Thursday, December 31, 2009


We came home on Tuesday night, after we realized that staying till Wednesday morning offered no advantage. Great time in Montauk, and on the last night we had dinner at the Palm. Liv and Nick had steak, and I had my long-awaited (10+ years) lambchops. No fireworks, no sign of the heavens opening, nothing. But they were good, I enjoyed them and ate them without consequences. We spent the day in the usual way -- hanging out, going to the gym, etc. When we got back to the hills we had dinner at Baluchi's, which will now replace Tandoor as our favorite local Indian joint. Better location, far better atmosphere and food that was not only as good but tasted fresher.

Yesterday was a catch-up day. Much hubbub at the house -- 2 showings though only one materialized, and a series of calls from an odd broker who claims to have a customer but is really only looking to take over the listing as it expired yesterday (we renewed with Judy, of course.)

Good reports from Matt in the UK, though he's all at sixes and sevens -- the British friend they were meeting was apparently hospitalized with psychosis. All his plans are obviously up in the air, but he sounds sanguine about the whole thing.

Also good reports from Gena about her latest date (per her email she blew off MS guy for Matzo Ball guy -- as much as that sounds like code it actually makes a kind of sense.)

We spent the day catching up, doing errands etc, having mojitos and playing Scrabble. Nick broke my (8-game) winning streak. Tonight we're supposed to go into the city to a bar where there's a Celtic band, but the weather is quite surprising so we'll see. Nick's off to the Island to do his stuff and reclaim Holly, and the roads will be a mess.

Spoke to hip ortho who said he'd been in touch with the rheum (got an email from her too); does't look like any kind of inflammatory arthritis but that doesn't change the need for a hip replacement. As far as my back goes, he says that will continue to flare up and if it continues or worsens it'll be time to bring in Dave (spine guy.) We'll see.

It's very beautiful out now with all the snow (yes, I can say that because I don't have to drive in it.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Montauk Monday

We left yesterday at about 11 -- me, Nick, Olivia and Holly. A few local stops first to pick up missing toiletries and other necessities, and then we drove about an hour to take Holly to the kennel. She couldn't have been more excited; as we neared the place she was all over the car trying to get out.

From there to Montauk, with a couple of Starbucks stops along the way. Our suite is lovely and plenty big for the three of us. We hung out awhile and then had an early dinner at Harvest, known for its gargantuan portions (the garlic mashed reminded me of the mashed potato scene from Close Encounters.) Then back to the hotel where we played some boggle and watched an episode of Big Love.

We woke late today -- after 9. Nick had trouble sleeping on the rock-hard mattress. After coffee (too strong -- the Starbucks we picked up is way stronger than the Dunkin Donuts we use at home) the three of us headed to the gym. Liv likes the elliptical, Nick did the treadmill and I did the bike (hard on my back and hip but did it anyway.) Also some time on the universal. After showers we went to town for brunch at Anthony's (one of the two pancake houses across the street from each other.) We made a few stops so Liv could take photos, which she's really into.

We came back, watched the movie Big Fish (not bad), took a short rest and in a few minutes will start to get ready for dinner. We had some reading time. Olivia: Atonement. Nick: a Cormac McCarthy novel. Me: a new history of the Second World War.

We're headed to the Palm in East Hampton. Liv will have steak, Nick wants duck and I'll have my first lamb chops in a decade. We decided a few months back that I'm ready to introduce new food into my diet, and of the available red meats selected lamb ("he don't eat meat? I'll make lamb!" -- we've all been saying that since the decision was made.)

Then back here, maybe a few more games, a movie and more reading time. A very relaxing and restorative day, and so great that Liv is here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eventful days

The past few days have been filled with incident. Matt left for the UK -- haven't heard from him yet. Olivia went shopping with her holiday money yesterday and was pickpocketed. She called me in tears and within about an hour I was getting calls from Bank of America about suspicious charges on the card -- including Auto Zone and a Shell station. Clearly no grass grew under the feet of the thief. It was interesting to note the difference in customer service between BOA and Citi. I called Citi, and couldn't get through to a person and didn't have the account number. I used to figure out how to get through to a live operator, which worked, but the experience was less than satisfactory: the person I spoke with was curt, asked me the same questions over and over and seemed to be having trouble with the entire thing. BOA on the other hand was courteous and sympathetic -- asked if Olivia was ok and what else they could do. Big difference.

