Monthly Archives: November 2008

What a Dork

Laura had set the afternoon and evening aside today to work on her screenplay — Ben, having been diagnosed with pneumonia and well into his course of antibiotics, had gone back to school today (albeit for the weekly half-day) and then he and Brendan went to the School of Rock for his drum lesson and Beatles rehearsal — but a few minutes ago she did something so dorky and idiotic that she can’t get anything done.

At the risk of providing TMI, Laura had some kind of — she won’t go so far as to call it an infection — kidney “issue” or “situation.”  She’d gone to see a new doctor on Monday — one she hadn’t seen before and one with whom she has a longer get-to-know-you-new-patient appointment scheduled in a few weeks — and he seemed great.  She described her symptoms, he prescribed an antibiotic, and now, a few days later, while most of her original symptoms were, as medical professionals say, “resolved,” she still felt a really uncomfortable tenderness in her left lower back and weird “discomfort” that seemed to radiate in all sorts of other places too.

Having too much time on her hands — specifically, and literally, too much time on her hands to sit in her bed with her laptop — Laura naturally started diagnosing herself for the 20th time that week.  And almost instantly she concluded that she must have a kidney stone since her symptoms were semi-similar to one or two on the long list of symptoms she found on various medical sites for kidney stones.  A few minutes after this fit of self-diagnosis, the doctor returned her call, and before she could stop herself she explained to the doctor that while her original symptoms were gone, she still had this left lower back thing.

“So I’m thinking that I probably have a kidney stone,” she said, laughing a little and mentioning that she’d just diagnosed herself on the Internet.

There was a pause, after which the doctor said, in a tone that wasn’t at all unkind or annoyed that here she was, talking to him, a doctor, but instead of him, the doctor, interpreting her symptoms, she was interpreting her symptoms herself, using stupid information from the stupid Internet:

“Let me put it this way:  if you had a kidney stone, you’d be on the floor right now.  You wouldn’t be talking to me.”

Laura laughed nervously, and, feeling like an enormous DORK, hurried off the phone.  Apparently, according to the actual DOCTOR, the discomfort she was feeling was just part of the normal getting-better-process and would eventually go away.  Then she tried to get back to her writing but of course she couldn’t — she was overcome with embarrassment that she’d acted like such a complete idiot with a doctor she barely knew.  Even more, she started dreading her December longer-get-to-know-you-new-patient appointment and wonders if she should just do what she usually does when she gets really embarrassed:  cancel.

She doesn’t really want to do that either — and not just because it takes about 6 months to see a new doctor, the waiting periods are that long in Massachusetts, if you’re even lucky enough to find a doctor who is taking new patients — but she doesn’t know what to do with the black hole of self-loathing and dorkiness she is drowning in right now.  Squirming around in her head, trying to think of other things besides her stupid exchange with the doctor, she can’t help but remember the words of her first real shrink in New York — a woman named “Denise” who had a vaguely Eastern European accent and who never minced words (that’s a whole other brant — all those words Denise never minced). Whenever Laura started talking about or thinking about or squirming about something she didn’t want to talk about or think about and whenever she tried to change the subject or cancel several appointments in a row because of it, Denise would say:

“You just have to stay in the soup.”

The “soup”, of course, being the morass of misery and discomfort you experience when you’re talking or thinking about difficult things. Or self-inflicted dorky things. And so apparently that’s what Laura has to do now:  stay in the soup of her extreme dorkitude until it, like the pain from her phantom kidney stones, passes.

Writing About Not Writing

Laura’s been stuck inside with Ben for a full week, since last Tuesday afternoon — that’s when he got a 102 degree fever which has gone up and down but hasn’t gone away.  The fever, plus a cough, prompted a second visit to the pediatrician today for a chest x-ray to see whether or not it’s pneumonia (Laura’s waiting for a phone call with the results as she brants).  But the weird thing is that despite the fever and the cough, he seems fine.  He’s happy and he’s playing, and he’s talking.  And talking. And talking.

In fact, he hasn’t shut up.

