The Right to Wear Powdered Wigs and Use Outhouses

The truth is, I’ve got nothing to blog about. The longer I’ve stayed away from blogging, the harder it’s been to get back into the groove. Not because I’ve been working on some important pursuit, like writing the Great American Novel. Sadly, that’s not why. Continue reading

The Gal From Queens’ Speech

Can’t blog. Must wait by my phone, because I’m getting a little nervous.  Graduation season is upon us, which means it’s time to line up commencement speakers. The Class of 2011 is about to bid adieu to the halls of ivy, and so far not a single school has called to invite me to address the graduates.

Frankly, I’m a bit puzzled.  Surely, I should have been contacted by now. Do you think Yale University phoned Tom Hanks a day before their graduation ceremony?  Did West Point ring up First Lady Michelle Obama the morning of graduation to ask if she’d be the commencement speaker?  I’m sure even Aron Ralston, whose harrowing experience and loss of arm were chronicled in the film, 127 hours, got at least 48 hours notice from Carnegie Mellon.

So why am I being dissed?  What am I, chopped liver?

If you ask me, it’s not right that only prominent people are asked to be commencement speakers. Sure, if you’re a student at Princeton University and you learn that Brooke Shields is speaking at your graduation, maybe you get a little punch drunk. Maybe your mom gets verklempt. It is Brooke’s alma mater, after all.  But having a famous person at your graduation doesn’t bring you a whole lot of cache. It’s not as if you’re going to be able to put it on your resume that Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation.  And even if you did, I absolutely cannot fathom any potential employer saying,

“Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation? Maybe you do deserve this job.”

Plus, a lot of these fancy schmancy speakers are paid buco bucks—about enough for a down payment on the mansion of your choice.  Me? I’d settle for the paltry sum of $10,000, plus green M&M’s in my dressing room (not that I’m particularly fond of green M&M’s but I always wanted to see what it felt like to be très demanding).

So enough with just asking the somebody’s of the world to address the graduating masses.   How about us nobody’s?  Sheesh! You’d think that only famous people have something important to say.  Well, I am here to say that any university should thank their lucky stars to get me. For not only am I available and ready to speak, I have valuable tips to convey to the multitude of poor souls about to leave the comforts of college existence and delve into the hard, cruel world that is life, economic downturn and all. Plus, I know my way around a good yarn or two.   If that’s not enough, know that I keep a portable podium handy, standing by for any occasion! And for another $5,000, I’d be happy to share some anecdotal stories of my own, slightly scandalous college years.

Sure, Apple's Steve Jobs was once asked by Stanford to speak, but me? Forget about it!

So what would I say to the Class of 2011?

Welcome to reality! You are not owed anything. There are no more entitlements, so snap out of it. Enough with the hard partying, the jello shots, drinking games and Halo mania. Time to sober up, pound the pavement and get with the program!

As my first boss, Jeff, used to say, “Monica, wake up and smell the coffee!” It didn’t make a difference that I didn’t drink the stuff. I knew what he meant.

You need to start earning your keep. Get a good job, one that offers health insurance coverage. Start putting some money away for retirement. At your age it doesn’t have to be much; any little bit helps. While you’re at it, take out a “whole” life insurance policy. One day you’re going to need one and the younger you are when you get it, the cheaper it’ll be.

No one leaves college landing a CEO job.  Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffet’s kid, there’s a good chance you’re not going to start at the top.  Be prepared to start a lot lower and then work your way up.

Don’t act like you’re above any part of your responsibilities.  What, you can’t make copies? You can’t file?  Well, how would you like to be in charge of the mimeograph machine?  What, you don’t know what that is? Well, that’s where I started!  Trust me, be grateful you don’t know—black ink on fingers can be nasty—so get thee to a copier now!

No matter what your job is, have high expectations of yourself. Your boss does, so don’t just get by. No slackin’ allowed. Strive to be your best and don’t always wait to be told what to do.  Identify and seize the opportunity!  Look for what needs to be done, then, do it.  You will impress your boss and all those around you.

Dress for success. Leave the flip-flops and cut-offs at home. You’re not a bum, so don’t come to work looking like one.

Don’t expect a barrage of compliments from the boss.  (No entitlements, remember?) Just do your job the best you can and the compliments will come, though maybe not as often as you’d like, but then your boss is not your parent.

Oh, and one last thing: if you think you’re never gonna get old, think again. It will happen to you. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but certainly before you know it. So think twice about getting that tattoo. Looks icky on wrinkly skin.

I’ll bet anything Brooke Shields’ class day speech won’t be as good as mine might have been. Princeton, it’s your loss. West Point, you too. And Yale? Call me, I’m available!

Can Henry be a Hachi–or a Hooch?

Cover of "Turner and Hooch"

Thankfully, Henry's no Hooch, but then I'm no Tom Hanks.

I have a thing for movies about dogs. Show me the hokiest, dumbest movie you can think of, but if there’s a dog in it, I’m all over it. These movies know how to tug at your heart and leave you feeling sappy all over. If you ask me, dogs in film have a heightened charm factor. Think Marley, Benji, Old Yeller and Lassie. Deep down they were each appealing in their own way. Even crazy-eyed Cujo had that certain something.

Dogs in film can do all kinds of tricks that leave their everyday counterparts like my dog, Henry, in the dust. These dogs don’t run, they frolic—unless it’s Lassie running to save the day. And these dogs can jump through a ring of fire if the script calls for it. Dogs in film are fiercely loyal to their humans, too, but who can blame them when you’re an Asta and your humans are William Powell and Myrna Loy, as in the “Thin Man” movies, or you’re Hooch and your sidekick is Turner (aka, Tom Hanks)? Dogs like these are faithful, even in the face of implausible danger.

Henry gets out of breath after two rounds of fetch. He'd never be able to trek hundreds of miles to get back to me.

Frankly, these dogs have me worried. Worried that my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Henry, cannot live up to these standards. Henry could never trek hundreds of miles, dodging danger every step of the way, all for his undying devotion to me. No sir, there’s no “Incredible Journey” in this cavalier. Henry’s knees would give out after walking a half mile. He’d complain about his luxating patella acting up and yelp in pain. Then he’d lie in a heap, all out of breath and I’d have to come pick him up just to avoid the ASPCA hunting me down.

Nor could Henry rescue me when the bad guys have me tied to a track with a train barreling in my direction. And forget about pulling me out of a blazing fire. Not going to happen. Face it, I’d be toast.

Recently, the bar was set even higher by Hachi, a dog devoted to his human. Only this one spent nearly a decade showing his love in a most improbable, hopeless way (which I won’t tell you in case you haven’t seen it yet). I loved “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” now out on DVD. Based on a true Japanese story, the film stars Richard Gere as Hachi’s owner. I consider Gere a good choice, largely because of his personal interest in Eastern mysticism, which lends itself very nicely to this film, and also because he’s as handsome and dapper as ever, if you ask me. Hachi is obsessively devoted to Gere, to the point that the dog no longer seems to care whether he has food, or a place to sleep.

Now, there is no way my Henry would ever stop wanting food. It’s ALL he cares about. Give him the choice, me or a tasty treat and the treat wins hands down. Henry only cares about me when I’m in the kitchen. That’s when he stares at me until I feed him, and I can’t help but feel like I’m in that movie, “Little Shop of Horrors,” the one where that menacing plant keeps demanding, “FEED ME!” Only instead of a plant, it’s Henry and I swear I’ve seen him give me the stink eye when I’ve refused him a snack.

So Henry is no Hachi. But it’s not entirely his fault. Here’s the real difference between these two dogs: Henry doesn’t have a stand-in whereas Hachi had six in the film. Plus, Hachi had 20 stand-ins in his puppy scenes! When Hachi #1 got tired of filming, Hachi #2 stepped in. And so on. So now I know what Henry needs in order to be the perfect dog: 20 stand-in’s, give or take. Henry #1 doesn’t want to go for a walk? Enter Henry #2! Henry #3 won’t fetch the newspaper? How about Henry #6? Henry #4 barking like crazy? Let’s bring in Henry #18! After all, we could all use a stand-in now and then.