Woman, Writer, Designer, Wife, Stepmother: The many labels of me

NOTE: “Woman, Writer, Designer, Wife, Stepmother” is about a remembered conversation with Hartley Waltman, who has read and approved its publication. Hartley has also kindly provided the illustrations that accompany it, for which I am truly grateful. “You’ve said that twice in the last 15 minutes,” my friend Hartley noted, watching me wolf down a spicy fish taco at Bill’s Burger Bar just off Rockefeller Plaza. “Said what twice?” I asked. “That you have two lives. You said, ‘In my New York life,’ as though your New York life is some life other than the one you have with your husband wherever his works takes him,” he explained, like a therapist might to a patient in denial about something baldly obvious. A hint of a grin pulled up the corners of his mouth. He watched me with the resolute bearing of someone convinced I couldn’t possibly come back with a logical response, waiting, I imagined, for me to wipe Sriracha Mayo from my lips and acknowledge that he was right. “But I do have two lives. My husband has one, I have two. He has his work, his children and me, sort of like a TV show in which I’m a special guest. When I’m in New York, if you’re lucky, you might catch me on my own show, in which my friends accuse me of appearing so infrequently they’re surprised it hasn’t been cancelled. I live and work here and carry my costumes and props back and forth between my reality and his reality, where it’s sort of like hanging out in a green room waiting to film my cameo,” I said confidently, but more than a little miffed that the unconvinced look on his face meant I would have to further explain my meaning. Fortifying myself, I dove into another fish taco. Taking advantage of my silence Hartley insisted, “But you don’t. It’s… Continue reading Woman, Writer, Designer, Wife, Stepmother: The many labels of me

‘Round Daylight

Under a mound of dirt you lay I imagine a saxophone Playing ‘Round Midnight Maple trees line the road Their shade saved for the living While you lay beneath the blazing sun Under a mound of dirt you lay On the winds float the notes Of the sensual Yolanda Anas Blue pinstripes and a pinky ring Which direction do your feet point? It would matter to you Under a mound of dirt you lay Not even a butterfly stops to rest Upon white stones churned up To make space for your withered presence Whose eager fingertips once thrummed tabletops To the tune of The Wind Song Conversation has ended Quiet disquiets Not even a vase of spent flowers There ought to be a combo The rumble of the subway, sirens and horns blaring Street lights and summer fog on the long drive home The music has stopped There is no one here Save the groundsman who clips the grass short And leads me to you Right at the 19th Maple tree, stop a few paces short of the road You will find him, buried under a mound of dirt You should not be stretched out in Paramus But scattered in Montreux, Newport and Paris On the sidewalks outside Birdland, Dizzy’s, the Blue Note All you ever wanted was good company A nice lunch, a glass of wine and a few tunes There is no one here except you Slumbering in a field of grass

A man sitting in a park in Arezzo…

In the Summer of 2006, the day before I returned to New York after using my entire year’s vacation to study Italian at the Università per Stranieri in Siena, Italy, I took an early bus to Arezzo and spent the morning roaming the city taking pictures. After the cool early hours had morphed into lunchtime, I found a little trattoria on a small piazza where I could have a salad and a cold glass of Prosecco to ward off the heat that had begun to rise from the cobbled vicolos. As the daily “riposo’ approached – between 1:00 and 4:00pm when Italians traditionally go home to prepare lunch before returning to work well into the evening hours – the only sounds to be heard came from a church where a funeral was about to be held. The grievers, mostly clad in black, filed past a hearse parked by the front steps, out of which was being lifted a coffin, its glossy ebony surface draped with a bounty of intensely colored summer flowers, their bright beauty a betrayal of the gray solemnity of the moment. It was late August, and it was hot. Tired from walking, I wanted nothing more than to sit and pass the time watching the Italians be Italian, but I knew there would only be one bus back to Siena after riposo, and if I had any more wine there was a chance I would not be on it. So I pushed myself back up onto my blistered feet, downed the last sip of no longer cold Prosecco, and walked toward the church, its massive wooden and bronze doors shut tight against the blazing sun. As the church bells rang, the driver of the hearse paced back and forth beside his funeral chariot mopping the sweat oozing from… Continue reading A man sitting in a park in Arezzo…

A Room of My Own in My Father’s New York…

I ought to have been born between the World Wars, when it was romantic to be sentimental, when having an attachment to the past was normal, when lovers would hand-write nostalgia-filled letters whenever apart, when taking a journey down a memory lane strewn with tales of adventures and friends and events long gone by could rouse a spontaneous and unembarrassed launch into Doris Day’s and Les Brown’s rendition of A Sentimental Journey. Gonna take a sentimental journey Gonna set my heart at ease Gonna make a sentimental journey To renew old me-emories… My parents, unapologetic romantics, loved Doris Day. They listened to big band music, wrote long letters and took countless black and white photographs of people long passed into the Al di là, which my mother tucked away in envelopes or framed and hung on the walls of the house I grew up in – the house my father built for her with his own hands, the ultimate amorous gesture – with a multitude of framed memories from their individual and collective lives. Artworks suspended on stuccoed walls next to pen and inks of places I thought I would never have an opportunity to visit conjured imaginary blueprints of the imaginary house with the imaginary rooms I dreamed of building for myself one day, the walls of which I would hang with art and photographs curated from my own memory lanes.

