Susannah’s Spring, Summer Reading List…2020

Unknown-1.jpeg This past winter, instead of non-fiction, I read mostly novels.

To say I’m impressed with an author’s imagination, is an understatement.

Where do they come from, these woven tales to make the reader’s own imagination dance with possibility?

Hemingway said, when you sit down to write, your page a blank canvas, that’s when God picks up his pen.

That’s a good enough explanation for me.

It started with To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize novel after it opened on Broadway, realizing I had never read it. They sure don’t make men like Atticus Finch anymore, along with his daughter, Scout, its narrator, who crawls into your heart like a nestled kitten. It shows you, being a person of color in the south during The Great Depression, pretty much meant, you were dealt a bad hand.

images-2.jpeg This brings me to Winston Graham (1908-2003), an English novelist who penned the Poldark Series, 12 volumes starting with The Renegade (1945), ending with Bella Poldark (2002), and yes, I’ve read them all falling into practically a postpartum depression at their conclusion.

All taking place in Cornwall, England, starting in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War, when Ross Poldark, presumed dead after fighting for the British, comes back to Nampara, his family home, finding his ladylove promised to a close cousin. He then meets the fiery Demelza, the true love of his life, the turbulent saga ending in 1820, when Bella, their youngest child, completes their epic story.

Neither me nor the BBC who made a series of it, can truly do it justice. All I know is, if Mr. Graham were still here, I’d be cooing at his feet.

I managed, in-between gallops through the Cornwall countryside, to read a few memoirs, three I especially enjoyed, all by food writer, Elissa Altman.

I read them backwards, finding Motherland (2019) on my library shelf like a beacon, reminding me, my mother wasn’t the only screwball on the planet, since, she too had one.

This led me to, Treyf (2016), Yiddish for unclean, in slang, meaning junk. You learn what it was like growing up in the 60s, Jewish, and gay, even if you didn’t know it yet, though you knew you weren’t quite like the other girls, with a dad who loved food, and a mom who never ate, which brings me to Poor Man’s Feast: A Love Story of Comfort, Desire and the Art of Simple Cooking (2013) that started it all. images-2.jpeg Altman’s candor, compassion and humor laced through, is like winning the trifecta of memoir.

Toil and Trouble…Augusten Burroughs (2019), bringing candor to a scary level, his latest share on growing up with a mother claiming to be a witch, a trait he now claims as his own. A little fanciful, yet entertaining, making me pick up his first tell-all, Running With Scissors (2002), that was so disturbing, my childhood seeming Amish in comparison.

The Year of the Monkey…Patti Smith (2019). Another candid creature whose recollection of the final days of playwright, Sam Shepherd, will have you weeping on both their behalves. His for bravely facing the perils of ALS without a complaint nor whimper, and hers having to helplessly watch her friend of so many years, stoically suffer, humility stalking every page.

Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge…Shelia Weller (2019). An intense biography of another type of suffering, this one wrapped firmly around the tentacles of mental illness. One of the most talented, accomplished women of our time, who just couldn’t beat her torment, much of it, being bipolar, out of her hands.

Notre Dame…Ken Follett (2019). On April 15th, 2019, a fire broke out at the 857 year-old Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France, almost destroying it. This short read gives a brief but compelling recap of its history, all proceeds going to its rebuilding. It’s humbling when you think, even God’s house isn’t necessarily safe.

The Liberation of Paris: How Eisenhower, de Gaulle, and Von Cholitz Saved the City of Light…Jean Edward Smith (2019). An author, who wrote a great book on U.S. Grant (2001), sweeps you through the last days of the Nazi Occupation before the allies come marching in. His prose is spare, no bogging down with dull data clouding what’s important, like how even some Germans knew, blowing up Paris to please their deranged fuhrer, was not the best idea. A great peek into the final stretch of World War II.

The Congressman Who Got Away With Murder…Nat Brandt (1991). On February 27, 1859, Daniel Edgar Sickles, in cold blood, killed Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key, in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park for having relations with his wife. It was the first case of Temporary Insanity ever tried in the United States putting it into law, Sickles being acquitted, represented by Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s future Secretary of War.  Dan, redeeming himself during the Civil War fighting for the union, is buried at Arlington.

