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bleating hearts

In my ongoing quest for inner peace — because the outside world is so not peaceful — I’ve found something new. Baby goats. Sure, puppies and kittens are undeniably adorable, but baby goats have their own personality.  Sweet and mischievous, these pint-size pickpockets will eat anything they can get their teeth on, including cash, your driver’s license, or any other kind of paper you’ve got on you. I have no data on what they think of cell phones, but let’s assume that everything is fair game.

Our most recent baby-goat adventure occurred when we stayed up in the hills above Santa Barbara. The property had two baby goats that we visited every morning. Who can stay stressed when greeted by the “where have you been?” bleat-bleat followed by the “no, don’t leave me” bleats when it’s time to move on with the day. The smaller goat was a girl with green eyes; the larger, a boy with blue eyes. They loved our company — or maybe it was the pats and the hay — and we loved their baby-goat vibe.

Victoria, British Columbia (one of our favorite places on the planet), offers a baby-goat stampede. The city’s gorgeous Beacon Hill Park has a petting zoo, and, just before the zoo closes for the evening, all of the baby goats, after having spent the day outdoors enjoying the attention of tons of little kids, are led out of their area and into their overnight accommodations. But “led out” is tame; at the signal, the gate is opened and a crowd of baby goats tears down the pathway, lined on both sides by spectators, and into the barn. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen (and way calmer than Pamplona, even with all the joyful bleating and tiny hoofbeats).

One more baby-goat experience. Maybe it’s because we live in LA, but goat yoga is really big out here (I have yet to try it). Watching baby goats wander through a yoga class, occasionally climbing on people’s backs or shoulders through Plank Pose and Downward-Facing Dog, Child Pose and Warrior Pose — it’s a combination of community, communication, and compassion between living things. The perfect dose of namaste, even from the sidelines.

Who knew that something as small and endearing as a baby goat could pack so much peace into an encounter? Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “get your goat.”

No kid-ding.

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

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i see london, i see france

If you listen to country music, you may know a song called Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off, about a woman who manages to lose pieces of her wardrobe (her shoes, an earring, her jacket, a contact lens) whenever she goes out with her friends and drinks tequila. I, alas, have no such excuse. It just so happens that my clothes fall off, too (most recently, at a not very opportune time and place).

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you may remember a post from several years ago (Slip Service) in which I described my slip falling off as I crossed a busy New York street. I thought I’d handled the situation quite well; in fact, I think Carrie Bradshaw or Audrey Hepburn would have been proud of the dignity, grace, and “c’est la vie” attitude with which I proceeded. Also, I was in my 20s and looking quite chic in my little black dress at the time.

Not so this past weekend. So not so.

We were spending the weekend away at a house rental and, as is our routine, were at the supermarket, stocking up on breakfast essentials (okay and snack essentials) when it happened. And not just any supermarket. This was a très upscale store where money is no object (although we objected); we were there because it was the nearest market to our rental. Also in store — picture-perfect, Lululemon-ed lovelies; Maserati-driving men mired in a mid-life moment; trust-fund babies for whom a black Amex card was the norm.

In the midst of all this wealthy fabulousness, we gathered our provisions. I had on my very favorite pair of shorts — boyfriend-style, black faded to soft grey, loose, and comfy (the better to enjoy snack essentials, aka chocolate chip cookies). As we perused the aisles, I reached up, up, up on my tiptoes to grab a bag of pita chips while holding a container of milk in the other hand. But (uh-oh) reaching up caused me to stretch, causing some of my curves to flatten (I’ve always said that I don’t need to lose weight, I just need to grow a couple of inches), causing my shorts to have just a little bit less to hang on to, causing a Lucy moment worthy of its own episode.

I started walking cautiously toward B. who was only half an aisle away and trying to decide between two kinds of tortilla chips.

“Honey!” I called out nervously.

“Mmmm?” he responded absently.

“HONEY!” This time I shouted, alarm in my voice.

“Wha-” he started to say, then turned and saw me, as I tried to save my shorts by crouching down. Too late.

That’s when my knight in shining armor took action. Dropping what he was holding, he dashed to my rescue in seconds, shielding me from view as much as possible while pulling up my shorts.

