Category Archives: Foibles and Faux Pas

Word Nymph laughs at herself, while implicitly paying tribute to Erma Bombeck

Flower power

Raise your hand if you don’t reach for your smartphone before you’re completely awake.

We all have that one thing we reach for in the groggy hours, whether it’s a trashy novel, a daily devotional, or Facebook, to help us get back to sleep at three a.m. or to help us wake up at six.

The night before last, I awoke in the wee hours to the then-important thought that I needed to toss some dead flowers before the trash truck arrived. Isn’t it always the small stuff we sweat in the darkness?

When it became clear that slumber wasn’t going to come back to claim me anytime soon, I reached for my trusty iPhone while admonishing myself, “Don’t think about flowers,” much like the exercise that calls us to not picture an elephant. The first thing that appeared on the screen: an email from 1-800-Flowers.

Naturally, I thought about flowers until I finally drifted off, shortly before the alarm rang. When it did, intending to hit the Snooze button, I turned it off altogether, and fell into the deepest sleep of my life.

The dreams were un-freaking-believable, transporting me to a netherworld I’d prefer to not see again, thankyouverymuch. When I awoke an alarming amount of time later, I was trapped in a dense fog, unaware of the day of the week or anything else.

I watched as my hand, over which I seemingly had no control, reached for the phone. I saw a private message from my priest. It read: “Your flower is asphodel.”

Obviously I was still dreaming. Or was I dead? Was my funeral being planned around me? Was I asleep or awake? What the hell is an asphodel?

When I asked the good reverend, I hope in a more reverent manner, she reminded me that I had registered interest in a Facebook meme: “Like this image [of a flower] and I’ll give you a flower to post. It’s part of an effort to beautify the web.” Ah yes, I had liked her flower and her effort to beautify the web.

One can’t argue that the web needs beautifying; I’ll gladly do my part. The problem is, I don’t know from flowers. In case you don’t either, here’s an asphodel: soft and starlike, delicate and beauty-ful, with sparks of bright color. Perhaps even my new favorite flower.

Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Wallace

Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Wallace

Or perhaps, a suitable mantra for my nocturnal meditations.

Asphodel.

Asphodel.

Asphodel.

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Hair today…

Okay, this is getting a little scary. I have two things in common with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. You might remember, we’re both Fletch aficionados.

Much has been made of Congressman Ryan’s facial likeness to classic TV character Eddie Munster. I’ve heard their shared trait described a number of ways, including “that Little Hair Triangle-thing That Drops Down In the Middle of His Forehead.”

Does no one remember the correct term for such a feature?

It’s called a widow’s peak.

Unlike most people, whose hairlines run straight across their foreheads, fewer others have a V-shaped point in the hairline in the center of the forehead. Unfortunately, these others include me.

I say unfortunately for two reasons – one, the belief, going back to the mid 1800s, that a downward point in one’s hairline, which resembles peak of a widow’s hood, portends early widowhood; and two, I have always considered mine an ugly genetic deformity.

When I was an adolescent in the 1970s, the fashion was for girls to wear their hair parted in the middle. My role model at the time was actress Susan Dey, whose hair cascaded in perfect symmetry from the center of her hairline. My widow’s peak—and several other traits—stood in the way of looking like Susan Dey or any of the girls in my school. If I tried to part my hair in the middle, it curled at the hairline, each side bending in its own rebellious pattern.

I tried a number of things to tame my freakish triangle.

At bedtime, I’d take the hair on both sides and tape it down to my face, believing I could somehow train it to fall uniformly. But alas, I’d wake up covered in masking tape, which had by morning gotten all tangled up in my hair–and quite likely my orthodontic headgear.

One day I got the bright idea to take that whole darn triangle and rip it out by the roots. I drew a nice neat line where I wanted my hairline to be, twisted the widow’s peak into a tightly wound rope and yanked it right out of my head.

