Strippers, Sluts & Umlauts

The other night, I was hanging out with my girlfriends Corinne and Hannah (not their actual names but sort of close). We were yakking about our lives, struggles and loves.

Then, as will happen, the subject turned to stripping.

I think I launched us onto the topic by saying “I always used to figure if I got really broke, I could be a stripper again but, at this point, I wouldn’t be getting top dollar.”

Corinne and Hannah nodded.  Both had come to the sobering realization that they’d reached an age when stripping might not be lucrative.  Mind you, Hannah and Corinne are both gorgeous and very successful.  But those of us who’ve been to the far edges of sanity and insolvency never forget staring into that black maw.  And, from time to time, we think:  Could I still get paid to dance naked?

As I’ve written about before, my stripper career was very brief  and I was terrible at it because I couldn’t quite get used to the feeling of being NAKED IN A ROOM FULL OF STRANGERS.

Hannah, who is blond and extroverted probably did really well (plus, she’s from Texas) and Corinne too.   In fact,  Corinne demonstrated her skill right then and there by reenacting her strip club audition whilst wearing a baggy black sweat suit covered in plaster dust.   She suddenly dropped into a split,  then came back up, shook her ass at us, humped the floor, and did a few other agile and salacious moves.

Not actually Corinne and you can’t have her number

I’d say at least half, maybe more, of the really smart, hot, successful women I’ve known have, at some point, tried stripping.  Laura the Hot Farmer:  Stripper

Side Boob of Laura The Hot Former, retired stripper

Amanda Palmer: Stripper.  Hannah and Corinne: Strippers.

Smart Women Who Have Stripped probably warrants a whole essay, but I don’t have time for that now because I have to tell the story of The Great Umlaut Cake.

Back when I was touring and performing a lot, I dressed like a rock chick.  You know, short skirts, ripped stockings, boots,  bra straps hanging out, that kind of thing.  My BFF Jenny Meyer loved the way I dressed but, she also loved calling me SLUT when I wore a particularly short skirt.   Then, “Slut” got to be a nickname.  Women love to call one another “slut, ‘ho, hooker, whore, tramp, trollop” and the like.  Making those words ours. And only ours.

This morning, I was typing an email to my friend/yoga student Klodin who speaks  many languages and veers between English, French and Italian in the course of a few sentences. My French is severely dormant so I practice by emailing in French. Of course, Google knows everything, so Gmail knew I was typing in French and helpfully gave me auto correct IN FRENCH.  It got confused though when, halfway through the email,  I switched to English.  It thought I was speaking Swedish and put an umlaut over the “I” in the word HAIR.    I sent the email as is.  It probably didn’t make much sense, but few things do and, anyway, Klodin is good at finding sense where there is little sense.

This Google-inflicted umlaut reminded me of The Great Umlaut Story.

One year, maybe twelve or so years ago, for my birthday, my BFF Jenny went to get me a cake at Venerio’s in NYC.  I passionately love the fluffy white birthday cake from Venerios and even though Jenny hates the stuff, it was my birthday, so she ordered me a fluffy white cake and brought it to a big birthday dinner we were having at an Indian restaurant. She took the cake to the kitchen and the waiters were kind enough to bring it out at Jenny’s signal.  It had candles and the whole restaurant was singing Happy Birthday to me and then the waiter  deposited the cake in front of me.  In red it said: “Happy Birthday Slut”

Not the actual Umlaut Cake, which was MUCH prettier

We all laughed so hard we spat on the cake turning it into a Germ Cake, but we’d survived worse, so we ate it.

The best part was how Jenny had gotten the very matter-of fact and non-jovial cake-decorators at Venerio’s to write SLUT on one of their beautiful fluffy white cakes.

“I told them to write happy birthday Sluuut.  They asked for the spelling. I said: S. L. U. T with an umlaut over the U.  I told them the cake was for my friend who is Swedish.  Then, as soon as I left Venerios, I opened the cake box and wiped the umlaut away.”

And that is the story of the Great Umlaut Cake of slutdom and three ex-strippers sitting at a table.


Legs Diamond Lived Here

So today Mickey and I traveled over to Acra, NY, to hang out as a photographer shot the house of prohibition-era gangster Legs Diamond.

Legs Diamond

It’s kind of fitting that, in my nascent realtor career, the sellers I’m representing have a house that belonged to a gangster.

