Tag Archives: Knobby Knees

The Accidental Time Capsule: I was in Physics Club?

11 Oct

xrayIt’s been six months since we moved into our new place, and I ran across that box. “Oh, I know the one,” you might say, “Coat hangers, expired coupons, a tangle of wires that probably belonged to John’s college stereo, and the mail that was delivered on the day you moved?” Nope, not that box. I already unpacked that one!

I’m talking about the other one.

The box with:

  • The long-forgotten jr. high yearbooks full of awkward brace-face kids in acid wash jeans, who, right now, all across this land, are awkwardly parenting their own brace-face kids in skinny jeans.
  • The senior yearbook, with all of the hand-written notes promising to be friends forever, never imagining we would have to keep that promise on Facebook 20 years later. I immediately sat down with a cup of tea and flipped through it because…because I am a human, and my kids were at school. Man, we were young, and because we were a generation that lived our teenage years before the flat iron, our hair was so…fluffy. I have my share of memory issues these days, but I thought I remembered everything from high school.  I was in Physics Club??
  • The weathered copy of Biography Magazine from September of 1998 with a winsome memorial portrait of Princess Diana on the cover along with the ratty address label from our poorly insulated newlywed apartment.
  • The oversized manila envelope containing x-rays of the poor guy from the Operation game my wonky knee.  The cap part of the knee sits unnaturally askew, and a cartoonish but clear-as-day silhouette jumps right off the plastic page – a standard Home Depot screw that was drilled straight into my knee bone. (That’s the one between the shin and thigh bones, correct? )
  • An address book made obsolete a decade ago by our globe-trotting, transient cadre of friends. (Does anybody need to know where they lived in 1997?). The cover of the address book is Renoir’s painting, “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” purchased during my first grown-up shopping spree that also included my first business suit (wool, navy, pleated, unflattering), a big wicker hamper, and a sauté pan.

At the bottom of the box are the heavy books that once sat on a bookshelf we no longer own in a home we no longer own: a tome about California’s cities by one of my favorite college professors; a book on the 1992 Los Angeles riots seemingly published as the riots were still happening; and the 1992 Newspaper Designer’s Handbook that simultaneously overestimated the future existence of newspapers and underestimated the impact of technology on the once-safe field of newspaper journalism. I refuse to get rid of it. It might still come in handy.

When we moved from the suburbs to the city earlier this year, we downsized our belongings by 40-50%, yet the stuff in this box remained creating an unofficial, accidental time capsule – one I did not even put together myself. I’d been out of the hospital for a few days when John, and his quiet army of thankfully non-judgmental volunteers, helped get our move started while I lay in the other room eating Jell-O.

In recent years, I’ve really worked on overcoming my pack-rat tendencies, and tried not to be so sentimental about stuff. This stuff though? This stuff made it this far, and through multiple moves. It could stay. I separated the box’s contents, and they were quickly absorbed by the rest of our belongings – a shelf here, a cabinet there – with the 1992 Newspaper Designer’s Handbook at my bedside for quick reference.

Also, I just ordered my son’s 8th grade yearbook, and it’s time to put down the tea cup, stop looking backward for a while, and focus on a freckly face that will soon appear in the pages of that book.

*The pic up there? That’s my knee, and my hardware.

** That down there is from my senior yearbook. That’s me, at 17, with my new wave/middle aged lady haircut.

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sunburnt: a summer (cautionary) tale

9 Jul

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There are a few minor adult ailments that might be described as humbling. The first of the non-graphic variety rhymes with… tangover.

The second – a summer staple, perhaps next to the tangover – is the sunburn.

Maybe you are of Irish descent, and you have freckles, and you spent 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s summers with ineffective and/or expired SPF 4 slathered on your parts, only to have the lotion rinse immediately off on the first pass through the sprinklers, or with the first toe dipped in the pool, or with the first sweat broken. Maybe you decided you were better off with an unflattering oversized t-shirt covering your bathing suit – a shirt that became a 40-lb anchor once you jumped in the pool.

