If you haven’t read it in a much-forwarded e-mail yet, here’s the story of the cat who got its head caught in a garbage disposal.
In case, like me, you need a reminder of when to use “lay” and when to use “lie,” go here.
Which reminds me, here’s yet another picky, anachronistic but useful entry from Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition (1926):
Parthian shot. It seems to be a coincidence that the popular corruption parting shot, which no doubt owes its origin to the similarity of sound, has a meaning akin to that of the parent phrase. Parthian shot refers to the tactics of the Parthian mounted archers, who would discharge a volley into the enemy while moving smartly out of range of retaliation; parting shot is ordinarily used to describe a ‘last word’ fired by one of the parties to an argument at the other before breaking off the verbal engagement. Although the Parthian tactics were undoubtedly formidable, it is a MISAPPREHENSION to use Parthian shot to mean merely an attack that strikes home; the essence of it is that the attack is made at the moment of retreat.
First off I will say that I have a great dentist, I’d recommend him to anyone. I had to get a broken crown fixed, so I went to his office a little early for my 4:00 p.m. appointment and was whisked straight in to a chair before I could even take off my jacket. The assistant pinned a bib around my neck and Cooper comes in, says Howyadoin?, sits down, pulls out a drill, says Turn toward me a little, and starts drilling my tooth! No novocaine, no reassurance, no nothing. I was like, Hey! Stop it! Which is hard to do with a whirring drill inside your mouth threatening to turn your tongue into hamburger. So he stops, and looks at me patiently, and finally says, It’s a nonvital tooth, you won’t feel anything, but that light’s pretty bright, here’s a pair of sunglasses.
So I sat there wearing old scratched-up sunglasses while he broke up my old crown with what felt like a jackhammer. Every time a new chunk broke off he’d say, Don’t swallow! and he’d reach in with little forceps and fish another piece of porcelain out from under my tongue.
But he’s fast. I had a temporary tooth in no time, and an appointment for the replacement crown in two weeks (gold this time — apparently I bite too hard for porcelain). Then I spent fifteen minutes talking to Brooke, a dental assistant who had her baby the day after Jackson came. Whenever I’m swapping birth stories I always try not to get self-righteous about the fact that my labor was relatively quick (six hours) and that we did the whole thing at home, safely and quietly (well, again, relatively quietly). Brooke, on the other hand, was in labor for thirty hours and after all that had a c-section. She’s forty pounds overweight and she’s ready to do it all over again! The confidence of some women just amazes me.
It’s time once again for me to ignore the Santa Barbara Film Festival. It’s not like I have an attitude about it — like, ooh, it’s so Hollywood. No, it’s just that every year the second week of March rolls around and I think, oops, forgot to go to the film festival again. Forgot to even pick up a schedule. It’s hard to tell anything special is even going on downtown — there’s still plenty of parking and you can get a dinner reservation for Saturday night — except that every couple of blocks you see a small group of middle-aged L.A. types with laminated badges strung around their necks. (Badges for unlimited screenings cost $750.) It’s certainly not all film-school shorts and other rinky-dink stuff. Last night they were honoring Angelica Huston, and tonight Kevin Spacey is giving an award to Sean Penn — all people I’d pay to see.
Except that we’ve hired a babysitter tonight so we can go out to dinner with friends. This will be the second time we’ve gone out in eight months. Yes, I’m nervous about it.
When I was at Connecticut College I had a radio show. I was on Sunday nights from midnight to 3:00 a.m. and I had a minimalist thing going: lots of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and whatever else I could find that was trance-y back in 1985 (Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins).
The art students loved me, I’d get calls from the painting studio at two in the morning thanking me for all the little butterflies I was sending through the airwaves, it was great music to zone out and paint to. I was also used to guys from the submarine base across the river calling up and hooting at me and asking me to play Jimi Hendrix or Deep Purple. I didn’t think twice about ignoring their requests — that kind of thing just didn’t fit in with the vibe of the show.
But one night this really tired-sounding woman called the studio. It seemed like it was a real effort for her to even talk to me, and she told me how she’d just finished fourteen hours of work and come home to an empty apartment, and it would really lift her spirits if I’d play John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” I felt sorry for her, but I was also a little annoyed with her — why was she calling me? Wasn’t she listening to the show, couldn’t she tell that I wasn’t playing stuff like that? John Lennon was just not going to fit into the gestalt of my sacred three hours of airtime. So like the spoiled little weasel I was, I ignored her request.
Now every time I hear that song I cringe inside for what I did.
Other fun things that happened at the radio station:
One night I decided to devote my entire show to playing Philip Glass’s epic opera “Einstein On the Beach.” About halfway through I got a call from a guy who just started yelling into the phone, “This is shit! This is SHIT! THIS IS SHIT!” The next day at lunch I was in the dining hall of my dorm when I overheard the antisocial nervous guy from my hall at the next table telling one of his pals, “. . . So I called up and yelled into the phone, ‘This is shit! This is shit!’ It was great!” I didn’t say anything, but I smiled on the inside.
