Alternate Realities II

They’re ba-a-a-a-ck!  Along with the tulip shoots pushing up through the snow, the robins, the melting ice, and the mud, the coming of spring marks a new season of Reality TV.  But is it really new?

From the commercials, I see the same young faces and half-clad bodies with not a single love handle to be spotted in the entire group.  The days and times might be different, but it is quite clear from the lack of Silver Sneakers, that not one television executive heeded my suggestions for winning an “older” audience.

Moreover, I noted with mixed emotions, that The Real Housewives of Miami may or may not be returning for the 2015 season.  While I shall sorely miss Lisa, Lenny, and Marysol, perhaps I now stand a chance of some forward-thinking producer paying attention to my updated version of:

RHOCVThe Real Housewives of Century Village

The stars of this show are six friends of a certain age who reside in a retirement community located in South Florida.

The group consists of Connie, a platinum blonde; Carole, an ash blonde; Roz, a champagne blonde; and Sue, a golden blonde.  Zipporah, playfully referred to by the others as “Zip the Lip,” is the token brunette.  Jane, the non-conformist of the group, courageously allows her hair to remain its natural gray – although this is subject to change now that Mr. Lerner, her neighbor, has become available due to the recent death of his wife, may she rest in peace.

Connie, Carole, Jane, and Sue are widows.  Roz, however, is recently divorced, her husband having left her for his physical therapist while he was recovering from a knee replacement.  After forty-five years of marriage, Roz bitterly recalls the day she watched him hobble off, leaning on his walker, with his suitcase strapped to his back.  Zip the Lip is the only housewife who is still married.

For the first show of the new season, the camera pans in on each of the six amigas  at home, preparing to meet for a shopping spree at the latest south Florida outlet mall.   This is the first outing to this new destination.  You will recall last season’s final episode where we left the women in deep sadness, lamenting the demise of Loehmann’s.

The first vignette belongs to Roz, who is trying to apply her mascara while weeping over her divorce.  She explains to the audience that while she still loves him, at the same time, wishes he was dead.  She gets some comfort from the fact that their children are not speaking to him.  As she rearranges her champagne blonde hairdo, Roz tells the viewers that the one good thing that came out of all the intense grief surrounding her divorce was that she lost twenty pounds, and is back to her college weight.  She stands up from her vanity to show off her skinny pants with matching jacket from Chico’s, size .05.  She dons the jewelry she recently purchased through binge buying on the Home Shopping Network, and steps outside to the parking lot to meet her friends.

Connie, Carole, Sue, and Jane are introduced consecutively.  Connie, who is the most affluent of the friends (her husband owned a chain of funeral homes) walks us through her decorator-appointed condo as she searches for her Bottega Veneta handbag, which, unlike her friend Sue’s – she assures us in confidence – is not counterfeit.

We meet Carole, the most indecisive of the group, in her bedroom, still in her bathrobe.  Half the contents of her closet are strewn on the floor as she tries to decide what to wear.  We politely leave her to resolve her quandary.

Sue has just stepped outside, and is locking her door as the camera catches up with her.  She is a vision in pink with her Chanel jacket and Prada sunglasses.  (But are they?)

Practical, non-conformist Jane, the only one of the crew wearing sensible shoes, is distracted as she talks to the camera, keeping an eye out for Mr. Lerner, should he emerge from his condo.  Her plan is to dash outside and “accidentally” bump into him, offering words of comfort, and a helping of home-cooked brisket.  We now understand the purpose of the sneakers, which clearly do not go with her otherwise coordinated attire, complete with dangling earrings.

We are introduced to Zipporah in her kitchen, where she is still yelling at her husband about how he ruined the previous night’s meal.  Fresh from a French cooking class, she was intent on showing off to Connie and Sue, whom she had invited for dinner.  But the stupid lout had brought home three cucumbers instead of zucchini squash, completely ruining her plans for ratatouille.  Phil is saved from further debasement when Roz knocks on the door to tell Zip that everyone is waiting outside.

During the last half hour of the show, the audience is treated to a discussion about whose car they should use, and who should ride with whom.  Carole, of course, is vacillating.  Connie and Roz are somewhat on the outs, since Roz accused Connie of cheating at Mah jongg.  And Zipporah sullies the air by telling Jane that her dangling earrings make her look like a slut.

