Thursday, March 29, 2007


Today, I received two shipments from one of my book clubs. I had ordered one because they told me that I had a credit. The book I ordered cost about $4 more than my credit, so I expected to be billed for that amount plus S&H.

The other parcel included two books which I did not order intentionally. I simply forgot to send back the no-thank-you card on time.

I was billed the full amount for both shipments, so I called customer service. They explained that my credit had been applied to the larger shipment, the one I didn't order, because that charge came in sooner than my actual order, but oops! They had "forgotten" to deduct the credit from my bill.

The customer disservice person seemed surprised that I had noticed I didn't get my credit. Actually, I hadn't known I was entitled to one until they informed me of it.

I asked her what would happen to the credit if I returned the unordered shipment. She said it would revert to the book I actually ordered and I would owe the difference, as I anticipated in the first place.

She did not apologize for charging me full price for both shipments. I wondered if she expected an apology from me for noticing. We'll call it a draw.

With a billing system like that, it's no wonder I had a credit. They apparently bill more than is owed, so if you pay it, you end up with a credit which seduces you into buying another book.

It takes a truly evil genius to come up with a modus operandi like that.

Bait and switch, you say? Nay, me pretty. More like rape and disembowel, methinks.

Meanwhile, I have perused the books and decided to return them. I will have to pay for shipping because I opened the box. I usually avoid this expense by prying the invoice off the outside without disturbing the box itself; then I use rubber cement to replace the envelope, write "Return to sender" on the box, and drop it at the Post Office.

It's only fair that I should pay for not responding to the catalog offerings in time. But I don't always play fair. Since they don't, either, I think that lets me off the hook.

Two wrongs may not make a right, but the second one sure makes me feel better about the first.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Wonder of wonders! I have been given a Thinking Blogger Award by Lone Grey Squirrel.

I have no idea how this happened, but thank you a million times, Squirrel. I am thrilled and honored.

The Thinking Blogger Award began in February 2007 when Ilker Yoldas decided to combine the meme concept with links to blogs with quality content.

Here are the rules:

1. If tagged, you must write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to the original post, so that people can find the originator.
3. Optional: Display the Thinking Blogger Award with a link to the post that you wrote about it.
4. Tag 5 others whose blogs make you think.

Well. My first reaction was disbelief. I got over that quickly, in only a day or so, and moved into Phase 2, which can best be summed up as Wow. Cool.

The Wow phase was almost immediately replaced with Uh oh. I don't know how to make links. My template and I have never become really friendly. I venture into the bowels of my blog only to add to my link list. Much as I admire those who can scoot around in there on roller skates, customizing everything within an inch of their lives, well, I'm not one of them.

And then, worse yet, came the horrifying thought: How can I possibly choose only five blogs when there are so many excellent ones?

In my view, they ALL deserve awards. And I should know because I read them.

This won't be easy. In making my choices, I tried to adhere to the letter of the law as well as its spirit: Blogs that make me think. Some of my favorite reads of the day are not included because they make me laugh, I mean spilling-coffee laugh, not contemplate deep truths.

If there is an award for absolute funniest out there, my vote will go to Mist1. Kevin Charnas is also a hilarious fellow. He has caused my keyboard considerable distress over spilled beverages that made it onto my desk. I cannot laugh and do anything else at the same time.

Goodthomas and Maht at The Moon Topples are both fantastic writers and most interesting gentlemen. I adore their blogs, and they both deserve awards for artistry. Lee at Studio Twenty-Three is a fantastic visual artist and delightfully quirky. I love her blog. She also deserves a big award for all-around creativity.

I first included Theory of Thought, which never ceases to blow my mind because it is written by a 16-year old. 17 now? This young woman not only writes like an angel, but she addresses topics that are so beyond the breadth of most people twice her age that I used to wonder if this blog was a scam -- a person with vast experience in life pretending to be a teenager.

She also has such a balanced and mature understanding, even in the sensitive arena of mother-daughter conflict, that I just read her posts and marvel at her depth. I feel that I should be saving them against the day she becomes a published writer (and grownup.)

Then I discovered that Csl had already tagged her. I would like to give the award to those who haven't yet been recognized for this one. (I learned after writing this that she has also nominated me. I feel so very honored.)

So many great blogs.

1. Thailand Gal. Chani's posts invariably excite a growing number of us. Her commentators are usually so carried away with her topic of the day that we go on forever. She sparks something in her readers when she puts a subject out there, so her blog absolutely personifies the art and science of thinking.

Chani also demonstrates amazing reserves of intelligent compassion. She questions everything and then draws her own conclusions. She never buys into group mind, but is always completely herself. I greatly admire her and her spirit of adventure. Chani, this one's for you!

2. Katrice at Wait, I'll Think of Something is another great favorite of mine. She is always on the mark and never disappoints. She intersperses fun features like Hunk of the Month with her thoughts on life and its stages, along with reflections on her childhood, which are always fascinating and so beautifully evoked that reading them almost feels like being there.

Katrice is someone with whom I personally feel a tremendous rapport. Her posts are thought -provoking and her presence is comforting. Congratulations on being you, Katrice!

3. Urban Urchin at Urban writes delightful posts about her children, work, childhood allergies, and other subjects with great wit and sensitivity. She practices kindness and love, and always gives us something to think about. She is a formidable force for good in the blogosphere, and the world.

A clothing designer whose name I suspect we would all recognize, her priorities are those she loves. Her writing challenges me to think about unusual topics, and I think she would be a great friend in need. Yayyy, Urchin.

4. Lex of On Second Thought expounds on everything from food to religion to her ex-husband. She is always thought-provoking in the extreme. Her personality infuses everything she writes, from her sense of ethics to her sense of fun, while her care for others shines through.

Re-inventing herself after a disastrous marriage, she parses every issue to find its reality, and is not afraid to discuss anything, no matter how sensitive the topic. She is in many ways my idol for her courage and multi-faceted personality. Hurray for Lex!!

5. Liz at Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness is a great writer. She delves into issues as diverse as race relations and pop culture, and can make even a routine visit to Starbucks an anthropological field study. She is insightful, clever, and always expressive. Her dry sense of humor is sharp but never mean.

Liz taught English in China and her observations and ruminations about being in a place where nobody else looked like her are fascinating. Keep it up, Liz. You're the greatest.

May I reiterate that ALL the blogs in my roster are amazing, and add something to my daily life in so many different ways. Please check them all out. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I needed some things at Safeway, so I asked Flip if he wanted to go with me. He likes beer. Since I do not, I am disinclined to think of buying it. He knows this. He came to the store with me.

When we came out, I heard him say, "We have matching dents."

He was speaking to a woman parked next to us in her black Toyota Camry. Our Camry is white.

I scrutinized her right front fender. Sure enough, there was a dent that was identical to the one on our right front fender, which Flip got at Whole Foods last week.

Whole Foods has a hazardous parking garage with pillars and badly angled spaces.

"I got mine at Whole Foods," said the woman.

"So did I!" exclaimed Flip. "Hit it on a pillar."

"No fucking way," she said. "That's how I got mine."

It was like a negative image, black car next to identical white car. The dents were in exactly the same place.

"I think mine is worse," she said. When you are truly competitive, anything qualifies.

I examined both. They looked like they were mass-produced in a factory. Even the scratches within the dents matched. Two on each. Perfection.

"I think they're the same," said Flip.

She looked at him intently. "Let's get married," she said.

As we pulled out, she called, "Wouldn't it be funny if we ran into each other?"

I laughed. "I hope you don't mean that literally."

"Oh, but I do."

"See you at Whole Foods," I said.

I Wuz Robbed

Someone has taken my Sunday paper again. What lowdown, smarmy, despicable, contemptible, cheap, underhanded, foul creature would do such a dastardly deed?

I am shocked.

I canceled my subscription a year ago because half the time, it wasn't on the doorstep when I went to fetch it. But the carrier usually drops off an extra one in front of my building, and I have come to expect it.

Today it was gone. Some scurrilous scumbag had purloined my free newspaper off the sidewalk as if it were there for the taking. Without asking me. As if it were just a free newspaper, for the love of God. I was in total disbelief. I looked twice to be sure, even in the bushes, but there was no paper.

Some other freeloader beat me to it.

I came back upstairs empty-handed from my unsuccessful hunt. Twitching like a bird dog whose pheasant got away. Now I'll have to buy a Sunday paper if I want one.

I didn't know anyone else in this building could read.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blond Ambition

I am dismayed that John Edwards intends to continue his run for the presidency despite the fact that his wife Elizabeth's cancer has returned.

It was disturbing that in a news clip of the couple talking to reporters, he began to walk away briskly while she was still engaged in conversation. She had to sprint to catch up with him.

After all, he has a campaign to run. He is clearly not going to let himself be held back by his wife's illness. How inconsiderate of her to place him in this position.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer when he was running for Vice President on John Kerry's ticket in 2004.

She underwent treatment, but now it's back.

I don't care if he's a Democrat or a Republican. I find it appalling that he would choose his political ambitions over taking care of his sick wife.

She said that she intends to campaign with him. I guess she's a stand-by-your-man type.

If I were ill with a serious disease and had young children at home, I would not choose to spend my last year (or months) on the campaign trail, traveling all over the country, shaking hands with strangers, talking up my husband, staying in hotels, far from the doctors who knew me and my condition best.

But then, I'm not a die-by-your-man type of woman.


When Stephen asked me if I would feel the same if Elizabeth Edwards had diabetes, I rejected the concept that they were in any way similar. With apologies to Stephen, I now know that her doctor made the same comparison. The good news is that with new treatments and better drugs, it is now possible in some cases to preserve both a cancer patient's life and quality of life.

Her doctor says that "cancer has been converted from a short battle that you either win or lose, to a chronic siege." A chronic siege, he adds, that you can fight while still enjoying life and pursuing your goals.

"Elizabeth Edwards will have a very important impact for many individuals. She can offer hope and courage to others facing more advanced disease."

I hate the taste of crow. But in this instance, I'm glad I was wrong. While it still would not be my personal choice to campaign, it wouldn't have been my choice in the first place. I am not a political person.

The good news is that for some patients who continue to take care of themselves, cancer need not be the end of the line.

There is life after diagnosis.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Canus Interruptus

Somebody had left a small dog tied to a parking meter, yelping miserably while they ate in a neighborhood restaurant. The dog had wound himself around the post once and come to the end of the line. His leash was only about a foot long.

At a window table, two women were stuffing face, doubtless comparing their cosmetic surgeries, completely indifferent to the suffering they were inflicting on their best friend.

What a rotten thing to do.

Dogs are not accessories. They deserve better than to be tied up for hours in the hot sun without water, or a pat on the head.

They could use a little love and loyalty in return.

I often see dogs tied to meters all evening while their owners drink themselves under the table.

Last week, we walked to dinner about a mile away. A Golden Retriever was lying on the sidewalk outside a crowded, noisy bar in heavy rain, too miserable to complain.

When we passed by on our way home about two hours later, he was still there. We stopped to pet him, and his eyes pleaded with us to take him home.

