Excerpt 24

My parents never even had medical insurance, which they considered an extravagance, until they were eligible for Medicare. They gambled…and won the health lottery, despite their decades of heavy smoking and drinking.

And when my father died, my mother gave his body to a medical school so that she wouldn’t have to pay for cremation. Afterward, she refused to accept his ashes for burial; she told the hospital to dump them in a public veterans’ grave.

 

###

Thanksgiving 1966

My father and I went to the local Holiday Inn for our Thanksgiving dinner.

My mother was indisposed, once again, because of her drinking.

We ran into Anastasia at the restaurant; she was one of my father’s loyal,  female friends. If I had looked closely, I might have seen the Trojan condoms in her Lucite handbag; Anastasia was a wealthy divorcée who got her kicks by pimping for the secret society of artistic, homosexual men in the East Memphis neighborhood.

She threw raucous, extravagant parties where handsome young men and older patrician gentlemen were introduced. Women were invited also, but they tended to be in their 50s and 60s and were oblivious to Anastasia’s lascivious machinations.

 

###

[music: Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana]

November 1977

          Lovers and Other Strangers

Poor Maurice, the surgeon. He was so depressed last night because of a terrible fight that he had with his wife. She and their sixteen-year-old daughter ganged up against him.

He said his wife had lost her emotional softness ever since she published her first novel. Now she lacks compassion and patience, according to him.

What he—and, unfortunately, many men–want in marriage: cook, lover, mother, servant, nursemaid.

God forbid his wife would seek accomplishments of her own! And he was furious when he discovered that she had a lover, too. Of course, the scrofulous physician had been unfaithful to his wife on their honeymoon!

What do I remember most about him? His underwear. He always bought it in Switzerland—the softest briefs I ever touched.

###

The married English WASP who actually used a cigarette holder! He was an executive with a large advertising agency, but always an aspiring writer. His novel, The Girl Watcher, was published while we were dating.

He liked to have sex with me in sleazy motels in Westchester. His wife was an entomologist, who spent 12 hours daily studying the social organization of ant groups.

The handsome, charismatic art student who worked part-time as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art. We had sex on a couch in a bedroom, while a wild party was going  on in the host’s living room.

The skinny, Australian investment banker who said that my birth control foam smelled like Pabulum.

The much older advertising executive who liked for me to hold his penis when he peed.

The mustached Hungarian who liked for me to sit on his face.

The married uber rich Greek, tall and very slim, who picked me up in his white Rolls Royce.  After a lavish meal at La Caravelle, we returned to my apartment.  He followed me into the bedroom, but instead of approaching me for a kiss and whatever, he headed to my closet and pulled out a negligee. He then proceeded to pull the silk garment over his head!

My strict Southern upbringing held me back from so many fascinating opportunities, because the culture in which I was raised hammered [sledge hammer] in the importance of being a soft-spoken, gentle, self-effacing, well-mannered lady. And I always flourished at following the rules.

Rebellion was only possible later on in my secret life of men and questionable sexual mores.

The perfect Southern female of the ’60s and early  ’70s was a reserved lady in the living room and an enthusiastic  whore in the bedroom; I managed the duality pretty well.

 

more…

The married French radiologist, Pierre, with the severe features of a Christian Schad portrait, whose patients included many celebrities and Manhattan socialites.

Our first date was in the King Cole bar of the St. Regis Hotel. We drank champagne and kir. A very attractive young woman sat alone nearby. He invited her to join us for dinner at Gino’s restaurant on Lexington. She accepted. The dinner was just dinner. She was an actress from Los Angeles and had come to New York to work on a film. Pierre wanted a ménage à trois; but it didn’t happen. (I think she was just an expensive hooker looking for customers.)

He came over to my apartment once a week with a cheap bottle of Beaujolais, some smelly French cheese, purple grapes, and Carr’s crackers.

We met in an elevator in the office building where both of us worked, when he complimented my black fedora with the wide brim. He liked to spank me, lightly and playfully, and talk dirty simultaneously.

______________________________________________________________

 

The South African psychiatrist whose fingernails were always dirty because he rode his bicycle everywhere and kept it well oiled. He thought I desperately needed him because of my unsavory childhood. We met on the street when he almost ran over me.

 

The Italian who always giggled before and after sex. He gargled his snot and rinsed his teeth at meals with coffee. That was a very short-term relationship.

 

The loquacious Jewish art director who airbrushed photos for multinational cosmetic companies. He liked for me to wear a black garter belt and long silk stockings. He called me his Egon Schiele woman.  We met in front of Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy” at the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street.