My parents were none too pleased with this self-mutilation; I might even have been punished for it. But punishment came anyway as it started to grow out – into a stiff vertical geyser, much like Martin Short’s Ed Grimley.

Isn’t it every young girl’s dream to look like Ed Grimley? Or every middle-aged woman’s to look like Paul Ryan?

Well, they’re no Susan Dey.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Foibles and Faux Pas, Politics

Meet Mrs. Trumbull

I got a Kindle for Christmas.

Late last night, seven months and three weeks later, I turned it on for the first time.

In yet another battle of man versus very small machine, I won. It took more than three hours, but my Kindle and I are now on a last name basis. It’s such a simple device. How could it have been so difficult?

I won’t go into all the gory details; or maybe I will. It was a  chicken-and-egg, O. Henry, Catch 22 kind of thing. I had to connect the device to a wireless network in order to use it, but my wireless password contains characters that the Kindle doesn’t support. Or so said the nice lady at Amazon’s help desk at midnight last night.

I had spent about an hour reading various chat threads about this technical conundrum and read all of Amazon’s instructions, each of which began with “Connect to a wireless network,” when I finally gave up and called. (After doing business with Amazon.com for 10 or 15 years, this is the first time I’ve spoken with a live person.) She confirmed I had to have the guy who set up my password change it for me. Unfortunately, for him and for me, but especially for him, he is gravely ill in the hospital; I guessed he wouldn’t want to take my call. The only option was to contact the wireless router manufacturer for help. I was two-and-a-half hours into this adventure, and not looking forward to bringing in another party, especially as I expected this would involve crawling under my desk in the wee hours.

The story took a turn. Despite Amazon’s telling me the device could not support my password, I did a little fancy fingerwork and tricked the Kindle into accepting it. I registered it and gave it a name. I don’t know why devices want us to name them; it’s not like they’re our pets, but I went ahead and did it. If my Kindle were a pet, and considering my existing pets are named Ricky and Lucy, and I was still high off a recent Lucy marathon, then it would stand to reason that I name my Kindle Mrs. Trumbull.

I chose a book and ordered it. Lo and behold, the book is now in the good hands of Mrs. Trumbull.

When I saw Midnight in Paris earlier this summer, I promised myself, once I activated the Kindle, I’d re-read some Ernest Hemingway. That’s going to have to wait.

The first book is … drum roll … The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health by Gerard E. Mullin M.D., and Kathie Madonna Swift, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., Foreward by Andrew Weil, M.D.

Why? I won’t go into all the gory details.

I’ll just say my condition didn’t improve with a three-hour dose of tech diff.

 

 

By the way, is it me or would the average adult suffer late-night indigestion upon reading the following message from the Amazon help desk:

When setting up your WiFi, please make sure of the following:

-Your Router is B/G-Wireless Compatible and not broadcasting solely in Wireless-N Mode.
-You will need to know what encryption you have. If you have WPA encryption, your WiFi password will work, however if you have WEP encryption, you will need to use your 8 or 10 character WEP Key.
-Make sure that your router is not filtering MAC Addresses.

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Health, Reading, Technology and Social Media

Lame that tune

I’m back from the beach, where my husband and I enjoyed a few days with some long-time friends. We came home with sand in our shoes, color on our cheeks, some soft ice cream stains and a terrific new game.

Our friends made up this game, which was great fun. I encourage you to play it, but one of the creators is a prominent intellectual property lawyer, so you’d best not steal the idea.

The homespun dinner table game offers the best in musical entertainment, laughter and profound humiliation.

Each person staying in the house was asked to bring his or her MP3 player to the table and hand it over to the leader. We had 10 players. One by one, each person’s song list was set on Shuffle and three songs were played—at random; for the benefit of the Podless, that’s what “shuffle” means.

I believe, anthropologically speaking, that our iPods are telling relics, revealing much about our true selves. And admit it, don’t we all have one or two songs in our libraries that we’d rather not have anyone discover?

