Friday, December 28, 2012

Let's Go To The Movies!

It's Oscar Season and it's cold, which means you can now find me in the movies. Saw Django Unchained and Les Mis...wrote about them here at my film blog which I've had a couple years (skipriporplay.com)! You can also check out some more reviews by co-blogger daleboca who is much better at writing sophisticated film reviews than me. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Grey Skies in the Morn'...

...California girls be warned. So it finally hit, the blues. This morning as I caught myself talking to myself, a made-up chewing out of one colleague or the next, I finally noticed the grey palette of dreariness painting the skyline, the streets, the buildings. I went to college in New York and I have now lived here for almost five years and still the cold knocks me on my ass every time. It's like I still haven't found how to dress warmly enough. But the truth is, I will never know, because nothing makes me more nauseous than being over-dressed in the subway, sweating profusely as I try to unwrap my wool scarf and unzip my down jacket so I don't throw up on the person next to me. I would rather be cold outside that hot and nauseous on the subway. Therein lies the rub.

But beyond the weather, those old familiar bouts of fear have been creeping up and last night they got the best of me. I keep fighting the good fight. I blog and I read. But something keeps me from sitting down in a chair at night and writing the good stuff and any writer knows what I'm talking about - the toe-curling, knuckle biting, tough stuff that you don't want to write about. It was only weeks ago that I wrote about  Resistance: The Enemy Within. And last night, it won as I found myself throwing one hell of a pity party. I have learned this one thing, everything sounds more dramatic when you throw in your age if you are over the age of 30. Does this mean it is more dramatic? No. It just really gives it that "No Hope" punch.

But, alas, it's a new day, albeit a shitty one and my hands are raw from the cold, my lips chapped. I am back at work, in front of a computer, still trying to fight the good fight. Someone once told me you can start your day over at any time. Here we go, 10:30 in the morning. It's just you and me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How to Apologize to a Stranger


Yesterday, Mike and I decided to have our own Christmas and start new traditions with our own two-person family. We decided on heading into the city to see Tarantino's new flick DJANGO UNCHAINED. (Which was awesome). As we walked to the movie theater after a slow subway ride, Mike picked up the pace which I rebelled against with, "It's not going to be sold out." To my surprise, it was very much sold out. So we bought tickets for the next showing two and half hours later and got a bite to eat. We decided to get there early and arrived at 3 for a 3:30 showing and there was a line down the block. Did I mention it was FREEZING outside? The woman waiting in line in front of us was berating her teenage son for no apparent reason. People were antsy. People were cranky.

When we finally got inside, there were no seats together. However, I asked two gentleman if they wouldn't mind scooting down and Mike and I got two seats in the center row. SCORE! Now it was time for popcorn. I braved the loooonnng popcorn line when an usher decide to split it in two and a young woman probably my age jumped ahead (from behind me) to the second line. My crankiness, my numb toes, my anxiety over not wanting to miss one minute of the movie, this movie that was now taking up the better part of Christmas,  all exploded when the girl asked, "Is this the second line?" I rudely barked, "We're ALL in line" as if to warn her that if she dared tried skipping, cutting or any form of cheating me, my wrath would rain down upon her. She whimpered, "But he said there were two lines." She then let me cut in front of her, since I had clearly been in front of her in the long single line and said, "Go ahead."

As I waited in the second line, I felt bad. This is new for me. For years I have justifiably touted off my attitude when I felt I was being wronged. I used my bitchiness or older-sister-intimidation-tactics to bully myself into what I felt I deserved. But now, it doesn't feel good. And what the hell is the difference if she gets her popcorn before me? What if in that extra two minutes of waiting I decided I didn't want popcorn and wanted to save myself the 2000 buttery calories? And for crying out loud, it was Christmas!! I was being a real-life scrooge.

I wanted to say I was sorry, but I was afraid I would be embarrassed. Surely the people who kind of got a kick out of me being snarky to the line-cutter would be let down. Besides, I was right...right? The closer I got to the counter with that line-cutter behind me, the more I realized that it was not about anyone else but me. If my apology was not accepted, at least I made it. If I was then teased, maybe I deserved it. But it didn't feel good to be such a bitch on Christmas. Just before I got to the counter I quickly turned to her as she quickly looked down at her phone.

