Archive | April 2014

Celebrating Animals at Easter

Garden - Lucky grave 2This Easter Sunday, daffodils are blooming in the back yard where we buried our golden retriever Lucky in early autumn a few years ago. I planted his grave with daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths, and a couple of years later, we buried our cat Beep beside him. A decade or two from now, we’ll probably have to leave this home for something more age-appropriate, unless of course we’re carried out feet first, but before then, chances are we’ll bury another pet or two beside them.

In any case, the spring flowers will probably flourish long after we’re gone. After this year’s brutal winter, they’re a bit scraggly, but they’re more robust than the other spring bulbs I’ve planted in our yard. I’m sure the nutrients Lucky and Beep have given back to the earth play a major role in sustaining them. For me, the cycle of life, and especially the way nature renews itself this time of year, is what Easter’s all about.

In our modern society, we seldom experience death first-hand, except of course for our own, but animals help ground us in the reality of mortality. I’ve been with beloved dogs and cats when they died, some at home, some at the vet’s, where they met a far more humane and gentle death than most of us can look forward to. I’ve grieved and mourned for them, even sunk into clinical depression over their loss.

Yet sooner or later I’ve welcomed other pets into my home and heart, and dared to love them even though I know that chances are



they’ll leave this world before I do. Lucky and Beep are gone, along with other beloved dogs and cats, but now we share our home with Sirius, a chow-Australian shepherd mix, and Lunesta, a beautiful tabby with orange patches modulating her stripes. Many studies have shown people with pets live longer, and this Easter I’m praying for a good long life for everyone in my family – people and animals alike.

Less beloved critters can teach us about mortality too. On Good Friday my daughter reported that my eight-year-old granddaughter Jasper watched one of their cats kill a mouse, slowly and with relish. Jasper composed a memorial tribute, which Stacey posted on Facebook: “Fred was a brave mouse. He survived many things – until he died.” She then buried him in a shoe box in their back yard, with no one else watching – “Eleanor Rigby style,” as Stacey put it.

The next day, Stacey mentioned seeing signs that there might be other mice in the house. Jasper’s response: “Then we’d better go shopping and buy a lot of shoes.”

On that happy note, I’ll sign off and wish you a joyful Easter, however you choose to celebrate it. Lacking any traditional rituals, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine, take it out to the garden, play in the dirt and see which perennials have resurrected themselves after the seemingly endless winter.

Lunesta with mice

Lunesta with mice




How the Beatles Broke Up My Marriage

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney

I was online at precisely 10:00am this past Monday morning, when tickets to Paul McCartney’s July concert at the TU Center went on sale. I even got a seat reserved for me, but Ticketmaster hassled me about my password, so I lost out. I don’t feel too badly, though, because I saw Paul twice, along with the other Beatles, at their historic Shea Stadium concerts.

I recall the exact moment the Sixties blazed into my life, powered by an electric guitar. It was November of 1964, and I was in a studio at Columbia University, working on an oil painting about the Kennedy assassination, when a piercing guitar note blasted from my studio mate’s tinny AM radio, followed by an infectiously rhythmic riff. I put down my brush.

“What is THAT?” I asked.

“It’s the Beatles,” Susan said, shooting me an incredulous stare that suggested I’d just arrived from outer space. The song was “I Feel Fine,” the group’s sixth number one single that year, yet I’d barely heard of them, never heard their music. How could I have been so oblivious? The major culprit was probably jazz. I met the man who would become my first husband** at the Harvard radio station, where he was head of programming and I was a jazz disc jockey, and we bonded over our love of music. When he quit Harvard, I followed him to New York City. He got a job at WBAI-FM, the iconic independent radio station. We considered ourselves far too hip to own a television set, much less listen to AM radio.

When the Cuban missile crisis hit in October of 1962, I was still a child of the Fifties. I’d grown up convinced that the world wouldCubanMissileSplashimage1 end in a nuclear Armageddon, and that I’d never live past my twenties. Throughout the thirteen days we followed the conflict between the U.S.A. and Russia via public radio and the New York Times, I was terrified we were going to die. Therefore, I reasoned, it was absolutely imperative that we get married as soon as possible. We were already practically living together, so it wasn’t as if we had to recite our vows before consummating our love, but back then marriage was a major goal of every Ivy League coed.

I was still a conventional Fifties girl on November 22nd of 1963. I remember leaving a medieval art history class, emerging into the central rotunda of Barnard Hall, and hearing the din of women and girls abuzz with the news of Kennedy’s assassination. Beatles with Bruce Morrow 1965In February of 1964, I earned my Barnard degree and Phi Beta Kappa key. That same month, the Beatles made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show. But I was oblivious, caught up in planning a summer wedding in Milwaukee and studying five days a week at the Art Students League, getting together a portfolio of paintings to submit for admission to the MFA program at Columbia. Figurative paintings featuring my jazz idols Miles, Mingus and Coltrane, and dark canvases depicting JFK’s motorcade in Dallas.

The big summer wedding never happened. Vietnam was increasingly in the news, and my Harvard man received a letter from Selective Service, so we pulled together a quickie April wedding in Manhattan to help keep him from the draft. Now I’d fulfilled two major dreams: an Ivy League degree and a Harvard husband. What lay ahead, I had no idea, beyond vague notions of becoming a successful artist, with my husband as the primary breadwinner. Motherhood wasn’t an option – we believed it would be wrong to bring children into a world that was bound to self-destruct before we were thirty.

