Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Her name was Mrs. Whitaker. She lived in a two story white house, surrounded by green lawns and a formal rose garden. She had floor to ceiling windows, lace curtains, plum velvet drapes, silver bowls and Aubusson carpets. An invitation to her house put one, however temporarily, in the upper echelon of Prunewhip, Vermont's social register. When I was four Mrs. Whitaker gave a formal tea for the women of the Ladies Aid Society and my grandmother was invited. She took me along, scrubbed until I was raw, tortured into a state of sausage curls, strangled by a high-collared white blouse - as W.C. Fields said on his deathbed, "All in all, I would rather [have been] in Philadelphia."

Before my grandmother rang Mrs. Whitaker's doorbell (she had a doorbell!), she lined me up against the side of the house and said, "When we are inside, if you see anything unusual, don't talk about it unless someone else talks about it first!" She said it in her, "Disobey this and you will be found floating face down in the Walloomsac River" tone of voice.

We were ushered into Mrs. Whitaker's drawing room and immediately I saw something most unusual. In fact, I had the best view in the house of this most unusual sight, since I was several feet closer to the floor than the other guests. Scattered around the drawing room floor were small irregular lumps, each one covered by a lace doily.

I was so mesmerized by this display (oh so many years later this would become Installation Art...), I barely noticed the single-breasted (blue serge stretched over girdles that turned two breasts into one formidable rampart), mustached women cooing over me and passing me cookies. I waited until they were deep in conversation and pulled up a doily. Sure enough, just as I suspected, a petrified cat turd white with age.

Now this was unusual! In my limited experience, people did talk about unusual events. I sat in corners for hours on end listening to women talk about the antics of drunken husbands, newly weds who gave birth to extremely large premature babies, the idiots from California who tapped the elm trees in their front yard, etc. etc. This was more unusual than any of that, as far as I was concerned. I waited avidly for someone else to talk about the petrified cat turds cum doilies so that I could talk about them also. No one ever said a word.

I left this grand social event with the renewed conviction that grownups were part of some strange species I would never understand.

Friday, September 23, 2011


The 1970s was the era of affirmations and prosperity consciousness. Groups of people danced in circles chanting "I AM HEALTHY, I AM PERFECT, ALL THE LOVE AND ABUNDANCE OF THE UNIVERSE IS FLOWING UNTO ME." I never made it very long at one of these sessions, to which I had been dragged by an enthusiastic friend, because my bullshitometer would be clanging so loudly, I had to escape the pain.

Nevertheless, in my own way, I have sought happiness and self-improvement. Today I realized that I am a STARCOW. That stands for Sick, Tired, Anxiety-Ridden, Crazy Old Woman. I accepted it. I started to like it. I could see myself, in a field in Vermont, bathed by light of moon and stars. My udders are withered and they hang low, my mottled hide is baggy, my future most uncertain - but oh, I am so beautiful - I am such an exquisite bit of mosaic in the body of Eternal, Universal Isness.

Once I embraced myself, once I accepted that I am a STARCOW, the negative judgments and conflicts I have been feeling with other people and with life itself, began to fall away. Maybe he is not a STARCOW. Maybe he is a SUDBARP (Scared, Uptight, Denial-Based, Angst-Ridden Politician). Maybe she is a DOPE (Defensive, Opinionated, Pretentious, Egomaniac). We are all something. Very few of us are Buddhas. But we are part of the mosaic-of-is. We are perfect. We don't have to become perfect to be perfect. LIfe does not have to be perfect to be perfect.