Tuesday, December 16, 2014

the first night of chanukah

When Alexander was little, we celebrated Chanukah.  Every night we'd light the menorah and say the blessing.  While my son never mastered the four questions, this one blessing he knew.  And every night, for eight nights, I would give him a carefully wrapped present I had kept hidden in my bedroom closet.

It was always easy finding the right gift.  Books with a theme of trucks or emergency vehicles were always welcome.  Play Mobile sets of any kind. And anything Lego, as these were probably my son's favorite.  I spent tons of money on beautiful Brio wooden pieces for Alexander's train set, though he never liked them as much as his Lego's.  Brio was my favorite, not his.

But that was then.

Now, I don't even send out holiday cards;  I don't receive many either.  I wonder if I've fallen off lists, or like myself, many have cut back on this annual tradition. I like to think it's the latter.

Most of the cards I now receive are from people I don't know well, or don't know at all — my doormen, my super, my handyman, the NY Times delivery person, the Poland Spring driver, and the various schools my son and I have been— or are— affiliated with.  Very few are from friends.

Similarly, I don't exchange gifts with anyone.  I am envious of my friends who do, even offering to help.  Just recently, I sent both M and Hazel  a list of under $25 ideas (The Grommet and Uncommon Goods are two great sites to visit).

I will get my son something, and of course will tip the guys in my building, but that's about it. 

Except for the BAFTA screeners.  Almost every day, between late November and late December, I get a package.  In it, are one or more DVD's.   Because I vote for the BAFTA Awards, studios send me the films they think are deserving of recognition.  Receiving close to 50 DVD's of movies playing in theaters (or about to be released), makes me very very popular during the holiday season.

So tonight is the first night of Chanukah.  Alexander is at school studying for his last final.  

Two nights ago he called me totally stressed.  "My Nutrition (Health and Society) exam was so hard.  I don't think I did well.  The professor asked questions about...." And he went on and on, getting increasingly anxious the more he spoke. And of course so did I.

But late this afternoon Alexander calls to tell me he got a 90 on the exam he was freaking out about the other day. 

What a  perfect gift for the first night of Chanukah. I hope I get more of the same for the nights coming up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

holiday party

No one would ever describe me as a party animal.  Not when I was young, and certainly not now.

But tonight is the annual BAFTA holiday party and I feel I should go.  It's always a nice event, held at the British Consul General's exquisite apartment.

I should go because it is the right thing to do.  I am active in this organization, and know a lot of people.  Plus, it is a good networking opportunity.  

I leave my home dressed in black (of course), armed with a handful of business cards. My goal is to come home with none.

I get to the party and am immediately approached by a a new member of the screening committee, a woman I just recently met.  "I'm all caught up on your blog, " she tells me.  "Yours is the only blog I read." I had no idea she reads it, and am truly flattered that she does. I get some red wine, and end up in conversation with her and another BAFTA colleague.

After a few passed hors d'oeuvres (the stuffed crab is the best), I make my way over to another circle of friends.  Everyone is polished and well-dressed.  We talk about movies and exchange thoughts on our favorites.  Dorine loved Inherent Vice, the one my friend had an anxiety attack over. She hated it that much.

I make it over to say hi to Christina, BAFTA's chief executive, and an exceptionally nice woman. We talk for a few minutes before I leave; too many others are vying for her attention.

I return to my small circle of friends to say good-bye.  It is already 15 minutes past the end time of this party. I know this may sound hokey, but really, I feel lucky to be part of this organization.

I leave with all the business cards I came with. I have not given out even one. But that's okay.  I had a great time socializing with people I genuinely like.

And the best part?  I'm home by 8:15.


I'm 77% into Wild; I'm reading it (on my Kindle) for book club. This is not the kind of book I would chose on my own.  It's a memoir about a young woman's journey through a long, punishing, self-exploratory 1100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.  I'm not particularly liking it, but do appreciate the author's bravery.  

I am nothing like Cheryl Strayed.
  • She grows up fatherless and poor.
  • Her mother dies young.
  • She prefers the rural outdoors to big cities.
  • She is (at age 26) promiscuous, thinking nothing of hooking-up before that was even an expression.
  • She uses hard drugs, including many experiences with heroin.
  • She is not close to her siblings.
  • She changes her last name just because.
  • She packs only two T-shirts for a multi-month hike.
  • She leaves college a few credits short of graduating.
  • She is comfortable having no human contact for days and days.
  • She knows how to use an ice axe.
  • She hikes alone over treacherous territory knowing there will be bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes in her path.
  • She wears ill-fitting boots for miles and miles, days and days, resulting in blisters, bleeding feet, and unbearable pain.
  • She loses two toe nails.
Ah, there it is — a similarity.  

Last September 26, when I was debating what shoes to wear for the Gone Girl premiere and party, I accidentally slammed a metal door on my left big toe. It made the shoe decision easy.

Today, after turning an array of colors, the nail finally falls off.  Not that that makes me anything like Cheryl.  It just gives us something in common.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

mother-son conversation

My son must be the only student who never answers his phone.  It's either I didn't hear itit's almost out of batteriesI was in class and couldn't answer; I was with friends and couldn't talk; I was in the library;  or I was sleeping. It's never I didn't have it on me.  He knows that excuse is not a believable one.

Since I've threatened to disable his phone for not responding, Alexander will now call me back within a reasonable period of time. But the best way to reach him (maybe the only way) is to text him and ask him to call.

As evidenced by this recent sardonic text; my son  knows I worry about him when he doesn't respond.

So when we do finally speak (and it's almost always brief, unless we are discussing movies), here's how the conversation goes:

Me:  So how's your studying coming?

Alexander:  Good.

Me:  When are you finished?

Alexander:  Wednesday.

Me:  So are you coming home Thursday?

A:  I'm not sure.

Me:  When are you thinking you're coming home?

A:  I don't know, maybe Friday.

Me:  Maybe?

A:  Ya, or I might stay up here an extra day.

Me:  Okay, so I assume you won't mind if I go to book club on Friday night.

A:  Nope.

Me:  Let me ask you something else....

And before I can even ask, Alexander has to hang up. Class is about to start. I'm with Daniel and it's rude to be on the phone.  I thought this was going to be quick or I wouldn't have called. I'm outside and it's freezing and I can't hold the phone any more. Or, most commonly, I really need to study. 

But in a few days he'll be home.  I can't wait.  I'm looking forward to giving him a big hug.  And sitting down to a long conversation.

And I'm sure that's exactly what he's looking forward to as well.  Chatting with his mom.  What could be better than that?

Friday, December 12, 2014

I was once proposed to

It was a Sunday.  That much I remember.

I was sitting on a chair and Tim was in the kitchen.  We were in his apartment in Chicago, near Lincoln Park. I lived around the corner where I shared an apartment with Hazel, a friend of mine still.

Tim and I both worked at Continental Bank, me in Human Resources for the Trust Department, and Tim in financial planning for the bank's high-net worth customers.  We had been dating for only a few months.

I can't remember the casual conversation we were having, but I do remember my response to something Tim  said.   "Well, if we do that," I replied, "people might think we are getting married." Tim's counter, from the other room, was a nonchalant, "So let's get married."

I hadn't really thought much about it.  We weren't even close to that stage in our relationship.  I was still partially in love with Don, the man I had been living with in Boston, and the man I had followed (despite his lack of encouragement) to Chicago just the previous September.

Don with Hazel and Barry, April 1976

Don, 1976

Don with me and my dog Jesse (a gift from Don), 1976
But I was after all 25.  Sort of old for not being married back then. And Tim was a kind, generous man who adored me.  He had a good job.  Was fun.  Smart.  Educated. Liberal.  Cute.  And the exact opposite of Don.  Don was a creative type; Tim was a businessman.  Don was Jewish; Tim was Christian. Don could be described as kind of crazy; Tim was reserved. Don was musical (played the guitar and wrote songs); Tim was not.  Don was hilarious; Tim appreciated good humor but was never the one to make me laugh. Don was naturally athletic; Tim was a more practiced athlete. Don was unreliable; Tim was not. Don was moody; Tim was not.  Don was dark. Tim was light. Don wasn't ready to get married.  Tim was.

And so just as casually as Tim had asked me to marry him, I just as casually responded yes.  

Tim before I knew him, circa 1974 in Michigan
Going to a Halloween party; the medals are real; Tim was an Eagle Scout
Tim in 1976;  oh how I wish there were digital cameras back then
The marriage didn't last long, as I don't think my heart was ever really in it.  But Tim went on to become fabulously successful, even appearing on the cover of Worth Magazine a few years ago. Don became equally successful as a Hollywood producer and writer.

Don is till an important part of my life; Tim I never speak to.  But this afternoon I think of him.  For on December 12, 1976,  38 years ago today, he asked me to marry him and I said yes.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

awful night

My doorman calls to tell me I have a package.  I'm not expecting one. Especially not a box from Apple. Damn. It's a big box of Christmas cards I made recently for M.  I forgot to change the delivery address and it defaulted to my own.  

Then I eat a quick and early dinner.  Salad with chicken.  I'm out the door by 5:45 in order to make a 7pm screening of Inherent Vice at 53rd and 7th.  About 2.2 miles from my apartment.  I am meeting MF (as in my friend, as I'm sure she'd prefer remaining nameless), and our plan is to meet at 6:30 (in case the movie is oversold).

If I had more time, I'd walk.  Instead, I take a crosstown bus.  It's 6:15 when I get on the C train at 81st and Central Park West.  But then, the C train doesn't move.  We all sit there wondering why. Then were told there's an incident on the subway line further south. 15 minutes go by and the initial announcement of "we are being delayed" morphs into "this train ain't moving (or words to that effect)." 

So en masse we leave the subway.

I walk a block to catch a bus.  But I see none in view.  I walk about 10 blocks before finally spotting one. But it turns where it shouldn't.  "We have to detour," says the bus driver. "There's road construction ahead."  There's also gridlock. I feel like I'm in that movie After Hours where the main character is stuck in SOHO and just can't get to where he wants to be.

It takes 90 minutes to get to the theater.  I could have driven to the Hamptons in the same amount of time.  I am not happy.

By the time I arrive, the movie's been playing for 12 minutes (according to the studio rep at the door).  I have to crawl over two people to get to MF.  I whisper, "What have I missed?"  She whispers back, "I have no idea."  She means this literally.

About an hour into the movie MF (who NEVER EVER talks during films) turns to me and says, "I want to kill myself."  I suggest she leave but we are in the middle of the row, and there are two super-sized couples guarding each end.  "I think I'm having a panic attack." She later tells me she felt trapped.  Trapped watching an impossibly complicated very long film with the lead actor sporting hideous mutton chops.

And the ride home, too, was hell.  It takes MF two hours, and me, just a little bit less.  This headline helps explain why.

Apparently, the subway problems that started around six are no better after 10.

And then, as if an impossibly long unpleasant movie, unhappy friend, and dreadful transportation aren't bad enough, I exit the train station instead of transferring.  This means I have to pay again, another $2.50, to get back into the station.  

I get back to my apartment just in time for Jon Stewart, so happy to be home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I am glad I have it, but I do not like dealing with it.

It's expensive and time consuming.

Color every 4-5 weeks (when it should be 3).

Occasional highlights to make it more interesting.

Cuts every other month so it doesn't hang limply.

Products to make it shine and give it body.

And then there's the self-drying. That I hate.

I usually lose interest half way through and it shows.  

The left side of my head is easier for me to style than the right, so if I do a good job, it's only on half my head.  MY sister Valerie can't understand (nor can I, really) why I can't do a decent job blow drying my own hair.

I get a keratin treatment once a year, and love it.  But for the first four weeks or so, my hair is too flat.  And, my last one was in May, so my hair is becoming dryer, frizzier and less manageable.

Over Thanksgiving, Jean tells me about a new combination hair dryer and brush that she loves. It's called the Conair Pro Spin Air Rotating Styler.


I buy it.

It arrives a few days ago.  I always feel a little overwhelmed when I get a new product.  I don't like reading instructions and unpacking anything that is plastic-sealed.  I finally get around to it today.

I even watch a 3-minute youtube video.  

Okay, I'm ready. 

The results?  Amazing.  

In under 8 minutes, my wet hair is dry, styled and shiny. I am not sure if it would be great on short hair, but for longish hair, it's fantastic.

Okay.  Done.  No more product endorsements for awhile.  I'm beginning to sound like an infomercial.  

But I love this new thing, and on this rainy wet day, it's all I have to write about.  Unless you want to hear about my squirting laundry detergent into my toilet bowl thinking it was toilet bowl cleaner.