Driving Me Crazy

If you stay up late watching tennis, you will be tired the next day and not want to get out of bed or do any work or write anything clever. Fortunately, your 14 year old realizes this and lets out the dog, Charlie, a frisky guy who likes to go out early, even if I have stayed up late watching tennis. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t like tennis, at least not the way he did at first. But, your 14 year old, and even your 13 year old, though they can do assorted wondrous things for themselves, cannot drive the car. It sits out there, beckoning. Take me somewhere. Put them in it and take us all somewhere. C’mon, do it now. Put the key in. 

I’m sick of driving. We don’t have school buses in our little community. Instead, moms drive their own school buses, with nine seats and wheels that surpass my head height, even when standing. Even when we know the deal with the oil and the Mideast and the global warming. Anyway, that is something else. Today, we are talking about the quantity of driving, rather than the quality. My quantity is too big.

So, when I don’t have to drive to the tennis courts or the lake (for rowing, not to jump into), or the schools, or the supermarket, or to cover a story, I just sit at my desk and look at the car, out the window in our driveway. Not yet, I say, through the glass. Simmer down. 

Not too long ago, though, she got to go far….(Click here)

Oh Hi, President Obama, SO Nice to Meet You

You know, no one asked me if I would like to invite the President to my house. It’s probably because I didn’t contribute $50,000 to his campaign, but really, what’s the difference. I would have if I could have, but I couldn’t. He will be in Dallas today, after a stop in Austin, at a lawyer’s house not too far from mine.

If I were the one hosting, here is what I would do: First, I would invite people who did not/could not contribute $50,000 to his campaign, even though the purpose of the event is to rally people who did and can, again. Okay, so I wouldn’t fill up the room with them, but I’d sprinkle in a few. Like me. I’d sprinkle in me. After all, I have other things to contribute to the party, well both parties, the one with the hors d’oeuvres and the political one. I can, for starters, inject unexpected and thought-provoking conversation into the conversation. I can play the piano. And I don’t eat too much. I am the perfect guest. Oh, I always bring a fabulous hostess gift, if they are accepting them at such a soiree, I don’t know.

To the other party, I can rally support, among 13 year olds, anyway. I can write things that say why the President should be re-elected. I can make brownies, with little “O”s iced on them. 

I do not know when the event is scheduled to begin. It’s all a hush-hush. Clearly, I will not crash. I think the admin is onto that sort of thing now. But I will make a final plea here–and I know you advance team folks are reading (Hi there, advance team folks!)–to just add me to the list. Just another name, no big deal. Just another supportive citizen with a really nice personality, and a pair of heels waiting by the door. And if it will make the difference, okay, I won’t play the piano. I can live with that. I guess.


Caution: Men Working

And then the Lord said, “Let there be no more digging up the pavement in front of my house with excavation equipment including bulldozers, jackhammers, road graders and scoopers that could pick up a naval attack vessel.”

They began yesterday at 6:59 am, one minute ahead of schedule. Twelve of them, in orange vests and drapey hats, like bugs on a hill, each with a tool in hand or under foot. Several drove, whirling like dervishes in miniature tank-ish vehicles, scraping and loading, lifting and passing. Reminding me of something Balanchine would have choreographed, the display of coordination in the street was mesmerizing, if not beautiful, on some level. Not my level. My level was desperate. Noisily desperate. Climb into the dryer desperate.

For the entire day, they produced sounds that I had never heard before, a gutteral, snarly audiotrack of destruction too abrasive for a mammal such as myself, a mammal who was trying to form literate sentences at a desk not twenty yards away. I formed two, maybe three, and then, realizing the futility, decided to clean out the kids’ bathroom cabinets. For hours, I sorted ponytail accessories–elastics from the kind with the balls on the end, fuzzy from sleek–as well as barrettes, clips, bobbies, headbands and ribbons, contact solutions, dental flosses (is it flossi?), lotions–for itchy skin, sensitive skin, vanilla skin, strawberry skin–and the ever-critical battery of sunscreen products. I emerged lathered in cream, headbands on my head, cotton balls in my ears.

By sundown, I had performed similar service on several closets, baskets of magazines, the pantry and the aforementioned head, as my bangs needed trimming. Alas, the racket ceased. In my door, a note. NOTICE, it said. Please remove your car from your driveway before 7 am tomorrow morning and do not return it to your driveway for three days, until after the cement we are pouring is cured. I needed curing. No, they needed curing. What was wrong with the street anyway? 

