Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From a Very Cute Egyptian Giraffe's POV.

Do you see what I see? Lisa's ebook is to my left. Have you read it? It's free.

I bet you wish your ears stuck out like mine. Note my stunning neck.

I have a slight overbite, but I'm still gorgeous. Free as can be here in Egypt.

So, have you ever been to Egypt?

Scrowl down for more, then get the ebook.  

I wanted you to see my topknot. And my other perfect ear. 

The spots are remarkable, too, don't you think? Your freckles really don't compare. 

Do you think this is my best side? I can't decide.

Lisa's uncle Frank took my picture. Obviously, he likes both sides. He has more pictures for you, that's another day. Nice meeting you. Come again.

And that's the truth. To some extent.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Invisible Woman

Shirley Knot is the  invisible woman. She's middle-aged, pays the bills, keeps the household in check, runs errands, shops and cooks and cleans. She also entertains every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, on birthdays and special occasions. thinks2much is her email name. 

There are two questions that plague Shirley as she drives around doing what has to be done.
#1. Do I wear some kind of weird cloak that makes me invisible like in the children's fairy tale? And, is that cloak for my protection or to protect others from me? 
#2. Did the pencil that was supposed to fill me in as I matured get turned upside down and erase me? Did I erase myself or did someone else rub me out?

Shirley Knot's lost in thought as she comes to a Stop sign and turns right. The flashing lights of a police car reflect in her rear view mirror. I guess I'm not invisible to him, Shirley thinks, pulling to the curb.

"Step out of your car," the officer orders in a God-like voice over the loud speaker. "Walk slowly toward the police car." 

"Good Lord," Shirley says to no one but herself as she steps out of her car.

Shirley peers at the officer through his car window.  He's really cute, rolls across her mind, followed by, he's young enough to be my son. The officer peers at her driver's license and then back at her. "You cut me off," he said. "I had to swerve to miss you."  

"I'm so sorry, officer," Shirley says. "I don't know how I missed you, but I really didn't see you."

"You need to be more careful. It's important to be aware of what's going on around you," he said. "You could hurt someone, Shirley."

With the moving violation ticket on the seat beside her, Shirley looks at herself in the mirror on the sun visor, pulls out lipstick, puts it on, presses her lips together and smiles.  

As she cruises back up the boulevard to Gelson's Market, the erasure question just won't go away. I used to be the center of attention at parties. I was the smartest girl in math class. That boy in high school said I had the best legs. When I walked down the street, workmen would whistle. I never needed a push-up bra, let alone breast augmentation.

I weigh the same, wear the same size jeans, spend a lot of money keeping my hair the same color, and thank goodness modern medicine has made it possible to erase most of the lines and wrinkles. I hate the birthmark on my earlobe. I don't care what anybody says. It is not sexy. It has to go. I'll write myself a note to make an appointment.

I used to write. I have a journalism degree. I wrote for a newspaper, worked at a financial publication, wrote a screenplay.  Oh well, that was a long time ago. It's been ages since I read a good book. I always loved Washington Irving novellas.

Shirley can still hear her mother's comments. "Everybody thinks they can write. Be reasonable, do something that makes sense. You got your degree, all right, you are Mrs. Knot." 

Shirley can hear her husband's comments. "You won't succeed if you do that. It takes too much effort. You can't balance the kids and housekeeping, let alone, working too."

Surely not, Shirley Knot thought. Surely they were wrong. I don't want to be written off. 

And that's the truth. To some extent.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Off to Grandmother's House We Go

Mary Margaret is a Ph.D. student at the USC, Keck School of Medicine, located in downtown Los Angeles. For four years she's done due diligence as a teaching assistant and research assistant in brain cancer, writing her dissertation and preparing to receive her degree.

For the past year her boss has been increasingly moody and distant and dissatisfied, so much so that he did not prepare her properly for the screening exam. Mary Margaret failed. It would be a year before she could take it again. All he had to say was that he was sorry. And, he said this to the department head, not to Mary Margaret. She heard it through the grapevine.

He ignored her questions, disregarded her experiments and subsequent analysis. When he did acknowledge her or her work it was unpleasantly critical.

"I'm stuck. This is so unfair," she wailed to friends. "I've always wanted to do brain cancer research, but there's no one else in my department available to take me on. He was a great boss when we started. I don't know why he changed and now I'm at the mercy of this yahoo."

"Let's get married," her boyfriend said. "I won't have any free time for five years once I start my residency. Please marry me the week I graduate medical school."

"I will. I love you," Mary Margaret said. The ring of her dreams was designed, the date set, a stunning gown selected, the hard work and intricacies of putting on a traditional Catholic wedding unfolded. There were a few arguments with parents but everything fell into place.

Her boss rarely came to the lab now. Rumor had it he was having family problems. Mary Margaret emailed him that she wished to put her work on hold for the month of the wedding and honeymoon. She sent him a wedding invitation. He did not respond. 

The wedding was beautiful, the honeymoon delightful, and then the happy couple packed up and moved to a city half way across the country. Her husband started his residency.

Mary Margaret readied to finish her degree. She emailed her boss. "You went AWOL," he emailed back. "No degree." Her university account was discontinued. She set up a personal gmail account. "I've done all the work. I deserve my degree," she pleaded via the new account. "I was getting married. You knew that."

"I don't care," he emailed back using his personal yahoo account. "You were %^*&^." (we won't give his words dignity in print)

She contacted the department head and her other professors, she offered to return to meet with him. They agreed, he was behaving in an unprofessional manner. Under pressure, he relented. She could receive a Master's Degree, the PH.D. was history. Mary Margaret would receive this reduced degree only after an in-person transfer of papers and his final approval at a later date at his discretion. 

Exhausted and distressed, Mary Margaret and her husband drove 4 hours one holiday weekend to visit her grandmother. They looked at old family photos, ate Campbell's tomato soup with saltine crackers. Grandma listened intently to Mary Margaret's troubles.

Let's read "'Gulliver's Travels Part IV: A voyage to the county of the Houyhnhns, Chapter VII'," she said. "He meets all kinds of yahoos. Did you know the definition of the word 'yahoo' is rude, unsophisticated, and uncouth?" 

Mary Margaret's grandmother read to them until it was bedtime. "I just stumble along as best I can. You'll understand better when you get to be a poor old thing like me," her grandmother said just before they went to sleep. "That's a quote I read some where. Live and learn, tomorrow's another day, do the best you's that sort of thing. Good night. I love you." 

And that's the truth. To some extent.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Thanksgiving is Beth Holly's birthday this year. She's turning -it's-no old. The Botox and Juviderm, good hair, dash of make-up, yoga practice and vegeterian diet have taken off at least 10 years. Her life is happy. She's fashionably dressed, well-married, devoted mother, traditional and gracious in manner, educated, and socially involved.

Just home from yoga class last Saturday, she stretched out on the navy/green/beige Egyptian living room rug and balanced a cup of hot tea on her stomach. She'd done it a hundred times before. The tea cooled a bit while she thought out the rest of her day's schedule. Then the dog barked. The cup of tea slid down her side and spilled onto the carpet.

The dog barked again.

"Please don't bark, "she pleaded. "You spilled my tea." She stared at the tea stain on the beige areas of the rug. A dishtowel would soak it up. She grabbed a couple from the kitchen drawer and got down on her hands and knees pressing her hands atop the towel, feeling the liquid.

Then she saw it. Her white yoga tank top had tea on it. She rushed to the bathroom and pulled it off. It had to soak in cold water with liquid glycerin soap. It will be fine, she thought. Just give it time. "My tank top is stained," she shouted to her husband.

"What's going on? I'm busy," her husband answered. His Baritone voice resonated from the living room.

"I spilled my tea," she confessed, shivering in her sports bra as she came back in the living room. "It slid off my stomach."

"I can see the stain, " he said. "You didn't get it all up. Get another towel."

"I need a shower after yoga. My face will break out, if I don't," Beth Holly said. "And my hair is a mess. I'm getting really tense." She stood there, riveted to the spot. "Maybe the stain won't come out," she said. "I've messed up the rug."

"I'll take care of it," her husband said, shoving her aside. "Why did you spill it?"

