Twenty-two and Half hours in Vegas

I recently got a hall pass to go on a date with my husband.  We have been trying to see some live music for years.  Together, I mean.  That involves the following:

1. Finding a band that we both like.

2. Finding a date when they play in San Francisco.

3. Making sure no one has croup, lice, pink eye, or a surprise business trip to Tokyo.

We must have hit the wall a couple of weeks back, because well into a bottle of wine we bought tickets for a show in Las Vegas. We found a hotel. We booked flights. Mostly on purpose, though the next morning I was a little surprised when I got the email confirmations.  For a second there, I guess we forgot we have children.

We flew Virgin America–normally my favorite airline–and settled happily into 7C and 7D.  After take off, I ordered a light snack and a seltzer and started channel surfing. When a lovely flight attendant swished up the aisle, I put down my tray table in anticipation of my little packet of gluten free crackers. I was disappointed to see her stop instead at 6C and D, and start fawning all over those guys.  To hear them better, she bent over and leaned in, placing her red wooly-slacked buttocks directly in my face. She then proceeded to let loose with a silent but lethal fart that had me digging around desperately for the barf bag.  Hey, I’m on a plane here; it’s not like I can crack the window or anything. I can’t even run away because I’M STRAPPED IN. Have some pity. Bring me a bag of jelly beans or something.

This didn’t bode well. I opened my tab again and started ordering champagne.

Thank god everything went up from there.

Turns out, you can cram quite a bit into 22 1/2 hours. It was my first trip to Vegas, so I was mesmerized by everything cliché:  fountains doing ballet, fuchsia palm trees, skies on the ceiling, music piped outside for a seamless city soundtrack, endless blinking signs for “hot slots,” as well as a variety of activities I’ll leave to your imagination. Next thing I knew, I was picking up my kids at 1:40 the next day, still wearing silver heels and a little too much makeup for the playground. Now it all seems like a dream, but it was a great one.

To my friend down the street, I am eternally grateful that you took my kids OVERNIGHT on a school night.  I considered making you a t-shirt that read:  “My friend went to Vegas and all I got were her two lousy kids,” but I wasn’t sure my girls would find that amusing. Since I’ll be footing the bill for their therapy for at least a decade, I’ll have to think of some other way to express my appreciation.

Please excuse my tardiness

If you know me, then you know I am not a terribly punctual person. Never have been. You may have figured that out even if we’ve never met, seeing as today’s post was supposed to go up last Wednesday.

What you may not know is that I have been SERIOUSLY trying to improve my behavior out of respect for you and your valuable time. Sadly, some of you will never believe me. My friend Jessica broke up with me because every time I tried to meet her, my car would not start–for three years. In hindsight, I probably should have made up a few new excuses, because the real reason obviously got old after a while. Mechanics stared at me blankly after starting the car 20 times in a row without incident, and frankly, my husband didn’t believe me, either. When I would call him in frustration, he would say super helpful things such as, “Did you put it in park?” Thankfully, one day when he needed to catch a flight overseas, he suddenly discovered there was an actual problem with the car.  But, by the time he admitted he had installed the car security system improperly, Jess was long gone.

In the hopes of avoiding any such break ups in the future, I have decided to come clean and admit the extent of my struggle. I would also like to solicit your assistance, since my efforts to ameliorate this problem without it have been wildly unsuccessful.

Over the years, my tardiness may have appeared constant, but the underlying causes have shifted dramatically.  Right out of college, I was completely strapped, so most of my scheduling issues were financial.  For example, I probably walked the 60 blocks from my tiny apartment to yours. Luckily, that is entirely possible in New York; it’s just damned slow. I would also stand in line for eons to avoid the ATM withdrawal fees, save up all of my errands for the one day I took the subway, and travel back and forth across Manhattan rather than exit and pay again at Bleeker Street to go uptown. Furthermore, back in the stone age before online banking, I had to balance my checkbook to the penny. Once I started monkeying around with the calculator, I was unable to leave the house until I had resolved the missing 22 cents. It takes a lot of time to be broke.