I wanted to storm into the bar and confront the dog's owner, but Flip assured me that it would get ugly.

"Nobody will hit me," I said. "I'm a girl, and I'm small."

He agreed that I was counting on that, exactly. "But I will have to defend you."

I accused him of being a wuss, but agreed not to bitch-slap the dog's owner in his presence. I can fight my own battles. I don't need a goon to protect me.

And besides, I know that karma will bite these jackasses in the butt. Just not soon enough.

In their next lives, they will come back as dogs with cruel owners. Or better yet, they will come back as amoebae and have to work their way up to being dogs.

If they are not human now, they will never be humans again.

We Made it!!

Spring Is Here
Dorothy (Alves) Holmes

Spring arrived today
Aglow in spring time fashion
Spring fever follows

Monday, March 19, 2007

(P)alms for the Poor

We are having a little problem back at the ranch. I love palm trees, and have several in my living space.

Unfortunately, they are also great favorites of Truffle-the-Cat. They are her playground: Jungle gym, snack canteen, teeter-totter and chinning bar.

They are toast.

I commissioned Flip to carry them to the backyard so I could assess the damage and hose them down as they are too tall for the shower. Imagine my surprise that my formerly healthy, robust, towering and abundant palms, when not inspected against a background of tall, leafy fig trees, turned out to be mere shadows of their former selves with sparse, bent, dangling fronds, chewed at the ends, still sloppy wet with cat spit.


I am good with plants, but I am not Florence Nightingale.

Truffle avoids philodendrons, which would gladly poison her, and is smart enough not to mess with cacti. She has no interest in ferns, taro, or lucky bamboo, nor does she deal in pachera. She has never given my two-foot Giant Redwood a second glance. It will attain its full height in centuries to come unmolested.

She likes palms.

She feasts on them while I am sleeping and they are helpless. She wreaks havoc when I am away from home, even when I am out purchasing cat food.

Does that seem fair to you?

By such nefarious behavior, she demonstrates that she knows the nature and quality of her act, and that it is wrong.

She does not care for toys. Catnip makes her yawn. She is quite the little hair-stomping hobbyist, but I have to be horizontal for that to work out. Sometimes I am vertical.

She turns to plants.

We have no mice for her to chase. Mighty hunter that I am, I bring down the cans and even open them with my innovative thumbs. If not for that, she would probably slit my throat with her innovative claws.

We seem to be at a standoff.

Palms vs Truffle.

Truffle vs palms.

Guitar strings used to be made of cat gut. I wonder if Flip needs any new strings.

She'd better not push her luck.

I am 200!

This is my 200th post. How time flies when you're having fun.

My daughter, Catie, urged me to start a blog for a couple of months before I actually did, in June. At first, it was like throwing a party to which nobody came.

But it was totally addictive, and I would have continued to set out my scratchings even without any feedback because I really love to write. Blogging gave me the illusion that I was writing without actually engaging in "serious" writing. And it helped to get my chops up.

Now, it just feels like the natural thing to do. The longer projects will get finished when the time is right. Or not. I feel that I am finding my voice here, as well as making new friends, and that is quite enough for now.

You guys are incredible. You have shown me so much humor, humanity, kindness, depth, and playfulness that I am constantly humbled. It is a privilege to know you. I am amazed by the breadth of talent and caring I have experienced, and best of all, I get to have all that great stuff without leaving home.

I have come to care deeply about each of you as you embrace your lives and report in like war correspondents from the front. It's like being hooked up to a hundred Aladdin's lamps. Whatever I need, I can find on one of your sites or another.

I just returned from physical therapy. I didn't really want to go today because I was deeply involved in um, blogging. But as always when I am reluctant to do a thing, there is some benefit to be had.

My regular therapist, the magnificent Deborah, is in London this week. I saw Tony, who teaches the Alexander Method, a system which emphasizes quality of movement and utilizes the close link between mind and body.

He was telling me that I need to slow down and think first. Since I am a high-energy small person whose impatience often gets me hurt, this was excellent advice. He said that movement was like lighting a fire. When I stop to think before doing so, I can put out the fire.

This is a perfect analogy for the way I habitually speak first and think later. I do this most of all with loved ones, who matter most. When I feel defensive, I do not know how to defuse the confrontation. I respond instead with words that can escalate it. I am always terribly sorry later, when it occurs to me that I really could have let it go. But didn't.

I need to stop doing this. I realize more and more how very connected our bodies and minds are. They are not separate entities that reluctantly put up with one other. They are each the other side of the other, and we cannot fully realize our potential as human beings until we integrate them fully.

Sounds like a pretty tall order for a short person.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Party's over

Move it along now.

Friday, March 16, 2007

May your glass be ever full

Every year, New York City hosts a ginormous parade on St. Patrick's Day. A green stripe is painted down the middle of 5th Avenue, where thousands of people march, clan by clan, from 44th to 86th Streets. There are bands, costumes, revelry and jubilation. Also a few riots. More than two million people attend the festivities.

This year's parade, the 248th, is plagued by discord. The organizers have moved the FDNY from its traditional place in the front ranks of marchers to the middle. The firefighters carry 343 flags, one for each FDNY member killed on September 11, 2001. Some of them march slowly because of injuries suffered on the job.

The stated reason for the change is that last year, the parade was delayed a half hour while guest firefighters from New Orleans unfurled a huge banner thanking New Yorkers for their help after Hurricane Katrina. Parade organizers are still angry and feel a need to remind the firefighters who is in charge.

The president of the organizing committee added insult to injury by stating that firefighters show up drunk and continue to drink in uniform all day.

