Monday, July 30, 2007

letters from beyond

yesterday, i received an e mail from larry weingard, an old high school buddy i hadn't heard from in forty years. it seems, that he had saved all the letters i had written him during my freshman year of college and was now threatening to release them to the media. since i am neither famous, nor running for public office, i was puzzled as to his motive but larry was always a little wonky, so i played along. i convinced him to send me copies of the said correspondence before he forwarded them on to katie couric. it had been an awfully long time and i was curious to see who 18 year old judi was back then.

i was shocked. unlike hillary, whose college letters disclose that she was already agonizing over which political party to support and what ways she could change the world, 18 year old judi had very different concerns. in my first letter to larry, it seems i devoted two lengthy paragraphs to the difficulty of breaking in a new pair of weejun loafers. i was debating offering my cash strapped room-mate a dollar a day to wear my shoes for a week and do the dirty work.

in other letters, i went on to discuss the ethics of moving my circle pin from the left side of my villager blouse's peter pan collar to the right. in doing so i would be implying that i might not actually be a virgin. this move could possibly insure a more active social life. i also spent a great deal of ink on the fact that i had kissed a date good-night on the first date - dooming me to never seeing him again. the fact that i ended up marrying that young man just shows how flawed 18 year old judgement can be.

reading further on in the stack of letters i did discover that i was not a total air head. politics did come up once during a heated tirade in which, while i did admit that president kennedy was good looking, he could no way hold a candle to paul - the cute beatle. i also found, in one letter dated just a mere three months after starting school, that i was out on a picket line. today, the cause seems embarrassing but back then, extending dorm curfew from 10 p.m. weeknights to 10:30, seemd like a big deal.

people are saying that we shouldn't read too much into the letters of hillary clinton. after all, she was just a teenager when she wrote them. what can they possibly tell us? well, having read excerpts of hers and excerpts of mine i can only say one thing. she is running for the office of president of the united states and i am not. enough said.

all that money can buy

a couple of weeks ago i received a flyer in the mail advertising that "hillside", our local cemetery, was having a 20% off sale on plots. the husband, confusing "hillside" with "hillcrest", our local golf club, was very excited. "20% off. you can't beat that." "it's "hillside" not "hillcrest" i corrected him "and besides, we don't play golf." "oh, that's o.k." he answered, "we don't play dead either" and walked, chuckling, out of the room.

i turned the offer over in my mind. i asked a couple of friends what they were doing about "after life arrangements." many had already taken "hillside" up on their generous offer. "you can't do much better" one friend said "and it is in the best part of town to be buried. otherwise you might end up in the valley." to be buried in the valley, for a person from west los angeles, would be the equivalent of a manhattanite being buried in new jersey. it just was not the thing to do.

i agonized over the decision. i knew the husband didn't care. he was planning on going first and had great confidence that i would take care of all the arrangements. i, on the other hand, did not have the same confidence in him. my concern was that, just in case i should kick the bucket first, it was very possible that he would just leave me, sitting around the family room, decomposing on the chenille sectional.

i didn't know what to do until a couple of days ago when fate had a way of steering me in the right direction. the subject of cemetery plots came up at the manicurists (o.k.. i brought it up - but still). one of the friday afternoon regulars told me not to worry about it. it seems, according to charlene, that just like that young beverly hills couple who hired a woman to carry their child so the wife wouldn't have to miss ski season, there was soon to be a new service available. charlene had it on very good authority that in a year, two at the most, for a price, we will all be able to hire some one to die for us.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Ultimate Exit Strategy

My husband believes if we don’t make burial arrangements, he’ll be able to remain in our Greenwich Village apartment for eternity. This is why he keeps calling contractors to replace radiator covers and redo the floors, treating our condo not only as a living space, but a ridiculously expensive mausoleum. He's far more upbeat about the idea of renovating than having perpetual care.

I’m an obsessive planner, so have been checking online for resting places, which, at my age, is as apt to mean a cemetery as a mattress. Even before the internet provided easy access to information, I’d called to get a sense of coffin choices and received a number of photos. Each showed a handsomely adorned coffin, lined with satin, on a beach. I called a second time to say they hadn’t sent any Jewish coffins, which are to be simple, wood containers. This yielded another set of photos with names like “Abraham” and “David”, sending me back to the phone to ask, “No Sarah or Rebecca?” Though it was economical to buy ahead, I'm too much of a feminist to support this company.

I’m experienced enough online to know there would be a website reviewing cemeteries on the order of Trip Advisor, which provides user opinions and is a reliable site whether searching for a hotel in Bangkok, Wrexham or Irvine. Sure enough, Forbes lists the best cemeteries, spelling out how the uber-wealthy can have tombs with Tiffany windows and a state-of-the-art stereo system that plays a requested tune 24 hours a day. Nobody knows better than the rich that everything is “location, location, location”, which is why Hugh Hefner is said to have laid out $1 million for a grave next to Marilyn Monroe. This, still, did not change Martin's attitude about dying, but I suppose I should be flattered that he’d rather be alive with me than in the ground with a dead screen legend.

"I don't want to buried in Jersey" has become almost a mantra for Martin so I hoped to lift his spirits by telling him we could be buried in Westchester with Judy Garland and Joan Crawford, or if that was too much diva, we could be in Brooklyn with Sinclair Lewis and Leonard Bernstein. Neither option appealed to him nor did the prospect of spending forever with Charles Dickens and Karl Marx in London’s Highgate (which has the added complication of the dollar being weak against the pound). Martin has always toyed with the notion of buying an apartment in Paris and I expected he'd spark to the notion of ending up at Pere Lachaise, where Jim Morrison and Honore Balzac were laid to rest. They'll welcome you if you die in Paris, which - as ways to go go - doesn't sound so bad. But clearly all his talk about becoming an ex-pat doesn't extend to death.

My family has settled (literally) in L.A., so we could join Sammy Davis Jr., George Burns, Nat King Cole and my Aunt Clara at Forest Lawn or be at Hillside Mortuary with my parents and Al Jolson. That Menachem Begin, Prince Phillip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg and Martin’s father are at Mt. of Olives did not inspire Martin either, regardless of the spectacular view of Jerusalem and being on the short list should the messiah turn up.

Friends, respectful that burial space, unlike death, isn’t infinite, have been turning to cremation. One, shortly after her father died, bought a bench in Central Park and had his name put on a plaque. A couple with a large Connecticut estate is allowing intimates to scatter their ashes on the property. I got a resounding, "no" when I asked if Martin would consider that, but I shouldn't be shocked since he won't even spend the night at somebody's country home.

After reading “The Year of Magical Thinking”, Joan Didion’s account of the sudden death of her husband, I begged Martin to talk about burial plans, pointing out that the combination of shock and grief is horrifying, not a time to be faced with shopping for a coffin and plot. He seemed to agree, but has been cleaning out closets and drawers ever since. I can't be sure if his purpose is to be unavailable for this discussion or if he's making room for his remains.

Sunday Depression

It took years for me to recover from the automatic mood swings associated with school year Sundays. That day marked the end of the weekend (we didn’t call it “partying” back then as party was still a noun) and was the deadline for catching up on our required reading and assigned papers, an entire day devoted to anxiety.

Bad Sunday continued into my 20’s and 30’s though the reason had changed. I had to confront choices I’d made the night before, not always a cause for celebration. Being married and having a child totally transformed Sunday into a leisurely and joyous family day, a time to hang out or go out, bond and have fun. This status was retained until our son started preferring peers over parents, freeing up my husband and me to see art films, read the paper, and eat in Chinatown. For that period, Sunday was the new Friday.

But, sadly, Sunday has, once again, been reinstated as a day of gloom. I wake up despondent because of a man, not one I chose or can dump with an apologetic, "This just isn't working out for me". If I’d been able to eke out a moment of hope during the week, it’s dispelled on Sunday morning by Meet the Press, Face the Nation and Frank Rich, all of whom affirm my deepest fears about George Bush & co., elevating my despair and outrage.

While Obama is presenting himself as the candidate for change with Hillary promoting her experience, for me Hillary may be more of a change. No, it's not because we'd have a president with cleavage, but with her comes the potential of having Sundays ruined by a woman.

