Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Part II of Kidney Clinic - Dr Pande's hypothesis on allergies / Poem: Goldenrod

Dr Pande noticed that an inordinate amount of Americans suffer from allergies. He wondered why.

In India, he said, people do not have allergies.

He posited an 'exposure theory' in our brief couple of minutes together while he checked my heart (still tickin) and felt my ankles for swelling (demure, dainty, darling ankles).

In India, he said people don't ride around in air-conditioned cars or live in air-conditioned homes.

They are plein air all the time. Exposed to the elements. And thus they develop an immunity-by-osmosis to allergens - from trees, flowers, plants, weeds, you name it - and do not develop our allergies.

You is smart, I thot. 'You should write this up in an article.'

I didn't wanna embarrass him by saying he could be another Atul Gawande.

And, in 2006, when I was hanging around w/ my Indian friend, Mr Zachariah, we went strolling at Pennypack Park and I wrote this poem:


Much maligned beauty

your dusty fingers so like our own

pointing southward

where birds vanish

as does the sun

Accompany us, Goldenrod,

down the aisle

into the emptiness

of winter,

shine on

one last feast for the honeybee

and myself

my color-craving eyes

Once we thought you mean

thought it was you

who caused the twitch and sneeze,

but no, it was Ragweed who raged

like nettles in our nostrils

Fair nature

a lass to whom

all must bend,

to whom

all must show their fair form

then droop,

and pass,

Now, Goldenrod,

it’s your time to shine

across meadows deep

to remind us summer’s spent

to remind us soon we’ll be alone

with the sparrows

and the hidden voice of the wren

calling from unseen places.

Kidney Clinic: Lance a duo-transplant - chat w/ Dr Pande / Poem: I Pick Your Trash Now that You're Dead

First of all, today was a great publishing day for me.

My story on the Childhood Obesity Summit at my Willow Grove Giant Supermarket was published.

To make my editor happy, I also did my third Patch blog for him. Here's some email dialog we had after I got home from Kidney Clinic:

Gerry: Also, thank you, thank you for this awesome blog!

What on Earth was your 'landfill' poem about? Sure, the setting is a vile refuse wasteland of decomposition, and therefore death. But it's almost like a reverent ode at a funeral, like you want this person to still be with you and compare death to being a pitiful waste, like spent egg shells or a stinkbug in a napkin. It's almost as if you were summing up the life of Tony Soprano.

Ruthie: oh no, you didn't like my landfill poem. I QUIT!

Gerry: Wait ... wait!!!

I LOVED your landfill poem - the cadence, rhythm was an eerie upbeat to the visual symbolism you chose to describe, what I was asking about in my earlier comment.

To me, it's a throw back to the Emily Dickinson poem your group loves

- while not actually personifying Death, you certainly counteract the terrifying and grave nature of life's ultimate end by describing the Death event to that of a landfill, which you ponder if a (presumably - by the line "never to sit atop my table or adorn my arm" which demonstrates intimacy) loved one, will be able to escape to some more glorious after life, as suggested by hoping the exclusive divine songs of Orpheus will be able to touch the departed's ears and be "released" by another divine figure on Judegement Day (though the last line isn't as hopeful-sounding as it could have been, and is a fitting ending to a poem that starts out by describing trash). You further mock death by also titling the poem with a hoedown, typically a raucous and jovial event, with a juxtaposed oxymoron that is a landfill.

All this from my editor, Gerry Dungan. WE LOVE Gerry!

Hope you all had a nice Memorial Day. Scott and I spent it in his air-conditioned BR eating on the sheets.

My side of the bed is filled with crumbs and stains. Scott heated up a can of Goya field peas and green beans - delicious - and in an attempt not to spill it, I drank the dregs out of the bowl but somehow the spoon got in the way, smashing my upper left tooth where Dan's cat had butted me and I needed root canal.

We ate healthy hot dogs and scrumptious potato salad I made. Remember, pre-kidney op I couldn't eat taters.

OMG, the movies we watched over the weekend: The Last Emperor [of China] - superb, made in 1986, the year I started New Directions; and Local Hero about a town in Scotland where the Houston boys were gonna drill for oil; and Liberty Heights, a Barry Levinson film (who he?) about his Jewish upbringing. The great Joe Montegna played his dad.

Billy Elliot - the film, not the play - was slow-moving but the dancing was great.