And she was having such a good day right up to that point. She was with her friends, with money in her pocket. And she was scouted by an Abercrombie employee who was looking for models to work in the store today. But she's under 18, so that didn't work. But it made her feel great, and she floated inside that bubble right up until the moment she realized her wallet was gone.

Nick's girls had their own adventure when they left here and spent the day with their mom. A day of texting that started out fine but then devolved as their day did with issues including their mom's drinking, suicide threats and then a call to the cops.

Gena came over yesterday to hang out, which was great. We got to spend time and catch up, and she did a bit of shopping in my closet (ended up with a couple of really nice things from what I think of as my 2005 collection.)

Then last night we all decided that Olivia would come with us to Montauk, which is perfect. We'll set out in a few hours and take Holly to the kennel. We'll do everything we planned, and Liv is up for it -- reading, working out, checking out Montauk, going out to dinner, swimming and the hot tub. She's selected Atonement to read while we're there; an excellent choice. She even plans to go to the gym.

Right now we're all packing and straightening up and otherwise prepping (save Liv, who's still asleep but not for long.)

I hear doors opening and closing (nothing is quiet in this house) so I'm assuming she's up. This will be a great couple of days.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas day

It's about 8:45 a.m. I was the first one up but I think I hear Nikki stirring downstairs. Yesterday was great. Nick and I exchanged gifts in the morning. I gave him 3 things: an ice-cream maker, a Garmin nav system for his new truck and a gift certificate for a couples class at the cooking school called ICE (formerly known as Peter Kump.) His gifts to me were wonderful. Lots of things to keep me warm: slippers, slipper-socks, PJ's, a hoodie and a robe. A new alarm clock to replace our current one. Why the need? I'm not gentle when the alarm goes off in the morning and I may have been a bit overzealous when trying to turn it off -- now the buttons pop off all the time. My appliances live hard.

But the best gift he gave me was a beautiful gold snake ring with turquoise. He'd remembered a story I'd told him and Liv about a snake ring I'd wanted when I was a kid and we were in Greece. The seller wanted badly to sell it, I wanted it with all my heart but my mom said that the sight of me with a snake around my finger would have been too much for my grandmother. So all these years later I have my snake ring, and it's beautiful.

Nick brought his girls over in the afternoon and we hung out for a couple of hours before dinner. Everyone got along and it went well. After dinner we watched a movie (The Hangover) which was predictably but satisfyingly funny. He tried to use the ice-cream machine but it hadn't chilled long enough so he'll try it again today. We'll wrap up some extra cookies (I made three kinds) for Liv to take to Tessa's later.

This morning Nick will drive the girls home to Eastern LI and then come back.

It's our last day with Matt, who leaves tonight for the UK and who's been really fun to have at home. Liv no doubt disagrees but he's really been fine.

Bon voyage Matt! Have a great trip and we love you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I am divorced

As of last night, it's official. I wasn't the first to know; Paul texted me to tell me that he was notified by mail that according to the Honorable Sidney F. Straus we are officially divorced. I spoke to my lawyer who didn't know but who looked it up on line while we stayed on the phone ( and she confirmed it.

It didn't quite sink in at first; we were pretty boozy from mojitos and everything was a bit blurry. But I woke up this morning single for the first time in many many years (21 if you count from the marriage, more like 26 if you go back to before Paul and I met.) Wow. The end of an era. I want to see the decree. I think of it as a single piece of paper, embossed, stamped, decorated and suitable for framing, but Nick tells me it's not like that at all. Still...

So it's done. It took long enough but it's finally officially and irrevocably done. Whew.

Tonight we're having dinner with all the kids. Nick's picking up the girls now. Matt's back from lunch and Liv will be here later. We're serving shrimp cocktail, calamari, lasagne, home-made breadsticks and salad. May order some Chinese food to make Matt happy (Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, after all.) And for dessert: I made three kinds of cookies: chewy chocolate, chocolate chocolate chip and pecan crescents (made with the pecans Nick's mom shelled and sent.) And as a special treat, homemade ice cream. I bought Nick an ice-cream maker (one of my gifts to him; more on the gift exchange tomorrow.)

