I was struck today by this picture in the New York Times.

If you think the boy standing next to the bride is her little brother, guess again. Yep, they’re married. It was a gypsy wedding in Chudovo, Russia, and the bride is fourteen, a year older than her groom. Evidently the collapse of the Soviet Union has fostered a lot of child marriages, as school is no longer a requirement. In this instance, the bride was the village beauty and her parents didn’t want her “messing around.” She looks like, certainly next to her minuscule groom, one of the tall, statuesque Russian models that appear draped in fur hats, or far less, in current fashion magazines. 
I think it’s interesting that she isn’t looking at the camera, whereas he is meeting the lens straight on. Is he more straight-forward and she more whimsical? Is she camera shy, or just shy? At least she’s smiling. Or giggling. Maybe his serious demeanor indicates the gravity of what he’s done, a wife to look after, or maybe he’s just wondering how he’s going to get up high enough to actually kiss her. 
When I first looked at this, I thought: What is she expecting and will she be disappointed? Is this the wedding of her dreams, and is he her dream boat?  (Shrimp boat?) And is it just me, or is he under-dressed in a white shirt and what looks like jeans? Is this de rigeur for Russian village weddings? Hey, now that I think about it, he could have a major growth spurt still left in him and actually catch up with her. You know how girls mature faster, and he is, after all, younger. Nevertheless, how will they grapple with all the complexities of life? 
Aha, they will be playmates…perhaps for a long while.
*Photo by Dmitry Kostyukov

If it comes out of your mouth, is it speech?

There’s an interesting case that recently came before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals threatening free speech, our treasured first amendment right. The court ruled that “talk therapy” is more than just speech; it’s conduct and therefore not bound by the first amendment. The specific issue involved medical professionals who used talk therapy to dissuade a minor from his sexual wont, a form of counseling known as “reparative therapy.”

Whether we approve, condone or even believe in reparative therapy is not the issue, but rather the notion that it is regarded as conduct rather than what it is: speech. In today’s New York Times, Paul Sherman and Robert McNamara tell us this decision will affect “thousands of Americans who speak on all sorts of harmless, everyday topics.” In a similar case, North Carolina’s state dietitian licensing board ordered a man to stop giving dietary advice on his own web site.

Gee, I’m getting a little nervous here… See, today I was going to tell you how to get rid of ants in the infested kitchens of America, but I don’t want to tread on any expert toes, like the EPA or maybe even the NRA. After all, I don’t have any insectarian credentials and this advice requires action. Conduct.

I can’t talk about my friend who has shingles because that leads to an admonishment on my part if you haven’t bothered to get immunized, which in turn leads to conduct unbecoming a lay-person not in the medical profession.

Can I recommend an airline?
Tell you not to slurp your soup?
Offer advise to the lovelorn?

C’mon. Let’s get serious.

It’s Raining Memories

It’s raining today, soft silver sheets through the trees and the sounds of drops on the skylight. It is glorious. It reminds me of school days when I dressed my daughter in rubber boots and a yellow mac. Will the metal lunch bucket rust? Should I have bought larger boots so her shoes would fit inside; she may take off her boots in class and run around in her socks. Should I have put gloves on her, though it’s not really cold, just raining?

Today my concerns are of a different nature: when are you going to buy covers for the patio furniture?
“Knock, knock!” my daughter used to say.
            “Who’s there?”
            “Patio who?”
            “Patio furniture! Hahaha!”
I guess it’s an Irish joke, as in Patty O’Furniture? I’m not sure she even got it, but she thought it was hilarious, like all knock, knock jokes are to children. I guess I’m missing my daughter today, wishing I could go back and give it another go.

I don’t remember the rain, what I thought of it, when I was young. We were just scrimping by. Did I have rain boots? A rain coat? Just an umbrella? Perhaps when I get old(er), that long term memory will come back, but for now, I’m stuck with an image of a nine year old girl, smiling as she plopped her feet down in puddles and navigated curb streams as we walked to school.

Twenty Questions

Do you know what a Harajuku girl is? Do you miss punching the keys on a jukebox? When, if ever, did you sip a cherry coke? Are you addicted to anything like coke, salt flakes, crystal meth or guavas? Have you ever held a live iguana? Did you see the film The Night of the Iguana ? Did you ever bury anybody on a beach up to the neck? Did you ever bury anybody on a beach? Were you ever on a beach with with your college amour, only to have a sea gull shit on your foot? Have you ever had sand in your Schlitz?

Have you ever ventured into a yurt? Do you like yogurt? Have you ever stomped grapes? Do you love Lucy? Do you know what the word quiddity means? Do you believe some people have their own essence? Man or woman, have you ever worn hot pants? Do you think too much time is twiddled away on twitter? Have you ever been groped? Have you ever shot yourself in the foot trying to kill a grouse?


