Spirited Away

I forget if I ever recommended this picture to you, but man, it’s a creepy one. My friend Alex J. pitched it to me and I was sunk. This family is moving from one town to the next, but on the way, they visit an abandoned historic village. There is absolutely no other people around, and yet there’s a restaurant with platters and platters of hot, steaming, delicious food. The famished parents help themselves, while the little girl keeps going “no, no! stop eating!” Before you know it, the parents have turned into pigs and can’t leave – the historic village turning out to be some kind of haunted hot spot for ghosts – and the little girl has to get her folks off the hook for the rest of the picture. It is so utterly bizarre and creative – I think she has to fight boulder-size potato people at one point, and although it’s been years since I’ve seen this movie, I still try not to eat the free food in my office, you know, in case…I turn into a pig and I can never leave.

Telephone Etiquette

I don’t know if you ever have to have conversations with people you dislike, or if people on the other end ever say anything that you find say, utterly annoying, but here’s what I do to cope with this unpleasant situation:

1) Hang up (only in extreme cases, but sometimes it’s not an option.)
2) Hold the receiver up to the air
3) Put the phone in the refrigerator (only works with a cordless)
4) Pretend the connection is bad and promise to call them right back, and of course, never do (requires nerves of steel. Only did it once with great success but enormous guilt.)

When you practice #2 and #3, the person is usually almost always still talking and hasn’t noticed your absence at all. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Eat, Pray, Love, the Movie

It’s not a complete screenplay, so I don’t know that you can judge the results so harshly when the foundation is flawed, but so many flawed pics are produced, I’m not sure why the haters have come on full force. There are some really nice acting bits from Billy Crudup, Viola Davis, and Javier Bardem (I love that that meaty, emotional face!), and Julia Roberts is able to project a palpable sense of loneliness in the character. The spiritual aspect of the story is somewhat wasted, because I don’t really think of Julia Roberts as a spiritual presence (or believable as a writer). She’s like a…movie star. Someone like her in this “everyday woman” story is a little like, “Huh, oh look, models suffer too.” Here is a list of both my favorite and least favorite things about this movie; some entries could go on either list so, I just mush them up together here:

1) The scenery – gorgeous.
2) Weak on the food porn shots. (This is your chance to make a Crate and Barrel catalogue come to life! Don’t blow it!) (The best food porn shot of all time is the sandwich Adam Sandler makes in Spanglish -– when he/someone slices through and the yellow yoke floods the plate? Forget it.)
3) The moment before her journey when she closes her eyes and says “I want to marvel at something again” – it’s a little…gross.
4) Javier Bardem weeping when he says good-bye to his 19-year-old son (I was like, oh god, that’s how Husband and I are going to be. Baby is going to be so embarrassed.)
5) Any scene where everyone is paying homage to the Indian guru (only because me and Nancy know the actress who was cast as the guru, and it was weird to see everyone worshiping her)
6) Best lines: “Has anyone told you you look like James Taylor?” and “I’m so all over the place I feel like Liza Minnelli.”
7) The moment she cries to Ketut, her Indoneisian guru, “you’ve healed me, you’ve brought me back to myself.” (That moment, I have to say, elicited a loud guffaw from my body – didn’t mean to let it get so out of hand.)

There! I summed up the entire movie for you. You can stay home now if you like. You’re welcome, America.

baby love

Baby is just an absolute delight and the perfect weight to hold. Now he can drape his fat little arms around your neck when you carry his sack-of-potatoes body around. Now I know how Ross felt when he held Marcel on Friends.


This baby is like a cake I don’t want to share. I am a pig for this baby. In certain respects, that’s understandable. I only get an hour of him awake per day during the week. I read some study that working parents only played with their kids 30 minutes a day; stay-at-home parents, only 60 minutes. Other days, not so much.

I hope he knows how I feel about him, or figures it out some day. I don’t think it counts that I smile at him when he’s sleeping or sitting up for a burp (the cutest thing I’ve ever seen). When I lift him up under his armpits, he’s still boneless enough that it’s like picking up a cat. Sometimes, I think, Wow, I am holding a future President of America like a cat, or, Wow, I am holding a future, really talented, school librarian like a cat.

