Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shyness: A Powerful Thing

Lately, Time Magazine is my source of all things SJG.  A few months back, Time reminded me of the joys of Anxiety.  A life-long nervous wreck, I'd forgotten how much fun it could be to worry myself sick.  And now, Time tells me that Shyness, another life-long issue, is Important and Powerful.  Woo-hoo!  Who knew?  Turns out, I've got lots in common with folks like Gandhi, Moses ("Let my people go -- so I can be alone, which is what I prefer"), Bill Gates, personal fav Hillary Clinton, and Mother Teresa!  Man, am I in good company.  My earliest memories are of me sitting in the classroom, too shy to say anything and praying I'm not called on to answer a question.  No surprise, Anxiety and Shyness are clever co-dependents; a tag team of tsouris-makers. And yet, if you had the pleasure of meeting me now, you wouldn't peg me as shy.  At my 20th high school reunion, I had no problem going up to people who didn't remember me and saying, "Hi, how ya doin'?"  I had no trouble dancing like a lunatic, standard procedure any time music kicks in, to the point where a gal who's known me since Warner Avenue days said, "Wow, someone's come out of her shell!"  Trust me, it wasn't easy.  It's all about the behavior modification.  I just kept forcing myself into situations that terrified me.  It's been one long social experiment, with varying results.  At this point, I'm a combo platter.  I'm one from Column A, one from Column B.  There are still things that bring out the SJG shyness.  Public speaking.  Big groups of people I don't know.  I'll never be as outgoing as Muhammad Ali.  I'll never be the uber-shy gal I was way back when.  I'm an in-betweener.  Part introvert.  Part extrovert.  Part Hillary Clinton.  Part Marie Antoinette.  But Time Magazine tells me I'm okay the way I am, and that's good enough for me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Is He Or Isn't He?

"Are you here for Egypt or Israel?" the woman asked.  I had barely walked in the door and already, things had heated up.  Before I could answer, the lovely Yael, who had the pleasure of driving in my luxurious auto, said, "Israel."  The woman pointed, "Down the hall."  So no one should be offended, UCLA was hosting two conferences in the same location.  Egypt occupied one side of the building, Israel the other.  Happy to report it was a peaceful day.  Of course, you gather hundreds of Jews in one room, where there aren't enough seats, there's going to be a little tension, not to mention, a lot of fressing.  While professor-types spoke eloquently about Israeli culture, attendees nibbled muffins, bagels and fruit, to keep their strength up till lunch, where the main draw was Howard Gordon, co-creator of "Homeland," adapted from an Israeli series.  I'm a late-to-the-party "Homeland" fanatic and hung on his every word, hoping he'd give up some spoilers on Season 2, but no such luck.  Questions in the audience ranged from "What's in it for Israel?" to "Why isn't the show about Israel?" to "Is he or isn't it?" Howard Gordon smiled.  "You mean, a terrorist?  I can't answer that." He could've answered it, but, since that question is the key to the entire series, he'd be giving away the whole megillah.  All in all, the SJG came away from the day, organized by my dear friend Maura, enlightened and a little bit full.  Did I really need to eat that big cookie?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Walk, Don't Run

Unless you're being chased
Most days, between 2ish and 3ish, I call my dear friend Cheryl and we share a one-word exchange.  "Walkies?" I say.  "Yes," she answers.  A few minutes later, Dusty and Scout run to each other in slow motion, ecstatic to sniff each other.  It's a thing of beauty to behold, a love that can't be denied.  Our walkies are a wonderful diversion in my daily routine of writing/I don't feel like writing.  Cheryl and I trade pithy thoughts, dissect the state of the union, lambast the politicians, and basically, philosophize about this n' that.  We stroll down the peaceful sidewalks of Sherman Oaks, doing our best to remain upright, which is sometimes more difficult than you'd think.  Friday's walk presented a few unexpected obstacles that upped the adrenalin, significantly.   First came the roving pack of hungry wolves, eager to snack on our doggies.  Oh, wait, sorry, that's not what happened.  Pardon my slight exaggeration.  What actually happened was this:  two dogs, a big one and a mid-size, broke out of their backyard, and came charging at us, which, I admit, scared the eff'n ka-ka out of me. Since entering the elite club of dog owners, nearly 10 years ago, I've only encountered this situation once or twice, and each time, I've yelled, "Oh, @#$%!" and gone straight into panic mode.  When it comes to panic, I'm an expert.  This time I was more proactive.  As the mid-sized dog tried to make a bagel out of Dusty's bum, I went ape-sh*t, started yelling, "No!  No!," did some fancy foot work and took off with Dusty across the street.  Cheryl handled things much more calmly.  She taught preschool for years and knows how to pacify wild beasts.  But don't you fret none.  In the making of this cinematic blog, no animals or humans were permanently harmed.  Of course, my sense of well-being may have been bruised.  And then, on our way home, Cheryl went all Stunt Man, somersaulting down the sidewalk just to prove she still has what it takes, and skinned her elbow.  For today's walkies, I'm taking a cab.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Drunk At The Wheel

