Monday, May 18, 2009


(This photo is from the film Taxi Driver and is the only one I could find of Playland and 1970's Times Square) 

In an act of brilliant masochism I had my babies two years and one week apart. Lily was first, on May21, and Lou, two years later, on May 14th. What this means is that until they are old enough to make their own fun, vis a vis, throwing up on their classmates in the back of their friend's parent's car, their poor mother will be doomed to indecision and conflict regarding the celebration of their birth. Two parties or one?

The very thought of two separate days blowing up balloons, after spending my own youth blowing out my lungs, is a little like asking me if I might staple my lips to a frogs ass and blow it into a handbag.

The options seem to be: spend $300 for three hours at some inflatable house of staphylococcus or attempt to host the thing at your own house, wheezing out your windbag, serving your flabby cupcakes and watching the kids throw all your couch cushions on the floor. In my case, twice in one week.

When I was a kid in New York, my parents would take me, and maybe a friend, to an Italian restaurant I loved because it served spaghetti with meat sauce. The waiters would flirt charmingly with me and offer me spumoni, with candle, for dessert. My folks would let me drink fourteen Cokes with dinner and then we'd go over to Playland on 42nd street, a wonderfully seedy arcade in 1970's Times Square.  This was long before Giuliani had all the hookers dyed to match and the heroin addicts shuttled over to Queens. The homeless were still called bums and what is now known as the Theater District featured another kind of theater altogether, the naked-blow-smoke-rings-out-your-twat kind.  In other words, this was before Pussy was replaced by Cats.

My dad would hand me a roll of quarters and I'd play Asteroids and air hockey until my eyes were spinning around in my head and my hands were shaking.  The bathrooms at Playland were not for young ladies, even ones desperately hopped up on caramel fizz.  So one time, for my birthday, I peed through my wool maxi skirt in front of the ski ball lanes. Good times.

Damp with urine and smelling of my dad's cigarettes, the balmy tinge of divorce in the air, we taxi'd home. My mom mopped off my legs with a warm washcloth and I climbed into bed hugging a plastic car connected to its remote by a long insulated wire.  Bliss.

There were no goodie bags, no entertainers, no party hats.  Only gifts that might kill you, either from the anticipation of receiving them, or faulty wiring, food that was your favorite, and family.

It's not that I never had a birthday party. Certainly I did.  But what I remember now is the twinkling danger of Broadway, the weight of quarters in my hand, and the smell of wet wool.

I'm sorry my darlings, it is but tootsie-rolls falling from Batman's pinata ass for you.  Peeing on yourself will have to come later. 


  1. More genius, Jess Schickel. Cats replacing pussy is the takeaway. Of course, your memories are my memories so I have nothing to add but for the yelling from the rooftops: you're a fucking genius! And I love you. Happy birthdays.

  2. you rule!
    -- AWESOME! birthdays, and college are so overrated.

  3. I am speechless. Again. Wow. Who will be the lucky publisher, I ask.

  4. "tootsie-rolls falling from Batman's pinata ass"

    See, I knew you'd come up with a plan! When Orson hears about that, he is going to be so freaking jealous.

  5. I really empathise with the birthday dilemma, my two (now adult) kids have birthdays five days apart, and it always meant two separate parties. Whilst that did have some advantages in terms of economies of scale, it also meant that I was an exhausted basket-case for several weeks afterwards. The best time was when my eldest was ten and his sister turned seven and we did have a joint event, a huge picnic lunch on Hampstead Heath. The kids ran wild, building dens, flying kites, playing rounders and getting filthy dirty, shoes went missing, our dogs joined in the general mellee. As several of the other mothers pitched up and helped a great deal of white wine and gin and tonic was consumed - for obvious reasons. No balloons, no party bags, no entertainers. Everyone said it was the best party ever.

  6. Oops, forgot to ask - what is a Tootsie Roll? I don't think they exist in Britain.

  7. herschelian,

    Thanks for your comments. A Tootsie Roll is a brown, chewy, chocolate candy. Quite delicious.

    Please tell me how you learned about my blog. I have a couple of new British readers and I'm curious how you found me.