A banner day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy birthday Holly

Holly turned one year old a few days ago. She hasn't evidenced much maturity with the passage of time. She has a new and unwelcome trick: she drags the fireplace grate open enough for her to get in and drag out the burnt charcoal. Face smudged and guilty, she knows she's in trouble but keeps doing it again and again. Nick bought a new gate that's helping keep her in the living room, which is helpful. But she's a Jack Russell -- busy, smart, obstinate -- and it shows in everything she does. I worked from home yesterday and she stayed most of the day in her (unlocked) pen in the sunroom. Nick moved it closer to the radiator and she loves the warmth. The problem though is obvious: she sleeps all day and by the evening is a whirling dervish, vibrating with energy and intensity. She's so damned cute that it makes everything ok. Nice evolutionary turn, I'd say -- her size and appearance protect her. Clever.

Big storm coming

That's what they say -- that we're about to be blanketed with snow. We're ready: Nick did a thousand errands yesterday and we're loaded up with salt and scrapers, firewood and food, just in case. We're having dinner tonight with my parents, and are scheduled to see the last play tomorrow in the Brother/Sister play trilogy, but we'll see what the weather permits.

Olivia and I met with the college counselor the other night. It started out rocky -- they didn't really know each other -- but got better. The good news is that Liv is reasonable and focused; she knows what she wants (and more importantly what she doesn't want). She wants to stay in NY and go to a school with a strong performance program. And we brainstormed some ideas to help her distinguish herself. I love what we collaboratively came up with: a project that combines performance and service. The idea is simple: work with a couple of her performing-arts friends to bring to life children's stories with acting and music. Either live or by DVD this little troupe would bring the stories to sick children in area hospitals. This is a great way for Olivia to combine her strong desire for service with her estimable leadership schools and love of performance. I've gotten in touch with the executive director the Starlight Foundation, an organization we support pro bono which works directly with hospitalized kids, and she sounded open and interested. Nick and I will help her in any way we can, and she couldn't be more excited about this.

Matt got in late last night, and was pretty cheerful, though tired from finals and traveling. He'll be home for a few days catching up on eating and sleeping before he leaves next week for the UK. We started talking last night about healthcare reform and the degree of our disgust and frustration with what's going on, but neither of us had much heart for the conversation, so it's tabled till today.

It wasn't an easy week: travel (I did San Francisco as a day trip, and I don't recommend it), tons of meetings, work, issues and complexity, back/hip pain bad enough to ground me on Sunday and Monday. And no answers in sight on my physical issues. Hip ortho suddenly not returning calls; rheum requested and will be reviewing films and reports, and an overall sense that no one is really in charge of figuring this thing out. I hope to know more next week but I'm not feeling terribly confident about the medical professionals in my orbit and their willingness and ability to look at this situation and deal with it in a rational and comprehensive way.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seeing the future

Here's the thing with plans: I love making them. I like knowing that the calendar is full of events and evenings with friends and interesting things to do and see. Weeks in advance of things I can't imagine that I'll be anything but happy with the plans I've made, right until the day those plans arrive. Daniel Gilbert talks about this a lot in his book "Stumbling into Happiness" about the human inability to project how we'll feel in the future. He's right, of course. It's when the day actually arrives that I wonder what I was thinking when I scheduled us for weekday events back to back, or other such complications.

A long work day yesterday that began with a morning client presentation in Connecticut. Then back to the city for work, meetings, check-ins before an end-of-day haircut. Nick met me at the hair place (though was too intimidated to come up to the floor.) I had good news for him: I'd spoken at length to my hairdresser about Jamie's plans to become a stylist. He had not only good advice but a specific plan and offer -- once she has her license she can get a job at his place as an assistant, which includes real training and apprenticeship. I couldn't wait to tell Nick so he could tell Jamie.

After we met -- in the brutal, biting cold -- we headed downtown to the East Village where we were meeting Olivia and Jon. Very nice dinner at a place on East 4th called B Bar. Nick and I got their first and had a drink at the bar, where a blotto couple were asking the waitress to define iambic pentameter. She couldn't. (I could but didn't volunteer.) The kids showed up and we had a really nice dinner. After that we headed down the block to see a version of Carson McCullers's
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." It was surprisingly strong and well done, with one breakout performance by the girl who plays Mick. The kids and Nick loved it; it was instantly one of Nick's favorite plays (I'm always relieved when he loves something since I'm responsible for this entire aspect of our lives.) It was great, and when we left we heard a couple say that no play or story set in the American South ever ends well. Too true, so true (as college girls write in the margins of "The Bell Jar.")

