Rooter’s Dozen

As a sports fan, I find it much more fun to watch a game that includes a team in which I have a vested interest. But any sporting event is more fun to watch if you are rooting for someone. Therefore, I have developed 12 rules by which I choose for whom to root in any given game. In descending order of influence:

1. FOR the team in which I have a legitimate vested interest (team of birth, alma mater, etc.): Yankees, Giants (NY), Penn State; also Knicks, Rangers

2. FOR the team in which a loved one has a legitimate vested interest: University of Virginia, Columbia, Redskins (that one hurts), Fordham, Nationals

3. AGAINST the historic or personal rival of a team from item No. 1 (or, sometimes, 2):
Red Sox, Notre Dame, Pitt, Cowboys, Alabama, Miami, Virginia Tech

4. FOR the team whose win has a negative impact on the Red Sox or Notre Dame

5. AGAINST the team coached by Pork-Faced Satan (Jimmy Johnson), any Holtz, Barry Switzer or Steve Spurrier

6. AGAINST the team with puppy-killers and/or an abundance of criminals on the team, or the team ardently supported by someone I hate

7. FOR the team with more Penn Staters

8. AGAINST the team from Texas

9. FOR the team with seriously die-hard, yet not dangerous, fans: Green Bay

10. AGAINST the team that betrayed its fans by moving to a different city: Dodgers, Ravens (Jeff says the Nationals don’t count here, as they had no fans in Montreal)

11. FOR the underdog or whichever team plays in colder weather

12. (tie) FOR the team of the city in which I currently live/AGAINST the team with the fairest-weather fans (this one can be hard, as it is often the same team: SF Giants, 49ers)

I do hope this is helpful in making your personal rooting decisions.

I say JoePa.








This is my favorite picture of me (as it was the ’80s, I give myself a pass for the glasses). I did not know it had been taken, until it was given to me as a gift by a dear friend (that’s the back of her blond head) many years later. While I know I have felt that much joy at other times, I had never seen what that feeling looks like on my face. Knowing what that looks like is a gift, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for it. Every time I look at it, I am reminded of that feeling of pure unadulterated joy, of belonging, of excitement — of feelings that can not be explained fully with words. Just look at my face.

I credit a single person for creating the place in which I could experience what I felt in that photo. I am deeply, deeply grateful to Joe Paterno for that gift. And that will never change.

I don’t expect non–Penn Staters to understand — even some Penn Staters probably don’t — but Penn State football and Joe Paterno mean much more to me than can be explained fully in words. Just look at my face.


The Ezra Chronicles, prologue

I’ve decided to blog about being a first-time dog parent. It’s harder than I thought it would be. Much harder. I plan to be painfully and brutally honest, but please keep in mind: It all works out happily in the end.

The Hauptman family does not have a great pet history. To wit:

  • My first pet, a turtle, who died on the way home from the pet store.
  • Numerous mutant goldfish, several of whom committed suicide (one who was curiously resuscitated — a whole ’nother story).
  • The hamsters, Laverne and Shirley. Shirley ate through the Habitrail and terrorized us until her capture in the Fisher-Price parking garage; Laverne died during one of my birthday parties.
  • Sammy, the beloved parakeet, who got cancer and had to be put to sleep.
  • And, of course, Chester, the puppy adopted on the advice of the school psychologist who said I needed something of my own to love. Long story short: He had to go back to the shelter, and I was scarred for life.

History disappeared with the arrival of Kona. My beloved niece is a chocolate Labrador retriever adopted by my brother when she was three weeks old. She changed my life from the moment we set eyes on each other. I learned the meaning of puppy love, something so wonderful and unconditional and fulfilling that I realized the school psychologist had been right all along. We bonded fully in a poopy bath, and I set upon being the greatest aunt ever to walk the earth.

