Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Issue 3 - January 12, 2011

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year from all of us here at Beguile.  We thought the best way to ring in 2011 was with laughter. And so, humor is the theme of this issue.

May the year be full of hope, happiness, health, inspiration, and more than a few good guffaws for you and yours!

Best Wishes,

Alysa Salzberg Editor-in-Chief
and
The Beguile Team



CONTENTS

In this issue of Beguile:

Writing

Amy McVay Abbott shares some valuable wisdom about a very important topic, in Commode on the Road.

We’ll experience a very, very twisted episode of a classic gameshow in Baron von Lichtenstein’s The Dysfunctional Family Feud.

Kristen T. Easley will take us along to some Moms’ clubs, with disastrous results, in In the Club, an excerpt from her novel Supermom Breaks a Nail.

We’ll finish the issue in song, with Con Chapman’s parody of – and much more realistic take on -- John Mayer’s Your Body is a Wonderland, Your Body is a Family-Oriented Themepark.

Art

In this issue, we’re very pleased to feature two drawings by artist Sharon Watts, “Let Them Eat Cake” and La Vie En Rose”. Watts’ art is full of whimsy, another kind of humor we love.

About her life and art, Sharon writes, “I am an illustrator with a background in fashion and children's books, and also an assemblage and collage artist. My illustration website is www.sharonwatts.com  and my writing can be found at http://open.salon.com/blog/dirndl_skirt. I am working on a memoir of my early years in NYC (the early 1970s), posted under the series title: Hell's Kitchen and...  I also am in the process of adding personal art to a collection of essays: Coming To My Senses: Post 9/11 Writing and Reminiscing, aiming for a deadline of 9/11/2011. In 2007 I published a book about my former fianc√©, FDNY legend Captain Patrick Brown, who died in the North Towerwww.missyoupat.org. I live just up the Hudson River from NYC with my two cats, and I still "heart" New York. But the one I've saved in my heart all these years is the one I love best.”

When it comes to inspiration, for “Let Them Eat Cake”, Sharon confides: “I love cake. And drawing frou frou. And hand-writing. This is a self-promo piece that I drew totally old skool--dip-in ink, rice paper, cut paper, glue.

And for La Vie en Rose”, “The song was running through my head. Each petal of the rose reflects that. The paint is Chinese water color. I often order take-out when listening to Edith Piaf.”


A big “Thank you” to all of our contributors, for being so talented and kind, and for making us laugh. 

And now, without further ado, prepare to be beguiled!





Commode on the Road
by Amy McVay Abbott

There is not much more important to the veteran road warrior than a clean and functional bathroom.  Fleet cars have improved with the addition of lumbar support seats, satellite radios,  holders that fit a large coffee cup, and other luxuries for daily life in a vehicle. 

However, I've not seen a fleet car that contains a Port-A-Potty.

Add to that ubiquitous list of death and taxes, all road warriors  have this same basic need.  For a postmenopausal woman with a bladder the size of a pea, the search for the perfect bathroom is like the endless, ongoing flow of Niagara Falls.

(Were you potty-trained with running water?  I was.)

After recently revealing myself as a teenage slob, I now confess that I see a difference between A Filthy Living Space and A Filthy Bathroom Space.  I can live with stacks and stacks of papers and magazines, but my bathroom must be Mr. Clean clean.

That can be a problem on the road.  I am a little bit of a germaphobe, but I also draw a distinction between my germs (okay) and your germs (yucky.)  I've learned to carry baby wipes, ragmop and bucket, Tidy-Bowl, a full-sized plunger, and a plumber's snake. 

Okay, I lied, but I do carry baby wipes.

With years of experience, I'm privy to choosing good lavatories.  I'm just a "whiz" on cans.  (I know, stop the horrible puns before I kill someone.)

How to tell a good bathroom from a bad bathroom.

1.  Bathroom must have actual towels.  If there are no paper or cloth towels you can find yourself in an awkward situation.  You spill something on yourself at lunch -- say a large glob of Alfredo sauce -- and you head for the sink to wipe it off with water.  You slap some water on your chest which makes a huge watermark and then you look around.  No towels, only an ill-placed automatic dryer.  You lean over into a position that would make a Chinese gymnast strain, and of course five other people come into the ladies room because it's a multi- seater.

2.  Bathrooms must have a lock on the commode door.   Test the lock.  I mean it.  Don't piddle around with a puny metal lock, ram the thing in and make sure it is solidly locked.  I'm just tellin' ya -- been there done that.  You don't want an eager-breast-feeding mother of four to whip the door open right as you achieve the peak of regularity.

