A few years back I was described by someone, a dancer in a production I was involved in, I can’t remember exactly who it was because professional dancers have a tendency to become a blur of spinning fabulousness when you’re around them—as “elegantly clumsy.’
I almost wept with joy. I felt it was one of the highest compliments I had ever been paid. Besides, I only heard the word elegant. After that entered my ears—they stopped listening.
I never heard the clumsy part.
Well, maybe I did.
I just have to say that considering the circumstances—clumsy was still a compliment.
Back as a young girl in the midst of tween-dom, I was stick figure thin; a gangly compilation of arms and legs, with giant blue eyes, braces, and a tiny tween brain. What I loved more than anything else was to put on shows. God, how I loved that! Dancing or roller-skating and lip-syncing to the latest movie soundtrack on our long, smooth concrete patio. Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand was my favorite.
I could sing. Sort of. At the time it was a volume over substance sort of thing.
The trouble was, I also fancied myself a graceful dancer. Not a ballerina exactly, I wasn’t quite that audacious. But thinking I was a dancer was still a reach considering the fact that when faced with choreography, even the most elementary dance steps, my left leg traveled right, and my right leg, which has always had a mind of its own, did its very own version of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance.
While all of that was happening below my waist; my arms, hands, fingers, neck and head appeared disjointed, like a marionette, unattached from each other in any kind of biological way. They twisted and turned, undulating rhythmically, part Hawaiian Hula, part Aboriginal Fire Dance with a touch of Tai Chi and a sprinkling of Bob Fosse.
They moved to some internal melody that was completely unrelated to the music that was playing out loud.
Eyes closed, I can remember feeling at one with every note of every song. I had no idea how I appeared to those who were lucky enough to witness my spectacular moves. All I knew was that I was a dancer…until I heard the laughter.
I remember opening my eyes and thinking—actually consciously deciding—I can play up the funny—or I can be self-conscious—I chose to do both.
For the rest of my tweens, I played up the funny, because if you act like you’re IN on the joke, then they’re not laughing AT you—they’re laughing WITH you.
Once I reached high school and starting participating in Musical Theatre, not getting the dance steps wasn’t funny anymore. I became almost paralyzed with self-consciousness. Almost. As luck would have it, God giveth whilst He taketh away. That singing thing had gotten a lot better which allowed them to overlook my awkward dance free-stylings.
While the cast would dance their amazing Broadway-esq ensemble numbers, I was moved to a stationary platform where I was
asked, told, to stand still and sing, or to move ONLY my hands in unison with the others. After numerous failed attempts to do exactly that, we all decided, for the sake of the show, that standing perfectly still or sitting on the side of the stage was preferable.
When I decided to re-join musical theater in my fifties, I discovered menopause had helped me to forget how much I sucked at dancing. It was only my feet, those two things below my knees with painted toes, that jogged my memory and saved that tiny shred of self-respect that had persevered since High School.
They did that by completely refusing to cooperate.
I could barely point my toes, and pointed toes are to dancers what lips are to singers.
After only an hour of dance rehearsal, my arches screamed in agony. Every toe was distorted into an arthritic looking charlie-horse. I hobbled around trying to walk off the pain, but my feet knew better. They were saving me from dance humiliation.
Blame it on us, they said.
So I did.
What choice did I have?
The powers-that-be lowered their expectations of my ability to “move”. ‘The old broad has shitty feet”, they muttered as they choreographed around me.
I’m okay with that, I thought, even though the moment I left the theatre—my feet behaved normally. It felt better than the fear of them get wind of the fact that I didn’t possess one lick of dance talent.
I had one of the leads in A Chorus Line, a show about dancers and their passion for dancing, where I was begged not to dance. “God, I’m a dancer, a dancer dances!”, I sang into the spotlight with all of the sincerity I could muster, as I stood nailed to the ground.
It’s called acting.
Eventually, I was cast as Velma in Chicago where they made me dance with a chair. I mean, how hard could THAT be?
It was Bob Fosse style, which means you’re actually making love to a chair.
I couldn’t do it straight. So I made it funny. Sexy-funny if there’s such a thing. I may have just invented it.
Anyhow, they left it in the show, and it was after a run thru of that particular number that one of the dancers came up to me and whispered, “I like your style”.
“Oh, really? What style is that?”, I replied between gasps of air, as I poured buckets of sweat onto the stage.
“You’re elegantly clumsy”, he said with conviction, like he had just told Baryshnikov “Nice Jete”.
I will live off the fumes of that compliment until the day I die.
Who is she? You ask yourself after being referred to this blog by a friend of a friend, of a friend, of a friend.
Who is this person who writes about love and loss and everything in between?
What are her credentials? (None, you only need hands and a brain to start a blog—and seriously, both of those are questionable).
Why does she do it? (The truthful answer is: I have absolutely NO idea— I just freaking LOVE it!).
In the beginning, I didn’t need to introduce myself. I had thirteen followers that were pretty much all family and friends, many who had seen me naked.
Now there are new people. People I‘ve just met and some I don’t even know, so…
In an act of foolish self-disclosure here are twenty-five things you don’t know about me.
- I can’t whistle.
Or snap my fingers.
I LOVE to sing karaoke show tunes.
I have a very low tolerance for liars.
I get carsick in the back seat.
I hate card games and most board games. (It’s an attention span thing).
I had Scarlet Fever and missed most of first grade.
I wanted to be a nun in sixth grade.
I did some TV commercials when I was in my twenties.
I see Angelyne, a Los Angeles icon, out and about all the time!
I am a huge SiFi geek.
I read mostly non-fiction.
I don’t think I’ve gone a day since I was five without nail polish on my toes.
I have amazing eye-hand coordination.
I’m a very weak swimmer.
I have a fear of open water at night. (Just writing that makes my butt pucker).
I was once mistaken for a Parisian—in Paris—by another Parisian! (Something I’m very proud of).
Cilantro tastes like soap to me.
I once melted a rubber spatula in boiling hot caramel while making candy and contemplated NOT throwing it out. (I did toss it—after I laughed myself senseless).
I am a sucker for all things Christmas.
I pierced my ears myself all eight times. (And I had a navel piercing done by a professional).
I could read before I entered kindergarten.(No Tolstoy, just Cat In The Hat).
I am in the Who’s Who of American High School Students 1976 edition.
I used to bake cakes and cookies for work at Christmas—and watch George Clooney devour them while we talked.
I can grade a diamond.
Do you feel as if you know me a little bit better? Anything else you’re curious about? Just ask!
I’d love to know more about YOU guys. Tell me one thing you don’t think anyone knows.
It’ll be our secret.
In the meantime…
What trends do you follow and why?
Back in the day, I used to slather myself with baby oil and squeeze lemon in my already blonde hair because that was what the fashion magazines told us to do. Sunscreen didn’t exist yet and neither did any common sense. I have the dermatologist bills to prove it.
Sunburned blonde girls with blue eyes and skin damage were trending.
My right hand grabbed a bag of Mango Licorice at Trader Joe’s this morning faster than my left hand could bat it away.
“Mango Licorice…hummmmm…” I heard myself say with the same curiosity I expressed the first time I saw a Diva cup.
Just like I did with yellow beets, fingerless gloves, Kobe beef, a fax machine, burrata cheese, and avocado toast.
“Yeah. They have mango everything these days”, said the purple haired girl stocking nuts nearby. (What a great sentence that was to write. The purple haired girl stocking nuts nearby—Even better the second time. Sorry, writer geek-out. Ha!)
Anyhow, she’s right! I just bought Mango lemonade last week and it lasted all of thirty seconds at my house because—it was LEMONADE! With MANGO! My husband snacks on dried soft mango strips. There are Mango Newtons out there (like Fig Newtons—only mango), and a few days ago I tried a piece of dark chocolate covered frozen mango that was so delicious I had my memory voluntarily erased so I wouldn’t be able to find my way back and have more.
Mango is trending.
Broccoli is also trending.
I love broccoli so that makes me happy, and luckily for me, I can’t go to a restaurant here in LA without seeing some broccoli mash-up on the menu. Seared broccoli with a balsamic reduction. Broccoli and bacon. Broccoli, kale (another trender), and some other obscure green that used to be flattered to make it to the plate as a garnish. Now we pay fifteen bucks for all of them shredded into a slaw with grapefruit sections—in a light MANGO dressing (extra points for a double trender).