They do look a little farshikkert here
The big news in the SJG house yesterday? Nothing to do with politics or sports or even the fact Demi Moore is right down the street at Sherman Oaks Hospital.  No, the big news:  "Wheel of Fortune's" Pat Sajak revealed that he and Vanna used to get hammered at a Mexican restaurant during two and a half-hour breaks while prizes were loaded onto the set in Burbank. "Vanna and I would go across the street and have two or three or six (margaritas), and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet," Sajak said in an interview.  We are obsessed with this story, not just because it's an OMG of over-sharing and why are you telling the world this now and did you clear it with Vanna first.  We are obsessed because, in the eyes of the first born, Pat Sajak's margarita admission proves, once and for all, that... well, there's no way to phrase this delicately, so I'm just going to put it out there... Pat and Vanna have done it.  Yesterday was Billy's  huge "I told you so" moment.  He even called his father at work to share his glee:  "Did you hear about Pat and Vanna!  They used to black out together.  This is basically a guarantee that they used to @#$%."  Hubby remains neutral on the matter.  This morning, I tried to clarify a few things with our son.  "Just because they got drunk doesn't mean they did it," I argued.  "Do I have to spell it out for you, Mother?" "I'd like to buy a vowel." "I'll give you a U."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To The Left, To The Left

This morning I woke up to this on "The Today Show":  "Researchers have now discovered what they think is a link between left-handedness and some serious medical conditions."  Wonderful.  Fellow leftie Savannah Guthrie went on to say, "Everyone knows some of the greatest thinkers, entertainers and athletes in history were southpaws. But scientists have been studying why approximately 10% of the population favors the left hand over the right, and it turns out being left-handed isn't always a sign of greatness."  Savannah!  How dare you!  "The latest research is showing a variety of brain conditions are more common in lefties."  Brain conditions?  Tell me more!  "Language. dyslexia, stuttering, autism, as well as mood disorders, such as depression..." I raised my hand.  Here! "... and schizophrenia."  I lowered my hand.  Not here.

Savannah was just getting started.  "Some studies have shown left-handed people earn salaries on average 10% lower than righties."  That's not good.  "And though it's partly due to genetics, scientists now believe left-handedness may be caused by mothers who were stressed or depressed while pregnant."  I raised my hand again.  Here!  My mother had double pneumonia and chicken pox when she was pregnant with me, and had to chase after my two demonic brothers (and I say that with love).  No wonder I'm a lefty.  But what about my left-handed eldest, watching the report with me?  "Were you stressed when you were pregnant with me?" he asked, pointedly.  "I don't like your tone, young man," I said. "Just answer the question, Mother."  "Well, I threw up for nine straight months, with no days off.  What do you think?" "Thanks a lot," he said, and stormed off to work.

At least,  Savannah did share some good news.  "Five of our last seven presidents were lefties.  So were four of the five designers of the mac computer.  One in four Apollo astronauts used their left hand, that's far above the earthly average, and 100% of Today Show co-hosts are left-handed."  Woo-hoo!  The SJG walks among the greats!  And then, finally, this:  "Lefties are more artistic generally than right-handed people and make better lovers."  Well, duh.  Tell me something I don't already know.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Face Time