The Mythical Presence of Eros & Psyche: A Dialogue about the Bedroom, the Boardroom…and a Piece of Bread… (by Giselle Minoli and Meg Tufano)

I don’t watch much television, but these past few months I have looked forward to late Sunday nights with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, an update of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which aired in 1980 to mesmerized viewing. Standing on the barren landscape of what was once Uruk in ancient Sumer, now known as Iraq, in The Immortals (Episode 11 of the modernized series), Tyson tells us about Enheduanna, an Akkadian Princess (2285-2250 BCE) about whom I had never heard until The Immortals aired on May 18, 2014. Enheduanna was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad, who appointed her High Priestess of the Moon, a role of political importance often held by daughters of royalty. But Princess and Priestess Enheduanna was also a respected poet, who made a decision about herself and the words she penned that had an everlasting impact on literature – Enheduanna became the first person we know of to sign her name to what she wrote and, in so doing, she became an author. Tyson relayed that Enheduanna is “…the first person about whom we can say we know who she was, and what she dreamed. She dreamed of stepping through the Gate of Wonder. Here’s a thought Enheduanna sent across more than 4,000 years to you. It’s from her work, entitled Lady of the Largest Heart:” Inanna, the Planet Venus, Goddess of Love, will have a great destiny throughout the entire Universe. – Enheduanna Tyson followed the story about Enheduanna with that of another ancient Sumerian, whose name was Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, the very first real life epic hero, whose travels and superhuman feats were chronicled in The Epic of Gilgamesh, an early Mesopotamian work of poetic literature that, in contrast to the writings of Enheduanna, was the work of numerous… Continue reading The Mythical Presence of Eros & Psyche: A Dialogue about the Bedroom, the Boardroom…and a Piece of Bread… (by Giselle Minoli and Meg Tufano)

Women at Work: Lyrical Confessions of an Erstwhile Renegade

Women at work: Lyrical Confessions of an Erstwhile Renegade, my first essay as Editor-at-Large for SynaptIQ+: The Journal for Social Era Knowledge, was published online in the Winter 2013 issue. “All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez I choose to have a public profile as a writer. I choose what to share about my private life. And I choose when and how to share whatever secrets (I admit to) with anyone I choose. After all, part of the intrinsic nature of a secret is that it might eventually be divulged or discovered. Yet, no matter my choices, do I really have any control over how others perceive me, what they believe about me, and therefore how they behave toward me? Or in the social era is it pure folly to think that we are the architects of our own images? My recollection of a description of me when I was a young executive at CBS Records, written over three decades ago and printed in Esquire Magazine, is as clear as though I had read it yesterday, yet so much time has passed that part of me wonders if I made it up. A journalist’s portrayal of me as a ‘renegade marketing director,’ which my memory believes was the case, is such an ineradicable and juicy characterization that I have been a little reluctant to consider the possibility I might not have remembered exactly what was written all those years ago. Print magazines dating back to the 80s are not cached online so, without knowing the month or the writer’s name, a search had turned up nothing. Besides, tracking down the article would force me not only to test the accuracy of my memory, but also perhaps to let go of that colorful description in… Continue reading Women at Work: Lyrical Confessions of an Erstwhile Renegade

A Woman’s Worth

A Woman’s Worth was published online in the August 2013 issue of SynaptIQ+: The Journal for Social Era Knowledge. Workin’ Woman Blues Lyrics by Valerie June I ain’t fit to be no mother I ain’t fit to be no wife yet I been workin’ like a man, y’all I been workin’ all my life yeah There ain’t no dinner on the table Ain’t no food in the ‘fridgerator I’ll go to work and I’ll be back later I go to work said I’d be back later Lord you know I’m a good looking woman Lord you know I’m a good looking girl If you want to give me something Anything in this great big world yeah Lord you know that I am ready for my sugar my sugar daddy. …chants Valerie June in Workin’ Woman Blues, from Pushin’ Against a Stone, a collection of songs and ballads I can only describe as Blues Gospel Folk Soul Incantation Poetry. Music is visceral, entering the spirit as do the sounds, sights and scents of a long walk on the beach—sea foam meeting ocean spray, kelp bulb greeting beach grass, driftwood adorning sand dune, bare toes testing tide pull, salt wind softening gull caw, seal bark parting morning fog—the whole intoxicating whiff of it infused into my body and soul come stroll’s end. When the voice and lyrics of a song kiss my imagination in that way that raises goosebumps, I stop, and listen.. …to June’s Tennessee-stropped voice calling out the most primary of female choices—to work, or to be a wife and mother—evoking in me the night howl of a She-Wolf, until the crepuscule cedes to morning light and washes the air of its haunting sound, and the creature, hiding from the sun on the fringes of civilization, waits for another’s day’s dusk… Continue reading A Woman’s Worth

