College isn’t necessarily the best 4 years of your life.

Posted June 9th, 2015
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This is a piece I published in June in VICE.  You can read it THERE …or read it below.


Every June, as I am admiring the pithy speeches full of carefully worded wisdom delivered by people of accomplishment to various cap and gown clad audiences, I have the same reaction. I breathe a sigh of relief for not having had to write one. Then I am pulled into a vortex of anxiety about what I would have said had I been asked.  What exactly did I learn from 4 years of college, (besides how to quickly sign up for graduate school when I couldn’t find a job?)

Well, one thing I learned is to roll my eyes when I hear people tell brand new high school graduates that “college will be the best four years of your life.” For some of us, those years were pretty rough..

Lets start with the physiological reasons. First of all, your brain isn’t finished cooking. An idea as basic to clear thinking and smart decision making as ‘considering the consequences’ doesn’t become a permanent plug-in until your frontal lobe finishes hooking up in your late twenties. Its no accident that organizations like ISIS, AL QAEDA, and the NFL are made up entirely of people from this demographic.

Although I never saw myself as a big risk taker, when I was a college freshman, I had no problem jumping into a car full of strangers who stopped me on the street and asked me if I wanted to attend a new kind of religious meeting. Absolutely! Make room for me! Fortunately it turned out to be a harmless evening of chanting but the fact that I didn’t mind heading off to an undisclosed location without telling a soul is just the kind of hairpin I was back then. Below is film of me made sometime in the early seventies, smoking and drinking by the extremely flammable acetylene tanks used for welding outside the UC Berkeley art building. The joke here was that there were signs everywhere saying this behavior was forbidden. Ha ha! Get it?

The good news is that life actually gets easier after graduation. So in the interest of reassuring struggling students, I offer this partial catalog of some of the many bad ideas I accumulated during my college years.

Honesty is not always the best policy. Neither is spontaneity

Maybe it’s a post teenage reaction to all those years of gaining leverage with your parents by pretending to be someone you are not or the result of 12 years of taking tests that make you race a clock, but by the time you get to college you are pretty certain that the best thing you can do is let your raw feelings be known the minute you feel them. That makes them real. Its important to be authentic, right?

Well, yes and no. As it turns out, one of the biggest lessons life has to teach you is that its possible to say “ Let me think about that and get back to you.” when negotiating delicate issues with loved ones, leaving emotional voice mail messages, or texting in the middle of the night. This applies across the board.

In college, its not uncommon for people to over-share their feelings. Its not necessary to apply the ‘total honesty’ template to everything. It took me much longer than it should have to learn that the answer to “How are you?” does not have to be, “Well, I thought I was getting a headache but I took two Advil and a chewable zinc so now I’m better but I might be getting a cold.”


The proper answer is “Fine.” Period.

Also, and this is big, you will discover that unless it connects to a life threatening situation, there’s not very much your partner needs to know about your sexual history or past indiscretions. In most cases: the less said the better. Honesty be damned.

Much later in life you will realize that there’s a reason why your parents wound up so “compromised”. It because when they were your age they did the same stupid shit you are planning to do and it didn’t work. That’s why they made up irritating cliches like “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

NATURAL IS ALWAYS BEST and other half baked ideas

At some point during college, some budding visionary will say to you “ I don’t get why we have to wear deodorant. What could be more natural than body odor? In fact, why do we have to wear clothes? We should be allowed to take off our clothes whenever we feel like it. “

To this there is only one reply: “Interesting. Get back to me after your frontal lobe finishes hooking up, and we can discuss the idea of the consequences that will result from a life lived stinky. Or naked.”

Baboon males murder their rivals. Sand tiger shark mothers eat their young. Matricide, infanticide, and homicide are commonly found in nature. That means they are natural too.


Why drink at all unless you’re planning to drink unlimited quantities? Isn’t the goal of drinking to get really fucked up?

Not that long ago, I was talking to my college student nephew who was suffering from a bad hangover. I said “How much did you drink last night?” He said “Not that much.”

When asked to be specific, he added “Like four vodka shots. And eight beers. And a bottle of wine.” To which I replied “Actually, that is not only ‘that much’, its the clinical definition of ‘that much.’

When you are in college, people see evenings full of blacking out as ‘a rite of passage.’ If you still drink like that in your thirties, people will start to leave pamphlets at your house and want to talk to you about ‘your problem.’

I still shudder when I remember whatever that was in those monstrous toddler sized jugs of purple liquid we all passed around. Or that drive I made home from a party, so drunk that not until I stopped to pay a toll on the SF Bay Bridge did I realize I had come all that way with the emergency break still on. Then there was the time I was sitting at a table in the kitchen of my first apartment, drinking and talking about whatever while making little sculptures out of rubber cement and setting them on fire. Yes, I managed to damage the ceiling of the kitchen and no, I can’t explain my motives to you now except to say that it seemed like a good idea to me at the time. Its almost like its important to people that age to invent a couple of brand new ways a month to get killed or injured.


Everyone in college gets free points in “potential” just for attending. For only these four special years, a brooding student who is sleeping through classes and never turning in assignments can still seem like a genius or a prodigy, an embryonic Charles Bukowski or Sylvia Plath. Why? Because anyone can be anything! Who knows what will happen!

Sadly, after you graduate, the magic starts rapidly leaking out of that winsome notion. Now you only get points for what you actually DO. As this begins to occur to you, the anxiety can be overwhelming.

To put it more harshly, a moody 45 year old with a beautiful soul who is still ‘wasting their God given talent’ working at an automotive supply store is, in fact, a depressed person who works at an automotive supply store. Period. There are always exceptions but as a general rule, if you meet someone who is full of excuses about why they have never accomplished anything they set out to do, you’re probably looking at a personality disorder.


College sex is where your poorly developed ideas about spontaneity, substance abuse and passion for its own sake unite with your sense of yourself as a sophisticate to create a perfect storm. This was already a tinderbox before “campus rape culture” became a phrase you hear or read every day.

You may never again give a more poorly chosen group of people a roll in the hay than you do in college. Some of them will literally turn out to be people you would avoid sitting next to on public transportation. Others you will pretend not to recognize when you run into them years later.

Sexually speaking, there’s a lot of faking going on in college. But because college students wrongly believe that being in college means they have achieved some level of worldly refinement, they also assume that when a sexual misfire occurs and no one says a word about it, its probably because there is something terribly wrong with them.

The truth is that young guys barely know where anything is on a woman. (which is not to imply that they necesssarily know that much more after they graduate.) To any neophytes reading this, may I offer a valuable word of advice: If you suspect you don’t know what you are doing, you are probably fooling no one. In that case, for God’s sake, don’t do it harder.


You will never in any other period of your life have so many convoluted conversations about the meaning of existence with people who have given it almost no thought or have so little experience to back up their theories.

The good news is that unless you become a philosopher, an astro-physicist or someone who likes to sign up for New Age retreats, as time goes on you will stop thinking this is a problem you need to roll up your sleeves and solve.


College loans are mandatory for many. There is no question that they leave a big scar. But in a variety of ways, you can have much better control over this in your adult life. Even better, in the future its unlikely that you will incur that much debt that quickly without also gaining possession of something fancy that will impress your friends.


Living in a dorm is like agreeing to cohabit with everyone who shares your lane on the freeway. For that reason I am happy to report that unless you wind up in prison or sign up for a Carnival Cruise, you may never have to live with as random a group of wasters again.


Your college papers may be the last coherent writing you ever have to do where you will be carefully judged and critiqued on your ability to substantiate an argument or assimilate a piece of material. Blogging, song lyrics, poetry, political speeches, legal briefs, government policy and literary masterpieces are just a few of the areas of post graduate writing that will not require you to make any sense.

More good news: As far as I know, there is still no law that says you have to become a writer.


During your college years, a frightening premium is placed on having a lot of insider knowledge about transitory things. You must keep your head down and master the art of the wry but all knowing facial expression as you commit to memory the details of a seemingly limitless list of bands, sports stars, cutting edge Improv groups, comedians, cast members of SNL, comic book artists and poet/philosophers your generation thinks are the game changers. You will also need to attend a lot of events in support of all of these things wearing the right kind of clothes and consuming the right kind of substances.

On the bright side, it turns out that this is so much work, the list has no expiration date. As you get older, you will be unwilling to waste that much time on pop culture ever again. Many adults hold onto the list they learned in college for the rest of their lives.


You will never again study as hard for something you don’t specifically need to know. In your real life, studying will be related to things like the DMV.

However do not make the mistake of believing that the only point of being in college is to get a good grade. In fact you will find that many of the important people you meet later and/or employers will never ask to see your college transcripts. They will, however, expect you to actually know stuff.

This is why the biggest waste of your time is finding ways to cheat. Use your time to develop an affinity for learning.

College is a fantastic place to develop secondary and tertiary passions. Look for things that interest you outside your “requirements” because they will come in very handy later in life to help heal the wounds that come from being kicked hard in the primary passion center. That will definitely happen, no matter what you pursue. You will get knocked down in your area of expertise and have to pick yourself up again.

Secondary passions help you keep going. By caring about botany or literature or abnormal psychology, you will be better able to maintain your sense of purpose as a member of humanity.

So on balance, while your college years may not be the best four years of your life, you can definitely turn them profitable if you make a point of training yourself to be excited by the learning. Its not only the greatest gift. but it’s also a path to joy as you enter the more sedentary but generally happier years of greater maturity where you can look forward to less vomiting and fewer crab infested sex partners.



RIP Dr. Glenn Markoe: archaeologist/curator/author/researcher/my little brother

Posted July 29th, 2012
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My brother died some time during the week of July 18. His health had not been great for a while because he had MS. But it was all complicated by the fact that he had been in a number of very bad accidents over the past decade that left him with assorted physical limitations.  One year he broke his shoulder, the next year he broke his hip. About a year and a half later he broke his neck in a bad car accident. Still, he worked out every day on a tread mill in his office and his death was unexpected. I kind of thought he’d eventually tell me that he had simply willed his health problems into a minor inconvenience. He was 61.

Academically speaking, my brother was an expert in a lot of arcane subject matter I could barely comprehend. He used to joke that he knew nine languages, 3 of which had not been spoken in 2000 years.  When someone asked him if he was fluent in Greek, his answer would be the question “Modern or Ancient?” He knew both.

After he received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in Ancient Art and Archaeology, he was granted a  Fulbright Research Fellowship in Cyprus. He loved Cyprus and the people he met there who, he told me, pronounced his name Glown. We found that so amusing that for the entire rest of his life when we left each other messages, we both referred to him as Brother Glown.

As a young man he worked on a fair amount of on-site archaeology digs. He also visited and traveled with his friend Thor Heyerdahl who granted permission for Glenn to use one of his photographs of The Kon TIki for the cover of my brother’s  definitive book about ‘The Phoenicians’, the civilization that gave us our alphabet.  ‘The Phoenicians’ was originally co-published by the British Museum Press and the University of California Press. But  recently  The Folio Society in London issued the book in a leather bound edition.  My brother was very excited about that. He was a leather-bound kind of guy in a digital world. He had no problem understanding Sanskrit but repeatedly told me he was having trouble with G-mail.

For the latter part of his career, he ended up curating museum shows and writing academic research papers with titles like The Funerary Iconography of the Lotus Flower.  Here is a catalog from a show he directed on women in ancient Egypt at The Cincinnati Art Museum, where he worked as  Senior Curator of Classical and Near Eastern Art and Art of Africa and the Americas for 23 years.

Probably the crowning glory of his career was a huge show he put together with his colleague Craig Morris from The Museum of Natural History in NYC entitled ‘The Lost City of Petra.’  Once referred to in a poem as “a rose-red city half as old as time,” the city of Petra is famous for its elaborate temples carved in sheer rock walls. You may remember it best as the haunting backdrop for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Here is a link to the book my brother wrote about the show. My brother spent ten years working on this project, traveling back and forth across the war torn middle east, visiting the site itself and getting permissions from the Royal Family of Jordan and the Jordanian government to ship various antiquities to this country. Here is a picture of my brother and Craig Morris with Queen Rania of Jordan.  My brother is the bearded white haired guy on the left.  Here’s a page about him from a website that went up about the exhibit.  That period of time stands out most for me as a time when I was worried about him constantly because he was not a guy who ever seemed to sense danger. In my mind, he was walking around with a ‘Take Me Hostage’ sign on his back. Ever since he was a little kid he had always appeared to be preoccupied by a private inner landscape of details from some other century. My parents referred to him as “an absent minded professor.” He was simply very trusting and good natured as he concentrated on his work and went about  collecting data for his exhibit,unconcerned that he was  not that far from where we had just invaded Iraq. “Merrill,” he used to shout at me when I issued cautionary edicts, “Where I am, it’s perfectly safe.” Still, when I went to bed at night, I had  visions of newspaper headlines describing how Al Qaeda had dropped a butterfly net over him and taken him prisoner.

Fortunately there was no kidnapping. Instead a great exhibit was the result.  Here’s a page about him from a website that was created for ‘Petra Lost City of Stone’.  I had never even heard of the culture of the ancient civilization of spice traders called the Nabateans, builders of the city of Petra, until my brother told me about them. During that period he sometimes called me from his research sites in Jordan.  Those were the Bush years. I assumed this meant that I was probably having my phone tapped by the U.S. government.

It was always fun to attend any exhibit of ancient relics with him because he specialized in knowing about vanished worlds that are invisible to most of us. One time, while showing Andy and me around an exhibit, he took us over to a very official looking piece of inscribed rock sitting in a case on a pedestal. “That was a shopping list from the first century.” he told us.

Anyway, he’s gone now. He was a very sweet, funny, smart man and a great father to his two sons, Carey and Noah. And he was my goofy but brilliant brother. It seems surreal that he has suddenly vanished. But as we all learn, such is the weird reality lurking right underneath the one in which we all live.

We sent an obituary in to the Cincinnati Enquirer but so far they haven’t published it. I couldn’t wait any longer. So I wrote this. Here he is when he was twenty, on a dig with others from UC Berkeley.

Goodbye dear Glenn.










What to say to the 3 people who come to hear you read at a bookstore.

Posted March 10th, 2012
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Whenever I have a book come out, friends ask me if I will be appearing at any bookstores. I shrug and smile. This is what I am too embarrassed to tell them:

There are many perks to being an author. I bet J.K.Rowling would tell you that the only down side to a bookstore appearance is achy cheeks from smiling at so many well wishers. Steven King is probably tired of the hand cramps from signing so many books. But for a lesser luminary…oh, who can I use?  For the sake of a handy example, let’s just say me… things are rather different. And when I use the word ‘rather’ I mean it in the sense of the word “vastly.”

The truth is that ever since I first made an appearance at a book store where very few people showed up, even book stores where I have never been asked to appear seem to hold nerve wracking future memories. I am talking about the kind of commonly scheduled event for a newly published book in which an optimistic store manager has gone to the trouble of making an enormous sign bearing the author’s name. The sign I’m thinking of may have been big enough to have been visible from the surface of the moon.