Fortunately, only a couple of people saw. One was a teenage stock boy whom B. insisted would now think of me as Mrs. Robinson (only if he’s seen The Graduate on Turner Classic Movies). The other was a very proper, violet-haired, elderly lady with rhinestone-trimmed eyeglasses whom I swear let out a giggle before composing herself.

As for me, I managed to hold my head high (and my shorts up) long enough to get through checkout and into the car.

Thanks to the advice of every mom everywhere, I had on clean underwear. Fail safe. And thanks to the advice of fashionistas everywhere, I now have a belt.

Fall safe.

 

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

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an affair to remember

For those of us who grew up Jewish in New York during the ’60s and ’70s, the word “affair” had two meanings.

The first — that illicit thing going on between the very married Mr. Goldfarb and the divorcée who had moved in next door. (Apparently she called on him whenever she needed her refrigerator defrosted. That is, until the Sisterhood at the synagogue took the matter into its own hands, buying her a blow dryer and buying him and his wife a weekend away in the Catskills, where, hopefully, a few hours of dirty dancing lessons à la Johnny Castle and Baby would defrost their marriage. It worked — Mr. Goldfarb never looked at the divorcée again. And she, it turns out, began an affair with the refrigerator repairman. Also married but, thankfully, not a member of the synagogue. Oy.)

The other meaning of “affair” was a wedding reception held in one of the region’s numerous cookie-cutter catering halls. In the days when “destination wedding” meant you had to drive to get to the event, these venues offered “fabulous” (read formulaic) wedding packages — ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, wedding cake — literally, everything from soup to nuts. To wit:

No sooner would the groom crush the glass to cries of “Mazel tov!” than guests joined the crush into the next room for a pre-dinner hour of tray-passed tidbits like cocktail franks, mini potato knishes, chopped liver on toast points, and “mock” shrimp canapés (the “mock” because Uncle Sol was kosher). Guests would mingle and boast about either their sons, the doctors, or their daughters, the beauties. (“My Melanie is getting her BA degree from Boston University, but, of course, she won’t be needing it because we hope she’ll have her MRS degree first!”) Keep in mind that this was a very different time. With a very different idea of what qualified as fine food.

Next, on to dinner in the ballroom, where each table was adorned with an impossible-to-see-over floral centerpiece (back then, more was more). And my favorite part: the bandleader (yes, there was always a band) would break the ice by asking for the oldest person at each table to stand (if they could — Great-Grandma Frieda was given a pass because she had arthritis in her knees). Each was then awarded that table’s centerpiece to take home. It happened every single time. At every single affair. And everyone always acted surprised.

There was a choice for dinner — usually prime rib, sole, or chicken (vegetarians didn’t exist back then). Each entrée was accompanied by “duchess potatoes” (do duchesses eat swirled mashed potatoes?) and stuffed derma (the latter being something you probably wouldn’t eat if you knew what it was — and no, I won’t tell you; trust me on this one).

As if all of that food wasn’t enough, there was dessert. Wedding cake, of course, but why stop there? It was time for the Viennese table, so called because it aspired to rival the legendary desserts of Vienna. (No, I am not making this up.) It was an enormous buffet of decadent desserts — cakes and pastries, parfaits and mousse, chocolate and more chocolate — with nary a piece of fresh fruit in sight. It was over indulgent and over the top — but everyone was over the moon about it.

That was the thing about those affairs. In traditional Jewish culture, food is love — and preparing, offering, and serving it is an expression of warmth and welcome.  From that very first little knish hors d’oeuvre to that last piece of seven-layer cake, these affairs were just that — a way to wrap everyone you knew in a big hug.

But not too tight. We just ate.

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

 

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a novel approach

Okay, I’m going to share something with you here. Something that I’ll mention this one time but will not mention again (at least not until I’ve accomplished it). It is a daunting but necessary task, something that has been gnawing at me for some time, and something that I now feel compelled to do.

I am writing a novel.

For someone who has spent her career writing advertising copy (and having a passion for print ads), a novel is a whole different animal. With the parameters for advertising copywriters having changed (where’s Don Draper when you need him?), now seems like the perfect time to jump on the challenge that has been following me for all of my professional life.

