Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Your Dreams!

I have a friend who is rather tenured in the realm of senior citizenry.

She’s also doing quite well.

Her mind is sharp as a tack (and much sharper than mine, most of the time). Her body? Not so much.

Among other things, she suffers from arthritis in her right arm, and because she is right-handed, the pain is more than inconvenient.

It also sometimes keeps her up at night.

So, a few weeks ago, she consulted her doctor. And in response to her complaint, he suggested she “up” the dosage on the pain-killer he had prescribed a few weeks earlier.

You should know that my friend is not a fan of pharmaceuticals, and so her doctor’s suggestion that she essentially triple the dosage of a pain-killer didn’t settle well with her. But he assured her that it was still a very small amount of the drug, and so, she agreed to the plan.

… I phoned her the next day to see how she was feeling.

“I slept well,” she reported, not sounding particularly relieved, “but in my dreams, I was punching everything in sight, and when I wasn’t punching, I was lifting. And when I wasn’t lifting, I was furiously writing. When I got out of bed this morning, my arm muscles were so sore from all the activity that I could barely lift my first cup of coffee.”

When I laughed, my friend scolded me.

“It’s not funny!” she said. “You have no idea how sore I was!”

“I’m sorry,” I replied, smiling over the phone. “I really am. But it’s just so ironic. You take a drug to make the arm pain go away, and your arms are so not in pain while you’re sleeping that they’re just busy all night.”

My friend accepted my apology, and – beyond that – she appreciated my observation.

… And I’ve been thinking about it ever since: pharmaceutical side effects that are dream-centric.

Imagine the possibilities:

I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I spend so much time thinking about how this country’s stupid political parties are wasting their time with ridiculous, counter-productive in-fighting.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream that I meet Sarah Palin, and we hit if off like nobody’s business. We go off into the wild and shoot a bunch of wolves. We laugh because we have no need for the wolves. We pledge to be BFFs forever (disregarding the redundancy therein) and from that point forward, we text each other every day.

… I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I spend so much time worrying about how I am going to pay all my bills.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream that I get a letter in the mail. It’s a pen pal request from a man in prison. Bernie Madoff has learned of my schemes, and I am his new hero. I smile devilishly and pass the letter along to one of my staff members – a man dressed in a scaled costume and looking a lot like Dick Cheney. Then, I head for the hot tub, where I bathe with rich white men, all in handcuffs and fully dressed.

… I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I spend so much time worrying about the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream of sitting at a grand table with the leaders of the “free” world. There’s a hosted oil bar, and it is free-flowing. We’re all drunk. As the waiters and busboys saunter by our regally upholstered chairs, we slip them million-dollar bills. Then we refill our glasses from the oil trough and laugh some more. Political power is such a gas!

… I go to the doctor.

“Doctor,” I say, “I can’t sleep. I keep thinking about what happened in Japan. I feel so bad for the people there.”

“Here,” he says, scribbling on a pad. “This will help.”

That night, I dream I am at an amusement park, where I strap myself into a shiny round seat. The first part of the ride entails a tremendous amount of random shaking. Thereafter, it morphs into a log-flume. I am doused with water. Lots and lots of water. I emerge wobbly and laughing – shook and wet, but okay.

But I’m not okay. There’s a glow emanating from me. And it’s not a good glow. My system’s been compromised by something unnatural.

… I go to the doctor.

“Nothing’s working,” I say. “These prescriptions are all wrong.”

He shrugs.

I walk outside the clinic, and because this is California, I notice a little shop.

Medical marijuana, with promises of no more bad dreams.

… Rich white men did not invent marijuana. Few of them therefore will ever embrace its values.

Besides, it’s a plant that they don’t need to manipulate in their labs.

From a profiteering perspective, they have no use for it. And so they certainly are not going to explore its capacity to heal.

Instead, they’ll just keep inventing drugs that give people messed-up dreams and a boat-load of side effects.

And they’ll make money from it.

…Need an aspirin?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Reruns: Remembering Busy

(original post date: March 24, 2010)

When I was a kid, I was hell-bent on interpreting everything literally.

At bedtime, my mom would sweetly ask, “Want me to tuck you in?”

My reply was not so sweet.

“You don’t tuck me in, Mother,” I’d say. “You tuck the sheets in.”

Somehow, and in spite of my flippancy, Mom maintained her smile and exuded her love as she performed the ritual.

The next morning, after a sound sleep (thanks, no doubt, to being properly tucked in), I’d head off to school, where the day would begin with roll call. The teacher would go through the class roster, reciting names in alphabetical order. As each name was called, the appropriate classmate would respond.

Some would say “present.” Others would say “here.”

As for me, I always said “here.”

Okay, not always… There was one exception. On that last school day before the Christmas break, I said, “present.” Why? You guessed it. I’d brought the teacher a present.

(Is it any wonder I went through an I-wanna-be-a-teacher phase? I mean, what kid can resist the prospect of so many presents every day?!)

I grew out of being tucked in when the age was appropriate, and by the end of first grade, I’d become wise to the meaning of “present” in response to roll call. It took me a bit longer, though, to comprehend fully the telephone’s “busy signal.”

I should mention, at this point, that if you’re a young person reading this piece, the rest of what I’m about to say may go over your head. Which is to say, if you’ve never lived with a “busy signal,” you need to do a little research before reading on.

As for those of you who remember that tone-tone-tone, I’ll pick up my story now.

I recall sitting in our kitchen, dangling my legs from one of the tall stools that surrounded the half-oval counter. Dad was probably sitting on one of the other stools. I don’t know where my sister was at the time. I imagine it was a before-dinner hour. It was relaxed and anybody’s.

My mom had just dialed her friend’s five-digit number on the rotary phone. Several seconds later, she returned the phone to its cradle. “They’re busy,” she said. Then, she crossed to the stove to continue dinner prep.

