Mood Interrogative

Did you know that there is a Pulitzer Prize for music? Do you have music in your head that you can’t get rid of, say like “Stayin Alive” or “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”? Did you know that polka dot is sometimes polkadot? Do you care? Do you think it unfitting if a lady of a certain age wears polka dots? Do you know who Lawrence Welk is? Have you ever been drunk on beer and danced the Beer Barrel Polka? Do you know what it means to shoot fish in a barrel? Has a fertility doctor ever told you that you have “slow swimmers”?

Do you wonder about men who can never find what they’re looking for in the refrigerator? Is your fridge organized according to food groups? Are your books alphabetical by title? By author? Neither? Do you know anyone who is now OCDC? ACDC? Acidic? Do you use the word “toxic” to refer to people rather than chemicals like hemlock or belladonna? Have you ever seriously thought about murdering someone? Did you ever watch Perry Mason after he became wheelchair bound? Would you make a good detective? Would you lie under oath to protect a loved one? Are you a good liar? Do you believe in lying by omission? Do you believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows? Are you still growing?

Just wonderin…

Just a Little Dinner with the Kids, is all

It starts out simple: meet the kids for dinner and catch up. He a successful, good-looking son-in-law with charm and humor. She a beautiful, caring, soon-to-be-mom sporting a babybump. What could be more ordinary? We meet at Fridas Mexican Cuisine on Beverly Dr and start in on the chips, two kinds of salsa. So far, so good. Then come the giant margaritas. Bring it on. Soon-to-be-mom isn’t drinking because, of course, she wants to have the healthiest baby girl, our first grandchild. The husband isn’t drinking because he never drinks (and I need a designated driver). So it’s just me and the son-in-law, and though he is somewhat younger than I (OK, a lot younger) I’m proud to say I can match him drink for drink. Well, two grande margaritas anyway. Enchiladas, fajitas, the evening goes swimmingly until someone (not to point fingers, but not the husband and not moi) mentions the dreaded word: CUPCAKE.

cupcake display at Sprinkles

And because “Sprinkles” is so near by, and because they are so enthusiastic about the place (which is known to have lines around the block), and because I am ever so slightly tipsy on tequila and lime juice, we agree to check it out. It certainly wasn’t because we actually wanted any cupcakes, never-mind we each ordered two, we were just following their lead. Honest.

cupcake atm

Body Art

The husband and I are stopped at a red light, and I glance over at the car next to us. A cool, black muscle car with 707 horsepower, roars with  fine tuned confidence. The drivers arm hangs out the window, and smoke from his cigarette curls up into the blue. And it’s no ordinary arm, which leads one to suppose this is no ordinary man.

tat arm

Wow. A dagger. Actually a piercing dagger dripping three drops of blood red blood. You can tell this dagger has been used because an inch of the tip glows with pink plasma. And he’s a romantic. Look at that rose. There’s also a ring on his third finger. A married romantic with “Dexter” tendencies?

I have friends who have tattoos or piercings, but nothing like this. At least not that one can see. I suppose they could be hiding some body decor. I love that idea. “Make love not war” scrolled on the right buttock of my friend, the fifth grade teacher. I did contemplate getting a tattoo, but I couldn’t decide what I wanted, where to put it and who to do it. (I’m a Libra.)

Today’s New York Times features an article, “Skin Deep,” that is all about extra piercings in the ear. Some style conscious ladies are wearing delicate gold bands in rows up the ears, or little rose gold loops in the nose. I found a YouTube video of a beautiful young woman having her septum pierced. I tried to watch it, but chickened out. It was her eyes that did it. She looked like the above hand was coming at her with the above dagger, and the theme from psycho was playing in her head. I’m not that brave. So, I wonder why I really like that dangling dagger arm…

Have I got a Hobby for you!

Retired? Looking for more than just sitting on that board listening to blow hearts, or ladling broth at the soup kitchen or walking homeless dogs? Too much time on your hands (when you’re not with the grand-kids, of course)? Have I got a hobby for you!

