Episode 58 – with Erica Jong – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on August 16, 2019

Novelist, Poet, Essayist - Erica Jong

Novelist, Poet, Essayist - Erica Jong

This week I gently suggest you readers switch over to the podcast.

Why?  My guest Erica Jong is so fascinating, and has a singular take on the world, the world as it is.  Her use of language is also singular.  For the few of you who don’t know her, Erica Jong has been not only at the forefront of feminist literature since the 1970s, she is still one of its most prominent voices.  A poet, a novelist, an essayist, she has been chronicling her life and times in the most sensuous and what the kids call “sex-positive” of ways.  From Fear of Flying, published in 1973 to Fear of Dying, published in 2015, Erica creates fully formed realistic plots and characters who take life by its throat.

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Just when you thought this summer couldn’t get weirder or more dystopian, we got Jeffrey Epstein.  I don’t want to pollute our show with him, but I have to confess I am riveted by the sordid story:  the amount of  truly horrible things that he was alleged to have done, the brilliant and influential people he was able to bring into his messed up orbit.  I’m incredulous that he was able to get away with just a slap on the wrist in Florida.  I hurt for all his victims and their loved ones.  I don’t believe we’ll ever really know the full extent of what happened in his life and death, but for now, thanks for showing us how depraved people can be.

I’m going to have to take a virtual shower now.  

That’s better.  

Now I’m ready for the five things that made my life better this week:

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1.  Eating outdoors.  When it’s not pouring or excruciatingly hot and sunny, it’s so much nicer to sit outside.  Especially if you go out to dinner.  And as noisy as NY’s streets are, it’s usually quieter than the restaurants themselves.

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2.  The knowledge of and anticipation for the “Downton Abbey” movie.  It’s keeping me going.  It’s kind of my Robert Mueller replacement.  Something to feel good about.

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3. Lemon is really the perfect seasoning. I love lemon on most anything – chicken, pasta, blueberries, roasted potatoes, melon…...

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4. Last night I saw a screening of “Knock Down the House,” a documentary by Rachel Lears, which follows four political races waged by women who came from outside the system to represent working class people. Not one of them had a chance in hell. Not Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearengin, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Watching the unexpected victory of AOC is thrilling in the film – no one was more surprised than she, but watching the losses of the others was as emotional too, and crushing. It’s a film with highs and lows, and most interesting is the low tech opportunities to enter politics from small town America. No matter what your politics, this is a film about humanity, and it’s on NETFLIX.


5. When comedian John Mulaney praises something/someone as funny, I pay attention, and that is how I discovered number 5, the comedian Jacqueline Novak’s one woman show, Get On Your Knees.  With the most extraordinary uses of language, the show is essentially about sex, the oral kind.  I’m going to urge my guest today, Erica Jong, to see it.  And all of you if you can.  Jacqueline Novak does an hour or so about oral sex and includes references to great books, her youth in Chappaqua, New York, and her love of the paranormal.  After a sold out run at the Cherry Lane Theater, it is moving to the Lucille Lortel for at least another month.  She is breathtaking.


And now, here are Erica Jong’s 5 Things:

1.  WRITING is her meditation and keeps her from going mad.

2.  Her GRANDCHILDREN remind her to be playful.

3. Going to ITALY reminds her that she is allowed to be human.

4.  NEVER COOKING allows her to find men who are good cooks, including her dear husband, Ken (who seems to have gone on strike!)

5.  BUYING DESIGNER CLOTHES and living through the panic attacks of the charge bills reminds her that she will always be an Ashkenazic Jew.


6.  HER DAUGHTER MOLLY reminds her that she will never really be the boss.



Episode 57 – with Richard Panek – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on August 9, 2019

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Welcome to my world. Today’s conversation is going to be lively and riveting, with writer Richard Panek, who explores the phenomenon of gravity in his new book The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet.


