Two Kinds of Sick (But Very Well Overall)

Lately I keep waking up at 4am. This happens a lot in December, now that I think about it. Usually I'm just garden-variety anxious and/or looped into some kind of solstice-related biorhythm. Tonight (this morning) I am anxious with the added bonus of feeling sick and gross, one sickness self-inflicted, one not.

About the former: Please remind me never, ever to drink before dinner. This is very bad. How did I get to be this old and not learn this lesson? ¡J! and I had toodled up to Queens for a tour of a swankaroo restaurant (in which we could get married -- warning -- more bridey-bride blog posts to come!) and we had to wait a few minutes at the bar. What the heck, bartender! I'll drink what he's drinking! A Manhattan? On a stomach full of lettuce and popcorn? No problem!

The sweet, delightful wedding expert for the restaurant gave us a tour of the appropriate rooms -- the bridal suite, the ceremony room, the cocktail hour nook, the walls that could be folded away to make a big-ass room bigger-ass. With a breathtaking view of Manhattan, this place seriously kills. But as the whiskey seeped its way into my system I started to get overly fascinated by the carpeting, the mirrors, the bunny hutch-ness of the bridal chamber, the copious artwork in Impressionist colors. (They are renovating the place for spring and it's going to be much more clean and modern. Less like Laura Ashley and more like Mitchell Gold. Whew!) I got distracted by the stall size in the ladies' room and peppered our girl with important, relevant questions (Post-reno, will it be big enough for two -- one to hold the bride's dress while she pees?). Later, we moved the party downstairs and we went over a lot of details (menus, pricing), almost none of which I can recall, having become deeply enamored of the twinkly lights and the piano player's choices (did he switch to Cole Porter to help seal the deal?), so it's a good thing ¡J! is on top of everything and our girl had a very nice packet with everything all written down.

This is all a long way of saying I got drunk off my ass on this wedding tour. We went to a really nice dinner afterward and I was still kind of drunk off my ass (salad and steak, alas, not that absorbent). It was fun while it lasted -- the car ride to dinner was inexplicably hilarious -- but I woke up feeling totally nasty.

The second illness is merely the cold that has taken hold as a result of having compromised myself thus. The only interesting thing about the cold is that it has a lot of gusto. I had a big sneeze in bed and was whiplashed by its force, volume, and trajectory. Basically, imagine being pelted in the face with a boomerang slug. This happened twice, so I'm inclined to believe it's a bonus feature of this particular strain of virus.

Stay tuned for further adventures. For now: water crackers all eaten up. One more glass of water. Beddy-bye!


Happy Birthday Saro!

Today little Saro is ten years old. She is 56 in people years.

Here's my favorite pic of Saro. She was so small then. The piece in the upper left corner was the bottom of a guitar stand!

Here is Saro as many of us usually know her.

And we would be remiss without linking to the Saro Multimedia Site. The audio is especially fun!

Hugs to Annie and Dave for bringing her into my life, and to all of you who show kindness and care to the Saro.

I love you, Saro! Happy birthday!


Spirit and Flesh

The saying goes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I find this baffling, for over the course of a lifetime, I have personally found my flesh to be more than willing.

If you consider it, willing can connote determination, stubbornness and focus. Because you will something to happen, will it happen?

My spirit continues to will my flesh into becoming less and less flesh. By now the process has carried over years and years. It's become a kind of hazy mandate, an outdated law that still lingers on the books. By now its obscene prejudices have simply been absorbed into the rhythm of my daily life. The thought of putting on weight sends me into a preemptive panic. I eat a lot of leaves and apples.

Not that I feel completely deprived -- waiter, more wine please -- but it is kind of sad, because I always have felt that voluptuousness of flesh connotes a certain generosity of spirit.

Let's hug.


"For me, the greater the euds, the greater the che-launge"

I am not a fan of video tribute medleys. This is the exception.