Husband and I swoon over Baby like lovesick teenagers. When I miss Baby, I can’t call him (he doesn’t have a cell), so I call Husband and we share our favorite Baby moments. Baby is not going to remember a whit of these days, and I have recently thought these memories are for Husband and I to share when we’re old and Baby is driving cross-country to go surfing and never calls me (or transports into my living room, or whatever kids those days are doing).

After growing up with such a loudly opinionated (and very good) mother, I thought I would try to be a liberal parent, a parent like a therapist, where I would try to let Baby become whomever he is supposed to be, rather than what I wanted. My primary parenting goal was to raise a non-a-hole, a huge service to the world overrun with them. And while that is still true, today, I realized there’s no way on earth I’m going to be objective with this child. How can I? Having a child literally feels like I have sent out a part of my spirit into the world. He feels like an extension of me (precisely what I accused my mother of unhealthily feeling for many years). I don’t like strangers or people I don’t like holding him is because it’s almost as if they’re holding my heart (or to be less cheesy and just as effective) my liver, my pancreas (you know, the essentials). It feels like a too intimate gesture.

And if I feel this way now, how on earth am I going to let Baby be his own person? If he’s gay, which I’m totally down with, will I have a hard time adjusting simply because I’m not gay? (By the way, I would get over it lickety-split. I have friends who seem to have been disowned by their folks for a variety of reasons, including being gay, and now that I have a kid, I don’t understand why any parent would ever do that…I suppose if that parent was an ahole, this behavior would make sense.)

Ahh, whatever, I told you having this baby gave me a different mind. I now have different things to mull over, and there’s still a large part of my brain that can’t believe that Baby is here. Husband and I still look at each other when the Baby makes noise, and say “Wait, did someone leave a baby here? When did we agree to a third roommate?”

total recall

I was recently home and caught Total Recall on cable. I think the last time I saw this picture was in high school, and am happy to say, it’s just as entertaining as ever. It’s a sci-fi story of a man bored with his life and signs up for an avatar-second-life type of recreation and finds out that he’s really a dormant super secret agent working for the rebels. One of the climatic scenes takes place in a sleazy bar with midget strippers (or maybe dwarf strippers? I think dwarves are the ones with regular adult-size heads and miniature bodies — I know because I saw about 30 of them in one weekend because they were hosting a conference in my neighborhood last spring.) Once in a while, Husband and I will call out to each other, “Give duh peo-pull deir air!” and think warmly of this Arnold movie.

I don’t quite understand how Arnold Schwartzenegger became a Hollywood leading man, although I am crazy about his accent. Now look at the guy — governor. Who knew. (Though we wished if this was the direction he wanted to go, he should have picked an easier state to govern. Everyone seems to think being a state governor is a piece of cake. It ain’t.)

P.S. If I’ve already written about this flick, I’m sorry. It means my memories have begun to recycle and that I am a…robot.


There are certain thins to me that make you look like an adult, one of them being purses. If you are a professional, working woman, you really need to have a good bag. It helps you look pulled together, and here’s where I fall short.

I have been carrying around the same ratty, mysteriously stained backpack for years. “Why don’t you get a new backpack?” You might ask, or “Why don’t you wash your backpack?” Although it’s feels weird to show up to a business meeting with it (I showed up to a meeting at the Pierre with sneakers and my backpack and felt like a cross between Dora the Explorer and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman as the humiliated hooker in a Rodeo Drive store), there is no other bag large enough to haul all my loot that won’t cripple my back. (And disclosure: I do have some kind of teeny purse, because after my wallet was lifted from the said backpack, I decided I’d use something a step above the fanny pack). So while my colleagues may not have been thrilled with my attire, I don’t know what to tell you.

Maybe people would respect me more if I carried this around as my purse:

It’s called “meat purse.” Hey, at least I comb my hair now.

In Haiti, a Lesson for U.S. Health Care

You know, when handsome George Clooney corrals the celebs into a telethon and tells me it’s time to give money, I’m a gonna give money. I totally donated money to the Haiti cause, and I think the instinct for charity is a noble one (although I don’t have it. Sorry, it’s true).