3.  Choose wisely.  Just because a national fast-food chain plies you with coffee and free wi-fi doesn't mean their bathrooms are acceptable for your needs.  Most fast food places buy toilet paper made from 1930s Sears catalogs.  While that's a wonderful nostalgic trip back to the Great Depression and the thrill of the cold outhouse seat for some, I think I'll pass.  Here's a trick I learned from a decade of the long day's journey into night from Florida to Indiana and back: stop at hotels.  Hampton Inns are good.  Hilton Garden Inns are better.  And if you can get near a full-size Marriott or Hilton, then you can potty in a marble booth.   Perhaps you can tinkle with an attendant nearby who will hand you a hot towel.  Once I actually went at a Ritz.  Now that's livin'.

4.  Vote early; vote often!  A friend of mine, a prominent urologist channels the spirit of the Chicago Democratic slogan and says, "Go early, and go often."  He also tells patients, "A happy bladder is an empty bladder."

Follow these tips, and you will experience the joy of luxuriating in a loo of choice.

_______________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy McVay Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is a freelance journalist in southwestern Indiana.  She writes a newspaper column, The Raven Lunatic, for two newspapers.  She maintains a blog at http://poetryfan.blogspot.com, and enjoys writing features for local publications on family, faith issues, genealogy, history, and the arts.  She sometimes contributes to Open Salon.  She can be reached at amymabbott@wowway.com.

