Blah Blah Blog by Jessica Harper by Jessica
decorative flourish

Archive for the ‘Who/What/Where’ Category


Thursday, December 11th, 2014

pinkxmastree40007It can be argued that there are positive things about empty nesting, but one thing in the negative column is that, when the kids leave home, they take with them many of your favorite holidays.

My little girls and I used to spend a full week prepping for Valentine’s Day. We’d buy dozens of drugstore cards with rhymey, lovey messages, to distribute to their classmates. The kids assigned the cards painstakingly, careful to avoid giving those with mushier sentiments (e.g. “For you I pine, for you I balsam”) to boys.

They brought home lacey, sequiny school craft projects. We baked heart-shaped cookies. And on the day, the girls would select clothing from the (substantial) pink and red section of their closet. I’d put on my heart-shaped earrings and drive them to school, with the excitement and chatter in the car at a holiday high.

Tom and I still acknowledge Valentines Day—he gives me flowers and I give him chocolate. But how I miss that pre-holiday activity, as well as the aftermath, when the kids, all sugar-buzzed, sorted through the bag of cards they’d received.

In Los Angeles, St. Patrick’s Day is not as raucous it is in New York, with their in-your-face parade and people cheerfully vomiting in the gutters. Here, the holiday might have slipped by uncelebrated had it not been for the presence of leprechauns in our house.

According to our children, if you didn’t wear green that day, you could suffer a punitive pinch from a leprechaun. I have never had much green going on in my closet, and I probably never will unless somebody declares it the new black. I did own a Kelly green Beatles t-shirt, which I invariably forgot to wear until I was reminded by a few fierce butt-pinches.

I shamelessly used this holiday to encourage the kids to eat green food. Claiming it would give them internal protection from the leprechauns’ mischief, I offered them green eggs and ham and pea soup for dinner. Eyeing the food with disgust, the girls told me the pinching had ended at sundown and they’d prefer to select from their usual menu of white food, thank you very much.

Since the girls left home, the leprechauns have apparently lost interest in us. Still, I sometimes wear a ring with a green gemstone and eat some arugula, just in case.

On the Fourth of July, we’d often get uber-American and go to a sporting event, like a baseball game, with fireworks after. I admit I may have spent four innings reading The New York Times, but as boring as I found our country’s favorite pastime, there was nothing so sweet as beholding the girls’ awestruck faces lit by fireworks.

This year, the only fireworks were those that occurred when Tom and I had a lively discussion about his reluctance to clean the grill.

But the holiday I most mourn the passing of is Halloween.

It was all about the costumes, from the witch and ghost phase of the early years, to the princess variations that followed. Closer to adolescence they got wicked. Nora’s low-cut angel outfit was detailed with body piercings and tattoos while Elizabeth’s devil had red fishnet tights and a wig like Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman. The following year, Elizabeth dressed as the ultimate hooker, Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but the costume bombed—none of her classmates knew who she was.

I was mentally reviewing their costume history recently, when I was alone in our apartment in New York on Halloween, recalling how I had loved helping the kids procure all those costumes, then walking them from door to door, helping them identify and discard treats that were raisin-related.

Loud knocking snapped me out of my reverie. I opened the door to find a young girl dressed as Holly Golightly, precisely as Elizabeth had been all those years ago, right down to the tiara. I gasped and gushed about the coincidence. The kid and her mom (perhaps thrown by my excitement level) grabbed their lollipops and beat it, leaving me to retreat into the apartment with the ghosts of Halloweens past. (I have written more about that here.)

Thanksgivings in our family have been fractured in recent years because Tom and I have needed to attend to our elderly parents in two different cities. That gathering will be restored one day. It’ll be sadly diminished in size as we lose our elders, but it’s certain to expand again in years to come.

Meanwhile, one holiday remains intact: Christmas. That day it’s just the four of us. With its once-a-year cinnamon roll, personalized stockings hung, mass destruction of wrapping paper and a soundtrack provided by the Barenaked Holidays CD, it is as it has always been.
Its days re numbered, of course. Soon the girls will have their own cozy Christmas mornings with their own families. But for now, Christmas is a wonderful thing. It’s coming up soon, and I intend to deck the halls.

(This p;iece was originally published at





Bee and Thistle Redux

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

BeeAndThistle2014 2

It’s not just a bed and breakfast, it’s a bed and BREAKFAST.

I have written about the Bee and Thistle Inn before, but it bears re-visiting. On a cold and soon to be snowy Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I am ensconced in a room that is painstakingly designed to charm, and I’ve just eaten way too much of innkeeper Linnea Rufo’s home made frittata, croissants, toast, bacon, granola, and banana bread. (#YOLO.)

I heard a guy at the next table say, “It’s just like Paris.” I’d say the croissants are, but not the vibe, which is just what you want it to be: uber-cozy and vintage New England all the way.

If you happen to be in Old Lyme, Connecticut some time in your life, stop by this inn. You will be a happier person when you leave.

Click here for more: The Bee and Thistle Inn


Three 60-ish Chicks On A Beach Talking

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Elizabeth-AudreyphotoJessica: “So we’re going maybe ten miles an hour on that tiny road in the woods, and some crazy environmentalist pops out of the bushes and starts yelling at us for driving a Suburban. We try to tell him it was Hertz’s screw-up and that we are actually nice people and we’re against fracking and everything but he bangs on the car with his fist, so angry he’s, like, spitting…”

Susan: “Yikes!”

Jessica: “Of course he’s right, those cars are a scourge, but anyway, here’s what’s bugging me. He looked exactly like this character actor whose name I can’t remember. It’s driving me nuts. I think he was in that famous old movie with Rock Hudson.”

Susan: “Which movie? You mean like Pillow Talk or something?”

Jessica: “No, one of Rock’s serious ones.”

Susan: “Ladies, I know it’s against policy, but next time we go to the beach, I think maybe one of us should bring a smart phone.”

Roxanne: “Yeah, I thought of that earlier, but then I forgot.”

Susan: “Okay, so what did the guy look like?”

Jessica: “You know, grey hair. I think in the Rock movie he played an angel or something…”

Susan: “A character actor with grey hair? That narrows it down to about half the membership of SAG. Can you be more specific? ”

Roxanne: “Was it Ernest Borgnine maybe? Or William Shallert?”

Jessica: “No. Who’s William Shallert?”

Susan: “Was it that older actor in The Godfather, the one who had a real-life affair with whatever-her-name-is, that actress from Rocky?”

Jessica: “I mean, there were eight old-guy philanderers in The Godfather but no. Wait, do you mean he had an affair with whoever-she-is, Coppola’s sister? ”

Susan: “Yes! I saw her once in a restaurant in Baltimore. She was wearing black harem pants. What is her damn name?”

Jessica: “You know what? I think it wasn’t a Rock Hudson movie actually. I think it might have starred that other dreamboat…the one who was in Breakfast At Tiffany’s…”

Roxanne: “I want to be Audrey Hepburn in my next life.”

Susan: “Get in line.”

Jessica: “You know, Elizabeth was obsessed with Audrey at a very young age, when she was seven or eight. She was even Audrey for Halloween. We went down to that vintage store on Ventura—I used to take the kids there every October for costume detailing. She got the long black gloves, the tiara, the pearls, the cigarette holder, the whole iconic thing.”

Roxanne: “So sweet.”

Jessica: “But get this. Elizabeth-slash-Audrey went to school on Halloween all proud and excited about her costume and guess what. Her peers had no idea who she was. Who Audrey Hepburn was.”

Roxanne: “Come on!”

Jessica: “She was sort of crushed. Okay, but wait. So cut to Halloween, 2013. Elizabeth of course is now a grownup living in Brooklyn and the days of taking my kids trick-or-treating are long over.

I’m alone in the apartment, sitting near the door in my droopy witch hat, waiting to hand out these overpriced lollipops I got at Dean and DeLuca. I’m thinking how I used to love walking the girls from door to door, to see their ecstasy over all that free candy, their little hands sticky, Tom and I assuring them that the scary ghost we pass is not real, carrying their jackets in case they got cold, helping them identify and discard any treats that have raisins in them….

So I’m waiting, all achy with these memories, and I go out to take the recycling to the bin and I step squarely in a giant pile of dog shit which my neighbor’s bulldog has deposited in the hall.”

Roxanne: “You’re kidding me!”

Susan: “Jesus!”

Jessica: “I know, I almost burst into tears but then kids start showing up so I pull myself together. Here comes Spiderman and Cinderella and so on. Then who shows up but a mom with her daughter who is wearing the exact same Audrey costume Elizabeth wore back in the ‘90s!”

Roxanne: “Whoa! Time warp!”