I’ve had a fifteen-plus years love/hate relationship with The Angelmakers, the female gangster book I’ve written seven times and not yet gotten right.

I once nearly had a fist fight with Martin Scorcese in Rome over his (shocking to me) amalgamation of three female gangster characters into one for the movie adaptation of Gangs of New York.

Fist fight material

I read the book Gangs of New York many many times.  And Luc Sante’s Low Life and hundreds of other books on the subject of outlaws in New York.   I am soaked in gangster lore and now I’m selling a gangster house.

I was sitting in the real estate office one day when a Greek couple came in.  They looked at me intensely and said:  “Will you sell Legs Diamonds house for us?”

I thought they were joking.  But they looked very serious.  The man especially.  He refused my offer to sit and stood with his hands clasped behind his back, staring ahead, as his wife, a curvaceous lovely blonde in spike heels, told me about Legs Diamond’s house.  They had owned it for twelve years but they spent little time in it and now wished to sell it.  Would I like to represent them.

Never mind that it’s on a busy-ish road and vaguely in the middle of nowhere, I instantly knew I was destined to sell this house.

Legs Diamond house

Legs Diamond was sometimes known as “The Clay Pigeon” because he survived being shot like 57 times.  Okay.  Maybe four times, but still. One time it was three at close range to the heart.  And he lived on. And on. Until he didn’t.  I think the fifth time, he was shot in the back of the head and that finally did him in.

According to lore (and I haven’t read William Kennedy’s well-regarded tome LEGS to check on all this) Mr. Diamond moved to the house in Acra with his bodyguard, his gang, his wife, and his mistress.  He had guard dogs, flood lights and, according to the guy who used to own the now-defunct bar across the road, a tunnel from his basement to the bar’s basement.

Legs’ mistress Marion

Mickey imitating Legs Diamond’s mistress










The Greek couple have searched and searched for the tunnel (Mrs. Greek Couple feared someone tunneling IN to the house) and if it did once exist, it has since been closed up.

But perhaps I can lure potential buyers with the promise of a hidden tunnel. Not to mention the fact that it’s a cool, rambling house with amazing original light fixtures,  and four bungalows dotted along the two acre spread.

It started pouring rain as soon as the photographer and I arrived at the house so we had to scrap plans for exterior shots and Mickey refused to get out of the car.

All the same, I suggested The Greek Couple remove the patio furniture from the front porch.

Earlier in the day, I had emailed my private yoga student Klodin a picture of the house, explaining I had to go on a little road trip to have it photographed.

“Just remove the clutter from front porch, take pictures, and come back to teach me yoga.”

I did want the stuff moved from the front porch but didn’t want to be indelicate with The Greek Couple who were perhaps attached to having that stuff there.

“I have a friend,” I said, “he’s Italian.” I paused, knowing this alone could explain many things, “he said the photos would look nicer without any stuff on the front porch.”

Mr. Greek Couple muttered “Italians,” shook his head once, then said “Yes, the Italian is right.”

In fact, Klodin (who is not Italian and is not named Klodin) was right.  The house looked a lot better without stuff in front of it.

And soon I will sell it to someone who wishes to soak in gangster lore. Then, maybe, I’ll get my damn gangster girls book done for good.

Hating What I Love

It’s violently cold out. I don’t even know how cold because if I obsessively check the weather one more time to watch  icy blue bands traversing the Hudson Valley radar, it will constitute procrastinating, and I’ve been procrastinating for hours now.  So let’s just say it is horribly cold.

Totally random cute picture of Mickey in the cold

Today was the first day in a long time where I had few obligations.  It was going to be a much-needed day to do nothing other than work on GIRLS & GRENADES.

But first I had to give Mickey his morning walk.  Then go to the gym to do some cardio stuff and elevate my mood.   Then go to launder all my yoga clothes because I’ve used every single scrap of yoga clothing this week and can’t show up in filthy yoga togs to teach Klodin (not his real name) the private student I’ve been working with.  Klodin inspects me head to toe every time I arrive at his well-appointed farmhouse.    He’s a little like my cousin Shahram in that nothing gets by him.  The shade of my lip gloss, the amount of dog hair on my pants, how many minutes early I am, the fact that my most recent book was published FOUR YEARS AGO.

Klodin knows everything about me.  Not in a creepy way, just in a meticulous, German way. Though he’s not German.  And his name isn’t Klodin.

I got back to my apartment mid-afternoon.  Then, I had to start procrastinating.  Read local paper online.  Check Hudson Community Board on Facebook.  Twitter. Email.

Finally, I started writing.  I got a paragraph out.  Then had a texting exchange with my friend Therese who tried to lure me out of the house.  I told her I had to stay in and write or the self-loathing would kick in. I wrote another few sentences.  Then looked the New York Times and stumbled upon a piece by the writer Merrill Markoe about PROCRASTINATING.  (Link here) In it, Markoe not only spoke of her prodigious talent for procrastinating, but also said she HATES WRITING.  She quoted Dorothy Parker:

“I hate writing. I like having written.”

This was nothing shy of a white light experience for me.  I had no idea other writers hate writing. I know plenty of other writers who struggle to write and who procrastinate as much as I do, but I’ve never heard them articulate that they hate writing.  It seems rude to hate writing.  There is some sense that it’s a privilege to write, even if we make way less than minimum wage, are rejected (approximately twenty times for every one thing that comes to fruition)  grotesquely edited, bossed around by unpleasant, social-climbing anthology editors, etc.,  still, there is this sense that it is a privilege to be a writer. Yet I don’t’ actually LIKE writing.  It’s HORRIBLE.

It’s just that I would die without it.  I HAVE TO WRITE because I don’t know what else to do with my mind, how else to make sense of the world and its inhabitants.   For whatever reason, I have trained myself, for many years, to do this thing.  And when I don’t do this thing, I get crazy.  No amount of yoga, bicycle racing, rapacious sex, or buying things can take the place of writing.  If I don’t write, I die.

So, as soon as I finished reading Merrill Markoe’s piece about hating writing, I immediately got back to GIRLS & GRENADES, plowing through a scene where, as often happens, my characters did things that shocked and surprised and sometimes touched me.  And some blood was shed.

Now, I feel more peaceful.  So I can take a break and go to weather dot com and feel a frisson of dread as I procrastinate, staring at the cool blue band on the radar, knowing that I am not alone in being extremely gifted at procrastination and hating the thing I love.

Random pretty picture of Ashokan Reservoir, taken while procrastinating

The Chocolate Factory

As a small child I was a chocolate fanatic.  As a growing adult, I remained a chocolate fanatic.  The first time I ever went to Rome, it was Easter season and there was chocolate everywhere.  I spent the entire Roman trip in a coma of Caravaggio and chocolate.

In my late 30’s I started being unable to put away quite as much chocolate.  In large doses it made me feel sick and headachy.  I had to learn moderation, which doesn’t come easily to me.  Which isn’t to say I didn’t harbor fantasies about The Chocolate Factory, a beautiful building here in Hudson, a building I often walk by, sniffing the sweet air, staring longingly at the façade.

The Chocolate Factory

Today, I got to go inside the chocolate factory.  It was a good day.

I got up before the sun, gave Mickey his morning promenade, then went to yoga at Sadhana to take class with Sondra.

Sondra is a beam of sunshine.  Even when she is very possibly not feeling like actual sunshine, she is able to transmit sunshine.

Sondra (and Maria) transmitting sunshine

Sondra is one of those people who can do absolutely ANY yoga pose with grace and strength.   Plus, she’s really good at saying genuinely soothing, uplifting things. Me, I’m not good at the “uplifting talk” aspect of yoga teaching.  If I  have had some uplifting experience and can relay it off the top of my head, great, but plotting out something to talk about to the yoga class always reminds me of why I didn’t become an actor.

I tried, for five minutes, to be an actor.  During the High Visibility Phase of my writer/performer career, film directors would actually call and ask me to audition for their movies.   I would kind of scratch my head and wonder WHY.  But it’s very flattering when people ask you to audition for things, letting you skip that whole Actually Being An Actor phase and going right to being flown to LA to audition and be driven around and taken to lunch.

I can write just about any conceivable kind of being into existence, but I can’t morph myself into anyone other than ME.  So I was in one movie that shall remain nameless and then ended my acting career and went back to my room to write novels.

Now, as I have perhaps belabored,  the writing biz has changed and  my income from it is modest.  I have to leave my room all the time to make money teaching yoga and selling real estate.   I  am still getting acclimated to this whole Leaving The House thing, but it’s worth it when there is a chocolate factory involved.

Two days ago,  there was yet another New York Times story (here)  about Hudson and how great it is.  Hudson has become the Times’  new darling, mercifully supplanting Lena Dunham and the show GIRLS as a favored topic.

