Skate skiing mojo

I needed a mojo boost. The start of the year had me feeling sluggish and grumpy—for no reason that I can think of, except, perhaps, a lack of exercise during the two-week school break. So, today’s activity—skate skiing—was just what I needed. What is skate skiing? Well, it’s a version of Nordic Skiing that is a cross between hockey skating and falling on your ass. Oh, wait, that’s just me. If you want to see how it’s really done, watch this video:

I’m not naturally gifted or graceful in athletics. Therefore, I sign up for lessons a lot. For instance, I’m a lifetime alpine skier, but I’ve done Women’s Weekend and Women on Wednesday, twice each, at Deer Valley. I’ve skied the Mahre Camp at Deer Valley. I’m a good skier, now, but it took all those lessons (on top of the weekly ski schools and racing camps I did as a kid) to get me there. Actually, as a child, I took lessons in everything: skiing, figure skating, swimming, tennis, horseback riding, and ballet. Oh, the ballet! So much of it, and I’m still the opposite of graceful. And, nearly every winter since we have lived in Park City, I have taken a lesson or two in skate skiing. I tried to get Jeff into it, calling in a favor to arrange a lesson on the 2002 Olympic Winter Games course at Soldier Hollow, with no less an inspiration than Luke Bodensteiner, a two-time Olympian. Jeff liked Luke a lot, but we didn’t win a convert that day. Jeff’s suggestion: I should find some friends who like to skate. It bummed me out a bit, because I had visions of going for skate dates, pondering life and nature together—or something.

Lucky for me some friends run a very cool women’s skate ski group: Park City Nordic Betties, which works like a team, with coaching, but has a decidedly no-pressure vibe, allowing members to self-select into ability levels. Plus, we get this cool hat!

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I am prepared to make good use of the awesome skate skis I bought last year (the week before I wrecked my knee), and to share a new sports adventure with my pal Kellie.

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The last two years, Kellie and I spent a day a week improving our alpine skiing at  Deer Valley’s Women on Wednesdays and the funny thing is, two of the first people we saw, today, were women we knew from WOW. I guess I’m not alone in my lesson-addiction.

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We went with the Beginner crew, led this week by my friend Inge—who announced that we’d be leaving our poles behind. Nothing—and I mean nothing—says “beginner” like skiing sans poles. Quickly, all those ballet lessons came into play—I had to balance. And I visualized the way I used to flex and point as I figured out how to better launch the skis. Ok, fine, it makes more sense in my mind—don’t judge. And I only fell once. Net net, the day was a success.

“It’s so much more fun to suck at something in a group of people doing the same thing,” I said, as the lesson ended. Everyone laughed, and then a couple of women chimed in. “It’s more fun when you’re with a group of women,” said one. “I hate to admit it, but when my husband says he wants to skate with me, I get a little bummed,” said another. When I told them about Jeff’s dislike of the sport, they simply said, “Lucky you!” I left in a great mood, knowing I could go home and proudly tell Jeff he was right, he really doesn’t want to skate. And, I haven’t taken off my hat, yet.

 

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Dr. Zizmor and the Bethenny Effect

You guys. Dr. Zizmor is retiring. I don’t even know how to process this. I haven’t lived in New York City for 14 years, and yet, so inextricably linked is this man—or, rather, his image—to my life there, I am feeling a distinct loss, imagining New York City subways without his rainbow-themed ads, his smiling (smirking?) face.

For the uninitiated: Jonathan Zizmor, MD is a dermatologist whose ads, like this one, have appeared on NYC subways for, well, a very long time.

When I first moved to New York and saw Jonathan Zizmor, M.D. looking down at me as I clung to the grip pole, I was mystified. My thoughts ran the gamut:

“What kind of doctor advertises on the subway?”

“What kind of person chooses a doctor based on the ads on the subway?”

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“I feel wrong even reading these ads.” And, yet, I was a captive audience. I had to read them. Even as I was reading the newspaper or a book, my eyes drifted upward to this man’s smiling face, and his promise of an improved face, body, skin. Wondering, all the while, “Doesn’t he know this is cheesy? Does he really think people sitting in the subway are going to read these ads, and think: ‘Yes. TODAY is the day for all those dermatology procedures I’ve been putting off, and I’m calling Jonathan Zizmor, MD to help me.'”

