I’ve fallen into the late ’60’s and I can’t get up.

I’ve never doubted the power of books to transport the soul. But time travel, that’s something new. A few weeks back I started listening to Sylvie Simmons’ I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen and at about a third of the way through I realize I am currently trapped in the late 1960’s.

I’m not all that big on celebrities- you won’t find me clicking on anything Kardashian – but Leonard Cohen is more icon than celebrity, so I’ve taken the deep dive. I’ve had “Suzanne” on repeat in my head now for at least ten days. Skip the ad and prepare to be gobsmacked:

In the late fifties and early sixties, Cohen was an emerging Canadian poet and novelist of middling note. Then he got serious with his guitar with the encouragement of Judy Collins and others, and the rest is musical history.

I hadn’t realized that Leonard Cohen was part of the Andy Warhol/Patti Smith/Lou Reed scene at the Chelsea Hotel because I was a very young twelve in 1967 and not yet listening to songs like “Chelsea Hotel #2” where Cohen famously celebrated his one-night stand with Janis Joplin. Should you foolishly think it’s no longer relevant, Lana Del Rey did a cover of it in 2014:

And everything old is new again anyway. The Chelsea Hotel – which variously sheltered Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Edith Piaf, Sid Vicious (he stabbed his girlfriend Nancy there), Robert Mapplethorpe and, more recently, Madonna – has recently re-opened for business. Not sure I could sleep there with all the ghosts, but it’s an option for those less faint of heart. By the way, Patti Smith’s autobiography Just Kids is a magnificent survey of the heyday of the Chelsea Hotel.

Musically, we all seem strangely locked in our own generation. Just as I was never to appreciate the “big band” music of my parents’ era, I got a blank stare from a 20-something when I mentioned Leonard Cohen the other day. I should have thought to ask what music she listens to. I know she will remember every word of every song when she’s 70 and no one younger than her has ever heard of her favorite singers.

There’s actually a name for it: “neural nostalgia”. As Mark Joseph Stern wrote in Slate magazine (August 12, 2014) “researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains bind us to the music we heard as teenagers more tightly than anything we’ll hear as adults.” Musical nostalgia, he explains, “isn’t just a cultural phenomenon: It’s a neuronic command.”

So, when I hear Leonard Cohen sing about Suzanne feeding him “tea and oranges that come all the way from China”, I get a surge of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and other neurochemicals that transcend the discovery in the book that what the real Suzanne was “feeding” him was a cup of Constant Comment tea. (This also, by the way, explains why certain members of our family have an affection for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler that borders on obsession 😉 …but I digress…)

For me, the dopest dopamine comes when Joni Mitchell steps on stage, and discovering that she and Leonard Cohen had a thing in the late 60’s is a rush of pleasure, indeed.

If, like me (come on, there must be at least three or four of us weirdos out there…) you’ve memorized every early Joni Mitchell lyric, you’ll remember her lyric in the song “A Case of You”

“I drew a map of Canada,

Oh Canada,

With your face sketched on it twice…”

Guess who’s face she sketched? Yup, Leonard Cohen’s.

And, mystery solved, Leonard Cohen is also the subject of Mitchell’s melodic “Rainy Night House”

Leonard Cohen died in 2016, but of course his music lives on. In fact, even the 20-somethings probably hear it without realizing whose it was – I was standing in an elevator the other day when a Muzak version of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” snaked through the speakers. Maybe not the legacy he would have hoped for, but Leonard, you still give me that dopamine rush and I’m grateful for it.

I like the Jeff Buckley version of it:

I’m afraid I’ve fallen hopelessly back into the late ’60’s. Don’t help me out just yet – I’m enjoying it immensely!

“I did my best, it wasn’t much

I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya

And even though it all went wrong

I’ll stand before the lord of song

With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah”

– Leonard Cohen “Hallelujah”

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June in NYC: 5 Takeaways

If all Junes are like this June, then I always want to be here in June! What a gift it has been for us – a second glorious week in the city.

Yes, we are dodging the seemingly murderous e-bike and scooter riders who routinely plow through red lights and terrify unsuspecting pedestrians, but walking the city still seems safer than riding the subway, which even some longtime New Yorkers are currently avoiding. There’s work to be done here, but it feels generally safer than the headlines would suggest, and there is (finally!) a joyful buzz to the city.

Five reasons I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it:

1) The light! Okay, maybe it’s not Paris, but there is something about the summer sky in NYC that I cannot resist.

2) The Met! You have until July 11 to see the Winslow Homer “Crosscurrents” exhibit, called “wondrous” by The New York Times and “a knockout” by The Washington Post. I call it positively sublime and not to be missed.