Having not banked on theTimes story causing people to flood into Hudson to buy real estate,  I invited Laura the Hot Farmer to stop by the office for a visit. She  didn’t have much time as she was en route to a town I can’t pronounce to secretly buy chickens.  Apparently, she already has too many chickens so she was off to buy two more on the sly, to then stick them in with the other forty chickens and hope her family wouldn’t notice.

Laura with Mickey, not a chicken

“I’m going to Target too.” She said, “need anything?”

“You can get me some bright-colored clothes,” I said, remembering, with fondness, a long-ago bout of shopping for goofy clothes at a Florida Target with the artist Fiona Rae (Fiona here)

“No,” Laura shook her head, “I only buy clothes for my kids.  Unless you came out of my vagina, I won’t buy clothes for you.”

There was no arguing with this and I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to because, just then, a man loped into the office.  He’d been in Brooklyn, minding his own business,  then had read the Times story, gotten in his car, and driven to Hudson.

“I’d like to see mixed-use buildings,” he said.

I’ve long known about and admired the Chocolate Factory but had never been inside because I had yet to encounter anyone in the market for a church-turned- chocolate factory with a river view.

This man was very intrigued at the prospect of it though and off we went to see the Chocolate factory.

It was exactly as exciting as you would expect.

There was chocolate everywhere and the chocolatiers were friendly and eager to let us sample the chocolate, both before and after our complete tour of the beautiful building.

Mysterious things of chocolate

In the end, the man from Brooklyn did not make an offer to buy the chocolate factory, but I ate lots of chocolate and, by late afternoon, got to go back to my house to brush my dog and  write novels-  after eating chocolate in moderation.

Adulthood isn’t so bad.






Goodbye To All That

My friend Thom Greaney died on Sunday.  My first reaction was total disbelief.  He couldn’t possibly be dead.  He wasn’t old.  He was full of life.  He’d survived 25 years as an NYC Firefighter.  9/11.  The whole bit.  He was a surfer.  A farmer.  A handsome man.

When he retired from the FDNY, Thom took up organic vegetable farming in Olivebridge NY where we were neighbors for a while.

He was one of the most vigorous humans I knew. His back hurt and he had various other ailments that would flare up some day more than others, but  he was always doing things with tractors and shovels and power tools and hoop houses.

Thom dropping by

He dug and planted and also endlessly tinkered with his house, a work in progress that he would sometimes threaten to sell when it vexed him. The house had actually been the brainchild of his brother, who had died suddenly a number of years earlier.  Thom’s building  -and then continually working on – the house seemed like a way to keep his late brother with him.  Now they’re both together.  Somewhere.

Mickey at Thom’s house

My friend Kate called to tell me Thom had died.  He’d been sick but hadn’t told many people.  Definitely hadn’t told me.

Then, I was angry. I thought I was angry with Thom, then realized, no, I was angry at myself.  I’d had a little voice telling me I ought to go over to Olivebridge to visit.  But there were always things to do.

We all always have things to do. And then people we care about die.

So I was angry with myself.  Then that abated and I just wept and missed Thom.

Today was his funeral, out in Rockaway, where he’s from.

One of the things Thom used to rib me about was what a brazen hussy I was to write about the Rockaways and get things wrong.  I always had small details off.   And he’d point them out.

I never got to show Thom an essay I wrote recently that makes mention of Rockaway.  Actually, this blog post was meant to be about the anthology that essay is in, or, specifically, a reading I’m doing for the anthology, but I was thinking about Thom too much.

Let me pause here to say:  Goodbye To All That, a collection of essays about people who loved and left New York City.  I’ll be reading, along with “Darling” Chloe Caldwell, Dana Kintsler and editor Sari Botton on Fri, Feb 7th at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck NY.

There.  I said it.

Now, back to Thom.

In the essay, I wrote about riding my bike out to Rockaway, to what felt like the very end  of New York City. I think Thom would have liked the essay.  Though he’d have found something in it to rib me about.  He always did.

Here is Thom in his hoop house, with his strawberries, last spring.  He was showing me the gnome he’d picked up at the town dump.  He said when the gnome was done scaring invasive species from the hoop house,  it could  could come live with me. 

I don’t want to be one of those creepy people who, after a person dies, contacts the family asking for a promised gnome.

I don’t know where Thom is now.  His body is in Rockaway, surrounded by family and friends, which is as it should be.