Actually Liberty Heights inspired me to future-write about "The Lure of the Gentile" about my growing up days in Shaker Heights. My dad taught us to be proud of our Jewish heritage. But oh how we loved the blond blue-eyed gentiles and that means you, Mary Truby. You will be resurrected in my piece.

All right, all right, I can see this post is gonna be a wee bit long.

Kidney Clinic had the most people I've ever seen. Lots of surgery going on.

My hypotoneuse (sic) is that the warm weather brings out the recklessness in people.

Sat next to a fellow named Lance. I tried to catch his eye a couple times to no avail.

Finally, we spoke.

He had a totally different experience from me. It was so interesting I knew I wanted to write about it when Sarah and I do our mom-daughter transplant book.

Lance became an insulin-dependent diabetic when he was 22. Diabetes is the main cause for getting a new kidney.

But Lance was on The List for both a kidney and pancreas. You shoot to the top of the list if you want a combo since most people don't.

Lance, who lives in Lyndhurst, NJ, registered w/ three hospitals, one in Newark, Columbia Presbyterian in NYC, and our Einstein.

When I saw my nephrologist today, Dr Kung, he told that altho I'm on insulin I'm considered a Type 2 diabetic since I got mine when I was older.

He said it takes about 20 years for diabetes to do its damage to the body.

Sure enuf, Lance is 40 today, and began dialysis 8 months ago.

A month after he was on, one of his hospitals called and said his name had come up.

As is usual, he didn't get the kidney.

Sad story. The potential cadaver was killed in a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately his inner organs were too damaged to be salvaged.

In early May, Lance got THE call at 1:30 am. Neither he nor his wife answered the phone. They saw it was a 215-area code but didn't connect the dots.

Einstein calls you with plenty of warning, tho. And they also call everyone who knows you.

I told Lance that I was working on a story and had my phone unplugged when Einstein called me about a cadaver, this time a drug addict.

So, my son Dan emailed me! And of course I answer my emails.

Hold on. Lemme check my emails.

Oh, I feel so needy. Nothing was there.

Lance and his wife got to the hospital the next day and stayed in a nearby hotel b/c the deceased donor's family was gathering to say goodbye to their young man.

He was a 21-year-old young man who was riding his ATV (what dat?) w/o a helmet and died. All-terrain vehicle.

Lance got both his kidney and his pancreas. He showed me the scar which went from his navel straight up quite a ways.

His 2-yo daughter Olivia came over to see daddy's boo-boo again. It was a really beautiful job. It's like looking at my own scar all over again.

Both organs fit into the left and right sides of his lower abdomen.

Lance has a good recollection of entering the OR, unlike me, who only stayed awake about a minute.

First of all, HE SAW THE PANCREAS. One of the doctors was readying it for transplant, either Campos or Ortiz. There were probly a dozen doctors in there including trainees.

The pancreas wasn't very appealing, he said. "It was opaque and shiny and gooey."

Great description, Lance.

He's been insulin-free for 28 days. A whole month.

Mon dieu! He's got the insulin pump. I showed him my diabetes supplies that I bring w/me when I'll be gone awhile.

What fun to be able to share this w/someone who understands.

He asked if I ever got lo blood sugar. That's the one where it goes below 70 and you shake and get clammy and if untreated quickly, you can die.

On the three occasions I've gotten it, I just say, Calm down, Ruth, everything will be fine.

I showed him my Kashi TLC peanut bar I keep in my purse in case I get an attack. He read the label of the bar and said, 5 carbs, that's good.

See, I haven't memorized the carb thing yet, but on Saturday I'm taking a diabetes class at Abington Hospital.

Finally I was called in to the exam room. First I saw Dr Pande, jr nephrologist, before I saw fully-credentialed Dr Kung.

Young Dr Pande and his wife went SKYDIVING on Memorial Day. She had done it previously and persuaded him to try it.

They went up in a small Cessna in rural NJ. I believe they live in Jersey cuz she's finishing her psychiatry fellowship at Hahnemann, so that's sorta halfway for the two of them.

There were two really scary things, he said.

The first is going up in the plane. It shakes.

Then the instructor pushes you out of the plane. Of course he's directly in front of you and is pulling the strings on the chute.

You freefall for about a minute (?) and then you float to the ground for ten long minutes and enjoying the beautiful green countryside.

A thrill of a lifetime, he said.

