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Archive for the ‘Paula’s Points’ Category

My Mid-Calf Love Affair with Michael Kors’ Shoes…

14 May

It could be a lot worse, I tell my financially conscious husband.  A fifty thousand dollar fully loaded BMW (which he owns) or an even pricier Porsche Carrerra.  Maybe thousands of dollars worth of face and chest work.  In the LA friendly mountain town where I live I have run into an unfortunate Hollywood actress whose brow appears as hard and indestructible as military armor and let’s get real, some women just don’t know which consonant to stop at when it comes to forever faking their breast size.  C or D, ladies.  C or D.

But what I have on is something that’s aesthetically pleasing, temporary too.  They strap on lightly at the ankle and have much finer measurements.  1 1/2 stacked from the toe and four inches at the heel.  Smooth vachetta leather.  They even come in the color cognac.  I also own a black pair too that I bought at Mr. Kors’ well-lit signature store in Manhattan.  The sales woman was diligent enough to call downstairs and double check just in case they actually had my size, the most popular size that everyone else on the floor reassured her they were sold out of.  She must’ve recognized that look on my face for this Southern California native will never be a tourist, at least not when it comes to a MK store.

My husband thinks I wear Michael Kors heels because they elongate my legs or enhance the shape of my bare calf and, I don’t know, maybe I do.  But I also wear them with jeans.  I wear them to the grocery store and to the post office.  Sometimes to the movies or out to yogurt with him.  At a recent book event another female writer whispered to me during a reading,  “Sorry I keep staring, but your shoes are fantastic!”  I nod with all seriousness, with the faintest of smiles as if she’s referring to the deeply moving prose of the author reading his work at the podium.

And on that trip to New York, I return to my hotel room with my recent pair of platform sandals and I put them on for my friend, my girlfriend who doesn’t wear heels.  But she asks me to take a turn in them because she’s surprised I move so easily and sturdily, and we laugh as girlfriends do who get ready together to go out at night or stay in with take-out pizza, watch a bad movie on Netflix or talk for hours over glasses of Merlot.  We are at an age where confidence becomes us, it defines us.  Whether or not we dare to stand tall in platforms or down with the rest of them in flats, it is our business and we do not dress up for no man, no woman, nobody other than ourselves.

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A Father, His Underage Daughter and Eddie Rabbitt

08 Apr

I see the ad in the newspaper – Eddie Rabbitt is playing live at the Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon in Santa Ana. In the past I’ve thumbed by announcements for bigger, iconic country stars like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and even the cool man in black, Johnny Cash with hardly a thought. But this singer is different. From clunky eight tracks, to cassette tapes I had to reel in with my fingernail to razor thin CD’s and now iPod’s, I’ve grown up listening to Eddie Rabbitt’s mostly upbeat music in the car with my entire family and then later with just my father.

Without asking if he wants to go hear Rabbitt play, I suffer through rush hour traffic on the 55 freeway to get to the ticket office at the Crazy Horse. My father and I haven’t seen much of each other even though we still live under the same roof. He is a defense lawyer and spends most of his time in court or at a prison visiting a murderer or rapist. I’m in my second year of college. This is a year or so after my parents’ drawn out divorce is finalized and she moved with my younger brother and older sister literally to the country, to Tennessee where we own a second home.

My father is genuinely surprised in a good way when I show him the tickets even looking up from the family slides he pours over and over again, getting drunk with emotion and alcohol. My father is a Greek so instead of a tall beer it’s a short glass of ouzo. He doesn’t expect his daughter to want to spend time with him not heartbroken like this. It seems my father is caught up in his own bad country song, in love with a woman who no longer loves him, reliving a life that is no longer his.

But for a couple hours at the Crazy Horse my father will have no other choice but to sing a different tune. The sign is what I see first on our approach the night of the concert. Built in 1977 the Crazy Horse must’ve once stood alone in the dark with its trademark sign visible from the freeway, a bucking horse lit yellow through a loop of red lasso. My father’s old diesel Mercedes doesn’t fit in a parking lot full of Ford and Chevy pick-ups, some even attached to empty horse trailers.

