Monthly Archives: March 2009

Put some clothes on –

says the UT mother of two as they observe the the unclad idiot across the street who fails to note his windows are two-way eyes open to the world, hello. We need not look but the scenario does deliver comedy relief from the stress of daily life.

Voicemail For Dummies


Here’s a quick lesson in why one should always check voicemail. My post-B’way show backstage invite was cancelled when it was thought VIP political guests were coming to the show this evening. VIP political guests didn’t errr … show. My friend called me right before the curtain to tell me she put my name on a list for a backstage visit after. I never checked my vm. Just received an email from her asking where I was. One word to describe myself comes to mind: Dumbass.


h is for home


What Makes a House a Home?



Goodbye, Darling

I first heard her crisp, regal, British accent over the phone one day while working as an intern. “Hello Darling,” she said. “This is Natasha. With whom am I speaking?” Once I gave her my name, she never forgot it in four years of phone conversations. Every time she called, no matter who answered, it was always “Hello Darling.” It felt classy and very Old-Hollywood glamorous.

I heard her voice at its most upbeat (when talking about her sons or about a film she was about to do) and at its most devastating, in a voice message she left while trying to locate her close friend (my co-worker) right after her husband, Liam Neeson’s nearly fatal motorcycle accident. The fear and desperation in her voice was chilling.

A year later, my friend became her assistant and called me to do some script reading for her. “I told her how much you love adaptations,” said my friend. “And she’s sending a book she’s passionate about.” The book was Asylum by Patrick McGrath. It came with a handwritten note and a copy of a first draft of the script. “Be honest” was all the note said. I devoured the book. It was incredible, it was the perfect story to get lost in. It would make a great movie. My notes started with “This must get made.” Natasha had an instinct and went with it. Seven years later, with many writers and directors circling the material, hoping she would give it up, she raised the money and got the movie made on her terms: script approval, starring role, producer. The movie that ended up making its way to theaters wasn’t quite the one she envisioned, but it got MADE. Despite the cries of “She’s too old to play the lead,” “The project needs a name actress,” “Can’t she get her husband to play opposite her?” She projected her passion on the screen.

I wrote her a note after seeing the film, congratulating her on her intuition and fortitude. We exchanged a few emails after that, but then lost touch. Last year I saw her at a preview of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which starred her mother. I watched her watch her mother on stage with complete joy and pride. We exchanged a quick hello after the show, having not seen each other in five years and even then, having only met a few of times in person. After reminding her who I was, a smile lit up her face, she grabbed my hands and said, “Hello, Darling.”


Island Girl

North Captiva Island is accessible only by boat whereas the sister island to the South has a causeway connecting it to Fort Myers. florida_sanibel_captivas_322627That’s about all we know about the place and information is limited. Until Sunday morning, we are guests of the North Captiva Island Club (NCIS, as I quickly learned thanks to Emily who works for Island Girl, the boat service that ferried us over from the mainland, love calling it that). The 17 minute ride from Pine Island Marina, with 13 passengers a captain and his mate, was swift and smooth. Our little boat replete with bags of groceries packed in plastic, suitcases, a vacuum cleaner (not ours) and bait (also not ours) pulled into a beautiful little channel set off by mangroves before sunset on Tuesday where we checked in and learned a teeny bit about the lay of the (is)land.

We were greeted by a sunburned young twenty-something named Josh and his sweet little dog, Gizmo, a “morkie,” think maltese and yorkie mix. Together, they showed us our forest green Club Car golf cart, number 77 and how to work the headlight. He loaded and hauled our luggage and six bags of groceries for five days of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in a separate mini-version of a flat bed attached to his “service” cart and led us to our watermelon colored tree house located on the far side of the air strip. The kids got a kick out of the grass covered “strip.” The grown-ups grumbled to themselves over the fear of sounds from air traffic.rooftopcaptiva

It didn’t take long for the four of us to settle in to the multi-level residence and hit the roof via the metal spiral staircase for expansive views looking over the island toward the Gulf of Mexico. The kids quickly dialed in to the multi-media offerings that include an X-Box, four televisions and multiple remotes. The physician/scientist/husband graciously offered to unpack my belongings while I prepared our chicken salad and quinoa dinner with the assistance of the 11-year old sous-chef. He confirmed that I wouldn’t balk at his choice of drawers or organization. “No way, I leave it up to you,” and truly, I was grateful for the gesture. We opted out of the St. Patrick’s Day poolside party later in the evening and watched TV altogether. The television remotes posed a challenge but in this age of technical challenges, I am happy to report that I was the one who successfully tuned in and out of desired channels. Yeah for Mom. Meanwhile, no one believes me but the house sways, it’s on stilts, built to withstand the harshest of storms after Hurricane Charley devastated most of the Island in August 2004.

The chirp of crickets could be heard in between gusts of wind blew fast and furiously throughout most of the night and sleep well we did, windows open, fresh air on our faces.

So here we will be with little to do but spend time together, search for seashells, kayak, bike ride, rest and relax. And spend time on away from our computers. xo sSs

People Like Us*

Tucked behind the orange groves along Route 17 in central Florida’s lake regionorange-label1 is a destination known to few. Since its founding in 1915, Mountain Lake [formerly known as Buck Lake] has been a well-kept secret amongst an exclusive group of captains of industry. But today, given the reality of the economy, this corporate (homeowners buy shares in the Mountain Lake Corporation, don’t ask me how it works, that’s not the point) community, they are promoting membership and even has a website and interloper that I am although I’m an invited guest on occasion, I feel I am at liberty to share. 45 miles south of Orlando, this enclave is a far cry from the crowds and park-goers of its northern neighbor’s theme parks and Joe Six Pack(s). In general, during the winter months, residents of Mountain Lake are mad golfers with multiple homes. They enjoy their privacy, the abundant natural beauty and after 4p, daily cocktails with or without friends.

A Bit of History
Since the late 1880’s much of Florida, including Mountain Lake located just south of Lake of the Hills- original, eh?, became an investors haven thanks to modest real estate prices, low property taxes and good weather. By 1914, Maryland-born Fred Ruth, who had inherited 1,400 acres from his father, moved to Lake Wales, FL, with his wife Sally, to develop the Mountain Lake Corporation.

Ruth’s successfully executed plan was to create a place where “residents of great accomplishments and social status would enjoy winters…” in a “residential park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. [whose father designed Central Park and the Boston Common] with luxurious estates, a golf course sensitive to its surroundings designed by Seth Raynor, and acres of beautiful and profitable citrus.” (BOOK Citation to come, The History of Mountain Lake, it’s a secret book, only available to corporation members)

The Mountain Lake Estates area is made up of the 18-hole golf course, private residences [mostly out of range of errant golf balls], the Olmsted designed Colony Housemainphoto_col [a central gathering sort of clubhouse, private hotel and dining room] just shy of the 18th hole and down the road a piece, you’ll find Bok Tower Gardens. Structures, including the Colony House and Bok Tower, built before 1937, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s all quite grand in an extremely understated way.

Among the rich and fabulous that visited the area in it’s incarnation was Edward Bok, former editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. He vacationed at Mountain Lake in the early 1920s and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr to design park like gardens to surround a carillon tower in 1929.567301 The tower stands tall, there’s a nature preserve, adult and family educational programming and in my estimation, it’s the highlight of “off-site” attractions. The children prefer “Spook Hill” where for some reason beyond my understanding, though a car is facing downhill, you drive uphill or maybe the reverse is true. Either way, you move forward, not backward. Given its proximity to the incline, the nearby town of Lake Wales’ elementary school is named for the hill and the mascot displays a remarkable resemblance to Casper.

While our gentleman folk LOVE to golf, the 15-year old and I prefer to explore the area. We’ve been to the tower on many occasion, know the historic district of the town of Lake Wales and recently discovered a Target, Best Buy and big swinging Dick’s Sporting Goods about 25 minutes from the golf course. We’ve made regular trips to stimulate the economy to some degree by stocking up on Boots No. 7 from Target, enhancing the father-in-law’s Wii set-up thanks to Best Buy and a one piece swim suit for spring term’s 9th grade phys. ed, go straight toward the camouflage and turn right. Voila. Bathing Suit, check, goggles, check, pink nike bathing cap, check. The outings are generally filled with laughing and giggling as we pass cow fields, mini-malls that seem to have sprouted out of nowhere and American-made automobiles driven by octogenarians slowly creeping rambling along the roadway. quilts-and-guns1Closer to “home,” this time around, we checked out the local Flea Market and sho’ nuff, we spotted bait, guns, a swimming pool (the fiberglass kind), rusty tools, dvd’s, plastic toysbarbies1 as well as oranges, grapefruits and other local produce. Not so funny. “No pictures,” said the lady manning the truck decal department. “Some of the designs are his originals.” truck-decal-designs
Until we moved East from California, I failed to recognize the natural beauty, peace and quiet of this place, seemingly stuck in time, hidden behind the orange groves. But now, leaving the hustle and bustle noise of Manhattan behind for a few days, even if it’s just to go for a long walk through the “park” or take a trip to target, I get it. Fresh squeezed orange juice, the fragrance of orange blossoms, the sight of spanish moss, the cackle of noisy but elegant sandhill cranes and little else than my own time on my hands. Keep it quiet.

