Saturday, October 29, 2011

#SampleSunday: Ch.4 Tough As Nails: "There R 3 possibilities; Suicide, Suicide and Suicide.

(this is an excerpt from my "woman sleuth" novel in progress if it makes u want to read more, let me know.)

After Charlie Gibbons death, my resolve to sleep without all-night radio went out the window. Charlie died of “unnatural” causes which called for an autopsy. You can bet they weren’t as tidy as Martha Stewart deboning a Thanksgiving turkey. Lying in a refrigerated box with a name tag attached to your toe is bad, but lying there with your innards in grave disarray, is gruesome.
All-night shrink Joy Brown’s callers were a welcome distraction. The first night, a caller said, “I left my husband five years ago but I can’t stop thinking about a packet of photographs I left in a drawer of the house. I want them back. I’m obsessed with it.” That sounded like the kind of senseless detail that would derail me for five years.
The answer was so obvious - call your ex and ask for them. The woman had remarried, had children but every day she was tormented by the photos and the simple act of asking her ex for them was beyond her. I plotted ways of retrieving the photos that was irrational but infinitely better than scaring myself with autopsy stills.
If I was having disturbing thoughts, I could bet Charlene was distraught. I didn’t want to intrude on her grief but it seemed sensible to put any investigation of Tiffany’s demise on hold.
The tragedy had the unexpected effect of improving my standing in the neighborhood. Given my new profession, women I barely knew called to re-hash Charlie’s death and its aftermath thinking I could shed some light on the police report. The comments ran to “ thank God, Charlene is well provided for ” “thank God there were no children.”
Women say “thank God, “ or “oh, my God,” to everything. The washing machine overflowed. “Oh, my god.” Ethel Merman died. “Oh, my God.” As for the Roxbury Commoners, few had any thought of the deceased. It was all about Charlene who, as everyone was thinking, had been left a very, very rich woman. Figures of several million were thrown around.
The official line, that no one dared cross, was that the death was accidental. Even a hint of something more sinister made Charlene ballistic and no one wanted to antagonize the millionairess. Charlie, Charlene had said, often rested in the car a few minutes after the stressful rush hour drive home. Apparently that day he had dozed off and neglected to turn off the motor. Freaky but true.
Teneca, in a rare mood of sharing had said, “Yeah? How come he didn’t forget to close the garage door? There are three possibilities as to what happened: suicide, suicide, and suicide.” No law said the widow couldn’t believe it was accidental but on the record, it was suicide.
My own insights supported neither theory but to express them was to risk being thought crazy or worse. There were details that didn’t make sense. A self-made man rooted in strict Catholic conservatism wouldn’t choose brand new Ferregamo tasseled loafers for his suicide outfit. Charlie would have opted for black brogues or wing tips as better suited to the occasion. Charlie Gibbons still wore a hat and vest; jaunty tasseled loafers were an act of rebellion against his own somber nature. A declaration that he was seeing the future as more fun than the past.
Four days after they buried Charlie, I met the maid Rosalia in the supermarket and she related information that complicated my puzzlement one hundred fold. The millionairess widow, it turned out, was four months pregnant. By some peculiar extra sense that is probably invaluable for this job, I knew that Charlie Gibbons was not the father.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I was Like Peggy on Mad Men

There was a time in my twenties when I was at a loss. I didn’t have a regular job. I didn’t have a regular life plan. If I had rolled my future out on I-95 it would have had no milestones or events to mark. I had trashed a very good career in copywriting by quitting to be a “writer”. Nine months later, I hadn’t written one word. There was a stillness around me that was scary. The phone didn’t ring and no one came to visit.

In desperation I became a Kelly girl. Each day when I arrived at the office where I was a temporary worker I said, “Good morning, I’m your Kelly girl.” I worked for a company that imported and sold mica. It was a small office and the man that sat next to me, a former actor, had been in a mental institution and kept asking if he was acting normal. Instead of saying good morning, he’s say “I can tell by your face that act two needs a re-write.”
I temped for Estee Lauder and met Estee who was okay. She sent me to Saks Fifth Avenue to pick up some stuff she had bought. Nobody liked me there because I dressed like the Greenwich Village bohemian I was.

Eventually, I came to my senses and wanted back into the ad world. Originally, like Peggy in Mad Men, I was plucked from the secretarial pool to write ad copy. Unlike Peggy, I didn’t have a baby out of wedlock and space out about it.
My accounts were Ronzoni spaghetti, Barney’s Boystown (Barney’s was not born a great fashion mecca. It started out as a dorky boy’s store where “husky” lads could get pants that fit.) and the Bavarian Motor Works (known today as Beemerland.)

