Mom was sitting at a booth, studying the menu, when I arrived. She'd made an
effort to fix herself up. She wore a bulky gray sweater with only a few light
stains, and black leather men's shoes. She'd washed her face, but her neck and
temples were still dark with grime.
She waved enthusiastically when she saw me. "It's my baby girl!" she called
out. I kissed her cheek. Mom had dumped all the plastic packets of soy sauce and
duck sauce and hot-and-spicy mustard from the table into her purse. Now she
emptied a wooden bowl of dried noodles into it as well. "A little snack for
later on," she explained.
We ordered. Mom chose the Seafood Delight. "You know how I love my seafood,"
She started talking about Picasso. She'd seen a retrospective of his work and
decided he was hugely overrated. All the cubist stuff was gimmicky, as far as
she was concerned. He hadn't really done anything worthwhile after his Rose
"I'm worried about you," I said. "Tell me what I can do to help."
Her smile faded. "What makes you think I need your help?"
"I'm not rich," I said. "But I have some money. Tell me what it is you need."
She thought for a moment. "I could use an electrolysis treatment."
"I am serious. If a woman looks good, she feels good."
"Come on, Mom." I felt my shoulders tightening up, the way they invariably
did during these conversations. "I'm talking about something that could help you
change your life, make it better."
"You want to help me change my life?" Mom asked. "I'm fine. You're the one
who needs help. Your values are all confused."
"Mom, I saw you picking through trash in the East Village a few days ago."
"Well, people in this country are too wasteful. It's my way of recycling."
She took a bite of her Seafood Delight. "Why didn't you say hello?"
"I was too ashamed, Mom. I hid."
Mom pointed her chopsticks at me. "You see?" she said. "Right there. That's
exactly what I'm saying. You're way too easily embarrassed. Your father and I
are who we are. Accept it."
"And what am I supposed to tell people about my parents?"
"Just tell the truth," Mom said. "That's simple enough."
British Parliament asks Amazon to clarify why it pays $9 million in income tax on $23 billion of UK sales.(May 20 2013) Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate...