Sunday, February 28, 2010

I love these people: Our writing group / 2 poems: The Lucky Seven and Juno

NOTE: There are two comments on the end of this blog. Google Blogspot GOOFED and the comment section reads "0 comments." If you click comments, Iris's comment will show up. Here's her own blog.

I was wolfing down my lunch and printing out eight copies of my poem Juno and only two copies of The Lucky Seven cuz I knew we probly wouldn't have time for me to present both poems.

More than anything in the world, I care about my writing. I went thru a prodigious poetry writing period sev'l yrs ago and am terrified my new poems are not as good. Practically nothing can convince me otherwise.

I stopped entering writing contests. Too demoralizing. We've gotta take c/o our fragile egos. I sure do.

When I walked into the writer's group, Bob Strange presented me with a gift.

Congratulations, the group said, when I walked in.

Thank you, I said, puzzled. What are you congratulating me for?

For finishing your novel.

Oh! Thanks. Yes, I finished the first draft. We actually had a newcomer to the group who's working on her first novel. I said truthfully to the whole group, If I could write a novel, anybody can.

Carolyn, our newcomer, and a librarian, had written a 25-chapter outline. If you can write an outline, you can write a book. I can't write an outline, but I wrote a book. There are no hard and fast rules, except Get the damn thing done any way you can.

Bob gave me the gift in a Barnes and Nobel bag. I felt it first before I opened it. The feel of it reminded me, I told Bob, of my father's pigskin-covered Merriam-Webster dictionary I took w/me wherever I moved - Goddard College in VT, to my married life in TX - until the thing actually fell apart. I used to write unusual words in the front. When my dad was a kid, he read the entire dictionary. We are word people, the Greenwolds, plus my writer daughter, Sarah Lynn and my blogger son, Dan the Man.

The gift was a brown soft-skinned diary inscribed by each member of the writers' group. How incredibly thoughtful. I love these people. On the cover of the diary are these immortal words from Hamlet which end in:

whether 'tis nobler in
the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune
OR to take arms against
a sea of troubles, and
by opposing end them?

Judy was our group leader. Per Bob's suggestion, each session is run by a different leader. Great idea!

The writing quality is high. Chris Walsh surprised us with an absolutely first-rate self-portrait of when he worked at a Texaco gas station. As Bob said, "It's your best writing, Chris."

Here's the amazing thing. Chris had no idea how good it was. Some of us just don't know when we write well. I'm certainly like that. I was really surprised they liked my two poems.

Here's a rundown of our Saturday group:

Chris, who drives a garbage truck, wrote something that if he continues at his current pace can be a tiny masterpiece of life at a gas station. His characters stand out and the dialog is real. All he needs is a few well-developed "conflicts." (I learned that word in my novel-writing course.)

Linda, who I quoted in my most recent newspaper piece as: leading "the pack in number of poems written, sometimes three per day when not working at the Giant Supermarket," read two poems.

Our group agreed that the second one needed some work. We are not afraid of telling people the truth in a nice way. My comment to her was, "Sounds like a teacher assigned you to write all your thoughts about LOVE in five minutes." Paddy Marie tactfully picked up the strand by saying Linda's work reminded her of a particular writing book, which Linda said she owns.

Paddy Marie, a retired schoolteacher, is the most emotional of all nine of us. Her laughter rings out like a golden chandelier shedding its light across the room. She wrote a moving poem about herself and her siblings, a total of five, "ducklings" all in a row, except for one of them who walked off into the water. He died. It was very moving. It reminded me of We are Seven by Wordsworth.

As always, Judy read a terrific vignette about when she was a secretary. She has a great eye for detail.

Not everyone read which gave me the opportunity to read The Lucky Seven which is about our bipolar support group. The poem is basically true. Names are changed of course. I read it matter/factly having lived the life for so long I take our illness for granted. But to people who don't know about it, they couldn't believe what we endure.

Nurse Barb was there and teaches her students at Abington Hospital about the illness. The poem didn't surprise her. I was recently invited to speak to a class of Christian social workers and will read this poem to them.

I thought I might offer it to the Psychiatric Times to see if they'd publish it. It's very instructive, I think, of the importance of support groups. We did discuss in our writers' group my "panties" comment, whether to leave it in or not. The consensus was Keep it in. Of course, it makes me sound pretty nutty, but I guess you could verily say that about me.


I can barely say her name
she is too meaningful for me
the world is written
with her name

I wrote a poem about her
pretending all was well
that I wanted her to cut my hair
instead of crying
- s t o p ! –

the look of her is more than I can bear
head chugging forward when she walks
feet shuffling across the linoleum –
pick them up dammit! –
eighty-seven is no excuse for
pretending to be an old lady
and seeming to like it,
the attention,

that was keen
the other night, mom,
when you fell out of bed,
can’t you be kinder to yourself
pretend you love that part of you
that was battered when you were young
- oh, how they hated you -
push your teeth in, bucky,
stand tall like your brother
how you gave it back to me
your first-born

I can’t stand my sentimentality
that still begs to go back:
sit me in the chair, mother
and say this time
I like your hair long, ruthie,
we’ll let it grow
grow down to your feet like a mermaid’s
so I can sweep you up in my arms, my daughter,
my own perfect little daughter.


We sat in a circle in folding chairs,
the lucky seven,
I was wearing a party dress that showed my curves
forgot to wear my panties, tho, so kept my legs together.

Paul spoke. For the first time I liked him.
Not because he used to be a radio D-J or
his mother was dying in a nursing home
but because he banged his head against the wall
when his daughter hung up on him.

The newcomer was diagnosed two days ago.
He knew nothing about his illness.
He was 22, led the life of a gallant well-
dressed pimp
but now guilt pressed him flat in his chair
- a run-over worm.

I stared at him. Nice contrast of
ebony skin the color of a Chinese lacquer box
and peach-colored palms he clenched
in his lap.

He began his confession,
looking down and talking staccato.
I touched his shoulder. Keep some
secrets for yourself, I said. We don’t need to
know ev-ery-thing.

The dam began to leak and
Harry, who worked for a drug company,
talked about his rampant sexuality when manic,
laughed when he talked about the women he made love to,
the wife taking off with the
house and the kids.

The newcomer nodded.
You mean it happened to you, too?

It happened to all of us, I say.

Harry told about writing fifty pages of
only two months ago during his last mania.
”Hypergraphia,” I said, mouthing the gorgeous syllables of a
new word I’d just learned.
Mine, I threw away after 20 years hidden in the bottom drawer,
useless horseshit.

The newcomer wanted more symptoms.
I handed him a brochure. Everything has a
name, I said. Whatever you did, they’ve already
named it. They’re pretty smart.

Well, if they’re so smart, he said, why can’t they
fix it?

Well, they’re not that smart, I said.

The newcomer was guilt-ridden over his
sexual escapades. Used the word ‘evil’ to
describe himself.
C’mon, I said. Something big comes over us. We
light up. We glow. Arrive with a halo for godsakes.
We’re like lightning bugs in the dark.
We blink.
Think of the evolutionary possibilities if you’re a
man. Populating your side of the island.

Paul, the guy I finally liked, talked about his old
man shooting his brains out.
Oh no, I thought, now we’ve gotta explain
we kill ourselves to the newcomer.

Derek, I said, turning toward him, there’s
something you need to know.

I know it already, he said. I was 9 when I first got
out the rope.

Hallelujah, brother, I said, slapping his hand.
Well, that’s just fine, Derek. You know everything now.
You can relax and start enjoying yourself.

POSTCRIPT: I think Beth Lindsey, my reincarnated psychiatrist, would've liked these poems. What say you, Beth? I'll look out my window for a sign.

Beth - There are signs all over.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where can comfort be found? The death of a psychiatrist: Beth Lindsey, MD

Admittedly I have a very short attention span. There I was finishing up the odd but riveting Salinger story "Teddy" about a Buddhist child genius and suddenly I get the idea to Google my former psychiatrist. Why? There are invisible threads that tie us to everything else, or everyone else, and - boom! - that invisible cord was pulling.

Beth Lindsey MD, was my psychiatrist for a very short while. Short, but long enough for me to get a handle on understanding my manic-depression and its likely sources. The woman was lavish in her love for me.She told me things I scarcely knew about myself... it was you, she said, who made sure your daughter and your son had the finest education. You did a good job raising them.

Until Beth, I hadn't thought much of myself. Perennial lack of self-esteem. How our relationship raised me out of the slough of despondency.

I referred my friends to her, those who could afford her moderately steep sans insurance rate. We rode the elevator to her hi-rise office in Jenkintown. Tall shelves with New England Journal of Medicine at the top. Commanding view of the cars on York Road. A small bathroom with a cup for the thirsty.

Did you know that if you're getting good therapy you think about it all week long, the journey of self-discovery, the most necessary of all roads.

During those six months of inner growth my brain must've been swirling like cake batter, reorganizing itself like a library where the books are strewn all over the floor, then neatly put back on the shelves, dust-free. My own beautiful library of the mind.

I never needed therapy again.

Until now. Where is comfort to be found now that I have learned Beth Lindsey is no more.

But that's not all. Things happened to her before she died. Causing, perhaps, her early demise.

