Thursday, March 22, 2012


It’s been hovering around me for a few weeks now. A feeling of blogger's burn-out. I also am revisiting my time and how I use it. I’m hitting the homestretch of publishing Martin Lost and Found, my second novel. And I need to get back to working on novel #3.

I love the friends I have made and the community I have discovered while maintaining this site, and I look forward to keeping in touch via email.

But, I need a break, and so I am going "on sabbatical."

I don't know when I will return, but while I'm away, I'll undoubtedly continue to gather stories and formulate opinions. (What writer doesn't crave fodder?)

My best wishes to everyone who has dropped by, commented, and fed my desire to share my writing with the world.

Please keep in touch.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Reruns: God's Big Flashlight in the Sky

(original post-date: March 23, 2011)

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.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mort: I Know You're Out There Somewhere – Part IV

A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the final installment of a four-part story. To begin at the beginning, go here.


By the late summer of 1998, I was long-overdue for a two-week vacation. Kitty had died the year before, and at the time of my vacation departure, Mort was doing okay, excepting a runny eye. The vet had given me drops to put in his eye, but more importantly, my friend, Carolyn, had accepted the cat-sitting chore. This was a great relief. Inasmuch as Carolyn is a nurse and a cat person, she was unquestionably up to the task of tending a geriatric feline.

The eye drops, however, were not up to the task.

I got a call while I was in New York. Carolyn had taken Mort to the vet because his eye was bad. It had essentially exploded, and it would need to be removed. I was in my friend Tanya's apartment when I called the vet to follow up. And it was a mixed blessing to have one of Tanya's elderly cats sit on my lap as I made that call.

The doctor already had run the tests to see if Mort could go through the surgery, and the test results were phenomenal for a cat who was almost 18. With the exception of the cancer that was spreading through his head, his blood work described that of a two-year old.

I returned to L.A. on the upcoming Sunday, as planned. And first thing Monday morning, I went to the vet's to visit Mort. There he was in his Elizabethan collar – messy eye and all. I
spoke to him that morning through tears as the vet handed me kleenex. I thanked him for not
dying while I was away, and although I knew he might not survive the surgery, I told him I believed he would make it.

He did get through the surgery, and a few days later, Mort came home. He had one less eye, but he was still Mort. Ever-charming, as he always had been.

Regardless of those charms – his ability to smile as only he could; his willingness to purr whenever there was food in the offing; the impishly clever behavior that always reminded me of Artful Dodger – Mort's cancer grew. It grew through his head and into the remaining eye. But even as that eye became blind, he still continued to purr. He still continued to act as if the next meal were nirvana. He seemed, for a while, to have reasons to live.

But one night, I realized he was no longer happy. And I knew, then, that I had to let him go. I knew we would have to go to the vet's the next day. We just had to.


That last night with Mort, I looked at him across the room. He was sitting in the wing-back chair, and I was sitting in my usual perch on the couch. I was anticipating the next day's agenda, and I was sad. I had been saying good-bye to him all week, lying on the floor with him, crying as I told him how much I appreciated what he had brought to my life.

That last night with Mort, I looked at him across the room, and I suddenly realized that we might not make it to the next morning. I realized this because the space in Mort's face – the slit where his eye had been – was opening up. And it seemed to be opening up rather quickly.

And so I freaked (albeit quietly).

I stood up and began to prepare. Obviously, the stitches had been taken out too soon. (That's why his slit was breaking opened, I figured.) And while I hated the idea of taking him to an Emergency Place to die, I knew there were no other alternatives.

I had clung to him too long. This was the price. Mort would have to die among smells that were unfamiliar.

I went to the bathroom and then intended to get back to calling a local friend who might help me take Mort to the all-night vet.

But: an interesting thing happened (or didn't) in those fleeting moments. When I returned from the bathroom to Mort, when I walked over to him, I saw that the slit had not come undone. He was still intact. Riddled with cancer, but intact.

That night, he slept on my head. And the next morning, I took him to our vet.


A few weeks later, I had dinner with Carolyn, and I told her about that last night with Mort. Carolyn's experiences as a nurse, and particularly her experiences with death and dying, had exposed her to so many situations. She listened intently.

I told Carolyn about Mort's “slit” appearing to open up that night – the night before I took him in. I told her about my scrambling to take him to some emergency place and then realizing that I had hallucinated the change in his face.

“Katie,” she interrupted, “When that happened, and you saw the slit open up – did you see a bloody gash, or did you see an eye?”

“Oh my God!” I replied, realizing for the first time what had appeared that night. “I saw an eye!”


Some months later, Robin was back in L.A. We got together for dinner, and I told her about that last night with Mort.

With a loving smile, she said, “Well, that's just very typical of Mort, don't you think? It was his way of giving you that one last wink.

“But:” Robin added, with the playfulness that is such a strong part of her spirit, “Mort just gave it to you in reverse!”


And I believe he's out there still. Peeing where he shouldn't. Getting people to feed him.
Feeling no remorse for being happy.

Maybe he's curled up on that bench on 113th Street right now. Enjoying his own quiet spirit, but also knowing he's part of the traffic. Feeling that he's safe, but never completely out of danger.

Knowing… that a one-night stand can last for years.

Wherever Mort is, he's winking at me.

And I am winking back.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Reruns: Winning Words

(original post-date: March 9, 2011)

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.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mort: I Know You're Out There Somewhere – Part III

A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the third installment of a four-part story. To begin at the beginning, go here.


Mort, Kitty, and I moved again in 1986, this time up to Inwood (“upstate Manhattan,” as Ben called it). Already planning our marriage, Ben and I decided to expedite the cohabitation, and so we established our household in the apartment that he had been renting on his own since he moved to New York two years before. We shared the apartment with the two cats and Brodie, Ben's docile German Shepherd, who had seen her prime and was aging gracefully.

There, and in subsequent apartments, Mort would continue to pee pretty much wherever he wanted. And no attempt at disciplining him would take hold. A few years down the line, after Ben and I had seen the Clint Eastwood movie for which he would get the Best Director Oscar, Ben made a comment.

“You know,” he said. “If they ever write a movie about Mort, it'll be called Forgiven.”

At the time of the comment, we were living in L.A., and our apartment in the Beverly Hills adjacent area became Mort's ticket to freedom. We let him roam at that point because we were on the first floor, because the building's front door was always open, and because I knew there was no way to stop him.

Even with his access to the outside, though, Mort would still play his games with other apartment-dwellers. If they were on the first floor, he'd enter their apartments through their windows, and then he'd do his stray-cat routine, listing and looking hungry. The young couple who lived across the hall from us were responsive to my requests. “Don't feed him,” I said. “He's just pretending, and he's plenty fed.”

(I could imagine the act he'd been playing for them. I had fallen for it myself. I remembered one of the early weeks of Mort's and my life together. He'd been limping. I made a mental note of the limp and decided that if he were still limping two days later, I'd take him to the vet. Two days later, he was still limping, but he had switched legs. He was a pro.)

In addition to working his ways with our across-the-hall L.A. neighbors, Mort also charmed Paulo, the elderly gentleman and professional violinist who lived upstairs. When we moved into the building and met Paulo, he had a dog. But, shortly after the ’92 riots, he had to give up his dog (they both had health issues), and so he was particularly responsive to Mort. They had meals together, Paulo and Mort. I recognized that this was good for Paulo, and so I didn't invade on the friendship. But I always would make sure that Mort “came home for bed,” and Paulo was agreeable to this rule.

One night, when I went upstairs to retrieve Mort, he was asleep and smiling in Paulo's violin case. I also got a whiff of room deodorizer. I didn't let it become my problem. Paulo could buy a kitty litter box if he wanted to, I reasoned. It was his decision.


While we were living in that building, Mort spent a good part of the day outside. And he'd always seem to hear me come home from work. I don't know if he recognized the sound or smell of the car or the radio station I frequented, but whenever I parked on the street, Mort would emerge from wherever he had been, run toward the driver's side door, and greet me home from the day. It was charming.

And it was actually kind of more charming that night when Paulo returned from the grocery store just as Mort and I were crossing the street together. Mort saw his friend and stopped, and Paulo, pulling grocery bags out of his trunk, said, “Tonight, Mort, we're having steaks!”

Paulo climbed the stairs with Mort fast behind him. I went into Ben's and my apartment.

“Ben,” I said, “Mort's just gone upstairs to have steaks with Paulo. We're having cereal for dinner. What's wrong with this picture?”


Mort, Kitty, Ben and I didn't leave Paulo because of the steaks. We left for a bigger apartment. That was 1993.

Our new place was a two-bedroom in the same Beverly Hills adjacent ‘hood. About seven blocks north, it was closer to the commercial drag of 3rd Street. It also was a second-floor unit.

