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30 posts from June 2010

June 30, 2010

Summer Jobs

Summer Jobs

by Nancy MartinGo to fullsize image

When my aunt---the one who eventually became a psychoanalyst for many good reasons---went looking for her first summer job, she was hired by the local glass bottle factory to work in the packing department.  Her job was to pick up 6 bottles at once off a conveyor belt and nestle them gently into a cardboard box. Fast. Over and over. 8 hours a day, half an hour for lunch. The trick, she learned from co-workers, was to get her fingers into the open mouths of the bottles to lift them off the moving belt. Trouble was, her fingers were always a little plump, and speed was never her talent, and forget about dexterity.  She frequently ended her shift standing ankle-deep in broken glass.

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To me, her story always sounded like an episode of I Love Lucy, except no chocolate.

Well, over the weekend, my husband and I had lunch at a golf resort on Sunday afternoon, and our teenaged waitress was a complete ditz. Couldn't get anything right, and there was even broken glass involved. I'm betting it was her first job ever.

When we look back on our lives, we tend to think about the high profile life-changing events like weddings and births of children and whatnot, but my theory is that one of the biggest game-changers in anyone's life is your first employment.

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I'm not talking about your first career move out of college, but the summer you scooped ice cream or guarded children in a swimming pool or maybe you were one of the lucky ones who waited tables at a beach resort?  Did you strap on roller skates to deliver hamburgers to convertibles? Mow lawns with a crew of guys who didn't speak English? My first job was lifeguarding (at 14! Would you trust a 14-year-old nowadays?) and after that, I waitressed, spent a summer as a camp counselor and even sat behind my dad's secretary's desk to answer the phone when she went on vacation. One summer, after a hurricane blew through and ruined a lot of the state park where I was hired to lifeguard, I spent a month on the clean-up crew. We shoveled filth out of cabins, scrubbed toilets and I even learned how to drive a dump truck--with a clutch and something like 17 gears.

The summer job is the first time you must answer to an adult other than your own forgiving parents.  It's when you learn to be polite.  Learn to be respectful. You learn about customer service from the standpoint of the person who gets yelled at by dissatisfied jerks. There are lots more lessons to be learned, too.

When I waitressed at the Holiday Inn while on college break, I worked with a couple of women who needed their tips to pay for groceries for their kids.  Me, I was looking to make a little--uh, beer money because my parents still paid my tuition, my car insurance, my room and board--even the taxes on the house where I slept every night. (An expense that never occurred to me, but surely was a fact of life for my co-workers.) Working alongside those two ladies, I had my eyes opened to the real world. With as much subtlety as I could manage, I gave them the big tables, the big tippers. (They'd be pissed if they thought I was being charitable.) I took the guy who left a quarter under his coffee cup after a $10 dinner, because--hey, it didn't take long for me to figure out who really needed the job and who could be spared to take care of the pests. In return, they taught me how a woman handled a boss who had roving hands--how to handle him without getting fired, that is. An important life skill back then.

The summer job is also when you become part of a tight community that's not your family. There's camaraderie among co-workers that kids need to experience, I think, so we understand that work can be enjoyable as well as a means to a paycheck.  Your co-workers become your friends, right?  Your fellows in the foxhole.

But mostly, summer jobs are about growing up.

So we were patient with our ditzy waitress.  We left her a nice tip, even though there was broken glass under our table, and we never did get the extra napkin we requested.  She was learning. I wanted to suggest that she consider becoming a psychoanalyst, but figured that would be rude, and she was already plenty harried.

How about you?  Your most memorable summer job? 80c193ff64684626

June 29, 2010

All Sex Toy Engineers to the Gulf: STAT!

All Sex Toy Engineers to the Gulf: STAT

Who else would write this but Me, Margie

Let's get f'n real here, people.  This 'oil leak' with the 'plumes' sounds like something fixable.  Turns out, this mess is a bona fide MoFo catastrophe.  The wankers who are supposed to be in charge all say they have their 'best people working on it" - which always reminds me of that scene at the end of the first (and best) Indiana Jones where the Ark of the Covenant ends up in a damn warehouse with Jimmy Hoffa, the cure for cramps, condoms that really work and the real James Bond.  Don't ask me how I know things. People share.

I mean - who didn't feel better when they heard Kevin Costner was on the case?  Give me a damn break. I thought the guy was finally going to issue a public mea culpa for 'Waterworld' and that clueless accent in 'Robin Hood'.  But no - he was just selling stuff.