Brave Companions: Portraits in History…David McCullough (1992). The John Lennon of historians…17 essays spanning subjects from the building of the Panama Canal and Brooklyn Bridge, Teddy Roosevelt and the Old West, and a peek into Washington D.C., making you want to hop on the next train expecting John Quincy Adams there meet you. A literary swoon.

Touched by the Sun…Carly Simon (2019), about her close friendship with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I can never pass up a Kennedy book, and this one though short and sweet, gives you a glimpse of two women who simply liked each other, the one left, missing, the one, now gone.  Unknown-3.jpeg

Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols as Remembered by 150 0f His Closest Friends…Ash Carter and Sam Kashner (2019). So many poignant stories and quotes spanning a career that will keep you in awe. Talk about a legacy, a man not only gifted, but truly loved. At the end, you’ll feel as if you too were a friend of Mike’s.

images-4.jpeg Elizabeth…J. Randy Taraborelli (2006). Elizabeth Taylor had a life that almost seems made up, starting with a stage mother who pushed her only daughter into stardom like a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral.

Toss in 8 husbands, illness upon illness, censored by the Vatican for a scandalous love affair with Richard Burton while both married, casually bankrupting 20th Century Fox for her wild extravagance during the  making of the film, Cleopatra, and you’ll have a book you can’t put down.

Mr. Taraborelli, who penned Jackie, Janet and Lee (2018), and The Kennedy Heirs (2019), is a smooth, tell-all writer that makes it seem perfectly permissible being privy to someone’s dirty laundry, softening it with humanity. Don’t know how he does it.

This brings me to The Last Interview and Other Conversations Series…31 short, concise books containing the best and last words ever spoken by an illustrious group that includes, Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, Nora Ephron, Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Hitchens, James Baldwin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Frida Kahlo, David Bowie, Julia Child, Lou Reed and Martin Luther King.

You’ll cherish them, as if they came back to life, one last time.

Like being on a stamp, you have to be dead to be considered, but hey, there’s a downside to everything.

images-2.jpegUnknown-8.jpegUnknown-7.jpegUnknown.pngUnknown-6.jpegUnknown-3.jpegUnknown.pngimages-2.jpegUnknown-5.jpegUnknown-3.jpegUnknown-3 2.52.49 PM.jpegUnknown-3.jpeg

Reading…it’s right up there with a good canoodle, baseball and apple pie. 🙂

I hesitated posting this, but books can comfort us during this bewildering time.






Posted in Books, creative writing, Culture, inspiration, words, writing | Tagged , , , , | 69 Comments

Is Nature Hoarding?

images.jpeg While out for my run, my lone Civil Liberty still intact, I saw a pack of raccoons.

Usually it’s one or two, but today, they were all out as if it were family day.

Now I do tend to over dramatize, but they clearly had been foraging, carrying so much stuff, and to their credit, not in plastic bags either.

Paws filled, even the kids, images-1.jpeg as if they too are a little nervous over how long those trash bins, provided by tourists and park regulars, will stay empty.

They looked at me as if to say, shouldn’t you be at Whole Foods?

Then the Mom (in gloves) slapped me 5. images.jpeg


P.S.  Keep your humor by the bed, where it’s good and handy. 🙂



Posted in animals, Family, food, humor, nature, New York City, parents, writing | Tagged , , | 57 Comments

Battle Cry


Yes, I’m posting more than usual, my art my only weapon, weathering this raging storm.

Trying to stay peaceful during this, along with flossing, are my two biggest challenges.

Every day my doormen add an accessory to their uniform. It began simply with gloves that changed colors, like the women’s counter at Bloomingdales. White, to green, green to blue, now basic black.

Then came masks preventing you to hear anything they have to say, and now notice they’re wearing plastic slickers. When I asked about this, my day man said, you could have the virus on your jacket as you pass me going out.

My Barbour and I just looked at each other, and no, I didn’t spray it with Lysol.

Don’t take my sarcasm for smugness, because I know what it’s like to be afraid.

Faith and fear have been battling it out in my mind as if I were ringside at the Garden.

There are more police patrolling than ever before, and not in a comforting way. It’s menacing rather than reassuring the way they look at you with their hand on their nightstick watching for that false move.

Hey, I’m buying toothpaste, not a nickel bag Officer you’re givin’ me the creeps, and I’m someone who loves the men in blue, gaining my ultimate respect since our last crisis on September 11, 2001.


Be gentle, be kind, be persuasive in a way that makes us go home where we’re safe.

I watched a cop dress down a couple wheeling a baby carriage in a such a way I stopped.

The weeping mother said, they needed air. The cop said, you’re not 6 feet apart.


When the baby started to cry that’s when I said, please Officer, please just let them be.

 I waited to be bitch slapped, but he just looked at all of us, making me see, he’s afraid too.




Posted in Faith, Family, grace, Health, humanity, New York City, words | Tagged , , | 82 Comments


I feel as if I’m doing time.

Whenever I manage a modicum of peace, another cement shoe falls.

We’ve been sheltered-in-place here in the state of New York that apparently, is in quite a state with more residents coming down with the Coronavirus at the speed of light.

Our Governor, to his credit, tried everything before realizing, there was no other choice, and I respect him for it, even though I’m more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been in my own skin, wondering how we got here.

What I do know is, we’ve been greatly humbled.

I’m not religious, but do believe in a power greater than myself, and God had to do something big to get our attention, and he certainly has.

A week ago I was mewling over my library closing. Now, everything that’s not considered essential, is closed,  Madison Avenue looking like an abandoned film set, stores all dark bearing the same sign…


We hang onto the word temporarily like a piece of driftwood bobbing in the water.

Two weeks ago, plastic bags were eliminated from many stores, the Upper East Side frantic, not caring there was a reason for it.

Global Warming has been one of the many things we arrogants have not taken seriously. Who cares about the polar bear sitting on an ice cube, or those tropical storms leveling homes, as long as it’s not mine. And we can’t leave out the birds, who never got the memo, but what do ya mean, no more plastic bags charging a nickel for a paper one?

We’ve taken selfishness to new heights, so what was God going to do, his children even too smug to be prepared.

Ventilators, just in case? Please, I’m too busy thinking only of me, not my fellow man who may, one day, have trouble breathing.

As I wrote to Marc (, it’s like the White Star Line not providing enough lifeboats on the Titanic, the balls on those men, the size of that iceberg.

Governor Cuomo said, he’s got people in China right now, searching for ventilators. Why weren’t they searching before? I know, a moot question but, hey…I’m practically under house arrest in the company of canned goods, so we do ponder what preceded these uncharted events.

At night, when I crawl into bed, I’m grateful to have gotten through another scary day. I rest, I read, I pray that the world as we’ve known it, will come back to life, as the sun rises in the east.

I promised God, who’s heard it all before, that we’ll do better and to please give us a another chance.

I’m waiting to hear back.  Unknown-2.jpeg



Posted in Culture, Faith, grace, Gratitude, humanity, inspiration, nature, New York City, Politics, words, writing | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

Loose Avocado…Aisle 4

Maintaining my manners as well as I do, needs commending.

I realize, this is a very trying time for all if us…


there comes a point when even a girl from Connecticut has to draw the line.

As we know, due to the panic over the pandemic (our new word), people are hoarding groceries as if we were moving into bunkers.

The shelves at Whole Foods and my local grocery store, are empty, though Whole Foods has started to limit various items to two at a time, not 50.

I was in Morris Williams, a very nice doing their best during this, market who had yet to restock their produce from the weekend since, it was like Supermarket Sweep.

Tooling passed the oranges heading towards avocados, none in sight, I then notice one peeking out of grapefruits. As I reach for it, I hear…


I turn around to face who’s threatening me over a fruit…yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable, to find a well-heeled woman in a purple running suit glaring at me in such a way, she actually for a second, scared me, but then, Miss Connecticut crossed the New York State Line and said…


I saw her deflate, just a hair, clearly not expecting to be called out on her insanity, the only way to describe her tone of voice that could have unnerved Iran, but quickly gathered herself and said…


As an aside, I couldn’t write this, and we must remember the stress the whole virus business has caused the nation, including Mrs. Guacamole who because of it, requires sedation.

