Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why I Love Lucy

The one memorable line I remember from the show Thirtysomething came from the female character all the other women in the show hated because she was a snotty intellectual who was dating one of the guys of their circle of friends but who wouldn’t lower herself to indulge in the trivia banter that would sometimes become the dinner conversation. Then someone mentioned I Love Lucy

and she joined in for the first time.

“I thought you didn’t like pop culture,” her boyfriend whispers to her.

Without missing a beat, she snaps back, “Lucy isn’t pop culture. Lucy is god.”

I’ll admit that a lot of my affection for I Love Lucy is nostalgia. By the time I was born, the show was in reruns. By the time I was old enough to watch television, episodes were commonplace in syndication time slots. My mother would only watch television during the day on Tuesdays, ironing day. Never one for soap operas, since she didn’t watch everyday, we watched sitcoms. Make Room for Daddy, The Donna Reed Show, Mr. Ed, My Little Margie, Leave it to Beaver, and Private Secretary (remember Ann Sothern going through the revolving doors?).

They all came and went in the line-up, but I Love Lucy was a staple. Even its antecedent, Here’s Lucy, never held our attention as well. My mother, who was not normally interested in weekly television shows, claimed to know every episode line by line. It’s only in retrospect that I realize why.

Considering all the sitcom women during that time period for my mother to identify with, they are all the epitome of the ideal 50s-60s housewives or housewife potential: June Cleaver and her pearls, Margaret Anderson with her calm, lilting voice, Margie Albright and her matching suits and hats, Donna Stone and her motherly perfection.

And then there was Lucy Ricardo. Lucy wore pants sometimes. Lucy burned the roast and got stuck in the walk-in freezer. She almost screwed up her kid’s birthday party. She was constantly leaving Little Ricky with Mrs. Trumbull and doing exotic things. Lucy admitted she didn’t fit into a double-digit size dancing costume (size 12!). Her toaster didn’t work. At different times she could be unapologetically jealous, pushy, loud, obnoxious, devious and, as in when she had to raise the boat fare to Europe, downright felonious.

Some women of my mother’s era required copious doses of anti-depressants to maintain the standards of the June Cleavers. You just needed rubbery facial expressions to be Lucy.

So I’m sure some of my mother’s facination for I Love Lucy rubbed off on me. But my favorite Lucy episodes are not those that are usually showcased. The candy scene has been done to death and I never really found the grape stomping scene to be all that funny. Lucille Ball’s trademark slapstick was never a drawing card for me. Instead, her timing and delivery of even the most mundane lines could make a scene.

What really makes me laugh out loud, no matter how many times I see it, are some of those “bad” musical numbers, purposely written that way, not an easy thing to do, because they are not over-the-top bad. They start out almost acceptable and then suddenly go horribly wrong, like the operetta written by Lucy that has all the elements of Gilbert and Sullivan, but somehow lacks the clever staccato lyrics (“I am the good prince Lancelot/ I love to sing and dance a lot…”); or the “ditty” foisted upon Ricky in exchange for English lessons and ostensibly written by the teacher (Hans Conried):

As I tippy tippy toe through my garden

Where all the pretty flowers dwell

There’s a rare perfume in my garden

And I just love to stand there and smell.

(This one has the added bonus of Fred Mertz singing in his gravelly voice, “Rippity, Pippity Aye.”)

I bring all this up because this weekend, having to keep my foot elevated, I treated myself to this. For the very first time, I’m seeing parts of episodes I’ve never seen before because I’ve only seen them edited for syndication.

But what dawned on me was how much Lucy has influenced me, from the way I write to the way I speak. I recall my brothers and cousins working hard to master the “Ricky Ricardo laugh.” Lousy restaurants when we go on road trip become One Oak Cabins and CafĂ© (remember the cheese sandwich restaurant on the way to California?). And there's no One-A-Days in this house; only Vitameatavegamin.

