Don’t Rain On My Meat Parade

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“Mama,” said Isabel eagerly, “Tell another one. Make up a story where Ramona – real Ramona – is pretending to be Joey King, who is pretending to be Ramona for the movie, and how real Ramona gets to do the scenes instead of Joey King.”

“Sure,” I said, weary from telling many, many versions of made-up Ramona and Beezus stories to Isabel, most of them about Ramona trying to sneak onto the movie set and play herself instead of letting child actress Joey King do it.  “On our way to Whole Foods!”

I had a list, and I leaned my elbows onto the back of a chair and stretched my calves while I tried to memorize it.

“Mama, what are you DOING?” asked Isabel.

“I’m trying to remember everything on this list,” I explained.

“But why, Mama?” Isabel thought this was silly. “Why don’t you just bring the list with, and read it to see what you need?”

“Just to see if I can.  To improve my memory.  OK, Listen.  I’m going to make up a story about all of these things to see if I can lock them into my mind. I”m going to imagine this happening like a little movie. Here we go.”

I thoughtfully paused, then said, “OK!  Imagine some  hot dogs with legs. They are walking, all straight and tall, with thin little arms and legs. They are wearing gym shoes. OK? And they’re pulling…..sleds…made of bacon. Yes, bacon sleds! And riding on the sleds are turkeys who are going ‘GOBBLE BOGGLE’ and juggling purple cauliflowers and broccolis.”

“Mama, that’s silly,” interjected Isabel.

“Yes, I know,” I agreed happily. “That will make me remember it better.”

“Ok. So NOW, the hotdogs arrive at the swimming pool. Only it’s made of tortillas, and it’s filled with raw eggs instead of water. The hot dogs don’t want to get a sunburn, so they oil up with coconut oil and Go-Go Squeeze.  They’re really lathering in into their skin, getting all oily. Got that?

“Now, some friends come. I’m calling them the ‘Four Tall-ees” because they’re tall. Celery, cucumbers, zucchinis, and carrots. There’s 4 of them, so they’re dancing in, in a square shape. Like this.” I demonstrated a cha-cha like move.

“And NOW, they are going to go bowling, and each of them has a round thing.  They are using tomatoes, apples, beets, and avocados.  And they’re wearing strawberry hats on their heads!  And then they hop around in little hoppers made of bell peppers.

“And some little limes and lemons come in on tiny yellow legs, singing.  They are wearing shawls made of lettuce so they can fly. Super-LEMON! Whoo hoo! And then they jump on trampolines made of bread, and put on underpants made of pepperoni.

“Oh, and I can’t forget the hummus. On the way, the hot dogs pull the bacon sleds through a HUGE puddle of hummus, but it look like poop. Mud poop. BRRRRTTTTT.” (I made a fart sound.)

“Mama! That’s GROSS!” exclaimed Isabel, giggling, because who doesn’t giggle at poops and farts?

“I know!” I said, grinning back with pleasure. “It’s easier to remember when it’s gross. But just think, I can just say this little story to myself in the store, and that way I will remember EVERY thing on that list.”

Isabel was very quiet for a moment, then she spoke carefully.  “Mama, I don’t think you should say that story out loud in the store at all, ok?  I really don’t want you to.”

“All right,” I was  agreeable.  “I’ll just whisper it to you.”

“No, Mama. I don’t want you to say it ALL.”

“Why?” I asked innocently. “Do you think it might be…embarrassing?” ( She’s only 6 and she’s already asking me to change? Yikes.)

“No, not really,” she said. “But I just…don’t want you to say it at all, ever, ever again. Ok?”

In the car, I was forced to tell yet ANOTHER story about Ramona. Although I love the Ramona books, it gets tiring to be sort of on-call to make up Ramona stories at the drop of a hat every time your daughter wants one. VERY tiring.  Sometimes I said I couldn’t tell the story because I was focusing on driving.  Other times I said that I didn’t have story yet; my brain was still growing one slowly, like an apple maturing on a tree, or a chrysalis turning into a butterfly. Isabel asked many times  if the apple was ready yet. I said no, not yet, but soon.

