Friday, October 12, 2018

Any show billed as "heartwarming" count me out.

Any show billed as "heartwarming," Count me out. Heart wrenching. Heart stopping, Heart healthy. Out. Out. Out.  Inspirational? Sorry, out.

Any dancing with the word Celtic attached to it. Out.  A row of stocky women dancing in unison using their hips and legs like pistons? (I don't know what pistons do but it sounds like they explode into action.) What if the dancers levitate and defy gravity?  Out.  Throw in all  precision dancing including the Rockettes. The beloved Rockettes? They practiced so hard. We don't care.  Buh, bye.

Any show where the hero's name ends in i as in Benji. I'm out. I do like to watch Lassie and Timmy in the old series for the politically and socially incorrect dialogue and behavior. The kids are left alone all day. They sleep in the woods with their head up against a log.  The fat kid is named Porky.  Grandpa calls the gypsies that squat on his land varmints.  

Any show presented by Hallmark.  Especially around Christmas.  Especially if a poor abandoned kid wants to be reunited with his father and the miracle of the Christmas Wish brings back a sad failed drunk.  In this vein, it's getting tedious watching Ellen give all that money to "deserving" people.  Ellen has devalued the dollar all by herself.   "You get ten thousand and you get ten thousand."  We might as well smush Christmas and Hallmark and Ellen together and call it Hellemas We don't have to fight about who gets to put up chreches and menorahs in the village square.  An all-inclusive holiday will be Hellemas and the symbol is a giant check made out to each of us from Shutterfly.  (Aside:  my daughter reminded me that George Bush sent everyone a check for $300 when he was president.)

I don't want to see any more sassy women in sit coms.  If I'm hungry for sass, I'll look up Leslie Jones on You-Tube, the queen of epic dangerous sass. I don't want to see any more clueless husbands either.   

I've never watched This Is Us because of the bowing and scraping when one of the actors wearing a mantle of preciousness does a guest spot. If anchors/hosts are genuflecting and professing bouts of sobbing I know there's fake greatness going on.  I made the mistake of watching hyper hyped Modern Family.  I saw a caricature of gay marriage. The kids have amazing insight. Annoying.  Sofia Vergara speaks ten decibels louder than everyone else. She's a bit of a bully, too. 

I sometimes watch very old shows on the Cozi Channel.  I saw an episode of Little House on the Prairie where the new schoolmaster who has an anger management problem begins beating hard on the kids with a stick and hates Laura. Riveting.  Hates Laura????????  I can only watch episodes of LHOTP before Mary goes blind.  Then she marries a blind man and I have to figure out how they do everything.   No.  Here's where I might condone a Christmas Miracle and a Shutterfly check. 

On Starttv, I've discovered re-runs of Medium- eerie and good. Cozi has Murder She Wrote, mindless and fabulous to accompany a late lunch.  The Nanny, still good (when you are up early.) Will and Grace- fresh the first time, tiresome and annoying now. Somebody please tell Debra Messing. The Rockford Files- Jimmy Garner is still engaging.   
You've still got it, girl

You-Tube special episodes of The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy are amusing. Only epic wins and epic fails.  Satisfying and often inappropriate.  

Note:  Recently I saw this sentence and it stopped me.  "Awake for sorrow and unsorrow."  I think about that sentence a lot and it makes me want to be a better writer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ode to Elon Musk

As he choked back tears and rubbed eyes that were gritty
Elon moaned to The Times that his life was quite shitty.
No one knows what it takes to make self-driving cars.
No one knows what it takes to get people to Mars.
So much could go wrong and it's all on my shoulder
It's like that guy Sisyphus pushing the boulder.
I sleep here in the factory, eating bad cheese and crackers
while a gaggle of short sellers makes one billion smackers.

My children are strangers, my house so melancholy
I need help!  I need help.  To continue this folly.
And my birthday alone with no friends and no cake.
Please help me wake up from this horrid mistake.
Otherwise I just find it is too sad to handle
Not a song, not a wish cause there weren't even candles.

The tweet about Tesla might have been premature,
We could take it private; of course now I'm not sure.
He was stoned, they surmised. He was tweeting from bars
If I'm high it's on dreams about dying on Mars
The directors were startled and came after me. 
Who I really pissed off was the S. E and C.

