Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Letter to My Mom on the Occasion of Her Birthday

 My mom would have been 89 on April 16. I had a few things I wanted to share with her.

 Dear Mom,

I miss writing to you. I'm so glad that I saved all the letters you sent when I was in college and during my semester in Greece, those years when I was a bit of a jerk. I recently came across one that included your response when I told you we had a maid. In retrospect, I think they just didn't want college kids trashing their nice Athens apartments, but it did seem over the top at the time. "If you were a patriotic American, " you wrote, "you would clean your own tub and mess to show how disciplined and clean we are--thoughtful, etc. And all it takes is a clean tub!"

Hmm…I honestly can't remember if I cleaned the tub or not. But it couldn't have been that dirty because we had to do our laundry in the tub, so it was like I was multitasking. And you'll be happy to know I spent a good hour cleaning my bathroom in honor of your birthday on Thursday--Brillo, two kinds of cleansers, grout brush, on my hands and knees for some major scrubbing action. I'm definitely disciplined but clean is a bit harder--I found some cat hair in the refrigerator the other day.

Remember when you wore that bright orange vinyl raincoat to pick me up after school, and I would get so mad at you because I thought it was so hideous and tragically out-of-style that I was embarrassed to be seen with you?! I am really sorry about that. As it turns out, I just got the most amazing orange spring coat. I originally ordered it in brown, but I knew that was the wrong decision the minute I clicked the "place order" button. I tried to convince myself that brown goes better with everything, and since I wear a lot of black, an orange coat would be too much like Halloween, but I finally switched the order at the last minute.

We looked for a photograph of you wearing the orange coat but we couldn't find one--we did, however, find this photo of me on the orange couch that Sears sent by mistake.

I never knew that the Sears customer service guy who placed the order pleaded with you and Dad not to tell his manager that he ordered orange instead of beige, since he'd screwed up a lot and was worried he'd be fired.

Barbara has been urging me to take something of yours, so on Saturday I guiltily snagged what I consider to be the best thing of all--one of your heart-shaped cake pans.

I can't even imagine how many layer cakes and brownies you made in this pan, how many birthdays, bake sales, just because-es! There were still some crumbs stuck to it, and Merry and I liked holding it knowing that you had too, so many times. I remember standing at my sink about 5 years ago smelling delicious brownies baking in the oven out of nowhere (believe me, no one on my floor makes brownies), not a chocolate chip in sight, and then finding out you were home in East Hampton making some for me. And they say brownies don't travel well.


P.S. I also took 2 mason jars you probably used for either pickles or strawberry jam, because I want to make pickled cabbage. Fermented vegetables are the new thing, so you and your sauerkraut have been ahead of the curve for awhile.

Here's one I think you'll like. I heartily endorse this sentiment:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Analyze This: The Candy Man

I find myself deeply pondering songs that most people would say aren’t very good.  I can’t help it—the glimmer of potential, the integrity of earnest intent, the challenge of finding those sweet, sincere redeeming qualities poking through…does it for me every time.  And since we can’t all be like Lester Bangs, I’m going to do my best to champion those bountiful one-note wonders here--starting off with an oooey, gooey gummy worm of a tune from everybody’s favorite, Mr. Show Business.

You may not want me as a guest on your team in Family Feud. I remember once someone asked me to name a famous Jewish entertainer, and I immediately blurted out, “Sammy Davis, Jr.!” That may not get me a kiss from Richard Dawson, but I stand by my choice: Everybody loves Sammy. My friends and I did as a kid, even though I really didn’t know much about him, other than he was this positively super-fantabulous outtathisworld charismatic being I’d seen on the Dinah Shore Show, and that Samantha the German short-haired pointer who lived up the street was named after him. (P.S. She lived with Lady the poodle and a big sweet orange kitty, Archie, named in tribute to Nate Archibald.)

And of course, to me he was, well, the Candy Man.

And for a sensitive, chubby girl who woke up at 6 am to sneak frozen mini peanut butter cups out of the refrigerator, being the Candy Man was no small thing. Heck, I definitely would have eaten the dishes.  That’s the song I wanted to hear on a hot July day, riding shotgun in my sister’s red Cutlass Supreme, the backs of my thighs sticking to the white vinyl bucket seats, with Sammy calling and the Mike Curb Congregation responding, their milquetoasty back-up vocals as benign and comforting as banana pudding to my seven-year-old self.

Err, wait, that sentence was half-baked--better make that as comforting as a groovy lemon pie…

And you know what? It’s as simple as that. Looking back, people say the Candy Man must have been a drug dealer (put this song up against “I’m Waiting for the Man” and you too will be jonesing for peanut butter cups at 6 am) but really, truly, it’s just about a guy sans guile who’ll give you “sweet chocolate, gum drops, chocolate malted candy…anything you want.” A song like this could never happen now, never—only doofy Barney gets close, and he’s kind of a jerk and is upside-down proportionately uncool as Sammy is swellegant.

Any chick with cool hair and a kitty on her shoulder is welcome at ssspunerisms.
This is May Britt, who was married to Sammy from 1960-1968.

It wasn’t just sugar-addicted 7-year-olds who liked the song—The Candy Man went all the way to number one for Sammy, even though he supposedly hated it. Legend has it that he rushed through it in two takes, commenting, "This record is going straight into the toilet. Not just around the rim but into the bowl.” That’s another thing I like—he’s such a professional that you’d never know he thought the song was a bunch of crap—I believed him and his character, and that I too might one day eat a dinner plate and it’d taste like Sunkist fruit gems and Tootsie rolls.

And we all know he would have no problem taking tomorrow and dipping it in a dream.

P.S. 7-year-olds and German short-haired pointers know a good person when they see one. As I was writing this blog I asked a dancer friend of mine if he’d ever worked with Sammy. He hadn’t, but his friends had, in the Broadway production of Golden Boy in 1964-66. It seems that one night after a performance, he took the cast to Howard Johnson on 46th and 8th Avenue. This was a time when people behaved much worse than they do now toward others who don’t look like them, and the waitress was really rude to Sammy. He didn’t say anything, but when it was time to go, he told her, “This is for you”—and handed her 5 $100 bills. How’s that for a tip on how to free your mind, lady?!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Egrets, I've Had a Few...

Q: What’s more irritating than serial commas? (C’mon, people! That “Let’s eat Grandma” example won’t work with me--you know deep down they’re like putting mascara on fake eyelashes…)

A: Dumb signs with words that most people don't use or understand, like the one above, which was plastered in the elevator in my building a couple weeks ago. Egress?! It’s not good writing if no one gets it, no matter how many SAT words you use.

I actually had to look it up, a leaky, squeaky sounding word that’s both a noun and verb meaning, respectively, "a way to get out of a place" and "to go or come out." With all those options, it's still a clunker in any sentence it shows up in. Easy egress in an emergency... The only egress was a dark, narrow stairway...

In any case, the sign irritated me so much that I went ahead and “corrected” the typo, replacing the first "s" with a "t," as you can see in the photo above. I’d much rather live in a world that’s open for egrets.

And I’d definitely hold the elevator for them, too.

I digress, but this egret doth profess to prefer ingress.

One bird you don't want hanging out in your lobby: