Monday, November 30, 2009


I am reading this fascinating book called Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor.I have an obsession with rock biographies and this one is in my favorite format, the oral history. All these people recalling the same events, and having everything pieced together like a quilt--the truth is in their somewhere, but the stories are so much more colorful. The thing that is particularly great about punk rock is that people felt compelled to change their names, and they did so excellently. Klaus Fluoride, Leslie Fuckette, Ninja Death,Jennifer Blowdryer, Joey Shithead--why do none of the parents' at my kids school have these names? PTO meetings would be a howl if i could hear, just ONCE, "Yes, Ms. Fuckette?" I would actually go to those meetings.

What I have learned from this book is that many of the kids who got involved in the punk movement in San Francisco were street kids, drug users, troubled youths, who wanted to leave their old personas behind. If you were the picked on small kid in middle school, you could give yourself a mohawk, call yourself Bob Noxious and-poof-no more little nerd. Names are powerful, because it announces you before you have a chance to present yourself. "Meet my friend, Creetin K-Os" is waaaaaaay more captivating than "Meet my neighbor, John Smith." It just is. And I don't think even John Smith would argue with that.

Simone was an unusual name for 1966. My parents wanted to name me after my grandfather, Solomon, so considered Samantha (which was rejected because my mother didn't like Sam as a nickname), Simone and the utterly vile Hebrew name of Smadar, which sounds like some sort of middle eastern headdress or a bathroom cleanser. Simone it was, and has continued to be. As a very, very shy child (I swear I was!), the anxiety of the first day of school or a substitute teacher was excruciating--it was nearly a guarantee that I would be called Simon. Then teasing for the rest of the day, or week, or year, if you were unlucky enough to have Danny Barnett in your class. The gentler teachers tried to soften the blow by saying ".....Berk?" so I would pipe up, correctly pronouncing my name, and they would be spared the embarrassment, as I would. I have been called Simon more times than I can count, and continue to be. Oddly, I was also called Michelle and Nicole many times as an elementary schooler, all girls' French names being interchangeable, apparently

But what I wanted, wanted so much, was to be named Stacy. Or Staci. Stacey. Stacie. Stacee. I wanted to have a name that was "normal", that ended with a y or an i, that was never mispronounced or looked at twice. I wanted to blend in with Tracy, Kelly, Shelly, Marci and my best friend, Wendy. I wanted to fit. And I believed that what kept me from fitting was my name. And to some extent, that is true, because my name made me feel different than everyone else. But I was different. I am different. Not unacceptably so, but different nonetheless. And that is a good thing. At the age of 43, I am embracing my temper as passion, my OCD as focus and my moodiness as artistic temperament. I am abnormally focused on footwear, chocolate and 0 calorie beverages. I love so strongly that I hurt myself. I am generous and irresponsible about money. I dream all my anxiety in an endless loop. I am many things and am becoming many more. At 43, I am not nearly done. So nothing against the Stacys of the world--I am sure, as a group and individually, you are delightful. I have known some of you and can attest to that. But I was never meant to be one of your ranks. I was never meant to be a Stacy.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I love Lemonheads. Yes, the candy. Those little sweet/sour balls that perfectly balance the hardness and chewiness of life. I have always loved them, loved everything about them. The box, the sound the candy made rolling around inside the box (which was somewhat sad, because it never seemed full enough, only sort of full) and the fused pairs of Lemonheads that fell into your hand with a plop when you deliciously turned the box over for the first time. I was (and remain) one of those weird kids who loves anything sour, and between Lemonheads and the kosher lemon hard candy my grandma used to keep on her dining room table in a white trifle bowl--zour kendies, she used to call them in her Yiddish accent--my craving for sour was pretty well covered. Small got several boxes of Lemonheads in her Halloween bag this year, which she generously shared with me, knowing how much I love them. And the Mom n Pop store I sometimes stop at before I pick up Large from school has that same size box for fifteen cents each. I don't always buy them, but alongside the individually wrapped Swedish Fish and the chocolate Ice Cubes, they make me happy.