I set my clock for 6:58 and went outside in my pajamas to find the men waiting. Waiting for me. “There she is,” one said, in a different language that I did not understand, though I know that is what he said. “Finally,” said another. 

Yeah, right. Out of my way, Mr. Bobcat. 

I parked a mile down the street and traipsed back, still in my pajamas, yes, mumbling like tired crazy people do when they are outside in their pajamas. On the way in, I noticed in the window’s reflection that my hair was sticking up like a carrot in one place on my crown and that another section was plastered sideways onto my cheek. It could have been worse, I thought. I checked to see that I was, in fact, wearing my pajamas.

The clattering began as soon as I shut the door behind me. I showered, dressed and left the house, sound waves twitching through me as I trekked to my car. When I returned hours later, the noise had stopped, only to begin again tomorrow, when it will be my neighbor’s turn.


Sign of the Times

There is not much to look at, driving south out of Dallas. Some cornfields, cows, horses. Shacks where you can buy fireworks. Churches in shingle houses. After a while, you close your eyes and take a nap, if you are not driving. My daughter and I were heading for camp, south of Austin, north of San Antonio. I would drop her off and then return, four hours each way. After a while, she closed her eyes and took a nap.

I focused my gaze straight ahead. Just south of Waco, I caught a glimpse of George Bush on a billboard. He was in a suit, in a running position. He looked as if he was getting ready to do the high jump. Across the top of the sign, there was a question…”Miss Me Yet?” It was an odd question, I thought, for a President of the United States to ask drivers driving on a highway. It was a question an ex-boyfriend would ask the ex-girlfriend who dumped him, just to annoy her. And she wouldn’t answer. She’d roll her eyes and walk away, or hang up the phone. George Bush was smirking on the billboard.

Underneath the question, there was another question. “Have you had enough of all the hope and change?”

What an idiot. I realize it’s not George Bush who actually asked the question, just a paper version of him, but really, it is the same. He would say that. That is why the people who created the billboard put his running body on it. Anyway, I was annoyed with the sign, with the people who put it there, and all over again, with the fact of this man’s presidency. Not to mention, the buffoons who still claim he is smarter than Barack Obama. I still see “Thank you, George and Laura” placards on Dallas lawns. It is enough already.

My daughter woke up after we passed the sign. We stopped for ice cream and kept going, passing more cows. and baby cows, and places to buy tractors. Finally, we arrived at camp and found the cabin and set up her bed. Looked like it would be a fun week. Hugs and kisses, be safe, wear sunscreen, drink water. I got back into the car and headed north, looking for the rear view of President George Bush but alas, seeing nothing. Vroom vroom.

Hold Onto That Leash

Just another reason to adopt a mutt from the pound…it seems the incidence of pedigree thefts has continued to rise during the past three years. Today in Dallas, robbers stole assorted hard goods during a home invasion, along with a very soft good, a one-year old miniature Schnauzer. The people in the house are a wreck. 

The thieves will sell the puppy for a lot of money. They will say he was a stray, or part of a litter from their aunt’s dog, who had lots of baby Schnauzers and just can’t take care of them all. And the buyer will believe them, because why not, the dog is so cute and happy and in need of a home.

Mutts can’t fetch the same sums, so they are probably safe, but a little insulted, I bet. Bad humans. Really bad humans.

News Guy?

Hey Brian, Brian Williams. Yoohoo, over here. It’s your viewer, Pam. Yes, me, with just another little thought about how my fellow journalists forget they are journalists because they are at a party or telling jokes or doing something that is not journalisty.

So, when the silly network you work for decided to get a man-at-the-scene-in-your-own-words because-you-were-there segment, to be broadcast to so many of us who were left wondering how the lady in the red dress and her husband got into the WH (code acronym for White House) state dinner, you told us all about–let me restate–ALL about how you noticed the lady and the man so many many times. In the car line, getting turned away at the top of the car line, walking in without the car, waltzing into the WH, so many views of something odd. And, you did what all good and enterprising journalists do. YOU TOLD YOUR WIFE!! 

Wow. A+. What instinct. Way to go with a story. 

