About Me

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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

mirror, mirror, off the wall...

so i'm doing this little thing called writing a book.

and i'm trying every which way but lewd to tap into my creative chi.

[is tapping into your chi more like mining for gold? or drilling for oil? OR searching for a vein?]

prayer, meditation, books. oh, and popsicles. LOTS of popsicles.

Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit" is a stroke of genius. or in the renowned choreographer's case,  a "pas de bouree" of genius. she cuts right to the heart of an artist's agony with her opening line,

"i walk into a large white room". it could, and does apply to any medium along the artist's spectrum.

i walk up to a large white page...i walk upon a large white stage...

i'm in a large white daze...

[you get the idea.]

the white, the space, symbolizing the emptiness that grows exponentially with every second you flail, mired in a bland, beefy stew of mystery meat and unseasoned vegetables; stuck in a traffic jam of creative roadblocks, unable to put any miles between you and your creative destination.

your journey has come to a grinding halt.

[and you've got the skid marks to prove it.]

it happens. we can't all be brilliant, all the time.

so Tharp gives you exercises. fantastic, "what-kind-of-tree-would-you-be?", theatre school-esque exercises. writing letters to your dead parent, rehab-esque kind of exercises.

[i can dig it.]

one of her nuggets is attempting to do without certain things for a week. she has 4 suggestions:

speaking, newspapers, clocks and mirrors.

well, immediately i nixed suggestion #1. it would have given my husband waaay too much satisfaction, and quite frankly, i ain't yet that humble or serene.

suggestion #2  i pretty much do anyway. it's not like i'm floating around, all silky clean, in some soft, soapy bubble of denial about "the war of the worlds" out there; walking around like an alien who's just landed, ignorant to your earthly ways. no, it's popped virtually every day with a simple click, scroll or touch. by virtual osmosis, i can't ignore the crap out there if i tried. and i've tried. ever since the crash of '08, i've tuned out all talking heads whose only credentials for hosting the "news" seemed to be their 1/2 inch layer of orange, oompa-loompa makeup and voices so grating, dogs howl all the way down to San Diego - zealots suspiciously excited about Americans! losing! everything!

[uh, yeah. i know. livin' the dream...]

suggestion #3 was a bust, too. i haven't worn a watch since - well, honestly, i can't remember. there's always a clock on the dash of l.a.'s ubiquitous mode of transportation - your car. your cell. and even back in the day when i was barebacking the toronto transit system, every station had an advertising board with a clock, tracking my E.T.A..

about 20 years ago, k. gave me a lovely watch for my birthday. it had a gold face and a brown leather braided strap. i thanked my sweet boyfriend and laid it to rest in my jewelry box. you've heard of "the girl who can't say no!", well, meet "the girl who can't say WH-OA!". i am a barely disguised nudist at heart. jewelry is like bondage. i cannot deal with bras, as many of the friends i've flashed over the years can attest. if i'd wanted to be "lifed" into a corset, i would have become a re-enactor at a Ren-Fair. i am a free-floater. literally. even thursday, my beleaguered man had to remind me to don panties under the black shift that kept floating up around my thighs; the l.a. heat wave breezing hot, twirling my dress up "7-year-itch", subway grate style. and socks? socks are for athletes and men over 40 who wear sandals. i don't need anything tight around my permakankles, nor do i want a layer between me and my Viking heritage.

nothing gets between me and my Danish clogs.

but, mirrors. hmmm. now that sounded interesting. to go a week without looking in the mirror. the objective, according to Twarp, was to "see what happens to your sense of self...instead of relying on the image you see reflected in a glass, find your identity in other ways."

there was a period of time in high school when i thought i was a cross between Molly Ringwald and the fedora-wearing bassist from Duran Duran. yes, once i discovered midnight blue kohl eyeliner and colored mascaras, there was no going back. kinda like my infatuation for pills. eyeliner was to my 80's as Percocet was to my 2010s.

more is more.

no, even after graduating from The Sunset Gower Makeup Academy in Hollywood, i never really spent excessive amounts of time in front of the mirror. don't get me wrong. i am a girl and periodically, i really like being a GURL. i luv gooping on the lip gloss, sashaying through a wall of perfume and tottering out the door on my knock-off mules.

but, strip it all away and that's where i'd rather stay.

i get my groove on splashin' in the Woodstockian mud puddle. let me roll around free, hairy and bare, caking it on thick, covering myself up from the waxing and shaving and cutting. i could never, ever work under those migraine-inducing florescents, clocking in with a manicured punch, smiling with pageant-like precision, straining my glossy grin as i reach under my pencil skirt to adjust the pantyhose mummifying my legs, cutting off all circulation to my crotch and beyond. the upkeep is too tremendous. as soon as the drapes are dyed and hemmed, you're returning to brazil to remove the carpet. it's like weed whacking a yard fertilized with radioactive waste. it's keeps growing and growing...and glowing.

and you can still see my unibrow from space.

so, no. i do not have an office job. but if i did, perhaps Tharp would forgive a quick morning glance in the mirror - a brief survey of my landscape lush with pillow lines, eye boogers and cowlicks. conveniently, my hair fell out again - a side effect of over 32 years of medication - so my peter pan shag works really well for this exercise. quite frankly, i barely wash it, never mind check it. and yet, somehow, this woman can always find a way to incorporate hair products into her life.

what are those addictive scents they add, anyway?

strawberries? the rare fruits of Guam? opium?

yes, i felt ready to go out in the world without hair products, makeup and nothing Narcissus would fall into. ready to rely on the kindness of strangers to point out the piece of spinach stuck between my teeth or the toothpaste smear on my chin.

so i went forth. to boldly go where my ego had not gone before.

the timing couldn't have been more perfect. i was slammed with a Grade B chest cold [be damned, Ye Ol' Pipers of Pleasanton!]. a bug you'd be over by sunset, set up camp in this immunosuppressed chest for a couple of weeks. no, not sick enough to stay in bed all day, but frantic for 10 hours of sleep a night, leaving Halls like Easter Eggs scattered all around our house, and convinced my red nose could be seen from space.

i admit, i had a Mrs. Roper moment.

[step away from the visor, Jackie O. shades and moo-moo.]

but after my hands stopped twitching in the direction of my makeup case, they clasped and folded into stillness.

i'd wash my hands in public, and not look up. i'd brush my teeth and not look up. and i'd pass buildings [yes! i walk in L.A.!] and not look up.

on day #1, i happened to escort a dear friend on a trip to the ER. what a trip. i don't know that i've ever been the supporter and not the supportee of an ER experience. either way, it's nothing like Gray's Anatomy. no-one's fucking in a supply closet, no-one looks gorgeous after brain surgery and no-one remotely resembling McDreamy takes your blood pressure. although, there was one cinematic moment when my friend's attending physician answered his cell mid-diagnosis and barked, "Kish!". for a second, i thought it was a new medical term like "Code Blue! or "STAT!". no. just short for Kishineff, but long on impact.

["Kish" will soon be appearing as a character in Marmaduke 2: Look at the Size of his Poo!]

when my friend and i returned to his condo, his wife greeted me with a huge and happy hello, exclaiming, "you look beautiful!". really? i'd been deep-throating lozenges all night, was cross-eyed with exhaustion and was sure i had a soy milk stash.

and so it went.

the Starbucks barista called me "miss". score one for Starbucks. it's pretty much a 50-50 deal now as i round the corner into the home stretch towards age 45. half the time i'm a "miss" and i want to skip out of the store like a kilted girl in pigtails. which means the other half of the time i'm referred to as "ma'am" and the charlie brown theme of despair starts playing in my head as i duck and run.

but this was not an exercise in vanity alone.

i always wear even the tiniest bit of makeup. even to the gym. the "made-up-to-look-natural" look favored by most women of a certain age. even though no-one, to my knowledge, has ever flung their forearm across their eyes in horror at the sight of my naked face, i always felt i looked like Oprah without makeup - bare, startling, and quite frankly, kinda scary. but, when unmasked, Queen O becomes a face in the crowd, persona become person, a soldier joining rank-

-without her war paint.

and we like her even more.