Dad and Paula
The other day, I called Paula, my dad's girlfriend (every 90 year old man should have at least one) to wish her a happy birthday.  Ladies of her generation would never reveal their age, unlike moi.  In the past week I've blurted out mine, repeatedly -- "I'm 54, bitches!"  I may not know Paula's exact age, but I sang to her anyway, in my best Ethel Merman style.  "Well, dear, I have to go put on my face," she said, and it was adios. How much do I love this expression?  So muchly, it's hard to quantify.  My mother said it daily.  She was very big on putting on her face.  She never appeared in public without makeup.  Never.  I rarely saw her without makeup, in fact, except in the early morning hours, when, according to her handbook, it was okay to go without lipstick, blush and eyeliner.  But once she headed out to the market or a meeting with like-minded liberals raising money for important political causes, she always looked incredibly put together. Of course, Paula is the same way: tres chic.  The gals who came of age when, dare I say it, Frank Sinatra was a teenager just know how to dress and impress, effortlessly.  I'll never forget when Paula casually mentioned that she'd once dated Frank Sinatra.  I won't deny it.  I was impressed.  "He was very rude," she told me.  "I didn't care for him at all."  The date took place in a restaurant.  Frankie wasn't pleased with the waiter and threw an ice bucket across the room.  The nerve!  How much do I love this story?  Muchly, I can assure you.  When it comes to putting on my punim, most days, I take under a minute.  Powder and lipstick and off I go, hoping I don't run into anyone I know.  It's an art form, to put on your face.  I'm better at taking mine off. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On the Bagel Scale

It's Christmas morning in Hollywood.  The Oscar nominations are out.  All in all, pretty impressive.  A few head-scratchers, a few sad omissions.  Nothing for Ryan Gosling, so good in "Drive."  Nothing for "50/50."  On the bagel scale, 5 being the highest, here's the SJG reaction to the nominations.  It's an honor to share them with you now. 

"The Artist" - charming, nice, entertaining.  Hubby slept through it.  3 bagels
"The Descendants" - wonderful, touching.  4 bagels
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" - outstanding. 5 bagels
"Hugo" - freaking great, delightful, a little long. 4 bagels
"Midnight in Paris" - my pic to win, 5 bagels with cream cheese and very expensive lox.
"The Help" - a great film, loved it.  5 bagels 
"Moneyball" - well-done, too long. 4 bagels
"War Horse" - old-fashioned, well-done, too long.  2.5 bagels
"The Tree of Life" - Dad said "don't bother," so I didn't.  Bagel rating pending.
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life" - fantastic performance.  5 bagels
George Clooney, "The Descendants" - moving, the best he's been.  5 bagels
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"- nice, charming, expressive.  3 bagels
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" - When I wasn't confused, I was asleep.  Hubby says 4 bagels.
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball" - the best he's been, but not as good as George.  4 bagels.
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs" - Haven't seen it, didn't want to see it, will have to see it.  Bagels pending.
Viola Davis, "The Help" - Beautiful.  5 bagels
Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" - one scary byotch. 4 bagels
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady" - great impersonation, so-so movie.  4 bagels
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn" - great impersonation, so-so movie. 3 bagels
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn" - great impersonation, 3 bagels
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball" - outstanding, 5 bagels
Nick Nolte, "Warrior" - sad, moving, 4 bagels
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners" - terrific, deserves to win, 5 bagels with all the fixings.
Max Von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" - touching, 4 bagels
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist" - loved her, 4 bagels
Jessica Chastain, "The Help" - gifted, heartbreaking, 5 bagels
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"- hilarious, 4 bagels
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs" - Bagels pending
Octavia Spencer, "The Help" - my pick to win, 5 bagels from Nate n' Al's

Monday, January 23, 2012

SJG To Buy Dodgers

Welcome to SJG Dodger Stadium
Today is the deadline day for anyone interested in submitting a bid to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers. So far the list of potential buyers is a veritable "who's-who" list of sports legends, and one major surprise. Bids are estimated to come in at over $1 billion. Some insiders predict that the team could even sell for up to $1.6 billion. Fans should be pretty pleased with the long, star-studded list. It includes former Dodger greats such as ex-owner Peter O'Malley, as well as ex-players Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser. Coming out of left field to place her bid:  the Short Jewish Gal of Sherman Oaks. "Who wouldn't want to own the Dodgers?" said the SJG. "I've been saving up for years.  Back in the day, I made a lot of money babysitting.  But my dream to own the Dodgers really took hold in high school, when I used to get free seats to the games, thanks to membership in some hoity-toity academic organization.  I believe I may have bought my way into that club.  I took my dad to the games, and we never sat in the designated seats because they were awful.  We picked the best empty seats, until security told us to move.  We'd just play dumb, say, 'Oh whoops, sorry, these aren't our seats?' and find even better seats.  We spent the entire game moving around the stadium.  My dad taught me a valuable lesson:  Never settle.  Keep going till you get what you want.  I promised him, 'One day, we won't have to schlep from seat to seat.  One day, I'll own this place and we can sit wherever we want.'  'I'm going to hold you that,' he said.  Well, now's my chance to make him proud and buy the Dodgers.  So what if I'm short a billion?  I'm doing this for my daddy, and that's what matters."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Chase Scene