Although I’d personally experienced the tone-tone-tone of the busy signal, my mother’s wording really threw me off. Her stating “they’re busy” gave the signal new meaning.

As I sat there with dangling legs, I felt truly perplexed. All I could think of was, How does the phone company know they’re too busy to talk on the phone?

What a concept today, huh?

“Too busy to talk on the phone?”

No way!

You can drive, shop, have a meeting, get your nails done, do your laundry, prep your taxes, check out craigslist, change the kitty litter, sign up for Netflix, consult your horoscope, remember the Alamo, and you still are not too busy to talk on the phone.

… Recently, when speaking with a friend (on the phone), I referred to what I was doing as “juggling.” It’s true. That’s what I do. I never say I’m busy. I say I’m “juggling.”

And you know what?

I’d rather be busy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Thirty-Eight

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).



“Evelyn! Evelyn!”

For the second consecutive morning, Evelyn is being stirred awake by household help. Which means, for the second consecutive morning, Evelyn is enjoying a really deep sleep.

“EVELYN!” Claudia says again, nudging her employer.

“What now!” Evelyn whines, covering her head with her pillow and knowing that Claudia’s response will not make her feel like the lowliest Alzheimer’s widow on the planet.

“Judy called,” Claudia informs her. “She says she’s running late.”

“And what did you tell her?” Evelyn asks, from under the pillows.

“I told her you were running late, too.”

“Good answer.”


“Judy!” Evelyn says, scooting into the booth at the diner on Kimball Avenue. “I am so sorry! Have you been waiting long?”

“Not long at all,” Judy replies, easily. “Not to worry. Just enjoying some down time and the view out the window.”

Evelyn then exhales, in one, long shot, and looks at Judy, smiling.

“You look good, Evelyn,” Judy comments genuinely. “Tired, maybe, but something’s different. Something’s going on.”

Evelyn shakes her head as the waitress approaches.


“Please!” says Evelyn, “And are you still serving breakfast?”

“Back of the menu,” the waitress replies, wasting no time with formalities.

Evelyn studies the back of the menu as Judy studies Evelyn. They both see something refreshing.

When Evelyn puts the menu down, Judy looks at her pointedly. “So, what’s going on? I saw you just over a week ago, and something has changed.”

“Oh,” Evelyn says, waving her hand, “I’m working on a project. At the house. I don’t want to talk about it yet. I don’t know if it will work or if it’s worth it. But, it’s been really helpful.” She pauses to take a breath, and then smiles broadly. “And! Joy was up for a few days!”

“She was?!”

“Yes, and it was great! We had such a good time together. And she was so wonderful with Davy.”

“Coffee?” the waitress confirms, placing a mug in front of Evelyn and leaving a carafe on the table.

“Thank you,” Evelyn says to the waitress.

“And you ladies ready to order?” the waitress asks.

“Two eggs over easy, potatoes and toast,” says Evelyn.

“And you?” the waitress asks Judy, who is dumbfounded to be the one at the booth who remains undecided.

“Uh… let’s see… Um, you know, I guess I’ll have a tuna salad sandwich on wheat.”



“Fries, salad, or slaw.”

“Yes,” says Judy, to the amusement of none.

“Um, the slaw, I guess,” she adds, after a moment of silence.

The waitress retrieves both menus and walks away.

Evelyn smiles at her daughter-in-law, takes a long sip of coffee, leans her head back and closes her eyes for a second. “Ah. It’s good to be out.”

“I’m definitely enjoying the change of scene,” Judy agrees, refilling her mug from the coffee carafe. Then, as she adds some Splenda and stirs it in, she explains. “The vibe at the office was a little intense this morning. One of the agents hasn’t had a deal in a while, and it tends to bring out her nasty side.”

“I imagine it’s quite a competitive industry.”

“That’s an understatement…

“But, hey!” Judy says then. “I didn’t get in it to make friends. I have enough trouble keeping up with the ones I have. And keeping up with family… You mentioned Marilyn when you called on the phone yesterday evening. Said she was going through some histrionics.”

“Newsflash, huh?”

“So what’s going on?”

“It was bizarre,” Evelyn responds. “She was complaining about Sara, who is doing fine, as far as I can tell. And then, she was obsessing about some murders that took place a while back.”

“Oh. Right. I remember those. That was pretty scary. A few teenage girls. But weren’t those solved?”

“Marilyn didn’t seem to think so.”

“No, I think they were solved,” Judy says. “Of course, I try not to pay too much attention to the local news. If I did, I’d tie my kids down until they were thirty-five. Hmmm…. So, Marilyn’s obsessing about them?”

“Yes. And it’s just so weird. I mean, this is how she’s been for a long time, but for some reason, when I spoke with her yesterday, I had a different reaction.”

“Like you didn’t want to give power to it?” Judy asks.

“Something like that, yes.”

“It’s tricky,” Judy starts, essentially thinking out loud. “She’s your daughter. But, you know, there’s a lot to be said for brain chemistry, and Marilyn’s brain might just be wired a certain way.”

“How do you mean?” Evelyn asks.

“I mean, she might default to paranoia. Didn’t your mother have a bit of that? I know that Patrick doesn’t know much about your family, but what he’s shared with me—”

“Here you go, ladies,” the waitress interrupts, placing Evelyn’s and Judy’s orders in front of them.

“Just holler if you need anything else,” she adds, putting the check on the table.

Evelyn looks at her plate and immediately realizes that, in her haste, she ordered the most monochromatic meal known to man. She reaches for the ketchup, to give it a little more color.

Then, she looks up at Judy. “I’m sorry. Where were we?”

“Brain chemistry,” Judy answers, scooping up a forkful of cole slaw. “Didn’t your mom have some issues?”

“Oh, boy, did my mother have issues!”

“Was she paranoid?”

“As a matter of fact…God! I had forgotten about it!” Evelyn exclaims, as she gathers some food onto her fork and wonders when she might actually taste it. “There was this summer. Must have been in the late Forties. She wouldn’t let us leave the yard all summer. She said there was a rapist on the loose!”

Judy, who was about to take a second bite of her sandwich, puts it down. “You all had to stay in the yard? You and your four brothers?”

“Oh, no,” Evelyn responds, covering her mouth as she swallows her bite of eggs and potatoes. “Just me and the younger boys. At that point, Frank and Jonathan were out of the house.”

“And what did your Dad do?” Judy asks.

“My father?” Evelyn replies. “Oh, he was in the City most nights. I have no idea what he thought.”

They eat in silence for a minute or two. Judy feels more self-conscious than Evelyn, and the irony of that, appropriately, is one that Judy absorbs alone.

Taking a break from her lunchtime breakfast, Evelyn gazes out the window for a few seconds. “So, I guess my mom was paranoid. Brain chemistry, huh?”

“That’s what I hear,” says Judy.

“Hmm,” Evelyn says. “I guess we can’t really control what we pass on to our children. I just know that if Marilyn inherited paranoia, it’s probably my doing. She certainly didn’t get it from Davy’s side.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Evelyn. You don’t know. I mean, you know Davy’s character, and you knew his parents, but there was a generation before them you never met. They might have been totally fucked-up.”

Evelyn laughs at Judy’s statement. She laughs not because Judy could be right, but because she knows that Judy probably says “fucked-up” a lot. Yet, this is the first occasion on which Judy has chosen to say it in her presence.

Evelyn appreciates Judy’s timing.

It shows heart.

* * *

to be continued on April 2nd .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

God's Big Flashlight in the Sky

It was extremely overcast in Los Angeles last weekend, so I was not able to see the Super Full Moon.

But I liked the idea of it, particularly given the current state of the world.

That Moon, brighter and bigger than usual, had a lot to shine on.

In Japan.

In Libya.

Where you are.

Where I am.

It’s impossible to address the current state of the world in one short essay. There are the actions of nature, which can be blamed on no one. There are the dangers of cultivating nuclear energy, which reflect taking calculated risks in an effort to meet the world’s complex needs. There is the chain reaction of unprecedented activism throughout the Middle East and North Africa – a man-made tsunami of social discontent.

… When I was in my 20’s, a boyfriend introduced me to the writings of Henry Miller, and I quickly devoured Tropic of Capricorn and Sexus. I used to joke that I’d read Miller with a dictionary in one hand and a vibrator in the other. Seriously – his erotic passages were as raw as they get. But that wasn’t the content that kept me reading. Miller’s writing climbs to amazing levels, eloquently reflecting his keen sense of the metaphysical, his passion for life and living, and his acknowledgment that the world is a precarious place, making every moment all the more valuable.

I have many favorite passages from both of those books, but the one that has remained in my head is this one, from Sexus:

Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything God-like about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything.

… I find the concept of God fascinating. I am, as they say on match dot com, “spiritual but not religious.” In fact, I’m so spiritual that I haven’t even told me what I believe. Bottom line is that I am utterly humbled by what I know for sure, and that is this: we’re all living on a big round thing that’s spinning so fast we don’t fall off.

Talk about imagination! Talk about daring! Anyway, acknowledging that little bit of proved science is pretty much all I can handle. If I think about it for more than a few minutes, I have to lie down.

And these days, it seems that this big round thing we’re all living on is really pissed off.

I don’t blame it.

And populations around the globe are upset by their societal circumstances.

I don’t blame them either.

Part of me thinks it’s damned remarkable we’ve come this far.

… I decided to dig into my old copy of Sexus to see what preceded that line that’s stayed with me. Interesting. Among other things, I love what it says about personal power:

The prisoner is not the one who has committed a crime, but the one who clings to his crime and lives it over and over. We are all guilty of crime, the great crime of not living life to the full. But we are all potentially free. We can stop thinking of what we have failed to do and do whatever lies within our power. What these powers that are in us may be no one has truly dared to imagine. That they are infinite we will realize the day we admit to ourselves that imagination is everything. Imagination is the voice of daring…

Yes, the powers within us are infinite, but only as long as we are alive.

That’s the catch; life is finite.

What we owe to the creative, imaginative, daring force that put us here is this: to embrace the blessing of every moment; to pursue our dreams; to do what is good.

That’s all we’ve got time for.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Reruns: Hormones from Hell

(original post-date: March 17, 2010)

The first symptom of menopause came early to me.

I was not quite 39 when I started having hot flashes. And while they were tremendously uncomfortable, I gradually learned how to deal with them. It’s about dressing in layers. It’s about getting ahead of the surge.

By my mid-40’s, I was nonplussed by my body’s unique sense of seasons, and I had no qualms about making public adjustments. Onlookers be damned, I’m going to take this jacket off and put it back on as many times as I please.

The next symptom presented itself as what I call “word issues.” While I rarely had challenges at the keyboard, I would find myself frequently stumped in live conversation. I’d be in the middle of a statement, and I’d feel compelled to stop.

“The next word,” I would say to my listener, “is an adjective. It has three syllables, and several R’s…”

A few more years passed and another manifestation of menopause became apparent: insomnia. Now, I must admit that for me, this symptom is a bit hard to detect. Fact of the matter is, I am relentlessly nocturnal. (I have been since I was a kid.) Particularly when I am on a creative jag, my productivity soars when everyone else is sound asleep.

For right-brain activity, I love the nine-to-five shift that begins after most people have had dinner. BUT, if I would rather sleep during the nighttime hours, I deeply resent my inability to do so.

