Sunday, November 2, 2014


“There,” I thought, “that was fun”…after visiting with friends and then looking at the crazy, inventive sea of costumes strolling up and down Santa Monica Boulevard or just “The Boulevard” as it is known. Finally I was back in the comfort of my home, still too hyper to go to bed. And then the phone rang.

 “Mom, I’m going to park in your spot because I’m going to the club up the street,” my son, Daniel, said. Twenty minutes later, around 11pm, he was at my door. “Mom, do you know that there are two drunk girls throwing up in your parking spot? They need water…can I get some water for them?” Me: reaction 1 - whaaaat? Reaction 2 - how dare they, reaction 3 – searching for a container and filling it with water, reaction 4 - I hope they leave soon. A few minutes later, “Mom, now they’re sitting on the steps. But I have to go.” Daniel said annoyed. Reaction 5 - I want my container back...but I made no effort to get it. Better to stay as far away as possible from two drunk chicks. Back to my TV show, a Tivoed segment of Jeopardy champions. Then I heard banging on the gate.

 “Please help us,” two shaking young girls lamented, barely able to speak or stand for that matter. The two drunk out of their minds girls from the steps were now at my door asking for help. To my great astonishment, they were kids. I invited them in. They hadn’t been sitting for a minute when one of them muttered, “throw up.” I quickly shoved them both towards the bathroom. First, one stuck her head in the toilet bowl, then the other, and then both in unison were dry heaving and throwing up water. I ran downstairs for more water. My flat smelled of vomit and stale alcohol. Nice…But by now, reaction 6 was in full swing.

 Because it was Halloween, there was no cab and Uber to be had. Not to mention that these girls were in no condition to go anywhere. If this had been my child, I would hope someone would take care of him. I would hope that kindness surpass fear, trust quash suspicion. I know it did in my case. Reaction 6 - full throttle mothering. Melissa and Jackie were both slumped down on the floor next to the toilet exhausted from wrenching their guts out. I ran to the room, got out the blow up bed put sheets on, pillows and a blanket. I ran back to the bathroom and got the girls to their feet. As I guided them towards the made up bed they kept saying they’d never done this before, this was a first, they don’t drink, and they’d never ever done this before. They kept repeating “thank you so much,” as they got undressed, swaying and stumbling. The minute their heads hit the pillows they were out.

 By then, it was almost 1am. I was exhausted but also wide-awake. The “what if” questions kept circling my brain. These girls were so young and vulnerable, what would have happened if they hadn’t knocked on my door? Or if they’d simply fallen asleep in the garage? What if someone else had found them? How would others have dealt with the situation? What if the alcohol poisoning had been more sever, more dangerous? I had a hard time falling asleep.

 At 8am the day after Halloween I descended to check on Jackie and Melissa. They were awake…and very embarrassed. They continued to thank me profusely as they lay there. Jackie was still dizzy and nauseated. A couple of Tylenol landed in the toilet bowl along with her dry heaving. I think I managed to put them at ease by telling them that it was…okay. The last thing they needed was an adult scolding them when they knew precisely what they had done wrong. There was no lesson I could teach them that they hadn’t taught themselves by binge drinking.

 Jackie and Melissa are twenty and eighteen years old. They and their friend Ryan downed a half a bottle of vodka before Uber had picked them up to go to The Boulevard on Halloween. They continued to drink in the car. By the time Uber dropped them off somewhere close by, they were already pretty drunk. They lost Ryan somehow, somewhere soon after exiting the Uber car. Melissa and Jackie wandered the streets for two hours before winding up in my garage. Daniel’s girlfriend approached them first and the rest is history. Our conversation was constantly interrupted with a ”thank you so much, you saved us,” The girls attend Santa Monica College and also work. Jackie had just moved to LA from Boston and Melissa is from California.

 They folded the sheets. “We called Uber,” they said. Motherly protectiveness still prevailing, I said I would drive them home. On the way, they told me the story of their previous night’s adventure…or lack thereof since they never made it to The Boulevard. The thought that these girls could have had more than just an adverse reaction to binge drinking; the thought that two young, under aged girls had no one to turn to when it came down to it; the thought that young people every day take their life in their hands for some stupid reason;  the thought that both had no money on them…all of it made this the scariest Halloween I have ever experienced

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


There’s so much going on in the world at this time that I find it particularly hard to write a blog post. Between Israel and Hamas, growing anti-Semitism in Europe, Russia and Ukraine, Ebola outbreak in Africa, droughts all over California, plane crashes and Syria and Iraq, how to elaborate on any of these stories without hurting someone?

My Facebook friends know where I stand on the issue of the war between Israel and Hamas, but in the name of fairness, something I do think I’m capable of, this is not a political post. This is a post about human nature, human characteristic, human failings.

What I’ve noticed most strikingly about the current hot issue, which is Israel vs Hamas, is that no one, no matter how convincing the other party is, has any intention of being swayed in their opinion. The more I see comments on Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp etc., the clearer it becomes to me that those who are voicing their opinion do so because they remain steadfast in that belief.

If I’m a Palestinian supporter, and show photographs of dying babies and bombed hospitals and schools, am I really reaching my opponent? Will he/she be moved by these pictures/videos and reconsider his/her position? I think not.

If I’m Jewish and I show photographs of Hamas’ men shielding themselves behind toddlers, or preventing mothers and children from leaving the danger zone despite warnings, will that sway Palestinian supporters to think otherwise of Israelis? Not a chance.

And now to the outsiders, meaning the rest of the world; those who know nothing about the daily struggles in that part of the world. Those who cannot begin to comprehend the depth of this conflict, the historical divide between two people. I mean the outsider who comfortably sits in his/her living room making up his/her mind, which side to support and, which side to vilify according to the sound bites given to them through various means and ways. I don’t consider an outsider anyone who has family in the affected region. For obvious reasons they can never be “outsiders.”

The fact is, the outsider seems to be fueling anger, loathing, misinformation, ignorance, fear, sensationalism, falsehoods, lies. He or she is not helping the situation, but rather making it worse. The so-called outsider is the person who has no connection one way or another to either side. The outsider isn’t Muslim and isn’t Jewish. He or she is the onlooker, the passive/aggressive party who thinks he/she knows…but in fact does not. The outsider shapes his or her opinion according to…well…feeling, proclivity and influence, none of which are based in reality or rational thought.

Under any other circumstances the outsider leaves room for error in his own assessment. For instance, if a television clip shows a policeman pummeling a person, anything but a tame clip, the outsider will form an opinion but have doubts. “Damn the police, but perhaps he was provoked,” the outsider will have an inner debate with him/herself. The point being there is some questioning on a subconscious level, an innate tendency to give both victim and perpetrator some thought; a healthy back and forth of what could have transpired beyond the clip. Not so with the Israel/Hamas conflict. In this instance, the outsider reacts in absolutes; never mind that a clip or sound bite can and most likely is taken out of context or has been altered; never mind that both sides are playing into their audience; never mind that newspapers and television formulate things according to their inclination. Simply put, there is no reasoning on the part of the outsider.