She died nearly two years ago in 2008 of metastatic cancer stemming from the breast. During divorce proceedings, the judge held her in contempt of court and sent her to jail. I knew about that but hadn't known that during her time in jail she read Buddhist teachings, jail house literature that served to deliver her into her next phase of being.

Knowing Beth, an immensely curious and vivacious woman, I was still surprised to read that she had not only studied Buddhism at a monastery in England, but had became that holiest of beings: a Buddhist nun.

Her photo shocked me on her memorial website. I dug through the intervening years and her new costume and short chemo hair to remember her seated across from me in a winged armchair at the Benson East. I once wrote a poem about the two of us, written on our old Apple computer as I was sitting on the futon in our family room, in which I spoke about our conversation passing like colorful ribbons across the room.

Her desk was a mess. She didn't care about worldly things. Her clothes were not high fashion. Her shoes were comfortable. I adored her and brought her in a poem I had written as a child, proof that my psyche had been buried alive, it was right there in the poem at age 8. She bid me read Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller.

And there I found myself. Who shall I talk to now? Who shall help me bear my grief?

A fantasy I shall not engage in is driving over to the Buddhist monastery in Bensalem since I haven't a rabbi of my own or a priest. But I do have a friend, a faraway friend that I will call when I am ready. Together we will reminisce about the woman who was Beth Lindsey.

Friday, February 26, 2010

This man is a hard worker and.....

he is my boyfriend Scott. He works as an electronics specialist at SEPTA, the transportation system here in the Philadelphia area. He makes a decent wage for his hard work and he loves his job. He's a tough little guy who works out three days a week in his basement gym, lifting weights, jumping rope, and admiring his huge toy train collection. He liked trains even before he went to work at SEPTA. His job is working on the El's.

I hear all sorts of interesting stories about SEPTA workers from Scott. One guy went on a Caribbean cruise. Saved his money all year, then beat the snow storm by driving to an airport outside Washington, DC, only to find that the cruise ship was a victim of uncontrollable waves lashing the ship and jerking it from side to side. Although he didn't get sea sick, he said every minute was a horror.

I'm trying to think of a creative way to write about Scott's job, particularly how he spent last nite, the beginning of the next severe snowstorm here in the Philadelphia area. Let's try first-person.

I kissed my girlfriend goodbye and walked to the train station 15 minutes away. The wind was brutal. I pulled my cap over my ears and trudged through Keystone Screw and onto the main road. The snow hit me right in the face. I walked in the street hoping the few cars that drove by wouldn't hit me. People's trash cans were still on the curb, or what was left of the curb in the snow. They didn't pick up the trash yesterday.

The train was nice and warm. I showed my SEPTA ID card so I can ride for free. When Ruthie rides w/me they let her on free too. I was beat. But I'm afraid if I fall asleep I'll miss my stop downtown. Closed my eyes anyway, then jerked awake.

Downtown, I had to go outside to catch another train to 69th Street where I work. All told, an hour's worth of train rides. I always get there early to clock in. Shoot the breeze with the guys then go to work.

They pull in a train for me to look at. The wind was astonishingly brutal. I could barely see with the wind pushing the falling snow directly into my face. Unbelievable! Damn, I'd forgotten to wear my longjohns. I was freezing. My latex gloves keep my hands warm, though, so I can poke around and see what's wrong. This train, though, couldn't find nothing wrong with it.

When that's the case we pull it into the car house. The birds sing in there. Their crap is all over the place. But at least it's warm. I like being warm.

Plenty of work all night. You never know what's gonna happen. Usually the cold brings out the worst in the trains. On my lunch hour I sat down and ate some pistachios. The sickly sweet smell of Chinese Food (I'm the only Jew that hates Chinese food) wafted over the lunch room.

It snowed all night. When I finally walked home from my final train, the roads were perilous. Cars were sliding all over Davisville Road. And the trash I told you about had spilled out of the cans and was in the street, soda cans rolling with the cars. When I cut through the path to my house the snow was over my knees.

Boy was I glad to be home. Took a hot shower and ate my usual delicious breakfast of granola, a hard-boiled egg, and two scoops of peanut butter. Then I hit the sack. I'm asleep right now. My little room heater is purring away, all is quiet, and look at me, dreaming that Ruthie is writing about me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You can almost read outside in the dark night

At nine-thirty tonight, I put on my warm jacket and sturdy boots and went outdoors to assay the snowfall. Within seconds I began to shiver. Wet snowflakes came down forcefully, sticking in earnest to everything except my warm face. No one was about. The wind hurried by. My car - this is a neighborhood without garages - began to assume ghost-like proportions as did the lamppost, the birdbath, and the hills that are the lawns of the neighborhood.

No lights shown in the houses. Everyone must be in the backs of their houses, all warm and in the brightness of their family rooms or tucked in bed early like I would be soon. But let me pause, here, I thought, and look at this incomparably beautiful white world that by morning will be nearly impassable from the snow.

I call my client Evelyn to see how she is making out.

Did you watch Anne Frank? she asked me.

Couldn't, I said, but thanks for letting me know. Was it with Millie Perkins?

Yes, she said.

I saw it when I was 15. Great movie. How are you fixed for food?

I ate a lot of candy today but finally pulled myself together and went to Bonnet Lane, she said.

Good. How come I don't hear the TV?

I turned it down.

Have you eaten the rye bread I brought you?

Not yet, but I will. I'll have somebody come over tomorrow and drive me to get some cheese.

Tomorrow we'll be snowed in. No one will be able to see you. You'll be fine. You've got plenty of food. You also have the apples I brought you.

Yeah, I know. When can I see you again?

Next week. Sometime next week. Have a good night, Evelyn.

What dyou spose Obama says in private to his wife about all his Republican opposition on healthcare reform? How smart of Obama to televise the proceedings. Now the whole world can view the nay-sayers who not only oppose all the president's ideas but don't even get the facts straight. The price of health insurance will NOT go up as the Rep. minority leader says.

How can these people look in the mirror? Such hypocrisy. Well, maybe not. Maybe they actually believe the lies the insurance companies are feeding them.

I'm gonna spend the night reading some poetry by Frank O'Hara and looking out the window at the white world getting whiter.

Hello Brittany!

None of the Mallsters showed up today at the Willow Grove mall, former home of the grand Willow Grove Park amusement park where Philadelphians would take the trolley from hot Philadelphia to the amusement park in the early 1900s.

Also left over from those days is a huge boarding house in Willow Grove near the Upper Moreland library. Its huge front porch once housed families who poured out to Willow Grove much as we do now to the Jersey shore.

When I first moved here from Englewood Cliffs, NJ, where my folks lived, I found the amusement park in disarray. No longer Willow Grove Park, it had morphed into Six Guns Over Texas. It was boarded up. Its roller coaster rose lonely and riderless in the air. Stray dogs prowled the grounds. I began to trespass but was scared off by a barking dog and then a security guard.

I brought plenty of things to do at the mall. Novel re-writes, reading another chapter of Salinger's inconsistently good Nine Stories (sorry Jerry, just my opinion). Plopping my things on "our" mall table and waiting to catch sight of the absent Mallsters, I walked over to to see what the very attractive lime-green display was all about.

That's how I met Brittany. Let's see. I took their brochure home. It's somewhere in my Vatican bag. I shlep this around w/me, a gift from my son on his honeymoon. His wife Nicole is now - what, Nicole? - 13 weeks pregnant.

I'm to be called "Bubby" if I live that long. That's what Scott's mom is called by her rock n roll grandson. (I happen to be listening to R E M right now. Don't say I don't rock!)

They think I'm all-knowing at New Directions. A newcomer emailed me to help her with her job hunt.

Last time I looked for a job was..... this morning. I called a local paper and asked if I could write for them. I'd never heard of it before - Times Publishing Newspapers - spoke to the advertising dude who covers Doylestown and New Hope. Great cities, we agreed. Told him my dad owned the legendary Now and Then Shop in New Hope. He was shocked. Used to frequent it at age 12. I told him that's where I met my husband. (Ex-husband. Dead ex-husband.)

I enjoyed shoveling the drive, light, airy, beautiful snow, and my sidewalk and 2 neighbors walks. Lemme go check and see if it's sticking. NOT YET!

So anyway this gal is looking for a job. She sent me her resume. They think I'm a miracle worker. I should only get my novel published. Then I'll be a miracle worker.

So I call a friend of mine, Sandy. SHE knows how to get jobs. She tells me. I take notes while I'm eating my lunch (chicken noodle soup with collard greens) and delicious purple grapes. I must've been Bacchus in a previous life.

I take notes and email my product back to Sandy, saying, Feel free to tear it to shreds. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm outa here. Gonna watch the great French film Jules et Jim by Truffaut. Hope Scott is awake.

PS - Private note to Roberto. Sorry, Rob, can't come to Sam's bar mitzvah. I'll send my regrets to Naomi. Absolutely beautiful invitation! It's the Saturday of our "Get Happy Seminar" at the Huntingdon Valley Library. Darn! I'll miss you. Maybe Marcy can come instead. Marce?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Virtual online tour of Jensen

I was always interested in what goes on behind the scenes. When I was a kid growing up in Cleveland, the best location in the nation, my first grade class toured a Sealtest factory. Perhaps that whetted my appetite for touring. I remember they asked us Who wants to taste the curds of cottage cheese. My hand shot up in the air. I tasted it and gagged.

