Saturday, April 18, 2009


In my e-mail yesterday, a friend said "Go ahead, do it! It was something I wanted to do. I don't remember what, just remember being pleased with what my friend said, but annoyed with myself for needing permission.

Sometimes you need a "Go ahead, help yourself," to eat what you're craving, like another scoop of ice cream. I'm not a dieter, I'm quite slender, but I used to weigh myself every day -- dancer weight is generally about ten pounds below what your body wants it to be.

Bang-crash! I got lucky in an unlucky head-on collision. My small intestine was severed, had to be mended, shortened and spliced together. It creates complications. My 3 ½ feet of small intestine doesn't do what your 35 feet does. I don't get nourishment or energy from food the way you do -- I can eat a lot, even pig out, and not gain weight.

So, "lucky Em" doesn't need permission when it comes to food. I can eat whatever I want, indulge in chocolate cake, peanut butter cups, buttery mashed potatoes, french fries, fried onion rings ... you name it.

But, I need permission NOT to work. Permission to SKIP my daily barre. Permission NOT to review money figures in the yellow sheets that arrive every month and tell us what we've spent. Permission NOT to worry about landlady things.

(The building we own needs to be painted and pointed. Whew! That means a scaffold, employees, permission from the Department of Buildings, a permit from "landmarks" because we're a landmarked building.)

Writer Em invents ways to give herself permission to put it off. For instance -- put "paint building" on a calendar. When the date comes, and we're too busy, put it on another date.

Also I use my friends. They give me something better than permission -- give me a posture, a tone of voice, and their relatively easy-going selves to imitate, take on. It's an acting, method actress technique. I become that person for a while. And enjoy slowing down, loafing, doing nothing in particular ... relaxing.

Yes, it's a little weird. But it works!

Getting permission, allows me to give permission to JC and JD and Fran, Sue, and Shareen, to take it easy, don't do what you're not in the mood to do.

Friday, April 17, 2009


A doctor stood over my bed and said something about my face, my back. He said "fracture" a few times and something about fever, and asked me what I'd eaten before the trip.

What trip? I wondered, figuring the fever he'd mentioned was why I felt so tired. I started to touch my face but my hands were trapped under a sheet that was tucked around me, chest to knees. Being unsure what fracture meant, in my mind, I declined it as if I were in Latin Class -- frac-to, frac-tara, frac- tum.

The Doctor had a feather and ran it over my knees. "Doctor, I said, "I have to kneel on my knees tonight, in the Vivaldi."

He seemed puzzled. I explained that it was my solo, the "Four Seasons," which I was performing tonight.

He frowned. Most people wondered about my doing a 45 minute solo. He continued with the feather, running it down the side of my left leg, then my right. He said you were in an accident, and your back was fractured. He said intestine ... facial lacerations ... your performance, night before last, was canceled.

I said, "Oh."

He moved the sheet away and continued testing me all over, fingers, elbows, asking do you feel this. He tested private parts explaining the tubes were a catheter. He went back to legs, ankles, and toes.

I said, "I have to be at rehearsal in New York on February 24th. I'm dancing in Philharmonic Hall the following week."

He used the fracture word again. He said lumbar. L 5 L 2, connective tissue ... concussion ... permanent damage ... partial paraplegia.

"March 3rd," I said. "That's the date."

Again, he tickled my legs with the feather, left ankle, right ankle, top of my arches, ball of my foot. "Do you feel that? Feel something touching your right foot?"

"Is my performance at Philharmonic Hall canceled?"

He touched my toes with the feather. "Do you feel this?"

I said, "I can march."

In the course of the next hours, the weeks, the months after that, the years of therapies and doctors who helped me, I said "I can march." Many many times I've said those words I still say it -- I can march.

There's more ... I'll write about it some other time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


After school, every evening, I used to listen to the radio. Mom allowed me to snack on 12 pods of shell peas. I'd eat them slowly. Make them last. When peas went up in price, Mom made me carrot sticks. I sneaked a handful of pods, then a double handful, and got a stomach ache. Mom knew, (saw the almost empty bag of peas in the pantry) and raw peas were no longer allowed.

At the dinner table my sisters and I were allowed just one green olive. I longed for two.

