Monday, December 31, 2007


I wish you every blessing in 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Only the Good Die Young

One of my heroines died today. Benazir Bhutto, a modern-day Joan of Arc, succumbed to an assassin's bullets after a rally in Pakistan, the country she returned to after many years in exile. She was 54 years old.

It was believed that her party, the Pakistan People's Party, would win the upcoming election in January, making her Prime Minister once again. She had occupied that office twice before, the first time at age 35. She was one of the youngest chief executives in the world, and the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of an Islamic nation.

Modernizing Pakistan was her priority, She brought electricity to the countryside and built schools all over Pakistan. She dedicated herself to solving the problems of hunger, housing and health care and bringing her country into the 21st Century. Her agenda was one of reconciliation among various factions, peace, ending militancy, eradicating poverty, building institutions of civil rule and democracy, spreading education and providing hope to the people of Pakistan for a better future.

Ms. Bhutto was born in Karachi in 1953 to a prominent political family. At age 16 she left her homeland to study at Harvard's Radcliffe College. After completing her undergraduate degree in Political Science, she earned a second degree at England's Oxford University, followed by a law degree a few years later.

Meanwhile, her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected Prime Minister, but within days the military seized power and her father was imprisoned. In 1979 he was hanged by the military government of General Zia Ul Haq.

She was arrested many times and served three years in solitary confinement before being permitted to leave the country in 1984. She settled in London, where she and her two brothers founded an underground organization to resist the military dictatorship. When one of her brothers died in 1985, she returned to Pakistan for his burial, and was again arrested for participating in anti-government rallies.

Despite her prestigious Western education, she agreed to an arranged marriage in 1987. The couple had three children.

Bhutto's husband was imprisoned in 1997 on charges of corruption and served eight years in prison. Once again, she was forced to leave her homeland. For nine years, she and her children lived in exile in London, where she continued to advocate the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

In October of this year, she returned to her native country despite death threats from radical Islamists and the hostility of the present government.

She was greeted by enthusiastic crowds but within hours of her arrival, her motorcade was attacked by a suicide bomber. She survived this first assassination attempt, although more than 100 bystanders died in the attack. Even this did not deter her from her mission to finally restore peace to her country.

Today in Rawalpindi a gunman fired at her car, fatally wounding her. The assassin then detonated a bomb, killing himself and numerous bystanders.

Rioting erupted throughout the country, intensifying the dangerous instability of a nuclear-armed nation in a highly volatile region.

The world has lost one of its most eloquent voices for peace, moderation, and democracy, and also one of its bravest citizens. We are all diminished for it.

"I find that whenever I am in power, or my father was in power, somehow good things happen. The economy picks up, we have good rains, water comes, people have crops. I think the reason this happens is that we want to give love and we receive love."

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Coffee doesn't taste very good to me lately. I'm thinking of giving it up for awhile but my timing couldn't be worse because at present, we have enough coffee beans to open a small coffee shop - or to last us for at least three or four months.

I have always been perverse.

We have a pound of coffee beans from a caffe in North Beach, which I love for the ambiance, old men in black turtlenecks speaking Italian, Tony Bennett on the sound system, cannoli in the glass cases. We also bought a pound of their Sicilian espresso beans right before six pounds of various coffee beans arrived from Gevalia, which sent us three shipments in the same week. I called them to explain that it was rather a lot of caffeine for two people to dispose of and to cancel all future shipments.

Two days later, a fourth shipment arrived, another two pounds of coffee beans. I called them again.

I was probably too jittery to make any sense, though.

Our freezer is getting pretty crowded.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

There But For the Grace of God

Walking down the street with Flip, who had an errand at Guitar Center, I spotted a woman who was built like a tugboat coming toward us in the ugliest coat I had ever seen.

I murmured, "The coat. Look at the coat."

The Coat was a full length horizontally worked multicolored mangy-looking fur in an oversized houndstooth tweed pattern. Suffice to say that I have never seen anything like it. It looked as if it were made out of several mismatched old dogs.

I think this is what happens when furriers go bad.

The woman was old, by which I always mean Older-Than-I, with determinedly blond hair and did I mention, portly?

As we passed her, Flip said, "That's a beautiful coat."

I almost swallowed my tongue.

She simpered, "Thank you!" while her male companion, like me, turned his head the other way.

"What were you thinking?" I demanded. Flip is not mean. Ever. It is not in his nature at all, yet he also has taste.

Obviously, I was missing something.

"I couldn't help myself," said Flip. "I really did it for the guy because he probably thinks it's ugly and he didn't get his money's worth."

"Fifteen dollars at the thrift store," I replied. "and it is ugly."