My dad was the manager of Majestic Specialties, Inc., a ladies' apparel company, w/HQ in New York, where we'd move when I was 18 and in college. He was constantly giving his kids tours of his warehouse. He was so proud of it. I remember when he got a new conveyor belt where boxes of blouses would slide along before being shelved. Majestic shipped to fine stores across the nation which is how I've heard of the now-defunct Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago and the Bon Ton in Washington State and of course Cleveland's own Halle's, Higbee's, the May Company, and Sterling Lindner Davis (with the magical glass elevator doors).

But never, until today, have I heard of Cole Haan, a subsidiary of Nike, founded in 1928 in Chicago, until I clicked on an ad in the Times.

Whenever I start to blog I never know where I'll end up. I addressed an envelope to someone in Norristown, PA today, and misspelled it as Burristown. What were my fingers remembering? Tim Burris, the former naturalist at Pennypack, just about the only naturalist I never had a crush on? I have my reasons. Political differences.

For my novel I'm fleshing in some parts. Our hero Julius is a collector. He's actually a hoarder, like his namesake, Simon, but I promised both of them I wouldn't use 'that ugly word again.'

When Simon lived w/me he had a collection of miniature steam engines. He'd put a pellet in the smokestack, put some boiling water inside, and don't you know that the darn thing would chug away! Very impressive. He'd buy and sell em on eBay.

Reflexively, I look over to the corner of my windowsill where Sy last kept his steam engine. When he moved out, he wouldn't let me keep it as a souvenir of his existence. He'd also bought this useless but pretty white grating which I put in my garden. He insisted on taking that too.

You do want to keep something from the guy. Here's what I have to remind me of him. His signature. He co-signed something with my mother.

In the novel I needed to remember the name of the steam engine company so not only did I find it but I took an online tour of the place. Should you wish to visit the factory out of a garage in Jeannette, PA, you may click here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Daddypops Diner for breakfast

I parked in my usual spot on a side street. The winter air was crisp and clear. Piles of white snow and gray snow lined the streets. I wanted to see born-to-be-a waitress Mary who's been there 18 years. Would she remember me? I used to go there with Simon who would sit and smoke while I coughed next to him.

I wanted to refresh my memory about Daddypops since a crucial scene in my novel takes place there. At first I named the diner Hotdaddy's but figured it's better to use the real name, just as I'm using the real Abington Hospital and Chandler Hall Nursing Home. I don't say anything too outrageously terrible about any of these places.

A woman slid into the seat next to me w/her son, home from school since today is some school holiday, Washington's birthday. The woman was talking about some tumors she had removed. She was right next to me, talking to the waitress and on her cell phone. Ya know what? I did not feel like talking about cancerous tumors.

You sure eat healthy, she said to me.

It's important to eat healthy, I said, thinking (eating healthy might help your cancer).

Ever had grits? I asked.

Yeah, when I was younger, she said.

They're delicious, I said, smearing the butter over them. My scrambled eggs were wet, just like I asked.

Is Ken in? I asked the waitress.

He'll be in after 2, she said.

I knew Ken's wife, said the lady next to me.

Shame she had to die, I said. She was so young. (Brain tumor)

The lady next to me had a good relationship with her son who's at the same high school my son went to. He works part-time at Wayne's Auto where my sister Donna takes her miserable car. They don't cheat you at Wayne's, we both agreed. They were surprised that I knew it was on Wyandotte Road or that I knew where the Settlement Music School is. Lynn teaches violin there.

Is that at Alverthorp Manor? I asked.

Yes, said Lynn. Most people don't know that.

Hey, I raised my kids here. I should know.

Just then Julius Pulaski walked in the door. That's the main character of my novel. I like to mix reality and fantasy in my blog. Julius comes in, looks around, and clops over to the jukebox in his black cowboy boots and straw hat. He looks at it and calls out, "Where's the classical music?"

Suddenly the diner is filled with the Archduke Trio by Beethoven. Pulaski removes his hat and sits next to me in the empty seat.

I figure I've spent enough time at Daddypops and should go home to work on my novel.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let's Party - Part 2

Just checked Ethan's blog. The Bad Plus played the music for the fashion bad boy Isaac Mizrahi's 2010 show in Bryant Park. Isaac, a Syrian Jew born in Brooklyn in 1961, is wildly and well-deservedly popular but should wash his mouth out with soap. I did my research. Watch and party here and dig the music!

Hey, let's party!

Start out by reading Sarah's blog, an insightful interview w/dancer Julie Worden over a dry martini. Or wet. I dunno the difference since I'm a teetotaler. As a joke, which very few people think is funny, I sometimes go to a restaurant and the waiter will ask me if I wanna drink.

"I'm a recovering alcoholic," I say.

One time I got really carried away and said, "I'm on parole and it would be a parole violation"

Is it any wonder I don't have any friends?

It was a magnificent day for a funeral this morning, the first Catholic funeral I've ever been to. Dan asked me if I read any poetry there. I laffed. His wife was raised Catholic and when I stopped over today I asked them what religion they'll raise their kids.

Nicole said she'll expose them to all different religions and they can choose what they wish. Lotsa mom-in-laws shy away from asking critical questions such as this one but I have a GREAT relationship with my son and his wife. We talk about everything.

They buried Nick Fanelli, 85, with the great pomp and circumstance inherent in the Catholic ritual. All the senses are covered which I will review below:

Sight - The chapel of Queen of Peace in North Hills, PA, gives a feeling of spaciousness and openness, like heaven itself. I loved the stained glass of famous saints such as St. Martin de Porres. The altar or bema as we say in the Jewish language was a lovely golden color which resonated thruout the stage.

Christ hung from the cross but it wasn't as gruesome as it usually is. Way above the crucifixion scene was a long golden zigzag which reminded me of the poor man's crown of thorns. (My favorite Christ movie was made by Martin Scorsese and stars Willem Defoe in The Last Temptation of Christ. In my humble opinion, it was futile to tempt the man. If anyone was ever born knowing without being told what he needed to do it was certainly him.)

Sound - What magical sounds filled the vast auditorium, which seats 1020 according to the permit in the lobby. I was wandering around before the service started. That priest could sing! Wonderful voice w/vibrato almost as good as Sarah Vaughn's. A surprising clinking-tingling sound of chimes punctuated various activities in the super-long (yawn) service.

Tactile - We were asked at the end of the service to commune with our nearby neighbors and touch them! Everyone extended their hand or their lips or their arms. Very moving. Peace be with you they said so I just copied them.

Smell - Again at the end of the service a smell of incense permeated the chapel. I was the only one who sneezed. I couldn't find my hankie so I used a piece of gauze I asked Vladimir, my echocardiogram technician, if I could have to blow my nose. Kleenex makes me sneeze which is why I only use hankies or gauze or Dunkin Donut napkins.

After the ball we waltzed on over to North Hills Country Club for lunch. I guess that's what people do now-a-days. One time when I was younger and a minor thrill-seeker, I asked a caddy at this country club if he could give me a ride in his golf cart. We proceeded to drive all over the smooth green course, covered today in smooth white snow.

Nick Fanelli was a man who could not sit still. He was always doing something. Some people like to relax. Anathema to Fanelli who pulled bicycles from neighbor's trash, fixed them and gave them away. He was a friend to everyone who came his way. Even me! I still remember crunching into the delicate pizelles he baked on a regular basis.

He was the father of world-class athletes. He took up running at age 40 and cycling at age 66. Physically fit, he worked at the old Budd Company in Hunting Park. At the country club I sat with 2 of his Budd buddies. They lamented its demise, one man in particular, 83 yrs old, talked about the inexcusable disgrace of allowing this great manufacturing plant which manufactured parts for Ford Motor Company, then for buses and railroad trains including our own SEPTA, to lose all its contracts for American companies and be replaced by products from foreign countries.

The Rise and Fall of the Budd Company is most certainly emblematic of the Rise and Fall of America, a great nation at the end of WW2, but alas no more. Our problems are cemented by the disgraceful impasses in the Congress, House and Senate both, and the horrific tilting-right decision of the Supreme Court to count corporations and unions as equal to one American citizen.

But, hey, let's party, as the ship is going down.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yes, I see wonderful things!

It was November 26, 1922 (the year my mother was born, praise the Lord) and British archeologist Howard Carter stood in Egypt peeking into a "tiny breech in the top left hand corner" of a doorway his water carrier had discovered. The little party of observers gathered around and his patron and underwriter asked if he saw anything. "Yes," Carter famously said. "I see wonderful things."

Carter, in deference to his patron, had wired the man on November 4, and waited until he arrived before proceeding into what we now know as the tomb of King Tut. Read my daughter's FASCINATING blogpost about the new discoveries about Tut.

When I came home from my painting class I was too tired to make popcorn as I wound down by answering emails and reading the Times. Don't worry, I stuffed myself with other healthy snacks including these fabulous wine-tasting purple grapes imported from Chile.

Jack Fanelli's father died suddenly at age 85, keeling over from a massive heart attack in his kitchen. Who will bake me homemade pizelles? His passing reminds us yet again of the fickleness of death. When? Thus it was that as I walked yesterday, for example thru the driveway of the Abington Fire Department, I thought what if I suddenly drop dead here in the fire department driveway and block the fire engines.