We shook hands g'bye. I picked up my book, which I'm reading furiously for Thursday's book discussion at the library, and then Dr Kung came in.

I'm doing great - creatinine level is .8 - all labs A-OK and I asked the question, When can I get spine surgery.

Seven months after transplant, which will be November. I'm psyched.

Oh, here's a poem I found. John Leonard's house is just up the street from me. The new married w/dog couple have done a spectacular job landscaping the grounds.

Whatever you do, Mom, said Dan, Don't show them the poem.


at first they put out
the commode
seat up
to let it sink in

it sat on the grass
while kids passed by
what would they know of
rosebushes out front
or the hospice nurse

green dodge
parked under the carport
or about you, john leonard,
a man of ninety-five
in house slippers and morphine

visiting your garden out back
a week ago on garbage night
the invisible hand
lined up some broken rakes
and tumbledown shelves

I let them lie
seeking perfection

after your hip went last spring
you took me hobbling
through your backyard
Where did you learn to garden like that?
lilyponds with real frogs
birdhouses nailed to the pines
tarps to keep the benches dry

yesterday they put out a
I took it at dusk
felt the length of the wood
for splinters or other irregularities
felt the rusty blades with my thumb
tamped it on the sidewalk
out fell the autumn leaves
from the previous fall
not this one
for you were no longer
protector of your lawn

I rolled it
on the sidewalk
this way and that
hefted it over my head
victorious at last
and stabbed it bloodless
in the softness of my hand.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ruth Deming's Tips for Getting an MRI / Poem: Sciatica

On May 26, 2011, I got my MRI at Willow Grove Orthopaedics. They have an "open MRI" (see above pic from their website)

My friend Iris Arenson-Fuller is getting an MRI soon and knew I'd just had one, so she asked me for some tips.

Iris and I realize the immense importance of this new technology. My last MRI was of my lumbar spine to help determine if I'm a candidate for surgery. Obviously my pain is so excruciating I'm willing to undergo surgery. My pain threshold is quite high.

All of my MRIs have been done at Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington, PA. I had very positive experiences.

The last MRI, however, was done at an "Open MRI" facility in Willow Grove.


The most important thing is to establish a good relationship w/your technician. I explained to my tech, Craig Lawson, that I was really scared.

It's important to verbalize your feelings, w/o getting carried away. That will only cause more anxiety.

Everything you do in your MRI experience should be gauged to cause the minimum amount of anxiety.

To me this meant, Say your peace and get in the frigging machine ASAP.

I asked him if I could get out of the machine if I was too uncomfortable and he said Sure.

I reassured him and myself that I would be fine.

They give you EARPLUGS for the clanging noises the machine makes. Stick them in as tight as you can. The noise is fearsome! And for me, noise is the worst part of the experience, worse than the claustrophobic feeling.

When I first saw the machine, I wondered at the term "open MRI." It looked no different from any other of these machines.

Craig explained that once I was inside, I could crane my head over to my left and see light from the windows.

Barely! To me, it was absolutely no different from the other machines. My surgeon, Dr. Guy Lee, thinks otherwise of the Open MRIs.

Craig was wonderful. The room was freezing and he asked if I wanted a blanket. Sure, I said.

I found the Open MRI to be more restrictive than the other. After I lay on my back (Craig had kindly propped up my knees with a pillow, my pain is always excruciating) he placed a curving piece of plastic over my chest.

Dunno what it was for but needless to say it was extremely confining.

I was determined to come thru it like a champ.

How long will the whole thing take, I asked.

Twenty minutes, he said.

Not bad.

Yeah, until you get in there.

I asked Craig if I could do some stomach exercises once I got inside, (prescribed by my physical therapist), but he said, Better not, it could blur the images.

Okay, we begin. He's in an adjoining room and I'm rolling slowly up into the birth canal - oops! - into the MRI machine, which produces Magnetic waves and Radio waves.

He announced each procedure that he would do. His voice appeared somewhere in the huge room. See photo above.

Very helpful.

I couldn't hear him, so I'd shout WHAT? and he'd repeat it.

First thing he said was, Two series of three minutes each.

I lay there expectantly. Small clangs emanated right above me.

Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all.

Followed by the shockingly loud


Yes, I thought, this is why it's always so difficult.

My main tip to you, Dear Reader, is to bring a SCRIPT with you of Things to Discuss with Yourself while you're in the machine.

Think of pleasant things. Plan what you're gonna do when you get out of the machine. I envisioned myself walking back to my car, parked in a handicap zone, and I planned what to make for dinner.

Since I was pretty stressed while in the machine, I did a hand exercise my physical therapist gave me. After my kidney surgery on April 1, my hands were weak. I could barely write. How could I take notes for my Patch.com articles?

I squeezed my hands hard and did a number of these while the machine clanged and banged.

Enormously helpful!

Most of all, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. You can do it! The rewards of getting an MRI are enormous. First, you'll be proud of yourself. It'll be something to talk about w/your friends and family.

And, finally, it will lead to a diagnosis and treatment of what ails you.

PS - Here's one of my sciatica poems, the reason I'm gonna have back surgery.


Everything is shut down,
A purple curtain has been drawn
across the place I lie.
Books stacked on the floor
cannot be opened or even
acknowledged as friends.

The ring of the phone goes unanswered
The tump of the mailbox
is merely a sound,
a cqll to which I cannot reply.

For I am lying on the couch,
my new home,
The covers are puylled up to my eyes,
as if peace and softness
can vanquish the misery inside.

One day the leg is mine,
bending, obeying,
the next day it's a freak,
not leg so much as
folded-up ironing board,
hot with pain,
begging to be carried
or laid down to rest,
its sizzling miles of track
crackling at unexpected moments.

Just the two of us,
Pain and I,
lying side by side
under the covers,
an indecent pair,
A tireless lover
who won't leave my side.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Coffeeshop Writer's Group / Poem: The Highland Avenue Archives

Ruth and Anthony Williams who has a notebook filled with his poems. Tho I didn't say anything, I think he lives in a N Phila area with gangs. He brought his son Jawante with him, a tall kid for first grade.

Anthony said Jawante is used to going with his dad to poetry readings. Anthony has custody.
Donna Krause of Rockledge.
Donna brought these newcomers who really enhanced our group: Joseph Nutter and Bob, who is Donna's brother. A friend of theirs died - John Marshall - and all three of them wrote tribute-poetry to John. Extremely moving. Nutter had a surprisingly melodic voice and we encouraged him to use it: to find ways to perform.

When I was growing up in Cleveland, there was a high school named John Marshall. Who it was named after is not revealed on Wikipedia. My dad would have gone there but he went to the vocational school instead b/c he wanted to take radio announcing.

Look at the coincidence with Joseph Nutter and his mellifluous voice and my dad.

Carly Brown and Nadia Lande. How many people dyou know who are from CA and move to PA? That's Carly the redhead for you. Nadia lives in Fort Washington and was raised here and lived in NM for awhile, the perfect place for this nature-lover.

Elijah Pringle III and Beatriz Moisset. Elijah is from Philadelphia and South Carolina. Beatriz is from The Argentine with its ethnic diversity. Her family was orig. from France. Her late husband was named Peters. Now she lives in Willow Grove PA and

somehow we all found each other at The Writer's Group!!!

Read this article about Weinrich's I wrote for Patch.com.

This was one of the best groups we've ever had. Everyone offers such good feedback on the writing. I wrote my new poem about Highland Avenue, which goes past Abington Hospital, half an hour before the meeting.

It's the only way I can write: under pressure.

Since I run the group, we can let the conversation wander wherever it will. We stay on task and the most important thing is for everyone to read, and to ask the group questions about their poem.

"Do you understand the last stanza?" "Is there a better word I might use instead of...."

Since we were making good time, I got to read my previous poem Hoedown at the Landfill.

Elijah said he wouldn't change a word and knew I had tightened it. His nephew Anthony is a "master at removing the AND word and the THE word," all in the name of tightness, which is an operational word in poetry.

No extras allowed. They take away from the centrality of the poem.

You don't really know your poem until you read it out loud. Rhythm is the most important thing. Carly had a very good rhythm in her poem.

Beatriz read one of her nature essays - River of Birds - and everyone loved it. Someone commented that she should write a biology textbook b/c of her excellent prose and little stories.

Nadia usually brings in a nature poem or something about an abstract concept. She brought in Doubt yesterday. It made us all think. The thoughts in our head come out different on paper. She'll probly tighten it up and bring it in next time.

A nod to Archie Bell and the Drells.

Linda Barrett left early to work at Giant. She read an amazing poem. You never know what's gonna come out of that woman's head. It was about a snazzy car from 1978 - a GT Opal -and written from the point of view of her brother.

