What it sounds like in my head between projects

Posted May 15th, 2011
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Two Big Announcements

Posted May 4th, 2011

Okay, two announcements.  I think I said that already. Only the other time I added the word big.

1. I am now on Facebook. I resisted as long as I could in the name of being a life long contrarian.  But now I have taken the plunge. So if you would like to friend me, please feel free. I am listed under my name: Merrill Markoe. And I will probably say yes unless you are an annoying psycho.

2. I have a new book coming out in November. Its a book of funny essays. And its definitely my most personal set of essays ever. Years of writing novels have opened a trap door that is now impossible to close. I hope its stuff that the people who like my other books will want to read.

If there’s a theme to the book, its the never ending task of coping with the crazy people who surround us all. ( I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who is surrounded by crazy people. Am I? I’m not, am I?)  I have been trying to learn something, anything, from these experiences, since, as I understand it, that seems to be kind of the point. And for the sake of the book,  I’m going to go ahead and assume there is a point.

For example, the book contains  a piece about my problematic relationship with my extremely critical seemingly un-pleasable mother and the odd, thoroughly irritable travel diaries that I saw for the first time after she died.  I quote from them ver batim, which made me pretty nervous. But having gotten laughs  the few times I got up the nerve to read from them on stage, I was encouraged to turn them in to an essay that tries to add up the pieces and draw some conclusions , now that its over.

There’s  an exhaustively thorough piece I began writing as a present to some of my  girl friends, as I sit back watching them  running headlong in to the endless variations of the miseries that dating has to offer.  Its based on a lifetime of  note taking as I lived through my own version of same. Its called “How to Spot an Asshole.” and I’m pretty sure  I didn’t leave anything out.

There’s also a piece called ‘Never Again’ about the nerve wracking experience of falling in love again after swearing off love entirely. And the difference between having this experience  in the first half of life, and  in the second half.

Of course there are also a few pieces about dogs, because they are the craziest people of all.   I analyze why I love them with so much unswerving devotion, considering that they require me to tolerate behavior I will no longer tolerate from people.

I guess I’ll say more about this whole thing as it gets closer to November.

I hope its a good book . You can pre-order it already, I’m told. Its for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Borders Books all the rest of the regular places that still sell what we, the creatures from the previous century, still laughingly refer to as ‘books’.  The publisher is, once again, Randomhouse.

And those are my two big announcements.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

So today you’re saying he was unarmed and wasn’t actually using a woman as a human shield?

The laughter that pisses me off.

Posted May 1st, 2011

I am usually kind of slow to anger. I weigh a lot of possible reactions before I give in.  I move chess pieces around. I argue pros and cons with myself.
So when something instantly enrages me, it gets my attention.  And I had that experience the other morning when I watched this video, which is entitled ‘Ha Ha Ha mantra’ .  Okay I know what my reaction to it is SUPPOSED to be. I’m supposed to look at this and think “She’s so smart. See how she is teaching everyone that laughter is the best medicine?”  But only a few seconds into watching  this video,  I started to get angry.  About half way through, I was so furious I had to turn it off.

So I sat down to analyze why. After all,  I read enraging things in the news many many times a day. Most of them I file under the heading of that Serenity prayer.

Why does Gita piss me off SO MUCH?

Because of the importance I place on humor and laughter and all the elements that go into both. They are among my very favorite things in the world.  When I watch this video, I feel like I am witnessing a power mad woman who is totally co-opting the real actual release that laughter brings, when it is naturally caused by reactions of astonishment, surprise, delight or shock to a wide variety of things…good, bad or just plain nuts… that happen in life . There are few things I hate more than orchestrated crowd reactions, except possibly any occasion involving forced spontaneity and/or people telling you what to feel. This goes triple for someone saying “Very good. Very good. YAY.” after you do as they ask.

So here is someone suggesting that the answer to life’s mind boggling insanity is not to actually look for ways to find things funny but instead… to pretend to laugh, mindlessly, when she cues you. Despite the fact that she has done nothing at all to change your point of view or earn your laughter.  She is also missing what I think is the main point: that an attitude that sees the absurdity and humor in real life situations, and therefore allows someone to view the bewildering things that are everywhere in a whole different way,  is where the answer may lie. Not in a  forced version of the same thing cued by a crowd manipulator trying to forge a personal brand for herself.  There is a famous  book, in which Norman Cousins repaired his health with laughter… But he did it by watching The Marx Brothers and other stuff he found funny. Not by pretending to laugh at his own name.

And this despite the fact that his name certainly set him up for plenty of easy laughs.

Though now that I think about it, if Ms. Gittelman conducted her classes in the front rows of open mic nights, maybe she could still do some good.  Except that would be giving bad comedians the wrong idea. And in that case no one wins.

Got it. How about this: For a sequel, she can branch out in to teaching groups of people how to fake orgasms?


The Povertique Of Urban Outfitters

Posted March 3rd, 2011

I was just perusing my new Urban Outfitters catalog because I actually like Urban Outfitters.  I think I’m drawn in by the amount of  pissed off looking models who wear bangs. “They have bangs! I have bangs” i think to myself,forgetting what a long distance I am from the fifteen year old girl who appears to be the target audience. Lately, though, the Urban Outfitter style book is drifting farther and farther away from the metaphorical dock on which I anchor my hypothetical boat.

At first I thought the new U.O. style might be called Laundry Day Couture. I used to work with a guy whose wardrobe reflected  how far in to his laundry basket he had gotten.First part of the month he was all preppy and Gappy and Ralph Laurenny. Last day before lack of clothes forced him to do his  laundry, he wore tuxedo pants and whatever promotional tee shirt he had just been given. Generally speaking, he looked not unlike the guy on the far right of the fashion spread below in his faded jeans and his wing tips. Or the unhappy looking blond girl in her old worn Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, her full length floral skirt, and scarf that appears to be a baby blanket.

Then it came to me what to call the new look  that they are selling.

Its Dust Bowl Chic.

There they stand, four people transported in to an unhappy limbo; the dark haired wastrel in  unmatched clothing appears to be  making the best of  the only clothes she owns: an orange striped cotton shirt, a full length blue nightgown print dress and yellow and black striped sandals.  Times are tough, the layout seems to say,so they must band together and rise above  dire circumstances. Even as they make a meal of  the only food that they could find  in the supermarket dumpster.. left over cake. How ironic was that?

Except that they had to buy all these items brand new .

Too bad Dorothea Lange didn’t live long enough to get the U.O. account.  She definitely knew how it should be done.

My pushy manipulative unbalanced Valentine

Posted February 11th, 2011
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When it comes to love,  seems to me that no creature on the face of the earth is as generally clueless about what to do as the human being.  Witness this  clip of two albatrosses in love. (spoiler alert: Albatross porn. Parental guidance advised.) Both members of the lovely couple  were clearly born fully loaded with detailed instructional software that explained to them how they should perform this incredibly appealing highly effective mating ritual . I personally find it so moving and convincing that I would join their species happily if only it were an option.

And  I mention all this because it is almost that most potentially nightmarish repository of dashed hopes : Valentines Day.  Not even New Years Eve has the ability to cause its celebrants as much spiritual  disappointment. More often than not, Valentines Day seems like more of a trap than a holiday at all.  Its bad enough that we  human beings apparently lost all track of whatever instincts we may have  had  with regard to love during the dawn of civilization. (That is, assuming we ever  had them to begin with.) But even if the Neanderthals did at one time have some kind of a behavioral clue,  its been so long buried in  centuries of incomprehensible bad advice and awful role models  that its become almost impossible to know where to look for real sanity.

Bad enough that many of our parents screwed  up their own lives and thus taught us badly,   but the media continues banging the gong for the Ashlee Simpson/Pete Wentz paradigm of romantic grandeur. To refresh your memory,  this epic romance started out in 2008 with a highly publicized wedding requiring “10,000 black magic roses from Ecuador, a checkerboard dance floor, red carpets, crystal chandeliers and three-course dinner  catered by Wolfgang Puck.” only to end in a divorce announcement this very week. Another one of those greatest loves the world has ever known, born in pricey romantic details and then up in flames in  two years flat.

I’ve had first dates that lasted longer than that.

I guess what I most dislike about Valentine’s Day  is how its celebratory rules and regulations manage to be both high pressure and  vague at the same time. It seems perfectly constructed to make sure that no one participating ever feels like they’ve not let somebody down.  Great. Perfect. Thank you St. Valentine.   Its not like love and its maintenance didn’t have enough impenetrable labyrinthian details already without throwing a bunch of poorly defined holiday expectations  in to the mix .Great idea. What a perfect addition to an already endlessly Byzantine situation.

And by love, I mean reasonable love.  Every other kind is just too brain bleedy. The goal of love should be simply this: Don’t be INSANE.  If you are insane, please go give your love to someone else.  Really, I won’t feel slighted in the least.  I promise.