Peter Sellers on Being Himself

"Sellers appeared on The Muppet Show television series in 1977. He chose not to appear as himself, instead appearing in a variety of costumes and accents. When Kermit the Frog told Sellers he could relax and be 'himself,' Sellers (while wearing a Viking helmet, a girdle and one boxing glove, claiming to have attempted to dress as Queen Victoria), replied, 'There is no me. I do not exist. There used to be a me, but I had it surgically removed.'"

Clip here.


Strikes Again!

I have no words lately. Nothing out of the ordinary; just quiet.

However, I did laugh my arse off the other night watching this:

I have my vague memories of my parents laughing hysterically and repeating Clouseauisms back in the 70s. It's warming to feel part of the circle of life.

In this next scene, Clouseau tries on his Quasimodo disguise, which arrived ready-made in a box sporting a specific warning not to over-inflate the hump.

"The bell! The bell!"


Pow, pow.

It was John's last day in class; we took a bunch of photos.

I'm looking at them with mostly pride, but also with a tinge of embarrassment (see my hooks sail through the air) and annoyance (have to keep those hands up).

I've been sparring with these folks for several years now and just love knowing them, learning who they are through their punches.

We'll miss ya, John!


Step On Ya, Walk On Ya, Step On Ya, Walk On Ya

This phrase keeps popping into my head (and whoops, sometimes out of my mouth) at work. Its origin is one of my favorite cartoons from childhood, "The Cat That Hated People."

Appended for your amusement. It gets pretty trippy.


Today's quote

Me: "Well, I guess there's a yin for every yang."
Dan: "Well, some have more yang than others . . . "


How I See It

It makes perfect sense.

The best way to revitalize any withering campaign is to trot someone out who will not only work hard to stroke the party's collective cock -- with the familiar battle cries of lowering taxes, with the words "enemies" and "evil" thrown in for good measure -- but to actually entice people of all political stripes to reach in and stroke their own.

It's fucking genius. It's essence.


The Joys of Plugging In

We just got back from visiting with my brother and his lovely family, and playing at the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret, CT.

It was such a great weekend.

Photos and commentary here.


A Taste of September

Isn't it grand? Last night was so clear and chilly. It was intoxicating to open all the windows and feel and smell that cool breeze.

The house got so quiet - no more artificial humming and buzzing. I could hear only the cars whooshing over the bridge and the occasional tha-thumping of a car radio.

I spread the pink coverlet over the bed and snuggled under. The blinds stayed open so I could feel the moonlight. The sky was that nice deep indigo, and the faraway bridge lights so turquoise and crisp.

So very, very lovely.


The Joys of Being Unplugged

As some of you know, we were away for a few days in the Finger Lakes area. Our cabin had no electricity (a generator powered the water pump, though).

This was the view across from our sleeping loft.

All the rest and vino inspired me to start sprucing up. New blog elements coming your way.

We're Puttin' On a Show!

Attention all Connecticut-area residents: Allez à la Vanilla Bean on Saturday! Details below.


You Know Who's Got Hands?

This has been an exceptionally stressful week even by the standards of all the stressful weeks preceding it.

What better time to finally see "Walk Hard!"

The first time ¡J! and I saw it, we kept exchanging glances across the couch, witnessing one crazy-ass scene unfold after another. Ohthatissosillynoway. Ohgoodgrief.

There is a cumulative effect of such thoughts. About halfway through the movie I hit the breaking point. I pitched forward and started howling and haven't stopped since.

This is my favorite scene, I think:

I feel like like a 14-year-old who just discovered Monty Python.

Now, when things get bad, I beg ¡J! to put the movie on and play some scenes. It's the only thing that sets the world right.

No, that's not the Squier above, because

. . . the Squier is gently tucked away in our rehearsal space. This is its fraternal twin, the Strat. Everybody say "Hi, Strat!"


(Kiss my) kettleass

Some of you have heard me ranting and raving about the new weight training we've been doing in class recently using kettlebells. Months ago, when Leila first mentioned kettlebells and I asked her what they were, she replied "a form of Soviet Cold War torture." I now know that she is correct.

