Monthly Archives: March 2009

Guess Who’s NOT Coming To Dinner?

Nobody in the family’s been around much for this Spring Vacation season, so I’m not making my annual Passover Seder. Andy’s off at UCLA Theater School getting ready for his nude scene in The Devils. Jordan has two subjects remaining before he transfers to San Francisco State, so he’s busy studying his courses— Boundary Oak Golf Course and Diablo Creek Golf Course. Alan’s working hard to develop his start-up solar company, Eco Friendly Energy Company. In addition to scoring a contract to solarize a high school stadium—the first in the country— Alan’s now receiving multiple and enthusiastic calls like the woman who phoned and said, “I’m having a party. Can you guarantee the sun will shine?”       

In truth, even if he wasn’t busy with the new company, Alan’s always been leery of holiday dinners ever since, years ago, we put on a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people. The guests included Alan’s former boss and his proper wife, who was the leader of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union. During dinner Alan had insisted that nine year old Andy show off his first collection of celebrity imitations. Andy eagerly stood up at the white linen-covered table and took a military stance, feet apart, hands on his hips.

            Alan: “Andy’s going to show you all how he does Damon Wayans. You know, from the movie Major Payne that all the kids’ like? Go ahead, Andy, show how you do Major Payne.”

            (Guests lean forward expectantly.)

            Andy (thundering): “Now listen up! I’m Major Payne! Time to get out of bed, YOU ASSHOLES!”

            It was all a misunderstanding, Alan claimed later. How could HE know Andy was going to utter those lines?

            That “misunderstanding” is one reason I carefully weigh the guest list when I plan any holiday meal. I know, for example, that although a seder would automatically include my flight attendant sister Roberta, I’d never ask her current escort/boyfriend Eric, who’s been a close advisor to Dick Cheney. THE Dick Cheney.

  During the year and a half Roberta’s dated Eric, they’ve ranted and bickered because of their mutual dislike for each other’s political leanings. Eric finally decided they should not talk politics at all, and that left a major vacuum.

            “Eric doesn’t go to movies,” my sister told me, “and he only reads right-wing political books. So there’s nothing we can talk about.”

            She sighed. “The only thing we have in common is, we both like lamb.”

            Through Eric, my sister met Dick Cheney twice. Before the first meeting she worried what she would say to Cheney that allowed her self-expression without reflecting badly on Eric, who’d nervously avoided introducing them for more than a year. Roberta tried out different remarks, reciting them over and over to judge the possible effect. She was determined to make a statement that was true to her values without causing offense; a declaration that would hang in the air when she finished, weighty and persuasive, delivered with passion.

When she finally met Cheney at Casa Pacifica, the former Nixon Western White House in San Clemente, she had it down. Gracious and elegant, with a hint of fire in her eyes, she stepped forward, looked way down (he was shorter than she expected), shook his hand and said fervently, “Mr. Vice President, you look so much better in person than in your photographs!”

            Eric’s anxiety hadn’t been so high since the time he brought Roberta to a large party peopled with his conservative, mostly Irish-Catholic Republican friends in Cape Cod to test whether she’d fit in.

            “He was so worried they’d find out,” she told me later.

            “You mean that he was dating a Jew?” I asked

            “Oh no. That he was dating a Democrat.”

            Eric would certainly be an interesting addition to the elaborate Passover Seders I’ve hosted, but—- his strong religious, political and cultural biases aside—- as a meat-and-potatoes guy he’d probably balk at trying ethnic seder food. Or he’d become impatient waiting an hour or more for the pre-dinner telling of the biblical Exodus-from-Egypt story.     

I’ve often asked non-Jewish friends to participate in our seders which are, they tell me, fun and educational, but I’ve concluded that Eric wouldn’t be comfortable at a seder, primarily because, let’s face it, he’d be surrounded by left-leaning Democrats. What he’d refuse to believe is that they were leaning left because leaning is required on Passover, along with eating matzo and bitter herbs. It would be the first time in Eric’s life that, as a strong Catholic traditionalist, he’d have to curb his tongue because his left-leaning dinner guests were doing so for religious reasons.