There was a play -Sundays in the Park With George -which would be an apt title for a show about our president, who was probably jogging in the park on Sunday when he should have been reading the assigned chapters in his history text. If he'd done his homework, maybe Sundays wouldn't be so gloomy for so many.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

when all else fails...

as a woman of cleavage, i am getting a bit fed up over the fuss some of the media is making over the fact that hillary displayed an eighteenth of inch of cleavage during a speech last week. SO WHAT!!!!! when thinking of hillary, the last word that ever springs to mind is sexy. she is a sixty year old woman with the sex appeal of a grape. she is smart, canny and eloquent but sexy is not one of her strong suits. while this may cause a problem with bill, it is none of our business. secondly, ladies and gentlemen, hillary is a woman and the last time i checked, women have breasts. that is just a fact of life folks, so get over it. men have penises and women have breasts - fourth grade is over, so let's move on.

when i was thirteen years old i got my first bra. i will never forget the words of wisdom my mother imparted to me on that fateful day. i will share them with you now, women of the world, because i believe this is a motto we all should live by. whether you are in the bedroom, the boardroom or the oval office..."when all else fails, show cleavage".

father knows best

i was trying to think about contract disputes i have heard about or been involved with. what springs to mind occurred about twenty-five years ago. my eleven year old son wanted one of those hand held computer games that were new to the market. i drew up a contract and made him sign it. basically, the main clause in the contract stipulated that if adam stopped biting his nails for two months, the computer game was his. since he proceeded to chomp on his digits just minutes after the ink was dry, all bets were off. that is probably why, to this day, nike does not carry an adam sadowsky football jersey, basketball shoes or lunch boxes.

going even further back in time brings us up to the summer of my seventeenth year. i was in saks fifth avenue shopping for college clothing when a man approached me in the cosmetics department. he tapped me on the shoulder and said "you have beautiful hands". "thank you" i answered, still young enough to be flattered and not frightened by a strange man's compliment. "No, i really mean it, those hands are beautiful. you could model" with that, he handed me his card. now, you have to understand that back then, in the days of twiggy, the three words this 5 foot 2 inch woman with a 36 c chest, never thought she would hear was "you could model". he asked me for my name and address and with stars in my eyes, i gave it to him.

in less than a week, a contract arrived in the mail. he was for real. i was going to be a star. i showed my parents the contract and since i was under age, i needed them to sign it. my father, ever the business man, read every single word of the contract. i was holding my breath and then i heard it "wait a minute - what's this"? there was a clause that said that under no circumstances, while under contract to this modeling agency, could i use my hands for any other activity than modeling. that was fine with me. i had no great dreams of becoming a professional dishwasher, ditch digger or potter. "what about typing"? my father asked. "what about it"? (this being years before i found myself failing typing tests, again and again , in an effort to secure employment). the thought that i could never type while under contract was the deal breaker. despite my tears and threats of suicide, my parents held firm. my modeling career was over before it even began. i went off to college as, not even a has been, but a never was.

i didn't think about my modeling career until a few years later. the husband and i had just returned from our honeymoon when the husband asked me, "now that we are back to real life, what are you planning to do"? "do? what do you mean do"? "you know" he responded, "like in a job. we can't afford to live on my salary alone". "oh" i answered. i hadn't given that part of marriage much thought. i was still trying to get used to the fact that when i left our apartment in the morning and came home in the afternoon, the bed was still not made.

the next day, i wracked my brain to come up with something i could do that would actually pay me a salary. and then i remembered my hands. it had only been a few years since my modeling offer - i was still a young woman. i would make my fortune as a model. i couldn't remember the name of the agent who first approached me but no problem, i just looked up modeling agencies in the yellow pages, picked the one closest to home and took myself over there.

The six foot tall, eighty-five pound receptionist barely looked up when i approached her desk. "can i help you"? she asked. "yes. i am here to become a model". i could see the look of disbelief in her eyes so i quickly added "hand model. i am here to be a hand model". she smiled. not a friendly smile. "have a seat please". i sat and waited and waited and waited. finally, after about forty-five minutes another anorexic, amazon came out from behind a closed door and approached me.

"how can i help you"? she asked, focusing about a foot and a half over my head. i repeated exactly what i had told the receptionist about an hour ago. "Oh" she said with pursed lips, "i'm sorry. our models are equipped to model everything". with that she looked me up and down and up again. "if you know what i mean". she then turned and walked out. i was crushed.

i can't help but wonder what would have happened if my father had signed that contract. i could have had my own line of hand care products by now or, i could have ended up like so many teenage stars. to think, my father probably save me from years of being stalked by the paparazzi and numerous stints in and out of rehab.

My proposal for a revised product endorsement agreement

I woke this morning to a victory: Nike cancelled their multi-million dollar endorsement contract with Michael Vick. The NFL quarterback had been indicted for being involved in dog fighting and there's evidence that he tortured and killed animals unable to fight. You’d think Nike would have cut him loose without pressure from me, but I'm glad they did it. Wal-Mart and Congress have been less responsive to my e-mails.

A substantial part of my day is devoted to e-mails about getting politicians impeached, animals and forest land saved, research funded, don't ask. I'd like companies who sign up celebrities and athletes to represent their products to handle this stuff on their own and free up my time. Call it self-interest, but I’m proposing the following be inserted into all boilerplate endorsement contracts issued by corporations:

“This agreement will be deemed null and void should celebrity representative:

-Be indicted for killing animals as a sport or personally kill animals

-Marry Howard K. Stern or an evangelist found guilty of embezzlement and fraud

-Toss a phone at an employee

-Expose a breast on national TV, whether deliberately or accidentally

-Drive cross country in a diaper

-Dangle an infant out a window

-Hurl racial invectives from a stage

-Berate or slap a police officer

-Chase the car of the mother of a personal assistant who just quit

-Fraudulently obtain Oxycontin at a pharmacy

-Spit at Laurie David or Cheryl Crow

-Steal a car

-Slap and punch a teenage boy

-Drive without a license or while possessing cocaine or hashish

-Falsely accuse an athlete of sexual misconduct

-Appear on the books of a madam or escort service


Friday, July 27, 2007

get a job

whenever i think about getting a real job - one that doesn't involve an ability to hunt and peck on a keyboard and a talent for being an opinionated smart ass in print - i break out in a cold sweat. i have gone on too many job interviews in my lifetime where i was told i was either over or under qualified.

whoever hired me to sell encyclopedias door to door when i was twenty-one didn't seem to care whether i was qualified at all - over or under. he just dropped me off somewhere on staten island and told me he would be back six hours later. "what should i do"? i asked. he looked at me with pity, "sell encyclopedias kid - that's why i hired you". after having three doors slammed in my face, i made my way home via ferry, subway, bus and cab vowing never to sell anything door to door and never to set foot on staten island again. i have kept both vows.

i have had so many jobs since that it is hard to remember them all. i do, still have nightmares about typing tests (on manual typewriters) that seemed to go on forever. with sweat dripping down my face, in an effort to get the correct keys pressed down, i never once passed a typing test, but i kept on trying. just like alberto gonzales and condi rice and all the other good government employees (think scooter libbey) i lied to get my jobs and i am sure on occasion i lied to keep a job, though truth be told, there were not that many jobs back then i wanted to keep. when i was young i worked hard, because i wanted to eat, not because there was any corporate ladder i was eager to climb.

i remember one job in particular that i hated so much i only lasted until lunchtime on the first day. it was working for one man, in times square, writing classified ads. i took the job, somehow convincing myself that this could have been how hemingway started. if that were true, then i understood both his drinking and his suicide. at any rate, after three and a half hours, locked in a smoke filled room with this really creepy man, i went out for lunch and never came back. the husband was appalled. "you must call him and quit. he probably thinks you were hit by a bus and are lying dead in a gutter somewhere". i didn't care. i was not going back. i even took the phone off the hook for a week just in case he tried to call me. this was in the days before answering machines when screening calls was not a possibility. my mother was furious. not being able to reach me for a week and also thinking i was lying dead in a gutter somewhere (it seemed to have been a theme in my life at that time) she was forced to come to my apartment and climb 5 flights of stairs, in order to see for herself, that i was indeed alive.