My zealous wonder (I would bring up these ads at dinner, with alarming frequency) was informed by the fact that I worked for women’s magazines, where the editors cultivated relationships with the best and brightest medical experts. The very thought of calling a doctor from a subway ad was preposterous.

Only today, as the announcement of his retirement at age 70, appeared and reappeared all over social media, did I figure out the fact that creating familiarity was Dr. Z’s stock in trade. It reminded me of an experience years ago when Jeff and I were at a party during the Sundance Film Festival.  We saw a familiar face across the room, and commented to each other that we couldn’t place her—one thing was certain, we knew we’d had dinner with her at our house. It was mildly embarrassing, therefore, that we couldn’t remember her name. Still, we found it irksome that she hadn’t come over to greet us.  Finally, we saw her speaking with another friend of ours, and when their conversation wrapped up, we asked the friend to ID her. Oh, said our friend, it’s Bethenny Frankel. We laughed and went over to introduce ourselves. “Bethenny, we were over there at our table getting mad at you because we thought you’d been to our house for dinner, and now you didn’t have the decency to say hello!” Bethenny cracked up. “You know, we have had dinner—if you watched me on TV while you ate. Right?” Right.

This is the genius of Dr. Z. It’s the Bethenny Effect. If you’ve ever taken the subway, you know Dr. Z. I’m willing to bet that he improved the skin of millions of subway riders, for all the years he worked, just by dint of the fact that he was an omnipresent evangelist for good skin.

And, maybe this was the magic—riding with Dr. Z made you forget, for just a minute, that you were in a grimy subway car. Maybe you were thinking about making the world a better place—surely that was the idea behind the rainbow? Whatever the case, Dr. Z was there to take you away from the guy with leg sprawl, next to you, and from the other guy crushing up against your back. So, thank you Dr. Zizmor. I wish you all the best in your retirement.  Though it begs the question: What ad will replace Dr. Z, in the city’s zeitgeist?

 

Picture Perfect, Hold the Card

My friends, I love your holiday cards. When those stacks of beautifully addressed envelopes arrive, nearly daily from November through January, I get excited. I can’t wait to see your family photos, to read about your family’s year.  And, yes, I feel a pang of guilt, because we don’t send cards, ourselves, in spite of the fact that we usually have a good photo to use.  See, every year, for the past four years, we’ve met up with another family, so that Jeff can photograph them for their holiday card portrait. Then, they return the favor so that we have a cute family photo, too. It’s not all in vain—it shows up on Facebook. But, sorry, no cards.

My holiday card policy has a little to do with the fact that it’s not a Jewish tradition.  (Jordana Horn makes a good case, on Kveller.) Still, I love receiving cards, and any excuse to send good wishes to people is a good excuse, so it has crossed my mind to send them. But then, there’s this: I’m primordially disorganized—I would have to muster my entire Getting My Shit Together Department in order to send out cards, and because of the first reason, I can’t make myself do that. Clearly. But having the photos is wonderful—and the out-takes, all the more so

Every year, we’ve gotten a little better at the photo. This year, we were able to complete both family portraits, plus some candids of the kids goofing off together with Lola, the other family’s dog, in under 30 minutes.

Part of this is that it was cold, and we wanted to go indoors. But, really, I think some of the magic is that you don’t have the stress of having hired a professional, which creates pressure that it MUST turn out well, for what it costs. And, there’s a certain amount of ice-breaking that simply doesn’t need to take place between close friends. We know what jokes to tell from behind the camera to make the subjects laugh. (Hint: the less “appropriate,” the better.) Or, you know, Mom can just go in for the tackle…

And we know we’re going to have a fun afternoon or evening together afterward. This year it was a playdate at their house, with some pizza and a great dinner table conversation. Anticipating more fun makes the moment just that much more charged with good photo mojo.

So, here’s where things stand: We get amazing photos because we tripped over a system that works. We like sharing them (three cheers for the Shutterfly photo plaque that I sent to our families for Chanukkah!). But cards? A bridge too far, for this disorganized mama.

And, so, with our heartfelt wishes for a wonderful 2016, and my thanks for your support of this site, I’m sharing our family portrait. What’s your favorite way to capture a fun family moment?

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I fedora this kid

“Wait, I need to get my fedora!” Seth called out as we started to head out the door to meet friends for dinner and a movie.

It was not an occasion that called for formality. But he can’t resist the bright pink color (he’s color blind, and it’s a shade he can see, and, therefore, a favorite). And one of the friends we were meeting is given to wearing fedoras, so he wanted to show off to a fellow aficionado.  “It’s not just pink,” he said while pushing a button on the band of the hat. “It lights up!” And while it’s super-cute on the kid, it’s even funnier when he places it atop the shaggy head of a sleeping dog. (Incidentally, it was acquired at a bar mitzvah party, the night before—as if it weren’t incongruously delightful enough that the party was held at a distillery on a dude ranch…)

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I fedora this photo.

 

Adulting Awards

Recently, after a conversation with a friend, that could have been difficult, but wasn’t, my friend and I sent encouraging texts back and forth. “That was some decent adulting, there,” one of us wrote, with a winking emoticon.

So, when I saw this rant on Jezebel, trashing  the trend of the hashtag #adulting, on Jezebel, I got a little defensive. Sure, I agree with this writer–there’s evidence that Millenials are so used to being praised for doing shit they’re supposed to do, they have begun to believe they are accomplishing something by meeting basic life responsibilities, on their own.

On the other hand, even a Gen-Xer like myself gets that all this responsibility can be, well, a fucking drag. I mean, sometimes you just want to bust out of the sensible realm and do homework at the smoothie shop.

But I digress.

But what’s the fun of being an adult if you can’t celebrate both your immature and mature decisions? Grocery shopping for more than one day’s worth of food (ok, I have yet to master that one), or figuring out puzzling questions with our siblings about elder care for our parents (trust me, that shit is hard). Or, you know, not going skiing two days in a row, on your knee, that is but 12 weeks recovered from surgery. (“That’s a pretty adult choice you made there,” Jeff remarked when I told him I would take the day off. “I’m glad you arrived at it on your own.” Adults know that there’s no point in having an argument from the losing position.) Truth be told, I’m an equal-opportunity celebrator: I like to do a happy dance on the days that I reject the adult decisions, too.

To wit: A few months ago, I got my kids to bed ahead of schedule—while the more “responsible” adult was out of town. I was happily anticipating his nightly Facetime call, when I would say, “here, let me take the phone to them, in their beds,” and show off my mad clock-using skills. No question, I was trolling for “adult” points.  Then, my awesome neighbors called to invite us to a telescope party for the blood moon eclipse, at the base of our driveway, that very minute. I can always count on the indulgent grandparent-neighbors across the street to bring out the playtime in all of us.

So when he dialed us a few minutes into the solar show, I explained what we were doing and said, breezily (without a Monica Geller-style announcement of said “breeziness,” mind you), “We’ll call you when we get inside, in a bit.”

When your neighbor texts you, “We are camped with our telescope, on the street, in front of your house. Come watch the eclipse!” We win the neighbor lottery, again and again.

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An hour later, the phone rang, again. “Guys, we are SO busted,” I said. (This amused the smaller people to no end.) Then, as I slid the phone to “answer,” I announced to Jeff, “Listen, I’m the FUN parent, obviously.” He laughed and asked me how much “fun” I would be in the morning when the kids were hard to roust from bed. Boom. Just like that, we said goodnight. And that’s the thing: the best adulting happens as a team sport, not as some sort of special-snowflake-style solo accomplishment.

 

 

Haircut Magic

I have a thing about going out the night after a haircut. When hair gets the expert treatment, the hair should greet its public. You know I’m right. It’s not necessarily a date night—I just need to know that I didn’t “waste” the blowout on a night at home. Because, there are good hair days and there are salon days. But, it turns out, the blowout has special powers—more on that in a minute.

