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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sand Hassle

This first appeared last summer on the popular humor blog, An Army of Ermas.  These days I spend my vacations ordering room service cheeseburgers and watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

“What are you doing?”

The Captain is kind of an embarrassment savant when it comes to sensing when I’m hovering on the brink of humiliation. We’d been frolicking in the ocean all morning and for the past mortification and a half, I’d been attempting what I thought was an unassuming display of aquatic gymnastics in the effort to rid myself of a sand dune lodged in a place that should never be landlocked. 

“The lining of my bathing suit is full of sand. I’m trying to empty it.”

There’s nothing like a little wet sand in the crotch to give you that “close encounter with a live mackerel” feel.

“It looks like some kind of tribal interpretive dance.”

“You might call it that.”

“You need a native costume.”

“I have a costume.  You’ve heard of a cement overcoat? This is cement underwear.”

“I’m just trying to help.” 

“Thanks, but what I need is a helper who can mind his own business.”

“Okay, I’ll wait for you at the hotel.”

A King-sized bed and a $20 room service cheeseburger called for drastic measures.  I would have given up my pay-per-view for a drink of fresh water and a bathing suit that didn’t retain ocean life.

 “Hold still so I can get my balance. I need to squat.”


“I want to lean on you.  I need to squat lower in the water so no one will see me.”

The Captain has a way of raising one eyebrow in a gesture that makes you feel as if you’ve asked for something unreasonable, like pink pompom fringe for the bedroom curtains.

“If I let you lean on me, can we get rid of that nasty pink pompom fringe in the bedroom?”

“Okay, just stand still.”  I took the opportunity to effect a grand jeté with the passing of a major wave.  Grand jeté is a ballet term meaning “your crotch is still full of sand and it’s beginning to chafe.”

I tugged. I wriggled. I did a little side step.  I did the hokey pokey.  Not only did I have enough sand in my personal space to build Cinderella’s sandcastle, I auditioned successfully for Dancing With the Stars.


“I’m not accomplishing anything.”

“Let’s just go on in.  Nobody will notice.”

“Nobody will notice?  It looks like I’m smuggling tropical fruit in my swimsuit.”

Just then a particularly devious wave crashed down from behind, sending me floundering underwater and knocking the straps off both shoulders.  Mothers covered their children’s eyes.  Low-flying seagulls pointed and laughed.  I’m pretty sure the lifeguard quit his job on the spot.

The Captain raised the eyebrow.  “Well, I don’t about your banana, but your grapefruits are getting a little pink.”

As soon as I reached the area of civilization that has indoor showers, I retired that swimsuit. 

But the pompom fringe is staying put.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Suitable. . .Or Not

It's summer and a young girl's, um, mature chick's thoughts turn to how to get out of trying on bathing suits.  In  honor and support--three cheers for support--of my pals over at The Domestic Fringe and On Wings of Mirth and Worth, I'm rallying behind the cause--if we can blow up the Death Star, surely we can come up with something that doesn't look like it should be dragged back in the ocean to wear at the beach. I'm thinking Invisibility Cloak here.

Buying a new bathing suit is like selecting an alias for the Witness Protection Program.  You want something that fits and has flair, but that will keep all your hidden assets locked away where no one will ever find them.  

In my experience, the main function of a bathing suit is to gather oceanic sand in the lining of the crotch while you’re trying to balance on the retracting grains of an outgoing wave without spilling your drink-filled coconut.  With my typical lack of coordination, my coconuts take a dunking every time.

I went shopping with my sister and my niece, Knockout.  This girl could wear an oven mitt and have guys follow her into deep water.  I was painfully aware that my thighs had expanded to the outer banks and my behind had relocated to the subtropics.

We’re at Wal-Mart, browsing through the racks.  It’s the only place I can get support hose, Sugar Smacks, and sinus medication without having to change parking lots.  Presently my buggy is loaded with a month’s worth of Friskies and the floral pack of Hanes Her Way Full Coverage.  Nothing says party like a well-fed cat and chubby sized underwear.

While Knockout was slipping on bikini tops over her clothes, I was fumbling through the racks looking for something with sleeves and a bib.  I couldn’t fit a bathing suit over my clothes if I had the Jaws of Life to  help me dress.

“What about something with a little sarong to cover up problem areas?” Knockout suggests, flattening an invisible wrinkle in her belly button.

I couldn’t fit a sarong over my shin with a shoe horn.

“Do they have anything with a hoop skirt instead?”

I’m headed to the seashore for a weekend away from the Labradors.  All I’m going to do is pick up a few seashells, eat some fish without having to share, and play a round of beach putt putt.  I shouldn’t have to use up the gross national output of latex to get a hole in one at Shipwreck Cove.  Actually, the closest thing I ever got to a hole in one at putt putt golf was the time I chipped a shot into the Diet Coke of the Paris Hilton clone in the parking lot, but that’s All Star stuff and I can’t do it every time.  The ensuing altercation is still a topic of conversation among local law enforcement officers.  Who says golf is a boring sport to watch?

I don’t so much have to focus on my strengths so much as try to mulch the problem areas.  I’m at the age when weeds are creeping into greener pastures.  I figure if I keep them in the dark and provide proper drainage, we can keep the damage to a minimum. 

Also I figure if I can’t see it, it’s not a problem.  I’ve played hide and seek with my navel for 35 years.  Once I passed 40 and realized I’d need a topographical map and a satellite signal from NASA to find my waist, I declared myself the victor and began looking for my original chin.  We might have to call in the Mars Rover for that one.

“What about a cover up? You like retro.”  She held up a tye-dyed washcloth, swirling with all the colors of a bowl of breakfast cereal.

“It looks like something you used to clean up a chemical spill.  Besides, I have a doily on the back of my couch that hides more than that thing.  Nobody’s seen the 1973 gravy incident since I got it.”

I wandered across the aisle to a rack of likely-looking house dresses. My idea of coverage is mountains-to-sea. I’m not interested in anything that leaves the foothills or the Great Plains out in the open.  I untangled a handful of spaghetti straps and pulled out a prospect.  “What about this?  It’s almost long enough to cover the coast at high tide.”

“That’s a prom dress.”

“How can you tell?”

“There are sequins on thong.”

“I thought that was an armband to hold my IPod.”

“There’s a clip on the tiara for that. See, there’s a secret compartment behind the disco ball.”

Three dozen prom gowns and I pick the one that needs John Travolta in a white suit to complete the package. 

“Here’s an animal print. You’d be right in style.”  Knockout whipped a bikini bedecked with pink and green peace symbols off the rack and held it up with a flourish.  A trail of leopard prints the color of blush traipsed through the peace fields.

“The leopard is already embarrassed and I haven’t even tried it on.”

She flipped through a few more prospects. “There’s nothing left on the rack but old lady swimsuits.”

To this kid, Paris Hilton is ancient history.

With a sigh, I tossed the sequined thong and tiara selection into my cart.  I may not be Queen of the Prom, but I’ll be the best dressed gal at the Pirate Ship Putt Putt course. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Enhance This!

Sometimes when you write, the words float from your pen like a perfect curve ball on a summer day.  You feel as if you could pitch a perfect game without ever leaving your desk.  But if you’re like the rest of us, you may have a little trouble from time to time getting the ball to the plate, the pen to the page.  I can help.  Don’t let the secret out—not for free, anyway—but there are ways to help yourself out of a jam when you don’t really have your stuff. 

In light of the Congressional proceedings concerning America’s Pastime, though, I’m beginning to dread the day I’m called in front of some Government Honcho and asked to tell the truth, not miniscule portions of the truth, so help me Erma:

Honcho:  On Monday morning did you intentionally partake of a foreign substance to enhance your writing ability?

Me:  Yes, sir.

Honcho:  And could you tell us the name of this substance? 

Me:  It was. . .coffee.

Honcho:  I see.  Is this coffee the only performance-altering substance that you ingested?

Me:  Well, I added sugar.  A lot of sugar.

Honcho:  What did you hope to accomplish by this act?

Me:  I hoped to remember how to turn on the computer and to be able to spell my name correctly.

Honcho:  And were these actions made possible when you ingested this substance?

Me:  Well, I had to wait a few minutes for the coffee to take effect and the sugar to shift into gear, but yes.  I was even able to find my files and tell the difference between an adjective and an adverb.

Honcho:  I see.  Was this your first experience with this substance? 

Me:  No, sir.  My Dad drank it every day when I was growing up.  My husband drinks it now.  He uses a personal-sized drip coffee maker. 

Honcho:  You have coffee paraphernalia in the house?  Did your husband coerce you into using this substance?

Me: (sensing a scapegoat):  Well he did bring me a cup and tell me it might help.  It looked so warm and rich, I couldn’t resist.

Honcho:  Are you willing to supply any more names in connection with this substance?

Me:  Well there’s Juan Valdez. . .

Honcho:  We’ll make a note.  Now, do you use any more substances that enhance your abilities?

Me:  Well, there’s a substance writers like to call chair glue.

Honcho:  You inhaled glue?

Me:  No sir.  Chair glue is what writers use to stay in their chair long enough to accomplish their goals. It’s not something anyone else knows is there.

Honcho:  So it’s odorless and tasteless?

Me:  It’s more a state of mind.  It helps you make your dreams come true.

