Tuesday, July 30, 2013


     I know I've been a terrible blogger. You wanna make something of it? Call me names? Insult me and my family? Go ahead. The fact is that sometimes, a sense of guilt and obligation just isn't enough to get some normally introverted people to blog, because sometimes, they JUST DON'T FEEL LIKE IT.
     But I guess I have a few things to say.  One of them is that last Friday I submitted my entry to the Greenhouse Literary Funny Contest.  At least, I think I submitted it.  It's kind of a long story and it involves my frightening technological incompetence, but I don't want to talk about it.  Nor do I want to talk about the Funny Contest itself, even though that's a much shorter story.  Let me just say that I've learned since Friday that last year's contest winner was a picture book entitled SQUISHY McFLUFF, THE INVISIBLE CAT.  I would not, and could not, lie to you about this.  It's a series, actually, first one releasing in 2014 with three more to follow.  Squishy McFluff gets around, evidently.  Adventures galore.  And I have no doubt that it will be a brilliant series, in both the American and British senses of the word.  And my book, as hard as I worked on it and as good as I think it is, is no Squishy McFluff.  Of that, I am sure.
     But we're not going to talk about the Funny Contest.  Instead, I will provide a helpful household hint, regarding a technique I just discovered this morning.  Say you're getting dressed for work and you're wearing your nice white summer dress.  Well, the slightly torn crocheted white espadrilles you inherited from your daughter when her feet outgrew yours seem just a little too casual, do they not?  So that leaves the extremely old white sandals with the chunky little heels, but when you dig them out from the bottom of your closet - are you paying attention here? - those chunky little heels turn out to be in fair-to-poor condition, having been stained yellowish in many places. White shoe polish, you say?  Are you kidding me?  Who owns white shoe polish?  Not my family, I can assure you.  We don't golf.  And there's no time to go out and buy white shoe polish, either, because you already spent a little too much time wondering how, and when, that ugly little cyst that's been sitting there for years at the inside corner of your right eye magically disappeared.  I mean, you're at an age when ugly things make a habit of appearing somewhere noticeable on your skin, not disappearing.  You're glad this one chose to depart, make no mistake, but it somehow feels like a perversion of the natural order.  So anyway, here comes the advice for the stained chunky white heels, and it can be condensed into one word: Wite-out.  And if my humble tip changes your life for the better - and I frankly can't imagine that it won't - I ask for very little.  Just drop me a line and let me know that I've started a fashion trend, because I've always known that would happen someday but it's been taking a long frigging time and I'm not getting any younger here.  Do you read me?
     Maybe tomorrow I'll try Wite-out on my teeth.  It'll be awesome.  Stay tuned.  Because if it works on my teeth, I know some invisible cats who could really use a touch-up.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


     I know of one thing that's definitely baked: me. A week of 95+ degree temps has done me in. And never mind that I'm just going from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office, and then reversing the process. Just knowing what it's like outside enervates me. My son asked me last night, "What did people DO before air-conditioning was invented?" He's not asking me because he thinks I'm smart; he's asking me because he thinks I remember. Much the way he asks me questions about the War of 1812. Actually, I'm not going to tell him this (and don't you tell him either!), but I seem to have a distant memory of my parents' apartment sans A/C. I don't remember what it felt like. I just remember time spent sitting on the fire escape, just for a wisp of breeze.
     I know of something else that I believe is baked, as in ready-to-come-out-of-the-oven: my book. I believe that my marathon revisions have advanced IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY? to the point where I can send it out into the world. And not a moment too soon, because the deadline for the Greenhouse Funny Contest is July 29th, a week from Monday! When I printed out a copy of the guidelines and posted it on the refrigerator in February, the date seemed eons away, but now it's virtually here. The same day my daughter will finally get her braces off, as a matter of fact. A red-letter day any way you slice it. Except that I'll be away this weekend and I won't survive leaving it to the last possible day, so my personal Funny Contest submission deadline is this Friday, July 26th. And since the book is baked enough for that, it's also baked enough to send it to the editor who critiqued the first 15 pages of my first draft at the NJSCBWI conference in the beginning of June, and said she'd love [sic] to see the manuscript when I'm done revising.
     Don't you think that "done revising" are two of the most beautiful words in the English language?
     Wish me luck. Send good karma my way. Do something spiritual on my behalf.  Because ... this is it!! Too late to turn back! This is the scariest, most exhilarating step of the entire process, and I'm ready for it.