Last week, on salon day, Jeff was out of town, so I texted him a Selfie—maybe he could take to dinner a photo of his chatty wife, and get a quiet evening out of the deal? (He sent an enthusiastic, complimentary text, so that was nice.)

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Cute hair, don’t care.

Regardless, I had big plans: Seth’s third-grade concert, with Lance as my date. Throughout the afternoon, there were opportunities for the hair to see-and-be-seen. I bumped into two friends—moms of kids in Seth’s third-grade class—at the craft store (don’t ask). They gasped in admiration of hair-magician Bratis’s skills. “I’m going to have the cutest hair at the Third Grade Winter Concert, tonight,” I told them. “Or, you know, you can take up the challenge. Whatever.”

`Then, when I was at school, picking up Seth, the new music teacher complimented my hair. “I did it for the concert,” I said. “It’s the hottest ticket of the year.” Little did I know the truth of that statement.

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Pregame pic with the awesome Ms. M. The kids love her. So do I. 

Fast forward to 6pm. We arrive at the concert. Lance and I kill time taking funny Instagrams.

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Goofing off with my date.

Then, one of the Michaels Moms appears with a beautiful ‘do—and says she was tempted to go for a blowout, just to show me that she’s got game. “But I decided just to comb it,” she said, with a knowing wink. For the record, it was styled in pretty waves. Comb it, my ass.

Whatever effort went into our hair for the Big Night Out was totally worth it. I’ve been to a million (OK, maybe a dozen or so) elementary school concerts. Children have stood on risers to sing songs about every possible holiday that happens to fall in December. For HOURS. Maybe even months. But this? No kidding, not a single holiday was referenced in the musical numbers about snow and cocoa and spending time with family. The grade was broken up into teams, which rotated through singing, dancing, drumming, bell-ringing.

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Singers—that’s Seth, in the red. Note the privacy shading on everyone else’s kids. 

 

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My hipster bell-ringer

The students even conducted each other. That’s right, third graders. Layer upon layer of musical education, on display—and tied up with a bow in—wait for it—20 minutes. This music teacher is my hero.

Maybe the good hair day was a good luck charm? I’m just superstitious enough to consider booking a blowout before the next school concert.

 

 

 

You can’t airbrush confidence

I accidentally schooled myself on confidence, today. Or, rather, got schooled by my dad and a bunch of friends. (Thanks, Facebook.) I had to upload a photo to Facebook in order to upload it to the press credential application site for the Sundance Film Festival.  Jeff had sent me some head shots, early this morning, that he had taken a few weeks ago. I sent him a thank you text (he’s working out of town, this week), and he replied, “Are those ok?” Meaning: will they work. My response was, “They’ll need major retouching for social media but they are just fine for Sundance. After all, they usually lose the jpeg file and I have to retake my photo at credential pickup.” Yes, I write verbose texts. Sue me. And, bad wife, I forgot to tell him how nicely they were framed and lit—very nicely, indeed.

Jeff, to his credit, didn’t dignify that with any sort of “Oh, stop, you look great.” Which is not to say he didn’t think it, but he knew better than to argue with me about my vanity at the exact moment he knew I was juggling my fussy coffee-brewing routine (because he’s too far away to make my espresso) with my fussy-breakfast-cooking-routine. (Don’t ask. It’s the one meal I can cook well, reliably, so I always fix a hot breakfast for my family, but it’s usually more than one, because we all like different things. And I can’t bear to part with this ritual.)

And as I went about that routine, I pondered the images. Which is to say, I started mentally searching my calendar for a good time to book a facial—a microdermabrasion facial, perhaps. Something to really erase whatever the fuck happened to my skin, for instance.

