Friday, October 08, 2004

Clean Laundry

Smartmom and family finally had clean clothing today.

That sentence was not intended as a jab at Hepcat, whose job it is to take the laundry bag to THE SERIOUSLY NICE EQUADORIAN LAUNDRY on Sixth Avenue and Fifth Street. But it is a fact that the family was without their favorite clothing for too long.

You're probably wondering why Smartmom and Hepcat don't just do their own laundry in the laundry room in the basement of their apartment building, where there are plenty of perfectly functional coin-operated washing machines and dryers. And that, dear reader, would be an excellent question.

It all started back in '91 when Teen Spirit was born (he was Baby Spirit then). Smartmom worked full-time in Manhattan as a video producer. She would leave the apartment early in the morning and return after 7 p.m. It could be said that Smartmom never really mastered the work/family conumdrum. She loved her work (and her young family needed the income AND her health insurance plan). But she was miserable about the time away from her beautiful child. Laundry was one of the first household chores to go for two reasons: Smart Mama was exhausted and the time was better spent cherishing the bebe.

After the birth of OSFO in '97, Smartmom switched to a more family-friendly career as a freelance writer with an office in Brooklyn. The career change made it possible for her to pick the darlings up at school, take them to afterschool karate class, musical theater workshop, clarinet lessons, bass lessons when the clarinet was dropped, playdates and tutoring. Nonetheless Smartmom was still loyal to THE SERIOUSLY NICE EQUADORIAN LAUNDRY. And sending it there was a tough habit to break.

If it ain't broke don't fix it. Every week, Smartmom, Hepcat, Teen Spirit, and OSFO fill the rattan hamper with their dirty clothes. Then, Hepcat stuffs the red laundry bag and takes it to the laundry. Ages ago, Hepcat christened the bag, The Laundry Baby, because he used to roll the thirty-pounder in OSFO's McClaren stroller. But ever since the stroller broke more than three years ago, Hepcat has carried The Laundry Baby the two-and-a-half blocks looking like Atlas with the world on his back.

Over at THE SERIOUSLY NICE EQUADORIAN LAUNDRY, the family's clothing is washed, cleaned, and FOLDED. And the fact that it is FOLDED is probably why Smartmom is so passionately devoted. That and the fact that the seriously nice Equadoiran family who own the place are like family now and the woman calls at 9 p.m. to say, "Your husband, send him over to get laundry."

And while this has been the family's laundry routine for the past 13 years, sometimes the process gets snagged. Smartmom tries not to be unpleasant, but often she has to, well, encourage Hepcat to carry The Laundry Baby to the laundry and back again. .

Sad to say, this week was one of those, "Will you please bring The Laundry Baby over to the laundry, already!" weeks. And finally, finally, Hepcat got around to doing it. And for that everyone was grateful.

Well, this morning, OSFO was ecstatic to be reunited with her favorite clothing. Smartmom unpacked The Laundry Baby on the big bed and OSFO yelped: "My Pisces t-shirt!." She squealed: "My nylon pants with New York written on the butt!" She shouted emphatically: "My favorite boy- style underwear!"

But it was the reunion with her silky purple pajama bottoms with moons, stars, and clouds that inspired the most joy. So pleased was she to see those slinky purple P.J.s that she decided to wear them to school with her hot pink Racer Girl t-shirt ("My Racer Girl t-shirt!"). And Smartmom really had no objections because OSFO looked so darn cute and she could even pretend that OSFO wasn't really wearing pajamas to school. OSFO was dressed!

Fashionably late as usual, Smartmom and OSFO met Groovy Aunt at the MOJO and the three made their way over to PS 321 for the first Parents As Reading Partners of the school year, the morning once a month when parents are invited to spend an hour in their children's classroom. Smartmom could see that OSFO was taking great care not to trip on her overlong purple bottoms. They arrived safely at the big yard in front of the school, which had a decidedly festive atmosphere. For the parents, there was a pumpkin, plant, and PS 321 t-shirt sale, bagels, coffee and of course, a veritable gab fest.

Browsing the t-shirt table, Smartmom chatted with Former Ruler, who just completed an extremely sucessful two-year reign as PTA president. Smartmom appreciated Formal Ruler's efforts to bring many new people into the PTA and thinks that her lovely manner and welcoming attitude really paid off! Apparently, Former Ruler has been reading Smartmom's blog -- and she had many complimentary things to say.

