Monday, April 30, 2007

Fun With Crosswords

In the LaMarbedian/ZoraMarche household, the New York Times Sunday crossword is a team sport. Jeff and I make a good team, as he knows a lot of factual information while I am a genius at decoding Will Shortz's word play and mind games. That said, the following conversation occurred last night:

Una: Babe, this one is four letters and the clue is "Sale locale". The last two letters are RD.
Jeff: Well, what's the clue on top?
Una: "Without an out"
Jeff: At bat?
Una: Yes! You're a genius .... so that leaves T_RD.
Jeff: Turd!
Una: It is NOT turd. There is no such thing as a turd sale.
Jeff: What about fertilizer?
Una: Will Shortz would not use the word "turd" in the Sunday Puzzle. Could it be "tard"? Is there such a thing as a "tard sale?" No, that's impossible.
Jeff: What, like retard? So you think there IS a retard sale but no turd sale.
Una: Um ....
Jeff: Oh, it's not "At bat", it must be "at bay", making it a YARD sale.
Una: Oh. Right.
Jeff: I got you at the 'tard sale.
Una: Shut UP!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Coming Soon to an Urban Outfitters Near You!

I had a drink with my Dad yesterday, and he casually mentioned (apropos of what, I can't remember) that he hadn't yet finished all of his "death notes". To most people this might be troubling, but I am used to it; every time my father goes on a trip that involves air travel, grizzly bears, or cross-country bicylcling, he reminds me that there is a folder in his home office, whimsically titled "After". In this folder, I am told, I can find important post-mortem documents like his will, ATM passwords, and insurance information alongside less common fare such as goodbye letters and a 'must-play' song list for his funeral procession. My father takes his own death very seriously, in an endearing and accepting way; he wants to be ready, and, more importantly, he wants to have it all planned out.

I've been thinking today about how laborious it must be to write personal goodbye letters to all of your loved ones. I want to cut my dad a break, and maybe make a small profit in the meantime, so I invented what I like to call the 'Now That I'm Out ...' notes. They will be on Post-It style sticky paper so you can just slap them on the side table next to your death bed without worrying that they'll get lost.

If these take off, I see Mad Libs tie-ins and maybe even a coffee-table book a la Post Secret.


My Mother Was Offended

Just to be clear, that photo of me with "I HATE ALL OF YOU" written on it? That was a joke. I don't hate YOU. I hate people I DON'T KNOW.

Just thought I'd clear that up.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Bride Wore Osh Kosh B'Gosh

Haven’t had a wedding update in awhile; I know you’re jonesing for it.
The truth is, there hasn’t been any wedding stress to gripe about. Based on my experience with weddings (the Father of the Bride movies, mostly, and Bridezillas), I imagined that immediately upon becoming engaged I would enter a stage of life comprised entirely of montages and dramatic melt downs. I don’t think any of you will be surprised to learn that I am very disappointed with the way things turned out. I’m …. calm. Happy. Worst of all, I have nothing to complain/gush about. Everything’s going smoothly. Everything is ahead of schedule. At the rate I’m going, Jeff and I will probably be married by August.

Since I have nothing to do, naturally, I invent things to do, such as designing the programs, scouring online ribbon sites for the right shade of grosgrain trim for said programs (which, it must be noted, will likely not be completed until the month of the wedding, as we have not even begun to work on the ceremony), and debating what type of paper is best for the construction of flower petal cones. I would actually be a fantastic wedding planner, if I liked meeting new people. I have turned wedding planning into a vaguely scientific, large-scale arts and crafts project. It is my fifth-grade dream come true.

It is also my pre-school dream come true. To wit, here is my list of wedding must-haves:

- Must have CANDY
- Must have people pelt us with things as we walk back down the aisle (I have always loved the tradition of the blinding hail of rice as couples emerge from a church, but seeing as Jeff and I are getting married in a garden, we may have to make do with flower petals, so as not to choke small animals to death).
- Must have lots of dancing.

So … candy …. throwing things … dancing …. yeah, my priorities haven’t really changed much since age three. Luckily for all involved, I have evolved in my fashion choices; I will not be nude or covered in Crayola marker tattoos.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Name

So, as you may notice, I've changed the name of my blog to 'The Sassy Curmudgeon'. Why? Well, it's shorter, catchier, more likely to catapult me to fame. You know.

