Monthly Archives: December 2008

Hugh Jackman Decoy Photo #6

Lest anyone think it’s just Laura who’s obsessed with Hugh Jackman, let the record show that this photo of HJ — with his 8-year-old-son at a Knicks game a few nights ago — ran yesterday on the New York Daily News website. Clearly, Laura’s not the only appreciator of Hugh Jackman’s fabulousness.

She can’t believe she’s actually doing this, but as she was poking around trying to find the link to the photo on the NYDaily News’ website, she came across a huge amount of photos of Hugh Jackman taken during his recent trip to NYC — and so because they’re so spectacular she’s providing the link right here and right now to the Gossip website. Laura knows she’s just crossed a line — linking to a celebrity-news website — and that doing so is a slippery slope — who knows what she’ll do next? — but she just can’t help it: so committed is she to providing her readers with the absolute best* photos of Hugh Jackman. (*Though let’s be frank: has there ever been a shitty photo of Hugh Jackman? Laura doesn’t think so and she dares anyone reading this to find one and tell her about it.)

And now for the personal connection between this 6th photo of Hugh Jackman and Laura, his 8-year-old son is named Oscar, and it was about Oscar that HJ was talking to Laura and Brendan while crouching down and looking at Ben in his car-seat that miserable day they visited the set of Animal Husbandry/Someone Like You. So as you can see, Laura has a special connection — a true connection — an actual connection — with Hugh Jackman, which is why she feels entitled to write about him and talk about him and exploit him for the sake of increasing her brant readership.

Laura’s got a great Hugh Jackman brant planned for tomorrow — it’s snowing in a big way right now, and Laura has to 1) finish this brant 2) take the ornaments off the now-dead and de-needling Christmas tree 3) bake cookies to bring her friends whose house they’re going to tonight for New Year’s Eve 4) use the treadmill 5) “do” her hair 6) wait for the Fed Ex guy who is allegedly coming with her brand new replacement Blackberry Curve 7) watch about seven more episodes of Drake and Josh, which, quite frankly, Laura thinks is funnier than any grown-up show.

And so on this last day of 2008 — a year Laura’s not particular sad to see close out — she wishes a great new year to all of her friends, family, brant readers, and, of course, Hugh Jackman and his lovely family (for those of you moving on to the gigantic album on, you’ll see HJ with his adorable daughter Ava [Laura can’t believe she knows this without having to fact check the name and spelling right now] and his lovely wife Deborra-Lee Furness who [and Laura will save this for another brant] always gets a bad wrap for being, well, a normally attractive person instead of say a lingerie model. Whatever.)

Happy Official Publication Date!

Well, Laura can hardly believe it, but today is the official publication date for GET OVER YOURSELF! For those of you familiar with the book publishing business, obviously the “official” publication date means nothing, except that it provides the perfect excuse to toot your horn about your book.  When Laura’s first four books were published, you know, those novels she used to write, her mother would always call her on the “official pub date” in order to be filled in on the exciting events planned for the day. Imagine her mother’s disappointment when Laura, each and every time (and you can double that to include the “official pub dates” of all her paperbacks), had to say, “GEE!  There’s NOTHING planned for today since today is just the arbitrary date that publishers pick for the ‘due date’ of your book.”  Laura could write several paragraphs right here and right now — the psychic emotional wounds are still so fresh! — about the long silence on the other end of the phone and the subsequent desperate follow-up questions her mother would bombard her with — “No advertising?  No reading?  No review in the paper?” — but Laura doesn’t want to get off on some crazy embarrassing humiliating tangent.  Because today’s a big day.

Laura still has a hard time wrapping her head around the fact that a year ago today she hadn’t even gone to Buffalo yet to spend a few days with Patti and get her first batch of messy notes written with a giant Sharpie on many many many legal pads — Patti talks fast and says so much great stuff that Laura wanted to get down as much as she possibly could as fast as she possibly could — and today, a year later, the book is actually in bookstores!  Only in America!!! Laura has yet to go to the local Barnes and Noble or to her favorite local independent bookstore, the New England Mobile Bookfair, where she and her technologically-challenged sister both used to work during high school and part of college — but she hopes to do that later, once she finishes branting.  Until then, Laura wants to just take another minute and pay tribute to Patti — and her great taste in ghostwriters — just kidding! — and her truly impressive gift for “getting” people and telling them what they so desperately need to hear.

Laura will be posting information on all the publicity Patti will be doing in the coming months — there’s the Today show, CNN’s American Morning, The New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, just for starters — not to mention the biggest Single’s Mingle ever, arranged by Patti’s matchmaking service, Buffalo-Niagara Introductions, and taking place later this month in Buffalo — but for now, she just wants to thank Patti for choosing her as her writing partner and to wish her a very very happy pub date!

Hugh Jackman Dancing Decoy Photo #5

Laura is just back from a three-day post-Christmas-but-Christmas-related visit to Rhinebeck, New York, where Brendan’s brother lives.  Laura took Ben there to see his two gorgeous girl cousins, and also to hang out with his two boy cousins and they had a great time despite the fact that Laura was consumed with the knowledge that her pants were tight.  Not that much tighter than they were last week, but certainly tighter than they were last month.  Laura feels like she keeps losing and gaining the same five pounds — especially annoying since, if anything, she should be losing and gaining the same ten pounds — and yet she doesn’t seem capable of doing anything to stop this almost imperceptible (to anyone other than Laura) yo-yo situation. So since she’s tired from the weekend, tired from driving, and tired of worrying about her ever-tightening pants, Laura’s going to do a quick potpourri-style brant:

1)  Just to get it out of the way, Laura wants to point out the second Hugh Jackman “dancing” photo — the first, for those sharp-memoried-brant readers, being the “Jazz-Hands” photo which was a big favorite among Facebook fans.  So here’s another “action” pose that Laura thought would be a nice complement to the Jazz Hands photo, though it’s a photo lacking in any back-story or particular relevance to Laura’s life.  Tomorrow Laura’s going to post a photo of Hugh Jackman that has a great back-story with particular relevance to Laura’s life since it’s a photo of HJ taken on the red carpet of the premiere of Someone Like Youthe same red carpet that Laura walked, just inches behind HJ! — so that’s something to look forward to.