Before I say another word, I have to comment on the mass shootings that plague our country.   Guns and violence have never been the smart way to settle a score.  Guns beget more guns.  The rage and resentment in this country grow with every ugly rally and messed up manifesto.  We have become a nation of haters, led by the hater in chief who thinks it’s funny that he could shoot a stranger dead on Fifth Ave and be considered even a bigger winner.

While we mourn the human losses of the week, let us think about using other means of quelling our bad moods.  Maybe next week will be better.


Okay, moving on, my mother celebrated her birthday on Monday.  

The “progenitoress” of all of my exhibits™, my mom just turned 89.  (She’d be horrified I spilled this secret, but she hasn’t yet figured out how to listen to this podcast, so let’s not tell her.).  I asked her how she felt about being 89, a number no one else in our family has ever – to my knowledge – reached.  She said, “I never thought I’d look this good.”  Here is the evidence:

Not bad at all.And often she is fun to be around.


And now for my Five Things of the Week:


1. My mother and all mothers.  If I had known how hard it was to raise a family and keep a sense of peace and calm about the house, I might have second-guessed my ability to do those things.  I would have been way too nervous.

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2. Summer dresses.I finally came to the realization that when it’s really really hot and humid, No one needs a tight waistband or something to tuck in it.I’ve bought a couple of light as air skirts this year, but they bring the added problem of thinking of what – besides a white t-shirt or Lacoste shirt to pair with them.Too many questions.Too many answers.No dresses are the thing.


3. Oatly ice cream.  I am not a spokesperson for this company.  I repeat!  They don’t even know I exist.  But I saw a display of their ice cream at the supermarket and brought home a pint of coffee.  I don’t even really love ice cream.  It’s not my vice.  However, this stuff is wonderful: creamy, tasty, and dairy-free.  I “bought it for my boyfriend,” but I seem to be the one eating it.

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4. A week or so ago, we met for dinner at a restaurant in the east 20s in New York. The day was hot as a burning candle, so I wore a sleeveless lightweight dress. The restaurant was cold. Within moments of checking in, I shivered at the front desk and said something about the temperature. I was rewarded with a stylish pashmina to wear. It was perfect. Great idea that other restaurants might try.


5. The Official Preppy Handbook. I wrote and edited this book with three other writers in 1980, and while it has been out of print since 1995, it has gotten sustained attention and a lot of it lately – not exactly sure why. Yesterday, the chief tv critic of the New York Times, James Poniewozik wrote a kind of backhand appreciation of it. It’s rewarding to have written something that is remembered and even cherished by so many; with this kind of staying power. So thank you.

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Richard Panek’s 5 Things

 1.  The movie Chinatown

2. Beatles song “A Day in the Life”

3.  William Trevor, especially when reading him in a pub with a pint.

4.  Smell of corn-on-the-cob silk.

Then what I’d like to do is list some runners-up that I regret not being able to include (thereby being able to include them):   2001: A Space Odyssey; Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia; several of the plays of Martin McDonagh (The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore); Cezanne’s The Basket of Apples; Claes Oldenburg’s Emerald Pill; the song “Sunday” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George; Fred Allen; Bob and Ray.

But then, finally, having exhausted my also-ran list, I settle on an un-tony choice:

5.  Hostess Suzy Q’s.




Episode 56 – with Taffy Brodesser-Akner – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on August 2, 2019

If I sound giddy it’s because I got to go to the beach over the weekend.  The kind of weekend that belongs to the beach.  If you’ve been with me since last summer, you know how soothing, joyful, peaceful, and content I feel at the seashore.  I will possibly study the reason the brain can give me optimal feedback just by being tide adjacent.  Or not.  Maybe the sound of the waves do that thing where whispering and quiet sounds turn the brain on.  ASMR?  Or maybe it just returns me to gobs of happy memories growing up on the beaches of Long Island.  Who cares?

Let it not be unsaid, that part of the great pleasure of the weekend was spending time with our friends Diane and Mark (and hi to you, Joyce!) and their son James.  We adore them and look forward to this weekend every year.   


