I'm driving down the 101 the other day, a Friday, so it's basically moving along at the speed of shopping carts, when the freeway message sign flashes, "15 MINUTES TO GLENDALE." I get all excited because, obviously, being that close to Glendale is a very thrilling thing.
In fact, that might be the title of my next play: "15 MINUTES TO GLENDALE." I like the sense of anticipation it promises. Far as I know, no playwright has explored the angst inherent in living in a town hemmed in by Burbank and Pasadena. Basically, it's a geographical hostage situation.
And wonder if you couldn't get there? Wonder if, no matter how hard you drove, you were always 15 minutes from Glendale? Which is how I feel sometimes.
Meanwhile, I'm making great strides on my musical, a farce I may have mentioned, "Don't Cry for Me, Pasadena." It's a funny riff on school fund-raisers and the wars we wage on behalf of our children.
It opens with the "Leaf Blower Overture," leaf blowers being Pasadena's unofficial soundtrack. It is followed by "My Husband Ran Off With the Math Tutor, and I Sure Miss Her."
That is followed by a song about the frustrations of computer upgrades. I'm calling it "My Hard Drive Isn't Hard Anymore."
After all the money disappears. Our lead mom, a character named Nitzi, walks to the front of the stage and plaintively sings: "Why does the show always have to go on?" knitting together the worlds of parenthood and Broadway musicals all at once.
In the end, of course, it would all work out, and the school would get the new computer lab it dreamed of, where kids would use outdated copies of Microsoft Paint to design covers for their book reports.
But there would be several unexplained deaths in the process, including a stapler-related attack on the PTA president in the school drop-off line, Starbucks coffee flying everywhere (picture splattered windshields and intermittent wipers).
Like I said, it's a comedy.
These are the things I think about while inching along the 101 on a Friday afternoon, still 15 minutes from Glendale.
We were Halloweening the house the other day, a little late out of the gate, but I think it's better to wait to turn the house from a frightfully sinister-looking place into a more frightfully sinister-looking place. Really, all we need to do is add a few tombstones to the already scruffy grass. Magic.
The little guy and I had been to the Big Lots store earlier, where by mid-October the Halloween decorations have mostly been replaced with Christmas decorations. Christmas is now a year-round holiday in America. As with baseball and the NHL, all our seasons run too long. We are the only country where the average hockey season lasts longer than the average marriage.
Anyway, the little guy is throwing things into the basket — "How 'bout this, Dad? How about that?" — to which I'm shrugging because all this stuff is about 4 cents, mostly made in Vietnam. About a week ago, I adopted a new austerity plan requiring that we buy items made only in Vietnam. Why is it that all the thriving nations today tend to be Communist?
Anyway (Part 2), once the little guy fills the basket with complete crud, we head for the checkout counter, passing the Big Lots wine section.
Now, if you've never been to the Big Lots wine section, let me assure you that it has some of the finest $4 Cabernets you're ever going to choke down.
I located a very promising bottle by the Harley-Davidson winery in Milwaukee. It's a 30-weight wine, which is how industrial wines like this are ranked. It not only has a delightful bouquet but a sensible viscosity for this climate.
So, I take my $4 Cab and head to the checkout line. Never mind that it wasn't made in Vietnam. From the tasting I've been to, the Vietnamese wines all seem a little tart.
"Ah, thumbtacks," I remember thinking after the second sip.
At the checkout line, I notice that this Wisconsin wine has a surgeon general's warning: "Could be harmful to all humans, not just pregnant ones." Only a real wine snob would let that deter them.
I bought it as a lark, mostly, but secretly hope it's not too bad. That's what's become of our middle-class aspirations, hoping that a $4 bottle of wine is "not too bad."
Besides, I'm about to Halloween a house with the help of an 8-year-old, while wearing clothes made by Communists.
Hey, the show must go on.