Of course voicing your opinion is healthy and natural. But how helpful is it for the outsider, in most cases the laymen with little to no knowledge in the matter, to be so consequent, so adamant in his/her view? Why does rational and plausibility fly out the window, and conviction of being right take its place? More than any other conflict, past or present, this one is ruled by emotions. Either you’re with us, or you’re against us. There doesn’t seem to be any reasoning, any inner debate possible, certainly no compassion for the other side. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the problem: the right to exist and thrive. In the meantime, while the outsider shouts his/her position, those caught up in this conflict are confronted with sorrow, grief and bloodshed. Should the fighting stop tomorrow, no one is a winner here. No one can claim victory in the face of so much tragedy.


Some thirty-five years ago, when organ transplants began to take root as a viable medical procedure that saves lives, the controversy also began. Before a regulated list came into being, donors and recipients were matched according to need, compatibility and availability. Thankfully, I was among the first to receive a liver thirty years ago, which brings me to the topic of this blog post.

Human beings are born with two kidneys, a right and a left one. They are located towards the back, on both sides of the spine, below the rib cage. Kidneys are a little larger than a fist. They perform all kinds of functions one of which is allowing us to urinate. A human can live very well with one kidney, I should know, I only have one…a transplanted one.

Kidney trafficking has become widespread, especially in poorer countries, and newly autonomous countries still struggling to take shape. It’s illegal to sell your kidney for profit; and yet it is done pretty much everywhere. The law of supply and demand. Poor countries, like the Philippines for instance, have a thriving, willing and able kidney donor population. A family living off of $800donationm  a year will gladly give up a kidney they don’t need for the price of two years wages or more.

In the slums outside of Manila, predominantly men sign up with organ brokers to become kidney donors for the price of a laptop. The money they’ll earn, $1600.00 to $2500, will allow them to move to the country, buy a house or a piece of land and start a business. Of course plenty blow the money within a year, but others find a way of lifting their families out of the abject conditions of the slums to slightly less abject conditions in the countryside.
Meanwhile, here in the US, kidney donation by law must be altruistic. And thus, the waiting lists are anywhere from four to six years. Something is wrong with the entire picture. In fact, illegal donors as well as the regulated kidney donor list are both out of touch with reality and defeat the purpose entirely. On one hand, the legal avenue isn’t viable. Worldwide 118 people an hour die while waiting for a kidney. On the other side of the spectrum, the poor donors aren't getting fair compensation.

In Turkey, Dr. Yusuf Somnvez performed countless illegal kidney transplants from a hospital in Kosovo called Medicus. Aiding him in this extensive network undertaking were Moshe Harel, the surgery logistic man, and Dr. Zachi Shapira a prominent kidney transplant surgeon. In an interview with Dr. Shapira who lives in Israel, he continues to question the validity of a law that, as it stands, means a death sentence to so many.

Meanwhile, in Canada Mary-Jo’s mother, who’s been on dialysis for 18 years, sits in a wheelchair, her arms distorted from so many needles. She’s fifty-three and looks like she’s eighty. Her muscles have deteriorated, her energy level is non-existent and her skin is that of an old lady. Mary Jo herself is on a kidney transplant list in Ontario and has been waiting for over eight years!

Dialysis is a temporary solution, but not an alternative to kidney failure. The best option today is transplantation. The demand in Western counMedicustries far outweighs western supplies. As things stand 10 to 15% of kidney transplants are illegal. Raul Fain was in need of a kidney. He chose the illegal route with Dr. Yusuf Somnvez. The pre and post care at Medicus in Kosovo, according to him, was flawless. His donor, Anna from Moldova, spent some time at the hospital as well. She was compensated with $12,000.00. She was happy to help someone out and to get much needed cash. The entire experience was smooth and professional both donor and recipient said.

However Interpol views this transaction as an international crime and has been chasing Dr. Somnvez and his aids for years. Raul Fain paid $120,000.00 for his surgery, which included bribing local police to warn the doctors when detectives for Interpol would show up and check Medicus’ activities. According to Dr. Shapira, they would put casts on all the patients (sometimes 7 or 8 were transplanted in a day) and when detectives checked, they only saw people recovering from "broken" arms and legs.

Interpol is facing an uphill battle. Organ trafficking will continue as long as poor people will need money, and wealthier people are willing to pay for life. Illegal donor lists in the Philippines (apx.$1600 per kidney), Egypt ($2000), India ($1000), Moldova ($12,000), China ($2500) continue to grow, and with it, the potential for mishaps. Like the broker in the Philippines said, “When the guy comes back from the hospital to the slums and waves his hand flashing all that cash, the others get jealous and are even more eager to become donors.”

Interpol doesn’t stand a chance. The system is broken. For it to work, it needs to acknowledge the needs of all parties. The moral issue, “Selling your kidney for cash is wrong,” doesn’t hold up. It’s asking the wrong question. The moral issue should be, “How do we help as many people as possible”? As things stand, the moral issue is immoral. Patients die waiting, and poor people living in squalor get taken advantage of. No wonder Dr. Shapira is considered a hero in Israel. He has saved over 3600 lives, many of which illegally. Does that make his actions less honorable? I think not. Just ask those he has saved.


Recently I watched a Frontline episode called United States of Secrets Part I, about the NSA’s surveillance program. As I watched, I became more and more incensed and embarrassed. Incensed because basically we are being spied on with impunity. Embarrassed, because I was a staunch opponent of Edward Snowden. I branded him a self-involved, megalomaniac who had the nerve to take it upon himself to jeopardize the security of our country. Boy…was I wrong.

The powers given to the NSA (National Security Agency) have reached such an extent that we are currently living in a state rivaling communist Russia. Am I exaggerating? Maybe…maybe not. We, the people have become the pawns in a well- played scheme, which began during the Bush administration, and was perpetuated by the Obama administration. As we quietly go about our lives, somewhere, someone is listening to our phone conversations, monitoring our emails, and checking our Internet searches. Under the guise of keeping the country safe, the United States has become a police state.

After 9/11 the country was vulnerable. The Bush administration exploited this vulnerability and put a surveillance program into place far greater than was permitted by law. A program, which originally was meant to target known and/or suspected terrorist entities, was now transformed into a whole other beast. The NSA went from searching for the needle in the haystack to searching every needle in the haystack. Basically, my private life isn’t private anymore because Big Brother or rather the NSA is in my business. Such activity violates everything this country stands for, certainly the first and fourth amendments to say the least. However this didn’t faze anyone in the Bush administration who was in the loop about the NSA’s new powers.

Questioning the NSA’s actions is deemed unpatriotic. The ultimate guilt trip from the Bush administration was that opponents are “putting the country at risk.” How were they going to stop an attack if they didn’t have the tools to do so? Blah, blah, blah. These false pretenses became the basis for blatant illegal action and lies. Bush lied. He assured the American public that all surveillance was conducted according to the letter of the law, meaning only with a warrant. President Obama lied. He promised transparency when he would become president and instead secretly expanded the program. Both presidents are liars. The cynic in me says, “Duh…I’d have to be born yesterday to think otherwise.” Still, it was never made more obvious than with this business.

