Panorama of San Bernardino

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On meeting David Sedaris and other celebrity interactions

I have had bad luck with meeting celebrities.  One of two things happen.  I go all Lucille Ball on them and become a blithering mess and embarrass myself. Or, I shut down like a human clam and say nothing and stare at them in awed silence.

Last night when I met David Sedairs, the latter occurred and I became a mute.  After his show in Rancho Mirage, I grabbed a spot in the book signing line while my sister Jackie bought our books.  Jackie went first and David talked to her like an old friend admiring her shawl and talking with her about her experience with teenagers as a Special Ed teacher.  Jackie told him her students loved the audio book of "Catcher in the Rye" read by J.D. Salinger himself.  "That exists?" David said in a sweet whisper as he brought out a little notebook and wrote something down.

Jackie introduced me in the only way she knows how, "This is my twin."  David smiled and I choked.  Words caught in my throat.

I didn't tell David how hard his stories made me laugh or that I started writing memoir after reading one of his books.  I also didn't tell him that I describe my memoir as the book that would result if David Sedaris and Judy Blume had a book baby.  I didn't make him chuckle or even notice me.

When signing his book for me ("holidays on ice"), David took out a marker and started drawing a candy cane in red.  I mumbled "candy cane...Santa land", an admittedly confusing reference to his famous story called the SantaLand Diaries which details his experiences working as a Christmas elf at Macy's.  David paid me no mind.

About five years ago, I met another of my idols, George Stephanopoulos, at a corporate law event.  That time, I drank too much and tried too hard and freaked him out by telling him we had coffee together every Sunday morning.  I thought it was funny because "This Week" comes on at 8 a.m. every Sunday.  From the look on his face in our picture together and the fact that he is pulling away from me, he must have thought I was his celebrity stalker.  Which is a ridiculous assumption because if I was gonna stalk anyone, it would be Morrissey (who is number one on my must meet list).

Something similar happened with Mr. T at a party in Vegas in the 1990's. When I saw Mr. T, I started jumping up and down clapping my hands singing "There's Mr. T".

To me, Mr. T is a 1980's icon.  As a child, I loved watching "The A Team" and Mr. T is in my favorite episode of Different Strokes.  

To show my appreciation, I followed Mr. T around the party repeating, "I pity the fool" which I am sure he had heard before but cut me a break, it was an all you can drink of premium liquor kind of party.  I took picture after picture with Mr. T and after a while, he suggested in a gentle voice that I stop pestering him.  I stumbled back to Adrian who was looking on in horror and rubbing his temples.

And, due to my top shelf drunkenness (in those days my favored drink was a B52 on the rocks, a sweet mix of Grand Marnier, Vodka and Bailey's), I lost my camera with all of my pictures of myself and Mr. T.

Which is worse: embarrassing yourself in a memorable manner or not saying anything at all?

I no longer drink so maybe what shut me up with David Sedaris was the lack of my magic elixir.  I suppose I will have to get used to it and get some real balls.

And if I ever meet another of my writing heroes, I plan on telling them just how much they move me in no uncertain terms.  I am a writer too after all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been a stressful day for me.  Growing up, holidays always seemed to end badly.  I would wake up on Thanksgiving with a sick feeling in my stomach waiting for the usual bomb to drop.

Something bad always happened.  My parents fought, my sisters and I fought with each other or with my parents, things were thrown, cuss words were used and someone ended up crying in the bathroom.  Those fighting type holidays are ingrained in me and the memories of those times is difficult to forget and too easy to perpetuate.

Until recently, I would try and sabotage my holidays by baiting Adrian to fight with me.  My modus operandi was to scream and yell over anything, usually something petty.  Adrian, who has taken twenty years of this foolishness, ignores it.  If fighting was the soundtrack of my childhood holidays, then the soundtrack of my holidays with Adrian have been more of an instrumental (at least on his part).

My family and I have had mixed results with holidays as adults.  Last year, Annie threw my twin sister Jackie and I a birthday party which was almost ruined when Jackie and I fought over what time she would arrive to help set up.  Jackie and I screamed at each other as my mom paced and swore to herself in the front yard.  Annie was crying and upset.  Jackie and I resolved it within an hour, but the fight seemed to cast a shadow over the day that was all too familiar.