2)  While in Rhinebeck, Laura went with her sister-in-law Colleen and her mother-in-law Jane to see a movie, Slumdog Millionaire.  Laura, in her ignorance, hadn’t heard of this movie, and figured it was one of those wacky feel-good Christmas-release movies that the whole family goes to see for a little escapist-humor after suffering the misery and sadness of family togetherness.  For those of you less ignorant than Laura because you’ve either seen the movie or read reviews of it, her idiotic assumptions couldn’t possibly have been further from the truth! Wacky feel-good escapist humor?  Not unless you’re a complete sadist who enjoys watching terrible things happen to beautiful Indian orphan children!!  OMG.  After about the first 10 minutes, Laura thought she was going to have to get up and leave, and after the movie was over, Colleen said the same thing, likening the experience of sitting through the movie to being on a bad theme-park ride — one with endless twists and turns that makes you wish you could stop and get off. Despite the difficulty of sitting through all of the heartbreaking scenes, the movie was incredibly uplifting and undoubtedly one of the best films she thinks she’s ever seen (through her hands that were covering her eyes most of the time).  Though Laura’s not usually in the movie-reviewing-movie-recommending business — mainly because she barely ever sees movies because she’s such a giant loser — she strongly recommends that you see it (through hands covering your eyes) too.

3)  Even though Christmas already seems like it happened a year ago, Laura would like to thank the four people who commented on her brant about how confusing Christmas is to Jews like her.  Not only is she grateful to anyone who comments on her brants, but she was especially grateful this time because the comments were so long and interesting and personal — Laura had specifically asked for people to help her with her confusion and these commenters actually did that, not only providing answers and guidance on many of the issues of Christmas process and procedure, but also giving wonderful peeks into their families and how Christmas has evolved for them over the years, first as children and now as adults.  For other Jews confused at Christmas just like Laura, or for non-Jews secretly curious to know whether they are celebrating Christmas correctly, Laura highly recommends reading the comments from that brant.

4)  Laura’s sister Linda just joined Facebook.  Laura’s not sure why she’s including this nugget of news in her brant (you know, because she has such a selective editing process for what gets into her brant), but for some reason it just seems like the right thing to do.  Linda is two years older than Laura and she lives in suburban L.A. with her husband and two gorgeous kids, and despite being a talented painter and extremely organized and efficient SAHM she is a complete imbecile when it comes to computers.  Laura doesn’t mean to sound cruel — I mean, she could sugar-coat the whole thing and make it sound like Linda just isn’t that into computers, but Laura’s embracing this whole honesty thing right now (more on that later) and needs to come clean about everything and everyone she writes about. So the fact that Linda’s one of those people who can’t download an attachment and has trouble emailing a photo and who has just recently figured out how to use the texting function on her phone (Laura shouldn’t talk in this regard, given the fact that she sent her first text in May — 2008) means that going on Facebook is a huge leap for her.  For those of you on Facebook, Linda’s wall is almost empty and so is her profile page, two tell-tale signs of technologically-challenged artiste types — and Laura just knows that as she sits here branting, her sister is staring at her near-empty Facebook page, trying to figure out how to get some fucking (465) photos of her kids on there and how to search for friends from RISD ’82.  So if you’re trolling around Facebook and feel like doing Laura a huge favor, go find Linda Kosoff Zigman or Linda Zigman Kosoff and friend her so that Laura can stop worrying and get some sleep.

5)  Speaking of being technology-challenged, Laura’s Blackberry got wet in Rhinebeck on Friday night and she’s been without a working “Smart Phone” for almost 72 hours.  Over the weekend Laura and Colleen went to three different Verizon stores trying to extort a new Blackberry out of them but to no avail, so Laura must return to the 9th circle of hell tomorrow and hit her local Verizon store first thing in the a.m.  Laura doesn’t know which is worse, Best Buy or Verizon, but she’ll let you know tomorrow after what she’s sure will be an incredibly frustrating experience (spoiler alert! Laura is certain that she’ll leave the Verizon store without a new phone and will instead have to wait 3 business days for one to be sent to her at home and then go back to the Verizon store to get all her data transferred and the phone activated…)

That’s all for now.  More tomorrow unless Laura’s pants are so tight by then she can’t breathe…

Have Yourself a Confusing Jewish Christmas

Before Laura starts her actual brant, she wants to just say that it took her a ridiculously long time to upload a bunch of pictures to her Facebook page.  Laura generally likes to consider herself tech-savvy, though she suspects that people who refers to themselves proudly as tech-savvy probably aren’t and are just giant loser-goofballs instead. That said, she couldn’t believe that it took her almost 2 hours —who is she kidding?  it was more like 3 — from getting the photos off her camera and onto her iBook and then figuring out how to get the photos in iPhoto to be organized in the right way. Can she also just take a minute to say how much she hates the new iPhoto AND the new iMovie which, to someone as clearly non-tech-savvy as Laura, totally suck compared to the old iPhoto and iMovie that were really really easy for Laura to use.  But those old versions are on her old iBook, you know, the one that was the replacement for the one that died four times and that died itself, eventually, too — a later post on this will follow someday — about Apple’s “Customer Service” policies and behavior (hint:  the quotation marks around “customer service” should tell you that Apple has shitty customer service and even worse “deskside manner” while administering that shitty customer service…and don’t fucking (461) get her started on those alleged idiot-Geniuses…).  Anyway, Laura’s kind of “teched-out” right now having spent most of Christmas morning trying to share one stupid album of Christmas photos.  She thinks it finally worked — for her Facebook friends, there are maybe 14 photos to look at — not much to show for all her labor and all the money she owes Ben for saying the EFF-word throughout the whole ordeal.  For non-Facebook friends, well, these 2 here will have to suffice.

So last night was Christmas Eve. And today was Christmas.  Laura thinks those things are worth stating, despite the fact that they’re completely obvious, because for Jews like her Christmas is always a little bit confusing.  There are so many facets to it, so many decisions, so much labor and artistry and list-making involved. Compared to Hanukkah or Channukkah or Chanukkah or however you spell it, it’s really overwhelming, which is sort of funny and ironic because it’s usually Jews who complicate things and confuse things with thousands of different issues and problems and shpilkus-inducing questions.  Non-Jews reading this might not understand why Laura, a Jew married to a non-Jew and thus celebrating Christmas, is so confused, and Jews who aren’t married to non-Jews and thus not celebrating Christmas, might not understand her confusion, either — What’s so hard about Christmas?  You get a tree, some lights, buy and wrap presents and then keep your mouth shut when Santa gets all the credit.

But this isn’t the way Laura sees it. Hanukkah or Channukah or Chanukkah or however you spell it — now that’s easy.  You get a menorrah or a mennorah or a mennorrah or however you spell it, stick some candles in, get a pack of matches, make sure all the smoke detectors have fresh batteries in case God forbid your sleeve or hair catch on fire during the nightly lighting, get 8 presents, heat up some pre-made latkes, and there, you’re off to the races.  And when it comes to what Jews do on Christmas, it couldn’t be easier:

The Two Rules for Jews on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

1) Go to the movies
2) Eat Chinese food

Now compare this to The Agonizing Confusion Non-Jews Feel When Celebrating Christmas:

1)  Timing of the Tree-Buying
This is one of the least clear and most confusing of all Christmas issues for Laura: When you’re supposed to get the tree.  Do you get it right after Thanksgiving, like, the actual day after Thanksgiving, for maximum tree-cost to tree-enjoyment ratio? Or do you wait to get the tree until early December in order to preserve the freshness of the tree so that all the fucking (462) needles don’t start falling off the tree three weeks before Christmas? Tree-watering comes into play here in this question, too, but Laura will get to that later.