ABOUT THE ESSAY:  I worked in marketing and sales for more than thirty years.  With a rural coverage area, I always desperately sought a clean ladies room.

~~~

The Dysfunctional Family Feud
by Baron Von Lichtenstein


 “…OK, we’re back with acting royalty on the Feud, the Cranfords and the Lohmans. When we left off, neither team had scored so Jean and Arthur, come on up!”

“We surveyed the audience. The top 6 answers are on the board. Name something you do when you’re upset. Jean?”

“Beat my kids.”
“Do we have ‘Beat your kids?’....Oh, I’m sorry, Jean. Arthur, it’s up to you. Something you do when you’re upset. The top answers are on the board.”

“Get drunk.”

“Do we have drink? Yes, number 6 answer. Ok you want to take it or pass?”

“We’ll pass, Chuck.”

“Ok, Donny, It’s your turn. Name something you do when you’re upset.”

“Listen to Judy Garland and cry.”

“Listen to Judy Garland and cry! Oh, I’m sorry. I was sure that was up there. Jess, it’s your turn. Something you do when you’re upset.”

“Attempt suicide.”

“Attempt suicide! And the board says…Oh, I’m sorry. No. Two strikes. Rick, something you do when you’re upset.”

“Shoot heroin?”

“Do we have shoot heroin! Oh, I’m afraid not. The Lohmans will get a chance to steal. Lonny, something you do when you’re upset. Top answers are on the board.”

“Wrap my car around a tree?”

“Wrap your car around a tree! I’m sorry. And the Cranfords win this round! Stay tuned while we take a short break.”


I have enough problems in life without having to worry about static cling….. 


“Ok We’re back. Nancy and Tom come on up. Top 7 answers are on the board. Name something you do when your boss fires you. Tom?”

“Make terroristic threats.”

“Do we have Make terroristic threats? Oh, no. Nancy, something you do when your boss fires you? Top 7 answers are on the board.”

“Steal his client list and get a new pimp.”

“Do we have steal his client list and get a new pimp? Oh, again, I’m sorry. No. The Cranfords went last time, so the Lohmans are up this time.  Susan, name something you do when your boss fires you.”

“Case a convenience store and come back after midnight.”

“Do we have Case a convenience store? Ugg, no.  Billy, something you do when your boss fires you. Top 7 answers are on the board.”

“Bust a cap in his ass?”

“Did we do that already? Terroristic threats? No? Ok. Do we have Bust a cap in his ass? Oh, I’m afraid not. And the Cranfords have a chance to steal. Jean. For the money. Something you do when your boss fires you.”

“Stalk him and cook his dog.”

(Good answer. Good answer.)

“Ok. If you’re right, you win this round. If not, the Lohmans steal. Do we have Stalk him and cook his dog! Oh, no. And the Lohmans win. Which means they are up for the lightening round. When we come back.”


I’m 75 years young. But when my colon starts to itch…. 


“And we’re back! If you’re catching up, the Lohmans beat the Cranfords and have picked Arthur and Lonny for the lightening round.

Lonny, you’re up first. Name something you do on a Saturday night.”

“Enter rehab.”

“Name something your parents taught you about.”

“Gambling addiction.”

“Name something you buy for yourself.”

“Firearms.”

“Name someone or place you go to for advice.”

“Narcotics anonymous.”

“Name the occupation you are most qualified for.”

“Prostitution.”

“Ok let’s see what the audience said.  We asked for something you do on a Saturday night and you said Enter rehab. The audience said? Oh, nothing. We asked something your parents taught you about and you said Gambling addiction. Our audience said…Sorry. We asked something you buy for yourself, and you said, Firearms. Survey said. Oh, no. We asked who you go to for advice, and you said Narcotics anonymous. The audience said. Oh, I’m so sorry. But you still one more question. We asked you to name the occupation you are most qualified for and you said Prostitution. Do we have prostitution? No. Zero points. Ok, you still have a chance to win if your father does well, so let’s bring him out, when we come back on The Family Feud!”


Mr. Jiggles is a member of our family. So when it comes to buying dog food… 


“And we’re back. Arthur. Come on up. Lonny got no points, but you can still turn it around. Are you ready?”

“You bet, Chuck.”

“Ok. Name something you do on a Saturday night.”

“Beat my wife.”

“Name something your parents taught you about.”

“Running numbers.”

“Name something you buy for yourself.”

“A leather mask.”

“Name someone you go to for advice.”

“My drug dealer.”

“Name the occupation you are most qualified for.”

“Investment banker.”

“Ok, we’ll see what our audience said. When we come back. On the Family Feud!”

______________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Baron Von Lichtenstein
Baron Von Lichtenstein is a Musician/Writer, who has been writing humor in some form or another for longer than he can remember. He has websites at:

http://www.youtube.com/Baronvonlichtenstein

http://www.myspace.com/BVL3

and can also be found on iTunes or Amazon in the MP3 section.

He has no pets and likes Rocky Road ice cream.


ABOUT THE PIECE: I play Family Feud online, and get annoyed by how loud and obnoxious the announcer is, so I basically wrote this as a response to online gaming.

And the families they have as contestants always seem so squeaky clean, so I thought I would add a dose of reality to it - What if the Family Feud had complete assholes as contestants?



“Let Them Eat Cake” by Sharon Watts



Chapter Nine
In the Club
An excerpt from Supermom Breaks a Nail
by Kristen T. Easley

After “The Battle” on the Mommyverse, I once again cast my net for answers and acceptance in the world of mothers.  My “How to Raise a Kid” books said to join a moms’ club; so I did. 

A Moms’ Club is a support group.  You attend weekly meetings with mothers, who all have children around the same age, and discuss being a mom.  Usually there is a leader who may have an advanced degree in child psychology or maybe just “really, really loves kids and being a mommy!”  Unlike the Mommyverse, in a Mom’s Club I was surrounded by live moms who made sad faces and touched my shoulder.  They told me how what I said is just like their own experience.  Then they proceeded to tell me their story… for 20 minutes.  I was a new mom. I could make sad faces. And now I had mom stories.  I belonged.

This is how I joined the Judgmental Moms’ Club.  We did nothing but discuss our children’s development… and by “development,” I mean “What my child can do and yours can’t.”  We compared various philosophies to childrearing… and by “compare,” I mean we said mean spirited things about the women who did things differently.  We condemned television for our child’s malleable minds -- well, unless we absolutely needed to get something done or to get a moment to ourselves or we were talking on the phone or to settle them down for bed or because we were exhausted or our soaps were on or…

We proclaimed proudly that WE knew what was best for our baby and that our mothers and sisters and grandmothers were clueless.  I was wading in the pool of popularity, and all it had taken was ten months gestation and a few stretch marks.  It didn’t take long for the cracks in the foundation of the JMC to form.   The first was when we discussed sleeping through the night. Dawn warned me about offering up this information.  But one day we were asked to go around the room, tell how long your baby slept and what was working or not working.  We were not supposed to speak until we had the Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear passed to us.  It was a rule.  When the Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear came my way, I told the group “eight hours.”  There were a gasps and a few glares. 

“Wow. What is working?”  Dr. Misty, our 23-year-old-just-earned-her-PhD leader asked.

“Uhm, I am not sure.  He just kind of started sleeping longer.”  More glares.

“Really?  Nothing different in your routine?”

“No, I don’t think so.  I mean, you know, he’s changing, you know, developmentally but nothing more than what the books say,” I said cautiously looking around.

“When is your last feeding at night?”  Dr. Misty asked.

“Oh, uhm, I think…”

A particularly vocal member of the group cut me off.  “What are you feeding him?”  she snarled.

I sputtered “Oh, uhm, well, you see, he was an early teether so he bit a lot and I had to…well, it hurt quite a bit…”

“Formula,” she sneered.

A collective cluck came from the group.  The Time-to-Talk Teddy Bear was taken from my lap, and my views on sleeping were not requested again.

Once we were talking about sitters.  Most of the moms were working up the effort to have their first sitter (although several had had their babies in daycare since they were three months old).  Some were even contemplating if they could trust their own parents to watch their children.  I was not asked much for my opinion these days.  However, I kept trying. 

On some level, I believed that, if the JMC rejected me, it would be noted in some giant Unfit Mothers ledger that existed somewhere.  So I offered up what I thought would be helpful for some to hear.  “I have had a wonderful sitter for Logan since he was only a few months old.”

“How long had you known your sitter before she sat for you?” Dr. Misty asked.

“Oh, we met once, you know, at the interview, and then I think she came over that next week to sit.  It was wonderful.”

“Were you in the house?”  one mom asked.

“When?” I asked.

“During the first time she sat.”  she said.

“I was… out at a restaurant.”  I replied.

The group gasped.

“Oh, my, no!  You should never leave your children alone with a babysitter the first night.  What if something had happened?” someone said.

“But isn’t that why she is there? So I don’t have to be?”  I asked.

“Not the first time!” another barked. 

“My sister still hasn’t left the baby alone with the sitter, and it’s been five months.”

“My step-cousin and his wife would sit in the closet while the babysitter was there,” someone added.  Everyone nodded as if this somehow made sense.

I shrank back and looked nervously at Logan.  Seriously, why am I not getting this?

I did not renew my membership once my six weeks were up, and my new support group members did not keep in touch. 

I asked The Mothers why their generation did not need all these groups for moms.  They said they did, but they called them Stitch and Bitch Clubs.  Not only did they solve the world’s problems, they usually got a quilt out of it.  No one cared if their husbands were co-sharing in parenting.  Frankly, the more their husbands were out from underfoot, the smoother their homes ran. 

They dispensed advice like “Just put some scotch on it.”  Alcohol and cigarettes were present, if not the theme of the meeting.  Membership was free, and drop-ins were welcome.  Beware if you missed an evening, though. You were probably the subject of that night’s discussion.  Stitch and Bitch’s are no longer around.  Parenting is serious business now.  Any advice written before 1999 is null and void. 

Nate suggested I organize my own Moms’ Club.  Since I needed to meet more women in my area anyway, I took to the Mommyverse.  I posted on every site to which I belonged -- “Come join other bright moms who refuse to get sucked into today’s Parenting Vacuum.”  Well, that was what I was thinking when I posted.  I think I actually wrote something closer to “Anyone want to join a new Mom group on the Westside?”  I got a bunch of responses –

“YYYEEESSS!!!!” 

“Wow – it’s like you were reading my mind!!!” 

“I would LOOOOOOOOOVE to join – sing (sic) me up!!!!”  

“This comes at just the right time.  I was feeling so down on myself lately – you know, like nobody gets me and I keep messing everything up; and now I feel like I have a home, a place to go.” 

This sounded like a nice gaggle of girls.  I wrote a personal message to everyone interested.  I explained how I wanted to do something different.  I said it was more of a women’s group than just a mom’s group.  I thought we would discuss all kinds of women’s issues and we would be free from criticism.  Everyone was allowed her opinion as long as no one made it personal.  The ladies were enthusiastic.  They gave me quite a few words of encouragement with an excess of vowels and exclamation points. 

Our first order of business was to introduce ourselves via email and then to set our first meeting.  The introduction was easy.  I received volumes of emails as these nine ladies divulged every fact about themselves and any thought they had ever had on parenting or marriage or women in general. 

Next, we were to set the first meeting.  This proved a bit tricky: there were babysitters to obtain, schedules to consider {kids, work, husbands, etc). Once the date was set, we were forced to cancel that first meeting and reschedule 16 times.  Finally, four months after my initial posting, we were all set to meet at my house.  Light refreshments, wine and no kids – for this first meeting.  I sent out my address and phone number for the third time that week.  My kids were thrilled to be going to Der Pizza Haus with Nate.  They dragged him out the door without saying goodbye.

Two hours before the meeting I received an email from one of the group.  She was awfully sorry, but she did not realize how far away I lived.  This struck me as odd since it was one of the first things we discussed.  Anyway, she would need to bow out, and maybe this is not the time for her in such a group, but it is a great idea and she wished us the best of luck.  Once the first excuse was made, the floodgates were opened.  The others’ excuses ranged from life’s current direction taking a different course to self-image issues to pedicure emergencies.  My woman’s group had dissolved, and we hadn’t once met. 

In the end, it was me and my 86-year-old neighbor sipping chardonnay as she told me about how she hadn’t been able to feel the left side of her tongue in 15 years.  When my family returned, Nate pointed to our neighbor who had wet herself while asleep on the couch.   I said she was my spirit guide to womanhood and went to bed.

_______________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristen T. Easley
Kristen T. Easley is a former meeting planner and sometimes writer.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, dog and cat.

ABOUT THE BOOK: After I had my son, I found myself in this quagmire of other people’s opinions and advice about how I should raise my son and what was wrong with him.  Since I did not see anything wrong with him and their suggestions not only went against my grain but drove us both batty, we dropped out.  I took him out of preschool and we stayed home with my infant daughter.  My son was allowed to do things on his timeline and not what some book or teacher said he should and he figured it all out – like kids do.  To vent my frustration about what led us to this point, I wrote “Supermom Breaks a Nail.”.  I was no authority so I could not write an advice book, and frankly did not want to.  Having a supportive husband and a mother and mother in law who know what they are doing and do not offer advice unless asked are not entertaining.  So I chose to create a character who “buys in” to the new way of redefining what a parent does today; i.e. it is called parenting and no longer child rearing.  I made her inept and lost.  A majority of the schisms between the Supermom’s life and my own were made to distance myself but also for plain old comedic value.  I did want to deal with subjects that affect moms – and I hope they see through the satire to understand the absurdity of the pressure we put on ourselves and our children today.  Motherhood may not be fun – but it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it.”

This is an excerpt, the ninth chapter of Supermom Breaks a Nail. The book will be available in bookstores everywhere starting January 27th.  It can currently be downloaded as in e-book format on these sites: Xlibris, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble


  



 La Vie En Rose” by Sharon Watts


  

Your Body's a Family-Oriented Theme Park
by Con Chapman

We got the afternoon--
  we got a room for four.
One thing I've left to do--
  recover me
from standing in the Space Mountain line from ten to three.

One hour for every inch we've--
  moved since we first got in.
One pair of Mickey's ears--
  take the bubblegum outta your sister's hair.

And if I want love--
  forget it.
Eating the pigs in
  a blanket.
Shoulda got two rooms-
  regret it.
This is bound to be a while.

Your body's a family-oriented theme park
Your body's a family-oriented theme park (please wash your hands)
Your body's a family-oriented theme park.

Something 'bout the way your brother fell on his face
  makes me think he's not enjoying this place.
I leave the room and when I
  come back I find him crying.
You never should have let his head
  hit the wall with your hand behind it.

And if I want sleep-
   forget it.
Got you a Shrek doll--
  you break it.
Got you a twin bed-
   you wet it.
This is bound to be a while.

Your body's a family-oriented theme park
Your body's a family-oriented theme park (you don't need a Little Mermaid backpack)
Your body's a family-oriented theme park.

Damn baby--
  you frusterate me
I know you're mine all mine all mine
  but you don't look as good as the bimbo in the snow-cone line.
Your body's a family-oriented theme park
Your body's a family-oriented theme park (get in the minivan)
Your body's a family-oriented theme park.

_______________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Con Chapman
Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer.  He is the author of two novels, A View of the Charles and CannaCorn, and The Year of the Gerbil: How the Yankees Won (and the Red Sox Lost) the Greatest Pennant Race Ever, a history of the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees season.

He is the author of The Girl With the Cullender on Her Head (and Other Wayward Women), a collection of light verse about women, and ten published plays.

His print and e-books are available at his author page on amazon.com.


ABOUT THE PARODY: I can’t really point to any particular moment of inspiration for the piece, and I don’t think something that short merits psychoanalyzing, so I’ll just let it stand or fall or run away on its own merits, or lack thereof.