The line getting into the venue is long and my father, usually impatient, tonight waits without complaint. He’s in a suit having just come from court. Once we get closer to the doors, I begin to panic at the warning in bold lettering, barring anybody under 21.

“Dad,” I say as if my father needs reminding. “I’m only twenty.”

I had assumed that because the Crazy Horse had a restaurant section that served everyone the concert wouldn’t be restricted.

Now my father looks impatient. “Don’t worry, Paula Girl. They won’t even notice.”

And they don’t. Not after he says our last name is no longer Priamos, it’s Franklin and he distracts the ticket taker with a c-note.

We are led to our table in the concert room that resembles a real life saloon with swinging doors and hardwood floors. There are wooden tables and sawed-off chairs, too. Thanks to my father’s tip we are seated smack center in the front mere feet from the slightly elevated stage and bar stool where Eddie Rabbitt will sit and play. Next to us at the table is a middle aged man with a diamond studded horse shoe pinky ring. He’s wearing a Stetson and a suit with western style stitching with his date, a busty blonde who is about to bust out of her fringe suede vest. My father must truly be beyond the pale for my mother because he doesn’t give this woman or her tanned breasts a second glance.

Shortly after my father’s beer and my virgin strawberry daiquiri are served, Eddie Rabbitt comes out on stage with his band Hare Trigger. He’s in jeans, cowboy boots and a simple button down shirt. No ten gallon hat that swallows half his head and his beard is neatly trimmed. He’s not your typical country singer. Eddie Rabbitt is from New Jersey.

When Rabbitt performs I see the change in my father’s face that he’s for once not thinking of losing my mother. He’s simply listening to the music. My father’s favorite song is “Driving my Life Away” and while he’s never been coordinated enough to dance, not even at his own wedding, he manages to drum his fingers to the beat. At one point when there is canned thunder, horses whinnying and lightning with strobe lights for Rabbitt’s song “I Love a Rainy Night,” my father catches my eye. We both think it’s tacky. It is in this intimate setting with complete strangers that at least for the duration of a three and a half minute song I get my father back.

At the end of the decade, not long after my father passes, the Crazy Horse will shut its doors in Santa Ana and reopen at the Irvine Spectrum. The owners wanted a place that could hold more fans, adding a balcony, flanking the sides of the stage with video screens. For a while the new Crazy Horse is wildly popular. Yet the lease is not renewed. It is, after all, not so far away from Fashion Island. Eventually an Old Navy clothing store will take its place.

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On Unnamed Mannerless Males and a John

22 Feb

A man-boy with a plaid paunch slides into his car in the faculty parking lot and purposely drops a pile of fast food wrappers outside his open door. Why, I wonder, does he not get out and take those two easy steps to the nearby garbage can? Is it gas? Given the trashy leftovers he’s left behind, I imagine there must be something that doesn’t smell right coming out of him about now.

It is not just his lazy littering that causes me to pause. This is a university lot where I must first look out, not for oncoming cars, but for fresh splatters of saliva where the male population have hocked a mouthful onto the asphalt. The sound of a young man calling up a new wad of slimy phlegm in his throat makes me click my open toed wedges faster to my destination than the cover of darkness or any threat of a would be mugger jumping out of the bushes.

The lack of proper everyday etiquette amongst the opposite gender transcends social lines. It transcends race and even monetary ones too. No matter how many times I ask my husband and stepsons to refrain from doing so, they continue to loudly blow their noses in their napkins at the dinner table. During the summer they wear “wife beater” t-shirts making them not so unlike those exotic European women who suddenly lift their slight arms and shock the rest of us, at least those of us in the U.S., with heavy clusters of matted hair. My meal ruined, the sounds and sights of it all makes me almost dry heave.

