May 30, 2005

The day the turntable died

SJ, a blogger I've just discovered, has been writing about how our (hers and mine) demographic has lost interest in current-day popular music. We don't recognize most bands or singers that make the lists of younger bloggers.

Mostly, we don't care. We've had our golden age of music, and we're sticking to it, even if we have to repurchase it in a different and considerably more expensive format. (My only clues about new music take place when I hear a song on a TV show, then google its lyrics to find out who sings it.)

In sixth grade, we danced to the original Jackson 5 (when Michael was an unaltered child); that was also the year I bought my first album, Carole King's Tapestry.

One song from that album, "Where You Lead," is now the opening song for the Gilmore Girls, a TV show also not aimed at people my age, but one I adore, for its great wit, irony, and sarcasm set in a town so surreal you don't know which character will pass into a well-over-quirky stage in any given episode.

But I digress. Today I wanted to hear the entire Tapestry album. Yes, album. On vinyl. It set me back about $3.50 some 30-odd years ago. As it turns out, although my turntable is still attached to the rest of the stereo components, it is showing its age, which is 27.

My father bought the original components as a gift to me for starting college. All these years later, while I haven't been paying attention, the day I pull a record (remember those?) out of my collection, it appears that the turntable had its last successful spin so long ago that it predates Windows for computers.

The receiver has a button marked "phono." It also has one for CDs and a couple for equipment I would never think to hook up to the stereo, even if I could figure out how.

Since the other buttons work, i.e. the one for the radio and for the CD, I suppose my turntable atrophied and took off for vinyl heaven. Either that or it became jealous of all the other consumer electronics I own, items that had yet to be invented when I entered college.

What I want to know is, I cleaned/ de-seeded tons of pot in the 1970s with an open double album as my tray. What do kids use now? I don't think a jewel box will do the job nearly so well.

May 27, 2005

You're not what you wear, and why Jane don't talk so good

This past week I've been reading a series of articles in the New York Times on the subject of class. Apparently the editors just got the memo that you're not what you wear. (Earlier in the week, they got the memo that the better your health insurance, the better and faster medical intervention you'll have access to.) They could have saved a lot of legwork by interviewing the staff of the paper -- the entire staff, from the loading dock to the printers and up through the white collar ranks.

Social class is alive and well and breeding in the water here. (No kidding. It took a team of writers and editors to realize that? To whom, exactly, is this a newsflash?)

Or the reporters could have taken a quick tour of my neighborhood. Part of my zip code is the most prosperous in the country and has real estate prices to match; part of it contains ancient tenements where the average age of occupant is 60+ and has been in that apartment for 40+ years under rent control regulations.

It's Manhattan. I don't know about the female populace at large, but I do know that here, if you're going to be getting about by foot, it is not in your best interest to look either prosperous (leave the jewelry at home or in the vault) or remotely sexy (don't expect to walk by a construction site without remarks from the contractors).

On the sidewalk, it takes all kinds. My least favorite is the kind who sees fit to speak loudly on a cell phone about personal matters I have no interest in -- whether it's the result of a pregnancy test or a debate about which is the most prestigious to attend (from a social vantagepoint) among the charity benefit dinners that masquerade as social life.

There's a part of me that thinks about these cell phone abusers, just as I think about cab drivers: if you're going to pay attention to the task at hand -- whether it's keeping the child in the stroller or driving me to my intended destination -- get off the damn phone.

My clothes come from a combination of places: mail-order catalogs, e-bay, and thrift shops, primarily. Oh, underpants, tights and sacks are purchased brand-new from the nearest discount drug store.

I used to buy clothes from local boutiques, but the real estate market has driven most of them to the terminal clearance sale in the sky. Just today I walked by what was most recently an unsuccessful chain clothing store branch (one whose demographics I don't fit). Judging from the shop's failure, it didn't succeed with the teenagers whose demographic it did fit, probably because it was a chain without any zing to it.