As I strode into Abington Hospital I saw my former psychiatrist.

"Hey, Lare!" I called, cupping my mouth in whisper-like formation.

He looked up. He's gotten more stooped over.

"My bipolar is totally gone. No meds. What dyou think of that?"

He looked at me quizzically, arms at his side, no papers in his hands.

"I hope it stays gone," he said.

We couldn't wait to get away from each other. I like the guy but he ruined my kidneys by not telling me until they were on their way out.

When Scott came over to say hello this a.m. he immediately saw the painting I did in last nite's class. I'd taken a dried stalk of blue hydrangea from my garden and painted it.

Scott liked it. "It's my surprise Valentine gift for you," I said. "My teacher said I have a good eye for composition."

Scott asked why I chose golden yellow for the background upon which to put the purple hydrangea. "I asked my teacher what color to use," I said. "I ask him everything."

Chris Hall said to use a complementary color as background. I carefully slapped on the yellow-gold, made from three colors, it's a gorgeous gold like Van Gogh's sunflowers, and goes great with the purple hydrangea. Since Chris wasn't familiar with hydrangea, I said, "They were featured in the Manchurian Candidate."

Gee, I was glad my blood-flow opened up into that Classic Movie Category.

Chris told me I had too much paint on my brush, that you can't draw a clean line with so much paint. He wiped it off on my rag, a bright-orange Congressman Allyson Schwartz t-shirt before I quit my job as Senator from Indiana cuz I couldn't stand the dysfunctional political shenanigans of a nation in crisis. It makes me wanna vomit my guts out.

We never forget the words of our teachers. That includes my dtr/law "Miss Toohey" as they call her in the inner city school in which she teaches. I communicate with her thru Facebook.

Meet people where they are.

A man in my painting class is familiar with chiropractic. See my post below. Sam's son Eric (all names fake) saw a chiropractor who worked on his bad back and his neck. The young man "saw stars" one time after the kiro adjusted his neck. He told the man (I refuse to use the word doctor when talking about kiros) but the man ignored Eric's feedback.

During his next chiropractic adjustment, the kiro wrung his neck again like a chicken, this time causing Eric to have a stroke. He's currently in rehab at Moss Rehab.

I have my front door open so the light can flood into the living room.

Finished Franny and Zooey last nite. At the point where I saw there was only a page and a half left, I slowed down my reading, we were coming to the denouement, and suddenly I began to get chills from what Buddy was telling Franny. Even now, the chills come as I remember.

In essence, said Buddy, in essence, we are all of us The Fat Lady to whom we commend our lives, and who dyou think the Fat Lady is? Why, she is Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour.

Quick note. Someone called me yesterday with a bipolar question. She found me thru this very same blog. Where's my phone no. on here? Dunno. Anyway, she said she wanted to talk to me since I talk about God all the time.

Isn't that interesting? And I'm a Jewish nonbeliever!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My 3 Bedrooms

I am lucky! When bedtime calls, I can sleep in one of three beds. Last night I chose my original upstairs bedroom where I haven't slept in six months due to my addiction to watching bedtime television.

And so it was that I climbed up the bed - it's quite high off the ground - sipped from my ever-present glass of water - and opened up the remaining pages of Franny and Zooey. I'd like to share one of my favorite parts, p. 169, followed by some more profound riveting prose from yours truly. We find Franny, who enjoys chanting a Jesus Prayer, in the midst of a small nervous breakdown. Her brother Zooey addresses her:

I can't you can pray to a Jesus you don't even understand. And what's really inexcusable, considering that you've been funnel-fed on just about the same amount of religious philosophy that I that you don't try to understand him....

God almighty, Franny, if you're going to say the Jesus Prayer, at least say it to Jesus, and not to St Francis and Seymour and Heidi's grandfather all wrapped up in one....

My God! He's only the most intelligent man in the Bible, that's all! Who isn't he head and shoulders over? Who? Both Testaments are full of pundits, prophets, disciples, favorite sons, Solomons, Isaiahs, Davids, Pauls - but, my God, who besides Jesus really knew which end was up? Nobody. Not Moses. Don't tell me Moses. He was a nice man, and he kept in beautiful touch with his God, and all that - but that's exactly the point. He had to keep in touch. Jesus realized there IS no separation from God. Oh, my God, what a mind! who else, for example, would have kept his mouth shut when Pilate asked for an explanation? Not Solomon. ..Solomon would have had a few pithy words for the occasion. I'm not sure Socrates wouldn't have, for that matter...

But most of all, above everything else, who in the Bible besides Jesus knew - knew - that we're carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we're all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look? You have to BE a son of God to know that kind of stuff...[God] picked the best, the smartest, the most loving, the least sentimental, the most unimitative master he could possibly have picked.

Well, I hope you like this as much as I do, O Reader. And of course we know that Jesus just happened to be Jewish tho that shouldn't stop the Mel Gibsons of the world. What is it with them? A brain mutation? The product of poor parenting? I mean these people are all around us. I myself advertise my Jewishness. I'm proud of it and shout it from the rooftop as I wave Santa's sleigh over and offer him some hot cream of wheat with frozen raspberries like I'm eating right now! (I made it with rice milk since my kidney-healthy diet doesn't permit real milk.)

I'm lying in my newfound bedroom looking around at how I've decorated it. A painting of a covered bridge given to me by an artist in Bristol and closet doors I smeared with paint after I first moved in. Can't stand plain things. Bo-ring! I try to have my house look like the Barnes Museum, artfully crammed.

Oh, what I wanted to mention was I'm very suggestible. This is true. After I read the above passage I thought I should get back into praying. So when I closed my eyes (fortunately not for the final time, I've still got "miles to go before I sleep") I entered my inner kingdom, and nothing happened!

So then this brilliant idea struck. Pretend, I thought, you're in a horrific situation. Oh, sure, I said to myself. I'll definitely pray then.

So I pictured being caught in a landslide of snow. And trying to tunnel my way to safety. The thought was so horrific, I turned on the light and started reading again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Edited Manuscript of Novel / Poem: Sitting Next to a Noisy Person during a lecture on the benefits of Chiropractic

Arnie just sent me an email asking, How do you ever find time to work on your novel?

By not answering emails, I wrote him back.

We had a kiro speak at our group last nite. These people are high pressure, believe me. It's part of their training but I don't like it. My former kiro still sends me Happy Holiday postcards. Go away! Go away!

The speaker kiro wanted people to put a DOWN PAYMENT on their FREE APPOINTMENT with him. I said No fucking way, Jose. Jose (not his real name) said, Well, how bout if we donate it to New Directions. Boy o boy.

I got the edited ms. of my novel via Federal Express. She's sitting right next to me on the empty chair. Empty? It's got two jackets on the back, my typing stand and a notebook with New Directions newcomers on it. So that's where the damn thing went. It's also got a couple of papers I don't know where to put.

My goal today is to begin my novel rewrite. My teacher said she's invested in my work. She gave a critique of the whole novel which is so embarrassingly good it was actually painful to read it again, but necessary, since it's got suggestions for the revision.

My goal is to finish the rewrite in a week. By the end of February.

Procrastinatory maneuvers include writing the below poem, sending Dr Dan Gottlieb of Voices in the Family an email saying I'd like to be on his radio show along w/other members of New Directions, and looking at the beautiful icicles frozen in place from the rain gutters next door at the Adams Family home.

I was gonna email Bill about the beautiful icicles but then I looked at my own icicles which were so long I thought they might bring the rain gutters down, so I thought if I email him it might jinx me and the gutters would fall down.

If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna email Bill Adams write now. And then, I promise, I'll work on said novel.


I pulled my purse off the chair so you could sit next to me
as the chiropractor ranted about the benefits of the science
of chiropractic
I groaned in my chair as I watched him wave the plastic
S-shaped model of the human spine
and the oddly named segments known as vertebrates
When will this ever end, I thought, why had I invited him in
to our group of devotees
And then she opened the lid on her bought coffee
and an overwhelming smell of delicious coffee -
- was it French Vanilla? -
floated like a cloud in front of my face
I swooned
drinking in the fragrance
like fine summer wine on the grass
in a picnic with Jules and Jim
And then she began to sip
tiny sips at first
mouth noises I never knew anyone could make
and the rustling!
always the rustling
The chiropractor was nonplussed
if that’s a word
deep in the belief system that brought him
peace and happiness across the way in
a website of his own
beautiful girls who worked for him
He reminded me of young Bill Curt
a psychology intern I once worked with
who adored me, the feeling is mutual, I’m
sure, young Bill,
but was rumored to have had police involvement
with his girlfriends
Why can’t life be simple again
with no sciatica or hurtsome necks
or the need to drink coffee late at night
to stay awake during talks by zealots
I was once one myself
no more, no more,
she said to Buddah.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Kremp's Gift for our Guest Speaker

Drove down to Kremp's Florist to buy a gift for tonite's guest speaker plus our last guest speaker who I forgot to gift.

You know me, looking for something real pretty at the cheapest price. Elizabeth was on duty behind the counter while I walked around searching for the perfect gifts.

Hi Ruth, said Drew Kremp who I'd been wishing would appear.

Drew, I said, dyou have any reasonably priced gifts for our guest speaker?

