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Five Things That Make Life Better on September 21, 2018

September is so interesting because we sort of back into it slowly, and then as fall overtakes summer, our pace quickens and life gets busier. At least that’s the pattern I’ve seen the last few years.

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I’m thinking about patterns — not of wallpaper (which I adore) or carpets, but of the calendar. I can always count on surprises, but often see patterns emerge. Here’s one: It feels like friends from out of town start coming to New York all at once, and I suddenly am juggling a lot of going- out-nights in a row. Do you have patterns like that? Or my weeknights will be jammed, but I have no plans on the weekends, which is fine too, and a throwback to when my exhibits™ were small, and I spent the entire weekend with them. As I organize my datebook, I am excitedly thinking of the friends I will get to see soon, a pleasure in itself.

On to my list:

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1) Paying my bills. I just went through a huge stack of bills. No, that’s not the good news. Most of the bills are for monthly payments: health insurance, tuition, credit cards, phone, a doctor or two. There are usually some boo boos within the pile, requiring annoying phone calls to robots. (If you’ve stood on the street outside my building, I’m the one who was repeating “Representative!” in an impatient staccato.) But, much like having worked out or having been to the dentist, when it’s over I feel virtuous. I love the stack of envelopes I take to the mailbox when I walk Henry. It makes me feel independent.

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2. Old treasures. This is an evergreen item. My significant other found a zippered bag in one of our storage bins, and though I had packed this suitcase myself, I had completely forgotten about it. It had two old wristwatches that I love, and many souvenirs of my wardrobe from eons gone by. Funny that I say my look hasn’t changed since I was 14. It hasn’t. But my accessories have. (I still have no idea where the necklace of tiny colored pencils came from. I swear!)

3. Speaking of old, I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately. When I read that the famous New York women’s store Henri Bendel’s was going to close (not just the New York flagship, but 122 branches in malls around the country), I couldn’t stop thinking about the original Bendel’s store, a showstopper of a place on west 57th Street, diagonally across the street from the old Rizzoli Bookstore. Forgive me if I’m lecturing to the choir, but 57th street — once the heart of Midtown Manhattan, was the most exciting street of department stores — one offs — the only Bendel’s, the only Bergdorf Goodman, (Bonwit Teller was there too, though for sure they had a branch on Newbury Street in Boston, and Best & Co. was on 56th street.) Now it’s a stretch of top-of-the-market condominiums.

Okay, but where’s the good news in this? As we churn always towards progress, (whatever that is), a dose of nostalgia feels good. I casually wrote down some of my memories about Bendel’s on Facebook*, and it generated not only dozens and dozens of comments but for a few days it felt like a community.

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Facebook post below:

* I'm sorry that Bendel's is closing down forever. I'm sorry that the shopping experience that once made midtown Manhattan so exciting has changed for good. But the old Bendel's on west 57th was the great version of this department store -- filled with tiny shops on the ground floor (stationery on the left; hosiery to the right, and a giant cosmetics department beyond that), and was rather fashion forward for its time. If you bought something there, you knew you wouldn't see it all over town. Once my mom and I shared a taxi in the rain with another lady who was leaving when we did: Happy Rockefeller.

As I've been reading the pre-obituaries, I have learned that Bendel's brought Chanel to the US, hired Andy Warhol to design and draw for them, and was an influential retailer in a slew of ways.

I watched Burt Bacharach buy a present for his wife Angie Dickenson there, I saw Grace Jones shop there. I had my first eyebrow shaping there. I bought a grown-up Stephen Burrows cocktail dress there right after college, and used to get my hair cut there for years. In the era of the 70s when department stores were kind of fussy, Bendel's was cool.

Mr. Henri Bendel, the grandson (I think) of the founder of the store lived in the same building we lived in. I believe he founded (or brought to America) the Belgian Shoes that some of us love so much.

Everything is different now. Thanks for the memories.

