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Showing posts with label Bob Etier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bob Etier. Show all posts

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oh! Those Cynical Women!

Collage ©2012 by Bob Etier

Source Unknown

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oh! Those Cynical Women!

Collage ©2012 by Bob Etier

Source Unknown

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Parody ('Twas the night before...)

many nights
before Christmas…
by Rocky Etier (translation by bob)

‘‘Twas a night in November, and to Mama’s alarm
Christmas music was playing all over the farm.
Long before Christmas the madness had started;
She once had the spirit but it had departed.

The dogs and the cats did not seem to mind it;
They knew that their dad was the one who’s behind it.
And though he could not leave the stereo alone,
They’d all get their treats, a toy or a bone.

Then from the kitchen there arose such a ruckus
The cats and the dogs thought that lightning had struck us.
Dad stuck in his head to see what mom had done
And discovered that Mama was just having fun.

Wearing her jeans and one of her hoodies,
She’d covered the table with all kinds of goodies.
Egg rolls and bagels and cream cheese so white
Shared space with the candies, and nothing was “lite.”

She blasted her music, a lot of it punk;
Dad started to think “the old lady is drunk.”
There was too much food on that holiday table,
But she kept serving more, who knew she was able?

Now cupcakes! now, cookies! now, latkes and pralines!
On, cheesecake! on, pastas! on mushrooms and ice creams!
She piled food high, to the top of the wall!
And yelled at the dogs, “Don’t dare touch it, y’all!”

As nestlings decide when it’s time to de-nest,
Mama decided “it’s time to get dressed.”
We were all kinda scared what she might put on,
What holidaywear, dear Mama would don.

But then, in a twinkling, we heard her come back;
And over her shoulder she carried a sack.
I got out of the way to let her pass by,
And noticed that Dad was rolling his eyes.

She was dressed all in pink, from her head to her toe,
And the tilt of her head said “she’s ready to roll.”
She put down her bag and began to unpack it,
Resulting, of course, in an unearthly racket.

Her eyes how they twinkled! Her dimples how merry--
As she pulled out a pie; I think it was berry!
I started to wonder if this was a dream
When out came some sprinkles and chocolate whip cream.


A cork from champagne she held tight in her teeth,
As she told us to join in the holiday feast.
She served lots of crackers and a bowl full of dip,
Salsa, cannolis, and even prune whip

She poured the champagne in a tall crystal flute
And asked everyone, “How ‘bout a toot?”
A wink of her eye, like a shot from a gun,
Warned the festivities had only begun.

She spoke not a word as she filled all our plates,
And brought out the beer and the figs and the dates.
And laying her finger aside of her nose,
And giving a nod, a toast she proposed!

She sprang from her chair, and started to shout,

(the wine had gone straight to her head, there’s no doubt)

But I heard her exclaim, ‘fore she dozed on the couch,

"One more holiday song and you’re getting’ thrown out!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I (wish I didn’t) Remember Mama: Fireworks

According to Fleas, everything I did was either bad, wrong, or a waste of time. That’s probably why I don’t remember what set her off whenever she exploded. We had a strict code of conduct, and I don’t think I ever provoked her on purpose, expressed an opinion on anything important, or otherwise set off the fireworks. If she knew some of the things the teenaged me did when she wasn’t around, I’d probably not be around to tell the tale.

It’s been only the last few years that I’ve come to appreciate how dramatic Fleas actually was. When you’re a kid and you live with the drama, it’s not drama—it’s a lifestyle. Another thing I learned about Fleas is that she made every meal seem like it took hours upon hours of preparation and was physically exhausting.  Maybe that’s why she didn’t share her recipes…she didn’t want anyone else to suffer as she had. Oh, the humanitarian!

One typical Sunday, Fleas spent an inordinate time making lasagna, salad, bread, and whatever other goodies would accompany such a meal. And she did make a killer lasagna. She set the table in the small-but-formal, sunny dining room with a beautiful tablecloth, her fine china, and real silver (which I have in a suitcase in my basement; but, what, no crystal?). It was the kind of setting that Norman Rockwell captured so well. Sunday dinner, the exception to the weekly grind, was served at 2:00.

I don’t know what crime I had committed, but Fleas used her displeasure to stage a spectacular show. She called us to the table, set out the steaming dishes of delightful Italian food, served everyone including herself, then announced, “I can’t eat if I have to look at her,” threw her napkin down, and ran off to her bedroom. Wow! My transgression (I was the only other “her” in the room) must have been a doozy! After all that labor, she couldn’t even enjoy her dinner.

