Saturday, May 30, 2009


How can I be so messy, when all I want is order?

I remember the days when I couldn't fall asleep without smoothing the bed sheets, tucking in the edges military nurse style. Triangular corners (same as when you wrap a birthday present), folding the edge of the left side into a triangle, then the other edge in, so the triangles make a perfect, flawless corner which tucks in smoothly, and disappears.

And the edge of the sheet, the comforter (we called it that in winter) ... it was so wonderfully, exquisitely comforting when folded in on itself -- three inches -- making a three inch neat, perfect border like a picture frame.

Did I want to sleep in a picture frame?

My toes were pointed. Turned-out. At an early age, I started practicing my toes being pointed and turned-out so that "pointed, turned-out" would became a life-long habit, a happily forever-ever-after habit.

My arms, straight, solider straight at my sides, palms down. Oh, maybe once in awhile I'd fold my hands, and holding my hands went to sleep with my head straight back. It had to be straight, in the center of the puffed-up pillow. With the pillow case smoothed by my hand -- a hand, like an iron, can iron away all the wrinkles.

Who am I? What have I become, that I no longer care about ironed sheets? I pull, yank, twist, kick sheet and blanket up so the edge will fall in around my cold feet, which I don't point, or turn out. I just let them lay wherever they land.

How, when did I change? Was it a little fold here, a sloppy edge there, a gradual weariness which allowed me to close my eyes and not see or feel the unsymmetrical cover covering me so haphazardly? Don't I care? Have I stopped caring?

Or do I still care, but let things fall where they will because I don't have time anymore -- at my age and stage in life, I can't afford to take the time to sleep in a flawlessly smooth, neat, perfect, symmetrical cocoon?

Friday, May 29, 2009


What am I rooting for? Hey, I'm still rooting for what we voted for. What we won on that night of nights to remember!!!!

Am I going to give my opinion about keeping Gitmo, closing Gitmo? What can I say about water-boarding?

What about Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court?

Why don't I say how I feel about Repubs rejecting every single thing our president is trying to do?

What about Miss America? If she keeps on sexy-strutting in that white bikini, giving us her know-it-all opinions, am I going to write a NO NO post?

Add my small voice to the yays about Gay marriage getting legalized, argue with the boos -- what about the yayers for Sarah Palin, rising, rising in the world?

What about Darfur? And Swat Valley? And Animals becoming extinct -- thirsty Polar Bears, Penguins wandering, the killing of Elephants, Apes, Lions ...
What about kiddie prostitutes, pedophiles purchasing virgins? And Public Libraries on half schedules? Teacher shortage, some of 'em sleeping with students?

And Health care? Pandemic every day realer, or is it hype? Drugs! Drug-makers claiming it's research -- that's why pills cost more!

How could I say anything, speak, state, be acceptably truthful, factual, logical, convincing, and affect the way anything on this list could be changed, even minusculey?

There's more, much more things to put on the list, and I'm already weary. But that's not why I'm not in politics.

The way I've evolved, the career I've hewed, hacked out, and built for Em, was built on sand and mud -- in it, over it (and under the table, in some not quite kosher ways).

What about the social security I didn't pay for H? The five violations on our building when we bought it, that have never been rectified? Worse -- eight dancers I put on an imaginary payroll so they could collect unemployment insurance ...

Oh dear ... there was a crooked man (gal ) who walked a crooked mile leaning on his (her) crooked stick ...

Well, nothing's crooked nowadays, but gee, I couldn't get to first base on an application I'd have to fill out in order to get my name put down the list ...
So maybe ... couldn't I ... why don't I write about Michelle inspiring me and Hillary ...?

Thursday, May 28, 2009


John's show, "August, Osage County." has been revving up for a new opening night. The critics are coming. They're replacing the star with Phylicia Rashad (Bill Cosby's wife in his wonderful TV show), taking new photos, planning the party.

It won't affect JC. He'll just do his work, won't stay up till 1.A.M. and huddle with everyone to read what the critics said, even though it will affect the life and death of the show, and possibly affect JC's reputation. It's a family tradition.

Similarly, when I was on tour, I didn't read what the local critics said, and when I performed in New York, I didn't read what the critics said till months later.

JD, our son, read reviews at first, but gradually realized our tradition was practical, artistically sensible. What's been said about you, bad or good, stays with you for the next performance, and the next. It will very likely stay with you for the run of the show.

This started with "Shenandoah" in Boston, when the Herald's famous critic praised JC, and mentioned his "stride." Did the critic say "cowboy?" I don't remember actually, but it stayed with JC, has never left him, made him aware of NOT using that stride, unless he's playing a farmer, or wants to exaggerate his toughness.

More than compliments, negative remarks can haunt you. When JC and I did "Kings" on Broadway; we closed the show with a touching duet based on Mary Renault's story about Theseus and Hippolita, an Amazon Queen. The Times dance critic, praising us, mentioned Frankel's "trembling" extension -- referring briefly to me recovering from an accident, suggested I wasn't yet in "shape."

Oh my God! My goodness! Good Lord! The trembling extension was a penché arabesque (back leg extended, torso arched, dipped toward the ground so that the arabesque is a split.) Oh, yes indeed -- I was back in shape, stretching, making certain that I could do a split arabesque as well as one of the acrobatically endowed Balanchine Ballerinas! (Dumb me, competitive me -- straining myself, recovering from a broken back that had been fused at the waist, making that arabesque particularly difficult.) I'd made it a shivering "trembling" arabesque for a dramatic reason.

I didn't read that review till almost a year after we'd done the show. Even now, it rings in my mind.

All this week I've been aware of "stats" on TheReadery, measuring how many people are looking at my website, and the "stats" that count how many are reading my blog. All week I've been commanding myself, in our family tradition, not to count, not to base my enthusiasms, joy, or despair on critics, or statistics that measure my success.

You'd have to be me, or someone who's in the public eye, publishing a book that could be a bestseller but isn't, or be an ex dancer who's revered by people who know the art, but doesn't have the clout, the glamor, the aura of ________ you fill in the name.

I'm saying it loud and clear: Counting the number of your fans is as sinful, defeating of one's art, one's work, as throwing out, drowning out, dismissing your own voice that keeps you creating, and tells you who and what you are.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


What's that? My ear. Water? It's a pain. Small. Unexplained, its a big pain.

I look it up in a medical book. It's a Merck Manual that I picked out at Barnes & Noble because it had a good index and wasn't over-loaded with medical terms and too many pictures.

I did have a pain. Not an ache. Whatever it was, it came and went. Everything I looked up in the Manual's index had a page to go to. I went to the various pages. I knew from the first few sentences of each reference that it didn't really apply to me.

But I felt better.

The other night I had a twinge. Was it a tooth or a gum? Upper or lower? I'd been eating the miniature chocolates that JC brings home -- a few each night. At the theater where he's working, the stage manager keeps a supply. Performers grab a couple when they sign in; Some of the actors grab one before their entrance cue. (A Hershey, a Twix, a Snicker -- like knocking on wood or some personal magic words you say to yourself, the ritual helps you focus.)

Skinny me ... mid afternoon I've been dropping into JC's office, opening the center drawer of his small desk. (I have two man-sized desks, and JC has a lady-size desk he found on the street, also a large board sitting on wooden horses scrounged from the street -- why he scrounges, why he has small desk and I have large ones is not going to be explained or delved into). I grab a candy or two and devastate the supply of goodies which he brings home each night. He loves sweets but he knows I'm filching them. What a guy!

What kind of humdrum tale am I unfolding here? Pain, candy, scrounged furniture ... Well, I guess I'm writing all this because the twinge reminded me of the cavity I got when I was hooked on gummy orange chews. At 1 A.M. my eyes pop open. I resolve, NO MORE tiny chocolates.

Pains, little and big: Here's what I've mentioned in my posts: Back hurts in the morning; left knee annoying and often painful. Also, I've had tennis elbows, bursars, Achilles tendon, big toe swellings -- calves cramp, old sprained ankle ligaments act up. Those pains come and go and I work around them. But ...

Peristaltic pains. I get them occasionally, (cabbage, apples, eating too fast, raw carrots, raw beans all of which I love). That pain can land me in the ER.

I know the problem and know a great deal about the symptoms. Possibilities, probabilities don't help, Pain pills don't help.

Staying calm, lying down, keeping warm, tucking in pillow there's not much else to do except time the pain (2.5 minutes between pains usually). Wait, sometimes quite a few hours. Got to live with it, to live with, and therefore ...
Merck Manual. Resolves.
Be Dr. Em for Emily/me -- separate big and little fears.
If you deal with the little fears, more often than not, you'll feel better.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Rebounding, Elizabeth wrote a book about it .

