Archive for the ‘Complicating It All’ Category

“Would You Like Beet Root With That?”


By Alison Grambs

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, NO TURKEY???”  I have never sent an angrier text in my life. Ping!

“We are having my famous Native American pumpkin chili,” Mother just texted back.  “You liked it last year.”  

No.  I did not like it last year!   In fact, I did not like her famous Native American pumpkin chili soooo much last year that I had politely excused myself from the table, raced into the kitchen under the guise of needing a glass of water, and promptly shoveled the chili into the family dog’s bowl.  If I recall correctly, even the family dog, who eats her own poop, wanted nothing to do with Mother’s famous Native American pumpkin chili.  She wanted turkey.

“But it won’t be Thanksgiving w/o turkey!” I am texting back to my mom now with trembling hands.
Ping!  Snotty response?  “Check your history.  Turkey has very little to do with the “First Thanksgiving.”

Oh really?  We’ll see about that!  Now I’m on Wikipedia.  Page titled “Thanksgiving (United States).”  Hmmmm.  Let’s see.   I bet there are like, a gazillion references to turkey being the staple of the ‘First Thanksgiving’.  Let’s see…

“The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass…” Eel?  Gross!  “…and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels)…”  That’s weird.  Hmmmm.  Still searching… “…wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans and…” I am breathing in, slow and steady, praying to every Wikipedia god for the next word to be…



Ah-ha!  Filled with a confidence usually reserved for someone who has won a gold medal at the Olympics, I am texting back:  “Mother, I will have you know that Wikipedia clearly states ‘turkey’ was on the menu at the First Thanksgiving!” Ping! Another text from Mother – most assuredly admitting her defeat.

“Daughter, I will have you know that, at one point, Wikipedia also stated that John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father…” Grrrr.  Damn that Michele Bachmann!  But I’m not giving up that easily.   My eyes continue scanning the Wikipedia page.

“… venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumping, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and the Three Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize, and squash.”

Hmmm.   Interesting.  No mention of a big, crusty pot of tasteless slop!

“I don’t see the word ‘chili’ in there at all,” I am tapping back to my soon-to-be-defeated maternal unit, my face barely able to restrain the wide grin spreading across it as I add several exclamation points to my text for effect.    

Ping! She’s written back. “You will eat what I serve.” Oh, no I won’t!     

Ping!  A text from my friend, Lydia, is coming in now.  “We got a puppy!”

Whatever.  I don’t have time for reports of happiness of any kind.  My favorite holiday is on the verge of being ruined.  I need Lydia’s emotional support. “My mom is refusing to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Can u believe that?” Ping!

“Lemme guess.  She’s serving her famous Native American pumpkin chili again?” Yes! Yes!  I knew Lydia would understand my pain and suffering!  Now I have formed an impenetrable alliance against all things pumpkin and chili.  “Isn’t it despicable!”  I am texting back.  “Who eats chili on Thanksgiving? It’s madness!”

Ping!  Another text from my mom. “If you’d like, daughter, I can add some beetroot to my famous Native American pumpkin chili.  (Hee hee.)” Snarling now.  Yeah, yeah, real funny.

Ping! Text from Lydia. “Mama Grambs rocks!  She’s saving another turkey’s life!”

Nooooo!  Noooooo!  This is wrong – wrong on so many levels.   I want to text back to Lydia that I hope her new puppy pees all over her turkey this Thanksgiving, but I resist.   My texting fingers fly across the virtual keyboard of my smart-enough-not-to-eat-pumpkin-chili smart phone. 

“My mom is a pumpkin killer.”  On a roll, I text the pumpkin killer again. “Pleeeeeeeese?  Please can we have turkey?”

   Ping!  She’s written back immediately. 

   “No!  It’s too much work.”
    Ping! (She’s still going.) 
    “And you never help with the preparation.”
    Ping!  (Still going) 
    “Or the clean up.”
    Ping!  (Still going) 
    “We are having Native American pumpkin chili…”
    Ping!  (Still going) 
    “With beetroot.”

Ugh.  I am now defeated.  My dreams have been vanquished, just like the Native Americans of the Great Plains.  Such a cruel irony. I am sighing, if you can’t hear it.  Time to break the pumpkin chili news to my husband.  The right thing to do is call him at work, but the easier thing to do is text him the horrible news.    

“So sorry, honey.  But Mom says we r having her icky Native American pumpkin chili again for Thanksgiving dinner this year.” Ping!  Man, that was fast. “R U F&%$ING KIDDING ME??!!!  TELL ME U R F&%$ING KIDDING ME?  I WANT TURKEY!  NOT HER FAMOUS INDIAN PUMPKIN CHILI!”   Listen, pal, I’m thinking as I text back.  I understand your anger here – my world has been turned upside down, too, here-but let’s not be politically incorrect about this. “The proper term for it is ‘famous Native American pumpkin chili,’ honey.  Not ‘famous Indian pumpkin chili.”

