December 26, 2008

The Day After Christmas

I suppose I keep waiting for the day when I feel clam and safe and whole. I know it is never coming. I am the only one who can dispense with the fear, the dangling shoe waiting to fall and unseat whatever morsel of fearlessness I have cooked up in my kitchen.

Here it is again. The holidays, and I have been searching for work: in the arts, teaching, upstate or in the city, but to no avail. Then twin occurrences rock my core: the incredible NY Times writer who did the piece on me and the opera in September, called to say she was hurt that she had to find out about the “scandal” when readers sent the article from NY Magazine to her, scanned from their collection, aging for 16 years. I was sorry to have hurt her, to have let her feel that I had been less than intimate but there is, or was this fine line between wanting all of “THAT” to go away and believing that all good works, bright deeds and forward motion would allow me to put that giant misstep behind me.

Now I know otherwise. Well, that conversation shook me to my foundation, because I had inflicted pain on a good woman, and became she said, "Didn’t you think that the reason I didn’t call you back, was because I found out? “

"No," I blurted, “I thought it was because you have baby children and an enormous job.”

But now I will think that. I will think that every unreturned phone call, every rejected story idea; every job where I am passed over is always because they found out. And in fact this past week, the eve of Christmas Eve, I got the second phone call from a potential employer, one where they had already offered me the job. A position that was running a small arts organization in disarray, and where I would be paid a fraction of what my experience and education should command. But I was going to take it for a challenge and to bring myself back into more full time working in a tough environment.

Here is this phone call. “Do you have a scandal in your past?”

And so I tell the story. And the phrase the Times’ writer said I should employ,
“There was no indictment, no charges, and it was 16 years ago, so it is a non- story.” And further I worked as a stock broker where the FBI investigates your past giving you a green light or tossing your ass out. But this is the arts and innuendo and gossip are key elements. I answered his questions in as calm a voice as I could muster and then I climbed the stairs in my hallway to call my husband, who was in our bedroom. I called him because I did not want to have my daughter, even as a near grownup at 24, to hear me break down yet again.

I had given her too may sleepless nights, and days of fear. She had recently shared with me that my very high and low personality was tough on her and I vowed then and there to share less and attempt to be more even. So I called from the stairwell near the roof, and cried.

“Do you want me to come to you?”

“No I want it to stay normal down there until the girl leaves for Christmas tomorrow so early, then I can break down, right now I need to hold it together. People are coming for dinner and there is laundry and clean up to do. I will be right in.”

I called two friends, both wise in different ways. One a composer and former porn star, who wants to aggressively pursue the purveyors of gossip and pummel them; the other, a spiritualist from San Francisco, wants me to dissolve the dark cloud through thought and forgiveness and also wants me to promise to never go looking for a job in the arts again. At least not in NYC.

So that’s it. I have sworn off the non-profit art world. And I pledged to find a job where I can offer my skills to a non-profit that attempts to help battered or abused woman. Because in that environment I can be open about my past, the fact that I was so terrified and beaten down, and that I did a terrible thing, can become a pledge to assist other women, who might be more voiceless that I am.

I don’t know if I can continue to come here to this blog thing.

It feels lonely and as if I am trying to do good or prove that I have a modicum of value, when often, of late, I feel empty and valueless. As devalued as this crazy economy.

So I am attaching a chapter, one from my unpublished book, called MID-LIFE MAMBO; the chapter is entitled Stealing Home. What the Time’s writer said is that I need to publish the story as a book, a memoir and then no one can ever again say, “Hey why didn’t you tell me?” cause it will be out there.

So this is a clumsy attempt to have this story out there in some form other than the tabloid tellings. May the truth really set me free, because of late I am festering and in the dark place and during a time when the world is attempting to bring forth great light.

Light and peace to all.

Stealing Home
Chapter 4
Wickham Boyle

When I was 42 years old, newly separated from the abusive father of my children, terrified, and ensconced in a secret affair with my ex-brother-in-law, I went to the home of a rich friend and stole her jewelry.
I never thought I’d be able to write that. After more than a decade, I never believed I would have the clarity, forgiveness, and inner strength to just say it. Age and time are wonderful healers.
This morning I sat watching a torrent of rain pour into my window boxes, inundating the six small cypress tress I planted to give myself a sense of Christmas cheer. As I meditated, I begged my mind, my higher power, a goddess, the universe, or the watching cats, to give me the vision and gumption to write about stealing and forgiveness.
I had stolen things before. During my final years in high school my mother returned to work after a twenty-year hiatus. Our family was pretty desperate for money. My alcoholic father’s career seemed to be in a tailspin, and my bi-polar mom took it upon herself to save the day. She lacked the clothes to be a modern businesswoman, and for my mother the outfit really made the woman; so as the first child, the hero, I came to the rescue.
I went to Bloomingdale’s in the mall, and I shoplifted pantsuits. I then bestowed the suits on my mother. I told her I purchased them with baby-sitting money. I was a champion baby-sitter, but there weren’t enough kids in Poet’s Corner, our suburban neighborhood, to support these extravagant suits. But my mother, chief enabler and household master of denial, was always ready to incorporate any story, no matter how far-fetched, into her lexicon of truth. So she welcomed this wardrobe windfall and traipsed gaily off to her new job.
I continued to snag suits for her for years until she fell ill. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since my mother placed such a premium on appearances, she decided that her tremors were too awful for anyone to see, let alone trust her to excel in a job. She quit, and the pantsuits languished in her closet. My father retired from NBC, and they moved south to Durham, North Carolina, where he took a job running a small news station. They restarted their lives in a ranch-style house where my mother didn’t have to climb stairs or be seen by folks she knew.
This was pretty much the end of my brilliant career as a thief. I had never thought stealing for myself was an option. Theft was something I could do for others. I didn’t feel guilty about taking the outfits for my mother from Bloomingdale’s. I rationalized that it was a conglomerate store, my mother needed this stuff, and I provided it for her. We all tell tales to justify what we do—from stealing, to sneaking the extra brownie, to having affairs. Life’s choices, opportunities, and even morals seemed to me to be dictated by compromises.
Later, with my grown-up life in turmoil and my children grown to the point where they could stand up for themselves, I finally made the choice to leave their father. I decided that I couldn’t take the abuse, neglect, and mockery. (Let’s call him Dick, since it describes one of his chief characteristics.) After I told Dick I was finished and he had to leave, I began an affair with his brother. My therapist said instead of just moving out of the house, I burned it down metaphorically, so there would be no possibility of ever moving back in with Dick. In a sense, having the torrid affair with Frank, did inoculate me from any future relationship with Dick or his family.
I had been in an abusive relationship for almost fifteen years. I am appalled to write this. I am stupefied that a strong, educated, outspoken woman put up with the kind of physical and emotional abuse I endured. I was so devalued that I came to believe I had no worth. I had fallen in love with Dick, who was handsome, aloof, under employed, a philanderer, and a full-blown narcissist. Dick was what I had learned in my childhood to be model husband material.
Dick never married me. He said he’d be damned if he would give me the opportunity to be “a fuckin’ princess for a day.” And yet we stayed together because a part of me felt I would never find anyone else, anyone better, and I wanted to have babies. So I called him my “husband” and got pregnant with my sweet daughter—a child whose spirit, I believed, was just waiting for me to welcome her into the world. Then three years later, although Dick rarely worked, we had another baby, a boy. My fantasy family was complete; I had what my mother called “The choice of kings, le choi des rois, a boy and a girl. I also had a man who cheated, belittled me, spat at me, shoved me, and tossed me down a flight of stairs while I was pregnant. Dick always said, “I never hit you.” Moral hair splitting. Since I produced theater for a living, I continued spinning illusions with my personal life. I worked endless hours, pretended everything was fine, and yet I was miserable and terrified. I had no idea where to turn. After creating this elaborate fantasy, I couldn’t admit to any of my friends how degraded I was.
Dick and I were in therapy where he disclosed how his father had sexually molested two of his sisters and how this fact illuminated the roots of his emotional withholding. I was convinced I could save him. Since being the rescuer was my childhood role, however, neither of us managed to transcend our broken beginnings. I was always the angry, disappointed mother, and he was an angry, fuck-up of a father. We made a perfect pact of complicit insanity. We stayed locked in this baleful world where I begged for attention, affection, sex, financial assistance, any bone he would toss me; and he gleefully withheld and played the uptown gigolo. It was pathetic.
It was my daughter, then eight-years-old, who came to my rescue. One early morning, as I was picking up clothes, washing dishes, calling my assistant, and getting the kids ready for school while the man of the house slept in the big feather bed, my angel whispered, “Mama, when you are the woman, does it mean that you do all the work, earn all the money, and pick up after everyone, and the man yells at you? And why do the kids have to pick up clothes if papa doesn’t have to do anything?”
The circuit in my badly wired brain flipped; it was as if my internal sanity signal, which had been stuck in the off-position for decades, suddenly switched on. This farce of a relationship would stop; I was done. I began to formulate an exit strategy. Even if I couldn’t take care of myself, I was not going to doom my children to a life where they learned abuse.
I canceled our family summer vacation—the one where I would pay for everything and Dick would complain and berate me. Instead, I took the kids away to visit friends in the south of France. Before leaving, I sat down with Dick at our kitchen table and told him I was finished. I wrote out my speech on a scrap of paper. I had scribbled it over and over in my journal trying to find the essence of why I could no longer go on. Imagine, I felt compelled to find the right words to express why I was leaving a man who had never supported our family and had been stone cold mean to me for years. Dick told me I was totally negative and there was nothing redeeming about me. I told him I couldn’t listen to those characterizations any more.
Dick didn’t object or even negotiate staying. He moved out ahead of schedule on July fourth, right before I went on vacation with the kids. I was 42 years old and about to have a real independence day. Even after he had agreed to leave, while we formulated his exit strategy, we fell into a bitter fight. Dick ran after me trying to beat me with a set of crutches he was using for a severed Achilles tendon while I threatened to call the police. When he left the house, it was cold and final.
As much as I wanted to believe in magic, I was so broken that I imagined no one would ever love me again. I would be that lone woman in the diner with no partner, no sweetheart. My sexuality had been so degraded by the years of enduring Dick’s affairs and insults, including calling me a fat pig, that I sought to restart my erotic engine by having an affair with his brother Frank.
Frank and I had always been drawn to each other; we shared a raucous sense of humor and very judgmental spouses, who disdained us and castigated us, often in public. The affair was wrong. I know that. Frank had a wife and two little kids. But I knew he had been having affairs for his entire marriage, and I rationalized that I needed him and the rest be damned.
It was the same sensation when I stole the jewels at a friend’s Thanksgiving breakfast. They were there on the bathroom counter, and in a drawer. I put my hand out, filled my purse, and left with my kids. I believed this stolen jewelry could save my children, save me, and even—this is so stupid—save my neighbor across the street who was in the process of attempting to leave her abusive husband. I rationalized that I was Robin Hood.
The universe and my destiny had a different scenario in mind. After the theft, I called a society woman, who I assumed was a friend, and asked her how I could sell some jewelry in order to raise funds to finalize my separation from Dick. She invited me to her Upper East Side home where she had set up a sting operation. The family from whom I had stolen surmised I had done it and evidently contacted people we knew, putting out the word. When I arrived uptown, there was a former prosecutor, and the husband of the woman from whom I had stolen the jewels. I was caught. It was mind-boggling. I kept saying, Please don’t take my kids from me. Please, I am so desperate, please don’t take my kids. I will do anything you ask. That’s all I can remember, except that I felt as if there was no air. And outside it was raining and cold, just like it is today.

