Saturday, August 30, 2008

Woody's Women

My friend A told me that she views washing dishes as a meditation. I have always disliked washing dishes (I don't mind doing laundry), but I'm working at meditating now when I wash the dishes.

Steve, Zoe and I just came back from seeing Woody Allen's wonderful new film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and the dishes had to be washed, so I meditated and washed and thought about the film and previous Woody Allen films, and then Sarah Palin came into my mind and I got really annoyed, so I went back to meditating.

We all really enjoyed the film and I have to admit that it was only the first few minutes that I remembered Javiar Bardem as one of the worst villains I've seen in years in "No Country for Old Men." The rest of the time I was quite turned on by him (sorry Zoe, I may be old, but I'm not dead.) It was all so sensual, the city, the beautiful women (Scarlett, Rebecca and the stunningly gorgeous Penelope Cruz), Javiar, the countryside, the music, the homes, the clothing. I loved Patricia Clarkson's character, the long marriage, the quiet desperation, but the love that still exists. Woody Allen was probably the biggest influence on me as a writer. I always adored his writing although I used to see his films the first day they opened and for the past ten years or so, I've missed several of them. But "Annie Hall" is without a doubt my favorite comedy and I could probably perform every scene. I related so much to that character and fell in love with both Woody and Diane Keaton. I know that to admire someone as an artist is not the same as wanting to know them personally. I remember years ago running into an actor on the street who I had dated briefly, and he was working on a Woody Allen film at the time. He said to me (about Woody Allen): "He's horrible, really really hard to work for. There's no fun, he doesn't talk. Ever."

And I won't even get into the whole Mia/Soon Yi/Woody mess. He's been with Soon Yi for ten years. I saw the documentary about Ingmar Bergman a few years ago and I wasn't too impressed with him as a father.

Anyway, tonight I was happy to see a Woody Allen film that I found intriguing and unpredictable and very well written and directed.

And as for Sarah Palin, what can we say? That I can easily see her negotiating peace in the Middle East when McCain (happy birthday Mr. 72 year old) dies of skin cancer? That I will sleep well at night knowing she might be appointing three Supreme Court justices? That she will work well with both houses of Congress and world leaders, given all her experience as a Governor? All 20 months she's been in office? In Alaska? Population 400,000 or so. That McCain's strategy of choosing a woman was clever, but he couldn't come up with a single woman in this entire country who isn't more qualified? COME ON. I mean, it's so infuriating that I want desperately to wake up tomorrow morning and read in the NY Times that McCain says, "Opps, I made a really big mistake. Never mind."

What kind of an ending would Woody write? I saw this morning in the Times that McCain and Palin are planning to go to New Orleans today before Gustuv arrives. With any luck they'll get caught in the storm and washed out to sea.

One more thing - there was an hysterically funny article in the NY Times last weekend that I missed, but I just read it. It's Woody Allen's "diary" about the filming of Vicky Cristina Barcelona. If you get a chance to read it, it will definitely make you laugh out loud. (And how often does that happen?)

Friday, August 29, 2008

I Had The Strangest Dream

In this dream John McCain (who was running for President) nominated a governor named Sarah Palin, an extreme conservative who's anti-choice and a COMPLETE enemy to the environment, to be his Vice Presidential running mate.

I think she was a mom, fine, great, then a mayor of a small town, nice, then a governor of a state with very few people, okay... and then she would be Vice President of the United States, one heartbeat away from the Presidency.

NO WAY?? What an insult to every single woman in this country. To every politician. To every citizen. I want to wake up from this insanity.

Random Thoughts about Positive Stuff

I was telling this story to a friend last weekend. I'd almost forgotten about it.

When I was around 12 or 13 my parents took me and my best friend, Rhonda, to Washington D.C. for a week of sightseeing. We stayed in a fancy hotel right in the heart of the city, I can't remember which one, but it was very elegant. Right after we checked in and my parents were unpacking, Rhonda and I asked if it would be okay if we went out and just wandered around a little bit, and they said, just go around the block and come back in half an hour.

We left the hotel and started walking and after a few minutes we saw that there was a small crowd of people waiting outside a church. Before we knew it, we realized that there were secret service people there and that President Johnson and Lady Bird were leaving the church. We got up front because we were smaller than almost everyone else and put out our hands. President Johnson shook my hand (his hand was enormous) and when I tried to shake Lady Bird's hand, Johnson grabbed my hand and shook it again. Rhonda and I were so thrilled we raced back to the hotel, to tell my parents this exciting news.

"Mom! Dad! Guess what? We saw President Johnson and Lady Bird coming out of a church! And we shook his hand! Twice!"

My mother and father laughed. "Oh, that's so cute. Very funny, Robin."

It took us quite awhile to convince them that we had indeed seen the President of the United States and his wife and that we'd both had a chance to shake his hand. And then later in the week, we also met Hubert Humphrey when we went to the Capital. Years later, I was at a small rally somewhere on Long Island where Robert Kennedy spoke when he was running for the presidency. And I was at the Democratic Convention when Bill Clinton made his acceptance speech. And about two months after Gore lost the election, I met him on a street corner in SoHo and we had a long talk. He was really handsome, with the bluest eyes. We were standing in front of the Mercer Hotel and if we weren't both married, I would have suggested we get a room. I encouraged him to speak out because we were all having a collective nervous breakdown about the election and he said that he was about to give a speech at a Move On event and he hasn't shut up since. (Thank God.)

This week's Democratic convention exceeded all of my expectations. After the convention, on Charley Rose, two former classmates of Obama's from Harvard Law spoke about what he was like when they were all in law school. They said there was no doubt that he was brilliant, thoughtful and clearly destined for greatness. It took me a little while to come to this realization, but I am firmly there now. HIS ACCEPTANCE SPEECH WAS PHENOMENAL. I just pray that he will be safe and that the Democrats can play hardball with the Republicans.