It’s been a giddy time in the art of letters, too. Our guest this week is first-time novelist Taffy Brodesser-Akner, the It girl of fiction this summer, whose novel is called Fleishman Is in Trouble

Critics have raved about her debut, but those of us who are fans of her feature writing in The New York Times aren’t surprised she had it in her. I’m so looking forward to our conversation.

In the meantime, the five things that made my life better this week:


1. The year of one piece bathing suits. We used to call them “tank suits”. (Why? Don’t know. Why did we stop calling them that? Don’t know.). I stopped wearing bikinis in probably the George W. Bush administration, and it has felt dowdy until this summer, when we now see pictures of the stars in one pieces. Thank you Olivia Wilde, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Gwyneth Paltrow.


2. Getting a bill adjusted. I had rented a car from Enterprise Carshare, and thought the ease of the experience was impressive. When I later reviewed my credit card bill, I found an extra charge that confused me. The customer service person I contacted explained the misunderstanding and made the correction. It felt like a victory to me.


3. A baby in the family. A tiny little creature (my son’s son) is truly a connector, a bundle of joy, a reason to be happy. I guess I didn’t understand this until #ExhibitE came along. Just sending a picture of him to my relatives makes us all feel good.


4. Our followers. You are a growing group of attractive and kind people. I sense the rooting for those who are downtrodden, and support for those who are – as we say – making an effort. (That effort could be anything from eating more healthily, looking for work, or putting on mascara every once in a while, to inviting one’s mother-in-law for lunch.). You let me know what you think, and that feedback is invaluable


5. The hunt for the perfect charms. I’m not saying I’m compulsively looking for it. But occasionally I’ll see a charm that is perfect for my necklace. Charms are a form of biography in a way, which is why I like them so much. My most recent purchase was this baby boy’s head


Taffy’s 5 Things:

1. Oat milk

2.  Summer, really for the first time  

3.  Watching TV with my children

4.  Manhattan

5. Room service



Episode 55 – with Yale Hollander – Lisa Birnbach’s Five Things That Make Life Better on July 26, 2019


It’s Mueller Week ™! That trademark is my idea of a little joke, as I didn’t coin the term.  (By the way, every time I refer to one of my children, I call them my exhibits™.  I use the trademark notation humorously.  I find it funny, no matter how many times I type it myself. I hope it amuses you.)

Anyway.  Mueller.  I am so certain he is appearing reluctantly at this week’s hearing.  And I am so sure that members of either side will find the whole ordeal unsatisfying.  I respect Special Prosecutor Mueller, but unless all Americans of voting age watch the proceedings in real time (as opposed to viewing excerpts within their pre-determined echo chambers), it may be for naught.

Oh well.  Having just survived both unnaturally high temperatures and heavy rainstorms, I have determined we are officially in the dog days of summer.  #OfficialDogDays ™!  My prescription for surviving these oddball days:  reading good books, organizing one’s cupboards and closets, and taking all the unframed pictures and art to finally be framed.  (Now you know what I’ve been up to.)


1.  The Rare black and white film from 1915 – about 9 minutes long, taken of the master artists Claude Monet, Renoir, Rodin, and Degas.  I savor this little scrap (set recently to music) because I revere the work of these men.  Of course, much like the Birnbach family home movies of the 60s and 70s, there was a lot of not knowing what to do or where to look.  The Renoir segment just shows him walking and walking.  Messrs. Monet and Renoir smoked a great deal when they worked.  And Auguste Rodin wore a distinguished chapeau.  What is just thrilling about seeing these long gone artists move, and paint, and shuffle down the street, and sculpt is that it makes them real.  They weren’t considered museum worthy in their lifetimes.  In fact, their work was considered almost affrontery to the norms and standards of the French Academie of art.  But a 75 year old man (he looked like Father Christmas.  Consider that Mick Jagger will be 76 next week.)  (But I digress.) a 75 year old man with a long white beard painting in his backyard at Giverny.  By then his eyesight was poor but still he worked steadily. 

It makes them human.  It makes them real.  And seeing them on film makes them feel closer to us.  Because, we all lived in the age of film.  Wow.