In the name of sanity and mental health,  I would advise any Valentines Day reveler  to proceed with caution upon receiving a Valentine’s Day card like any of the following:

Number one: This first Valentine’s Day Card that seems to have been designed for someone who is abusive, yet still  celebratory,  to give to his or her victim.

Note to recipient and/or author of this card: Guess what? How anyone is acting on the outside IS A BIG DEAL. The outside is the part WE CAN SEE!!! If someone is acting all rage filled and creepy on the outside, it pretty much doesn’t matter what they are  doing on the inside. Seriously: Not important!!! Richard Ramirez, ‘The Night Stalker’, who killed thirteen people, got married since he was incarcerated and  continues to have a steady stream of women writing him love letters . These  women  no doubt feel that no matter how he is acting on the outside, there’s something beautiful and touching happening deep inside of him.  WRONG. Probably not true but even if it is:  Not good enough!! No! If someone gives you this card, go in and pack.

Card Number two:

This one seems to have been produced for stalkers and/or Valentines who have OCD.  Yes, yes…I remember how being fixated on someone is supposed to be all passionate and sexually alive. But really: No.  Its not. Its not adorable to spend the day obsessed with someone. Its scary and horrible AND a big waste of time. Creepy. Creepy. Creepy. NEITHER A GIVER NOR AN ACCEPTOR OF THIS SENTIMENT BE.

If I may offer some advice: Try and find someone who has something else on their minds besides you.  Outside interests are good for a relationship! You will both need the subject matter and the additional company!

And the same holds true for the following type of Valentine.

Card Number three:

Here we see a photo of a football player.  So this is a card meant to be either 1) given by a girl to a boy who likes football or 2) by a boy who identifies with the football player but wants to impress the object of his affection. In either case,it is by design completely one sided and narcissistic. For one thing  It totally leaves the other person out of the picture.  Even if it is meant for one gay boy to give another, there’s only very unromantic looking player pictured and he is NOT even the person giving the card so….I’d say that no matter what the age group, sexual preference or demographic sample, there is no reason to have hope for much in the way of  interactive happy moments  with a person who gives you this card.

But lets look on the bright side now.  The good news is that Valentines Day only lasts a few hours.  And this year its on a Monday, which is chock full of built in excuses and limitations for plans.  Meanwhile, if you are still stranded, without any good ideas about what to do to get through it,  now that I have shot down all the card ideas you were secretly planning, go back and watch that albatross video.  It wouldn’t be  hard to learn that whole  routine. The albatrosses don’t have a copyright on it. And really, love doesn’t get too much better than that.

Somehow the Morgan Library forgot to invite me.

Posted January 23rd, 2011
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There is a new show at the Morgan Library and Museum, in NYC, that appears to be retrospective of the human being and his centuries old need to present himself and his life through the keeping of diaries.  From the review I read in the N.Y. Times, it looks  like an exhibit I would love. The show appears to contain everything from a fifteenth century ” first printed edition of St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions,’ and that book’s 18th-century secular heir, Rousseau’s “Confessions” to the hand written  musings of assorted luminaries such as Sir Walter Scott,  Emily Bronte, and Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife (see below). There are also contributions from that old diary perennial Anais Nin as well as  musings from Bob Dylan, Tennessee Williams and a policeman at the site of the World Trade Center during 9/11. All appear to share the amazing details of being alive in their particular moment. Somehow everyone seems to know instinctively how to create the kind of entry that deserves to be placed upon the sands of time and burned in to the pages of history.

But speaking now as someone who has been keeping diaries since I was in the third grade,  I was a little stung that I wasn’t asked to contribute.  Yes, yes…of course I am aware that I don’t exactly occupy the same space and weight in the world as a Sir Walter Scott or a St. Augustine. But still…does not every life matter equally in some a kind of a basically incomprehensible quantum physics kind of way? That was what I was telling myself as I  went in to the closet to fish out my earliest diaries and examine them for relevance.  What, I was wondering, might I have been  able to contribute to the exhibit had I only but been allowed a chance?

My instincts were correct.  What I found were the richly rewarding texts written by  my younger self as I documented daily life at the beginning of the sixties.  The excitement of that decade’s rebellious  spirit of  social upheaval comes alive on every page, as we clearly see in my first entry below which was written when I was in the fourth grade. Its interesting to note how  l  reject the constraints and gender expectations of a post war American middle class,  while also predicting the coming  feminist wave . In a follow up entry written just several days later,(not shown) I go even further down this path as I  boldly dismiss ever having anything  to do with the whole idea of menstruation, entirely. 

Illustration two, written a few weeks after that,  shows an oddly prescient sampling of the change in consciousness that this tumultuous decade would eventually bring.  The truth is that  every page of this amazing diary is such a treasure trove of  textured insights, it was hard for me to pick just a few pages to highlight for this summary. Nevertheless, I will close with one that  offers a tantalizing glimpse of the woman I would one day become as it tells the engaging tale of my attempt to triumph in  a contest  being held by a local television show called The Jim Dooley Hour. Then, as now, I was overcome by a heart felt desire to win a personal visit from a chimpanzee. (illustration 3)

Summing up,  I would like to say that there are many many many other pages just as worthy as these.  And since The Morgan exhibit doesn’t even close until May, there is  plenty of time for them to give me a call.  (Note to curator : Also available upon request are diaries from the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.)

Don’t introduce me to your new love until after a year.

Posted January 20th, 2011
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I kind of like cooking. Therefore I like cooking dinner for my friends on special occasions.  But on this, the twentieth day of the first month of a new year, I am making a new house rule:

Do not bring your brand new one true love to my house for a home cooked meal until you have gone with them at least a year.

I have a number of friends who are currently engaged in the difficult, sometimes barbaric, seemingly endless search for the right person. They have my sympathy.  I was dating my brains out for years and  am still so so sick of the whole idea that  the thought of having to return to that moment again makes me shudder the way I do when I imagine voluntarily making trips out to the coin operated laundromat now that I own a washer and dryer. Thats not a good analogy.  Dating is so much worse than the laundromat.  Though the laundromat  still gives me nightmares.

But here is what I learned about dating: You can not tell who it is you have become involved with until around month four. It is just impossible.  The first three months are a honeymoon period where both parties put on a great big fake show for each other.  Then, after that, it takes at least another 8 or 9 months to gather enough information to guess whether or not  this new relationship is going to last.  That year will turn out to be a combination of exhilarating (Hey! Hot new sex!!) and frustrating (I can’t believe what just happened last night!)  This is all just par for the course.   That’s the way a new relationship works.

The only thing I am saying is that during this sometimes exciting and frequently tumultuous period, there is no real reason for you to bring this new person over to meet me. Because in at least 90% of cases, it will turn out that you are only weeks away from sitting me down to listen to you deliver a speech where you will want my empathy and sympathy as you explain in detail how the afore mentioned new person turned out to be a total asshole.

Obviously I am going to want to give you that empathy and sympathy.  You are my friend.  I want the best for you in all circumstances.  All I am asking is that you restrain yourself from making it my responsibility  to cook dinner for someone who is about to ruin your life, before the fact.

Its a lot of work cooking dinner. I search through recipes.  I fret. I have to drive to the store ten times.  Then we clean the house and sweep the porch and wash the tablecloth .   Its expensive and exhausting.  And don’t forget all that energy spent dressing up before hand and  cleaning up afterward. And then, of course, we have to lock the dogs in the back of the house so they won’t eat all the snacks or get hair all over the guests. And boy, they hate that.

Though I don’t mind doing it for people I like. Because I love when they do it for me.  But here’s the thing: I absolutely mind doing it for people  I am not only going to never see again, but am going to  later  find out are personality disordered cretins who have treated a friend of mine badly.  Call me crazy but I don’t want to work hard to help an amoral vindictive monster have a lovely relaxing afternoon or evening.  Which brings me to the stress of searching for topics of conversation to engage a person who, in a few weeks, we will all have agreed was mentally ill and all decided we hate. I don’t want to serve them horsd’oevres and wine and find out where they are from.

I guess I should mention at this point that I have several friends who have brought more than four such relationship candidates over for a long long evening. In one case, five.

Or just as bad: what if I end up bonding with this new person? And then later find out that YOU are the one who acted like the big asshole?  I chose my friends pretty carefully. And I don’t need or want that kind of information about someone I thought was my friend.

So go ahead and fall in love briefly with whoever you chose.  Obviously you don’t need my permission . If you want to waste your time and money and  dreams on  fantasies about this new person, before you have any real idea who they are…well, its your life.  You alone will wind up with the cocktail party anecdotes and the short story rights to whatever crazy thing unfolds. Just do me the courtesy of not insisting that I  join you as  captain, chef and entertainment committee on your  voyage before the whole ship capsizes.