"She just needed to be told she looked good," he said. "I bet she doesn't hear that very often."

Flip is such a nice man for a liar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fire Drill

The fire alarm in our building went off tonight. It was deafening. When I poked my head out the door, I smelled smoke and grease, like a diner that uses the same oil for three years. Flip went into the hallway to see what was going on as people gathered, but nobody knew where it was coning from.

The smoke got thicker.

I called 911. They put me on hold for at least two minutes while their recording cautioned me that if this was not an emergency, to hang up and call the police. They told me this in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Then they played another recording which informed me that calls would be answered in the order received. They repeated this, too, in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Finally, a woman came on the line. It was difficult to hear her because of the loud alarm, but after I told her what I knew and gave directions, she told me to go outside.

Flip was already out in the hall talking with other tenants, so I climbed up in our closet for Truffle's carrying case, stuffed her into it, threw on sandals and a down jacket, grabbed Flip's down jacket, locked the door and went downstairs.

I thought of our treasured possessions that I was leaving behind and realized that I was okay with it as long as Flip, Truffle and I got out. I hit the street.

Flip asked me for my keys because he was barefoot on the cold sidewalk. He went back inside. My upstairs neighbors who adopted Joey, the backyard cat, invited me to stow Truffle in their car, which was parked in front of the building. I set her on the front seat because Joey was in back. Truffle is not kindly disposed toward other cats.

Flip was taking a long time to get his shoes, so I ran back inside in case he didn't realize that I had already removed Truffle.

Three fire trucks raced down our street as we all waved at them from in front of the building. The place was crawling with firemen from three different precincts, all bearing hatchets. They agreed it was a grease fire but couldn't find the apartment it was coming from.

They questioned us about whether we were cooking. I was the only one who admitted to doing so as I was making pasta, but I had turned off the sauce 1/2 hour before and was only boiling water and making a salad when the alarm went off.

Nobody else seemed to know their apartments had kitchens.

"Somebody's lying," said one of the firemen.

They went up and down the stairs with their hatchets checking every door. The smoke and burning grease smell were very intense all over the building, but they finally determined that there was no danger and left. I would have liked to invite them in for pasta.

These men were great! They came quickly and were very thorough. They were intelligent and pleasant.

It takes a special kind of courage and conviction to become a firefighter and risk danger every day. They couldn't possibly be paid enough for what they do. And their trucks are very cool, too. I would have liked a ride, but still...

I feel so safe now.

Same Ancienne Tale

December is an expensive month. I can't afford to spend money on myself so having just run out of moisturizer, I reverted to my stash of sample products.

The first one I found in my special place for samples was a little tub of cream from Sephora which was not labeled. Since I had no idea what it was, I decided to use it up on my heels, which can always use a softening boost. I have generally soft, smooth skin, but it's clear that when I was assembled, I was mistakenly given someone else's heels, probably those of an alligator.

So I opened the tiny jar and rubbed every bit of cream into my parched heels, which barely noticed. It was then that I remembered what the sample was: Fresh Creme Ancienne, an ultra moisturizer for wealthy skin which sells for $135 an ounce. It also comes in the large economy size at $350 for 3.5 ounces.


Here is the product information: "A modern formulation inspired by the work of Claudius Galenus (Galen), a 2nd century scientist and physician who developed the first known skincare cream and used it as salve to treat burns and wounds, Creme Ancienne combines the core ingredients of Galenus' formula: rosewater, beeswax, and borax with modern day ingredients like, chamomile wax, meadowfoam oil, and vitamin E.

In order to preserve the legacy, craftsmanship, and spirit of this formulation, small batches are prepared entirely by hand in a monastery, with each jar taking up to two days to produce."

You'd think that would make a big difference in my heels, that I would now have heels of silk. But you'd be wrong.

I wonder what else I have in that drawer, and also, what the monks get for their labors. Probably nowhere near as much as the company that sells their product.

I hope they're all tooling around the monastery in fine cars when they're not stirring the pot. Or at least new magic carpets all around.

They must all have great skin.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I Know This Much is True

One of my fondest fantasies is one in which I go to my closet and SURPRISE! There is something new there that I love, just my size, the perfect color.

Sometimes I scrunch my eyes closed before opening the closet door in the way I tried to catch fairies under my pillow as a child. I seem to have misunderstood the tooth fairy legend, for I believed that fairies lived there no matter where my teeth happened to be, and all that was needed to see them was the element of surprise.

If there is something new and wonderful in my closet, I am determined not to let it get away unremarked.

There is never anything there that I didn't put there myself.

