Monday, May 26, 2014

Meet the Inside World, More Similar to the Outside Than I Realized

When you enter an Amish neighborhood, the traffic scene changes.

If there's a dog along for the ride, the sight and sound of buggies zooming past his open window could wake him up.

You may find yourself coming up with questions like: "Do Amish children know who Beyonce is?" and "Would the Amish guy who just pulled his buggy into that BP station be allowed to pick up a non-Amish hitchhiker whose car broke down?" without getting any straight answers.

You might later discover that all baptized Amish people had a choice about it; that Amish teenagers get a "running around" period, when they can try out the "outside world" before deciding whether to commit to the world they were born into. About 90 percent do come back to what's most familiar. As high as that percentage seems, how much different is it from what happens on the other side? Don't about 90 percent of young people who temporarily tiptoe away from all communities or sets of expectations return to them in the end?

I would like to read a memoir essay by someone who represents the Amish 10 percent - now that's a story, a hook, as courage always is - but would settle for a long email that includes well-informed responses to my Queen B and hitchhiking concerns. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Desperately Seeking a Summons

You know your Monday morning isn’t everything it could be when you start firing off texts like:

Can you volunteer yourself for jury duty? Or, like the Met Gala, do you have to be asked? Asking for a friend.
Today I remembered the charmed week I served as an alternate juror in a civil case that was like a Days of Our Lives marathon, with frumpier clothing and Staten Island accents. All it needed was someone to periodically circulate trays of chardonnay and crabcakes around our VIP section.

I like catching up on magazines while waiting for them to call my name; messing with counsel during the voir dire questioning; marching in the bailiff-led procession from the jury room into the courtroom; and traveling that far downtown on a weekday, where there’s a different culture without any shock. I miss two of my co-jurors and wish we’d exchanged email addresses. As good-natured as they were, both despised the experience and I pretended to find it intolerable as well. I don’t love many things most people love – an afternoon at the movies, constant sunshine, Paris. But give me a day filled with housework, a jar of gefilte fish, or an aisle seat in a jury box, if you want to see me happier than a contestant on The Price Is Right.
Recent cravings I’ve had that won’t go away – fresh kiwi, bangers and mash, chamomile tea, Trader Joe’s olive oil popcorn, and now this, a court date. Come right to mama you little white card.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why Getting Out of Bed in the Morning Has Just Become a Little Harder

A few pages before finishing Chelsea Handler’s latest book, I pulled up an interview about her own reading habits. Like most successful comedians, she comes with a pronounced somber side. When I asked someone who worked for Chris Rock’s wife whether Chris had her doubled over with laughter during their run-ins, she said he was very serious and always reading.

The opening inquiry in this Handler interview got to the bottom of which books currently sat on her nightstand. She listed five titles, four of which sounded pretty meaty. That’s quite a nightstand, I might have thought, with harmless envy, until mid-last week. Because until then, I never owned a real nightstand. While lying in bed, I stacked my phone, pens, papers, and refreshing beverages on any sturdy and available nearby surface, which occasionally included the floor. After finally committing to a nightstand I liked enough to buy, an unmarked truck delivered it last Wednesday.  
Whenever someone brings a baby into the world, the first few times I visit them all, I notice the parents staring at their infants with specific, uncontainable, beams of awe. That’s how I’ve caught myself eyeballing this nightstand (we haven’t been together a full week; I still wake to the faint aroma of fresh wood). Sometimes you don’t realize what you’ve missed out on until you’re no longer missing out. I’m overwhelmed, not used to this much bedside table space, on which I can stack books, and everything else, without having to worry about them falling off, or someone tripping over them, and hurting themselves.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Here’s Your Money Back – Now Stop Talking to Me

What’s better than getting out of a bad relationship? Getting out of two, of course!

This year, I’ve broken free from Sallie Mae and American Education Services (AES) - student loan companies that had been in my life for way too long, preventing me from doing joyful things like going to a destination wedding in Punta Cana and making me consider such acts as sliding my monogrammed high school class ring over the counter of a pawn shop.

I’m wearing that ring today, for the first time since I was 16 or 17 years old. It looks good.

Miss Sallie Mae has sent an email, congratulating me for kicking her to the curb. She wants to know how I did it. She wants me to share my “tips for success.” As you can imagine, there are submission rules to follow, such as agreeing not to get paid for telling your story and accepting that the submission will become the property of Sallie Mae, Inc. She’d also love it if a picture accompanied the tale.

One tip for success: when shady types ask for details about any aspect of your personal affairs, answer as honestly and as vaguely as possible.

Sallie, girl - here’s what it took to pay you (and your wicked stepbrother, AES) off. A can-do attitude and the kind of frugality that would make a monk moan – two of the most valuable forms of inherited wealth I have. And now for a photo, depicting how I feel about our goodbye:

                         Photo source: