Give me Chocolate or Give me Death!

Her name is Suzanna, not Sue, not Suzanne, not Suzy, it’s Suzanna and don’t try calling her anything but. At 88 yrs, she’s as independent and spry as she was during her vibrant youth. She’ll talk your ear off about her friendships with Paul McCartney and Bing Crosby and her 45 year career as a dancer with the NYC Ballet Company. As interesting as that is, we’re really there to find out the secret to her longevity, wearing a face as smooth as silk and legs as strong as an ox. She could easily pass for 65 — raising her skirt high enough for us to admire her tight glutes. I thought better of videotaping that.

Suzanna lives in Saratoga, in a charming old stone Presbeterian Church – converted into luxury condo’s for those who can afford NYC morgages. Her condo is filled with antiquity; ornate, sculptural works of decorative art made of precious metals, Greek vases painted and depicting the God of War, Ares and God of Love, Aphrodite, along with full length murals of modern art. A real class act. After recounting the glory days with photos and books, time is ticking and we insist she enlighten our curiousity.

“Please Suzanna — Tell the viewing public what keeps you walking miles and miles everyday without assistance or the need for a vehicle?” “No chocolate my dear” she says looking me straight in eye. “I’ve not had chocolate for 40 years”.

Ummmm….no chocolate? It doesn’t compute. Did I hear her correctly? I can go so far as imagining abstinence for 40 years – but chocolate? No WAY! “Ah Hell” I resign ” Bring on the wrinkles and poor posture!, I’ll never denounce the food of My Gods!”.

Another strong female voice interviewed this week was Camille Paglia. A writer of western culture and sexual evolution, she’s controversial, erudite and hated by conservatives and liberals alike. She protects her identity using a pseudonym when she stays in hotels. Wednesday night she spoke at Suny Albany about her latest publication, a collection of favorite poems and essays, analyzed and scrutinized by her alone. She’s brilliant in her theories and conclusions about higher education, celebrities, and the Pope.

“Private Liberal Arts Colleges, those that cost parents a fortunate to send their children to, are a scandal, a joke, and out of complete control” she bellows. “The education and professors at these schools are no better than those found at public institutions like SUNY. And still mainstream media avoids stories that exploit the ugly truth about these money-hungry imposters”.

Suddenly, I’m feeling like my days of apoligizing for attending 2 SUNY schools are over. I like her, like I liked Anita Roddick, founder and CEO of the Body Shop and I pick her brain tirelessly before her interview with the Boston Globe.

Men Fake ForePlay

It was one of those ugly rainy days meant for me to skip skiing and spend an evening alone. Flipping through the local liberal arts rag, I stopped short for an ad called “Men Fake Foreplay”. Hhmmm, this sounds interesting…

“Standup Comedy Writer Mike Dugan talks relationships and intimacy, sex and cheating and he does it in sort of a Woody Allen meets Jimmy Stewart kind of a way, his gentle philosophizing really drawing you in.” the ad reads…”It’s not necessarily the type of humor that makes you laugh so hard you cry but a much rarer type that makes you smile knowingly to yourself.”

2 touching endorsements and 1 box office phone call later and I’ve just scored myself the very last seat in the house.

“Are you going to the show too?” I volunteer to an African American women, as we hurry our pace to the Egg’s Performing Art Center. She’s decked out in high heals and a low-cut blouse, balancing her step on slippery cobblestone streets while juggling a cell phone and a oversized purse. “Yes, I’m terribly late. It started at 7pm” she panics. “No, your not – the show doesn’t start for another 40 minutes” I assure her. We board the elevator inside the Egg and I notice I’m the only one dressed in blue jeans and sneakers, expensive DKNY’s and Puma’s though! Could my laissez-faire attire not be suitable for a Emmy-award winning Irish Comedian? The elevator door opens and a poster welcomes me to one of P. Diddy’s Bad Boys, Comedian Rickey Smiley. Oh, I get it — wrong theater!

I jump back on the elevator and the little white women with curlers in her hair says to me, “Yes, I thought I might have dropped you off at the wrong theater — your not showing enough cleavage Miss”. I burst out laughing. Rickey attracts a mostly black majority while low key and self-effacing, Mike Dugan, is like a magnet for the pastier folks. Never before did I think comedians attracted such a racial divide.

A poster on stage reads 2 dictionary definitions of the word ForePlay (1929) as I find my seat. I don’t scribble down either but Mike Dugan’s opening monologue quickly crafts both as imposters to what women REALLY want.

“Funny how the word Foreplay was invented during the year the stockmarket crashed…as if it might have had something to do with men realizing how much they need women when they have no money” explains Dugan.

And so begins Dugan’s revelations into every man’s secret vault of insecurites about the opposite sex. He uses funny vignettes and experience to compare a heat-seeking missile with a guy’s dick and coins the term “Fantasy-guidance-system” to explain eternal bachelorhood. Ahhh, clarity and persuasion for the troubled male – is that guy infront of me taking notes?

Admitting his own emotional shortcomings, “I don’t have a lot of relationship skills because all of my training is in casual sex”, Dugan gets the entire audience applauding his candor. My favorite was his story about how he came to find himself after cheating on a blossoming relationship – justifying it to himself because it was only 4 months into their courtship. “Women’s intuitions can always tell when something’s amiss… but instead of telling her the truth, I lied about it and compromised that beautiful place in her soul where her smiles come from….a month later, my conscience caught up with me, and I told her I indeed had sex with someone else. Well, that was it — her trust in me was gone. Her last words to me were “You don’t have the self-awareness I need to feel safe with you, Mike”.

During intermission, I winced with a little longing for an ex – someone I thought knew me better than he really did. Mike’s relationship enlightenment was having a Valentine’s effect on the couples around me. Arms were being tossed across their partner’s backs and hands held tight. “Keep scribbling in your tiny notebook Sony, keep scribbling” I whisper to myself. Listening to “Torn” by Anne Previn during intermission didn’t help matters any.

Second set and Dugan’s on fire! He’s pissed off with commercial exploitation of women, he’s pissed off at John Gray (Men are from Mars…), Howard Stern and Hugh Heffner, he’s pissed off that father figures don’t exist anymore, he’s pissed off that drugs, drinking and casual sex is destroying the fabric of our country. He’s speaking the truth, not because he was raised a good Catholic boy but because he’s 45 and finally discovering whats kept him from finding his center, his core. His pissed off that he’s left a trail of broken hearts in his wake.

I could go on and on and on about this wonderful show, but…My God, it’s 1am and I haven’t observed Daylight Savings Time yet!
Goodnight all!

All in a Day's Work

Mul·ti·task·ing   (mlt-tskng, -t-) n. — The concurrent operation by one central processing unit of two or more processes.

For Example: In the last 48 hours, I’ve hung myself off the side of a State Police helicopter, clocked in at 90mph racing to Glens Falls for Senator Clinton, sprinted up 3 flights of Capital steps for Gov. Pataki, and crawled under 6 vintage film projectors at the Palace Theater. All that and still time enough for fitness, friends, film, and food too! It’s called tv news and it’s all in a day’s work.

There’s nothing more rewarding than juggling real-world priorities and making everything fit like a puzzle. It’s a balancing act that takes time to perfect and endurance to prevail. Some say the PeaceCorp is the toughest job you’ll ever love. On good days, I like to replace the word “PeaceCorp” with “Television News”. Making strict deadlines every day at noon, 5, 5:30 and 6 sharpens the senses and improves effeciency. My reporter and I pace each other like a well-oiled machine.

It sure would be great if there was a “Take-a-viewing-audience-member” to work day. Maybe then, there would be more respect for what goes on behind-the-scenes. Better yet, if my News Director and General Manager could tag along with us, there might be a better chance of getting a 15% pay raise rather than a 15% pay cut.

