Saturday, May 9, 2009


When Mom first became old, and was doing less and less on her own, I noted her thumbs were bent, curled inward, toward her forefingers. Ten years ago my thumbs started hurting and back then I went to work on them.

I exercise my thumbs. Make my thumbs circle, both of them, clockwise, & counter-clockwise. I showed a surgeon who was thinking of retiring, how to do it with all the fingers -- do it early, do it while you're young. Anything that hurts -- use it -- keep trying to activate it.

NO for a sprain/strain -- ankle, wrist, elbow, toes that are swollen. Yes, if they're not swollen, just painful. Yes for TMJ, flabby abs, thickening waist, butt, thighs. If a sprain/ strain hurts more and more, send a signal, a wiggle order to a nearby place --wake up the surrounding area.

Stiff neck; Lie at the edge of the bed on your stomach, let the head hang down. Move it, left, right, up down, and around. Lie on your back, do the same thing.

Surgeon told his students about my hand exercises.
Our dentist stands against the wall doing my abs.
M who was starting to look like an old man is standing taller.
JD's knee that was killing him is better -- an exercise I gave him definitely helped.
The showers helped -- JC's back is much better

You can diminish, even eliminate stair-climbing knee pains. Pretend you're holding a quarter under your buttocks. (Try it, blog reader, if your knees hurt.) If you activate the gluteus, a powerful group of butt muscles, practice it, keep practicing it, you can climb the one step after another pain free.

What is this I'm conveying? Medical malarkey? Personal mumbo-jumbo? Quackery? What am I selling? I'm selling you on you. Focus on IT, whatever pain or ailment it is. You be the physician. "...heal thyself..."

Friday, May 8, 2009


Did you ever open the closet on a chilly October day, reach for the coat, find it full of holes?

I had a mannish top coat, tan and white, snappy, tailored that I loved. Why the moths attacked it, I'll never know. I tried to get it mended. Two tailors wouldn't even consider it. Bye bye coat!

JC had a pair of black watch trousers (expensive, perfectly tailored, perfect fit), gone, devastated, rendered completely unwearable by moths.

Vaguely I remember a sweater or two -- nothing especially favorite or precious, but I know a couple of my sweaters occasionally had to be disposed of because of the seasonal winged visitors.

I remember my mother had a yearly ritual, a certain time, a date she'd mentally reserved. "It's time to put things in moth balls, my dears." And after she took care of my father's clothes, (I was never aware of her taking care of her own things) she went room by room, requiring the four of us (M, J, me and D ) to organize, fold, lay out our own clothes which were packed away in suitcases. Which, like garlic powder, we obediently seasoned with moth balls -- tucking the white balls into pockets and the folded layers, which made the garments stinky, unwearable.

After the summer, in the fall, Mother and Ann the maid, housekeeper who seemed like part of the family, hung everything out in the back yard, on a clothes line.

The odor didn't ever go completely away. That's what I remember. I didn't like mothballs . Forgetting the fact that something you loved to wear could be ruined by moths, I thought the ritual of packing it away, unpacking it, airing it was a ridiculous waste of time. Something a wife does for a husband and

JC with his "SHENANDOAH" salary (JC doing the musical on Broadway was the first time we had money to spare), bought us zippered plastic rectangular containers, with room for a dozen hangers, on which were loaded with wool, silk, flannel, corduroy fancy things. And we got( did we buy them or find them on the street?) our two standing steel closets, which we cram with suit jackets, top coats, four capes ( I'm a cape fancier), wool scarves, wool gloves, and moth balls in sealed manila envelopes which I put in carryall bags so that there's a minor sniffable presence of the smell. (Dichlorabenzine --I used it in "Shattering Panes," one of plays in The Readery. (Contact me if you want to read it --plays are hard to read if you're not a actor or director.)

Anyhow, JC, every spring, after it gets hot, packs away his things; in the late fall, usually after it gets really cold, unpacks them. And ritually hurts his back lifting those heavy suitcase. Dr. Em prescribes, (insists on) a routine I developed from my transcontinental tours: If your lower back aches, take six brief hot showers in one day, and kneel in the shower with a rounded back, for a minute or two. If you can't kneel in the shower, after the show kneel on a bathmat with a rounded back -- that's it -- six times.

