Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Donation Letter / Back in the driver's seat / Heroin poem

Here's the view from my living room couch. Cheerful, isn't it? Flowers are imperative on windowsills in the darkening winter. When twilight comes, I turn on my Xmas lights.

My friend Jonatha Johnson, quiltmaker, who moved back to Vicksburg MI earlier this year, sent me these darling Xmas ornaments who I liken to Snap Crackle and Pop, the Rice Crispies fellows from the 50s. See below.

Jonatha said she's made lots of friends since her move from the Washington DC area. I wanted to send her my poem People from the Midwest but try as I may, I can't find it.

Yesterday I was upstairs in the study typing up a few letters, as I'm wont to do in my position as leader of the free world, oh, I forgot, that's Obama's job, (dyou believe the dude is finally getting some legislation passed?) and after I finished my second letter, I took myself by surprise and began typing up a donation letter to many people in my address book.

The fact that I can write a good letter or a good poem or a good blog post is, quite frankly, my raison d'etre. Now this is a really good letter but we can also say, if it's so good it should produce results.

Hi everyone,

The time is now! New Directions needs your tax-deductible donation more than ever.

Click onto our website to see our wonderful activities - - and also to make your IMMEDIATE PayPal donation - OR mail in your check to New Directions, PO Box 181, Hatboro, PA 19040.

No donation too large or too small.

Who else but New Directions answers every single phone call within 24 hours, thanks to our dedicated daily phone greeters?

Who else gives day-to-day 'counseling' to help a person thru their deep depression until the darkness lifts?

Who else but New Directions maintains a Top Doc / Top Therapist list to keep our members productive citizens of the world?

Who else publishes our 40-page Compass magazine with inspirational stories, news items and poetry?

If you agree that New Directions is instrumental to the literally thousands of people who have passed through our doors, INCLUDING YOUR OWN SWEET SELF, THANK US WITH A DONATION.

Warm wishes to you all,

Ruth Z Deming, MGPGP
215 659 2142


Hanging over my head is the need to get labwork for my kidneys. Since I've temp'ly stopped driving due to sciatica, I've had to miss appointments w/my kidney doctor.

Today I was determined to get the tests done. I tiptoed into Scott's bedroom where he was still under the covers. Okay, he was in no shape to drive me. Time for Plan B.

I got my car keys, unlocked my car door, packed my Vatican bag w/wallet and book and set off for Jenkintown and Quest Diagnostics.

When thinking about driving, which I haven't done in THREE MONTHS I thought to myself, Will I remember how to do it? Will I remember how to get to Jenkintown?

I have an enduring fantasy of my 88-yo mother getting behind the wheel. She gave up driving when she was about 80, but I always wonder if there were an emergency, would she be able to drive? This adds to another fantasy of mine, my favorite, What if I lost my contact lenses? Could I still drive? Now, that's a real tough call cuz I'm basically 'blind' w/o my eyes in.

So I get to Quest w/no problem at all. See, no one knows about this place. Everyone goes to the Abington one where the average wait, even w/an appt, is an hour. They force-feed you with the abomination of an unstoppable television, so you can't even read to kill time.

I'm the only one at Quest in J'town, just as I'd hoped. I take some deep drinks at the water fountain and gaze at the hideous green walls. Ah, I've remembered to bring my script with me, plus my Keith Richards book in case I have to wait. Now, when I was driving to J'town, what song should come on the radio but "Under My Thumb" which Keith talks about a lot in his book. So it was great to hear it. The lyrics, as are all the Stones' lyrics, are first written by Keith and then Mick Jagger finishes em up. The songs always tell a story, even tho the lyrics don't always make perfect sense.

Keith talks a lot about his drug usage which is pretty interesting to read about. Readers like myself can of course think back to their own drug histories; like Keith I was a child of the sixties and did inhale and did breathe in but never injected. Read my heroin poem at blog's end.

Lemme quote a line from "Life," Keith Richard's autobiography when he talks about what it's like to perform:

"Levitation is probably the closest analogy to what I feel - whether it's Jumpin' Jack or Satisfaction or All Down the Line - when I realize I've hit the right tempo and the band's behind me. It's like taking off in a Learjet. I have no sense that my feet are touching the ground. I'm elevated to this other space. People say, Why don't you give it up?

"I can't retire until I croak. I don't think they quite understand what I get out of this. I'm not doing it just for the money or for you. I'm doing it for me."

He also has a keen sense of characterization for all the thousands of people he meets in his life. Mick Jagger, he says, is his best friend and yet Jagger is insanely jealous of every single guy friend Richards has.

Turns out the Quest phlebotomist Annie told me her mom had a kidney transplant at Einstein Hospital. That's my hospital. In the parlance of advertising today, we say: My Einstein Hospital; or that's my bank. Very patently phony. But these people get on the bandwagon and they can't turn it off.

So Annie tells me that her mom had very good doctors. She had diabetes and was on dialysis for two years when the phone call came. All four grown children went down to Einstein and waited while mom was on the table. The surgeons would come into the waiting room periodically and reassure the family everything was going well.

Mom lived for 6 years with the cadaver's kidney. But, sadly, she developed an unrelated heart condition, which ended up killing her.

It was a nice little interlude between me and Annie while my blood was spurting into three vials, splish splash, splish splash.

In the old days I was a magnet for other people suffering from manic depression. Today I hear kidney stories.


My heroin poem was published in David Kime's Transcendent Visions magazine. It's one of my favorite poems I've written. I've written so many poems over the years that I can't keep track of them. I'd lost this poem for many years and then found it and and mailed it in to David. I called to thank him for the just-published issue. He was at the airport gonna fly to Dallas to visit family. He said I'd brought him 5 people to his zine.

Poets helping other poets.

At the end of his zine, he has a list of acknowledgments and info. Many of his poets run their own zines so he tells you how to order them. "Send concealed cash when ordering zines. If not make check out to the publisher, not the zine."

Whenever I send my poems in to David, I send him a twenty to defray expenses. So I loved reading this. That I'm not the only one who loves the ease of sending cash. This year I donated to several radio stations I like but I don't want their g'dam literature or proliferation thereof so I stuck twenties into the envelope with no return address.

Bold? You bet. It's only money. I didn't send kidneys.