But I know a lot of people, and maybe you’re one of them, who were traumatized as children by broccoli.
They would no sooner eat broccoli than sliced dolphin.
Yet, I see them try a bite every now and again when we order it.
Because it’s trending.
Speaking of trending, let’s talk about social media. The very minute I got comfortable with Facebook, I HAD to start Tweeting. Then I HAD to have an Instagram account. Then I did Blab. And Huffington Post Live. Now you’re nobody without Snapchat. By the time I get good at that—it’ll be obsolete.
Kinda like my iPhone.
Businesses need to have an internet presence.
Retailers sell their wares online.
I get it.
Publishers now want their writers to have huge social media platforms. To craft an online persona and sell ourselves. They want us all to be trending. They want already pre-packaged social media celebrities—just add water. Tweeting and vlogging, podcasting, blogging and hashtagging…apparently anything but writing.
That is a trend I may not follow. I have tried it and I say, yeah, not for me.
Oh, the irony…
I’ll stick with what I like and what I’m good at and maybe, just maybe, at age 58, I’ll have the common sense to stop chasing the trends.
What do yo think?
If you’re like me, I can bet that you’d just as soon forget some dances from your past.
I engaged in some pretty sketchy moves. I did. I may have tangoed with a few men, a rose held firmly in my frozen grin, who I realize now were not the best dance partners for me.
But I have to admit—it was fuuuuun.
I, the woman with two left feet, may have attempted Bob Fosse choreography at the age of fifty-four, and I cringe every time it comes to mind.
Which is never.
I never need to remember that.
But I danced with a chair. And the chair had better moves.
And I’ve never laughed so much in my entire life!
What about all of the partnering that has danced me to where I’m standing right now?
The collaboration and the joy?
Just thinking about it makes me smile.
But mostly smile.
Life is a dance. We make it up as we go along and it is stunning in its complexity.
A beautiful series of fast footwork and sidesteps, backwards motion and even a few graceful leaps into the air that carry us where we need to go—and nobody, NOBODY—can take that away from us.
Not even ourselves.
The is a picture of Terra Cotta. She is a life-size bust and beautiful example of papier-mache but at a glance everyone thinks she’s terra cotta pottery and she likes it that way. Hence the name.
I purchased Ms. Cotta the last day of a jewelry show after begging the grumpy old guy who was using her as a necklace display to sell her to me. I imagined a better life for her. She is now the Matriarch of the Mantle having graced our living room for more than fifteen years.
Now, don’t let her serene beauty bamboozle you. Terra Cotta is a grand dame in every sense of the word. A Diva. She makes the Mona Lisa seem warm and extroverted. Terra Cotta’s face may read docile, her smile might imply a kind of quiet contemplation, but I know from experience that if she doesn’t like you or your choices, she will launch herself off that mantle in less time than it takes to say “I don’t believe an inanimate object has opinions.”
When we remodeled our house, I moved her around from time to time to keep her out of harm’s way.
Covered by a sheet most days to protect her from the drywall dust, I could feel her, in the dark, seething. She expected better treatment AND she wasn’t at all sure about the wall color I was choosing.
When the room was finally finished I uncovered her and placed on the focal point of the room, in her seat of honor in the center of the mantel. The next morning I came out to find her face down on the floor.
Apparently she loathed the shade of white we had picked. It did nothing for her skin tone.
Eventually, after several more face plants, we found a blue that she approved of. I am forever grateful that she is indeed papier-mache and not pottery. By now I’d have a ceramic plastic surgeon on speed dial.
When the time came to place a piece of art on that wall, I did so with trepidation. The Queen of Cotta had her strong opinions and her nose would not be able to endure much more suicidal mantle jumping.
I was determined to save her from herself. I can remember placing her on a table across the room as we propped various oil painted scenes and watercolor landscapes up on that mantel to see what fit the room. On an adjacent wall, there is a very large and brightly colored abstract portrait. She barely tolerates it, and pretty much anything we hung above the mantle clashed.