I'll see what I can do, he said, walking behind the fish pond where the gold fish heard me and were surfacing in hopes I'd feed them. What? My kidney-healthy foods? The green parrot could be heard cawing off in the distance. I didn't feel like going back to talk to him, though I often do. I have a couple of his feathers hanging on my living room wall. I'm a feather-finder but not in the winter.

Drew came back with a b'ful kolanchee, a succulent with thick leaves and tiny orange flowers, or yellow. He brought me two.

He wrapped em in foil and let Elizabeth ring em up. I pulled out my credit card and explained the situation to her.

My real credit card, I told her, is being mailed to me by my dentist where I left it yesterday. This is my old credit card which has the same numbers except I've written the exp. date on the front and the secret code on the front.

I'm very clever, Reader, and stuck the sticky white part from US postal stamps onto the front and printed out the necessary numerals.

She gave it back and I quickly tucked it in my wallet so they wouldn't have to mail it back like the dentist did.

Drew himself was putting out some new plants. I told him a story about my buying cyclamen and primrose at the Produce Junction in Hatboro. They died within a week, I said.

He patiently explained what goes on. The truckers in, say, Florida have these sick plants that will never make it and they sell them by the truckload to different buyers and then ship them out in quantity. These sickly plants are then sold off in retail stores like the Junction.

In fact, I just put my dead cyclamen in the compost heap.

I told Drew I bought my first orchid for only $9. It was beautiful, I said, but it began dying the very day I put it on my windowsill. Each day a yellow petal drooped and then fell off. Six petals, dead and dropped in six days flat.

But, I said, there's a happy ending to the story. I was working on a novel. In fact, the edited manuscript just came back the other day, and my teacher liked the part where I wrote: his cancer was killing him like the petals on a flower, each one dropping off one by one.

Kidney update

As many of you know, I lost considerable kidney function when I was on the mood stabilizer lithium for my then-manic depression. About a year or so ago, a doctor told me abruptly that my kidneys were so bad I'd need to go on dialysis.

I remember that terrible day. We all compartmentalize our lives. For example, I'm now in the 'blogging compartment' of my brain. That department is pulsing like mad as I type this up. Ba-deep! Ba-deep! See the red lights going off?

Well when I heard the word 'dialysis' I just about freaked out. I was sitting in the little exam room, you know, those horribly sterile little cells with the crunchy tissue paper on the raised exam table, I was in a chair, with a book on my lap, when Dr No Bedside Manners gave me the news.

Then he ran out leaving me alone with my thoughts.

And that's medicine according to Hippocrates?

The next two days the compartmentalization was foundering. Everything I did was punctuated by thoughts of Kidney Dialysis Kidney Dialysis.

And then, after that, I promptly forget about it. It's hard to picture ourselves as flawed after so many years of being healthy.

I do have a friend who I'll call Victor who took lithium and did indeed get a kidney transplant. Since then he and his wife Fran have been a great comfort to me. I emailed Fran this morning - she's the embodiment of the word 'polymath' - and wrote:

Fran, I could call the Kidney Foundation for the answer to my question except I know that they wouldn't know half as much as you do. When you get a chance, pls lemme know what physically goes on with the kidneys and why they can't successfully process sodium, phosphorus, potassium and protein.

Her reply came shortly thereafter - and she does have a day job but took time out for the reply:

Fran: Your body's clearing process (filters in kidney) is slower than normal.

If you don't cut back on minerals they accumulate in the blood and mess up your electrolyte balance. Victor got toxic one night when he had not drunk enough and was a bit dehydrated. Between the buildup of minerals and meds he was all messed up. They kept him overnight and rebalanced his system.

That's why on dialysis , which is used when your filtering function becomes negligible, minerals except calcium become problematic. But you
can't use the calcium either unless you have the factor to process it
which is supplied by the Epotein shots.

I told her to send along the Calcium handout.

This all illustrates the importance of good doctors and good hospitals. And the all-important patient as a well-versed partner.

Say hello to newborn Jobe Atene Hess of Alaska!

Bill Hess records the birth of his second grandson on his wonderful blog, and says, "We can only be grateful, and do what we can to help the woman get through the ordeal that our past supreme pleasure now demands of her."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who's your lucky valentine?

Our support group honored Valentine's Day at SweetBytes Cafe in Ambler, PA, once an asbestos capital of the country.

If I thought our time at the cafe was good, little did I know what would await me when I began to drive home.

First, though, I found the Ambler coffeeshop easily. After parking, I opened the two doors - good idea Donna and Lorraine Mitchell - to keep the heat inside. It was exciting stepping inside. Who knew what to expect?

There was Jack Enea strumming his guitar. Hi Jack, I said, and then I saw them! The New Directions crowd! Helen the Mall Queen was dancing w/husband Larry the mustachioed athlete. All told, here's who came: Ron, the "one-armed man" who brought two huge photographs of alligators; Mike, whose Italian family name was changed at Ellis Island; Ingrid Bergman and her husband the famous Italian director Rosselini; Tony, another athlete and cardio-kickboxer; Fontaine whose aunt (pronounced ahnt) calls her Fontanya.

The food was unparalled! I thanked my pancreas for doing a great job digesting - oy veh! - scrumptious hot chocolate w/o whipped cream (see, I do have will power) and perfectly browned slices of French toast made w/raisin bread.

Have one, Fontanya, I said.

Then we each got a complimentary pint-size red cupcake with frosting and I called upon my lovely pancreas to again help me digest this delicious morsel.

We stayed till the cafe closed at 2 pm. And good news! We will definitely host one of our Coffeeshop Gigs here. The owners said the most wonderful word in my vocabulary: YES.

Pam London Barrett will be overjoyed. Ya know what? Maybe we'll have it in March, snow permitting.

More than anything, I love putting on shows. Wait'll I tell you what the sculptor Henry Moore wrote about the meaning of life.

The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is —it must be something you cannot possibly do!

Ain't that great! When I worked for Art Matters I interviewed Phil Berman, art collector extraordinaire and then-owner of Hess's in Allentown, PA, who took me out to his rancher which was filled w/Moore sculptures in his backyard!

My backyard is filled with leaves, snow, a fallen-over hydrangea tree we'll have to chop down. Sculptures? Not a one.

Berman drove a Cadillac Cimarron, the Edsel of the Cadillac family, which I immortalized in my first novel. The car is driven by a real estate agent. I think my novel is pretty good.

Various things remind me of my novel.

My daughter Sarah has a new blog which I found tonite by accident. She doesn't like me commenting on her blogs or even reviewing her book on Amazon but I couldn't resist putting in a comment on her fab new blog.

Here's what I wrote, just in case she bans it:

Comment by Mollie Feigenbaum

What a wonderful column this is. I'm actually the main character of a new novel that is trying to get published. I perform a sexy dance for my lover Angel Guerrero in which I put on some hoppin music and sexily gurate for him. In addition to being a very sex scene, I hope it frees up readers to loosen up about sex, enjoy it to the max and just have fun.

As you may know, I taught two Joy of Intimacy classes in the Doylestown Hospital Wellness Center. May do it again if I get up my nerve. And if I ever have sex again.
She is not a gal who kisses and tells.

I'm driving home from the coffeeshop. Came to Lindenwold Road. Had been there before to check out The Vikas Home for mentally ill adults. No, not for me, silly, for one of my clients. Was stunned by the beauty of the many-turreted many roomed house and retraced my carprints.

Down down down the street I went and pulled out my camera. Put on my flashers, got out into the howling wind and took a photo of a grand house and a tall beautiful wrought-iron gate with letters reading St. Mary's Villa for Children.

Just the word 'villa' connoted something grand and different. I drove on looking for the entrance.

No trespassing read the sign.

Then.... Alcoholic beverages not permitted. C'mon, will ya? Have faith in human beings. Don't be so damn Catholic, making people go to confession as if all we're capable of is doing bad things.

He who among you is without sin go directly to the doghouse.

So I proceeded intrepidly down the lane passing a HUGE frozen pond with statue in the middle. I could not believe my eyes. But that was just the beginning. Each building was an architectural masterpiece. This must be the estate, I thought to myself, of one of the Asbestos Magnates who built up the town and erected castle-like houses for the company execs and rowhouses for the workers.

Oh, dear, it breaks my heart that the workers get the short end of the stick. I do believe in capitalism, I do not name names, Mr. McCarthy, but the chasm between rich and poor is simply too great.

At a chapel I hopped out of my car with my camera, stepped way way back and began shooting. And there, quite simply, five stories up was something that looked like a puppet of Jesus Christ our Lord. Or Howdy Doody. I couldn't tell from where I stood on the ground.

Driving out I did get stopped. The man was one of the administrators of the place, Dave Como, who wore a beautiful yellow scarf. We talked a few moments and I drove slowly away.

Builder of Lindenwold, I learn on the Internet, was Dr Richard Mattison, a chemist with the asbestos company Keasbey and Mattison, est. 1873. From patented meds, they moved to producing asbestos after learning that "milk of magnesia would adhere to a hot metal pipe, and when mixed [with] asbestos and other heat-resistant products, could be turned into an insulation material." This soon became "the focus of the company."

And later, of course, for investigations into the cancer-causing properties of the material.