Then I left New York and moved West.  I got a decent job and managed to start paying off my loans, but my punctuality did not improve whatsoever.  My excuses from that period were mostly ridiculously lame. Let’s just say I wasn’t above a fashion crisis, so this is the era for which I feel the most repentant. Feel free to let me know if I haven’t apologized sufficiently; I’d be more than willing to grovel a little in exchange for any inconvenience I may have caused you.

Once I started having kids, I essentially gave up trying to be timely at all. On a certain level, I no longer felt responsible for my inability to function on a schedule. Babies defy time management.  One typical scenario:  I finally have the baby washed and fed, and a bag packed with:  wallet, keys, two changes of clothes, diapers, wipes, cream, changing pad, plastic bags, snacks, a tiny sweater, a hat, something to chew on, a couple of toys, a book, a sippy cup, extra socks, sunscreen, a burp cloth, and for chrissake, the one cd that will make baby stop crying so I can drive around without going off a bridge.  As I am shoving this mountain of crap into the car, baby has what is affectionately known in parenting circles as a “blow out.” This is when she not only needs a fresh diaper, but a bath and change of clothes; and, if she was tucked under my arm, I do as well.  Particularly big blow outs produce the “Cuba spot,” which is a blast of shit that shoots well out of diaper range–the continental area–to somewhere miles off the coast–like the back of the neck. When you have two kids, you can also have a double blow out, but the second one usually waits until everyone is strapped in and you have already lost your parking space.

Also, some babies cry all night long until you lose your mind. It is very hard to be punctual when all you want to do is pull over and curl up in the trunk for an hour or two. That explains quite a few years of my incoherence, also, though sadly, not the vestiges of it.

In all honesty, my kids are older now, and my excuses run more along the lines of: “Sorry. The neighbor kid came over and ingested poison. There was a little damage control issue.” Or, “Sorry. The rain stopped, so Leila’s soccer practice was no longer canceled but I didn’t have snacks for the team and I was in charge of carpool and then Josie’s musical theatre rehearsal ran a tad late but I couldn’t find the cat and couldn’t reach Lucy’s mother to do the pick up instead.”  That sort of thing. It makes my eyes glaze over to even think about it, so I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear it, either.

In any event, in an attempt to assuage some of my guilt and–hopefully–most of your irritation, here is my friendly request:  PLEASE FEEL FREE TO LIE TO ME ABOUT WHEN I NEED TO SHOW UP.  But whatever you do, DO NOT tell me that you lied, or I will adjust accordingly. Thanks, pal.

Cheers.

Regarding Slasher

I once begged a ride home from Death Valley and the guy driving kept asking: “Wait. Where do you live? Which cross street? Where on that block? Which side of the street?” Since we were still about ten hours from the city, I started getting a little nervous. Finally he said, “Then YOU must know that cat Slasher.” ”Well, yeah,” I said, surprised. ”He’s my cat.” Ed had to pull over and call his wife. ”You’ll NEVER BELIEVE this!” he yelled into his phone. ”I JUST MET SLASHER’S OWNER!”

You may think I am exaggerating, but it was not uncommon for complete strangers to greet my cat by name as we passed by, while ignoring me altogether.  That furry guy knew everyone.  He hung out in folks’ garages while they tinkered, and lolled on their stoops on sunny afternoons.  He knew where to go for tuna and extra love, and I tried not to get too jealous when I saw him coming out of other houses.  He was quite a gentleman, after all, taking me on walks, spending time with the elderly, and escorting one woman home from public transport every evening. He was even mentioned in the student guidebook for the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine:  ”Absolutely no pets allowed, except guide dogs and Slasher.” Meanwhile, we got phone calls from bars and restaurants that he frequented, often late at night.  ”Do you have a cat named Slasher?” they would ask.  “That depends,” my husband would say.  ”What’s his tab?”