I never considered that she may have had that planned for hours or days. I was probably fifteen years old and I thought her performance was spontaneous. As a cynical old hag, I look back and think that she was probably munching all afternoon while cooking (can anyone resist mozzarella?), and/or had a box of Russell Stover chocolates in her room. Or both. I can picture her on the edge of her bed, chocolate box on her lap, watching Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour and feeling that she deserved an Oscar (it was a small role but filled with passion) and that she had successfully ruined our dinner.

I know she ruined dinner for at least one person that afternoon, but all ate like they were unaffected; we were used to dinner theater. I’m not really my mother’s daughter—I could never have pulled off that performance. For one thing, who am I to turn my back on a nice salad and fabulous lasagna? If I’d spent hours making it, I wouldn’t have stormed off. Wouldn’t it make more sense to send the offending kid to her room, with or without a plate? Another reason? When I do feign melodrama, I usually get the giggles. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Are Dogs Smarter than People? Exhibit A

Once the weather gets milder (above  40 degrees or so) we leave our back door open so that our cats and dogs can go in and out through the pet door. This spring I noticed that whenever I was ready to give my dogs breakfast (a ritual that begins with "Are you hungry? Do you want to eat?" and furious tail-wagging), they would immediately go outside. “Why?,” I wondered.
I finally realized that all through the winter, before I would feed the dogs I would make them go outside. Some people might call this “conditioning,” but I know what my dogs are thinking—if we want to eat, we better take care of business.”
Are dogs smarter than people? Yes. Consider how long it takes to “condition” your children to wash their hands before meals. Some of them are well into adulthood and still can’t remember…


Sunday, June 26, 2011

I (wish I didn’t) Remember Mama: Everything I Know about Sex I Learned in All the Wrong Places

WARNING: Looking at the images accompanying this article will result in eternal damnation…i.e., hell forever…and ever.

When I was eleven-years-old, Fleas felt obliged to give me “the talk.” You know the one…about S-E-X. So she invited me into her bedroom, sat on her bed (I guess I sat on a chair—I know I was opposite her), and brought out a booklet put out by the Catholic Church, ironically titled “Now You Are Ten.” It was the kind of literature that tells you all you need to know about sex: if you do it, you’ll go to hell.

My mother read the book out loud, cover to cover, a feat that even a stupid kid like me could have accomplished on her own. I will always remember one phrase in the book, “marital embrace.” For those who don’t know, by engaging in the “marital embrace” you make babies. Well, I knew an embrace was a hug, so I was convinced that one could be impregnated by hugging or being hugged. That was the sum of my sex education at home. That might also be why I felt mortified every time I saw a pregnant woman—I knew she had been embracing!
This is dancing, NOT
a "marital embrace"

When I was nine and attending Catholic School (is it any wonder I’m a Methodist?), we had a combination hygiene/sex ed moment when Sister Julia Michael told us not to wash under our arms because it could lead to “impure thoughts.”  At that time, nine-year-olds were incapable of having “impure thoughts,” and would probably have gone into catatonic shock if they knew what those thoughts entailed.

That sums up my sex education until I was fifteen. A group of us hormonally-charged kids were put in a classroom with a teacher and a projector. We were to watch a film about (shhhhh….) venereal disease. I don’t know if my mother’s church would approve of such pornography, but I was untainted by it. When the boy walked up to the girl’s house to pick her up for a date, they shook hands and I passed out.

Preparation for a "Marital Embrace"
Why did they shake hands? I don’t know; maybe it was a blind date. Why did I faint? It sounds like an extreme case of sexual repression, but the truth is that I was wearing a new outfit: camel-colored wool-skirt, a turtleneck, and a camel mohair sweater. It was unseasonably warm for September, and I was standing at the back of the room with my back to the blackboard. There was no air conditioning, of course (it was the sixties—kids didn’t need a/c back then). All I remember is that the couple shook hands, my head went thump-thump-thump as I apparently slid down the blackboard and wall, and when I woke up there were a whole bunch of kids looking at me rather than learning how to avoid getting VD by shaking hands.

I’m pretty sure that was the end of my formal sex education. Being scientifically inclined (I failed both Science and Biology), I eventually resorted to a scientific method—experimentation.

