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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

The sweet pungence of freshly cut grass triggers a bright image of my parents’ home on Long Island.  I’m 15 again; it’s a brilliantly hot Saturday afternoon in August and the sun shines directly on our backyard.  My watch reads 2:00p – right on time; his pick-up truck pulls into the driveway.   Anticipation forces my heart to beat a little faster. 

From my second story bedroom window I watch him set up the manual lawnmower as the sun shimmers on this shirtless wonder.   I study his red crew cut which blends perfectly with his tan and deeply freckled body.  Slightly more than twice my age – he’s a genius with that simple machine, erasing any grass growing above two inches.  Like broken hearts the grass is strewn about the yard with little resistance.  And in concert with his strength, those muscles punctuate every movement – rippling in a circular and hypnotic motion as his brawny, burly arms force the machine to cut – slice – manipulate each blade of grass to his guided direction.  His dominance increases and I can hear him grunting, “Ahhh, ahhh, ahhh!”  Does he know I’m listening?  Is he calling me?

My 15 year old libido is strongly aroused now and I want him to…to…?  At 15 I was somewhat confused as to ‘how and what I wanted him to do’ infusing the images of excerpts from “Peyton Place”, “79 Park Avenue” and other books my mom had hidden in the basement.  Through all this, there is one constant – I smell Hank.

Closing my eyes for a moment I now allow his sweat-drenched arms to surround and cloak me.  The strength of his hold and the nakedness of his slightly hairy chest create a yearning below my waist.  Its unfamiliar feeling travels throughout my body all the way to my toes and fingertips.  The perfume of his moisture is intoxicating. 

A ringing phone calls out but I am too mesmerized by the Hank Show so I let the interruption play itself out.  I won’t allow any intrusion – especially because it’s time for him to move to the next level – raking.   I hold my breath as he bends and scrapes, and smile at the slight dip of his jeans below the top of his BVDs’s.  I’m almost frightened by the imagined machinery inside his pants but not enough to turn away.   With raking of the back area complete, he moves around to the front of the house.  Now I try summoning the courage to run out and offer him water.  Some days he reaches out for the glass – on others he turns me down.  Either way his white teeth flash gratitude.  And I am closer to – smelling Hank.

Eventually, as I made the transition away from home off to college, friends and relatives asked me what I’d miss most about home.  I never told anyone – I was gonna miss smelling Hank.

Wednesday morning I awoke in Glory Land.                             

My eyes opened and something felt painlessly different.  Usually I want to close my lids quickly and do the usual “oh no, another day” moan which leads to pulling the covers over my head and doing a head flop back onto my pillow.

I didn’t recognize the positive vibe at first because I’d been living in CaCa Land for over a month.  So I looked under the bed, beneath the pillow, then ventured into the bathroom for a sign.  Everything looked the same – but – something felt different…there was something glowing inside of me – it was…ME!  I was shimmering from the inside out.

After being slam-bam, no thank you ma’am by a “friend” gone rogue – I was feeling worthless, in despair, heart-broken, and ready to jump!  Life didn’t seem worth living – when you love someone, think you’re caring for and supporting him/her and then they turn around and whack you in the face with a frying pan because they’ve been building up resentments for a very long time – that hurts.  And I couldn’t let go of it.  Real friends – two I barely knew – listened quietly to my verbal tears, held me, told me they’d be there for me – before and after I repaired.

I didn’t think the pain would ever subside.  I didn’t think I deserved happiness.  I could barely write, barely show up for my life, my husband, my friends.  It’s that horrible “P” word – process.  It processed itself out of my heart, through my bowels.

I don’t expect to stay in Glory Land forever.  It’s just a break from “life as usual” giving me the opportunity to breathe freely in between the next challenge.  I wanna say “bring it on” but I’d be lying.   Glory Land is where I need to be for today – please come join me!

I’ll take a dozen.  Oops!  Not so fast.

Inspired by my avid commitment to research – I decided it was time to investigate what some used to call a “naughty store.”  I’ve been contemplating this trip for awhile, and today is the day.  But as I approach the parking lot entrance I’m re-considering this up close and personal visit based on my sloppy self (après gym).