Our presidents lied, Senators and Congress people lied, our intelligence community lied, our courts broke the law, the FISA Court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) bent the law so far it’s unrecognizable. As if that weren’t bad enough it gets worse. Those working at the NSA who realized the illegality of the surveillance program were shut up. Although the whistleblowers followed protocol and went through the proper channels, they were repudiated and told to be quiet and do their job. Finally, after, not days or months, but years of trying to bring attention to the unlawful information gathering of the NSA, the whistleblowers turned to the only option left. This most dangerous move was a last resort. They took their findings to the public.

However, the New York Times, caved under pressure from the Bush administration. Suddenly, one of the most influential and respected journals in the country let the government control the narrative. They didn’t publish the story. Washington subdued the free press…for a time. Eventually the NY Times would publish. By then, newspapers far from Washington and the administration’s reach had their own sources on the topic.

Edward Snowden certainly studied the cases of his predecessor, notably Thomas Drake. An employee at the NSA, he was one of the first to call out the illegal spying on Americans. He waited years before finally offering the press unclassified documents. Despite President Obama’s promise to welcome and protect whistleblowers, Thomas Drake’s home was raided, his computer and other electronics seized and he was prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Eventually the case would be dropped for lack of evidence. He couldn’t be prosecuted for going public with information that was…public.

Edward Snowden understood there would be no justice for him should he blow the whistle. His actions would make him the most wanted man in the world, at least as far as the Americans are concerned. Our allies, the Europeans, embrace Snowden as a hero. I’m beginning to sympathize with him myself.

We, the public, keep doing what we do; we go about our business believing we live in the land of the free. We’re complacent, lethargic, asleep even though we now know. Meanwhile, the NSA spends tens of billions of our taxpayer dollars spying on yours truly. We live in a subtle police state and seem to be fine with it. These freedoms we think we have, the way things stand, they can be taken away just as easily as criminal activity by the NSA became law.


With the on slot of criticism directed towards Donald Sterling, I figured someone must address the varying opinions and points of view regarding the conversation with his (ex) girlfriend. While no one can deny that what he said was at the very least despicable, I was astonished when my older sister presented a different approach than what has been dominating the mainstream.
“So, what do you think about the Donald Sterling conversation?” I asked my sister on the phone recently. Her reply, “Personally I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, of course it’s wrong…but I don’t even think he’s a racist.” To my shock, “Why? How?” I asked. And this is where I had to open my mind and realize…she might have a point.
Back in the thirties and forties, being Jewish was almost (not quite, but almost) as restricted as being black. You weren’t admitted into many places; the good jobs went to white Anglo-Saxons Protestants or WASPs not Jews. Sterling belongs to a very specific type of hardened, Jewish men who built their fortune from scratch through struggle after struggle, beating down closed doors and if not, finding other ways to achieve their goal. Despite prejudice and constant setbacks because they were Jewish, they forged on. Of course you cannot draw a comparison to the African-American experience for obvious reasons, including skin color and slavery. The point is that men like Donald Sterling didn’t let anything stop them from moving forward. They failed and restarted over and over again and finally made it, however, in the process they became pitiless, unyielding, callous. It’s no wonder they’re critical of any type of lack of incentive or failure, both of which often define some black communities.
For any of you completely incensed at this point…hold your horses. I’m fully aware that African Americans (which I am) have far too often gotten a raw deal, and continuously run into a brick wall when it comes to moving up or forward. I also believe we have too many broken values in broken communities preventing many from imagining a better life than the one surrounding them. Their neighborhood becomes their prison. While Jewish families have always, for hundreds of years, advocated education, something that is even built into our religion (I’m also Jewish), black families have fought for survival. There are a lot of reasons why the African American experience has had and continues to have a much harder time than any other race, but this is a conversation for another day. For Sterling and company, all they see is a people that lack incentive and continuously fail, and therefore not worthy of equality.
Donald Sterling and friends, the ones who told him about the picture on Instagram in the first place, and indeed plenty of others like them, are a stagnant, rigid, stuck in the past group of wealthy old fogies unable to conceive of an African-American man being on their level. Of all people, Sterling directed his rant towards Magic Johnson, a man breathing the rare air of the multi-millionaires’ club, yes, that same air Sterling and his cronies breathe. A man that did what Sterling did: became insanely wealthy from nothing; a businessman just like Sterling. Despite Magic’s success, Sterling can’t get passed his preconceived notion of what black people are. He views Magic the same way he views the men he sees in the slums and projects when planning his low-income real estate developments, the men that in his eyes, lack incentive and represent failure. And yet…
He was dating a woman who is Latina and African-American. When it came to his pretty (ex) girlfriend, denial is a powerful tool. She’s black, but she’s beautiful. She’s Latina but she’s special. She’s not really either of those. She’s just a little tanned. Denial allows you to poke holes in your own dogged, staunch, rigid beliefs when it suits you. In fact this attitude ruled the conversation as he repeatedly denied being a racist while criticizing his girlfriend for posting a photograph with Magic. Basically…Sterling made no sense.
In my sister’s experience, a racist is someone like George Wallace. She was in her twenties in the sixties and seventies when racism was all too casually part of the norm. Sterling, according to her, is a product of his upbringing, his environment and his experience. A real racist won’t help a handicapped person of color cross the street, for instance; or even address them other than in a demeaning way. A racist certainly doesn’t date out of his race.
Do I agree with my sister? Let’s just say, I get her point. However, in my eyes, there’s no denying and no denial. Sterling is a racist and the worst kind. He’s a closet racist, the type that plays off being inclusive to the world, but behind closed doors, or among his cronies it’s a different story all together. It just goes to show you…nothing about us humans stays secret. Somehow, somewhere someone knows… and at some point in time, whether you like it or not, you get found out.