"i walk into a large white room."

there was a physical freedom to not looking in the mirror. more time, less dress.

but the spiritual freedom came today.

as i dressed for a seminar on dialysis and kidney transplantation, i layered on the colors and creams, and a doll-face emerged, rainbow brite. and i looked like someone gearing up for war, smearing black under the eyes, answering the battle cry not of the "war of the worlds" outside, but of my "war of the worlds" inside.

there's a reason they call it war paint.

i would cover it all up and i still couldn't stand to look.

always fighting, never winning.

so, maybe it's all right to be a face in the crowd. bare. bold. free.


i don't have to stand out, to stand tall.

and the only one who has to like my face, is me.

and guess what.

walking into a large white room doesn't scare me anymore.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

a blog for bedstefar [love in translation]

this should be no secret if you've been following my blog.

it's been an arduous journey to discover...

i.am.a.drug addict.and.alcoholic.

that, i can see.

the rest, is obstructed by weeds; thorny growth threatening to overrun the path i trudge. i hack with shiny, new tools sharpened every morning. i clear cut ferociously, my hands become bloodied, but strong, my body and soul satisfied by hard work. and i get glimpses. i rest my sweaty limbs and lean forward, peering into the future. golden slats break through the thinned-out shrub, like the bars of a jail i have escaped and i see it.

i see the petals of a rose turned in for the night. layer upon layer recharging in repose. waiting to unfold by the light of dawn and sing out with its perfumed voice, fragrant and full.

i see enough to keep me willing. i see enough to keep me coming back.

in the rooms, they dole out the tools. if you ask.

in the rooms of the coffee-clutching humbled, we find something greater than ourselves.

and still, despite the love and understanding that drifts down and settles on my skin, mixing as an elixir with my salty skin, basting me to a golden zen, i still defy. i cross my arms and raise an eyebrow. with hand on hip-bone-thrusting circumspection, i wonder.

who is this god you speak of?

and where has he been?

i began spending summers with my brother, n., in denmark in 1977. i was 8, n., turned 7. we would spend the entire 2 and a half month summer vacation with our danish family - my mother's sister, brother, their spouses and my grandparents, bedstemor and bedstefar. bedstemor was the nut. truly. she would be equally excited over the announcement of your engagement or the bowl of ice cream presented to her after dinner. there was no middle ground for her. everything was amazing. everything was "NEJJJ!". she would grab her breasts randomly, from maximusstimulus or a viking-sized sex drive, who knew. it happens to be a genetic quirk i lustily embrace, along with swimming and cleaning house, OCD-style.

if bedstemor was the nut, bedstefar was the shell, the encasing to her grenade, tempering her explosions until ready.

he was a fireman recently retired. still strong, muscles taut, his arms would pull me easily upon his lap, a cushion of sweet confection i could sink into, marshmallow soft. against his mythical heroic frame i would lean, as we sat outside and gazed over his well-tended carpet of green dotted with miniaturized daisies, yellow-centered white weeds too delicate to pluck. the days of danish summer were long, lazy. we would watch the danish sun sink tantric style - stunning in its payoff - as it finally said goodnight well after 11pm. and we would talk.

but to talk with bedstefar, was to barely speak.

against the melting northern sky, his roses popped like characters come to animated life. even in the shadows of the gloaming, i felt safe. i would sink deeper against him and sigh, aching to stay in the comforting cool of his embrace and forever escape the hot and humid Torontonian summer. across the ocean an oppressive heat was smothering our family alive, a father choking on a sickness we couldn't name. there my limbs dragged heavy with foreboding. here, with my protector, i felt equally buoyed and free. in his magical garden, upon his Wonka factory floor of natural treats - of roses and plum trees and afternoon naps -  i could twirl, light and lithe. with desperate gulps i would fill my lungs with his roses' musky aroma, clearing out the skunk stench that i could never sigh away.

and i could breathe.

i would point to the painted sky and say "heaven..."

he would look up and reply, "himlen." i would giggle.


i would point at his manicured lawn. "garden..."

adjusting his glasses, he'd reply, "haven."

i would squirm on his lap with glee.


and then at his roses. his beautiful roses.

i would gesture broadly. "roses..."

