Yikes! Zut Alors!

Whoops, I missed yesterday!  Well, technically I missed Thursday because I hit “publish” at exactly midnight on Friday, but still.  I’m not slacking though, I promise!  But last night I was struggling and fumbling with iTunes and two computers and an iPod and a phone trying to figure out how to get songs from my ancient iBook to my newer computer and see if I could synch up my iPod and make a new playlist for a party tomorrow and I was dragging and dropping and copying and pasting and using flash drives and then there were authorization and password issues and finally I decided to just leave all my music on my old computer and use iTunes and the iPod on there and forget this whole cloud business and honestly, the whole thing was exhausting and stupid and a waste of time.

But one thing was fun about it — signing back into iTunes (it’s been ages) and seeing some old mixes I made, and listened to some old songs that brought back memories.  Like this one:

I listened to April March nonstop before I went to Paris for the first time, thinking the saturation would help me pick up the language easier.  Non.  But it was fun thinking back to those days in the early ’00s, and about my first passport and trip overseas…  And Paris…  Sigh.  C’est si bon.

Which reminds me, I need to renew my passport!

Throwback Thursday

When we were teenagers, my best friend was Bob (mentioned on Day 2 — Gumby earrings, remember? No? Don’t blame you), only we didnt go to the same high school.  There were two high schools in our town, and we were the misfit new wavers at both of them.

But one summer, after I had flunked Geometry and Bob had flunked something else, the two schools merged and we got to go to summer school together.  We were thrilled.  Every day we’d meet after class and traipse off downtown or to Berkeley, wishing we did go to the same school so we could do this all the time.  (Except we usually fought horribly, because we were too smart and catty for our own good.  Despite flunking our classes.)

One day we decided to have a “Bag of Tricks” day, and give each other presents.  I shopped and plotted the perfect bag of goods, wanting it to be fabulous.  I don’t remember what I got him, but I’m sure it had a mix-tape and something Felix the Cat related.  After class we were so excited to present them to one another, and we sat down in the quad and handed them over ceremoniously.

He handed over a plain brown paper bag with “BAG O’TRICKS” written on it, and I remember feeling a slight pang of disappointment.  I’d decorated my bag for him with colored markers and had made it “groovy,” and it looked like he’d made no effort at all.  I pulled out a wooden puzzle, some bubbles, and a THING.  A thing that was a face on a brain on bendable legs that looked like string beans.

“That’s PET!” he crowed.  It was the BEST PRESENT EVER.

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Pet became our mascot.  We took him everywhere.  He was always always tucked in my backpack or purse, or rode around on the dashboard of our friend Traecy’s car and then mine when I got one.  People thought we were weird, and we liked that.  Pet was a great pet — he required no food or brushing or walks.  But one day, at a party in my old apartment in Berkeley, Pet was stolen.  I was bereft for many, many years.

Every so often I’d look on eBay, but I didn’t know what to look for.  I knew that Pet had been some sort of D&D character (Bob had told me he’d found it at Woolworth’s in a clearance bin and threw away the package), but we never played D&D so we had no idea what Pet actually was.  I’d Google “D&D,” “brain,” “legs,” but nothing.  Pet was gone forever.

At that time, I thought Bob was gone forever, too.  He’d appeared on Facebook for a few seconds, but then was gone again.  I was sad — Bob was a huge part of my high school years, in fact, I think he was the biggest part.  At first I was madly in love with him, and he gave me my first sloppy kiss in the MacArthur BART station bathroom on our way to a Three O’Clock show.  (Wine coolers were involved.)  But of course he was gay, so really we set our course to being fabulous.  And as I said, we fought like crazy, because we were so bitchy and wicked and smart and campy, and stuck in the suburbs and tormented by the “normal” kids.  We couldn’t lash out at them, so we took our insecurities out on one another, because we knew we’d bounce back.  And we always did, dramatically, crying over Beatles or Nina Hagen songs.  But we drifted apart, and it had been years since I’d seen him.

But a couple of years ago he tracked me down, and we resumed our friendship right where we left off.  We’re both still weird, and we’re constantly in awe that neither of us have changed much since high school — maybe a bit (a BIT) more refined, but we’re still the same.  We knew who we were back then, and I guess since we had to fight so hard to be ourselves, we were destined to stick with it for life.

