Showing posts with label It's all (my) Relative(s). Show all posts
Showing posts with label It's all (my) Relative(s). Show all posts

Happy Birthday: Everyone Old is New Again

It's my birthday.

How old am I? great-grandmother won her husband in a jumping contest. It was about 1870, she was 15, maybe not ready to wed; but the civil war had wiped out most of the eligible men in her Missouri town. So competition was stiff. She however, had to be flexible and literally rise to the occasion. And rise above every other hopeful.

I’m lucky that I knew her; but she didn't talk much. She was exhausted. I mean, come on — she won her husband in a jumping contest.

Cooking Up Christmas... Ostrich

I ate roadkill one Christmas.

I love going home for the holidays. When I walk in my parent's house, familiar smells from the stove reach out to hug me before my mother can. She rushes over, fluttering her long red fingernails as if piping me aboard. She wears felt Minnie Mouse antlers, candy cane socks and a sweater vest with sequined snowmen. I spy dangling ornament earrings.

"Bradley" A Play In Three Acts

My grandmother said I was born to entertain. But when I took the stage, there was another actor already in place.

Curtain rises... A bare West Texas backyard. A curly haired toddler, Bradley, stands near the back door. He blinks into the sun.

My brother Brad has a strong mind. He can still picture his POV from the crib.  He recalls not understanding the words being spoken to him. Perhaps my parents had thick Southern drawls.

He remembers our father more clearly than I do. What if feels like to be a family. He witnesses two people he loves fall out of love. Understanding their decisions lurches him out of childhood. He is aware of what we have versus what we lose. He'll always miss it.

The Wet Nap

Nothing is as pacifying and promising to me as holding a baby. The world spins wildly around us both, yet as I cup my hand behind her head and draw her body in as close to mine as I can, the earth and time stop. Everything gets so quiet, except out heartbeats. The only importance is simply holding that baby. You've got the whole world in your hands. To raise them past this one minute, or forever, is incomprehensible. Just this privileged moment is all that matters.

I have twin nieces, now aged eighteen. Watching them grow has been a pleasure -- I get to see their parts turn into sums. We've all seen a baby take it's first steps or form their first opinion; but it's so rich to feel them do it, in your heart. They don't even know, or need to, that seeing them make a face when eating a sour apple thrills you, or that you tiptoe into their room late at night, holding your face close to theirs, just to make sure that they're still breathing.

When you put a child down for a nap and they're quiet, your hope is that they asleep quickly. Twins are built-in company for each other, making the theoretically solitary nap harder to accomplish. When my nieces shared a room as babies, their cribs were placed far apart. Put down to sleep for the night, or their nap, it often took awhile for them to quiet down.

I feel a crib offers some physical nap security. I could place them inside this barred cocoon, way down deep, as if I were hiding a treasure and it was safe from danger. Darkening the room assures further camouflage and I placed light blankets over their precious bodies like a layer of leaves over a stash of gold coins.

Ever wonder how parents know when a child is ready to transition from their crib to a bed? 

1. Put them down for a nap.
2. Leave room.
3. Hear no noise and at first, sigh confidently that they are napping.
4. Remember that there are two of them, panic, and open door to check.
5. Laugh when you see that they are now in the same crib.
6. Wipe the smile off your face -- how did one climb down and get in the others crib?
7. Put back in their respective cribs with a stern, Stay put. Emphasize with a finger point at each.
8. Go read a book. Put your book down after ten minutes of maddening silence. Open bedroom door, discover one twin out of her crib, wearing five pairs of pants and three hats. Notice lamp overturned, curtains pulled down from rod, clothes out of dressers and now on floor.  See twins smiling proudly.
9. Close the door, leave them alone, and go take a nap.
10. Wake up refreshed and buy big girl beds.

Taking care of them one afternoon, as I put them down in these new beds for a cage-free nap, I felt uneasy. These beds had no rails. They were just open to the world. The twins were independent and my mind easily raced to a vision of  them sitting up in bed, suddenly teenagers, reaching out, not to me, but to an imaginary steering wheel, and them driving to meet me for lunch. They grow up so fast.

I closed their door, extra quietly and kept tiptoeing away, far too far for them to hear my soft footsteps. I lasted about fifteen minutes, a new record. To congratulate myself on my checking-in-on-them restraint, I checked in on them. I was shocked to see that the door to their bathroom was open. I heard water. I checked to see that the twins were alright. Thankfully asleep. I rushed past them, and into their bathroom to discover water rushing out of the tub faucet, up and over the tub, and out onto the floor. Rolls of spare toilet paper were bobbing about in the overflowing tub's water like huge marshmallows in hot chocolate.