2)  Type of Tree
One of the oldest questions known to man:  Real tree or fake tree? Do you join the millions and millions of tree-killers who rip live trees out of the ground for their own personal holiday enjoyment?  Or do you skip the selfish tree-killing and opt instead for a fake tree, joining the millions and millions of Walmart and Target and Kohls and Costco shoppers who shlep home a giant multi-part “tree” that you have to put together at home and plug in?

3)  Lights
Yet another of the oldest questions known to man:  White lights or colored lights. This is one of the most fraught questions having to do with Christmas since it was always Laura’s experience and the experience of other’s, she’s certain, that fancy rich people used white lights while non-rich cheesy people used colored lights. Laura’s not sure if this is actually really true, but she’s positive she read something about this once and it was definitely an article written by a non-Jew so don’t go blaming her.

4)  Outdoor Lights and Decorations
This question is sort of related to the above question:  that is, it was always Laura’s impression that fancy rich people didn’t turn their outdoor property into movie sets of the North Pole or Bethlehem and that non-rich cheesy people did.  Again, Laura apologizes if her impressions are wrong — and in fact, she actually knows that her impressions are not entirely correct because right here in her very neighborhood there is a family who is very very rich and who has tarted up their house like a freakin’ circus.  But still, Laura’s never sure if they should be decorating the outside of their house, if even just a little.  They never have, but maybe they should next year…

5)  Trimming the Tree
Back to the endless confusion about the tree.  When do you decorate it?  The day after Thanksgiving?  Get the tree, put it up, throw the shit on it and get it over with all at once?  Or are you supposed to decorate it on Christmas Eve the way they do in movies or in Finland or Norway or somewhere else blond?  This question also encompasses the lighting-issue — white or colored — and includes the whole sub-topic of ornaments:  that is, what kind of ornaments do you get?  Theme-ornaments?  Matching colored ornaments?  Edible ornaments?  Like, whatever happened to stringing popcorn on the tree or hanging candy canes that no one ever eats?  And what about tinsel???  Laura and Brendan just had a long conversation about this very topic — they were trying to explain to Ben what tinsel was and then they realized that no one uses tinsel anymore.  But why?  What happened to tinsel?  Was it found, like everything else in the world, to be a choking hazard to children under three (not to make light of choking hazards to children)?

6) Tree Maintenance
Big question:  Do you water the tree regularly after sticking it in it’s nearly-impossible to maneuver tree stand?  And if so, how often?  And how much? Brendan didn’t seem to have any clue about this issue, but Ben kept telling Laura to water it, so water the tree she did every few days, filling up a glass and crawling around under the tree to make sure the water made it into the tree stand and not all over the expensive sisel rug.  Which leads to another thread — which is, how do you water the tree without getting a shitload of fucking (463) pine needles in your hair?  Laura could not figure out how this was supposed to work — crawling around, not spilling the water, providing ample water without overwatering the tree so that the water wouldn’t overflow from the tree stand and ruin the sisel rug, all without getting half the tree in her hair — but whatever the correct process and procedure is, she obviously didn’t know about it because by about a week before Christmas the beautiful perfect tree that had been so healthy and happy looking suddenly just drooped and sagged and, for lack of a better way to describe it, gave up.  Trying to water it at this point doesn’t do any good, as Laura found out — frantically crawling around some more and not caring any longer about the stupid water on the rug — but it was too late.  The tree was gone.  Which led Ben to plead that next year “they” get better about watering the tree.  No problem, Ben — as soon as Mommy finds a “Christmas for Non-Jews” Continuing Ed Class somewhere…

7) Number of Gifts
Extremely confusing.  Overwhelmingly confusing.  How many fucking presents are you supposed to get people?  Two?  Three?  Twenty?  Fifty? And what about the stockings?  Couldn’t you go broke filling those stockings up with tons of shit?  And if you do stuff those stockings with tons of shit, are you supposed to wrap that shit? Or does the shit in the stocking just get shoved in there without being wrapped? More about wrapping later, but truly, this nebulousness and open-endedness about quantity is really a big huge bummer.  Seriously.  Laura would like someone someday to tell her how many presents to buy because the whole question is just impossible to solve.

8) Santa and the Issue of Lying
One of the most basic of issues for people in general and Jews in particular:  what the hell do you do about this Santa business?  Clearly you lie, okay, Laura gets that.  But for how long?  And with how much intensity?  With a kind of ironic-wink? Or as if your life depended on it?  And if you go ahead with the lying, when do you stop?  When your kid asks you directly, point-blank, when they’re over 5, if Santa exists?  Or do you wait until their friends make fun of them for being a gullible dork for believing in Santa when they’re 10 or 11 or 20?  I mean, Laura’s all for the happy lies that make people happy — in fact, she’s all for lots of different kinds of minor harmless lies — it’s just that she’s not sure about procedure and process here.

9)  Santa and The Issue of Credit

Admittedly, this feels like a very Jewish question to Laura:  if you lie successfully to your kid(s) about Santa bringing all the presents, doesn’t that mean that you don’t get any credit for all the shopping and shlepping and wrapping and paying you’ve done?  This doesn’t seem at all fair!  I mean, it just feels wrong to Laura!  Unless, as she said at the beginning of this category, this is a Jewish thing — being unwilling to give up the narcissistic element of credit for all the fabulous gifts being opened.  In which case, what is it about non-Jews that they don’t mind giving up the credit?  Doesn’t it bother them?  Or is that what is meant by the Christian “Spirit of Christmas” business Laura has always heard so much about?

10) Santa and the Issue of Wrapping
A minor strand of this multi-part Santa question, but Laura was flummoxed by the problems she was having with Ben regarding the wrapping of presents.  You see, Laura had always assumed that you wrap presents and put them under the tree as you go — that is, you buy some presents, wrap them, stick them under the tree, watch as your child gets more and more excited about all the stuff accumulating there, and repeat — but apparently, this is all wrong!  Who knew!!  Apparently, and Laura clearly didn’t get the memo on this, you’re supposed to buy the presents, hide them all, then wrap them ALL on Christmas Eve after your kid(s) have gone to bed, thereby preserving the myth (lie) that Santa came and brought and did and wrapped and masterminded and gave and bestowed and shared and provided everything and that you had nothing to do with it.  Ohhhhhhhhhhhh.  So THAT’S what you do.

11) Christmas Eve Feast or No Feast
Laura just assumed that everyone has a Who-Ville type feast on Christmas Eve too, not just on Christmas Day, but apparently, yet again, she’s wrong. Sorry for being so Jewish!! Laura never got the memo on this one either since Brendan says that every family has different traditions and that in his family there was no big feast on Christmas Eve.  Laura’s not sure if he’s telling the truth or if he’s just making it up so he gets out of having to cook on Christmas Eve, but she figures this is just another one of those non-Jewish mysteries she’ll never fully understand. Maybe it’s because Jews a) always feast b) always feast the night BEFORE a holiday as well as on the holiday itself.  Or maybe it’s because most Christmas movies she’s watched always have a big cozy Christmas Eve dinner.  Even more confusing is what you’re supposed to make for the Christmas feast:  Roast Beast, like the Grinch carves, or Christmas Goose?  Or Ham?  Or Turkey?  Or Tofurky? Whatever. Laura just sucked down her Campbell’s Creamy Tomato Soup at Hand during last night’s feast-less Christmas Even and kept her mouth shut.
12)  Church
This one feels ridiculous for Laura to even mention since obviously Christmas has nothing to do with going to church! But still — Laura’s confused:  Are you supposed to go to church on or during Christmas or is going to church on or during Christmas just for losers?  Laura asks this at the risk of her question sounding disrespectful — that’s absolutely not her intention — because she emailed a non-Jewish friend recently about finding a midnight mass service to take Ben to and the friend couldn’t believe Laura was asking her that:  Church? she said.  Midnight mass? she said.  Me???? Obviously Laura had asked the wrong non-Jew.  Sorrrrrrrrrry!!!! But still, she’s unclear about who goes and who doesn’t and when you go if you do go.

Laura thinks she’s gotten all her questions in here — and she’s seriously hoping that people leave lots of clarifying and elucidating and illuminating and confusion-ending comments so that next Christmas will be a lot easier for her.  In the meantime, she wants to wish everyone who’s not Jewish who’s reading this a Merry Christmas and everyone who’s Jewish who’s reading this Vague and Non-Religious Holiday Greetings.
Assuming, of course, that’s what you’re supposed to do on Christmas…

Hugh Jackman Decoy Photo #4

Just in case anyone’s wondering, Laura’s received more than a few “concerned” emails from friends wondering if they should be worried about, as one person put it, her “escalating Hugh Jackman obsession.”  She appreciates the concern but Laura thinks not.  Yes she’s obsessed with using photos of Hugh Jackman in her brants and yes, that constant contact with photos of Hugh Jackman has made her slightly obsessed with him — life is so circular, isn’t it?!? — but at the end of the day her Hugh Jackman stunt is really just about one thing:

Brant traffic.

For over two years Laura has branted about….well…nothing.  Not exactly nothing, but nothing that she could actually point to and say, “I brant about ___.”  For awhile, after her surgery, she wrote her “Breast Brants.”  But at a certain point she ran out of things to say about her experience with breast cancer.  And she never found another subject that she could focus her thoughts on and channel her feelings through. And, most importantly, a subject that would attract and keep readers.

Until the other day when she posted that first photo of Hugh Jackman.

It was like a light went on — people were actually reading her brant because of the teaser photo on Facebook.
Ever the amateur social scientist, she posted another! And another!  And not only were her readers appreciative, but Laura herself was appreciative:  because she realized Hugh Jackman could inspire her branting.

It’s kind of like the blogger whose name was Julia or Julie and who wrote a blog — and later a book (or maybe it was just a book) — about cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes and what that was like for her and what it meant to her — “Julia and Julie” or something like that — and about the woman who just wrote a blog (and now a book) about following Oprah’s advice for a full year and what it was like for her and what it meant to her.  It’s using a famous person, a public person, as a jumping off point for self-exploration and self-revelation.  Well, why can’t Laura do the same thing with Hugh?  Why can’t she glom onto his visage and use it to both attract readers and give her brants a focus and a framework?

For example, let’s take today’s photo. Here’s a shot of HJ from “Someone Like You.” Which is really convenient since Laura can now launch into her story about coming to the set while the movie was being shot and describe what it was like to see HJ, wearing that exact shirt, sitting on that exact couch, filming the exact scene in the photo. Is this not a really convenient way of killing several birds with one photo of Hugh Jackman?

Put another way: For Proust, it was madelaines.  For Laura, it is photos of Hugh Jackman.  For now, anyway…

August, 2000.  Laura had just given birth to Ben, who was 10 pounds 2 ounces, and adjusting to life as a new mother down in hot humid frizzy-hair-weather Washington DC.  Right before she’d gone into the hospital to have Ben, filming — or, as they say in the movie business, “the commencement of principle photography” — had begun for Animal Husbandry — which is what it was still called at that point — and the timing couldn’t have been better since anyone who knows anything about terms like the commencement of principle photography knows that the commencement of principle photography means that you get a nice big check.

Anyway, back from the hospital with this giant new baby, Laura received new-baby gifts and cards — and even a small stuffed cow with a cow bell attached from the film’s producer, Lynda Obst (Sleepless in Seattle) (Anyone who knows anything about the movie business knows that every time you mention the name of someone in the movie business you have to put, in parentheses, the ‘projects’ they’ve worked on — the financially successful projects they’ve worked on, that is, which is why you might have noticed that Laura didn’t put “Someone Like You” in the parentheses following Lynda Obst’s name.) (But more about that later.)  This adorable little stuffed cow even had a big tag attached to it with a whole bunch of signatures — autographs and good wishes from the cast and crew — which couldn’t have been sweeter — and before long her film agent and Lynda Obst herself had called a few times to invite Laura and her husband to come and visit the set.

Under normal circumstances, Laura would have jumped at the opportunity to visit the set — or, as anyone who knows anything about the movie business knows, you don’t say “visit the set” — you say “go on set” — but there was one small problem: while Laura had had her baby, she had not yet lost her baby weight.

Now, as anyone who knows anything about anything knows, not losing your baby weight is one of the biggest sources of shame and humiliation for women.  There is just no way apparently to excuse the fact that not only did you not have enough self control during your pregnancy to stop yourself from gaining weight but you still don’t have any self-control — let alone self-respect! — to starve yourself and lose the weight already!  Laura had gained 50 pounds during her pregnancy and was still carrying around at least 25 of them when Hollywood literally started calling, which is why she ignored the calls.

Finally, though, she finally realized that they really should go on set of the movie, un-lost baby weight or no un-lost baby weight, so plans were made to do just that. It was early August and Laura’s stepdaughter Sarah just happened to be visiting from Denver, and they decided that they would combine a trip to NYC with their annual trip to the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, New York, that Sarah loved going to every summer.  So they packed up the car — packed the diapers and the wipes and the car seats and the onesies, packed the formula and the nipples and the sterilizing pot and the bibs, and set out from DC to New York for their triangulated journey.