"He's made a huge mistake," said the head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association about the drinking charges.

Gee, you think? He'd better hope that his home does not catch fire and his cat does not get marooned on a 60-story ledge as he might have to wait a very long time for the fire department to respond.

Another touchy issue concerns gay rights. As further evidence of dissension in the ranks, a gay woman who serves on the City Council has elected to march in Dublin rather than participate in a parade that does not allow gays to march under their own banner.

Many people were upset a few years ago when it was discovered that the Grand Marshall was a former soldier in the IRA.

St. Patrick may have driven the snakes out of Ireland, but he would have a hard time eliminating controversy from the nation's oldest and largest celebration of all things Irish.

On St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish, or might as well be. Even the non-Irish wear green, and the pubs overflow with drinkers in need of green beer.

There are no huddled masses on this day. The multitudes are much too busy marching to huddle.

The year I was 20, I got caught in the maelstrom. I desperately needed to be on the other side of 5th Avenue but was unable to find a break in the onrushing throngs. Every time I tried to get across, I was swept away in the relentless stream of determined marchers.

I noticed a good-looking young black policeman keeping the peace nearby, and approached him.

"I'm not Irish," I said. "Can you get me out of this?"

"That makes two of us, baby," he replied. He grabbed my hand, placed his other on my waist, lifted me off the ground and waltzed us through the oncoming hordes of marchers, depositing me, breathless, on the opposite curb.

Then he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, bowed slightly, grinned at me and disappeared into the crowd.

I never saw him again, but I never forgot him either. He was my personal Superman, and for just a moment, I was Lois Lane.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Bouquet

This little (or not so little) gem came :) to me from my niece.

Thank you, Lisa!

I wonder if they come in different colors. One would hope.

I wonder about the fragrance. One would hope not.

I wonder if it would help to put those preservative packets in the water. Viagra?

I wonder whether they would look better on the kitchen table or in the entry.:)

I wonder if they're cheaper by the dozen. Slut.

I wonder if they come in long-stemmed. Ouch.

The Ides of March

My first stated ambition in life was to be a town character. My mother told me that I couldn’t do it. I thought she was saying it was impossible, but what she meant was that it was impermissible.

In our tribal mythology, we were the perfect American family. The father was smart, the mother, beautiful, the son was the Messiah, and there was a daughter, which was me.

My mother told me often that in ancient China, people killed girl babies because nobody wanted them. I surmised that I should be grateful to my parents because they had let me live. Not knowing the statute of limitations on this amazing reprieve made me uneasy, but since I had no other frame of reference, I assumed it was normal. It never occurred to me that we were not Chinese.

Several years ago, my mother died on this date, thus supplanting Julius Caesar's claim forever in my family. She went suddenly, and while I have no argument with the abruptness of it as she probably didn't suffer, I always thought we'd have her longer. Her own mother had lived to be 93, and she was nowhere near that age.

She had a youthful spirit and appearance, and people always thought that she was decades younger than she was.

She was the eldest of four children, and was forced to quit school at 14 to help support her family. She always resented it bitterly as she was a straight-A student and had hoped to attend college.

When her parents decided a year later that her sister should also leave school and get a job, she argued vehemently with them on her sister's behalf. My aunt was allowed to remain in school. She grew up to be a high school math teacher, and their two brothers became doctors.

My mother was so beautiful that it nearly blinded people to the fact that she was fiercely intelligent, too. She read everything she could get her hands on, and when she married my father, a lawyer, everyone who met her assumed that she was also highly educated. And she was, but not formally. It galled her that she had been denied the degree that meant so much to her.

Her marriage seemed happy, but my father was clearly the boss. We were all subservient to him. I struggled with this inequity as a child, but my mother seemed to accept male supremacy as natural. If it rankled her, I never saw any sign of it, and I watched carefully as I would have liked to feel that at least secretly, she sided with me.

My father was generally acknowledged to be brilliant, and he was also charming, although he could be cruel. I might have done better with him if I had been a docile child, but I was by nature more outspoken than he believed a girl should be. I tried to be like him rather than my mother because it was clear that he had all the power.

My mother learned to drive when I did at 16. She was 46. My father had not encouraged her autonomy over the years and she lacked the confidence to command her personal space or her vehicle well. She was a rosary beads driver who screeched to a crash landing at every stoplight.

When I was injured as a passenger in an accident with friends, she drove me to the hospital and got us into a second crash on the way. Years later, I refused to allow my own children to drive with her.

I adored my mother, but never felt that I was good enough in her eyes. She preferred my older brother, as did my father. My brother profoundly enjoyed his favored status, as any child would.

I wish she had believed that I, too, had the ability to do something extraordinary with my life. I resented her lack of support and encouragement for many years, but I now understand that she did the best she could. She was, like everyone, a product of her time and her own upbringing, and while saying that someone "did the best she could" sounds lame, it is also the only answer that makes any sense.

In a flawed social system, she loved me as much as she was able. She told me often when I was little that she would have preferred a Shirley Temple-like daughter. Needless to say, I despised the twinkling child star and tried hard to be different. I was the Anti-Shirleytemple, a bookish tomboy who loved animals but secretly yearned for girlish trappings like ballet lessons and patent leather maryjanes.

I would never admit this, of course. I wanted my parents to love me by my own standards. It would have been an admission of defeat to conform to their notions of femininity. I was conflicted, climbing trees in white gloves with a slingshot and a doll tucked into my back pockets.

When I developed breasts, I gave up and accepted my fate: I would have to be a woman someday. My parents still favored my brother, but since he was the junior God of our family, I worshiped him, too. In this manner, I struggled toward adulthood, defiant and lonely in my family, but blessed with many loving and supportive friends.

