Sunday, June 30, 2002


Our dog had a great vacation.

Saturday, June 22, 2002


This is where we are right now. And this is what we saw this afternoon. Looking like a rock. Then looking like some moving algae.

That was only an hour after we saw the bear.

And this is supposed to be where all the trendy people are going since being squoze out of the Hamptons? I don't think so.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002


Dear Jane:

I loved Sassy, though I was way too old for it. I love Jane, though I was pretty old for it---but loved the fashion spreads and the cheeky 'tude. Now the NY Post tells us you are starting a magazine to celebrate 40+ women.

Jane, I am your woman. Please hire me as your...your...well, let's call it creative consultant. I write, I produce, I take fab pictures...if they are of my dog.

Here's why:

1. I have, like you, managed to get married after 40 to a groovy man.

2. I am still (occasionally) going to places where it is very, very hard to find out the address.

3. Because I knew the Vagina Monologues rocked even before celebs got involved. Because I knew Eve Ensler rocked--whether she was directing Jane Fonda, or addressing a bunch of students from Carnegie Mellon on Good Friday (which is where I first saw TVM). First post show comment--a young guy stands up, and asks Eve: "As a heterosexual man, what can I do to help?"

4. Because my mom named me Martha Garvey Jr., and isn't that the coolest thing.

5. Because when I told my mother that Eve was disappointed that Mom hadn't shown up for Eve's Good Friday performance, my mother said sweetly, "Did you tell her I had to take my vagina to church?"

6. Because I dress my dog up in pearls and Mardi Gras beads. (Okay, maybe not a selling point.)

7. Because I once wrote and performed a show about my mother's obsession with Brian Dennehy that grabbed me a mention in the New York Observer---and a thank you note from Brian Dennehy!

8. Because I never imagined that being in my 40s would be so much fun...

Hey, if you don't ask, you don't get, right?

Thanks, Jane.

I got my first fan letter! I got my first fan letter! From a fellow New Yorker and dude about town. 646 guy/Tales from the City: Thank you, Brian. Once I clear the fuzz out of my brain, linkapalooza, dude.

Saturday, June 15, 2002


Do you know what the weirdest thing about getting older is? It isn't weight gain, or "Ma'ams," or not getting cultural references.

It's having your eyebrows fade out. My eyebrows are going very, very, very white.

Friday, June 14, 2002


I have been reading a fun and fabulous book called "Mama Gena's School of the Womanly Arts," which is and empowerment. In it, among other things, she urges women to make a complete list of their desires.

Okay. Here's one. Before I die, I'd like to meet the insanely fabulous actor Alan Cumming.

Because after I die, what's the point?

Wednesday, June 12, 2002


Faith and I were walking home this morning, and our street was clogged with funeral traffic, led by a traditional black hearse, followed by a truck bearing a Kentucky Derby-size floral arrangement. Then bunches and bunches of cars. That's when it struck me: it is impossible for an SUV to look stately.


Husband, dog, water, bliss.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002


Next up, how two teenage boys in deepest Staten Island gave us a thwacking good tour of enlightenment.


An overdue huge thumbs up to the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is where I am taking my intro to improv class. UCB was/is inspired by Del Close, a Chicago guru of improv, who, when he died, willed his skull to the Goodman Theatre that it might be used for the "poor Yorick" scene in Hamlet. Talk about never retiring.

It's a terrific class--well taught, and chockfull of talented, generous people. Some actors, some not, and...surprise, surprise, for comedy: estrogen rich! Yep, more girlies than boys in the class. My brain is on fire the entire time I'm in the class, partly because I'm scared, and partly because I feel so inspired by the creative, wonderful choices people make. There was an improv last week between two guys that blended the words "prison" and "bunny slippers" into comic madness.

Monday, June 10, 2002


Because the voice I am facing down, the voice I am trying to erase? My father's witty, bitter, nasty comments.

And I've never been able to come up with positive counters to the complex, mean things he used to say to me. Nothing as interesting, anyway.

When I was watching "A Beautiful Mind" recently, I have to say that what interested me---after, of course, the general wonderment of Russell Crowe---was the choice that John Nash made, apparently both in the film and in life--to simply live with his hallucinations. Not to fight them. Not to befriend them. Just to let Because they did serve a purpose in his life. I've been very lucky. I've never been that crazy, never that depressed, never that manic. But the voice that haunts me is the voice of my father, and as much as I try to keep him alive, he is fading. Except for that voice in my head. Which maybe I should just try to live with. And stop trying to counter with rainbow-colored, plinky-plinky positivity.

Sunday, June 09, 2002


So, for years I've "worked" with affirmations. Gone to sleep with tapes humming in my head. Written out the bad words to replace them with the good words. Going on 20 years.

And they've never completely gone away.


Jeff and I were cruising an actually pretty nice shopping center in Edgewater, New Jersey, where, on Friday, we had our first Target experience. Truly America is a wondrous and strange place: a discount department store embracing Stephen Sprouse, whose electric neon clothes I coveted and even stood in line to buy in the 80s, now reinvented as a guy who does peppy, slightly ironic Americana. Target is a nifty store, at least this one is: ferociously well organized, if slightly under air conditioned. Baskets everywhere, things decently labeled, sales force zapping each other messages across walkie talkies. A salesguy sighing as he repeats that he cannot sell the sales model of some patio furniture off the floor. But he holds his ground. Target should be running the war on terror.