I was thinking about Johnson because of the Civil Rights bill and because of an excellent article about him in the NY Times (it's the number one most emailed article. I would post it here, but I'm not sure how to do that, so if you can, take a look on the Times website.)

And regarding meditation, a good friend of mine was telling me about a book he read recently "Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body" by Reginald A. Ray, who is a Buddhist writer. The book's thesis is that "all the wisdom we could ever want is held by the body. By learning to release and let go of the places where we are physically holding on (evidenced as physical discomfort, emotion, etc.) we can let the wisdom of our bodies guide us towards our true self and purpose. We don't have to 'think' anything, just let it unfold from within."

I liked that idea. Yoga, I imagine, is one way of physically letting go. I guess whatever works for you...stretching, dancing, standing on your head to view the world with a different perspective.

Anyway, I guess I'm just going to keep walking around the block to see what I can discover.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lighten Up

Heaviosity: taking life way too seriously and feeling like you are carrying a two hundred pound weight on your back and generally feeling shitty (despite the gorgeous weather) because you've also cut way back on caffeine. (White tea just doesn't cut it.)

I woke up this morning from another night of rather vivid dreams (I'll spare you the details.) And I was feeling quite depressed after glancing at a text message from a friend who says she is seriously considering voting for McCain because she can't move on from Hillary. And that made me so furious, which then led me to depression, which led to thinking about everything else in my life that I feel frustrated about (a daughter who unlike everyone else's kid is not going back to college this September, a mother who keeps asking me, "When are you coming to visit?" And four more years of Republicans? I would jump out the window if I didn't live on the second floor.)

And then I just happened to pick up my dear Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart" to see where I left off before I cheated on her with Jon Kabat-Zinn (and now Ekhardt Tolle's "A New Earth") and sure enough Pema, as always, came to my rescue.

I swear to God, I opened the book to see where I left off and this is the paragraph I read: "Finally, couldn't we just relax and lighten up? When we wake up in the morning, we can dedicate our day to learning how to do this. We can cultivate a sense of humor and practice giving ourselves a break. Every time we sit down to meditate, we can think of it as training to lighten up, to have a sense of humor, to relax. As one student said, "Lower your standards and relax as it is."

So that is my practice for today. And I might even treat myself to an espresso.

And I am very excited about Obama's speech tonight. I know he will "rock the stadium" and I hope that people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and the entire south will be moved enough to vote for him in November.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Wow, Hillary's speech was a home run! It was thrilling. She was amazing.

I just hope that Obama wins and he has a really important job for her in the cabinet. She deserves it. I wish she could have been the VP nominee. She made us all proud tonight.


A Little too Little

I don't know about the first night of the Democratic convention. This is the image I got: there's a duel...or a boxing match. Obama's on one side, he's all dressed up and smiles at the crowd and everyone loves him and cheers for him and he's such a good guy. His wife is there, happy, talking about what a wonderful guy he is and how hard he's worked all his life and at the other side of the ring are the Republicans with knives and machine guns and giant planes and they are ready to do battle. I didn't hear a word about the war, the recession, the giant mess this country is in.

And then there's the whole women issue, see Susan Faludi's article in the NY Times today. Worth reading.

I hope tonight is a bit more on topic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

"HAIR" today

I'm talking about the musical "HAIR" and actually it was last night - and man, was it fun!

We arrived home late Saturday night after a really fantastic week in northern California. Berkeley was great, our five days at the land were excellent, and then we spent a night at the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco (a real splurge) and together with L&L and old friends from LA, H&A, we walked all around the city (as my friend Mia says, San Francisco is better than a thighmaster and she isn't kidding.) We had dinner at a fantastic restaurant in the Mission district - Range - and then the next day we flew home. I assumed, as often happens to me, I would get home and be happy to see Zoe, and the dogs and then would get mildly depressed about my real life, which is well...real.

But then yesterday was a gorgeous day and I was walking through Central Park when I noticed that the line was moving for the Delacorte theater (the Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park venue- which is now playing "Hair"). Usually you see people sitting on the ground from 6 o'clock in the morning, with beach chairs and blankets in a line that often snakes for a quarter of a mile. (Or something like that. Long enough to discourage lazy people like me from joining them.) But the line was moving, fast, so I walked up and asked the woman in front of me, "Is this the line for HAIR? Are they actually giving out tickets?"

And she said, "I think so! I think maybe we might get some!" And then a young woman who works for the Public said, "Even if you don't get tickets, you may get vouchers. And then your chances are really good that you will get it."

I read the review in the Times a few weeks back while I was in LA and I thought, "Damn, I want to see that show, but it will close before we get back." It turns out that it has been so popular that it was extended to September 14th and I did get a voucher. I tried to reach Zoe, who was home sleeping, and I couldn't reach her. So I thought of one of my friends in the woman's group - Annette - and I actually ran into her later in the afternoon and invited her. She was thrilled, we arrived at the theater at 6:30 pm with sandwiches and waited for our number (#33) to be called and then we got (I'm embarrassed to admit) really good seats (I think they were corporate) and the show was so much fun and brought back so many memories. We knew every song and it couldn't have been more pertinent to the times today. They are bringing it to Broadway and I would like to be one of the backers. Annette and I got on stage at the end and danced and jumped around like we were 18 and I can't wait to see it again. We hugged the lead actor and one young man said to him, "Man, thank you! You changed my life!"

The entire theater emptied out and headed in different directions, singing and humming and talking about the 60's and what that time meant to this country and to the world.

New York, I love you. And thanks Oskar Eustis, the new director of the Public. Great show!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A little rant

This is a pre-meditation rant. Perhaps I would have been more mellow post-meditation, but I've been wanting to say something about these particular things for years:

1) Thongs. I can't believe that anyone finds them comfortable. I know everyone says they get used to them, but I still don't understand having a thing stuck in between your butt cheeks would be anything but annoying. And I know that I will never be able to wear them - and why bother? If I never look at my ass in the mirror, so who cares if I have a visible panty line? And isn't that one of the benefits of getting older - not to care quite so much about this shit?