Private-school here kindergarteners seem to spend classroom time learning to identify Chanel suits (the real from the faux). Their Mommies certainly teach them not to spill anything on those precious suits, or on Grandmas'. Their nannies, on the other hand, probably don't have the same priorities, and you are far more likely to see child-with-nanny than child-with-parent.

If you were wondering what happened to the English language, just glance at the speech patterns and accents of the nannies in charge of the children. Or turn on the TV, for lowest-common-denominator vocabulary and syntax. My mother the grammarian raised me, and I made a career out of three words she said frequently when I asked questions: "Look it up."

The reason Jane don't talk so good is she gets very little exposure to those who do. Parents may be able to conjugate verbs in their sleep, but whether they choose to impart that knowledge to their children, I don't know. At this point, perhaps it's the grandparents who need to share their knowledge, since I suspect it was one of my peers who came up with Apple's ungrammatical slogan, "Think different." Another decided "impact" was a verb, and still another selected "transition" as the verb du jour.

On my corner is a shop that sells Dior outfits for babies and toddlers. Personally, I think babies spit up or toddlers fall and get skinned knees just as well in outfits whose only label is Target (not that we would have one here) or K mart (which, much to my bafflement, we do have, and in a neighborhood once considered trendy.)

Sure, I have designer clothes in my wardrobe, and jewelry of sufficient value to say "mug me." Neither is meant for real life, go-out-and-get-the-groceries/go-to-the-bank errands.

I grew up an anachronism: Raised to dress for dinner or to travel -- even via airplane, back when flight attendants were stewardesses who wanted to help you enjoy the flight -- I never quite understood the need for a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy, but obviously my education was incomplete.

May 22, 2005

The ceiling is linen white

It contrasts nicely with the slightly different shade of white that I picked out for the painters this fall. Unfortunately, I've seen more than my share of it in the past two weeks, and have finally had the time to figure out which remote control clicker is in charge of what function with my TV.

Why? Back trouble, in short. The longer version has to do with too many meetings, too much flight time and the tendency of my back to want to stay on hiatus for more time than the rest of me can afford. So I'm burried in overdue work, and if I want to keep the clients happy, I'd better start cranking it out.

Then, too, there is the matter of the results of adding muscle relaxants to my psychoactive pharmacopoeia: Put me in a horizontal position, and I'll fall asleep very quickly, and not for a short period of time. I have had marathon sleeps that would do any family proud.

I'm adjusting, slowly, to the concept of a middle aged body, where all the parts don't work as well as they did originally, and no factory replacements are available. After getting my first reading glasses prescription from the eye doctor, and returning home to lie in my bed, what I wished was that I don't have to repaint the ceiling for another 10 years, not that I'll be able to see its flaws.

May 15, 2005

To floss, or not to floss

Every day I make a list of things-to-do. It seems to be a losing battle, between what I can or will do and what I am required or want to do just in terms of maintenance -- personal, household, friendships. I don't want to clean the off-White Rabbit's cage; I want to talk to my friends. I want to see my friends, but we all play datebook hell before that comes to pass. When did we get so busy? People I used to see weekly, I see less than once a month. I miss them.

My memory is so shot that while I like being clean, scheduling time to wash my hair takes up a place on my to-do list. Then there's the flossing. The two full minutes of teeth-brushing. Skin care for the over-40 has a lot more elements than skin care for the post-adolescent. My mother started contemplating having her eyes done when she was 40. These days, I get leftover moisturizer/secret of youth potions from her.

I have grown up with a full package of age paranoia indicators, courtesy of my mother. Naomi Wolf would blame it on the media, per The Beauty Myth, but Naomi doesn't look any older than she did on her wedding day more than 10 years ago, at least not in recent photos. When we attended an artists' colony together, many years ago, she gave me a lipstick in a shade she thought would flatter me.

When I was growing up, my dad subscribed to all the fashion magazines, for business reasons. That my mother or I read them was incidental. Neither of us is tall enough for haute couture, not without extensive alterations.

While my mother is of the "walk-yourself-home-from-the-hospital" "have-a-face-lift, don't-need-pain-meds" school, I have experienced chronic pain since I was a teenager. So I'd like to avoid the scalpel, particularly as I am the poster adult for better-living-through-Western-pharmaceuticals. I don't need to volunteer for pain, on any level.