Have you ever eaten a Hen of the Woods mushroom? How about a Trumpet Royale? This is why I love Craft in Century City (and New York). Pricey? You bet, but the restaurant is so beautifully decorated, and the food is so graciously presented and so tasty, it’s hard to beat. We invited our friends (he, the Universal Life Minister who married us) and had ourselves a delectable feast.

I had my first alcohol in almost a month: Hendricks on the rocks with lime. Yes! (I managed to nurse it all through dinner.)
The menu said 
“Happy Anniversary
Cheryl and Richard”
This is what we consumed :
Halibut Ceviche, Avacado & Cucumber 
Wild Arugula, Pine Nuts & Parmesan
Baby Beets & Gorgonzola
Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumber& Garlic Croutons
Jidori Chicken
Baby Eggplant
Brussels Sprouts & Bacon (sans bacon)
and more…that escapes me
oh, a complimentary anniversary dessert 
We reminisced to the point of nostalgia and talked about how old we would be if we repeated this dinner in ten years. We gasped at the thought, the numbers. Our ages.
We left sated and happy and grateful. 
On to the next round…

Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary

Sometimes I freak out so easily, like today. 

I turn on the computer, go to Google, and there are G-O-O-G-L-E birthday cakes with candles on them. What Googlenerd is programming this, keeping track of our B-days? I know we all have ads tailored to our tastes, but for some reason, this felt more personal. I was so struck by it that I ran to the husband’s computer to see if he had the same Google letters, but of course, he didn’t. (Like Google is going to globally celebrate my birthday. Maybe I need to retake the Narcissistic Personality test…?)
So, it’s been a busy weekend. I’m not complaining, but I think maybe it wasn’t such a smart idea to get married two days before my B-day. It’s kinda like the husband who decided to be born five days before Christmas. You tend to get “combo” presents. 
Before I decided on an anniversary gift for him, I looked up the “traditional” gift for the tenth wedding anniversary. It said tin. Huh? A tin of cookies? A tin of sardines? I don’t think so; he’s still on the TQI diet, so no tin of rations will do. I settled for a Calphalon frying pan with some accoutrement. Unlike my friend who cried and had a bona fide fit when her husband gave her a frying pan for her anniversary gift, the husband was tickled. The garni, however, didn’t work out so well. He had recently bought a meat thermometer and though this one was digital, he explained that he’d had a long discussion with the woman in William Sonoma and was sure that he wanted to keep the one he purchased himself. (I thought he bought it at Ralph’s. No kidding. What husband goes into a cook shop? Mine, I guess.)) And as for the egg poachers, well they didn’t really work out all that well…
All of the white you see is egg, floating around in the water. Notice how the egg is drifting out through the little holes in the bottom of the poachers.  I probably should have known they wouldn’t work. How could the egg stay in place?
We will take them back to Bloomies today along with the digital meat thermometer. 
(Know where I’d like to stick that one?)
Haha Just joking.
More will be revealed on the birthday/anniversary saga.

Shoe Mania

I don’t know what happens when women get within fifty yards of a shoe sale, but I think it’s something hormonal. Yesterday (and continuing for several days) was sale day at Bloomingdale’s. Since I live around the corner, since I frequent Gelson’s which is situated in the mall, and since I can’t resist a sale, I spent a few hours milling around Bloomies, mostly in search of shoes. Do I need shoes? Do I need clothes? Do I need a stiff drink? haha. Here’s an example of how practical I can become when there’s a shoe sale:

 Before I actually let myself enter the shoe department, I looked around for other things…that perfect dress, those perfect jeans, but alas was out of luck.

This is what I want to know (and now that I think about it, could easily find out the answer). Are these sales ladies on commission? Yesterday I found a perfect navy dress that I could wear out to my anniversary dinner tomorrow (and probably nowhere else) and since they didn’t have my size the saleslady said, “I have another one that’s basically the same dress. Let me get it!” She was so enthusiastic, beaming with ingenuity. She came back with a dress four inches shorter, pleated a foot from the hem and looking like it belonged on a flapper out of The Great Gatsby. I actually couldn’t speak for a few seconds. So, I went back to the shoe department.

When there’s a sale on, you look at shoes that are way out of your range, even when on sale, telling yourself what a great shopper you are. Wow! What a steal… which is what I was telling myself when I tried on a pair of blue loafers with sequined, heart shaped, UK flags on them. Wouldn’t they look great with the jeans I haven’t found yet? $500, but not really because they’re on sale. 20% off. Really just $400. Isn’t it great to save $100? I was thinking this when I looked down at them and said (not aloud, of course), “What are you, suddenly a Brit?” When I told the salesman that I didn’t think they would work, he said, “Well, since you like those, how about these?” He held up another pair of blue loafers, only these had what looked like fish skeletons on them. I didn’t even try to figure out what that was about.