 
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4) SALT IN MY COFFEE. Some of you know I tout the benefits of sprinkling a little table salt on my coffee grounds before I brew coffee. I’m not just a “coffee achiever” (anyone remember that slogan?); I’m a coffeeaholic. I make coffee every morning, just so. I use a blend of two different beans, and I’m generally a pain about it. One morning while Exhibit C was in high school, her best friend had slept over and asked me why I didn’t use salt. She said she assumed everyone did it; it was a family habit. Salt reduces coffee’s bitterness. I swear it does. I haven’t made coffee without salt for at least four years. You will thank me.

 
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5) Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to mention Robert Mueller in my blog and pod? One day, I might not have to; but I might still want to.

Go forth my friends.

Until next time, stay dry and act natural.

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on September 14th 2018

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Fair warning, this week’s post is very Jewish. This past week I observed the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) with my family and friends. If you ordinarily agonize about how fast the time goes, it might be better to use the old Hebrew calendar. It’s already year 5779 — and as the comedians say, I’m still writing 5778 on my checks.

Religion is always such a personal and even intimate topic that I’m not very comfortable discussing it in public. The sermons and readings did however, spark some ideas that I thought I’d bring up in this week’s top 5. And, as they said in the old Levy’s Rye Bread ads, you don’t have to be Jewish.

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1. A fresh start. The new year is another opportunity to make positive changes. I take quite seriously the charge to review and learn from my mistakes both at the end of the calendar year, and at the beginning of the Jewish year. I don’t recall a time in which I didn’t write down some new year’s resolutions on December 31st. I don’t punish myself too much; the idea is to do better. At Rosh Hashanah, the prayerbook talks about getting “inscribed in the book of life” for another year, which I find hopeful. I don’t imagine a literal book, or a literal judge writing with a literal plume. I do like the idea of knowing that we are proceeding forward, without the threat of punishment, hell or damnation. (Isn’t life in 2018 hard enough?)

 
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2. Cooking for family. I cooked brisket — pictured above — for a family dinner on Sunday night. All my Exhibits ™ were here; so were their significant others. My mother was in fine form. One of my brothers and his wife came too. Because the spare table was being used elsewhere, we were crowded around our round dinner table, which I love, because we were really together. Knee to knee. Exhibit D (Henry, the Dog) scavenging underneath. By the way, I used gluten-free flour with which to dust the brisket, and it was every bit as delicious as the regular stuff. (Note: I am learning to cook. I am not a natural at this, and being unintimidated by the challenged of cooking for my extended family was a new feeling for me.) I wish my whole family could have attended, but it was a wonderful feeling to be so close and warm and cozy. Also, Sunday was suddenly cold and rainy. Chicken soup, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, salad, cake and an apricot tart filled out the menu.

 
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3. Thinking about the big questions. In his sermon, the rabbi suggested that the question that New Yorkers hurriedly face when refilling their Metrocards at the subway kiosks: Do you want more time or more value? is one that we should take another look at. That’s more than a matter of rides on public transportation; that’s the existential question we face all the time, whether we consider it or not. Time or Value? Live longer or live more meaningfully? I found the analogy smart, because I want to be reminded that I can be more focused (and positive) on a regular, frequent basis. As we all know, money makes life easier, but not necessarily happier. I truly believe that. Some of us were happier before our lives got bigger and more complicated. I want to live a good, productive, long life, but I recognize I have an ambivalent attitude towards getting older. (How could I not? Our culture celebrates the young, ignores the elderly, and vilifies the incapacitated.) In any case, I’m going to think about adding value to my life and those of my friends and family.

4. Liturgical music. That’s a thing I never thought I’d be writing about here. It does lift the spirits, and raise up the intensity of feeling, even if you don’t know all the words or melodies. I find some of the tunes haunting; they become my earworms for a few weeks. (In a good way. Not in an Abba way.)

5. Robert Mueller is not Jewish; I don’t know if he has any Jewish friends, but I’d be happy to take him to new year services next year.

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As I close out this week, I urge you (especially friends in the southeast to)

Stay Dry and Act Natural,

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better On September 7th 2018

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Looking at Labor Day from the rearview mirror.  Just like that.  I spent the long weekend in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.  I spent Tuesday at the beach.