Is wanting more a matter of greed? Is wanting to be stronger than your sister competition? What about wanting more dresses, more pennies for my Empire State bank, more dolls than my best friend, Mary Ellen, who had a collection?

After I won the "Count the Feathers in the Turkey" contest that the Evening News ran on the page with the comics, I loved winning. I'd tasted success. The prize was a polished brown wooden bookshelf. It had a "World Book Encyclopedia" on its shelves. I liked looking up things, browsing through them, but more than that, I liked that I'd won them.

I didn't win any other contests. By the time I won best costume at Halloween, and won a state art contest, I was onto other types of competitions. Splits, leaps, elevation, high extensions. And then ... other things.

It keeps changing, but when I "win," (celebrate) quite often I reward myself with olives -- eat all I want. JC knows this and buys olives for me, brings them home with champagne. He does most of the shopping when he's in a play on Broadway. After the show, stops at a neighborhood store because it's never crowded after eleven p.m.

Knowing I was happy about what's been happening with my books, last night JC handed me a paper bag -- a pound and half of fresh shell peas.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The paint smell from the floor below me is much less today. Ivan the contractor and his son are hammering this morning -- the banging on the ceiling is probably them putting up that eight foot fixture for four fluorescent bulbs. (A monster of a fixture -- my two John's, JC and JD, lugged it up the stairs yesterday. JD said it's Ivan's final job. Shareen wants bright lights on the racks when the store opens Saturday.

Amazing Shareen ... How gracefully, securely, confidently she leaps, tour-jetés into new, major undertakings; she's opening her third vintage store, "Shareen New York." I have to say it again, how lucky we are that our son JD found Shareen, who's like a daughter, sister, dear best friend.

The two of them encouraged me to do Em's Talkery along with my website. "Mom," JD said, "You need a blog so people can get to know you," "Yes," said Shareen, "And be able talk to you, ask you for advice."

"Huh? Advice ...?" I was taken aback.

"Yes!" the two of them said. "Like your heroine Hally's mother. You wrote about it, why not do it yourself?"
(In "Heart City," chapt. 23, page 164, installment H -- Hally's know-it-all Mom creates her own website, to answer questions about love, finance, household, possessions, health.)

"Well ... " I murmured. I murmur well noncommittally when I'm mulling something over. "Well, if someone wrote and told me what's on their mind ... my advice could be helpful ... why not?"

"Why not?" said Sue, my PR pal. "Why not, said Fran my website designer. "They can click TALK TO EM, ASK EM on The Readery, and Em's Talkery!"

So, on the left, below my picture, there's a TALK TO EM place to click.

Go ahead! Ask about anything, mention any kind of worry you have and you'll get my opinion. I'll post it on Wednesdays, matinee day in the theater ... it'll be my day for answering questions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Sue sent me and Fran this:
Have you seen this woman on the UK version of "American Idol"?
If not, check it out -- it's great.

YouTube - Susan Boyle - Singer - Britains Got Talent 2009

Middle aged, thickish looking, a woman emerged from the wings of the stage. She looked like someone who would undoubtedly get cruelly turned down. The three Idol judges were cringing as she walked out on the stage. Especially Simon.

She walked on confidently. Stood there. Then ... sang. Stood there, sang her song, her every gesture saying what Susan Boyle is.

Everyone was touched. floored, astounded. Moved by her singing.

Sue, Fran and I exchanged emails.

"Where does that come from?" said Sue.

I answered saying this to Sue, saying this to us:

"Watching Susan Boyle gives you a sense about yourself. I feel it and it comforts me -- that she who is verging on being over-the- hill, has emerged, shown us glory and grace.

"Hey guys, you know what I'm doing with a website and blog -- what I am suddenly trying very hard to do full-out and do well. Why not you? YOU doing something, taking on something, doing some deed that you've wanted to do, but haven't?

"Can you, can we, can I?"

Monday, April 13, 2009


I have a very old brass candle holder that's electrified, that a nurse whom I never met, sent me from the Jewish Home where my mother spent her last days.

(Why a Jewish retirement facility when my father was "agnostic" and the boss of the family? That's another story to tackle, some other time.)

I don't like the way Mother's life ended. She gave up. She couldn't help it and none of us could help her. The way your parents leave the world is part of what they give you, but I hold on to other things about her.

