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positive charge

“Cash or credit?” That’s the question these days.

Years ago it was, “Cash or charge?”  Somewhere along the line, “charge” changed — became “recharged,” if you will. And that’s exactly where I found myself this week — needing to recharge my laptop with a charger that had just died and had to be replaced. Stat.

Not as easy to replace as I had hoped. According to the Apple support person on the phone, my 2009 Macbook Pro is “so obsolete” that Apple no longer makes the charger for it. (Is it just me who feels bad — and guilty — when I’m told my computer is obsolete? What kind of support is that, anyway?) But find a compatible one online I did — and I am eagerly (read “bouncing off the walls”) awaiting its arrival. In the meantime, I’ve been “renting space” on B.’s PC. A perfectly nice, perfectly accommodating PC, but a PC nonetheless.

Plugging in the new charger will bring my laptop back into full health in no time at all — allowing me to be as creative as my imagination will stretch on any given day. (Trust me, sometimes that imagination gets a little too stretchy, creative-wise, and I end up either scaring myself to death or cracking myself up to the point where catching my breath isn’t happening. Being a writer can be a bit hazardous, it seems.)

Wouldn’t it be cool if everything could be recharged as easily? Like that waitress who would much rather file her nails than take your order. Or the doctor who keeps you waiting more than an hour but charges a penalty if you cancel less than 24 hours before your appointment time. Or that arrogant, selfie-obsessed guy taking his time crossing the street while you’re waiting to make a turn before the light changes.

Or the elephant in the room. Let’s call it the state of our world. And let’s imagine what a recharge could do for that.

Cash or credit? Here’s a better idea — how about checks? And balances.

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

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squeeze play

When I was 16 and first learning how to drive, my father took me out to an empty Sears parking lot where he could teach me the ABCs of steering, accelerating, and, probably most important, braking. I passed my road test — parallel parking included — on the very first try. But that’s not to say that the road leading up to it was smooth — at least not in that Sears parking lot.

I also took Drivers Ed in school (alas, a course that is no longer being offered in most schools). The Drivers Ed cars had two brakes — one for the student driver and one for the instructor. Our family car, however, had only one (surprise, surprise). Which would explain why, when he felt I wasn’t slowing down soon enough, my father would attempt to step on the brake. Which wasn’t in front him. Hence, sometimes his right foot would slam against the floor on the passenger side during our lessons. Okay, maybe more than sometimes.

After a few Sundays my dad turned over the reins of my driving lessons to my mom, who had learned to drive with two feet — one on the gas, one on the brake — much the way New York City cab drivers drove. (Which probably explains why she was more successful at keeping her cool during our practice drive time — that and the fact that she was known to cut off a truck driver or two in her day like any good NY cabbie would.)

But not before he gave me a valuable piece of advice — one that served me well in my early days as a driver, before applying the right amount of pressure to the brake became instinctive. And that was this: squeeze your toes.

I tried it, and it really did help me to slow down gradually. It’s like a nuance versus a hit over the head — which makes sense if you consider the difference in the way my parents drove (and communicated in general).

The interesting thing about the squeeze play is that it has much broader, global implications (aside from the fact that it’s also helpful for picking a dropped pencil up off the floor). It also works when I find myself in a situation where someone is testing my patience. Taking a beat to squeeze my toes is sort of like slowing down to count to ten. Without the math. Or, when I find myself getting anxious about something (“Is this dental procedure going to hurt? Is it? Is it?”), squeezing my toes brings me back to the here and now, and lets me slow down my racing mind and put it in “calm” gear.

Sometimes life is about squeeze plays, sometimes it’s about line drives. Sometimes it’s about shortstops, sometimes it’s about stopping short.

Don’t forget to check your brakes.

 

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

 

 

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getting fresh

Throw a dart out there and you’ll find a gazillion marriage experts and a gazillion-plus articles and self-tests about the secrets to a happy marriage and how yours measures up. After two decades of marriage, I only claim to be an expert on B.’s and mine, but I do have some tips to share about how to keep a marriage, shall we say, interesting. Nope, not what you’re thinking — you’re on our own for what works for you and your partner in that area. I’m talking about some techniques that keep things fresh. Sort of. So, here we go:

Hum. Aimlessly. Or not. Extra points if you hum the song that your partner could not get out of his head when taking the bar exam years ago. If it drove him to distraction then, see what it does now (not that I’d have any experience with that one — wink.).

Move things around. Furtively. See how much fun it is to, let’s say, move a small object from the living room to, say, the bedroom and pretend that it’s always been there. Then, once you’ve got your partner believing that it has always lived in the bedroom, move it back again. And smile sweetly at the look of consternation on his face.