Don't think I am not aware of how sad this makes me sound. Certain things make me happy that, to me, fall into the category of "simple pleasures" and to others may qualify as "mental illness." Going to Costco and seeing the huge stacks of Coca-Cola products is happy-making. Going to Marshalls and seeing all the potential treasures to be unearthed for a low, low price is another. Watching my dog romp in the snow makes me really happy, too, but not as happy as the photos of Dylan's Candy Bar in New York City. Aisles of by-the-pound candy love is one of the most thrilling things ever. I believe I have a love for Potential--perhaps I will find the perfect boots or the sourest or stickiest or most perplexing candy ever. A good life is about choices, and an endless array of choices at $3.99 a pound is pretty damn good.Mental illness? Maybe. But clearly, I am not alone.

At dinner the other night, while perusing the gift catalog I received from CVS, I saw a picture of something utterly fantastic: The World's Largest Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, each package containing two 8 oz. cups. I am a latecomer to the chocolate game, and my M&M (plain only!!) obsession arrived along with Large, 13 years ago. But predating that was a real love for Reese's and Kit Kats, which has never gone away. So of course, I MUST HAVE the world's largest peanut butter cups--of course!---but i started wondering whether it would cost me my whole day's caloric intake, this thought being a sad byproduct of getting old. So I googled the caloric intake, and it took me to a beautiful beautiful Holy shit, people, this is Nirvana. Beautifully photographed and thoroughly reviewed, this is one serious blog. Simply searching the word "reese's" brought me to a chart of peanut butter/chocolate products, the first of which was World's Biggest. Click on it, and find a really intelligent review with a hilarious rating system (ranging 1-10, from inedible to superb). This was rated as 6-Tempting. What cracked me up is finding a fellow candy weirdo--look at what the reviewer says:

This violates one of my primary rules of candy, which is that it requires some sort of tool. In this case it’s a knife to portion it. Most large chocolate bars are scored and can be broken into pieces. There is no other way to eat this other than huge bites ... which pretty much means you’re not sharing or you’re intimate enough with the other folks or so wasted you don’t care.

Doesn't that sound like something I would say? And incidentally, the caloric intake by the ounce is listed and it is depressing: 143 PER OUNCE, for an 8 ounce piece of chocolate times two. In short, 2,288 calories. Say hello to the World's Largest Muffin Top after eating these. Sigh. I have spent some time on this page, and while I still haven't found any candy that is Inedible, I have heard of some that I will definitely be trying. Dove Peppermint Bark, anyone?

This site sent me running back to one of my favorite books, Candyfreak by Steve Almond. While this book focuses exclusively on various oddball chocolate products, such as the Idaho Spud or the Goo Goo Cluster, the descriptions of how they are made, their history and people's tremendous attachment to them makes me laugh. No, that isn't it. It makes me laugh with delight, delight that I am not the only sweirdo (sweet+weirdo) out there. This book makes an excellent gift, along with a gift certificate to, where your sweirdo can buy Broadway Licorice and Wax Lips in bulk, sent directly to their home to be undulged in without judgement.

And I think the World's Largest Peanut Butter Cup will be a dessert on Thanksgiving, sliced and served with toothpicks. Because I have to have it. I just don't have to have it all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Christmas season is upon us, and I can't help but feel vastly superior to those who scramble for gifts and overspend. Hanukkah is a much less complicated proposition, with one gift (not the eight that some get--lucky Jews!), potato pancakes, candles and tops. That pretty much sums it up. I used to buy gifts for every person that came within a five mile radius of my children, but I gave up the mug-n-gift card thing long ago in favor of contributing to a class gift, or even better, ignoring everyone altogether. Still, we here at Casa Simone B have our own Christmas tradition--on Christmas Eve, we pile into the car in our pajamas and drive around the lovely city of Somerville to look at the generator powered, over-the-top decorations on the crammed together triple deckers. It's not Christmas without an inflatable Santa.