Jane still holds a grudge against Sue for sneaking into her bathroom and taking her last Depends, leaving an empty box in the cabinet.  Connie is whining because, although she has the largest, most expensive, most comfortable car, it isn’t fair that she always drives.

We leave the six friends as they argue in the parking lot.

Previews of the next week’s episode invite us to be flies on the wall as the real housewives of Century Village finish their post-shopping spree luncheon, and discuss how to split the check.

I hope this show is a success, because I’m already hard at work revamping other, remaining reality series.  For example, in my version of The Amazing Race, which will be called I’m Still Walking – That’s Amazing, ten couples compete for a grand prize, which is yet to be determined, but might be a lifetime supply of early bird dinners at the local deli.  Considering the age limitations and reduced stamina, the playing field will have to be modified, let’s say from racing around the world to fast walking around a gated community, while telling Phil, the host, about their latest maladies.

And my version of Survivor?  I’m considering an intimate portrait in real time of those facing the challenges of life after being voted off the condo board.

Posted in Aging, Change, Television | 1 Comment

 State of the Reunion

I am frequently confronted by a situation that would appear to be a statistical improbability but is nevertheless true.

shutterstock_233094220My husband and I are out for the evening.  Our destination is of little importance.  We could be on line to purchase movie tickets, or waiting for our table in a restaurant.  Or even preparing to board the first flight to Mars.  It doesn’t matter.  Invariably he will run into a guy he knows from high school.

What makes this so astonishing is that his high school class had all of 106 students, while my class had about 900.  And yet, I bump into nobody.

So these old acquaintances, (frequently, the wife is a hometown girl, as well) acknowledge each other with great surprise and delight, and sit down and join us at the dinner table.  Or plan to meet up after the movie for coffee.  What ensues for them is a thoroughly enjoyable three-way conversation about old times.  I just sit there and smile.

My husband grew up in a small town on Long Island, New York.  For those of you not from the New York area, Long Island is a strip of land that is actually a part of Brooklyn, although its inhabitants would rather jump in the Long Island Sound with rocks in their pockets than admit to that.

In addition to being given fluorinated water to prevent cavities, and inoculations against whooping cough, I am firmly convinced that children growing up in or near his town in the above-mentioned location, were implanted with a homing device that enables them to find each other in whatever hemisphere they happen to be residing.  Or vacationing.  Or golfing.  Or visiting the proctologist.  I refuse to believe that these encounters are mere coincidence.

As a result, I have become a silent participant in a fairly steady stream of both informal and formal get-togethers during which I witness, somewhat enviously, their nostalgia.

Just this winter alone, there have been three such occasions, and as an observer, I have begun to notice a pattern.  Besides the good will, the pleasure of seeing one another, and some requisite whining about how their golf games are deteriorating, each reunion seems to have three essential ingredients.  These are: “ The Medical Update,”  “The Geography Game,” and an activity that I have named  “Alive or Dead?”

The medical update consists of a general review of everyone’s body parts.  In this segment we are informed about recent hip surgeries, knee replacements, shoulder operations, and who knows the absolute best doctor to see if you need work on your right arm between the elbow and the wrist.  This inventory may or may not be followed up with what has come to be known as the “organ recital,” and includes any pertinent information about liver, kidneys, pancreas, and of course, the heart.  Cholesterol count is optional.

The Geography Game is one of my personal favorites, although it can become a little contentious.  This is the part of the evening when those who are no longer living in the home town ask those who are, about historic landmarks.

“Remember Romeo’s Pizza Parlor on Main Street? Is it still there?”

“That wasn’t on Main Street.  That was on Jones Street, across from the movies.”

“No it wasn’t; you’re thinking of the ice cream parlor.”

“You think I don’t know the difference between an ice cream parlor and a pizza parlor?

Similar inquiries take place regarding the bowling alley, kosher butcher, and the pharmacy where you could get the best egg creams.  Or was that malteds?

Finally we arrive at that inevitable part of the evening when the discussion turns to those former classmates who are not present at the current gathering.

“Whatever happened to Bill Mason?”

“Didn’t he die recently?”

“Are you crazy? He isn’t dead.  I just spoke to him at a member-guest.”

“Are you sure you spoke to him? Because I heard he was dead.”

At a typical reunion, at least five other people are discussed in this manner before dessert is served.

Despite the small disagreements about what was where, and so-and-so’s mortality, the evening is congenial, and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.  Even me, although I’m not an integral part of the original group.

And I’m sure it would be not one iota different if it were my old neighborhood and my high school friends.  If only I could find them.

People of Brooklyn, you have got to get out more!

Posted in Friends, Relationships | 5 Comments

A Belated Valentine

ScreenClipUnless you’ve recently crawled under a rock, or have been hiding out on a Pacific island with the Japanese soldier who didn’t know WW II had ended, you must be aware that the much- anticipated film version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” was released this weekend, with the biggest advanced ticket sales of any movie.  Ever.

If you, like me, are at that age where novel erotic positions are guaranteed to give you leg cramps, but don’t want to feel left out of the sexual frenzy, I offer you a reprint of my own, formerly released versions of two out of three of the “Fifty Shades” trilogy.

As I’m sure all of my literati friends already know, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is about a kinky relationship between a very unreal 27-year-old drop-dead gorgeous male who is a self-made gazillionaire, and a somewhat unreal beautiful 21-year-old female recent college graduate who is still a virgin.  She is an English literature major with a perfect grade point average who nevertheless expresses her emotional astonishments by repeating the phrases “holy crap,” “holy shit,” and “holy fuck” on alternating occasions.

Since my version is written for those of a more advanced age, it is both responsible and legally prudent that the book come with a warning.  Opening the cover, or firing up your Kindle, may be hazardous to your health.  Consult your physician before reading.  Perusing this volume may result in: shortness of breath, atrial and\or ventricular fibrillation, spiking of blood pressure, shingles, varicose veins, loosening of dental implants, and short-circuiting of hearing aids.   Don’t read this story if you are prone to erections that last more than four hours.

“Fifty Shades” Reconsidered

Judah Gold, shortened from Goldberg, encounters Anna Steelman at a class reunion taking place in Boca del Mar y Lago, Florida, where fifty shades of grey refers to the hair color of all those in attendance who have given up on Clairol.

He remembers her from high school as a pretty cheerleader with sexy legs, whose pom poms used to give him an erection.  He approaches her.  “Anna,” he calls out, noting the name tag on her left breast just to be certain, casually sweeping his eyes over to her right breast as well.  He takes in the rest of her with an appreciative eye, noting that she is still very attractive, and that he finds her love handles a turn-on.

“Holy cow,” she says, “Judah Goldberg.  I haven’t seen you in over 40 years.”  She does not fail to appreciate him as well, noting his still handsome face, almost full head of hair, trim physique and expensive clothes.  “If he can still drive at night,” she muses to herself, “he would be a perfect catch.”

“It’s Gold now, Anna,” he says in a rich, sophisticated voice with just a hint of a Long Island accent, “Judah Gold.”

“You look wonderful, Judah,” she remarks.  “You’ve kept yourself very fit.  Clearly, your Medicare supplement includes the Silver Sneakers program at the gym.”

“I have a personal trainer, Anna,” he corrects her, somewhat haughtily.  “I’m very wealthy.”

They chat and catch up on the intervening years.  Both are widowed.  He informs her that he is retired, and living full time in Boca, except when he uses his private jet to visit exotic locations, or his helicopter to take him shopping in Palm Beach.

“And how are you keeping busy?” she asks.

“I have a new hobby,” he replies.  “I practice domination.”

“Domination?” she repeats querulously, “is that anything like canasta?”

He is instantly stimulated by her naivete, and tries to quiet his throbbing prostate.  He tells her he will explain in due time, and they continue talking.  He is becoming aroused by thoughts of bringing her to his home, where he has turned his Florida room into a tropical pink playground of submission.

By the end of the evening, Judah has asked her out to dinner the following week.  Anna’s inner yenta urges her to accept.  Because he wants to sweep her off her feet, he resists inviting her for the early bird special.  Although he is wealthy, he is also very frugal when it comes to restaurants.

On the evening of their date, he has his driver, Barber, pick her up at 6:30.  Judah is waiting at the restaurant and escorts her to the table.  “Sit,” he commands her.  The waiter brings the menus and he orders for both of them.  In a short time, the appetizer arrives.  “Eat,” he tells her.  During the meal, Judah’s cell phone rings.  As he excuses himself and walks away to take the call, he instructs Anna to “stay.”

Why does he talk like a dog trainer?  She wonders to herself, but is distracted by the delicious food.

Dinner is very pleasant, and Anna is becoming giddy from the wine.  Judah decides to make his move tonight.  At this age, one cannot afford to waste time.

She agrees to go to his house for a nightcap, after which Barber will take her home.  She is overwhelmed by the size of his estate.  “How do you manage to get around all these acres?”  she asks him.  “Remember, Anna,” he responds, “I’m very wealthy.  I have my own golf cart.”

Anna “oohs” and “ahs” at his beautiful art work, the expensive furnishings, the 14 kt. gold grab bars in the bathrooms.  He escorts her through all of the rooms but one.  He is conniving to make her curious.  She takes the bait.

“What’s this room?” she asks, glancing at the closed door of the former Florida room.  “That is where I play at domination,” he responds in a suddenly curt and clipped manner.  My, thinks Anna, he certainly is moody.  Nothing like my Harry, may he rest in peace.  “So let me see,” she implores.  “Perhaps it’s a game I can teach to the girls at the club.”

Again, he finds her naivete a turn-on, but tells her that before he can show her the room, she has to sign a disclaimer that she is entering at her own risk.  She is puzzled, but consents.  He produces the paper as she searches through her handbag for her reading glasses.

Once the formality is accomplished, he proceeds to unlock the door.  Anna steps inside and gasps.  She has never seen anything like it.  In the center of the room is an ornate king-sized four-poster bed covered in expensive satin fabric with a palm tree motif.  Little monkeys decorate the matching pillow shams.  Silk ropes are tied around each of the posts. On one wall, at least twenty very expensive Gucci and Pucci silk scarves are hanging on hooks.  Another wall contains a rack with canes of various sizes.  To the left of the bed is a rhinestone-studded walker.  Could those be handcuffs attached to the grip? A wheel-chair upholstered in genuine snakeskin, and equipped with restraints, stands by the window.  Ropes with leather wrist cuffs hang from the ceiling.  She spots a tie rack with clearly very costly men ties.  At this moment, Anna is not sure if she has stepped into the pages of a Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog, or a rehab center.

Anna nervously begins biting the knuckle of her right thumb.  A woman biting her right thumb knuckle has always been the sexual tipping point for Judah.  He can stand it no longer.  He pulls Anna to him.  His hands caress her love handles.  He kisses her squarely on the mouth, his tongue finding its way between her teeth, as he backs her onto the ornate king-sized four-poster bed.

Fifty Shades Greyer

When we last left Anna Steelman and Judah Gold (ne Goldberg), she had just been introduced to his Florida Room of Pain (aka the Pink Playground), and was being ravished atop the ornate four-poster bed by a turned-on Mr. G.  He succeeded in awakening stirrings within her that she had not experienced since discontinuing hormone replacement therapy some twenty-odd years ago.  At first she confused these sensations with a bladder infection, but soon discovered they were really dormant sexual longings.

Anna quickly learned that the game of domination had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with canasta (possibly strip poker, but definitely not canasta), and that a sub, in this case, was not a hero sandwich.  Uncertain of her limits, but intrigued in spite of herself, she agreed to become his sexual slave.  “After all,” she reasoned, “how far can he go? We’re not exactly kids anymore, you know!”

Judah suggested they establish a “safe word” that she could use if he did, in fact, get too frisky due to an extra Viagra.   After tossing around several possibilities, like “Uncle” or “Get off me you sick bastard,” they agreed on “Genug,” Yiddish for “if you don’t stop right now I’ll kick you in the kishkas.”

Anna also discovered that, in addition to liking kinky sex, Judah was very possessive.  He wanted to know where she was and with whom at every moment she was not with him.  To this end, he presented her with a lap-top computer and a special cell phone so he could call, e-mail or text her throughout the day.  She reluctantly accepted these devices, but absolutely drew the line at wearing an ankle monitor.  Her inner yenta was also appalled by this suggestion, reminding Anna that she was prone to fluid retention which often caused swelling in that precise body part.

Anna was not familiar with lap top computers and mistook it for a cutting board.  Luckily, her eight-year-old grandson, who happened to be in the kitchen, stopped her just as she was about to chop onions.  He then proceeded to teach her how to use it for its intended purpose.

At eleven p.m. that evening, Anna was startled awake by a strange dinging sound.  Ruling out all other sources, such as maybe she forgot to shut the refrigerator door and all the food was spoiling, she finally realized it was coming from the lap top.  Anna opened the cover, releasing the bright light, and sure enough, there was the first e-mail from Judah.