"Sorry I was rude," I said and genuinely, not all tough.

"I just didn't understand," she said.

"I'm Christmas cranky...and I've been waiting in all these lines..."

"Yeah, that's Christmas. We all have." she said with a smile.

"Yeah, you're right. I should just go with the flow...Sorry."

"No, it's fine," she said.

I stepped up to the counter and ordered my buttery popcorn with peace. And then the most amazing thing happened. By the time I got to my seat, I had forgotten about it all. When Mike asked if there had been a long line, I said, "Yeah...oh and then I got in a fight...and then I apologized." He laughed as we licked the salt off of our fingers. If I had not apologized, I'm sure that whole incident would have nagged at me. My anger would grow like a well-watered weed and I would find every reason to justify how I was right in putting that line-cutter in her place. But in truth, I was just rude and I looked more the asshole than she.

I've never done that before. Apologized to a stranger. But it's a lot easier than it seems.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Little Brother Was Here

When Mike and I first started dating, I didn't care too much for Christmas. For me, the holiday season brought with it a slow nagging wave of depression. One that no matter how well I was doing, seemed to leak out from my bones. Every Christmas was an unearthing of Christmases past and the feelings of loss and absence and anger were just as familiar as the crappy carols that came on the radio. The only thing that ever brought me joy around Christmas was watching Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation and the couple of hours we spent Christmas Eve at one one of my aunt's houses. I usually woke up Christmas Day with a pit in my stomach wondering if the phone would ring, nauseous if it did ring, angry if it didn't. While Christmas Eve was filled with cousins and laughter and one of my uncles or even my father dressing up as Santa and making each nephew & niece sit on their laps and say what they want for Christmas and if they had been naughty or nice that year, Christmas Day was just the three of us - me, my brother and my Dad and our dog, Max who frequently knocked Christmas ornaments to the ground which usually meant glass in someone's feet at some point.

After enough awkward Christmas mornings, my Dad started his own traditions with us. Occasionally we went to my Uncle John's, but mostly I remember having breakfast at a Jewish deli, usually Solly's on Van Nuys, followed by whatever Spielberg movie just opened Christmas morning. If we didn't go to John's, we ended up back at our house around 3p.m. and Christmas Day was over, which for my brother and I, was usually just fine by us.

In 2007, I decided to fly to New Jersey to spend Christmas Eve with my new boyfriend and then fly to Colorado for Christmas Day with friends while he was vacationing in Puerto Rico with family. Without knowing it, this trip changed everything about holidays for me. For one, it was kind of nice to be with Mike, who was and still is, Mr. Christmas, not to mention his family who are big on gifts and big on food. Every Christmas I have spent with Mike's family I have come to the dinner table full because I overdid it on appetizers. But that 2007 trip also meant trading off holidays. In 2008, he came home with me to California and we had Christmas Eve at Aunt Rose's and Christmas Day at John's where he cooked Alaskan King Crab and three different kinds of birds.

In 2009, we were back in Jersey and in 2010, the first Christmas with my mom in 18 years. Last year, we were cozy in Jersey once again but my brother came out with his girlfriend a couple days before and then we parted ways so they could be with his girlfriend's brother in Philly for Christmas. This year, we should be in California, but Mike couldn't get the time off of work and after getting married, it's hard to muster any motivation to do anything when peace and quiet is so welcomed after all of that planning. But my brother and his girlfriend came to town again but for a much longer visit and I realized that us two kids have kind of started our own tradition. That despite our years of difficult Christmases, we have gravitated toward each other once again for this holiday. My brother brings with him the care-free attitude of California I never really had and all of the loving traits that remind me of my father - candy, fart jokes, stories about trials and errors with electricity. His girlfriend, Lauren, brings with her the animation of a Lucille Ball type of woman only with brunette hair she is considering dying red and a heart three times the size of anyone I ever met. This year, we all went to Ann Hamilton's Event Of A Thread, a multi-media art installation that invites the viewer to swing on swings attached to a common piece of silk hang in in the middle of the Park Ave Armory.
As people swing, the chains tug on the fabric, giving the fabric an ethereal continuous flow reminding us all just how connected we are, but also allowing viewers the space to be free, the reminder of childhood - the good parts. I got to push Shaun and Lauren on a swing, a cathartic feeling or perhaps a release of some guilt for being such a tough bitch of a sister when we were teenagers. In turn, Shaun pushed me and Mike and for a while, we were cruising to the point where a little shriek of fear escaped my lungs. We were also surprised by Lauren's sister and her fiancé who joined us for a surprise visit at the Armory once they got wind of our plans. The afternoon was filled with laughter and shrieks as we adult children used an art installation as a playground and followed it up with pizza and soda.

