Wednesday, December 30, 2009

sorry for the wait

It's been a while since I posted, which I guess is not the best way to develop a readership. Still, everything seems so difficult lately. I was depressed all summer, and went right into those sad short days of winter.

I've been having trouble for several days with my bad tooth, one which has had a low-grade abcess under it for many years, and which was root-canaled about eight years ago. The abcess generally drains itself, and only once about fifteen years ago did I have a problem with it, where it stopped draining and swelled and hurt. Got some antibiotics and a mouth rinse and was fine until now. And any time I've had to take antibiotics for something else, it's helped the abcess. Well, I gotta go see an oral surgeon next month to see if he can dissect the gum and clean the thing out, or if it has to be pulled. (Not the worst thing in the world if it has to be pulled: there's a missing molar on the bottom left and I can get a bridge made.)

We are very lucky to have found a cheap dentist nearly. Our downstairs neighbor recommended him. Dr. Kadaa charges only $650 for a root canal, which is about what you pay at NYU Dental Clinic minus all of the waiting and being treated by a student. Dr. Kadaa rocks.

And though I've been using ibuprofin for the pain, which was been considerable, he offered to write me script for Tylenol and codeine; Barry said yes for me. I didn't want to seem to eager, but the truth is that I love that stuff when I need it.

I heard from an old friend on Facebook, who told me the usual about himself: hometown, profession, number of wives and kids, and added, "And you?" Me? I am one of the greatest underachievers on the face of this earth. I have parlayed a 168 IQ and an expensive education into nothing. I can't drive a car; I don't own property. I had a great two-and-a-half year career in public radio and TV (in an upstate city, not here), and a great two-year career in publishing. Other than that, I had a lot of shit jobs, the cheap ones that paid my way through NYU and the pricier ones in private industry where I learned both about insane bosses and about the ways in which my mental illness makes me a terrible employee.

I'm thinking more and more, lately, about actually writing a novel or memoir, and was encouraged to do so by a former history teacher. My best professors at NYU would probably say the same thing.

I wish -- gotta say it -- that a certain person I worked with in my publishing job, who held a high position in the Transcendental Meditation world, had made good on his offer of free TM training for my husband and me, or even just me. (He wasn't someone from my company, but someone who worked with one of my authors.) I have a feeling it would have done me a lot of good in the past months. I hate how much medication I have to take for things like cholesterol and high blood pressure and diabetes; I hate how much I have to take for my mental health, and it doesn't exactly work right. I'm OK with the medication model for mental health at this point, though I was raised a Freudian and think a lot of Jungian thoughts. But they don't even know exactly how and why the meds work so they're just throwing stuff at us and seeing what sticks. I'd like to see how much of this stuff I'd really need if I meditated twice a day.

Did I mention it was 4 degrees out today when I went to see the cheap dentist? 4 degrees and windy. My husband announced that we were taking a car service. He has been so wonderful to me that I truly can't complain about a thing...except that I'm not sure if I can get any better until he's back to work. I may be too tired to explain this now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Disorders and holidays

I think a lot of kids have, or former kids had, some sort of disorder, an irrational fear or something resembling OCD that may have required magical thinking or magical acts to keep the evil at bay.

I was afraid of the kinds of elevators that had gates so you could see the shaft. My school building was 13 stories tall so I did take them, but I stood near the back. Elevators stopping between floors still scare me. Elevators dropping a floor or two, forget it. (I guess I carried the elevator thing somewhat into adulthood.)

I also had a few about swimming. At the bungalow colony where we stayed, there was a very nice pool, but I was terrified of the drains. There were hockey-puck-sized indentations in the floor of the shallow water and one in the deep water (which was 8 or 10 or 12 feet, not much more), which may have been plugs, but I wasn't too sure so I avoided them. The monster was that big black hole at the side of the pool, I can't really remember if it was one or two of them, in the middle section or the deep water, and I have no idea if they were drains or if they filled the pool, but they were large and black and scary. I was terrified of them, no matter how many people I saw casually hanging out by them with no problem. If I was playing a game with friends, I had a real problem if I had to be stationed by one.

Also, there was a weird pool at one of the day camps we went to, Floradan. (Was it Floradan or Floridan?) It was filled with water diverted from some stream or lake, so it entered at one end and exited at another. I think the deeper end had a cemented bottom and sides, but not the shallow end. But there were *things* in that water, I knew it;the tiny snails that climbed the cemented sides were proof. I don't know if I'd already seen The African Queen or if some dopey kid just said, "I heard someone got bit by a leech here once," but I was not getting into that damn pool. This, by the way, is the pool where Donny Most was a lifeguard, his nose permanently coated in bright white zinc oxide.

I sometime get antsy about the ocean, not just our lovely local Brighton and Coney, but even the beautiful ocean in the Caribbean, though for different reasons. (Barry and I have been to Puerto Rico twice, and spent our honeymoon in Aruba.) Locally, you can never stop worry about medical waste and other weird garbage, though I've personally seen very little. But even the "good" ocean has jellyfish and sea urchins and stuff. Didn't stop me, tho. Being shoulder-deep in salt water just plain feels too good. I don't get out in nature that much, and being in the ocean really gets to me; there's a certain amazement that conquers the fear.

I'm thinking about me now, but I guess this topic came up for me because I was lucky enough to see my nephew Walter yesterday. Walter is six now, and I find myself charmed by the fact that he has opinions, likes and dislikes, a sense of humor and a very friendly personality. He also reminds me a lot of my brother, and that's a really rare thing for me, since the last person born in our family was my brother, forty-two years earlier. I look at this kid, and I just *know* he's related to me, he has my little brother's mouth from when he was a kid, we're just somehow, at least in part, made of the same stuff. (This happened to me once before, when I met a first cousin of my father's who lived in Mexico City; he and me dad were both maybe in their late 50s. It was incredibly obvious to me that Fievy was related to dad, even with his Yiddish-Mexican accent.)

We actually got the whole family together yesterday, with the exception of my uncle Howard, my dad's brother. His wife Tina's mother is 92 and in a retirement community, so I expect they will spent holidays with her for the time being. The big deal is that my brother and sister-in-law and Walter came in from Rhode Island. No one makes the trip too often and things are a little rough between my brother and my dad. Our family is slightly odd in that my stepmother is Catholic rather than Jewish (which is what the rest of us are), and her sister is a nun. She's not a habit-wearing nun and in fact refers to habits as "penguin outfits," but I really like about her is that she lives in a spiritual and practical manner: she wants to see kids educated and fed and women in the priesthood. She has a master's degree which is more than I ever got. plus, and it's a huge plus, she's not judgmental about other peoples' faith or lack of faith or how they worship or don't. All I have to try to remember is not to curse. Now what's even more interesting is that she has lived with another sister from her order for many years, and the other sister's family is not very nice, so she spend the holidays with us, too, and is as much a part of the family as anyone else. The sisters are kind of like a couple but if they are, I'm almost positive they're celibate. They're in that weird space where they obey the Pope, even if they don't agree with him. And by the way, the second sister has a Ph.D., and I've always thought she looks somewhat like Vanessa Redgrave.

