Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Some of the favorite moments of my childhood were spent with my grandparents in my mother’s childhood home on Long Island. In the mornings I would wake up early with my grandmother and she and I would sit at her kitchen table, which was always covered with one of those felt-backed plastic-y tablecloths, the kind that are easy to wipe off. She would drink coffee with powdered creamer and I would devour either the sugary cereals that Grandpa would buy for the grandkids’ visits – the kind my mother would not keep in the house – or English muffins with lots of butter and jam, and a cup of tea. We would do crossword puzzles together. She would do the New York Times puzzle in pen, which was rather ballsy of her. I would attempt the Newsday puzzle. We would sit there for a couple of hours, and through the kitchen window in the spring and early summer I would gaze out at the patch of tulips in the front yard while pondering what could possibly be an eight-letter word for “A place for diplomacy.” (It’s “the Hague,” in case you’re wondering, and that really bugged me because obviously it is two words.)

I still remember those tulips, and what they heralded. The end of the long New York winter. The beginning of swimming pool season. I liked to examine them under Grandma’s kitchen window, the way when closed they would look like one flower and the next day, opened, a completely different variety. I loved their beauty in simplicity. When she passed a blizzard struck the East coast and my mother forbade me to fly home for the services. I sent tulips for Grandma and hoped she could see me remembering her window.

In high school I read Sylvia Plath for the first time and lo and behold, one of my favorite poems became her Tulips. “The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.” Almost too vibrant to bear. The flowers, her life. The poem was written about recovering from a suicide attempt. Too much, even in simplicity.

My favorite tulip story is a much happier one than Sylvia’s. When my beautiful niece was an infant, my mother and I gave my sister a reprieve and took the baby for the night. There was a bouquet of tulips in the kitchen, and this darling baby’s face lit up like the sun when she saw them. I picked one and tickled her face with it and she gave me the biggest, most pure smile I have ever seen a person give.

Tulips remind me of women who were instrumental in molding me, as a woman and as a writer. I have never done a crossword in pencil, only pen, and can sit for hours to complete one; Grandma taught me ballsiness and patience. Plath wrote eloquently of the darkest recesses of a woman’s heart; I hope I can express myself with even a shadow of the talent she possessed, and she showed me that the chaos and darkness of the soul holds its own sort of beauty. And the woman-to-be, my lovely niece, showed me in that tulip-brushed moment that sometimes the simplicity isn’t too much, but just perfect enough for a moment of pure joy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bon Jovi

I have a confession to make.
I love hair bands.

I’m serious.

Bon Jovi is the root of this problem. Their penultimate album Slippery When Wet was released when I was in third grade. I have a distinct memory of trying to choreograph a dance routine to Living On A Prayer in music class with several of my girlfriends. “Our movements shouldn’t match the words, we’re not dancing for deaf people you know.” Don’t make the steeple with your hands on the word “prayer”, don’t hold out your hand in front of you on the line “Take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear.” How lame would that be? Just swing your hair round a lot, there you go.

My older sister was wise to my deviant musical ways, and for my thirteenth birthday she bought us tickets to see Bon Jovi play at Giants Stadium for their New Jersey tour. Oh. My. God. I knew what this meant. This meant that this was my chance, that out of a crowd of 44,000 screaming fans Jon Bon Jovi (easily 15 years older than me, by the way) would sense my soul crying out for him and recognize himself in me, climb into the crowd and carry me away to hair band nirvana where we would live our days on a tour bus raising adorable hair band bandana-wearing babies. I prepared for weeks. The outfit was picked out, including a forbidden black mini skirt and a bolero jacket (hey, they were all the rage in 1987). In those weeks I shaved my legs for the first time. And then, catastrophe struck.

I wiped out on my bike and tore up both knees.

My mother held me and rocked me back and forth after picking the gravel out of my flesh and thoroughly disinfecting my wounds, and I’m sure she thought my tears were due to the pain I must be in. Actually, I was crying because I could not possibly wear that forbidden black mini skirt to the concert with scabby knees, and if I did not wear the forbidden black mini skirt then obviously the soul connection between JBJ and myself would be blocked.

By the time the concert came around the knees had pretty much healed, I wore the skirt, and JBJ still didn’t hear the call of my true love despite at one point being directly in front of my on the catwalk circling the stadium. A true tragedy in the life of a newly teenaged girl.

It wasn’t just Bon Jovi I loved, but they were at the top of the list. Bring on Winger and Warrant and Firehouse and Whitesnake and Motley Crue and Poison, baby. When a radio station I worked for offered me the chance to interview Kip Winger a couple of years ago, I jumped at it. And although I did not and would never have taken him up on the offer, I was secretly a little delighted that he propositioned me when we met. How metal is that?

My musical taste has evolved. I promise I listen to The Shins and the Juliana Theory and PJ Harvey. I’m listening to Paul Weller right now, I swear.

But I’ll tell you what. The amazing first date man from “French Martinis”? One night only a month into our relationship he brought me down into the bar in the basement of his house, poured me a glass of wine and said, “I want you to hear this CD”. You had better believe that the CD he put on was “Monster Ballads”, and with that, he sealed the deal.

You can’t take the metal out of the girl.