BUSH LOGIC

BUSH LOGIC

George Bush Sr. told the Today Show this morning that he’s optimistic about his son’s chances for reelection, even though he himself suffered a defeat following a war with Iraq:

“You know what? American elections are decided on the economy.”

You can see the logical progression from this argument. In 1992, the economy sucked, and that’s why Clinton won. Right? But just when you think a Bush is about to admit a failing, he follows that up with this:

“My problem was the economy was good but I couldn’t get people to understand that.”

See? It’s not his fault he lost. We were just dumb.

This, to me, is a perfect example of the Bush mentality. It’s a unique form of spin control that says: “Forget the facts; if you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot.”

It’s the same attitude we saw when Bush Jr. was still blabbing about WMDs long after we knew there weren’t any, when he was talking about an Iraq-al Qaeda link while everyone with any knowledge of the Middle East was insisting that Saddam and bin Laden had a total Lindsay Lohan-Hillary Duff thing going on. We see it when he talks about the economy and outsourcing, and when he defends Rumsfeld’s job performance as the hellmouth opens in Iraq. It’s even rubbed off on his staff, like when Condi told the 9/11 commission that pre-9/11 there was no intelligence suggesting al Qaeda might strike in the US and then admitted five seconds later that the title of a pre-9/11 presidential briefing had been “Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States”.

You can only imagine how this kind of thinking might have manifested itself in the next generation of Bushes, Jenna and Barbara: “But I am 21, Officer, you just don’t understand my I.D.!”

As frustrating as it is to hear the President of the United States talk like this, I’m actually hoping that Bush doesn’t catch on to how self-destructive it is before November. People got tired of it in his father, and I have to believe they’ll get tired of it with him, too.

Let’s just hope we don’t have a repeat of the 2000 race, when George W. lost the election, but no one could get him to understand that.

RUN, RUDOLPH, RUN

RUN, RUDOLPH, RUN

If I’m really good-hearted underneath it all and I take a moment to reflect today — really reflect — on what’s going on in the Middle East, and in Zimbabwe, and Chechnya…

… and if I put everything in perspective by being grateful that at least I’m not one of those poor, poor orphans in Kosovo, or a starving, oppressed North Korean, or one of Duncan Nutter‘s kids…

… and if I count my blessings and remind myself that at least I don’t have some incurable disease, and at least I was born with all my limbs and senses and organs intact and at least I live in a free country where food and opportunity are relatively abundant…

… if I do all of those things… THEN can I complain that life just isn’t fair because I woke up this morning with a gigantic, hideous zit on my nose?

I mean, I know that throughout history, plenty of people have had it worse: slaves, for example, or child laborers in the Depression, or anyone who lived before the invention of toilet paper. But is it okay if, for just a minute or two, I curse my cruel fate and whine about how much life sucks?

Let me explain: this is no ordinary pimple. It is quite possibly the most enormous and grotesque zit on record in all of humankind. It rocketed from obscurity overnight to become the #1 most noticeable feature of my face. It’s larger than my first apartment. When I gaze downward, it actually obstructs my view. Sure, being blighted by this bulbous, oozing monstrosity is not as bad as being a woman living under the Taliban, but at least then I’d be able to hide my face behind a veil, and no one would know my shame.

And of all the places to have a zit, why the end of my nose? People are forced to stare at it whenever they look at me — at least when they don’t turn away in disgust. Every time I talk to someone, I’m thinking, They totally staring at it right now. How can they not be? They’re pitying me, they’re mocking me, they’re praying something like this never happens to someone they love. I mean, watching a loved one break out in nausea-inducing whiteheads is better than, say, watching them wither away from an eating disorder. But for just a moment can I pretend that it’d be better to hear “Sweetie, you need to eat something!” than “Have you looked into Acutane?” Oh, man, that would be great.