Although our front door opened directly to the staircase that led to the great outdoors, Mort no longer demanded egress. He was in his early teens at that point, and I guess he was settling down. The only time I remember him going outside was when I would go down to the courtyard to sit in a lawn chair and read in the sun. He’d come along, and most often he would rest in the shade under my chair. Otherwise, indoors was fine with him.

But indoors was trickier for Ben and me, and in 1995, Mort, Kitty and I left Ben.

We moved to a second-floor apartment in Los Feliz – the apartment I still occupy today. And although Mort had had plenty of experience moving (this was our 8th apartment together), I guess he entered into these digs with a bit of anxiety. One morning, as I was rushing to get to my downtown job, I did a cat-count, as per my OCD rituals. Kitty was present, but Mort was nowhere for roll call.

Oh dear.

I checked the window screens, which seemed to be intact. But I also knew that Mort had a way of working screens that was near-magical. Realizing that his wanderlust may have returned, I made a beeline outdoors and checked the perimeter of the building. There was no sign of him, so I came back indoors.

Cats, of course, have an amazing capacity to find hiding places, and so I checked around, peering in every corner of every closet, in every corner of the apartment. Mort was nowhere to be seen.

Now on a schedule that would make me late for work, I had one final strategy. I would pull out the can opener and open a can of cat food. Surely the noise would bring him forth from whatever lair he had discovered in our new place.

As I began to open the drawer in which I kept the can opener, it seemed to resist in a strange way. It was heavier than usual. And that’s when I saw the tabby grey fur. Mort had gone into the cupboard below the drawer and then had accessed the drawer via its back end. A squeeze much tighter than imaginable to the human eye, but it was his mission, and he accomplished it.

For the next several days, and until he adjusted to our new home, I would entertain the same ritual before leaving for work. Finding Kitty on the couch or a chair, I’d pet her and say goodbye. Then, I’d go to the kitchen, open the drawer, and wish Mort a good day.

to be continued on March 15th.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Reruns: Can You Hear Me Now?

(original post-date: March 2, 2011)

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.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mort: I Know You're Out There Somewhere – Part II

A NOTE BEFORE READING: This is the second installment of a four-part story. To begin at the beginning, go here.


My roommate was active in the tenants' group that formed when the building's owners were trying to convert it to a co-op. She was among those opposed to the plan, and they met often. One night, they were meeting in the living room of one of the apartments that was a few floors up and in an altogether different wing of the building.

At some point during the meeting, the living room curtains moved a bit. Mort made his entrance.

“That cat!” one person blurted out. “He is constantly coming into my apartment. I think he sprayed on my couch.”

“That cat!” another person chimed in. “He claws at my screens... He scared the hell out of me one night. I thought it was a burglar.”

“That cat!” said another. “Who does that cat belong to anyway?”

My roommate cowered for a moment or two, but ultimately copped to her knowledge – at least, she did so to one person. And when the meeting was adjourned, she returned to our apartment, and she brought with her that one person – one person who, I imagine, was among the louder complainers.

I was sitting in my room with my friend, John. We were just hanging out, chatting. Suddenly, my roommate pushed open my door and introduced me to our neighbor. Within moments, I was being read the riot act.

The complaining neighbor ticked off a list of Mort's trespassings. And when she was done, she said, “And if I ever see that cat again, I am going to call the landlord and make sure that no one in this building is allowed to have pets!” She stormed off, and my roommate didn't stick around for any debriefing.

Hmm, nice meeting you, too.

I looked at John, who was as dumbfounded as I. (John also was a big fan of Mort.) We reviewed what just happened. We reflected on the negative energy that had prevented a dialogue. We chilled for a bit.

Then, I got out the phone book, looked up the number of the pissed-off neighbor, and I gave her a call.

After I identified myself, I embarked on my unrehearsed line of reasoning. “You see,” I began, “that's not really my cat. I found him several months ago. He had a flea collar on, but no one responded to the signs I posted. And, frankly, I don't know what to do about him. I've put screens in my window, but he just pushes them away. He seems to want to be outdoors. So, I don't know what to do. May I offer to buy screens for you? I mean, I can imagine how disconcerting it must be to have a strange cat trying to get in your living room...”

The neighbor was beginning to soften. Somehow, my disconnecting myself from Mort was the key. She turned down my offer to buy her screens, though she clearly appreciated the gesture. And before we ended our conversation, she followed through on the brainstorming that my comments had suggested. “You know,” she said, “I have a brother who lives on Long Island. They have a nice farm. Maybe the cat would be happy there. Hmm, yea. I'll look into it.”

“I'd so appreciate that,” I said. “He clearly wants to be outside. There just doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it.”

“Yea,” she said, “I'll look into it.”

Thank you and goodnight.

I never heard from her again.


By late 1982, my interactions with Eric were heating up. When my roommate made it difficult for me to enjoy those developments in the apartment we shared on 108th Street, Robin gave me an out. Robin was, at that point, slowly reuniting with Doug. (They had split months before, and he had found an apartment on the East Side; now, she was slowly moving to his place – bobby pin by bobby pin). When I needed to relocate, she was ready to cop to her plans. She moved in with Doug, and I took her 110th Street place as a sublet. Kitty and Mort came with me (although Kitty, still pulling the Siamese shtick, probably would have preferred it if Mort had stayed behind.)

Though the space was a share, my room was quite large – and fabulously private. And although the beginning of my time there would be the time I lived with Eric, ultimately that apartment became the place where I would learn to bask in my privacy and make it productive. Never concerned that I had no direct access to a fire escape, I wrote a hell of a lot. It was in that apartment that I came to believe – genuinely – that I was a writer.

It also was in that apartment that Mort came to believe he had wings.


It was really over with Eric one night the following May. And after I saw him in the Chelsea area, where we had our final dialogue and I knew that was the end, I walked the four miles home. I walked through a thunderstorm that night, and when it had passed, and the New York night air had dried my clothes, I got an ice cream cone. By the time I got home, I was just finishing my ice cream, and I was feeling free. As I came into the apartment, I inadvertently let Kitty out into the hallway. I only realized I had done so when I heard her cries, a half hour later, on the other side of the apartment's front door.

I had been spacing out in my euphoria... in my release.

The next morning, when I got up to go to work, Kitty was still present, but there was something missing from the picture. Mort. He was nowhere to be seen. I wondered if he had also escaped the night before, and I silently berated myself for being so caught up in my own situation.

But it quickly became clear that he was not only not in the apartment, he was not in the building, and I grew more concerned. I looked out the screenless window. I looked down from my fourth floor apartment to see if there was a sign of him on the street below. No sign.

I ran downstairs, now fully committed to being late for work. I anxiously walked the front of the building, and somehow I found him. He was still within the building's confines, nestled under a flight of wrought-iron stairs (the kind that are used for fire escapes). The stairs led from the street level to the basement level. But I could not access them. A locked gate barred me from entering.

“Mort!” I cried, seeing him lying there, looking peaceful but dazed in the farthest corner of a space so distant from my grasp.

“You,” he cried back to me, bellowing as he had the first night I met him.

I immediately tracked down Caesar, the building's superintendent, and I brought him to the situation. Caesar retrieved a long-handled industrial broom and made his way down the private stairway. Then, as Mort and I winced together, Caesar swept Mort out of the corner where he had settled to die after his fall.

I ultimately took Mort to a place on the East Side where cats (and all other pets) get better medical treatment than humans will ever experience in this country. I left him there, and throughout the week, the prognosis was grim. Mort's tail was paralyzed, but that was not the worst news. He had a tremendous number of broken bones in his pelvic area, and the damage threatened all functioning in that region of his body.

I remember one moment that week, when I was taking lunch orders from customers in my station. Joanie, our amazingly loving manager, interrupted me. “The surgeon's on the phone,” she said. “They might need to do another operation.”

I excused myself and went into the kitchen, got on the phone and agreed to whatever. I understood the hospital's need to keep calling. Every step was an expense. But what did they think? That I had a cap? A cap at which point I would say no, the cat's not worth it?

I can't imagine putting a price tag on a cat.


Several days later, Mort was ready to come home. I went to the medical center, paid the bill, and was reunited with my sweet boy. Despite the cast on one of his back legs, the gash in one of his hips, and his general grogginess, he seemed fine. He was smiling.

Before we left, the woman on staff gave me instructions regarding how to administer medications and salve the still-opened hip wound. The woman also emphasized the concern they felt as to whether Mort would urinate regularly. She showed me how to check to make sure that his bladder wasn't too full. She demonstrated how to palpate the area and so discern a problem. I pretended to understand.

I then carried him out of the medical center just as I had carried him in: in my arms.

