Posted by: Catadromy | May 19, 2019

Pain Is A Bear

Pain is a bear. A bear with yellow, fear-stained teeth and slashing, bloody claws that rip you open when you least expect. The bear could be a brown bear or black or even a grizzly bear. But the bear sneaks up on you and grabs you completely unaware. You’re in the bear’s clutches, trying to get free; yet, the more you struggle, the harder the grip.

The bear fights to pull you under and you try to fight back, strongly at first. Then, the bear tightens its grip and your resistance falters, weakens. You fight your way to the surface, grab a lungful of air and whirl around to do battle with the bear again. The bear never weakens, never loses focus. The bear knows what it wants. It wants—YOU. It wants to own you. It wants to possess you. It wants to subsume you—all of you.

But you gather yourself up and face the bear. You will win this fight, even if it takes every last bit of your remaining strength. You whirl around, pull yourself up to your full height and tell the bear, “Not today. Not now. You are not going to win this one.”

The bear, vanquished, turns away. But when he’s facing away from you, the corners of his mouth turn up in a knowing grin. He’ll be back, just when you least expect. And just when you’re not prepared. But he’ll be back, just the same.

Posted by: Catadromy | February 13, 2019

Blew By You

Recently, I saw an interview with Linda Ronstadt, whom I have loved for years. From afar, of course. Although I’ve been to her concerts and purchased her albums, we’ve never met. Love her, just the same.

She has Parkinson’s Disease and her crystal-clear soprano is stilled forever. She said in the interview that she can’t even sing in the shower. One other thing she said in the interview really stuck with me. The interviewer asked her if she was afraid to die. She replied that she wasn’t afraid of dying; she was afraid of suffering.

I am a devoted reader of the paid obituaries in the New York Times, as I’ve posted before. I take note of the ages of the ‘honorees’, read a few salient details of their lives and move on. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend. I see the ages of the deceased (or figure them out, based on birth year) and realize they weren’t that much older than I am currently. I think, well, he was [this age], he had a good run. Then I do a bit of math and realize he was only 10 or 12 years older than I am now. Ten years is the blink of an eye to me now. The thought that I only have 10 years left on this earth is dismaying, to say the least. I still have goals, I have things I want to do, accomplish. I have a bucket list that’s not finished!

Time is a river—a metaphor that means time flows only forward. When I was younger, time stretched out before me in an endless stream, uninterrupted by any ordinary concerns. Marcel Proust famously insisted that the remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were. But I’m talking about the future and not the past, an appreciably foreshortened future from my perspective.

I’m facing major surgery next month. Perhaps that’s the reason for all this introspection. I’ve always lived too much of my life in my head; it’s not a healthy place to be most of the time. It’s crowded up there with regret, ghosts of memory and lists of things I always mean to do, but never seem to get around to actually doing.

“Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.” — Natalie Babbitt

I have always tried to live my best life and to live so as to have no regrets.

As Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George’s character in Little Big Man) so memorably said, ‘Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.’

Hocus Pocus.

Posted by: Catadromy | November 28, 2018

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream (with apologies to W. Shakespeare)

To the surprise of absolutely no one who really knows me, my passion is sleeping.  I believe sleeping to be vastly underrated. Did you know that a good night’s sleep can help you to improve your memory, curb inflammation, boost creativity, improve your grades, sharpen your attention, maintain a healthy weight, lower stress, avoid accidents and avoid depression?

There are two types of people, when it comes to sleeping habits—larks and night owls. Or morning people and night people. “Larks” are up and at it early in the morning and tend to hit the sack at a respectable evening hour; “owls” are most alert at night, and typically turn in long after dark. We’re really talking about a spectrum, rather than either/or and people may start out as one and become the other. Or, stay the same their entire lives.

Contrary to what Benjamin Franklin may have written, ‘early to bed and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ hasn’t been proven via statistical research. What has been shown, is that night owls are, on the whole, a bit smarter. Researchers measured mechanical and electrical engineering knowledge, general math and reading ability, working memory and processing speed and concluded that night owls were smarter than larks. Night owls are also more prone to infidelity.

Night owls are partial to bad habits—namely smoking and drinking. Well, they stay up late, go out. What does one do when one goes out? One smokes and drinks, of course.