Susan: “Cigarette holder? Tiara?”

Jessica: “Yep, and I gasp and start gushing about how my daughter had worn the same thing and wasn’t Audrey Hepburn the greatest and blah blah blah…I think they were a little taken aback by my excitement level.

The mom told me that none of her daughter’s friends knew who Audrey Hepburn was either.”

Roxanne: “Oh, jeez…”

Susan: “Do you think a day will come when the general population will forget who Audrey is? She’ll be phased out of our collective memory?”

Roxanne: “Naah. Audrey? No way. Me, they’ll forget. Not Audrey.”

Jessica: “I will not be forgotten by that guy in the woods today. He will always remember me as that awful lady driving a Suburban.”

Susan: “Oh right, wait, what were we talking about before Audrey?”

Roxanne: “Who can remember?”




Friday, July 25th, 2014

Lumosity2So, I left my retainer in a cup by the kitchen sink to soak. Then I went to adjust the AC but I couldn’t remember where my glasses were. By the time I found them, I’d forgotten why I needed them. I decided to do an alternate task while waiting to recall why I had my glasses on, so I loaded the dishwasher with dishes clustered around the sink, forgetting that the retainer was in the cup.

Still later, in a frenzied search for the expensive retainer, I found it in the bottom of the dishwasher. Luckily I’d forgotten to switch the cycle from ‘Rinse’ to ‘Sanitary’ so the retainer retained its shape, but this episode and many like it inspired me to sign up for Lumosity.

Lumosity is an online brain-training outfit. After sign-up, they send you a daily package of games designed to improve memory and mental flexibility and, you know, just make you smarter. They take you on as a dull blade and sharpen you right up.

To me, the first brain teaser was, why did they call themselves Lumosity when the word ‘luminosity’ is actually in the dictionary and would fit the bill nicely? Why further confuse those of us who are under the weather mentally by dropping a crucial syllable?

I suspect they named this program before they themselves had trained. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to bother the other 2,999,999 other users besides me so I am moving on.

Day 1: In the first game I was asked to remember the names of five people and what they ordered for lunch. Not even when I was a waitress in Provincetown for one month in 1969 were these skills demanded of me, but I guess there’s no time like the present to acquire them.

I did not do well on this game, but frankly I thought Maria looked just like Cathy, precluding accurate identification, so I think that one’s on Lumosity. Also I got too worked up judging their menu choices: Who orders fries and water for lunch? (Someone whose name I can’t recall.)

Day 2: Today started poorly. Not only was I still unsure about the Maria-slash-Cathy thing, but there was also the question of which was John and which was Bob, not to mention the third guy.

Also there was a new game where you have to feed (click on) and keep track of seven constantly swimming fish. If you double-feed a fish you are made aware of it by a most unpleasant buzzer.

All I will say is, it’s a good thing I don’t work at a zoo.

Day 3: I forgot that the piano tuner guy was coming this morning so he interrupted me in mid-game—the fish again—but I’m pretty sure that I’d have done very well had I played undisturbed.

Things went less well after that when I had to guide different colored trains to their matching-colored stations via tracks that intersected and—oh, it’s too hard to explain. Suffice it to say that if you mess up, the train explodes and an alarm goes off, as if to alert passengers that their lives are in the hands of a nincompoop.

I am pleased to report that I saved a few trains from destruction—yes, in the nick of time but still. Others met a different fate but nonetheless I am certain that I am smarter than I was on Day 1.

They asked me again about Maria and Cathy et al (whom I have seen more of this week than I see my closest friends in a month)and I have got this now. I remember their names via outfit details. Cathy favors a cargo shirt while Maria takes a more feminine approach. Next I will zero in on Bob and John and the other one whose name is on the tip of my tongue.

Day 4: Just as I am feeling intelligent re: Cathy and Maria I am derailed by that f—ing train game again, scoring worse than I did before. I think that may have been due to low caffeine levels though. After coffee, I only double-fed two fish.

Day 5: While I was able to congratulate myself for remembering my dentist appointment this morning, my high spirits were dampened by a new game.

Is the purple square the same image as the one you saw one second ago? Or was that maybe a red triangle? Your score is not only based on accuracy but on speed.

You’d think this would be a no-brainer but, easy for you to say, oh, judgey one.

Sometimes your brain just wants to say ‘yes’ when it should say ‘no,’ which, if you have reviewed your past sexual partners you already know.

I know I will get better at this game in time. I also now know who Bob is due to his wristwatch, which John does not wear. I’m solid on the third guy, too. I’ve had no trouble remembering that his name is Richard since I noted his resemblance to Richard Gere.

I’m obviously getting smarter by the minute. By Labor Day? E=mc^2, baby.

By the way, I get that admonitory red line under ‘lumosity’ every time I type it. Spell check’s itchin’ for the real word just as much as I am. Just sayin’.



The Feminist Mystique

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

First I read that feminist icon Gloria Steinem had celebrated her 80th birthday. Then I read that certain young female celebrities were saying in interviews that they were NOT feminists.

I found the juxtaposition of these two news stories mind-bending…read more in my article The Feminist Mystique at Purple CloverLindsayPowerTools_2….

(Also visit Lindsay duPont, whose art you see at right.)


Spring Bombs My Selfie!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014



Thou Shalt Delegate

Friday, April 18th, 2014

DiamondCleaningphotoYesterday I saw some online clips of Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, interviewing a rabbi promoting a book.

Introducing him, Robertson said, “What is it about Jewish people that makes them prosper financially? You almost never find Jews tinkering with their cars or mowing their lawns on the weekends. That’s what Daniel Lapin says and there’s a good reason for that and it lies within the Business Secrets Of The Bible.”

This caught my attention.

For one thing, my husband Tom, who is Jewish and prosperous, owns a cherry red ’67 Mustang. This is not the car he depends on to go to work, or anywhere else for that matter. That is because it is utterly undependable. The Mustang requires tender, loving tinkering before every outing. Tom does not perform this task.

For another thing, Tom is obsessed with lawns. Every inch of our property is carpeted, not with sensibly fashionable, drought-tolerant succulents, but with solid green. Tom, however, does not cut grass.

Now, I’m only a mid-level Christian, never a great Sunday school student. I admit it, I skimmed the Bible, so I must have missed its “business secrets.” Tom apparently did not, at least not the one that reads something like, “Thou shalt not tinker with vehicles on Sundays. Summon AAA.” Or the one that was likely in Deuteronomy or one of the other books I skipped: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s lawn mower. Seek and ye shall find a gardener.”

See, Daniel Lapin posits that one reason the Jews are prosperous is that they don’t waste time on irrelevant tasks. As Robertson put it later in the clip, with nodding agreement from Lapin, Jews spend their time “polishing diamonds, not fixing their cars.”

I had to take issue with that remark. My husband is very successful and, as I have said, avoids chores, but I have never seen him polish anything except the hood ornament on his Mustang. Maybe I’d missed something.

I paused the show, took off the lovely diamond studs Tom had given me for my fiftieth birthday and showed them to him. “Tom, if I asked you to polish my diamonds, would you know what to do?”
“Of course,” Tom said. “I’d know exactly what to do. I’d take them to the store where they do that stuff and tell ‘em to do it.”

Pat must not be familiar with that other biblical advice that my husband adheres to: “Thou shalt delegate pretty much whenever possible.”

I resumed watching the clips, to hear Lapin say that God hates retirement, adding, “There is no word in Hebrew for ‘retire.’ The general rule is that if there’s no Hebrew word for it, it’s a bad idea.” He said another example of such a word was ‘adolescent.’

Yeah, I thought, retirement isn’t for everybody. But adolescence kind of is. Who goes from childhood to adulthood without a loop-de-loop through the gnarly phase? Not to offer a word for something so universal doesn’t seem fair.

Reading my mind, Lapin added that there is no word in Hebrew for ‘fair’ either. He feels that it’s fair that there’s no ‘fair,’ that when used in the context of having to “pay one’s fair share” of taxes, the word belongs in the “bad idea” doghouse with ‘retire’ and ‘adolescent’.

I couldn’t help but wonder what that meant for the other uses of ‘fair,’ as in being of fair complexion, like Cate Blanchett or my Aunt Lindsay, or as in fair weather, such as we have ad nauseam in Los Angeles. What about its use in baseball, where a ball is fair if–I’m not sure what, or as in a state fair, a lively gathering in the Midwest where people eat things like fried ice cream?

At that point in the Pat ‘n Dan show I was starting to feel like a Neptunian watching people from Uranus. I switched it off and shut down my computer.

It was getting late anyway. It was time to go polish those diamonds.


Flu-flyer’s Redux

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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).