Monday, January 21, 2008

patriot act

I can't watch "I Love Lucy" anymore. It reminds me too much of her. The same strong will, the sheer determination. Nothing stood between Lucy and her crazy scheme. They were so much alike.

Like the time with the cookies. It was Christmastime 1990 and thanks to a Bush in the White House, we were building up to a war- Desert Shield, it was called at that time. Mom was seeing TV reports of all the troops away from home for the holiday and she wanted to do something nice for them. Somewhere she stumbled across a cookie recipe that was approved by the Marine Corps. It contained no processed sugar, instead it used fruit juice for sweetener. She baked a trial batch and declared it "not bad". She decided that instead of holiday cookies for the family, she would forego that this year and bake cookies for the troops instead.

I admit I encouraged her, I thought it was a cute little project that would give her something fun to do. I guessed she would make ten dozen, maybe twenty at the outset. It would give her something to talk about to the card club.

The cookies seemed to take a long time to bake. Every day it seemed she was mixing dough, or had a batch in the oven. Mother always thought big, I began to wonder exactly how many cookies she planned to bake. But it was her gig, I didn't interfere.

Finally the cookies were ready to ship. At that point I asked her point blank how many she had made. "Eleven Hundred" she said somewhat sheepishly. ""Eleven Hundred Cookies?" I asked. ""No" came her reply. "Eleven Hundred Dozen".

Eleven Hundred Dozen. Eleven Hundred DOZEN. She baked Thirteen Thousand Two Hundred cookies to send to the desert to feed to troops that she would never meet. She spent more than a month on the project. The Marines had to send four trucks to pick them all up. She received a Commendation from the Marine Corps Commander.

I told this story at the time to a client who chuckled and said, "Your Mother is quite a patriot". Yes, she was. And she was quite a Mom.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


According to my psychologist friend Will, the most stressful things you are likely to face in a year include a breakup, a job change, a move, and a death of a loved one.

Based on those parameters, I'm 4 for 4 last year.

Part One- Endings Planned and Spontaneous

One year ago, December 19, I quit a job that was slowly consuming my soul. I have no doubt that I made the right decision although it created economic hardship. Oh, and it was the week before Christmas. Happy Holidays.

One year ago, December 29, I broke off communication with the "straight boyfriend". He admitted, while we were at dinner following the funeral of a mutual friend, that there was now a third member of our party. I do not do well with threes.

One year ago, December 30, I went to the Blondie concert at the Key Club. This was my Christmas present from the now-ex straight boy. I elected to go anyway. Seated at the table behind me was the fabulous Dita Von Teese. who had the prior day filed for divorce from Marilyn Manson. She wore it well. We had a certain kinship that night.

Part Two- Carbon Footprint

I actually did two job changes in 2007. I took a temporary job in January as preparation for a real job that finally started in August. That part has gone well and been a lot of fun. However, it meant that I commuted from my cool mid century modern ranch house to Santa Monica for almost a year. Forty four miles round trip, in traffic that varied from tortoiselike to impassible. For the fall quarter, I was averaging ninety minutes in the morning.

No more.

I sublet a charming one bedroom in a fifties building that looks like a seaside resort, complete with floating staircases, tropical landscaping, and kidney shaped pool. My commute is now six minutes. A happy solution, but one which required careful planning. This precise little plan was of course, shattered when I got the call that Mother had passed away. An emergency trip to Michigan put everything back two weeks, and slid me into an emotional chasm. But it's therapy to keep busy, and I have had no shortage of busy.

Part Three- Big White Truck

I had been toying with the idea of a move for a few months, but I was daunted by the logistics of moving. I knew that it was impossible to move a three bedroom fully furnished house and three cars to the West Side. There just isn't that kind of room. Well, not for under a Mil. The wildfires in California this fall got me thinking. Those people, when faced with having to grab what it most important before evacuation, grabbed the family photos and the cat.

I got the idea to do more or less the same. I took the essentials- family photos and keepsakes, the coolest furniture, and the books, and left the rest. I knew I was on the right track when the moving bill was half of what it had been three years ago.

Part Four- Estate Sale

I like old things. Often better than new. I've lived in 50's furnished houses for over a decade, since a thrift store purchase of three kitchen wall sconces got me thinking about how to do a whole apartment. As a result, I have spent a lot of Saturdays at estate sales over the years. One particular seller, Cynthia, and I have always hit it off, and I make a point to visit her sales whenever possible. So I called her out of the blue and asked if it made sense to do a sale of the rest. She liked the idea and we booked a date.

She spent three days setting up the sale. The entire house was full of card tables covered with my last twenty years of accumulation. Cool bar glassware, wacky serving dishes, a passion for vintage radios and cameras, a set of color matched luggage for every classic car I've owned. Die cast cars. LP's. 8-Tracks even. Clothes. Clothes. Clothes.

And in a day, we sold it off.

Cynthia said there were 100 people in line at 9am for the sale to open. I've heard from a couple of acquaintances who were there and bought things, just checking in to make sure I wasn't dead.

Part Five- New Year's Day

I'm not dead. On this New Year's Day, I am living in a cool apartment in Santa Monica. A Westsider. I'm sure I'll develop attitude over that. My commute to work is 1.6 miles. Even driving the thirsty Disco, it will take three days to use a gallon of gas. My house isn't crowded, I have enough of me in it to feel like home, but it isn't overburdened. I can breathe here. I'm looking forward to the new year.

I wish you all much love and happiness in 2008.