Thursday, May 30, 2002


As I type this, I am listening to the live radio broadcast of the closing ceremony of the World Trade Center site. All you can hear are drums in silence. Silence.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002


Jeff and I visited with David, the mutual friend who fixed us up, this weekend. We ate Malaysian food in Hoboken, then traveled to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, where you can gaze upon the back of the Statue of Liberty. The park was packed, filled with picnickers and grillers and Frisbeeers and bikers. It was another sweet Memorial Day weekend; almost normal feeling.

Sunday, May 26, 2002


Visiting Jeff's parents today, who have just returned from Florida, back home to Staten Island. Though they are both in their eighties, and both suffered hardships in WWII--Jeff's mom was in a series of concentration camps, while Jeff's father was forcibly conscripted into the Russian Army, sleeping on the ground for three years--they are both in pretty good health, and are very committed to eating in a healthy way--lots of veggies, fruit, even some kind of butter that has the good kind of fat in it. Jeff's father, an engineer, studies medical school newsletters, and one of our first bonding moments was discussing the nutrients in kiwis.

Jeff's parents are fond of telling us how they met as refugees in Munich, broke up, and then bumped into each other in a dental clinic in Manhattan, where Jeff's mom was waiting for her appointment, and Jeff's dad was delivering a toaster he'd fixed. "Who runs into anyone in New York?" my mother-in-law likes to say.

After we visited, Jeff and I drove down to one of Staten Island's little beaches. There were only three other people, all kids, on this patch of sand, and it was low tide. There were clam shells everywhere, some of them edged in a blue ink that Jeff told me the Indians for dye centuries ago. There are parts of Staten Island that still seem wild, but it hards to believe when you're driving past the fourth identical Dunkin Donuts. There's a wonderful Buddhist temple/museum perched on a hill in Staten Island, too, which the founder picked because it reminded her of Tibet.

Saturday, May 25, 2002


Yesterday, on my way home from the library, I bought two Arctic Swirls from the Mr. Softee truck. (Arctic Swirls are Mr. Softee's answer to Dairy Queen's Blizzards and McDonald's McFlurries. I think Arctic Swirl is the most poetic of the three of them.) The guy who made them didn't hear me ask for tops on the cups, and he stuck spoons in both of them. When I repeated my request, he yanked the spoons out, and offered them to me.

"Do you want to lick them? I hate to waste ice cream." Of course I said yes. A little extra pleasure.

As the guy handed me my Arctic Swirls, he said, "I remember when I was a kid, my mom would take me to the butcher--and after he gave us our meat, he would give me a piece of bologna." A little extra pleasure.

Friday, May 24, 2002


Back in my old Brooklyn neighborhood yesterday, which boasts both the McSweeney's store AND the Park Slope Food Coop. At the coop, a sign at the register used to read: "If you are in a hurry, you are in the wrong place." The McSweeney's store, of course, did nothing so non-ironic as post actual hours of operation. Instead, there was a sign with various graphic symbols. Dave, I loved your book, but sometimes you take your design training/outsider status/mega-million movie book deal thing a little too far.

My favorite sign was actually chalked on the sidewalk: "Marxist Stoop Sale," it read. Unfortunately, I'd missed it.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Mary Wells Lawrence was, is, a real life advertising goddess. This wonderful memoir, A Big Life in Advertising breathlessly captures what it was like to work in the wild world of New York advertising....and to eventually realize that you were so good you could start you own company--as Mary Wells Lawrence did--and take it public--as Mary Wells Lawrence did, as well. Despite these clear feminist firsts, Gloria Steinem called Ms. Wells Lawrence an "Aunt Tom," a tag I'm sure they all regret. If you're sadly lacking in role models, read the life story of the unstoppable woman who convinced an airline to paint their airplanes day glo colors---and cloak their flight attendants in gogo boots.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Faith no longer sick. I'm sure you're relieved. I used to mock people who talked about their children's illnesses all the time, right down to the bowel movement. Now look at me. I even had to take a stool sample this morning. Then I was sick last night, so no go Julia Sweeney. Sigh.

And here in the NYC area, we are on a state of yellow alert. Copters buzzing overhead. Gorgeous blue sky. Crisp air. Just like a few months ago.

But here's the 9/11 deal, chez Martha, Jeff, and Faith: I was lucky. We were lucky. Jeff lost two friends, a musician/chef who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, and a former summer housemate. The musician/chef, Jeff Hardy, has been eulogized in a CD produced by Suzanne Vega. Jeff tells me what a strong guy Jeff the chef was, how he imagines what he must have tried to do as the buildings fell. Of his other friend, Jeff speaks of her in flashes of Fire Island, how she would cheerfully do other people's laundry, how she wanted a boyfriend. At the time of her death, she was engaged, and planning to move to Russia. Jeff attended her memorial service in Brooklyn Heights, a terrible night of rain. Jeff said he was grateful, because the original plan was to head to the Promenade and look at what was then a smoking, gaping hole.

When this first happened, Jeff's parents, both Holocaust survivors, said: "We hoped you would be spared this." I still think we're lucky. We don't live in Israel; we aren't Jews in Poland in the 1930s and 1940s. After "we" "won" World War II, Jeff's parents couldn't even go back to Poland, where they were from. Jeff's parents actually met in Germany, of all places, where they were students and refugees. For various reasons, they parted in Germany, and bumped into each other in New York City, which is where they married and had a family. And where they still live.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Faith still sick, but not consistently sick. I may take her to the vet today, or possibly wait until tonight. I cooked her nice white rice, and now she's sleeping at my feet. She's certainly up for playing, posing for my madcap Polaroid, or tearing apart her latest toy. Human speech would be a help right now. Something like, "I ate a bad clam. I'll be better soon. Just let me watch soaps."

Latest update on the "Creating a Life" book, which I ranted about below: it's been a sales flop, despite wall-to-wall media coverage. Theories abound, including: the women who are experiencing this don't want to plunk down cash to read MORE bad news--it's not as if you can go back in time and have those babies and snag that husband--and the women who don't want to have it happen to them have gotten the gist from the news. I feel for the writer, who seems to think she was writing something "prescriptive" (or that's the spin she's taking now), but I would point you to a wonderful review on Amazon of the book by a man in his 50s who questions the whole point of view of the book.

Today I get to see Julia Sweeney in a work in progress! Yeah, baby!

Friday, May 17, 2002

Faith has recovered, but I caught a bit of her stomach virus yesterday. Spent it on my back watching much bad t.v. and an amazing movie, PANIC, written and directed by Henry Bromell, one of my favorite t.v. writers ever. (He wrote some great Northern Exposures and some great Homicides---not so weird to think about when you learn that David Chase, Mr. Sopranos guy himself, was one of the guiding hands behind Northern Exposure.) The film follows W.H. Macy as a middle-aged hit man who was brought into the business by his father, Donald I Am Still Sexy Sutherland, and has grown weary and heartsick from it. Spectacular cast--Tracey Ullman, John Ritter (giving another one of those fooled ya, I can act, performances), Neve Campbell, Barbara Bain, and a remarkable child actor, David Dorfman. Sutherland is a compelling monster, but if that were all there was to this movie, it wouldn't work. Macy is stuck because he has never been honest with anybody, and the tension is killing him, but if he is honest, everything falls apart. Gorgeously complex.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Spent the early morning watching dog Faith for signs of illness (she'd pooped, quite neatly, on our wooden kitchen floor at 4 am), and signs of illness did appear. Another bunch of poop. Another pool of vomit. All neatly delivered on the wood, not carpet, areas of our little home. Murphy's oil soap spray: that's the ticket.

When Faith gets sick, it mellows Jeff and me out. We get kinder to her. We get kinder to each other. Our dog is our Zen teacher, except, of course, when she's convinced that other dogs are trying to kill her. But maybe even then.

Speaking of American Zen, check out Byron Katie. I know, I know, another flipping self help book. Byron Katie is a California woman who fell down one day in an eating disorders rehab, and woke up, just like St. Paul, with a new view of things. Her "teaching," which is bare bones simple, involves writing down your pettiest judgments, the pettier the better. And then you apply four questions to those judgments. She isn't reinventing the wheel; the questions, and the process, owe a lot to the 12 steps, and to a number of Zen teachers. But she asks a question we all need to ask ourselves: who would you be without your story?

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The book is Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who has gotten oodles and boodles of ink lamenting that women over 40 who focused on their careers are unlikely to have those babies they, um, postponed because their eggs are All Dried Up.

Boo hoo.

The sound you hear is a boomerang in our culture, or at least in the mediaocracy, a neat sound bite whistling through the air aimed straight at the heads and hearts of women. A few years ago, after some long overdue advances, we got the "it's more likely a woman over 40 will be killed by a terrorist than get married" boomerang.

This was, of course, long before 9/11.

