Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why should I get dressed just b/c it's New Year's Eve?

Sometimes you just wanna go around in your PJs all day long, right gang? When I put in my contax I saw that we'd had a nice dusting of snow, so I stepped out on the front porch for a refreshing mouthful of fresh-fallen snow.

After my breakfast of poached egg on homemade challah, I swept off my car with a broom just in case I needed to make a quick getaway. Then I swept off my sidewalk - easier than a shovel - and then when the mail came I had to run after Mailman Bob to mail two letters and here's what I said to myself, "It's FREEZING! I should've dressed warmer." I was wearing clogs without my pink socks.

Tonight I'll be ringing in the New Year by sleeping thru it. My gas fireplace makes so much noise I won't hear the revelers on my street. You could stage a robbery in my house and I wouldn't wake up. But please don't.

My old car was burgled earlier this year. I know, I know, I never lock it. I had some pretty plates in there my mom bought me from Belgium but the robbers only took a pack of cigs from my glove compartment. They were Newport Menthols and belonged to Michael Board, the man who stole my car when I worked in Bensalem. Sadly, for Michael, he died in my car, after an overdose of heroin. Sorry, Mike.

The Bad Plus will be on NPR Radio tonite. Thanks, Helene, for letting me know. My son/law, Ethan Iverson, is the pianist and wrote a nice note on his blog asking his literally thousands of readers to 'wander over' to Ruth's website and make a donation.

Oh, I mailed out so many Letters of Solicitation. Each was a joy of write. I personalize them and think of really amazing things to say. They are simply irresistible, I think, as I put the stamp on and enclose a SASE.

I've received NO DONATIONS thru my great letters.

I wanted to donate a little something to Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. I'm on there every five minutes. They reached their goal of $7.5 million today. My sister Ellen donated. Oh my god, is she ever cheap! Yeah, but Ruthie, you didn't even donate. You know why? Cuz I hate typing up my credit card no. in the blanks and the expiry number. Plus the three blind mice little digits on the reverse.

Yum! This hot tea is delicious. I get so nervous when I work on my novel I munch on unsalted pretzels. It's harder to write than I thought. My momentum stopped when I finished up my last online class. I just had nothing left inside me. Now I've started my engine again and trying to make it race. So far we're only going 5 mph but at least we're on the racetrack, SeaBiscuit.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I Saw at the Movies

We made the 11:40 a.m. show. We stood in line for twenty minutes waiting to buy tickets to Avatar. It cost $23 which included my senior ticket. BTW, thanks to Coach Iris for your lovely Birthday Card.

The Tiny Man in the wheelchair took our tickets, tearing them off with his impossibly tiny arms held against his shirt. Enjoy the movie, he said, as Scott and I walked toward Theater Eleven.

A huge hallway led up up up to the theater. I wanted to run up the slope but needed to behave myself since I was with Scott. We found great seats and had missed all the coming attrax so the movie started immediately.

I looked over at Scott who looked adorable wearing his black Elvis Costello-like 3D glasses. I like to hold hands sometimes in the movies but the movie was so tense I needed to clasp them to my breast.

Yum! As I'm blogging, I'm eating my dinner salad. Green leafy lettuce, onion, red pepper, cuke, carrot, red pepper, celery, with a dressing of olive oil, garlic, and fresh lemon juice. I gave out 8 lemon squeezers for Xmas gifts, on sale at Giant.

I'd done my morning stretches for my back so it wasn't bothering me during the movie. But I was freezing cold. The A/C seemed to be on high. Scott was also cold. When I had to go to the baffroom, I put my glasses on top of my head and walked quickly out, dashing down the long slope at last, finding the men's room, after which I told the ticket-taker to please turn up the heat.

He said he'd make a phone call.

Interesting, I thought. Then I raced happily up the slope to watch the last half of this very long but very good movie, an absolute feast for the eyes. Blink blink.

Director Cameron waited till the end to show the credits. When I got home I called Dr Pam London Barrett to ask her opinion of the movie. She sees e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!

Now, another film director named George Ciampa sent me an email. I WAS THRILLED! Here's his email with my comments in ( )

Hello Ruth, Thank you for your Guest Book comments. (Mon plaisir, George. Never thought you'd write back.) It is appreciated. (passive voice? c'mon George. Try I appreciate it with an exclamation point to show your enthusiasm.) Two of my films are being shown on 90 PBS stations and have exclusivity, sporadically, for two years. Apparently you saw "Memories of France". (mais oui) The other is "The Lesson is Priceless", filmed in Belgium. (ah, the best beers in the world. My son would love em. Since I don't drink no more, I take sips of Dan's beer.)

I hope you will purchase one or both.(George, clearly you don't know me. I'm downsizing. In 20 yrs I'll be dead & I don't want more stuff for my kids to throw away) Funds received will help to get the films distributed in all 2117 high schools in California where I live. I am seeking that funding now from companies or wherever. (Try the Lenfests. They gave tons of money to the theater at the Gettysburg Museum. They're also Jewish, I believe, so would appreciate your focus on the only work camp during WW2 in France.)

I would appreciate your help with directing friends to the website. (ATTENTION FRIENDS: Here's the website.) Thank you very much. Happy New Year


Speaking of websites, I'm reading a book by James D Gordon, MD, called Unstuck: Your Guide to the 7-Stage Journey Out of Depression.

Here's what to do, accdg to Gordon, who is listed on QuackWatch:

Guided imagery
Self-expression thru words, drawings, and movement
Nutrition and supplements
Acupuncture and herbal therapies
A variety of spiritual practices

Not bad, Jimmy. What I don't like, however, is a chapter you entitle The Right Way. C'mon, Jimbo, there ain't no one right way.

Dr Jim, by the bye, was a member of a disgraced Indian cult. Read the delightfully hateful appraisal of Gordon on Quackwatch. You'll have to find it yourself. I'm too lazy. It's 7:33 p.m. and I'm only halfway thru today's To-Do List.

Still to-do is 20 minutes on my bike and two hours of novelwriting.

Friday, December 25, 2009

My email to the Pope

I titled my email Christmas Request to Holy Father Pope Benedict XII: (be sure to read His comment at the end)

Today, Holy Father, is Christmas Day here in America and all across the world.

I was born on Christmas Day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where my father, born in 1921, was serving in the Marine Corps to help destroy the Nazis who wished to rule the world. You well know their horror since you were forced to become a member of the Hitler Youth and your own beloved cousin with Down syndrome was forcibly sent to a death camp for extermination.

Six million of my people were also exterminated for the crime of being Jewish. This includes dozens of my family members residing in our homeland of Hungary.

I ask you to please consider the requests of our Jewish leaders when you think about making Pope Pius XII a saint. Our leaders are wise beyond measure and deserve your highest consideration. We believe that Pius, with his enormous influence, did not do enough to save the Jews and other ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

In the name of peace on earth for all humankind, I am,

Ruth Z. Deming
204 Cowbell Road
Willow Grove, PA 19090
215 659 2142

A Christmas Carol: The Movie

I wonder how many people across America are watching the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, like I am, this white Christmas morning, my 64th birthday.

When the credits came on, I saw that the producer was Joseph Mankiewicz, a Jew. I did some quick research and saw his parents were German immigrants and indeed when the movie was being made the Nazis were storming across Europe.

And now the aged revered Pope Benedict, who was knocked down by a madwoman yesterday, wishes to make Pope Pius a saint. Pius, you remember, did nothing to stop the Nazis.

Pope Benedict, the former German citizen Joseph Alois Ratzinger, a very unwilling member of the Hitler Youth Group, knows the horror of the Nazis. His own cousin, who had Down syndrome, was marched away to the death camps.

However, as the spiritual leader of the largest Christian denomination on earth: 1 billion people, let's ask the Pope to do more than give lip service to the trauma and horrors wrought in WW2. If he isn't for equal justice for all - including indicting Nazis for the most heinous crimes and genocide of our century, which he barely acknowledges and wishes to anoint Pius a saint - then who will be for justice?

When will civility rule the earth? What if there is no heaven and this is all there is.

The film is remarkable. That California-dwellers created such a convincing ambiance of Dickens' London! Why, I feel like I'm eating the roast goose and flaming pudding at the Cratchits' dinner table. My stomach is growling for I haven't had breakfast yet.

The transformation of Ebeneezer Scrooge is accomplished by spirits. How has YOUR transformation been accomplished?

My friend Nancy Pollack came over a week ago bearing gifts for me. Simple gifts. Celestial Seasoning Tea, honey vanilla chamomile. We drank the tea together while she apprised me of some foods I can eat with my chronic kidney condition.

I called her the next day to thank her for her most helpful delicious visit. That's how I got the idea of giving the Mallsters the teas.

See the amazing chain of events on how we influence one another?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My gratitude list / Poem: Once again Evelyn

- My house

- Looking out the window

- The sun rising over Charley's house, stonehenge-like smack in front of me as I type these words

- Drinking water ("the first thing we do and the last" from one of my poems)

- My ability to influence people to improve their lives (thru the support group I founded after being diagnosed with manic depression)

- My eyes that so keenly see.

- The ability to love so deeply. I think if people have an aura mine would radiate love. We become what we lack. I lacked love for much of my life and little angels who dwelt within me built me a house of love. Thanks!

- My psychotherapy clients - the long parade of them who hopefully still remember me as I remember Darleen and the earrings she gave me which I still wear; and John who still calls me (I sent him an Xmas postcard) - his parole is over in 2010 for vehicular manslaughter; and for my new clients who broaden my mind incredibly esp. exasperating "Evelyn" who I've wrin a new poem about

- Ada and Rich Fleisher

- Return of motivation to work on my novel - thanks Nicole Bokat, who will be my editor/mentor

- Helen and her Mall Talk. I'm gonna try not to be late today since I bought everybody Celestial Seasonings Tea. We've got more than a dozen folks now coming to the Mall.

