Monday, November 26, 2007

no one reads the newspaper any more

Today Leah Garchik's popular column in the San Francisco Chronicle had a paragraph quoting me:
"Carole Morrell says that zombies are the new vampires, dodgeball is the new Fight Club, and she read in the Wall Street Journal, sopranos are the new tenors (as in Three Tenors).

Evidently no one I know, save moi, reads the Chron, as no one noticed this. The only person who was impressed was five year-old Lola, who carefully struggled to read my name out loud.

Aeons ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, and when that ran, I got mail and phone calls from people who'd read it (this rather modest accomplishment was hyped up by my friends and its fame grew undeservedly, until one went so far as to introduce me to someone, saying, "She had an op-ed in the New York Times!"). My experience would substantiate the general understanding that newspapers are dying in this internet world.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

easily impressed

Five year-old Lola often says, with a sage expression on her face, "Only God knows the future!" (Lola has taken to religion lately and recently informed me that she had prayed for the Tooth Fairy to come).

Recently Iris and Lola were in the kitchen, and Iris announced, "I'm going to fart" and then followed through on her promise.

In tones of awe, Lola inquired, "Iris, how did you know the future?"

Only God and Iris know the future. But can Iris summon the Tooth Fairy?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I am thankful

Today is Thanksgiving, and although I was in a funk earlier this week over my birthday (which my mother-in-law forgot, which is annoying because she sent out four emails this week micromanaging her own birthday celebration which won't occur until frigging July of next year), today I'm feeling happy and thankful.

I am so lucky to live in a beautiful house in one of the most beautiful cities of the world. Every day, I am surrounded by natural and manmade splendor. Even though I've lived here long enough that I don't pay a lot of attention to the gorgeous view from my bedroom window, every time I drive over 30th Avenue to pick up Iris Uber Alles at school, my breath is taken away as I crest that hill and see the Marin headlands and the bay.

And who out there has better children? Practically every day (except the days when they are being total little pills) I am amazed and astounded by how funny, smart, sweet, and beautiful Iris and Lola are. I drew the lucky sperms with those two girls, all right.

I have my health (true, my metabolism has just been hosed since I went on Paxil for post-partum depression, but I'm healthy!).

I have the one-of-a-kind Sober Husband., but the Sober Husband is a dogged kind of husband who always comes through when there's a problem. He's good-looking, brilliant, competent (always able to fix my sewing machine when it gets that annoying thread tension problem and able to find my "Project Runway Canada" fixes), and kind (although we are at odds currently over whether I can buy Iris a Hello Kitty electric guitar for Christmas).

I feel I've often had poor luck with friends, sometimes ending up falling out with them (ask me about the former BFF who vandalized my garage) and sometimes ending up having them move far away (lately I've been missing my BFF from my early legal career, who lives in France), but the truth is that I have some wonderful friends who are there for me and who are smart and funny.

And finally, I am so grateful for you readers. You listen to the stories of my little kids with the attention of a doting blood relative. When my kitten was mauled by a raccoon, you generously contributed and covered the emergency vet bills, enabling me to continue fostering kittens. You write comments which make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud. When I'm feeling depressed, you have kind things to say. You are each and every one of you appreciated very much (well, maybe not so much the one who wrote nasty things about me on the Elizabeth Wurtzel entry, but I suspect she hasn't bookmarked the page). You're a part of my life now, oddly enough (indeed I've had "real life" friends ask me such things as, "So, what's up with Hughman?") Smooches to each and every one of you, your devoted Drunken Housewife.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

vampire fairies

Iris and Lola are dancing and pretending to be fairies. "We are frolicking, and I am the center of attention," instructs eight year-old Iris Uber Alles. "Frolic around me!"

They get thirsty, and I give them goblets of sparkling cider. "We could put blood in there, "suggests five year-old Lola.

"We are fairies! Fairies don't drink blood!"

"You could be vampire fairies," I suggest, inspired by Lola's "witch fairy" costume for Halloween.

"Vampire fairies!" They run off into the next room.

