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Delta Blues

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

PolarBearatVancoueerAirportI like to think of myself as a relaxed traveler. I fly from the west coast to the east every month and have come to know LAX and JFK so well I could find my gate blindfolded. Or maybe blind.

But last week, when I had to navigate the unfamiliar halls and escalators of Vancouver’s airport, I realized I wasn’t as well equipped for such an undertaking as I thought I was.

In addition to being visually challenged, I have no sense of direction. (My husband would say I need a GPS to find my own kitchen.) So, I noted that during six hours of travel time from Canada to L.A., I needed to ask ten people for help.

Helper #1 was the lady who, when I asked her where Delta’s check-in was, pointed left and said, “Just beyond the green sign.” I couldn’t see a green sign but figured I got the idea: I’d go left.

At the counter I found I was expected to use a machine to check in. Helper #2 walked me through this, scanning my passport and reading me the questions on the screen. The machine wanted to know if I was carrying explosives or farm animals.

“No,” I said. “Not if you don’t count the grenade I’m using as a shoe stuffer.“ Actually, I didn’t say that last part out loud., but I’d been awake since 4:30 a.m. and was punchy. Plus, I figure they don’t expect a serious answer. I mean, who’s going to admit it if they have a bomb in their underpants?

And I think she misread that part about farm animals. Who travels with pigs? Although I heard about a guy who almost got through customs at JFK smuggling in a couple of pigeons strapped to his legs. (You’d think bringing those birds to NYC would be a coals to Newcastle sort of thing, but, whatever.)

When I was asked if I had any liquids, I said, “Nope!” with excessive good cheer, hoping #2 couldn’t read my thought bubble which featured a full color picture of the hand lotion I had concealed in my purse.

My passport didn’t scan properly so I was sent to the counter, to Helper #3, who pointed out that I was not at Delta. That airline was over there, past the green sign.

I went to Helper #4 at what I hoped was Delta. (Their logo looks like one of the “gotcha” visual puzzles that often thwart my efforts to buy sox or whatever online.)

Successfully checked in, I moved on to customs, where, unfortunately, they had also installed machines to expedite things. When I told Helper #5 I had visual problems, he said that in that case I should step aside and filll out a blue form.

In a tone I hoped was neutral, I explained to #5 that reading a blue form would likely be as challenging as the machine. #5 considered this for a moment, then bailed and sent me down the line to Helper #6.

She couldn’t figure me out either so she sent me to Helper #7, the nice dude who, in spite of my suspicious behavior, neither detained me nor asked me if I was transporting livestock. He allowed me to move on to security without the receipt normally granted by the machine.

True to form, I joined the wrong security line, a mistake that was corrected by a stern Helper #8, who steered me to the correct line, which was ten times longer than the forbidden one.

I feel about waiting in line roughly the way I feel when watching a golf tournament on TV. Instantly antsy, I pulled out my iPhone and cued up the audiobook, The Girl On The Train. I was so gripped by the story—the protagonist was getting hammered on gin and tonics and texting naughty things to her ex-husband—that I neither heard nor saw #8 asking to see my passport.

Narrowly escaping arrest for breach of protocol, I finally made it through security, which, by the way, is shockingly lax in Vancouver. For one thing, they did not confiscate my hand lotion which I’m pretty sure would have triggered a full body search at JFK.

Also, you can remove your shoes or not—its your choice. Call me Howard Hughes but I don’t know why anyone would choose to tread barefoot through the bacterial leavings of millions of previously departed passengers if they didn’t have to. (On the other hand, maybe some people are simply not sure and would like an outside party to determine if their Manolos might blow up over Iowa.)

In any case, I kept my boots on through security, then asked Helper #9 to reveal the locations of Gate 87 and of the ladies’ room.

Even with her help,, I scrutinized the sign on the bathroom door, making absolutely sure the figure crudely represented there was wearing a dress. I have surprised a few unzipped gentlemen in my day and do not want to rerun the experience.

Helper #10 was the flight attendant, who showed me which seat was 3C. In a notable coincidence, the guy next to me drank five gin and tonics, making himself a suitable subject for the sequel to my audiobook. (Think The Guy On The Plane.)

When I de-planed, I decided to ask nobody for help finding the baggage claim area but instead to follow the crowd. This did not go well—I ended up at departures. (The flock I’d fallen in with were catching connecting flights.)

I untied the knot of my confusion and found the line-up of drivers holding signs bearing the names of their assigned passengers. One of these dudes was waiting for me, but which one? Each driver’s eyes widened when, bent forward and squinting, I stuck my head inside his personal space (within eight inches of his body) in order to make out the name scrawled on the cardboard.

