Sunday, July 09, 2006

I was surprised when my sister didn’t call me several times July 4th weekend, but she made up for it with a catch-up call during the week. But her chatting (and commiserating about the usual frustrations with our mom) were soon drowned out by other loud sounds. I asked what was all that other noise and she said that the previews were starting. She was talking to me in the movies?! No, she said, they hadn’t started yet. Trust me, our conversation wasn’t that important to interrupt the trailers (which are usually better than the main feature). If I were at the theatre with her, she woulda been pelted in the eye with a handful of Sno-Caps.

That’s my sister. I thought maybe this phone-phobia was just me, but my cousin (visiting from out of town the week before) observed the over-communication. In her thick Long Island accent she said, “Gawd, Julie, you don’t hafta cawwl your brutha so awwften!”

Most of the time, I don’t mind, really. I enjoy our conversations, and appreciate that she cares so much. But sometimes she cramps my style. To illustrate this, I have to go back yet another couple of weekends.

No wait, first I gotta rewind to a year ago. She called me on a Friday night starting off with “Where’s Zuma Beach?” and then filled my head with the fear that she might have driven off a cliff in Malibu.

Since she was going on that annual retreat again this year, I told her to check a map, leave before dark, and well, don’t bug me. And she complied. She only called me the next night to say hi and that her trip went well, and she was cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway, heading home. Great. She kept talking on the phone as she drove, which would normally be fine, but I had to interrupt her babbling. “Julie? Julie… Julie! I’m sorry, I can’t really chat right now. I’m… with someone.”

“’With someone’?” The cute girl I was having dinner with poked fun at me after my sister hung up.

I explained that if I told my sister I was on a date, she’d ask all sorts of questions, and I prefer to keep my personal life personal, and the cute girl laughed, ‘cause she said she’s the same way, and told me about her family’s foibles.

I hoped she’d really understand about mishuganah mischbuchas, because I felt bad that my cellphone had been blowing up all evening… with calls from my family.

See, sometimes my mom abuses the phone with me too. I’d be at work, sitting through screenings of our TV show with the executive producer, and feel my pocket vibrating the whole time. The caller ID says it’s Mom, but she won’t always just leave a message. She’ll redial and redial and redial. I finally duck out (hopefully not to the EP’s chagrin), thinking it’s some kind of emergency. “I can’t find my glasses,” Mom will say when I call back. Or, “I’m all out of cigarettes.” I roll my eyes, take a deep breath, and try to get her to understand that these are not worthy of getting my immediate attention, but she’d just go off on some other tangential complaint. What can I do? The poor ol’ lady has dain bramage.

Which might explain why she was always mixed up about when I was coming to visit. When my sister took that trip in Malibu I decided to take that weekend off from seeing Mom, but that only meant she'd call even more often.

“What time will you be here today? I’m really craving some Kosher deli.”

“Mom, it’s Wednesday. I usually come on Saturday, but not this weekend, remember?”

“Oh, right. I get mixed up.”

“That’s okay. We’ll be there next weekend and we’ll take you out for a nice pastrami sandwich. Next Saturday. But I’ll talk to you before then. Okay?”

“Okay,” she’d say. “See you tomorrow!”

So when I was on my date and Mom called twice, I didn’t answer. When my sister called a minute later, I thought maybe it was some emergency -- or mama drama -- that Mom passed onto my sister, who was away on her trip, so Julie contacted me to see if I could handle it.

But it wasn’t. Everything was okay. Now, could I please have dinner with the cute girl?

Then my phone went off. Caller ID said it was my sister again. Why? Why?!

I ignored it. Let it go to voicemail. But it didn’t. Instead it buzzed in my pocket again. Julie was hitting the redial. Well, she’s not my mom who can’t help herself and over-dramatizes every trivial thing. If my sister was desperate to get a hold of me, it must have been important. This is why I’m reluctant to turn off the phone. There have been deaths and illnesses in my family in recent years -- you never know. I apologized to my date and answered.

