Missing A Friend

A follower of mine asked why I haven’t mentioned Camille.

We had a fight, that’s why.

I want to say it was stupid, and all my fault, but it’s not how I feel.

It involved a man we know, in my estimation, she treated rather ruthlessly.

I try as a rule not to judge, a skill well-honed, but sometimes when circumstances seem  profound there really isn’t much choice in the matter…especially if it involves someone you’ve known for 40 years.

Mike, I’ll call him, is a man in his early 70s…in great shape…financially secure, who lost his wife after 35 years.

We knew them both since they were well-known art directors in our field.

Maggie, I’ll call her, wasn’t even cold yet when Camille pounced like a puma.

Mike, shell-shocked, welcomed what I felt were her inappropriate intentions.

He went from widower to wealthy man on-the-town with a redhead on his arm without passing go.

I kept saying, “But Camille, he hasn’t properly mourned yet.”

“He’s old…there’s no time Susannah…do the math.”

My heart ached because I knew it was all about the money.

They shopped and traveled, ran up lavish hotel bills. He even bought her a sable coat she’s been eying for a year.

I know my friend…all this is great until even the crisp sound of a 100 dollar bill will bore her to tears, causing her to chill like a bottle of Tats in the back of the fridge.

Mike called one day asking if I had heard from Camille. He was waiting at the Ritz Carlton bar for over an hour and she had yet to show.

I knew she had met some pilot when she went to Palm Beach to do something for Neimans, my heart wincing not having the heart to tell him.

When I approached her she got mad, telling me to mind my own business…I clearly didn’t understand their arrangement. Obviously neither did Mike who she just dropped like a glove on a railroad platform.

That was three months ago.

I miss her…but can’t pick up the phone.


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Why They Call It Recovery

images The proper definition of recovery is…a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength which says it in a nutshell.

I often allude to 12 Step programs…borrowing slogans, chanting their rhetoric mainly because it’s helped me so.

I went into Al-Anon, the program for those affected by the aftermath of alcohol, in 2006. I was in a tempestuous relationship with an alcoholic I desperately needed to get away from. It gave me the strength to ultimately do so.

But what I had learned almost immediately, was he was merely a symptom of a disease I suffered from my whole life. My parents were alcoholics, one of the reasons I was always drawn to drunks since it felt so familiar. It’s what I knew. I should have walked through those doors 20 years earlier, but as they say…you get there when you get there.

They call it recovery because you need to recover what is yours…what was stolen…what you never thought you even deserved in the first place. You spent your life trying to just survive the chaos and panic you were forced into by the illness of alcoholism.

It’s the first thing you learn, it’s a sickness not any different from cancer or heart disease.

I never realized how unwell my dad was, inheriting his addiction from his father who got it from his. I was angry he died at 40, his liver giving out, never really knowing him as a steady presence in my life. 12 Step changed all that…pried my rusted heart wide open.

And my mother who, when she drank, beat me senseless the reason I truly believe I lost my hearing. Seven doctors had no explanation to why, out of nowhere, this should happen. Usually hearing loss is gradual…for me it was like a light going out. All those punches in the head against the black and white tiles of our bathroom floor where she’d knock me silly, only to wake up, as she beat me more.

Forgiving her is a horse of a different color, yet I have. She was a sick lady fully charged under the evil influence of alcohol.

But the good news is…we still recover if willing…it takes time and patience, but we do.

We lay down our arms replacing them with forgiveness for those who couldn’t help themselves.

It’s said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I say, what doesn’t kill you opens your heart.

By living one day at a time, where my feet are, doing the next right thing…I’m able to enjoy life in a way I never knew was possible recovering, what was always truly mine.


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Bill Hicks 2014

Bill-Hicks-001  Like Jackie and Yoko, I like celebrating Bill’s birthday rather than the day he died. A man’s life, after all, is what should be remembered.

I always try to recall an anecdote about him revealing what I know. The word reveal reminding me of his Revelations Tour he embarked on before we met.

I read something recently for the first time that made me sigh. In 1994, as he lay dying at his parent’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas he apparently said, “We’ll all laugh together again…in heaven.”

