Archive for September, 2013

Image      I’ve had some awesome birthdays, I’ve had some stinky birthdays.  Mostly, because of where my birthday falls on the calendar, I’ve had more than my fair share of beautiful birthdays, weather-wise.  Late September can almost always be counted upon to be lovely, as close to perfect as it gets, here in the Northeast.  It tends to be sunny with temperatures in the upper 60’s to mid 70’s.  Softball weather, I used to call it, back before I wrecked my Achilles tendon and could actually play.

The only thing I remember about my 4th birthday is how I somehow misbehaved at my little party and my mother, chasing me up the stairs trying to gently swat my butt with a metal slotted spoon because she couldn’t find the wooden one she usually used, more as a scare tactic than an actual weapon of punishment.  I can still feel the tiny taps through my frilly dress as she herded me to my room, no doubt for a short time out.  She was a single mother at the time, stressed about money, working full time, trying to raise three girls with little help.  Still, she never resorted to serious corporal punishment, even though there were times, I’m sure, that she wanted to.

On my ninth birthday, I think my grandfather finally had me figured out.  He was terminally ill with lung cancer, but living with us and experiencing some good moments as far as his strength was concerned.  He drove his long black Cadillac to the store while I was at school and after dinner that evening he presented me with one birthday gift I will remember as long as I live.  I opened the box and found a football, complete with hand pump so it could always be properly inflated, and a red football helmet that I put on instantly and wanted to wear forever.  It was 1967.  He died just a few short months later.

The celebration of my 23rd birthday started in the wee hours of the morning, after I had finished spinning disco and early new wave dance music for the tourists at the New Orleans Hilton, in a nightclub on the 29th floor where, through the windows that circled the place, I had a nearly 360 degree view of the twinkling Crescent City and the mighty Mississippi.  Back then vinyl was king and I was mixing Disco Inferno into Instant Replay into Get Up And Boogie into Walk Right Now Into Super Freak into Shame into Call Me into Private Idaho into Whip It, six nights a week.  The bar closed at 3.  A bartender from South Carolina named Kimmer took me to some gay bars and I, to this day a lightweight drinker, got plastered on Long Island Iced Teas.  When we parked outside the second bar it was after 5am and the signs all said No Parking 9am-4pm.  I thought for sure we’d be okay because, even when you’re celebrating your 23rd birthday and you don’t have to be in at work again until 9 that night, there’s no way you’ll still be in that bar drinking by the time the parking spot becomes illegal, right?   Well, we walked out of the bar at 9:05 to find my car, my sweet 1970 Plymouth Duster, already attached to the tow truck.  I remember pleading with the operator, saying something idiotic like, “You can’t tow my car, it’s my birthday!”  The burly guy in work gloves just laughed and went on with his task.  Kimmer and I got the car back hours later, from the impound lot.  And when I think back on it now, I’m glad my car got towed.  We were both too drunk to drive.

My 40th birthday was the worst of my life.  I was almost 5 months pregnant with Bea and experiencing some of the most intense uterine fibroid pain of my entire pregnancy.  To top it off, I had to spend almost the entire day at a hospital in Brooklyn, waiting while my ex underwent surgery and then couldn’t stop puking in recovery.  It rained all day, of course, which was so unusual because for my entire life up to that point I only had memories of glorious and sunny birthdays.

For eleven years now, though, the best part of my birthday has been sharing the day with my twins.  They were born in Viet Nam on the day that I turned 44.  “You say it’s your birthday.  It’s my birthday too, yeah,” I sing to them every September 30th, to their giggles and delight.  I have mostly convinced them that I no longer care about my birthday and that the day belongs to them.  I mean, it’s bad enough that they have to share it with each other.  Might as well take myself out of the equation so they can each have the most special day possible.  They’re turning 11 today.  I think once they get older they will more easily embrace the idea of the three of us sharing the day.

And now, it’s not even just the three of us.  Turns out little Leroy, Bea’s micro-teacup Yorkie, was also born on September 30th.  Crazy, I know.  And even though he’s in LA with Bea as she chases her dream of being a rock star, I find myself wishing I could give him a hug and a treat and a little kiss on the top of his hairy little head.  He’d be with Bea, of course, and oh how I wish, every day, but especially today, that I could hug her, too.

Happy birthday, Georgia.  Happy birthday, Esther.  Happy first birthday, little Leroy.  And yes, happy birthday me.

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Image                Probably half of the celebrities I met in the very early days of my stage managing career are dead now.  I spent those first few years at Channel 5 in New York, back when it was still WNEW and owned by Metromedia.  Phil Rizzuto, Donna Reed, Rocky Graziano, Carroll O’connor, Gwen Verdon, Dizzy Gillespie, Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  I could literally go on and on.  People always ask me what celebrity I’m the most proud to have met and my automatic answer never fails to make me smile and start me reminiscing about my days at Channel 5.  I grow almost misty-eyed when I tell them:

Rosa Parks.

Sister Rosa, as the Neville Brothers so eloquently call her in their song about her.  She was old and frail already back then.  It had to be 27 or 28 years ago.  She was wearing a long cloth coat and wire-rimmed glasses and her silver hair was tied back and off her face, maybe even up in a bun.  There is no photo of the two of us together, unfortunately, but I can say that when I greeted her and shook her hand it was like shaking hands with history itself.  I was in my early 20s, a baby, but I knew it was a special moment and I will never forget it for as long as I live.  At least, I hope so.  I hope, if I do live a long long time, to be one of those feisty old grandmas, with a perfectly intact memory, who sits on a rocking chair under a blanket, sipping tea, and tells the best stories about the good old days.  You know, the ones who curse and tell it like it is, or was.  While all the grandchildren sit around mesmerized and their moms, my daughters, tell me to stop swearing and tone it down.

Rosa Parks was the most relaxed, most dignified, most patient celebrity I have ever met.  She traveled with a very small group of people, there was no fuss, she smiled and shook everyone’s hand and gave a great interview while the whole crew watched, amazed.  When the interview was over she smiled and graciously thanked the entire crew and quietly left with the same small group of people who had escorted her in.  I watched Rosa walk across the semi-dark studio, all the way to the door.  The image is etched right behind my closed eyes.  I am blessed to have made her acquaintance.

Image            Trust is a tough nut for me.  At times I find myself being very trusting.  At other times, not so much.  Quite often it feels like I’m just trying to get through this life and back to the other side without getting too hurt, too involved, too serious.  Many years ago an old girlfriend nicknamed me “Teflon Kim” because of my ability to let pain and discomfort slide off of me.

I’m trying, also, to somehow not be the cause of any pain.  I hope to not cause destruction, to not be guilty of overusing irreplaceable resources, be they physical or spiritual.  I prefer to tread lightly.  And it’s not because I’m afraid to share my inner thoughts, be involved, commit to something or someone, have trust.  I think it’s more that I just don’t know how, almost as if I missed the first class on being human and I can’t get the professor to go back to the beginning and give me the instructions again.  As a tomboy I had no interest in a lot of life’s milestones; childhood crushes, first kisses, dating.  But I now see that those milestones serve a purpose.  You can’t just go from Little League to Major League Baseball.  You need that in-between stuff in order to succeed as an adult.

I missed out, though.  So I’m hoping to peacefully, quietly, easily get through this life that it feels like I’m faking, die a happy yet clueless old woman and go back and start a new life as someone else.  Only next time, hopefully I won’t fall asleep at my desk for the whole first semester.

It’s not as fatalistic a plan as it seems.  When you think of time as a ball of string, where everything that has ever happened, is happening or will happen is actually one simultaneous occurance, you can begin to accept the measuring of time as a man-made construct, as a tool we gave ourselves to help make sense of our physical existence.  Other tools we created include love and compassion.

For a long time there was absolutely no one to whom I could turn when I needed an ounce, or a pound of compassion.  My mom was gone, my sisters had their own lives, my friends had their own worries.  I knew someone who acted as if showing compassion was a way of enabling another person’s weakness, their “victim-hood,” she dubbed it.  What a load of bull.  People have pain, they have damage, they have places where they are broken into little tiny pieces of timid and shivering shards.  And people with compassion, who claim to love and respect us, are supposed to love even those sharp and damaged pieces of us.

Loving with abandon makes people feel vulnerable.  Acknowledging pain makes people feel vulnerable.  Not having a source of income makes people feel vulnerable.  As if vulnerability is a bad thing.  Discounting my babyhood and toddler-hood, I am probably the most vulnerable right now that I have ever been in my life.  But something good has arisen in me due to this extreme vulnerability.  I have found a willingness to accept help from other people.  I have trusted myself with the courage to ask for it and to graciously accept it when help is offered.  I am usually the helper, not the helped.  It takes a great deal of integrity, grace and strength to be able to give in to help from others.  I don’t know if I do it very well.  It’s almost a religious experience.  And it feels a bit like karma, like all those miniscule good deeds I’ve committed are coming back to me tenfold.

I am so looking forward to financial independence once again.  That magical job is out there, I just know it.  In the meantime, I have been able to stay afloat thanks to my family and friends.  I am truly blessed.  And for that I am truly grateful.

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Sonnet 17

Posted: September 27, 2013 in poetry
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Wishing so long has all but killed my dreams,
Truth, in effect, has watered flames of hope.
As a carriage fixed with double teams
Love has flown, and fact gnaws at the rope.
Waiting, wondering when life will unfold
I stand amidst the sky and watch the stars,
Despite their heat, I lack enough for cold
And with silence, save soliloquy, I spar.
A desperate and melancholy note
Responds as if a charmed conductor knew
Of all the paltry poetry I wrote
To tell you that my love belonged to you.
But knowing that our time will never come
At loneliness, I’m more adept than some.

 

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Stress

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Health
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     Image     How do I even write about stress without giving myself a heart attack?  Well, I’ll give it a shot, but if this post never gets published, it’s because I’m recovering in the hospital and don’t have access to the internet.  Or I’m dead.

My wonderful coaching group leader asked the members to focus on stress this week.  How does it affect you, what does it look like?  The first thing that popped into my head was a tightly-wound ball of string, about 15 feet high.  I don’t know if I can adequately describe how it is affecting me because it is just so huge.  And dense.  And heavy.  I know enough to realize that my problems are small compared to those of a lot of other people.  I don’t think I am terminally ill with cancer or ALS.  I have a roof over my head and even though I sleep on a couch in a friend’s house and my twins share a room with their 6th-grade friend upstairs, I’m warm and dry and relatively comfortable.  For the generosity of my friends I am full to the rafters with a most profound sense of gratitude.  I sold my house almost 4 months ago to avoid foreclosure, but I am not precisely homeless.  It just feels as if I am sometimes.  Homeless with twin 10 year old girls.  Way to go, Kim.

Which leads me to another source of my stress:  My 14-year-old.  She’s going to be a huge success any day now.  She’s incredibly smart and beautiful and talented and amazing.  And I haven’t seen her in almost two months.  The category of broken heart this causes me to feel is brand new in my life.  The pain is like nothing I have ever experienced and so I don’t know what to do with it, where to put it.  I come across photos of her as a toddler sometimes, or as a preschooler, and I just want to lie down and die because I can’t give her a hug.  Because I haven’t given her a hug since August 10th.  At approximately 6pm.  It was a warm and beautiful and sunny day until the moment that I had to let her go and drive away.  She’s with her other mom in LA chasing her dream and recording an album.  She’ll be wildly famous someday.  Probably wealthy.  I don’t want a cent of her hard-earned money.

What I want is a job.  Unemployment is my biggest source of stress.  I spent almost 30 years as a fairly successful worker in my field until the well suddenly ran dry.  It was a great run.  I traveled to amazing places and met incredible people.  Then it ended.  That was three years ago.  I have spent hours and hours and hours looking for a new job, both within my field and without.  No one wants or needs me, it seems, for anything.  Next week I will mark my 55th birthday.  Who gets hired for a great job at that age?  Almost nobody.  I am doing all I can to keep a positive attitude, but the statistics are against me.