They hit the road in late morning — Brendan was driving, and Laura was in the passenger seat.  In the back seat was Ben in his carseat, and Sarah, who was 8 at the time, and Brendan’s mother Jane, who was and always has been half of Laura’s body weight.  (Don’t get her started on this particular detail.)  Sarah was really into Harry Potter, so there was a Books On Tape version of the first book playing in the tape player from the Beltway all the way up the New Jersey Turnpike.  At about the four hour mark they hit traffic and it started to rain — which, as all married people who are on a road trip know, means a complete adult meltdown is imminent — which was bad timing since they were barreling through the Holland Tunnel and about to come out the other side in search of an address in Tribeca where the shooting was taking place.

The problem was, neither Brendan nor Laura knew anything about Tribeca despite the fact that between the two of them they’d clocked almost 25 years of living in New York — but Laura had lived in the West Village and the East Village, and Brendan had lived on the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. Within minutes they were lost in Chinatown, getting stuck behind trucks and bike messengers and having no idea where the fuck (460) they were and where the fuck (461) they were going. Needless to say, within seconds, they were fighting.

But this was not just a normal fight about getting lost — this was something else entirely, a fight about getting lost that was on some kind of epic scale Laura had never even known existed.  Because after driving around in circles for about 15 minutes, Brendan suddenly accused Laura of withholding directions — something Laura still thinks is one of the most hilarious things she’s ever heard (which is why she’s putting it in bold italics) — meaning that he thought she knew where they were supposed to be going but was refusing to tell him where they were going because she preferred to be trapped in a car with three generations of family screaming at each other as they went around and around and around lower Manhattan in the rain!

Now it’s worth pointing out, despite how old it makes Laura look, that this was long before iPhones and Blackberrys and GPS Navigational systems were built into the dashboard of cars — I know!  How thoroughly unimaginable this must be to Laura’s youthful readers!! No, this was still a low-tech era, which meant that if you were late and couldn’t find your way to an appointment there was no way to let the people who were waiting for you know that you were late and couldn’t find your way to the appointment.  Finally, though, after much yelling and regressing (Brendan’s mother actually had to tell them to cut it out) they found their way, got to the address, and parked the car, Laura having to change Ben’s diaper on a diaper-changing pad on the ground in the corner of the parking lot, before they went into the old building where the filming was taking place.
It was one of those huge old industrial kind of loft-buildings with clanging elevators and huge steep stairwells that Laura remembers because it was hard for her to climb those huge stairs since she was carrying all that extra weight — luckily Brendan was carrying Ben, then about 5 weeks old, in the car seat — and so in they all walked:  Jane, Sarah, Brendan with Ben in the car seat, and Laura and her extra 25 lbs of still-unlost-baby weight.    There were signs up on the walls and on the doors — Animal Husbandry, those signs said — and Laura has to admit it was pretty cool.  At some point some official movie-person found them and brought them over to Lynda Obst, who couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful, even taking Sarah by the hand to get her a smoothie from one of the many amply supplied food tables located at various spots throughout the building.

This left Laura with the movie person, with Brendan close by standing guard over the car seat.  Laura remembers this part clearly because it’s here that her giant faux pas occurs:  she looks up and sees this amazing looking man in the distance, but her view is partially blocked by something else — someone, a man, with his hand outstretched in greeting and a friendly smile on his face — Greg Kinnear, it turned out to be, who Laura inadvertently walks right past because her sights are focused completely on the vision in the distance — Hugh Jackman.

Now it’s important to note that back in the summer of 2000, Hugh Jackman was not very well known yet — in fact, when her agent called to tell her that he’d been cast in the role of Eddie, the inveterate womanizer, they were kind of confused: XMen had literally just been released in early July and Swordfish wouldn’t be released until 2001, sometime after Animal Husbandry was due to be released.  So when he walked toward her and Brendan and crouched down to look at Ben in his car seat and told them that he and his wife had recently adopted a little boy they’d named Oscar, who was just about the same age as Ben, well, to say she swooned would be an understatement.  Eventually, Laura realized her faux pas and talked with Greg Kinnear, who was also incredibly friendly and normal and not at all celebrity-like, by which point Lynda Obst returned with Sarah and the Smoothie and introduced Laura to Ashley Judd who, well, was, you know, really really really thing and very very very shy* (*unfriendly).

Laura’s going to wrap up this story now — it’s embarrassingly long and she hopes she hasn’t worn out her welcome with the Hugh Jackman business — but to pull it all together she’s going to say that soon after all the meeting and greeting and gabbing and shmoozing, they actually started shooting a scene — the scene where “Eddie” and “Jane” are in a “meeting” (they’re co-workers) and “Jane” notices a hickey on “Eddie’s” neck.  And here’s the nice circular part of the story — the line that Hugh Jackman said in this scene — “I bit myself shaving” — is probably one of the only lines in the whole movie that was just as Laura had written it.  Which was really cool:  not only did Laura get to see the set and meet the cast, despite feeling like a giant cow herself, but she also got to see them shooting a scene which contained a line of dialogue that she’d actually written.

Look Closely and You’ll See Hugh Jackman in the Picture

For all of you waiting for today’s daily Hugh Jackman Decoy Photo, this is kind of just a place-keeper: a photo that might not be a full size photo of Hugh Jackman but one that contains a small-ish photo of Hugh Jackman which, let’s be frank, is what Laura’s brant is now all about.

But more about that later.

Laura took this picture with her phone a week or two ago. She and Ben were in the local supermarket — Shaw’s, or Star (it’s confusing since they keep changing their name from Star to Shaw’s to Star again, not that it matters) — in the cereal aisle, and they were negotiating the trip’s cereal purchase. Ben had asked for a box of Cap’n Crunch — it’s one of the few sweet things he likes — he doesn’t drink juice, doesn’t like chocolate, does eat any candy — what a freak! — so Laura’s willing on occasion to drop $5 on a box of crud. But before they could grab a box of whatever they were going to grab, Ben’s eyes got huge and he pointed to the Raisin Bran Crunch. Thinking he was going to try to sell her on a box of that high-fiber-low-fructose-or-glucose shit — you know, because she’s old and needs “healthy cereal” — she shook her head no.

Ignoring her, he walked to the shelf, picked up a box and turned to her: “Mom,” he said in a stage whisper. “It’s your movie!!!”

And so it was. Standing there, on a Sunday, in the middle of a cereal aisle in a suburban supermarket, Laura was confronted with the fact that not only had the movie based on her first novel kind of tanked at the box office and gone almost straight to DVD — not that she’s complaining! people have worse problems then feeling like the movies based on their books weren’t that great! — but that DVD was now on the back of cereal box as part of some “free” movie offer. As she often does when it comes to matters of her career, she had mixed feelings: on the one hand, as Walter Winchell once said, or inspired people to say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and so she felt she should be grateful for the “plug” — no matter where that “plug” appeared and how lame that plug was. On the other hand, she couldn’t help feeling like she was on Candid Camera: Was she being tested? Was she being “punked“? Or “pranked“? Should she get “tanked”? She had no idea. All she knew was that the DVD ad totally made her day: it was hilarious and she knew, if nothing else, it would make for an entertaining brant post…

You know, a brant post that she’s posting before she posts the real brant with the next full-size photo of Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman "Jazz Hands" Decoy Photo #3

OK, look.  It’s late. Laura’s exhausted from being cooped up all day in the house during a blizzard with a kid recovering from corrective surgery. And gratuitously posting another photo of Hugh Jackman — this one, of him dancing — was just too easy.  I mean, why spend hours trying to think of a suitable brant topic when all you need to do is search Google images, spend 2 hours deciding which of the many perfect photos of Hugh Jackman is going to grace your brant today, and post?  Insta-Brant! Today’s photo-selection-process was actually a little more labor intensive than the last two — most of the photos of HJ that Laura found were of HJ in the Australian ocean or on the Australian beach (i.e. shirtless) or while wearing a hat of some sort while in Australia.  And for reasons she both can’t explain and doesn’t feel the need to explain, she just wasn’t in the mood for a shirtless or hat-wearing Hugh.  (Maybe tomorrow.) And so she settled on this one — mainly because of the pose:

For those of you who don’t know this little bit of trivia, Laura is a sucker for Jazz-Hands.

Laura’s tempted to push herself at this late hour to produce a full-length brant, but quite frankly she’s just too tired to start blabbing away about nothing.  Plus, she’s getting her 43rd hot flash of the day and has to get the fucking (459) laptop off her lap before she jumps out the window and into the snow below for some fucking (460) relief.  So she’s going to sign off now with the promise of another Hugh Jackman Decoy Photo Post tomorrow….

Hugh Jackman Decoy-Update Continued

Laura had so much fun branting last night after her long unintentional life-interruptus hiatus that she’s going to keep going. First of all, she wants to thank the people who let her know that the photo of Hugh Jackman was what reeled them in and led them to, as more than one Facebook friend has said, “click through.” This is one of those admissions that is kind of dicey:  just like the old “Wow! Did you lose a ton of weight?!?” this one points out the fact that the promise of fabulously hilarious or interesting prose wasn’t the big draw, but the photo of an unbearably gorgeous man was.  But you know what?  Laura doesn’t really give a shit.  She’s just glad her cheap trick worked.  Which is why she’s posting another photo of Hugh Jackman here.  She figures, it worked once, why not post photos of Hugh Jackman in every brant?! Only today’s photo is just a shameless attempt at hooking readers.  Check back soon for more photos of HJ along with relevant information about him and the time (2 times, actually!  once while he was shooting Animal Husbandry, which is what it was called when she visited the set, and once on the red carpet for the premiere of Someone Like You, which is what it was called when it was released) Laura met him and recent hilarious sightings of the long-since discontinued DVD of the movie (hint:  think cereal boxes in the supermarket).

While Laura’s assistant (ha ha, or, as the young people say, “LOL”) scours the Internet for another fab-foto of HJ, she’s going to continue on in her update…

9)  As some of her more careful readers might have noticed, Laura made a passing reference to Ben having surgery yesterday.  Due to her [previously branted-about] issues with “transparency” as it pertains to her branting, she’s not going to divulge what kind of surgery he had — she doesn’t want to be one of those people who uses her kid’s life as fodder, no matter how desperate she is for fodder (and believe me, she’s kind of desperate) — so all she’ll say is that he had some “corrective” surgery.  The surgery took place at Children’s Hospital in Boston, down in the Bermuda Triangle of amazing medical facilities — Children’s Hospital, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Center — she thinks there’s even a few more of them — and it’s when you have to be in a hospital or have some kind of diagnostic test done that you really feel glad that you live near these places.  Ben’s surgery was scheduled for noon, so, just like an airport arrival, they were told to show up 90 minutes early for processing.  Once the minimal paperwork was completed, and once she’d chased Ben down and pulled him out from under one of the waiting room chairs — and after she promised that he could, after his surgery, open up one of his Hanukkah-slash-Christmas presents early (a used Gamecube with all the trimmings off of eBay for a steal!) — they were led into the pre-op area.  As anyone who’s ever had surgery knows, this is the area where about 10-12 beds-on-wheels are parked in various bays with close-able curtains.  You set up shop in one — change, get in the bed, and wait to be visited by about 22 different medical personnel:  doctors, nurses, interns, residents, anesthesiologists, OR nurses, orderlies, etc.  And since it’s Boston, just as Laura reported in her “Breast Brants” about her own surgery, all these hospitals are “teaching hospitals” which means you can basically double that number of people who are going to stop in with a clipboard and ask you twenty questions about which side your surgery is going to be on.

Not that Laura’s complaining! She loves how amazingly organized and prepared and smart and helpful and professional all the people who stopped by were — how sweet they were to Ben and how nice they were to her, knowing how difficult it is to know your little guy is going to be put out for a few hours and cut open, no matter how correctively (as opposed to more seriously). So you can imagine her surprise when one of the medical professionals who stopped by was a woman in a white coat offering up a selection of video games. Yes, video games.  Gameboys, Nintendo DSs, and a variety of tiny game cartridges to pick from.  You should have seen Ben’s face when they handed him a Nintendo and told him he could play all the way to the operating room.  At first Laura was like, Hey?  What about ME?  Where’s MY Portable Electronic Distraction Device? But then she didn’t care, so thrilled was she to see that Ben was completely and utterly immersed in his game.  In fact, he was so immersed that no matter what anybody came by to do — take his temperature, check his blood pressure, adjust his finger-oxygen-monitor — he barely looked up. All he did was stare at the Nintendo and move slightly to accommodate whatever pokers and prodders were poking and prodding.

They let Laura go with Ben into the OR — they put a blue scrub-style robe in her and a little poufy hat and a mask — and down the hall they went, Laura following Geisha-like behind the bed-on-wheels and the group of nurses and doctors — until they came to the OR itself.  Laura, ever the concerned parent, was a little nervous at how bright and unflattering and harsh the glaring giant overhead lights were — in her haste to get to the hospital on time, she’d forgotten to put on any make-up or do anything with her hair besides put it up in one of those clippy-things — but then she realized her entire body was covered in scrub-ware so it wasn’t really an issue.  Actually, she’s kidding about worrying about how she looked — she couldn’t have cared less, which is a whole other problem and brant — all she cared about was Ben on the table, with the little mask over his face breathing in the sleeping gas they were pumping in.

Anyway, all went well and Ben’s home recovering, playing endlessly with the Gamecube and being a really good sport about the fact that it really hurts to stand, sit, move, get up, walk, sleep, etc. and will for the next few days and possibly even the next few weeks.

