Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I heart my bike

I rarely take the metro to work these days, but when I do, I tend to run into the baublehead.

See, I left my bike at work last night so I could go to a dentist appointment afterward, and metro-ed in this morning. As I approached the station, I saw her. You can't miss her, such is her unique demeanor.

I used to work in the same place as the baublehead. I don't have the writing skills to describe her to the unknowing reader in a way that could do her justice. You have to meet her for yourself (after that, you'll need a month to get her shrill voice out of your head). Let me leave it at this: I am not that mean; I don't easily resort to mocking other people's physical appearance (personality is fair game. just kidding. kind of). My point is, she's a baublehead.

I reached the platform only to learn that my train would be five minutes in coming. What if she tried to talk to me! The horror! What to do? I know, I need to call mom. I called home last night to wish my parents a Shana Tova, but just talked to dad. Mom was out at her pilates class.

Mom: Hello?
A.: Good morning. I hope I didn't wake you.
Mom: Oh, no. I've been up. I'm reading Investor's Business Daily. You know, they have things in there you won't find in the papers. I can't believe what's going on. I can't believe how greedy and incompetent everyone is. I didn't see this coming. Selfish politicians! This is worrisome. I just don't know what's happening.

This goes on for about five minutes.

A.: I have to get on the train, mom. I called to ask whether you want my old laptop for any reason? I'll recycle it otherwise.
Mom: I saw on tv that...
A.: I have to go, mom. Laptop?
Mom: Does it still work?
A.: It's slow but it works.
Mom: Sure, dad may be able to use it.
A.: Okay, I'll bring it next week. Bye.
Mom: Bye.

Quiz time: what's odd about this?

The head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party's campaign leveraged the image of Che Guevara. What's next, Che as the honorary spokesperson for the Cato Institute? At the same time, our financial system is teetering on the brink of socialism. Maybe that collider thingy in Switzerland really did turn the universe inside out. At least it's off for the winter.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

You don't have a river

Mom: I've bought the most beautiful decorations at A.J. Wright.
A.: Do you really need any more stuff?
Mom: It's beautiful stuff.
A.: [Shrug]
Dad: When are you closing?
A.: On Halloween. Did you see the comps and stats that I sent you?
Mom: Yeah, I saw all that.
A.: Are you still concerned that I'm overpaying?
Mom: The comps and stats are irrelevant. There hasn't been an economy like this since the Great Depression. Prices are still coming down...
A.: In this area they're not.
Mom: It's the same situation here, especially in the nicer areas by the river. I was looking and it's hard to find anything really nice. And we live in such a convenient location-- minutes from the express bus, minutes from so many parks.
A.: It's similar here.
Mom: No, no, it's not the same. You don't have a river.
A.: Actually, I do.
Mom: It's not the same!

I'm not sure how this got competitive. I was just trying to reassure her that I'm making a good investment, in a good area, and all of the sudden, she's trying to one-up me. And actually, the river widens and gets beautiful very close to where I live. We've walked in one of the more scenic areas. That's where she first pointed out that the way I walk is not sexy, or rather verbally barraged me about it.

A.: Mom, I'm not going to argue with you about Boston vs. DC. I'm just letting you know that it's a good area.
Mom: You don't have the ocean...
A.: What have you been doing?
Mom: We were dealing with a fallen branch earlier today. Thankfully it didn't hit the car. And then I've been spending a lot of time on the mushrooms. I have plenty for you, too.
A.: I'm afraid I'm not going to take them this time around.
Mom: Oh, that's fine. We'll bring them down when we visit. It'll probably make the most sense to do that when you'll be moving.
A.: Actually, not really. You can come for Dad's birthday.
Mom: That's ages from now. [It's in January.]
A.: Well, it doesn't make sense to come down to help me move, since I'm coming up for Thanksgiving right after I move, and then up for the holidays shortly after that.
Mom: We'll see.
A.: Okay.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

I know, really

Nathan Kottke writes to the New York Times:

To the Editor:

Dear Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson:

My student loans are too big and it is hurting the economy. Can I have a bailout, please? I need $92,000.


Nathan Kottke
St. Paul, Sept. 17, 2008

I am thinking about what to submit to buymyshitpile.com. This could make me a very rich woman. I have a lot of shit.

What happens on Main Street affects Wall Street.

With our economy in crisis, the US Government is scrambling to rescue our banks by purchasing their "distressed assets", i.e., assets that no one else wants to buy from them. We figured that instead of protesting this plan, we'd give regular Americans the same opportunity to sell their bad assets to the government. We need your help and you need the Government's help!

Use the form below to submit bad assets you'd like the government to take off your hands. And remember, when estimating the value of your 1997 limited edition Hanson single CD "MMMbop", it's not what you can sell these items for that matters, it's what you think they are worth. The fact that you think they are worth more than anyone will buy them for is what makes them bad assets.

As seen on The Big Picture, where Barry Ritholtz posted an awesome letter of his own:









Sunday, September 21, 2008

Phone calls

A.: Hello?
Mom: I'm returning your call.
A.: Did you get my e-mail?
Mom: Your father read it.
A.: And...
Mom: So, you're coming for New Year's?
A.: There were three held itineraries in there-- I'm also coming for your birthday and for Thanksgiving.
Mom, sweetly: You're coming for my birthday?
A.: Could you check the dates on the itineraries and make sure they work?
Mom: Why wouldn't they work?
A.: Well, you were saying something about Rome in November...
Mom: No plans for Rome. We'll be around.
A.: For all three sets of dates?
Mom: Yes.
A.: Great.

I have to say, I was a little annoyed at dad. I don't send gratuitous e-mails. If I send three e-mails, read them, dammit. Each of them. And no, they don't use gmail, so it's not like the e-mails run together.

A.: Could you do something for me? Could you make sure I can connect my laptop to the internet, unlike last time? I may need to work.
Mom: Why wouldn't you be able to?
A.: I wasn't last time.

Remember? I'd dragged my laptop up-- because she urged me to, so I could stop "hogging" her computer-- but there was no way to connect it to the internet.

Mom: Does your laptop have an outlet for a cable cord?
A.: Probably?
Mom: Then we'll be able to connect it.

I really hope so.

I do have to say that mom has been supportive, although still a little bit annoying, throughout my house-hunting process. Two months ago, I sent her the first listing. I warned her beforehand that it was small and butt-ugly.

Mom: It's really small.
A.: I know.
Mom: It's just really small.
A.: Yes, I realize that.
Mom: What about that open house we popped into last year, on the way back from our walk.

Mom loves open houses as much as she loves yard sales and A.J. Wright. Who was I to stop her?

A.: That townhouse was $750,000, mom.
Mom: Really?
A.: Yes.

Late last week I sent her another listing.

Mom: Where is it?
A.: Not far from where I live now. Closer to Trader Joe's.
Mom: Like that house we saw last year?
A.: That house was $750,000, mom.
Mom: It was?
A.: Yes, we've discussed this several times.
Mom: I read that prices are reasonable in Virginia.
A.: Virginia is a huge state, mom, with huge socioeconomic variations. Prices have stabilized in Alexandria but this is still a good deal.
Mom: I don't know... I read that in Virginia....
A.: Not this part of Virginia.
Mom: Okay, well, keep me posted.
A.: Will do.

A few days later, I learned that I got the house. I called my parents, they congratulated me. Mom fretted about this and that, but overall, she's being supporting. I would like to point out that she has gone several months without saying anything mean. Dare I hope that my visit for her birthday will go smoothly?

decluttering my closet, decluttering my soul

Throughout the painful course of the Have-You-Applied-to-Google saga many of you asked me why I didn't just lie and tell mom that I had, indeed, applied for a job at Google. I answered that I don't like to lie (needless to say, I have fewer scruples about omissions, such as not telling her about the blog); and that I have to stand up to her, or else she'll continue to try to micromanage my life. And no, standing up to her hasn't helped, but at least I don't encourage it.