Question: Who made the car? Was it American or foreign-born?

Elijah read a poem astonishing in its cleverness. Like Dick Cavett, who has a particular talent with words so that, par example, he can take a phrase like 'particular talent' and create another word w/it, using all the letters.

He brought in a poem about buying roses so his friend would forgive him for a transgression.

The poem was written in two columns.

However, you can read it four different ways: top to bottom, side to side (the two columns), or backwards.

Elijah, who works at Prudential, just sent me an email saying Bravo! You run a really good group.

Why, thanks Elijah. That's cuz I have all of you to help me!


my car is a steed
the wind blows my hair
soon the snortings
replaced by remembrances of
you, dr aydin, a shrink i saw in
the emergency room
your beard and swarthy skin
deemed you different
tell me your thoughts you said
in a small cell where i paced
and felt my head connected to the stars
i want my earth back
and swallowed the small white pills
with a plastic cup of water
now, nejat aydin,
you are dying
kidney failure, they said,
perhaps dead
as i pass your circular drive
did i thank you enough?

horace avenue of the three stop signs
who will dilly dally?
who will go first?
if it pleases you, mr black car,
let me through
nostrils flaring

trot to our left and we’re
back in the hospital
my room overlooking highland
i watched dogwalkers in
my nightgown and ate
rice crispies with lo-fat milk
and salisbury steak like in
stauffer’s frozen tinfoil dinners

slowly slowly
the big light at susquehanna
a beautiful name we stole from the algonquin
none of us beautiful people
none of us
so you loved the land
but raped and scalped the conquered
your language is lovely,

on the bicentennial of america’s revolution
my son was born at this hospital
birth certificate wearing
stars and stripes
the doctor told me not to scream so much
he’d never delivered a woman with
senses intact
insistant on wearing her glasses so
she could see the infant emerge in the
overhead mirror
did you hear me screaming
i asked dad who drove me over

every street is like highland
- archived memories -
i wish there were another road:
i would go there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yippee! I'm a candidate for back surgery

Vat a day!

First I had to take over for Helen at our Giant meeting. She really wanted to be there but she and Larry had to drive to Milton, PA, to celebrate her mom's 90-something birthday.

I barely slept last nite. Dunno if it was cuz I had such a stimulating time at last nite's poetry reading but I didn't get to sleep until about 3.

As usual, I watch videos on my laptop before bed. Watched a superlative documentary by the NY Times which followed the daily activities of an American platoon in Afghanistan. The viewer got to know a few of the soldiers and their families back home.

Extremely moving! You felt the terror these men feel. They are deeply called to serve their country. While watching, I thought to myself, How am I serving my country? And made up some dumbass reason.

The entire nite I was fighting the urge to go upstairs and eat a Kashi bar. What stopped me was my excrucating leg pain. Sometimes it comes in handy. Who knew?

At the Giant meeting we talked about many things, cabbages and kings.

We talked about psychotherapy.

One woman, in her 50s, has never benefited from a therapist. But she is confused. She thinks it's almost mandatory to see one cuz most people in our group do.

So she schedules an appt w/ a new therapist. The therapist, clearly impressed by "Anna's" ability to deal with life, says: Not all people need to see a therapist.

As I've often said, there is no national foundation for people with bipolar disorder, as there is, par example, for folks with diabetes.

Foot care is part of the many necessaries for folks w/diabetes.

Bipolar concerns, which could be answered by our National Association for Bipolar Disorder and Depression, include, How much alcohol can I drink while taking meds? What are early-warning signs that I'm getting manic or depressed? What are the meds a patient takes for mood disorders?

I learned all this thru the excellent psychiatrists I had down thru the years. In those days, the psychiatrists did the therapy.

I had an entire 50-60 minute appointment with the doctor and came out feeling good!!!

Irv Yalom, MD, father of group psychotherapy

One man in our group attends a wonderful men's group and has learned to express his concerns and emotions within that group.

Indeed many New Directioneers get their therapy from our group.

Your best helpers are your peers. Most important quality is common sense and the ability to have empathy.

This is why I LOVE being a therapist. Plus I'm bold and don't waste time. Everything we do in session - or group sessions such as the Giant - must go toward Helping the person get better.

A good therapist is an idea person. He or she wants to know as much about you as possible so she can come up with ideas to help you.