Before my brother left for Philly yesterday, he put his empty candy box on my Christmas tree, his ornament gift to us.  Every time I see it, it makes me smile. It reminds me of the kid brother who kept a piece of our dog's fur in a special place after he passed away. The brother who brings up the other sides to stories that I never heard. The brother who has become such an impressive young man and built a home with a woman who impresses me more and more every time I see her. The brother who laughs with my husband and together, the two of them, seem like a bit of trouble.

This year, that old familiar wave started to knock me over again, but I realized that this year, another wave came - joy - 'cause little brother was here.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Nine Reindeer and the Pursuit of Redemption


Hey there! If you missed my nine short stories on the nine reindeer for this years BlogFestivus 2012 Writing Challenge, you can read them in order here. Nothing feels like the holidays like dysfunctional family!

Dasher - Side Effects
Dancer - Ibuprofen Blues
Prancer - The Little Shit
Vixen - Double-Gifting
Comet - The Apology
Cupid - Snowflakes
Donner - The Favorite
Blitzen - Good Buddies
Rudolph - The Champ

And to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Champ



As Nick looked out at the scrappy cast of characters he had to trust to carry on the promise of Christmas, a huge sigh escaped his lungs when no one was looking.

“You still got Donner,” Anne said. Ever the doting wife, she always reassured him.

“She can do it…but I need her in the middle. I need the kid.”

Nick put on his coat and headed for the stables. As the reindeer made crude jokes and saddled up, Nick made his way to the back stable where Rudy sat quietly deep in thought, his nose a dull glimmer.

“Hey, Champ, “ Nick said as he sat down beside him.

“Hey, Coach.”

“How you feeling?”

“Like shit.”

“You got people who love you, kid. All of us.”

Rudy’s eyes began to well up. “I don’t want to fail you…but I ain’t got it no more, Coach!” Rudy said looking down at his nose.

Slowly, the other reindeer began to surround the stall.

“It wasn’t the candy canes that made you great. It was this,” Nick said as he patted him on his heart.

“Ru-dy,” Prancer quietly said. Dancer looked at his brother and echoed him. “Ru-dy.” Then Dasher and
Vixen spoke up, “Ru-dy” followed by Comet, Cupid and Blitzen: ”Ru-dy.”

Donner stomped her hooves and yelled, “Ru-DY!”

The stables broke out into a wild stomping chant: “RU-DY! RU-DY! RU-DY!”

And as Rudy’s heart began to swell, his nose began to glow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good Buddies


Cupid admired her new nose ring while Blitzen cleaned up his counter.

“I didn’t even feel that one,” she said.

“Cause I’m quick.”

She pecked her old friend on the cheek and tried to pay but he refused as usual. Just after she left his piercing parlor, the bell above the door rang.

“You forget something?” he called out

“Kind of,” a buck’s voice responded.

Blitzen froze as he turned to see Comet.

“I forgot my manners,” Comet continued.

Blitzen could feel his knees shake. It had been eleven months since they had taken their last ride together.

“I’m sorry, Blitz.”

“For what? We had a good ride and then, you know, that’s how it goes… you do your own thing. Go back to your regular life until the boss calls next year."

Comet approached him carefully and nervously, his head hung.

“What if I don’t like my regular life?”

Blitzen could feel his stomach drop.

“What about D? You guys were good together?” Blitzen choked out.

Comet laughed. “I was a bastard to D! But I’ve made my peace with all that. Hell, she’s part of the reason I’m here…even she knew.”

Blitzen fumbled for something, anything to keep his hoovess busy. “Knew that we were good buddies?
Everyone knew that!” He nervously laughed.

Comet lowered his antlers and pushed his nose next to Blitzen. “Blitz...”

Blitzen looked into those big brown eyes and finally locked antlers in the dark.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Favorite


Donner had just flipped up the last of her barstools. A flare of red and white light streamed in from the outside. She sighed and pulled a barstool down and searched the refrigerator for milk. The door pushed open, ushering in a swirl of snowflakes and frost. His heavy boots thudded against the old floor beams of the bar as he sat down with a long-winded sigh. Donner placed a glass of milk before him.

“I’m out of cookies,” she said.

“I didn’t come here for the cookies.” He chuckled as he drank his milk.

She smiled, “Then why you here, Nick?”

“Gonna make me beg, huh?”

“I told you last year, boss. That was my last run.”

“C’mon, D. The crew’s a mess. Dasher’s in rehab with Rudy not far behind him. That idiot, Dancer, is in a cast. Cupid is all pierced up, hardly the picture of jolly cheer. Prancer is alright but no one listens to him and Comet…I don’t know what the hell’s been going on with him.”

“Keep him away from Blitz and he’ll be able to focus.”

“I need you, girl.”

“And what’s in it for me?”

Nick smiled, “Retirement…at the village” Nick passed her a blueprint of a cabin all her own. “Hand in your bar towel; maybe help me whip a couple young bucks in shape? Whadd’ya say?”

Stunned, Donner took the blueprint. “It’s beautiful…but why me?”

“You always were my favorite, Donner.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snowflakes


“Hey, snowflake,” one of the young bucks said to Cupid while grazing against her white-tailed backside.

She was tired of these parties, tired of these bucks. She wanted out of this town, but she knew she couldn’t leave him, not now. They’d grown up together, weathered the loss of her mother, his bullies, and now his cane problem. They were all each other had.

“Have you seen my cousin?” Cupid asked.

“Someone just pulled out a five-pounder in the den.” His friends started to snicker. “Let that kid play around in the snow!” They laughed as she walked past.

She found him bent over the coffee table, the canes already crushed up, and by the looks of his nose, a third of the bag had just gone up it.

“Damn it, Rudy!”

He jolted upright, knocking some of the peppermint crystals to the floor. “Shit!” He nervously tried to salvage the fallen powder before all was lost in the fibers of the carpet. The rest of the room cleared out.

“Q, I know what you’re thinking…”

She walked over to him and crushed a broken candy cane into the carpet.  He frantically tried to sniff it up. She had no choice. It had come to this. She spun around, reared up her hind legs and kicked Rudy so hard she broke the other wall with his body.

“Enough, cuz.”

When he came to, Rudy looked at Cupid and burst into tears: “Okay.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Apology

Since receiving his diagnosis, the world had ironically become brighter to Comet. His pressing problems seemed to vanish. He would be alright, but still, Comet couldn’t help but reflect on his life. If he were to die today how would he be remembered? Would he have any regret?

D.

Comet sprinted through the woods at such speed he almost crash landed in her front living room.

“Well, look what the cat drug in?” she laughed while folding her newspaper.

“Donner,” he huffed and puffed, “it was my fault…why we failed…did I ever tell you I was sorry?”

 “I’m not the one you need to apologize to, handsome.” Donner smiled at her bewildered ex-husband.

“Who else? I was terrible to you,” Comet admitted.

She laughed. “You never were the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree!”

But Comet still didn’t get it.

“Yourself, dummy!”

Comet furrowed his brow with confusion.

“You were a bastard, but you were more terrible to yourself. All that boozing and philandering…you’re lucky you’re still around, ” she said.

Comet thought to tell her but refrained. “I was in a dark place.”

“Oh, please! You were in love…just not with me.”

Comet’s eyes widened.

“What you think I didn’t notice?” she laughed. “We don’t call you Comet ‘cause you’re fast at running.”

She picked her newspaper back up. “Maybe if you finally grew some balls, you might finally get who you really want a romp in the haystack with.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Double-Gifting


It was official. Vixen was through with men. She stabbed at an olive at the bottom of her drained martini. Her mascara had run down the sides of her big doe eyes, leaving zebra stripes on her fair coat.

“Pour me another, will you, D?”