Feisty Mom ... she gave me feist, and spunk and don't give up the ship, reach for the highest star -- managed to give me that within a very busy family life with daughters and a son, and an elegant, much beloved, hugely catered to husband who was "above her," she said. And she certainly taught us that. It was as he lived on another plain, a higher nobler world to which we were occasionally invited, which we sometimes visited and shared with him.

I thought she was ... pretty, with her auburn hair ... too concerned with keeping her house clean, her dinner table set perfectly ... too concerned with money. More than once, I said out loud, "I don't love my mother," when I was living in Manhattan with friends who were in and out of psychoanalysis, discussing the importance of rejecting your parents, coming to terms with how they screwed you up.

Boy oh boy ... she didn't screw me up. She gave me health, a body, resilience, a healing capacity, a powerful life force. It's in my bones, my muscles, my blood, my skin, my pores. And she was always always there whenever I opened my mouth and said Mom I need ... money ... a hand ... a helper ... courage ... a sympathetic ear ... words to bolster me ...

She lent me a pile of money when, a week before opening on Broadway, I discovered my "balanced check book" was actually $20,000 overdrawn. She copied orchestrations for me, note by note, chords, crescendos, trills, phrasing ... couldn't read a note of music but did it for me. Did all those motherly things -- mended, cleaned, cooked, shopped -- when I was over my head with work.

I can't explain right now why her life ended alone, and why she gave up. I know all the circumstances, I know why, inch by inch, how it happened that she wasn't surrounded with family, loving children in the last years of her life.

Yet the way she left the world gives me something precious and powerfully important. I will go when my time comes with ...... hey, I'm not a swimmer, I can't dive, but I'll do a swan dive with toes arms, torso aligned and cleave the water with neat waves and ripples that tell my guys I'm okay. It's okay.

I keep Mom's light in my office above my desk, my computer, my special books. It's got a small green bulb in it. I keep it lit.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


One pirouette was easy to learn how to do. (Pirouette: it's a French word for "spinning top." In ballet it's an act of spinning on one foot, typically with the raised foot touching the knee of the supporting leg.)

I just whirled around. On two feet, then on one, and then, imitating the teacher, with my foot raised, did it a hundred times till I didn't lose my balance. Right away I started trying to do two turns. How many pirouettes you can do, is one of the ways people measure a dancer.

Another student who saw me practicing said "Hold in your stomach and spot." Holding my stomach in, sucking it in I could do two turns, but couldn't ever absolutely totally count on two. Even so, two revolutions could be fudged, not done in relevé (on half toe) -- if you fling your arms strongly, you can turn fast, with the standing foot almost flat on the floor.

"Three" pirouettes eluded me. I wasn't a "technical" dancer. My mind, when I dance is on the feeling. A famous ballerina once told me "You can't ever be sure about a pirouette." Even if you're truly into being "Giselle," you turn off the emotion, and turn on your technique.

I was a rehearser, dancing full out when others marked the steps. I'd rehearse in emotional distractions, figure out what to think about, continually inventing new things to have on my mind, like "catch a firefly," or "push a balloon"--so the technical feat didn't bug me or scare me, as I spotted.

(Spotting: You pick a particular place, point, or position, keep your eye on it for as long as possible as you're spinning, turn your head quickly back to it the moment you lose sight of it.)

But three pirouettes (I'd go for it sometimes on stage) was never safe. I didn't own three. I'd do it for me, the me who loves a challenge. I've tried four when I'm alone in my studio. It's easier to try it competitively when other dancers are pirouetting with you, but I don't ever try to do four in public.

What's all this pirouette talk about? Am I trying to teach you who are reading this, how to pirouette?


I'm talking about four, because I dreamed last week that I was in a room with mirror and a pale linoleum floor like the floor in my studio, and I did four ... in balance, effortlessly, perfect position, "on one leg, with the other at the knee" like the "Basic Principles of Classic Ballet" describes, effortlessly spotting, smoothly spinning.

It was dream. It was glorious. I didn't do four on a stage, but I did it. I know from having done it, four pirouettes is better than three, or two, or one.

I guess I'm writing this because of The Readery. I want you to know, you who are reading my blog, that I'm exulting. My work is out there. I did it -- stopped rehearsing -- doing it over and over -- planning, strategizing, waiting, hoping and praying for something to happen, I just DID IT.