Check it, citizens - this major trauma - brought to you by your dear friends at Halliburton, Transocean and British Petroleum (yeah, I said it - what are you going to do ya slimy bastards?) is beyond out of control, with no real solutions on the Horizon. 

I don't know why I have to be the one to fix everything, but here's what you need to do:  Get the sex toy people on this problem.  I mean, not only are these people creative as hell, but they've been dealing with holes that need to be filled and stuff that flies out since the cave drawing days.  Those weren't goddesses they were drawing, you dopes - they were early inflatable prototypes.  Don't act all shocked.  Anyone with half a brain and more than two hormones has already been expecting those words since the title of this blog.

Sure - I gotta give it up to Disney for the Anamatronics - some of those Presidents look like they could walk off the stage (or fall off. heh.) Plus, do not tell me they haven't been propping up a Dick Cheney robot for years.  That guy is half a breath from Weekend at Bernies but he still looks the same.  Puh-leeze.  Not all of us are dumb.  But the real pioneers are refining robots that not only look and sound real, but can actually do something to help.

Then there is that bigass Halogen Collider or whatever.  I'm sure it figures out a lot of science stuff, but what has it done for me lately?  Nuthin.  On the other hand, the new batch of sex toys is something to be proud about.  These inventors not only have the pulse of the pop culture, but the rhythm of life too - and the results can be, y'know, powerful.

Blog sex toy ice-vibe Got someone who is too hot to handle?  Pick up this ice vibe.  I mean, we've all used ice, but this thing just takes it to a another techy step without the messy meltage.

The new sexbots are scary real - and you can even get costumes for them.  Not that I need them, but hell, anything could happen and it's good to know you have several lines of defense.

Blog sex toy electric I don't happen to be into the electricity thing (hey, I'm young, I can only do so much on any given weekend) but if you are, there is now a home system that looks like it'll start more than one kind of spark, baby.  So put away the car batteries and power tools (unless you are using them with attachments, which is a whole nother show of brilliance) and take advantage of modern technology.

Here is my favorite new one for the man Blog sex toy fleshlight_vamp_mflying solo - and it is right at the tip of the hottest thing this summer.  Wanna add some Vamp to your fantasies?  Here ya go.  

All we need to do is apply this kind of brainpower and drive to the Gulf and we'll either get that thing to stop putting out, or at least figure out a way to harness all that liquid safely in no time.

Now that we have that solved, I am off on vacation.  Everybody needs to re-charge their batteries, right?

June 28, 2010

The 4H blog:

Hank, Harley, Heather, Hats Because there are too few things you can count on in this world, TLC promises you that Mondays will always feature an author whose name begins with the letter “H.” Why? Because we can. And some Mondays, you’ll get us all.

To quote the great Stephen Sondheim,  “Does anyone still wear a hat?”

Harley: Yes. I wear a baseball cap religiously when jogging, because it keeps my iPod headphones in place. Also, religion-wise, I’m partial to a nice yarmulke (aka kippah). And chapel veils. Not much of a burqa girl, though. 

31379_1413834621730_1108480596_31226422_5337481_n  Heather: Yes, I love them. However, I tend to like hats that go with winter wear, like Russian-style faux fur things. Love a Fedora. A top hat, yes! I also have a thing for jackets and knee-high boots, and I live in Florida, so . . . somehow, I wind up buying another straw hat every time I head to the Keys, because I can't seem to remember those suckers. Or my sunglasses, which, one would think, were somehow attached to my body since it's a rare day when we see no sun. I did a "Mad Hatter" party at the Romantic Times convention this year, using a hat I’d bought a decade ago--Alice's tea party is done on tiny ceramics on the brim of the hat. Love it.

Hank: No. I look TERRIBLE in hats. I mean, you can’t believe it. TERRIBLE. One of my goals, for literally years, is to be able to pull my hair back in a pony tail, and slap on a baseball cap and sunglasses and look adorable. Instead, I look like my ears are poking way out, and my neck is horrible (with apologies to Nora Ephron) and it’s just a fashion disaster. Plus, I have a huge head, huge, and hats don’t even fit. You should see. When I try one on, I  look like a watermelon wearing a hat. A watermelon with ears.

Are there any major hat wearers among your ancestors?

Heather: My Granny! Every Sunday for church, one of those little pill box hats with veils. Yesterday, my son Derek and I went through some things left in storage, and we found her purple pillbox hat. She brought my mom over from Ireland as a kid, and I'm pretty sure she made her wear a hat on the ship that brought them to Ellis Island.

Hank:  Probably everyone in my family looked terrible in hats. From time immemorial. In the steppes, when it was a million below zero and they were bringing in the—what did they bring in in Russia? Wheat? Herring? Beets?—my family probably didn’t wear hats. Which is probably why their ears got big. Cossacks1  

Harley: My people (Kozaks) are Cossacks, which is a tough hat to pull off. On the distaff side, shortly after my maternal grandmother died, my sister dreamed she appeared in the living room wearing one of those cold-weather farmer hats with ear flaps. I guess for Grandma Gussie, heaven was Norway in winter.

Most famous hat?

Heather: The Mad Hatter’s, of course.

Images  Hank:  Oh, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. At Ascot.

Harley: Jackie Kennedy's pillbox hat always screams "assassination." And for the boys (although I think I too might look fetching in it), Winston Churchill's.


 Hats you aspire to wear one day, but just haven't had the opportunity and/or courage to?

Hank in dumb hat  Hank: Any, I mean, any! I do have a kind of fun big fur hat, which I love. Kind of Lara in Dr. Zhivago. Sigh. And it kind of looks, marginally okay.(Probably the Russian ancestors thing.) But once I put it on, of course, I’m done, because I can’t take it off because my hair is totally smashed.  

VampireHunterD_0001 Heather: The hat I want goes with the outfit I want--and the long sleek thing body to go with it. Of course, this character was drawn, so I could always get my face in the hat drawn into a picture. It's Vampire Hunter D. He looks amazingly cool in that hat. I want a hat like that!

Harley: a bridal veil.

Happy Monday! 

June 27, 2010

Kitchen Magic

By Elaine Viets    Housewife

My Grandmother Vierling had the tools of a first-rate cook: well-seasoned skillets, wooden spoons and a Magic Chef stove with more chrome than a '56 Buick.

That stove really did produce magic.

Grandma transformed tough, cheap pork chops into tender delicacies. Her biscuits were cloud soft. Her lettuce was hand-picked from her garden, dressed with white vinegar and slathered in bacon grease. Her pies brimmed with summer peaches and sparkled with white sugar.

There was a heart attack in every meal, but what a way to go.

300px-Measuringspoons1 There was one kitchen tool Grandma didn’t use: measuring cups.

I’d sit at her Chromecraft kitchen table and watch her orchestrate a six-course meal like a symphony conductor tuning up an orchestra. She’d line up her canisters, containers and pans. She’d spread out her pastry cloth and sprinkle it with flour.

Her hands would move from heavy white mounds of all-purpose flour to sweet hills of granulated sugar. She’d add a dash of baking powder and a pinch of salt. She’d cut off a dab of butter. In Grandma measurements, a dab was about a quarter of a stick. A dollop of lard was the size of a ping-pong ball. Then she’d add a glug of milk. A glug was probably a quarter cup.

The measurements weren’t precise, but the results were always the same: perfection.

"Teach me how to cook," I’d beg her. "I want to cook like you, Grandma. What are your recipes?"

"I don’t use recipes," she would say. "Just watch me make biscuits."

I’d try to follow her hands as they grabbed, dabbed, dolloped and glugged. She didn’t use a biscuit cutter for the dough. She made perfect rounds with a Welch’s grape jelly glass. Traditional biscuit

Those biscuits weren’t eaten with store bought jelly, either. Grandma made her own.

I’d observe her confident, self-assured cooking demonstration with the awe a pot scrubber reserves for a Michelin chef.

"Now you try it," she would say.

And I did.

I grabbed, dabbed, dolloped and glugged. I cut the sticky white dough with a jelly glass. My biscuits turned out hard as hailstones.

"Uh, I think my hands are bigger than yours, Grandma," I said.

She threw my failure outside to feed the birds.

"You just need to get a feel for it, that’s all," she said.

Oh, the food I ruined. I made the Magic Chef perform magic in reverse. I turned plump chickens into dried-out leather. I transformed firm Idaho potatoes into gray glue. My green beans turned to mush, but all canned veggies were like that.

I did learn something when I felt my way around her kitchen: Real cooks have the touch – and I was no cook.

Bisquick logo Grandma learned, too. When I begged her for one more biscuit lesson, she reached into her pantry for a yellow box of Bisquick.

"Here’s your recipe," she said. "Get out of the kitchen. Go do something useful with your life."

I hope my stories are half as good as her biscuits.

June 26, 2010

Summer and a Whole Lot of Smoke

Summer and a Whole Lot of Smoke

By Brunonia Barry

Last weekend, as my six week book tour for The Map of True Places came to a close, my husband and I drove north to New Hampshire for a much anticipated friends and family reunion at Brunonia Cottage.

Now, if you think I’m so egotistical that I named a summerhouse after myself, it is simply not true. I was named after the summerhouse. A Victorian cabin built by my great grandfather with family money that has long since disappeared, Brunonia Cottage has been in my family for six generations. It stands alongside three similar summerhouses on a small lake in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and as true places go, this one is at the center of my map.

Campsign That the cottage has survived all these years is testimony both to the building practices of the time and to dumb luck. It has nearly collapsed under various winter snow loads, lost several of its outbuildings to falling trees, survived multiple economic downturns, family breakups, extremely rambunctious children, hurricanes, an ex-convict who holed up there one winter using the walls for target practice, and a wildfire that almost claimed all three camps.

The cottage didn’t have a name until the first year my grandfather attended Brown University. Evidently, Brown students often refer to their beloved alma mater as Brunonia. The summer after his freshman year, my grandfather named the cottage after his university. Carried away by his own collegiate enthusiasm, he named the canoe and the cat Brunonia as well.  He was what my grandmother liked to call a rabid alumnus. An amateur composer, he wrote fight songs for Brown’s football team and drinking songs for his college buddies. Ultimately, there were far more drinking songs than fight songs, my grandfather being more enamored of liquid refreshment than contact sports. Years later, when his grandchildren were born, he strongly suggested that each one of us be named Brunonia, and though I’m quite certain he was kidding, I know that everyone at least considered the idea. He was a charismatic character who could talk people into doing all sorts of silly things. His powers of persuasion were greatly enhanced by the fact that he had quite a bit of money, which everyone hoped to inherit. My mother, being a more down to earth New England type, refused to saddle me with such a first name, seeing the inevitability of nicknaming and imagining the difficult time a girl might have with the nickname Bruno. So Brunonia became my middle name, and eventually, as my grandfather always suggested to me, it became my pen name as well. 

My grandfather was my writing mentor. He was a wonderful piano player and wrote quite a bit of music, which he would always play for his guests after dinner and a few drinks. He and my grandmother kept a flat in New York and, in the early days, they often took the milk train down from Boston to go to Harlem and listen to jazz. They lived a charmed life and a rather fast life. In the end, to the horror of both his wife and children, there was nothing left to inherit.  One day, he woke up and simply announced that everything was gone. When the family protested in disbelief, he answered, “What are you complaining about, you had fun didn’t you?” And they had to admit that they had. Adventures with my grandfather were the essence of fun.

When asked what he would do now that he’d spent all his money, he replied that he planned to retire to Brunonia Cottage and grow marijuana, an idea that sent shock waves through the rest of the family who feared he might be serious. At seventeen, I found the idea delightful. But he never got the chance. One night after dinner, he went to the piano and played a medley of the songs he had written, including all of the Brown football and drinking songs. Then he stood up, swore under his breath, walked out to the back porch and collapsed.

The following summer we found two huge marijuana plants on the beach. Most likely, they were planted by one of my cousins or by the hippies who lived across the street, but it made us wonder.


Isn’t it funny, the things you remember . . . and the things you don’t? I had forgotten about the marijuana plants until the day of the reunion when my friend, Gail, reminded me. She also reminded me that I had taught her to smoke. Not marijuana, Marlboros.

 I was incredulous.  “I have asthma,” I said. “I don’t smoke.”

“Well, you did that summer,” Gail said.

 And then another memory started to flood back, the memory of lighting up our stolen cigarettes and practicing the art of French inhaling. The next morning, having taken our example, the little kids tried the same thing in the woods and almost burned down the state of New Hampshire or at least all three camps. Everyone ran outside, carrying brooms, hoses, buckets of water, blankets, anything they could find to smother the flames that were quickly spreading across the dry pine needles in the grove between the cottages. By the time the volunteer fire department arrived, the flames were out, but we spent the next three nights taking turns keeping watch to make sure the fire hadn’t spread underground and wouldn’t reignite. We were all immediately grounded, and the little kids missed a trip to Santa’s Village, something they were still lamenting last weekend at our reunion. I offered to drive them that afternoon, and to pay for it as well, if only they would stop complaining. 

