The dismal morning started today with cold rain as I left home, late for work. I detest rushing to catch the train/metro/bus where commuters are packed to within an inch of their breathing space. But I cheered up when I succeeded in hopping on the metro just before the doors closed. I considered this a good omen, which was followed by another when I got a seat on the train. Two for two. Then on the final leg of my journey, a short bus ride from the train station to the office, I arrived at the gate just as a bus was pulling in. I slid into an aisle seat near the exit and breathed a sigh of satisfaction at the wonderful day about to start.

Then suddenly I heard sobbing beside me. The girl next to me was slumped against the window and crying her heart out. Her flow of tears dripped down the glass like the steady rain outside. She had her face turned away from me and I had no intention of intruding on her grief. Had her dog died? Or a loved one? Had her lover dumped her? What should I do? While I mulled over these questions, she wept on as if her heart were shattering into a million pieces. I was miserable for this stranger, sitting so close to her and yet unable to offer any comfort or sympathy.

So I did the next best cowardly thing. I waited to get to my stop, and just before I hopped from my seat and out the door, I pressed a package of tissues into her hand and disappeared.

Could it have been a broken heart? How I wish I could tell her, “This too, shall pass.”

In Becky Shaw’s sold-out Off-Broadway debut last year, the New York Times called it “a corker of a new play of a tangled tale of love, sex and ethics [that] is as engrossing as it is ferociously funny.”

It is funny, sort of. Not wickedly or ferociously – but rather sporadically at the cast’s over the top repartees. The play, written by Gina Gionfrido, revolves around a dysfunctional family that includes a widowed mother who’s dating a gigolo, a passive-aggressive daughter, an angry adoptive son, and a do-gooder son-in-law who attempts to sort out everyone’s issues including those of his downtrodden and pathetic friend, Becky Shaw.

To say that the play meanders haphazardly is an understatement. It touches on a multitude of subjects, including taboos such as incest (between sister and adoptive brother), racism, adoption, attempted suicide. The catalyst in all this uproar, is of course the infamous Becky Shaw, who came so late into the play that one begins to doubt her existence. Becky shows up for a blind date with Max (adoptive brother) which ends in mayhem. From there, events spiral uncontrollably and aimlessly until the cast takes its final bow without resolving any of the conundrum put forth previously. At the end, Becky Shaw takes her leave as she came — like an afterthought.

The lady to my left was snoring. But the night’s still young — what’s on TV?

Cast
Tessa Auberjonois – Suzanna Slater
Brian Avers – Max Garrett
Angela Goethals – Becky Shaw
Graham Michael Hamilton – Andrew Porter
Barbara Tarbuck – Susan Slater

BECKY SHAW
by Gina Gionfriddo
directed by Pam MacKinnon
October 22 – November 21, 2010 at the South Coast Repertory, California

Addressing people by their names is one way to show them my esteem and consideration for them and it usually makes them feel good. Addressing them by a wrong name however, always drives me into the depths of mortification and of self-worthlessness.

I used to be quite good at this practice (addressing people by their right names) until I reached a certain age.
  • Last weekend at my dear father in law’s funeral, I kept mixing up my mother in law’s and her twin sister’s first names. One is Juliette and the other is Paulette. And they’re not even identical twins. (I don’t even have the excuse of being a newlywed as I’ve been married to her son ZH for 26 years.)
  • On Monday, I went up to a co-worker whom I had met only once to thank him for a writing a helpful email. I said, “Stephen, thanks so much for your message. It really helped resolve bla bla bla…” After a polite silence he said, “I’m sorry, but my name is David.” Oh the hazard of working in a multinational corporation.
  • It’s a long-standing habit of mine to call all my close male friends (and some female) “Darling”. It’s an affectionate term of endearment that conveys my fondness for them while my brain attempts to remember their names. Yesterday, I inadvertently called ZH “Darling”. He said, “But don’t you remember that I’m ‘Chéri’?”
Sometimes it’s best just to call everybody “Um.”