TV News is made up of a weakening Union called NABET. NABET desperately negotiates with our parent company (Freedom Communications) every 3 years to keep a fair and consistent contract for it’s behind-the-scenes members. Myself and about 50 of my colleagues pay Union dues. It’s an unnerving place to be right now – foreseeing a pay cut while juggling a steep morgage, unpaid debts and relying on freelance jobs for extra income. The entire industry is changing and my job decription is being treated as no more valuable than a fast food employee. No offense french fry servers.

Moral and spirits are at an all-time low and I feel like I’m on a sinking Titanic. No, wait, scratch that, it feels like I’ve managed to escape the sinking Titanic and now I’m treading water for a life raft . I never thought I’d walk in the same footsteps as my Dad – a UAW member with General Motors for 30 years, but here I am, and here I’ve been, for over 10 years. It appears that a strike might be inevietable, thought that’s a worst-case scenerio. Pining over things out of my control is not my nature though so it’s on to my next assignment leaving enough time to blog about it and make it feel all better.

Popcorn and Porn

Deb and I saw the documentary “Inside Deep Throat” last night at the Spectrum.

Need I say more?
Oh, wait, during the show a popcorn kernal got stuck in MY throat – no joke!

From Caipirnha to Fire Alarms

“This is Cachaça” explains Phil Pillsworth “Between soccer, carnival and the samba, this drink is the most popular thing in Brazil! It tastes something like rum because it’s made from sugarcane. Would you like to try some?”. I figure nothing can be as strong as Grappa, so I agree to a small sample, just a small shot though.

Mary and Phil are my absolute favorite intellectual liberals! While working in the Peacecorp in Brazil in the 1960’s, they met, fell in love and traveled extensively ever since. Back in October of last year, I flew to Guadalahara, Mexico and had the exciting chance of videotaping their winning bid on a retirement home in Ajijic. I love listening to them lament about the out-of-control right-wing agenda, wrestle with society’s deepest social maladies, and argue about who forgot to turn on the oven for the lasagna to cook! Last nights evening in with them was all about their recent trip to Brazil during Carnivale.

“So what to do think”” asks Phil, as I cautiously wet my palette with the intoxicating Cachaça. “Hhhhmmmm…”

I’m no spirit aficionado, usually sticking to table wine and heffen weisen beer but this Cachaça is lethal stuff and I’m glad I’m sitting down! A kick, a bite, something like tequila, sort of like vodka, I’m trying to be place the flavors, like I would with wine — as if I’m any good at that either! “Ah hell, bring on the Caipirinha!” I squeal. Caipirinha is a cocktail with Cachaca in it and it’s all the rage in London, Paris and even here in NYC.

And so begins another memorable evening with Mary and Phil; a couple I can only hope to be and act like when I get older…whatever older is. They’ve spent the entire day preparing a Brazilian feast, Brazilian photos, and Brazilian videos for my sake. And though all of that is great, what I’m really after is listening to great storytelling – and nobody does it better than them. Verbiage comes so natural to both of them and since they’ve been together for over 35 years, each other literally picks off where the other left off in a conversation. My parents divorced partly due to a lack of communication skills so this intrinsic verbal compatibility between couples fascinates me. I marvel at Mary and Phil’s longevity, transient lifestyle, and thirst for learning. Despite the digs and wisecracks each other lobb at the other (albeit amusing as hell to me) their adulation and respect is obvious.

“Mary, Why is there so much smoke pouring out of the oven??? For God’s Sake, the Lasagna’s on Fire!”
“Phil, for God’s Sake, I left that Brazilian CD under the desk!! Look to the left!!”
“Mary, I can’t have my dessert yet, for God’s Sake, I’m still finishing up my salad!”

It’s like music to my ears!