As my friend John Hodgman likes to say at this point: That is all.

Learning to love a kindle.

Posted January 3rd, 2011

On this, the eve of the release of the brand new novel by Snooki, I am thinking about my new kindle.

I just bought one a few months ago, after a lot of contemplation and quite a few recommendations from smart friends.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole idea but I did know that lack of shelf space was becoming a problem in my house.  Also, my local library was down for remodeling…not that I used it that much since buying books on impulse was one habit I have never figured out how to curtail.

So I bought a kindle.

Once I got it hooked up, I began to debate with myself what to read for my maiden voyage. Which books was I willing to spend money on but didn’t care if I owned in 3 D?  So I downloaded Room by Emma Donoghue and Glass Castle  by Jeanette Walls, two books I had been thinking about reading but for some reason hadn’t gotten around to yet.  And it was very impressive how, in seconds, there they were. Or should I say, there were their titles on my kindle…more quickly than I can sometimes open a g-mail.

Right away, I read both at the speed of light and enjoyed them. Everything seemed perfect, including how happy I was not having to store either volume on a shelf when I was finished. I loved how I was able to hold a kindle in one hand, with no pages to restrain or to dog ear. The reading surface was nicely lit. It was all very manageable, convenient and easy.

But as I continued forward in my kindling pursuits,  it began to occur to me that there are kindle books, and then there are the ones you still probably have to buy. And of course, when I say you I mean me.

For example, it wasn’t that much fun to read a play.  The dialogue doesn’t print in the same organized fashion as on the page of a play. The stage directions are kind of discombobulated and hard to follow . I mean,  it wasn’t all that bad. But having a standard play book is better.

It  was the next book I tried  that  brought the problem front and center.  This one, recommended by a friend, was the kind of book that takes  a little time to get in to.  I could tell from the first page that eventually it would be an enjoyable, satisfying read. But it wasn’t an instant page turner. That was when I started sensing  the kindle problem  .

When it comes to  a book that is a little bit challenging, it helps to have the object there  in 3 D. At least, its helpful to me. I want to shuffle thru the pages and find that part two pages ago that I  must have overlooked or something.  I want to stare at the cover and/or the author’s picture and ruminate on whether the book is worth reading.  Challenging books are by definition more of an experience. And an experience is supposed to exist in 3D.

The kindle amounts to a different version of the same problem that I have  reading articles on line. Or should I say ‘not reading articles on-line.” Because I never invest the same kind of time when I am reading electronically. For me, at least, reading on-line is more about skimming than anything. On-line reading is about headlines. The content is often bullet points about things that exist in real life. So the idea is to grab the big points and then get distracted and go off to check your Facebook page. (In fact, whoever you are, now reading this…you probably haven’t read  more than half of what I’ve written. And come on, dude…. its only a few sentences long.) (But hang on. This is almost the very end. Less than ten sentences left!)

I guess what I am trying to say is that seems to me,  the kindle is  made to order for page-turners.  Its perfect for the kind of best seller that you want to have a look at but really don’t think is important enough to own. Or one you are ashamed of yourself for buying in the first place.

On the other hand, challenging, carefully written books are meant to be absorbed in a more physical way.  Having an actual book with  hundreds of printed pages between two covers sitting on your lap is by definition a more demanding encounter. A 3 D book doesn’t let you off the hook so easy. It asks you to  persist when you get restless. It asks you to go back and re read that part two pages ago that apparently you didn’t get the first time. It reminds you that you spent money on this damn thing and owe it a  little  respect.

And know what else?  Its easier to get a crush on a real book.  If you’re enjoying yourself, a 3D book gives you a lot more to bond with. As far as I can tell, it is no fun at all to hug a kindle.

Therefore I think, in the future, I will always be making a choice between ‘Book or Kindle?” And I will be using the  kindle  for the kind of books I don’t really want to keep. Because in a way, having them on kindle is  not like having them at all. They take up no space in your life. So its a little like all the stuff that you read on-line yesterday. Where is it now? And what was all that stuff anyway? (Also, no pictures on a kindle. Tho no doubt that is the kind of thing that will be corrected in the next generation of e readers.)

And having said all that,  as far as I can tell, the category has yet to be invented that adequately fits the purchase of something written by Snooki.

A very Bob Dylan Christmas, part deux

Posted December 2nd, 2010
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Its the hap hap happiest day of the year for me. The holiday season has officially started.  I am talking about the unveiling of this year’s Bob Dylan Christmas tableau.

As you can read here, I have been fascinated by Mr. Dylan’s Christmas pyrotechnics for a few years now, probably because I am generally fascinated by Mr. Dylan. He is one of the few figures in entertainment I still regard with awe. In fact, I recently re-watched Don’t Look Back and liked it better than I did the last time I watched it . What I am saying is that he was a big big deal to me growing up. And I guess because he still looms so large in my consciousness, I am completely entertained by his Christmas decorating ideas.  As I mentioned in last year’s post, he and I live generally in the same neighborhood. (At least I do. I have no idea how much time he actually spends at the residence that is widely known to be his.) And that is the extent of my contact with him,( except for the time when I saw him perform at Berkeley High School when I was fifteen and got to sit on a folding chair right on the very stage.)

I guess what I like most about his Christmas decorating approach is the understatement… reminiscent of the way my irritable Uncle Mike used to put up his lights, after a few too many beers…as though they were thrown at the hedge in a fit of resentful rage in order to shut up my nagging Aunt Edna.  But this year, relatively speaking, Bob has gone all out. He not only appears to have used a ladder for the second year in a row, but he has added several items to the little free standing display that looms just beyond the fence opening. Now there is a larger pre-lit Christmas tree and five LED- candy canes beside the LED reindeer. Its a veritable winter wonderland.

So thumbs up to Bob for contributing another seasonal marvel.

A scary story: My audition for reality show host

Posted October 31st, 2010

I have been cleaning out my office again…an unpleasant task I don’t do often enough.  Even after I accomplish it on some level, the place still remains packed full of stuff I can’t bring myself to throw away because it has been blessed and/or cursed with the title of ‘potential source material.’ By that I mean something I might eventually write about.  So some of it ends up on book shelves.  Some of it gets crammed in to files that I forget ever existed until the next time I decide to clean out my office.

That is how I came upon the following.  I am not exactly sure why I ever wrote this or exactly what year this took place.  It contains a Jerry Springer reference, so I guess it was the cusp of the new century.   I think I might have been preparing it for a possible stand-up set or reading series because its a lot more elaborately written than a diary entry.   (Diary entries distinguish and separate themselves from the pack by the sheer intensity of their whining.) Its also precisely the kind of incident I would not have remembered much about had I not written it down. So here it is, in honor of Halloween: My  audition for  reality show host.


I was asked to audition this past week to be the new host of a show called The Other Side—which is apparently a Jerry Springer formatted talk show with a twist. All the guests have had an extraordinary, usually paranormal experience like coming back from the dead or being abducted by aliens or foretelling the future (as opposed to the guests on a regular one of these shows, who are floundering blindly in the present or have had sex with their siblings but are still stuck living on this planet.)  So the producers sent me tapes of the show to watch since I had never seen it.  The shows had topics like “Honey, I love you, but your psychic powers are ruining our relationship!”…which is exactly 180 degrees from any relationship problem I have ever had.  I’m far more acquainted with guys who can’t seem to remember that they’ve actually slept with me, let alone foresee the future.

Another show featured an interview with a woman who had died but instead of seeing the white light, she had seen the squealing sucking horrors of hell. That was a nice show idea, I thought.  Sure, a lot of us may be afraid of death. But now at last, here is a woman who is out to prove that its going to be much much worse than we thought.  Thank you so much for sharing that, madame…nice meeting you and please stay in touch!

So I didn’t know why the producers wanted me for this job… unless they were hoping for a host who would undoubtedly goof around with the undead.  Still, I admit I was flattered enough to think that I might as well go to the audition anyway. Just for the life experience and to see what was up.  As I understood it, I was going to be asked to do a test interview. My ‘guest’ was going to be  a guy whose problem was that he was crippled by anxiety.  Apparently he was so anxious that he was unable to use the phone or drive a car. That sounded kind of interesting.To say nothing of a chance to make a cheery new friend!

Next thing I knew, there I was in a studio,  on a stage with a small set;  mainly a couple of chairs and a plant.  The director explained to me that the producers wanted to see if I was going to be able to handle the emotional moments of the show properly. Then he showed me how I might go over to a seated guest, kneel down beside them and hold  their  hand to offer support.  He cautioned me that at the pre-interview, my anxiety ridden guest had become to over wrought that he had broken down in tears just talking about his problem.  If that should happen again, said the director, this would be a good time for me to extend a little compassion and comfort.