I have written five books in which infidelity is part of the plot. Just a part. They are not my story. I put on characters like I put on costumes. I use my feelings like an actor does, to play the part.

But, I've been there -- I know what infidelity is -- I've been in my own infidelity land.

Her book, my books, what others say, can help you, but nothing can fix, or take away, or erase, or undo, or make nice. Nothing can, but YOU, and time, and quiet -- very quiet private thought about where you want to go. Where you want to walk.

The quiet questions:
Do you want to walk down the street and head where you were already going? Go back? Take another road in another direction? A new direction, forward into the unknown? It might be a wilderness -- new relationship, new environment -- new town, new friends -- new home, bed, bed linens, mementos, pots and pans -- you deal with your own specifics while you're walking and thinking.

The unquiet, nitty-gritty questions:
You want all the sexual details -- the who, what when where why, how? You don't want them? Should you talk, share, get advice, see a counselor, a shrink? If you don't talk, can you put it out of your mind, and just feel?

Small warning:
Just feeling is a wilderness. You do not know what will be there -- anger, tears, mental illness, incapacitating depression. You, me, all of us -- we are who we are on our trip in our life, and what happens, happens.

Advice to the newly wounded:
Hold onto who you are, where you are, and the quiet, very private thoughts -- what do you want, need, seek, wish? Define the "we" of you , the royal we, the boss, king/queen/president of your own life.

Why am I, who am sometimes outspoken, writing this so elliptically, bending over backwards to avoid my private self?

Fancy answer:
Because the morality, the history behind the stories and experiences others have had with infidelity, where others have been -- Hillary, Jackie O, Elizabeth (or Em), doesn't help you find your bearings.

The reasons, the why and wherefore and everything that got where you are is the route you took. It's your map and your territory, and only you can follow it. Only you know how you got there.

Write a book? Sure. It's hard, lonely work. But beware of words, like "faithful, unfaithful," hand-me-down ideas, the dust from the uncountable sources of meaningless, crumbling ideals. Beware of the wind -- the wind blows and it's blinding. You will have no place to walk, if the dust of the past piles up higher and higher and higher around you.

Em's five books in The Readery -- whooee -- that's a lot of words woven in and around what happens to my heroines, and happened to me. None of them are my private quiet story, but I'm saying for the second time in this post -- I have been there. In the dust, in the mess, on the walk, and I know what infidelity means.

Elizabeth's book is her story. You, and I, all of us have a sense of who she is and who he is. It's in the news, absorbing, somewhat prurient, interesting -- like gossip. And touching, because of the Edwards family history -- cancer, a dead child, their extraordinary efforts during the political campaign -- the look of them as a couple. But it's a story in a book. It isn't her.

So what's Em saying about infidelity?
I've got something hopeful and cheerful to say. You emerge, clear eyed, clearer, strong, more directed -- in balance -- when you and the person who put you into the land of infidelity, end up together, sharing it.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I threw out clothes I loved.
I miss them.

I could have thrown out love letters, less regretfully. Even without re-reading those letters, you remember the words ... so precious, caressive ... You don't really want to see if if they feel the same way now.

I had a black coat I bought at Bloomingdales. I was 18. It was fitted. My waist was 24. I was as tall as I am now. (Actually taller -- I keep forgetting the inch I lost, when my broken back was fused.) The coat had a high collar, four inches that stood up, not because it was stiffened with buckram. It just stayed high ... Buttons were covered, fabric soft wool, bodice formfitting, skirt flaring into a half circle ... It made me feel like a Russian princess. It cost $125.00, which was my birthday money.

I was in New York, with barely enough money to live on, having fled, spur of the moment, from the University of Chicago. Was I taking classes at the New Dance Group? I can't quite place this marvelous coat in the sequence of my career pursuits.

A few years later, when I was beginning to be looked at, and wanted to be looked at in unique, ahead-of-the-trend outfits, I sewed a five-inch antique silver chain onto the collar so that I could fasten the elegant collar in an elegant way.

