A little self control.


Most every night I have a drink.
One cocktail can’t be much, I think.
But though I know I’d love a second
(And though that gin has surely beckoned)
I fear, my dear, that I have reckoned
One more might take me past the brink.
So I don’t have another drink.

Now that I’ve finished tonight’s drink,
My eyes won’t close, or even blink
And I’m afraid I’m too clear-headed
To probe those fantasies embedded
Dreaded, shredded and retreaded
That plague me when I’m forced to think.
I’d rather have another drink.

But damn me, I won’t make that drink.
I wish my armor had a chink
That freed me to be  indecorous,
Drunken and perhaps obstreperous!
I think it would be splendiferous.
But I’m a coward, that’s the kink.
I will not have that other drink.





What sleep may come

hermie and me

My need for sleep has started to frighten me.

Granted, I’ve always been a sleepyhead, but now, I am out of control. On Monday night last week, I fell asleep sometime after midnight… but sometime before one o’clock in the morning. I awakened the next day to unexpectedly bright sunlight. Then, I paddled to the kitchen, looked at the oven clock, and said, “damn, the power must have gone out last night. The clock stopped at 4:44.” I went over to my phone to look at the real time, and got an unpleasant surprise. It was 4:44.

In the afternoon.

I had slept damn near into the evening.

The phone revealed that my husband and kids had been trying to contact me all day, to no avail, and they were starting to get worried. It was embarrassing to call them back and say, “Sorry… I just woke up.” What kind of a loser goes to bed at midnight and wakes up in time to get ready for dinner? I started my conversation with each of them with the same kind of self-appalled apology, and then answered their logical questions. No, I wasn’t sick. No, I hadn’t had anything to drink the night before. Yes, I have been taking all my meds.

There’s nothing wrong physically, and I’m in a very good place psychologically. I just slept for about fifteen hours.

That night, I was afraid to fall asleep again… or maybe I was just afraid of staying asleep. I made sure of getting nothing better than a light slumber. Instead of going to bed, I lay on the overstuffed living room couch, and started streaming favorite operas on You Tube. Tosca was first. I fell asleep at some point before the heroine offed the villain, but woke up in time to hear her lover get shot. Then I streamed Lucia Di Lammermoor, but I’m afraid the poor old thing went crazy without me: I slept through my beloved Mad Scene.  Something else came on afterward, but I don’t remember what it was. It made a very loud noise sometime after 6:00 a.m., though, so I got up, took my meds, had three successive cups of coffee, and managed to stay awake until it was time for my nap.

It was lovely and very restful… as afternoon sleep generally is.

I’ve done the same thing every night and day for a week now… and really, it has to stop. To begin with, I miss my bed… and I miss my cat, Pewter, who lives in my room, and only plays with me when I’m reasonably awake. Her grandmother, Hermione, keeps me company in the living room, but she is not one to respect personal boundaries. After I’d finally nodded off last night, she woke me by shoving her paw in my mouth.

Furthermore, those afternoon naps are going a bit too late into the post meridien, if you know what I mean. When Jeff gets home from work, I like to pretend I’ve been productive… or at least, I like to pretend I’ve bathed, dressed, combed my hair and started dinner. More than once last week, he came  home to a pillow-wrinkled, generally disheveled old lady who had a wonderful idea: “Chinese?”

I don’t know what to do. I am now afraid to sleep and too tired to stay awake.

I do have to ask though: is there really any valid reason why I should keep to a traditional schedule anymore? I don’t have to be at work at any given time. I don’t have to drive the kids to school, or pick them up, or taxi them to their activities. I do have to get dinner on the table for Jeff, but he really does enjoy General Tso’s.

Is there really any reason I shouldn’t sleep for fifteen consecutive hours if that’s what my body feels that it needs?

I wish it didn’t remind me that I’m approaching the day when I won’t wake up.




If you’ve got the money, honey…


I am not here to write. I am here to keep myself busy so I don’t go online and buy a third pair of shoes to wear to my daughter’s wedding.

I can justify having two pairs: the high-heeled leather shoes I bought for the ceremony itself, and the gray sneakers that match my outfit perfectly, which I will wear to the reception.