Since I’m forced to be less active than usual due to my recent hip replacement, I thought I’d touch on a subject near and dear to my heart: languages. I consider myself a bit of an expert on the topic since I speak, read and write eight of them. I admit, I cannot take credit for four (French, German, English, Spanish); they came with my upbringing, and therefore went from my subconscious to my conscious with very little effort on my part. The other four (Italian, Hebrew, Russian, Chinese) I actually had to sit down and study, and therefore have found certain “unalienable truths” about learning that hopefully will benefit anyone who’d like to master a new language. Lately the idea of writing a “How To” book on learning languages has been brewing in my mind. Surely my obsession with Chinese these past few years has driven this desire.
Languages are magical on so many levels. They transform your persona; they propel you into another culture thanks to pronunciation and word sequence; they stimulate your mouth as well as your brain; they automatically expands your horizons. The euphoria and satisfaction of being understood in a tongue other than your own is immense.
If any of these feelings ring a bell when contemplating learning another language, perhaps it’s time. But before you start, before you delve into a love affair that must last a lifetime, make sure you have the most important feeling of all: passion.
Surely this is true for just about anything in life. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll be good at it. But let's stick to languages. Once I’ve made up my mind to dedicate time and effort to a new language, I get butterflies in my stomach, my heart pumps fast, my mind races, I’m utterly excited. Now, I’m ready.
If I’m taking a class, I’m “in love” with the teacher because he/she’s my gateway to my goal. A new language book becomes my bible…or better. I’ll actually study every word in it (which is more than I can say for a bible). Both the teacher and the book are motivating tools; both will challenge my ability. It’s all about how much I can take in, how much I can retain. Intonation, pronunciation, tongue-twisting words turn me on (not only in Chinese but any language. Each has their own musicality) retention becomes an association game.
I’ve never learned a language through translation. I have, however, retained a great deal through association. In Chinese, the word for “president is “zongtong” (总统) When the meaning was first explained to me (in Chinese), the teacher said that zongtong means president of a country, guo jia (国家), not a company, gon si (公司). So in the explanation of the word zongtong, I leaned two more words key to understanding that one word. I’ve just increased my vocabulary by three (zongtong, guojia, gonsi) instead of one thanks to association.
As soon as I’ve become familiar with a minimal amount of vocabulary, I’ll repeat it at nauseum in my head. I’ll create as many constructions as I can find, whether they’re correct or not. The point is to have them stick through repetition, improve my pronunciation and awaken my curiosity how to expand on the constructions. My next move is to surround myself with people who speak that language. I’ve never shied away from making mistakes or saying words incorrectly. In fact, I’m a big fan of speaking poorly. Why? Apart from languages, it has been scientifically proven that our brain is more likely to retain moments that deviate from your routine. We all remember stories that make us cringe, or laugh, or cry. This is because a chemical process, which enhances our memory, takes place during that moment. On a smaller scale, being corrected is such a highlighted moment in your brain. It becomes a retainable language lesson.
Although I spoke Hebrew at the time I was married to my Israeli husband (now ex), I wasn’t entirely fluent. He pointed at the lampshade and asked me what it was called in Hebrew. Why would I know how to say a word I don’t think I’ve ever used in any language? I had no idea. Then he said, “ahil” (אהיל). Although I’ve never used the word since (besides this very moment), it has stuck with me for no other reason than the association of that moment with him.
Retention, association and the other important factor is connectivity. I’m anything but mathematical. I’m amazed I’m able to calculate a tip…actually I’m not…I just double the tax. However, when it comes to languages, they all have “mathematical formulas” to create sentences. No matter what you speak there will always be the use of verbs. While vocabulary is obviously number one, verbs come next. They are the connecting element, the “one plus one equals two” of language. As soon as you’ve acquired your new foreign friends, always ask how to say verbs and tenses before you ask to translate vocabulary. This will give you more to work with in your mind when you’re making all kinds of constructions using the few words you know.
Not everybody learns languages the same way. Whether you’re visual and need the new words written down, or verbal and learn through repetition, I’ve tried to give you a taste of fundamentals useful to either learning methods. Languages are fun if you let them be. Never take them too seriously, at least in the beginning. Enjoy tongue-twisting words and impossible expressions. Eventually you’ll want to delve further into that language and in doing so will emerge a different person.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


"I weighed 340lbs and was one day away from living out of my car," my friend said, holding a glass of champagne. I paid little attention to the sixty other guests chatting and sipping drinks. We were standing at the bar of a beautiful Moroccan gazebo overlooking a stunning pool. I had just only met this person, but I already considered him a kindred spirit. I'm quite fond of people who leap over their shadow. People who, when pushed to the brink, rise above their weaknesses, conquer their demons and change their path for the better. This is his story.

My friend and his wife of eighteen years had been successful business partners before their lives began to unravel. In fact, they were doing so well, they decided to invest. Then, the real estate bubble burst. They found themselves pouring money into an upside down home, real estate investment mortgages and an unprofitable restaurant; in short, their fortune was being sucked into a proverbial black hole of unexpected debt. My friend became angry and frustrated because, not only were they loosing all their savings, but the writing jobs had dried up as well. Who better to take out your frustration on, than the person closest to you?

His wife wasn't going to put up with an ornery, grumpy and mean man who had lost all of their hard earned, seven-figure income, drained their savings account and lost their home. After eighteen years of marriage, she left him. So now, he had no wife, no money, no house, no car, no health insurance, no mood. First, he moved into the guesthouse of our party host. That was fine for a while, but my friend knew better than to abuse his benefactor's generosity.

My friend had one more asset to keep him afloat. He sold the liquor-license of his restaurant for a good amount of money. Half went to his ex-wife, half he kept. He rented a small one-bedroom apartment. He then lay down in bed, turned on the television, and didn't move...for one whole year. He wallowed in self-pity, protected his self-pity by adding 100lbs of fat to his strong build. There was nothing left for him to live for. He contemplated suicide. The 164 Lunesta pills he had accumulated before his health insurance ran out were still in his drawer. He could take them all at once...

His last penny spent, and suicide on his mind, he bumped into the contractor from his restaurant one day. My friend told him that he was desperate for work, any work. The contractor didn't have much himself these days, with real estate in the toilet and all, but he could use a man to do some "trash out" work. My friend would get paid $80 per house.

Trash out means going into foreclosed homes and removing all. This was anything but a pleasant job. Some homes were trashed beyond recognition, feces plastered on the walls; toilets and kitchen literally smashed to pieces. Other homes had been vacated just as the family was having breakfast. The table was set and food was still on the plates. Then there were the pristine homes; most likely the family knew that this day was coming and wanted their home to be at it's best.
During the year that he worked this job, my friend scraped enough money together to go visit his mother in the Bronx, New York. She was devastated, and this broke my friend's heart. His mother's tears said it all. He loved her more than anyone. Suicide wasn't the answer, but neither was his current condition. He had to change his life. He had to snap out of it and get a grip on things. He returned to Los Angeles with renewed determination. First things first: get rid of the weight. He began walking around one block...then two blocks...four...

They say, necessity is the mother of invention. The gym was six blocks away, but he couldn't afford the $30 monthly fee. He noticed, though, a back entrance to the gym, a way to get in without having to show a membership card. Every day, he snuck in the back way for a workout. The more weight he lost, the better he felt about himself; his confidence grew, and with it opportunity.

A producer friend of my friend referred him to a company out of Australia that was looking for someone to create content for their budding production company. It just so happened that the owner of the company loved a movie for which my friend had written the screenplay. My friend was immediately offered a year's contract.

My friend and I stood in the Moroccan gazebo sipping champagne (I'm faithful to my water). "I've lost 87lbs," he continued, "and I'm going for another 27lbs. The company has renewed my contract for another year because they're happy with my work, and I love working there. I've written more scripts than they've asks for!" He said enthusiastically. He stood upright in his suit, smiling. And so was I. At a time when so many suffer from similar scenarios, I was pleased to hear how one man fought his way back to health and success.

PS. And yes, he does pay for his gym membership now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The little train that could, together with the smart man that knew, and the tough mother that dared brought tears to my eyes. When the tsunami hit Japan on March 11th of 2011 there were many remarkable survival stories.