My closet is full of impractical shoes because I’ll buy shoes for a special occasion and end up never wearing them again. Like my wedding shoes, but that’s the exception, right? Actually I did wear my wedding shoes once with a pair of boot legged jeans. When my friend saw the toes peaking out from under the jeans she said, “Those look lethal,” but I don’t think she meant it in a good way.

The husband has a practical relationship with his shoes: comfort. Cole Haan loafers or Ecco… 
with this exception, chosen by the first wife during the swingin seventies:
I ended up coming home with my favorite lipstick: Mac “charismatic,” deciding that I could feel charismatic at my anniversary dinner without new shoes, a new dress or skinny jeans. Just pretty lips…for kissing the husband who, thankfully, can’t fit into those blue suede shoes.

“I’ll Have What She’s Thinking”

A few days ago my “bro,” called me with this revelation, “Guess what”? Turns out you’re responsible for your own orgasm. Read today’s New York Times [September 29]. We don’t want to hear anymore complaints from the ladies.”

This sounds like a good way to get out of trying to sexually please your partner, doesn’t it? But it turns out that “spontaneous orgasm” is not that rare and is closely aligned with Tantra Yoga (which usually involves couples). The similarities lie in the idea that’s it’s all in our heads, but “autoerotism shows up mainly in women.” In Tantra Yoga (which I know little about and confess having acquired my info from, the idea is we all have a chakra that can be awakened. It’s a spiritual quest, whereas scientists who are now studying the spontaneous female orgasm are more mystified about why females even have an orgasm, as it has nothing to do with procreation.

I can answer that. So can you.

Research on this subject has been going on for a long time, dispelling the idea that men achieve orgasm more readily than women. A book released in 1996, Sexational Secrets prompted workshops for women and came with a “how-to” guide. Rutgers University has an on-going study they recently presented at the Society for Neuroscience. Their scans of women volunteers indicated that when women even thought about sexual stimulation, even of the breasts alone, the “brain’s corresponding sensory areas” lit up. This is new because, “sense organs are usually seen as responsible for the cortical responses.” Got that?

So ladies, do we need to start taking more responsibility for our own orgasms?

When I read more about Tantra Yoga, it sounds difficult for the men who sometimes have long periods requiring a “soft-on.” But there must be something to all those Indian carvings of interlaced men and women in sexual poses of ecstasy, all those prolonged acrobatics, right?

I’m going to watch the first episode of “Masters of Sex” tonight for some old fashioned enlightenment.

Deferred Maintenance, Deferred Graduation

There is a lot of talk lately about the Cal State Universities and their general condition of disrepair. The trend is to allocate funds for student recruitment and increase enrollment. Get those bucks rolling in. In the meantime, several campuses are suffering leaking windows and broken elevators, with no sign of any help. Sure, student enrollment is important, but at what cost?

According to the L.A.Times, there are twenty-three Cal State campuses, and they are all operating on a “patch-and-fix-it” basis. Our “deferred maintenance bill tops more than $1.7 billion.” Our practical Governor, Jerry Brown, has suggested to the Board of Trustees that perhaps we should fix our buildings before we look to put more students in them. Previously, $50 million dollars was requested but didn’t pass the last budget.

At my university, Cal Sate, Northridge, my roaming space i.e. the amount of campus I cover on working days, is relatively small. I go from car, to building, to elevator, to English Department, to my own office, to class, to home. So there is a whole campus world out there I don’t see. But what I do see can be construed as unkempt, in a word, because occasionally, I go to the bathroom. Water is coming up under some stalls, or maybe isn’t draining (but then where does it come from?). Locks are broken, paper towel dispensers don’t work (a roll sits on the small metal rim of the mirror), and often the floor is muddy, even in summer. What’s with that? In general the “women’s room” is pretty much of a mess by late afternoon.

Sidebar: Ladies, why can’t you sit on the toilet? If there are no seat covers, use toilet paper. No kidding. What’s with the squatting over the toilet? Save that for when you visit third world countries. You can never entirely hit your mark because, hello, you don’t have a you-know-what. Just sit down, for God’s sake. Sidebar end.

As an adjunct professor, I share a very tiny office with six other professors. Books are stacked to the ceiling. And although we’ve managed to cram three desks into the space, there isn’t room for much else, say like a student… We have a brand new gym that the students love, but some of them can’t get the classes they need to graduate. We need to get our priorities straight, or we’re going to end up with a lot of very fit students who never graduate and rest rooms that eventually will rival those in poorer countries, where you have to squat out of necessity.