Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not Like the Ones in Raiders

SeatmateLast night my friend, Julie, posted a few pictures of her son, Julian. One of them was from a site (or is it a movement? a project?) called Humans of New York. It includes a quote that basically proves that Julian is, unsurprisingly, one of the world's best inhabitants. Go on, click the link, I'll wait. Totally worth it.

I shared the link and a lot of people commented on the fact that Julian is so bright he makes you go blind, but in a good way. As the conversation evolved I said, "Remind me to tell you my Julian story." I think I've told this here before but it's good enough that I'm fine with telling it again.

You see, Julian and I went on one of the best dates I think I've ever been on. (Before you call Child Protective Services please just read the rest of the story and cool your dialing finger.) This was about 7, or maybe 8, years ago so he'd have been around 10. His mom and dad were performing. Both he and I were going to see the show but there was a long stretch of time between when they needed to arrive and the start of the show so Julian and I agreed to hang out together to pass that time.

First we left the venue which was chilly and a little weird with all the nervous performers. Thankfully it warmed up in both ways by the time we got back. We talked about Sim City (he was an expert, I was not, I learned much) as we walked to a pizza parlor. We were both a little keyed up. We didn't know each other well and had no way of guessing how the night would turn out. We bonded a bit over one of our favorite foods and then decided to go to a nearby bookstore's cafe for some homework as mandated by the parental units. We got hot chocolate, found a place to sit across from each other, and dug in to the homework. He was infinitely tolerant about laying out for me what needed to be done and getting right to it. I don't know if I was visibly nervous but I worried that we wouldn't get all the homework done and his parents would be mad and the sky would fall and...well, a lot of other long range unimportant things. About halfway through the homework he did it.

UntitledHe said, quietly but decisively, "I think we should take a break and read our books for about 10 minutes before we finish this."


Fucking floored.

Also, fortunately, smart enough not to deter any child from reading. So, that's what we did. We got out our books (at least one of us was reading Harry Potter, maybe both) and we read companionably across the table from each other. Then we finished up the homework loose ends and continued to talk as we wound our way back to the music venue where we ate some more stuff and watched a great show.

At some point I remember thinking, "Damn, if this were what happened in a real date I would go on more of them. I mean, how fucking genius to just take a little breather from the hard work of hanging out with someone new? How did he think of that? How can I get adults to be OK with that? We need to start a movement!"

I haven't started a movement yet but I continue to be grateful to Julian for showing me how it's done.

*The above photos are not Julian. I don't have any pics of him for my own use. They are other stellar humans so I felt they were appropriate.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Photo Challenge: MEMORY

I'm so excited by the stories being told in the shots from this challenge. I hope you love them and express your love, too.

Scroll down for the next challenge, it's a goodie inspired by one of the ladies in this first photo!

Rock Stars
Someone in this photo got married this weekend. Any guesses? It wasn't Our Cindy, she was there as a whole hearted supporter. I just love the pure joy spurting out of everyone in this shot. Stay tuned to Cindy's blog for more.

Soldier Chef
From the once-in-a-lifetime (ish) to the everyday. Our Lisa has captured the kind of memory that keeps me taking photos. What if you forgot the time your kid was head to toe in cammo while his dad was teaching him to flip burgers? That would be a tragic loss. I'm not exaggerating at all. I think this one's got a future as a griller.

This contribution from Our Janet might be the thing that turns me to the dark side of Pinterest. She wrote about the exercise on her blog. It's a great little way to celebrate your happy life and I think I'm going to implement it at my house. Hardest part is going to be teaching the dog to put that cap back on the pen.

eenie meenie miney mo
I haven't said this out loud yet because I don't want to think about it. Here goes, though, Our Bethany is leaving Brooklyn. No word on when or where to but the wheels are churning and...well, it's not about me. She's been capturing as many memories as she can in anticipation of the change and this one is beautiful. It shoots me right back to my own eeny meenie miney mo days.

This little building holds an unlimited supply of Our Chrome's candy-covered childhood memories. She used to go to school right back there where the black sign is. We might need a shot of her as a kid next. I bet she was a cutie.

Twist & Shout
I took this as part of an ongoing project in collaboration with R. He wants to capture Bu's wild athleticism before time or injury slows him down. I know we can do better but this one is pretty awesome. It's the triple toe loop of dog catches.

Our Gert is the one who got married in Our Cindy's photo (far right in her party dress after her gorgeous canary yellow wedding dress). It's such a big step and something I can hardly think about without shaking in my boots. From all I hear it was the greatest wedding ever thrown and that doesn't surprise me one teensy little bit. Let's take a page out of Gert's book and go out into the world to CELEBRATE for our next challenge.

