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prints charming

Once upon a time there was a kingdom where print media reigned — newspapers, of course, but also magazines. And in this kingdom, one little girl grew up loving all the magazines that appeared magically at her house — the stories, the pictures, and the fact that there were always new pages to turn and get lost in.

And get lost in them she — that is, I — did. Whether it was the monthly deluge of my mom’s McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping, or my dad’s choice of LIFE and National Geographic, or their weekly subscription to Newsweek (in those days, yours was either a Newsweek or a TIME family; ours was the former), I grew up and in love with magazines in general. If it was there, I devoured it.

The passion continued. I have vivid memories of the August issue of Seventeen — the back-to-school issue — of poring over its pages with my friends, picking out the clothes we couldn’t live without. That was quickly followed by Glamour, a stalwart through my teens and 20s and beyond, and Mademoiselle, also known for its fiction-writing contests. And magazines that came later — like Self and More and others — filled with pages of beauty and fashion news, career and lifestyle writing. Each adding its color and freshness to my day, each influencing my style in some way, each a small piece of art on its own.

Sadly, most of these titles have disappeared from the classic newsstand (equally sad is that so many classic newsstands have also disappeared). And that, to me, is a huge loss. Because these print titles were a part of my history. Seeing them arrive each month (or week), turning the pages, rolling them up to fit in my bag, enjoying the tactile sensation of their glossy finishes — a ritual all but lost.

Given my love affair with magazines, it’s not a surprise that I’ve been lucky enough to incorporate magazines into my career — first as associate editor at True Confessions (no, not a risqué publication as its title might imply — what is wrong with you? ) and then as a contributor to other titles. Not a surprise that when B. and I first moved in together, he filled the front seat of his car with dozens of magazines when he picked me up at the airport to welcome me to my new home. And not a surprise that The New Yorker continues to grace my mailbox week after week.

With September here, I cannot close this post without mentioning the grande dame herself, Vogue, whose history extends back more than a century. Its legendary September issue has pages in the multiple hundreds and enough gloss and beauty to fill this magazine aficionada’s heart with joy. Brings me back to my younger self thumbing through the pages of the August issue of Seventeen.

Dreaming of happily ever after. And of a man who loves that I love the printed page.

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

 

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i’ve got you under my skein

In my ongoing reporting of my Lucy moments (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention lucy bakes a cake or exit dancing or   i see london, i see france among others), a few things are clear. Attempting to be always-graceful, trying to balance all the balls I’m juggling, and doing my best to avoid the self-made mischief that follows me — all these are pretty much lost causes.

In that spirit, a little anecdote about one of my latest scenarios — one which I believe would make La Redhead proud.

Earlier this summer, B. and I headed up to Hood River, Oregon, a wonderful small town on the Columbia River Gorge in the shadow of Mount Hood. (If you had told me years ago that I — a former New York City girl — would love being out in nature, hiking around, and enjoying the hell out of myself, I would have told you that you were nuts. But living out here can change a person. So there.)

We’d been to Hood River before, but this time I was intent on finding one of the area’s alpaca farms. I mean, llamas are hot right now, so why not alpacas? We found a farm where we took a tour and got an education about these sweet and adorable beasts.

The alpacas we saw had just been shorn and looked nothing like miniature versions of llamas, as I had been expecting. They looked like cartoon characters — fluffy heads, skinny arms and legs, total cuteness.

And of course, like every good tour, this one ended up at the farm’s gift shop. Being a dabbler in needle arts, I was eager to check out alpaca wool. (I should digress here to explain that when I say “dabble,” I mean “I can make a scarf.” Yes, I have drawers full of crocheted scarves. Not much use for someone who lives in LA. But I love being immersed in and creating with colors. What can I say?)

So, there I was, in front of a huge assortment of alpaca yarn, skeins twined in a rainbow of varying shades, one more beautiful than the next. I finally made my choice (B. deserves combat pay for his patience) and off we went.

Just recently, I sat down to start my millionth scarf project, this one à la alpaca. And here’s where this blonde became that redhead.

Because, unlike any other skein I’ve worked with, this one had no real beginning or end. I tried to wind the wool into a ball but with the opposite of success. The twisted skein could not be untwisted logically; it wound around itself impossibly and then it wound around me mercilessly. Strands were knotted together, ends were splitting, it was ugly. I ended up wearing the skein — and I swore it was mocking me.