The problem is that I just found another pair of gray sneakers that I like even better.

I found them while shopping online for bridal shoes for my daughter, even though she’d texted me a picture of another pair of shoes, which I told her to buy. They were okay… but is something out there completely splendiferous? I have to find out.

It’s not just shoes, either. After I selected my outfit a few months ago, I bought a light ruana which would complement it nicely. When it arrived, I worried it might be too flimsy… so I bought a woolen ruana with a delightful autumn flair. Today, of course, it occurred to me that these silly kids are getting married in upstate New York in November, when really cold weather is possible. I found a beautiful, fur-lined Dennis Basso cape that would keep me warm in Siberia. It’s now on my Ebay watch list, and I’m hoping to stop myself from buying that too.

And my hat? Please! I bought a very plain little fascinator a few weeks ago, which will be quite flattering and perfectly tasteful… but wouldn’t a big gray fedora be fun? Or a cloche, with lovely diamond pin? At my own wedding, I wore a Juliet cap with a scrumptious little veil around my face… wouldn’t something of the sort be lovely, and useful to hide the scars and wrinkles I’ve acquired in the ensuing years? Or how about a big ol’ Western hat, like the Stetson I wore at my reception? Wouldn’t that add a sense of whimsy to the proceedings?

As for my outfit itself, I don’t know. When I purchased it, I thought a jumpsuit would be ever so nice and unusual… which it is. I hoped it would fit beautifully… which it does. Am I happy with it? Yes, until anyone asks me what sort of dress I’m planning to wear to my daughter’s wedding.


I found a website which makes dresses to your measurements, and had them make me a frock for the bridal shower. Once it arrived, and I saw how lovely it was, the agony began. Should I have them make me a dress? The affair isn’t going to be formal at all, so a gown is out of the question, but would a tea-length dress be more appropriate than the outfit in my closet? Would a navy blue dress imprinted with moons and stars clash with what everyone else is wearing, or would it be too Harry Potter?

For that matter, are my new wire-framed, roundish glasses a little too Harry Potter as well? Will they photograph nicely, or is it time to spring for contacts? And could I get used to wearing them within a month?

I don’t know why I am agonizing over such minutiae. After all, it isn’t MY wedding; my goal is to remain as invisible as possible. However, I don’t want to be an embarrassment to my kid; I want to be someone she’s proud to introduce as her mom.

Wisely, she is keeping me away from the purchase and acquisition of important wedding items like the cake, flowers, invitations, and decorations. Everything her guests see on the all-important day will reflect her taste and her fiance’s, which is as it should be.

But since I have no control over anything that matters, I am obsessing over the few things that are within my power to choose… and I’m making myself crazy.

Thank God I don’t have a job… if I had any real money to spend on this stuff, I could outshop any housewife in Beverly Hills.








The end is near

grim reaper

The world is supposed to end this weekend.

Actually, it depends on what you read. Some sources are predicting an impact with Planet X; others are just saying it’s time for The Rapture.

Since The Rapture has the same record for tardiness that I did back when I had a job, I’m not going to worry about it… but I would really hate to see my daughter disappear right before her wedding.

There are all kinds of apocalyptic portents. Last month, on the 21st, there was an eclipse; on the 25th, there was an awful hurricane that triggered flooding on the 26th. This is supposed to send us running to Luke 21:25-26: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

Oh dear.

And a “Christian numerologist” named David Meade claimed that tomorrow, 33 days after the Eclipse, the planet Nibiru will collide with the earth.

Correction: I just saw that he changed his mind. There will be no big bang tomorrow… but there will be “a series of catastrophic events” in the next few weeks, and the world will have changed significantly by the start of next month.

Considering the fact that we’ve recently seen two monster hurricanes and a couple of very large earthquakes, I would say the world has changed significantly already.

Not to mention the fact that we’re on the brink of nuclear war with a roaring mouse.

But am I worried about tomorrow?


For starters, I take great solace in Matthew 24:36: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mr. Meade, I presume, is NOT the Father.