Luckily, as I closed in on the fourth guy, he shouted out my name, obviating the need to continue this awkward dance.

Home at last, I went to the kitchen (sans GPS), poured a glass of wine, and made three notes-to-self:

1.I am now familiar (you might say intimate) with one more major international airport.

2, Today was stressful, but there’s no crying over first world problems.

3. With the possible exception of #8, all the Helpers were truly nice, and, I am pretty sure, were not just motivated by a paycheck.Thank goodness, as always, for the kindness of strangers.

(P.S. Only in the Vancouver airport would there be a polar bear welcoming you to the news stand.)


Summer Of ’69: Woodstock Envy

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Woodstock In the summer of 1969, Provincetown’s Town House restaurant employed a “town crier” to walk the streets in a Pilgrim-ish outfit, ringing a big bell and loudly extolling the virtues of the eatery’s menu. His delivery was colorful, but his message was bullshit.

I waitressed at that restaurant in that summer. I remember serving a filet mignon to a customer who had paid dearly for it. On the large, oval plate was a dubious piece of meat the size of a hockey puck. The only side dish was a slice of canned apple. When I set the plate before the hungry dude, he looked at me as if I had presented him with a turd.

Later, I took home $1.10 in tips, making it a day like any other. I’d hoped to put away a bundle that summer to pay for my fall college necessities. (Okay, and for pot.) By the end of June, I was maybe $25 closer to my goal.

Even with the uptick in Provincetown’s population in July, the tips did not improve. Dispirited, my gal pal co-workers and I walked home after work to our tight quarters overlooking Commercial Street and, too broke to go out, we fried up some fish. Through the window we’d watch the lively parade of summer vacationers go

Provincetown had long been a famous refuge for the gay population, and they owned the street. But in peak season they shared it with tourists who came from all over to buy salt water taffy and local art. There were hippies, too, although mostly they were mostly just aspirationals, not yet steeped in enough pot smoke to qualify for full hippie status.

Also, there was Richard Gere. Almost famous, he was acting in a play at the Provincetown Playhouse. When I saw him on the street I was instantly crush-struck, like when Maria sees Tony in West Side Story and boom! Except of course Maria’s love was requited.

There was little hope of that in my case. In my work uniform—white blouse, black skirt and tidy apron, ugly shoes, nylons and hairnet—I was hardly a dude magnet. I was more like what happens when you turn the magnet around and it repels everything.

Still, the Gere buzz gave me a lift (and a fantasy life) in the otherwise tedious Town House routine.

Then, in mid-July, things started to get interesting.

One day, I was getting a Tom Collins from the restaurant’s lounge when I noticed that all the regulars were focused on the TV above the bar. I looked up and saw Neil Armstrong planting his feet on the moon, sending up a little poof of space dust. It was cool, but for those of my generation, the bigger step for mankind was to come a few weeks ater.

When my friends and I walked home from work one afternoon, our tips so meager they barely ka-chinged in our pockets, we saw a herd of young people coming towards us in muddy jeans and cutoffs. The guys topless and the women almost so, they were smelly, sunburned and seriously high.

They had been among the hippie wannabes we’d seen from our window. That cohort had been absent lately, rumored to have gone to New York, to something called the Woodstock Music Festival. Now they were back and behaving like they had experienced The Rapture without the disappearing part.

We stood in the street in our uniforms as they approached. They were rock-stunned, sleepy, happy and dopey. We looked like two rival gangs facing off. Once again I felt like Maria in West Side Story: I found something very attractive about the opposing gang.

They chatted happily with anyone who would listen about what had gone down at Woodstock. Hundreds of thousands of baby boomers had shrugged off the constraints of their normal lives and joined together peacefully, under the spell of rock ‘n roll, for three days. (Oh, and there was a lot of sex and drugs were everywhere and you had to wait in line three hours to use a toilet.)

In the days to come, as it became clear how transformative the event had been. Hearing people swap their Woodstock glory stories made me wild with envy and regret. Why hadn’t I gone? I was nineteen, for God’s sake—it’s what you’re supposed to do! My cousin Wendy went—Richard Gere probably even went. Meanwhile, where was I? Waltzing around in a hairnet, serving turds-on-a-platter to tourists!

I was not going to let it happen again; I was going to be ready for the next of my generation’s seminal moments. I was going to tune in, turn on and drop out: I would pay closer attention so I wouldn’t miss future Woodstocks and feel like a loser, I would drop acid as soon as possible and I would leave college because I could not get my mind around French literature while I was high.

I did all of those things. But sometimes you don’t get a second chance; there never was another Woodstock, only pale imitators. I did, however, get a second chance with Richard Gere. A few years after that summer of love, I co-starred with him   in an Off-Broadway play.

Yes, I still had the crush. Yes, it was still unrequited. (Sigh.)

(This article was originally published at


































Walking In Space

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

HAIRposterWhen I was in the cast of Hair on Broadway in 1969, we were tripping every night. That is, in character, on stage, we extolled the virtues of drug use and did our best imitation of people who were “floating, flipping, flying, tripping…”. But of course we weren’t high, not really. At least I wasn’t, until one night when I was.

I had foresworn drugs several months before I went to New York to get fake-stoned at the Biltmore Theater every night for a year. I’d taken acid, just once, and it went badly. Do you know the feeling when you are hanging by your fingertips from a narrow ledge on the side of a building, seventeen floors up, in a high wind? It was like that for sixteen hours.

After that, my old friend Mr. Weed triggered echoes of the bad trip whenever I smoked, so I renounced him and all other mind-bending substances. (If you don’t count the Brandy Alexander I liked to sip at Joe Allen’s after the show.) But that made me a unique in the cast of Hair.

The main dressing room backstage was technically reserved for the two male leads, but it was actually a hangout for pretty much anyone in the cast, where they could do whatever they wanted with impunity.

Things got pretty gnarly in there, at least by my standards. (I was nineteen and fresh out of Illinois.) One night, in an effort to take a step up the Hair social ladder, I timidly poked my head into the crowded room and said, “Hi, guys!” Nobody responded because hey were all focused on the two actors who were having sex in the middle of the floor. The onlookers cheered on the lovebirds on as if it were a dog fight.

Of course there were drugs in that dressing room, too. The show’s song Hashish is a lyrical litany of what was consumed: “Hashish, cocaine, marijuana, opium, LSD…” I saw all that and more—the song doesn’t mention heroin—free-flowing in that crazy room. I remember a night in particular when Sally Eaton, who played ‘Jeanie’ in the show, brought her five-year-old son in there, bragging that she had just fed him some acid.

So I should have been skeptical when Keith Carrradine, who was playing ‘Claude’ at the time, offered everyone in the cast a brownie before curtain. How nice, I remember thinking. What a sweet gesture of friendship. Fool that I was, I may even have imagined he bought them in support of a relative’s bake sale.

It was during the opening number, Aquarius, when the stage felt as if it were tilting at a thirty-degree angle, that it occurred to me. But by then the word was out backstage. We’d all eaten brownies the recipe for which included maybe one part flour and eleven parts hash.

Wen we got to Hashih, I noted the irony as I sang it, feeling as if my head might roll off my shoulders and bounce into the lap of the guy in row A.

I struggled to keep that from happening until end of the first act, when we got to the song, Be-in. Mostly wild dancing and minimal lyrics, the number suited my condition nicely. Next, however, came the nude scene. Have you ever stood naked in front of six hundred people while you were stoned shitless? (I mean unless you went to Woodstock, in which case you probably have.)

 By the time we got to Walking In Space, the second act’s paean to tripping, we were able to sing it with unusual conviction.  “My body is walking in space

“My body is walking in space

My soul is in orbit, with God, face to face….”

On a rocket to the Fourth Dimension

Total self-awareness, the intention…”

 Actually, self-awareness was not my intention. At that point I the show, my only intention was just to get to the end of Act Two without plummeting into the orchestra pit.

I succeeded, as I recall, and generally that night I feel acquitted myself of my professional duties adequately. My guess is I skipped Joe Allen’s later and went home to watch Johnny Carson’s show and wait for my brain to resume normal function (which may or may not have ever happened).

So what’s my takeaway from this? With age has come the following bit of wisdom: The next time Keith Carradine gives me a brownie, I’m taking the day off.

(This article was first published at purple




Puppy Upper (Part 1)

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

CaliPalmTreeTennisBallI read in some magazine in the therapist’s waiting room that a sixty-ish couple could liven up their marriage by re-populating their empty nest with animal life.

The article stated that a goldfish wouldn’t cut it. You needed something you could cuddle and walk with, that you could, you know, love. Best move? Get a puppy.

I brought it up with the therapist. She said I must be crazy. I said, I know, that’s why I see a therapist. Nonetheless, six months later I adopted a three-month-old, female golden retriever.

Not that Tom and I were new to canine parenthood. We’d had a couple of dogs for ages. Then, last summer, just as Oliver (breed: also a golden) turned eight years old, his sidekick Joe (breed: brown and cranky) died at fourteen, leaving all of us bereft.