"We drink this after we kill a human," instructs Iris in a low voice. "Grab a human and bite it!"

"Death of a human!" shouts Lola merrily.

"We celebrate the death of a human!" They dance to the Mozart CD playing loudly.

"We are so happy! Blood of a human!"

why oh why, cruel fates?

"Why was I born a pencilneck?" eight year-old Iris Uber Alles mourned. "Why, why, why? Why must I be a pencilneck?"

Monday, November 19, 2007

a dark secret

Cradling the foster kitten named "Datebread" in her arms, five year-old Lola sang softly this morning, "Datebread, I love Datebread. Why are you named 'Datebread?' What dark secret made you be named 'Datebread?' What dark, dark secret made you be named 'Datebread?'"

(The hideous truth is that Datebread's coloration is that of datebread, which sparked the name. It could have been worse. Her brother is named "Henry the Hairball").

it's my birthday (tomorrow), and I'll cry if I want to (today and tomorrow, but hopefully not the day after)

So I've been in a huge funk lately. It's an annual thing: I always get depressed this time of the year. Some people who have been unlucky in love get depressed every year at Valentine's Day. Many, many people get depressed at Christmas. Me, I love Valentine's Day and Christmas. For me, it's my birthday which is the quagmire of unhappiness on the calendar.

The roots of this malaise are in my childhood. Let me just say that my own parents have forgotten my birthday twice. When I say forgotten, I mean F-O-R-G-O-T-T-E-N. One year they asked me why I was being so curt with them, and I informed them that it was because they hadn't called me on my birthday (or sent a card or a gift, but I left it at calling), and there was an awkward pause. "Umm... what... when is it... OH, YOU'RE RIGHT!"

My ex-husband sucked at my birthdays as well. The entire time I was married to him, I didn't have a birthday cake. In theory I could have made one myself or bought one, but that seemed too pathetic. One year he told me all excitedly about a bakery he'd gone to and a wonderful cake I would have loved which he'd considered buying. I heard this story over a cakeless meal at home.

Now the Sober Husband makes a genuine effort (and a genuine cake) each year, but still there's a seasonal depression. It's exacerbated this year by a recent visit from my parents and by a first-time-ever Thanksgiving funk. Thanksgiving has always been fine by me, a pretty happy day, but last year I was traumatized when none of my invitees RSVPed. Right up to the day before Thanksgiving, every time I asked, all invited guests would say, "Uh, I don't know." This was so weird for me. Every other year I'd invited people for Thanksgiving, I got firm answers and plenty of happy acceptances. Two of the invitees had spent Thanksgiving at my house the year before and had a wonderful time, getting drunk off French battle cocktails (the same drinks Napoleon's officers quaffed to get their nerves ready for the fighting) and eating past satiety. It's not as if I were reaching socially, as the invitees were comprised of my brother-in-law (the only in-law who likes me), his wife, a friend and her daughter, the friend's best friend, and a single woman who had proclaimed her loneliness and lack of options. When it came to the week of Thanksgiving, I had no idea what to buy, how much to cook, and whether anyone was coming. In the event, none of them did show up, but the children, husband and I had an amazing feast by ourselves.

This year, I couldn't bring myself to invite anyone. I couldn't set myself up for that again. At least the husband and children will be here, and indeed Iris Uber Alles has been shocked by my inertia. "Aren't you making that cranberry sauce again? I love that! It's good!"

I should focus on all the other Thanksgivings, where the guests RSVPed and came and were happy, and just write off last year as an anomaly. If it weren't the same frigging week as my birthday, perhaps I could, but it's just not the right time of the year for me to be breezy and glass-half-full. It's not as though I've been traumatized right out of inviting in general I've had some dinner parties since then, which were all perfectly fine (at least so far as I know. Lord only knows what the guests have to say). I just feel unwilling to try Thanksgiving again.