I sat in her lawn chair waiting for the ducks to come by
the creek wound through her backyard
I thought I could live in a place like this.

Upstairs in the bathroom she and Dennis were
shooting heroin. He'd put in the kitchen sink for her,
a shock of porcelain white that was easy to clean and
a faucet that for once didn't drip.

Since I was twelve, I wanted to shoot heroin.
There was a movie with Frank Sinatra called
The Man with the Golden Arm and I wanted
to feel golden just once here on earth
before I left.

Sandy said whatever you do, stay out of the bathroom,
Don't even come near. I wondered what noises people
made when they shot heroin, if they used rubber tubing
as nurses do and if they looked at each other
when the snarl came?

Sandy, I said, before they went up. I'd like to have just a drop,
a little taste. (It was what I waited for all my life.)

Don't be silly, she said. Junkies don't share. It's all we got
for the whole damn week.

Dennis stood by the sliding glass door. He had
long tanned arms coming through his undershirt and blue eyes
like a kindergartner's on the first day of school.
Sure, he said, c'mon up.

I looked out at the creek while Sandy told him to hurry up.
And they went up the stairs. I sat in the chair and kicked my leg.
Maybe the ducks would be along sometime soon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Those were the days - the fifties! / Poem about Harold J Greenwold

A Times article alerted readers to the death, at 93, of one Mr Robbins Barstow, whose home movie "Disneyland Dream" was named to the National Film Registry by the Librarian of Congress.

When you watch this 30-minute home movie, you will be reminded of your own childhood, if, like me, you grew up in the 1950s and were a product of the American Dream of postwar America.

View the movie here. It has been downloaded 76,000 times.

Let me reminisce for a moment. My dad, who would be 89 today, was an avid home movie maker. Every family occasion was documented including Mary and Donny's wedding, Mark's bar mitzvah, our family trips to Deerborne MI, Colonial Williamsburg, Miami, plus exotic Pennsylvania which was right next door to the Ohio where we grew up.

Sometimes when I empty a pot of water into the sink, say, if I'm preparing spaghetti, I will remember my Grandma Lily doing the same thing in the kitchen of our 2929 Glenmore house in Shaker Heights, OH.

It was probly as long as 30 years ago that I last watched our home movies, which we had transferred into videocassetes.

Like Robbins Barstow, my dad wore short hair, which was the fashion of the time. Dad's beautiful black wavy hair that we saw in photographs was now cropped short in a 'crew cut.' None of us liked it but I spose it was easy to care for.

He was a well-organized man and had to be with a wife and 6 kids - Ruth, Donna, Ellen, Lynn, Amy and David. He made up the acronym DARDEL for the lot of us. He was a very clever man who was proud to be a businessman, tho he told me he wished he could've been a rabbi.

Known for giving sage advise to his family and employees, Harold J Greenwold resides forever in my heart. After his death at 59, I was unable to laugh for five long years. I was 34 when he died of brain cancer, an incredible drain on our whole family. At nite, I would lie awake and dream of smothering him to death. "How long is this gonna, last, Ruthie?" he would ask me during his slow lingering death.

One of the reasons I went back to Cleveland this past October was to meet with some of his old friends to see what they remembered of dad. I did not get to do that, however, b/c I was never alone with anyone but was always accompanied by my driver.

It was terribly frustrating.

There was one thing in particular I wanted to know about my dad but it remains a mystery to this day. Interestingly, one of dad's favorite sayings was, Life is a mystery.


I - Tell me your secret, says the solicitor

My father was a master at saying no.
When they called him up for a drawing for a free home in the Poconos
if only he’d accede to some ridiculous demand of theirs,
a survey, perhaps, or attending a matinee in an auditorium down in Philly….
but let us stop here and remember him before the phone rang,
it was October, but the red leaves bore no beauty,
he was wandering around the house,
a man at home during the day,
in his bathrobe, wearing men’s slippers that I never cared for,
they were so un-hip, they sloshed over the floor making silly noises,
not the way I cared for his handkerchiefs anyway,
giant handkerchiefs that, when he was at work,
I’d fish from the second drawer in allergy season,
or borrow from the same drawer a pair of his long black stretch socks.
I took the liberty of using his razor also when I took a shower
and shaved my legs in the master bathroom.
He raised fierce hell about the razor thing.
I always promised never to do it again, but always did,
and tried to wipe away the little hairs as best I could,
but in some mysterious fashion he always found them.
There must have been little hairs stuck to the blade.
They were always better razors than mine,
real Gillettes with those double bladed edges – swords -
they talked about on commercials, not el cheapos like mine.

We were in the family room, like two lost golden retrievers,
Dad and I, not my favorite room, dark wood paneling that looked fake,
a stone fireplace I couldn’t reconcile with the rest of the house,
I never liked my parents’ taste in houses, though I’ve always lived there,
always read my books there, but my father and I found ourselves this day
down in the family room, there was a red phone hanging on the wall.
And I was accompanying him on his journey around the house,
looking at the things he loved,
the carpets that came all the way from China,
the unabridged dictionary that stood on the desk from B. Altman.
You could even, if you wanted to, look out the patio door
and see the leaves on the trees outside. I hated them.
My father’s body looked smaller in his robe.
He hadn’t shaved in days and the stubble was coming in like a dark forest.
We were right there at the foot of the stairs where the red phone hung on the wall.
Mom was big on fashion and color accents,
Its long cord curling in stylish little perm’d curls,
Rapunzel hair, falling nearly to the floor.
It rang.
He had nothing to do all day but pick up the phone,
it was like a miracle that it rang and gave him something to do,
this is my father, you must remember,
who played ping pong as if it were the World Series,
Hitting the ball with his brother Marv, his arm cocked in battle.
You could hear that ball, goddamit, the syncopation of that
hollow little plastic thing wherever you were in the house,
even if you were upstairs in the pink bathroom, you could hear it,
that da-dum, da-dum, like Pygmy drumbeats.
So he got the phone as if it had come to save his life,
he answered it and held the red receiver to his ear.
I was never able to appreciate the charm he held over women,
or why he read that charismatic bullshit he subscribed to –
Marcus Cerullo! - that was just the way he was,
and I could vaguely hear the female voice on the other end,
you can always tell it’s a female because it’s higher up,
and then, he was very kind and waited until she was done,
he had time, and waited until she was done,
and said in that calm voice that made him famous, even to this day,
“I just got out of the hospital with a brain tumor and have six months to live,
what would I want with a house in the Poconos?”

