Thursday, May 29, 2008

38 years

Yesterday was our 38th anniversary. I wrote a poem called 38 Years a few years ago, the anniversary of when we first fell in love. But the poem still applies.

I actually took part of that poem and used it to compose a poem on Intimacy for Paul
B’s new series of photography that he plans to self publish. They are wonderful black and white nudes of a man and a woman looking like they are intimate, but not explicitly so.

But, he felt my poem was too explicit for the frontispiece of the book. That reaction was a surprise to me; however, I went along with the gag and wrote one that doesn’t have any sexy words in it – just a getting to know you kind of piece. Here it is.


She moves toward him
her lithe body
her long legs
float across the floor.
Her arms outstretched
wrap around his neck.
And they stop, stare
get to know
the color of each other’s eyes.
He turns away slightly
then returns
then turns away again
as if he cannot stand
this closeness
this connection with her.
She leans into him
nuzzles his neck
smiles up into his face
and he relents
and meets her gaze.
He smoothes the length of her arms
and takes her hands in his
and like a dance
they sway from side to side
twirl and dip
until almost breathless
their hearts beat together in time.
They lightly hold on to one another
still too new to hang on tight
until the dance is done.

Anyhow, we had a very nice anniversary. And what was most moving was Bob writing that he’d like to have another 38 years with me on the card he gave me. Of course that is probably impossible – 38 plus 68 equals 106. No matter how healthy I am now or how healthy I’ll stay, living to 106 seems unlikely. Still it's a wonderful thought.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Recount" is great

We saw “Recount” on HBO last night. A brilliant and well-researched script written by one of Ben’s friends from middle school, Danny Strong. I just loved the way Laura Dern portrayed Katherine Harris, who by the way still thinks she did what was lawful and just. And, even though we knew how it all turned out, there was still a strong sense of suspense about the outcome. It made me incensed as I was back in 2000 at the Republican’s shady dealings and their accusations that the Democrats were trying to steal the election. Of course when all was said and done, we knew who really stole that election – only Al Gore was too much of a nice guy to fight anymore. The lesson is that we must, like Hillary keeps saying, allow every vote to be counted now.

I’ve also been madly reading the book “Madness,” written by someone with bipolar disease. I think the writing is a little over the top in its attempt to portray how she really felt and acted while she was manic and depressed, but it certainly gets the point across. The bottom line is there is still no one medication for controlling this disease and there is still not enough money for research to develop one. At least we’re beyond the lobotomies of the 30s and electro shock treatments, and we’re working very hard at erasing the stigma of mental illness. There is actually a Mad pride movement going on. It’s great that more and more people are coming out and admitting they are mentally ill – or mad, as they say. My Paul never would admit it and hardly ever talked about it. This is definitely such a yeasty time for finding out more about bipolar and treating it that it’s hard for me to hold myself back from saying, “whoa is me, why didn’t they know then what they know now?” But, I know, I’ll never get over that feeling. I keep thinking about making a list of all that’s he’s missed, but I know how really futile that is – there will only be more and more to add. Just the changes in electronic technology alone would blow his mind. (No pun intended.)

Above is my favorite photo of Paul and Ben, taken in the mid seventies when we were living on the Marshall Island, Kwajalein.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Birthday thoughts

I’m 68 today. Amazing. I don’t think I look it, and I certainly don’t feel it. It just seems so strange to be this old in years and feel no more than a young woman inside.

So, let’s see. It’s time to reassess the bucket list:

First priority is to get my book published, and a lot of what I do – especially with my job situation – depends on that and how much work I'll have to do on it
Learn Italian
Travel to Israel, Scandinavia, Grand Canyon, the Carolina’s, Florida, and the Northeast
Live in Italy (seems like a lot of traveling for a person who really doesn’t like the stress of traveling)

Well, no matter what, it's good to have goals. It keeps me going.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

But I will miss Hillary

I know I said this blog wouldn't be political, but I just couldn't resist.
Here's the email I just sent to the author of the piece I've included below:

Dear Marie,
I just read your misogyny piece. I applaud you. I've been so tired of the media -- especially the women in the media -- ragging on Hillary instead of getting out there and helping her. She has been so tireless and fearless in trying to open the White House doors for all the women in our country, and all the thanks we have given her is ridicule and hate. As a result I don't expect to see another woman candidate want to brave those bloody waters for some time to come. What a pity.

Here's the article:

Misogyny I Won't Miss
By Marie Cocco
Thursday, May 15, 2008; Page A15

"As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.
"I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.
"I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.
"I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.
"I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.
"Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.
"I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.
"The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).
"But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).
"When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).
"I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."
"Most of all, I will not miss the silence.
"I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.
"Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?
"There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture."

Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is

Manhattan Beach -- 30 years of change

I sometimes look at all the cars heading west on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and wonder where they are all going. Surely our small suburban town can’t contain all of them. It’s just as crowded on our other major East-West thoroughfares – Rosecrans and Marine. How much wider can Rosecrans stretch to accommodate the traffic going in and out of our little city? Once a quiet, sleepy town, in the last 30 years Manhattan Beach has turned into an international and sophisticated happening place, touted by the New York Times travel section for dining and shopping and the best sunsets in the world. Our downtown is as crowded as Rodeo Drive. Our cafes and coffee shops rival those on the Champs Elyse. Walkers, dogs and baby strollers clog the sidewalks. Outdoor tables are packed. And not all conversations heard on the streets are in English.

