Maybe Ethan Hawke Got Eaten By the Snake? The Night the Cast of Dead Poets Society Ended Up In My Apartment


DPS Graphic

I had a completely random celebrity encounter, and it’s a cool story.

Except for the part where I managed to give the completely wrong impression. You only get one chance to make a first impression, right?  And sometimes you blow it because you’re holding a snake at exactly the wrong time. Just me? Okay then. Allow me to explain.

Let me get this out of the way right now. There is no Ethan Hawke in this story. Don’t read on, thinking he’s going to show up at the last minute. Or pop out of a closet. Or swoop in with a snarky Gen-X-ish comment.  These were the Reality Bites years, so I’m sure he was off somewhere, you know, not bathing. I mean, come on Ethan – would a bar of Irish Spring and a stick of Right Guard have hurt? And maybe the occasional shave? Well?

The summer after college, I was living and working in Nantucket. It was a hazy, “anything goes”, let’s-go-to-the-beach- at-midnight kind of summer, the last summer to run wild before joining the real world. Oh, the stories I could tell… but I won’t, because my kids read this blog. (Note to my kids: I spent the summer delivering Meals on Wheels to elderly shut-ins, sewing blankets for Ugandan orphans, and attending daily church services. Now, don’t you have homework to do?)

I had a bunch of roommates. One roommate had a boyfriend, who happened to have a pet snake. The pet snake lived at our place. No, I hadn’t foreseen a reptilian roommate, but made my peace with it. It was a young snake, not even full grown, and, sort of okay. I even eventually got up the courage to hold him. Which brings us to the fateful night.

What you need to know: Nantucket is relatively small, but tends to draw celebrities, so you’re likely to encounter a famous face or two while getting a sandwich, or just grabbing a newspaper. Not that big a deal, usually. But one night, something I couldn’t have imagined happened. And it happened right in my apartment.

This particular night I got home from a party, um, I mean church. I got home from church, and I took the snake out of his… what? Terrarium? Tank? Whatever the glass thingy is that pet snakes live in. And I was holding him when door banged open and one of my roommates tumbled in. She was trailed by a bunch of guys.  She had met them at another party, thought they were fun (and cute!) and dragged them home with her.  As you do.

I noticed the guy that sat down at the table looked familiar. He had medium length brown-ish hair, was adorable, and said his name was Bobby. He was the only one that introduced himself by name, but otherwise he was pretty quiet. Really good looking, but quiet. As I chatted with the others, I kept glancing over at him, sure I knew him from somewhere. But I’d met a lot of people that summer, so I didn’t think too much of it. It was the tall guy I was talking with that had really captured my attention.

So these random guys were in my apartment, and some of them were like, “Um, is that a snake?” Because apparently that’s not a normal thing to encounter in Nantucket. Lilly Pulitzer dresses, yes. Snakes, not so much. They seemed… a bit caught off guard, to be standing there conversing with me holding a snake. Eventually, we said our goodbyes, and they left with my roommate to go somewhere else.

Much later in the evening, my roommate ran in the door breathless. Here was the conversation as I remember it:

Her: So, did those guys look familiar?

Me: Um, kind of, I guess. Why?”

Her: Well, I was talking to them when we got to the party, and they said they live in New York, and they’re actors. So I asked them if they’d been in anything I’ve heard of, and the one guy said… ommygod I can’t believe this… Dead Poets’ Society! We were hanging out with the guys from Dead Poets’ Society and we didn’t even know it! That’s like my favorite movie of all time!” She gushed.

And suddenly it hit me why the guy at the table looked familiar. It was Robert Sean Leonard, the guy who played Neil. (If you haven’t seen the movie, spoiler alert: Worst ending ever for Poor Neil).

That’s right. Unbeknownst to me, I had just had the cast of Dead Poet’s Society in my living room.  Minus Ethan Hawke of course, because he was off traipsing through Vienna with Julie Delpy or some other smelly nonsense.  What kind of an idiot doesn’t recognize the cast of Dead Poets’ Society when they’re right under her nose? This idiot. Gaah. My score for powers of observation? Zilch.