Maybe you are an olive skinned beach beauty who’s only had to look with pity at one of us less fortunate folks, roaming the sweltering grounds of the state fair, pink and defeated.

As a grown-up, I listen to my doctors. I wear sunscreen on my face every day. I wear a hat. I sit in the shade. I even went so far as to move to the foggy part of a notoriously foggy city. This ain’t my first rodeo – I’ve been burnt before. (I have been to a rodeo, but it was at night, so I was not actually burnt at the rodeo.)

I was burnt in the usual locales – the pool, the park, the passenger seat of a car, the driver’s seat of a car, the back yard, the front yard, and while sitting on a bench/blanket/lawn eating a sandwich/popsicle/cheeseburger.

In college and during that sliver of time in which I wore a bikini, my then-boyfriend/ now-husband and I uncharacteristically spent the day jet skiing on Lake Tahoe. It turns out Lake Tahoe is closer to the sun than I am used to. The jet-skiing part exposed enough parts of me – top, bottom, front, and back – to make sleep impossible as there was not one way to avoid resting on a throbbing purple and blistered patch of skin. I was out of commission for two days, calling in sick to my barista job, and freaking my mom out with sunburn fueled hallucinations.

In high school, I went to the mid-day Oakland A’s baseball game with friends.  Our upper deck seats put me at roughly the same elevation as Lake Tahoe. As I rode back home, rolling around in the back of my friend’s grandma’s old van, I knew I was in for a world of hurt. I couldn’t bend my knobby violently violet knees and the blisters were already presenting themselves. It was days before I could ride my bike.

Over the next 20 years my baseball outings were relegated to night games, or day games at the San Francisco Giants’ ball park where one usually freezes one’s rear end off, regardless of what weather is happening immediately outside the gates. But July 4, 2013 – armed with a hat, two tubes of sunscreen, and an additional precautionary spray from my friend Megan’s sunscreen can- I re-entered Oakland Coliseum at mid-day, ready for my show-down with the sun.

Our kids had been lined up in the parking lot and sprayed down with an additional protective layer of cream over their little faces, necks, and the oft-forgotten tops of ears.

Somewhere in the 2nd inning, I took off the knee brace that protects my wonky joint but makes my leg fall asleep when I sit for very long. Maybe it was my hops-based beverage in a souvenir mug. Maybe it was the nostalgic and patriotic delight of being with friends at a baseball game on the 4th of July. Whatever it was, I missed sun-screening my darn knee. On that day, in the stadium cleverly designed to focus the sun’s powerful rays on whatever seat my pale limbs occupy, the sun won.

Our friends from New Mexico emerged from the game looking as if they had been kissed by the sun. (Fun “fact”: New Mexico’s climate was designed to resemble that of the Oakland Coliseum, so they had the advantage going in.)

My little family unit walked to the car with 7 pink knees, and one familiar-looking, raging violet knee.  I knew I what I was in for.

Beginning with the failed attempt at prevention, your general sunburn experience might look a little like this:

  • You feel false confidence that you’ve done enough to protect yourself
  • As the sun goes to work on you, you remain blissfully ignorant
  • You congratulate yourself for wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s so hot
  • Your friend slides her sunglasses down her nose, peers at your afflicted area, alerts you to your pinkness, and pokes it with her finger
  • You put on another layer of sunscreen or move to the shade, knowing it’s already too late
  • You realize it’s going to hurt
  • It hurts
  • You wonder if it should really be as purple as it is
  • It hurts more than it did before
  • You vow never to wear a tank top and shorts again, let alone go in the sun
  • You love aloe
  • You love aloe so much
  • You consider filling the tub with aloe and sitting in there for a while
  • Nobody is allowed to touch you
  • You do not sleep
  • You can’t stop talking about your sunburn, as much as you want to
  • Your mom tells you not to worry, it will fade into a tan
  • You assure her that it most certainly will not fade into a tan
  • She remembers that she and your brother are the only family members who enjoy the “fades into a tan” phenomenon
  • You realize the burn does not hurt as bad as it did yesterday
  • It’s itchy now, a sure sign it will peel soon
  • It peels
  • It’s peeling and you feel like a lizard, and you have finally found the one thing that grosses out your boys so it’s kind of funny

All the while, and just like with a tangover (I’m guessing) you waiver between feeling sorry for yourself, and feeling like an idiot.

You should know better. You cooked your own goose. Or in this case, you cooked your own knees.

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* At the top is our actual sun prevention collection. It is strategically spaced through the house, so that by the time you reach the front door, you will have had three to four opportunities to remember it.

**This is me and my awesome friend Megan at that fateful game. I’m the one in the stripes. The one with the freckles. The one who’s legs are sizzling just out of frame.

DON’T GET BANGS and other things to know in case you get a brain virus

14 May

Image“Do you realize the person in this house with short-term memory problems is also the person who put away most of the stuff from our moving boxes, and now is the only one who knows where everything is?”

I would tell you how my darling husband John responded, if I could remember.

The last time I posted here, I was brimming with a hopeful excitement about a future where I could lounge on a then-unidentified couch in a similarly unidentified home in a new city. Now I lounge on a fully identified couch in our new condo while my cat sits in the window enjoying the fog obscured view of San Francisco.

As we anticipated, life is different – the schools, the parking, the restaurants. What I had not expected way back then, was that I would be different. The city didn’t do that though. My brain did.

While I am in the process of forgetting where I’ve put our belongings, I am also recovering from a bizarrely inconvenient, temporarily debilitating virus that came out of nowhere and attacked the very brain I had become so attached to. Sure my brain was not much help in high school Algebra, but it’s gotten me out of some sticky situations, and I had woefully under-appreciated how, for 38 years, my brain helped me walk, and talk, and touch my nose, and remember what movie that guy in that one commercial was in, and also do basic addition and subtraction if the moment absolutely, positively necessitated it, and nobody else was there to handle it.

It was Valentine’s weekend. John and I had packed up our offices, and said “see you later!” to our friends. We’d found a new place to live, and were readying our family for the move. We even tried to go away for a romantic wine country getaway that was cut ridiculously short by what I thought was a run-of-the-mill cold turned piercing ear infection. I was dizzy and nauseous and subsequently and sadly not at all interested in wine or romance.

Things get fuzzy for me at about this point in the timeline. Somewhere between, “Oh, I think I’m coming down with a cold,” and “garble garble non-sensical slurry garble,” John took me to the hospital where I was admitted, and soon sent to the stroke unit. My brain became the focus of a team of neurologists and infectious disease specialists. I couldn’t walk or eat, and I was slurring terribly. My dexterity was shot; I couldn’t touch my nose, use my fingers, or pass the same impairment tests used at field sobriety checkpoints. My cognitive functioning was on the fritz and I was showing signs of memory loss. The orthopedist made an appearance too, but he wasn’t as interested in my brain as he was my knee that had been dislocated in the ER during a lumbar puncture.

A cadre of tests eliminated stroke, brain tumors, ALS, MS, Lyme Disease, and Gullain-Barre syndrome, among other things.

I vaguely remember a young woman fastening electrodes to my head for the EEG and the loud whirs of the MRI tube. My brain was swollen, and not in the fun cartoony way that should have actually made me smarter.

John slept on a cot at my bedside each night, and I spent a few days with a pair of his (clean) running pants wrapped around my eyes to block any and all offending light whether it was from a crack in the blinds, or the glaring rays of fluorescence sneaking in under my hospital room door.

John also spent the first few days of my hospitalization sitting with the news that I might not make it through this illness- a fact I was not aware of until I was home from the hospital two weeks later, eating a Jell-O cup in bed. I had a virus, and it was either going to get better, or it was going to get worse.