I have to stop.

Ten years have passed, and still I can’t escape the sickness in my muscles as I write this: the shame, the terror, the horrible notion that I blew up my life and hurt others. I risked my children’s future all because I believed I had so little value, so little hope, that I had to steal.
My life began to go into free fall. I can see now, in retrospect, that this explosion set me on the course to find my real path, but in the middle of the crash, the dust and debris were daunting. The woman who conducted the sting, Trixie, called my ex; she also called many of the benefactors of my non-profit theater, and she called the press. She did this even though the people from whom I had stolen signed a pact specifying no one involved would talk about this, ever. In return, I agreed to seek professional counseling, and we would all move on with our lives. It was incredibly generous on their part, but Trixie had other plans.
Within weeks of the confrontation, right before Christmas, a tabloid paper ran the story of my thievery, featuring Trixie as the savior. My affair with Frank was there, my separation from Dick, who it turned out had been having affairs with many society women. He was portrayed as a poor beleaguered patsy. I was conjured as some sort of seasoned nefarious thief.
I saw my life evaporate. I panicked. I could not see my way out. Maybe I could be a waitress in a fast food restaurant; I could do that. I would move, start again and build a tiny, clean, untainted life for my little family and myself. The press was calling my house, and then my ex would call to gloat and threaten to take the children away from me forever. He chanted into the phone, “I will destroy you!” Dick had found a way to continue his abuse, and I had handed him the tools.
I took Nyquil every night after I put the kids to bed and cried myself to sleep. I awoke in the morning groggy with sopping wet pillows. I made strong black coffee, forced a smile and got back on the path. I was psychotic every time the children had to visit Dick for a weekend. I was convinced I would never see them again. All the grants for my theater dried up. I considered killing myself, but I couldn’t possibly leave my darling children with Dick.
I called Kass, my best girl friend, my heart, and my partner in the little theater I began downtown after leaving LaMama. Kass worked a second job as a concierge in a fancy uptown hotel. This was the first time I had admitted my culpability to anyone other than the prosecutor involved in the sting. To the outside world I attempted to brush this off as gossip initiated by a vengeful ex. Like a child afraid of bad dreams, I felt if I kept denying that any of it was true, it would go away. Kass was on duty at the front desk, and as she checked in Prince, over the phone she simultaneously read me the riot act: “Under no circumstances are you to consider killing yourself. You are not your mother. You are too strong for that. You must never let Dick win. You stole stuff; that’s bad, but there are no charges. You will rebuild your life better than before. Believe me. We will make this work. You have to go through fire now. You were a piece of pottery and the fire is at your heels. You have the opportunity to become porcelain if you make it through without cracking. I have confidence in you and fuck the rest of them. I will call you back.”
Kass hung up the phone, and I sat for hours in the same chair, frozen in place. She called back, and we planned to shut down our theater in the new year and to put one foot in front of the other.
The stories in the newspapers didn’t stop for five years. Every time I got a job, there would be another story, and it would be sent to my boss. I changed careers, moving into the financial services sector where an FBI background check was conducted and prospective stock brokers have to pass rigorous qualifying exams. I passed and was building a business, but still the hounding continued. I began to look for jobs—with my bad press clippings in hand—and I even landed some, but then Trixie or Dick would call and harass the bosses until I was fired. I felt mired in shame and terror.
When I lived with Dick, I felt unsafe because of the battering and assaults, but even with Dick out of my home, he continued to pursue me. Dick sued to take the children away, even though he had no apartment and no job. By the time of the hearing, I was a vice president in a brokerage firm, living in the children’s original home. As Dick’s accusations were not substantiated, the court awarded me full custody. But his abuse did not abate. It was up to me to find my own safety in the midst of the continued onslaught.
I cried, I smashed things, I cooked and cleaned, and I called my friends, who counseled me to believe this crisis was I all part of a plan and promised life would improve. They prescribed forward motion, continued therapy, and forgiveness. The last part has been the most difficult because too often what I wanted was revenge.
I enrolled in a small Buddhist school where I learned meditation and yoga. I was introduced to the teachings of the Dalai Lama, who preaches that we need to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us most and accept their venom back as a neutralizing process. I wrote letters of amends to some I had harmed; I tried to get up every morning, do good work, help people, be kind, and believe in action as a great healer. I had good and very low moments.
I fell in love with a wonderful man named Zachary; I told him everything. After I disgorged the story of my theft, he took me by the hand to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, and in front of the Temple of Dendur, he said with great rectitude: “Look at all this shit, all of it was stolen.” We left, enough said. He loved me, proposed later in the year, and we got married. Zachary adored me and supported me when I was fired and broken. He encouraged me to be a writer, which had always been my heart’s desire. He said, “Baby, you need to know that when the phone rings and someone asks to complain to the boss, you can say, she’s right here.” Rather than fire myself, I needed to forgive.
I struggled, I worked, I volunteered, I mothered, I laughed outrageously as I strove to forgive myself for the abuse I welcomed and for the lack of faith I evinced in my own abilities. I began to admit that I had not lived an exemplary life—I had been mean, less than generous, manipulative—I could do better. I tried to forgive myself for resorting to thievery rather than believing that there was help available. I focused on forgiving myself while I reveled in writing, the work I always wanted. I now regard the past decade with a wide-eyed sense of wonder.
I left a relationship where I was abhorred and worked in jobs that gave me low remuneration and terrible esteem. I rebuilt my life out of the rubble. I fell in love with a man who refused to judge me, who was present and supportive to my every transformation. I have used my transgressions as a teaching tool, a cautionary tale, reminding my kids that there is nothing from which we can’t recover. I have told them everything. I remind them that since I have been honest with them about my big misstep, they should know that there is nothing they can do that will appall me. I will listen; we will learn and do better.

In the rubble of my life I found good building materials for forgiveness. What facilitates forgiveness still stymies me. Perhaps it is the cessation of rushing hormones flanked by the simple passage of time or the realization that holding hate is a great toxin and one I am free to release. I may not have become the precious porcelain my girl friend predicted, but I am on a path. I fell down and broke, but I remembered to take all the pieces; and with love, with friends, and with forgiveness I am piecing it together.

December 1, 2008

Where the hell did I put that?!

I am of an age when one begins to forget. I am not old, I know that, so don’t go complimenting me for all I do and achieve, it is not about that. This is reality. People forget, and the more you do and whisk through, the greater the chance of moving on automatic pilot. And that means losing things. This infuriates me and turns me into a raging harridan. Not pretty.

Then my son, daughter, or husband has to try and locate things, calm me down and stop me from railing and ranting that I am losing my mind. Oh, so not pretty. So this morning I started a notebook marked:


Simple. I clean, I decorate for the season, I file things without thinking so that surfaces are clear and I can write, but then I have done it all in a haze of, “I must find calm, and create. . . must find clarity."

And then weeks, hours or months pass and I recall the gesture and desire, but not the locale. Hence this new notebook idea.

Last summer when I rented the house, I put some fragile things away, there were three hand-made, lemon nesting bowls. I recalled carefully placing them somewhere and then only one month later, they were gone gone and I tore the house apart. Finally Zachary found them in the bottom drawer in a rarely used hall credenza. So this year as I am cleaning, to supposedly write, but really to think about decorating for the winter holidays, I took them back to the credenza, but I took out the notebook and wrote it down. I also noted where I squirreled away a few hundred bucks as I keep losing and finding that. The losing is horrible, but every re-find in funny and exciting.

It scares me--this loss of vigor in my brain and body, although my soul seems pretty much enlivened by age, the other faculties are dimmed. And so I am hopeful this notebook will get me in good habits before I am as wacky as my late-eighties friend, Beati, to whom I gave a notebook. But as she says, “I forget to write in it, then I forget where I put it.” So I started today to note the lemon bowls and tiny envelope of money. I promise to write down after the holiday where decorations have landed so we don’t have to go on an annual scavenger hunt to find the wreaths upstairs and the lights under the coats in my son’s closet.