Honcho:  So it’s hallucinogenic.

Me:  Well, it makes all things seem possible.

Honcho:  I see--it’s mind altering.  Why do you apply it to your chair?

Me:  You don’t really apply it.  It sort of comes from within.

Honcho:  I see. We’ll list that as an undesirable side effect.  Do you feel that these substances advanced your abilities in any way?

Me:  Well, I’ve had several essays published.

Honcho:  You’re a published writer.

Me:  Yes, sir.

Honcho:  Well, let me tell you about this novel I’ve been working on.  Perhaps you could take a look at it.  There’s this one part where the hero just doesn’t have any motivation, and. . .

Me:  You might try some of that coffee sir.  And the chair glue.

Honcho:  Where do you procure these substances?

Me:  Well, I can hook you up with some coffee, no problem.  As for the other thing, see me after the hearings and I’ll point you toward some websites with good tips.

Honcho:  You’re free to go. 

Me:  Thank you, sir.  I’ll meet you at Starbucks in half an hour.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dropping In

I had an unexpected visitor for lunch today. By unexpected I mean, totally out of the blue.  He landed on my head. Join me and my friend at Stage of Life to see how things turned out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For Bill - Stepping Up

You married in a family
Of kids all cries and whinies
Became an ace at wiping tears
And cleaning little hinies.

You helped them read and
Tutored math, both adding and dividing
And later on to drive a car
When I went into hiding.

Knots, and rhymes and music notes
All came along the way.
Then college, jobs, financial aid
Made them men today.

One little thing I’ve got to say
I’ll jump in without prep.
Happy Father’s Day my dear
I’m leaving out a Step.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Princess and The Papa

For Courtney, who is now quite a grown up lady, but somehow, somewhere will always be a five-year-old bundle of freckles.

           My Dad is a real man.  He wears Black and Decker underwear and buys pallets of toilet paper from Sears.  He watches sports on television every Sunday afternoon, even if it’s only putt-putt season, and turns the sound all the way down so that the sportscasting ninnies don’t ruin a beautiful play with color drivel.  He can estimate distance to an eighteenth of an inch and can tell whether a picture is half a bubble off plumb just by squeezing one eye shut and looking through his thumb.  He survived the Depression on beans and biscuits; World War II on courage and luck; and 48 years of marriage on Divine Providence and guesswork.  He taught four children to drive without suffering permanent neurological damage, made us wear more clothes when we were cold, and refused to let us hang on the refrigerator with the door open until we air conditioned the whole neighborhood.

So how can a five-year-old bundle of brown eyes and rosy cheeks crawl up in his lap at fourth down and goal to go and persuade him to read The Cat In The Hat for the four thousandth time without suffering severe blood loss?

This man, who refused to allow scented soap in the shower during my childhood years, now has a cupboard stocked with curly noodle soup, sports animal stickers on his bedroom door, and a maintains a stable of Barbies who loiter in his favorite recliner. When I dropped by Dad’s house last Sunday to comfort the old man in his lonesome existence and retrieve his great-grandaughter, I tripped over three teddy bears and a stuffed cat having a tea party, stumbled on a pair of pink plastic high heeled shoes and a glittery feather boa tossed carelessly in front of a full length mirror, and turned my ankle sliding across a nest of scattered crayons and coloring books piled in the hallway.

“Dad!”  I called, afraid to endanger myself by advancing further.  A trip to my father’s house should not involve my health insurance.  “Have you been finding new ways to entertain yourself or is there a little girl hiding in there?”

Giggles erupted from around the corner.  “We’re in the kitchen,” a small, freckled voice said.  I followed a line of Winnie-the-Pooh stickers posted along the wall at five-year-old eye level and entered the kitchen.  Over a teetering mountain of mall-type bags, a pair of large brown eyes twinkled in my direction. 

“Can you tell we’ve been shopping?” the bag-mountain asked.

Duh. Does the queen wear matching accessories?

“Papa bought me a sticker book, two kinds of bubble gum, and a Shirley Temple video.”

“Shirley Temple?”

“Yeah, she’s a new kid that can dance.”

“If Shirley Temple’s a new kid, we’d better be prepared to dodge wandering bands of Tyrannosaurs on the way home.”

“Papa made me a new kind of cheese sandwich.  You cook it right in the oven.”

            “Sweetie, it’s time to go.  Gather up your 50 most prized possessions and I’ll take you home.”

She hopped down and ran to me, clutching a battered baby doll that looked like it would be at home in Little Orphan Annie’s boarding house.  “I’m ready.”

“What about all your treasures?”

“Oh, Papa bought that stuff for me to play with here.  He already took my other stuff home for me.”