Anyway, the sisters live in Bay Ridge, so they've been driving us out to Long Island for Thanksgiving for a number of years now. I'm getting to look forward to our annual dose of quality time.

The other thing that's happened in my family, since my father was never very observant and was not surrounded by observant family, is that the Christian stuff started tin "win." Christmas started immediately, if Passover and Easter were too close, Easter won, etc. (There were also things like "PassEaster." It involved Jewish stars on dyed eggs. It involved gefilte fish and ham.)

Today's Yiddish lesson: gefilte fish. This literally means "stuffed fish." A few kinds of fish, usually carp, whitefish, and pike, are ground, and a few things are added like onion and matzo meal (ground matzo). It's made into balls and poached in fish stock. It's usually served cold. It used to be stuffed back into the fish skin, but I think everybody decided it was too gross. When it's cold, the broth is kind of jellied, so you have the jellied broth and the cold poached fish balls, often served with some matzoh, a slice of carrot, and a dollop of horseradish. (Sublesson: the Yiddish word for horseradish is chrain, using that "Bach" sound on the "ch.")

Anyway, I was very glad to marry into a family where there were a lot of observant Jews and where there was a real Seder and a real Succoh, and I could learn some more Yiddish words. My mother was from a generation that was very "modern" and "American," and Yiddish was something her mother and grandmother spoke -- in fact, my great-grandmother, who came over from Austria, spoke no English -- and so it wasn't spoke in my home. My mother used it with my grandmother when she talked about something she didn't want "the kids" to hear. So it was used against us, not taught to us. Talk about your lost folkways!

But my new family -- I had my mother-in-law until two years ago, my father-in-law until a year ago, and Barry's brother, who died young at 56, 6 years ago -- had a lot more Yiddishkeit ("Jewish-ism") going on than I was used to. Even my mother's kosher parents, when they had big Seders, never did the after-dinner part. I really wanted a religious wedding to Barry, even if it was reform, but he had had a religious marriage to wife #1, and even if they hadn't taken it to seriously, I thought it only right to have a get, which is a religious divorce. I went with him and it was rather awesome, a whole row of rabbis, one writing Hebrew with a feather quill pen.

Another thing that was lucky for me was that my husband had a last name that was easily identified as a Jewish name. My maiden name...let's say it was hard to spell, didn't seem to indicate a particular nationality, was a source of ridicule in school, and was way the hell back in the alphabet. Since my sister-in-law was brave enough to take it on, I figured 42 years was long enough to deal with it, and I took my husband's very easy, very Jewish name. It's true that I use my maiden name as a middle name when I do certain types of writing projects, because I was known by that maiden name, but I often do without it. It's fewer letters and has better alphabetical placement.

Listen, I don't mean to be any more insecure than I've already revealed myself to be, but I haven't had a single comment on this blog and it's really freaking me out. I know of one person who's subscribed to this, and I seem to be too big an idiot to install a counter on this thing, and I don't known if I'm getting read. It would just be nice to know. Not that I'm going to stop one way or another, but I'm curious.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I dislike the "holiday season."

Well, it certainly has provided a lot of imagery with which I unfortunately compared my family (that would be Thanksgiving). My mother did a pretty good job of making things warm and making people feel welcome, which was less the case with my father and stepmother. Coordinating such a big meal made my stepmother crazy, so they started getting it catered, and finally settled on eating in a restaurant. They live way out in the 'burbs so we generally get a lift with my stepmother's sister and her roommate, who are nuns. They're fairly cool and liberal nuns; we just have to remember to watch the cursing.

This year, my brother, sister-in-law, and perfect-nephew-Walter are making the trip from Rhode Island. Of course, once I got over the many, many bones I had to pick with my father, my brother found a brand-new one, a recovered memory that I don't share. So I'm enjoying my time in the sun as the Good Kid, which doesn't happen too often. My brother will also be a good kid tomorrow, for bringing Walter.

So you may have noticed that I have both orthodox Jews and Catholics in my extended family. I, however, am a Jew. That's how I was raised. I was always told: No, we can't have a Christmas tree, we're Jewish.

And that pretty much wraps it up: Christmas is a Christian holiday, not an American one, and please do not assume that I am going to celebrate it. (And by the way, why do Jews need to use personal or vacation days to take off the holiest days of their year, and Christians always just get it off?) Christmas trees are very nice, but they're not my traditions. (I like a menorah, but it's tough with cats.)

People feel sorry for me if I have nothing to do on Christmas.

And of course, this is before we get to the heavy commercialization and marketing and "black Friday doorbusters." I tried to do Christmas for a handful of years, with my father and his wife and sister-in-law, and it seemed to be so much about the gifts, and such a huge expense to boot.

Don't like Christmas music. Don't like that Bob Dylan did a Christmas album, don't like that at all, but I am a rare 51-year-old Dylan hater. If I *have* to listen to Christmas music, I'll take Nat King Cole and Mel Torme.

Did I complain about the sweets yet? I am no longer working in an office, but the last time I worked in one, this time of year was a FUCKING BITCH to be a diabetic.

My ugly counter seems to have stopped working. Where the hell can I get a counter for this blog?

Monday, November 16, 2009

hey, someone's actually reading this!

I installed a counter several days ago because this blog has not yet had one comment, and I was beginning to wonder, though I know one person who is "following" me on Blogger. Maybe there's some way to do this other than installing a counter, I mean to track visitors, but I'm a little behind the curve in certain things. I could only find one counter, and it's really ugly. Sorry about that.

But -- in the past few days, the counter went from 200-something to 400-something, so thanks for stopping in.

My best friend turned fifty on Friday, and her husband threw a surprise party (this all happened to me last year -- I'm a year older). My husband wasn't feeling well, but he didn't feel right about my taking that long trip alone on the subway. (It's a haul from north-of-Coney: three trains there, two home, due to a peculiarity of our beloved subway system. Door-to-door, about an hour and a half.) He said I should take a car service both ways, and I said no, and he said then just take one home, and I said no. Getting out the door is always the hardest part, and this was something I had to get out the door for. I'm very sentimental, I guess, about birthdays and special occasions and being with my besties. I've had three friendships temporarily break, and maybe permanently diminish, when I wasn't invited to weddings. I couldn't imagine getting married without certain of my friends there, and one couple came from Puerto Rico to be with us. And some people really dragged ass to be with me on my 50th last year, and some couldn't seem to get on a subway from Manhattan.

Anyway, it was very few people, maybe 10, as their apartment is not huge, and Robin was totally surprised, and Ernie did a totally awesome job of putting it all together and cooking his specialties with his friend Cynthia. (Spanish language lesson coming.) There was pernil (roast pork) and pasteles (mashed yuca, a root vegetable, or plantain, studded with pork and vegetables and steamed in paper or a corn husk), and yellow rice and beans. And a heap of appetizers. My husband and I went there for Christmas last year, even if Ernie (and half of their son Evan) is the only one of the Christmas persuasion, and this is exactly what he made. Much more interesting than a turkey. A lot of the people there were Robin's past and present co-workers (she's a book graphics person, I don't really know what you call it, and they all know each other), a couple of old friends of Ernie's, and Naomi and Shimon. Naomi was Robin's sort-of stepmother for many years; that is, she was Robin's father's girlfriend for quite a while. So Naomi stayed close with everyone, even after she and Jerry broke up. She married Shimon about five years ago.