"It was an accident. The dog barked." Beth Holly was shaken to the core."Maybe the rug was like that when we bought it. And, we just never noticed. Do you think anyone else will see it?"

"Just go take your shower," he said." You'll be a mess otherwise. Do you want people to see you that way? Where is your pride?"

She hurried to the bathroom, locked the bathroom door, and began to cry. How could this happen to her? A stupid stain on the rug. In the shower, she recalled a song her mother sang. "I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair," Beth Holly sang, "I'm going to wash that stain right out of my rug...I'm going to..." she cried harder. She scrubbed her head, soaped and rinsed her entire body twice, using the hand held sprayer to rinse everything especially well.

As she stepped into her robe, she looked in the foggy mirror. She'd even forgotten to turn on the fan. Better that I don't see myself, she thought. It's best that I stay home today. I can't let anyone see me like this. Beth Holly removed her wedding ring before she put the styling gel in her hair and scrunched it up for curl control. Wiping her hands, she looked at the ring on the counter, then put it in her makeup case.

Beth Holly's body literally shook, inside and out. She sorted through her books on the bedside table. O Magazine caught her eye. Settling in the pale pink chaise near the window in the bedroom, she scanned the ads then began to read the first article, "'Ten Tips to be Happiness' Number 1. Don't let the little things get to you. 2. Know what's important." She could not read any further.

I can make a good cup of tea, boil an egg, and give a good back rub, she thought. Tomorrow's another day. It's just another birthday.

And that's true. To some extent.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've Been Tagged by Suzanne Lieurance, The Working Writer's Coach

Here are 7 facts about me. If you list 7 about yourself and send it on, and back to me, we'll get to know more about each other. You can read more about Suzanne Lieurance at The Working Writer's Coach


1. I studied acting with Lee Strasberg and met my husband in an acting class in New York City.

2. I've lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, New York City, Los Angeles, and Texas. All in USA

3. My first job, after babysitting, was at the Georgetown Daily Gazette while I was still in high school. I also edited, illustrated and produced our high school year book.

4. I write at the back of my house with a lovely view of the garden, if the shrubs are kept trimmed (they are not now).  So, I'm working on the patio today.

5. I love Upcountry Maui and I'm lucky enough to have family there. I wish I could plan my life to visit on a regular basis. The beaches are nice, too. 

6. My favorite books are Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Portrait of Jenny by Robert Nathan, Russian novels in general, Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov in particular. And a story, The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant. 

7. I have 5 half siblings, one that I love dearly, the others I don't have any contact with. I have 4 cousins who are as close and dear to me as siblings. 


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Pink Prom Dress

Micheline and Oscar have been living together in downtown L.A. since before it was fashionable. Their home is two large cardboard refrigerator boxes on skid row. A man and his dog sleep to their left. A old woman in purple flannel pajamas talks nonstop on their right. 

Oscar's a big husky man given to wearing long flowing gowns. He was wounded, his left leg, in the war (although he has never said what war) and he suffers from endless phantom pain. The only time it doesn't hurt is when  he sees himself in a beautiful gown in a shop window.

"Let's go window shopping," Micheline says when his pain becomes unbearable. "We'll look at your dress. Wouldn't you love that?"

"Oh yes," he says. Oscar pulls himself up from the sidewalk, leans against the wall and takes her arm. "Watch the curb," he says as they cross the street. "I don't want you to get hurt." He offers a smile and hello to all who pass, holding his head high, even as he winces in pain. With his free hand he lifts his gown a few inches from the street so as not to step on the hem.

At a shop window, they gaze intently. "This window is cracked," Micheline says. At the second shop, she shakes her head. "This window is distorted." 

"I think it makes me look good," Oscar says. "Just not quite right. My leg really hurts."

"You can lean on me while we walk," Micheline says. "If we don't like what we see today, we will tomorrow." She puts his arm around her shoulders.

"Oh, look over there," Oscar says, catching sight of a store window. "Perfect." 

In the reflection of the dusty shop window Oscar sees himself, strong, fit, and as beautiful as any woman he'd ever known. Micheline runs her fingers across his back until she's hugging him close. "We're a very lucky couple," she says.

"Yes we are," Oscar says. His pain has disappeared. They begin to waltz down the street, in a world all their own, gliding up-down, one-two-three. Then Oscar stops. He watches a young prosperous couple holding hands. He strides up to them. Micheline lags behind. 

"Hey buddy. Micheline's suit is at the cleaners and I left my money at home. Give me $10. We are late for the party already and no bubbly for our friends."

The man and woman stare at Oscar whose flitting left and right in his  pink chiffon prom dress that is a size too large.  

Micheline steps forward and speaks up for her friend. "He really wants to go. I want to go with him. And as you can see I'm not dressed for it. You may not know this, but he hurt his leg real bad in the war. He used to be a nurse at the Country Club hospital just up the street."

The man looks up the street. There's an apartment building. Country Club Hospital?  "That's the best story I've heard all day. You got it," he says, smiling, then pulls  a $20 bill from his pocket. "Have fun. You deserve it." 

"Thank you," Micheline says. "You're very understanding." She pulls a black comb from inside her thick matted hair and waves it at them. "I styled his hair. Doesn't it look fabulous?"
And that's true. To some extent.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Zoom zoom

Stephanie is 27. She's a marketing executive for a major corporation. She's unmarried.  She's worried. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Her mother and father probe. Lovingly. Relentlessly.  She hears it in conversations with her married friends, too. It's a good-natured pressurized echo. What are you waiting on? Hurry up. Find someone. Why are you so picky, Stephanie? 

Stephanie knows it isn't about being picky. It's just that there is always something that just isn't right. Somehow when she starts seeing a man, there's something, some piece that doesn't work. It's been that way since high school.  

Wearing purple lace thong panties and a matching bra, Stephanie riffles through her closet. She's on the phone with a girlfriend.  "I don't know what to wear. I'm meeting Robert. I can't wear the same thing as last time."

"You're wearing your jeans, right?" the girlfriend asks. "The ones that look really good on you not the others." 

Stephanie twists around to check out her butt and thighs in the mirror. She stands on tip-toe. It doesn't help. Her legs are short. A tiny bit of cellulite marks the line where the elastic band on panties used to be. She rearranges her thong but there isn't enough to mask anything. 

"Yes. I have to hurry. I'll text you in a minute. End." Stephanie touches the cellulite and starts to cry. Still holding the Blackberry, she pulls out a pair of jeans, dark but not with a lot of stitching and tosses them on the bed. Then, she pulls out a cream colored cotton camisole, tosses it on the bed. Then a cream deep v-neck cashmere pullover.  

She texts: Wht d I wr w the jns & crem cami? Cash plvr V?  
The reply: Y  wht shoes?
She texts: boots
The reply: wch bts?
She texts: sde
The reply: rain?
She texts: no
The reply: G8t. hv fun. Call m ltr.

Stephanie checks herself in the mirror, this time from the front. Looks much better. Sideways. Good. Other side. Good. She wiggles into the dark jeans with very little stitching, sucks in her stomach and zips. The camisole slides over her head without so much as touching her hair or face. Then the pullover, same way.

A quick check in the mirror. Yes. She fixes her make-up. Her eyes are pink, but no one will know she was crying.

Then Stephanie pulls a pair of yellow striped cotton socks with green ivy on the scalloped rim from her dresser drawer, and puts them on. They are soft. She smiles and wiggles her toes. Next she shoves her foot, then jeans into one black suede knee-high four-inch heel boot and then the other.  

She stands in front of the mirror again. Each side. Good. Front. Good. She pauses and sighs. No more tears. Slowly, she twists her upper body to look at her butt. 

She texts: Im tkg coat.
The reply: ?
She texts: Bg Bt
The reply: K

Stephanie rearranges the sheer cream color deep v-neck sweater around her hips. She grabs a three-button black coat from the closet. She slings her extra large black leather bag with the buckles over her shoulder, and looks back at the mirror one more time as she leaves the room. The boots are perfect.

She hits send to call her parents. By the time she gets to the car, she'll be in a dead zone.