Ping!  My husband types fast when he’s been betrayed. “No. The proper term for it is ‘crap.”       

I can practically feel my husband’s tear drops through our sweet, love-laden text exchange.  It’s too much to bear.  I sign off for I, too, want to cry, as my mind is spinning right now with images of last year’s ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving.  No delicious scent of crispy turkey skin roasted to perfection floating in the air.  No festive fight over who gets the white meat and who gets the dark.  No gloriously browned turkey legs to tear into.  No wishbone to snap for good luck.  This is unacceptable.  That’s it.  Time to pull out all the stops.  Texting my mom again.   

“Mother!  Tommy says he’ll kill himself, if we don’t have turkey!” Ping!  “Then I guess Tommy won’t be alive for kickoff…” 

How can she be so cavalier?  My mom knows full-well that my husband’s sole purpose in waking up every Thanksgiving is to slather himself in turkey juice and then plant himself on the sofa, bloated and fatigued, to watch the big Thanksgiving Day football game.

Ping!  Lydia is back.  “Ask ur mom for the recipe for her famous Native American pumpkin chili.  Think I’m gonna make it this year!” Delete. Delete. Delete.  I want not a single remnant of this traitor’s texts in my phone.   Should I give it one more try?

Sure. “What if I cook the turkey, Mother?  You don’t have to do a thing. I promise!”

Ping!  “Fine.” Score!  My faith in humanity has been restored!  Thanksgiving has been saved!    

Ping!  “But your father and I want no part of your turkey.  Your father and I want my famous Native American pumpkin chili.” Oh sure, I’m snickering.   You just wait, Pocahontas.  The minute you see my famous this-has-no-pumpkin-or-beetroot-in-it turkey, you’re gonna want some.  Trust me.  

Time to text my husband the good news. “Honey!  Good news!  Mom says we can have turkey as long as I cook it!  YAY!” Ping!  It’s Lydia. “Good luck with that, honey…” Ooops.  Wrong person. 

Texting it again. Ping!  A happy text back from my husband.  “YUM!”     

Ping!  Lydia again. “BTW: Have u ever cooked a turkey… honey?”  Well, no.  I have not.  But how hard can it be?  “I will be fine.  Go kill some innocent pumpkins, traitor.” Turkey shmurkey.  You just buy the darn thing, stick it in the oven, and eat, right?   

Ping!  Lydia again. “U have no idea what u r in 4, jackass…” What does she mean, ‘in for’?   Google-ing how to cook a turkey now.  Looks straightforward enough.  And who, pray tell, is she calling a ‘jackass’?  Flipping through the websites now.  There’s how to choose the right bird.  How to defrost the bird.  How to wash the bird.          

Ping!  Mom again. “If you change your mind, there’ll be plenty of my famous Native American pumpkin chili on the table.” No.  I put my phone down in defiance.  I want no part of your travesty of culinary justice, you pumpkin chili she-devil!   I want turkey.    

Pages and pages of turkey cooking information on the Internet.  Yippee!  Everything I need to know.   I’m so excited.  How to pick a turkey.  How to weight a turkey.  How to season a turkey.   How to stuff a turkey.  How to baste a turkey.  How to remove the giblets from the…    

Huh.  What’s this?   There’s something about me having to stick my hand way up the turkey’s slimy rectum and pull stuff out of it.

Picking up my phone again. “Mother?” Ping! “Yes?”
It hurts to admit what I am typing now.  But not as much as it would hurt to stick my hand up a turkey’s slimy rectum.   

“Will I like beetroot in that famous Native American pumpkin chili of yours?”


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“Shroud of Tamago”

by Alison Grambs

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, a gnarly mole on my shoulder was deemed ‘highly suspicious’ by my dermatologist. Although the biopsy results weren’t in yet, I prepared for the worst. Death. Just two months shy of my fortieth birthday a growth the size of a peanut was going to take me out – rob the world of all I had to offer it, and rob me of the third season of Jersey Shore. With death imminent I needed to get my affairs in order. There was a lot to do: sort out my will and testament; cancel my Netflix membership; and, most importantly, guarantee a good turnout at my funeral.

The funeral part was tricky – trouble was I’d been a bit snippy all year. Annoyed some people. Burned some bridges. If I didn’t make amends quickly there was a good chance I was getting buried with just the gravediggers in attendance. In need of a quick way to redeem myself with everyone I had pissed off, I decided to send out Christmas cards. I’d never done it before, but a joyful holiday greeting featuring a jolly Santa and his elves wrapping glittery presents seemed the perfect way to remind everyone of my wonderfulness. Cards, address book and pen in hand, I dipped in to a new sushi restaurant in the neighborhood to grab lunch and pen my final correspondence to loved ones.