My love for Kona — and every dog I subsequently passed on the street — led me to volunteer at Pets Unlimited, a local animal shelter. Every Wednesday for the past few years, I have walked rescue dogs. It is the best thing I have ever done in my whole life. The love and licks I get during a few hours one day can fulfill me for a whole week. Jeff started calling it Woofy Wednesday and even made me a website as a Valentine’s Day gift (this is what happens when you marry a dork), where I post photos of the dogs I walk each week.

I love all of them, but I have gotten a bit extra-attached to a few. There was Brazil, a 115-pound yellow lab who made me climb into a tree(!) to get a tennis ball she spotted lodged in a branch. Would such a big, galumphy dog be happy in our apartment? No. She has a home with a puppy-sister, Ivy, human kids and tons of trips to the beach. Her name is now Zoe, and she still finds me sometimes in the park where I walk the shelter dogs. She is very happy.

There was Little GaGa, a crazy-looking tiny spotted mutt with a handicap. I fell hard for her and her little piglet ears. Jeff and I even took her on a field trip to Crissy Field, where I’d hoped he’d fall in love with her, too, and she’d become ours. Alas, he didn’t. Plus, we met her parents-to-be when we brought her back to the shelter that day. I cried and cried, sure that she was meant for me and I’d lost my one shot at puppy happiness. Jeff kept saying, “But, honey, she has lesbians!” Oddly, that didn’t make me feel better.

Then Ariana, head dog person at the shelter, shared a video sent by Little GaGa’s new moms. Her name is now Maisy, and she has a dog-brother named Seymour, who was clearly waiting for her his whole life. I dare you not to cry when watching this video. Little GaGa is right where she was meant to be.

But what about me? Jeff really didn’t want a dog. But I did. A lot. So I thought. And so I convinced him we had to find our dog: an older girl dog who was already trained and wouldn’t need grooming.

Then one Woofy Wednesday not long after that, I met a one-year-old, part-poodle, boy dog named Fry.

Down With Capitalism

Capitalism can be a very ugly thing. I say this with all sincerity, though with no reference whatsoever to economic systems. (Trust me: As someone who had to learn economics using M&M’s, this is for the best.)

Why, oh why, do people insist on capitalizing things willy-nilly? Does it make them feel more important? Stop capitalizing random words. Stop capitalizing what the Associated Press calls “common noun elements of a name when they stand alone.” Just stop it.

In my opinion, the worst victims of capitalization are university, president and city. Especially city. Double-especially when referring to lesser cities such as San Francisco. The City? Really? Please.

Here are some examples to help you:
Penn State University has the best football team.
The university will celebrate a national championship this year.

President Obama lives in the White House.
The president looks old.
(Once and for all: Only capitalize titles when they immediately precede a proper name: Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs is a genius. but Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple, is a genius.)

New York City is the capital of the universe.
The city has the best pizza. (Let’s review: Even mention of a real city doesn’t get capped when it’s not the full proper name.)

Long live the lowercases!

And a Happy Chanukah to you

Please, I beg you, do not wish me a Merry Christmas.

No, really. It will lead to unpleasantness: You will receive a lecture, and I will feel bad. And I’m reasonably sure that was not your intent. I’m pretty sure most of you just don’t know how awful it makes me feel.

Here’s the thing: If you, in fact, celebrate Christmas, I truly, madly, deeply hope you have a very merry one. In your house.

I do not celebrate Christmas. I do not want to celebrate Christmas. Not in my house, not in my lobby, not in your store, not in the office.

Lest you think I am prejudiced or, worse, a buzz kill, consider this: Every time I see a public display of Christmas, I feel bad. It is as if that wreath has a voice that screams: “You are not one of us. You don’t belong. We’re in charge here, and don’t you forget it.”

During December, I come home every night to a lobby that looks like an elf exploded. It upsets me every single time I have to walk through the lobby. Not really how you want to feel entering your own home. The menorah (which takes up about .05% of the space devoted to Christmas) makes me feel ever so slightly better. Ever so slightly, especially since it shares its puny perch with a dwarfing, garish red and green flower arrangement.

