Recently, Keith’s mother relayed this tale to me.  Some time ago, she planted a paradise-like array of wild flowers in the backyard.  This was something she had always wanted to do, but unfortunately, cultivating wild flowers in suburban New Jersey proved very challenging.  Eventually, after many moons, her hard work paid off and the wild flowers bloomed in all their glory. Until, that is, she and Keith’s father returned from a weekend away to find that Keith’s twin brother, Craig, had mowed and manicured both yards, inadvertently destroying her floral pride and joy.

Keith’s mother was devastated, but knew that Craig had just been trying to do something nice for them by surprising them with a freshly mowed lawn. She didn’t want to make him feel bad, so she thanked him for mowing the lawn and endured the loss of her wild flowers privately, in the comfort of her own room, never saying a word.  (Presumably, she did at some subsequent point.  If not … um … oops.)

You know the parallel universe technique oft used on TV (see the unbearably bad Slomin’s Shield commercials currently airing), in which a narrator or protagonist gets to witness the same situation with different outcomes? I pictured the accidental wild flower extinction in my own childhood home, a mere four miles away.  Lemme tell ya.  It would NOT have gone down the same way.

Travel back with me, if you will, to an average weekday in central New Jersey, circa 1976.  Jamie (age 2) and I (age 4) were entertaining ourselves in the living room.  I was overcome by a brilliant idea: we’d make a pie.  It would be great! Crustless. Beautiful. Delicious. And the best part?! We could make it RIGHT THERE IN THE SHAG CARPET!

Jan would be soooooooooo proud.

When I revealed the plan to Jamie, she was thrilled to be serving as my sous-chef.

I believe her response went something like this [insert gremlin voice]: “Yeh. Heh heh. Yeh.”

The main and only ingredients in the pie were brown sugar and salt. This is because the sensation of opening and closing the little silver spouts on their respective containers filled me with satisfaction. Should you wish to make your own crustless brown sugar and salt pie, the recipe is as follows.

You Will Need:
1 box brown sugar, with silver spout
1 box salt, with silver spout
1 eager beaver diaper-clad toddler
1 shag carpet

Add brown sugar and salt to taste
Hand boxes to eager beaver diaper-clad toddler; instruct her to put them away
Wait as eager beaver diaper-clad toddler waddles to kitchen, then waddles back
Immediately instruct eager beaver diaper-clad toddler to turn around and fetch brown sugar and salt again
Wait as eager beaver diaper-clad toddler waddles to kitchen and back
Add brown sugar and salt to taste
Repeat until bored

When we were done, we summoned Jan. I could not wait to see the look of pride on her face. She’d see how much I admired and wanted to be just like her — I too was a domestic goddess. I clearly had a passion for creative baking. Maybe Jan would give me my own kiddie apron.  OMFG! Maybe it would have Holly Hobbie on it! Or maybe she’d hug me and tell me what a fantastic job I’d done! Maybe she’d even pour us glasses of milk like Mrs. Brady would and we could enjoy the crustless pie together!

Or, maybe she’d take one look at it and burst into tears.

And then scream for about half an hour.

And then talk to herself in a rage for another 10 while she vacuumed the mess formerly known as pie.

And then refuse to talk to me for a day.


I still remember eating our breaded chicken cutlets in sad silence that night.


Team Conan

Not since the prehistoric days of the Clintonzoic Era, when Johnny Carson retired, has late night television been such a hot topic. At the time, of course, it was just written and talked about.  Now it’s also Facebooked, MySpaced, tweeted, blogged, IM’d, emailed and texted about. As my poor college friends and loyal readers of this blog know, I joined Team Conan in 1993. In an almost creepy way. In fact, I think I technically established Team Conan. Let me remind you, people, that with no wireless, high-speed internet connection — and no internet to connect to —  I was forced to do all my Google stalking on microfiche, at the library. Fine. It was creepy. (For more on this, and another tale from the TMK Annals of Botched Brushes With Greatness, I invite you to read the post NBC Order.)