On the day of the fire, smoking was banned in all three cottages with one exception made for my grandmother who had been chain smoking unfiltered Camels forever and refused to give up her habit. Her smoking was relegated to the front porch where she quietly puffed away for years. We tried on several occasions to get her to quit, citing the health risks. She was in her eighties when she told us she didn’t want to hear another word about it. She said that she would never give it up, that she’d been smoking all her life, and that it hadn’t hurt her yet.  The minute she made her pronouncement, I became fearful. Be careful what you declare, my mother always used to say. Don’t tempt the imps. But my grandmother was a powerful matriarch, so I told myself that any imps would be crazy to mess with her. And, even in her eighties, my grandmother was the healthiest woman I had ever met. In all the years I’d known her, she’d never had so much as a sniffle.

A year after my grandmother made her declaration, she died in a fire caused by smoking in bed. Irony isn’t an imp, it’s a bitch.

Someone mentioned the death of my grandmother at the reunion, and someone else just as quickly changed the subject. That’s the way it goes with people you know well. They know when to move on.

“I gave up smoking three years ago,” Gail said quietly to me.

“Let’s all have another drink,” someone else suggested. 


To learn more about Brunonia, click here

June 25, 2010

Miss Buttercup Composes

Miss Buttercup Composes  by Louise Penny

This is my first blog for the magnificent Lipstick Chronicles - though it must be said, if it ever appears I'm wearing lipstick it is only because I've just finished a red Popsicle. 

I'm thrilled to be part of this gang of great women writers. 

Though as I write this all hell is breaking loose in our fairly tranquil home.  My husband Michael and I live outside a small village in Quebec, between Montreal and Vermont. It is often peaceful, except when the frogs are mating or Wayne gets our tractor stuck in the mud. Or my writing isn't going well, at which time the animals scurry from our forests as though fleeing a forest fire. 

But today two events collided. It's St. Jean Baptiste day in Quebec...a holiday rivaling Christmas in importance. St. John the Baptist is the patron saint of Quebec, and while religion no longer plays much of a role here, tradition does. Actually, to be accurate, yesterday was the actual holiday, but being a Thursday everyone took the very long weekend.

Including our Toronto family, and their friends.

Three adults and five children have arrived, sweet Jesus. (As you can see, religion is playing an increasingly important role in our lives as this day progresses.) There are blow-up mattresses, DVD's, pool toys, Simpson's dinner (a grotesque can of tomato sauce and white pasta supposedly in the shapes of Bart and Homer etc, but really looking more like thin slices of brain), underwear (dear Lord, already), and shrieks so loud I swear I can see them.

And then, there's Buttercup. My brother Doug's dog. We have a dog, a lovely, kindly Golden Retriever named Trudy. Buttercup - aka BC, aka Brain Cell, because we know she has only one - is a yellow lab and quite mad, you know. Not angry, thank God, but perhaps a little nuts. She's known within the family as Buttercup, the hound from Hell. Which really isn't fair, but neither is it fair that there're children's underwear hanging from the door into the dining room. Such is life. 

Now, BC has one quite astonishing gift. She can poop anything. We think that's where a few of the kids came from, to be honest. And perhaps my brother. Whenever BC squats (and wherever) a crowd gathers to see what might come out. A plastic bag? A glove? Our hopes and dreams, long lost? Perhaps the local economy. Anything and everything might appear from BC's rear. 

My very good friend, and gifted writer, Mary Jane Maffini, recently proclaimed when we met (and she was working on her next book) that a first draft is like having a daily colonoscopy. Which is totally true, and I roared with recognition and laughter when she told me. 

But now, as I struggle with my own next book I wait and wonder...might the miraculous Buttercup...

June 24, 2010

Who Really Won the Wedding Contest?

By Elaine Viets Large rev

The bride looked radiant. The groom was nervous. The minister was a hustler.

I was the minister. I officiated at the marriage of Carl Nigro and Lia Hutton last Saturday. I’d been ordained for a dollar by the Universal Life Church in 1976 and performed weddings for friends.

This spring, I started the Happily Ever After contest to promote my new Dead-End Job mystery, "Half-Price Homicide." I joked about murder and marriage going hand in hand.

Until Carl and Lia won. They were seriously in love. I was going to marry them – seriously. I flew from Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore Saturday morning.

That afternoon, Carl and Lia stood before me in a Maryland garden. Lia wore her mother’s wedding dress. Carl had a dark tux.

Carl whispered to his bride, "You look beautiful."

Lia said, "You look handsome."

"Wow," Carl said. "Just wow."

I teared up. Are ministers supposed to cry? Maybe I wasn’t so tough after all.

I started the ceremony in a wobbly voice: "Welcome, friends and family of Carl and Lia."

Grandpa Some thirty people gathered in the garden at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, including Lia’s father, her mother, and Carl’s sister.

Lia’s 92-year-old grandfather sat in a wheelchair, smiling at his granddaughter. Three weeks ago, Carl and Lia had planned to marry at the 1840s Carrollton Inn in Baltimore. Then Lia’s grandfather took sick. They moved their wedding so he could attend.

Carl’s son was best man. Lia’s sister, Clare, was her maid of honor. Nieces Elise and Fiona were flower girls in lavender dresses. Nephew Jamie was the handsome  the ring bearer.

Lia wanted a traditional service, including the dramatic question that has a key role in so many novels: Does anyone here know why this bride and groom should not be joined in marriage?

The old-fashioned vows had a polished beauty, like heirloom silver. First Lia, then Carl, promised "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to honor, love and cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."

The trend is to get rid of that "death do us part" section, but Carl and Lia didn’t hide from real life: they vowed love until death.

I blessed the rings as "an outward and visible sign of the unbroken circle of love."

Then I said "by the authority vested in me as a minister in the state of Maryland I now pronounce you man and wife." New bride and groom

Carl and Lia kissed as the guests applauded. The garden erupted in a flurry of family, friends and flowers.

After the wedding, Lia’s grandfather went home for a special dinner and we drove to Baltimore’s Little Italy, a neighborhood with time-worn flat-fronted brick rowhouses. After more pictures, the wedding party paraded down the sidewalk as cafe goers cheered and cars honked.

"It’s a real Italian bridal parade!" Lia said, waving.

The wedding feast for fifty was in an upstairs room at La Tavola Restaurant, owned by Chef Carlo Vignotto.

Carl and Lia love good food. We ate delicious appetizers – eggplant, calamari, olives – and salads with walnuts and white clouds of goat cheese. A server carved whole striped bass and rockfish. There was chicken with lemon and capers. The handmade pasta was al dente, an achievement for a banquet.

Musician friend Lia’s musician friend Pete played the guitar and sang his heart out. The children twirled on the dance floor and Lia danced with them.

There were heartfelt toasts. When the bride and groom weren’t greeting guests, they sat at a table with empty chairs, so their friends could talk to them.

At last, the wedding cake was rolled out, a magnificent lemon and raspberry confection made by another friend. Cake cutting

By ten-thirty, the cake had been cut, and what Carl called "the tossing stuff" was over. The garter and the bridal bouquet were carried off. The bride and groom were surrounded by a flurry of well-wishers.

Lia and Carl won my contest, but I was the real winner. I officiated at a simply beautiful wedding.


Photos courtesy of Lia’s brother-in-law, Matt McLaughlin.

Cute kids on dance floor

  Flower girl   Bride and Groom at the Wedding feast Besotted groomMaid of honor and best man

June 23, 2010


Margaret Maron


Anybody here remember Tangee?  It was the first lipstick Southern mothers would let their 12- and 13-year old daughters wear.  It came in a white plastic push-up tube instead of a grown-up’s metal swivel.  It was tinted pale orange (or tangerine?  Is that where it got the name?) and was so nearly transparent that you had to put on about three coats before you could notice a difference.  Think Chapstick with a tiny tinge of color. From Tangee, you graduated to a pale pink that kept getting darker and darker until your mother got tired of fighting a losing battle and let you wear anything from plum black to fire engine red.   At that point you probably settled into the shades and brands you would wear for the next twenty years, right?

So I get invited to join The Lipstick Chronicles.   Although I’d been checking by to read the posts for some time, I had never paid much attention to the comments section where the rest of the TLC community bring their views to the party.   It was like dropping in at someone’s family reunion.  Everybody seemed to know each other and there was the equivalent of  “Remember when Bertha, bless her heart, dropped the Jell-o fruit salad on Aunt Maybelle’s shoes and Uncle Herman slipped on the peaches and speaking of peaches, DelMonte’s a good brand, but . . .”

The actual posting might have begun the discussion, but the comments seemed to go off on far different tangents.  In one, there was a passing comment about long-lasting lip paint, which I had never heard of.  Karen of Ohio kindly explained that it could last for up to 18 hours,  so I went right out and bought one.

And it worked! 

Goodbye tubes of waxy cream that wear off in two kisses, hello Revlon ColorStay Overtime®!

There’s just one drawback, though.  The tip of the paint wands are little swab that will maintain their shape till the little cylinder’s empty.  No individuality possible.

I have long toyed with the idea of writing a short story centered around the way different women wear down their lipsticks.  Above are the lipsticks currently in my makeup bag.  You will notice that they all come to a distinct point.  Here’s a random sampling from my book club the other day:

100_1073One One friend wears hers down flat, another exaggerates the original slant, still another has achieved something very close to an S-curve.  Unfortunately, I am missing the friend who wears hers down to a long flexible strip reminiscent of a frog’s tongue.   Those of us who do eccentric things with our lipstick could never leave a tube at the scene of the crime and hope to get away with murder.

What about you?   Did you have to fight your parents to wear your first lipstick?  Do you have a lipstick story to add to our chronicles?


June 22, 2010

Female Viagra? Fail!

By Sarah

Like many of you who only come here for the sex, I, too, am always scanning for news tidbits about how women can enjoy this fun pastime more. So, imagine my interest when I stumbled upon a New York Times article last Viagra  week about a German (why am I not surprised?) drug manufacturer's marketing push for a Viagra-ish pill intended to boost the sexual libido of pre-menopausal women. (That's me, for the record.)

Granted, this pill has not been approved by the FDA and looks like it's not going to be approved anytime soon. But if it were, the article gushed, my word, the sales!

See - and I did not know this - LOTS of women "suffer" from lack of sexual interest. Oh, not the younger ones, those single college-age girls who are always taking of their shirts while on spring break. No, silly, they're talking about us, the older, nudge, nudge, maybe a wee bit of flab in the middle, maybe a few kids and teenagers around the house struggling with jobs, bills, aging parents and wrinkles, too. 

Apparently, WE aren't putting out enough. Mercy!

A pause here while I sip my tea and wistfully muse of living on the moors in Scotland with nothing but books, my wee sheep, knitting and perhaps a stroll through the heather in the evenings.

Okay, back to reality. There's just one problem with the pill and that is there's scant proof women with low Lisa   libidos (outside former Playboy models turn soap opera stars -read article) actually suffer from a "physical cause," unlike men who can blame their limp dicks legitimately and illegitimately on a whole host of maladies. The German drug manufacturer disagrees. They say our lack of libido is due to a psychologically recognized disorder called "hypoactive sexual disorder" which means that if you're Joan Rivers you can say, I have an active sex life. A "hypo" active sex life.

How much do you think a small cottage in the Highlands would go for? 

With FDA approval approaching slim to none in the near future, the German manufacturer - or so it appears - seems to be staging an end run around the watchdog agency by appealing to us, its target market, with web sites, Twitter tweets, messages on the Discovery channel, etc, that are supposed to leave us clamoring for the stuff. I don't know, but my guess is that this is a kind of RU486 deal. If we want it, the FDA will approve.

Not so much.

Because while I really appreciate Lisa Rinna adding one more fear to my already growing Alarm List by raising the possibility that I am sexually dysfunctional (along with the constants - ovarian cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, silent heart disease and deep vein thrombosis) I hardly doubt this pill is the answer. In fact, I'm more likely to side with the scientists who claim there's no biological, i.e. "real cause" for lack of sexual interest.

Chromosome  Why does this remind me of the lesbian vs. gay male debate? I feel sorry for lesbians, I really do, having to forever prove themselves that they have a legitimate right and need for the sexual company of women instead of men. Whereas gay males have pretty much nailed down evidence that it all goes back to those 26 chromosomes. Smart thinking, that.

I'm sorry. Am I wandering? There's so much here to work with I don't know where to begin or end. What I do want to say is that a "real" cause can be in the head or in the body, you numbnut docs. It doesn't matter. It's just as "real" to the sufferer.

Moreover, there's no consensus on the definition of a "normal" level of sexual function. Every night. Two times a week. Two times a month. Hey, twice a month might be perfectly fine for many couples.

But then, some poor overworked middle aged woman in said couple turns on the Discovery Channel while she's folding laundry and is told - much to her chagrin - that she actually has a psychological, maybe medical, disorder that needs medication, stat! 

(Remember when the missionaries came to Hawaii and told the natives that when it came to sex they were "doing it wrong"? How they found this out, has been a question never adequately addressed, in my humble opinion.)

But what really got me about this pill were, as usual, the side effects, one of which was - ready for this ladies - fatigue! The rest were depression, nausea and fainting spells. Which is why the FDA gave it a thumbs down.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. A female Viagra that makes you even more tired and sick at the end of the day. Oh, dear. Wait. I must wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.

So, to sum: there's a drug out there that supposedly cures a dysfunction that may or may not exist, that costs money and makes you tired, possibly nauseous. And supposedly, we women want this, bad.

Just like Lisa Rinna.

Nice try, boys. Now give me something I can use, like a pill to cure breast cancer. Dream cottage  

See ya on the Highlands!


June 21, 2010

West of Eden

by Harley

Springtime ends this morning at 7:28 a.m. east coast time, but for me, real summer started last week.

I left my home in L.A. to teach for 5 days at the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference. It’s a fabulous conference. Especially if you live in Nebraska. For anyone who has to travel to get there, it’s . . . well, let’s see. It takes 11 hours to get from LAX to Paris, 12 hours to Auckland, and 13 to Moscow. Would you consider a 24-hour trip to Lincoln excessive?

My morning flight from LAX was delayed, so I missed my connecting flight, got rebooked on an evening flight out of Denver to Lincoln, also delayed (tornados), and ultimately canceled. Are you with me so far?

United graciously offered to fly me out of Denver a mere twenty-four hours later, at which point another passenger and I said, “hell, let’s drive.” At 1 a.m., we rented a car, knocked back a couple of 5-hour Energy Supplements (berry flavored) and set out.

Msarvas  My fellow traveler was blogger/novelist Mark Sarvas http://www.marksarvas.com/, also teaching at the conference. What, you thought I just picked some random guy to drive across the prairies with? (yes, if you’ve known me for more than 2 weeks.)

And now you’re thinking “Meet-cute! Meet-cute!” And yes, Mark’s talented, smart, and handsome. But our bonding force was not love; it was Continuing Education. And Nebraska. Ah, Nebraska . . . (Cue Bruce Springsteen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLDPSOKRG_8) Mark's class, "Fiction: Getting Started; Writing the First Novel" was due to start much earlier than mine. In fact, it was to begin in 8 hours. We had that dramatic staple, the Ticking Clock.

 Being writers, Mark and I needed to title our road trip. He, literary fiction guy, proposed “Leaving Denver.” I, genre woman, considered “Horror on I-80” but dug deeper and came up with “West of Eden.” That settled, off we went in our rental car, for 487 miles. In the pouring rain. In the dead of night.

 If you’re going to do hours and hours in a car with a total stranger, pick a writer. Or a racecar driver. Or a writer with the soul of a racecar driver, one deeply committed to15 students sitting quietly, patiently, in a classroom. In Nebraska. Ah, Nebraska . . . (cue Bruce Springsteen again). Unknown 

Mark did 100 mph, in weather so crummy even the highway patrol stayed home. We meant to take turns driving, but Mark’s a self-diagnosed control freak and I’m an out-of-control freak, always happy to put myself in the hands of—unless they’re clearly insane—orchestra conductors, airplane pilots, anesthesiologists, martial arts instructors, and semi-professional racecar drivers. So I was relieved when Mark kept driving, fueled by conversation and Hostess Ring Dings (Mark will discuss the cultural significance of Ring Dings in an interview this week on NPR).

We established early on, as reasonable people do, our position on Star Trek: we’re both classic Trekkies. We also love Casino Royale, Philip Pullman novels, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, and Paris (we plan to be cremated and scattered along the Seine). We discussed religion, divorce, movies, dead parents, the plots of our novels, past and future, True Love and people we have slept with. We laughed. We cried. The last hour, as scintillating conversation devolved into incoherent babbling, the rain stopped, and the sun rose. We reached Lincoln.

11   Life being what it is, it’s possible we shall not meet again (until the Seine). If so, Mark, thank you. For driving. For opening my car door first, after each pit stop. For loving both Blond Bond and Captain James T. Kirk. I’ll see your face in every Ring Ding. I’ll let you be in my blog if I can be in yours. We’ll always have I-80.

 Epilogue: on my return to L.A., I had the same flight snafus in reverse—this time, I slept overnight in the Denver airport, on the floor at Gate 47. I had no companion, but I had an extraordinary book (Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife), a travel blanket, and a dinner of M&Ms and Sun Chips. Ever wonder what they do once an airport closes down? I’ll tell you. They vacuum. Loudly. All night long.

Happy Summer!