It's official. We're hooked. I guess it took a few weeks of laying low with a virus for us to finally rent The Wire. As you may recall me mentioning, we don't have cable in our house. It took us years to watch The Sopranos, and it was years after everyone else had. Rome didn't take us as long, but it was long after everyone else had mourned the loss of that two-season orgy. 

But okay, we've finally landed on Planet Bawlmore...and we are out of our minds addicted. Hook, line, and sinker hooked. And we're only half way into Season Two. We cannot believe that D'Angelo is gone. My husband swears it's a hoax and he's being hidden somewhere. I am fascinated with my fascination with Omar. How is it that I am actually glad to see him on screen and kicking ass? Avon does not move me in the slightest. And I smell a stinker in Stinger Bell. Of course Wallace broke both our hearts. And all the cops? Damn, don't get me started.

This right here is all the lesson in fiction writing any fiction writer needs. What makes a guy who robs drug dealers sympathetic? Why do we root for D and not for Pooh? Why do we pivot on some pathos and have no sympathy for another sad sack? I scratch my Shingles scars daily pondering these questions and more. But one thing I do know is that fiction loves conflict. Fiction needs complexity and things need to get worse and worse, or the Novaks won't keep driving back to the local (and fabulous) video store, plunking S2 D3 down on the counter, and tapping nervously until the woman returns from the stacks and chuckles as she slides our next fix into our trembling hands (I'll take two red tops please). 

For the love of God, don't tell me what happens. But do chime in if you've done the time on this show.

Yup, I've got them, and not the kind that sit on the roof. 

I've got the shingles zoster and so I've been learning new things the past few days, such as...this is not an "old persons" virus and that the rash can appear before the pain and so on.

On top of it, I've got a heck of a head and chest cold...all inter-related I'd guess.  

So, I'm gonna take a few days off. The Tao will return next week. Be well my smart Intertube friends. Or if you'd like, share your own Shingles stories here. It's been fascinating to learn them from my friends. Who knew?

Barbara Alfaro is one of my favorite writers. She's even one of my favorite older women writers. Or even one of my favorite older, women writers (note the comma)! Here's an essay she posted on her own blog and has given me permission to place here. Every day when I look in the mirror I think:  this is what 50 looks like. I hope Barbara looks in the mirror every day and thinks:  this is what it looks like to be a smart, beautiful, lady writer who writes beautifully! Please welcome my good friend!

                                BEING SIXTY-NINE AND NOT JUMPING OFF A HILLTOP
                                                                      by Barbara Alfaro

Being an older woman in an ageist culture is a lot like wearing an evening gown to a baseball game or being a vegetarian at a pig roast. I’m used to not fitting in. At sixteen, I was reading Shakespeare when other girls were thumbing through the pages of fashion magazines. I always cared about what in another century was called “the life of the mind” and wore the wrong shoes while caring. I remember Gloria Steinem’s famous remark in 1974 when told she didn’t look forty – “This is what forty looks like – we’ve been lying for so long who would know?” Thirty years later women are still lying about their age, if not with words, with botox. Admittedly, I hesitated about the title for this blog post. Thanks to Google + , much of the cyberspace world now knows my age but unless I’m beginning a romantic alliance with one of my readers, is my age really an issue? I do run the risk of being thought of as an old biddy – you know, those dear aunties with lace doilies everywhere and a propensity for tea drinking. The doily darlings were my grandmother’s generation. Except for special occasions, I practically live in jeans and a sweatshirt and I’ll take a cold beer over hot tea any day. Often, I receive left-handed compliments like “You look pretty trim for a woman your age.” I’m trying to imagine me saying to Wolfgang Puck, “That was a superb duck confit, for a partially balding man.”

The thing that bothers me most about America’s collective aging phobia is its soullessness. What else can obsessive concern about your face and body looking young be called? And how else can those emotionless faces locked from surgeries be described? I saw a funny, bizarre, and totally wonderful film last night. Written and directed by Sophie Barthes and starring Paul Giamatti, “Cold Souls” is about “soul trafficking.” Giamatti puts his soul in storage and rents the soul of a Russian poet but he finds he misses his own soul and wants it back. Unfortunately, his soul is in a Russian soap opera actress. I don’t have to travel to St. Petersburg to find my soul, I only need to write. Here's a quote from an article about Salman Rushdie: “There’s a writing self which is not quite your ordinary social self and which you don’t really have access to except at the moment when you’re writing, and certainly in my view, I think of that as my best self. To be able to be that person feels good; it feels better than anything else.” Each of us, whether writers or waiters, has a “best self” that comes from within, not from fashion and facelifts. And my best self knows the only thing I’m going to do on that hilltop is feel the sun and say, “Thank you, God.”

It's an oldie from the last campaign, but it's a goodie. Take a look and stay through the pie eating (nice manners, but what was she thinking?) and listen for the two key things here:
The Planned Parenthood connection is particularly interesting right now. Ann Romney remembers giving $100, but asks the reporter why he'd expect her to remember giving money. Why not just say that they provide so many other services to women who can't pay for private health care?