- All the donations I was able to make this year which include:

...Pennypack Trust - the nature center 5 minutes away from home
...Bread and Roses in Philly for Social Justice. I wrote the director, You write a mean email, Casey, and mailed her a check
...Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama - they lost 20 percent of their funding since they invested with the fallen Jew Bernie Madoff
...Planned Parenthood
...Peter C Alderman Foundation for setting up hospitals in third-world countries
...BioGems to save our wildlife from imminent destruction. Did you know you can adopt a polar bear or a rainforest tree thru their organization?

- All my friends at New Directions

- The amazing ability to have the correct information when I need it. Joan sent ND a donation of fantastic books. I'm bringing the Montel Williams inspirational book to the mall to give to Judy.

- The ability to write a great letter. Had my last appt w/Larry Paster, physical therapist yesterday who always restores my body to health after giving me exercises which I do in bed and on the living room floor. I wrote him a Donation Letter and he said he'd mail in a check.

- My fearlessness. I attended a funeral of a former ND member the day after the snowstorm. I'm terrified of driving in the snow but I faced my fears and drove safely to the church where the funeral was held. Goodbye Ann, goodbye! I feel her presence hovering over me right now.



once again Evelyn you have with words alone
deceived me like a skillful lover who plies me
with flowers and adoring looks
and boxes of chocolate covered cherries
a woman my own age who has never had a man
or a title or someone to kiss her goodnight
and whose face I noted this morning still bursts with
scabs of unknown origin

your latest caper, as I shall call it,
left me broken and despondent
though I get paid to see you
a handsome amount for doing nothing but
accompanying you to lunch or
watching Hogan's Heroes with you in your
raggedy chair apartment littered with empty
pizza boxes that smell

you’ve spent half your life enraged
and tied up in asylums’ cruel arms
one too many misdemeanors no one
can figure out and
you ask me with your cockeyed stare
why do I do these things, Ruth

and were surprised this morning that
after you’d snookered me and I walked you home
I refused to come in and play the end
of today’s game as you planned

small victories are what I cherish with a woman like you
whose mother drank while you floated inside
forming an oh-so-odd constellation of a human
oh, the millennia of unending combinations that
formed to create solely you
yes, people look when you pass them by
not because you talk to yourself
or wear the same green jacket and shorts in
cruel december
but simply something out of tune
an always dissonant chord
a jazz tune sailing into the winter sky
with no accompaniment

you drive all of us away
every last one of us
needing a hiatus from your
though when I returned home
still smarting from my fall
I realized I’d have to see you soon again
to bring you the box of Triscuits I’d forgotten
for your big I-love-you surprise.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why I picked up my novel again

I took a six-month break from working on my half-finished novel,loosely based on the death of my former boyfriend, Simon, and myself, his then-girlfriend who in the novel he asked to assist him to die with dignity from cancer.

Few people in real life have the courage to do this. They prefer to suffer. And oh how he suffered in real life. No excuse. I have given my children permission to euthanize me. Dr. Weiss, who is not my doctor, has said death and its prelude is usually painful. I choose not to suffer.

I'd been writing numerous letters asking for end-of-year donations to our support group, as well as thank-you letters, from those people kind enough to give (the record was one for $1,000 - I actually went out an spent money on Manhattan Bagel for a bagel with scallion cheese cheese, cuz I knew a nice chunk was coming our way).

All these letters, maybe 20, got my creative juices swirling. I write amazing letters. I'd asked the dude at the Doylestown Wellness Center if I could teach a letterwriting class but he said no due to litigious reasons. I have no idea what he was talking about.

The letter form is succinct. One page. One and a half at the most. It's like a sonnet. The format is already there for you. I jot a few notes on what I wanna cover in each of my very personal letters. I like letterwriting cuz I use my brain. It's amazing b/c when I tap it, it never fails me.

My letters are as much about the other person as they are about New Directions. I have a knack of making people feel good about themselves.

I'm very impressed with my novel. If I can't get it published I'll self-publish like Christian Barth did his Origins of Infamy. Then I'll list it under Favorite Blogs on the Right and you can buy it from Amazon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Telephone consult on bulemic young woman

All names have been changed.

Gerri and I spoke for 20 minutes and came up with a plan to help a friend of hers who is temporarily housing her bulemic niece.

Bulemia is an eating disorder where the individual, usually a woman, binges and then purges. Eventually you harm your body by doing so. It is not natural to make yourself vomit after you feed yourself.

Karen was recently asked to leave college b/c of her severe eating disorder. She returned home to live with her folks. That didn't work out so she went to live with Aunt Ada and Uncle Phil. Good people. They live in a three-bedroom house. The only room Karen could possibly live in is the living room. And there she stays, 24 hours a day. Doing nothing. Nothing at all except watching TV and sleeping. If you try to tell her anything, she'll say, Leave me alone or I'll kill myself.

Needless to say her behavior is affecting the whole household including two older children who live there. What to do?

Firstly, it's important to know that Karen is extremely intelligent but has the emotional intelligence of a 2-year-old. She is stuck in the 'terrible two's,' the phase where she always says, No! and is defiant. It's an issue of control. Your average two-year-old finally sees the error of her ways and finally goes on the potty.

Here's my suggestion.

Call a meeting between Aunt Ada, Uncle Phil and Karen. Tell her You must abide by our ground-rules or else we'll put you out on the street.

Be aware that Karen excels in the art of manipulation. It is the only thing she can do well other than binge and purge. She thoroughly enjoys terrorizing the whole family and particularly her parents who live nearby.

Realize that Karen will doubtlessly not kill herself. And if she does, it is her own decision, not anyone's fault. Should the relatives wish, they may attend a 12-Step Family Member Group to appease their guilt.

The agreement must be signed by Karen.

1. You are not to threaten us by saying you will kill yourself. You'll be put out on the street.

2. You will choose one household task to help us with and do this daily. Wash dishes, shovel snow, fold clothes, etc.

3. You will immediately get into treatment. (Karen has been in treatment numerous times including the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders but always drops out. She has not hit bottom since no one has ever challenged her or given her boundaries like the aunt and uncle are now doing.)

4. Uncle Phil will find you an apartment and pay for it until you can find a job.

She will read the contract and sign it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Knock knock knock!

That would be the very loud knocker on my front door. Two young men wanted to know if they could shovel my snow. Manually. Great idea. No noise. No use of gas power to pollute the air.

How much? I asked

Pay us what you want, the tall one in the Grateful Dead jacket said.

Go ahead, I said, going back in the house and turning off my REM record. I was so cozy in the house. All by myself. Feeling cleansed and chastened and purified by the snow. And the silence. Don't you just love the silence of the swiftly falling snow?

I dressed warm and fetched a shovel off the backporch. A nice light shovel and joined them. I shovel very fast, then rest a bit, then shovel some moe. The snow was nice n light, not slippery in the least. Huge dark green township trucks passed back n forth on our street. I paused to wave to one of them in thanks.

When we finished one of the young guys ate some snow.

I joined him. Have some, I said to the other guy. It's free.

No thanks, he said.

What dyou think of the taste? I asked the one guy who had an earring.

It's good! he smiled.

Well, I've had better, I said, remembering my earlier post.

These young people don't know the former purity of taste of the snow like when I was a kid some 60 years ago in Ohio. Now that was delicious snow.

But, hey, this is passable, sort of like ice milk is to ice cream. The texture of today's snow was superb, a melt in your mouth you can't get anywhere othan frozen snow.

Scoop me another fistful from the top of my mailbox, please.

My birdbath has six inches

Just ate a fistful of snow. It melts in your mouth. Slight aftertaste of extinct species due to climate change and acid rain. A Nobel Laureate was on TV tother nite telling us about a species of newly-extinct frogs and how we've lost the ability to learn from these animals about a valuable acid they possess which could help our own species. Our most valuable medicines are found in nature. The bark of the willow tree.

Speaking of meds, the front-page of the Times has an ad about Bipolar Depression. Take Seroquel XR. The drug industry has actually done more to educate the public about the the prevalence and acceptability of mental illness than any existing advocate.

What dyou think about Sen. Harry Reid working with Sen. Nelson of Nebraska to ensure passage of our first Healthcare Reform Bill? It won't be perfect but it'll be a primer to work from over the next few years IF the Dems can stay in control. The behavior of the Republicans is beyond belief! Every single one of them. Then I remembered my own liberal Rep. senator Spector and remembered.... he turned back into a Democrat. And that Joe Lieberman. What a spiteful man. Hadassah must be fingering her rosary beads in terror of what he's gonna oppose next.

Looked out the window at 8 am and saw Scott trudging thru the backyard. He was coming home from work. I know, I know. 8 am. His face was red and he was all bundled up. He went straight into his backyard to search for the stray cat who he's feeding. Then I got his attention and he came over, wiping his feet on the mat, and said, Boy is it ever cold! He fell on Davisville Road cuz it was so slippery.

I made us some eggs with fried onion and then he went home to sleep.

This is the kind of day you just wanna go outside, stand with your arms outstretched, feel the swiftly falling snow on your face, and rejoice!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I ponder the bris during my exercise regimen

Every two years a different part of my body breaks down and I go see Larry Paster in Glenside, PA, for help. He and his receptionist/wife brought in Dooley, their 6-month-old King Charles spaniel which had all the aching patients in the office enraptured. His facial expressions were just like a persons. Oh, those eyes!

Larry's got me doing half an hour worth of exercises in the morning, flat on my back on the living room rug, in addition to my usual 20 minutes of stationary bike-riding.

When I take to the bike, I set the timer for 20 minutes and then hop on and begin to pedal. First, I sit there stunned. Ach, I hate this, I think to myself. I can't believe that for the next 20 minutes my legs will be going round and round and I won't be going anywhere.

I look out the window at my backyard. If only the fox would come by. How I'd love to see the fox. Or the owl. On my watch, nothing moves except my feet. Then I stretch forward and pick up my reading material.

I read some poems as I pedal. A sheaf of poems given to a roomful of people at the Abington Free Library by our poetry lecturer Richard Tyre. If you wish, you can read about the murder of his daughter here.