(Its a drag. But six is the number, six showers, and sometimes you have to do for two days, but somehow it magically does fix an unhappy lower back.)

As for me -- still rebelling, forever rebelling against some of the excellent, practical, exceptionally helpful routines I learned from Mother -- I never pack away anything. Just keep things in a large plastic container all year long. And sweetly cajole JC -- it's your 4th shower -- you've got time to take it before you head for the theater. I think, I'm not quite sure, but I think he's moving around more freely.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Do you mark things down in a diary, a book, a ledger?
+ I did this right.
- I did that wrong.

ITEM: Tenant, that guy who moved, left a mess, owes money, asked me to write a letter of reference for him. I didn't say no.

Wrong. Should have say NO WAY!

Do you give yourself grades?
You have an appointment to discuss something that's troubling you ...
Do you get an A for bringing it up?
Skip it? Get an F?

ITEM: Did a favor for someone.
He did a favor in return?

Re: tipping janitor: Ledger says DON'T. But you do it anyway.

Are there notes about old friends? It's not your turn to pick up the check ... shouldn't they pick it up?

ITEM: Career ledger -- old agent, new agents.
New hasn't returned your phone call. Time for a change?
Enter it in his column?

ITEMS: Doctor column, Lawyer column:
+ questions you asked ...
- questions you didn't ask ...

What's with the ledger? Why a ledger? Why remember, why not let things ebb and flow with the tide? Who, when, what isn't noted down? You don't forget important things.

(Well, maybe you forget a name once in awhile, a word, title of movie, but not very often. )

... Bad times, disagreements, firings, hirings, nasty confrontations, flirtations, your old boyfriends, his old girlfriends, collisions, painful encounters, bad reviews, turn-downs, lies, rejections, colds, illnesses, aches, pains, muscles, moods, compliments, pannings, that fire, the insurance claim, flood in the basement, phone out, electricity out, promises, bargains ...

It's all there. Every twitch, every inch of every change, almost change, aborted change, every failure -- some items in teeny tiny handwriting, some things capital letters ...

What's this bookkeeping concept doing in the brain of a ... a ... free spirit, an impulsive creative intuitive artist, who's definitely not an accountant, not an elephant who never forgets ...

It's not double-entry booking, The sum on one side of the page, doesn't have to equal the other side.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009


She's been in my life more than thirty years!

Doro's black; her hair, features, build, everything about her says African American, or Negro, or ethic, whatever you call it out loud, or in your mind.

I'm white; hair, features, build, everything about me says white Caucasian.

Black Doro goes to church, prays, reads her bible, sings in the church choir whenever she has time off from working as a maid. And white Em ... well, I haven't been in any place for religion, prayer, and bible studies since I was a very young girl.

Over the years Doro has cared for my house, my home, me and my two J's, JC and JD. Our food, our laundry, our untidy drawers, our closets, toilets, tubs, and offices. Now she's working in Connecticut as a housekeeper for a wealthy family, friends of ours, the K's, who helped us produce one of my plays. Every few months -- if I say "I need you," Doro comes and puts my house in shape.

Former employer --former employee --that's the name of the relationship. But Doro always says no to money we've offered when she has troubles -- when her apartment caught fire and much of furniture was burned, she wouldn't take money she hadn't earned. Also when her son was killed and she couldn't work. All I could do, and can do now, is help her mourn -- remember the date (it was Yom Kippur), and ask about him every Christmas when she misses him the most.

I call her to get the latest news about her family -- try to counsel her, comfort her -- her kids are struggling, not well educated, not well-employed, living on the edge of poverty in the segregated, unsegregated world of NYC's Harlem.

We talk a lot about ageing. I'm Mrs. Em, the Doctor, actually a good one when it comes to body aches -- her housemaid's knees, worn feet, the various medications she wants to take but shouldn't take, being a diabetic who's had an ulcer. Right now it's her right arm and hand. She's having a terrible time lifting things, even washing dishes for the K family gives her pain.

Yesterday ,Doro said, "I've got artheritis."

"Stop," I said, "You're pronouncing that wrong! You sound like poah black lady," I murmur in my best imitation southern accent, teasing. (Not avoiding the contrasts between us -- that's my sense of humor, working its barrier- breaking magic.)