the thing about jobs - what people do and why they do them - is puzzling. you meet very few people at 40 who are doing anything remotely similar to what they thought they would be doing at twenty. life has a way of moving you along and placing you exactly where you are supposed to be. i've never met a six year old who dreamt about being a garbage man and yet we seem to have plenty of garbage men and god bless them. i am sure alberto gonzales never expected to be attorney general of the united states. for that matter, i am sure even his own mother was shocked. talk about being under qualified. maybe i should have stuck it out with the creepy man in times square. who knows where i could have ended up. if alberto gonzales can be attorney general i could have easily been secretary of state - unless, of course, they asked me to take a typing test.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

it's all wendy levenberg's fault

just like sybil, i too read the story on the front page of both the new york and los angeles times. unlike sybil, however, i am in firm agreement with the studies findings.

let me take you back a few years - o.k. a hundred years - when i was fourteen. i was a normal sized teenager then. with a cute figure, cute hair parted down the center and adorable teeth recently freed from the orthodontist's bonds. then i met wendy levenberg. she was a new girl in school. she had moved to my long island community from atlanta, georgia. she might as well have been from the moon. i was intrigued by her foreignness and her accent. the closest i had been to an accent, up until that point, was my cousin mark who had been raised in the bronx and sounded like something out of a gangster movie.

wendy drawled, she said "you all" and she smoked - camels!!!! i was smitten. my mother, not so much. she warned me. she told me horror stories about southern girls that must have dated back to old erskine caldwell novels. the mere fact she smoked would have been enough for my mother to forbid any friendship, but wendy had a much more unforgivable problem. wendy was fat. my mother hated fat. a half a century before this study my mother knew that fat was contagious. she didn't even like to sit next to a fat woman on the bus for fear that some of those pesky fat cells might rub off on her. the more she warned me, the more, as in typical teenage girl behaviour, the more i sought out wendy's company.

years passed. my mother grew used to wendy's presence. i think she grew on my mother who once grudgingly admitted that wendy was "not without a certain charm". wendy was still fat and i began to notice that i too had piled on a few pounds. well, truth be told, by the time i left for college i could easily be described as fat. my mother did everything within her power to not tell me she told me so but she did manage to suggest that, when i got to college i should try hanging out with really skinny girls for a while, "just until you get back to your good weight".

i followed my mother's advice. i had the thinnest friends on campus. i wouldn't even pass the salt to a fat girl who accidentally sat across from me in the cafeteria. it worked. my thin friends didn't eat so i didn't eat either. pretty soon i was thin again just in time for christmas break. as soon as i got home, my first phone call was from wendy. she said she was coming over. i couldn't wait to see her. when i opened the front door i almost fainted. wendy obviously hadn't followed my mother's sage advice. she was enormous. she couldn't get over me as well. "you're so skinny" she kept saying, over and over. what could i say? i couldn't tell her she was so fat. our friendship didn't last much past that year.

now, a hundred years later, i am no longer skinny. i live in the land of skinny women and i have many, many skinny friends. i wonder if i still will have these friends after they read today's article. will they still love me or will i be their wendy?

Fat is Contagious?!!!

The New York Times relegated accounts of Josh Bolton and Harriet Miers having been voted in contempt of Congress to page 13 and the story of Egyptian and Jordanian leaders meeting with Israelis in an effort to reinvigorate peace talks to page 12, clearing the front page for news that having a friend become obese increases our risk of becoming fat.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that closely followed a network of 12,067 people over 32 years concluded that close friends (even if physically separated) have a greater impact on our own weight gain or loss than family members or neighbors.

Many of the researchers were, not surprisingly, surprised by these findings. One investigator tried to make sense of the results by speculating that we may rethink our perception of what's an acceptable body image by looking around us. I don't buy that, and support my position by pointing to Al Gore. Plenty of us have been looking at him and I've yet to hear anyone say, "Hey, he's not looking bad with all those extra pounds. I'm going to put on weight". As for friends impacting on one another, we have only to look at Laurel & Hardy or Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King? And regardless of how many pounds Harvey Fierstein and Liza Minelli collectively put on, most of the gay community remains trim.

The doctor responsible for this unusual project was as astonished as I am that he was able to pull it off and explains that it was possible only because he learned about a study on heart disease, which had tracked the population of Framingham, Mass. for decades. Able to access their data, he then did a social analysis. This story will, no doubt, be picked up and discussed on TV and at salad bars everywhere, which is why I'd like to weigh in at the start of the conversation by saying it defies my understanding...unless the obese people in Framingham all had friends who suggested meeting up at Disney World, which (and this is totally unscientific) seems to have more than its share of overweight people. I expect a follow-up study will implicate the churro.

Monday, July 23, 2007

who needs terrorists?

i have made it my business, in the past few months, to try to avoid any and all exposure to the news media - it is just too damn depressing. my self imposed embargo requires that i watch no television, listen to no radio, read not a newspaper or magazine and only go on line to play literati and post my blog. i can't even chance reading my e mails anymore because you can be sure, that some well meaning friend, will have sent me and two hundred of their closest buddies a news report that was too awful not to pass on.

while george bush is scaring the country with dire predictions of al qaeda landing on our shores and doing untold damage to our homeland and our citizens, i suggest mr. bush take a good, long look at our own country and what we are doing to ourselves.

when last i looked, one-third of the west is on fire, new york is apparently collapsing due to the failure of centuries old infrastructure and the experts tell us that boston, philadelphia, san francsico and other large cities are soon to experience the same fate. while california is suffering from the longest drought in it's history, the south is under water. when last i looked many of the katrina victims have still not returned home and with another hurricane season on the way, who knows what is going to happen to all those people. the airline industry seem to be floundering and no one has yet to figure out what to do with the millions of illegal aliens that have made the u.s. their home. every day brings us a new scandal involving an elected official and it seems as though wife murdering has become our new national past time. in other words we are a mess.

last week, i must confess, i lifted my own t.v. embargo in order to watch "victoria beckham, coming to america". here's what i think. if victoria beckham, immigrating to beverly hills (on top of all the aforementioned disasters) doesn't spell the end of our civilization, as we know it, i don't know what does. osama ben laden can save himself and his buddies plane fare. all they have to do is pop a bucket of popcorn, turn on cnn and kick back and watch us destroy ourselves. it will be, i am sure, the highest rated show in tora bora.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Have The Terrorists Won?

Today’s announcement that we will once again be permitted to bring cigarette lighters onto planes is, I’m speculating, designed to support the idea that the terrorists have not won. Since we can't smoke in the air, I'm not sure why one needs to bring a lighter onboard, but this appears, from the TV announcements, to be a tremendous victory. Or is simply a reflection that nobody has threatened us with a Zippo?

I’m not sure how to calculate if the terrorists have won, but I’ve had it with heroics designed to say, “no way” to them. I’ve been going on the subways, flashing my senior Metro card so that my local cell might notice they haven’t deterred me from my daily routine. Anyone flying these days can see nobody’s winning – not the terrorists, passengers or airlines.