When we got to the store, I was eager to test my memory story.  I headed right for produce. “The 4 Tallees,” I told Isabel, “bowling!” and we picked out all the right fruits and veggies. We remembered lemons and limes.

At the meat counter, I spoke out loud to Isabel.  “Hot dogs pulling bacon sleds with turkey on top. And don’t forget the pepperoni underpants. “It’s a Meat Parade!” I said in a song-ish way.  I was happy with my memory thus far.

Isabel giggled. A lady next to me, a tall elegant lady with white curls and a pearl necklace, made a sort of frown and muttered something to herself. It sounded like, “Oh My Lord. Seriously?”

Apparently she was not the type to appreciate a Meat Parade, or edible garlic-scented undergarments.  But the man behind the counter approved. “Now that sounds like a sweet setup,” he commented.

“Damn straight!” commented another customer, who was very hip and cool. I could tell he was hip and cool because:

  1.  He was wearing the shoes that have a compartment for each toe
  2. He had earrings in his ears that were as big as  silver dollars
  3. He and his partner were wearing matching bracelets

“Oh, thanks!” I blushed.  I was so excited to receive such lovely feedback.  “It’s a new memory technique,” I explained.  “New to me, anyway.  You make up a story about all the things you need to remember, and that way you don’t need to write it down.”

Partner murmured to toe-shoes, “I’d like to see YOU in some pepperoni underpants, Honey,” and then something quieter that I couldn’t quite hear (even though I tried), and then they both giggled  before wandering over to Cheese.

Isabel whispered to me, “Did he say a bad word, Mama? You know, DAMN?”

“Oh, no,” I said quickly. “He probably meant, like, a beaver dam. He was thinking about beavers, and how they could probably build an awesome, totally straight dam made of meat. Like a dam to block water, you know?”

To illustrate, I made some noises that seemed beaverish: ‘Raaaahhh!  Arrrgarrgarrgarr. Eeeekkkkjurkurkurkur.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreep.” And to seem further beaverish, I waved my arms behind me like a tail splashing the water, and hopped up and down.  I put a lot of effort into the beaver routine.

The pearl lady  grimaced and pointedly moved a few steps further from me. Clearly she was as unimpressed with my Beaver Impression as she was with my Meat Parade. Maybe she thought I was rabid.

Her loss, I thought darkly, and in my food movie, made the hotdogs push her into the egg pool and then take her pearl necklace and act out a scene from Fifty Shades of Gray where the boy hotdog takes the pearls over to the girl hotdog and – and no, never mind, because although the memory book said that the more explicit or gross a memory is, the stickier it is, I REALLY didn’t want to see her pearls doing that, and OH NO. Too late!  The pearls were locked into my memory in a most memorable way, and they were not even on my list of things to buy! Shit!

Isabel was tugging at my hand. “Mama, did we get hot dogs yet?”

Pearl necklace. Hot dogs. “Not yet, Sweetie,” I said, and we walked over to get them.

Later on, we tried some salami samples at the meat counter. They were really gross, and Isabel whined for water (honesty, I felt like barfing too), and then I was trying to run through the story in my head, but it was hard with a small girl complaining and tugging.

“Just let me grab the poop hummus!” I called to Isabel, and I grabbed my favorite flavor, buffalo, from the rack.

And of course, Pearl Lady was RIGHT THERE hearing me call it poop hummus.  I had to work hard to keep from laughing. The look on her snooty face was priceless, so I innocently repeated it loudly as I walked past her:  “Poop hummus! Poop hummus!” It felt great to say it loudly like that. “Poop hummus!” I repeated, and then said it again.

“Poop Hummus!”    I practically screamed at her. This time she moved away very quickly indeed.  I made another noise, just for fun, a noise that might be uttered by a rabid beaver. “RRRRRRRik -ik -ik ik ik ik ik ik!”

Why was she even AT Whole Foods? I wondered to myself.  She seemed like she needed a butler to shop for her, or something. Oh My Lord.

