Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dear Ryan Murphy; Please Hire Me

Because I sort of feel like everything would be better were I working for GLEE. Oh, GLEE. You will so very much totally be my new favorite show this fall. Especially if you continue to do things like this:

Full disclosure: sure, Don't Stop Believing is mad over-exposed and over-used, son, (as per Uncle Grambo over at Vulture), but that still doesn't stop me from dropping to my knees to interpretative-dance it at weddings.

And sure, there are clearly 20 people singing even though we see 5 members of the Glee Club on stage, and sure, it's RIDICK when the Zac Efron jock guy plays the drums and then hands off the drumsticks and the drums keep playing, but, frak it: this show has Jane Lynch saying things like "your resentment is delicious" and it features cheerleaders who are so Bring-it-On-y that they're wearing the EXACT SAME CHEERLEADING OUTFITS as the Toros, and the writing is pretty damnfine good in a this-is-smarter-than-your-typical-hour-long-drama-about-singing-teen-dreams way and Ryan Murphy et al. are sort of awesomely being straight up about high school life, and luckily people only burst into song when they're practicing or auditioning (to "On My Own," no less) or in fantasy scenes, and seriously, when the kid in the wheelchair plays that guitar solo, isn't it wonderful?

Monday, May 18, 2009

We Passed the Hash Pipe and Played our Doors Tapes

I was so thoroughly charmed and delighted by SNL's season-ending grand finale "Goodnight Saigon" humgdinging ding-dong of a sketch (thank you hugs'n'kisses to the always wonderful Videogum):

Maybe it's because there is nothing I love more than a star-studded finale, or maybe it's because I am consistently enamored with earnestness, or maybe it's because I remember being on a family trip driving through California and listening to that "Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2" mondo cassette and eagerly anticipating each time "Goodnight Saigon" would finally come on, right after "Allentown" (where our fathers fought the second world war; spent their weekends at the jersey shore) because, at age 12, I had just figured out what it was, like, really about man, or maybe it's because we kept that cassette in the station wagon and once my mom was doing errands and sort of half-listening to it and when the opening helicopter-noises from that song came on, she pulled over in a fright that she had blown a tire and then drove to the gas station so that Jack the mechanic could check her tires and tell her that, no, she didn't have a flat tire, it was just those helicopter noises from the beginning of "Goodnight Saigon" or maybe it's just the way Ferrell plays those maracas at the top.

Either way, I love this so much that I want to put a ring on it. And also, um, sort of maybe I kind of want to own the Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2 mondo-cassette again. Remember that swelling chorus in "THe Night is Still Young?" I sure do.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Mom

I know, this blog is supposed to be about pop culture and stuff like that, and it will revert back to its normal levels of observational snarkitude shortly, but I just wanted to put this on the internets. This is the eulogy I delivered at my mom's funeral:

I want to start off by reciting my mom’s favorite poem: “Comment,” by Dorothy Parker. I think my mom was a sort of modern-day Dorothy Parker – they shared the same biting wit and dizzying intellect; short, fashionable haircut; and love of words, and my mom taught me this poem when I was just a little girl and had no absolutely no idea what it meant:
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am the Queen of Romania.

And I just have this perfect image of her pausing dramatically while delivering that last line “ and I … am … the Queen ... of Romania.” The line was really “Marie of Romania” but my mom would always alter it and say “the queen of Romania,” but either way, it summed up my mom’s philosophy and also allowed her to use the word extemporanea, in everyday speech.

My mom’s vocabulary was blistering and she was the most clever and eloquent person I’ve ever met. My mom loved to talk – to anyone and everyone -- my mom could charm and fascinate absolutely everyone. No one worked a room like my mom. She was a champion schmoozer, and everytime I’m at a cocktail party or some sort of crowded event, I always find myself turning into my mother.