The bartender sauntered over to her favorite customer.

“What happened this time?” D asked as she poured Vixen a glass of water.

“Is it too much to ask for a little romance these days?”

It was bad enough Vixen’s birthday fell right around Christmas. Her entire life she had accepted birthday gifts as Christmas gifts and Christmas gifts as birthday gifts. She thought she had made it clear how small and insignificant this cheap double-gifting had always made her feel.  She thought this guy would be different.

“What happened to the home-cooked birthday dinner by the fire?” D asked.

“Well, it was going well…I mean, he made lasagna and there was wine- lots- and he got me a gift...a paw scrub from the Dead Sea.”

“Sounds lovely!”

“Until dessert!” Vixen chomped on the olive devouring it toothpick and all.

“The bastard had the nerve to offer me frickin’ eggnog!”

D shook her head and poured her friend another martini. ‘Well, my dear…I can’t quite give you what a good ‘ol buck might, but I can make you a mean birthday martini.”

Vixen smiled and wiped her tears. “D…I think you’re the best friend I got.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Little Shit

Prancer could hear his brother coming a mile out over the frozen lake. It wasn’t the soft thud of his air cast on ice that warned him, but the whiskey-fueled slew of curse words spewing from his mouth. Prancer stepped outside and armed himself with a hose.

“Mother-fucker!” screamed Dancer in anguish unfamiliar to his brother. Prancer had seen him pissed off. He had seen him disappointed, but never had he seen his twin brother heartbroken.

“Dance, I know what you’re thinking-“

“WHY?!”

“It wasn’t me!”

“That little shit!”

“I swear… Wait—who?”

“The freak!”

For the first time in his life, Prancer was not the one blamed for one of his brother’s clumsy accidents. The man could dance, but had the everyday gracefulness of a bull in a china shop.   It was Prancer who had helped his jock brother avoid the black ice near the garbage cans, the ice fishing holes during winter, and the wet leaves on pavement in the fall. Prancer had always been smarter, more clever, much to Dancer’s envy. He had interpreted Prancer’s warnings as evidence of plots meant to literally and figuratively bring his downfall. It was only after an accident without his brother present did Dancer see whom the real culprit was.

“That fucking red-nosed punk! He’s been jockeying for lead since he sprouted his first antler!”

And with that deflating excuse for self-realization, Prancer turned the hose on his gimp brother.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ibuprofen Blues

It wasn’t the pain that bothered Dancer, nor was it the annoying air cast on his paw, or even the ball-busting awaiting him when he got back to work. What bothered Dancer the most was the sheer pleasure his twin brother would take in seeing him finally limp.

“Doc, how long we talkin’?” Dancer asked.

“Three weeks.”

“You’re kidding me?!”

“This is good news. It’s just a sprain. It could have been a lot worse,” the vet said glancing at the shotgun on his wall.

That son of a bitch, Dancer thought.

The Boss caught the vet’s glance and looked down towards his boots.  He patted Dancer on the back and led him out of the office.

“Guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about! I’ll be back in a couple days. Nothing a little ibuprofen can’t fix, right?” he nervously laughed.

Dancer had always been the stronger twin, the more talented, the “born leader.” He had successfully avoided every hazard Prancer threw his way… until now.

“What a kook!” he tried again, but the old man’s silence said it all.

 “You’re out, Dance.”

“Out?!”

“You’re off the front.”

“I’m fine.”

“It’s not about the ankle, damn it!”

 Dancer stopped in his tracks. The Boss lit a cigar.

“Your time is up, Dance.”

 “I-I… don’t understand.”

 “I can’t have the leader of my sleigh tripping over fucking candy canes.”

And with that, Dancer knew this was not about his brother at all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Love Letter To Katy Perry

Guess who's featured on BlogHer Entertainment today??? Here is my response to Camille Paglia's Hollywood Reporter article on how Katy Perry & Taylor Swift & Hollywood are Ruining Women.

To read more, click here!!!

Side Effects

He couldn't remember how it happened. Was it the wine? The side effects from his cholesterol medication? Or was it the fight? His fur was still wet from the vat of rum-spiked eggnog she had bucked onto him. But then the night went black, his memories fuzzy. He had been angry then sleepy. All he had wanted was a strong buzz and a warm fire.