And through it all I was thinking only one thing: ‘If this guy is so awash in anxiety that he can’t leave his damn house or use his phone, WHAT IS HE DOING GOING  ON A TV SHOW ABOUT THE PARANORMAL?” I might have no choice but to shake him by the shoulders and then slap him!

So obviously I didn’t get the job. Which was clearly the best decision for all concerned. But whats weird is that the whole experience ended up making me feel sad and rejected anyway.. despite the fact that I never wanted the job to begin with and would have been too embarrassed to go through with it. It reminded me a little of the time I was asked to go on an audition for a part in a movie and the director said to me “I’m sorry. You did the lines just right but you  seem too smart for the part.” And I found myself arguing with him…”No, No…you don’t understand. I’m just as dumb as the next person! I swear!”

The Book of Genestones

Posted October 27th, 2010

A year ago I went to The Creation Museum in Kentucky and looked at all the proof that the world was created just 6,000 years ago. Finally it dawned on me that I could help them make their case.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: Part Two

Posted September 28th, 2010

I have been preoccupied, lately, with whether this is an especially crazy time to be alive, what with the instantaneous information/misinformation bleeding out of the internet. (See the thing about Tacitus in the blog just before this one.) I do think that crime and show business have never been more closely aligned. I don’t know if there has ever been a time where criminal arrests are worth as much in terms of $$ as going on a publicity tour or being in a movie . But otherwise, I am starting to conclude: apparently things have always been running like this. Here is a quote from a book review of a new biography of George Washington (by Ron Chernow)  in today’s NY Times

“Washington” also devotes great attention to the harsh criticism that Washington faced as soon as the luster faded and the governing began. As president, missing his beloved Mount Vernon and incurring great financial losses to serve as head of state, he was carped about so relentlessly that even his way of tapping a fork at the dinner table could become fodder for malicious gossip.”

I guess that’s just the way we do things. Oh well. And also yikes.

My new cure for political nerves

Posted September 14th, 2010

I feel compelled to keep up with the news for some reason, even though it causes me to then spend an awful lot of time fretting about the way things are going and the ways things are going to end up. I follow that with long spells of wondering what I am supposed to do to help or how I may be inadvertently contributing to harm.  When I think about it all, it  just seems like everything keeps getting worse and its a trend no one can reverse. And when I say ‘it’ I mean…you know…IT. All of it. Crazy egomaniacs with big mouths and tiny brains,  economic policy debates,wars and plans for more wars, disasters both man made and natural, ridiculous people running for office, leaders of other countries who seem mentally ill, etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.

But lately  I started  wondering whether things were ever better.  Or are they always pretty much this bad and its just a question of your definitions ?  Or am I maybe just getting punchy from  a life-time build up of bad things that I have paid too much attention to and the older you get, the more of this craziness you have been cataloguing?  The idea that things were at some point  better is the premise on which the bellowing baboons of politics like Rush Limbaugh et al issue their edicts. With that as a basic underlying theme,  they set the stage for the parade of mini-brained egomaniacs like Sarah Palin to give advice as they pretend they  can  see some kind of essential set of easily achievable truths that the fancy pants  thinkers are looking past.

Then this past weekend I  read this paragraph by Tacitus, Roman historian.(56-117 AD)

In his book “The Histories”,  he recounts the events of 69 AD.  By the way,  Rome didn’t fall til 476.  So 69 is not the worst year Rome ever had. Yet his book opens with this paragraph.

The story I am approaching is rich with disasters, grimly marked with battles, rent by treason and savage even in peacetime.  Four emperors perished violently. There were three civil wars, still more foreign campaigns, and often conflicts which combined elements of both. Success in the East was balanced by failure in the West. The Balkans were in turmoil , the Gallic provinces were wavering and Britain was conquered but immediately abandoned. The Sarmatian and Suebian peoples rose upon us, the Dacian distinguished himself in desperate battles won and lost and thanks to the activities of a charlatan masquerading as Nero, even Parthia was on the brink of declaring war.  Now too, Italy itself fell victim to new disasters or ones which had not occurred for many centuries. Towns were swallowed up or buried along the richest part of the Campanian coast. Rome was devastated by fires, her most venerable temples were destroyed and the very Capitol was set alight by Roman hands. Things holy were desecrated, there was adultery in high places. The sea swarmed with exiles and cliffs were stained with blood. Still fiercer savagery gripped Rome. Rank, wealth and office, whether surrendered or retained, provided grounds for accusation, and the reward for virtue was inevitable death. The profits of the prosecutors were no less hated than their crimes. Some obtained priesthoods and consulships as the prize of victory, others acquired official posts and backstairs influence, creating a universal pandemomium of hatred and terror. Slaves were bribed to turn against their masters, freedmen against their patrons, while those who lacked an enemy were ruined by their friends.”

So that is what I now think about when I wonder WTF with regard to the million and one alarming headlines I read per day.  Tacitus would probably have a look at them and say “Mm hmm. What else you got?” (though he would no doubt  say it a little more eloquently than that.) But it seems like his one paragraph sum up of 69 AD brings a useful perspective.

Life!  Whoever holds the patents on humans clearly sent them to market before working out enough of the bugs.  If Steve Jobs put out a product this erratic, no one would ever shut up about it.

I just finished my new book

Posted September 11th, 2010

HOORAY for me But at least on some level, a draft of it is finished. Its a book of essays. It includes a lengthy piece about my mother, for which I will be going to hell.   The title of the book MIGHT be “Cool, Calm and Contentious.”  although that makes me sound a little like Clint Eastwood. All I know is that now, suddenly, I am not swimming in three feet of loose paper.  I write on the computer but in the final stages I find that I can’t see what, if anything, the book says unless I print it out. Pretty soon my already cluttered office looks like I am ready for a segment on hoarders.

Anyway: Wow. Free time.  I think I will start making films. Until it catches up to me because free time only seems like free time BEFORE it becomes unemployment.

The Lost Shoes of Zuma

Posted August 13th, 2010

I am trying very hard to finish up the first draft of a new book of essays.  It is taking forever and is endlessly labor intensive.  So I did what any right thinking person would do to cope: I started a TUMBLR. I had never even been ON Tumblr before so I don’t like this format so much. I will almost definitely change it pretty soon.  But meanwhile we, the two human residents of my household, have taken to documenting the shoes that we see left behind at Zuma Beach every time we go for a walk there.  So many poor lost forgotten shoes.  Once  the cheery companions at summer picnics, happily filled with feet…now alone and abandoned in the parking lot or on the sand.  Poor poor sad lonely shoes of Zuma.

Have a look for yourself.

Is this going to be on the test?

Posted August 6th, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Being a writer sometimes leads  to unexpected situations.  The one that happened today involved a text book requesting permission to reprint a piece that I wrote ten years ago.

This  is not the first time.  I am told that I have pieces in a few different English text books, though I have never actually seen one of them.   Maybe its for the best. When I am writing a piece, usually I am trying to be funny and also trying to figure out who these people are  that will or will not be entertained by reading it.  But I can assure you that at no point do I ever  envision put-upon pissed-off eighth graders rolling their eyes when they hear they are being forced to read my piece for homework, then raising their hands to grudgingly to ask if it will be on the test.

Though it is a pretty funny thought, I will admit.

Anyway…below is a piece I wrote in 2001.  I was asked to address the topic of internet quizzes, which were already ubiquitous though not nearly as much as now. You cant look even briefly at a Facebook page without seeing three or four of them. That there is no mention of Facebook and also not a word about  Justin Bieber makes the piece a little dated.  But the reason I am reprinting it here is because of the test questions at the end. They are written by the text book that is printing the piece.  Imagining a class answering those questions just strikes me as really funny.  Really really really really funny.

If you don’t want to read the piece….just skip ahead to the questions at the end. If you want to take the test, I will give you a grade.


Having spent a fair amount of time and money in therapy debating my every move with a licensed and theoretically caring professional, I was under the impression that I had a pretty good idea of what I was all about.  At least until I started taking personality quizzes on the Internet. As any habitual reader of cheesy women’s magazines will tell you, this quiz taking business can be both time consuming and pointless in terms of gaining meaningful advice.  But it can also be as utterly seductive as the horoscope pages.  For about a minute and a half, the quiz glistens like a beacon of potential insight before you, offering answers to all the important questions in life.  Five minutes later, awash in self loathing, you can’t even remember what it said or why you ever bought that magazine.

As it turns out, the internet is so full of this kind of self improvement quiz that it could be argued that the only thing that separates the Net from an average issue of Cosmo is that Cosmo offers only one quiz at a time.  Also the Internet has fewer ads for panty liners.