While Smartmom was talking to Former Ruler, a girl in OSFO's class screamed out in the most bitchy way imaginable, "Don't tell me you're wearing your PAJAMAS to SCHOOL!" The girl stared at OSFO wide eyed and aghast. It was such a classic Veronica moment. Veronica from Archie Comics, that is.

OSFO, who is supremely self-confident about her fashion sense, seemed utterly unfazed. Amazingly, she just kept walking tall in her pink Pumas and her purple P.J. bottoms. Groovy Aunt, on the other hand, was not so calm and collected. Disgusted and profoundly humiliated on OSFO's behalf, Groovy Aunt shouted back, "You know OSFO is a fashion trend setter." Thankfully, she counted to ten and didn't let fly all the nasty things she really wanted to say.

1,2,3,4,5...

Groovy Aunt dropped it like a hot potato and the sisters escorted OSFO up the stairs to her classroom.

Shopping for the Baby -- Cool Cousin Responds

Cool Cousin sent this touching e-mail quite early this morning. She must have been at her trusty computer at 6 a.m. or earlier. Ungodly, yes, but then how else is one expected to get everything done?

My Sister Cousins:

Eleven summers ago - it hardly seems possible - C and I went to K-Mart in Bridgehampton to pick up supplies for C & D's trip to China to get E.

Supermarket sweep. Pacifiers - this kind and that kind just in case and what if - and formula, a lightweight stroller, baby socks, onesies, you obviously know the drill.

Real but not real - though Smartmom is partially right about the waiting being a kind of pregnancy. But still it's not that slow-growing physical knowlege so that the reality of the baby comes as a fully formed two eyes little nails ten toes two ears shock to the system.

J. was a complete stranger - but only for a very short time.

My heart is so full for all of you.

Shopping for the Baby

A trip to TARGET was in the stars today. Smartmom picked OSFO up at PS 321 a shocking ten minutes late -- guess who wasn't wearing her watch? OSFO was furious saying that it felt like she was waiting 100 years in the lobby, where all the kids whose parents are late are coralled. It's a sad place to be. And Smartmom felt so guilty, she bought OSFO ices from the ices lady. And then in a moment of total guilt-induced depravity, she let OSFO buy cottom candy from the evil man who sells evil cotton candy in front of PS 321.

But the trip to TARGET, or TARGE as some are wont to call it, was planned well in advance of the small maternal infraction. Groovy Aunt, whose been working in commercial-land of late, had the day off and was able to join them. The three idled down Fifth Avenue, stopping in BROOKLYN INDUSTRIES to check out the latest in Brooklyn gear. OSFO, still smarting from her ten minutes in hell, and whacked out by inordinate amounts of pure sugar, pitched a fit and demanded that they take the rarely seen Fifth Avenue bus. "I'm tired," she whined on Union Street.

Smartmom's TARGET shopping list included socks, boxers and size 16 dungarees for Teen Spirit. OSFO was up for whatever her heart desired. But Groovy Aunt had bigger fish to fry. She had brought along the long shopping list of things that she needs to bring to Russia when she goes to the orphanage to pick up her baby.

The list, which was sent to Groovy Aunt by the folks at the adoption agency, is many pages long. It includes gifts of gratitude for the caregivers at the orphanage; clothing and educational items for the children at the orphanage; and all the things she needs for the baby while she is in Russia. It is also the final step in a process that has included many months of everything from getting finger-printed, seeing 8 doctors to certify that she and the Bro-in-Law are healthy, filling out dozens of forms, letter writing, home visits, and immigration stuff. It was a long, tortuous process. And in a way, it was the pregnancy part of the adoption. Or should I say the morning sickness.

Through it all, the ever-efficient Groovy Aunt and Bro-in-Law were up for the task in spades and now all their papers have passed through U.S. immigration and are in Russia. The parents-to-be are eagerly awaiting a picture of their baby from the agency. Like Tom Petty wrote, "The waiting is the hardest part."

So the trip to TARGET felt like a productive thing to do. And Groovy Aunt, ace shopper that she is, revved up the big, red cart and began the shopping mission with a quick sweep of the first floor picking out make-up, watches, woolen hats and gloves for the caregivers. Selecting art supplies was a breeze with OSFO as their guide. "Get markers, crayons, sharpies, paper, get finger paint, get...hey who are we getting this for?" Much as OSFO is desperately looking forward to her new Russian cousin, she doesn't always love shopping for others...