But larks are persistent, co-operative, agreeable, conscientious and proactive. Well, if you like that sort of thing.

Larks also procrastinate less. Hmm.

I proudly declare my membership in the night owl group. My daughter, as well. She is known around my house as the Vampire Princess.

Back to my passion for sleeping. I am extremely particular about my sleep environment. Even the smallest of elements must be just perfect. A few years ago, we were at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado and had the best nights’ sleep imaginable. So, the final morning of our stay, I ripped off all the sheets and blankets and searched the mattress, looking for the name of the manufacturer. I found it and proceeded to search the internet for a retail store close to me. It took some time, but I found a store that sold the same type of mattress. The names on retail and hotel/commercial mattresses are a bit different. The day it was delivered and set up was a very memorable one.

This mattress is quite thick and I had to buy all new sheets. I only buy 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, minimum thread count of 600. The last time we were in Paris, we stayed at a 4-star hotel and the bedlinens were like sleeping on a cloud. Of course, I had turned the air conditioning down to 19° centigrade, so that might have had something to do with it. But the sheets were pure bliss. I located the name of the manufacturer and looked for them online, only to find out that they aren’t sold at retail…yet. So I wrote to them, asking when they might be available to consumers (instead of only to hotels) and was told that they are planning to open a storefront on Amazon and will let me know when they do.

I have a winter blanket and a summer blanket. The winter blanket is goose down and floats over me like a warm, fluffy cloud. The summer blanket is a cotton quilt and looks like it was made by someone’s grandmother. (Not mine, however.)

I have two pillows and they are identical. Both are king-size pillows, stuffed with the finest goose down. They are covered in pillow protectors and then pillow cases. One pillow goes under my arm and I wrap myself around the other one. I also have a third, smaller pillow that goes in-between my knees.

There is no light in the bedroom at all. The windows have blackout shades on each one. They were specially-made to not allow in any light. Even the lights on the cable box and the television are covered up. I also have a rule about no electronics in the bedroom at all. No iPad, phone or gaming devices.

There is also one window that is always open, because my bedroom must be cold or I cannot fall asleep. See earlier comment about Paris hotel room.

Once the conditions in the room are absolutely perfect, I snuggle under the blankets, arrange my pillows just so, close my eyes and drift off to sleep, only to wake up 7 hours later, fully refreshed and ready to begin another day.


Posted by: Catadromy | July 10, 2017

Sometimes, I Thinks and Sets. Sometimes, I Just Sets

There’s something so anodyne for me about being at the beach. I set up an encampment, complete with chair, beach blanket, water, spray bottle, music and a book (which I almost never open); settle in and watch the water lap the sand.

At times, the heat will get to me and I’ll go into the water, dodging the accumulation of small shells and bits of sharp coral that wash up in the unceasing waves. The first few steps into the water are always the hardest, especially when I’ve been sitting on the shore for a while and I’m overheated from the sun. Gradually I wade into the sea, until I gather up my courage and duck beneath the ocean. Emerging, I wipe the salt water from my eyes and begin to swim parallel to the shore, enjoying the cool water flowing along my sunburnt skin.

Out here, among the waves, it’s possible to be alone and away from the mundanities of the everyday. Nothing bothers me. There are no daily annoyances. No phone calls. No emails. Just me, the endless sky, the limitless Pacific Ocean.  I paddle back and forth, using a variety of strokes, sometimes on my back, sometimes not, always at one with the water and the sky.

Then I swim back to shore, go back to my encampment and the cycle begins anew.

My favorite time of day at the beach is around 4:30, when the beach empties, the air temperature drops a bit and the sun sparkles on the water.  Sometimes, a sailboat will run across the water, dodging in and out of the sparkles, creating an image in my mind’s eye that I carry with me.

There’s a cycle, a rhythm to being at the beach. People come, people go. The tide rolls in, the tide rolls out. The sun rises and sets. Sitting there, I feel at once a part of the Universe and entirely insignificant. I ponder the imponderable. I float high, among the clouds, soaring on an updraft, swimming through the air, as if it was the water beneath. I turn off my mind and just watch the water as it moves along the shoreline.

And I sit there on the sand and take it all in.

Posted by: Catadromy | July 10, 2017

O Maple Lake, O Maple Lake!

It’s a ritual for upper middle class children in the Northeast to go to what’s fondly known as sleep-away camp for the months of July and August.  Parents load their children onto yellow schoolbuses, complete with their suitcases and bedrolls and ship them off to the wildernesses of the Catskills or the Adirondacks or the Poconos.

Throughout my younger days, I attended these camps as a camper. But it wasn’t until I was hired on to work as a counselor at one that my eyes were opened to the true reality of life at a Camp For Overprivileged Children.

For that is indeed what these camps are (or were—for like many things from my youth, I don’t know if they still exist, at least, not in the same form).  The campers were from upper middle class families, the counselors were college students and the waitstaff were generally still in high school.

I got my job through a family connection the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. This particular camp was in the Catskills, very near to Grossinger’s.  Originally, I was assigned a bunk of 10 year-old girls. When the camp’s Director found out I had my WSI (Water Safety Instructor), I was made the Waterfront Counselor (in addition to my bunk). Meant I was the pool lifeguard, taught swimming and had the keys to the boathouse. All for only $125 for the entire 8 weeks. Not per week—all 8 weeks total. That and all the tips we were able to extort on Palm Sunday. (More on that later.)

The pool wasn’t heated. I hate cold water. Most days found me poolside, wearing a sweatshirt over my swimsuit, bamboo pole in hand, watching the kids in the pool. When I gave lessons, I lay down on the diving board to show them the basics of the strokes. Swimming for the campers was mandatory—big selling point to the parents—so even if they didn’t want to get in the pool, they received a gentle nudge from my bamboo pole.  All of the campers who didn’t already know how to swim, learned. And I’m happy to report not a single drowning occurred that summer.

The cabins or bunks at this camp were essentially made out of tissue paper. Needless to say, smoking in the bunks was totally forbidden, due to the extreme fire hazard.  Unlike today, smoking wasn’t seen in so evil a light; we could smoke, we just couldn’t smoke in the bunks. I, of course, did just that. I couldn’t be bothered to go outside or into the dining hall or sit by the pool. I wanted to smoke and I wanted to smoke now.

I got fired.

But, wait. You can’t fire the only lifeguard. What about the pool? Swimming lessons?

I got re-hired.

At the time, the legal drinking age in New York was 18. There was a small town near the camp that the counselors would go to on our nights off to drink. Lord knows, we needed to drink. There was one particular bar we liked, known as Art’s Blue Room. Quite popular among us.  Monday nights were all-camp meetings, led by the Director.  She was passive-aggressive to the utmost. She would never call people out by name, but rather by the clothing they were wearing. One Monday, it was my turn.

‘You there, in the yellow sweater.’ A roomful of eyes swiveled in my direction. ‘The cream of the crop of Livingston Manor does not frequent Art’s Blue Room.’ In my defense, I wasn’t the only one of us there that night. Maybe it was the sweater that caught her eye. Maybe she was still unhappy about the smoking incident.

I got fired again.

But, I’m the only lifeguard. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This camp shared a lake with a much larger, fancier and richer camp. With much better waiters. I mean, I had a waiter of my own (wink, wink) but I wanted something better. So, I and several of my friends took out a rowboat (keys to the boathouse, remember?) and rowed across the lake to this other camp for a Night to Remember.  Ah, yes.

I got fired for the third time.

Lifeguard? Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

After all, there’s still Palm Sunday and Color War to get through.

I promised an explanation of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is formally known as Visiting Day. It’s the second Sunday in August and the day the parents come up to see how their precious little darlings are doing, after having been entrusted to the care of a bunch of drunken, hormonal college students. It’s called Palm Sunday because the counselors (metaphorically) stand with their palms outstretched, waiting to receive their tips from the parents of their charges. For some strange reason, my 10 year-olds loved me. I cleaned up.  It’s nice to have rich parents. Not me—them.

Color War comes after Palm Sunday. It’s the Big Finish, if you will. The entire camp is divided into two teams, assigned to either one of the camp’s two colors—in this case, green or white.

I was the water sports coach for the Green team.  Needless to say, we won our events. There’s a point-scoring system; I don’t recall which team won the war. There weren’t trophies or certificates. Back in those days, there were no awards for just showing up, unlike today.