The daily reports on deaths in Iraq, the war now billed as the "war on terrorism", may be a better indicator of who's winning than whether or not I have the courage to use public transportation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

you have not heard the last of this

sybil may scoff at the loss of #30 but i am not going quietly in to the night on this one. yes, the loss of a neighborhood deli is devastating. believe it or not, even out here in the wasteland, we have beloved establishments that go out of business, but one can not - i repeat, not - compare the loss of a hot pastrami sandwich to the loss of one's facial identity. without #30 i am no one. thank god i saved my enormous tortoise shell sunglasses from the kennedy years, otherwise i would be house bound for sure.

i don't mean to be insensitive, but in a city like new york, there is a deli on every corner. there are whole neighborhoods devoted to deli. you can not walk six blocks in any direction without a whiff of dill pickle assaulting your nose. but #30. where or where do you replace #30?

thanks to my enormous success in taking on subzero (all due to sybil's tutorial in how to get large corporations to do what you ask of them) i have contacted chanel. i reached the customer service department and was immediately connected to a service representative. "hello, my name is chanel. how may i help you?" i was stunned. "is your name really chanel?" "everyone asks me that question". i wonder why. well once we established that chanel was indeed her given name (which is why i guess she is not a customer service representative for elizabeth arden) i told her my sad story about the loss of #30. she understood. she sympathized. chanel was a girl with a heart. she even shared with me that the very same thing had happened with her favorite lipstick. even chanel had been let down by chanel.

chanel asked me to give her the exact name of my eye shadow. "just read me everything that is written on the bottom of the bottle". i had to ask her to hang on while i unearthed the magnifying glass from the bottom of the desk drawer. i read her every last word, written in itty bitty print, on the label. none of it was ringing a bell for chanel. but she was a trooper. she was not willing to give up. she took my name, address and email and said she would get back to me in a day or two after she had had a chance to do some research. in the meanwhile, chanel said she would send me some samples of the newest make-up. i thanked her and hung up.

it wasn't until much later that i had an epiphany. if i needed a magnifying glass to read the label on my eye shadow, it probably wouldn't be much longer before it won't matter to me whether my lids are sporting #30 or #27. i thought about calling chanel back and telling her not to go to all that trouble, but then i thought about her free make-up offer. after all, i may be blind but i am not dead.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

no, no they can't take that away from me!

when i was young i marched in the streets. in my teens i marched in the labor day parades down fifth avenue. with a guitar slung over my shoulder i raised my fists in protest against the bosses of the world. while my father kindly and patiently pointed out to me that he, the very one who paid for my food, clothing, education and ten pair of pappagallo flats, not to mention the aforementioned guitar, was indeed a boss himself, i felt no remorse. i was, at the moment, madly in love with a freshman at columbia university who happened to be a communist. when he said march i marched.

years later, during vietnam, i marched in candlelight parades in manhattan protesting the war and then i marched on washington for the very same purpose. in the 90's i marched again in washington, this time for equal rights for women. i haven't marched in a while because there hasn't been a cause, or a cute college boy, that has moved me to do so, until today.

today was the day i found out that chanel has discontinued my liquid, eggplant, eyeshadow #30. when i asked why, the black clad chanel sales lady smiled and said "that's what we do".
"but why" i heard myself whine. "because that's what we do. can i interest you in winter plum #42"?

i stomped out of neiman marcus determined to find my number 30 eyeshadow. it had taken me years to perfect my look and number 30 was the basis of that look. i trekked up and down wilshire blvd. first to saks, then to barney's and finally to the rodeo drive branch of chanel itself. surely one of them would have a bottle or two of #30 hidden somewhere in their back rooms. nope. not a bottle to be had. i stamped my feet, i clenched my fists. i felt a familiar emotion rise up in my chest. i felt powerless and downtrodden. the feeling moved from my head to my chest and settled finally in my feet. my feet knew what to do. my feet wanted to march.

tomorrow i am going to organize. i know there are thousands of us, perhaps millions of women who have been led down this road by cosmetic companies. we give them our loyalty and our money and then after that, without any warning, they pull our lipsticks, eye shadows, and nail polishes out from under us.

the pundits tell us that americans are not taking to the streets in protest of the iraqi war because there is no draft. without a draft, the average american does not feel impacted by the fighting and dying. it is the impact that drives people to protest. well, you want to feel impact just try getting made up in the morning without your favorite base, lipstick or blush. you want impact - try hearing your hairdresser tell you that the color hair dye you have been using for the past twenty years, to cover those pesky little greys, had been discontinued. suddenly, after sailing through your thirties and forties as an "autumn brown" you are forced to choose between "broadway brunette" or "audacious auburn".

i think all you women out there know exactly what i mean. we're mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore. we will meet next tuesday at 10 a.m. at the v.a. building in westwood. we will march to neiman marcus. bring your daughters. this will be a historic day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

boys will be boys

my son has gone off to camp for a week. every summer he takes a week off from work and volunteers his time at a camp for children with crohn's and colitis. the fact that he suffers from colitis himself, makes him a perfect person to act as counselor to these kids. i am incredibly proud of him and the work that he does and his week away every summer is always something that warms my heart. until this year.

two things have happened that make me wish he had never gone off to camp. the first is that he is the official blog master of bi-coastal broads and with him out of town and unreachable the broads have run amok. we have no idea what we are doing blog wise. we know so little that we don't even know the right questions to get others to help us. while i love my son a lot i am afraid if he stays away much longer i might have to adopt another child. i do have a daughter and while she is bright, beautiful and a talented artist she is in no way helpful when it comes to computers. i am thinking 20 something and asian. they are usually quite beautiful, well behaved and are known to be whizzes at the computer. i would be a good mother and not expect too much from my adopted son. i would love him, give him room, board, and his own flat screen t.v. all i would ask in return is that he be on call 24/7 for blog related questions and that he present me with a grandchild within two years of his adoption. (i figure this way i can kill two birds with one stone).

the second reason i wish my son had never gone off to camp is the e mail i received from him this evening. basically, it said something like this. "i have always thought about doing this and now it is done. i have shaved my head. i am bald. more later and perhaps a photo". i thought after we got through high school and made it through college with little or no mutilation, piercings or tattoos i was home free. not so fast. i sent a bushy headed man to camp and i am getting back mr. clean. there is one thing i know for sure. my asian son would never do this to me.

Posthumous Fame

Regardless of our personal beliefs about life after death, what’s incontrovertible is the existence of literary and artistic life after death, where fame comes after burial. Those in creative fields, therefore, would be wise to prepare for posthumous recognition.

Today’s New York Times tells about a pending law suit, at issue whether or not the lawyer who compiled 122 poems written by Dorothy Parker published after her death is entitled to payment. The owner of an Andy Warhol self-portrait is battling the late artist’s foundation for refusing to authenticate his painting, accusing them of competing with him to enhance the value of the Warhols in their possession. Last month a diary was released written by 14-year-old Rutka Laskier in 1943 shortly before she was deported to Auschwitz, where she died.

These accounts, as well as the belated acknolwedgments that came to Van Gogh, El Greco and Franz Schubert, are causing me concern. It's conceivable that TV shows I’ve been involved with, series that weren't award winners in their time --“Mr. President”, “Under One Roof” and “Clarissa Explains it All” -- might achieve renewed (okay, new) regard after I’m gone. And there's the added likelihood that Bicoastal Broads may be ahead of its time and garner attention long after Judi and I are online or on land to respond.

I never aspired to be famous and did what I could to elude becoming overwhelmingly successful. That’s borne out by my professional resume, which doesn’t include some of TV’s hottest series because I systematically turned down offers to have my name attached to hit shows, such as Cosby and Alice. It's not clear how long I can avoid fame, and it may be impossible once I'm gone, so I'm taking this opportunity to issue directives should I become well-known posthumously.

None of my belongings, literary or otherwise, is to be sold on e-bay, mainly because I'm concerned what might be found in my pockets. Judi and I have children. We ask that the media afford them the privacy they deserve. No double-decker tour buses, please, stopping and pointing out where they live.

If there's a movie made on our lives, even loosely based, I know Judi will want to be sure her name is spelled correctly. Her name ends in an “i”, not a “y”, except for Sadowsky, which does end in a “y”. The lyricist would be well advised to go on I-Tunes and listen to Liza with a ‘z’. While we don't have casting approval, please honor our memory by casting actresses who know where the laughs are and don't belong to the Church of Scientology.

Monday, July 16, 2007

round and round and round we go

i know that there is a lot going on in the world today. the catholic church is trying to buy off those they have sinned against and george bush is still telling his evil lies and hoping he can hang on long enough to dump this whole mess in his successor's lap. dick cheney is still the evil incarnate and in japan there was an earthquake, monsoon and reported tsunami.

here in los angeles something important has happened as well. while it certainly does not rank up there with wars, natural disasters and loss of life, in my little corner of the world it is a milestone. today, i have logged 12,000 miles on my treadmill. true, it has taken me ten years but 12,000 miles is still a long way to go. if only i had used some foresight and started issuing myself frequent walker miles years ago, i would really have something to show for all my hard work.

look at what has happened to our world. in just one generation, i have traveled farther on my treadmill, while still not going anywhere, than my parents did in their entire lives. when my parents walked, they walked for a reason. they walked to the store or the train station. they actually went somewhere, did something and then returned. i just walk around and around like a hamster in a cage. i could walk outside. i could walk to the store or the train station (if there were actually trains in los angeles) but i don't. i walk on the treadmill because, while it is true that i go nowhere, i can plug into electronic devices that will simulate me actually moving through space and time. an hour on the treadmill is an hour with cnn. my television can take me all around the world. i can peek into other peoples homes and lives with impunity. i can look close up at dying soldiers and grieving parents. i can sit in a front row seat while a suspected wife murderer is being interrogated and i can walk, mile for mile, with a search party hoping to find a lost child.

maybe my treadmill anniversary is really just a metaphor for what is going on in the world today. maybe, we have all been trained and brainwashed into believing that by going around and around on a treadmill, (be it a walking one or a treadmill of words and ideas) we are actually getting somewhere. traveling 12,000 miles in your family room or lying about progress to a nation at war is basically the same thing - a lot of huffing and puffing while nothing much changes.

Sexual Abuse in LA: Judi, we don't hold you personally responsible, so please come back to the blog

How wrong was I to think that men in show business had a lock on parlaying their power into personal sexual gains? The Catholic Diocese of L.A. has agreed to a $660 settlement to pay victims of sex offenders, men who, for years, have been harbored and shielded by the church. I'm shocked, not only by the extent of the abuse, but that priests may be more promiscuous than movie producers.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney and other cardinals should be turning cardinal red for their roles as enablers, refusing to confront an issue that had already been made public. Since 1950 the U.S. Catholic church has paid upwards of $2 billion to victims of sexual abuse. This should have been a heads up.

Mahoney issued an apology yesterday to the victims (though he was mum at mass), which many see as “too little, too late”. This heinous situation was not, of course, limited to LA. That there’s a national organization – Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests – speaks to the scope of the problem. And, once again, it’s the cover-up aspect that’s as upsetting as the acts themselves. Didn’t anyone recognize it was the youngsters in the parish, not the predators, who needed and deserved protection?

Some feel this raises the issue of whether celibacy is a contributing factor and should be abolished. Child abusers are attracted to churches and schools, environments where innocent children are in plentiful supply. Would an adult partner preclude their fulfilling the desire to abuse youngsters? The Hollywood producers known for their philandering all had wives.

There were instances of sexual abuse and harrasment when I was actively involved in show business. There was no formula or precedent defining it, so we laughed it off. A friend joked that we thought of it as a job perk. While I never imagined I’d be defending Hollywood players, an adult making an illicit offer to another adult seems almost honorable when contrasted to abusing a child, who has no protective mechanisms and whose psyche is permanently damaged. Moreover, aside from Oprah, nobody looks to movie or TV people as moral compasses, making the church’s participation yet more disturbing and serious.

Settlements and apologies are a band-aid, only a partial response to this widespread and inexcusable practice. Churches, guilty of closing their eyes and harboring criminals, can’t be trusted to eliminate child abuse. All too often an accused clergyman is sent into counseling, the effects of which are unverifiable, and then reassigned to another parish, where he has access to other young children

My proposal is that every institution where youngsters might be at risk be forced to hire independent advocates to serve as a moral protective force to insure the safety of the children.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

the toaster wars

o.k., i get it. we're doing appliances today.

i live with a man who is not an appliance junkie. the husband's only interest in things mechanical has to do with his cuisinart. he loves to cook and the only time i ever heard him cuss out an inanimate object was when his cuisinart dropped dead about two hours before a dinner party. i think the thing that upset him the most was that the french machine didn't even have the good grace to sputter and start for a few days before dying, it just gave out - a massive heart attack that no amount of cpr could resuscitate. he mourned for a few days, reluctant to, so quickly, replace an old friend but once he saw all the brand new and improved models of his former buddy, all was forgotten and he was on to the new.

our bedroom t.v. is old and about the size of a volkswagen beetle and the one in the den is not far behind. our clock radio, also soon to be placed on the endangered species list, has been with us as long as i can remember. in other words, electronics just don't play a large part in our home. that is why i didn't expect the husband's reaction when i brought home a new toaster oven.

replacing our toaster oven was not done on a whim. there was no new, sexier toaster out there beckoning to either me or the husband. it just died - just like the cuisinart. no warning. just one minute it was working and the next - dead. perhaps i should start giving my appliances lipitor. unlike the husband and the cuisinart, i had no emotional attachment to our toaster. i just dumped it in the trash and drove over to "bed, bath and beyond". (just what does beyond mean anyway? is it beyond the bed and bath or beyond our galaxy? i wonder about these things.)

did you know that there are about three hundred and fifty models of toaster ovens? as far as i could tell they all pretty much do the same thing. you can no longer buy a toaster oven that just toasts. these new and improved models, bake, broil and warm in addition to just plain toasting. and they are all digital. did i mention that digital is a dirty word in our house? for some reason digital is just something the husband has never gotten the hang of. the switch from dial phones to push buttons almost did him in and we are both too old to live through another revolution like that. i had no choice. i just figured i would buy the digital toaster and make the husband's toast for him - after all that is what a wife is for. maybe, after a few years of being toast dependent, he would catch on to the toast module. he really had no need for baking, broiling and warming , so i was hopeful.

i was also wrong. every morning for the past six months the husband has complained about the toaster. he seems to take it personally that the toaster has buttons and commands that baffle him. every morning he has to choose a mode and a temperature and a toast color. all of these decisions involve pushing buttons. for some reason, after all this time, he still can't seem to get the hang of it. i have offered, again and again, to make his toast for him but somehow he sees this as me, questioning his manhood. "it's not that hard" i tell him. "it shouldn't be hard at all" he replies. i offer to buy him a new toaster. not an oven just a toaster. the kind you put two slices of bread in and it toasts. nothing fancy - just white bread turning brown and crusty in a matter of minutes. he agrees.

i returned to "bed, bath and beyond" in search of 1950. i find, what i think is a perfect candidate. i buy it, bring it home, plug it in and wait for the morning. shouting from the kitchen at 8 a.m. is not a good sign. it seems the new, old-fashioned toaster has gone digital. they didn't show that nasty little feature on the box at "bed, bath and beyond" - perhaps they were trying to trick us old fogies. i now have two useless toasters in my kitchen but i think i have solved the problem.

i started shrinking the husband's pants in the dryer and moving the buttons on his waistbands. casually, over the past few weeks, i have been mentioning that he seems to have put on a little weight. yesterday all our troubles were over. he has gone on the atkin's diet - no bread allowed. this should give me a few weeks peace until i can scare up an antique toaster on ebay.

Our "first wife TV": spurned for a flat screen

Appliances, like ships and countries, appear to be gender-related. Our Pasquini espresso machine: a work horse, loyal, sexy, continually striving to make a richer brew and frothier foam? Female. Our Toshiba TV, working 24/7 without a groan, changing at the flip of a switch, remembering every show we had any interest in watching, not embarrassed to need help from TIVO? Also female. The drill? Male (no explanation needed). The computer, which speaks a language I don’t understand and can, with one word (often, “error”), make me feel incompetent? Definitely male.

The 27” TV, though operating perfectly and not yet commemorating its 5th year in our bedroom, fell into disfavor through no fault of its own. With all the other guys running after flat-screen TV’s, my husband started dragging me into appliance stores – J & R, P.C. Richards -- places I didn't entirely trust, both because of the initials and the “we’ll match any price” offer. Why not just lower your own price? Martin would lead me to specific models, again with initials – LCD. He praised high definition as if it had the allure of high cheekbones and high boobs. My lack of enthusiasm was no deterrent. Our TV was on her way out, like a wife about to confront a no-fault divorce.

Filling, albeit differently, the space where the TV had been is a new 37”, flat screen Sharp. Martin tries to justify the expense by pointing out the area that’s been freed up, refusing to admit it’s a no man’s land since you can’t put plants or books in front of a TV.

