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So far ericpoole has created 124 blog entries.

August 15, 2018

A CAUTIONARY TALE

I was visiting my sister in St. Louis when her housekeeper arrived.

I’d never met this girl, a friendly, 40ish white woman. (I only mention that the maid is white for the novelty of it all. I live in California.) She plunked her tackle box of cleaning supplies down on the kitchen counter and sighed.

“It’s my last day,” she said. “We’re moving to Tampa.”

“Oh, nice!” I said by way of scintillating conversation. “Florida is pretty.” (I mean, really, what do you say about Florida? “Lucky you! You can bring your semi-automatic to church.”)

“Too bad,” she continued with a sigh, “we won’t have anything when we get there.”

I wasn’t sure how to interpret this. No friends to welcome them? No family within driving distance? Are they on the lam?

“Oh,” I said, “are your relatives afraid to cross the thin red line?”

She looked confused. “I don’t know what that means.” She popped the latch on her tackle box. “We had a mover pick up all our stuff a month ago. And they disappeared.”

Now it was my turn to be confused.

“What?”

“Yeah, they took everything we owned and just made off with it. It’s this scam that movers pull. They take your stuff, then sell it, I guess, and throw out whatever they can’t sell.”

This didn’t seem like the kind of service Mayflower advertised.

“Oh my GOD!” I hollered, much louder than necessary. “So, you have NOTHING??!!”

My helpful recap was probably somewhat unnecessary, but come on, who’s ever heard of such a thing?

“Well, we have one of our cars,” she replied. “So, at least we can get to Florida.”

“It’s like your house burned down!” I said, continuing my fairly impressive display of tactlessness. “Did you try to get hold of the company? Did you call the police?”

At this point, she stopped pulling cleaning solutions out of her box and turned to try to gauge if I was actually brain damaged.

“Ummm, yeah,” she replied. “I guess the company never actually had a real office. People like this just change their phone number. And there’s not much the police can do,” she replied. “By the time you realize your stuff isn’t coming back, it’s all been sold. Plus, it’s crossed state lines.”

“Does your homeowner’s insurance cover the loss?”

“No,” she replied.

I was dumbfounded. “Well, who’s gonna pay to replace your stuff?”

She shrugged with defeat. “We probably should have bought mover’s insurance. But we’ve moved a bunch of times without any problems.”

When everything you own is being trucked 1,200 miles, I said to myself, it might be a good idea to buy insurance. Thoughtfully, this I didn’t say out loud.

“Where did you find these guys?” I asked.

“Craigslist.”

Okay. I realize that we are all of different means. And that often, people have to cut major corners in life. But hiring a mover off Craigslist and NOT getting insurance is a little like being diabetic and eating a box of Ding Dongs every day. You’re just begging the universe to punch you in the face.

“Wow,”I said softly, afraid that at this point she might raise her fists to the heavens and start shrieking, “WHY, GOD, WHY??!!” (Not that I would blame her. But, you know, we just met.)

This was a really stupid scenario, given that it was fairly unavoidable. But I didn’t know her life situation. So I didn’t want to judge her, even if it’s a sport in which I’m David Beckham-like in my virtuosity.

“Okay, here’s what you need to do,” I said, just as my sister walked in, ready for us to leave. “You know those Kickstarter and GoFundMe pages that people set up for heroes or victims of disasters or cancer and stuff? You need to get one of your friends to start one of those.”

“Oh, uh-huh,” she replied, a bit disinterestedly.

“No, really,” I insisted heatedly, nonplussed at her dismissal.

Sure, this was her own damn fault, but there could be entirely justifiable financial circumstances that would make someone take such a gamble. What if one of her kids was handicapped and the family was barely able to put food on the table? What if she cared for an ailing parent, and just cleaned the occasional house when she could fit it in in order to keep a roof over their heads?

“Okay, well, nice to meet you,” she said as Val hustled me out the door.

“What’s with the bum rush?” I said to my sister as we got into her SUV. “Did you know about this whole movers-stealing-all-her-stuff thing?”

My sister is about the kindest, most compassionate person I’ve ever met. She’s supermom to her severely handicapped son. I half-expected her to turn to me, shocked, and burst into tears.

“Oh, yeah,” she replied nonchalantly, as she roared out of her driveway like the Indy 500 starter gun had just gone off.

“Well, you don’t sound very upset about it.”

“Eric,” she said, “this is what she does. I suspect she wasn’t interested in the GoFundMe idea because she’s always getting herself into these kind of problems. Her friends probably wouldn’t do it.” She took the corner at 60 miles an hour on two wheels. “Some people have to learn the hard way.”

It reminds me of a term my friend Steve once coined for a mutual friend of ours who created all kinds of problems for herself: “She’s a shit vortex”.

And this, my friends, is the moral of the story. If you’re gonna hire a mover with a burner phone and not get insurance, try not to be a shit vortex.

2018-08-15T08:47:20+00:00 August 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|

July 30,2018

I think I might be too busy.

Oh, don’t get all judgy on me, I’m not trying to impress you. It’s not like I’m living some glamorous Kardashian-inspired (a phrase I never thought I would utter) life where the excitement is nonstop.

It’s not like I need a break from invitations to yachts on the French Riviera and ryads in Marrakech. (But if any of you have a plus one, I’m available.)

I think I’m just working too much. And here’s how I know:

In the last month, I’ve gone to the airport and forgotten my phone.

Twice.

I mean, the thing is virtually glued to my thigh like a tumor, so this is not normal behavior. The second time it happened, Sandy sighed and said, “I guess we’d better start saving for the Home.”

Other warning signs:

  • My friends have just about given up inviting me to things, because either: a) I’m working; or b) I’m out of town. (There is a possible “c” which involves my inability to stop bitching about being so busy, but really, I’m sure it’s a or b.)
  • I’m starting to forget what my husband looks like. We’re used to only seeing each other about 200-250 days a year because he travels for work, but this year we’ve been in different cities so often that I’m beginning to wonder if he was ever real or just a big brown mirage. (Yes, he’s Hispanic. Don’t write me letters. I get a pass.)
  • I cannot function, day to day, without a list. Part of this is totally legitimate – I have many jobs going simultaneously – but when I find myself writing things down like, “Trim fingernails” (the reminder is, pardon the expression, right at my fingertips) or “Do the elliptical”, which sits in a corner of my office and which I glance at perhaps 20 times a day, maybe it’s time for a vacation.

It is somewhat reassuring to know that some people are even worse. My friend Jason is similarly frantic all the time, and he got out of his car at a parking lot at Burbank airport (on his way to Vegas for a weekend) and LEFT HIS CAR RUNNING. He returned to find it still running – albeit with 15 less gallons of gas – two and a half days later.

But still.

Here’s the problem: like most authors, I’m not making a living at books alone. I still do my advertising and marketing work (which is a good 50 hours a week). AND I write future books. AND I promote the new book that’s out (with things like interviews, articles for magazines, this blog, social media, blah blah).

I think the answer is some sympathetic reader with more money than sense bequeathing me a few million dollars.

Or maybe I can get Sarah McLachlan to do one of those ASPCA-type ads for me, with an 800 number to call to donate.

Oooh! Or maybe some caring friend could do a GoFundMe campaign on my behalf.

I mean, sure, I wasn’t run over by a hit and run driver. I didn’t save ten strangers from a burning building.

But it would save YOU from having to read posts like this.

Consider it a public service.

2018-07-30T06:36:32+00:00 July 30th, 2018|Uncategorized|

July 22, 2018

One of the best things about writing memoirs is getting letters from people who say, “My God, your mother Pledged the paneling every week? So did mine!”

Or, “Hey, I threw up on a girl’s vagina, too.”

The kinship of shared experiences is a pretty powerful thing. And when readers see themselves in my books, I feel like I’ve accomplished something more than just the narcissism of writing about myself (as lustrously fulfilling as that is). If, in working out my personal issues on the printed page I can help somebody else work through theirs, then I’ve done my job.

I’m like a literary therapist. But with no credentials or Kleenex.

Many friends have asked me over the years if I wanted to put photos of myself in my books, to which I always respond, “Are you kidding?” I’ve read memoirs where the author inserts charming photos of his life, and it always takes me out of the book. Suddenly, it’s his story, and I’m just outside looking in.

I want my books to be your story.

Sure, you might not have played Trying to Get the Feeling on the trumpet right before having sex with a girl. You might not have performed On a Clear Day as a lounge number (with jazz hands) in front of your college theatre professor. You might not have found yourself on a runaway freight train to the altar. You might not have dressed in drag to win over your boss at an ad agency (and then done it again).

But you probably felt the same way – that panic at being different, that fear that your life was going in a direction not on any “acceptable” map, that desperate desire to be seen, but terror at actually taking the leap to make it happen.

This is why I like writing – and reading – memoirs. There’s something about knowing someone’s journey was real that makes the similar experiences that much more profound.

And seriously, some of the stupid things that happen in life? You can’t make this shit up.

2018-07-22T11:18:32+00:00 July 22nd, 2018|Uncategorized|

July 7, 2018

My sister’s son is a disease overachiever: he has severe autism and cerebral palsy and a bonus pack of other maladies that affect various cognitive and motor abilities. Brian cannot eat, go to the bathroom, or take a bath by himself. It’s like he won the Special Kid Powerball.