II. Think only of the arbor vitae

It’s like I’m walking through cobwebs, he said at the start.
Like there’s cobwebs and I’m pushing my way through them.
When it happened, all this and sundry up to the hospital bed in the family room
and that bedstand that swings out in front of you when you eat
and then rolled away when you’re done.
I thought, My God, is this how I will remember my father?
Yellow and immovable and needing to be fed and hearing him slurp,
bald, of course, like they always are after radiation,
and the box-like commode next to the bed waiting for his next bowel movement.
And those godawful vegetable drinks my mother made for him,
believing until the last moment they would save him,
them and their orange bubbles and pieces of carrots
that weren’t pulverized entirely.

I wondered what it felt like to lie next to a man who was dying slowly next to you,
rotting on the inside, the smell of him not your father’s anymore,
the look of him certainly gone, oh I tried to memorize what it felt like
being with him, it was impossible, but if truth be told,
he stopped being my father early in the game.
I hated going in. I had to read the newspaper to him.
That was my job. He appointed me.
I had to do it every day for six months while his head grew massive with disease.
Can you imagine what that does to a girl to see her father like that,
we used to play catch in the front yard when he’d come home from work.
He’d go in for supper and then I’d wait for him on the front lawn,
there were some arbor vitae growing near the porch,
and he’d pitch high balls to me.
Pitch…that’s entirely the wrong word.
He’d throw a ball underhand into the sky, as high as it could fly.
And the neighbors would come out of their houses to feel the warm summer breeze,
and he’d say, Watch Ruthie catch the high flies!
He’d throw the ball up and I’d look high into the sky,
and could never find where it went.
I wondered, how could it disappear so quickly,
and then in the middle of my puzzlement, there it was!
Sailing down with terrible speed, getting larger and larger,
time going faster and faster, while I’d circle around the grass in silent ecstasy,
choose my place to stand, and expect its imminently perfect arrival.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What dyou want most in the mail? / Poem: Into the Cold

I hope Dan and Nicole don't mind my swiping baby photos off FB.

Medicare goofed and never sent me my new 'red white and blue card' as they call it which meant spending lots of phone time in order to have them re-send it.

Finally it came today in the mail. Return address read "Health and Human Services."

Now, I'm officially old.

Do not argue with me.

Age 59 was hard for me cuz that's the age my dad died. A lot went on in my mind. To honor him, I thought it wasn't right to outlive him, and yet my thirst for life was very strong.

See, these are emotions we're talking about, not rational thoughts. Emotions are really goofy. They come unbidden.

But it's important that thoughts are goofy and unpredictable. That's how great ideas come about. Let the mind roam free.

For example, I just spent time on YouTube listening to some great blues artists. You know, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Lighnin Hopkins, Muddy Walker, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson. These people are my idols!

So I'm sitting here on my bed rockin with them and I think to myself: What's the point of listening?

Capture a few of these stray thoughts that enter your head.

Currently I'm under the influence of Carl Sagan and his Cosmos program, orig. broadcast on PBS and now available online. This 1980 program of 13 episodes was the top-rated PBS Show until Ken Burns' Civil War in 1990.

It is not only prescient in its ability to foretell the harm we've done to our planet in the past 30 years, but also inspires the viewer with the awe and wonder of the cosmos. You will learn while you're being entertained by Sagan, who Isaac Asimov called 'only one of two other people who were smarter than me.'

Sagan died at age 62 of a form of leukemia. He was married three times and had lots of smart children. Born in 1934, he would be 76 today.


It happened so fast

This grown woman thing

You came to town and threw me a party

With birthday cake and red roses you put by the radio

I prevailed upon you to stay an extra day

You are the one more than anyone

I long for

You became the novelist I always wanted to be

Married a man who took you from our quiet street

Where green lawns and raked leaves are the measure

Of success

To a world rich with meaning like you had never known

That day in Battery Park we sat listening to him play

While the dancers rumbled about on stage

There’s Mark and Julie you pointed out beneath

The darkening sky

The grass was our quilt and the

Hudson rippled in the distance

This was the tip of Manhattan

Where Whitman had roamed bearded and unfettered

And now at party’s end I must see you off

The night is cold and dark

Wind howling round our little yellow house

That refuses to bend or yield to the mighty assaults

But stands: bright lights blaring as I walk you to the

Back porch

You wear a little tapered jacket and hat I want to call

A beanie from your Brownie days when you sold cookies

Bravely in the apartment when you were only six

I stood in the stairwell and listened

Small unrecognized prodigy that you were

We step onto the back porch

Me in my neck brace and limp

Nothing but a wounded fluttering bird

You ready to take on the world

As the wind soars around the back porch and

The door flaps on itself

Your smile as great as the wind and the cold night

You are gone down

The path where the kids come in from school

and the deer travel too

I shut the door loudly and

You are gone

I stand by the fire to warm myself

While your thoughts were on getting home to

The world you left behind.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Memories

What a fabulous meal we had at Dan and Nicole's. Ready? Christmas ham with pineapple, turkey w/cranberry sauce, green beans seasoned with basil, high potassium sweet potato, stuffing and plenty of gravy to slather over everything.

We all took turns holding rosy-cheeked Baby Grace. In an attempt to relive ye olde mothering days, I began to read to her. Without any warning, I began to read in a Yiddish accent...perhaps my name Bubby inspired me.

Right around the corner from my house on Terwood Road is the famous Xmas House, brought to you by the Valenzas. We cruise by there every year but before we dropped Sarah off at the train, we parked our car and along with dozens of other sightseers, walked around their huge property looking at their hundreds of decorations, and finally, after proceeding down the block a bit, hearing their Xmas music.

Sarah loved it and then we dropped her off at our Willow Grove train station and waited till the train arrived to take her back home to NY.

I was just sitting on the floor on my new carpet - it still has that delicious new-carpet smell - and I was filling my pillboxes. It's nearly impossible for me not to multi-task but when I fill the pillbox it takes all my concentration. I write the abbreviations of each pill on the box so I can easily find it.

Here's what I take:



Gee, I thought I took more! Maybe I shouldn't complain so much.