I'm not positive, but
I'm pretty sure this is
related to marital embracing.
Sex was definitely an unspoken word in our house, and—at least as far as my parents were concerned—it was a rare practice. One day Aunt M. told me that she and Fleas should exchange husbands, because Fleas hated sex and Uncle G. was unable due to illness. That was really a whole lot more info than I could handle, but it did leave me with the impression that 1) sex wasn’t entirely revolting, and 2) I knew at least two people who enjoyed it—Aunt M. and my father—although I sincerely doubt they enjoyed it mutually (if you know what I mean, and I know you do).

Fleas’ attitude about sex, unexpressed as it was, pretty much sealed my fate. To this day I am uncomfortable discussing the subject with anyone and avoid it. When my children were old enough to be told what was happening to their bodies and what sex was all about, I bought two books, What's Happening to Me? and Where Did I Come From? (BTW, if you can get your hands on these, I highly recommend them. Very highly.) I did not repeat the famous bedroom scene my mother staged. Instead, I gave each one the appropriate book, told them to read them, and then we’d discuss them. That worked. And that’s how I found out that an orgasm is just like a sneeze.


I would offer more resources on sex, but the book Your Child and Sex: A Guide for Catholic Parents, although listed on Amazon, has no photo image available nor description of its contents. See? Sex must be a sin!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I (wish I didn’t) Remember Mama: Survivor’s Guilt & a Plateful of Grateful

There are so many types of abuse and so many degrees. I grew up in an abusive household experiencing things that no child should, however many abuse survivors might easily say, “Ha! You call that abuse?” Unless I am conducting a rare intellectual investigation of my life, I don’t often think of myself as abused or neglected. The bad things happened to another person—the little girl I once was. I don’t feel sorry for myself; I do feel sorry for her.

Kelsey Briggs was a beautiful little girl who was repeatedly, brutally abused by her stepfather. Abused to death. It wasn’t my own experience but the story of Kelsey Briggs that compelled me to become a GAL (Guardian ad Litem). My thinking went something like, “I’m too old to be a cop, and my aim isn’t good enough to be a vigilante…I’ve got to do something for these kids.” Kids like Kelsey Briggs remind me of how easy my life has been—dare I say I was abused?

No matter what we are, we are statistics. There is a certain element of guilt attached to being “an abused child,” when you’ve never had a broken bone, bruises, burns, or internal injuries; though not all abuse survivors suffer guilt. The fact is that no one should be abused, but it’s easy to overlook the facts in the face of the degree of abuse or in a culture where abuse is the norm (or perceived to be the norm).

From the time I was eleven years old until I was in my mid-forties, a day didn’t go by that I didn’t wish I was dead. I hated my life, I hated myself, and I felt that I was less than a person—the darkest soul ever to inhabit human form. Oh, that’s so dramatic, but I didn’t look at it that way. I looked at each day as another day of getting screwed over, of not counting for anything (because I didn't count for anything), of being rejected. The thing that helped me recover from such feelings, to rise from the depths of depression (in fact, to rise from my bed each day), and to appreciate my gifts, talents, and worth is one of the many things for which I am grateful.

Not all abuse victims grow up to be depressed or suffer from other mental illnesses and dysfunctions, and many who do pull themselves out of it—when they do the hard work it takes to get past the past. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to tick off the good things in life, instead of the reasons life sucks. So here, in no particular order, are the good things in my life, the things that make every day a cause to celebrate and every breath worth taking.
  • The knight in shining armor who rescued me from what was little more than a shadow of life (husband FCE). 
  • My kids who know first-hand about the cycle of abuse, but who managed to be the stopping point.
  • My grandkids who know how to be their own people.
  • The people who felt I was worth getting to know, no matter how hard I made it on them.
  • Prozac—the first step in turning my life around and keeping it (mostly) balanced.
  • Hot showers and cold tea (preferably Diet Snapple Peach Tea)—not necessarily at the same time.
  •  A sense of humor. 
  •  A spiritual journey.
  • Dogs & cats, especially when they’re not fighting like…well…you know.
  • The ability to accept that this is not a perfect world, and I can’t change people.
  • My personal philosophy.
  • Reliable transportation.
  • Prescription eyewear, especially when the puppy hasn't eaten them.
  • Silence.
Sometimes when I would pass grand mansions and estates, I would think “I wonder if they know what they’ve got.” I don’t know if the people living in those houses do, but I am grateful to be aware of how very rich and full my life is (although I certainly wouldn’t turn my back on a windfall!)—in other words, I am grateful for the opportunity to be grateful, even at my most cantankerous, self-absorbed worst moments.