Please add your photos to our Flickr photo pool by 9am on Tuesday June 12th for posting on Wednesday June 13th. Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10 Steps to Good Citizenship

Stoop SitterI've gotten it into my head that I want to slap a title on the Edster. Apparently Honorable Mention winner at the Pupkin isn't enough for me. Long term I'm thinking Therapy Dog but the first step to that is a test developed by the AKC called Canine Good Citizenship. There are 10 elements and today I thought we'd go through them and evaluate where Ed is on each one thus far. If you want a more complete description of any element go here to the AKC page about the test.

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
This is going to depend on the stranger, for sure. If it's a woman there's a high percentage chance that he'll be fine. Often he'll penalize men for smelling of smoke or being drunk or having a bicycle or merely existing. Last night a drunk woman walking her bicycle went apeshit over him and he was fine with it.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
Again, it will depend on the person. If he accepts the person at all then the petting is assured. If he doesn't accept the person then it'll be an epic fail.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming
He's clean and well groomed. He's easy that way. He's a good weight. I don't ever brush him so I suppose I ought to try that out to see how he likes it. He's always been perfectly docile at the vet, more inclined to squeal out of an overly dramatic impulse than to be aggressive so this one he ought to be fine with.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
He can do this. We need a little more practice before it's 100% but we've been working on it and he's pretty good at it. Of course we're still using treats and a test won't allow that but I still think he's got a better than average chance of passing this one.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd
You're allowed verbal encouragement so I think he could pass this one. I'm always tense with him in crowds in case he takes a dislike to someone so it'd be a tough one for both of us. I think in a test situation it's not a huge crowd so much as it's at least 3 people he has to pass politely. I think he could do that. Again, it'll all depend on the people.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
He's got this. He's great at this.

Test 7: Coming when called
Since you can do this from a sit/stay and you aren't required to call him out of a stimulating situation I feel confident in saying he's got this one, too.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog
Oof. This is one of the ones that I just don't know if he'll ever pass. Some dogs he really doesn't give a crap about but, by and large, he feels the need to at least go and investigate another dog. He doesn't like being told not to. If I had a nickel for every time he's barked and pulled and freaked then gotten to the dog, sniffed once, and walked away... I think he'll be capable of this one day but I am not even close to confident about it yet.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This one's right up there with #8. It'll depend on his mood and the distraction. If it's not a surprise then there's a chance, a very small one, he could pass this but it's not anywhere near assured right now. Dude likes to bark at shit.

Test 10: Supervised separation
More even than the other human interaction stuff this will depend on the person. When I bring him to training classes often he won't even work for a trainer, someone giving him cheese and meatballs and love, he'll just act as though he's being kidnapped. Stella's Jen, who he knows and enjoys, walked him right beside me while I walked Stella one day and you'd have thought she'd lured him into the back of a car with a piece of candy and a promise of ice cream.

Let's see what the tally is.

4 near-certain passes
3 decent possibilities
3 doomed for failure...right now

I'm thinking of asking our trainer if, during our next session, we can just try the test out to see where he is and get  some feedback on how to keep working toward it. We'll have to see if our classmates are interested in that, too.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day of Memorial


T. S. Eliot wrote about war in a way that's both so vague and so pointed that it makes perfect sense. If that makes any sense at all. I thought today would be a good day to share a small part of one of those poems. This is a favorite fragment of his Four Quartets.

Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
Dust inbreathed was a house-
The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,
The death of hope and despair,
         This is the death of air.

There are flood and drouth
Over the eyes and in the mouth,
Dead water and dead sand
Contending for the upper hand.
The parched eviscerate soil
Gapes at the vanity of toil,
Laughs without mirth.
         This is the death of earth.

Water and fire succeed
The town, the pasture and the weed.
Water and fire deride
The sacrifice that we denied.
Water and fire shall rot
The marred foundations we forgot,
Of sanctuary and choir.
         This is the death of water and fire.

Thank you to all the service members past and present. May we someday honor your sacrifice with a commitment to peace.

Sunday, May 27, 2012



Do you ever have a dream that just sets you crooked when you wake up?

I took a nap early this afternoon and when I woke up I didn't understand the real world for a few minutes. I think I'd dreamt that I had a falling out with roommates and wound up getting all of my things out of the apartment and moving in with a boyfriend (current in the dream, ex in reality) and his roommates. Except that it was still their apartment so I was just squatting really and most of my stuff was still out in the car. Mostly I remember a bookcase jammed in the back of a tan Volvo.

As upsetting as that basic information might be it wasn't that I objected to. It was how real the relationship with the (ex) boyfriend was. He wasn't helping at all and my friends were there but he was in another room watching TV and never interacted with them. I felt wildly comforted by him, though, even though he was only paying me lip service, if you'll pardon the expression. I woke up and just hated myself.