* The title is in reference to Dominick Dunne’s old money vs. new commentary of the 1980’s. In an effort to link to Amazon, I discovered the following article by David Brooks from The Atlantic, It has to do with diversity, less about exclusion or inclusion. Plus ça change. Interesting nonetheless. xo

Madoff’s in the Ice House

Ooo, baby it’s cold outside. And it was especially chilly this morning outside Bernie Ruth Madoff’s apartment building on the corner of East 64th Street at Lexington Avenue. The sidewalks and streets were loaded with no less than ten news trucks, rows of camera crews, still photographers and reporters from the New York Daily News, New York Post, CNBC, Fox News etc. Uptown, I sauntered over at 8:30a.m. to observe and become part of the pack. But mostly, I observed the pack.

According to reporters in the area, Bernie Madoff left the building at 7am. Metal police barricades were neatly stacked off the beaten path by the time I arrived since there was no need for crowd control or security. Doormen stood by their posts, greeted passersby good morning and overall, the mood was cordial, almost celebratory despite the cold wind in the air.

As I stood by, snapping pics of the technical crews, I was struck by the number of people who were more than willing to take a moment to voice their opinions “on the record, on camera” about the Prince of Ponzi. On top of that, they eagerly offered their names and telephone numbers for “verification,” if needed.

In the end, the adventure offered a reality check in the journalistic ethics department. One “character” approached a camera man and professed a loss of $25 million yet he refused to relay his real name. “I’m sorry for your loss,” said I. But was he a credible source? Not without a name. An older woman with a slavic accent pulled me aside and told me that she had “shocking news,” something she really wanted to share. It had nothing to do with Madoff but people would be amazed. She asked for my card. I gave it to her. She hasn’t called yet though she did tell me her name. Why not tell me her concern at that point? And what would she gain by sharing her story. What’s in it for her? Honestly, what’s up with people?

Reporting a story, while seen threw the lens of the reporter/storyteller is to do just that and offer a fair, objective lens for readers/viewers to take in the news. Please, don’t ask me to do anything but that, I won’t. Otherwise, I’m the one who loses face. Why would I do that?

By midmorning, as we all know, Madoff pleaded guilty and U.S. District Judge Denny Chin ordered that the Upper East Sider be sent directly to jail where he will wait until June 16, the scheduled date of sentencing. Bye bye Bernie. Hello Ruth.

Sometimes It Gets a Little Gossip Girl

I was wrapping up on set today when I got a text message from a friend I wrote about in this post. The text read, “I did something really stupid. I went to [city friend’s] show. I feel awkward and like an idiot. Too late to leave, but don’t want to stay here alone.” The gig happened to be right around the corner (literally), so I packed my stuff up, made a pit stop in the make-up trailer (use it if you’ve got it, right?), and headed over to rescue my friend, who I knew would do the same for me.

I got there in time to grab a drink at the bar before the lights dimmed and we made our way to our seats in the darkness. Our former city friend took to the stage. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but to me she looked exactly the same. Pale, angular features against long, jet black hair. She spoke into the mike introducing herself and her band, her speaking voice in an entirely different and more “affected” register than I’d remembered. The phrase, “you’ve got to be kidding me” ran through my mind. Then, she launched into her singing, guitar playing, etc. It was … awful. By song six, I felt seasick. Everything song sounded exactly the same and she rhymed words like “dead,” and “unfed.” I felt as if I was listening to a music box play over and over again. I wanted to shut the lid.

In that brief (though it felt A LOT longer) set, I realized something. She might have grown taller, but she didn’t grow up. The singing voice was exactly the same as high school, the gestures a little more dramatic, but still reminiscent of ninth grade. Her awkward banter with the audience only exposed the fact that she carried the same baggage for the past 13 years. It was horrific to watch, but yet, it made me feel so good. I felt like an accomplished (young) adult compared to the a woman-child I saw “at play” on a stage. I had a little You’ve come a long way, baby, moment. My eyes were wide open, no longer clouded by the mystery I thought surrounded this friend. Right then, I saw her for what she really was: a wannabe, a chameleon, trying on every persona, but never owning one of them completely. I felt so high school in my bitchiness and yet, so Freud in my analysis (or would it be Jung?)

The friend (whom I rescued) and I locked eyes and we laughed and clinked glasses. We didn’t need to say a word. Sometimes, the sweetest revenge is simply showing up and growing up.


Daylight Savings

In case you aren’t sure what time it is, check out the modern, funky design of LIP watches on watchismo… so very cool. Designed, according to the website, by Roger Tallon, “the creative mastermind behind the high-speed French TGV trains,” when he was enlisted with other prominent designers, architects, and interior decorators to work for them. Once I scrolled through the 70’s era horlogerie, I moved on to Nixon’s plastic number. A fun way to spend the wee hours of the night/day.picture-3lip-bulding-chron-200x3001871442bigfridge1lipmacrosma727-hero-046