Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The end of this year




Last week, Steve, Zoe and I went to visit our friends Emily and Len at their beautiful country home outside of Honesdale, Pennsylvania for Christmas. It was relaxing and we cooked some great meals (I was a sous chef and did clean up.) I didn't think about work or money or the future for those five days. I read and took walks and enjoyed nature. Len is the only person I know who can tell me jokes and really make me laugh. He used to have a comedy radio show and his timing is impeccable.


It's hard to know what to say about a year that has brought us a major economic downtown, an historic election, Sarah Palin, a despicable sociopath named Bernard Madoff and the end of eight long years of the worst administration in our lifetime.

Goodbye, so long, adios.

I am hopeful that 2009 will be a better year for everyone.

Amen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Our human situation (the three marks of existence)"

I've been carrying around a collection of Pema Chodron's writings and today I read this, which comes from "The Places That Scare You."


"The Buddha taught that there are three principal characteristics of human experience: impermanence, egolessness and suffering (or dissatisfaction.) The lives of all beings are marked by these three qualities. Recognizing these qualities to be real and true in our own experience helps us to relax with things as they are.

I feel gratitude to the Buddha for pointing out that what we struggle against all our lives can be acknowledged as ordinary experience. Life does continually go up and down. People and situations are unpredictable and so is everything else. Everybody knows the pain of getting what we don't want: sinners, saints, winners, losers. I feel gratitude that someone saw the truth and pointed out that we don't suffer this kind of pain because of our personal inability to get things right.

When I begin to doubt that I have what it takes to present with impermanence, egolessness and suffering, it uplifts me to remember that there is no cure for the facts of life. This teaching on the three marks of existence can motivate us to stop struggling, against the nature of reality. We can stop harming others and ourselves in our efforts to escape the alternation of pleasure and pain. We can relax and be fully present for our lives."


Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow day - Fort Greene Park




Slumdog Millionaire

Okay, I've seen a lot of the films that are coming out now - and I really enjoyed many of them - but as my friend Jim said a few posts ago, go see "Slumdog Milionaire." It's fantastic. It is probably my favorite film of the year. A must see. Danny Boyle did a brilliant job directing. Great actors, young kids and some Bollywood stars. It's based on a novel and it's amazing because Danny Boyle had never been to India before the filming. He really captured the city of Mumbai and India. It's an interesting mix of realism, fantasy, and probably some other genres that I can't think of now.

If you haven't seen it yet, definitely put it on the top of your list.





Thursday, December 11, 2008

A perfect rainy day

So even though it poured all day (and continues to pour all night) I managed to enjoy the day. "Last Chance Harvey" was the screening I went to. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson were both lovely, a perfect rainy day film.

I wish I had a clue what I'm going to do next though. It's great having screenings to go to, but everything feels so unsettled now. I picked up a small book of Pema Chodron's writings to carry with me. And I read a really sad and beautiful piece in the New Yorker by Roger Rosenblatt called "Making Toast" about the death of his daughter. She was in her thirties and left three young children and her husband. Rosenblatt and his wife moved in with their son-in-law to help out with the kids. The piece is very moving. It's also on line on the New Yorker website.

Steve has his big presentation tomorrow in Jerez, Spain. He's curating a photography show (along with a few films) about the gypsies in Spain during the late 60's and he will be speaking about the project. Here is a link to the website:

http://www.flamencophotoproject.com/index.html


Ain't no sunshine

I have nothing much to say today except that we haven't seen the sun in what? Five days? If I lived in Seattle I would slit my wrists. December, January, February, I hate them all. Okay, December isn't so bad because I like all the Christmas decorations, but right now it does seem as if the news is just constantly crazy and terrible (a governor SELLING a Senate seat?) Unemployment keeps going up, government bailouts to the tune of billions and billions. Even our broker said the word "depression."

The morning is the worst time for me. Today was no exception. And my ipod broke two nights ago and I feel lost without it, so I'm heading over to Tech Serve to get it fixed.

I went to the Writers' Guild Christmas party Tuesday night and it was also fairly gloomy. Last year it was at the Friar's Club, which is a fantastic place. It was so crowded and everyone needed to party, because we were on strike. This year, I showed up in a teal sequined top (sooooo unlike me) and I felt like a Christmas tree compared to everyone there. And truthfully, I wanted to leave after ten minutes. But then a woman named Chi Chi, who was wearing a red sweater with a large sparkly pin and a lovely black beret said to me, "You look so hot in that fabulous top!!" And I realized I did look pretty good and rather than fading into the background, I put myself out there...which was extremely uncomfortable but also interesting. Chi Chi was there with a lovely young writer who had won three Emmys for writing for Chris Rock (she told us that, not him) and we had a fun conversation.

So at your next holiday party, I recommend showing up dressed like part of the decorations. It may brighten everyone's spirits.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Later on, a bumpy day

Didn't have a great day. Lucy is sick (our older dog) and she has been peeing in our loft. I'm worried about her, and work, and money, and pretty much everything. Damn, I hate this feeling. I was doing pretty well there for a couple of weeks.

It will pass.

Here today

Monday morning, for the past three years I've been dreading Mondays. I've also been fearing depression, especially as we come close to winter.

I guess you would call that not being in the moment. This morning I re-read another chapter in "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron and read this paragraph: "The essence of life is that it's challenging. Sometimes it's sweet, and sometimes it's bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100 percent healthy. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about this approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride.... To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. .... To live is to be willing to die over and over again."

I was walking the dogs in the park this morning and now all the leaves are off the trees. It felt like a kind of death, when I looked around. I generally hate this time of year, but for some reason I am enjoying it, even though last night it was windy and cold and I didn't have enough layers on. Listening to my ipod while I race home from the subway at night helps me to move quickly and not mind the cold so much. What did we do before such inventions?

Anyway, I wish for you a day with a few bumps.

Oh - one more thing. I'm rehearsing for a song we are singing at our final Mama Gena weekend, which is this coming weekend. My group (eight of us) are singing "Mamma Mia" but with new lyrics "Mama Gena." It should be really fun. We're all wearing blond wigs and I'll try to post a photo of our group in our costumes. (Although we're not exactly sure what they will be - lots of sequins I think.) Learning the lyrics has been challenging. I'm generally either walking with the ipod, singing to myself (or out loud if I'm in a park) or on the subway singing softly. Zoe's tired of hearing me, so I try to limit how often I sing at home. Singing and dancing are two activities that bring me great pleasure. I recommend them. Take a dance break today!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dear Barack


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Your address today about creating jobs and basically overhauling the government makes me want to weep with joy. How did we survive these eight long years of darkness? Okay, granted, you're not Superman or Spiderman or any super hero, but you're on the right track.

My beagle Lucy (see above) would have been a better President than Bush. (I would have been telling her what to do.)

I am so grateful. Forty-five more days till Obama takes office. Hallelujah.

Revolutionary Road and more

I just saw "Revolutionary Road" with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett, another really fantastic film. God, what do they do? Put out crap all year and then the last month hit us with their best stuff? This one is also really powerful and they are both superb actors. It was beautifully directed by Sam Mendes.

Last night I watched a favorite old movie from 1979, "Starting Over" with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh, Candace Bergen and Charles Durning. It really held up, scenes that were so memorable, like the Bloomingdale's scene where Burt has an anxiety attack and they ask people in the store if they have a Valium and everyone digs through their purses, are still so funny. James L. Brooks wrote the script and Alan Pakula directed it.

And tonight "Annie Hall" was on Channel 13 and I just had to watch it. Again. I've seen it at least 89 times...and I still love it.


Off the topic of films, didn't you just feel justice was served when O.J. stood in court whining his apology yesterday? And the judge said, "I am not taking into account anything other than this trial and you were found guilty by the jury. Therefore you are sentenced to nine years to whatever in jail." Thank you God and Goddesses. There is justice, karma, whatever the fuck you want to call it. He'll probably get out in a couple of years, but at least he is finally going to jail. I am sorry for his kids, they have had difficult lives.

