Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why Real Books Rock (and E-Readers Do Not)

            Last week I talked about my penchant for collecting things (as opposed to hoarding them). One of the things I discussed was my love of physical books. I just can’t get enough of ‘em. “There’s always room for another book on my shelf,” should be my motto. In a day and age where you can literally store a thousand books on an e-reader, I wanted to explain why the hell I still love to stockpile physical books.

            First is the look and feel of a real book.  As I glance around my living room, my collection of books makes me instantly smile.  I have three bookcases full of ‘em, as well as another one in my entry hallway. There are books on travel, acting, writing, cooking (yeah I know… what the hell would I do with a cookbook … you’ll find out later on, I promise), religion, self-help and plenty of fiction. I have classics like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and W. Somerset Maugham, beach reads like David Baldacci, all of the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Feist, Orson Scott Card, and of course plenty of plays. I even have “The Real Mother Goose” and “The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh” on my shelf! So I think whether you’re a child or an adult, you will find something in my collection to satisfy your taste buds. And that’s the point. One stroll around my living room and you can be gazing at an assortment of PHYSICAL books to suit your fancy. Isn’t that more fun than scrolling through an e-reader? Ummm… yeah it is. And there’s nothing like when you hold a book in your hands. Truth be told, if you’re reading the hardcover version of “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet it’s going to get a bit heavy at times (and possibly give you a hernia if you carry it around in your knapsack), but that’s part of the fun of it. At least I think it is.

            There’s also the social aspect of a physical book. They are truly great conversation starters. When I see people totally oblivious to the world around them, holding onto that subway pole with one hand while they clutch their book in the other, I just have to know WHAT the heck they are reading. Try doing that with an e-reader. Not gonna happen. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) But with a physical book, you can see the front cover with the title displayed. It’s like the book is begging you to tap the person and ask him or her “Is that book good?” (And yes, I’ve done that on many occasions.) In fact, I know a married couple who met while independently reading the same book in the park. One stopped to ask the other what part of the book they were up to, and voila! It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Could my soulmate possibly be out there reading one of my favorite books right now… just waiting for me to approach him? Sigh, one can only hope.

            And what about bookstores and libraries? Again, it’s a social thing. Browsing through the shelves, I never know whom I’m going to meet and what book they’re going to tell me about that I will absolutely LOVE. That is NEVER going to happen with an e-reader. Sure, I can read the user reviews on Amazon before purchasing my electronic copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” (I admit it’s in my e-reader… I was far too embarrassed to put that book on my shelf). But online reviews are not the same as having a live conversation with an actual human. It’s that personal interaction that is so often missing in today’s Internet world and I think books are a great way to bring us back together again.

            There’s also the debate as to whether we process information better on paper as opposed to on a screen, but I’m not sure I want to open that can of worms. That debate is probably best left to the science experts (which based on my past blog, It's Science... You're Not Supposed To Understand It, we all know I am not). However, I will say that my brain works better when I can touch the information I’m trying to process. I enjoy physically turning back the page if I think I missed something. Or using a pen or highlighter to note things. (I know you can do that on an e-reader but it is absolutely not the same). As an actor, I can’t learn my lines as well with an electronic copy of the play. I want to feel the physical pages.

            Look, I think e-readers have their time and place. I own one and I am more than happy to bring it with me on a long trip where I don’t want to lug twenty books in my suitcase. (I like to read A LOT on vacation.) And certain books do not need to be prominently displayed on my bookshelf either (case in point: “Fifty Shades of Grey”). But all things considered, I will always opt for a physical book. They look sexy and you can show the world that you do, in fact, have a hobby. Side note: it can make a great weapon if need be. Nothing like slamming someone upside the head with your hardcover copy of “The Joy Of Cooking” to show a troublemaker who’s boss! (Told ya I’d find a use for that cookbook.) Happy reading to all… (preferably) the old fashioned way!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Am Not A Hoarder… I Just Like To Collect Things

They say everything is all about perspective… heck, I say it all the time! But sometimes I wonder if I say it because I’m attempting to justify behaviors for which others are criticizing me.  I mean, is the old adage “You say to-MAY-to, I say to-MAH-to” just an excuse to do whatever the hell we want?