How about recreating Beatrix Potter scenes using real, though dead as a door-nail, mice? No kidding. A recent NYT article, complete with pictures, talks about the revival of a “British pastime,” that they don’t specify as taxidermy because it’s got an artistic side to it…it’s about creating scenes with real mice in them. Like mice in the kitchen making Scotch eggs, or mice in the field having a picnic on steak and kidney pie…kind of like when you played with Barbie and Ken. Evidently people in London are clamoring for a seat in a class called, “Anthropomorphic Mouse,” taught by Margot Magpie (not her real name because her life has been threatened by animal rights activists).

In High School, I remember dissecting a mouse, slitting its smooth, white belly and pinning the sides open to reveal its innards. The stomach, the intestines and the kidneys. All so neat and compact. So efficiently arranged. I remember wondering if my insides were that precisely placed. Could I do the same to a human, were I to go into medicine (the only time that thought ever entered my head). In the meantime, my lab partner was in the hallway tossing her cookies. I don’t know why I wasn’t squeamish; I just wasn’t…which makes me consider this class as a possibility. But you have to skin the mice. (We learn they are “bought frozen.”) And there are quotes by Margot Magpie like:

“Now pull the skin up over the skull like a hood.” (Mouse in a hoodie?) or
“If you accidentally tear off a limb, use Super Glue to glue it back on.”

After you’ve skinned your mouse, you wash and blow-dry its fur, treat it with magic preservatives, stuff it with cotton and wire, then sew it up, good as new. The eyes are replaced with black beads,
which makes me wonder if this is where we get the term “beady eyes.” (I looked it up but didn’t learn much except that your eyes might be “gleaming,” or you might be referring to a rock band, Beady Eye.)

Once you get your reconstituted mouse looking fit, you can give it a real life. You can create the scenery you want for it, you can dress it, even educate it.

See that?  There’s a whole new world out there for you (and your mouse).

Oh! La-la!

When I was growing up, I never heard any swear words in my home. My mother, Ozark born, would utter something that sounded like “Gall-darnit,” or “shoot,” and that was the extent of it, the short range of frustrated expressions.  All those naughty, sinful, take-the-name-of-thy-lord-in-vain words were heard at slumber parties, on the school yard or in the girl’s locker room (along with talk of “your period,” whose had started and who was still compulsively checking their underwear hoping soon to become a real woman).

This morning at breakfast our houseguest Bob, said that his father, when agitated, would say to him, “Well, don’t get your tit in a wringer.” I can’t imagine. But I do remember once when my mother said, “Cheryl, I think your halo is slipping.” I only wish I could remember why she said it. Does it imply that she thought I was an angel most of the time? I doubt that. Does it imply that she thought that I fancied myself an angel and had just blown it by something I did or said? Probably. Did it have to do with sex? Undoubtedly.

When we were young we used to chant a jump rope song we thought delightfully racy, but we didn’t know why:
Oh! La-la
French mama
fourteen kids and
no papa!

I told this to my French teacher, Sebastien, and he got quite a laugh. It so represents the 50s American idea that the French are so sexy. The Bridget Bardot, Alain Delon days. And I suppose we still have this romanticized notion of the French. If you see a couple kissing on the metro, it’s romantic, whereas here if someone is making out in public, people walk by and mutter, “Get a room.” (Note the unconscious reference to “kissing” versus “making out,” for example.) I’ve actually heard students say this in the hallways of the university, like they’re annoyed at the enamored couple. And I don’t know why, on the metro, it suggests valentines and in a college hall, it exudes some crudity that we can’t name. Could it be sex? We need to lighten up.

As Bob’s father probably also said, “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”
It’s just amore. Get used to it.

I Lied to Ram Daas

Yeah, I did. I lied to a saint.