(Moreover, as I watch late-night television, which features countless commercials for sleep aids, I apply that resentment to the ad copy. I don’t know which of the drugs boasts enabling one “to sleep in a non-habit-forming way,” but whenever I hear that line, I absolutely want to scream. I already sleep in a non-habit-forming way!)

Speaking of wanting to scream, this is where it’s become dicey. A couple of years ago, when I was dealing “only” with the hot flashes, the word losses, and the insomnia, I thought I was doing okay with menopause. I figured those symptoms were my cross to bear, and I was glad that no one else was suffering.

But then, SHE returned. The PMS bitch. The woman with absolutely no patience for anything.

I have a favorite anecdote that best describes the PMS bitch. It comes (as so many favorite anecdotes do) from my years as a waitress. Okay, so picture this: I’m working my station at my midtown Manhattan lunch place. It’s the informal, burger-in-a-basket type of restaurant, and the day in question is one of the month’s majority of days – which is to say, I am not in need of an exorcist. I pleasantly approach the party of four who are sitting in one of my booths. I deliver the four burger baskets, and one of the gentlemen looks up to catch my eye.

“Could I have a slice of raw onion?” he asks.

“Absolutely,” I reply, smiling. “I wouldn’t think of enjoying a burger without a raw onion!”

I then skip merrily to the kitchen where I retrieve the succulent garnish, and I deliver it to him quickly and cheerfully.

Okay. Same scenario on one of two days during that same month:

I pissily approach the booth where four obnoxious, irritating people are taking up space in my station. I slam their burgers down in front of them.

One of the jerks looks up at me and asks for a raw onion.

I sneer at him, make an abrupt about-face, and stomp back to the kitchen. En route, I mutter, “Fucking asshole should have asked for the onion when he ordered the burger.”

Notice the difference? (I realize it’s subtle; feel free to read those paragraphs a second time…)

Needless to say, I never liked that hormonal so-and-so who used to possess my body and spirit on a monthly basis for anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. But at least I knew when to expect her, and I knew that she would leave fairly shortly. I also knew that she wasn’t me, and that I could control – to a degree – how much she interacted with others.

That bitch is still not me, but she has become the fourth manifestation of menopause. The problem now is that she has absolutely no schedule. Soy as I might*, I cannot control or anticipate her arrival. She just shows up (most recently, in Rite Aid, when I was trying to find cotton balls).

The good news, I guess, is that she doesn’t seem to stay for very long. For that matter, I sometimes go an entire two months without a visit from the hormonal hellion.

But still… I don’t like her, and I am so over this stuff!

My sister once theorized that all these menopausal issues prove that God is a man. Her reasoning? A woman would not do this to another woman.

I don’t know… it might depend on that woman’s “time of the month.”

But I shouldn’t imply that I’m at odds with my sister’s sense of feminism. In fact, I share it. In fact, I have my own theory around the same general subject area. I believe that if men had periods, tampons would not only be free, they’d be delivered. And by now, the boys in charge undoubtedly would have found a “cure” for menopause.


*Yes, I meant to say “Soy.”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Thirty-Seven

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).


“Davy,” Evelyn says quietly, nudging him into an awake state. “Davy. I think you should come up to bed now.”

“Are you—? Are you too?” he asks, standing up unsteadily.

“I’ll come up with you,” Evelyn replies.

They make their way down the hallway and up the stairs without conversing. Evelyn knows that at this hour, Davy’s transference from family room to bed is pretty much a matter of coached sleep-walking. And, she doesn’t want to change that. With each night in the Quilt Room, she is feeling increasingly directed. She doesn’t want to lose her momentum.


After putting Davy to bed, Evelyn returns to the Quilt Room. She decides to leave the door opened because she is sure Davy will not wake up anytime soon. Then, having made that one decision, she makes another. She goes across the hall to Adam’s bedroom, which looks much as he left it. She opens the door, crosses to the windows and opens one. The air feels good, and she will enjoy feeling its crispness nip the back of her neck as she continues sifting through the boxes of clothes in Patrick’s former bedroom.

She takes a seat and draws a square from the bowl. Unfolds it slowly.

ADAM again. This time the AGE is 11-14.

“Oh, Adam,” she says to no one, “am I supposed to get to know you tonight? Is that what this is about?” She retrieves the appropriate box and sets it down in front of her.

“Alright, then,” she continues, “tell me about Adam.”

She opens the box and extracts the shirt that tops the pile. A taupe dress shirt. Nicely tailored and a great color for her son. She feels confused as she looks at it, because she cannot immediately picture him wearing it. She studies it. The front. The back. And then, her mind’s eye recalling a moment she didn’t know had been stored, she hugs the shirt and smiles.

Davy was sitting at his usual place at the counter, reading The New Yorker and occasionally sharing a particularly funny cartoon. Evelyn, on the other side of the counter, was preparing their Saturday night dinner. With Joy and Adam the only kids at home, Saturday night had become more relaxed. It had become Davy’s and Evelyn’s night—a night to rent a movie and enjoy the marvels of their new VCR.

Often, on these Saturday nights, Joy would be out with a boyfriend or a gaggle of girls. And Adam, less social, would opt to stay upstairs—working on an architectural model, reading a book, or watching sit-coms on his own portable television.

But, on this particular night, Adam was dressed in a beautiful taupe shirt. Because he had a date. With a girl named Jen.

And he was very nervous.

“Just let me know when you’re ready to go,” Davy said calmly, looking up from
The New Yorker and smiling at Adam.

“You okay, Sweetie?” Evelyn asked her son, looking at him proudly as he stood there unable to hide his twitching nerves.

“I guess,” he responded, his voice cracking.

“What movie are you taking her to?” his mother asked next.

“The Princess Bride,” Adam replied.

“A good choice,” said Davy, closing the magazine in front of him. “A good compromise.”