Re-entry into Mad Ave. was difficult. The only job I could get was writing copy for the Macy Corp. chain in New Jersey known as Bambergers. I worked at the flagship store in Newark and commuted in reverse taking the Path train from Christopher Street to Newark, a crime-ridden city. The reason I’m writing this blog is because even though I wrote about electroplated charms, flame retardant plush nylon carpeting, budget coats made with re-processed wool and risked a drive-by shooting walking to and from the train station, those were some of the happiest days of my life. Here are the ingredients that made my days so happy.

1. The artists and writers were a merry band of workers - funny, accepting, ambitious and talented. We laughed at our predicament, our reverse commute, and the crappy merchandise.
2. The daily ad schedule was grueling but we were learning how to write efficiently, persuasively and everything we wrote was published.
3. We took long, raucous lunch hours during which we drank vodka gimlets or had shots of Bell’s Twelve in the middle of the day and seemingly without impairment.
4. Newark wasn’t Paris. We were not Fitzgeralds or Hemingways. But we felt the same giddy excitement of expatriots re-inventing ourselves in a strange land.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SampleSunday: "We must have a bath."

(This scene takes place close to the beginning of Daughters. Miriam, who has been mute by choice, leaves her village to attend a fancy speech school.)

Miriam and Mustafa left for the school early one morning down the el-Tirah road going past the fine orderly vineyards that grew the best grapes in Judea. The road curved down and they could see that the cement in the paved roofs had cracked from the summer heat. There would be leaks with the first showers of fall.
Nabiha tucked a bag of sweets into Miriam’s pocket. “Eat them on the way, habiby,” she said and began to cry. Jamilla embraced Miriam briefly but was distracted by keeping the twins, George and Salim, from straying down the road.
The trip to Sarona took two days. Miriam, looking pale, began to lag toward dusk and Mustafa carried her to a hostel in Ludd where they spent the night. In the morning, their breakfast was goats’ milk cheese, bread with oil and thyme and tea. They took additional food for the road. Every so often they would stop, moved by the sights of the pomegranate and mulberry orchards and the palm trees which Miriam had never seen. They passed the ruins of soap factories now in decay.
They were used to walking barefoot and saved the sandals for the villages. The difficulty came with the dust. The pulverized limestone that leeched out of the striated buttes invaded their noses, eyes and mouths and Miriam had difficulty swallowing. She stopped frequently and Mustafa looked back to keep her in sight.
As they got nearer to the sea, the temperature increased but remained dry. They came to the first station of the new railroad from Jaffa to Jerusalem. The locomotive rumbled by, halted, discharged a passenger and went again. Mustafa was delighted. He took a small leap into the air and they waited until it was out of sight before continuing to Sarona.
The school was unmistakable. The area was landscaped with orderly rows of palm trees and formal approaches to the main building that was made of smooth flush stone with double-height arched windows. A gardener stared at them disdainfully. “Mughbari?” he asked, taking them for itinerant Muslims working their way through the villages on the pilgrimage to Mecca. Miriam shook her head. “This is a school for Muslims,” he informed them. “Rich Muslim girls.” Miriam ignored him and looked at her father who was filthy with dust. She tucked her hair behind her kerchief and put on a colorful vest from her sack.
The inside of the building was a revelation. The floors were made of polished wood. Wood! There were divans against the walls for sitting.
Miss Clay, the headmistress, was taller than her father. “Ma’salamy,” she said. Mustafa didn’t answer and Miriam pointed to the inside of her mouth. “No speak.” Her voice surprised the teacher and to make matters worse, Mustafa began gesticulating. Miriam reddened but then she saw Miss Clay moving her hands in the same way. Mustafa smiled and seemed satisfied to leave his daughter. When he walked away, Miriam cried into her scarf and ran after him. He made a little maneuver of leaving and then returning to let her know he would be back to visit and she went inside.
“First,” said Miss Clay, ignoring the tears, “we must have a bath.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I want to kill the kitchen!

I read on Yahoo that the home of 2015 probably won’t have a living room. Builders expect the living room to merge with other spaces or vanish completely. I’ve written countless times that the living room is a useless place we’ve been told is necessary. My living room starts at the front door, it’s hard to miss but I hardly use it except as a corridor to the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom.
Here’s a recent conversation I had with the living room.
“What are you doing in here? Is the pastor coming over?”
“I don’t have a pastor. I feel I should use you more."
“Why? There’s nothing to do in here. No media. No computer. You don’t even know me that well. You never really look at me.”
“I look at you.”
“You look ahead when you walk through me.”
“Do you think you have any purpose?”
“Years ago they called me ‘the parlor’ and people ‘paid calls’ and sat here and had tea. It was a little phony but everyone was polite. Today everybody goes right to the ‘oink, oink’ kitchen. That hog, has taken over everything. It doesn’t have a door anymore. It’s creeping into the whole house. It is the whole house! Soon the word ‘house’ will die out. You’ll buy a kitchen.”
“How did that happen?”
“Good p.r. The kitchen was sold as a touchy-feely cozy place that you could visit in your pajamas. Ooooh the kitchen inspires confidences. Blah, blah, blah. Everybody was sucked in. Oooh this is my safe place. Is marble cozy? Is Sub-Zero cozy? Is stainless steel cozy? Exactly. The devil wears Bosch.”
“But the kitchen is necessary.”
"Really? Does anyone cook anymore? Uncle Ben makes perfect rice in a bag. Store-made rotisserie chickens are reliably tasty. Salad comes washed and cut up in a container. No waste. No dirty pans.”
“You think we’ve been duped.”
“Like lambs to the slaughter. I want to kill the kitchen. I've made a song about it to the tune of Imagine.
Imagine there’s no kitchen,
It’s easy if you try
No hellish food to tempt us
The fridge has gone bye bye
Imagine all the women
Living slim and free...
Imagine there’s no butter
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to fry or whisk up
And no pesto too
Imagine all the women
Living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope all fat girls will join me
Let’s kill the kitchen. Bang, bang. Done!

“So living room, I guess this is good bye.”
“What are you going to do with my space?”
“Probably open it up and expand the kitchen.”
“Why did I even bother? Yeah okay goodbye. Whatever.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

SampleSunday: Pissaro P*ssed On Peru

(This is an excerpt from my newest book: One Hundred Open Houses. I don't know why this book doesn't sell better. Maybe it's the cover or the blurb. When someone finally reads it, they go crazy with praise. I read parts of it over and over. When I sell a copy, I almost cry with happiness.)

After meandering through three expensive apartments at 17 West 16th street (real homes with foyers and dining rooms and something called a logia – a wide useless hall to me), I decided to go home. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was doubtful I would find the holy grail, aka the perfect apartment, today Even though my head was beginning to hurt, I was also happy that I could not eat for another two and a half hours on the drive home which meant that I had a calorie deficit for the day. If life was reasonable, I might drop a few ounces. There was a heart healthy cooked meal waiting in my refrigerator and it beckoned me home like a candle in the window.
The day before, I had made a meatloaf out of ground turkey combined with half a jar of Classico basil and garlic sauce, an egg and some Arnold’s croutons. Whatever genius person at Shady Brook Farms came in one Monday morning in 2001 and said: “Look at all these turkeys left over from Thanksgiving, why don’t we grind them up and sell them as ‘ground turkey’,” my hat’s off to him/her. Ground turkey never tastes gamy, it’s vacuum packed, it keeps for a day or two without turning brown and it makes the best meatballs and meatloaf.
I debated whether to warm up a slice of the loaf in some butter or just eat it cold slathered with ketchup. In some manic reversal of my usual post divorce rule –no serious cooking - I had also made barley (a grain unknown to me except through canned soup) substituting lemon juice for half of the water required. The result was unremitting good tasting stuff. I was ready to sit down with my warm meatloaf slice, brown and crusty from the butter dip it had just received in the frying pan, the lemon infused barley, a couple of slices of fresh tomato and a glass of Walnut Creek Chilean merlot when the phone rang.
It was my ex sounding really upset. He had received an e-mail from one of our sons telling him that a trip to Peru had resulted in a spiritual awakening and he was going to remain there for the rest of his life living among the animals. The e-mail was accompanied by a photo of our boy, meditating between two llamas. The llamas had their legs tucked under them and appeared to be meditating, too. When I checked my e-mail and saw the picture, I realized for the first time that I didn’t know this boy at all. In a million years I would not have guessed that he had a spiritual side and that it would kick in in Peru. Why was he even in Peru? And were llamas so passive they would sit like that for a portrait?
“Pisssaro Pissed on Peru.” That’s how I had helped the kids memorize the explorers and that’s what Benjamin said to me when I called to ask him, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Mom, I can’t believe you and Dad thought I was serious,” he said. “It was a joke.”
I love this boy. I love all the children at different times but not all at the same time.
I don’t know why. I know how it’s supposed to work but I also know how it really is.
When I got into the tangled bed I had left unmade that morning I couldn’t find the top sheet but I let it go. I decided to mentally rehearse inhabiting my new life. How would I wake up? What would the bed be like? How would the light play in the room? What furniture would surround me? What would the temperature be in the room? What would be my state of mind? What would I do first thing on awakening? I knew I had to live in my new environment mentally in order to let go of my present house. At first, it was hard to imagine a different bed and it was next to impossible to really feel the newness of waking up in a totally unknown room. Then I got the hang of it and I felt a faint breeze from a nearby window and wafting in was the scent of early morning freshness with just a hint of fermenting garbage. When I looked down, I saw a shaft of light streaking across narrow floorboards the color of weak oolong tea. As I drifted off to sleep, I decided brown was my favorite color.
The phone rang twice but I didn’t answer. Once I knew Benjamin was safe I didn’t want to talk anymore.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marilyn French,Rona Jaffe,Lillian Hellman,Betty Friedan and me