"roser", he would declare. and i would beam.

 the same word. the same soul.

bedstemor went to night school to learn english so that she could speak to her first two grandchildren better. she was the quintessential student bringing a satchel full of sharpened pencils and enthusiastic debate over the myriad definitions of "funny."

"do you mean funny/strange or funny/ha-ha?"

this was not for bedstefar.

bedstefar was nothing if not danish. stinky-cheese-lovin', beach-strolling, schnapps-skoling, swedish-hating, 101%-akvavit-proof danish. so as bedstemor endured our relentless teasing over her endearing attempts at pronouncing "TR-H-ree TR-H-ousand, TR-H-ree hundred and TR-H-irty-TR-H-ree - the english "TH", like a gymnastics' dismount the danish tongue could never stick - bedstefar became, if possible, even more danish. he dug his clogged-heels in deep, and just. spoke. danish.

he would never over enunciate, never "baby talk" us down from our confusion over the world's strangest language.

[i mean, do they really need three EXTRA letters?]

especially when we became unfortunate buddies in the war on chronic illness, soldiering side by side into daily battle.

"i know exactly how you feel. if you don't feel well, you go and lie down."

but in danish. always in danish.

and in our near silence, i was made whole.

you get desperate at the end of a long, canadian winter. at least, i did. after months of hiking over filthy piles of city slush, it was emotional anarchy when the crocuses hesitantly stretched their reedy green arms through our back yard melt. anticipation plucked at my heart nervously, like the tuning of a violin. my neighborhood vendors - the polish delis and asian grocers alike - would finally explode with color, fanning out their array of floral imports with the technicolor sass of a peacock's tail. and for a few bucks, you could take home a little spring in your arms, like the one now in your step, and the one you could smell under the melting ice, if you titled your nose towards the certified grey sky, stood very still, and inhaled.

these were the blossoms i would hang after death, preserving them long past their expiration date. feng shui be damned! bunches and bunches of roses, like stalactites, hung from every window in our home, their now muted colors no less glorious to this canuck craving all things flowered, all the time. and an idea was born. surely i could make one of those flower-filled oil lamps becoming so popular; birthed from the early 90's zeitgeist of scented candles and designer coffee shops? and with a glass bottle, a sports shoelace and my bottomless stash of dried petals, my roses were reincarnated, mummified in an oily soup and when illuminated, floated softly like foamy patches upon a moonlit sea.

i am so awesome! i will sell these city-wide! i will build an empire!

or, i will give one away as a gift.

so with all humility, i offered one of these amateurish floral coffins to my brother, as mother, grandparents and i gathered in vancouver to celebrate the addition of two letters to his name  - M.D.. we were all gathered round, squawking with praise, singing silly danish songs and offering gifts. after the requisite, ooohs and ahhhs settled like dust, i began to explain, without any irony, the subtle technique to trimming the lamp's wick to my newly-anointed doctor brother.

then i heard something. and i stopped. bedstefar had breathed something quietly, as was always his way. i looked up and cocked my head, poised for the instant replay.

"henriette is an artist."

he was lit from within, beaming brighter than the lamp's soft glow, like a car's headlight focused duly forward on its destination.

"henriette is an artist."

but in danish. always in danish.

for although he understood much more english than any of us could ever guess, it was how his skin fit best.

and he understood how my skin fit best.

almost without words.

there were often times when i would get mired in danish conversation and struggle to keep up. head bent over knees, left panting behind everyone else, lost in its abrasive rhythms and winding rhymes. but, with bedstefar, it never mattered. any gap between the two languages would be crossed. we would find our way out of the labyrinth by munching on a lifetime supply of black licorice, sharing that hot stream of Viking blood and pointing at his magical rose garden well into the dawn.

so on april 15th, a flurry of phone calls from Saskatoon to Los Angeles to Copenhagen.

bedstefar. pnemonia. hospital.

"it doesn't look good."

and my panicked heartbeat, like the whacking of a wooden spoon against a pot, growing louder with every second that passed. a child in defiance, refusing to hear the voice of reason.

and i reached my uncle who sat bedside, his painful vigil present in a strained voice run deep.

