We live a structured life, my wife and I. Friday matinees at Landmark Theater (we'll see anything. Even if it's filmed in black in white, in Finland); Saturday afternoon tennis at Rancho Park; Sunday morning Mar Vista Farmer's Market. Then, I'm off to Palisades HS to play basketball in the same game with the same guys for the past 26 years.
Tuesdays are also written in stone. That's when Amy hunkers down and writes her syndicated Tell Me a Story column, of myths and folktales and legends. I'll come home from teaching at a local high school and hear the soft machine gun fire of her 120 words per minute over the keys. I peek in, but keep my distance.
Unless she's stuck and says something like, "I can't decide between a Bulgarian version of Cinderella or a Phoenician creation story. What's your gut?"
"My gut says Johnny Appleseed, but set it in Estonia." My ideas are usually ignored.
But on a recent Tuesday I came home to silence. Concerned, I ducked my head into Amy's study. Empty. And then a disturbing sound from the bedroom.
There is not supposed to be laughter emanating from our bedroom unless I'm home and we're watching Seinfeld.
I tiptoed closer.
More laughter, a deep inhale, a sigh.
I never foresaw infidelity. We've both been married three times. I braced myself and entered.
Amy was fully clothed. Alone. Reading a paperback.
"I've fallen in love," she said.
My first thought: I can't afford another family lawyer. On the spot, I decided to go with Legal Zoom.
"This book," she held it up. "Marrying George Clooney, Confession from a Midlife Crisis. She's written my life story. She's a Jewish baby boomer writer named Amy, who's menopausal and whose mother has Alzheimer's."
"Sounds like fun. Think there's a sitcom in it?"
"You must read this book."
"I don't read chick lit."
"You whined about seeing The Young Victoria and now you're on the Internet every night sending away for posters of Emily Blunt. You must read this book."
I rolled my eyes but hoped she hadn't seen. "Soon as I read the 140 two-page essays on "What I Dislike Most about My Body," that my sophomores have written."
"I wrote her a fan letter," Amy said.
"The author. Amy Ferris. We're having dinner next Friday. She'll be in town promoting her book."
"You're stalking her?"
"She wrote back. I wrote back. You're invited. But you've got to read the book. I'll finish it by dinner," and then she was lost to me, hunkered down in the bed, reading, laughing.
I walked outside to play with our dogs. Like me, they have no interest in chick lit. Or chick memoir. We're more Elmore Leonard, Philip Roth, Walter Mosley kind of guys.
Later, Amy handed me a plate of curried vegetables and the book. "Read it," she said. Then she stood and stared at me, just stood there, staring. So I read the first few pages, but as she walked away, I called after her. "Hey, do I have to read the chapter about her shoe fetish? I don't care about shoes."
"Read everything," she called over her shoulder. So I read a few more pages, but I stopped when I reached the next chapters. "Hey, Ame, you don't really expect me to read a chapter about vaginal dryness, do you?"
"Read the book," she called back.
And so I sat down and gave in, and I began to read, and I didn't notice that I'd missed the NBA game I'd been planning to watch because Amy Ferris caught me. I read about the way she curled up with her mother who was lying in bed waiting for her husband to join her, even though he'd been dead for ten years. And I read about Amy's insomnia, and the dead cat in the trunk of her car that couldn't be buried because the backyard was iced over. I read about sudden sweats, quitting smoking, falling in love with Ken, the cinematographer/gardener/maniacal freeway driver, and Amy's decade-long estrangement from her brother who'll probably claim every possession and every penny as soon as their mother passes. And as I read, I suddenly remembered a line I read decades ago from The Drama of the Gifted Child. How, when a baby looks into her mother's eyes and the mother is absent -- like Amy's mother was, like my mom was -- how that child spends all of her life searching desperately for love.
I could relate to that.
A week later we met Amy and Ken Ferris for dinner at their Century City hotel and we fell in love with them as quickly as we had fallen in love with her book.
I bought ten copies of Marrying George Clooney and sent it to friends as Valentine's Day gifts. And my Amy suggested I do more. Maybe write a book review.
But I've never written a book review. I wouldn't know how to.
And though I don't share Amy Ferris's and her mother's sexual fantasies about George Clooney, I'm suggesting to everyone I know and anyone who'll listen to pick up a copy of this hilarious and heartbreaking memoir. For themselves or for a loved one.
I've even mentioned it to some of my basketball buddies. Not only didn't they kick me out of the game, the other day right before I opened the door to the gym, I heard Benny, a point guard/producer howling. I figured he was telling another story about some sexual conquest, but no. You can guess. There he was on the floor of the gym, reading. "Hey," he said, "who'd ever figure I'd wanna read a book about my pal Clooney?"