She continued to burble about the rest of the guys that had been in my living room not an hour before. All of the main characters, save Ethan Hawke, and Robin Williams of course, were on the island, just hanging out. I do know, based on my roommate’s apparently frantic questioning when she found out who they were, that Knox Overstreet/Josh Charles  (how adorable was he?) was on the island too,  but not out with them that night, and was instead back at the house with his then girlfriend.  My roommate was crushed to find out he was taken. “But I looooove him!” she wailed.

And then she dropped the bomb. Apparently, the entire group of guys had referred to me as “Snake Girl” for the rest of the night.


Also, once she found out who they were, she started trying to engineer a way to hang out with them again.

“Oh, and I told Jamie you thought he was cute, and that you really liked him.”

Jamie being the tall guy with dark hair that I had been talking to. (He played Gerard Pitts in the movie.)

Here I should point out that I had never told her anything of the kind. However, my interest was piqued. Tall guy with dark hair? 100% my type. I was 22. I was… twitterpated. Hells yeah, I thought he was cute.

“I can’t believe you said that! You’re such a liar! So, um, what did he say?”

“He goes, ‘Really? The girl with the snake?  So, do you think she’d go out with me if I asked her?’ And I told him you definitely would, so he’s gonna call you.”

Things had just gotten interesting. I could definitely get on board with a date with a cute guy.  But, disappointingly, he never called.  Instead, a few weeks later, when my family was visiting, I came back to the apartment one day and my sister told me, “Some guy stopped by asking for you.”

“Who was it?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t ask his name. I just told him you weren’t here”.

“What did he look like?”

“Tall guy, dark hair.”

Yep. That was him. Damn.

I left the island a week later, and never saw him again.  So, yeah, I completely missed my chance to go on a date with one of the guys from Dead Poet’s Society. And I managed to give the cast of one most iconic movies of my generation the impression that I was some sort of dangerous, bizarre, reptile loving chick, which is so not who I am. Guys, if you’re reading this, and I know you’re not, I don’t even like snakes! It was a moment of weakness! The Nantucket fog had muddled my brain!

But hey, at least my reputation’s still safe with Ethan Hawke, right?

Dead Poets Society

All the Pioneers Really Needed Was a Good Cabernet

View of the lake


There was a book written a few years back called The Last Child in the Woods. I haven’t read it yet, but I love the title. It speaks to me. And anyway, I’m happy to say the last children  in the woods just may be mine. Okay, that came out wrong. Anyone else picturing my kids as Hansel and Gretel? Just me? Okay.  As I’ve mentioned, our kids are outdoorsy types already. They play outside way more than inside. And every summer, for two weeks, we’re “unplugged”, so to speak.

Our vacation destination each summer is a cabin deep in the north woods of Michigan. Kind of like camping, except with electricity and indoor plumbing. If you know me, you know I don’t “rough it”, so this is as close to camping as I get. Which is to say not at all.  Anyhow, the place has no TV reception,  and no internet connection.  I’ll let that sink in for a minute. No. Internet. Connection.  It’s never bothered me much before. There’s something calming and transformative about disconnecting from everything going on in the world.

I know, I know, two weeks doesn’t sound like much. But for us, it’s a step in the right direction. It lets our kids know that they can live without the electronics, that the world isn’t going to come to an end if they haven’t seen the latest Instagram of someone making a duckface or Youtube video of a kitten sneezing.

Ever gone on a vacation to a place where you’re disconnected to the outside world? It’s strange to re-emerge after a couple of weeks  and hear about things that happened two weeks ago that are already old news to everyone else, but are new to you. “You didn’t hear about that? Have you been living under a rock?” Well, as a matter of fact I have, in a way. Not under a rock, but in a log cabin in the woods, Thoreau-style except with killer iced coffee and some fabulous wine and cheese that we picked up from Zingermans on the way. Please. I’m not a heathen.

And I usually don’t have a problem being away from the internet. But wait… I’m doing this blogging thing now. Don’t I need to be connected? What if I miss something? And there’s a royal baby on the way! A babieeeee! I’m gonna miss the 24/7 news coverage of the birthin’ ! And Lindsay Lohan is probably gonna be  released from rehab early, upon which she is going to… drumroll please…  attend her own birthday party.  Oh, the shenanigans  that will ensue!  If anyone needs to pre-emptively get the lawyers on retainer, it’s her.  Amanda Bynes has been sort of quiet as of late, so she’s primed for another round of Bonkers Pong  any minute!  And I’ll probably  miss all of it. Well, at least I got to have access to the interwebs for the birth of the Spawn of Kim and Douchebucket Kanye. So that was fun.  Okay not really.