Upstairs the dynamic trio found incredible prices on onesies, toddler clothing, receiving blankets, bottles, binkys, underwear, wipes, Desitin, baby shampoo and anything else you can imagine. When all was said and done, the shopping cart was filled to overflowing -- Smartmom and Groovy Aunt had to do a quick edit, weeding out the non-essentials. But most of the items were keepers, including the tube of Desitin, a mothering must-have since the dawn of man, or at least the 1950's.

There was something about the Desitin, that sticky, white diaper rash cream, that made the adoption seem very, very real. Suddenly, the adoption wasn't just an abstraction anymore. Smartmom and Groovy Aunt were actually buying something that would be smeared on the soft baby bottom of the soon-to-be-adored newest member of their family. Truth is, this child is already being adored, even if no-one has seen his or her picture yet.

At the checkout Smartmom tried to guess how much Groovy Aunt had spent. It was a whopping $375. but it seemed a small price to pay for the satisfaction it gave them. Groovy Aunt was stunned by the array of things she was going to have to figure out how to pack in her suitcases. But it was one more important step on the journey toward getting the baby she longs to lavish love on.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Global Bloggage

There's something about a blog that makes a person want, no, need, no, desperately need, some sort of response. It's a big shout into the universe for attention. A yearning yelp into an echoey tunnel as in: Hello, is anyone there? Does anyone want to play? Is anybody listening? Hello? Hello? Hellooooooooooooooo?

Pathetic, eh?

Actually it's god damn embarrassing. And yet, why write a blog unless someone is going to read it? Isn't that the whole point of the exercise. And it's not just Smartmomou there blogging -- though her blog is, by all reports, wildly original and fun. There are tens of thousands of blogs at Blogspot alone. Haven't you ever wondered what that small button on the masthead that says "next blog" means? Try it someday and you'll see. There's a whole world of blogs out there, people from all over the world desperate to communicate. When she is supposed to be doing other things, Smartmom has read blogs from Adelaide, Australia; Florence, Italy; Stutgart, Germany; Singapore, Thailand, Lebanon, even New Jersey.

Kind of gets you thinking, doesn't it. Is all this blogging a cry for help or the proverbial note in the bottle thrown out to the proverbial sea?

Yes, indeed. Blogging has has become one gigando phenomenon. And Blogspot is probably just one of hundreds of blog-generating sites for those desperate to be heard. In a sense, Blogspot is a global village for the graphomaniacs of the world. Marshall McCluhan could never have imagined such a thing. And he thought television was going to be the big global municipality. Hate to say it, but that is so 20th century, man. Fact is, there are probably millions of blogs out there worldwide. Imagine: a small virtual universe of people striving for connection.

Now that's really profound, isn't it? It's friggin existential. Contemplating it now, Smartmom feels like a tiny, tiny speck in the blog universe. So very small and insignificant. Very, very teeny tiny.

So the question arises: Is anyone reading these blogs? Smartmom thinks the answer is a resounding "yes." Because while there are clearly hundreds of thousands (alright, millions) of people with the voracious need to tell-all about the minutae of their daily lives, there are also hundreds of thousands who are hopelessly voyeuristic, dying to read the dirty and the well pressed laundry of others. Hey, you just know it's true. Smartmom and the bloggers of the world are banking on it. Btw, is there any money in blogging? Answer: Nope.

Which isn't to say that there isn't a value to writing a blog that no-one reads. Surely blogging, like writing in a journal, has many purposes. For one thing, it a great way to get in touch with your inner Erma Bombeck, your inner Sylvia Plath, and your inner Maureen Dowd. All at once. Really, truly, it is immeasurably pleasurable to write just to write.

But there are limits.

Writing for writing sake is something that writer's do. But come on, isn't writing all about communication? And communication requires a communicator and a receiver, don't it ? Come on. Does the word interactivity mean anything to you? Hence, the "comment" link on the bottom of each and every one of Smartmom's posts.

Maybe the real reason Smartmom created this blog is because she leads the lonely life of a freelance writer, alone day in and day out in her basement lair. Her officemate, Real Fruit Jelly, isn't around much anymore. Smartmom and Real Fruit Jelly, like many good friends and office mates, used to spend an awful lot of time analyzing their lives. That's what they love to do. And it was like free therapy around here.