I’ve lost huge chunks of memory from the first five or so days in the hospital, with only hazy recollections of voices, and faces, and discomfort, and apologizing to the nursing staff for the unpleasant things they had to do to keep me from getting bed sores. If I was going anywhere, the lift team was involved. The lift team is made up young, strong guys who are there to lift you if you can’t do it yourself. I apologized to them too.

Finally, I started to get better, which is better than getting worse.

The one good thing about your brain causing the hitch in your giddy-up, is that the very fact it’s malfunctioning, keeps you from truly realizing what a pickle you are in.

I may not have fully realized the badness of my situation, but I could still kinda think, and started to hope that I would emerge on the other side of this thing with at least something to show for it.

“Perhaps, there is a lesson in this,” I thought as I lay there immobile, “What is it?  Be nicer? Don’t stress about dumb stuff? The wine country is dangerous? What is it?”

All of those things are true. But also:

  • Our time here is short and there’s a lot to do, which is frustrating when you really can’t do a lot as fast as you would like. Do what you can.
  •  But you can’t do it all. Choose wisely.
  •  Don’t ever get bangs. On the off chance you are growing out those bangs at the exact moment you end up in the hospital with limited use of your limbs and zero dexterity, your inability to keep the bangs out of your face will consume you. Your world will have shrunk to the exact size of your hospital bed, and there will be some moments where it feels as if it’s actually shrunk to the size of your wayward bangs. You will tell everybody who happens into your tiny world, that even though you have a mystery virus, and you’re hooked up to machines and tubes, your top complaint of the day is your unwieldy hair. The occupational therapist who successfully harnessed my gnarly mane, bangs and all, into a lovely braid, is to me, one of Earth’s top people.
  • Never keep underwear at home in your dresser drawer that you wouldn’t want someone to bring you in the hospital, because that is the exact underwear that will be delivered to you.
  •  Nobody goes into the healthcare field for the glamour of it. Because, unless they are going to the black-tie Healthcare Workers Gala in a hotel ballroom on a balmy May evening, there is just no glamour. None. Not any.These healthcare types are with us in the trenches during some of our darkest and ugliest moments. My pastor husband and I often discuss what it means to have a sense of call, which is what finally made him take the turn from a business guy in a suit, to a reverend guy in a suit. Callings aren’t just for pastors though – people are called to all kinds of professions that defy logic, like teaching, and law enforcement, and whatever job it is that puts a person at the other end of a hospital room call button at 3:30 am.
  • Gratitude is hard (especially with hair in your face) but it’s good for you. I’m not just thankful for being on the intermittently bumpy road to recovery, which I am, but I’m forever thankful to God for my amazing husband, kids, parents, family and friends and the hundreds of people who reached out, prayed, made a meal, sent flowers, took care of the boys, sat at my bedside patiently listening as I slurred and repeated myself, or helped us out once I finally came home and clumsily climbed into my own bed. The more gratitude I can find in a day, the better I feel.
  • Save yourself the brain virus, and *skip the wine country. You can drink wine anywhere.

*I fully acknowledge the Wine Country, and the fine people of Sonoma County California did not give me my brain virus.

Today, I’m two months out of the hospital and off the walker, one month past my last bout of vertigo, about 20 hours since my last headache, and hopefully moments away from totally re-gaining the rest of my short-term memory and ridding myself of the overwhelmingly pinchy feeling that comes when there’s too much input into my poor addled brain. I did not emerge with any cool superpowers, as my wonderful, sweet, caring boys had hoped. I did get that squeezy brain up there from one of the nurses on the stroke unit, and that was cool.

