Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Snap Out of It!" and Other Italian Wisdom

I have long been aware that men derive most of their wisdom from The Godfather.

"Go to the mattresses."

"I'm going to make him an offer he cannot refuse."

Men use these quotes to aid their friends, to offer counsel in times of confusion. The Godfather knew how to handle everything. When in doubt, you go to him. Especially when it concerns business.

I think there is a female equivalent, and I've decided it's Moonstruck, also a film about an Italian family. I'm thinking the Italians might know a thing or two about a thing or two. Capiche?

Everything you need to know about love is in Moonstruck. Don't believe me? Here:

When you encounter the irrational:

Ronny Cammareri: "I love you."
Loretta Castorini: [slaps him twice] "Snap out of it!"

When you encounter denial:

Rose: "I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else."
Cosmo Castorini: "Thank you, Rose."

When you encounter blame:

Ronny Cammareri: "You ruined my life."
Loretta Castorini: "That's impossible! It was ruined when I got here! *You* ruined *my* life!"

When you encounter fear:

Loretta Castorini: "What am I going to tell him?"
Cosmo Castorini: "Tell him the truth. They find out anyway."

When someone tries to blow smoke up your ass:

Johnny: "In time you will see that this is the best thing."
Loretta Castorini: "In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress!"

When you find true love:

Rose: "Do you love him, Loretta?"
Loretta Castorini: "Aw, ma, I love him awful."
Rose: "Oh, God, that's too bad."

When you announce your second marriage:

Loretta Castorini: "I'm getting married."
Cosmo Castorini: "Again?"
Loretta Castorini: "Yeah."
Cosmo Castorini: "You did this once before, it didn't work out."
Loretta Castorini: "The guy died!"

When you're engaged to someone else and realize you've found true another:

Ronny Cammareri: "You're gonna marry my brother? Why you wanna sell your life short? Playing it safe is just about the most dangerous thing a woman like you could do. You waited for the right man the first time, why didn't you wait for the right man again?"
Loretta Castorini: "He didn't come!"
Ronny Cammareri: "I'm here!"
Loretta Castorini: "You're late!"

When you discover your husband's been cheating on you:

Rose: "Have I been a good wife?"
Cosmo Castorini: "Yeah."
Rose: "I want you to stop seeing her."
[Cosmo rises, slams the table once, and sits down again]
Cosmo Castorini: "Okay."
Rose: [pauses] "And go to confession."

When your wife discovers you've been cheating on her:

Cosmo Castorini: "A man understands one day that his life is built on nothing, and that's a bad, crazy day."
Rose: "Your life is not built on nothing! Ti amo."

And lastly, when you realize the whole point to this whole thing called life:

Ronny Cammareri: "Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!"

The End.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spanking The Monkey

I just read my friend Salacious Bee's blog about a humiliating shopping experience. (Read it now.) It reminded me of an embarrassing sojourn to my local Blockbuster, back in the innocent '90s (re: Pre-Divorce Mandy).

I believe I'd clipped a newspaper column of Siskel and Ebert's top movie picks for whatever year it was, and was making my way through the list with an anal-retentive yellow highlighter. I had a penchant for foreign films and indie flicks, indie flicks being more indie back then.

I found the one and only copy of the independent film du soir, and sashayed up to the counter. It being a Friday night, there was a long line of people, with dirty children clinging to their parents' legs staring at me with their conjunctive eyeballs. (This was also Pre-Single Motherdom). At last, it was my turn.

"Spanking The Monkey," will that be all?" the boil-faced youth asked me.

"Yep, that'll do it for me." I was surprised to hear muffled laughs behind me. I swear the kid at the register looked over my shoulder at the other patrons and snickered. What the hell?

So off I went with my video, to watch a mother and son tale, fraught with enough Oedipalism to make Freud quiver.

Then I discovered what exactly "spanking the monkey" meant.

I was mortified! (If you don't know, "spanking the monkey" is slang for jerking off. You know, throttling the bishop, choking the chicken, I'm sure you can go on from here...). A few days' later I slinked back to the Blockbuster under the cover of night to slip the tape into the overnight dispenser. I'd had enough humiliation for one rental fee.

About a month later I went to rent another tape from the old Siskel & Ebert file, this time stockpiling two or three wholesome titles in my arms. Again, it was a busy Friday night and I tried to push the little children out of my personal space with my left foot. Get thee away from me, germ-devils.

I collapsed onto the counter when it was finally my turn, and let the tapes fall onto the counter dramatically. I believe I probably emitted a long-suffering sigh because I don't like to wait in line, and I don't like strangers jostling me. Even small, dirty strangers.

Abscess-Face scanned my tapes and then said, "You have a late fee from your previous rental."

I had watched 20/20 and knew that many late fees were a "scam," so I went Scottish on him and demanded the specifics.

"I'm quite sure I've returned all my movies on time. Can you tell me which movie it was?" I raised an eyebrow at him.

He snickered.

My blood ran cold, and before the words, "THAT'S OKAY NEVERMIND!" could escape my lips, he said, loudly, "SPANKING THE MONKEY."

This time he boldly looked at the people in line behind me, his eyes alight. The snuffles, snickers and choked laughter were unmistakable this time.

I thrust my 20 bucks at him and bumbled out of the store, face burning red.

I learned a good lesson about how to treat people in the service industry. Be nice to them if they know what movies you watch. Pervs.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Autumn Song

"Autumn" by Paolo Nutini

Autumn leaves under frozen souls,
Hungry hands turning soft and old,
My hero crying as we stood out there in the cold,
Like these autumn leaves I don't have nothing to hold.