Anyway, I'm down on the floor and finally I'm finished. I look up out the window straight ahead and it's snowing merrily. A white dusting over my car, Charlie's lawn, sidewalk and street.

This is our first snowfall. We're expecting a foot or more.

I went onto my front porch and looked at the snow on the railing. It was piling up. We do things w/o even thinking. I picked up a thimble-full and thought, Look at these tiny little crystals, they fall democratically across everything, so many tiny flakes, the vastness of the universe is impossible to comprehend.

I put it to my lips and tasted the snow. I don't know what's the matter with the taste of the snow, it was the same last year, just not a good taste at all. Bill, I wonder how your snow tastes in Alaska?

Scott gave me a great Xmas gift - breakfast in bed for two days straight. Delicious eggs made with fresh chives, rye bread, and pink grapefruit.

While we were falling asleep last nite - around 9 pm - we said how much we missed being out in nature. I'm still unable to walk long distances.

So we pretended to go on a walk. He chose his favorite park, which is the nearby Pennypack Trust. We walked down the path and saw a herd of wild turkeys who looked up as we passed by. Off in the distance a small family of deer walked near the springhouse, and suddenly overhead came the song of the wild geese as they made their way to yonder pond.

Next thing we knew it was 3 in the morning. The two of us have crazy sleep patterns. Scott gets out of bed and goes on the laptop to read the Times. I pull out my book and begin to read. I'm making my way thru the Times' best books of the year, reading both an EM Forster biography and the Keith Richards' autobiography.

Neither can be described as riveting tho Sarah said she was reading True Grit and found it so. It was actually my book, I'd read it years and years ago, and of course remember nothing. We can't wait to see the Coen Brothers film.

The best story I heard on Christmas day was told by my son Dan. One day when he was just a kid, he was walking down South Warminster Road, near our apartments, when he found a $20 bill on the sidewalk. He took it to the 7/11 on the corner and bought $20 worth of JUNK!!!

When you're a kid, nothing tastes as good as Three Musketeers, Snickers, MallowCups, Twix, $100,000 Bar.

Hey, got anything good to eat? I'm gonna make a salad and wash it down with some leftover cheesecake.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Liver biopsy / Poem: Short Procedure Unit

Eyob L. Feyssa, MD, hepatologist

Mom, Mom! Wake up.

That was my son on Thursday, picking me up for the FINAL TEST to determine if I can have a kidney transplant from my daughter.

I'd been up all nite watching documentaries, as usual. Charlie Rose is a great one - I fall asleep after three minutes - I also learned about the great philosopher and Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidigger - the sad penurious life of Mozart, who unlike Bach or Handel, couldn't get a commission to save his life.

So I was deep in sleep when Dan came to drive me to Einstein for my liver biopsy, again, the last test needed before Sarah can be my kidney transplant donor.

We drove down Broad Street as the sun was coming up. It was seriously beautiful. My anhedonia had lifted a bit so I could appreciate beauty. There was no question that we would get lost finding the Short Procedure Room, but we made good time getting lost and getting found.

The worst part of the procedure was waiting FOUR HOURS before we could go home. I had to sit immovable to make sure Ye Old Liver was not bleeding inside. A tiny little bandage was placed over where the incision went.

I'd had a similar biop in 2006 - did cute Cesar de la Torre do it? - but I think they anesthzed me.

Lemme tell you something. All these f'g tests are not my idea. I've gotta do EVERY SINGLE THING my transplant team orders me to. I am a person who abhors going to the doctor. But guess what? They will dismiss you if you don't cooperate.

The procedure began at 8 am and was completed by 9:30. I was very thirsty, but couldn't drink or eat for an hour. Finally, the clock chimed 10:30 (Dan and I watched it tick away) and nurse Susan Leventhal The Great brought me Cranberry Juice w/ice. My, was that delicious! Guess what I consequently have in my fridge today?

Best of all, Dan and I had four long hours to talk. We talked about his job, his family, and then when he went to get me an egg salad sandwich from the cafeteria, I said, Remind me to tell you a story when you come back.

My first psychiatrist was Alex Glijansky. I saw him at Abington Hospital. I brought little Dan to an appt.

Mom, he said, can I get a snack from the vending machine?

He was very little. I gave him some change and asked Alex where the machine was. Alex explained where it was and Dan ran off.

Ah, delicious junk!

Glijansky looked at me in amazement after Dan had left. "He wasn't even afraid!" he said.

One thing about my kids....I gave them responsibility right from the get-go. At restaurants, I used to send Sarah up to pay the check when she was three.

After my liver bio, my sciatica began to feel better. I began to walk in earnest. I felt so good yesterday I wrote Xmas cards to my gentile neighbors and hand-delivered them into their mailboxes. I remember walking up the hilly driveway of Bob and Judy Masser and then over to Nancy Myers next door to the Massers.

I suddenly came upon a thick-trunked tree that rose straight to the sky and studied it a moment. What a beautiful organism I thought. A tree. How splendid. I can see that same tree right now from my living room window. I'm sitting on my couch typing.

Dyou know that last week I could not sit up due to sciatica, the most heinous pain ever invented.

Spoke to my dear friend Denis Hazam who runs a bipolar group in town. I think he's had his new kidney for about 5 years, from a cadaver, but it's beginning to fail so he's going back on the list. One other man in his group has a new kidney from lithium-ruining your kidney - and he knows of three other people. I'd like to do a Compass article about how lithium wrecks our kidneys. I don't think there's any excuse to be prescribed that drug when there was so many others out there.

I feel very good. Possibly the sciatica was a 'nervous reaction' to getting all my testing done and now that it's all over and done with, equanimity will settle back in. We have to remember our bodies heal themselves when given the chance.


