The Long Con

08/16/2011

The Misdirection

Urgency Day 6

500 Things Item 496: The Shark

  • History: More like back story—read on
  • Value: Beyond priceless
  • Parting pain: Glee! Until it returns.  And it always returns.
  • Unpossessing: That’s TOP SECRET!

My 6 favorite heist movies:

  1.        Brothers Bloom
  2.        Ocean’s 11
  3.        Charade
  4.        National Treasure
  5.        Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
  6.        The Sting
  7.        The Wrong Trousers

Yes, I know. Lame. No Reservoir Dogs or Usual Suspects. Anyone who knows me knows my well-established aversion to violence. Mayhem I like, hence The Wrong Trousers. A criminal mastermind wreaking havoc with trapdoor Techno-trousers; an attempted escape on a careening train; a chicken-disguised penguin– all as part of an elaborate caper to steal a magnificent diamond? Pop the corn, baby!

And yes, I can count. This list of my 6 favorites has 7 titles. Some “experts” do not count Charade as a heist movie. Please. There are conspirators, there is a theft, there is frolicking, there is <sigh> Cary Grant. Maybe the “experts” don’t think there was a heist, but my heart was stolen.

I love a good heist. I love a clever plot with lots of twists, betrayals, unexpected reversals or triversals, and a roguish hero or 11.  Oh, and by the way, I’ve been involved in real-life con job for 34 years.

A very long con.

In my story, there isn’t any stealing. This con is about dropping off a very specific Package to the other player in the most diabolically clever way conceivable. What is the package? What have my nemesis and I been delivering to each other via planes, cakes and waiters for over three decades?

This  rubber shark.

The Package and The Cat

Drops over the years include the shark having been:

  • Frosted into the hollow center of a bundt cake;
  • Inflated into the middle of an enormous helium-balloon bouquet;
  • Delivered by tuxedoed waiter on a covered-silver platter with an accompanying sonnet to a fancy country club soiree;
  • Sent from Florida to Scotland where it was picked up by my brother-in-law John and flown to the States where it was delivered after a marathon run through Chicago
  • Mailed in a very unfortunately suspicious box as the Anthrax crisis began;
  • Mailed in a box addressed to 3 year-old Sam and tucked inside a polar bear hand puppet.

The last one actually scared me more than the unintentional “Anthrax” box. Sam, however, loved it.

<shaking fist at the heavens>

I WILL BE AVENGED, GRANDMA JENNY!!

Oh, did I not mention? My arch-rival of 34 years, since I was 15 and she was… my mom’s best friend (you do the math)? This dearest, most adorable and proper fiend is the lady every kid calls “Grandma Jenny.”

I just call her Sly.

The shark is being “downsized” in a thoroughly, wonderfully devious way, worthy of over 3 decades of intrigue. After confirmation of the drop, I will reveal the latest plot development. Stay tuned…

The Eagle Scout, The Writer and Sly

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March Time

07/03/2011

Thanks, Phil!

For all my fussin’ and fumin’ about summer, I adore the Fourth of July!

I love fireworks and watermelon and John. Philip. Sousa. Oh yeah, I love a march. That handsome lad in uniform? He’s Philip J. Eberly, my nephew-in-law, and he plays the euphonium (or what I call a tubini- sorry Phil) in the Navy Band.

The real deal United States Navy Band.

That blows me away, as does his talent.

Great music on the Fourth of July– that’s an inalienable right. Actually, music and movies. I pulled out my favorite holiday DVDs:

  • The Musicals, of course:
    • 1776
    • Music Man
  • The Obvious:
    • Independence Day
    • Jaws
  • Sure, but why not:
    • Apollo 13
    • National Treasure

I used to pull out the remake of The Parent Trap, what with the summer fun and a different take on an American/British rivalry. But then Lindsay imploded and Natasha < gulp> died. I’m looking for more upbeat holiday fare.

So, Jaws?

Well, I don’t do The Patriot. Too gruesome; too Gibson.

So, Jaws.

No Gibson!

Plus I added the annotated book of the musical 1776 to my 250 Library. And that’s enough digitizing for a holiday.

Hope you enjoy some music, your favorite holiday-themed movies and some watermelon. And remember: Safety First with those fireworks.

Happy Birthday, America.

Commitment!

Me in my head (from Summer by Alice Low)

Still

06/19/2011

I am a word nerd.

But there are many moments when the words I am able to summon feel inadequate. Here are a few treasured glimpses of two fathers I adore.


1993

1995

2011

1966

1982

1983

Spot On, Donna

05/07/2011

sweet but unused

Urgency Day 110

500 Things Item 389: Set of Egg Cups

  • History: From long ago and far away
  • Value:  Sat on a shelf more than they held my eggs
  • Parting Pain: My cupboard is a little less inviting, but no separation pain
  • Un-possessing: Gift

If you are a pattern seeker like me, you may have noticed a pattern on my May blog:

We celebrate a lot of birthdays in May!

A lot as in “Holy crap, what was going on all those Augusts ago?”

Between Paul’s family and my family and our closest friends’ families, we have 12 May honorees. Plus Mother’s Day. In some families that may not seem excessive. But here is a coincidence that I think makes my pattern a bit more exceptional:

Paul and I each have one sister who was born on the anniversary of the other’s parents:

  • My Donna was born on his John & Virginia’s anniversary, May 7;
  • His Katherine was born on my Arthur & Joyce’s May 15.

I think that’s a cool bit of family overlap. Plus, I recently pieced together that my niece Laura– of tiny sand-crab fame— shares a May 5th birthday with my dearest friend’s gorgeous mom, Bonnie—which is also Cinco de Mayo. I say, Margaritas for everyone!

Oh my dear lord, who am I forgetting?

I realize that sending out these very personal posts, or “modern greeting cards” as I call them, makes this blog feel even more personal than it already is– which is pretty darn. I’ll risk it. There’s not a chance I am going to miss wishing my darling sister a great big bloggy Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Donna!

And speaking of chance and patterns and sisters, all these things converge remarkably in Donna. My sister Donna is famous, infamous actually, for having the most unlikely consistency in one very specific routine task: Parking. Donna has uncanny luck with finding parking spots right next to whatever entrance she needs to use. Her luck in this area is so consistent, when other’s familiar with this pattern share in her good fortune and find a wildly convenient place to park, it is recognized with this invocation:

Donna spot!

On Donna’s birthday, I wish you all a happy Donna spot. I hope you recognize the patterns of good fortune in your own life. Luck comes into our lives in obvious ways and in small ways which are not always easy to spot.

But having treasured sisters is the greatest luck of all.

Also a happy Donna spot

Signs of Life

05/05/2011

a sign

Urgency Day 112

500 Things Item 388: Secretary Desk

  • History: Family piece
  • Value: I think the Antiques Roadshow people would demur
  • Parting Pain: Only in the shipping
  • Un-possessing: A gift

Stop deep breath listen

When you read those words, where did you put the commas? Did you put commas?

Even in the very clutter-free world toward which I am working, there will still be commas. Commas are simply pauses. In fact, I think I will have a few more pauses in the clutter-free world, because I will have more time.

Less time managing my clutter. More time experiencing my life.

Uber-organizer Peter Walsh defines clutter as “anything that gets between you and the life you want to live.” (Natural Healing 3/10. 74) I think this is an enlightening statement.

Clutter is subjective.

I was in my garden yesterday with a young friend who was helping me pull some weeds. He asked what a weed was. I offered him the classic definition: “A weed is anything growing where you don’t want it to grow.” He paused, and– smart six-year-old cookie that he is– he asked, “So if you didn’t want a rose bush right here, it would be a weed?”

“Yes, Luke. Even a rose bush can be a weed.”

We both paused, mid-weed pull, and breathed deeply. Then we both cracked up at breathing so deeply at the exact same time. Six-year olds are great levelers.

The sweet desk I am gifting today has become a weed to me. It is clutter. But, when I offered it to my niece, Laura, she was thrilled. As a newly-minted, first-time home owner, it isn’t clutter to her at all. It’s a sign of starting a new life.

Signs of life. Every scratch, every dent, every nick and scrape on the desk represents a moment of engagement. Even if the engagement was only to catch my mail or store Sam’s music or hold a vase of roses from my garden, there was a purpose. But the desk has long since been replaced as a mail catcher, a music stand, a room brightener. At one time, I was so pleased to have it, and now I am even more pleased to give it to Laura.

I wrote about Laura last year, on this same day, May 5th, Laura’s birthday. Laura is a force of nature who is off right now having adventures, experiencing life. I hope this old desk will brighten her new life. It can’t even hint at the dazzling brightness she has brought to mine.

At one time, this desk held a box of my most beloved pictures. One is a picture of baby Laura, at the beach, delicately handing me a sand crab. But the picture captures the moment just before she places the treasure in my hand. We are paused, forever, in the moment just before. I’ve stared at this picture so often, I can conjure every sound and every smell, and remember experiencing the magic of a small, wondrous life.

Stop, deep breath, listen.

Happy birthday, Laura

The Fourth Force

05/04/2011

better than ebay: like-minded friends

Urgency Day 113

500 Things Items 380-87: Star WarsToys

  • History: Lovingly collected; lovingly played forward
  • Value: Priceless (literally in some cases)
  • Parting Pain:Have you seen Toy Story 3? It’s complicated.
  • Un-possessing: Already gifted

May the Fourth Be With You!