And that's true, to some extent.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You, and you, and you were there

Ana Maria Carmen and Ruben Sanchez sit at a very large elaborate banquet table. Maria sits to the right of God and Ruben sits to her right. They are nibbling on tiny green peppers as they talk. Ruben has a Dos Equis and Maria has a Margarita. God sips champagne.

"My mother said I could not get married until I was five feet tall, so I stood very straight and always wore two-inch heels," Maria said as she shrugged one shoulder. "I married my Ruben in a  white muslin dress with a flowing white Mantilla as soon as I was 18. You blessed us with a good life together."

"I was the luckiest man alive for 42 years," Ruben said. "Maria was my beautiful lady."

"Oh no," Maria said, stifling a giggle, "Our daughter, Giselle, is so much prettier than I ever was. She was always your favorite."

"You were a wonderful mother," Ruben said.

"Sometimes I think I loved shoes almost as much as I loved my children," Maria said. The giggle bubbles out. "I taught Elizabeth too well. She spends too much for shoes, and so many.  I worry."

"Our sons are good men, good husbands, and good fathers," Ruben said. "You don't have to worry about them."

"They yell at their children so much," Maria said. "And they work such long hours. I wish we could have done better for them."

"You had a lot to overcome," God said. "You had no education, no health insurance, you lived in a dangerous neighborhood.  Sadly, prejudice continues, even now." 

"I worked three jobs until all the kids were in school," Ruben said. "We lived with Maria's aunt in her big old house for so long she left it to us."

"Do you remember her antimacassars? She was so proud of them," Maria said. "It was so funny. Ruben went around saying something smelled bad." Maria covers her mouth with her fingers as she laughs. "I'm sorry. We're eating. I was embarrassed to admit I knew what they were."

"That smell stuck like smoke. I worked on getting rid of it for years," Ruben said. "Made the house into a nice inheritance for the children. Worth a lot more now than it was then." Ruben's belly jiggles over his big belt buckle as he laughs and pulls at his moustache.  

"This is just like Father Texerios said it would be," Maria said. "The food is delicious, family and friends are here, everything is perfect."

"Thank you," God said. "I appreciate your gratitude. I do so love providing this big party, lots of good food and wine. It's too bad those very things are what send so many here before I expect them."

And that's true. To some extent.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Wanda Olive  Coleridge hated her nickname. Her mother's friend started it as a joke before she even went to school. Get it, her initials in reverse are COW.

"I want to be one of those girls who stand up on the ponies in fancy clothes," she said at the circus on her 10th birthday.

Then Cirque de Soleil came along and blew her away. Literally. "I imagine myself, dropping from the sky, moving in slow motion to the sound of my own heart beating," she said at her 18th birthday party.

This made sense to Little Wanda-Cow as she was known in her crowd because she had developed a nasty drug habit before she dropped out of high school. She hid her secret at the Dress Barn where she worked 30 hours a week, so she would have, ahem, money to live on. Then she got busted for shoplifting and the judge said rehab or jail.

"I'm not stupid," she told the judge. "Rehab. Here's the thing, dude. How would you like my name?" Her 'tude tipped the scale.

"Your name is Wanda Coleridge. What's wrong with that?" he asked. "And, young lady, you'll also do a year of community service. Note: Do not call a judge, 'dude'."

Little Wanda Cow whined and sulked in group at rehab. It was the best she could do, what with withdrawal sapping her powers. "They called me COW," she snapped at the girl with tatts covering both arms. "They thought it was funny."

"So what," tatt girl said. "Do you drink a lot of milk?"

"No," Wanda  said. She had to think about that.

"You don't even know your own name, Wanda Coleridge," the tatt girl mocked. "I mean like, there's a famous poet with your last name. If you don't believe me, Wikipedia it."

After dinner Wanda what-ever-her-name-is searched for her name. It took her awhile, all she knew how to be was a gamer, but what she found took her breath away.

Kubla Khan; or A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797 at a farmhouse near Exmoor (wherever that is), England.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, a sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to sunless sea.

"Wow," Wanda said out loud. She felt his vision. "That is really beautiful."

She read some more...

For he on honey-dew fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

In group the next day, Wanda read the poem. "Maybe, he's like, my great-great-great-great grandfather," she said when she finished reading.

"I'm really into genealogy," tatt girl said.

"I think maybe the dude smoked," a guy with glasses and bandages around his wrists said. "Opium."

Wanda sighed. "It's still so cool," she said to everyone in the group. "I mean, like, someone could have called him STD, you know what I mean, as a joke. But he wrote this great poem anyway."

And that is true. To some extent.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Qu 'y on the High Seas

Jeanie is your average Vietnamese mom-down-the-street. Jeanie is also a professional genie when it comes to manicures and pedicures. You may come in the salon with dishpan hands, or feet, but you will leave with mitts fit for a kiss. While you are soaking, if you are lucky, she'll hum or sing a little song that let's you know how she really feels.

One of her favorites goes like this: "A kiss on the hand may be very continental but diamonds are a girl's best friend..." Jeanie knows Jules Styne wrote the music and Leo Robin wrote the lyrics. She knows what year the movie came out and lots of other stuff. She usually finishes the song with a surprise of a belly laugh.

Jeanie chats when she isn't singing. "Qu 'y is my real name," she says if asked. "It means precious. Americans can't say it, so we picked the name, Jeanie."

A lifetime later, Jeanie/Qu 'y remembers her trip to America like it was yesterday.

Qu 'y was 11 when she and her aunt left Vietnam in the middle of the night on her uncle's fishing boat in 1984. There was no room or money for other family members. "I had to be so quiet. We couldn't talk at all," she says.  

According to Jeanie, the boat didn't make any sound as it slipped out to sea with just enough rice, sugar, pickled stuff like cabbage, and water for 70 people.  It was a Noah's Arc overflowing with Buddhists. The plan was simple. Ride the open seas until a freighter found you, they would take you to the Philippine Islands where life would start over, much better. 

"I was too scared to ask any questions. My aunt took care of me. I promised my mom I'd do what she told me," Jeanie says.

Qu 'y's uncle handled his boat really well through a couple pounding storms and blistering winds. But when the wind stopped, the boat rocked side to side going nowhere. When their drinking water was gone, sugar was mixed with sea water for drinking. 

"It was nasty," Jeanie says, as she shivers and scrunches up her face. "My aunt made me drink it. That's all there was. We had to lean out over the side of the boat to go to the bathroom. Everyone would look away, but we didn't care."

Qu 'y, her aunt, and all the women prayed to Buddha for a freighter to find them. One did. The captain gave Qu 'y a red dress and an orange one--her first Western clothing. But since no one was dead, he did not take them onboard.

"It was so hot. My aunt said we must now pray to get to the Philippine Island," Jeanie says. "Pray for your uncle to get his boat there, but when he did, we were told to go to a different island," Jeanie continues.

At last, they docked the boat and went to the refugee camp. "My uncle had a brother in Norway who was supposed to sponsor us," Jeanie says. "But, a Protestant Church in Los Angeles did."

Qu 'y, her aunt and uncle lived with an American family while they learned English, how to eat with a spoon and fork, where the Buddhist Temple was, and how to get around the city. 

"Linda and I," Jeanie says as she gestures to another manicurist, "trained together. Now we carpool to work with two other girls. Save money."

Jeanie's mother and sisters and brothers still live in Vietnam. She does not ever intend to tell them she and her husband have allowed their unmarried daughter to live away from home. "They would never understand that an American college girl does that," Jeanie says. 

And that's true. To some extent.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Willow Wayne: How A Star Stays A Star

Willow Wayne is a statuesque movie star, television presence, and songstress. At 16 she was a cover girl, at 20 she starred in her first film, to much acclaim. She and the director were an item for awhile, they made all the magazine covers, then he went home to his wife. 

Over the course of 25 year she made a few reasonably successful films, starred in two television series, married a bartender from Oklahoma, bore a son with prominent ears, then a daughter with Downs Syndrome shortly before she divorced her second husband, a pediatrician. She moved on to her then-agent, who did not want the twins she produced. She fired her publicist after a poolside session made her arms look fat. 

"You're a has-been," the agent-husband harped late one night after a party. "All you did was shout into your cell phone, all night. You are desperate for attention."