Laura doesn’t mean that in a bad way — in fact, she loves that he talks so much (Laura’s husband isn’t a big talker so the occasional blab-fest with Ben is a real treat). Despite the fact that he’s been stuck inside for a full week — with Laura, who herself is on antibiotics for a kidney infection — poor him! — he’s in remarkably good spirits, and she has to admit that there are few things she likes more than sitting around with him, doing MadLibs and watching TV (boy is she lucky that they have the same taste in old Tom and Jerry cartoons and Pink Panther reruns). Obviously, she prefers to sit around with him when he’s not all hot and coughing, and when she’s not feeling like shit, but he’s been delightful company nonetheless.

This news, of course, is not just a boring health-report but something much more important:  it’s the preamble to an excuse for taking an extended work “break.” Laura was going great guns last week on her screenplay adaptation of her last novel, Piece of Work — the one that was optioned in 2004 and which is the same one that had the option dropped almost exactly two years ago.

(Wait! Look at this!  A completely unexpected but perfect example of a failure anniversary right here!  And Laura’s certain that she can probably come across a failure anniversary in every single brant she writes without even trying to!)

The failure-anniversary of her option being dropped notwithstanding, Laura had been meaning to finally try to write a screenplay — specifically, to start adapting Piece of Work — for over a year and a half — and right when she was going to start last fall, she got the life-saving life-changing life-improving-on-every-level call from matchmaker extraordinaire Patti Novak‘s “people.”  It’s only been a few weeks since the manuscript for Get Over Yourself! was completely finished — she and Patti finished writing it on September 1 (exactly on deadline, Laura is proud to point out) but the editing process and the copy-editing process and the legal-vetting process and the correction making process and the waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-worried-that-all-the-changes Patti-asked-Laura-to-make-were-actually-made-by-her-and-everyone-else took another two months.

Laura’s also trying to get back into branting — hence the new brant and the spate of semi-regular branting the past week or two — not just because she wants to get the word out about Get Over Yourself! but also because she really enjoys branting and doesn’t see why she can’t find a few minutes a few times a week to put down a few of her thoughts.  And yet, no matter how easy that sounds — what’s a few minutes a few times a week? — she finds it almost impossible to sustain regular branting.  But Laura’s been through enough serious psychotherapy to know that there must be something else besides the issue of time going on here.

Back when Laura started writing (depressed poetry) as a teenager, and then all through high school, and, okay, if she’s going to be completely honest, all the way through college and throughout her years in New York, too — Laura didn’t really get happy until well into her thirties, but that’s another brant — people often suggested that she keep a journal.  This was way back in the 70s and 80s — long before “journaling” became a verb and something that everybody did to process their every thought and feeling — and every year or so Laura would venture out of whatever sad little misery den she was living in at the time and go buy a proper journal (she loved those black Chinese lined journals with the red spines that are really cheap).  She’d come back with the journal and about 20 packs of cigarettes and force herself to write an entry.  And then she’d force herself to write again the next day — but usually by the day after that she couldn’t bear the idea of writing in her journal and that’s when the journal-writing would stop.  Eventually she’d put the nearly completely empty journal in a drawer or on a shelf, next to all the other nearly completely empty journals she’d started and never finished, and go about her business until someone yet again suggested she keep a journal.

The reason she kept listening every time someone told her she ought to keep a journal was that the suggestion was always followed by something like, Well, you like to write, don’t you? or, That’s what writers do — they write, and implicit in those statements were:  If you don’t keep a journal you’re not a real writer. And back in the old days Laura wanted more than anything to be a real writer.  (Now she couldn’t care less.  But that, too, is another brant.) The only problem was, she didn’t actually feel the urge to write everyday.  Or every other day.  Or even every week or month.  In fact, as the years went on, she found that she could go long periods of time without writing and she felt absolutely fine about it.

Years later, when she was working in New York as a book publicist for various divisions of Random House, she’d often have conversations with authors in the backs of cabs or limousines or between the stacks in bookstores before their readings and the authors would often talk about how driven they were to write.  Everyday. Everyday they would feel the urge and the need and the desire to express themselves, and Laura soon came to understand that this is what real writers did: they wrote every day.

The problem was, this wasn’t what Laura wanted to do. She didn’t feel the urge or the need or the desire to express herself every day.  In fact, she was lucky if she felt the urge or the need or the desire to write twice a year! Which is basically how she wrote Animal Husbandry — she’d hole up in her apartment during Christmas when all the publishers would close for a week, and then she’d take her vacation in one lump during the summer, and that’s when she’d write.  And once the winter holidays were over, and once her summer vacation was over, she’d pack up her pages and put them away. Then she’d go about her business — business that almost never included writing.

Laura used to think it was laziness and a lack of stick-to-it-iveness that made her unable to keep a journal or write on a regular basis — but at 46 she’s come to a different conclusion:  she’s decided it has less to do with discipline and more to do with the simple fact that Laura simply doesn’t have enough material to write every day.

This of course is the main problem with branting — thinking of something to write about that is in some way interesting or entertaining or noteworthy to the people reading it.   Assuming anyone’s even reading it.  She knows she’s asked this question before in one of her existential-brants-about-branting, but If a branter brants and no one reads it, does it make any sense to keep branting? Similarly, If a branter brants about something completely inane and uninteresting and insignificant, why should anyone read it?

Laura knows that questioning the business of branting is probably just her way of coming up with excuses for not doing it, but it’s also something she really wonders about.  And the odd thing is the more she brants, the more she wants to brant — little inane uninteresting insignificant thoughts start to pop into her head constantly throughout the day that make her think, Oooo! I should brant about this!  Or, ooooo! I should brant about that! But at the end of the day, after she hasn’t branted because she’s just too lazy or conflicted, when she’s had just enough distance to think things through and see them clearly, she’s glad she didn’t bore her brant readers with screeds about how annoying it is to have to spend $50-100 bucks on a shredder to shred junk mail she doesn’t even want or how she still can’t find her way around the supermarket that was completely redesigned recently.

Which makes her wonder if this entry about all the excuses she has for not writing was brant-worthy or if she should have just found an excuse for not writing about her excuses for not writing.

Beth Teitell’s Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth

Laura’s been meaning to do a quick brant about her friend Beth Teitell‘s new book, Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth. Some brant readers might think there’s a conflict of interest here — branting about a friend — but in the spirit of full disclosure, as they used to say in real journalism, Laura already blurbed Beth’s book so let the biased blog-rolling begin.

Laura wrote about Beth back on her old brant — at her actual website — and it’s especially good timing to be writing about Beth now because they have just passed their 2-year friend anniversary”. Laura’s not sure other people observe friend anniversaries but she does with new friends (there’s tons of friends she met so long ago she has no idea when those anniversaries would be) and Beth is one of those new friends whom she can actually remember meeting and falling in “friend-love” with (read: it’s Laura, not the other friends, and the reason she doesn’t remember their friend-anniversaries is because she’s getting old and can’t remember anything).

In a nutshell, it was two years ago when Piece of Work came out and Laura did a phone interview with a reporter from the Boston Herald. The reporter turned out to be Beth Teitell (she now writes for the Boston Globe, FYI), and she was so hilarious on the phone that Laura literally emailed her from her book tour — she was at the Greenwich Hyatt — and asked if they could go into business together. Laura of course had no idea what business it would be — all she knew was that she wanted to kind of attach herself to Beth in some business-related way because Beth was one of the funniest people she’d ever met.

Beth returned Laura’s email and said, simply, “Yes,” and Laura read the email almost instantly because she was back at the Hyatt Greenwich instead of lingering after her bookstore reading signing books because that was the reading where NOBODY, not a single person, came. Soon after the establishment of their friend-love-relationship, Laura decided to go meet Beth in person in early November: Beth was the speaker at the Wellesley Mother’s Forum. To be completely frank, Laura knew who Beth was and Beth knew who Laura was because they were the only two non-blond Jewish women in the room. Anyway, Beth got up and spoke, and Laura almost died laughing, because Beth is like a freakin’ stand-up comedienne, but luckily she didn’t really die laughing because two days later she had to go have her breast-cancer surgery business.

(One funny note: Beth sent Laura a gorgeous post-op orchid–she’d decided on the orchid because she called the florist where everyone was getting their fancy flowers and somehow managed to extract out of the woman on the phone what everyone else was sending Laura at the hospital so she could get something different. At which point her husband, who is also hilarious, and a doctor, pointed out that clearly florists are not bound by HIPAA privacy laws the way health professionals are).

But enough about how they met and how they meet for lunch every few weeks. It’s time to simply say that Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth is hilarious, and we all know how unusual it is to find books that are truly laugh-out-loud funny. So if you’re looking for some woman’s-magazine-y-faux-serious-faux-sociological treatise on women and aging in the new millennium without a hint of irony, this is not your book.  What this is is of those books that mixes humor and a wonderfully skewed perspective (during one shopping trip a saleswoman pointed out that Beth’s arms were “still good” which caused her to suddenly “hear the biological clock of [her] arms ticking”) with actual science and reporting. This elusive combination of humor and science and facts and reporting was a technique that Laura tried to employ in her book on failure but which she failed to execute successfully in that book on failure since her book on failure failed to sell to a publisher (speaking of anniversaries: it was a year ago that Failure” failed–maybe Laura should start a whole new category of anniversaries: “failure anniversaries”). For instance, Beth wanted to know if there was a way to “light” yourself when you’re out in public at a restaurant the way photographers light subjects: that is, to look your best (and as young as possible) should you sit with your back to the window or should you sit facing a window? (For the answer you have to read the book.)

So buy this book.  But unless you’re going to download it right this second onto your Kindle, here’s Beth’s “Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as it Applies to Aging” — click here to watch it on YouTube that you can watch while you wait.

And if you’re somehow technologically-challenged and can’t get the YouTube video to work, here’s a great interview with Beth and someone Laura used to know and like from her old publicity days, Andrea Sachs, from Time magazine. And that’s a great picture of Beth from that interview.  Clearly all the research hasn’t aged her one bit.  Too bad Laura deepened her naso-labial folds and other laugh-lines significantly as a result of attending Beth’s unbelievably funny reading recently at Brookline Booksmith and while devouring the book at home afterwards.

Stephanie Green’s Cancer Is The New Black

Laura would like to welcome the sudden influx of readers to her brant — like, lots and lots of them, so many, in fact, that she just had to take a minute and say a special hello — courtesy of Stephanie Green’s recent blog about Laura on Cancer Is The New Black. Stephanie and Laura have developed a great on-line Facebook friendship in the past few months because of their common experience with breast cancer and Laura’s obsession with Stephanie’s fabulous Shu Uemera false eyelashes.

Before Stephanie got breast cancer in her early 30s, she worked for Star Magazine and wrote Dishalicious, a memoir about her experience there. Unfortunately, she was sued before she could sell it — there was the matter of her pesky confidentiality agreement — which, Laura can’t help but say, must have totally sucked. While Stephanie’s figuring out her next book idea — undoubtedly based in part on her recent experience with breast cancer — she blogs almost daily (or, at least, way more often and regularly than Laura) at Cancer Is The New Black.

At the risk of invoking that ridiculous little pipsqueak from Project Runway, Stephanie Green is fierce. She is gorgeous and smart and funny and angry and her blog posts are nothing if not a bracing slap — after which you feel more awake and alert and alive because you’ve actually been in someone else’s head and heart and mind and universe. Stephanie Green’s head and heart and mind and universe aren’t like anyone else’s — she’s as relentless a shopper as she is a cancer survivor. She’s fierce about chronicling her surgeries and her chemo and her reconstruction — the wig-shopping and clothes shopping and what it’s like to watch her hair grow back in — and she’s fierce about telling the truth about how having money has helped her in every step of her medical journey and how different her experience would undoubtedly have been had she not had money–money to pursue tests and great surgeons and everything else that has a huge effect on surviving cancer.

But the other thing Stephanie is truly fierce about is her writing — her blog is funny and smart and honest and sad — and it’s clear that she’s writing with a vengeance: not revengeance, but a deep passion that will not be thwarted: not by cancer, and not by a bunch of stupid lawyers protecting a stupid publication.

Laura can’t wait to read what Stephanie writes next. And she can’t wait to meet Stephanie some day in New York when they will undoubtedly step into a nearby ladies room after lunch and compare surgically reconstructed boobs.

Containing Herself

Laura hates to be the kind of person who has to point out what a trendsetter she is, but this is one of those instances that she just can’t resist.  Or, to use the actual tag line of the retail store in question, she’s having trouble “containing herself.”