2) High Heels. 4" high heels specifically, even 3" high heels. WHY? It's like walking around on your tip toes all day long and isn't that pleasant? I know they look good in magazines, but in real life, come on? Who can walk in them? All I ever see is young women wobbling around the city, hailing cabs. How is this progress for women? I admit, I have one pair. I bought the kind with Nike Air technology. Bullshit. They felt great in the store and hurt like hell when you wear them for more then five minutes. I also blame Oprah for showing up every day on her show wearing ridiculous high heels. She's a billionaire (or close to it). Why does she care how tall she looks? Doesn't that much success give you the freedom to show up in slippers if you want?

3) Pee on toilet seats. What are these women doing? Standing there and swaying or something, getting pee all over the seat, then grabbing some toilet paper, and flushing without even noticing the mess they've made? Are they drunk or something? I find this extremely annoying and unacceptable. Who raised these people?

4) The Taliban are back! More killing! More attacks! How many lives have been lost, how many billions have been spent on this war on terror? Thanks Bush, Rumseld, Cheney, Rice, etc. Let's elect McCain so we can continue this obviously brilliant strategy of fighting global terror.

7) Reality shows. Amazing Race, not bad. Project Runway, kind of fun. Top Chef, I don't mind it. A few others...maybe not so bad. Who watches Big Brother? Idiots. Who cares about people sitting around picking their noses and plotting to get rid of their roommates. Who needs this? Survivor? Is it still on? People starving themselves to death? How is this entertaining?

6) $2,000 handbags. $1,000 pairs of shoes. 11,000 square foot houses. A new Prada skirt made out of gold. Price: $2500. (It's in the NY Times today. Really.)

1 billion people in this world have no access to clean water. They have less than the equivalent of a dollar. They go to bed hungry, homeless, and afraid for their lives every single night.

Let's elect Obama and try at least to make some changes in this world, in this country and in this crazy culture. It's not going to be a panacea, but it's got to be better than four more years of Republicans.

OKAY. I feel better. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thanks, Steve

For those of you who have heard me, on occasion, complain about my husband Steve, I hereby want to acknowledge how grateful I am that many years ago he had the wisdom and forethought to buy this piece of property that I am now exceedingly happy to be at, even though I whined about it for years.

I am feeling very grateful for this respite from NYC and from life.

Letting Go, Pre or Post Meditation, Creativity and Meryl Streep

These are just a few of the subjects I thought of writing about in today's post. While I was meditating.

I was enjoying my meditation in my "office" under the trees today, except that those tornado of ideas kept whizzing by and I had to keep reminding myself to breathe - that is to go back to the breath.

Letting Go: My daughter is over twenty now and she is back in our loft in Brooklyn. Our dogs have returned home and they are all safe and sound, so why do I still feel the need to text message and call Zoe. Frequently. I even spoke to Lucy, one of our beagles, on the phone this morning.

I should give L&L my Blackberry for the next few days, but that will never happen. I keep wishing (secretly) that Zoe would go back to college this fall like just about every other kid we know, but she is not like every other kid we know and she probably never will be. And are they all alike anyway?

Honestly, I just want her to graduate so much that I would pay for a few tatoos if she would agree to go anywhere and buckle down and do the work. I AM KIDDING. NO TATOOS. Maybe just one tiny one on the back of her neck.

Pre- or Post- meditation: Would it be better for me to write before I meditate so I can just relax and forget about it, or post, so I can see what comes up in the mediation? And write about that?

Creativity: I have an idea for a possible TV pilot script that I would like to write and I am dying to talk to two friends of mine and of course I can't seem to reach either of them. I tried talking to my friend C yesterday and the cell phone noise was unbelievable, the kind that makes you want to smash your cell phone. Our service here is actually better than it is in Brooklyn, but he was in the city and there was too much noise in the background. The other friend is on a writing retreat and so I have to wait till that's over.

Patience: probably what I should have titled this post.

Crazy: is what I probably am.

Two more thoughts I remembered from the meditation.

Blueberry pie: it was delicious. After three nights of rather large slices of pie, I can't eat another bite. My pie craving should be satisfied for the next year. At least blueberry pie. I can't speak for peach.

Did you ever notice that your arms look much fatter in photographs than you think they are in real life? Steve just took a picture of me recently that shocked me. I used to have really good arms. I always lifted weights or did yoga, but recently, I've slacked off and have given up the gym. I'm going to pretend that I'm Meryl Streep and after this week I'm going to give up all the junk and get ready for my next starring role which will require me to be very svelte. Except I just remembered that I was invited to two barbecues in the next three weeks and the one in September will have everything that can possibly be barbecued. Ribs, steak, burgers, franks, shrimp, short ribs, lamb chops, and anything else that can go on a grill.

Fuck show business.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mindfulness in Nature

It's not exactly difficult to meditate for ten or fifteen minutes when you're surrounded by beautiful trees, blue skies, mountains, and you're breathing in clean air. It feels like quite a high actually, but years ago, being here was hardly easy.

We would arrive after a long flight and a long drive, and a stop at the grocery store in Willets, and then we'd have to open up the cabin, turn on the water (sometimes there wasn't much of it), set up the beds, take down the sheets and towels from the attic, and all of this was with Zoe. The first time we came she was two months old and we came almost every summer as she grew up.

Relaxing - was never something I was all that good at. I would always get bored and anxious and want to leave after a few days. There was no electricity, no phones, no TV, no indoor showers, it was basically about one step up from camping, which I really could never handle. Now we have cell service, some electricity, L&L have a large screen TV, all of that makes it easier to stay here. I like hiking and so I always do a little of that, and it's hard not to appreciate nature. Over the years we had many fun times here, barbecues, singing camp songs late at night, swimming in the Eel River. I will put some photos up when I get back. It truly is gorgeous. But for most of the past twenty years - after one week - I was ready to get back to NYC and eagerly packed up the sheets and the towels, swept and closed up the cabin and couldn't wait to go home.