It was a rare Monday morning when I woke up feeling very efficient and organized. The previous evening I had everything from clothes, handbag, mid-afternoon snack prepared to beat the start of week confusion. I was feeling on top of the world. Breakfasted, showered, dove into jeans.

… And got stuck. What, STUCK? My trusty old black jeans for all occasions – fat days, skinny days, PMS days and even paired with odd striped tops because there’s nothing else clean to wear? STUCK?

Yes, STUCK. They wouldn’t even get past my calves. This is was highly irregular. Usually after a wash, the jeans are snug fitting but if I can hold my breath and yank them on and do some advanced yogi contortions I can generally stretch them back into shape. But not this time. They steadfastly refused to get past my ankles. Morale sank to my knees. Or rather to my ankles, where the denims were lodged. Took a deep breath, searched the closet for another pair and left for work with a sinking heart and apocalyptic images of carrot sticks and celery stalks and gray low fat yogurt in the coming days.

Later, I went through all the jeans I had. They all more or less fit which made me optimistic. Then I approached the dreaded black pair again with mental excuses at the ready – water retention, bad circulation, Monday morning hallucination… but still no dice. Still stuck at the calves. I yanked them off and hurled them across the room with a blood curdling howl. ZH popped his head cautiously inside the door. “What’s wrong?”

“Damn jeans won’t fit.” He picked them off the floor. “These ones? But I just washed them for you.”

“You did what?”

“I was washing a bunch of my gym clothes so I threw these in with them. All dark clothes go in a dark load, right?” He looked at me with the proud look of a grade-schooler who just mastered his multiplication tables.

“Did you use warm water or cold water?”

“Warm.”

“Put them in the dryer after?”

“Yup. ” “High heat so they would dry faster,” he added helpfully.

Deep within my being rose another scream, longer and louder than the last with hysterical sobs and hiccups and beating fists as if to bring down the wrath of God. He instinctively retreated several steps.

“Honey,” I said when I finally recovered myself, “thank you for washing my jeans.”

Deep breath. “But next time, use Cold Water. And Woolite. Turn them inside out. Low Heat in the Dryer. Or even better , Hang them on a Hanger to dry.”

I patted him gently on the shoulder. “It’s OK, your intention was good.”

Now all I have to do is find a skinny 12 year old girl to give the jeans to.

Posted on The Paris Blog yesterday:

The two extremes of Parisian style for women of a certain age were displayed across the aisle from each other the subway this morning.


People watching is a pastime when you live in France. From terrace cafés to métros to restaurants to cinemas to lines at the bakery. All sorts of specimens file past looking from plain to stylish to daring. Scott Schuman is a premier people watcher with a camera in his hand and talent in his eye to catch just those special individuals. His blog, thesartorialist.com, is a popular column with pictures of people in the street who dress with a flair that removes them from the crowd, those who take a basic item and top it off with an original spin. Take a light summer flower print dress and wear it over heavy work boots – and voilà, you’re looking at a real life version of Laura Ingalls walking down a New York street. Occasionally, Schuman writes little captions to go with the pictures but mostly his book is a photographic study in sartorial inspiration. It’s small and lovely to look at for fashion tips or just for fun during those moments of short attention span.

The Sartorialist
by Scott Schuman
512 pages

Place Charles de Gaulle Etoile. Mondays– these are tough on everybody, but this morning it’s especially so for the train driver operating métro line 1. His driving (yes, it was a he) was anything but tranquil, like those driverless trains. Today’s voyage was a series of high speed take-offs and violent squeaking lurching stops. Entering this station, he slammed the brakes so hard it flung a well-dressed young woman sitting on a side banquette from her seat. A mix of shock, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, and wide-eyed embarrassment shot over her face as she flew past the central holding rail which she deftly grabbed on with one hand to avoid hitting the floor while the other clutched her handbag and her skirt. By the time the train came to a full stop, she had recovered both wits and vertical position as she went to sit back down, with legs folded and knees together.

Such is the poise of a Parisienne.

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