Now, Smartmom's only companion is a rather spiffy laptop computer. In a sense, she's had to create an imaginary friend who will listen to her rant about rave.

But stop your crying. Smartmom is exceedingly pleased to report that people are responding to her. They've heard her big shout out to the world. And for that she is one big grateful girl. Fact is, Smartmom has actually gotten quite a few e-mails from her very dear readers. And would you believe, she has the audacity to reproduce them here -- annonymously, of course. She does, however, feel a tad braggadocious presenting such glowing words from the throng. But a girls gotta kvell from time to time. It's only human.

"Wow - very cool! I can tell you are a real writer. Cute, the way you are turning everyone in your life into fictional (and charming)
characters. Quite entertaining."

"Your life sounds way better than mine - nothing about the house being a
mess, finding the time to fold & put away 6 loads of laundry per week,
stop the kids from fighting, and juggle the needs of my family and my
(very needy) clients."

"Just added The Blog to "my favorites". What a great website."

"In your spare time?! Or is this how you plan to keep up with all yr girlfriends - thus eliminating costly hours on the phone and email..?"

"I'm so flattered that you invited me to read your blog. And it's
terrific! I inhaled it. Very fun and I'm right there at Mojo's, Belleville,
Pandamonium, Yamoto... with you. My only question: how could you
possibly let Groovy Aunt give up Savage Beauty-and before she'd finished?"

"I'm completely inspired. Thanks for all your energy."

"Oldest – as in ‘oldest’ friend or the friend you have who is older than your other friends ....(notice, I accept “best” without any explanations at all – both best friend, or the best person who is your friend, would each be fabulous compliments!)
I read a few and find this format very intriguing – (The ones I read are wonderfully written, very crisp and also rhythmic – the “pulse” of the neighborhood – is that what you are thinking too? People’s names are GREAT too miss smartmom) but I never read a blog before, is this an accepted format – or did you reinvent it?"

"Your site is nothing short of brilliant. I haven't read it all but was
soaking up what I have (so far) and also laughing and loving it. Really
impressed me and I am proud of you."


Hello? Is anybody there? Is anybody really listening? Helloooooooooooooooooooooooo...






F

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Politics of Cute

JOHN EDWARDS IS SO DAMN CUTE! And in Smartmom's opinion, he WON Tuesday's sharp-edged debate hands-down with confidence, charm, intelligence and such a way with words.

Okay, he's a skilled litigator with a drop dead smile. But wasn't it SO OBVIOUS that he beat Mr. Dour Chaney's butt big time. And you gotta love the way Edwards said, "Oops, I broke the rules again." That was just so adorable. It was probably one of the top five cute moments of the evening. And Mr. Dour Chaney wasn't cute once -- Smartmom think's he's cute-proof, doesn't have an ounce of cute in him. But Edwards, Edwards is so cute, he not only outshines the current VP but also beams brighter than our long-chined candidate, the man who's gonna defeat Bush on November 2nd -- he's just got to.

Earlier in the evening, Smartmom attended the ZUZU's PETALS benefit party at the Fifth Avenue restaurant, COQUOTTE. The fee for entry was a $100 donation to help Zuzu re-build her store in a Fifth Avenue storefront. The contribution will be a store credit for all those generous enough to cough up the big bucks. Smartmom drank California Chardonney with Best & Oldest (Smartmom's constant companion since Fifth Grade) and Warm & Funny (a dear friend and fellow Writer and Drinker). The B&O and W&F are among* the wittiest people Smartmom knows and the conversation was, as expected, spirited, spicy and SUCH fun.

Best & Oldest was accompanied by her very poised 13-year-old daughter who had raised $100 at a rather ambitious bake sale for ZUZU's PETALS, reminding Smartmom of the days when she and Best & Oldest used to make leather peace braclets and sell them on the street to raise money for Eugene McCarthy, who was running for president back in the day when democratic presidential candidates were really cool.

Warm and Funny, whose firefighter husband died on 9/11, recalled how Fonda, the owner of ZUZU'S PETALS, sent all the Slope women who lost husbands on 9/11 a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the first Valentine's Day after 9/11, a gesture which touched her deeply. Smartmom and B&O agreed that it was a super classy thing to do.