There we were, the husband and I in Maui with my sister, Radheshwari who I swear has magical powers because she managed to get us a meeting (or should I say an “audience”) with Ram Dass. In case you’re not in tune with what’s going on in the spiritual rap world, Ram Dass was formerly Richard Alpert, the brilliant Harvard psychologist and psychedelic friend of Timothy Leary. My sister met him in the late sixties when he traveled to India and remonikered, becoming Ram Dass. Funny thing is, the husband met him in the early sixties when he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, touting the phantasmagorical attributes of LSD.

Our meeting was scheduled from 3-3:30 at his home maybe half way to Hana. My sister and the husband were very excited about this turn of events (we had tried to see him the year before, but with no luck). We made our way down a few dirt roads per instructions from the caretaker, as Ram Dass suffered a serious stroke in 1997 and is in a wheelchair, or as he likes to say, “island-bound.” We arrived at a fairly modern, spacious house and were shown into a living room overlooking the sparkling sea below and wafts of clouds above. Ram Dass was rolled in and, I swear this happened, through the window we saw a rainbow crowning his head. No kidding. Now it is true that it had been raining, but c’mon. The husband and I looked at each other; What’s happening? Is it fall on your knees time?

Ram Dass, as it turns out, is a guy full of love. I don’t know how else to say it. He looks right at you and you’re sure he loves you–more than mom and dad did and maybe even more than your dog does. This feeling engulfs the room and permeates your soul, or maybe your bones or heart if you don’t have a soul. I had no idea what I was going to say to a revered saint with thousands of followers, but he was interested in everything I said, which I’m sure was nothing profound. He, on the other hand, was full of profundities and charming anecdotes. He told us that his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, taught him to love everyone. The guru would put his head to Ram Dass’s forehead and repeat, “Love everyone. Love everyone.”

“Well, in theory that sounds great,” I said. “But isn’t it impossible in practice? I mean everyone?”

Ram Dass pointed to his shrine at the base of his fireplace, a collection of holy pictures and said, “If you look closely, you’ll see a picture of John Boehner. There used to be a picture of George Bush there. I have to practice too,” he said. “At loving everyone.” So bright. So smart at 82.

Radheshwari had her own conversation about their meeting in India. She looked at him like I’ve never seen her look, like she was staring into the face of God, and I suppose she was. The husband, also, spent his time conversing, but the subject was LSD and his experiences with it. Ram Dass was very intrigued at this point and turned to me and asked, “And you? Did you try LSD?”

“No, but I did mushrooms!” I proudly blurted out. Liar, liar. Pants on fire. Where did that come from? What was I thinking? That I need to lie about taking drugs to get the approval of a saint? How pathetic is that?  Was Ram Dass going to love me more if I was a schroomer? Had I suddenly turned into a love starved Golden Retriever ever vying for attention?

I can’t blame Ram Dass for my inexcusable peer pressure antics. After all, he didn’t make me do it. Lie, I mean.
I’ll blame the husband. He started it with his, “Turn on, tune in, drop out” banter.

I may have to revert back to my Catholic past just to go to confession. It’s a heavy load, lying to a saint.

Educating Betty

“Since I’ve read that book, my relationship with Barkey has changed. I think he’s looking at me more intently.” She was speaking of Garth Stein’s The Art Of Racing In The Rain, which is like Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, only from a dog’s point of view. The dog’s name is Enzo, and he is uncannily perceptive (a trait we all wish came ingrained in husbands). Enzo lives with Denny, Eve and their daughter Zoe.

Denny is a race car driver, a profession that Enzo greatly admires since he has learned so much about it from his master. (As you can see, he’s no ordinary dog.) Enzo also knows a secret about Eve and her evil headaches; he can smell the cancer that lives in her head. It’s mushroomy and musty. He wishes he had a way to let them know about her illness, but he can’t talk, which is a constant source of frustration to him (as is the fact that he has no thumbs). More importantly, Enzo believes deeply in reincarnation and is set on coming back as a human. We see him prepare for this hoped for eventuality and hear his astute observations about the human race. Would that we were all so smart.

I finished the book this morning and notice that I, too, am looking at dog Betty differently. I realize that I have made a lot of assumptions that may be wrong. Take the Cooking Channel, for instance. Perhaps I have jumped to wild conclusions that Betty likes watching Cupcake Wars, The Barefoot Contessa and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, when maybe she’d rather be watching Downton Abbey reruns. Perhaps everything I think she enjoys is just all one big projection.

Enzo watches a lot of TV…all the CSI, NCIS, all the lawyer shows, race car videos, educational TV, which is why he knows so much and will come back as a smart human. What am I doing for Betty? Preparing her to come back as a humanoid who eats voluminous amounts of food? Or maybe a chef? Or even just a great cook? The latter isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that I’m limiting her options.

Tonight things are going to change around here. I’m sure she knows everything there is to know about cupcakes. We’ll try a Spanish channel for awhile, maybe subscribe to the French channel so she can converse with the husband; hit the history channel a few nights so she can see the Normandy invasion; throw in a little Shakespeare, “My Kingdom for a horse,” and all that; The Good Wife so she can familiarize herself with court procedures; Duck Dynasty for taxidermy etc.

Betty, we are duty bound to see that you are more well rounded, and you can’t get that way by just watching the cooking channel…or can you?

Whittier High School, Class of ’63

O.K., so it’s been a while since I’ve checked in; I’m blaming it on the bossa nova and my high school reunion. Set in the overtly homogeneous Raddison Hotel in Whittier, the reunion was an interesting amalgamation of nostalgia, pretense and perplexity from which I’ve barely recovered.  I mean, how would you like it if you walked into a room full of classmates, and John Bean walked up to you and said, “Cheryl Bellos [I know, your name’s not Cheryl]. I don’t believe it. I’m still thinking about that graduation kiss. [He touches hand to heart.] That long, ten second kiss I will never forget.” Well, if you were Cheryl Bellos, you would be standing dumbfounded, mouth agape because you never kissed John Bean…at least you don’t think you did..did you?

And then Dick Stevenson looked at me with regret saying, “I knew I should have asked you out.”
You did?

The drive to Whittier had been all mapped out by the husband who was not invited, mostly because my friend Jackie said that her group of friends were not bringing spouses. Fine with me. The trek from West L.A. involved several freeways and an exit on Beverly Boulevard, which surely must be the longest street in Southern California. (It either begins or ends fairly close to home.) The main drag through the heart of old Whittier, Greenleaf Avenue (for John Greenleaf Whittier, Quaker poet) was so charming, I almost teared up. There were cobblestone streets and trees along storefronts that bespoke of a gentler time. As complicated as we want to make high school, there’s no escaping the idea that things were simpler then. Now when we look back, the worries seem smaller, the crises less frequent. All I wanted was for Stan Cole to smile in my direction. How green was my soul…then.

When I found my friend Jackie at the entrance of one of the ballrooms (for want of a better word), she said, “See that guy over there? That’s Joe Jennings. He asked me who I was waiting for and when I told him, he said, ‘I was in love with her all the way through high school.'” Wow. That was news to me.

I bought Jackie a whiskey sour in honor of our 1965 trip to New York. We drove cross country in her overloaded Simca, lived with her aunt in a Brooklyn Heights basement apartment and worked for Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith. 70 Pine Street. You could order bar drinks if you were over eighteen and every night after work, we would go out and have whiskey sours. Two cherries each. So, I was sipping this whiskey sour when John B told me about the graduation kiss. He said, “You don’t remember, do you?” Well, how could I admit to that. I smiled coyly, raised my eyebrows in a “let this be our little secret” and went to find my table.