He was right. She left him in a huff, leaving the big house in the hills behind. She had hated the steep driveway, and her driver, and her secretary, couldn't afford it anymore, anyway.

A Cape Cod style house on a tree-lined street with a locked front gate, accessed only by a buzzer hid her from the glare as she contracted a new career. The living room became a jazz stage, musicians and paid friends were hired to build up a thin voice and highlight a dramatic presentation. 

"Hello," she called gaily from her bed, as whoever assembled downstairs a couple weeks before her first gig at a small intimate club. "I'll be down when I'd ready," she said, her voice lilting an octave. Meantime, she rearranged herself in the middle of the bed, placed a call to her daughter, no answer. Then a call to someone, arranging a late lunch on Thursday, since she had to rehearse. 

"Where's my diamond necklace?" she screamed. "I can't sing without it," she wailed to her secretary over her cell phone even though the woman was in the kitchen. "My voice will crack. You know I hate that," she said, snapping the phone shut. She ran her fingers through her hair, smoothing it into a kind of shape, her silk dressing gown gaping open. "Get in here," she screamed to anyone who could hear her.

"Where is my coach? He knows I'm hopeless without him." Willow started to cry, crocodile tears. "Why do all these people let me down? Don't they know there are rules, it takes discipline to be me? FYI folks. Only the star can break the rules."

All that is another lifetime now. Her act is perfect. She enters the room to applause, one of her hit songs leading off the show. "Thank you for coming tonight," she always says. "We're going to have a wonderful evening. I do this for you, your pleasure and happiness." Her face shines. Her gowns shimmer sleekly curvaceous around a purposefully-willowed figure. 

"You're beautiful," an audience member calls out. 

"Spanx, you know," she answers smartly, knowingly catching the eye of women in the small club lounge. "How many of you ladies are wearing your spanx tonight? Where would we be without them, ladies?" 

The women applaud. The men laugh. Willow wraps an arm sensuously beneath her glued-on push-up pseudo bra, wrapping long red finger nails around a hip and humming her way into some ballad or another.

At late night champagne and oyster dinner with her current lover, she insists, absolutely insists her lover pick up the check. She'll make him a breakfast he'll never forget, but in the morning he is gone, they are always gone. She watches The View on TiVo from her bed, silk gown gaping open, Tiffany drop pendant on a diamond chain under the bed, clouded from view by dust bunnies.

"I'm scheduled to be on, you know," she says to no one in particular. "Unless I change my mind. I'm the star. I can reschedule if I want to."

And that's true. To an extent. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Valerie -Victim or virtuous?

Valerie's a skinny violinist with long fingers and a short neck. She plays various studio gigs, most at Warner Brother's studio in Burbank, most for the same composer and conductor, mostly with the same musicians, and most often in the late evening or at night. It's boring. It's good money. It's gone on for years.

There's a cartoon in Valerie's psychiatrist's office that has four frames. In the first, the patient is deflated, flat as a pancake. The psychiatrist looks normal. A vacuum cleaner-looking hose is hooked up between them. "How have you been?" the psychiatrist asks. 

 "I need your help. I'm depressed," the patient says in the second frame. "I'll do my best to help, tell me more," the psychiatrist says. He looses some of his stature, the patient gets more inflated. 

 "I have no life," the patient says in the third frame. "Why do you think that is?" the psychiatrist asks, deflating.  

"My wife is having an affair with the milk man," the patient says. "Are you certain? Have you seen them?" the psychiatrist ask. "Well, no. Maybe I'm being just being jealous," the patient answers as he swells to full size and the psychiatrist deflates flat as a pancake.

Valerie's psychiatrist's wife called her two days before their regular appointment. "He had an episode from the anesthesia during minor surgery, and is in the hospital," she said, her voice high pitched and taught. "Your appointment will have to be rescheduled."

"On, no," Valerie said, after a very shaky pause. She had become too dependent and drained him?  Whatifhedied, whatifhedied, whatifhedied swirled behind her eyebrows. "What seems to be the problem?" Valerie dared to ask, putting one word carefully after the other. 

"He's having an MRI, right now," his wife said. "They don't expect to find anything." Her soft, slight voice wavered.

"Oh, what a relief, " Valerie said with true sincerity. "How are you?"

"I am worried," his wife said.

"I know he'll be fine."  The words leapt from her mouth. "He knows how much we care." Valerie laughed, as much to reassure herself as his wife. 

"Yes, he will  be fine," his wife repeated, laughing slightly. Her voice full and firmer. "He is  a strong man. And he knows how we all want him around for a long time. Thank you."

Valerie remembered the cartoon. It's not about me right now, it's about him, his health. "Tell him I said he should rest and get better," she said a little too cheerfully.

They hung up. Valerie felt drained, and she had to go to work. He must be exhausted by the end of the day, she thought. She picked up her gear and left.

And that's true. To an extent. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Under Ware: Agent With The FBI

Shortly after 9/11, Under passed her special agent test. She'd been a computer analyst with the service since l995, her first job after graduation from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. With a name like hers, she wanted to stay under the radar. The fact that she lived in Washington D.C. and traveled constantly was ideal. Pasadena, California, was no more than the place Under had been born. 

She was now known as U. Ware. Her twin, Arde, or Hard, as his UCLA frat brothers called him--had done the same thing in med school and now he was on staff at a prominent Midwestern medical school, Dr. A. Ware or AW.

"Say your name and be proud of it," their mother had said, when they begged to know why such names had been put on them. "Ware is an old British name, much like, Blood, my maiden name. Where do you think the term, Bluebood, comes from? I don't hear your cousins complaining about their name."

"Yeah, their first names are Jennifer, David, and Ashley," Arde said, a hardness  underscored his voice even when they were youngsters.  

The three cousins were slackers who hit the party scene first in Bali, then in Rio and finally in Hollywood. They partied away their incomes at the Troubadour, the Viper Room where they met Johnny Depp, and various other clubs that came and went. Under had ushered in the 21st century by going to bed at 8 PM and waking up at 7 AM, same as always. Arde spent that year in Japan, doing God knows what. He said he was studying Eastern medicine.

Last summer on July 4th, their mother hosted a big bash and collapsed at the buffet table, dying from a heart attack before the medics arrived. U and HW had to go home. 

"I've never seem her so beautiful," Under said, looking at her mother before the morticians prepared her for the funeral. "Peaceful and serene. Luminescent."

"The old gal's blood wasn't as terrific as she thought it was," Arde said. He took charge, made all the arrangements. Arde had fought to have an autopsy performed, Under refused. Her mother's beauty was all she had left. She sat with the open casket before the funeral.

"I'm so sorry for my disgraceful behavior," she said. A single tear slid from the edge of her eye. "I don't know why you did this to me, but I love you." She smoothed her black dress and sat quietly. "I'll start wearing mascara to make up for things," she said, looking straight forward.

"Let's get this over with," Arde said, then snapped the silk-lined casket closed. "Everybody's waiting. Did you contact our father?" 

She shook her head. "I ran a check on him. A year ago he was living in Romania with a woman named Irma Vagine. They have children and run a legitimate orphanage. Leave him alone, he has a life." 

"Don't you want to know your father?" Arde snarled at her in the same tone he used with their mother.  "We need to know what diseases he has, what we've inherited. He's the Ware. He abandoned us."

Under wept, bowing her head, covering her eyes with her hands. "I know who I am, Hard Ware. I'm Under Ware." She looked up at him, emotions in check, radiant in her truth. "I spend my days ferreting out people who change their names to serve some purpose, avoid some truth, or getting away from themselves and their families." She snorted and cleared her throat. "I'm a Blood-Ware, bright red and running strong."

"And you're so tough. FBI. You'll always be under some body's thumb," he said. "Let's get this over with."

They sat together. They gave the eulogy together. Under wept. Arde didn't. When the service was over, as they were leaving, a man tapped Under on the shoulder. When she turned around, she saw her own  pale face but with flashing dark eyes rimmed with double thick lashes. 

"I vant you to meet my vife, and zon's lit-tle shildren," he said. "They've ast to meet you for a longa time. Ve've saved money for 10 years. Come from Poland. Bad timing. " 

"Arde, I think this is our father," she said. "Look."  