Now, I met her in summer camp in 1971, though we did spend some time out of touch, and it's one of those miracles that we're still so close. Just about a year ago, my father-in-law and her father died in the same week, and I was at both funerals. I mean, I *knew* her father, for a lot of years, and I couldn't not be there. She has one other friend as close who lives in California and I have one who is glued to way-out-in-New-Jersey with two smallish kids (I think she did something wild like gave birth at 47 and 51). But, you know, it's me and her, for the most part.

Also: I got my amazing wonderful birthday present yesterday, a few days early. It's something I've been wanting for a while: a ukulele, tenor, definitely beginner level but a pretty one. In fact, cute as all get-out. But I'm getting tiredish now and will tell more later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

the new rock stars

We were watching an old "American Experience" on disc today, about John Dillinger, and like all historical documentaries -- all of the ones on "American Experience," for sure -- since "The Civil War," it's done Ken Burns-style, which means a lot of period photographs, mournful fiddle music by Jay Unger and/or Matt Glaser, and talking-head experts. About half of the talking heads are generally historians (the others being descendants, friends, experts in certain fields, etc.). Anyway, we're watching the Dillinger one today, and one of the talking heads was an old friend, Claire Potter, who was a grad student when I worked at the History Department at NYU. She's a professor at Wesleyan now, which is where I should have gone (but that's another story). So I dropped her an e-mail, saying, "Isn't it cool that historians are becoming rock stars?" This started me thinking about historian trading cards, and that the first one I would want would be Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Now that reminds me of an interesting bit from my two-year career in publishing. Through one of my authors, I found myself in a room when one of the folks was Justin Theroux, who had just directed his first movie and was talking about how glad he was to get Tom Wilkinson for it. (Good taste. I love Tom Wilkinson.) He was then talking about how he had been on a trading card, when he was one the TV show "Alias." He seemed to find it kind of funny. I told him that I once bought an action figure, from a "Jurassic Park" set, because it was a Jeff Goldblum action hero. He found that funny, too.

My husband's nephew, when he was a young teen, was reeeally into wrestling; he was also being raised in an orthodox home, albeit modern orthodox. (My husband and his brother were not raised orthodox, but his brother married an orthodox woman.) So one birthday, we bought him an action figure of Goldberg, a wrestler whose actual name is Steve Goldberg. Maybe I just think all Jewish action figures are funny.

I did hear, though, that some Hassidic Jews, the ultra-orthodox in the long coats and sidecurls (pais, for those of you who need your daily Yiddish lesson), do have rabbi trading cards. For real.

Back to history -- I worked at the NYU History Department as a secretary, when such things still existed, from around 1983-1985. My friend Evan had told me that if you worked there full-time, you could get nine free credits of tuition each term, which was what he was doing. Evan worked in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, so we were in the same building.

OK, for anyone who is kinda young -- it used to be that people like college professors had someone to type their paperwork for them. If a professor was giving an exam, or wrote out a syllabus, a "secretary" would type it for him or her, and make photocopies. Oh, and the typing would be done on an electric typewriter, generally an IBM Selectric, where you would have to switch out a little golf-ball-sized thingie for a different one to change the font.

A couple of forward-thinking and high-ranking (read: well-paid) professors bought themselves some of them newfangled home computers. The guy who seemed to know best bought himself a Kaypro, so the other few faculty members did, too. I didn't think too much of it, except that now we didn't have to type for those few professors. But then, magically, someone anonymously gave the department a big fistful of money to buy our own copier (at the time, we were sharing with two other floors' worth of departments) and a computer and printer!

You have to understand: unlike the Law School (where I served the greater portion of my NYU time), the History Department didn't exactly have a lot of wealthy alumni. A successful historian is a college professor like Claire, or some kind of researcher or archivist or teacher. A successful NYU lawyer is a Supreme Court Justice or a partner in a huge New York law firm or an elected official. So we had relatively shabby digs, which was perfect for me, because the students were relatively shabby, and I was relatively shabby, and we all got along pretty well. My trademark garment at the time was an oversized camouflage jumpsuit overdyed purple, and I got teased at my going-away party that I wouldn't be able to wear my jumpsuit at the School of Law, implying that it was a snootier, more formal place. (I mean, they actually had their own building!)

So this money to buy the copier and computer and printer was manna from heaven. The copier I remember was a desktop job and we still needed to use the communal machine for big runs. But what I remember, of course, was the computer, *my* first computer, the first one I ever got my hands on. This was one of the best things about working academic for so many years: besides the awesome benefits, I always got my hands on new technology fairly early in the game. Not techie-level early and I never learned to program or write html, but I did get on a personal computer when the operating system was CP/M and the actual computer was sort of like one of those kids' record players that folds up like a little suitcase. It had a tiny little monochrome screen, green on black, and you had to put in one enormous floppy disc to load the program you wanted to run and another enormous floppy disc to access or save your file.

Rather than opting for a dot matrix printer, we got whatever you called the other kind -- like a giant typewriter as loud as a jackhammer, even with the sound shield on. But it looked like real typing.

The thing that I was also thinking today -- the place where I was heading before the many sidetracks -- was that when I worked there, with all of those fantastic faculty and students, I had no interest in history at all. I had some really good history teachers in grade and high school, but the love of history never stuck. But the last ten years or so, I'm *very* interested in it. I have a few books "on deck" that are simply histories of the impact of one commodity: bananas, clay, wood, cotton. There are all kinds of cool subtopics and eras that are fascinating. For instance, I had no idea that Claire was into this stuff -- I actually didn't know her specialty or dissertation topic.

Were any of you lucky and smart enough to major in history? what was your field?

My B.A. (deep breath) is in Interdisciplinary Studies from the Gallatin School at NYU. It was the Gallatin Division when I graduated, and though the program may have changed since I was there, it went like this: you could take courses from any part of the university, as long as your adviser signed off on it. In this way, you could design a program that interested you. But you were also required to do a lot of classics, from a list that included various Shakespeare plays, the Bible, Greek philosophy, Homer...the usual suspects. At the end of all of this, you make up a bibliography which is half from the required classics and half from your other courses, and get yourself ready to talk about this all with your adviser and two other professors for two hours. This is called the "oral exam." I actually passed my orals "with distinction," but there was no way no to be nervous beforehand. I had to be responsible for knowing, I think it was 28 books. And since I did my studies in two stretches -- 1984-86 and 1987-93, more or less -- I hadn't actually read some of those books in a while.