And, you gotta set goals.

Today I was in an MRI machine, quietly freaking out BANGBANGBANG BABABA BOONGBOONG and distracting myself by thinking of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow when I realized - BANGBANG - that I had no long-term goals.

The lack of goals is tremendously upsetting to me. What use is it being on the earth if you don't use your god-given abilities?

Does blogging count? Or writing articles for Patch.com? Or "a beautiful novel," as Sarah said, if I can't get it published. Yes, the Denver agent rejected it, but I got some new ideas on AgentQuery.com and will implement them over the weekend.

Ya know what? If I could just garden or clip my roses, I'd be earning my keep. Frolicking with the garden bacteria is strictly forbidden after a kidney transplant. I stroked some wild grasses in my garden today, then went inside and washed my hands.

Thing is, I am a wild grass and a flower too.

So this afternoon I met surgeon Guy Lee. He's Italian. Short. Cute. But since I only saw him for 45 seconds I can't remember what he looks like - ah, here he is -

and didn't ask him any questions. That will come later. When I begin to prepare for surgery.

Guy's office houses 20 surgeons. Here's their unusually-designed website. Yours truly LOVES the way they spell ORTHOPAEDIC. Why? It gives it a grandeur and a dignity that makes the patient believe the doctors know what they're doing.

I truly believe the back surgery will be as effective as the kidney transplant.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Arthur, thanks for the great nite of poetry! / Poem: Hoedown at the Landfill

Our featured reader was Miriam Kotzin of the long braids and bad back. I can relate, I said to her afterward, holding my tushion (tush cushion when I went up to buy one of her many books.

Always have the author inscribe it. And then eat your heart out about the hundred or so poems you've written which would look lovely bound within a nice shiny cover.

Instead of meeting in our usual spot, the Community Room of the Elkins Park Library, we met in the Children's Room.

So much better! Airy, no closed doors.

Our host, Arthur, thanked me for making the trip again. I'd shown up erroneously last week. Of course I'd return. I couldn't wait to be reunited with our large poetry community.

Who would be there?

Sitting one over was Sister Mary Annette, who's an occupational therapist (!!!) at Moss Rehab. Attired in street clothes, she said she goes "undercover" as a therapist. They don't need to get involved with all that, she said.

I asked if this was her first time reading here, which it was. She wrote a poem about her sister who was just diagnosed with cancer.

Live in the moment, exhorted Mary Annette. Eat ice cream!

Most of us read two poems, since we had 17 readers after the featured poet.

Ken Schmolze of Fishtown always comes to listen. He shook hands with the guys. One time, many years ago, Kenny and I were on the phone for five hours. I wrote a piece about our talk, which, if it pleases the Lord, he will allow me to find.

Now Ken and I never ever talk, only to say hello.

One reader was better than the next. Three high school students from Cheltenham High had read in a poetry slam last week and repeated their dramatic performances for us.

Shirley Edelman spoke for all of us when she read a tribute poem to our Arthur! Glancing over at Arturo, I saw this amazing look on his face. He looked like he was having an angina attack.

His daughter, Judy, one of three girls and the only one that lives in town, was dabbing her eyes. How nice for her to see her father honored.

We love your dad, I mouthed to her.

Judy looked a bit like my friend Amy Russell. At first, I did think it was Amy and couldn't imagine why she was here.

Audrey Bookspan is such an old favorite you know she's gonna come up with something good, which is why the woman next to me pulled out her camera phone and clicked away.


Audrey, who was one of the Martha Graham dancers, now walks with a cane but is surely one of the most beautiful and elegant of women, with huge round dangling earrings and a lovely trim body.

Today, she announced, is National Tap Dance Day.

Sure enough, she plopped a pair of tap shoes on the podium, and read one poem complaining about getting old, and another about what to do about it.

You dance! She asked us to tap along with her as she sang her poem to the tune of Making Whoopee.

A true delight. She teaches tap dancing.

And then there was Mike Cohen, sitting next to girlfriend Connie, and Steve Delia.

No one reads like Mike, gesturing and bending and cracking jokes in his poems. Very clever man.

He and Delia both will enliven my first open mic on Friday June 12 at Weinrich's Bakery and Coffeeshop in Willow Grove.

I had to get home fast to take my antirejection pills, half an hour late, but it's okay.

When it was my turn to read, I said, My poem will answer the question on my T-shirt - Ask me Why I've Got Three Kidneys.