“To:  Anna Steelman;  Subject:  What are you doing and with whom? Date:  April 12, 2014;  23:10:06

Dear Anna,

Sorry if I disturbed you, but I get particularly jealous at night, and need to be reassured that you are alone in your bed. Sincerely,

Judah Gold, President and CEO, Boca del Mar y Lago Homeowners Association, Phase I”

—————-

“Oh my,” thought Anna, “he is crazy.”  Nevertheless she found his jealously exciting, and decided to answer him.

—————-

“To: Judah Gold; Subject: Take a sleeping pill; Date: April 12, 2012; 23:14:05

Dear Judah:

For this you wake me up? Although I find your jealousy flattering, may I remind you that my late husband died ten years ago, and except for the dog, who died four years ago, I have been sleeping completely alone.  While it is a little lonely, I have actually been sleeping better since no one is snoring in my ear.  That would be the dog, not my late husband.  So would you please refrain from late night e-mails.  The dinging gave me quite a start. Sincerely,

Anna Steelman, Treasurer, Women s Canasta Society of Vista Shores”

——————

“To Anna Steelman; Subject: Sorry about that; Date: April 13, 2014; 9:30:10

Dear Anna:

I’m sorry I disturbed you last night, but it was relieving to learn that you have not replaced your husband or your dog.  I hope you have a restful day because I have big plans for us tonight.  Later today, Barber will deliver a dress and matching shoes that I bought for you and would like you to wear this evening.  And by the way, do you have a bra without quite so many fasteners? Undoing all those hooks last time inflamed my carpal tunnel syndrome.”  I can’t wait to see you.   I’m tingling with anticipation.

Judah Gold, President and CEO, Boca del Mar y Lago Homeowners Association, Phase I”

—————-

“To: Judah Gold; Subject: Tingling; Date: April 13, 2014; 13:20:04

Dear Judah:

Barber just arrived with the dress and shoes, as well as the bra that fastens with Velcro.  Sorry you weren’t here to see me rolling my eyes when I opened the box.  I think you had better take down the tingling a few notches, because I won’t be wearing any of it.  First of all, the dress.  I can’t tell the front from the back.  Either way, I haven’t worn a neckline that low since my hospital gown fell open when I was having my tonsils removed.  I was four at the time.  And the shoes? Judah, do you really want to spend the night in the emergency room watching some teen-aged doctor tape up my ankle?  I will consider the bra, however.  Under the circumstances, Velcro does seem practical.

Anna Steelman, Treasurer, Women’s Canasta Society of Vista Shores”

——————–

“To: Anna Steelman; Subject: Our Agreement; Date: April 13, 2014; 14:07:07

Dear Mrs. Steelman:

May I remind you that you agreed, when we were together, that you would wear the clothes I chose? I insist you wear the blue dress.  Regarding the shoes, you may have a point there.  My itinerary for the evening does not include the emergency room.  Barber will come around again with another, lower-heeled version.    And, for rolling your eyes, you will be punished!  Laters, baby!

Judah Gold, President and CEO, Boca del Mar y Largo Homeowners Association, Phase 1”

——————–

“To: Judah Gold; Subject: Anger Management; Date: April 13, 2014; 14:30:10

Dear Mr. Gold:

Do I detect anger in your communication? May I remind you that I reserved the right to decline any garment that revealed more skin than would be appropriate at a bar mitzvah party?  I don’t know what kind of affairs you attend, but if I showed up in the blue dress, the party favor for every child would be a case of PTSD.  Tonight, I shall put on something of my own choosing, but promise to wear the sexy lingerie, even though it makes me feel a little foolish, something like Victoria’s Secret meets Depends.  And what, pray tell, do you have in mind for punishment? I can hardly wait.  If it’s anything like the last time, I better take an extra blood pressure pill.  I can’t believe what you’ve awakened in me.  Insatiably yours, Anna XO

P.S.  What’s with the “laters?”

Anna Steelman, Treasurer, Women’s Canasta Society of Vista Shores”

And here we leave Judah Gold and Anna Steelman as their digital footprints continue to trek through cyberspace.  Eventually, the e-mails stop when they move in together.  She gives up her smaller space for his lavish house.  Having found someone who believes he is a good person and worthy of love, Judah gives up his fetish and allows Anna to turn the Pink Room of Pain back into a Florida Room, where they spend many happy hours together playing canasta.

