Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Calling someone with your butt is not the same as drunk dialing but they both can have dire consequences and should be avoided.

One of the funny little things about having a cell phone with a redial button is how often you can accidentally hit that button and call whoever you called last. It happens at our house with frequency. The phone rings, we see it's my husband Jeff's cell number, we answer and all we hear is a muffled crowd sound or street sounds.

It happens enough that we have a routine and it goes like this:

Kid answers phone: Hello? Hello? HELLOOOOO??? DAAAAD ARE YOU THERE?

Kid hangs up: It was Dad, he just called us with his butt.

Lilly once added an "Anchorman" reference to the scene by shouting into the phone "Dad, if you're in Milwaukee, bark twice!"

Once or twice Jeff has called me with his butt when he's at the bar. Fortunately, he has been covered under the full-disclosure law and I didn't hear anything going on I wasn't aware of.

That was not the case for a friend of mine. Her husband is in sales. He spends a lot of nights out entertaining clients. One night, while she was home doing kid duty with three kids under eight he phoned and told her he'd be later than expected. The darn client wanted to stay out later and what could he do? She wasn't happy, it was about the 27th night in a row she'd put the kids to bed by herself and it was already midnight but she said fine and hung up. About ten minutes later the phone rang. No one was on the other line but she could hear the distinct sounds of a bar in full party mode. Then she heard her husband say, "Hey guys! Who wants one more, I'm buying. Come on, you can have one more!" The conversation went on. It was clear that the client was not insisting on staying out later but her husband sure was. Unfortunately for him, he had just called her back by accidentally hitting the redial button as he set his phone on the bar.

Wasn't he surprised when he showed up at the door at 3:00 am to be met by his wife as she left the house to check herself into a fancy downtown hotel for the day. "The kids need to be driven to school in about, oh, four hours, and the rest of the schedule is on the counter. I'll be home in time for dinner unless a 'client' wants me to stay out late."

I'm pretty sure he makes sure his phone is off when he's at the bar since that time.

It's a good policy for us all.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Did these signs really ever exist or was it a bad dream?
Much has been written about the coming inauguration on Tuesday and I can hardly let this momentous occasion come and go without weighing in on it myself. I'm not sure what's left to be said, but I'm going to give it a try.

On Tuesday, we will, as my minister said today, "Swear an African-American man into the highest office in the land." Given our history with race relations, this is no small feat.

When I was born, and a year later when Barack was born, we lived in a country that still had signs that said "whites only" above drinking fountains. Racism was alive and well back then. Not the covert stuff that still goes on in some places still but overt ugly stuff.

I thought about that and started thinking about all the changes large and small that had to take place between 1960 and 2009 to go from a place of segregation and racism to a place with a black president. A lot had to happen. We all had to do a lot to get here and not just the victims of racism but those of us who watched from the safety of our white skins. We had to do a lot too.

As a country we had to have Martin Luther King Jr. lead us, marches on Selma, voter registration drives, lunch counter sit-ins, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and Rosa Parks. Those are just a few of the big events and big names we needed to help us get from there to here.

But we also had to have a thousand or maybe a million little things happen too. And that's where my story comes in. This is a story of one of those million little things that had to happen and it happened to me.

In the summer of 1972 I was 12 and about the coolest thing a junior high girl could do was go to the beach for the day and fry her young skin in the sun with nothing but baby-oil between her and melanoma. Fortunately for me, I grew up in the Detroit area with an abundance of lakes nearby to choose from. Of all the fun lakes to go to, the best was purported to be Camp Dearborn, a swimming recreation area in Milford, purchased and run by the city of Dearborn, a suburb that bumped up against Detroit proper.

At that time Dearborn was run by a mayor who was such an awful human I will not say his name here. I'll call him Mayor H. Here, from Wikipedia "For many years, H. was unabashed in his comments about segregation. He once told an Alabama newspaper: "They can't get in here. Every time we hear of a negro moving in ... we respond quicker than you do to a fire."He also boasted that one of his tactics to discourage blacks who had just moved into Dearborn was by providing police and fire protection that was "a little too good" -- wake-up visits every hour or so through the night in response to trouble calls."