Without a cat carrier (I hadn't thought to buy one), it was a little dicey getting a cab, but finally, a driver allowed our fare. Mort sat on my lap as we rode home, and after several minutes, I felt my thigh getting warmer . And I knew why. “Oh Mort!,” I said quietly, leaning down and smiling at him. “You pee'd!”

And because my jeans had soaked up his accomplishment, the cabbie never knew.

Once again, Mort's actions created an unplanned load of laundry, but I was so happy to have him home. He was my buddy, my hunter, my survivor. We were clearly in for the long haul.

to be continued on March 8th

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Reruns: All We Are Saying...

(original post-date: February 23, 2011)

This past Saturday, I turned on the TV for a rerun of Saturday Night Live. The broadcast first aired before the holidays, and Paul McCartney was the musical guest.

That was my interest in the rerun… Paul McCartney.

And so I busied myself while the show was on, waiting for his appearances.

As for those moments in time, he was awesome. No, he doesn’t quite have the voice he once had, but it’s in damn fine shape. And he will always remain not only the prettiest Beatle, but quite possibly the prettiest rock star to emerge from that era.

Oh, Paul.

If only I had known.

If only I had known that I was not too young for you…

During the SNL broadcast, he did four sets, the third of which began with A Day in the Life. It was beautifully performed. And, after some instrumental riffing, Paul parlayed that haunting ballad from the Sgt. Pepper album into an audience participation event of Give Peace a Chance.

Initially, Paul and his band sang the lyrics, but ultimately, the audience was given the responsibility of owning the chant.

Give peace a chance.

There was something very touching and special about the experience.

And so goddamn innocent.

It stopped me in my tracks, and it made me think about the basic good in Lennon’s plea.

Give peace a chance.

With everything that is happening in the Middle East – and with our own country’s uprisings in the Midwest – I’m wondering these days about the chance of peace.

Which leads to my dictionary…

This time, I’m grabbing the off-line tome.

…No surprises, actually. Per Webster’s, the definition of peace (n.) is “the condition that exists when nations or other groups are not fighting.”

I realize it may seem odd that I felt compelled to find and share a definition, but when I came away from that SNL rerun – when I had witnessed an audience sharing the lyrics of Give Peace a Chance ­– I don’t know, I just thought that maybe peace could be given a chance.

I thought that maybe I was missing something…

Maybe I needed to revisit the definition of peace…

I mean, if these audience members could sing with such conviction...

But, no… I do understand the definition of peace.

I understood it all along.

And so I return to what I said a moment ago.

It’s innocent.

According to Webster’s, innocent (n.) means “free from guilt.”

It’s understandable that one who is free from guilt might believe that peace is possible.

But… the world is run (mostly) by those who are not innocent.

And peace will never serve those people.

I wish it were different.

I truly do.

… I also wish that I were married to Paul McCartney.

Cause if I were? No lie, I’d buy peace for all of us and then we’d have a big party!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mort: I Know You're Out There Somewhere – Part I

A NOTE BEFORE READING: Today’s post and the three Thursday posts that will follow come from a memoir project: five Catalysts and five Constants. The project’s essays are all quite a bit longer than my usual posts, so I am going to share this one in four installments.

Between our junior and senior years of college, my friend Robin and I discovered the bench. It was in a great locale. Private – but in the middle of everything. Safe – but within steps of danger. Kind of like each of us.

The bench was on the Upper West Side. Close to school, close to where we each lived. It was on the relatively wide median of “land” that separated the northbound Broadway traffic from that heading south. The cross-street was 113th, which made it conveniently close to the Yum-Yum ice cream shop, where we each had zeroed in on our favorite frozen treats.

We would end up on that bench many a night that summer, enjoying the late, late night air, enjoying our Yum-Yum purchases, anxious to talk further about the subject that was foremost on our minds: Boys. (Guys.) ( Men.)

Robin always seemed so much more versed in this arena. She definitely had more experience. And she appeared, to me, to have more confidence, too. She dressed sexily – in mini-skirts and heels. She spent time on her hair. And she seemed to flirt with ease. I, on the other hand, always was more the comfort-seeker when it came to such matters. My clothes generally flow. My shoes rarely change my height much. If I can't “do” my hair in two minutes, then it's the wrong style for me. And while I enjoy titillating conversation, I enjoy it most with people I know – well.

Regardless of those differences, Robin and I had become close. We would grow along together for several years. And for several summers, we would return to the bench. We would eat our frozen treats and explore the mysteries of life – which were, particularly in those years, all about our lives.


During the summer of 1981, I was job-hopping as a waitress, trying to find a restaurant where I could hang my apron and then focus on other, more creative things. Robin, who also had donned an apron recently, was taking a break from that aerobic career to attend journalism school. Doug was living with her then, which added a new topic to our girl talk.

One night on the bench, we heard a mournful sound. It was coming from the sidewalk across the street. We looked east to trace its source and saw a grey tabby cat begin to head toward us. Sauntering as he bellowed, he safely made his way across the three lanes of northbound traffic. And although we had cheered him on, he didn't immediately jump into either of our outstretched sets of arms. Rather, he made a bee-line for the shrubbery that was behind the bench. (He was a cat, after all.)

Was he afraid or just being shy? Regardless, there was no way we would leave him in the traffic's median. There was no way we would leave him to tempt the fate of another three lanes of Broadway. He had made it thus far, so the least we could do was make sure we got him to safety. Surely, the person who had put the flea collar around his neck would appreciate our efforts.

Yes, this cat was wearing a flea collar, which – in Robin's and my vernacular – meant one thing: he was not available (as it were). He was going to be a “one-night stand.” The question then became: which one of us was going to take him home?

Robin and I each already had a single cat at home. But, in addition to that, Robin had her boyfriend, Doug, and they had their boa constrictor, whom they cleverly called “Snakey.” She knew it would be dicey to walk home with this new rescued cat. And while I wasn't particularly looking to provide refuge for a second cat (I knew that the cleverly-named Kitty, with her Siamese roots, had no desire to share me), I figured I could at least give this wanderer a place for the night. I'd post signs the next day. Surely, the person who put the flea collar around his neck would be looking for him...

And so, in a rare instance in Robin's and my friendship, I was the one who took the guy home. And, in a rare instance in my life generally, it turned into a long-term relationship. I guess whoever put on that flea collar simply didn't care. If they had, they would have looked for the signs – the ones I posted the next day, all over the neighborhood surrounding 113th Street and Broadway.


I must admit, though, it also took me a while to see the signs. It took me a while to accept that this cat was mine. For the longest time, I was hesitant even to name him. But, one day – three or four weeks into our relationship – he weaved his way into the kitchen on 108th Street, and I heard myself say, “Hello, Mort.”

I didn't know where the name had come from, but it seemed right. And it stuck. Later, I would notice the tag in my black wrap-around waitressing skirt. The tag showed a jungle cat in full-leap mode. The tag said “Mr. Mort.”

So, I had named him, but still, was he mine?

Mort would leave the apartment often, exiting by way of my bedroom window, which happened to lead to the fire escape. Sometimes, he would be gone for a few days, and I would just assume that he had gone home.

One evening, after he had been gone for a particularly long stretch, the building's night doorman appeared at my apartment door. He was holding a very dirty Mort. “Is this your cat?” he said.

“Well... I guess.”

I brought him inside and gave him a jump start on the bath that he would ultimately self-administer.


Another time, I came home in the late afternoon, returning from my waitressing shift. My roommate was sitting in the living room, and she looked less than pleased. “There's a dead pigeon on your bed,” she announced.

I didn't feel immediately concerned. I had grown up with cats who were outdoors a lot and whose access included the cow pasture that was adjacent to our house in Virginia. I'd thought I'd seen it all.

But I'd never seen a dead pigeon on my bed.

Fortunately, it wasn't a bloody mess, but oh, what plumage! There were feathers everywhere. I hadn't planned on doing laundry that night, but suddenly, that was at the top of my agenda.

Oh, and I had to scold Mort. I looked at him, shook my finger and firmly said, “Bad!”

( But through my eyes, I probably couldn't hide the other thing I wanted to say. It was, “Thank you. I love you, too.”)

What was left of the main part of the pigeon was smack dab in the upper middle part of my bed – where the bed's heart would be, if it had one. I knew Mort had brought the pigeon to me as a token of his affection. Not only was I touched by the gesture, but I also was quite proud of my little hunter. He had captured a large bird, actually killed it, and then negotiated its carcass through the steel labyrinth that had become his playground. You just can't help but be impressed.

Shortly thereafter, I bought a screen for the window, but Mort still found a way out. He'd bend the screen's corner and slide right through. He'd then go off on his excursions, accessing the roof as well as the other fire escapes that were installed strategically around the 8-story building and within its airshafts.