Not to be snide, well, maybe just a little, this should be really embarrassing, for the anchor of a network newscast and the network newscast who would treat the tale of how their anchor botched intercepting a security breach as a scoop. Quick, get someone who was at the scene. Oy.

He should be relieved nothing bad happened. And he should review the chapter on Recognizing The Story. Okay, I am done.

Here Comes the Judge

The nice policeman at the door where you check in slipped my name to the top of the list of offenders after I told him that if I didn’t leave by 7:00, my daughter would be stranded on a corner 12 miles away and we would have a kidnapping on our hands. Never mind an extra inch of weeds in the alley.

The judge asks me how I want to plead. I tell him I haven’t been charged with anything, but if I were, I’d be not guilty. Then, he asked me if I wanted a jury trial or a judge trial for my weed infraction–I am going to call it a “weedony”–and I reminded him that I wasn’t ticketed with anything or made aware in any way that the city, state or country was unhappy with me or my slice of grass. And, I suggested that perhaps, he should listen to the facts of the case first, before asking me how I want to be tried, sentenced and hung out in the public square. Well, I didn’t say the last part.

He agreed to listen. Then, he told me that he would look into the situation. I presume he is going to call all of the people I had already dealt with to confirm my facts, and then make a decision about my  alleged weedony. After he told me he would delve into the matter, he asked me if I wanted a jury trial or a judge trial and how I wanted to plead. Well, okay, I said I didn’t want the side dish, but if you need to bring it out of the kitchen, I will have the carrots. Okay, carrots. 

Not guilty. Judge. December 16. 

Meantime, I will wait for his letter. If I do not get one, I will have to tell the story all over again in December, the fourth use of public time and money, not to mention mine. Is this the way the legal system is supposed to work? I do not think so. 

On the way out, we have to stop by the clerk’s window to sign something that says we will show up on the 16th. My younger daughter came with me, did her Language Arts homework in the courtroom while we waited, and witnessed the process in action.

“My name is spelled incorrectly on this form,” I tell the lady behind the window. “Could you please change it?” She gets up to check in the file drawer. 

“That is how we have it,” she tells me.

“Would you please change it?”

“I cannot change it. It is the way it is on your water bill.”

“But it is not my name.”

“I can’t do anything about it.”

So, I ask her, when I sign my name on the paper that says I have to come on the 16th, “Well, maybe they weren’t my weeds, then. Should I sign my name with the “p” or the “t?” The right way or the wrong way?”

My daughter throws me a look. Mommy, you are being fresh with the lady.

“You can sign it any way you like.”

On the way out, my daughter tells me it wasn’t the lady behind the window I should be mad at. It was the other lady, with the camera. Right, she was, but the window lady represents the system, the annoyance, the harassment of it all, and the fact that we are dragging around at City Hall at 7:00 in the pouring rain when we should be home doing our Language Arts. Then, I told her to stand up for herself, wherever, whenever. Life demands it.

Silver lining.

When The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Here is a quote from a doctoral student in biostatistics, reported in a New York Times piece the other day:

“It’s important to pay attention to size and width, not just buy it because it’s cute.”

Doctoral student. Biostatistics. Buy it because it’s cute. 

I just love this. The woman–she is clearly a woman–is talking about shoes. Shoes! Apparently, in a study of 3,378 men and women, aged 66, 60 percent of the gals chose to wear, in the course of their lives, heels, pumps, sandals and slippers that caused pain. They did not choose footwear that did not cause pain because, it is implied, those shoes were not cute. Instead, nearly two-thirds of the surveyed ladies suffered distress in their hind feet, ankles and Achilles tendons, engaging in high-risk behavior despite the safer options. Suffer for beauty, I always say.

First, is this surprising? Isn’t this common knowledge? Don’t we all have “sitting shoes?” Don’t we all walk a little like Frankenstein sometimes because it is important for the dress to have that silhouette? The trousers to have that line? Of course we do.

Second, isn’t this a funny thing to study at a university, not just because we already know the answer (without the biostatistical training) but because there might be more compelling research to be done these days? Shoes? Cancer? Climate change? I don’t know. 

And third, if the biostatistical graduate student is going to spend time analyzing the footwear selections of pained women, in a university setting, wouldn’t she want to put her data into technical terms, maybe, like frequencies and sin curves and you know, laboratory jargon. Cute e coli? Darling residue? A bacteria with a really big size and width?