(Watch for the next movie version, featuring Barbra Streisand playing Anna.  To be shown in select cities everywhere!)

Posted in Erotica, Fantasy, Relationships | 5 Comments

D.I.Y.?

I am of the firm opinion that if a project is advertised as something you can do yourself, it should be exactly that.  Yourself.  Alone.  No assistance required.  And therefore, no possibility of discord with the significant other.

It is with this belief that, singularly, I have tackled furniture purchases from Ikea and Crate and Barrel, spending many satisfying moments on the floor with my phillips head screw driver, fitting Part A into Part B, and praying that this time, they have included the proper-sized screws in the little plastic bag with the assortment of fasteners.

When I’m finally finished, certain that I have successfully included all of the provided pieces, and have located my right leg, which has fallen asleep during the process, I stand proudly in front of my newly assembled bookcase. Yay me!

So it was without trepidation, and with the utmost confidence, that I listened to my husband inform me that on the internet he had found the perfect teak bench to grace our newly landscaped backyard, upon which we would happily sit for hours, enjoying the water view.  It was good-looking, well-priced, and, what did it say in the fine print? Assembly required? No problem for the Ikea queen.

Yes, I encouraged.  By all means, order it.  So he did.

Five days later, a large truck pulled up to our house and unloaded a massive package that had to be way more than bench parts.  “Hold on,” I told the driver.  “I don’t remember ordering a refrigerator.”  He checked his clip board, and assured me that this was definitely my delivery.

I allowed him to wheel the monster to my backyard, signed the delivery slip, and helplessly watched him leave.  Had he just wished me good luck?

I forlornly stood there, staring at this huge thing wrapped in ominous-looking black plastic. This was no slim and friendly Ikea box.  Instead, it looked like a bag of refuse from a dinner party hosted by the Jolly Green Giant!

I managed to get close enough to tear off the envelope containing the packing slip and the assembly instructions.   I started feeling somewhat better as I began to read the directions.  That is, until I came to the part that said “Have someone hold Part B while you attach Part C.”

Now real fear had struck. Husband-and-wife teams could be a little risky.   I’d heard of divorce as an outcome of couples playing bridge or tennis together.  And who really knew what went on behind the scenes between Lucy and Desi, Stiller and Meara, Burns and Allen?

In our particular case, I have considered murder more than once as my husband and I have endeavored to cooperate on accomplishing domestic tasks.

Take, for example, the time we had to install the removable pool barrier before our grandchildren’s visit.  We begin  as consenting adults, then quickly decompose.

“You’re starting in the wrong place.”

“Who says?”

“You’re supposed to start here, not there.”

“Where is it written?”

“You’re unrolling it backwards.”

“No I’m not; you are.”

“Stop pulling so hard.”

“I’m not pulling.”

“Yes you are!”

Last time I heard dialogue like this was when I took my children to the playground.  Or was it last spring when we decided to clean out the garage?  I would have considered death by drowning, but my husband happens to be a good swimmer.

So it was with considerable caution that I began to rip away at the enormous black garbage bag, the cardboard, and finally the inner plastic wrapping, to reveal the parts innocently awaiting assemblage to become our new bench.

I was ready to face the potential of adversity.  I reasoned that after this was over, even if we don’t talk for the next two days, I’ll have fodder for a new essay.

“Okay,” I timidly called out, “let’s do it.”

With each step representing a new possibility for conflict and blame, my mental notepad was ready and the pencil poised.

benchWhat a disappointment! The process went exceedingly well.  Hard to believe, but there were no accusations, not even when we put the legs on backwards and had to start over. And where did that thin slat of wood belong? It wasn’t on the instruction sheet.  But together, we calmly figured it out.

Who were these two people who had worked together so well? Do I know them? Have we reached a kinder, gentler level in our relationship, or am I reading too much into this success?

Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know how it goes the next time we have to reinstall the pool barrier.

Posted in Spouse | 7 Comments

Brisket Reconsidered

I’m so glad this holiday season is over.  Because if I hear one more boast about brisket, I think I’m going to spray paint someone’s Dutch oven.  When did brisket emerge as the national dish of December? And where was I when this was happening? Clearly not in the supermarket purchasing Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix.

I realized that I was living on the fringe of a cult when I innocently asked a few friends, “How was your holiday? Did your family join you?” And to a person, the response was consistent –“Yes they did, and I made a brisket!”  The pride factor was palpable.

Another aspect of this mania that I found utterly baffling was that each woman who rhapsodized about this fatty chunk of beef claimed to have the absolutely best brisket recipe ever, a family treasure handed down from Great-Aunt Selma, whose secret ingredient was whispered in the greatest confidence – grape jelly!  Or was it Coca-Cola?  (Some weird stuff goes into brisket.)

And men were no better.  Discussions about their floundering golf games were temporarily replaced by passionate praise of their wives’ briskets.  While it’s flattering to be extolled by one’s husband, I would prefer to be praised for, let’s say, my looks, and\or my intelligence, and the fact that I am very adept at fixing paper jams on his printer.

Perhaps I couldn’t share the culinary enthusiasm of my friends because my personal relationship with brisket did not have a good beginning.  Let’s just say that brisket and I got off on the wrong hoof.

My mother had many excellent qualities, but cooking wasn’t one of them.  Frequently, on Friday nights, or some other occasion that was supposed to be celebratory, she would set before the family a platter containing some gray-brown meat that reminded me of a cooked loafer.  With ketchup.  I told her I couldn’t possibly eat this because it was ugly.  She told me to go to my room.  I reminded her that I didn’t have a room.  We lived in a small apartment.

But that was a long time ago, and childhood trauma notwithstanding, perhaps it was time to discover for myself what all the fuss was about.

Since I had banished brisket from my life, I had never considered its source.  In my mind, if my thoughts ever even turned in that direction, I had lumped it together with the rest of those fatty, ethnic cuts of beef that had to be cooked to death before it was edible.  All of which, to my aesthetic sensibility, were equally as ugly.

shutterstock_149642585So I decided to investigate.  I began with one of those diagrams you sometimes see in meat markets, the one where the cow is divided into sections so it no longer looks a like an animal, but resembles a map of a small country. I find the drawing a bit disturbing, but educational.    Upon completion of my research, this is what I learned:

  • Brisket (lower chest) is not flanken (short ribs) and flanken is not brisket. And neither of them, strictly speaking, are pot roast (chuck, upper chest).  Roast beef is another matter all together, coming from the end of the cow we would prefer not to think about.
  • Brisket is very talented. Brisket in brine turns into corned beef, while corned beef cured morphs into pastrami.  And I have never regarded corned beef or pastrami as unappealing.  So brisket is the ugly duckling, capable of becoming the Miss America of the kosher deli.
  • This may come as a shock to some, but Jews do not own brisket. In fact, it may be the most multi-cultural item on the planet.  It is an inexpensive cut of beef, which lends itself to the culinary preferences of many different regions and nationalities.
  • The French cook it with bacon and cognac; Texans like it barbecued with Tex-Mex spices.
  • Each Eastern European country has its own version.
  • Asians love it. There are Thai briskets and Korean briskets.  The Chinese like it with ginger, especially in restaurants on Sundays and Christmas.

So maybe there was something to all this passion.  Perhaps brisket is the antidote for a bad day.   If you’re willing to put in the time, the result will be a succulent comfort food, right up there with meat loaf and mashed potatoes, replete with delicious gravy and a little horse radish sauce on the side.

I am now converted.  New Year’s resolution (just one):  I will cook a brisket.  Of course, mine will be the best recipe ever, giving my husband bragging rights at the next gathering of his friends.

And since it has such an international appeal, I say the next time world leaders sit down for a summit meeting, someone should serve a brisket.  This formerly ugly meat could very well be our best hope for world peace!

Posted in Cooking, Dining, Holidays | 5 Comments

Unresolved

So here we are, once again on the threshold of a new year.   How many times in the next 24 hours will you say or think: Where did the time go? So I won’t bother to repeat it here.  (But where did it go?)

Do you still consider making New Year’s resolutions? If you don’t write them down, do you even think about them? I have long ago given up making promises to myself that I will never keep.  If I want to feel bad about myself for being a weakling, I already have sufficient items from prior years to draw upon.

So this year, instead of trying to reconfigure bad habits, I’ve decided to embrace them.  Below is a partial list of personal reforms that will NOT happen in 2015 .