Somehow, now my meditation practice has made it much easier to be in the moment. I'm reading a wonderful book called "Wherever You Go There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here are a few good quotes: "It is a commonly held view that meditation is a way to shut off the pressures of the world or of your own mind, but this is not an accurate impression. Meditation is neither shutting things out nor off. It is seeing things clearly, and deliberately positioning yourself differently in relationship to them."

"One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of your mind as the surface of a lake or of the ocean. There are always waves on the water. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible. The water's waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our minds."

"It is possible through meditation to find shelter from much of the wind that agitates the mind. Over time, a good deal of the turbulence may die down from lack of continuous feeding. But ultimately the winds of life and of the mind will blow, do what we may. Meditation is about knowing something about this and how to work with it."

"The spirit of mindfulness practice was nicely captured in a poster of a seventy-ish yogi, Swami Satchitananda, in full white beard and flowing robes atop a surfboard riding the waves off a Hawaiian beach. The caption read: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."

So here I am, about thirty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, surfing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Chief Agricultural Product of Mendocino County

Into the Woods with Blueberry Pie

Steve and I drove up yesterday from Berkeley (it took 3 1/2 hours) - we stopped once in Hopland at a diner where they were selling homemade pies: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, peach, chocolate cream and banana cream. It was a tough choice, but I went with the blueberry.

The trip gets more beautiful as you head north up Highway 101 through Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. There was quite a bit of traffic leaving Berkeley through Santa Rosa, but then it opened up. When you arrive in Laytonville, you know you're here by the number of people with dreadlocks and tie-dyed clothing. Three weeks ago there were hundreds of fires raging and the smoke was so thick it was difficult to breathe. Today it's slightly hazy, in the 80's, and this is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The property is a few miles out of town, up a long dirt road. Laytonville has close to 2,000 people and you rarely seen any of them. (At least that's been my experience.) Willets is about 20 miles away, with a population of approximately 5,000 people, a large Safeway, shopping malls, and a movie theater. We're inland from Mendocino, separated by a coastal mountain range. Redwoods grow nearby, mostly west of us and north, where it's a little cooler and wetter. On this property we have California Live Oaks, several different varieties of Pines and Firs, Madrones, and Manzanita. And LOTS OF POISON OAK. LOTS AND LOTS. TOO MUCH.

The only sound you can hear is the distant drone of Highway 101 and the sounds of rustling leaves. In other words, it's quiet. Really peaceful.

We have a redwood cabin that we stay in and our friends L & L have built themselves an amazing home, a separate bedroom, an outdoor bathroom (with shower and bathtub) and a large work shed. He is a sculptor and the land is his art project. It's practically a compound. And beautiful.

Zoe flew back yesterday on Jet Blue. This was her text to me, "A snoring old lady, a screaming baby, baby kicked iced tea in my lap, turbulence the whole way. I was hoping to crash." That's my daughter. At least she has a sense of humor.

I've claimed one of our outdoor sleeping decks as my "office." I have a chair, a meditation pillow, my books, a notebook, and I couldn't be happier. We set up a hammock for after lunch, so I can read my book and take a nice nap. Steve is having fun playing his guitar.

Last night we had barbecued flank steak (or hanger, or "flanker") with fresh tomatoes from the garden with L&L.

And the blueberry pie. We got to see Michael Phelps win his final gold medal (I slept through every other one of his races) and then we all went to bed. Steve and I are sleeping outside on the deck of the cabin, under the stars.

Life is good. Nature is amazing.

I may have to stop in at the Hopland Cafe for a piece of peach pie on the way home. Or maybe a couple of pieces?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On The Road

The trip up from LA to Berkeley went well, except we started out on one freeway, 5, which is the shortest route from LA and somehow while I was napping, we ended up on route 99 which took us through towns I'd heard of, but had never been to, including Chow Chilla and Modesto. We left at 9 am and arrived around 2, after having stopped twice, once at a big cheese shop and once at a funny restaurant outside of Modesto. It all went well and although my driving skills on freeways with plenty of trucks and traffic makes me a little tense, I managed. Steve drove probably two thirds of the trip.

We're in Berkeley right now, staying at our friends' house on Ward, a few blocks from the campus and downtown. I'm not that familiar with Berkeley, but I love to walk and this is a great walking town. Yesterday Peter, Steve's friend, took me downtown to buy a couple of games to take to the land, Banana Grams and Mexican train (I learned that one in Fire Island on the women's group retreat). We also took a long walk and wandered through the campus, which is so beautiful.

Zoe is going home today. She decided she's had enough of being with us and wanted to go back to NY to be with her friends. I think it's a good idea. When I was twenty, I didn't want to go anywhere with my parents, let alone a vacation.

We'll be heading up to Laytonville this afternoon and I will write from there. It was rough being in Los Angeles, driving everywhere, getting stuck in so much traffic, feeling isolated, dealing with family. It was great seeing my old friends, but coordinating times and dealing with long drives everywhere was difficult. I could easily stay a few days in Berkeley, but Steve's really anxious to get to the land and I've got several books to read, so it should be okay.

I have no ending for this post except to say that I'm feeling saner than I have in a week. LA was rough for me and I'm curious about how it's going to be when we're at the cabin. I miss NY and my friends. There's so much I'm doing there now, but Rudy, my real estate buddy did manage to sell a house we've had on the market for five months, so that is exciting. Steve and I showed the house to the buyer while Rudy was in Ireland, and then the negotiations lasted over a week, but it looks like we should have a signed contract soon. That is a big relief.

I'm also looking forward to getting back to New York and starting Level 3 of our workshop and having another performance of our monologues. That will be scary and hopefully fun.