Also, really great article in this past week's New Yorker (the one with the cover of Obama interviewing dogs - and may I add, a beagle is featured prominently) - about Naomi Klein. My friend saw her speak the other day up in Westport and I have to read her book "The Shock Doctrine." I do think that we have been in a collective coma since 9/11 and have allowed this government and others, and corporations all over the world to do whatever the hell they wanted to, without us literally revolting. Maybe we've finally woken up.

I do appreciate the fact that most of the really excellent films that are coming out at the end of the year have political themes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A few more reasons

Yesterday I wrote that I've been feeling happy lately and I'm not sure why. Last night, I went to a screening of "The Reader" with Kate Winslett (who was phenomenal) and Ralph Feinnes, who was also wonderful, but is so handsome that it's hard to stop looking at his face and thinking, wow, do you look in the mirror everyday while you shave and think "Shit, I am stunning." And I love that he was involved with Francesca Annis, who was something like twenty years older than him. I saw him once in a store in SoHo (which is long gone) buying a beautiful cashmere robe, or something like that, for a woman. I presume it was for Francesca.

Then last night, I saw Ralph Feinnes on something...some show and he appeared to have either shaved his head or was bald. I wonder if he was wearing a toupee in the film? In any case, he didn't look quite so hot. And this is another reason why I hate real life.

Anyway, the point of this is lately I have seen one good movie after another: "Doubt" -"Frost/Nixon" - "Milk" and now "The Reader." And at all these screenings the filmmakers have been there to speak and that is also really fascinating. Last night David Hare, who adapted the novel, spoke. I've also seen several great films on Netflix, "Dangerous Beauty," "Sense and Sensibility," that film about the chorus of people over 80 (can't remember the name).

Also, being here with just Zoe while Steve is away is kind of a nice vacation. And he's having a great time in Spain, preparing for his presentation on December 12th.

And once again, I can only say how happy I am that George and Laura are beginning to pack up their belongings and head to Dallas. Well, their servants are packing.

This week we had to endure more Sarah Palin sitings, but hopefully, she'll stay up in Alaska for at least a couple of years. Until her book comes out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

No reason

I am feeling quite happy these days and there aren't many reasons I can cite for this. The world is a (fucking) mess. Obama and his new team have their work cut out for them. I have no income stream and I don't know when I will or where it will come from. Several friends are struggling too, looking for work, having lost their jobs or their businesses in this horrible economy. Mumbai suffered horrible attacks recently and something like 170 people were killed. I did read about some incredible acts of bravery that occurred and that inspired me.

Maybe I feel happy because we only have about six weeks left with Bush and Cheney in office. That is one excellent reason to celebrate. Whoo hoo! We may never have to endure another Bush speech. Ever. How thrilling is that?

Maybe it's because it feels like we are all in this together, everyone is holding their breath to see what will happen in the coming year. We all have something to worry about: jobs, parents, money, illness, kids, the economy, the new administration, the environment. It's all so bad, so dire, that all we can do is made a decision to feel hopeful.

Or maybe I feel happy because Calvin Trillin was on Jon Stewart last night and he makes me feel happy. He lost his beloved wife, Alice, and he didn't look particularly happy to be on television, but he goes on. (TV and with life.)

Or maybe it's because the weather is beautiful and winter hasn't started yet. That's a good enough reason.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eat, pray, goodbye

Steve just cooked a delicious leek risotto and tomorrow he's leaving for Spain for two weeks for the presentation of the photography show he is curating. I just watched "The Visitor" which was a wonderful film, very surprising and moving.

I wish I could write about what I'm really feeling, but I think it isn't the time. I guess it's enough to say that life is hard, much harder for most of the rest of the world, but I don't think anyone gets through life without struggling. I feel bad about what's happened the past few days in India. Both Steve and Zoe have been there and they both loved it and had wonderful experiences and met lovely people. We hosted a Joyitta, the sweetest young woman and spent time with the other eleven students who came here for a few weeks on an exchange. A few of them talked about moving to Mumbai for college. I hope that they are all right. We can only imagine how terrifying it was in Mumbai and all over India these past few days and how devastating it is for those who lost their family members and friends.

You know what really annoys me? CNN's "Terror in India" logo and their theme music. It really pisses me off. Every disaster has a special logo and theme music.

I was reminded by my friend John that these are the shortest days of the year and in a few weeks the days will be getting longer again. So even though it will be winter, we'll have more daylight.

And a new President. Goodbye, George. I bet you are counting the days.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Love those cowboys

The thanks I'm giving

Aside from all the personal gratitude I have for my life, my family, friends, dogs, health, abundance...all that stuff, I have to say that the overwhelming feeling of thanks I have is that in less than two months we will have a new President, a new administration, the Republicans will be packing their bags and getting out of town as their jobs are filled by Democrats. The Senate and the House will have Democratic majorities. And although I know Obama is no magician and that we are in for a rough ride, it is such a huge relief to have another brilliant person leading the country, whose values are what we need right now and who is bringing on board seasoned and intelligent women and men to help him govern.

What a relief is all I can say. And it's good to remember that although it took eight years, it's going to be over soon. In something like 53 days.

Hallelujah. Whoppee. Thanks, gods and goddesses. Yahoo. Amen!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another lovely morning

Last night I didn't wake up six times, filled with dread, as I did the night before. Last night I took a sleeping pill and then I woke up at 6 something and Steve was already awake. He's going to Spain this Sunday to present his project to the Spanish bank that will be funding it. The show is about flamenco in the 60's and 70's. He's curating the project, which has the photographs of 15 different photographers (including his work) and two filmmakers. He has to give this big presentation on the 12th of December and he's very nervous, as anyone would be. But this morning he yelled at our daughter (I understand his feelings, but it wasn't even 7 am), and then got into an argument with me. Yesterday he tried to fix my BlackBerry when I asked him not to and he broke it. So today will be spent waiting for a new one to arrive and then countless hours will be spent making it work.

There's an article in New York magazine this week about loneliness. One out two households in Manhattan are single people living alone. I would never have guessed that. I think that overall, in all the boroughs of NY it's one in four.

I lived alone for eleven years in Los Angeles. Aside from various boyfriends I dated, mostly I lived alone. I remember feeling very lonely a good deal of the time, but after a few years of living in the Harper House in West Hollywood, my wonderful next door neighbor Susie (she was Mary and I was Rhoda) filled that void. At least once a day we would get together and talk, or share a meal, or go somewhere together. My two cats, Max and Annie also kept me company. I began running at a park in Beverly Hills every morning, seeing the same people and running with a group of them. I studied yoga for a few years at Bikram's first studio. I found 12 step meetings. I was living on the west coast, my parents here on the east coast.

Life was definitely a bit lonely, but so much less complicated.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Barking dogs

"In Nepal, the dogs bark all night long. Every twenty minutes or so, they all stop at once, and there is an experience of immense relief and stillness. Then they all start barking again. The small mind of sem can feel just like that. When we first start meditating, it's as if the dogs never stop barking at all. After a while, there are those gaps. Discursive thoughts are rather like wild dogs that need taming. Rather than beating them or throwing stones, we tame them with compassion. Over and over we regard them with the precision and kindness that allow them to gradually calm down. Sometimes it feels like there's much more space, with just a few yips and yaps here and there."

From "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron.

My dogs are still yapping. I spent this past weekend at my women's retreat again and it was a fascinating weekend. To be in the company of over a hundred women of all ages, from all over the world, with different life experiences, is interesting enough. This weekend Dr. Christiane Northrup came to our session and I have always admired her. She talked a lot about Regena's work and how pleasure really does affect our health and how important it is to seek it out in our lives. She talked about nitric oxide, (not nitrous oxide, which is what you get in the dentist's office, laughing gas, which she also likes) - but how nitric oxide is released in our bodies when we experience pleasure and how great that is for us.

Anyway, these weekends are filled with so many emotions and when it's over, it feels like withdrawal. This morning I did my reading and my meditation and the difficult feelings that come over me in the autumn returned and I'm trying to embrace them rather than fight them, but it's hard. Most of the time we use other substances or activities to avoid the feelings: alcohol, drugs, shopping, sugar, TV, caffeine, whatever works. I must have woken up six times last night, each time filled with dread. And I know that right now, a lot of people are also waking up six or more times during the night, filled with dread or fear or anxiety. I'm going to take a walk this morning and increase my nitric oxide levels, and do some work, and hopefully feel some of the pleasure I felt this past weekend, in the company of so many powerful women.





Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Milk"

...another really great film. Zoe and I went to a Writers' Guild screening tonight and the film is excellent, Gus Van Sant directed and Sean Penn is brilliant. As amazing as Frank Langella is in "Frost/Nixon" - I think that Sean Penn's performance as Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco city supervisor who was assassinated in 1978, is magical. And the film is so pertinent, given the passage of Prop 8 in California. It's coming out at such a important time and hopefully will affect so many people and will wake people up.

Of all the films I've seen recently, this one really moved me. I was living in Los Angeles when Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were murdered and I remember it so clearly. And seeing the whole Anita Bryant bullshit again (they used the actual footage and boy, was she an idiot) and the attempt to pass Prop 6 (the attempt to take away rights for gays, to stop them from teaching in schools, etc.) in California in '78, which was defeated.

So how could Prop 8 pass in 2008? How is that possible? It's insane to legislate that gay people shouldn't have the right to marry...it's disgusting.

The screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, was there tonight to answer questions afterward. He wrote a really terrific script - and he looks about 25. Zoe and I went up to him to tell him how much we loved the film and he couldn't have been kinder. She told him she'd been one of three members of the Gay Straight Alliance in her high school. He grew up gay, in a Mormon family, in San Antonio. He said that when he heard the story of Harvey Milk it saved his life and he was passionate about telling it. So passionate that he wrote it on spec (with no studio backing) over a period of three years while he was a writer of "Big Love" on HBO. And then one of Harvey Milk's close friends, Cleeve Jones (who was one of the originators of the AIDS Quilt), gave the script to Gus Van Sant who immediately said, "Love it. Let's make it."

After the screening was over, as we were leaving we saw Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch who both starred in the film. I immediately spotted Josh Brolin and told him how wonderful he was. (As Dan White, the guy who killed Milk and Moscone.) Remember the "Twinkie Defense?"

We will definitely march in the next protests for Prop 8. This bill has to be repealed. And please... go see the film.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Pray the Devil Back to Hell"

I haven't seen it yet, but I hear it's an excellent film. This description is from Mama Gena (Regena Thomashauer):

"It is a story of sisterhood, a story of a group of diverse women in Liberia who come together, create community, find their voices, live their truth, train their men, and stop a war.
Sisters, these women stopped a WAR. With LOVE.
Thrilling, moving, inspiring.
And what is especially fulfilling for me is that I get to witness and live inside this move every day: women coming together to create a new reality. Women creating community. Finding their voices, living their truth, and creating their lives as a living prayer to their own divinity.
This is all so possible in our lifetime.
I want this for every woman on Earth."


And here's a quote of the day sent to me by a friend. I'm not sure my husband would agree with all of it, but here goes:

'Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.

She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her....

So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.'


Old friends

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who I met in the 70's, when we were both working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. R was the research assistant to the Chairman of the Organizational Psychology department at the Sloan School of Management and a very respected professor, the only woman in the department. I was their administrative assistant. It was my first job out of college and R and I used to sit in each other's offices for hours and talk. (When we weren't working. We talked a lot.) She's coming into Manhattan on Monday (she lives in Connecticut) to see an old family friend of hers, her friend's husband, brother and his wife -- and then she and I will meet afterward for coffee to dissect the lunch.

What I love most about R is her stories. She is a great storyteller and I got to know all her friends through their stories and eventually, over the years, I met most of them. She got married when she was in her mid 30's, and then I did too, and then she had her son and then a year later, I had my daughter. Over the years we've been in and out of touch, but whenever we speak or get together, it's like we never were apart.

I was supposed to have tea with one of my old boyfriends D a few weeks ago. He flew up from Florida because he manages someone who was going to be performing at Carnegie Hall, but the client was arrested (something about driving without license plates and having a gun in the car.) We missed tea because he was busy bailing his client out. But today, I'm meeting another old boyfriend for lunch in the Village. He teaches at the University of Delaware and he's in town to do some consulting for a college here. He was my second serious boyfriend, he dumped me right before my senior prom because he was having "an identity crisis" - (we all had them in the 70's) and then we got back together when I was a sophomore in college and he was a junior, but then I felt I could never trust him, so I dumped him.

Strangely, one of the nights I did my monologue performance, a woman I am slightly acquainted with came over to me and said, "I am from Plainview, L.I. too." (I mention that at the beginning of the piece.) She said she had just missed her high school reunion. I told her that my old boyfriend L.C. just went to his reunion this past summer and that he sent me photos of it. And she said, "Wait, L.C. was my boyfriend too!" And then she promptly took out her BlackBerry and called him on the phone. This was 10 pm on a Friday night. He was a little stunned, I think. Anyway, we're having lunch today.

So...is it true that Sarah Palin may be getting a book deal for something like 6 million dollars? No way! Can she write? I mean, I know that I could use a good editor myself (I've always written dialogue) - but she is a moron. Now granted, she did run for Vice President. (She did, right? I didn't hallucinate that, did I? But how is that possible?) Two months ago I never even heard of Sarah Palin and now I find myself in Tina Fey/Saturday Night Live withdrawal.

Anyway, it looks like my B job will be coming to an end soon and I can concentrate on finding something else. In the meantime, I'm reading "Secrets of Six Figure Women" (Barbara Stanny), "A New Earth" (Eckhart Tolle), "Extreme Exposure: An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the 20th Century (Edited by Jo Bonney) and "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron.

And Obama is busy putting together his cabinet. Two more months! From tomorrow! Something like four million people are supposed to be going to Washington D.C. for the inauguration. That will be amazing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Intimacy with fear

That's the title of the first chapter of "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron and I am re-reading it. "Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands." I get fearful when I think about the future and I don't know what it's going to be. I'm in a place like that right now and I have to say, it's both terrifying and exciting.

I loved seeing Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes last night. How refreshing was that? Two really intelligent, articulate people who will be living in the White House and I just like them so much! It feels like we're moving from the darkness into the light and it is truly exciting, even with all the problems that plague us, to know that we'll have the best minds in this country focused on solving them. And talk about facing his fears, Barack has that down. He seems to be preternaturally calm. I love that we won't have to worry about the future of the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade and a million other issues that would have been a complete nightmare if the Republicans continued in office for another four years.

So - all of that is great and mostly I'm focused on trying not to let the winter, and my loss of work, and fears about money and the future keep me from moving forward.

I do know that humor helps me. I saw my director Matt this weekend, along with a few other friends, and he always makes me laugh. That changed my mood dramatically. And then I went to a screening of "Frost/Nixon" with Ron Howard, the screenwriter Peter Morgan and Brian Grazer speaking afterward and that was fantastic! And on Sunday, I went to Unity, my "church" (it's filled with lots of people of all faiths, including Jews) and went out to brunch with a woman I met at Mama Gena's. So I had spiritual, intellectual and emotional sustenance this weekend. And now I'm going to get my butt to the gym, or go for a long walk. Somehow I'm going to get through this winter and enjoy it, even though I only love the first snow and then I am so ready for April.

I guess in spiritual terms though, I should say I will feel whatever I feel and try to live in the moment, even if it sucks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Current events

Just a brief post because I am excited that President elect Obama asked Hillary to be his Secretary of State and I have to say that I thought that would happen long before he won the nomination. And I hope that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. becomes our next Senator!

And Prop 8? What a travesty. That won't last, but it's truly disgusting that they managed to sneak that through by manipulating people through fear.

One final thought, there's a new product that's out now made by a company called 23 and Me. It decodes a person's genome and tells us all kinds of information, like whether or not we will get cancer and what kind (or I guess if we are pre-disposed to get cancer), or heart disease, Alzheimer's, etc., whether we carry diseases in our genes like Parkinson's which we would be passing on, tolerances to drugs, caffeine, alcohol, etc. It's kind of amazing and it costs $399. I'm wondering if I would want to know all of this information. I think so. Here's their website:

www.23andme.com


Three quotes

In the past few weeks I've heard three quotes that have resonated with me. The first one came from Michelle Obama, when she was talking about being a mother. "I'm only as happy as my saddest child." It's a line I've heard before, but it really hit home when I read it because I've been trying not to let myself feel as much despair as I usually do when my daughter's life isn't going according to my plan. That's something I've learned in 12 Step meetings, to let go, to know that we all have our own journeys. As much as I wish my daughter was away at college and happy and not living at home (and doing what I believe she should be doing), it is what it is, for now. I think that somewhere between "I'm only as happy as my saddest child" and "Live and let live" is where I find myself. And it's not a particularly comfortable place to be.