Also there were elements of Glee in the dream. That just shouldn't happen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


For Comparison

We kicked off our holiday weekend way early by sipping wine on the stoop with NDP and Viggo on Tuesday (pictured). Thursday night I went to a club (go ahead, laugh, it's funny). My piano student was singing at a big round up event of up and coming visual and musical artists. I stayed for her fun set and then bailed because the whole atmosphere was killing me. I am stodgy and the noise and lights and crowds were too much for my delicate soul I guess. Yesterday I had a voice lesson where I decided where to have the next cabaret show. Stay tuned for details. Then I met up with friends and had dinner and a show. If you ever have a chance to see or read Clybourne Park and I cannot recommend it enough. I have rarely seen a better written piece of entertainment. Wow. This afternoon I taught a piano lesson and had a lot of fun. I was a stupid kid not to practice more and not to learn more music theory. I'm learning now, though! Teaching smart people is cool.

I think I'll take a nap because this evening it's dinner at one of my favorite diners and another show. We're scheduled for Peter and the Starcatcher. I can't wait!

Hope you're enjoying your weekend as much as I am. I can't wait to hear all about it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Promoting Discussion

UntitledAn anonymous comment was left by another Chieka follower on yesterday's post. I decided that it needs to be promoted to a new post because it brings up an issue that's important to me, off-leash opportunities for dogs. Let's kick off with the comment and then start discussing.

"Cheika and Bug are walked in Buena Vista and they are almost never on leads. I have always worried about the tiny dogs who aren't on leads. I think all dogs in a well-trafficked park should be on lead to protect the dogs, people, wildlife and gardens. Although it seems like a drag, the leash laws make a lot of sense."

I'm not going to disagree that there are calculated risks to spending off-leash time with your dogs but I do disagree with the way the comment leans toward victim blaming. I did a quick search and found that there's a relatively large section of Buena Vista Park that is designated for off-leash walking of dogs* so it's important to be clear that Chieka was well within her rights to be walking off leash in an area she knows well.

I don't know the specifics of the Buena Vista laws but I'm extremely familiar with the hard-won off-leash privileges in New York City so I'm going to work with them instead. For years the Parks Department extended a courtesy to dog owners that said that in designated areas of city parks dogs could walk unleashed between the hours of 9pm and 9am as long as they were within their person's vocal control. A few years ago a group of neighbors to a park in Queens made a big legal stink about dog people not cleaning up after their dogs**. The dog community in the city rose up, enlisted legal representation, and had the courtesy made law. Which is all to say that having time for one's dog to experience off-leash play is really important to a lot of people. Living in cities with a heavy reliance on public transportation and a low percentage of privately owned land it can be difficult to get sufficient exercise for young or high energy pups of all sizes. This law is a godsend for many of us. My dog in particular would be unmanageable without his time off-leash. We go every day for at least half an hour in the mornings and sometimes return in the evening. We also go on long leashed walks at other times of day.

7:25Not every dog can be off leash. Emily was off leash for some of her younger years but became unpredictable enough in defending herself from perceived slights by other dogs*** that she spent about half of her life leashed only. We didn't go to the park during off-leash hours because that was a drag for all of us. Sometimes quite literally for me. For the purposes if this discussion let's compare apples to apples and talk about two bully breed dogs, Bu and Stella.

Bu's people describe him as an inherently optimistic dog. Despite, or perhaps because of, spending nearly all of his first 8 months of life in a shelter cage he sees every new experience as an opportunity. Every person he sees on the street could be the love of his life. Every bite of food is the most delicious he's ever tried. Every dog is his best friend...unless they have designs on his ball. Even then he'll give a warning growl and move away. Sure, he's been in tussles. When he first arrived his optimism overflowed into a boundless, unfocused energy to the extent that people feared for the safety of his grown ups and some folks (for instance the first people who adopted him and sent him back) might have given up on having him off leash or living with him all together. But his grown ups have worked with him enough to capitalize on the optimism and he usually looks for their guidance and help before taking action. In fact, when he was so badly injured, Jen, Stella's grown up, said that even in the middle of the melee he looked up out of the scrum as if to say, "This is not fun. Where is my grown up? He'll fix this." Throughout the blood-staunching and travel in a strange car he remained perfectly calm, almost frighteningly so, until the vet techs removed him from Robert's embrace at which point he wigged. So Bu spends a lot of time off leash. He's in the park for a little under an hour nearly every day. Most of that time is spent communing with his ball and leaning up against unsuspecting strangers to get petted. He fetches like a madman but is often just as happy to lie on the grass chewing the toy until he goes into a trance. Robert does make him run a circuit of the park a couple of times a week. That requires withholding the ball so he'll travel at speed until we call him The Coursing Pitbull, an extremely rare breed. He races optimistically around the edge of our couple acres of park enjoying every view and stopping at intervals to make sure that Robert is keeping up.