But the point is, I stood by him. Even long after I discovered Frasier reruns at midnight and stopped watching his show on a regular basis — even after he slandered New Jersey in his much-hyped battle with Cory Booker — I held a special place in my heart for Conan. He was always funny and smart, yes. But I just always knew, somehow, that he too was the last one picked for every team.  And that made us kindred spirits. 

Yesterday, the New York Times  blog “Media Decoder” shared Conan’s letter to the People of Earth,  in which he explains why he will not host Tonight if it moves to the 12:05 time slot. It is well-written, just the right amount of funny and completely classy, underscoring the fact that Conan is a tall, red-headed, Irish mensch. Note the way he ends the letter: “I’m truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.” 

See? Simpatico!

Last night, nearly two decades since Conan became a household name, I declared my loyalty to Team Conan before thousands.  And I  hope you will do the same, for whatever it’s worth.  

I also hope that, before making any final decisions, NBC thinks about this. How much would they have lost if they’d pulled the plug on Conan’s fledgling show in late 1993, when no one watched?  They kept going, and look how that turned out.

I’m just sayin’…

And for the record, I’m truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Team Conan

The Hand of Oz

For as long as I can remember, my hair has been the one true bane of my existence (along with my height, or lack thereof; the scar on my chin; the overbite that braces didn’t correct; the hook in my nose, which, at least, is only visible from the side; the crazed appearance of my eyes in pictures; and my hips, among others). I refer to it intermittently as a Jewfro and Chia Head.

It’s a nice enough color – dark brown with increasingly gray natural highlights – but is so ridiculously thick that I’m sure DNA analysis would reveal I’m a mutant with two or three copies of the hair gene. I do realize that many people would be thankful for this, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but when you’re small-framed and not much taller than a smurf, it’s a lot of hair to support. It’s so thick that since 1976, no barrette, rubber band, pin, headband, comb or clip has ever been able to contain any portion of it for more than 30 seconds. Back in the 07076, no amount of industrial strength aerosol hairspray could keep it teased as high as the other girls’.

A cowlick on the right side makes it impossible for me to have bangs or any layers shorter than chin length. If the overall length is shorter than one inch below my shoulders, the ends curl up in a bouncy, incredibly irksome and unstylish manner. It is too dipsy-doodlish to be desirably straight and too straight to be desirably wavy. If it comes in remote contact with any unpleasant odor whatsoever, be it garbage, leftover Chinese food, cigarette smoke, or diner bathroom, it reeks of said unpleasant odor for days. If it comes in remote contact with even the slightest amount of moisture, its volume, width and weight increase exponentially. Are you familiar with the look Cameron Diaz sported in Being John Malkovich? Her hair was flatter than mine is on a muggy day.

Her hair looks limp next to mine in the humidity

All by itself, it features random strands that don’t hang right, stick out, or curve in. But if I put it up so I can wash my face – even for a minute – the rubber band or clip leaves an unsightly indent that can’t be ignored. And, on top of all this, my junior year of college, I made the naïve mistake of plucking the first few grays that came in, right at the crown. The plucked, offending hairs have since grown back like squiggly antennae and require constant removal. Unfortunately, this requires the use of a tweezer, and unfortunately, most tweezers contain nickel, and unfortunately, I am allergic to nickel, and unfortunately, I often have a red, scaly patch of dermatitis at the pluckage site.

Any attempt at styling or cutting it to amend the problem has only made it worse. As an unhappy teen, I literally used to pray that I’d wake up with “normal” hair. I remember pleading, from my mauve bedroom, with whatever higher power was listening: “It’s just a simple, basic bob. It shouldn’t be that difficult. WHY are you doing this to me?”

After one particularly unfortunate trip to a certain salon that’s still in business and thus shall remain unnamed, I looked in the mirror in utter horror and screamed, “OH. MY. GOD. What happened!?”

And the sorry-looking stylist literally said, “Um … I’m actually not sure.”

I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say I had a bi-level. Which wouldn’t have been the worst thing, if I’d been making a cameo on The Partridge Family.