His spirit? It’s probably in the ocean. Surfing.






The Hah Man

This morning, I had “floor duty” at the real estate office.

Floor duty sort of sounds like I should be kitted up in a Vanna White outfit offering people vowels.

Vanna White sells vowels

Really, it just means I’m the one in the office should random real estate seekers straggle in.

Few people come in, but, all day long, folks pause to gaze at the plate glass windows of the office, longingly staring at the real estate photos that hang there.

Big houses, little houses, lush estates with rolling meadows.

Under each picture, there is a bit of come-hither copy about the property in question.  I often hear people commenting on the properties, the photos or, sometimes, the copy.

Unless these window gazing people really peer in past the plate glass, they can’t see me at my desk there, watching them, listening to them, and, if they’re sounding snotty, planning unfortunate events for their fictional likenesses in novels.

I was on floor duty recently when I noticed a pretty blond woman peering at the photos in the window.

She was all bundled up, pushing a baby stroller. There was an elegant older man with her and also a nice looking man her own age.  She started loudly and mockingly reading the copy under the photos.  She was particularly contemptuous of a listing with the caption Paradise Found.

She read the copy aloud to her two gentleman friends then made a chortling sound and looked just about ready to spit on the ground.  As she did this, I realized she was Claire Danes.

Claire Danes is the only person on the face of the earth whose attractiveness  Laura the Hot Farmer and I agree on. Laura and I have vehemently disagreed on the hotness of literally hundreds of people of both sexes but Claire Danes is our common ground. And there she was, outside the window of the real estate office, chortling over real estate copy.   I got up from my desk and was about to throw open the window to say “I didn’t write that!” but then the phone rang and I had to answer it and Claire Danes walked on by.

This morning, instead of Claire Danes, I had The Hah Man.

I had just unlocked the office and was putting the sign out on the sidewalk when a tall man lurched toward me, saying “Hah, hah” and gesticulating.   I blinked up at him, trying to figure out what he wanted and why he was saying HAH.  I had no idea on either count and he seemed really agitated, like he might strangle me. So I hurried back into the office.  The Hah Man lurched after me, pointing at the back of the real estate office, saying: Hah hah.

His cheeks were sunken, he had no teeth, and I didn’t know what he wanted.  So  – as politely as possible – I closed the door in his face.  He stood there gesticulating and saying Hah a few more times before storming off.

Back in the day (my friend Richard Boch HATES the expression “back in the day” so I’m using it just for him) when I was in a band with Pat Place and Stevie D and Julia Murphy, we would say Gah a lot, especially on tour.

Like,  “We’re in the middle of Alabama and our motel is infested with large shiny bugs.  Gah.”

Or, “I broke a guitar string, Gah.”

Sometimes, “Tour food is making me hideous and stupid, GAH.”

So, after this apparition of the Hah Man, I thought about Gah and remembered that there was a Gah Man and texted Julia to to be reminded of the story of the Gah Man.

Way back in the day, before our band, Julia and her then boyfriend tied their dog up to a parking meter while they went inside a shop.  This was the 1980’s when everyone was more relaxed with dogs.  Julia emerged from the shop and found a Chinese man pointing at her dog shouting “Gah, gah, gah.”  She quickly untied the dog and walked away and never knew if the guy was yelling at the dog or if perhaps gah might be the word for dog in some Chinese dialect.

So, when the guy this morning was yelling HAH HAH HAH, I thought about Gah Man.   A little later, Richard Boch, came to visit me at the office.  I told him about the Hah Man.

Left to right, Tim, Special Kitty, Richard.

“Oh that guy,” Richard said making a dismissive gesture with one hand, “That guy has no tongue.”

Then, Richard went on his way and I continued on with floor duty. The Hah Man was presumably gesticulating elsewhere.






How To Trust A Chicken

I was standing around at a gathering of friends.  I was talking to Tim 3 (I have several friends named Tim so this one we’ll call Tim 3.)

Tim 3 can sometimes be gross.  Here is Tim 3 being gross at Tim 2’s art opening a while back.

Tim 3

Tim 3 wasn’t being gross yesterday though.  Not that I mind gross.  I’m more nervous about exceedingly tidy, well-mannered people than gross people.  I figure people who do gross things are letting their weirdness and idiosyncrasies show whereas well-mannered tidy people are HIDING SOMETHING.  Probably in back of a panel truck with a lot of meat cleavers.