An hour or so later, when I quickly uploaded the photo to Facebook, in spite of my insistence to Jeff that I’d need him to retouch these before using them in any public forum, it was a conscious decision to accept these beautiful photographs. “Fuck it,” I thought. “Just yesterday I saw this great tweet from Amy Schumer, with her bare-all photo for the Pirelli calendar, and I thought how awesome that she is using her fame to show off true beauty—humanity, confidence.” I published it without comment. And then, my dad and a bunch of friends took over, pouring on the kind words. Which, bias notwithstanding, I knew were heartfelt. I thought: These are cute photos, and they look like me. Not some airbrushed version of me, not some professionally-styled version of me. Just me, on a Sunday in November, age 42 (fully clothed, you’re welcome), feeling happy and, yes, confident. No airbrush, required.

Gratitude, Dammit.

I don’t make a conscious decision to be grateful every day. Gratitude is a fact of my life. Every morning that Jeff gets up to take the dogs out, make sure the espresso machine is warming up, and gives me a time-check so I get out of bed on time, I’m grateful. For that matter, every morning he doesn’t do it, because he’s away working, I am grateful for the days he’s home. Every time he plays the piano, we have a family sing-along, we enjoy a meal together, my kids come home from school and tell me about it—I’m grateful. And health? Don’t get me started. Even a paper cut is a gift, after facing down an endocrine disease.

But I spent a solid 20 minutes, Thanksgiving morning, silently condemning myself for being  mad about a fireplace. Because what I just wrote, above, is the tip of the iceberg of the aspects of my life that deserve my thanks. I mean, what the actual fuck—so many blessings, one minor inconvenience.

But,  (whine, whine) our new, highly-touted, not inexpensive fireplace wouldn’t turn on, for the third time in a month and the second time in a week. I’m not someone who needs things picture-perfect, but it didn’t seem like a lot to ask that the damn thing work when we hosted Thanksgiving dinner. After all, the service guy had been here Tuesday. It worked for six hours. And on a chilly Thanksgiving morning, I found myself emailing the dealer, tweeting the manufacturer and giving myself shit for doing so.

Maybe I would have been less pissy, overall, And more inclined to hold my complaint until after the holiday, if my interactions with the owner of the company that sold me the unit had been better. (He never apologizes, makes excuses, and trips all over himself to justify poor customer service. Um, you’re a fireplace company, so no need to mansplain to me that the cold season is your busy season; but do let me know why you’re telling me how many techs you employ when it’s clearly not enough to meet the demands of your business. Please. I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to drag the company’s name through the mud. I have faith this will be resolved.)

Still, trying to square the incongruity of material discontent on a day of gratitude was not my idea of a good time. So, I dispensed my electronic complaints—conscious that I could be grateful, too, for the ability to express myself, succinctly—and threw myself into the true warmth of the holiday:

First stop: Pie Breakfast, in which five families bake 90 pies and invite the whole town. It’s a fifteen year-old tradition that each of the five used to take turns hosting in their home, but has grown so big it’s now at Hugo Coffee, fittingly, in the town’s visitor welcome center.

Next, to the market for some last-minute ingredients, then home to prepare for our dinner. IMG_0319

I set the table, had Seth decorate the place cards, and then set about being the bottle washer to Jeff’s Chief Cook role. And what a player:

By the time our guests arrived—each bearing bags heavy with side dishes, dessert, and even more flowers, we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the ability to create a warm, delicious meal for our friends. The trappings of the friendships represented at our table were reason enough to be grateful. We had a family who are new to the United States, new to Park City, and new to our lives, and it felt great to welcome them to our home. The other folks, Keith and Shari, we’ve known since our first year of Park City—whereupon we discovered that Jeff and Shari knew each other in childhood, in New York.

And, as is our custom, Jeffrey settled in to play the piano after dinner. The minute he played the first notes of “A Thousand Years,” by Christina Perri, Seth materialized by his side, to sing it.

It’s Friday afternoon as I type this. The damn fireplace isn’t on, still, but as we listen to The Piano Guys’ new album, their version of A Thousand Years, comes on—it’s our first listen, so a pleasant surprise—and Seth starts singing from his watercolor-painting perch in the kitchen, I’m warmed by gratitude.