Made me think of the many times he made me roll on the floor whether it was on stage or snuggled in bed. The random things striking him funny, passed on to me.

Back then I was so serious caring only about…does he think I’m hot…does he think I’m sexy? Am I prettier than all those other girls?

You have to be alive a half century before you get, your ego is your own worst enemy and how it wildly, wastes your time.

Bill knew that at such a tender age which allowed him to plow through anything standing in his way.

People think it was always so easy for him…but it isn’t true…he had his trials…his critics. There isn’t a comedian on earth, or off of it, who hasn’t suffered for his art.

I heard someone say how Louis CK was an overnight sensation. I can promise you, he’d beg to differ.

Bill was one of the few people who told me I was smart.

“Me smart? Come on.”

“Ya think a’d waste ma time with sum clueless bimbo? I’m a busa guy bay-ba.”

There I’d be in all my shallow glory, wondering, did he mean that?

The things he loved about me were funny to me then. That I liked to read and watch multiple movies. I preferred to walk than take cabs. I could sit in a club watching him do three shows in a row happier than I’ve ever been, just for the privilege.

We were in Montreal for their annual comedy festival where the women came out in droves…gifts, notes, flowers, food…panties sprayed with…I’d get mad and say insecticide…shoved in cards and Playboy magazines.

One woman the size of a sequoia walked right up to him, grabbed him by the crotch and said, “How’s my sweet onion?”

I was aghast.

He swore he had never seen her before and naturally, wanting it to be true, believed him. But now, over 20 years later, know she was a coquette in his coterie of maids preceding me.

Bill, I always end my yearly essay talking directly to you.

It’s because of you I believe so strongly in energy, since so often feel you around. Could be anywhere…a place we went to, or a new one we had never been…when suddenly there’s a familiar warmth, like your arm just circled my waist.

You left the planet 22 years ago at 32 years of age…I’ve lived 28 years longer than that and there is never a day I don’t ask myself…


I can speak for many Bill when I say…we miss you.

Love, Susannah

Bill Hicks would have been 53 years-old today.



Posted in comedy, friendship, Gratitude, Health, humor, Love, New York City, women, writing | Tagged , , , , | 33 Comments

The Paneraettes

images Every morning when I venture into Panera for coffee, I’m greeted by the same group of sleepless people, for whatever their reasons happen to be.

Most of them are early workers by the looks of things, and then you have me.

Quite often you see us huddled under the awning waiting to be let in like hungry cats, first scurrying to our favorite booth to make camp for a peaceful half hour.

There’s the tall, African American girl who limps that works at Barnes & Noble. I always wonder, what does she do from the time she leaves at say, 6:45 till 9 o’clock when the store opens? None of us are really on chatty terms, so there’s no way of finding out. And the only reason I know she works there, is because I’ve seen her stacking books.

A pudgy Spanish guy is another regular who always waves to me from across the room. He’s the one who taught me how to use the microwave.

Hortense and Phylis are two women of color who work on Park and 84th. I’ve seen them enter the building on my way home. I only know their names because quite often they’re called out on their breakfast orders as they sit, eating like queens, without ever taking off their coats.

Mustn’t forget the African night watchman who wiggles his legs like Ike Turner. Must be some kind of nervous twitch, or else he’s just jiving as he waits in line. He likes Hortense, flirting with her by the Dark Roast Decaffeinated. He smiles at me I’m sure because he knows I’ve noticed, there’s a little early morning spark in the air.

Behind me, is a bespectacled guy about 35 fingering his wedding band with a look on his face as if to say…boy, I’m gonna kill her one day.

Behind him is a very short redhead drinking a pumpkin latte the width of a soup pot wafting under everyone’s nose. That’s the thing about Panera, they give you a lot for your buck, as well as pumpkin.

I’ve grown especially fond of some of the workers. Not all of them, since we do have  a touch of attitude here and there, like when Cassie refuses to wait on you until she gets her lip line just right. Me being of glamorous origins, tries to understand this even though, if I don’t get coffee soon, I’m just going to lean over and break that fucking pencil.