As long as I believe that every age has a lesson, I can keep forging ahead. Now where did I put my boots, because I need to get out into the sunshine and air out my brain and flex my old legs?

November 25, 2008

Humanity: The Anti-Loneliness Cure

I waited in line at the famous Ottomanelli butcher today for my fresh Thanksgiving turkey. One waits in a long line, and while you wait, you scan the butcher paper to find your name. I found mine just as I was called up to the counter; # 225. I know the butcher, Pete, and his brothers, Mike and Joe. They have fed me on a regular basis since I lived in the Village when I first moved to NYC after college, and I have continued to find my familial feast food from them for nearly four decades. I am sure they believe they are partially responsible for my healthy children as they plied me with chicken livers, or tiny roasts and pork shops ready for stuffing.

While Pete was asking me if I had the bike and needed him to carry the 29 pound bird or to heft it into my bike basket, the man next to me, a rather nice looking regular grown up with a slight “other” accent realized he had left his wallet and had only 28 bucks in his pocket.

“Oh I can loan you the money,” I piped up, “and you can mail me a check.”

Pete said, “Do you know him?”

“Well no, but if you can’t loan neighbors money at this time of year, we are all lost, right?”

I gave the guy 30 bucks, he took my business card and told me his name was Alex and that he worked in some real estate office on Hudson Street, did I want to follow him to his office to get the loan?

I didn’t.

I wanted to go and get the rest of the stuff on my list and then hunker and read or write and polish silver and see if I might even craft an introduction to the book I am writing about finances for artists. Lots on my list, even more extra-imagined things I could do as no one is home. It is just me until tomorrow, when my husband comes trundling in with our son, back from college.

After I enlisted the help of some random man on my block to hoist my bike with turkey and sausage and sundries, too heavy for me to struggle onto the loading dock, (see one good turn deserves another) well, once finally inside and my old bike unburdened, I made a sandwich and sat down to read the seemingly depressing New York Magazine article on “Loneliness.” Instead my own interaction seems to be the norm in my City. People do reach out, they make puttering and helping and bumping into an art form. It seems in general people are less lonely in cities because of all the random interactions. I was my own little test case. And while I do hope Alex sends me my three tens, I also hope that whoever overheard us, will be emboldened to give the next loan or whatever other kindness they care to share.

A tiny gesture to begin a season of more simple pleasures in this time of recession.

November 19, 2008

33 Years: November 18, 1976 – November 18, 2008

I met the father of my children 33 years ago today; it was the best and worst day of my life. I adore my children and yet the man who fathered them has been an intermittent source of incredible pain.

We met; maybe I can unfold all the intricacies later, but for now suffice it to say we met when I traveled from the city to the Adirondack Mountains to do some consulting on an arts project where he worked. He, whom we will call Richard, as it provides the perfect nickname, met me at the airport and we began an affair that very night, November 18, 1976. We continued from affair, to relationship, although never monogamous, to living together, to talking about marriage, to having two children, (girl and boy) and splitting up sixteen years later, having never married.

Today is thirty three years to the day since I laid eyes on him and after a decade and a half of fighting about work, ethics, child support, haggling over nickels for medical costs and losing a family court battle which ruled that Dick had no legal necessity to provide for his children’s college education, today I receive an email from Richard saying,
“My mother has come into some money and is willing to loan me the funds to pay off my child support debt in return for a document saying there will never be any contact between us, and all debts are paid in full.”

I nearly had to tie my fingers together so I wouldn’t email back,
“How weird, are you aware that this is our anniversary?”

But this man never remembered my birthday let alone the day we met; he recalls everything about himself and I believe this offer came because he needed to be free of the liens on his accounts and the stigma that comes from being a deadbeat dad. That moniker can’t be expeditious in securing employment and his mom must be sick of paying his bills.

But still I pondered the sense of humor and balance the universe seems to possess. I had at one time wanted to write a treatise entitled, Coincidence is my Religion, I know there would be some followers as I hear again and again from politicians, writers, TV characters, mechanics and chefs, meaning random folks, that the universe has a plan. But I love that it also has a seemingly raucous sense of irony.

November 5, 2008

Yes We Did!

Yes we can.

Yes we did.

And yes, we will keep on.

So is it now President-elect Back Obama, and in our multiracial house the phone never stopped ringing well into the early morning.

Our son calling from his college apartment where he was hosting a party with wine and cheese and feeling very classy for a 20 year old.

Friends calling from Times Square and London and the South of France and Milwaukee, and Minneapolis and Los Angeles and Mexico City. Everyone seemed overwhelmed in some way by both what happened and the hope that what will pass from the country will be in equal force and quick apace.

No one is delusional; we all know there will be tough times ahead to get us to a place where we can be a society that talks about race, and health care, and full employment and a culture of gluttony. It will take time and work, but today it was joyful on the streets of Manhattan.

I rode to the gym up Sixth Avenue and a pack of bike messengers were all whooping and giving high fives and loudly proclaiming all of us “brothers.”

If you bumped into a person of color they were radiant and so full of joy it was Christmas come early. My husband's family was calling all day saying, "Wouldn’t Grandma have been so shocked that wish could happen in our lifetimes?”

The Pakistani clerk in the bakery--I had to get a little celebration cake--said that she felt now she would no longer be looked at as a terrorist but as a real American. She had tears in her eyes as she wrapped up my package. The Puerto Rican concierge at the gym was gleeful and celebrating with a bunch of the trainers and many of the clients. Everywhere you heard. WE DID IT !!!!

And we took the message from Obama’s speech last night to truly mean that this was an army of those full of hope, and tiny donations and leg work from dawn to dusk. We know the work has to continue, but for now it is a joy to behold.

November 4, 2008

Orgasms, Ice Cream, Coffee and Doughnuts: The joy of voting

My daughter, who is 23 and terminally cool, informed me this morning that with an “I Voted” sticker, you can get treats at Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s and Toys in Babeland. Thus the title and impetus for this entry.

I have never heard of incentives like this before as a way to reward or inveigle voters to hustle to the polls. But I love it. It is what I hope may be the start of the 'incentivization' of the younger generation. I see my daughter running out to vote with her good eye makeup highlighting her blue eyes and she is sporting her lapiz ring from Morocco and her Brazilian blue stone necklace as a way to “Pump up the Blue State Vote.” This morning, over coffee, she told me that in Brazil, it is a National Holiday and the bars are closed until the polls closed; then it is one big party. I think we have forgotten what a good time and celebration voting should and can be.

Downtown, there are long lines and lots of gab as neighbors talk about the glorious weather and the potential for change. I know that many of us have put our lives on hold in the overblown expectation that if Obama wins this election:
-Our lives will change
-The stock market will turn around
-The world will no longer see us as morons
-I will personally find a job
-My family and many others will get health care

That coupled with the treat enumerated above make this Election Day an enormous potential party. I know that all of this can not, and certainly won’t come to fruition is any kind of quick step, but after eight years of such stunning disregard for:
-The world
-The environment
-The middle class and the poor

I just need to believe that we are not witnessing the end of days.

And if hope is evinced in treats, then I am heartened by the free offers which abound. I write this with bated breath and fingers crossed, which by the way is a tough way to type.

November 2, 2008

Who's the jumper and who's the pusher?

I learned long ago how to jump-start cars. It was a byproduct of owning classic British cars that were touchy in rain, sunshine, cold or any other meteorological contrivance. Or at least that was the excuse to which we ascribed their fragility; after all, a racy British car with a snarl for a grill and sleek fins could not be badly made, there had to be a reason.

So faulty Lucas electrics, or ancient wiring, or damp garages, whatever the cause, these cars were mercurial and I got good at popping the clutch and starting the car when the battery was dead or the starter was moist. It was almost like a party trick. I could start a car with a millimeter of hill, or push it myself while running alongside and then jumping in, ease into second gear. I put the key in the “on” position and the clutch to the floor, gas down, then pop the clutch. The engine then, roars, or sputters into ignition and drives away to the amazement of all. Especially men.

It was a nearly flawless way to pick up gents, way better than blond hair or a push up bra. And yet alas, as most cars have morphed from standard (actual shift cars) to automatics, this trick has been less possible to flaunt. Until today.

I purchased a 1976 MGB, a red roadster, for my husband as a 50th birthday gift. I knew his brother, who had passed away, taught him to drive on such a car and I knew that my lovely Zac lusted after cars, snappier than our Subaru as we drove on the highways.

This man is the stepfather to my children, but really their only daddy. He taught them to ride bikes, to dance, to laugh uproariously, to appreciate the Four Tops and other back in the day groups, and he told them that it was “a parent’s privilege to pay for college” when their birth father hired a fancy lawyer who got the courts to rule he was not responsible for a nickel for their Ivy League education, Zachary stepped in to foot the bill. I bought him the car as a tiny thank you for all he does for us.

He is our rock and we all adore him. So today when his baby wouldn’t start after a week of crisp fall days I talked to him about “jump starting” the car. I had done it before without him, but he wanted to try it this time. I pushed it down the hill with him at the wheel and he tried a few times but no POP. I got into the Subaru and pushed him up and down the street in front of our house. NO POP.

Finally I said, “Hey, let me try, okay?”

I got in the seat, which no longer slides up and he is over six feet while I hover at a proud five-five. I got in, held myself up by grabbing onto the wheel and depressed the clutch, found second gear, got the creaky key into position and he started the push and I popped it out right away. Zoom it coughed and sputtered into drive. I gunned the gas and took off up the hill, made a u –turn and stopped the car on the downward slope of the hill, just in case, and got out to switch.