As we paid for the food, I checked the list to see how I’d done.  Yes, everything! I’d gotten…oh, no. I forgot the coconut oil. How could I have forgotten THAT? I’d really visualized the hot dogs greasing up when I first created the story. And I did remember the apple sauce, their other suntain lotion.

I decided:

  1. Too much beaver dam and pearl necklace; not enough running through the actual story while shopping
  2. Having Isabel gagging and crying about nasty salami didn’t help
  3. Of course, a person with a super strong memory could easily summon up “coconut oil” even if they had TEN screaming kids and TEN mean Pearl Necklace Ladies distracting them
  4. So obviously I need more practice
  5. But still, a pretty good first attempt!
  6.  I’m proud of the bacon sled! Seriously, a bacon sled! Cool, right?

Unfortunately, even though I forgot the coconut oil, I still can remember Claudia Schiffer in the cottage cheese. (Confused? Read my earlier story on memory here.) Maybe next time I’ll have to imagine Ms. S. rubbing the coconut oil all over herself, or better yet,  I’ll imagine Mr. Christian Gray rubbing coconut oil on himself.

And if I encounter Mean Pearl Lady again, I won’t shout “Poop Hummus!” at her. Instead,  I’ll just  be forthright and tell her, “Hey! Don’t you rain on my Meat Parade!”



Cottage Cheese, Toupees, and Cardiology

As I was walking through the parking lot towards the entrance of the Banner Heart Hospital, I saw a piece of black hair lying on the ground by the driver’s side door of a parked car. The car, a modest sedan, had handicapped plates. The hair was shiny and black and luscious.

“Is that a…toupee?” I asked myself with eager curiosity, as I approached the scalpage.  (Curiosity, because I’m just always on the quest for knowledge and new experiences. Eagerly, because — come on, how often do you see a wig in a parking lot? And also, because I wanted to distract myself from my upcoming cardiology appointment, and ALSO, because isn’t LAUGHTER THE BEST MEDICINE OF ALL? And if so, maybe by having a good old chuckle right here in the parking lot I might cure all of my symptoms so that the doctor would proclaim, “Get out of here, you scamp! There is absolutely nothing wrong with you at all!”)

Anyway, so there I was in the beating sun, looking down at a tousled but otherwise intact patch of vibrant black hair, and thinking:

  • 1. Should I…pick it up?
  • 2.  NO, right? Because, what would I do with it?
  • 3.  I mean, I COULD put it into the ‘eyeglass basket’ in the cardiology office on the 3rd floor (Yes, they do have an “eyeglass basket”; yes, it’s always filled with at least 4 pairs.)
  • 4.  But perhaps the owner of the hairpiece is not at that office. There are many different offices in the building…the hairless wonder could be anywhere.
  • 5.  Besides, what if it had, like, lice or something? Cooties?
  • 6. Better to just leave it here, by this car, because probably the owner will see it on the way back out.
  • 7. But also, I should text several people about this immediately.
  • 8. And probably also tell the tech today at my appointment, because, hey! A toupee in the parking lot!

So after chuckling to myself and admiring, for one last time,  the luster of the sun shimmering from the ebony tresses, I took a deep breath and continued on into the building, and to floor three, where I had an appointment to pick up my eCardio heartbeat monitor.

I noted that the eyeglass basket was full, and that there were no people in the waiting room who appeared to be lacking a hairpiece. That’s not to say that they didn’t lack hair — it’s just that those who lacked it seemed to be OK with it.

“The Blessing!” I muttered to myself, summoning up another chuckle as I reminisced with myself about the awesome uncle in “Christmas Vacation” and about his toupee. Awesome!  “The Blessing!” I said under my breath again, wishing that I could insta-send a mental Skype to my sisters and family to laugh about this with me.