My mother had learned to sew and made many of my clothes. They were always too big so that I could grow into them. I was the only girl of my generation who was smaller than her own mother, so she must have anticipated a growth spurt that never happened. I rolled my skirts over at the waist to avoid tripping on them.

But for Winter Prom my senior year of high school, she made me a starkly simple, fitted, strapless ice blue satin gown and draped a filmy white and gold sari over my right shoulder to my left hip, like a beauty pageant banner. It was a garment worthy of Cinderella's fairy godmother. She worked on it late into the night for weeks.

When I was elected Prom Queen, I was so excited that I immediately ran to a phone to call home with the news.

I didn't want to brag so I said, "Walter got Prom King!"

She didn't answer.

"And... and that means that I. am. Prom. Queen."

There was a moment of silence, then she said, "Make sure you're home by midnight."

I got home at 1:00, and was grounded for months. My parents maintained a constant and thankless vigil over my chastity.

After my father died, my mother went back to work. She had been a stay-at-home mom, but my father's lingering illness had made a huge dent in their savings. She worked at many jobs that were considerably below her abilities because she was not a college graduate.

Finally, she got her GED and enrolled in college. She was 71 years old, yet she managed to relate to the young kids in her classes as well as to the professors teaching them. She was the top student in all her classes.

She graduated with honors at 79, and we all went to her graduation ceremony. She wore her cap and gown proudly as she marched in the slow processional with hundreds of 22-year olds. Afterward, we celebrated with a huge party which was attended by several of her professors and many fellow graduates.

She was loved by so many.

Literature was her passion, and she was especially captivated by Alice Walker's wonderful books. She introduced me to Zora Neale Hurston, whose work was little-known until Ms. Walker republished her novels. They remain among my favorites.

My mother was doing graduate work in Womens' Studies, planning her thesis on Ms. Hurston, when she died a year later. I'm sure that she was drawn to this field of study because she was raised in a male-oriented society, and married an extremely dominant man.

She came full-circle in her views and became the strong woman she was meant to be.

We should all do as well.

She was a great role model for my daughters and nieces, all of whom adored her and were cherished in return.

In Adlai Stevenson's eulogy for Eleanor Roosevelt, he said, "She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness."

That statement applies to my mother, too. As she grew older, she grew stronger in a society which expects the opposite. After fulfilling her responsibilities to her children, she followed her own dreams. She did not allow herself to be limited by age, nor did she demand deferential treatment because of it. She earned a college degree at an age when most women are content to play cards and doze in rocking chairs, waiting for their grandchildren to visit.

A lot of light went out of the world when my mother died. As I burn a memorial candle for her, I cry because my own hurt and indignation prevented me from telling her how much I loved and admired her. I hope that in her wisdom, she knew my heart better than I did.

I know now that when we insist upon "all or nothing" with our loved ones, we deny ourselves. While behaving as a dutiful daughter, still I rejected my mother in my heart because she didn't love me as much as I wanted her to, and I refused to settle for less.

To be loved at all is a tremendous gift. It should not be quantified or questioned. It should just be enjoyed and passed on to others.

I wish I could tell my mother that I've finally grown up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Monday, March 12, 2007


A woman at the end of her beauty
will do anything.
Three models marking decades
on the Tampax box
and the hurricane names

repeat themselves.
The children won’t be back, I think.
Time to replace the loving
with something that is mine

and can’t leave me,
new shoots from amputations,
feathery pale and hopeful.
Obsolete as a mother,
who can I be now?

I am life exploding
and you tell me, blushing
over sushi, of a beautiful woman
young enough to be
my daughter.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Babes in Bumland

I found a parking space in a downtown alley which often comes across for me. It smells like fresh piss, but I can hold my breath for a long time and the price is right. Parking garages in San Francisco operate on the rob-me-with-a-gun system, and are so vast that it's easy to lose your car, which is never where you left it when you return. I'm convinced that they move things while I'm busy elsewhere. This alley is presided over by persons of the homeless persuasion who appear out of nowhere and offer to watch my car "to make sure it isn't broken into." Of course they expect remuneration for performing the difficult service of sleeping it off in proximity to my car. It's like going through Customs.

One of them has now set up a Coleman tent on the sidewalk in the alley. Every man's home is his castle. It is no mean trick to be a homeowner with real estate in this city of obscenely inflated housing prices. I can't manage it myself.
Attracted by the sound of my engine, he lifted the canvas flap of his castle and scuttled over. I had no money, having just engaged in a cash transaction with some Girl Scouts in my neighborhood. Girl Scouts do not take credit cards for cookies. I told him that I would take care of him when I returned. After I had completed my errands, I went to an ATM to get bum money. Then I had to spend some to get change because I was damned if I would give him the whole $20. If I am going to spend $20 on liquor, Flip is going to drink it.

I went to the Godiva store and bought myself a diabetic coma. When I returned to my car, a different person of the homeless persuasion approached me for a payoff. I figured he was the other guy's lawyer. As I attempted to get money out of the tiny pocket of my jeans without tweezers, the first watchman slithered out of his tent and reminded me that he was the one guarding my car. I knew that. Contrary to what he may think, all persons of the homeless persuasion do not look alike to me. I inched a few bills out of my pocket and handed them over. Yes, it's graft. He is probably a politician who works for the state. A public servant. But his prices are not as high as the parking garage. However, all was not well in Bumland. He chastised me for not giving his friend money, too. I told him it was all I had. (I had eaten a lot of chocolate. Dark chocolate over candied orange peel. And some truffles. And something else they gave me for buying three truffles.) I like chocolate.