In the earlier stint, I took writing courses, and a couple of interesting lit courses in Gallatin. I particularly remember one that my adviser taught, about autobiographical literature. We read things like Thomas Merton and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. When I went back to school, I took a course in the Religion Department on mythology, and became a raving Jungian, and took a lot of my "great books" courses, in which I wrote mostly Jungian literary analyses. I was a little obsessed.

I did have a great education at NYU, but I wish now I'd given my experience more breadth. Actually, now that I remember it, I had registered for a European history class, and gone a couple of times -- it was good, and hard -- but then Gallatin called me and said they'd miscounted my credits, that I had enough to graduate. So I did drop the class, because the work/school combo for the last two years was really rough. I took a lot of graduate-level courses and wrote long papers. Plus I was still making a lot of AA meetings at that time. Those last two years of college? NO SEX. at least not with other people.

This, and this alone, I think, accounts for the Really Bad Relationship I got into not long after graduating. That hung me up for most of a year.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stiffed by Maria Muldaur at Folk City

In the early 80s, I worked a Friday night shift at Folk City, a club on West 3rd Street in Manhattan devoted entirely to folk music. Let me say that again: devoted entirely to folk music. Such things once existed in New York City. Loudon Wainwright was dating the woman who made sandwiches in the kitchen and Lynn Samuels hosted the open-mike night. I can't remember how I got the gig, but it was perfect: I worked a low-paying entry-level day job at the corporate public relations division of a big ad agency (terrible job, but it's where I learned to write a press release), and I had this Friday night gig where I could hear great music and come away with around $35, which back then was plenty of money to entertain myself over the weekend. Plus it was an easy job. The house didn't care as long as every patron bought their required two drinks, so after that, you could either relax or hustle for more tips. We got $7 shift pay, and depending on who was playing, we could earn some decent tips. We also got two free drinks per shift, and all of the delicious cinnamon-flavored coffee we could drink.

So Maria Muldaur was playing one night, and this was a pretty big booking for the club. One of the managers took me aside and asked if I'd like to be Maria's personal assistant for the night. This involved getting drinks and sodas for Maria and the band, guarding the dressing room door and announcing visitors. The manager explained that I wouldn't get shift pay but that Maria would pay me a big tip at the end of the night.

It wasn't a hard night -- in fact, it was very pleasant, and Maria was very pleasant, and her bandmates were very pleasant. Except that she didn't pay me that big tip at the end of the evening. I was kind of panicky -- at 22 or so, I was not terribly assertive, and figured this had to be part of her deal with the club, so I went to the manager, who basically said, "too bad." So the other waitresses made piles and piles of money that night, and I went home without a dime.

One of the other waitresses said that Maria was recently "born-again" and that "born-agains" didn't believe in tipping. I still don't know if that's true.

Nonetheless, I just wrote a glowing review of her new album for Blues Revue. It's really, really good. She can still sing her ass off, and I guess I got by without that big tip 27 years ago or whatever.

I used to see George Gerdes at Folk City a lot, before he gave up music for acting, though he still plays once in a blue moon. I used to love Andy Breckman and one day when he played, David Letterman was in the audience -- this might have been when he was still on in the mornings. I also met Dave van Ronk at the bar there, with Frank Christian, and Frank and I went to Dave's apartment, where Dave charmed me by playing some folk records (from Romania? Bulgaria?) that he said he'd played for Paul Simon, and there were those Simon & Garfunkel-type harmonies, right there.

I would never have left Folk City except that they changed up the schedule on me and gave me a night that I couldn't work because of my day job. Apparently my Friday night shift was one of the "good" ones and they wanted to give it to a more full-time waitress. Otherwise, I would have stayed on there forever.

Friday, October 30, 2009

more about summer camp theater and school

I can't believe I didn't include this story when I was talking about plays in school and summer camp. Maybe it's because I felt super-uncomfortable about playing a male role. This was summer camp, and I was maybe 11 or 12, and we were doing Camelot. Unlike the summer before, where I had a good (female) singing part in Peter Pan, I don't think I did well in the singing auditions the Camelot summer, and they gave me the absolute best non-singing role: Merlin. This was bad in a couple of ways. There was a scene where a nymph named Nimue (played by one of the prettiest girls in our age group) had to cast a feminine spell over me -- I had to stand on stage and pretend to be falling deeply in love with this much-prettier-than-I girl. I actually had a bad crush on the (male) drama counselor and somehow could not use that experience in this scene. Did not yet know that I could admire Ann's beauty without it taking anything away from me...except that I was cast as Merlin. And somehow, they didn't get me a beard -- just sprayed my hair white -- as if to say that I looked EXACTLY like Merlin except for the color of my hair. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wasn't too confident about my looks in the first place, so this one was really rough.

But the story I wanted to tell about that play was that the kid playing Lancelot, a very big part, quit maybe a couple of weeks before the night of the performance. (I think we only put these plays on once or twice.) All of the best kids our age with the talent and desire were already cast. So what they did was this: they cast an *older* kid, maybe 16 or 17, who was a lifeguard. I think I heard at the time that he was very interested in acting and they felt he could learn the lines in time. There was a girl named Helene who played all the leads (she was also Peter Pan), and at maybe 12, she looked kind of silly playing against this 16 or 17 year old guy with bright, bright red hair. (His sister Randy was also a redhead and one of our counselors, one of the nicest and sweetest young women I met there.) Anyway, when I saw our replacement Lancelot again, it was on TV, on Happy Days: Donny Most.

Back to the Peter Pan year: Helene, who was very show-offy about her school theater experience and vocal talents, was clearly the one to beat. And I think I was the closest challenger, because I was a pretty good actress, as 11 year olds go. But there was this nasty, obese girl named Francine who seemed to think *she* was a shoo-in. In the end, Helen got Peter, Francine got Mrs. Darling, and I was cast as Toodles, one of the Lost Boys. (Once more, cast as a guy.) But there was a twist: Mrs. Darling had to kiss the kid playing Mr. Darling, and Francine would have none of it. (I think he had braces.) So she quit, and I got her part. I got to sing Tender Shepherd, which was a lovely song, and kissing brace-face was no problem.

My school, on the other hand, being all for-the-gifted and avant-garde, did not do musicals for the entire ten years I was there. (They did have a good chorus, in which I sang for years, and eventually branched out into a madrigal group and an SATB group.) Here are the plays I remember from school -- I was only in some of them. Moliere's Le Malade Imaginaire in the original French. Benito Cereno, which I think was Melville. The Proposal by Gogol. The Crucible. Gigi (the straight play, not the musical). The Women (we all dressed in sheets wrapped as various kinds of togas, to impart a timelessness). A student-written theater-of-the-absurd thing called It Seems To Be Getting Much Colder Now where the characters spoke in monotones, punctuated their speeches with the word "money", and ended up throwing around shaving cream studded with play money. I think it was some sort of commentary on plastic suburbia, etc. We did Indians by Arthur Kopit. We did Twelvth Night in a circus setting (I was actually one of two banjo players providing occasional music in it, which may be the only time I've ever played in public). We did All The King's Men (the Huey Long role was played by Joe Avellar, late of WNBC-TV News in New York). Golden Boy. A straight-play version of Casablanca (I wasn't even permitted to read for Ilsa, since an extremely tall boy had already been cast as Rick).

Although some other drama teachers came and went, the important and long-lasting ones were Nancy and Maurice. Nancy never liked me, which was a real problem. I think I was way too bourgeois for her, or she was way too avant-garde for me. Maurice actually started as a history teacher, and though most of us didn't much care for him then, we liked him better as a drama teacher and director. I actually ended up adoring Maurice because I felt he somehow really got me and I wasn't sure how, maybe through some of the essays I wrote for him in History.

I once wrote an essay (I think it was actually a three- or four-part essay exam) on Civilization and Its Discontents. I got a good mark on it, or more likely, good comments, since our school usually had no use for A-B-C or 70-80-90 type grades. My mother, a serious psychoanalytic junkie, photocopied it and brought it to her analyst, who was a really big-time guy in the analytic world in New York, as well as being an author and chess grandmaster. (Many years later, I worked for him.) And I swear that every time my mother told about my "essay on Freud," the age at which I wrote it got younger and younger. I seem to remember her saying I was nine. It's not impossible, but I was more likely 10 or 11. (Wasn't that impressive enough?)

The school taught us in a lot of ways that we had no limits, which was good, but skimped on the fundamentals, which was not. Our parents got written reports twice a year and excellent/satisfactory/needs improvement check-off slips twice a year, in lieu of number and letter grades. This was good in some ways but I believe there was an unspoken understanding between the headmaster and the teachers that *all* seniors got excellent written reports. This was because the school was still pretty new and small, and had to make its bones with good college acceptances. I was in a class of 68 students and 66 went to private universities. I was admitted to three excellent private universities but went to a state school because my mother was a little freaked out about my signing myself into a ton of debt at the age of 16. My brother remembers the headmaster referring to my mother as "hysterical." I remember the headmaster didn't speak to me for months after I chose SUNY-Binghamton (now known as Binghamton University).

Oh, and the school forgot to teach me geometry. I took some really interesting advanced math classes (after having to take algebra twice): Logic, Number Theory, and so on. But no geometry. So there was a 200-point difference between my math and my verbal scores on the SAT.

Our school had a really fierce biology program, mostly due to the head of science, Mr. B (one of the few teachers who would not tolerate being called by his first name). He was one of the few teachers who was really really strict and would lose his temper. You had to show up to class and you had to do your work. You had to make a special little black binder just for Bio. Right before the Boards (the achievement tests for college), we actually had a review section at his apartment on Jane Street, which was something like being invited to Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Apparently the exam was particularly hard the year my bio class (which was a year or two older than my grade) took it; I seem to remember a lot of graphs. So, no 800's. (They scored 200-800 then -- don't know if that's still the same.) But we had a few 790s, as I recall, and I was awfully proud of my 730, being only 13. (I was *really* into Bio, and really responded to Mr. B's method of teaching.)

I've mentioned him here before -- Mr. B eventually became head of the high school, and I became one of a little gang of four who hung out there. (I'm glad to say that two of them are now my Facebook friends.) The four of us somehow ended up writing the school's daily newssheet: one page. mimeographed, called The Galley. Denis, who was good at drawing, would make a wonderful title every day, and we typed the thing on (I think) a manual typewriter. It was about half school news items -- play rehearsals, class cancellations, and the like -- and the rest with our in-jokes and a serial someone wrote called The Shadow in The School. We'd take tape and stick copies up all over the walls.

The weird thing is, newsletters seem to follow me around. I have had so many jobs and hobbies that involved working on newsletters, writing for newsletters, editing newsletters. I've also written for college papers (besides SUNY-B, I went to NYU, finally getting a BA in 1993). And in that publishing job, I wrote many really excellent press releases.

The start of all that writing, and all this writing, was a book I picked up in the school library when I was eight: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. So like every little girl who read that book, I started to keep a "secret notebook," but I never stopped. I wrote years and years and years of journals, and I think that writing about your own life and thoughts is the best practice any writer can have. When I started back at NYU in around 1985, I took a basic writing class to find out what I did and didn't know. My professor was great, the late Bill Decker, very old-school, and he filled in some gaps for me, and taught me not to be too flowery. The latter was achieved by extensive reading of E.B. White -- can't beat the guy for clarity.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

who's crazier, the government or me?

I had applied for social security disability (my friend Robin calls it "crazy money" because her crazy mother has received it for many years), and got my turn-down letter today. What's crazy on their end is that they basically wrote "You claimed to have X and Y. Our examination of you confirms that you have X and Y. Therefore, you are able to perform the job of Z." X is mental illness -- specifically, depression so severe that I can only leave my home once every two or three weeks. Z is administrative assistant, which was my job classification for many years. So they're saying that yes, we agree, based on our examination of you and paperwork from your personal psychiatrist, that you are so depressed you can only rarely leave your home, which qualifies you to be an administrative assistant. I mean, I'm copping here to being badly broken, but I think I'm smarter than whomever's making the decisions for the feds. Just sayin'. I'll either appeal or reapply; my husband's discussing it tomorrow morning with an expert he knows.

I've been under treatment for depression for a dozen years, though I realize I probably had it a whole lot longer. I never knew until a couple of months ago that a strong desire to stay home -- to be in a familiar place and not have to face the world -- is a four-star symptom is depression. In my case, this would have to go back to cutting school. The reason I had so many administrative assistant jobs is in part because I called in sick so often -- and even moreso if it was a high-pressure job and/or I had a difficult boss -- and this was cited in quite a few firings.

My last job kind of broke me, even though it was aforementioned beloved publishing job. It was extremely high-pressured and low-paid and long hours, and most of the people doing it were about 25, which is about half as old as I am now. Still, I was fortunately to have a boss about my age who was very encouraging and lovely to work for. I had a huge success with a book I began working on when I was still a temp, believe it or not, because my boss hated the author and I offered to work with him. After a year, I got promoted out of entry-level (which usually takes two years), and an unheard-of 10% raise. Then my great boss left and a year later, I was fired. The stress during that year was excessive, and I actually saw my depression and anxiety progress. I would have weeping spells during the work day, sometimes for hours. I had begun looking into a transfer into another imprint (this publisher has many), or even another publisher, which I would be eligible to do after the full two years. But I lost my job before that could happen.

I did do some looking for another job, and came close to getting a really good one in Hoboken. But then my husband's father got sick, and as the only unemployed one in the family, I ended up doing a lot of visiting and keeping him company. He was quite old, and what was originally a fall ended up being a urinary tract infection, then breathing problems, then extreme weight loss, and so on, so it was a pattern of hospital, rehab, assisted living, and back to the hospital, until after some months, he could no longer rally and died at 89, just a year after my mother-in-law.

And by then -- we were in a financial collapse! I think this is when I started having trouble leaving home. My husband lost *his* job somewhere in here, and that got me way anxious, because his industry has been gasping for years now, and yet I've been unable to get him out of it. He's been in it most of his working life, and his father was in the same industry, and there just aren't very many jobs at all there anymore. The company that let my husband go went out of business.