Secondly, should I be wrong and should Mr. Meade be right, there are many reasons I will be relieved:

1) I didn’t have to clean my house before calling Comcast to come and check the outlet in Jeff’s man cave. It has blown up two converters this week.

2) I will not regret my decision to have both dessert and a glass of sweet wine last night, even though I am supposed to be cutting back on my sugary treats. Neither my health nor my closet can harm me if the world ends on the morrow.

3) I will not feel the least bit guilty about all the TV I’ve binge-watched this week: four Sondheim musicals, an entire mini-series, three delightful documentaries about obscure British royals, and Project Runway.

4) I’ll never hear Bob Dylan’s voice again.

I don’t think there’s any point in worrying about the end of the world… but I DO believe there’s plenty of reason to worry about its continued existence. We should be putting our energies into working for peace… into helping those affected by natural and man-made catastrophes… into making alliances, not enemies… into feeding and clothing the sick, poor, and homeless, instead of chasing after ostentatious wealth.

I should think about cleaning my floors, making my husband’s dinner and brushing my cats.

But what I will not do is pay any further attention to idiots who twist the Scriptures in order to frighten the foolish.

There are too many real reasons to be frightened.

There are also too many real reasons to be grateful.

I know people.


When my husband worked on Staten Island, he would complain that at some point, all unhappy customers would jump in his face and yell out the same thing: “Do you know who you’re dealing with? I KNOW PEOPLE.”

I always wanted to know people.

Not scary people… not the kind that Staten Islanders brag about. I wanted to know famous people… important people… the kind of people you’d imagine would be guarded from the unwashed masses. I wanted to have access to the sort of people others have difficulty meeting. I wanted to be their friend. I wanted to chat with them easily, sipping a glass of wine with our feet up on coffee tables.

Let’s be truthful. I wanted to BE people. I wanted to be someone you saw on screen, or at least onstage. I wanted to be read. I wanted a bank account that couldn’t be overdrawn, a house too expansive for clutter, a car with a lady mounted on top of its hood. I wanted to be quoted, and respected. I wanted to be secure.

This didn’t seem absurd, because when I was young, I knew a lot of people who knew people. Oh, I didn’t know the people themselves, but I was intimate with their intimates. My grandfather and his cousin were Cuba’s two leading impresarios in the golden age of the island’s “Farandula”… a celebrity culture that included all of Latin America’s biggest stars, and a few well-known figures from the U.S.A. The friends and acquaintances they casually talked about were the people whose records my parents played, and whose faces I saw on TV.

Here in the United States, I went to high school with the scion of an important American theatrical family, and to college with the nephew of a legendary baseball star. After graduating, I started doing community theater, and I worked with the mother of a rising actor and the sister of a prominent comedian.

Of course, I had a nine-to-five life too, which required me to pick up a business degree. Even there, I learned that one of my textbooks had been written by my boss’s boss’ boss. This created enormous pressure to do well on my exams.

There’s a certain amount of responsibility you carry, you know, when you know people who know people.

The years passed, and I accomplished very little, so it became fairly evident that I would never become “people,” or get to meet “people” in their own spheres.

Two college classmates became stars, but I certainly could not say I knew them. I’d been too mousy to run in their circles, and was fairly sure they’d never remember me should I ever cross their path.

So I guess I forgot about my old desire to be someone who knew people… and that’s when “people” started popping up all over my life.

My best friend, a community theater comrade who went into the same field of “real work,” became a very important person in our industry. Another friend became a well-respected jazz singer, whose voice could be heard over the radio and in many fine clubs. A dear friend’s daughter became a Broadway star. My cousin started a tiny little enterprise in her kitchen and became one of New Jersey’s most prominent businesswomen. Knowing any of these people gives a person automatic clout… but God bless them, they’re as down-to-earth as they’ve ever been, and gracious enough to continue letting me enjoy their company.

About ten years ago, my son developed a truly outstanding singing voice, and spent his late teens and early twenties being mentored by some of this world’s most important singers… people who have graced the stages of The Met, La Scala, and every important opera house on the globe. These amazing people not only befriended him; they welcomed me into their lives, and made fantasy into reality, sitting with me in Manhattan, chatting and sipping that glass of wine.

I thought about this yesterday, as I sat reading a wonderful book of poetry written by another very dear friend, who was once my high school English teacher. I know people. I know important, talented, successful and amazing people.

But you know what? I’ve always known people. I know mothers and fathers who bring children into this world and raise them to become unique human beings. I know lawyers who get people out of trouble… mechanics who perform the wizardry that keeps everyone safe on the roads… teachers who expand minds with knowledge… psychologists who bring tranquility to troubled minds… storekeepers who enable others to acquire the goods they need… doctors who heal… scientists who make discoveries… clergy who save souls.

It seems I had to get to know people before I realized that I’d known people all along.

I’m very impressed at this point.

It’s time to get my boobs done.


I want a boob job.
Oh, shut up.
It’s not a matter of being greedy. I know my secrets are already too big for Victoria to keep, and my current bras are, like the best suspension bridges, already marvels of engineering. I believe they could support eighteen-wheelers speeding across the Hudson, and still have the capacity to carry every runner in the New York marathon. My boulder-holders are strong.
It’s not a matter of vanity, either. I am sixty two years old, and the only part of my anatomy that is currently perky or forthright is my nose… the one perfect feature on my otherwise gravity-challenged frame. My mammaries may appear to be staring cross-eyed at my knees, but that’s really no reason to invade them surgically. They’re kind of endearing this way, like a pair of tired old beagles at the pound, that only the kindest soul will adopt.
It’s a matter of perspective.
When I was young, I had an hourglass figure. My chest was ten inches larger than my waist, and two inches smaller than my hips. I kind of resembled Betty Boop, and honey, I got an awful lot of mileage out of that phenomenon. I wielded my puppies like a double-barrelled shotgun, and they were killer.
They were very useful when I was onstage, of course… you can’t imagine how much atrocious acting an audience will tolerate while they’re waiting for an actress in Elizabethan garb to have a nip slip. But they were very useful in the corporate world, too. While I was working as a marketing writer for an insurance company, my department reported a to V.P. who had a known weakness for well-endowed women. Whenever I had to bring him a first draft to review, I would wear a lavender knit dress with strategically placed eyelets, worn over a skin colored bra. The poor fool never knew what hit him; he’d stare at my front for fifteen or twenty minutes while chatting inanely, trying to figure out whether he was really seeing what he thought he was looking at. Finally, he’d put his stamp of approval on whatever I’d presented to him. My coworkers would seethe; this man never approved anyone else’s work the first time it was presented to him. I never divulged my secret… and I’ve been giggling about it for a good thirty-five years.
Those days are over, of course, but I’ve never forgotten what I learned: There’s an awful lot of power in a good pair of tetitas.
As my figure expanded and my vanity diminished, I stopped using the girls as strategic tools. In fact, I took them for granted, even though I must say they always retained a happy sway over my husband, for which I was… and am… very grateful.
But recently, something has happened.
I’ve been perfectly content for many years to select my clothes from the Sam Walton collection. After all, I have not attended any events where I could not wear stretchy black pants and some variant on a t-shirt. But now, I have to attend a number of events that call for clothes that Walmart doesn’t sell. I found appropriate outfits on Etsy and Amazon, but as I was trying to place my orders, I had to give them my size… and to determine that, I needed to state my measurements.
Measurements? Really?
I took out the measuring tape I’d bought when I had to buy bathroom curtains, and proceeded to measure my chest, waist and hips.
My hips are still twelve inches larger than my waist… but my waist and my chest are now exactly the same size!!!
When the hell did that happen?
I took off my top and ran to the mirror. (Boy, I hope the shutters were closed!)
The front view was depressing, but familiar. Then I looked at myself from the side. Damn! I looked worse than pregnant; it appeared that Tolkien’s Gollum was hitching a ride under the skin of my belly!
I decided to look at pictures of myself from the last few years, to see if I could figure out when my middle overtook my top. I couldn’t pinpoint the moment when the change occurred, but I did find something significant: a picture from Halloween three years ago, when I dressed up as Brunhilde. To build up that warrior-woman’s legendary decolletage, I sewed a pair of children’s army helmets on to a camouflage shirt, and covered both in matching fabric.
I wound up with a pair of McGupps that could have ignited the fires of Gotterdammerung.
But you know what? As I looked at the picture, I realized something disturbing: those humongous promontories made the rest of me look smaller! My waist appeared less prodigious; my hips weren’t quite so excessive.
And I looked powerful as all get out.
I’ve decided I want to look like Brunhilde all the time.
The question is, of course, how can I get this done? And where? I understand it’s impossible to get implants larger than 800 cc.’s from a licensed plastic surgeon here in the United States; considering my current size, they’ll make me look like I’m sporting big pimples. I’ll have to get the sort of heroically large implants that are only available from disreputable surgeons operating in the South Pacific, familiar with the size and shape of a good, firm coconut.
I’m going to have to spend an awful lot of money on these babies, too… enough money for a new car… or new floors… or even a state of the art exercise machine, which could help me work my belly off.
But what fun would that be?