My friend has recently been staying with me, and has pointed out on numerous occasions that I am a hoarder. WHAT??? The first time he said it, I was in shock. Aren’t hoarders people that collect phone books, used tires, broken mason jars and are eventually found dead amongst their piles of junk? (Take a look at the infamous Collyer brothers if you don’t believe me:

As for me, I certainly like to collect my fair share of tchotchkes (non-Jews will probably use the term knick-knacks). I admittedly have a collection of shot glasses filled with sand from whatever beach is indicated on the glass. I personally think it’s cool:

And it’s arranged neatly on a bookshelf with photos of my loved ones. What’s wrong with that? Don’t ask my friend. He thinks it’s insane.

            He also complains about my apparent massive collection of pots and pans. Ummm… excuse me, but don’t you use your oven as storage for YOUR pots and pans? Isn’t that a thing? And given that my kitchen is ONE WALL of my living room, I don’t have the kind of space that someone with an eat-in kitchen would have. But I think this looks fairly presentable:

(And for any of you Negative Nancies out there, I did NOT clean before I took either of those photographs.) Next he says that I never cook, so why would I need all those pots and pans? I tell him that I WILL move into a bigger place someday where I will have adequate cabinets to replace my oven as a storage space. Truth be told, other than breakfast, I kind of hate cooking, but that doesn’t mean I can’t invite someone over to use my things and cook for me! Someone must have a burning desire to use my Krups food processor, don’t they? (Please let me know if you do… I will supply food.)

Then there’s my closet… I kind of have three. I have an armoire as well as a deep closet that has a double rod for maximum hanging potential. My friend Jilleyn once helped me organize my clothes and had two piles—one designated for Clothes-To-Keep, and the other designated for the trash a.k.a. How-The-Hell-Could-You-Wear-That clothes. In fact, she pulled out one shirt, held it up and commented, “Weren’t you wearing this in a photo with my husband in the 1990s?” Hmmm… maybe I do need to get rid of some of my garments. I have adult friends who were children in the 90s, after all. Might be time to move on. But as far as my UNDERgarments go, I stand strong in my belief that you can never EVER have enough underwear. I am a Victoria’s Secret gal through and through and if I want to change my panties three times a day just because I can, then why shouldn’t I? “Oh, I feel like wearing my I Heart Dogs undies… hmmm… let me pull those out of my drawer and try them on.” Doesn’t that sound fun? And if they all fit in my dresser (okay I have to really shove the drawer closed right after I do my laundry) then who the hell is he to say how many is TOO MANY?

Of course I saved the discussion of my beloved books for last. NO ONE and I mean NO ONE  f *cks with my precious books. Yeah, we live in the age of the Kindle and the e-reader, and I certainly own one and am more than happy to use it on vacation where I can store multiple books and not carry a brick’s worth of physical books in my suitcase.  That said, there is NOTHING like the feel of a real book. Some books are just beloved treasures that you want to hold onto forever—and I don’t mean stored on some electronic device. You want the ACTUAL book and you want to SEE it on your shelf. I have more than one copy of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen—my favorite book of all time and the entire set of Harry Potter books. Looking at them makes me smile at the memory of reading them for the first time:

Does that look messy to you? Me either. Okay, I confess I recently bought a book my acting teacher recommended about how to read plays. Well, my friend comes over to me and shows me the EXACT SAME BOOK already on my shelf. Oops, I guess I bought it twice. Maybe there is some room for improvement in my book buying compulsion. Or maybe it just means that the universe REALLY wants me to read the book!

I was reading an article where it said hoarding is when you can’t use the room in question for its intended purpose and you avoid having people over because you’re uncomfortable showing them how you live. Neither is true for me. I always have plenty of visible walking space AND I not only invite visitors over, they come to live with me when they are temporarily homeless (case in point with my current friend). My friend refers to my apartment as crowded, but many others have called my home “cozy”. But the friend in question fits everything he owns in one backpack, so perhaps I need to take what he says with a grain of salt. (Or perhaps I just need to show this friend the door and remind him not to let it hit him in the you-know-what on his way out!)

The bottom line is, don’t look out for me on an episode of “Hoarding: Buried Alive” on TLC anytime soon. This gal is strictly a pack rat and proud to be one!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

            What is it about the weather that brings out the crazy in everyone? (And yes, I am one of those crazies).  Let’s face it, weather is one of those things that is a topic of everyday conversation: “Oh I hope it doesn’t rain on Saturday and ruin my barbecue,” or “Do you think it’s going to be humid? I don’t want my hair to frizz,” (that’s me) or “If it’s too cold out, I’m going to cancel my plans and stay inside.” We are continually speculating on the weather and how it’s going to disrupt our lives. I get it. But what is it about a potentially big weather event that makes mass pandemonium erupt?

            I carefully observed the behavior of everyone around me with the latest storm of this past week. People were talking about it for days ahead of time… is the storm going to come? Is it going to be as bad as the weathermen predict? Is the storm going to miss us altogether? I even had a friend text me from Minnesota saying “Sounds like you are gonna get a ton of snow this week!” Really? Thank you for that newsflash. (Or perhaps he was gloating since it is currently warmer in Minneapolis than NYC.) Something about the weather just brings out the OCD in all of us. And it’s not like we can ever really tell what’s going on. The weathermen are like these mysterious creatures—I suspect they're actually aliens—who wave their magic wands over their green screens and tell us what’s happening. I think they use their wands to hypnotize us into believing their mumbo jumbo. There are times I wonder if the weather people use a Magic 8 Ball to forecast the weather. Can’t you imagine them sitting there asking the Magic 8 Ball, “Are we going to have two feet of snow?” And then they shake the Magic 8 Ball and the answer comes back, “Reply hazy, try again.” Yup, that sounds about right. Sounds like most of their weather predictions, truth be told.

            Besides the weather speculating, is the planning for the storm. My Jewish mother kept calling me every day and asking me to park my car in her garage so it doesn’t get buried in snow until April. (I respectfully declined her invitation.) Or what about everyone raiding the grocery stores buying out everything on the shelves? In the days leading up to the storm, stores were reporting being out of meat and all kinds of basic supplies. Come on, everyone! We are preparing for a one-day storm not the apocalypse! And especially for those of us that live in a city, it’s even easier. We really only need enough food for ONE day. There was no reason to think things wouldn’t be business as usual by the next day.

            I ventured out the day after the storm to walk dogs and I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of the sidewalks were shoveled and the roads were plowed. That is not always the case in my little Queens neighborhood. All the stores were open and the sun was actually shining. I witnessed many people trying to shovel out their cars. Most were struggling because as impatient New Yorkers, we assume that if we shovel a couple of times in the front of our car, we should be able to pull out. Not gonna happen. Personally, I’m in no rush to dig out. I’d rather wait a few more days for the sun to do its melting magic and make my digging a whole lot easier!

            I miss being a kid, when I didn’t worry about food preparation, power outages or my car getting stuck in a foot of snow. The only thing that mattered is whether or not I had a day off from school! SNOW DAY! I miss that. But on second thought, the adult version of a snow day ain’t so bad either. There are no classes to make up or homework to worry about. An adult snow day consists of sitting on the couch, eating popcorn and binge watching your favorite TV show. And the kicker is you get to do it with a nice glass of red wine to keep you warm. Let it snow!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

If The Present is a Gift, Then Why Do I Keep Trying To Return It?

            Actors are trained to be in the moment at all times. And yes, that’s as hard as it sounds. Try putting your attention on another person and being open to how they make you feel. Sometimes I want to run screaming like a banshee from the stage if I don’t like (or understand) what I see! But on the other hand, there is something so beautiful in connecting with another soul and expressing how they make you feel in that moment. And trust me, the moment will change in five seconds and you’ll feel something else. That’s what being present really is. Being open to moments as they happen and recognizing it can all turn on a dime.