Flip suggested that we buy a case of vodka and take it to the tent dweller.

"Are you expecting a dinner invitation?" I asked. He assured me that he wasn't. He just thought it would be a nice thing to do. Flip would give away the clothes on his back if allowed. He has always been so generous that it makes me feel stingy by comparison. I stopped storing quarter rolls in the car after watching him scoop out handfuls at red lights for people who were too drunk to stand up. I feel bad for those less fortunate. I do. But if we run out of quarters, we cannot park our car at meters and there is almost no unmetered parking in the city. Parking tickets are ubiquitous and obscenely expensive.

I would gladly buy a meal for someone who needs one, and have done so many times. But I cannot bring myself to donate money for booze or drugs. Flip assured me that he wouldn't buy the most expensive vodka. Which was not exactly the point. I told him we were making assumptions. They probably are all drunks, but with so many vices to choose from, we don't know for sure which particular one did them in. I may not choose to give them all our money, but I don't want to hurt their feelings either. If I were a crackhead, for instance, and someone offered me liquor, I would be offended. And vice versa. I think you need to know what people really like if you are going to bring them a hostess gift.

Two Halves Make a ... Hole?

In Germany, a man in the throes of divorce decided to divide the assets of his marriage out of court. He measured his conjugal home carefully before chain sawing through the wooden roof and wall, then removed his half with a forklift truck, thereby proving that a house divided cannot stand.

He is a mason by trade, a husband by default.

"The man said he was just taking his due," said a police spokesman. "But I don't think his wife was too pleased."

I wonder if they had children.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Just Right

There is a skunk in the garden tonight. He let one fly. I smelled it as soon as I got into bed.

I asked Flip to close the windows, which I had just opened.

He asked why. He has a deviated septum. Deviants don't have a very good sense of smell, while I have the nose of a tracking animal.

"Because there's a skunk outside," I said.

"Are you sure?"

"Well, I know it's not in here and I smell it, so I'm thinking it's probably in the backyard."

He closed the windows, but it was too late. The skunk might as well have been shortsheeting the bed, next to Truffle.

I brandished my Red Roses cologne by Jo Malone. It's lovely, but a bit strong. When I wear it, I spray the air in front of me and run through it. Sometimes I do this twice. Which is one time too many.

I gave our room about 4 or 5 good spritzes of Red Roses. I have found a new use for $90 cologne. It makes a great room spray. For an amphitheatre.

I have never understood moderation in anything. I think I have rose fever now.

Maybe we need to open the windows and let in a little more skunk to even things out.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Stewart at House of Sternberg has issued a challenge. He calls it "an assignment." We are to create something which has to do with renewal, and since I am writing haiku tonight, here is my offering:

bare bones of winter
trees, one crocus in the snow
you'll love me again

Thursday, March 08, 2007


astonishment of
hisses green eyes whiskers fur
the cat claims her chair

Sometimes I Wonder if God Believes in Me

My brother tells me that our cousin's son has become an Orthodox Jew. He has committed to an arranged marriage in Jerusalem, which will take place this month.

He used to be an actor.

The young man, J, met a Rabbi a few years ago who introduced him to the "Shuva" movement, which apparently means the "return" or the "answer," and is intended to bring secular young people back into the religious tradition.

J's bride-to-be was chosen for him by the Orthodox community in Israel. I don't know if they have ever met.

Everything in me recoils at the idea of allowing others to make the most important decision of ones life. My mistakes, marital and otherwise, were mine. The idea of marrying for anything other than love is deeply threatening to me.

When I read of women being married off to consolidate land holdings or for any kind of family advantage, economic or otherwise, it shocks me. I know that so-called "romantic love" is a relatively new concept in the world and that in many places it still does not exist. But it should, damn it. It should.

I cannot even fathom the degree of trust a person would have to have in her parents and in God to abdicate responsibility for choosing the person with whom to live out ones life, every day of it. I would not be capable of getting into bed with someone I did not find highly attractive, who could make me laugh, and who shared my most important values.

Judaism has traditionally had three major divisions: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Plus the one my parents subscribed to, which I always called Resigned.

My brother and I were raised with no religious practice other than being kept home from school for the High Holy Days. The family credo was that we were "Just American." I regarded those conspicuous absences from school as an embarrassment, even a punishment, and generally experienced Judaism as a lack of something, rather than the rich tradition it surely is.

We did not attend Sunday School or Hebrew School, nor did we have the traditional coming-of-age ceremonies at age 13. My parents' participation in Christmas was half-hearted. We had no tree or lights, yet presents were exchanged. We knew nothing of Hannukah.

I was given an Easter basket once or twice, but never associated it with a cute, fluffy animal that hopped. Not that the peeps and jelly beans were not yummy anyway. They just had no attachment to anything remotely Animal, Vegetable or Biblical.

I was fascinated with Catholicism. Their churches had gorgeous stained glass windows and glorious pageantry. I was especially enamored of the "bridal dresses" little girls wore at age 6 for their First Communions. I lusted for a white dress and veil, and patent leather maryjanes.

On Sundays, when all my friends wore their shiny shoes and pretty dresses to church, I skulked around the neighborhood in jeans and sweatshirts, feeling like a pariah. I always welcomed Mondays because I fit in again.

It did not escape my attention that Catholics enjoyed a number of Saints' Days, for which they were actually excused from school.

I informed the principal that my parents were Jewish and Catholic, one of each, and that they wanted me to observe all their combined holidays. He bought this wild fabrication, and for several years, I attended church on Saints' Days with my friends while my parents kept me home on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, although we never attended a synagogue. On Protestant holidays, the schools were closed.