Today, Flip found a hooded sweater in his closet, light gray, which he had not seen before. For a moment, I didn't remember it either, and was horrified at the thought that I might have collected someone else's garment at the launderette, perhaps left behind in a dryer, and never noticed.

Then I remembered buying it for him months ago. Of course I bought it. I love hoods.

I'm so glad to have made my fantasy come true for someone else.

I had an experience yesterday that was almost in the realm of fantasy, however.

I was driving to the supermarket and decided to check out the wharf where the Friends of the Library bookstore and my favorite vegetarian restaurant are as there are sometimes events in the large buildings.

There was a craft fair, not the usual tacky baubles but some really nice items which are also sold in elegant boutiques in the city. I found something I loved for one of my family members. (I'm being vague here because you never know who reads this blog.)

I told the craftswoman that I needed to have it, and did she take credit cards?

"No," she said, "I take checks."

"I don't have any with me. I'll have to come back."

"I trust you," she said, smiling. "You can send it to me."

She told me about her years sailing on San Francisco Bay with her husband and children while wrapping my gift beautifully.

I reminded her that I needed her address but she was out of business cards.

She scrawled her contact information on a scrap of paper I produced from my pocket, and we wished each other a happy holiday.

Of course I sent her check off today, but this gift has become a thing of wonder to me because of the luminous spirit of the woman who made it. In my note, I thanked her for her trust in me and in human nature and told her how delightful it was to meet her.

The kindness of strangers is very real and can absolutely be relied upon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Joy To My World!

T'is the season for Christmas brag letters, and they have started to arrive in sickening splendor.

I thought I would write one of my own. I don't know the people I'll be writing about, but since the letters I receive never bear any resemblance to persons living or dead, it shouldn't matter.


As another joyous year draws to a close, I want to share our good fortune with all you less fortunate beings so that you can eat your collective hearts out rejoice with us.

The first major event of 2007 was that I finally changed my name legally to the name I have used forever, as Donna was not nearly fabulous enough for the exotic creature I have become since I hitchhiked away from the family farm and never looked back. I am now Marcella in both word and deed, the name by which most of you know me, and which suits my fabulousness so perfectly.

In September, James and I bought the ketch of our dreams and look forward to sailing around the world with a small crew of 100, including a manicurist, of course. There was some tough competition for this boat, but we outbid that upstart Donald Trump and the entire Hilton family, and she is now ours. Bon voyage to us, darlings! We have christened her "The Odyssey," of course, with many gallons of the best champagne.

Our eldest son, Lafcadio, the Captain of Industry, was lauded by Business Week as a Superstar Businessman. His Fortune 500 Company is indeed fortunate to have him. His filly, Heart O' Gold, won the Triple Crown this year as well, and his lovely wife, Loma Linda, gave birth to a baby with two heads, both of them gorgeous, proving the old adage that two heads are indeed better than one.

Our second son, Olfactorio, the perfume industry genius, launched his new fragrance in Paris and Milan, named for his loving mama, Marcella. He confided to me that he always knew that if what I have could be bottled, it would make billions. I'm so proud.

Our daughter, Cinderella, who washes dishes at the best five-star restaurant in New York, caught the attention of Georgio Armani and will be modeling in his next show. Even a jealous mother dishpan hands can't keep a beautiful woman down.

Finally, our youngest son, Destino, who is twelve, has received early acceptance to Harvard. By a wonderful coincidence, he also won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer and the Library of Congress Living Legend Award. It's been quite an exciting year for our 7th grader.

2007 saw my wonderful James installed as President of the World, and if I may be immodest for a second, yours truly was featured in a delightful spread in Town and Country for my work with starving orphans in Rwanda. I am told that my generous gifts of designer clothing, worn only once, were much appreciated, and I plan to continue sending them all the jeweled evening purses their little hearts desire.

Our Christmas roundup letter would not be complete without mentioning that our French Poodle, Marie Antoinette, won Best in Show for the 4th time at Westminster this year.

The Ming vase I dug up while vacationing on the beach in Aruba has been added to the vast collections at the Louvre, and darling James surprised me with the Hope Diamond for our anniversary, just a little something to flaunt wear while sailing the Southern Seas in our ketch.

Our main residence, Valhalla, is being photographed for the March issue of Castle Homes Magazine, and we're all so very excited. Our racing silks won the Grand Prix at Monaco in April for the first time, and we donated the specially-built mechanical marvel to the Smithsonian amidst tremendous international brouhaha.

My toenail clippings were sealed into a Space Capsule to be opened in 100 years, along with photographs, of course, and I owe it all to darling James, without whom I would still be a little farm girl from a Red State, trying to become Miss Rheingold. It makes me humble.

From our houses to yours, I wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year. Ciao, darlings!

Oodles of love,