Also, I am very truly a curmudgeon. I am annoyed by most things, I don't like meeting new people (or walking behind old people), and even when I was little I used to fantasize about being able to stop time and give everybody make-overs so they wouldn't look so stupid. Obviously, the 'sass' part of the title is relative ... sometimes I'm more 'bitchy' than 'sassy', but I gave myself the benefit of the doubt.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007



Confused by lyrics? Felled by tequila sunrises? Channeling Petula Clark?


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rare Look at the News

First, I want to say that while I generally refrain from making political or news-focused posts, I do follow, and am affected by, tragic events such as the shooting at Virginia Tech on Monday. I may not choose to make formal comments, but I do want readers to know that I realize that my blog is a tiny, self-involved bubble, one in which -- thankfully -- I do not live. Being somewhat less self-involved in my social and private lives, this is the place where I can indulge my most superficial musings. However, I feel I would be remiss not to acknowledge that while I type 1,000 word essays about my birthday, there is unfathomable suffering going on in many other parts of the country and the world.

My main reaction to the tragedy at Virginia Tech was disgust at the media's exploitation of it. Don't get me wrong -- it's unspeakably horrific -- but what do you think would have happened if the gunman had killed, say, 15 people instead of 30? Then it wouldn't be the "largest mass shooting in U.S. history". Would it have garnered as much attention if it hadn't surpassed the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas? I hope so, but I don't know. We as a country are obsessed with superlative things; the news doesn't much care for second-best. I watched the news Monday afternoon and the media had already come up with a title: "MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH". It's not a pulp novel. It's real life. Can't we dismiss with titles and records and mourn it for the right reasons? I watched Ann Curry interview a terrorism expert on the 10:00 o'clock news. I cringed as she baited the man, asking, "So, you're saying that if the campus police had responded earlier, this could have been avoided?" Most tragedies could have been avoided; they weren't. Quiet grief and acceptance isn't news, though; news has to be big. The media takes normal human emotions and supersizes them. Got grief? How about blame? Feel sad? How can we make you cry? I can't help but wonder whether the "news" I'm reading is any better than the tabloids, really. Watching the coverage I am reminded that the media looks forward to news like this. Papers get sold with news like this. Journalists win Pulitzers for news like this. The fact that families are suffering seems almost, sadly, beside the point in news like this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Because There's Nothing Funnier Than a Drunk Baby

There's a piece of artwork I have hung in every place I've lived. It's a crudely drawn face with spikey green hair and a speech bubble that says, simply, "FUCK".

I drew it when I was four years old.

Legend has it that my father was sitting at work as I was quietly drawing on the floor, and at some point in a phone conversation he dropped the F-bomb.

"Daddy," asked little Una, "how do you spell that?" And Daddy, because he is awesome, complied.

Flash forward four years: my sister, all of two years old, greets visitors at the door, gleefully asking "Want to know all the curse words I know?," and then listing them: "Bitch, fuck, asshole." It was hilarious.

A lot of people look down on children who curse like sailors ... if you, like me, were raised on obscenity like it was mother's milk, I suggest you watch "The Landlord", a short featuring Will Ferrell. You won't be sorry.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Gift from the Office

Sample headline: "Una credits Bert and Freida Kahlo as chief inspirations."
Well, this is what I get for showing off my "Go Fug Myself" pictures ...



It's my birthday! I know this comes as a huge surprise, since I'm so humble about it. Anyway, I thought I'd recognize April 13 today not only as the birthday of the world's foremost sassy curmudgeon, but also for the other notable events that took place on this day in history, namely:

April 13, 1796 1st elephant arrives in U.S. from India

April 13, 1860 1st Pony Express reaches Sacramento, California
April 13, 1870 Metropolitan Museum of Art forms in New York City
April 13, 1902 J C Penney opens his 1st store in Kemmerer, Wyoming
April 13, 1920 1st woman U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, Helen Hamilton appointed
April 13, 1940 Cornelious Warmerdam became 1st man to pole vault 15 ft
April 13, 1957 Due to lack of funds, Saturday mail delivery in U.S. is temp halted
April 13, 1965 Beatles record "Help"
April 13, 1970 Apollo 13 announces "Houston, we've got a problem!" as Beech-built oxygen tank explodes en route to Moon
April 13, 1983 Harold Washington elected 1st black mayor of Chicago
April 13, 1992 Crystal Pepsi begins test marketing in Providence, Denver and Dallas

Okay, so they weren't all winners, but take a look at the notable names who share my date of birth:

April 13, 1743 Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, D-R, 3rd President, 1801-09

April 13, 1906 Samuel Beckett, French playwright, Waiting for Godot, Nobel 1969
April 13, 1924 Stanley Donen, film director/producer, Singin' In the Rain, Damn Yankees
April 13, 1949 Philippe Petit, born in Nemours, France, juggler/aerialist -- famous for walking on a tightrope between the Twin Towers
April 13, 1946 Al Green, Forest City Arkansas, singer, Lets Stay Together
April 13, 1970 Rick Schroder, born in New York, actor, Ricky-Silver Spoons, NYPD Blue
April 13, 1992 Jet Travolta, daughter of John Travolta and Kelly Preston

I also discovered that one Miss USA and twoMiss Teen USAs share my birthday. Did I miss great odds at becoming Miss Brooklyn 1997?

Have a lovely day, everyone. Happy UB07!


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Go Fug Myself

For my money, one of the wittiest websites out there -- the kind guaranteed to make you laugh hysterically and thus destroy any pretense that you are, in fact, reading the top stories on CNN -- is Go Fug Yourself. It's written by two twenty-something women who, essentially, articulately mock the outfits of the rich and famous. I've long wanted to do a riff on this website using my own questionable fashion history as material, and, finally, here it is. Call it a birthday present to myself, in celebration of the fact that I no longer make fashion faux pas with such astonishing regularity.

I must start with a disclaimer: I will be mocking the clothes, for the most part. It goes without saying that my face and hair are generally regrettable from 1992 - 2000. Also, anyone who has doubted the legend of my unibrow is about to eat some serious crow.

Let's start off easy, with a little JonBenet Ramsey episode circa 1984:

I look -- if this is possible -- like a child drag queen prostitute from the Moulin Rouge. The rice paddy hat is a nice touch.

Now, on to my stint in Texas, Land of Spangles!

My sister Zoe, shown here celebrating her second birthday, is momentarily distracted from her present-opening by the glare coming off of the elastic-waisted, silk pioneer lampshade I have chosen to wear for the occasion.

My second grade school picture. I was in a club called the Mighty Mustangs due to good grades. I didn't have breasts yet, but I approximated their future location with multi-colored bows.

Once we moved back to New York, in the height of the 1980s, my fashion continued to dazzle:

( My shirt is making this baby cry.)

Note to self: standing in front of a Christmas tree rarely makes an outfit look better. Especially if you are wearing a sweater that looks like the "Ephalumps and Woozles" cartoon from Winnie the Pooh and the Very Blustery Day as interpreted by Picasso:

I really didn't want to include this next photo, but in the interest of full disclosure, I must. I want to start by saying that, in 1993, Blossom hats were in.

Ah, big tee shirts with leggings. You look good on no one. And yet, I wore you with such devotion. Oh how I used to love how you'd chop off my neck and make me look squat and portly! At least I matched the floral motif to my hat ... I need a drink.

In my defense, this was the day after I got dumped by my best friends in 7th grade. It happened in the girls' locker room and was highly traumatic. Therefore it is understandable that I would drown my sorrows entirely in denim. Hans Christian Andersen looks embarassed for me, though, doesn't he? And the icing on the cake is that the book I'm splayed across in all of my stonewashed glory is -- wait for it -- "The Ugly Duckling".
The only thing better than an oversized shirt with leggings is an oversized sweatshirt with leggings. You know it's true.

Oooooh, this one hurts. Really hurts. I think this outfit came about as a result of Reality Bites and too many issues of Sassy magazine:

If I were to go to a costume party dressed as 1994, this is what I'd wear. Oh, and the shoes you can't see? Doc Martens, baby.
I often come to work with wet hair. People ask me why I do this. I do this because I have seen what my hair looks like when I try to blow it dry:

Oh, don't look so pleased with yourself, missy. You may have plucked your unibrow and tamed your hair, but you look like you're eight months pregnant. Get a belt!