Largely, I have turned these bad feelings to anger and resentment. Healthy! The closer we get to the end of December, the larger my Star of David necklace gets, culminating in my 2-inch-high gold dazzler. A friend calls me the Jewish Mr. T. It’s my way of giving people every possible hint of how not to piss me off.

My best friend throughout my teenage years was Catholic (probably still is). I thoroughly enjoyed helping her family trim their tree and celebrate their holiday. In their house. Just as I enjoy having non-Jewish friends come to my house to share in my holiday and traditions (though I certainly don’t expect them to run home and sweep for chametz). I think it’s a lovely way to share and learn.

But just as I don’t send my non-Jewish friends Happy Rosh Hashanah cards (you’d find that at least a bit odd, wouldn’t you?), please don’t send me a Merry Christmas card. It is akin to sending me a note that says, “We don’t care a lick about you, you silly minority.” Do you really want to send me that message? OK, maybe you do. Just know it deeply offends me.

For those people who have told me that Christmas isn’t religious, that a Christmas tree isn’t religious: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Put another way: If the word Christmas precedes your noun (as in tree, lights, party), it’s about Christmas, which is a religious holiday. Notice the root of the word: his name, his holiday. Bet he’d agree.

This country was founded on freedom of religion. But, more importantly, it was founded on the separation of church and state. So why is there a national Christmas tree? Why is Christmas a national holiday? Excellent questions, to which there is no possible decent answer.

We do not all celebrate Christmas (to the lovely woman with whom I worked at Nordstrom one year: “Yes, even if you’re born here”), nor do we all want to. Perhaps we can look to the actually secular holidays (remember Thanksgiving? And New Year’s works even for non-Americans) we ALL celebrate for community gathering and expression.

I read an article recently that says all this better than I do:

So now you know.

For the Last Time

We are pessimists. This is proved (see recent post on proved/proven) by one of the most common mistakes I encounter: the use of the word “last” when it should be “past.”

“Last” means last, literally. Use “last” if it is the end of the road, and there is no hope of ever doing/having/being whatever it is again. Ever. If you can safely substitute “final” for “last,” you should use “last.”
He spent the last months of his life with his family.

Use “past” if it is not necessarily the complete and total end of something. If you can’t safely substitute “final,” use “past.”
During the past year, I ate an awful lot of food.
We have reported profits for the past three months.
I have been watching
Laverne & Shirley for the past two weeks.

If you used “last” in these sentences, it would mean there are no more years or months or weeks, ever. So even if you don’t plan ever to report profits or watch Laverne & Shirley again, you do plan to have more weeks, months, years in your future. Hopefully. So, please, use “past.”

Shall we make this the last time we discuss this matter?

The Sliver Palate

I love the work I do as a tourism writer. Telling people where to go and what to do is particularly satisfying. Alas, as I perused the menu of a restaurant for which I was doing a write-up (, I came to the realization that my quirky food issues might be a slight impediment to my career as a restaurant reviewer (rest assured, I do bring along wider-palated foodies when necessary).

I am a very picky eater. You’d think, given all the limitations on what foods I will eat, I would be thin. Petite, even. (OK, never petite.) Alas, again, I eat A LOT of the foods I do like. When I am dining at wonderful restaurants, and I ask them about their house specialties, we run into problems: Lamb yaddyadda? No thanks. Duck ragout over blahblahblah? Um, no again. Innards with special sauce? Not on your life. The official list of foods I won’t eat is long, odd and, well, written in stone:

• anything with a bone or that looks like where it came from or that can look at me (no faces)
• anything that comes from a Disney or similar character (no Donald, Bambi, Kermit, Thumper, Babe [bacon OK])
• any non-vegetable item preceded by the word “baby”
• extra slimy things, such as tofu and escargot
• weird fish, such as octopus
• weird animal body parts, such as kidneys or brains or cheeks
• strong fish, such as tuna (unless in a can with a cartoon on the label)
• lamb
• veal
• sushi (faux sushi, such as California rolls, OK)
• Indian food or spices
• raw onions
• peppers (any color)
• chile peppers or anything too spicy
• walnuts (actual allergy)