The crowd at COQUOTTE was decidedly old time Park Slope. In other words, Smartmom hardly knew anybody there. The opinionated friends decided that it was "an older crowd." No offence intended. But Smartmom, Best & Oldest, and Warm & Funny are YOUNG. And that's final.

Smartmom and friends left the blossom benefit in time to watch the aforementioned debate on T.V. Hepcat set up the old television set once again and the family cuddled on the green leather couch for the political jousting match. During the pundits - yup, Smartmom missed Mark Shields - OSFO and Smartmom selected "Charlotte's Web" as a follow-up to "The Grim Grotto." And what a follow-up it is. E.B. White is one awesome writer.

One more thing: Wipe that Norah Jones off your CD player and discover the pure unadulterated JOY of Madeleine Peyroux's first album in 8 years, "Careless Love." She practically channels Billie Holiday singing the songs of W.C. Handy, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, and other master songwriters. This album is one for the collection, friends, so get over to SOUNDTRACK pronto, while the supply lasts.

*Smartmom knows a lot of witty people.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

In Memoriam

Richard Avedon, the photography legend, died last weekend of a cerebral hemmorage while shooting pictures for The New Yorker Magazine in Texas (further proof that the lone star state is a place to avoid). He was a very energetic 81 years old.

Avedon was one of Smartmom's heroes, and many of his photographs rank among her favorites. Especially the close-up of Marian Anderson's face, eyes shut tight, her singing mouth a tall-oval. Or the double portrait of Phillip Glass and Chuck Close sitting crossed legged in chairs. Who can forget the the panoramic view of the Chicago Seven or the gigantic print of June Leaf, looking so earthy, so sexy, and real, that it took Smartmom's breath away when she saw it at Avedon's exhibition at the Metropolitan all those years ago.

Smartmom never heard Avedon speak, and knows little about his biography. She does, however, remember that he, like Diane Arbus, was the child of a clothing store owner. He was a born and bred New Yorker, who gracefully straddled the "high/low" worlds of advertising, magazines and fine art. He gave money to civil rights and other good causes, and was the inspiration for the debonair photographer played by Fred Astaire in "Funny Face." Avedon had a difficult relationship with his father, a Russian Jew, and took raw, loving pictures of him as he lay dying.

Avedon was also a big influence on Hepcat. The influence is most evident in the huge black and white portraits of friends, street people, and teen mothers that Hepcat was printing in his Ludlow Street darkroom back when he met Smartmom in 1986. It is the directness and honesty of Avedon's work that Hepcat admired: "His pictures really let the subjects speak for themselves," Hepcat says. "The consistency of the work and the sameness from picture to picture really help differentiate the subjects from one another."

Like much portraiture, Avedon's pictures are also very much about the artist himself. They reveal a great deal about his process and his interests: "Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me," Avedon told an interviewer. "My concern is the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own."

It's so strange when a celebrity hero dies. You don't really know what to do with the grief. The world seems a little emptier, a little sad. But there's no shivah to sit, no funeral to attend. It's like when Marlon Brando died -- it was the week after Reagan's funeral and all the flags were flying at half-mast. Smartmom kept pretending that the flags were flying for Marlon and his immortal gang of characters that will live forever: Stanley Kowolski, Vito Corleone, the biker in "The Wild One, and last but not least, Terry Mallone in "On the Waterfront."

Likewise, Avedon leaves behind indelible images that we, and those yet to be born, have to keep. Forever. They distill a kind of inner truth about the artists, performers, cowboys, politicians, activists, fashion models and writers who were his subjects. And yet, as Avedon himself said, "All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

Goodbye Avedon. Thank you for showing us how to see.



Sleepless in Blogland

Bless you, dear readers, for your comments and support. Smartmom feels so much better having gotten her Persnickety situation off her ample chest (though she has nothing on Mrs. Cleavage in that department). In her comments, Mrs. Kravitz offered tantalizing crumbs about Persnickety and wife's rather noisy hallway behavior. She should know, as she is their downstair's neighbor. Smartmom is on tenterhooks (see definition below) to hear more. But for that, she'll have to be patient until the roll-out of "Mrs. Kravitz Knows," Mrs. Kravitz's planned tell-all blog. Mrs. Kravitz, by the way, has much on her plate this Autumn. In addition to planning a vigil at OLD FIRST CHURCH protesting the atrocities in the Sudan, she has also been organizing activities at THE CHILDREN'S SCHOOL, the school her kids, Dynamic Blonde Duo, attend. A talented graphic designer, she is also looking for freelance design work on the web or off. If you have any leads, you can send them to Smartmom, who is, as you all know, a networking fool.

At drop-off this morning, Smartmom had a long chat with Former Upstairs Neighbor One on the steps in front of PS 321. It seems that all is going well with the newest member and their older child is adjusting well. Former Upstairs Neighbor One recommends THE SURREAL CAFE, as the next best thing since ORGANICA, Seventh Avenue's now defunct organic sandwich bar. So, check it out readers. It's on Fifth Avenue and St. Marks.

At the office, Smartmom tried to stay on track with her latest well-paying, but slightly boring writing assignment for Small Busy Company. There was other work to attend to as well. She and Grammatical Genuis put the finishing touches on "The Link" and got it ready for the printer. Today's playlist included all of Smartmom's latest musical discoveries: The Walk Men, Nina Natasia, and Lorraine Hunt singing Handel. As for rediscoveries: Smartmom thinks Joni Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon" holds up bigtime after all these years.

Alas, Smartmom misses the in-office companionship of Real Fruit Jelly, her wonderful friend, office mate, and partner on "The Link." Real Fruit Jelly hasn't been in their basement lair much lately due to serious back trouble and the heart-wrenching process of phasing her daughter into pre-school (been there, done that). Smartmom is waiting for a full report about Real Fruit Jelly's recent trip to Philadelphia for the VOTE FOR CHANGE concert with Bruce Springsteen, REM, and John Fogerty. Real Fruit Jelly, a major Springsteen fan, has been known to travel great distances to see The Boss. And even greater distances in the fight to defeat GEORGE W. BUSH on November 2nd.

Writers and Drinkers, Smartmom's writer's group, has been cancelled this week because various members, Smartmom included, are opting to watch the Vice Presidential fireworks on Tuesday night (tune in to the pundits of your choice at 9 p.m. -- Smartmom is with Ernie, otherwise known as Mark Shields on PBS). The debate promises to be a pretty interesting shouting match between dirt-slinging Chaney and skilled litigator, Edwards. In the day's emails between various members of Writers and Drinkers, the following non-sequiters were tossed about, gems from last Thursday's battle of words "You forgot about Poland." and "I know what war is like. I watch it on the television too." Always glad to welcome new malapropisms into the vernacular.

Smartmom had a latte at the charming REGULAR CAFE on 11th Street between Fifth and Fourth Avenue to kill time before therapy. The tiny Parisian-style cafe is a life saver, as Smartmom hates to arrive early to therapy as her therapist is often late. Waiting in his waiting area seems to trigger attacks of anxiety. Guess it's a good thing she's in therapy...

Fifth Avenue is a bounty for Bargain shoppers! On the walk home, Smartmom purhased three Old Navy shirts for ten bucks from one of the discount clothing shops. Smartmom also stopped into that weird clothing store on Ninth Street next to C-TOWN, where she regularly buys skirts for $14.99. These revelations about Smartmom's shopping habits probably provide a telling picture of her thrifty approach to fashion. Hopefully, it's not too obvious...

Homework went remarkably well to Smartmom's great pleasure. The Homework Desk seems to be working its magical powers on OSFO and Teen Spirit. Dinner was steak, couscous and salad prepared by Smartmom and Hepcat together in the kitchen -- trying to stay out of eachother's way. Baths for the kids followed seamlessly. Teen Spirit and Hepcat joined Smartmom and OSFO for a cozy reading of the final chapter of "The Grim Grotto." OSFO and Smartmom dozed off soon after.

When Hepcat crawled into bed at 3 am, after a long night slaving over a hot computer, he disturbed Smartmom's beauty rest inadvertantly sending her into the dining room to write this post. Smartmom's sleep loss is your gain, dear reader, your gain.

Many Thanks to Hepcat for e-mailing Smartmom the correct way to spell tenter hooks. He may be the only person in Brooklyn who has actually used a tenter hook. He also sent along a definition and a derivation of the word that he found on the net:

It’s been so long since anyone has seen either a tenter, or the hooks on one, that the word and the idea behind it are now quite mysterious, so much so that it sometimes appears as on tenderhooks, which sounds as though it ought to make more sense. But at one time, the phrase on tenterhooks would have evoked an image that was immediately understandable.