I was a puffy peacock, all pride. “I don’t think you are doing it right,” I crowed.

“Well, I gave you a very fast push,” he retorted. He got in the car and roared off.

Why did I have to be the one to save the day? Why can I be so edgy?

I was not going to solve that half-century conundrum, but I could call and leave a message on his phone.

“I’m sorry I was bad-tempered. What I see is that we need both the jumper and the pusher; life is all about seeing which position suits us best.”

I do feel this way. I recognize he maybe better at getting the car to go fast with a big push, but I am great at leaping in at the right moment and popping that car to life. So once again, not only did we get the car to start, but also we remembered that we are a great team because of our differences.

October 29, 2008


Does anyone mend anymore?

I have a note on my refrigerator that says only: MEND

I know that it means I have to stitch up the tear in the old cashmere blanket before it bisects and I have to use the sewing machine. I guess that's where the Ben Franklin aphorism, “A stitch in time, saves nine” emanates. I may now need more than 30 to staunch this rip.

And I have a nightie that is unseemly due to missing buttons, but I don’t have kids home now, so sometimes I just wear it gaping. But I know it needs buttons. There is a quilt cover with a safety pin that upbraids me with my laziness because I have not replaced the buttons. My husband has a sweater he wears on weekends dotted with moth holes. I know how to darn, and sew, mend and close up seams, but does anyone know these things now who is not over 50?

My daughter is about to be 24 and is living downtown with us in the loft she grew up in while her apartment is sublet so she can do an unpaid internship working on a film about Hunger in America. (How can you not help support a kid doing that kind of work?) She said the other day, “I really need to sew buttons on this skirt.” I know she means, I really need you, mama, to sew these buttons on. But instead I said, “We need to plan a mending night where we take out all the ratty stuff and renovate it so it closes, and looks better.” But it seemed so old fashioned.

Maybe that is where we need to go as a country and as a family.

We need to return to mending our fences, our sweaters, our nighties and our relationship with the world.

Maybe our finances need some old fashioned savings and a moratorium on purchases in favor of rummaging through closets and cleaning out drawers to see what treasures lurk in those dark untapped places.

I started saving every five-dollar bill that came into my hands at the beginning of the summer and I now have nearly 500 dollars, that’s a hundred crumpled fives stuffed into a big jar. I was going to start a savings account, wait until I got a thousand dollars and then buy a CD, but I think I may use what I saved to give us a little bit of a Christmas. Still it was a fun exercise to see that little bits do add up.

I like the idea of mending. Mending a fragile friendship, mending a crumbling stonewall that just needs the tumbling pile to be reorganized. I love mending the sweaters, closing holes and crocheting a new edge to the fraying cuffs. It makes me feel as if I saved something and I might have a little bit of value left in me.

Perhaps we can introduce mending nights as the new thing across America. Everyone brings a small project to the table: fixing broken table legs or that gaping nightie. I don’t want to be the only one doing this, but I bet with the economy in continued free fall, the virtue in mending may begin to seem mighty again.

October 11, 2008


I recall back in 1987, my daughter was three years old and witnessed with us the biggest one-day stock market crash, which looks quite pale by comparison to this eight day descending market. A group of grown-ups sat around the dinner table discussing the market crash in terrified tones, when my smart girl piped up, “And the super market, did that crash too?”

It was a joyful realization that some things remained in tact.

But now when countries are failing, banks and businesses, and it is hard to breathe, sometimes waiting to find a job and consider myself safe, and I know this spills over to all of us, but all of us are desperate to find ways to find safety. This economic terror seems less to me that the explosions and threats, as they can be labored through and this terror seems to ask for hunker time.

My husband went to the still-standing super market in the Hudson Valley and bought a giant bag of rice, 50 pounds, and cans of beans and bags of beans and all I can say is that a hunker might prove very gaseous. But still I am making a big pot of chili for tonight, and still steaks remain in the freezer. But honestly, what should we all be doing?

That is where the terror lies. I know that America, and I have gotten too fat and soft in the last decade. I know that I have to say NO to the idea of giving myself a loan to buy what I think I need. I know I don’t need it . . . . Just fill in the blanks. But still I need, really need to pay the mortgage and college tuition and will there be loans for that?

In times of fear I want to read, to escape, or I want to hit a ball or chop down trees or grass or watch a good movie. I am tired from the opera and from continuous weeks of sharing my feelings on this blog about an event that I thought might wave a magic wand and change my work life for the better. But that curtain dropped and, yes, there is small work to follow, but the magic ended on the stage and the real world with its economic craziness that has left the tiny amount of money I saved and squished into Apple stock or Johnson & Johnson -- all good companies -- turned into dust. So it is as if I wished for a magic dust to change things and I forgot to be specific enough and what we got is this.

I know I am not responsible. I know that even when I put on my magical thinking cap to say, “Okay, would you wish for Obama in the election, the economic situation to turn around or for the job to come to you?”

I know I say "OBAMA."

Because I believe if that happens, then maybe the other pieces will fall, ever so slowly, into place. Oh the things that wishing makes you ponder.

September 30, 2008

Last Performance

I had to change the date on this posting, I thought I’d come home from the final performance and write, on Sunday night. Right as I came in; I would sit and write. Well I am a fool. I was wrung out, a puddle. Not tired, but done.

During the run of this show, at all 15 performances, we were all tested by heat, lack of working machinery, and nearly every cast member was so late on at least one occasion that it gave me palpitations. And I kept saying, OK so who can fill in for the clarinet? Or can we cover for Troy until he gets here? And they always slipped in right as I was about to call the Deep Lunatic Ward at Belleview, for myself. On top of that, we had endless and constantly morphing technical challenges in the near to ancient LaMama theater. On the final night, the lights went dark for a scene and a half as the cast and musicians kept playing while the less than competent electrician attempted to jiggle wires and reply things.

My frustration level was tip-top.

9/30 08
OK starting again.
It seems I am having trouble writing this.
It is the end; the end for now folks keep saying,
but I know it is the end of this artistic moment.

I have done no other work since March nearly seven months, a long time.
And for now it is over.

I’d love to, mount it again; but for this moment it is over.
And the ground swell and I had wanted, OH DON”T GET ME WRONG the press, the love, the applause, all were wonderful, but I felt it would be life changing.
I felt, or fantasized that I would be hired, or lauded to the point of being saved and that we would most definitely know where we going after this. My book would be picked up by a publisher and I would stop asking, begging, requesting things from others to help me or those I loved, respected and wanted on my team.

I felt I would raise or earn funds to pay people more that the tad they received. Hell, I didn’t think I’d be here attempting to figure out if we made enough to pay the violinist, the choreographer and the press woman. These three, the best sports, who have still not gotten their promised amounts. UUGH. Or that neither Doug nor I would be paid a cent, and would, in fact, be out of pocket. Not a fortune but now, what is a fortune? Grocery money, certainly, and where else will that come from? OK that is too dramatic, even for me.

As the country melts down financially, I await the word on REAL JOB.

I had my phone interview with the LA shrink hired to deconstruct the personality, aptitude test I took in haste last Thursday. Dr. Whoever was nice enough and we had some interesting off topic conversations about cooking, but still he did tell me there were others in the running. I said, “Well, I hope so as it is a plum job.” I didn't say 'and in a shrinking job market.' I answered what he asked; I stayed on topic; I was friendly and open hearted--meaning I was a portion of who I am. I checked my fear in the hall closet and only occasionally gave the finger to the phone. That felt good, and let me stay calm and happy. I was. As I knew one way or the other, this was moving me steps closer to the decision.

The show is so vibrantly present in my front and back brain that when I can’t sleep, I sing the words and music constantly to myself.
“Nothing to do but breathe,
Nothing but sweet air.
Sweet air, in and out.”

Or when Zac leaves for work I sing, “Quick trip there and back. Quick trip.”


I love this show and I feel like a bit of a failure, as I wish we were signed up to go to Festivals across the globe and across the country.

I loved, and was challenged by so much of this. I was dubbed a hot head by composer Doug, and I am sure I was, but I feel I got things done, I did light fires and made so many calls, wrote emails and sent actual mail. But there is this huge let down, a post partum, if you will, where I can’t help seeing and thinking of all the other things I coulda, shoulda done, felt, said . . .

This is no different than the culmination of a relationship, or job or maybe it is, because this is exacerbated by the fact that we are also living in terrifying times. And once again I am moving funds from here to there attempting to pay bills and not scare myself or those around me.

Today I cleaned, I straightened books, papers, magazines, scripts, invitations and I found all the back bills. I began to catalog the papers for CALLING to be able to retrieve and redo at a moment’s notice. And I attempted to feel the spirit of the Jewish New Year as it slipped quietly into New York City.

A few months ago, I made a promise to come here often to chronicle the making of this opera and I did that somewhat. I couldn’t be totally honest; as there were often so many emotionally frustrating and crazy occurrences and I felt it would have compromised the production to be an unflinching scribe. But now it is closed and I am exhausted and want to read, or eat apples and ride my bike to nowhere.

I went back to the gym yesterday and in my mind I screamed for the entire hour,

It was horrible to stick with the difficult Pilates class, and to see the slippage of my corpus and my resolve. I am attempting to eat no sugar and drink no alcohol, but as we watched the news about Wall Street last night, I thought, the sky is falling better finish my birthday cake and have a glass of wine. And so I did. Getting back in shape is always a test, finding a slimmer, not slim mind you, me and ending the sugar highs that have kept me awake and functioning at all.