“What do you mean?” Adam asked, still twitching in a way that made Evelyn want to cry.

“It’s good,” his father replied. “It’s a good date movie. Not too guy-y. I mean, I think she’ll like it.”

“I don’t know,” Adam said then, utterly uncomfortable; staring at the floor.

Davy and Evelyn exchanged glances in that moment. Glances that were full of love and curiosity.

“So, Jen is in a few of your classes?” Evelyn asked then.

“We’re in Geology together. We’re lab partners.”

“Lab partners,” Davy said then. “Sounds pretty serious.”

When Adam reacted to this comment, Evelyn could tell, from glancing at her husband, that he immediately regretted having made it.

And Davy, quickly feeling the discomfort in the room, leapt for some recovering line.

“I remember Geology!” he said, with a light tone that immediately changed the room’s energy. “It’s a gneiss rock, don’t—”

“Take it for granite,” Adam chimed in.

“There you go!” Davy said. “That’s how you get an A in Geology!”

“You obviously have very ‘sedimental’ memories, Dad.”

“See! That’s what I’m talking about! Geology humor!”

“All right,” said Evelyn, relieved by the lightened mood. “So, is it time to go?”

“Yeah,” said Adam, his mood clearly less ominous. “I told her we’d pick her up at seven-thirty.”

“Then, it’s time to go!” Davy exclaimed, dismounting his counter stool and grabbing his car keys from the rack near the wall phone.

And as Adam and Davy headed through the utility room to the garage, Evelyn heard her son’s final plea: “Just don’t embarrass me, okay?”

Bless his heart, Evelyn thinks now. For all his years of being completely there, Davy never once embarrassed his son.

And yet, these days, Adam seems to be embarrassed simply by his father’s existence. Davy is doing nothing to deliberately hurt or undermine Adam. Davy is just doing. “Just doing that thing,” as Davy himself would say. But, everything Davy does these days seems to be something that fills Adam with shame.

Evelyn wishes she could reach Adam somehow. Or rather, that he would make an effort to reach her. She knows that behind that hyper-political head, which is always jumping on the next protest train, there is a huge heart and an opened mind. She wishes he would share it with her. Tell her what he really thinks. Show her who he really is.

* * *

to be continued on March 26th .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

... Because I Have To

Today, I am very grateful to be the featured blogger on SITS , which is a remarkable community of bloggers. The acronym says it all: the Secret is the Support.

Welcome to those who have come here through SITS, and welcome to those who have come here out of habit or just because. I hope you enjoy your visit.

Quite frequently, I read SITS features, and while I miss some on occasion, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that I’ll be the first to quote Kate Jackson.

Remember her?

Back in the days of Charlie’s Angels on television, she was deemed “the smart one.”

I don’t know where she’s taken her brains in the ensuing decades, but I do recall an interview she had with Johnny Carson.

Remember him?

Back in the days of Charlie’s Angels on television, he was the host of The Tonight Show.

I cannot remember exactly the question that Johnny had posed to Kate, but the fact that her answer stays with me speaks volumes.

She was talking about a friend’s son and how that boy wanted to break into acting. Having listened to the child’s interest, she said to him, “Do you want to get into the business because you want to act or because you have to act?”

That’s it right there.

If there’s something you have to do, you’ll be hard-pressed not to do it. No matter how much other things – things you think you want to do – get in the way.

… When I was a kid, my family had a running joke. (We were the running-joke types, which – in my opinion – can be very entertaining.) And this was the routine: If my sister misbehaved, her punishment would be no television. If I misbehaved, my punishment would be no paper or pens.

Because, for some reason, even before I knew how, I had to write.

I remember taking a pen to a legal pad, and working my way across the lines in what appeared to be cursive verse. I’d dot this and cross that (because I knew that was part of the drill), but the lines were nothing but shapes, curves, and sweeps. There was no writing there because I had not yet learned to write the words one might know beyond kindergarten.

And I certainly didn’t know how to do anything cursive…

I was simply pretending.

I was pretending to write.

To this day, I get great relaxation from doodling. If I can just hold a pen in my hand and put it to paper, I am grounded. Even if I doodle the same word over and over again, there is peace in the process.

Even if I then sit back and look at that repeated word and wonder if it is a word…

Let me have my pens and my paper. I need them.

So yes, smart angel, I have to write.

… I hope new visitors from SITS will stop by the links that I shared with Kat (reiterated below).

I also hope you’ll stop by again. You’ll find a new post every Wednesday, an excerpt from my novel every Saturday, and a rerun every Monday.

I welcome your support, and I look forward, too, to seeing what you have to write!

For more, go to:

The Distance From Our Corners addresses issues so many in the sandwich generation are concerned about.

Approaching Los Angeles is a piece that shares my reflections upon overhearing an in-flight conversation and wanting to butt in.

Too Many Machines is my homage to Dr. Seuss. I wrote it back in 1987, when the fax machine was the newest invention… I stand by my prescience.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Reruns: Earthlink, We Have a Problem

(original post-date: March 10, 2010)

Last Friday, a friend called and asked if I was okay. She had sent me two fairly time-sensitive emails over the course of two weeks, and she hadn’t heard from me.

I appreciated her concern and let her know that I was fine (notwithstanding the state of the world). I also shared with her that I had replied to her emails shortly after receiving them. For some reason, though, she never got those replies.

She and I both have Earthlink accounts, so I became curious. I sent myself a test email, and while it showed up in my Sent file, it never reached my Inbox. Hmm….

I went online to the Support Center and saw alerts regarding email outages and a large volume of calls. I figured they were “on it” and didn’t pursue it further. Besides, it was the beginning of Oscar weekend, so I had things to do. You know… prepare a speech, borrow some baubles from Harry Winston, consult with Vera regarding the length of my train, decide on an updo, all that stuff. (And on another astral plane, I had to clean my low-rent apartment in advance of friends gathering ‘round the telecast.)