  • Spend more time at the gym.
  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Give up Cool Whip.
  • Lose weight.
  • Shop less.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Organize my drawers and keep them organized.
  • Stop wasting time watching Law and Order reruns.
  • Improve at golf.
  • Learn French.
  • Cook at home more often.
  • Always hang up my clothes before I go to bed.
  • Read James Joyce.
  • Wear a bikini.
  • Complete a London Times crossword puzzle.
  • Solve even one clue of a London Times crossword puzzle.
  • Have a neat desk.
  • Never write another essay about my husband.

So what are you doing tonight? Staying at home? Perhaps a movie? Dinner with friends? A fancy party? Will you even try to stay awake until midnight? Whatever your preference, I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy New Year.

And thank you for your encouragement and  readership.  My husband also thanks you.  The time I spend writing is time spent not shopping.

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Posted in Blogging, Holidays, Rituals | Leave a comment

Eat My Face

Last evening, while engaging in the usual pre-sleep beauty ritual, I dipped my fingers into the jar of night face moisturizer only to discover that I was about to use the last dollop.  While this is not quite as tragic as being unable to zip the cocktail dress you were planning to wear to the holiday party, or as inconvenient as a colonoscopy, it was still cause for consternation.

You noticed I specified night moisturizer.  Needless to say, my vanity tray also holds a day moisturizer, under-and-over eye creams, and a lip smoother.  Last time I looked, I think my ears were still sufficiently hydrated.

Having a Dorian Gray moment right before one goes to bed is not helpful in ensuring a peaceful rest. The jar of nocturnal face magic would have to be replaced, the sooner the better.

If you’re not concerned about fine lines and wrinkles (then you’re either not a woman, or still too young for a bra), this may sound trivial.   But trust me.  Being in the market for a new moisturizer is no fun.

First of all, I’m dealing with an industry that makes me feel bad about myself, and then wants my money.  Secondly, the range of choices is so vast, that I can liken it only to selecting wallpaper, which, until recently, I regarded as the worst domestic decision any woman would ever have to make.

As I saw it, I had two options. ( Three, if I added “Save Your Money; Use Vaseline.”  But I’ve been too brainwashed for that.)  I could simply replace the same product I’d been using.  Or, I could gullibly fall for the claims of something new and different.  And perhaps more expensive.  I chose Door #2.

I astutely observed the advertisements and tried to digest the promises.  Did I want to nourish and replenish? Reduce brown spots? Challenge skin fatigue? Eliminate dark circles? Glow? Look five years younger in four weeks? Make that three weeks, and I’m yours!

I ruled out all of the jars that state they are anti-aging, since this is not my personal political inclination.  I am definitely not anti-aging, and don’t know why any thinking person would be.  Considering the alternative, I’ll take as many birthdays as I can get.

So I wandered around the cosmetic counters, dodging the perfume spritzers, and reading labels.  Many of the ingredients were familiar to me – retinol, lanolin, placenta from Tibetan yaks, artichokes.  Artichokes? Wait a moment.  Was this Saks, or my local supermarket?

artichokeIt seems that while I was not paying attention, the new, secret beautifying agents in these creams and lotions was – food!

Product after product bragged that they alone had harnessed the age-defying properties of wheat germ, lemon-grass, or the acai berry.  Avocados, in addition to making guacamole, firmed and tighten.

Soy milk nourished.  Honey smoothed.  Vanilla extract and almonds penetrated the deep layers of your skin, so you not only became enriched and enhanced, but also smelled like trail mix.

Well, I thought.  Why was I wasting my time? I might as well go home, make a big salad, and smear it all over my face!

I think it was the artichoke that got to me most.  I could handle the thought of spreading something smooth and creamy on my skin, like honey or avocado, but an artichoke? Rough and pointy was not exactly the image I was going for.

So I left the store in utter confusion, wondering about the world we live in, and was Ghanian Shea butter more effective than that which came from a neighboring country?   And what, exactly, was an Olay from which the Oil was derived?

And did I really believe that a famous model turned actress looked as good today as she did 25 years ago simply because she used a particular French face product  spelled with an apostrophe?

The beauty industry has been so successful at preying on the insecurities of women, particularly women of a certain age, that even the most skeptical of us are willing to let go of our disbelief and credit cards for the promise of a more youthful glow and the final solution to sagging.

So I shall have to return to the marketplace to search out the perfect night cream.  But for tonight, I might have to apply my day cream before bed, and hope that it doesn’t further disturb my sleep cycle.

Or, I can look through my pantry.  Perhaps the Fountain of Youth is hidden in the corn flakes.

Posted in Beauty, Shopping | 2 Comments