I’d like to visit here often, but I am making no more promises for a while.

September 27, 2008

The Day After

I had a big flowery birthday, with the cast giving me a bouquet on stage and they sang to me, I HAVE NEVER HEARD HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUNG LIKE THAT. And Henry was there and came on stage with me and later over a great dinner at the local Japanese place Zutto, he told me loved the piece and further so surprised me with his attention to details to discuss. My friend Susan flew in from SF (OK on her way to hike in Morocco, but still I got a drive by)

After dinner we went home to the loft where Zac, who I now call my big Keebler Elf, had baked the biggest, out of control cake--must have been 4 times the recipe and he had tivo'd the debate. We had cake to sweeten the distaste of this horrible political season in our country.

When I work up this morning, with a terrible sugar hang-over, nothing to do but give in and have a little hair of the dog, sugar style, but after Monday, I am going cold turkey healthy-wise. Nice to have Henry here, and Susan rushing off to a next engagement before her real jaunt.

I ran off to pottery, hoping to see some of the pottery gaggle that came and clapped and brought a beautiful orchid for me last night. Of course the little plastic pot fit like a glove into one of the nicer pots I had thrown and glazed.

Tonight, it is roast chicken mashed potatoes before the show, and the big cast party at Michael and Liz Pappas, they call parties at their house PAPPAS HOUSE OF PAIN.
I hope I am up to it, as I know I am a lightweight when it comes to booze and party hearty. I am bringing Henry, who can party til dawn and still make the 8a.m. train back to college. Zac wants to pack him up with cake for the apartment mates but Henry seems reluctant to travel with cake. I know we can find takers.

Tonight is the penultimate evening show and I am both a little melancholy and excited to attempt to get on with a better financial version of my life, although the entire country seems to be suffering from a deep financial malaise. I suppose I am with my girl Willi wanting to know where I stand if the REAL JOB is on or off. And then I jump back in, but can anyone really be going on “go-sees” for work after they have had four interviews and a test on the computer and is awaiting the hour-long virtual talk with the shrink on Monday.

The timing could be good, but then again I just read that Mercury went into retrograde. Scary as I thought it had been there all long and I happily blamed interplanetary discord for the ills of my life and the world.

Oh well, I will have to find other reasons, but the harmony on birthday DAY was healing, heartening and totally wonderful.

September 26, 2008

58 in 08

Okay, disorganized, but here goes. It’s my birthday and raining. I remember that for 20 years it rained every year on my birthday. Then I met this man, my love, to whom I am now married, and it stopped raining. So now when it occasionally rains, that is fine by me.

A great good friend Susan Burks jetted in from SF on her way to trek in Morocco and my lovely big son, all lank and sleepy eyes, trained in from the foothills of the Adirondacks and college. Susan is off at tea and Henry has been sleeping happily in his childhood bed, on a soft rainy day. He will eat copious amounts of fancy cheese bought by my love and his dad before he jaunts off to the theater with Susan to see the show.

Zac is staying home to secretly, like an elf, bake a giant birthday cake, although I can see all the fixin's on the table arrayed like gifts themselves. And my daughter called from the south of France and we got to gab at length this morning while Zac brought me a strong dark cup of excellent coffee to wake me up.

Yesterday was a horrible though. I had to do the battery of tests for the potential “Real Job” and they were math and crazy spelling where you had to find the opposite, the antonym, of the word presented and they gave you the word jumbled, and then you had to pick the final letter in the word. So for a dyslexic it was:
Reordering letters
And spelling finding the last letter

It was awful, and they had wanted me to do it in a chartreuse room with no natural light and no windows or air on a PC computer I had never used before and--lo and behold--I had a major panic attack. My therapist friend says this had happened to me because of PST from 9/11. Perfect that it happens while I am mounting this opera that I hope provides some assuagement from all the panic. But in that little dark, airless room, boy did I get super scared with my heart threatening to leap from my body.

I did finally get permission to take the computer to my house to do the test. Endless personality questions.

I have never had any hair on my head?
I can look at rivers for hours?
Wait, do I have hours or am I being a slacker?

Many of the questions begin with
I ALWAYS and really, is there anything much that one can say never or always to other than for most of us at some point we have had hair on our heads.

I often feel as if I am being watched.
I know what others are thinking before they say anything.

Kind of an acid test for aliens.

But the test is over and now on Monday I have to speak to a shrink via phone from LA. As the therapist friend said, "You can just scream on Ninth Street in Manhattan and a shrink will step out the door." But they had to hire one to talk by phone.

But I divert, this should be about me having the opportunity to celebrate my 58th birthday with a show I conceived, wrote, directed and produced, thank god I found someone to write the music, a great collaboration. I am overjoyed at the timing and the marvelous, magical friends I have been seeing at the shows.

It makes me see how rich my life is, how varied, and how lucky I am.

September 22, 2008

Birthday Week/Country Blog

In my family, we attempt to celebrate what we call a birthday-week. Mine started this past Friday, and it ends this Friday with my actual birthday, a show and a party given by child-wonder Madison Pappas’ equally wonderful mother, Liz.

But for the next two days, I am celebrating in quiet fall splendor in the country. Right now my celebration consists of sitting in a café waiting for my car to be serviced, for new brakes to be added and a tune-up to be administered to my old station wagon so that it can keep going until my kid is done with college.

I am also walking while looking in windows thinking about buying a new flannel nightie, mine is 15 years old this year, a pretty good run. I read the things I write sometimes and I think, they make me seem so crazy, or cheap or both but. . . any private behavior we have when exposed to the light of public scrutiny makes us look wacky, right?

I think that is what so much of the political season is about--taking small private things, or big ones, and exposing them to bright light in an attempt to discredit the ideas or experiences. For me, now it is beyond the “silly season” in American politics, a phrase I heard Obama use during an interview. But this is the dangerously silly season and it has me very unquiet in my mind.

The political climate has me missing some of my moments of happiness with this incredible operatic endeavor, or my personal silly season: a birthday. What I don’t miss is the happiness in the moment of unexpected people showing up at CALLING. I have jokingly said that it feels akin to the experience of a back-in-the-day show, called This Is Your Life. A quick recap for youth of America, as I remember the show, hapless folks came on with the pretense of some other show and instead the show trotted out an array of acquaintances and key players from the constantly weeping “stars” life. So far in my version of the show appearances have been made by teachers, former bosses, ex-boyfriends, neighbors and co-workers, whose support is unexpected and so heartening.

So here is my disjointed post , typed at the noisy café in Rhinebeck NY. The one cup of coffee has stretched and lasted for 2 hours now, while I added and sent the final payroll to the LaMama office in the hopes that after this final weekend we may have enough money to cover the tiny amounts we promised to pay the incredible artists who have populated this opera.

I am off to pick up my car, buy a big round pumpkin and maybe the flannel nightgown in the window of the poky store in town.

September 21, 2008

Small House. Big Hearts.

Today Saturday, a gorgeous perfect fall day.

And I was stuck attempting to continue to take this mechanized assessment test for the REAL JOB, a series of endless computer screens and math questions.

Oh my god -- math and me. Bad in high school, worse as I got older. The lowest math score ever registered by anyone applying to the Yale School Of Management. I mean, a monkey would have gotten higher. So for this test, if the choice is "NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION TO ANSWER THE QUESTION," you can bet I check that. And in fact, that is the truth; as it is not enough information for ME to answer the question. How much information would be enough? Well, if they laid it out like paint by numbers chart, maybe I could plug them in. But honestly, still not a sure thing.

Then you have to write what your most ardent admirer would say about you and your most vehement critic. I asked my husband, and he said it didn’t mean what any of your ex's would say WHEW.

So I worked away at it for a while, going through the 350 first questions and slugging through the logic and other stuff until I excitedly came to the language skills part. I like those kind of questions, but it was not to be. My computer froze--well, the screen for the test froze. I tried all manner of things to get it back on track and then I wrote this email to the headhunter and the test administrators.

So, it is the most beautiful fall day ever and I am being a good sport taking this test. And it crashes and I
A) Call the help line
B) Attempt to reset the browser
C) Printout the time and error type #2050
D) Send an email detailing all attempts to restart said test


Now to the logical progression of this glitch. In frustration I
A) Beat the computer to a pulp
B) Go outside on my bike to have some fun
C) Call a tech friend and ask them to finish the test
D) Decide that this would be a good moment to take a nap


I thought it was funny and if they don’t, I guess that is what in BIZ School they would call DATA. So see? I did learn something.

Now to the opera. Last night the show was kick-ass, super good. I was slack-jawed as I thought I had gotten inured to the good and the bad, I was sort of floating in the audience, and then bang wow. It was so good.

Tough because our audiences have been tiny, this week but last night just as I was about to call places, in walked my two first bosses from over 3 decades ago at the Off-Off Broadway Alliance OOBA, Marnie Mueller and Karin Bacon. There they were, still beautiful and stylish, and I near to cried from their kindness at coming down to see this show. And tonight, I had a call telling me that two teachers from High School are in the car, caught in traffic near Yankee Stadium and I should meet them outside LaMama at 6:30. Well, of course I will.

So the house may be small, but the shows, the singers, musicians and the rest are increasing in prowess and every night there seems to be a blast from my past that warms me incredibly.

September 19, 2008

Rocky Racoon

Last night was so rocky that what I said to composer Doug when the lights finally went out and the 3 people in the audience (OK that is an exaggeration but sparse yes) finally left was "WHEW...that was Rocky Raccoon!!!!!"

It was awful to watch for me, not because the cast was so bad, but the energy to get the show going was flat and scary at the same time.

Here we go.

I get a call that there has been a fire in the dimmer board, the thing that runs the lights.