This is me in my pants hat – perhaps the greatest medical invention of February 2013.hospital

working girl

22 Jun

It’s fun to entertain the notion that I was born to relax or talk about TV because I excel at those things, but I think I’ve always known I was supposed to grow up and get to work. When I was digging through my old stuff at my parents’ house, I found this sign:

Colleen’s Fall Fashion Show

Thursday August 30, 1984

There will be 12 fashions

Tickets available in Colleen’s bedroom

25¢a ticket

I know I’m the one who wrote it, but I love it. I like to picture freckled little 10-year-old Colleen earnestly creating 12 fashions, and making this sign, and then going ahead and charging mom and dad a quarter….each (sorry, no friends and family discount). Think back to your little kid self, and the stuff you did. You were figuring it out, shaping yourself for what was to come. There we were, the kiddo versions of us, trying out all kinds of careers, just by playing. Sure, you may not have played “analyst” or “consultant” but that’s ok… you might have if you knew those jobs existed and how glamorous they would turn out to be.

I always had a different imaginary job to help support five imaginary babies, Strawberry Shortcake, and an imaginary orange cat. I also had to supplement my imaginary husband’s postal service salary so we could make the payments on the two-story RV with the indoor pool.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Obviously my first choice was Pastor’s Wife (followed by mail carrier’s wife) and Director of Connecting Ministries at a thriving and fantastic Presbyterian Church. But after that, the list was long. It went something like this chronologically:

 Nurse (that lasted until age 6 when I cut my hand and nearly passed out)

 Bank Teller

 Teacher

 Actress

 Hotelier

 Private Detective and partner to Remington Steele

 Professional Tennis Player

Drummer for The Go-Go’s

 Architect (until I found out how much math was involved)

Interior Designer

Apparently… fashion designer and entrepreneur

Novelist

Journalist

Criminologist

 Journalist again

And then…anything but journalist

And yes, in my adulthood I entertained the idea of everything else on the list again except nurse, architect, and tennis player, due only to the fact that I have two bum knees.

Watching my kids now, I can see what they’re trying on for size: professional baseball/basketball/balloon volleyball player, video game tester, archaeologist, movie director, philosopher, chef, competitive eater, and though Jake doesn’t want to hear it, cub reporter a.k.a. journalist (man, that kid asks a lot of tough questions.)

Because we are always growing and moving forward, maybe we try on stuff as adults too, in anticipation of some next step or phase. If that’s the case, I have an idea of where I might be headed, especially if you were to peek into my house this week:

 Come to my Trader Joe’s frozen entrée extravaganza

In my kitchen

There will be 12 entrees

25¢a ticket

don’t call that vintage: grub

14 Apr

There’s a new pancake house in town.

That’s not a euphemism; there really is a new pancake house in town. And it’s kinda glorious. They put bacon in the pancakes…..yes, IN the pancakes. The waitstaff talks about the hand-whippedness of the butter with such passion that you think back with disdain about every stupid meal you’ve ever had that did not come with this butter.

Jake went there with my parents, and they hung his drawing of a leprechaun eating pancakes in the front window, creating three fans for life. A mere two days later, the rest of us were back to visit the drawing, and to procure more hand-whipped butter.

Now we have a tough choice at breakfast, as the new shiny place is down the street from one of this town’s famed institutions of culinary indulgence. For being an institution, I find it curious that nobody really knows the name of it, because when it’s spoken about in hushed whispers, everybody calls it something different. The source of the confusion would the multiple signs out front – one says “The Chef Burger” and the other says “Giant Chef.” I’ve also had the experience of raving about it to more than one somebody, and they cock their heads in bewilderment, until a look of realization comes over their faces and they say, “ooooh, you mean The Burger Chef.” At our house, it’s known as Giant Chef, of course, because that is the most fun to say and to visualize. Frankly you could call it “Stinky’s” and I would eat there.

A friend at work clued me in to it. I think I said “biscuits and gravy,” which if you’re around me enough, you will inevitably hear me mumble. Apparently, it was the secret password. The way I like to remember the transaction is that she looked around stealthily then leaned in to whisper the location before disappearing back into the cover of night. Or the office. Whatever.