By Monday, I was ready to get back to my life outside the Academy, and I still was not receiving test emails. I headed to the online Support Center. Seeing no indication of outage alerts, I pushed the buttons that would begin my live chat with a techie named George.

Devoted to the script in front of him, George began his end of our cyber-logue by apologizing for the inconvenience. Then, over the course of 30 minutes or so, he coached me through some maneuvers, ultimately enabling me to receive a test email. Problem solved?

I closed the window on George and did another test. No sale. The problem persisted.

I won’t go into the details of my subsequent pursuits of technical support, but by the end of the day, I had spent about six hours with Earthlink. I tried an actual telephone conversation following the first chat with George, and when that didn't resolve the issue, I returned to online live chatting, the fourth session ending well after midnight. But whether I was communicating with George, Paul, John, or Ringo, the lines they typed were always the same: “I apologize for the inconvenience;” “the problem is solved;” “you will not have this problem again;” etc.

Apparently, there is no statement on their script that says something to the effect of, “We have no idea how to solve this problem, but we’ll do our best to figure it out and we appreciate your patience.”

The thing is, the problem itself is really minor, as computer issues go. I seem to be getting all my other email, and others are receiving mine. I also now know where to look for the emails that are not making it into my inbox. So that part is not so frustrating. What frustrates me is that this feels like another instance of corporate unwillingness to confront a problem candidly.

Granted, Earthlink issues do not lead to cars speeding out of control, and there’s no threat to life here, but please, don’t blame the floormat if it’s not the floormat’s fault. And if you don’t know what the problem is, quit pretending that you can solve it.

Own up, people! Believe me, I’m not looking for perfection. If I were, I’d have to start with myself, and if I ever tell you that I’m taking that on, well… that’s just a load of spam.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Thirty-Six

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).


It’s 8:45 when Evelyn goes downstairs to check on Davy. Having been awake for a good three hours that evening, and having had large portions of the protein and roughage The Krosk had prepared for their dinner, he is peacefully sleeping with the television. Evelyn does not turn it off, but because she assumes the audio probably plays a part in Davy’s dreams, she does opt for switching the channels. Something other than the Eight O’clock News, which, in her opinion, should simply be called The Crime Report.

Returning to the project room, Evelyn realizes that she is feeling relaxed and happy. Joy’s visit, the revelations about Angie, and then Ashley’s visit that morning, were all somehow simultaneously exhausting and energizing. They also made her feel present. And now, as she prepares to open another box of old clothing, she realizes that although this quilt project is all about the past, it makes her feel present as well.

She reaches for a slip of folded-up paper.


The last of the babies. And the end of the Seventies.

Evelyn retrieves the appropriate Adam box, and she laughs when she sees the tee shirt folded up at the top of the stack. It features a New York Times crossword puzzle, and she remembers that the tee shirt had come with the clues and a pen so that the owner might complete it.

Davy had bought the shirt because it amused him that such a tiny person might be able to complete the puzzle.

“Well,” Evelyn reasoned, feeling playful during their weekend getaway in Manhattan, “there are a lot of tiny women who are smart.”

“I don’t want to meet the woman who is as small as our five-year-old son, no matter how smart she is!”

“I don’t want you to, either!” Evelyn responded, giggling as she gave her husband a long kiss on the cheek.

They were in a souvenir shop in Times Square, early for the evening’s performance of “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” Tom Conti had just won the Best Actor Tony for his performance in the play, and they were excited to have secured orchestra-seat tickets through the Concierge at the Waldorf.

It was feeling like one of those lucky, magical weekends.

They had arrived in the City the evening before, had a romantic dinner on the Upper East Side and then returned to the hotel. They made love throughout the night. Soft jazz on the radio. Lots of laughter and silliness. A bottle of champagne, pre-ordered by their children and delivered by room service, rested comfortably in an icer within arm’s reach of the bed.

“I didn’t know the nineteenth anniversary was so special,” Evelyn had commented, when the champagne arrived.

“It’s special because it is ours,” was Davy’s reply, which caused Evelyn to give him a teasing glance, as she always did when he said something ridiculously romantic.

And yet, Evelyn thinks now, it would have been nice if Davy’s statement had continued to be true. The past summer’s anniversary—their forty-seventh—certainly was not so special. It was theirs, just as it had been theirs twenty-eight years earlier. But she had no one to share it with. Such an irony; unable to share with someone the very simple thing—a number; a date—that you have in common. Sure, Davy could recognize the number “47.” And he even could read “August 13.” But he had no clue what an anniversary was.

Not a clue.

Evelyn sets aside the crossword puzzle tee shirt that Adam wore without ever trying to fill in its grid.

This will make a nice square on the quilt, she thinks.

* * *

to be continued on March 19th .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winning Words

In my Monday rerun, I mentioned playing Lotto, which I do.

But I don’t stop there.

I’m a gamer by nature, and I love investing a dollar or two into the possibility of getting more than a few in return.

Back in New York, when I worked at the burgers-in-a-basket joint, I started playing “the number.” By which I mean that, every day, I’d invest a dollar (50 cents straight/50 cents box) in the New York Lottery’s Daily Number drawing. My number was 142 (and no, I don’t remember why I chose that particular string).

If my number came in straight (i.e., in order), I’d get $250 for the 50-cent straight bet and another $40 for the box. If it came in out of order (e.g., 241), I’d just get the $40. I cashed in more than a few times, and I may well have remained ahead, if not even. Regardless, I kept playing. You see, that’s the thing about playing the number in a burger joint in Manhattan. Your co-workers play them, too. Not only that; they know your number. So, if it comes in and you didn’t play, well – you’ll never hear the end of it.