As for my late father, a successful lawyer and businessman in his day, he never once spent a buck or two on a box of sticks with a dab of cotton at the tip. An absolutely pointless expenditure, he might’ve said. His house key dug far deeper and produced far more from his inner ear canal than something so dainty and decorative it’s collected in a glass jar on the woman’s side of the bathroom countertop. Not to mention his sturdy house key was environmentally friendly in the sense that it could be reused countless times over.

And when it comes to the bathroom, if a guy resides under this same roof, there is always to be found a well-stocked magazine rack. One time in class I asked a young male student where his textbook was and he replied reflexively, even unabashedly, “I left it on top of the toilet tank.” For upon the john is arguably where many a man experiences his biggest mental and otherwise bodily breakthroughs.

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The Mrs. has MS…the Difference Between Vows and Verbiage

22 Jan

Mitt Romney Newt GingrichMake no mistake, I am the annoying and unpredictable political Independent.  I have friends who lean right, many who lean left.  When my stepson had me take a test he’d heard about in his Government class he was stunned that my beliefs really do fall smack in the center of the populus circle – a target for some, alienated by all.  I don’t even tell my husband who I’ve voted for until after I step out of the voter’s box.

Watching the rapid succession of Republican primary debates, I’ve paid close attention.  When most recently the white haired former Speaker’s  face colored with indignation at a certain CNN reporter’s question, I stayed seated on my couch.  I did not rise to my feet with the South Carolinians.  Maybe as a shyster’s daughter I am accustomed to listening to raucous self-righteousness in defense of the one under attack, the underdog who looks as if he is unjustly accused.  Boldly my father would speak inside a court of law and successfully, artfully even, get quite a few clients off who were dead to rights.

But the truth is, like I suspect Newt Gingrich’s performance the other night, it was all an act.  There is no honor in leaving your wife who has a debilitating disease.

Granted it was Newt’s second wife, so he did have some practice in learning how to leave a marriage.  Okay, I get that.  He met and fell in love with another woman.  But if a man is to be judged by his word then shouldn’t Mitt Romney deserve a little credit for keeping his vows as a husband?   His wife was diagnosed over a decade ago with coincidentally the very same disease.  He did not cut and run.  Instead he and his wife live with her disease like so many other couples do with various hardships whether it’s health or financially related.

So what is the fear in finding this part of Mitt Romney’s character admirable?  Is it because he might be wearing ill fitting Mormon underwear beneath that well tailored suit?  To be fair, Romney and his wife are not the only longstanding political couple who look as if they are still in love. There are unscripted moments when President Obama looks at the First Lady like he still cares deeply for her.  If I am going to vote for a candidate for president who will keep his word, I am going to vote for either of these two men who have proven to at least one woman that he can do just that.

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Don’t sit so, don’t sit so, don’t sit so close to me…

24 Oct

A young couple at Yard House is so obviously hot for each other that they’re publicly banging body parts, elbows that is, in the booth near my friend and me.   It’s Happy Hour on a Friday night so they are not the only two seated in the crowded restaurant this way.  The guy is left handed and noticeably he’s having a tough time cutting into his bloody steak without jabbing his bubbly female dinner companion right in the breast. While he must enjoy the heat of the two of them sitting so close, he must also move his knife carefully, daintily even.  I doubt he’ll ever get a real mouthful before the whole meal goes cold.

My friend Michelle rolls her eyes.  She’s been married close to twenty years to her high school sweetheart.  “Seriously,” she says.  “How is sitting side by side more intimate?  They can’t even see each other.”

A big production about this most strange foreplay position with couples and food was made in the film “Date Night.”  A boring husband and wife from the burbs had lost their sexual edge because they no longer shared the same lap napkin.  Instead they preferred sitting across from one another in order to hold a conversation.  After a madcap night in Manhattan where implausible events occurred they, of course, renewed their love by morning, sitting side by side in some greasy spoon.  We are to assume satisfying sex soon followed.

But does my friend have a point?  Maybe.  I have had the unfortunate experience of sitting beside a man (whom everybody said was gay) at a dinner event as I felt him place an underhanded, and dare I mention clammy hand on my thigh.  Another time as a teenager, I was enduring the tail end of a movie on a bad date with a fifteen year old who sweated a hand print into the fabric of my jeans.  Neither of these instances brought me any closer to these two awful males even though I was mere inches away.

How we communicate, how we first even fall in love, happens through the meeting of our eyes.  And if relationships are to last, if a leisurely meal is to be shared, shouldn’t it occur without possible injury – without clashing cutlery or suffering a neck cramp from an awkward turn in a booth that offers a much better, more comfortable view?

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Some of my favorite lines in literature…

08 Sep

I never grew up, but I got old.

– A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, Michael Dorris

“‘The marvellous thing is that it’s painless,'” he said, “‘That’s how you know when it starts.'”

– “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Ernest Hemingway

The changes began on a Wednesday, miercoles, the day that sounds like miracles.

– The Speed of Light, Elizabeth Rosner

“Now I can come down..”  And he did, right into the center of the yellow net that glowed in the evening’s edge like an overgrown halo.

– “The Conversion of the Jews,” Philip Roth

The last time my father calls is shortly before the anniversary of his disbarment to tell me he’s just cheated death.

– The Shyster’s Daughter

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About that mean old white lady with the yellow toenails…

07 Jul

The other day I was getting a French pedicure when an elderly woman in white see-through capris and granny underwear threw a childlike tantrum in the middle of the local nail spa.  She was ten minutes late for her appointment and was furious that she now had to wait.  “That’s not very nice of you,” she spat at the kindly Asian man who owns the place.  “What are we having here…some kind of language problem?”

What I hear loud and clear, whether it’s out of the thin-lipped mouth of a racist patron like her or the rotund man with the sweaty brow who spent five minutes (I timed him) bawling out a waitress in a steakhouse because his medium rare meat wasn’t pink enough, is that our society has contracted a sick form of rudeness.

There are hardly ever any apologies that go along with bad behavior.  And if there are, they are not exactly genuine.  Although one of my students out of over five years of teaching did share that once when he worked at Macy’s, a woman called later, maybe two weeks later, to explain her volatile outburst that rocked the dinnerware department.  She was a photographer who had taken pictures of the aftermath of 9/11.

At work I’ve had someone inexplicably curse at me while I passed her in the hall.  Apparently she was in a foul mood and didn’t like the smell of my Chinese take-out lunch.  My husband who once wronged the wrong person was warned through an email of that cryptic cliche’ – Karma is a bitch.  While he doesn’t believe, I do.  On days when I sense it most, I wear an evil eye bracelet I picked up at a Greek festival to ward off the darkness that just might be coming at me in the seemingly inoffensive guise of a female senior citizen in bright white capris.

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Why Oprah insists on getting Frey-ed again…

17 May

Lately I’ve been hard at work on a draft of my literally thriller I’m dead set on finishing by the end of summer, yet I feel the need to stop for a moment and comment on James Frey’s assertion on “Oprah” that most memoirists do what he did i.e. LIE.  If you know anything about Frey’s publishing record, his wannabe memoir “A Million Little Pieces” had first been schlepped around the big houses of New York as a novel.  Only after receiving numerous rejections and a pivotal suggestion from a higher-up did he do the lowly thing of defrauding readers by passing his novel off as a memoir.  This was the act of a desperate writer.  The title of his other “memoir” that’s no longer even billed as such with the bright pink cover I’ve thankfully already forgotten.