I pause, take a breath and think…omigod, look at her, with all her means she’s about to stab me over a 4 dollar fucking avocado.

We now have an audience since our voices could have broken the sound barrier.

Then I hear Gandhi whisper…be the change you wanna see Susannah since, all these people are watching to see what you’re gonna do.


So I go right up to her face, chest to chest, even though hers was bigger, placing it in her cart.

“Madam, you seem to need this much more than I do.”

Cut to the check-out line.

Another woman approaches, hands me an avocado and says, “I have a spare,” as if we were bowling. images.jpeg

Connecticut, she’s hard to shake.

SB       istockphoto-165692914-612x612.jpg

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How It Usually Is

images-2.jpeg  Here in the East, we’d be awaiting spring, our cotton khakis and polo shirts stacked in the wings.

The daffodils in the Park, who’ve just arrived like pretty girls, would delight us, knowing they’re emissaries, announcing her imminent arrival.

We’d shake out our rugs, squirrels their tails amid a chorus of cardinals singing.

Wow, you’d think, sounds a little like, That’s Life, or is it, Moon River, then realize it is Sinatra, crooning from a boom box in a bicycle basket, propped up against a tree.

More babies would be out, gushing and gurgling, moms preening with pride.

We’d notice a change, in just about everyone, as we shed layers, like skin.

The newsboy, the fruit man, vendors and cops. Truck drivers, hard hats, baristas and kids. Even dogs perk up, knowing better than we do, life doesn’t get much better than in warmer climes…grass to roll in, the sun on our backs.

We’d hear the cheerful chimes of Mr. Softee, nannies treating their charges to Double Cherry Dips dribbling down their chins, a rightful rite of passage, that comes in a cone.

There are no masks or gloves, nor the scent of bleach coating the subway steps, reminding you…


No, we’d be smiling, scrolling our Tweets making plans for dinner, dancing, dreaming without fear, but alas…

spring will look different this year, making us appreciate her more next year, with all this behind us.   images.jpeg



Posted in animals, Beauty, Culture, Faith, Gratitude, Health, humanity, inspiration, kids, media, music, New York City, Women and men | Tagged , , , | 58 Comments

Gone Fishin’

God just called and said, even he’s had it, he’s headed to the Sea of Galilee for a little trout fishing.

My life is breaking down like the circus leaving town. I woke up to the news that my trusty 12 Step meeting was closed till further notice.

It’s as if Lourdes shut her doors.

I know I won’t pick up a drink, but my alcoholism compared to many is small change.

The other day a man in his 70s, grizzled, crusty, reminded me of an old sailor with many tales of shipwrecks to tell, said…he was much more afraid of picking up a drink then he was of the Coronavirus.

My heart was suddenly on the seat next to me weeping, wringing its hands.

The most I’ll do is eat a pie, but what about him. Toss in the churches randomly closing like pup tents and he’s pretty fucked, forgiving my parlance because prayer walks hand and hand with sobriety, whether you’re a believer or not.

Every day something else weirder occurs.

My library announced that it would have two days for members to stock up on books, then it was closing till at least the first of April.

Considering that’s April Fools Day, I’m sure not expecting banners and confetti.

When I naturally went, the serial reader that I am, you were only allowed into the stacks, no other part of the library. Some fearful fool as if none of us understood English, put yellow tape along all the doors like a crime scene with big black printed signs…


It was suddenly 1940 and the Germans had taken over Paris.

Next came, Starbucks pulling out all the seats so you couldn’t stay. Take-out only. That I’m sure will be the next crime scene to be posted…


Church, coffee and recovery all on hold.

I’ll tell ya.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and I sure hope those fish are jumpin’.


Susannah in a sling





Posted in alcohol, Books, Culture, Faith, Health, humanity, humor, New York City, Starbucks | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Even More Things You May Not Know

Unknown.jpeg By the time Elizabeth Taylor was 27 years-old, she’d already been married 4 times.