The Jewish-Russian taxi driver who became a wealthy sportswear manufacturer. One night he invited his best friend to join us in bed. I dated both of them, and several times the three of us went to bed together. We practiced sixty-nine as though we were characters in Fellini’s Satyricon (which had been produced in 1969).

The Irish man whose immense fingers looked like Polish sausage—large Kielbasa.

The Swiss doctor whose wife had died from breast cancer when she was in her 30s. He sent their three children to live with the grandparents in Geneva. His favorite companion was his adorable black Labrador, Othello, who sat at the dinner table with us. Othello loved bread and cheese.

The  Israeli who was also in the clothing business. A garmento as we call them in New York. Every summer, he  sent his wife and children to Israel for an extended vacation, so that he could chase women in Manhattan.  On Monday nights, he always played poker with some friends, except when I was available.

The West Point jock who remained unhappily married for 30 years until his neighbors in Greenwich, Connecticut, started getting divorced; he then believed divorce was socially acceptable. A very sweet man and wonderful lover. He loved to go to piano bars and dance.

I hated piano bars and dancing, but if I drank enough vodka stingers  and cognac, I had dancing feet that wouldn’t quit, and the following day I would have the  blisters to prove it.

Once again, in a twisted way, I was fulfilling the expectations of my mother…when I was two years old, she flamboyantly dressed me as Mae West and entered me in a costume contest.

I won.

 

EXCERPT 22

 

 FANTASY FRIENDS ON FURLOUGH

 

YOGA FROG

The yoga frog stuck out his tongue

In order to eat tasty morsels of young…

Quail eggs!

No legs, he begs!

Just meat juicy and sweet

To make my parts so flexible and neat.

 

And please remove this spaghetti!

He cried to the dragonfly, who

Was hoping for calm

But instead got confetti

When he flew through the shredder

On the desk with the teddy.

Oh my!

What a mess!

Bear hair!

What a pair: the frog and the dragonfly

Searching the sky

Looking for, hoping for yum-yum pumpkin pie.

But instead in their eyes

Fell rays of moonlight.

They said it felt good.

Then bid all a good night.

 

Naked Crayons

[envision crayon sticks dressed in adorable outfits]

The naked crayons went out to play.

“Yippee, whippee,” they cried as they rolled in the hay.

Cathy, the cow, ambled into the barn.

“What are y’all doing?” she drawled with a note of alarm.

“We’re searching for jackets and hats with ear latches,

‘Cause winter is coming…

And we naked crayons will become so hard and so brittle,

If we don’t have some sweaters for the inclement weather.

So, Cathy, the cow, gently them to

Gertrude, the goose, who knitted them

Jackets that were fit to be tied and as warm as a moose…

So that everyone—tall and short or thin and fat— looked forward

To their winter sleigh rides behind the caboose of the train on the lane that you could

watch through your own windowpane!

 

SAOLA

Saola, shmayala…hard to pronounce.

When he jumped on the scale, he was more than an ounce.
Nevertheless, he remained quite rare,

Almost as much as cities with clean air.

He lived in hot Vietnam
With his long, pointy horns,
He avoided all thorns.

Some  feathered friends called him a saola.
But his dream was to be an adorable koala.

So furry and cute,
Wrapped around a tree branch,
Almost a glove.

Ready for a bear hug
And oodles of love.

FLUKE FISH

It wasn’t a fluke or kind of rebuke

When Mr. Fluke Fish

Fell in the blackstrap molasses

‘Cause of the stress in

Shopping for his 3D glasses.

You see his eyes are up here

And across over there….

 

YOGA FROG

The yoga frog stuck out his tongue

In order to eat tasty morsels of young…

Quail eggs!

No legs, he begs!

Just meat juicy and sweet

To make my parts so flexible and neat.

 

And please remove this spaghetti!

He cried to the dragonfly, who

Was hoping for calm

But instead got confetti

When he flew through the shredder

On the desk with the teddy.

Oh my!

What a mess!

Bear hair!

What a pair: the frog and the dragonfly

Searching the sky

Looking for, hoping for yum-yum pumpkin pie.

But instead in their eyes

Fell rays of moonlight.

They said it felt good.

Then bid all a good night.

 

PEGASUS

It was raining cats and dogs (but no icky, sticky frogs) [literal

drawing/puppies and kittens]…

(Ostrich and worm are covering their heads)

As Ollie and Winton cuddle together

And say with relief, Oh, what a bother!

Could have been falling on us those fat hogs

With a whine and a holler !

And a snoutful of fodder…

 

Pegasus was showing off his shiny shoes to Norse, the horse, and PlumPie,

the horsefly, and MaggieMead, the centipede (who really needed lots of

shoes!).

Oyvay!

To polish all those shoes took three hours and a half!