At one point, B. looked up from the TV, glanced at me, and did a double-take.

He:  “Nice wool.”

Me:  “Funny.”

He:  “You don’t even have to crochet with it. It’s already a scarf.”

Me:  “Seriously!?”

He:  “You’re right. It’s not just a scarf. It looks like you’re wearing a scarf and gloves.”

Me:  “Don’t get me started.”

He:  “I hear they’re holding auditions for a new version of The Mummy. You could –”

Me:  “If I ever get out of this, I’ll hurt you.”

He:   “Got an ETA on that?”

Eventually I did get untangled but, alas, the skein suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — it lost. Sort of like the fate of those chocolates in the chocolate factory, the grapes in the wine-making vat, or the overly yeasted bread in the oven. All not meant to be. But all props in a very funny experience — an amusing yarn, if you will.

No skein, no pain.

 

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

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read ’em and weep

Looking in the mirror can be a risky proposition, depending on the day. Are those really a few more laugh lines on my face? How is it possible that several more strands have strayed from golden to silver? And, to quote Meryl Streep’s character, Jane Adler, in It’s Complicated — is that what I look like? (Jane was stoned at the time, but still, you get my import. )

But I’m not talking about the literal what-do-you-see-when-you-look-in-the-mirror kind of thing. I’m talking about being able to look at yourself in the mirror every day in a figurative sense; that is, being able to look yourself in the eye because you feel good about what you stand for as a person.

The issues can be huge — like just how much human suffering and injustice you can put up with before saying “enough.” One only needs to read a newspaper (does anyone else out there still do that?) or merge onto the fast lane of any 24/7 news outlet to find dozens of reasons to stand up and say “no” — along with plenty of other equally socially conscious people to join in making a change.

But there are smaller things, too. And that’s where I landed recently upon contemplating the next book on my reading list. As I’ve mentioned before, I read constantly. All. The. Time. It’s rare that you’ll find me between books for more than a day, and, frankly, that’s one of my favorite things about myself.

My recent summer reading has included three books with very strong feminist (or learning-to-be-feminist) characters — Where the Crawdads Sing; Summer of ’69; and Mrs. Everything. Not surprisingly, all three novels are written by women (Delia Owens, Elin Hilderbrand, and Jennifer Weiner, respectively) and all three are coming-of-age stories about the path from girlhood to womanhood in sometimes turbulent times under almost always personally turbulent circumstances.

In choosing my newest addition to the list today, I went with The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict, a novelization of the life of Hedy Lamarr — glamorous screen star and brilliant scientist (she invented a secret communications strategy to help fight the Nazis that became the basis of today’s form of wireless communications). Talk about more than just a pretty face.

Which is all to say that with so many incredible stories about extraordinary (and ordinary) women — women who live amazingly full lives or those who just manage to string together one day at a time in order to survive — with all these rich and rewarding female-driven stories out there, why would any author choose to make murdering women the focus of their work? And why would we choose to read those books?

I imagine you may have read some books like that. I know have. And one day it dawned on me that I’d had enough. Enough of thrillers that center on women being maimed, molested, murdered. Enough of stories that hit the bestseller list with a plot line that revolves around females as victims. Enough of women characters being bruised, bludgeoned, and bloodied as a way to keep pages turning.

And so, I’ve boycotted this particular kind of writing in my own reading. Do I think that my refusal to read these kinds of books will in any way deter from their bestseller status? Of course not. Do I think that by not reading these books that these authors’ sales will falter? Not in the least.

It’s not about that for me. It’s about being able to look at myself in the mirror each morning and feel good about the fact that I’ve taken a stand against something ugly.

Pretty good. For a girl.

 

 

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

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for better or for verse

I love my husband. Maybe because we waited to marry until we were a little older (just on the cusp of 40), we both kind of knew what was important to us in a partner. And maybe because we haven’t had kids ourselves (although goodness knows we sometimes act as if we were five), we’ve been able to pour all of our energy (and all of our champagne toasts) into us as a couple. We feel really lucky and as if we’ve hit it out of the proverbial ballpark.

