Blah Blah Blog by Jessica Harper by Jessica
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Archive for September, 2011


Saturday, September 24th, 2011

The Aussies really have got it going on. In addition to having cool accents, kangaroos and Hugh Jackman, they now have Manland at Ikea.

Manland is day care for retail-phobic men. A man cave offering free hot dogs, video games, non-stop sports on TV, pinball machines and a foosball table, it keeps the dudes occupied while the ladies shop until they drop. Actually, the store supplies the shoppers with buzzers that go off after thirty minutes, lest the gals should get carried away and forget to fetch their guys.

I wish the Ikea near me would pick up on this. For that matter, I wish this service were available at all the stores I frequent. If the supermarket had dude care I’d happily stick Tom in there while I’m food shopping. His efforts to help are sweet, but with the time it takes to explain where the mayonnaise is and to send him back for the correct dishwashing liquid and to explain why we need both plastic wrap and parchment paper, well, I’m better off is he’s playing foosball.

I also wish there was a Ladyland, a female equivalent in certain stores, a chick cave, so when your husband drags you to the sale at Big Five you don’t have to watch him trying on eight pairs of running shoes or fondling tennis rackets. While he’s getting in touch with his inner jock, Ladyland would offer us women free chardonnay, a masseuse, a fortune teller, reruns of The Good Wife on TV and several iPads featuring the Angry Birds app.

You know what would happen. Tom’s buzzer would go off after a half an hour and I’d utter words so unlikely, he’d question my sanity: “Honey, please don’t make me leave the Big Five.”



Friday, September 16th, 2011

I was in NYC last week on the 11th, and I approached the day cautiously, not really sure how to behave or what to expect on the tenth anniversary of an event that rocked the world, but New York especially. I looked out on the mean, scrappy city and felt a tenderness for it, sympathy for its re-opened wound.

Although I felt like I really should visit a cathedral or host a memorial brunch or at least observe a moment of candlelit silence, I had the rare opportunity of going shopping with my daughter, and I grabbed it.

The mall in Columbus Circle was teeming with shoppers. But just outside J.Crew, there was an exhibit of six-foot photos of firefighters, then and now, with video interviews. We paused. Elizabeth, who was 12 in 2001, stared, listened and went with it, recalling a letter of gratitude she had written back then to some first responders. She seemed to feel, maybe for the first time in her young adult life, that emotional connection to an historical event that comes only from having been present for it. She’d witnessed and was shaken by 9/11, so she owns a piece of it.

We shook ourselves loose from the exhibit and went to J. Crew for some retail therapy, but it was hard get a shopping buzz going. All those stacks of sweaters seemed stunningly irrelevant. We hit the streets.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows were covered with the long lists of all those Americans killed on 9/11. Elizabeth found the name of her friend Carrie’s sister who had worked at the World Trade Center. Elizabeth was riveted, eyes stuck on the name. When she had written that letter to the firefighters, she’d had no idea a future friendship would bring her a little closer to the horrors of that day.

In spite of the pervasive sadness of the afternoon, we managed to buy Elizabeth some caramel colored boots (the Banana Republic was having a killer sale) and then went back to her apartment, where her boyfriend was on the couch watching football, right where we’d left him. The Packers were duking it out, a second pizza was en route, there was talk of going to a movie.

As I observed the details of my daughter’s life, I thought how that life has been irrevocably shaped by events large and small, and how precious it is.


Who’s Comfort Food Is This Anyway?

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

My daughter Nora is going to Florence on Monday for a semester abroad. Her last two years in Providence made her distant enough from L.A., but Italy qualifies as S.F.A.. (That’s So Far Away, not Saks Fifth Avenue.)

To calm Nora during the pre-departure countdown I’m fulfilling her every food-related wish. I made her oatmeal cookies (using vegan bogus butter since Nora’s off dairy at the moment). What’s better comfort food than milk and cookies? (Almond milk, in Nora’s case.)

I didn’t stop there. “Can I make you a sandwich? Any fave dishes you want before you go? What do you want for dinner? How ‘bout some stuff to take on the plane? Anything, I’ll make anything.” When it became clear that I was getting on Nora’s nerves, rather than soothing them, I made a note-to-self to back off. She is going to Italy, after all. (I’m told they have food there.)

As most of you know, you won’t often catch me aggressively offering to cook like this. You might be wondering just who in this picture is the one who’s on edge. That would make you an astute observer of maternal behavior. I admit it: I’m jumpy. My nest has been half full all summer, and going back to empty is freaking me out, hence the bizarre hyperactivity in the kitchen. It is actually Tom and I who will be needing comfort food in the days ahead.

If you see us driving home from the airport on a Monday, you can be sure of two things. 1. Our tears will not be related to the traffic jam on the 405. 2. When we get home, we’re heading straight for the cookie jar.