Real Simple dedicates an entire issue to creativity around the holidays, including the biggest time waster on earth: gift-wrapping. The funniest part of the whole issue, though, is 50 gifts under $50. Honestly, if someone bought me a set of 11 ceramic nuts for $45, I would have to question our friendship. Just an FYI--the following are a total and complete failure as holiday gifts: a decorative ceramic silver owl ($34), wood coasters decorated with a Victorian cameo-type silhouette ($34 for four), or the silver tree snow globe ($29). All of these were the things left over on the coffee table after Nana died, when everyone already took the stuff they wanted.But I think the greatest thing in the magazine is not listed as a gift, though it should be. The Herb Savor Pod (get the little pun there?) for $20 per, or 3 for $40, is without a doubt the gift absolutely, positively no one wants. Yet another job to do--place said precious herbs into the pod, fill the base with water, and it will keep them fresh for THREE WHOLE WEEKS. These fancy schmancy panty hose eggs were foisted on the poor woman who turned her chaotic fridge over to A Refrigerator Organizer. It is now overrun with plastic Container Store containers that this woman will have cluttering her cabinets, when her refrigerator reverts to it's natural state and she no longer wants to yell at her children for not returning the sleek acrylic juice jars to the right side of the top shelf, in the juice-designated area. And no matter how much is spent on those plastic containers, she will be afraid to open them a month after innocently storing the meatloaf, just as she did with the much less expensive aluminum foil.

But this is a season about love and togetherness, after all, about reaching out and making connections. So let's hope that the police in Tampa find it in their hearts to be kind to poor Joshua Basso. He was looking for a little somethin' somethin' and he called the only number his out-of-minutes phone would let him call--911. And he asked the 911 operator to meet him after work for sex. And she hung up. And he called AGAIN. And AGAIN. AND AGAIN. While cops are well known for their excellent sense of humor, by the fourth call they were no longer amused and arrested him. He told them he thought he wouldn't get in trouble for calling 911. Sweetie, they didn't arrest you for calling 911--they arrested you for calling 911 FOUR TIMES and SOLICITING THE OPERATOR FOR SEX. The poor desperado is in jail, held without bail. Let's hope they let him go home for Christmas. And maybe his mom, with whom he no doubt lives, will put some minutes under the tree for him.

But if you are feeling generous, all I want for Christmas is for you to come see Sugar Snow at Church on December 17. We are going on early, around 8:30, to accommodate all the worker bees and old -at- heart friends. We need a crowd for our full-on, five piece acoustic assault, and it is our first band show since January!!! And if you say the words "Herb Savor Pod", I will buy you a beer. How can you pass that up?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Princess Diaries

Pet peeve of the day: every time I lean over, salt water runs out of my nose.

How I love the return of sinus infection season, with it's excruciating headaches and nasal irrigation. Nothing like starting the day with a two ton head  and a very strong desire to stick a sharp stick into your skull. I should be used to it by now, but just like a Bostonian greeting Winter's first snowfall, I can't believe how much it sucks EVERY YEAR. These annual occurrences are part of my Fall, and as I transition from hayfever to sinus cleansing, the dark afternoons and lost gloves become part of the scenery. But something very, very strange happened this year, something so unexpected that I was as caught completely off guard.

I have started dressing like a girl. 

Sweater dresses. Tights. Skirts. Tunics. Lipstick. It is truly puzzling. I have been skating along the edge of girlie for years, but never fallen into the pond,and inexplicably, that is what has happened. It's not as if I have been dressing like a 15 year old boy. But since I started doing Pilates in earnest, I have these muscly thighs that make 80% of my jeans uncomfortable. And perhaps most surprising of all, I have an ass. An actual, honest-to-god booty.  I have lived 42 years as the unfortunate genetic recipient of a Jewish flat ass, which I thought was a lost cause. After a lot of years of being used to looking one way (pretty much straight down), suddenly having something very different is both wonderful and confusing. Nothing fits the same way, but that is kind of cool. And now I have a goyish ass to balance my Jewish nose. For the last 5 days, I have worn tights and a dress, and motorcycle boots.  And dark lipstick. And today, a hairstyle I like to call Sharon-Tate-in-Valley-of-the-Dolls, actually showing my whole forehead. I mean, the whole thing. I think I have been more sensitive about my forehead than my non-ass; I had a hairdresser who took one look at me, put his hand on my forehead and said, "Oh, honey, you need BANGS!" So, people, this is BIG NEWS: aside from the princess garb, my forehead is naked. And I don't feel like anyone should be showing a movie on it. So it seems that being 43, aside from the fight against decrepitude, is not entirely predictable. Sweet.