Well, that’s the point of the game, and somehow the Shuffle function can bore right through to that one song that reveals to your loved ones—and the fellow dinner guests you’ve just met—your inner pathetic dweeb.

So here’s how it works. The first player, who happened to be I the other night, surrenders her iPod to the leader, who pops it into the speaker system. When a song comes on, the rest of the group gives it a thumbs up, thumbs down or some sort of gesture that in essence means, make it stop—now. It’s a little like Pandora Radio. We all decided that the make-it-stop option should be limited to three per voter, as some people are natural-born critics.

My first song was a little lame. It was Chris Isaak’s version of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” As uncoolness goes, I’d hoped Chris Isaak and Neil Diamond would cancel each other out. Turns out, in a group where half the members were over 50 and the other half under 27, I wasn’t so lucky. Thumbs down. Shuffle stopped at my second song, Heart’s “Crazy on You,” which nearly everyone agreed is one of the best songs ever. Saved. Number three killed me. It was Ray Stevens’ “The Streak.”*  ‘Nuf said. (Don’t look, Ethel!)

A few other players were almost as exposed and embarrassed. The hostess blushed as her device found “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The group agreed that my husband took the prize with Claudine Longet’s “Lazy Summer Night.” Who remembers Claudine Longet? The elder half of our group remembered Ms. Longet–her having been married to Andy Williams and having been convicted of fatally shooting her Olympic skier boyfriend and having been with the family at Robert Kennedy’s assassination and funeral.

The younger half of the table was busy banging out a drum chorus of “Make it stop.”

Try the game at your next dinner party and let me know how it goes.

*In the meantime, who’s old enough remember “The Streak?” Who’d like to hear a real life story about 1973’s fleeting pastime?

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M is for . . .

In January of this year, my father and I went to visit the grave sites of his parents, who are buried in Northern Virginia. I hadn’t been since my grandmother was buried in 1970, when I was 10, so it was as though I were visiting that cemetery for the first time.

I find grave markers interesting, so I walked around to visit some of my grandparents’ neighbors, noticing the years of their births and deaths, wondering who might have been when they lived above ground.

I came upon this marker, which stopped me on my path.

Wow, M. Who could this be? Could she be Monica, without a last name? Could it be someone with no family, or someone whose family couldn’t afford any more than a single letter?

For the past six months, I’ve imagined who M was, when she or he might have lived and died. I’ve created scenarios and stories in my mind. Was she a wartime nurse? Was he a child? Does M’s family, if they exist, ever come to visit? Are flowers ever placed on M’s grave? I just couldn’t let it go.

Recently I learned that a friend’s son has a summer job mowing grass and maintaining the grounds at that same cemetery.

I jumped on the chance to learn M’s identity. I e-mailed this picture to my friend, asking if her son could find out who this deceased person, with whom I’d been so preoccupied, was.

A day later, the reply came:

“Not a person. It is a plot marker to direct the grave diggers.  As in ‘plant Mr. Jones at 4M.'”

 This is the first time I’ve been disappointed to learn that someone didn’t die.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, In Memoriam

No secrets

Having just opened today’s mail, I eyeballed a credit card statement for accuracy before I put it in the queue for payment.

There was a charge I didn’t recognize, from a hotel in which I stayed on a recent business trip. All expenses for the trip had been put on my business card and charged to my client. This one, for $39.77, was a mysterious personal charge.

I called Marriott and was put through to the corporate billing office. When I reached a human being about the charge, which had been tagged “F&B” for food and beverage, the billing clerk and I together determined that the charge was made at the hotel gift shop. This still did not jog my memory.

The clerk delved deeper in to the system.

“Our system shows that you purchased 13 paper items.”

“Paper items,” I questioned myself silently, while staring at the stack of greeting cards that has towered on my desk, neglected and unaddressed, for the last three weeks.

“Oh, those must have been greeting cards,” I remembered aloud.

“Yes,” said the clerk, adding, “and one candy bar.”

Embarrassed, I replied, “Did you have to remind me of that?”