It is not advisable to bleach your hair while drunk in a foreign country. That is all.

The hat is a joke. The shirt is not. Look at Meredith, she's visibly pained. Also, hello thighs!

I could have posted a lot more, but I think this is all I can handle for today. I leave you with a true Kodak moment, one that I promised you long ago: my sister dressed in brown face as a Hershey's Kiss:
Couldn't you just die?


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Eros & Equus: A Passion For The Horse

With apologies to my future mother-in-law, I have to post this.

Jeff and I just spent Easter with his family in Massachusetts. Jeff’s mom, Lee, always works hard to make holidays special, often re-creating the traditional foods and tableaus that she grew up with as a child. As a result, most of our family time takes place in the kitchen as Lee chops, grates, bakes, and arranges things in tiny bowls. As Jeff and I were sipping wine and sneaking CadburyMini Eggs, we noticed a book on the kitchen table: Eros & Equus: A Passion For The Horse. We made confused faces at each other until finally I couldn’t help myself.

“Hey, Lee, what’s this book?” I asked innocently.
“Oh, I picked that up last week. It’s about horses!” she said merrily.
“But, uh, Mom,” Jeff chimed in, “It looks like it’s for people who … um … love horses.”
“Well I love horses!” she said.

Then, Jeff’s brother John came into the kitchen and noticed the book.

“Mom, why do have a horse sex book?” he asked, chewing on a cracker.
“What?” Lee asked.
“This book – about sex with horses,” John said.
“No, it’s just a bunch of stories about horses.” She said.
“Um, OK.” John didn’t sound convinced.

After reading the inside cover it was pretty clear to me that this was a book of erotic stories about horses (although this summary suggests a more innocent text, in which case - really bad title), but I didn’t have it in me to tell Lee. I realized that she would probably have to discover this unsavory truth for herself.

I’m sorry, Lee. I know you bought it by accident. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t have left it in the middle of the kitchen table while preparing Easter dinner for your children. I hope it isn't what I really think it is. I hope it is just a really bad title.


It's Here: UBW07!

Actually to be totally exact, Una Birthday Week began at 11:52 am on Monday morning and will close at 11:52 am next Monday morning. It’s 11:52 because that is the exact moment of my birth, diligently recorded by my parents and invoked for more accurate horoscope readings from time to time. Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with Una Birthday Week, its customs include:

- Consumption of all of my favorite foods, totally without guilt (including but not limited to Tootsie Rolls, salt and vinegar potato chips, pizza, rice krispies treats, and bellinis; Una Birthday Week shuns all diets … and most nutrients)
- Naked celebration laps around my apartment (I don’t care if you think it’s weird – it’s very exhilarating)
- Shunning of all “work” and “work-related” activities (I am often stuck at work during Una Birthday Week, but my motto (at least for my actual birthday day) is ”You can make a girl sit at her desk all day but you can’t make her think!”
- Reception of birthday checks
- Reception of birthday gifts
- Copious consumption of good red wine
- Exuberant consumption of cake

Banned during Una Birthday Week:

- Colds, aches, pains, and other maladies that could prevent proper consumption of nutritionally void foods and alchohol
- Hard work (see above)
- Opening of bills (especially credit card statement)
- Acknowledgement of overindulgence of Una Birthday Week

Donations to the Una Birthday Week ’07 fund can be sent by mail (anything postmarked by April 13 anytime will be accepted).

Friday, April 6, 2007

Happy Easter!

Road trip to Massachusetts! Cadbury creme eggs! Blades of Glory!

My weekend is going to ROCK.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Oh-wo, Nu Nu, I can't get you out of my mind

You know when you have a song stuck in your head but you can't remember who sings it, or when you remember a scene from a movie but you can't tell what movie it's from because the scene conveniently has no recognizable actors or scenery, and it haunts you like a torturous lucid dream?

Since 1993, I have been haunted by these lyrics:

When I saw her walking down the street
She looked so fine, I just had to speak
I asked her name, but she turned away
As she walked, all that I could say was
Mmm-hmm yeah yeah, mmm-hmm yeah yeah

I have a vivid memory of listening to this song in my bedroom circa Jr. High-- probably while deciding which pair of Keds to wear with my leggings, or which color rubber bands to attach to my braces -- and thinking it was pretty catchy. Somehow I got it in my head that it was sung by Kid N' Play, those fabulously flat-topped rapper/actors of House Party fame, and ever since I've been searching for that piece of auditory nostalgia. I even bought Face the Nation, y'all. I needed release!