Another time I got a call from someone with a really nasal voice telling me how much he liked my show and would I play this song or that song, who kept wanting to talk while I was putting records on and it was freaking me out because I needed to concentrate on what I was doing but I didn’t know how to politely hang up. Finally he started getting frustrated because I wasn’t getting the joke — it was my friend Brian calling from Ohio.
Today is Jackson’s eight-month birthday so I thought I’d burn him a CD of his favorite sides. He seems to like Pink, parts of the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and the Beatles (especially “Across the Universe”). He’s a little lukewarm on Oasis and P.J. Harvey.
Jack has already given Jackson one of his electric basses — he lays it down on the floor and puts Jackson’s hands on the strings and lets him make random noises. They both really light up when he hits a note.
Mary J. Blige, P.J. Harvey, Bjork, Radiohead, Beck
Throwing Muses, Pixies, Jane’s Addiction, Nick Cave
Pretenders, David Bowie, Specials, Police, Clash, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Prince
Stevie Wonder, Beatles, Jackson 5, Cher, Chi-Lites, Elton John
You know, I don’t want to be a spoiled brat, but this dishes-and-laundry thing gets old some days. Today I arranged Jack’s polo shirts by color in the order of the visible spectrum.
Lance Armstrong was in town last week, riding around with Fastrack Dave. Lance comes here to train sometimes, because of Santa Barbara’s temperate climate, plus the combination of hills and flats makes for good cycling. I’ve been reading his book and sometimes it puts a lump in my throat.
Jack and his friend Dennis just went out for a ride. When Jack told Dennis that Lance Armstrong was in town, Dennis put on this real low, mean voice and said, “Tell him I’m looking for him.“
Last night it was sesame-encrusted salmon on a bed of basmati rice, surrounded by pickled red cabbage in sesame oil, and the whole thing was drizzled with bright green wasabi-sake sauce. That was good, but two nights ago he stuffed chicken breasts with feta cheese, then rolled them in egg batter and basil and fried them in olive oil, and they were incredible. He just makes this stuff up after a long day of yelling at roofers, shopping for appliances with millionaire homeowners, and hustling free t-shirts from the guys at Bob’s Backhoe & Trucking.
Jackson’s second tooth arrived Sunday to great fanfare. So far he hasn’t let me take a picture of it, though.
I was cleaning house, after a tearful episode with Jack in which he asked me point blank how I could spend so much time on the Internet surrounded by piles of newspapers and dirty clothes and cat litter and yada yada yada. It was the moment that I reluctantly confronted my status change from powerful media figure (ha ha) to ordinary stay-at-home mom, and how unimportant I felt doing housework.
Once I dried my tears and took out the garbage I realized how good I feel when the house is clean, but while I was clearing off my desk I came across a pile of query letters I’d brought home to review before I lost my job. Several people had written to pitch articles, and here were all their ideas, with SASE, waiting for a reply, some of them since October. And you know what I did with them all?
I threw them out.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about proposing stories to magazines, it’s that half the time you don’t get a response for several months, if you get one at all, and it’s the people who follow up and bug you relentlessly that get published, often simply to get them off your back.
So I’ve put my karma at stake once again, but the hard truth of it is, if these people haven’t already called or written the magazine to ask about the status of their queries, they don’t deserve to get their stories printed anyway.
The morning after Valentine’s Day I was changing Jackson’s diaper and I started having chest pains. I got into bed to nurse him and the pain didn’t go away, it just felt like the muscles around my heart were squeezing hard and wouldn’t stop.
Once I reminded myself that more women die of heart disease than of breast cancer, I started making a mental inventory — I hadn’t made a will yet; there were some things on my computer that I would have wanted to delete before I died; I’d given Jackson a healthy start; Jack would just have to find some daycare, and after he’d grieved for me he’d find someone new who would love Jackson, too.
You know, fun positive things to think about while having chest pains.
Then Jack walked in, home for a quick espresso and an English muffin before going back out to the job site, and found me sitting in bed with The Nut with tears running down my face.
Me: I’m having chest pains.
Jack: Do you want to go to the doctor?
Me: I don’t have any insurance.
Jack: Who cares? Go to the walk-in clinic.
Me: I’m scared.
Never one to panic, Jack took the baby and played with him until I stopped crying, made sure I wasn’t having shooting pains down my arm or shortness of breath, kissed me, and went back to work.
About thirty minutes later the pain subsided, and for those of you who have never had heartburn the morning after a luscious meal of sushi, sake, and Veuve Cliquot, let me tell you, it isn’t just an annoying burning sensation in the esophagus that is easily beaten back with a couple of Tums. This is why all those harried executives go to the emergency room thinking they’re having a heart attack, and then the doctor quietly sends them home an hour later with a sample pack of Tagamet and everybody else thinks, Sheesh, what a worrywart.
Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.