My friend Carolyn gave me a copy of Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales, so I read that while I pedal. Meaning is secondary, writes Thomas. It's the rhythm that counts. He wrote Do not go gently into the night. I always thought it was Edna who wrote it.

Have I told you about the bris in Princeton? The cantor who performed the ceremony began by saying he had three rules for the audience. First, all the jokes about the bris were to be made by him. Second, that photos were encouraged but only when the baby had his diaper on. And the third rule I can't remember. Perhaps it was, Don't try this yourself.

The baby's name is Gilad, which means happy forever. His father is head of infectious diseases at Merck which just paid $41 B to buy Schering-Plough. I guess my people are still tilling the soil. They're all afraid of losing their jobs. These are modest people not showoffs. Merck's grandmother took the train from Durham, NC - oh, remind me to look up Durham Deli in Bristol, PA - I used to go there on my lunch hour - Grandma May is 96 years old. She lives with her daughter.

Her secret to living a long life? B-12 shots every month and she loves hot sauce, puts it on everything. Her daughter drives her to aerobic swimming at the Y where she has many friends. Her strength however is gone. But she doesn't lament, she doesn't complain.

I also met a woman from Nigeria who was the lactation consultant. Her name is Zee Ifan and I told her if she's ever in Willow Grove to look me up. I told her when I was at Goddard College I met Njuguna Karina from Nigeria. The Africans would play volleyball and use their heads to butt the ball. They were tall and dark as the aubergine. But I was in love with Frankie from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Fr-a-n-k, can you hear me calling out your name?

Noam drove me to the Princeton house. On the way there we talked so much he missed his turn. He drove his dead father's Honda. I played Leontyne Price's version of Barber's Knoxville Summer of 1915 when I got home in memory of his father who'd given me the record. This is how we remember the dead.

Noam and his two siblings served in the Israeli army including the mother of Gilad. Yes, child, she'll tell him one day. Mommy carried a rifle and knew how to use it. No, no, I won't bring it to the mall. I'm not like Sylvia.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How'd you like to work here?

My son Dan invited me to the Xmas party of the company he's worked at for the past 3 years. Dan, his lovely wife Nicole, whose hair looked like Nefertiti's, and I set out for the new offices of in Huntingdon Valley, PA, I being the only one of the three who'd never been inside.

I was so excited. My son, the businessman.

It's always fun to go to a place when it's closed down. The empty receptionist's desk had a granite countertop. A plaque on the wall pronounced AWeber one of the best places to work in 2009.

The catering company took our coats. I left my backpack in the car so I wouldn't be tempted to smuggle out any booze or tiny creamers.

We ate in the Cafeteria. During the week, they have catered free meals. A cooler is stocked with favorite beverages.

Every morsel of food was delicious. I remarked to one of the adorable guys who worked there - they look like rock musicians - that I hadn't eaten in two days in anticipation on this big event. (I'd actually forgotten about it till I read it on my calendar that morning. Things come around so fast, don't they? Where are you Mr Death?)

The salmon was melt in your mouth. The dips! Artichoke, fennel and spicy something or other. Don't double-dip, Ruthie, I reminded myself as I carefully double-dipped.

I sipped on Dan's beer since I don't drink. My, it was good. I do love my beer sips.

Dan gave us a tour of the office. Huge! They have a Game Room where you play video games on an enormous screen. In the Education Room videos were playing of when Tom started the company in his Bucks County backyard. When I met Tom for the very first time I thanked him for employing my son. Tom is a tall goodlooking man with a friendly grin. His pregnant wife and inlaws were at the party.

The employees are young. The oldest of their children are about 5. I admired Kylie's beautiful maroon Christmas dress, she couldn't talk yet but she was a fast walker, and when I spoke to Ben, his 6-yr-old daughter Mattie was looking at me the whole time, amazing for a child. She's a good big sister to Abbie.

Later on all the kids found each other and were playing some sort of made up game.

Dan has a huge office with a b'ful cherry-colored desk and one of those $800 ergonomic chairs. His computer monitor is huge. In the office is a large white eraserboard on the wall with all sorts of cryptic (to me) writing on it. A framed poster of the Beatles' Abby Road hangs on the wall along with some caricatures made by one of the talented people at his office.

The freedom to think and create and work in a friendly environment is wonderful - dress is casual and bedroom slippers are optional - and helps promote business which has not been affected one iota by the recession. Salaries and bonuses are high and so is the praise and feedback among employees.

Interestingly, my own businessman father created a wonderful place to work back in Cleveland when he managed a women's clothing warehouse. Recently the wife of his second in command died and I wrote a long and lingering love letter to the family saying, the person who should be reading this has gone away for good. This happens frequently. We never saw my father again either though my eighty-seven year old mother resides in the house Harold built with much of his Majestic memorabilia intact.

Look how our memories play such an important role in our lives? As the poet Rilke wrote in his Letters to a Young Poet, all you need is your childhood and you could be locked up in prison and still have enough material for a lifetime of poetry.

I couldn't help dancing to the DJ's music at the Xmas party which was booming from the education room. It was good to hear Roxanne by the Police again. I'd seen them long ago in concert. Remind me to tell you about that awesome day, which I then called the best day of my life.

I was sorry we couldn't stay to play karry-oh-kee but we were all very tired. I find I've been singing a lot lately. Try it! When I was a teenager and in college I used to whistle all the time. Music still plays an enormous role in my life. And - look! - my daughter married a musician. Ethan of The Bad Plus.I'm hoping to see them play at the Village Vanguard round bout New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My metamorphosis, not exactly Gregor Samsa but close

I've been staying up past my bedtime watching great movies on Turner Classic Films. The Hitchhiker was about a deranged man who would stop motorists at gunpoint and eventually kill them after he had them obey his every direction. He climbs into the back of the car of 2 fishing buddies and we wonder when they'll try to make a break. Great film!

Problem is I'm turning into some of these evil characters. More bout this later on. Remind me to write about my revenge story.

Was noodling about the kitchen yesterday when my favorite song came on the radio. Sure I could've raced into the living room and started dancing. OR I could've attempted to find the name and artist of said song.

DONE! I am listening to it as I blog. Kandi by One Eskimo.

What did he say?

He called me babe. All night long.

From looking at the lead singer I'm getting some fashion ideas for when I attend the bris next week. Bris, by the way, is the Yiddish pronunciation. Brit is the modern Hebrew pronunciation, Cynthia told me. She wouldn't tell me her grandson's name she said until the ceremony is completed. The three names include her late husband Bobby's memorial name. You'll remember he walked into a truck. I'll tell you why he did this. I didn't realize it. He was depressed over his new diagnosis of Parkinson's. You can't think straight when you're depressed. Oy, the things he told me over the phone when last I spoke to him. Darkness unending.

So, you, yourself, may grab a few design ideas from the band. I thought perhaps I could wear multiple bracelets. Currently I only wear a cheap Timex. A client gave me a serenity bracelet. Perhaps I could pop that on my wrist as well.

I also like the lead singer's tattoos on his arm. Perhaps I could get the name of the family tattoodled on my arm along with that medical symbol - what's the word - Yiddish or modern Hebrew will do - somethin like cadeuccas - since the father is a vaccination specialist at a drug company.

The the past week I've been the victim of another sort of virus which does not respond to vaccine. An email virus. The result could be worse certainly but it's supremely annoying. Every day I get at least 40 of the same email inviting me to a an event I do not wanna attend.

When I woke up this morning a line of these emails greeted me. Yes, they are working on the problem they assured us.

Ya know what I did to retaliate?

See, when I like a song I hear on the radio, I send myself an email with its link so I can replay it on YouTube.

So when I did my research this morning about One Eskimo, I merely CCd it to the virus provider as follows.
kandi - best one
one eskimo
candi staton
info on one eskimo

I know, I know. Gregor Samsa all over again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm invited to a bris!

Just before it was time to drive Scott to the train Cynthia called to say her daughter gave birth to a son and I was invited to the bris in his hometown of Princeton. I'll drive down with the newborn's uncle. Cynthia's husband was one of my best friends but never consulted me about his plans to do away with himself. I didn't have time to say g'bye before he walked in front of a truck.

G'bye Bobby g'bye! He couldn't bear the new diagnosis of Parkinson's he was given. Look, I'm all for euthanasia but there were barely any symptoms.

Quite chilly tonite, eh? "37 icy" said my car as I slid in.

You know, Scott, I said, putting my red gloved hands on the wheel, America as we know it is finished. I watched a video last nite on the New Yorker website. The CEO of a huge drug company, Novartis, said he was building a $1 BILLION plant in - guess where?

China, said Scott.

Right. And we let it happen, I said.

I blame the media and the politicians, said Scott. They said nothing about it while it was happening. Ross Perot made a sucking noise about it. Sucking the lifesblood out of us.

We sat in the car while waiting for the train. A great song came on the radio.

Jeez, I'd like to dance to this, I said.

Too cold, said Scott.

I turned up the volume loud, climbed outa the car and danced in the darkness. Scott laffed.

I like to be surprising and daring. It makes me happy.

Soon the lights of the train began reflecting on the train wires and tracks, he undid his seatbelt, kissed me goodbye and headed out, backpack on his back. I drove off reminding myself Call TCM, Call TCM, Call TCM.

Billy answered the phone right away. I'd waited 20 minutes earlier today w/o success. I was ordering Scott's b'day and Xmas presents.

Ya know why I'm calling and not ordering online, Billy? I said. Because I'm too lazy to type in my credit card number.

That's fine, said Billy, who turned out to be a terrible speller. When I told him Scott's last name, I said it's spelled like The General. He mangled it horribly but he was a sweet man.

Would you mind if I sing my credit card number? I was amazed I thought of such a great idea.

I did a magnificent creative job and when next we figger out where to have our Coffeeshop Gig I promise to share my phenomenal technique. I have a famed operatic voice (famous within my family and friends)but want to give it to a wider audience.

I spose I was inspired to perform my credit card number cuz I was talking to Turner Classic Films, all of whom are the biggest showoffs and exhibitionsists in the world - movie stars. I wanted to be one when I was 6 years old when I discovered who they were.

