Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Happened to Richard?

As recently as one generation ago, the name 'Dick' (most often a nickname for Richard - now how does THAT work?) was a fine and acceptable moniker. Dick Clark, Dick Van Patten, Dick Nixon, Dick Van Dyck (unfortunate sounding in every way).

But the name 'Dick' is only met with snickers nowadays. We all know what a dick is. When used in traffic, it is spat out with rage. When used to belittle, i.e. "dick-for-brains", the accent is firmly planted on it as first syllable.

There is a great big sporting goods chain that used to have a different, cool-in-an-athletic-sort-of-way name. It changed hands and became 'Dick's'. Whose bright idea was that? You go to the mall and it is the anchor store. You turn into the parking lot and see small signs for J.C. Penney. Macy*s. Hot Topic. Anthropologie. Then, looming in front, DICK'S!!!!

Now, there is some subconscious, Freudian reasoning, I guess. Dick's sells golf clubs and big weight sets. It has an enormous hunting department and carries many basketball and hockey jerseys.

But studies show that women are by far, the main patrons of such shopping centers. Did the new owner really think these women would be thrilled and enticed by this new name? "After lunch at La Petit Sushi and a pedi at Spa Francois, where should we go next, Brittany?" "Hmm, like, let me think. . . I know! Let's go to my totally favorite boutique! DICK'S!!!"

I don't think so.

In the animal kingdom, brains come in all shapes and sizes.
This is also true of humans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yankee Doodle Went to Town, Sitting in a Wine Bar

I live in a fairly close-knit town. I can wander down Main Street or the aisles of the local supermarket at any given time and run into people I know. I like that. I grew up in a different Long Island suburb during the 50s and 60s, when suburbia was coming into its own all over. But this town, now, seems friendlier somehow.

The two towns met in my world the other night. I play at this local wine bar every couple of weeks. It is a small place, but a nice easy venue to have a drink, chat with friends and listen to nice unplugged music. I walked in a few minutes before my gig time and saw a face from my distant past. "Patty O'Brien!!", I exclaimed, without thinking first. The woman, who was at a table with a man (her husband, I later found out) looked at me with surprise and concern. I could tell she had no clue who I was. "Lisa from Saint Edward's", I said, a little too earnestly. Her face changed and I saw a registering of recognition.

Patty O'Brien and I had gone through kindergarten and elementary school together. Her mother, Sally O'Brien, was MY mother's friend. They cleaned the church's altar together, the only women at the time who were ever allowed in past the communion rail. Even the nuns were not allowed back there. Patty became my faithful friend in first grade because I shared my lunch dessert with her every day.

We all brought lunch boxes in those days. They were metal and had glass thermoses inside that you could not put soda in (I learned the hard way) because they would explode and soak everything else in there. We all had our favorite lunches and, except for Fridays, when we Catholics could not eat meat, our lunches were the same every day. Nancy had a plaid lunch box and raisins. Mary Ellen always got a little wet wipe in her box which she washed her hands and face with. Terry had carrots (ew!)
I had a Gene Autry Lunch box. I did'nt even know who Gene Autry was, but it was the only lunchbox the hardware store carried when I needed one in a hurry. I had salami on Taystee bread every day except I had peanut butter and apple on Fridays. The Taystee bread was white and soft and spongy and could be flattened nicely and bitten into a disc which we pretended was Holy Communion.

The best part of my lunch (and Patty's by association) was dessert. I got an entire package of Yankee Doodles. That's three, count 'em, three cupcakes. I could only eat two, so, every single day, I gave the last one to Patty.

Sitting at the wine bar, we reminisced about our school days, our moms, and our lunches. Time stood still for a moment and we were back in the cafeteria in our green plaid wool uniforms, eating cupcakes and drinking milk out of little wax cartons. Funny what you remember.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Choiring Minds Want to Know

So. I belong to my church choir. I sing alto. I like the lower notes and I like to sing the harmony parts under the sopranos, who invariably sing the melody. Many women WANT to sing soprano just so they can get the melody. I admit, sometimes the alto line can be boring, a drone, or make no sense when sung alone.

But harmony is where the magic happens. Anyone can sing a plain old melody. La, la, la, go the sopranos, all high and mighty. Where would that melody be, really if not for the wonderful notes below, the wind beneath their wings?

My choir director lives and breathes music. He has either sung or played or conducted his whole life, and he is MY age. Which says a lot. But often, because he is so musically educated and perhaps a little bit gloomy, his tastes run to either the painfully classical, the obscure, the difficult or the grimly dark. Think Phantom of the Opera. You want to make this man happy? Give him a good Requiem.