I came to know of this  one day when, quite by accident, I encountered a quiz at a handy site called QuizBox.com that promised to tell me how “attractive” I was.  I guess I needed a little reassurance that day (with emphasis on the word little, because since the quiz couldn’t see me, how reassuring could it be?) Still, I willingly submitted to seemingly irrelevant questions like “Which city would you like to visit?” (I chose Paris over Tokyo because in the montage that was running in my imagination, I thought I looked more attractive in Paris). I also selected a peck over a big kiss on the first date as my first date kissing style because a rash of unappealing recent first dates was still fresh in my mind. This quiz didn’t specify whether the guy I was on this first date with had any sex appeal.

After my scores were tallied, the quiz passed judgment.  It said, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to improve my personality. I also needed to be more optimistic and smile more. I could be attractive if I would just try harder, it sighed, sounding a lot like my mother. It didn’t think I was trying hard enough.

So there I was, alone in my house and suddenly a lot less attractive than I had been a few minutes earlier.  But I wasn’t going to take this lying down. To recoup my losses, like a woman feverishly playing the slot machines, I continued to take more quizzes.

Instantly I was able to wrest myself from the jaws of low self esteem via the “What kind of personality do you have?” quiz.  This time, when asked to answer the question “If you could wish for anything, what would it be?” I chose the option “Become a beauty queen.” Okay, yes, I know it’s a little shallow. But my health was already pretty good, and being clever was obviously getting me nowhere. Much to my delight, the quiz was favorably impressed. “People with your kind of  character are few and far between” it informed me, “Everybody likes to be around people with your personality.”

Feeling a little more confident now, I went on taking more quizzes.  Which is how I came to find out that every single thing I did defined my personality.

There was The Egg Test that revealed that because I eat fried eggs white part first, I am “logical, smart and inventive…though sometimes too cold and selfish.”  That I only eat egg whites, period, didn’t seem to factor in one way or another.

Next by picking toilet stall No. 2 out of a drawing of three empty stalls (“The Toilet Test”) I learned I was “an efficient person” yet also “A romantic person” who can be “too hasty making decisions in love.”  I guess it serves me right for being so cavalier about my toilet stall selections.

On “The Eating Test” I made the mistake of picking eggs and toast over cereal for breakfast while also admitting to sometimes skipping lunch entirely because of worry about my weight  Now I had inadvertently show myself to be “jealous of people who are smarter and better looking”. A harsh evaluation, I felt, for someone with “my kind of character.”

This led me to “The Ultimate Personality Test” Three cups of coffee later (and still in my pajamas at one in the afternoon,) I was saddened to learn that I was a “Secret agent” who “Professionally likes to work in a cubicle and eat lunch at a desk.”

But my mood improved considerably once I clicked on the next test I could find and my choice of an abstract pattern from an assortment of designs offered me a complete reevaluation.  Now, thank heavens, I was “dynamic, active, extroverted.” And “willing to accept certain risks and to make a strong commitment in exchange for interesting and varied work.”

So which was it?  Was I a cubicle worker or a risk taker?  Hoping to get off this emotional roller coaster, I wandered over to TheSpark.com where yet another personality test branded me “an accountant. Reserved. Meticulous. Dependable.” And this despite the fact that on the very same age “The Sexy Test” said I was 75 percent sexier than the average quiz taker! Because this puzzling new image of “sexy accountant” didn’t provide me with anything except an idea for a horrible new sitcom,, I took a deep,, cleansing breath and dived in to the elaborate “How others see you” quiz, where I emerged “extroverted, agreeable,but neurotic and not very conscientious.”  I found this confusing because a quiz at a women’s financial site  insisted that I was “thorough, meticulous and calm” only a few minutes later.

By the end of the day, I also learned that my taste in room décor is “middle class” (“What Class are you?”) despite the fact that my”Plant personality” is “woodland natural.” My “Workout personality” is 40% inspirational, 30% spontaneous and 30% analytical (sailing, training for a triathlon and softball recommended)” And my religious beliefs are Unitarian Universalitst, neopagan and Malayan Buddhist.

Although the Ayurvedic Foundation’s site tells me that I have a Pitta constitution, meaning I am “hot, sharp, liquid and oily”, an insurance company’s Longevity Quiz says that I will live to be ninety five.

So there it is:  I am extroverted and reserved, passive and active, risk taking and afraid of change.  I am also calm, neurotic, meticulous, dependable and not very conscientious.  So what if my workout program of alternating the gym with swimming does not fit my personality?  Who cares if I belong to a religion I have never heard of?  All things considered, I have to say that it feels great to really get to know myself at last.

Merrill Markoe “Who Am I?” First published in ON: Time Digital Online Magazine. March 2001. Copyright 2001 by Merrill Markoe.

Considering Ideas

  1. Markoe claims that, with the help of a psychologist, she knew who she was until she began taking Internet quizzes.  Is the reader to take this comment seriously?  Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think the author was so interested in learning about herself through quizzes?  How does she feel about the results?
  3. Have you ever taken an online quiz? Did you learn anything about yourself? Did you agree or disagree with the results?

Considering Writing Strategies

  1. Do you feel that Markoe’s description of Internet quizzes is fair and accurate?  Why or why not?
  2. What analogy does Markoe make in paragraph five?  What effect does her comparison have on you?  What did you envision as you read the analogy?
  3. How do Markoe’s sarcastic remarks affect your understanding of the message she portrays?  Use specific examples from the essay to support your answer.


Dear Folks:

I am very flattered that your teacher included my silly essay in the curriculum of your class.  I hope you guys enjoyed it.

But apparently part of the class work seems to be contacting me and asking me for advice on finding your identity.  The first dozen times this happened I made an earnest attempt to answer . And I am afraid that now I believe that everything I can think of to offer on the topic  is written somewhere in that initial bunch of replies.

Therefore I am inviting the rest of you to please  look in the comments for questions asked by others who have taken this class before you . If there is anything to be gotten from asking my advice on this topic, you will probably find it there.

In closing, let me say that it takes a while to really find your identity. You guys are at the age where it starts, but there are plenty of people in their thirties who are still asking  these same questions.  Some  parts of your identity are formed through experimentation, through trial and error.  Pursue your interests and your passions, then follow up by learning as much about them as you can.   The more you learn, the more complex and interesting a person you become.  Next thing you know, you have an identity. And by the way, you’re not stuck with it.  If it turns out you don’t like it, begin to take steps to change it. Don’t forget to turn yourself in to someone you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. Because after all, that is what you are going to be doing.

And with that, I am officially closed for questions on identity crisis for the time being.  (Except in the event of an earth shattering emergency) ( And fingers crossed that if  you are having one of those, you have someone you actually can meet with in person . ) Meanwhile, I wish you guys well. Sounds like an interesting class.


My nominee for worst art of the 21st. Century

Posted July 28th, 2010
Tags: , ,

bedbathian #1

I went to UC Berkeley where I was an art major all the way through to a Masters degree. Why? Because in the words of the great Joe Strummer, “There’s only one answer to what you’re going to do after school and that is art school: the last resort of malingerers and people who don’t want to work.”  I admit that  I may have screwed around an awful lot in the name of academia. But  I also learned a few things. And I was thinking of those few things today when I was waiting to get out of  Bed, Bath and Beyond.  While I was trapped in a lengthy check out line,  I was stuck staring at the big wall full of the theoretical “art.” they sell.  It was directly in front of me. There is enough of it to  take up one whole side of the store.

So I started playing a game called ‘Which of these pieces of art would you buy if a terrorist had a gun to your head?” (And by the way,  it took something that melodramatic for me to motivate myself in this game because  the selection of framed pieces I was looking at each had the ability to ruin my mood in just a second. ) (Though even in the context of the game, I’m still not sure what would be motivating the terrorist to make such a threat . Except perhaps  gleeful sadistic thrills from punishing a western infidel floozy with the rotting fruits of her culture’s decline. )

Fortunately for me, it was time to hand over the credit card before I had to  finalize my difficult decision. Because there was no way I was able to pick a piece out.  But on the way to the car, I began wondering what one might call the ‘school’ of art this store is selling . Not Moderne. Not Cubist. Not Impressionist or Fauvism.  Not Abstract Expressionism. Not Pop. And then it came to me:

The works are Early Twenty First Century BedbathandBeyondian.bedbathian #2

Worse by half than Twenty First Century CostPlussian and twenty First Century PierOneian.


Daddy has bought an old Thunderbird

Posted July 28th, 2010
Tags: , ,

Thunderbird: V-8 Wonder of the Western World

At long last: My Reality Show

Posted July 19th, 2010
Tags: ,

I think it is time for me to have a reality show. So I have made the important decisions.

My reality show is going to be about the highs and lows, the pitfalls and the triumphs of being a single woman. You will share in the heartaches and the struggles but you will also be there for the good times. My problems will turn out to be not so different from your problems because I will do the research necessary during pre-production to make sure that we are in sync.