I glanced over at my dad, who was nestled in his recliner recovering from the shopping expedition by snoring loudly through the ballgame.  He cracked one eye open and peered up at me.  “Don’t forget her food.  She has Little Debbie brownies, Beauty and the Beast cookies, and Barbie cupcakes.  With sprinkles.”

Sure, the queen may have matching hat and shoes and the wealth of an entire nation, but the princess has designer snacks and a Papa that can’t say no.

Friday, June 8, 2012

In Cahoots

Collaborating on a novel with your spouse is like sharing a piece of bread that only one of you wants toasted.  When one is heartbent for modern romance and the other is set to strike out down the stony path toward gothic horror, it seems like the easiest thing to do would be to meet congenially in fantasy or science fiction. But by the time the opening sentence finds its place on the electronic media screen, things are already personal.  If redecorating a house together leads down the long and winding road to relationship stress, collaborating on a novel is the short, straight path to dividing your assets.

My husband, Damien Spielberg, took a perfectly lovely and sincere story about the relationship between a maiden apprentice and her mentor and turned it from a lively, endearing romance into a Renaissance Wizarding Extravagana complete with recreational lightning bolt action.  And he made it a screenplay, to boot.

“If we’re going to be in cahoots on this thing, you’ve got to learn to give a little bit,” he said, striking through an entire page of my rich, descriptive prose with a wide-point permanent marker.

I snatched my beloved pages from his jagged claws.  “Cahoots?  You make it sound like a bad western.  We’re collaborating.”  I bit the eraser off my pencil.

“What happened to my colorful description of Abby meeting Bob for the first time?” I asked, wrinkling my brow as I flipped through the pages.

“Here it is,” he said, wiping out another paragraph as he gestured nonchalantly with his Sharpie.  “Scene I.  Abby meets Bob.”

“That’s all?  The humor of the scene comes from Abby, a modern businesswoman accustomed to a sterile and structured environment, coming to terms with the fact that she is competing for a promotion with a man whom she’s just discovered is a 500 year old member of wizarding royalty who is grandfathered into her company’s pension plan.”

“I put wizard in the script notes.  See here in the margin?  Bob wears a pointy hat.”

“A pointy hat? Bob is not a dunce. Bob is a staff-wielding mage who served in some of the most influential governments in history.  He talks to fish!”

“Calm down.  I mentioned the fish.  See here in Scene III.  There’s a nice bit here in the willows by the pond.”

“So how do we know he talks to the fish?”

“Easy.  Dialogue.”

“Dialogue?  You mean a conversation?  This is coming from the man who told me he was in a wreck two hours after he totaled his new car and the rescue team delivered him to the emergency room?  You didn’t call me until the nurse dialed the number for you.”

“And after they gave me enough painkillers to make me count to ten in three languages and sing the Lumberjack song to a burly intern.  But this is different.  It’s Bob talking. Not me.” 

“That’s a good thing.  Otherwise it would be the world’s shortest book.”

“We’re supposed to be working on this together.  Be nice.”

“I’d rather be the dental hygienist in the tiger cage at Ringling Brothers.”

“Need references?”

“Never mind.  Tell me more about our wizard’s wonderful world of words.”

“The only way you can see into the man is to hear him talk.”

“I’ve got to hear to see?  What about my searing description of their awkward encounter in the elevator?”

“I covered that.  In the second scene you see the looks on their faces when she realizes he can read her thoughts and she splashes peanut butter milkshake all over his topcoat, tries to scrape it off with his cane, and accidentally pokes him in the n---.”


“I was going to say nose. When you see that, you can hear their hearts.”

“Okay, now I have to see to hear.”  I turn a page in my narrative version and mark out several paragraphs describing Abby’s clothes. “So how do you come up with all this clever conversation?”

“I listen to people talk.  Then I write it down.”

Easy enough.  “By the way, back at the pond, what are Bob and the catfish discussing?”

“Whether he should take the job.”

“What do they decide?”

“The catfish advises against it.”

“And why is that?”

He says that Abby is a bad influence and Bob should leave the company entirely.”

“I’ve given her a beautiful home, a killer intellect, and a sparkling wit.  Why doesn’t he like her?”

He sighed and scratched his head.  “She talks too much.”

Friday, June 1, 2012

Read, Write, Have a Bite!

Life is sweet! It's filled with Readin', Writin', and. . .Doughnuts. While that isn't the usual sequence, you've got to agree that everything is better with raspberry filling. Or glaze. Or chocolate on top. With sprinkles.  Join me at Single People's Grocery Lists where Nancy LaFever gave up trying to have a serious conversation with me about writing and instituted the Krispy Kreme rule.  She's one smart cookie. Who likes doughnuts.  Thanks, Nancy!