Everyone loves a good chase scene. Instead of bad guys in cars careening recklessly through intersections and alleyways, in my house, at least once a week, it's just me chasing after Dusty.  No gunfire, no screeching tires, no exciting techno music to heighten the tension.  Around here, the crime is always the same.  Grand theft.  Yet again, the dog has absconded with something that doesn't belong to him - a sock, a towel, a nice pound cake, a turkey sandwich on rye - and off I go, running after him like a complete lunatic. 
I could just give him a treat and yell, "Drop it!"  But what fun is that?  Plus, we both need the exercise.  What could be more aerobic than zigzagging in and out of furniture, hurdling over chairs and cartwheeling down the hall?  The SJG likes a good challenge, and this one feels like an Olympic trial.  Until one of us gives up.  Usually me.  "Oh eff it," I said this morning in defeat.  "Keep it.  See if I care.  I've got others."  At which point, Dusty shot me an accusatory look, one that said, "party pooper," and retreated, towel in teeth.  Next time, I'm calling for back-up.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Miss Piggy

How much dessert can an SJG eat in one week?  A ridiculous amount.  Why do my best peeps want to fatten me up at this celebratory time?  Let's review the desserts that are soon to land on my backside, if they haven't already.  On Monday I hit a new level of gluttony.  At lunch with Carla and Cami, a cookie platter, plus a caramel-filled slice of heaven.  Double oink. On the way back to Sherman Oaks, I stopped by the home of Connie Ray, star of Broadway, film and flat screen -- everyone should have at least one friend like Connie in their collection.  She took time out of her busy day to offer up "something I made for you."  She's such a crafty gal, I assumed it was a candle or a needlepoint pillow, embroidered with my name.  I was wrong.  It was much better than that.  Two blueberry-lemon tarts she made from scratch.  Have I ever made anything from scratch?  Let me think about that.  No.  I told her I couldn't possibly eat the tarts just yet.  "I'll take them to go."  She ignored me, lit a candle, the kind you can't blow out, it just keeps relighting (actors!) and watched me huff and puff.  As she sang to me in her stage voice, I may have passed out, briefly.  Out of pity, she wrapped up the desserts and sent me on my way.  She had a plane to catch.  "I will treasure these tarts forever," I said, as she shoved me out the door.  "Go home and eat them," she said.  At home, hubby and the first born presented me with a mocha cake.  Can I get an oink oink oink?  I ate a dainty slice, lest I start an international incident.  Much later, twenty minutes or so, we shared a Connie-made tart, just so that I could text her:  "Oh my God, delish!"  We ate the second one the following night.  By now, I've lost track of the other desserts people have foisted on me this week, out of love, but they've all been yummo, I assure you.  Tomorrow, I get to foist a birthday cake on Tim, in honor of his 40th.  Naturally, I'll have a tiny slice.  It would be rude not to partake.  Quadruple oink.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gone To Downton

Looks pretty, but can she speak Yiddish?
Allow me to introduce the servants
Is it wrong that I want to live in Downton Abbey?  I don't think so.  Call me selfish, but, if given a choice, I'd prefer to live in Season One, before the handsome men went off for war and the Granthams were forced to turn the mansion into an infirmary.  True, in the land of Downton Abbey, I might stand out.  I might be the only Short Jewish Gal they've ever encountered.  I'd handle it with my customary grace.  Curtsy and smile and put them in their place.  After all, I lived in England once.  For a whole year!  I can do this.  I can speak British.  Say "flannel" for washcloth and "jumper" for sweater.  Drink tea with pinky pointed.  Sit at my vanity table, admiring my own reflection, while my lady-in-waiting curls my hair.  I was born for this.  I belong in Downton Abbey.  I can be snooty.  Wear silly hats.  Boss people around.  Just ask hubby.  In recent days, I've uttered the following sentiments with a decidedly Upstairs flair:  "I'll take my sherry in the parlor."  "Fetch one of the servants, will you?" I can be Downstairs, too.  I can say, "I love you, Mr. Bates.  And I know it's not ladylike to say so, but I'm not a lady and I don't pretend to be." I can be haughty like Maggie Smith.  I can say:
This gal doesn't take sh*t from anyone.
"No one wants to kiss a girl in black."
"Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house." 
"I couldn't have electricity in the house, I wouldn't sleep a wink. All those vapors floating about."
Must I tell you again?  Very well.  I want to live in Downton Abbey.  Slip back in time and be an elegant Brit.  Would someone kindly point me in the right direction?  I don't want to be late for tea.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Moms on Facebook

Here's what started my confusion:  "Curse you, Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center and your haunting blankety-blank jingle!"  Posted yesterday by my dear friend, blogger extraordinaire, the founder of BoomerGirl Diary, Cathy Hamilton of Lawrence, Kansas.  Jewish mother and professional worrier that I am, I immediately pictured Cathy sitting (uncomfortably) in some chilly waiting room, suffering, horribly, and losing her mind while some nightmare hemorrhoid jingle played on loud speakers.  Suffering so much she had to share it on Facebook, a great place to find sympathy for any and all life conditions. "Everything okay?" I added to a long thread of responses, most of which barely mentioned her situation.  "Let's take Zumba soon!"  "Let's have coffee!"  I couldn't help but wonder what kind of insensitive locals she was hanging out with these days.  Her so-called friends couldn't begin to match my sincere, heartfelt concern.

Then I read Cathy's response:  "Carol, it's a commercial that runs all the time on TV here.  (You guys probably don't get hemorrhoids in Cali.)  The jingle invades your brain and you catch yourself singing it while you're making dinner.  "Don't suffer in silence" is the tagline.  I'm OK.  But thanks for your concern!"  "Well, that's good news," I wrote back, relieved.  "And you're right.  Hemorrhoids have been outlawed in Cali since 2000."  Only then could I move on to other people's actual health problems.  Like my son's roommate.  Even though Billy refuses to be my FB friend (unlike his nicer, younger brother), his friends often friend me, and in return, I offer unsolicited motherly advice.  When Cory posted something about his clogged ears, I was all over it, scolding him (gently) for using Q-Tips -- "Oh, hon, Q-Tips make it worse!  You need to go to my ear doctor."  Naturally, I supplied her name and phone number.  He's going today.  Next problem, real or imagined.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sh*t Jewish Mothers Say

For reasons beyond the SJG's tentative grasp of social media, there's an epidemic of videos, all variations on a theme, depicting the crazy sh*t people say, specifically, females.  In this one, sent to me by the lovely Anne Rainer, we have a Jewish dude impersonating a Jewish mamala.  Pretty funny stuff.  I'm guilty of saying a few of these things myself. Double click if you want a nice full visual.  Don't if you're satisfied with a small frame.  I can't make all your decisions for you, although, believe me, nothing would make me happier.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oh, Behave

The SJG milking my birthday
On the national holiday that was my birthday, and more importantly, MLK's, the fabulous mother and daughter duo of Carla and Cami treated me to lunch at Spago, where we ate obscenely delicious food and debated, at great length, whether the man in the nearby booth was Basil Exposition.
Oh, behave:  Basil Exposition and Austin Powers
Back and forth we went.  Is that Michael York?  No, it can't be.  It is.  It isn't.  There's no way.  It's definitely him.  It definitely isn't.  We got just a tad obsessive over the matter.  Carla thought the man sounded British.  I was thrown by his dark glasses.  Cami said it was the guy from "Austin Powers" and that was that.  And then she left, to continue her busy life, and we sat there, pondering the situation.  In terms of Hollywood sightings, it was inconclusive.  It could've been Michael York of "Cabaret" and "Romeo and Juliet" and so many other great films.  Or it could've been an older gentleman who vaguely resembled him.  Not till I got home and Googled did I realize that of course, Cami was right.  The man in Spago?  Definitely Michael York, just sitting there, enjoying lunch with his wife, and making the SJG birthday even more festive.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dentally Yours

Happy Birthday

Your friends at Happy Teeth wish you a very happy birthday. We hope that you have a wonderful day and look forward to seeing you again soon.  We want you to know we'll be there for all your dental emergencies as you get older and everyone you know starts backing away, in horror, aware that you're certainly not the looker you once were.  Your friends at Happy Teeth don't care how ugly you get.  We'll  take care of you and make you pretty again.  When your teeth loosen and fall out at inappropriate times, who loves you, baby?  Happy Teeth. When your gums give out, we promise not to laugh, like the other people in your life.  We'll fit you in, even if we have no appointments.  That's how important you are to us.  When you lose your dentures in the bagel bin at Ralphs, we'll make you another pair, for free. Just kidding.  We're not that generous.  We'll charge you, but we'll be fair.  Let's face it.  Your friends at Happy Teeth care more about your well-being than anyone else in your life.  We hope that one day, you'll leave us all your money, if we haven't taken it all already.  Dental care is expensive.  So please, Carol, have a wonderful day.  And remember, no one loves you like we do.  No one.  Dentally yours, your friends at Happy Teeth

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snark Fest: The Sequel

Oh, to be a snarky Brit, who doesn't give a poop what people think.  Oh, to be Ricky Gervais.  Tonight, I'll tune in again to watch him on "The Golden Globes" and pick up some pointers.  Where would the SJG be today had I been snarkier?  It's never too late to get my Ricky on.  Here's what he told reporters the other day, when asked if he felt nervous about hosting the Globes: "No. What's the worst that can happen? I end my career once a week if you read the press. I do things that could end my career now. That's my extreme sport. If you get fun with it, which I do and I demand, and you get your own way and are happy with what you've done, then nothing can happen to you. You're bulletproof. Everything I say, I can justify it, I can stand by it, as I do every joke I did last year, then I don't care. I don't care if you're offended. I'm going to do a monologue about what happened during the year, and then introduce six or seven people as I did last year. I've got nothing against any of those people in the room. I've worked with many of them. I like many of them. I admire them. They're just gags. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings or give them a bad night or undermine the moral fabric of America. I'm a comedian." Oh, to be Ricky Gervais, who has nothing to lose.  It probably helps that he's very, very rich.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Bare Necessities

My parents, Ben and Gloria, celebrate the wonders of my tush
On Monday, I turn 45.  Oops!  Make that 54.  That means I've had the pleasure of attending many birthday parties in my honor, the majority thrown by my mother, a gal who knew how to entertain.  Sadly, most of the celebrations blur together in my aging brain.  A few that stand out:  The private screening of "Cinderella" in our living room.  I think I was five.  The trip to the Ice Capades.  I think I was eight or nine.  My sweet 16, just a table full of close friends and Mom.  And, of course, my 40th, which feels like a zillion years ago. It was the last party she gave me.  Two years later, she was gone.  But here's what I remember from that happiest of birthdays, a mind-boggling 14 years ago:

I walked into Back on Broadway in Santa Monica, hubby by my side.  I was in excellent spirits. And why shouldn’t I be? That night was all about one of my top ten favorite people. Me.  Naturally, I planned to get good and schnockered.  The first thing I saw was a poster-size, black and white photograph of the cutest butt in history, propped up on an easel.  A year old, I’m leaning against the bath tub, clutching a wash cloth, and looking shyly back at the camera, butt-naked, caught for all eternity.  A closer look revealed an undeniable fact: the shape of my tush hadn’t changed much since 1958. Still heart-shaped and ample, despite a lifetime of squats, Jane Fonda pelvic thrusts, lunges and countless other attempts at rear-end reduction. And now the friends who gathered to celebrate the wonder of me would learn just how far back this situation goes.  All the way back to the beginning.

Standing over by the easel, grinning deviously: Mom and Dad. I started to laugh, and so did hubby, then they joined in.  Clearly, I was cool with this monster tribute to my derriere.  It could've gone another way.  Had I been mortified, that poster would’ve disappeared faster than chocolate at a PMS convention.  But I turned the other cheek, so to speak.  All night long, comments ranged from “Nice ass” to “That ass hasn’t changed” to a Jimi Hendrix-styled riff of “’Cuse me while I kiss your ass.” Considering the alternative -- a full-frontal view -- I probably got off easy.  A wonderful night, full of food and wine, birthday cake and dancing.  As for the poster?  It's still in my closet, planning its big Hollywood comeback. Not in this lifetime, baby.