Sixty people where on the train when the earth began to rumble and shake. The train immediately came to a halt. The conductor shouted for everybody to get off; a natural reaction in any earthquake. So, all sixty passengers left the train and stood on the tracks expecting more shaking any minute.
Instead of shaking, something much more ominous lurked in the distance. They were in the middle of nowhere; a massive tidal wave, powerful and deadly, was approaching swiftly. Then, a passenger shouted, "get back on the train! Get back on the train!" There was no time to ask the man why, or argue with him. The wave, full of debris and amassing more as it quickly came towards them, threatened to overrun and engulf the train just like it had overrun and engulfed everything else in its path.
The man who had told everyone to get back on the train realized something the others did not. It just so happened that the train had stopped at the highest point of the track, on a hill. Well, perhaps it wasn't quite a hill but it was an incline. The passengers gathered together in one compartment and held each other while the man explained how the water would seek out lower ground before tackling the elevation. Hopefully, if they were lucky, it would go around the train. They sat and waited, covering their ears to dampen the deafening roar of advancing waters.
Just as they had hoped, the wave embraced them, stopping short of reaching the train. Oh! The joy in the compartment...but now what? They were miles away from civilization, surrounded by dangerous sludge and debris. Not to mention the weather. Temperatures had dropped below zero outside and in the train. The electricity, and therefore the heat, was off. Night fell. They insulated the doors with whatever they could find to keep the freezing-cold blazing wind out. They shared what little food they had...and waited. As time went by, they began to worry.
One of the passengers, a ten-year-old boy, was traveling alone. He was on his way home when he and the others got stuck on the train. Now he lay on the floor sleeping peacefully in the pitch-black darkness of that eerie night. Most passengers were loosing hope considering the situation in which they found themselves: a surreal moment in time full of uncertainties, disconnected from the rest of the world and stranded in an endless apocalyptic landscape, in freezing, subzero weather and virtually nothing to survive on. One young girl began texting a farewell message to her parents. If anyone found her phone, they could give it to her parents and they would know her last thoughts were with them. She told them she loved them and thanked them for everything they had done for her. Others cried in silence.
Daybreak. Fifty-nine men and women were huddled together, utter stillness in the air. One little boy lay sleeping, still. No more rumbling, knocking, screeching, banging, crackling and cracking sounds outside. Mother Nature was resting. Or was she? More knocking? It can't be...someone was trying to pry the compartment door open. Suddenly, she stood there at the top of the isle; she ran towards her slumbering boy. The mother of the ten-year-old had come looking for him! She knew what train he was on and took it upon herself to trek through mud and an obstacle course of debris; she literally went through hell and high water to find her little boy.
Fear and anxiety turned into relief. If the mother could find her way to her son, then she and the other passengers could find their way back.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this story. 'Never give up' comes to mind, 'trust your instincts, keep a positive outlook, help each other' etc. but the one that never fails to amaze me is the power of the human spirit; a mother's love for her child is a bond more powerful than the deadliest of catastrophes. It will drive her to undertake the most extraordinary exploits. The tsunami tore apart and destroyed a record number of families, but I am convinced there isn’t one mother among the victims that didn't fight to the last in order to protect, save her child.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I’m fascinated with people who have beaten the odds. I admire those who, despite severe challenges, come from behind and emerge above the fray only to excel in their field. One such a person is the painter/photographer/hyperrealist Chuck Close. He is among the foremost artists of our time. His challenges have contributed to, and even enhanced, his extraordinary talent as a painter.

Sigmund Freud coined the term Agnosia after treating several patients suffering from the disorder. It means ‘unknown’ in Greek and refers to a ‘selective deficiency in consciousness’, in other words you don’t recognize stuff. There are many types of agnosias, for instance tactile agnosia: you can describe what you're holding but don’t know what it’s called; in visual agnosia you see the object but don’t know what it is until you put it in your mouth. Scientist agree that agnosias stem from a disconnect between the conscious and subconscious mind, but they are far from understanding the mechanism of the problem. They do know, however, that the information has registered in the brain through analyzing the pulse of agnosia patients. Even though the person can’t recognize something, an elevated pulse shows that the brain has. Chuck Close’s type of agnosia is called prosopagnosia a.k.a face blindness.

People with face blindness will see a face and forget it as soon as they’ve seen it. They look at you from one angle and know who you are, but if you move your head half an inch, they won’t recognize you. They can stand in front of a mirror and not know that they are looking at themselves. This disorder affects 2.5% of the population to varying degrees.

Chuck Close has several neurological disorders including face blindness. He can’t memorize anything. He can’t add, subtract or multiply, but made up for it with art projects in school. To prepare for tests, he devised a system. He would sit in lukewarm bath water, a tray in front of him with cue cards on it. He would repeatedly voice out loud the information on the cue cards until it was time for the test. Then, shriveled like a prune and, I’m guessing, really clean, he would run to class and straight to the test in order to answer as many questions as he could.

This system, it seems, worked quite well for him. He attended Yale School of Art and Architecture and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, the most coveted award for study and research worldwide. I’d say his achievements up to that point were outstanding; but it gets even better.

Face blindness being what it is, you would think an artist would stay away from painting portraits. Chuck, though, was driven to do just that. He needed to create a two-dimensional rendering of what he couldn’t grasp in actuality. Only by committing the faces of his loved ones to a flat surface was he able to recognize them. He “distributes colored dirt on a flat surface,” a modest description for a man who’s paintings hang at the Cochran Art Museum in Washington D.C. and the National Portrait Gallery in London among other prestigious institutions.

The further back you move, you begin to realize that the sum of all parts is a reproduction of someone’s face on a huge scale. As impossible as it is for Chuck Close to remember faces or recite multiplication tables, he has a photographic memory when it comes to flat patterns. He uses a grid to create his gigantic portraits. He says, he’s “overwhelmed by the whole and takes them down to small bite size images”. He knows exactly what to paint in each square of the grid. Through painting, he has eliminated the chaos his disorders produce by simplifying his life: today he’s going to do what he did yesterday, and tomorrow he’ll do what he did today. A painting can take him more than a year to complete, but the positive emotions that come from repetition bring harmony into his life.

At the age of 48, Chuck Close suffered an ‘event’ as he calls it. His spinal artery collapse. Forget the other neurological disorders; now, he was paralyzed…as if that was going to stop him from practicing his craft. After eight months of physical therapy, he regained some movement in his right arm. He found a way to tape a paintbrush to his wrist so that he could paint…from his wheelchair! He continues to evolve as a painter. Collectors and museums seek out his work. Each piece is unique and captures with great detail and precision the lines of the person’s face, so much so that some of his paintings rival photographs. 

Chuck Close represents what is good about disability. Rather than being impediments, he has exploited all that is wrong with him to make beautiful, significant art. He has used his debilitating conditions to create masterpieces.  We can’t all be Chuck Closes and be blessed with an amazing talent; but we are all flawed. That seems to be a pretty good starting point to create something positive. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


If you're wondering if the title is a word, no it isn't. Hepa or hepar is the Greek word for liver and a myth is a myth. It's simply the best I could come up with to describe a story from mythology. Every now and then, I encounter certain truths that simply astound me. A sort of real life Twilight Zone moment that cannot be explained logically but that just is. It's my very knowledgeable husband that would make me aware of this interesting yet crazy trivia.

A poet from the 8th century BC named Hesiod, wrote a very long and intricate poem  called Theogony about powerful deities. As far as we know, these deities or Titans had never been mentioned before then. In Theogony, the first generation of Titans consists of six males and six females. I'm not going to go into all the names because it gets too complicated. Suffice it to say that cousins married cousins. Lapetus, a Titan, was married to Clymene (a daughter of a Titan). They had several children, one of which was Prometheus. Two other Titans, Cronus and Rhea also had children, the youngest of which was Zeus.