I turned the (thankfully) cold water off and raced out to the twins beds. The first was asleep, safe and dry. The other was dripping wet and not asleep -- but under the covers. I pulled her covers back. Her clothed body was soaking wet. Holding her away from my body like a husband holding his wife's purse, I quickly took her out of the room before her sister woke up. I needed to change her and begin what was to be an hour of strong lectures about water safety, danger and being responsible.

Wet clothes are hard to get off. They stick to your skin, like truth. I gently pulled each drenched layer off and uttered a frustrated accusation to her about getting out of bed and turning on the water. This was dangerous and who knows what might have happened if they fell in. Her shirt cleared her head, and revealed her smiling face, one of an innocent, delighted child. She pointed in the direction of her bedroom, and her sister "She did it," she said.

She couldn't talk much but she knew her sister's name as well as how to ask me to spin her around one more time. She'd hold one tiny finger up near her mouth and say time. I'd melt, and spin her one more, two more, seventeen more times. But not today. This was serious and she needed to learn the danger of water, the power of truth and the important life lesson of accepting responsibility for her actions.

I had a frank, man-to-tot discussion with her as I rubbed a dry towel on her wet blond hair. She has always been very smart and I knew she understood me as she sat on my lap, staring up at me with her impossibly blue, round Cindy Loo Hoo eyes, listening to every word, surely grateful not to be napping. Every time I paused, she'd repeat, "My sister did it."

"Listen," I countered, "it doesn't look good for you. You're sitting here, soaking wet. And your sister is fast asleep in her bed. Which is where you should be."

When I felt she understood, I carried her back to her bed, placed her in, and gave her my best-ever finger pointing stay put, emphasized with an I mean it young lady and threw in the classic, or no dessert. I passed by her saintly sister, sweetly sleeping with her head to one side. Even napping, she was wearing a restrained version of her famous smile. I reached down to push her curls away from her face, purely for my benefit. Her pillow was wet. I reached under her covers and felt her Gap onesie. Sopping wet. Her eyes popped open like an uprighted doll.

"Did you turn on the water? I asked.

Her grin betrayed her before she spoke her confession. "I did it," she said.

She was delighted and proud, maybe from her tiny-handed faucet-handling dexterity, maybe from her ability to pull a fast one. Both were extraordinary and the latter a strong foreshadow to her later interest in acting.

All I could think about as I dried her off, was her sister, now dry and peacefully sleeping, probably exhausted from pleading her innocence against my insistent and wrongful accusations of her role in the tub crime.

I only had them for the afternoon and later debriefed their mother of the caper. She is a woman of thought, wisdom and patience, obviously great and important components of parenthood. She also possesses one of the most endearing and unique qualities of anyone I've ever known. Whenever I see her -- no matter what she might have been thinking about or occupied with before -- when I walk in the room and our eyes meet, she smiles. Before anything else. That tiny automatic second, that little curve of her mouth, is more than calming. Everyone should download that reflex.

I voiced my concern about water safety and how one blamed her sister and how I thought it a defensive deception. It wasn't possible for one to blame the other, she explained, teaching me a valuable truth which came naturally to their mother. "Children don't know how to lie, they have to learn that," she told me. 

They grew from toddlers to teens in a beautifully orchestrated flash. When they were about seven or eight, as I rocked them to sleep, I paused and asked them to never get too big to hold. They promised they wouldn't.

Thankfully, they never learned to lie.

Sam The One Day Dog

To Bob... for Skippy.

As I grew up, my parents never sat me down and had the talk with me. Several times I'd think it was coming. I'd hear a whisper in a hall or see them huddled over a cup of Mormon-friendly Postum. I'd linger a bit in anticipation of getting the talk; but after a few minutes of me standing there not speaking it just got awkward, so I'd shuffle off, mumbling I'll just be in my room if you need me, or something equally hopeful. They'd have smelled my desperation if Jovan musk wasn't so cheap and sold in walking-distance malls.

Greg White holding a cavalir king charles puppy in Sherman,CT

In my mind, the speech goes like this: Son, owning a dog is a big responsibility. It's a huge metaphor for life. You have to feed it -- like it's your very soul. You're ultimately responsible for the happiness and well-being of another spirit. A Blithe Spirit -- to use a term you might find comfortable since you seem to like being in those drama productions at your school that we never come to -- a spirit of which you and you alone are totally in charge. They must be walked and you must pick up their shit on the lawn like you love it. If we ever step in the unpicked-up shit, though. we will beat you like a red-headed stepchild. If you think you are ready to own and care for a dog, we can form a little committee and once you and your three brothers have all decided on one type of dog, we will go buy one.

The same dog?! We couldn't decide on the same pizza, let alone a dog. I realized that I couldn't swap a poodle for a German Shepherd like it was Halloween candy, so I just kept relatively quiet. We never did that family outing where we walked up and down the aisles of the SPCA. I know how it goes -- everyone is looking for a puppy. There's a crowd around the pen with the mass of wiggling yellow fur, and tiny children are being licked by a young pup named I Want This One Daddy!

But I keep walking and notice a lone, older dog in a pen that no one cared to clean today. She has one ear sticking up. She shakes a little as I walk in, because she isn't used to visitors and doesn't want to get her hopes up -- again. Life doesn't throw a tennis ball at every dog. She creaks up with hesitation and early hip dysplasia like a girl at the very end of the prom who's finally asked to dance. There's something in this dogs eyes that look back into mine, and start telling me her story. I want to hear more, so I take sign the papers promising not to cook her and I take her home.

After months of slow bonding and endless trips to the vet to try to heal everything that probably got her abandoned in the first place -- we are in love. Our slow-mo montage is laid on top of a Maroon 5 ballad, where we romp through fields. We sit in front of the roaring fireplace in our mountain chalet, and I take a quick minute to look up from my novel and smile at the sight of her sleeping all curled up, wondering why that doesn't hurt her back and how I ever lived without her.

Yeah, I never had that.

Like many people, my Aunt Cathie loves her dogs. She has passed this love sweetly to my cousin Sean It's heartwarming to watch their hearts melt at even the thought of their animals. Cathie got this gift from her mother, who we called Baby. Baby once had a black lab, Joker, who was able to jump her six-foot fence and run away. His desire to fly to freedom made no sense to me, because Baby's home and loving care were what all people, not just dogs, should have wanted to jump into.
Her son-in-law, my Uncle Jim, was playing golf one day. His caddy, James, happened to live in Baby's detached guest house over the garage. In addition to shining golf shoes and recommending a three iron over a five, he helped Baby with stuff around the house. One day, as James handed Jim his driver, his hand lingered on the club, not letting go.

"Mr. Jim, there's a dog in your mother-in-law's yard dragging around a skillet tied to his neck," he said, worried.

Jim appreciated the nerve it took James to speak to him about this deep concern. Smiling, Jim explained it all as he swung, "That's just to keep him from jumping over the fence."

Yes, exhausted and frustrated from hunting and searching and dragging crazy Joker back into the compound, Baby grabbed a cast-iron skillet from the kitchen she never cooked in and tied it to a long chain attached to Joker's collar. He could walk around the yard, dragging the huge, heavy, chicken-frying skillet but he couldn't jump over the fence. He never figured out why he couldn't jump, he just accepted it and roamed the grounds semi-freely. Occasionally his chain would get caught up on a tree trunk or a car tire; but he'd sit, patiently waiting for someone to pass by and hear his eyes pleading, Be a lamb and untangle me.

My cousin Sean and I later used this idea to attach our monkey to a cable between two trees in our yard on Balboa Island. He could zip-zip back and forth, and was still hands-free to masturbate incessantly; but unable to run away.

I got the itch for a dog years ago in Los Angeles. I decided to scratch it on a Jack Russell terrier. I found a farm in Thousand Oaks that also bred champion thoroughbred horses. I drove out on a beautiful sunny Sunday to have a little look see.

Los Angeles is full of canyons and valleys with properties that even Will Rogers would still be discovering, so I was thrilled but not surprised to drive into this never-before-imagined farm property.

A Hallmark commercial (starring me) began rolling. As I parked and walked toward the huge, stereotypical red barn -- a dozen Jack Russell tiny, fat puppies bounded out and ran down the expansive, rolling green lawn. One particular puppy leaped right into my sucker-arms. I wrote the check, tucked the pup in the passenger seat and drove off onto the Sunset. Sunset Boulevard.