All the programming is gone.

Then they say ”Oh, we think we can fix, it don’t worry." But when I arrive it is bad and the poor tech director is in the hospital attending to a dying friend. Hard to say, “Hey fix our lights, friendship be damned.” I didn’t say that. I hugged him and let him cry.

Lights can go on and off. And believe me, last night they seemed to flicker in a random not good way, leaving the cast in darkness in the middle of one aria. Even LaMama is not that experimental.

There is a very sparse crowd expected for the rest of the weekend, I think sometimes folks think, "Oh a good review in the Times we won’t be able to get tickets," and then no one comes.

So last night tonight. Let me not list the things that went wrong, but for the rest of the weekend hardly a soul is on the books.

And more about last night, the stage manager again at 5 minutes before the show is to start. That’s what happens when you pay nothing, again really nothing, when they are paying to transport themselves even.

We had an understudy who did super well, but still it was a different energy.

And that was me today unable to get my ass to the gym, although I promised, unable to go to pottery. I thought that might make a good diversion. A little phone time trying to get a manager for the future of this show and butts in seats or a recording.

And then the tasks to secure the REAL JOB, the biggest something called, Assessment Testing. It is supposed to take between five and eight hours. I did the one part, 350 questions where you either AGREE or DISAGREE. Crazy stuff like:

* I like to re-measure my rulers to make sure they are correct.
* I feel everyone is out to get me
* I always want to eat ice cream
* I am never depressed

Sp weird, so I just motored through them. At first, I tried to read them out loud to Zac, to say look this could be fun right? But he was mad I was putting myself through this and left for a walk. In his words, what manager would do this?

I don’t know that I am in my good sport phase, wanting this job for tons of reasons: it is a very cool job and it would allow me to contribute to my neighborhood AND the economy is tanking and we have no health insurance. So from broad-based to specific, needs based stuff.

I have lots of other parts to tackle, but for now I am one foot in front of the other. Eat an egg, get some soup, go back do more test. Go to the show; take a fabulous shower, AHHHHHHHH clean hair... so fluffy.

More to come.

September 18, 2008

Keeping the Beauty in Mind

Today I had to ride to the dentist for the third attempt at a root canal. I was not in the best mood, still tired, wrung out from an encounter with a former friend who is trying to keep his aged mother, who is suffering form dementia, away from all her friends, as a means of control. It was ugly yesterday and made me cry torrents. I always feel depleted the next day, which is today.

I woke up late, hoping against hope that the dentist would be an another hour, but instead I had to gulp coffee and hop on the pony. I could see I was still groggy and my mind kept me going back to the fight and the sadness I felt and saw in my friend’s eyes when we were separated. I thought about all the people who hadn’t come to see the opera, of all the pushing and conniving, of the wheedling and cajoling to develop an audience for this lovely opera. The level of disregard for a project like this given the economy tanking and the craziness surrounding the political climate leaves me feeling often scared and certainly anxious.

But on this ride, on the first ten minutes of this ride, I gave myself a strict talking to.

DO NOT MISS THIS DAY, I intoned over and over again.


It was crystal, soft air, feint breeze, and my legs and arms felt strong and I was happy to ride my nice old bike, tires full of air, up to 50th Street. My mind roiled back to sadness, missed calls, people I want to see or hold and still I pushed to return to the immediacy of the day. It was warm, I was healthy and I had work to return to this evening.

I had to keep seeing that.

And I did keep trying as I called the bigwig producers who turned me down for one thing or another, and I persevered to get names of other folks to call. Hang up, email, make a package, call another person, hang up send information. Keep sounding as if I believed and not as if I was flagging, and losing heart.

Did they know, this little cast and crew how much goes into turning on the lights and having butts in seats. Do they know how I fret over getting this last payroll to them on the 28th of September and how much I feel like a failure because I can’t and clearly see now that I won’t be offering them big money for all the miraculous stuff they have achieved.

I have to run now, shower, maybe more email, maybe more Advil OK definitely more Advil.

Here we go: week two.

September 16, 2008

Why Do We Need Others To Tell Us What We Already Know?

Published: September 16, 2008
“Calling: An Opera of Forgiveness,” which received its first complete staging on Friday night at La MaMa E.T.C., is based on Wickham Boyle’s “A Mother’s Essays From Ground Zero.”

Rather than trying to portray the unthinkable scale of Sept. 11, “Calling” focuses primarily on one downtown family: a mother (Nicole Tori), a father (Roland Burks) and their daughters: a teenager (Nique Haggerty) and a child (Madison Pappas). The production is spare to an extreme, with no scenery or costumes and few props. Burke Brown’s lighting design is basic but effective; Edisa Weeks’s choreography depicts both panic and aimless confusion...

Read more

September 15, 2008

The Ides of Everything

Okay, today is the 15th of September. I had an article due, I had a Guggenheim grant due and this is my first day off in three weeks.

Whew, the market, the stock market, took a giant dive, while I typed, and edited and talked to potential grant recommenders. It seemed all around me swirled craziness and I attempted to keep my head down and write a very large grant.

Although I have received grants, I have never written a grant for myself. Asking or telling or wanting for myself has always been difficult and today exhausted and over wrought it seemed I could only get engaged in long phone calls, calls I wanted, but I had trouble jumping back on the writing pony. But I kept going back.

I finished the story for the TriBeCa Tib and by the help of magic fairies; it must have been that, I rode up to the Mail Box place just as the last Fed Ex guy was about to roll out.

“Hey, wait please,” I hollered.

The cute Fed Ex guy stood while I wrote out the labels to myself required by Guggenheim.

“So if you get this grant, what will you give me?”

“I will take you out for drinks.”

“OK, but I am planning on winning the lottery first.”

“Well, you better take my number then in case I don’t win, then I will need a drink.”

AHHH sometimes I just love humans, the ones who get that a little extra time won’t kill you and it might even help a fellow traveler.

Yesterday at the theater, the show was the best ever, nice because we were video taping it. I joked with the cast saying that if they did a great job, I’d be overjoyed, as we wouldn’t have to re-tape. A joke perhaps but they were flawless, inspired, amazing.

I really loved the show yesterday afternoon and that was a great treat.

I am taking Tuesday and a part of Wednesday off and running away to the country to dig dirt and smell the roses, literally.

September 13, 2008

The Day After Opening/ Lucky 13

Last night was beyond astounding. Packed house, really full, me telling the box office to sell tickets that were not there--I mean not printed, and we used programs as tickets.

People sitting on folding chairs on a balcony or stair. The New York Times photographer snapping as folks arrived and the reviewer sitting in the aisle.


Energy through the roof. The singers hit the notes, the highs and lows, somehow they found consonant and vowels. Who knew that vowels are easy in opera, but words like GLUE turn into GOO. Or PILE becomes PIE. Since I have no idea what goes into an opera and I just blurted out LET'S MAKE AN OPERA, this entire process has been a hapless wonder to me.

And fair warning readers , my house guests from the South, who got up at 11am, to find me at work on my Guggenheim grant application, due Monday, (oh the universe has a sense of humor), asked, “Can we take you to a wonderful lunch?”

“How wonderful?” I asked.

“Whatever you want.”

So I called Chanterelle, really the best anywhere, but it is around the block from me and they have helped so much with Calling. You know they took us right away and treated us royalty. We had champagne and wine. This is in the middle of the day, mind you. I came home at 3:30 believing I had missed the Sunday matinee; please recall that it is Saturday... oh my god, that lunch seemed really long and magical.

Oh the discussion among a Jungian mother and her daughter with me as the interloper when weaving between marital sex, an opera about September 11 and how to promote healing, the distancing that sons MUST DO WITH THEIR MOTHERS, and food, travel, art, literature and jewelry. That’s really all I can recall and it was marvelous. After lunch they went to buy champagne for after the show and then jumped into a cab to run to the Guggenheim before it closed. I asked them to bring back good luck from there for my grant and I hugged the couch and cat and took a well-deserved nap.

Why was last night so wonderful? Because the cast had gelled, the fear subsided, (before last night we had run the show only twice, really) and with this diminution of fear came boldness, not recklessness but the confidence of professionals. The stage manager was on time, the lead little girl had pigtails and not a salon “do”, and the light board operator ran the lights, not the designer. The fans that click and clack were turned off. And although the theater must have been 500 degrees (okay 90) it was calm, save the late comers seated and wedged with children into the balcony. But that is, as my mother used to say, “an upscale problem.” I wish us too many in the audience every night.

My roommate from college, Nina, was there with her sister, Deb, and we hugged, acknowledging our 40th anniversary. The very pregnant and gorgeous Rebecca Asher Walsh, tan from the summer in East Hampton, was prettier pregnant than her normal radiant self and was squired by Dr. Chuck, who is the cutest soon to be dad in our circle. Christine and Carter came--bigwig music and art couple, and I believe they really did love it. Neighbors came, the friends whom I met in Morocco last summer came from Birmingham and Pensacola to support and fete me.

At the curtain call everyone who worked on this baby from any point on came to the stage and we held hands and bowed. And my teary eyes saw my husband who had begged off coming as he had work and a biz trip this morning. But there he was in the back of the theater, smiling and clapping for me the second night in a row. He had even ridden his bike in the rain, He does not like rain the way I do.

So Zac and I didn’t go out with anyone. We biked home to snuggle and wait for guests and I just wanted my “normal life.” On occasion now when I find myself uttering, par hazard, phrases that crop up in the opera, I feel like a parody of myself, but I need to remember no one sees this but me so I need to relax.

Oh wait, that’s another line.

Ok back on the bike, (another line) and off to the theater.

Break a leg.