So day after day, I plod along, scheduling hair cuts and housekeepers and part-time business help, renewing prescriptions and singing "happy birthday" into friends' answering machines. It seems it takes a village just to keep one person going, much less raise a family.

May 10, 2005

The way we live now, Part II

For Mother's Day, Serena posted an e-mail: she will be bald by Father's Day. Her children are ages 2 and 4. She starts a just-approved "infusion" treatment today. My response is numbness. Sex won't help this time, nor will sneaking a cigarette.

Despite my neighborhood and its historical telephone exchanges, it's never going to be BUtterfield 8 around here. The slut and a gentleman is history. He e-mailed last week, with a proposed time and his schedule, then called (and woke me up, which no one is allowed to do, ever. I am not verbal before noon).

I had a friend make the last call to his cell phone. She told him: Alice says she can't be the Other Woman for someone who has to see a puppy about a man. (The slut and a gentleman also poses as a horse farmer and companion to many canines. I wonder if his girlfriend helps muck the stalls.)

Serena is dying and I am too old not to be The Woman. If there is Another Man or Another Woman already in the picture, count me out. Your photograph and my ego will both appreciate it.

An "infusion" sounds so pleasant. It sounds like herbal tea served while you are wrapped in one of Cara's blankets, seated on the deck of a yacht. It sounds comforting and soothing.

It doesn't sound harsh, like chemo, or the kind of infusions Serena will have, will need to blast the cancer from her liver. Her infusions work on the we-have-to-kill-the-village-to-save-it principle. God, I hope they succeed.

May 03, 2005

Where the cars dress in monogrammed floor mats

Surprised to find such a place exists? I was, and, given where I live, my upbringing, and my place of birth (all geographically within the same coordinates), there is not much that brings me up short.

Welcome to L.A. Where there are people in such need of assurance of ownership that they do, indeed, monogram their cars' floor mats. "Detailing" cars is a full-time occupation here, unlike in New York, where parking one's car can be a full-time occupation, never mind how the car is dressed.

However, the land of the monogrammed floor mat is providential for my friend, Cara, whose business here depends on celebrities and their demographic ilk demanding her work: the most beautifully designed, incredibly well crafted, made-in-the-U.S.A. travel blankets, shoes, and baby gifts ever to emerge on the custom retail market.

These items don't come cheap, but once you've taken Cara's blanket on a plane, you will never be satisfied by an airline germ catcher again, assuming you can even find one. (Since airplane food has disappeared except as a retail purchase, pillows have been phased out, too, and blankets will probably be next.)

I have known Cara since the year we turned 5, our birthdays ten days apart, and we entered kindergarten. We sailed through elementary school, got in a little too much trouble in junior high (apparently I was the Bad Influence, banned from the house by her mother, a fact I didn't know until three days ago), and spent our last school year together at age 15. Until Cara and her boyfriend fetched me from Palm Springs, we hadn't seen each other in close to 30 years.

When I look at Cara, she will always be 5, and we will always be on the swing set in the back of the old house. Never mind that it's almost 40 years later, and we have each grown into women who can see, to whatever effect, how her mother's influence plays out in another generation. I remember that Cara's mom was strict. What I didn't realize was that she ran Cara's life as a fascist. This may be why Cara lives 3,000 miles from her mom, while I can tolerate mine (who crumpled on the discipline front circa 1972) only 8 blocks from my apartment.

Our mommies were friends. They had bouffant '60s hair-dos, smoked cigarettes, and drank cocktails together. Her mother still smokes; mine still drinks; the bouffant hair-dos are long gone (as are our mothers' natural hair colors), but their friendship apparently splintered over my being the Bad Influence. (To this day I can't remember whose idea it was to break into her parents' liquor cabinet, or whether it was even locked.)

Our friendship has been revived. There is no one in the world, save my mother, who has been conscious of me for a longer period of time. It means everything to me that there is now someone in my life, not linked by blood, who also remembers me with my father.