Once home, I fussed over him and played with him. I took Sam (his new name) to a dinner party that night with David Youse and Tai Babilonia, passing him around like an hors d'oeurve. Later, I pulled him into bed with me, now not alone for once in a very long time. We clung onto each other all night, both sniffing each other and asking ourselves what we'd gotten into.

Before I hesitantly went to work the next day, I left his food and water in my bedroom, near the bathroom floor thinking that would be the easiest place to clean up the inevitable pee. I spoke in a loving, hopeful, song-song voice as I showed all this to him, left a gay-crazy amount of toys piled up, and closed the door gently.

It was dark when I got home. I didn't know yet to leave a light on for him. I eased open the front door to prevent his excited little body from squirming out past the guy he barely knew and might not remember.

But he wasn't waiting. Panicked, I flipped on the lights and started searching the house, sure that he had escaped out a door I left open or had been robbed by a PETA rogue. I hadn't even had the chance to act non-repulsed by the saliva-covered tennis ball I hadn't even yet had the chance to throw over and over and over.

When I walked in my bedroom, there he was, huddled in the exact same spot I had placed him in near his untouched food. He hadn't even chewed the price tags off the toys, nor drank any water. In a second I realized that the bouncing puppy I had watched run down the huge, rolling lawn, and had fallen so quickly in love with, was in shock and missed that farm and the horses.

I made a mistake asking him to accept my life.

I called the farm and told the owner what I felt. She understood. I drove him back to the farm immediately. Even in the dark, he ran out of my car, up the giant lawn and into the dark barn.

I hope he has a wonderful life, and not thought for a moment of selfish me. All of the time I get is borrowed. 

Of all my travels, I have marveled at the fantastic, shockingly pristine beauty of Alaska, which is rivaled by nothing in the world except the love I saw bestowed on the Alaskan sled dogs by their owners. Seeing Alaska is as breathtaking as visiting Paris in love.

Ive helicopter as a U.S. Marine, and twice I've helicoptered up through a sharp, frozen-in-timeless-beauty ravine and gasped from the thrilling ride and the stunning vistas. Even though the chopper is crazy noisy, all you can hear is the serenity outside. Alaska must be what owning and truly loving a dog is like -- everywhere you look you want to hold it in your mind and caress it and you don't care who sees you because it actually is just you and it alone.

As I landed on a blindingly white glacier, I saw the sled dogs jumping around and even before I de-choppered I heard them yelping as they strained against their chains. They get as excited as Baby's dog Joker did (pre-skillet) but to pull sleds. Whether it's tourists full of cruise ship buffet food or for the grueling, eleven hundred-mile long Iditarod these dogs are barking.

Only if the time is right, I'd like to earn the privilege of sharing my life with a dog. I'd love to feel what my friends feel -- that unconditional, constantly-surprised love when I walk through the door for the one thousandth time.
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." - C.S. Lewis

Chivalry Is Not Dead - It's On Fi-yah

Timing is everything. Lives depend on it.

I hate knowing that an unpreventable act is about to occur. Like when my drink is on the counter. I just refilled it. It's hot in this kitchen. As I stir the risotto, I glance down at my glass. I'm looking forward to taking a nice long sip between adding ladles full of stock to the skillet. I'm not blasé about cooking risotto. I don't just throw rice in a pan, add liquid and stir all loosey-goosey, hoping and praying it comes out all creamy and delicious. I learned from a real live chef in Venice to use boiling-hot stock and to serve it immediately after it's finished. The real trick, he said, is having your other dishes and your family ready at the same time. My risotto is so micro-managed that it wants to see HR immediately after dinner.

I lay my deep-bowled wooden stirring spoon on the rest next to the stove. It's that one second when my mind is focused on that spoon rest and that I know that the risotto residue on there is going to dry quickly and be really hard to scrub off when someone does the dishes later. It's then that I forget about the location of my drink and as I reach back for the Parmesan cheese. I feel my hand brush against my glass when I'm awakened by the cold condensation. I try to stop its fall with my mind. The world switches to slo-mo as it falls and crashes to the floor.

It's lemonade, and in one of the glasses I brought back from Puerto Vallarta ten years ago. Glass and liquid spread like wildfire over my floor and ice scoots under the fridge. I won't go after it; but I'll always know it's there. Not only is this going to be hard to clean up, but also I'll find something still sticky tomorrow. I'll miss that glass until the remaining eleven are broken.