My hero though is Audrey who, at 3o years of age, is the mother of two little girls she self-supports with the sunniest smile on her face when she speaks of them. Puts me to shame since other than myself, I can’t manage to take care of a cat.

I always say how comforting ritual is, even if it’s this mundane. To sit in a vast diner reminiscent of Route 66 amid familiar faces you only see there, is a blessing.

It’s grounding, steadying you for the day.

There’s never a time I emerge without feeling fortified and fond of all that rests around me.

If one of them is missing or doesn’t show, I find myself wondering, did Phylis miss her train? Is one of Audrey’s girls sick?

And where the hell is Cassie…did she run back home to get her lip pencil maybe?



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Lights Camera Aspirin

images-1 I’m here with severe leg cramps courtesy of Prednisone packing her bags. I can’t say I’m sorry I’m no longer taking it, just sorry she has to go out with such a bang.

Modern medicine…there is that downside.

I don’t mind being awakened liking to write in the wee hours. There’s such a peace in it when all you have as company is an occasional taxi whooshing by.

What I do mind this particular night is it disturbed the dream I was having.

It was spring as far as I could tell having so little on. I was walking where there were mighty trees flanking me on all sides. I was happy in this dream till suddenly the ground started to shake and out popped my mother in a shirtwaist and apron holding a platter of some food I couldn’t identify. It was probably my father, over-light. Damn that Prednisone. I went from the Rainforest to hell without passing go.

This is when a kitty to talk to would be a nice thing to have. Cats always get up when you do since they are true opportunists. They just never know if a fish may be in their future. I remember Missy, my last cat, would follow me into the bathroom blinking when I turned on the light. She’d sit at my feet while I half consciously peed, trailing me back to bed fish or no fish. I must say I miss that feline camaraderie more than I can say.

Yes I know…Susannah it’s time you make that little trip to the pound.


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Carmela Watch

get-attachment-4Her Beyonce look.

December is passing quickly.

I still don’t know what will happen to my best basset hound friend. As you know Carmela and her family are moving. I stopped asking where. Every time I did, there was a new possible location. One minute it was near, the next much too far.

My anxiety level would launch itself like a rocket.

She still manages to make me laugh, even though when I see her, my heart’s heavy.

On Sunday her parents are home alone. They have no help consisting of a cook, a houseman and three maids. I know, one day a week must feel like they’re slumming.

It was around 11:20 when I quietly opened the gate leading me into the yard. I looked into the kitchen window to see if anyone was awake. They know I’m coming, but quite often make me wait till they decide to get up. For the privilege of being with Carmela, I tolerate this.

As I’m peering into the window, suddenly, who comes dashing out the kitchen door like a fat calf at a rodeo but Carmela…so happy to see me, jumping, knocking me down. There I was sprawled on the step with her happily in my lap licking my face, going into my pockets. She’s so smart knowing where the cookies are.

I feel sad for her parents even though I know, the last thing they’re concerned about is me. They just are not very considerate people by nature and I feel, this abrupt removal is simply reaping what they sadly sow.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to believe in karma.

But it’s the holidays, and the fact that rather than hosting and celebrating, they’ll be packing and moving is really an unfortunate thing.

They’re Argentinians after all who are very big on Christmas.

Come what may, I will stand vigil no matter what happens on behalf of my girl.




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Wolf Is That You At The Door?

images I am so broke finding myself drowning once again in medical bills.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in, if I may quote Al Pacino in Godfather 3.

If only doctors were as good with service as they are with their billing. I am still, after five weeks, waiting for the results of a test. I’ve called, emailed…even pestered the lab who, with a mouthful of lunch said, “I’m not allowed to say.” How’s that egg salad by the way, asshole?

Last month my crown fell out…no, not off, though God knows what that would have cost since I do don a tiara now and then (a joke), and though he was able to glue it back on, I still owed him 75 bucks, already paying 25. I received three bills in one month…3. I called there and said, “Tell me something, is Dr. Levine going under? Are they repossessing his X-Ray machine? Why on earth am I getting so many bills?”

“Hmm, I don’t know,” a woman said, “and billing’s out to lunch.”

“They certainly are.”

The thing about me is, I pay everything…eventually. If I could I’d pay it all up front, but money doesn’t pour in like in the old days at 300 bucks an hour minus a modest agent’s fee. Now it’s, if you hire me I’ll paint and mow the lawn.

The upside of course is my credit. I could buy Nebraska it’s so good.

What happened to the days when you could sell blood on a monthly basis for ten bucks a quart. Now you get Orangina, a couple Lorna Doones and some fat woman saying, “Can you walk yet honey?”

I have nothing else to sell except for my shearling coat my ex gave me. I’m not a fur wearer, but it’s so, so beautiful. Like having sheep in the closet. And the day it was given to me was a great one. My friend Nancy was still on the planet opening up a bottle of Tattingers to celebrate me finally finding a nice, generous man.

She didn’t live long enough to watch him turn into Hannibal Lecter, but her moment of optimism is still felt.

Wonder what I could get for my crown? I bet billing would know.

There is my Monticello piggy bank.


Posted in animals, Cinema, Health, humor, media, money, New York City | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Right To Say No

images-1It was Thanksgiving Eve when I received an email from an acquaintance pleading with me to come to dinner.

He had already asked a few weeks ago when I politely declined.

I’m having 8 people, and one’s just cancelled. I need you, or my table will be ruined.

This is hard for me but I’ll explain, why I had no desire to go.

I can’t hear.

When I’m in a group, in a room even medium sized, it’s as if I’m sitting in the center of a big bee hive. It actually hurts my ears to strain and listen to sounds so foreign to me now.

I’ve told him this on more than one occasion, but it seems to elude him as if I’m just telling tall tales. I realize, unless you’ve had the experience of sitting in the wilderness, it is hard to comprehend what it’s like, but that’s as magnanimous as I’ll get.

I don’t know why I was stricken with hearing loss, but what I’ve learned to do these past 2 years, is to accept it and not push against the reality since it makes it all the more painful.

Things happen to people. We get sick…go through treatment hoping to come out the other side, and thank God, many of us do. How many women do I know who battled breast cancer…lost their hair…lost their minds, and are now healthy, and even able to talk about it.

There’s the group of course who didn’t make it….Bill Hicks at 32…my friend Nancy…55.

I’m one of the luckier ones. My affliction is very specific…localized in its own little sphere. I can still do everything, except maybe participate at an intimate dinner party, contributing comfortably.

Illness educates. It tells you what’s important and what isn’t. And an empty seat at someone’s annual holiday table does not make the cut.

The following morning, I received another email from this fellow, this time berating me for my selfishness. How I couldn’t see past myself to help him when he was in need.

Let me just say once again, how lucky we are I don’t own a gun since my ire went up like a Bunsen burner.

We have a right to say no…it’s a complete sentence.

Don’t wait for illness to teach you this lesson.

Choosing oneself over the random needs of others should come under The Bill of Rights, and no one should ever try to shame you for doing what’s best for you.


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Who Wants A Hot Dog?

papaya3.big_-506x380 There’s a reason I don’t carry cash.

It’s because I spend it.

If I go by a Love Store and they’re having a sale on Gleem, I come out with 8 tubes. The fruit vendor suddenly starts looking good to me as I load up on apples and bananas. And don’t let me near Macys when they’re having a triple coupon day.

My wallet empties like it’s got a slow leak.

So where do hot dogs come in?

It started when I was reading Kitchen Confidential where Bourdain mentions The Papaya King on 72nd and Broadway, famous for their franks.

I don’t as a rule eat hot dogs, but they were on my mind in a big way on Saturday afternoon. Nothing like a first-class foodie to woo you into a bun.

It was raining but warm, taking a stroll to the West Side under the pretense of going to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy Swiffer refills. Had a crisp 20 in my Barbour pocket feeling like I was headed for the slots…and I was, just in the shape of a sausage.

When I found myself on the Papaya’a corner, it started to pour. Its narrow walls were now packed with people trying to stay dry. What was of particular interest to me, was they were mostly homeless with the exception of one guy in a suit, and a woman with a little boy screaming for a hot dog.

A portly Mexican comes out from behind the counter shaking his head saying, “No, you moost leeeve Pa-yi-a King,” to the group of vagabonds, as my dear mother would have called them, who were now occupying all the stools.