Of course everything about being asked to speak anywhere is an honor. After all, during the writing process, every author hopes for some kind of acknowledgment and validation eventually. He or she is probably imagining groups of the kind of interesting people they would be honored to have as friends.  They are certainly not  hoping to one day drive in to a completely empty parking lot, then gingerly tip-toe thru the tumbleweed in a completely empty store,  the haunting sounds of a lone harmonica echoing in the distance, as they find their way to a carefully arranged unoccupied seating area just in front of the afore mentioned enormous personalized sign .

Now the self recriminations begin as I realize that if I had acted more aggressively, weeks before, this moment might have been averted. My other author friends all have the right combination of smarts and ego that pushes them to send out high pressure invitations to relatives and acquaintances, insisting they attend .But I am always too uncomfortable with the idea of inconveniencing busy friends in the middle of dinner so I am relying on maybe some actual fans? Good luck to me!

Usually I begin the process of adjusting to the unnerving scenario that awaits me by taking cover behind a bookcase, where I can have some privacy while I calculate the right moment to ask if its okay if I cancel. While I am trying to figure out how to make a facial expression that looks relaxed and at the same time preoccupied by more important things,  I am drowning in waves of terrible memories from junior high school about being forced to attend an after school social event, only to find myself trapped and standing around all dressed up, never getting asked to dance. The paralyzing unpleasantness that this feeling awakens is  so intense I can hardly breath as I  carefully weigh which are my best  options for an excuse that will get me sympathy: a sudden onset of the flu, a sudden death in the family, or  a sudden onset of the flu due to a death in the family (from the flu.)

But sometimes, before I can make this move and exit the premises, two middle aged women, dressed in down parkas and wearing knit caps, carrying a million paper bags, sit down in the front row.  By start time, they have been joined by a balding man in a too tight plaid shirt who looks pleased to be sitting anywhere at all, period. Is it possible they are here to see me? I suppose they could be three fans. But if that’s the case, why is no one smiling or saying hi or even looking up from their I phones when I walk in to the room?

“Have some perspective.” I start to remind myself, “Nothing awful has happened. Its not like you’re trapped under a collapsed building in an earthquake in Turkey or have been kidnapped by The Taliban in Iraq.” Though even as I’m thinking this, it is also occurring to me that both of those things would have generated a lot of great publicity for my book.

Now a story told to me by the novelist Elinor Lipman comes flooding back: about a friend of hers who, facing a 2 person audience, rose to the occasion. She bravely delivered her best reading ever , size of the audience be damned, until mid-way in  when a policeman led the whole two person audience away in hand cuffs. For a few minutes, they’d assumed they’d found the perfect place to hide out from a chase.

So I take a deep cleansing breath, knowing that others before me have survived this, and say hello to the cheery store manager who tells me how honored she is to meet me and apologizes for the small turn out. This of course makes me feel even worse. If only she had just said something like “This time of year, even Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t draw a crowd.” But no, she simply shows me to a small podium on which is mounted a microphone so large I think I recognize it from the famous photograph of Pres. Roosevelt declaring War on Japan in his day of infamy speech. “Thank you,” I say to her,  realizing that before I have even tried to speak in to it, the mic is creating noisy feedback.  So now I must deal with stadium miking in order to speak to three people who are 14 inches away.

Anyway, obviously a new outlook for this situation seems to be called for. I will probably have to appear at a bookstore again. But next time I will be prepared with a whole new approach.

 My New Speech for the three people who come to see me at a bookstore.

“Hello! Hello! Hello!!” Yes! That’s right! A very special personal hello to each of you! You know, you’re probably going to think I’m exagerating but I swear to you: This very morning,  I said a prayer that only a hand full of special people would attend tonight. So you three are actually a literal dream come true for me!

In fact I have to confess, I am instantly so comfortable with you that I’m going to take you in to my confidence; Its really not my nature to gossip about people behind their backs. But from what I have heard, quite a few of the people who didn’t show up here tonight are dicks. I heard from a reliable source that one of them is just finishing book four of the Twilight saga. I mean, come on! Anyone who made it through 2,000 pages of that crap couldn’t keep up with people like us.

So let’s begin! Just as soon as that guy hovering by that book shelf in the back either commits to sitting down or gives up and leaves the store. I can tell he’s trying to decide if he knows who I am. Sir! Do you need me to tell you who am I? You have an I phone…go on my website and  read my resume! We’ll wait! Uh oh. You’re leaving us? There he goes! Never trust a man wearing a radio station free giveaway shirt.

Listen, before I start over again: How about if the three of us make a pact? Next person who sneaks in late, when I clear my throat, can we please all turn in unison, then break into a big hollow smile and, all at the same time say,“Welcome! We’ve been waiting for you!”. After that we’ll just  keep smiling and staring and smiling and staring for like two or three more minutes! Come on! How great would that be? I’ll videotape it and we’ll put it on You Tube! It’ll get a ton of hits. I’ll title it “Creeeeeeepy!!!”

Actually since its  just us three…does anyone mind if I  skip the reading  and…lets have a show of hands! How many of you have been hypnotized? I haven’t had any hypnosis training but the fact that you’re here on a Wednesday night at dinner time in the dead of winter tells me you have a limited choice of destinations. So if you’ll all just play along, and when I snap my fingers, we’ll all count backwards from fifty. Then somewhere around 30 , you can just drop your heads forward and close your eyes. It’ll make me feel really powerful. And then when I tell you that you’re a bantam rooster, get up and strut and make crowing noises for a few seconds.You’ll never see me again. You have my word: I’m never coming back to this city. And after the enormous hit my ego has taken this evening, I really need you to give me this moment. Then immediately afterward, I will take the  three of you out for coffee and pie and you can show me whats in all those bags.

Then I’ll go back to my hotel room and drink.







By they way, my new book is for sale here and lots of other places. Buy one and save me from having to go out and read.



RE: The Super Bowl: How I tried to win a million dollars by making a Dorito commercial.

Posted January 30th, 2012
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Okay, I know it is The Superbowl next Sunday. And I know this, even though I don’t watch any sports. There. I said it.  None. Nothing. And I am fortunate enough to now live with a man who shares my lack of interest. (In fact, just last night he said to me “Who is playing this year? Is it the Spiders versus The Coconuts?”)

If there is one thing I do even less than watch sports, it is enter contests. At least not since  I was eight.  Even then, it has seemed like an exercise in exploring  Fran Lebowitz’s comment about entering The Lottery (“I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not.”).  Nevertheless, for some insane reason  in 2009, when I saw that there was a contest that offered  a prize of  a million dollars for making a Dorito commercial that was supposedly going to air on The Superbowl, I had a momentary brain white out and decided to enter.  “No way I can be the worst person entering this contest.” I said to myself, I said, I said, ” And who knows? Maybe I will be one of the best!”

And thus did I throw myself in to this delusional headwind,  and spend one crazed weekend making a theoretical Dorito commercial.   I should add at this point that I didn’t prepare for my task by studying existing Dorito commercials  to make sure that I was playing the correct ball park. No no….None of those creativity restrictions for me. So, that wasn’t smart. I should have done my research. But instead, inspired by my own idea, I just leaped forward.  And I did this despite the fact that I don’t even like Doritos. Where salty snacks are concerned, Doritos have never been in my top twenty.  Looking back, that probably didn’t work in my favor either.

Still, I very much liked the idea of winning a million dollars.  So come with my now to the golden year of 2009 as we look at my hypothetical theoretical Dorito commercial . . CommericalDorito Commerical

Come on…you have to give it up for my Dorito trees!

I carefully waded through many bags of Doritos in order to select just the ones with a big loopy fold so I could organically drape them over my plants.  Proving once again that you can take the girl out of the art school, but you can’t take the art school out of the girl.  In fact, since I’m reviving this whole memory for my own humiliation, I’d like to now  re visit some highlights of my Dorito plants.  Andy (who also supplied the voice over) thinks that we would have won if we had  referred to the raw, still-to-be-picked fruits of the Dorito plant as “DORTS”.

I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think this would have changed anything.

dorito trees


Read reviews here on this very website.

Here’s the cover! Looks great, right?

It IS GREAT. You should definitely buy it.

The Jpegs RollingStone didn’t want.

Posted September 16th, 2011
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So there is a piece in the new RollingStone about year one of the Letterman show. (If you use the link, check under the area labeled ‘features’  And if the link says something about how you need to be a subscriber, just google Rollingstone,Current issue. And it will appear. Then look for features.). As a lot of you may know, this is not a piece of my past that I revisit much. I have a lot of reasons, among them the fact that whatever  the opposite of nostalgic is, I am that. But when the writer of the piece, David Browne, contacted me, I decided I’d play along. Because…you know… why not?  And in the course of playing along, the art director asked me if I had any photos. As it turned out, I did.  I made jpegs out of a bunch of them but for whatever reason, they never made it in to the magazine.   Which brings us to this blog post. Since I went to the trouble of making the damn jpegs , I thought maybe fans of the early Letterman show might enjoy seeing them.  Lets get ME over with first. Here I am when the show first launched. The important writer shirt was a sarcastic souvenir from my days of being a struggling writer at large, newly moved to Hollywood. Which, at that point, was just a few weeks before this.  I thought it was a very funny thing to have on a shirt that labeled me an important writer. In fact, it was the funniest thing I could think of. That, in a nutshell, was me then.

I’m going in chronological order…This is a picture of the set during a rehearsal of The David Letterman Show, which was Dave’s live MORNING show. It preceded the night show. It was on the air live 90 minutes a day at 10 in the morning on NBC for 19 weeks before it got cancelled.It was a lot like the night show but, if you can imagine it, even weirder. It had “a family”…many of them funny cerebral comedian character writer/performers.(The brilliant hilarious Valri Bromfield, Edie McClurg, Wil Shriner and Rich Hall, to name 4). The guy sitting with Dave is comedian Bob Sarlotte, who was supposed to be a kind of a side kick. He moved his family all the way to NYC, only to have the whole show up-end in just a few months. This was not the way things were supposed to go.  However, when the show was cancelled two good things happened. We won an Emmy. And we got this cool telegram from Martin Scorcese.