Because May 4th is International Star Wars Day! But even more significantly, it’s my mom’s birthday!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sometimes the Stars align, such as celebrating both my luminous mom and that spectacular movie about a scrappy band of stellar rebels. In case you were unaware, big fan, right here. Big nerdy fan.

But my mom is the coolest mom. She has gamely watched so many years of science fiction movies and TV shows with me and my sister; decades really.  Even now, when she sees Capt. Kirk hanging on through sheer bare-chested grit, we can still get her going with the line, “This is the one where Kirk dies, Mom.”

“Really?!”   “Ohhh, you guys are kidding me!”

You’ve heard it before: The dictionary definition of gullible includes a picture of my mom.

But being gullible is not the same as being unintelligent. Mom is one of the best-read people I know. And remarkably, she constantly marvels at the changes she has seen over the course of her life. We all know people who rue change, who view whatever condition the world was in when they were young as the definitive measure of desirability.  Not mom.

Maybe it’s because she was a nurse and values the wondrous advances in medicine she has witnessed, or it may simply be her transcendent curiosity, but she has never shied away from the next new thing. She wants to understand technology and all the new gadgetry.

Like many grandparents, she will watch her grandson play his various beeping games for hours. “Oh, I just love being with you, honey,” she’ll say. But then you’ll hear her ask him, “How do you move around that video game so fast? I wish I could do that!”

I wish I could do that. I wish I could embody the delight my mom still exudes in the ninth decade of her life. I know she will savor this quote I read yesterday:

“Living on earth may be expensive, but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.” (anon.)

Happy 84 free stellar trips, Mom!

The Force has always been with you.

my stars

Erin Beams, Again

04/11/2011

birthday girl and bud

Urgency Day 131

500 Things Items 365-69: The American Heart Association’s Stroke Workbooks

  • History: From the early days of my mom’s rehab
  • Value: In the early days, highly valued
  • Parting Pain: None, just hopeful they can be valuable to others
  • Un-possessing: Donation


Erin was a high-school senior when we got the word: Grandmom had a stroke.

And I was the mom of a nine-year old.

I had homework to monitor, lunches to pack, poster-board to procure for the project due on Wednesday. I had a husband who was in agony, far less over the intense training for his first marathon run the next weekend than over his imploding start-up business. I was scheduled to substitute teach that week, and the DC Sniper was still on the rampage. How was I supposed to lift right out of this intricate choreography and fly 3000 miles to my mom’s bed side?

“Come on, Suz,” Erin said.” Let’s go to Grandmom.”

My niece and my mom had always been close. When Erin was little, Grandmom lived nearby, and they were definitely two peas. They favored the same wardrobe—pink sweat suits—and the same meal—hotdogs. If they were awake, they were talking, right up until the very moment they fell asleep—that’s actually how you knew they had fallen asleep– and when they woke up, the conversation continued without missing a giggle.

Then Grandmom moved away.

Erin would get nervous when she was home alone. She was convinced there were bad-guy cowboys with tricky evil lassos at the bottom of her basement steps ready to emerge when her parents would go out. So Erin would call Grandmom.

In California.

From Virginia.

They would talk and talk and talk. Until her parents got home. Grandmom always knew just what to say to distract Erin from the cowboys.

It was also the days of landlines, and Erin’s father cashed every incentive check he received to switch phone companies.

We hadn’t been told many details, but we knew it had been a bad stroke. Her neighbor miraculously had been looking out of the window the very moment mom had collapsed. Ned called us. “Come quickly. I’ll meet you at the airport.”

Erin didn’t need another word.

“Come on, Suz.”

We got on the first flight to California we could, a daughter and a granddaughter. We told Grandmom-stories and laughed. We sat in the back of the airplane, heads together, laughing. We finished each other’s punch-lines and raced to be the one to tell the “kkkkkk” story. Trust me, it’s a good one, but you had to be there.

When the plane touched down at John Wayne Airport, I stopped laughing. The journey had been a temporary respite. What would we see at the hospital? Who would we see at the hospital? Would there be any trace of my mom’s sweet, indomitable spirit? I wanted to reassure Erin, to comfort my niece and start to prepare her for the heartache. And with all my heart, I wanted someone to reassure me.

Several lost bags and cars, wrong turns, second-guessings, and one regretful second-husband later, we were finally at the ICU. I had half a thought of pausing with Erin just beyond mom’s curtained-hospital bed to gather ourselves, but Erin walked forward with a fierce determination and one goal. Before I could react, she had pulled back the curtain, taken her grandmother’s hand and was leaning over her face.

“Well, look at you!” Erin beamed.

And her grandmother smiled.

Erin turns 26 today.

At some point, she will answer the phone and receive an almost-perfect rendition of “Happy Birthday!” from her grandmother.

They have always known the perfect thing

to say to each other.


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