A word or several about the beach and me:  As I spend more time trying to unravel the mystery that is me,  I find that the beach is (and I hate this expression), “my happy place.”  I used to think I was such an urbanite, that my preference was for granite and glass, limestone, pavement wooden elevator carriages, but I no longer see it thus.  On Tuesday, my extra day in the sun (and my only real swim in the sea), I thought hard about what was making my Oxytocin soar:  the sound of the water, the waves, the gentle white noise sweep that is so restful and lulling, the multiple shades of blue if you looked hard enough:  blue greys, blue greens, light blues, dark blues, grey blues, slate blues,, the soft sand that is kind of a marvel in itself, the clouds that provided cover, but not too much,  and the boats moving through the water, regal sails marking the horizontal…

What can I say?  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I was delighted by every piece and particle. 

Not only did I swim in the ocean (well, the sound if you must know,) but, I found listeners on Martha’s Vineyard who had Game Changers of their own.  So many products, so little time …. (and/or money).  

 

1)  Thank you, my friends and strangers, for reading and listening to these little crumbs of opinion.  I did hear from some of you who had good recommendations for Game Changers, and I want to mention the first batch of game changers here:  contact me if you have others of your own that need a shout-out next week.

  •   Kirkland's Sleep-Aids.  According to Robin, they take a while to work, but once absorbed, be prepared for a good night's sleep -- 8 hours, according to her!  
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  • Hydroflask water (and wine) bottles were recommended by Kim who likes their stainless steel better for keeping cold liquids cold and hot ones hot.  
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  • Penny not only suggested a life-changing butter;  she brought over a brick of it!!!  And I have to agree with her.   I adore butter.  Allow me to quote Exhibit B:  "Butter is my boyfriend."  I thought I loved bread and butter, but then I understood that bread was merely a conveyance for butter.  And this butter is a conveyance for salt.  It is divine.  Thank you Penny!
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  • The Clarisonic "cleaning thingy," is one of Lisa S's go-tos.  She loves how clean it makes her skin feel, and misses it when she's away.  And look at all the colors it comes in!  Who knew?  I appreciate a game-changer that's not new to the market, but new to me.
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2.  Tennis, all about it

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I come from a tennis-y family.  (Not from Tennessee.)  My father was a wonderful tennis player, and his love for the sport trickled down to us kids.  He played once or twice a week while we were kids, and even after his stroke at 65.  As a young man he played competitively and as an older man he played enthusiastically, even when he could no longer run.  Our parents took us to Forest Hills to watch the U.S. Open in the olden days.  How he loved watching Pancho Gonzalez!  We watched grand slam matches obsessively on tv.  My dad had an incredible story about watching a match at Wimbledon in the 1950s, when he was dating a British girl.  My brothers and I got to meet the great players of the 1970s -- Tony Roche, John Newcombe, Rod Laver, Margaret Smith Court, Rosie Casals, Stan Smith, and Virginia Wade.  When my back problems interfered with my career as a mediocre tennis player, I continued to watch tennis and have grown mighty fond of Roger Federer.  And Rafael Nadal.  But mostly Roger.  

When my dad was alive we watched tennis together in Connecticut, G&Ts in hand, swooning over shots that seemed physically impossible.

Last week on a day that seemed bearably hot, I StubHubbed for the first time, and bought myself a single ticket for the matches.  I didn't arrive till after 2 and figured I'd see what I could see for a few hours.  It was Day 3 I believe, so all the courts at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center were busy.  There was a lot going on.  Looking up I saw that Roger Federer was playing in Ashe Stadium; turns out I had bought myself a fabulous seat.  (I took those shots myself, so you get the drift.)  Thanks to posting on Twitter, I found some friends at the tournament, and soon found good company with whom to watch.  What a day!  What luck!  After Federer's match, my friend Peter and I walked over to a small court to watch Francis Tiafoe (USA) play Alex de Minaur, an Australian whiz kid, on the recommendation of my friend Andrew, who was there. A sensational match.  A fantastic day.  And one that if I had planned it properly, would probably not have come to pass.