Come to think of it, for that reason alone, I might put on a seder.   


Pees Porridge Hot

Some Like it in the Pot Nine Days Old

            I’m glad it’s been raining the past few weeks in Northern California. We have a drought, and with the drought comes water restrictions. When it rains, everybody hopes enough rain will fall to fill the reservoirs and end the restrictions on water use. “Water-use restrictions” like not flushing toilets..

            I could hardly believe this command by the local water district, East Bay Municipal Utility District, known as East Bay MUD. I immediately assumed most of their employees must be men. My family consists of three men, my spouse Alan, and twenty-ish sons Jordan and Andy. I’ve observed they have no qualms about the water district’s “no flush” rule. Indeed, they’d cheerfully adopt this measure permanently, consistent with their enduring policy of leaving toilet seats up.

            I go around flushing the toilets and lowering the lids, gritting my teeth and mentally daring East Bay MUD’s water police to come and get me. As far as I can tell, this is why the stores at the mall aren’t doing any business. It’s not the economy, stupid. While I haven’t actually been in department stores lately because of our paycheck loss status, I assume, if retail merchants fall under the same water-use restrictions as they should, the bathrooms at Nordstrom and Macy’s must be uninhabitable from the no-flush rule. The rule doesn’t affect places like Barnes and Noble, because their restrooms have always observed this practice.

            Clearly, the only people affected by retail stores’ restroom policies are women. I’ve learned from my three men that finding a restroom is not necessarily an urgent matter. Men can freely turn the outdoors into their own private restroom if need be. Women are aghast at the suggestion of sneaking outside to relieve themselves. If one woman did have the audacity to do that, there’d soon be a long line of other women to that particular bush.

            In contrast to women, men are also the type of mammal who, in biological terms, practice “feces avoidance.” Sheep and other ungulates do this, grazing in areas far from their sheep restrooms. For the twenty years we’ve lived in the same house, I’ve noticed dirty briefs and Jockey shorts routinely discarded on the floor, where they reside for weeks at a time, gingerly stepped around by the household males as if contact with a foot or hand would cause the appendage to fall off.

            Feces Avoidance, of course, is why men never replace toilet paper rolls. It doesn’t matter that t.p.rolls are pristine white when torn from the wrappers. Men are genetically programmed to foresee the fate of toilet paper— its appalling function, where it ultimately ends up, and its companions in its final resting place.

            Probably the most explicit example of Feces Avoidance is the dog run in our back yard, a wire fenced walkway that wends its way alongside the house. The dog run ends in a boring patch of gravel that our standard poodle Nigel fantasizes is a grassy knoll. For twenty years I’ve been by default the designated dog droppings pick-up person. After covering my hands with small plastic bags, I walk around the rock-studded dog restroom, bend over and collect the goods.

            By contrast, my husband and sons know the dog eats, drinks and goes out to the dog run for his private purposes. However, they claim to be mystified where the dog goes when he’s outside (“What dog run? Oh, THAT dog run.”). Occasionally one of them will reluctantly heed my supplications and go out to the dog run for pick-up duty. Despite my threats, they all follow the same illegal protocol, sweeping Nigel’s residuals into a metal dustpan that is then placed with its full contents up against the side of the house to marinate. I’ll be passing by the dog run one day, confident all is well, the dog poop long disposed of, then find a convention of flies circling a fragrant dustpan.

            The only thing worse than finding the unemptied dustpan was once coming across my son Jordan using the dog run for a quick pit stop. There is no proper etiquette for this discovery, and few responses seem appropriate for the occasion. (“Oh, I didn’t know you were using the dog run.” “Sorry, I didn’t realize the dog run was occupied.”)

            It reminds me of the ease and downright comraderie men have with other guys in a restroom. That’s why I always smile when I hear the lusty male cheers at a football stadium—“We’re Number One!” How true.

            It’s supposed to rain hard again this week. Maybe the water restrictions will finally be lowered, like some toilet lids I know. But not at my house. Even if our city is flush with rainwater, I’m confident our home commodes will unfortunately stay unflushed