I think I heard her say “I told you so”, several times. What I actually kept hearing was Something like me.
I’m not one to shy away from collections, I have many. Hummingbird’s nests and heart-shaped rocks. Skulls and hands and chairs large and small. Coffee table books and Eiffel towers just to name a few, but I couldn’t picture a group of busts on the mantle. Or more papier-mache for that matter. So I halted my search and waited for inspiration which came several months later in the most unlikely form imaginable.
Our lot was a construction zone in the back. Or a trash heap. It all depended on your perspective and how many dry wall nails you had stuck in the bottom of your flip-flops. For months, stacks of roof tiles, old medicine cabinets and discarded lumber lay strewn around in the dirt that had formerly been our back lawn. Added to the mess were old garden pots, the box our new dishwasher came in, and some old rubber floor mats, the kind they use in restaurant kitchens to save the chef’s feet from making him so miserable that he spits in your soup.
One day I was organizing the chaos, (moving stuff from place to place to make myself feel better), when I turned one of the large mats over and noticed that on the opposite side of the soft, cushy part was a web of the intricate relief work and designs. This is so cool my brain said. Too bad nobody ever sees this side. That’s when inspiration struck. Why not? Why don’t people see the cool underside of a plain rubber mat? Because no one has any imagination! With that, I heaved the large, cumbersome behemoth over my shoulder and ran inside to see if my hunch was correct.
Would it fit above the mantle and could we hang it there easily?
The answer turned out to be yes and yes! It fit the space perfectly!
My husband was skeptical until the last nail was hammered and we stood back to access. Then even he had to admit—it was perfect. And because we hung it about an inch away from the wall, the light from the sconces on each side cause the perforations to cast these cool shadows. And there was plenty of room for Terra Cotta, who was thrilled with the decision. It didn’t steal her thunder and it was exactly as she’d suggested. It was something like her.
It had been saved from its previously boring fate, and reimagined—as art. AND it is a shape-shifter. It looks like something it is not.
Almost everyone who notices that piece thinks it’s metal. Just as Terra Cotta looks like pottery, the underside of the mat hung on the wall looks like metal. It just does. So much so that when one of our snotty, haughty, decorator friends visited the house, she snorted “Oh I love that piece. That artist (she named some guy) does such extraordinary things with metal.”
I had to hold Terra Cotta back to keep her from launching herself into that woman’s glass of Chardonnay.
So there are multiple morals to this story.
Decorating is a collaborative effort. Every piece in the house has a say.
Listen to your instincts.
And remember…NOTHING is as it appears.
“I am who I think you think I am.” – Charles Horton Cooley
This is a trip. And, I think, important to try to wrap our brains around.
As I wove around the corner, snaking slowly through the canyon on my way to the hike this morning—I spotted it.
Something wounded or dead right smack dab in the middle of the road.
Immediately my heart sank a little and my body tensed as I straightened in my seat and turned down the radio in order to get a better look. That is essential. My eyes see better in complete silence and the days of multi-tasking are over for me. I can barely drive and apply mascara anymore. I used to be a pro. Now I suck.
Besides, the music was too cheery, too hip-hoppy, for such a morbid scene.
From a distance, it appeared to be an animal. With black fur. In a pool of blood. Something larger than a cat and smaller than a dingo. Perhaps it was a skunk or a possum? They never seem to get the memo explaining how streets with cars lead to death.
It was often out of view, hidden by the cars as we wound our way, bumper to bumper, to our respective destinations.
That’s when my mind took over. This was a living creature. Cut down in its prime. Maybe it was a mother scavenging food for her babies in the dry brush of the drought-ravaged hillsides. Singles mothers can never catch a break.
It was someone’s baby. Another animal’s friend. They had frolicked and played and in all of the excitement it had forgotten to look both ways. It was then that it’s luck had run out. Splat!
There it is. I can see it again. Is it moving? Oh, dear lord, no!
Why aren’t people stopping?! Someone needs to take it for help, or drag it to the side of the road at the very least!
I’ll do it!
I was working myself into one hell of a lather.
When I get close, I’ll stop my car and block traffic in order to access the animal’s well-being. Someone must! I decided.
If you hear of the murder of a woman in yoga pants in the Hollywood Hills by a mob of angry commuters in Friday morning gridlock—it’s me.
When the poor creature came back into view it looked to be lying still. “Oh thank God it’s dead”, I muttered aloud. That is not a sentence that feels good coming out. It is something you never want to hear yourself say. But I meant it. It looked like its suffering was over.
“Why the fuck is everybody running over it?” was the next thing I heard my mouth say. But it was true. No one was swerving to miss it. In their rush to get wherever they were going, they were running directly over the poor thing. I don’t care if it’s a dead possum. Swerve a little!
It was disrespectful, to say the least.
The time had come. Ten minutes had passed and I was almost upon it.
Do I look and ruin my morning?
Or do I look away?
Do steal a quick glance and say a little prayer?
Or do I stare and gross myself out?
I looked. Right at it. And I tried to swerve to miss it but I couldn’t without dying in a head-on collision—so I did my best.
Thump, thump. I cringed.
The right side of my car ran over it at the exact moment that I saw what it was. This roadkill that had sabotaged ten minutes of my morning.
It was a pile of black socks on top of a red sweater.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right.
This is a post from early last year when we lost our beloved ten-year-old dog, Querida.
She died on her own terms, instantly in the back of my husband’s truck after a rousing game of Frisbee. She had been sick with a brain tumor, but it was still a shock to find her lifeless after a twenty-minute drive home.
But it’s always that way, isn’t it? We all know how this story ends, yet death, as inevitable as we try to forget it is, surprises the shit out of us when it takes someone we love.
A close friend.
Pain is pain—because love is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love. (To quote Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant sonnet.)
But I believe that the risk of a broken heart is far outweighed by the innumerable rewards and blessings that love bestows.
Maybe you needed to hear this today. I did.
“Grief; it covers you with the weight of a wet blanket and smothers all other emotions, most especially joy”
Here I sit, internally pummeled by the ebb and flow of grief.
It was just a dog, I tell myself, as the terribly underutilized rational part of my brain gets its chance to craft a reason and attempt to soothe me.
Doesn’t matter, moans my heart.
I loved her with all I had. I loved her without boundaries, deeper and wider and bigger than I could have ever thought possible.
She was my baby –– That thought just makes me cry longer and louder.
The rational brain, not used to seeing me like this, ups it’s game, taking a different tack—
You knew how this story would end, it reasons. Everybody dies, that’s the exit strategy we all agreed upon.
You’re right, I answer begrudgingly.
She was old and sick and you could sense the end was near… That’s funny, my rational brain doesn’t usually acknowledge intuition. It was clearly pulling out all the stops.
So why the sadness and the tears? It continued. The question actually had an air of sincerity –– my brain searching, seeking a viable answer.
Love…it’s about love. When you love someone or something with ALL your heart and soul…well, the pain of its loss is equal in measure.
I could feel it contemplating, reasoning –– love sounded dangerous.
Then why love at all? When you know it will end this way, with so much pain –– why risk it?
How do I explain? Deep breath.
Because without that love, without opening your heart that much, each time more, then more, then more again –– life is colorless, black and white, and in my opinion not worth living. The reward is worth the risk.
So…I’ll cry and I’ll feel bad for a while and time will carry me through this; and when I’m on the other side of grief I won’t forget her, I could never do that. It will just start to hurt a little less each day until her memory makes me…smile.
Then I will have forgotten the pain enough to love without borders, ignoring all reason.
All the while knowing how this ends…
I can say in all honesty, with a straight face, that I don’t need a beach house to be happy.
I’ve made it this far in life without one and things have been pretty terrific so far.
That being said, when one is offered to me for a night I don’t hesitate to say yes. I’m not daft.
The house in question belongs to one of my husband’s clients. It is an architectural marvel that sits on the sand in a private cove of only six other homes. It cost in excess of fifteen million bucks and a famous rapper/music producer is living next door for the summer.
All of that makes your butt pucker, right? Me too!
Like how can I relax and enjoy the experience? I can’t handle the grandiosity, the smell of money in the air. I won’t be able to touch anything for fear of destroying something it would take me ten years to pay-off. Like red wine on a white chair. Or sand…anywhere.