At the end of August, the yellow schoolbuses returned and the process was reversed. Happy, suntanned campers packed up their suitcases, swore to write to everyone in their respective bunks (and their beloved counselors!) forever and went back to New York, secure in their happy little lives, knowing that nothing would ever happen to them to change that.

The counselors swore off working for slave wages ever again and vowed to get a better job someplace, anyplace rather than spend another summer catering to the whims of Overprivileged Children (no matter how well-behaved).


Posted by: Catadromy | July 12, 2015

Above The Clouds, It’s Always Sunny

Spending time in a speeding cigar tube full of people, generally on their worst behavior, is generally not my idea of a good time.  First, as most of you know, I hate people.  Secondly, I’m old and I remember when air travel used to be an occasion.  People would dress up to get on a plane—it was an event.  It was glamorous.  It was also incredibly expensive.

Today, air travel has been democratized.  Prices are low, people rarely give a second thought to hopping on a plane.  Of course, there’s the whole situation with the TSA.  This is not the place to discuss that.  I’m more interested in talking about what goes on inside the plane, after we’ve all boarded.

Lately, every flight I’ve been on is full.  Not just full, but FULL, as in every seat is occupied.  Gone are the days when I would get onto a plane after a hard week’s work in New York, and the flight attendant would take one look at me and gently guide me to an entire row of seats and hand me enough blankets and pillows to make a nest for myself so that I could sleep the whole way home to Los Angeles.

Nowadays, I find myself sitting bolt upright in one seat, hopefully on the aisle, praying that the middle seat next to me won’t be occupied by a manspreader or a fat person.  Before you condemn me for that last comment, please understand.  I paid for one seat.  I wish to have the entirety of that one seat to myself.  When the seat next to me is taken by someone who spills over into my space, then I don’t get the benefit of what I have paid for.  If you take up more than one seat, for whatever reason, then prepared to pay for more than one seat.  That’s all that I ask.  Life isn’t fair.  It was never meant to be.

Way back when, people would get dressed up to fly.  I remember wearing a dress, hose, heels to get on a plane, because flying was an occasion.  It wasn’t just transportation from Point A to Point B.  Flying was the point of it all. Today, flying is nothing like that.  It hasn’t been for some time.  And that’s all for the better.  I can’t imagine taking an overnight flight to Europe dressed as if I’m going to a formal business meeting.  Nope, I want to wear something I can stretch out and sleep in.  Of course, things can go to extremes.  Back in the days of the old Western Airlines, I saw people get on the flight to Hawaii with live poultry—in the passenger cabin.  But that’s a story for another time and place.

Even older people aren’t immune from behaving badly in the air.  It’s as if, when up in the sky (or about to be) all the normal behavioral constraints fly out the proverbial window.  Case in point: Flying back from a long stay in Hawaii, seated on the plane, waiting for takeoff, when there’s an unexplained delay.  I had noticed two couples in the departure lounge, the men wearing matching Hawaiian shirts. Slightly obnoxious, but kind of cute, in a mature way. It turns out that these two couples were traveling with some teenagers and had booked the six of them into an exit row.  Airline regulations do not allow teenagers to be seated in an exit row, something that was explained to one of these couples at some length.  She objected, loudly and repeatedly, and refused to accept being reseated.  At one point, the police came and escorted her off the plane, only to allow her back on, after extracting a promise of further good behavior..  She and her long-suffering husband were eventually seated next to my husband across the aisle from me.  Her husband was furious at her for being so ridiculous about the seating assignment (the seats they were moved to were premium seats—I know because I paid the premium to sit in one) and he pouted the entire 6 hours back to Los Angeles.  She was given two free drinks and then cut off for the rest of the flight.  The flight attendant and I had a good gossip about the whole thing after we hit the half-way point back in the galley. I even got an extra cookie out of the deal.  Yay, me.


Over a two week span in April, I was on 8 different planes, making a total of 2 round trip flights.  While sitting and waiting for one of these, I encountered something I’ve seen before. Two total strangers, sitting next to each other.  One says to the other, ‘Would you please watch my stuff while I hit the restroom?’  I don’t get this.  These two guys had never met before, never spoken while they were sitting next to each other and had zero connection, yet somehow, there’s this implied contract between them that one is going to leave all his stuff under the guardianship of the other for the brief time that he’s going to be spending in the men’s room at LaGuardia.  I (who never talk to strangers) even asked the guy about it.  I mean, I just don’t get it.  I would rather take my stuff with me, before I would ask a total stranger to watch it for me.  What makes this one guy more trustworthy than any other guy in the airport waiting area?  Why him?