Right before we planned to see each other again — at a Three O’Clock reunion show which was wildly and wonderfully appropriate — I did a Google search again, thinking how amazing it would be if I found Pet.  And lo and behold, jackpot.  He was on a Buy it Now on eBay (his real name is something like Groogulous or something — I blocked it out), and when I got to hug Bob for the first time in years, Pet was there and we laughed and jumped up and down, like the fifteen year-olds we will always be.

Being reunited with Bob is one of the best things in my life.  Now we don’t fight — we don’t have to protect ourselves anymore — instead we text each other to say “I love you” and link YouTube videos of favorite songs and funny photos. Last night we went out and celebrated Bob’s 47th birthday at The Tonga Room.  It was a lovely night of fun and laughs with friends, and as we hugged goodbye in front of The Fairmont Hotel I said, “My, aren’t we sophisticated!”

“We’re all grown up and mature and shit,” he said, while wearing a pink sport-coat with pineapples on it, white bucks, and giant blue sunglasses to match his blue hair.

“I don’t know about that,” I said, getting into Laura’s car.  “I have Pet in my purse.”

And on BART on the way home, I noticed I was getting funny looks.  I’m pretty used to that, and I was wearing a tiki dress and leopard coat in a sea of Giants fans, and carrying a dry-cleaning bag with a beautiful vintage cashmere coat Laura had given me.  But then I looked down and saw what people were looking at:

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Yeah, I had to agree.  It was pretty weird.

And I still liked it.

(Not) Sexy and (Not) Seventeen (Hot Topic #1)

So my dear Sian gave me last week’s topic to write about, and the bad news is — I didn’t do it justice.  But the good news is that I LOVE this topic and will do more with it, so here’s my rough draft.  And the best part, and not planned — this is Day 17 of The 100 Day Project.  I love happy coincidences!

Back in the olden days of the early 1980s, I would go to the grocery store with my mom and spend all my time at the paperbacks and magazine rack.  It was there I’d furtively read Flowers in the Attic and Carrie by Stephen King, and look at all the beautiful magazine covers but never really diving in, except for maybe The National Enquirer by the registers.  My mom subscribed to McCall’s and Good Housekeeping and Colonial Homes –boring recipes and decorating stuff —  but never Vogue or Bazaar with their gorgeous cover models, or Cosmopolitan that I thought was a little too sophisticated and sexy with their cleavage and headlines about pleasing a man in bed.  Even though I was reading about an incestuous love affair in Flowers in the Attic, I still wasn’t quite ready to take on pointers for myself.  I figured it would happen eventually, but I wasn’t in a tremendous hurry.  These were adult magazines, and at 12, I was okay waiting.

But the one magazine that fascinated me the most was Seventeen.  I couldn’t wait to be old enough to read that one.  I had a subscription to ‘Teen which was fine — it really encouraged me to buy Noxzema and Phisoderm and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers — but Seventeen was mysterious.  It was slicker than ‘Teen with prettier models, doing prettier things, and I figured it was for the glamorous older girls.  I could wait for Vogue and Cosmopolitan, but I was itching to get my hands on it.

When I’d bring it to my mom and say, “Can I get this?” she’d shake her head.  “Not yet,” she’d say.  “It’s a little old for you.”  (She had no idea that I was reading about brothers and sisters getting it on in an attic and prom queens being covered in pig’s blood.)  But one day, oh one glorious day, we were at Long’s Drugs and either she was distracted or figured okay, and when I asked if I could get it, I was allowed to put it in the cart.

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I will never forget it — it had Phoebe Cates on the cover, lacing up ice skates with her hair in multiple braids. And I pored over every single page, surprised to see some crossover from ‘Teen — like those Noxzema and Phisoderm ads — so I felt like I already knew what was going on.  But everything looked more beautiful in Seventeen somehow, and there were ads for hope chests.  I didn’t know what hope chests were, but I instantly wanted one.  There were book and movie reviews, and oh, fiction! Stories!  Short stories were new to me, and I was thrilled.  And apparently there was an article about Miss Piggy that probably made me feel a combination of relief — it wasn’t too sophisticated — and irritation, because Miss Piggy bugged me.  And there were crafts!  That issue had a how-to on making your own baker’s dough that you could create cute Christmas ornaments or gifts, like little cat heads and candy canes.  (I dutifully did it, and, well, let’s say mine didn’t look so great.  But I remember trying — in fact, every time I try to bake or do a craft, I think of that night in November, 1980, attempting to replicate the little cat heads in the picture, and I forgive myself and love that 12-year-old for trying.)   And pretty fashions that seemed classy — I wanted those party dresses, even though I was never invited to any fancy parties.