I mean, it’s just not fair! I hate having adult acne! I hate looking like a mutant. Why me? I don’t deserve such pain, such sorrow, such hardship! My life stinks, and I’m suffering more than anyone has ever suffered! I don’t deserve this, I really don’t!

Okay, I’m done now. That’s all I wanted. Thanks.

And now, my heart goes out to the Cambodian refugees and the starving children in the Sudan.

BLIND ITEMS ABOUT MY FRIENDS*

BLIND ITEMS ABOUT MY FRIENDS*

What out-and-proud Howard Stern fan’s not-so-well-hidden fuzzy side came out this weekend when he finally canceled his account with a highly-visible, lowly-regarded Internet Service Provider? The secret softy hadn’t used the dial-up dinosaur in months but had put off placing the call out of fear of the outdated direct mail nuisance’s notoriously cult-like refusal to let members of its “family” escape its cold, Mafia-like grip. Within a few minutes of dialing customer service, the potty-mouthed bad boy (who also, eyewitness sources say, loooooooved “Shrek 2″), was heard chit-chatting with a phone rep he was addressing by first name, inquiring about her kids and opening up about his own occupation, feeding the ravenous appetite of the commission-craving customer-intimidator. The iced tea and lemonade-mixing bad boy sketched a line in the sand and later expressed disappointment that the chummy chatterbox he’d gotten to know so well had become so terse and rude when saying goodbye. He’ll be thanking himself when he finds an extra $10 in his bank account next month.

What westside chatterbox who lends out her swanky guest house to sisters having birthdays has designs on a successful screenwriter, even though her previous fling with a date-crashing funnyman ended with laughter — at his expense? Let’s hope this one doesn’t turn into another turkey tale, because the perils are as plain as the writing on the back of a Harry Potter action figure box.

What sassy Scooby Doo-loving pre-tween performed 75 cartwheels at her preschool fund drive last weekend, thus nearly bankrupting a kind benefactor who pledged $5 a cartwheel, thinking the precocious francais-parlezing member of the Nickelodeon demographic would max out around five? The distraught donor, suddenly finding himself twirling into a pit of financial ruin, was rescued by the subsequently dizzy tot’s mom, who graciously (and fraudulently) did some gymnastics with the donation form and reduced his overly generous pledge to a more manageable level, thus causing him to do some cartwheels of his own… of joy.

What concert-going Bay-watcher needs to get his chronology straight when trying to hide the fact that his on-again, off-again fling with his favorite bad girl may have been on-again more recently than his friends knew? Seems the curly-haired Casanova slipped up at a recent gathering and found his own pulse racing when grilling from his barracuda buddies ensued.

Aah, the fall TV schedules have been announced, and schadenfreude is in the air! What friend’s former film professor, who has a habit of being told off by his staff for his arrogance and an even nastier habit of repeatedly promising students jobs and then failing to deliver, saw his snooze-inducing drama series canned this season after — Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz — excuse me, I fell asleep just writing about that show, which 0% of friends polled were aware was still on the air. Turns out those custodial network bigwigs weren’t quite as convinced of the turgid, talky show’s terrificness as his eminence the creator was (and neither were the Emmy people), so they orphaned it into network oblivion … And what victorious vixen scoffed when she heard the news that her nemesis’ network pilot had been nixed? Sources say the sun came out last Sunday when said friend heard the fate of the vulpine scribe’s drama. Apparently, the not-meant-to-be new series was as ill-conceived as its creator’s tendency to moon over certain network execs at interminable length, and its axing leaves her nothing to talk about at dinner parties but her second-favorite topic, herself.