He was a real sweetheart and the racist residents of Dearborn elected him year after year after year.

Not surprisingly Mayor H. had decided that he did not want negro children swimming in his recreation facility but in 1972, even he could not get away with saying black children couldn't come in so he devised a plan to keep them out. He declared that anyone who wanted to come into Camp Dearborn had to show ID that proved they were from Dearborn which certainly did the trick as no blacks lived in Dearborn. Funny thing though, they never did ask for ID if you happened to be a white person so people from all over the white suburbs of Detroit were able to avail themselves of the facility.

I was blissfully unaware of these racist shenanigans when I was invited by a friend to go to Camp Dearborn one day that summer. My parents quickly educated me on the topic and I was forbidden from going and though I quickly elevated the place in my mind to a kind of perfect, forbidden, tanning utopia, even I, a vain 12 year old could see their point and I never did see the ValHalla of the Detroit suburbs.

I wonder how many other parents forbade their children from going to Camp Dearborn back then. Certainly not a majority-- but some. In fact it became a common bonding experience for me and my still-best friend whose parents also banned her from going. Her parents and my parents took a stand on Camp Dearborn and they were making a difference. In a small way, but a difference.

Tuesday we will swear in a fine, decent, highly qualified man for the job of President of the United States of America. It will be a great day to stop worrying about the economy and just revel in being an American. To be proud of what we can do. Be proud that we can change something so fundamentally wrong as racism.

I dedicate this column today to my parents, Frank and Faye Zimmerman, who did their small part in this way (and other ways too numerous to mention here) and to the other people whose names do not appear in the history books but who take a stand, speak up when they see a wrong, and yes, forbid their daughters from going to Camp Dearborn.

Yes you can. Yes we did.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Hey, with help from my manager and my light and sound guy (my kids) I've produced my first YouTube video. Feel free to send it around in cyberspace along with piano-playing cats and surfing squirrels so I can have my fifteen minutes of fame.

Thanks for watching!


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


They look nice but you probably don't want to wear them to shovel snow.

Jeff has a new (used) "high performance" car and man does that car look good. Actually, I picked her out and talked him into getting her. "You deserve it" I said, allowing the car's movie-star good looks and prestigious hood ornament to temporarily blind me as I brushed away that silly little angel on my shoulder saying, "Shouldn't you at least check Consumers' Report first?"

No, we threw caution to the wind and it was lust at first sight for Jeff. He bought her on a sunny fall day and drove her up the driveway proudly. We took a test drive and were in awe at the heated seat controls even in the back! Lots of leg room, the kids marveled. Heated steering wheel--t's a dream come true. We zoomed through the neighborhood going too fast and laughing as Jeff executed James Bondesque turns. Men looked up from raking their lawns with envy in their eyes. We loved it. We, who have driven Novas and Toyotas our whole lives, finally had a hot car. The fall was a magical season with the new big-boy toy in the driveway.

But alas, like all sizzling romances, it cooled when the leaves fell and the snow flew. After a month of snow, you can say the honeymoon is over. It turns out that Jeff's car is like a trophy wife. She sure looks good but she's pretty useless when the going gets tough. Watching her try to gain enough traction on an icy road to show off her high-performance skills is like watching a trophy wife try to shovel the driveway in her Manolo Blahniks. It's clear she hates the cold and ice. She's accustomed to heated garages and valet parking.

Which is unfortunate for her because we do not put our cars in the garage and we seldom valet park.

So Miss Trophy Wife car is forced to sit outside with snow and ice on her. She complains bitterly about this. When you put her in reverse, her rear-bumper sensors go off constantly as if to say, "Oooh, I'm so cold," until you get out and clean the bumper off. My mini-van rolls its headlights at her and says, "Really, bitch, you should try carting three kids around for ten years and then whine to me about a little ice on your high-performance ass."

Coffee Friend 2 suggested we put her in storage and buy a nice little four-wheel drive for the winter. I think she may have been making fun of us.

At any rate, as you speed past us as we struggle up a slight icy incline in your sensible vehicle, feel free to chuckle at us, but come this spring, if the trophy wife car survives the winter, we'll look fabulous.