The waitresses have worked there only forever, and your coffee cup never even gets down to half full. The biscuits & gravy are a steal (comes in handy at a cash-only joint) and they taste exactly as they should, only better. If you know biscuits & gravy – then you know exactly what the biscuits should be like, and you know exactly what the gravy should be like. Well – these are like that. And if you aren’t intimately familiar with biscuits & gravy, then I would recommend the corned beef hash, and then after that, I don’t know what to tell you. There’s always the donut place across the street that’s nestled in between the Army and Navy recruiting centers. And the friend who slipped me the intel on this place? Well, I’ve seen her there about a dozen times, and one of us usually has a ballcap on. Zach always spots her and announces her presence, much to her delight, I’m sure.

My kids are breakfast kids and have easily embraced diner culture– I’ll say it – they’re naturals. They chat up the waitstaff, use their manners and compliment the food. They’ll pay together at the register, usually in their dirty and dusty sports uniforms, and talk about baseball with the regulars at the counter. And when they are offered a free lollipop even though the sign says $.25, they say “thank you,” look over their shoulder at us and you can practically hear the little cartoon tooth twinkle thing happen.

In high school, I would drive 20 miles for good pancakes. It may have been IHOP, but it was worth it because they had German Pancakes which were really crepes with butter, powdered sugar and lemon. Sophisticated, right? I was savvy enough to know this was a dish I would not likely learn to make anytime soon. As a friend recently reminded me, we wrote a hard-hitting article about these pancakes in the high school newspaper.

Before you start worrying about my cholesterol, I want you to know that I’m an equal opportunity breakfast lover. I don’t just partake in greasy spoon diner culture, but the brunch culture too. Yeah, I like berries and compotes, and stuff made with buckwheat. I think I’ve said “lox is my middle name” and the closest I’ve gotten to a scuffle was with the girl who cut in front of me in the hour long wait for brunch in the West Portal District of San Francisco (My brunch rival, as John called her). As a kid, I would lazily lay in the backseat of my parents gigantic Chrysler, one knobby knee crossed over the other and imagine the day I would eat brunch in San Francisco, looking at the bay and listening to Christopher Cross, and maybe drinking Riuniti on ice, whatever that was. That, I decided would be my benchmark of adulthood…when I know I’d finally made it into the utmost realm of sophistication.

I recounted this childhood dream to John early in our relationship, and he has since caught me many a time affirming my adulthood and ascendance into the utmost realm of sophistication, when a) I’m eating brunch and looking out the window or B) I’m listening to Christopher Cross, which happens more than one might guess. Now if only I could get my hands on some Riuniti.

*Up there is a photo of the one, the only, Giant chef. Over there is the pancake picture by the renowned breakfast artist, Jacob. (One of his oil pencil drawings of my morning coffee hangs in our kitchen.)

This likely wraps up my vintage series. I have a couple of other vintage topics I want to get out there, but they just haven’t come to fruition. Watch out, I may use them to pay homage to this series that pays homage to vintage stuff that we love. Blows your mind, right?

don’t call that vintage: threads

31 Mar

My mom showed up at my house a couple of weeks ago with an armful of hangers. “I brought you some of your clothes,” she said.

“Wait, what? What clothes?”

“Your clothes. From your closet at the house. They are all clean, and in good shape. Do what you want with them.”

And there in her arms were tops that I instantly recognized as yes, my own…my own, from middle school and high school. I held up each piece up for inspection with a suspicious eye.  I totally appreciate vintage clothes. I’ve saved some of my mom’s handbags and skirts from her Betty Draper days; well-made, beautifully cut classic wool skirts…now lovingly stored for the day that I shrink to the size of a Betty Draper smurf, so that I can actually fit into them.  (Note to self: Food was just healthier back then. It’s today’s additives. It’s advertising. It’s the economy. It’s your crazy schedule! It has nothing to do with how much you love cheeseburgers!) What I was looking at now, my friends, was not vintage.