Stella is relatively new to life, the park, and everything. Her people got her when she was under a year old and they've worked diligently to make her a good citizen. She's a favorite among our group of friends and has a string of dogs who seek her out for a good, tandem roll in the dirt. She is easily as strong and sporting as Bu but if he's Michael Phelps she's more George Foreman. Bu is loose and ready for the next race, looking to his inner music and teammates for cues. Stella loves her people, that's not up for debate. She seems, though, always to be waiting for the guy in the other corner to trash talk her. She'll shake hands, she'll put in her mouth guard but she wants to tussle be it with a toy that needs destroying, a squirrel that needs skinning, or another dog who needs to bow to her superior skills. She embodies the thrill of the chase and the joy of a battle to be faced head on. Her people, too, have worked hard to capitalize on her focus, speed, and strength with a number of unleashed strategies but have recently come to the conclusion that it's safer for them, for her, and for other dogs if she doesn't spend significant time off leash any more. She gets to wrestle with her favorite dogs, like Bu, and she's allowed to chase squirrels (who have a healthy head start) up nearby trees but the leash never comes off. It's always available to pick up again. At first her grown ups were apprehensive not because this meant more work for them (they now run with her several miles per day) but because they feared she'd feel left out. After a talk with a great trainer and some dedicated observation of their girl they realize that it's not the case at all. As long as she's getting enough exercise and getting to interact with people and dogs in some way she could care less about how much leash freedom she has. She is, also perhaps like Foreman, perfectly happy just to be at the party. Lesson learned and now everyone in the family feels good about the arrangement.

UntitledIn relation to Chieka's situation I want to stress again that I am not privy to any details of the altercation. I only know what's on Flickr (that photo is not for the faint of heart, it's new and she's still doing well but it's upsetting). Under the assumption that a larger dog approached her and injured her, I would place not blame but responsibility. I would say that the responsibility for controlling and perhaps leashing a dog lies with the other dog not with Heather and Derek in this case. I'll use my dog as an example here. He has a few triggers that will put him over the emotional edge into a place where he will not respond to my verbal, and sometimes physical, restraints. One of those triggers is unneutered dogs. There is a gorgeous red headed, unneutered pit mix in the park who is escorted by a man and sometimes a small yorkie mix. The dog used to be off leash regularly but is less so now. He's always sported a big harness for use as a handle. I've never seen him act aggressively toward other dogs. Eddie will run at him from yards away and just harry him. He nips at elbows and barks in ears and runs in circles until anyone in their right mind would give him a smack down. To date that dog never has. The man usually leashes him and holds him tight, despite a lack of overt reaction by the dog, and I'm left running in circles like an idiot around man and dog trying to retrieve my single-minded, ever-elusive terrier. By and large Eddie is a great dog off leash. He has good recall from far away, he checks in with me frequently of his own accord, and he's not especially inclined to stray. This dog is a trigger and the situation always goes the same, embarrassing, possibly dangerous way every time so when I see the man and his dog I take it upon myself to leash him up until we're well away. My dog is the aggressor in this situation so I think it's my responsibility to prevent an interaction that could go South.

It's a risk to allow off leash interaction between pets. There are fights in our park nearly daily. Usually it's a small scuffle akin to the shoving to wedge oneself on an overcrowded subway car. Occasionally something tragic and frightening happens. Yet I still believe it's invaluable, especially for high energy dogs like my own, to have this freedom, within parameters. Having that benefit outweigh the inherent risks depends on owners and training and the community at large. As the saying goes, one bad apple ruins the barrel, so there are no perfectly safe situations, that's what led me to write a whole post about my fears for my dog (and the realization that he can be a bad fucking apple). However, I know that for me for now the benefit is on the heavier side of the scale, keeping me rising at 6, loading my pockets with treats and trudging the blocks to the park. Inside the walls I unclip that leash and, after a quick treat and a release command, my dog's joy is, for me, undeniable.

*If I understand correctly what I read that section has some cross over with a designated hot air balloon launching section of the same park. I'm putting that on the list of places to go in case I need my dog's head to explode.

**It was later proved that the neglected excrement belonged to migrating geese and therefore had nothing at all to do with dogs or lazy dog people.

***For better or for worse she never injured other dogs but did sustain a number of small injuries herself. Eventually I was too afraid for her safety.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chieka is a Champ

HelpersI'm sure I've talked here about the particular anxieties I'm having with the second dog. Some of them are related to his...let's call it individuality but others are more generalized. I find that, knowing how awful it was to lose Emily, my fear or anticipation of Ed's eventual demise is much greater. It's almost as though I think I can prevent that feeling if only I am vigilant enough. My brain knows this isn't true but sometimes it disregards the truth. A trickle down from this is part and parcel of him being a first for me in terms of his size. Emily was a solid, muscle-bound 55 lbs and most of the dogs I've cared for in the short term have been at least that big. My experience with small dogs was relegated mostly to joking about their Napolean complexes. Now I have a dog with a Napolean complex the size of a Newfoundland, no more like the size of Newfoundland. He prefers to run with the big dogs and his behavior straddles an invisible line between socially appropriate and beneath the notice of the biggest bad asses he takes issue with. I can't help but worry, though, that eventually he's going to meet a dog who doesn't think he's so fucking funny and decides to shut him up by hook or by crook. To the degree I have control over that possibility I work to prevent it but he's his own guy and you can't be vigilant all the moments of your life and accidents happen and and and...