Because I could not do the mental thing, and because nobody sitting near me piped up with, “Oh, I LOVE that movie too!”, I  passed time while waiting nervously by alternating between two thoughts:

  • 1. Oh My God. I am probably the youngest person in here. I guess that’s OK, right? I mean, look at all these people – they’re pretty old, and they have serious problems, and they’re still kicking! It’s OK. I’m OK.
  • 2. Oh My God. I am probably the youngest person in here. That’s TERRIBLE. I mean, look at all these people – they’re pretty old, and they have serious problems. If I’m having problems NOW, good God, what, how will I —

And now it was time to distract myself by reading a book on my tablet by Joshua Foer called Moonwalking With Einstein. This book proved to be even better than the toupee in the parking lot. Have you read it? If not, you should!  Foer writes in a fun style about memory, memory competitions, how to improve your memory, and how even “ordinary” people who don’t think of themselves as savants can learn to memorize incredible amounts of knowledge.

He said there are techniques you can use to memorize lists of words or numbers, and he started with a very catchy example.  Let’s say you want to memorize his friend’s long ‘to do’ list of 15 items that includes purchasing pickled garlic, cottage cheese, 6 bottles of wine, elk sausages, etc. He says to start by thinking of a place that is very familiar to you, such as your childhood home . Take the first item on your ‘to do’ list and put it by the entry walkway. Imagine yourself placing that jar of pickled garlic there, maybe a HUGE bottle, and tasting the delicious and/or revolting taste as you do. Really visualize it there in your mind.  Next, proceed up to the front door. As you get there, imagine that right there is a kiddie pool filled with cottage cheese, and Claudia Schiffer is in there swimming in it. A few items later,  imagine the 6 bottles of wine sitting on the couch, arguing about which one of them tastes better. (Foer, Joshua. Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.  New York: The Penguin Press, 2011.)

And so on. The thing is, it WORKED.  I read along with his friend’s eccentric to-do list, mentally placing them  in my childhood home, and it stuck. I can recall the list right now. I am visualizing the jar of garlic, the pool of cottage cheese, the wine bottles…all of it!

I started to get excited. Next step? Maybe *I* can be the one who memorizes pi to the ten thousandth digit!  Or, maybe not, because honestly? –That sound super boring. (Although kudos to those who can do it!)

But I figured that if I could now memorize long weird lists of things just after reading about a technique for 10 minutes, imagine how much I could improve my memory ability if I actually studied more about this and practiced, as Foer did. He ended up winning the U.S.  Memory Championship in 2006 after learning & practicing various memory techniques.

So I walked into my appointment thinking of Claudia Schiffer and the garlic (those images are REALLY sticky! — mental note; need to learn how to un-remember something), and proceeded to tell the tech about the toupee in the parking lot at a suitable point in the conversation. She did not seem to think this was as funny as I did, or as interesting. Also, she did not seem to know exactly how to work the device she was currently giving me to take home for 30 days.  I found myself thinking that perhaps SHE could use a few lessons on memory. (“I can’t remember how many events it records before you can send it. I think maybe, like, two? Or like, maybe three? Just send after each event though, OK?”)

It’s an eCardio monitor that looks like a little pager. If I feel irregular heartbeats or palpitations, I just hold it to my chest and it records for 60 seconds. Then I call the number listed on the pager, hold the receiver over the pager, push the “SEND” button, and it transmits.  I was simultaneously relieved that I didn’t have to WEAR the monitor for 30 days and also surprised that there was not better technology. I mean, seriously — how about a device that records and can upload to a website on the computer? Wouldn’t that be simpler?

My cardiologist told me not to worry about having a heart attack from my sometimes-palpitations after I told him I was worried about this. He wants me to record any irregular heartbeats so we can figure out what is going on, but he did not seem to think it was going to be life-threatening, which is comforting.

So now I will be carrying around my little eCardio in my purse for the next 30 days, and also possibly reading more about memory techniques and improving my memory.  I will also be trying to remove the images of Claudia in the cottage cheese, and the huge bottle of garlic, and the grumpy wine bottles from my childhood home, because — as you can imagine — there are MUCH better things I can use to fill up that home. Like a luscious, gleaming black toupee.