And over the course of the next several months, he would bring home two more pigeons. Maybe, though, he had heard some of my scolding, as I noted how the trail of feathers carefully circumvented my bed. Cleaning up those second two wasn't such a big deal, and luckily, I made the discoveries before my roommate came home. We never told her about those pigeons.

to be continued on March 1st.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Reruns: Bieber Fever (or maybe it's just another hot flash)

(original post-date: February 16, 2011)

For me, the Grammy Awards are not as important as the Oscars.

Which is to say, I don’t set aside the day as a time for ritual. For the Oscars, there is always a gathering at my place, and the menu always circles around my famous and mysterious cold sesame noodles. While indulging in the culinary offerings, we watch the show with respect. We are quiet for much of the ceremony, and when we are not quiet, we are exchanging witty observations.

Combining reverence with acerbic commentary, the Oscars are an event here at Katie’s place.

The Grammys, though? Not an event. In fact, each year, as the day arrives and I anticipate watching them, I am hard-pressed to justify my interest. I have to come up with something to do while the show is on. I can’t simply sit there, taking in the broadcast. And yet, I am drawn to the annual ceremony.

So this past Sunday evening, just before the Grammys were scheduled to begin, I pulled out the card table and set it up in front of the television. And as the broadcast progressed, I used that table as my work station – going through all my current client files, culling outdated documents, and finding their destinations in the archive folders. The exercise was relatively mindless, and so it allowed me to stop when the entertainment on the screen called for stopping.

What’s cool about the Grammys is that, as an awards show, it is more about performance than it is about trophies and speeches. I don’t think it was always this way, but in the past several years, the awards telecast has become – more than anything – a phenomenally eclectic concert. And so, there were many moments when I stopped the busy work I was doing and simply took in what was emanating from my television…

Lady Gaga, a remarkable performance artist who clearly knows about marketing (and I’m not talking about the meat market, though a case could be made…); Mick Jagger, who – at WHAT AGE? – can command a stage without props or pyrotechnics; Arcade Fire, who seemingly came out of nowhere to win (deservedly) Album of the Year; Barbra Streisand, who ended her performance of Evergreen with a facial expression that revealed the fear she’d brought with her to the stage; and Justin Bieber…

Justin Bieber.

Oh my.

I realize this kid from Canada has received more than his share of press lately, and he sure as hell doesn’t need for me to chime in, but sorry, I can’t help but share a few words.

The dude is fucking awesome, okay?

I realize that modifier (i.e., the f-word, above) is too old for his boyish good looks, but please?! OMG, the way he performs, the tone of his voice, his dance moves, his command of the stage… Frankly, I’m rather blown away.

There’s also the hair, of course. (Could he be the next Breck girl?)

Ah, see… there… I’m dating myself.

Justin Bieber was undoubtedly born after the last Breck girl.

And it doesn’t matter.

Although the kid could have a career in shampoo commercials, he will not need to take that route. He is uber-talented. He is… remarkable.

And this fever ain’t no hot flash.

I’m just making an observation.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do-It-Yourself Girl

In the preamble to my final 2011 post, I alluded to my having had to buy a new computer.

That purchase followed windstorms that begat power outages that begat my realization that a strong surge protector should not be underestimated…

Yes, I now have a new surge protector.

As for my new computer? Once I set it up on Sunday, December 4th, I stood back. What’s wrong with this picture? I asked myself.

… You should probably know, before I continue, that my computer (and therefore my office) is in my kitchen. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, you see. And so I am sure you’ll agree that any other options for the computer simply aren’t palatable.

Bedroom? Absolutely not.

Bathroom? ... Hello? Health Department?

Living room? Then what is living…

Yeah, so anyway, the workstation is in the kitchen where, luck of the layout, there’s a nice corner that accommodates space.

... I was looking at that space shortly after I set up the windstorm/power outage-inspired new computer. And I noted, with my new Microsoft Word 7 eyes, that the corner needed to be refurbished in a big way.

See, I had this workstation whose name was Jan. (You might know him. He comes from Ikea.) And Jan was cool for the simplest of functions. He had the top shelf, for the monitor. And he had the pull-out tray, for the keyboard. His lovely blond wood (a color you might expect from a workstation named “Jan”) also was featured in the shelf well below that keyboard tray. Other than that, there were the two upside-down-U-shaped black metal brackets that kept all his parts together.

Jan was never exactly flush with the wall. I suppose he could have been, but – in placing my office in my kitchen – I somehow had a need for the more open feeling that comes when one is not at right angles with a wall. And because Jan was not flush with the wall, there was this triangle of space behind him. A triangle designed to tempt cats.

Okay, I know what you’re saying: ”What doesn’t tempt a cat?”

Good point. You can rest your case now. (But please don’t smirk. It isn’t polite. Besides, it makes you look needy.)

Bottom line is, my entire work area was a study in cat-proofing. And it was ugly that way.

So, when I looked at that corner – just after setting up my new computer – and I realized it needed to be renovated, I immediately recalled the corner desk/computer stand that I’d seen at Staples during the 90 minutes or so I spent there while the tech guys were making sure that the life inside my old hard drive was fully captured in the new.

And so… on the second Saturday evening in December, I stopped at a Staples that was on my way home from other errands (i.e., not my usual Staples), and I purchased the corner desk.

The guy who helped me finalize my decision indicated that they could have it assembled and delivered by Monday. But I didn’t want to wait.

“I can do it myself,” I suggested. “I mean, how hard can it be?”

He mentioned the need for an Allen Wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver.

No sweat, I thought. I’ve got a drawer full of Allen Wrenches, thanks to the Ikea furniture I’ve assembled over the years. I also have at least three Phillips heads.

(And, by the way, won’t it be nice some day if tools – like hurricanes – are allowed to be named after women? But I digress…)

Yeah, so back at Staples: I bought the corner piece as well as a rolling two-shelf cart in the same cherry stain.

The sales associate loaded the boxes of the to-be-assembled furniture into the back seat of my Corolla, and off I went – my Saturday night agenda crystal clear.

As I was driving home, I sent all my hope to the possibility that either my neighbor across the hall or my friend downstairs would be home. Because, without a man to carry those boxes up the stairs, there would be no furniture-assembly activities in my immediate future.

(This dilemma reminded me of when I had first moved to the building. I had just left my marriage and so I was appointing my new place slowly. Invariably, I’d come home with a piece of furniture tied to the top of my car. And pulling into my space in the carport, I’d immediately remember: “Oh, shit. I don’t have a husband to carry this upstairs.”)

Fortunately, my cross-the-hall angel-neighbor was home, and he was happy to apply his Adonis physique to the task at hand.

Once the two boxes were in my living room, leaning against the couch, I proceeded with the preliminaries: clear out the kitchen; vacuum and wash the floor; and then – carry the corner desk box into the now empty space.

At this point, I uncorked the Kendall Jackson cabernet.

I was feeling relaxed and ambitious at once. Oh, how I love a project!

Okay, I should probably tell you right now that a little red flag got flown as I was bringing the large rectangular box into the kitchen. That red flag? A tiny piece of hardware, hopping out of the box.

It was at that point that I realized how shoddily the box was taped together. It was at that point that I realized that this box had already been opened. A piece already built and then dismantled perhaps?

I didn’t want to know about it.

Because – not only do I love a project, but: when I decide to pursue a project, I cannot be stopped.

Sipping the Kendall Jackson, I shoo’ed away any concerns that were floating through my head.

I emptied the box (as someone had apparently done previously), and I leaned all the large pieces against the walls of my kitchen.

I then opened the hardware bag, and I let the various screws and things go where they might on the tray table I’d set up for that very purpose.

I didn’t have the patience to count hardware and compare those totals to what the instruction manual told me to expect. I mean, seriously, who has time for that shit?

I did, though, take a quick inventory of the large pieces (that is, the pieces that would actually create the desk).

I forget what letter of the alphabet was assigned to the piece that was clearly missing, but when I noticed its absence, I immediately flipped through the instruction manual to glean its function.

Hmm… seems the missing piece, which appeared to have all the depth of a piece of cardboard, was meant to live under the keyboard tray. But, was it necessary? I decided it wasn’t. I also decided that, if I discovered it was necessary, I would find something in my apartment that was otherwise unneeded and could take its place.

And so I proceeded.

I got through the first few steps without a hitch.

Then, I got to the part that required particular screws that had come with the kit.

These are not screws that one generally has in her otherwise-impressive screw collection.