I figure I was about three whiskeys in when Phil Starr asked me to dance, and I turned into Uma in Pulp Fiction. Huh? Go figure that one out. Was I showing off? Back at the ladies’ table, Jackie told me that Mike Barrymore said to her, “I always thought you had great breasts.”
“I still do,” she replied.

But it all, just all of it, felt like we were back in high school. The guys with the lines. The girls with their pencil skirts and coy retorts. You could claim anything, tell anyone about what did or did not happen, and they would believe you. We were all doubting ourselves. Our memories.

Later, John of the long graduation kiss, came up to me and said, “Cheryl, when did you get here?”
I rest my case.


I forgot to wear my wedding ring to class the other day, not that students necessarily notice that sort of thing, but my hands felt bare, as if exposed in some way that lacked propriety, as if I were nude. We are so used to rings; they’re customary, symbolic.

When we decided to get married (after many years of living together), I went to Tiffany’s to buy my new almost husband a ring. When I showed it to him, he said, “Why do I need that? I have a perfectly good one left over from the first go-round.”

I almost canceled the wedding.

He immediately back-pedaled by saying, “I feel like it’s the bride’s ring that really matters. You know, diamonds.” His smile radiated warmth. Carats, actually. “And you know,” he continued. “Some women are more apt to make advances toward a man who wears a ring because he’s considered safe. Ha ha ha.”

Ha ha ha, my foot. Quit when you’re ahead.

So what does it mean to wear a wedding ring? My friend Bunny once told me her husband was half way to the airport for a business trip, when he discovered that he’d left his wedding ring home, on the bathroom sink. He rushed back to get it, barely making his plane. Why did he do this? Perhaps he didn’t want her to think he’d left it on purpose, but more likely he didn’t want her to think the ring didn’t matter to him. Rings matter–when you’re single and when you’re not. We automatically, almost subconsciously, check out a person’s ring finger to learn something about them.
Is she available?
Is he committed?
Is she loved?

When I was madly in love with husband #1, he said these words to me after a romantic date, “I’ll give you a ring tomorrow.” I hardly slept; I was, as we used to say, in “seventh heaven.” Early the next morning it occurred to me that he was not, as I had thought, going to give me an engagement ring; he was simply going to give me a phone call.

The ring came later.

Go Cardinals, and I’m not Talkin St. Louis!

Well folks, the time is nearing and in just a couple of days I will wend my way to The Radisson Hotel in beautiful downtown Whittier for my 50th High School Reunion. Egads! We’re old.

My friend Paul told me a story about going to a local reunion in the valley for Brown graduates, and when he arrived, he saw people hobbling in, some with walkers, some with canes. He immediately hung a U and drove home. When I asked him why he didn’t go in, he said, “I just didn’t want to be there with all those old people!” But there is something wonderful about all being the same age, right?

Things I fear will happen at the Radisson Hotel on Saturday night:

  1.  I will be the only Democrat.
  2. They won’t have Hendrick’s gin.
  3. My friend Jackie won’t show up, and I’ll be uncomfortable because I don’t remember anyone or anything and want to leave.
  4. I’ll be over dressed.
  5. I’ll be under dressed.
  6. I’ll be stressed, have too much to drink and fall into a Radisson potted palm, potted.
  7. My slip will be showing…oh wait, that can’t happen. We don’t wear them anymore.
  8. I’ll get cornered by a member of the tea party that is sipping more than tea.
  9. Mr. Spain will still be there to tell me, “Silence is Golden.”
  10. My eyesight, ability to speak and deodorant will fail me.
Good things that may happen at the Radisson Hotel Saturday night.
  1. Someone says, “The years have been kind to you,” which is what happened at the last one twenty or thirty years ago. 
  2. I get complimented on my shoes.
  3. I meet a Democrat.
  4. There’s music.
  5. There’s Hendrick’s.
  6. Jackie and Joy are there.
  7. I actually remember some people.
  8. I like some people.
  9. Some people like me.
  10. I spend the night at the Radisson with the cabana boy. haha Just joking.