Seventeen was my ticket into feeling like a girl.  I was not a tomboy, though tomboys were “the thing” at that time — everyone wanted to be Tatum O’Neal or Kristy McNichol.  But I wasn’t popular, and I just felt so blah.  Seventeen helped me gently navigate the angsty terror of growing up. I loved it. That Christmas I got a subscription, and the feeling of excitement and pure joy I’d get when opening the mailbox or seeing it on the kitchen table when I got home school has never been matched.  I’d take it to my room and read it cover to cover, absolutely thrilled.  The holiday party isssues, the skimpy summer/July, but the August Back to School issue!  So thick!  It meant hours of reading and poring and coveting.  It was heaven.

Of course a few years after that I rebelled against the things Seventeen stood for.  I didn’t want to belong or wear preppie clothes or be popular or get a hope chest.  But still, I kept my subscription.  They still had some good articles about things like The Go-Go’s and oh, the short stories!  And maybe I still wanted to keep my hand in about what it was like to feel like that kind of girl.  Maybe part of me still wanted that, though I defiantly shunned it.  (And ironically, that article about The Go-Go’s is what gave me the confidence to do so.  Thanks, Seventeen!)

By the time I turned 17, I felt like I was too old and let my subscription lapse.  I felt like i had gone a step above Seventeen to Mademoiselle and from there I would graduate to Glamour, but nothing would ever come close to how I’d felt about Seventeen.  And I was reading short stories about adults more than teens, so I was okay letting it all go.  Still, I felt a pang when I saw it on the newsstand — a new issue and a new cover, and I wouldn’t know what was inside.  New models replaced my old favorites like Phoebe Cates, Willow Bay, Lisanne Falk, Pam Gidley (and Whitney Houston!)…  It felt like graduating high school, and a whole new class had come in.

I wish I had kept all my old issues of Seventeen, but hindsight is 20/20 and now they cost a mint on eBay.  (And so do the truly vintage ones, which I really want.)  If I could have only one, though, I’d get that old one with Phoebe Cates on the cover, lacing up her skates.  And then maybe I could make that baker’s dough and perfect those little cat head ornaments.

I do have one Seventeen Magazine book, though.  My ex found The Seventeen Book of Etiquette (copyright 1963)in a thrift shop and bought it for me,  saying I needed to learn how to be a lady and sit in the S-Position like Jackie Kennedy.  Whoops.  i guess I never studied hard enough.  I’d best get cracking — i’ll be FORTY-SEVEN soon and I need to learn how to be a good hostess!  It’s never too late.

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Thanks for everything, Seventeen.

Don’t have it in me today.

It wasn’t a great day — I got some bad news, and our attempts to trap the feral cat (“Hissy”) on our front stoop failed miserably, and now I don’t know if he’ll trust us enough to get him back on our steps and to get him fixed and fixed up.

Truth be told, I’m pretty bummed out.  But then I saw this picture on the internet and felt a little bit better.

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Mall Rat

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My husband needed new shoes, so today we went to the mall I haunted when I was younger, and where I got my first job when I was seventeen.  I’ve been back to that mall a few times since I’ve been an adult — in fact, we bought our wedding rings in the very spot where I used to stand, bored, behind the counter — but still, it was weird.  it always is.

I loved the mall growing up.  It opened when I was in about fifth grade, when it was shiny and new and echo-ey with empty spaces where the promise of new stores would be.  My mom would take me to The Limited and buy me wide-whale corduroy pants and crew neck sweaters, decidedly uncool when all the other girls seemed to have moms that would buy them tight jeans and satin jackets.

But as I got older, my mom would drop me — and friends — off on our own.  We lived smack in the middle of distance between two of them — Sun Valley was older and a little seedier, but it had an ice rink and a movie theater.  (I wound up working there, too.)  Stoneridge was newer and fancier, and I guess it just depended on what kind of mood we were in as to where we decided to go.  It’s not like we ever really had a purpose — maybe we had enough money to buy some pizza at Sbarro’s and a record at Musicland or a Madness pin at Merry-Go-Round.  Pretty much all we did was walk the length of the mall, back and forth, over and over, hoping to run into people we knew or cute new wave boys.  For hours.

Of course even though we all loved the mall — despite pretending to be cool we were still all wannabe Valley Girls at heart who loved spraying on expensive perfume and window shopping at Contempo — we all said we hated it.  “I’m bored,” one of us would announce.  “Wanna go to the mall?”  We’d sigh.  “Ugh,” we’d answer.  “I guess so.”  And we’d pile in someone’s car and go, so we could walk and walk.  (Had fitbits been invented then, we would have clocked 10,000 steps in one mall trip.)