Now on to “Late Night with David Letterman” on NBC. This was the next version of the show.  Here is what the host and one of his guests looked like during year one of that first late night show.  By the way, in case it is not obvious to you…that guest is Mr. Leno.

And this is what my assistant Chris Elliot , who was about 13 at the time, looked like. I had to get his mother’s permission to take this picture. No No. I am kidding. But he was about 19. The photo beneathe this one is what he looked like playing a LifeGuard in a ‘fun in the summer’ special.

Now for some writers. This is a scrapbook page I didn’t want to dissemble. Starting top left, the young Steve O’Donnel,(who went on to headwrite the show for many years)  then Jim Downey talking to  “not sure”…who MIGHT be Sandy Frank. (but still not sure.) They are in Tom Gammill’s office, as you can see by the signature Gammill painting on the wall. Tom has a cartoon strip called The Doozies. (Google it, sit back, pour yourself a beverage and make an evening of them.)  Below on the right is my dear pal George Meyer,(more recently of The Simpsons). In this photo he is pretty much right out of college. He is on the site of a science fair that we covered for the show. Unless he was one of the exhibitors. And below on the left is the always funny and fantastic Hal Gurnee, who was our director. Here is the young Tom Gammill on the cover of an in-house news letter he and his partner Max Pross were writing and distributing to the staff.

Next is my old friend Gerry Mulligan, who stayed at the show until a couple of years ago when he retired! But this photo is taken of him when the show first started.And ladies and gentlemen, the hilarious Andy Breckman, who later in life became the creator of MONK.

Here is Paul  Shaffer holding a photograph of Hal Gurnee’s dog Burt. For reasons of his own, Mr. Gurnee was obsessively photographing everyone who came on to the show holding this picture. Somewhere there are HUNDREDS of these. Not sure why I have this one.

And here I am in a segment for the first anniversary show called Stupid Writer’s Tricks. I am doing a scene from a theoretical sit-com I wrote for myself called My Little Merrill. In the scene, my husband has told me that the boss is coming for dinner. But oops. Darn. In my hurry to get everything perfect I dropped a 100 lb. weight on  the dining room table and broke it in half.

This certainly proves I haven’t changed as much as I thought.

Which brings us to Dave and the Grateful Dead. And with that we conclude this portion of the jpeg assortment. But wait…wait…one more thing.


A word from our sponsor. We hope you enjoyed this pointless trip down memory lane. We (and by we I mean ..uh…you know…) are so hopeful that we (I) would like to take this opportunity to (coughing fit. Excuse me.I’m sorry. I can’t stop coughing. Oh. Where was I again? Ah yes.) Ahem. I have a new book coming out November first. It’s a book of funny personal essays. Its called Cool Calm and Contentious and if there is any chance you can be talked in to pre-ordering one, you can do it HERE (amazon) or HERE (Barnes and Noble.) Thank you. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Not that there is any.











































































Models Reveal Their Diet Secrets!

Posted August 4th, 2011
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The copy on this ad says “You’ll need a lifetime to experience all the joys of Las Vegas. But if you only had a few incredible days, you’d need a plan to make the most of it.”

And the photo shows us four people who really know how to make a fun plan!

They offer  a lesson to the rest of us in how today’s beautiful people keep off the unwanted pounds! Because of all the things you can do with food, only EATING starts you on the path to gaining weight. So they have learned to see food as a toy! An accessory! A thing to have fun with!

These four have joined together to demonstrate a way to eat out that lets you have a fantastic night on the town and still leave as slim as when you first sat down!  Look how hard they are all laughing! You wouldn’t laugh THAT hard unless you were having the best time ever! And as we can see, they have ordered many many desserts, not for eating but for room decor. They have arranged them in to a picturesque arc around the real attraction: a big group dessert that the whole table can share!  Cotton candy!  I personally have never seen cotton candy listed on a dessert menu at  a restaurant. But that is almost certainly because I do not know the cool places to go, like these four do!

The Cotton Candy for Four dessert is the perfect dessert  because it is both the most fun to play with and the least appealing to actually eat. Look at how the dark haired girl is actually putting it in her hair, which is almost certainly going to cause her to have to leave early when she notices that the spun sugar residue has made the whole top of her head gummy. But that just ADDS to her fun.  By leaving early, she will not have to eat so much as a spoon full of anything at all.

Her date, in the purple shirt, is having just as much fun as she is! He is so convulsed with laughter he had to close his eyes! Even if his dinner companion has to leave early, to keep from attracting ants,  that doesn’t spoil his fun one bit! He has found more entertaining things to do with his silverware than eat! Clearly his date has seen him do this spoon-on-nose trick so many times before that she doesn’t like to encourage him by  looking over at him. And despite this seeming rudeness, when the two of them look back on this special night in Vegas, they will both rate it a success knowing that neither of them consumed a single calorie.

The young man on the far left of the table has made a hilarious mustache out of his cotton candy because he knows that as long as he holds it in place between his lip and nose,  he will not have to make excuses for not eating.