While Tom and I rebounded in a suitable period of time, Oliver continued to lie in a depressed heap for weeks, crying in his sleep. So lethargic and forlorn, the dog wore down my resistance to the idea of finding him a new companion.

Tom was also lying in a depressed heap and crying in his sleep because he was about to turn sixty. I was not all that sympathetic: I had just turned sixty-five for Pete’s sake. “Cry me a river,” I’d snark.

But I did want to ease Tom’s pain with a spectacular birthday surprise, and he was longing for another dog. He launched what he thought was a subtle campaign, posting irritatingly cute videos of puppies on Instagram every day.

I had many lively arguments with myself on the puppy subject, weighing the pros and the cons.


1.  My Manolo pumps would be reduced to chew toys.

2.  I would have to dress exclusively in running shoes and sweatpants, at least in the early months. (This is a look I’d sworn I would renounce at my age.)

3. I would have to spend hours every day teaching the dog where to pee, time I’d normally use for, say, a mani-pedi or other worthwhile pursuits.

4.  I’m pretty sure that at least once a day I’d be scraping dog poop off my Nikes with an old toothbrush

5.  It would be I, not my husband, who would be getting the wake up paw-in-the-face at 6 a.m. and would have to cope.


1, I would get a lot more exercise, chasing the puppy up and down the stairs shrieking, “Potty outside!”

2. I could boss her around, which would satisfy my inner control freak.

3. People would find her so cute, they might think I was cute by association.

4. She would earn me lots of ‘likes’ on Instagram.

5.  My husband would be so grateful he would buy me diamond earrings.

But it was none of the above that finally tipped me.

It was that Tom and I spend much time pursuing our separate interests: I like the theater and fine dining, while Tom likes sports and…well, sports. Raising a puppy would be something we could engage in together, adding new zing and complexity to our 25-year-old marriage.

Any doubts I had were dispelled when I gave Tom his barking birthday gift: he gasped with surprise and wept with pleasure. He loved her immediately and named her Cali, our California girl. He swore he’d be eternally grateful and would faithfully scoop the poop.

So, that was nice, but I soon realized that in the eight years since Oliver’s arrival, I’d forgotten what the first months of puppy-rearing are like. As with childbirth, if you remembered how these things went down you might not want to repeat the experience.

Details to follow in an upcoming post…




23 Things

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Comfortable shoes

I was cruising Buzzfeed the other day and noticed an article called 23 Things That Get Way More Exciting As You Get Older. Since I am older than older, I felt qualified to fact check it, with mixed results:

1. Getting socks as a gift

Wrong. If my husband were to give me socks as a gift, I’d retaliate by buying him a frying pan.

2. Fancy kitchen appliances

Uh-uh. The fanciest appliance I have bought in the last couple years is a $12 carrot peeler.

3. Reading online reviews of fancy kitchen appliances.

Nope. Call me a reckless consumer, but I bought my carrot peeler with no input from all those nice people who took the time to praise or condemn it online.

4. Going for walks. Not walking to get somewhere, just…walking.

Allow me to bust that theory: I prefer to walk in order to get somewhere essential, like a nail salon or the therapist’s office. It’s my puppy, the youthful one, who likes “just….walking.” So, we just…walk, my only desired destination being a path where we are unlikely to encounter vicious attack dogs like that f—ing Shih Tzu last weekend.

5. Plants

Okay, you got me there. I love nothing more than a dozen long-stemmed roses!

6. Folding laundry. (It’s so soothing.)

Yes, it is soothing. I could watch my husband do it all day.

7. 401K matching

Nah. I have enough trouble matching my socks.

8. Hobbies that don’t require you to leave the house.

Have you met me? My only hobby is figuring out new excuses to leave the house.

9. Splurging on nice cleaning supplies.

Okay, well, I feel that “nice cleaning supplies” is an oxymoron, but I admit I recently bought some counter spray that smells like parsley, so, yeah.

10. Movies that start before 7.

Yep. I only watch movies before 7, specifically on airplanes. On last week’s noon flight to JFK I saw Night Crawler, which completely distracted me from obsessing about whether the lady next to me had the measles. (BTW, what’s up with Jake G.’s hair? Yuck!)

11. Chill bars where you can actually hear what people are saying.

Oh, yes, I love that. Last Friday the guy at the next table at The Soho Club was all, “So then she says she wants non-fat f—-ing milk. What the f—-? She told me to go back to the f—-ing store and get some fancy-ass non-fat s—t! I said go get your own damn milk! How did I know I was supposed to buy that skim f—-ing s—t!”

It was awesome.