More later...probably from the woods!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Venice, Laurel Canyon and Dupar's

My new favorite place for breakfast (specifically pancakes) has to be Dupar's in the L.A. Farmer's Market. First of all the ambience is sublime. Located right at the Farmer's Market, where my favorite English toffee, the kind I used to by when I worked next store at CBS Television City, is still being sold at a place called "John's something." Again, memory loss. Will have to check the bag. My friend Susie and Zoe and I all had a fantastic breakfast, my first time tasting Corned Beef Hash (hard to believe!) Susie was Mary to my Rhoda for almost eleven years and she still lives at the Harper House, a beautiful Spanish style apartment building in West Hollywood. I will probably include a few photos when I get a chance.

After breakfast, Zoe and I drove out to Venice, where we walked on the beach for a good hour or so. It was definitely one of the highlights of the week. Malibu Pier, Venice Beach, Runyan Canyon - all of these places are spectacular and I really enjoyed our walks.

But I have to admit that the theme of the week for me, sadly, has been a term I learned in 12 Step meetings "Compare and Despair." I am ashamed to admit it, but it keeps coming up. At a lovely dinner party, in the backyard of my friend's wonderful home in Laurel Canyon, a friend of mine who is thinking of retiring from his extremely successful practice as analyst to the Hollywood moguls said to me, "You know, I just have to say to myself that I have enough. More than enough."

I'm happy for him.

And even comparing my mother's accommodations in a nursing home in Brooklyn to the lives of my friends' mothers here - makes me feel sad that I wasn't able to do better by my mom.

And on and on it goes...

I know very well that I have so much to be grateful for. So I am embarrassed to write these words. But maybe by putting them down, I will somehow exorcise them from my brain.

Be gone! I think they are. For now. I know it's human to have these thoughts. I think that when you're living your life and busy and working, you can keep these thoughts at bay...most of the time.

Tomorrow morning we hit the road - north to Berkeley and then up to our cabin in the woods in Laytonville, California. It will be a very different trip. There will be nothing to compare and despair about really. Just a lot of trees. And who doesn't love trees?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Working With Chaos

For some reason (is it the conspicuous consumption factor?) - whenever I get to L.A. at some point, I start to feel poor (is it that they are building an 11,000 sf house right behind my sister-in-law's house?)  And I start to feel anxious and want to go back to NY, where I feel less isolated and alone.  But I'm here and I want to move past those feelings, so at 3 am and 5 am when I couldn't sleep, I tried to reason with myself and I eventually got up out of bed and read some Pema Chodron.  

Here is one paragraph:  "Times are difficult globally; awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal.  It's becoming critical.  We don't need to add more depression, more discouragement, or more anger to what's already here.  It's becoming essential that we learn how to relate sanely with difficult times.  The earth seems to be beseeching us to connect with joy and discover our innermost essence.  This is the best way that we can benefit others."

I liked that.  And then I also emailed a friend of mine early this morning and he told me that on his recent visit to the Hamptons, he felt like the poorest person alive.  Which is ridiculous of course, but he said that ultimately he felt that what he needed to connect to was love: love of self, family, work, people, etc.  

I liked that too.  I haven't had a chance to meditate this morning and I'm feeling pretty tired, but I am grateful for my reading and for my friend.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Day to day, I'm not quite sure what I'm doing here.  Steve is with his mother this morning as they go to see her new internist, along with his sister.  I've been spending a good part of my time in the pool with Zoe and for some reason water seems to be the main focus of this summer.  A friend of mine is picking me up soon to go to Malibu and have lunch - so I will see the Pacific Ocean.  I know that there's a conflict in Georgia, and that the Olympics are going on.  I've watched the men's relay replayed several times and that great women's volleyball team, May and Walsh.  But mostly, I'm here in southern California, trying to be in the moment and not worry too much about the future, and the world and grateful for being able to get wet.  

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Short people and hiking in Runyan Canyon

Jet blue, la to ny, great flight, only one major bump - "what the hell was that?" and the rest was smoothe. Except that we had three short people in the row behind us who had a hard time not raising and lowering their tray tables constantly and kicking the back of our seats. But then I feel terrible complaining, perhaps their feet just naturally hit the back and although I did turn around a few times to find them wrestling each other, I don't want to complain too much. Flight left on time and arrived on time, unlike that Valentine's Day 2007 mess I was caught up in on Jet Blue (10 1/2 hours sitting on the tarmac in an ice storm.)

So we arrived in LA, jumped into the pool at my sister-in-law's house and spent time with Virginia, my mother-in-law. She's moved up from La Jolla to a really lovely assisted living facility. It's not something I've seen in NY, a regular house with six or seven bedrooms, only four residents and three aides. It's lovely and the aides seem very capable, the residents were nice, the food is good and Virginia seems to be adjusting fairly well. She is almost completely blind and that is very difficult and she has Parkinson's which seems to be controlled well by her medication. Her mind is sharp and I think she's grateful to be living close to her family again.

This morning I woke up early and met my friend Mona up on Mulholland and Laurel Canyon Blvd. We drove over to the Hollywood market, which is like the Farmer's Market in Union Square -- only ridiculously fantastic. Much more organic produce, the most beautiful fruits and vegetables, we stuffed our faces with samples of peaches, figs, nectarines, tomatoes. Mona bought herself some mussels, which she said are delicious. She's cooking us a dinner on Wednesday night, so she stocked up.

Then we went over to hike in Runyan Canyon, which is in the Hollywood Hills and seems to turn up in lots of TV shows and movies. We had a cute dog with us, Mona's neighbor's dog, and it reminded me of all the years we walked together in the hills with Chaco, Mona's wonderful Vishla (spelling?) If I ever moved back to Los Angeles, as long as I could hike in the canyons I'm sure I would be quite happy here. Except that I would miss NY and everyone I love.

More soon! Getting ready for a big family get together, with lots of kids and swimming and Susan's delicious food. We don't do this in Brooklyn.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lucy and Lola

Lola (above) 6 years old and Lucy, 12. They are going to New Jersey to stay at Josephine's. They'll have a big backyard to play in, and I'm sure she feeds them steak. They love her.