With our 22nd wedding anniversary peeking around the corner next week, I thought it a good time to give a shout-out to my partner in crime (so to speak), partner in mime (who needs words when an eye roll or a raised eyebrow will do), and, most important, partner in time (the best of our lives).

This man is the Bogart to my Bacall (one look at him and I’m smitten), the Astaire to my Rogers (okay, maybe not quite as much of a twinkletoes), the George to my Gracie (although none of our friends believes that, between the two of us, I’m the chatterbox).

B. is also the Nichols to my May (any of our aforementioned friends can attest to how B. and I launch into comedy shtick spontaneously, much to our own amusement). He’s the Paul Buchman to my Jamie Buchman (yes, I know that you all think that Mad About You is about you, but it’s not — it’s about us). And he’s the Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) to my Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) in You’ve Got Mail (“Don’t cry, shopgirl, don’t cry,” and “What is it with men and The Godfather?”).

He’s also the Atticus to my anything, the Harry to my Sally, and, without a doubt, the Ricky to my Lucy.

And never has he proven his love more than just last week when I saw an ad announcing a concert. While we both like a lot of the same music — Bruce Springsteen, in particular — this concert was not that. This concert was a bit more, shall we say, one-sided. My side.

I jokingly put it out there anyway, knowing that B. would never agree to go because he is in no way, shape or form a fan (or anything even close to it) of the artist. I must confess (somewhat guiltily) that I am. A fan, that is. Okay, a Fanilow.

Love can do funny things to you. In this case, it led B. to make that ultimate sacrifice. This September, Hollywood Bowl. Haha.

After kissing him all over his adorable face when he surprised me with the tickets; after telling him that when I had listened to Barry Manilow’s songs as a teenager (I was such a hopeful romantic), it was someone like B. whom I conjured up in my head; after jumping around the room with joy and tripping over my feet in true Lucy fashion — I looked at my husband and realized, for the gazillionth time ever, just how lucky I am.

So to B. — in the words of Barry Manilow, “You came and you gave without taking.” In the words of me — I promise never to sing Mandy in front of you again. Ever. And I promise that we can leave before the encore so that we can get the hell out of the Bowl before the rest of those 20,000 or so other kooky Fanilows.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart. Hang in there. I hear that Springsteen will be touring next year.

You’re the rock to my roll.

 

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

 

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girl meets joy

Pop quiz — finish this sentence: Life without ___________ would be less joyful.

Okay, we’re not talking family or friends here. We’re talking about the other things that, well, make your world go round. Things that rock your world. Things that, whenever you encounter them, bring a world of joy to your heart and make the blood in your veins sing.

Pencils down. What did you come up? Me, I’m going with the Beatles.

If you agree (or even if the lads from Liverpool weren’t on your list), the movie Yesterday will certainly up the joy factor in your life. Way, way up.

The movie’s premise is extraordinary — a world in which the Beatles never existed except within the memory of one person. A young singer / songwriter is the only person on earth who remembers them, and, upon coming to that realization, performs their music for the entire world to hear, passing it off as his own. (Any more detail would require a spoiler alert, and I’d rather have you keep on reading than have to issue one of those pesky things.)

The bottom line here is the amazing joy that wells up at the sound of the Beatles. In B.’s mind, hearing their music is like reuniting with an old friend. Indeed. And it’s so much more. It’s difficult to describe just how utterly blissful it was to be immersed in those songs — even when performed by someone other than John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The music is just that good.

And whether you heard the songs while they were on the charts, or if you’re hearing them for the first time now (as is the entire world within this movie), you can’t help but love at least some of them. It’s as if the music of the Beatles is part of our collective unconscious for what is beautiful and moving and joyful.

If your past does include the memory of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show; if the group has been a part of your life from their beginning; if their body of music has followed you from childhood (or older) onward —  I swear it’s like feeling your history wash over you again. It’s a wave of emotion that lifts you up. It’s a shimmering sensation of love. It’s gorgeous, fun, revolutionary music that makes you feel like your heart might burst with gratitude.

And, if you’re a baby like me, it leaves you in tears of joy.

If you let the movie work its magic and allow yourself to believe that you and the main character are the only two people who are in on the secret, the only two who remember the significance of all this joy, the feeling is, to quote Roseanne Arquette’s character in Pulp Fiction, “f*****g trippy.”