What disturbs me about out phenomenal ability to give is when our assistance actually damages the local eco-, econo-, socio-fabric. Apparently, Haiti doesn’t have a fabulous health care system (no surprise there), but there were clinics you could visit and pay nominal physician fees, and these clinics supplied services like x-rays for free because hospitals couldn’t afford them. But with the onslaught of world-class physicians flooding the shores, all the citizens have being going to the volunteers. Makes sense. The problem is that these clinics are going out of business, and once the noble volunteers leave, there will be no health infrastructure in Haiti. It reminds me of the Bob Geldof project “Do They Know It’s Christmas” – did you hear of that one? Some of the money raised by that project, about $63 million of it, was diverted by a rebel group to purchase weapons, so in fact, the fundraiser prolonged the war and subsequent starvation. Awesome.

Look, I don’t think it’s bad that there’s an instinct to help. I just wonder if we should think about the ramifications of our actions before we stick our giant American butt into the mix, as moved as we are. And really, I wish George would do a fundraiser for the U.S. Our national debt is profound and we owe money to CHINA. What the what?

trying to go with this whole mom thing

This whole mom thing is weird. I can’t quite believe that’s what I am. Please, I’m still not over the whole pregnancy thing. Really? Human beings are born out of other human bodies? You would think by now someone would have come up with a way to make babies in a green house. Why do kangaroos get pockets but we don’t?The public aspect of pregnancy was weird. Coworkers I never said hello to would come up, let their hands rest on my belly, and ask personal questions. I hated how this profound, personal change in my life was made so explicitly obvious by the way it took over my body. On the day I went into labor, I saw Steve Buscemi. He was hiding his face, because you know, he’s famous and it must be incredibly distracting to be regularly recognized. But I was like “Dude, Steve Buscemi, I hide my face to YOU, man! I’m in freaking labor so don’t look at me!”

As for the mom thing, that’s a whole other dimension beyond my comprehension. Some friends with children say “I can’t remember a time when [insert child’s name] wasn’t here. I can’t remember life before them.” Uh, I remember my pre-Baby life all too well. For so long, I kept waiting for things to revert to “normal.”

I see when people meet me for the first time how they immediately dismiss me into the “Mom Bucket.” Literally, a light goes out from their eyes. It makes me want to grab them by the cuff of their tattered rock t-shirt and say “Look dude, I was cool! I was in a band!” (I was never in a band, but you know what I mean.) The other reaction I get is complete and utter acceptance. Now, married with a child, I fit into a recognizable demographic, and as a lifetime member of the misfits, I find this unsettling.

So this baby — he’s like an irrevocable life alteration, huh. Don’t worry. I’m not returning Baby or changing my mind. Je non regrette nien. The jokes he has inspired alone are worth having him around, as well as his giggles, Michelin Man body, stomach crunches, and dinosaur noises. If Husband and I did not have Baby, I would have carried the bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth till I died. (Sorry to sound so dramatic, but that is how I feel.)

But with any change, even one as welcome as Baby Is Magic, there is a lot to get used to. For example, it’s no longer Husband and Wife, but Husband and Wife and Baby — so our attention, affection, and devotion gets split three ways instead of two (or mostly, just one — Baby gets all). I have to make room in my thoughts, heart, apartment, relationships with other people including Husband, and time for Baby.

I think one of the hard thingsto get used to is I have lost my mind. I really miss having my mind. Because of Dad’s Mind Cancer, I have been cognizant that I am able to navigate complicated, tedious, dry contracts or map out a short story that represents my life p.o.v. and just appreciate it. No longer, dude. Now I am continually leaving things behind, losing track of receipts right in front of me. Sleep deprivation, hormonal sea changes — it all contributes to Mind Cloud. I am in the midst of a fourth revision of a novel and have no idea how I’m going to get it done when I think like that guy in Memento.

Today, I was thinking how becoming a mom is like reincarnation, or what I think reincarnation might be like. You’re in your new life, but you carry this memory residue of the past. The thing is it’s not very useful to keep holding onto the vestiges of your old life. So here it is — I am going to let it go. I am going to forget the life that was there before Baby, so I can be more fully here in Mind Cloud Land.

mom olympics

Here are the Mom olympics skills I’ve recently had to practice:

1) Baby nail cutting!

2) Rectal temperature taking (sorry to be so explicit)!

3) Booger extraction via bulb syringe!

4) Changing a number two diaper on my lap, in the back of a car!

Guess which is my least favorite?