            I’ve learned all too well that what is the primary focus for me as an actor, is often missing from my “real” life. In real life, people are anything BUT in the moment. Half the time, I’m not even sure if I’m on planet Earth. Well maybe my body is on Earth, but my mind (and my heart)… ugh, that’s a different story. I find too often that my mind is wandering off to parts unknown. Sometimes it goes to Worryville—the land where I WILL figure it out if I just keep thinking about it some more. Other days it goes to Fantasyland—well you can imagine what goes on there. I’m an accomplished writer walking the red carpet with my dream man at my side about to win some kind of award (Which one? Who cares? I’m WINNING something, okay?). Still at other times I’m in the land of Desperation—where I don’t think anything will ever work out for me. (Thankfully being the eternal optimist I am, I don’t visit there very often.) The bottom line is that I’m just not “in the moment” often enough.

            But that all changed for a day… a wonderful and magical day last weekend. I did a reading of my play, Elephants and Other Worldly Dilemmas, for a small group of invited guests and I really felt THERE. Like seriously THERE. Meaning I was present for the entire day. Ummm… that NEVER happens to me (as I’ve already stated). And particularly when I’m at the helm of anything artistic, it’s even harder for me to stay present to what’s going on. I’m generally all over the place, worrying about what has to happen when, and stressing about what could go wrong if things don’t happen when they’re supposed to. I often look back afterwards and everything is a whirlwind… a blur. I can’t really remember anything clearly. But on this remarkable day, I felt everything. Experienced everything. And LOVED all of it. And almost a week later, I still REMEMBER how amazing it felt. No blurs for me this time.

            Besides writing the piece, I am also in it, so that day I had to take on the function of writer, director, producer and actor. And it felt surprisingly okay. I was surrounded by gifted actors who are as generous as they are loving. The audience was made up of friends, clients (their human counterparts since my beloved fur babies wouldn’t really appreciate my show) and classmates… I felt so much love in that room. Maybe it was just my interpretation, being the warm and fuzzy gal that I am, but even if it was, I still felt it. For someone like me, who’s always trying to run in a million different directions simultaneously, to truly be only in one place at one time felt so freeing. And I never wanted it to end.

            And I can’t help but think that being present made everything go smoother, and the bumps that inevitably happened along the way seemed easier to deal with. Actors and audience members were late, snafus occurred during the show, people who I thought were coming didn’t, but I let it all roll off my back. I sat in the audience during the first half of the show and I actually ENJOYED myself. I don’t mean that in a gross, self-indulgent way. What I’m trying to say is that I enjoyed being in the audience, sitting next to two of my friends and taking in what was going on in front of me and feeling so damn proud of my actors. And then when it came time for me to take the stage, it felt equally joyful. Whether or not my performance was the best it could’ve been, I don’t know. And quite frankly, I don’t care. I had fun, and I felt blessed to be working with two wonderful actors who I respect and admire greatly.

            Having such a… dare I say it, PERFECT day made me start wondering about the word “present”. It literally means something which is occurring now. But the word “present” also signifies a gift… something we give to someone. Well last weekend, I think my experience incorporated both definitions. Because being in the present is the best gift anyone could give me. And this time, I plan on keeping it!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Love/Hate Relationship With Exercise

            Truth be told, it’s mostly hate. Oh, before you judge, you should know that I was one of those twenty-somethings who used to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym before then working my 9-5 job on Wall Street. Ah, the good old days… waking up at 4:45 a.m. in my tiny Hell’s Kitchen apartment to throw on my gym clothes and walk to Times Square where I waited outside the old Army recruiting station for the Broadway bus to take me downtown. (It was the 90s, folks, and getting on the subway at 5:00 a.m. seemed terrifying to me. Or I was just a wuss.) I felt so powerful and proud… awake and on-the-go while most of NYC was quiet and sleepy. These days, the only thing I do at 5:00 a.m. is head to the bathroom for my early morning pee before going right back to sleep!