Not everyone loved him, though. As evidence, he was missing quite a bit of both ears. German Shepherds feared him. Dog walkers couldn’t stand him. And if you had a cat allergy, he made sure to bite your ankles and shed all over you.  Some lawyer actually threatened some vague sort of legal action, claiming that he had terrorized her and her dog and then followed them “in attack mode.” While I found that letter endlessly entertaining and hung it on the fridge, even I had to admit a healthy fear of him, fueled mostly by our frequent trips to the vet for his hyperthyroidism.  Have you ever tried to lovingly shove a ferocious beast into the side door of a cat carrier?  Slasher would get so worked up clawing my arm for half an hour that he never failed to excrete a giant, malodorous turd on the way to the vet.  I assume this was an expression of dismay regarding my disrespectful behavior.  Thank goodness I discovered a top-loading cat carrier before losing a limb.

Love or hate, you had to admit he was an exceptional cat, and until March 2, I had the honor of catering to his every need.

Here’s where the story gets sad and a bit demented.  In my defense, there is a lot of gray area in parenting, and sometimes it’s hard to decide which path will lead to a greater need for therapy.  Tune in tomorrow…

What I have learned from the Tenderloin

Having two children and a husband who travels frequently, I don’t get out much.  The other day, I looked at where I was and what I was doing and had a complete conniption.  I turned to the woman next to me and demanded, “When and how did I turn into a f*cking soccer mom?!”  She may have laughed weakly before changing the subject to PTA memos, or box top collections, or some other topic to fuel my identity crisis.  Thank god one of the soccer dads started bringing comfortable chairs and adult beverages to practice.  That has really made my descent into personal hell more tolerable.

In light of this realization, I have been making a concerted effort to get out into the wide world once in a while.  A few days ago, that brought me to the Tenderloin.  There are definitely a few things to be learned from the seedy parts of San Francisco.

1.  Do not tell a gigantic, inebriated man that his Rottweiler is cute.

Though I’ve always assumed that, luckily I didn’t have to be the one to test the theory out. I did have to cross the street, however.  What a ruckus.

2.  The Tenderloin is a good place to be invisible.

I saw a man hobbling horribly on a crutch suddenly tuck it under his arm and ride off on a bicycle.  No one batted an eye.  If that sort of behavior passes under the radar, I imagine no one would notice if you fixed your bra-strap, or took care of that annoying crusty bit flapping around your left nostril.  Hell, you could have a whole garden variety melt-down there, and you’d blend right in.  It’s cheaper than therapy.

3.  Fancy shmancy organic-type Whole Paycheck markets are just as ridiculously expensive in economically under-resourced parts of town.

While I am thankful to find something besides del Taco for my snack emergencies, how do these places stay in business?  Where are the tasty food trucks?  The tamale lady? Happy hour?  That’s right.  Not here.  Might be time to head to Tu Lan.  Definitely don’t use the bathroom, but the food is tasty and cheap, and if I remember correctly, Julia Child used to slum it here when she wasn’t partying in her limo.  I’ve heard some stories.

4.  Seedy parts of town foster creativity.

I saw the most pathetically amusing and/or revolting painting of my entire life hanging in a place of prominence in a loin-y gallery.  Imagine a tiny, cluttered venue–art crammed into every cranny–devoting an entire wall to one enormous canvas.  Mostly it is a giant color field of oil paint, with a shit-brown lump at the bottom, and a little white unicorn in the the center.  I think the unicorn was crying; I might have made that part up, though.  At the top, in swirly, girly hand lettering, it says:  “I’ll never find true love…” followed by a very melancholic curlicue.  That thing is burned on my retinas.  It was awesome.  I dare you to find something like that at 49 Geary.

5.  In dire times, the first thing to go are your dreams for the future.

For some reason, I decided it would be cool to look at people’s old funky stuff.  I meandered into some pawn shops.  Have you noticed?  All of the pawn shops are clustered around the courthouse.  I had never thought about that before.  And guess what people hock to get out of jail?  Musical instruments and engagement rings.  Almost exclusively.  It is deeply depressing.  Why not get rid of…I don’t know…some technological gadget? A Blackberry?  The wii?  Or a TV?  Why not guns?  Get rid of that thing!  It didn’t help you out this time, did it?  And where you’re going, they’ll probably take it away at check-in. But no.  Love and music.

I suppose there are a lot of other lessons to be learned out there, but right now, I need to get some healthy snacks together for practice today.  And a big jug of wine.