge that brands you as insufferable.  Bring a book and read on the porch.

7.  Slip out of the house early in the morning and get your own breakfast at the corner Starbucks but leave a note so the hostess doesn’t think you had a heart attack in your bed and now she has to do something with your body.   If you do go to Starbucks bring back a bag of Starbuck goods for the rest of the house.

8. Ask if you should keep your shoes on inside the house (especially if they are full of sand or mud).  If you walk into the house with muddy or sandy shoes, the hostess will remember. And not in a good way.

9.  Don’t argue with the hostess about anything.  If she says something is blue that is clearly red, it’s blue.  Period.  This is not the time to prove a point. She is probably not thinking straight because you are there.

10.  Call the day of arrival and cancel.  Something came up and you can’t come.  Your hostess might say “too bad” but her heart is singing, “Oh, happy day.”  The house is clean.  She has a fridge stocked with good food and nobody’s coming.  What’s better than that?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When the meek finally inherit the earth they will not say, “I’m humbled.”

(Two news items that caught my eye)

It’s Emmy night.  Get ready to hear the word “humbled.” 

Humbled is a word only used in front of a microphone.  It is uttered by someone who has just won an award or a plum job or a ceremonial position but they want to go all “gosh, I don’t deserve this.”  They could say, hey I don’t deserve this Emmy but someone has to win it and hooray, it’s me.

Humbled is only recognized as a real word by young on line dictionaries.  It is a word that contra-indicates because anyone who is really humble doesn’t realize it.  They carry on as their normal meek selves.  When the meek finally inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), they will not go to a microphone and say, “I’m humbled to be given the earth.”  They will probably have their lawyer say something.

Recently Caroline Kennedy was “humbled” to accept the ambassadorship to Japan and “carry on JFK’s legacy.” What was JFK’s legacy?  I know, I know, he was handsome and Jackie was beautiful and the Bay of Pigs and there’s too much tragedy involved and he liked to listen to Camelot before going to sleep and Johnny, we hardly knew ye, etc., etc.   However, could someone remind Ms. Kennedy that most ambassadorships are political back scratching for some real or imagined help given to the office holder and often the appointee has no diplomatic credentials.  And it could be compensation for the ‘now she’s the Senator from New York, oops, now she’s not’ fiasco. She must have expected some goodie was coming down the pike when she said, “Yay! Obama.”

Red Lobster and The Olive Garden - how could sales be down?

I’m sorry to hear that sales are down at Red Lobster and the Olive Garden. The bottomless pasta bowl - how could that not work? They “see food differently” That’s for sure.  Once I heard a comedian say that at Red Lobster they had this giant roll of red felt and they cut out all of the shrimp and lobster shapes out of it and breaded them and that was the seafood they served.  That was mean-spirited, wasn’t it? 

When I see one of their luscious ads and notice how happy the diners are to be there, it makes me wish I were there, too, knowing I could have as much pasta Alfredo as I wanted.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

The brain compartment marked "Mom"

This is a reconstructed conversation, word for word, told to me by my “friend.”

Whenever I begin a conversation with my children they will say, we’ve had this exact conversation a hundred times. This always makes me stop and think.  Really, I’ve brought this up one hundred times? What is wrong with me? So then, in case they are right, I say, well let’s just say I like to talk about this could you indulge me?  And they say, yes we could do that if it didn’t really annoy us that you believe and act on all the shoddy stuff people say when they want to sell you an idea. 

I slap my forehead in thunderstruck recognition.  Gullible as charged.

I try to think what I might look like in their heads.  And that’s when I realize my children think I’m about seven years old.  I say seven because by then you know how to cross the street safely and put on your clothes and eat with a dull knife and fork and generally bathe yourself but you still don’t know when someone is trying to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. (Buying the Brooklyn Bridge is a time-honored metaphor that depicts a naive untried person who believes anything.)  A seven year old would say, “Yipee. Here take all the money in my piggy bank and give me the bridge.”  But even a seven year old might stop a moment and say, “How can you give me the bridge? You can’t lift it because there would be a big hole and it wouldn’t be a bridge.” My children think I don’t know when someone is trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge.

Whenever I have to take some action in my life, they say, “This is what you should do.” I'm always a bit surprised that they have a complete answer for any situation. Really.  A complete answer that I had not considered.

I finally went into the children's heads and took a look in the compartment marked “Mom.” There, cowering in the corner was a seven year old and all around her were hucksters and ads with bad ideas.  There were a bunch of sign posts marked "wrong way." There was a big question mark above her head because she didn’t have a clue.  Really, not a clue.  I do recall that I have done things and weathered situations and made important decisions while they were off to college or off to Europe or off  running their lives. 