Designer Ralph Lauren’s real name is, Ralph Lifshitz.

Kangaroos have 3 vaginas. 

Actor, Danny DeVito, is 4’10, in his stocking feet.

French President, Charles, de Gaulle, was 6’5, in his.

Mariska Hargitay who plays Olivia Benson on the TV show, Law and Order Special Victim’s Unit, in 1967 when she was 3 years-old, was in the car accident that killed her mother, the actress, Jayne Mansfield who was 34. Unknown.jpeg

Like pirates looting a ship, when the Clintons moved from the White House, they loaded a truck with furniture and whatnots they weren’t supposed to take. However, the powers that be, made them bring everything back.

5000 Horses were killed during the 3 day Battle of Gettysburg.

Beatle, John Lennon, grew up near a place called Strawberry Fields in Liverpool.

The first pretzel was made by an Italian monk in the year, 610, baking strips of dough that folded into the shape of a child crossing its arms in prayer.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote The Great Gatsby, was a direct descendant of Francis Scott Key who wrote, The Star Spangled Banner.

Ernest Hemingway and his father, Clarence, both committed suicide using the same gun.

Wolves, swans, beavers and otters  Unknown-1.jpeg all mate for life, unlike Liz Taylor.

You can’t buy Coca Cola in Cuba, the best reason to go there.

Barry Manilow didn’t write his hit song, I Write the Songs. Bruce Johnston did.

While making a movie, the last shot set-up of the day is called the Martini. 

France continued using the guillotine up until 1977, in use since, 1782 designed to be a more humane way to keel you. I guess it’s the thought that counts.

The word Shiloh in Hebrew means, Place of Peace.

images.jpegThe singer Bobby Darin, who in 1973, died at 37 of heart disease, left his body to science, his remains given to the UCLA Medical Center.

Abraham Lincoln never slept in what is now called the Lincoln Bedroom. It was actually his study, where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation that was put into effect on January 1, 1863.  Unknown.jpeg Wonder how he’d feel knowing the Clintons used it like a Hyatt, letting their donors doze within its walls for writing that big check. Abe, with his silly sense of humor, would probably laugh.

James Buchanan, Lincoln’s predecessor, was allegedly America’s first gay president, of course you’d never know it by the Oval’s decor, slim Jim clearly not a decorator, starting with those overflowing spittoons.

When Frank Sinatra died of a heart attack at 82 on May 14, 1998, his kids put Cherry Lifesavers and Tootsie Rolls in his casket, their dad’s favorites.

Martin Luther King at 35, was the youngest person to receive the Noble Peace Prize in 1964 for his work against racial injustice.


Bobby Kennedy saved his 13 year-old son David, from drowning while swimming in Malibu, on the same day that he was assassinated.

Both men by 1968, would be no more…

RFK, age 42, MLK, 39.

OJ Simpson, on February 11, 1997, was found guilty for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in a civil suit filed by both families. Presently, whatever work he does, he insists on being paid in cash so he doesn’t have to pay any of the 25 million dollars in damages awarded to them. Shame on Orenthal James who doesn’t deserve the same name initials as orange juice.

Legend has it, when they burned Joan of Arc at the stake on May 30, 1431 in Rouen, France, her heart wouldn’t burn. A plague, Unknown-1.jpeg marks the spot.

Elephants are the only animal who can’t jump.

Chocolate can improve brain function.

Babe Ruth’s favorite color was blue.

When Seabiscuit, the famous racehorse retired in April, 1940, during his well earned rest till he died in 1947, 50,000 people came to the Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, California, to visit him.

The writer Nora Ephron, had her hair done in the hospital, the day before she died, thinking she’d rally one more time from the leukemia she suffered from, but, alas, did not.   Unknown-1.jpeg






Posted in animals, History, humanity, humor, inspiration, words, writing | Tagged , , , , | 37 Comments

At the Crack of Doom

New York, to put it mildly, is a minefield of worry.

My doormen now all wear gloves, so they look like nervous, though still very polite, penguins.