In this world where happiness is far, far too elusive; at this time that truly tries all of our souls; at this moment when kindness has become much too rare — now is when we need to “get by with a little help from [our] friends.”

Yesterday reminds us that the Beatles were more than a breakthrough musical group. They — and their music — were a gift that embodied a feeling of hope, of love, of possibility. And hearing that music again evokes a feeling of joy that lives on. In all of us.

Let it be.

 

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

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twin sneaks

I am totally fascinated by twins — the more identical, the more fascinating. What must it be like, I wonder, to have another person who looks just like you sharing your life from your days in utero. How cool must it be to know what you look like by looking at a real person versus a mirrored reflection. And how amazing must it be to be able to pull the old switcheroo on others by pretending to be the other twin and totally getting away with it. I imagine being a twin has its own set of challenges, but, to my non-twin eyes, it looks like fun. Or did, anyway, until I fell prey to the twin spin.

To wit:

The first words I heard upon entering a public restroom recently were those of a harried mother attempting to shepherd her six-year-old twins out of there. “Chloe, come on! Are you done yet? Zoe and I are waiting!” The words were followed by Chloe saying, “I’m waiting for it to flush!” Her mother replied, impatience rising, “Come on, get out of the stall — now!” But no. “I’m waiting for it to FLUSH!” Exasperation mounting, her mom yelled, “Just come out NOW! I’ll deal with the flushing!” (I kid you not). “No! It’s not flushing!” (I hadn’t heard the word “flushing” used so much since the last US Open.)

The problem, I realized, was that the facilities were controlled by motion sensors, and that as long as stubborn little Chloe continued to stand there, nothing would happen.

All this time, Zoe (aka the good twin, or so I thought) was doing everything perfectly. Washing her hands without having to be reminded. Waiting quietly for her mom and her twin by standing out of the way. Looking too, too adorable in her long braids and “Twins Rule!” t-shirt.

Finally, Chloe emerged (after a little more  “encouragement” from her mom) and her mom walked into the stall (presumably to handle the flushing dilemma and to use it herself). “Do NOT forget to wash your hands!” she admonished, as Chloe headed for the sink.

And then it happened. As I stood at the mirror, Chloe and Zoe exchanged their secret twin look and, without a word, exchanged places. When their mom emerged, it was Zoe-as-Chloe washing her hands while Chloe-as-Zoe stood off to the side. Believing that it was Chloe who all of sudden was cooperating with the motion-sensored sink and soap dispenser, their mom dispensed big praise upon the little trickster — great mothering, if only Chloe had legitimately learned something versus a) having known how these devices worked all along; b) having only been stalling while in the stall; and c) having escaped having to wash her hands because she just didn’t feel like it.

Thinking I was being supportive of the little twins’ little joke, I gave both girls a big smile in the mirror. Nothing. Well, not nothing — more like a stare from Chloe that would have made Wednesday Addams’s blood curdle. And the same we-killed-our-babystter-and-we-can-do-the-same-to-you glare from Zoe. Nice kids.

But their fun wasn’t over yet. When their mom went back into the stall to get her purse, which she had left hanging from the door hook, Zoe quickly dried her hands on her shorts and moved back out of the fray while Chloe took her place at the paper-towel dispenser (yes, motion-driven) and proceeded to wave her hand in front of the red light once. Twice. A dozen times. The moment their mother saw that, we were back to the old routine. “Come on, Chloe, let’s go!” “I’m waiting for it to stop!” “Just step away from it NOW — I’ll deal with it stopping!”

Giggles ensued from Chloe and Zoe. Cute. And from me. Not so cute, apparently. Because as I attempted an “excuse me, please” in order to pass behind Chloe, who was now blocking the entrance with her little charade (and her growing pile of paper towels), the twins struck again. “Chloe, move! You’re in the nice lady’s way,” the  mother exhorted. “No, it’s okay,” I said, stepping deftly around the child and pushing open the exit door. But no. The twins had had it with me. Not-so-sweet little Zoe stuck out her little Keds-clad foot and tripped me so that I stumbled on my way out.

And Chloe? Her voice followed after me — “Maybe she needs to get out of MY way!” Zoe’s voice echoed the sentiment — “Yeah, maybe that lady needs to get out of OUR way!”