Great evening. From there to Penn, where we missed the next train and made the 11:35. Lots of fun.

Today will be about rest and recovery. Someone's coming to see the house this morning, and we have a couple of errands to do. Otherwise this will be our time -- lots of resting, hanging out, scrabbling and mojitos (they made a decent mojito at the place last night but not nearly in Nick's league.) Tomorrow will be abbreviated: I have to leave midday to fly for a Monday meeting. I'll be back Monday night, and then Tuesday morning I leave for the West Coast, back Thursday morning on the red-eye. Should be my last week of grinding intensity before the break, which will be even more welcome than usual.


I was in no mood to see a play Thursday. It was a long day that began with an early client meeting in Connecticut, followed by back-to-back meetings and client calls that lasted past 7. There was no time to meet Nick for dinner; we were meeting at the theater. It was freezing cold that night, with wind that whipped around corners and made all the layers of warm clothes meaningless. So when we walked in to the theater on 55th between 9th and 10th I was -- if not in a foul mood -- not really up to a play I knew little about. I remembered little of the reviews I'd read save generally positive notices.

So glad we went! It was delightful -- funny and clever and witty and quick. The "Or," refers to the ambiguities of time, gender and sexuality. The story itself seemed to be a maguffin, but a terrific maguffin it was -- giving the playwright and the actors a jumping off point to explore these ambiguities. We laughed throughout the play, as did everyone in the audience.

A charming clever play I'd recommend highly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

developing stories

Got to the rheumatologist yesterday. It was a long visit -- a history, exam and a chat. She gave me a TB test in case I end up on drugs for inflammatory arthritis and explained the difference and the relationship between inflammatory and mechanical (osteo) arthritis. She thinks it's likely to be inflammatory, given the symptoms, the rapid development of arthritis, and family history. The visit turned into an odyssey, as she sent me for x-rays (pelvis, hip, sacro-iliac and hands) and then for blood work (15 different tests requiring 9 tubes of blood.) I won't know anything for a couple of weeks, but of course I'm bothered both by the possibility that I have one of these inflammatory forms and more so by the fact that none of the orthos even mentioned this as a possibility. Even if it turns out not to be (fingers crossed) it's the kind of thing that should be evaluated and ruled out (or in.) It was really because of Jeff's partner's email (the doc I've been emailing with) and my experience with RA via our client relationship that this came up at all. Disturbing. And another example of our fragmented, fractured healthcare system, where there's no systemic coordination and everyone evaluates and treats within their own silo.

Otherwise all fine. Busy week leading up to next week's full-travel schedule. Tonight we're seeing a new play called "Or,", and tomorrow night we're taking Liv and Jon to see "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Dinner Saturday with Wendy and Perry. Should be a fun and full weekend.

Liv is excited about her possible path to celebrity via the talent agent, and now we've got to take and collect photos of her that show her more fresh-faced and less made up than in her comp card. Matt's travel plans over the break are shaping up; he sent me confirmations yesterday of his inter-European flights and hostel reservations. He's going to have a blast, no doubt.

So just digging in for the rest of this week and next, which are incredibly intense. But it all ends the week after when the long holiday break starts, which will be great and welcome.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A snowy Saturday

Our first snow -- it was wet, cold and sloppy -- but at least it felt like weather! We went into the city to see The Brother/Sister plays at the Public on Lafayette Street. It's a trilogy, and we saw two of the plays yesterday. They were very cool and well done -- well written, staged and acted, and an interesting exploration of issues including race and sexuality. Some members of the audience left at intermission; others clearly didn't know what the play was like (or had trouble understanding the dialogue: it did require that your ears adjust.) But we liked it a lot.

Nick is off to the park now with Holly. Yesterday she was voted "cutest dog" -- wonder what took so long! She loves it and spends the rest of the day sleeping to recover from the running, playing, running, playing. It's a Holly's life.

Today will be easy. No one's coming to look at the house (first time in 4 days) so we can relax more. Nick and I both have work to do. Liv has homework -- regular homework, SAT prep (tutor at 4) and a concert report that I'll help her write. Why does she need my help? Because she's writing about the string quartet performance we attended, but she didn't. Whenever she sees something that would qualify for one of these reports she procrastinates (surprise!) and then takes too long to write it. So I'll describe and explain what we saw, and she'll make it her own.