12. Learning about history.

Okay, yeah, right again. I like learning about history. But sometimes it’s just TMI, isn’t it? Do we really need to know that LBJ enjoyed discussing important matters with his senate colleagues while sitting on the toilet? Yes, with his pants down, the whole nine yards! I mean, if I ever find out Lincoln did that I’m moving to Canada.

13. Identifying types of trees.

Trees are like people I meet at a cocktail party: I hug them but can’t remember their names.

14. Silence.

Yes, I love silence. It allows me to hear NPR better.

15. HGTV

What is that? Is it like HDTV? Oh, okay, I just Googled it. So, yeah. No.

16. Waking up early on weekends.

Oh, no, think it’s unhealthy to get up at dawn on Sundays, although it’s currently necessary due to puppy training. In an effort to train me to rise at six, the pup has adopted the old ”leap on Mom’s face” approach, which is frightfully effective. When I am reluctantly vertical, she works with me on forgoing my morning coffee until after I have filled her bowl with noxious lamb pellets. She is also teaching me to witness her poop and then praise her as if she’d just won an Oscar.

When I have completed these daily exercises, she allows me to make coffee and read the Sunday Style section while she chews mercilessly on a squeaking toy.

When my husband gets up at ten, I hit him with a frying pan and go back to bed.

17. Going to Home Depot.

Actually, my feeling is, if I am a really bad person, when I die I will go to Home Depot for eternity. (Or possibly to a bowling alley.)

18. Shoe insoles.

I love insoles in theory, but have trouble fitting them into my Repetto ballet flats.

19. Custom framing.

My husband and I have our own framing customs. He likes to frame everything. (Is that a dude thing?) Since we have long since run out of wall space, many of his framed items get stacked in the garage. When they have taken up precious space there for way too long, I de-frame the pictures, roll them up, and return them to the garage in that space between the ice cream machine and the waffle iron, items that will also never again see the light of day.

20. Comfortable shoes.

Well, duh! Who doesn’t want comfortable shoes? I totally love them as long as they are made by Nicholas Kirkwood and have two-inch heels. (See photo.)

21. Fiber

I am pro-fiber. Not that gnarly kale, though—yuck! It’s like eating a damn shrub! My idea of adding fiber to the diet is sneaking in a little shredded coconut when I make blondies.

22. Furniture shopping

I don’t like furniture shopping so much as shopping in a store that has furniture where I can sit while I try on shoes.

23. Friday nights with no plans.

Capital N, capital O. Wrong. We always have plans on Friday nights: Tom watches ESPN while I catch up on The Good Wife.

So, while I thought the woman who wrote this piece was often off base, when I studied her headshot I understood. She is talking about getting older as in, say, turning thirty-four. When she’s my age, we’ll talk. (Although I will likely be dead by then, in which case she can find me at Home Depot.)





My Face Time With Jimi Hendrix

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

HAIRGroupIn the suHAIRmmer of ’69, shortly after kicking myself for not going to Woodstock, I dropped acid and listened to the Traffic album for sixteen hours. Then I did the responsible thing: I went to see my parents to tell them face-to-face that I was dropping out of college.

That fall, partly because I did not know what else to do and partly because of a guy named Robin, I signed up for some classes at Wesleyan University, choosing stoner-friendly courses, the most challenging of which was Balinese shadow puppetry.

A few weeks in, I was struggling to imagine a puppeteer’s career trajectory, when my mother sent me a piece from the New York Times announcing open casting calls for Hair. The show would soon begin its second year on Broadway and they were freshening up the “tribe”.

While I understood that I was as likely to get a Broadway gig as I was to, say, play Madison Square Garden with Jimi Hendrix, I chose to banish pessimism. Having talked Robin into coming along to back me up on guitar, I packed up and we headed to New York.

My optimism shook a little when we parked the gasping Datsun near the downtown church where the auditions were being held. There were five hundred other jeans-clad hippie hopefuls, dripping with love beads, tuning their guitars, lined up around a couple of blocks. We bought coffee and took our place behind them.

It was a long wait on a cold sidewalk. We were finally ushered in by a fifty-something casting assistant dude who looked s though hearing one more lousy singer might just send him over the edge. I sang “Heartbreak Hotel” (with some gusto, I like to think) while Robin played guitar. Then they asked Robin if he could sing. He could and he did.

The casting assistant winked at me as we left.

Robin dropped me at my parents’ uptown apartment and drove off to find himself a friendly sofa o crash on. I’m not sure how long I waited for the phone to ring, but it did, and I got an offer. So did Robin, and one other guy named Nat Grant. We were to start rehearsals right away.

Not only did I get the Broadway gig, but I also got to perform at Madison Square Garden with Jimi Hendrix.