She was  not amused. “Would you like me to e-mail you an image of the itemized receipt?”

“No, that won’t be necessary,” I huffed back. Now she and whoever monitors the call for security purposes are privy to my greeting card and sugar addictions.

With a little nudge, I remembered the gift shop, I remembered the candy and I remembered the cards. If you have a June or July birthday or anniversary, I have this great card for you. I just need to remember to send it.

The moral of this story had something to do with memory but I can’t for the life of me recall what it was.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Holidays, Travel

Party crashers

In May, when I was conferred the Versatile Blogger award from Susan at Coming East, as a condition of receiving the award, I was asked to share seven things about myself. The list generated some requests for stories about these odd factoids. I recently came across the list and realized I hadn’t delivered on my intention to do so.

The item that received the most requests (a total of two) was the statement that my husband and I accidentally crashed a private Hollywood party.

Recounting the story publicly could get me busted and banned if I ever return to Hollywood. I’ll take the chance.

To tell the story right would involve some seemingly trivial details so I’ll get those out of the way briefly. 1. I had bought a very cheap but funky looking handbag to take on the trip. 2. With a lengthy connection at the Salt Lake City airport, I followed a whim and bought a slinky black dress, for no particular occasion.

On our one free evening, I wore my hot new dress to dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills. When Mr. Puck stopped at our table, I tried diplomatically to secure an invitation to the upcoming opening of his newest restaurant in Washington. He asked for my card and said he’d get us added to the invite list.

After dinner, my husband suggested we drive down Sunset Boulevard, as neither of us had ever seen it. We tooled down the Boulevard until we saw major doings. Paparazzi, spotlights, a large crowd gathered for what looked to be a press conference of some sort. We wedged our rented Ford Focus between a Maserati and Ferrari and stepped out to take a peek. Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman was making remarks to reporters in front of a night club. The line to get in extended to the end of the block, but somehow that didn’t quite register. My husband suggested we go in and I headed up the stairs to the entrance. Two doormen opened the doors and welcomed us in.

The bartender looked at us as if we were crazy when we tried to pay for our drinks, while shrimp was offered. When I turned around and saw Teri Hatcher, I realized we were at a private party. We put clues together and surmised that the soiree was being thrown by designer Badgley Mischka to celebrate the renewal of Hatcher’s spokesmodel contract.

Little Miss Pathologically Compliant here wanted to leave immediately because I knew we weren’t supposed to be there. As I wondered aloud how we had the doors opened to us in the first place, my husband credited my little black dress and naïve self confidence. I asked him to set down his drink and head for the door before we were discovered.

Too late. People wanted to talk. A woman approached me.

“I love your bag. Is it Prada or Isabella?”

Because I didn’t know Isabella (Fiore) from Isabelli Rossalini. I slipped my DSW special behind me and lied, “Prada.”

“Are you a designer or retailer?,” asked the boutique owner from Newport Beach. “Where are you from?”

I replied, “I’m a lobbyist from Washington, D.C.” Stupid answer, I know, but I had to make up for the lie I had just told. From here on, no more lying.

She asked, “Do you have a card?”

I replied, “Sorry, I just gave my last one to Wolfgang Puck.”

I excused myself, grabbed my husband and sprinted toward the exit.

A woman stopped us. Uh-oh. She said, “Don’t leave without your gifts,” and handed us each a gigantic bag filled with hundreds of dollars worth of Beverly Hills salon certificates, electronics, perfumes and costume jewelry.

We ran to our rental car and sped off, as I phoned our friend Nell, a Beverly Hills native whom we had seen the night before.

“You’ll never believe what we just did,” I squealed, and told her the whole story. We promised her she’d be getting the gift certificates, as we were leaving the next day.

A week later, Nell called me. A friend of hers had told her about being at the Badgley Mischka party.

Nell said, “A friend of mine was there. She said they had great gift bags.”

Her friend replied, “I wouldn’t know. They ran out before I could get one.”

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