Maybe I should go home/ shower/ shave/make-up or better yet, do the investigative study next week or month.  I’m sure 2012 will also be an orgasmic year.  On the other hand – I want to be bold, brash, audacious – a woman of substance.  Yet, maybe I’d feel more comfortable if I lost 30 pounds first. 

“To hell with confidence!”   I make a right turn into their parking lot.

Head held high – I approach and open their heavy glass door, thankfully escaping a hernia – then march inside like a storm trooper – who exudes poise, assertiveness, self-love – but still I open with a joke  “Am I going to be carded?”  The store manager smiles and asks if I need help with my shopping.   She may not be able to interpret my answer through the incessant stuttering, but instinct tells her to point to the back area of the store.

My mouth automatically drops open in surprise – but my instinct tells me to close it quickly.  The west wall area contains a massive number of pulsating, quivering, perhaps throbbing possibilities in all different shapes, sizes and – colors – so many colors.  Suffering from Erectile Dysfuntion?  Forget Cialis – you don’t even have to show up.  Just send one of these massive, girth-expanding phallic prototypes to your partner then go play a round of golf.  You’re not needed.

Talk about penis envy!  Actually I won’t.  But there’s more than Dick Tracy here – they should call the store Orifice Plus!  The only missing open tissue connection so far as I can see is the ear – and that’s probably because I’m not wearing my Contacts and my glasses are in the car.

I continue my exploration – picking up devices, putting them down – sometimes very quickly.  I check the prices and then grab my wallet.  Small store robbery?  Orgasms are expensive!   I dare you to pop your cork for under $75 and you can fancy up for $150.  The smaller, cheaper devices are perhaps better suited to whisking crumbs off your shirt than sending you on a trip to the land of Anais Nin

I’m watching folks as they just mosey around – like they were shopping in freakin’ Macy’s.  Just taking their time, no embarrassing rush necessary. These tourists are younger, obviously more relaxed and comfortable in their sexual skin. I’m loving watching couples comparing the apparatus, chatting, giggling. 

And the longer I am in the store, my rapid heart beat seems to be relaxing.  I pick up a few items and bring them over to the smiling sales lady.  Without a prompt she picks each one up, demonstrates their strong points – verbally.  She makes a strong recommendation, even though it isn’t the more expensive item.  Her name is Melissa and she is really sweet.  I’m almost totally comfortable now so I offer her my credit card with my very own name.  For research purposes of course.   I’m making a few more jokes, but not out of nervousness. 

Melissa is laughing – so I’m giving her my biz card with my blog address.  “I’m writing about this tonite kiddo!”

I boldly, confidently walk out of the store with my plain, black, nameless shopping bag at my side and head straight home to Rob.  Life is good when I allow myself to be – myself!

Looking deeply into the mirror I ask myself:  “How can I change that feeling of fear which keeps me living small?”

LINDA – Recognize where and how the fear manifests:

Sometimes it looks like me sitting on the living room couch with the remote control in my left hand and a bag of corn tortilla chips (sometimes yellow – sometimes blue) in the right.  The race is on – which hand is fastest? 

It’s a tie.  I go from CNN to CNBC at the same rate it takes to stuff 11 chips in my face.  With this kind of excitement – who needs a bigger life?  I’m totally mesmerized by the news – like the terrible snowstorm preventing holiday travelers from reaching their destinations.  I saw one couple at LaGuardia in NYC who have spent three days trying to get to their honeymoon.  Then – OMG – unplowed streets of NYC outer boroughs resulted in unnecessary deaths when EMT units couldn’t get to patients needing immediate hospitalization.  One woman was beside herself having just watched her dad succumb to a perhaps unnecessary death.  My left hand fingers drop the remote to pick up the tissues – I am now bawling.  I need more chips to soothe myself.  Shit!  The hummus is all gone – BOO HOO!  Mommy!!!  Crap, she’s dead, just when I really need her.