Mexico produces more than great glass They're currently featuring cheaper avocados and gang killings -- one is satisfying hunger and the other is keeping tourists from going back to Mexico. Some  brave souls are creeping back down south, like farmers easing their tornado shelter doors open after a twister to see if the cow is still tied to the post and it's safe.

Mexico's crime has been bad before. Once my Uncle Jim was on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Brownsville, Texas He was off to visit my cousin Sean at boarding school. This was back in the day when not only was smoking allowed on planes, but also the cabin had a row of bulkhead seats that faced another row of seats, creating this special area for a cozy party-in-the-air. Once the plane reached a safe altitude, the flight attendants busted out the cocktails and you were free to smoke about the cabin. Southwest is a casual carrier -- I once heard the flight attendant sing the safety instructions to the tune of the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies.

Jim was seated in this very special bulkhead area and struck up a conversation with the couple facing him. Jim was a very handsome man, a true gentleman, well-dressed, with classic manners. He settled in his seat, lit a cigarette and bought the couple each a drink. They thanked him for his kindness by telling him a tragic tale of victimization. The woman looked kind of pitiful, and quiet; but ended up a fabulous storyteller once her Scotch kicked in.

They were on their way to Brownsville to be presented with a plaque and an apology from the Mexican government for being shown a less-than-hospitable time while driving through the scenic Mexican desert in their Winnebago.

Some banditos stopped commandeered the van. The bad men held the husband and wife hostage. They took the wheel and careened down the deserted highway. Meanwhile, bound and gagged in the living room portion of the mobile home, our couple feared for their lives. They knew they had to make a bold move. Perhaps their captors were some of your shorter Mexican outlaws, and it was taking both of them to operate the huge pleasure cruiser. Maybe one steered and the other worked the pedals. Our couple managed to untie themselves and thanks to whatever amusing distraction the bad guys were involved with, they opened the side (or living room) door to the speeding Winnebago. They jumped out onto the hot, black highway at 35 mph. As they rolled and rolled and tumbled and bumped they broke limbs, were horribly scraped and had to limp for miles before finding help. They healed in a hospital and returned home to Dallas, vowing never to set foot in Mexico again.

They eventually agreed to return only to accept this apology and maybe stay for some complimentary chips and salsa.

"That is quite a horrible story," Jim said. "I'm so sorry you went through this horror."

"Thank you," said the woman as she pulled out a cigarette. It was her go-to move when finishing a story, a meal, or sex. It was automatic as was Jim's chivalrous whipping-out of a lighter to flick the Bic and render aid to this poor lady.

Altitude and pressure produce unpredictable results on inexperienced drinkers and cheap lighters. As Jim leaned over and flicked the lighter's switch, a flame over a foot high shot up and caught her hair on fire. The woman screamed and Jim quickly switched to fireman mode, patting her hair down -- hard. The flames were extinguished.

Her husband was frozen in shock.  "How much more can we possibly take?" he wondered aloud.

The flight attendant rushed over to make sure that this rowdy group wasn't endangering the other passengers. She lectured them as she removed their tiny, empty liquor bottles and shushed them as she walked away to apply more lipstick before landing.

The woman very calmly placed her hand on top of her burned hair and asked her husband to retrieve her carry-on from the overhead storage compartment. He did. She removed a scarf from it, and then she removed her wig.

She wrapped the scarf over her head. Now Jim know why her hair melted. Turns out she was mostly bald and wore a wig to improve her looks. I bet after that trip she packed a spare wig.

Thankfully the story took up most of the flight time. After Jim's profuse apologies they felt no need to speak. He was left to nurse his cocktail and let his mind wander to thoughts of this poor woman, so bravely throwing herself out of a moving Winnebago to avoid her own murder or the extra cruelty of a gang-rape in a foreign language, now reduced to accepting her award for bravery from a high-ranking government official, wearing a new dress and an old scarf.

The roads aren't safe, nor the skies; she might not ever travel again.

Yes, chivalry is not dead, and timing is everything. Hesitation usually results in regret; but so can fast action. Sometimes, rarely, it turns out to be the right thing. Dom Perignon prematurely popped the cork and invented champagne.

Robbers: Let 'Em Eat Cake!

When I first read this article, I thought that the subject, or victim, lived in the South. It's about biscuits and exposure to mind-numbing heat. However, in the first line we learn that she's in the southern part of California.

