Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


When you get older, it's harder to keep your promises. You read a book that you love so much you're ready to move in, and you can't stop thinking about the characters, and your whole non-reading life just becomes an inconvenience that has to be endured. Then, 636 pages later, it's over, and you're grieving, and you have gone so deep with this book that you swear you will never discuss it with anyone, because to do that would mean it was not in fact expressly written for you alone.

And then you find yourself in an emergency room at midnight*, on an exam table with your feet in stirrups and a resident who is doing a well-meant but bad job of putting you at ease by asking what you like to do (when you're not in an emergency room with your feet in stirrups), and the truth is you don't like to do anything but read, and the cotton-tipped swab seems as long as a forearm, and you end up saying, "I really liked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay."

Then there is nothing for it but to press on:

"It's about two cousins. And one's from Prague. But now they're in New York. And they, they draw comic books. And it's about their lives."

"And it's a comic book?"

"No, they make comic books."

"Oh. Well, I'll have to check that out."

And one of those sterile things she's unwrapping seems to be spring-loaded, because there's a KER-PLOING!!!!!!! and something flies over to hit the wall and drop out of sight. You look at the little smudge of goop left behind and wish you'd kept your mouth shut.

*Five hours later, everybody will decide you're in fine health.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Best Day of Their Lives

Last night I found the Comrade downloading ultra-close-ups of the now-infamous head butt and its immediate aftermath, including one of the Italian guy (whose name I refuse to remember because I've heard it now so many times) writhing on the ground while Zidane stands over him smoldering.

"You see, he really hurt him," the Comrade said.

I said I could see that and pointed to the guy's jaw, locked as it was in agony.

"No, I mean Zidane," the Comrade said solemnly. "He really hurt him."

I decided somebody needed to be left alone, and it was me.

When I came back an hour and a half later, the Comrade was watching fan-made video montages of Zidane's greatest hits, one set, inexplicably, to "Bette Davis Eyes."

I told him he was acting like a girl after a bad breakup, mooning over the old letters and vacation photos. Instead of Haagen-Dazs, however, he has beer.

"Don't you have something like this in Russian -- 'There are other fish in the sea'?"

And he said*, "There are no other fish in the sea."

I vaguely remember reading about a survey of English men who, when asked to name the best day of their lives, cited the day England won the World Cup. Not the day their children were born, or the day they graduated medical school, or the day they caught the trout with Grampa. The best day of their lives.

*Just as I did over Chris Frey in 1985!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Winner Takes All

In my tender formative years, one Sunday just as Alabama had Lost the Game, one of my father's co-workers called up and asked me to put him on the phone. The guy on the other end was positively tight with glee, and I figure he was either an Auburn fan, or Daddy had bet him money, or both. Either way, I had the unenviable task of knocking on the door of the room where Daddy had barricaded himself with his tiny TV.

"Phone," I said.

"Tell him I died," Daddy said.

So I knew a man could get in a real swirling, sucking eddy of despair over the outcome of a sporting event.* But still I was not prepared for the Comradely gloom and annihilation that met me when I came home yesterday, two hours after the World Cup.

I suggested that maybe -- since it was, after all, the World Cup and the last 15 minutes of our boyfriend Zidane's career -- it, strictly speaking, might not have been the thing to do, clocking that Italian guy in the chest with his bare, bald head and knocking him to the ground.

I was roundly dismissed on the grounds that (1) we don't know what that Italian said, and he doubtless had it coming, (2) exceptions should be made for genius, and (3) what do Americans know? Number 3 was never explicitly stated, but baby, was it ever implied. It was almost enough to send me to the couch with an ice pack, to watch Working Girl. Never mind; it was enough.

I happened to be on a school trip in Munich when Holland won the 1988 Euro Cup. The event left a great impression on a young girl: the beer, the body paint, the carousing, the free-form vomiting. I was sure it was the closest I'd ever come to Sodom and Gomorrah. The next day the whole city smelled like lager and the fans, still drunk, rocked our tour bus back and forth while we sat, thrilled, inside.

I've been careful to arrange my life in a way that will require me to have as little to do with sports as possible, so I can't say there's a madness that's unique to soccer.** Nevertheless it is tempting, when one is resigned to watching Melanie Griffith take over Trask Industries through the eyeholes in a gel mask, to draw those kinds of conclusions.

* I'm sure this could happen to women too, but I've never lived with one of those women.

**On a separate but not unrelated note, it was only yesterday that I realized the soccer players aren't the only ones out there grabbing each other's asses. Baseball and football players, I was told, do this all the time.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The rabbits discuss Gorbachev.

This bunny comes from Disapproving Rabbits, a site much beloved unto me. The Comrade says this one looks like an old Communist granddaddy who grumps that perestroika made it all but impossible to get a decent carrot.

My apologies for the long radio silence.