Best Story of the Week…January 16th

It’s twilight as I make my way home after a putting in a pretty long day.

A guy coming the other way waves and says, “Someone is calling you.”

I turn, and there’s another guy, a real cutie, bundled in a peacoat and watch cap, walking a Golden Retriever.

My girl pops out when I stop and purr, “Can I help you with something?” And he says, “Well not me, but my dog has something for you.”

Unbeknownst to me, I had dropped a glove that Addie, though proud of her catch, is nice enough to return.

Oh well, at least my girl got out for a quick spin.  🙂


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Good Copy

I’m sitting in a cafe writing on a legal pad, when I notice a well-heeled woman staring at me from across the room.

Do I know her from somewhere, I wonder, my memory lately doing the hula.

She starts walking over.

An attractive woman, in her 50s, with jet black hair in a sprayed flip, cascading over a little too much cleavage for 4 in the afternoon. I can’t see what she’s wearing beneath what looks like, a full length beaver coat. I do notice she has on Tod loafers that gleam in the pre-evening light.

“Excuse me,” she says, genuinely apologetic for disturbing me. “I really need to ask you something.”

My essay light pops on as I smile and say, “We haven’t met before, right?”

“No,” she says, looking around like Mata Hari. “I have to go to a party and we’re all supposed to come as someone famous. After seeing you come in, I thought I could go as Audrey.”

I’m speechless, because the whole thing is a bit bizarre, even for me, plus the last person she resembles is Audrey Hepburn.

“Tell me where to go get what you’re wearing,” she says, now sitting across from me.

“Well, I’m only wearing tights and a turtleneck, and flats. Certainly you must have them in your closet.”

This woman looks as if she has 40 closets. You can tell. Her coat alone could pay my rent for a year.

“I don’t. I never wear black for starters. Too funereal. And my butt is just too big for leotards.”

“Then, maybe Audrey is not the best choice,” I say tactfully, ignoring the funeral remark. “Why not go as Marilyn, or how bout Ava. You could pull off a great Ava Gardner.”

Now I’m into it, her new costume ball fashion consultant.

She thinks about this for a second. “I could get my guy to do my hair like hers. Could bring him a picture.”

“Yeah, and you can go to Sephora maybe and get your make-up done, like a 40’s siren.”

“What else do you know?”

That she always wore tight, tight pants, like all the matadors she slept with.”

“She did?”

“Yeah, she was a very sexy lady. She was married to Sinatra remember.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot that.”

After Adrianne and I decide her 20 ply white cashmere Oscar de La Renta sweater will be perfect with skinny leopard pants and hot pink mules, she thanks me, kisses me, then…

picks up my check.     Unknown.jpeg

Only in New York folks.

🙂  SB


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Cheap Cheap

No, this is not about chickens with a typo.

I ran into a fella I hadn’t seen as I was coming out of Barnes and Noble, who seemed initially, very happy to see me.

After a pleasantry or two, he says, “I can’t believe you still spend all that money on fuckin’ Christmas cards.”

A direct quote.

I don’t need to tell you he doesn’t send them.

I keep my Connecticut intact admitting, yes I do, guilty as charged, and they’re beautiful to boot, as he knows, being a recipient.

None of these, just had it layin’ around so I’ll force myself to use a stamp, cards for me. To defend it further, it’s a lovely, traditional practice I wish was still in common play.

After I tip-toe around his snark remark, he asks, why I’m in Barnes and Noble so early.

I pause, knowing if I tell him, he’ll lose his mind, but my inner prankster says, play with his parsimony why don’t you Susannah, take Fred Mertz out for a ride.

“Since you’ve asked, I just bought my Christmas cards for next year, half price.”

What a photo-op sadly missed when he says, “That’s a joke, right?”

I pull out three boxes…Santa, angels, and a polar bear ice skating.

He looks as though he was hit over the head. I smile my best, I like ya, even if you can be a bit of an asshole smile, kissing him, French style, on both cheeks.

Take good care Fred.

No I didn’t say that, and just to annoy him, he’ll get a card, maybe even two, next year.




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A Little Tenderness

I’m in Starbucks crying, the happiness I promised myself nowhere to be found.

While huddled in a corner wrapped in layers of wool, wondering if spring will ever come again, a baby in the tiniest red hoodie, toddles over to hand me a napkin.

He looks at me like an angel on duty, eyes big and round.

When I look to his mom, she shrugs and says, “I had nothing to do with it. He’s very sensitive, and has been, even when I carried him. He never kicked, came into being easily, like he did it all before. His dad calls him, our little, old soul.”

All this time he’s standing by me, eyes big and round, waiting for me to trade my tears for hope, or at the very least, a smile.  images.jpeg


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Adverbs, Vonnegut and Me

Kurt Vonnegut loathed adverbs (a noun, word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group), slaying them at every turn, making me aware how often I use them.