These are screws that play a dual role. First, they are burrowed into the hole they are assigned to. Later, their tops meet a pre-drilled tunnel in another piece of the furniture, and a whole other piece of hardware must be placed in that tunnel. Then, the pieces are blended together with a quick twist of the Phillips head.

I know, I know, I’m probably losing you. I should have left it at the fact that these are unusual screws.

Anyway, when I did the count of these unique little pieces of allegedly included hardware, I realized that I was missing one.

One screw I couldn’t substitute. (In spite of my vast collection.)

Acknowledging an unforeseen dilemma, I revisited the design plan, and based on how the desk would ultimately stand, I decided which of the eight needed screws could be omitted.

After that step, I moved on, and as I did, I discovered how many “regular” screws were missing from the hardware bag.

But, as mentioned, I’ve got quite a collection, so I was able to choose from that collection strategically and according to my interpretation of the design. I was able to determine which of these misfit screws would not be within view – ever.

… I have never needed so many hours to assemble a piece of furniture.

I have never been so frustrated by a process.

But, I did it, and I love the result.

...As I have for several years now, I do all my typing in the corner of my kitchen.

But now, it’s a clean corner.

It’s organized and without clutter.

I like it.

And I like remembering the chutzpah I brought to the current design.

(Though, admittedly, I have a few loose screws.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Reruns: Greed is Not Good

(original post-date: February 9, 2011)

I recently had lunch with a delightful friend who we’ll call Anne, and – as usual – our conversation traveled all over the map. We meet for lunch about once every six weeks or so, and invariably, just around the time we are settling the check, one of us will look at her watch and say, “My God, would you look at the time?”

But before we got to that pre-parting rhetorical question, Anne had shared with me the details of her husband’s recent experience as a forward-thinking landscape architect who, in my opinion, is probably a genius.

I’ll get to that in a minute (his experience, I mean).

First, though – since this post is essentially about money – I should share the context of my perspective.

I feel no draw to money.

I am not driven by it. I don’t crave it. I don’t make decisions based on it. And I just think it’s grossly overrated.

Which brings me to my own personal definition: Money is something other people need for me to have.

I’m not recommending this definition on anyone, and frankly, there are months when my relationship with money puts me in the “fear place” for a few too many days, but… read it and weep, that’s just me.

Now, to Anne’s husband’s story…

I’m going to give the cliff notes here, because whenever terms like “venture capitalists” or “stock options” are introduced into a story, I pretty much start hearing Charlie Brown’s teacher talking. (As in, “WAH. WAH. WAH?”) But I got the gist of the story, and the gist is this:

Anne’s husband created a company, and within that company, he combined his skills as a landscape architect with his appreciation for our planet’s precarious balance. His passions led to patents, and as his creations generated income, he grew a staff. A staff that he respected and hoped would feel nurtured.

Anne’s husband wisely knew that he did not want to be CEO of said company, so a CEO was hired.

As venture capitalists came forth, the CEO recommended that insiders reduce their stock values. And Anne’s husband’s stock values always got reduced the most.

The longer the CEO was there, the more he had his way, and the less the company resembled the vision of Anne’s husband. Ultimately, Anne’s husband realized that the change was irreversible, and – to keep from becoming physically knotted into perpetuity – he moved on (still holding stocks).

Recently, the company that Anne’s husband created was sold, and Anne’s husband received his cut, as per his reduced stock values. His cut was impressive, but it was about one-tenth of what he should have received. To this day, he can drive through neighborhoods, pointing out the environmentally positive impact of his inventions. But his cut… not so big.

And that’s the story (or at least, that’s the story I came away with).

I also came away from this story with a question: should GREED be classified as a mental illness?

In anticipation of exploring this theory, I did some googling, and here’s what The Free Dictionary provides for the definition of mental illness: Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma.

For me, the key word there is “normal,” so let’s run with that for a moment…

I love it, The Free Dictionary includes, as the first definition of “normal” (as a noun): Something normal …HAH! (Thanks for the clarification there!)

Okay, so let’s back up to the definitions of “normal” as an adjective, since that’s the appropriate context. Definition #1: Conforming with, adhering to, or constituting a norm, standard, pattern, level, or type; typical

See? There’s that “norm” again.

This brings me to the conclusion that no one actually knows what is “normal” (and, frankly, that works for me), but I still think that greed is a mental illness.

Greed is anti-social, obsessive, and self-serving.

Greed doesn’t care who gets hurt.

Greed is narcissistic.

Greed is NOT good.

Hmm… with all the pharmaceuticals out there, available to offset this or that mental malady, do you think they’ll develop one to cure (or at least reduce the manifestations of) greed?

I doubt it.

Because the pharmaceutical companies are right there among the greedy.

I’m so glad I don’t care about money, and I truly pity the folks who put it at the top of their lists.

They’re missing the magic and grace of life.

They’re missing my normal.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cruel Pavement

I’m not saying I’m a trendy gal or anything, but on that same morning, the L.A. Times ran a piece about the city’s sidewalks being in disrepair.

That same afternoon, I walked the half mile to Vermont Avenue, where I mailed some bills from the post office. Then, I walked down to the bank, where I deposited some checks.

After that, the tasks were checked off, and the return trip was up for grabs.

I opted for the more commercially-active, east side of the avenue. Even stopped in a few shops, albeit briefly.

But as I neared the more familiar venues – the Los Feliz 3 Cinema marquee now readable – there became an immediate change in the day’s agenda. Suddenly, I was airborne, and then I was looking at some sidewalk, heading toward me.

My reflexive capabilities – apparently having ruled out help from my hands or my knees – delivered a good message to my head. As in, “TURN IT!”

And so, although I landed on my face, I didn’t hurt my nose or my teeth.

… Reflecting on what happened next, I am reminded of a scene involving a toddler. Even those of us who are child-free know this scene and can imagine it clearly… Okay, so there’s this little kid playing on some swings or a slide or something. Kid falls. Kid is fine UNTIL a bunch of adults come running over to see if s/he is okay. It is at that point (and because of that point) that the kid bursts into tears and then cries uncontrollably.


So anyway, I have just landed, left cheek first, on the sidewalk on Vermont Avenue. In front of Skylight Bookstore.

I know that my situation isn’t good, and I hope that it isn’t really bad.

I wait several seconds, and then I raise my torso and turn so that I am sitting on the sidewalk.

Just at that moment, a woman quickly emerges from the bookstore.

“Oh My God! Don’t move! Oh My God! You’ve split your lip!”

Someone hands me a napkin or a tissue or something.

I dab my lip and come up almost blank. There’s a small, pink stain on the napkin or tissue or something. I feel short-changed (in a good way). I mean, surely a split lip would produce something more alarming, like… I don’t know, some seriously red blood, maybe?

I am at a loss and completely vulnerable. There are so many strangers looking at me, and each one of them knows what my face looks like in that moment.

I do not.

But I’ve been told that I have a split lip and that I shouldn’t move.

But I also am me.

(Me, with my chapped lips…)

And sitting on the sidewalk is just not working out.

I reach for a hand from someone nearby, and I slowly and cautiously rise to my feet.

But it takes me a while longer to walk away from the scene.

I had hit my head, and I know that a hit to the head can lead to a brain injury, and when that is the case, the manifestations can kick in whenever.

I had hit my head, and I’m hoping I didn’t also injure my brain.

I had hit my head, and I need to walk a half mile to get home.

When the worried woman continued speaking with me (after I stood up), one of the questions she’d asked was, “Is there someone you can call?”

“No,” I had said. (An answer that seemed honest in the moment. An answer that would continue to haunt me.)

I had hit my head, and I needed to walk a half mile to get home.

…A few days have passed since my confrontation with the uneven sidewalk, and mostly, I am grateful. Grateful that my hands had not been the first to respond, as that might have resulted in a broken wrist (or two).

Same deal with my knees. I need them.

My face? Whatever.

I don’t type with it.

I don’t wash dishes with it.

I don’t use it to drive.

And, since the day of the unfortunate trip, I’ve also been grateful that I’ve not had to look at my face. At least, I’ve not been confronted by it, as others have been.

For those others, the view is painful.

For me, the view is of them.

…One of my clients runs a domestic violence agency, and when I shared my tale with her and told her of the purple circle under my left eye and the bruise at my chin, she sent a reply email suggesting that people will think that I have been beaten.

And based on my experiences thus far, I think she might be right.

The other night, as I waited my turn at the grocery store, I stood proud and tall. I also was smiling because – quite frankly – I was in a good mood. But the checker, apparently having caught a passing glance at my bruises, could not accept my posture or positive energy. He couldn’t even make eye contact with me.

In fact, he worked very hard at not making eye contact with me.

Yes, my client had been right.

And so had I when I responded to her email with this: “People will make up their own stories.”