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2.  Arnold Palmer, the beverage.  I imagine that the golfer was a nice fellow, but his drink is superb.  It is a combination of iced tea and lemonade.  A kind of perfect summer cooler.  No alcohol needed. 

As I hoped, this beverage has its own Wikipedia page – (thank you!) and naturally a history that may be somewhat apocryphal.

In it, according to a waitress at Augusta National Golf Club, Palmer ordered his namesake beverage by saying, "I'll have a Mr. Palmer.”  When Palmer visited the Latrobe Country Club in his hometown, the staff at the snack shack served the beverage to him or his wife, Kit, without prompting. "Mr. Palmer should never have to order the drink named after him."

Whatever you choose to call this drink, enjoy it.

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3.  I keep trying to find non-dairy versions of the many dairy products I love.  I kind of fall in like with one yogurt, then the 2nd or 3rd time I buy it, I cannot bear it.  I did try something tasty for those of you who are trying to avoid the cow but want a treat.   It’s Daiya N. Y. style cheesecake—sorry – cheezecake (their spelling) and it tastes like the old Sarah Lee cheesecakes taste in my memory.  Instead of cream cheese it’s made of (Filtered Water, Desiccated Coconut, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Coconut Oil, Tapioca Starch, Non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola and/or Non-GMO Expeller Pressed Safflower Oil, Potato Starch, Pea Protein Isolate, Vanilla Extract, Sea Salt, Vegan Natural Flavors, Vegetable Glycerine, Sodium Alginate, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid (Vegan, for Flavor), Tricalcium Phosphate, Cultured Sugar, Agave Syrup, Titanium Dioxide (a Naturally Occurring Mineral), Vegan Enzyme)

But give it a whirl.


4. The ethics statement which The Washington Post requires all its freelancers to sign. It’s an excellent template for decency and accuracy and bias-free writing. It emphasizes how to avoid conflicts of interest and is utterly clear. It is a reminder of everything that responsible journalism represents.

Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald

Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald

5. Julie K. Brown, the tireless reporter on the staff of the Miami Herald almost singlehandedly brought back the sickening case of Jeffrey Epstein.  Without her pursuit, we might still be talking about… ooh I don’t know…. What happened to E. Jean Carroll?


When I first knew of today’s guest, Yale Hollander, he was a lawyer living in St. Louis, who dressed prep, ate ribs on his way to the meeting of his synagogue, and was an all -around fun guy.  Now Yale has made a huge reinvention.  He’s one of St. Louis’ favorite local comedians.  I admire anyone who can change his or her life like that.


The 5 Things that make Yale’s life better are as follows.

1.  Breakfast

2. Yacht Rock

3.  Print Magazines

4.  London, England

5.  Mr. Ralph Lauren


George Hodgman • 1959 - 2019 • RIP




Episode 54 - with Laurie Burrows Grad - Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on July 19, 2019


If you’ve been following along, you know that we are now in our SECOND SEASON of podcasting.  (I know I’m probably more surprised than you.)

So, some organizing notes.  (If you’re a reader, not a listener, feel free to skip the following paragraph.)

This podcast is now available through 5 platforms, in addition to our website.  If you already have Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Youtube, GooglePlay/Music, or Stitcher on your phone thingie or your car radio, you can listen and SUBSCRIBE there.  If you have the inclination, please REVIEW and RATE our 5 Things podcast, as a high rating helps get the attention of the algorithms that make podcasts popular.  If you have already done so, many many thanks.

In the last year we have grown enormously.  Now people ask to be our guest on the podcast, which is a good sign indeed.

We’ve had people in the news like E. Jean Carroll and Caroline Hirsch.  Authors like Lori Gottlieb, William Cohan, Lisa Grunwald, Andrew Friedman, Alexandra Styron, and Meg Wolitzer.  Entertainers like Jamie Lee Curtis, Elliott Forrest, and Caroline Rhea.  Activists like Shannon Watts and the Restore Cal folks, Alex Mallick and Adnan Khan.