So it's been a time of deep anxiety. I've been a jeweler for about eight years and was thinking about selling my jewelry on line, on Etsy or such, and bought a digital camera, but I found out that photographing jewelry is extremely difficult and requires more equipment that we can fit in here. I do write for a national blues magazine that earns me about $15 and a free CD or two every month.

When I lost my job, I thought I could do some freelance writing, but all of a sudden, practically every journalist on the planet is out of work, and some of them even write better than I do. All of them are better-connected.

Right now, we're doing OK on two unemployments, and have managed to buy health insurance (which naturally, excludes mental health care, mental health meds, and chiropractic), and we're managing to pay rent, bills, and my meds.

I understand that mental health, like a lot of illnesses, occurs on a sliding scale. You're somewhat better or somewhat worse, but it's not necessarily about "cure." (There was a good book on this, but I can't seem to find it on Amazon.) So my doctor added a new med which seems to have drastically reduced my anxiety attacks/crying fits and has stopped my suicidal ideations entirely.

I feel a little out of whack lately since we had to do some fast tidying in this apt due to a landlord's visit, and my jewelry stuff is all packed away. This is really bad. Also -- and I hate to say it -- my husband is home too much. He's extremely helpful, but maybe if he were working, I would push myself to get out more.

I hope this all isn't scaring anyone to death. I'm relatively normal, getting good care, mostly fairly happy, and making every effort to get to important events.

Monday, October 19, 2009

decision about Facebook invite

What I decided to do about the Facebook invite from some I did not want to "friend" is this: I've ignored it. My husband "friended" her for some reason, and he did show me a fairly adorable picture of her younger daughter (who has just started college, and who was the flower girl at our wedding). My quarrel is mostly with her husband but also with her. We were close for a long time and I ignored a lot of bad behavior and frustrating situations, but there was a last straw -- then there was one more chance, a number of months later, and he blew that one too.

When I worked in publishing, I worked on a book about narcissism, and when I read it, it rang a lot of bells concerning this male friend. He's someone brilliant and quirky, with an eager inner circle, who plays helpless to get others to do things for him. And I was number one in the inner circle, maybe after his wife, or I was the shadow wife, the one who did the things that his wife didn't. (He was, and is, a performer, and for a long time his wife didn't want to go to his shows, so that fell to me.) Even my husband referred to him as "your other husband." I knew this man, I'll call him V., way before I knew my husband. Coincidentally, my husband also belonged to the micro-cult of V. before we met, so he was really psyched that I was close friends with V.

So what I think happened is this: for many years, I had jobs that I didn't much like, just a lot of boring office jobs, and a lot of my attention went to V. There was a lot of support and advice and running the hellish e-mail discussion list (a couple of really mean people made my life miserable), plus trying to run interference with various people. And I did enjoy visiting with his wife. But then I got that publishing job -- yes, that publishing job again, the one I really, really liked -- and there was finally some Me to bring to the relationship with V. And that's when I read the book on narcissism and that's when I realized that V. was 100 per cent about V. V. didn't really want to listen to how my life was changing, the adventures I was having, the great people I got to work with and meet.

That might be all I really want to say about V. My husband hopes we'll be friends again, and obviously his wife does, too. She has frequently been selfish and insensitive as well, and I think I'm better off without them, period.

Sometimes you have to let go of people, even people you've known a long time. Then again, I'm making some very nice reconnections on Facebook with some of my classmates. I always felt like an underachiever after high school graduation, so I steered clear of most of them for most of this time.

I'm not really sure why I feel so free to be myself, all of a sudden. Maybe I'm judging myself less.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


One of the things I really enjoyed in school and in summer camp was being in plays. And one of the things that was great about being in plays was that it temporarily dissolved the lines between cliques, between the popular and the unpopular (the latter being me). There were some kids I never spoke a word to unless we were in a play together (I suppose because I felt I didn't deserve to assume that I could be even friendly with someone very popular). This was more the case in school than in camp, where I felt less set-apart. I went to the same school for ten years, and I think part of the problem was that we often had fixed ideas about each other that lasted for years and years. I never went to the same camp for more than three years so it was often a fresh start.

Here's what I didn't like about being in plays: although I had talent and got a lot of good parts, I was never, not once, cast as an ingenue or leading lady. The closest I ever got was a three-liner as a sexy maid. I got to be a snooty old aunt (Gigi), the ever-pregnant one in The Women, a quack doctor in Moliere, etc etc. Oh, I also got my share of male roles. Do you know how much that sucks for a pre-teen, or a tween, or whatever the hell you call 'em now?

I had such a poor self-image concerning my appearance. I was a little chunky when I was 8 or 9 but never noticed it when the baby fat fell away. I was actually adorable when I was eleven or twelve, and probably the only reason I didn't get ingenue roles was because I was, and am, short. I'm 5'2-1/2 now and probably had most of my height then. Oh, and I was, and am, flatchested. I'm overweight now and *still* flatchested, which doesn't seem fair at all.

I wish I could have enjoyed those character roles more at the time. I wish I could have appreciated how my various directors, particularly the late and wondrous Maurice Blanc at school, saw my talent and how I could bring it to some of these eccentric roles. He directed a production of Golden Boy and changed the role of the boy's father to a mother, just for me. At camp, the Actor's Workshop (the more DIY alternative to the big Summer Theater) cast me as the mother in Glass Menagerie, for God's sake! That's like, the best role in theater ever! But I was busy being disappointed that I never got a "pretty" part.

So I didn't take it up in college. I felt like I wasn't good enough. (I did, however, partly stage-manage a production of The Good Doctor which featured future comedian Andy Kindler, who may still have my Doctor Dentons from a scene where he played a little kid). It's kind of a shame, because if I had embraced character roles and embraced my particular talents, I might have been a pretty good comic actor. I had a friend from camp who would never be a leading lady -- she was actually very tall, and didn't have the right kind of look -- and I've seen her as an adult on stage in New York, doing her own funny monologues and characters and plays, working with what she had, which was a lot. It just wasn't a lot of stuff that gets you "pretty" parts. And those damn "pretty" parts are often not the best ones, anyway.

I should back up and say that I come from theater/acting wannabes all over my family. I grew up listening to show tunes. My dad probably loves show tunes more than any straight man alive. (My brother is the same way, only with opera.) Supposedly I could sing the score of Guys & Dolls when I was 6. My mother wanted to be an actress, and majored in it in college (she and my father met in a drama class), and did some local theater and TV in Philadelphia after she graduated. My dad always wanted to write the book and lyrics to an old-school Broadway musical (he did team up with a composer for a while on a decent project, but for various reasons, it didn't happen). My brother majored in theater too. (We both went to school with future stand-ups -- his was Colin Quinn.) My uncle directed a lot of local theater and opera in Philadelphia too.