“Peeing coo-stu-mers oonly.”

The kid is still screaming.

No one at this point is a peeing customer. Not me, not the suit and certainly not Wheezer who by now deserves a good smack.

I watch the 4 homeless men gather their plastic bags heading for the door.

“Wait a minute,” I say, so loud I scare myself, “who wants a hot dog?”

Of course Wheezer was the first responder. Out came that cash I really shouldn’t have had while 7 wieners slipped elegantly into their buns like mink stoles causing the Mexican to take pause

“Moosterd, rolish?”  I said, playing hostess (would you believe he didn’t laugh at my grand imitation of him).

I even bought the suit one who could have easily picked up the tab.

Oh, I just didn’t care.

I felt like a soggy saint as the sky continued to open, that 20 disappearing into the ethers forever.



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Cat Rescue And Destroy

images I was in Petco, Manhattan’s favorite pet store, buying cookies for Carmela, my basset hound friend. They have a biscuit bar where for a nominal fee you can mix and match treats for your four-legged lady.

What possessed me to tool on down to animals for sale will remain a mystery. I passed turtles and parakeets, gerbils and mice…lizards, snakes, even a parrot named Bertha.

But then came….cat adoption.

I found myself eye to eye with a 7 month-old tiger kitty named Sam, his little nose sticking out of the cage like an Eskimo’s.

Did he just smile or is my sugar dropping? “So, I was wondering there lady…wanna have a cuppa coffee with me? I’ll treat.”

Okay, just like Joan of Arc, or Bark, in my case, I heard voices. To say I was charmed was an understatement.

Let me remind you, in less than a month Carmela will be gone and I’ll probably never see her again. The truth of this brings me to my knees. For the past 8 months I’ve loved something that has brought me more joy than I can say…the loss of it will be hard.

Joey the doorman suggested I start stepping back to loosen my attachment, but I said no Joe, I’ll be there till the end standing on the curb as they pull away…heartbroken, but I know in time, I’ll get over it since, that’s what we’re designed to do. Heal, mend, press on like the soldiers we are.

But back to Sam and me.

I asked what the deal was adoption wise. A nice guy named Bill said, “Well, first they come inspect your home to make sure you’re worthy of this little guy, and if all goes well…he’s yours.”

My heart leapt. As far as I was concerned, it was a done deal. But then said, “Is there a fee?”

“Oh yes, I forgot…150 dollars.”

My euphoria folded like a pup tent.

“Excuse me? Did you say 150 dollars?”

He did. I can’t afford to pay my union dues this month…they need to go on a credit card…my medical bills wink like shifty whores from all corners of my desk. I’ve been eating lots of pasta lately because it’s cheap.

150 dollars?

I suddenly hated Petco. He explained, it wasn’t them. It’s a private organization called Angelica’s something or other that operates from the store. He suggested I email her, see what she has to say.

Now I don’t want to boast, but any critter who comes home with me has hit Lotto. I’m the quintessential, over-the-top, can I get you a blanket and cigar, type of pet owner. I’d give Carmela a full Swedish massage, if she’d let me.

So I leave Sam, telling him not to worry…to go home to email his, we’ll call sponsor.

In seconds I get a reply.

“Sorry, that’s our fee. If it’s not to your liking, go to the pound.”

For a New Yorker who’s seen everything, I was cyberly speechless.

Not even a dialogue let alone a negotiation. I’m thinking, but I’ll give him the greatest home…isn’t that the point…to get him a home?

Clearly not.

I’m told by my friend Mary, who rescues, that’s cheap…standard…it keeps them in business, but it still felt shoddy to me. I know rescuers, when they get a live one, they’re at your door before you can say…did I say that?

I sat very still wanting so much to lambast her, but didn’t. I thought, Sam’s sweet, and he will get a home unlike the 1000s of cats who get put down every day all across the world.

I started to cry.

The good news is, I realize I’m ready to love an animal again, and not just Saturdays and Sundays for an hour.

When Carm goes, I will fill that gaping hole she will leave with a Sam…

I just haven’t met the right one yet…but I will…

I know I will.



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