Ruth Gabor.

Okay, so now you got me thinking. What exactly does America excel in? off the top of my head I'd say:

Journalism, literature, colleges and universities, medicine, Nobel prizewinners, advertisements, independent movies, independent support groups, gardening, local parks and national parks, and of course FREEDOM. No one can touch us where freedom is concerned. Right Angela Davis?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

People will eat any ole crap and ask for more

Nothing like hot Creama Wheat on these chilly pre-winter mornings. I made the bowl sitting in front of me on my desk with dried cranberries, and, per the suggestion of Mary Ann Moylan, my nutritionist, cooked it in CoffeeRich to replace the milk I'm not allowed to drink on account of its high phosphorus content. We had a refresher course the other day further limiting my diet which I'll talk about shortly.

I have very sensitive taste buttons and can taste preservatives a mile away. The creama wheat tastes like crap. Here are the ingredients of CoffeeRich which, after it defrosts shall be flushed away to its final destiny. May it nourish the flailing stink bugs.

Water, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, mono and diglycerides, soy protein isolate, sodium stearoyl, lactylate, polysorbate 80, depotassium phosphate, disodium phosphate, artificial flavor, sodium acid pyrophosphate, colored with beta carotene.

Whatever got into me purchasing this makebelieve food? I was swayed perhaps by the new research Mary Ann did on my behalf - previous diets concentrated only on lowered sodium and potassium - but she and I both discovered the necessity to cut back on phosphorus.

Under her spell, I not only bought CoffeeRich but also Thomas English Muffins which stink of preservative when you open the pkg. I'm not allowed to eat whole grains due to high phosphorus content. All this, of course, to protect my ever-diminishing kidney function to avoid dialysis. So now we're low potassium, sodium, phosphorus and protein.

I liken my temporary conversion to buying the CoffeeRich to going into a spiritual Buddhist retreat and becoming a Buddhist. Long ago I proclaimed my strong unwavering atheistic tendencies which are hilariously documented in this Mark Twain piece I'm reading.

Click on Twain's Letters from the Earth. Scroll down and begin with the words The Creator sat upon the throne, thinking.

May God bless and keep you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Goodbye darling goodbye!

The main downside of being a union member is the importance of seniority. Scott has worked at the Philly transit authority Septa for 13 years and there's many another mechanic ahead of him on the schedule pickings. Thus Scott lost his day-shift and returned to the night-shift which poses a hazard to one's health, among other things, like you can't see your girlfriend every nite and lay beside her snuggling together.

Scott, can you please pass me the remote. Scott, would you mind getting up and getting me a drink of water. Scott, I forgot to take the phone off the hook, would you mind.....

I drove him to the train station to catch the 8:22 pm train. He likes to get there good n early.

Let's stop at the Valenza's Xmas House, I suggested. Fort'ly he agreed. It's 5 minutes down Terwood Road.

We parked the car and got out. The house door was open and a revolving Santa peeked out. People were in the background. Clearly, they cared about people enjoying their spectacular lights.

I don't care if he IS a Republican I mumbled to myself, the man is a good person (even tho he never returned my phone calls). Now, if I were Bill Hess, I would've brought my camera and shot some film for my loyal readers. How to describe the extravaganza of lights lights lights and all those moving parts. I think the moving parts makes it so much moore interesting.

Would you believe a twirling ferris wheel! Santa riding his sleigh on the rooftop? A panda coming out of a jack-in-the-box? Very original, very creative. That man can't be all bad.

Look, I'm so impressed I'll even share his website with you of the paratransit company he owns.

I said to Scott, I can't believe I'm not cold. My car read 37 icy.

That's cuz you dressed in layers, he said. I have to teach you everything.

When I went to NY I had the choice of dressing warm or looking nice and dressed up. I chose to wear my new Chico's coat which - get this! - the buttons are so far apart you can't even button them. So okay I froze my ass. The sore throat I woke up with has gone away. True.

Then we drove to the Willow Grove train station and sat in the car talking until the train came.

You'll be alright sleeping alone? he said.

I'll be fine, Scott, but I'll miss you.

Scott's new hours are 10 pm until 6:30 a.m. Imagine staying awake all nite long. They forbid their mechanics to fall asleep. If they find them asleep they give them a warning. This, even tho there's no work to do. Asinine.

Well, wish me luck. I've got 3 good books to lay by my side. I sleep in my socks. Do you?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nice to meet you, Carrie Fisher!

Judy and I attended the 2 pm matinee of Wishful Drinking, the one-woman show created by Carrie Fisher, who is defined by modern audiences as Princess Leia of Star Wars, one of the worst movies I've ever seen. But, hey, that's me!

There were many exciting steps that led up to getting to Manhattan to see the play. Planning of course is crucial. I have a beautiful straw fruit basket in my living room window in which I keep my warm winter beret and also activities that need lotsa planning. In there, I put directions on how to get to Judy's Bucks County house. I was googling her to find our her address and directions and the price of her house came up. It was shocking!

So, I rolled outa bed at 7:30, took my shitload of morning pills - all for my kidney disease - and then packed pills for next week and took em with me in case the snow mandated my staying over at Judy's or Carrie's.

I had my delicious healthy breakfast - protein starch carb - - 2 fried eggs in olive oil, pumpernickel toast and cranberries sweetened with maple syrup. Also packed 2 snacks - apple, walnuts, unsalted pretzels.

I am religious about my diet, thanks to Mary Ann Moylan of the Giant Supermarket. Ya know what she said to me? Just remember, Ruth, everytime you eat too much salt you'll get edema! Geez, Scott won't be attracted to me anymore w/o my tiny ankles.

Found her house with no prob. It's now 9 a.m. Showtime is 2 pm. First I gotta listen to her young son play piano. Ho-hum. Ya know what I did? I started dancing on the carpet. Nice rhythm, easy to dance to.

Then I talked to her husband. He got up early and did rounds at a couple hospitals. I asked him about the Swine Flu. Yes, he said, their office was inundated around Thanksgiving.

So, it's real, I thot to myself. Screw Dr. Mercola, the health fiend, who's trying to convince his subscribers it doesn't exist. What a relief when I unsubscribed from his rants after a week.

We drove to Trenton in her red van. They refurbished the station and it's very nice. Didn't see any homeless people or drug addicts. We parked in a garage and followed David - of Marilyn and David - into the station. Judy wanted to stick by them so we chatted until the train came.

Beautiful NJ Transit train. I haven't been on it in ages since I usually take the bus to NY. The train went frustratingly slow. I don't understand why. Judy loves to talk so I caught up on her very interesting life until I felt a wave of exhaustion rush thru me.

I'll just close my eyes, I said, but you keep talking. I was asleep instantly.

Judy was hugely influenced by Carrie Fisher's book Wishful Drinking which is extensively quoted in the play. She was determined to get Fisher's autograph.

Manhattan was mobbed. We had to be careful not to lose each other. When we got upstairs to the street it was raining. I'm just not an umbrella person so I covered my head with my beret. Judy had her umbrella and we surged thru the crowd looking for a cab.

Harriet had just slid into the backseat of a cab. Judy, who has more chutzpah than I do, asked if we could share it with her. Harriet was leading a tour group from MD. All were to meet independently at Radio City to watch the Rockettes. Harriet is the new grandmom of Macy, 2 and a half. She only asked for $4 for cabfare when the cabbie left us off. Judy gave her 5.

Puddles were accumulating in the streets. Miserable weather. But hey we were going to see a play. Judy was freaking out about where to eat lunch. Judy, I said, this is the theatre district, there are loads of places to eat. We went into an Italian restaurant and sat down next to a friend of Judy's. She's the kind of woman who knows many people.

I ordered Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce. Phee-nominally delicious! What exactly is pesto sauce, Sarah? It was green. I ate every drop. Ah, the green is crushed basil. I actually have fresh basil in my fridge right now. Guess what I'll make for dinner?

I have an acute sense of knowing whether or not we'll be late. I assured Judy we would be on time for the performance.

We had good seats except for the giraffe in front of me. I just kept moving my head so I could see the stage.

The audience loved it. So did I. Hilarious laughter. Carrie spoke very softly but you could hear her. She was taking us into her confidence. Her voice was surprisingly nasal. Is that the right word, Dorothy Sarnoff? Look how ridiculous things come to me when I write.

She wore a lovely black silk pyjama suit covered with a long flowing caftan and walked barefoot across the stage. She sipped on soda or pretend wine during the show while a wonderful backdrop had funny news clippings such as from the NY Times, Carrie Fisher's husband leaves her for a man. They had a daughter together, Billie Catherine.

Lots of audience involvement. The lights would flicker on as she'd ask the audience questions. One question was Who here has been in a mental hospital? Judy tapped me and said, Raise your hand Ruth?

No way.

When the show was over we went out to the stage door where Carrie would emerge, said the sound man, after she'd greeted her guests.

About 8 of us stood behind a yellow metal gate waiting for the star to emerge. She let people take photos of her with their phones. My phone has that feature but I'm just mastering how to make phone calls.

Judy thrust her copy of Wishful Drinking in front of Carrie who autographed it with a black magic marker. As Judy proudly told me, I know how to get people's autograph. She has a photograph of Bruce Springsteen and herself in her wallet.

I think the only photograph I'd like is if God or Jesus would come into my home and then I'd politely ask if I could take their photo with my Kodak.

Altho I'm not into autographs - other than God's or possibly Yours on the bottom of a check - I did put my Playbill in front of her.

Loved your show, Carrie. I have bipolar disorder, I said.

I'd asked my support group what I should say to Carrie if I met her. Ask her for a donation, they said.

Carrie asked me why I didn't raise my hand during the performance.

What could I say? I mumbled something like I didn't fucking feel like it. Without the F word of course.

She's a short woman, I was surprised. Ordinary looking. A little on the plump side which she mentioned in the show.

Her handlers held umbrellas over her head. Then they escorted her into a black car with a distinctive logo on the back.