Summer In Brooklyn

I've lived in a number of different cities (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, NY) - and I find it curious that I've ended up living in Brooklyn, where I was born. I never imagined that I would find myself living here, since we left when I was only one. We lived, first in Kew Gardens, Queens, and then further out on Long Island, in a typical suburban town, Plainview. For my mother it was a dream, a split level house where she could tend to her garden. Plainview was a good place to grow up. I could ride my bike everywhere. But when I became a teenager, all I wanted to do was "come to the city."

The photo was taken before I was born. My sister is topless, second person on the right, and my mother is sitting in the back on the right.

What I'm thinking about today, as we get ready to leave for California tomorrow, is my memories of Brooklyn in the summers. Every Saturday, we would drive in to see my grandparents and all my aunts and uncles and cousins. My sister and I would be in the back seat, generally fighting (she is eight years older than I and she always won.) The windows of the car were always open (no air conditioning in those days) and it was hot. Really scorching. The baseball game was always on the radio and I remember Phil Ruzzuto's voice so clearly.

We'd arrive at my grandfather's house, a wooden frame house in Bed Stuy. I believe that my grandfather and his wife, Fanny, were the only white people living on the block. It had become the largest black community in the entire country at that time (the 60's) and I loved going there.

We would always start out in the dining room of my grandfather's house, except in the summer, when we would eat in the backyard. The backyard had a long table and there was a big oak tree and grape vines everywhere. I loved the food my grandmother Fanny served us. My favorite dish was a cold fish stew with pieces of whiting (or sometimes flounder) that my grandfather caught in Sheepshead Bay, and cooked carrots, potatoes, onions and possibly a bit of sugar, because it was always a little sweet. Sometimes there would be lox and bagels and always many kinds of baked goods because my grandfather worked at Levy's bakery (which had been owned by one of my relatives.) They would serve ruggalah, babka, danish, you name it we had it. In the winter, we'd eat inside at the large dining room table, generally heavier dishes like brisket or stuffed cabbage. I can't remember much about the conversation, only the food.

The best part of the summer days would be when my cousins and I would walk to the candy store on the corner, passing all the kids playing on the street. They were riding their bikes or jumping rope (double dutch) or playing potsie. I'm sure they didn't know what to make of us. We would smile at each other, but we were too shy to say anything and they were too. I used to love looking at their hairdos, which were works of art, hundreds of braids on their heads, or pigtails. I wore my hair in a boring ponytail and so did my cousins.

My cousins and I would go to the corner candy store and buy a few comic books, (usually Archie), a bottle of Coke, and an ice cream, then return to my grandfather's front stoop, read, and survey the action on the street. I longed to jump rope with the girls, but I just didn't have the nerve to ask. It was hot and sticky, but I never wanted to go back to my boring suburban block. The only thing to see in our neighborhood was a father (or my mother) mowing the lawn and an occasional car driving by.

So now, years later, my family and I live in Brooklyn and it is still pretty fascinating. My neighborhood, Fort Greene, is very diverse and while the streets aren't as busy as Manhattan streets, they still have interesting stories to tell. I live next door to a woman who runs a day care center with her daughters, so everyday there are always adorable kids getting ready to go to the park. One of my neighbors plants the most beautiful flowers in many of the tree beds and tends to them. And the park is where we all hang out, the center of the community.

I'm a little sad that we're leaving Brooklyn for two weeks in the summer, but one of my other passions is swimming. My sister-in-law has a pool in her backyard and I will be in there everyday and hopefully we'll get to the beach at least once. When we go up north to the land, we have a large livestock watering trough on our property (seriously), which we all climb into when it gets hot. We'll probably also go to the Eel River at least once. (I haven't seen too many eels over the years.) It's a gorgeous place to swim. I'll add upload some photos when I return.

Water is the goal right now, but hopefully we'll have an Indian summer so we can still have time to enjoy Brooklyn.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Bummer Today

Not the greatest title for a post, but I guess I can do whatever I want. Which wasn't true when I was writing soap operas and I often had to write stuff I hated.

Yesterday was a good day. I met with a friend of mine who's working on some fascinating research about what's happening these days in corporations and in our culture. We talked about some ideas - and it was fun to brainstorm.

OBAMA must win this election. Just thought I'd throw that in.

Last night I watched a documentary about Alzheimer's disease on PBS called "The Forgetting." It first aired in 2004, so they had an update at the end of the show about where the research is now. Although it's certainly a depressing subject - 15 or so years ago only 500,000 people in this country had Alzheimer's, now that number is over 5,000,000 and will rise dramatically every year as people live longer. In 2035, if they don't find a cure, the entire Federal budget would have to go for the care of people with the disease. In 2004 they believed they were 5-10 years away from a cure. They are having some very promising trials now and tremendous progress has been made, but a cure is still probably 5-10 years away. It was fascinating "meeting" the researchers who have been working on this for so long. They deserve the medals, the Oscar, the acclaim.

We're leaving for two weeks in California soon to see Steve's family (in Los Angeles) and to go to our cabin in the woods outside of Laytonville, in Northern California. We leave on Saturday and hopefully, I can write a little while we're away. I feel guilty leaving my mother and my dogs...but I can live with it. Work is slow, this is a good time to ecape the city. I got a new book to read.. of course, I can't remember the title or the author. (That is not a sign of early Alzheimer's - it's normal aging.)

Okay, the title of the book (I cheated and looked) is "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai. When we go to the land I get to sit around and read much of the time. In a hammock. It's heaven. Except when I happen to get poison oak anywhere on my body because it drives me insane. It's particularly bad when it's on my face or my butt...but - pretty much anywhere is horrible. I'm hoping that our friends Loren and Libbe, who moved to the land a few years ago, have found better remedies. Anyway, although this has been a pretty good summer here on the east coast, I'm looking forward to spending time California.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Too Much to Take In

From "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron. The chapter titled "Opinions."

"When we hold on to our opinions with aggression, no matter how valid our cause, we are simply adding more aggression to the planet, and violence and pain increase. Cultivating nonaggression is cultivating peace."

"Pay attention to the breath and just notice your thoughts. Don't attach any meaning to them, just notice them."

I was thinking of C, a very close friend of my friend J. She was diagnosed a few months ago with a brain tumor, the same kind of tumor Ted Kennedy has. She is 47 and has two children. I haven't seen C in a few years, but I have always really liked her. Her prognosis is not good.

When I think about C it's hard not to be angry. So many millions of people are dying of cancer (I believe that in this country alone, 500,000 will die this year.) And for so many years many of the causes of cancer have been ignored by the government and large corporations, who have continued to pollute our environment, use pesticides, allow our food to be filled with dangerous additives, sell us cigarettes, etc. etc., and we are now paying the price. And on top of all that - the funding that the government had for cancer research has been decreasing every year.

Then this morning I opened the NY Times and read that charges of sexual abuse have been filed against Dr. Mel Levine, the respected pediatrician and author of numerous books and research about children with learning issues. He was a strong advocate for these kids and started a wonderful institute called "A Mind at a Time." I'm sure that his research has helped hundreds of thousands of children around the world. But over the years, the charges state, he also performed physical examinations on young boys -- with no parents or anyone else present -- and that he touched the boys' genitals inappropriately.

My opinion about Dr. Levine is that he is a brilliant doctor and researcher and I am grateful for all his pioneering work. But how was he allowed to be alone in an examining room with young boys for so many years?

When I started these posts I wanted them to be humorous and entertaining. But I guess that I would have to move to a cave and only read David Sedaris. I wish I had a wacky family like David Sedaris has so I could write about them.

All I can say is that life is both funny and tragic. In my opinion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Boredom Is Good!

Today in the Science Times, one of my favorite sections of the New York Times, is an article entitled "You're Checked Out, but Your Brain is Tuned In." The article states that "it's time that boredom be recognized as a legitimate human emotion that can be central to learning and creativity." (The quote is from The Cambridge Journal of Education.)

This is good news for me. For years I was the kind of person who was always doing something. Working, exercising, reading, writing, going constantly. I loved when Zoe was little and I could spend hours in the park talking to other parents and babysitters. I really enjoyed the feeling of community, but then I would have to race home and work on something. I even enjoyed doing the laundry because it gave me a feeling of accomplishment and that was always the goal. The only time I watched TV was when I was too exhausted to do anything else and then I generally passed out on the couch in the middle of "Law and Order."

Sometime in the past couple of years though, that attitude has shifted for me. Maybe it was when I was dealing with some serious family problems, my mother was very ill, Zoe was having issues at school, and I started walking a lot to help me deal with the stress. I always went to the gym, but while I was there I usually talked to friends or listened to music, so I was always distracted. But somehow walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, or walking through Central Park, I came to really enjoy having no distractions. Essentially walking with my own thoughts, or trying not to think, just being.

I have friends who have always been good at this. As the article states: "It's the difference between the sort of person who can look at a a pool of mud and find something interesting, and someone who has a hard time getting absorbed in anything." Susie (if you're reading this) - you are the pool of mud person and I really admire that about you. I can almost always get absorbed, but I understand that for many people, there's a constant search for distraction.

I do find that I often get my most creative ideas when I just let my mind wander. And meditation is another way of clearing my mind, which is why I enjoy it.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend about Buddhism and the idea that when you are feeling really bad, really suffering, Buddhism says you should allow yourself to sit with the pain. And therapy has taught me that too, that rather than fighting it, you should allow yourself to wallow (well, maybe not wallow, maybe just BE in it.) And then my friend and I agreed that when you do that, sit with it, it really stinks. It's really misery to be so down. But then eventually it does pass. And you find that you haven't gained ten pounds in one weekend, or spent too much money, or drank too much, or slept with someone you never want to see again. (Although it's been awhile since I did that.)

Anyway, it's possible that I've managed to bore you to death with this post and if I have, I am quite pleased.

One more thing...I got the DVD of our monologue performance night and I have to say that I wasn't miserable about it, it was pretty good. Except that next time I perform, I will have done thousands of biceps curls so my arms look tighter, I will have lost ten pounds and will be wearing my contact lenses. The best part of seeing it though, is being able to study and learn from it.

Thank you Jake!

Monday, August 4, 2008


Monday morning. It's a gorgeous summer day. I walked the dogs in the park, came back, made myself a cup of white tea (it only has a little caffeine), read a chapter of "When Things Fall Apart" which was called "Servants of Peace." Regarding meditation it said:

"When we sit down to meditate, we can connect with something unconditional - a state of mind, a basic environment that does not grasp or reject anything. Meditation is probably the only activity that doesn't add anything to the picture. Everything is allowed to come and go without further embellishment."

I guess that's if you do it right. This morning, I had a hard time not embellishing. Why is sitting and connecting with the breath so hard? I like the stillness, but this morning I kept thinking about...writing...about what I want to say...regarding some of the events that happened this weekend and have shaped my thoughts.

On Saturday I heard from three different men. They were all feeling some degree of pain about their lives. One is a dear friend I've known for twenty-five years. We'll call him Jim. He has a job that he isn't enjoying and he's extremely talented, but he's not using most of his talents for this work. He would also like to make more money. He loves his family and knows how blessed he is to have them. His wife and child adore him.

Another friend, (we'll call him Pete) has had a very abundant business for the last few years, but this year it's been much more of a struggle. He enjoys the work and has ideas about how to enrich his services, but he's very nervous about not taking more actions to increase business as he takes the time to study. His wife is even more nervous and she's angry at him. She's been freelancing and taking care of their kids, but will probably have to get a full-time job to add to their income. He spends a great deal of time with his children and is a good father. Right now their relationship is tense and they are both pretty miserable.

The third man I heard from is someone I met recently. Ed. Ed is single, his business has also sharply declined and he is freaking out. He doesn't know what to do and he's having a hard time coping with the anxiety.