September 12, 2008

Paragraph Depeleted

What I mean is that I don’t feel as if I have the brainpower, or mind space or some good computer term that would indicate how fried I am. So I thought maybe I would resort to lists to express how the first invited performance went last night.

This is in the order the thoughts come to me, and I wish I could send this out without spell check or spacing check or insanity check, but alas I’d like to cling to the few writing jobs I have and if they saw the true mess I am, even those would be gone. Here is what happened last night.

The stage manager arrived at 8pm. I kid you not--the curtain is at 8pm--so I acted as the stage manager until the final moments.

I asked the electrician to do one task and that was turn off the electric fans that are poorly mounted to the ceiling so they clack incessantly. He did not.

The lights of tribute were amazing because it was so overcast it was as if you could climb them into the sky. Especially transformative after champagne, exhaustion and stepping from an overheated, but incredible party into cool air.

My friend from Brownies, from when I was 8, the age the two little best friends in the show are now, well, Nella came to the show with her husband, a blues musician, I called him a blue grass musician, saw that was an insult and thought, well the word 'blue' is in it right? Oh no. They loved the show and I loved them for coming.

Diane and Dick came down from Salem, Mass. I met them on a press trip I took to the Galapagos Islands. Such lovely folks... meant the world.

The gaggle of gorgeous young volunteers, led by event wizard Hattie Elliot and Grace Samson, who took over the lobby and the bike shop and made magic.

I gave books to everyone in the cast.

My great, good girlfriend Thalia flew in from Milwaukee and cried sitting next to me the entire time.

My friend and lawyer Tori came, she almost never leaves work.

My upstairs neighbor, Terry Berkowitz, who designed the book and has expressed over and over how much she hates opera, came.

My financial advisor Lisa came, my pal Dave came--he also hates theater, and he was the editor for the book. He dragged his girlfriend and his stepbrother.

My kids' cousin from the wretched baby daddy's side of the family came, WE LOVE HER, and she cried and hugged me. Her sweet boyfriend helped carry buckets of ice and water. I asked them when they were going to get married. Hattie dragged me away saying I had too much champagne. It was one glass.

Liz Papas, mom to little star Madison, bought the champagne and told me she got it donated, it was lovely but not as stunning as she was in a wrap dress.

Souhad and Paul were there, she so beautiful and not aware that she is. Soheyla and Pico, Mitchell and Whitney, Lori and Laurie, and on and on and on.

We were clapped for and toasted and I thought, oh let’s limp home after watching, barely helping Hattie’s mom and dad, Margaret and Rod, load up all the left veers into their car. Oh, let me go home and sleep, but neighbors Liz and Michael Pierce had other plans. So I was a good sport and we ate late at the local pub, Walkers right across from the fire station, the one that loaned us the fire coat that the cast believes is magical.

The entire night was magical.
I am so full of appreciation to all the components of my life.

BUT I still am only fantasizing about sleep.

September 11, 2008

Seven Years Later

It seems as if it was yesterday and eons ago.

A part is the weather; it is not the scrubbed blue September 11 sky that helps me to not go there to that day as deeply. But we all hear the bells and the sirens and the bagpipes at fire stations intoning our grief, the mournful wails tears at us.

And then tonight I open this opera about September 11 and my family’s little personal involvement in it. The New Yorker says that it ”harkens back to “Our Town” in its communitarian ethos." That says it just fine for me.

And so, in praise of that spirit of community being celebrated on the stage and really is the only reason we made it here today and will play for three weeks, I want to attempt to chronicle a little bit of how my neighborhood, TriBeCa, reached out to support this project and by extension me.

I started to write this while sitting on the steps of David Bouley’s newest culinary creation on Hudson Street. I love these steps surrounded by planters with wild flowers and herbs. I sit often and drink iced coffee, laced with extra espresso. Crazy, but I feel calm here.

David Bouley generously helped this opera with food and donations and a feeling that even a big swell, a real star like him, feels the community spirit. His wife, Nicole, is always ready to give us handouts, as are the folks at Bubbys, who fed pie to the entire cast at dress rehearsal. The pie was washed down by cider from the Greenwich Street Green Market. I am grateful especially to Pat and Stan and their farm stand as they sold the book on which the opera is based years back and continue to stuff post cards about the performance into bags of green beans or tomatoes.

Every where I go I see support for CALLING: An Opera of Forgiveness:
Erika at Myoptics hands out post cards and last week told me that now her friend’s grandson is in the show. One of our best chorus members works in Design Beyond Reach, Tribbles the design store on West Broadway loaned us the owner’s daughter to be my stage manager. ALL FOR FREE, no less!!

The Church Street School, who was an early recipient of the funds raised by the original book, helped with audiences and child singers. They sent us to the Trinity Church Choir, whose master, Robert Ridgell rehearsed some kids. Businesses all over downtown have taped up our posters including Paul Blaustein the plumber who put up a poster and gave me a check to “help pay singers.”

The folks at Mail Boxes Etc Avery, Wendy and Joe, copied all our fliers, mailed out post cards so folks across the country could have real snail mail to stick onto bulletin boards or their fridges. To the downtown papers, the Battery Park Broadsheet and Tribeca Trib who covered us generously, to Cheryl Hazen and her gallery, all the guys at the Tribeca Wine store, the wait staffs at Walkers and Bubbys, to the brokers at Douglas Elliman, all who gave out post cards, to all these and more an enormous thank you for showing that community spirit is more than alive and well, it is thriving in TriBeCa.

September 9, 2008

Lights In The Sky

Last night as I rode home . . . WAIT, do all these blog entries start this way?

Okay, how about this lead in: During rehearsal I received a phone call from the costume chick, my new girlfriend from across the street in TriBeCa, Liz Pierce. Liz is still a Catholic--don’t hold it against her--she is also very spiritual, so let her hold on to whatever floats her boat. Liz called breathlessly saying, “I am looking out the window of the loft working on design stuff and the LIGHTS are on again.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Liz was telling me that while I toiled in the dark confines of the LaMaMa Theater, the tribute at Ground Zero, the twin towers of light, has been switched on again. I suppose they will stay on for the entire week, as a memorial.

I love the lights, and sort of wish they were always on. They do what I hope this opera may do, they portray the presence of an absence and they do it with elegance and wonder that covers all religions and spiritual bases. I don’t know how the families feel, but as a resident I love them.

Riding home last night (there I go again, but listen it is huge leaving hours of rehearsal, in darkness and frustration and peddling home on my own power, alone, feeling strong and released into a world of soft air and possibility. So let me have me endless thought patterns that begin) there was this wonderful ice white column of light. Hard to describe the texture of white light, but there is clarity and poignancy and a place where these light towers cut right to my emotional well-being.

I followed them home like a beacon. It has been a while since I followed anything home. And I realized that when I worked at LaMaMa in the late eighties and early nineties and rode home to my babies, I rode home to the presence of that light as it came from the World Trade Towers. It was different then, I didn’t revere it or even often hold them in good stead, but they were an undeniable part of my life and I rode toward them every night to find home.

We are about to cut out the section where the mother and children sing, “Find home, find safety” as another kind of mantra. Oh, why are we going to cut it? Well, lots of reasons, time, rhythms, the need for everyone one of the creative team: words, music and movement to make concessions, meaning usually to take cuts. And this section seems to lag or drag or both. So it will be trimmed or totally cut.

But last night I took that sweet ride after work with my head swimming with the strains of “ Find home, find safety.” And now, for the next week my ride will be illuminated with towers of light and it warms and saddens me that they have to be there, and that I take some comfort in their cool white presence guiding me home.

September 8, 2008

Our Mission

Last night, I made an impromptu speech--in the middle of rehearsal--when we finally had everyone present, for the very first time. Okay, imagine that we open in three days and last night was the first time all cast and crew members were in the same room at the same time. So when we were all assembled, I gave a little rant or pep talk, because I realized that not everyone knew what I thought the mission was, or the manifesto was for this piece.

And it is this.

is one of the first experimental theaters, yes most folks know that, but beyond experimentation is the deeply held notion that we are all stronger with diversity and far-flung backgrounds. I was raised on this theory from my foreign correspondent at father and anthropologist mother, but it was Ellen Stewart, the founder of LaMaMa who drilled it into my head. She showed me that Oedipus could be from Korea and his wife from down the block on Fourth Street and it would be passionate and powerful. She showed me that drums could be logs, or pipes or expensive instruments and still beat out a rhythm. She convinced me that passion trumps wisdom; trumps education; and trumps sameness. And I watched companies come from 135 different nations to perform on the many stages of LaMaMa for more than 30 years and I believed each performance contributed to a more peaceful world.

I also, over these decades, came to see, what I thought was LaMaMa style, morph into an elevated theatrical style called “World Theater.” I saw it in The Lion King and everywhere I looked on Broadway, or in marvelous dance and music performances. No longer were we so desirous of homogeneity; we wanted our diversity to be on display, celebrated and huge.

So too with Calling. We are a cast and crew of 25 and we come from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and America, and mixed versions of all of these. We are short and young; or stout and older, as your scribe here, but we share a passion for telling a story through words, music, motion and diversity. The creation of this opera was a labor of love, no not just on the part of composer Doug and me, but really on the part of the cast and crew. Because these were the dedicated souls who took little or no pay, who brought their own clothes, who went home late and got up early to go to day jobs like Fifth grade or teaching or designing or mothering.

There is a song in Calling where the Mother croons to her child “All are heroes all are mythic.” And in fact that is the cast, the crew, the parents, the partners all the supporters of Calling. They are the heroes and believe me that I know and send appreciation to them for all they bring, offer and bestow on our dream.

To heroes.