But the ghost of Manhattan, as usual, is my father, who I think about nearly every day, but especially around that Hallmark-inflected fake holiday, "Father's Day." To get a quick and dirty picture of my father, imagine Gene Hackman as flaky patriarch Royal Tenenbaum in the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums." Dad was an eccentric lawyer like Hackman's character, and had a near-identical fashion sense. Thankfully, he did not bail on his family. Dad would have loved Target, with its wry distancing from the actual experience of shopping, and the endless rows of stuff by designers who would have held their noses in this store 20 years ago. He would have laughed his ass off. Postmodern architects making toasters! And us buying them. What a hoot!

Here's where the ghost comes in. What I've been thinking about lately is my semi-addiction to self-help tapes. Tony Robbins, Susan Jeffers, Belleruth Naparstek, and my current fave, Byron Katie. And the old standby, Shakti Gawain. One of the basic tenets of affirmations is that you first must identify the negative voice that is putting you down. You know, "You're fat. You're no good. What makes you think you can do that?"

Then, once you've identifed the voice, you rassle it to the ground and replace it with positive messages. You can do it. You have a beautiful body. You're fabulous.

Ironically enough, I first started using affirmations and visualizations when my father was dying of brain cancer in 1984, and they didn't work so hot. My father's fear, his emotional impairment thanks to the brain tumor, and his Irish Catholic upbringing always seemed to turn whatever affirmations we used into a single concept: It was Dad's fault. He had given himself the cancer. If he'd been a better person, it would never have happened.

I think my dad wasn't the only person to experience this emotional boomerang, but I was so desperate to give him any kind of hope, I just kept working with him, day after day. Not long after, people like Joan Borysenko and O. Carl Simonton, leaders in this movement, began apologizing left right and center for the guilt trips they unwittingly laid on people like my dad. This apology was a useful thing, but it didn't always stop people--people I always seemed to chat with in my food coop---from asking me, in a very patronizing tone of voice, "Why do you think your father GAVE himself the cancer?"

I never slugged any of them. I asked them to consider that however powerful the mind/body connection might be, for instance, there's is this funky thing called biology, and natural selection, that might be bigger than all of us. More recently, I've learned that about half the dogs in the world eventually suffer from far, we haven't seen a lot of dog blaming. "Why do you think Scruffy gave himself the lymphoma? Was it unfulfilled bone burying potential?"

I'd point out that for the four years before my dad's cancer, he'd completely turned his life around. He'd gotten sober. He'd helped tons of alcoholics. He'd gone to Europe with my mother and even made a kind of peace with his own mother before she died. In short, if you could pick any time period in my dad's life when he was less likely to "give" himself cancer, this was it.

But still, people would persist. We humans are so fucking arrogant sometimes. We so want to believe that we can wish our way out of the natural world. I really wish I'd spent less of my time creating images of superhero white cells pummeling cancer cells with my dad and more time just giving him a massage. Or bringing him ice cream just talking to him.

Which may explain why I have such trouble with affirmations to this day.

End of Rant, part one.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002


Ars Nova is a groovy place, a midtown performance space dedicated to works in progress. Last night, Jeff and I saw a bunch of comics, led by the subversive Sarah Silverman, and topped off by Janeane Garafolo, who did finished comedy mixed with stuff that she read straight from her binder. She called the binder pieces "seeds," and wished fervently that the next time we see her, the seeds will have turned into actual comedy. The club itself? Cozy, though not for the first time, Jeff and I felt old. Still: New York so rocks. Ars Nova is right down the street from The Daily Show, so we managed to score two celeb spots: Mo Rocca, and the back of Steve Colbert's head.


Wow. Writer Caroline Knapp died of lung cancer yesterday.

She was 42. As we say in the recovery rooms, I had a lot of identification with her--nearly same age, lots of same addictions, including one to her dog. I loved her book Pack of Two, a terrific, quirky book about what having a dog will do to you, for good and for ill. If you are considering getting a dog, especially a dog from a shelter, read it twice.

I was, frankly, jealous of Knapp. The new age gurus tell you jealousy is a little tip that you want what the person has, and though I sometimes found too much of Knapp's internal workings in her essays, she also wrote a great, compassionate essay about the woman who founded Moderation Management--a recovery program that approves of social drinking--and who eventually killed two people while driving drunk. It's on somewhere, and when I am less lazy, I will plug in the link.

Life is short, man. Eat dessert first, preferably while hugging your dog.

Monday, June 03, 2002


Went out last night. We were out on the terrace, enjoying the air. When there was a small boom. So small Jeff didn't stop talking. Then our neighbors, who were barbequing below, looked up at us. And then there was that weird "power down" sound. And then no electricity for several blocks. For several hours.

I grabbed my Walkman, a flashlight, a few candles, my cell phone. Jeff checked his pager. There was lots of stuff on the news about a wild forest fire in Ocean County, NJ, but nothing about us. Jeff called the cops, who gave us the good news: just a transformer fire, nothing nuclear, nothing big. We delivered the news from our terrace to anyone who was outside. It didn't even make 1010 WINS. In a way, that was comforting.

We did a few "first things" last night, including walking Faith by flashlight. Faith got all hopped up; she always assumes that when Jeff and I walk her together that we are Taking Her Somewhere. She seemed only slightly less excited when she realized that she was just going around the block.