The same principle motivates me to refuse to accept everything that she buys for me. I don't have unlimited space, and I have a hard enough time decluttering as it is without adding more clutter. I'm as polite as possible-- I'm grateful that she thinks of me, buys things for me... but I will not take them if I won't wear or use them, and I'd rather tell her straight-out than take them and donate them to Goodwill. And yes, sometimes I wonder why I bother, because it's not like mom ever takes anyone else's feelings into account. When I was little, it wasn't uncommon for her to throw gifts back in my face and lecture me about how I had bad taste and selfishly didn't, when choosing a gift, think about making the recipient happy. In the realm of mom's role modeling that I had to unlearn, developing a minimal level of tact was not a difficult thing to do. Developing an ability to throw things about or give them away, on the other hand, I still struggle with.

And so this weekend I struggled. I once again cleaned out my closet, but not as thoroughly as I know I should. "Baby steps," I tell myself. This time I was able to toss into the give-away bags things I couldn't bring myself to part with last time around, and as I did, I thought, "why did I ever take this? I remember in the case of one garment trying to talk my mom out of giving it to me. It didn't fit well at all-- but mom and I have very different concepts of "fit"-- and it was decades too old for me (as well as decades out of style). But while I had the wherewithal to reject things she'd buy at discount department stores, I have a much harder time rejecting things that were once part of her wardrobe. She's very persistent when she wants me to take something... and, sucker that I am, I don't actually like to hurt her feelings.

But having that stuff in my closet, much less wearing it, hurts my feelings. It's a dignity issue-- I shouldn't have to even think about choosing not to wear things that are too big, too eighties and too in-one's-fifties. And not (only) because it brings back memories of my mom's not buying me clothes as a child or teenager. I got family friends' hand-me-downs, and we shopped at thrift stores and deep discount department stores. I don't remember how old I was when this first struck me as absurd because we weren't, at that point, that poor, but I remember one particularly painful experience, where one summer we drove around to various thrift stores to find a swimsuit for me to take to summer camp. There was one I didn't like, that didn't fit; mom said she'd alter it. I can't see now how my mother thought the hours spent on this-- and I still have a memory of the grueling nature of that shopping trip-- could have been worth it. Eventually she gave up, sucked it up and spent $15 at a local department store. I'm not above thrift stores-- far from it-- but I think sometimes it's worth it to go ahead and buy new clothes. My mom, to this day, rarely does. Unless they're from the clearance rack of A.J. Wright.

Even when I was in grad school when my mother criticized me for buying a new suit for interviews, when we could have just gone to Salvation Army. It was just over a year ago that she expressed incredulity at my having bought socks; don't I know, after all, that she has plenty at her house? Just today, she was waxing poetic about a yard she'd come across. She said, "one could furnish one's entire house with the wares at that yard sale," an implication being that it would be foolhardy, greedy, even overly picky to want to choose one's furniture to one's liking, rather than pick from what's dirt cheap.

Remember Gary Shteyngart's moving essay about how his immigrant family wouldn't spare sixty-nine cents for fast food:

My parents didn’t spend money, because they lived with the idea that disaster was close at hand, that a liver-function test would come back marked with a doctor’s urgent scrawl, that they would be fired from their jobs because their English did not suffice.

I can appreciate the trauma behind my parents' mentality. Especially because they did their best, deliberately or not, to instill it in me. I do wish it wouldn't lead my mom to stock up on a bunch of crap she doesn't need, just because it's dirt cheap, in case she needs it at some point. Because that's what she does, and her house is chock-full of it.

So I felt guilty as I sent mom's old work clothes to the giveaway bag, even though that's their rightful place. While I'm determined to make her understand that in some areas of my life, i.e., my career, I'm going to make my own choices and do what's right for me, when it comes to the contents of my closet (and the contents of the giveaway bag), I'm happy to let her believe that she's saving me from the financial folly of buying new clothes.

Some Maureen Dowd and Aaron Sorkin to brighten your morning

Excerpts here:

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.



OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quote of the Day


"At this point I should note that for the first time, both the United States secretary of state and secretary of defense have doctorates in Russian studies. A fat lot of good that's done us."
- DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT M. GATES, on evaporating hopes for closer ties with Russia

The speech that's taken from--at least as excerpted in this article--is REALLY good.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Case in point

Remember that study that found correlation between cognitive activity, i.e. thinking, and weight gain? Here's some anecdotal evidence in support of the same idea (well, the converse, actually).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Check, check, not check

Check out this article/interview in Elle by Virginia Vitzhum:

Were you blessed with a narcissistic mother-- one who constantly criticized you, competed with you, and habituated you to self-loathing? Welcome to the club, says therapist Karyl McBride--and it's high time that you faced it and dealt with it.

As I read the article, some things resonated, others not so much. I'd not diagnose mom with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

"According to Denver-based therapist Karyl McBride, author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, an NPD mother treats her children—daughters, especially—as extensions of herself, trampling recklessly over their psychic boundaries. She casts her daughter as an understudy or co-diva or successor and then judges her performance as harshly as the mother imagines she herself is judged. She projects onto her daughter her own issues with beauty, seductiveness, and appearance, as well as with success in relationships and careers."

That one is awfully close to home. But McBride "contends that narcissism is a “spectrum disorder” of widely varying intensity and that most people have some tendencies toward it."

Then, on McBride's diagnostic checklist is, “When you discuss your feelings with your mother, does she or did she try to top the feelings with her own?” Check.

"The classic sins of the n-mother include constant criticism, ignoring or minimizing her daughter's feelings, and worrying about how the family looks to outsiders." Check, check, not check.

Interesting stuff, though.

Celebrate Constitution Day

Resolve to get your @$$ to the polls in November to boot out of office the f*ckers that have done everything in their power and beyond to trash the Constitution.

Quote of the Day

"Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed
just to be undecided about them."
--Laurence J. Peter
Quoted from "Wicked Problems & Social Complexity"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


First of all, if anyone didn't get the title of this post as a reference to A Fish Called Wanda, go rent that movie now... unless you still haven't seen Idiocracy. In that case, rent that too and watch it first. Seriously. It's more relevant now than ever.

Second, how f*ing disappointing was last night's Daily Show?? After a week-long hiatus, and with so much fodder, that was the best they could do?

Speaking of disappointment, Korto's and Jerrell's final collections are kind of lame. Shockingly, Suede's looks great. Not surprisingly, Kenley's is pathetic, Joe's is quite good... and Leanne's is beautiful and on message... but is it avant-guarde enough?

The Post ran a beautiful appreciation of "The Elements of Style." For the record, I've always been averse to the serial comma, although I have taken it up in recent years out of peer pressure. I was taught in grade school that it was at best optional. Score one for the public school system.

The hazards of thinking

This could explain it. Perhaps I'll ask my mom to put me on a chocolate diet because that's what I want.

Monday, September 15, 2008

anyone vying for the single-woman-with-cat vote?

1. What does one smoke to up with these convoluted demographics:
So-called Wal-Mart women, who shop at the store at least once a week, earn less than $60,000 a year, have less than a college education, and hold a poor impression of Mr. Bush; they tend to call themselves independents and say their economic situation is fair or poor, listing the economy as their prime election issue.

2. Doesn't an income of $60k put you squarely in the middle class? I realize that's just the upper boundary, but that just goes to show how meaningless that category is. Barring odd circumstances-- which, I'll admit, afflict lots of people-- you should not be saying your economic situation is fair or poor if you are making $60,000 a year, have mastered the fine art of family planning, and have a reasonable grasp of personal finance. Unless, of course, you don't have health care.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

You're still here?

I am. I set out for a bike ride, thinking I'd get over my lethargy once I warmed up, but a mile or two into it I still wasn't feeling it. So I did some yoga and proverbially picked up the paper.

The New York Times Op-ed page asked Op-Ed page asked people "whose résumés overlap with the candidates’" to discuss the qualities they’ve drawn on for their jobs as they would apply to the White House.

Rest easy, those of you who are sick of my political metablogging. While the origin of the Times' exercise was election-related, I plan to draw on it for something I do that is highly personal: writing about my family.

Contributor Mary Karr wrote about memoir writing:

Fact: as a child, I watched my mother set fire to all my toys then menace me with a butcher knife. Fact: my mother adored me and even in our backwater town imbued me with the sensibility and curiosity to become an artist. Recreating both those facts in Technicolor strains the bounds of reason. It demands that I dig deep into my own experience, yet simultaneously view it from other angles entirely. But to demonize my mother or to deny my childhood torments would have made a shallow, dishonest memoir.

Fact: My mother never set fire to anything or menaced me with weapons. She often slams doors and throws things and otherwise lets her temper get the better of her. Fact: My mother cultivated in me a sense of social responsibility and an appreciation for art and literature. She paid for and chauffeured me to art, dance, and other classes. She also, when I failed to show signs of excelling, verbally beat out of me any sense of confidence I would have developed in those areas and subsequently, for better or for worse, did her best to hammer into my head and soul the idea that I'd best channel my education and energy into making myself fit for a day job in which art or literature would have no place.

It would be simple to say that one-dimensional people are boring; I'll go as far as to say they don't exist. I'll give you this: Two-dimensional people are boring.

Very often it's the same characteristics that are at the root of one's good, bad and ugly. What makes people-- and families-- complex and imperfect is what makes them worth writing about.

Stay tuned: In less than a month, I'll head to Boston for my mother's birthday. I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday morning roundup

On the plight of children in Haiti.

Tom Friedman is growing on me.

Frank Rich on hypocrisy.

Maureen Dowd on the limits of ignorance.

A powerful tribute to truth over wishful thinking.

Tina Fey returns to SNL:

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Perhaps Gail Collins is right: we need to chill the f* out.

But people also need to start getting with the program and not taking the bait, and we could do better at distinguishing facts from fiction. Check your facts. Don't fall for the contrived culture wars. But do realize what all this really means.

I've not been immune. As Mr. Herbert says, self-hatred is a terrible thing, and I'm this close to railing against white women. Especially in Northern Virginia.

Commemorate wisely

Please honor the victims of September 11, 2001 and their families by listening to, reading about their stories and processing the magnitude of the tragedy.

If you must politicize the attacks, be realistic in your politicization. Get in touch with the facts (for example, the overlooked Presidential Daily Intelligence Brief; the lack of any connection whatsoever with Iraq; the reality that more Americans have been killed in Iraq; the fact that attempts to undermine the Constitution have not and will not make us safer).

Demand accountability from your elected officials and candidates. Get informed and vote. Find out how they will make you safer. Don't let them exploit other people's personal tragedies for cheap political gain. Like I said yesterday, I don't like to tout Tom Friedman, but when he's right, he's right..

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008


A.: Hello?
Mom: Hello. So, have you recovered?
A.: Yeah, I got some rest.
Mom: Did you find... er, that?
A.: What?
Mom: You know... the cat.
A.: Yeah, she showed up.
Mom: Oh, good.
A.: I got your e-mail. You do have quite the supply of mushrooms.
Mom: Those were just one installment.
I'll send you home with some next time you visit.
A.: I'll gladly take some.
Mom: They're a good source of protein.
A.: I don't think they are.

I've let this go SO many times, but I think I've had it with mom's pop nutrition. She's been on this one for a while. I remember a doctor's appointment as a teenager where, upon being asked what I, a vegetarian, did for protein, said "mushrooms." The doctor looked at me like I was nuts. I thought he was just misinformed, such was my belief system molded in the image of my mother's.

Mom: They are. Mushrooms are a good source of protein.
A.: I'll look it up on the internet right now.
Mom: Well?
A.: Two grams per cup, raw.
Mom: Is that a lot?
A.: No.
Mom: Well, by the time they're cooked you'd eat more than a "cup, raw."
A.: Perhaps, but not that much more.

This went on for a few minutes.

Mom: Well, I'll look it up somewhere, too.
A.: Okay.
Mom: Goodnight.
A.: Goodnight.

August is the time of year when many in this town go on vacation and/or spend time with their families. Today I caught up with a number of people who had recently returned from time with family; most remarked on how challenging it was to stay sane for more than a few days with their relations. It's heartening to know that I'm not particularly impatient.

Friday, September 5, 2008


As you may have gathered, I believe it's important to stay informed. My ability to do so often takes a wallop when away from home and sans internet access, and so it did this week, when a business trip put me at the mercy of USA Today and the cable news networks. Factor in the RNC Convention and it was a double-whammy. I kept searching for news; I flipped channels, sought out other newspapers. I caught about thirty seconds about a North Korean reactor before CNN returned to convention coverage (scratch that, punditry).

I couldn't watch much of the convention, I have my blood pressure to think about. What I did see made me very nervous. Nervous that Karl Rove would do his magic.

As that concern crossed my mind, I thought, "wait a minute... did I just use that expression? Ah, yes-- I was concerned that in my absence, Gracie would 'do her magic' on the carpet." And then I thought, it's the same kind of magic, really, except that a shat-on carpet is easy to clean up, but we cannot let Karl Rove keep shitting on the country.

I liked Kansas City, beyond the usual niceties you find in much of the Midwest (very friendly people, very reasonable prices on everything from farm goods to gas to houses). Even the sushi was good.

I liked Midwest Airlines, too, and not just for the cookies (and I love the cookies) and comfortable, roomy seats. There's also just less yapping, i.e. just enough yapping to convey necessary information. No videos, no self-promotion (after all, cookies and comfortable seats speak for themselves), just logistical and safety information, and the peace and quiet to read, nap and do puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, I was a bit disappointed with Tuesday's Express (i.e. syndicated) crossword. The theme was words and phrases that contain the word "zoo" (such as 'Kalamazoo'), yet no mention of "Zoolander." That's just not right.

And speaking of "Zoolander" and other must-sees, has anybody still not seen "Idiocracy"? If so, what are you waiting for???

As I arrived at the hotel and unpacked, I thought, 'how nice to have this room all to myself.' My last hotel stays-- all twenty of them-- had been categorized by sharing a room with Mom... which entailed having to step over her stuff, which quickly found its way all over the floor, at every turn; being woken up whenever she felt like saying or asking something; and so on. That night, I had a dream (nightmare?) that mom had found her way into the hotel room and was making a mess. In the dream, I woke up and confronted her. I said, "everything was so neat!" But then I tried to go back to sleep but she wouldn't let me. Then I woke up for real and realized that everything was okay.

The cookies on the way back were even better than the ones on the way over. I think they must be laced with heroin, because I have half a mind to book another trip just to have more of them.

When I got home, I found that Gracie had indeed done her magic on the carpet. I gave her a quick shower. Then I watched the week's worth of Daily Shows, which helped ease my mind-- the other prolific crapper in question is still doing his magic, but fewer people are buying into it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

good question

"What is up with your mother??"

Last night I had a beautiful rooftop/sunset dinner, complete with view of the National Cathedral and great conversation, which I occasionally marred with the odd mom quote. After a handful of those, sprinkled in throughout the evening, the friend of a the friend on whose roof we were dining just had to ask.

Earlier that day, mom had called.

A.: Hello?


Dad: Hello.


Dad: Mom says, "why haven't you called?"

A.: Why haven't I called? I was going to call in an hour or so.

Mom, in an angry but faint voice: Why haven't you called earlier? Why didn't you call yesterday?

I realize now that the pausing is not pausing at all. It's mom speaking through her speakerphone, for no reason except because she likes to avail herself of gadgetry, even when it does not enhance whatever she is trying to do.

A.: I didn't have time. Wendy was here, and we went to a party last night....

Mom: You don't need time! You can't take five minutes away from whatever you're doing?

A.: Five minutes?

Mom: It's not like our conversations ever last longer than five minutes.

Okay, first of all, no, I'm not going to excuse myself from a social event or a friend's short visit to call my mother, with whom I spoke on four days ago, when I can just wait a day and call her then. Second, it's when I do think I can get a quick conversation out of the way that I get in trouble, because mom starts asking me preposterous questions that annoy me all the more because I'm in a hurry to do something else. See 4th of July post.

A.: I think they often do.

Mom: You have to keep us posted.

A.: There has been no news about which to keep you posted between Wednesday night and now.

Mom then huffed for a few more minutes about my not calling. Presumably she really enjoys talking about my not calling, so I would just take that away from her if I called more often.