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3)  My system.  I keep my calendar in a leather book that shows an entire week in two pages.  I have used this format for years and years and years.  I think I fell in love with and invested in a Filofax in the 1980s, as soon as I saw one.  I'm guessing that some of you might not know what a Filofax is. Or rather, was.  (Sad face emoji could go here.)  This was a handsome leather looseleaf book, approximately the size of a trade paperback book, for which many kinds of inserts were designed.  You could use it as a calendar -- a week per page, a half a week per page, a day per page, and so on -- a phone book, a sketch book, a diary, or all of the same.   I cannot even articulate how much I loved my book.  I collected accessories for it.  When it eventually died, I bought another.  I was so dependent on this book that I used to panic any time I thought I might have misplaced it.  In the era before cell phones, this is where all my information lived; phone numbers, schedules, appointments, credit card numbers, social security number, et cetera.   

Now I use a slimmer, smaller book.  I can see every week on two pages.  I keep all the previous years' inserts in a little basket.  My green book was a gift from my friend Jamie.  It is at least ten years old and still handles my life pretty well, without scrolling.

4)   My Friends' Children.

Not all of them, but many of them.  They know who they are, I hope.  I see them and their peers not only as my friends, but as my future doctors, lawyers, investment gurus, style leaders, barristas, thought leaders, teachers, and who knows what else?  

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5) My admiration for Robert Mueller is not about politics.  I know some of you need a respite from all the political noise that has become a constant.  I know I do.  

But he impresses me with his quiet industry.  With all the millions of distractions, he keeps his head down and leads his team through a roiling quagmire of data.  

Have a great week/end everyone!

Stay cool and Act Natural.

Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on August 31st 2018

STOP THE PRESSES!  Is it the end of August already?  Is this strange season coming to an end?  Can we close the book on the weirdest summer ever?

 I Googled "weird summer" and this image came up.  It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but close enough.

I Googled "weird summer" and this image came up.  It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but close enough.

 

So September begins tomorrow, or will have begun by the time you read this.  For me, still in a school-year headspace, that means all the new's:  New school year, new Jewish year, new TV seasons, new books, new classes, new supplies -- my youngest exhibit™ is still a student -- and of course, many new possibilities.  We drive up to campus, with my exhibit's mini-fridge, rice cooker, ukelele, yoga mat, clothes, books, art supplies, and so on this weekend for the next round of her adventure.

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And now for my week's 5:

1.  Opentable.com.  I'm sure many or most of you have heard of this app, if not become diehard users.  It's a way to make restaurant reservations in most places around the world on one's phone or computer.  It's infrequent (though not rare) for me to make a restaurant reservation without it.  Not every restaurant participates with it, and it's not always easier, but for the most part, Opentable and Resy, another reservation maker do improve my life. Plus, you get points towards discounts the more you use it! (My family sometimes competes over whose account to use, just to see who gets the discount points.)

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2.  Saying Thank You.  Hearing Thank You.

Remember when mommy and daddy told you there were "magic words"?  Please and thank you are magic; they make the person who hears them feel special.  I hate to speak like a parent to toddlers, but saying please and thank you make a world of difference. It takes one second.  [See my "EXTRA" blog from earlier in the week.]  I have been struck by how many people forgo what I consider a necessary piece of social intercourse.  If someone does something thoughtful, say thank you.  Do people think they are showing weakness if they say thanks?  You are not.  Is everyone so entitled that thank you's and please's go without saying?  They don't.  I'm not even talking about thank you notes, though I treasure every one of them I receive.  I honestly don't understand or accept any excuse for not showing a smidge of gratitude.  As the world becomes more polarized, mini expressions of appreciation are even more valued.  End of lecture.