The place was empty, and Jingle Bells was blasting on the radio. From behind a black curtain emerged a scowling waitress. She handed me a menu with a grunt, escorted me to a table with a grunt, took my order with a grunt, and stomped off behind the black curtain with a grunt. I wondered if she, too, was dying. A few moments later, she returned to slam down a variety of serving dishes containing my appetizers… with a grunt.

In between nibbles I pondered deathbed Christmas card etiquette. Do I mention that I’m dying? Include a “hold the date” notice for the wake? A reminder list of who owed me money? A snapshot of my murderous mole? Hungry and pressed for time I decided to keep it simple.  At the top of each card I inscribed the name of the recipient; at the bottom, my own. Then, in the finest penmanship I wrote out my profound holiday sentiment:


There. My legacy was complete. Everyone would love me again. As Frosty The Snowmanpiped in on the radio my mind danced with visions of weeping  mourners lining up in droves at my funeral, clutching my Christmas card against their chests! Grievers hurling themselves on top of my coffin, crying out that Christmas would never be the same without another one of my cards!  The post office issuing a commemorative Christmas stamp in my honor! 

The waitress stomped back to the table and slammed down my sushi plate. There was the usual clump of ginger. The blob of pale green wasabi. Three tekka maki rolls. Some salmon sashimi. An eel avocado roll. Some shrimp. A few of those plastic fake shrubbery thingies I always chewed on accidentally. But wait… something was wrong.

“Um, I didn’t order this,” I said, pointing to a lone piece of tamago at the center of my sushi plate.

“No return!” the waitress growled back.

“But I hate egg,” I balked, indicating with a wave of my hand that she was to remove the spongy yellow interloper immediately.

The waitress indicated with a wave of her middle finger that I was to shut my trap immediately. Then she stomped away, muttering something about my bangs as she disappeared behind the curtain.  Snapping apart my chopsticks as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer came over the radio, I leaned over the plate, preparing to fling the tamago off my plate and maybe hide it behind the napkin dispenser or something. 

That’s when I noticed the mouth.

I shrank back in disbelief. Were those eyebrows? Was that a nose? I poked at the egg with the tip of my chopstick. Yes, it was definitely a face. In fact, the face looked oddly familiar. The scraggly beard. The thin lips. The sunken cheeks. The anguished eyes pleading upward. The thorny crown. Although I could not be sure which version of the esteemed man this was residing in my sushi – Robert Powell- Max von Sydow- Willem Dafoe- James Caviezel – the resemblance was uncanny.  It was definitely Him….

Jesus. Incarnate in dairy form.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago hissed.

I gasped. “Put what back?”

Put it back!” was all the Holy Tamago said.

Clearly, this was some sort of test to get into Heaven; and although I wasn’t a particularly religious person, I was smart enough to know that when Jesus gives a dying person a command – especially from an omelet – you obey it.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago hissed again, its eyes bulging.

I began to put back everything I had moved on the table while writing out my cards. Perhaps Jesus was a stickler for proper table settings – some sort of hang-up from hosting the Last Supper? I slid my tea cup back to the center of the table. The ginger pot back to the right. The porcelain chopstick holder back to the left. The soy sauce dipping dish back to the upper right.

“There!” I smiled proudly as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town came over the radio. Then I gave the Holy Tamago the thumbs up sign.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago hissed again, this time louder.

Disappointed, but eager to please the relic, I shoved the rice bowl to the lower center. The miso soup bowl to the upper left. The fake orchid to the right.  The pickled plum jar to the left. The Kirin beer bottle to the right. My half-eaten soba noodles to the left. My salad dish and gyoza trays to the middle.

“How’s that?” I asked, waving my hand around the table like Vanna White to show off my handiwork.

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago groaned, its voice now raspy and strained.

Fine. I continued putting more things back. I flung my dirty napkin back on my lap, and the ginger dressing spoon back in its dish. I stuffed my chopsticks back in their paper sleeve, and slung my purse over the back of the chair. Then I jammed my address book back in my purse, snapped the cap back on my pen, and stuck the Bandaid I had flung on the floor back on my pinky.

“Done!” I announced, bowing my head reverentially to get some extra points. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer was on the air now. I couldn’t help but tap my foot to it under the table. 

Put it back!” the Holy Tamago huffed angrily.

Great. Another person I had pissed off.  Desperate to please, I put my coat back on. My hat. My gloves. My scarf. Looped my belt back to the second hole. Rolled my sleeves back up, then rolled them back down. I pulled my bangs back off my face, tucked my hair back in a ponytail, and put my candy cane flavored lip gloss back on.

“We good now?” I asked.

Put… it… back!” the Holy Tamago hissed again, its body twitching and gurgling noises violently.