"Ah, your uncle. Your fader feld offa curb in and vas hit by a truck," he said. "I'm Zilva Vare."

Arde just starred. Under gave Zilva a hug. The children giggled and his wife smiled.

More little Wares, Under thought smiling at them. I vonder vhat their names are?

And that's true. To some extent.

Monday, October 13, 2008

ESTABLISH: Parking Lot Outside The Salon, Sherman Oaks, CA

Tina left the salon in thin orange rubber flip flops. She'd forgotten to bring her own and wore really cool red peep-toe shoes which she had to carry back to the car. Her exquisite French-tip nails matched hand to foot. She was ready for her audition later in the afternoon. She knew it was a great role, made for her: A smart, sophisticated women with a mission before she succumbed to leukemia. 

The pebbles in the parking lot punctured, oh really, they wobbled beneath her feet as she tiptoed to her Acura not 25 feet away in the open air parking lot. It was pleasantly warm, the lot hardly half full, and a well-validated parking ticket assured her of free passage out of there. Still, why couldn't they clear the stupid pebbles? 

Her foot massage wouldn't last to the car at this rate. How could she maneuver in heels later in the afternoon at this rate? A big man leaned against the trunk of a big black Lincoln Navigator (gas guzzler) too closely parked beside her car door. He was sharing his cell phone conversation with the world.

"I paid. You know I paid. I'll pay the rest. Just give me a couple days.  I know I said..." he shouted, pacing left to right his free hand never moving an inch out of his black suit coat pocket. "You owe me," he shouted. Obviously, the person at the other end had some equally potent reply. He waved the phone around in a circle then back close to his ear and unexpectedly said in a most even tone, "I won't do it," and then  smacked the Blackberry again his sizable chest, grimacing with fury. 

She stopped, ready to click the car door open, but didn't. Pondering his 300 pound dark, swarthy frame, Tina easily imaged him as Mafia. Was there such a thing as Persian Mafia? Probably not, but maybe he was black Russian Mafia, and had died his hair and spent a lot of time in a tanning booth.  

She peered at him with her peripheral vision, blinking quickly as her placed a smile across her face allowing her mouth to fall sensuously open.  She licked her plumped up lips. Her job was to get him in the mood to care about her, forget that phone call. Tina shifted from foot to foot, her flowing garb suggested either a free spirit or more likely a wood nymph.

Tina rubbed her palms together warming them, as she always did before a performance. "Excuse me, please," she said as she titled her head slightly to one shoulder and looked  directly into his dark dark eyes. The click of her car remote gave away her intent. "I'm late for an audition, excuse me."  Tina forgot about the pebbles now,  her back straight and chin lifted, she stepped lightly past him, not touching as she opened the car door. "Thank you," she offered.

"Sure, sure," he said. "I wish my wife was so agreeable. She always wants more, more." 

And he thinks I care, passed through Tina's mind. "I'm sure she's a beautiful woman," came out of Tina's mouth. "Wants to make a beautiful life for you. That costs money." Tina's heart beat so fast, she felt a panic attack coming on. "Good luck," she said. Why did I have to say that, pounded between her ears. 

Backing the car out took a 5 point turn in her current state of flux. She peeked at him through the rear-view mirror and waved. He leaned wearily against that big black car, unmoved, head hanging down. Tina put her well-manicured foot on the accelerator, the back tires threw gravel as she pulled forward, toward the window of the parking attendant booth. 

"I'm ready for the audition  after that, "she said out loud. Shifting in her seat, she sat shoulders back to stop shaking. "People think show business is all fun and games. It's work and preparation. I could have said it better: I'm sure she's a beautiful woman, or, I'm sure she's a beautiful woman." Tina rolled her eyes, handed the attendant the ticket and pulled out onto the street.

And that's true. To some extent.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rita and Sarah : Song Writers In The Making

[It's a known fact that everybody in Los Angeles thinks they are an actor, singer, dancer, writer---or all of them and more. There are those parents who flock here with their kids apparently hoping the aura of sensational success floats in all the sunshine, or the negative ions off the ocean {and the surf?}  will stimulate brains cells to expose assets. When it doesn't work out they go back to Ohio, Iowa, Utah, where they had come from. {Those magazines at the grocery check-out miss the point}. It's really all about the process, and, maybe a bead's worth of the other.]

Red-haired and skinny Rita, at the age of nine knows that she is going to grow up and be a singer. She and her best friend, curly-locked Sarah with the rosy cheeks and straight white teeth, make up songs while they groom their ponies about half a mile upslope from the beach in Malibu. So far, their best one is called "Dripping Wet Misty." Misty being Rita's pony. Sarah's pony being Silver. They sing in rounds or verses, Rita the soprano, Sarah the alto, usually in harmony. 

Rita's dad accompanies them on guitar whenever he's available and in the mood. Rita's mom watchs when she's not building her horse stabling business. She smiles at them offering tips while she eats arugula which she picks from their garden. [mom also drinks green tea, and serves only organic fruits, vegetables and juices. No white sugar or flour, or red meat, ever. Maybe success comes in liquids?]

"Let's hide and see how long it takes for someone to come looking for us," Rita said to Sarah late one summer afternoon. "We can tell them we got lost and so scared we didn't know what to do. When they find us, act real hot and tired. My mom will probably cry."

They giggled for the first hour leaning against tall stacks of hay bales half an acre from the barn. "Waiting For Discovery," took on a three octave, four-beat, imaginary dramatic Debbie Harry-ish back-up track. "Best Ever," Rita whispered in a quivering atonal ending, head snapping back, eyes snapping shut, arms snapping to a sharp line at her side. 

Sarah did the splits, in her jodpers and riding boots, dust swirled up her nose. "Vogue," she murmured, coughing slightly and touching her head to her thigh and holding the pose. It took a few moments, but then she sighed out the first complaint. "I'm hot and tired."

"I'm not." Beads of sweat said otherwise on Rita's forehead. Her back schlumped as she slid to the grown. More dust swirled. "Why haven't they come looking for us?" she asked.   

Neither of them noticed that their ponies had casually wandered and nibbled their way back to the arena.

"I'm ready to go home. I'm itchy," Sarah said, then sniffled. She slid her legs forward and sat upright. She sniffled again and rubbed her sleeve across her face.

"You sound like a puppy dog," Rita said. "Don't screw up your face like that. It will stay that way. You'll get wrinkles too."

Sarah peaked around the bales of hay, then stood up and waved her arms. Rita whistled.

The ponies trotted straight back to them. Each girl dusted herself off, collected reins and ambled back toward the barn.

Rita's mother was leaning against one of the pepper trees that surrounded the turn-out ring. "Did you ride out to the waterfall, was there much water today?" she asked. "We all decided not come after you, it's been such a lovely day. But. You shouldn't stay out so late. Understand. Any new songs?" she asked.

"Waiting To Be Discovered," Rita replied as she slouched off, reins in hand, the pony tagging along behind her.

"I added choreography, for the first time," Sarah added, sniffling again and frowning. "Hey, Rita, I thought we called it, "Waiting For Discovery?" 

"You don't need to wait for discovery. You live with it everyday," Rita's mother said as she picked hay from Sarah's hair. "Clean up the ponies and I'll hose you both down. You girls look hot and tired. Will you sing it for us, later?"  

And that's true. To some extent.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pretty Polly

Hello. My name is Polly and I am very pretty.

Just say the word, pretty, and you'll know what I look like. I am arm candy and I like it that way. I'm naturally friendly and I've never met anyone who didn't like me. Well, they spent some time with me, anyway, so I assume they liked me. I'm definitely a BFF type.

I know what you're thinking. How can anyone take someone named, Polly, seriously? Well, for one thing, Nirvana has a song, "Polly" and so did the Kinks. Polly Bergen was a successful actress and singer a long time ago. And sadly, Polly Klaas was murdered.

Ooooohhh,  don't forget Aunt Polly in "Tom Sawyer."  And, the late great C.S. Lewis' main character in "The Magician's Nephew" is named, guess what, Polly Plummer. That's Plummer, not plumber.