The summer before my senior year, my dad decreed that he’d had enough of me sleeping ’til noon and then getting up just to go to a cafe where all the other weird kids hung out or walk endlessly around the mall.  No, instead I had to go to the mall not to look for cute new wave boys; I had to go to the mall to look for a job.

So I did.  I went into one store — Upstart Crow and Company, a bookstore that played George Winston music (that was totally classy in the 1980s) attached to the cafe.  I filled out the application, and miracle of miracles, they hired me a week later.

It was a really, really fun job.  The head bookstore manager was an older woman with a glass eye who barely spoke English and drank wine in her office.  The assistant manager was young and pretty much stoned all the time, and was having an affair with the bar manager.  All the east bay mods hung out there and then started working there, and my friend Laura got a job as a waitress, and my friend Bob worked downstairs at Benetton.

But I was surrounded by what I loved — books. No, it wasn’t as cool as working at Musicland or like Stacey and Linda in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” but I loved it.  After school I would get there and the lighting was always so beautiful, golden reflections from the yellow stained glass section headers on the rich, brown wood and stacks upon stacks of books.  If my dad thought that I was going to be making any money at this job he was sadly mistaken — I spent more money on books (and sweaters from Benetton with the employee discount) than I made.  I still have quite a few of those books, including my first very own The Portable Dorothy Parker.

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I only worked there for a few months, but it felt like an eternity.  But the SATs were coming up and my dad told me I needed to study, and “corporate” was really buckling down.  The bookstore manager who drank in the office was fired, and on a surprise visit, the head guy told me it looked like a I was wearing a dishrag under my apron and it wasn’t appropriate.  (It wasn’t a dishrag — it was a 1960s gogo dress, and I had on black tights so WHATever.)  I hated authority, man.  (Except my dad, because, well, I had to obey him.)  So I quit.  And not long after, that beautiful store closed and the company went under, and I still think part of it was because they let teenagers do champagne inventory.  (Sunday mornings were fun!)

But I am forever grateful to that job — they hired a surly yet hopeful new wave teenage geek with a dumb haircut to work for them, and it started a lifelong career in books.  I lucked out.  I think of that job all the time, especially working on Sundays in a bookstore again, and how lovely it was.  I worked in about 7 bookstores after that — and two in other malls — but none were as thrilling to me as my first bookstore.  I was spoiled right off the bat.

I really did start to hate malls when I got older, and avoided them as best as I could.  Now I rarely have a reason to go, so when I do, I kind of like it.  Today was like that. It was busy, which I was glad to see after reading those online articles about malls across America being abandoned and torn down.  Malls were our youth — and such a standard in the 1970s and 1980s in suburbia.  But Stoneridge seems to be growing and expanding.  Benetton and Contempo and The Limited are gone, but there are other stores like Forever 21 (which I think is terrible) in their place.  Hot Topic is where Aubergine, a high end cooking store, used to be, and Sbarro’s has been replaced by Panda Express. It’s kind of sad in a nostalgic way, but mostly because I miss The Blue Chip Cookie Company.  And maybe I miss being young.  Now the mall just makes me feel old, like I’ve gone back and am hanging out at my high school, and trying to remember where mine and my friends’ lockers were. Now I think, “What was where Banana Republic is now?”  I feel more sad for my fading memory than anything else.  (And Blue Chip cookies.  They were really good.)

But there were still a bunch of teenagers, just hanging out.  They aren’t buying books and records anymore, or Madness pins — now they’re buying cheap makeup bags at H&M and expensive eyeliner at MAC.  But still, they’re there.  And I was glad to see a girl with pink hair hunkered down and reading a book while eating her lunch, like I did so many times.  So things may change, but some good things stay the same.

I didn’t walk back and forth today — I didn’t even make a whole circle.  And the whole time I was hoping that I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.

I didn’t.

This is What I Did Today.

Tonight I’m going to my Feminist Book Club meeting, so I spent all day in the kitchen, baking a cake from scratch.  And chocolate icing from scratch, too.  Yeah, it’s kind of lopsided, but I think it’s pretty gorgeous, considering this is only my second cake from scratch I’ve ever baked.

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The Betty Friedan stuff I’m pretty good at; it’s the Betty Crocker part I still need to master.