The exhibit and the narrative are organized around Homer’s iconic “Gulf Stream” painting (pictured above), although I was more drawn in by the 1895 “Northeaster”…

and “Undertow”:

and especially “Fox Hunt”, Homer’s single largest format work:

There are seventy-seven paintings in all, so it bears seeing and seeing again. Almost too much to take in in one pass.

3) Also in the “almost too much to take in” category is the signature cheese soufflé at La Grenouille. The dining in general has been superb but this was a special meal in a very special setting. If you go between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. it only costs half a fortune instead of a full fortune. And that soufflé – well, there’s nothing like it anywhere else.

If only we could have smuggled out the peonies…

Arguably the prettiest restaurant in the city…

4) The ABT! June is ballet month and how lucky we were to attend a presentation of “Don Quixote”. So great to be back at Lincoln Center (albeit with masks and vaccination status checks). Such a special evening.

5) And, of course, The Park. Always and forever, in any season but so lush and lovely right now.

Where else can you happen upon something like this on your morning walk?

And then head over to the Boathouse for lunch…

We’ve had a magical time. And hopefully many more going forward…

“New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.”

– Dorothy Parker
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It was worth waiting for.

Nearly a year since we’ve been back to the city.

And, of course, we’ve heard nothing but bad news. Surge upon surge – in virus, in crime, in prices.

All this time we’ve held our breath as to how we would find it upon our return.

And?

It’s positively breathtaking.

NYC has many faces. It’s been wearing one of its prettiest for us these past few days.

The oakleaf hydrangeas are blooming in Central Park.

And the planters along Central Park South are trying to do their part…

Dante Park is prettily edged.

And Lincoln Center is all dressed up for summer.

In general, things are looking pretty sweet.

Broadway is back!

And everyone and their dog is out enjoying the beautiful almost-summer evenings.

Oh to be young in the city…

But never mind, even us oldsters can enjoy being at the center of the universe.

We want to scoop up every morsel of it we can. Especially the Milos Special, enjoyed with a view of The Vessel.

We may be in our sunset years, but the sunsets here are exquisite. How we love this beautiful jewel box of a city. So, so great to be back!

“The lightning spun your garment for the night

of silver filaments with fire shot thru,

A broidery of lamps that lit for you…”

from “The Lights of New York”
– Sara Teasdale
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Family Album: You can go home again.

When you lived your entire childhood in the same house in the same sleepy town with the same boring parents, you can’t wait to move several time zones and a myriad of zip codes away.

But after finishing college and starting a career and then watching the world get turned upside down and inside out by a wannabe plague, heading back west and switching out those 10000 zip codes for the sunny 90000’s doesn’t seem like the worst idea.

In fact, what the heck, maybe bringing friends to visit at home for a weekend could actually be fun! The house is the same except for older and shabbier, and the parents – well, they’re really old and shabby, but even they look better when you get a relaxing, sunny 80-degree weekend. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, it turns out you actually can go home again.

First stop is always the chicken yard, so everyone figures out right away that they’re not dealing with sophisticated folk here.

“Just us chickens”, says Lily.

Friends Wilson and Will had never been to Santa Barbara before so the challenge was on to compete with Brooklyn and Columbus. Brunch at Scarlett Begonia got us all off to a good start.

And we were joined by very special guests Victoria and Marie-Christine!

Our pool was the place to be that afternoon:

Freddy hung out with Lily…

and with Victoria…

Daniel and Wilson…

And even Peter managed to show up for a cameo appearance:

They tried out some of the new restaurants in town

And Daniel enjoyed a visit with Granny.

And since Daniel will be ten or twelve time zones away for his birthday, we squeezed in an early celebration:

I think they all had a good time…especially Lily, of course!

Best of all, they all promised to come back!

Same time next year?

Happy Birthday, Daniel – love you so! xoxo

All things on earth point home…

– Thomas Wolfe
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Aging gratefully.

If one must be aged, every birthday should be one for the ages, right? This one most certainly was, with not one, but two most memorable lunch events.

The first one was positively sublime. When that divine, almost-secret garden Lotusland announced a book launch event scheduled ever so conveniently near my birthday, I instantly snagged a table for ten. This year, instead of my friends taking me out for birthday lunches, I took them to one!

It began with the ever magical walk through the garden, which the occasional opera singer and frequent bride (married six times!) Madame Ganna Walska created on her 37-acre Montecito estate.

The lotus are not quite yet in bloom, but lovely even so.

Yes, it is sobering to realize I might be even older than this redwood…

But never mind. We were there to enjoy. And yes, we wore hats!

The walk leads to the upper lawn, where luncheon was served.

