Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Glittery Crap

Dear Store Owners and Kiosk Keepers,

I have endured brightly wrapped candy, promising explosions of sugary goodness, awaiting me and my two tykes at every grocery checkout. After exiting the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, I have suffered dragging my kids through the Pirates of the Caribbean store overstocked with overly priced and cheaply made swords, hooks and buccaneer hats. I've even pulled my children screaming from displays of Fruit Roll-Ups, Chips Ahoy and Lays Potato Chips after gymnastics and swimming. (BTW, gymnastics and swimming, why at a place of fitness do you insist on hawking sugar and empty calories to kids? Paging Michelle Obama!)

Now, this by no means, is an old practice. When I was eight my family vacationed in Hawaii, and we were in some store and I was seduced by foil-wrapped glimmer and the promise of minty goodness in the form of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum. I begged my father to buy me a pack. Because for some reason, it was very important at that particular moment, that I get what I wanted. But no matter how much I cajoled, he resolutely said no. This struck me as entirely unfair, because I clearly remember that I hardly ever asked for anything. (In retrospect, and now with kids of my own, I'm pretty sure I asked for crap all the time, but my memory is insistent and I will allow it to speak for itself.)

So, I stole the gum. And I got away with it. Or at least I thought I did. About a month after we returned home, my dad got a letter informing him that his eight year old son had stolen a pack of gum, and would we kindly remit ten cents at our earliest possible convenience.

Some back story...

I was born in Honolulu. Most folks assume my father must have been in the military because of my Hawaiian birth. But, no. Dad is part of that other prominent American institution of destruction and economic gain, real estate. My family is responsible for constructing one of the first hotels along Waikiki. I used to harvest a kernel of pride at the opening credits of Hawaii 5-0 as they quick-panned towards Diamond Head. If you have a discerning eye and don't blink you can just make out the silhouette of the Foster Tower Hotel. And that was home for the first nine months of my life, in the Foster Tower's penthouse.

Before you put me in the same category as Paris Hilton (although I do sometimes like running around without my knickers) know that this was a singular hotel, not a hotel chain. The Foster Tower is now condos and our family's connection to it long gone.

Anyway, on Oahu, my dad was (and I write this loosely) somewhat of a celebrity. His company had various holdings around the island. And our family picture would appear in the Honolulu newspaper whenever we would vacation there. So, when he got the letter in the mail about the lifted Wrigley's gum, I'm sure this wasn't regular procedure. Someone didn't want to embarrass my father publicly, and decided to use the long arm of the US Postal system to cushion the blow.

I remember running upstairs to my room and extracting a dime from my kiddie bank. But mostly I remember how shamed I felt when I handed the coin to my father. I'm sure it was that incident that kept me from entering the lucrative field of cat burglary.

But Store Owners and Kiosk Keepers, let me get back to you. I'd like to call a couple of you out by name...

How dare you Staples for having a tantalizing lollipop display! You sell office supplies! Lollipops should not be part of your purview. After returning home with printer cartridges and a ream of paper, you could have knocked me over with a staple remover when I deduced by the bulges from my kids' pockets that they had both committed lolly larceny.

Seasoned criminals! And they're only seven and four.

You probably want to point your toner-stained fingers with blame at my parenting skills. But I say, "Get thee behind me Staples!" It is you who are luring my little ones with luscious lickables, putting a lollipop display where a CD-ROM rack should be. Shame on you!

And before you start snickering Crocs Kiosk, know that I'm on your case as well. My children were immediately drawn to those drawers of plastic studs which one can buy to adorn your product. This prompted me to say, "No, we are not going to purchase overly priced doohickeys to decorate your already overly priced shoes." I have since found out that doohickey is not the technical term for a Croc stud. No, they have been given the unfortunate moniker jibbitz. But whether doohickey or jibbitz, three dollars for the face of Marge Simpson, really?

But even my threat, with a heavy innuendo of doomsday, could not stop my daughter from pocketing this gem:

What little girl wouldn't want to steal it? Hell, I want to steal it. It's brightly colored. It's heart shaped. And it's faceted like the Hope Diamond.