Dedicated to Eyob L. Feyssa, MD

I am not the first to say that
Having had manic depression
Makes the prospect of death
Almost pleasant –
They will never understand
Nor need to,
We have skirted death so often
Looked, from our eyrie of terror,
At Her comforting arms
Waiting like a trapeze artist to
Catch us
As you have caught me today
On the operating table at Einstein Northern
They didn’t put me out
Simply numbed an area below my breast
How to describe a couple of twinges when the
Needle entered my soft white flesh
that lips have kissed
While looking up at the doctor’s face
It helps if they are kind
With amber cheeks and frequent smiles
A man from Ethiopia
We practiced the procedure together
You will take deep breaths and when I say so
You will hold your breath
We practiced like children at the playground back in
Addis Ababa
I was always a fast runner and an acrobat and so
When I chanced upon Eyob we teamed up under
The vast African skies as we did here in the
Short Procedure Room
So many surprises
Doctors and nurses all here on my behalf
Do I deserve all this attention?
My abdomen was swabbed with sweetsmelling alcohol
They knew their lines in the operating theatre
While I was an innocent in the audience
Delighted by their precision:
You’ve got your costumes on, I said,
As they slipped blue plastic garments across
Their everyday attire
And caps too like in the movies
Who watched this movie? Who recorded it?
Who felt such an urge she rehearsed it in her sleep
As he made his way across the ocean after a lottery
Chose his family
As the victors
A blue template with hole punched through
Made its way onto my body
Beneath my hospital gown
I was the target, their needle would
Pierce my white turkey-meat flesh and withdraw
A sample of tissue from a huge pulsing organ just
Below the surface called the liver
Look at that word: Liver
See in it the word “Live” – as in “I am still alive” –
Not one of your more beautiful words
Like mother or swashbuckler or ambergris
Liver has a taint of the ridiculous like
Schizophrenic or bipolar
Unlike the mighty Brain whose long-winded vowels
Sing a hosanna to its majesty
I am grateful for the quiet in the room
The patter of the talk among the two surgeons and two nurses
Gathered again on my behalf
-do I deserve to live? – have my multitude of sins not conspired
To render me undeserving? To die the slow painless kidney death I
Have been rehearsing
In the end it is the piano I remember
A grand piano on the ground floor of the
Braemer Heart Building
Ivory keys hidden as they sing out in
The winter air
Hallelujah hallelujah let this
Girl be saved

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You are what you eat - Watch "Food Matters"

Two nights ago a new film was featured on, which is a free video-watching site. "Food Matters" told the amazing story of how most of the food we eat is actually five days old, bought at the supermarket, food that is grown from impoverished soil, so that what we end up eating lacks the barest of nutrients to maintain the health of our many body systems.

Add to that the propensity of the modern person to eat processed foods, refined foods, foods filled with chemical additives, not to mention drinking gallons of nutritionally deficient sugar water called soda, and you've got the formula for an obese and unhealthy society.

Not to worry, tho. The worldwide trillion-dollar drug industry exists to pump us with toxic chemicals that, for better or worse, will keep us alive.

And yet, say the film's producers - a young man and woman who have thoroughly researched the subject - our bodies have natural defenses - our immune systems - that will cure ourselves of all diseases,including heart disease, cancer, and even depression - if we know where to look.

Don't look in medical schools to teach new doctors about how food and, yes, vitamin supplements, can restore and preserve health. Medical schools - as well as doctor's offices - are funded by the drug industry.

Well, you might say, if this 'natural approach' is so good for you, why don't we hear about it on television, or in magazines.

Can it be true, as the filmmakers say, that not everything of importance is televised?

I invite you to openmindedly watch this movie with me and decide for yourself if, for example, you might wanna try niacin for depression - or to reduce cholesterol levels - or, eat a 51% raw fruit-vegetable diet to maximize absorption of nutrients in your body - and investigate the importance of massive doses of vitamin C as a natural anti-cancer agent.

Watch video here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse December 2010

As my sister Lynn says, Scuse me while I kiss the sky. Here's a photo of the December 2010 Lunar Eclipse that was clearly visible all night long here in Willow Grove PA. My last peek was around 3 am. I'd woken up after watching a documentary on my laptop in bed, put in my contact lenses, threw on a jacket and went outside to the front porch.

The air was freezing and bright. Where had the moon gone? Earlier it was way high up over Charlie's house. You know it was there, everything was so bright. I stepped down onto my sidewalk and cast my glance high in the air.

Sure enough, proudly boasting its changing light was our moon, a new, unknown coppery color. Bright stars twinkled all around accompanying her on her brave and rare journey as she does a 3.5 hour tango between the moving earth and the immovable sun.

I hoped that Scott could see it at work. He works outside a lot fixing the trains so it should be easy to simply raise his eyes to the skies.

After returning to my warm bed, I went on FB to report my findings, then reading a few Times articles including one telling of the demise of emails and the rise of social networking sites like FB, all b/c of immediacy and instant gratification, and how the cellphone and texting have supplanted emails.

What's the song by the Who? My Generation. (DO NOT try this at home.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lunar eclipse tonite!

Since it's a lunar eclipse - and not a solar - you can actually look at the moon. Follow along with NASA.

Four hours ago I sat in the living room with colorful needles sticking out of my left arm, then right, and finally into my ankles.

Have you heard of Einstein's definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Acupuncture has never helped me. But my friend "Polly" - she'd kill me if I used her real name - brought her acupuncurist friend Uri over - and we had a nice social visit while he tried to help me get relief from my sciatic pain which STILL ISN'T BETTER by a longshot, tho I doubt I'll have to conduct the orchestra tomro night from my sleeping bag.

Polly was at my birthday party and noted my extreme debility. Is that a word?

We sat and talked. Ari, the son of a Holocaust-survivor mom, was born in Israel. He returned there at 38 and served in the army. Hah! Rifles loaded and ready. I told him and Polly that I read the online NY Times headlines and they had a special video section today on the Afghan war, as told by enlisted men.

It was fascinating. One captain was 28 when he enlisted. He was studying lit at Yale and was deeply disturbed by Abu Ghirab and decided then and there to enlist to make things right. He was just promoted to a really important position and shared with viewers his worries of screwing up and getting his men killed.

Now that's responsibility!

Since we're all Jewish we began talking about the Nazis. I told them I fall asleep by watching (I wear my cervical collar so my neck won't come out of its socket) and I actually don't look at the screen, just listen.

Well, last nite there were Home Videos of Hitler at his retreat in Bavaria. My neck be damned! I couldn't take my eyes off these most powerful people in the world, strolling around as if they were getting ready for a game of golf or dinner in the Alps.

I also said I watched loads of footage about Chairman Mao taking over the entire country and defeating Chiang Kai Shek who was pushed all the way into Formosa, Hong Kong.