Last week, I felt great before my parents came (and before I had $1,800 in emergency repairs done to my car... which sadly does not appear to have been fixed, and before I had a fight with my husband over whether it is reasonable for his mother to require that we fly to Martha's Frigging Vineyard on the other side of the continent and stay in some godawful house with his family for HER birthday AND a squabble with the husband over whether it was reasonable for me to spend $17 on a Spongebob DVD for Lola, and, less selfishly, before the San Francisco bay oilspill, which is profoundly depressing and which causes guilt in me because my personal response so far has been only one day of volunteering). Hopefully next week will be another week of cheer. This week, though, is going to require a stiff upper lip (and possibly some French battle cocktails).

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Halloween sweatshop hell: The more attentive readers might wonder, "Did she ever finish those costumes? Or did she just say 'the hell with it' and open up a bottle of Ketel One and then pass out, with her head on a pile of spider patterned tulle?" Look here for your answer.

the sociopathic contractor: I haven't been crossing paths directly with the contractor. He has ceased putting pylons into the street, which makes my life less unpleasant, but he did violate his permit by working late at least once, with a huge, cacophonous cement truck (I didn't call the police on that noise violation because I was, for once in a blue moon, actually going out that evening, although I could have). His workmen parked in front of my driveway one day, but the husband had them move.

The sociopath's permit provides him with a fixed space of 30 feet and the right to have cars ticketed or towed which park there. The reality is that he shifts it about and actually takes up more than that, as well as unallotted space on the other side of the street. Recently my friend Joyce came to visit and parked near the construction. She looked for the signs, but there wasn't one by her car. When she left, she discovered that the evil contractor had moved one of his signs next to her car and that she'd gotten an expensive parking ticket.

In order for her to be ticketed, the contractor had to actually take time out from work and call the Department of Parking and Transportation to ask them to send out a Cushman. This street is not patrolled and ticketed unless it's street cleaning time. What a petty jerk he is. I noticed that yesterday a neighbor parked by one of his signs and didn't get ticketed. This added believability to my theory, which is that the contractor saw Joyce go into my house and that's why he called DPT. (There is paranoia and then there is having an actual enemy. The Sober Husband thinks this is the first, while I'm in the second camp).

"I feel like some industrial sabotage," griped Joyce, who is joining me in the club of people who hate the little contractor.

"I hear you," I said. "We gotta wear gloves, though. My fingerprints are on file with the state of California."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Frowstomatic's doppelganger

Thanks to Dlisted (your choice destination for weird cat news as well as Amy Winehouse updates), I learned about Sgt. Podge, a British cat with a striking resemblance to our own Frowst. It turns out Sgt. Podge, like Frowsty, has a marked sense of entitlement. He wanders off each night and is picked up by his owner at the same spot -- a mile and a half from home -- every morning, whereupon he climbs into the family's luxury car with elan.

Glamorous fluffy cats. Those bastards will take over the earth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

so it's come to this: I'm quoting Silliyak

I have no idea if any of the readers quote me (although I did run across a quote from me once online, I think it's more likely someone would quote the irrepressible Lola or the unquenchable Iris Uber Alles). However, the other day I found myself quoting our esteemed commenter, Silliyak, when I was telling a story about the Sober Husband.

"As a friend* of mine said once, 'It's so special to have a spouse who always knows just the right thing to say, like a Hallmark card.'"

I should have said "invisible friend" or even "reader", as I so pretentiously refer to my commenters, but I was talking to my mother, who doesn't know about this blog. I've never told my parents or family about this blog, because the parents are so conservative and religious that they would find no end of things to criticize and be shocked by here. However, I probably could tell them and they wouldn't bother to read it. The Sober Husband mentioned my "website" several times, and my mother didn't ask what sort of "website" it was. I think my parents just don't find me very interesting.

Friday, November 09, 2007

dodgeball is the new Fight Club

"Did you know grown-ups play dodgeball now?" a mommy friend asked me.

"I've heard of kickball leagues."

"It turns out there's a club for dodgeball. My daughter's teacher plays. They play in different locations every time. They don't know where they're playing until they get a call on the day."

"Oh, like raves used to be, all underground."

"Some of the parents went to see her play. They said she was really good!"

We discussed dodgeball memories from our own youth. I had a traumatic experience involving a hard hit to the head which caused my glasses to fly across the room. The other mother had nothing but good memories. Evidently she was quite an assassin with the ball.

"I'd love to play like that," she said wistfully. "But I can't see myself getting out of the house for it. Can you see me saying, 'I have to go play dodgeball now' so my husband has to take care of the kids?"

"You could hold the ball menacingly," I suggested. I held an imaginary dodgeball in a threatening manner and snarled, "I'm going to play dodgeball now!"

Monday, November 05, 2007

it's Lola's world; we just live in it

"This is my world, my land, my universe, and my butt!" proclaimed five year-old Lola.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

escape from Childless Island

The more attentive readers may recall that in October, the Drunken Housewife successfully abandoned her small children and Sober Husband to go away for a weekend of adult pleasures in the hills of Mendocino. How the old thing got there has been described, but the rest of the story has not yet been told.

So after four and half hours of horrendous, parking lot-like conditions on the highway, my beloved acquaintance Kimmie and I arrived as night and a light rain were falling. I set up my tent in a most haphazard manner, as nearby fellow partiers/campers inquired, "Does that look right to you? I don't think that looks right" and "Are you sure you're doing that right?"

"So long as I have my little plastic hole to crawl into, I'll be fine," I said optimistically. Ever the dutiful New England Puritan at heart (only so far as work ethic is concerned, not so far as blue laws, drowning witches, and anti-nudity laws go), I was feeling guilty about having arrived late for my volunteer shift in the kitchen. I trotted off and spent some quality time chopping massive quantities of cilantro for the redoubtable Chef Juke, a computer man who spends his free time cooking for large groups of people. Dinner for 150? No problem for Juke!

I had a lovely evening, but it was so much tamer than I'd expected. This camping weekend is somewhat legendary for its outdoor debauchery: porn clowns, whipping posts, adult party favors, naked hot tubbers roaming off into the woods together, etc... This time, though, it was what one might call "brass monkey weather": it was freezing out (literally). After dinner, everyone hunched up by the fire or went off to bed early.

So I traipsed off to bed, crawling into my sleeping bag sober and alone, in flannel pajamas, a hooded sweatshirt, and heavy wool socks. I pulled a couple of blankets over my sleeping bag and curled up.... to not go to sleep. I was so frigging cold and miserable. I slept less than 2 hours total, dozing off occasionally but then being awoken by my own shivering. I have a lovely three seasons tent, in which I had happily slept before during a snowstorm in Utah, but on that occasion I was delightfully accompanied by the Sober Husband (who was at that point a Less-than-sober Boyfriend). It turns out that this tent can be heated up by two people's body heat, but one voluptuous Drunken Housewife alone cannot create enough heat.

In the wee hours I gave up and crawled out, brushed my teeth, grabbed a bottle of sparkling wine and a couple of Red Bulls from my cooler, and curled up in my camping chair, covered by blankets, with these fine beverages and a good novel. I heard a car drive by at an angry clip, leaving the camping trip, but otherwise, it was quiet, other than the occasional rattling snores heard from nearby RVs. I finished my Mark Haddon novel and my Red Bulls in chilly majesty.

Gradually everyone else got up, and I got dressed and wandered down to the center camp for coffee and breakfast. I found some fellow parents, Abs and Toad, also flying solo for the weekend. I poured them each a cup of sparkling wine and proposed a toast: "We are the alpha parents!" Toad joined in: "The beta parents are home with the zeta kids!" At this, a childless acquaintance standing by chastised me, pointing out how Toad's wife was likely to react at hearing this (no one was concerned about how the Sober Husband or Abs' husband would react to this. Oh, how fearsome Abs and I must be that our poor husbands are assumed to be used to submitting to our wills).

I told everyone that it had been my first night sleeping alone in a tent by myself and it was probably going to be my last. "I either need to check into a hotel tonight or have a one night stand," I said repeatedly. The reactions to this fell into two categories: people who spent the night with one or more significant others (there was at least one "triad" in attendance) or in sturdy RVs, who were astonished to hear that I was such a pathetic weakling as to have been bothered by the cold when they themselves enjoyed such a wonderful night's sleep, and those who were in tents by themselves or with skinny companions who throw off little heat, who had also been miserable. The most satisfactory of these responses came from my friend Bridget, who it turns out was the driver of the early morning angry car. She slept so little and was so miserable that she set out to leave at the break of dawn, but after leaving, she reconsidered and came back. This made me feel like less of a outdoors weakling (after all, I'm from Maine originally and grew up in a home where the heater was set at 42 degrees, but then I was accustomed to sharing my bed with a large dog and several cats, and in general I was used to winter suffering).

I had a lovely day chatting with people. I had my very first tarot reading, from the amazing Epiphany. I took a long walk. But all the while, I was teetering back and forth about leaving. I intended to leave before sunset, but the delightful M talked me out of it and served me a yummy basilico cocktail. However, finally the sun was getting low... and I felt so guilty over not having talked to Lola on the phone (the older Iris is so independent that I was sure she was fine, but Lola had been very opposed to her mother leaving)... so I decided to go. I really couldn't face another night of shivering alone in my tent, and I wanted to get into celphone range. I quickly flung my things into the car and drove off.

While the sun was still up, I did fine navigating the tricky intersections and turns in the hills. I found a great local radio station, and I congratulated myself upon my wonderful sense of direction. This, of course, was the kiss of doom. The next thing I knew, it was darkdarkdark, and I was lost. I spent the next two hours driving around slowly trying to find my way to the town of Willits.

For the first hour or so, my equanimity was perfect. After all, I had food, water, sparkling wine, and a sleeping bag with me. If I had to spend the night in my car, I would have no real problems.

Over the second hour, I slowly started to feel stressed. I was in some pretty remote hills, and I started to feel sorry for myself. Finally I drove near a house with plenty of lights on, and I decided to stop for directions. As soon as I pulled into the driveway, a pack of hounds started barking maniacally. I decided not to walk up to the house, since the last thing I wanted was to provoke a pack of dogs. A man who evidently had quite a buzz on wandered out of the house to see what was going on. He found the novelty of a lost woman quite intriguing and he would have liked to help, but he was incapable of giving good directions. "You'll want to go left, then right, then go across the bridge and take the third left, but watch out for the Y..." I asked him if he knew any of the street names, and he didn't. His directions were entirely incomprehensible and unhelpful, but I got one thing of value from him: I asked him to just point towards Willits, and I drove away in that direction, planning to stop again at the next suitable house.

It took me over half an hour of stressful driving in the dark in the middle of nowhere to find another house which looked reasonable to stop at. I only wanted to go to a house with plenty of lights on, as I didn't want to disturb anyone (people go to bed earlier in rural areas, as I know all too well from my own childhood), and I didn't want to get cornered by dogs at a house where the owners were out. Finally I found a normal-looking house with both the telltale glow of a large television set and several lights on, and I pulled in. From the road, it looked like there was a pleasant front porch with a front door, but when I walked up, I saw that the porch had been blocked off, which seemed strange, but I overlooked it and walked around to the back of the house and knocked. A man came to the door. At this point, I began to feel self-conscious about my clothes: I hadn't changed before setting off in a hurry, and I was wearing a very low-cut zebra striped shirt over a push up bra. Clearly it was a fascinating novelty for this country dweller to find a middle-aged woman dressed like a skank at his door at night. I pulled my neckline up self-consciously. This fellow didn't feel like just handing out directions until he'd wrapped his mind around how I'd come to be there. "Where's your car? You aren't on foot, are you? You were camping?"

Finally he got to the point of offering me directions, and his were excellent. It turns out I had blundered near town, although it was still unpopulated where I was. The man, so amused and bemused over my arrival, became quite solicitous and offered that I come in to warm up, get something to drink, etc... All I wanted was a hotel, the security of knowing where I was, and celphone service, but I did ask if I could use the bathroom. My host pointed the way and then disappeared into the front of his house.