He came to be because at the ripe old age of 21, my sister Valerie married her high school sweetheart. Naturally, they divorced 10 years later once they figured out who they actually were, but in the meantime, they’d had this adorable kid who’s a holy handful. Val’s ex is a good guy, but he remarried and has three kids of his own, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome; so, he has his hands full, and Val has essentially raised Brian by herself. And when you’re talking about a kid like Brian, that ain’t no small thing, chicken wing.

I’ve always felt like Val should be a comic book character – SuperMom, Wonder Woman’s slightly more exhausted older sister. Val works full-time and cares for Brian at morning and at night. The process of feeding him, bathing him, washing all his soiled linens and getting him ready for special school takes HOURS every day. Her days start at 5:30am and don’t end until she puts Brian to bed around 8:00pm.

Our dad now lives with her, and he helps care for Brian as well (heroically, I might add, for someone who’s freaking 89), but the bulk of the responsibility still falls on my sister. And even though I go home every three months to visit her and my dad, three or four weeks over the course of a year doesn’t exactly change the work equation for Val. Her drudgery continues, week in and week out, month after month, year after year, like some Sisyphean Mother Theresa.

Brian is, of course, a wonderful kid, as special kids inevitably are – a total bundle of love. And that definitely helps. But he’s currently in the hospital (for probably the 10th time), and my sister is there with him day and night. And while she keeps insisting that she can handle it, I know that all of this is wearing her down to a nub.

So, while I do absolutely believe in God (I’ve never been some nihilist who thinks this is all meaningless and then we die – that kind of attitude doesn’t exactly make you sparkle at parties), I have a big, fat beef with Him.

What is the meaning and the purpose of an endless life of servitude, one my sister undertakes simply because she’s kind and generous and loving? (She could long ago have shipped Brian off to a facility.) Why is her life so filled with tasks and traumas, when mine is not? She’s clearly the better person, so why did she get a Brian?

I don’t really know why I’m asking these questions; they won’t get answered. God seems to run the universe like a reality show: “The answer will be revealed…after the break.”

I guess I just have to believe that there will be a reward for her on the other side. I sure hope it’s a big one. I hope she gets to decide who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t. I can picture her, like that scene from History of the World, Part 1, where Madeline Kahn is walking down the row of naked Roman slaves, and going “No, no, no, no, no, no…” Then she reaches the Black guy. “YES.”

2018-07-07T08:21:07+00:00 July 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|

June 30, 2018

When my first book came out, People Magazine said of my mother, “Annihilating and loving by turns, she makes Sophie Portnoy look like June Cleaver.”

I think I’m safe to say that this is not the kind of review most mothers stick on the refrigerator. By all rights, she should have turned to me at that moment and, with regards to our relationship, said: “And…SCENE.”

I wouldn’t have blamed her. Having your warts exposed for the entertainment of beach readers everywhere is probably not the kind of thing most women dream of. But I truly wasn’t trying to hurt her.

I really wanted readers to see that she was more than just a screaming harridan wearing cold cream and Playtex Living Gloves. I wanted them to know that, for all her moments of raising her fists to the heavens and shrieking, “Why God, WHY is there water in this SINK?!” there were moments of pure, unadulterated love.

Sure, it wasn’t touchy-feely love. (Our family treated physical expressions of affection like candy stripers in a leprosy ward.) But there was love, nonetheless.

“Yes, we’ll buy you a trumpet.”

“Yes, we’ll come to your school play.”

“Yes, you can wear a ruffled pirate shirt and bleach your hair with Sun-In. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

My sister and I have talked about it at length, and I’ve always said, I don’t think she really wanted to be a mom. But that’s what you did in the 60’s. If she’d had her way, she would have been Gloria Steinem – just without all the protesting and ponchos.

But she TRIED to be a good mom, she really did. Yet, most readers’ takeaway was that she was a holy handful.

And that kind of breaks my heart.

I will never forget the book reading I had in St. Louis (where I grew up). Mother and Dad and my sister and cousins all came, and I was more nervous there than I was doing readings in LA for showbiz folk – because the book had been out for about a month. And I knew that many of the people there had already read it and were probably clucking their tongues at her.

“Elaine…really.”

But she was as gracious and kind as any mother could possibly be. She smiled and clapped and bore the brunt of my brutal honesty with far more grace than I would have if the situation had been reversed.

I never really told her how much that meant to me. Nor did I acknowledge how hard that must have been for her.

And then, she died.

I can only take solace in the fact that I believe she is watching from above, and cheering me on. And I can only hope that, in this second memoir, readers come to see what a truly extraordinary person she really was.

Because frankly, I don’t want to meet up with her in the afterlife if they don’t.

She’ll probably be tempted to bitch-slap me with those Playtex Living Gloves. And I’ll have it coming.

 

2018-06-30T09:08:58+00:00 June 30th, 2018|Uncategorized|