Monthly Archives: January 2007

Clothes Make the Girl

I do not like to be cold. You might think that this would make Flagstaff a strange place for me to live, and normally you would be right. Fortunately, however, I have a secret weapon that keeps me warm in all but the fiercest of weather: I wear clothes. Now, while I’m sure that some of you reading this are shaking your heads and saying “well, duh,” I’m equally sure that there are others of you who are instead shaking your heads and saying, “Hmm…maybe I should give that clothing thing a try.”

You know who you are: the women who are still wearing their stylish skirts and high heels, or the men who are still clinging stubbornly to their cargo shorts and flip-flops–even when there is 3 feet of snow on the ground. You are the ones who scurry out of your heated cars and mince your way into the coffee shop, somehow trusting in the gods of all things automotive that you will never have to walk (or rather, mince) more than ten feet at a time.

The reason I know all this is that, once upon a time, I was just like you. I was a mincer. Not that I have ever been accused of wearing anything stylish. No, the sad truth behind my perennial nomination for Frostbite Victim of the Year was much more mundane than a misguided sense of fashion. I was a mincer simply because I was stupid.

Looking back, I find it hard to explain my rationale for wearing a t-shirt in a blizzard–denial, perhaps. In any case, I’m sure you saw me: I was the one who walked around so hunched over from the cold that I looked like a warning for osteoporosis. I was also the one mincing along in the shorts with long underwear underneath, and the one in Birkenstock sandals and wool socks. (I don’t know why I thought wool socks would protect my scantily-clad feet; in order for the wool to function as a deterrent to Flagstaff’s usual post-storm icy slush I would have needed to strap an entire sheep to the bottom of each foot instead.) These were fashion faux pas that trump even Flagstaff’s famous “dirty hair and ugly shoe” look recently derided by a certain New York Professor Who Shall Not Be Named (although how anyone who comes from a city that thinks “tightly clenched buttocks” are a fashion accessory can malign another city’s look is beyond me).

Now though, I know better: I put on a down jacket, fleece gloves and a pair of Sorrels (or at least their Target equivalent) just to get the paper off of the porch. And now, when I walk through Flagstaff in the winter time, I do it fully upright. I fancy I look much like the “end” picture in one of those charts that show the evolution of man, especially since, mincing along behind me, for all the world like one of my less-evolved simian cousins, is my half-naked daughter, Clementine.

As you can imagine, being trailed by my own little throwback is somewhat galling to me–not because I’m afraid people will think my family is devolving, but because watching Clementine mince along behind me in a t-shirt is a painful reminder of just how clueless I used to be. It’s like watching a clip of “My Dumbest Moments Caught on Tape–Live!” with Clementine standing in as a younger me. (All she’d need is a Flashdance sweatshirt, an asymmetrical haircut and some blue mascara and the scene would be complete.)

With fathers and sons, they say it is the sins that are revisited. That would be fine with me–sins I can handle. But with mothers and daughters it’s a whole different set of issues: from the first spiral perm onward, it’s the stupidities that get revisited. Or, in our case, re-minced.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive


The other night I woke up out of a sound sleep to find that something cold and slimy was nestled in the palm of my hand. Standing next to me was my son, Clyde, plaintively asking “Aren’t you going to eat it?” I could see from the look of expectation on his face that how I responded to this question was going to make a big difference in Clyde’s happiness quotient, and so, without too much contemplation, I quickly swallowed the substance in my hand. It was salty. Satisfied, Clyde left, and I began to repeat the mantra “It was just a pickle, it was just a pickle…”

Actually, this was not entirely wishful thinking: on those nights when Clyde and his Dad make one of their fast food runs, Clyde–knowing how much I like pickles–will usually bring me the pickle from his cheeseburger. And I, knowing how much this gesture means to him, will usually eat it. Of course, usually when he does this I’m awake enough to realize what it is I’m eating, and usually, the pickle in question is delivered to me fresh enough off of the cheeseburger so that it is still relatively warm. Usually. Who knows what happened on this particular night. Maybe Clyde got distracted while dismantling his cheeseburger (he likes to eat all of the parts–cheese, burger, bun–in separate stages) and didn’t deliver my pickle until later. Maybe it was already cold by the time they got it home. Maybe–and this is the option I’d like to consider last–they didn’t get fast food that night at all, and what Clyde put in my hand wasn’t even a pickle. No–it had to be a pickle. Didn’t it?

Those of you without children must be wondering what kind of person would eat an unknown substance delivered by a questionable source (after all, this is the same boy who sees no problem with eating a piece of pizza he found under his bed a week after we last ordered it). You might even assume that I just have one of those borderline thrill-seeking/reckless personalities, that I’m the type of person who, in high school, made “cocktails” by swiping a quarter inch of liquor from each bottle in the liquor cabinet and then mixing them all together, or who, in college, swallowed a whole bottle of unknown prescription medicine I found in my Grandmother’s basement “just to see what would happen.”

Those of you with children, however, will hopefully know the truth: that the same person who one day required a gallon of milk to be able to choke down a spoonful of peas can, seemingly the next day, blithely ingest substances of which the best thing even the most enthusiastic food reviewer could say is “that was probably a pickle.” This is because only those of you with children can understand how low, over time, your standards can become.

Of course, even if you don’t have children you can still think about all of the ways your formerly childless (and fun) friends have changed. Remember that guy who couldn’t even walk by dog poop without gagging? He’s now able to stick his hand all the way down a clogged toilet to retrieve a 79¢ toy car. And those people who prided themselves on being able to travel for months in foreign countries with only a small backpack between them? They now can’t even make it from the curb to the check-in counter without assistance.

The same goes for the person who once made a vow never to eat in any restaurant that had cloned itself all over the world. She now lives in a house with a happy meal toy collection rivaling the Smithsonian’s (if they have one). She has also been known to sometimes wake up with a pickle in her hand. At least, she hopes it is a pickle.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive

Macarena Monkey

When my daughter, Clementine, was a baby, her grandmother sent her an ugly little stuffed gorilla. Not content with just being ugly, this gorilla also sang “The Macarena.” (And you thought that the kiss of death for that song was delivered in 1996 when Al Gore danced to it at the Olympics. It just goes to show you that, no matter how low something or someone has gone, it is always possible to break out the shovel and go a little bit lower. Case in point: O.J.)

Not that this particular toy could go much lower itself: not only was it ugly and stuck with one of the World’s Most Annoying Songs (top honors for that still go to “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me”); but, for some reason it also stank like it had been dipped into a vat of kerosene. (It was this, together with the fact that it had been purchased at a truck stop, that made me suspect that the original purpose of “The Macarena Monkey” had been as the cover cargo for a shipment of Columbian cocaine. Yes, I believe that the monkey was a mule.)

By now you’re probably wondering why, if the Macarena Monkey was so ugly, grating, and above all smelly, did we keep it. The most obvious answer to that question is that it was a Grandma present, and you are statutorily required to keep all presents from mothers and grandmothers for at least one full calendar year, but the truth is that we kept it because of Clementine. Not because she loved it, mind you, but because she was terrified of it: the first few “hey-na-na-na-na’s” alone were enough to send her whimpering out of the room. This meant that the monkey was finally able to do what we never could: scare her straight.

Before the monkey, we were powerless over Clementine’s recalcitrance: if we told her to stay away from the wood stove, she made a beeline for it; if we told her to leave the outlets alone, she picked up a fork; and if we warned her away from the toilet bowl cleaner, she went to get her sippy cup. With the advent of the Macarena Monkey, however, she was suddenly biddable. All we had to do was hide the monkey behind the stove or underneath the sink (wherever she had been forbidden from), and then wait for the inevitable disobedience: as soon as she got near enough, the (motion-activated) monkey would, like some all-seeing emissary of divine judgement, launch into his song, sending Clementine scuttling away in terrified compliance. It was great. (Although, in retrospect, I wonder if her current disdain for anything even remotely associated with cleaning can be traced to some “toilet bowl cleaner aversion therapy” that went a bit too far).

Eventually, of course, the Macarena Monkey went the way of all flesh (and plush), and we had to come up with other, less successful methods for securing her compliance. Many is the time that I have mourned the loss of the monkey; in fact, I was beginning to doubt whether we would ever find its equal, when recently I realized that the replacement has been right under my nose for five years. He doesn’t smell quite as bad (at least not usually), and as of yet Al Gore has not danced to one of his songs, but the look of horror on Clementine’s face when she watches her five year-old brother, Clyde, dance naked across the living room is the spitting image of her long ago look of terror while watching the Monkey. Now if I could only find some way to make his image appear every time she left her bed unmade or tried to sneak a popsicle out of the kitchen, all my problems would be solved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive


If she weren’t a fictional character, I might think that both of my children had once been Scarlett O’ Hara in their former lives. Remember that scene where Scarlett, fresh from escaping the burning of Atlanta, returns home only to find that her beloved Tara is merely a shell of its former, glorious self? And remember how, after being told that the only thing left to eat was raw turnips, she goes out into the field, digs up a turnip, and, clutching it in her fist, declares to the heavens: “As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again!”? Well, substitute, “walking home from school” for “escaping the burning of Atlanta”;“granola bar with icky raisins” for “raw, dirt-covered turnip”; and “standing in front of the kitchen cabinet and whining” for “digs it up” and it would be like Scarlett O’Hara and my children were twins. Or triplets. Whatever.

The point is, that, for reasons I have yet to fathom (and therefore must have something to do with fictional Civil War-era heroines), my children can conceive of no greater threat to their happiness than the prospect of being hungry. This is despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, they have never actually even been peckish, let alone really hungry: in fact, any time they have ever gotten even remotely close to it (say, on the trip from the living room to the kitchen), they have been saved by the quick intervention and application of one of the approximately 7.3 million “snacks” we have on hand in car, house, and/or backpack at all times, upon which they fall ravenously like a lion on its prey.

Of course, by “fall ravenously” I mean “take two bites”; after that the over-packaged, over-priced piece of advertising masquerading as a few calories is tossed unceremoniously into the trash, at which point another attack of “hunger” pains drives them to the cabinets once again. In terms of frequency, only hobbits could possibly eat more often than they do, but when it comes to quantity the analogy is closer to a hummingbird. Regardless, however, of which analogy is more apt–hummer or hobbit–the truth is that, despite whines to the contrary, I highly doubt whether true hunger is something that they have ever actually experienced.

This is a great tragedy: to my mind, there are few things that are quite as delightful as drinking when you are thirsty, sleeping when you are tired, and eating when you are hungry. Not only that, but there is nothing like hunger to bring out the master chef in us all: without hunger (and poverty), how else would we have ever learned that ramen noodles can be “cooked” using nothing but lukewarm tapwater, or that Bacos and catsup on a Saltine can be a fine substitute for a BLT?

Sadly though, this may be something my children will never know; how could they, with all the juice boxes, “snack size” cracker packets and “fruit chews” (a barely disguised naked jellybean) that are always at their command? These are people who, twenty minutes before Thanksgiving dinner is put on the table, will scrounge around in the back of the refrigerator for a yogurt; who pack a snack for a two block walk to park; who ask “what’s for lunch?” at 7 o’clock in the morning and “what’s for dinner?” at 3 o’clock in the afternoon; who think that a thirty minute soccer game (of which they played all of ten) must be followed by twenty minutes of “snack.” These are people for hunger, as it were, has never even really been on the menu.

Come to think of it, I take back what I said about Scarlett O’Hara; after all, her catchphrase was “tomorrow is another day”; for my children, it’s more like “tomorrow is another buffet.”

Leave a Comment

Filed under Articles Archive