The actress Jane Seymour gave a lovely speech but I forgot to take a photo of her because I was focused instead on this cake:

Hey, it was my birthday! I had to eat it!

While lunch number one was positively sublime, lunch number two was ever so slightly ridiculous, because the CE’s and my party guest was none other than Lily. I challenge you to name a place more dog-friendly than Montecito’s lovely Rosewood Miramar!

And while our crew might not be quite as debonair and dapper as the Miramar’s owner Rick Caruso and his pup…

I still think they’re keepers!

Lily ordered steak and eggs from the “Pampered Pet” menu. For $15, I’m going to ask for that next time!

Here she is being a very good girl and waiting for the CE’s signal to dive in:

My lunch was more expensive than hers, but it did come with a knife and fork…

Two absolutely perfect days made it (almost) worth adding another year. Judging from these festivities, if I’ve done nothing else with all these decades, at least I’m learning how to celebrate 🙂

“It takes a long time to become young.”

— Pablo Picasso
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Being present for the presents.

Remember when you were young and giddily counted the days until your birthday?

As the years pass, so, it seems does the giddiness. After packing on several more decades, I’ve begun dragging my feet toward that inevitable day in May.

However – whine and carry on as I might, the day still comes. And this year, it finally occurred to me that while I may look far too old to keep having birthdays, it’s actually kind of wonderful that they’re still rolling around.

And rolling in with style! A pre-birthday trip to Kauai…

…and a festive sunset harbor cruise under a full moon with so many dear friends.

The jacarandas are all dressed up for my birthday:

And yesterday there was even a chicken parade!

My big present came early. And I do mean BIG present. I’m the first to agree that good things come in small packages but with economy tanking it’s clear this is not a year for sweet surprises in small jewelry boxes.

So instead, the biggest present I’ve ever gotten.

How big?

Bigger than a breadbox, that’s for sure!

The CE had the most gorgeous planter built for my garden!

Isn’t it amazing?

So instead of sulking and hiding from mirrors this birthday, I will be elbows deep in the dirt and joyfully planting. Maybe, at the last possible moment, I’m finally figuring this birthday stuff out…

“My birthday…is assuming the proportions of a scandal!”

– Colette
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Please don’t interrupt my aloha.

It happens every time. Our bodies are technically back in California but I can’t quite leave Hawaii behind. It’s not jet lag. It’s the sense that I had a glimpse of Paradise (because I just know heaven will be a 5-star hotel in someplace very much like Hawaii!) and I just want to stay and stay!

Hey, you say, I happen to know you’ve been to Hawaii more times than you can count.

We went when the kids were young:

We went when the grandkids were little:

And when the littlest grandkid was really little!

And we go whenever we can. But there is never enough Hawaii for us. On this trip, the CE even saw the light and said “We have to come back every year!”

What is it about Hawaii? It’s everything. The air, the flowers, the trade wind breeze…every moment is infused with beauty.

And when we are there, no matter what else is going on, we are happy.

Please don’t ask the hard questions, like “Well, what do you actually do there?

I could tell you there are many things to do. Snorkeling tours, helicopter tours, jaunts around the islands, etc. etc. etc. Of course, we don’t do any of them. What do we do when we’re there?

A lot of not very much. But we have so much fun doing it!

I can still vividly remember my first moments in Hawaii, which were spent, like this trip, on the island of Kauai.

Okay, forty-one years have done me no favors…

but Kauai is as beautiful as ever!

And yes, I’m already planning our next trip…

Aloha, Kauai…we hope to return soon!

No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but that one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me the balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack; I can feel the spirit of its wild land solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”

– Mark Twain
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Walk with me: the hula cat and the haoles.

Dateline: Poipu, where everything is perfection.

We’ve been here more times than I can count but we’ve never had a room with this view before:

So here we are, a million miles from everyday life. But at least one thing remains exactly the same: our morning walk. We’re lucky to see the ocean every morning on our walk at home, but not like this!

Oh, what a walk this is! We go two miles every morning and part of the fun is that much of the path goes through a residential area

so we get to meet the locals:

Almost like home, right?

We’ve also made friends with the pair of corgis that rule the neighborhood. Don’t tell Lily that we’re cheating on her!

And, speaking of cheating on our pets, on our first morning walk this visit we came to a place on the path that sparked a memory.

“Just past here is where we saw the cat!” I reminded the CE.

Each morning on our visit three years ago we were graced with a a greeting from a black and white kitty that seemed to wait for us to show up and say aloha. All he needed was a lei and some sway to be the perfect hula kitty.

Would he, could he, be waiting for us again?

We paused on the path, searching for him. No sign of a cat. We peered in the bushes. We dallied, hoping against hope. But no, no kitty. Well, it’s been three years plus a pandemic, we said. A lot of things could change.