As Tim 3 and I were yakking, an acquaintance named Patti was standing nearby talking with some other friends about learning to trust a chicken.

Tim and I overheard this bizarre statement and looked at each other.

Tim 3 and I definitely both heard Patti say “I needed to learn to trust a chicken.”

Tim 3 turned to me and said: I never trust chickens.

I said: I had a pet chicken when I was four.

He said: Did you trust it?

I said: Not especially.

Interestingly, this theme of trusting chickens came at the end of a week filled with family, dairy products and EGGS.

I didn’t want to be a total pain in the ass when I visited my mom for Christmas so I ate food made with eggs and butter.  It did not kill me, but my mom and my brothers and niece and nephew all knew I wasn’t that into eating it.  They spoke, slightly mockingly, of my animal welfare concerns.  I tried explaining that while the heinous mistreatment of food animals is why I abstain, another consideration might be FOULNESS and severe risk to one’s own welfare. The animals pumped full of drugs and filth and packed in drugs and filth and shipped and sold in drugs and filth and, guess what ends up inside your body? Drugs and filth!

Ironically, I was always the drugs and filth girl of the family.  Now I’m just the eccentric vegan with a pit bull who got TERRORIZED BY POODLES.

My mom has fifteen poodles. The shock value in the statement “My mom has fifteen poodles” is pretty amazing.

I love my mom and she is a very beautiful human being.  She just has a lot of poodles.  And they are jerks.  They catch one GLIMPSE of Mickey (when we visit, we are banished to the barn apartment so the poodles don’t have to see Mickey much) and they go bonkers, barking and lunging and acting like homicidal maniacs.   Walking on mom’s farm is kind of like being in one of the violent uprising scenes in Planet of the Apes.  Except with poodles instead of apes.   

So Mickey mostly stayed in the barn and I traveled between barn and house, hanging with my brothers and being forced by my tireless 8-year-old niece to hike, swim, and do yoga pretty much continuously when not consuming dairy products.

My mom was constantly rustling around, cooking, grooming poodles, horse whispering, and putting my brothers to work stacking hay, feeding horses, doing horse laundry.

Here is Geronimo the horse, quite naked (and dirty) as his horse blanket was being laundered.

Only my nephew was mellow. Enjoying his break from his CHICKEN business.

My nephew is twelve-years-old, has 30 something chickens, and runs an egg business that he’s soon passing along to my niece.  Hopefully, by next Christmas my niece will be tired out from running the egg business and won’t run my ass ragged.

I asked my nephew what he does with the chickens when they are past their egg-laying prime.  Does he whack them and eat them?  He said some, but the ones he likes he keeps as pets.

Because chickens are like any other animal.  They have personalities and quirks and habits. Some are likable, others, you wouldn’t trust AT ALL.

As it happens, last night, Tim 3 and I learned that our acquaintance Patti was NOT seeking to learn to trust a chicken.  She wanted to learn to TRUSS a chicken.

So that’s a very different story.

Nomad Like Me

So, my new apartment isn’t working out that well.  It’s like living in the East Village in the 1990’s, except Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields lives down the block now instead of directly overhead.  We apparently follow each other everywhere, though we don’t know each other well.   I adore Stephin Merritt, not only for his magnificent music, but for his recent adopting of Zydeco,  a 17-year-old Chihuahua with medical problems.

Zydeco photo by Stephin Merritt

Stephin is safely ensconced in a lovely townhouse down the street and I no longer get to hear him composing 69 Love Songs in its entirety through my apartment ceiling.

The neighbors I do have are distinctly less musical.

There is the inexplicable late night banging from the Indian couple across the way.  Around 11:30 at night, they begin DRAGGING AND BANGING.  They seem lovely when glimpsed from a distance, but, obviously, they are up to something REALLY HORRIBLE.

Then there is the older lady downstairs who has an endless stream of visitors who come in and out of the big fenced yard that was a lure for renting the place. The visitors leave the gate yawning open so that more weird people can wander in and frighten Mickey when he’s trying to pee.  Plus, many of them are drunk or loud or both.  One of them would not stop talking at me and asking me for things.  He was really drunk. Teetering.  I probably could have pushed him over easily, but I don’t want to push people over, unless they’re students in one of my yoga classes. There,  whenever I walk near, people start trying to self-correct wonky alignment and then fall over.

Maybe I should correct the drunk guy’s alignment.  But he would like it too much.