"here, henriette. talk to your bedstefar."

and i bubbled out an impossible froth of gratitude. a granddaughter unable to thank her grandfather enough for all he is and all he will be to her. despite a literal and figurative ocean between us, he dove right in and found a way to go the distance. he held his head up and kept on swimming, through the deafening roar and the eerie still, right until the end.

five minutes after i hung up, my uncle called me back. bedstefar had heard me. for after i'd closed my gushing valve of love and affection, he had whispered,

"i'm going to sleep now."

and never woke up.

i now believe god has always been with me. i just haven't been able to see.

but now i see him everywhere.

in the silence between words.

and especially the roses.

Monday, September 9, 2013

desperately seeking subterfuge [a.k.a. farrelly brothers, you suck.]

ok. it's been a while.

so shoot me. i've been writing my book.

but nothing will plant me faster on my virtual soapbox than the opportunity to vent about the low-brow, offensive humor of the Farrelly Brothers.

i can just hear the pitch.

"Okay, okay. Get this! Jim Carrey's character is a little lost, melancholy. He can't figure out why. So he goes to the doctor and is told, Dude! You need a kidney! You know, as in a transplant. So through a series of wildly comical and politically incorrect events, we discover that he has a love child. Perfect! Problem solved! He thinks, I'll just go and find my child and get a kidney from him! Dude! So, together with Jeff Daniels, they embark upon a wildly comical and politically incorrect road trip to find him...Are you with me, are you with me so far?...Then we bookend with a heartwarming father/child denouement. His child overcomes his resentment towards his absent father JUST IN TIME to save Jim Carrey's life by donating his kidney...

...just as the credits roll, to a sentimental, yet plucky, anthemic swell of string instruments.

And THEN, through a series of wildly comical and politically incorrect events, Jim Carrey has tons of energy to go on the road trip, needs no doctors' visits, specialized diet or anythingcloseto23dailymedications and definitely no dialysis.

doesn't test well.

[i added that last part.]

i don't understand it. i've never understood it. how is kidney failure funny?

every one's doing it.

"Friends" has done it.","Frasier" has done it. and every. single. time, my loose and comfortable laugh, limber from loads of well-massaged quips and puns, is choked off. i sputter. i cringe. my body freezes into a statue of disbelief. i shift in my seat. my smile falters, my lips unsure of which way to curl. initially, my mouth pinches upwards into "the Joker's" eerie, cynical smirk, then crumbles complete into a frown so droopy, so deflated, even Eeyore seems positively joyous by comparison.

cancer gets a pass. AIDS gets a pass. even other transplants get a pass.

there's something about kidney.

is there something cute and cuddly about the kidney? the beans we eat? the kidney-shaped pools we swim in? i mean, when was the last time you took a dip in a pancreas? is there something so conveniently science-fictionesque about being able to donate your "extra" organ that alights the Hollywood writer's pedestrian brain, sparking a crackling bonfire of below average humor and witticisms?

"Here, take my wife!"

"Take my kidney!"

It's all expendable.

more likely, it's an like an easy default for the overpaid Hollywood writer. having clutched too many lattes, hiked too many canyons, and taken too many meetings, way too seriously, the flatlining Hollywood writer, so darn frustrated by the industry's lack of recognition of his/her unique writing abilities - the unbelievably lucky asshole who cranked out self-indulgent shorts until he became one of 19 producers on a web series, and now finds himself grandfathered around town from writing staff to writing staff, has lost all perspective of the horseshoe way up his ass. yes, the lucky son-of-a-gun who thinks his treatment is the first and most brilliant reworking of any plot line from The Greeks through Shakespeare.

[oh, but don't cha know, what they really want to do is direct.]

yes, from a satellite perspective, and with the intelligence of an ant, kidney transplantation does seem as effortless as a link you COPY and PASTE onto Facebook. as easy as 1-2-3! Step 1. get tested! Step 2. have a quick and painless surgery! Step 3. recipient leads full life FREE of complications.