For years, family members would nag, usually at the Passover seder, “When are you going to write the Great American Novel?” “Oh, I don’t know,” I’d always felt like saying, “There seem to be some guys named Hemingway and Fitzgerald who’ve already clinched that deal. Matzoh, anyone?”

Or then there are those well-meaning folks who are sure they know what it is I should write about. “You should write about the way you and B. met and got together,” they say gleefully, sure they’ve hit pay dirt. It’s a great story, I’ll admit. It’s also been written before — ever hear of When Harry Met Sally? Thought so.

In that vein, there are those who think that writing a novel that mimics another is a way to go. “Why not write something like Gone with the Wind? People loved that book!” (You think?) “You know, John Grisham is really successful — why don’t you write a law novel like one of his?” (Oh, sure, no problem.)  “Have you read The Da Vinci Code? Something like that would be good, don’t you think?” (I do. As did author Dan Brown when he wrote a number of sequels featuring everyone’s favorite brilliant guy, Robert Langdon.)

Or then there are those who either a) have more confidence in me than I do, or b) are somewhat unaware of how things work. “How hard can it be?” they ask. (Right. Because coming up with an original plot, compelling characters, a voice that pulls readers in and leaves them wanting more — how long can that take?)

So. There you go. And here I am — with a very good start. I’ve got my characters (I think), my storyline (I’m pretty sure), and my bunny slippers (dress for success, after all). I’ve got my research materials, my trusty laptop, and my imagination (you can’t build a novel without the right tools). This novel has become my new shadow, my alter ego, my creative offering to the publishing gods.

It could take a year to finish. Or more. Or less. In its beginning stages alone, the experience is proving to be an exciting one; I love the power of controlling my little world and the people in it. But it has also been somewhat scary (like when the characters take over and lead me in directions I hadn’t planned).

Go ahead, ask. You know you want to. “So what’s it about?” I’d love to tell you … but then I’d have to … well, you know.

The plot thickens.

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

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bowled over

One of the joys of living in LA is the Hollywood Bowl. The acoustics are exemplary; sitting under the stars listening to great music is one of life’s pleasures; and sharing it all with 20,000 others is, while sometimes a bit overwhelming, always a thrill. Just think — 19,999 other people who know all the words, too.

Tuesday night was no exception.

Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound Farewell Tour marked a huge milestone — for him, of course, but also for those of us who grew up with his music. So much has been written about his extraordinary talent, storytelling genius, and poetic sense — by me, among others — that I thought I would take a lighter turn here. (I think the Paul Simon of “Feeling Groovy” and “At the Zoo” might appreciate the whimsy.) To wit:

So there we were at the Bowl, waiting for the concert to begin and chatting with the people seated near us. Next to me was a woman named Mrs. Robinson, who was wearing a fabulous pair of heels; this being LA, she had Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes. The man with her (Mr. Robinson, I presume), insisted that You Can Call Me Al. As the evening sky turned from a Dazzling Blue to darkness, Simon took the stage. With all the negativity swirling through America right now, his music turned out to be a magical and positively joyful escape.

The audience was comprised of those probably not yet born when Paul and Artie were together; those who are Still Crazy After All These Years for Simon’s music (like B. and me), and a few people old enough to be our parents. (At one point I said to B., “See that woman over there? I thought for a minute that That Was Your Mother!”)  There was also a Mother and Child Reunion — parents with young children — sitting right behind us. And while I actually prefer to experience a concert in person versus through my phone’s camera, those who were taking photos or videos captured lots of Kodachrome moments.

Even when it became Late in the Evening, Simon was filled with the energy of a much younger man, dancing like a Boxer at the center of a ring; when the multiple encores ended and he had received the lifetime of ovations he so deserved, he bid us thanks and farewell. Although the show was over, the notes still hung in the air. The Sound of Silence? More like Spirit Voices echoing the strains of Simon’s glorious, global music.

Time to head Homeward Bound. Simon says.

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

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riding shotgun with nancy drew

Having just finished reading The Female Persuasion, the bestselling novel by Meg Wolitzer, I’ve got feminism on my mind. The story is about a young, impressionable college student who meets a Gloria-Steinem-level feminist icon, and how their relationship — and their work for women’s empowerment — affects both of their lives. The novel tells of connections between women and women, between men and women, and between power and compassion. It’s a wonderful read.