Say " Arth! Arth! Say it with me! It's Arth ri tis." We practice saying it together,

Then, over the phone, I teach her what I had to learn when I was partially paralyzed -- how to make another muscle do the work of the muscles that can't handle the lifting job. I get Doro to feel with her hand, under the shoulder blade of her right side. Then, pretending that the thumb is pressing there, press on that spot, keep feeling that spot, and raise her right arm ...

It hurts, But now she can raise her arm. "Do it again," I say. And get her to promise to phone me, and let me know if it helps her tomorrow at the K's.

And that's what we'll do during the week, have phone consultations so she can keep on working. I keep track of all her aches and pains, know her history like I know my own. We've been growing up, growing old, and older together. It helps me, and it helps her.

Saying goodbye," talk to you tomorrow," as usual we joke about being sisters, and laugh, because we sure don't look like it, but we really are.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I never studied acting. Of course I have a uniquely experienced teacher right in the house.

When Todd Bolender (one of Balanchine's leading male dancers who also choreographed) was creating "At the Still Point" for Mark Ryder and me, JC directed me. There was a section at the start of the 2nd movement of the Debussy music, where I stood downstage center. Doing nothing, just seeing, envisioning the couples dancing behind me upstage.

JC's directing which added a slow motion gesture, a twist of my head, did not fit with what Todd wanted. He wanted zero, utter stillness.

When JC and I worked on his role on Broadway, in "On a Clear Day," after he told me what the director had been pushing him to do , I mirrored back to JC, what I saw and felt from what he was doing as an actor.

And that has become our pattern. JC directs me like a director. I direct him, by being a mirror.

It changed when JC directed my play, "People in Show Biz Make Long Goodbyes." He cast me as Theresa, a reclusive pianist who earns a meager living making orchestrations, hasn't been outside since she fell in the subway and developed white blotches on her face -- it's a pigmentary problem she blames on the government, the city, the state, the MTA.

Director JC's more of a stickler, a drill master than most of the choreographers I've worked with. He drove me crazy with his intellectual ideas, his detailed precise blocking. I wanted to improvise and find the blocking myself, not be told what to do, but I did manage, finally, to give a performance that pleased him and the critics.

What I learned, however, was how to get to a feeling within myself, by going right to it. I have to describe it as "gloving." Putting on a personality of someone else, becoming that person, as if you slid on a glove.

That's not a Stanislavsky technique though it relates to "method" acting, to knowing who am I, where am I going, what am I doing, what do I want. If you ask those questions, you can arrive at the emotion your character is feeling, produce the tears, the anger, or the blah state ... whatever.

I "glove" the character. I do that instinctively when I meet people. I see them, get a sense of them, by "gloving" them. It's easy to do with females; but I do it with males as well -- workman, mailmen, repairmen, tech guys – connect with the person by "gloving."

Sounds sort of sensual, sexy It's not that. It's focusing. Listening, hearing, seeing the other person. Try it – now that I've told you my secret, try it sometime.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I always liked sagas ... lots of people to get to know, a long story that involved me for hours and hours, days. even a week.

Back in the days when I went to the library and took out six or eight books at a time, and read them in my sheet tent with a flashlight turned on after we were told "lights out," the fatter the book, the better. Short stories were over and done with too quickly. I loved being in my tent, breaking the rules till my parents turned off all the lights in the house and retired for the night.

Time swirls, and blends your youngest years into the pudding of when you were almost an adult. It's a gelled bowlful of memories that don't belong to early adolescence, or the scary days when I was for the first time on my own – that summer I was lonely alone in a boarding house, reading/skimming whatever readable material I found in a stranger's shelf. And later, there was a summer when I tried to give up dancing. Though I was still in high school, I went to Antioch College, stayed with my sister who was a senior there, and developed my intellect.

Did I stop reading altogether? At Antioch College I didn't read, I mended books part time, earning money so I could join in with a crowd who didn't want me in the crowd because I was too young. But I fell in love. And later, enrolled and went to the University of Chicago because he was there.

It seemed like a great place to develop my intellect, but I was overcome by the load of books I was supposed to read.The brochures said an average student dedicated 53 hours a week to reading. I remember the University's famous Great Books List. Most of the good fiction I'd already read, and the non-fiction were books like "Herodotus," which I tried to read on the train heading east on my first Christmas Vacation, deciding, spur of the moment, no more college. And began my life as a going to be great dancer person in Manhattan, New York.

