Tuesday, May 26, 2009
When Oprah's magazine came last week, I flipped to the Elizabeth Edwards interview immediately. Why was she thrusting herself back into the limelight, zig-zagging the talk-show circuit to pour more salt on her wounds? Reminding everyone that when she asked them to support her husband for president -- with their money and their time -- she knew full well he'd had an affair that could derail him.
Everything about this media tour was peculiar.
"We're not fancy people," she tells Oprah as they squish into a sofa in her 28,000-square-foot house. "All we need is a comfortable place to sit and have a conversation."
The couple moved into this "dream" house four months before John Edwards announced his second presidential bid.
His announcement, as we all know now, was virtually contemporaneous with his confession to Elizabeth that "there had been a night."
But even with her cancer, his infidelity, and the death of a son, their magnificent home softens the blows. She tells Oprah, "it's hard to sit in this house -- even with the things I face -- and think, Boy, my life really stinks."
She recounts the beginning of John's affair in excruciating detail, all the way down to the "pick-up" line Ms. Hunter allegedly used to seduce him. "And then he went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, and when he walked back, she was standing in front of the hotel and said to him, 'You are so hot.'"
And she wanted to know every detail, she tells Oprah. "I'm a puzzle doer. I had some pieces of the puzzle, and I felt it was going to make sense if I had all the pieces."
Yet, when Oprah asks Elizabeth exactly what John told her ("December 30 he comes and he tells you he's had this indiscretion. Did he use the word indiscretion?"), Elizabeth is foggy. "You'd think I'd remember, but it's sort of a fuzz."
I can't relate. A conversation that would be etched into my brain is, for her, a convenient fuzz.
In perhaps her biggest non sequitur, she says John loves her, she's decided to forgive him, and she's giving him a chance to earn back her trust. "If I had led an absolutely brainless life, I suppose I would find that harder to do." What?
An especially revealing moment came when she explained she also stayed with John because she "wanted to protect him. I wanted all of us to come out of it like we had been, so we could keep our story."
Yes, she does have cancer and it's awful, it really is; she doesn't even know how much time she has left. But how she chooses to spend her time is baffling. "Should I be organizing the costume closet right now . . . or can that wait?"
She proudly tells Oprah she spent three weeks organizing her nine year-old son's Legos.
I cannot relate.
But it was her disingenuousness that took my breath away. She prohibited Oprah from using Rielle Hunter's name in the interview. Yet Elizabeth maintains that it doesn't matter whether her husband is the father of Hunter's child. "Whatever the facts are, that doesn't change my life."
Really? That her children may have another sibling doesn't change anything? That her husband may have another child he will need to love and support (and so far hasn't) . . . wouldn't change her life?
Oprah gently prods her: "But the truth is that most of us don't know men who meet women in hotels and hold babies that are not their own." Elizabeth's response? "Oh, golly, then you don't know many politicians. Holding babies is our business."
And here, another brilliant dodge. "Have you asked him if it is his child?" Oprah asks. "He's talked to me about questions people ask. He doesn't know any more than I know," says a slippery Elizabeth.
Does she blame the "other woman"? "I blame John. But I think that women have to have more respect for other women. I've created this life. It takes a lot of work to put together a marriage, to put together a family and a home. * * * You have to have enough respect for other human beings to leave their lives alone."
Fair enough, Elizabeth. But what about Cheri Young? Remember her? Her husband Andrew Young took a hit for Team Edwards by claiming he was father of Hunter's child. Was Cheri shown respect? Or her three children?
And what of Elizabeth's own children? When she goes on Oprah for the big interview, and appears on Larry King, all to sell this book called Resilience, is she leaving their lives alone?
Her explanation for why is she doing this is hardly satisfying.
She says when she first found out about the affair, she wanted to back out of writing the book. "But then you start to think, Am I going to say I can't do these things, or am I going to take my life back? So although it was hard and in some ways painful to write, it was a statement that I own my own experiences. Nobody else has control of them."
So this is about control? Okay. But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Ms. Hunter has decided to assert some control and "own" her own experiences, too. After a quiet year, Ms. Hunter has changed her mind and now wants a paternity test. Since Elizabeth has pushed her back into the media glare, this heretofore silent, secluded single mother is pushing back, showing some resilience of her own.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Still, a bit of good news came this past weekend, trumpeted in Sunday's Parade. The prosperous Dr. Phil graced the cover, sporting a watch so flinty it was blinding.