And then, strangely, I heard a line on a television show that also resonated with me. I was watching "Brothers and Sisters" - not a very good show, but a good cast. Rob Lowe and Calista Flockhart are trying to adopt a baby and they met with a potential birth mother. Calista felt that the birth mother hadn't really dealt with the idea of giving up her baby. Having experienced many failed attempts at pregnancy herself, Calista was afraid of having her heart broken again if this woman changed her mind. Rob Lowe said something like, "If you can't handle having your heart broken, you're not ready to be a parent." I never read that line in "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

And then a few days ago, in the New York Times, there was an article by Jane Brody entitled, "When Families Take Care of Their Own." Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady, was quoted.
"There are only four kinds of people in the world - those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers."

I'm sorry that these are not more uplifting quotes like "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." I guess I could leave you with the serenity prayer, which is one of my favorites:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

And one more. Psalm 4 from A Book of Psalms, translated and adapted from Hebrew, by Stephen Mitchell.

Even in the midst of great pain, Lord,
I praise you for that which is.
I will not refuse this grief
or close myself to this anguish.
Let shallow men pray for ease:
"Comfort us; shield us from sorrow."
I pray for whatever you send me,
and I ask to receive it as your gift.
You have put a joy in my heart
greater than all the world's riches.
I lie down trusting the darkness,
for I know that even now you are here.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Go where it's warm"

I heard that expression recently and it doesn't have anything to do with Miami, it has to do with friendships. I was talking to someone yesterday about the sadness we feel when friendships end abruptly or gradually fade away. Whether it was our decision to step back or the friend's decision, there is still a certain amount of pain involved.

Friends that you have during a particularly exciting and demanding time of your life, college, your 20's, the early years of being a mom, seem to be people you would always want to stay in touch with, to be close to, but sometimes that doesn't work out. Friends you have as a couple, who seem to be almost family members, disappear off your radar screen and one day you realize that you don't have much in common anymore. The reality of trying to maintain a friendship that's over is too much effort, or too painful, or simply not healthy. I guess in some ways it's like a marriage that isn't working. You may still love that person, you don't want to be hurt, or hurt them, but it's clear that it's time to move on.

With some people you might not be in touch all the time, but you know if you reach out to them they are there for you and you wouldn't hesitate to be there for them. But sometimes, when it feels like an obligation, or there's anger or resentment under the surface, it makes more sense to go where it's warm. Sometimes I feel that I'm the only person who experiences this, that there is something wrong with me that friendships I thought would last a lifetime end, but I know that isn't true. I am filled with gratitude for the friends who do care, who truly want to remain in my life.

A friend of mine, who's in her 80's, told me recently that she and her late husband had a situation many, many years ago that still bothers her. A couple used to invite her and her husband to dessert, after inviting other people to an entire evening, dinner and dessert. She and her husband went a few times and to this day, forty years or so later, she still wishes she had told that couple off. She also gave me this piece a few years ago, which I hung on my bulletin board.

"The Balcony of Your Life"

"Not everyone is healthy enough to have a front row seat in your life. There are some people who need to be loved from a distance.

It is amazing what you can accomplish when you get rid of, let go of, or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere friendships and relationships. Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention! Do the relationships around you lift? Or do they lean? Which ones encourage? Which ones discourage? Which are on the path of uphill growth? Which ones are going downhill?

When you leave certain people, do you feel better or worse? Which ones always have drama? Or don't really understand, know, or appreciate you?

The more you seek quality, respect, growth, peace of mind, love, and the truth around you, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the front row, and who should be moved to the balcony of your life!

Choose your audience carefully."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Boogieman, an important film

The film about Lee Atwater, the former Republican evil mastermind (he mentored Karl Rove) is on PBS' Frontline tonight at 9 pm.

South Beach, it was fun too


It sounded like I had a miserable time in Miami when I wrote about it in my post yesterday. I didn't. It was challenging, but also fun. Here I am with Sharon and Nancy at the beach.

Monday, November 10, 2008

South Beach Sojourn

I spent this past weekend in Miami, along with 120 other women, all there for the purpose of researching pleasure.

To be honest, it wasn't that pleasurable for me, but it was filled with drama and some pretty exciting romantic adventures (not mine) and that were fun to witness.

My relationships with women have always been challenging, probably because my sister and I have always been in conflict, so sharing a hotel room, spending almost all my time in the company of women and also going to South Beach clubs were all challenging experiences for me. And I had a cold. (I'm still trying to figure out why my immune system weakened after the show and after the election.) Perhaps it has to do with my daughter and in that case, I don't even feel like going into it.

It felt great to go to the new Jet Blue terminal which is very 21st Century, get on a 2 1/2 hour flight and arrive in Florida with the sun shining and a temperature of 80 degrees. (And I loved that Florida went for Obama.) It was fun sitting on a beach with mostly topless women and swimming in a pool. (There was lots of skinny dipping late at night while I was asleep.)

It was fitting to celebrate a really wonderful week in our country's history - in the company of women of all ages and life experiences. What I love about this four month workshop with Mama Gena (Regina Thomashauer) is that while we call it pleasure research, it's much more than that. It's about owning who we are as women, discovering what gives us pleasure, which then spreads our good feelings to the people who are in our lives...AND it's also about examining and accepting the pain that lives deep inside us.

It's the light and the dark. The duality of life.

In two weeks, Dr. Christiane Northrup will be speaking at the workshop and she's the primary reason I signed up. That and the dancing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumn in Central Park / The day after








To celebrate the election, I took yesterday off and spent a few hours in Central Park. Since I find that autumn is a difficult time for me (winter's coming), I try to spend as much time in the park as I can and appreciate how beautiful it is...whatever the season.

This winter at least, we'll have an inauguration, a new President, a Democratic administration and majorities in both houses of the Congress. That is filling me with hope. Even Elizabeth Hasselbeck finally got it. It wasn't just an election between politicians. It was a movement. It was understood first by young people and then gradually the rest of us caught on. (At least 52% of us. More will later on.)

Seeing Martin Luther's King's "I have a dream" speech several times last night on TV really brought home that point:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I know that Barack and this new administration is not going to have an easy time fixing the mess this country is in. I do know that after many years, we are finally on the right road.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Eight long years

What a moment.
This is the most important election of our lifetime.
What an acceptance speech.
Yes we can.


Sister Act 2 "Oh Happy Day"

Monday, November 3, 2008

When do we get to inhale?

Random thoughts:

Tomorrow night at 7 pm, if Obama wins Virginia, we should be in good shape. If he loses this election, I believe that the voting machines are clearly being tampered with. Virginia's polls say 50% for Obama, 45% for McCain. I hope they're right.

Now that the show is over, I'm obsessing about the election and I don't want to have the television on, but I can't stop myself. Tonight and tomorrow night are going to be torturous and I just hope that we will have the results by midnight tomorrow. Two years of this is more than we can take. Even Obama doesn't know what state he's in. He said Ohio and he was in Florida. I'm sitting here nervously eating carrots, but I can tell you that today I went to the Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center and had a chocolate "Ho-Ho." Which is their version of a real "Ho-Ho" and beyond delicious. It's better than going to the Market Cafe and eating their piece of chocolate cake, which weighs about eight pounds.

Okay, John King's got his map. Let me see what he says. Oh, he's talking about the potential scenario of McCain winning. I don't want to see this. It doesn't seem possible. Good. Oh, now they've got Palin on, time to turn off the sound. At the end of this election, the two women who have made me completely nuts are Palin and Hasselbeck. They are both attractive, I'll give them that...but not smart.