Okay. I've heard it a thousand times. Polly wanna a cracker. Polly Wolly Doodle. Pollyanna. Polly Put the Teakettle On. It gets really tiresome. FYI: Polly is a Norwegian peanut snack brand. Bet you didn't know that.

We looked up the name, Polly, in Wikipedia today. It says that Polly is a nickname, for girls. I don't claim to be a rocket scientist, but did anyone really think it was a name for boys?

The name supposedly was derived from the name Molly. In 18th and 19th century New England it was a common nickname for Mary. I mean, if Molly is going to become Polly, then shouldn't Mary become Pary, not Polly? And to make matters worse, the two genetically engineered sheep were named Polly and Molly.

What is a poor bird like me to do? I'm so lucky to have gorgeous feathers, a sweet disposition, a delicate voice, and well-manicured claws.  I got Latin Love Affair Pink this week, just love it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Chronicles of Nadine

Nadine and a surfer buddy came to America 20 plus years ago from South Africa. They came to Los Angeles to be in show business, and to make a better life. Nadine's mom and dad waved good-bye then cried in their hankies for a very long time. 

Nadine and her friend got off the plane with a tourist's visa in one hand and a small suitcase in the other hand. They passed through customs and headed straight to Hollywood where they walked around enthralled and giddy, hoping to see a movie star, but didn't. Somebody generously offered their garage as a crash pad that first night. The first few months lost themselves to rose-colored glasses and youthful imaginings. When their Visas expired a Greek mother of two knowingly offered them her guest house, which was where her husband normally stayed but he was out of town for an indeterminate time.

Blond, blue-eyed, sweet and fun, Nadine found a job right away with a caterer. She worked long hours, was paid in cash, and glad of it. Her friend played guitar, got into the Hollywood scene of his dreams, and married an American woman for $2,000.00, payable over a five year period. He moved into his wife's home.

"I'm going to a place called North Carolina," he told Nadine. "I'm going to work on a movie about a horse and a girl. I'll be a camera operator." He looked back over his shoulder at her as he closed the door behind him. "Take care of yourself," he called back.

Nadine sat under the date tree in the backyard with the Greek woman who was not so much a friend as a comrade. "You have to get married," the Greek woman said. "I'll find someone, someone nice and inexpensive."

"$5,000.00, half down and half within two years. I need the money," the struggling actor said. "I've done this before. I know what to do. Give me your information and let's get started."

"Oh, sure," Nadine chirped, happy as she'd ever been. "It'll be fine." 

They were, happily, married for almost two years. Nadine now had a green card, a catering job in show business, filed her income taxes on time, and lived in the pool room at a friend's house where she enjoyed their children and their dog and their company. Her friend from home had worked his way up to film director, had several boyfriends, stayed married until his wife fell in love with someone she wanted to marry. They divorced. He kept her spacious apartment in West Hollywood which he soon sold for a house in the same area. 

Nadine called her parents everyday.  She visited them at least twice a year, spending lavishly when she was there.

"I have such a wonderful life in America," she told her mother. "I couldn't ask for more, really I couldn't." She gave her mother cashmere socks she'd purchased at a thrift store in Glendale, but they were just like new. "I pay taxes, pay for health insurance, and and still have enough money to save in a 401K for my retirement."

"Daddy, you made all this possible. If you hadn't put me in school in England, I'd never have known this kind of opportunity existed." Nadine hugged him close. "America is everything I'd imagined, and more," she said, as genuinely as her gift to him of a linen handkerchief embroidered with delicate white baskets of flowers and ribbons on two corners.

She worked hard for two decades, changing day jobs only twice, but working weekends with the catering service until they went out of business. She worked every holiday, for golden time, and saved her money faithfully for the next trip to South Africa. She never complained. She never got sick, but she did get very tired. 

"I'm a citizen, an American citizen," she shouted and actually jumped up and down after the Mayor of Los Angeles made his pronouncement. "Want to hear me recite the names of all the American presidents and vice presidents?" she'd ask any co-worker or client within earshot. She ate ice cream every night before bed that year to celebrate. She gained 20 pounds, one for each year she'd been here. 

Two years ago her mother passed away. "I have to go back South Africa," she told her boss. "I'll be there probably a month. It's up to me to take care of her things. My dad can't do it, he's not well." Straight-forwardly forthright, she spelled it out. "I know I only have two weeks vacation. I know I'll have to take the rest of the time without pay. I'll be back as soon as I can."

This year, thanks to a small inheritance from her mother and the failing housing market, Nadine purchased a one bedroom condominium on the third floor in a Los Angeles community she loves.  She got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the toilet so that her friends, some not yet citizens, who had come to help her clean it up, would be comfortable in the bathroom. 

She quietly recited the last part of her Baptismal prayer. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? Yes, I will, with God's help.  

Monday, September 22, 2008

We've got a problem, Houston

This is an actual email that came in Friday from someone who evacuated, then came home. I wouldn't want to be there, but I wonder if eating smaller portions, even if it isn't fresh food, might do some people good...What do you think?

Hi Y'all
The power just came on.......whoopee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I finally got in touch with *****. There's 10 feet of water and mud in the two condos. ***** is very sick, so things are really bad for them. Please keep them in your prayers. I am fine now that we have electricity again. The police rolled down the street a while ago, and told us that the ice and water was available at the city hall. FEMA wouldn't distribute it, just brought it to the main distribution center at Reliant Center and dumped it. They left it up to the local authorities to arrange for the trucks and personnel to take it to the "PODS" to be set up in the neighborhoods. The "POD" out here was backed up for 10 miles with people trying to get into it and had the road blocked with one trooper to handle the traffic in and out. Never mind that the only road to it was a two lane affair. People were spending 10.00 in gasoline to get there for the free ice and bottled water. The MRE meals are a joke. 5 cans of spaghettios, beef stew, etc, crackers, powdered milk, and juice. No one could survive on those because those sizes are for kids, and really not healthy. I miss my salads so much. Anyway, maybe in a couple of days we can get into Wal-mart and get some fresh food. There was hardly any bread, batteries were sold out, but they did set up some desks with power strips on them so you could charge your phones up. At least someone was thinking about us. Thanks for all of your concern and good word we really appreciate it. I hope we don't have to do this again. It was like listening to a tornado for 12 hours and when I heard the fence crack (big wooden planks) I thought we were going to end like Dorothy in "Oz". I wouldn't wish this on anyone. One couple I heard about went to stay with their children and a big tree in their yard crashed in the house right on top of their bed. They were very lucky. Take care.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Margaret: A Very Uptown Gal

Margaret has had a difficult week. Not because she works in the financial industry, not because she's losing clients left and right, not even because she's been too busy to shift her summer wardrobe to the back of the closet. 

She's been in a Midwestern city for a wedding. First the humidity bombed her blond stylish long-bob, and, on the same day ruined her white silk Dior blouse.

"Ring around the collar," she emailed her secretary. "For what I paid, it should have been good for at least 25 wearings. It's white! Oh, what am I going to do? There's not a single decent store here that could replace it." 

Her secretary did not email back. However, she did forward it to her co-workers who all got a good laugh.

"I guess Margaret's social skills will just have to pull her through," one woman  replied, laughter crackling between every word as she typed. "I wonder what she will do? Wouldn't it be fun to be a fly on her wall."

The day of the wedding Margaret stood in front of the full length mirror in her hotel suite, which by the way, had a brown floral polyester comforter, and matching drapes. "I'm 50 years old," she said to her husband as if he didn't know she was actually 60 years old, "and my chin has such bad acne that my make-up won't cover it. I've never had acne in my life!" Another untruth.

Her husband sat on the bed and tied the laces on his black Johnson and Murphy wing-tip dress shoes. "It's not so bad here. Be nice if we had a little rain storm."

"Don't say that, " she snapped. "I didn't bring a rain coat although that would cover up a multitude of sins." Bedraggled, that's how I look, she thought to herself. Be-draaagggle-d.

"I'm ready," he said, standing up and adjusting his navy suit jacket without even looking in the mirror. "We need to leave soon. I'll wait in the lobby downstairs." 