When you’re younger, you’re always so terrified of growing up and turning into your mom, but I think I’m more terrified of not turning out to be exactly like her. It’s true, we have the same dimples, and we both talk with our hands, and we share a love of cheap wine and shopping at Loehmann’s. My mom loved her chardonnay and she loved buying Carole Little suits at deep discounts. She always said that was the 11th commandment: thou shalt never pay retail. And when I was younger, I was always sort of slightly embarrassed that my mom would get a little tipsy at weddings and bar mitzvahs and insist on doing the bump with her patented “doing the bump face” which sort of involved looking surprised and saucy at the same time, while bumping hips with someone, often a gay man, -- and she would always find a man to dance with her if “Proud Mary” or “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” came on and my dad didn’t want to dance – and I was telling my best friend Noah about how that used to embarrass me and he said “but that is EXACTLY what you do every time you go out dancing.” So, maybe I’m on my way to beginning to start to approach the sheer awesomeness and amazingness that is my mom.

And as I’ve gotten older and my mom and I have gotten closer, our relationship changed from purely mother-daughter to just being really good friends. My mom always said that to my boyfriend John – that she was so proud that it wasn’t just that Adam and I were her children, Adam and I were her friends. And, it’s so true. We could talk about anything. I could call her any time of day or night with any sort of problem and she would talk me down off the ledge and listen to anything I had to say, and she always had the perfect solution or advice or suggestion. And she would do that for anyone – my mom would have marathon phone conversations with all her friends. My dad would say, “How can you have anything left to say? You just talked to her yesterday!” and still, she could talk to Cheryl or Sherry or Karen or Eileen or David or Sherry or Terry until it was time to switch on the local news and watch the weather. She insisted on watching the weather every night, and I can’t fall asleep unless I know what it’s going to be like outside tomorrow.

Mom was so dazzlingly bright – her mind worked so fast, it’s a wonder the rest of us could keep up. She was the master of puns, you might say the ultimate cunning linguist. And she was fiercely irreverent and would have been thrilled I just dropped that pun in front of a rabbi. During the last two weeks, she lost her voice and was only able to talk in a whisper. But that didn’t keep her from being as sarcastic and witty as ever, even if we had to strain to hear her. And even while undergoing really intense and aggressive treatment, her brain was as sharp as ever. She was so, so proud of her children and she remembered every details we ever told her about everything in our lives. She was so thrilled that Adam followed her footsteps into publishing, and I know that she watched every single show I ever appeared in, no matter how trashy, and everything I ever directed, even when I was in college and it was pretty pretentious. The highpoint of my career was when my mom appeared in the tv show I was directing as a character called Renee Paper Mache, sort of like a Cynthia Plaster Caster, but with noses – and all my bosses agreed that she was the best part of the entire production.

When my mom first got sick, I talked to some of my friends about when it was time to have “the conversation” – as in, the conversation where you tell your mom how much you love her and how much she means to you and how she is responsible for everything good and wonderful in your life. I wasn’t sure, because I didn’t want to be maudlin and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable or make it seem like I was scared she was going to die. And I thought, we all thought, that we had so much more time with her. She went so quickly, that I think all of us are in shock and dazed and confused. And I held her hand and we said goodbye and told her how much we loved her but I never got to have the actual talk with her, and this is what I wanted to say:

Mom – I don’t know how I’m going to live without you. You are my rock, my guiding star, my beacon of sense and strength and power and love. You are such a powerful woman, and such an amazing role model, and I wish I could be even half as good of a person as you are. You are a truly good, decent, wonderful person who genuinely wants other people to be happy, and your commitment to doing good things in the world and telling everyone about the good things that other people are doing is so inspirational. I hope that someday I can be as good of a person as you are. Thank you so much for making me laugh, for cheering me up, for believing in me no matter what. When the mean kids in grade school made fun of me, thank you for encouraging me to fight back simply by being smarter than they were and helping me write parodies of all their favorite songs. When I took to my bed because I didn’t get into Brown, thank you for pulling me back out and telling me that Wesleyan was a better place for me to go anyway. Thank you for nursing me through mono, and a tonsillectomy at age 17 by reading to me from Winnie the Pooh and the Very Blustery Day in your special Winnie-the-Pooh reading voice. Thank you for not freaking out when I went vegetarian, when I pierced my nose, and when I got a tattoo. Thank you for making every one of my friends feel like they were part of the family.

