Archive for November, 2011

The Graffiti Princess

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Graffiti in my house today!!!!!

I was WAY ahead of my time. I liked graffiti. As a teenager, I invited all my friends to draw or write all over the wall in my bedroom. And I, in turn, often wrote on bathroom walls. I am not condoning it — and should be embarrassed by it — but at the time I even boldly signed my name to the thought or poem or whatever I had written. Sometimes at school, which is just crazy if you think about it. I would write something silly like, Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, so FUCK YOU!!!!!! (A regular Emily Dickinson.) And then my signature: “By Fredde Duke.” First and last name. Didn’t want anyone else getting credit. Not that there were many other Fredde’s using the girl’s bathroom.

One day, I get a note sent into the classroom for me. It was from Mrs. Friedman, the dreaded Girls Vice Principal. Uh oh, I thought, better come up with something about why there is so much graffiti around with my name attached. I slowly walked the long halls, head down, trying hard to devise a believable excuse. But somehow I was still cocky and sure-of-myself that I could pull off getting out of trouble. There was no denying the truth. If anyone took a trip to my house on Roxbury, there it would be in big black crayon (not spray paint) — the same raunchy, unoriginal, Roses are Red poem; the one that my mother would not clean off or paint over long after I moved out — and in fact, would leave there for potential buyers to see during the sale of the house.

I’ve yet to come up with a great lie when I head into the Girls Vice Principal’s office. And already seated there is a group of really beautiful girls from my grade. It was like a dream and suddenly you are somewhere else and you’re not sure how or why the dream just changed location or people. I’m still in my head, working out that excuse and not registering what is going on. That’s when Erica Farber’s face comes into focus. We called her Ricky, and she was the faintly elusive, always gorgeous, every-Jewish-boy’s shiksa dream. I also see my friend Janet Rasak, to me the most beautiful girl; exotic, Lebanese, smart, and extra sure of herself, but never stuck-up about any of her assets. And Betty Hakimoglu, so cute, unique, Turkish. I’m in a room with all these beauties when we are told that we are the ones that are up for Princess and Queen, the ultimate prize in popularity and grandness at Beverly Hills High School. Only the greatest of beauties have reigned before. So, I’m thinking, why am I in this group? This must be a prank or some clerical error. But NO, I’m informed that there were SO many votes for me that I will be up for both Princess AND Queen. What the fuck? They say this doesn’t usually happen. I’m scratching my head and mostly relieved that I’m not going to prison for defacing public property. Instead of jailbird, I might be Homecoming Queen. (more…)

Happy Epicurean Day To Me

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I had the annual physical.  I asked the right questions.  At least the right ones for me.  My mother had a stroke in her 50’s; my dad had many strokes and then died in his 80’s after suffering a heart attack.  Dr. Oz is suggesting everyone get carotid artery ultra sounds. “ Let’s set one up” I said to my doctor.  Then later in my appointment, I ended up revealing the amount of butter and sugar I eat.  Daily.  It’s not the sugar I’m concerned about.  It’s only one little slice of cake per day.  I do tend to eat too much bread and butter at times though.  All my friends are on detox diets or gluten free.  I’m the last man standing.  Even Benjy succumbed recently and he not only doesn’t smoke (so proud of him) but now he’s a clean eater.  It’s almost no fun.  There’s no one left to eat forbidden foods with.  Like chips.  Fries dunked in mayonnaise the way I like them.

Today was the 1:15 appointment to get that scan.  The first call I got in the morning was my friend Andrea who had scored a croissant from the new French bakery in our hood.  I already know I’m a fan of Alain Giraud’s croissants from his other restaurants.  I’ve been waiting for a good restaurant to open in the Palisades for the full 20 years I have been a resident.