Next morning we set out on walk number two.

Rolling waves, check.

Rooster and family, check.

Corgis, check.

We told ourselves not to hope for the cat, but we couldn’t help but slow on the path and look around. Sadly, neither hide nor hair of him.

But just as we turned to head back, I glanced to the side, and there, resting in a perfect meat loaf pose, he was! And, as if he had spent the last three years waiting just for us, these silly old haoles, he hula’d right over to hop into the CE’s lap:

Most people come to Hawaii to spend a vacation that’s as different from home as possible. Somehow we end up making ours as much the same as at home, where it’s all about the animals: chickens, dogs and a cat.

Ah what simple creatures of habit we are. Guess I’d better order a mai tai or two to mix things up a bit!

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To points south. And west.

Things were too calm. Time to hit the road. Headed south. Time to meet the new grandpup!

This is Bunny. Can you believe him? I want three!

And speaking of grands, somehow just since Christmas, the grandsons turned into grand men! Yikes!

Onward to DTLA to see this truly grand one:

And then an epic experience at Disney Hall where Daniel treated us to an LA Philharmonic presentation of Thomas Adès’ Dante Project. His “Inferno” was absolutely amazing. Thank you, Daniel!❤️

Caught a few hours sleep and then off to the airport. Last few days have been a whirlwind, or, as they say in Kauai, makani wili. Aloha, everyone!

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Getting our buzz on.

It wasn’t long after the initial pandemic lockdowns that I stepped outside and found a man and a woman in what appeared to be hazmat suits thrashing around the olive trees in front of our house. My first thought was that Dr. Fauci had found out about that time I didn’t wear a mask and was sending in the quarantine squad, Shanghai-style. Hey, nothing surprises me anymore…

But actually, it was a sting. As in ouch, a sting! No sooner had I called out a query to the bulkily clad figures than YOW! I was stung! It turned out they were volunteers called by a neighbor whose bees had absconded (that’s actual apiary terminology) from their hive and were swarming in our olive trees. Apparently, humans were not the only ones to get the “work remotely” memo. These bees did NOT want to go back to their office!

I nursed the sting on my neck for a few days and then forgot about the bees. We’ve always seen them here and there, even during the so-called “bee apocalypse” when there was great concern that the very existence of honeybees was imperiled. According to RealClearScience as reported on the popular web site LiveScience, all the buzz about disappearing bees was in general, overblown. Bees do face real threats including pesticides and loss of habitat but they are not facing extinction.

At least not in my yard.

Not too long after I bumbled into that first bee encounter, I heard a steady thrum coming from somewhere near our orchard. Whether it was the same swarm of bees that were eyeing our olive trees or not, I don’t know, but bees from somewhere had found refuge in an apparent hollow in the trunk of the big pepper tree that stands by our garden gate.

Day after day we heard them – these were busy bees! Our gopher control guy showed up one day and expressed concern. “You need to have those bees removed”, he warned us. “When fall comes, they’ll become aggressive and you’ll have a real problem.”

I guess we were too busy thinking about the real problems we already had, because we didn’t bother to do anything about the bees. Truthfully, we liked having bees as guests. It made us feel like we were living in a little eco-paradise, our own fractional Hundred Acre Wood where Pooh or some other brave soul could stick a paw in that pepper tree hollow and come out with a handful of honey.

The bees did their thing and we did ours. Fall came and went without any bee aggression. And the buzz died down. We guessed, with some regret, that the bees had moved on.

Ah, we of little faith! I was today years old when I learned that while bees don’t actually hibernate, they do cluster in their hives over the winter months to keep warm. Those bees never left – they were just waiting for spring. And now, our buzz is back!



When the light is just right it looks as if sunbeams are spilling out from the tree trunk as the bees emerge to carry out their daily work. And they don’t have far to go. The other day I found that one had discovered our apple blossoms just on the other side of the wall – see it there on the lower left?

And this morning one was working a nearby hedge – lower right of the photo:

Lately it seems the world is crashing around us a thousand different ways every day, but a little “vitamin bee” sets things right for me. I don’t know why they chose us – according to a thread on Quora, bees seek “a large cavity with plenty of room for the colony to expand, impervious to rainfall…sunlight in the early morning to warm things up and shade the rest of the day to keep things from getting too warm.” Well, that pepper tree trunk does face northeast, now that I think of it! Maybe they came to us because we had the “dream house” they were looking for. Or maybe they came just bee-cause… 🙂

“His labor is a chant,

His idleness a tune;

Oh, for a bee’s experience

Of clovers and of noon!”

– Emily Dickinson
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