 

Irreverent Parenting Movie Night

My kids know their parents are rules people. After all, we’re forever nagging them to clean their rooms and do their homework. We make our bed (Ok, Jeff does), most days. They eat a variety of healthy foods, provided by us. But our choices for family movie nights may be considered, um, irreverent by some  people. I’ve made it clear that we’re not big on policing language (grammar, yes, but not actual language).  So, our children can quote a line or two from Trading Places. They’re well-versed in the world of 007. They’ve seen The Martian and Interstellar. And they may or may not have caught a few minutes of Get Shorty before turning to their parents and saying, “Are you sure you want us to watch this?” Which may have been why my younger son was interrogating Nate the venue manager, at the Park City Film Series, while we bought our tickets to see Meet the Patels, last night.

“What’s this movie rated? Is it PG-13?” Seth asked. “Because I am here with my parents, just in case it is. I’ve seen lots of PG-13 movies.” He need not have worried (nor thrown his parents under the bus) as the film is, in fact PG. But, you know, it’s good to have your film-ready bona fides, when you’re 8. (I like the idea that our kids think we’re more lenient than we are—after all, they’re not allowed to watch Homeland with us. That is solidly off-limits.)

FYI, You don’t have to be in town for the Sundance Film Festival to enjoy independent film in Park City. In fact, some might argue that you’ll enjoy it more if you’re simply taking in a film on a weekend evening, as part of the Park City Film Series, purchasing tickets and popcorn (local’s tip: BYO-Bowl for free refills!) just moments before the film starts, with little or no time spent waiting in line. (Yes, I’ve met lots of interesting people while waiting in line for a film at Sundance, but that’s a story for another blog post.) At the PCFS, your ticket also doubles as an entry in an “opportunity drawing,” for a series of door prizes. On this night, a local Indian eatery had donated baskets of naan and chutney, there were gift certificates for pizza and coffee, plus a freshly-baked loaf of Volker’s bread. Which, to our surprise and delight, we won. (Most of it made it home, improbably enough.)

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Patels delivered on the promise of a great night out for our group of several families with kids in grades 3-8 (who were pretty stoked to be out on a school night–bonus points in the Irreverent Parents column!).

A documentary co-directed by siblings Ravi Patel (an actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Grandfathered) and Geeta Patel (Mouse) , Meet the Patels focuses on Ravi’s quest for love and marriage, within the confines of a modern Indian matchmaking system. It’s highly relatable—and in plumbing the arranged-marriage system of Indian culture, underscores the similarities between many ethnic groups who value marriage within their own cultures. Ravi navigates Indian-specific online dating sites, plus a series of set-ups engineered by his parents using a system called “Biodata,” a collection of dating resumes circulated among Indian-American communities, and a marriage convention—all while wrestling with the fact that he’s fresh off a breakup from the white woman he was secretly dating. (With a few minor tweaks, it could have been a film about the Jewish dating scene—after all, Jeff and I met at one of a series of Jewish camps we both attended, and while the overt message wasn’t ‘find a spouse,’ such controlled environments upped the odds that we would.) With hilariously poignant color-commentary from Ravi and Geeta, plus scenes in which his parents explain the success of their arranged marriage, and interviews with other Indian-American young adults, it provided a unique window into the joys and peculiarities of Indian-American immigrant culture.

The kids were into the fact that the live action scenes were intercut with animated bits of narration and dialogue—segments that served to give Ravi the room to deal with some of the more emotionally-charged conversations, off-camera, and still convey them to the audience. I doubt there was a person in the theater who wasn’t completely charmed by the family–and Ravi’s story.

As a parent, I saw a lot of value in the heartfelt but humorous take on the way cultures grapple with identity and change. Ravi makes a lot of jokes in the movie that, as an actor, he makes up for his parents dashed dreams by playing the doctor he figures they expected him to become. Yet, it’s clear throughout the film that his parents’ American dream for their Indian child is that he be happy in whatever path he chooses.

Later, driving toward home and bedtime, Jeff declared the film “99% appropriate,” and the kids quickly (and accurately) jumped in to identify the 1% moment. Which means, of course, that even with all the positive family messages, the thoughtful pondering of cultural norms, the theatrical absurdity that crept hilariously into Meet the Patels, we’d managed to stay on-point, at least a little, with our irreverence. Thanks, Patels.