As little men and women ran around his home with buckets of snow trying to dampen the fire, Dasher knew he had hit rock bottom. Suddenly, a smack on his ass: WHAP!

Shit. It was The Boss.

“What the hell is a MATTER with you?!” he growled as Dasher retreated, ashamed of how far he had fallen. Dasher imagined his jowls jiggling behind that nicotine stained beard.

“You can’t throw LOGS into a GAS fireplace!”

“Well, why the hell NOT?!” Dasher barked as he lit a cigarette and took a deep long drag.

“Dash…” The Boss ripped the cigarette from his mouth and stubbed it out on his antler. “You don’t have a damn chimney.”

Dasher looked up to the smoldering ruins of his home and noticed, for the first time, the absence of the chimney he always assumed he had. Just as he assumed he was the only buck for her, just as he had assumed mixing his wine and medication would be harmless, now Dasher assumed it was time to get some help.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

1. When your sock slips down in your boot and you finally get a minute to pull that sucker up right.

2. A toothpick and a wet napkin after eating BBQ.

3. When your phone lights up with a "Like" from a recent Instagram shot.

4. The little foamy heart Andy puts on my CafĂ© au lait at De Luxe Coffee Shop.

5. Clementines.

6. When running around the bend on the northeast corner of Prospect Park and catching that scent of evergreen that is only really noticeable in that specific part of the park.

7. A good, loooooooooooong, foot rub.

8. My godsons - all three of them, but especially when they call me "Sucker!"

9. When a kid tries to give you a kiss but french kisses your nose instead.

10. The first day of Spring when you can walk outside without a coat.

11. Christmas lights.

12. A new email.

13. Cleaning your ears out. By far one of the most satisfying personal grooming habits.

14. Vanilla and coconut cupcakes.

15. That moment in a song when you feel moved to sing along with the artist.

16. Dance floors of any kind especially when they play anything from The Hangover Soundtrack.

17. When Mike stops me from crossing the street when he sees a car coming and thinks I won't see it.

18. A swim in the ocean.

19. A run down the mountain when the powder is so light and fluffy it sounds like your surfing on silk.

20. A phone call with my Dad. 

These are a few of my favorite things... How about you?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Letter To The Other Porcelain God

Dear Kitchen Stove,

In the words of the prolific funk artists of the band WAR...Why Can't We Be Friends? I try. I really try. But you still use that heat of yours to spoil even the best of Sunday afternoons. You've burned me.  You've scared me.  And even hurt my feelings when I found out you run at about 50 degrees lower than what you say you are cooking at. I'm not calling you a liar or nothing...I'm just saying. I use a skillet which retains heat allowing you to chill out a little quicker. I put water in my pyrex dishes so I don't overcook the squash. I grease and I oil and I sweat and I come back for more and STILL - no love.

Exhibit A:
This was supposed to be a delightful crispy batch of sea-salt kale chips.
However, where some of the leaves were barely cooked,
others were charred almost to dust. I literally felt like I put ashes in my mouth.



Exhibit B

And this right here.................................................                        
This is my dinner in the garbage because it was damn near inedible. That squash that took an hour to cook, remember that? Well, it was finally soft alright. I could spear my fork straight through, but somewhere in the cooking not only this baby's firmness was lost, but it's overall taste seemed to magically evaporate with that careful amount of water I put in the pyrex baking dish. The parsnips and onions sautee - nice one. And the beets that never quite cooked all the way through and then tasted like dirt?!! I had to have a slice of pecan pie just to remedy my taste buds from that one. Now, I know this isn't your fault. It's supposed to be mine. But at a certain point, the outcome of these dishes relies on you. I follow that damn food bible, The Joy of Cooking, and you know what, I call bullshit!. There is no joy, no love, and now no patience for spending anymore time with you, Stove. Thanks for crushing my foodie spirit. 

BUT...I will not give up! I will continue to buy strange grains that I will inevitably under or over cook and I will continue to sautee every vegetable in the one flavor I know works - garlic, and I will try my best to have dinner plates with more than tone color on it. But cut me some slack, here and there, Stove. Take Out/Delivery is just a phone call away!