I met Marilyn French because we shared an agent. One day I walked into the agent’s townhouse/office and there was Marilyn French. I had read her groundbreaking novel The Women’s Room and could not believe what I was reading. She had mined my psyche and organized all of the buried dissatisfactions and laid them out in a story that mirrored every suburban woman's life. Marilyn sat next to me on a little bench in the entryway and chatted for a minute. I was overstimulated and began to babble. I blurted out something extravagant like “you changed my life.” This was not true. I continued to live exactly the same way but now I knew why I was annoyed. Oh, wait, I remember something: I wrote my own account of events in Report From The Heart.

I met Tom Wolfe before he was The Tom Wolfe. He was a reporter for The Washington Post and used to eat in a restaurant owned by my uncle where I occasionally worked. Besides being witty and charismatic Tom was already wearing his signature unique wardrobe. I once asked where he had acquired his epaulette driven military officer’s coat. He said that he bought all his outerwear at The Nearly New Shop nearby.

I met Lillian Hellman, the famous playwright (who lived with Dashiell Hammett, the famous mystery writer) in Michael’s a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. I had just written an article for Ladies’ Home Journal and the editor took me to lunch. Ms. Hellman knew the editor and stopped by on her way out to talk to her and I was introduced. She was a short compact woman cylindrical in shape and her expression had solidified into an imperious stare. Her small hard handbag dangled from her wrist. She did not gush as to how happy she was to meet me. She just waited for the introduction to be over. BTW, Myrna Loy who played Nora Charles in the movies made of Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man was friendly and engaging. I met her on a train from Washington to New York and she thought I was very brave to be traveling with three children under six. I kept thinking: 'Nora Charles thinks I'm brave.'
Even though she was cold and unresponsive, Ms. Hellman did not deserve the hand grenade tossed by Mary McCarthy who accused her of never writing an honest word including ‘the’ and ‘and’.

I met Betty Friedan crossing Bay Street in Sag Harbor on the east end of Long Island. Betty was extremely short and she had a very large head with those googly eyes. Again, I lost all sense and began gushing. She kept on walking and didn’t even acknowledge that I existed.

Rona Jaffe once gave me a terrific quote for my book Best Friends. You can imagine how happy I was when we wound up at the same party in East Hampton. I went over to thank her. She looked me over, said four or five cold words and walked away.

Maybe I met all these women when they were tired of talking or tired of living or tired of having people tell them how wonderful they were. I can see where that could happen although I still love it. But hey, they gave me something authentic to put in this column.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

#SampleSunday: Softgoods - the pretty things women are dying to wear

(Hijackers are intercepting deliveries of Armani,Kors,Dior,Klein and Prada. It happens right under the nose of guards and truckers. Who is behind it? Where are the clothes ending up? Detective Bradford Jennings III is going to find out)

It’s a bright sunny Wednesday but as everyone knows the narrow streets and tall buildings in the Garment District don’t let the sun in until later in the day. Angel Hilario has worked as a “floater” for the past seven months and job suits him. He’s not the type to keep still and the work of pushing racks of fancy clothes from truck to showroom is something his nervous system can handle. This morning, he’s pushing a rack of sequined evening gowns and thinking about his girlfriend who broke up with him for the tenth time. You can see by his swagger and the quick violent pushes and saves he plays with the rack that he is both restless and distracted.
On the fourth violent push an Anglo-Saxon thirtysomething catches the rack and stands between the clothes and Angel. Bradford Jennings III is not your typical cop or your typical plainclothes detective. For one thing he has the calm demeanor of someone who has never had to scramble for attention or for money. He’s not a pretty boy but he is good looking in a preppy way. His eyes are a different story. If you have any idea that he is soft, his eyes will persuade you otherwise. His eyes give him a different dimension and few people can look into them without wondering what happened to him that hurt that much. Jennings, sockless, wearing jeans, loafers and a button-down shirt stands firm between the clothes and Angel making him stop. Jennings has had enough conversations with Angel to put them a level above acquaintances. They would never have drinks together but they might confide personal information given the right circumstances. Bradford acknowledges that Angel - although his job and clothing point to the contrary - exhibits an air of superiority. Go figure.
“Angel you were here yesterday morning. What did you see?”
“Hey, detective,” says Angel, “when you gonna learn to pronounce my name. It’s Anhel, broad A and G like H.” He pauses and puts a finger to his forehead. “Yesterday I was moving evening sweaters with feather collars. If the birds’ rights people throw blood on the merchandise, I’m dead. I wouldn’t have noticed King Kong. I didn’t see your man, Lieutenant.” He pauses again and this time looks at Bradford with a brazen grin. “The guy’s got guts. Santa Baranza! He hits every week. In your face. You ain’t gonna get him.”
Bradford responds with good humor. “He’s a worthy opponent.”
“Hah! He’s a fucking genius magician,” Angel answers. He is certain that his knowledge of human nature is superior to the guy in the button down shirt.
“He’s a criminal with a lucky streak,” says Bradford, still unperturbed.
Angel’s shrug says he’s betting on the hijacker. “Where’s your socks? You’re gonna catch cold.” Angel gives the rack a healthy shove that sends it racing down the crest of the road. It looks like a sure crash but in one bound, he has it back. You can hear his cackle all the way down the street.

Friday, October 7, 2011

So What?

Sometimes I write a blog and I’m afraid to publish it. Okay every time I write a blog I’m afraid to publish it. Someone recently freaked me out by saying, “It’s not the book you wrote, it’s the book the reader reads.” Oh! When you publish, you’re inviting someone to look inside your head and take apart your psyche. When you make writing public, you’re putting on a bathing suit on the first warm day of summer and asking an indifferent audience to assess what happened to your body over the winter. I’ve been putting my writing out there for over thirty years and I’m still afraid of making a fool of myself. Many times I will hit “publish” and then click on the “edit” pencil so the words will revert to me for safekeeping. I rearrange a line or two and put it out there again. Then I take it off and then put it on.

What am I afraid of? Let’s say someone reads a blog and thinks. “I didn’t understand one sentence of that blog.” Or “Wow that was a lot of whining for nothing.” Or “At least no trees were cut down to put that drivel out there.” Here’s where I should drag out my “So What?” card. I made my “So What?” card about two years ago when one of my friends was confronted with a serious problem. It may sound callous but it is a good ploy for focusing attention on exactly what we think the outcome might be to any dilemma. When something bad happens and I pose the question “So what” I’m forced to verbalize the shadowy fears that bunch together in one big tangled ball of anxiety. So what if no one likes it? I say to myself. They’re not going to come here and kill me. I’ll ride it out. Friends might be delighted that you made a fool of yourself. You’ll make them happy. When I hit “publish” I imagine all the subscribers have stopped what they are doing and even though they live in separate parts of the world, they have come together to point and cluck in dismay over the infantile choices I’ve made.
The “So What” solution however is built to counter. “Even if that’s true, eventually people will forget and go on with life. Who thinks about Tiger Woods these days?
Often, when the blog is disseminated to subscribers, I will receive an e-mail that says: “This made my day. I laughed so hard and its only 8:30.” When that happens I go back to the blog to see what I’ve written that is funny. I don’t know when I’m being funny. I try to write about the ironies and craziness in this world but I can’t be sure any normal person shares my reactions.
I love writing the blog. My big dream in writing was to have a column and write about everyday things. My blog is like a column except there is no editor to save me

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The many faces of remorse

Everyone is familiar with buyer’s remorse but remorse has many faces.

I have eater’s remorse several times a day, followed by gym remorse and couch remorse.

I have transactional remorse when I go to the bank and the teller says, “Hi, Consuelo.” What just happened here? No, see I have money reposing here that you take out and play with and lend to other people without paying me interest. A bank is a solemn, formal place. There’s no “Hi, Consuelo” about it. All you can say to me is: “Would you like that in twenties or fifties?” If you must refer to me by name you have to put Ms. Mrs. Miss or Your Holiness before it. If I have a gun in my hand, you may say, “Don’t shoot. Here’s the money, Ms. Baehr.”