So... because I'm so exhausted from this weekend and I took a long walk in Central Park today and it's so beautiful, I came home and have been sitting on the couch. I watched Oprah and according to a poll, 40 million couples have unsatisfying sex lives, that's one in five couples. I think it's more. How do we improve it? Work at it. I'd rather Javier Bardem come over one night while Steve's out of town.

Oh....Obama's grandmother just died. That is very sad. I'm so sorry for him. Terrible. I can't believe she died a day before the election. Oh, he's crying. Well, I guess no one can say he's too unemotional.

Even in my office, the tension is so high. Someone mentioned in an email that there are phone banks at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) where people can make calls to talk to voters to support Obama. And someone else asked to be taken off the email list because she didn't want to have political discussions, just as the president of the company sent an email asking us to vote in a company wide poll. So...tomorrow's weekly meeting should be interesting. I may just go to BAM and make calls instead.

Okay, enough of my ramblings. I pray that tomorrow night at 7 pm Virginia goes for Obama and we can start inhaling again. And celebrating. Because this election and the state of this country is making us all crazy.

Sunday night was hot! Final show sold out

Last night, our final show was probably the best. Saturday night was great - and we had it taped, so that's good, but Sunday was a home run for everyone. I think we were just so happy to have one final chance to do the show and we were sold out, people were sitting on the floor, they just wanted to get in. I think we could easily do another weekend and fill up the place. Word of mouth seemed to be really good and people were calling, asking if they could get in at the door and we had a waiting list and had to turn a few people away.

Anyway - it was one of the most challenging and scary things I've ever done and also thrilling. All day yesterday I kept thinking, "This is insane. Why am I doing this?" I kept running the lines and obsessing about how it worked so well on Thursday and Saturday, so "tonight I'm going to bomb." But then seeing the audience, so open and energized and ready to be entertained - it just felt like a wonderful exchange and I totally relaxed and let all the fears go.

And it was fantastic that so many of our friends came out to support us and that several people came up to me afterward to thank me for tackling a difficult subject with humor.

Anyway, right now my brain is fried from having gone out late with the cast and friends of Karen's (it was her birthday) so we really had to celebrate.

It was a perfect run: first night, great audience, filled with so many of my friends, cotton mouth - sheer terror.

Second night, Friday night (notoriously a bad night in theater and it was Halloween) smaller audience, less laughs, felt a big letdown, but we all did our best.

Saturday night we did really well, great crowd, Steve's friend Peter, (who he's known since 7th grade) was sitting in the front row laughing loudly and sitting next to one of my dearest friends (they are both from Northern California) - and another wonderful new friend was in the front row beaming throughout the performance.

And last night - before going on, we heard that we had a sold out crowd. Wow!

What a wonderful, abundant experience with really amazing people. Matt, Karen, John, Shawn, Garry Novikoff and his excellent music, Michael Johnz our stage manager, the box office people who came every night to help out, Michael Holmes' great design for our cards and emails, and especially the audience - who couldn't have been more supportive or laughed any harder. I think it was truly one of the high points of my life. I can't wait to do it again. (We should do it soon!) I have to talk to Matt...and Karen, Shawn and John.

And now on to November 4th!!


Friday, October 31, 2008

Cotton mouth and victory!

Well, we made it through the first show. And I would have to say it went really well. First of all we had a sold out crowd and they were fantastic. And everybody did so well - Karen, Shawn and John were all terrific. Going first is not my favorite place to be, but I did well too.

I now know what cotton mouth is, why actors put Vasoline on their teeth. When I got on-stage I could see pretty much everyone in the theater and it was a bit distracting. Usually you only see the first row, but I saw everyone...and then I got a little scared...and then my mouth went totally dry. I literally almost asked someone in the first row to let me have their water. And it felt like an out of body experience, performing while also thinking "Oh, is that Sybil and Martin? Oh, shit! They are seriously great writers...they actually came?"

But then I got into it and it was so gratifying afterwards when a few people I didn't know thanked me and said that they had had similiar experiences and really appreciated the show.

The hard part is staying up so late and trying to get going this morning. And people are calling about coming this weekend, so I have to get back to them.

Yay! Opening nights are always really scary and I'm glad that we have that one under our belt.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Be brave, be very brave

I am scared. I know that moment tonight, right before I go on, I will have to face my fear and stand in front of that audience (sold out, twenty thousand at least) and go for it. And that moment will be very very terrifying until I get my first laugh. IF I get a first laugh. What if there are no laughs and people are crying?

Okay, I'm exaggerating about the number of people by about 19,650 but still...even if it were just one person, I would be scared.

Not to mention the election. If McCain wins that would be so wrong. So absolutely horribly impossibly wrong and the only way it could happen would be widespread voter fraud. Because no one with any brains would elect this man and his idiot running mate to run this country for four minutes, let alone four years. He need to retire to one of his fourteen houses and play golf, oh, never mind, he probably can't. Checkers then. Okay, I know I'm being mean, but I am angry that really the undercurrent of this election is racism and fear and I'm angry that people buy into it. Obama is so clearly the right man to be elected - not because he's perfect, but because he's smart and so clearly a leader - and he's got incredible people supporting him who will be part of his team and we need a big change. And we need it yesterday.

I feel a hyper sensitivity to life right now - partly because of the performance, but also because of what's been happening in the world and because of the election. The other day I felt calm and the polls on threefiftyeight.com say that Obama has a really healthy lead.

But I'm not feeling so calm today.

I do love saying that Sarah Palin is a huge idiot and I despise Elisabeth Hasselbeck or whatever her name is. And McCain...well, sorry John, you and your campaign have self-destructed as far as I'm concerned.

Please let it be so....

Best,
Robin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tomorrow night

One more night. Just came back from rehearsal. I was reading this fun blog "Margaret and Helen" which I have included on my blog list and I just had to add my agreement with Helen (who's apparently 80 something) - that yes, Sarah Palin is a bitch, McCain is a (senile) ass, Bush is a big jackass who's practically ruined this country, Elisabeth Hasselwhatever is a fucking stupid idiot and someone should definitely knock some sense into her, and if Obama doesn't win this election NY should secede and become its own country. I'm not moving, I'm just insisting we form a country of NY, Massachusetts and Vermont. Not so sure about Connecticut.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tech rehearsals

It feels so good to be back in the world I love, theater, show business, whatever. It may be a small show, but it feels so great to be working on cues and rehearsing with an audience, instead of doing it alone.

It just feels like home to me and I'm so grateful.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Four days and eight days

If today is Monday and our show is Thursday, does that count as three days or four? Well, in any case, it's soon. And I am relatively calm-ish. I think before the Celexa, Xanax, Wellbutrin, Ambien and Klonipin, I would have been falling apart. (Just kidding.)

And then in a week and one day (makes eight to me) is the election. And I am so calm. A friend told me about an interesting website: www.fivethirtyeight.com which tracks all the polls and according to their numbers, as of this morning, Obama's lead in the electoral college is 351.2 to McCain's 186.8.


I am so calm.

Steve's in surgery now for his eye. He has a condition called Macular pucker. And it is as it sounds, a puckering of the macula, which is in the center of the retina. I think he's going to be fine. I'll be picking him up soon.

And right now, I think I need to breathe. Life is good, it's a gorgeous day here in the east, the leaves are just beginning to change in the city, the Democrats will be back in the White House soon and will have even more seats in the Congress - and do I really believe that? You betcha!




Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Young at Heart"

Oh, what a fun movie! It's about a chorus of people 80 years and older and they sing really hip songs and their leader is cute. Rent it!! It's really fun and uplifting.

I can see a chorus in my old age (I hope I live that long!) "Singing and dancing, that's the key. And always try new things." (Eileen's advice.)

I'm thinking of Tai Chi.

"God Said Ha!"

Matt, my director, (I never in my entire life thought I'd be saying "Matt, my director") suggested that I watch Julia Sweeney's monologue "God Said Ha!" I remember reading it years ago, but actually seeing it (even on film) is such a different experience. It's about her parents moving into her tiny bungalow in L.A. to care for her brother who has lymphoma (and has also moved in) - and then on top of everything else, she finds out that she has cervical cancer. It's sad and it's also funny. I'm so glad I watched it. She was on "Saturday Night Live" for a few years, but it was during a time that I didn't watch it very often, so I can't say that I knew much about her work, but it's a wonderful piece and she's a lovely actor and writer. It also helped me see that my monologue is simply my story and I don't have to be so worried about what people will think of it, or me, or my family, I just have to tell my story. I also can start to see the shape of a longer piece that I may write, although it's very vague at this point, I have some ideas about it.