And then I read my new one: Hoedown at the Landfill. I'll dedicate it to Bill Hess, but only if he likes it.

Ya know what? I haven't the courage to re-read it.

What does that mean?


orange peels - eggshells - purple rubber bands
blood-soaked bandaids - stinkbugs in napkins
i shall miss you
plop you
with a thud
in the garbage can
the truck will pick you up tomorrow
grind you to bits while i sleep
unlike father and brother whose bodies
decompose with the worms and the grubs
you shall live forever
vying for superiority in the landfill
will you come alive?
will you pull apart and swarm with the microbes
who love you so
o dwellers of the underground
never to sit atop my table or adorn my arm or
staunch my blood
let orpheus sing his song for you
and christ set you free on judgment day.

Showtime at the library preceded by Foodtime on Cowbell - Mon jardin / Poem: Audubon's Girl

Here's some seafood chowder I made for Scott and me. Scallops, asparagus, mushrooms, taters, carrots. I steamed the latter two and added it to a big pot on the stove.

I never cook w/ salt so it's seasoned w/ bay leaves, olive oil, rice vinegar, onions, parsley.

Totally full of flavor.

Here's one of the fish mongers at the Giant supermarket: Sultan, pronounced Soo-tahn. Took a bunch of photos for a story I'm working on about Giant. Had to get permish from their corporate office in Carlisle, PA.

When Sarah was here a couple days ago, she needed a mixer to bake Ellen's b'day cake. So Scott got his Dormeyer electric beater down from the attic. It was his gramma Yetta's. She used to run a popular luncheonette in Philly.

Note to Iris: I keep my utensils on my kitchen table so they're readily available. I keep half the utensils in a ceramic pot Lynne Henrion gave me when I lived in TX and the other in the Kremp Florist glass container you sent me after my kidney operation. It's to the right of the mixer.

So, you see, after the blue hydrangeas went into the compost heap, I still have the glass cube to remind me of your gift that keeps on giving.

Time to leave for the Upper Moreland Library where they're showing a DVD of Life was a Lark at Willow Grove Park.

The room was packed - standing room only. Scott n I got there just in time. I snapped away, very annoying, I know. My camera started to fail - I had to hit the button five times for every pic I took.

Could my guilty conscience be traveling down to my fingers? The "jiggling atoms" so charmingly described by Nobelist Richard Feynman.

Jim Moran, children's librarian, introduces the film in his actor-like voice.

The 50-minute film, made in 1991, began with shots of the Willow Grove Park Mall as it looks today. Spectacular footage showed the park when it was completed in 1896 using archival postcards or original photos or films. You felt you were there.

Here's the Swan Ride that sailed in a 10-acre manmade lake on the park grounds. A fountain was in the center of the lake. It cost $100,000 back then.

The entire park was 100 acres along Easton Road. Funny, but when you tell outa-towners to come down Easton Road, like my cousin Lloyd when he was driving in from NYC, he thought it was Eastern Road. No wonder we're still waiting for him.

The park closed in 1976. It had undergone numerous transformations and at closing was called Six Gun Territory.

The many roller coasters - such as the Alps or Thunderbolt - were built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters Co. which still exists in nearby Hatfield, PA.

Of course, growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, we had our own amusement park - Euclid Beach - with its coasters: Flying Turns, Thriller, American Derby. I passed out briefly on the Flying Turns. Who knows? Maybe an incubus entered my body.

These rhododendrons are my next-door neighbors. When I first moved in, I planted fuschia-colored rhodos but they died the first week. They grow naturally in PA forests.

Interesting, crisp fungus growing on a tree stump in the backyard. I mean, you touch it and it flakes off.

I have a rather large backyard and these iris grow in a bed I had Adam plant for me many years ago. Got lots of mail-order iris, via Linda Rooney, secretary of Norm Lamonsoff, when we all worked at the now-defunct-turned into an upscale housing development, Bristol-Bensalem Human Services.

When I first moved in, I scavenged for wildflowers, not realizing they are extremely hard to transplant, unlike kidneys. However, this "money plant" has made it thru the years, as did my daylilies I found at the side of the road.

These fabulous pink iris grow in Scott's sideyard.

I bought this iris at Wankel's Nursery when I worked at Bristol-Bensalem. Had no idea what color it would be but I liked the idea of surprising myself. All colors are beautiful. I don't have a favorite, do you? My former boyfriend, Dave Moyer, who fought in Vietnam, liked purple. Oh, the stories he told!

Got this lovely perennial at Pennypack Ecological Trust. Everything has a name, but I shore can't remember this.

BTW, last night I tricked myself. I sent query letters of my novel to two agents. Am waiting for rejection notices from Boulder CO and NYC.

What? I should be optimistic? Is that gonna affect the outcome? I don't believe it for a moment. There's no rhyme or reason to whether they'll like the book or not. Their perspective is Will it sell?

I needed reassurance.

Scott, I said, what did you think of my book?

It was great, he said. Somebody will want it.


I once thought
only tall women in straw hats
and tanned shoulders
could tuck a copy of
the Audubon Field Guide of
Wildflowers of North America
under their arms and
use it with impunity.

But the urge for names came so strong
this spring
I sat in a borrowed hat
under the blazing sky
growing brown and freckled
then bought my own
lime green
leatherbound volume
O Audubon, I am yours!

On the kitchen table
I set up a lusty conference
of flowers plucked from
the deep woods.
They drooped half dead
white hooded blue tipped
fragrant pink-walled vessels
that became full again in
my ample vases,
pert as baby birds.

I counted petals
touched light and leaf
breathed color
felt the quick sting
of fragility
strummed and hummed
through Audubon
O give them all a name.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Dearest Sister Ellen

Sarah created this chocolate cake filled with a whipped cream chestnut filling. She bought flowers from Kremp and decorated the cake with them.

This was a SURPRISE PARTY for Ellen. She and Mom had no clue. Donna warned them, however, by saying she'd come over in an hour to show them her new teeth. She'd been in the dentist's chair for five hours, traveling from Hatboro PA to Amityville NY so her dentist daughter could do her teeth.

We all met up at Donna's Starbux and drove in a procession to Mom and Ellen's house. Balloons and all. Then we rang the bell and burst inside.

Surprise surprise!

Center stage on the dining room table.

My sister Lynn with Sarah. Birth order of the Greenwold Girls is Ruth Donna Ellen Lynn and Amy.

Melissa the dentist and mom Bernice, the matriarch. The patriarch is buried in Cleveland.

Grace and Nicole.

The two Cartagena sisters, Melissa diGrassi and Nicole Roche.

Ask Me Why I've Got Two Heads.

Ah, here she is now, the Birthday Girl.

Sarah's preparing the birthday candles. She told Ellen to wish for something she really wanted. Be bold! What would YOU wish for, dear Reader, son of Man.

Just learned that Patrick's middle name is Gabriel, the angel who announced to Mary she would bear The Son of Man.

Patrick loves his airplanes and his little cars. He makes incredibly realistic noises. I actually thought a plane was coming in for a landing down Gantt Drive.

Nikki took the bulk of these photos. You know what I was doing? Looking for my camera. Nikki was using it. I had no idea it was my camera since I'd never seen it from that angle. When she told me, I refused to believe her until I turned it around.

I'm downloading these photos as quik as I can so the family can view them. Then I'm going to Scott's for a night of film noirs.

The cake was light as a feather, melt in your mouth. Simply the best for our Ellie!!!

Nikki demonstrating an exercise for sciatica. Nearly everyone in our family has had it.

I can't stand talking about sciatica!

Sorry for the blur. Scott was there too, having come from his mom's house who was celebrating her 76th. He bought her a card and flowers at Kremp's.

I hope, sez I, you signed the card from Ruth and Scott.

No, he said, it never occurred to me.

Once upon a time this is what our family looked like. So long Dad and little David.

NAMI Walk - Raising Money and Awareness for Mental Health

Ten members of New Directions walked the entire 2.5 miles around the beautiful and green Montgomery County Community College.

I talked to so many interesting people including Nadine Hoch of PLAN of PA. She'll retire next year. Gail Beidler, who I saw, retired as a counselor at Creekwood and loves retirement.

I said to Tony Salvatore of MCES (where I was 302d in 1984) "Tony, I'll say hello to you after I grab some food." He's their director of development and a renowned speaker on suicide.

I was pleased to see some new friendships forming within our group as people walked along together.

What's more important than friendship?

Here's some photos I took. I won't caption them since I've gotta get outa the house in 2 minutes to attend a surprise birthday party for my sister Ellen.