As the door slammed, Margaret jumped. Hotel doors always have to slam, she thought. Why?
Did Princess Diana's hotel doors slam? I'll bet they didn't.

Margaret flat-ironed her hair, section by section , just as she had done for the last howeverlong. Oh how I envy those women with cuts that fall into place no matter the weather. She imagined a thin statuesque blond striding through a crowd, head held high on a swan neck, every hair in place, grey eyeliner emphasizing individual false eyelashes attached more closely at the outer corner than the inner corner of the eye. Iridescent pale cheeks, raspberry lips, and a creamy smooth chin with just a hint of pink along the jawline.

Oh, a lace collar with the burnished long necklace, that chunky one, weighted with the pale jade whatever it is, doesn't matter. I'll look fabulous.  

Margaret grabbed her Blackberry, punched in her husband's number and waited while it rang and rang. God Lord, what is that man doing, doesn't he ever hear this thing? Ah..

"What?" he said, slightly slurring the word. "What?"

"Get my jewelry. Go to the concierge and have them bring it up to me, right now," she said.

"They don't have a concierge here," he said. "And your jewelry is in the suitcase. Just do something, we need to get there."

"Oh, of course, " she membled with her last ounce of breath.

She put the phone in her bag, the small cylindrical cream colored beaded one she'd already prepared to take. Margaret turned slowly, in slow motion actually, toward the suitcase open at the foot of the bed. She riffled through for pantyhose without even looking at the packaging or color. 

Sitting squarely on the side of the bed, she rolled one stocking leg and slide her foot in first up to the ankle, then she rolled the other stocking leg and slid her other foot in up to the ankle.  As she stood up to wiggle them upwards into place, she looked down at her feet. 

Margaret made an executive decision: It doesn't really matter what I wear here. No one will notice. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dead Souls in Chatsworth, California

Today is the day after the train collision just around the bend on a single track in Chatsworth, California. Desi and Lucy Arnez lived there with their children. John Wayne made movies out there at the Paramount ranch. I think it was him. Five decades years ago it was a place to get away from the city. It has long since become a suburb.

Now it is a place of sadness, anguish, and 18 dead souls and counting. 

Today, my friend from Northridge, next door to Chatsworth is coming over to pick up a coffee table that she loaned to my daughter. Tomorrow, the coffee table is going to Sacramento with my friend's daughter who is about 10 minutes pregnant, suffering morning sickness and exhaustion and excitement all at the same time. Her daughter and my daughter were married about two weeks apart last summer. All so carefully planned. 

Not so for the people in those train cars. The freight car probably had a couple people in it. Those happy-sad, mad-glad, short-fat, tall-thin, old-young people going home on the metrolink, tired from a day's work, excited or disappointed from a day at school where they had accomplished something worthwhile--or not--and those who just happened to be on that train going in the direction of Moorpark because it was their day for one of life's rite-of-passage, they all had souls.

Hopefully, they all had families. Families who will grieve for them, or with them, and what happened to them. For those, even that one single person, who did not have anyone, I grieve. It doesn't matter whether they are at the big banquet at the right hand of God, or their soul has been set free, or they are simply gone from this earth. 

Celebrating a life well-lived is a way to let go, float them away on a pyre, sprinkle them on a hillside, or bury them in a casket. But loss is real. A home sits empty, a chair unused, a bed half empty, an apple uneaten. That is real and someone must attend to it.

I shall mourn for the life lost in the shuffle. I shall pray for all the rest, that they may rest in peace or someone's loving care. This is pain and hurt and loss. It best not be buried beneath anger.

May no one use these dead souls as property in the name of a self-righteous get rich scheme.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Loretta who takes a bath instead of medicine

September in Van Nuys can be the hottest month of the year. Loretta had just taken a bath, and it was a question of whether to put on her nightgown or not. She'd taken a bath after dinner for more than 65  years, ever since she left home for nurses training. Lots of women her age took medicine, all she needed was a bath. 

When the phone rang, she held the towel around herself with one hand and threw open the window with the other, then promptly tripped and smacked her backside on the floor. By the time Loretta hobbled into the bedroom and fumbled for the phone, she snapped. "What do you want?" 

She wanted to cry, instead she leaned against the edge of the bed, closed her eyes and listened to her caller, who wanted something.

"Yes. I can walk the dog over there, and check on her," Loretta said, evenly, without an ounce of emotion, but with a long pause before she continued. "She's your mother, wouldn't she rather see you, especially since you haven't been there recently." It was not a question.

The woman on the other end of the line had been married to Loretta's son 25 years ago. That was three husbands, 2 rehabs, half a dozen different jobs and one lazy-ass life time ago. Sure enough, some man's voice in the background made it clear why she was too busy. 

Loretta took a Valium, waited 15 minutes, then pulled on shorts and a shirt and set off with the dog down the sidewalk. A pink and grey and yellow streaked sunset took her back to the trip she and her sister had taken to Maui, back in 1985, maybe. That drive along the road to Hana, all those waterfalls in the rain forest had been so beautiful. They'd stopped at a roadside fish shack and paid a dollar for two steaming wrapped fish things.

"Fresh, just caught," a little smiling man had told them. "I caught, myself," he added. "Take your pictures?" 

They should have gone again. It wouldn't have been the same. Loretta had already retired. Her sister had her own life, a new man friend even. Loretta had figured it all out, long ago. You have to get on with life. Take care of business. Don't let the foolishness get in the way. For goodness sakes, everyone just wants to have a good time, all the time. It just gets ridiculous. There's work to do. 

Loretta picked up her stride. The twinge in her back barely perceptible. The dog wagged his tail as fast as his little legs moved.  Loretta chuckled and pushed her bangs to the side of her face. 

"You're fit to be tied," her little sister would have said with a laugh. "Just look how beautiful the sky is. Why are you so upset?"

Loretta rang the doorbell at the old house on the next corner. She rang it three times. The old woman was half deaf. Loretta peeked in the window but didn't see anyone. What a waste of my time, she thought. The poor old thing is probably taking her bath. Loretta went around back, and saw the screen door hanging open. 

"Hello," Loretta called out. "Anybody home? Hello. Hello."

She went inside. The kitchen smelled of rotten fruit and flies buzzed the countertops and cabinets. The dog whined and pulled her forward. There was the poor old soul. On the sofa. Stretched out. Feet up. Head on a cushion. Mouth open. 

"Wake up, woman," Loretta called to her. "Time to get up. You can sleep in bed." 

It came to Loretta slowly. The old woman was dying. Her breath was shallow, her skin was dull and flat. Loretta lifted a stack of magazines off of a chair and sat down. Her back hurt. Her head ached. She held the old woman's hand and patted her scroungy head. By nightfall, the old woman was gone. Loretta switched on the table lamp and called for a coroner.

But she didn't call the daughter. She knew she'd hear about it later. But for now, there was work to do. A pyrex bowl of hot water and dish detergent served well with a toothbrush to clean the old dead woman's fingernails. No one needed to see her so unclean.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yoga: 9 - 10:30 AM on Thurday

COMPLACENCY.  I've worn it like a mink coat on a summer day for awhile now, feeling smug that I had this great coat but complaining how it was miserable. The word's been around since the mid 17th century, so it would seem a lot of people have been stuck in the complacency rut. 

The word itself came to me in yoga class after a conversation about using a mental eraser in order to start over. Yes, my mind was wondering, but that's what complacency will do. There was so much mental goo to erase. Where to start?  

Meantime, I was flowing through sun salutations, I especially like upward facing dog. It takes strength, a flexible back, and an open heart which means the shoulders should move easily onto the back. Thing is, from here the body flows into downward facing dog. That means the toes, see them in the picture, the nails clicking on the mat--ruins a pedicure--must roll over backwards.
I rolled one foot's worth of toes over, then the other, Gosh darn, I was good at this. Done it hundreds of times. I'm just going with the flow. The instructor plopped down on the bamboo floor in front of my plush mat and rolled all ten toes over at the same time.

Okay, I'll give that a try. Whoa. Lost my flow when I gave it a go. There was no extra foot to take the weight of my body. The discomfort, okay it was pain, gave me the mental jolt that I'd been looking for. When I went for the second dual rollover, it was necessary to go back to the one foot, other foot method.