What story would you write if you saw a woman with bruises on her face? And would that story be different if the woman bruised was standing tall and smiling?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Reruns: My Paul Newman Story

(original post-date: February 2, 2011)

Last week, when I visited my mom’s-age-friend, Sue, she mentioned that she had recently “read” (which is the verb she uses for listening to an audio-book) a Paul Newman biography.

“Oh?” I said. “Did it mention that I had waited on him?”

“Of course!” she replied. “There was a whole chapter devoted to that!”

We love bullshitting like this, Sue and I. It’s part of what makes us such dynamic conversationalists.

Sue then mentioned how she had never found Paul Newman particularly handsome…

Which gave me the opportunity to hold my hands about five feet apart – the distance I once had from that face of his.

“Oh no,” I said, my homework having been done, “he was… handsome.

Here’s the story that didn’t make his biography…

I was waitressing at an eatery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Not a fancy place, but a place that wanted to be fancier than it was.

(It was really nothing more than a glorified coffee shop.)

I’d been there a while and I was ready to move on, but I also was intrigued with the clientele. I remember working a morning shift when one of the more European waiters on staff tended to a couple who seemed to be just waking up. He was nonplussed as he served coffee to Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton…

I admired my fellow waitperson’s cool as he fulfilled their breakfast orders.

There were other celebs who came into the place, too (I can’t even remember who), and I remember thinking – during my gotta-get-outta-here antsy phase – that maybe I’d stick around a bit longer. Long enough, anyway, to serve a celebrity.

And while I waited for that pivotal moment, I came up with a “line” – a really cool line that I thought I’d be able to deliver when the time came. My plan was to use the line at the end of the celebrity-serving meal, in the moment when I put the check down.

… And just a few weeks later, Paul showed up.

The manager put him in Ingrid’s station, and she seemed to handle the event quite well. The rest of us, of course, took as many opportunities as we could to pass by the booth where he and his guest were sitting. We couldn’t help but want to absorb his glow.

The very next day, he showed up again, and after he was seated, the manager passed through an area near the kitchen. Neither breaking stride nor inflecting, he said, “You got him today, Katie.”

With as much composure as I could assume in that moment of great surprise, I walked toward the booth that contained Paul Newman and his guest.

I must have been shaking both visibly and audibly as I proceeded to take their order. And I’m sure there was a certain amount of dreamy shock in my countenance as I looked into those eyes.

Paul Newman’s eyes…

The color of Equal packets…

“I’ll start with the borscht,” he said, with a dimpled grin.

And then, he and his guest (whom I only remember as not being Robert Redford) added to their order…

Two minutes later, I had returned to their booth with the bowl of borscht, only to discover that Paul had not seen it on the menu and had ordered it as a joke. I offered to take it back, but he said it was okay. I insisted, and I pulled the bowl away (remarkably not sloshing any of the purple liquid onto his slacks).

“Good,” he said, relieved of the inadvertently ordered appetizer. “I hate borscht.”

We got through the meal, but I never felt comfortable. I never acquired the cool that I once thought I’d be able to bring to a celebrity table. In fact, I was rather spastic throughout the process -- or at least, that's how I felt.

Still, though, I had that “line,” and I was determined to use it. So… when I put the check down in front of Paul, I said this:

“I bet you can’t wait to go home and tell all your friends that Katie Gates waited on you!”

To which he said: “Huh?”

In Paul’s defense, I must confess that the aforementioned lack of composure on my part had a major impact on my delivery of said line. I’m guessing that what he heard, at a chipmunk’s register, was something like this:


And even when I repeated it (which I did, after his “Huh?”), I’m sure it didn’t become any more coherent.

So I don’t blame him for not understanding me. Hell, even if I had been able to form the words more clearly, there probably still would have been some confusion. I mean, could he really have connected such a confident line to the young woman before him who appeared to be so dramatically off her meds?

Fortunately, the attempt at dialogue ended when he stood up and ambled to the cashier.

He then left the restaurant, untied his horse, and rode into the sunset, where he would continue to live out his biography...

(Okay, I made up the part about the horse.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nature vs. Grace

I recently visited my Netflix Queue to see what I might expect in the weeks ahead.

What I saw was a list with all of three titles, none of which was particularly compelling.

I’m sure that the reality of that short, unexciting roster says all kinds of things about my mood lately.

And right now, I don’t want to explore the possible implications.

But I will confess to a distinct lack of enthusiasm. And I also will assure you that I immediately went about fixing the length of said queue.

I added more titles, and as I did, I selected Tree of Life, which recently got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

… Actually, I didn’t just add it.

I put it at the top.

And so it arrived.

And so I watched it last night.

Oh my…

I can’t recall the last time I saw a movie that was quite so “trippy.” (I’m guessing Terrence Malick is a fan of recreational drugs.)

What I loved more than anything, though, was how the visual poetry of Tree of Life was set up.

As early as possible, I got the message. We have two choices: “nature” or “grace.” And those of us who pick grace might never be thanked for it.

Having not before considered these two as ultimate options (that also are in conflict with each other), I was immediately drawn in. And during a long montage that revealed what we call “nature,” I was reminded of its qualities.

Nature is intense, cruel, and explosive.

Think earthquakes.

Think tornadoes.

Think volcanoes.

That is nature.

And therefore, if you accept Malick’s thesis as to the other choice, grace must be calm, kind, and gentle.

I think that’s about right.

I didn’t look at the clock while it was happening, but the montage I mentioned just a moment ago went on for quite some time. And while it was mostly a long, long series of shots that revealed nature in all its intense and explosive cruelty, there also were moments of grace. Many moments of grace.

But the message was not about grace. The message was about nature.

And that got me thinking about a phrase we use: “It’s just human nature.”

And so, with a newfound appreciation for the meaning of “nature,” I revisited that phrase.

It’s just human nature, perhaps, to be intense, cruel, and explosive.

It’s a survival impulse. And because nature is, above all, so powerful, it’s human nature to take actions that are based on a desire for power. (A desire, perhaps, that comes from fear of a greater power.)

Unless… you recognize that grace is another option.

To be graceful is to take a risk. Your calm, kind, and gentle manner – grace in action – is unlikely to be rewarded. That manner will not pay the rent or provide you with acquaintances who can get you ahead in this world.

Being graceful goes against nature.

But maybe, that's why we NEED it?

…And then there’s the mention of God.

Oh yes, God figures into Tree of Life.

And from what the story told me, the purpose of God is to help both sides explain their situation.

That’s why we need to believe in God.

What else can possibly explain (or excuse) this conundrum?

What else can explain pitting us against each other century after century?

… Each other.

The ones who follow nature and those who believe in grace.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Reruns: An Open Letter to Some People Who Attended the UCLA-Live Event This Past Saturday

(original post-date: January 26, 2011)

Greetings from another member of the audience:

Before I address you individually, I should probably provide a little background regarding my experiences with live theatre…

Throughout my childhood, my parents were actively involved in two community theatre groups. One group staged three plays during the school year, while the other – an open-air venue – had a summer season comprising five plays. When my parents first became involved, they signed on to do props for one of the summer productions. Within a few years, though, they both had moved on to the stage, where they would, over the years, fine-tune their acting skills with style and grace.

When my sister and I were old enough to participate, we, too, volunteered for assignments, and while Martha would certainly accept production work, she really enjoyed acting more. (And, like my parents, she was quite good.) I, on the other hand, never got bit by the bug, and so – with the exception of a few very small roles that I performed quite poorly – I preferred to make my contributions as part of the backstage crew.

More often than not, though, I was in the audience, and I learned, at a young age, that the audience of a live performance should be respectful of the time, energy, passions, and talent that have gone into the mounting of a theatre production. Which is to say, the audience should give its full attention to the stage.

When I lived in New York, I continued to enjoy attending theatrical events. Broadway was affordable then, and with the option of placing the word “off-” in front of that concept, and then repeating it – as many times as you please – there was never a shortage of productions taking place in smaller venues throughout the City. I probably saw more than 50 plays and musicals during my 15 years in New York.

My theatre attendance in Los Angeles has been a bit more spotty. While I have seen several remarkable shows at some of the area’s larger venues, my having to be a bit more careful with money in recent years has put a dent in my theatre-going. Part of the problem is that I have “open space issues.” In most theatres, the balcony area (that is, where the cheap seats are) is way too high for me, and the grade is much too steep. I simply cannot enjoy what’s happening on the stage when I fear I will topple over my fellow patrons as I make my way, headfirst (and quite fatally), into the orchestra section.

(I realize, by the way, that there are terms for these “issues:” acrophobia, in regard to the fear of heights; and agoraphobia, in regard to the fear of open spaces. But I prefer simply to call the combination a profound and deep respect for the concept of gravity.)