I'd heard the name Prometheus mentioned many times but only vaguely knew who he was. It turns out, he was smart and a real prankster. He was also the god closest to mankind. But before I get to that, let me explain what went down. Talk about family feud, this was the ultimate example. The Titans were powerful deities, but apparently not powerful enough since they were defeated and overthrown by their own children, the Olympians. Out with the Titans, in with the Olympians. They now had all the power, especially Zeus (you know, the one holding the lightening bolt). He sat on his throne in Mount Olympus and ruled over the other gods and men. If he was the most powerful, just like some presidents of ours, he certainly wasn't the smartest. Zeus, the mightiest of the mighty was about to be tricked.

There was a matter of settling accounts between men and gods. Zeus had to decide what the sacrificial meal to the gods would be. Prometheus, the witty but lowly Olympian, wanted to help mankind. After all, we were his best creation. Per Zeus' order, he had fashioned us out of water and clay and loved us much more than Zeus did. Prometheus presented Zeus with two options of sacrificial meals. Whatever Zeus chose would be for the gods, the other for humans. The first meal looked badly but was actually tasty meat once you pealed away the unappetizing exterior. The other looked delicious but inside was only bones. Zeus went straight for the looks. You would think Supergod would know better than to judge a book by its cover...I'm starting to think he came from Hollywood...

Since Zeus chose bones as the sacrificial meal, this meant humans could keep the meat for themselves and honor the gods with...bones. Like a mortal who won't own up to his stupid mistake, Zeus was furious and took it out on Prometheus' beloved humans. The god of gods took fire away from us. We couldn't even cook our food anymore. Prometheus wasn't going to stand for this. He snuck fire from Zeus' lightening bolt, hid it in a stalk and brought it to man. That really infuriated Zeus and, since he was the god of gods, he punished Prometheus. He had him tied to a rock in the Caucasus mountains and every day a vulture ate his liver. The organ would grow back during the night, and the next day the vulture would eat it again.

This absolutely fascinates me. Why did the writer, Hesiod, choose the liver to be eaten and re-grown? How can a story, written by man 700 years BC, full of fantastic characters and events about Titans, Olympians and humans created from clay, get this particular fact right? The vulture ate Prometheus' liver during the day, and it grew back at night. Of course the liver doesn't grow back in a night, but it is the ONLY organ to grow back at all. If cut in half, within several months, it will reach its normal size again. The author could have chosen any organ in our body, especially since he's talking about gods. Why then, did he choose the liver and not the stomach, the heart, the lungs and so on? Back then there was no accurate knowledge of our inner workings. Or was there? And if so, what did we miss in our archeological findings? The point is, somehow, an innate intuition or a seventh sense, or perhaps real knowledge by the ancients we aren't aware of, prompted the author to choose the correct organ, the one that grows back.

By now, you all know that livers are my life long thread. It seems that the fascination with this organ goes back to the beginnings of civilization. I find that amazing. This is my Twilight Zone moment, my head scratching, wide-eyed, mouth agape bewilderment with this... hepamyth.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I turned on the television to watch international news on KCET. Brian Williams from NBC is fine and well, but if I really want to know what’s going on in the world I watch BBC World, Al Jazeera (London), IBA (Isreal) and NHK (Japan).  Holding the remote control ready to turn channels, I happened upon THE STEVE WILKOS SHOW (KTLA 5).

Steve Wilkos is a former, marine, former police officer and former sidekick on the Jerry Springer Show. He now has his own “the apple doesn’t fall far from the Jerry Springer tree” show dealing with child abuse. No doubt, there are plenty of strange shows on TV, but I have mixed emotions about exploiting child abuse.

Parent(s) and abuser come on the show once they agree and submit to a lie detector test. A young mother of an eleven-month-old baby suspected her girlfriend, who lives in the young mother’s house and babysits while she attends school, of beating her baby.

On one hand, if an infant is rescued from an abuser thanks to Steve Wilkos exposing him/her, I applaud this. Toddlers cannot speak up for themselves, and the non-abusing grownup is often at a loss. Steve Wilkos’ show fills a troubling gap between letting the abuse continue and stemming it. And it needs to be stemmed by all means, even if it is within an hour’s show. Hopefully, through his show, both the victim and the perpetrator learn something. Maybe the perpetrator’s eyes have been opened to his/her problem. As far as the victim is concerned, the show commits to helping. What that exactly entails, I don’t know.

On the other hand, it is simply perverted to turn a most serious topic such as child abuse into entertainment. The existence of Steve Wilkos’ show is based on children suffering. Without that fact, he has no show. Child abuse has been turned into a frivolous, superficial sideshow. Two or more people stand on a stage acting out some retaliation scene edged on by a heated, howling and ranting audience. In this frenzy of low-life behavior one easily forgets that it is a child’s life at stake. The outcome is obvious. The perpetrator gets booed of the stage and repudiated by the host; a solution that does nothing but demean the abuser who then probably only feels like finding someone else to abuse.

There are some innate dangers to the show. Lie detectors aren’t 100% fool proof. And how likely is it that some idiot abuses a child just to get his/her fifteen minutes of fame? The players in this real-life game seemed eager to confront each other, perhaps even more so knowing that a camera was in their face. Whether victim or perpetrator, they’ve been lifted out of anonymity and given a platform to vent. And let’s not forget the viewer, without whom this show wouldn’t exist. I’m inclined to think that the people, who enjoy watching the Steve Wilkos show from the comfort of their living room, must have big issues of their own. I know I felt very uncomfortable as I sat there with the remote control in my hand, still ready to change the channel.

I understand that television these days spans the spectrum of viewership. I get that we need a little something for everyone. But with shows like Steve Wilkos’ we have hit a new all time low. And he isn’t the only one. The show TO CATCH A PREDATOR is just as bad except that it has a thicker veneer polish on it. Chris Hanson might be wearing a suit and speak in a more concerned manner, but just like Steve Wilkos, he too takes a serious subject matter and turns into entertainment.

These shows, and in fact most ‘reality shows,’ are meant to make the viewer feel better about himself by pointing the finger at others. In this day and age, when the state of the economy and thus of our lives has nothing positive to offer, we are happy to find distraction by prying into the lives of others.

At the end of the show, the young mother who suspected her girlfriend got the proof she needed. Besides the screaming and the fighting, I believed the young mother when she told her girlfriend never to come close to her house anymore. I could see it in her eyes, her mother instincts wanted to protect her baby; she was devastated that her closest friend and someone she trusted had hurt her child. The young mother threatened to sue her friend. Steve Wilkos then said he would help her with ‘counseling’, I heard nothing about helping her with the suit. My point is, it’s easy to let Pandora out of the box and, in so doing, create shock and awe for viewers. But after you’ve done that, Steve and Chris, what happens then?

Friday, December 16, 2011




My book is available for purchase on my site as well. Great last minute gift.


Monday, November 28, 2011


I began writing my book more than ten years ago. I had just survived a very difficult and serious second liver transplant. It seemed like the appropriate time to seek closure from years of illness. The process of writing a book took much longer than I had anticipated. I had heard this cliche before and was sure it wouldn't apply to me. Yeah right...