What guy sitting in front of me at “Shrek 2″ this weekend went absolutely gaga — no, not over the flick, but over the hairy-chested hunk Shrek became after drinking a magic potion that also did quite a number on his donkey? Puss in Boots may have been the cat’s meow with audiences, but the real purring was coming from Row F of the Cinerama Dome, where a patron was audibly cooing and gurgling whenever a certain digitally-rendered dreamboat appeared on screen. Theater owners broke out the big mop bucket to wipe up the puddle of drool that pooled at the base of the soulpatched swooner’s oversized, high-backed theater seat. And when the lights came up, he was seen walking out with a very beary boyfriend of his own on his arm. Thankfully, the movie’s message of tolerance for the beastly ensured that the ogreish duo turned nary a toddling moviegoer’s head on the way out of the theater.

Finally, speaking of toddlers, what tough-as-nails two-year-old was returned to his parents yesterday with a couple of new scrapes and bruises thanks to a bumbling, blogging babysitter? The eponymous “scare”-giver blamed the bumps on the klutzy kid, until his blabbermouth boyfriend bellowed, “J’accuse!” and revealed the playground mishap that bonked the baby on the noggin. Seems the sitter thought the kid wasn’t having enough fun on the seesaw, and so he sped up the sees and saws until the kid ended up with a face full of handlebar. Ouch! Why, babysitter, why?

That’ll do it for now. Any guesses?????

________________________________________

* and some weirdo at “Shrek 2″

TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING

TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING

This year, I gave myself the best birthday present I could think of. I fired my agent.

Okay, technically, I waited until this morning to do it, just in case she was planning to send me a birthday gift basket with a card that contained some variation on, “This is really going to be your year. Let’s go get ‘em!” That would’ve been awkward. But when the birthday came and went without any acknowledgment from her, I knew it was time to make official something that had been painfully clear for far too long.

I think I was pretty classy about it. I didn’t bring up any of her failings as an agent — which were many — or blame her for anything that went wrong — though pretty much everything was her fault — and at the end, I told her that I wish her the best — which, honestly, I do. It was a long relationship, and there were many problems, too many to list.

Oh, who am I kidding? A catty jerk like me? How can I resist? A partial list of grievances:

  • The first, and arguably the worst incident, from an agent-client relationship perspective, was when she told me she didn’t like comedies: “I just don’t get them, and I don’t know how to sell them!” Given that this came about two days after she signed me, and that, well, I kind of write comedy, this was probably not a very tactful confession for her to make.

  • She has a very limited knowledge of key Hollywood players, especially actors. I remember an early conversation I had with her about “Monsters, Inc.”, where she was expressing fondness for one of the voice actors. “That guy is so funny! I love him! What’s his name? Crystal something… uh, Jimmy Crystal?” It’s obvious what’s wrong with this. I mean, who still thinks Billy Crystal’s funny?
  • On multiple occasions when I’d give her something to read, something I had spent months working on, her response was: “Yeah, I realized halfway through that I couldn’t sell it, so I just stopped reading.” At those times, I longed for one of those agents other people have, you know, the kind who care enough to lie.
  • She had a very fair-weather friendship with the English language, which she used correctly only on rare occasions. She used the term “agreeance” long before Fred Durst made it lampoonable. As one of my friends observed, “agreement” is the kind of word an agent should probably know.
  • She’s a devout Mormon, and whenever I’d give her something R-rated to read, it would inevitably freak her out and she wouldn’t want to send it out. It was small comfort to think that at least I was contributing to the corruption of a Mormon.
  • About a year ago, she got fired by the reputable agency where she worked. She then turned down an offer from another reputable agency in order to start her own company, of which she remains the sole employee and which she runs out of her apartment. She has nice letterhead, though.
  • Following the launch of her own agency, she never seemed to have copies of my scripts available. It was always, “I don’t know which one’s the latest draft” or “You never gave me that one, I swear!” Eventually, it became obvious that she just didn’t want to pay to make copies. She also didn’t want to pay for messengers, and she’d drive around town to hand-deliver scripts to producers. Somehow, I don’t think Mike Ovitz ever resorted to this.
  • In our last correspondence, after months of silence, she emailed me to tell me that she’d noticed the Groundlings theater had shut down and was now a Lisa Kline outlet. I called her right back: “I’m pretty sure the Groundlings are still there.” But she was insistent: No more Groundlings. Upon hanging up, I realized that during the entire call, she never once asked me about my writing. A few days later, while driving down Melrose, I noticed that a new Lisa Kline outlet had indeed opened up. A few doors down, right where it’s always been, was the Groundlings theater.