The cast of Hair were the darlings of New York then. We were ubiquitous, invited to every event whose planner wanted to seem groovy. But the most thrilling of these invitations took us to the Madison Square Garden Winter Peace Festival, where we were in the lineup with Hendrix, but also with Peter, Paul and Mary, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Harry Belafonte, Dave Brubeck, Judy Collins, Mother Earth and Richie Havens.

We got stellar placement on the program though. We were the closer, wrapping up the concert with a peacenik crowd-pleaser if ever there was one: Let The Sunshine In.

There I was, a kid fresh out of Illinois, singing from the gut, on a stage that had just been occupied by a cluster of icons. The crowd, 20,000 strong, sang along with the commitment and energy of those whose very lives depended on ending that damn war in Viet Nam.

As gobsmacking as this event was for me, I have found that Googling it adds new depth to my memory of it. Something happened that night that I was flying too high to notice. Hendrix gave what became a legendary performance, but not in a good wa

Rumored to have dropped a couple tabs of acid backstage, his playing was by all accounts uninspired to say the least, and he aborted his set after two songs. Nobody could have foreseen Jimi’s ultimate fate, but at that concert, Johnny Winter said that Hendrix seemed “already dead.”

Winter didn’t play that night, but I recall seeing him backstage. In an interview in the Jimi Hendrix Online Encyclopedia—yes, there is such a thing—he   went on to say, “He just couldn’t play. When I saw him, it gave me chills. It was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. He really wanted to do that gig, but he never should have. Finally, right in the middle of a song, he just took his guitar off, sat on the stage – the band was still playing – and told the audience, “I’m sorry, we just can’t get it together.”

What was for me a night to remember, was one I’m guessing Hendrix wanted to forget.

He died eight months later.

The cast of Hair also performed that same year at the Summer Festival For Peace at Shea Stadium in mid-August, sharing the stage with Paul Simon, Credence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Dionne Warwick, Ten Wheel Drive, Johnny Winter and many others, including Janis Joplin, who was dead two months later.

I guess I could Google that concert too, and maybe unearth some forgotten details. But I don’t think I will. I’d like to leave it a shimmery memory, uninformed by Google’s revelations.

(This piece was originally published at



Dover Street Market: Be There Or Be Square

Friday, February 6th, 2015

DoverStreetMarketDo you ever find yourself at 30th and Lexington in NYC looking for a lunch spot? No, I don’t either. But I’d heard about the Dover Street Market and made it my destination-of-the-day. (I like to do regular DOTD’s when I’m in NYC. Pick a new and intriguing store or restaurant or park or museum and go there to get myself off the well-traveled path.)

Dover Street Market is an eccentric, almost-department store, with six (small) floors full of interesting high end clothes, mostly by Comme Des Garcons with a little Alaia thrown in, and stuff from new, local designers. Dover St. is cool to visit, even if it’s not your thing, but especially if you are hungry. They have aRose Bakery (yes, like the one in Paris) with lovely salads and pastries.

I went there a couple days after Juno fizzled, when it was wicked cold and snowy underfoot and New Yorkers were even crabbier than usual. At Dover Street Market, I felt like I had gone either to Paris or Tokyo: it was a sweet escape from the known world.

Plus the quiche was square. So try DSM. Be there or you too will be square.


10 Ways For A Weather Wuss To Prep For Juno

Monday, January 26th, 2015

FrenchToastBaconHarry'sShoesBased on de Blasio’s dire warning on the radio yesterday, I figure the world is about to end. He said we’d never seen anything like the imminent Winter Storm Juno. His tone suggested that we should all curl up in fetal position and prepare to die.

If you are a weather wuss like me, here are my thoughts on what you do to prepare for this Snowmageddon. I have found that all my Juno-prep needs can be met within a few blocks of my apartment.

1. Go to the Robert Stuart Salon (82nd and Columbus) and get a blow out. If you do perish in the storm you want to look good posthumously.

2. Go to Good Enough To Eat (84th and Columbus) and order pumpkin French toast and bacon. It could be your last meal and you want it to be perfect.

3. Get a mani-pedi at any of the eighteen places in your two-block area. (Same logic as 2.)

4.Email you niece and tell her you can’t attend her birthday party in the West Village because they are shutting down the B train at 7 p.m. and if you must die, you would rather not do it on a subway platform waiting for the C.

5. Go to Zingone’s market (Columbus between 82nd and 83rd) and buy eggs, kale and toilet paper. Then go to Rose Wine and Liquor store a couple blocks down and do some real damage. Also go to Gastronomie 491 and buy some Humboldt Fog cheese and also some mixed olives.