Nope, I’ll never be perfect, but I’ll never be the intellectually and morally inferior person who deserved punishment—the person I was conditioned to be, the person I learned I never really was.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

I (wish I didn’t) Remember Mama: Cooking Mama

Until middle age, Fleas was a great cook. 100% Italian, she made sauces that were thick, fragrant, and flavorful. She even canned her own tomatoes. Dishes that were handed down from her mother were staples on our table. Every Thursday we had spaghetti; Sundays there was something more elaborate like lasagna or ravioli. On Friday, lentil soup was often the main course. The rest of the week featured American dishes—chops, steaks, burgers, chicken soup, and the like.

I don’t know enough about dialects to explain how Fleas and her family spoke. Their pronunciation of common Italian words was often different than other Italians (and certainly different than non-Italians). For example, cannoli was pronounced “gah-nool.” Lasagna was “lah-zyne.”  Prosciutto, “prah-jhoot.” Mozzarella, “mootzarell.” This, in itself, is not a big deal. As a child, I believed these were the correct pronunciations, and as an adult found that most workers in Italian delis knew what I was ordering.

There are certain dishes that children of good cooks remember and crave. They replicate these dishes with the recipes their mothers gave them or by learning to cook at their mothers’ sides. Three Fleas made, that were to die for (as opposed to her later cooking which was to die from), were stuffed peppers (meatless, riceless), “beetza-gain,” and a concoction called something like “gock-yole,” which is sort of a bread (I’m stretching the definition of bread here ever-so) made with coarse corn meal, eggs, and milk (I think). “Gock-yole” is made in an olive-oil coated cast iron frying pan (be sure to have extras in case you have to break one over your kid’s head); the corn meal mixture is poured in and fills the pan, and a hole is poked in the middle to let the steam escape. It’s fried until it’s shiny and hard, and then turned (I have no idea how you would turn this with just a spatula), and cook until the other side is shiny and hard.

I would be better able to recite this recipe if Fleas had shared it, but Fleas didn’t share recipes. It’s been over 40 years since I’ve had “gock-yole” (best served with thick soups like lentil or pasta e fagioli [pronounced bast-ah vah-zhool]), and haven’t a clue what it’s really called or how to make it (although I seem to remember that the olive oil was flavored with garlic—but isn’t everything Italian?—and it took a while). Someone once suggested “Polenta,” but polenta and “gock-yole” have little in common. Besides, Fleas’ dialect would make polenta sound more like “bo-lent.”

“Beetza-gain,” I learned about 20 years ago, is actually “pizzagaina,” an Italian Easter pie, cake-like in stature, and filled with eggs, ricotta cheese (pronounced “rih-ghaut”), pepperoni, mozzarella, ham, and other delicious things. The filling varies from cook to cook, and I’ve only had an identical version once, in an Italian deli in Palisades Park, NJ. I am nearly ready to kill for this recipe.

As for the stuffed peppers…I’m totally at sea. The peppers  were either roasted or boiled first, then stuffed with bread crumbs, seasonings (including basil and oregano), parmesan cheese, egg, and possibly anchovies (probably a very small amount or very finely chopped). They were then oven-baked. A lifetime ago, I found a recipe on a Progresso calendar for these stuffed peppers, but it was lost in a move.

By the time Fleas was in her mid-fifties she began to lose her cooking talent. Her sauces had become runny, better than thin tomato soup, but not much, and since she cooked for herself and my father only she had stopped making more elaborate dishes. I’ve often wondered if this was an early symptom of Alzheimer’s.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I (wish I didn’t) Remember Mama: Here’s to the Good Times

Someone beat me and I thought he was wonderful. Yikes, a normal person might exclaim, get this chick some help. The problem was that the “someone” was my father and I was a child who didn’t know that all children don’t suffer corporal punishment. I am always surprised when a fellow baby-boomer tells me that he or she never got hit, and think the parents must have been “rare exceptions”—maybe they were beatniks (or anti-beat-niks). Isn’t this country built on legendary tales of “trips to the woodshed”?