Our choir is made up of a bunch of amateurs - the musical equivalent to weekend warriors - and a couple of professional ringers, uh, I mean, singers. The director hands out several weeks-worth of music at a time. He's the only person I know who can choose an Easter Song in a minor key. To keep our spirits up, we choir members like to poke fun at any weird names we can find on our sheet music. Pepper Choplin. John Rutter. Natalie Sleeth. But by far the best recently, was a piece of German music by a guy named Fuch Dich. I kid you not. Needless to say, we had a field day.
I won't go into the particulars here. Oh, okay, some references to Penal Colonies and Richard Nixon.

Choir is fun. Give us a rollicking good Requiem and we're off and running. Maybe Rutter knew Fuch Dich. IDK.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Driving Miss Crazy

I am teaching my 16-year-old daughter to drive. Just starting, really. She doesn't actually have her learner's permit yet, so we are practicing in parking lots for the moment. I don't think they ticket you on private property. She really wants to learn and she really wants her permit. Allow me to be crabby for a moment. We went online to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) site to find out where to go for the test, directions and hours of operation.

Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Not open on the weekends or holidays.

Okay, let's see if I understand. 99.9 percent of all people looking to get learners' permits are 16-year-old high school students who are IN SCHOOL from exactly 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. They are free to have their parents get them to the DMV after school or on the weekends. But wait! The DMV is closed at those times.

Are we living in the Soviet Union? Where is the line for toilet paper? What the hell? Now, since both the public schools AND the DMV are state-run institutions, you'd think they would work together, seeing as they're cousins and all. "You there, public schools!", said the DMV. (It helps if you use the Boris-and-Natasha voices from 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' here). "I see you must keep ze juvenile hooligans until 3:30 p.m. How about eef I stay open until 6 p.m. so they can be driven by parents for their permit tests in timely fashion?"
"That is sounding great, DMV!", exclaimed Public Schools. "And for my part, I vill offer Drivers Education for free to all 16-year-old comrades as an extra curricular class before and after school, to accomodate both ze busy kids and ze worker parents of ze world."

Help! On behalf of my daughter. I taught her older sister to drive a few years back. A closer DMV was open then (since closed, due to lack of caring about being conveniently located to anyone) and she got her permit on the first try. We did have to wait on three lines for about an hour each. Luckily we had all our necessary papers - birth certificate, passport, Social Security card, student photo ID, library card, Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card, you get the idea. She took drivers ed in the summer before work and passed her road test the first time out. Yay!

Maybe this will happen again. Maybe not. I heard if you fail your test more than once you get sent to the Gulag.

This, of course is my delusional idea of practicality and logic. The Soviets obviously do not agree.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The (Other) L Word

So, I went to get ashes on Ash Wednesday. Ever since I was a young Catholic school girl, There was something about Ash Wednesday and the ritual of the black smudge on the forehead that made me feel serious and holy. "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return," the priest would intone as he rubbed a vigorous thumbful of ashes onto my freckled forehead.

As a child, I would rush home after getting my ashes in order to examine the results closely in the mirror. The ashes were supposed to be in the shape of a cross, and sometimes, if one was lucky, a nice clear, black cross was evident. But sometimes all you got was a grayish smear, often looking like you were just shot in the head with a bullet. When my ashes did not pass my own critical muster, I went to the fireplace in my livingroom, got a handful of fire ash and carefully improved my cross. I would not wash my face that night either.

Now I am grown and still, I find an irresistible mystique to the Ash Wednesday ritual. So I went. When my turn came, I closed my eyes in a reverential sort of way and felt a measure of satisfaction when I felt the strong thumb of the minister make an unmistakable cross on my head. I said a quick prayer and left for home. My daughter looked up from her homework as I walked in the door.

"Hi," I said, dropping my bag on the bench. Her eyes grew wide as she stared at the place just above my eyebrows. She started laughing out loud. "What's so funny?," I demanded. "Look at your forehead in the mirror," she smirked, wiping tears from her eyes. I went into the bathroom with some trepidation. There, as clear as day and nicely etched, was a large "L" smack in the middle of my forehead. Two arms of the so-called cross had obviously worn off.

Was this some cruel joke? Did God (or at least the minister) really think of me as a BIG LOSER? I am philosophical. The Father in Heaven wanted to cheer up a gloomy teenager and entrusted this worthy task to His valued servant - me. I am honored. Really.