I’m trying to be fair to the new girl on the block. She’s spiffy. The news she gives, however, is every bit as disheartening and infuriating. On the wider screen, the al-Qaeda training ritual appears even more arduous with added overhead bars to grasp covering a longer distance. The higher resolution shows that Sam Waterston and Anderson Cooper have almost identical hair. Most everyone looks as if they were wax museum replicas. All faces appear to have been pulled and had laser treatments to remove pores and lines, the only exception Helen Thomas. I'm holding off final judgment until the red carpet on Oscar night.

Friday, July 13, 2007

beauty and the beast

Just like sybil, i too watched our president at his press conference yesterday morning and just like sybil i felt furious and frustrated. unlike sybil, however, my anger was for a very different reason.

over the years, i have grown used to bush's lies and smirks and cowboy bravado. my usual reaction, when he appears on my t.v. screen, is to change the channel. there is nothing that man can say or do that will give me any confidence or comfort and nothing he can say or do will make me hate him less.

yesterday morning i was watching the "today show". i had been lured to my t.v. with a promo promising an exclusive matt lauer interview with the reigning miss new jersey. apparently, the young lady in question had posed for some racy pictures in college and someone was blackmailing her. the threat was that either she step down and hand over her crown or the would be blackmailer would release the photos. miss new jersey, in a plot line straight out of "law and order", decided to beat the blackmailer at his own game and release them herself.

and so i waited patiently. i sat through an entire hour, having to watch and listen to the insipid and insufferable ann curry pretend to interview the young female star of "harry potter" and then some stupid fashion show. i would have changed channels, but every commercial break promised miss new jersey, any minute. finally, the eight o'clock hour arrived. i knew that that was the time that the "today show" switched from "hard news", like the "harry potter" interview, to fluff. i was guessing that miss new jersey scored high on the fluff meter.

just as they were about to introduce her, the screen cut to BREAKING NEWS. in this climate of fear, and thanks to chertoff's gut, i was expecting, at the very least, a change in our terror color code - at the worst - an attack on an airport, train station or god knows where. but nooooo.. it was a press conference starring our beloved leader. i hoped it would be short and sweet. he never has that much to say anyway and since he never really answers questions, i figured he could be done in time for me to still catch a glimpse of miss new jersey, wiping away tears and perhaps a brief photo of her ta ta's.

it was not to be. bush went on and on. fortunately for him, because i was really mad, they repeated the interview later in the day on msnbc. miss new jersey's ta ta's were no where to be seen. as a matter of fact, in the photos, it seems as though either yellow peppers or oranges were standing in as ta ta's on the young lady. not one photo was any more disturbing than any college kid's "you tube" page. fortunately, the powers that be on the miss new jersey board, decided that oranges, standing in for ta ta's, was not going to spell the end of miss new jersey's reign and, as of late yesterday, her tiara was firmly in place.

i find it really interesting, that a young beauty queen could possibly lose her title over a couple of vegetable ta ta's, while george bush, after all he has done, still gets to keep his title as president of the united states.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nervous flyers: take note of who's in exit row

In deference to Judi's anxieties in the air, she hasn't covered all the bases. While her strategies for coping are creative, it may not be enough to make friends in the cockpit and galley, even if she does get jewelry without having to put out.

I'm sure flight crews are flattered, believing that Judi's consuming interest in their personal lives is a signal that their lives are compelling. I have my own fears about her coast-to-coast interviews. What if the captain, whom I visualize as an alpha male, not giving to chit-chat once he's made his turbulence announcement, should respond to Judi's warmth and decide she's far more entertaining and adorable than his wife? It's not impossible that Judi's attention could cause him to question all his choices. What if, somewhere between New York and Los Angeles, he comes to the conclusion that everything he's done is wrong and becomes severely anxious or depressed? What then? Planes aren't like subways. There's no emergency chain for Judi to yank and demand an emergency stop.

That’s not the only risk factor she’s overlooked. Sure, it's reassuring to imagine that any man in a suit is an air marshall if that works for you, but she's overlooking an important aspect of flying. She should be directing her attention to the exit rows, looking specifically for people like me. I’ll do or say whatever it takes to get extra leg room. I have no qualms about agreeing to fling open a heavy escape hatch, evacuate all the other passengers and toss their carry-ons to them before I, myself, leave the plane.

The airlines, even El Al who’ll question where I've been since shoving my black bathing suits into my bag and ask the names of my Israeli cousins (all named "Moshe"), take me at my word. By asking me to lift weights, they could easily see that I'd never get that hatch opened. I can't even get into a jar of pickles without calling for help. Even if my wrists weren't weakened by arthritis, I'm usually asleep on a plane. If a flight is longer than four hours (which these days could be the time on the tarmac), I take Ambien.

It's not that I think Judi shouldn't screen the airline employees and scout around for her own personal air marshall, but she should also check the exit row to be sure her life won't end up in the arthritic hands of a narcissist.

The Interim Report: Bush - a gentleman's C

I’d anticipated what Bush would say this morning when compelled to comment on The Interim Report on Iraq. Every one of his speeches is a version of a previous one. He came through as expected with the defensive posturing, his “elementary school teacher’s voice” justifying yet again why we need to remain in Iraq, claiming to make decisions not to please us (clearly) while ducking the issue of responsibility by maintaining he relies on information from the generals over there and, finally, that he can’t speculate as to what he’ll do if things don’t improve. At this point, I could deliver his speech without notes, yet he rarely completes a thought without referring to his pages. I'm never sure he understands the words coming out of his mouth, reminding me of when I pray in Hebrew.

While the report was ostensibly assessing Iraqi progress, it also reflects Bush’s progress. He’s responsible for the current situation in Iraq. The 18 benchmarks were broken down into 8 satisfactory, 8 unsatisfactory and 2 mixed, putting Bush in territory no doubt familiar to him: the gentleman’s C.

If my son had gotten these grades at a parent/teacher conference, I’d be hiring tutors and cutting back on ranch time. What do you think, Mother Bush?

come fly with me

yesterday, the husband and i were returning home from a ten day vacation. as we entered the airline terminal at jfk we encountered soldiers with rifles slung over their shoulders. i remember seeing these kinds of guards in our airports right after 9/11 but their presence had diminished in the ensuing years. as you know, from my previous blogs, i am not the world's happiest flyer, so seeing armed men in the airport did nothing to assuage my anxiety.

i used to just be afraid of natural disasters, thunder storms, birds flying into the jet engines, faulty mechanics ( one loose screw could bring down an entire plane) or human failures. i always question my pilots when i board the plane. after introducing myself and asking if there is any red on the radar ( a sure sign of a turbulent flight to come) i then discreetly ask them about their home life. if they are happily married or say, in the middle of an ugly divorce. i would walk off any plane if a pilot admitted his wife had left him for another man or he was currently in the courts over a custody dispute.

this particular flight both pilots seemed happy and fairly well adjusted. i did pause for a moment on noticing that the co-pilot was an attractive young woman. i am not in favor of hanky panky in the cockpit (at least not while i am on board) but she made a point of showing me a photo of her husband and twin daughters so i was reassured. it was only after we landed that i thought, perhaps, the picture show was just to throw me off the scent.

after the pilot interview, i made my way slowly down the aisle observing all the passengers as i walked. i am now on constant guard for potential terrorists, shoe bombers, unruly teenagers or just regular people who could tend to upset me, in any way, in mid air. i also try to identify the sky marshall. this is the tricky part. the husband is convinced that there are no sky marshalls. he thinks it is just another myth perpetrated by the bush administration to make the public feel safe while flying during these troubled times. i, who believe nothing our president has said since he first took the oath of office, choose to believe that there are indeed flying john waynes on every flight - just to keep me safe. picking him out, however, is not so easy. on this particular flight i choose to believe that the tall man in the business suit and the straw hat sitting directly in front of me was the one. when i made eye contact and smiled he did not smile back - a sure sign of a man on duty. having him and his trusty gun right in front of me made me feel safe. i knew he could bring down a terrorist with a single shot. what he could do about a seagull in the engine i wasn't sure but i wanted to believe, in my heart of hearts, that in addition to a gun, he packed a tool kit and could deal with any loose screw in a moments notice.