So I’m looking for another place to live and the indignities abound.  Many rentals don’t take dogs.  The ones that do are often as expensive as Brooklyn rentals.  Or really nasty and loud and ugly.  And I have this (apparently) wildly ambitious aim to find a place with a yard I can get to without traipsing through multiple halls and doors and stairways.

To this end, I went to look at the apartment of my friends Therese and Sarah who are moving to Albany where Therese will embark on a stand up comedy career (she is very young and very funny) and Sarah will presumably begin a shoe design business.

Sarah and Therese

When I asked about one of the closets in the living room, Therese said, “Go ahead, you can look inside.”  So I did.  And there were shoes.  Many many shoes.  Many SEXY shoes.

“Whoa.”  I said, “that’ a lot of sexy shoes.”

Sarah’s Shoe Closet



“It’s Sarah’s shoe closet.” Therese said in a way that implied she greatly enjoys having a girlfriend with an entire closet full of sexy shoes.

But the apartment wouldn’t work for me.  No fenced yard and stairs and halls just to get outside and Mickey has a little arthritis coming on and needs to minimize his stair-climbing.

Perhaps we’ll end up moving to my mom’s barn in Maryland.  Though nothing in life is free and my mom LOVES putting her offspring to work.  When my brothers visit, they spend every waking moment fixing stuff, mowing, plowing, dealing with horses, horse laundry, horse feed.  I would be worked to the bone if I lived in my mom’s barn.  Plus, her poodles would terrorize Mickey every day. The whole thing about what even-tempered dogs poodles are?  Total lie. My friend Porochista’s poodle is endlessly bossing around the pit bulls at his dog run.

Porochista and Cosmo the Pit Bull Bully

My mom’s poodles bark and lunge at Mickey as EVERY SINGLE POODLE we ever encounter does.  Mickey, who, as I often mention, has no idea he’s a PIT BULL, cowers and trembles.

So no barn-dwelling for us.

I realize I’m a realtor now and should be able to manifest dreamy little shacks with  yards but, so far, all I’ve been able to manifest are gorgeous houses and farms I couldn’ t afford even if I wrote seven bestsellers optioned for film by the Coen Brothers.

So the search continues and I will keep on peering into the closets of strangers.   And hope to find them all full of sexy shoes.

The Blizzard Outfit

I have been wearing the same outfit for about eight days.  So don’t hug me.

When I have to go teach yoga or do Realtor Biz, I change into appropriate clothing, but, the moment those activities are over, I race home and put my blizzard outfit back on. It is beginning to get ripe.

There aren’t any laundry machines in the building I moved into.

I have not lived laundry-machine-less since, like, the 1990’s and I refuse to devote large chunks of time to schlepping laundry somewhere. So I keep putting my go-to blizzard wear outfit on day after day after day no matter what it may smell like.

I know some folks around town have noticed.  Pretty soon, I’m going to have to announce to everyone I encounter: “I DO have other clothes, but none suitable for dog walking in blizzards.  Also, I have no laundry machines.  Please help me.”

There are many shitty horrible things in the world.  There are also many beautiful radiant things.  In the grand scheme of things, being without laundry is a luxury problem.  But, apparently, I have become a luxury person. I WANT CLEAN CLOTHES. Without having to work really hard to get them.

My blizzard outfit involves the long johns my mom gave me last Christmas,  a bulky sweater, the Boys’ Department camouflage cargo pants I got for $9.99 at Kohls and have worn 567 times, big wooly socks, goofy hat, my fluffy fake fur coat from the local Salvation Army. 

The pricey item of the outfit is a giant magenta DKNY scarf I bought one day in uptown Manhattan when I was heading somewhere where I needed to look presentable and was thus underdressed and about to freeze to death.  I looked up from my freezing misery and there was a shop window with a distinctly toasty looking mannequin wearing said scarf. I went in and bought the scarf, wrapped half of it around my head, the rest around my neck.  I was warm and presentable too.  It was expensive, but it’s now served me four winters.

All my upstate friends here keep saying “I’m trying to pretend I’m really into upstate winters.”

Laura the Hot Farmer is crafting way to de-freeze the pigs watering troughs.

Robin the Kayak Vixen is fine tuning her kayaking skills in a pool INDOORS.

