Five Things That Make Life Better on November 16, 2018

How have you been? I was away last week and missed you (actually I did). I was on a family trip and between the time differences and the amount of time needed to post this pod’n’blog properly, it was not possible to do. Next time I’ll prepare an episode in advance.

 My Exhibit and me in Jerusalem last week.

My Exhibit and me in Jerusalem last week.


To make it up to you, I’ve brought a guest to today’s proceedings. It is the writer and director of the new film, What They Had, Elizabeth Chomko.


1) I LOVE the way my phone can alert me that the call from Florida, Pennsylvania, (or wherever) is a telemarketer. It’s so nice just to ignore those intruders. (I really do think they intrude on my day.)


2) What They Had, a moving and honest movie about the effects of Alzheimer’s on a working class family in Chicago. Starring Hillary Swank, who produced it, it costars Michael Shannon, Robert Forster and Blythe Danner. Best of all, it’s written and directed by Elizabeth Chomko, a young woman who will be my guest on today’s podcast.


3) I traveled last week with a backpack. I can no longer imagine using a shoulder bag when walking as much as we did (5-7 miles most days). The backpack I carried was made by Aimee Kestenberg, and it’s in my favorite oxblood color. We met at a luncheon a few years ago, and the backpack showed up at my doorstep as a wonderful gift. Aimee’s background, as I recall, was in engineering and design, and she’s very good at the details — big zippers, well-designed compartments…. anyway, I loved having my hands free (often to hold onto railings) and to feel balanced!

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4) Mom and Pop stores. There are a few in my neighborhood that I make a point of patronizing: the pharmacy, a very old-timey stationery store, a jeweler who does pretty fast and good repairs, and the butcher. It’s not a judgment; I shop at chains too, but it’s a better feeling to keep the locals alive. And the service is just so much better. The proprietors get to know us, look out for us, and sometimes even anticipate our needs.


For years there was a spectacular independent bookstore on Madison Avenue called Burlington Books, owned by a reading genius named Jane. Her large black lab Ingrid (Could someone please confirm?) was often in residence as well. Jane and her staff (including the wonderful Dottie) got to know their customers intimately. The shop felt like a salon, somehow; patrons were encouraged to hang out and chat. Once when a new novel appeared from a writer I enjoyed, Jane sent it over to my house as soon as she got it, with a note, “I thought you’d want to read this.” I have mourned the demise of Burlington many times over, and dried my tears many times over. You cannot mimic that interest and insight, no matter how often you go to Barnes & Noble. And Amazon, for all the hoopla and mind-meld hasn’t and can’t figure out a way to Artificial Intelligence that.

military Mueller.jpg

5) Crossing my fingers and toes that Robert Mueller hasn’t been cowed, bullied, or threatened as the Mess in Washington gets messier. I want to thank him for his service, both as a veteran and as a holder of our feet to the fire.

Elizabeth’s Five Things That Make Her Life Better

1) FilmStruck, a streaming service for classic motion pictures. https://www.filmstruck.com/us/watch/filmstruck


2) Old Family Recipes


3. Her rescue pitbull, Maggie

4. Not Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ all the time

5. Classic musical comedy dance numbers.

 Donald O’Connor & Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”

Donald O’Connor & Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”

Finally, I’m thinking about Californians, north and south who are dealing with the loss, the fright, and the devastation of the fires. Wishing you all safety.

Be safe and act natural,




Five Things That Make Life Better for November 2, 2018


We can’t deny it is upon us: the “most important election of our lifetime.” For some reason, I hate that phrase. I think it is because it is overused; it is the boy who cried ‘wolf’ situation. We have said and we have been told that every election is the most important one. And now that we have a mid-term on which all the weight of correcting the ills and changing course are imposed, hearing that worn-out talk can sound like babble. (Yet, indeed the 2018 midterms are the most important elections so far. Truly.)

I do hope you will vote.

My Five Helpful Thoughts


1) Like you, I imagine, I have had really long waits and incredibly unfriendly service at the post office when I go there to mail a package or two. (“I just got here; why are you mad at me?”) However, I love Yaya, my mailwoman, and I appreciate the hard work she has and the good humor in which she labors. She has taught me how she layers socks and plastic wrap in her boots for the long winter days on her feet. Romeo, my previous mailman downtown was also wonderful. He really was my first friend in the neighborhood. When I read about the bombs being sent in the mail it made me remember how decent and thankless so many of the men and women of the postal service are. And we only know about those 14 intercepted devices. I am sure there have been plenty more of those. Thank you to these folks.