“If I’m on PCH and I want to get to the 10 Freeway,” Julie said, “do I take this ramp road off the side?”

I gritted my teeth. “No, that’s the California Incline. It takes you onto the surface streets in Santa Monica. Just stay on PCH for another mile and you’ll see signs for the 10.”

What would have been the worst that could’ve happened if she didn’t talk to me? She’d miss the turn and have to double back? Or maybe she would’ve had to check a friggin’ map beforehand, like I told her to, dammit? No, better she interrupt my life, get in touch with Mikey, the dial-a-direction dude. She was mixing up her real-life brother with the Thomas Brothers. And knowing I’d interpret her repeated-redialing as something serious, she was becoming the Girl Who Dialed Wolf.

I was livid, but played it cool because I didn’t want to explode in front of the cute girl. Amazingly, she didn’t seem to mind the pressure-cooker about to erupt in my head.

In fact, she found it amusing as I mentioned how Julie never even comes out to the west side. How she makes fun of me and my reluctance to leave the 310 area -- but I do, and constantly visit her and her haunts in Hollywood or venture to the Valley. But she’s been to my place twice in two years and that was only because we had family in town who wanted to see my apartment, so she joined them. But otherwise, does she ever come out to sunny Santa Monica? Well, if she did, she’d wouldn’t have to bug me for directions when driving on the damn Pacific Coast Highway!

The next weekend, my sister and I did go see my mom. I spent the whole day with them, we had a nice time, but driving around and the usual family agita wore me out.

On Sunday, I woke up looking forward to Mike Day. No work, no family obligations, I could relax. Not to say I’m unproductive. I usually do some writing, get some exercise, run some errands. But I can blow them all off if I wanted. That particular Sunday, I just wanted to stay in bed with the cute girl after another wonderful date together. Perhaps partially because I turned my cellphone off the night before.

But I stupidly turned it back on and, lo and behold, there was a message from my sister. Maybe I should be flattered. That she missed her brother so much that a whole day together wasn’t enough. Okay, I sighed, what was up?

“Hi, it’s me. I was wondering if you could do me a favor. Call me back.”

Now, I’ve had a discussion with my sister about favors. She said I need to be more gracious when she asks me for things. Maybe, but I say it’s always an obligation. And often, she can do these things herself. Like when she said setting up her TiVo would be too confusing and insisted I help. I replied only if she helped set up my DSL. “I don’t know how to do that,” she said. Back atcha, Sis. But, yeah, of course, I eventually came over and fiddled with the wires on her entertainment center so she’ll never miss an episode of The Gilmore Girls. And sure, it was nice to help her out, but these requests are kind of intrusive.

Case in point: now I had this “favor” hanging over my head. Julie had just gotten some new furniture and probably wanted me to come over and move shit around or something. Who knows? It was my one day to chill out. I didn’t wanna even think about it. I told myself I didn’t hear the call and went back to bed. An hour later the phone rang again. The voicemail message said, “Where are you? I haven’t heard back from you. Are you okay? I’m starting to worry…”

I squinted my eyes and did an impression of Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “She’ll keep calling me… she’ll keep calling me…”

Turned out, there was some furniture store she needed to contact, and they were located in Santa Monica. Or maybe they used to be. They weren’t answering the phone. Could I swing by and see if they were even still in business?

Remember what I said about my sister never coming out to my side of town? Thing is, I was on her side of town. That’s where the cute girl lives. So I was no closer to the store than my sister. But she didn’t know that and later, when I went home, yeah, I checked it out (the store’s out of business). ‘Cause I’m crazy.

But I’m not sure who’s the craziest. My mom with her stroke-induced insanity?
My sister with her mobile-technology-addiction? Me from dealing with these wacky women? Or my cute girlfriend?

I mean, if I’m nuts to put up with Mom and Julie, then she must be really nuts to put up with me.


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