And something that I have meant to comment on for weeks already, Big Love to the geniuses at Coca-Cola for fueling both my addiction and my happiness. A few weeks back, on my way down to the Cape, I stopped at a mini-mart for supplies, and in the cold case, I found a tall boy of Diet Coke. 16 Fluid oz. of delight for a mere 99 cents!! I believe I heard angels singing before I passed out. I have not been able to find these up here, but in order to enjoy my super-buzz a bit longer, I used the can opener on the top of the can and now it makes a lovely vase for the flowers in my office.  I smile every time I look at it. And in case you are wondering, to the left of the 12 oz can is the most perfect birthday present ever--a Diet Coke cuff. My BFF knows me so well. So suburban Wonder Woman!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fever Dreams

I am sick. The sky is not going to fall, but god, i feel like dreck. I spent all weekend in bed, in a narcoleptic stupor, with a massive headache and coordinating body aches. I missed pretty much all of Halloween, only rousing myself from my tangle of damp sheets to apply Medium's Ziggy Stardust make-up (looked amazing) and Small's eyeliner (fierce). Fortunately, the husband was in town and I was excused from Mommy duty. But today is Monday, and that excuse is no longer valid. So back to Mommying and blogging. Time to address a few random issues that have been on my mind.

Halloween has gotten HUGE, and here is how I know--a neighborhood kid went door to door on Saturday, offering a $5 insurance policy against egging and/or TP of the house. He would come and clean it up, should the unfortunate occur.We passed, but several neighbors who lived closer to the war zone (a.k.a. the elementary school) paid up. And I think he made $30. Now, while I think this is TOTAL GENIUS, is it possible that he egged the houses of non-payers as a warning for next year? If so, he is even more of a genius, he is an EVIL GENIUS. Halloween is more than inflatable ghosts and Fun Size packages of M&M's these days.  No word on whether any houses were victimized.

I don't know if you have heard, but L.L. Bean is going chic. They have hired a fashion designer named Alex Carleton to funkify the huge wool sweaters and duck boots. This cracks me up. I think there are certain brands that will never be stylish, no matter how hard it tries, and Bean is one. This designer has his own line of Maine-based fashions, and the heritage set in Kennebunkport are huge fans, so Bean is hoping to cash in. I went to LL Bean the other day to find some sheepskin slippers and a new lunchbox, and there was not an item of clothing I would buy with a gun to my head. But LL Bean is of a type--Patagonia, REI--serving a niche: keeping one dry and warm without the bother of having a human shape. I don't fault them for trying to widen their appeal, lord knows, but they have an uphill battle ahead of them, one best undertaken in snow shoes. Because picturing a native Mainer in a shrunken denim suit makes me want to wet my pants. 

I saw this amazing piece on the, called 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1), in which only 50 were listed. The author, Bruce Buschel, is opening a seafood restaurant and he offers what he calls "a modest list" of rules for his potential employees. I love this so much because I cannot stand what waiting tables has become. I waitressed for quite a while, back in my college days, and it is a difficult job. But Rule #1 of waiting tables is:  Do NOT do this job if you hate people. This is a service industry, and you are serving them. If people want to feel like an imposition and a bother, they will stay at work. Or eat at home. This is NOT carte blanche for the customers to snap their fingers or humiliate you for forgetting a napkin, of course not. Everyone needs to be on their best behavior. But still, there are those that are unforgivably surly, and should not walk amongst us, carrying hot plates of anything. The flipside, however, is the overly familiar tone the waitstaff now takes with customers. I cannot tell you how I detest a server coming to the table and saying, "Hi, My name is Bubbles and I will be taking care of you today." Is there an implication that I need to introduce myself? Are we friends now? Can I bellow your name across the restaurant to tell you to bring me another Diet Coke? No? Then don't tell me your name.  Buschel also puts on the No-No list my Number 2 complaint--there seems to be some issue around writing down an order. Initially I thought this was only true in fancy schmancy restaurants, where a pen would obviously ruin the line of the waitstaff's uniform, but it is EVERYWHERE. And I absolutely cannot understand it, because the likelihood of a bad dining experience increases exponentially.You know what I want? I want to you to get my order right, even if I am one of those insufferable people who needs everything on the side and no dairy products EVER. And please not then ask me "who ordered the gnocchi?" when you bring it to my table. It is your job to know who ordered what. You know how you remember? You WRITE IT DOWN. You know who nearly always gets the orders right? The waitresses at Friendly's. While they don't have fabulous uniforms, but they have really awesome pens. 

Obviously, my meds are wearing off.