Saturday, April 4, 2009


I put used bobbies back in their container.

Is it penny pinching, a form of cheapskatery? How did I get this habit? From saving the best for last on my plate? No. Sometimes, not often, but occasionally I eat dessert first, not last.

Is it because when I got back from life in Malibu (lived there when John was in TV's "Northern Exposure"), I couldn't find anything to wear in my NYC closet? Clothes fit, but they weren't my taste anymore. I threw out a ton of lovely things, including my "Russian Czarina's" black coat with a high collar, flared skirt. I still miss it, wish I had it back.

Is it because you don't throw out love letters, earrings, or gorgeous boots that hurt your feet? Is it because prices of everything are going up up up, and bobbie pins used to cost ...I don't remember, but certainly not what they cost now?

I'm thinking of the early versions of projects that I don't throw out, and tape recordings I labored over. I spliced out clicks from Mahler's Tenth -- it was background for my dance drama "Zinnia." I can't put the master tape or copies of it into a trash bag.

When necessity demands, I give myself a gold star for being a ruthless thrower-outer. But bobbie pins, rubber bands ... ?

I guess I don't throw them out because I'm a useful thing, and I don't want to get thrown out.

Friday, April 3, 2009


A website, a blog are not things I ever thought about till nine weeks ago.

Today Fran and Sue got the first "stats." Fran the designer was proud, Sue, who's handling the PR, was proud. "Em" was back in Edinburgh, in the great grand theater where my dressing room was where the greatest Shakespearean actors of Great Britain once upon a time powdered, prepared.

Huge old theater, at least three balconies. No heat. Winter. A morning performance. The members of my dance company were peeved, cold, sleepy, outraged that we were on stage, warming up on ancient floor boards, with vapor from our breathing visible as we said "Good morning."

Grim performance. There were only 30 people in the audience. But I was in Edinburgh, and in my mind, it was a precious memory, cold as I was, an achievement to be there.

There were four people in the audience when I performed in Sidney Australia.. The program was me alone, dancing Opus 10, all of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." I wanted to pay them for their tickets, pay them extra if only they'd be willing to leave.

Once, just one time, I danced for 10,000 in an outdoor stadium.

Most of the time, practically all of the time on my 1000 one-night-stands which became more than a 1000 before I finally decided I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE, the audiences were small...90, 50, 125, maybe 250. A modern dancer and her troupe on a college campus concert series is not a big draw.

In New York, on Broadway, when John Cullum and Emily Frankel did "Kings" at the Alvin Theatre on four Saturday nights, the house had to be papered. ("Paper" means tickets were given away.) When I did "Zinnia" at the Colonnades for 55 performances, it was the most performances I'd ever done in one theater, whereas, when John unpacks his makeup kit in a Broadway house, the kit stays there -- the same dressing room has often been his for a year or longer.

No, I don't think about this very often. When I was little and dreamed of being a dancer "till death do me part," I would have been thrilled to know that I would do in Dance what I've done. But today, when Fran and Sue showed me the stats, how many hits on our Website, how many files, pages, chapters downloaded, how many visitors ...... My eyes fill with tears. A website barely one week old, and more eyes have been on "Em" then ever before.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Some people have religion, I have work. It doesn't have to be actual writing. It's busy fingers, absorbed mind, concentration on something outside of me, like DOMESTICITIES -- that scratch on black linoleum I'm going to try and wax away -- and MENDING -- the collar on JC's grey NYC Opera sweater-shirt. It needs to be re-sewed on the sewing machine.

It's is a 9610 Industrial Singer my father gave me -- once upon a time it was a machine in his children's dress factory. (There's a bit about that machine In "Heart City," page 188. ) I learned to sew when I was in grade school. Bought a pattern, suffered with the instructions and laying out the rebellious tissue paper pieces, but made an old-fashioned dress with a bustle to wear for a Thanksgiving assembly program.

First costume I ever made ... no inkling did I have, that my sewing would turn into making costumes for a dance company of six. In the beginning I had to. We didn't have enough money.

I made a green shirt for JC in our early courtship days, a birthday present, which he wore to an audition and got the job -- $22.50 week doing a play in a very tiny theater (before there was an Off Broadway.) My work on that shirt won me love.

But here's the real reason work is what I'm preaching as my fingers fly today over the keys. When you get an idea, enough of an idea to put into a sentence that you can immortalize by typing it out -- that's a Wow! You're excited, amused, full of trepidation. A vision, a hope, a dream is born. It's something to reach for that's better than reaching for a star because you can get there, touch it, grab it. Use it.