Quieted down now, I realize that I am living a full life – just not my own.  I am sooo totally embarrassed.  I wonder what Rob is thinking of me.  Is my behavior pushing him toward thoughts of divorce?  I’ll teach him…

Ensuing argument thwarted.

I rush into his Man Cave and am greeted with his big beautiful smile.  He doesn’t have time to judge me because he’s too busy loving me and living his own life.  In that order.

Back in the house I realize I was so engrossed in the lives of others that I never went grocery shopping today- so I’m searching for the grocery flyers for sales – they guide my food shopping.  We need something to eat besides tuna fish.  And we’re out of hummus.  Oh it’s so dark and cold out. I don’t feel like dealing with irritated, tired shoppers at Ralph’s – just because unlike me, they were out working all day.

I’ll do better tomorrow – but it’s time for Jeopardy.  Maybe I’ll record that and watch yesterday’s episode of “Days of Our Lives.” 

Tomorrow will be a day absent of fear and filled with self-love and accomplishment.

PART THREE – TOMORROW

My birthday was quickly approaching and I’d always bought myself some kind of gift.  A nice article of clothing or a modest piece of jewelry would usually be perfect but I was coming up empty.   I was unaware at this time that my IPOD had suffered a stroke and would need a replacement.    

Stopping into Bed Bath & Beyond my attention was drawn to the strangest looking menorah I’d ever seen.  Used to celebrate Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights – menorahs are generally pretty generic.  My mom always kept an electric one in the living room’s big bay window of our home  on Long Island for the eight days.  But that was a very long time ago.  Despite my desire for a more extravagant present, I deemed this as my gift, determined to celebrate the festive holiday this year. 

My husband and I don’t have a bay window here in our Westchester, CA house of only 45 days, but there are several other plain windows facing the street. We are the new neighbors.  As I was considering where I’d place the celebratory ornament tonight, a rather uncomfortable feeling came over me.  I knew there weren’t any synagogues in this new neighborhood – but I had seen several churches.  Upon mentioning the discomfort to my husband – who was born a Christian but by age 10 had completely retired from religion – he reminded me of a story I’d once shared with him:

A month before entering my junior year in high school my family moved from Queens, NY to East Meadow, Long Island.  Our immediate neighborhood was primarily Jewish – but the town was split in half with a majority of Jews or Christians living on each side. I didn’t know the 11th graders in my neighborhood were enrolled in a different school.  I was about to experience what it was like to be the minority for the first time in my life.    

Being the new kid in school was scary, but a sweet 11th grader named Connie invited me to sit with her and a bunch of her friends.   Happy to be included anywhere I immediately said “yes!” A combination of sophomores and juniors – we giggled, shared teacher/ parent/family stories as well as general girl stuff.  It was fun and I definitely looked forward to lunch. Sometime during the second week I thought I heard an anti-Jewish comment.  Surely I was mistaken.   A few weeks later I heard another – which was followed by laughter.  I was unsure how to handle this.  Gratefully, weeks went by without any prejudicial comments and then came the third remark.  Everyone laughed except me – and except Connie.  She sat stone-faced.  I sensed she knew I was Jewish but was letting me handle the situation.  Rather than deal with the discomfort and discord, I followed up on an invitation offered by some Jewish girls to join them for lunch in a different area.

Lunchtime with these girls felt immediately more comfortable.  Paranoia-free, I didn’t have to think about being “different.” However, instead of the general laughter and silliness I’d gotten used to with the other group, I noticed these girls maintained an enormous focus on everything and anything negative.  So it was okay to be a Jew – but not so great to be happy.

“The lunch room lady with the cleft palate purposely shorted me on mashed potatoes today.  What a bitch.”

“Did you see Sharon Scott standing in assembly with the ugliest dress on the face of the earth?”

“I can’t believe Cindy O’Neil stepped on my brand new loafers during chemistry and now I have a scuff.”

We were only 15 or 16; we lived in middle class “prosperity” of the early 60s – had plenty to eat, sizable roofs over our heads and clean clothes.  These particular girls had no appreciation for life and generosity. 

By the middle of the second week of “Jews only” I decided to return to the first group aka the “shiksas*” and re-engage in heavy giggling and silly conversations.   I would keep my mouth shut –  they were just making harmless comments. 

That was until the second week when one of the girls noted that the gym teacher would never pick a Jewish kid to participate in the annual sports night.  I was shocked.  Wow!  They really didn’t know about my background; I just listened.  The conversation continued pointing out the teacher’s history of anti-Semitic bias – concluding “that” was a given – no Jews allowed.  I looked toward Connie and her beautiful blue eyes were dim; her pink lips were pressed tightly, appearing very white. 

“I’m a Jew!  I’m Jewish.”  It was like a volcano of lava spewing out of my throat clearing my heart and palate.  Quiet.  No one said a word – but there appeared to be a smirk on Connie’s lips – and they had returned to their natural pink color. 

“I don’t care about Sports Night, but I didn’t know I automatically couldn’t participate.”

“Well…uh…if you want to – I’ll talk to Mrs. Jensen” streamed uncomfortably out of Carol’s mouth.”

And now, as the official Jewish sentry:  “Maybe everyone should have a talk with Mrs. Jensen and Mr. Stevens!”  (The principal)

Amidst the frenetic clanging of dishes and silverware, the table became uncomfortably quiet again.  Finally, a sophomore named Margaret turned to me:

“I’m so sorry for the insulting comments and attitude.  Thanks for putting up with the prejudice.  I’m glad you’re here.”

The silence was broken and everyone had something apologetic to add.  That was fifty years ago and I am forever grateful for the experience.  Mrs. Jensen suddenly changed her mind and included “some” Jews; and that felt so damn good. I took action that was uncomfortable and it “mattered.”  

Despite this success and others I’ve had fighting discrimination in other categories, here we are in the 21st century and I’m afraid to display a religious reference to my heritage.  What’s this Jew to do?

One of LA’s major contributions to 20th & 21st century American culture is ROAD RAGE.  I caught this behavioral disease when I first moved out here – fortunately after some intensive 12 Step work – my RR has been diminished by 70%.  .

However, PARKING RAGE – is definitely indigenous to NYC with the fewest parking spaces per capita.  I’ve seen a lifetime of fisticuffs resulting from stolen spaces – including both parallel and side-by-side.

“Hey mothuhfuckuh I was waiting for that spot!  I was here first!”

“What’d you say about my mothuh?”  No I was here – you just didn’t see me, shithead!  You wanna do something about it?”

Growing up – I remember anyone who attempted to steal a parking space from my dad –  usually walked or drove away with their jaws in two or more pieces.  But my Dad’s fists will be another blog entirely.    

So it’s not surprising that when walking into Costco on Monday – loud screams and honking horns from the parking lot grabbed my immediate attention.   A rather large gray-haired/bearded gentleman emerged from his auto barely blinking at the man who was honking and screaming at him.  The unparked man’s frustration blind-sided his ego as he spurted out every curse word known to man and gang members.

Knowing the parking man’s ethic I wanted to jump right in and blast the bearded violator.  He breached  the rules of common decency – I wanted to leap on my soapbox  and do with my mouth what my dad did with his fist.  I wore out plenty of shoe leather marching in the sixties for civil rights – especially after Martin Luther King was assassinated; I rode on the peace train from NYC to Washington protesting the war in VN – and was tear gassed in front of the Hall of Justice petitioning for the release of Bobby Seale – uhm or was it Huey Newton?  Hey – I was in my early twenties and everything pissed me off.

That was forty years and a lifetime ago.  The parking mishap ended and I was left with all these “entitlement” feelings.  So I bought myself a hotdog – pulled out my ID card and marched into Costco more focused on getting one of their roasted chickens.   

THE END

My first recollection of animals becoming human was in the 1990s…okay so I don’t evolve easily.  But I would have put a knife to your jugular before letting  you lay a hand on our collie…Lady…who was more human than many swell folks I’ve encountered…and sort of…Mom’s soul mate. 

We also harbored …fed and cleaned cages for three successive parakeets… Chipper…Chipper 2…then Chipper 3 who only lasted a short time…I’ll discuss the baby alligator another time.

So why the hell am I telling you this crap about animals…okay I’m setting up a disclaimer for my Mom …building a case for “Don’t judge me because I inadvertently mutilated animals…”

Living comfortably on Long Island in the 60s…70s…frankly anytime…often necessitated  certain symbols of status…Mom…had grown up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side…an immigrant’s haven…was the sixth of eight children and the first born in the U.S…making her very conscious of how others viewed her.  Come on…you took Sociology 101…many of her girlfriends were already sporting fur coats and Mom wanted one too! 

But good old Dad said “NO!”  He couldn’t get down with the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a coat.  “You’re cold?  Wear two coats at $20 each!”  Dad was a pragmatist and also cheap.  Knowing Mom…she did everything she could…and I don’t want to go there…but nothing worked. 

One night Dad, li’l brother Mitch and I were sitting around the kitchen table waiting for Mom to serve the usual steak…baked potato…canned string beans …when we heard her humming…then watched her strutting down the seven obligatory split level steps…singing her own rendition of a Patti Page standard…“How Much Is That Minky In The Window”…The one with the smooth dark brown furrrrrr…?” She wore an old coat cut up…with seven or eight patches of varied materials sewn all over…making her look tattered and wan…still don’t know what that means…which led to a huge Lichtman family belly laugh!  Dad chuckled the loudest but quickly sat down so Mom could serve him dinner…his humor could only go so far…don’t mess with his growling stomach…

Two weeks later on a Friday evening about 10:30…Mitch and I heard the automatic garage door opening…we were in the den watching TV so we hauled ass and did a quick clean up of a pizza box…dirty napkins…ice cream wrappers…empty soda cans…but were then interrupted…when…

Mom sashayed into the house wearing a smile longer than the Seine… and around her shoulders was a brand new dark brownish/black ankle length fur coat…her glow accompanied the announcement that she’d designed the coat two weeks before. 

Mom told us it was made with female mink pelts which were superior to male pelts…some things never change… and here’s the statement of contrition…none of us knew at that time…approximately 60 female minks were needed…and Mom was slim… to keep our mother warm and fashionable through many winters to come.  She loved her coat…but loved something else more…golf…and you don’t need a mink coat to play golf

So…in 1976…they moved to Hollywood, Florida…I inherited the coat which I sported winters while riding my blue bicycle throughout Manhattan.  Again…before animals were human…I am apologizing to PETA and Sue Nadell* for the whole Lichtman family.

*Devout PETA member and loving friend…

**Excerpt from “How I Buried My Mom While Attached To Her Umbilical Cord”

So I crapped out on another audition today!  Why is it I save my funniness for after the audition?  At first I suspected my funny bone has carpal tunnel!!  Surgery…I need funny bone surgery….

Doctah!!!!  Oh shut up, silly girl!  Let’s investigate what went wrong today…

I was auditioning for a commercial…the product was a Japanese energy bar only shown in Japan…no complaints…I wouldn’t care if it was only shown on the moon…I just wanna hear…”You’ve booked the job!”

So…it was my turn…the casting assistant told me to go into the room…the auditioning room where the cameraman directs you one one one…however in this case…it was the place where all the Japanese product execs and the director happened to be snorting up their just delivered lunches…ohhh…the delicious Italian aroma!  I was hungry too!     

Focus!  I’m now an Italian maid holding a tray of breakfast food…offering it up to my 20 something rich, playboy employer who refuses to get out of bed so dismisses me and the food…When he turns down the meal I’m supposed to go bananas…that’s bananas like in let go…get crazy…let the anger flow…A FREAKIN’ DREAM COME TRUE!  I was Anna Magnani with an apron…all right…and a pot belly…

They liked what I did…they asked me to do it again…but bigger…meaning I could get crazier…angrier…pissier…all that I am…that I hold back because I think I might hurt someone… I was given freakin’ permission to be the wolf…to huff and to puff and to blow the house down…

But I was toooo clever…frozen by the promise of freedom…I blew…but nothing came out…I huffed and I puffed but couldn’t blow down a feather…”Thank you!”  That means audition over…

Hopefully…a lesson learned!!!!

