Saturday, February 12, 2011


Why is my every-day life entangled -- I'm being strangled, choked, stifled by civil wars, killings, diseases, horrors here, there, everywhere, in places -- cities, villages, countries I can't pronounce or find on the map.

And villains, or are they friends? the presidents, dictators, old tyrants, new despots brutalizing thousands -- Hutus, Tutsis, Sunnis, Shi'ites, Rwandans, Hezbollah -- stop them? do something? do what in Haiti? what about Iran, N. & S. Korea, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Communist China -- an unending list of names and places that have no meaning to me except death, disaster, woe, and here I am doing nothing -- a helpless do-nothinger!
Before we went to war in Iraq, we knew that Sunnis and Shi'ites could never ever get along, and yet millions, billions -- money and lives -- were spent and are still being spent on what -- to gain, obtain, and win what?

Most pundits agree the big loser is the U.S.

I don't know about you, but I am derailed when I see yet another unpronounceable name or strange faraway place that's an enemy or an ally, with a bunch of seriously downtrodden humans to pray for.

Sure, I can Google. I have an atlas, and the NY Times, and three TV sets educating me, mellow voices pronouncing new names and places that are falling apart, exploding, burning and desperately needing American money-money-money.

Is your head spinning? Mine is. I'm worried about Arizona, and guns, and Congress revving up various major attacks on the White House while we're fighting in Afghanistan, threatening Iran, waiting, watching to see if what happened in Tunsia, what's happening in Egypt, will inspire protesters, fire up horrifically bloody revolutions throughout the middle east. east.

When I was a child, I remember a lot of talk about "isolationist America."

There has always been a strong isolationist streak in American political life. President Washington, then Adams, then Jefferson, each of them (in different ways, for different reasons) kept us from getting entangled, and when President Madison got us involved it was almost a disaster -- so the idea of staying out of European Wars became an accepted principle for us.

Anyhow, (I'm whispering), I wish we were able to turn back the clock, ignore all the unpronounceable names and places, and dangerous spots that just might explode.

We can't. We won't. We're Daddy/Mommy/Big Brother/Uncle protector of all those "- stan" places. Gee, the only people I know, who know all the names and can pronounce them, are Obama, Hillary, Gates, (and probably Valerie Jarret).

Well ... even though I'm a do-nothinger, who still isn't sure how to pronounce things, I can pray, so I'm seriously praying that the good smart folks in the White House will keep lending a hand to the family. Yes -- these days, like it or not, love them or not, the family is the rest of the people in the world.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Sally Field has always been a sympathetic, believable whatever-she's- playing -- union organizer - mother - loving lover - victim. Every role she plays is truthful, as if the girl/lady/woman is the real Sally.

For the past six years, Field has been the spokeswoman for Boniva, the-once-monthly medication for the treatment and prevention of Osteoporosis (thinning bones, pain in the joints), in postmenopausal women.
In each ad, Sally is busy exercising, or playing, doing a lot of bending, telling us how great she feels, because she's taking Boniva.. Sixty-four-year-old Sally looks fantastic -- younger and younger -- more like fifty something, and lately, sometimes in her late-forties.

Is this looking younger thing her idea? It's confusing. She doesn't look like a woman who needs Boniva. It's as if she's showing would be directors, producers, agents that Sally Field still has the looks, the vitality of a film's leading lady.

Hey Sally, I love your work as an actress. But the moment a Boniva ad appears with you in it -- I don't know why -- but lickety-split, I change the channel.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The front curtain rose. The clapping was rhythmic. Someone yelled "Bravo!" From the balcony there was a deluge -- programs -- little white airplanes flying in, bombarding me as a uniformed usher appeared with a huge bouquet of long-stemmed roses from the management.

As he lay them at my feet there were catcalls, hisses, people yelled "Geyhen heim, go home." Others were yelling, "Brava, bravo!" With a nod, thanking them, I bent, took one rose from the bouquet, stood up straight, and looking at the audience, held the rose to my heart. The curtain came down again.