So Costco will be happy to know I’ll be buying all the episodes…(Psst, Jag, I also bought Season 1 of The Dog Whisperer).

Friday, May 26, 2006

Yet another: Housing Update

It’s been a long road, but by next week we should be able to apply to Shenandoah County for a temporary occupancy permit for our new house.

Why “temporary?”

Because the bottom floor won’t be completely done. There are two bathrooms down there, plus my raised dog tub and none of that will be done for three or four weeks.

Meanwhile, living in this house is becoming unbearable. Last night the clothes dryer gasped its last breath and, while I’m not above hanging clothes out to dry, this spring a tree fell on the clothesline. The water pressure in the bathroom is dwindling, meaning the pump is about to go – again – for the fifth time in the 17 years we’ve lived here (the well is 650 feet down). My mattress this week sprung a wire that sticks into my back. I pound it down, it pops back up. The only way to replace the mattress is to take the banister off the staircase to get it up the stairs, not an easy task and certainly not something you want to deal with if you’re moving in a few weeks.

It occurs to me that we’ve gone about this rather strangely. Most people would have gradually improved housing over a period of years. Instead, we’ve taken years to improve our housing. So we’re rather like the Beverly Hillbillies in that we’re moving from a shack to a mansion all in one go (that, and Dirtman’s shaving habit’s are kind of like Jed Clampett’s).

Not that this is a mansion, but it is certainly a honkin’ big house. I have major house guilt over this and keep apologizing to people. Truth to tell, I originally wanted a very small cottage, but when you add a couple of kids plus a home business plus a husband who adores chaos – well, it kind of became like Rose Red and I’m not so sure that even when we think we’re done construction will stop.

So start baking that cheesecake and chess pie, Jag and Leslie; cool the wine, Trasherati; and Mamma K, whatever – sure to be wonderful: The Linguinis are movin’ on up, to the east (west…) side, to that dee-lux apartment (house), in the sky…

Editor's Note: The above pictures are old. Sisiggy fully intended to update the pictures. Then attempted to navigate the dark staircase and went tumbling down, probably rebreaking the ankle she's broken twice before. As you read this, she is probably waiting in a long line to be x-rayed. This is because she's too cheap to go to the emergency room and, therefore, spent the night making everyone in the house miserable.
Update: Whiney Sisiggy did not break or even sprain her ankle. It is swollen and very colorful and big baby that she is, she will insist on putting her foot up today as a good excuse to knit and listen to books on tape. None of this will prevent her from going to the Williams Sonoma outlet and to see Aussie puppies with Mamma K tomorrow. So don't cry for me, Argentina.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

This doesn't happen very often in our gene pool, so...


Sisiggy is in a dangerously maternal mood and should probably not be permitted to post anything today. But due to the editorial staff’s status in this household (similar to an editorial staff’s status anywhere), we have no control over anything.

Be forewarned that the following will contain hopeless bragging and it has been all we could do to prevent the downloading of ancient baby pictures. Just be thankful that you are not doomed to sit next to Sisiggy on a cross country flight in her current state of mind.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you The Strasburg High School Top Male Freshman Academic Achiever:


The Strasburg High School Top Male Freshman Academic Achiever:


The Strasburg High School Top Male Freshman Academic Achiever:

Oh, never mind. There must be some mistake…

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Postcard from the Edge

Computer blew. Remote posting. No time. Dirtman over shoulder. Waiting.

Back Monday.

Send martinis.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It would have been the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

Picture this:

Mother’s Day morning, everyone in bed but me on the computer and the dogs, outside, now suddenly very vocal.

Very large snake taunting the dogs from the foundation of the house, probably the same snake that spawns all the little “gifts” the cats leave on my chair; the same snake that offers me stain-fighting tips as I do the laundry; the same snake that left her skin wrapped around several bottles of chianti. Haven’t I got enough beings around here that don’t pick up after themselves, that the vermin has to be a clutterer too?

What kind of snake?