I leaned in. Yikes. The Holy Tamago wasn’t looking too good. Its face was all wrinkly now and its complexion had a slightly brown hue to it. At a loss, I scanned the restaurant for more things to put back. I righted the crooked photo of a Geisha that hung on the wall, and replaced the missing “L” in the word “Samon” on the chalkboard menu. I shoved all the chairs back under the empty tables, and rearranged the umbrella stand I had kicked on my way in. Begrudgingly, I reached into my coat pocket and returned the five mints I had swiped from the candy dish.

“How’d I do?” I asked, sliding back into my chair, eager to have this test over. 

Puuuut… it… baaaack!” the Holy Tamago wheezed, its gelatinous figure shivering intermittently.  

Oh dear. It was looking really sick now. Its brownish hue had changed to a deathly pallor – the corners of its once spongy and sprightly figure were now shrunken and taut. With the back of my hand I felt the Holy Tamago’s forehead.  It was ice cold. My God, it was dying! I pulled my napkin off my lap and gently laid it over the Holy Tamago to keep it warm. Then I grabbed a pen from my purse and wrote on the top of the napkin:


I scampered off to the restroom in search of more things to put back as a recording of Santa Baby began playing. Using what I could find in the supply cabinet I replaced the empty toilet paper roll, and stuffed more paper towels into the towel rack. Then I filled the empty soap dispenser with more liquid soap, and replaced a burned-out bulb in the ceiling. I put the toilet brush back in its holder while I was at it. Then I raced back and pulled back the napkin shroud.

“NOOOOOOO!” I yelped, falling to my knees and wringing my hands in the air. The Holy Tamago was shriveled up to about half its original size – its thorny crown fading from view.

Puuuuuuuut.itbaaaack, the Holy Tamago gasped weakly as its body started to convulse.  

“BREATHE!” I urged, dipping the corner of the shroud in my water glass, then dabbing it against the Holy Tamago’s mouth. With the tip of my chopsticks I loosened the Holy Tamago’s nori waistband to help it breathe. Then I propped the Holy Tamago upright, shoving the end of my straw into the Holy Tamago.

“STAY WITH ME!’ I pleaded, performing sushi CPR now – breathing slow and steady through the straw

Puuuuuuuut…iiiiiiiiiit… baaaaaack…” the Holy Tamago sputtered, choked and gasped, its beard fading into the egg.

 “I’M NOT GONNA LOSE YOU, GOD DAMN IT!” I screamed, then apologized for taking the Holy Tamago’s name in vain.

“STAY WITH ME!” I cried, pumping the Holy Tamago’s heaving chest rhythmically with the tip of my index finger.

The Holy Tamago coughed, wheezed, and choked. The features of Jesus’ face were fading rapidly.


The Holy Tamago let out a long sigh as I watched the face disappear into the egg. Then it said a single word.


And then Jesus was gone. The tamago was just a tamago.

What did it mean? Where was I supposed to put the Holy Tamago? On a plane? In a hamper? Jesus had taken the time to come to me in omelet form to deliver some special message before I died – and I’d missed it.  I had failed the most important test of my life. Laying the napkin over the deceased tamago, I bowed my head and cried.

The grumpy waitress stomped back to the table and began clearing the appetizer dishes. Silent Night came over the radio. It had been a long time since I’d paid attention to the words of that song:


Silent night, holy night.

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Wait! That was it! I finally understood! The grumpy waitress reached for my sushi plate.

“PUT IT BACK!!” I suddenly heard myself shriek.

The grumpy waitress slammed the sushi plate back down.

“I’ll be right back,” I informed her, gesturing that she was not to remove the sushi plate.

Tossing my stack of holiday cards in a nearby trash bin, I raced out of the restaurant, down the street to the card store, and returned a few moments later. The waitress peeked her head out from behind the black curtain, then rolled her eyes, grunted, and disappeared again. I laid out the new set of holiday cards I had purchased across the table and admired the artwork. Gone was the jolly Santa cartoon. The elves. The glittery presents. In their stead,  a traditional nativity scene. I smiled at the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph kneeling beside the manger. Then I took out my pen and began writing in all the cards the words I should have written the first time around…


When I was done,  I called to the grumpy waitress and gave her permission to clear the plate. A sense of relief washed over me. Although the Holy Tamago was no longer around to see it, I had done the divine sushi proud. I’d finally put the right thing back, and could now die in peace.

The grumpy waitress stomped back to the table, and just as she lifted the plate in the air and pivoted toward the kitchen I detected the slightest quivering movement from beneath the napkin. As the plate slowly passed by me I surreptitiously lifted up the corner of the napkin and peeked in. To my shock the tamago’s bright yellow color had returned- its mouth and eyes and scraggly beard as vibrant as when we first met.

Thank you,” the Holy Tamago whispered.

“No,” I whispered, “Thank you.”

With that, the Holy Tamago shriveled up and died… again.

The next morning the dermatologist called. Turns out my mole was benign… disgusting, but benign. I was going to live! I thanked my dermatologist for the good news, and then I thanked Jesus- wherever he might be. I felt lucky to have met Him that day at lunch – even if it was just in omelet form. And since that day I make a weekly pilgrimage to that same empty sushi restaurant. My lunch order is always the same: an avocado salad, miso soup, gyoza, two tekka maki rolls… and one piece of tomago.

One day, I hope to see the Holy Tamago again.  But until then, I’ll just keep trying to get the grumpy waitress to smile. She hasn’t yet, of course. But thanks to my Christmas miracle there’s plenty of time.

Originally Published at



by Alison Grambs

Dear Mr. Fruit Cart Guy On My Corner:

I do not know how old you are.
I do not know from what country you hail.  
I do not know whether you are married or single, straight or gay.
I do not know where you live.
I do not know if you have children.
I do not know whether you own a dog, or a cat, or a ferret.
I do not know where you get your fruit.
I do not know where you go when you need to pee.
I do not know if you use mousse or spray-on gel to get that Elvis-like wave in your hair.
I do not know what drives you to put blueberries on sale one day (2 cartons for $5) and strawberries on sale the next (2 cartons for $ 4)


I do not even know your name.

But I do know this:

I know you have quietly become part of my daily life.
I know you make sure I smile every morning when I leave for work.
I know you make sure I smile every night when I come home.
I know you never run out of anything – or if you do – you apologize profusely.
I know you are there for me through the hottest of days, and the coldest of nights.
I know you always pet my dog, even when he rudely lifts his leg on your milk crate.
I know you care that your strawberries are fresh.
I know you care that your avocados are ripe.
I know you never snap at my old bitty neighbors who poke at your produce and then don’t buy anything.
I know your shopping bags make great garbage bags for my kitchen waste basket.
I know you sometimes give me 5 bananas for $ 1 even though your sign says, “4 bananas for a $1”.
I know you’ve saved me embarrassment at many a dinner party when I ran out of lettuce for the salad, or mushrooms for the soup, or cantaloupe for the dessert.
I know you are a decent man because you always tell me I look pretty, even when I don’t.

No, Mr. Fruit Cart Guy On My Corner,  
I do not know how you came to choose my corner.
Or why you stay on my corner so faithfully.
(There are an awful lot of corners in this big city of ours.)

But I do know I’m real glad you’re there.

“Les Hamburgers in the City of Light and Strikes and Floods”

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Les Hamburgers in the City of Light and Strikes and Floods

by Alison Grambs

It was hard not to take it personally.

The moment my mother and I stumbled off the plane onto Parisian soil this past June, the city was getting away from itself in a most unusual way.

Too-close-for-comfort terrorism alerts were being issued to Americans traveling to France. Torrential and relentless downpours of rain were pummeling the streets. The Seine was flooding to a historic level. A strike by transit workers and airport employees was looming. Unseasonably cold temperatures were forcing us to forego wearing the Paris-style fashions we had dreamily packed in our matching luggage sets. And, in an emergency act of protecting its antiquities from drowning, the Louvre had the nerve to close its doors – literally as we were arriving at the ticket booth – rendering us unable to so much as snap a prized selfie of us surrounded by hundreds of other tourists snapping selfies of themselves snapping selfies with Ms. Mona Lisa.

Frankly, the City of Light was looking more like the City of Uh-Oh, and I’m fairly certain my mother wanted to cry. After all, this was the highly-anticipated mother-daughter trip she’d been planning for a year now. A vacation to celebrate our triumphant survival through a previous year of abysmal woes. A vacation that had already been postponed once and had a lot riding on it emotionally and spiritually. A vacation that, at this point, seemed would have been better spent in the Bahamas. Or Trenton, New Jersey.

It was a hunk of meat that turned things around for Mom and me.

After an arduous day of observing the architectural wonders of Paris through the nylon of our half-broken parapluies – navigating rather crookedly and grumpily through soaked streets with our equally soaked map – we were feeling lost and dejected. None of the plans we had set forth were working out. We were feeling quite the traveling failures. And starving to boot because, somehow, in a city defined by its cuisine and dotted with myriad cafes and bistros, we had managed to forget to eat for twelve hours. So, we dipped into a hole-in-the-wall eatery next door to our understated hotel and were confronted with an alarmingly limited chalkboard menu. Once again defeatedly, we ordered the only entree we could decipher with our Rosetta Stone vocabulary: Le Hamburger.

547649 wine serving“Sounds so Frauuuuuunch, doesn’t it?” my mother and I snorted in mocking unison – laughing for the first time that day as we waited for our presumably un-French food to arrive. The dig was directed at ourselves; two women who had been so sure they’d been dining on frogs legs and snails and steak tartare. Such delicacies had so far eluded us. Mere pipe dreams now. All we wanted to do was shove something down our gullets and go to bed to sleep until our flight the following week.