The curtain stayed down. Sound from the warring crowd faded. "Why did they boo?" I asked the Dresser who helped remove the caftan. She shrugged, and disappeared before I could ask her to unhook the hooks on my body-suit.

I sent a smile to the Russian folk dancers in the wings as they getting ready to go on next, but no one smiled back. Climbing the stairs up to my dressing room, I passed the Nigerians who were performing after the Russians. Engrossed in adjusting their costumes, they didn't glance at me.

In my dressing room, I stuck the rose in my water glass. Twisting, wriggling myself out of the bodysuit, I heard the applause for the folk dancers on the loudspeakers ... one ... two ... three ... four curtain calls, cheers. no boos, no bravos.

I ran a comb through my tangled hair. My chic gold lamé dress for the party, gold pumps, bronze net stockings were waiting. Vanderhoff, the head of the Festival, had personally invited me --"We shall toast you with champagne, Fraulein."

My large blue duffel bag was open. Travel things were laying in it. Elektra's costume, rug, makeup, practice clothes needed to be packed.

Someone knocked. "You have visitors," said Arty, the friendly young Brit, who'd met me when I arrived, and chauffeured me to the hotel, and the theater.

The man and woman came in saying, "Bravo! We saw Elektra in New York -- it's fascinating choreography. You were excellent. Wonderful music!" The three of us made cheerful loud conversation as the loudspeakers broadcast the applause the Nigerians -- one, two ... four ... six ... eight curtain calls -- a roaring standing ovation.

The woman murmured something about Cologne audiences being Anti-Jewish. The man said, "I'm sure the critics will rave about your dancing."

I grabbed their words. "Did you notice anything ... I slipped a bit." (I couldn't ask -- I was dying to ask -- did you see the JIGGLE?)

As they went out the door, they said, " You are wonderful! You remind us what dancing is all about, Miss Frankel."

I did some of the packing, figuring Arty would help me with the rug after the party. I did my hair and makeup, donned my party finery, and clip-clopping in my high heels, I headed down the empty hallway to the Green Room.

Opening a door marked Grün Saal, it took a second to realize that I shouldn't have packed -- everyone was seated, eating, chatting. Where to sit? There was a vacant seat at the Russians table piled with coats. At Vanderhoff's table, the ballerina from England was clinking glasses with him.

There was a hush as I clip-clopped in my blazing gold outfit to the buffet. The waiters were already removing empty dishes. There was no salad or hot food left. I helped myself to three slices of Munster cheese, some crackers, and black coffee. Stood there holding a plate, hoping someone would wave.

No one did.

There was a chair near Arty. His friend was describing Fred and Ginger in an old movie he'd just seen. Nibbling on a cracker, I saw Vanderoff stand up. Wrapping my food in a paper napkin, slipping it in my purse, I said, "Arty, my plane leaves at 1 a.m. I need your help. I'll be upstairs in my dressing room. See you in 20 minutes." And hurried over to Vanderhoff as he kissed the ballerina's cheek.

I waited. then tapped his shoulder. Thank you for your hospitality, and the beautiful bouquet of roses." ... No smile, not a flicker of response ... "Thanks to your excellent stage crew, I enjoyed dancing -- I felt I danced well, but the audience's reaction surprised me."

Vanderhoff took out a handkerchief. Polishing his glasses, said, "We pride ourselves on the excellence of our staff." He put on the glasses, clicked his heels, saying "Viel glück. Auf Wiedersehen, Frau Frankel" And turned away.

The crowd in the doorway parted as if I were a leper as I went out. I ran down the hallway, raced up the stairs. feeling as if I were being consumed by fire.

I dumped out the rose, stuck the rose in my purse, and drank three glasses of water waiting for Arty. He didn't show up. Someone had piled Elektra's rug outside the dressing room door. It was heavy, hard to cram into the duffle. Grim, sweating, in my gold dress, and net stockings minus the heels, I pushed, rolled, and shove the duffel down the three flights of stairs.

In the street, I managed to wave down a taxi. The taxi took me to the airport. I changed clothes and boarded my plane. The rose had soaked the napkin covering my food. It was a six hour plane trip. I ate my soggy dinner and dozed, in between reviewing jiggles, white paper planes, boos, Geyhen heim, go home.

At Kennedy airport, after customs, and porters, when I was in a taxi -- with its windows wide open and New York air swatting me in the face, I wept.

JC made me grits, bacon and eggs, and buttered a first slice, a second and my third slice of toast. Telling him what happened, I realized I'd never know ... if it was the jiggle, the anti-Jewish thing, or the outrageous choreography.

I put the wilted bent rose in a glass of water with an aspirin. It never regained its stance. But I did. Hey, being booed is ... not fun ...

But weeping in a cab, glad, so glad to be home -- having the events of Cologne in my mind/body/soul -- it gives me gut power -- that's something to hold onto, to remember, and brag about!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I was a guest artist at the International Dance Festival du Cologne -- they were paying me well -- one performance only -- the other artists on the program were all recognizable names.

I was an up-and-coming name, excited, tickled, to be there. My "Elektra" was choreographed by Todd Bolender to dissonant modern music by Hans Werner Henze. Both were names in the dance and music worlds.

My costume was a white body suit. The solo began with me wrapped in a white rug, rolling in, unrolling till a torn-looking white cloth rug covered the entire floor.
Rising up, in a lyrical adagio depicting Elektra's memories of love, my movements accelerated into passion, then murderous rage. It ended with me in a victorious pose, arms up high, blood dripping from my upraised hands.

My solo had received good reviews in New York. I figured it would be a hit with the European Press and the Festival's international audience.

I planned my curtain calls. First -- with my bloody hands behind my back, a deep bow. Then I slipped on my gorgeous, floor-length, white silk caftan --it took 20 seconds, For the second curtain call, , as the front curtain opened, I'd enter from the back wall of the stage -- proceed slowly downstage to the footlights -- open my arms as if embracing the crowd. Then, curtsy deeply, accepting the applause.

Additional curtain calls? I expected bravas, cheers and at least four curtain calls.

Before the performance, I nibbled on a square of chocolate -- you don't eat if you're performing in a white body suit.

There was a welcoming trickle of applause as I began the rolling entrance. The packed house was riveted as I unfolded myself. You could hear a pin drop, as I rose up from the floor, and my body in white was completely revealed.

(Even as I tell this story, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach.)
My first steps ... okay. Balancing . a tiny jiggle. Cursing myself -- in dance, like in ice skating, when you flub, an audience is eagle-eyed, watching to see if you'll flub again.

I conquered the agony, and went on to the climax -- found the blood bag (a tiny balloon hidden on the rug), pricked it with its pin, bloodying myself.

With the final chord -- full-out, wham -- I hit the triumphant Elektra, the Murderess pose.
Dead silence.

Someone started clapping ... I sense the audience is stunned -- I'd done the ending brilliantly. Guttural low sound ... is it a moan? Bloody hands behind me, I lower my head, and bow.

Is it a boo? ... two, maybe three voices ... dreadful sound ...

Curtain closes ... boos ... definitely boos, and clapping hands applauding louder. I rush upstage, wipe my hands on the towel my dresser hands me while helping me into the white silk caftan -- ready to take the leading-lady star's bow I'd planned, rehearsed with the stage manager and stage crew!

Unexpected things -- sometimes you can handle them. Sometimes you can't.

I do it. Head high, I enter from the back and do the long walk, proceed to the footlights in my gorgeous silk caftan, open my arms as if embracing the audience and do my deep, graceful curtsy, as boos and applause are mounting -- warring. Front curtain descends slowly ... dear God, so slowly -- will the stage manager bring it up again. Will the ordeal continue?

It did.

More about cheers and boos tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Edison Pena, one of the 33 Chilean miners, was in New York City in November.

After 69 days underground, in darkness, with death hanging over him, he was somewhere he never ever dreamed he could be -- in America, to run in NYC Marathon

What a change. Up -- way up he was, from where he'd been.