The one act that is never questioned in that compartment marked “mom” is the food I offer.  They even compliment my food or just eat it greedily which is like a compliment.  One of my children has never taken a plate of food from me without asking, is that meat or those eggs really done? And here I might insert an indispensable philosophical premise: just because something was true one rushed morning in 1983 and it stuck in your head like a piece of bubble gum melted by the summer sun, it doesn’t mean it will be true for the rest of time.  

Remember, this is all stuff that my “friend” told me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

There isn't one happy person in this book but I'm devoted to all of them.

I've had a serious bout of self-doubt and have been unable to do much writing, (but plenty of eating), Because they can't see into my house, Random House/Penguin continues to request  reviews of their books. Tuesday's Gone is the latest from a husband/wife team of best-selling writers who publish under a combination of their names, Nicci French. Tuesday's Gone is part of a series and I'm glad to know I can follow the barely scrutable Ms. Klein through more noir adventures.)

I would not have a friend like Frieda Klein in real life. Frieda, the psychoanalyst/protagonist of Tuesday’s Gone, says little, is too smart, practices a profession that makes me wary.  Yet, in this twisted complex thriller, she is exactly the leader I want to take me through a labyrinth of horrors. Chief Inspector Karlsson thinks so, too, and asks for her help when a social worker finds a decomposing body in the apartment of one of her charges.  Frieda has a noisy conscience and is still smarting from recent unintended consequences but agrees to become an official member of the department.   She is not an ingĂ©nue or a wacky detective.  She is the real, serious deal.

Okay so we respect Frieda, what about the rest of this book?  Complicated, many twists, bizarreness, all the lives gone wrong.  What about the ambiance?  Bad  weather, chills, grey rooms, neat, lifeless rooms.  What about the state of mind of the characters?  Needy, lonely, vulnerable, done wrong, failed relationships, disgruntled, crazy (seriously crazy).  The plot is all over the place and interwoven with a troubling side issue that seems outside of everything.

You get the picture.  There isn’t one happy person or place in the book.  There’s one scene with a flower garden and it’s jarring. Frieda hints at a love affair gone wrong (might it go right?). That’s fine with me.  I don’t like happy.  What brings me back every moment to continue with this book is my devotion to the characters. Yes, devotion is the right word.  There is a handy man that I would like to know.  There is no bs here and I care about how the whole thing turns out.  I care about Frieda even though she’s tough to break open.  God, she’s tough to break open.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The cursing angels of good and evil.

(Sorry for the bad words.  It's those cursing angels weighing in on the deluge of deer overtaking the village of East Hampton.)

The deer have eaten all of my tomato plants.  What should I do?

Shoot the fuckers.  Why don't they eat the fucking weeds. 

They are God's innocent creatures looking for sustenance.

They ate all of my hosta plants, too. Is it wrong to be mad?

Next they'll be asking for fucking smoothies.

What’s important is they didn’t eat of the fruit of good and evil in Eden. They have no knowledge of doing wrong.

On Sunday, the entire family was strolling right in the middle of Sherrill Road. The father, the mother and two little kids.

Ever hear of Peta?
Animal rights, my ass.  They're over living in the woods.  They want to move to the fucking village. 

People paid a lot of money to live in the village how can they just take over.  It's not the Middle Ages.

They're fucking marauders trespassing and stealing.

Think Alaska where the moose roam free. It makes for a charming ambiance. 

This morning one of them was coming out of my garage.

To quote Kris Jenner on Kim’s romance with Kanye “The hart wants what the heart wants.” 

Just shut the fuck up.

(To redeem myself for the above, I've reviewed a literary classic.)

For their Penguin Classics Deluxe re-issue series, I was offered a review copy of John O’Hara’s  Appointment In Samarra.  

Prolific American novelist and short story writer, John O’Hara never got the reverence accorded Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway even though he was an excellent writer who knew what went on between men and women of the upper classes.   O’Hara, like John Cheever was a beautiful people stalker and pressed his nose up to that life with bitterness.  While Cheever’s major territory was suburban emotional displacement, O’Hara concentrated on small town elites and never more impressively than in Appointment In Samarra a near perfect look at the destructive dead end alley known as the pursuit of status and the American Dream in the first half of the last century. The term wastrel comes to mind.   O’Hara has his special revenge for the careless fools who fritter away their social advantage.  Poor John O’Hara, he never got his due either in life or in literary circles and he never got over it.

(John O'Hara had more stories published in the New Yorker than any other writer.)