I sat at the old graphics design table in the quietest room of our house one night, and began to write. Before connecting pen and paper, I asked myself, how am I going to do this when I've never written anything before, especially never in English? I spoke well enough, but did that mean I could write an entire book? Maybe I should write it in German.

I decided to write in English. The majority of my hospital stays had still been in Germany up to that point, but the transplants had taken place in the U.S., and therefore medical expressions and terminology were at the tip of my tongue. The first outline was done within a few days.

The words flowed out of my mind onto the keys of my computer and lit up its screen. A month after the outline, I had typed over 800 pages. For someone like me who is not particularly known for my memory, I was amazed that every detail was in my mind as if things had happened yesterday. It seems that traumatizing events stay with you. Once this first draft was finished, I put it away for several months. Although I had written a lot, I didn't have a conclusion to my story.

I picked up my manuscript much later and read it again. I couldn't believe what I had written. The story was fine, after all it was pretty much carved in cement since it was a faithful account of my life. But rather because I never realized how poorly I spoke English. The grammar was fine. My mother had seen to this growing up. However, expressions and wording of sentences, all of it was 'off'.

I began listening much more closely to the radio and television. Whenever a particular expression suited what I was writing about I used it. Little by little, the second and third drafts came together. Even though, I still didn't have a conclusion.

While my English was improving, my story wasn't. Not until I gave it to my husband to read did he point out the immense flaw. The solution might be simple, the execution of it, not so simple. I put the manuscript away for several more months still unsure how to fix it.

In my manuscript I had cast myself as a superhero defeating death. My story lacked honesty; honesty, first and foremost, towards myself. I had become so adept at burying my feelings in order to deal with my health issues, that I couldn't bring them to the surface anymore. I hadn't included them in my writing. The act of putting events on paper forced me to confront emotions I had never dared face before. Draft by draft I began removing layer after layer of thick skin. Like an onion, I peeled off a barrier at a time to get to the real story. I imagine this is the type of work therapists do.

By the time I reached draft number XXL, I felt as if I had spent years in therapy. The more I delved into my state of mind during my illness, the deeper the sense of relief. My manuscript was taking shape, but I still didn't have a conclusion.

Ten years flew by in a flash, but illness didn't let go of me. I wound up having a third liver transplant and a new kidney. This last physical trauma had to become my conclusion, the final chapter after twenty-eight years of roller-coaster health.

Finally, I felt confident enough to relinquish my finished manuscript to my most genuine critic. My husband's talent to take a story and find its heart proved invaluable. Once again I ended up under the knife...well, my manuscript did. He and I slashed the repetitive moments, carved out my sometimes harsh words, surgically removed all boring lengths and stitched my story together by keeping the best moments. Hopefully we succeeded.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


She sat on an enormous teddy bear gazing into the room. Not a hint of a smile on her beautiful little face. In her three short years on earth, she had seen more than any man should.

She was barely two years old, when she stood on a balcony chilled to the bones in the icy Russian winter. She was half naked, barefoot, frostbitten, alone. The woman who had given birth to her was much too busy running after her next fix. The neighbors found her just in the nick of time.

She spent a month in the hospital fighting for her life. Pneumonia. Frostbite. When she finally recovered, she was brought to the orphanage. And now she sat on the enormous, white teddy bear, waiting for...her mom.

And then she came, her mom, the woman who had loved her before ever meeting her. The mom who had gone to great lengths to find her. Their eyes locked, hesitant, concerned. Mom gave her a stuffed rabbit, a doll and other gifts. The little girl looked on, serious, poker faced. It's cold.

Then mom blew into one of those party favors that make noise.
The little girl's eyes lit up. There it was. Finally a smile! A party favor had warmed her leery soul. Now they could spend all of three days together before mom would have to leave back to England.

The Russian bureaucracy demanded more paperwork. More forms had to be filled, more 'i's' dotted, more hoops jumped through. Mom had no intentions of giving up. Her daughter was far away, but she was determined to bring her home.

Three months later, mom returned to the Russian orphanage where her daughter was. This time she brought her two sons and her mother. At first the little girl was silent, but soon got swept up in the frenzy around her. Her visitors disarmed her. The boys hugged her and played with her, and held her attention. She was wanted and loved like never before.

The orphanage staff, a group of older ladies couldn't help but smile. If all went well, this little girl would leave them soon for a wonderful family. When the visit was over, the little girl went back to her desolate room where her cot stood among others. Once again, mom had hoped to take her home, but the Russian authorities...

What must the little girl think? Her mom wondered She had come for her twice, and still the little girl was alone. How does her young mind process these visits followed by the stark reality of life in the orphanage? What must she think? Her mom wondered.

Another three month delay. More paperwork for mom and, an appearance in front of a Russian judge. Mom was self-confidence and persuasive. Then came the final verdict.

The little girl looked at her mom. Not a smile to be found. But mom is smiling from ear to ear. She brought the staff parting gifts and they were all smiles as well. The little girl hesitated. She changed into the new clothes her mom had brought. The orphanage couldn't spare the precious few dresses in which they showed off the little girls. Mom slipped boots onto her daughter's feet, her tiny feet that were frostbitten a year earlier. Mom only had eyes for her little girl as she combed her hair and threw a warm coat over her shoulders. The winter ice thawed...just a little.

She took her daughter by the hand. Before they left this place for good, the ladies on the staff cried out, "she can clean and fold clothes for you! She's very neat and will wash the dishes too!" They meant well with those parting words, but mom wasn't listening. Her little girl was just that...a little girl.

And off they went, mother and daughter, leaving behind memories of their struggle. A little girl beamed as she kissed her mom. A mother lovingly protected her daughter. All is well that ends well for this little girl. Her new family is blessed to have her, and she is blessed to have them. Life is full of twists and turns, and sometimes it makes right, what started out so wrong.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant with my friends slurping down noodles when the conversation turned to OCCUPY WALL STREET. My two friends and I agreed that the only way this movement will be taken seriously is if it either gets violent, or, and this would be the preferable solution, if they would hold the banks virtually hostage. This means mounting a viral action through the Internet of epic proportions that would force the bank executives to stop and listen.

I had been thinking about the country’s economic woes ever since our president was faced with this growing, financial meltdown crisis. Long before Congress voted to bail out AIG, before CEOs of Chrysler, and General Motors flew to the nation’s capital on their private jets to beg for money, before Fannie and Feddie, and the banks wallowed in their misery for having cheated homeowners, I had found the solution.

There are apx. 132 million households in the U.S. according to the most recent census. If you don’t know where I’m going with this, let me enlighten you. A true bailout should have consisted of dividing 2.6 trillion dollars among the 132 million American households. This would mean 20,000 dollars each. Most likely, even more if we eliminated NBA, baseball, and NFL players, top billing actors directors producers etc. I would definitely leave out politicians of course.