Leftover leftovers

On this lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon, I am eating the final serving of Thursday’s dinner for lunch… so I’m having leftovers. The thing is, though, that on Thursday we had spaghetti with a very special sauce. It included everything left of Sunday’s pork chops, Monday’s meatloaf, Tuesday’s Swedish meatballs, and Wednesday’s sweet Italian sausages.
In effect, I’m having leftover leftovers… and damn, they taste delicious.
It’s amazing how wonderfully all the flavors blend… especially when you consider all the incongruous ingredients that made up the individual meals. This damn spaghetti sauce includes ketchup, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, mustard, olive oil, butter, pepper, peppers (really, couldn’t anyone have renamed these babies?), onions, red wine, vegetable bouillon, salt, maple syrup, garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves, and God knows what else, in proportions one can only guess at.
I’ll never be able to replicate the taste… but that’s okay. The ephemeral nature of the thing is part of its charm. Eating this meal is like watching an exceptional live performance… you’ll never be able to see the exact same thing again, but you’ll see other great performances, and enjoy them just as much.
I’ll have leftover leftovers again, and they will be fantastic.
The whole experience of having leftovers is something very new in our lives. When Jeff and I first got married, I cooked like a chemist, following recipes to the T, and making just enough servings for two. This was never enough. At the time, Jeff was a brawny young man who worked with his hands, and he ate enough for two or three people. I was (and am) a very healthy eater myself; my Mom used to call me “The Department of Public Works,” because I would happily dispose of any garbage lying around the kitchen.
I learned to double recipes… then triple them.
In time we had children, and neither one was a picky eater. They ate what was put in front of them, what was left on the stove, and whatever could be scraped out of the pot.
But now, they’re out there on their own. Jeff’s appetite has subsided significantly, and I’m trying not to outgrow the largest size in the plus size store, so I’m no longer eating to the point of satiation.
Suddenly, we’re experiencing a new phenomenon… we still have food at the end of a meal.
And now, the challenge is this… how many ways can I reconstitute the remnants of our meals into new and delicious offerings?
I particularly enjoy working with leftover chicken. This has a family precedent, actually. My grandfather, who was a fabulous cook, was determined to eat well even when trapped in Havana during the worst years of the Castro era. He established a rule for himself: get three meals out of every chicken.
I’m doing everything in my power to meet and exceed his goal.
Last week’s chicken performed like a champion. On Monday, I gave it subcutaneous shots of mojo (a magical concoction made of sour orange juice, cumin, garlic, pepper, salt and fairy dust), buttered it under the skin, and baked it to perfection. Jeff had the legs, I had half a breast. We had a delicious meal, and the refrigerator got the greater part of a chicken. On Tuesday, I took the remaining half a breast, and managed to prepare enough chicken salad to make sandwiches for both of us. On Wednesday, I made soup, which we had for dinner together, and I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, I took everything that was left and fed it to the cats, who haven’t been happy with their dry food ever since.
But now, here I am. I’ve finished my spaghetti, and have absolutely no leftovers whatsoever sitting in the fridge. Tonight, we’ll have to have something fresh… seasoned for the first time…experiencing a virginal moment on the fire.
It’s almost a disappointment.