UntitledWho knows what lies in store for us?

I have followed the photographs and writings of Heather Champ and Derek Powazek for years now. Of particular interest to me are the dog photos and stories, of course. They have two cuddly, spirited chihuahuas, Bug and Chieka, who romp daily through San Francisco's Bay Area. A few days ago Chieka was attacked by a larger dog. They, understandably, haven't given out a ton of details but the long and the short of it is that she's 14-years old and this is a photo of her in the vet's office after surgery. I have been fairly glued to their tweets and photos ever since. This is my fear made real and here are people who have gone through this before and now have to relive it. Heather's previous chi, Tigger was killed in similar circumstances. Chieka has a long road ahead of her but, after a brief scare and new pain meds, she's on track to recover physically. Go look at this photo to see how well she seems to be taking this in stride.

He LivesI keep thinking about Bu's impromptu vascular surgery earlier this year. He lost 5lbs in a day. When he came home his skin was loose and floppy and you could see every knob of his spine, each separate rib, even his knuckles seemed more pronounced. 5lbs is about 9% of Bu's total weight. It'd be fully a third of Ed's. I can already see his ribs most of the time, it's just how he's built. Now again, logically, I know that he wouldn't lose 5lbs, he'd likely lose the equivalent percentage of his own weight were he to suffer the same injuries but still...

Looking at photos of Chieka (except for this one, which seems somehow to show her pain in a way the others don't) I can see how tough she is. Though it's clear she's not in tip top condition her personality, her fire, still shines through. Ed, for all his prissy ways, is tough, too. He's tough like Bu, like Emily. I suspect he too would battle like the gladiators that these three dogs are.

Sometimes, though, I'm still terrified.

Please send good healing thoughts to Chieka and her folks. Even a gladiator can use a little help from her friends.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Around 10

Freckled 10 Things for Tuesday from around and about.

1. Re: yesterday's post, I want another date. And so does he. This could be good.

2. You're going to hear a whole lot about how "social issues" are just a distraction from "real issues" like the economy in this election cycle. Here's a good article to help you respond with appropriate information about how they aren't so much a distraction as they are intertwined.

Untitled 3. When I was a kid my family lived briefly in a place called Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK. I follow a blog that posts photos from the city. There's something about this shot that sort of...hurts me in my heart and my memory.

4. I don't read a lot of music blogs. I'll even skip over music entries in a lot of blogs just because I am so utterly lost in the music scene. Kath mentioned a 60s rock and roll tune last night that everyone knows (something about Renee). Didn't ring even one bell. I've started reading Six String Stories, though. The blogger was a student of my dad's and later was a teacher of mine and I find I'm still learning from him. I think all you music folks will like him and a lot of the rest of you, too.

5. I would love to plant signs like this all over my neighborhood.

Untitled 6. This short interview with an abortion provider about the 20 week abortion ban hits so many important sticking points in the debate. Here's just one tidbit to whet your whistle, "I think it’s a very calculated strategy that fails to take into account the complexity of these cases."

7. Helen Jane is a big deal in the blogosphere. I knew her name but I don't know that I'd read anything of hers, though, until this presentation she made at Mom 2.0 went whirling around the internet. She calls it Solutions for a Painful Internet and it's a whole lot of brilliant in one post/presentation. If you spend time interacting with other humans on the internet I think it's important for you to read this.

8. Yet another interesting contradiction is being highlighted over at Feministing. The general consensus of public health officials and safer sex advocates is that condoms are good. They prevent disease and pregnancy and are generally cheaper than addressing either of those conditions. In NYC, and I'm sure in a lot of other places, these officials even distribute free condoms to promote safer sex practices. Apparently when NYC police suspect someone of prostitution, though, they confiscate any condoms the person has and can use them as evidence against the accused. Cross purposes much?

9. Check out the passenger list for the Mayflower. How'd you like to be named Resolved?

10. This story by a breast cancer survivor about why she's no longer going to associate herself with the Komen Foundation is old in internet terms but still relevant. In my tiny little world cancer continues to beat the shit out of people in 2012. Let's advocate for real change in research and treatment, please.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meet. Greet. Run Home Crying.

UntitledToday I'm meeting someone new. It's a blind date sort of a thing only for creating. I'm meeting a potential accompanist and/or music director. This is my 3rd try at matching with someone and my 2nd actual meeting. I've concluded that in the past I've just been too lucky.