Which brings us to the one girl who appears to have actually taken a bite of the cotton candy. She is a little more subdued than the others because she knows she has made a mistake. But she also realizes that she can quickly spit the whole mouth full back on to that big sloppy plate and no way anyone will even notice! That’s why they serve it all formless in a big messy mound like that!! It is designed to be played with and spit out!

Here in example number 2. three gorgeous gaunt young people have ordered the spaghetti…knowing full well that the risks involved in ordering a dinner full of refined carbs will not apply to them! Not as long as they just HAVE FUN with their food and do not get side tracked by eating. This kind of behavior is so common with models that chefs no longer take it personally when they see beautifully attired people with amazing cheek bones spitting out everything they have ordered.

So the lesson is clear: Models definitely know how to have MORE FUN with their food than you do!

And taking all the drugs they can find  before dinner probably helps quite a bit too.


P.S. Ahem. Its not til November but if you’re the kind of person who pre-orders books…(additional coughing) Also Barnes and Noble

Yep. I’m on twitter.

Posted July 24th, 2011
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I resisted for a long time. I resisted it all. (As I previously noted a few blog entries ago…I’m also on Facebook.)

To be honest, life was fine without either of these things.  But I have a new book book coming out in November. (Pre-order it, won’t you? Amazon or Barnes and Noble.)

I’m not sure why having a new book coming out equates to being on Twitter or Facebook. Especially since I am obviously going to be too embarrassed to do too much pimping or self promotion on either one. That little bit of misfortune was built in to my personality at a young age and no amount of de-programming seems to have much effect on it.(Although, here I am doing it right now.)

So far the only thing that being Twitter has brought to my life is the sudden need to write one liners every day, for free. Why THAT is a good thing is anyone’s guess.

All that aside, there you have it. I’m on Twitter. (I should point out that  I’m not the only one! Yes. Its true. There are a lot of people on Twitter.) But…if you feel like it you can suddenly find me there. Uh, I mean follow me.

Now let us return to our regularly scheduled programming. And I will go back to trying to write a legitimate blog entry.

What it sounds like in my head between projects

Posted May 15th, 2011
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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.)

Is this going to be on the test?

Posted August 6th, 2010
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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 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 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.


At long last: My Reality Show

Posted July 19th, 2010
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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 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.


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.”?


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.

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.

Well, I’m in the Wall Street Journal

Posted March 27th, 2010
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Because, you know, I’m such a big player on Wall Street.

Actually, that’s misleading. I’M not in the Wall Street Journal. A piece I wrote is in the Wall Street Journal and you can see it for yourself right here. I was asked to write something about how the coming holidays are more than the usual amount of difficult because of all the divisive political opinion right now. So I wrote about America’s two big hobbies: Celebrating and Freaking out. I have never written anything so quickly in my life. And not because I was celebrating or freaking out. Though I did, at some point, start freaking out because I was only given 24 hours to write 1800 words. Its hard to write six pages and have them make sense in the English language in a time frame that small. Well, hard for me.  Steven King probably can do it and be texting at the same time. And of course, when I say “six pages”, I mean in a theoretical notebook sense. That’s how I always keeps track of pages. In my head they are on imaginary paper.

This is the photo the Wall Street Journal used for an illustration. None of these people are me. Although every photograph that I have of myself in this kind of a family context is nearly as horrifying.  I was saving all of the afore mentioned photos, in the original scrap books  assembled by my mother at various points in the sixties and seventies, because it seemed like a thing I must do.  Some of the pictures of me were so unflattering that I carry them, as a cautionary note, imprinted and enlarged,  in the masochistic portion of my brain where they surface almost every single day. Recently it was pointed out to me, by my beloved, that I didn’t have to save photographs that I truly hated. It took me a while to realize that he was, of course, right. And it was a happy day when I pulled out those bad looking images and threw them away.

Now if I could just figure out how to also get them out of my head.

How Westminster always looks to me.

Posted February 18th, 2010
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Every year I watch the Westminster dog show and I think about making this. This year I did it. Here it is.

The Greatest Love the World Has Ever Known: An analysis

Posted February 12th, 2010
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Well, its Valentines Day, almost. I’ve actually had a few nice ones in a row since I am happily co-habitating with someone I genuinely like. But as usual for me this time of year,  I start thinking about the lack of reasonable romantic role models in the world at large.  My family didn’t provide one. And come on… don’t we all want to see  a functioning hopeful model?

Where public couples are concerned, I am always cynical at first. But then, if  they persist  for enough years, I   start to buy that maybe they know something that I don’t .  It always takes me a while but damn…as soon as  I make that leap of faith, the next thing I know they are  filing mutual restraining orders.  A good example is Brad and Angie. For a long time they seemed ridiculous  both separately and together. Then recently I started to think that maybe they actually had defied the obvious shallow cliches. I no sooner spoke that silently to myself than  I read that she is trying to kill herself. Boom.  Not only are they both disqualified but I am pissed off at them because  they have made me feel like an idiot for  cashing in my cynical chip . (And as a bonus, in this case,   I want to strangle her for dragging all those children in to such an apparently neurotic mess  of a life .)

And that is why this year ,  it behooves us all to re-examine the greatest love story ever told: Romeo and Juliet.Here we can truly gain wisdom.

If you have not had the occasion to do so lately, please allow me to reacquaint you with the details of a timeless model of romantic love .
When we first meet the teenage Romeo, it is a Sunday night and he has decided to crash a ball just to catch a glimpse of Rosaline, a girl with whom he is desperately in love. Instead, he meets the thirteen-year-old Juliet. And even though, only seconds before he was deeply in love with Rosaline, now he knows instantly that this new thirteen-year-old girl is the greatest love of his life. Really. She is. He’s not kidding this time.

Juliet has never been in love before. All she knows about Romeo is that their two families hate each other. But so what? No ones parents ever like anyone cool that you like.  The important thing is that by Monday afternoon, so beautiful is their love, that they go ahead and get married.Just one day later. Maybe it seems hasty but back in those days, time moved so much more slowly than now that a day was more like two days or even three.

Anyway, in lieu of a honeymoon,  Juliet goes back home to spend the night at her parents’ house because her parents do not know about the marriage yet. But  to mark the day in a way that will make it memorable, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin.  So by the time Juliet gets home,  her family is consumed by  grief.  They are so sad, in fact, that Juliet’s father decides there is no time like the present to arrange for Juliet to marry an older man. Perhaps he is thinking about how life is fragile and time is a-wasting. After all, Juliet is thirteen and not getting any younger.

However, because he’s Juliet’s father is a full grown adult, not a hot-headed teenager with raging hormones, he  knows better than to rush things. So he sets the wedding date for Thursday.

Naturally, the already-married Juliet realizes she must defy her father’s wishes. She is , after all, in the seventh grade.  She has boundaries and  she must  let her intentions be known. She probably could corner him at dinner and ask him to sit down with her for a serious talk. But instead she takes the most sensible course of action under the circumstances. She pretends to be dead.

This choice of action certainly bodes very well for the future of her marriage to Romeo since we now know that the core of any “love-at-first-sight” attraction is usually “repetition compulsion” – wherein a person reenacts the identical behavior and problems first seen in the parent-child relationship. In that respect, perhaps its for the best that Romeo and Juliet decide to  kill themselves a few pages later.. long before we are able to chart their marriage any farther into the future when it most certainly would have descended into scenarios like this:

Romeo (enters parlor) “Juliet! Juliet! My Light! I’m home! And I really have to talk to you about something that is bothering me….You know they say ‘Never go to bed mad’ and Juliet? Juliet? Oh no. Honey. Not dead again.  Please don’t be playing dead again. You were just dead on Monday. I can’t call 911 twice in one week. It is too embarrassing. Juliet? Juliet?”

So, summing up: A thirteen-year-old girl who likes to pretend to be dead married to a teenage murderer who has no trouble falling in love with two different girls on the same Sunday night.

Which leaves us with this slightly comforting fact. There is no reason to lament today’s lack of viable romantic models. Things only seem worse now.  The main difference between love now and then is that back then no one watched Oprah or went to therapy so they didn’t mind calling deranged neurotic behavior “the greatest love story ever told.”

Merrill Markoe presents: Quickdraw Noir

Posted September 6th, 2009
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Yes, its that German expressionist episode you may not remember. Not everyone knows that Peter Lorre did a guest spot on Quick Draw McGraw. Andy Prieboy did the music.

Version 3: My corporate montage

Posted June 29th, 2009
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A week or so ago I posted an idea I had of making myself a corporate montage. At that point I was still thinking of trying to compete with GE or AT&T or Standard Oil, image-wise. But now I have  decided to try out a more honest version. Quite frankly, I think I may be breaking new ground as I doubt Exxon or Merrill Lynch have even considered going in this direction. Here is what my corporate montage really should be.

Below is the original post:

I have been thinking a lot about the omnipresent idea of branding. For quite a while now I have been interested in corporate image and the montages they use to advertise some vague notion of what they represent and why you should trust them with your business. These montages are all similar enough to one another that I sometimes play a game with myself when they air to see if I can guess what they are supposedly selling. Is it Wells Fargo bank? AT&T? HBO? Kraft? G.E? B of A? Ikea? Goldman Sachs?  If the current economic crisis has taught us anything at all, it is that we never had any idea what was behind those corporate logos . But look at how successful and wealthy those montages helped them all become! And then I thought: THAT is what I need to get the career rolling. I’m so slow on the uptake. I need a brand that people will have confidence in.  So I have begun to assemble the Merrill Markoe corporate montage.  It is a work i progress. I probably will be up tonight messing with it.  Because it is what I would rather do than write my new book. I need to figure out what I have forgotten in this montage. So no time to write. Damn.version 2

Forever chasing bottles.

Posted May 1st, 2009
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I made this little film  when I first learned how to edit. I still kind of like it. Especially the original sound track by Mr. Prieboy.  So put your hands together and welcome to our stage Puppyboy in “I’m Forever Chasing Bottles.”