She ran my career for three years, all because I kept convincing myself that even the world’s worst agent was better than no agent at all. At some point — okay, at exactly the moment she said the name “Jimmy Crystal” — I realized that this wasn’t necessarily true. I’m not sure what I’ll do now, and I know it’ll take me a while to find new representation, but this feels like a big step forward for me, personally if not professionally. Whether or not I end up somewhere better anytime soon, it’s good to at least tell myself that I deserve better.

I really don’t have any hard feelings toward my ex-agent. As much as I enjoy bashing her agenting skills, I truly like her as a person, and she’s really very nice. Ultimately, more than everything else, that may be what makes her least qualified to be an agent.

BIRTHDAY CARD

BIRTHDAY CARD

That birthday card is from my dentist’s office.

My dentist’s office!

Don’t most dentist’s offices send you, if anything, a little pre-printed card that says, “Best Wishes. Remember, you’re due for a check-up in ___ months”?

I mean, Wendy not only remembered that I go by “Jerry”, she drew a little cake and everything!

Seriously, if anyone’s looking for a great dentist in the LA area, let me know.

(And thanks to all you well-wishers who learned my secret from the comments or from that blabbermouth orkut. Special thanks to my surprise caller last night. Possibly the cutest voicemail ever.)

HOW TO FIX A BLACKBERRY PAGER IN 13 EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING STEPS

HOW TO FIX A BLACKBERRY PAGER IN 13 EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING STEPS

  1. My boss tells me to contact our Tech Services Person (TSP) because his Blackberry is “broken” and he needs a new battery. My boss and TSP have a delightful mutual hate thing going on that prevents them from speaking to each other directly. I know that in all likelihood the Blackberry is not broken and that this will escalate into a major war between Boss and TSP, but this is my job, and I must follow orders. I try not to think that this is also the defense given by the abusive Iraqi prison guards.

  2. “Did he try charging it?” asks TSP. She insists the Blackberry is not broken and does not need a new battery, but that even if it does, “I don’t have one!” She shrugs her shoulders and waits for me to walk away.
  3. “Have her order one!” screeches my boss. “That’s her job!” I know that it is indeed her job, and I know that she knows it’s her job, but I know that this will not be as simple as her ordering a new battery.
  4. “We’ve never had this problem before with any of the other attorneys’ pagers!” TSP’s statement cleverly deflects from the fact that she really doesn’t know how to troubleshoot a Blackberry that won’t charge. I suggest that the problem would be easier solved if she just ordered him a new battery.
  5. TSP calls her boss, who works in one of our company’s other offices. He informs her that he can’t order another battery because the batteries used by this particular model are not replaceable. She hangs up and tells me, “There’s nothing I can do! There’s no battery in that model!”
  6. Marveling that the Blackberry company has managed to create a unit that can hold a charge for hours on end without the use of a battery, I wonder how the owners have not yet taken over the world and solved the energy crisis. I decide to offer a helpful suggestion: “Why don’t we try using your charger, to see if it works?”
  7. It works.
  8. TSP cackles with delight that my boss’ twisted, vicious lies have been exposed. There’s clearly no problem with his battery! Bwa-ha-ha-ha! She reveals the theory she’s held all along: that my boss is cleverly positioning himself to be the first in the firm to be switched over to the new, more advanced Blackberry model the firm has ordered (in limited quantities) by floating the notion that his current pager is defective. But she caught him, bwa-ha-ha-ha!
  9. I have my own theory: maybe his charger is broken.
  10. To test my theory, I inspect his charger. Sure enough, the power cord is missing. I check around his office but can’t locate it.
  11. I find my boss in the conference room and ask about the missing power cord. He explains that he recently disconnected all his cords in order to move his computer. Then when he reassembled it, there was one cord left over. Everyone knows that if you don’t know where something goes, it must be useless, so naturally, he stowed it away in his desk and forgot about it. I have him retrieve the missing cord, I plug it in, and the Blackberry begins to charge.
  12. I email TSP to let her know what happened. She responds: “LOL”.
  13. I make a mental note of my plans for the evening: “Go home. Shoot self.”