Speaking of which, I have dug high and low, but cannot find that random moment in New Hampshire last month when a woman cornered Mitt Romney on why he has turned his back on his own health care reform for Massachusetts. The interesting thing for me in that video was A) how creepy and slithery Mittens is and B) how his wife stood there staring hard (perhaps dazed?) at the woman grilling the former governor.

There are numerous videos out there of Ann Romney talking about her diagnosis and maintenance of Multiple Sclerosis. As someone who was hit very hard by autoimmune diseases a number of years ago, I sympathize with her plight. And like Mrs. Romney, I have excellent doctors who help me and the appropriate drugs to manage my issues.

But what's interesting to me now is how Ann Romney no longer mentions the DRESSAGE that she relied on as her "joy therapy" to help her manage and overcome what can be a costly and debilitating disease. For some reason, I don't think the campaign sees it in Mitt's best interest to highlight the cost of such joy. Though they will ARGUE when the facts aren't correct.

I'd like to forget what the campaign is spinning now, and take another look back at the last campaign and the idea that Mrs. Romney has no idea how many HORSES she really owns (be sure and read the dressage article above for mention of the cost of one of those horses.)

I guess they are wealthy and entitled to spend their money how they want. It's the lying that gets to me (such as calling their mansion in New Hampshire a "little house.")  And the spin. And the lack of sincerity. Perhaps the horses are payback for living the good Mormon wife life, but I want to leave with one random thought.

In another interview, Romney described the moment at Mass General Hospital in 1998 when the doctor confirmed the MS diagnosis. Mitt said that the doctor left them alone and that they "embraced."  The word left me cold and I'll tell you why. When the perinatologist left my husband and me alone in his office to absorb the news that our 20-week fetus was going to be born with a major, but operable, birth defect, my husband and I didn't "embrace."  We clung to each other and sobbed. I recall my husband's skin was the color of pewter and he sort of tipped back to the wall as I stood to grab him. We clung to one another, quite literally, and he kept telling me that it was all going to be okay.

That's how I'd describe it. Even to this day. We were devastated and we clung to each other. We didn't embrace.

And the healthy teenager we have now and the long, hard road it was to get here was made possible by the health care we can afford and the myriad doctors we had access to.

I don't want to hear about fancy ponies and the joy of riding. Nor do I want to hear Ann Romney say she can't recall why she gave $100 to a women's health care organization. I want to know why these folks want to deny to others what they themselves have. 

And I want to know what Michelle is going to wear to the next inaugural ball. I can't wait to see it.
Fifteen years ago, Harold told me that the world was going to end in 2012. Harold was my therapist. He was my eighth therapist, and the one I’d turned to because the others hadn’t made a dent in my chronic depression and suicidal thoughts.

“Harold” isn’t his real name, and he wasn’t really a therapist. He had a PhD in something and was knowledgeable in any number of subjects. Harold only saw people he believed he could help, and you had to be recommended by someone he was treating. If chosen, you had to commit to face the truth, no matter how disturbing. You also had to be willing to drive 100 miles each way on country back roads, to the tiny, remote town where Harold lived and worked in a decayed Charles Addams mansion.

Patients committed to Harold, and he to us. His fees were nominal. Weekly sessions could run as long as three hours. Like a hippie Buddha, Harold sat watch over me, as I howled through the crimes of my childhood, finally free to feel the pain and express my soul’s outrage. That I’m alive today, that I’m married to a loving man, that my children are healthy, I owe in large part to Harold.

It was sometime in 1997, in a period of dark despair, when Harold told me the world was going to end in 2012. He had studied all the major prophecies, including Nostradamus and the Mayans, and believed there was convergence on this one prediction. So, Harold said, I needn’t worry about suicide because time was running out.

He got me. Fifteen years seemed doable. Besides, I wanted to know the end of the story. (If Harold knew how things were going to end, he wasn’t talking.) Through the Bushes and Sarah Palin, the rise of the Money Culture, the death of friends and family, multiple long-distance moves, and personal failures of all kinds, I’ve carried on, believing it was all just temporary.

Which of course, it is, with or without Harold’s End of the World. I’ve pretty much lived each day as if it may be my last. I haven’t waited to do anything I really want to do. I have not saved for retirement like a good girl.

These days Harold is a 2012 expert on The History Channel. He’s got a tony NY agent and is in talks with James Cameron for a movie idea. He lives part of the year in Prague and may move there. When I miss him, I only have to Google his name. There he is: older, distinguished and now dressed in elegant black with a dapper felt hat instead of the worn, stained sweatshirt I remember. He still has the same twinkle in his eye, as if to say, “Didn’t I warn you to expect the unexpected?”

Maybe that means if everyone is talking about 2012 as the end, we’re due to teeter onward for thousands more years. Or maybe not.

Here’s to Laura, to you all, and to Harold -- a toast to whatever the year ahead may bring. May we all live in that divine space of mystery, letting go and grabbing hold, in peace and urgency, waiting and not waiting.