 

3. "Game-changers".  When someone recommends something to me with this particular expression, I pay attention.  I want in to the next game-changer.  My friend Laurie has a game-changer (finger)nail hardener:  Prolana Nail Optimizer.  She said it changed her life, so I immediately ordered it.  I think it works, but I confess I lost interest in my nails.   As a giver, I pass that on to you, free of charge.  Exhibit B bought me a makeup blending sponge, which she said was a game-changer (pictured below) - which led to Exhibit C approving of my blush application for the first time..  PLEASE SHARE A GAME-CHANGER WITH ME/US WHEN IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS BLOG.

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4.  16.9 fluid ounce bottle of water.

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I'm not fussy when it comes to brands of bottled water.  (I can barely taste the difference between Evian, Poland Spring, and New York tap water, to be candid.)  But this particular size bottle is my favorite.  Voilà!  It fits into my purse!  On hot summer days it is crucial that we drink plenty of water.  A bigger bottle is heavier and the water I can't finish gets hot.  A smaller bottle is cute but not right. Do I sound like Goldilocks?  I often refill my 16.9 oz bottle when I'm out, but going forward I plan to carry a more efficient refillable water bottle around, to do my bit for the environment.  For now, I just want to extol my favorite size container.

5.

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I don't like to talk about the president on this blog, but let me say this:  He can fire anyone he wants, he can badmouth and lie about his enemies and pander to his base, he can try to profit off his position, and he can mistreat the underclasses, but he will never have the gravitas, the strength of character, the intelligence, and the discipline of former FBI Director and Special Counsel, Robert S. Mueller.  Thank you Ann Hodgman for this photograph of Mueller at the annual FBI vs. Secret Service hockey game.

A great Labor Day weekend to you all!

Stay cool & act natural.

Lisa

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Emergency Blog! The Rudeness Epidemic!

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Good Day. 

I take no pleasure in having to write down these thoughts.  With all the savoir faire of a second grader (or maybe the mean girl instincts of an 8th grade girl), Donald Trump has lowered his basement-level bar further than anyone thought possible, bad-mouthing and ill-willing the just-deceased patriot, Senator John McCain.

Since some of you may think that at long  last, you elected a president "who tells it like it is," or isn't beholden to anyone else, let me gently suggest that the ruffian in the Oval Office is the worst kind of role model.  He is rude, disrespectful, and profane, and influences others to be the same.  T shirts with Swastikas, the C word, horrible wishes about Hillary Clinton, and negative slogans about minority groups are now de rigueur at pro-Trump rallies.  Not only does Trump lie, his spokespeople do.  Many of his closest advisors have now confessed under oath that they previously lied under oath.  They are the early felons of this administration, with many more to come.

I am here to remind all of us that truth and kindness are essential to a community, even one as large as the United States.   Have you noticed that tempers are shorter, people are angrier, unhappier, more on edge?  Americans who cannot communicate any more with one another use their guns to make a point instead of words.  Where are the values we grew up with?  Americans were supposed to take care of one another.   Even if you didn't like your neighbor, there was a fundamental level of respect that was understood.... once upon a time.

Over the weekend, investor Warren Buffet posted a list of guidelines he called "Here's What's Cool".



1 saying ‘thank you’
2 apologizing when wrong
3 showing up on time
4 being nice to strangers
5 listening without interrupting
6 admitting you were wrong
7 following your dreams
8 being a mentor
9 learning and using people’s names
10 holding doors open

They are all more than "cool".  THESE ARE BASIC NICETIES -- not stuffy, not to meant to be a lot of work.  Just ways to behave that make other people feel special, better, and respected.

Here are some more: 

Don't be a sore loser.  Don't be a sore winner.  A contest that was won fairly [I won't go there now] is its own outcome.  No one needs to sulk or lie or make their rival feel bad.  If you can't win or lose nicely you shouldn't be competing with others.

When an adversary dies, accord him the grace and dues he or she has earned.  Vendettas are a manifestation of insecurity and ugliness. 

When someone is trying to do his or her job and needs help, why not offer to help them if you can?  If a reporter asks a clear question, there is no need to belittle him or her in a news briefing.  If you have only contempt for your constituency, you should find a new one that you can respect.  If you cannot cooperate with others, find a job that you can do by yourself.