I could blame it on my past or turning 33 (again) and still single, or my romantic notions felt during full moons, but for all the reasons I’m attracted to this older successful couple, saying goodbye always leaves me wanting to know their secret. If your reading this Mary and Phil, a note to remember – when the time comes that you decide you’d like to enlighten the rest of the world with this underground tidbit , I’ll be there, camera rolling!

Thanks so much for dinner.

Ski Your Fears Away

Every year I ski solo on Easter weekend. Rain, shine, snow or ice, I’m out there; traversing some twisted mogul run, usually one I have no business being on. It’s usually very quiet, there are no lift lines, and the snow stays groomed well into the evening. On beautiful days, especially this past weekend, the mountains are my haven for a spiritual reawakening. Perched high above evergreens dripping with snow the lift sweeps me into the heavens. A few years ago, a man on the chair ahead of me played Amazing Grace on his harmonica. Blissful, tranquil, and admittedly a powerful moment.

Some will argue that skiing is too much hassle, too much money to be worth it. Usually, they’re right on both counts but not today – not on a 45 degree day at 4000 feet. As I was leaving for the Adirondacks, I got a call from some of my closest tv friends. They had flown up from Atlanta the day before and insisted that I ski the Catskills instead. Oh no – not Hunter Mountain, I thought to myself.

There’s a legend that the Catskills were actually made by the Devil; that he was flying around with a big bag of rocks on his back when the bag ripped open and the rocks fell to form the Catskills. The Devil, it is said, was often seen in these parts. In fact, as I approached Hunter Mountain that day, driving south along Route 214, the face of the Devil was visible in the stone cliff. Not a good omen for an Easter weekend!

The owner and founder, Orville Slutzky, is 88 yrs. young and a wonderful friend. He treats the media like family – extending free tickets and meals with no guarantee of return coverage. I worked on a tv special here a few years ago and the Hunter crew were especially accommodating. Orville insists that I park my NYP car in a specially designated area and who am I to deny better parking with 30 pounds of ski equipment? Even at 88, Orville is still the Pope of the place or so I thought. 10 minutes later my licence plate is recorded and a stern police towing warning is broadcasted over the PA. I rush out in time to sweet-talk an officer who doesn’t so much believe nor care that I know the Pope.

My friends finally show up an hour late. It’s understandable considering their extended Irish family is made up of 6 brothers and sisters, 10 sons and daughters, a couple dozen nieces, nephews, cousins, oh, and 1 dog. I know I’m probably missing a few more. Not all came that day but enough to divide the lot into 3 vehicles.

The near-perfect conditions had my confidence swelling and I stupidly ignored “You Must Be An Expert” sign and dared the double diamond runs. “If my friends can do it so can I!” was the deciding mantra.

“The Catskill Devil himself must have carved these things out”, I cursed, as I began the rough descend. Moguls the size of tsuanami tidewaves came tearing at my left, collapsing at my right, tossing and turning me over like a beach pebble. Something inside me was burning – could it be my legs were on fire? Removing my skis would prove risky but worse than that, humiliating. Who did I think I was trying to emulate my friends expert skiing techniques? My foolish pride will be the end of me today. I begged the Devil for mercy. Reciting every prayer I knew – the bottom was drawing closer. My friends waited patiently and praised my efforts when I finally made it in. Whew, they didn’t see the panic and pain I was experiencing! The only lines I could utter in return were “Well, I was definitely out of my comfort zone there…but, let’s do another!”

Fear has no place in short-term memory, especially mine, and following that run I did another and another – terrifying, exhilarating, mortifying, and humbling. I even managed to forget to get off the lift and dumped out a little late, smashing my head on a pillar and taking out a couple cones. My right ski came off and a pole went flying but to my dismay the lift kept circling above me, nearly decapitating me as I struggled for position. Could the lift operator be the Devil in disguise? Black and blue and bruised all over, I called it a day. My friends rewarded me later with a homecooked family dinner. Thank you to all, but please, lets make it the Adirondacks next time!