It was a really good idea that Matt had and I'm grateful for Netflix. I also ordered "Young at Heart" which we will watch tonight, since it's a rainy and windy night and though I wanted to see "Religulous" I'd rather stay home with everyone and relax on the couch, with Lucy and Lola.

Life is pretty good. I was anxious earlier today and now I feel much less anxious and a little more excited. I think that this is a story a lot of people can relate to, being a member of the sandwich generation. (I think of myself as more of a panini.)

I just googled Julia Sweeney and it seems that her life has been really good since she performed that monologue. Her brother did die, but she's recovered and has adopted a little girl from China. Her most recent monologue will be coming out this November and I will definitely see that too. And she has a blog, so I'll check that out too.

Ten more days until the election. Did you read the funny David Sedaris piece in last week's New Yorker about people who are undecided? "That''s like being on an airplane and having the flight attendant ask if you'd like the chicken or the shit with pieces of broken glass in it?"

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm back

I've been absent for awhile... busy learning my lines, rehearsing, having mild bouts of fear and anxiety - and also praying that Obama wins the election and that the Dems win many seats in the House and the Senate. I do feel that we're in good shape and that's keeping my spirits up.

I'm also pretty sure I've got my lines memorized fairly well and that even if I get scared when I get up on stage, I'll be able to tell the story. The rehearsals have been really fun. Matt, our director, had me perform my piece the other day so fast - and that was actually exciting to do it so fast. And it felt good to know most of the lines. I'm conflicted because I enjoy improvising, but I've also worked hard on the writing and often it's better to do it as written. One friend of mine, who performs with a partner, says they have no script, but I think they've done their show so many times that it probably adheres to a fairly strict narrative, even while they shift things around each time.

I continue to be grateful for people like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher for keeping me sane. And I have to see "Religulous" which I hear is quite good.

I read another good quote: "It takes a lot of courage to make a fool of yourself." Charlie Chaplin.

I have courage. I don't know how much talent I have, but I do have courage. I mean, why else would I consider getting up in front of a room full of people and talking about my nutty family, when I could be home watching Grey's Anatomy? And then do it again three more nights in a row?

I will eat the fantastic chocolate cake at the Market Cafe on Sunday night after the run to celebrate Karen's birthday. I can't wait! And if Obama wins, I'll go back and eat it again.

I saw the name of a show the other day about the election: "The End of an Error." Amen. I know it's not going to be easy if Obama gets elected, this country and the world is in a big mess, but I honestly feel that we will be moving from the darkness to the light. George Bush, Cheney, all of those guys need to go gently into the night. Or jail.






Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The New Yorker's endorsement of Obama A MUST READ


Never in living memory has an election been more critical than the one fast approaching—that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a Presidency has—at the levels of competence, vision, and integrity—undermined the country and its ideals?

The incumbent Administration has distinguished itself for the ages. The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party—which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most of that time—has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign. The only speaker at the Convention in St. Paul who uttered more than a sentence or two in support of the President was his wife, Laura. Meanwhile, the nominee, John McCain, played the part of a vaudeville illusionist, asking to be regarded as an apostle of change after years of embracing the essentials of the Bush agenda with ever-increasing ardor.

The Republican disaster begins at home. Even before taking into account whatever fantastically expensive plan eventually emerges to help rescue the financial system from Wall Street’s long-running pyramid schemes, the economic and fiscal picture is bleak. During the Bush Administration, the national debt, now approaching ten trillion dollars, has nearly doubled. Next year’s federal budget is projected to run a half-trillion-dollar deficit, a precipitous fall from the seven-hundred-billion-dollar surplus that was projected when Bill Clinton left office. Private-sector job creation has been a sixth of what it was under President Clinton. Five million people have fallen into poverty. The number of Americans without health insurance has grown by seven million, while average premiums have nearly doubled. Meanwhile, the principal domestic achievement of the Bush Administration has been to shift the relative burden of taxation from the rich to the rest. For the top one per cent of us, the Bush tax cuts are worth, on average, about a thousand dollars a week; for the bottom fifth, about a dollar and a half. The unfairness will only increase if the painful, yet necessary, effort to rescue the credit markets ends up preventing the rescue of our health-care system, our environment, and our physical, educational, and industrial infrastructure.

At the same time, a hundred and fifty thousand American troops are in Iraq and thirty-three thousand are in Afghanistan. There is still disagreement about the wisdom of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and his horrific regime, but there is no longer the slightest doubt that the Bush Administration manipulated, bullied, and lied the American public into this war and then mismanaged its prosecution in nearly every aspect. The direct costs, besides an expenditure of more than six hundred billion dollars, have included the loss of more than four thousand Americans, the wounding of thirty thousand, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and the displacement of four and a half million men, women, and children. Only now, after American forces have been fighting for a year longer than they did in the Second World War, is there a glimmer of hope that the conflict in Iraq has entered a stage of fragile stability.

The indirect costs, both of the war in particular and of the Administration’s unilateralist approach to foreign policy in general, have also been immense. The torture of prisoners, authorized at the highest level, has been an ethical and a public-diplomacy catastrophe. At a moment when the global environment, the global economy, and global stability all demand a transition to new sources of energy, the United States has been a global retrograde, wasteful in its consumption and heedless in its policy. Strategically and morally, the Bush Administration has squandered the American capacity to counter the example and the swagger of its rivals. China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other illiberal states have concluded, each in its own way, that democratic principles and human rights need not be components of a stable, prosperous future. At recent meetings of the United Nations, emboldened despots like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran came to town sneering at our predicament and hailing the “end of the American era.”

The election of 2008 is the first in more than half a century in which no incumbent President or Vice-President is on the ballot. There is, however, an incumbent party, and that party has been lucky enough to find itself, apparently against the wishes of its “base,” with a nominee who evidently disliked George W. Bush before it became fashionable to do so. In South Carolina in 2000, Bush crushed John McCain with a sub-rosa primary campaign of such viciousness that McCain lashed out memorably against Bush’s Christian-right allies. So profound was McCain’s anger that in 2004 he flirted with the possibility of joining the Democratic ticket under John Kerry. Bush, who took office as a “compassionate conservative,” governed immediately as a rightist ideologue. During that first term, McCain bolstered his reputation, sometimes deserved, as a “maverick” willing to work with Democrats on such issues as normalizing relations with Vietnam, campaign-finance reform, and immigration reform. He co-sponsored, with John Edwards and Edward Kennedy, a patients’ bill of rights. In 2001 and 2003, he voted against the Bush tax cuts. With John Kerry, he co-sponsored a bill raising auto-fuel efficiency standards and, with Joseph Lieberman, a cap-and-trade regime on carbon emissions. He was one of a minority of Republicans opposed to unlimited drilling for oil and gas off America’s shores.

Since the 2004 election, however, McCain has moved remorselessly rightward in his quest for the Republican nomination. He paid obeisance to Jerry Falwell and preachers of his ilk. He abandoned immigration reform, eventually coming out against his own bill. Most shocking, McCain, who had repeatedly denounced torture under all circumstances, voted in February against a ban on the very techniques of “enhanced interrogation” that he himself once endured in Vietnam—as long as the torturers were civilians employed by the C.I.A.

On almost every issue, McCain and the Democratic Party’s nominee, Barack Obama, speak the generalized language of “reform,” but only Obama has provided a convincing, rational, and fully developed vision. McCain has abandoned his opposition to the Bush-era tax cuts and has taken up the demagogic call—in the midst of recession and Wall Street calamity, with looming crises in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—for more tax cuts. Bush’s expire in 2011. If McCain, as he has proposed, cuts taxes for corporations and estates, the benefits once more would go disproportionately to the wealthy.