[can i get an AMEN? or maybe just a "like"?]

of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

it's the desperation that they don't see. the desperation that pushes you into hell.

and in your desperation the only thing that can save you is the truth.

and without the truth, we all fall down.

with panicked flaps, they flew my coop with a bad case of "cold feet", squawking out some veiled excuse, sad in its transparency of their fears. "i just get sick a lot!"..."well, what if i need my extra one someday?"..."if you fly here i'll give you a kidney!"..."if you pay $75,000 we can do it in my country!"... "i have to pay my mortgage!"...


and then there were those who never offered. and never called.

everyone wants to be the hero, but you actually have to lace up and go into battle wearing that ridiculous gladiator skirt.

in my schizophrenic, new found serenity, i do understand that people do the best they can with what they've got. but, damn. i would have had more respect if they had just flat out owned it.

like, "i'm scared" or "quite frankly, you're a bit of a nut, soooo, i'm just not sure if it's worth it."

because, desperation makes you seek the truth with the vibrating intensity of a diving rod seeking water in your personal desert storm.

desperation spurs you to lasso the world.wide.web, hijacking social media with a rope around it's neck; a knife to it's throat.  you "friend" those from 20, 30 years ago, vulnerable in your virtual pleas for help; stripped of any pride your profile picture might otherwise suggest. you poke at these pixilated pictures from the past, images you barely recognize, praying they will poke you back. will someone see the pain behind my shiny, happy selfie? and then, out of the shadows of a row of rusted and dented lockers, steps salvation. under the florescent high school lights, an offer. "i will get tested for you." and for a moment, your desperation is blotted out by the halo of hope shining above you - up there with the asbestos in the ceiling and the student council election posters falling from the walls.

hope that you may never have to spend one. more. minute hooked up to a machine that filters your blood between 3-5 hours a day, detoxing your battered body from the toxins your poor kidney can no longer filter. hope that you'll have the energy to get home, collapse, rest and return to do it all again the day after next.

i know from desperation.

desperation annihilates you. your fingers frantically piano up and down your sides, searching for that side zipper to yank down with one quick, satisfying tug; oh, to unpeel out of your leathery, jaundiced skin. with a leaden head barely raised, like a feral beast, you sniff out for something, anything better. pills, alcohol, hate - anything that can motivate you for more than a minute to slither out of your bed, and squirm away from your soft, green bedroom walls gone chalkboard black.

[the writing's on the wall.]

i was so desperate for relief from kidney failure, i would do anything. go through every medicine cabinet i could find - steal his pills, their pills, your pills - lie to doctors and nurses and pharmacists, oh, my!, and search under my bathroom sink for more alcohol, more anything, just -


anything to make me feel more than the mess of less i had become.

oh, if only life were like the movies! and richard gere would come crawling up that fire escape to each and every soul trapped on dialysis, clasping a kidney between his teeth instead of a bunch of wilted, supermarket mums!

[now THAT''S comedy!]

i'm sure Hollywood, in all it's fanatical, number-crunching wisdom discovered it's still cost-effective to make this movie. i mean, only 80,000 americans die every year from kidney disease. it's only the 9th leading cause of death in America.

[go forth and market!]

and so, for every winy, misunderstood Hollywood writer, of both the employed and unemployed variety, for every joke about buying a kidney, not needing your "extra" kidney, selling a kidney to pay off taxes, how easy it is to just "get" a kidney, ridiculing the torment fueling illegal organ trade, suggesting any slick convenience to dialysis - i suggest this. spend one day on a dialysis ward. follow the gurneys unloading the half-dead from the medical vans. follow them upstairs as they lie, glassy-eyed or hobble anxiously clutching their spouses' warm, taut hand in their own, cold and limp. follow them as they do the heartless shuffle and collapse with audible, ironic relief into their assigned chair. follow their eyes as their eyes follow the tubes sucking their blood through a jumble of plastic worms, through a tubular, plastic filter, and a cold, steel machine as they shiver uncontrollably under arctic conditions.

follow them.

then make your jokes.

in my recovery, i get on my knees every morning and give thanks. i give thanks that i am sober for today. i give thanks that i am no longer walking among the living dead, among those too dear to be on dialysis.

and i give thanks that i once was desperate.

i wish those writers desperation.

and not for a paycheck.