Layering that first sentence; expanding it and shrinking it, explaining it to someone -- you've started down the road on a walk that will probably become an adventurous long trip.

You work not for money, not for winning, just work for the work of it. It's like crocheting. With a Queen Ann Tablecloth pattern that I got from a HOW TO CROCHET book, I used crocheting to keep me busy on the bus trip I made every day to a hospital in the Bronx when Mom was there for a month. It turned into a sixty-four doily tablecloth for the dining room table.

Intricate stitching, six chains, loop and go back, pearl three, loop four, double-stitch, triple-stitch -- it's not much different from making a plot, thinking up, crocheting, creating characters, (175 for Cordelia's story in "Somebody"), or in my plays, other books -- creating a triple-stitched background for every character.

I love that! I love the infinity that's in the work of my work.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It wasn't Emily F. Her name was Carlie, and she did toe tap, back flips, no handed cartwheels and wore a tutu with sparkles on it for the 4th grader's talent show.

I wanted to be in the show but my talent was getting the highest marks.

After the show, Carlie and I were walking home – I was wearing a royal blue dress with thin white stripes. At my father's factory, they made KATE GREENAWAY dresses. Once a month I'd go to the factory with him. He'd take me to racks with my size and let me pick out a sample.

Carlie was bubbling over about acrobatics and the splits and tap classes, and her next performance at the local dance school's annual show for the parents. Looking down at my dress, which was princess style (Daddy said) because it curved and fitted my almost curvy, not really curvy little girl shape, I was getting ready to compliment Carlie politely --I didn't want her to know I was jealous.

I opened my mouth and said, "I want to be a dancer more than anything in the world."
Carlie said, "Your legs are nice. You have a nice shape. Your neck is long. You do sort of look like a ballerina."

I took it! I grabbed it. It was my Tell Nobody dream that had been getting larger and larger -- like a weather balloon, radius 4 feet, 6 feet, 8 feet Pi - R - squared -- it was already big. Carlie's words enabled me to blow air into the balloon and it's never stopped growing.

As an ex-dancer, I dance every day. Not exercise. Nope. I go into my studio. Its a 45 x 25 foot space. It transforms into a rentable theater, which I don't rent out. It's only for me, JC and JD. In it, I warm up, very simply, unstrenuously, without boring endless repetitions and the hope of losing weight or firming up sloppy saggy anything (though there are places where it might be good but I don't look at them). The Warm-up's about 26 minutes of a basic ballet barre that I've evolved, that fits what I can do without too much discomfort. Then I switch on the music. (Vaughan Williams, "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.")

Seventeen minutes. It's choreographed. A visit into the room: I've placed 3 chairs, a small box to step up on, a barre made of pipes, that JC made so I could have a portable bar in the studio. The choreograhy is divided into 4 sections. I dance a section for two days, then the next section for two days; the next, and then the next. After eight days of sections, I dance the whole 17 minutes for two days. Then I'm back to the beginning again.

Thank you Carlie, I don't do toe tap, but I become the # one prettiest girl in the world just about every ten days.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


When Fran, who designed my Website, says DO something, I do it ... maybe mull a bit, argue a bit in my mind or in an email, but I do it.

If my guys, JC or JD give me a criticism, I may squirm, argue, protest, but I pay attention, and even if not immediately, I obey.

Recently Dorothy, our maid who's more like a sister since she's been a part of my life, making my surrounds orderly for years, said -- you need to fix the books. It's a huge pile paperbacks. I've read every book Robert Parker wrote, almost all of Elmore Leonard's books, all of Nelson DeMille's. They're favorite silent friends who keep my night time mind occupied, teach me about plot but give me no orders I'm compelled to obey.

Anyhow, Dorothy's suggestion made me reorganize the baker's rack in our green living room (bright green enamel floor with white wicker furniture so it looks like we're living in the country.) Ever since she gave me the gentle "order" I've been re-doing all the bookshelves, especially every time I order more paperbacks from

Yep, I obey -- employees, independent contractors, lawyers, accountants, salespersons, policemen, doctors, nurses, messengers, doorman, cabbies, chauffeurs, even helpful strangers.

Today, oops, out of the blue, my Internet connection stopped working. All 3 computers wouldn't load. I had a fun few hours 100% obeying, double-checking each step, making sure I did executed each instruction right. It was exciting, fraught with a touch of fear that it wouldn't fix. Hurray. It did.