That LY you don’t really need is like wearing too many jewels with your little black dress.

It’s hard to appreciate its elegance drenched in all that bling.

And LY has a slew of cousins that if you’re not careful, will move right in.

She has ALMOST finished

She is running VERY late.

She is walking TOO slow.

Of course, using one now and then is okay, since it may just be part of your charm, but I now see what an adverb junkie I totally am, by nature.

Hemingway, the king of clean prose, rarely used them. I’m rereading Movable Feast and halfway through, have come across one.

He did say, when beginning a piece, write the first true sentence you know, a tip I take to heart.

This all started with a series I discovered called, The Last Interview, and Other Conversations, a collection of writer’s last words.

They’re wonderful…short, poignant, insightful, as if Kurt and Ernest and a host of others, are sitting in your living room expressing how they felt about things.

Chewing the fat, just for you.

Hunter Thompson was another interview I liked. He said, the secret of good writing lies in good notes. As much as I absorb detail, I rarely write it down, never seeming to have a notebook handy, hoping I’ll just remember.

Nora Ephron, in the series said, whatever you’re writing has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

That’s my idea of true success, when you can inspire from the ether.

What’s that Mr. Vonnegut? I haven’t snuck in that many adverbs?

I GLADLY would have, but I’m CAREFULLY and a bit AWKWARDLY trying to write, JUST like you.

Fat chance, I know.   images.jpeg

But a girl can dream.



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Raccoon Run

For two weeks I’ve changed my rhythms, going out to run at 5. It helped me get through the holidays that turned into a John Waters Christmas. All I needed was Divine to come back from the dead escorting my mother.

The park is pitch black at that hour, lit only by its lamp posts giving off just enough light to keep you on your route.

Only a handful of runners are out, along with a colony of raccoons, heading home.

Usually they skedaddle when they see you, but this hasn’t been the case with me. They tool on by as if to say…this is early, even for you.

I of course respect their territory, politely stopping to let them pass. One had his paws filled with contraband lifted from one of the trash bins.

When you see a lot of trash on the ground, it’s not from sloppy park-goers, but the coons who pick and choose what they’d like, forgetting to put the rejects back in the can.

They’re young, many of them, and I’m sure like all kids, have messy rooms.

They’re also shy creatures, another reason they prefer night to day, something we can all relate to.

Sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the outside world.

People think when you happen to glimpse one at dawn, he’s diseased, but not necessarily. He’s just late, missing curfew…again. You can tell because they run faster, hoping mom doesn’t catch them.

I always picture the mother pacing up and down in the tree half worried, half pissed, sending him to that messy room.

You’re grounded for a week Rocky, or in his case, tree-ed till you can learn to respect the rules.

I’ll end with a story my friend Anthony, who has a cabin upstate, told me.

He had a dresser on his porch he was planning on stripping and refinishing that had several drawers. Every morning he’d get up to find them scattered across the yard.

He finally stayed up to catch whoever it was, and sure enough, a raccoon, the size of Pittsburgh, tooled up the steps opening each one to see if he’d find anything interesting.

Anthony, a big nature lover, was so charmed, he just sat and watched.

The next night when Mr. Raccoon came, he found the drawers filled with a buffet of canned goods.

Don’t you know he made several trips, and left the drawers alone.

How I love that story.     




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A Gentleman Caller

It’s around 3 A.M. when I get up to write, a habit of mine if I can’t sleep. I don’t feel lonely often, but for the past few days I’ve had a yearning I can’t seem to quench.

It happens.

After making coffee, I empty the grounds into a plastic bag to leave outside my door to not forget when I go for my run.

When I open it, who’s sprawled on Mimi’s welcome mat that’s still in front of her door, but Patrick, the cat.

Mimi was our dear neighbor and friend who passed away a while ago, who adored Patrick and would leave him treats, something he clearly remembers.

Pat and I look at each other, and realize what my yearning is all about.

I miss Mimi too.

I creep across the hall in my pjs, picking Patrick up, purring like a motor boat, as a tear slides down my face.

I invite him in for a bowl of milk he accepts, as my gloom takes flight.

God speaks in many languages, doesn’t he, using whatever creature he has on hand.


This is my 2000th blog essay, dedicated to…

Eugenie “Mimi” O’Hagen (1930-2018)


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A New Year’s Promise

I find when I call changes I’d like to make in the coming year, resolutions, they never pan out.

But a promise, after all, is a promise, even if it’s only to yourself.

I’ve decided, I’m going to be happier.

To quote Abraham Lincoln…

Most people are as about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

I find this a very practical point of view and glad Abe and I conferred. When you meditate, by the way, you never know who’ll pop up.

I’ve always had a melancholy chord, an F-sharp if you will, that has never left me. It’s why many people, places and things affect me so much.

