The Birthday Bailout November 25, 2009
Last week myself and another set of parents co-hosted our sons’ 2nd grade birthday party . It was an ordeal. To say the least. The hoopla was originally scheduled to happen at a local museum but due to logistics, the venue tanked. So the other parents and I scrambled at the last minute to find a back up: the local bowling alley.
As the date approached, my son fell ill with fever as did his co-host. We held off, hoping for health and instead, three hours pre-celebration we postponed. Thank goodness for SMS, email and cellphone technology. It all makes last minute change tenable.
We re-grouped and re-scheduled for the following week and luck was to be on our side: The celebration happened as planned. But not without incident.
Let’s just say that when you invite 35 kids – thirty-bleedin’-five – there’s bound to be a “hiccup” or two.
And so, the post-party day after was devoted to ME-chill out-time. I needed it. To regain my voice – lost as I attempted to out-shout the background music (score! on Lady Gaga), video arcade din and general bedlam. I also needed to relax after the tension of all that last minute hiccup stuff.
While chilling at home, I emailed my dear friend Keith with a party re-cap. I had to share it with someone. His reply: “I laughed out loud. Then I read it again and laughed again!” – prompted me to share it here.
It’s post-birthday party chill day. My friend D just showed up impromptu and we went to a French brasserie for coffee/food together. I also briefly met with a graphic designer for a project. Otherwise, NADA else on the schedule.
The party was slightly hectic – 35 kids. And honey, let’s just say these littl’uns DID NOT grow up playing in the local league. They was throwin’ the ball backwards into the spectator area, bouncing it from lane to lane, rollin’ it down the center panel between lanes. . .EVERYTHANG!
I was certain someone would get killed or lose a foot.
And of course, the “active” kids are the ones whose parents dropped them curbside and screeched away out of sight, leaving only tread marks in their stead. Bless their little hyped up souls. I went hoarse coaxing them NOT to throw balls the wrong way, drop balls on other kids’ toes, roll balls down the lane while the machine was wracking or take them to the toilet á la “this is mine!”…It was a job.
And let’s not forget the crying: One inconsolable who arrived as dinner was starting and missed the gaming, another who sobbed that his lane-mates were robbing him of his turn and another who DID NOT want to bowl – he had come for the video arcade!
But it was fun and my son had a really good time as did the other kids. And he got tons of gifts. And truth be known, it was the easiest party I’ve ever put on in terms of personal involvement. I merely had to buy party favors, email invites and shell out $$. Not too tough.
But, as the co-host-mom said the on the phone when she rang to check in: ‘It’s sort of like the Last Supper. Good thing it happened because it was the last time.’
I would have to vote an ‘Amen, sister!’ to that. Less is more & mass invite parties are passé. Even if it was my first.
Cake Catastrophes November 17, 2009
My soon-to-be 8-year-old put in a special request last week for his impending birthday party:
“Please Mom. Can someone else make the cake? Or can we buy it? Please? You’re..uh…it’s just…You’re not good at cakes.”
He was being incredibly diplomatic and I had to laugh at the request. And then I reflected.
I’ve become a Cake Wrecks.com Candidate. Lord have mercy.
I used to bake killer apple cinnamon crumble. Heavenly bittersweet chocolate, brownie and mint liqueur squares. To-die-for créme brûlée .
But everything seemed to slide southward when I started baking party cakes circa my son’s arrival into the world.
The first failing was for fête #1. To the naive, the chocolate-iced buttermilk cake appeared okay. But glancing around the living room of my San Francisco apartment, I noticed the guests toying with it. Sliding it around on their plates but not really putting it in their mouths. I sampled it myself and my cheeks went flaming red.
Quickly dashing down the hallway and into the kitchen where my dear friend Jo, rest her soul, was pouring herself a glass of wine, I moaned: “The cake’s terrible! Nobody’s eating it. It’s awful!”
Jo burst into boisterous laughter and advised: “Go back in there and let everybody off the hook! Tell them they don’t have to eat it!”
Which I did, much to the relief of the dozen or so invitees who let out a collective sigh and promptly set down their plates of untouched, inedible brick.
I had added too much of je ne sais quois and the cake was wrong. Simply wrong.
The next cake wreck was in honor of my son’s 5th birthday, served to his kindergarten class.
At the time, he was way into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And because the Turtles eat pizza to rev them up, I figured it would be brilliant to make “pizza cakes” for the class.
Starting out by baking two thin, round white cake “pizzas”, I topped them with red tinted icing a la “tomato sauce” and grated white chocolate i.e. “mozzarella cheese”. Next, scattered Cherry Twizzler bites served as “sausage” and bananas were …uh…bananas.
To complete the concept, I picked up Dominos pizza boxes to serve them in.
On the day of the party, I presented the “pizzas” to the teachers who delighted over the concept. The kids, however, were dull and disappointed.
“Nobody ate it. It was plechs,” my son later reported. “I threw up when I tried it.”
YOU DID NOT! I protested.
But he swore he had been sick and assured me several of his comrades had been ill too. To this day he stands by the story.
So no, I won’t bake any cakes this year.
But I want to know: What happened? How on earth does a person go from créme brûlée to plechs?
GI Jane October 21, 2009
I have posted here a few times about Ruth from the dog park.
She’s someone I love running into because at 80-something, Ruth makes up in pep for what she has lost in mobility. Bright red lipstick, carrot-colored choppy hair, manicured nails and a cane for support, she’s got that naughty glint in her eye that says: “I know how to work it and I will if need be.”
Last week when we met at the dog run, Ruth shared that she had fallen in the crosswalk earlier in the day while out with her dog Jessie.
Oh my God! I reacted.
Yeah, came her casual reply. I was like Jesus on the cross. Spread out all over the place.
Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?
Me? she countered wide eyed, gesturing toward herself. No no. I know how to fall. I took a parachuting course years ago.
All of a sudden I felt a pang.
Ruth parachuting! Wow.
And I sort of had to squint in my mind’s eye to past-blast beyond the moment and conjure a younger Ruth bodysurfing on the wind.
Of course Ruth has a past. But I had never contemplated it. And being confronted with it in such a lively manner sparked within me a combination of awe and sadness.
But in facing the image of a younger Ruth, I was facing myself.
THIS is why I like her, I epiphanied.
I Scuba dive and windsurf. I was thrown from a horse into a Mercedes years ago on a wild, midnight ride at Giza’s pyramids. I’ve done my fair share of conning and as for amorous relationships with men. . .I’ll save that for another posting.
Ruth, I realized, reminds me of me.
With luck, I’ll be like her when I get where she is.
Living In Sin September 23, 2009
I recently blogged about a woman I frequently see at the dog park who had a near death experience. In my post, I described her as an older woman who sports a baseball cap over her kicky orange hair.
Today I saw her at the park again and she was sans baseball cap. But her short, carrot colored hair was Working It and she had on bright red lipstick, black frame glasses, her eyes were accented with blue liner and overall, she was looking pretty darned smokin’.
“He’s trying to get your attention, you know,” I whispered to her, nodding in the direction of a 70-something-year-old gentleman who was staring intently at her from his perch on the fountain stone wall. “He always tries to talk to you.”
“Who, him? Really?” Ruth was genuinely surprised and flattered. Her name is Ruth. I asked her. I nodded yes. “He’s staring at you.”
“Ah...” she waved the notion away with her hand. “I already have a boyfriend. He’s ten years younger than me but I’m younger than HIM in spirit.”
I laughed aloud.
She smiled with a faint hint of naughty behind the glimmer in her eyes. “We’ve been together fifty years. We don’t live together, though. That’s what keeps us together. Put us in the same house together and the relationship would be over in a week.”
More laughter – raw and boisterous – from me.
“I’m not looking for more boyfriends. I’ve got enough.”
I like this Ruth. Kicky personality matches her kicky orange hair.
Going Global August 16, 2009
A few years ago when I was living in San Francisco, I shared an ongoing dilemma with an Israeli friend:
“I feel torn between being here and living in Israel,” I told her. “I don’t know where I should be.”
“Why do you have to decide?” she posed. “Of course you choose a main locale for residence but as far as I’m concerned, the more comfortable you become inside your own skin the more comfortable you become wherever you are once you’ve lived in different places. And that’s a great place to be. You become a citizen of the world and you can find happiness wherever you go.”
At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around that concept. I felt I should make a decision and declare my loyalty on some level to one place or the other. No in-between nonsense would do. And the concept of “global citizen” or feeling a sort of neutral happiness wherever I might be was way beyond my comprehension.
But, by jobe, I believe I finally got it.
For numerous reasons I won’t go into here & now, I returned to Israel four years ago after a decade hiatus in San Fran. Since returning, however, each summer I travel with my son to Cincinnati so he (and I) can maintain ties with my family & he can retain his command of the English language and gain exposure to American culture.
My parents and two of my sibs live in “Nati” & it’s where I grew up. But when I left there after college – which included a 2-year overseas stint at Tel Aviv University – I vowed never to return. Bloody god forsaken conservative place that indicted its own Contemporary Arts Center for running the Mappelthorpe Exhibit (!) was how I viewed matters. Not for me. Gateway to the North, indeed. There would be no containing me THERE, thanks. I longed for the enchanted promise of Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go.
But here I am, years later, turned completely around & feeling the warm glow of “global.”
This summer my son and I spent time in Cincinnati, took a side trip out to San Francisco and now we’re back in Tel Aviv. And I can honestly say that in each place I found home. Home in cultural events that included Opera and a World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, the MOMA in San Fran and upon returning to Tel Aviv, a visit to my local gallery to check out the latest exhibit.
I found home in culinary delights in Cincinnati’s trend spots: Bootsy’s for tapas, Teller’s for rasberry vinaigrette over greens and goat cheese, my mom’s for home-cooked Indonesian chicken and a dear friend’s for backyard grilled Talapia wrapped in lettuce leaves.
I relaxed back into San Francisco food comfort with frighteningly potent margaritas served up at Puerto Alegre & generous, steaming bowls of traditional Vietnamese Pho. And upon returning to Holy Land Central (aka Israel) I hit the supermarket on a Friday at 2 p.m. – total cold-water immersion into THIS local food culture.
Home, everywhere, is about the people. I spent neery an idle moment in Cincy thanks to FB and reconnecting with old friends and loved ones who indulged me with tennis, poolside lounging, movie outings, dinners, drinks and loads of engaging conversation. Being back “Home” was an absolute treat and there are, by gosh and golly, wide swaths of WILD in Cincy.
In San Fran, I reconnected with my other sib and visited with friends and local merchants I hadn’t seen in years. Particularly pleasant was sharing a vacation apartment in the city with friends who had flown in from Australia, Manhattan, Berlin and Serbia to be together. My son benefitted from reconnecting with children from his infant and toddler days.
Back in Tel Aviv less than a week, we’ve received separate invites to go snorkeling, camping, to overnight in the country and spend a weekend at a “mango tree resort”. I am absolutely blessed. No doubt about it.
I ran into that old Israeli friend last year. She’s back in Tel Aviv and super busy with two young children and studies. But she still has that positive outlook and cheerful disposition. And she still maintains her status as a global citizen.
I believe I’ve joined her ranks. Fine by me because feeling at home wherever I might be is a wonderful place to be. But it’s also painful. Leaving loved ones and engaging aspects of each culture behind isn’t easy. But I’ll take it. Because “living globally” far outweighs the absurd compulsion of having to declare loyalty or choose.
Art’s Passion August 8, 2009
For a long time I thought my overwhelming “museum feelings” were linked to certain sites or specific pieces of art.
The type of feelings that envelop with totality and without warning when viewing works of art.
Perhaps the love affair with art began when I was in high school; I chose French Renaissance Art as my subject for a term paper which meant spending weekends – quite willingly – in Cincinnati’s Art Museum Library conducting research. My instinct, however, sez it started years before.
Nonetheless, I find that whenever I frequent museums or art happenings – Burning Man included – there’s usually a painting, sculpture, fixture or installation that renders me “struck”. I get a lump in my throat and my vision goes blurry.
Yesterday’s SFMOMA visit was no exception; I was struck several times by vastly different exhibits.
Initially touring the permanent exhibits, I was quite surprised by Paul Klee early works described as “monstrous figures.” I love Klee’s sweeping grandness and color but I was taken aback by this dark, detailed material.
The day, however, belonged to cutting edge fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon, whose career spanned 50+ years.
Avedon’s 1950’s-1960’s photos of Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot and Katharine Hepburn oozed natural beauty and starlet material. But his image of Marilyn Monroe seemed to capture the icon’s mix of blazing sex symbol & confused nymph that would be her legacy. THAT image presented an emotional moment for me.
Equally moving were Avedon’s images of Louis Armstrong, Igor Stravinsky, Nureyev’ “En Pointe” and Merce Cunningham who died two weeks ago. His politicians spanned decades and worlds removed from Kissinger to Carter to Obama as Senator.
Equally moving was the series of photographs documenting his father’s losing battle to cancer and the commissioned body of “In The American West” works portraying faces of middle America. What a career span and what an incredible talent.
The MOMA also featured works by Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams which presented yet another revelation. Georgia didn’t do it for me. She used to but not anymore. That’s just the way it goes, I guess. But the Ansel Adams works spurred awe and yet another throat lump over his Sand Dunes gelatin silver print.
After touring, I sat on the museum rooftop in the sun beside the large installations basking in the afterglow of appreciation.
Museums are magical places; I am oh-so-lucky to have the mobility, eyesight and wherewithal to visit them.
Deserving the Good Life July 19, 2009
As we traipsed to the swimming pool this afternoon, towels draped over our shoulders, my 7-year-old initiated a wee heart-to-heart.
Mom, if someone wanted to buy you, I think you would be worth 20 million, one thousand ninety eight dollars
Ah really? And if someone decided to do that, who would the money go to? I mean, who would get the 20 million one thousand and ninety eight?
You would. Definitely. Because you don’t have that much longer to live. I mean, you’re not young. So you should keep having a good life.
Suleiman the Coffee Guy July 12, 2009
A few weeks ago while shopping in Tel Aviv’s Carmel open-air market I ducked into a side street tchochkes shop to buy a glass carafe. Mine had accidentally banged against the marble counter top at home and cracked into pieces.
It was midday and the outside heat and humidity were starting to bear down. The narrow shop, divided by a sales rack crammed with a range of home appliance and accessory items, was cooled only by a high-powered standing fan. Cluttering the shelves, a range of inexpensive items vied for space. There were glass tea pots, no-frill wine glasses, cheap dishes sets, Turkish coffee Finjans, pots and pans, stainless steel plated silverware, dime store variety candles, laundry clips, waste baskets…Garden variety tchochkes.
As I scouted a glass carafe, I bantered with the shop owner, a tanned and fit 70-something year old man with silver hair, Coke-bottle glasses, thick lips and wearing a maroon and white Hawaiian shirt. We joked a bit about the heat, I commented about his store’s cramped quarters and, hearing my accent, he asked where I was from.
Then, while ringing my sale, he gingerly queried: “If I make you Turkish coffee, will you sit and drink with me?”
My knee jerk response was to beg off with a “have to run” excuse.
But during the split seconds of contemplation I came up with: “I have time. Why not? What’s the harm? Why not have AN EXPERIENCE?”
So I pulled up a wooden stool and seated myself behind the counter as he went to the back room to boil water. A few minutes later he returned with two demitasse cupfuls of black sludge and sat down beside me on his stool.
He introduced himself as Suleiman (Soo-lee-mohn) and told me he was from Iraq. In Hebrew, his name is Solomon. He asked my name. “What?” he repeated several times, scratching his cheek and furrowing his brow. He then shook his head and announced: “No. It won’t work. I’m calling you ‘Hellwa.'”
I laughed but didn’t protest. Hellwa means “Beautiful” in Arabic.
Suleiman told me about himself. He lives in a Tel Aviv suburb, has owned his shop for 40 years and is married. The marriage was not good, he shared, but admitted he was loathe to walk out at his age and after so many years spent with the same woman. “Sometimes it’s just easier to stay together,” he sighed.
His malcontent came as no surprise. Because unless he’s a connoisseur of new people, I somehow doubt he’d otherwise be inviting a younger woman in for coffee and re-dubbing her “Hellwa“.
But he wasn’t bitter. He was funny and his attitude was upbeat. So when he jovially started on the a man is a man, AFTER ALL, and has needs – needs his wife was apparently uninterested in meeting – I didn’t get the usual surge of: “Oh god, here it comes. THIS is going to be uncomfortable to deflect.”
Suleiman was a coffee-pal/buddy sort of guy. He told me about his girlfriend, a good girl he sees several times a week who he “doesn’t have to pay” and who is content with their arrangement.
And he asked about my situation and listened to my history in brief before serving up, as people tend to do in this part of the world, advice. Suleiman told me what type of man I should find, what type of man I should avoid and estimated the time it should take for me to “settle down and be taken care of”.
When one of his regulars, a stout 50-ish Russian woman looking for 2 medium sized drinking goblets, dickered with him on price, he rolled his eyes and elbowed me with a grin. “Okay okay,” he conceded. “You’re going to put me out of business but I’ll give you your price.”
I sat a while longer and sipped my coffee as Suleiman tended to other customers. When the cup contents were down to dregs alone, I stretched and stood to go.
“Come visit me again,” Suleiman winked and smiled before planting a peck on my cheek.
“I will,” I promised, meaning it.
It had been AN EXPERIENCE. And I don’t mind going back for seconds.