Blah Blah Blog by Jessica Harper by Jessica
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Flu-flyer’s Redux

March 5th, 2014

Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer From A PumpOn a recent flight to NYC, I acquired a virus as wicked as I have ever had. On the return, I made sure to revisit my personal guide to flu-free flying:

1. Should you by any chance find yourself in one of the ladies’ rooms at the United Airlines terminal, you may hear a chorus of the “Happy Birthday” song floating towards you from the sink area. Do not graciously inform the singers that you were actually born in October. They do not care. They are not celebrating you or anyone else. Their vocalizing is an exercise in flu prevention.

You may have heard on NPR that in order to avoid this season’s swine or bird or bronchial flus, you must not rely on Purell alone. You should wash your hands in warm, soapy water for as long as it takes to sing the birthday song, about 20 seconds. (Although if you can’t remember the words or try to sing it like Alicia Keyes it could take longer.)

2. But let’s face it: the airport is a minefield for the flu-phobic. Even if you wash long enough to sing birthday greetings to everyone in your immediate family, when you leave the ladies’ room you have to deal with the issue of the doorknob. NPR reports that doorknobs are your worst enemies; each one is hosting a virus party.

You can try to open the door with a body part that is not your hands. I’ve used my elbow but found it awkward, and I my feet have limited small motor skills. The thing to do is to wait for some sucker who does NOT listen to NPR to open the door the traditional way (oblivious to the fact that they have just sentenced themselves to a couple weeks of chicken soup and Netflix) and slip out in their wake.

3. But more challenges lie ahead. When you stop at the news stand for your Lucky magazine and Junior Mints, don’t forget that the sales clerk has had hand-to-hand contact with a staggering number of flu-flyers (including the doorknob lady). Give the clerk your MasterCard and it will come back fully loaded. Instead, pick up your purchases, place an adequate amount of cash on the counter and get the hell out of there.

4. Of course, the airplane itself is the worst, each one carrying germs as abundant, varied and aggressive as those in, say, Times Square. NPR says that, on a plane, you are 113 times more likely to get sick than you are in normal life.

They also point out that you should put nothing in the seat pocket in front of you, as that is where all those flu-ish types have stashed their used tissues. (I know, gross, right?) So keep your magazine and mints inside your personal bubble and don’t be intimidated by people who look at you funny when you pull out and put to use the Wet Ones, Neosporin, Airborne, hand sanitizer and Flu-B-Gone.

5. Don’t drink water in flight or you will have to pee. Even if you don’t listen to NPR you know about the airplane bathroom. It’s like a Petri dish in there, and the TSA most likely confiscated your Clorox bottle at security. On a long flight you may have to catheterize but stay OUT of that damn bathroom!

6. In the unlikely event that you get to your destination without picking up the flu or pneumonia or whooping cough or herpes, don’t be smug. Do NOT tell some less fortunate person, someone who DOES succumb that “Prevention is the best cure.” The sick person will find this so annoying, she may even seek revenge. You could wake up with a doorknob on your pillow.

Good luck.

Grey-head Survey

March 5th, 2014

Grey hairIn Los Angeles, older women who do not color their hair to conceal the grey are as rare as leprechauns. I’m not just referring to the celebrities. Take my book club for a random example. In a group of women ranging in age from forty-nine to sixty-four, everyone colors their hair. We are seven shades of brown.

My guess is, if you attended all the book club meetings in all of L.A. County you’d be hard pressed to find a grey-head (or anyone who hasn’t read The Goldfinch). In L.A., we are dyed-in-the-wool dyers.

So when Diane Keaton turned up at the Golden Globe Awards this year with long grey locks, she could not have gotten more attention if she had appeared on the red carpet in her underpants.

Diane’s outing as a grey-head inspired this survey, which is intended for L.A. women or men of a certain age who dye. Please participate (even if you live elsewhere) and feel free to add scintillating personal details. Results will be tablulated and revealed in a future blog.

1. If you did not currently dye your hair, what color would it be? a) The color it was when you were a virgin b) Diane Keaton grey c)Anderson Cooper white d)You have no idea

2. At what age will you consider letting your hair go grey? a)Next week b) When I’m seventy c)When I’m eighty d)When I accept a Golden Globe Award on behalf of Woody Allen or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first

3. What percentage of the L.A. women you know, between the ages of forty and seventy, have untreated grey hair? a) 0-5% b)5-10% c)10-20% d)More than that (if you select d you will be red-flagged for credibility)

4. When you ask your significant other if you should go grey, what is his (or her) response? a)Without looking up from the sports section, they say, “No.” b)They look up from the sports section, examine you briefly and say, “Absolutely not.” c)”Sure honey, that’s a great idea. And no, you don’t look fat in those pants.” d)”Wait, do you dye your hair?”