I returned from school in the UK looking for a vocal coach. I can't even tell you how I met Marian. I went to meet her one day in her tiny studio apartment on the Upper West Side and was hooked. She was an aspiring opera singer, which meshed nicely with the bel canto training I'd had in London, and was teaching while she furthered her career. She'd spend far too much time with me without charging extra and we had a great time until she got married and just...disappeared. But not before I'd done an invitation-only cabaret show to see if I could carry a whole show on my own. I could.

Then I found Charles. Again, can't remember how we met. He was musical theatre jazz hands all the way. He'd been working in the business and playing on self-produced CDs by other musical theatre folks and he had a lot of technical information about how shows happened. I needed information. I worked with him once a week while I put together my first honest-to-goodness cabaret show and was excited to be doing it all right and for my sky rocketing to cabaret success. Famous among dozens, indeed! Three weeks before the show Charles announced that, in addition to the things I listed above, he had a cocaine addiction and needed to leave town immediately for treatment. I have never seen or heard from him again.

OK, when I put it down in writing like this it doesn't sound so much like luck, does it?

Disney Poster My first cabaret show was at an iconic cabaret venue, Don't Tell Mama. All the wait staff there are singers and actors and they know their shit. After my show one night the woman who'd been serving in my room drew me aside. As tactfully as possible she explained that the guy I'd gotten to accompany me after Charles coked out wasn't up to doing what I needed. She urged me to go see Don't Tell Mama's proprietor, Sidney Myer, immediately and find a better fit.

I kept the post-its with Sidney's suggestions in my knapsack for months. Probably as much as a year. The first person I called from that list was D. Jay Bradley. Jay was everything good in music, theatre, and life. He is one of the best musicians I've ever met and a teacher par excellence. He gave of himself and his knowledge so generously that I fear I could pay it forward my whole life and never have balanced the scales. He was accompanist, music director, arranger, occasional lyricist, coach, and record producer. He gave me everything I asked for and a million things I didn't know I needed all for a price that was laughably reasonable. During my second cabaret show his brother died suddenly. Rather than leaving town never to return he set me up with a substitute, Bobby Peaco, another entry from Sidney's original list. Bobby was another fantastic musician and gentle human being and I probably hadn't called him simply because he put himself at a higher price point than Jay. Jay returned and we worked together off and on until his death in 2007. At that point I honestly didn't know if I'd ever find anyone else to work with and the enormity of what they'd have to live up to was so daunting I didn't even look.

Gladiators.For my 40th birthday in 2009 Julie gave me one free session with vocal coach Elynn Diamond. For my 42nd birthday Julie called and scheduled the session for me.

Elynn opens whole new vistas for me. I am working harder for her than I've had to work in a long while. It's scary and funny and weird and I know that I'm getting better as both a singer and an actor. It's time for me to find an accompanist and a venue and put together another show. This time no one is falling in my lap. Fortunately Elynn's list of suggestions is at least as long as Sidney Myer's and I'm getting to know some different folks and their styles while I search.

I'd like to find someone soon. I'd like to be back on stage before 2012 passes us by. I think, though, that I have to be willing to hold out for the right match because having a D. Jay Bradley fall in your lap is certainly a once in a lifetime gift. I have a good feeling about the gentleman I'm scheduled to meet tonight but I don't want to jinx it. I just want to go and talk and sing and be terrified and sleep on it and see what happens next. My friend Chris once told me that the only thing you have to decide on a first date is whether you want to go on a second.

Fingers crossed for a second date, ok?


Saturday, May 19, 2012

One A Day

Ta Da!

I read some writing advice from Stephen King. It's less advice than it is fact. "If you write a page a day in a year you'll have a novel."

So for about a week I've been writing a page a day. It won't be a novel but it could be a book.

Is there something you do some of every day with the idea of having a larger something in time? How long have you been able to keep it up?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Morbidity and Mortality


Nothing like an annoying low level illness to make you morbid, right?

I am lucky to live in a very helpful community. The dog people in particular are right on top of any sort of help a friend might need. We've all felt the pain of having to a walk a dog in the rain/sleet/hail/snow/dark of night when you'd be better off lying in bed praying for sweet death. When I went down like a sack of bricks last week people walked my dog, brought me soup, bought me everything from ginger ale to paper towels. It made my life so much easier and my healing that much faster.

Even with all that help one day I just didn't feed the cats. It was too much work, I couldn't even fathom it. They licked out my soup bowl and stalked the kitchen counter, which resulted in the great sesame oil catastrophe of 2012 the repercussions of which are being felt to this day, so they survived just fine.