Second call of the morning was my daughter wondering what I was doing for lunch.  Perhaps I’d like to meet her at our favorite, the Beverly Hills Hotel coffee shop.  I tell her, I would love to have lunch but she must meet me and go with me for this scan first.  Oh, and we will be on my side of town.  West of the 405 freeway.  Let’s just say Santa Monica.

During the brief appointment with a technician, I remembered that my doctor had said let’s wait for the results, meaning not just the scan but my cholesterol and everything before going full speed ahead with my bread and butter addiction.  Everything was smooth sailing.  Cholesterol results are fine.   Well, maybe there is a touch of plaque for this artery scan and I’m not perfect.  Oh, well.  During the exam, the dude was telling my daughter and I that eating well and exercising are the key.   Before we left the office my wacky daughter looked at the tech guy and asked about some gland on her neck.    We left the office and I whispered, “He isn’t a doctor.” Then suddenly she announces loudly in front of all the patients in a cardiologist’s office that she’s craving hamburgers! (more…)

D, D & B and ME

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Dino, Desi & Billy were the Hansen or Justin Bieber of our day. It was the mid-to-late 60’s and the Beatles had hit the States and our hearts. But of course there was room to love other boys. And D, D & B were our homeboys. They were in our orbit; lived on our blocks, frequented the same restaurants. AND, they were CUTE!!!!! Oh, my God, they were — in Paris Hilton’s word — HOT!!!!!!!

About a year into Beatlemania, Dino, Desi & Billy formed their band. They became teenage heartthrobs across the country and were featured in all the popular teen magazines.

At about the time D, D & B were famous, Billy played on my brother Alan’s baseball team. Pony League games. I will never forget them … because they were long fuckin days for a bored little sister. Sitting in those bleachers was tedious. But there were some really cute boys on those teams, like Billy (Alan Harris and Steve Fine). My dad and Billy’s dad became friends in those bleachers. Both were older dads. They seemed to have a lot in common and we were invited to dinner at the Hinsches’. My dad formed his own friendships with Dino, Desi & Billy, and his whole life called Dean, “little Dean” and Desi, “little Desi” to distinguish them from their fathers – Dean Martin and Desi Arnaz.

Just as our dads formed a lifelong friendship, so did Billy and I. When I remarried , my brother Alan and his wife Kris threw us a small wedding party. Billy had been in the Beach Boys for years, so I asked him to give me a special present and sing “God Only Knows.” When he did there was not a dry eye in the house.

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Dance Battle

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The day you were born seemed, at first, like any ordinary day. I dropped my car off for service then stopped to pick up a few gifts for the brother and sister you would soon meet. Then, it was off to St. Johns for a three-in-the-afternoon scheduled C-section. Thinking of it now, it sounds so strong and brave and unlike me. But on that day, I was prepared and matter-of-fact about it all.

Just nine days before, on Halloween, I wore my pants low and a shirt cropped high to show off my hugely pregnant stomach. It was your first costume. I drew eyes and a mouth; my big belly button was your nose. We caused quite a stir as I told random kids who stared that they too could get their stomach as big by connecting a bicycle pump to their belly button. We were so unforgettable that night, that people still remind me how outrageous it was.

pregnant with Barnaby

Within hours of arriving at the hospital, there you were!!!! And, you were a boy, not a girl or you would be named Holiday, after a childhood cat. You dodged that bullet.

Barnaby. With your great new name and a red dot on your forehead. I asked the doctor about the dot, it sort of concerned me. He gave some sure-of-himself answer saying it would go away in the next few weeks. Well, I grew to adore that red dot that never disappeared, distinguishing you in childhood photos from your brother.

You rocked your name. Always announcing loudly and proudly when asked, “Barnaby, like Barnaby Jones,” to new teachers or coaches. It always got a big laugh if they were old enough to understand the reference. Thank you, by the way, for being so mainstream as to play sports at all. We didn’t understand it, since your older brother was an artist and not the athletic type. We made jokes that you were really from the Winter family, our close family friends whose boys played competitive sports. (more…)