I picture a young reporter, beer in hand and tongue in cheek, bitter from writing fluff copy over his sure-Pulitzer novel. He sneaks this story in, rubbing his hands together, knowing his grinchy editor won't even bother to read before it goes to print.

Once there was a twisted crime wave in Dallas. Muggers hid under cars in the parking lot of ritzy malls. Women approached their own cars and the criminal reached out and suddenly slashed their ankles with a knife. The mugger was then free to jump out, grab her purse and keys -- and drive that car away, leaving the woman to bleed all over her Ferragamos. I'm sure this abandonment violates the Good Samaritan law. Panicked, our victim was left facing the duplicitous dilemma of calling for help and wondering if blood comes out of leather.

A friend of my Uncle Jim's was worried about his wife because she often shopped in those malls. He wasn't worried enough to get her a car and driver; but he did get her a loaded handgun to keep in her handbag. She'd take it out at lunch and wave it around to show her girlfriends how "cute' it was. Busboys ducked and waiters warned the chef not to fuck up the salad Nicoise on table 33.

One day, she walked to her car, hyper-aware of these under-the-car ankle slashers. She looked a skosh  bit crazy trying to look under cars while still looking chic. Typical was whispered by church-going shoppers. She'd downed a few glasses of Pinot Gris.

"Damn Asians make all cars look alike. What are you gonna do, shoot 'em?" she mumbled aloud, giggling as she patted her loaded handbag.

She finally found her car and got in. She was fumbling with the keys when all of a sudden she got startled by two men and one woman in the back seat. Completely flustered, she whipped around and demanded that they get out of her car.

They pushed back at her with wide-eyed stares. She couldn't believe their nerve and regretted not voting more carefully in the last presidential election.

Leaving her no other choice, she pulled out her pistol and brandished it about, ordering them out in English and Spanglish and some of her college French. She loved any chance to keep her French up. The backseat people really didn't want to leave, even though she screamed at them. And was armed. The gun flung around uncontrollably in her hand, like a Water Wiggle.

They couldn't argue with her gun and her mental state, so they reluctantly left. They cursed her as they slowly walked away.

She placed the pistol down. But only so far as her lap, keeping it at the ready. Shaky hands made it hard for her to get the key in the ignition. She tried again. They wouldn't go in.

She screeched at the Lexus that her husband had chosen without her input, "Not now!"

She tried and tried and tried but the key would not go in.....

Because it was not her car.

In related news, Texas women can be fashion vicious of a different style. They might "debut" new diamonds or furs as if they're unveiling a portrait. Or an heir. I once escorted Dallas zillionaire Montine Wisdom to a party where I, along with most of Dallas, knew she was introducing a $250,000 lynx coat. James Galanos personally flew his crazy-ass over to Russia, hand selected the pelts and eventually probably donated his own longer hairs as thread to stitch the coat.

As we neared the event, Montine placed her furry arm in mine and we walked into the party, trying to assume a casual air.

Guests lingered near the entrance, busy with casual gossip. In an attempt to feign interest, one removed lint from one another's lapel. We paused, then Montine whipped off the fantastic, full length coat with a flourish that one can't learn, but are born with.

The crowd gasped, and a valet caught the coat just before it touched the ground (I think you have to burn it if that happens). Montine just stood there, posing, preening.

Yet her moment was not over. What she hadn't leaked was that under that coat, which no one knew about or could expect in any way, slung around her neck was a $1,000,000 David Webb turquoise and diamond necklace. Massive earrings and a bracelet completed her bedazzling suite. That's how you make an entrance.

I think one of the Hunt sisters fainted and I know Nancy Brinker left in a humiliated huff.

In true she-didn't-take it-with-her evidence, this is Montine's coat, later sold at auction.

My Aunt Nelda was a tall, elegant, prism of a woman. She wore thousands of flash-causing diamonds even at breakfast. She always had a 2-carat diamond and gold bee pin perched on her shoulder. She  ordered a new Cadillac Eldorado every year. She was supposedly buried in that bee pin as a a last request but I suspect her grave met the same fate as King Tut's.

She was a wealthier and more stylish version of Auntie Mame, without the gin-stained voice. She was traffic-stopping beautiful. And fun. She was known to bring her own dessert to restaurants and possibly offer to share with other diners. She rinsed her hair black and her poodles pink. And sadly left us too soon.