QUESTIONS I SHOULD’VE ASKED MYSELF BEFORE SPENDING $650 ON NEW TIRES

QUESTIONS I SHOULD’VE ASKED MYSELF BEFORE SPENDING $650 ON NEW TIRES

  1. How much are tires supposed to cost?
  2. Should my tires really be worn out already when there are only 25,000 miles on my car?
  3. Am I under warranty?
  4. How much does it cost to ride the bus?

QUESTIONS I’M ASKING AFTER SPENDING $650 ON NEW TIRES

  1. What should I have for dinner tonight, a peanut butter sandwich or… nothing?
  2. If I change my name, flee town and start living a life on the run, will the Visa people ever find me?
  3. How will I ever afford a house?

MY MIDDLE EASTERN ANGST BULLSHIT HAS A BODY COUNT

MY MIDDLE EASTERN ANGST BULLSHIT HAS A BODY COUNT

What is your damage, George W. Bush? Will somebody tell me why you invaded Iraq? Because you’re an idiot? Oh, yeah, that’s it. I have a myriad of problems with these pictures I’ve been seeing in US-fucking-A Today. Sexually perverse photography exhibits involving tennis racquets, people being fucked gently with chainsaws. The extreme always seems to make an impression.

I expect you’ll blame the usual targets: the MTV video games, another case of a geek trying to imitate the popular people and failing miserably, an uncaring and ununderstanding world. Well, save the speeches for Malcolm X. And stop trying to steer everyone toward that righteous dude who can solve their problems, Jesus Christ. You just call me when the shuttle lands.

Ideological wars are so ’87. You think that just because you started this thing, you can end it? No one can stop terrorism, not the FBI, the CIA, not you and Cheney. (I don’t really like your friends, either. Your administration seems to have an open door policy on assholes.)

I know you think our way is the way, that we scare people into not being terrorists. But “our way” is not our way. Our job is being popular and shit. I just want my country to be a nice place. If I were you, I’d take that military budget and give it all to the homeless, every cent.

And let me tell you something about Arabs, Mr. Voice of a Nation: all they want is to be treated like human beings, not to be experimented on like guinea pigs or patronized like bunny rabbits. It’s a real party continent. So you teach people how to spread democracy and fly? You’re beautiful.

You know what I want? Cowboys like you out of my life. Tomorrow, Tony Blair and Crown Prince Abdullah will be kissing your aerobicized ass, but tonight, let me dream of a world without you, a world where America is truly free.

STOP! OR MY MOM WILL CEASE!

STOP! OR MY MOM WILL CEASE!

In honor of Mother’s Day, I figured I’d tell a story about what a little freak I was growing up, and in so doing, I would illuminate what a good mother my mom must’ve been for putting up with me. Yes, Mother’s Day was two days ago, but failing to complete a project on time is actually pretty consistent with the theme of this story, so here goes…

From a very young age, I was a big neurotic geek about school. Nothing was more important to me than making a good impression on my teachers, and therefore, on my parents and therefore, ultimately, on myself. That meant that every task, every bit of homework, however minor, carried the inherent risk of letting myself down on three levels: big stakes for an eight-year-old. The earliest I can trace back my extreme school stress is third grade, and a very difficult project in art class.

From what I remember, third grade art class meant putting on a smock, taking a sheet of paper and some watercolor paints and making a big mess. But for me, education was never quite that simple. Even at that age, I believed in maintaining certain standards. So when the teacher assigned our class a Big Creative Project, I knew he had high hopes for us. And when he gave us one month to complete that assignment, I immediately began budgeting my time. I quickly computed just how much class time there was in a month. Art class only met once a week, and each class was significantly shortened by mandatory “Setup Time” and “Cleanup Time”, which left us with all of about four and a half minutes total to conceive, design and complete our masterpiece.

The theme of the project was what we would be like as grown-ups, and each of us was assigned a partner. In my case, it was a girl named Marcy. I don’t remember much about her, but I do distinctly recall that he had short black hair, that she spat when she talked, and that she was probably the only eight-year-old in the world more high-strung about schoolwork than I was. We were a perfect match.

As soon as we heard our assignment, the other kids got right to work, slathering paint across their canvasses and making their amateurish impressionist messes. But Marcy and I didn’t rush ourselves. We knew something like this required planning. Our first obstacle was how to depict our separate futures in one coherent work of art. I realized the easiest solution would be if we grew up and married each other, so I proposed to Marcy on the spot. For the sake of the painting, she agreed. Now we had just one family to depict. We were an efficient, artistic machine.

Of course, other conflicts inevitably arose. I wanted a large family with lots of kids, but Marcy wanted a career. She was going to be a lawyer, and lawyers just don’t have time for large families. She insisted that instead of Jerry Jr. tugging at her dress, she should be depicted with a briefcase at her side. The problem was that at that point in my life, I also wanted to be a lawyer, and a painting of two adults with two briefcases just didn’t seem very inspired. I could’ve drawn myself with a lion tamer’s whip or something instead, just for diversity’s sake, but I didn’t want to have to explain to the teacher that our work wasn’t intellectually honest. These kinds of artistic differences have destroyed duos far stronger than Marcy and me, so, since we were under the gun, we wisely decided split the duties. Marcy focused on us and our family, and I got to come up with all the cool futuristic stuff to put in the background. I wasn’t getting a son, but Marcy was more than willing to let me have a robot.

We worked diligently on our masterpiece every week. The night before the deadline, I barely got any sleep. We still had so much work to do to realize our vision, and new ideas kept coming to me, the kinds of things only sleep-deprived eight-year-olds dream up. What if I grew up to be president, and my vice president was a dog? What if we depicted a mini replica of our class project hanging behind us, with an A+ stamped across it? What if grownup Marcy and I lived in Denmark?

When the fateful day arrived, we raced to finish as we watched the seconds tick away. And then we heard the dreaded words, “Cleanup Time! Stop working!”

I panicked. “Help me, Marcy! I haven’t finished the flying car yet!”

Marcy immediately switched into crisis mode. There was no way, after all that hard work we’d done, that we were going to leave a half-finished vehicle floating over our grown-up, State Bar-certified heads. She suggested we just drop a big gob of white paint on it. “Let’s make it the moon!” But I put my foot down. If she was getting a career, I was getting a flying car, and that’s all there was to it. So Marcy grabbed a brush and pitched in.

“Stop working!” the teacher repeated, now staring directly at us while everyone else ran their brushes under the faucet and hung their smocks in the closet.

“But wait Mr. Whatever-My-Third-Grade-Art-Teacher’s-Name-Was it’s almost done and if we could just have one more minute then it’d be perfect and you’d love it you really would and please please please just let us just–”

“I said stop!”

And we didn’t stop, and he stomped up to our table and snatched our brushes from us and took our unfinished masterpiece away. “You don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘stop’, do you?” I couldn’t believe it. So this was what being In Trouble was like. I could see the teacher’s mind working as he dreamed up our punishment, his expression contorting with sadistic glee. “I want you to go home tonight,” he said, “and write the definition of the word ‘stop’ one hundred times!”