Remembering a Friend…

The news did not exactly come as a shock. I had filed away the possibility that his life would end one day in the part of my brain reserved for things I simply did not want to think about happening. A less willful, less stubborn, less enthusiastically alive man would have long ago succumbed to the many illnesses he had endured over the last 2 decades. His ability to push back had convinced me that nothing could kill him. An email in mid-March relaying that he was in hospice care switched on the emotional regulator that controlled my reservoir of memories about him, sending through a few at a time, as though dropping them into my consciousness in a metered manner would avoid a flood tide the day he finally decided to part this Earth. I called and left a message on his home answering machine – announcing, asking, hinting – that I would get on a plane to see him if I could be sure I wouldn’t be intruding. When his wife called back minutes later, I hoped she would say, ‘Yes, of course! Come!,’ but instead I heard, “No one has told you…Jim died last night.” I had not seen Jim and his wife since the Summer of 2011, when I accompanied my husband to New Mexico for the unveiling of his mother’s tombstone. The four of us had gotten together for lunch, a lunch that was interrupted by an unexpected visit from my family, a lunch over which I had wanted to talk to him about so many things suddenly shared with too many people, a lunch I did not know would be the last one over which I would enjoy his company. “No!,” I wailed, then apologized, embarrassed. How could I commandeer this sorrow for myself… Continue reading Remembering a Friend…

A Woman’s De-Liberation: There Never Was a Sexual Revolution

I wrote A Woman’s De-Liberation: There Never Was a Sexual Revolution in stupefied disbelief that Sheryl Sandberg, the successful and highly educated woman at the COO helm of the legendary FaceBook, would write Lean In, a modern feminist call-to-arms, in which she essentially claims that women, individually and collectively, are not occupying their rightful place at the top of the business world next to men because they do not know how to use their negotiating skills to their professional advantage. This assertion flies in the face of what I have personally witnessed in business over the course of the last 35 years of my life, during which time I have seen scores of brilliant, visionary and highly assertive women be turned down repeatedly for seats at the top for reasons that have nothing to do with their lack of skill or their unwillingness to be assertive, and everything to do with the massive support structure that men provide one another…a support structure that is unavailable to women because there simply are not enough of them in top management to provide a supportive structure for other women coming up the ladder. When I was growing up I watched with a mixture of envy, awe and anger the tightly knit and organized infrastructure that encouraged my older brother’s life. Much of the considerable mentoring and tutelage about survival skills that he received came from the numerous sports he enjoyed – baseball, football, rugby, basketball and scuba diving. Boys learn, at a very early age, to work together, to compete with one another, to fight with one another, and to help one another even if they don’t like one another, and, when all is said and done, to end their days joking in the locker room or having a beer at the corner bar… Continue reading A Woman’s De-Liberation: There Never Was a Sexual Revolution

Beauté et La Jeunesse, Amour et La Mort…

When I was 15 Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust had such an impact on me I imagined that were I to venture a trip to Los Angeles, Tod Hackett, Faye Greener and their entire entourage of misfit friends would greet me at the train station. My childhood in Northern New Mexico was one from which I was desperate to escape, where Cowboys and Indians were real, not the stuff of Hollywood movies we would watch at a drive-in theatre with the help of a speaker attached to a rolled down car window. While I knew that the American Southwest fostered a kind of mythic appeal for the endless stream of Easterners arriving to set down roots under its majestic skies, I had grown up under that star-strewn ether and longed for something else, something far less real than the rodeos I attended on weekends, and West’s words had convinced me I would find that reality in the City of Angels. I would not actually see Los Angeles until several years later during college when, craving adventure one night, I drove non stop from Santa Fe with a friend to hunt down a famous hamburger joint and decide for myself whether its reputation was warranted. It was, or so it seemed to me at a time in my life when driving nearly 900 miles in a rickety car to savor a burger could lead to only one possible conclusion – that it was without question the best hamburger I had ever had. True to West’s promise, the panorama of Southern California opposed my familiar New Mexico landscape in every respect. Emerging from the Yucca Valley at sunrise to a vast entanglement of freeways and subdivisions of lazy bungalows punctuated with exotic palm trees was like a shot of tequila on an… Continue reading Beauté et La Jeunesse, Amour et La Mort…