It was a lovely state of affairs for truants.

This delightful existence continued until the Ash Wednesday I met my mother on the street. I was walking with a group of Catholic kids, and we all had ashes on our foreheads.

To protect the faint of heart, I won't go into details here. Let's just say it wasn't pretty. And the upshot was that my exquisite dalliance with Catholicism was abruptly canceled.

In Confession, I would murmur, "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I am not a Catholic." And the priest would assign me Hail Mary's and Our Fathers as atonement. I read a dog-eared Catechism in my room at home, memorizing the questions and answers, which didn't always seem to match up. I attributed this to my own ignorance and lack of indoctrination as I did not have the benefits of a Catholic home.

I finally decided that organized religion was not for me as my beliefs were an amalgam of ideas from many religions. The system that comes closest to the mark is Buddhism, yet I know that Buddhist nuns are not treated as well as their male counterparts. This offends me as much as the patriarchal practices of Judaism and any other system which does not consider women as valuable as men.

All religions have rules and dogma. Being human, we all break rules sometimes, and dogma can trip us up. This causes guilt, which doesn't really further anyone's quest to function on a higher plane. Some religions have a political bent as well, which seems inconsistent with God's will.

After searching for answers for many years, I have concluded that while all religions which teach ethical behavior are good, the answers we seek really lie within us. Truth is where we stand to look at a thing, and our own eyes, hearts and experiences instill our deepest values.

I think the creed that can unify us all is the one which practices compassion for all. It has no name, but it has roots in many traditions. Perhaps it should just be called "Lovingkindness."

God knows there are already enough religions.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Something on my Mind

During the years that I was a single mom, I worked at many jobs. Most were fairly unpleasant because I lacked the confidence and credentials to apply for better ones.

The job of shortest duration was at a nursery in Western North Carolina. I was required to work with bare hands in a white, powdered pesticide which was stored in a huge vat. The owner did not issue gloves or masks to me and the other woman who was also a new employee. We placed handfuls of the powder in potted plants and mixed it into the soil with our hands.

I love plants so I had thought that working in a greenhouse would be pleasant.

Several hours into the day, as I began to feel nauseous and dizzy, my co-worker complained of the same symptoms and then collapsed. Neither of us could speak coherently.

I went to tell the supervisor that the other woman was lying on the floor and that I wasn't feeling well, either. He thought we were slackers, and told me that we should stop complaining and get back to work.

I hauled the other woman to her feet and told her that we were leaving. She was in no condition to argue, so I loaded her into my car and drove us both to the local hospital.

We were both confused and unintelligible by this time. The hospital staff immediately placed us in isolation, took away all our clothes, even my brand-new sneakers, and gave us decontamination showers.

After several hours of monitoring, we were discharged. I must have driven myself home, but don't remember it. I never saw the other woman again.

Later, I learned that the nursery was using a pesticide which had been banned in the U.S. They were able to purchase it very cheaply for that reason. I am still outraged to think that they had so little regard for the lives of their employees.

They later reimbursed us for the cost of our clothing, including my brand-new sneakers, which had to be destroyed. Ironically, I come from a family of lawyers, yet I never sued them. I didn't have the means to hire one, and besides, I wasn't thinking clearly for a long time.

For many years, I suffered from the effects of this incident. It was as if some of the circuits of my brain had been burned out, and I would begin a sentence and then lose the thread of my thought. I was brain-damaged, although most people probably didn't realize it because I was able to compensate: If the word I wanted eluded me, I could substitute another, and nobody was the wiser.

I don't know when it happened, but at some point, it seems as if the holes that had been chemically burned in my brain fused themselves together again. I no longer have the feeling that my synapses are damaged because my thoughts now flow as they were intended. (As far as I know.)

This morning, I woke up thinking about this incident and wondering how it might relate to Alzheimer's Dementia. My husband, Flip, was diagnosed with AD several years ago at such a young age that for a long time, doctors were unsure of their diagnosis. Sadly, both MRI and PET-scan confirm it, so it seems as if in this area, as in so many others, he is precocious.

So far, his abilities are impaired only with regard to short-term memory and losing things. Flip is a musician and artist, and his creativity seems unaffected. He is a lucid participant in conversations which, however, he may not remember afterward. He has begun to struggle for words on occasion, yet his quick wit is still intact. He remains in every way the delightful, charming, kind and positive man he has always been. He is the most generous person I have ever known. In fact, Flip is pretty nearly the perfect man.

There is no way to tell what the future will bring.

In his words, "It's a small price to pay for being here."

I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't affect our relationship. I have more control than my fair share now, and handle our financial affairs, make appointments, and sometimes speak for him when he is unable to express his thoughts to others.

I get very angry with myself for not always being as patient as I should be, and as he deserves. I am so aware that it will get worse that it is ruining what we could have now. And I know that someday, when it IS worse, I will kick myself for not fully enjoying his company while he still knows who I am.

Alzheimer's is the best argument I know for living in the here-and-now.

Still, remembering my own brain damage and how it apparently healed itself makes me wonder if somehow, Alzheimer's-afflicted brains could do the same. I am not a scientist, nor am I a believer in religious miracles, although I think that I would take him to Lourdes if I could, just in case there's anything to it.

I wonder if neurologists could determine anything from my experience that would be useful in treating this ghastly disease that robs people of themselves, a bit at a time. There must be a link that has not been discovered, something in our brains that could be accessed to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

As every child knows, even earthworms, cut in half, will wriggle away in two pieces, smaller but still complete. Surely we would not exist if we did not also have the ability to repair ourselves.