I don’t think the fact that I am not actually single right now will get in the way of my reality show. The man I live with has a studio out in the front yard. You won’t ever see him. He will be restricted to using the back door to get to the bathroom or the bedroom while we are filming. Plus he gets up early. No one will know he’s around.

Once he is out of the house for the day, the cameras will come bursting into my bedroom. I see a great panoramic shot of me sprawled out on my pastel sheets, my hair splayed gently across the pillows as the dogs leap up to wake me, barking happily, on my beautiful four poster bed. (I am totally going to buy the antique chestnut carved king sized canopy bed with the genuine button tufted Italian leather headboard that is for sale on Ebay for $3569. the very minute I get my first paycheck from my reality show.) My four dogs will obviously play a big role in the show because everyone knows how much my dogs mean to me. But since my actual dogs are not particularly obedient, I will have some better dogs standing in for my dogs on my reality show. They will be nicer looking and will know how to make the kinds of faces on command that make everyone say “aww”.  I have been told I am too dead pan and needlessly esoteric so when something emotional happens, we will  cut to a shot of one of “my dogs,” making a sad or quizzical face.  That will underline how the dogs understand me better than people. And during these “cut-aways” the crew will be able to add a drop of glycerine to my cheeks so that, in the finished edit, a single tear rolls gently down my face.

I will try to make frequent use of a tender smile on my reality show.,

The way a typical episode of my show will work (as if any aspect of my life could be called typical!!) is that after I ‘wake up’ in the morning ‘my dogs’ will bound in to my bedroom and one of them will bring me the newspaper. (If newspapers have all gone under by the time my show starts to film, one of the dogs will bring me an IPAD instead.)  We have now embarked on the hilarious section of the show where you can expect the unexpected as I make astute comedic observations about the day’s’ current events’. Because I am alone in the room, it will seem like I am just adlibbing these remarks. But I will have “help” from as many ‘idea helpers’ as our budget will allow.  Was Brad happiest with Jennifer or Angelina?  Who is Snooki dating?  If anyone still knows who these people are when my show gets on the air, you can bet I will have some really great things to say about them!

There will also be plenty of funny reactions from the dogs in this segment that are certain to “go viral”.on You Tube the next day.  For instance, if I make a remark about swine flu, we will cut to one of the dogs wearing a pig snout!

But the fun is just starting. Probably about ten minutes in to this segment, we hear the door bell ring and uh oh! My best friend Felicity, the psychic/fashion designer that lives next door, will drop by. Since my real neighbors The McShanes have a 9 to 5 job in the restaurant business, the proper casting of my psychic.fashion designer neighbor Felicity will be very important.  Fingers crossed that one of the Kardashians will be out of work by the time we get our air date.

As the segment gets rolling, cameras will follow us as we move “the party” in to my cozy state of the art kitchen where Felicity will hold the audience spellbound with celebrity predictions while I make us both a lo- calorie , budget conscious recipe that will appear simultaneously  on our website (and later be featured in a best selling book.)

As you can imagine, Felicity’s special powers always seem to propel us both in to some unpredictable fixes. For example: Imagine how I might react when  Felicity says, in that droll way of hers,  “Wear something nice today! The love of your life will be shopping at Trader Joe’s.”(Possible sponsor? If not check with Albertson’s, Kroeger’s, Ralph’s, Safeway etc.)  But then, before I can find out what time of day true love will occur,  Felicity runs off to give an emergency psychic fashion reading to  one of the Real Housewives of Somewhere !

So I go to all the trouble of getting dolled up and calling in sick at work (at my job as a fashion magazine assistant if we can find someone who will let me assist them) and then driving  all the way to ( market TK) where I have to figure out a way to remain in the store for many hours,  monitoring every man who comes in the front door, always wondering if he is ‘the one.”.  Naturally we will fill the store with our own ‘unlikely suspects’. One guy will be way too young! Another will be way too old or too heavy or else he’s just too ugly! I will shake my head and roll my eyes as we cut to the spinning hands of a clock.  Well! Needless to say I am pretty ticked off after wasting all day hanging around a damn super market and meeting no one except the attractive store manager, Keith, who is already engaged. Darn the luck.

By the time I am driving home,  I am hopping mad.  I think I’d better confront Felicity and let her know how her stupid predictions totally ruined my day. I figure she must be out at one of the many super hot Hollywood night spots where we are both regulars. (note: We will definitely know what a few of these are by pre- production.)

So I throw on one of my perfect little dressy outfits topped off with a pair of my many five inch sling backs.,( which will also be for sale on our website. And by this time I will not only have learned how to walk in stilettos but will also have taken enough dance lessons that I can cross promote the show with an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. ) Then I will pin my  blonde hair up on top of my head , ( I will be  blond on my new reality show. Also I will get breast implants and liposuction!) and to the throbbing rhythms of the hottest new hip hop song we can afford (or a song by John Mayer  or some other guy who will cut a deal in exchange for publicity)  I will get out my I Phone (possible sponsor?) and call a few of my friends.  Look out! We are ready for action!  (Since I know that my real friends are getting kind of old for my core demographic, on my reality show they will be replaced by some “new friends” who are recognizable “types.”  For example, my dear friend Sue will be played by a  mixed race twenty something girl who teaches stripper-polercizing classes . She and I hate each other. But we also love each other.  So every week who knows what will happen!)

Right after the last commercial break of episode one, we will go to a close up of me as I reapply my lip gloss. The tension builds. And then in a medium shot, set to  whatever power ballad we can afford,  I burst through the doors of the (name tk) club totally ready to give that so-called friend Felicity what for! Still, how could I ever be prepared for what I see?  There at a table in the center of everything is Felicity, in a low cut dress, pouring champagne and toasting my old boyfriend Gunther.  Gunther! Who I haven’t seen since he broke my heart six months ago! Gunther, who the audience knows all about because he is in the opening credits! I had no idea until right now that he and Felicity even knew each other!   My old boyfriend! My best friend!  I hate them. I love them.  Knife in my heart! Tears in my eyes.  End part one.

Of course everyone will be back next week to see what happens!  Set that tivo right now! Especially after they play the teaser for episode two, where we  see me outside another club searching for my valet parking ticket. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me right behind me in line is an impossibly attractive guy.  I am trying to ignore him because he is so not my type. Or so I think. But somehow I can not help but hear him talking on his cell phone complaining that all the girls he has met at this club are just too young and shallow.  And then, uh oh, when I am trying to pay the valet, I drop my purse. And  this gorgeous guy squats down to pick it up. We practically bump heads, then look in to each others eyes and :BOING . It is Keith! The store manager I met at Trader Joe’s! Was Felicity’s prediction right after all? Was I wrong to get mad at her? But if I hadn’t, then I would never have known about Gunther!!

Can it ever work out between me and Keith? We are from two different worlds! He is blue collar. I am from the arts. Oil and water.  Or so the tabloids will be buzzing.  The ladies on The View will all have something to say. The whole world will want to know what I am going to do.  But my viewers have a feeling that somehow it will work out because my viewers all know that on my reality show, I always put them first.  All my stories will be based on research about the kind of things my core demographic thinks might happen to them.

My reality show will definitely take the country by storm because,as my viewers all  know,: nothing is more compelling than real life.

Also, there will be vampires.


Celebrating the 4th with my Obit Collection

Posted July 3rd, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Its the 4th of July and I am still in the middle of a rewrite of this new book of essays.  I’ve been at it so long I am not sure if I am writing in English.

I was going through my notes and came to another piece that never made it out of the gate.  It was going to be about  my collection of obituaries.  I read them because I like seeing whole lives summed up in a couple of paragraphs.   Only about one in thirty has what it takes to get me to tear it out of the paper. But I just added one to the collection yesterday: Bill Aucoin, the one time manager of Kiss. In addition to his KISS legacy , he left behind this memorable  quote which he offered as advice to one of his other bands :”Well, you know you need to check what the wind is like if you’re gonna drop cereal from the helicopter because those Froot Loops could fly up into the propellers.” Seems like pretty good advice in general.

What I do, after I tear them out, is paste them in to a little book full of other obits I have saved. For instance: Thomas Soffron, the creator of Howard Johnson’s  ‘Clam Strips’ and James Jordan, the advertising man who coined the phrase “Zest-fully clean.” each have their own pages.  When I was in grade school, I used to contemplate that Zest commercial, which went “You’re not fully clean until you’re Zest-fully clean.” I spent a lot of time not feeling fully clean because of that guy.

Then there is the obituary of Joyce Carlson who wrote the song “It’s a small world after all” for the Disneyland ride of the same name. Her’s was a song that made me feverish, hysterical, afraid of being trapped forever in this motorized lagoon having to listen to those dolls clickety clacking up and down in place with their scary twilight zone dummy smiles for all eternity as I swam frantically from  my boat, searching for the exit but not finding it,  seeing only madness and agony ahead as I listened to yet another chorus of the song. .  But despite the effect her awful song had on me,  Joyce Carlson died artistically fulfilled. And I love that.