Please don't hide under a cloak of spirituality when you do unGodly things.  The public doesn't need to know you go to church or volunteer at your kids' Sunday school when you lie or commit adultery or cheat on your taxes.  If I'm not mistaken, we seem to elect people to positions of power who abuse their power.  Did you blame your wife for your dipping into your campaign funds?  Really?  And now you're going to pray about it?

We know that people are who they are.  Sexuality and gender are not choices; they are intrinsic parts of our identities.  So judging people according to them isn't fair, kind, or smart. You don't want to be judged for your hair or skin color or partner, so why do that to anyone else?  This behavior doesn't serve anyone in a positive way.

We need to affirm one another and be helpful.  We need to be kind and openhearted.  If you are a regular reader of these pages, you probably see things more or less as I do, but if not, welcome. This is not a political blog; this is a common sense blog, usually seasoned with movie, book, and food recommendations.  I like fresh corn, hot baths, the beach, and kindness.  A little goes a long way.

Please send this on if you think you know someone who needs a little nudging.

Thank you,

Lisa

 

 

 

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Five Things That Make Life Better on August 24th 2018

Have any of you seen the movie Eighth Grade?  I saw it last week.  Unlike my exhibits ™ who each used the word "cringe" to express the experience of watching it, I found it sad, funny, and worrying.

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How could middle school be even less pleasant than it was in my day?  (I once would have thought of that as a rhetorical question.)  In your day?  Even in my exhibits'  day?  Add social media to the process and the nightmare quotient goes way up.  At least the notes I passed in 8th grade were only found by one or two people (if you include the teacher who intercepted them).  Now everything is permanent and embarrassing and public!  Yikes!  

I respect the authenticity of the movie, the acne of the performers, the cruelty writ large amongst adolescents.... but I was surprised to see that at the end of each video blog, Kayla signed off with "Be Cool" and made a shape with her hand and said, "Gucci!".  I know my Five Things That Make Life Better (for me) (Who else) is not the most original concept, but I want to remind you that my "Stay cool" is literally a reference to the temperature.  When it gets cold out, please be assured that my sign off will be different.  Gucci!*

 

*According to Urban Dictionary,  

Gucci 
a word that means good, great, fine,awesome and ect.
person 1: hey whats good with ya? 
person 2: nuttin man im gucci
#good#awesome#chill#fine#great

1.  At long last!  I spent a "makeup" day and night at my friends Diane and Mark's and as soon as I arrived, they whisked me to the beach.  

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I couldn't have been happier.  We talked, we ate.  We talked some more.  All told, I spent most of my awake time over my 24 hours-long holiday on the beach at Southampton, and I'm still smiling hours later.  What is it about the beach and the tide, and the sun and the sand that make me joyful?  (I grew up on the beach every summer of my childhood... could that be it?)  Thank you, my dear friends. Thank you!  

2. Which brings me back to thinking about friendship.  I try to be a good friend, I do.  But though I'm thoroughly loyal and devoted, sometimes I go quiet.  (My intimates know this.)  It's never about them; it's always about me.  (I think they know that too.)  This summer I've had the chance to see lots of old friends who passed through New York: long dinners, catch-up cocktails,   A few wonderful long lunches.  Seeing an old friend (even if you keep up with them on social media and have absorbed the minutiae of their last trip, their son's graduation, and their mother's convalescence) is also a check-in with one's past -- where you were emotionally, personally, professionally, and so on -- when you last saw one another.   I resent Facebook for all sorts of reasons -- who doesn't? -- but it did give me a way to find old friends and remake a relationship into one of two adults, instead of the children we used to be.  (Looking at you, Marion.)  And ultimately, thinking of all the friends I got to see this summer I am grateful to my parents for the beautiful life they provided for my brothers and me.  

3.  A Pitcher of Beer.

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For some reason (or no reason) I have not shared a pitcher of beer with anyone since college, or perhaps right afterwards.  Was it because I began indulging in cocktails?  Wine?  Was it because I stopped drinking in large groups of friends?  Who cares?

 Well, I want to tell you that last week  at an al fresco dinner in the impossible humidity, three of us had ordered beers when I saw that we could order a pitcher instead.  It offered us the comfort of knowing we wouldn't have to wait for our second glasses of the brew.  We didn't  completely finish the pitcher, but we made a good dent in it.  It felt like we were living large.  It was good.  

4. The Late Night Bath

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For years I didn't take them.  I showered.  Showering is fine and good and better for shampooing ones hair, but it's not as relaxing and you can't indulge yourself standing in a shower the way you can lying down in a tub.  I like my tub hot hot hot!  I melt in the water barely able to think.  My skin turns dark pink.  I am clean, warm, and not particularly alert.  (All good stuff late at night.)

5.  I barely know how to begin on my final pick for the week.  As someone said, "what an amazing year this week has been."  Whoosh!  I did something I almost never do on Tuesday -- I turned on the tv that afternoon, and saw in real time the breaking of the two courtroom stories.   It has been a breathless week.  And still, with all we know, this is just the beginning.  So patience and courage still, Robert Mueller.  Contrary to what some writers have posited, I don't have a crush on the special counsel.  I have a crush on the truth.  I have a crush on steadiness.  

 
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Be cool, act natural, and Gucci!

-Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on August 17th 2018

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Hi again.  I hope that by the time you are reading or listening to this blog I will have made my inaugural swim in the ocean for this summer.  Fingers crossed.  Toes crossed.  I am prepared to think no deeper thoughts than, "should I eat the guacamole?" or "It might be time to turn over."  I will undoubtedly pack too many books and not enough clothes, but we're visiting close friends who live informally and won't care.

On to this week's list:

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1.  I was late to the party on the fascinating documentary, "Three Identical Strangers."  I saw it last weekend, and have been thinking about it since.   It's about identical triplets who were separated at birth.  (No, seriously.)  I've been fascinated by identical twins since I read a book about the notorious "Silent Twins," June and Jennifer Gibbons years ago.  (They spoke only to one another and became criminals -- that's the short version.)  These brothers, who are now 56 years old tell their own story with urgency.  They seem to have imprinted every detail from 35 years ago.  The whole film whips up its energy quickly and sustains it throughout.  The central question is nurture or nature, but threaded throughout are ethical questions about the adoption agency that placed these babies apart from one another.  If you haven't seen it, do.  

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2.  I love weddings.  I read the wedding notices -- (that's what my mother calls them, so that's what I call them) -- in the Sunday paper.  I am entertained by the couples' individual stories and the how-they-met stories; the romance and hopefulness make for a nice way to greet the morning.  (And no one else at my house wants to read that section first, a real plus.)  But I don't attend many weddings at this point.  Just a few of the children of my close friends at this point.  Four so far, one to go in September.  They've each been delightful and romantic and festive.  Last weekend's wedding was a big surprise because the weather was so gloomy and the ceremony had been planned for outdoors.  I guess my expectations were cloudy with a chance of meatballs.  But the tents were beautiful and festooned with flowers, branches, rose petals, and candles.  And air conditioning!  The mother of the bride did a stupendous job.  And the couple read their own vows, which were touching and helped us learn more about the young man our friends' daughter had chosen as her mate.

3.  Quiet Heroism.  How many of you have already seen the video of the young Swedish student who protested the deportation of an Afghani citizen who was seeking asylum in Sweden?  I am posting the link here.  I watched it twice before I fully understood what I was watching.  This young woman was poised, determined, brave, and inspiring.

4. 