Kettlebell training is interesting in the sense that, in order to swing, lift, and position these very heavy weights, you must carefully orchestrate your body to work in tandem with gravity and your core muscle groups. It is completely useless to rely on your arm muscles to pick up these puppies. You have to power yourself using your breath, clench your center and gain a sense of which deep muscles to use and which to let go slack. Of course, prayer doesn't hurt, either.

Tonight was hard because we did repeated sets, which I don't think we have done before. We did sets of 20, 18, and 15 swings with the 45-pound bell. I did clean-and-presses with a 25-pound weight in each hand: 10, 8, 6. These were very hard. I know I'm getting tired when I start making ungodly umffing noises during the press. The umffing actually detracts from your power. My arms started warbling; I lost my center twice.

Kettleass class -- our pet name for it here at home -- is kind of addictive. Underneath my womanly layer of poof lie abs of steel. Hit me here. No, really, hit me.


. . . That's What I Said

Those of you who have visited chez Smitaplero in recent months no doubt have been forced to sit on the sofa as we fast forward through scads and scads of DVD material to find what ¡J! and I consider to be the crown jewel of Grammy performances: Curtis Mayfield 1973.

After going through a lot of technical finagling, I can now offer it to you, dear reader, to enjoy in the privacy of your own home. Have fun!


Lavender flower

Two weeks ago the lavender plant we picked up in Mattituck sprouted one shoot. Today it flowered!


Great Tragic Idols: Fiction Edition.

I trooped up to the Mid-Manhattan Library on a Sunday to drop off a few Marilyn DVDs (Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot) before heading out of town. It took a long time to actually get to the library, encountering at 5th Avenue a long, fantastic gay pride parade with onlookers 2 rows deep, having to walk uptown 2 blocks in order to cross the avenue, having to wait, then moving sightly closer to the crossing point, then waiting again, sweat running down my neck and legs, then crossing and walking back down 2 blocks while watching waxed Dominican men in tight white briefs dance enthusiastically to techno beats atop a huge, slow-rolling float.

The library was a perfect oasis after all that stimulation: cool, nearly empty, and of course, quiet. There was no finer moment for falling in love again with The Great Gatsby.

There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.

Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York—every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.

At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.

By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.

Suddenly one of the gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary hush; the orchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her, and there is a burst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is Gilda Gray’s understudy from the FOLLIES. The party has begun.


Great Tragic Idols of the Twentieth Century, Volume II

Summer is almost here: what better time to read even more biographies of beloved dead stars.

This Marilyn Monroe bio is compelling, well-researched and admirably restrained, neither sentimentalizing Marilyn nor damning her. But it feels a little cold somehow.

I think that, for all of the bio's virtues, it suffers because the author does not love her subject enough. Barbara Leaming has written so many bios it's not hard to see why she would come across as more workmanlike than passionate.

I love working writers. They write better than those of us who rely on the fickle muse Inspirato. In my former place of employment, we would hire good writers to do books on any number of topics. If we did a series on illness, for example, we would have someone write tomes on diabetes, lupus, ezcema, hyperthyroidism, and foot fungus; and the writer invariably would come back with thoroughly-researched manuscripts, delivered on time, written very very well, poetically in spots. (Poetically *on* spots would the m.o. of the Measles volume.)

I just wish the Monroe biographer had pushed through the fourth wall a bit more. Like this guy. Less like measles = more like magic.

I have been movie-stalking and You Tube-stalking Marilyn to try to fill in the gaps and illuminate some of her power. This number is interesting to me. I love the art direction. Dig the fact that she picks up giant knitting needles and knits!!!


The Continuing Adventures

I spent all weekend working on a manuscript. Done. Whew!

I just finished a huge biography of Judy Garland. I got started on it after catching her "American Masters" bio -- the episode is just searing, with more killer moments than I can possibly mention:

I got the bio from the liberry and they only had the original 1975 hardcover. The thing was 650 pages. I carried it to and from work in its own special bag. I renewed it four times. It took a month of near-daily reading to finish it.

What can I tell you.

I love you, Judy!


Drainpipe Kitty!