You don’t think I’m going to get close enough to look, do you?

Topper bravely enters the fray, approaching with a threatening bark. Ms. Hiss lashes out at him, sticking out her tongue. Topper retreats behind me, doing the perfect imitation of an obedient dog.

Topper do ‘Sittopper.’ Good dog sit. Topper would kill evil hissy thing, but Topper do ‘Sittopper.’ Good dog, Topper. Do sit. See, Da Mama! Topper can do ‘Sittopper” good. Mama don’t have to back up to Topper. No, Da Mama, ‘Staydamama.’ STAY IN FRONT OF DA TOPPER!

Further back are the terriers alternating four-foot vertical jumps accompanied by high-pitched yaps. Zsa Zsa sits on the porch, mildly watching the action. Really, Dah-ling, I’d help, but I’ve just had my nails done. But do stop those beasts from that awful barking.

What did I do?

What any female would do who lives in a house with three males. I called Dirtman, killer of spiders, disposer of cat-killed vermin.

“Come down here and get rid of this thing,” I yell.

So down comes Dirtman and his contribution to the situation is to inform me that there is, indeed, a snake coming out of the foundation and how nice it will be when we live in a house that is sealed enough so wildlife can’t get in.

Ah! But I don’t have only Dirtman to save me! Here comes Heir 1, loaded for bear.

Let me pause the action for a moment to talk about product concepts and how they relate to video games. As I’ve related before, present in this house is the action figure of a soul-sucking angsty vampire angel with bad hair. But another artifact that Heir 1 has seen fit to save up for is a replica of the sword of said soul-sucking angsty vampire angel with bad hair, called “Soul Reaver” (not as catchy as “Excalibur,” but just as profitable). It sits on display on the wall of his bedroom next to his poster of Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Al Pacino as Scarface.

Every now and then Heir 1 and his friends get stupid, nitwit ideas about actually using Soul Reaver for things like bicycle jousting or performing “mock beheadings” for the video camera. This is why you have to watch teenagers just as much as toddlers. In fact, I’m convinced the only safe time for kids is when you send them out with a sibling, who they know will rat on them in a heartbeat.

Back to Ms. Hiss.

All the commotion had awakened Heir 1 who, I try to tell myself, was alarmed to hear that his mother was on the very precipice of doom without a hope of mobilizing her husband or dogs. I suspect, though, he just saw a chance to weald Soul Reaver.

First, though, he realizes he can’t run around the yard in just his boxer shorts.

So he puts on his sneakers.

With Soul Reaver raised he charges at the snake…………who disappears.

“Wait!” I yell, “Let me get the camera.”

Disheartened, he dragged himself back into the house. “Are you crazy?”

So the rest of the day was rather sedate by comparison, even with Heir 1 doing all the driving (doing surprisingly well, I might add) and even with Heir 2’s attempts to juggle expensive ceramics at our favorite kitchen store.

I settled for the mix CD Heir 1 made for me, which is now my driving CD of choice, and the Life of Brian DVD Heir 2 gave me, both great gifts. But not as great as would be a picture of Heir 1 in his underwear and sneakers attacking the aluminum siding with a pointy stick.

Certainly not as useful in terms of blackmail possibilities.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

You'll Know Us When You Hear Us

A very long time ago PBS ran a series called an American Family that was, ostensibly, real reality TV. They filmed a “normal” American Family over a period of months. Granted, these were pretty volatile months for this particular family (the couple decided to divorce and all kinds of controversies were going on with the kids that I now forget), making it a little suspect in the realm of reality. But the point of my bringing it up was that their name was the Loud family.

Saturday Night Live, then just a fledgling experimental show, did a satire on it called The Loud Family, featuring an entire family who could not speak quietly.

That, I fear, is the Linguini Family also. You always know when we’re around.

First there is the fact that we are a very verbal people. We can turn a simple, one-sentence explanation into a saga worthy of Will Durant. We want to tell you background. We want to reveal nuances. There are side stories we are sure you have to know about. We feel obligated to impart insights just in case you didn’t pick up on them yourself.

When the Heirs were growing up they always dazzled their pediatrician with their verbal skills. Sometimes a little too skillful. During the course of one examination, Heir 1 was chatting away about how he was homeschooled and felt obligated to tell the doctor that lately he’d been starting his school work by himself because his mother returned to bed to sleep another hour or so. For a week I kept looking for the Social Services car to pull into the driveway. (Two weeks later my own physical revealed my thyroid had stopped working, one symptom of which is total exhaustion.)

To be honest, Heir 1 has lifted verbal skills to an art form. No one can talk his way out of hot water like he can. And his convoluted and complex justification for abhorrent behavior is nothing short of magnificent. I never know whether to punish him or stand up and applaud. Now if we can only convince him to use his powers for the forces of good…

(By way of disclaimer, Heir 1 has never done anything drastic, only what could be termed “hijinks,” or maybe even “high-spiritedness.” Certainly nothing felonious. At least I hope not.)

Then there is the volume issue. Dirtman has a very resonant voice. Even speaking quietly, his voice carries. I keep explaining this to him, though he still feels obligated to shout everything. So the noise level gets ramped up just so you can get a word in edgewise. This sounds to others as though we are fighting when, in actuality, we’re probably just discussing the weather.

Coming from an Italian family, it’s not like any of this is new to me. Stories of shopping with my grandmother and two aunts, who always traveled as a triumvirate, are the stuff of which legends are made. It just wasn’t a successful trip if they hadn’t offended at least two clerks and reduced someone (usually me) to tears. Ah, the fond memories of my Aunt Madeline waving a bra in the air and screaming across the store, “SISIGGY, I FOUND YOU A

So it was nothing to me when, back in our family-building days, Dirtman yelled down the aisle of Rite Aid, “DID YOU FIND THE PREGNANCY TEST YOU LIKE?” Lately while we’re checking out he always asks for the benefit of the clerk and everyone in line, “Tampons. Did you need tampons? Just making sure.” Then to everyone, “She always forgets and then has to run out last minute to buy some.”

Thank you for sharing.

So now you know who those annoying, tacky people are making all the noise in the front of the restaurant, holding up the line at the grocery store and descending like a flock of geese at historic sites.

Just a word of advice: Don’t tell us to shut up. It will only precipitate a lengthy explanation and profuse apology during which “someone” is bound to reveal my underwear size.

Disclaimer: Let it be known that Sisiggy is not, unto herself, particularly loud. It is only matter of self preservation that she raises her voice. Though some may speculate that she may be heard more if she speaks quietly so "others" will lower their voices in order to hear her, 20 years' experience has taught her that such a theory requires a "someone" more sensitive than the someones who surround her. She is required to raise her voice and has been tempted, on occasion, to kick "someone" in the knees in order to gain "someone's" attention.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wait! Mamma K, before you leave!

Mamma K, Dah-ling, are you sure you can leave me alone on the east coast with this woman?

Is this a woman who can properly attend to all the needs of the Zsa Zsa? When the Zsa Zsa's personal servant, Fed Ex, came to drop off the Zsa Zsa's beauty treatment (not that the Zsa Zsa needs a beauty treatment, you understand, Dah-ling...), that woman yelled at the Zsa Zsa's servant.

Just because he opened the gate and let those filthy Parson...Corpuscle...things...out. And just because that Gaspode monster held up traffic on Route 11.

That woman is just too nouveau riche to know one must be understanding of one's servants, even when it requires the aid of three drunk rednecks screaming, "I GIT 'EM, HONEY!" and running around the road causing the beast to run even further away until a kindly neighbor opened her car door and the traitor hopped in like he deserved the right to Buh-Byes In The Car.

Of course, the Zsa Zsa would never participate in such a vulgar display.