The afternoon will include the football game (Cowboys are playing), reading, Scrabble and hanging out. I may see if I can wrap some of Nick's gifts on the sly.

And tonight a local dinner with Lamia and Mirwan, which is always fun. It's been too long since our last get-together, a function of schedules, travel and in my case, surgeries.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The week that was

It was an interesting one, and here are some highlights in no particular order:

Scrabble, part 1

The first game Nick and I played on returning from Canada was one of the best, if not the best, we've ever played. Our combined scores were a mere 17 points shy of 800. Nick had one 7-letter (squirms) that earned him 106, and even my two 7's didn't let me prevail. He played a brilliant game. And I promised him I'd blog here about his triumph. Well done, my love.

Scrabble, part 2

The re-match was last night, after I got back from Boston. Nick was winning from the first move and kept up his lead the entire game. He never relaxed (he never does when he's ahead) but as the game neared its close he started to believe the game was his. But I rallied: on my very last turn I did a 7-letter word (insults) which ended the game in a surprise victory for me. Great game, and whew.


Our new season at Carnegie Hall started this week. It's a 3-concert series of string quartets. On Wednesday after a lovely dinner at Rue 57 we attended the first one: the Mendelsson string quartet, which is ending its 30-year run this season. Nick's favorite was the Bartok, mine might have been the Beethoven. Music so beautiful you could week (my eyes filled with tears as soon as the first piece began.) A beautiful evening.


Our soldier sounds down. Clearly everything is wearing on her, and she's homesick and worried about her boyfriend, who is off on a mission. She's now a gunner. Liv and I are writing to her often, and we bought her a couple of really cute sweaters from J Crew that we'll send in the next few days. It was Liv's idea to get her cozy sweaters, and it's a great one.

Friends update

Gena and Peter broke up last Sunday, and we've been talking all week. She's heartbroken and I feel so bad for her; she was so happy right up until the end. Sarah and Toby are going to be moving to a house in the next couple of weeks and they're so psyched. It's a big upgrade and we couldn't be more thrilled for them. Hope to see them and the house soon. Tomorrow we have dinner with Lamia and Mirwan -- long delayed and long overdue.

Our weekend

Today we go to the Public Theater for a matinee of one of the parts of the Brothers/Sisters Play, which is supposed to be great. Unusual for us to go in the daytime, but we're really looking forward to it.

House activity

A sudden burst of interest this week. Lots of lookers and all of a sudden, and people seem to really like the house (this time, this week, no guarantees.) We'll see what happens.

Things medical

Based on Marty's advice (my old friend Jeff's partner, who is a doc) I'm going to see a rheumatologist to rule out RA (rheumatoid arthritis.) Just seems to be the responsible thing to do, given the rapidity and severity of my arthritis. Probably isn't RA (I know a few things about it since we work for a pharma company that makes one of the leading RA drugs) but worth looking into. When I called Jose the ortho to ask about this, I had an exchange with the PA about it. She said that if Jose had suspected RA he'd have addressed it. Given the silo'd nature of our medical care I've already learned that docs stay so tightly inside their own specialties that they don't always think beyond what they know and treat. The PA actually sounded annoyed at my question (which annoyed me); that I might be doubting a doc -- horrors. The return call -- after she'd spoken to him -- was a bit better; he said if I wanted to check it out he'd refer me to a rheumatologist. I decided to go see the rheum my Mom sees, and we've already had one email exchange. More to come, but I'd like to have this evaluated and answered before I go bionic (which looks now like late January.)

Things lost

So I lost my ipod on the plane home from Toronto. Matt sent me his recommendation on a replacement (another nano or the itouch) and I'll order one of them today. And I finally did something about the lost earring. I'd lost one of the beautiful earrings that Nick got me on a plane from SF -- what is it with me and planes? The people at the local jewelry store where he'd bought them were incredibly helpful. Even though the original ones were no longer available I was able to find similar ones and use the single earring as a trade-in. A happy resolution.

Mad Men

DM News ran a 30th anniversary piece on the history of direct marketing (I was interviewed a few months back). They called the piece "Direct Mad Men" and apparently I'm one of them. They misspelled my name, referred to me as "he", but what the hell, it's ink. And I feel privileged to be mentioned in such exalted company.