Fashion is not my friend.  I’ve never understood it…it’s never been important to me…maybe because my visuals are weak…I express myself with words and mental images…

Then why is “Project Runway” a permanent setting on my DVR?   The designs I most applaud are rarely the winners…but then again…not necessarily the week’s loser…my decisions are usually based on how likable the contestant is.

I love the frenzy of the contestants trying to put their sketches into execution…it always has the feeling of opening night in a theatre or club…I like when Tim Gunn stops by to assess and assist before they finish construction.  I actually like when someone is on the right path and he supports their ideas…and feel particularly bad for the designs that push his eyebrows above his glasses…but he’s giving them  some more time to straighten out.

After the designs are completed…I get excited the moment the models come prancing out on to the runway selling their fabric inventions…and love the expressions on the judges faces as they are evaluating and writing…never knowing …”Do they like it?  Are they using the responses to that particular design or was it “video-shopped?”  Then…OMG…next comes the judges’ verbal reactions … ”stunning…original…out of the box…fashion forward…I’d wear that dress in a minute…”  And then…”that was a mess…you made your model look thirty years older…the design had no imagination…that skirt should be flushed down the toilet…okay I made that last one up!”

During the evaluation…I sit glued to the TV chair in the bedroom…squeezing its arms in terror…translation here is that each model is wearing one of my stories….monologues…blogs or plays… I am them…they are me.  When they are battered…I am shamed…when they are praised…I walk proud…

Art…creation…design…represents the core of each individual…some are better than others.  The loser walks away holding up their tear-stained chins as they wave goodbye and for a second I leave with them…but then turn around because I always get to come back the following week.  Success/ Rejection…Life!!!

Have the same haircutting person for years?   Lucky!   I can barely get through completion of one haircut without imploding.  Insisting theyknow exactly what I need…then proceeding to give me what they want.

Remedy? A referral from someone with a fabulous haircut…she told me to open my wallet wide and head to the best hairdresser in all the land.  Or maybe the fourteenth best.

Wheee!  I was on my way to Beverly Hills…happy as a girl swimming in chocolate syrup…upbeat…ready for perfection and a $200 haircut.  The most I’d ever paid before was $55…maybe that was the problem.

Right across from the star-studded restaurant, The Ivy, on Robertson, and just behind the popular NewsRoom eatery…I found the shop.  Within seconds I as in a fine haircutting smock and led straight to “the chair.”  The excitement building stopped short as soon as I saw HIM walking toward me…my stomach flip-flopped.  He didn’t exude a great vibe.  He reeked of “I am in charge…I’m da MAN!…listen to me cut!”

As usual I explained:  “Something simple…low maintenance…no daily blow-out…these are my hair issues…”  He nods, picks up his cutlery and begins snipping.  Just having a stranger cutting away is stressful enough…but this jerk also had an insatiable appetite for hearing the sound of his never ending, aggressive, former Israeli army, over-confident, voice.  I’m thinking…OCD…this man cannot stop his lips from moving and his voice box from spewing opinions about the “not-happening ever” peace in the Middle East.  My fault…I asked one teeny tiny question about his experience in the army.  Sorry…so sorry! 

For forty-five minutes he cut, blew out my hair and continued barking.  Upon completion of his aggression and for the next three minutes…I looked something like Jennifer Aniston…above the neck and behind the face.   I quickly offered up my credit card  as the key to my departure from his ongoing personal PA system…then ran to my car in fear he was still behind me yelping…and drove safely home. 

My husband complimented my new look…which is precisely the same look on every starlet, news anchor and single woman in Hollywood…ladies who surrender ten to thirty minutes daily wrestling with their blow dryers.  My arms are too short…it hurts. 

I went to my bathroom mirror and queried…“Mirror…Mirror on the wall…who will hook me up with gall?”  I then asked for guidance by the “hair goddess” lifted up my scissors and like Johnny Depp with his scissored fingers…snip, snip, snipped. 

Today…I’m happy and snappy…I will pay myself $50 and shop for some new nefarious underwear item…I’m PERFECT!


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