I was Forbes favorite star, the most blessed event
Wunderkind, genius, unstoppable gent
Now I crawl like a dog through the factory's basement
While the board in their mansions find my replacement
I might be unhinged, going nuts, you would, too.
But, in truth, there is nothing much I can do.
Because I see a future that is quite fantastic 
And to bring it about takes a life this monastic

The worst might be over for the firm's in good form
After all, what I sell is escape from the norm
But I'm bracing for torture in my personal life
Cause the short sellers are not done giving me strife
They are pushing a story that Tesla's run out of luck
But why? You might ask. Aah.  The almighty buck.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Proust Questionnaire

Vanity Fair Magazine has a feature, The Proust Questionnaire, that they give to famous people. I gave the quiz to myself.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  
Finish writing a book late at night and crawl into bed perfectly satisfied that I have been rescued yet again.

What historical figure do you most identify with?  
Andy Warhol.  He interpreted the world around him with childlike brutal innocence. His take on life is mostly my take on life.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  
Talking too much. Responding when silence would do. 

What is your greatest fear?  
Choking to death and there’s no one around.  Choking is circumstantial not inevitable. I don’t want to die circumstantially.

Which living person do you most admire?  
Jerry Seinfeld. He has figured out who he is and doesn’t apologize.  When Seinfeld was over and he was left with a ton of money, Jerry returned to stand-up, a tough crushing world.  "I didn’t want to be another rich guy, I wanted the griminess," he said. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others?  
Taking too long to give information.  As a novelist, I happily talk to everybody but I don’t like long-windedness from self-appointed specialists. On the other hand, you can take as long as you like reconstructing, minute by minute, the day you gave birth to little Suzy.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  
Telling the truth.

What is your greatest extravagance?  
Keeping my house hot in winter.  My utility company sends me “heat shaming” messages saying I use twice as much power as my neighbors. "Oh, really?  I notice you still cash the check.”  When people come into my house, they say, "It feels so good in here." By the way, I don't use air-conditioning in summer.

What is your favorite journey?  
I am mildly agoraphobic. I like to stay home.

On what occasion do you lie?  
I lie all the time.  I believe lying has saved the social system from chaos.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?  
Too short.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  
"I know." (Spoken with surprise and delight as an answer to everything I agree with.)

What is your greatest regret?  
Turning down a sex column offered to me by Mort Persky when he was editing the female version of Playboy. “Mort,” I said, “I was raised in a convent school.  I put on my nightgown over my clothes and then undressed.”  “That’s why I want you,” he said.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?  
My brilliantly funny children.

Which talent would you most like to have?  
I would love to be a world-class tap dancer.  How can you not want to tap dance? Fred Astaire was the coolest person on this earth.

What is your current state of mind?  
Recovering.  Kafka would understand.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? 
I would be six inches taller and that would change everything else - the 
talking, etc.

 What do you consider your greatest achievement?  My book, Three Daughters, has sold almost half a million copies.  It is over 700 pages long.  My greatest achievement, however, is poorly edited, rambling, at times incomprehensible, One Hundred Open Houses. Reading passages from that book lets me know I’ve done something important and lasting and occasionally hysterically funny.  

What is your most treasured possession?  
Two thin pure gold bracelets given to me by the most generous and loving woman I know, my Aunt Mary.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  
Overeating and then overeating on top of that.

What is the quality you most like in a man?  
Most women ask for humor in a man.  I like a man who quietly fixes things.  Most likely, other good qualities will follow.  

What is the quality you most like in a woman?  
To do her best and move forward with the hand that is dealt.  

What do you most value in your friends?  
There’s a phrase in fiction, “they fell on each other.”  I like a friend that you see coming toward you from down the street and you just grin at each other because there is perfect understanding and then you fall on each other. I don't have many friends.

Who is your favorite writer?  
I don't have a favorite writer. I admire Elizabeth Strout for Olive Kitteridge, Ernest Hemingway for A Moveable Feast.  Andy Warhol for The Andy Warhol Diaries, Jeannette Walls for The Glass Castle.  I'm sure there are many others I can't think of right now. 

Who is your favorite “hero” of fiction?  
The seriously flawed yet charismatic Mick Haller. Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer exhibits ironic humor, generosity and street smarts while always acknowledging his flaws and past mistakes.

Who are your heroes in real life?  
Me, Consuelo Saah Baehr. With a lot of good luck I have re-invented myself dozens of times and always landed in a good zip code. I also admire Jimmy Carter, he was considered a clueless hick by the press but he kept on going; Elmore Leonard, an honest, prolific working writer until he died; Tony Bennett still singing complicated love songs.  I like people who don’t stop and complain and feel victimized. That said, I love to complain and consider it one of life’s pleasures.