It got me thinking, though, about what in the holy hell I would do if I were ever sick long term. Frankly, damned if I know. I live in New York so I'm already based where the good doctors are so staying here would be smart. Asking for help from people who don't live here is problematic because you have to train them since they don't know the area. I know that if I went to help a friend who lives in a place I'm not familiar with I'd have to really bring my A game to be actually adding value instead of being a liability with good intentions. I'd have to learn where everything is in the house, neighborhood, town, and depending on treatment options, the whole damn state! Forget knowing where the cheap ginger ale is or which direction the dog likes to walk around the block. It would be far too easy to be, in the immortal words of Tom Smothers, the kind of help we all can do without.

I'd probably have to send the dog away for the duration. Of course I'd rather have him with me but he gets bored. Dude needs at least 3 solid walks a day and, while it's possible to pay for such a thing, that gets expensive if you hire people for it and it's a true pain for friends to have to get up and come all the way to me before going to the park or wherever they plan to take him to exorcise his yayas. Even if I could get most of that covered he'd still have to go out for that last pee right before bed and, though I triumphed over a measly flu to do that all last week, there's no telling if I could triumph over chemo or a broken bone.


The cats might get to stay. I'd need help, though. My cats are fed this high concept plan with raw food which, I can imagine, might be more than I could handle if I was feeling pukey. I could prop myself up on a broken limb to get them fed twice a day but I could not prop up a yakky stomach to mash stinky raw meat into paste. Sometimes I have trouble with that when I'm fully well. And then there's the litter box. Depending on what mythical illness I'm battling could my immune system handle the, well, handling of other mammals' excrement?

Again, I'm very lucky. There's a good chance I could farm out the care of my animals without too much trouble and a decent chance I could even keep them close for visiting purposes. No guarantees but my people are good fucking people, especially in a crisis. The bummer is that I love my pets and their presence would probably lend a lot to the healing process. I mean, I know a number of people who initially got pets when they were going through a health crisis because they knew that they needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning and someone else's welfare to look out for.

I guess there's only one solution. Don't get sick. Pass me the vitamins!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photo Challenge: GIVE

At a certain point I just decided we'd pretend last week never happened. So here, as though, there were never a problem at all, is the GIVE photo challenge! Click through to see more of the photogs' work, please comment, and scroll down for the next challenge.

Thanks for your patience.

If I had asked Our Bethany to find me the perfect representation of this challenge I don't think she could have done better than this. Apparently this was some cosplay that was part of the local cherry blossom festival. Wonderful!

I'm so glad that Our Cindy was able to go see Our Misti in her Listen to Your Mother debut. I love this photo even though it makes me miss the stuffing out of two of my best gals.

Unrequited Love
Stella's people call this her "Give Me a Kiss" face. I call it hilarious! That's Carli rebuffing Stella's advances.

Donation Box
People in kids' museums think they're all cute setting up innovative displays and shit. Little do they realize they're also setting up lifelong phobias. Our Lisa and I agree that this display, while clever, does not encourage the donations it solicits.

Sea glass
Our Janet gave me nostalgia with this one. I used to hunt sea glass with an old teacher and I never had the eye for it. This is beautiful and so brilliantly displayed.

We'll have Memorial Day during this fortnight. Let's go a little general, though, and have this challenge be MEMORY. Enter as many times as you like!

Please add your photos to our Flickr photo pool by 9am on Tuesday May 29th for posting on Wednesday May 30th. Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Watching Watching Watching

Meanwhile, over at Please Pass The Popcorn, I continue to catch up on my movie and television reviews. There are eight more blurbs now submitted for your approval.

Shuffle Forward

Me & the Bride

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?

This question was posed to me by the porter at the office. It was our second encounter today after the one where he quizzed me on the heaviest organ in the body. It's things like this that make coming to an office and doing a job I don't love bearable.

I'm on the mend. Not completely better. 5lbs lighter. Cough lessening, thank goodness. Yesterday I worked until 2 went home, lay down and woke up again 3 hours later. My goal has changed from being cured to not being in a place where I'm afraid to schedule anything because I'm going to get sick again. I know this is one of those bad, intangible, unreachable goals but I have to somehow urge my brain to re-organize. I'm trying to stay positive, though.

I'm getting better.

Baby steps are good as long as they're in the right direction.

Oh, and if you were wondering, because he didn't have any guts and the liver.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Speed Bump

Fever, aches, tired, painful cough.

Photo challenge will be delayed.

Going back to bed.

My apologies.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


I went to see David Sedaris speak tonight. It was in the opera house at BAM. I got a good deal from my local book store and invited a good friend to share the night. As I like to do, we sat early and chatted while the theatre filled up.

While we lounged there I looked at the stage and had a little dream.