Anyone who read Laura’s last novel, Piece of Work (both of you), knows about her love of and obsession with The Container Store.  She even won a big huge travel basket on the grand opening weekend of their Chestnut Hill store a few years ago and Laura never wins anything! Well, Laura got an email from The Container Store earlier this week informing her that Oprah was doing a whole show called “Clean Up Your Messy House” in which the Container Store and their products were to be prominently featured.

It’s not just that Laura feels vindicated — if Oprah does a show featuring your favorite store then you know you’re absolutely not crazy! — it’s more that, to be completely truthful, she’s felt really conflicted about the Container Store ever since she realized that no matter how much shit she bought there and brought home, no matter how many awesomely cool neatly designed organizational items for her kitchen and her bathroom and her desk and her bedroom she wasted her hard earned money on — things were never going to change: She was always going to be a completely disorganized mess and no amount of organizational-porn was
going to save her.

Laura uses the made-up term organizationalporn here — and she does so at the huge risk of having all those disgusting spammers find her here at her new Blogspot brant — because that’s exactly what The Container Store traffics in. Enter any Container Store and you’ll be confronted with all these cool clutter-reducing toys and tools in all these cool shapes and sizes and colors; cruise the aisles and you’ll see fantasy groupings of clutter-free displays.  Which is what Laura finally realized when the opiate-effects of one of her last shopping trips burned off:

It’s not real.  It’s a fantasy.

She’s going to stop with the porn-comparison already because it’s getting a little weird and misleading — don’t misunderstand her:  The Container Store doesn’t sell anything inappropriate — but she’s going to give you an example of how incredibly tempting and overwhelming it is to shop there.

Take the Christmas Ornament Storage Box Organizer. The minute you lay eyes on one of these things you want it —  even if you’re not Christian.

I mean, look at it — it’s like candy.  It’s green and red and it’s plastic and it has flaps and it has those egg-carton-type compartments into which all your treasured tree ornaments can be safely stored and “snuggled.”  You just want to buy one. The problem is, there’s like five or six or seven or eight different kinds of Christmas Ornament Storage Box Organizers to pick from:

There’s the “Noble Ornament Storage Chest” with it’s zippered fabric construction:

There’s “Holiday Storage Boxes” with those little metal handles:

and “Jubilee Ornament Storage Chests” with their festive patterned exterior:

and “Archival Ornament Storage Boxes” which elevate the notion of storing Christmas ornaments by introducing a serious preservationistic-ideal:

Laura could go on and on — literally! — because there are more models — but the point is that not only are the amount of choices completely overwhelming (just like Staples, but don’t get her started on office-supplies-shopping again — refer instead to an earlier post she wrote about trying to decide on office supplies but being rendered completely indecisive and paralyzed by the ridiculous amount of choices available). It’s also unrealistic to think that buying one of those ornament storage boxes — whichever one she bought — would solve her problems.

What problems — deeper, emotional, existential, psychological — is Laura looking to solve which can’t be solved by one of those fabulous storage boxes? you might be wondering.  And that’s an excellent question. And it’s a question that should be asked every time she even goes near a Container Store:  What bigger problems is she trying to solve besides the obvious clutter-related problems? In the case of the Christmas Ornament Storage Organizer, the larger problem is this:  Laura is Jewish and her husband is Catholic.  Though he is non-practicing and wants to raise Ben entirely Jewish.  While most Jewish women would think, Hey! This is great!  I dodged a bullet with the inter-faith-marriage problem! — Laura is thinking something entirely different:

She’s thinking:  Hey! I didn’t marry a non-Jew to NOT have a Christmas Tree!  If I’d wanted a menorrah-only life, I would have married someone from Hebrew School! Laura’s thinking: I’m legitimately entitled to the Christmas tree and I want the Christmas tree!

There were a few years there where Brendan forewent the tree — both because of his religious ambivalence and because of something much less complicated and complex:  sheer laziness.  You see, every time Laura would mention the tree — When are we getting the tree?  Where are we putting the tree?  Don’t you think we should go ornament shopping?  Shouldn’t we start untangling the lights and popping and stringing popcorn garlands now — in August — so we’ll have them ready by December? — Brendan would roll his eyes and start bemoaning the cost, the shlepping, the mess, the fire hazard issues, the clean-up and disposal — he was almost Jewish, in fact, in his complete negativity — and Laura would realize that he was not living up to his end of the bargain as her Trophy Shiksa husband.

For the record — and this is an important distinction to Laura and part of a piece on the differences between “Real Jews” and “Fake Jews” she did last year for The Huffington Post — but Laura has never understood couples where both spouses are Jewish but they have a Christmas tree.  That to her is weird.  Very weird.  No.  What she’s talking about is the legitimacy of the inter-faith tree-entitlement.  She–I mean, Ben deserves to celebrate both holidays with all their trappings and customs and symbols and tree-related-fun-stuff.

Wow.  She really went off on a screed there — and she’s going to try to bring it back to the main issue: which is what The Container Store is actually selling and what Laura is actually craving and seeking to buy when she goes there:  control.  While she thinks she’s buying organizing solutions and systems and things that are going to help her control the madness of her life, in reality all she’s buying is the myth and the fantasy and the illusion of control.  Because no one can truly control their life, no matter how much cool stuff they buy to help them become neater and more organized.  Which means she’s just going to have to figure out a way to cope with the chaos in her life without resorting to organizational-porn.

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

So big news: Laura left her house yesterday.

Yes, it’s true: she actually left her house and left Newton last night to go into Boston to see the NPR show, “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” get taped. The show was at the Wang Theater, and the reason she got free tickets was because her friend, Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column “Ask Amy” for The Chicago Tribune, was one of the panelists (as she often is). But as so frequently happens when Laura leaves her house and leaves Newton to actually go somewhere interesting:

[Wait wait…Don’t tell me!]

It was pouring.

Laura can’t tell you how many times this has happened: If it’s not raining, then there’s almost always some kind of rare biblical weather thing happening — record heat and humidity, severe storm and tornado warnings, sudden blizzards. You might think she’s making this up but here are only a few actual examples to prove her point:
  1. When Laura was four and a half she had a ruptured appendix. Of course, this medical emergency just happened to

    take place during the Blizzard of ’67 which means she was very lucky to get to the hospital with an hour to spare…

  2. When she drove to Buffalo last June to work with matchmaker extraordinnaire and co-author Patti Novak, she had to pull off the highway about 15 times to heed the “severe thunderstorm and tornado” warnings. Every time she pulled into a New York State Thruway rest stop, she would feel hugely grateful that she wasn’t flying to Buffalo and could thus control her stopping and starting — that is, until she realized she had no idea what to do if a tornado just

    happened to hit the rest-stop.

  3. On the Limoliner bus back from New York last December — she’d gone to meet with Michael J. Fox’s father in law, life/financial coach Stephen Pollan, who’d just written a book that she wanted to know more about because she was in desperate need of life and financial coaching — it started to snow. But because Laura was on the bus, it was practically a white-out. And when the bus pulled into Boston she was knee-deep in almost 7 inches of it (needless to say, she wasn’t dressed for the weather). The cab ride to Newton was not only long, but very very cold.
OK, Laura could go on and on and on — obviously there’s some connection between cataclysmic weather patterns and her infrequent travel schedule — but she’s going to get back to the big story: leaving the house. So, once Laura got in the car and headed downtown in the pouring rain, another typical thing happened:

[Wait wait…don’t tell me!]

Laura took a wrong turn.

Taking a wrong turn is a euphemism for getting fucking lost, and this is something that happens all the effing time, practically every day in fact, even if Laura is just going down the street to the grocery store and back. Laura has such a shitty sense of direction that she spends a good portion of any drive trying to second guess her choices: that is, if she “feels” or “senses” or “thinks” she should go left, she quickly self-corrects and decides she should go right. Except that then she’ll second guess her second-guessing and wonder if she should self-correct one more time just to be sure. If you think it sounds confusing here in this brant, imagine what it’s like in

Laura’s head, as she careens constantly into the unknown and, more importantly, into the incorrect direction. The sad irony is that Laura’s other car, the Volvo wagon, came equipped with a GPS system, but that’s the car her husband uses — her husband who has an unerring sense of direction. Her car didn’t come with one and she has been too cheap to put one in, preferring instead to waste hundreds of

dollars of gas driving around cluelessly, trying to figure out where she is and how to get home.

Since last night was no different, it didn’t take long for Laura to drop the directions to the Wang Theater on the floor of the car, too far out of reach to grasp, and then get all nervous about which exit off the Pike she was supposed to take. Amazingly enough, she actually took the right exit — only to screw it up several hundred feet later on the exit ramp, when she found herself on a dark deserted access road into the dark deserted above ground parking facility of South Station. After much profanity (Laura was really glad Ben wasn’t in the car, otherwise she would have owed him like $400 [they have a deal: $1 “owed” for every swear she says–Laura is going to have to take out a second mortgage in order to pay him off]), she was able to quickly correct her mistake and find her way back to the right road and, eventually, in the increasing downpour and decreasing visibility, to the actual theatre, where she quickly pulled into a parking lot. Which is when the THIRD thing that always happens to Laura happened to Laura:

[Wait wait….don’t tell me!]

She didn’t have enough cash.

Most of the time, just like last night, when Laura doesn’t have enough cash, there’s usually another one of the above factors in play: i.e. not only did she not have enough cash for the cash-only parking, but she had to get cash in the pouring rain. (Sidebar: It’s a good thing Laura’s husband wasn’t with her because Laura’s lack of cash in situations like this is kind of a pet peeve. And understandably so!) So there she was, fighting with her stupid umbrella, leaving her car with the attendant, then running down the street into kind of a scary convenience store where there was one of those no-name cash machines. Laura was afraid to look at how much the

“convenience-fee” was — it was probably almost as much as the cash she was taking out — and once she made her withdrawal she quickly ran back to the lot and paid the fee. Wet, frazzled, and full of self-loathing about having gotten lost AND not having enough cash AND getting soaking wet in the pouring rain almost made Laura want to turn around and go home. But that would have negated everything she’d worked so hard to achieve. And so she pressed on.

Laura got her ticket and sat alone and a few minutes later three women sat down in the three empty seats next to her. They were the kind of women you instantly want to talk to — they were funny and friendly and one of them, Paula from Concord, actually asked her if she wanted anything, drink-wise, from the lobby when she was making the trip — and suddenly, despite her shyness and her awkwardness and her stiffness — the effects of not leaving the house or Newton often enough — Laura had infiltrated their little group and was glomming on to their conversation! Laura couldn’t believe her luck — after battling the elements (rain, getting lost, no cash) things had turned around in such a positive way:
[Wait wait…Don’t tell me!]

Laura was pontificating about her love of the Boston Accent and how angry it makes her that the Boston Accent is always butchered in movies that are set in Boston.

Well, wouldn’t you know, the woman next to her (the wife of Paula from Concord), who actually is not an actual native Bostonian though she’s lived here for almost 20 years (and in New England, that’s still not enough to be considered anything other than an outsider), told Laura a joke — a Boston Accent joke that Laura had never heard! It was SO good that’s she’s going to repeat it here (with apologies for her clumsiness in the retelling):

“You know how homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things? Well, “lama” with one “L” is the religious figure, like the Dalai Lama. “Lama” with two “Ls” is a Llama, the animal. And “Lama” with three “Ls” is a “3 L lama” — or in Boston speak, a “three-alahhhhhhma” — meaning a wicked huge fire!!

Howling with laughter, Laura felt like she’d met her soulmates, which made her suddenly self-conscious: she didn’t want to appear so desperate for human social interaction that she would infringe on three complete strangers’ evening out. And so Laura collected herself and turned her attention to the show which was, thankfully, finally starting.

What was really funny — besides spending this entire brant talking NOT about the show itself which was hilarious and brilliant, so much so that she got exhausted from clapping, and talking instead about everything leading up to it — was that it was basically a dork convention — a huge theater full of a thousand NPR nerds who were ecstatic (and that’s an understatement) about seeing their erudite radio heroes in person. Laura uses the words dork and nerd with complete affection and compassion and empathy since, while not an NPR geek per se, she considers herself to be a dork and a nerd herself. In fact, Laura feels like she’s quickly joining the ranks of aforementioned NPR geeks since she now listens every morning and afternoon on her way to and from Ben’s new school — and during all the hours of being directionally-challenged immediately following those to-and-froms.

The best part of the evening was getting to visit with Amy, whose new amazing brilliant book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, a memoir, coming out in February 2009 from Hyperion, Laura will plug in her next brant. Which:

[Wait wait…don’t tell me!]

Will come a really really really long time after this brant.