It’s been bracing and at times exhilarating.  The weekly blog and pod began by forcing me to find the positive in weeks that have started out everything but.  Now, it’s a pleasant exercise.  It’s much easier to locate my optimism, even when Mercury is in retrograde.  Okay, it wasn’t that easy.  I lied.  But it’s been helpful to me, and I’m hearing that it was helpful to you, which is actually the point of doing this in public.

I hope you will get in touch with me when you have a question or comment that you want to explore further.

Business concluded?

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I just returned from 10 days of helping Exhibit A™ and his little family colonizing on the west coast.  And yes, my arms are tired. The unpacking, the smushing together of cardboard boxes, the hoisting the boxes and getting them to the bins behind the building…. all so my kids will live FAR AWAY FROM ME.

(If you’re counting, I only have one exhibit left on the East Coast.) 

What made the experience even more intense was the actual fact of two significant earthquakes on day 1 and 2.  As my mother said, “Are you earthquake lovers?  Come home.”

But there they will stay. My son’s baby will become some kind of California kid.He’ll probably say the word “dude” and surf and will think of me as insanely pale and helpless.

Nevertheless, here are this week’s five things that made life better.

1. Got to spend a lot of time around this little guy. We have a special song, and after about the 40th time I sang it (apologies to my daughter in law), he would burst into a giant smile when he heard it.


2. The feeling of competence I derived from being helpful. Getting what was needed. Being productive. Focusing on the job at hand.


3. Driving in Los Angeles. It was actually kind of fun. Especially because the first 25 years I began to spend time in LA I couldn’t and didn’t drive. I found I didn’t require the GPS as much as I had thought I would.

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4. The Impossible Burger and its many offshoots. If you don’t eat one alongside a similar meat product, it tastes damn good!


5. Wimbledon Men’s Final. Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovich. The game doesn’t get much better. Nor longer. It was the longest finals match in Wimbledon history. It was heart-stopping at times and thrilling. Masters of the sport, graceful and in their 30s.


Speaking of graceful, my guest this week is the lovely and gracious Laurie Burrows Grad.  A longtime food writer and former chef on Hour Magazine, Laurie and her husband Peter had one of the all time great marriages.  And then, 4 summers ago on vacation in Colorado, Peter had a heart attack and died, leaving Laurie bereft and in grief.

She writes about her grief on her blog and in her book. The Joke’s Over, You Can Come Back Now.


And now, here the 5 Things that make are Laurie’s life better: (Click: LISTEN to the podcast at the top of this blog).

1. Leaving her house and moving into a condo

2.  Her grandchildren

3.  Writing

4.  Cooking

5.  Walking and exercising


Finally, as promised in our podcast - here is Laurie’s BEST ROAST CHICKEN Recipe.


The key to this dish is to have the butcher cut out the backbone of the chicken to “butterfly” it.  To butterfly a whole chicken means to remove the chicken's backbone so you can open thechicken like a book, or a butterfly, and lay it flat. This is a basic recipe.  If you would like to embellish it with rosemary or other herbs, feel free!

I have added figs to this recipe.  If they are in season, they add a great deal of flavor to the dish.  If not, the dish is fine on its own.  Other additions would be a few stems of rosemary.

Note: if you have a convection oven, cook the chicken at 450ºF for 45-50 minutes.  If cooking the chicken in a regular oven, roast it at 500ºF for 45 to 50 minutes.  Make sure your oven is calibrated correctly.

2          large lemons, sliced thinly

1          large roasting chicken, butterflied

Olive oil

Seasoning salt and pepper to taste

12        small new potatoes, sliced in half

8          peeled shallots, sliced in half or small onions, peeled

3          carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks

 - - - -

1.            Preheat the oven to 450ºF for convection or 500ºF for standard oven.

2.            Place a layer of the sliced lemons in the center of a roasting pan.

3.            Rub olive oil on both sides of the chicken, season with seasoning salt and pepper, and place the chicken on top of the lemons in the large roasting pan skin side up, splayed out. 