The jovial owner, a man with a slightly rounded belly and doughy face, brought us wine. Neither of us drinks, per se, so to be honest, those two glasses could have been filled to the brim with Tang, and Mom and I would have gulped it down with delight. But it was the gesture that we noted.

“Red or white?” he had asked us sweetly en français.

“I think we’re supposed to drink red with meat, non?” my mother had replied, sheepishly employing her best Rosetta Stone French speaking skills. After a day of taking wrong turns and wrong buses and wrong trains, she just wanted to get one damn thing right. “Is that what you recommend, Monsieur?”

“Yes,” I had added for emotional support in my best Rosetta Stone French. “Please provide whatever you think is best. Pretty much everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for us today. We cannot be trusted to make such an important decision. We are idiots.”

The owner had smiled genially, shooing away our self-consciousness with a swift wave of his hand in the air. Then he had disappeared behind the bar only to reappear with two bottles of wine. One white. One red. “Vous boire ce que vous voulez boire,” he had declared with a warm smile. “Qu’est-ce qui vous rend heureux!”

Then, realizing from the twisted expressions on our fatigued faces that we had no idea what he had just said, the owner had repeated his declaration in perfect English. “You drink what you want to drink. What makes you happy!”

And there it was. In one fell swoop, this lovely stranger had given my mother and me permission to relax. To go easy on ourselves. To enjoy.

IMG 1098And enjoy we did. Les hamburgers arrived a few moments later. Outfitted on buns so perfectly toasted, doused in a sauce so superbly balanced in both seasoning and consistency, and garnished with a side of potatoes-something so glorious that it redefined the words pomme de terre, it was as if these magical mounds of meat had been touched by the hand of God. Mom and I groaned with delight as we took in bite after bite. Who knew hamburgers could be life-changing? We asked the owner to extend our compliments to the chef… who, as it turned out, was him.

For a good two hours my mother and I sat at that hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Sipping our red wine, sipping our white wine, feasting on our very French hamburgers, and enjoying. Enjoying despite the terrorism alerts. Enjoying despite the torrential downpours. The Seine flooding, the looming strikes, the unseasonably chilly air. And from that night forward, my mother and I enjoyed every inch of Paris, delightedly exploring all corners of the City of Light and Floods and Strikes. If there was a Metro line to explore, we explored it. If there was a water-logged street to stroll, we strolled it. If there was an architectural site to admire, we admired it. If there was a local to chat up, we chatted him/her up. And yes, we even got to eat frogs legs and snails and steak tartare.

Despite the odds, the trip my mother had dreamed would be the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime proved to be exactly that: the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. The only thing we didn’t get to do was visit the Louvre, which remained closed for the duration of our stay. (Apparently, that sulky Mona Lisa chick is a scaredy-cat when it comes to a little water.) But we took one heck of an awesome selfie with les hamburgers!

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“Take Your Lunch Or I Will Gut You Like A Fish”- Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop

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“Take Your Lunch Or I Will Gut You Like A Fish”

by Alison Grambs


They say the secret to a happy marriage is communication.

Well, tonight I am communicating with my husband through a note I have taped to the medicine chest in our bathroom.  It reads:

Take your lunch or I will gut you like a fish.

Now, you saps out there might assume I left this note as secret code for, “Meet me tonight in our bedroom. I’ll be wrapped in cellophane dipped in honey.”

But you’d be wrong.

For when I wrote, “Take your lunch or I will gut you like a fish,” I meant exactly that. “Take your lunch or I will gut you like a fish.

My only regret is not placing a comma in between the words lunch and “or.  Such a sloppy grammatical error will undoubtedly incline my alma mater to rescind my degree.  But other than that, this note reads precisely as I intended.

Why would I leave such a note for my sweet husband?

Because in the hour Tommy spends preparing for his day — burdened by no responsibilities other than getting himself clean and dressed — this otherwise brilliant man demonstrates the mental capacity of a turnip.

You see, in an effort to help him eat better, and reduce our expenses, I’ve kindly agreed to prepare homemade lunches for Tommy. Mind you, with no children of our own (at least none that I know of) I’m not much of a domestic. So, such a task is challenging for me. And yet, I do it.

These lunches are tasty.  Carefully engineered to meet Tommy’s finicky needs, containing at least one half of one third of one of the six major food groups.  They are prepared with love, despite my own exhaustion from working night and day writing the next Mediocre American Novel.  Through fogged contact lenses and intermittent yawns, I stumble around our kitchen each night like a crystal meth addict who’s used up her last stash, banging into countertops and fumbling over the stove — all so I can make my husband lunch. I even include real silverware with the meals, so Tommy’s tender mouth doesn’t have to chew on plastic, and hand-drawn maps so he can locate the special treats I’ve hidden at the bottom of his favorite R2-D2 lunch box.