But Mamma K, Dah-ling, you might want to rethink your travel plans, considering the value to you -- and mankind -- of the Zsa Zsa.

Well, I suppose you must leave the Zsa Zsa. Please have a safe trip and make sure you come back, Dah-ling, to your precious Zsa Zsa, if you know what's good for you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

In the kingdom of delayed technology, Sisiggy in her Blue Tooth is queen.

This is a rare moment in my life. I am, at least here in the valley, ahead of the curve and on the cutting edge of technology.

I have a Blue Tooth.

This is rather ironic, considering that I fought (wait for it....) tooth and nail against getting a cell phone, seeing as I hate talking on phones. But circumstances and Dirtman persuaded me I needed to be available at all times so he can call me with that burning question, "Where you at?" (Hiding behind that preposition, I suppose...)

Cell phones are annoying in general and very annoying while driving. People only think they can drive and dial at the same time. I can usually tell when I'm behind someone talking on a cell phone. They slow down to 40 mph in a 65 mph zone and constantly swerve off the side of the road.

I know that the largest study (and oldest)attributes rubbernecking, and not cell phone use, to causing the most accidents. But those results, based on first-hand accounts, are suspect. Who is going to admit they were dialing their cell phone resulting in a nine car pile-up?

I can't tell you how many times I've had to dodge somebody in a honkin' big SUV trying to navigate a turn with one hand while holding their cell phone in the other, totally oblivious to the fact that my quick reflexes were the only thing that saved us from fighting with insurance companies for the next three months.

So I rarely used the cell phone while I was driving. I either let it ring or had the Heirs answer for me.

For awhile I tried a headpiece wired to the phone. But that didn't solve the dialing problem and I still had to fish around for the connection button which was always getting tangled with the seatbelt. And the plastic ear thingies kept popping off and getting lost.

Then along came the Blue Tooth. Only I didn't know it was a Blue Tooth until someone said, "That's a cool Blue Tooth" to me while I was visiting the Real World. I thanked her then went home and Googled for it.

Oh! My headset.

The Heirs thought this was hysterical.

So now I am never without my Blue Tooth. It plays "The Ride of the Valkyries" by Wagner when I have an incoming call. If I want to dial, I just say, "Call So-n-So..." and I'm calling So-n-So. Or I say the number and it dials for me.

The absolute best part, though, is not only am I the Techno Queen of Shenandoah County, but I'm ahead of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Remember? They had to pull out their communicator and flip up the top before Scotty could beam them up, requiring both hands if they couldn't get that flip action going. Me? I just press my ear.

And it talks to me! Though I suspect it's a trifle deaf. I say, "Call Dirtman," and it asks, "Did you say, 'Call Joe?'"

But eventually it does listen, unlike some members of this household.

The only drawback is that I sometimes forget that it's not as visible to others as holding a cell phone to your ear and I'm fast getting a reputation for talking to myself in public. But since I'm a Yankee, everyone just figures that's about par for the course. "Don't they all become New York City bag ladies eventually?"

So my Blue Tooth was a great idea......except for when the Heirs refer to me as The Borg.

Resistance is futile.

Monday, May 08, 2006

One Reason I Don't Watch A Lot of TV

So I’m watching TV last night.

Yes, I was.

Okay, I was really knitting. I’ve been trying to keep more “in touch” with things, so I watched TV while messing with the cables in the vest.

I tried to watch a documentary about Gregory Peck on PBS, but it turned out to be ages old and all the interviews were with dead people acting like they were still alive and talking like Gregory Peck was still alive. Honestly, how long has Lee Remick been dead? So, nothing new here.

Fell back on West Wing/Law & Order, which were the last shows that I ever watched regularly. I’d stopped watching when West Wing was cancelled since all I figured all they were doing is wrapping up the story lines. And I’d stopped Law & Order when Vincent D ‘Onfrio was only on every other week and his character started acting normal.

So I’m watching and this commercial comes on. I don’t know what it was for (Madison Avenue, take note), but it was something about cars.

The premise of the commercial was how much fun it is to just drive around. No argument there. But the tag line they used was, “What if you got in the car and only made left turns?” And goes on to show all the amazing things that you would see and would happen to you.

At first I though it was a joke, because any idiot knows that if you get in a car and only make left turns YOU WOULD TRAVEL IN A CIRCLE.

Most people would only go around their block. Around here, though, I’d be circling the post office and passing the same houses I see every day over and over.

And this is why TV is so annoying to me. How many degreed and over-paid executives screened that commercial? And none of them figured this out?

Editor’s Note: Sisiggy has remained faithful to one show, Monk. But it’s easier to for her to just buy the whole season on DVD and watch it at her leisure sans moronic commercials. Or she can just observe Heir 2 and get the same effect, only no murder.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bloomin' Idiots

It’s Apple Blossom weekend here in the Shenandoah Valley, a time for the tacky, the kitschy, the pseudo-celebrity and the campy to all converge in Winchester at one time.

Thanks, but I’m sitting this year out.

Hate crowds. Hate lines. Hate trying to park. Not all that fond of parades, especially these days when most of what you see going by is advertising.

The first year we came to Virginia I was totally unaware of the Apple Blossom Festival. My grandmother, who I had been taking care of, had suffered another heart attack and we had just placed her in a nursing home. My aunt and uncle came down to help me get some legalities settled and somehow managed to secure a hotel room.

One morning I went to their hotel room to pick them up to go visit my grandmother and my uncle was watching TV, laughing hysterically.

“This has got to be a joke, right?” he asked me, still laughing. “An Apple Blossom queen? They’re kidding, right?”

I shrugged and looked at the TV. I’d only been in Virginia two months. What did I know?

There on the screen was this woman dressed in lots of white ruffles sitting on this cheesy float surrounded by some other women dressed in lots of ruffles.

My aunt observed the TV closely and came to a different conclusion. “They’re just doing some historical thing, you know where they dress up like…like…

She trailed off. She didn’t know what they were dressed like. They were very …um… frothy. She started laughing too.

Later, at the front desk, my uncle said to the clerk in passing, “So I hear there’s a festival or something going on.”

The clerk looked at him like he was nuts. “Isn’t that why you’re here?” she said incredulously.

We all looked at each other, my uncle, my aunt and me, all of us trying not to laugh.

My uncle swallowed hard. “No, we’re here to settle my mother into a nursing home. We were just curious about the …” another hard swallow, “… Apple Blossom … Queen.”

My aunt and I walked away so we could laugh without offending anyone, only to meet up with a group of people dressed in the tacky attire that I now know is the Apple Blossom uniform.

It was a long weekend. You couldn't drive around easily because roads were blocked off. Everything was closed up for the festival.

“This is a big deal,” my uncle observed.

To this day whenever I talk to him he asks how the festival is coming along this year. When he came down for my wedding he insisted that “Winchester just isn’t the same without the Apple Blossom Queen.”

I guess my dress just didn’t have enough ruffles.

Editor's Note: If you go to the Apple Blossom Festival, don't look for Sisiggy. She's heading for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival where she will not wear pink and green together. We can't say the same for Dirtman.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ham and mold and toddler possession

There seems to be some anxiety over this picture. More specifically...


Everyone is concerned that I fed my toddler a slab of ham as big as his head. However, since my brain has done a file dump regarding when this was taken and why, I am more concerned about this:

Sure, on one end it look like spinach rotini, but on the other end...? More like a moldy pupa, the recipe for which I can no longer find.

But Jag was more concerned about Barney, sitting innocently beside Joe. So I zoomed in on him.

And then we found this negative

Should I be concerned?

Editor's Note: We will take PhotoShop away from Sisiggy if she does not stop playing with old family pictures and begins writing again. We are aware that this is a shabby substitute for blogging.