September 6, 2008

Gathering Storm

I am awake and neither in a meeting nor rehearsal. I am up, well-coffeed and processing the dream I had last night about seeing a performance of Calling, our little opera at the grand, Paris opera house. I have seen work there, and it was that very place, with the fru-fru like a wedding cake interior, and a full orchestra and stage filled with our casts’ wonderful faces and, of course, more and more.

They were whirling and doing the mechanized dances that Edisa has cooked up, born from the images, photographic images, of workers fleeing the Towers on September 11, 2001. But now there was a chorus of heartfelt, office workers and construction workers all moving to composer Doug’s amazing music. And I don’t know if they do this at the Paris opera, but dreams can merge and purge and thus my words were running across the top of a lush red velvet curtain and they were in French. Although I speak French sometimes in dreams, I rarely read French and here were words so clear and fast zooming across my mind.

I suppose the dream was predicated on the great success of last night. Not only was the reading and performance, our little Page-to-Stage concoction at the TriBeCa Barnes & Noblem, a success, but the fact that we, our tiny company, pulled off a performance and rehearsal in dual locations was incredible and showed our nimble abilities to the best.

There we were, Carl conducting Maja on violin, and replacement crazy talented, Rob Walker on clarinet, subbing for Jay Hassler who was playing for Paul Newman (can you make this stuff up?). Nicole and Madison both really exemplified mother and child, full of emotion and voice. Hattie marshalling the forces of booksellers and press wishing she had a staff of 20. While Hiroya took the other musicians through their paces with Edisa blocking scenes where mom and child were extraneous. We were a producing family; all going about our tasks, staying on point and moving this baby closer to the real thing, an opera.

I have a need to insert an aside here, and although this is ALL ABOUT ME. (Hey, I wrote this thing right, so here it is.) I was touched beyond belief by the folks who showed up at Barnes & Noble and they all seemed to be truly moved by the reading and the operatic segment that followed. But here is the kicker, as I was shuffling paper getting ready to go on, I hear a voice from my very far past hollering my name. It was my favorite high school teacher, and just typing that I begin to well up. And all of this crying is happening as Tropical Storm Hanna gathers outside my window turning a blue sky to gray and threatening a big cry from the sky. Not only was sociology teacher Vic Leviatin there, but so too his wife Roz, who I had not seen in 40 years. I used to babysit for them.

“Oh, you are a regular old person.” She blurts. “I mean, you are a grown-up”.

Okay, Roz was the very first blunt person, blunt woman I had ever encountered. Roz was honest to a fault, and very political. This long time married duo, sported OBAMA buttons, hers a “WOMEN FOR OBAMA" button and, other than my husband, they were the only ones wearing political buttons at this event. I was so happy to see them; of course they bought books for their two little boys, now 44 and 48. I am still reeling from the kindness they showed and the happiness it gave me, especially now with both my parents gone, those in loco parentis mean so much.

I do miss my parents and with my kids away and sometimes unavailable, I miss that love the perfect squish of a hug that says, “You mean everything to me.” Luckily I have the kittens and a sweet, affectionate husband to fill in my family circle.

We have a super-long slog today, and every time I write September 6 and do the math, meaning it is four days until we offer our open dress rehearsal to folks downtown who helped us, my skin starts to leap off the back of my neck and arms. My job is to remain calm and hold the reins of this run-away pony. Composer Doug did give me some good feedback today, although I may be evincing this calm, he says I am jumping to conclusions too fast and I often jump to a negative conclusion so I need to slow my roll a little.

Okay, Doug, here I am, breathing and going to get a little lunch with my man with whom I feel I haven’t eaten in ages. Pizza or late night cereal does not count. I am excited to sit in the café next door and watch the storm arrive as I contemplate a salad and the metaphoric storms on the horizon lurking in wait for our little opera. I am confident that although we will get wet, we will flourish.

September 4, 2008

Oh My GOD I forgot to BLOG

I just forgot. I thought for a second I was holding it together dealing with my son in school, where I didn’t get him a meal plan or health insurance. And speaking of insurance, the adjusters are here to look at the flood damage. I just shut the doors to those flooded rooms and I forgot about that too.

My life is an overwhelmed flurry where I have to navigate a web site to sign over a trademark to my former job.

Where I have to re-edit a story for National Geographic.

Where my agent says I don’t have enough juice to sell my book of essays.

Where the press agent for the opera has me on radio shows at the same time as rehearsal.

Where we have a reading at Barnes and Noble tomorrow and the books -- WHEW -- just arrive a second ago.

Where I need to keep calling recalcitrant producers, in an attempt to get them to see the show.

Where the books have to now be delivered to Barnes and Noble.

And I promised to help hang the lights.

Like yesterday when composer Doug and I moved all the equipment from the rehearsal room into the theater.


Then after my “moving van“ experience, I had to shower, dress up and have an interview--my third, if you please, for a REAL JOB.

The folks at the REAL JOB were lovely, but the headhunter, who I think doesn’t get creative folks or me at all, is on the fence. A young associate from REAL JOB called this morning, after I said how happy I was to meet them, but this couldn’t be a worse week for me to be taking copious amounts of time to devote to the land of REAL JOB.

Instead, the young HR fella rings to say that the next step is a five-hour psychological exam that must be taken on a PC. (Well, of course they don’t have that type of exam that could work on a Mac) WHAT AN OXYMORON... assessment testing on a Mac.

Okay, still trying to be a good sport I offer, "If you can get me a PC to borrow, I can devote an hour a morning to this test.” That seemed super generous to me.


I haven’t slept five hours in a row in weeks.

I love the idea of this REAL JOB, but oh my goodness, everything at once is well...everything.

Happily, I ran into the head of REAL JOB down in my neighborhood and she said ”Oh focus on your opera and come to us after it opens.” She was a delight, and it took such a load off me and made me love the idea of this job even more.

So when I got home, I encouraged Henry to put all the charges he needs on the credit card.

I am putting some of the "we don’t have copier paper" onto another list and I am focusing on the opera, finding a center, getting books to the bookstore and listening to the singers and musicians.

I am indebted beyond words to Choreographer Edisa Weeks who is a genius and really moving these folks through the little world I created.

I love that Doug never says “Hey I am the composer and not a moving man.”

And to everyone who shows up and lends voices and energies to this amazing endeavor.

I will try and not forget but WOW the list is lengthening.

In the time I wrote this, 23 new emails came in. I am off to deliver books, then back to the theater for rehearsal.

FINGERS CROSSED for all of us and all our dreams.

September 2, 2008


Yesterday... what a strange combination of emotions.

WOW -- the New York Times saying actual nice things about bone-head me. And me taking my still silent, grumpy son back to college -- or at least I drove to the country house. (And yes, John McCain, I know how many houses I have, and, yes I know I am a very lucky person.) My husband, Zac, drove the rest of the way from the Hudson Valley to Skidmore College. Henry is still holding a grudge, and the ride north from the city -- where I was bursting with excitement and happiness that we had a real honest to goodness NY Times article that might put butts in seats and make people notice this little opera after months of working for free -- and well, the silence was chilling. I talked the entire time in my head, but it was sad.

After they drove off, I took back the little farmhouse from the renter ladies, making the nest my own again. Changing beds, doing more washing, tossing out weird renter food that is perfectly fine, but not mine. I then went out to touch plants, pull weeds, crush beetles and remember what wet earth feels like after a month of dark rehearsal spaces and late night bike rides home. I also fielded tears and confusion about rehearsal times; I dealt with egos on whose name appears where, and if middle names are used or why is former musician listed but not. . .

All told, it lets me know, again, that we are all fragile and all looking to be recognized for the little and large things we do.

After a romp through the woods with the cats, I collapsed into the hammock and fell asleep to find my husband standing over me, having waited, he said, for me to wake up so we could go get ice cream. OH, twist my arm. So we were off to Holy Cow. Can you make that up? We ate drippy sundaes in the shortening light and I tried to forget that in nine days, the show would go up, with lights and dance and music and all the cast members who have never even yet been to a single rehearsal... and I tried to stay calm and see it all working. All safe, all fine, all singing and then the audience applauding.

And in my head I will yell out "HOME-FREE-ALL!" Just like I did when I was ten and ran to hug the tree in dusky games of hide and seek.

When I went out to cut brambles and prune roses this morning, I let the big Maine Coon cat, Auggie, named for last month, lead me where he wanted to go. He wanted to walk in what our Scottish friends call the Dingly Dell. This is a path cut between blackberry brambles and a bogey hollow west of the house. It took me two years to cut this path through brambles and woods that resemble nothing short of Sleeping Beauty's prison in the fairy tale. But I hacked with clippers and machete and now there is a path where mossy tufts and lazy tress leave a clearing for deer, intrepid humans and fearless cats to tread.

This morning, there were clear paths marked by the pointy hooves of deer and Auggie and I picked our way along. I wondered what the deer think when they smell us and I imagined this conversation between the doe and her spotted twin fawns I spy regularly making crepuscular leaps.

“Oh look, kids, that is the foot print of the human woman who made this path. You know the thing about humans, and the reason they are so dangerous, is that they have forgotten how to use their intuition. They know things, but will never use what they feel until they can connect it to something they have learned in books, or school.”

“What does that mean?" the smarter, small female fawn will say.

“It means they can’t tell if things are dangerous, or fun or wrong unless they learn them, not feel them.“

“That must be a hard way to live.”

I think they are right. And I am going to attempt to feel my way though this last bit of time until we open. Now it is 8 days until our invited dress rehearsal on September 10. I will have to keep feeling the gratitude, luck and hope that I see evinced all around me and keep pushing myself to imagine the woodsy calm and the joy that comes form feeling the tree and yelling, “HOME-FREE-ALL!”