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play innocent

About a million years ago, I had a client who made a children’s toy designed to teach reading and spelling. The marketing message was that play is about more than fun and games; it can also tackle serious stuff, like learning basic skills. Makes sense.

But what about playtime for adults? I love to play like a kid (the fact that B. and I often act as if we’re six probably helps), although, clearly, learning to read and write has been checked off my to-do list. For me, then, play is all about fun and making nonsense. To wit, my perfect play date:

Color with abandon. Nope, not one of those made-for-adults coloring books. I’m talking freestyle coloring — extra points for using all the colors and for creating blooming blobs, shapeless shapes, and amazing mazes. You’re going to want the big box of crayons for this. Note: Do not let the dog eat the crayons to see what color poops out — you’re a grown-up, for heaven’s sake.

Skate in your socks. Okay, this is a favorite in our home, even if I’m not really good at it. The premise is simple. Wearing socks, push off on one foot and slide all the way across a room, attempting to crash into your playmate at the other end. Some caveats — only skate on a floor, not a carpet; and make sure you’re not barefoot (trust me, bare feet do not slide well). B. tells me that the look on my face while sailing across the floor is a mixture of absolute joy and utter terror. Once I reach him, I hold on for dear life, always somewhat surprised that I made it. (Based on her performance holding on for dear life in Titanic, I think that Kate Winslet should play me in Sock Skating: The Movie.)

Swing with friends. No, not that way (yes, we live in southern California, but still, ugh). I’m talking about going to the nearest playground or park and spending some time on the swing set. You can get really high. No, not that way (yes, we live in southern California, but still, no thanks). There’s nothing to match the sensation of soaring in a perfect arc, the wind in your face, the world streaming by, the … wait, are those the monkey bars? Race you!

Act out with shadow puppets. Especially enjoyable when your playmate is attempting to read in bed and you discover that making shadow puppets on the ceiling is unbelievably amusing (for you) and annoying (for said mate). You can make all kinds of creatures  — dogs, dragons, bunny rabbits, butterflies. Really fun when your playmate joins in and you enact “my animals can take down your animals” matches. Winner gets treated to breakfast out — animal-shaped pancakes optional.

When it’s hard to forget the day-to-day drama, try to remember that the play’s the thing.

Share your toys.

 

ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman

 

 

 

 

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beyond a reasonable doubt

Something odd happens when you live with a lawyer (at least it did to me). Your reasoning skills tend to sharpen. Your arguing skills (not as in fighting, as in making a point) may become heightened. And your ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat can become both more frequent and more satisfying. This post is not about that. While it is about my having to make a compelling argument to B., it’s really about how he made my argument for me. Score.

When B. and I began seeing each other 20-plus years ago (after having known each other since we were teenagers), it took us both only a short time to realize that this was “it.”  I moved out to California from New York to be with him and marriage was something we mentioned occasionally. About two months after I moved in, B.’s instinct to question, his endless curiosity, and his need for a reasonable rationale (redundant?) kicked in. And the conversation went something like this:

Act I

He:  So why is it that we need to get married?

Me:  (Diet Coke snorting out of my nose) Excuse me?

He:  No, really. I love you. I’ll always love you. We’ve already decided not to have kids. So why exactly is it that we need to get married?

Me:  Huh?

He:  I’m not at all opposed to marriage. I just need a compelling reason for why it’s necessary. I know lots of couples who have been together for years without being married.

Me: What?

He:  No, not what. Why?

Me:  Who?

He:  Not what, not who, not when, not where. Why? What’s the compelling reason?

Me:  Uh … because I want to be able to call you my husband, not my boyfriend at this point?

He:  Not good enough. You can just introduce me by my name.

Me:  Because I want us to be a family — you, me, and the dog?

He:  Nope. We’d still be a family; in fact, we are one already.

Me:  (pivoting) Want to order in Chinese?

He:   Not yet … let me ask you one more thing.

Me:  (Oh no, the man who questions the meaning of life in the shower each morning has yet another question.)

He:  If I told you that I was committed to you forever — and I am — but that I was opposed to marriage for some reason, would you leave me?

Me:  (waiting less than a nanosecond to respond) Of course not.

He:  (looking like a delighted little kid) Really?

Me:  It’s you I want. Everything else is secondary. But I do want to get married because I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. It’s a feeling thing.