Then there’s  Wanda Toscanini Horowitz: daughter of world renown maestro Arturo Toscanini Horowitz and wife of legendary pianist Vladamir Horowitz.

Wanda T. had my favorite obit ever.  It opened as follows “Wanda Horowitz wore a permanent scowl and was famous for her fiery temper. Once she exploded at a reporter when he asked her about life with Toscanini and Horowitz, her legendary father and husband. She replied “Don’t talk to me about them.  My father made me neurotic and my husband made me crazy.”

Now that’s an obit to be reckoned with.

It goes on: “In an interview shortly before her husband’s death she said “ He was very difficult. For 12 years I heard ” I will never play again. I will never play again” but I kept my silence. I never said “Oh yes, you have to play.” I never prompted him to play.”

If that is what she says in her obituary, just imagine how it must have been in real life when she was probably thinking “So don’t play again. Just stop whining about it.” Oh, and also he was gay. But otherwise it was a perfect 55 year marriage. “Thank God he died before I went to prison for strangling him with my bare hands.”is what she forgot to tell the reporter .

But it gets more intense: “I have my own personality,” she is quoted as saying,” I wish I would have done something for me. I had a lovely small voice. I can act because I have a very severe face but I can be very funny. I have a great sense of humor. I was thinner then I am now and I used to dance very well. I was not bad looking. What more do you want? I could have done a little bit of dancing or singing to be, you know, an operetta singer.

If it hadn’t been for that damned legendary father of hers, Arturo Toscanini, who spooked her in to giving up hopes of being a performer even tho she was the most musically talented of the Toscanini family. “I remember I used to play an upright piano,” she recalls in her obituary, ” and on top of it there sat a photograph of my father. Young. Dark hair. Dark eyes. It made me so nervous I couldn’t look at him. I was afraid to practice when he was home. Every time I made a mistake it was like a stab in his stomach.”

Poor Wanda T.    I’m sorry she’s not around so I could go over to her house and film her performing her  operetta. Or at least  cheerlead her in to going to a few auditions. Talk about a cautionary tale.  I should write something about her. Although I guess I just did. Anyway, Happy Independence Day, whatever that means at this point.

love merrill

The Proust Questionnaire by Puppyboy

Posted June 30th, 2010
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Puppyboy Does the Proust Questionnaire

At the end of the nineteenth century, when Marcel Proust was still in his teens, he answered a questionnaire in an English-language confessional album belonging to his friend Antoinette, daughter of future President Felix Faure, as was the fad among English families . The one that the young Proust completed was entitled “An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc.” and it has been studied and replicated many many times since then.Hoping to put a much needed end to the constant recycling of these questions in various magazines, I asked my dog Puppyboy to answer them.

Q,What is your dream of earthly happiness?

A. Imagine if you will a world in which everyone, everywhere I go, would have the good sense to be fully prepared for my arrival, with appropriate items for throwing (ie: the green ring, the yellow squeezy ball, Stinky Mickey, Filthy Headless Froggy, the purple barbell, the faceless Santa, etc.) And then within this utopian situation, each would take the initiative to get a game going without me having to stare and beg.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?

Well, let’s say you throw something for me. And why wouldn’t you? I’ve certainly made it convenient enough as you will see if you look down into your lap. There are already three things down there for you to choose from.  I recommend the green plastic ring.  So for the sake of argument,  let’s say you pick up the green ring and throw it. It’s barely out of your hands before I bring it right back. Unless by some inexplicable fluke one of the other dogs gets to it first, an awkward circumstance that is very painful  and humiliating for me since I’m here to tell you not one of them  really cares about the game. You can’t even be sure that any of them will   return it.  Jimmy takes off to the other side of the house and pulls it apart.

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Whereas my reputation is built on consistency. You throw it, you will get it right back only a few seconds later ….that is my guarantee. You will see the truth in this for yourself, as soon as you look down  and make the throwing selection that is right for you. By the way, no pressure but just between you and me,  you can’t go wrong with the green ring.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

I would like to be larger, more charming and a lot more persuasive. If I were twice as big and ten times as adorable, something on the scale of ,say, a baby panda, then people wouldn’t be so cavalier about pretending they haven’t noticed when I pile toys in their laps and stare at them. .

What is your most treasured possession?

That would be the green ring. And the  yellow latex squeezy coney. It is shaped like an ice cream cone but has a face that seems to be saying “I taste delicious!” See how its tongue sticks out so it can taste itself? And when I pick it up in my mouth, it makes a loud shrieking noise like a disemboweled rodent .

Though I do love the faceless hedgehog. He’s filthy. He’s damp. He makes our guests shudder with disgust when I place it on their laps. Ah…I’ve had a lot of good times with that one. I still remember when I removed his face . We’d only had that thing two or three minutes. Good times.

But to answer your question:  I would have to say the green ring.  And the yellow squeezy coney.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My consideration for others. I know that everyone wants to throw something , but not everyone wants to throw the same thing. So I always try to pile a variety of things on them so that they may go with whatever mood strikes them. Unlike so many of today’s dogs, if I bring someone the yellow squeezy coney, and for some unknown reason they decide not to throw it, then I’m right there a second later with the green ring or the headless seal. I provide everyone with access to that critical juncture where preparation meets opportunity. It’s the job of a good host.

What quality do you most like in a man?

The desire to please. Just once I would like not to have to remind people what I expect of them.  True, I will always do what I must. But people, can we all just take a little more responsibility for our own actions  and not always leave everything up to me?

In what country would you like to live?

A country with no walls or fences where every surface is covered with mouth sized objects of every shape and description.. I fear a world in which everything is bolted down. What would be the point of living in  a world without projectiles? A world in which nothing could be thrown?

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Well, I have a special instinct for always knowing just where an intended projectile should be dropped to inspire throwing. For instance, when the gardener comes, if he is planting a tree, I might drop the green ring in to the fertilizer. And then, a few minutes later, I will drop The Faceless Santa in to the hole with the hose.

If we are talking about a repairman, I go straight for  the box of tools. If someone is asleep, with their back to me, I know to pile the toys behind their neck. And I just keep piling them in a pyramid til they are over come with the desire to throw. I am a genius at this.

What do you really like in other dogs?

I like them to show the proper respect. When we go for a group walk,  I always take the lead as befits my station in life. That way each and every member of the group is able to observe me as I pee everywhere first.

If someone comes toward me, no matter what the circumstances, I dominate them right away.. A lot of dogs don’t understand my urgency or why its such a big deal that they understand my power.  They stand and bark pointlessly. They hang around hoping for treats or affection. If you ask me, its all bullshit and they are in my way.   Which is why I am not asking you to please sit down and pay attention,  I am demanding that you do so.  Sit.  I have something to bring you.  You wont be disappointed. In fact, if you look down right now its already in your lap.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Zig Zigler, Master Motivator, author of “See YOU at the top.’ His motto was “Always be closing.’ Mine is   “Always be piling stuff in people’s laps and staring at them until they throw it..”

Ah. “Usquequaque exsisto piling effercio in populus tractus tunc astrum procul lemma insquequo they conicio is.”?


Costco: A love story in 4 acts, kinda sorta.

Posted June 26th, 2010
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Costco: A Love Story in Four Acts.

Not only have I never been much of a joiner, I am the rare female whose gender software didn’t come bundled with the genome for “love of shopping.” That makes me the very portrait of someone who didn’t want the bother of purchasing a membership to a market. Already a coerced card carrying “member” of two markets in my neighborhood, I lived in dread that they’d one day hold a meeting. And I had gotten so used to living in overpriced Los Angeles where every trip to the market felt like a mugging that I had given up on even looking for a solution.

But my boyfriend started pushing me to visit Costco and have a gander at the enormous bargains.I resisted at first. It conjured images for me of the way they portrayed Communist bloc totalitarian life in my grade school textbooks: no sparkle, everything colorless, generic, utilitarian, depressing. I half expected to find ladies in babushkas fighting over a potato.  But eventually, in the interest of pleasing him, I agreed.

Then to my utter shock, I found I wasn’t just wrong, I was smitten and spellbound. So much so that by the second year, I sprung for the pricier Executive Membership that guaranteed a refund of 2% of my overall annual purchase total. I kind of I doubted it would actually work.  Or that there’s be a hidden catch. So when I received a check for $100 worth of free merchandise, I was thrilled—and I knew I was a goner.                                                                                                                                                                               Now that I’m in my fifth year of being a Costco-ian, I wondered how exactly the transition from repulsed to semi-fanatic happened. So I decided to take a look back at our golden precious memories, Costco’s and mine, as I explain what I now see as the four stages of my only loving commitment to a Big Box Store.