What kind of car is that, I asked Judy.

A Mercedes, she said.

Ah! Like our Peggela.

We couldn't get a cab back to Penn Station so we walked 30-some blocks to the station down Seventh Avenue. It was glorious, the lights of the city in the pitch-black dark night. Ads sparkled on both sides of us. Look at this, I said to Judy, showing her an M and M ad. She pointed out the FAO Schwartz toystore with the huge ferris wheel inside.

Pedestrian traffic was about 15 deep at the streetcorners but we forged thru. Judy is a great walker. Snowflakes were descending quickly, thick white flakes that melted into huge puddles. It was glorious.

When I got home, Scott had come over and turned up the heat. I could not wait to be warm. My teeth were chattering.

New Directions visits Tom Murt

Three of us drove over to US Representative Tom Murt's office in nearby Hatboro to pay our respects at his Annual Open House. I sat in the heated backseat of Fontaine's Lexus. Ellen sat in the front with her beautiful black curls shining under the lamplights in the night.

Each of us is on a different path. Ellen, recently diagnosed w/bipolar disorder, is learning to be a grownup having never separated from her family. I also came from an enmeshed all-controlling family but began to realize this over time. To be fair, culture plays a huge role in family closeness.

I quickly helped myself to a small bottle of water at Tom's office and then after gulping it down got another bottle. Tom's trademark snack is soft pretzels which he brings in to the pollworkers on election day. He told us he's not eating the pretzels since he and his wife are on a Nutrisystem diet and receive apparently pre-packaged food. YUK! Stop offering your editorial opinions, Ruthie. Sorry, cain't.

Fontaine who's worked for the same firm approx 30 years was recently laid off. But they began rehiring and she went back to work - as a temp! That way they don't have to pay her benefits. She loves begin back at work.

We introduced ourselves to Tom and his staff. The office was crowded with well-wishers. The staff remember everyone's names. Tom asked Ellen an amazing question which I told her later was b/c Tom can't grasp what bipolar people are like... that the vast majority of us come across as normal... "Are you on many meds?" he asked her. She was a bit flabbergasted so I said "She's on the usual amount, we're all on meds. Ellen is doing very well as you can see."

Tom learned she'd been a schoolteacher and found out what parish she belonged to. He's a great conversationalist. For everything you say, he'll reply in kind. "I'm a teacher too - at Penn State."

It was a back n forth gathering of information session. I had a couple things I wanted to bring up. His office had prepared a grant for us and I wondered if we'd get the money for our Compass mag. Forget it, said Tom. The state doesn't have enuf funds. I commended him for getting money for my library - Upper Moreland - plus the new Boileau Park. Before we visited him, I visited his website to see what his interests are.

He's definitely interested in us and presided over our last Suicide Awareness Seminar. I told him money for mental health is getting slimmer. I'd just gotten a rejection from the Douty Foundation which funded us previously saying their priorities have changed and they no longer support mental health issues.

My daughter is gonna write a couple more grants after she finishes reworking her latest novel. She writes em and I polish em off. She just sent Scott a fantastic cheese basket from Murray's Cheese Shop. When the mailman delivered it he thought they'd sent it to the wrong address. He never gets gifts in the mail. It's quite a thrill. We're gonna munch on the cheese and Carr crackers later on today when we watch my Upper Moreland library videos including Tess by Roman Polanski.

I told Tom members of New Directions, including Fontaine, whose bipolar daughter is doing very well in college, volunteered for Moms For Marines at the Upper Moreland Intermediate School. He was familiar with this.

It made me wanna volunteer to be a pen pal with a soldier, I said. Do you know anyone I can have a letter correspondence with?

He produced a sheet of paper with the name of a captain serving in Iraq. I shall write him forthwith.

Afterwards we trooped down the street in the freezing cold night and went into Ming's restaurant for a delicious dinner. Two guitar-playing singers were serenading the many pedestrians who had come out on Hatboro's First Friday nite.

When we got back into the car Fontaine said, "You want me to heat up your seat, baby?" I sure do, I said. I sure do. She had some Xmas toys in the backseat for her godsons. I told her she's got to take them to see the Valenza house on Terwood Road which is better than ever this year.

Well, then, let's drive over, she said. I ain't gotta be anywhere tonite.

The house is stunning. Valenza is a Republican commissioner and owner of the local Paratransit company. In the past, he never returned my phone calls and said he never received them. Who knows?

People get outa their cars and walk around the huge corner lot. Makes you wanna have little kids to share the glory with. Maybe Fontaine'll let me ride with her godssons. Ya think?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Willa Cather's One of Ours

This 400-page book was the book choice of my book club at my library. Raise your hands high if you've ever read Cather. Or even heard of her. I told my library group I had a great education as a kid and we'd read My Antonia of hers. Cather was an interesting woman (1873-1947)who toyed around with her name, at one point calling herself Dr William Cather and dressing in masculine attire for 4 years. Wasn't it George Eliot who did the same thing?

I thanked the librarian Margie for choosing the book, saying I never would have read it. It's quite relevant today with our young men signing up for the military. In One of Ours, the hero Claude, is a lost soul as scion of a Nebraska farm family. He just can't fit in with anyone, finds no grand souls to commune with. It's not until he joins the army to fight in France during WWI that he finds the noble minds and personages he's been longing for his whole life.

I spent most of yesterday reading the book. Was only halfway thru in the morning. I don't speed read. I love reading every single word and having Cather's images run thru my mind. I read downstairs in bed, upstairs on the couch, standing up in the kitchen waiting for my bread to toast, and for 20 minutes while pedaling furiously on my stationary bike.

Is it fair to the book? I asked earnestly in the book club? How dyou other ladies read a book.

Kullie said she was gloriously retired and had all day to read. Jeanne said she reads in bed in the morning. The 2 librarians said they read at lunch or dinner hour.
My own father read on the toilet every morning. He had massive hemorrhoids.

I had 14 pages left when I got to the group. Shortly thereafter I learned to my dismay how the book ended. We discussed why the hero needed to ....... I won't spoil the book for you in case you wanna read it.

I wondered to the group what the ultra-competitive Hemingway would've thought about Cather's war writings. She was not afraid of blood and guts and gore. This was trench warfare, a brutal way to fight. As a kid she liked to dissect animals and insects so it's not surprising she didn't flinch at writing details of war. Her knowledge of the camaraderie between the soldiers was right-on.

Willa! Willa! I'm glad I met you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Directions in action

We had a great meeting last nite. I mailed out a donation to Abington Presbyterian Church since they don't charge us for the room. I also gave Nelson the custodian a homemade pumpernickel cuz he is super-helpful, esp when he cranked up the heat last nite. Their digital heater didn't work. They spent over a $1 million on their recent renovations.

I asked the group to pull their chairs into a smaller cozier circle for the first part of the meeting. We had a record number of family members - around 15. Murray does a superb job leading the Fam Member Group. I call all the leaders the next day to find out what went on. One of his newcomers came over to me after the meeting, shook my hand, and said 'I can't tell you how helpful this meeting was.'

I really enjoy them. I always take notes cuz the next day I spend the morning doing follow-up phone calls. I called Mimi (all names are fake) and told her that Eli, our pharmaceutical dude, said the most powerful antidepressants in his opinion are the new Pristiq (an SNRI), which is a variant on Effexor, and Cymbalta.

I wanted to get this important news out esp. to a California friend of mine whose lust for life is low.

Looking now at my notes, wrin on a free pad from my printer, reading Memo from School District of Hatboro-Horsham, I see I jotted down Dylan's name. Sent him a thank-you note for coming out to see us all the way from Lancaster! Murray said he should ride up with Barb who lives there as well. I'll have to send out another email about that. Lemme jot that down right now. Where's my frickin pen?

At the start of the meeting an undiagnosed unmedicated woman arrived from the depths of Philadelphia. She'd been there the previous meeting where she was clearly hearing voices and laffing to herself. She was very intense looking as it's difficult to contend with voices in your head.

I took her aside and told her she needed to see a doctor. Did anyone ever tell you that? I asked. She said no. I said, Come and sit with us and we'll help you and make sure you see a good doctor.

She looked mortified after I said this. I patted her on the shoulder and said it's important I told you this. Other people didn't dare say it. Please come in and sit with us and we'll take care of you.

After half an hour, after I'd started the group, I realized she'd left.

I asked Eli to lead our small group. He's a treasure-trove of information and kindness. We had some supremely depressed individuals. I try to hook up 'buddies' for people and succeeded in getting Stan two male buddies who will look in on him. I am ecstatic! I gave Stan a loaf of pumpernickel bread.

Ada had an enormous group that lasted until 10:30. Likewise, many connections were made in her group. Henry volunteered to help Miriam with paperwork to save her house from the banker vultures. Thank you Henry!

I have many spies who tell me what's going on in the group. I MUST KNOW! As Helen, our Mall Queen, said: Ruth knows everything. I LOVE WHAT I DO. Clearly I'll have to make a killing in the stock market or I'll never reach my goal of being a millionaire. It would be great not to worry about making money, just love.

And of course there's Charlie. A brilliant young man who once suffered only from suicidal depression, he began hearing disturbing voices in recent months. Lawdy, lawdy. Charlie has a terrible psychiatrist. Nice man, of course, but doesn't know how to medicate the voices away. Lights - camera - action! C'mon. It can be done.

Well sir, Charlie didn't attend the last meeting but his wife did. I called over to her over the heads of the large group. "Eva, how's Charlie?"

Well sir, Charlie took an accidental overdose of a hypertensive b/c he was having extreme anxiety with his voices which dictate he do truly outrageous things. He thot the hypertensive would help. Uh-oh. His pulse was so low they had to rush him to the ER where he was put in the ICU.

They took him to UPenn. And then, and then, they took a look at his psychiatric symptoms. Let the trumpet sound. At last! At last! This is what New Directions members have been begging Charlie to do all along.... see a good psychiatrist as well as get tested for any physical ailments that have you doing these outrageous ritualistic activities that are driving your family nuts.