The word “bland” is one of my favorite descriptors of food, as it pretty much guarantees I will try it — and probably like it. I am the antithesis of an adventurous eater. I will not try anything unless I know exactly what is in it (and can confirm it’s not on my no-no list). I went to Brussels, the food capital of the world (pipe down, Frenchies!), a few years ago with my best friend, a vegetarian. As neither of us speaks French or Flemish, we ate nothing but lettuce, tomatoes, fries, waffles and chocolate for three days.

Of course, I married a person for whom the weirder, the stinkier, the spicier the food, the better. He’s not satisfied unless his food makes him sweat. I don’t really find this endearing. My marriage would benefit from the invention of armor-plated tupperware, so the hideous stench of his foul cheeses and onions would not permeate my delicate Kraft singles.

I did not grow up with exotic spices or far-flung flavorings. I never had actual Mexican food until I was in college; Thai even later. Chinese was as exotic as we got in suburban New York, and my mother opted for moo goo gai pan, which, I’m fairly certain, doesn’t even exist in China. My mother was a big influence on how my palate developed. She, too, is a bit picky and won’t eat fish or seafood of any kind — unless it comes in a can with a cartoon on the label. This has always led to restaurant-planning conversations that began, “Is there anything on the menu Mom will eat?” and resulted in many steakhouse dinners.

A recent conversation at my parents’ house probably explains everything:

Dad: “These franks (hot dogs) are spicy.”
Mom: “No, they’re just salty.”
Dad: “Well, salt is a spice.”
Lauren: “Only if you’re Jewish.”

Innocent Until Proved Guilty

Yes, that is how it should read. I swear. Really.

Correct: “Innocent until proved guilty.”

Incorrect: “Innocent until proven guilty.”

Don’t believe me? Here’s the thing: Prove and proved are verbs; proven is an adjective.

She has proved herself worthy.

It is a proven formula.

If only I can convince Law & Order.

Dressing-Room Optimist

I was in the Bloomingdale’s dressing room.

Never mind why I was in the Bloomingdale’s dressing room at 11 am on a work day. Never mind that I came to the mall with the sole and specific purpose of picking up a father’s day gift that was already on hold, with a definite intention of not shopping.

So I was in the Bloomingdale’s dressing room, when another shopper came out of her stall wearing a very pretty new suit jacket, trying to decide, with the help of smiley salesperson Sharon, what she should wear underneath it for a job interview.

They both looked at me. Despite the fact that I was in a hurry — it being 11 am on a work day and all — I stopped to consult. “What type of job? Where? First interview? Crisp white blouse, definitely, but change the buttons, and you need some signature piece of jewelry, so they’ll remember you. Bright color, chunky. Really, that’s the key. Good luck.”

Smiley Sharon showed me to my stall and looked at me with a mixture of admiration and surprise (really). I said, “Well, we’re all in this together.”

Smiley Sharon looked at me again, this time adding awe to the mix (really). “That’s a really nice way of looking at things,” she said.

“I suppose it is,” I said, thinking about it with a mixture of admiration and surprise. As I consider myself a pretty judgmental pessimist, I was pleased to find my humanity in the Bloomingdale’s dressing room. Perhaps I need to go there more often.

Quote Me

I know you all spend sleepless nights worrying about how punctuation fits with quotation marks. Does it go inside? Does it go outside? Where, oh where, does it go?

Here’s the deal:

Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. Always. Did I say always?

Semicolons always go outside quotation marks. Again, always.

Dashes, question marks and exclamation points go inside quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only; they go outside when they apply to the whole sentence:
She asked, “Why are you so anal?”
Did you hear her say, “Stop correcting my grammar; I hate you”?

Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation itself.

Sleep well, little lambs.