On The Late Show with Dave Letterman, the 34 year old Pena joked, chatted, was even embraced by Dave. Pena met and dined with other celebrities. Pictures of him, articles about him, were all over the news.

Feted, praised, photographed, recognized, he was a man people paid attention to. Exercising, 2,230 feet below the earth in the San Jose mine, not dealing with death, just singing Elvis' hit songs, certain he was doing what the Lord wanted him to do, he'd ascended and arrived at ... well, it felt as if NYC was the top the world.

During the Marathon, as he ran, people called out his name, saluted him, offered him flowers, food, water, parties, love.

Graceland gave Pena a trip to Memphis, a private tour of the mansion and all of the exhibits, including the Sun Studio where the great singers, the musicians Pena admired -- Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis -- all started their music careers.

In Las Vegas, January 10th through the 12th, Pena participated in Viva Elvis, the Cirque du Soleil show at the ARIA Resort & Casino. During each performance as the orchestra played "Blue Suede Shoes," Pena rode in the show's representation of Elvis's pink Cadillac, and during the curtain call, he spoke to the audience, told them --"Fantastic -- the scenery, the special effects, the music, all of you. You are the best and beautiful. I have no words."

Now, back in his Chile, he's feted -- people know his name and face, and want his autograph.

He has glowing memories -- pink Cadillac ... crossing the finish line... gifts from rich people and strangers .. cheers, roar of applause, in his ears.
But Edison Pena is back at work in the mine again because his disability pay was canceled -- government officials said "because of "excessive travel abroad."

He had glory and now it's black dark walls, shafts of artificial light, un-fresh air. He had hopes, big dreams, dreams beyond dreams. Now it's coal dust, dirt, the cacophony of
hammers, chiseling, drills.

He needs money to pay for food, and pay the rent on his small room.

I want to tell him, "Mr. Pena, your ups and downs -- that's life. You reach. You strive to go beyond where you are, beyond what's real -- and what confines you -- and you're on your way. When you do that, you are somewhere. Mr. Pena, you have to do it, sometimes, again and again. When I do that, I'm somewhere."

Monday, February 7, 2011


Can depression be cured? Can it be treated and helped by therapy?

The heavy, negative feelings that defeat energy and hope -- that make the cup of everything in your life seem empty, not full -- that logical, too clear sense that you are stuck, unable to extricate yourself from failure and the blackness, the weight and gravity of the fact that you are doomed -- that is DEPRESSION.

Hey, there's new medical news: There might be a gene for DEPRESSION. DNA provides clues to understanding stuff like DEPRESSION. Your genes aren't destiny. Researchers report that one particular gene may increase the risk of the D-Cup-Is-Empty state of mind, but -- cheer up, you depressive guys -- the gene gets nasty only in combination with an added, non-genetic factor -- a stressful, lousy, life event.

Thus and therefore, the researchers conclude that people with one form, one nasty form of a protein that ferries serotonin (the famous mood-related neurotransmitter), are prone to DEPRESSION when something traumatic happens -- for instance, if you've been diagnosed with a medical illness, or if you're a victim of childhood abuse.

If you've got the nasty, harmful gene, it prevents nerve cells in your brain from reabsorbing serotonin, and that is what leads to those feelings of sadness, that negative doomed mood, and makes it very hard for you to recover emotionally from a crisis, and get out of the deadly doldrums.

Don't start cheering just yet. Yes, new medical news confirms that you need Serotonin when you're stressed, (some doctors questioned that). The new news says maybe, possibly, perhaps, this can be fixed by Epigeneticists working on the "Epi" (upper part of a gene). You can start cheering when gene fixers announce a pill that'll fix the nasty protein -- get it back to ferrying serotonin.

I hope they hurry up and do it soon. Before the Repubs get seriously down and dirty on destroying Obama Health Care.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


John Cullum and his worried wife, Emily Frankel, talk about current news -- what's happening in Egypt, and the White House.

Though John's thoughts, and comments are practical, and realistic, what he says doesn't give Emily much comfort.