He:  That’s an emotional reason; I’m looking for logic.

Me:  (running out of the room screaming, in dire need of chocolate)

Act II

A few days later, we were visiting a friend of B.’s who happened to be newly divorced and didn’t hold marriage in the highest esteem at the time. B. laid out the entire “compelling” case to his friend, who was only too happy to jump on the “marriage sucks” bandwagon.

All of a sudden, B. had an epiphany. I know this because a) he said so and b) a lightbulb went on over his head (okay, the ceiling fan, but still).

He:  Wait, I’ve got it. I’ve got my compelling reason.

Friend:  No, man, what are you doing? Marriage means nothing. You’ve won the argument. Stop talking now.

He:  No, I’ve got it.

Me:  (peeking my head out from under the chair where I’ve slunk down, thinking I don’t have a friend in the room)

He:  (turning to me) The compelling reason is I’m not opposed to marriage, it’s important to you, and I love you — I would do it for those reasons alone. Why are you under the chair?

Friend:  (dubiously) That’s it?

Me:  (excitedly) That’s it?

He:  That’s it.

Me:  (pivoting before B. changes his mind) Can we order in pizza now?

I couldn’t have asked for better evidence of B.’s love for me than that. And if you ask him, he’ll tell you that my commitment to stay with him — marriage or no — was Exhibit A in forming his compelling reason.

In life, we do things for lots of reasons. Love is the best one that I can imagine.

No doubt about it.

 

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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a revisit from st. nick

In the spirit of holiday classics, today I’ve decided to revisit one of my very own — a blog post from a few years ago that I think is particularly necessary right now.  For all those times you just want to tell the world to go fa-la-la itself, here are a few movie remakes wrapped in fun. 

There are lots of reasons to love the holiday season — and lots of reasons to dread it, too — but one constant is the holiday classic.  Whether it’s Charlie Brown and his tiny little tree or Rudolph with his big red nose; that so-ugly-he’s-adorable green Grinch or that so-adorable-she’s-annoying little girl from Miracle on 34th Street, these movies are a big part of the season’s culture. But what if I were to take a holiday from tradition and change them up just a little? To wit:

The Three Scrooges. The madcap adventures of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and that wild and crazy guy, Ebenezer.

It’s a Wonderful Wife. The true story of how George Bailey’s wife coped. Do you know how hard it is to live with a delusional lunatic? And with those bells ringing constantly?

Frosty the Snowplow. How our villain, disguised as everyone’s favorite snowman, manages to plow in an entire neighborhood’s driveways.

Jingle Sells! Or, how to sell the crap out of the holiday season, now starting as early as July at a store near you.

Randolph the Brown-Nosed Reindeer. The untold story of Rudolph’s kiss-ass cousin (and his plot to win the reindeer games).

How the Winch Stole Christmas. The hilarious account of what happened when dad tried to string holiday lights from the roof and the fire department crane had to get him down.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow — Let It Go Already! A heart-wrenching drama that follows one L.A. woman through therapy as she seeks to get past her (sob!) unrealistic hopes for a white Christmas.

‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah. A retelling of the classic bedtime story wherein “visions of sugarplums” are replaced by “dreams of Bubbe’s latkes,” and that damn mouse is eradicated by pest control. (A mouse in my clean house? Oy!)

Santa Claws Is Coming to Town. The nail-biting thriller about the cat that takes revenge on Santa for always drinking its milk. Now who’s your Santa, baby?

Yes, Virginia, There Is an App for That. The heart-warming tale of one little girl and her quest for the truth: “If I see it on an app, does that make it real?”

This holiday season, may your hearts and tummies be full, your lights be bright, and your stockings be coal-free.

And remember to practice safe mistletoe. (Especially you, Vixen.)

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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beyond 34th street

Anyone with a sentimental bone in his or her body has seen Miracle on 34th Street, the charming, heart-warming film that reminds us that believing is seeing, that Santa really does exist, and that miracles happen. Starring an adorable, little-girl Natalie Wood, the 1947 film is as much a holiday tradition as It’s a Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas. For good reason. Whether it’s the miracle birth on Christmas or the miracle of light on Hanukkah, ’tis the season.