Act 1: The Honeymoon

The first time my heart beat a little faster was when I realized that Pellegrino water at Costco cost half what it did at my local market. Then I noticed that the dried chicken strips for dogs—a dollar apiece at a nearby pet store—were available in a half-pound sack containing 120 of them for…eleven dollars! Could that possibly be right? A savings of 90 percent? Turned out it was right. Even hamburger was a dollar a pound cheaper. A heavenly choir began to sing as the cavernous warehouse that is Costco was bathed in a rosy hue.

Still, I was not completely sold until I followed up my visit with a little research. Expecting to encounter the usual bad news I read about everything, I learned instead that Costco marked up the items they sold by only 14 to 15 percent, instead of the standard 25 to 50 percent they use at supermarkets. Better still, Costco was apparently nice to its employees, offering both good hourly wages and good benefits. *

Now I was falling in love. No more figuring out where to find the best prices on everything from power tools to potato salad. No more guilt about tortured underpaid workers. I felt safe and warm pushing my wading pool-sized shopping cart past the dozens of free samples tables; enjoying a microscopic shard of chicken/lettuce wrap, a speared morsel of chimichanga, a thimble full of pomegranite juice or steel cut Oatmeal. Yes, sometimes waiting behind the Costco lifers who arrived at noon already wearing lobster bibs, ready for free lunch, could be trying. But wow! That bottle of olive oil so large it required a system of hoists and pullies to lift just lowered the price of sautéing to only pennies a serving. And look… hoists and pullies  for sale just one aisle over! The only hard part was deciding what not to buy. There were so many opportunities for savings lurking everywhere that the trip to the cash register was like crossing The Bermuda Triangle. On my way to buy a crate of gum, I accidentally stumbled into a cache of beautiful leather chairs that cost hundreds less than the very same ones downtown. No, I didn’t actually need any furniture. But one day my furniture might decide to disintegrate. Why spend wastefully! This was too good to pass up.

Act 2: The Awakening

One day a little voice began to whisper, “There is so much stuff for sale here. Is any of it not from China?” and “Hey, what happened to those end tables I liked? Where oh where did they go?”

A little more research revealed that Costco carries only 4,000 items, compared to 150,000 in a typical superstore. And one thousand of them are intentionally “treasure hunt” stuff. These are always changing to instill a “sense of urgency” in customers. In other words, that buyer’s hysteria I kept experiencing wasn’t my own, it was planned for me. Finding this out was a little like discovering that a hot new boyfriend is actually a manipulative narcissist who will leave if you request foreplay.

Act 3: The Disillusionment

It began the day I noticed my weekly grocery bill had somehow become $1800. All I’d done was go to Costco for some steaks…oh, and an aluminum storage shed, because it was $500 cheaper than the one at Home Depot.  Well, I’d had to grab it fast before it disappeared!

Now the downside to buying massive quantities came in to focus. That gigantic container of garlic salt was such an amazing deal, until three quarters of it solidified into a salt lick. And that bag of pre-washed spinach the size and shape of a small child required me to eat spinach three times a day for a week, and also open a roadside spinach stand, or try to sell spinach on E-bay. “I saw an eighty-year-old couple walking in Costco,” said my friend, comedian Elayne Boosler. “I said to them, ‘Get out! Go home! There’s nothing here that you can possibly finish.’”

And then there are the checkout rituals. The first time I forgot to say, “May I have a box?” I found myself making a million trips to unload the car, balancing an air mattress-sized package of chicken parts atop a cistern of laundry detergent. Why?  Because there are no bags at Costco, even though nothing for sale there really fits into those boxes (which, incidentally, are so indestructible they don’t fit in the recycling can). And Costco is the only market with border guards at the exit.  Take care not to misplace your receipt, because you must show it if you’re planning to ever leave.

For me, though, the bloom wasn’t wholly off the rose until I looked around my house, saw one too many dark walnut fake colonial pieces and thought…Damn! My house looks like Costco! Or maybe it was when I noticed, as I made someone a cocktail from my 8 foot high magnum of vodka, that they were looking at me with an expression that said “Whoa. Drinking problem.”

Act Four: Resolution and Mature Love

As with any long term relationship you take the good with the bad. In the end, I finally understood that as a savvy shopper I needed to use Costco for my own purposes, not vice-versa, as well as to understand that certain things I must simply accept. Maybe it is always going to be difficult to take those 10,000 dollar diamond stud earrings in the jewelry case seriously because they are only inches from a tower of Halloween candy? And maybe I will always be disappointed by the odd assortment of books they sell on a big flat table, next to the Big Bag’o’Socks bin,  that seem to have been selected for a mysterious demographic that I’d rather not contemplate. So what?— It’s still a great place to buy food I can freeze, cleaning products, and office supplies. And area rugs and tires. And then I just get the hell out! Oh, and swim goggles. Did I already mention mascara? And picture frames? And THAT’S ALL. Just those things, then grab some soup and a patio heater and head home! And a couple of dog beds. And oh my God a real piano for just $7000!

Answering the musical question: You want a piece of meat?

Posted May 11th, 2010

Puppyboy : Guard Dog

Posted May 9th, 2010

Oh well: You didn’t get a free book!

Posted May 7th, 2010
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UPDATE: I got my ten names. That was fast. Oh well. You missed out. Unless we already had an exchange and you gave me your address. But may I encourage you to please buy a copy of my book in paperback? Because…uh…you need something funny to read and I have to earn a living.


I say this at the risk of sounding like a radio station, but …the contest lines are now closed. I just finished giving away ten free copies of the paperback version of my most recent novel  “Nose Down Eyes Up?”.

If you liked Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, you will probably like this one too.

Its got everything you have come to expect in a recent Merrill Markoe novel :  dogs who talk to people who also talk, bad behavior, too many contemporary references. And it just came out in paperback. A huge box of them arrived at my house and I don’t even have that kind of shelf space. Plus I need to figure out how to publicize the book a little.  The hard cover came out the day after the Christmas after the economy collapsed. That wasn’t a good time to put a book out, oddly enough.

Too bad you missed the big contest. It was the best reason for not writing that I have had in an hour.

One Jonestown Koolaid Grande

Posted May 3rd, 2010

Apparently some residents of Guyana are trying to resurrect Jonestown as a tourist attraction, according to an article in today’s New York Times.

Immediately I began to imagine visiting this place, since it is certainly the kind of thing I would pull off the road to see  if I were for some reason traveling between Venezuela and Brazil. 

Then I began to imagine the souvenirs that would be for sale. Would I buy the tee shirt? Probably.  Would I also want to buy a pen and a back scratcher? Almost definitely.  Would they be selling cups and shot glasses that say Jonestown? Not sure. It would be in such bad taste. But even harder to figure: will there be a stand selling Kool Aid? And if there is, will people line up to buy some and be photographed drinking it in a cup that you get to keep that says “I drank the Kool Aid at Jonestown?”

Maybe I am the inspiration for Sarah Palin

Posted April 28th, 2010

The man who took this photo in 1999 (Vern Evans) for “Merrill Markoe’s Guide to Love”  has it posted on his Facebook page.  I hadn’t seen it in a while and then a friend sent it to me. So I was looking at it and thinking”What does this remind me of?” And then it occurred to me: I was ahead of the whole Sarah Palin Wilderness Woman curve.  In fact its possible that she stole the image from me.  Though she did make a few big important pointlessly horrible changes .  For instance,   this photo was taken right before I boarded a helicopter to go shoot myself some vegetables.


Apparently the dogs have been decorating.

Posted April 25th, 2010
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I am in the middle of a massive re-write of my new book which is a book of essays. My new editor had many many notes.  So it has been a very labor intensive time for me.

Also the man I live with was sick.. That alone was pretty distracting.

I say these things as a way to explain how it is that I didn’t notice that my dogs had taken over the decorating chores at my house.  I didn’t know any of them had the interest or the inclination.  In fact, I’m not even sure which of them did this work, which I think is both original and possibly innovative.  But I think it is incumbent upon me to find out so that I can encourage him. Or her.

I am a guest lecturer on Regretsy

Posted April 20th, 2010
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Well….my book Nose Down Eyes Up comes out in paperback today.  Yes… all the great dog and human humor of the original is now smaller and cheaper!

And so, in an attempt to get the word out, I am a guest lecturer on my friend April Winchell’s brilliant hilarious site Regretsy. I am there to point out spelling errors in people’s home made crafts. If you are interested in meticulously hand stitched misspellings, You can see them right here.

I got it: The cure for pedophilia in the priesthood.

Posted April 13th, 2010
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I was taking a shower this morning and it came to me in a flash.  The cure for getting rid of pedophiles from the priesthood will come when the Vatican finally allows priests to marry.  Especially if it allows them to marry children.