Maybe it’s my cynical Brooklyn self talking.  But I would never do this.

After all, I hate people.


Posted by: Catadromy | January 6, 2015

The Call Of The Native

I’m currently reading a collection of essays that have been written by writers who once lived in New York, but felt compelled by circumstance and fate to move out of the city.  The compilation is called Goodbye To All That: Writers On Loving And Leaving New York.  With a very few exceptions, the essay writers came from someplace to New York, spent some time there and then left.

Can you be a New Yorker, a true New Yorker, by any way other than birth?

I was a contestant on Jeopardy! not long ago.  The contestants provide some biographical information, either where you were born or where you live currently, and it gets used in your intro.  In my case, I chose to use the city of my birth—Brooklyn, as in, ‘originally from Brooklyn, New York.’  Being from Brooklyn seems to be quite a trend on Jeopardy!.  I was speaking with the current champion in the green room prior to taping.  He was also from Brooklyn.  So, of course, I asked him where in Brooklyn he was from.  When he replied, ‘Park Slope’, I thought, Oh, you’re one of thoseThose being hipsters, trend seekers, nouveaux, arrivistes.  You know, new-comers.

I, on the other hand, am OG.  Brooklyn born and bred.  I was from Brooklyn well before it was cool, hip or trendy.  We lived in Borough Park (still not a hot area, probably never will be).  My grandmother lived in Bensonhurst.  My parents married at the Masonic Temple on 13th Avenue.  My mother went to New Utrecht High School; my father to James Madison.  I was born in what was called at the time Israel Zion Hospital; it’s Maimonides now.

I used to roller skate (skates that attached to my shoes with a skate key) on uneven sidewalks, go to the candy store, hang out with my friends from the building, visit my cousins.  Got into occasional kid trouble.

But back to my moment in the Jeopardy! green room. When the current champion told me he lived in Park Slope, I asked him where he was from.  When he replied, ‘Woodland Hills’, I had my answer.  He wasn’t from Brooklyn.  He just lives there now.  He’s not a New Yorker.

A New Yorker is something you are, not something you become.

I may live in Los Angeles, but I’m from New York.

Posted by: Catadromy | September 22, 2014

The City That Never Sleeps

New York, the city of my birth, is the best, the most, the everything.  I never get tired of it.  Samuel Johnson famously said, ‘If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’  Dr. Johnson never visited New York.  New York grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go until she is finished with you.  A mere mortal doesn’t stand a chance.

New York has changed a lot in some ways since my last visit; not so much in others.  The new Yankee Stadium is more like a baseball theme park than a place where baseball is actually played.  The old ballpark has been sanitized and recreated in the heart of the Bronx.  It’s still by the El and surrounded by stores selling Yankee-branded gear of all kinds.  Inside the stadium, you can buy designer food, craft beers, and even more Yankee merch.  There’s a gigantic digital screen above center field and electronic ribbons running around the upper levels from the first base foul pole to the third, that carry game stats and ads.  The original scoreboard from the old park is there.  But the famous upper level white columns are recreations.  The sound system is on a par with any concert venue.  The restrooms are clean and plentiful.  And the entire park is environmentally-conscious.  It didn’t hurt that the Yanks won, 3-2.  And Jeter hit a home run in his second at bat.


“There are no bad neighborhoods anymore.”  I met an old friend for drinks.  Like me, a former exile but who had made the move back to the city a few years ago.  He’s right.  New York has been, for lack of a better word, sanitized.  Gentrified, overdeveloped, cleaned up, turned into a Potemkin village.  It’s now a place for the very rich or the very poor.  The middle class need not apply.

Many years ago, when I lived in New York, things were a bit different.  We lived on the Upper West Side and it was truly the Wild West.  A frontier.  We would make plans to get together with other couples and, as soon as they found out where we lived, they would say, ‘You live where?  Can we meet you?’  Today, the UWS is highly fashionable and a much in demand place to live.  Tall, gracious buildings fill tree-lined streets.  There’s not as much new construction and what there is, is designed to match what is already there.

We spent time with people from the old days who still live in the area and have never left.  People we have known for many years, rarely see, but it’s as if we’ve seen each other a million times.  Old friends are the best kind of friends.  And we’ve known these people since college and the Army days–that many years have passed.  It’s so easy to pick up the old rhythms and patterns.  We don’t spend time talking about the past; however, we always acknowledge it and the role it played in bringing us together.  What is that saying?  The past is present.

We went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  It’s far from the first time I’d been down to the site; but this was the first time I’d been there since the park was done, the Freedom Tower completed and the Museum opened.  We spent over 3 hours there.  I was in tears when we left.  Not just my country, but my city was attacked that day.  And I shall never allow it to recede in my memory.


The Highline.  Formerly an elevated rail track, it was unused and nature was reclaiming it.  New York is desperately short of open greenspace in this most congested of cities.  So a park was created.  The self-seeded plants were augmented by others, walkways and benches were added; food vendors, Highline kitsch sellers, stairways and elevator access points came next.  The very day we walked The Highline was the day the final section was opened to the public.  I was among the first to walk the entire length of the park.

Give my regards to Broadway!  Can’t go to New York and not see a show.  Still not sure which was the more entertaining–the show inside the theatre or the one on the street.  We had some time to kill after dinner, but before showtime, so decided to walk down Broadway to Times Square.  A big section of Broadway is closed to traffic, so there are people wandering around everywhere.  Costumed characters, superheroes, cartoon faves–all out there, trying to make a buck posing with the tourists.  There is an illuminated, red staircase at Duffy Square behind the TKTS. booth, full of people, sitting and watching the parade below.  And the signs!  Oh my Lord, the signs!  Swirling, whirling, flashing neon, digital millions of colors signs!  Digital screens six stories high promoting new Fall television.  The latest movies.  New plays about to open.  Leftovers from Fashion Week.

And all along Broadway, Seventh Avenue, Eighth Avenue and some of the side streets are vendors selling counterfeit designer handbags.  Used to be, you went down to Canal Street and said a few words to someone, who found someone, who brought you to a locked storefront and then his cousin would roll up the gate and let you in to buy what looked like fairly good copies.  But the designers got the police to shut them all down.  Now the purse sellers are all from Senegal.  They set their wares up on a bedsheet on the street and, at the first sign of approaching authority, bundle everything up in a flash and move to another location.  They all seem to know each other and communicate via cellphones.

Don’t get me started on the smokers!  Just don’t.

We had a glorious brunch at Barney Greengrass, recreating our usual New York Sunday morning.  I bought a paper (first checking to be sure all the sections were there) after having to negotiate with a woman standing in front of the rack, staring at the paper.  ‘Are ya looking or are ya buying?’  She stepped aside.  Side note–I still got it.  Then we hopped a cab uptown.  Got seated right away–a bit unusual, there’s always a wait–and ate and ate and ate.  Gave our waiter (note: not our server.  This guy is a professional.) a semi-hard time.  Don’t judge.  It’s expected.  And he gave as good as he got.  The UWS, right by the restaurant, was the staging area for a gigantic parade/protest march against global climate change.  There were huge charter buses, from all over, disgorging marchers of every demographic stripe.  A few of them even came into Barney Greengrass with their signs and buttons and T-shirts to grab something to eat along the way.  Why not?  It’s going to be a long march.  We, on the other hand, skipped the crowds and took the subway back.

Walking in the city, though, is the best way to get anywhere.  I took a walk down Fifth Avenue one afternoon, crossing the street whenever the coast was clear.  Not necessarily with a light and the little white man, but when there was no crosstown traffic to be seen or the traffic on Fifth was blocking the street.  You can always tell the tourists from the locals by the way they gather at the intersections.  New Yorkers step off the curb and look up the street at oncoming traffic to see if it’s safe to dash across the street.  New Yorkers don’t wait for the Walk sign; they go when there’s a space to move.  I’m a New Yorker.  Jaywalking is my birthright.

I miss my city terribly.  But Thomas Wolfe was right.  You can’t go home again.  On these visits, I live an idealized version of my former life.  I stay in hotels where anything I want is attended to, I eat in restaurants, I take taxis, I have a timetable of my own devising.  I’m not tied to anyone else’s expectations.  And when I’m done, I get on a plane and go back to my life in Los Angeles.  And leave behind the noise and the traffic and the expense and the inconvenience of everyday life in the city.  And the smokers!

I’ve been to some of the world’s greatest cities–London, Paris, Rome–and the one I currently live in is pretty OK in my book.  But I am, and will always be, a New Yorker.

Posted by: Catadromy | May 27, 2014

La Serenissima

Venice is an adventure.

We arrived in Venice in grand style, via water taxi from the airport.  Cruising through the lagoon, past several of the islands that are part of Venice—Murano, Burano—and into the Grand Canal, where the city of Venice slowly revealed herself in all her louche, faded glory.

The Grand Canal is like any major street in any large city, except instead of concrete, it’s ‘paved’ with water.  The Grand Canal is bustling with all manner of boat traffic:  water taxis, vaporetti- which are like city buses and run on schedules, trachetti-small stand-up ferries that cross the Grand Canal, gondolas, the boat equivalents to trucks.  And just like Italian automotive traffic, there doesn’t  appear to be any rhyme nor reason to the direction in which all these boats are going.  Yet, somehow, it works.  One of my favorite things to do was to watch the traffic on the Canal from any vantage point, whether it be the top of the Rialto Bridge or the terrace of the Guggenheim Art Museum or the top of the Campanile at the Piazza San Marco.

The first night was completely uneventful—just the way I like them.  Checked into the hotel and got upgraded to a ‘suite’, which turned out to be a room with a lofted bed, up a narrow and very steep stairway.  Interesting.  Tiny little bath, which managed to contain double sinks, a sizable bath, a toilet and a bidet.  Again, interesting.  Also downstairs, wardrobes and a sitting room with a daybed, a chair and a television.  We went out to look for something to eat and walked nearly to the Rialto Bridge and found a small ristorante.  Venice isn’t really known for its food.

The next morning, we walked over to the Jewish Ghetto and toured the Museo Ebraico.   From there, we caught a vaporetto, intending to go to the Piazza San Marco.  Alas, being unfamiliar with how they worked, we went the wrong direction and went to the end of the line.  We then had to change boats to get to the other end of the line.  So we got to cruise the entire length of the Grand Canal on a vaporetto.  Once at the Piazza, we met up with friends who are staying in Padova who had trained into Venice to meet us.  We went to the Caffe Florian for coffee.  Fifty euros for a caffe latte.  OK, 1 caffe latte, 1 small bottle of water and 1 small sandwich.  Plus 6 euros each for the pleasure of listening to the music emanating from the bandstand.  At least, the people-watching in the Piazza was free.

The four of us next walked over to the Guggenheim Art Collection, crossing the Grand Canal via the Accademia Bridge.  We got lost looking for the Collection.  But not really.  That’s the wonderful thing (one of them, anyway) about Venice.  You’re never really lost.  Just keep walking and turning and eventually you find yourself where you want to be.  Or maybe not where you thought you wanted to be, but someplace delightful, just the same.  The art was nice, but the high point for me was sitting on the terrace fronting the Grand Canal and observing.  I fell in love with a home, or possibly a small hotel, across the Canal and daydreamed about living there.

We then went back to the Piazza and up to the top of the Campanile for its 360 degree views of Venice.  Up there, I saw a cruise ship being towed into the lagoon from among the low rise buildings of the city.  The scale was so incongruous that the ship looked like it had been dropped onto a movie set.


We ate dinner early (for Venice) because our friends had to catch their train to Padova.

The next day, we toured the Basilico San Marco and the Doge’s Palace and crossed the Bridge of Sighs.  We managed to attach ourselves to a tour being led by a British guide.  Not my first time at this particular rodeo, I can assure you.  We walked over to the Rialto Bridge and climbed to its highest point and watched the traffic.  Stopped at a gelateria, walked back to our hotel and crashed.  Jet lag finally caught up to me.