Mental eraser at work. I was on a new journey. Where would it take me?

This isn't me in the picture, below, but it could be.  Looks like me from a distance. For the first time, I balanced myself on my arms and shoulders. I didn't get up so high. I like to think my butt is smaller. Maybe it isn't. I know it isn't a flattering posture. But, hey, you try it.

It's called Crane Pose. It's vital to breath while perched in this position. Thought I'd share just in case you're in a rut. Complacency. Since the 17th century.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Karen's epiphany

Karen is a housewife in the San Fernando Valley part of Los Angeles, neighborhoods of single family residences complete with lawns and swimming pools and gardeners. Suburbs. All of it.

So anything to get out of there, over the hill into the city, is a get out of jail card. Going to the opthalmologist in Beverly Hills was an occasion for khaki dress-up carpi's, a Brooks Brother polo shirt and good gold hoop earrings, fresh loose curly hair and lipstick. Obviously mascara and concealer were out of the question. Oh well...

"Traffic's so light we have time to stop for your suit at the tailors,"she said. The car's air-conditioning blew her hair like a stylist's fan. "How do I look?" she asked her husband. 

He had picked up a mobile call from his office which went on most of the way. Oh well...

Her husband stood ramrod straight in front of a three-way mirror in his new Burberry suit with a Barney's tie and Brooks Brothers shirt as an elderly Russian tailor pinned the jacket.

Karen flipped through a W magazine. Cat eyes and electrocuted hair on  14 year old, she thought. Who actually wears this bizarre stuff? The booty shoes aren't flattering on anyone. 

Her years in the l980s in New York City came back like a dream. Standing on the corner of 43rd street and 9th avenue with two friends. Karen had worn a starched short white cotton low cut wrap dress with a sash that tied twice around her tiny waist. Tanned ballet-trained legs and arms, perfectly coiffed big hair, and Oscar de la Renta neutral suede flats. 

"You look good enough to eat," her boyfriend, not yet her husband had said. 'We'll make an early evening after you get back."

She had known what he meant.

The friends shared a cab to the townhouse where Moss Hart's widow lived to  convince her to give them the rights to one of his plays for an off off Broadway play. She had agreed, but... 

"It wasn't meant to be," Karen's boyfriend had said later at their candlelight dinner. "Not enough money. It happens to a lot of would-be producers. Find it somewhere else."

Desperation bubbled just beneath the surface. Nothing worked out until Oscar de la Renta stopped her on Madison Avenue, and asked if she would try out his new rain boots. She wore the red boots, his beige suede ankle strap shoes, a brown jersey evening gown cut to the waist, held together by one tiny ribbon, his afternoon dresses. If you can succeed in New York... 

When he invited her to a salon at his Hampton beach house, she hadn't even RSVP'd. The other girls will be thinner, taller, more beautiful, they wouldn't get drunk on champagne. There had been a hundred excuses.

Our wedding was special, Karen thought. So what if I switched to denim skirts and flats. Heels and a baby stroller don't go together. My hair always looked great. Usually looked great. Oscar de la Renta's gifts hung in the closet for years. I donated them to a worthy cause.

She walked over to her husband with the W magazine and showed him a particularly provocative outfit. "I could have worn this," she said.
"Just a moment, sir," the tailor said, pining the pant's inseams. "I don't want to hurt you." 

Flipping her hair, pouting her lips and turning sideways with her arm on her hip, Karen gazed into the mirror. I may be a woman of a certain age but I'm only one size larger now.

"It's still there, " he said, glancing over at her. "Whenever we go out black-tie, you turn heads. A little make-up and you're more beautiful than ever."

"I really need to get to the opthalmologist," Karen said. It's the yoga, she thought to herself.  

Monday, August 25, 2008

Judy, Judy, Judy

Jack and Jill and John went up the hill with a whole lot of Judys at the Hollywood Bowl to fetch another glass of wine before Donna Summer began to sing. When intermission came, Jill almost fell down after Jack pinched her, then they all drunkly stumbled their way to the bathroom. 

At least that's how Jill summed it later in the week. Here's the whole story. 

Jill had put together a pre-concert picnic of  four Black Forest ham and Provolone cheese sandwiches, with arugula, a thin slice of tomato and smear of spicy mustard to give them a gourmet-ish quality. Big seedless black grapes went into the basket, as did about 10 silver-dollar size chocolate lace cookies. 

They strolled around the park looking for a place to eat but the place was really crowded. John walked taller and taller.  "I love to go where there are so many Judys," he said. "There are lots of Joans, too."

"Judy? Joan?" Jill asked, twisting her long hair up off her neck and clamping it on the back of her head with a big clip. The humidity was high for Los Angeles, especially in the evening.

"That's what Will and I call gay men. Will started it," John said. "Joan is what we call lesbians." John looked from one Judy's face to another, looked over the various groups at picnic tables. Obviously, Jack and Jill were straight. I wish Will was here, hung like a pop-up bubble over John's head. Will had canceled at the last minute.  
They laid out their picnic at a considerable distance from the Judys and Joans. John barely noticed the gourmet-ish food. He unzipped the blue leather wine case he had brought, opening one bottle of white wine, pouring it with a practiced hand into real glass glasses he insisted good wine required. 

"Cheers to a great night out with good friends," John said. He sounded convincing, although Jill saw the sadness in his blue eyes. They clicked their real glass glasses and took the first drink.

"Cheers to my beautiful wife for a delicious picnic," Jack said, and they took the second drink. 

Friendly gossip ensued. Jack and Jill and John polished off two bottles of excellent, and expensive as John noted having paid for them himself. The lace cookies a wasted after-thought as dusk sharpened the outline of candles and smiles and laughter at the picnic tables full of Judys and Joans.  Jack and John split Will's sandwich.

After dark, the walk to the Bowl brightened John's spirits even more than the wine, as Jill made sure they were surrounded by happy, bubbly Judy's (it was easy enough). The crowd surged as they walked to the top of the hill where John went straight to the wine bar. Jill let her hair down now that it was cooler. 

"Whoa, momma's letting her hair down. Bee-a-uti-ful," John said, as he handed Jack and Jill plastic glasses filled to the brim. "All they had was Gallo. It's not bad considering it comes in a corrugated box."

"Cheers to a great concert," John said, as Jill spilled half her glass and Jack tripped, splattering wine on his spanking new sandals.

The Hollywood Bowl is a glorious coliseum. Thousands of people prepped for a party, the night sky arcing above the crowd, giant television screens for easy viewing, and a dazzling stage that comes alive with a crackle of music and lights. Judy and Joan couples surrounded them. There was one older straight couple in the row ahead. Jill introduced herself and Jack and John all around. Jill made a pack with the Judys. If she stood up to dance, they had to, too. All agreed except John.

Only a week earlier Diana Ross had delivered a smash concert. Donna Summer paled in comparison. But, hey, a party is a party. 

At intermission everyone headed for the bathrooms. Jill could barely make her way down the stairs. She's not a drinker. Standing upright required all her coordination.  She forgot about Jack who grabbed her butt almost making her fall. 

"Don't do that," Jill said as she teetered and grabbed onto John's arm for support. "I haven't ever had so much wine at the Bowl."

"Welcome to my world," John said, not really gleefully. 

Then a miracle happened. John's mobile rang. "What, where? I don't see you, " he said, turning in a circle looking around. 

About 40 feet away, a Judy was wildly waving a white pleather seat cushion in their direction.

"I see you, I see you, " John said, bumping and stumbling into the Judy beside him as he aimed himself in that direction.

Jill wobbled her way to the ladies room, where all the minerals and nutrients from that gourmet-ish picnic she had prepared went down the toilet with the wine. Thank goodness for yoga thighs, she thought as she made her dizzy way through the crowd of women back out into the night air. By the time she found her way back to their seats, the Judy with the cushion was there with John and Jack. 

"Oh, hi, Andy," Jill said, as all the Judys faces swirled around her.  "It's nice to see you. I thought maybe you were Will." 

Even though he wasn't, John's fleeting happiness with his friend filled her drunken heart. God bless all the Judy's in this world, she thought. May they all find life mates.