One evening she and her mother (my grandmother) were headed to a birthday party. They stopped by Albertson's to pick up a cake. Aunt Nelda wore a white, floor-length mink coat -- excited to debut this for a while. This intimate family birthday was just the event.

My grandmother sported some old, modest sable jacket. She was a simple country woman who had pushed a hand cart across Oklahoma into Texas in 1898. So she didn't really require all the fancy stuff.

They carried the the cake to the Cadillac where my Aunt carefully placed it on the front floorboard. Eldorados, which as you know, featured front-wheel drive, so they didn't have the annoying hump in the floor. Great spot for placing a cake, a cooler or a baby for safe transport.

She settled in to start the car, calling to my grandmother, "Get in this car before the icing melts, and 'Happy Birthday Rebeca' gets blurry"

But my grandmother was having a hard time -- some mugger had grabbed her on the passenger side. When he finished pulling her into the car, he was in between the two of them, holding a gun jabbed into my grandmother's side. He demanded the car, my Aunt Nelda's diamonds and......

And that's as far as he got.

He made one of those mistakes that he'll replay in his mind a million times while he sits in solitary confinement in the Lubbock prison system: With his rough, forceful, selfish actions he'd caused the bottom tip of Aunt Nelda's brand-new white mink coat to touch in the icing of the birthday cake on the floorboard. Her new white mink coat had cake frosting on it. In an instant, my Aunt Nelda struck at him like a viper.

"You are going to give my mother a heart attack. And you have ruined my new coat!! Get out of this car immediately!"

His face found out that diamonds are the hardest stone.

He broke free of her emerald-cut grasp, and ran across the parking lot. My Aunt screamed for someone to stop the now bloody, horrible criminal.

A fast thinking bag-boy ceased retrieving carts and tackled the mugger, holding him down until the police arrived. My Aunt re-payed that hero by introducing him to her granddaughter, my beautiful cousin Rebeca. They eventually married. That's how you meet a fella in Texas.

(She owned a personnel agency and possessed mad typing skills herself. Later at the police station to give her statement, she pushed the deceptive out of her way. She slid her jewel encrusted fingers across the typewriter keys to type her own statement faster.)

I wasn't as brave as Aunt Nelda; but I did rely on the kindness of animals when I lived in NYC. One chilly night, I walked passed the subway entrance at Broadway and 72nd Street, which was two blocks from my apartment. I stopped to buy cigarettes at a newsstand, whipped out my and handed the clerk a ten dollar bill. He  took forever to give me my change and cigarettes.

Suddenly, a man stuck himself against me and whispered in my ear, "Give me your wallet or I'll stick you."

It happened so fast tat I remained fairly calm. I looked down and sure enough, he had a long, sharp knife poked into my side. Not my actual side, but the side of my thick, brown leather bomber jacket from Neiman Marcus which was lined in sheared possum. Look --  I'm not going to try to defend myself on the fur issue. Nor the bigger issue as to why, as a struggling actor, I ran around Manhattan swathed in retail fur -- there are bigger battles.

I had the coat because it was practical; NYC is cold. The mugger had that crack-jacked look in his mean eyes. That was the year that the New York governor cut the state's budget by simply releasing crazies from state asylums onto the streets of New York. Nice plan.

I jerked my wallet over to him and he ran off. The clerk then handed me my change and cigarettes, admitting to me that he knew the bad guy was going to mug me and wanted to make sure I had money left to get home so he had stalled. This city was lousy with nice plans.

I hurried home because I heard that if you didn't have enough money in your wallet they would come after you and cut you open and take a kidney or a testicle.  

I'm sure he got back to his den of thieves and disgustedly threw the wallet on the ground, cursing me, laughing at my driver's license picture and vowing to get even one day.

So keep a keen eye out for crime, and flying biscuits. 

Chili Earthquake

I was at lunch in Florida this weekend and someone asked me which was worse, the hurricanes of Florida or the earthquakes in California. While I don't care for either (I made sure to pronounce it 'eye-ther" since pontification was about to occur), I pointed out that with hurricanes one has days to prepare and with an earthquake one is lucky to grab some underwear, run into the hallway and duck under a lawyer.

My hurricane evacuation plan is to drive to the airport and board any jet bound for the opposite direction of the approaching storm.  In the event that the airports close and I have to stay,  I do keep several cans of Spaghettio's because they're so much fun. And they last a freakishly long time.