I still love the original cast recording of Guys & Dolls and have it on CD, though I haven't listened to it for years. And PUH-LEEZE don't talk to me about that miscast abomination of a movie! Although I didn't have the pleasure of seeing the original cast, my dad took me to a Broadway revival with Hugh O'Brien as Sky Masterson, Jan Murray as Nathan Detroit, and the original Miss Adelaide, Vivian Blaine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

great dream

Generally, when I'm in the throes of a bad depression, my mind dredges up all kinds of old injustices, slights and enemies, and I dwell and dwell on these. A milligram of clonazepam generally shuts this stuff up, but it does also turn up in my dreams. Two nights ago, I dreamed yet again that I was still working for my last boss, since I apparently still haven't let go of despising her after a year and a half. Usually, the dreams are all confused: I'm working for her, but at NYU, not where I actually worked for her, and in some of them, I've already been let go but am working out my last couple of weeks and being treated terribly. But last night, I finally had one that made me smile: I guess I had already been let go or was on the verge of it, and she was bitching bitching bitching at me about something I supposedly hadn't done or hadn't done to her liking, and for some reason, she chose to explain herself by inviting me to touch her knee (as if trying to illustrate something, though I can't imagine what). Instead, I punched her right in the nose, yelled "I quit!" and stomped out of the building. Very satisfying.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Mitch Horowitz was on CBS Sunday morning today, and you should all buy his new book Occult America. He was the editor-in-chief at Tarcher/Penguin when I worked there (he still is), and I was lucky enough to be the publicist on a lot of books he edited. He really knows his stuff about the history of spiritualism in America, and he's a good guy.

Mohegan Woodlands

On Facebook, I am reconnecting with a lot of people from high school. On my last blog, I gave a shout out to people from Mohegan Woodlands, a bungalow colony where I spent my summers from around 1964-1973. I got a few wonderful responses, but my hard drive has crashed since then and I lost off of your e-mails and phone numbers. There were 30 or 31 families who lived there, half a dozen who were close with my folks (later, my mother and her boyfriend), and most of us kids hung around together at some point. I really am anxious to hear from you folks and promise to call anyone who'd rather talk than e-mail. I know I've done searches for Mohegan Woodlands fairly often and have come up with almost nothing. I'm trying to keep my name off this blog as much as possible, though I know that some of your got here from a Facebook page that does have my real name (ambivalent, me?), but my mother's name was Joan Zogott and my brother's name is Daniel.

Some time when I'm a little less tired, I'll talk some about the place. It is iconic for me. It represented a place to play safely in the outdoors, even when we left the official boundaries of the colony and ventured into the woods. Worst care scenario was poison ivy.

I was in fact talking to my nephew about Woodlands the other day. Walter Jonah Zogott just started first grade and is taking tennis lessons. I told him how his daddy and I used to play tennis until you couldn't see the ball any more. He asked why, which is a fairly good question. The answer is that there was only one tennis court and all the grown-ups liked to play, so they only let the kids play from seven to eight at night, when it was getting dark. (We also got ten to eleven in the morning, when we were almost all at day camp. Thanks lot, grown-ups!)

I'd even like to hear from people who went to the same day camps we did: Laur-Lee and Floridan. I did track down my favorite counselor from Floridan a couple of years ago, who turned out to be someone rather important in some sort of federal government health agency, and seemed weirded out to hear from me.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I had my exams today for social security disability. I had to go to a hospital in downtown Brooklyn, near LIU, and see one doctor for a physical exam and one for a psych exam. The psych was really the most important for my case, and luckily the psychologist seemed to understand exactly what I was talking about.

Barry came with me, knowing how stressed I was about the whole thing, and afterwards, as a treat, took me to Junior's, which was not far away. Junior's is famous for their cheesecake but I am very partial to their corned-beef hash, which is made from scratch. Barry had some strawberry cheesecake and I took a couple of bites. I don't miss sweets too much, and there are some awfully good sugar-free chocolates and ice cream around, for when I do feel deprived.

I'm supposed to hear from the government in 5-8 weeks about my claim.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I may have mentioned that I recently got a Facebook page. I have something like 20 "friends" now, about half who were friends or friends of friends from the old-timey music scene in NYC when I was a teen (with some number of ex-boyfriends and missed connections), and half people from my grade in school. I just say "school" because my school ran from first grade or pre-K, I forget, first was the lowest when I started there in second, all the way through the end of high school. Additionally, being a "creative" and "experimental" school, all of the grades had weird names that were really hard to convert to public school grades. Plus they'd change their numbering and lettering system every year or two (this was in the early days -- I was one of the original students, starting six weeks into their first year). So one year I'd be in Team IIA for "Core" (which meant homeroom, English and history), French 3, and math B, and the next year I'd be in Middle Sch0ol 3, French B-prime, and math South. I kid you not. Due to this extreme mess, which had mostly settled by my senior year, I never took geometry. I took number theory and I took logic and I took pre-calc, but never geometry. SAT scores: English 750, Math 550.

But I really wanted to talk about my social life there. I felt like a bad fit, as I did everywhere I went. As a bright child, my early social life was about showing off to adults, which didn't really translate well when I tried it with peers. Still, I think everything went OK in my first few years at school -- I had a terrific best friend who shared my love for The Monkees and a boy named David Zimmern, though she left for one of the experimental public schools in Brooklyn.

But I think everything got really screwed up when I was nine, when my parents split up. I didn't know another kid in school who had divorced parents; my folks were at the leading edge of the trend, around 1968 or 69. The thing that was so traumatic to me about the divorce is that they were always so careful not to fight or argue in front of "the children" that it was an incredible shock, because I thought they got along just fine. (Would it have been easier if preceded by months of screaming and crockery-throwing? Discuss.)

I just wasn't right after that and I was in therapy and I still wasn't right. Perhaps this is when my depression started to show itself. I would have a friendship with one girl at a time which would maybe last a couple of weeks or a month or two, and then just sort of trail off. I never had a group of friends and I was definitely not one of the "popular" kids (though I realize that they may not have seen themselves as "popular").

Well, I did have a little crowd for a while: two boys and a girl, of varying degrees of nerddom. The three of us hung around the high school office, powerfully transfixed (each for unspoken reasons of his or her own) by the head of the high school, who we will call Mr. B. Mr. B. stood out for a few reasons: he was one of the few teachers (including the headmaster) who did *not* say "Call me Charlie": he was always "Mister" B. The other truly great thing about him is that he was the only person in my life who seemed to care enough to discipline me in any way. My mother was dating; my dad lived elsewhere; the other teachers were too groovy or lax or elsewhere to make sure our assignments were in and good and that we showed up to the classes. (I once took a history course called "research seminar" whose only requirement was a research paper. I didn't write a paper but got credit for the course.)

This actually comes right back to the other group of friends on Facebook, because I got swept away by old-timey music as a young teen and started playing banjo and going to these weird hole-in-the-wall joints to listen to this weird old music. But for some reason, I had to push this interest in everyone's face, which I suppose made me wildly unpopular. I guess I was a little snobbish about what most of my peers seemed to be listening to, the Grateful Dead and the Allmans and the Doobies. (I've grown into a way more open listener, and in fact I write for a national blues publication. Please do not respond to this by telling me how much you like Eric Clapton. -- Gee, I guess I'm *still* a music snob.)