5. When you see a woman in L.A. with grey hair, do you think she is a)brave b)foolhardy c)a tourist d)way older than you

6. If you stopped coloring your hair, the amount of money you’d save annually would it be enough to buy a)Shoes (at Neiman’s, not DSW) b)A used Toyota c)A Lamborghini Veneto Roadster c)One of the smaller Hawaiian islands

7.If you stopped coloring your hair, the amount of salon time you saved annually would be enough to a)Make lasagna b)Binge watch season 2 of Breaking Bad c) c)Read La Recherche du Temps Perdu in the original French d)Walk to Chicago

Thanks in advance for your responses!

This Week In Birdwatching

January 30th, 2014

OWL-Eagle-Owl-46482007This week in the news there were not just one, but TWO newsworthy, bird-related D.U.I.s.

One drunk perp was a guy who, when the police pursued him, abandoned his vehicle and hid in a tree. When the police approached his hiding place he called out, “I’m an owl!”

It will come as no surprise to you that the cops did not buy this.

In the other case, the drunk driver had his pet parrot in the car with him, who blew the whistle on her hammered owner, squawking, “He’s drunk!” repeatedly. The police did buy this, and made their arrest.

Now, while I would never condone drunk driving, pretending to be an owl is not, by itself, a harmful act. The smarter move, of course, would be to perch in a tree in your own backyard, rather than in one that you need a Buick to get to. But I’m sure the guy learned this lesson and will apply it in the future when he is inspired (or called upon) to impersonate a bird.

But the parrot thing is pretty stupid. I would never go driving with that (or any other) parrot even if I was as sober as Mitt. That is what I call looking for trouble.

I mean, apparently the authorities consider birds credible witnesses. The cops took Polly at her word, without considering that her command of the language might be imperfect. Maybe she says “He’s drunk!” all the time, regardless of her owner’s condition. Did they consider that? Maybe to the bird those words mean the same as “Did you bring the Triscuits?” or “Must you always listen to REO Speedwagon?” Who knows?

I wouldn’t want to risk doing time because of my feathered, so-called friend with a big mouth and a limited vocabulary. When I drive (which I don’t, but if I did) I am definitely leaving my parrot at home (if I had one, which I don’t).

Eyeful Tower Bombs My PariSelfie!

January 1st, 2014


DMV vs. France

January 1st, 2014

DriversLicenseImage 3One day recently I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to surrender my driver’s license. This was not because I had one too many DUIs but because, in the ten years since I was last required to renew in person, my vision had declined to illegal status. I knew there was no way I’d pass the vision test; I was DMV toast.

In fact I hadn’t driven in a long time. I kept the license updated for ID, or for potential emergencies such as, say, escaping death by wildfire. (I could drive to safety if I had to, although not without imperiling other vehicles on my route.) Still, it felt sadly final, giving up that little rectangle and the privileges it had entitled me to for forty years. It was in this wistful mood that I entered the jaws of the DMV.

As you know, DMV workers are kind of like the French in that they are notoriously irritable. The French have no excuse: they get to live in France, for God’s sake. The DMV workers do have to sit under fluorescent lighting in an unattractive space for several hours a day. But hen, so do most people, and most people are NOT as crabby as the lady who was delivering information at the Hollywood DMV on that day.

I told her I wanted an ID, not a license renewal, and I explained why. She was almost barking when she gave me a form to fill out and instructed me to “return to the red carpet” when it was complete. As a veteran of many Hollywood award events, these instructions were momentarily confusing. Clarity came when I noticed I was standing on a filthy, maroon square of rug.

“Will do,” I perkily told the woman whom I had mentally nick-named Miss Gulch. (I think that was the first time I have ever said that to anyone outside of an e-mail.)

Finding myself too impaired to fill out paperwork stating that I was too impaired to drive, I pulled a device from my bag that is both magnifier and flashlight in one. Even with this friendly tool visual tasks are slow: it took me twenty minutes to get back to the red(ish) carpet, giving Miss Gulch lot of time ratchet up her impatience.

“So, on the voter registration question,” I started to ask Miss Gulch, ”I already am…”

“Just say NO on line 18, “ she said, her tone suggesting that the top of her head was preparing to blow off. Rather than test her patience further by searching for my reading device and then for line 18, I gave up on the voter thing.

“Now go sit down,” Miss G. said.