In my mind, people who punished their children with spankings, “lickings,” or beatings in the fifties and sixties were “normal” parents, just as I believe parents who hit their kids in the new millennium are criminal abusers. Unfortunately for my children and much to my shame, the combination of my experience, ignorance, and entering parenthood in my teens resulted in the continuation of this family tradition. (In my twenties, I impulsively decided to go back to school, and in a child psychology class an Eskimo ended those practices for good. Our textbook included a quote from an Eskimo father who asked “Why would I hit my child?,” and went on to explain he didn’t hit other people who made him angry. That man ended corporal punishment in my home—if only he could have terminated mental disorders, as well.)

In many ways, I am like my father. Perhaps that’s because the only thing I remember about my mother is the many faces of her anger—an example I could not emulate since anger was not acceptable (it’s so much better to turn it inward and let it fester into depression). Good memories of my childhood are mostly about my father, my Uncle B., and my Aunt M. who sometimes treated me like the most wonderful child ever born (and other times refused to speak to me because I was her sister’s child). I idolized my father, and other relatives would say, “Your father is a saint.” I didn’t realize at the time that they—being on Fleas’ side of the family—were referring to his tolerance of Fleas’ behavior (if you missed the last installment, “Fleas” is/was my mother—the name chosen [by me] because of its similarity to her name. For whatever deep, dark psychological reason, it is easier for me to refer to her as  “Fleas” than as “Mother” or “Mom”).

My father was a font of advice that I took to heart, most of which is still etched on my psyche: “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” (or how to brainwash your child into being a perfectionist who won’t try to do anything for fear it won’t be done exactly right) and “If you want a job done right, do it yourself” (or, “never ask for help”). Note to parents: to successfully neuroticize your children, such phrases must be repeated daily, beginning when they are toddlers; it’s especially effective to use them several times a day.

You never know where your keyboard is going to take you. I started this installment intending to recall good memories of life with my parents to dispel the notion that it was all Dickensian. I am trying to dredge up big, happy events like birthdays or holidays, but I fail (it must not be a job worth doing). Instead, good memories involve adult-less moments, times spent with adults who were not my parents, times with my parents and lots of witnesses, or the times I was with my father only.

My father was home on weekends, and I’d often hang out with him while he did construction projects or repairs, washed the car, went to the corner tavern, or ran (actually drove) to the store or dry cleaners on various errands (every year I got to cast numerous votes for my choice in the “Miss Rheingold” contest—casting a vote or two each time we stopped at the liquor store). I know he took me fishing once (I dutifully caught a sunny), and to a baseball game (which I always remembered as the Brooklyn Dodgers but was probably the Yankees). When I was in the lower grades, we went to the library together. Those were the good times.

There wasn’t much conversation; aside from telling us kids we were stupid when we made mistakes or “acted up,” my father didn’t speak much (in our house, it was a good philosophy—be quiet and [if possible] invisible). “Children should be seen and not heard,” was Fleas’ mantra, but even I knew she meant “Children should be seen but not had.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I (wish I didn’t) Remember Mama: The Doctor Is in the House

NOT my mother
(Photo credit: Sura Nualpradid
Two weeks after I married (at the tender age of 18), I was diagnosed with a bladder infection, strep throat, malnutrition, dehydration, and—of course—pregnancy. Unsurprisingly, I was hospitalized.

During this period, my mother was not speaking to me and had forbidden my father and brother J. to have any contact with me. While I lay in the emergency room waiting for a bed, a ruckus erupted on the other side of the curtain that separates patients from each other and the general public (it’s a well-known fact that flimsy curtains prevent the spread of disease). Recognizing one of the voices only added to my distress.

The curtains parted and in marched Dr. Mom, Medicine Woman, armed with—I’m not kidding—an oral thermometer, and followed by an ER doctor, nurse, and my father. Fleas (that’s the affectionate name I adopted for my mother after she was no longer in my life) approached my bedside, put the thermometer in my mouth, read my temperature, and marched out. No one spoke a word. It was all highly dramatic…or—more aptly—melodramatic.

I’m guessing that my mother-in-law, with whom my then-husband and I were living, had followed her conscience and informed my parents that I was in the ER. Fleas seized the opportunity to again cast herself in the starring role, this time as “concerned mama,” coerced my father into driving her to the hospital (after all, what good is a starring role if you don’t have an appreciative audience?), then made a scene featuring key phrases like my child and a mother’s right. Whatever. I was in the hospital for two weeks, but it would be nearly five months before I saw my parents again.

At the time it all seemed bizarre, but I was feverish and many things seemed bizarre. Looking back, I now realize it all was…well…bizarre.