One day, I was feeling particularly light-hearted, so in addition to my 142, I decided to bet a dollar straight on a second number. I looked at the dollar in my hand, and read off the first three digits of its serial number: 160.

It came in.

$500 for me.

(Not bad, considering my rent was about $150 at the time.)

A few years later, when I had moved from waitressing to the Ford Foundation (a transfer only gamblers get to make), I was sharing my winning tales with a fellow secretary. She decided that the next time our bosses traveled together, we should play their flight numbers and ETAs and so forth (i.e., whatever 3-digit numbers showed up on their travel documents).

Sure enough, our bosses planned a trip within the month, and when another member of the support staff decided to join our investment in the lottery, the three of us pooled our resources ($4 each) and bet two dollars straight on six different numbers.

And guess what? One of them came in.

$1,000, split three ways.

Not only that, but because the gals I worked with decided I’d brought all the luck to the endeavor, they took me out to lunch.


These days, I really enjoy Crossword scratchers. What can I say – it’s the perfect marriage of my gaming ways and my love of words.

I’ve been playing them for several years now, and back in 2007, I was quite lucky just before my 50th birthday. I scratched off enough words to cash in my ticket for $1,000.

Not bad.

Because of my affection for words, though, I can be teased at times. Once, I got a Crossword scratcher that included the words “jackpot,” “fortune,” and “lucky.” Can you blame me for assuming this was the $20,000 winner?

It wasn’t. I don’t even think it was any kind of winner. But I loved the thrill of the scratch.

That’s the other appeal of the Crossword scratchers. They take time. The sense of hope can be prolonged for a bit.

So the other night, as I scratched my latest lottery purchase, I was again filled with that sense that this could be it. The ticket to a small fortune…

When the process was complete, I ‘d not become rich, but I also was not disappointed. I’d scratched off two words, which is the equivalent of breaking even.

Fine. I’ll pay it forward.

But then, I noticed the two words I had scratched:



Easy year.

I’ll take it.

In my opinion, an easy year would be worth all the Lotto jackpots combined.

For lest we forget, stress is also a verb.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Reruns: The High Cost of Low Rent

(original post-date: March 3, 2010)

Back when I lived in New York, there were always neighbors whose rent I envied. On Broadway and 108th Street – my first post-college digs – a dynamic guy named Manny lived next door. He had an expansive corner unit that was easily half-again the size of the apartment my roommate and I shared. And because he’d been there for way more than a few years, Manny’s rent was dirt cheap – significantly lower, anyway, than what my roommate and I were forking over for an airshaft view.

Three apartments and about eight years later, I was living in Brooklyn, on the edge of Park Slope. My then-husband referred to our area as “Park Slop,” and he did have a point in designating it as such. But, we were close enough to the hub of trendiness. High-end retail venues and a variety of great restaurants were just two blocks up First Street, and beyond that were the types of brownstones that inspire one to play Lotto regularly.

When we moved to “the Slope,” we committed to a rent that would soon cross the $1,000 mark. I realize that seems incredibly low by today’s standards, but at the time, it was average, and insofar as my husband and I were the starving-artist types, average was a stretch.

As for the building’s average, that’s another issue. Within weeks, I was once again envying the next door neighbors.

Okay, I probably should clarify that. I didn’t actually envy Blanche and Maria. I envied their rent. Thanks to rent control, they paid about $175 a month. Of course, I should mention that this mother and daughter combo had a relatively small one-bedroom, whereas my husband and I had a fairly spacious two-bedroom. So, while my husband and I chose to share a bed, Blanche and Maria felt compelled to share a bed. Not an optimum situation for a two-generation family pair whose combined age exceeded 100 years. But still: a hundred and seventy-five dollars for a one-bedroom in Park Slope? Really?

Oh, how I used to envy those people who had been around for so long!

And, now… I have become that person.

I’ve lived in my Los Feliz/East Hollywood apartment for more than 15 years, and I still don’t pay as much rent as I paid in Park Slope. But the folks moving into my building? They’re paying more than that Brooklyn rent, even when you factor in the reductions my landlord has had to offer in the current economy.

Yes, I have finally become the neighbor I always envied.

But I’ve also learned that there’s a price.

When you’ve lived in a building as long as I’ve lived in this one, you find yourself saying good-bye to people who have become family. And it’s really hard to see them go.

There were glory years here, and they probably kicked in around 2001 or so. That’s when the sense of sibling-hood among four of us really solidified. It was a good feeling, going to bed at night, knowing that I shared my roof with loved ones.

But almost two years ago, Julie moved. She’s just 40 miles away, but she’s no longer under the roof…

And last weekend, Deb headed back to Colorado, where she will initially share a roof with her real siblings.

So now it’s just Tim and me. The upstairs/downstairs sibs. We were both here for several years before Julie and Deb arrived. Who knows how long either of us will stay?

I appreciate my cheap rent. I really do. Having watched the turnover around me, though, I get a little worried. I don’t want to become the old lady in the building.

But time is time.

The longer I stay, the older I get.

The longer I stay, the less likely it is that I will move.

… I tearfully bid good-bye to my younger surrogate siblings, and I wish them well as they start new journeys. I stay behind, possessing the rent I always envied. Still, though, as I did in Park Slope, I look covetously at the real estate that is just a few blocks up the hill. I play Lotto, and I dream.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Thirty-Five

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).


When Evelyn enters the “Quilt Room” that night, she brings with her four new folded-up sheets of paper, all blank. These will represent the boxes that contain Davy’s and her old clothes. And since she has already visited one of those boxes, she puts one of the folded-up blanks into the bowl that serves as her “out box.” She puts the three remaining folded squares into the bowl from which she will draw the next entry.

