Monday, June 12, 2006

rule number one: don't get caught

My sister is such a fool. You'd think that with three older siblings she'd have learned by osmosis how to successfully pull a few tricks in her teenage years. Hell, I was the trailblazer and still I managed to sneak into Georgetown bars every weekend. Of course, it was the early 90s then, before IDs had holograms, back when Georgetown was still cool. But this isn't even about bars or drinking; it's about a DVD.

Last night my father called me around dinnertime. "I need your advice on something." He sounded tired; like whatever was going on, he'd had enough of it.

"Your sister was out bopping around Bethesda with her friends last night," he said. "They decided to rent a movie. So she calls me from Blockbuster to ask what our account number is, and then she puts the cashier on the phone and the woman asks me if Steph has permission to be renting 'Sex and the City.' To which I of course I replied, 'No freakin' way.'"

I told Dad that was a good call. "It's totally inappropriate; Stephanie's just not ready for that show -- at least not unedited. I own all the DVDs and every time she asks if she can borrow one, which is often, I shoot her down."

"Well, she and her friend came home with a Blockbuster bag and when I asked what they had rented she told me it was 'Shrek 2.' Pretty innocuous, right? So I said fine, and they went down into the basement, and I went to bed. I guess it's my own fault for not looking inside the bag...

"The next morning I came downstairs to find two DVD cases sitting on the kitchen counter -- 'Sex and the City' season 3, and 'Sex and the City' season 5."

I tried to stifle a belly laugh. "So what'd you do?"

"Well, I confronted her! And she just didn't think what she'd done was a big deal. I know there needs to be some consequence, but I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do."

Oh, the irony; of all my siblings, I was the kid who smoked dope in the parking lot of the local mall. I was the one who skipped school, sneaked out, sneaked in, lied about my age and made out with 24-year-old Army boys on the Exorcist Steps when I was only 16. And now my father is asking me for disciplinary advice. (These days I'm asleep by midnight on Saturdays and sipping coffee over the New York Times by 8:00 a.m. the next day. The last thing I smoked was a piece of salmon.)

After a bit more chuckling I said, "You know, Dad, I don't know which is more disappointing -- that she committed the offense, or that she was too stupid to hide the evidence." I promised to think it over and get back to him with any ideas.

My best friend L -- wise, creative and just a little bit twisted -- is always a good consultant on matters such as these. So I asked her: If she was the parent in this situation, what would she do?

"Well, I might congratulate her for being able to talk her way into the rental after the telephone call from the store clerk. But then I'd have to chastise her for being stupid by getting caught with the contraband. Then again, I might give her kudos for having the chutzpah to flaunt those DVD cases by getting caught... I think you should make her smoke a foul cigar until she turns green. No, wait, that's for getting caught with cigarettes; never mind.

"Okay, here it is: Make her watch the DVD in front of the entire family... and... give you all a running commentary on the plot and scenes!"

Brilliant.

I shared L's ideas with my Dad. "Public humiliation it is!" he declared. "And on top of that? I think I'm going to be too busy to drive her to the DMV for that learner's permit. Like for the next few months."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Official diagnosis: Bupkis!

I squirmed through a slippery sonogram of both my breasts today (they throw in the goop for free) and it turned up a screenful of stuff that looks a lot like the surface of Mars. No signs of life. I thought I saw something shaped vaguely like a hat -- which could have been the Monopoly piece or Carmen Sandiego (thanks, Lior) -- but it was just a tiny lymph node.

I'm to return in a couple weeks for a baseline mammogram... and all I can think about is California Pizza Kitchen. Next time you eat at CPK, take a peek behind the counter where they prepare the crust: They stick a round lump of dough between two circular steel slabs, pull a lever that clamps them together, and when they finally let go that dough is as wide and flat at the plate they'll serve it on.

Man, I could really go for a pizza right now.

Thank you, everyone, for your concern and for keeping the gag going; I enjoyed a few chuckles this week that helped the days fly by.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

taking my lumps

Just when you thought I'd exhausted the topic: More about breasts!

In this issue of Boobie Digest: My Very First Mammogram.

There's something in my breast. A lump -- I guess everything subcutaneous is a lump until you take a look inside. It's rather large (as breast lumps go) and a bit painful, which is a good indication that it's the kind of something that's nothing, as opposed to the kind of something that's something.

I'm not too worried... but I am curious. What could it be? The missing tophat from my first Monopoly game? That jujube that vanished into the couch? A fragment of an old broken heart?

Jimmy Hoffa's pinky ring?


Hairball?

I consulted my best friend on the matter, and she returned an impressive list of possible diagnoses, including: tears not shed; your virginity; the popularity neither of us found in junior high; sushi; the Lost Tribe of Israel; and (my personal favorite) "Maybe that's where your socks go when they disappear in the dryer."

All helpful, but still I'd like to open up the floor: Anyone want to hazard a guess? Come on, it'll be fun! Guess the Lump, all entries due by 9:00 a.m. this Friday, an hour before I see the radiologist. Maybe I'll even get Dionne Warwick on the line, just for shits and giggles.

Oh, don't look so horrified. You gotta have a sense of humor about these things! We all have to take our lumps now and then. You've got four days; now make with the funny stuff and help me take mine.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

like a fiddle

While Mom was out for the evening, singing a gig at a retirement home in Northern Virginia, I came by the house to wash a bit of laundry and hang out with my Dad. Once dinner was eaten and my khaki sheets were dry, Dad offered me a slice of my mother's famous banana bread for dessert.

"Mmmm... maybe just a bite. Only the bottom." I love the moist, chewy layer where the cake sits on the plate collecting gooey sweetness. My family has learned to eat that part first, before I can swoop in and gobble my favorite puddingy morsels right off their plates.

Dad set to work slicing a sliver from the bundt, sawing gently back and forth with a serrated knife as is his Proven Method (patent pending). The man may be anal, but nobody cuts a cleaner slice of cake.

He tipped the piece over onto the plate and we both groaned with disappointment; no bottom layer -- it'd been cut away.

"It's your mother," he said. "Not so coordinated. She just grabs the knife and presses down. Totally smooshes the cake, no sawing motion at all. And she's in such a hurry she usually cuts it on an angle too; takes the bottom layer right off the next piece." He sighed and shook his head, a defeated teacher realizing at last that some pupils will never master some skills.

At mention of the word 'coordinated' my mind flashed back to the wedding we attended a couple weeks earlier in New York. I watched my parents enjoying the band: My father boogied to the beat; my mother... well, she looked lovely in her pink gown.

"Not coordinated is right," I said to Dad. "That scene on the dance floor last weekend... oy vey."

"Yeah, did you see what happened when I tried to lead her? Disaster."

"Fortunately I inherited your sense of rhythm," I said. I was speaking of my own proclivity for shaking my groove thing, but Dad must've thought I meant my piano training.

"I suppose I would have done pretty well with a musical instrument," he said, nodding thoughtfully. He watched his kids grow up with music, always wondering what it would have been like to learn.

"Well, instead you married one!" I said brightly.

And then my father smiled in that wistful way he does when he thinks fondly of my Mom, which is often, and he murmured, "Yes, I certainly did..."

...only she plays me."