This is better than sleeping, witnessing the way of the world.

After Ari and Polly left, I ate a poached apple (the apples were going bad so I poached em in water) and then went right to bed.

I was exhausted. The test was to see if I could sleep w/o watching a video.

Success, easily.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poem: In the Sitting Room

Here's a poem I wrote after visiting mom last nite. I presented it at my Writers Group this afternoon, which is he only way I can get any writing done. My cousin Mark Greenwold did a painting years ago called The Sewing Room. His father, my Uncle Marvin, said, Mark, why don't you paint pleasant scenes? The Sewing Room is a lovely little room, perfectly furnished, and Mark is shown in the process of stabbing his first wife Barbara. You can read this interview w/Mark if you feel like wasting time and putting your body thru unnatural contortions.

Here's my favorite line of the interview:

... [T]hat’s really interesting to me about painting. You know, it sits on the wall mutely, pretty much waiting for the viewer to come by every 100 years, or whatever, and maybe get interested in it for a minute or two.

Gee, after reading the above interview, I'm wondering if there's not something wrong with me. Unlike cousin Mark, I've never imagined murdering anyone. Oops! I forgot. When I had my first mania, I said to my mom, the same woman I wrote about in the poem below: "Mom, I'm gonna kill you. You always stand in my way."


This was my father’s favorite room

The loveseats especially where

Mom and I sit contemplating

What is left of the other

She brings out her letters and photos

No one cares

Her and dad, his arm ‘round her waist

high heels shining on the warm Cleveland grass

‘before we were married’ she says

His daily love letters typewritten on

Marine stationery, I wanted to hear her say

Her love for him was unstoppable, even beyond the

Grave, but feelings are submerged in this family

Though when mine popped out accidentally I was

Sent to the ward

The shiny black and whites pass between us

Ah, here I am, that famous one of me at three

Scrubbing the front porch, a nipple showing in a

Careless pose,

In another I am bottomless

That’s the one my father carried in his wallet

I have never complained

Never told anybody

Though some nights I cringed under my blankets

And of course have never forgiven them

Mom passes me the menu they served at Camp Lejeune

The day I was born 65 years ago

Christmas 1945:

How near it sounds, how hallowed

hearts of celery – bouillon of beef –

Roast young Maryland turkey - giblet gravy –

It’s as if they’re serving it today and I enter no fanfare

And they all come alive, the long-departed who

Served their country slinging rifles and canteens with

warm water

Not far away on another table is baby Ruth

Beet-red and good enough to eat when she first came sliding

down the chute

Roast young Carolinian Ruthie

They loved her right away and here are the pictures to prove it

Mom hands me a batch of black and whites - her massive 88-year-old jowls proud as

A Golden Retriever’s – and quaver not –

Young Ruthie is on her belly, smiling for the camera at Higbee’s Department Store

Are those dad’s eyes?

And eyebrows waiting to be noticed

as they are today.

Our sacred exchange of death-bed sanctities

Is witnessed by no one but the ghosts of

Our lives

too easily assembling underground

I gather up the party favors from a

life well spent

And study her wrinkled cheeks as she must be studying mine

seated on the couches my father loved

and take them home

the burden now mine.

NOTE: Be sure to read the comment below by my friend Coach Iris Arenson-Fuller.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Comcast newsmakers

By the powers vested in me as your fearless leader of New Directions, I figured it was time to make a new appearance on the 5-minute interview show known as Comcast Newsmakers. My last appearance was May 2008. At that time I borrowed flowers from a neighbor's garden and used them as props. I also held up our last Compass that was published by Johnson and Johnson, before we had to pay for it ourselves. Not cheap! I said to the interviewer Carla Showell-Lee that we had just received a grant and we were hard at work putting out a new issue.

Truth be told, I was hard at work procrastinating. The endeavor seemed so monumental I couldn't think how it would ever get done.

You know how to do it? You assign people articles. One-third will never produce. But as soon as the first article comes in, you will feel so grateful and so beholden to them for taking the time and energy to write, that you'll do everything you can to publish the magazine.

I'm still not driving due to my sciatica, which alarmingly spread to my friggin neck and back....oh, listen to me complain for just a minute and then I'll shut up...I've Ada drove me to the Penns Landing studio where we arrived very early. I sat in my preferred seat, the backseat, unbelted, and had taken off my cervical collar for the first time in a week.

In other words, I was a tiny bit better today. If on a scale of 1 - 10 my pain had been 10, today it was down to 5. I walked w/o limping.

Ada and I met two interesting politicians who were recording before we were. Two very liberal Democrats who had done wonderful things for their constituents, made real changes. One woman was Babette Josephs, a state rep from Center City and environs. The other was state senator Larry Farnese. They had no interest in us whatsoever but I shoved a Compass in their hands and suggested they use their influence to have the eyesore property across the street (orig. scheduled for a casino but nixed) to be replaced with something the city can use. For example, how bout a nice actor's studio sponsored by Comcast, who as the largest cable operator and home Internet service provider in the world, could certainly afford it. Why not take kids from inner city schools and get them excited about acting.

Comcast has had some exceedingly bad publicity and their own customers rate them foul, so this would be a nice way of mending fences. Of course they're not gonna do it, but, hey let's put the idea out there anyway. Maybe Brian Roberts will read my blog.Yes, and maybe the Pope will convert to Judaism.

My anchor woman this time was Jill Horner. She was very good. You discuss the points to make in the interview and she'll direct your questions that way. I'd brought in my Compass mag which she held up and also my autobiog Yes I Can.

The one thing I feared the most was being cold. That studio is always freezing. Today was the only day that the A/C stopped working so it was actually a comfortable temperature.

Roberto, thanks, as always for your support. He came to my party and had a great time. I carefully chose my 40 guests to make sure they'd all get along well with one another and have plenty to talk about.

Everyone loved Claudia Beechman who sang her trademark song, La Vie en Rose. What a voice! Her husband Barry baked a banana bread for us. Homemade food is the very best. Lee Ann baked brownies which I ferreted away in the freezer so I wouldn't be tempted.

After the Comcast interview, and after blogging, what should I do? Any ideas?