My halls are empty. Even Patrick the cat is layin’ low.

He should only know I ran into a mouse in the basement, and was rather happy to see him, and no, we didn’t shake hands. He, like everyone else, was stocking up on supplies.


I’m maintaining my composure, pretending it’s a really bad movie I’m in, waiting to hear…


Yes, the writer still writes, no matter what. So what if the world is going to hell in a hand basket lined with Saran Wrap.

What are my plans?

Staying in the moment, as we 12 Steppers try to do.

I’ll get up, make the bed, spray it with Lysol (unscented), then brush my teeth before heading out to get my hair done.

Yes, it’s the medical equivalent of the apocalypse, yet I’m touching up my roots that came in a week early.

Gee, wonder why?

In any event, if I’m goin’ down, I certainly want to look my best.

One can’t help but be affected by the panic and fear that’s more contagious, I’m betting, than the actual virus.

Everyone waiting for the bus on my corner, for instance, are wearing masks like a surreal surgical team…


Here’s what I find cheeky. You want to talk germs? All phones should be quarantined and questioned on, where they’ve been.

All these precautions…masks, gloves, that you can’t keep on to roll and scroll by the way, makes you wonder, where exactly are we then?

Who said in a bad dream?

When I saw the bus driver was a kangaroo with a hairnet, that’s when I woke up, refreshed and reminded, this too shall pass.

Trying to lighten the more frightened.

images.pngDon’t Panic, and if you do nothing else, pray, and wash your hands. 🙂


Posted in Culture, Faith, humanity, humor, New York City, words, writing | Tagged , , , , | 45 Comments

The Full Monty

There’s an elderly French couple living in my building I’ve come to know.

They walk arm in arm, taking the air, moored happily in each other’s longtime company.

I love how they look, elegantly plain without fuss, his white hair kept slightly long, combed back with a perfect part. Hers, a matching shade just gracing her shoulders, a glimpse of her femme fatale at rest, more than gone.

They have no children, except for Montague, their  Maltese, they treat like a son who walks nobly beside them fully aware of his importance as the second male of the family.

Seeming ageless, I was surprised to hear Monty developed arthritis in his back legs and couldn’t walk, now being pushed in a pram, pharaoh style so he can peer out on their strolls.

After just seeing him in his navy-striped turtleneck, as regal as ever, I was shocked learning he had died of a sudden seizure.

With my arms filled with early lilac, I made a condolence call.

The Missus solemnly answered, no lights on except for a candle where Monty’s ashes sat in a pewter urn, with his picture next to it.

“Where’s your husband,” I asked, since, I’ve never seen one without the other.

She started to cry. “My Augustin won’t eat, won’t sleep. His heart, it is broken. He won’t even weep…he sits like a statue. I am so worried for him.”

I asked if I could see him. She nodded, leading me to their bedroom where he indeed sat, motionless by the window.

“It’s your neighbor,” I said softy, still not sure what I would say, but then, words came.

“I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved him. I loved him too,” I said, our grief entwined. “I remember the first day we met…when I asked to pet Montague, you said no, he might bite a stranger? But after sniffing me all over, he licked my hand as if to say, the girl’s alright. Do you remember that?”

He turned and said, “I do. He liked you right away.”

Then his wife, watching from the doorway said, “It’s why we too liked you right away. Montague…he was our protector.”

“And you his,” I said, “and he’d want to know, the two people he loved most would be okay even without him. He was such a happy dog, and so lucky to be so loved.”

The silence in the room made me think my attempt had failed, but when I turned to go, the husband said, “Please, we will walk you to the door.”

He embraced his wife tenderly, wiping a tear rolling down her cheek, then took my hand, kissing it like the true Frenchman that he is, as I, alas, took my leave with love and loss in place of lilac.

Hope, however, rode in on her steed because…

Three days later, there they were arm and arm, taking the air, moored happily, once again, in each other’s longtime company.

I’m pretty sure I heard Monty bark, in approval.     images.jpeg




Posted in animals, grace, humanity, humor, inspiration, Love, New York City, words | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments