Wednesday, July 17, 2002

A Summer's Tale

Though I love cheeky croupiers and St. Tropez tans as much as the next guy, I don't spend entire summers in some tiny-yet-tres-tony European principality because, well, because I suffer from REALLY post post-partum depression. (Not to mention a nagging case of Inadequate Trust Fund.)

How post is my post-partum depression? Let me put it this way: My "baby" will be eight in August. And it hasn't helped matters any that my oldest celebrates his natal day in June, my little heiress in July. Which means I've been going on seasonal crying jags, spoiling for a fight, and/or feeling like a heat-seeking blowfish for 16 Junes, 13 Julys, and almost eight Augusts. In layman's terms? Since 1986, a good two-thirds of every summer vacation and/or just plain summer month photo taken of me has been unflattering.

There's the, "omigod, how will I ever stuff these things into the top half of this bathing suit" picture taken when the oldest was a hungry newborn and we took a trip to 105-degrees-in-the-shade Biloxi, Mississippi.

There's the "whaddya mean I'm 'too pregnant to fly?'" picture, capturing me at a LAX check-in counter in all my snarling, temporal vein-throbbing, swollen-footed glory. (Like it was my fault the girl child didn't make her debut until two-and-a-half weeks later than promised.)

There are countless snapshots of a scarily miscast Mother Machree who bears more than a passing resemblance to me, hostessing an equally countless number of "fun" summer birthday soirees: That's me hissing at the hired clown for forgetting to bring the dancing poodle. And, yes, that's me gritting my teeth at the magician who neglected to inform me his "act" was a blue one. (That's also me handing said magician his top hat, wages - sans tip - and showing him, his assistant, and her pasties the door. But don't look too closely; the tears on some of those five year olds' faces are absolutely heartbreaking.) And let's not forget that touching home movie, the one immortalizing "Cowboy Clem" and I in a celluloid contretemps over whose responsibility it was to scoop up "Petey-the-Pony's" prodigious poops.

Worst of all, though, was the summer I spent waiting for my youngest to be born. That was 1994, and I don't think I went anywhere (she said like a spoiled brat) but crazy that summer. In addition to my usual June and July "spells" - hey, if your kids are a year older, what does that make you? - I was having phantom labor pains for a baby being born 8,000 miles a way.

Though I put on a remarkably composed front for the pictures the social worker took for us, inside I was a mess. What female hormones get tweaked during an adoption? I haven't a clue. All I know is that mine were a mess. And how was I to justify the banana splits I craved with a (relatively) flat belly? Friends and family weren't any help, either. "Be patient," they'd say, which, in retrospect, was like telling Al Gore, "tough break."

I spent the end of that summer and much of the fall cursing the eminently patient Korean social workers I'd never meet - but who I knew were eminently patient because they never once hung up on me, even after I said something snippy like, "but WHEN is when? I'm adopting a baby, not a teenager!"

It's when I did finally bring the baby home (and he was indeed a baby at four months of age) that I got weepy. But they were happy tears, just like the ones I had when his brother and sister were born.

The camera, however, makes no distinction between happy tears, tears of frustration - like the kind caused by a misspelled name on a birthday cake or a nasty kiddie entertainer - and tears from an over-chlorinated hotel pool. But what are some bad pictures in the grand scheme of things? As long as I get to summer somewhere with my kids, I really don't mind. Really! For, if I ever am spending June, July and August in a tiny-yet-tres-tony European principality, you can bet I'll be too old to enjoy it. And much too old to tan.


Wednesday, July 10, 2002

'Toon In, Drop Out

If in spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, then summer must be the season when a young man - heck, everyone's - attention turns to their navel. And you know what they say about that, don't you? You don't? Well, neither do I. But I do know that too much navel contemplating, like too much anything, isn't good. I do know that idle hands end up in you-know-who's workshop.

Three summers ago, the Cartoon Network banned Speedy Gonzales from the airwaves, calling the Mexican mouse "an offensive ethnic stereotype."

Yet, for three years running, human Hispanics, most recently in the form of the League of United Latin American Citizens, has been begging the Cartoon Network, which owns the rights to not just Speedy, but every Warner Brothers cartoon ever created, to put the mouse back on the air. "Speedy Gonzales is one of Cartoon Network Latin America's - where shorts of the cartoon regularly run - favorite characters!" they cry. "He's a cultural icon," they whine to the, get this, ANGLO American network brass.

But, as of summer 2002, their bilingual arguments were still falling on deaf, white ears. (The word for "no" is the same in Spanish as it is in English.)

You'll recall that it was a bunch of gringos who got their gauchos in a knot over the English in the Classroom initiative five Junes ago, and it was a bunch of idle palefaces who took issue with the Frito Bandito a generation of summers back.

I don't have a medical degree, but I can smell an alarming trend from cinco paces back. And it seems to me that white man's brains don't do well in the heat. (So it's a good thing Congress doesn't convene in the dog days of summer.)

Many Julys ago, Sambo's Restaurants started going belly-up. Apparently, there was a gaggle of non-African American people who found the Little Black Sambo dolls the restaurant sold offensive. Summer after summer, the dolls disappeared, until, one day, neither the dolls - The little stuffed tiger was so cute! It even had a plate of pancakes and a teensy pat of butter! - nor the coffee shop itself could be found anywhere in Southern California. (There's one in Santa Barbara now, but the damage has already been done. And the food, frankly, just isn't as tasty without the dolls.)

In the summer of 2000, a cluster of Anglo businessmen opened a Krispy Kreme donut shop two miles outside Koreatown in the greater Los Angeles area, effectively crucifying about 10,000 Korean American entrepreneurs in the process. Were these white men's hands too long idle? I mean, there were plenty of other sites in the greater Los Angeles area to establish what is probably the country's one-million-and-sixth Krispy Kreme donut shop. Or did they, like so many other of my brethren, just go crazy from the heat?

It occurs to me that, since Cartoon Network owns the rights to the Warner Brothers mother lode, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig aren't long for this world, either. I'm guessing that the former will be declared offensive to neurotic fowl by the summer of 2003; the latter? Well, that's a tough one. For one, there is the weight-conscious population to consider, most of whom have already had it up to their double chins with mean-spirited oinking jokes. On the other hand, there is the Lap Dancers Union of America, all, presumably, big fans of Porky's racy, i.e., bottomless, ensemble. And what about the Speech Impediment faction, who look to the pig for inspiration? Who say, "by golly, if h-h-he can st-st-st-utter and be a st-st-st-ar, why can't I?

Phew. It's a good thing I keep my idle nose buried in as many books as I can when the mercury rises. There's not much damage a person can do when she's catching up on her summer reading.