Friday, November 26, 2010


          Recently I spent a few days in New York. I never understood the fascination with a city that is unbearably hot in the summer and bitingly cold in the winter. A city where more than 71,000 people live on one square mile. My husband says with a sparkle in his eye, “New York is the most energetic city in the world and the most vibrant. It never sleeps and there’s something for every culture.” Like most Europeans, he’s enamored with the Big Apple. Years ago, he spent many months there while shooting a movie called, Last Exit To Brooklyn. After a day’s shoot, he thoroughly explored the nightlife, including local hangouts. Thank goodness we weren’t married back then.

There’s a problem with his argument though. First of all, I get my energy from the sun. There’s nothing like running errands in beautiful weather. Second of all, we have a variety of cultures here in L.A. If you sit at Sunset Plaza long enough you’ll hear all kinds of languages. We have Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Thai Town and Beverly Hills with a large Persian contingency. Chinatown N.Y is the size of a pinhead next to the number of Chinese, populating the San Gabriel valley, the largest community outside of China. Our Hispanic population is also diverse. We have people from pretty much all South American countries.

And then, I don’t like to walk. My replaced hips and knees aren’t made for walking. Well, actually they are, but I prefer to wear them out on a bike, and not waste their limited shelf life on walking.

I don’t like garbage bags lining streets, hallways, which double as apartments, basement bistros, roads in need of tarring, buildings screaming maintenance. I don’t care for droves of adults filling the sidewalks, heading to and fro like living dead on speed. And to top things off, I cringe at the thought of a N.Y. spin class.

I enjoy the comfort of my car to get around, rather than the comfort of my aerosol shoes. I love my sprawling house compared to the cubicles New Yorkers call home. Our West Coast gyms are state of the art and full of energy. Hail our spin classes! As far as culture is concerned, I admit, we’re a little mundane. We’re the capitol of the movie industry.

A friend once told me “All of Los Angeles is Disneyland.” By that I think he meant that living in L.A. is like a fantasy. We almost always have perfect weather. We dress casually. We “do” lunches. We eat healthy foods. We go to bed before midnight and get up early to go to the gym. Movies, and our basketball team are an essential part of our life, as is looking good and having white teeth. We’re laid back as opposed to New Yorkers. We say, “How’s it going,” to perfect strangers, and poo poo cigarettes as if they were…a drug.

“What about the arts?” My husband continued enthusiastically, “There’s nothing like Broadway, Moma, the Metropolitan, the Guggenheim; such rich and abundant cultural activities. Nowhere in the world can you find the best of the arts concentrated in one place like New York.” I had to agree with him on that point. One of the most romantic times we spent together was a Manhattan evening at Lincoln Center. During the intermission of Carmen, he and I walked to the upper level where the restaurant was. We sat at a table for two, next to an oversized window. Outside, blurry night-lights shimmered through the heavy, hushed rain that slid down the windowpane. My husband and I drank champagne and Perrier (yes, that would be me) and ate smoked salmon, while staring at the two magnificent, gigantic Chagall paintings at each end of the hall, towering over us in all their surrealistic, colorful and intricate splendor. That night, Manhattan was supreme.

It doesn’t rain much in L.A. I suppose it’s conceivable of having a drizzly evening at the Music Center, but somehow I don’t quite see the romance in that. How lovely it was to try Manhattan’s fine restaurants, right after seeing a Broadway show. As we strolled down the streets (at an L.A. pace), I expected Dustin Hoffman to cry out, “I’m walkin’ ere, I’m walkin’ ere!” (Midnight Cowboy).

Since my last visit a few days ago, I’ve revised my opinion of the city. On second thought, there are no words to describe Manhattan. It’s the city of all cities. Not only was the evening at Lincoln Center magical; all of Manhattan tingles romance. Slowly but surely, I’m falling in love with the island. I’m beginning to understand living in a closet, walking among zombies, having your clothes stick to you as soon as you step outdoors, all for the sake of romance. In fact, New York left as good a taste on my lips as the food in that corner basement bistro. 

Friday, November 5, 2010


                   Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season. From the moment the turkey comes out of the  oven, you find yourself thinking about things that hadn’t crossed your mind all year long. Suddenly, you’re wracking your brain trying to remember what your sister Chloe, or your aunt Rebecca pointed out to you that day at the mall. That thing you made a mental note of, and were going to buy and hold on to until the holidays came around. One whiff of pumpkin pie, cinnamon and nutmeg and you’re reminded that you were supposed to be ten pounds lighter by now!

             Thanksgiving is a joyous day, and also a “good” guilt day. Good guilt is the kind you keep to yourself, the kind that doesn’t hurt or affect anyone around you. The kind you can shed whenever you’re ready.

While most people on Thanksgiving remember aunt Rebecca and are still ten pounds heavier than they hoped to be, my mind goes to another dimension. It happens every year. I’m standing in front of big bird, eyeing the instrument in my hand, having nothing but one thought. Liver biopsy.

I’m quite familiar with the instrument; I mean the biopsy needle much more than the turkey basting syringe. I can’t count the times a doctor, with a quick slight of his hand, plunged the long, thick needle into my skin under which my liver lies. Before I knew it, the procedure was over, and the doctor had extracted a sliver of my liver.

Big bird was dinner, but I had been there too.  

On the day of the Oscars two years ago, I was all smiles. Sure, my body was swollen with fluid since my organs were only four months old. This reaction was similar to when you bang your head. The bump that forms is liquid protecting the traumatized area. I was full of fluid, protecting me from the transplants. This healthy, bodily function made me smile, but it was my husband’s nomination for an Academy Award, which was the real reason for my smiles.

A few hours before attending the event, a doctor at UCLA Medical Center stood over me, holding the “turkey baster” while I lay in the pan, I mean on the cot. As soon as the needle pierced my belly, the bottle began to fill fast. 18 liters later, I went from being a plumper to shrinking to a Foster Farm size turkey filet (I love that commercial). Lying on the cot, I turned to the three full bottles and thought, Oh Lord, that’s all I need, is to look like a dried up prune on the red carpet.

Thankfully, I looked like my usual, belly-less self. I drove home light on my feet and relieved, ready to slip into my skin-tight Oscar gown. I had left the house in the morning with a beer belly, and had returned with washboard abs. Well, not quite. Anyway, I was going to the Oscars with my youngest son and my husband, the nominee for best Foreign Film. We had a blast on the red carpet and laughed at Hugh Jackman's jokes. We didn’t win, but all three of us looked and felt like winners.

                     I’ve been telling myself not to think about liver biopsies and needles this Thanksgiving, but somehow, I have the feeling it will happen again. It has become my “good” guilt. I’ve got this, I said to myself smiling devilishly, standing in the kitchen, turkey baster in hand last year, you’re going to be the most delicious, juicy bird ever. I strategically plunged the juice-filled, five-inch long syringe into the bird, with all the precision of a surgical instrument. While I gave my turkey its biopsy, I couldn’t help but stare at the liver resting in the juices at the bottom of the pan.