How wonderful must it feel as a writer to walk out onto this stage? It's huge, built to house the menagerie of Aida, but tonight there's just a podium for your papers, a stool for your water glass, and a monitor on the floor so you can hear yourself. When you get yourself organized you look out and the seats are full. Every one of the hundreds of seats holds an expectant face atop a warm body. And it's the second night of this bounty

Yeah, as a writer, as a performer,, that would feel quite lovely.


I'm having my ass roundly thumped by Microsoft Office today. While we wait to see who wins this battle akin to that of the so-called Network Stars I would like to pose this question to you:

Why is everyone pronouncing the diet pah-LAY-oh when it seems to be the root of paleolithic which is, of course, pronounced PAY-lee-oh?

Your thoughts are appreciated. Also your baseball bats if this mail merge thing doesn't work out.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Message From Afar

9. Yearning

During the blackout in 2003 I hoofed it home as fast as I could knowing that Emily and the cats were closed in the house. I didn't know how long I had after the AC went out before it would get unbearably hot in the apartment. About 3 hours later, well before sunset, I arrived to find the apartment cool and my dog already walked. My friend, Diane, had hiked up to her 9th floor apartment, come down with her Newfoundland/English Setter mix and walked the dogs. She was still out and I found her in the courtyard so we took a long walk to the park in the eerie darkness then groped our way to our apartments to stay inside until morning. Shortly after that, not related at all to the blackout, Diane moved down South and I only hear from her occasionally.

Diane's dog, Portia, was blind by that point, I think. She had a genetic defect that quickly progressed in one eye and then the other. The dimming meant that Portia wasn't surprised by it and she adapted pretty well. She loved me, bless her, even though I accidentally walked her into doors and posts sometimes and I loved her right back. I was surprised to get an email from Diane last night that mentioned that Portia had been blind for 8 years now. It hardly seems that long.

Of course that email also told me that Portia had died. Turns out the picture above is the only photo I have left of the girl. That's too bad because she was a gorgeous dog. She deserved to be commemorated more fully. Please give all the pets more love and attention in Portia's memory. Now I'll bet she's watching.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hot, Quick But Not Dirty

I just spent some time writing reviews of the movies I've seen. I'm wildly behind. I wrote 10 mostly short reviews and I'm still not close to updated. I'm on a roll, though. Expect more in days to come.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

One Last Warm Up

Folks? The Hot People posts are, I think, a thing of the past. With the hosting restrictions and the fact that I don't photograph celebs myself (much) I'm afraid I don't have the ability to do much in this area. I spent a solid 15 minutes searching through photos of 4 different hot women and this was the only one I was able to find the right kind of url for to show here.

Auntie, I hope I picked a good one for you! This is Jessica Pare from Mad Men. She also speaks French.

Everyone else, it's Auntie's birthday! I bet she'd like it if you left a link to a hot chick in the comments section for her. Here, I'll start. Olivia Williams.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

10 Things For Your Opinion

I found a work around! I think I'll be able to use photos again. Is it a pure pain in my ass? Sure is. Is it worth it to save the money? I believe so. I'll keep you posted. And speaking of posts, here's the one I worked on all morning:

Yesterday I took my last photo for my 365 Project, Pictures of My Hands Doing Stuff. Now comes the wrap up. I'm almost done with the organization of all the shots and the labeling and whatnot. I'm sure I'll write a wrap up post here. However, first on the docket is answering the questionnaire for Noah and the 365 blog. When I submit my answers I get to include 5 photos from my project. 5 out of over 500.

Here's where you come in. Help please! Which 5 should I submit? I went through a grueling paring down process and came up with the 10 below. Can you please tell me which 5 you like best or think should be included? You're also more than welcome to peruse the set and tell me which ones I should have included here instead. Eventually we need 5 though.



Day 79: Fitting Room

Day 100: Inside the Art
Day 162: Out With Friends
Alternate Day 202
Day 276: Goodbye Rena
Day 284: Gifting

This Post Brought To You By The Letter F

Let's say it's F for FRUSTRATION.

I just wrote a post that was going to be very photo heavy, as so many of my posts are. Halfway through uploading I got an error message that I'd reached my free storage limit so could not add any more photos. Apparently when you upload photos they're stored in Picasa albums and you have only X amount of storage. News to me but, I suppose, not surprising.

That in itself is cause for the letter F.

However, I don't want to purchase more storage. I don't make money blogging (yet?) so I can't justify a further cash outlay for the privilege of spewing my guts online. I thought I'd delete some photos from my albums and create space that way. Of course I can't find any information about viewing or editing those albums, just information about buying more storage. I've tweeted to Google, Blogger, and Picasa about this but am not wildly optimistic that I'll be helped by them.

It's about here that I want to start using the letter F a couple of times. At least.

If any of you have any ideas about how the hell I get into those albums or know of other solutions I'd be grateful to hear them.

In the mean time, today's post will not appear. Maybe not tomorrow's either. My learning curve is steep and it gets steeper with every use of the letter F.