Last year, our Christmas Eve celebration seemed different.  In a Mantz family first, no one fought, screamed or yelled.  It was liberating to start a new holiday tradition of peace and goodwill toward one another.

This Thanksgiving, Adrian and I are taking a break from hosting.  I met my sister Jackie for breakfast this morning.  Jackie was sad that we are not spending Thanksgiving together this year which she expressed to me.  Then she told me in a sweet voice how nice it was to have breakfast together.  I stopped myself from saying something sarcastic because I knew she meant it.  Sincerely.

And she had that same earnest look in her eyes that she always had when we were little.  Looking at her face, I felt a stirring in my chest.  It was the same kind of feeling that the Christmas Grinch must have felt when his heart started to melt.

Today I am giving thanks for my family and the goodwill we have tried hard to create with one another.  The ice is thawing and I am hopeful for the future.  I love you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Game Time

From a young age, Dad taught us all the card games you can imagine (and some you have probably never heard of).  His favorites were rummy, canasta (and double deck canasta), big casino/little casino and others.  Dad was a very good teacher and patiently explained the rules.  He would always say after his explanation, "Just play, you can learn as you go along."

Our family ritual was the weekly rummy game with my Dad and my two sisters.  It was usually on a Friday night because the game would go late.  Rummy is played for points and our games would get up to the thousands and last multiple nights.  The older I got, the more I noticed how the winning point cutoff depended on how Dad was faring point wise.

For those of you who don't know, a "rummy" is when a player discards a playable card.  If one of us girls committed such a grievous error, Dad would be waiting to pounce.  He would slap his hand down on the table and bellow, "Rummy!” My sisters and I would jump out of our chairs at the kitchen table.

Sometimes, we would have to stop because one of us would be yawning at the table.  Other times, Mom would get home from waiting tables around ten or eleven and we would still be playing.

"Time to stop girls.  I am gonna make your mom something to eat," Dad would say.  My sisters and I would groan, but Dad would pick up the scoresheet and put it in the drawer saving it for the next game night.

The memories of our card nights are so palatable and real that I can almost imagine myself there.  I have no patience and it amazes me to think that Dad enjoyed spending his nights playing card games with his three little girls.  I don't remember any annoyance or weariness around us during the card games.

There is no idealization here.  If he could have, I know Dad probably would have been at the bar with his friends sitting on a bar stool, his glass waving in the air.  But, Mom had to work and Dad always came home to watch us.

Is that what love is?  Because when I think of those card games, that's the feeling I get.  Dad, my sisters and I, the kitchen table, and a feeling of safety and warmth.

Yes, that is love.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Road Trip

Today I have an appointment regarding my fertility.  A forty something professional woman trying to get pregnant is a cliche I know, but here I am.

We waited too long to try and maybe the time has passed.  "Those are negative thoughts, you have to think positive," my younger sister Annie told me when I expressed such feelings to her.  "Read Joyce Myers," she counseled.  She has kids and seems to think I can will it into reality.

There are so many things I want to do in the next year.  I would love to finish my book.  I will finish my book.  It will be published and be a huge success.  I can picture the book party.  I am standing up reading before a large group of people and barely shaking at all.  The Smiths are playing in the background.  Adrian, my sisters and my mom are in the front row.  The initial reviews for my book are splendid.

Why can I picture the book but not picture myself pregnant?  Is it because I have less control over getting pregnant other than just trying (and we've been trying)?  Or is it because I don't want to be disappointed?

I have written about this issue before but until now it was always theoretical.  Now that I have followed through and finally made an appointment, it feels real and scarier.

What if they tell me it is an impossibility?  What will I do?  Buy another shih-tzu?  Adopt?  Cry?

It seems as if all I have are questions and no answers.  And, as much as I want to sleep away the appointment, like I slept away my senior year of high school, I am getting out of bed, pulling on some clothes and getting in my car to drive to the appointment.

I will just wait and see what happens.  If life is all about the journey then I am ready.

Hopefully, I don't run out of gas.