Oh, they always give you the DVD after the interview and my son will load it onto YouTube and my website. While I'm happy with the interview, there was so much more that I wanted to say. I tried not to repeat myself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Take Five - or Ten - to listen to Beethoven

Hark! Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is on WRTI. During my first mania I thought Beethoven was inhabiting my body and that the Ninth was being played by the wind in the trees, the whooshing of the cars, and the dead autumn leaves rustling in the street.

What a long strange trip that was.

Speaking of the Grateful Dead, dig this. My cousin Chez Ray Sewell just got a kidney transplant. He lives in Eugene, OR. Ray, a corpulent long-bearded fellow, was the chef for the Grateful Dead.

The most prevalent reason for getting a kidney transplant is diabetes which is what Ray suffers from. He was on dialysis for many years but finally his number came up.

Beethoven employs little melodies in his works, catchy melodies, that suddenly turn on a dime and instead of being happy and carefree immediately plunge you into a darkness of your soul. But he does not abandon you. He does not wanna leave you feeling sad. He wants to take you on the full circuitry of human emotion...if you can tolerate it.

His string quartets are another story, some so heart-wrenchingly beautiful and sad it seems the floor should be bathed in tears.

The phone just rang. It was wrong of me to answer it. I must now devote all my attention to the Ninth. The final movement is an explosion of joy - called Ode to Joy - as it breaks new ground and becomes a singing chorus with plenty of solos. But, ah, how he keeps us waiting...yes, I hear it now,

Freude, schöner Götterfunken

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Party Photos

Sarah Lynn Deming, my wonderful daughter. Her website is here. She's married to pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus jazz trio. He called to say hello from Denver where the band was playing and giving a jazz workshop for high school kids.

Even though my party was two days ago, we're still talking about it. One reason is b/c I passed out the Compass mag and I'm getting superb reviews for it. Ada helped tremendousouly in the News Roundup section where we talked about current mental health news. Ada condensed them and I wrote catchy headlines such as "Take a pill to forget your wife just died."

Though the shebang ended officially at 6 pm, a few people stayed an hour or more. Here's Sarah in her party dress, the same one she wore when she officiated my niece Melissa's wedding in Long Island. Coincidentally, I'm wearing my purple velvet that I wore when I was the "funeral orator" at Wetzel and Sons in Philly. Are these places ever called Wetzel and Daughters?

As you can see, we eat very healthy foods in this family. Highlights include: babaghanoush (sounds like a children's book but it's eggplant dip) - tahini (made from sesame seeds), green salad w/marinated flank steak for you grrr-carnivores out there).

Lindt chocolate squares are in the bowls on the right and a selection of lovely cheeses are below, including a smoky goat that was superb. Scott's parents bought hoagies on the right below.

My Xmas decorations are reflected in the curio cabinet which holds my tiny clay sculptures. This is the first year ever I've had Xmas ornaments. Holy Cow! Is that mom's green jello mold on the left?

Scott in his argyle sweater. The baby wore argyle socks that came up to her thighs. Hmm, what are those style socks called Nicole?

Here's Scott and his folks. Everyone thinks Scott and his dad Dave look alike. His folks are super-nice, great people!

A couple years ago I let my hair go au naturel, aka, all white. Scott's mom Natalie sent me a photo she took of me and Scott. "What was I thinking?" I said to myself. "I look old enough to be his mother."

I went back to the beauty shop and am sticking to my beautiful fake hair color.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ruth's chocolate cake party

What a fabulous party we had on Saturday Dec. 11 from 2 to 6 pm. Daughter Sarah came and made most of the fantastic food. Highlights include:

- seafood salad comprised of fresh shrimp, scallops, salmon, seasoned w/dill, mustard, capers, radishes

- baba ghanoush - Sarah grilled the eggplant over the fire on the range - and seasoned w/garlic, tahini, and lemon

- chocolate cake which was the best I've ever had. Icing made from Lindt chocolate and butter. Cake itself made from cocoa, brown sugar, butter.

At my request, my mom made my childhood favorite Green Jello Mold, with pineapple and sour cream. She also made her great Rum Cake.

I was seated on the couch and greeted all the guests as they entered. Every single person who came is a gem. I didn't realize I had so many friends until they were all gathered in my living room/dining room and kitchen.

"It was great," says Sarah who is leaning over my shoulder now. I persuaded her to stay in town another day.

Two of my favorite people are artist Barbara Postel and her husband Carlos Guerrero. Carlos is a carpenter (not that carpenter)who redid my back porch several years ago. I had written an article about Barb and her artwork years ago for a local paper. It was called something like "The Sky Comes Down to the Earth," b/c when she was in kindergarten she realized that the sky should not appear at the top of the drawing paper, since the sky is all around us. So, this unique noncomformist made the sky come down to the earth.

Barb made this YouTube video of the party. I didn't see her doing it. Click here and enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Every day is a fine adventure - did you know that?

My man-servant Noam came over early. We're still arranging my house and he doesn't mind doing the heavy lifting.

We also mailed out more Compasses.

On my wall, I had several sheets of beautiful stamps: one was American flags. the other Alexander Calder mobiles.

Since I'm in Major Clean-up Mode, which is unusual for me, even when I had manic depression, I never cleaned, I carefully removed the stamps and transported them to the PO where John put them on all my Compass packets. Each one cost about $5. Life ain't cheap.

I've been friends with Noam's family for over ten years. I used to visit his late father - Bobby - at their Southampton townhouse. Bob would spend part of the year here and thother half at the Israeli kibbutz where Noam and his two sibs were born.

Noam learned great organizing skills working at the kibbutz.

When I'd go visit, Bob and I would sit in the living room and he'd play me his favorite music while his red-headed wife Cynthia read her novel. We'd talk about everything. Bob was a polymath and there was little he did not know.

We were also great walkers and would walk around the neighborhood. I have such fond memories of him. He taught Yiddish to rabbis and gave a talk at a local synagogue which I faithfully attended.

I also attended his funeral two years ago. He died suddenly. As Noam said, he's at peace now. He had been newly diagnosed with Parkinson's and did not wanna face life with a progressive neuromuscular disease.

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted. I was up watching videos on my laptop. If I wasn't gonna turn 65 later this month, I would remember what I watched and tell you. Actually, I do know, but thinking em up is as hard as the heavy lifting Noam did for me this morning.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Makeover for the Living Room

Last nite on, I watched an interview with C G Jung, who happens to be the first Jungian analyst. Made me think about a lot of things including my own analyst, Beth Lindsey, who, after a stint in prison for non-payment of alimony, moved to England where she became a Buddhist nun.

Oh, you can get so caught up in the lives of other people you forget what you wanted to blog about. One of Jung's patients said to him, If there was a God, he would look like you.

Jung was not formidable. Not threatening. Just like God, who is sitting with me right here in my room, invisible, of course, I'm a Jewish nonbeliever, and he's going to question me. No, he's not gonna ask me which Medicare plan I've finally settled on - I have 3 months to decide when I turn 65 later this month - but, well, let's let him get on w/the interview.

Zeus: Why are you rearranging your living room, little Ruthie?

Me: Well, it seems that the new carpet, fresh and clean as it is, with, you know, that new carpet smell, deserves a fresh new decor.

Zeus: I noticed you removed your computer and desk.

Me: Yes, Lord, my dining room had become my office. Full of papers. Geez, under my pretty secretariat, I had heaps of copies of letters to the editor I had written, I had about 7 clipboards stacked against the wall, I had my canvas bags I take to the grocery store, you get the picture.

Zeus: Sounds like you decided to become more traditional now that you've reached the grand old age of 65.

Me: Yessir.
Zeus: Harrumph (sucking on his pipe). That end table looks a bit odd to me. Reverting back to your old ways, my dear?

Me: Well, you see, there were water stains on it, so I covered it over with this African batik. Don't you like it?

Zeus: Didn't say I didn't. Did you remember to water your dracaene?

Me: Oops. I'll do it tomro. Dyou mind if I talk about the first photo? Here, I'll print it again. This is actually a bench I had up in my bedroom, a very pretty bench that was hidden from the world.

Zeus: What's the phrase from the Bible? Buried under a bushel?

Me: Yes, I had heaps of clothes on the bench. Even shorts from the summertime. Oh, how we miss the summer. So I put all my clothes away and my friend Noam carried the bench downstairs for me. Then I set to painting it.

Z: Good god, woman, can't you leave well enuf alone?

Me: You don't understand, milord. The cushion was a f***g mess. Water stains all over it. All's I did was make lil designs over the stains. Can't see em now. Well, hardly.

Z: Resembles a menorah, don't it?

Me: True, tho Jung would say it wasn't an accident, that it arose from my deep unconscious. May I free-associate and tell you a Chanukah story?

Z: What if I said no?

Me: When my kids were little, Sarah asked me if she could stay home from school one day. We discussed it and I said, Sure, Sweetie Pie.

Z: Is that permissible?

Me: It is if you're the Demings. So when I wrote the note, I said, "Please excuse Sarah Deming. We were home celebrating Chanukah, the Feast of Lights.

Polite applause from Z.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Presenting.....The Compass!

My fear, when riding in the backseat, is that a cop will see that I'm not belted into place and give me lip, like, You think sciatica is bout your body catapulting outa the car. Fort'ly that didn't happen when Ada drove us to the printer to pick up The Compass. Seven heavy cartons that Mark Amos dollied out to her car.

Scott and I both took an issue upstairs to read before our nap. "Read the Editor's Corner," I urged him. That sets the tone for the rest of the mag.

Main problem w/the Compass was I was the only proofreader. (Did you know my son Dan was on the proofreading team at Forbes mag?)

It's nearly impossible to get it right when you proof your own stuff. What I'd do was read each article FIVE TIMES - at different times - to make sure I got it right. I'm actually afraid to read the Editor's Corner for fear of finding mistakes. Or, actually, sounding stupid.

Berber carpets get their name from a North African tribe who wove carpets with big and small tufts. Gary Fleet of Fleet Carpets brought in many samples of rugs but the berber was my favorite. May I introduce you new carpet...

I sat on the steps and watched for a few seconds while the 2 guys laid it down. They had so many tools! Each served a particular purpose. We talked about the dreadful economy, which is why they each work several carpet jobs, and how there's no middle class anymore. One guy left his Wawa coffee here which I just found and spilt down the drain. Smelled great! One of those French vanilla jobs that has hidden calories.

Here's Scott in his kitchen. On weekends, he cooks for the whole week. Before we read the Compass he made me a delicious bowl of oatmeal - good any time of day - with maple syrup and cinnamon - and half glass of cranberry juice.

Then we settled back to leaf thru the 40 pages of the mag. Articles include "The Life and Times of a Tamed Druggie and Thrillseeker" - "She's Smart, Beautiful, and Schizophrenic" - and "Claudia chases a dream: Her cyber affair."

You see, in a 'mental health magazine' just about everything fits!

So, what dyou have planned for the rest of the evening? I'm listening to WRTI-FM, the jazz station, who just noted it's Dave Brubeck's 90th b'day today. Take five! After I sign off here, you'll find me watching - vat else? - documentaries. I do my back exercises as I watch.

Carpet men are here / Poem: Requiem for a Passing Carpet

Frank and Dominic arrived while I was making my breakfast. They got right to work. Altho I have hardwood floors underneath, I prefer the soft feel of wall-to-wall on my bare feet, plus I'm a longtime floor-sitter, which is something that is good for everyone to do, like when we used to live in Altimira (the caves, silly, where we'd write on the walls).
Loads of dust from the foam pad underneath that had rotted from heat. The two workers freelance for several carpet companies. The competition, said Frank, is fierce in this bad economy.

I spent a restive night, watching documentaries and doing my back exercises.


Tomorrow you will
Lie on the cold December grass
You gave your life for your
Family, o soldier of the
Walk on me, you said,
I am your champagne-colored
Forest floor
Fine threads like swaying grass and
Softest moss
Butterflies come hither
Let wildflowers bloom for
Children and for lovers
Think me not unkind for trading you in
All things have lifespans
Carpets cannot last forever
Nor can children
Only the sky and yonder sun
Peeping out beyond Charley’s house
When morning comes
The noisy jangling with tools men
will arrive to take you down
I shall wear my widow’s weeds
Do carpets bleed?
Aye: of that I’m certain
But you shan’t be alone
I will stay with you till the end
See you to the cold December grass
O champagne-colored forest floor
And then of necessity turn my back
The way I did
On the old homestead
When Cowbell became my home.