What are your favorite names?  
This is a stupid question. 

What is it that you most dislike?  
Cheap, overly manufactured food (or clothes).  Think Chips Ahoy, boxed macaroni and cheese, soft, white sliced bread.  On the other hand, there are “Fritos.”

What is your motto?  
It used to be a line from a forgotten poem, “Like everyone else, I am being tortured to death.”  In the last ten years it is from a poem by Mark Van Doren, “I’m a sucker for things the way they are.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


You know what I hate?

When someone over explains something like placenta cord banking and how it can build a new arm or a heart for their baby in the future and how they will be glad to send you all the literature in case you want to bank your placenta cord, too.  But you have to store it while it’s still warm and be sure the guy who sold you the service is waiting at your vjay ready to receive it and you're not embarrassed because - you know, miracle of birth - and if you want they will give you his number and you wish you could take some placenta cord and wrap it around their neck while they are talking and pull it tighter and tighter until their eyes bulge and then you let them go. 

You're going down
When someone over pronounces like Alex Trebek saying Nicaragua so hard it's a diy tonsillectomy that shuts down taping. Or a dinner guest says tiramisu and expects you to genuflect and they keep saying it over and over to show they’re sophisticated and can pronounce it and brought something expensive and all you want to do is take the pudding glob and stuff it down their throat like a goose you want to force feed to harvest pate and watch them gag and then their eyes bulge and then finally you let them go.  

When someone over describes their vacation and how the sunsets had ten colors and the sunrises had twelve and the hotel staff was so nice they could have stayed there forever and you wish they had and they keep insisting you should go there and you say well I would go there if you hadn’t ruined it for me with your frantic enthusiasm about the stupid sunsets and who the hell cares about your stupid trip and your stupid life. And you would like to take one of those hammock ropes and wrap it around their neck and pull it tight until their eyes bulge and then let them go.

When someone just read something and it was the best thing they'd ever read and they'll let you borrow the book and maybe they could drop it off on the way to work tomorrow and even if you live to be 100 you will never read that book because now you hate it and you hate them and you want to take the hood string out of your new hoodie that you had to get on a waiting list to buy and wrap it around their neck and pull it tight until their eyes bulge and then let them go.  

When someone tells you about their new meal plan and how Hello Fresh sends just the right amount of cilantro and peeled garlic in little bags and it doesn't cost any more and it lets you give your family a decent dinner even though you have a stressful job and the phrase "give your family" sets you off because why the hell is it your job to give your family anything and when they ask if you would like a month of meals as a present you swear to eat Chef-Boy-R-Dee ravioli out of the can over the sink for a month if you can put the Hello Fresh package tape around their necks and hope some of the glue still sticks so you can begin taping their esophagus and pull tight until their eyes bulge before you let them go.  

When someone says they are on the paleo diet and it was the best thing ever and they feel terrific and their eyes see better and their ears hear better and you can't imagine how much it improves your life and you think how much your life would be improved if these vapid imbeciles would never show up again. and you want to take some spiralized zucchini and wrap it around their neck and pull it tight and will it not to break until their eyes bulge before you let them go.  

What?  Too angry?

Saturday, May 19, 2018


I got up at five a.m. for the royal wedding.  I wanted to see every big and tiny moment.  It was more than worth it.  I was left with some thoughts. 

Hands down Doria, the bride's mother, was the classiest and most beautiful person at the wedding after her daughter.  She was quietly dignified.  Endearingly teary.  She let Prince Charles be her partner without timidity or fuss. She looked gorgeous.

Kudos to Prince Charles for picking up all the loose threads with ease and charm and for taking care of Doria and Meghan for his boy.

Meghan had one expression:  a big indefatigable smile that never left her face.  She smiled through the small moments and the big moments.  

Prince William was chatty with his brother and with his father.  He is immensely likeable.  He did his job without grandstanding. He let his brother wave alone to the crowds when they were walking  to the church. It was Harry's day.

Some of the guests.  

I don't remember Pippa being so beautiful.  

Fergie was greeted warmly by her daughter's fiancee but didn't get to sit with her daughters or her ex in the royal section.  Why do they humiliate her?

Victoria Beckham always looks pissed.