So, I did my job. I reprimanded them, returned the stolen booty with the kids in tow, and even said the obligatory, "I sure hope they don't call the police."

But now, Store Owners and Kiosk Keepers it's time for you to do your job and remove the glittery crap from their eye level.

Because kids are hardwired to steal. That's what they do. They are all, me, me...want, want, want...must have, must have, must have...with no sense of consequence. I realize you strategically place those items because soft parents often give in and buy this shit. But your practices have gotten so much more insidious. Products are shinier and more brightly colored. There are a thousand and one flavors and movie tie-ins. So, when there's a hard ass parent like me, who isn't inclined to indulge with geegaws and snicky-snacks, well, what recourse do my kids have but to steal.

Your stock holders might not appreciate moving the booty to an upper shelf, but parents all over this country would out and out praise you.

And I'm letting you know now, Staples, and Crocs and wicked grocery store chains, at some point one of my rugrats will steal something, and I'll take it from them, of course, but instead of wasting the gas and the time to return the bauble, Papa might just end up with a new jibbitz for his Crocs.

Put that in your lolly and suck it!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Daddy Got Me a Dago Tee!

I am not one who needs to visit his past.

But Michael relishes finding wayward family members and reconnecting with Frick and Frack who he bartended with in his Chicago days. He even has an almost manic desire to go to his high school reunion. And to make matters worse he always asks me to accompany him. Year after year (or maybe it's five years after five years) I have dodged this bullet, because really, aside from ingesting Borax in mass quantities I can't think of anything more heinous.

That's not to say I don't understand my husband. He is an actor after all. Showing off is part of his stock and trade. And none of his other class mates defected to the West Coast, guest starred on numerous episodics from Criminal Minds to Monk, and have a current Lowe's commercial running. To put it simply, Michael wants to saunter into the chlorine-smelling conference room at the Alton, Illinois Holiday Inn and have folks unabashedly gush.

Another thing about Michael, he's all about shock value. Nothing would please him more than jolting Midwestern small mindedness by introducing me as his husband. He thrills at the idea of challenging racist and homophobic stares from his fellow class mates. But I refuse to be the prized pekingese on his arm.

I have images of getting all dolled up, making an entrance with my husband and then once the shock of a legally gay married couple wore off, I'd be unceremoniously dumped in the corner with the wallflowers and condom wrappers.

But I guess after all these years, I finally made myself clear. He didn't bother asking me to go with him. Instead, he asked if Sebastian and Maxie could go with him. Did I hear that correctly? He'd take the kids and leave me behind? That would mean I'd have the house to myself. Sure it would cost a pretty penny procuring air fare for the little buggers, but...

"Of course you can take them with you."

I'm in heaven people! Four nights without my family. I'm delirious with sleeping when I want, watching what I want, eating what I want. I'm having one heck of a staycation! People have asked what I am doing. Well, here's the answer...NOTHING.


Lately Sebastian has been wanting a muscle shirt. There's a neighbor kid down the block who wears them and Bash is beside himself with envy every time the kid rides by on his bicycle sleeveless.

Well, the day after the reunion, Michael took the kids to the mall. (Not a surprise. Going to the mall is as commonplace an activity in Alton, Illinois as smothering food with gravy or liquid cheese.) Needless to say, the boy got his shirt...

Bash called me on the phone to tell me the good news. His excitement was infectious, "Daddy got me a Dago tee!"

I immediately cringed. It's jarring to hear my husband's home town vernacular coming out of my son's mouth. Maybe that's why I never really had any interest in going back to any of my high school reunions. Besides having to endure comparisons to my former sickly, geeky, possibly faggy adolescent self, I would wonder what poisoned truths that I once held so dear back then, would come flooding forth. Which of my teenage actions, that seemed impish at the time, would set my teeth on edge? Or like Dago tee, would I suddenly recall inappropriate phases or harsh invective that I didn't know were inappropriate or harsh at the time?

Michael got on the phone all caught up in Sebastian's enthusiasm and with kid gloves I reprimanded, "Honey, you can't go around saying Dago tee. Call it something else, anything else." And then remembering where he was and the influences he was surrounded by I added, "Well, maybe you shouldn't call it a wife beater either."