As the author of a memoir set to come out next spring about my complicated yet loving relationship with my father, a defense lawyer who inevitably was disbarred for embezzlement, I take offense.  While I have done things such as change names, some locales, and physical characteristics, I’ve stuck to the truth as I remember it.  Make no mistake – this is not the “emotional truth” as some memoirists like to hide behind when they feel they’re about to be caught in a corner of their own creation during a panel at a writer’s conference or on “Larry King Live” as Frey did a few years back.  At the time Oprah was naively still on board voicing her influential support behind Frey via a live on-air phone call.  I’m assuming that besides the spike in ratings, this private embarrassment, not the public flogging he endured later, is why she’s brought him back to her show.

I have written a personally accurate narrative about my past derived by memory, photos and literary leg work.  What a novel way of contructing a memoir.  Do memoirists cut time in their narratives, re-imagine people, conversations and scenes?  I would hope so.  These are the techniques of the creative writer, not a lazy one who semantically spews all over the page and calls it artful steam of consciousness. The truth is Frey was never a memoirist.  He was and is a successful enough fiction writer.  Good for him.  But it would be refreshing if for once he could just stick with the facts.

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ZYZZYVA Reading Saturday 5 p.m. May 14th at Skylight Books in Los Feliz

13 May

Please come to the reading this Saturday at 5 p.m. at Skylight Bookstore in LA.  Vanessa Hua and I will be reading from our works that are featured in this spring’s journal.  Laura Cogan, the new editor of ZYZZYVA, will be there as well to discuss the interesting directions this very cool and edgy outlet for west coast writers will be taking.

Skylight Books

1818 N. Vermont Ave.

Los Angeles, CA

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Flip Flops Can’t Outrun a Bat’s Wings

07 Apr

Close to sundown one warm spring evening, I make the mistake of still being out walking my dogs.  Instantly I look up at the pine trees.  This is when they come out – from under the cover of needles and shade – the hairy airborne creatures that are supposed to hang upside down in caves.  Suddenly one drops down from the tallest branches and flutters rapidly, if not unsteadily, straight for me in its blind flight.  Before I can stop myself, I hit the asphalt.

Leo, my big teddy bear of a dog, strains on his leash and turns around and around, barking at my sudden fall.  No doubt I have scraped up my knees.  But I do not have time to check for blood or gravel in my wounds.  In defense, I throw my arms up in the air, a grown woman causing such a childish commotion, until I shuffle all the way home in my flip flops.

When we first moved in, we found in our mudroom what I thought were mouse droppings left in strangely high places.  In actuality I later learned they were from bats known to migrate to this area during spring and later returning briefly at the end of summer.  No matter how stifling it may get in there, I insist on keeping the doors to the mudroom locked after dark.  The rest of my family resisted until early one morning as I entered the kitchen to make coffee, a bat swooped down from the rafters and landed on the screen window.  This time it was so close I saw the rough fur on its back.  My screams woke up everyone.  An elderly neighbor dialed 911.  No coffee was made and I waited at Starbucks until I was reassured that the bat flew out on its own through the front door I’d left flung wide open.

Many times in my life I have confronted things that have terrified me whether it be a rabid student or relative, even my former neighbor’s Rottweiler.  But I have never been able to fully control my fear of bats.  Maybe it’s my hairdresser who likes to tell stories that sound more like urban legends while I sit still in an adult version of a booster seat while she snips at my wet hair.  Over the years she’s told me the story of when she was at a gas station bathroom in the desert and a tarantula fell from the towel dispenser and landed right smack in the palms of her hands.  Or the time another client of hers got a bat stuck in her updo.  It clawed and bit at her scalp until her husband knocked it unconscious with one of his wife’s garden tools.  My hairdresser laughs at the horror on my face through the mirror.  “Don’t worry, Paula.  You don’t use too much hairspray.”

Most of my family and friends find my phobia of bats quite funny.  My mother has gone so far as to buy me a Beware of Bats sign made out of wood with a stake at the end to plant in the yard.  Instead I’ve hung it on the front door to ward off those flying spirits.  But it is my friend’s adorable young daughter and what she will think of me that convinces me, however temporary, to suck it up as I hold my breath and follow her brave lead inside the wall to wall bat exhibit at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

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