Speaking of which, I kind of sort of think the name “North” is cool. And by that I mean it could be worse. But with “West” as a last name? Goes from cool to cruel before you can say “Imma let you finish”.  What the hell were they thinking? Oh, right, I forgot who we’re talking about. Idiots. 

Anyway, the cabin. My great-grandfather built it in the 1920s.  I’ve been going there all my life. My mom has been going there her whole life. My grandfather grew up going there. You get the picture.

It is my rest. It is my sanctuary. It is my place to unplug and disconnect from the world, including celebrity train-wrecks.  And since I fully expect my kids to unplug as well, I’m going to have to set a good example. Probably.  Which means no sneaking peeks at celebrity gossip websites on our rare trips into town. Goodbye Gawker. Ta-ta TMZ. What? This People magazine peeking out from under the cushion? Oh, I bought that back in Ohio before we even crossed the border, so it totally doesn’t count. Shut up.

The rule is the kids aren’t allowed to bring any of their electronic devices. That means no DS, no iPod touch. The adults will have non-functioning  cell phones (no reception in that part of the woods.) The adults will also have laptops, but until we make the twenty minute drive to town (the closest internet connection) the laptops will mostly  function as expensive paperweights.

So yes, my kids will be completely disconnected from computers, TV, and electronics for two weeks. But they’ve been going to the cabin every summer  since they were born. They’re used to it. And they’re not complaining.

They’ll play in the woods, swim in the lake, kayak, fish, catch frogs, and look for wildlife. At night we’ll toast marshmallows, read, and play board games or cards.  Secure on the screened sleeping porch, we’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the forest. (“Did you hear that noise last night? What was that?” Is an oft repeated line in the a.m.). In the morning, we’ll wake up to the chill in the air, the call of the loons on the lake, to the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing.  After  the fog on the lake lifts, we’ll spend the rest of the day on the water or lounging lakeside. And our biggest decision will be what kind of sandwich to make for lunch.

I won’t even bring my Nook. I considered it, after all, the point of its purchase was so I wouldn’t have to lug so many books on vacation that they needed their own suitcase. But… there are games on the Nook. Game that my kids are going to want to play if it is available. And my kids all have advanced degrees in pestering.  So, guess what? The Nook will stay at home. I’ll be lugging a stack of good old-fashioned books with me like always. No charger needed.

Full disclosure, though: As I mentioned, I will have my laptop with me, since that’s where I write.  Posting will present a challenge, obviously.  I may have to coordinate posting with going into town for supplies, kind of like the pioneers did.  Er, like they would have done if they had blogs. What? I can compare myself to pioneers or to Laura Engalls Wilder or Thoreau if I want. Just because my clothes aren’t all scratchy doesn’t mean I don’t suffer hardship, too. Once when I was up there I ran out of French Vanilla coffee creamer. That was a rough day, my friends.

Quick favor, though. Can someone just, I don’t know,  send up smoke signals or something  if Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes has a surprise  kid and names it something like  “Scrambled Eggs Haiku”? Because I’m pretty sure even Thoreau would have come out of the woods for that. Happy summer!




It’s Okay, Fructose Kills Germs

Summer is here, and children ‘round these parts are aglow with entrepreneurial spirit.  They have warm weather, free time, and a hankering for cold hard cash. And because I apparently live in the 2013 version of Mayberry,  except without sidewalks or Aunt Bea, their ambition translates into lemonade stands. And the customers come. Because who doesn’t want a  warmish paper cup of sugar, fructose, and citric acid on a blistering hot day?

Lest you think these kids are just throwing these juice-slinging pop-ups together willy nilly, I have to tell you there are apparently rules. An unwritten code of conduct, if you will, that I have observed. Seriously, I’m like the Jane Goodall of suburbia.  So I’ve jotted down some of my observations to help your kids have the best lemonade stand ever.