It comes from one of the processes of making woollen cloth. After it had been woven, the cloth still contained oil from the fleece, mixed with dirt. It was cleaned in a fulling mill, but then it had to be dried carefully or it would shrink and crease. So the lengths of wet cloth were stretched on wooden frames, and left out in the open for some time. This allowed them to dry and straightened their weave. These frames were the tenters, and the tenter hooks were the metal hooks used to fix the cloth to the frame. At one time, it would have been common in manufacturing areas to see fields full of these frames (older English maps sometimes marked an area as a tenter-field). So it was not a huge leap of the imagination to think of somebody on tenterhooks as being in an state of anxious suspense, stretched like the cloth on the tenter. The tenters have gone, but the meaning has survived.

Tenter comes from the Latin tendere, to stretch, via a French intermediate. The word has been in the language since the fourteenth century, and on tenters soon after became a phrase meaning painful anxiety. The exact phrase on tenterhooks seems first to have been used by Tobias Smollett in Roderick Random in 1748.

















Sunday, October 03, 2004

A Snowboard for Emmy

Morning at Groovy Grandma's felt like a spa compared to the chaos of matin on Third Street. Smartmom welcomed the quiet, the fresh coffee, the Zabar's croissant, and the Sunday New York Times.

Things revved up a bit when Cool Cousin stopped by with a thoughtful, belated birthday gift for Smartmom -- a lovely pair of earrings and a braclet. Cool Cousin, one of Smartmom's favorite people in the world, runs the Petra Foundation, an organization that honors "the unsung individuals making distinctive contributions to the rights, autonomy, and dignity of others." For more information about this organization that is really making a difference, go to: petrafoundation.org. The three minus OSFO, who was intravenously viewing Saturday morning cartoons, drank coffee on Groovy Grandma's terrace analyzing everything under the sun and then some and laughing a lot in the process. Smartmom and Cool Cousin promised to make an effort to see more of eachother this year.

Smartmom ran four miles in Riverside Park, site of her teenage forays into athleticism. At the start of the run, Smartmom tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and fell splat on her face, cutting her hands and knees in the process. Deeply shaken and even more embarrassed, she picked herself up and continued running on the brand new Riverside pedestrian path. Smartmom was duly impressed with the design and landscaping of this knockout reinvention of the West Side waterfront. Too bad about those UGLY Trump (boo boo, hiss hiss) buildings, though.

A trip to The American Girl Doll Store, a craven monument to childhood consumerism, was the next item on the agenda. The store is also a great place to get in touch with your inner girly girl and bond with the little girl in your life. The three subwayed down to 50th Street and on their walk to the store, happened upon the temporary Jonathan Borofsky sculpture near the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink. "Walking in the Sky" is a 100-foot-tall stainless steel pole that tilts out of the ground with several life size figures climbing up including a little girl with pigtails. OSFO loved it and took 24 small booklets about the piece that she plans to give to her class at Monday's Show and Tell. Extra credit for OSFO! Smartmom says: "'Walking in the Sky' is only there until October 18th, so cross the damn river and take a look at it."

Smartmom sternly told OSFO that she could buy ONE and ONLY ONE outfit at the store. OSFO agreed and made a fairly quick decision to buy her doll Emmy, one of the contemporary American girls, a snowboarding outfit that she saw in a display case. Way to go, OSFO!! Quick decision making in a toy venue is always well appreciated. Except for one tiny, little problem. The natty snowsuit, pants, and snowboots did not come with the snowboard, the helmet or the purple snow goggles that OSFO saw in the display case and desired desperately.

All things considered, OSFO was fairly mature throughout this tense situation: she stared forlornly at the snowboard in the misleadingly cruel display case for a few minutes, making special eye contact with the coveted purple snow goggles. Finally, Groovy Grandma, never one to leave a granddaughter crying in a toy store, generously volunteered to buy OSFO the snowboard (which came with said goggles and shiny silver helmet).

Voila -- situation solved. Emmy got her snowboard, Smartmom didn't have to cave in or back down. A perfect resolution to a potentially explosive American Girl Doll shopping experience.

They paid the cashier and high-tailed it back to Brooklyn.