It was clearly a bachelor home, messy in that way of a man who lives alone, and I felt fine until I saw a side door, which had several shotguns up against it. Usually in hunting homes, shotguns are kept in racks or in a gun closet, so these guns looked more like they were there to defend that particular door. Then the bathroom itself seemed weird: unlike the rest of the house, it was large and clinically clean, brightly lit and weirdly aseptic. "This must be where he disposes of his victims,", I thought. I scurried out of the bathroom and then saw a large number of guns leaning up around the very same door I'd gone into. I've grown up around guns, but never have I been in a home which seemed so clearly set up to annihilate anyone who ventured to the door. I turned my head in the direction my host had gone, but all I saw was a large screen TV with a closeup of a man having his brains blown out on it. "Thanks so much, I'm on my way now!" I called cheerily, and I scuttled quickly to my car before my new acquaintance, whom I was viewing right now as a potential serial killer (but also a possible good ally in any future zombie wars) could get back into the same room. As I practically ran past the front porch, the fact that it had been blocked off now seemed ominous and significant.

I calmed down in my car as the gun enthusiast's directions proved excellent, and soon I was in Willits. The directions were so good that I wondered if I had misjudged this fellow, and I contemplated whether, since I had nothing else to do, I should go back and watch television with him.

I succeeded in checking into the hotel recommended by my friend M., a western-themed hotel, where I was disappointed to be assigned to the Post Office room rather than the Saloon. I talked on the phone to the children (where I learned to no surprise that Lola had indeed been crying for me). The Sober Husband, upon hearing that I was in Willits, announced to the children that Mommy would be home in a few hours! "NO!" I shouted over the sounds of celebration. "My nerves are too shot to drive! I only had two hours sleep! I'm not safe to drive! I told you I'm at a hotel!" Instead I curled up with Scarlett Thomas's "PopCo" and a bag of wasabi peas; I woke up just before check-out time at 11:00 AM. I got home the next day in the early afternoon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

where's the art in it?

So Chicken John Rinaldi, a local bon vivant from Burning Man circles, is running for mayor. At one point I received an email solicitation from someone (not from Mr. Rinaldi) urging me to donate and saying that "this is the greatest art ever!"

I just don't get it. Where is the art? Where is the orginality in it? Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco already, and I think there was a lot more political discourse that time around. Everyone tends to forget that Jack Fertig, a.k.a. "Sister Boom Boom" of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence also ran for mayor before.

There seems to be a lot of credulity about. A local blogger, who writes for a weekly newspaper and really should know better, wrote all agush that Chicken John is one of the founders of Burning Man and therefore we should all vote for him. Well, actually, wasn't Chicken John in high school when Burning Man was founded? All the founders are about twenty years older than C.J. When I was a member of the Burning Man LLC, Chicken John had a very tiny role doing some materiel transportation. Chicken John for several years ran a local bar very popular with the Buring Man set, and that is an accomplishment indeed (most people don't have it together enough to be able to meet the various financial and legal requirements needed for a liquor license, as well as run an actual day-to-day business), but not much of a basis upon which to run for mayor.

Even if Chicken John had founded Burning Man, why would that be a reason to vote for him? I adore Larry Harvey, the actual founder of Burning Man, but I would never suggest that Larry would be a good mayor of a major city. (Larry's just not good enough at getting up in the morning to function well as mayor).

Chicken John's ballot statement was pretty boring and seemed to express only that voting for him is somehow threatening to the establishment and a good time. There have always been truly eccentric minority candidates on the ballot, so I don't see why it's so wacky and life-affirming to vote for Chicken.

I'm not enamoured of Mayor Newsom in the least and would really love to see him voted out. I'm disappointed that there has been no substantive opposition at all. There hasn't been any fun anarchy that I've noticed, either. I wish Chicken had done something on a larger, more vivid scale. So far, I don't see the art in any of this, and I don't see any interesting political commentary, either. What I mostly see is people forgetting history.