But only one of my friends, Peter, actually is into it, and that’s because he’s one of those Dudes Who Thrives In Cold. He skis and hikes and even rides his bike (a special winter cyclo cross bike with fat tires and a fender) like EVERY DAY.  Peter is not a man of leisure, he has an Actual Job, but apparently gets up at 3am in order to begin the many outdoorsy activities that make him love winter.

The rest of us, seemingly, just lock ourselves indoors and/or grit our teeth, find blizzard outfits, and go out into the world.

The snow-covered world can be very beautiful.  That cottony silence that Hubert Selby Jr. calls the “song of the silent snow.”

The post-blizzard moon rising out the window of my laundry-less, bamboo-floored abode.

But, mostly, it’s just cold, and my clothes smell and my dog’s delicate feet are sore and cracked from the unavoidable salt on the sidewalks.

Move, you say?

No way.  I love it here.

I might love it more in Central America, providing no one killed me.  But that will be an adventure for my future.

For now, I shall be cold and ripe and endeavor to pretend I like it.

So go ahead, hug me.

Travails Of A Tan Sock

The first blizzard is headed for upstate New York and the weather forecasts sound like the last paragraph of James Joyce’s The Dead.

When I was a youngster, I remember hearing that William Burroughs’ advice to writers was simply:  “Read the last paragraph of The Dead. A lot.”

So I did.   I even took a few snippets and worked them somewhere into my first novel.  The copy editor corrected it.  Not for being James Joyce, but for some other infraction.

I especially love the last line: “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

I wanted to give Mickey a good long walk this afternoon since we will be barricaded in by snow tomorrow.  So we went to The Historic Site That Shall Remain Nameless where Lulu the Cat is buried.  When she died, the area where she is buried was leafy and green and lovely. Now it is barren and cold but has a fine view of a lake.  I could hear her little warrior cat soul swooning as the bare branches ached and the ice on the lake made singing sounds.

When I first moved to upstate New York, my friend Jenny Meyer began visiting me whenever she could wrestle a few days away from the city.

She would always arrive toting lots of luggage and extra coats and scarves, as if heading for the deep Artic (which upstate New York IS to a girl from Queens via Tehran) – even in summer.    She would go to the guest room, put on a comfortable outfit (comprised entirely of loose red clothing topped off by tan cotton socks) and pretty much stay put, studying Sanskrit, complaining violently at the suggestion of going anywhere.

Note tan sock on elevated foot

Over time, Jenny started leaving tan socks at my place. A lot of tan socks.  It was my job, once Jenny’s visit was over, to launder her red things and her tan socks too so they’d be clean next time she visited.  I dutifully complied.

At some point,  I got low on socks and I started wearing Jenny’s tan socks.  They were remarkably comfortable.

Then, as will happen, I started losing the socks.  A year or so ago, there were still at least three tan socks.   Then, it got down to ONE.

Enter Stevie the Mexican Beach Dog.

Stevie loves socks. They are the greatest things humans ever invented for amusing dogs.

Sock tug with black sock

A couple weeks ago, Mickey and I moved to an apartment here in Hudson.  I want to live alone and COMPLETELY clutter-free so I brought only essentials, leaving  the rest behind, including Jenny Meyer’s last tan sock.

Sometimes Stevie destroys socks, other times he merely transports then room to room.  Occasionally, Mickey will grab one end of a sock and play sock tug, but, mostly, Stevie is on his own with the sock game.

At some point, Jenny Meyer’s last tan sock got loose in the house and I noticed Stevie transporting it.  But I couldn’t catch him and Jenny hadn’t been up to visit in quite some time so I just shrugged, vowed to buy replacement tan socks, and let Stevie have the last tan sock.

Today, after visiting Lulu’s grave, Mickey and I went to see Stevie.  He greeted us by bounding over to the front gate with what appeared to be part of a deer leg in his mouth.  It was fawn-colored and funny-shaped like the half a deer leg Mickey found in the woods one time. 

On closer inspection, I saw the little orange SOCK SEAM and realized it was the last of Jenny Meyer’s tan socks.  Frozen into the shape of a deer leg.

Stevie was very proud of it, kept thrusting it toward Mickey and me, trying to get one of us to play Frozen Tan Sock Tug.

But it was too cold out.  Eventually, Stevie dropped the tan sock and we all went inside and the dogs played with an unfrozen sock.

As for the last tan sock, it is out there, near the garden gnomes, twisted into its deer leg shape, waiting for the blizzard, waiting for the descent of its last end.   By spring, maybe it will have new life.