Eli suggested that he see a certain psychiatrist while he's in the hospital. Ah, I said writing it on my pad. She's good. She's very very good. Internationally renowned.

I brought the name into the family member group and proudly handed it to Eva on my School District of Hatboro-Horsham piece of paper with the following name writ large: Raquel Gur, MD. And I pronounced it the correct way. Rhymes with Moor. I saw her speak at the Glenside NAMI meeting.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Operator, please!

These are the words I say when I call my Credit Card Company, whom I LOVE, when they ask for prompts.

Operator, please! Operator, please!

What? I'm gonna waste my time punching in my credit card number - 2356 6309 1936 2209 - into the phone?

At my advanced age I'm very careful how I spend my time.

Oh, listen to this. I possibly found a place to hold our Coffeeshop Gigs since Le Coffee Salon in Hatboro closed down. Was driving to my bank in Horsham - don't forget my password is Daylily - and passed Gerard's Cafe. Stopped in and met the maestro himself. Good-looking man with an accent and a white apron. Raised in Switzerland. Has an Italian and a French parent. Studied under masters.

He was so busy, he said, he didn't have time to talk to me. I asked if I could come back into the kitchen and talk there but he said No, I might be a spy from another restaurant.

I told him I understood - what a shock it was - what could a spy possibly learn from him?

His cafe was very small. I said we need to seat 40 people. He said he could possibly bring in some chairs but then he excused himself, dusting off his hands on the apron. The aroma from the kitchen was exquisite. Even when I went back into my car I could smell the butter and the flaky pastries made by Gerard.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Letter to Edward Espe Brown

on New Directions stationery

November 30, 2009

Edward Espe Brown
Peaceful Sea Zendo
Fairfax CA 94930

Dear Mr. Brown –

How I’ve longed to write to tell you how much I’ve loved the Tassajara Bread Book since receiving it as a gift. As a Jewish girl in an unhappy marriage in Austin, TX, some 30 years ago, your book gave me immense solace for a then unhappy life. Baking bread became the love of my life. I’d cut thick slices and serve it to my neighbors with loads of butter. Who would know that many years later I would teach The Ancient Art of Breadmaking at our local library and other venues?

I remember making chopped chicken livers back then in Married Student Housing at the University of Texas and serving them on your rye crackers complete with caraway seed. I cut the shapes with the removable top of the blender which resides now in my happy home here in suburban Philadelphia.

I like to think, Mr. Brown, I treat food with the same love and respect you do. I can’t bear to throw anything away – yes, I have a compost heap - so for example for breakfast this morning I have boiled a cinnamon stick and a spent lemon in some water and am drinking it as tea, adding a teabag of chamomile.

Although it is a rainy day here in Willow Grove, PA, my kitchen is always cheerful. I have some organic low-sodium chicken broth on my green table reminding me to make fish chowder today with loads of veggies from across this huge land we call America in addition to soaking succulent chick peas – how we love our delicious healthy foods, Mr. Brown! – and later I shall add some fresh tilapia bought at our organically-conscious supermarket.

Over Thanksgiving, my 35-year-old daughter Sarah introduced me to a Yellow Lemon Squeezer which has now found a permanent home in my kitchen.

You have long been there, as well, Mr. Brown, sitting on my recipe shelf next to the only cookbooks I own: the first edition of Joy of Cooking, Tassajara Bread Book (copyright 1970) and Tassajara Cooking (1973).

Wishing you many more days of happy love and cooking, I am

Very sincerely yours,

Ruth Z Deming

Bring out the Tassajara Bread Book!

Written in 1970 by zen priest Edward Espe Brown, my well-used copy of the Tassajara Bread Book is filled with my annotations and I blush to say my renaming of some of his recipes such as Honey Cheesecake Bars for his Cheesecake Cookies. But, I say to myself, what would a gentile truly know about Cheesecake even if Buddah loves him.

So. Wanting something different to serve with our delicious onion omelet for breakfast yesterday (and remember! I buy the most delicious fresh eggs that are laid just for me by local cage-free grain-eating hens) I leafed thru the book and found Flakey Biscuits. Sorry, Ed, but I've gotta rename them. Flaky they were not. Delicious and filling they certainly were.

When I was married and lived in TX biscuits were a staple in the diet. My mom/law used Pioneer Biscuit Mix and made the most scrumptious chicken and dumplings using the biscuit mix. I of course have always made things from scratch. So when it came time to make the Nonflakey biscuits my fingers remembered the procedure tho I hadn't done it for - what? - 35 years.

I was so prouda myself and got flour on my back from patting myself there.

Actually I was wearing my green Starbucks apron.

I've always wanted to write Ed a thank-you note and shall do so today on my New Directions stationery. Shall I enclose a brochure? Or my Steps to Recovery from Bipolar Disorder? Meditation is high on the list for many people with mood disorders. How come I can't get into meditating?

When I was biking yesterday I wondered if that activity constituted meditating, as I've often thought swimming does.

Scott and I biked on trails close to home on Pennypack Trails. At one point, I went faster than I've ever gone. You've gotta keep your eyes open for danger. We were on our way home, on a hilly street where a squirrel could dash into the street as could a car. We always wear helmets when we're out on the street.

Scott, the weightlifter, always feels it in his legs afterward. We can't figger out why my legs feel nothing. During our trek however the hills were so steep we had to push our bikes uphill. My heart was pounding outa my chest. "You all right?" Scott would call.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Road report on Black Friday

Just got home from driving Sarah and Ethan to the Jenkintown train station so they can catch a train back to NY. I drove mostly the backroads (won't do you no good, thanks Bruce)as I always do, esp. today to avoid the madness of Holiday Shopping. The Times is just waiting to tell us Retail Biz is up .09% this year.

So, we're passing La Pergola restaurant in J'town. Sarah is on the cellphone with my mother, saying g'bye, and I say Look how windy it is, when suddenly a lamppost falls boom to the ground. A woman driver in a long car had backed smack into it.

No sweat getting to the station. We left in plenty of time. I did not tell my dtr and Ethan that I couldn't remember how to get to the train station. I figgered it would come to me, which it did.

Earlier I asked Ethan if he wished to drive my car. It's fun for him since they don't need cars in NY. I also photographed him sitting in my car. Forgot to show them my new license plate holder. I don't like advertising other people's products so I got rid of the dealership's license plate holder and replaced it with a plain chrome one that I painted with red dots. It looks great!

My dtr/law Nicole loaded some awesome T'giving photos on Facebook. Are you the family photographer, Nicole? She also put on some videos of us all singing.

We are a family that loves having fun. We love food, music, sex, and the joy of being together.

Ethan thoughtfully brought copies of Beatles' lyrics for a singalong after dinner. He accompanied us on the piano as we sang loudly and w/great gusto tunes such as Hey Jude, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Eleanor Rigby. I marveled that the Beatles were only in the their 20s or 30s when they wrote the deep Eleanor Rigby about lonely people. What cosmic minds they had to consider all segments of society. Their songs contain numerous characters such as Dear Prudence.

Sarah noticed I replaced my Gettysburg photo montage with one from Barcelona. Hanging on the living room wall is a huge bag from La Pedrera, the apt house Gaudi designed, with a map of Barcelona tucked inside, and then ticket stubs from museums and the Metro taped to the bag, along with the see-thru blue plastic spoon from which I ate Italian gelato. The gelato, it should be noted, tasted richer and more flavorful than our ice cream.

Traffic was heavy. I so enjoy driving my new car. While I was in Europe for 14 days, I gave Scott a couple assignments since he was on strike for 4 days. One was to wash my car which was inexplicably full of mud. He not only washed it, but waxed it, and showed me how, after a rain, the raindrops form beautiful beads on the car.

Keep it short, Ruthie, keep it short.

Will do.

Life is meaningless if I'm not working on a major project. MY major project may be different than yours. The thing I'd like to do more than anything else is write a good poem. It's been awhile. I sure loved swimming in the salt water pool aboard our cruise ship. How could I work that into a poem?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Birds sing on Thanksgiving Morn

When I awoke at six this morning I heard birds singing in my backyard. How I miss the little creatures as they began their trek to warmer climes with many of us to follow later this year. Why is it that the sounds of birds invariably lift our hearts?

Walter came to visit yesterday. The one thing this 90-year-old sage hasn't mastered is using the computer. 'Perhaps I will,' he told me, 'if I'm still alive.' He'll spend Thanksgiving with his girlfriend Amy and her three-month-old baby Jaiden who spent a harrowing two months at Children's Hospital. I'd met Amy and baby previously, before the hospitalization, when all was well. She nursed the baby at the kitchen table and actually asked if it offended me.

I told her I'd nursed both my kids. Amy started her own business but had to give it up to take care of Jaiden full-time because of his medical problems. The prognosis is excellent and she couldn't be a better mother. She's a devout Catholic. Walter said his own father, back in the 1920s, disabused Walter of the notion of a deity by introducing young Walt, who grew up in the seaside town of Bristol, PA, to the writings of one Mr Ingersoll.

Did I tell you I felt a vast sense of relief when I too decided my relations with the Deity were nil, my prayers felt false, and I feel liberated at having declared yet again my deep pride in being Jewish and being a godless woman.

My gods are You, the people - my backyard maple (of course it's not mine) - and the water I gratefully drink each day.

My sister Ellen and I went apt. hunting for her yesterday. She needs a big place where she can store the stuff she sells on EBay. I suggested she move into my old apartments Village Green and found the following video. Click here.

When I was making my dinner salad last nite I remembered to cut up the lettuce into tiny pieces. I watched my hands nimbly tearing the Bibb lettuce and thought What a marvel are these hands. You simply command them to do something and presto, it gets done!

It can never be said I don't appreciate life. And this new window in my living room! A room air-conditioner was stuck in there until I had the idea of making a window out of it. I see rhododendrons with their sticky buds preparing to bloom next May when I come down the stairs.

Last nite I read a very moving piece in the Times by a veteran from the Afghanistan war. Here's the short piece plus my comment (the 5th one down) below it. Life is too thrilling not to get involved when we feel so moved.