She settles into her chair and enjoys a slow sip of wine. She is glad to be in the room relatively early. It might mean she’ll get to bed earlier than usual. And that would be good, since she’s made a date to have an early lunch with Judy the next day.

“Okay,” she says to no one, as she reaches into the bowl, “where are we starting tonight?”

When she unfolds the square of paper, she isn’t really surprised. It’s Marilyn, of course, at the age range that Sara now falls within: 15 - ?.

“She just won’t leave me alone,” Evelyn says, laughing ironically as she retrieves the appropriate box, places it on the floor in front of her chair, and opens it.

As she sits, she holds up the rayon wrap-around skirt that tops the stack. The skirt features a subtle paisley print in a variety of green tones that always went well with Marilyn’s decidedly Irish complexion. Evelyn winces as she remembers the auspicious occasion for which the skirt was purchased.

“So, Daddy, what do you think?” Marilyn asked, walking back and forth across the kitchen, as if she were on a runway.

“Very nice, honey. The skirt has an artsy flair; not too conservative. And the black jacket works really well with it. Very nice.”

“Did you confirm your appointment?” Evelyn asked her daughter.

“Yup. Ten-thirty tomorrow morning. Can I use the car?”

“Of course.”

“And Daddy, maybe I could meet you in the Dining Hall after? We could have lunch together?”

“I was just going to suggest that!” her father replied, sounding a bit jollier than the dialogue called for, and therefore arousing Evelyn’s curiosity.

“Ohhh,” Marilyn cooed, hugging her father around the neck, “I’m so excited! I can’t wait to go to college.”

“And any college would be very lucky to have you on campus, sweetie,” Davy replied.

“I better go take this outfit off and hang it up,” Marilyn said then, walking sassily toward the hallway and heading for the staircase.

As soon as Marilyn left the room, Davy looked at Evelyn, and the worry in his eyes was profound. Evelyn waited a full minute to speak, as she knew where the conversation might go, and she knew also that it must not be overheard.

“Which are you worried about, Davy?” she finally asked her husband, after she had heard Marilyn reach the second floor. “That she’ll get in or that she won’t?”

“Both,” he replied. “Both. I realize that we should have discouraged her.”

“How could we have done that?”

“I don’t know. But, she’s just not right for Sarah Lawrence. If she doesn’t get in, that will actually be a good thing, but I know she won’t see it that way. And if she
does get in, I don’t even want to think about it. Most of the professors will eat her alive. Or they’ll ignore her. Or they’ll feel uncomfortable around her because of me. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just not a fit.”

Evelyn was not surprised to hear Davy’s statements. They had already shared these feelings with each other when Marilyn decided to include her father’s school among the five or six to which she would apply. But early on in the process, it seemed like such a long-shot, academically. Perhaps, for that reason, they both hoped their concerns were moot. But, they both also realized, particularly on this eve of her all-important interview, that Marilyn believed she was a shoo-in. Her father was on the faculty, after all. Admission was a done deal.

“Do you think,” Evelyn asked her husband, “that they’ll admit her against their better judgment?”

“I hope not,” Davy said, “I hope not.”

Evelyn never asked Davy to speak to anyone in Admissions, and in the weeks following Marilyn’s interview, Evelyn never asked Davy if he had intercepted of his own volition. Regardless, Marilyn was not accepted, and the college’s decision was a blow from which she never seemed to recover. For the first time in her life, her father had let her down.

Thinking about it now, Evelyn wonders why Marilyn ultimately chose to settle so close to them in Westchester. She had done well at William and Mary. She made friends quickly, and she enjoyed her classes. And when she came home during school breaks, she spoke positively about the location. She seemed to like Virginia and its southern ways. Evelyn wonders why Marilyn and Barry didn’t stay in Virginia. If nothing else, they would probably have been able to afford a house there.

Thinking about it now, Evelyn wonders why Marilyn chose to punish herself. Surely, in the course of an average week, she must drive by that college a half dozen times. And that has got to hurt. Evelyn does not want to feel sorry for her daughter. The prospect is too exhausting. And the problem should not be hers.

She is thankful that three of Marilyn’s folded squares are now in the “out box.” At least, that’s where they will be until Round Two.

* * *

to be continued on March 12th .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

My former neighbor Debbi – of the younger-than-40 neighbor set – teased me once.

“That should be your mantra,” she said.

I knew she was referring to the three words I had just uttered during our telephone conversation. But I hadn’t realized, until she mentioned it, that Say that again? was something I said so frequently that it qualified as a mantra.

“I say that a lot?” I asked.

All the time.”

When our telephone conversation was over, I thought about what Deb had said. I thought about my apparent overuse of Say that again?, and then I thought about the mechanics of the telephone conversation we had just had. Deb was on her cell phone; I was on my land line. My needing to ask her to repeat what she had just said was a reflection of the technology, not of my hearing nor of my attention span.

When she had suggested my mantra, I asked Deb if other people didn’t do the same thing. (I.e., if other people didn’t occasionally make the request: say that again?) But Debbi was assured in her response. Among all the people with whom she spoke on the telephone, I was the only one who asked that statements be repeated.

As I continued to think about Deb’s and my telephone conversation, I became sadder.

But I wasn’t sad for me.

Rather, I felt sad for the under-40s, whose telephone conversations – cell phone to cell phone – are so regularly interrupted that they don’t even acknowledge it when they’ve missed something.

They don’t even think to inject, Say that again?

I’m guessing, too, that the people who don’t acknowledge missed dialogue are multi-tasking in the moment.

They could be driving or shopping.

Maybe they’re at a restaurant, having dinner with a friend.

Perhaps they are updating their Facebook page or glancing at the television.

They could be watching one of the 24/7 news networks.

They could be watching both the story and the crawl.

The story and the crawl…

In my opinion, we need to lose the crawl.

We need to get back to the story.