Enough time for a cow to give birth to a calf!

 

TEA TIME

The Germanic gerbil [wearing little Valkyrie  hat w/upturned horns]

And the Balkan bat

Met together for tea

In their nondescript flat.

Too sweet, said the gerbil

With a throaty, loud gurgle!

Too hot, said the bat

With a big, bad splat!

So they went out together

In the dreariest weather

To search for a drink,

The color of ink….

 

 Gremm

There once was a fish named Gremm,

Who savored his M&M’s

Until the time

He got jealous you see

‘Cause one day he looked at them

Carefully and woefully

And said, “Oh no! It can’t be!”

Your colors are better than mine.

Your beauty is ever so fine.

It’s time for a switch.

Yes, you I will ditch.

Instead I’ll eat plankton.

And from now on will be known

As handsome Gremm Franklin.

 

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castor_and_Pollux]

TWIN FROGS

[one—black on red/one—red on black]

Castor lived in Castoria with polka dots on his back.

Pollux lived in Polluxian with more spots to pack.

There was a bridge connecting the two.

It was frequently crossed by Ladybug Blue.

When she saw the twin frogs,

She was quite all agog!

Who are those creatures? She cried.

They stole my best features!

I am the only one to have such a pattern;

They copied my clothes;  I have no place to hide!

I will now charge them rent!

I have lost all repose!

And  will gleefully make them pay through the nose!

So, they went to the judge who parceled out wisdom.

“Now, now pretty critters,z’ he said.

“There are plenty of polka dots to go all around.

Let’s stick them to snowflakes to see what will happen.”

The dotted snowflakes fell to the ground without making a sound. Others disappeared to find new adventures with leopards and ponies.

Then Castor, Pollux, and Ladybug Blue rolled around and around

While coated with glue.

When they stood up their patterns were different;

A little uneven but quite prepossessing.

They all were quite happy with their brand-new designs.

They shook legs in agreement and wiggled their spots.

They went out on the town to show off  their outfits.

They got lots of attention and honorable mention

From the fashion newspaper.

A trend had begun ‘cause of freckles, black spots, and red dots.

The reporter told them, “I’m sure you’re related or extremely well mated.

What a nice family you have in your sartorial splendor!”

 

ELEPHANTS

When two big elephants kiss,

They find such perfect bliss.

With their long, crinkly trunks

Free of smells of local skunks,

 

He and she show their affection

And wiggle their tails in opposing direction.

 

They feed each other peanuts and straw,

While the nearby donkeys bray

Hee-Haw!

 

 

BIO:

 

2014                             Lemons and Lightbulbs  (children’s book)

2000                            Furrow (Writers Club Press)

1990–Present   

                                        Freelance Writer and Editor

*             American Health Foundation

*             Biztravel.com

*             Child (New York Times Magazine Group)

*             Community of Poets (English literary magazine)

*             Condé Nast Traveler

*             Epicurious.com

*             Executive Female

*             Film:  The Last Station (producer:  Bahman Maghsoudlou)

*             First for Women

*             Identitytheory.com

*             Lear’s

*             Medical Economics 

*             Millennium Moments (English anthology)

*             New Choices (Reader’s Digest Publications)

*             Poetic Justice (English anthology)

*             Random House, Inc.

*             Reuters Health Information Services

*             Rockefeller Foundation (National Video Resources)

*             State University of New York at Stony Brook (department of anthropology)

*             The Atlantic

*             The New York Times (letters)

*             Women’s World

*             www.defaulttogoodness.com

 

 

1989–1990                           LEAR’S,  New York, NY

                                                Senior Copy Editor/Assistant Managing Editor

Copy edited all articles. Checked all stages of text production from manuscript through

film. Line edited manuscripts. Worked on promotion magazines. Scheduled and

supervised freelancers. Met deadlines. Worked closely with  managing  editor, art

director, research chief, and operations manager. Assumed  all responsibilities of

assistant managing editor/copy chief during her leave of  absence. Received two

bonuses.

1988–1989                           FIRST FOR WOMEN,  Englewood Cliffs, NJ

                                                Associate Editor

On staff for start-up of magazine. Rewrote articles. Line edited freelance material. Copy

edited all manuscripts. Checked every stage of text production from  manuscript through

film. Met deadlines. Supervised freelancers and  production assistant.

1983–1988                           Freelance Writer and Editor

1980–1983                           MD MAGAZINE,   New York, NY

                                                Assistant Editor

Wrote articles and book reviews on cultural and medical topics.

1979–1980                           MD MAGAZINE,   New York, NY

                                                Editorial Assistant

                                                 BREARLEY SCHOOL,  New York, NY

                                                Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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