Time passed. I was getting to be a "name" in dance. I had a baby. And a thicker waist. JC was earning a lot . We got me a fabulous, white, sheared Canadian badger coat. With brilliantly hidden zippers, it could be worn as a traffic-stopping full-length evening cloak; a calf-length coat, or a fun "shorty."

Though my Russian Princess coat was stunning, it was tight if I ate anything. Even after I moved the buttons , I rarely wore it. I'd try it on, twirl in front of the mirror, debate what hat to wear, but didn't have anything spectacular, and those were the days when I wanted to look spectacular. So every fall, the coat was taken out of the closet where it was protected by cedar chips -- not worn -- returned to the closet with fresh cedar chips in the spring.

When we were living Malibu, animal lovers were donating furs, not wearing them, and I didn't want to be attacked on the street. Bye-bye incredible three coats in one. I gave my Canadian Badger back to the designer.

When we said bye-bye Malibu and returned to NY, my closets were filled with show biz glamor clothes. There wasn't hanger space for California clothes worn by a writer who'd lived in a log cabin on two acres, who no longer wore high-heeled leather boots, and elegant outfits, because you wear jeans, men's shirts, and sneakers, when your desk overlooks semi-tropical vegetation, and you're expanding "The Woman" into "Woman of the Century." (and mulling over yet another version.)

Yes, clothes affect me, creatively. I had no room for my log cabin outfits, so I made an Em rule. "If you haven't worn it in ten years. you throw it out."

Chiffons, velvets, lace, organza, be-jeweled, sparkling, floating dresses, blouses, skirts ... Bloomingdales coat, capes, jump suits -- I see them one by one as I write this and miss them ... that coat, oh my ...
I called my friend's daughter to whom I'd given a Kangaroo coat I'd bought in Australia, hoping I'd given her my Russian Princess coat. "No," she said, "You showed it to me, but didn't give it me ..."

I'm thinner now -- it would fit, it wouldn't be too tight, but if you haven't worn it in ten years ...

I guess I'm sad because the time for wearing it is gone. I can't get it back -- coat, or glamor clothes, or the person I was. So I'm lamenting the coat because it's gone, like my youth.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Picture us -- balmy day, we're burrowed in our offices. I'm writing; JC's deeply immersed in reading the booklets on how to use a digital camera (the one Paramount Studios gave him).

It sat inside a professionally wrapped gift box, blue linen paper with a fat blue satin bow. It had arrived in a crate containing a star's folding wooden chair with a canvas back that has his name and "Charlotte's Web" stenciled on it.

Crate arrived at Christmas, months after JC shot the film in Sidney, Australia. A year later, Xmas, we opened it -- a deluxe color printer. (We rarely use it. JC occasionally prints a script, highlighting his speeches with yellow toner, but it's easier to do this with a highlighter pen.)

(The movie, filmed in 2004, premiered in 2006. JC didn't attend the gala opening. His part, a small nice role, which was supposed to be played by Paul Newman, ended up on the cutting-room floor.)

Inside the printer box was second box -- fancy blue paper, blue satin bow. We figured it was a camera, but didn't open it till yesterday, when I mentioned to JC that Fran who was proofing "Painting Cities" (posted on my blog on the 20th) said it would be great if we had photos of my hallway gallery.

JC, a guy who fixes toilets, furnace, hot water heaters, and electrical circuits, who is a "dunce" on a computer (yep, I said that -- see my "New Stuff" May 13th post), unwrapped the little box and lo and behold: A digital camera.

The "dunce" took 2 pictures (one of me shaking my head in surprise), and went back to his office; read three booklets and called me in. Lo and behold, he installed it -- digital camera and its complicated editing/publishing software program on his computer.

With JC patiently instructing me, and me, agog, following orders, our "behind the times" family is now in tune with the times, where just about everyone takes photos with cell phones and cameras, and makes home movies.


You guys who read this blog (and have iPhones, Blackberry's and other gizmos), must be shaking your heads -- what's so yippee about that?

What's great is that JC, who never visits John Cullum, actor, his own website, was saying, "Hey, I'm going take some pictures, post them for the fans who've been asking for them ." And me, flabbergasted by the fun I'm having planning a post I'll write as soon as adapter arrives. (Just ordered it!)

We won't have to feed the camera batteries while we're shooting pictures of upstairs, downstairs, PR portraits, posters, scrounged stuff, hallway gallery, green room ...

Yippee! Hurray !