next i moved on to the flight attendants. this was disappointing. the two assigned to my section in charge of my soft drinks, vodka and salted nuts, did not inspire confidence. anthony was young, tall and very good looking. with a two day growth of stubble and his shirt unbuttoned one button short of his navel, he looked more like a gq model than the man who would save me from a fiery crash. anna, on the other hand, was only slightly more promising . picture janice soprano in a too tight sheath and a clippy desperately hanging on to her long, over-processed hair. she was a southern belle from north carolina and had definitely seen better days but i was not to be deterred. after befriending them, by sharing my ham sandwich and handing over my people magazine, they treated me to my second vodka and cranberry and we got down to business.

my theory is that of course the flight attendants are going to save the people they like best and i am always in first place for the miss congeniality award on any plane i set foot on. not only did i hang out in the galley with them (the best place to overhear conversations from the cockpit - like if we are going down i want to be the first to know) but i found out all about their lives. anthony really wanted to be a nurse but was flying because the pay was better. i think anthony wanted to be a nurse because the uniform was cuter but i didn't mention that observation to him. anna, well anna had had two failed marriages, was soured on men and was sorry she didn't become a movie star back in the day when she could have. i didn't ask what day that was - remember, i was back there to befriend not alienate - but i did wonder.

when i finally returned to my seat it was almost time to land. the husband didn't even ask me where i had been. years ago he would ask me, when i returned to my seat after a long absence, "where were you"? but after all this time, he knew. just as we were putting our seat backs in the upright position and stowing our carry on luggage back in the overhead compartments, anna and anthony approached and handed me a little plastic envelope. anna smiled and anthony squeezed my shoulder and moved on. i opened my hand and grinned. i had done it again. inside the little envelope was a pair of junior stewardess wings. "how many of those do you have?" asked the husband. "how many flights have we taken since 9/11?" i replied.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Homeland Security...or psychic adviser?

I woke up this morning to hear that Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security, has a gut feeling al-Qaeda may have another surprise for us this summer. He’s with Homeland Security, not the Psychic Hotline. Are his hunches limited to terrorist attacks, or does he also find lost cats and predict the sex of a baby? Shouldn’t an announcement from Homeland Security be based on credible Intelligence, not when Mercury is going into retrograde?

Chertoff said that the terrorist group has recently been making more public statements, which he construes as an indication they’re feeling comfortable. We have only to look at Bush to see that public statements, however cocky and blustery, are no measure of the capacity to act successfully. And there’s Bush’s reasoning that by bringing the war to them, we’re preventing them from bringing it to us. Bush and Chertoff appear to be tuned in to different frequencies.

I’ve had psychic readings and am willing to consider that some people have an ability to foresee a future event. This has been a source of dispute between my husband and me. His position is, “Even if a few of the things they tell you do happen, you wouldn’t go to a doctor who’s right 50% of the time”. But even I, more reluctant to discredit psychic powers, was alarmed when I learned that Nancy Reagan had a psychic on retainer. It frightens me that governmental decisions may be influenced by self-proclaimed mind-readers or spiritual advisers. I sure hope Homeland Security isn’t working with a deck of Tarot cards.

Even before today, I had misgivings about Homeland Security. I don't trust they're doing enough to protect us. We should all be grateful we had a shoe bomber, not an underpants bomber.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 telling people where to go

New Yorkers are accustomed to being told where to go, and for those of us who need to whiz around Manhattan, is here to help. It’s a service that invites you to use your cell phone to e-mail a zip code in order to scope out a nearby, clean bathroom. My cell phone doesn’t provide for e-mail so this won't be a useful resource for me, but since peeing is a priority, I’ve developed strategies to help me get through the day.

I know better than to expect the Sherry Netherland doorman to be sympathetic to my overactive bladder so when I feel the need, I do my best to assume the attitude of an upper East Sider, one who deserves to use the facilities at Per Se and The Pierre alike. I'm in no danger of being mistaken for Ivana Trump and don’t carry a Gucci, which means it take work to create the aura of privilege. Appearing to have a sense of entitlement, I’ve found, is the key to getting the bathroom key.

Bathroom access is a huge issue for me. I try for an aisle seat at the theater, movies and on airplanes. I pee as a prophylactic measure before leaving a safe spot. I can say, “Where’s the bathroom” in all the romance languages. My need to pee frequently is one reason I don’t go on long hikes, the other being I hate hiking. While department stores bathrooms once provided an easy solution, few of those remain. Coffee shops, too, have given way to Duane Reades, which are handy if you need dental floss, useless when you need to pee.

Restaurants are the answer, but they expect you to eat there, so I’ve developed a system for off-mealtime relief. I make sure the host/hostess notices me, at which time I scan the room as if meeting someone. Feigning exasperation, I check my watch and mutter, “He’s not here yet. Where’s the ladies room?” This has been successful except at Brighton Beach’s Primorski, where what appear to be former KGB agents are stationed to guard the bathroom from non-eaters. When necessary, I’ve eaten an order of pirogi in order to gain admission to their toilet. And I’m not discouraged by a sign that says, “Restrooms for customers only”. You can’t be a sissy when you have to make a sissy.

I’m comfortable in public bathrooms, intuiting how to avoid making contacting with bacteria-laden surfaces in a gas station and where to reach for a light switch (most often to the right of the entrance). While traveling in Japan, however, I was thrown by their ultra-sophisticated Toto toilets. Though I understood the icons showing how various areas could be showered, with a choice of music or a flushing sound to back up my own, I was unable to figure out how to flush the toilet in our hotel lobby. I pressed something and was taken aback to have the concierge turn up. But that’s been my only mishap in an otherwise unblemished run.

So, I welcome, as I’m sure do others with busy bladders, but I’ll have to continue operating as a free agent.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Does Victoria Share her Secrets with AARP?

The week of my fiftieth birthday it came: the invitation to join The American Association of Retired Persons. Mistaking it for The American Association of Tired Persons and a shameless fan of member discounts, I dropped everything and filled out the application, eager to find out about their health plan and see if they had deals on a walker/shopping cart.

An adept multi-tasker, I was completing the application while on the phone ordering lacy lingerie from the Victoria’s Secret catalog that had arrived in that same day’s mail delivery. "The black teddy?" Victoria’s representative asked. Was I right in thinking there was something in her tone suggesting flannel pajamas with toasters all over them might be more suitable for someone my age?

Could she know how old I was? The four digits on Victoria’s shipping label identify my zip code, so why wouldn’t shouldn't I assume she also had been fed my hair color formula and whether or not I used moisturizer? It wouldn't be paranoid to think she was aware I’d just qualified for AARP membership. It was entirely possible Victoria, that big mouth, had called AARP to say, “I’ve got a stellar customer hitting fifty this year, a catalog addict. You'll thank me for this one; she’ll be ordering easy-grip pens and the hospital bed!”

If, as I’d suspected, the sales rep at Victoria’s 800 number was questioning whether the flimsy lingerie I was ordering was appropriate, she wasn’t alone. I, too, was confused about my age. Had the time come to lower hems, tuck up eyelid folds, and buy tan-colored, walking shoes with crepe soles and big toe boxes?

The fifties are murky, a transitional decade, not unlike the teen years, when hormones are the big issue. Fifty is an awkward age. You’re too old for happy hours, too young for early bird dinners. There’s nothing to do after work except pop into Williams-Sonoma and hope someone’s laid out crackers and dips, which you nosh while pretending to be serious about buying a new wok.

By this age, my mother had already taken on the aura of a senior. She and her canasta buddies wore drip-dry house dresses with snaps, their scuffs announcing they had no reason to dress for success -- in bed or elsewhere. Contemptuous of women vain enough to squander money on licensed hair stylists, my mother boasted about getting her gray hair rinsed blue at a beauty school, “Six bucks for the wash, set and manicure, including tip!”

My generation of women has extended its shelf life. Being fifty doesn’t guarantee someone will offer you a seat on the bus…unless you’ve had a serious ski injury or are pregnant. Fifty-year-old women, between mammograms and colonoscopies, are running corporations and marathons, are mothers of lower schoolers, grandmothers doing pilates, newlyweds with pre-nuptial agreements.