Being about Wolitzer’s age, I was a teenager in the 1970s, when the feminist / Equal Rights Amendment / burn-the-bra movement was changing the way society saw women and the way women saw themselves; when Carole King’s Tapestry and Joni Mitchell’s Blue became the words that moved us as a group; when the idea of equal pay for equal work was (and still is) a not-as-yet-carved-in-stone Eleventh Commandment. Unlike our mothers’ generation, we were told that it was our destiny to  “have it all,” resulting in our working twice as hard to prove that we were equal to men.

Times change, tactics change, toughness endures. And while my generation may not have reaped all the rewards we had hoped for in terms of leveling the playing field, we did make an imprint on culture and on history in the 1970s and 1980s. We worked, wrote, protested, and argued truth to power. And we saw a lot of “first” females rise — the first American female in space, the first female Supreme Court Justice, the first female Fortune 500 CEO, among others.

Being a feminist no longer became limited to being a woman. Evolved, educated, and erudite men — men who supported us and were blind to the professional differences between themselves and women — proudly added “feminist” to their own resumes.

When I was a girl, my favorite fictional feminist (although I didn’t know what a feminist was at the time) was  Ms. Nancy Drew, amateur sleuth. While the Nancy Drew series grew and transformed to accommodate changing times, the books I read were those from the original classic series, where teen-aged Nancy and her gal pals Bess and George tore around in Nancy’s little blue roadster, gathering clues and solving mysteries. I wanted to hit the road with Nancy because of her intelligence, her determination, and her spirit — all qualities embodied in my current concept of feminism. (By the way, note that there were two Hardy Boys and only one Nancy Drew — see what I mean about working twice as hard?)

Today, my real life feminist heroes are far more complex and impressive (sorry, Nancy) in a world that is far more complex and oppressive (sorry, everyone else). These are women who champion not only women’s rights but also human rights, and have inspired so many of us to aspire to live lives that matter, to make a difference, and to teach what we have learned about having — and giving — it all.

You know, girl stuff.

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

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ketchup if you can

Food is a lot like relationships; sometimes the most unexpected, unexplainable combinations work together incredibly well — even if the rest of the world just can’t see it. I, myself, have been known to rock some food combos that would make others turn up their noses. But, you know, their loss. To wit:

Ketchup and almost anything. I love ketchup (not catsup, Heinz Ketchup). I love it on eggs, on steak, on rye bread (with or without the corned beef), on pasta, on cold Thanksgiving stuffing. I love it on hot dogs. B., who had always been a mustard guy as far as hot dogs go, looked at me quizzically the first time he saw me indulge in the combo. Intrigued, he tasted it — and he has never looked back. Ketchup on Dodger dogs for everyone.

Chocolate and potato chips. Any woman worth her PMS past or present can probably relate to this one. The combo of sweet and salty is unbelievably satisfying. But I prefer the purest form of this treat — plain potato chips nibbled alternately with pieces of Cadbury chocolate. Chocolate bars with potato chips mixed in or chocolate-covered potato chips are for amateurs.

Watermelon and balsamic vinegar. The vinegar brings out the sweetness of the watermelon; the melon brings out the rich tartness of the vinegar. Each component complements the other perfectly — who can ask for more in a relationship?

Romaine lettuce and Bolognese sauce. There’s something about those cold, crisp lettuce leaves topped with warm, hearty Bolognese that speaks to all kinds of cravings — crunchy, smooth, savory, sweet. Extra credit if you top it with a bit of homemade Thousand Island dressing. I know — it sounds odd (to be polite) to most people. But it works for me.

Hot chocolate and chili powder. This sophisticated twosome may not be for everyone. But if you’ve got even one adventurous taste bud, give it a try. Warning: this is not a kids’ cocoa-and-marshmallow concoction; this is an adults-only experience that will arouse your palate. Goodbye, sweet Swiss Miss. I’ll take Mayan spicy.

Some say that food is love. I think that in food, as in life, the best relationships are those with minimum heartbreak.

And minimum heartburn.

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

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