4.            Place the cut potatoes, shallots, and carrots around the sides and coat them with olive oil cooking spray.  Season everything in the pan with salt and pepper to taste. 

5.            Place in the preheated oven and cook according to directions above.

6.            Remove and carve and serve alongside the potatoes, shallots, and carrots.


If you have time, place the butterflied chicken with 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon or rosemary and marinate for a few hours, or overnight.



Episode 53 - with William Cohan - Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on July 12, 2019

It’s summer, which some use as a noun, and others a verb.  I just love the summer, and in some ways it’s my favorite time of the year.  I feel most myself.  All it takes is one hydrangea bush and I’m six years old again, walking around the garden with my grandmother.


My grandmother defied expectations and was a very modern woman.My guest this week, Bill Cohan, has also surprised people in his work life.First as a journalist, then he spent 17 years as an investment banker before returning to journalism and book writing.His first book, The Last Tycoons, was about Lazard Freres, where he had once worked.He is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and the author of Four Friends - Promising Lives Cut Short.


The 5 Things that made my life better this week.

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1. The time to read.  Reading a lot of great stuff.  If you are just joining this podcast anew, I have recommended lots of books throughout the year.  Read Four Friends - Promising Lives Cut Short, the new book by this week’s guest, William Cohan.

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2. The smell of privet hedges.  I love it so.  It’s one of those nostalgic scents that takes me back to my childhood.  I also like pansies and honeysuckle, if you want to know.

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3. Sitting in the shade.  I’ve been scolded not just by my dermatologist, but by other dermatologists too.  I get it.  I sit in the shade, under a hat, with a minimum spf of 41 covering my body.  But the sun is nearby, and that is what matters.


4. Swimming.  I like it.  I really like it.  In a pool if necessary, but I like a natural body of water best.


5. Sunglasses.I bought my first pair immediately upon getting rid of my thick prescription glasses and wearing contact lenses.I won’t buy the most expensive designer ones because I tend to lose those.The cheap ones I seem to hold onto for years.

Photo Credit: Jonno Rattman

Photo Credit: Jonno Rattman

And here are the 5 Things that make Bill’s life better.

1.  My family

2. My homes

3. Traveling/adventure

4. Old friends, new friends, interesting people

5. My work




Episode 52 - with Jamie Lee Curtis - Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on July 5th, 2019


If you’ve been on vacation these last few weeks, you may not have heard the story about the journalist who was sexually assaulted by a businessman 23 years ago and told only two people.

That journalist was my friend E. Jean Carroll.  The businessman was Donald Trump. 

I was the friend E. Jean telephoned from the street outside of Bergdorf Goodman, her favorite  department store.

Reliving my friend’s agony was tough this week; reading the nasty and cowardly things that anonymous strangers posted to her made me ill, but I still came away with 5 Things that made life better.

And since it’s our one year birthday, a celebration is in order. So that’s why I asked my friend Jamie Lee Curtis to join me on Episode 52. She’s my gift to you. Click the link above to listen to our discussion.

E. Jean Carroll

E. Jean Carroll

Lisa and Jamie circa 1989

Lisa and Jamie circa 1989

The 5 Things that made Lisa’s life better this week.

1. Support is support is support….. It’s not quite love, but the enormous outpouring of gratitude towards Carol, the other corroborator and me made my heart swell.  I heard from people from every era of my life, and they were so touched and grateful to have my simple back up.  It was as if everyone was E. Jean last week

2. Friends who helped me make the difficult decisions about the media. I was overwhelmed by the options, and unsure how to proceed, and if I wanted to proceed. Jamie, Maria, Shelley helped me tremendously. Also thanks to Susan, Diane, Star, Shpresa, and my Exhibits.

3. Help.  If you have a friend who is abused or raped, or you yourself are dealing with sexual violence, please know there are lots of resources for you:   National Sexual Assault Hotline Call 1-800-656-4673  Available 24 hours everyday.