6. Go buy snow boots at Harry’s Shoes (83rd and Broadway). Be prepared to wait in line behind all the other procrastinators. Do not buy the ones they want you to buy that cost $595.

7. Take a lot of pictures. If you are still alive when the world has ended, Instagram will amuse you. (Follow my Juno coverage at jessicaharperama.)

8. Download a couple seasons of  The Good Wife, make popcorn and open a bottle of wine and start binge-watching.

9. Call your mother, just in case the world ends so she won’t bitch at you later for not calling her before the world ended.

10. Write a letter to whoever names storms saying that “Juno” is too intimidating a choice. If they needed a J name they should have picked something friendlier, liker. “Jessica” has a nice ring to it.






Down, Dog!

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Cali2I had never been so happy to go to a yoga class.

That’s not saying much really. I am never exactly happy to go to a yoga class, to be honest. I’d rather go to Zumba, but now that I have 65-year-old knees, I’m told I should embrace a calmer exercise regimen.

Yoga called to me last Sunday when I was in puppy hell. Our baby golden retriever (Cali) had been up all night with a stomach ailment. Then she chewed up my new Taschen book on the Rolling Stones, made off with a Lanvin ballet flat, shredded the New York Times Book Review and peed on the antique carpet. That was all before 9 A.M..

The only exercise I’d had for weeks was lifting an increasingly heavy canine scoundrel. During puppy training, time away from home was precious, and yoga would allow me to multi-task, to de-stress and get fit at the same time.

I went to the studio in a state of pent up, edgy energy. I felt like my hair was on fire, but I knew Chris’s ninety minute class would put out the flames. She’d start us right off with a bracing Downward Dog and then leap right into Warrior, a pose that would suit my mood nicely.

There was, however, a substitute teacher that day who had a different modus operandi. Her name was Pearl, and she began by asking if anyone in the class had any physical issues. I knew I did not have the patience to listen to myself tell her about my knees, but many others spoke in detail about their own sore body parts.

The show and tell went on for fifteen minutes. I was pretty sure it would be frowned upon if I pulled out my phone to catch up on Instagram while the dude two mats over went on about his patella.

Just when I thought I might start twitching, Pearl told us to lie down and breathe: breathe loud, breathe soft, breathe like the ocean. We did this for twenty minutes. I tried to go with the flow–no really, I did–but I was in resistance mode, way to irritable to breathe like the Atlantic. I had been doing it like a human for sixty-five years and it was working for me. I was so glad Pearl couldn’t read my thought bubbles, which started with, “Yoga sschmoga.”

Pearl finally had us move, inviting us to cross our legs and stretch to the right. After ten minutes of this I was feeling the beginnings of desperation. In the absence of badly needed physical exercise, I tried the mental kind, asking myself the following: 1. Is there any possible way I could abandon this class without offending everyone in it? (Answer: Unlikely unless you were to fake a stroke.) 2. What else rhymes with ‘yoga’ besides ‘schmoga’? (Anwer: Toga.) 3. Could I recall the names of all the state capitols? (Springfield, uh…Boise?)

We moved on to crossing our legs in the other direction and I began work on a mental grocery list, although I couldn’t remember what item one was when I got to item seven.

I felt I was thinking way too hard about whether I needed spinach, so I moved on, making a list of fun things to do with a puppy. This backfired: I realized we were fifty minutes into a yoga class and had not even doe a damn Downward Dog yet.

I could feel the beginnings of a rash blooming on my chin.

Then someone got up to go to the bathroom. I saw this as my cue. I waited a decent interval, say, thirty-seven seconds, and then quietly eased out the door which luckily I had parked right next to.

I went to the front desk and, feeling the need for a little passive aggression, I asked in a tone I believed was neutral, “Is this actually a Hstha 1, this class?”

“Yes,” said the desk dude.

“Funny. I thought maybe I was at a die-in.” (I actually did not say that out loud.)

“Pearl has been teaching here for ten years,” the dude said in a way that suggested my inner bitch was showing.

I went to hang out in the bathroom, but since my devices were not on my person but back in the studio, I figured I might as well re-enter and be bored lying down instead of upright.

We finally uncrossed the legs and put them straight in front of us. The big hand went from three to six and I marked its every move.

I heard my cell phone vibrating in my bag which provided me with another mental exercise: Guess who is calling you and why. Possibilitiess: 1. My daughter wondering how long to roast butternut squash. 2. My husband asking where to find the carpet cleaner. 3. George Clooney inviting me to meet him at the Beverly Hilton, room 403.

Damn, my iPhone was just inches from my hand and yet inaccessible. I could have been listening to the fifth episode of the Serial podcast.