Listen to your heart. Life is short, gone in a wink. Do it now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If you wanna be sad, read the newspapers

Each day I check the NY Times to see what's happenin in the Big Bad World. Ach! Don't ask. My primary concern is the Healthcare Package. A lead photo showed a female senator ascending the stairs and I said to myself, Senators: What pompous assholes. This, as distinct, from the pompompitous of love as espoused by Steve Miller.

What I'm trying to say, Dear Reader, is I'd rather be Anywhere but Afghanistan. Which is why, when I went to the Willow Grove Post Office, I picked up a flyer announcing Moms Stuffing Stockings for the Marines in Afghanistan. I thought this would be a great thing for our group to get involved with.

A small group of us went forward to the Upper Moreland Intermediate School. I got to ride in Fontaine's borrowed Lexus where at the touch of a finger you can control every aspect of driving comfort including starting the car with a push of the button. My jaw dropped open and she and her daughter laffed.

Arnie was following us in his beautiful newly painted van.

The moment I got there an attractive blond woman came up to me.

Are you Ruth Deming? she asked.

I was in a state of confusion cuz there were no signs telling us where to go in the huge gymnasium.

I am, I said.

Dyou know who I am? she asked.

I looked at her and her beautiful blond hair.

Denise so-and-so, I said. You called me twice and never left me your phone number.

Anyway, Denise is a former member of ND and wanted to reconnect about 6 months ago. How frustrating not to have her phone number.

I called her this a.m. and invited her to be our first Spotlight speaker in December. She's been off all meds for about 8 years - hallelujah! - and thanks the Lord for this great feat.

Whatever works!

Here's some of the gifts we're sending the Marines in Afghanistan at a cost of $20,000 to ship. Each volunteer took a stocking and went to various stations where young voluntters, such as Cub Scouts, or children of Marines, threw a gift in our stocking. When finished, we put our stocking in a huge plastic tie-able bag where more gifts were thrown in.

Everything was tiny:

Whitman Sampler

Lunch was furnished afterward, some tasteless hoagies which I doctored with hot peppers and mustard. Ada sat next to me on the bench. Denise came over to her and thought Ada was a Family Members. No, said Ada, I run the Depression Group.

But you keep smiling, said Denise.

That's because I'm feeling fine, smiled Ada, who looked even more beautiful than usual.

Just then her husband Rich walked into the room. We stood up and waved so he'd find us in the crowded room. They were gonna stop in to see Ada's mom, who turned 100 last month.

Fontaine dropped me off at home and I went to Scott's house. He was in the basement lifting weights. He wears a belt when he does it. I watched him do it once but never again. He said he procrastinates sometimes for 45 mins cuz it's so demanding.

It's beautiful out, I said. How bout a bike ride? Jack goes to a certain Pennypack Trail in Philadelphia.

Sure, he said. Just lemme finish lifting.

We went for the most arduous and wonderful bike ride ever, up these excrucatingly difficult hills where we'd walk our bikes, and then zoom quickly down very steep hills. I love going really fast but you must be really careful cuz you share trail space with

whole families
moms pushing babies in strollers
people walking dogs
other zooming bikers
piles of manure
mud and leaves

Fortunately I only fell once cuz Scott passed me on the right and didn't say, Coming thru! As soon as I fell, I called I'm fine, cuz there was a walking couple behind me and I didn't want them to worry. To my left was a steep cliff where I could've tumbled down to the Pennypack Creek. It was actually no big deal.

I did nap when I came home and then made a fab dinner of salmon, asparagus, brown rice, cranberry sauce sweetened with maple syrup. Scott's dad gave us a bunch of movies so we watched This Gun for Hire, a film noir which made Alan Ladd a star.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Day in the City

They get up in the morning and go to work. I used to be one of them. Yesterday morning I pretended I was one of them again and made the 7:59 train to downtown Philly for my allday kidney appointment at Jefferson U. My son Dan met me on the train. Sarah was to meet us at Jefferson.

Look who I see, Dan said, while we were walking down some dirty street in Philadelphia. There, in her new gray suede boots she bought in Italy, was Sarah! She didn't see us and was walking really fast.

Let's surprise her, I said to Dan. Follow me.

I began running, with my backpack on, and my Kidney Packet under my arm. I passed a well-dressed woman and said, Pardon me, I'm playing a trick on someone.

Dan and I jogged across the street.

In our wonderful American healthcare system, it takes 4-6 weeks for one of my doctors to fax out crucial information. So I dunno if I'm a candidate for a kidney transplant cuz this vital info is still sitting in the doc's office in Abington PA. Four to six weeks!

Because the kidney recipient must be on immuno-suppressants their entire life, diseases find us. Cough cough cough. Ah-choo! Oooh, look at this weird thing on my skin. Is this the skin cancer Dr Maria was talking about? I didn't catch her last name since her badge was turned around. She was from Madrid.

Seems like doctors still do not believe in prevention. I DO, however, and have ordered from Amazon The 12-Step Program to Prevent Dialysis. I've scheduled another appt w/Mary Ann Moylan at the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket. I still can't get the hang of the kidney diet where we watch our intake of


but are still allowed to

do great home interventions for people in denial
use artwork to reach some of our opaque clients
moderate the coffeeshop writers group
listen to coldplay on youtube (the scientist and when i ruled the world - did he have bipolar?)

hey, we have a nice group of folks gonna help stuff stockings for the Marines in Afghanistan tomro at a local school. Grabbed a poster from the PO.

Must I hop on my stationary bike now?

Yes, you must, Ruthie. Dyou wanna keep your kidneys?

Oh, all right. I'll put a few more pages into the library book I stole off the cruise ship, Ruth Rendell's The Rottweiler, a fine story about a serial killer. We actually feel sorry for him. Exercising is so frigging boring I read while I pedal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reality versus The Dream

Ah, yes, I did indeed just return from my first trip overseas, not counting the Carib and Alaska and Mexico, memories all tightly packed into my cerebellum or wherever memories go.

While putting in my contax this morning in my downstairs bathroom, I flashed to the cruiseship's bathroom. Darn. I forgot to take a picture of the tiny but ever-so-compact room. Imperative not to drop one's contax down the drain. That was no. one on the WorryList.

Best part of the trip was the food ashore. We went to plein air markets in Barcelona, Antibes, and Florence. Will I ever forget the way the strawberries tasted? They were not all bloated and spongy like American mass-produced berries. And the dates! They're sold on a sprig as they come off the tree. Never knew dat, did you?

I can't get over how beautiful my house looks. You see things afresh when you come home from vaca. I love my house. I still have Carl Yeager's photograph on the wall and a collage by Claudia McGill. I so love my artist friends. To greet me when coming home from Europe I picked some blue hydrangea and pink hydrangea from the backyard and they look so nice in the windowsill.

Leaning against the front door is a big brown packet labeled Kidney T'plant for my appt this Thursday. Both kids will accompany me but I'd prefer a cadaver transplant. Our Irish buddy Coleman Smith, from Cavan County, works in the ins. business and says they don't insure motorcyclists or scooter drivers cuz of the high fatality rate. Terrible to think that in the future one of these people might furnish me with their kidney.

My friend Denis also lost his kidney function due to lithium and he and his wife are wonderful guides as to what I might expect.

Life, for me, will become Before and After the transplant. I try to keep in as good shape as possible and will mount my stationary bike for 15 minutes later on. I did this aboard the ship while reading a Ruth Rendell mystery I got from the prison library. Oops, ship library.

After our bike ride at Lorimer Park yesterday, Scott and I were starving. BTW, he was very pleased with the SEPTA contract. The union negotiator worked very hard to ensure the workers received a 3 percent pay increase this year, no increase in amount paid for health benefits, and a continued secure pension plus audit of pension plan. The contract is for five whole years, guaranteeing peace of mind for all concerned.

So, I know you're all wondering what I made for dinner. Quite frankly, my dinner was better than anything on the cruise ship where the food was only mediocre.


Baked chicken - basted with olive oil and sprinkled with sodium-free Mrs Dash spice

First-time ever Broccoli Slaw - it comes in its own package, trim strips of broccoli stems and carrots. I added Craisins, chopped onion, and olive oil mayo mixed w/cider vinegar

Brown rice

For dessert I drank a glass of cranberry-raspberry juice.

"I'm out of control," I said to Scott. "I can't stop drinking the stuff."

Yes, I'm a juice-a-holic. So I poured it down the drain. Sadly.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Is it true I went to Europe or was it all a dream?

interestingly enuf, i have all these souvenirs all over my house seemingly from my first trip to europe. here's what i've got - and some of them are gifts:

- small green see-thru plastic spoon from Italian gelato shop (make mine creme caramel)

- 25 postcards including one of "The David" which I saw at a museum in Florence

- a picture book about Pompeii - was I really there or did it appear in a dream?

- cute laura ashley-type plastic bag with more postcards

- a book on gaudi's la pedrera, his whimsical fantastical apartment house in barcelona

- two packets of bigelow's camomile tea bags in yellow wrappers to remind me to begin drinking herbal tea in the morning like i did aboard the ship

- business card from limo service that took me to and from jfk airport inscribed w/email address of the driver who had bipolar disorder but then changed his hectic lifestyle, went off all meds, and is doing fine. i gave him the most recent compass and my life story and keys to recovery. he was blown away by meeting me but i'm used to these amazing coincidences. a woman from pakistan was the other rider. she's studying for her medical exams here in the states cuz she wants to emigrate. a year ago in lahore the insurgents became the talk of the town and everybody's afraid now. can you imagine if there was gunfire and high death tolls at the edge of my county? oh, i forgot there is. north philadelphia.

when i woke up at 10 a.m. this morning, i felt the ship rocking beneath me. when i closed my eyes last nite to go to sleep a stream of images from my trip flashed by my eyelids like a fellini movie. i was so tired i could barely speak to scott. speaking in fact seemed useless. how could i explain my trip to him? or anyone other than sarah, my constant companion?