There’s no hear here. Pretend you can’t hear when he calls out to you to please lower the volume on the TV because he’s trying to work in the next room. Time it so that about two seconds before he walks into the living room to ask you in person, you shut the TV off completely and pretend you’ve been napping the whole time. And when he goes back inside? That’s right — turn the TV back on, this time a little louder. Repeat as necessary.

Lock the door by “accident.” Latch the can’t-be-opened-from-the-outside door lock when he steps outside to get the mail, water the plants, or take out the trash. Then head off for the shower, pretending (again) not to hear the knocking on the door that follows. Incessantly. Bonus score if you can manage to unlock the lock really quietly, then open the door a minute or so later saying (faking irritation), “What? It’s been unlocked — and now you’ve made me get out of the shower!”

Invest in the sock exchange. If you’re folding and putting away laundry, roll his socks into mismatched pairs. Great hilarity will ensue for you when he’s trying to get dressed quickly and needs to unroll lots of pairs to find a match.

Understand that there will be a price to pay for this kind of adorableness. You may need to worry about a surprise tickling episode. You may need to deal with his unexpectedly popping one ear bud in your ear so that you can hear the same song he’s listening to. And you may need to deal with his sneaking up behind you and kissing you on the cheek. In public. Causing you to jump out of your skin — and causing everyone around you to chuckle.

So forget the experts. Forget the articles and the tests. Even forget the darts.

Just remember to laugh.

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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playing doctor

imagesI’ve never met anyone who really likes going to the doctor. It’s often uncomfortable; it’s always somewhat intrusive; and it’s never as much fun as, say, going just about anywhere else. Yet so many of us are glued to TV shows that feature doctor characters as the leads. And so many of them seem to have most of these things in common — good-looking, smart, good-looking, sensitive, good-looking, sympathetic, good-looking, you get my drift.

All of this could be a ploy by the American Medical Association to make doctors so appealing that we want to visit as often as possible. More likely, it’s a prescriptive plot by the producer powers-that-be to make the field of medicine — and the men (and women) who practice it — a magnet for incredibly healthy ratings.

I’ll admit it — I’m guilty of watching many a male TV doctor operate over the years. There’s something about that combination of masculine charm, healing power, and soul-searching eyes (okay, I’m getting a little carried away here — someone call a cute doctor, stat!) that makes my heart go pit-a-pat. (“What is it, doctor? Do I need intensive care?”)

Here, then, are my favorite men in white. Appointments are recommended:

Chad Everett as Dr. Joe Gannon — Medical Center  Was there anything Dr. Gannon couldn’t cure with those amazing blue eyes?

James Brolin as Dr. Steven Kiley — Marcus Welby, MD  A motorcycle-riding MD. Enough said.

Mandy Patinkin as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger — Chicago Hope  Brilliant, arrogant, vulnerable, fascinating. And in need of much tender loving care.

Alan Alda as Dr. Hawkeye Pierce — M*A*S*H  Smart, sexy, soulful, sensitive. And funny. Very funny.

Pernell Roberts as Dr. “Trapper” John McIntyre — Trapper John, MD  Compassionate, competent, completely irresistible. (Special shout-out to Dr. Gonzo Gates, played by Gregory Harrison.)

George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross — ER  Really? You need this choice explained?

Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepherd — Grey’s Anatomy  Let’s just say I still haven’t gotten over McDreamy’s demise, even though it’s been a couple of seasons. Just. No. Words.

Even though they’re not real doctors, these guys walk the walk and talk the talk. Instead of the Hippocratic oath, they took a cinematic oath always to be entertaining and never to do any harm (to viewers’ expectations, advertising obligations, or network affiliations). Appointments with them are always on time and you get a full hour of their attention.

Finally, a cure for the common cold stethoscope.

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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humor me

I like to think that I have a very good, very broad sense of humor. Sophisticated enough to enjoy the stylings of Frasier and Niles Crane (and Lilith, of course). Smart enough to appreciate the social and political satire of Jon Stewart and the sheer brilliance of Robin Williams. And — and this is the one that gets me through the day these days — silly enough to crave the physical comedy of slapstick.

Maybe it’s because I’m sometimes like a piece of walking — or tripping — slapstick myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up on I Love Lucy reruns and cannot eat a piece of chocolate without thinking of Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory. Or maybe it’s because the world is such an insanely out-of-control place right now that the absolute absurdity of slapstick is what’s required to maintain one’s sanity.

Following are just a few snapshots of slapstick that make me laugh every time I see them — until whatever I’m drinking comes out my nose. (Some purists might argue that not all fit the strict definition of slapstick — but to me, if it’s funny, it’s funny. Honk, honk.)