Then, yesterday, I heard it at the gym! It was piped in over the speakers, and my resolve to finally scratch my thirteen year-old itch (and I mean that literally, as in I've been obsessed with this song for thirteen years now ... day-um!) was renewed. That's how I found out that all that really stood between me and Mmmm Mmmm Yeah Yeah was about twenty minutes of Google research.

Kid N' Play -- talented as they are -- did not sing the song. That honor goes to Lidell Townsell, who kind of look like Bel Biv Devoe. Obviously, whoever they are, they are geniuses. Their song is called "Nu Nu". It's their Abbey Road.


Monday, April 2, 2007

From Marginally Jewish Daughter to Mother

People always assume I am Jewish. Normally I wouldn't be offended by this, but it always comes after a just-a-few-seconds-too-long study of my face, which makes me feel as though I am being scanned for stereotypical descriptors. I am, to be fair, dark-haired, pale-skinned, and New York-born (not a visible feature, granted, but a factor). My nose -- don't get mad, you were thinking it! -- is not big, but also not terribly small. Verdict? Jewish, every time.

The truth is that I am roughly 1/4 to 1/8 Jewish. My calculations are not really based in any real genetic data, just rudimentary fraction multiplication. My mother's father was Jewish, which makes me not "really" Jewish in terms of the bloodline, however my mother makes a mean gefilte fish and can kvetch with the best of them (Mom: that's a compliment!). My father was raised Catholic -- like, really Catholic, with nuns and everything! -- but he stopped going to Mass sometime in the 1970s. Not that my mother goes to temple, mind you; I was brought up an equal-opportunity agnostic, spiritual but not religious. Since I look like an Eastern European but have a French surname, I can pretty much stake claim to any tribe of my choosing. Generally both Russians and Italians claim me as one of their own, asking for directions in their native tongues. If I'm really tan I get mistaken for a very pale Latina. Really, though, I'm a quarter-Jewish, quarter-ish Catholic, quarter-Russian, quarter-ish-German, quarter-French-Canadian, quarter-Muppet who revels in being a mutt on the streets of New York.

It's funny, that even with enough quarters that I make up one and a half people, the Jewish quarter is the most salient. I self-identify as part Jewish, never as any of my other ethnic parts. The reasons for this are both simple and deep, and since I am not a religious scholar or a particularly religious person, I will not go into them here, for fear of offending any Jewish readers with my incredible lack of knowledge and/or connection to the faith. Rather, I mention my Jewish identity today because ... it's Pesach, people! While it's true that neither I nor my family are religious Jews, my mother started a wonderful Passover tradition about ten years ago. She realized that in our close-knit Park Slope community most of the families were comprised of one parent with some Jewish heritage but no religious practice, like herself. She felt badly that her daughters had no real sense of Jewish traditions, and so she devised the Annual Seder for the Marginally Jewish. Over the years it has grown to include many friends of many faiths, and is one of the most anticipated events of the year, second only to Christmas in our household. Each year my mother makes Passover food like gefilte fish, haroseth, horseradish, and hard boiled eggs, while other guests provide matzoh ball soup, roast chicken, kugel, and various desserts. The dining room table gets extended about twelve feet with the help of an old wooden door and some donated chairs, and twenty-plus people gather around, taking turns reading passages from the Womanist Haggadah, drinking wine, singing, laughing, and, mostly, skipping over the Hebrew since nobody speaks it. Not a traditional seder, but probably one of the rockin'est in New York.

Yesterday I helped, for the first time, to prepare the seder meal. I'm close with my mother and have cooked with her in the past, but this felt different. Something about making foods that have been made and shared for centuries resonated with me, and the passage of knowledge from mother to daughter -- the cracking of hard-boiled eggs against the sink's edge, the dropping of fish into simmering broth, the grating of real horseradish root (granted, in a food processor) -- made me feel that I was a part of something larger than the small Brooklyn kitchen I stood in.

So, thanks, Mom, for giving me this tradition and for making me proud of the quarter that tends to define me more than any of the others. We are so totally doing the Hora at the wedding.

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