“I have an appointment…”

“Yes we KNOW. Go sit DOWN,” she said, at which point she actually lifted her hands and her gaze heavenward as in, “God save me from the cretins.”

My next stop was window 13, which was manned by a guy who had also been trained at the DMV School of Fuck ‘Em. Speaking in the most unctuous tone I could muster, I told him I needed an ID only, as my vision had nose-dived. He checked my papers and informed me I’d put my date of birth on the wrong line.

“Oh, sorry. Where’s the correct line?”

“Top right.”

Without my device, I was lost. “Sorry, where?”

He dropped his head, cradling it in his hands, apparently praying for mercy. (These DMVers talk to God a lot.) Then he took the paper, held it up a couple inches from my face, tapping his finger fiercely on the appropriate spot.

When I had written my DOB close enough to where it was supposed be, he said, “Okay. That’s it. Go to the camera. You’re done.”


“TO THE CAMERA. Window 23. OVER THERE.” Poor guy. Only 11a.m. and I’d already given him cause to up his meds.

I just got my new ID in the mail. In the picture, I am smiling like I just won the lottery. That is because, on that day at the DMV, I knew that in three weeks time I was going to be in France, a place where the people are much nicer.

The Goldfinch

January 1st, 2014

GOLDFINCHImage 2If you are a fan of Donna Tartt‘s book, “The Goldfinch,” it’s pretty fun to go see the painting that is the star of that novel, up close and personal at The Frick Collection in NYC. It’s only there for a couple more weeks…

1. Everybody in the book store (including me) is buying postcards (pictured here) for their book club.

2. Tip: don’t check your coat. It’ll take you longer to retrieve it that it did for you to tour the galleries.

3. The exhibit (fifteen paintings by Dutch masters) also features that other picture, you know, the Vermeer with the girl and the pearl, plus a couple Rembrandts and so on. But, as I was immersed in Tartt-land at the time, I was all about that bird…

4. I (emoticon) NYC.

The Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street
New York, New York 10021

Green Eggs and What A Ham!

October 1st, 2013

I once thought I might trick my children into eating green food by reading them Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham while serving them an egg dish chockablock with green vegetables. (See the recipe below.) Well, they loved the book.

What was I thinking? At that time, my children only ate white food: spaghetti, mashed potatoes, milk, and chicken and bread. No amount of high-minded literature would change their food-i-tude.

Turns out Ted Cruz also thought he could use that charming children’s book as a tool to fool. Apparently he figured if he read that text during that filibuster last week he would trick us into liking him.

But just as my children are no fools, neither are we.

To paraphrase the good Dr., we do not like him here or there.We do not like him anywhere. Read More »


September 30th, 2013

My husband is an avid football fan, and in an effort to spend more couch time with him, I’m trying to get a handle on the sport.

Last Monday, for example, I struggled to remember (rather than ask Tom for the eight-hundredth time) whether that night’s game was pro or college ball. (I recently learned that there is an order to this, rules as to who plays when.)

I’m developing a system for keeping it straight. If the teams are called the Packers, the Saints or the Steelers, I’m golden: I know it’s pro. If they are things like Badgers or Ducks or other varmints, I smell college. But I was thrown recently when I learned of school teams called the Tide and the Trojans. Maybe there are so many damn college tams they ran out of appropriate animals. Nobody wants to be called the Sloths or the Titmice, so they eschewed the whole critter thing and opted for macho names invoking the ocean’s motion and condoms. Read More »

What’s Worse?

September 12th, 2013

The other day I went to my doctor to get an injection in my left eye.

This is standard treatment for patients with macular degeneration or, in my case, PXE, to prevent or stop a fluid leak that damages central vision. I’d had many such shots, but not for a while: I’d forgotten what they are like.

As I waited my turn for the needle, I mentally whined about what I was in for. I don’t know about you, but I have found that getting an eye shot does not pop up when you Google “fun stuff to do in LA.” Read More »


August 1st, 2013

For those of you who would just as soon forget how old you are, AARP has taken on the job of reminding you. Using privacy-invasion skills that surpass even the NSA’s, the Association for the Annoyance of Retired People—you’re pretty sure that’s what the acronym stands for—knows your age and address before you’ve even heard of them.

How does AARP know where we live? The must have that FBI equipment that can locate a concealed criminal by reading his/her body heat. That’d be a no-brainer tool for finding menopausal women.

Whatever their method, the day you turn 55, not a minute later, you receive a letter from them welcoming you to the age when everything turns to shit. You see the word “retirement” on the envelope along with images of laughing people who are much older than you believe you are and you tear the letter into tiny pieces which flutter to the ground along with your expletives. Read More »