Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You've Got Mail!

An Email
to the Principal of
Quark Horizon Elementary

Mrs. Roberta Ogilthorvin
Quark Horizon Elementary
Santa Monica, California

Dear Mrs. Ogilthorvin,

Thank you for the opportunity to explain the unfortunate exchanges that transpired in your absence at last week’s PTA meeting and to rebut the inflammatory complaints lodged against me by a number of parents and staff in attendance. I know you are eager to resolve this fracas, particularly in light of the fact that Quark Horizon will be making a third run at accreditation next week and the last thing we need is more picketers. (As an aside, I want you to know that you have my full support in this endeavor. I have a feeling this will be our year!)

In the meantime, allow me to address the accusations directly, as the individuals listed below have been copied on this email:

Mrs. Van Hoogan: I am not, as you charged, a “bairn of Lucifer.” I think, when the dust settles, you will agree that arranging the Halloween carnival booths in the shape of a pentagram on the soccer field both reinforces our seasonal theme and provides for ideal party flow. I am, however, willing to shelve my idea for a “Communicate with the Dead” class booth (although, I’m telling you, we would make bank).

Coach Derbin: It’s only the faculty parking lot on weekdays, chief. On the weekends it’s the ideal spot for hosing down my motor home and doing a little light carpentry.

Mrs. Schwab-Wong: You, madam, are a hack and should be relieved of your Auction Chair epaulets and lockable cash box. It’s a dark day indeed in the café-nasi-torium when leadership entertains played ideas like “Pirates” and “Disco” while ignoring the clearly superior concept: a Smokey and the Bandit-themed fundraiser. It’s hardly a surprise that you were struck in the hindquarters by a powdered doughnut hole. Which I did not throw.

Mr. and Mrs. DeVille and others in rows 4 through 6: It’s called braunschweiger and it’s a legitimate luncheon spread. If you’re going to hold these meetings at five o’clock, then I’m obliged to bring my dinner. Furthermore, I can’t believe none of you would loan me a bottle opener after I passed around my bag of pesto pork rinds for sharing.

Monsieur Le McEnroe: I have always had a deep appreciation for the arts, particularly those Christmas angels the kids make from folding up old copies of Reader’s Digest. On the subject of mime, however, I’ll admit I am not what you would call an enthusiast. That being said, there was no personal condemnation implied when I transferred my boy Tarquin from your “Imagine the Imaginary Wind” workshop into Senor Machada’s Jai Lai intensive. I believe true artistes have thicker skins than you have demonstrated. I also believe they wear something other than boxers under their leotards. Something to think about.

Snuffy, School Custodian: Dude, we had a deal. I can’t believe you cheesed me. You’ll never play ocarina in this school district again, I don’t care if your mom is the mayor.

Well, Mrs. Ogilthorvin, I believe that covers it. I know I feel better and I hope you do, too. See you at next month’s meeting and if you find yourself without a bottle opener, hit me up. (I’m going to pitch one in my cooler right now while the idea’s fresh.)


Maude “Pepper” Briscoe

P.S. Did you get a flier on your car for my garage sale this weekend? You can tell Mr. O I’m holding a sweet Buster Poindexter album aside for him – Japanese import!

Thank you to Sherrie Petersen of Write About Now for this lovely award! Her blog is fantastic, BTW...

And thank you to everyone who clicked through to my humor essay on MyPheme.com! I really appreciate the comments and support!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Scream, You Scream...

We All Scream For MyPheme(.com)!

I'm excited to say that a piece I wrote called "Hair: The Non-Musical" has just debuted as a Featured Essay on MyPheme.com.

What's MyPheme, you ask? I will tell you now.


MyPheme.com is a brand new and very cool humor site whose mission is to
tell it like it is. They also have a sassy broad in their banner. Both of these facts appeal mightily to me.

I hope you'll take a moment to slide over there and read the essay. I can't make specific promises, but it's highly likely that doing so will increase your personal chi, give you six-pack abs and elevate you to president of your condo association.

If you need further enticement, I will say this: it's not very long.

Thanks, as always, for your support!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Just Adore A Penthouse View

She's Still ZsaZsa From The Block.

We've finally succeeded in convincing my mom to move from the suburbs [insert crickets here] into the throbbing, mind-blowingly exciting metropolis of three blocks from us. I know. It'll be great to have ZsaZsa (not my mom's real name) right around a couple of corners after decades of living almost an hour away.

Naturally, I helped her find a new pad - specifically, an apartment. Which is how I learned:

Lesson #1: Looking for an apartment for your mom is very different than looking for one for yourself.

Corollary to Lesson #1: I have lived in many a dunghole in my day.

I foolishly counted up the number of times I've moved since returning to Los Angeles after college. [Please savor the complimentary Muzak as I put my pom-pom socks and Mary Janes back on.]

As you can see on the tote board, my current home is the [hork] twelfth place I've lived since the ol' undergrad years. Each of these domiciles was rigorously vetted and had to meet a crushing set of criteria before I would even consider living in any of them.

Namely, I required that each of my residences be - and this was non-negotiable -

I know. I told you I was picky.

Some of the "bonus features" of my old apartments have included:
  • The convenience of an independent pharmaceuticals distribution hub right next door (open 24 hours).
  • A kitchen carpeted in wall-to-wall shag.
  • A demonic toilet.
  • Locked out? No problem! These here windows lift right out of the wall!
  • "The Eliminator" elevator.
  • The restful quiet that can only come from not having to listen to the pesky hum of an air conditioner.
Believe it or not, these attributes held surprisingly little appeal for ZsaZsa (although I think she'll come around on the kitchen shag once she's rolled on the floor while eating a moon pie - no one can resist that). And, when I thought about it, I realized I had a different standard for my mom's pad, too.

Lesson #2: My mom's new pad needs to be safe and (relatively) freak-free.

Which Is Why I'm Surveilling Her Building.

Oh, sure, the apartment is nice. But we all know that it's really all about the people in the building, yes? Right.

Allow me to share my findings to date with you:

Apt. 307 - Shadowed portly male occupant from elevator by carrying potted shrub against my chest and making little hops. Subject emitted unnatural creaking noise with each step. Is likely listed on a national registry of some sort.

Apt. 110 - Suspected sweatshop that appears to be churning out substantial quantities of macaroni art. Wait, scratch that. They just have a lot of children. Never mind.

Apt. 202 - Arbonne Cosmetics representative. [Note to self: avoid second floor altogether or risk another forcible exfoliation.]

Apt. 314 - Portal to the early 70s. Glimpse through open door revealed variegated shag carpet, smoked-mirror wet bar and metal wall sculpture of pointy sailboat cluster. Possible Tiki epicenter.

Apt. 105 - RED ALERT. The people living in #105 are all [gasp] professional mimes.

Aw, hell. And things were shaping up so nicely. Why couldn't it have been something manageable...like a meth lab?

My friend Leigh Cunningham has just published the first in a series of children's books entitled THE GLASS TABLE. Congrats, Leigh!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Always Home and Unbowed

I am proud to be among the 98 bloggers teaming up with our friend Kevin at Always Home and Uncool for a simultaneous posting to help raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife's birthday.

I hope you'll take a moment to read Kevin's story in his own words below. Thank you.

Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skin conditions - none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner - then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source - obvious and otherwise - that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blond cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:
  • The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.
  • The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.
  • The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.
  • The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.
She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

That was her gift - a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago - Oct. 2, 2002 - the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain are her scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also a birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at www.curejm.org.

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to: www.firstgiving.com/rhondaand kevinmckeever
or www.curejm.com/team/donations.htm.