Archive for March 2012

Fame and Fortune, or Just One of the Two

The Hope Diamond that I will buy next week.

This week, the Mega Millions lottery has reached $340 million dollars. Every time it reaches these outlandish amounts of money, my husband and I play the game where we decide what we are going to do with it when we win. I think the resulting breakdown tells a lot about our respective characters.

We always start by subtracting a little less than half for taxes. So for this week’s windfall we’re looking at just under 200M in take home dollars.

Aaron began by divvying it up among our families, allotting our siblings 2-5M a piece. He subsequently created trust funds for our nieces and nephews for college and beyond. This landed around 2M a piece.

As a good son, he gave all the parents including my mother a million. This time, because our fortune is going to be so large, he earmarked a select few good friends $500,000 each, then explained that they can also have whatever they want — cars, boats, new clothes. Obviously, he explained, if we go on vacation with them, we’ll pay.


I’m really glad my husband is so generous because my list started with an on-call masseuse and a beach house in Cabo. It ended with a privately owned tunnel system throughout the tri-state area to avoid rush hour traffic.

My name will fall somewhere under the “Now Showing” part.

I suppose this level of selfishness extends to most of the daydreaming I do. For example, I rarely meditate on the health and well-being of…anyone. But I do often plead with the universe for fame.

I know that I have already been interviewed on Q-FM96’s the Wags and Elliot show in Columbus, Ohio and one time I was a featured extra in Dune the Miniseries starring William Hurt (if you click on the link, start watching at 6:07. I am the “Mother.” Please inquire privately about autographs and special appearances). But I still hope that someday I will appear in “People Magazine,” and not because I escaped death during a natural disaster (but, frankly, I’ll take it).

There are a lot of ways a person can be famous. It’s important to be specific when asking the universe for celebrity, because things can go horribly wrong if a mistake is made. (Right, Anthony Weiner?)

I have already figured out a number of things I won’t be famous for: 1. Being the youngest to master something. 2. Mastering something. 3. Being fashion forward. 4. Starting a chain restaurant. (However, not for lack of some truly fantastic ideas including “3-Ways,” a restaurant that prepares dishes 3 ways: healthy, regular and really really bad for you. I know.)

While I am able to outline to the universe the myriad ways in which I hope to avoid fame or infamy including giving birth in a cab, giving birth to a litter (especially in a cab), becoming too fat to leave my house or accidentally triggering a series of events that lead to the breakdown of the power grid, my hopes for fame are really rather quite simple: I hope that I will someday sell so many copies of a book, I’ll get to go on Oprah for both a one-on-one interview as well as a follow up apology episode.

I want to achieve the kind of fame that lands me on a red carpet in a really beautiful dress I didn’t have to pay for. I want to help develop a recipe book based on the favorite foods of a character I wrote or wrote about. I want to swing by ILM and make sure the models they are building for the movie of my book properly reflect my vision for the alien colony (or, fine, pot island).

But before this gets too nerdy, let me just make one quick deal with the universe: If you give me the $340 million this week, I will totally give up the fame thing and go with my husband’s generous monetary allotments, forgoing the underground tunnel system. Kay. Thanks.

I Think We’ve Found the (Other) Gay Jonas Brother

Going through the motions in order to host my own talent show.

I completely understand people who hate social networking. Generally speaking they are the same people who, in high school, chose activities that allowed them to wear uniforms.

I was never the girl in a uniform. I was the girl in a costume. You could usually find me singing a showtune  to anyone who would listen (oh, fine, a showtune medley), including — but not limited to — people to whom I would “offer” a ride home and then say things like, “This is an amazing lyric. Here, listen again,” as I rewound the tape of (not kidding) Oliver!’sWho Will Buy?”  and made them really hear how the phrase “Me oh my, I don’t want to lose it,” so fluidly meshed with “…two blooms for a penny.” (I demonstrated by singing the harmonies, oh yes I did.)

I performed in a lot of plays in those years (it’d be bragging to tell you how many but, 12). Then came college where I tried out for plays. The fact that I never got into any I believe directly correlates to a pot addiction that lasted the duration of my 20’s. (Damn you, Into the Woods! Damn you!) I did however, get to be in a band that played not just at the Campus Center’s Hotung Cafe but also in the basement of not one but two college dorms. (We were huge in Wilson House.)

Because I no longer get to sing in public, I threw myself a wedding last summer so that I could have a talent show — Thankfully the resulting husband has turned out to be an excellent perk.

Then there is my well documented obsession with social networking. The positive feedback loop was designed for the likes of me. While it would be physically impossible to stand up on a table and sing “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly” at the top of my lungs on facebook, I get to proverbially – or virtually – stand up on a table and sing “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly” at the top of my lungs. So that’s nice.