Drainpipe Kitty was valiantly rescued by a team of dedicated professionals who schmeared cat food on rough cloth and, taking advantage of the kitten's sharp claws and tenacious nature, lured and dragged the tiny animal up a straight 5-foot vertical plane to rest safely above ground.

Unlike that kitty, I am too big for a drainpipe; I simply have tumbled down the back reaches of my mind. The new job is wonderful but I have worked some very long days. I got sick the first week on the job and now feel myself getting sick again. No!

¡J! is all moved in. Yay.

Saro is screaming she wants something, but I have no idea what.

Dottie says "hi!"


Watching "Oprah" and Crying

That is what it's going to be this week. All week.

Everything is great; it's just the necessary catharsis.

Love that Nate Berkus.


It's Official

I've accepted a new job. Soon I'll be working in the building I like to think of as the Taj Mahal of American Literature, on books that have an established tradition of being fabulous.

This is a very emotional time. ¡J! and I are getting ready for his big move-in; I have to bid see-you-later to the lovely ladies at the office, and then start the getting-to-know-you with new lovely ladies. Parting and coming together . . .


Birthday Kiss

Pam, you gave one of the most beautiful birthday speeches I've ever heard. I enjoyed reminiscing about the night we first met each other. Not only did you look like a grown-up version of one of those Precious Moments dolls with your huge brown eyes -- you had, and still have, an aura of uncommon compassion. The fact that we both lost our mothers when we were young helped form a fast bond between us. But I swear, even if our moms were alive and healthy today, I would still dig you.

You have uncommon acumen about others, voracious curiosity, and the bravery to articulate even your most private thoughts. You're a thoroughbred writer.

You always let your love flow so freely. It's as if you were off playing hopscotch the day they passed out the guard you're supposed to keep up. I treasure the pretty smudge you made when you kissed me goodnight.

Happy birthday, darling!



Today is the third anniversary of Ben's death.

I thought you might enjoy one of his panoramas. He was a spectacular photographer; you can see more of his work here.


Red Meat, Red Wine, and French Fries


One leg on wagon . . . .

Back on the Wagon

Under the auspice of recovering from violent illness, I let myself eat whatever I want.

I've had bread and cheese for three meals straight, with intermittent bananas and cookies.

It was a fear of fiber, really. Even the thought of edamame made me shudder.

But enough already. Back to normal, starting tomorrow!



I started puking my guts out on Thursday morning at 3am. I'm only starting to feel normal today.

It's interesting when you feel so nauseated, you have to turn away from the food commercials on TV. And there are plenty of commercials. Deep fried pizza! Shrimp in mayonnaise sauce! O my god.

It's also interesting what you start to crave when you bounce back from illness. Usually for me it's chicken nuggets, but this time it was oatmeal cookies.

I made healthy oatmeal cookies. Yum.

Oh! And the newest member of the household, furniture category: the fabled tulip table, as conceptualized by Ikea and obtained secondhand in Bay Ridge. So lovely. So very lovely.

The old table is on its side in the living room. Before moving it, I sat on it one last time. It is a good, sturdy table, kind of an '80s country-kitchen style, butcher block with white molded legs. My dad took me to Macy's on Long Island and I bought it for my first apartment thirteen years ago. I learned to play guitar sitting on that kitchen table! For a few years it was in custody of a friend, and during that time one of the chairs was broken in a household incident. I had sex on the table only once, but it was a good one.

Bye-bye, table. You've been a good table.



After years of couch stalking in stores all over NYC, couch-porn surfing on the internets, and couch daydreaming at all hours, The couch of my dreams finally has arrived!

This time yesterday, I was despairing - they couldn't fit it in the elevator. The couch had to be taken away. And that made me very sad. So today I hired my own guys to bring it up the stairs! And now it's here! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Me on couch!

Happy feet!

Happy room!

Here comes Dottie!

There goes Dottie!


Cat kisses!

Cats, cats!

More Dottie love!


And visitors, do not worry -- it's deep enough to sleep one comfortably, and we also have an inflatable full-size mattress. So come on down!!!!