I have grocery remorse and high anxiety every time I buy peaches. It’s almost impossible to get decent peaches in a supermarket. Here’s the way it goes.
“These peaches are rock hard, will they soften?”
“Yes, just leave them out for a day or two.”
“The last time you said that, they didn’t soften up for a week and then they were mushy and mealy inside.”
“Can’t be. Are you sure you bought them here?”
“No, you’re right. I bought them in Tasmania.”
Every time I buy ice cream I have dairy remorse because I know that I am delaying yet again my decision to go dairy-free and ditto with bread and gluten-free. I have resolution remorse for promising to do things that I never do.

I have conversation remorse every time I talk to my friend Hilda because she runs the Rhetorical Inquisition. (modeled on the Spanish Inquisition) This is Hilda’s dialogue. “You don’t still eat meat do you?” or “You didn’t sign the petition to sterillize the deer, did you?” “You’re not going to vote for those Republican thugs are you?” “You’re going to let the cat sit on your toast, aren’t you?” “You’re not still a day trader, are you?” (I’ve never been a day trader.) One day I will say to Hilda, “I just shot a deer and had it butchered so I’ll have venison steaks all winter.” Hilda once called our former president an inchoate mass of deception.

My goal is to be remorseless, like the recidivist thief Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks Willie said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Willie Sutton robbed banks for forty years and never looked back or felt remorse. He also dressed really well.

Sometimes I have blogger’s remorse.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I never thought the Kardashians would show me the way

I want to believe in God. Who wouldn’t? For one thing it makes death more attractive because you think well, at least God’s behind it and he knows what he/she is doing. With death you have no assurance that anyone is in charge. Belief in God would make life so much easier. When trouble came along you could just turn it over to you know who. There's a wonderful package that comes with belief in God. I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite bible passages resides in St. Paul’s letters: Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. This remarkable premise implies a reliable order and someone had to put that order in place and that someone would be God.
That passage is several steps above plain old “magical thinking” because, hey it was filtered through a Saint who was transformed in a flash of understanding and then passed along some astounding good news. “Whaaat? R U kidding me? You mean if I have faith - whatever that is - I can have a whole lot of money and good sinuses and my deviated septum would freaking heal itself and let me breathe right for once?”

Whenever any public figure I admire talks comfortably about God, I get excited. Oh, wow, if he/she believes in God, then it must be true. Good! I’m not standing in this “vale of tears” ( Psalm 84) all by my lonesome. Right beside me, is G O D. Despite my umpteen years with the nuns (forgive me Mother Di Pazzi) and the Catholic Church I find it hard to think of God as “a ready help in trouble” another fantastic Biblical promise. Imagine having someone who is all knowing, all powerful, all loving as “a ready help in trouble?” Really? You mean when I can’t turn off the hose and water is cascading in places where there shouldn’t be any water, I have a Master Plumber at the ready? That’s what it says in Psalms 46:1,2. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

Just in case we missed all the other road signs, there's a very simple extra promise and it’s not from Wayne Dyer during pledge drive on Channel 13 but from Mark 11:24. Mark as in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Whatsoever ye desire, believe that you have it and you will have it? “Whaaaat? R U kidding me?” No, this is serious. This is the Bible speaking, not some well-marketed how-to book.

What is even more fabulous, everybody can have all of these promises without working hard or doing anything special. It says so, right in (Matthew 6:28,29). Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. So let me get this straight: all you have to do is sit on the couch and do nothing but have faith. Yup.

But how do you have faith? Ay there’s the rub (Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet). I think that journey is different for everyone but one of the key ingredients is to pay attention to the way things go. Train yourself to be present and you will start to see reliable sequence in place of randomness. Instead of seeing the universe as adversarial and nitpicking, decide it is a benevolent system that wants to see you succeed. Actively look for and recognize serendipitous help in small things and then move on to bigger things. Expect to be indulged. Expect to be loved. Expect to find easy solutions to your problems. Remember it says, Whatsoever ye desire believe that you have it and you will have it. Look at those crazy Kardashians. They just roll along getting things because they think they should. I never thought I’d look to the Kardashians to show me the way, but darn it they know how to get a lot of good stuff without doing much.

Good luck with this if you are in the same boat and please share your progress. If you are way ahead of me, share that, too.