But there is a drawback to this much attention-seeking: Embarrassment served with a little after-the-fact-shame on the side. Case and point: No one was ever mortified by singing — alone in a cabin in the Himalayas — the song “Dumb Dog” from the 1980’s motion picture Annie (I said, motion picture). However, if, at age twelve (as an early developing adolescent you probably looked closer to 16) during a family vacation you brought out your stuffed dog and sang “Dumb Dog” to it during a cruise ship talent show — All I can say is, nothing good ever comes after the phrase “cruise ship talent show”…

When I was cast as Maria in a summer camp version of West Side Story, I had to climb through a balcony window before singing “Tonight” in my highest soprano. I slipped and the nightgown I was wearing was forced up to my arm pits by the camp director who caught me mid-tumble. Suddenly my burgeoning adolescent body went on display for the entire camp to see. In that moment I couldn’t help thinking, “This doesn’t happen to the kids making lanyard bracelets.”

There are very few family functions where I don’t stand up and try to lead everyone in something — if possible in a costume.

But that isn’t even the worst public humiliation. On a teen tour experience in Israel, I found myself entirely shunned by upwards of fifty touring teens. I don’t know what I did to accomplish becoming so widely scorned, but in retrospect I’m going to go with the fact that I likely mistook “Uncle John’s Band” for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” from The King and I.  During the teen tour open mic night, as some kind of inner-transvestite-cabaret-performer-inspired act of defiance, I stood up and sang “Nothing” from A Chorus Line, acapela. I was seventeen.

I’d like to think that each of those early public humiliations taught me how to tread lightly and generally try to maintain some semblance of dignity. One would think it would protect me in the very public worlds of book writing, blog writing and social networking. But it doesn’t seem so, does it? After all, last year I gave this interview to something called BigBuds Magazine. And then there’s my writing career in general which included a prank book that just skirted “suggestions for attempted murder.”

Right now, you should know, I am placing my head in my hands and shaking it back and forth while groaning. But it is, I’m sad to say, unlikely to stop me.


The Art of the Overshare with Props

Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the reason for my lack of friends in middle school…

I had very few friends in middle school. This reality applied to both real school and summer camp. I know that a lot of people feel this way about their preteen years, after all there are braces involved and, if this is the 1980’s, a perm. But I think in my case there was a bigger problem at play and it wasn’t just the mouthful of braces – it was simply just “the mouthful:” I liked to talk.

I phrased that in the past tense, not because I don’t still like to talk, but because as I grew up I discovered I liked people who liked me more than I liked talking. Therefore I had to figure out how to talk with better focus, less conviction and way, way less information.

Oversharing is a major problem in America today, made all the more prevalent by the popularity of social networking and Fox News. There are no filters. Governments break up, families break up, friends break up, you break up – all in real time, all in public.

When I run for president, this will be my central campaign focus and it will be so meta, I will lament it even as I inevitably overshare in my bid for president – like the thing about the cigar and Clinton or the Republican party and speaking.

So this week I am working on a story that might be the mother of all overshares. However, when you are being paid to do it, it’s more like Oprah talking about losing her beloved cocker spaniel, Sophie, and not like the Octomom. As such, I have had to spend the last seven days speaking candidly and intimately with a producer I have only actually known for the same amount of time. The story is about a genetic mutation in my great grandmother which causes a series of health issues exclusive to members of my family. There are only seven people known to have it and five more who have died either of it, or of something linked to it.

The thing about working with Jonathan-the-Producer is that he is a good guy. He is respectful and careful in his questions and general discourse. And of course it is safe to say that one cannot “overshare” when one is asked point blank, “So, does that totally apparent swelling in your legs piss you off?” Because anything short of, “I often say, `Fuck strappy sandals’ in public, outloud, to anyone, so yes,” would be a lie. And lying does not alleviate the pain of the overshare.

And yet somehow, even in a setting as intimate and expected as ours has been, I think I have still managed to freak Jonathan way the hell out. As a girl with boundary-issues from the outset, letting me spill only so much is akin to handing an alcoholic a mug of Johnny Walker and then challenging him to stop drinking before stripping naked and weeping while singing “Danny Boy” at the top of his lungs.

So I thought it would be fun to provide you a list of recent overshares, all in front of a producer for This American Life, and almost all actually taped for radio:

1. “I’ve done drugs!” I belt out in the middle of an otherwise staid interview with a doctor at Harvard medical school. “I mean, not like Jim Morrison,” I add, trying to fill the subsequent awkward silence, “but you know, my twenties weren’t pretty…”

2. “I wear support stockings,” I announce during a car ride when tastefully asked if I am currently having to treat any of my symptoms. Then, unprompted, I pull up my shirt and start snapping my elastic waist band while exclaiming, “I call them my rubber bands!” The drive continues in silence. (This might look crazier in my head than it actually played out…No. It looked crazy.)

3. “Want to see it?” I ask, shoving my phone in sweet-Jonathan’s horrified face, after explaining that I have what doctor’s repeatedly call “A Beautiful Liver” (this is going to be the title of my movie) despite a series of unusual veins — Because I actually carry in my iphone a picture of my liver.

4. We interview my 72-year-old aunt last Wednesday for the story. She is bemoaning the fact that another family member has never reached out to her after the illness or death of her husband. So I innocently console, “Fuck her. She’s a bitch.” (The weak laughter that ensues indicates that perhaps I’ve taken it one step too far.)

5. The liver picture. That gets two mentions because, seriously?

6. “My wife went to Tufts,” Jonathan tells me after I share that I went to Tufts for college. “Oh, I’m so sorry for her,” I say. “That school was full of the lamest people.”

This process isn’t over. There is still a whole lot of sharing and inevitably oversharing still to come. And I promise if at some point in the next few weeks I blurt out something about a chronic-low-grade yeast infection, I’ll let you know. Actually, it’d be more newsworthy if I don’t…


Columbus Native in the Hizzy

My Dee Dee: She should be a model.

The other day I was walking the dog. We pretty much stick to the same route every day, crossing several busy intersections until we get to the top of Underhill, cross at the Children’s Library and climb the steps to Mount Prospect, a small urban park where you can’t be seen from the street and can therefore let your dog off leash for a run.

New York is fairly dog friendly, all things considered. There are a lot of off-leash parks with good gates and plastic poop bags for the taking. Most of the bigger parks offer off-leash hours before 9AM and after 9PM. Prospect Park (the Brooklyn equivalent of Central Park) even has a dog pond where your dog can swim all summer long.

And you thought this was going to be a boring blog…

So, I’m walking the other day when we get to a corner. We wait, as we always do, Dee Dee sitting as she’s been trained, until the green walking Gumby-guy appears and I signal that it’s time to cross. Suddenly a large black Bronco truck turns right in front of us, literally two inches from my foot and maybe less than that from my dog.

I really like my dog. She definitely ranks as one of my favorite people ever. In fact, right now she’s laying with her face on my lap as I type this. She and I get along really well because, in addition to being seriously motivated by food, she will dance with me to most 70’s rock including but not limited to 38 Special’s So Caught Up in You (and by “dancing,” I mean humping my leg, and by “rock” I mean 38 Special).

After the car brushed by us, I was pissed. Let me be clear here. I wasn’t Columbus, Ohio-pissed. I was New York City-pissed. The difference is (see if you can guess which is which): one involves passive aggressive behaviors like driving really slowly in front of someone who just honked at you or maybe, on a bad day, flipping the bird. The other involves swearing, rear-ending and fist fights.

Since I was on foot, I ran half way up the block to where the guy was idling at a red light with a woman in the passenger seat, and I knocked on the window — even though a crazy girl with a dog standing right outside your window will make you look without knocking (that’s how we roll in New York City!). Then I screamed through the pane, “You almost killed me and my dog!”

Dee and I, just on a regular Monday. What…?

The guy rolls down his window and, in a pitch perfect Tony Soprano replies, “Well, I wouldn’t want to kill the dog.”

Suddenly I get all confused about the kind of pissed I am. Am I in Columbus, Ohio where what the guy means is, “Wow sorry, lady, I didn’t see you or your awesome dog. I should be more careful”? To which I would (and did) reply, “Well, be more careful!”

Or…no…he must mean. I replayed the scene in my head.

“Well I wouldn’t want to kill the dog,” he’d said. Meaning…Well, I never!

Just then a million perfect New York City comebacks flooded my head. “Bite me, and for $50 your wife can watch!” No better, “Your UGLY wife can watch…” “I got your license plate, chump and I’m reporting you for a hit and run!” Or better, “This guy saw you hit me (dragging unsuspecting stranger into it).” “F’ you, you hideous maggot and your wife too!” Better, “…your cheap wife!” Or even better, forget the wife, “Is that your mother? Because you inherited her ugly face!” There, that’s the one (because clearly she isn’t his mom, and it’s sort of nasty while still being potentially true. You can send letters lauding my insult-aptitude c/o Joselin-is-a-Dork).

But by the time all of this played out in my head, my attacker was probably already back in Hoboken. And this is why I will never make it as an angry New Yorker — as illustrated by the time I was rear-ended driving really slowly in front of someone who honked at me. List of angry after-the-fact insults for that douche-monkey, forthcoming.