When I was at Camp Ramah and I was sooo homesick that I cried every single day, thank you for breaking the rules and sneaking into camp with the temple’s prospective parents groups - I’ll never ever forget that moment when we were all sitting on the A-side field and I was sad and homesick and crying and someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and you were suddenly standing there right in front of me, even though you knew you could get in trouble for it because you were supposed to stay in the van. Thank you for introducing me to the magic of the vodka gimlet – dirty rocks on the side. Thank you for teaching me how to be a powerful, intelligent woman who can walk into a room of strangers and leave with 20 new friends. Thank you for loving my dad so much, and showing me what it’s like to be best friends with your spouse. Thank you for staying together for 37 years of marriage and showing me what a real relationship looks like. Thank you for teaching me how to make fried matzah (perhaps the only dish you truly mastered). Thank you for showing me how to be fiercely loyal to everyone you love. Thank you for the love of show tunes, Barbra Streisand, and Judy Collins. I’m so sorry that when I was six and playing Monopoly with dad and he landed on Boardwalk that I stomped away and scratched the record right when Barbra was singing your favorite line of Send in the Clowns. Thank you for teaching me how to do the twist using a bath towel as an educational tool.

Thank you for being the most amazing woman any of us will ever know, and the most wonderful and perfect mother. Mom, I love you so much. When my Zaydee Hal passed away, I remember my mom sitting on the couch and saying she was so sad and that the worst part was, she just wanted to talk to my grandfather so he could cheer her up. Whenever anything hard or bad or scary happens in my life, I call my mom. And now I know exactly what she meant – right now, things are so hard and bad and scary that I just want to call my mom. But instead, I know that she taught me enough that I can look inside myself and find exactly what she would tell me to get me through this:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am the Queen of Romania.

So here’s to my mom, The Queen of Romania.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Doo Wah Diddy

I Miss My Mom

Leslie F. Schwartz -- raconteur, wit extraordinaire, and beloved wife and mother-passed away on Wednesday, April 29, 2009. Leslie graduated from Poughkeepsie High School, class of 1968, and Barnard College, class of 1972, where she met her future husband, Robert Schwartz. Leslie had a keen gift for bringing good to the world; she could make anyone laugh and she spent her life striving to bring awareness to those doing their best to end others' suffering. After college, Leslie started her career at Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Her love of the written word led to her award-winning column in the Ridgewood News called "Suburban Supermom" which distilled the daily trials and tribulation of life in the suburbs into nuggets of wit and sarcastic wisdom. She then chose a life of service - first as Director of the Office of Public Information for Bergern County, then as the Director of Public Relations of Bergen Region Medical Center, and later working in the publicity departments of Mount Sinai, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Leslie was drawn to Mount Sinai after watching how well they took care of her father, Harold Fleisher, and returned to work for the hospital after a stint in the realm of general healthcare P.R. left her wanting to do more for doctors who served people in need. Leslie is best remembered for her razor-sharp wit, her commitment to serving anyone who lacked a voice, and for her strength and power and unwavering spirit. Leslie passed away comfortably after battling lung cancer, leaving behind her husband, Robert Schwartz, and her two children, Bex and Adam, all of whom credit her everlasting sense of humor and love of humanity for their own outlooks on life. Leslie also leaves her siblings, David Fleisher and Sherry Woocher, and her mother, Terry Fleisher. The funeral service will be Friday, May 1st at 10am at the Menorah Chapels at Millburn, 2950 Vaux Hall Road, Union, NJ. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Hal Fleisher Leukemia Fund, c/o Jewish Family Service of Dutchess County, 110 Grand Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603.

Please leave memories about my mom here - we love hearing from her friends and colleagues.

I Love My Mom

This is my mother holding hands/paws with a moose.