Handsome smiles wearing handsome shoes,
Too young to say, though I swear he knew,
And I hear him singing while he sits there in his chair,
While these autumn leaves float around everywhere.

And I look at you, and I see me,
Making noise so restlessly,
But now it's quiet and I can hear you sing,
'My little fish don't cry, my little fish don't cry.'

Autumn leaves how fading now,
That smile that I've lost, well I've found some how,
Because you still live on in my father's eyes,
These autumn leaves, all these autumn leave, all these autumn leaves are yours tonight.

I was listening to Paolo Nutini's song for the umpteenth time on the way to work yesterday morning. The sun had set the late morning on Illuminate and the bright snow looked like frosting scraped off the side of the pan. I paid attention to the lyrics this time, though I had been vaguely aware that the song tugged at my heart. Such an ache.

The words flooded my brain and I couldn't back up or out of the song, and before I could brake, my eyes welled up with tears. Mourning the loss of someone you loved doesn't really follow any sensible chronology. Grief is a story that has no beginning, middle or end. Grief, like fiction, is always in the present tense as soon as you open the book.

My son is that book, walking and talking around the apartment. Each year that passes, each new accomplishment, a reminder of what Murph will never see. It is hard to type these words because the tears well up again, and I try to choke back the emotion. I want to cry out. I want to howl in this moment. I want my son to have a memory of Murph.

I know Murph lives on, I see him in my mother's eyes. Perhaps there is a reflection of him in my eyes, a gleam my son sees each and every day? You don't love someone for nearly 30 years without them leaving something of themselves on you -- some impression. Though he may not be encoded in the chemistry of my bones, believe me, I carry him with me.

I hope I give some of him to my son.

He wasn't your grandpa, exactly, I'll tell my son. He was your Papa Murph, and man, did he love us.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Little Extra

My friend K has worked with the mentally ill and impaired for much of her life, and has many family members with Autism. She is an expert. I recall going grocery shopping with her, and she repeatedly standing at the end of the aisle, barking at me.


"What?" my head would snap away from the box of cereal I had been staring at, pulled out of a reverie.

"Oh. My. God. You're mildly autistic," she would laugh and shake her head.

(Pause for two beats.)

"Really? I seem autistic?" I would reply, head-cocked to the side, vaguely interested.

"You're doing it right now!" she would yell, and burst out laughing again.

I can't tell you how many times we had this identical conversation, with my slow and unalarmed responses repeated word-for-word.

Since then, I have also named it "ADD-lite" or "Autism-lite" to account for the spacey, stuck-on-a-record-in-a-groove quality that there can be in communicating with me. Most of you wouldn't know this, since we've never met in person. Fortunately for those who love me, I think it's viewed as "cute." As you can imagine, it could prove annoying over time. Actually, I had a boyfriend who used to go apeshit over my communication style.

I never understood why he got so mad.

He even got mad at my classic facial expression: Scrunched eyebrows, pursed lips, cocked head.

"Quit looking so mad at me! Say something!"

"What?" I would ask, and then cock my head and pause. "I'm not mad."

"If you can't tell me what you're mad about, if you can't COMMUNICATE, this relationship is doomed!"

"Okay," I would say, pause, and then cock my head. "Let me think about this for a minute." And then I would proceed to think about it, try to figure out what he thought I was mad about, and then I would search my brain for fragments of anger.


"I'm trying to," I'd say, honestly perplexed. I neither understood his anger nor his complaint. Clearly I was processing his request.


"Okay. Let's see. What am I mad about....ummm," I paused, hummed, and tried to focus in on my brain again, so I could find some material for him. While searching, I lost track of time outside my brain.

"JUST FUCKING FORGET IT! YOU ARE IMPOSSIBLE!" and he would storm out the door.

This was, essentially, our entire relationship. We even went through three couples counselors, to no avail. I could never make my gray matter fire quickly enough to count as "communicating" for him, and he could never slow his gray matter down enough to wait for mine.

Recently, The Boyfriend brought his dog over to spend the night. I noticed the dog was continuing to get thinner and thinner, and recalled I'd meant to ask him about this before and had forgot.

"How much do you feed Louie?"

He told me.

"Huh. You might want to feed him a little extra. He could use it."

He again explained how much he fed the dog, and how the dog had been overweight. He may have acknowledged that he could give the dog some extra.

"Well, you sure could feed him a little extra, it certainly wouldn't hurt."

The Boyfriend gave some sort of reply.

"A little extra. He really could use a little extra," I said.

The Boyfriend said something.

"A little extra."

"Yeah, I got that. A little extra, I will give him a little extra," The Boyfriend's reply broke through the fog of my brain this time.

"A little extra?"

"Yes, a little extra," he said, laughing. Now he was clear as a bell. "You realize you've said that over and over again."

"Said what over and over again?" I looked at him and cocked my head, furrowed my brow.

"A little extra," now he was laughing. Hard.

"Really?" I looked mildly interested.

"Really. A little extra."

"A little extra," I repeated, and giggled.

"A little extra," he repeated, immitating my deadpan Rainman-style of delivery.

"A little extra," I said, and started gasping for breath, laughing, now realizing how ridiculous I must sound.

Thank god.

Someone who gets me. Or who doesn't get mad at me, I should say. And now anytime we say, "A little extra," it is guaranteed to result in a volleying back and forth of Rainman-esque "A little extras."

Of course now I notice that memory loss, difficulty focusing and slowness, are all symptoms of Hypothyroidism. Oy. If only I'd been going to the doctor all these years, I wouldn't have misdiagnosed myself as Autism-lite or ADD-lite or "lite" anything.

It turns out I'm a little extra.