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My very preferred way to read is with a paperback in my hand.  I could be sitting up, reclining, or somewhere in between the two, but I love a softcovered book.  I do own a significant number of hardcovers:  a book that's special, or I can't wait until it's released in paperback, or a friend wrote it (how else are they going to make a dime?) -- for sure.  But when I want to read on the move?  A paperback.  When I want to read on the beach?  A paperback.  When I want to throw something into my purse for emergencies?  A paperback.  Preferably purchased at an independent bookstore.  As readers of this blog already know, I am experimenting with books on tape.  But without a long drive or commute to get it going, I am experimenting slowly. (I myself recorded my last book, True Prep, on tape, with help from voice actor #ExhibitA.  It was harder to read than I had ever imagined.  I wrote it to be read, not said. )

5.  Does it seem like this investigation has gone on forever?  I for one cannot imagine how messy and labyrinthine the enterprise is.  Kudos to My perpetual Object of Gratitude:  Robert S. Mueller.

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Wishing him and you a terrific weekend.

Until next week, stay cool and act natural.

-Lisa

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Five Things That Make Life Better on August 10th 2018

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1. I love a newsstand.  I am one of those people who loves to read words on a page.  Of paper, though of course, I read on my thingie all day and night.  But a newsstand -- a big one, with foreign magazines and obscure titles fills me with delight.   I discover new writers, new subjects, new destinations to dream about, and new clothes to covet.  I discover new editors I want to write for.  Newsstands at airports tend to be better than the kiosks on the street, which now seem to mostly sell tabloids and cold drinks.  In a time of waning print publications, I find newsstands a reassuring nod to the way things used to be.

2. When I type "Good Places to Cry" in my Google search bar, 6 seconds later I get 10 pages of listings.  "Best Places to Cry on Campus," "Best Public Places for a Secret Cry,"  "17 Best Places to Cry in St. Louis," "Best Subway Lines to Cry On,"  "Top Places for Dudes to Cry," and so on.  I was inspired by the sight of a woman having a big cry, talking on her cellphone on Tuesday afternoon.  I tried to avert my eyes out of respect and to give her privacy, though I wanted also to give her a warm smile and say it was okay.  (What was okay?  Maybe it wasn't.  In any case, it was none of my business.)   I've had those days.  This summer has been harder than usual for all the usual reasons and some uncommon ones too.  

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I found myself fighting tears today watching a video of a parent and child who were reunited after 47 days apart, thanks to ICE.  The tiny child didn't seem sure it was really her mother opening her arms for a hug.  On Facebook, a distant friend wrote about his young nephew's death by suicide, and I did cry.  The pain this young man experienced was wrenching, as was the unbearable feelings of helplessness and loss by his family.  What I'm saying is there's no point in tamping down your feelings and keeping a stiff upper lip.  Every now and then we just need to weep.  Google your home city to get recommended locations.

3.  I went to a new butcher the other day -- a throwback -- a stand-alone beautifully curated butcher shop with young (it's a relative term) men behind the counter, who were very helpful.  I bought 2 and a half pounds of London Broil and a meat thermometer, and learned a thing or two about cooking meat.  The butchers told me to salt the beef before cooking, but not to use pepper until after the meat was done.  Why?  Because you get the full floral range of the pepper after the cooking.  (Also something about the taste not being as good.)  I enjoyed the exchange so much I asked if the shop delivered, offering the shopkeepers my highest compliment:  return business.  No, I was told.  "We like our community and like to talk to our customers."  You know what?  I like that they like those things.  I'll be back, Hudson & Charles.

 Actual butchers (not life size)

Actual butchers (not life size)

4. Separated At Birth.  I did not create the beloved feature in Spy Magazine, though I was responsible for keeping it going for the year or less I was an editor there.  Lately I've been honing my skill at finding lookalikes.  (This part will be tough in the podcast, I know.)  I now present to you Peter O'Toole and Armie Hammer:

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Now, Brett Kavanaugh and Martin Short, respectively.

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5.  He celebrated his 74th birthday this week.  He has the enormous responsibility to sieve through the muck and then prove that Russia interfered with our 2016 presidential election.  It hasn't been easy and it won't be pretty.  Happy Birthday to my hero, My Top 5 Solid Citizen, Robert S. Mueller!  

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Stay cool, and act natural!

-Lisa

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