I didn’t dare tell my mother any of this. I still couldn’t believe I was actually In Trouble — at school, no less. And why? Because I cared too much about my work! My world had gone haywire. When no one was looking, I grabbed the family dictionary from the bookcase and snuck it up to my room. It so happens that the family dictionary was a hard-bound unabridged edition that was about five thousand pages long and which weighed a full nine hundred pounds. And when I cracked it open, I discovered that there were no less than one hundred definitions of the word “stop”.

And so I began to copy them down, one by one, along with the pronunciation key, part of speech, the context sentences and even my rendition of the diagram of a stop sign in the entry’s sidebar. It took up five pages. And then I went back to the beginning and started over again. One down, 99 to go. After about two hours, I had just finished copying the whole thing down for the second time. I realized that this was going to keep me up all night, and that I was going to need a lot more paper. And it was right about then that my mother overheard my crescendoing sobs from down the hall.

She came to my room to see what was going on, and I blurted out the whole epic tale, from the unfinished flying car to the tear-stained pad in front of me. I was sure Mom was going to tell me that this was exactly the punishment I deserved, but instead, she put her arm around me and told me I could stop. Being well aware of the word’s definition by that point, I did.

Mom asked me Marcy’s last name, and she proceeded to look her up in the phone book. Ten minutes later, I watched from my window as a Volkswagen Beetle pulled up at the curb. Marcy and her mom stepped out and walked up the path to our house. Marcy was in tears. Clearly, they had an unabridged dictionary, too.

“You should’ve finished your spaceship on time!”

“It was a flying car!”

“We should’ve just made it into the moon!”

“You can’t paint over colors with white! It shows through!”

It turned out that Marcy had tried to keep her shame a secret as well. After being tipped off by my mom’s phone call, Marcy’s mom had opened the door to Marcy’s bedroom to discover her daughter perched over her dictionary, blubbering her guts out. By that point, Marcy had already copied the entire definition five times. Marcy’s mom was outraged that our teacher could be so cruel. She wanted to have her husband go to his house and yell at him, to report him to the school board, maybe even the President. My mom, a teacher herself, calmly concluded that our teacher probably didn’t expect us to take the punishment quite so literally. Together, the two moms arrived at a compromise.

My mom asked me to read definition #1 from the dictionary. “To cease, desist or discontinue the performance of an activity…”.

Mom cut me off. “‘To cease.’ You can each write that one hundred times.”

Marcy was skeptical. “But we’ll get in trouble! That’s not the whole definition!”

“Just show him ‘to cease’ one hundred times, and then whatever else you’ve done so far. Trust me, he’ll be okay with it.”

I liked the idea of cutting the punishment by 10,000%, but I felt a little guilty about my mom’s suggestion. I had something to confess. “I don’t know what cease means!”

“It means ‘stop’,” my mom said.

Marcy’s mom said goodbye to my mom, and they promised to get together for drinks sometime. (It never happened.) Then, I went up to my room and finished my punishment in about ten minutes flat. And I spent the rest of the night doing whatever it was I did for fun in the days before we got an Atari.

The next day, Marcy and I gathered our courage and made a special stop by the art room. We forked over our punishments and explained the story to the teacher, ready to blame the whole thing on our moms.

“I was gonna write the whole thing, but they said not to!”

“It was his mom’s idea!”

“I don’t even know what ‘cease’ means!”

Tears, I’m sure, were shed.

But I could tell from the look on the art teacher’s face that my mom had been right. It was the look of a man who realized that he had inadvertently put two very strange children through the worst night of their lives.

I’m sure there were days my mother wished that instead of having a family, she had become a lawyer or a lion tamer. But along with all that agony-of-childbirth business, I’m grateful to her for successfully solving the Great “Stop” Crisis of 1980. If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably still be sitting in my room trying to finish that punishment. If there’s one thing I learned from the experience, it’s that my mother was always looking out for me.

Well, that and what “cease” meant.