In the piece Phil soothes us pathetic pedestrians. "You got caught in a 'perfect storm' of conditions, most of which were beyond your control," he says. Yet, in a patronizing pique he goes on to scold us, "we never really needed a life where we were living large." He also admonishes: "You have to think with verbs in your sentences and do whatever it takes to keep you and your family afloat."
With such sage advice, I feel better already. Thank you, Dr. Phil. But if I had the small house that sits on your wrist, I'd feel better off still.
Yet it isn't what he says, or even what he does, that makes me a non-Phil fan. It is the TMI moment he forced me to have, so many years ago. Back then we knew him as Phil McGraw, the Courtroom Sciences, Inc. ("CSI") guy. At CSI, Phil blew up trial exhibits and organized mock trials. And then Chip Babcock came along.
Chip Babcock (his uncanny resemblance to 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft notwithstanding), is a larger-than-life Texan; a preeminent media lawyer, he's the First Amendment go-to man.
Mr. Babcock, it seems, is a modest fellow; to this day he will not take, nor does it appear he's been given, any credit for McGraw's metamorphosis.
But when Oprah retained Babcock in her mad-cow case, it was Babcock who recommended mock-trial Phil. And the rest, as you know, is history.
In Phil's pre-cow, pre-Oprah exhibit days, when I was a brand-new associate, he came to a firm-training session. These sessions were to teach baby lawyers like me, and I guess Phil was there to give us trial pointers. What I can say is that on this memorable night, Phil forced me into TMI meltdown.
Baby lawyers assembled, Phil addressed our fledgling group. Pick a partner, he curtly instructed. Turn our chairs toward each other, he said to us all, and sit with our knees fully touching. But I was preoccupied -- probably proofing a memo -- and I missed this peculiar preamble. By the time I figured out physicality was involved, the senior partner was the only man standing (a giant man well past 6'2").
So just a few weeks into my firm's employ I sat knee to knee with Giant Partner. We were told not to speak in this knee-touch position, and keep eye contact for the full two minutes. Weird? Uncomfortable? Yes and yes. Though nothing could've prepared me for what came next.
Now, directed Phil, one person in each pair must put our legs together. The other should spread his legs wide and encircle our thighs with his own. During this pose we were again to maintain eye contact without speaking for another two minutes.
Phil called this position a "dyad." I would call it hell.
During this intense thigh-hugging stare-down, in my head I wrote my grocery list. And thanked God that I'd worn a long skirt that day, a skirt that swam at my ankles.
Then it was my turn to thigh-hug Giant Partner man, berka'd by my billowing skirt. This time, as we thigh-highed and stared at each other, we were told to describe our "proudest moment."
Dear God, help me now. This was TMI -- too much intimacy -- and it was over the top.
The room was a sauna as Giant Partner went on about his son's famous high school touch down. Sweating profusely, tongue-tied with grocery lisp, my mind began to fade. Brilliantly not, I talked about food shopping, how to spot a good head of Romaine.
Whatever was the purpose of that ridiculous "dyad" to this day remains far from clear. But whenever I see Phil on a page in a People, or peer at me from a Parade, I think about thighs and that senior Giant Partner and quickly turn a bright shade of red.
Monday, May 18, 2009
If you didn't get enough funnies on Sunday, here are a few to amuse you this Monday.
Familiarity breeds hilarity. This guy's in love.
Splish, splash, she was taking a bath. Err, please don't eat this Daisy . . .
His mother wears combat boots. . .
Pot? Whose pot?
They hate me because I'm beautiful.
In an interview with Parade Magazine, supermodel Iman took it upon herself to size up Michelle Obama. She's "not a great beauty," said Iman, although she "is so interesting looking." But, hey, being gorgeous is no great shake. "When you're a great beauty, it's always downhill for you," Iman modestly demurred.
Oh, and being a top black supermodel? Is akin to slavery, she said, "for lack of a better term."
One man's pain is another man's gain. Weekend warriors are discovering that "doing it yourself" is fraught with danger. The woman pictured here installed a new toilet to replace her leaky one . . . all by herself.
Reports the New York Times,
"Initially, things looked good with the flushing and the swishing. That is, until the ceiling collapsed in the room below the new (leaky) toilet. Rushing to get supplies for a repair, Ms. Taddei clipped a pole in her garage. It ripped the bumper off her car, and later, several shelves holding flower pots and garden tools collapsed over her head."For doctors, however, there is a DIY upside.