I asked friends in their 50's what they would have changed about their lives. “I’d make pretty much the same choices,” a writer, the mother of three answered, “but I’d write more novels.”

“I’d have had a daughter,” the mother of two boys volunteered.

It was my turn. “I’d have waited to get antique rugs until after our dog died.”

None of us had serious misgivings. Continuing with my informal and totally unscientific poll, I found other contemporaries who viewed our lives as more difficult, demanding and stressful. “All my memory bytes have gotten used up,” was a common source of concern. We worry about loss of memory and diminished professional power. Most of us have had too many friends die. Once again, my generation is on drugs, but now it’s mostly anti-depressants. Unlike the stuff we inhaled and snorted in the Sixties, these drugs are more user-friendly. Neither Prozac, Prempro or Viagara requires you to pick through sharp twigs, roll your own cigarettes or bake brownies. And you can take these meds through Customs without attracting a pack of sniffing dogs.

We were visited by my husband’s aunt, an earthy, sexy, blonde Parisian, who at ninety-two, has lost none of her “joie de vivre”. Others her age may leave home only when a 911 attendant has tossed them onto a gurney, but Ida, in heels higher than mine, was still accumulating frequent flier miles, packing and repacking to visit Texas, Israel and Cannes. While sipping a Kir, Ida leaned across the table to ask how I’d roasted the garlic, reaching into her purse for a pen to write down the recipe. “Snip off the top of the garlic, dribble olive oil on it and roast it at 250 for two hours,” I instructed. Though Ida surely thought nothing of this exchange, it impacted on me, reminding me of the importance of remaining curious and open.

In my fifties, I took my first scuba lesson, tried parasailing, swung from a flying trapeze at Club Med, completed two art courses, went on a cycling trip in France and spent a week at a vegetarian spa in Mexico. I got into better shape physically and ordered lacy lingerie with abandon, which made me think that Victoria should be offering senior discounts (Banana Republic does).

The shock of being AARP-age didn't prepare me for my reaction to turning 65 and becoming eligible for Medicare and the senior Metro card. But I'm done with that stuff. There will be no more "Hey, congratulations on being old" perks coming my way...unless someone is rude enough to offer me their seat on the subway.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A War Without Legs

While living in LA and pitching series ideas for television, the question most frequently posed was, “Does it have legs”? Network executives were aware that it was critical the characters and stories be able to sustain in the fifth season of the show. This is a question that should have been considered before our president rushed to send troops to Iraq. Too many of them now have no legs.

It’s not only American soldiers who’ve become amputees. Since the beginning of 2007, 13,000 Iraqi citizens have survived attacks by bombs, mortars and rockets. 1/4 of all injuries over there involve the loss of limbs. Though the atrocities are withheld from us, this morning shortly after announcing that Bush is celebrating his 61st birthday, CNN showed a clip of an 18-year-old Iraqi girl, younger than the Bush twins, who lost both legs as the result of an explosive attack.

Not only did this young Iraqi innocent lose her legs, but she lost her sister and sister-in-law, who'd been killed in the attack. She's having to wait over a month to get fitted for prosthetic limbs. They're able to fabricate only 1200 prothetics a year, half of what’s needed. The girl was sadly telling the reporter that she can’t go out. And these are just the immediate horrors. Unmarried Iraqi women who’ve lost limbs don't marry, so she’s lost her future, the chance to find love and have children.

The war had been billed as “Shock and Awe”, sounding like a Hollywood box-office hit. The title was changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, with no subtitle to remind us that since its start, somewhere between 66,000 and 73,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Tragically, this is, in every way, a war without legs.

We’re advised not to go to bed angry at our husbands, which I find easy. What’s harder is not to go to bed angry at Laura’s husband. Happy birthday, George.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Whose Lie Is it Anyway?

I miss Clinton’s lies. They were familiar, the kind of stuff we expect from guys – “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” (said with an appropriate amount of anguish) or the even more desperate, “It depends what your definition of ‘is’ is”. He was trying to save his marriage, job and ass. It’s not to imply the lies were inconsequential, but they were about Monica, not Katrina.

Clinton was covering up a story that, had he not been our president, would have been of interest only to the tabloids. Bush’s lies – and I can’t, regrettably, use the past tense when speaking of him - are designed to secure unlimited power, deny accountability, justify an unjustifiable war and forge on with no regard for consequences.

The most recent of the seemingly endless series of Bush’s lies was, “If anyone in my administration leaks information, I’ll fire them”, and, instead, rewarding Scooter Libby with a bonus pardon. But this was hardly the most egregious or damaging of his lies. Among the hit parade of his lies were maintaining there was a connection between al qaeda and Iraq, withholding the truth about our soldiers and the realities of this war, showing no concern for the treatment of prisoners or veterans, lopping $100,000 billion off what his Medicare prescription drug plan would cost (and threatening to fire Medicare’s top analyst if he revealed the truth). He tapped phones and tapped into our civil liberties, claiming that transparency and truth would compromise our national security. And those are just the tip of the iceberg; there’s the iceberg itself and matter of global warming, which isn't a priority for him. Clinton was promiscuous; Bush is lethal.

I can understand Hillary and Laura remaining loyal to their husbands, but how do we account for 27-32% of Americans who still approve of Bush? I'd like to be married to someone that forgiving. How many more lies are they permitting him? Bush's lies infuse new meaning to the old bumper sticker, “Make love, not war”. Clinton shamed himself. Bush shamed us all.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Remembering Joel Siegel...with tremendous warmth

Mornings following the death of a friend re-awaken us to the loss, which goes into remission during sleep, so this morning, I was hit again by the death of Joel Siegel. He wasn’t a friend who would have come to mind that early, but a few days ago, when my husband suggested we turn an upcoming dinner date into an evening at our home, I thought of Joel. I hesitated because he’d just e-mailed and mentioned he wasn’t feeling well, but had no reason to suspect this would be the last e-mail he'd ever send me. He was responsible about updating those of us who cared (and it was a large list) about his condition, his tone relentlessly upbeat, encouraging us to feel sure we would have many more bottles of wine and laughs together.

It’s impossible to visualize Joel without Dylan, his adorable, nine-year-old son, and treasure. Joel’s perpetual smile would grow uncontainable at the mention of Dylan’s name. One New Years we invited him to a gathering. “That’s my night with Dylan,” he responded, obviously preferring that above all else, but added, “If it’s okay, we’ll stop by to say hi”. How terrible I would feel now if I’d not said he should do that. We all learned from Joel, not just which movies to avoid, but to appreciate what we’ve been given, to recognize we’re finite, to live as fully and passionately as we can and to show our love without embarrassment.

An important exercise for me that accompanies a friend’s death is assessing if I could have done better. Joel allowed me to pass the squirm test, always a relief, his final gift to me. He was open about his condition, making it easy to let him off the hook when he'd failed to show up for a dinner here and explained that he'd fallen asleep. I was delighted to write a letter of recommendation when Dylan was applying to our son's school. I called to tell him to call if he was weak and needed a ride to services or anywhere else. We forgave him (even before the lavish bouquet of flowers arrived) for giving us the wrong address for his book party, mistakenly directing us to the East Side, which had us knocking on embassy doors and asking, “Is Joel Siegel’s book party here?” I didn't do much, but he didn’t ask for much.

I originally met Joel around 1970 on a blind date, which is why I was so amused by what his friend, Roger Ebert, wrote about him. I read: “At one point he (Joel) quoted Molly Ivins on the treatment for cancer: 'First they abuse you. Then they poison you. Then they burn you. I've had worse blind dates'.” I was one of those blind dates. It was, at best, uneventful, at worst, worse.

We didn’t see each other again until the late 90’s, when Susan, the same friend who’d set us up, re-introduced us as part of a large social gathering. Joel was now married to Ena, and we got to know each other without the akwardness of a blind date. I was charmed by his enthusiasm and won over by his authenticity, inspired by his determination to stay alive. He measured his success, not by his ratings or earnings, but by how many days he’d have with Dylan. There would never have been enough, which is why he was wise enough to make those he had count.