Sunday, July 14, 2013


     I've watched very little of the coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, because I saw no point in playing the outcome-prediction game. But now that the verdict is in, I do have two things to say.
     1. Speaking as a criminal defense attorney, I have to admit that this verdict was a result of the jury system working correctly. Under the horrendous Florida "Stand Your Ground" law, the jury was probably correct in its conclusion that the State had failed to prove its case against Zimmerman beyond a reasonable doubt. The fault was not with the jury, but with the law itself.
     I haven't done a nationwide survey of each state's self-defense statute, but I know New Jersey's. Here, if confronted anywhere but in your own home, you have a duty to retreat.  If you can do so in complete safety, but choose not to, then you cannot assert a claim of self-defense.  In other words: you cannot go looking for trouble, and then claim self-defense when things don't go your way.
     By contrast, the Florida law permitted what George Zimmerman did.  It permitted a racist thug to stalk, then provoke, then shoot to death when he reacted to the provocation, an unarmed 17-year-old boy who had gone out to buy himself a snack.  That law, from the moment it was enacted, had been a Trayvon Martin case waiting to happen.  That law must be changed.
     2. Post-racial society, my ass.  I have a 17-year old daughter.  I have many reasons to fear for her safety, and those reasons center on the fact that she's a skinny, na├»ve, physically vulnerable little thing.  But she's white.  I don't have to fear her being stopped by the police for Driving While Black.  I don't have to fear her being racially stereotyped by any future employers.  And I don't have to worry that a self-appointed vigilante will assume she's dangerous if she wanders into his neighborhood.
     Mothers everywhere tell their sons, "Stay out of trouble."  But when black mothers say it, it means something different than when white mothers do.  It means not only: don't do anything wrong, but also: keep a low profile.  Be ridiculously polite to strangers.  Don't go anywhere you won't be welcome.  Don't take risks.  I need for you to come back home.
     I'll never forget what my friend Vernon, a black lawyer, told me many years ago.  He said that if he's ever walking down a street, and there aren't a lot of people around, and he sees a white woman walking in his direction, he'll cross to the other side of the street.  Why take chances?  Why risk a baseless accusation, or even a look of terror directed at him?  Easier to walk away.
     Vernon learned that lesson as an adult, after many years of who-knows-what kinds of incidents.  Trayvon Martin will never have the chance to learn that lesson, because he will never be an adult.  Being a hotheaded 17-year-old can kill you - but that can often depend on the color of your skin.
     I am proud to be an American.  I really am.  But we need to do so much better.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


     So I've been thinking about freedom today, and specifically freedom as it relates to women and girls. Despite regressive setbacks - and there are many - it's an undeniable fact that women of some means who live in developed countries in this 21st century have more freedom to make decisions about their own lives than their counterparts have had at any time in history. Today, I'll focus on them, not on all the other women on our planet who lack what they need for basic subsistence or basic self-protection.
    Today, it's those more fortunate women I'm thinking about when I wonder: how much of their one and only lives do they spend worrying about whether or not others find them attractive?  How much of their time and energy and income do they devote to trying to ensure that they do?  And then I wonder the same things about their relationships with their children, with their homes, with their cars, with the voices in their heads telling them they, as women, are not good enough.  And then I think that whatever their answers might be, their male counterparts' answers would amount to less than half of those numbers.  And then I think how twisted that is.
     Why do we let our societies tell us that women, but not men, should be embarrassed to leave their houses without first putting makeup on their faces?  (And just think about that word, makeup. What is it that we feel we have to make up for? Our imperfections? Our aging process? Why aren't those our badges of honor?) That women, but not men, are only well-dressed if they're wearing shoes that will ultimately deform their feet and wreck their backs, because those are what the opposite sex finds attractive?  That the physical appearances of women, but not men, are fair game for commentary by any stranger passing them on the street?  That large-boned girls, but not boys, are destined to live their lives as losers?  That women, but not men, can and should be judged by the magazine-worthiness of their homes, no matter how important their roles are in the real world?
     Republicans (embodied by the eternally youthful Mitch McConnell) have discovered a brilliant new strategy to attack Hillary Clinton preemptively so that she won't sweep into the White House in 2016 virtually unopposed.  They're telling voters that they can't vote for Hillary in 2016 because she'll be too OLD to be President.  Because her face will be lined, and she'll be carrying around a few extra menopausal pounds, and plastic surgery isn't her style.  She won't be able to serve as President, the not-very-subliminal message goes, because at 67, she'll have lost her value as a woman.  If comments like that are considered valid political discourse in this country, I ask you: how free are women?  Any of us?
     I thought I'd end by linking to an article my sister-in-law Peg posted on Facebook.  It kind of sums up some of the things I've decided to rant about today.
     Hope you're having a happy Fourth of July.  Let's celebrate living in a country where women like Hillary Clinton can, and will, become President.  But please remember: none of us are free until we're all free.