Amazingly, I’m still here fifty years later, a mother and grandmother, in a sunny studio in upstate New York, typing away with the aid of technology no one could have envisioned all those decades ago. But getting back to Columbia: why did those twangy notes from John Lennon’s guitar*** mark the start of the Sixties for me? True, I’d already lived through a couple of major milestones of that decade, but before the Beatles, I was living out life scripts that had been written for me long before.

In a way, the Beatles destroyed my marriage, and not just because I came close to getting into their bedroom suite at the Warwick Hotel when they played Shea Stadium in 1965. No, it was the hedonistic intensity of their music and the way it inspired me to paint them, in ever larger and more idolatrous likenesses, that brought home the realization that in some ways I’d bypassed my adolescence. I’d been a good girl, focused on straight A’s and Ivy League schools, propelled into a premature marriage by outdated standards. I’d never had the chance to bust loose and explore my wild side.

By 1966, that marriage was over and I began making up for lost time. Thanks to the Beatles, I lived the Sixties to the fullest.

*At least I’ve got a ticket to see Ringo Starr at the Palace in June!

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr

**Frank Haber (Franklin Richard Haber) died in 2012, a fact I learned only after the Harvard-Radcliffe 50th reunion book came out, and the editors had added “deceased 2012” after his name in my entry. He was known as FRH at the Harvard station and WBAI. He was a great guy, and I’d love to hear from anyone who knew him.

**Until I did some fact-checking for this post, I had always assumed George Harrison played the guitar riff at the beginning of “I Feel Fine,” but it was really John. Below is part of the Wickipedia entry. It was probably the feedback that grabbed me. “I Feel Fine” starts with a single, percussive (yet pure-sounding) feedback note produced by plucking the A string on Lennon’s guitar. This was the very first use of feedback preceding a song on a rock record. According to McCartney, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified . . . We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it . . . it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!” And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.”[3] Although it sounded very much like an electric guitar, Lennon actually played the riff on an acoustic-electric guitar (a Gibson model J-160E),[8] employing the guitar’s onboard pickup.

Hobnobbing with the Stars of General Hospital

HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL – especially after the General Hospital Fan Fantasy day last Saturday.*

With Michael Easton (Dr. Silas Clay)

With Michael Easton
(Dr. Silas Clay)

I’m feeling so blessed to have been able to attend the General Hospital Fan Fantasy event this past Saturday in Montclair, New Jersey. Last November, when I first learned about it online, I immediately splurged on a Platinum ticket, which included a 90-minute meet and greet, including a 1:1 photo opportunity with all ten stars. I’m so glad I did.

GH Fantasy Maura WestI managed to get my photo taken with all of them, and perhaps some of their glamour was contagious, because I photographed far better than I usually do. Unfortunately in the first couple of photos, my hair makes me look wild and crazy. Gisella, my great hairdresser at J.C. Penney, had given me a marvelous cut and blow dry the day before, but I was a few minutes late arriving, and I didn’t have time to check myself in the mirror. A stiff breeze wreaked havoc with my do on the way in. Maura West, aka Ava Jerome, was the first star I posed with, and when I checked the image on my Galaxy and said I looked crazy, she said, “That’s okay, we’re all crazy.”

The actors were uniformly upbeat and friendly, and several said how much

With Tyler Christopher (Nicholas Cassadine)

With Tyler Christopher (Nicholas Cassadine)

they appreciated my coming to the event. Overall, the women displayed more social graces than the men, with the exception of Michael Easton, whose presence was the main reason I splurged on that platinum ticket.

When I walked in to the conference center at Montclair College, Michael was the first star I spotted – the proverbial tall, dark and handsome guy across the crowded room, taller than the other actors and most of the fans, dressed entirely in black. My first thought: jeez, it’s really him, in the flesh, but he looks so small! Of course he was over a hundred feet away, and I was used to seeing him in close-up on a big TV screen.

I queued up with the other platinum fans to meet the stars, and Michael’s line was by far the longest, so I opted to start with some of the others. Tyler Christopher, aka Prince Nicholas Cassadine, was the first, and then I moved on to some of the actresses standing near Michael. When I finally did get to him, he was friendly and gracious, and he seemed genuinely impressed when I offered him a copy of my suspense novel, Eldercide. I inscribed it to him with a note saying he’d helped inspire the character Gabriel. I didn’t tell him Gabriel is a compassionate serial killer of little old ladies, but I hope he’ll read the book and find out.

With Laura Wright (Carly Jacks)

With Laura Wright (Carly Jacks)

Juggling my camera, finding folks to take photos of me with the stars, posing, getting autographs and handing out fliers for my books was a bit discombobulating. Near the end of the meet-and-greet, when I went back to Laura Wright for an autograph I’d missed, I told her I didn’t quite have my act together, she said, “That’s all right, none of us do. Anyone who says they have it together is lying.” She proved her point later, when she emceed the two-hour show with Tyler Christopher, but she was a hoot!

In my next post, I’ll tell you about that session and some of the terrific questions and answers, including how they cry on command and which star got poison ivy up his rectum, but in the meantime, here are some snaps of me with my favorites. Subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss it! And please leave comments: which stars are your favorites, and which photo makes you most jealous?


*HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL is the name of my new soap opera vampire novel. Look for it in May!

With Kelly Thiebaut (Dr. Britt Westbourne)

With Kelly Thiebaut (Dr. Britt Westbourne)

With Dom Zamprogna (Dante Falconeri)

With Dom Zamprogna (Dante Falconeri)