Toddlers are so cute, you forget how dangerous they can be. I remember when my daughter Lulu broke my wife’s nose in a head-to-face collision. I could hear the crack from across the room.
I also remember the tiny little fingernails which, for all their flexibility and cuteness, could just about carve a pumpkin.
I thought of this recently while trying to recall funny things my wife has said. This one came to mind:
CUT YOUR NAILS, FAWN HALL. Fawn Hall was the hot blonde secretary who worked for Iran-Contra scandal figure Lt. Col. Oliver North.
In 1987, Hall looked like she was going to be an empty-headed dolt when she stood up to testify before Congress. But then she turned out to be halfway intelligent and more than halfway earnest and patriotic. She recounted shredding documents. She opined, “Sometimes you have to go above the law.”
After the scandal died down, Hall went back to obscurity. That’s why I was happily surprised a few years ago when her name popped out of Aleen’s mouth.
One of our kids was reaching out to squeeze Aleen’s face or grab her neck. A tiny little fingernail dug out a tiny little divot of my wife’s skin.
Aleen snapped: “Cut your NAILS, Fawn Hall!”
That’s a good line, right there. Who the hell was still thinking about Fawn Hall in 2003? And did Fawn Hall really have long nails in the first place?
I have no idea.
Aleen too was unsure. “She just looked like she would,” Aleen said.
Aleen and I still use the Fawn Hall line when a kid or a dog or a spouse accidentally scratches us with a fingernail which is overdue for trimming.
Cut your nails, Fawn Hall!
Bonus trivia facts about Fawn Hall: She later married Danny Sugerman, the former manager of The Doors. The two of them became addicted to crack cocaine in the 1990s. They later sobered up. Sugerman died of throat cancer in 2005.
As of 2008, Hall was working as a cashier at the Book Soup shop on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
INTEGRATED PHONE SYSTEM. Before Aleen and I moved into our current house in 2005, we did a short renovation. Among other things, we paid for an expensive, multi-line phone system which was linked with the front-door intercom.
Quickly it became clear that we had bought the Taj Mahal of home phone systems.
The operating manual was a massive hard-binder. The phones looked appropriate for a mid-sized corporation. When we wanted to do something basic, like change the time for daylight savings, the task proved impossible.
The phones sporadically emitted a low, whispery hiss which was just barely detectable.
When we reported these issues to the company which installed the phones, or when we had the temerity to suggest they come fix the damn things, company reps would launch into long technical explanations which centered on the fact that we had purchased “an integrated phone system.”
Originally, this was to let us know that we had not purchased some fly-by-night, piece-of-shit, discount system.
Soon the line mutated into a more layered expression. It was akin to being told, ‘Hey, of course you’re going to have to fix it up more often, it’s a Ferrari.’
Which was a laughable proposition. At least a Ferrari produces a few moments of pleasure or precision or awe-inspiring power. Our crap-ass phone system always sucked, right from the get-go.
Eventually, the phrase took on yet another layer. Even company reps were baffled by the gremlins. When they said “integrated phone system,” it was more like a fatalistic shrug regarding the mysteries of the universe.
For Aleen and me, the phrase denotes anything which is simultaneously expensive and ineffective, and which is nearly impossible to operate.
There’s no getting around it. We got ripped off, telecommunications-wise. But at least we got a saying out of it. And at least the phones are integrated.
Recently we are inching toward a new, similar saying, thanks to Carlos, our landscape architect.
Unlike the phone people, he is actually good at his job. Very good at it. And unfailingly patient with Aleen and me.
But whenever Aleen does call to report a dead plant or a brown patch of grass, Carlos always starts out by reminding her, “The garden is a living thing.”
I guess he means it’s in a constant state of flux, with changing appearance and variety.
And this is undeniably true; a garden is a living thing.
I am just pointing out that this phrase is always used when a particular part of the garden has become a non-living thing.
More accurate to say, “Most of your garden is still a living thing.”