Monthly Archives: March 2009

Bird on Laura’s Head. Literally.



Close friends, shrinks, and eagle-eyed brant-readers will be familiar with Laura’s “Bird on her head” issue — a phrase that came from one of Laura’s oldest and bestest [sic] friends, book editor extraordinaire Julie Grau. Julie came up with this phrase to describe the look a certain boss of Laura’s gave Laura every time she opened her mouth to say something. The boss would tilt her head and then stare at her, mystified, as if, Julie so rightly described, Laura had a bird on her head.

One of the reasons that phrase and that issue “resonated” so deeply with Laura is because she realized she’d spent most of her life dealing with people who looked at her in that exact same way — as if, as Laura had always described it herself non-metaphorically, she was “weird.” Sometimes people would actually give her the bird-on-the-head look AND say she was weird, but most of the time it was just the look. And believe Laura when she says that the look alone was, is, and always will be enough to make her feel like a giant loser.

Laura’s trying to think of easy-to-describe examples of incidents where she got the total bird-on-the-head look — besides every encounter with her aforementioned former boss who thought Laura was just 100% weird and bizarre and strange and God knows what else.

  • There was Laura’s insistence on wearing a three-piece brown corduroy suit (skirt, vest, jacket) for her bat mitzvah instead of, say, a fucking dress.
  • There was the time Laura dropped out of her graduate MFA writing program after only two days (total bird-on-the-head not only from the head of the program but from everyone she knew: friends, family) because it just didn’t “feel” right.
  • The time Laura told some highly-ambitious ivy-league bound high-school acquaintances that she wasn’t going to get Stanley Kaplan SAT tutoring because “she didn’t believe in it.”
  • The time she had a “college rejection” party to offset her embarrassment at having gotten rejected from every one of her non-safety schools because of her stupid fucking non-belief in SAT tutoring.
  • The time she told her Stanford-bound ex-boyfriend that she wasn’t going to get Stanley Kaplan GRE tutoring because she “didn’t believe in it” even though the last time she refused test prep classes her scores sucked so bad she didn’t get into any of the colleges she wanted to get into.
  • The time she retook her GREs and English Subject Test — still without taking any standardized test-taking-preparatory classes and — big surprise!! — and told a few close friends that she got the same appalling and embarrassingly low scores that she did the first time she took them.
  • The time she told her closest girlfriends that she wasn’t going to wear anything special to meet her new boyfriend’s ex-wife because “she didn’t believe in that kind of thing.”
  • The time she told her close friend that she was going to her 25th high school reunion when her close friend knew that she was completely 100% miserable in high school, mainly because kids gave her the bird-on-the-head look every minute of every day because she wore long skirts and boots instead of preppy kelly green sweaters and chinos.
  • The time she told that same close friend that she was so deeply depressed after attending that 25th reunion she needed new medication and couldn’t understand why.
  • The time she told her matchmaker Patti Novak that she’d written half a book about failure and that it had failed to sell to a publisher — during their first dinner together when Laura was “auditioning” to be her ghostwriter.
  • The time she told one of the geniuses at the Apple Store genius bar that she wished one of them just once would fucking say “I’m sorry for the inconvenience” for her having to bring in her dead MacBook four times to be shipped down to Tennessee for repairs.
Laura could go on and on and on here with bird-on-the-head moments — and she’ll probably check back every now and then to add more and to see if any of her readers will be inspired to share their own bird-on-the-head stories.  But the reason she wrote this post today is because when she and Ben spent some time with her nature-obsessed amazing-cook writer-friend Jenny from 7th grade — one of the few people who has never ever given Laura a bird-on-the-head look — Jenny took them on a bird feeding walk.  This essentially meant that they put birdseed in their hands and held their hands up straight and flat so that the birds would fly down and eat right out of their palms.  But Jenny also did something else:  she put birdseed on top of Laura’s hat and on top of Ben’s hat which — drumroll please — caused the birds to fly down and sit on their heads! Hence some real-life actual bird-on-the-head photos.

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Laura’s main mission in life as a mother is to never give Ben a bird-on-the-head look and to try to keep him away from any and all horrible stupid annoying small-minded unimaginative non-creative un-weird people who could possibly give him a bird-0n-the-head look (not that all the people who gave Laura bird-on-the-head looks throughout her life were horrible stupid annoying small-minded unimaginitive non-creative un-weird people — but you know what she means…).  So it’s deeply ironic to her that she actually has pictures of herself and of Ben with birds on their heads…

And not only that:  the photo above is doubly perfect because it shows Ben giving Laura a bird-on-the-head look because she literally has a bird on her head!



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Fried Dough is the New Hugh Jackman

Fried dough is the new Hugh Jackman.

This unscientific announcement is based on yesterday’s brief paragraph about Laura and Ben discovering a place in Watertown that serves fried dough (in perfect bite-sized chunks) all year round which drew more than a few passionate comments about….fried dough. Technically, brants about Hugh Jackman — anything to do with Hugh Jackman — have drawn many more comments than her brief mention of fried dough yesterday but you get the drift. Helen Hill, Laura’s new friend from L.A. (Sidebrant: Laura and Helen met in the parking garage underneath the Skirball Center after Laura’s panel on Chick Lit back in January. They had so much to talk about there that they ended up taking the conversation out of the parking lot and onto email and then again onto Facebook where Laura regularly receives incredibly helpful and thoughtful and intuitive emails from Helen about the various things Laura is going through these days – oh did Laura happen to mention that Helen is a therapist?!? — more on Helen eventually.)

Anyway, Helen provided a link on Facebook to the Hungarian version of fried dough called Langos (or krumplislangos, langosh) — here’s a link she included to a site about “Ethnic Doughs” with a page called “Fried Dough Around the World” — further confirming the fact that every culture has it’s fill-in-the-blank: pizza, knish, ravioli, etc. The Italians have zepolle (little fried dough balls available at Saints Festivals), New Orleans has beignets (note: Laura is aware of the fact that if this were an SAT she would get the stupid question wrong because obviously “the Italians” and “New Orleans” are not comparable in their congruity [whatever that means], and the only reason she’s saying “New Orleans” instead of “France” is because she actually ate beignets when she was in New Orleans about 15 years ago on Publicist-Duty and never ate them in France — Laura’s brant, as her loyal readers know [both of them] [hi Wendy] [hi Janet] is about authenticity, if nothing else), and if Laura had the time she write a whole long brant about other cultures/cuisines and their own versions of fried dough.

But she doesn’t have time for that.

Because she has to finish her brant and spend the rest of the day taking Ben to his music lessons and his rehearsal for his next show, The Stones, and making sure the dog has pooped and peed a hundred times.

But Laura does have time to post the link to the page in Helen’s link that has all of this information! With illustrations and photos and descriptions all right there!  Go there and feast your eyes on all the cultural variations of fried dough and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to roll yourself around in flour and jump in a fry-o-later….

And oh my God!— there is even a history page on this site tracing fritters and fried lumps of pastry throughout the ages!  Thanks Helen for a veritable treasure trove of information on fried dough!

Ben ‘s Two Week Vakay: Part 1


If you’re anything like Laura who went to public school her whole life, including college, you have no idea about private schools and what their vacations are like. In fact, you have no idea that private schools aren’t called private schools anymore but are now euphemistically referred to as “independent schools.” Anyway, Laura learned that this year, along with the fact that “independent schools” have a two-week vacation in the spring — in March — instead of one one-week vacation in February and one one-week vacation in April like the loser plebes in public school do. This works out well if everyone you know goes to “independent schools” too, because that way you can all have your two-week March break together and make plans to go to warm sunny sandy places with umbrella drinks and laugh at all the public school kids stuck in school in between their two shitty-mini breaks.

Laura doesn’t know anyone else in “independent schools” — except for the kids Ben knows in his “independent school” — and lucky for Laura the economy sucks otherwise she’s positive most of them would have been away on real vacations instead of the usual “staycations” that Laura has become famous for during all the years that her own personal economy has sucked. Ben was actually able to have some playdates — mostly skateboarding playdates with his other friend Ben — Laura calls them “The Bens” — and except for having a thousand Jewish-mother-you’re-going-to-die-on-that-stupid-fucking-skateboard-even-with-that-helmut-on moments which are really completely unnerving and unrelaxing, especially since The Bens were skateboarding while Natasha Richardson was tragically dying of blunt trauma to the head due to a fall on a bunny ski slope. But Laura did what any modern mother would do to allay her fears — she made calls and checked her email on her Blackberry and tried to ignore the fact that skateboarding is an incredibly dangerous sport that she wishes she’d never let Ben try, let alone do.

Let’s just say, too, for the record, that two weeks is a long time for a kid’s vacation. A lonnnnnnnnnng time to have a kid home from school — a kid who is an only child (except for a puppy) — a kid whose neighbor friends are not on vacation — a kid who has (wait a second — Laura’s counting) — 16 days on his hands. Which means 16 days to fill up with planned activities and interesting things to do and see and learn. Laura’s good friend Jenny can vouch for the fact that Laura is not the planned-activities-and-interesting-things-to-do-and-see-and-learn kind of person, not just with kids but in any situation (Laura cites her friendship with Jenny, her oldest and bestest friend from 7th grade, because of all the times Jenny has come to visit Laura and Laura has only wanted to sit on the couch and talk, as opposed to all the times Laura has visited Jenny and Jenny has planned tons of amazing activities and interesting things to do and see and learn). So she’s been hitting the Klon a lot the past week as she tries not to panic about boring Ben to death and having him finally realize what a fraud of a parent she is because she is so, for lack of a better word, lazy.

And so, in order to combat the possibility that Ben would finally look behind the curtain and see Laura for who she actually is — Big Sitting Bum (what she would be called if they were Native Americans) — Laura and Ben went on a mini-long-weekend-with-a-few-extra-days-attached road trip. They were going to meet up with her aforementioned friend Jenny and her boys and husband, and visit a few other people and places along the way. This is actually Laura’s favorite kind of trip because one huge element of fear and phobia is absent: airplanes. Laura will go anywhere — drive anywhere — she doesn’t care how long or how far — happily and without complaint as long as she doesn’t have to stop foot on a flying deathtrap.

Just like with any trip, packing the car came first, and so they packed the car up with the bare essentials (Laura likes more than anything to travel light), only this time they added the puppy, which threw off the whole packing-light thing. Laura realized as she was packing up wipes and plastic poop bags and treats and food and plastic containers to serve the food in if they were on the road during meal time and chew toys and squeaky toys and rawhide twists and the dog bed and the crate and a thousand other fucking things this one small 9-lb animal needs — that having a puppy, or any kind of animal, is just like having a baby. Laura’s sure this is one of the least original thoughts in the history of human thought — people for thousands of years have been forgetting to put their pants on when they get in the car for a road trip because they’ve been too fucking distracted by making sure that their dog has their special organic low-fat biscuits and faux-sheepskin chew kitty — but it’s a completely new and earth-shattering realization for Laura. Not to get gross or anything, but she seriously can’t remember the last time she pooped — that’s how obsessed and concerned with and conscious of Friday’s bowel movements she’s become.

[Brant-erruption: A quick thought just popped into Laura’s head — the phrase Vet-Scam. She thought of this last week when she and Ben brought Friday to the vet for a routine appointment — you know, the kind where there’s one last vaccination and maybe a heartworm pill involved — meaning the kind where Laura didn’t expect to be asked to fork over $204 fucking dollars upon departure. Call her crazy — and she knows for a fact that the vet place they take Friday to is highly reputable and one of the absolute best — but WTF?!?]

One of the biggest and most exciting things that happened during the initial part of their Staycation — before they even left! — was discovering a pizza place in nearby Watertown — Stella’s — that serves — are you all sitting down?Fried Dough Babies. Eagle eyed brant readers will remember a previous entry about fried dough — Laura actually making fried dough in her kitchen the night before Ben’s testicular-correcting surgery this past December and almost setting the house on fire. This means that instead of risking death by fried dough you can walk into this pizza place, order a slice of pizza, and then for dessert, a grease-absorbing paper-plate full of little pieces of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. No mess, no carnie atmosphere, no waiting until the middle of July or August for some crappy state fair or festival until you can walk around in the muggy buggy heat and humidity while shoving a greasy piece of fried dough the size of a Dumbo’s ear into your mouth. As you can see from the photo at the top of the brant, Ben could not believe what an amazing thing this is: to be able to get fried dough whenever he wants. Of course, Laura is now terrified that she — the original lover of fried dough — Big Sitting Fried Dough Bum — will start visiting Stella’s with frightening frequency, even without Ben…

[more about Laura’s staycation in the next installment….]

Becoming a Dog Person

Laura has become a dog person. She can’t remember if she branted about the fact that they got a dog almost six weeks ago, but they did — an adorable Shetland Sheepdog who is almost four months old now. Ben named her Friday, even though they picked her up on a Thursday, and she could not be cuter, despite the fact that no matter how many times a day Laura takes her out in the freezing cold to do her business — and no matter how many times a day Friday actually does her business outside — not to mention the fact that they’re “crate-training her” (which is really confusing Laura since she’s not sure if you’re supposed to get the dog to pee in the crate or outside the crate, in which case, why have a crate at all?) — Friday still manages to poop and pee throughout the house on a regular basis when left unattended for even a few minutes. Laura’s trying to find a few minutes this week to Google the fuck (372) out of dog training and puppy training, but until then she’s just a slave to Friday, chasing her around the house with a roll of papertowels and that spray that takes the poop and pee smell out of carpets.

The weird thing about having a dog is that suddenly Laura is being perceived as a dog person which, trust me, she has never ever been. She has never been an across-the-board dog lover — in fact, Laura has never liked slobbering yapping hyperactive dogs, even when they’ve been her friends’ dogs. She wasn’t raised with dogs and that’s the difference between true dog people and non-dog people. Now, taking Friday to school to pick up Ben, or taking Friday to the dog park, people — other dog people — come up to her and start talking dog business, as if she is a dog-person, too. As with so many other issues in Laura’s life, she feels uncomfortable with the fraudulence of pretending to be something she’s not, but, then again, maybe she is becoming a dog person after all. More on this later.

Karen Pike, Photographer, and Friend from Hebrew School, is Friday’s Official Photographer. Laura can’t believe part of that sentence when she looks at it and actually parses it: i.e., the fact that “friend” and “from Hebrew School” could actually co-exist in the same sentence, but there it is, and it’s actually true in this one rare case. Karen was even in Laura’s Hebrew School carpool, the motion-sick-fest that occurred before and after every day there, and Karen was often the loud one in the car, making trouble. Laura knew Karen a little bit in high school, but over 25 years passed before they saw each other at a high school friend’s daughter’s bat mitzvah and reconnected. Despite the misery of Hebrew School, Karen is now a happy person — living in Vermont with her three kids and her wife, Gillian, and a whole bunch of dogs, growing her photography business. Laura thinks Karen’s business should grow really big because the pictures she took of Ben and Friday a few weeks ago are probably the best pictures of Ben Laura has and will ever have. Karen, of course, was just snapping a little before she left — she wasn’t even trying to take great pictures — and Laura can’t understand why she can’t figure out how to work her Nikon Coolpix well enough to take a decent picture given the fact that back in high school she and her sister had a dark room in their basement! Again, Laura’s going to try to get a few minutes this week so that she can also Google the fuck (373) out of photography and camera settings, but until then she’s hoping that you’ll take a minute to check out Karen’s website and blog: www.kpikephoto.com.
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Obligatory Hugh Jackman Comments: Okay, let’s just deal with the big elephant in the room. Laura thought Hugh was fabulous, and doesn’t understand why so many people didn’t think so. Clearly opinions were split, as they usually are with such things — judging Oscar Night’s new emcee and new format is a completely subjective task, obviously — but seriously, Laura can’t believe that people don’t have better things to do with their time than rip apart hugely talented beyond-belief handsome Oscar hosts for no good reason. Also, Speaking of Hugh Jackman: (isn’t Laura always?), Laura would like to call your attention to this paragraph, which ran in a Spanish newspaper — “Someone Like You” must have recently been released there on DVD or something — and the reason she’d like to call your attention to it is because her name and Hugh Jackman’s appear in the same paragraph.

MADRID, (OTR/PRESS)

Hugh Jackman, Ashley Judd y la oscariza Marisa Tomey son los tres pesos pesados del mundo de la interpretación que comparten escenario en ‘Siempre a tu lado’, filme que estrena cuatro. Tony Goldwin, actor del ‘Último Samurai’, que se estrenó como director con ‘Un paseo por la luna’, dirige esta comedia romántica basada en la novela de Laura Zigman ‘Fauna Conyugal’.

Laura would write more, but she has to take Friday out to do her business. Again. For like the 80th time today….