The turtleneck tank top had arm holes that most certainly would have reached my waist band. My arms in high school were like matchsticks. How did I get away with this? Wait, it must be a headhole. No? Definitely an armhole? Oooooh, I forgot about the second tank top underneath. That must have looked fantastic. I stared at it. “I can’t wear this one mom.”

“Sure, you can,” she said matter-of-factly. “Wear it under a blouse. You know, like a dickie.”

“OK,” is really the only thing you can say to that without sounding like a jerk.

Aaaah…the teal button down, dare I say, “blouse;” also square, also cropped, but with a sophisticated hint of acid wash. I remember popping the collar on that bad boy to show off my asymmetrical bob (with perm), polishing the look with some high waisted, white, peg leg pants. I was trying to remember what shoes I wore with this while Zach lay across my bed on his tummy, legs kicking up in the air, chin in his hands, carefully surveying the situation. “That shirt looks like Spongebob Squarepants.” I nodded my head in agreement and put the Spongebob Squarepants shirt into the very special pile with the dickie.

I held up the short sleeve pink cardigan and it formed a perfect rectangle. I peeked at the tag. Hold the phone! Benetton! Scoring something from Benetton was a real coup in middle school. My mind was reeling with possibility – I could belt it, or wear it with some skinny jeans and flats (I say that about EVERYTHING). When someone would undoubtedly ask who the designer was, I could say “vintage Benetton” like they do on the red carpet…you know, vintage Chanel, vintage Halston…it would be exactly like that. I set about unbuttoning it, getting it off the hanger, mumbling to myself, “I’ll just take a sec and try this on, lemme get my arms through the holes, button this up…there we go…I can make this work, let me just take a look here   – wait, no, nevermind… I cannot. I cannot make this work.” I cannot wear a square tummy revealing pink cardigan with giant buttons, even if it is Benetton.

It’s not like it was Esprit. As a kid, and through certain parts of adulthood, I would wear anything Esprit. I’ve never since had such fierce brand loyalty. My parents would take me on pilgrimmage to the San Francisco outlet. I’d save every tag, and catalog each piece in an Esprit notebook. And this felt like a totally normal and appropriate thing to do as a brand loyalist. Last year, as John and I were strolling through New York, my heart leapt when we spotted…an Esprit store. I didn’t know any existed. I raced in, and though it didn’t smell the same as it did when I was a kid, I had the same sense of euphoria.  Before escaping to the Sony store to try out a 3-D TV, John looked around. “They know who their audience is,” he noted, “They are are marketing it directly to you.” He was right. I was surrounded by women who looked exactly my age, and who I’m guessing were crazy for the sutff in 1986. They probably cataloged their stuff in an Esprit notebook too, also in a totally not-weird way. I bought a pair of pants that day, which as it turns out, are the best pants in the world.

As for the little slouchy black cotton jacket with distressed metal snaps that my mom delivered with the other stuff? That, I may have tucked quickly and quietly into my closet.

The photos at the top are of my very styley and tiny mom. The b&w photo is circa 1958. The ones with the baby (my brother) are circa 1963. Down here, that’s me as a kid. I was really into “outfits”. I thought I was pretty hot stuff….I’m pretty sure it’s 1986, maybe 87.  If you look closely, you can see my first Swatch.

glossy

29 Aug

Mmmmmmm, magazines. They’re glossy and portable. You can roll it up, and tear stuff out. You can recycle it, dog ear the pages, even make a collage. They come personalized – with your name right there on the front, delivered to your doorstep. They’re full of stuff that you want to know, already know, should know, and sometimes wish you didn’t know.

Someone worked hard to make it and get it out to you, and they cared what it looked like and maybe back in the day, they were a journalism major, and now they are worried about the future of the printed word. They’ve seen ad pages decline, and though I’m betting these fine people love the Internet, I’m pretty sure they curse it too.

My lifelong relationship with magazines started innocently enough when I was a girl. I’d find every hidden picture, and read every kid-submitted poem in Highlights. Of course the jokes in Readers’ Digest were BRILLIANT. Then things got a little dark and gritty as my relationship with magazines got complicated. The problem really started with Seventeen, and the now defunct teen mags Young Miss and Sassy. That’s when I was brainwashed into the thinking that pretty much every teen girl had a boyfriend and flawless skin and could easily fill out a strapless formal. I quit those, and opted for Newsweek and the since-shuttered TAXI, aimed at urban sophisticates. I skewed the demo for each.

I would be the first in my family to pick up Newsweek and read it cover to cover the day it came in the mail. My knobby knees would be slung over the side of the armchair, and my thumbs would be black from the ink on the cover. I’d proudly point out to my Dad that week’s Conventional Wisdom, cut out the few political cartoons I understood, and would nod solemnly with earnest concern as I stumbled through the meatier stuff in the middle. I was quite certain that this would impress my celebrity crush – Tom Brokaw – if I were ever to meet him.

I’ll never forget walking home with a classmate the week Leona Helmsley was the Newsweek cover girl. “The cover just says ‘Rhymes with Rich’ over her photo…Isn’t that awesome?….Get it? ” She looked at me like I was a major disappointment to our species then excused herself, suddenly remembering something she had to do elsewhere.

My adulthood garnered a number of short-term magazine relationships ….in retrospect, all fairly reflective of my stages in life: Elle, Rolling Stone, Spin, In Style, Biography, Cooking Light, Wired, People, Business 2.0, Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, Parents, Bon Appetit, The Economist, Vanity Fair, Guidepost, Travel & Leisure and Time. My longest relationship so far is with Sunset, an annual gift from my brother and sister-in-law. I half expect to know someone every time I turn a page in Sunset. A couple of years ago, I yelped when one day I did turn the page and there was my neighbor, smiling and sitting in her very sleek Sunset-worthy kitchen.

Most of my magazine break-ups were undramatic, ending with me lazily letting my subscription expire… we simply grew apart. There were a couple of noteable and glorious flameouts though. People Magazine and I spent a lot of time together right after Jacob was born. There were issues spilling out of the pockets of the rocking chair in the baby’s room. I’d devour it shamelessly until one day, it turned out to be pretty shameful. As I finished the issue, simple crossword and all, I looked up to realize I’d absolutely ignored my baby for who knows how long, leaving him in the jumpy saucer until he was in a trance. I broke up with People right there, for the sake of my children and children everywhere.

Years later things got pretty hot & heavy with Vanity Fair. The pages are made from the most luxurious high quality paper in the universe – so shiny and glossy you just want to wrap yourself in it. The writing is superb – as if each word inside was penned longhand by someone smoking a cigarette in the bar at the Algonquin, wearing heavy spectacles and cursing me under his or her brandy laden breath while running their weathered hands through a head full of wild and unkempt hair. However, after each behemoth issue, I was utterly depressed. It was Seventeen all over again. Only instead of ill- fitting prom dresses I was up against “bright young things” who were all well traveled, well heeled, overly educated, perversely accomplished, and somehow actually saving the world. I walked out of that relationship in the night with nary a note, bitter, jaded and unsure if I could ever love a publication again.

I wish I could tell you who introduced us, but I did in fact meet one. New York Magazine, NOT to be mistaken for the New Yorker. The crossword puzzle is hard, but not too hard, falling somewhere between People and The New York Times. All the cool stuff I’m proud to know about art and music and interesting people – I get from this magazine. The writing is clever and smart, approachable but not pedestrian. It doesn’t depress you like Vanity Fair, or embarrass you like People.  It’s 2 hours well spent. I read every real estate ad for a city I will likely never live in, and every restaurant review for places that will most certainly be closed by the time I ever get back there.

I can happily report that my magazines and I are in a healthy place…they are well balanced and forgiving, not at all needy or demanding – I’m entertained and educated and allowed the space and time to be independent and my own person.

By the way, I did meet Tom Brokaw once when I was in college…I can’t say that he was entirely impressed.