  1. Competing lemonade stands in the same neighborhood, in the same day, are a no-no. Like some kind of lemonade mafia, once a territory is staked out for the day it’s yours. The other neighborhood kids will dutifully hand over their fifty cents, and you will hand it right back to them tomorrow at their lemonade stand. There are quarters that haven’t left this neighborhood in ten years.
  2. Disregard all directions for lemonade powder to water ratios, and wing it. As long as customers get the essence of lemonade, it’s fine.
  3. Homemade sign hastily scribbled with a sharpie is essential.
  4. Despite what is written on the sign, yell random prices at potential customers. “50 cents or a dollar!”, “Fifty dollars!” or “Six-hundred and sixy dollars and three hundred cents!” are all acceptable if you’re six and unfamiliar with the basics of currency.
  5. Shout loudly at all passing cars, even ones containing people that have already bought lemonade. If they accelerate and look frightened, it’s just because they’re not used to such enthusiasm. Feel free to chase them down the street.
  6. Remember: It takes at least eight children to run a lemonade stand. All must be hopping up and down and don’t forget the shouting.
  7. Does the customer want ice? Make sure to pick up ice with unwashed, bare hands. If germs think they’re taking the summer off, they are wrong.
  8. Everyone pays, even the parent who purchased said lemonade at Costco in the first place. Practice saying the following to your thirsty parent: “No dinero, no drinky, deadbeat.” They’ll think it’s cute.
  9. In the entrepreneurial spirit, when out of lemonade raid house for random snacks like granola bars, spotty bananas, and Dixie cups full of goldfish crackers. Because nothing says “refreshing” and draws customers in like a sun-warmed raisin granola bar on a 90 degree day.
  10. When bored, or if the ice cream truck comes, run off and  leave the supervising adult alone at a makeshift lemonade stand with a handwritten sign, looking like a complete tool.

Got it kids? Now, get out there and sell, sell, sell. And remember, you’re doing it right if people can hear you from the next time zone.

Lemonade Stand



Summer Reading List 2013

Morning Readers!

Warm weather is finally here, school is almost out, and for me, that signals the return of my Summer Book List.  Just to set the stage, I’m an obsessive reader. Book. Nerd. As in, I get panicky if I arrive at a vacation destination having neglected to bring a book. I will literally make my husband drive to a local bookstore before we check  into the hotel. (As I type this, I’m beginning to realize that his reasons for buying me a Nook weren’t entirely altruistic . Well played, husband. Well played.)

Before every summer, I spend a month or so researching what’s new-ish in the publishing world, and compiling my list so I am never at a loss for a book when warm weather hits. There’s just something about kicking back in a lounge chair with a book and a glass of iced tea while my kids play in the sprinkler that epitomizes summer. Also, our summer always includes a trip to a cabin on a lake, where there is no TV or internet. (I think last year I read eight books when I was up there.) This year I decided to share what’s on my list, because the next best thing to reading all of these great books is to recommend them to others.

My tastes lean heavily toward memoir, with some humor  and fiction thrown in as well.  So if you’re  like me, always on the hunt for an interesting read, maybe you’ll find something on this list that grabs you. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ll be reading this summer:


The Interestings The Interestings/Meg Wolitzer





WonderWonder/R. J. Palcio




The Burgess Boys The Burgess Boys: A Novel/Elizabeth Strout





The Astor Orphan The Astor Orphan: A Memoir/Alexandra Aldrich





Chanel Bonfire Chanel Bonfire: A Memoir/Wendy Lawless





Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls/David Sedaris





A Spoonful of Sugar A Spoonful of Sugar: A Memoir/Brenda Ashford





Ladies Night Ladies Night/Mary Kay Andrews





The Tao of Martha The Tao of Martha/Jen Lancaster





A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher/Sue Halpern





calling Me Home Calling Me Home/Julie Kibler





 At Least My Belly Hides My CanklesaAt Least My Belly Hides My Cankles/Paige Kellerman









Thinking of YouThinking of You/Jill Mansell






Time Flies Time Flies/Claire Cook





The Why of Things The Why of Things/Elizabeth Winthrop






The Engagements The Engagements: A Novel/J. Courtney Sullivan





The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girlss The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls/Anton DiSclafani





Silver Star The Silver Star: A Novel/Jeannette Walls





Dad is Fat Dad is Fat/Jim Gaffigan






The Smart One The Smart One/Jennifer Close







Wishing you a comfy spot in the shade and ice cubes that never melt. Happy reading everyone!


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