In Washington, the craze for pure market triumphalism is over. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson arrived in town (via Goldman Sachs) a Republican, but it seems that he will leave a Democrat. In other words, he has come to see that the abuses that led to the current financial crisis––not least, excessive speculation on borrowed capital––can be fixed only with government regulation and oversight. McCain, who has never evinced much interest in, or knowledge of, economic questions, has had little of substance to say about the crisis. His most notable gesture of concern—a melodramatic call last month to suspend his campaign and postpone the first Presidential debate until the government bailout plan was ready—soon revealed itself as an empty diversionary tactic.

By contrast, Obama has made a serious study of the mechanics and the history of this economic disaster and of the possibilities of stimulating a recovery. Last March, in New York, in a speech notable for its depth, balance, and foresight, he said, “A complete disdain for pay-as-you-go budgeting, coupled with a generally scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement, allowed far too many to put short-term gain ahead of long-term consequences.” Obama is committed to reforms that value not only the restoration of stability but also the protection of the vast majority of the population, which did not partake of the fruits of the binge years. He has called for greater and more programmatic regulation of the financial system; the creation of a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which would help reverse the decay of our roads, bridges, and mass-transit systems, and create millions of jobs; and a major investment in the green-energy sector.

On energy and global warming, Obama offers a set of forceful proposals. He supports a cap-and-trade program to reduce America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050—an enormously ambitious goal, but one that many climate scientists say must be met if atmospheric carbon dioxide is to be kept below disastrous levels. Large emitters, like utilities, would acquire carbon allowances, and those which emit less carbon dioxide than their allotment could sell the resulting credits to those which emit more; over time, the available allowances would decline. Significantly, Obama wants to auction off the allowances; this would provide fifteen billion dollars a year for developing alternative-energy sources and creating job-training programs in green technologies. He also wants to raise federal fuel-economy standards and to require that ten per cent of America’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2012. Taken together, his proposals represent the most coherent and far-sighted strategy ever offered by a Presidential candidate for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

There was once reason to hope that McCain and Obama would have a sensible debate about energy and climate policy. McCain was one of the first Republicans in the Senate to support federal limits on carbon dioxide, and he has touted his own support for a less ambitious cap-and-trade program as evidence of his independence from the White House. But, as polls showed Americans growing jittery about gasoline prices, McCain apparently found it expedient in this area, too, to shift course. He took a dubious idea—lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling—and placed it at the very center of his campaign. Opening up America’s coastal waters to drilling would have no impact on gasoline prices in the short term, and, even over the long term, the effect, according to a recent analysis by the Department of Energy, would be “insignificant.” Such inconvenient facts, however, are waved away by a campaign that finally found its voice with the slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”

The contrast between the candidates is even sharper with respect to the third branch of government. A tense equipoise currently prevails among the Justices of the Supreme Court, where four hard-core conservatives face off against four moderate liberals. Anthony M. Kennedy is the swing vote, determining the outcome of case after case.

McCain cites Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two reliable conservatives, as models for his own prospective appointments. If he means what he says, and if he replaces even one moderate on the current Supreme Court, then Roe v. Wade will be reversed, and states will again be allowed to impose absolute bans on abortion. McCain’s views have hardened on this issue. In 1999, he said he opposed overturning Roe; by 2006, he was saying that its demise “wouldn’t bother me any”; by 2008, he no longer supported adding rape and incest as exceptions to his party’s platform opposing abortion.

But scrapping Roe—which, after all, would leave states as free to permit abortion as to criminalize it—would be just the beginning. Given the ideological agenda that the existing conservative bloc has pursued, it’s safe to predict that affirmative action of all kinds would likely be outlawed by a McCain Court. Efforts to expand executive power, which, in recent years, certain Justices have nobly tried to resist, would likely increase. Barriers between church and state would fall; executions would soar; legal checks on corporate power would wither—all with just one new conservative nominee on the Court. And the next President is likely to make three appointments.

Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, voted against confirming not only Roberts and Alito but also several unqualified lower-court nominees. As an Illinois state senator, he won the support of prosecutors and police organizations for new protections against convicting the innocent in capital cases. While McCain voted to continue to deny habeas-corpus rights to detainees, perpetuating the Bush Administration’s regime of state-sponsored extra-legal detention, Obama took the opposite side, pushing to restore the right of all U.S.-held prisoners to a hearing. The judicial future would be safe in his care.

In the shorthand of political commentary, the Iraq war seems to leave McCain and Obama roughly even. Opposing it before the invasion, Obama had the prescience to warn of a costly and indefinite occupation and rising anti-American radicalism around the world; supporting it, McCain foresaw none of this. More recently, in early 2007 McCain risked his Presidential prospects on the proposition that five additional combat brigades could salvage a war that by then appeared hopeless. Obama, along with most of the country, had decided that it was time to cut American losses. Neither candidate’s calculations on Iraq have been as cheaply political as McCain’s repeated assertion that Obama values his career over his country; both men based their positions, right or wrong, on judgment and principle.

President Bush’s successor will inherit two wars and the realities of limited resources, flagging popular will, and the dwindling possibilities of what can be achieved by American power. McCain’s views on these subjects range from the simplistic to the unknown. In Iraq, he seeks “victory”—a word that General David Petraeus refuses to use, and one that fundamentally misrepresents the messy, open-ended nature of the conflict. As for Afghanistan, on the rare occasions when McCain mentions it he implies that the surge can be transferred directly from Iraq, which suggests that his grasp of counterinsurgency is not as firm as he insisted it was during the first Presidential debate. McCain always displays more faith in force than interest in its strategic consequences. Unlike Obama, McCain has no political strategy for either war, only the dubious hope that greater security will allow things to work out. Obama has long warned of deterioration along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and has a considered grasp of its vital importance. His strategy for both Afghanistan and Iraq shows an understanding of the role that internal politics, economics, corruption, and regional diplomacy play in wars where there is no battlefield victory.

Unimaginably painful personal experience taught McCain that war is above all a test of honor: maintain the will to fight on, be prepared to risk everything, and you will prevail. Asked during the first debate to outline “the lessons of Iraq,” McCain said, “I think the lessons of Iraq are very clear: that you cannot have a failed strategy that will then cause you to nearly lose a conflict.” A soldier’s answer––but a statesman must have a broader view of war and peace. The years ahead will demand not only determination but also diplomacy, flexibility, patience, judiciousness, and intellectual engagement. These are no more McCain’s strong suit than the current President’s. Obama, for his part, seems to know that more will be required than willpower and force to extract some advantage from the wreckage of the Bush years.

Obama is also better suited for the task of renewing the bedrock foundations of American influence. An American restoration in foreign affairs will require a commitment not only to international coöperation but also to international institutions that can address global warming, the dislocations of what will likely be a deepening global economic crisis, disease epidemics, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and other, more traditional security challenges. Many of the Cold War-era vehicles for engagement and negotiation—the United Nations, the World Bank, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—are moribund, tattered, or outdated. Obama has the generational outlook that will be required to revive or reinvent these compacts. He would be the first postwar American President unencumbered by the legacies of either Munich or Vietnam.

The next President must also restore American moral credibility. Closing Guantánamo, banning all torture, and ending the Iraq war as responsibly as possible will provide a start, but only that. The modern Presidency is as much a vehicle for communication as for decision-making, and the relevant audiences are global. Obama has inspired many Americans in part because he holds up a mirror to their own idealism. His election would do no less—and likely more—overseas.

What most distinguishes the candidates, however, is character—and here, contrary to conventional wisdom, Obama is clearly the stronger of the two. Not long ago, Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, said, “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” The view that this election is about personalities leaves out policy, complexity, and accountability. Even so, there’s some truth in what Davis said––but it hardly points to the conclusion that he intended.

Echoing Obama, McCain has made “change” one of his campaign mantras. But the change he has actually provided has been in himself, and it is not just a matter of altering his positions. A willingness to pander and even lie has come to define his Presidential campaign and its televised advertisements. A contemptuous duplicity, a meanness, has entered his talk on the stump—so much so that it seems obvious that, in the drive for victory, he is willing to replicate some of the same underhanded methods that defeated him eight years ago in South Carolina.