Amal and George didn't whisper to each other while they were strolling to the church or when they waited in the pews. They didn't look at each other either.  George smiled at the crowd but Amal didn't smile.

Serena and Alexis talked and looked at each other and smiled.

Oprah didn't get a lot of camera time.   She seemed less significant in England than she is in the U.S.

Good moments:  

William and Harry talking casually while waiting for the ceremony to begin.  
Harry tearing up immediately at the altar.  
Harry looked anxious.  He looked like a groom who was worried the bride would be a no-show.
The word besotted was invented for the look on Harry's face when Meghan appeared and when he moved her veil back.
Both the Queen and Philip, in their nineties, got out of the car and walked unaided, even up many steps. The phrase noblesse oblige comes to mind.  Their stony confusion was priceless when the Gospel Choir began to sing Stand by Me. It made  me think of Sister Act and I expected Whoopi Goldberg. 

James Corden was there with his wife.  I wouldn't have been surprised to see him do a car karaoke with Elton John right in the center aisle. That's the kind of wedding it was.

The Chicago minister talked a tad too long or maybe his energetic delivery made it seem long.

I don't think Meghan knew the words to God Save The Queen. National anthems make everyone appear as they did in first grade.

Kate was another non-smiler. I think I saw an eye roll, too. Maybe the post-partum hormones are still kicking in.  The kids behaved.  The boys in charge of the very long veil did their job.  Charlotte did, too.  She waved energetically.

The cello player was fantastic. I wish he had played earlier in the ceremony.  After the pre ceremony wait and the emotional vows and the Chicago minister the guests were both tired and overstimulated.  They were anxious for the newlyweds to reappear.  Bravo to the cellist though. Only nineteen years old.

The best part of the wedding was the crowds.  The crowds made a magnificent statement to the joy and fun people crave and will not be denied.   This was a once in a century opp to experience a fairytale.  Hooray to all those who traveled from all over the world and waited for hours, days, to watch this great rom-com climax. The crowds and their cheering gave the wedding heft and made it work as a historic moment.

Monday, April 16, 2018


I was watching PBS on a Sunday afternoon and although dozing off, my ears perked up when the interviewer asked the guest the title of her next book and she said, "Effacement." What?????? Finally!!!!!! Effacement is a crazy awesome frontier that women encounter each time they give birth and no one has elevated it to the WTF platform where it truly belongs. 

In effacement your cervix, against all rules of body behavior, suddenly flattens out and stretches (dilates)sideways ten centimeters like a bored schoolboy making faces.  If you weren't consumed with pain, you might be enthralled with the magic of it. Think if any other body aperture suddenly stretched several times its normal size.  What if your nose did that?  What if your nostrils flattened against your face every Thursday and the two holes stretched out ten centimeters? What if your ear did that? What if you could fit your entire iPhone inside your ear and carry it there.  

One centimeter is equal to .3937 inches. A dilation of ten cm's is just shy of four inches.  If the U.S. used the metric system, women would know they were screwed. What baby's head can fit through four inches? The delivery team talks in centimeters and uses terms like cesarean and placenta previa because there are a million things worrisome and unfair with this movie.  They get all Latin-y on you and talk in Arthurian language to obfuscate the reality.  

If you're having a cesarean, they put a sign above your bed that says "Nil by mouth." What the heck does that mean?  Are they going to put something in me through my ass? Just know that cesarean means they're going to cut you open like a watermelon and take the baby out.   Placenta previa means a rogue placenta has barricaded the exit door and therefore they have to cut you open like a watermelon. My first ob-gyn, Dean Grandin, was a specialist in placenta previa although he didn't get to use his expertise on me. He did have to turn the baby's head into the right position and I believe they are still talking about my screams across the river in New Jersey.

* Only three countries don't use the metric system:  Burma, Liberia and the United States.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

120 square foot master bedroom

This morning I woke up in my 120 square foot master bedroom on my non-pillow topped Serta under my 250 thread count sheets with a ‘low fill power ‘ comforter.  I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that even first time homeowners barely out of their teens who have been living in her parents’ basement to save for a down payment demand a grand Master Bedroom with an en suite bathroom. My bathroom is not en suite (there’s barely a room and definitely not a suite).  My bathroom, at best, could be described as a Jack and Jill.  That means it’s meant to serve two bedrooms inhabited by  a boy and a girl whose parents named them Jack and Jill when those names were still usable. Even though there is no “master” in my house, I’m thinking I’ve settled and why didn’t I notice this before? 

I made a list of the places I’ve lived and searched for the wrong turn I might have taken.
1. Three boarding schools.
2. Three  studio apartments in New York City steps from glam Fifth Avenue. 
3. Newly married I was “at home” at the north end of Park Avenue. 
4. As a new mother I nursed my newborn in the chauffeur’s cottage in shadowy, secretive estate-choked Mill Neck, L.I.
5. As a middle-aged mother I yelled at my children in Lattingtown Harbor, L.I. within the old gated estate of J. P. Morgan’s lawyer, Mr. Guthrie. 
6. Presently, I live in the village of East Hampton, N.Y. one and a half miles from the Atlantic Ocean and sleep in the smallest bedroom I’ve ever had.

The most interesting house I lived in was at 3102 Cleveland Avenue, Washington, D.C. and had previously belonged to Truman’s V.P. Alben Barkley.  The Barkleys left a lot of government memorabilia in the basement that could probably make me a millionaire today but I think my Uncle Charlie threw it away.  Barkley died while giving a speech at Washington & Lee Univ. “I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than sit on the seats of the mighty,” he said and then collapsed.  I’m like Alben.  I have the residential mind-set of a peasant. I don’t want to sit in the seats of the mighty either.  Tracing the past shows me that I am most likely to choose a humble repair-needy dwelling in a great zip code.  

Recently I did some house refurbishing.  I painted the living room a medium gray and it looks sophisticated in a “An unexpected color can transform a summer cottage” way. I painted the outside soffits and fascias and trim and got new storm windows and new leaders and gutters.  It all looks as good as it will ever look unless I tear the house down and start anew.   Since I cut down the overbearing tree in the backyard, the sunlight streams in throughout the day but especially around three o’clock.  It is a cheerful, welcoming light that leaves nothing in shadow.   With the tree gone I will be able to have a vegetable garden for the first time in my life.  I could sleep in any room in the house.  I could make the living room my bedroom if I wanted.  I could sleep in a bedroom that occupies the entire gabled attic floor.  With the tree gone and my house all spiffed up and much of my stuff given away or thrown away, let’s see how I do in 2013.  I will probably own this house for the rest of my life.  It’s a good house with big fat water filled radiators that give off a mellow heat.  I can dry my clothes on them and sit on them when I come in from the cold.   I can walk to everything in the village and the railroad is a block away.  There’s a studio cottage in back that I occasionally rent out for the night or sleep in when my kids come to visit.  There’s a garage filled with all the stuff I took out of the basement.  (For some reason, the empty basement gives me confidence.)  This spring I will plant my  vegetable garden. I'll start turning over the soil as soon as the ground is soft.  Whatever psychological map led me to this house, it feels okay.

Friday, January 5, 2018

"Your own secrets sucked out of you..."

(one of the good things FB does is re-post some of my old entries.  I like this one.)

I wonder which is preferable, to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you're depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin - everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone - and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?  This is from Margaret Atwood

Really?  On first reading I love the idea of this quote but then...?   I'd love to have all my secrets sucked out of me.  Secrets are not all that precious.  The stuff I wished to conceal when I was trying to make my way, I gladly reveal now.   I like to sit around.  I'm an emotional eater.  I am not against lying although I'm recently adverse to stealing.  I have intimacy problems. I'm full of shame sometimes.  Every successful social encounter leaves me feeling filthy. Yes, filthy.  I still talk too much.  So what?   'So what' to everything. I call it my "so what" cure.  

There are still scenes from the past that make me cringe. Cringe as in hunching my shoulders inward and turning to confront myself.  When I write that sentence the scenes become insignificant.  I call this my "state exactly what is troubling you and it will diminish" cure.  
The things that are precious to me, images that I remember with a full heart are not secrets at all.  They are small ephemeral moments that catch someone close to me stunned by life.  Yes, life can stun you, good or bad.  In that moment, there are no secrets - just you and the thing itself.  And you can recover. You can recover from almost anything.
I recently saw The Master, and the best scene in that movie is when Phillip Seymour Hoffman sits very close to Joaquin Phoenix and asks him the sort of questions that I wish someone would ask me.
What is the most important thing in your life?  What do you wish would happen more than anything in the world?  What makes you most afraid?  

The answers are not the answers of old: children, health, accidents. 
The most important thing in my life is the ability to keep on going.  More than anything in the world I wish to know myself better.  I am most afraid of fulfilling my childhood dreams.