So all of this started to get to me as I thought about the culture we live in and how stressed out we all are. And about what is valued and how hard it is to manage everything; work, kids, parents, our health, money...and most of us live in relative affluence compared to the rest of the world.

One of the headlines in today's NY Times is that a second wave of people defaulting on their mortgages is coming and it could be even larger than the first wave. Life is tough for many people right now.

I don't have any answers to these problems. I am dealing with my own struggle. But I am grateful that today is an absolutely beautiful day with bright sunshine and blue skies.

And maybe later today I can try meditating again. With no embellishments.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Lost and Found

About a week ago, I was having lunch with two friends and we were discussing ideas for films. I mentioned that years ago my friend Julie and I had written a script called "The Wives Are in Connecticut" about the state of marriage/relationships and women juggling careers, children, family life. Although we'd written the script long ago, my friends and I realized that not too much has changed. I decided I would update the script and send it out again. Seemed like a good idea. We'd won some screenwriting contests with it, had a terrific reading at Lincoln Center through NY Women and Film, and it was optioned.

I went home from the lunch and immediately started looking for the script. I couldn't find it. I couldn't find it on my computer or in a hard copy. I found every other script I ever wrote, even multiple copies, but not that one. I admit it, I'm a bit disorganized, but we've also moved three times in the past six years. We even had a video of the reading and I couldn't find that. I figured I would just ask my writing partner Julie for the script - but she said she didn't know where it was either. She's also moved several times in the past seven years. I refuse to believe that this is a lost cause though.

Later on, I was talking to my friend B, and she said whenever she loses something, like a pair of earrings, she prays to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. Jews don't have patron saints of lost things. We just wait for a sale and replace it.

Anyway, B said Saint Anthony always works for her. Maybe not immediately, but the item she's lost almost always turns up. So I thought why not? I'll try it. (I used to go to a hair dresser named Anthony and I always liked him.)

ROBIN: "Dear Saint Anthony (not the hair dresser), please help me find my script for "The Wives are In Connecticut" because I could never re-write it and I think it's a pretty good script. I don't even need the disk or to find it on a computer, I would suffer and re-type the whole damn thing, if I could just find it. Thanks!"

So, as I went to bed last night, I glanced at the bookshelf right next to the bed and there right in front of me was not the script for "The Wives Are in Connecticut" - but a book I've been looking for for months.

Not bad. Keep looking, Saint Anthony.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ode to a Park

Fort Greene Park
Well, this is not really an ode
Because I am not a poet
But joy! I was able to add a photo of my park!
To this page!
I call it "mine" because I love it
and it's the reason I so enjoy living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The park is the center of this community
a place where I can go to be in nature.
It's where we walk our dogs, Lucy and Lola
whose photos I will upload soon.

This park is a little Central Park
three minutes from our home.
Everyday you can find people sunbathing, playing tennis,
soccer, frisbee, walking their dogs, having parties, barbecuing,
reading the newspaper,
getting together with their friends.
It's not as large as either Central Park or Prospect Park,
but it was also designed by Frederick Olmsted
and it's the perfect size for me.
Walt Whitman used to go to this park and he was a poet
(and a clerk and a teacher and an editor and all kinds of things)

I always feel happy when I enter the park
isn't it beautiful?

UPDATE: I just found out today that
Fort Greene Park was the first park in Brooklyn!

Bodhichitta and Tonglen

This happens to me quite often: I wake up in the morning and I'm feeling blue about something, or some problem is weighing on me, either an issue I'm having or it could be one that a friend is dealing with. So I do my meditation for a little while and maybe nothing insightful comes out of it. Then I pick up some kind of book for inspiration. For the last year or so I've been reading quite a bit of Pema Chodron's work, as I've mentioned before.

So yesterday, I woke up after having been at the beach for the past three days and I thought, "Damn, I can't walk on the beach this morning. Or swim. Or relax." And I was feeling a little bit sad about being back in the city, in the heat, back to dealing with life, and stress, and anxiety about money, and work, and everything else. I picked up "When Things Fall Apart" (Pema Chodron, 1997) and this is some of what I read in a chapter titled: "The Love That Will Not Die."

"In difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. Healing can be found in the tenderness of the pain itself."

"Bodhicitta is a Sanskrit word that means "noble and awakened heart."

"...Steven Levine writes of a woman who was dying in terrible pain and feeling overwhelming bitterness. At the point at which she felt she could not bear the suffering and resentment any longer, she unexpectedly began to experience the pain of others in agony: a starving mother in Eithiopia, a runaway teenager dying of an overdose in a dirty flat, a man crushed by a landslide and dying alone by the banks of a river. She said she understood that it wasn't her pain, it was the pain of all beings. It wasn't just her life, it was life itself."

"It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of the pain itself."

"Tonglen - sending and receiving - awakens bodhichitta by putting us in touch with the genuine noble heart. It's a practice of taking in pain and sending out pleasure and therefore completely turns around our well-established habit of doing just the opposite."

So then I thought, what percentage of people in the world are getting up and walking on a beautiful beach today? What percentage of people don't have shit to deal with, don't have money issues, or health issues, or parents who are sick, or whatever. Get over yourself!

The other day a friend of mine was dealing with a situation that involves her brother. They're not speaking and she's mad because this happens continuously and she's fed up. So I picked up my book the morning after we had this discussion and the chapter was titled "Widening the Circle of Compassion." This has to do "right and wrong" and how everyone always feels that their position is right and other person's is wrong. And what is needed is open and honest communication about what people are feeling and accepting that perhaps there is no right or wrong, just feelings. I relate a lot to my friend's problems with her brother, because my sister and I have had a similar relationship. And perhaps this right and wrong dilemma is the reason we continue to have wars.

Anyway, I don't know the answers to all of this, I just know I'm going to keep on reading and meditating. And maybe re-reading. Until maybe someday I actually get it.