After nap time, it was time for a gondola ride.  Just as in all the guide books, we found a gondolier, spoke with him a bit and off we went.  He’s a fifth-generation gondolier (but has only daughters) and he had a lovely boat.  We went around some smaller canals, into the Grand Canal and back into the smaller, back canals.  He pointed out various sights–Casanova’s house,  Marco Polo’s house, the workshop for La Fenice (the opera).  Maybe yes, maybe not.  It doesn’t matter.  He even sang…Ciao, Bambino.

At dinner, we struck up a conversation with the couple at the next table. They were from a small town in France, just across the border from Geneva, Switzerland.  The conversation took place in fractured French (mine) and fairly decent English (his).  We  talked about travel, our kids, shared photos and had a pleasant time.  Striking up casual conversations with total strangers became a theme of the trip.  In Florence, we even picked up a couple of stalkers from Vancouver, Canada.  Ran into them again in Positano.

Venice offers lots of surprising views, each one beautiful. A peek around a corner reveals a small canal or a faded palazzo or a glimpse of every day, ordinary Venetian life.  All those canals are crossed by bridges and all those bridges have steps going up and steps going down.  Be prepared to put your climbing shoes on.

The best and most absurdist part of the Venice stay happened the final day.  We were sitting on the steps of the Ferrovia (the train station) waiting for our train when, suddenly, a band of Hare Krishnas came into view.  Complete with orange robes and playing finger cymbals.  Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.


La Serenissima, Baby.



Posted by: Catadromy | December 30, 2013

Relevé! Relevé!

From the time I was little, I’ve wanted to perform.  Sing or dance, it doesn’t matter.  The problem is that I have been blessed with zero talent of any kind.  I am completely tone deaf.  When I was in high school, chorus was mandatory and every year, the Music department would stage a stripped-down version of a Broadway musical.  All the big names–Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, South Pacific and, most memorably for me, My Fair Lady.  Somehow, I made it into the background chorus for the ‘Ascot Gavotte’ number.  We were busy rehearsing and the musical director was not happy with what she was hearing.  No, not at all.

So, she stood among us as we sang and pinpointed the problem to…it should come as no surprise…me!  Not only was I off, I was throwing everyone around me off.  Not wanting to crush my soul entirely and rather than kicking me out of the chorus completely, she pulled me aside and asked that I move my lips, but let no sound escape.  I willingly complied because even with that restriction, I’d still be listed in the program, still get a costume and still be on the stage.

My poor, long-suffering college roommate had to bear with my awful singing for four lo-o-o-ng years.  In my defense, at least it was Motown.

My family begs me not to sing around them.  I love hanging out on the beach, plugged into my iPod, singing along with the music.  Bear in mind, we’re outside.  Then there’s a tap on my arm.  ‘Mom!  You’re singing!’  Accompanied by an eyeroll, of course.

So my singing these days is confined to those times when I’m in my car, windows rolled up tight, tooling down the freeway, singing along with the radio or my iPod, beating out the rhythm on my steering wheel.  As if I’m the only one.

When I was a child, my mother agreed to ballet class, something for which I have even less aptitude than singing.  I tried, though.  Oh how I tried.  I mastered all the positions, the barre work, did my turnouts.  But there were physical limitations.  Even for that young age, I was short.  I was (to put it kindly) pudgy.  I was hopelessly uncoordinated.

One day, we were doing warm up stretches and I fell off the stage (such is the nature of life in a small town).  The teacher was not happy.  Not. Happy. At. All.  She called my mother and suggested she not waste any more of her money.  Okay, so I was never going to dance for Balanchine or wow them at the Bolshoi.  I just wanted to dance, not be the next Margot Fonteyn.

Fast forward to current day.  I’m taking ballet class again.  This time, in combination with yoga and Pilates.  And this time, it’s for exercise and not to create a potential prima ballerina.  The old terms still ring in my ears–relevé, élévation, turn-out, first position, second position, arabesque.  I love doing arabesques most of all.  I’m older now, so I can no longer twist myself into certain positions.  Fifth is out of the question and third isn’t looking very good, either.  I can no longer rotate from my hips the way I need to achieve the positions with the proper form. 

But my posture is much improved.  My arms are well-toned.  My shoulders look incredible.  My legs are strong and muscular.  And I feel like I could take on the world.

You know that expression, ‘Dance as if no one is watching’? Honey, someone is always watching.

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