Anyway, because of the economy, I’ve curtailed my theatre-going in recent years, and I even had to think about it for a minute, last week, when my friend Maria asked if I were interested in attending the Wallace Shawn performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall. But I’ve admired the writer/actor ever since I saw My Dinner With Andre back in the 80s, and the $45 ticket price didn’t seem like such a huge amount after three busy weeks of billable hours.

Which brings me to you people: you five or six people who also had forked over some money for tickets; you five or six people who were sitting nearby…

Some words first to the couple three rows ahead. I am very happy that you found each other. Your common need to fondle the hair and ear of your partner will probably make for a long relationship. But, seriously, get a room. Even with the house lights down, it was impossible not to be distracted by your public displays of obsession, and you need to cop to the fact that, because neither of you is petite (especially not you, sir), you will never be able to enjoy this shared fetish in a manner that is discreet.

Now to the two young ladies sitting behind my friend and me. Yes; you two. I appreciate that you probably got a student discount to attend the event, but that doesn’t mean you are entitled to chatter away while the performer is on stage. I am glad that when I turned around and glared at you, you stopped talking. I also was pleased when the man across the aisle silently got up from his seat, approached you both, and let you know – in a stage whisper – that the light emanating from your blackberry was bothering him and others. But don’t think for a moment that I didn’t notice your continued attempts to sneak back into that little machine and do whatever technological task apparently could not wait. I noticed it, and it bothered me.

As to the dude sitting in the row in front of us... Yes; you -- with the bright and distracting handheld device. My friend shared with me later that you were playing a video game on your little machine. Really? So, what happened? Did you win? And, why, by the way – if you were wanting to play computer games – did you choose to do so in a theatre?

As for the folks down the row, my peripheral vision also caught your illuminated screens. Was there an emergency? Was that the deal? Or maybe your text simply stated: yeah, I’m at the theatre.

To the five or six of you and whoever else was multitasking in Royce Hall, shame on you. Not behaving properly at a public event is equivalent to having a lack of social skills. And, in my opinion, you people are lacking in social skills.

Shame on you.

…Of course, before Shawn took the stage, the usual announcement was made. You know the one – it’s the same as is made in movie theatres: please turn off cell phones, pagers, and any illuminated handheld devices, [etc.] What’s interesting is that, while this request was being abused all over Royce Hall on Saturday night, I have rarely seen it abused in movie theatres.

Maybe people just need to see what they see on screens. And if that’s true, then what that means, I guess, is that a movie can replace those handheld devices, but a live human cannot.

Hmm, are we really so screen-addicted?

I realize, of course, that I am looking at one now.

And so are you.

But I also am not pretending to do, hear, or see something else simultaneously. And I hope the same goes for you.

…After his performance, which included readings (from his own work and others) around the theme of Real World, Fake World, Dream World, Wallace Shawn entertained some questions from the audience. A few of those questions provided him with an opportunity to elaborate on what a mess our world has become and how we should, in fact, be worried.

I appreciate his perspective.

And if he was aware – during his 90 minutes on stage – of the multi-tasking that was occurring in the audience, I also appreciate his ability not to give it any power. I could not have done that. Had it been me behind the lectern, I would have stopped in my tracks, shut my mouth, and refused to continue talking until the collective rudeness had virtually left the room.

Good thing, I guess, that I’ve always preferred the backstage assignments.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Electoral Politics: Let the Games Begin

Last weekend, my Mom sent me an email. The subject line was “this and that,” and the content did not contradict her choice. Mostly, Mom talked about the family stuff that she, my sister, and I need to deal with in the coming months. And since this stuff doesn’t concern you, I won’t share the details.

But Mom’s closing sentence is something we all might be thinking about. “Newt Gingrich,” she wrote, “scares the hell out of me.”

I know where she’s coming from, and yet, I couldn’t relate to the severity of her fear. In my reply to Mom, I wrote, “I get what you’re saying about Newt, but personally, I don’t think there is ANYTHING more scary than what we went through from 2000-2008.”

And however scary that era was, the fact of the matter is this: situations give way to situations. Wherever we are right now is a direct response to where we have been.

The criminal travesty that was George W. Bush’s presidency is probably the reason our country was willing to elect its first black president.

We needed something different.

The idea was good. The idea was smart.

(And the embodiment of that idea – Barack Obama – happens also to be good and smart.)

And if it weren’t for the fact that racism still boils powerfully in the bowels of America, that swing of the pendulum might have worked.

But it hasn’t.

It is abundantly and painfully clear that our country cannot handle having a black president.

His blackness is the reason for the Tea Party.

His blackness is the reason that Congress is a disgustingly adversarial mess.

And now that our 2012 presidential election is truly underway, you’d think that the Republican party would be able to do something with this situation.

You’d think so…

But, so far, their capacity to launch an organized attack seems untenable.

Romney won the Iowa Caucus… No, wait! He didn’t!

… But, while he was winning the New Hampshire primary, we all believed that he had won in Iowa.

… Then, just two days before Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, we learned that Santorum had been certified for the Iowa win.

… In the meantime, Ron Paul won’t give up, and he’s bringing some new voters into the party as he speaks of policies and ideas that make me question whose side he’s really on.

Can you say “No Front Runner?”

I can, and so can former Florida governor, Jeb Bush.

Per my informants at NPR, Jeb Bush’s decision not to endorse a candidate for the upcoming primary in his state may stem from his plan to jump in at some last minute and become the GOP’s nominee.


a THIRD Bush?

Isn’t that why some people have issues with Gingrich?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Reruns: 50 Years Ago Tomorrow

(original post-date: January 19, 2011)

I was nearly three-and-a-half years old on January 20th, 1961, and I had a prime seat for the event: atop my father’s shoulders.

He and my mother – staunch Democrats – had caught the bug during the previous November’s election. That feeling of Camelot was in the air and undeniable, and so the decision to join the hordes on the mall in D.C. was inevitable.

In spite of the weather, we made the drive up from the Shenandoah Valley, and I suppose there was talk – between my parents; perhaps on the radio – of Robert Frost having been asked to participate in the ceremony. I don’t remember any specific statements, but I do remember the inference I had drawn. And so as I sat atop my father’s shoulders, among the thousands who had braved the blizzard and were looking with anticipation toward that apparently very important building, I waited patiently.

I waited… for Jack Frost to appear on the roof and give a weather report.

Jack Frost; not Robert.

(You go with what you know…)

I am now nearly fifty-three-and-a-half years old, and I have a much clearer sense of what is going on.

The pendulum has swung back and forth numerous times in the last half-century, and while there have been glimmers of hope, we’ve never quite returned to that feeling of Camelot.

… Before my father died three years ago this March, he suffered from increasing frailty. For the last several years of his life, he also experienced occasional dementia, and on one of those occasions (probably around 2004), the visiting healthcare worker asked him who the president was. When my mother told me that his response had been Theodore Roosevelt, I said, “I’m jealous! I want to live in Dad’s world!”

But Dad wasn’t always in “that world.” A year or so later, in fact, his better grasp of reality was evident when he glibly stated, in response to the national and international situations, “Thank God I’ll die soon.”

That was Dad – sardonic in his description of an unprecedented, pitiful mess.

Because I am not likely to die soon, I cling to the other two memories of my dad: the one who trudged through the snow to listen to a young man breathe hope into the country, and the one who chose to remember Teddy Roosevelt when Dubya was the reality du jour.

We must have hope.

Even when it requires some temporary dementia, we must have hope.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Simple Thoughts

Post-its help me keep track of what I need to buy.

I keep two on the side of the fridge: one for Ralphs (the typical grocery store) and one for Trader Joe’s (or, as it is referenced on the post-it, TJs).

Then there’s the post-it affixed to my weekly to-do list. It’s for Staples.

At the moment, there are two items on my Staples list. The first is accordion files and the second is… drum roll, please! STAPLES.

How cool is that? I need to go to Staples to buy staples.

Reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live sketch, back when the cast included Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd. Remember the mall shop that sold only scotch tape? Wacky.

I’m glad that Staples sells a variety of things. I mean, particularly given the size of their stores, it would be a little creepy to walk in and find nothing but staples. And for this Libra – whose difficulties with small decisions are blog-worthy – I’d only survive the shopping excursion if I first stopped next door. At the store called “Tents.” (As in, “Pitch one, baby. We’re gonna be here a while.”)

Seriously, a really big store with nothing but staples? The options would overwhelm me. The possibilities would take me on mental rides that only another Libra can understand.

So, yeah, I’m glad that Staples sells other things – like paper clips, computers, and mousepads.

And that goes for Target, too. Wouldn’t it be trippy if you walked into Target and saw only the things that you are seriously focused on at the moment? Ooh, I just got some metaphysical goosebumps!

