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You're No Anita—Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Last Saturday night I went to the
La Dolce Vita benefit, the one for which I impersonated Anita
Ekberg on the invitation and in the Nob
Hill Gazette (see March 18, below). I walked into
the ballroom to find my picture on a program atop every dinner
plate as far as the eye could see. Granted, this is the picture
nobody believes is me, so this was only so thrilling. It’s
not like people grabbed their programs when they saw me at the
door and ran up to ask for my autograph. They didn’t even
realize I was the one in the picture. But this is an experience
every woman who’s insecure about her looks should have at
least once in her lifetime.
One of the people seated at our table was Russ
Fischella, the photographer who took the picture (see russfischella.com).
This was a good thing because it’s impossible to be defensive
about a photo no one believes is you when you’re sitting
right next to the one person who can vouch for its relative authenticity.
After hearing what people were saying about it he apologized for
artificially lengthening my hair. “I think that threw everyone
off,” he said, ever the gentleman. I believed this for about
three seconds before one of my tablemates offered a different
theory. She announced, “I didn’t think you had this
Babylon and On —Thursday, March 23, 2006
There is the usual baby babbling,
and then there is the Ava brand of babbling. Ava has brought babbling
to a whole new level. She speaks this Sino-Hungarian dialect she
must have learned on her home planet that sounds like a coherent,
if exceptionally exotic, language of its own. It involves guttural
throat noises and that African click sound you write with a !
and a bunch of utterances using her tongue that I really couldn't
She looks at one of us with great deliberation
and then lets out this string of syllables that generally defy
repetition. So we look back at her and parrot the last couple
and leave it at that. "Guaya guaya guaya," we'll say.
It was one thing when it was Olivia and Greta spouting back the
guayas, but last week when Tom and I both babbled the
nonsense back at her in concert, I said, "Are we teaching Ava
how to speak or is she teaching us?" Every time I engage in dialogue
with her, I lose IQ points and she gains them. It's like brainfeeding.
Ain't No Mountain High Enough —Monday, March 20, 2006
Every year on our anniversary, Tom
and I attempt to climb Mount Whitney. This is the week that we
find out how we did in the lottery system that the National Forest
Service uses to limit the number of people on the mountain. Turns
out we got lucky; we were given a permit to sleep at the high
camp during our first-choice dates in early summer.
I am aware this is not a lottery that the average
person would be equally thrilled to win. When people find out
that climbing the highest peak in the lower 48 states is our anniversary
getaway of choice, they usually want to know why we don’t
just check into a spa and call it a day. But for us it’s
the world’s most perfect metaphor for marriage, the ultimate
day of reckoning. All we talk about from the time we start driving
south to the minute we reach the summit—or fail, which has
happened just as often—is the state of our relationship.
Some years it’s not such a pretty conversation, and the
fact that it happens on a remote landscape that resembles the
face of the moon instead of at a four-star restaurant is probably
a good thing. Other years we are positively giddy and indulge
in an embarrassing amount of mutual back-patting. But we always
feel like we’ve figured it out—whatever “it”
is, depending on the year—by the time we return to sea level.
Unbeautiful — Saturday, March 18, 2006
I went to the Junior League Fashion
Show luncheon today to cheer on some friends who were modeling
in the show. It’s a day when relatively normal-looking women
get to play model, so it was almost fitting that people were telling
me their reactions to the photo of me acting the part of Anita
Ekberg in the current issue of the Nob
Hill Gazette (see the New, or Practically New
box at right). The reason for the photo is that my friend Anna
couldn’t secure the rights to the movie poster for her “La
Dolce Vita” benefit, so she asked Russ Fischella to
recreate the image by shooting me against a gray screen and then
digitally inserting Rome’s Trevi Fountain into the background.
The problem was that the reaction I was getting
could be characterized as ranging from surprise to utter disbelief.
This is not what I was going for. “I couldn’t believe
that was you!” one friend said. “Even after I saw
your name on the picture I still couldn’t believe it was
you!” Another wanted to know if Russ had photoshopped my
head onto Anita Ekberg’s body. Granted, I am wearing so
much makeup in this photo that I looked like a drag queen walking
back to my car after the shoot, and the top of my dress is not
in fact the top of a dress but a Victoria’s Secret lycra
bodyshaper that hides many sins. But that’s definitely me.
I guess I just didn’t realize what people think I look like.
It reminds me of that time when I was in my early twenties and
my mother felt the need to point out to me that I was not beautiful.
“Jaclyn Smith is beautiful,” she said. Until that
moment I had assumed that all mothers thought their daughters
were breathtaking and couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
Slices of Heaven — Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Ava loves many things—dogs, Elmo, the telephone, pulling hair—but none so much as she loves bananas. She calls them “na-na.” The day cannot get started until she has had her nana ration, followed by milk and a diaper, in that order. I am now buying four bunches a week. I keep forgetting to ask Tom if we own stock in Dole.
Yesterday morning I was slicing Ava's banana
from on high so that she couldn't grab the knife. I was standing
above her while she clapped and squealed with delight in her high
chair each time a banana slice landed with a thunk, thunk,
thunk on the tray in front of her. Tom walked by. He looked
over at me, looked down at Ava, and said, “Look at that,
it's nana from heaven.&rdquo
Urban Madness — Monday, March 6, 2006
Back in the olden days when I was
a kid on Long Island, my mother barely laid eyes on my school.
She went to my chorus performances and parent-teacher conferences,
but otherwise she had little contact with my daily world. Her
time was her own. I took the bus to school every morning and the
bus home every afternoon. I walked to the bus stop by myself from
the time I was eight years old. There was a bus that took me to
all my varsity swim meets, only one of which my mother attended
in the four years I was in high school. No matter how late the
school newspaper or student government or the yearbook kept me,
there was always another bus waiting. All of the above was free.
I didn't have arranged playdates; I rode my bike to friends' houses
until I found someone home.
Olivia and Greta need rides to school, from school,
to and from sports practices, games, playdates, and after-school
programs. Everything they do costs money. Their private school
is very fine, but it is no finer than my public school. And all
of the above can be traced to the fact that I insist on living
in this city, my beloved city, my San Francisco that informs my
every thought, my every written word, my every cell that has finally
found its sense of place. And yet, if I could change anything,
I would embrace my mother's love of the suburbs where the livin'
is easy and let myself, my bank account, and my children off the
hook. I have long thought that my mother does not possess all
her marbles, but when I start listing everything I do just to
get each day off the ground in this city—work aside—it
is clear to me that I am the one who is looney.