Finally, the class came to an end with a chant. I was not familiar with the words so I mumbled ‘rhubarb,’ over and over, which is what you do when you are an extra on stage feigning conversation. Then, released, I burst out of the studio, grabbed my phone and punched the Uber ap. Never had I been so happy to be reunited with technology.

At home, I popped in my ear buds, cued up Serial on my iPhone, grabbed the puppy and went for a fast walk, so fast I possibly corrupted her fragile understanding of leash etiquette.

P.S. I went to Chris’s class yesterday to de-stress from Pearl’s class. It was fabulous.





Thursday, December 11th, 2014

pinkxmastree40007It can be argued that there are positive things about empty nesting, but one thing in the negative column is that, when the kids leave home, they take with them many of your favorite holidays.

My little girls and I used to spend a full week prepping for Valentine’s Day. We’d buy dozens of drugstore cards with rhymey, lovey messages, to distribute to their classmates. The kids assigned the cards painstakingly, careful to avoid giving those with mushier sentiments (e.g. “For you I pine, for you I balsam”) to boys.

They brought home lacey, sequiny school craft projects. We baked heart-shaped cookies. And on the day, the girls would select clothing from the (substantial) pink and red section of their closet. I’d put on my heart-shaped earrings and drive them to school, with the excitement and chatter in the car at a holiday high.

Tom and I still acknowledge Valentines Day—he gives me flowers and I give him chocolate. But how I miss that pre-holiday activity, as well as the aftermath, when the kids, all sugar-buzzed, sorted through the bag of cards they’d received.

In Los Angeles, St. Patrick’s Day is not as raucous it is in New York, with their in-your-face parade and people cheerfully vomiting in the gutters. Here, the holiday might have slipped by uncelebrated had it not been for the presence of leprechauns in our house.

According to our children, if you didn’t wear green that day, you could suffer a punitive pinch from a leprechaun. I have never had much green going on in my closet, and I probably never will unless somebody declares it the new black. I did own a Kelly green Beatles t-shirt, which I invariably forgot to wear until I was reminded by a few fierce butt-pinches.

I shamelessly used this holiday to encourage the kids to eat green food. Claiming it would give them internal protection from the leprechauns’ mischief, I offered them green eggs and ham and pea soup for dinner. Eyeing the food with disgust, the girls told me the pinching had ended at sundown and they’d prefer to select from their usual menu of white food, thank you very much.

Since the girls left home, the leprechauns have apparently lost interest in us. Still, I sometimes wear a ring with a green gemstone and eat some arugula, just in case.

On the Fourth of July, we’d often get uber-American and go to a sporting event, like a baseball game, with fireworks after. I admit I may have spent four innings reading The New York Times, but as boring as I found our country’s favorite pastime, there was nothing so sweet as beholding the girls’ awestruck faces lit by fireworks.

This year, the only fireworks were those that occurred when Tom and I had a lively discussion about his reluctance to clean the grill.

But the holiday I most mourn the passing of is Halloween.

It was all about the costumes, from the witch and ghost phase of the early years, to the princess variations that followed. Closer to adolescence they got wicked. Nora’s low-cut angel outfit was detailed with body piercings and tattoos while Elizabeth’s devil had red fishnet tights and a wig like Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman. The following year, Elizabeth dressed as the ultimate hooker, Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but the costume bombed—none of her classmates knew who she was.

I was mentally reviewing their costume history recently, when I was alone in our apartment in New York on Halloween, recalling how I had loved helping the kids procure all those costumes, then walking them from door to door, helping them identify and discard treats that were raisin-related.

Loud knocking snapped me out of my reverie. I opened the door to find a young girl dressed as Holly Golightly, precisely as Elizabeth had been all those years ago, right down to the tiara. I gasped and gushed about the coincidence. The kid and her mom (perhaps thrown by my excitement level) grabbed their lollipops and beat it, leaving me to retreat into the apartment with the ghosts of Halloweens past. (I have written more about that here.)

Thanksgivings in our family have been fractured in recent years because Tom and I have needed to attend to our elderly parents in two different cities. That gathering will be restored one day. It’ll be sadly diminished in size as we lose our elders, but it’s certain to expand again in years to come.

Meanwhile, one holiday remains intact: Christmas. That day it’s just the four of us. With its once-a-year cinnamon roll, personalized stockings hung, mass destruction of wrapping paper and a soundtrack provided by the Barenaked Holidays CD, it is as it has always been.
Its days re numbered, of course. Soon the girls will have their own cozy Christmas mornings with their own families. But for now, Christmas is a wonderful thing. It’s coming up soon, and I intend to deck the halls.

(This p;iece was originally published at