4. Get away if you can. We had long standing plans to visit our friends Shelley and Dennis on Long Island, and the timing couldn’t have been better. We went to the beach, which as you might recall, is my favorite place to be. And Saturday night we enjoyed a sunset that looked like it could have been painted by Tintoretto.

5. Honesty.  It’s not the best policy; it’s the only policy. When you are truthful, you don’t have to calculate about what to tell or say or worry about keeping your story straight. There are no alternatives. It’s easy. It’s the right thing to do.


And the 5 Things that make Jamie’s life better along with a poem that she wanted to share:


1.    Sobriety

2.    Health care

3.    My healthy and wise children, and man

4.    Creativity - High 5

5.    Her rescue dog, Runi




Episode 51 - with Shannon Watts - Lisa Birnbach's Five Things That Make Life Better on June 28, 2019

I’m just back from a quick trip to California to see Exhibit B for her birthday.  Usually when I visit Los Angeles, I try to see as many friends as I can, going for three meals a day in a frenzy of catching up overeating and overdrinking.

Instead, I was mostly velcro’d to my exhibit and saw her friends and overate and overdrank with them.

The point is my appetite for life experiences is huge, but I just can’t do everything.  Is that a function of age, of resignation, of exhaustion? 

 I’m going to say it’s a function of maturity.  An awareness that there will be a next time and I can have different priorities on another trip.  If I didn’t see you, I’m sorry.


I am delighted that Shannon Watts is our guest today. She is a hero to me, for being a concerned citizen who actually did more than tsk to herself or preach to the converted. On the day of the tragedy of the Sandy Hook mass murder, this mother of five decided to organize other moms to advocate for stricter laws that would prevent more gun violence. Seven years later, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has hundreds of thousands of volunteers who’ve helped change laws all around the country. Her new book is called Fight Like a Mother; How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World.

Photo credit: Chris Langford Photography

Photo credit: Chris Langford Photography


First, the five things that made my life better this week:

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1). The movie “Gloria Bell” which I saw on a plane last week.  It’s a remake of a Spanish language Chilean film called “Gloria”, and the English language version stars Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, and Holland Taylor.  It was written an directed by Sebastián Lelio, who made the original Spanish version as well.

I related to it, and I enjoyed it.Here is a divorced woman living alone, working in a meaningful job, but clearly lonely.Her 2 grown children are wrapped up in their own lives, and Gloria enjoys going out to clubs for a drink and a dance.That’s all I will tell you, because I think it’s work seeing.

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2. The proliferation of healthier food choices at airports.  It’s not your grandma’s food court anymore.  Well, yes it is, but there are more options than either Caesar salad or a chicken Caesar salad.  I am pleased to report that you can buy all sorts of other salads, non-dairy, and gluten-free foods, now that we all have leaky guts and newfangled food allergies.

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3. Flat and low-heeled shoes.  Doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s nice to be able to walk a good distance – let’s say 6000 steps -- without experiencing agony. I see young women wearing stilettos – even Meghan Markle or Melania Trump, and yes, their legs look great, but they cannot be comfortable.  That’s inconceivable to me.  If I could wear loafers or clogs all day, every day, I would.  You get the idea.


4. Exhibit B’s birthday.  A happy, happy experience.   We had time alone, we had meals with with various people who are close to her, and a fantastic dinner with her besties at Tallulah’s in Santa Monica.  My girl said it was the best birthday of her life.  They have a photobooth!

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5. “The Investigation”, the reading of the Mueller Report (a callback to my former #5). Last week many of theater’s masters – Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Annette Bening, Michael Shannon, and Jason Alexander, made up part of the cast of a dramatic reading at Riverside Church. The words were directly from the report, and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (“The Kentucky Cycle”) Robert Schenkkan turned it into something incredible. John Lithgow stunned as Donald Trump. Watch it.


And here are the five things that make Shannon’s life better.


1.            Noise cancelling headphones


2.            Frank Ocean

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3.            The RealReal

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4.            The Real Housewives franchise

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5.            Moms Demand Action volunteers