I obey tech people, assiduously. Assiduously avoid some of my older friends. Also change the subject before my real sister (JB) or relatives butt in. More often than not, their "take a vacation, rest, relax," advice is w r o n g for Calvinistic me, but I allow myself to nod with a pleasant smile and murmur "mm hmm" even when I'm thinking "no way!"

Early on, I didn't really obey my parents, two sisters and brother, I mostly wanted to test the DON'T DO's and secretly rebelled, even when I seemed to be following orders. I was a good little actress.

Taking my first dance classes started me into respecting the Rules. You had to do lst, 2nd, 3rd 4th, 5th positions perfectly. Eventually I did, but never could I master a tap step (a shuffle, step-hop, ball change that a beginner can do) and complicated ballet beats, brisé dessus for instance, defeated me for years. Okay -- I learned that memorizing, repeating a sequence over and over, squinting, blurring small details helps you get a sense of the basic left - right, forward - back, up - down, turn - jump - run steps. Confession: I don't watch, can't watch the dance teams, or dance crews on TV -- I get tied in knots mentally doing their steppy, tricky fancy, wildly acrobatic convolutions.

My near death experience did it. Taught me OBEY.

When I was recovering from partial paraplegia, (car accident--see "Encore," bio about me, or check out Book II, Miranda in "Somebody.") I had to relearn sitting up, turning over, moving my toes, standing, peeing etcetera -- re-train my body to do what it knew instinctively, including dancing.

I had to obey, hear every word, follow each small/medium/ large command. You put your mind on it -- a place on your body, a muscle, a ligament, a bone, a joint. And like a funnel, pour all of your thoughts into the funnel's cone, fill it up till the thoughts slide down, (thank you gravity) and land inside you -- find the spot, tip-touching, tweaking, till you're feeling something. A warmth. A tingle. A twitch. Then, that barely perceptible move transforms into ... movement.

So stay back, friends, relatives, and Fran, Sue, Bethy, Dorothy, JD, JC, Docs, Shareen (amazing daughter-in-law), even Phil the Super who can fix anything. Better not tell me what you think I should do. I obey, slowly, sometimes licketty split.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I've got an appointment, will see the Doc at 3.

It's a comfort but it's distressing, not hateful, not something to fear, but still, it looms. Will I get bad news about anything? Naw! Will I get permission to go on eating, sleeping, living, as I'm doing now? Well ... probably Yes.

When I was very sick after a car accident a long time ago I had to develop a way of handling a lot of doctor appointments. I had a list of 125 physical therapy exercises, a Physical Therapy nurse, a PT Head Doc, an Orthopod, an Endocrinologist, a Dietitian, and a GP. (Author E.F. uses her accident, a lot of this accident stuff is in "Somebody" Book II.)

The day before a Doc day, I make a list so I can arrive with an agenda. Of course I always arrive a little early, definitely on time though usually these days, you have to wait 30 to 60 minutes if you've got the kind of doctor who takes good care of each patient, addressing each patient's needs. And while I'm waiting, I'll review my mental list.

The fact is, I don't want anyone (including the Doc) telling me what I can do! Should do. Shouldn't do. Or give me permission about anything. But invariably the agenda of subjects to confront with the Doc grows in my mind while I'm waiting. It's making me quietly cranky. Don't I know more about me than anyone in the world?

The real true fact is, there's water in my left ear today. It gets there quite often, left and right ear, randomly, never both, after I shampoo. Even if I carefully don't tilt my head in the shower when I'm rinsing my hair. All day today I've been hearing a rhythmic thump. When I woke this morning, I thought maybe it was the tenant on the floor below, playing music with a persistent 4/4 beat. Nope. The rhythm has followed me. I've shaken my head, said "k" to make my ears pop. It persists. Soft. Gentle, thump thump.

While writing this, hearing it, I'm telling myself myself "Okay, ask the Doc." But, having diagnosed what it could be, dismissed it, ignored it, am thinking "You jerk, forget it!" Just now decided, NO! Decided YES!

Yes wins.

When I shampoo my hair tomorrow, I'll tilt to the left and encourage the water to head for the right ear. And deal with it tomorrow. I feel better already. It's almost time to go. I'm ready to BE and DO and THINK like me, not wait for anyone's permission, and simply deal with it tomorrow. Why? Because It's a Doc day, and a Doc day is probably why you're listening to your own thumpity-thumping heart.