Or Urban Outfitters. Imagine walking in there and seeing a bunch of tense fashion designers, primed with their tape measures and ‘tude.

I’m not sure what to say about Wal-Mart. I’ve spent all of ten minutes in one of their stores (in the town where my Mom lives). For all I know, they sell enough walls to fill a typical Staples. I’d rather not investigate that possibility. They have far too much power already.

Old Navy. Now there’s a concept. Could have been McCain’s campaign headquarters back in 2008.

Lucky Jeans. I have a pair, and if I can ever again squeeze my ass into them, I’ll consider myself disciplined, not lucky. (I’m lucky for lots of other reasons.)

There’s a grocery store chain in Virginia (and perhaps in other states). Food Lion, it is called. The literal interpretation of that store’s environmental culture feels unsafe, in my opinion. Even with a club card. (Or – oh, please stop me now – a CUB card? HA!)

Anyway, as you may already have concluded, I am really, really tired as I write this.

… I also need to buy staples.

And, while I’m thinking about it… more post-its.

... And maybe some wine.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Reruns: The Distance from Our Corners

(original post date: January 12, 2011)

When I was a kid, our family had a summer vacation ritual that entailed a very long drive with a rich, two-week reward at the other end. Packed and ready to go on an early June morning, we’d put the suitcases in the back of the station wagon and then take our places.

Dad would be the first driver, while Mom sat on the passenger’s side of what were not yet bucket seats.

In the back, I would take my place on the right, while Martha would sit on the left.

That’s how it always was. Me on the right. Martha on the left. Not an indication of political leanings or which side of our brains we favored. Simply a routine that would remain unbroken for all of our lives in the backseat.

And then we would head north from Virginia on the pre-interstate roads. Occasionally, Martha or I would climb into the front seat to rest her head on Mom’s lap (unless she was driving, of course). There were no laws back then that would have earned us a ticket for this climbing-over-the-seats routine, and for many of those years driving up to Cape Cod, I believe there were not even seatbelts.

But we always made it just fine.

The first leg of the trip was the longest – about nine or so hours to get to our grandparents’ house in Connecticut. And because it was such a long stretch, it was not without its moments that would test our mother’s nerves.

When Martha and I – understandably tired from the unending asphalt; undoubtedly bored with playing Auto Bingo – got feisty with each other in the backseat, Mom would turn around, and say, in no uncertain terms, “Get in your corners!”

And so we did.

And I’m guessing that, at that point, we got a little quiet.

(Which is exactly what Mom wanted – and needed.)

… A few decades later and 20 years ago, I moved to Los Angeles. And 10 years after that, my sister moved from Virginia to the UK. When Martha moved, Dad was still alive, and although he quickly became frail, Mom still had him for company. They would remain in the Shenandoah Valley, where my sister and I were raised, and long distance telephone calls would keep all of us in touch.

“Boy,” I said to Martha, during one of those calls – at a time when my Los Angeles hours and her England hours allowed for a lively conversation, “we sure did get in our corners, huh?”

She laughed, as did Mom, when I shared the observation with her later that week.

But these days, our geographic distance does not feel laughable. Dad died in late March of 2008, and although Martha and her best-ever husband made an unselfish and valiant effort before Christmas that year to bridge the proximity gap, their move “across the pond” and their plans for establishing a life near Mom did not pan out. The economy bit their butts, and they ultimately discovered how difficult it is – particularly in a small town – for “older people” to find work. They moved back to the UK this past November.

In the meantime, I’ve remained in L.A., where I have established a life for 20 years. Where my address is the one I’ve held the longest in my 53 years on the planet.

And so Martha and I – two members of what literature now calls the “sandwich generation” – are back in our corners.

My sister is a “true” sandwich in that she has a generation on either side. Mom, in Virginia (and the memory of Dad), represent the bottom slice of bread, while Martha’s daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law comprise her top slice.

As for me, I guess you’d have to describe me as more of an “open-faced sandwich.” Yes, Mom’s there (and the memory of Dad), providing me with that slice that anchors my ingredients, but above that – or rather, creating a bookend to that generation – there is nothing.

It’s interesting, the press that the current sandwich generation gets. So much of the news is about the combating needs on either end. How aging parents and growing children create a tug-of-war, causing “us” Baby Boomers to feel pulled in two directions at once.

For those whose sandwich is closed, I am not without empathy. I get it that you are answering to two distinctly different age groups, and you are concerned about them both. But, I’d like to shine the light on us open-faced sandwiches for a moment. Because, while the demands on us – as children of aging parents – may not be as complex, they still are emotional.

My decision not to have children was not conscious, but I believe it was smart. I believe it suits me to not be a mother. I’m not sure I could have pulled off the discipline it would have required to discipline others. And if I had, I would have lost a big part of myself in the bargain.

But I also am realizing now, as I witness my mother’s aging, the emptiness that will be my legacy. The emptiness of no family nearby.

And so these days, my empathy extends more to my mother than to my sister or to other members of the “sandwich generation.” I feel for my Mom, alone in Virginia. I feel for her, so far from the corners that Martha and I now occupy. If any of the three of us had some bank to spare, we could make some adjustments to this scenario, but… money isn’t our strong suit.

Mom and Dad did not raise us to pursue the almighty dollar. Rather, they raised us to follow our hearts and have faith in our paths.

It is for that reason that Martha shares a house in rural Scotland with her best-ever husband and two generations below her. It also is for that reason that I maintain a one-bedroom apartment in a decidedly urban area of sprawling Los Angeles.

We are in our corners.

We are…a sandwich-and-a-half of Baby Boomer daughters wishing the best for their Mom.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I love liberals.


Because I believe that – deep inside – they are happy.

I’m not saying they’re happy about the world situation.

How could they be?

The world is at war, economies are failing, and here in the United States, unemployment and housing foreclosures have put millions of people at risk of realizing their American dream. At the same time, our country’s public education system is mostly deplorable, and there is so much homelessness that shelters must consistently turn people away.

So, no, the liberals are not happy about the world situation.

What they are, however, is comfortable in their own skin.

As for others? Non-liberals? I’m not sure about their comfort levels. I think just about everything that isn’t just like them makes them uneasy. Other races (such as might come in the form of a black president) scare them, and so they parlay that fear into allegedly “just” legislation (or no legislation at all). Independent thinking gives them the creeps, and so they seek to enact policies that promote controlled action. They distrust someone who views the whole of humanity because doing so flies in the face of “us” versus “them.”

Non-liberals need enemies in order to justify the fear on which their thoughts and actions are based.

Non-liberals are uncomfortable people, and if they have it their way, discomfort will become the rule of law.

… Last year, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Klute at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (what we townies call “LACMA”). And what made the event a particular pleasure was Jane Fonda’s appearance, after the film. She sauntered onto the stage, a martini in hand, and proceeded to engage those of us in the audience for nearly an hour.

I’ve always admired Fonda’s work, but that night, I became a huge fan. She was beyond dynamic, and she also said something that – while not altogether enlightening – was so well-presented that it made me think. She had been talking, of course, about her experiences as an actress, and she shared that the reason so many Hollywood types are liberal is because actors are naturally empathic.

How true. But, that empathy is not just limited to actors.

Hollywood, which earns a bazillion dollars a year, takes in that profit because of collective empathy.

A screenwriter cannot create a credible script unless he or she understands a variety of characters.

A producer cannot get that screenplay “green-lit” unless he or she believes that those characters’ stories will resonate with the audience.

A director cannot elicit truth from the movie’s actors and actresses unless that director can envision the emotions that underlie a scene.

And the actors themselves demonstrate, through their performances, the empathy they share with the screenwriters, the producers, and the directors.


It’s brought a boatload of money to Hollywood, so maybe it’s a profiting formula.

Something for non-liberals to consider.

… It also makes me wonder. Movie theatres are dark. They are places where we, the audience, can react in private ways. They are places where, even when we’re in a crowd, we can feel an incredibly personal connection.

Given John Boehner’s propensity for tears, I cannot help but wonder: Did The Help make him cry (even though he probably expresses racism privately and with his cronies)? If he saw Edward Scissorhands back when it came out, did he respond emotionally to the protagonist’s plight (even though that protagonist does not “fit in”)? And going back further: I bet E.T. was a multi-kleenex experience for our “Speaker.” But: if that same extra-terrestrial showed up in his congressional district, Boehner would give him a one-way ticket off the planet.

Non-liberals may have empathy deep, deep, deep in their souls, but feeling it, and ultimately exposing it, scares the hell out of them.

And it is probably for that reason, more than any other, that they are unable to imagine the financial advantages of kind decision-making.