I'm blurring over the reasons behind the reasons, other than dancing that I came to the city. My brilliant Antioch College man (we were both 16) was transferring to NYU, or was it MIT? Can't remember because I don't want to remember this seriously unrequited love phase of my life. it belongs in a book, not a blog.

The next time books came into my life, they were my constant companion, my entree, my dessert whenever I was on tour. All the tours, all the miles I've traveled in transcontinental tours of the US ... and then all over the world, I read books, books, books, paperbacks, hard covers on trains, planes, busses and cars ... dancing and reading before and after my barre, those hundreds of barres I took in hotel rooms, those hundreds of books -- always, the bigger the better.

It's probably why, after my accident and rehabilitation, I wanted to dance to Mahler, and did dance all seventy minutes of Mahler's "Fifth Symphony" at Lincoln Center.

Well, that hunger for big and bigger projects affects me even now. I like to evolve plots over time, not over one event. I don't want a character I've invented to disappear, say goodbye, be gone after a mere 300 pages.

Re my big fat long book -- I didn't just re-vise it, I re-conceived it. "The Woman" (her birth in 1900 to age 86) became "Cordelia," birth till age 70; turned into "Woman of the Century" (1900 till age 99), which became "Dressed in Mama's Dreams" (same age span), then "Cordelia's Almanac" (more emphasis on history), and now, with less emphasis, "Somebody."

Doing the last two revisions, I went into my mystery book phase, reading myself to sleep with Robert Parker, Elmore Leonard, and Nelson DeMille -- the plots, old and new of Cordelia's story, every night seemed to unravel and need rewinding at bed time.

I was hooked on those three master mystery writers, read everything I could buy, new and old paperbacks. Thank you, Ebay, but it wasn't just cheapskate, practicality. Hardcovers are hard to hold when you're reading in bed. Furthermore, there was no more shelf space left in my home. And no more room in my mind for big fat long stories.

Yes ... the big fat long size of "Somebody" is one of the reasons why it hasn't been published, and why "Somebody," Book I, and Book II is sitting on the shelf in my virtual library at The Readery.

Yes ... blogging is educating me, though it often feels as if I'm working in a wrong style, wrong form. I keep thinking I'm rambling. I ought to confine each post to one idea, and not jump from my past to the present.

Yes ... there's more to say, but not now. Not in one post, not if you're a recovering writoholic, not sure, when I work on my next book, if I really want to sober up and write about one year in a person's life, not ninety-nine, not the whole shebang.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Is it a pandemic, or is it panic?

All day long they're bombarding us with graphs, map pictures of the U S -- numbers in each state of how many have it, got it, have been diagnosed.

I'm seeing new faces, being preached to by new authoritative experts, honest ordinary scientific, medical, department heads, who say over and over, don't panic, it isn't a pandemic but it could be, but don't panic -- more cases, more deaths, but don't panic -- they're mumbling other statistics about other flu's, calmly telling me in a normal year, 35,000 death are probably from this flu, that flu, diagnosed, undiagnosed, probable, possible. Don't panic.

What do they want from us? Paralysis, a stay at home mind-set, ala a spur of the moment remark by our VP, blended immediately into a wash of faces with turquoise masks, crowded streets with masked folks rushing home, rushing around, getting out of the market place ...

Wango, bam! ... Another authoritative doctorly person is comforting me with the higher than four, that number five, five that's less than six which is the number of a world pandemic panic.

S T O P, guys. The pretty blondes, sleekly combed, sprayed brunettes in their television show makeup, eyes lined, shadowed, heavily mascared, subtly penciled, glossed mouths, cheekbones carefully rouged to show off youthful intelligence, veracity, reliability -- shut ... them ... up!

Stop telling us about TAMIFLU stockpiles, injections and remedies possibly available in the fall which may not be effective since the H1M1 ... is it M or N, oh Lordy, 3, 940 000 Googles on "N," and 22, 400 on "M" ... oh Lordy, M or N may mutate with others, the bird thing, the pig thing, the something else thing, and be unresponsive till there's more costly, scientific investigation of those circles -- fuzzy nasty looking shapes from some microscopic slide -- enlarged, of course, good heavens, it's in the air, it's everywhere from sneezing, coughing, breathing ... stop breathing.
stop ...
S T O P !
S T O P !