Which brings me around to miracles in general (can a miracle really be described in general?). Of course, there are the major life-saving miracles that truly evoke awe; those are in a category all their own. But what about those other “I-can’t-believe-this-good-thing-happened-it’s-a-miracle” moments?  To wit:

There are yesterday’s Alabama election results. Truly a miracle of hard work, determination, and the belief that good must win out.

There are the tickets to Hamilton that B. procured a few days ago as a surprise early birthday present for me. The fact that he found tickets — aisle seats, no less — and that we got to go to this extraordinary show that I’d nearly given up hope of ever seeing (its LA run ends at the end of December) qualifies in my mind as nothing short of miraculous.

Want more? Just yesterday I sold an essay of mine to a national magazine for its spring issue. Each time this happens, I’m as surprised and amazed as the first time. Fairy godmother, anyone?

And today, while browsing in my library’s used-book store, I found the new, best-selling novel that I have been longing to borrow but could not because the library waiting list is weeks and weeks long. There it was, just waiting for me for just four dollars. Title me wonder-full.

Sure, one person’s miracle is another person’s coincidence; someone’s magic is someone else’s random luck. In this season of possibility and hope, I choose magic and miracles and Tinkerbell.

I choose to believe.

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

 

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meet cute

Good news, bad news. The bad news is that stress rules these days. Stress over the the state of the world, the state of politics, and the state of who exactly is steering the ship and where are we going? It’s tough to meet each day feeling positive when so much negativity bombards us on a 24/7 news schedule. But — and here’s the good news – I’ve found a little bit of a solution, an escape if you will. It’s fun, it’s clever, and it’s the perfect antidote to these toxic times (and to the stories in the Washington Post and The New York Times). It’s — and I’m going to use a word that we hear so little these days — delightful.

I know what you’re thinking — “dear blogger, what in the hell are you talking about?” Okay, settle down. It’s a little movie called Down with Love that came out in 2003 — and it’s as much a terrific distraction as a creative gem. All it asks of the viewer is to sit back and enjoy, with no commitment to following a story that is filled with angst, has impossible-to-understand twists and turns, and is just a major downer, man.

Down with Love is a bit of a madcap romance, set in the 1960s, with lots of I-fooled-you, you-fooled-me details. In short, Renée Zellweger plays a best-selling feminist author named Barbara Novak who aims to teach women to forget about love and instead aim for professional success as well as a casual attitude in the bedroom. The bane of her existence is writer Catcher Block (Ewan MacGregor) who is out to expose Ms. Barbara as a fraud with a few ploys of his own.

The brilliance of this pic lies in its send-up of the Doris Day / Rock Hudson romantic comedies of the late 1950s and early 1960s. (If you’re not familiar, check out Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back.) The ingredients are a pretty girl meeting a handsome guy, some zany mix-ups, lots of flirty romance, and a wink-wink to sex. Down with Love takes it to a more sophisticated level (including being more suggestive in its wink-winking), and the overall effect is slick, sleek, and pure money in the bank.

The movie’s color palette — the sets, the props, the costuming — pops, right along with the dialogue. And in a particularly clever bit of casting, Tony Randall, the foil for Rock Hudson’s heartthrob hero in the old movies, appears as well (albeit in a different type of role), while the immensely talented David Hyde Pierce picks up Randall’s mantle of wingman and lovable-nerd-in-residence. Sarah Paulson plays Vikki, Barbara’s editor and requisite best-friend character, to fill out the fabulous foursome. Hilarity ensues throughout, but don’t leave early. The musical number that plays over the closing credits is totally worth the price of admission.

After watching a couple of hours of bleak TV news last night, finding Down with Love on HBO was like coming home from a tough day and finding an unexpected gift waiting at my door. A big, bright, happy gift. Tied in ribbons.

No strings attached.

 

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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star crossed

Living in LA, it’s not unusual to cross paths with celebrities, movie stars, and just those I-know-I-know-that-person-but-from-where types. It never really gets old for me, but it’s more of an “oh, that’s so-and-so” reaction rather than the “can I get a selfie with you?” touristy response. I don’t mean to sound blasé about it but I heartily believe that famous people deserve to have their private lives, too. Unless it’s either a) George Clooney b) Brad Pitt or c) Harrison Ford and then all bets are off and I can’t promise anything.

But while B.’s and my interactions with media darlings have been mostly sightings, both of us have had our separate brushes with stardom. One story is “aww”-worthy (mine); and one is “whoa!”-worthy (his). To wit:

The first time I came to LA was on a family vacation when I was four years old. In those days, some airlines offered two-facing-two seating, which my dad had reserved for our family of four. At the last minute — at the gate — the airline rep very nicely asked my dad if it would be possible for us to change our seats to the more traditional kind, as a very famous person would be on the flight and was requesting the facing seats, if possible. My dad agreed.

Once we were airborne, it seemed that the VIP wanted to thank us in person. And that is how I ended up sitting on Sophia Loren’s lap, being “oohed” and “aahed” over sweetly by La Bellissima herself. I don’t remember the incident (I think my first visit to Disneyland made way more of an impression on me), but my parents loved to tell that story for years.

B.’s story took place in a bar in the 1980s after a law firm softball game. (B. was a labor lawyer and his team was the Blue Flashers — a labor law term.) He was exiting the men’s room as a tall guy with blonde hair wearing a red linen jacket was walking in.

Red Jacket looked at B.’s jersey and asked, in a British accent, “Blue Flashers? What do you do?”

“I’m a softball player,” B. responded. Then he joked, “What are you — a rock star?”

“I don’t know that I’d call myself a star,” Red Jacket replied, “but that’s the field I’m in.”

B. didn’t think anything of it until a bit later, when the house band announced that there was someone famous at the bar that night. Someone in a red linen jacket. Someone with a British accent. Someone whose signature long hair was cut shorter, which was why B. didn’t recognize the lead singer of one of his favorite bands.

Someone named Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame.

Not at all rattled, B. walked over, explained that he was fan and why he hadn’t recognized Plant earlier, and apologized for having given him s**t.

“You can give me s**t,” Plant replied companionably and graciously proceeded to introduce B. to the other members of the band sitting nearby.

If only all of those whose names are up in lights could turn down the wattage every so often to be human.

Wish upon a star.

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

 

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two on the aisle

Every woman has a different idea of romance. To some, it’s roses and champagne. To others, it’s diamonds and a getaway for two to Fiji. To still others, it’s George Clooney (oh, come on, like you’ve never thought that). And while all that stuff is nice, to me, real romance is more nuanced, more personal, more here’s-my-heart. To wit:

This past Sunday, B. took me on the most romantic date. Casablanca was playing in a local movie theater (as part of its 75th anniversary celebration) and, while I’ve seen it on TV a gazillion times, I’d never seen it on the big screen. B. had seen it 25 years ago at Hollywood’s legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater and, so amazing was it seen that way, he was determined that I not miss out on the opportunity.

It was, in a word, breathtaking. Ingrid Bergman was absolutely exquisite as the woman torn between the love of her life and the hero husband working to save the world; Humphrey Bogart was swoon-worthy as Rick, the smooth, suave nightclub owner with a tender, if broken, heart. And hearing the French nationals sing the Marseillaise, in the face of occupying Nazis attempting to sing their own anthem, was incredibly moving — even more so on the big screen.

I fell under the movie’s spell. Apparently my “Oh, my!” when Bogart first appeared onscreen was audible, as was my sniffling when he told Bergman’s Ilsa that she had to get on the plane with her husband, Victor Laszlo, for the greater good — even though it was tearing Rick apart.

If you’ve never seen Casablanca, shame on you — rent it or stream it right now (right after you finish reading, that is). And for those of you who have, if you ever get the chance to see it in the movies, don’t think twice. It’s the right thing to do.

So okay, you’re saying, B. took you to a romantic movie (not just a romantic movie, dear reader, THE singular most romantic movie of all time). But really, it was just a trip to the movies — how is that unbelievably romantic? I’m glad you asked.

As a college professor, B. works every day during the fall and spring semesters. He’s either in the classroom; in his school office helping any of his hundreds of students with questions or concerns; or working at home on the weekends grading papers and exams, preparing for class, writing reference letters on request, and more. In short, during the semesters, the idea of socializing on the weekends — particularly on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon — is downright hilarious. So, the fact that B. made this Sunday date happen for me was quite a feat — he was at his desk before dawn on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, put in 15-hour days on Friday and Saturday, and whisked me off to 1940s Morocco on Sunday afternoon. Talk about swoon-worthy.

You must remember this — when it comes to romance, a kiss is just a kiss. But someone who gives his whole heart to you — that is true love.

Cut and print.

 

ⓒ 2017 Claudia Grossman

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