I think I also had a problem with my mother treating me more as a friend and confidente than as a daughter. So I tended to identify with her generation more than my own. I remember -- cringingly -- turning in a play for a playwriting course that concerned a boy bringing his "hippie" girlfriend, "Moonflower," home to meet his folks, and the hilarity that ensued, because -- she was such a hippie! My playwriting teacher, of course, wrote plays that were performed at LaMama, and ripped the thing to shreds. And why not? I had written a lame, conservative sitcom. And I even came from a funny, liberal family. My only excuse is that I guess I watched too much TV and my idea of entertainment was "Barney Miller." I dunno.

That's all for now but there's probably more to come.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

dilemma for a Sunday afternoon

What do I do about a "friend" invite on Facebook from someone I don't really like anymore and whose husband, a former friend, I absolutely hate?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday with the cats

Barry and I are the kind of people who are a little too involved with our cats, having never had children. (I was hoping to spend a lot of time with my nephew, now five, but my brother moved farther and farther away and is now in Rhode Island, so I'm lucky if I see Walter once a year). We've gone from two cats when we first moved in (one mine, one his) to five at one point (too many) and have kind of settled on three as a good number.

Our oldest now is Xena, generally called Miss Xena, who is about 14 and is black/grey tabby and white. I saw her in a pet store when she was about three months, and loved the spot on her nose. She is the fussiest and more like what non-cat people expect of cats. She will be picked up and petted only when she feels like it, and will meow endlessly in the morning for food. (My friend Susana used to say that cats think of us as "can openers with legs.") She's a little stout and heavy, like a cinderblock with fur.

Middle cat is Lolly, about 7 years old. She is a very lovely calico. I spotted her at a street fair, where someone who does cat rescue had a table. I saw this tiny little calico pom-pom in a cage full of kittens, and fell immediately in love. We were actually at the street fair with Barry's cousins from Denmark, and after we parted with them, I asked to go back to the street fair. I tried to point out the kitten to him, and took a leaflet from the woman. I called her two days later and said, "I don't think I can live without that little calico kitten." She said, "Oh, you mean Lolly, She's climbing up and giving me kissed right now." So we set up a meet n'greet the next weekend, when she was tabling in front of the Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center. We got to hold her and I brought a camera. (If I can ever find the right drivers for my scanner, I'll try to post them.) So we took her home a couple of weeks later, when she was about nine weeks. Barry lost his job soon after and was unemployed for about seven months, during which time he and Lolly fell much in love, so she's really a Daddy's girl, though she affectionate toward me as well. She's small and fluffy and light.

We ended up with a Mommy's girl when Barry took on a cat from a workmate who had to give her up. Samantha, a tabby/tortie, was renamed Tiggy, and she and I were inseparable. After about three years, though, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and went to take The Big Nap. I cried a lot, I have to say. So a couple of months later, I was walking past a local vet who had a cage in the window with two black kittens. So I went in, the assistant said "It's a boy and a girl, but most of us like the girl better." So I held the girl, and Maya, at about three months, came home with me. She's now about a bit old and heading to be a biggish cat, longer than Xena and bulking up. She has a tiny patch of white at her crotch which cat people call a "speedo." She's heavy and velvety and luckily decided she was Mommy's girl. She comes when I call her and her favorite toy is an ice cube.

This Facebook thing is really crazy -- lots of old friends and friends of friends and all kinds of widgets and gadgets. My husband mostly uses it for music stuff but my circle has a lot of talkers and readers and writers, as well as a finagle of folkies (I just made that up, a la murder of crows et al). I have a strange group of friends -- a few people from my high school who left before graduation for one reason or another, friends of friends that I know from my teen years, my former closest friend's estranged musical partner.

It's hard when old friends fall by the wayside. I had one who could not admit she was an alcoholic when I was deep into recovery; when I last ran into her, she acted very superior because she was active in AA and I wasn't. (I went daily for about five years and pretty much stopped making meetings after eight years. I have 23 years without a drink now.) It's a shame because I met her when I was about 13 and she's one of the funniest and smartest women I've ever known. But I know about that immersion-in-AA period; I used to be scared of non-program people when I was first sober. Some people never grow out of it, which is how I lost the best friend I met in the rooms. He just got deeper and deeper into it. Barry and I ran into him at DiFara Pizza a few years back, and he was with a sponsee. I just don't see spending all your free time on recovery stuff forever. They say that AA is "a bridge back to life," so I got back to life. Dating within the rooms is also a horror, but I'll get to that another time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New blog!

I've been wanting to start a new blog for a while now, but I wanted to go over the separation agreement from my last employer to see if I agreed not to badmouth them. In the meantime, I'll just refrain from discussing them.

I've been out of work since April 2008, and a lot has changed since then. My last job was extremely stressful, and I felt that it wore out my coping mechanisms. I would have weeping fits that lasted hours, both when I had the job and after. I've been medicated for depression since 1997, but it seems that my mood disorder has progressed. In non-medical terms, I'm reticent about meeting the world. I don't leave the house much. I freeze when the phone rings. When I do meet it, whether leaving the apartment or talking on the phone, it feels fine, but getting over that threshold is a killer.

Of course, I always thought I'd make a great retired person, so it's not half-bad. I enjoy TV, especially movies, and the internet, and I've been making jewelry for about seven or eight years. But I always hoped my retirement would be in some place more rural than Brooklyn, and would involve a garden and a big space for all kinds of crafting and arts.

My darling husband is also unemployed, and not only needs to find a job, he needs to switch industries, since the garment center in New York is in its death throes. But he's been in it for some 30 years and is very uncomfortable about making a switch -- can't really see how his experience would transfer to any other industry, and always balks about taking a class or classes to learn something new.

The worst part about staying mostly indoors is that I don't get much exercise, though once I'm out, I walk and walk until I'm sore for two days after. I've always been a big walker. In fact, I recently bought a new MP3 player (on eBay) so I could listen to music on long walks.

I have been thinking about taking up ukulele. But maybe I'll just go back to banjo, since I already have one, managed to retain my banjo tablature books so they were not lost in The Great Storage Disaster. This apt. was so small that we had to put a lot of things in storage we couldn't really afford, and so we lost all our vinyl, all my journals, my baseball cards, my postcard collection, my mother's wedding dress, a lot of my books and papers and clipping, and so on. Because I figured out that if we couldn't afford a bigger apartment, we also couldn't afford an extra $130 a month for storage, I made sure to label certain cartons to keep at home. That way, I still have my bottle cap collection, my banjo, my music books, my jewelry-making stuff, my family photos, and some other essentials.

The banjo brings up a lot of old baggage for me, but I've reconnected with an old friend who is totally immersed in old-timey stringband music, and maybe I can re-catch it from him. I've joined Facebook, so I expect there'll be all kinds of reconnecting going on, and it's scary and exciting at the same time.

Note: I tweet at @northofconey.