I brought my photos to my son Dan and Nicole's house hoping they could get the photos out of the camera for me. Unlike Bill Hess, I don't know how. Dan told me he'd find me another camera.

Nicole showed me the ultrasounds of their baby cleverly dubbed Peanut Deming. Is he ever adorable! He's already started reading books in the womb, I think he's reading about cats, since he'll be joined by Nudge and Blank, the Toohey-Deming family cats.

I couldn't quite make it out but I also thought Peanut was drinking.... yes... yes.... iced coffee! A family favorite. Dunkin Donuts has the best. Sipped thru a straw you can listen to the jiggle of ice as you inhale deeply.

Life: love it, revel in it, kvell in it as the Jews say, well, not the Jews, just me, kvell being a wonderful word meaning Immerse yourself.

That's it. I'm outa here. Five more movies from the Abington Library to watch. For movie-lovers I suggest the 1934 B&W Boudu Saved from Drowning. Film-maker Jean Renoir was the son of the famous painter. He used the great Swiss actor Michel Simon in the title role.

As I told my group today, I can usually remember facts for about two days and then - poof! - gone with the wind.

When I returned my previous 5 films and books to Abington, here's the conversation that transpired when I went to the counter:

RZ: Hi Linda. Did you get the handout I emailed you about my bread class?

LJ: Yes, but you didn't tell me how much flour the library needs to buy.

RZ: Okay, I'll mail it in. Hey, can I borrow a pen and a piece of paper? I wanna write down the final words in this book by Salinger.

And now, as I fumble in the pocket of my black coat, I pick up the scrap of paper with the following words, the very end of Seymour, an Introduction:

Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next. Is he never wrong?

Profound, n'est-ce pas?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sleeping with Books

I read slowly. I taste every word, letting it flow over my tongue. I re-read passages I like. Where do the words go? Tell me if you know.

Current bedside companion is All of J D. Salinger, of course. Forget Catcher in the Rye. Too sad. Too heart-breaking. Am reading all his novellas and short stories, each published in the New Yorker during the 1950s and 60s.

When I open Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters to the title page I shriek with joy. The fonts! The typeset! Little, Brown and Company. I don't even mind that the librarian has penciled in a numeral on the bottom of the page, O Librarians of the World, you are so constrained by your damn rules, but, look so am I - "no food allowed in the middle of the night, only water."

Here is the joy-soaked dedication page of this bedside companion, Ruth Deming typing it in right now for the love of my readers:

If there is an amateur reader still left in the world - or anybody who just reads and runs - I ask him or her, with UNTELLABLE AFFECTION [Ruth's caps] and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.

[Said wife, by the bye, divorced him 2 yrs later by saying if she hadn't she would've been driven crazy. Oh, don't I know the feeling. In my case, I would've continued to live in a prison.]

Hopefully Raise High the Roof Beam is free of popcorn stains. That would be from the grease - olive oil. I told you I don't compromise when it comes to taste, only husbands.

Scott said to me when he came in from the cold at 9 am, How can you sleep with your legs in the air.

They're not actually in the air, they're crossed ladylike at the knees. It's so my sciatica doesn't get to me.

His most important job today is Catching up on his sleep. Sleep deficit rides with him all week and is made up on the weekends.

Did you make a copy of my Verizon bill?

Yep, he said, plus I left you a treat on the table. (Two-inch high stack of backs. No, not greenbacks, you greedy summa bitch, work orders.

Sample: Brush paint the flange area of all wheels trued. Let dry before moving the vehicle.

When he slipped beside me, we talked a few. Didja finish Huck Finn?

I tried to. I've only got 2.5 pages left but I hadda get off the train.

Shame. Great book. Whatcha gonna read next?

He doesn't know. He's got a stack of em we bought at Atlantic Books at the seashore. Impossible to believe we ever vacationed religiously at the shore.

On one of the 8 bulletin boards around the house I have an ad from my favorite shore hotel, the one with the indoor pool. Impossible to believe I even KNOW HOW TO SWIM or do anything other than type.

When I write, I'm always in the here and now. When I paint, my life flows before me like unending snow. Salinger uses the word unstoppable, I think. We pick up words from the greats.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ruth Deming's Tips on Saving Time and Money

When I was a kid, my father, the inimitable Harold J Greenwold, got his 6 children bank accounts at Women's Federal Savings and Loan in Cleveland, Ohio. Nothing pleased me more than seeing my money add up, mostly my baby-sitting money from sitting at the next-door neighbors June and John Biskind. John's father was a famous ob-gyn, and John himself was an infamous one. Remind me to show you a link. Awful.

So, there's Little Ruthie saving her money in a shellacked brown treasure-chest made out of Popsickle sticks at Camp Cardinal in Rome, Ohio.

Today I put most of my money into CDs at American Heritage. I can see at a glance on my computer how much money I don't have and wish I did. BTW, I read in the Times that First Energy of Ohio bought Allegheny energy in Pennsylvania. I think I own a teeny-tiny amount of First Energy stock, a long-ago gift from Aunt Sylvia, but I can't remember if I still have it or not. And am too lazy to look. In the money department, I defer to my mentor Eike Batista. Imagine, I thought, when I looked at the photo of his former wife, a Playboy bunny in Brazil, imagine sticking your head in those gorgeous melons. Go see for yourself.

Frugal is my middle name. But I eat well and I eat only the best of foods.

- I save money by drinking nothing other than water.

- I make my own junk food. Processed foods like cereals and chips are incredibly expensive. I've begun eating popcorn again, usually 5 bowls at a time, I am quite the pig, and I never tire of it.

- I can't stand going clothes-shopping. I hate it, detest it, despise it, loathe it. So I ask my sisters and my daughter for their cast-off clothes. In fact, sitting here, I'm wearing some ultra-warm black slacks given to me by my dentist/niece many years ago. Too proud to beg? Never.

- I don't waste money on paper towels. They're expensive and they're disposable. What do you need them for? Name one thing you need em for. I buy generic napkins. I also use cloth dish-rags that can be tossed in the washing machine.

- I don't use my dishwasher. When my son lived w/me he insisted we use it. Instead, I just wash up as I go. Immediately!

- I do not subscribe to the American dictum, If it's new it's better. In fact, I believe the opposite. I don't know how old my trusty grater is but I've had for years. In fact, my 36-yr-old daughter drew a beautiful sketch of it for a still-life she did in an art class when she was a teenager. I had it framed a couple yrs ago.

- I don't buy expensive trash bags. Instead, I use the plastic bags from the grocery store. I also get cartons from the store which I put my junk mail in. They use the recycled paper to make park benches. Let's have a seat and hold hands for Valentine's Day.

- I use squiggly bulbs in all my lamps. I got used to the darkness. Not as bad as in Alaska, though, right Bill?

- Since I'm a writer, I use lots of paper. I only print things out on 'backs.' My chief supplier is Scott who gives me huge stacks from discarded work orders. Someone from New Directions - where are you Tim or was it Les - gave me reams of new paper which I haven't nearly used up. Terry gave me wonderful envelopes which I use to write To-Do Lists on, oh thank you so much, Terry. His partner is our new Thursday phone greeter. I was so mad cuz our previous phone greeter was on Facebook all day but didn't have time to answer our phone calls, no more than one per day.

I think I could write a whole essay just on paper. Peggela, thanks so much for sending me the thank-you card. It was a pleasure going w/you to see Becky Shaw last week. And eating at - was it Randi's? - afterward. Not great but good. I had diarrhea afterward.

- This is terrible, but since I live alone, I wash my darks and my lights together. Always in cold water, of course to save money.

- Know which generic products to buy and those to eschew. Canned pineapple okay. Any cleaning product is not okay.

- I get my oil changed at a Heilman's Sunoco so that my gas price is 20-cents lower than normal. I'm a member of their club.

- I drive an economy-minded car. My new motto is "Aren't you glad you don't drive a Toyota?"

- When I leave home I turn the heat down to 65. Of course, as I'm writing this, I've got my storm door closed and the inner door open. I just love the light!

- Why rent videos when you can get em for free at the library? The Abington Free Library has a wonderful assortment of videos. If they don't have something, I use the Internet and 'place a request' as I did last nite for two videos I can't for the life of me remember. Same with books. Haven't bought a book since 1865 when I bought one of the first copies of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, o what a lover he was.

- When I make lengthy phone calls, I use my hands-free headset and I do work while I'm waiting for the person to answer. I also call people while I'm making my labor-intensive foods - Hello Mark! Hello Peggela! Hello Mom!

What are YOUR tips on saving time and money. Who will reply? Will it be YOU?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quick Catfish Dinner with veggie soup

Buy a pound of plump catfish from your local fishmonger.

Pour olive oil in bottom of Pyrex rectangular container in which you will later store the excess.

Lay catfish flat. Admire it and thank the fat fellow for giving his life to feed you.

Onto the catfish create the sauce:

Hellman's mayo
Gulden's spicy mustard
A good Balsamic vinegar

Stir the above well with fork.

Sprinkle fresh basil on top. I grow mine own on the windowsill.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Do not overbake.

Testimonial: Boyfriend Scott says, "Delicious! What else can I say. The wording is your department."

Beverage: Since I don't drink wine, I drank a combination of freezing cold water and pomegranate juice. "Tastes like wine," I said to Scott.