Obnoxious, obviously. Rude, ruthlessly. And bratty, brilliantly. Game over.

Twin some, lose some.

 

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

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exit dancing

Let’s review what I have in common with Lucille Ball: red hair, no. Comic genius, no. Extraordinary Hollywood and television success, no and no. Now let’s see what I share with Lucy Ricardo: a penchant for putting myself in sticky situations, yes. The ability to take an awkward situation and somehow make it even worse, yup. The knack for getting myself into trouble over what seemed like a really good idea at the time — ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

To wit:

Close-up of me browsing through your typical store — clothing, cosmetics, cute shoes. After about a half hour, I decide that nothing piques my interest and make for the exit. And here we go.

Like lots of stores, this one has two sets of automatic sliding doors (one set for entry, one for exit), with a vestibule between each pair. Here I am, nonchalantly strolling up to the first exit door, which obediently slides open and allows me into the vestibule, closing behind me. I then approach the second exit door and … nothing. It doesn’t move. I do bit of fancy footwork in front of it, thinking that I can trick it into opening. Again, nothing.

Okay, I’ll go back the other way. Except that now I’m trying to enter the exit door, which will not open because, let’s face it, you can’t enter an exit door. It’s in the door rule book (as opposed to the one about a window opening when a door closes, which apparently is not).

Stuck in the middle, I signal for assistance by waving at the first person I see. Good news, he walks up to the door to try it out. Bad news, now even the door leading from store to vestibule won’t open. He waves back at me with a smile, mouthing the words, “Door’s broken.”

Yeah, got that.

Worse news, he strolls over to the other set of doors (the entry doors), waits for someone to enter from outside, and leaves the store, and me, behind. Now I’m the one mouthing words. Loudly. But no one hears you when you scream in outer space — or in an inner vestibule.

Attempting to mime (read gesticulate wildly) that I’m trapped and need to get out this place, which is becoming smaller by the second, only results in a couple of eight-year-olds imitating me and laughing hysterically.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The only thing separating me from the entry doors just to my left is a set of metal rails with a narrow opening between each. If I can squeeze through one of those openings, I can make it out the in doorway. But no. For one blinding moment, my left leg (and I have slim legs) gets caught. I now have visions of having to gnaw off my own leg in order to escape the purgatory of what has become a shopping hell. Somehow, I manage to slide my leg back out — but I’m still stuck waiting for Godot.

Next idea: I try calling the store to plead for help. Thinking this is a genius plan, I finally get a hold on my mounting concern that I may never see freedom again — until I get put on hold listening to bad, bad elevator music interrupted at times by a voice telling me that my call is very important to the store and please not to hang up. I hang up.

And then I see it. A space beneath the aforementioned metal bars that looks just big enough to squirm under. Here goes. Flat on my tummy, inch by inch, I begin to wriggle through to the promised land. I can almost taste victory when — ding, ding, ding! — the store alarm goes off. Apparently, the metal bars are a security sensor and, even though I have no store merchandise on me, moving under them like that causes an uproar.

In two seconds flat, the broken doors are miraculously wrenched open manually and a young security guard the size of the Titanic rushes over to me and asks what it is I think I’m doing. Doing a reverse crawl, I stand up, dust myself off, and regroup. I have had it.

“I am,” I say in my haughtiest tone, “attempting to leave this store. Although,” and here I pull myself up to my full (short) height and glare at him, “it appears that while I can check out any time I like, I can never leave.” He looks at me, puzzled, and I realize that paraphrasing the Eagles lyrics a) means nothing to this kid and, b) is probably about to land me an even longer delay in getting out of there. Except. Except.

Except that Mr. Security (actually a very nice guy named Rick — no joke) is a big Eagles fan (his dad was a roadie back in the day). So much so that my response elicits a snort, followed by a laugh, followed by an all-out Joe Walsh air-guitar tribute. When I get the chance to explain my mishap, he immediately apologizes for any inconvenience, escorts me directly to the manager, and waits until he is sure that I am unhurt and that I have been compensated for my troubles with a very generous store gift card. And then he personally escorts me out of the store, as I do my happy dance.

I love Lucy. Ricky loves the Eagles. And I can’t wait to use my gift card — online.

Talk about an exit strategy.

 

 

ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman

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