Somewhere in this large mass of grey matter that we carry is the key. We badly need to find it. Now that the Baby Boomer generation has come into middle age, Alzheimer's is occurring in younger people all the time.

The pressing need for Viagra has been resolved, and hopefully, scientists will now have some free time, energy and research dollars to dedicate to curing this cruel disease. After all, even Viagra won't be of much use to someone who can't remember what it's for.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mutts on Beaches

I'm sure it's March, early March, but today was the kind of sunny summer day that would make July proud.

We went to the beach and played with dogs. Since we have none of our own, we are required to use other peoples' dogs for fun and frolic.

The word is out on me in the dog community. Strange dogs approach me on beaches and sidewalks, straining at their leashes to lick me. They are always grinning, and when we make eye contact, they prance a little. Sometimes they have erections.

I can't remember ever having quite that effect on men, but maybe I've just forgotten.

I have always been a beach person. Water sign and all that, but I really love beaches. I love the smell of the ocean, and the feel of sand between my toes.

As a child, I swam out beyond the breakers and cavorted in the surf all day. When my mother called me back to shore, I was always shivering, with purple lips and shriveled fingers and toes. But I would protest that I wasn't at all cold until she finally let me go back in the water again.

My mother made me wear my brother’s outgrown dark woolen swim trunks with white mesh liner (for storing ones penis) and curved metal belt buckle. At eight, I was mortified to appear bare chested in public as other little girls wore cute outfits with frilly tops.

I pleaded with her. “Can't I get a real girl’s bathing suit?”

“What’s wrong with this one?” she asked. “It was Richie’s.”

She said it like it once belonged to God.

“I want one with a top.”

“You don’t need a top. You don’t have anything to put in it yet.”

As usual, my mother was missing the point.

I acquired my first girl’s bathing suit at the practically senile age of 11 when two perfectly symmetrical mosquito bites appeared on my chest. The suit was a one-piece skirted affair of printed cotton chintz in an indeterminate color which hung loosely on my skinny body.

I forgave its ugliness because I finally fit in with other pre-teen girls, our perfectly flat bras serving no purpose but to honor our future breasts.

A few years later, a boyfriend told me, “A woman’s breasts should fit perfectly into a champagne glass.”

“Have you really had champagne?” I asked.

Friday, March 02, 2007


My childhood friend, Bruce, lived in a house with no lawn, just brown dirt where grass should have been. His family had the only swimming pool in the neighborhood, but it was very small and never had any water in it. It was full of garbage bags and discarded tools that had rusted.

Summer brought drought conditions to Long Island and by August, the abandoned golf course behind Bruce’s house had yellow hay that was taller than we were.

Bruce and I sneaked out there with a pack of his mother’s Lucky Strikes. He lit one and dropped the match, and the hay at our feet burst into flame. Instantly, the whole golf course was burning with a loud hissing sound.

We ran through the fire in melting sneakers until we got across the dried up creek bed. We kept running until we got to my house, where we crouched beside the living room bookcases and listened to the fire engines. The fire was so big that four different fire departments answered the call.

We expected to get arrested and go to jail for the rest of our lives, but no one ever questioned us. The neighborhood smelled like smoke for weeks.

A year later, they built a shopping center on that land.

Bruce won a new car in our school raffle, which his mother sold to buy a mink coat. She had long, platinum blond hair and makeup like spackle, unlike the standard neighborhood moms with short permed “do’s" which required them to sleep on satin pillowcases and wear shower caps when they bathed. Bruce’s mother was hardly ever home, but when she was, she had a lot of male visitors who stayed exactly 20 minutes. Bruce and his brothers were not allowed to come home until late at night.

Bruce had a grey German Shepherd-mix dog named Laddie who was never home either. Every time anyone's dog had a litter of puppies they looked like Laddie, which was a real shame because Laddie was the ugliest dog ever born. When he wasn’t passing on his genes, he lay in the sun with his head tucked under his back leg, zealously polishing himself with his tongue.

Bruce’s older brother joined the army and his little brother tagged along with us big kids most of the time.

If they had a father, he was a well-kept secret. No one had ever seen him.

By the chilly light of the harvest moon, Bruce and I hiked to the next town and tried to peek in the windows of the Hi De Ho Inn. The building was huge and dark and had a four-sided flashing neon sign that said "Girls Girls Girls Girls." We expected to learn the secret of life here, so we crept through the bushes and sneaked around the foundation, seeking enlightenment. The ground floor windows were boarded up with old two by fours that splintered in our hands. We stood on each other’s shoulders, but enlightenment was unattainable to 12-year olds.

I learned recently that Bruce is dead. We hadn't seen each other since 9th grade, so I have no idea what he died of, or more importantly, what kind of life he had. I hope he was happy. I hope he loved somebody who loved him back, and that he found work to do that fulfilled his deepest dreams.

And I hope he finally learned the secret of his own life. I'm still working on mine.

Oh, Baby

"Is there any chance you're the baby's father?" I asked Flip. He's a musician. Surely it's possible.

He denied it. Insisted he never met Anna Nicole.

My husband is a faithful sort. And I'm younger than Zsa Zsa.

"Are you sure you're not?"

"I'm sure. Sorry to disappoint you."

We could raise a baby. I love babies. I feel terrible for that child. She may stand to inherit millions, but right now, she needs warm arms to hold her and a soft teddy.

I really want to know. In all the hoopla with her mother's funeral, and speculation that Anna Nicole's mother will body snatch her back to Texas after interment, who is taking care of Dannielynn?

Lawyers don't know how to change a diaper.