There are Shags, Bobs, Shabobs, Flips, Beehives, Pixies and Page Boys. But the haircut I wanted for all of my young adult life was the one whose name I coined: “The Popular Person.” Guess who it was named after? It consisted of a nice, manageable wavy perm on the bottom; a few teased layers on top; and a few wispy bangs. Was that so wrong?! Apparently, it was.


Then, in 1999, something happened that changed my life forever. My roommate Kiki came home with a 2 1/2-inch BaByliss flat iron. When used on dry hair, it had the power to cure almost all of the hair woes that had plagued me for the past 27 years. It didn’t give me the wash-n-go hair I’d always dreamed of, but it helped a lot. And I can honestly say that things started to improve for me when that thing came into the picture.

Eventually, this flat iron plus the right combination of good shampoo, a “stylist” named Glitteratta, a product called BioSilk (introduced to me by my non-biological twin) left me with hair I could deal with. In fact, it became semi-common for random people on the street to compliment me on the feature I’d so despised.

Thanks, Lil J

Now, as you may know by now, fame – even 15 minutes of it – is something I fantasize about. And as you may know by now, the tabloids continue to not give a crap about my daily routine. Then, recently, I opened one of the media trade e-blasts I get every day.  A producer at a prominent syndicated talk show (no, not Oprah) was working on a segment for which she needed women whose lives had been changed by various hair-related processes, treatments, products and devices like the flat iron. I pounced.  If I wasn’t going to publish a best-seller that would be optioned, made into a blockbuster feel-good movie and land me on the late night talk show circuit, this was the next best thing. My chance at fame, fortune and professional make-up had finally arrived.

The producer was ecstatic (knowing she’d get credit for discovering me, naturally) and said I sounded like a great fit for her “piece.” She asked me to send a few photos of myself – with hair attached – then called me back to confirm the date and time I’d need to be at the studio.

I told everyone I knew about my impending televisual debut, via Facebook, Twitter, phone, email and several billboards on the West Side Highway. This was incredibly stupid, as any good magical thinker and superstitious neurotic should have known.  Later that same afternoon, the producer called back sounding a little embarrassed.

“Have you REALLY been using a flat iron for almost 10 years?” she asked me.  “Because here’s the thing – I showed the photos to [Talk Show Host X], and he doesn’t think you’re right for this.”


I so wished I had an agent. I could barely talk without choking up, but I asked her what was so wrong about me. I mean sure, I could have named a few things, but I didn’t think they’d been that obvious from the photos.  

She responded , “Well, this story is actually about the damaging effects of all these treatments and products. And your hair … actually looks too good for us to make our point.”

Frick on a D-listed stick

Once again, my hair had foiled me.

The Hand of Oz

Quick Post 2: The Stuffed Menagerie

Milty is an actual chocolate moose.

Per the request of my very first non-family member fan, I would like to take a few moments to introduce the stuffed moose I have referenced several times in this blog.  Pictured at left is Milty, who is a Mary Meyer Flip Flop — described on one web site as “extremely relaxed animals.” Roughly seven years ago, after a tasty lobster roll at a hole in the wall in southern Maine — Sloth and I paid a visit to the adjacent gift shop. There, among the tacky shot glasses, aprons and clambake cookbooks, was Milty. Once I saw his bulbous mandible, floppy limbs, green and white bow tie and sad little eyes, I knew he was coming home with me.  I have a special place in my heart for this particular moose because he’s very quiet and very nervous (“relaxed,” in the description above, refers to his apparent lack of spinal cord, not his mental state).  He doesn’t speak.  To convey his thoughts, he flops around at different RPMs, depending on his emotion. He also nods or shakes his head.  When he’s confused, which is often, he scratches right under his antler. He’s also very severely nearsighted. If you have the chance to meet him, you may feel an overwhelming desire to hug him. Even Jan, who has little tolerance for my stuffed menagerie, said this of the moose: “What’s that one’s name? He’s kind of funny.” Milty will be thrilled that you’re interested in providing a loving embrace, of course, but he’ll probably bounce into the wall or a chair en route to you.

Quick Post 2: The Stuffed Menagerie

Quick Post 1: Old Writers

Note to self, Julie and any other late bloomers out there. It wasn’t easy to track down well-known writers who didn’t pick up the quill/pen/typewriter/keyboard until later in life.  But, I did learn the following.

Daniel Defoe was approximately 59 when he wrote “Robinson Crusoe.” This brings me a small degree of comfort, although apparently Defoe was a journalist and spy before becoming an author, which has to come in handy.

However, Wallace Stevens – a favorite poet of mine – spent most of his professional life employed by a Connecticut insurance company. He was well into his 40s when his first collection of poems (including my personal favorite, “The Emporer of Ice Cream”) was published.  Let be be finale of seem … the only emporer is the emporer of ice cream.

Which brings me to a third example, albeit not one related to writing.  The gentleman who founded the Hare Krishna movement was 70 when he did so.

Quick Post 1: Old Writers

The Future Is Never What It Once Was

Greetings and Salutations, Five People Who Occasionally Read This Blog:

Happy 2010! I very much hope the new decade is treating you well thus far. I also hope none of you are suffering from scalp itch caused by cardboard HAPPY NEW YEAR crowns. 

Included on my list of sham resolutions is a committment to blog at least once a week all year. This is due to the depressing realization that in a mere four months, I will be the same age at which Helen Fielding published “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” For the past 13 years, whenever anxiety about my many life failures overwhelmed me, I took solace in thoughts of Helen Fielding. No matter how old I was, she was still older when she wrote this genre-spawning piece of literature.  That meant I still had time to accomplish “something.”

You may be wondering why I focused on Helen Fielding.  Sure, the Bridget Jones books are funny, and the endearing protagonist gets to go to a Tarts & Vicars party.  But, as Jan would say, “Literary masterpieces they forgot to be.”  Still, there were limited realms in which I could possibly accomplish “something,” especially as time went by. It was always totally unrealistic to think I would one day cure cancer, revolutionize the world of high finance or discover another line of australopithecus afarensis. But each passing New Year’s Eve wiped out more and more of the remotely realistic options. (Which is why I despise this particular holiday.) It was too late to be an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly or comedy writer. Then it was too late to work my way up from NBC page, and then it was too late to be a creative type at a big ad agency.  And then, I found out after a series of ill-fated interviews for jobs that hadn’t even existed a few years ago, it was just too late in general.  2010 marks 20 YEARS since I graduated from high school. (Special shout out to all my Spiffy High peeps: NB, RS, SSC, JFL, JD, TTC, DB and of course, our super-cute class president and homecoming king.)

So you see, my last best hope for doing “something” has always been, and will always be, writing.  I could always name tons of writers who’d published stories and books and articles (in media outlets people actually paid to read) when they were much younger than me. Helen Fielding was long the only one I could think of who hadn’t done my personal “something” until she was older than me.  But that’s almost not true anymore, and I can’t give up my last best hope yet.

I’m not sure I can rely on the good and mockable people of New York to provide me with 52 weeks worth of blog-worthy material. So from time to time, I may have to stray from the official “Letter T” M.O. a smidge, but I will do my best to keep my loyal fans entertained.

For those who aren’t privy to my incessant Facebook updates, I leave you with a sample of my other sham resolutions.

  • Stop picking cuticles
  • Join and go to gym
  • Develop enviable fashion savvy
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Wake up earlier
  • Be prompter
  • Wash hair every day
  • Reign in insatiable need to say negative things about annoying people (except here, of course)
  • Be more thankful
  • Be more patient
  • Regain crossword prowess
  • Be a better person/daughter/sibling/friend/girlfriend/employee/stuffed moose caregiver

*Please note I did not actually make up the name of this post. I heard it on MSNBC earlier today.  MSNBC, please don’t sue me.

The Future Is Never What It Once Was