Now it's been replaced by a slightly different version, basically boiling down to, "it's more likely a woman over 40 with a good job will be ALONE than have a good marriage and a baby."

The media doesn't play the terrorist card so often anymore, now that we've actually had to deal with them.

I don't really mind the boomerangs so much: that's what mass media is for. It's just I wish they weren't aimed at us girlies so often. I just wish every once in a while, I'd hear a news story like this: "Men's sperm: the motility crisis!"

A few days after I'd heard about this, I saw woman after woman stand up during an Oprah show and complain that their ob-gyns had FOOLED them into delaying children, never suggesting that their eggies were aging by the minute. Not one of them seemed to bother to actually investigate the research on fertility, or to bother to talk to women who had chosen to have their children later in life. Growing up Catholic in the 1960s, I saw a lot of women, driven by their own faith, having lots and lots of children into their 40s, exhausted, overburdened, strapped, and sometimes ending up with a Down's syndrome child, which is one of those pretty-available-if-you-bother-to-look statistics that takes a huge bump when you have a kid in your 40s. And guess what? Those women exist still, but not in the privileged enclaves the Oprah complainers live in.

Feminism was supposed to be about choices, I heard at least once on the Oprah show.

Boo hoo again. No, gang, feminism isn't just about choices, unless you're talking about a certain fabulously privileged minority of women (of which I am one). It isn't about picking out stuff in the Life Catalog and having it come the next day by UPS. It's about basic human rights, and priorities, both of which are still pretty screwed up in this culture, though not so screwed up, say, as Afghanistan.

Behind all this complaining is an assumption: "My life was supposed to go a certain way."

Behind all this complaining is another assumption: "My life is personal, not political, and all that feminism stuff is supposed to be DONE by now."

What a huge surprise it's not. The modern civil rights movement is only some 55+ years old, and modern feminism, depending on what your benchmark is, only sprung up in the 1960s. Which, yeah, I know, is a million years in our current short-attention-span culture. But it's actually a blip in history.

Here's the deal with feminism, whether we want to be barefoot pregnant mamas in our 20s, or high-stepping Egg-Depleted Single Career Women in our 40s: We're not done yet, and we shouldn't be blaming our gynecologists for it.

We're not done yet if our culture puts so much weight on the flimsy structure that is the nuclear family it regularly implodes even without two careers and perfectly timed children--and then usually blames the mom when it happens.

We're not done yet if we keep telling ourselves in the U.S. that we live in a child-friendly culture when the people we lionize (again, except on September 11th) are mostly male captains of industry who only mention their children when it's convenient--like when they're leaving a CEO job that's turned bad. We're not done yet if the schools suck. And they do.

Real revolutions--and feminism, despite attempts to dilute it, is a revolution---aren't pretty, fast, or easy. They generally involve taking apart structures that don't like to be taken apart. Those structures, like chameleons, will do almost anything they can to keep themselves going. Remember Rebecca Romijn-Stamos' character in "X-Men?" She could shape shift with the best of them. Well, that's the patriarchy, baby: a flipping living, breathing, alien funhouse.

So the next time you regret a choice, and start to blame feminism, take a big healing breath. Look around. Is the world really the way you want it? Have we really achieved perfect parity, assuming that parity looks like equal pay for equal work, and the Senate and the House reflecting the gender/color balance of our country. Do you really think feminism's job is done, and you don't have to join up?

I think there's a conspiracy to scare the shit out of women. Again.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Kevyn Aucoin, genius makeup guy/political activist/general celebrator of women's beauty, is gone, dead, apparently, of a metabolic disorder that set in after an operation for a benign brain tumor.

My dad died of a brain tumor. Trust me, they're never benign.

I am a media junkie, but I hadn't even realized that Kevyn Aucoin had become a part of my personal database until he died. I was always captivated when I picked up one of his makeup books--Martha Stewart transformed into Veronica Lake, Hilary Swank as a Stone Age Raquel Welch--because they managed not to shame women while making makeup fun. A neat trick. I was too cool/too cheap to buy his books, but ever after scoping them out, I was always noticing his name, and how he managed to talk about politics in a featherweight business and sound smart.

Now he is gone, and the media is falling all over itself because, oddly enough, Kevyn Aucoin was a really, really nice guy. Which, given that he was gay, adopted, and very big, growing up in Louisiana and seemingly in flight from homophobes his entire childhood, is a big fat miracle. And an example to us all.

Rest in peace, Kevyn . Hope you're making up Barbara Stanwyck at this very minute.