  • Anything Marx Brothers
  • Anything I Love Lucy (shout-out to the bread-baking episode)
  • The lobster-behind-the-refrigerator scene in Annie Hall
  • Julia Roberts’ character attempting to sit on the bed but landing on the floor, while never pausing her phone conversation, in My Best Friend’s Wedding
  • The Emma Stone / Ryan Gosling Dirty-Dancing-lift scene in Crazy, Stupid Love (she’s so adorably funny that it gets slapstick points)
  • Barbra Streisand in the roller-skating production number in Funny Girl (so funny that I fell off the couch — my own personal slapstick moment)
  • The Puttin’ on the Ritz tap-dancing scene in Young Frankenstein with Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle
  • Rowan Atkinson as the store clerk meticulously wrapping a gift for Alan Rickman’s impatient character in Love Actually
  • Carol Burnett wearing the living room drapes, curtain rod included, as Starlet O’Hara in the parody Went with the Wind

Check these out if you’re seriously in need of funny — giggles and guffaws guaranteed. And do yourself a favor. Take a break from the 24/7 news cycle and try a 24/7 laugh cycle. Or a ride on a unicycle. Or a ride on a unicorn.

Just don’t break your funny bone.

 

 

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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sweet spot

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It feels like the end of the world. It feels like we need to build an ark. It feels like we should get ready for a hailstorm of locusts. And that’s just from watching the evening news. There’s only one antidote I know of that’s up to the task of making things all better, even if it’s just for a few peaceful moments. That’s right, it’s time for chocolate to work its magic. And so, in honor of this most healing indulgence, I present an ode of appreciation.

Choco-lot of Chocolate

Lots and lots of chocolate.

Rich sweet milk or dark-a-lot.

Dipped or sprinkled, plain or nutty

Turns my willpower to putty.

Chocolate is my go-to food

My fast lane to a better mood.

Take away those fruits and veggies

But don’t deprive me of a wedge, please,

Of smooth, sweet chocolate nirvana.

Go on, give in — you know you wanna.

So whether you opt for a bar, a bonbon, or some bark, I’d suggest chocolate as part of your daily survival kit (or KitKat). There’s a reason it’s known as the “food of the gods” — it’s a superhero cloaked in a Cadbury wrapper (or naked, in the case of Godiva). Take two daily and call for a change in the morning.

Sweet.

 

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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good news about bad boys


What is it about bad boys — those characters, real or fictional, who women know are no good for them but can’t help being drawn to anyway? Is it a desire to take a walk on the wild side? A craving for the hero that no other woman can tame? A yearning to, for once, do something a little bit crazy, a little bit bad, a little bit over the line?

Case in point: Rhett Butler. A man with an impeccable reputation just wouldn’t do for Scarlett O’Hara. And while Rhett was the only man she ever really loved (once she got over the ridiculous notion of wimpy, good-boy Ashley Wilkes), even bad-girl Scarlett couldn’t hold onto her scoundrel from Charleston. Rhett’s final words to Scarlett as he left her were, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” but you kind of know that he did, she did, and we did.

Let’s push the bad meter a little more (maybe a lot more) and consider Michael Corleone (in The Godfather, Part One). The man is cold-hearted (except for his father and for Apollonia), cold-blooded (did you see the christening scene?), and coldly calculating (“Try the veal, it’s the best in the city.”) But there’s something about the character, and Al Pacino in the role, that makes women stop what they’re doing when he’s on the TV screen (for like the 100th time) and become totally entranced and unresponsive to anything else (“Honey, could you pass the popcorn? Honey? The popcorn? Earth to honey?”).

Bad boys don’t come much tougher than Ray Donovan, the ultimate fix-it guy for those who have done bad, bad,very bad things. But despite all the bloodshed, the blackmail, and the blowing away of even badder guys, Ray manages to hold on to a certain sensitivity (thanks to Liev Schreiber). I can’t help it — now that his wife is gone, Ray just kind of looks like a lost, wounded puppy (albeit a Rottweiler, but you get my point).

Then there’s Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca. Just one look at him (sigh) and you know that his past is criminal, his present is dangerous, and his future is shady at best. What redeems Rick is the return of Ilsa; sending her away with good-guy husband Victor Laszlo shows that the big lug has an even bigger heart. We’ll always have Paris, Rick — say a table for two at a little café?

Maybe this attraction to bad boys says more about us than about the characters themselves. Maybe the idea of riding shotgun with Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen), of shaking a martini with James Bond (Daniel Craig, in my case), or of playing cat burglar-and-mouse on the French Riviera with John Robie (Cary Grant) — maybe these are all ways to imagine ourselves as  more exciting, more alluring, more je ne sais quoi than we may be. Or maybe it’s our imaginations doing exactly what they’re supposed to do — create the kind of irresistible scenarios that let us ask, “what if?” before getting back to our real lives, with a little smile.

How bad can that be?

 

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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