Perhaps nothing revealed McCain’s cynicism more than his choice of Sarah Palin, the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, who had been governor of that state for twenty-one months, as the Republican nominee for Vice-President. In the interviews she has given since her nomination, she has had difficulty uttering coherent unscripted responses about the most basic issues of the day. We are watching a candidate for Vice-President cram for her ongoing exam in elementary domestic and foreign policy. This is funny as a Tina Fey routine on “Saturday Night Live,” but as a vision of the political future it’s deeply unsettling. Palin has no business being the backup to a President of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility. Obama’s choice, Joe Biden, is not without imperfections. His tongue sometimes runs in advance of his mind, providing his own fodder for late-night comedians, but there is no comparison with Palin. His deep experience in foreign affairs, the judiciary, and social policy makes him an assuring and complementary partner for Obama.

The longer the campaign goes on, the more the issues of personality and character have reflected badly on McCain. Unless appearances are very deceiving, he is impulsive, impatient, self-dramatizing, erratic, and a compulsive risk-taker. These qualities may have contributed to his usefulness as a “maverick” senator. But in a President they would be a menace.

By contrast, Obama’s transformative message is accompanied by a sense of pragmatic calm. A tropism for unity is an essential part of his character and of his campaign. It is part of what allowed him to overcome a Democratic opponent who entered the race with tremendous advantages. It is what helped him forge a political career relying both on the liberals of Hyde Park and on the political regulars of downtown Chicago. His policy preferences are distinctly liberal, but he is determined to speak to a broad range of Americans who do not necessarily share his every value or opinion. For some who oppose him, his equanimity even under the ugliest attack seems like hauteur; for some who support him, his reluctance to counterattack in the same vein seems like self-defeating detachment. Yet it is Obama’s temperament—and not McCain’s—that seems appropriate for the office both men seek and for the volatile and dangerous era in which we live. Those who dismiss his centeredness as self-centeredness or his composure as indifference are as wrong as those who mistook Eisenhower’s stolidity for denseness or Lincoln’s humor for lack of seriousness.

Nowadays, almost every politician who thinks about running for President arranges to become an author. Obama’s books are different: he wrote them. “The Audacity of Hope” (2006) is a set of policy disquisitions loosely structured around an account of his freshman year in the United States Senate. Though a campaign manifesto of sorts, it is superior to that genre’s usual blowsy pastiche of ghostwritten speeches. But it is Obama’s first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (1995), that offers an unprecedented glimpse into the mind and heart of a potential President. Obama began writing it in his early thirties, before he was a candidate for anything. Not since Theodore Roosevelt has an American politician this close to the pinnacle of power produced such a sustained, highly personal work of literary merit before being definitively swept up by the tides of political ambition.

A Presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize: we elect a politician and, we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama’s first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. “Dreams from My Father” is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama’s own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself. In common with nearly all other senators and governors of his generation, Obama does not count military service as part of his biography. But his life has been full of tests—personal, spiritual, racial, political—that bear on his preparation for great responsibility.

It is perfectly legitimate to call attention, as McCain has done, to Obama’s lack of conventional national and international policymaking experience. We, too, wish he had more of it. But office-holding is not the only kind of experience relevant to the task of leading a wildly variegated nation. Obama’s immersion in diverse human environments (Hawaii’s racial rainbow, Chicago’s racial cauldron, countercultural New York, middle-class Kansas, predominantly Muslim Indonesia), his years of organizing among the poor, his taste of corporate law and his grounding in public-interest and constitutional law—these, too, are experiences. And his books show that he has wrung from them every drop of insight and breadth of perspective they contained.

The exhaustingly, sometimes infuriatingly long campaign of 2008 (and 2007) has had at least one virtue: it has demonstrated that Obama’s intelligence and steady temperament are not just figments of the writer’s craft. He has made mistakes, to be sure. (His failure to accept McCain’s imaginative proposal for a series of unmediated joint appearances was among them.) But, on the whole, his campaign has been marked by patience, planning, discipline, organization, technological proficiency, and strategic astuteness. Obama has often looked two or three moves ahead, relatively impervious to the permanent hysteria of the hourly news cycle and the cable-news shouters. And when crisis has struck, as it did when the divisive antics of his ex-pastor threatened to bring down his campaign, he has proved equal to the moment, rescuing himself with a speech that not only drew the poison but also demonstrated a profound respect for the electorate. Although his opponents have tried to attack him as a man of “mere” words, Obama has returned eloquence to its essential place in American politics. The choice between experience and eloquence is a false one––something that Lincoln, out of office after a single term in Congress, proved in his own campaign of political and national renewal. Obama’s “mere” speeches on everything from the economy and foreign affairs to race have been at the center of his campaign and its success; if he wins, his eloquence will be central to his ability to govern.

We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.

The Editors



Monday, October 20, 2008

Sexy sister goddesses

This past weekend, I spent from Friday night through Sunday evening in the company of some of the most courageous and beautiful women I've ever met. (And they are all ages, races and sizes.) I can't say much more than it was brilliant and powerful and fun and that sisterhood for me has never felt so real. Something like 150 women came together again (2nd weekend) from all over the world to be enlightened, supportive, moved and most of all to have fun and pleasure. (We call ourselves "pleasure researchers.") Regina Thomashauer is onto something big. Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts is a place where women reclaim their power on so many levels. I can't say much more than that because I wouldn't want to spoil the fun of anyone who decides to take her Mastery. I would just say, as a big skeptic, who has found in the past few years the tremendous power of community, this experience is brilliant.

Saturday night as part of our "homework" we went to a club on the lower east side and just getting dressed up to go out, taking a car service into Manhattan, crossing the Manhattan Bridge and looking at the moon over the New York City skyline was thrilling enough - but our assignment was to get a kiss from a man we found attractive. I met a cute young man (30's?) who is an aide worker on his way to Afghanistan for a year and a half and I got my kiss. And so did many of my sister goddesses - I think that he had the night of his life. What a lovely young man.

And, in case you think that Mama Gena's is about flirting with young men, it's not. It's about finding pleasure and if you're married, bringing that into the marriage. And if you're single, looking for men (or women) who will love and worship you. And most of all, loving and appreciating ourselves. No more "I'm too old, I'm too fat, I hate my thighs."

Next stop: Miami. November 7-9th. I can't wait.

And what I loved most was that I didn't pay one bit of attention to the news and at the end, I got to see Colin Powell's amazing endorsement of Obama on "Meet the Press." What a fantastic weekend! I feel so hopeful and happy!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hot sexy fear

Okay, it's really just fear, but my friend and fellow blogger Sybil told me today that if you add the word "sexy" to a blog post you have more chance of it being read by a greater number of people. And "hot sexy" should really pump up the readership.

Fear..."an unpleasant emotion caused by the nearness of danger or unexpected pain." Public speaking is very high on the list of things people fear. I can think of many things that are much worse, but actually performing in public has always been one of my fears. So why am I doing this? I don't know really. There seems to be something inside me that wants to perform. I love getting laughs. Maybe it comes from a sick place, the part of me that always tried to get my mother to laugh. But I also love it. As Sybil said when she performed recently and got the loudest, most unbelievable laugh, it was truly one of the greatest feelings she's ever had. And I guess it's why performers, comedians, anyone who risks public humiliation take that chance. For that feeling.

"Acting is making a fool of yourself." James Gandolfini

"I would hate not to be scared of doing something...not taking a risk." Alicia Keyes

I found those two quotes recently and I keep remembering them. So I make a fool of myself. Big deal. At least I'm not running for Vice President.

The fear comes and goes. Sometimes I feel perfectly fine, but then I remember that I have actually invited people to come to the show and some of them might actually appear and that scares me. Last time we did the show we were just reading our scripts, this time we have to memorize them. I have often had a nightmare that I stand up in front of an audience and I can't remember a single word (and I'm naked.)

So anyway, it helps to write about it. I was taking a bath just now and I thought, I'll write something about the fear and maybe it will dissipate. It has, a little. But probably at five a.m. it will return. It isn't bad enough that the world is in economic freefall and we have a very close election coming up and if McCain wins I will probably have to go on some kind of drug?

Why? Why me? Why now? Why laughs? Why can't I be satisfied with a nice walk in the park and a good book? Any time you try something risky, you're going to be afraid. And the only way to get over the fear is to go through it.

I hate that.