Whatever happened to the eucalyptus trees lining Rosecrans Boulevard when it was only two-lanes? Whatever happened to the days when Poncho’s was a Chinese restaurant and all the night action was on the north end of Highland? The only restaurants in downtown were the Kettle, Uncle Bill’s, the Bay 90s, and a lunch counter that served the best tuna fish sandwiches and French fries called Stuffy’s. We had a few good stores like Le Chat, Frances’, The Third Gallery, and Bentley’s. Then, Metlox still sold pottery. I bought two dozen plates at $2.00 each for a family Thanksgiving one year with a platter and bowl thrown in. I still have them.

As the character of downtown began to change so did the residential areas. We used to enjoy the mix of old and new, small and large, dumpy and elegant side by side. But with the influx of money the homes got larger and more homogeneous. Lots were split to accommodate two houses – leaving fewer trees and green space. We bought one of those new houses in 1979 and still live in it. Now it’s dwarfed by huge mansions that fill up almost every inch of lot space.

More and more restaurants opened – and closed. Even one of our first “new” restaurants, the Hibachi, gave way to Rock n Fish, which serves the Hibachi style chicken teriyaki and Navy Grog, but cannot replicate its fung chui.
The railroad track morphed into a beautiful greenbelt with plenty of trees and park benches, bowls of water for thirsty dogs, and a place to meet longtime friends on the jogging path. The Chevron tank farm became Manhattan Village, the La Mar theater site became Sketcher’s headquarters, and the Metlox property turned into another shopping and eating opportunity.

The walk up the Sand Dune steps or the Rosecrans hill on the way to the Strand is still a challenge. Now, people come from all over LA to get fit on the sandy hill or steps. The Old Hometown Fair gets larger every year, and the Grand Prix still attracts world-class bikers and local kids enjoying their own competitions.
Yes, some things still remain: the barber shop on Manhattan Avenue, Uncle Bill’s, the Manhattan Shoe Hospital, the Koffee Kart, Lisa’s Framing, CafĂ© Pierre, Talia’s, Shellback Tavern, Ercole’s, Pete’s Place, Manhattan Market, Becker’s Bakery, El Terasco, the Tot Lot, the ubiquitous basketball courts and soccer fields, Concerts in the Park, co-ed beach volleyball, the surfers waiting for the next big wave – though now we have more female surfers than we used to – and the best sunsets in the world.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


It's been a while since I've posted a poem. Here's one I wrote a while ago. But don't get the wrong idea. My guy still looks at me with such love, I could melt.


They look through me,
the brawny young guys flexing their biceps
as they reach for the shoulder press.
Their eyes fix on the girl in sleek black tights
with boobs bursting out of her bra.
Strong and slim and self confident
she struts past, tilting her head back
to take a swig of water.

They run past me, the sweaty runners
in tank tops, Adidas shorts
and hairy calf muscles
that form a perfect Vee
They see the far away figure on roller blades
with flowing blonde hair
showing more tan than thong.
Fit and firm she moves closer, smiles wide
and raises her hand to give them a high five.

Look at me. I’m firm and slim.
Underneath my baggy tee and sweats I feel 28.
Though my hair is almost white
and my face has lines impossible to erase.
Give me a glance, why don’t you,
a glimmer of recognition
that I still exist,
that I’m still worthy to be seen,
and good enough to eat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New York memories

I’d love more days like the one free day I had in New York. I loved being all by myself, walking block after block, looking in the windows on Madison, Fifth, and Lexington avenues, seeing what the museums had to offer, sitting down to lunch at a table for one, meandering along the clothing aisles at Bloomingdale's, and not having to answer to anybody. That is my idea about how to spend a day. Not that I’d want to do it everyday. It’s just that I’d like the freedom to do it whenever I wanted. But, that freedom is not yet on the horizon. In another year perhaps, but not yet.

Yet, everything about New York reminded me of Paul. Every place we went, there he was. We’d talk about a 5-story walk-up, and there I'd be watching the piano we gave him being moved step by step up to his fourth floor apartment. We ate dinner at Tabla, and there Bob was having an argument with him across the street. We took the circle line tour, and there I was walking the length of the island and across the George Washington bridge with him. We went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the organist played one of his favorite Bach pieces.

Even after almost nine years, I'm still not used to being back in New York -- in Paul's country. I probably never will.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Another choice -- to let her go

Friends are a fragile subject. I’ve had some in my life since high school. I’ve lost so many throughout the years. And so many I’ve just let go for lack of nourishment. However, I do know that being a friend and having friends takes time and energy and just the pure will to be there when needed.

I’ve had a person in my life since before Bob and I were married – 38 years this month. And throughout that time our friendship has been up and down. In fact we’ve gone through several periods where we didn’t speak to or see each other because our lives just didn’t have any connections. Recently we saw each other again and spoke and seemed happy about resuming our friendship. But, I’ve always known this person to be a flake. She’s never one I could rely on to keep a commitment, and one I’ve known to always surface when she needed something from me. This last time I was hoping she had changed, and we perhaps had a chance for a friendship again.

But, no. I was wrong. So wrong that that I let her use me again – my own damn fault. I let her reel me in again because I wanted her back in my life along with her other family members who I often see and who are so dear to me.

Not anymore. I’ve let this person use me for the last time. We are done. And, writing those words -- we are done -- feels so right. I’ve no remorse, just a lesson about how much a friendship needs appreciation, nourishment, and respect. Our lives with our friends are too short for anything else.