How does my husband repay me for my efforts?

By forgetting to take his lunch. Every friggin’ day.

Are you cheating on my lunches with Wok n Roll?” I text him after going into the fridge the next morning only to see R2-D2 staring back at me.

Its not you, its me, Tommy assures me, launching into some concocted defense about how he gets ‘confused’ in the morning, and ‘cant find the kitchen.

But you had no trouble finding the computer to go on e-Bay and purchase a replica of Princess Leia in her slave bikini…” I argue back.

It is usually at this point in the conversation that Tommy claims he’s suddenly caught on fire and has to shut off his phone.

But tonight?  The madness stops.

Dear Husband: I may have sworn, under oath, to love you. But nowhere in my vows did I swear not to eviscerate you.  Read the fine print, pal. It’s “until death do us part.” So, when you head out tomorrow morning, ready to take on the world, do yourself a favor and remember to take the lunch I made for you with such love.

… Or I will gut you like a fish.

Originally Published at

“The Biker and the Flag” in the “NY Times”

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Stories From A Stricken Land

“The Biker and the Flag”

by Alison Grambs

To the Editor:

I was waiting for the bus on East 57th Street on Wednesday evening, the day after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The city was eerily quiet, and I could find no reason to smile as I stood alone thinking of all that had happened to America in a few short hours.

Then I heard the rumble of a motorcycle approaching the intersection at Park Avenue. The rider was cloaked in a black leather jacket and full face helmet, a phantom of sorts on the deserted street. On the rear of his motorcycle hung two tiny American flags, the kind that one buys at a Memorial Day parade. Each glowed a faint red from the taillight that shone between them.

As he waited for the traffic light to change, the rider reached behind his back and carefully straightened out the Stars and Stripes on each of those tiny American flags. Then he revved the engine and sped off. It was at that moment I realized that yes, America will prevail.

Originally Published at

“The Smart Girl’s Guide To Getting Even”- DAILY NEWS Excerpt

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Smart Girls Guide to Getting Even

“The Smart Girl’s Guide To Getting Even”

If you spend too much time saying yes when you want to say no, do things you don’t want to do just to please your friends, and feel like a total pushover, then you need to follow the Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Even. Yes, it’s payback time! From difficult situations with the office jerk to the treacherous world of best-friend-stealing gal pal, it’s time to settle the score (and have a few laughs along the way) with everyone who has ever done you wrong.


This creature is a walking dichotomy. He is traditionally “manly” in that he holds the door for you, but “unmanly” in that he expresses no interest in sports. He’s incredible in bed, but logs more time at the manicure salon than you do. Your mother tells you you’re lucky to have a guy with such a flair for designing window treatments, and your friends are jealous of your modern, metrosexual boyfriend, who always looks and smells fabulous. You know you should be thrilled, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder … is he gay?
Often heard saying: “Do these jeans make me look fat?”
It’s revenge time: The key to handling Mr. Sexually Ambiguous is to suppress his feminine side as best you can. Remind him that he has testicles, not breasts.

Disorderly conduct: Sneak into Mr. Sexually Ambiguous’ dresser drawer and wreak havoc on his organizational system. Crumple up his shirts, mismatch his Polo socks, and – gasp! – un-color-coordinate his tie collection. The first step toward making him a real man is forcing him to live like a slob.

Somewhere over the rainbow: Tape over Mr. Sexually Ambiguous’ Judy Garland movie marathon with something really manly, like the Super Bowl or NASCAR.

The walk-in closet: Lock Mr. Sexually Ambiguous in the closet and ask him when he wants to “come out.” This doesn’t really serve any purpose, but it sure is funny, right?


This jerk spends his day ogling your breasts, mocking women’s sport teams and hanging posters of bikini-clad women straddling Corvettes all over the office. He laughs if you try to lift a pencil without assistance and audibly scoffs at any professional success you achieve because he believes it can only be the direct result of sexual favors, not hard work.
Often heard saying: “Nice rack.”
It’s revenge time:Nothing ruins the Chauvinist Pig’s day more than a woman in power. And you, Smart Girl, have all the power. All you have to do is learn how to use it and abuse it.

Won’t you join us? Sign up the Chauvinist Pig for e-mail alerts from Oprah’s Web site. There are just so many times this neanderthal can receive invitations to Oprah’s Web forum on “America’s Most Powerful Women” without giving his sexist philosophy some second thoughts.

Yes sir, ma’am: Keep calling him “Miss” by accident. If you do this enough, the Chauvinist Pig will begin to wonder if it’s something he’s doing wrong.

Happy birthday! Hire a male she-stripper for the Chauvinist Pig’s birthday party. Then videotape the lap dance and broadcast it on the Internet. Send a copy to his mother, too … and his poker buddies … oh, and his preacher.


You throw a little party at your house and invite a select group of friends. Before you know it, not only has all the onion dip been devoured but the Social Parasite has crashed the gig and homed in on all your pals. Rather than going out and getting her own friends, she simply exchanges phone numbers and e-mail addresses with your friends. And soon she’s road-tripping to Canada with your best friend … without you.
Often heard saying: “Oh, I meant to invite you. Must have just forgot. Sorry.”
It’s revenge time:When dealing with the Social Parasite it is essential that you block every attempt she makes to socialize with your people. Get in her way like a roadblock on a highway. (But no need to wear that ugly yellow tape stuff … that’ll just look stupid on you.)

The good, the bad and the really fugly: Begin socializing only with people who have disgusting skin problems and facial ticks, problems controlling their bodily functions and bad breath. This way the Social Parasite won’t be so inclined to pick from your crop. Or borrow your lip gloss for that matter.

Crazy for you: Introduce the Social Parasite to your “new best friend” and suggest they begin hanging out together. What she doesn’t know is that this new friend is a complete psycho with serious separation anxiety issues.

Les-bi-friends: Whenever you see the Social Parasite moving in on one of your girlfriends, pull your girlfriend aside and explain that the Social Parasite is an aggressive lesbian who doesn’t take no for an answer.

Originally Published at

“To the Creep Who Pushed Me” in “Metropolitan Diary, NY Times”

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To the Creep Who Pushed Me

by Alison Grambs

Dear Diary:

To the Creep Who Pushed Me On the Street:

You may think you won today.

But you didn’t.

You may think that you intimidated me with that glare you gave me as I sat stunned on the ground.

But you didn’t.

You may think you’re tough. That hurting a woman who did nothing to you but accidentally bump into you on a crowded street somehow makes you Lord of the Streets now.

But you would be wrong.

This is New York City, pal. To survive the chaos, each of us has to decide which kind of New Yorker we want to be: the kind who deals with the crowds politely, or the kind who resorts to violence. You chose aggression, finding joy in making someone else feel weak. Vulnerable. Perhaps, you were having a bad day? Well, Mr. Creep, a lot of people are having even worse days. And yet, none of those people are going around hurting others.

I bet you’re at home right now smirking to yourself because you scared a woman today. Shame on you. But if you think I’m at home right now loving N.Y.C. any less because of you, you would be wrong.

About 20 blocks after you shoved me, I had another encounter. This time a woman accidentally bumped into me. But here’s the difference, Mr. Creep. I didn’t shove her to the ground or curse at her. Instead, I just stepped aside and gave her a wide smile.

Guess what?

She smiled back.

I win, Mr. Creep. I win.

Originally Published at

“Born to Ride, Not To Draw”

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We took our new motorcycle out for its first official spin in Manhattan this week. Here is a souvenir sketch of our experience!


My husband just reviewed my sketch.

He says that my artistic rendering of our new (old) Ural motorcycle is not at allrealistic‘…

Something about how the ‘dimensions of the sidecar are completely off ‘ and there ‘appears to be no pavement whatsoever beneath the bike.’

He also says that…

My artistic rendering makes his neck look ‘freakishly absent’ when, in fact, he has ‘a terrifically present and well-defined’ neck in real life.

He also says that…

According to my artistic rendering, I traveled on our new old motorcycle with my head on the outside of the windshield rather than the inside of it which apparently qualifies as, ‘improper motorcycle passenger seating behavior’…a violation for which I should be ‘ticketed and drawn and quartered in accordance with the law…’

He also says that…

In this drawing of mine, his right kneecap ‘appears to be oddly disjointedand thereby, is an inarguable ‘mocking‘ of the knee surgery he had years ago which makes me ‘a mean wife‘.

He also says that…

‘failed to properly represent the ‘dimensions of the face shields and presence of built-in sunglasses’ on both our helmets, which, ‘by the way, Mean Wifey,’ do not look ‘at all DOT approved…”

He also says that…

The tire on the right side of the sidecar is ‘obscenely lopsided’ and, as such, would ‘never be approved during inspection’ and that he ‘resents‘ the implication that my picture implies thatsomeone’ forgot to adjust the air pressure in the tires ‘when, in fact, you know damn well I did all of that because I’m a mechanic.”

He also says that…

The city skyline in my drawing suggests that our new old bike is larger, ‘both vertically and horizontally’, than the Empire State Building…

To which I am now replying…

“That’s not supposed to be the Empire State Building, you IDIOT! It’s the Chrysler Building! Duh!”

A reply to which said Idiot is now replying with…

“We didn’t ride anywhere near the Chrysler Building, you Idiot! And you know that if you hadn’t been so busy fighting with that pigeon!”

To which I am now replying…