Karate Kid

13 Feb

My daughter started taking karate about 4 or 5 months ago. The class meets once a week at the local community center and, as karate instruction goes, it’s kind of low key. It’s nothing like I remember. When I took karate as a kid it was terrifying; the instructors were strict and the practice was extremely regimented. Everything was very serious. There were tons of rules to remember, which to my kid brain translated into a gazillion different ways to screw things up. I swear I felt like I was going to throw up every time I went.

For better or worse, this place isn’t like that. My daughter’s sensei is a second grade teacher who offers the class in the evenings and I think that comes through in his style.

The students, mostly 9-12 year olds and a few teenagers, do have to bow in and out of the dojo, they do use some Japanese in the class, and they do have actual belt rankings, but otherwise, they fly pretty fast and loose. The sensei keeps it casual.

Except when he doesn’t.

Like a few weeks ago when a guest sensei was visiting from a nearby Jujitsu dojo. Halfway through he announced that after the bathroom break (I don’t remember ever getting bathroom breaks either) they would be working on defense against  a knife attack.

Hmm, I thought. Now I’m interested.

When the kids came back the Jujitsu guy began explaining the basics of knife fighting. But the younger ones were tired and fidgety and weren’t paying as much attention as they should’ve. So he raised his voice and told them that this is real; that he’s been shot, he’s been stabbed, he’s been attacked by three guys at once, and these are the kinds of skills that saved him. (And I couldn’t help thinking how chicks love guys with sweet nunchuk skills).

But this guy was for real, and you’d know it if you saw him. I’m just not sure he had the right audience.

So he passed out the rubber knives and finally he had their attention. Duh. His first lesson was “to try and get away from the knife. Absolutely. But if you can’t, go ahead and grab the blade.”

I’m sorry, what?

Every mother in the room raised her eyebrows at the same time, like we were doing some kind of choreographed number.

And then he demonstrated with a partner. “If you’re fighting for your life you grab the blade,” he said, grabbing the rubber knife, “then you slit the throat.” And he flipped the fake knife around and ran the blade edge against his partner’s throat. “You grab the blade. And slit the throat.”

Wow. Really? That’s maybe a little much for nine year olds. But he had their undivided attention. The whole room was silent, staring wide-eyed at his demo.

Me? I was living the Rex Kwon Do dream: Take a look at what I’m wearing, people. You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys? Do you?

Then last week the regular sensei was impressing upon the kids the importance of practice. How repetition will not only help them learn the moves in their mind, but also in their body. So that when it really counts it will be automatic and they can rely on muscle memory.

But most of these kids don’t care, they’re not training for when it really counts, they just want to spar and fool around.

His voice deepened and he said, “What are you going to do in the ring? What are you going to do in the STREET?”

I looked up and found the little boy in front of me standing on his toes so he could get a better angle at the wedgie he was vigorously digging out of his rear. And then he shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno.”

Yeah, me either. Our crane kick may not be ready for Johnny and the guys from Cobra Kai. Just a hunch.


People of Vacation

7 Feb

You see some pretty fun stuff when you travel, especially at the airport. It’s a great place for my favorite game: People Watching.

There are the schlep rocks who can’t be bothered to get out of their pajama pants and slippers, as if the airport is just one more stop on their international sleepover. Thanks for making the effort, guys.

And once in awhile you get the glamour girls, who somehow manage to look perfect, sitting on that uncomfortable black plastic chair like they’re headed to a last minute shoot in Milan. You have to admire the commitment it takes to decide on the 5-inch stripper heels when  you’re going to be spending the day walking through an airport. Mad props.

And of course there are the rest of us, trudging from security to gate (still wrestling with our belts and shoes) to baggage claim in jeans, sweatshirts, sneakers and flats.

But aside from the regular stuff, I noticed a few things in the last two weeks that made me sit up and notice; things that really made me stop what I was doing and scratch my head.

Kind of like People of Walmart for vacation.

I know this one may be controversial, but here goes. Ladies, if you’re planning on having your boyfriend or husband carry your bag, do everyone a favor (especially him) and take one that’s plain, or at least simply decorated. For God’s sake, please leave the man some dignity and do not expect him to carry a fluffy duffel covered in cute little chickens and roosters. I wish I had a picture of this one, because I saw it happen. That poor man, rushing through the airport with his wife, his slumped shoulders loaded down with three quilted, hand-made rooster bags. It was not cute.

And I’m sorry to say, but Vera Bradley bags are out too. Nope. I can hear you groaning from here but I’m with the men on this one. If you’re going to make him carry it like a shackled beast of burden (which is perfectly acceptable) then it should at least be gender neutral. Ask him. Look him in the face and say, “Hunny, do you mind carrying my pink paisley bag?”

Of course he said no, you’re married. That question is second cousins to: “Hunny, do these jeans make me look fat?”

Come on, people! Really? I know I don’t want to see grown ass men strolling through the airport with bags covered in cute puppy dog applique. It’s a little pathetic and smacks of desperation. I don’t want my husband looking like that, no matter how much I like my bag.

Exception: If you are a grown ass man carrying your own frilly bag with cute little appliques, go on with your bad self. Like Emily Litella said, “That’s different. Nevermind.”

This one is pretty simple, and also something I discovered at the airport. We were probably more disposed to it in Hawaii, flying between islands where the Freebird, Dirtbag Surfer lifestyle is more prevalent, but still. When I can smell you and your family, as in your reeking BO is crawling around the plane on legs of its own, growling at everyone, then your organic, whole wheat, alternative lifestyle has crossed into my world. Now your perfectly acceptable choice has become an intrusion; call it an invasion of my sinuses if you want. Take a shower or stay on the compound.


This one I caught out of the corner of my eye as we were heading to dinner one night. Yep. That’s matching hawaiian print. I get it. You’re all worked up about being in Hawaii. Maybe it’s even your honeymoon. Good for you. But take a deep breath; your souls have been joined for eternity, not your closets. Here’s the thing. Matching outfits don’t work for a family headed to the amusement park, they don’t work when it’s day-glo safety orange golf shirts on the 4th of July (you know who you are) and it still doesn’t work on your honeymoon in Hawaii. Sorry.

Exceptions: If you are in 2nd grade and planning a matching outfit with your best friend. Maybe.


Different island, different resort. Same bad choice. Actually, in this case, the old man pulls it off. But I’m presenting it as an example of what not to do. Wearing pastel pink slacks with socks to match (obviously purchased together) is not a wardrobe decision to be taken lightly. Most men will never make it work.





Exceptions: If you are the original Brooks Brothers Playboy, Thurston Howell III or Evan R. Lawson (CFO of HankMed) from USA’s show, Royal Pains.

Come on, you know this is what iPhones are for.

Ship of Fools

30 Jan

When my husband announced that he had a two week business trip to Hawaii, I was thrilled to tag along. I’ve been to Hawaii twice before and sometimes the flight attendants are, well, not great. Mostly they’re just indifferent, but once we had one that completely lost her shit as we were coming in for a landing. It was a little turbulent (nothing major, even for me) and she came over the intercom, her voice shaky, with this little gem:

“Sit down people! This is serious! We’re over water here!” Not exactly a confidence booster for those of us with flying anxiety.

But this time was different. It was wonderful all around. We landed, picked up our car and headed to the resort. As we walked in I was pleased; big open spaces, bright clean rooms, and right on the beach. You could hear the ocean lapping against the sand as we checked in. Nice place.

So when the pretty girl behind the desk told us, with a smile, that sadly the beaches were closed due to medical waste spilling into the ocean after a heavy rainfall had caused the nearby landfill to overflow, I was kind of incredulous. A landfill had leaked medical waste? Into the ocean? Is that all? Couldn’t you throw some anthrax and dead bodies in too?

Fair enough, maybe “medical waste” was code for dead bodies.

That was, as they say, my first sign. But we rolled with it. Like we had any choice.

Coupled with the ongoing construction at the neighboring resort (which I discovered the next morning), I should’ve seen something ugly coming. But what can I say? I just didn’t.

I forgot to mention that just after the medical waste bombshell, the pretty girl behind the counter also told us that a few miles down the beach was where The Black Pearl was anchored. As in, Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl. This was a handful of shocking information. First the poisoned ocean and now this? She assured me it was the real deal and said I could even get close enough for great pictures.

I admit I was doubtful. I mean, any jackwad could say some ship was the Black Pearl, especially if they wanted to give their resort full of disgruntled vacationers something to think about other than the toxic tide that so gently caressed their beaches. It wouldn’t even be the first time. Boy, 12, exposes touring Pirates of the Caribbean ship as a fake | Mail Online.

But it had to be somewhere, right? Why not two miles down the beach from me and my contaminated paradise?

And so between fun dinners and Mai Tais, I kept thinking about it. Wondering. It couldn’t be the real one, could it? Jack Sparrow’s Pearl has got to be locked in some Hollywood warehouse. I’m probably closer to it in California than I am here. But then I thought, what if it really is the Pearl? I don’t want to miss it.

Or do I? What if it sucks? What if it’s like watching Little Big Man as an adult and finding out that it’s just not as good as when you were twelve? Some things are better left alone. So for three days I did nothing.

But today, after wondering just how long it would take for daily lunches of spring rolls and Hawaiian margaritas (which are delicious) to catch up with me, I decided to go for a walk. It was time to find the Pearl.

I passed the first lagoon, and then another, both speckled with sad travelers lounging in the grass, carefully avoiding the lethal sand and water. After the fourth lagoon (there were only three listed on the map) I began to wonder how long the island really was, and if perhaps the pretty girl behind the counter had played the mother of all jokes on me:

Two weeks lost in the jungle, doing nothing but eating papaya-spiked rat and wiping your ass with banana leaves will teach you to make faces when I tell you the beach is closed. Like I can help it! You know how much they pay me to stand here and tell you people this? Do you? Mahalo.

But just as I decided I should either turn around (always the smart move) or go head first into the Stephen King novel that awaited me, I saw the masts of some boats ahead, rocking slowly in the safety of the harbor. Aha! The Pearl must be up ahead.

I followed the path for another half mile or so, knowing I was close. I could see the end of the island, the way the land curved with nothing but the Pacific beyond. If she was really there, it was now or never.

Unfortunately, she was there. Or some jacked-up skeleton of a ship that looked kind of like the Black Pearl. You know, like I kind of look like Angelina Jolie. Ok, the crappy remnants of the ship is closer, but you know what I mean.

By the time I got back to the resort I knew it wasn’t real. No way. It just couldn’t be.

The Black Pearl is forever shrouded in mystery; her tattered black sails eternally crossing the wide open blue with darkness as her only companion (except for Jack Sparrow). Theirs is a pirate’s destiny, filled with saucy wenches and plundered booty, death-defying adventures and fantastical intrigue. They ask, “But why is the rum gone?” and look longingly into the vastness of the horizon as they sing, “…and really bad eggs, drink up me hearties, yo ho!”

What it isn’t about is being tied up in Hawaii next to a desalination plant.

Just sayin’. Some things are better left alone.

Intrepid Resentment

15 Jan

When we moved to California my daughter inherited the spare room next to her new bedroom. She was in fourth grade, and it became her playroom. The walls were quickly covered with her drawings; fashion designs she’d come up with and fantasy characters for stories she was working on. There were dollhouses and Barbies, Beanie Babies and Polly Pockets. The whole room was full of old art supplies and tons of projects (if Crayola made it, we owned it) and everything else that she just couldn’t stand to part with. Including her two smelly guinea pigs.

In the middle of sixth grade she got a sewing machine for Christmas. The fantasy art in the playroom came down, the Beanie Babies went to a younger neighbor girl and the room previously known as “the playroom” became “the sewing room.” (God Mom, “playroom” sounds so babyish).

Project Runway was a constant favorite at our house during that time and fashion design ruled. Out went the stuffed animals and Barbies (unless they were sporting home-made, original duct tape fashions) and in went the life-sized mannequin, piles of fabric and a sewing table. For awhile you couldn’t walk barefoot in there without taking a pin or a needle inch deep in the foot.

And we lost the guinea pigs. As in, to a sudden illness, not to the clutter. The spare room was growing up, just like my daughter.

She’s almost a freshman now and right on schedule, the spare room has undergone another transformation. In the last few weeks it has become “the music room.” And by that I don’t mean a room where we sit quietly after dinner and play music, I mean a room where music is made. Where ROCK is king.

My daughter is now in a band. Her and four other girls have been meeting here and practicing, for hours, ever since Christmas. They’re called Intrepid Resentment, and I think I’m a groupie.

I have to admit that the first time she asked if she could have band practice upstairs, I wasn’t too excited. I’m not usually good with chaos. Especially when it’s loud. But I didn’t feel right telling her no just because it would be annoying. So I gave them a shot.

And I’m glad I did. Yes, they’re loud and out of tune and they don’t really know what they’re doing yet, but there’s something so, I don’t know, so fourteen about the whole thing that I just can’t help but smile. They show up every Saturday around 11 am and hang out upstairs. They wail on the keyboards, drums and guitars for awhile, then wander down and politely ask for a snack. (Don’t tell anyone, it wouldn’t do much for their angry, punk image).

They love Green Day, Evanescence, Bowling for Soup and the Smashing Pumpkins. And I love them. Not just because my husband and I get to call them awesome things like, “Intolerable Resistance” and “Insipid Reluctance” (which is beyond fun), but because all of the discordant “music” that fills the house on Rock Saturday is accented by so much laughter. I truly, absolutely and completely unexpectedly look forward to the band showing up on the weekend.

And so, after almost 40 years, I’m finally fulfilling my dream of running with a band. Funny how life works out. Anyway, duty calls. It’s almost lunch time and I think there’s a sack of sandwiches at Subway with Intrepid Resentment stamped on the side.

Woody and Buzz

5 Jan

My family and I spent the Christmas holiday back home in Pennsylvania, visiting friends and family. It was great. To me, you just can’t beat the country at Christmas time. I mean, where else can you drive down the road and cross paths with a snowmobile as it cruises from one cornfield to the next? Don’t worry, the Dad was driving, the kid on the back was holding on with both hands (his eyes almost as huge as the grin he was wearing) and the baby was right up front. Ya’ know, so it’s safe.

In ten days we did it all. We packed in a marathon of craft mania (we decorated hundreds of handmade cinnamon ornaments and baked what seemed like 25,000 dozen sugar cookies), threw a cocktail party, had a fantastic lunch where we introduced my in-laws to the undeniable joy of Sonic’s chili cheese tots, and witnessed a mildly heated debate between my mother and my teenager on “the myth of the virgin birth.”

Don’t ask.

Not to mention a snow storm that had us marooned for a day, the gift exchanging, the drinking, or the ridiculous amounts of food. One day I actually had ham salad on wonder bread for lunch. Real ham salad on real wonder bread. I didn’t even know you could buy wonder bread anymore. It was absolutely awesome.

But of course, beyond all of that, the moments with our families are what stand out. And as I’ve begun to get back into my routine in California, that’s what I chat about with friends and acquaintances.

For example, just yesterday the women in my pilates class were talking about their holidays, about the gifts they’d given and received. Between sets of crunches one woman said her grand daughter had been thrilled to finally get an iPhone. After the leg lift series another one said her father had surprised everyone in her family with a cruise.

Everyone was laughing, enjoying the conversation, slowly easing into our workout. I smiled and shared that just before class I’d gotten a text from my brother, saying that the gift I’d given his three year old son had been seeing lots of action. I beamed with pride. Apparently it was a big hit. The room was quiet, full of smiling ladies, their heads filled with pictures and memories of happy little boys as they waited to hear what the special gift had been. I sat up and said, “Yeah, I gave him a Woody.”

Yep. That’s what I said.

Of course I meant that I’d given him the Woody action figure from Disney’s Toy Story. Because I did. He’s nuts for Toy Story stuff. But that’s not what it sounded like I’d given him.

Well, hell. If this doesn’t lock in my position as the cool aunt, I don’t know what will. Anyway, maybe I should’ve skipped the Woody and just told them about the Buzz I gave him.

Joys of the Season

13 Dec

So it’s late December, almost Christmas. By now your house is decorated for the season; every roof peak and gutter dripping with bright, blinking lights, your yard a plethora of expensive, inflatable joy. Shortly after Thanksgiving you probably bundled against the crisp air and spent all weekend building your masterpiece. I bet you arranged that herd of reindeer and anchored that blow-up Santa with pride.  And as you worked, did you imagine what everyone would think? How the neighbors would look out from their frosted windows and smile, nodding their heads in approval as they sipped their steaming mugs of cocoa, quietly admiring your spirit of the season?

Don’t bet on it.

Last week I heard a story that was so off-the-chart awesome I had to share.

A guy called in to one of our local radio stations, during their segment called, “Wake Up Call confessions,” and laid out a scene so disturbing it was like Heart of Darkness, the Christmas special.

Apparently his wife has a problem with inflatable Christmas decorations. She thinks they’re a seasonal plague, that they’re cheap-looking and stupid. According to him, she absolutely hates them with the searing white-hot intensity of a thousand angry suns, and every year is forced to deal with a huge display right across the street in their neighbor’s yard. She wakes up every morning to all of it; the puffy Santa, a herd of swaying reindeer, giant snow globes, blow-up snowmen, you name it. If it’s inflatable and has to do with Christmas, their neighbor and his kids have it jammed in their front yard.

This year she decided she had suffered enough. And over the last couple weeks she slowly convinced her husband to deal with it, that if he really loved her he would take care of it. You know, like get the whole lot of them fitted for big inflatable cement shoes or something.

And in no time he found himself nodding, agreeing to her bah-humbug demands. He gave it some thought and came up with a plan.

One day after work he went to the store and came home with a few inflatable decorations of his own. He took care and set them up in his front yard that night, staking them and, I imagine, waved across the street with a smile as evening slowly set and the young neighbor kids played for the last time with their inflatable friends. Did the children see the man’s wife, smiling from inside the window, her eyes gleaming with joy? We may never know.

What we do know, according to the confession, is what happened next. He waited. For two long days he and his wife quietly anticipated revenge, anxiously biding their time.

Finally, the time had come. He set his alarm and woke in the dark of night. He dressed all in black, covered his face with a ski mask and grabbed the biggest butcher knife he could find. He snuck into his own yard, quickly dispatched his newly purchased inflatables and then crept across the street.

With his heart filled with love, making a Merry Christmas for his beloved wife, he stabbed each and every one of his neighbor’s blow up decorations. He slashed in the darkness until they were all dead; nothing but sad and limp pieces of crumpled plastic joy.

Did his wife wake in the middle of the night, alarmed by the empty spot in their bed? Did she then smile, breathing deep and snuggling down into her warm covers, knowing her husband was about the business of their sweet revenge? Again, we may never know.

What we do know is that the very next morning, she wasted no time playing her part. As the husband backed out of the driveway, leaving for work, he saw his wife on the neighbor’s front porch. She was talking to the mother of the young kids, commiserating about the shameful vandalism that had gone on the night before.

As he drove by, he saw his lovely wife point to their own yard and shake her head, indicating they had been victimized too. He smiled. Right about now she would be convincing the woman that big, inflatable decorations like these were just too much of a risk, what with the state of the world these days. And, of course, he knew how convincing she could be.

She would look her neighbor in the eye, her face full of understanding, and say something like, “You never know. It’s a shame, but you just can’t trust people.”

And she would be right.

Pretty sick, huh? I know. You can’t make this stuff up. For the full confession, check out: Confession – Grinch Who Slashed Santa | KDND 107.9 The End

Harry Plodder and the Deathly Wallows, Part Suck

4 Dec

Fair Warning: I am about to discuss and/or eviscerate plot points of the latest (and needlessly never ending) Harry Potter movie, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to save this post until after you have. Or, better yet, consider yourself lucky and just skip to the end where I sum up the whole stinking turd in three sentences.

Having said that, I want to be clear. I am a huge Harry Potter fan.
That’s me, about 10 years ago, completely geeked out as Harry. I was so in love with the books that I dressed up as the little wizard for Halloween. I pulled together a costume, complete with home-made cape and a Nimbus 2000, way before every kid on the block was wearing a pair of round spectacles and sporting a lightning shaped scar on his forehead, too.

Which is exactly why this movie is such a colossal disappointment. I wait for years in between these movies, longing for the next installment of one of the best series of all time to come to life on the big screen. To watch Harry fly around the fantastical landscape (complete with dragons and Whomping Willows) on his broom and see how he and Ron and Hermione will ultimately defeat Voldemort (oops, I mean He Who Must Not Be Named). And so for months and months I anticipate, eagerly waiting for that glorious 2-3 hours when I’m back at Hogwarts, or at The Burrow, caught up in whatever magical misadventure those crazy kids are up to this year. (What can I say, a childhood of Scooby-Doo won’t allow me to think of it any other way).

But what did I get this time? Two and a half hours of whining and drudgery; of the three of them camping in at least 15 different locations, bitching at each other like they’re starring in an episode of The Bickersons. The best part of the whole thing is the animated depiction of the legend of the Deathly Hallows. It takes less than ten minutes. Seriously.

To make it all worse, throughout the endless camping, (where most of the time the three of them stand around with deep, intense faces, wallowing and saying things like, “What are we going to do?”) Ron, Harry and Hermione have to share the burden of a horcrux, which in this case is a necklace, I think. I could be wrong though, I started to black out a bit from boredom. Wearing the necklace (which once belonged to Salazar Slytherin) makes them feel mean and hateful, and so they lash out at each other. Hmmmm, if only I had some experience with a super-powerful magical object (worn as a necklace) that had this effect on those who possess it. Maybe Frodo and the ring should’ve just made a cameo; he and Sam could’ve drug Gollum through one of the umpteen campsites or something. At least that I could’ve respected.

The whole thing is just too long. When asked about splitting the last book into two movies, director David Yates said he “believes fans will appreciate the bifurcated approach because it means fewer bits of the book will be left on the cutting-room floor.” Deathly Hallows Director Makes Harry Potter Films for Grown-Ups | Underwire | Wired.com.

He was wrong.

Yates goes on to characterize Deathly Hallows, Part 1 as “intimate.” I think the word he was actually looking for is boring. In the end, it’s just a lack of action that kills it. The characters’ tedious self-reflection and lack of direction is mind numbing.

To borrow a phrase from my daughter, the entire movie is an epic fail. The whole thing could’ve been handled in about 20 minutes:

Dumbledore is dead. War is coming. Find the Horcruxes or all is lost.

Okay, I lied. Maybe 10 minutes. But when you factor in all of the bitching, moaning and angst caused by wearing Slytherin’s enchanted locket, it might take the full 20 minutes.