'you went to pompeii?' he said, sitting up in bed. 'i didn't know that.'

'yes,' i said, scrambling outa bed to show him the picture book of pompeii. 'it was the highlite of my trip.'

'how about michaelangelo's david? did you see that too?'

'yes, i said, 'that was the highlight of my trip. it was pure white. huge.' exhausted, i went to fetch a postcard.

'what else did you see?'

'well, it was a tour of some ports on the caribbean.'

'you mean mediterranean.'

'yes, mediterranean. i'm very tired. we went to florence and i saw the most beautiful countryside i've ever seen. it's unexplainable. i'll have to show you photos. the countryside was the highlight of the trip.'

sarah put some of my photos on flickr. she goes by the name 'saperday' which is what i called her when she was young find them here.

people said to me today, i'll bet you're so tired you slept all day. to them i said, not really, scott and i just got home from an hour-long bike ride at lorimer park, the best bike ride of the year. you know why? there were whole stretches with no people and we zoomed real fast on our bikes, hair streaming (well, he hasn't any and i'm not quite all bald yet) but it felt fantastic. when it was over i said to him, we shoulda worn our helmets.

forgot to mention the real highlight of the trip: being with saperday, my beautiful daughter. when we went to sleep in our cabin i sat on her bed and kissed her softly goodnight. that was a thrill.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Travel: Ultimate cure for solipsism

Copernicus, are you there? So understandable that you thought the sun revolved around the earth. I, Little Ruthie Deming, thought the world revolved around Les Etats Unis - the USA. While walking the streets of Barcelona among highly civilized people and their children and their dogs noticed there are worlds other than mine. I think that is the great lesson of travel.

If all life is a lesson, what, Dear Reader, have you learned of late? I do encourage these litle dialogues between the two of us, asuming, that is, that I am real and not a compilation of ... well I AM a compilation of many things and many themes, all wrapped up in this material being who at 7 am Barcelona time is sitting in the lobby of the Balmes Hotel.

How many times must a traveler humble herself before the holders of the predominant culture to ask for help? As many times as she dares. My traveling companion dislikes asking for help. Yes, it is fine to be independent but I do not have the rest of the morning to ask, for example, how to turn on the computer particularly when the instrux are in a foreign language.

So, you see, English is not the center of the universe. I remarked to Pepe, hotel mgr last nite, Whatever must you Spaniards think of Americans with our latest shoot-em up, this time in Fort Hood, TX? Dyou think There go those gun-crazy Americans killing out of anger and hatred again.

Pepe is a diplomat. He does not judge us. He walked us to the street corner and pointed the way to the interestingly named Muffins restaurant where we had another great meal last nite. More tapas.... including codfish croquettes and mushroom croquettes. Sarah´s main course was pigs feet while mine was codfish swaddled in crepes.

Diners poured in beginning at 10 pm. Ah, they love going out for an evening in their black clothes and meeting their friends for huge multi-course meals.

Did I tell you most people are slender here? Not many fatties like at home where people are obsessed with their weight. American culture has so many obsessions, I´m not talking about our obsession with famous people and movie stars, but with health concerns - always these new diets, plus new medications for what ails you instead of taking care of the underlying problem.

Do you know the work of the artist Joan Miro? We went to his museum on a tall hill at twilight yesterday. I shall keep my ticket as a souvenir. He´s a favorite artist of both Sarah and me. She reports I took her to a show of his at the Gugg in NY when we were growing up. How good of me! I certainly have no memory of this.

His paintings and sculpture are positioned in huge rooms with high ceilings so you can fully appreciate the scope of his often childlike work and brilliant use of color. These artists we have seen - Picasso, Gaudi - were highly political in a time of great social change. Here in Spain with its ancient civilization its layer upon layer of conquerors and victors, it is easier to see America in the throes of such social change under Obama, our administration´s handling of world events, of wars on foreign shores now and in the past, always waging wars, and now our health-care reform which has opponents marching on Washington. Who are such people who wish to deny universal healthcare to everyone? Krugman writes that the healthiest people in society are those over 65 who are on universal healthcare - Medicare.

I see now in my mind´s eye the beautiful park we traversed last nite outside Miro´s museum. Sculptures pierced the graying cloudless skies as we saw a magnificent view of the city - a panoramic aerial view - beyond an iron grating. These are the vistas, I said to Sarah, making a play on words of one of Ethan´s albums. When I say Ethan I mean The Bad Plus of course.

Breakfast is served later on the weekends. The Catalonians are not a hurried people but pace themselves, enjoying life. It would be a good city to live in. Until this trip I never really understood how Americans could live aboard. How long would it take for me to learn Spanish?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This is the meaning of Ancient

I mean, like, everything here in Barcelona has a history. You walk and the sidewalk has been trod on for a thousand years. The walls of some buildings are five hundred or more years old. I can´t get over it. Sarah and I walked around the Picasso Museum which is housed in a 13th century palace. We ran our hands along the cold stone walls.

I´ve never been around such an old bldg, I said to Sarah.

That´s cuz you´ve never been to Europe, she said.

I mean, I really could not get over it.

The museum cost 18E for the two of us. Hurry, said the guard, it closes at 8 o´clock. We had plenty of time, actually, nearly 2 hours, which is about all my feet could take. We Metro´d over and walked thru an incredibly long indoor tunnel to switch trains. Per my travel guru Rick Steves I carried a money belt, aka fanny pack, in which I keep my euros, my camera, and my hanky. I do not wanna get my money stolen.

The Picasso museum is billed by our travel guide as the most comprehensive collection of his work tho not the best collection. It shows his earliest works including the famous The First Communion (I´d never heard of it either) which he painted at age 16. Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973) was a child prodigy. Strongly encouraged as a child, his paintings went thru many phases, all shown at this museum, including his blue period and his rose period. His ceramics are also on display - fabulously colored pitchers and platters.

My sister Donna, a gifted potter, should come here to be inspired, I said to Sarah. Yeah, she said, Donna is really talented.

Picasso, like all artists, had his own favorites including fellow Spaniard Velasquez. The museum showed a couple of V´s paintings and Picasso´s own take on them. In one fit of painting, Picasso did 58 variations on a V painting that had a girl in a yellow dress.

Sarah and I were in awe. It is good to travel with someone who loves art as much as I do.

And food. Afterward we ate at another one of those restaurant bars, this one recommended by Reid Anderson, the bassist in Ethan´s band, who lived in Barcelona for a couple years. We waited about 35 minutes for a table, standing up of course leaning against a mirrored wall, until the owner motioned for us to sit at the counter. We watched the food being prepared as the owner ordered several courses for us.

We´ve learned that There is no bad food in Barcelona. Everything is tasty. My favorite was the grilled haik (I had actually bought my first haik recently and put it in my fish chowder) but this haik, well, this haik, was quite something, much more succulent with its olive oil garlic sauce and side of potatoes.

Sarah, I said. I am not kidding. These are the best potatoes I´ve ever eaten in my life.

You better not eat too many Mom, she said. Sarah knows my diet plan - taters are high in potassium which I must limit.

I know, Sarah, I said. I´m planning on having dialysis the day after I come home.

It was my choice whether or not we wanted dessert and basically the owner insisted so we got flan with a very crispy glacine crust that melted in your mouth. My friend Helene is famous for her flan. Wait´ll I tell her about this flan. First of all, the portion was huge. Sarah and I spooned it out together, she quitting first while I scraped up every last delicious bite.

Then our ramble around this hip and fancy part of town and its beautiful shops encased in ancient architecture. Beautiful high glass doors and windows that gave glimpses into specialty shops. Along one rather dark side street - it was now around 9 in the evening - did I tell you Spaniards stay out very very late? We stopped in an art gallery run by Prudenci Sanchez.

The artist sat in the back at his laptop amid a huge spread of catalogs. Sarah loved his jewelry and selected something for herself but he said it was too complicated to run her credit card. I was on the other end of the shop admiring his paintings so I didn´t hear the story. But I did hear them speaking Spanish together.

What a little tiger my daughter is. She doesn´t even know Spanish, yet she dares to speak it! On and on they talked. Barceloneans stand very close to you when they speak. I came over to them and asked Prudenci a question. I was so tongue-tied - it´s really quite difficult when you can´t speak the language - that my question came out in fractured French. ´vos oeuvres´I managed to say.

Ah, he said, noting he speaks French better than English. His works, he said, are sold in NY, San Francisco, and many other galleries. I asked how much my favorite painting of his was - a female nude - and he said 800E. Later I said to Sarah, that´s not bad, but she reminded me the euro is worth about 40 percent more than our dollar.

We took a cab home.

Aren´t you gonna tip him, I asked Sarah when very handsome hansom driver let us off at the hotel?

Sarah explained that the tipping system works differently in Europe. People earn more so they´re not so dependent on tips as Americans are.

Tomorrow is our last day in Barcelona. On Saturday we´ll board the ship. We keep the Do not disturb sign on our hotel door as our clothes are spread out all over the room. What a great and forceful shower we have in the bathroom. Nothing like a refreshing hot shower after you´ve been tramping around from morning till night.

We sat on a bench in the square outside the museum. It was around 9 o´clock. People were swarming around, a few babies in strollers, babies on the shoulders of their dads, not too many babies, but you notice them if you´re a woman, it´s in the genes, and I said something like, Gosh, Sarah, I can´t believe we´re in Barcelona, so far from home. But it doesn´t really feel far from home. It feels like it´s right next door.

We walked some more. Small shops are what you find. Some nothing more than a hole in the wall like the gelati shop we found with the revolving containers of flavor. We ordered a small one with two flavors - toffee and cream with chocolate chunks.

For the first gelati I ever tasted, this girl was swooning. Sarah and I shared it until we came to one of the very infrequent trash containers.

Mom, she said, you better throw it out. Your diet, you know.

Thanks, Sarah, I said spooning out a last rich and tasty cold bite. I was gonna do it in a bit but you´re right I´ll do it now, tossing the red cup filled halfway with gelati into the trash.