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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Second Act for Ukrainian Virgin by Galyna Kolotnytska


Gadhafi's Nurse Says She's Going Home
Wall Street Journal



I am worried about my future. Is common saying that no publicity is bad, and, yes, is flattering to be called voluptuous by Wiccan peoples, but tell me please where is employment for forty-seven-year-old zaftig nurse with specialty in calming excitable Middle-Eastern dictator with lovely dimples but unpredictable taste for exotic Jello-eating virgins, camels, and polka dance?

With job market what is, I am no fool. Even nursing degree from Kiev hospital is no guarantee, and I watch Academy Awards and understand draw of younger demographic of which I am no longer.

"I give you excellent recommendation," Colonel tell me. "Just have them call," he say as he take me to airport disguised as Morgan Freeman playing chauffeur to me as Western journalist named Miss Daisy. Read More 

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J. D. Salinger—What a Life!

J. D. Salinger's life-changing masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye ends with protagonist Holden Caulfield's statement: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." He says this after describing the moving beauty of his little sister Phoebe riding round and round on a carrousel while he sits watching in a drenching rain.

In an interview on The Diane Rehm Show, Kenneth Slawenski, author of the new biography J. D. Salinger: A Life, claims that he doesn't know what this line means. In the biography, he calls the ending of Catcher "ambiguous" and says that "Salinger has deliberately left it to readers to insert their own selves, their own doubts, aspirations, and dissatisfactions, in order to complete [Holden's] journey."

I've never felt any ambiguity in that line or the ending of The Catcher in the Rye. To me, it expresses the essence of the spiritual battle that Salinger and anyone who commits to self-awareness/God consciousness/Oneness (insert whatever phrase suits you) must face. If you connect—to yourself and to others—if you really share beauty, God, your essence, you will have acknowledged that everyone is God . . . and, so long as you can tolerate feeling this epiphany, you will feel a sweet missing. You will simultaneously hurt and feel unbearable sweetness. I believe this sweet missing is a God state. God misses God: Because God is lonely to see God, we fractured little God beings play this game to relearn who we are. Loneliness drives us to know our God selves. And when we do, we feel the sweet missing at the root of the craving. Or, as Holden says, "you start missing everybody." Read More 

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Blood from a Stone or You Can Never Leave Home Again

I think I was inadvertently and divinely prepped before seeing the Off-Broadway play Blood from a Stone by Tommy Nohilly last night. For the last few weeks I’ve been editing some stunning books about life and death, anger and forgiveness, and compassion. I’ve also been speeding down a runway to a “big” birthday—eliciting my keen awareness of how fleeting our time is and how I don’t want to squander it feeling lousy. And I’ve been inexplicably waking at 3 a.m., getting up, and spontaneously meditating. I recommend all of these preparations before seeing Blood from a Stone. Or none.

Blood from a Stone is an admittedly autobiographical play about what must be one of the world’s most dysfunctional families. Travis (Ethan Hawke) comes home to Connecticut—a state name that literally chokes him when he demonstrates articulating it. He’s on his way to, once again, throw his life off a cliff and start all over again, and he’s dropping by to see his family, get some money, get some pills. His mother (Ann Dowd) rages at his father (Gordon Clapp). His father rages at his sons (Hawke and Thomas Guiry) and anybody who’s not white and the world. And the house rages at the whole family—pouring water on them through the kitchen ceiling, electrocuting them through the broken thermostat, and haranguing them through intrusive telephone ringing. The family attacks the house. The house attacks the family. The family attacks each other. And everybody wants to destroy the whole thing and start all over again. Read More 
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On Language Police and Naked Emperors

I have an ambiguous relationship with the language police. On one hand, I appreciate that discouraging the use of belittling, offensive, or just plain inaccurate language can move our culture toward inclusiveness and respect. I lived through the days of being called a “my girl” when what my boss meant was that I typed for him, and even before anybody thought there was something wrong with that, it used to make my skin crawl. But I used the phrase myself when writing about that period in my novel, Plan Z by Leslie Kove, and I dug in my heels when an editor suggested changing my references to the “boys and girls” of the Vietnam draft and protests to the P.C. language du jour: “young men and young women.” We were kids, which was a lot of the problem. Nobody knew what they were doing! Especially the people who claimed to know.

As an editor, I’ve altered offensive language. “I thought he was only a clerk” worked just as well as “I thought he was a clerk,” and the writer never even noticed.

As I story lover, I’ve cringed every time I’ve listened to the audio recording of one of my favorite authors, Eudora Welty, reading one of my favorite stories, “Why I Live at the P.O.” (written in 1941), when I’ve heard the line: “Of course Mama had turned both the niggers loose.” I was surprised to discover many “N”-word lines rewritten in the 1980 edition of the collected stories. But this was done by or at least with Ms. Welty’s approval. Read More 
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Growing Roots

FULL DISCLOSURE: Although I do eat, I am not a foodie. Most of my best friends are foodies and they would laugh if they knew I was reviewing a food book. I do not eat animals and I really hate reading about animals as products to be slaughtered and consumed. That's about it . . . except for one more thing: although I sometimes portray myself as a curmudgeon, I really do like people — not to eat, but to know about. I especially like to know about their deepest stories.


Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists by Katherine Leiner, with lush photography by Andrew Lipton, is an absolute tour-de-force encyclopedic collection of stories (along with recipes and websites) about the new generation of sustainable food activists. I know Katherine from Central Park, a place where people with dogs become friends. I liked her on first sight, but I didn’t want to eat her. I wanted to know her story, so when she told me she had written a book, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Read More 
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Please Banish Beyoncé from the Bra Dept.

I dislike buying bras so I do it only when I must — about once a decade I buy a bunch and wear them until they stretch out. Well, bra day is here, and I decide to go to J.C. Penney because I hope it will be cheaper than where I usually go and it's en route from where I'm working.

Apparently there have been major changes in the world of brassieres in the last decade. First of all, they come with boobs. Really! When I finally find my way to the underground lingerie department, what I see is aisle after aisle of hanging boobs. A decade ago, these were called "padded bras," but apparently women now prefer lingerie that requires no actual flesh to maintain its form. Read More 
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Mad Men … Lost People … and Coming Clear

I came to the TV series Mad Men late. Although I'd heard about it from friends, it wasn't until a few months ago that I began borrowing the first three seasons from the library. I thought I'd be interested in it because of my background in advertising. My father was an account executive, my mother was one of the first female copywriters, and briefly toward the end of the seventies, I entered the family trade as a secretary and production assistant (material I put to good use in my novel Plan Z by Leslie Kove). But none of this prepared me for the kind of euphoric, sometimes shattering, shock I felt watching this show. Read More 
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The Holy Woman

I’ve just finished reading The Holy Woman, the self-published third book of Susan Trott’s formerly commercially published “The Holy Man” trilogy. Like the first two books (The Holy Man and The Holy Man’s Journey), The Holy Woman is deceptively simple and charming. But what a complex story about our human drive to “get,” to achieve status or stuff, to win.

The book starts after the death of “the Holy Man,” a guy named Joe who everybody visited because they believed he was holy. Just before dying in a faraway country, Joe anointed Anna as his successor, but when she returns home, not everybody — including Anna — is so sure. After all, she is quite judgmental about Joe’s teacher, Chen, who runs a spiritual resort called Universe-city where he promises people immortality and seems to worship stuff.

Bad guy, right? … Not so fast.  Read More 
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How to Know What You’re Really Doing: Collusion, Confrontation, or Compassion? Peacemaking or Placating?

Recently I’ve been experiencing a dilemma about how to react in many areas of my life, which tells me I should pay attention.

When someone takes what is not theirs — from a person, a people, or the planet; when someone denies a truth; when one person hurts another person, people, or the planet, what is the right response . . . or lack thereof?  Read More 
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Meryl Streep, Toilet Paper, and the Merits of Pretending




Yesterday I bought 24 rolls of Marcal Small Steps® totally recycled toilet paper because it was on sale for $4.99 plus tax at Staples.com — with free shipping if you got it sent to a store where you’d pick it up.

I don’t know where I’m going to store 24 rolls of toilet paper, but Marcal is hard to find, I’ve been buying it since before recycling was popular, and I’m loyal to the brand. Plus which, it’s a whole lot better than the more popular recycled brands.

It really bugs me that Marcal had to change its name to Small Steps® and redesign its packaging and probably fire all its marketing people and hire new ones to try to compete with the eco-newcomers. It really bugs me that Small Steps® still isn’t carried in organic markets. It is unbelievably annoying that you can do something for 60 years and, when what you’re doing finally becomes popular, you’re still unpopular.

Which brings me to Meryl Streep. Read More 
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Don't Close the New York Public Library!

For a person who’s not really into acquiring things, I’m amazed at how much stuff I have: a whole wall of books, three file cabinets of manuscripts, and then there’s the music — the tapes and CDs, not to mention my collection of 33 1/3 records that take up two feet of floor in my bedroom and simply cannot be discarded.

I plan to weed. In my bedroom closet there’s a trunk full of I-don’t-know-what — oh no, it’s photo albums and decades of personal journals that I’ll never read or look at, but I cannot throw away.

One nice thing about being unemployed is that I no longer buy anything to add to the clutter. I mean that. Aside from food and rent and essential services, I don’t spend money. And I don’t feel the least deprived. Why? Read More 
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Artists Who Express Who They…and We…Really Are

It seems ridiculous that somebody would go to the trouble of creating art and then create work that is designed to please or be current or imitate somebody else who’s popular, but it happens all the time. That’s why gallery hopping with my artist friend, Ardith, is like finding treasure at the end of the rainbow.

We begin at the end of Manhattan’s West Side — 547 West 27th Street, a pretty rough part of Chelsea that is in the process of gentrification. As usual, the art community is already there amidst the blasting, construction, and street mess. But up one flight in the Ceres Gallery, a cooperative supported by and supporting female artists, there is a whole other world. We’ve come after seeing this fractured face in a story about sculptor Cynthia Eardley (Art Knowledge).

I don’t speak “artspeak” (you can click on the links for that), so suffice it to say, I take one look at Eardley’s fractured but exquisitely beautiful sculptures and I feel something deep — what, I suspect a whole lot of people are feeling these days — broken, but hanging together as best we can.

I suspect everybody feels some aspect of what Eardley communicates in her hand-modeled, resin-cast portraits. She tenderly displays everything we try so hard to hide — with clothes, manners, and civilized behavior. But the word “suspect” is a lie; I “know.” I know we all feel these things because I have spent so much time in so many places where large groups of ordinary people come to find out who they really are. And, in my experience, when people tell the truth, it turns out we are all equally fractured. Read More 
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Melodie Somers: 30 Years Later

What a marvelous invention Facebook is. It finds people you always kind of liked but never got to know 30 years ago when you were both hanging out in an Off-Broadway theater. It tells you that, with a click, you can invite them to be your friend, giving you a second chance. And 30 years later, now that you’re both grown-ups and maybe smart enough, you can say, “Hey, I think you’re swell, I’m sorry I didn’t get to know you better a lifetime ago, how about lunch?”

Such was the case with Melodie Somers, an actress I knew in a former life, now a psychoanalytically trained relationship coach and half of the singing duo Somers & Steel. We “friended” Friday, and yesterday met at Niko’s Mediterranean Grill & Bistro on the Upper Westside, up the block from her office. Over soup and Greek something or other, we didn’t so much reminisce as we got to know each other. Thirty years ago, I was scared of everybody, but Melodie was an open, loving, fun spirit who invited me to write for a comedy show she was directing. Why I didn’t dive into a friendship is beyond me.  Read More 
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My Mother’s Prayer Plant

Last Friday was the twentieth anniversary of my mother’s death. That means this prayer plant is twenty plus however-long-it-lived-with-my-mother years old. Not bad.

Until twenty years ago, my only plants were a stringy philodendron who had survived my tendency to forget to water, and many little jade plants rooted from the broken stems of a big one that an apartment sitter claimed “just fell apart one day.”

I had always wanted to have plants like my mother did, but so many had died on my watch that I never considered myself a green-thumb. In 1990, when my mother died, tending her plants became my mission. To my relief, all but one thrived. The one was this prayer plant, the coffee table centerpiece, who seemed determined to expire. I talked to it, coaxed and caressed it, pled with it to live, but one by one, the leaves turned from green to sickly yellow to brown, and by the time of my mother’s memorial party in her living room, it was a mournful sight among the perky violets and vases of cut flowers. Read More 
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Sunday Afternoon Down Time

Do you ever feel as if your body can’t move, but your blood is coursing double-time? Perhaps you experience this lying on your couch on a beautiful Sunday afternoon: you’re inert, but inside, liquid stuff whooshes or slides or drips through your organs, moving around in your gut.

Does this sound insane to you? If so, never mind. I’ll talk about my computer problems instead. Read More 
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