I told him I had some really interesting phone conversations today pertaining to New Directions. Perfect timing cuz I love to cook when I'm on the phone, unless I need to think and cook, in which case I call em back. Talked to a woman from Massachusetts who's coordinating her family member's treatment here long distance. This is not uncommon.

Also talked to the mother of a newly diagnosed woman who saw the excellent psychiatrist John Worthington, MD, for a diagnosis of both paranoid schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Good! I said. You've got a diagnosis now and some great medicine to bring the girl back to the world of the living.

I told the parents a bright future awaits their daughter and I mean it!

Look, deal with it! Eat your catfish and shut up. The catfish died for my sins.

I dream of Pammy w/ the bright black hair

I rarely remember my dreams but here's one I had last night. Food I ate before bed was a delicious salad with homemade dressing of

olive oil
balsamic vinegar
squeezed fresh lemon

and 5 bowls of organic yellow popcorn bought in bulk from Nature's Harvest.

I'll make it short, since the dream is rapidly receding, like my beloved son's hairline.

Since there were different scenes in the dream, like in a play or a novel, during each scene I'd think to myself, Wake up Ruthie and get me outa here. Never did I wake, however.

I'm in this huge labyrinthine building, possibly Abington Hospital, setting out to meet a woman I've never met before. She had given me her name and contact information and told me the meeting point.

I have forgotten to bring the contact info with me. The hospital is huge. How will I ever find her?

It's very dark inside. No light. Much of the hospital is under construction.

Somehow I meet up with my friend Pam London Barrett, known in our circles as The Singing Psychiatrist. When last she came to my house to pick me up to see a movie, I took her photo so it's sitting around since I never know what to do w/my pix.

Suddenly I realize I've lost my backpack, which I carry in lieu of a pocketbook. I retrace my footsteps down a dark corridor, thinking to myself as I go, this is how women get raped. Ah, what this gal won't do for a little sex. Anyway, heaped on a table are backpacks of all styles and colors.

Mine, however, is not among them. Darn!

I walk quickly back down the dark corridor and as I'm nearing the hallway, a door with bars slams shut, shutting me inside.

Let me out! I call and the door opens.

Whew! If it hadn't opened the author of this blog might be lying dead in Scott's bed.

Oh, I have so much more work to do before I leave this earth.

Perfect consistency for snow cones

Perhaps later today I'll scoop a bit of the newly fallen snow into a pretty glass bowl and cover it with real maple syrup for a treat.

I was on the floor on the laptop reading the online NY Times when I heard thumping downstairs.

Scott was home safely. He came up to the bedroom, sat on the floor and took off his wet clothes. I felt his cold cheeks and nose. I told him I'd go next door to my house and make him a big delicious breakfast. He showers immediately after coming home from work b/c he says he gets filthy from fixing the trains.

Did you make a copy of my phone bill? I asked him. The County pays for my $112 phone bill a month. I need to send em copies.

Yeah, right, he said, with Tommy down our backs all night, I'm gonna say, Step aside, I've gotta make a copy of my girlfriend's phone bill.

It thrills me every time he says girlfriend. Speaking of which, I had a dream about my girlfriend Pam London Barrett which I'll blog after this.

Put on my mountain boots and trudged thru the snow to my house. Snow up to mid-calf. Scott's dogwood tree was snow-laden of course. Didn't see any more bunny rabbits, Mr. Hess. Y'all should check out Bill's wonderful blog which is a masterpiece of the daily doings of Wasilla, AK residents. No detail is too small for Bill to make fascinating to the interested voyeur.

I made our eggs in my new $3 skillet from Impact thrift in Hatboro. We buy the freshest and most delicious eggs ever from our Giant Supermarket. When I buy em, I reach my hand in the box and wiggle each egg to make sure it ain't stuck to the bottom.

Scott's order was two fried eggs hard, two slices of buttered toasted Giant Jewish rye bread made with no preservatives, and half of a huge ruby red grapefruit. Scott, a health afficionado, told me to eat the white part of grapefruit and other citrus fruits for Vitamin P. It helps the body absorb Vitamin C, he said.

I only eat one egg for breakfast and I put it on rye toast w/mayo.

We sat there smacking our lips and saying, You can't beat this breakfast. Nothing could be more delicious.

Then we looked out the window at the still-falling snow. In fact, it was tinkling, b/c there was sleet in it. Scott noticed Bill Adams next door had made a snowman. I sent Bill, who was outside behind his snow-blower, an email saying:

Hurray for the snowman! ***

The asterisks indicate there is no message in the body of the email.

I developed this shorthand many yrs ago, since I was dubbed the shortcut queen when I worked as a therapist at the now-defunct Bristol-Bensalem Human Services Center. I told Pam London Barrett, who was one of the staff psychiatrists, that the Center is now a housing development. Before that it was Clymer Elementary School.

Wonder what will become of America as our politicians slowly kill it. Economist Paul Krugman had a great essay on this in the Times.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I walked in my clogs in the snow

It's started, Scott said, as he prepared to walk to the Willow Grove train station to get to his job at SEPTA click for photo. He's a troubleshooter on the elevated trains, meaning he fixes anything that breaks down.

Before he left we watched the excellent film Cross Creek w/Mary Steenburgen who played the writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. A writer such as myself loves seeing other writers in action, esp. when they work on an old manual typewriter like I used to do.

I walked out with him and watched him vanish thru the backyard and on thru the factory behind our houses, Keystone Screw. His steel-tipped boots made big footprints in the snow. I stood there blinking the snow out of my eyes and feeling my hair get wet.

The neighborhood was quiet. But there was Bill, Bill Adams, backing his car into the drive. Bill is the noisiest person on the street. He has a big booming voice. About once a month I send him an email. Sometimes I'll write him: Your backporch light is on or Can I come over and fax something?

He's a minor character in my novel and known as Bill Kelly. Am awaiting word from my teacher about what she thinks of the book. Maybe she'll drive over from New Jersey the way Maxwell Perkins, famous editor from Scribner's, contacted Rawlins to say he liked her work.

It's like a vacation staying over at Scott's house. My laptop is here and so are my J D Salinger books.

Let's take a quick peek at the snow. And you do it too!

Thother nite I stuck my head out my front door and there in the snow was a bunny rabbit. He looked up at me and the two of us stared at each other for a moment. I wonder if he was bewildered by the powdery white stuff.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Great news or Raise high the roofbeam, carpenters.....

Never knew this Salinger novella was a quote from Sappho until the birthday girl, Sarah Lynn Deming, told me. Let's review the few lines still extant from Sappho, a married woman who lived in 600 BC. Only 200 lines of her poems remain:

Raise high the roof beam, carpenters
Like Ares comes the bride groom.

Isn't that a lovely meter?

Just spoke to Dr James F Burke, my kidney transplant doctor for whom I've been taking all these horrid tests including a walking stress test in which I only scored in the upper 89th percentile.

"Your clearance is good," he said. "It's close to 60. When it's 5, that's when you go on dialysis."

Raise high the roof beam carpenters, Ruthie like a bride she walketh through the storm.

Ya know what? I could never imagine myself either on dialysis or getting a kidney transplant. A brain transplant, yes.

How shall we celebrate, Dear Reader?

For one thing, we're not gonna eat any pea soup like Marcy's eating in California cuz it's on my No-no list. I asked Dr Burke if my diet is helping me. Sure, he said. What a bubbly man he is.

He said Keep your optimism. (I have a very cheery voice, by the way.) He also said the kind of kidney problems lithium causes are very slow growing.

Okay, guys, I'm outa here. Going next door to celebrate with Scott. Gonna make some popcorn I bought at the health food store. Ada wrote me and said, That pop corn was fantastic!!! It produced so much more than the same amount of popping corn we usually use - just as you said!!! Good-bye Orville Redenbacher!

I asked Dr Burke if I could live another 20 years and he said Certainly!

Hurray! My original plan was to live until 2025. Mayhap I will. If I were a praying man I'd get down on my knees and thank Jesus. Since I'm not, I'll do it anyway.

Au revoir Mailman Bob / Poem: May his feet rest for a long lo0ng while

There, I did it. Someone's gotta do it. Someone's gotta take charge of this great nation. The task fell to me, Your Little Ruthie. Fortunately the first man and I watched the terrific movie Truman yesterday, so I know the importance of... of...
well, speaking your mind and not giving in to corruption. I'm not saying I'm not corrupt, I served a time or two in the penitentiary for things I don't care to reveal, but hey, let's stop all this foolery and get serious.

The thing about having your own blog is you can write about anything you choose - and people will listen.

So. I took up a collection for the retiring Mailman Man. Do not get the wrong impression. Mailman Bob is definitely not shy and retiring. He's a mouthful. And a half. I love these short sentences. Peppered my novel with em. Am waiting to hear. Yesterday I found the entire online novelwriting class on my saved emails. Oh, the novels that deservedly will never be published. Readers! Do not get the idea that I'm saving YOUR email cuz it meant so much to me.

I save nothing! All is air and as rapidly evaporating as the snow on toppa my birdbath. I spose the birds can take a teeny taste of snow and let it dissolve in their ... do they have mouths?