Imagine that. Imagine,  households adding more than 20,000 dollars to their income at a ridiculous loan rate just like the banks have (0.something?). The timing couldn’t be better. Jobs are scarce. People are struggling. Imagine…this amount is more than many families make in a year. Imagine…homes on the verge of foreclosure, rescued by moneys that didn’t go to the perpetrators, but rather to the victims. Many would have been able to pay off their loans or their homes, or at the very least lowered their mortgage rates. We might have avoided a housing market crash all together. Imagine…people putting this money in a savings account.  Instead of making the banks solvent, they would be transformed into actual service institutions. They would be dependent on us, rather than the other way around. Granted, the bank executives and CEOs would have to get by without big bonuses but I don’t think anyone that’s not an executive would care. Imagine…the post office wouldn’t go broke just yet, because these checks would be sent by mail to each household. Suddenly, they’d have more mail to deliver than in the last five years.

The advantages are endless. The added household cash would do what the bailout failed to achieve. With 20,000 dollars more in our pockets, I can speak for myself, and I think for many others when I say, we would go shopping.

However, we all know what really happened. Nothing. Nothing at all. Everything is as it was before the bailout. The housing market is in the toilet, the banks aren’t lending, the economy is at a stand still, no on is hiring. Just like before, CEOs and bankers have pulled their private jets out of the hanger for company weekend retreats in Antigua …on us.

And how about Hewlett Packard? Executives are whispering among themselves that this is the place to get hired. Mark Hurt, the previous CEO was escorted out of HP for sexual harassment. The sexual harassment paid off…literally. He left with 12 million in cash and 30 million in stocks. He was out, on to the next, new CEO of HP, Leo Apotheker. But fear not, he too was well compensated for being a failure and getting fired. He got the boot and 13 milion dollars...for 11 months on the job.

Now, I don’t know much about business, but I always thought that bonuses were for those who went beyond what is asked of them in their profession. In fact, Webster’s Dictionary gives these examples for the word ‘bonus:’

“As a bonus for good behavior you can stay up late” Well, we know this wasn’t Mark Hurt’s case, the good behavior part. Or,
“Staff members were given a bonus for finishing the project on schedule” Leo Apotheker didn’t finish anything. He got sacked.

So, what are the so-called bonuses?
Why don’t we call them by their real name. Blood Money. Blood money is made off the backs of others. It’s money they did nothing to earn and that they don’t deserve and shouldn’t get. Period.

The top 1% (anyone who makes over $250,000 a year) own 42% of the wealth. The vast majority of them work hard for their income. None of this is a problem. The problem is tightly related to the financial sector and their practices, namely Wall Street.

OCCUPY WALL STREET is a group of peace-loving people who want to make a statement and bring awareness to a variety of problems through guitar playing and lectures. Except for one thing. The people they’re trying to reach…they’re not listening. The cynicism permeating offices of upper management is stronger than ever. They intend to hold on to blood money as long as they can. In their smug way, executives live and breathe Gordon Gekko’s (Wall Street, 1987) words, “Greed is good.”

Like a virus, they need to be contained. They won’t do it themselves and government is unwilling to step in. We, the people, are feeding this virus. It should be up to us to remind them who’s really in charge. Imagine…one well thought out action plan from the people, and by the people mounted and executed thanks to social media and the Web.

Monday, October 10, 2011



Recently with the passing of the great Steve Jobs, I was jolted back to the times I faced death. In his eight-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Steve recalled the words he’d read when he was seventeen: “if you live each day as if it was your last, one day you’ll most certainly be right.” This stuck with him throughout his life, and in a small measure, contributed to his staggering career and success.  That was brilliant Steve Jobs.

Death, the very thing he thought about, I tried to forget. He lived each day as if it was his last, and I lived each day denying it was my last.  Alas…all of us can’t have deep philosophical genius like Steve. My savior was…Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice, the BBC six-part mini series, first aired in 1995 on A&E network.
Opening credits: the most uplifting score by Carl Davis transported me to my happy place before the first scene had begun. I was already inclined to love what came next. It felt wonderful to laugh and cry with the Bennet family, especially the bold Elisabeth ‘Lizzy’ Bennet aka Jennifer Ehle (presently playing George Clooney’s wife in Ides Of March). From the couch where I lay, weak and listless, I saw myself skipping with Lizzy through the lush English countryside in Hertfordshire. I agreed with every word she spoke in that marvelously clear, yet colorful old English speech. When asked whether she plays an instrument she replies, “Aye, but very ill.”

Aye, I was very ill, and nay, I wasn’t playing. Only now, looking back, do I realize the long, dragged out nightmare of my condition. My second transplant was still three years off, but the symptoms of deterioration had already begun. Pride and Prejudice turned out to be a trusted and comforting escape.

I ignored knife-twisting pain in my liver and took pleasure watching beautiful scenes of pastoral bliss in the early nineteenth century. The Bennet girls delighted me with their antics; I felt as if I were part of the gossip. Forget ALT, AST, Alkaline Phosphatase, Creatinine and BUN (liver an kidney function values), more importantly…what?! Charlotte Lucas is marrying that buffoon Mr. Collins? The ridiculous Mr. Collins and over-the-top Mrs. Bennet kept me laughing while my spleen ached. Was my spleen really aching? Or was it laughter that made my stomach ache?

When an episode of Pride and Prejudice came on once a week, I climbed into the television, sat at the dinner table next to Lydia, the youngest and silliest of the Bennet sisters, and watched her make one childish mistake after the other. How could she? I asked when she took off with Mr. Whickam, that lying son-of-a-bitch. And of course there was Mr. Darcy, handsome, seriously handsome Colin Firth. I loved every moment Lizzy and he appeared on screen; he, the arrogant prick, and she, the no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is rubenesque, rosy cheeked, bulging breasted beauty; basically me, except for the rubenesque, rosy cheeked, bulging breast beauty part. Everything she said to Mr. Darcy she copied from me. I lived vicariously through healthy-looking Lizzy. Ouch! My stomach

I re-decorated in my mind the Bennet’s Longborn residence, but left Mr. Darcy’s magnificent chateau at Pemberley intact. The simplicity and innocence of life back then felt soothing: their days consisted of going from one ‘ball’ to the next, one dinner to the next, one rose branch to the next.

In 1996 Pride and Prejudice came out on DVD. I kept a copy next to my bed. As my body deteriorated, and working out at the gym wasn’t enough to stave off fear and depression, I watched P&P repeatedly. After that, the world was right again. I had regrouped; I’d found my way back to my center and my strength.  

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice deals with deeper issues than the superficial level at which I chose to view it. It addresses everything from women’s rights, rebellious youth, pedophilia, class separation and class-consciousness, ignorance, and of course pride and prejudice.

In 2007, I underwent a partial knee replacement. I was walking with crutches towards my house when the phone rang. My coordinator at UCLA Medical Center (person who follows you after the transplant) was on the phone. He didn’t mince his words when he told me I was rejecting my second liver and had to go to the emergency room right away. Instead, I speed-dialed my doctor in Miami. Then I booked a flight, a red-eye, packed a few things and waited for my son, Daniel, to pick me up. While I waited, I elevated and iced my freshly operated knee, then popped the DVD of P&P into my computer and visited the Bennet’s…for six hours.

I’m convinced that any method you find to cope is a good one. For Steve Jobs, a sentence he had heard in his youth made something click. Pride and Prejudice was one of the tools I used when bad news kept coming. To this day, P&P is downloaded to my computer. Every now and then, I’ll watch it, because the Bennet’s and I, we’re family.