2) Last week I was part of a half dozen women friends at a performance of “Gloria, A Life.”


“Gloria, A Life,” is a play and a post-play discussion/salon/talk-back/group therapy session based on Gloria Steinem’s life and writings. She is portrayed by the effervescent actress Christine Lahti. I have to confess that even with video images of Steinem on the walls, I sometimes forgot that she was being portrayed by someone else. But the evening was even more special to me because of the group of women I got to join. A sophisticated mix of accomplished women of many backgrounds, they include an artist, bankers, a professor at NYU, a jeweler, and one of the producers of the play. (I’m the newbie and very honored to be one of this bunch.) We laughed, we cried, we talked. We listened. And we want our children and the men in our lives to see “Gloria, A Life” too.


3) “The Ferryman” Was high on my list of plays I wanted to see this fall. I didn’t know much about it beyond that it was written by Jez Butterworth (who wrote “Jerusalem”, the remarkable Mark Rylance play) it was imported from London where it was directed by Sam Mendes. He’s brought a first-rate production to Broadway. The story of an extended Irish family in Ireland in the early 1980s — it’s a kind of “August Osage County” set at the farmhouse just before the harvest celebration. There are plenty of children and wizened old people, an actual real human BABY, a live goose, and several rabbits. There’s a lot to see and understand in the play. The virulent anti-English sentiments of the older generations, bullying by the powerful in the neighborhood, the tug of tradition versus new ways of thinking, and always love. I couldn’t recommend this play more highly. It’s exciting to see a new play which isn’t based on a commercial movie from the 1980s or 90s. It’s exciting to be provoked into thinking. And it gave me many hours’ respite from you know what.

 Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen

4) We saw Steely Dan perform at the Beacon Theater on Tuesday night. It was weird doing something so frivolous with everything happening in Pittsburgh, but we had bought the tickets and we also have to live. Right? It is always amusing going to a concert of someone whose music meant a lot to me growing up. The audience is made up of older people…. like…. us….(I’m hyperventilating now.) Tuesday night brought a suprising mixture of ages. No, no babies but a lot of younger (and ardent) fans. Perhaps they were introduced to Steely Dan’s music by George St. Geegland and Gil Faison (John Mulaney and Nick Kroll) in their show “Oh Hello.” [Netflix trailer is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPQL8RbwckU] In any case, never did I feel so average (in the best possible way — I was like everyone else at the Beacon). At some point I stopped being the mother of three fine exhibits ™; I was just another happy college junior listening to some of my favorite songs. But even better too, because while I was compulsively listening to Aja, The Royal Scam, and Pretzel Logic, the band didn’t perform or tour. This tour is now over, but listen to their music, if you haven’t already.

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5) Some weeks — this one in particular — getting to 5 is a real effort. Thank you Robert Mueller, for making number 5 the easiest part of this work. And on behalf of many of my friends and many likeminded strangers, I would like to apologize to Special Counsel Mueller for the vulgar debasement that was attempted on his reputation. Of course, the attacks didn’t stick.

Make this “the most important week of your life.”

Stay calm and act natural, and most of all, VOTE.




Five Things That Make Life Better on October 26, 2018


I love the Fall. I like pumpkins (to look at). I loathe the concept of Pumpkin-Spiced everything. I like nicely decorated pumpkins, but I am no fan of Halloween. I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel.

I don’t want to lose your friendship or following, but I have to be honest, and Halloween is (to me) a giant disappointment, jacked-up on sugar. [HYPOCRISY ALERT: I do appreciate a “fun size” candy bar — the kind they sell for Halloween: it’s the only time of the year I eat a Baby Ruth, Bit’o’Honey, or mini 3 Musketeers.]


With that out of the way, let me wax on my five good things for the week.

1) Ankle boots. Who’d a thunk they would make the difference between a decent outfit and a cool one? (Though not terribly, preppy, alas.) With pants they are fantastic. I like them because they take no time to put on. I used to hate the way an ankle boot looked with a gap between the ankle and the hem of a skirt or dress, but I’ve been persuaded that that’s a good proportion.