So I took up a collection. And went to the bank and asked for a crisp fifty. A C-note would've been better but we arbiters for the common good feel that mailmen make a good living and Our Bob was able to retire at the youthful and still sexy age of 52, having served four yrs in the Navy and having had that count toward his retirement. I think. Don't EVER quote me or you'll most likely be wrong.

I wrote Mailman Bob a short letter on New Directions stationery - no, not that New Directions, but mine own New Directions where you don't know the meaning of suffering until you've had manic depression, as she likes to call it cuz of its horrific frightening name that does justice to the way we feel, or people w/depression, a terrible name for it signifies nothing, melancholia would be far better, how bout melancholia unto death, far far better, and of course the long-suffering loved ones.

Who is my loved one? Anyone out there love me? Please send your love poems to the below address. Ach! Scott is a romantic. He's taking me out for Valentine's Day. He will do anything I ask including hang up a falling gutter except read my blog. "Why should I read something I already know about?"

Good point, darling. Read it anyway you S.O.B.

After I wrote the below poem plus the letter YOU WILL NEVER SEE, you nosy nosy-and-so, I drove down my quiet street to the Willow Grove post office. While driving I felt acutely sad and missing Mailman Bob. I think I'll check into a mental hospital instead of attempting suicide.


This path is for you, Mailman Bob,
I whispered as I shoveled the snow from my lawn

These letters are for you, Mailman Bob,
as I lifted my mailbox and tucked them inside

Oh, the things I do for you
and then I remembered
There is
no longer
Mailman Bob.

How your truck
would chug up our hill
the sound unforgettable
a Mahler symphony
I heard under the blankets
or cooking in the kitchen
it must be
Mailman Bob.

The sight of you would cheer me
a man indefatiguable
your blue cap with shiny visor
striped leggings
a tuxedo
while warm weather wear
had Bob in shorts and long socks
striding up the runway of Cowbell
sex symbol in blue

Walking always walking
up steep Sleighride
satchel flung across your back
Santa bearing
mortgage overdue notices
Verizon bills
birthday cards with Gary Cooper stamps
a love letter from overseas

More than a mailman
you served
as counselor
to the woman with melancholy after she gave birth
consoler to Nancy after Charley died
or herald telling of old man Leonard’s death
no wonder they put the commode out on trash day
but never would you taste my soup or
a slice of my whole-wheat bread
the next mailbox
always your pursuit

They’re bidding for your route
a good one, Mailman Terry said,
low volume,
not too many hills
neighborly people
the woman in the yellow house, par example,
the Adams family with their windchimes
and waving flags

Will the birds in my birdbath miss you?
Do they twitter to the birds in Bensalem
that after work you sit in your recliner
with a cup of Folger’s instant
resting your legs
looking out the window
at the freshly fallen snow
Never again, never again.

- Ruth Z Deming

Friday, February 5, 2010


Grapes and I go way back. I was there when Bacchus had his wild drunken orgies, grape leaves round his head. I was there when Steinbeck wrote his Grapes of Wrath peering across his shoulder saying, Way to go, Johnny, way to go, don't stop.

But best of all, I consume them. Can you see me tossing a purple one up in the air and catching it in my mouth, an old trick I used to do for my kids and company. Purple grapes, globe seeded grapes, concord grapes w/their gelatinous filling like pie, and sweet yellow grapes.

So it was I went to my second art class thother night at Abington High School. You'd think a girl like me would be prepared, wouldn't you. But I hadn't had time to think during the week so I came in not knowing what to paint.

There on the teacher's desk was a bunch of brown grapes, just like at home. Bill, I said to the fellow next to me, these grapes look good enuf to eat, but don't try it. They're fake!

That's what I chose to paint for my first in-class painting.

First we took our canvas - I borrowed a piece of thick canvas from the teacher cuz I came unprepared tho have only today purchased mine own pad of special paper - and we painted the background.

Now you'd think this would be easy. I'll tell you right away, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. The teacher, Chris, would come over and say, Ruth you've got all these white spaces all over the page. Cover them up!

You don't even see em when you're painting it yourself. The object was to simply paint the background on which to paint your objects.

"This is like kindergarten," I said to Bill, my neighbor who has the misfortune of hearing my heavy sighs of frustration as I lather on the paint.

It is so much fun!

Finally, finally I got my green background done. Green - a mixture of veridian blue and yellow (I think) with a touch of red.

Now it's time for the grapes. First, the stems. Dyou know I never noticed what a stem looking like until I began to paint one. They are complicated. They are beautiful. I painted a page full of stems. Chris liked it. "Fill up the page," he said, so I painted stems across the whole page. It looked gorgeous! Wiggly lines like curved railroad trax.

Please, I said to myself, please, Ruthie, do not blow it when you paint on the grapes.

Chris told me to make em huge, like eggs. So I did. I didn't blow it. That was my sole motivator. Don't ruin the damn thing. Improve it. Fill the page. That's called composition.


Finished my newspaper story about Poets and Poetry at the Elkins Park Library and mailed it into the editor. He said Make it no more than 800 words, the reader gets bored after that. My story was 667 words. I wasn't bored.

Now I get to relax. I'm eating some popcorn sprinkled w/nutritional yeast.

My driveway and lawn are snowless and await with me the arrival of the snow.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Poets Night Out / Poem: His Hands

If you heard a yelp of joy that's b/c I just got off the phone w/Mike Morsch, editor of Montgomery Newspapers who said Yes, I can write a real article, a whole article, about last nite's poetry reading at the Elkins Park Library.

I usually end up writing just a Letter to the Editor cuz I can't contain my enthusiasm for these events, sponsored by Arthur Krasnow.

As we know, timing is everything. Morsch has no idea who I am so had I left a message he may never have called back.

Before I left home this a.m. for my errands, I said to myself, Ruth, you must leave now. Something will depend on your arriving at the precise right time.

This may be an avoidance of a fatal car crash or any no. of things. Death is never far from my mind. Turns out as I was leaving the supermarket I said:

Tom, is that you?

He looked at me with his b'ful blue eyes.

I'm Ruth Deming, I said. From New Directions. We miss you!

Tom does indeed need to come back. His ex-wife's giving him a hard time and he'd get emotional support from our group. I gave Tom our brochure which I always carry in my backpack along with a jug of water, AccuPay reject pads from my printer, my cell phone which I have no idea how to answer (only to make phone calls)and a cut-up pajama bottom which I use as a hankie.

I have taken up a new nervous habit: pulling on my ear to help me think.

At the poetry reading, I read His Hands about boyfriend Scott's hands. They're quite small but oh the things they do. I always wanna write a companion poem called His Smile but I haven't done it yet. He and I have a date this afternoon to watch Bergman's Wild Strawberries which I checked outa the libe. We can't remember if we've seen it or not.

We saw the fantastic The Apostle thother day, a creation of the great Robt Duvall who waited 15 yrs to make the film. He couldn't raise the money from investors so he went to his accntnt who said, Do it, Bobby, do it! Wonderful film about a preacher who kills his wife's lover with a baseball bat and then runs from the law. Superb acting including the late Farah Fawcett, who Peggela's daughter is named after.


a catholic schoolboy’s across his
his tiny hands
how they trust him

the things he does with them
the places they go
he is a fixer of trains
a well-proportioned boy
fledged into the body of a man
his locker holds
a blue uniform
and airtight boots
with tips of steel
they call him on the loudspeaker
“Sherman to the car house
Sherman to the car house”
tools strapped to his belt
a silver flashlight
brightening the
womb of darkness
he crawls
like a stalking cat
hands nimble on the blind keyboard
of wires and switches
hard gleaming metal
wires and cable
the abdominal cavity of trains
where he lives

his whole life
lived in trains
and in rest from trains

- Ruth Z Deming

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Farewell J D Salinger

If you're like me, The Catcher in the Rye was written for us. I dunno how many times I read that book, four, five, but each time it was like Hey, that's me - then and now.

It's about how we experience life. Are we authentic beings or 'phonies' who live to impress. To read more about this great writer whose entire canon - or should I say oeuvre (which is less phony?) is contained in many other novels and short story collections other than simply 'Catcher' read more on this New Yorker link.

You see, I want to live up to the experience of Salinger. Writers do have a major influence on us. Living up to the expectations of Salinger. Or Faulkner. Be good to one another.

So I said to myself, Little Ruthie, you're finished with your novel. Now what the hell you gonna do with yourself. Well, little Ruthie answered, I'll write myself another novel. Just gotta think up a new idea.

Well sir, I told Scott that I interviewed this guy named Larry, a former boxer. See these hands? Larry said to me at Barnes & Noble, these are lethal weapons. And we talked and I got a lot of his story and I typed it up one night as the start of a novel. And it was good. Damn good. And I like it. But you know what? I ain't gonna meet with that man and his lethal weapon hands anymore. I'd like to, but I'm not gonna do it. Unless, unless that knock on the door is..... don't tell me.... don't tell me.....


Yep he drove right over in that b'ful maroon color truck of his, double cab, that never strays from his driveway. Unemployed? Don't know.

Anyway, Larry isn't here of course but I am. And I got two more ideas for a novel. The second idea I like the best. It's from the point of view of a young man who just happens to commit suicide. I knew him quite well since he was my brother. I've gotta chew on the idea a bit and see what I think.

He would've been 49 had he lived. Or I could make my brother alive. Thanks for letting me try out my ideas here on my blog.