I do not like to mock any sort of intellectual endeavor, okay, most of the time, but this effort is pretty wacky. And the serious coverage of it even more ridiculous. Next up…”Studies Advise Looking Both Ways Before Crossing.” I will try to remember that.


What Happens When You Try to Bomb a Building

I spent part of the morning today in Federal Court, reporting on the arraignment of the 19 year old Jordanian arrested for trying to blow up an office building in downtown Dallas yesterday afternoon. I have seen plenty of crooks up close, vandals, racketeers, a murderer or two. I have never seen a terrorist across a room. It was a different sort of thing.

Regular bad guys commit crimes for reasons that are more understandable…not acceptable, clearly, but somehow within the brain’s capacity to comprehend. Money, drugs, anger, passion. This guy, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, had religion as a motive. Death to the west. Jihad, martyrdom, all that. I can’t get that.

He was very small, about 5’4″ or five, skinny. He wore a black shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, and baggy black trousers. His legs were shackled, hands cuffed on the way in, and out. He did not look scared or concerned, even. He looked expressionless, like he was waiting for a train. He answered questions in English. His hair looked wet. In a sting operation, he set off fake explosives set up by FBI guys posing as a sleeper cell. He dialed a number on a cell phone, thinking it would detonate the car bomb he drove into the skyscraper’s parking lot minutes earlier. Instead, he reached the FBI. 

We are good to people like this, I saw in the courtroom. Smadi was given options to contest his detention and could contact the consulate of his own country. Even though the government was ready to have a hearing today, he gets a ten-day delay. He will get a translator for the hearing next week. And his Public Defender touched him gently on his back. Afterwards, he said he was a “scared boy with no family here.” 

I didn’t think he looked scared. If he wanted his family around him, he could have stayed in Jordan. The Public Defender said he had a lot of investigating to do between today and next week, even though his client was followed for six months and caught red-handed. That is nice, that we do that for people. 

My Own Personal Fashion Week

Oh the days of walking by Bryant Park, feeling fashionable. Strutting the cross-over strut. Swiveling the shoulders. Whatever I was wearing. Being in the midst was enough. I was mod. I was chic. I was it. I had it. 

I still have it, sort of, but it is not the same. It is not the same when you can’t walk by Bryant Park at lunchtime, when you are 26, and can tell your editor that you were out “scouting” or “researching” or being enterprising, somehow. Oh, I was just being enterprising. Fashion Week in New York is a nifty thing. Of course, I never participated in it on any professional level, other than the aforementioned private sidewalk modeling, but it was nifty anyway. It was distinctively New York. Sort of like the Stage Door. 

I do not take part in fashion these days, on any regular basis, other than to get dressed in the morning. Which, I should be honest, might not qualify, given my sartorial selection. T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops. In cooler weather, T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, sweatshirt. Tres chic, non? Mais oui. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. 

My children nominated me to be a candidate on “What Not To Wear.” They took my photograph. Put on your oldest shirt, Mommy. And look pathetic. Snap snap. They have not heard back from the show’s producers, but they are confident that I will snag a spot. Just look at your closet. The truth is, I do not go into my closet anymore, except to add to the give-away bags on the floor or to haul out the box with the small electronic appliance accessories. I do not often need an extra phone cord, but sometimes. Other than that, I do not retrieve a garment from the closet. They are all old and silly-looking and they do not suit my lifestyle. I do not need to put on a blouse with a ruffled neckline and pink platform sandals to sit at my desk in the enclosed former porch that is my office. I do not require an orange blazer, either, in the enclosed former porch. I should toss everything out.

But this week, as an homage to the goings-on back home, I have had my very own Fashion Week right here in Texas. I have upgraded the T to a V-neck, without writing on it. I have worn pants, and even a necklace. And shoes. I have applied under-eye concealer. They use that a lot on the runway. And, I have felt fabulous. Together. Swank. It. Will It last? I do not know. I have been a little uncomfortable in the shoes. And the necklace bangs on the computer keys and the oven door. But it has been useful. I have felt the connection, sensed the psyche, joined the people at the Park. I am with you, yes I am. Watch this…I’m strutting to the mailbox. Cross, cross.  Swivel swivel.