My heart is like flypaper.

And so was Abe’s, by the way. I know what you’re thinking. Here comes another history lesson.

You’re right, since, Abe was melancholy too.

His mom died when he was very young, left with a dad not exactly the Mike Brady of men, who actually rented Abe out as a worker profiting from his brawn.

I love the word brawn, meaning, physical strength. Abe was 6’4 after all, and became, among other things, our tallest President.

One of the things he always remembered was seeing a slave auction, watching families being sold, separated for life, like faceless cattle, an image that never left him.

If you look at pictures of him, it’s hard to believe he was only 56 when he was shot on Good Friday, 1865, dying four days later.

His heart must have been the size of the whole state of Illinois, his final resting place. But despite a sad, sensitive demeanor, he always kept his sense of humor, telling stories, or yarns as they were called in his day.

His attempt to cheer Mary, his wife, who we now think was bipolar, her erratic behavior a mystery in their day, was an ongoing tribute to his tender, tireless vigilance.

So, on the eve of a brand new decade, on behalf of Abe, who’s better angels were cut short in mid flight, I’ve made up my mind to be happy, because if Mr. Lincoln, with all he had on his mind could, well, so can I.  images-1.jpeg

Happy New Year everyone!


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Men Who Shed

I’ve met the Dom Deluise of dogs with a matching owner.

A Saint Bernard named Benny with a tongue that could stretch to Pittsburgh, and a coat, coating the park like white and brown confetti, is loping alongside me.

You know how they say, dogs and their owners resemble one another?

It’s pretty uncanny in this case. They are both huge with no common grace whatsoever, clumsy, tripping over paws and feet as if they have spares, like tires you keep in the trunk.

The only Saint Bernard I’ve ever known was Neil, on the TV show Topper, so when I mention this to Dom’s dad, he shrugs though he’s age appropriate to remember.

When I add that Neil drank martinis, he gets defensive. “Yeah, so, he took a nip now and then, so what?”

Not normally speechless, I decide to let it pass, especially after noticing the amount of dandruff floating off his collar.

Dom, whose real name is, Skipper (perhaps dad is a Gilligan’s Island fan) is now slobbering all over my Nikes like a portable fountain, as I think how nice it would be if dogs could carry handkerchiefs.

I then look into those big syrupy brown eyes and say, “Skipper, or is it Skip…


As they stumble away, I hear Dom Deluise whisper from the ether…

Susannah, behave, he’s only a dog. As for his owner, why not suggest a little Head and Shoulders, couldn’t hurt.


images-1.jpeg SB

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Best Story of the week…December 26th

I’m on the train coming back from therapy.

The car is snailing back uptown with very little chatter. It’s Christmas Eve, so the solemnity seems apt, like everybody’s waiting for a savior to be born.

That damned Catholicism of mine kicks up like the Santa Ana winds, so I too feel something is coming.

A little girl gets on at Fulton, with angel wings pinned to her jacket. Her hair is braided with silver ribbons, while a halo of Aluminum foil graces her head.

There are plenty of seats, but she and her mom prefer to stand looking out as the train turtles along.

She whispers something to her mother before taking out a Tupperware container from her Hello Kitty backpack, she expertly flips open, proceeding to offer cookies to everyone on the car.

People are saying no thanks thinking they’re for sale. However, when she gets to me I take one, after seeing that they’re angels with pink wings, just like hers.

“Did you bake these?” I ask her.

 “Yes, me and my mommy did,” she says, looking over her shoulder at her, with a 5 year-old’s undiluted love and affection.

As I take the cookie I hold in a napkin the mom hands me, the little girl says, “Don’t you know me?”

Taken slightly aback, I say, “Have we met before?” Pretty sure we hadn’t.

“Look at me again.”

She is now in the center of the car staring at me, waiting for a response.

Then she starts to cry.

I panic at the sudden outburst.

“Please don’t cry. Did you change your hair maybe, since the last time we met?”

“NO,” she mewls. I keep looking over at the mother who’s calmly watching.

Now she’s got everyone’s attention since she’s wailing like a wounded calf.

“I’m the Christmas angel. Don’t you remember me?”

So we now know we have a special little girl who needs something more than a cookie.

There’s an older black woman seated to my right who catches my eye. She smiles and says, “Yes, I thought that’s who you were. I wasn’t sure.”

“Oh of course,” I say, getting with the program.

This little kid blooms as the whole car chimes in.

“Yeah, I know you,” one guy said. “Me too,” said another.

She beams with what I can’t help calling, an angelic smile, as the train pulls into Union Square.

As the doors fly open, and she and her mother get off, she suddenly spins in a perfect pirouette before hollering…

“I’m the Christmas Angel…see ya next year.”  images.jpeg

New Yorkers, at their crazy, Christmas best.




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