One last [semi] interesting tidbit to add to the surgery story is that Children’s Hospital is the same hospital that Laura had her emergency ruptured appendectomy (this is like Starbucks — do you say emergency ruptured appendectomy or ruptured emergency appendectomy or grande ruptured 2% emergency chai appendectomy?) way back in 1967.  As she mentioned recently, that emergency surgery took place at the height of Boston’s Blizzard of ’67 when she was four (yes, ok, all you geniuses can do the math and figure out Laura’s age now –29 [“LOL”]).  Just another weird by-product of moving back to where you grew up the way Laura did.

10) Last week, Laura went to a party — the annual Holiday party thrown by Q Division, a Somerville-based recording studio co-owned by the brilliant Mike Denneen.  Mike Denneen, besides being the husband of the amazing Jen Trynin (more on her later — sheesh!  it’s exhausting to have all these talented friends to work into brants!), is one of the best music producers in the business, with a list of artists that includes Aimee Mann, Fountains of Wayne, Letters to Cleo, and The Click 5.  Before Laura tells you the weather-related part of this story — which, come to think of it, really isn’t so interesting so she’ll just say it now — big surprise: it was fucking (458) POURING the night of the party which totally sucked, though it was fun to go to the party and spend some time with a new friend, Simone Beck, lead singer for a local band called “Sugar Snow” [more on her, too!]) — she’ll go back in time and tell you the Mike Denneen-Jen Trynin story.

Back in 2003 or thereabouts, the then-owner of Newtonville Books, Tim Huggins, asked if Laura would do him a favor:  meet with a friend of his who was writing a book about her short-lived but stellar career as a musician.  Laura, frequently asked to do such favors, and a big believer, when she has time, in, if you’ll pardon the goofy expression, “paying it forward,” agreed.  Most of the time these kinds of meetings are awkward because at the end of the coffee date the manuscript she gets handed usually isn’t very good and then she has to figure out a way to help the person understand that getting an agent might be really really hard if not sort of impossible.

But this time was different.  Laura met Jen at the Starbucks in Newton Centre and Jen, ever the super-cool musician, walked in wearing a pair of fabulous Gucci sunglasses.  They were even more fabulous because Jen referred to them as throwbacks to the time when she had money — something Laura often says about her own 10-year-old cashmere pea-coat or giant 6-ply tomato-red pashmina or diamond-drop earrings — and instantly she had a crush on Jen who was hilarious and brilliant and funny and, she should mention, about 8 months pregnant.  They traded stories about their careers, made jokes about the relativity of success and failure, compared Hebrew School and Jewish-Parent stories, and then parted ways with the promise of another coffee date.  When Laura got home she tore open the manilla envelope and started reading Jen’s pages which were unbelievably good and for once she knew that her help was completely unnecessary — she gave Jen the names of a few excellent agents and within a matter of weeks she signed on with one and got her manuscript in shape to submit to publishers — Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be, which was eventually published to fantastic reviews.

She also listened to Jen’s two CDs, Gun Shy Trigger Happy and Cockamamie and got addicted to them immediately: Jen, she decided very quickly, was a genius.

A few months later, Jen was so grateful for the “help” Laura had given her, despite the fact that she hadn’t really helped her that much — that she offered to help Laura out in return in any way possible. Laura couldn’t think of any help she needed that she wasn’t already getting and paying hourly for, but when Jen offered that her husband could help her wire her Victorian house for wireless computing — something Laura barely even knew existed at the time! — she of course agreed. And so Jen and Mike showed up, and Mike proceeded to crawl around on his hands and knees on the third floorof Laura’s old house, hooking up wires and cords and other things that looked electronic. Several trips to Radio Shack later and several hours on her lemon of an iMac, and she was networked and ready for a a wirelessly connected laptop (again, this was big news back then).  Laura was, of course, incredibly grateful for his help, but didn’t think much more about Mike Denneen until a few months later when, at a book gathering, someone pointed him out and said to Laura, in hushed reverent tones, “Look, that’s Mike Denneen.” She nodded and told the person that Mike was a really nice guy who was great at putting computer stuff together. Which is when the person looked at her like she was a fucking (459) nut job. Putting together computer stuff? the person said before filling Laura in on his “day job.” Despite the fact that this happened years ago, every time Laura sees Mike, like last week at his cool party, she can’t help but remember her idiocy.

p.s. About the photo of HJ — Laura has no idea exactly when it was taken or whom exactly to credit — she apologizes in advance to her two extremely talented professional photographer friends, Miranda Penn Turin and Karen Pike, both from Newton and both to be mentioned in more detail later–but she’s going to go ahead and post it anyway because, I mean, seriously, when was the last time you saw a picture like that?  Besides, without it, all potential copyright infringement issues notwithstanding, you wouldn’t be reading her brant right now….

Laura Impersonates a Carnie and Other Tales of the Recent Past

Wow.  It’s kind of been a while.  Laura would spend a paragraph or two pondering how almost a month could have gone by without her branting when she specifically started this new brant so she could start branting more regularly, but that would just be too boring.  Instead, she’s going to post one of those nugget-ized updates — a smorgasbord of vignettes, if you will — that will provide something for everyone, especially those with short attention spans or very little time to stay and read.  Strap in, though, because she’s really going to be changing topics pretty quickly and without much warning.

1)  Since branting in November, People magazine named its choice for Sexiest Man of the Year — Hugh Jackman, who, for those of you who have watched Someone Like You on cable all these years will agree, absolutely deserves the honor.  I mean, would you just look at him?? (Feel free to take a minute now to indulge in the sidebar of Laura’s brant to watch a clip of Hugh from the movie, and check back to hear about the time Laura actually met Hugh Jackman in person and how incredibly nice he was.)  Laura feels really badly that the new movie he’s in, Australia, seems to have taken a beating review-wise and earnings-wise, but she is heartened to learn that Hugh Jackman has just been chosen to host this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.  The guy can sing, dance, and make self-deprecating jokes, all while looking impossibly stylish and behaving with genuine grace.  Laura doesn’t know about the rest of you, but she’s planning on watching this year — that is, actually watching, not just flipping channels back and forth to see who’s winning.

2)  In a fit of holiday shopping, Laura went to the Burlington Mall in suburban Boston.  And in a fit of idiocy during that fit of holiday shopping, Laura saw a skirt she liked — a black sequined mini skirt — and decided to try it on.  The store she saw it in was one of those new semi-cheesy semi-slutty vaguely low-budget-but-stylish chain stores — she thinks it’s called Jacob, or something like that — and like many stores these days, semi-cheesy and semi-slutty or otherwise, it was nearly empty.  So Laura, forgetting she’s about 10 years older and 10 pounds heavier (okay, maybe 15) than she was back in the day when she used to wear mini skirts, grabbed a skirt and went into the dressing room.  The good news is that the skirt fit and actually zipped. The bad news is that Laura realized she is simply too old to walk around in a black sequined mini skirt.   And that she has nowhere to wear it. And that even if she weren’t too old to wear it and actually had somewhere to wear it to, it seemed like it was one of those skirts she would tear the first time she sat down in it.  Needless to say, she didn’t buy the skirt.

3)  In the dressing room of the cheesy slutty low-budget fashion store, Laura noticed a sign on the mirror:  “Due to sanitary concerns, customers must wear undergarments when trying on clothes.”  Which led her to wonder:  Are so many people trying on clothes these days without underwear that a directive actually has to be articulated?  

4) Though she hasn’t counted, Laura thinks she’s said the eff word about 450 times during the past week.  This is mainly due to dealing with all the fucking (451) Boston drivers who cut her off and then have the nerve to give her the finger and all the fucking (452) pedestrians who hurl themselves into traffic in order to cross the street.  Not that she wants to get off on a tangent here, and not that she hasn’t jaywalked herself a time or two herself, but one of her (many) pet peeves are those designated crosswalks at which motorists are obligated, by law, to stop if there is a person standing in one.  Laura’s pet peeve is not that pedestrians shouldn’t have a safe place to cross but that they should WAIT before crossing to give the motorist a chance to fucking (453) stop their car safely! But nooooooooo. That just doesn’t happen here.  People get to a designated crosswalk and without looking — seriously, without looking — leap off the sidewalk and start crossing because they purportedly have the right of way.  Sometimes these people even lead with a fucking (454) baby stroller as they indulge themselves in their right to cross!  But don’t get Laura started on this topic because she’ll never stop.

5)  During Laura’s fit of shopping this week, she also went to Kohl’s for the first time ever. (I know — this is going to be a big year for cheeseball gifts.) For a few heady seconds she wondered if Kohl’s was the new Target but after staring into the abyss of holiday merchandise and seeing the sprawl of racks and racks of depressing women’s apparel, she decided that while Kohl’s certainly has it’s appeal, it’s no Target.

6)  Laura’s been so caught up in Christmas holiday related occurrences that she almost forgot to mention the amazing Thanksgiving dinner she cooked all by herself!  She feels justified in saying it was amazing because her brother-in-law Patrick, Brendan’s brother, said that her stuffing — (smoky bacon cornbread stuffing, adapted from about three different cornbread stuffing recipes) — was the best stuffing he’d ever had.  Laura doesn’t expect you to understand the magnitude of this compliment because there’s no way you could possibly know how high the bar is for Brendan and his brothers when it comes to food — not fussy “gourmet” food, but regular food.  There are many family tales about one of Brendan’s brothers offering “honest” assessments of various pies and cakes and meals produced by mothers or wives, so to say that Laura was a little nervous during the preparations of the Big Event would be kind of an understatement.  What’s slightly disturbing, however, is just how important this compliment was to Laura — at the risk of setting off an impromptu discussion of her Cooking Phobia (refer to earlier brants about this topic on her original website-brant for more on this scintillating topic), suffice it to say that due to her food preparation-based insecurities, she honestly felt that this compliment was on par with getting her books published.  Sad but true.

7) Not to bury the lede (and for those of you who didn’t minor in journalism like a loser in college [the way Laura did], that’s spelled correctly) but now it’s time to explain the “carnie impersonation” incident.  During this aforementioned shopping trip, Laura went into Linens N’ Things which is mercifully (no offense to all the employees losing their jobs) going out of business.  She says “mercifully” because she’s just never liked that store because something about it was just inexplicably depressing.  But anyway, Laura couldn’t resist the pull of the giant “Going Out Of Business/Everything Must Go” signs and pulled into the parking lot.  If Laura thought the fully stocked store was depressing, this was a depressing-fest!  Almost completely empty, with signs informing customers that “fixtures and display shelves” were also available for purchase, the merchandise that was left was moved toward the center of the store, away from the purchase-able display shelves. But there was something strange about the merchandise:  It wasn’t that cheap!   Laura sort of thought, Oh!  Going out of business!  Everything must go!  That must mean that things would be really really cheap!  But every time she stopped to look at an overwrought iPod clock radio/charger/alarm/player/air freshener or a hot-chocolate whipper or a set of almost 100% cotton sheets, nothing was actually cheap enough to trigger that elusive impulsive urge to buy stupid idiotic cheaply made household goods.  As she was leaving the store however, she noticed a display of Funnel Cake Kits and couldn’t believe her luck: Ben loves Funnel Cakes and has said many times that he wishes there was a way to make them at home.  

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Funnel Cakes, Laura will tell you that here in the Northeast this type of fried dough is called “Fried Dough.”  Or, if you’re in, say, New York City, at one of those Little Italy festivals, it’s called Zeppoli.  In New Orleans, where Laura went once back in the mid-1990s to help Anne Rice with a week’s worth of book promotion, they’re called Beignets.  Anyway, whenever Ben goes anywhere where fried dough is available — namely, at fairs like the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, NY where he goes almost every year with his cousins — or at the annual “Clam Fest” in Yarmouth, Maine — carnivals, essentially, manned by “carnies” — he always gets a giant slab of fried dough, covered in a blanket of powered sugar.  Unfortunately for Laura, he usually eats it so fast that she barely gets a bite, which is a drag, since one of Laura’s favorite foods in the whole wide world, she’s embarrassed to admit, is fried dough.

So there she was, at the depressing final clearance sale of the depressing Linens ‘N Things, staring at this display of Funnel Cake-making kits which, at 50% off, were a very do-able $7.  Not sure if she could actually successfully make these funnel cakes — despite coming off the heady success of her Thanksgiving stuffing — she decided to take a chance and get a kit.  And because Ben was going to have surgery the next day, she offered to make it for him last night.

 All she’s going to say is that in order to make fried dough or funnel cakes or whatever the fuck (455) you want to call them, you have to heat cooking oil to a temperature of 350 degrees which means you have to hold a cooking thermometer in the oil to see how hot it’s getting.  This is hard to do because, well, the pan and the oil and the metal heat-conducting thermometer are fucking (456) hot!  Laura thinks that in addition to the tongs and the mix and the pitcher and the powdered sugar shaker the stupid little kit should also come with a fucking (457) fire-suit to protect you in case the oil you’re heating up starts a grease fire, but that’s probably too much to expect for $7.  Grease-fire-phobia aside, Laura persevered, heating her oil up to 350 degrees and then pouring the funnel cake batter into the hot oil, watching in amazement as the dough puffed up and sizzled and became a gorgeous light brown deep-fried color.  It’s frightening to think of how much grease was in the two funnel cakes she made, but at that point, to be perfectly frank. Laura didn’t really care:  she was just glad to be alive.

8) Oh, and before she forgets, Laura has a confession to make:  she bought one of those “ornament organizers” from The Container Store.  The green one with the red flaps on top.  And she highly recommends it.

…to be continued….