            Something has definitely changed over the years with my former love of exercising. Now that I’m on an eating program aka Weight Watchers (, exercise has become a part of my regular routine again. And even though I’ve tried to convince myself I was enjoying it and getting into it… I’m NOT. I do NOT like it… at ALL. I’m sorry but I don’t want to stand next to some sweaty, stinky person on the elliptical as they frantically pedal away to some imagined destination in their head. Guess what pal… all the pedaling in the world ain’t gonna get you to the Bahamas. I equally dislike getting on the treadmill and glancing over at someone who’s already been on there for over AN HOUR – ever hear of the law of diminishing returns? If you want a long run, try running outside… or better yet, don’t eat that piece of chocolate mousse cake the night before so you don’t have to feel guilted into running for three hours to burn it off! Seriously. Or what about the exercise classes? At least those offer an alternative to the monotonous routine of the equipment. True, but usually the music is so abominable that I cannot get into it. Who wants to work out to an even more pumped up version of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”? Not me. (And yes, an instructor was playing that song yesterday during one of her classes.)

            I think we’ve all become obsessed with exercising to a point where it’s not even healthy – at least mentally anyway. As already evidenced, I’m not currently obsessed, but I used to be. I would go to the gym even if I had a fever and was hacking up a lung. I was literally addicted to exercising. I’ve decided I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I would rather find alternate ways of exercising that I actually enjoy.

            What about dog walking? After all, I am a dog walker. You say “But dog walking is so slow. How can you really feel a burn with that?” Point is, you don’t. But when you do seven walks in one day, trust me that there is some kind of burn by the end of it! And I was in the best shape of my life to boot. These days, I don’t do as many walks, but it’s still a good way to keep my body (and my metabolism) moving. And I get to spend time with fur babies. Hello! We all know how much I love to do that.

            And of course there’s hiking. I LOVE hiking. I’ve climbed mountains in other countries, as well as this one, and it never gets old. And it is HARD work. I once laid down on Mt. Olympus in Greece and cried because I didn’t think I could go any further. (Thankfully, I was wrong.) Even if there is no mountain involved, hiking gives me a natural high and certainly gets my blood pumping.  And in the summer, you can find great places to go hiking AND swimming!

            And then there’s running… I’ve had a lifelong love affair with running. Although I could barely run a mile in high school, I have since changed my ways. Admittedly I don’t enjoy running on a treadmill, but I absolutely adore running outside for many of the same reasons I love hiking. There’s always something to look at and keep your attention away from any pain you might be feeling. With hiking you get to look at the wonders of nature, and with running I get to look at the wonders of NYC and there is a lot to wonder at, very often in the most humorous of ways. I used to do a six-mile run in Central Park and it was one of the favorite parts of my day. I didn’t really feel like I was exercising. Running can be euphoric for me… the “runner’s high” really is a thing. I’ve had some amazing conversations and heart to heart talks while running with my pals. (Yes, I’m talking about you Michele!) It can almost be a spiritual experience.

And that’s kind of where I’m at now… trying to find ways to exercise where I forget I’m exercising. So maybe that means I need to go find some 80s music night at a club and dance, dance, dance! (Dancing is yet another thing I get overjoyed about.) Or try roller blading (yes my nerdy self owns a pair of roller blades) on Saturday or Sunday afternoons in Central Park where they still do a roller disco party ( It’s been going on for over twenty years and it’s super fun. And yes, great exercise.

And all this being said, I know that I still have to do some of my exercising at a gym or in a classroom. I recently purchased a yoga mat for that purpose and am looking forward to giving that a whirl. But for any of you folks out there who feel like me and want to take the work out of their workout… spring is around the corner. Let’s get outdoors and find creative ways to find the love in our exercise routines. Look for me in Central Park – I’ll be the one taking breaks to pet dogs. FYI,  that's my version of interval training...