“We are seeing an increase in minor injuries, sprains and contusions,” said Dr. Peter Lamelas, who operates four urgent care centers around Palm Beach County, Fla.
Cats and birds do too get along. They even massage each other.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It's only fair that I confess: I'm a mom on the wrong side of the joy scales right now.
As I write this, Mr. M is doing "alphies" and "multies" -- a sort of penance for his conduct at school. Mean teachers at my old elementary invented these horrid things and assigned them as punishment for misbehavior.
An "alphie" is the alphabet, neatly written, over and over again, on ruled paper. A "multie" is a multiplication table: 1x1 through 12x12. These are painful and boring, hand-wrenching exercises.
But alphies and multies did make me a better person. Today, I'm a walking calculator (up to 12 x 12) and I can write in near-perfect hieroglyphery. In any event, I've exhausted all options. I seem to have lost my cattle prod.
Alrighty then. Some mothering joys? Here are a few that are top of mind:
1. Elation. Like hearing his tiny sighs of contentment after a good long nursing.
2. Triumph. After I slipped
fish food tiny oat flecks into his bottle of breast milk, he slept through the night. Which meant I could sleep through, too.
3. His total vulnerability. He easily lets me know what he needs. He'll drape my arm over his shoulders when we sit down to read a book. Or grab my hand and rub it against his cheek.
4. The chuckles I struggle to suppress. Like the time he was suddenly struck with modesty at bath time. Before that, he'd cavorted all over the house unabashedly, happily naked. But all of a sudden, he started backing out of rooms, his small hand covering his bottom.
When he sees me at school, he still runs in for a hug, even in front of his "tough" "guy" friends. And still we savor early-morning snuggles. But the sweet times are dwindling, I'm afraid.
6. Pride in his growing maturity, his newly mindful generosity. On Mother's Day he used the few dollars in his piggy bank to buy me my favorite Godiva cherries.
7. Relief when important milestones are reached. The first time he cried during a sad movie, I said a little prayer. "I knew he had empathy, I knew he was normal. I knew there was a heart beating in there."
8.Appreciation. Already he's a mini superman.The other morning I walked into the kitchen to get breakfast ready and in my path stood a small writhing garden snake. "Mr. M, Mr. M!" I screamed. He instantly recognized my "help me, now!" voice and bolted down the stairs. Fearlessly he picked up the wriggling snake and put it outside where the cat couldn't get it.
9. Ambivalence about his increasing autonomy, his thoughts and separate self. "Mom, this is awful. This is torture," he complained, as he sat writing out his alphies. "Yes, indeed," I agreed. "It's absolute misery. There's nothing worse."
"Uh, Mom? Hello! Torture is ILLEGAL."
Sorry, Mr. M, guess I got the wrong memo.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Background: When I was growing up, we traveled a lot, taking mostly spur-of-the-moment road trips. Like the time my mom called me when I was in fifth grade: "Hi. Granny and I are driving to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. See you in a few days. Bye." Crushed, I begged, "Wait! Let me come with you! Wait!"
Minutes later, there stood my mom, smiling at my classroom door. I can still feel the thrill, and my classmates' jealous stares. On the road, I was the "smokey" look-out, in charge of all CB communiques. Remember the 10-4, copy-that era?
The truckers mistook me for a grown-up. I was so pleased with my sophisticated self. Until I saw a trooper parked by an overpass. Grabbing the mike, I urgently announced, "Breaker 1-9! Smokey northbound, I-75!" "But where is the bear?" the truckers asked repeatedly.
My 11 year-old answer? "Umm, Clearance 16 0!" I stuttered excitedly. Cackles and chortles came back over the channel. Instantly, my "seat" cover was blown. "Honey, they need a mile-marker," my mom explained. The embarrassment, to this day; to this day, oh, the shame.
But back to hotels. Better to starve than stay in a bad room, my mom always said. We'd pull up to a prospect, pile out of the wagon, and collectively inspect the rooms -- before a single suitcase left the Buick.
In New York City, we stayed at the Waldorf. Many a dinner was cheese and crackers. During the day, we'd put the cheese crock outside on the windowsill, together with Mom's wine, to keep them chilled.
So last week, I spent two nights at the Chicago Trump. Although this trip was not on my nickel, I'll pretend like it was. I'll be that exacting. The white gloves are on.
Doorman: A+. He knew my name. How? I asked. "I, uh, saw the name tag?" (the signage in nice Limo-man John's front seat -- he met me in baggage). Excellent observational skills, handsome French doorman. You're subtle, too.
Check-in: Whoops. My reservation is not "in the system." They can't "find" me. I am persona non gratis. Try checking into a swanky hotel when they have no record of your existence. Even if you do pull up in a ridiculously long limousine and your suitcase isn't held together with duct tape. They treat you like you're a homeless person. And . . . well, you are.
While I stood there uncomfortably, hoping to be found, a bedraggled mom (with her older mother, a baby in a stroller, and a toddler in tow) stopped by. Her key had been mysteriously de-activated and she couldn't get into her room. After two attempts, the front desk finally fixed it.
The bellman: A+. Andy was super. He showed me every amenity, of which there are too many to list. This picture I took shows my city-side view (after I opened the draperies with the push of a button).
Room: A-. When the bellman ushers you into the room, the Bose stereo is playing fairly loudly. When you return after turn-down service, the same music is playing yet again. You might find it a little intrusive -- unless you like dentist-drill-jazz.
The room's fully-ish equipped kitchen comes with a microwave, dishes, cool Chiliwich placemats, Cuisinart pots, and a Miele two-burner stove, dishwasher, and mini-fridge with icemaker. There's also a great big espresso machine, more complicated than the cockpit of a 747.
No question, the kitchen was impressive. But I just couldn't picture it ever being used. If you're a frugal businessman, reduced to cooking Spaghetti O's in a saucepan your room, then umm, . . . Trump is probably not the place for you. Unless, of course, you're my mom. Or me.
Naturally the TV has "Trump" channels. No surprise there. The name Trump is emblazoned everywhere. The mini-bar features expensive Trump "ICE" water, an unclever play on words (can you make out the red background? It's a picture of a fire). Who wants to remember the Great Chicago Fire when you're staying in a highrise on the 20th floor?
Housekeeping: Virtually all of the lampshades were crooked (but aren't they always? After all, a housekeeper needs proof she's cleaned the room). All of the lamps were plugged in, though. And while there were nicks in the wall behind one of the nightstands, this -- unless you count the stained mini-bar price list -- was the only clue anyone but I had ever set foot in the room. Overall grade for housekeeping: A+.
Amenities: the TV in the bathroom mirror was an extravagant touch. But if you're short, like me, you can't see to put on makeup or dry your hair. The only thing in front of you is a big brown square. (Unless you want to use the magnifying mirror, and I would strongly rather not.)
But the main room had a mammoth flat-screen TV. And from the bed, I could see it perfectly -- even after I'd taken out my contacts and all I had were my bed-time glasses.
Other amenities were A++. However, Trump would be well-advised to include them on his website. The DVD player, for instance, was a frustrating surprise. Frustrating because I'd left my Weeds DVDs at home, along with a few packages of microwave popcorn I'd have brought along. There was also an ipod dock with speakers, which would have come in handy.
The soaking tub looks inviting. Sleek, and hip and wet-room cool. It is, however, enclosed in a glass shower structure, which gives it a green house effect. For some, a long bath in there might feel a little claustrophobic.
Chief complaint: There was no chance of oversleeping on this trip, no sir. Trump is doing massive construction on the city-side of the hotel, chipping away to build his new restaurant. The jackhammers fired up just after dawn, and continued for half the day, rousing me from my luxury slumber and making any more sleep a mission impossible.
This was particularly irksome because when I checked in, I asked robot-Barbie to put me on the river side without extra charge. "No," was her unbudging response. Since she knew full-well that ear-splitting noise would wake me in the morning (and at the time, I did not), this lapse was unforgivable, making my stay unforgettable.
Minor complaint: there was absolutely no cell-phone signal. The wireless computer signal for my laptop was terrific. But you have to go to the lobby to receive or return any calls.
Conclusion: This was one of those rare occasions where the room actually resembles the room pictured on the hotel website. All in all, it was quite nice. So nice, in fact, you won't want to leave it and patronize local restaurants. Instead, you'll want to read in the soaking tub, make a cup of Espresso (assuming you can take command of the Starship Enterprise), and wrap yourself up in a plush Trump terry robe.
And speaking of soaking, let's not forget the gush factor. Falling into the bed was the ultimate Nestea plunge, a total and complete thousand-thread count rapture.
Overall Rating: Well done, Mr. Trump. I give you every Triple-A diamond, the full five Mobil stars.
And I am awfully picky.