This house and this couple are not like that AT ALL. They are gregarious and tons of fun. They have kids and dogs and everything in that house says, ‘Come on in! Relax! Have fun! Make a mess! Enjoy! Feel rich!’
What? Feel rich?
As you know, I’ve been trying that “rich” thing on lately.
I’ve told you of the hours I’ve spent on Zillow looking at homes for sale in Santa Barbara. Montecito to be exact. The hometown of Oprah. And to clarify even further—five to ten million dollar homes. With land. And nifty views.
So, the house this weekend could have felt intimidating, but it didn’t.
Not at all.
It felt like the next logical step in my search for a dream house.
And that’s when the magic started to happen.
Hubby, Ruby dog, and I, spent Friday night enjoying stinky cheese and a bottle of my favorite red wine as we listened to Adele sing her sad songs of love gone wrong while the waves crashed and the negative ions had their way with us.
I could not have been happier. I felt rich in so many ways.
The next morning I went out to my car for something important (poop bag) and found a neatly folded twenty-dollar bill on the ground just behind the tailgate.
“You must have dropped this”, I said as I handed it back to Raphael knowing full well that Ruby only travels with hundreds and I had all of eight dollars left in my wallet after buying the cheese. (The stinkier the cheese the more it costs. Why is that?)
“It’s not mine”, he argued. “The only time I walked over there was at 5 am when I took Ruby to pee and contrary to stories you’ve heard, I don’t carry a wallet when I’m not wearing pants. It looks like it’s yours”, then he smirked in response to the look on my face as I pictured him balls to the wind, and went to make himself another espresso on the F-you espresso machine that lives in the kitchen.
“I’m rich!” I yelled, like Leonardo DeCaprio on the bow of the Titanic. (I know, he said I’m King of the World—just go with me here.)
Now I had twenty-eight smackers! Time to go buy some more cheese. Instead, we sat around all morning covered in dog hair, as a low, gray ceiling of clouds hung overhead making the view outstanding and the house impossibly cozy.
“I’m not leaving!”, I announced after he had laid out his plan for the rest of our day. Shower, lunch, drive home—and then what? He had plans that afternoon and all day Sunday.
I did not. I had no obligations. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
“I’m not leaving”, I said again out loud, just to hear the words a second time. Sometimes I just say stuff for dramatic effect. Like ‘I’m not leaving’ means ‘I’m having a good time’. Like that.
Was I serious?
“Fine. I love that”, he said looking at me kinda funny. “You’re keeping the dog—and what about your computer? Remember? You didn’t bring it. You can drive back in your car and get it. It’ll only be a three-hour round trip because it’s Saturday.”
I thought about it for a minute. I needed to post Sunday’s blog…but the internet sucked.
“Fuck that!” I exclaimed. Why would I kill my beach buzz?”
Sorry, but I shirked. I shirked all responsibility and sense of obligation and, and, and.
I was so relaxed at that point I was literally drooling.
I blame the ions. The ions made me do it.
“Exactly!”, he agreed, and he meant it.
In a spontaneous act of whatthefuckery, I called my friend Sally to come after work and partake in some of my stinky cheese, wine and mind altering ions. In an uncharacteristic act of selfishness—she said YES!
Sunday morning as I sat bathed in the wealth of my weekend, looking around at the house on the beach, the one with dog slobber on almost every wall and knee high handprints on the bank of windows that looks out over the endless expanse of Pacific Ocean, I received a text from a dear friend. That alone was a mini-miracle due to the shitty WiFi.
You see, a mystical, magical project I’m working on has to be delivered to just the right people.
Or I’m fucked.
Until I could guarantee that, I’ve been sitting on it. Praying. Trusting the powers that be to pull a rabbit out of someone’s ass. That text, that Miracle in Malibu text, held the answer to my prayers and it was so implausible that if I told you—you wouldn’t believe me—and you’d have me arrested for public drunkenness.
I’m tellin’ ya. Being irresponsible, selfish, and acting rich has gotten a bad rap. It really worked magic for me this weekend.
You should try it.
*Sally and Ruby-do in the ‘Bu