2) Tiffany Haddish is hilarious. She is one antidote to all the negativity that surrounds us. Once, while seeing a comedy in a movie theater, I saw a trailer for “Night School,” in which Tiffany Haddish’s 30 seconds were funnier than anything I paid to see. You need to figure out who makes you smile these days and keep their video or audio clips on your desktop. For emergencies.


3) Days When I cross all my tasks and projects off my to do list.

These don’t happen frequently. I’m hoping that by putting this into its digitally permanent place I will goad myself into having more productive days. You know how it is — you’re in the middle of doing something — working on a project, researching health insurance plans, writing a thank you note — and then, PING! A news alert. Your train of thought is interrupted, and you begin to worry about what’s going on in Washington, or Turkey, or the house next door. You call your elderly dad just to say hi. You text your kids to make sure they’re where you think they are. You start telling everyone you love them before you say goodbye on the phone…. even your Spectrum customer service robot.

Experts say that to-do lists are part of the secret to the success of …. the successful. So put that into your vape.


4) VOTING. It’s our right and a privilege of being an American citizen. Please do it. I’ve got mine here and will send it in today, as I will not be home on Election Day.


5) Please tell me there are no Robert Mueller Halloween costumes, or worse, “Sexy Mueller” costumes. That would just…. be wrong. Keeping Mueller in my thoughts, and ask that you do too.

Stay calm and act natural





Five Things That Make Life Better on October 19, 2018


I’m writing this from the west coast, where we are visiting family and friends for a few days. When the weather is good here, it is magical. When it’s bad, it’s not too bad (not counting earthquakes, fires, more fires, and mudslides.) In any case, the weather, the views, the Pacific Ocean — all sources of great pleasure and gratitude.

I am writing this week’s blog at a desk in a friend’s beautiful house in San Francisco. I wish you could all see the view of the Pacific Ocean that I see right now. Oh wait; you can:


We’ve had a great visit and I’m not even thinking about the fact that I haven’t watched the news on tv once in 11 days. Coincidence? I think not.

Here are my Five Things.


1.) Not to beat a dead horse, but even though I am in America, I have avoided the news as much as possible since I left home. My phone is nestled in my pocket or my purse. The news alerts which have me trembling and panicking day and night in New York are at a remove. It’s me on vacation mode, and it feels pretty good. And yet… and yet… When I do want to use my phone to take a picture or text an exhibit ™, I’ll see the words “Breaking: Washington Post: State Dept.” or something similar, and my heart sinks.

When I return home in the next day or so, I will turn on the news and read more of the Times than just reviews, food, puzzles, and other lighter distractions. I will dig back in, and get worked up and feel responsible. But not now. Not just yet.

2.) Letters.


I like to write letters. I also like to receive letters. I prefer them to emails. There is effort involved, but in the scheme of things, not too much. Choosing your paper and envelope. Looking up your friend’s zip code. (Easy.) Putting on a stamp. Going to a mailbox. Getting a surprise in the mailbox in turn. It’s not just bills and catalogues!!! It’s an instant memento.

3.) Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex


You may laugh, write me off as a silly person, (which I am), but I like looking at pictures of Meghan Markle. I like her looks. I like her smile. I like her energy. I like her manner. I like her clothes. I like watching her transformation into a Windsor. I like the idea of her. And now she will be a mummy. Oh I like that too. Sometimes I go over to Google and plug her name in the search bar and enjoy a couple of minutes’ respite from the online craziness of our world and look at photographs of this happy and poised young woman.

4.) Watching My Kids Grow Up

The Exhibits ™ aren’t getting any younger. The are all in their 20’s now, and are very much coming into their own. “(idiomatic) To reach a stage of development or maturity where one has achieved strength and confidenceeconomic security, or respect and social acceptance.”


Despite my interference or with my help, A, B, and C are becoming adults, following their own individual paths, and making independent strides. I am proud of them. They make my life better and give it meaning. Sometimes, though, I wish they were Bonsai Children, who I could keep tiny and by my side forever.

5.) I wonder what Robert Mueller is doing this weekend? Wisconsin’s homecoming? Parents’ Weekend somewhere? I have a feeling he’ll be working overtime, and for that I am grateful.


Until next week, stay calm and act natural.




Five Things That Make Life Better on October 12, 2018


Welcome to my Five Things, a weekly blog in which I reveal much more about myself than I ever intended. If you are new to this page, I’ve been at this since last March, when I starting writing the blog as a kind of gratitude exercise and to remind myself that not everything was terrible in the ‘new normal.’ Now my blog and companion podcast are an essential part of my week; I no longer approach them kicking and screaming. And I hope to spur you to find a minimum of a handful of good moments or feelings or tastes or sounds in your week as well.

1) When I was in my 20s and 30s I used to say my body was made up of 80% french fries; 20% sarcasm. To be candid, I cannot resist a french fry if it is sitting on my plate or even on the plate of someone at my table. If I am offered a choice of a side salad or a side of French Fries, I don’t ever think or even hesitate. I don’t love all French Fries, but I’ll eat any of them. I mean, after all, they are a conveyance for salt.

I like them thin, not so crispy on the outside that they’re not soft on the inside. I’m not a snob; I love MacDonald’s french fries and I love the pommes frites at Quatorze Bis. (Not a huge fan of steak fries, in case you care.) HOWEVER, I am going to try to cut back. Just un peu. Just for now. Just to see if life is better or worse without a packet of fries around my waist.

 These French Fries look like the Platonic Ideal of fries.

These French Fries look like the Platonic Ideal of fries.

2. I know a lot of people who find calm and pleasure from watching videos of small animals. Or of any animals. Or the genre of videos of two species being friendly — that goat that loves a cocker spaniel, or the cat and the seal that are best friends. I am diverted by funny animal moments too, but my favorite distraction is Paul Newman, the actor.. I love the photograph of him dancing (the monkey? the frug? — only someone over the age of 48 could know the answer to that one) with his wife, Joanne Woodward. I see fun, whimsy, joy, elegance, and unforced sexiness in that shot.

Speaking of ‘unforced sexiness’, in the Newmans we see the real thing — palpable chemistry between people who look like real people, as opposed to the trying-so-hard, coarser, come hither poses that leave nothing to the imagination. I know I sound like an old fogey, and I resent that! I’m a middle-aged fogey, if you please. But fully dressed they seem thoroughly appealing and alluring. Anyway, Paul Newman was the best looking man I ever saw (or met), a cool guy, a philanthropist, and someone who didn’t seem to take himself too seriously. I will be very content to look at pictures of him for the rest of the week.


3. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.



Are you familiar with these seeding/investing/crowd-funding sites? I always find cool inventions through them, and I feel better buying from startups than buying from giant corporations. There are always videos of the team behind the invention and they help you understand more about the product they’ve created. There are interesting items in the health and fitness categories, like the Ostrich pillow; great stuff in the travel accessory department — like rolling luggage with an attached USB charging port. For the holidays this year, I’ve already bought my exhibits ™ presents from these two websites. #NoNotTheOstrich

 The Ostrich Pillow, for napping (or scaring people)

The Ostrich Pillow, for napping (or scaring people)

I wasn’t sure how they were different, so I asked Google. “Probably the biggest difference between the two platforms,” Google wrote, “is their approach to money and when you get it. Funding on Kickstarter is all or nothing. ... Funding on GoFundMe is not all or nothing. That means you keep whatever money you raise regardless of whether or not you reach your designated funding goal.” Since we’re all inundated with ads on every single platform, I decided to explore the crowd-funders this year. (Yes, I know that retailers as a group are hurting.)

4. The New York Public Library, Library for the Performing Arts


This New York treasure is also, strangely enough a kind of secret, or at least not terribly well-known. Nestled inside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (specifically between the Metropolitan Opera and the Vivian Beaumont Theater), this library, open to the public, offers free concerts, exhibitions, recitals, and so forth that are well worth a visit. Perhaps you’ll find costumes or set designs for the ballet created by Alexander Calder. Or the story of Leonard Bernstein through videos, photographs, and documents. Or even the backstage memorabilia of a great Broadway diva. (Currently you can learn about choreographer Jerome Robbins.) Even more magically, library card holders can watch videos of entire Broadway plays (everything since 1962), operas, concerts, ballets, and modern dance. The archives here are extensive and exclusive. It’s like getting a first row center mezzanine seat for free.


5. Gratitude is all I have for Robert S. Mueller. Go get ‘em, tiger!

Stay calm and Act Natural.




Five Things That Make Life Better on October 5, 2018


Good day to you all,

I have tried to start this blog about sixteen or seventeen times. This little blog! I cannot believe how much effort it required. It’s just been that kind of week. And in fact, the last draft was eaten by the Internet, and after throwing up my hands, I realized it was not the end of the world.

Perspective. Patience. Wait for my cool head to return. Okay. Ready now.

You know how I say sometimes, “This was one difficult week?” Well these difficult weeks seem to be the norm, and so without being (too) repetitious, let’s get to the good stuff.

But first, I need to announce that today’s blog’n’ pod will have their first guest! I am pleased to tell you that prolific writer Elin Hilderbrand, who has written 22 novels in 18 years. (I could say her sheer productivity makes me feel like an underachiever, but that would be inappropriate in this space of uplift and positivity.) We have never met or chatted before, but I know that Elin lives on the prep island of Nantucket, which is where her summer novels are set. Like me, she has three children, and she’ll be talking to us while heading to freshman parents’ visiting weekend in South Carolina. Oh the multi-tasking! I just read The Perfect Couple which was published in June, and her next novel, Winter in Paradise (Little Brown) will be published on Tuesday, October 9th. So give it up for OUR FIRST GUEST, Elin Hilderbrand!!

 Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand

Here are Elin’s Five Things That Made Her Life Better This Week:

  • Candlelight

  • College football

  • Barre class

  • Breast cancer awareness month (Elin is a 4 year survivor)

  • Sandwiches (saved the best for last)

Here’s a link to buy her books from the legendary Strand Bookstore.


And from the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland, OR


And finally, here’s where you can find Elin on her book tour:


And now, for my Five Things:

A friend once urged me to make room for more beauty in my life. I think he was sensing my rushing-around-the-urban-jungle kind of energy, and I took his advice. I don’t always remember to allow for those quiet appreciations, but I am passing it along to you. As a completely selfish sidebar, I am posting some paintings done by Alex Katz, the figurative painter who is still painting with vigor, at 91 years of age. I adore Katz’ work, the vividness of his palette and the flatness of his figures. I once passed him on the street, was starstruck and became immediately tongue-tied, so I didn’t walk over to him. I used to think the greatest thing in the world would be to have a portrait done by Alex Katz, (even a drawing in pencil on a cocktail napkin would do), but that is a crazy fantasy. Anyway, enjoy these pictures, and if a Katz exhibit comes to your city, go to it!



I honestly wasn’t paying attention, but people on social media reminded me that this little book is celebrating its anniversary. 38 years to be exact. Besides making me feel old, I am reminded of what a life changer it was for me, bumping up to the head of the line as a very young writer. Thanks for the memories.



The music of Stevie Wonder, (above) has joy built right in it. Aside from the fact that his music has accompanied me throughout my life (“Songs in the Key of Life” was an entire year of college. I must have played “Sir Duke” alone about 2,000 times on my crummy record player.), I associate his songs with lots of good things. When my exhibits™ were small, we used to sing “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” together in the makeshift clubhouse we had under the swing set in the backyard of our house in Connecticut. I wish I could play it for us right now, right here, but I don’t think that’s legal. Is it? At least watch his episode of Carpool Karaoke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqrvm2XDvpQ


 Medium wale corduroy

Medium wale corduroy

I am wearing corduroy today for the first time this fall. I love corduroy; it’s the fabric of a campus, it’s cozy. It’s academic-chic. It’s the opposite of chic, too. What’s not to like?

5. Robert Mueller. Now more than ever.


Listen to my conversation with Elin on our podcast, and until next time,

Be calm and act natural.




Five Things That Make Life Better On September 28, 2018

Greetings, Earthlings!


Are we all hanging in there? (Where is there, by the way?) So much comes at us every day, that it’s hard to know how to prepare for it. Summer or winter clothes? Kneepads? A bullet proof backpack? Blindfolds? Earplugs? Pearls? I’ve honestly been overwhelmed. Or at least very whelmed.

But still in pockets of quiet, there have been lovely moments. The past week has offered me more than five people and experiences that made my life better. And so here we go.

  1. I celebrated my birthday last weekend, and compared to almost any other birthday I recall, this was the best. My exhibits™ were with me or near me, my significant other gave me a lovely present (and flowers!), and the social media good wishes were heartening and touching (and a few very weird) to an old girl like me. Thank you all. I usually take a kind of quiet inventory of my year on my birthday and find reasons to be mad at myself, (because I’m always looking for reasons to chastise myself). This year I didn’t react that way. I felt grateful. #Winning


2. My boyfriend bought tickets for us to see Paul Simon in his final appearance at Madison Square Garden that night. Of course it was poignant; of his 102 nights headlining there (his count), I’ve certainly been to at least five or six shows over the years, if not more. Though his voice doesn’t quite have the same range or verve as it used to, Simon’s endurance, wit, and presence were moving indeed. His songs are something of a soundtrack for me. (I found the tour’s setlist online. Here it is.)

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
The Boy in the Bubble
Dazzling Blue
That Was Your Mother Rewrite
Mother and Child Reunion
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard (with Edie Brickell)
Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War
Can’t Run But
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Spirit Voices
The Obvious Child
Questions for the Angels
The Cool, Cool River
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
You Can Call Me Al

Late in the Evening
Still Crazy After All These Years

Encore 2:
Homeward Bound
The Boxer
American Tune
The Sound of Silence


3. Why Live Here If You Don’t Do This?

Over the course of the week, I have had the chance to see and hear programs that one can only see in New York. I went to see Sir Tom Stoppard speak (in an interview setting) at the 92nd Street Y on Monday evening. To think I almost skipped it! There, in the beautiful auditorium I’ve been going to since I was 3 or 4 (Marcel Marceau anyone?) the perhaps greatest living playwright spoke about kindness as the greatest of man or God’s creations. It didn’t hurt to run into a bunch of old friends scattered within the audience, including fellow English majors from college. Stoppard’s eloquence is especially dazzling when you realize that he is writing in his second language. (He was born in Czechoslovakia.) His dizzying interests and fluency in science, journalism, metaphysics, Latin poetry, politics, among other subjects, are dazzling.


There are many weeks when I ignore cultural New York in favor of hanging with friends and family at home, or out at restaurants, and come home to watch the news — a life that could be lived in Iowa City or Colorado Springs, or West Hartford, CT — but I feel fortunate to have the chance to see cool and interesting people and their work. We also went to a new play called The Lifespan of a Fact,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale. It really is about truth vs. truthiness, but it has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH POLITICS. The audience laughed and gave the performers an instant standing ovation.


4. On Wednesday, my (relatively newish) friend Jessica invited me to something called …. no, wait, first I’ll post a picture.

 I’m, um, the dignified woman on the right. The pink balls are a reference to the bubbles in pink champagne.

I’m, um, the dignified woman on the right. The pink balls are a reference to the bubbles in pink champagne.

It was called the Rosé Mansion, and it’s on Fifth Avenue across the street from the New York Public Library. It was not a mansion, but available space in an office building and it was billed as an immersive tour through the science and geography of the summery pink wine.

I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Jessica is way more adept at the whole AV thing, and she knows about Instagram influencers and their IG-approved poses. My respect for her grew as she became competitive with some of the other dignified women who were celebrating something or nothing by day drinking tiny samples of 8 wines.

 Blending pink pom poms with white sequins makes the best wine!

Blending pink pom poms with white sequins makes the best wine!

I cannot in good faith recommend this particular activity to all of you. The snacks that are mentioned in the ad are 1 single grapefruit flavored gummy bear. And I just don’t think there are many of you who like to swing (you get 30 seconds apiece) on a specially lowered and engineered glass chandelier. I could be so wrong. (When I sent a photo of me to my three exhibits, who are in three different places, they each texted back “huh?” instantaneously. They were not impressed.)


5. What a terrible segue from something silly to something serious. On this birthday I am grateful to Robert Mueller.

Stay dry and act natural.



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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.



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:


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.


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.

 the old Bendel’s

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.


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.


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