And here's to you, Viola-Alex, for writing another beautiful essay. I'm so glad Harold came into your life, and even now lets you peak at his. There is comfort in knowing he's all right, even though he might not be right. Thank you!


Go Eli!



I know, so bad of me. So wrong of me. So not cool of me to say that aloud in the Bay Area. So don't tell anyone I said it. GO ELI! There, I said it again. 

And I say it in large part because Eli Manning looks so much like my son. Or vice versa. Some sports fan I am!

At any rate. I'm working on taxes today and watching you-know-what tomorrow. So for some fun reading, the New Yorkers face off against the San Franciscans in this battle of the newspaper columnists. It makes for fun reading. Enjoy!

P.S. Speaking of QBs who got it goin' on. Check out how green is Montana's valley!

The world is changing faster than a speeding e-reader. But even I, whose book hit #16 in comic fiction on Amazon this weekend, and who has embraced this new media with a passion, love the smell of a new book. I love the feel of a book store, the silence, the smells, the curiosity of everyone in it. Will these independent stores go away entirely? I doubt it. But that debate is carried out daily across the Intertubes. This was sent to me by a dear mystery writer friend and a great lady. We are both looking at the future but don't want to leave the past behind. Feel the joy!
...is what I wish for all of you this new year. Other than that, I really can't think of anything pithy to say. I simply have no great pith at the moment (to bastardize a line from Take The Money and Run).

Other than the fact that our modem has been booga-booga for days, and I have not been able to update my site, our holiday was fine. How was yours?

I got what I really wanted, which was time with the people I love. Also too...(wink)...there were nice gifts to open, lots of food to share with friends, and pretty lights to ponder through squinting eyes.

We've taken out our tinder box of a tree and tossed it on the curb. The decorations are down. But so are the Raiders at the moment, so "down" is a relative word. Last night, my husband made a lobster soup and we hunkered down to watch the final episodes of the HBO series, ROME, which we last left off about two years ago, while our son went to a sleep-over. Thankfully, our local video store could dust off a copy of for us to figure out how it ended (not the civilization, but rather the TV show.) Loved Pullo the best, the big lug.

A friend and I did lunch the day before and saw the Week With Marilyn movie. I loved, loved, loved it. Can't say enough about Michelle Williams in this - she held her own against some of my favorite British actors. In fact, anyone who is anyone in a Who Done It was in it:  Cadfael, Wallander, M, Japp, Foyle, Ariadne Oliver.  Seems the only one they left out was Poirot himself.

My notebook with the next mystery sketched in it growls at me from a closed drawer. The modem winks at me menacingly, but papers are filed away, my office floor is vacuumed and school starts up this week.

That's all folks. Not much of an update, but there you have it. A friend's treatment for terminal cancer is no longer working and I wonder what it must be like to be living those final days with one's family, while those around us return clothes or try to figure out how to work the new gadget...in my case, iTunes. I wish him great peace and love.

What more can I say than I wish all of you good cheer, great health, safety, prosperity and love this new year.

 time. Time with the people - and pets - that I love.

But it just shoots through space, and through my finger tips, and I can't grasp and hold it no matter how hard I try.

I don't covet things; I have more than I need. I have a roof over my head. The heat is on full blast. My stomach is always full. And if it's not, I know where to get my next fix. Our water is clean and abundant. A down comforter keeps me warm. A TV keeps us entertained. There are credit cards to keep gasoline in the car and to cover co-pays at all our wonderful doctors' offices. I have friends who support me and a husband and son who love me. We still have Buggy, who is, quite frankly, happier now that Jeevsie is not taking up so much psychic space. She is old and sometimes I look at her and wonder what it will be like when she's gone, which I suspect will be predictable and manageable, unlike Jeeves.

Still, it all changes in a heart beat. My husband knows a man who was critically injured in a car jacking the other day. What exactly is that thread that separates whether we live or die? Is it possible to always tell those we hold dearest that we love them every single day? Every time we hang up or go out the door? 

My son will enjoy the heck out of opening presents. That's his job. I was the same way. The more the merrier when I was a kid. But how old and beaten up do you have to be to think that all I want is "one of the seven fundamental physical quantities" in our world?

One of the reasons I enjoy citing the Tao here is because I try to remember to simply "be." The passages help me. But how can I "be" when it keeps changing?  How do YOU grasp and hold time (what's your secret!) And what do YOU want for Christmas?

Know that having you all in my life, and on my blog, is part of what makes each day fulfilling for me. I appreciate you all.

Merry and safe everything.  

Since the last thread got going on Woody Allen, I thought it a great time to bring a fun weekend convo over here. How do I count the scenes that I love best from his movies? Not to mention his books. We watched the documentary on Allen recently on PBS. Jew Max? Loved having his childhood and life fleshed out a bit by his sister and Louise Lasser. Though I do recall learning some of that, and more, much more as you'll recall, from Mia Farrow's memoir. In our house, we can cite, verbatim, so many scenes from his movies. Perhaps Love and Death being our all time favorite. So, give us your best lines. One, two, one two ("three comes next if you're wondering.")