Last Sunday I went to church.  I had let some friends know that I was searching for a new and meaningful experience at a different kind of house of worship than I remembered from my childhood, a place more open-minded and welcoming than the scary church I had attended years ago.  It was a lovely service and I did feel embraced.  It was great to be visiting a community of people who I felt had no interest in judging me.  I felt grateful that a friend had thought to invite me.  After the service there was a free blood pressure screening in one of the rooms off the main sanctuary.  I figured, might as well get checked, since I am already on a low dose of HBP medication, hypertension runs in my family and, because I haven’t had health insurance I haven’t been back to the doctor in a while to see if the little pill is still doing its job.  It isn’t.  The volunteer took my pressure twice and while it got a little better the second time, it clearly was not where it needed to be.  So, yet another source of stress.  A viscous circle of a source of stress.  A snake eating its tail.  I have high blood pressure but no health insurance and the old pills aren’t working and that stresses me out and I so have high blood pressure.  I have looked up natural remedies and I’m willing to try some.  And the volunteer at the nice church told me about a clinic at a nearby hospital.  Okay, I will check it out.  I sure do miss the days, though, when I could just make an appointment with my terrific doctor.

There are other things that are stressing me.  Like hot flashes, suddenly.  Small ones, not the sheet-drenching sweat parties I’ve heard about from a few of my friends.  But annoying enough.  And present enough to remind me that I’m no spring chicken anymore.  And arthritis pains.  Another viscous circle.  My joints hurt a lot when I try to go for fast and stress-reducing power walks.  I started to work out again, lightly, but stopped when I saw my new blood pressure numbers.  Can you just imagine how horrifying it would be for my twins to come downstairs one morning to find me stone cold with 8-pound weights still clutched in my stiff, pale fists?  No, clinic first.  Then curls and crunches.  Once I have the BP properly under control, the exercise will help keep it there.

Goodbye, Phil Hughes.  You won a grand total of 4 games with the Yankees this season and you stunk up the field worse than even Ed Whitson and Kenny Rogers did in the 80s.  You were another source, small of course, of stress for me this spring and summer and now they will take away your pinstripes and never give them back to you.  Yes, I even get stressed out about sports.  But then I remember how many times all my favorite teams have won their respective championships and I smile.  A little.  If the New York Giants don’t win a game soon, somebody better get Eli Manning to come to my funeral service to apologize.

And fleas.  My dog has had fleas on and off all summer long.  It’s driving me crazy.  I have tried everything.  We even got an exterminator to come in and spray.  I can’t stand having to put those chemicals between her shoulder blades every month!  It feels like I’m signing a pact with the devil.  He’ll keep the fleas away for a while.  And then he’ll send some horrible form of cancer to first lighten my wallet considerably and then take her away from me forever.  It’ll take a few years, of course.  Just long enough for me to stress about the choice I have made for her.  But when she glues herself to my side every night to fall asleep, I imagine her fleas popping off her skin, directly to mine, which keeps me awake and so I say pass those chemicals this way.  Still, they don’t always work.  And that stresses me out.

It’s the little things.  And the very big things.  The headlines these days.  The video games and the smart phones and the way we are headed to a world of total disconnect, where no one talks in person anymore.  The gadgets which force their way into our lives, only to become obsolete.   Texting instead of discussing in the flesh.  Emails at work instead of meeting at the water cooler.  LOL instead of a gut-wrenching guffaw.  Websites instead of magazines and newspapers.  (((HUGS))) instead of hugs.  Blogs instead of books.  I could go on and on.

Well, I didn’t die writing this.  I guess that’s a good sign.  New blood pressure medication, a job, a home, some power walks, a hug, or 500, from my pop star kid and a win by my favorite football team….  Not too much to ask for, right?  I wonder.

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Marble Mountain

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Travel
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                        Image        Two days before my twins were handed to me at the orphanage in HCMC in Viet Nam, I spent an adventurous day on my own just south of Da Nang.  After a relaxing morning at the beach and walking through the hotel’s beautiful, stunning orchid garden, I showered and headed out by taxi to Marble Mountain.  It’s an incredible place with caves and pagodas and quiet reflection pools.  When you get there you have to climb a multitude of differently-sized steps ranging between 4- and 18-or-so- inches high.  It takes great concentration to navigate this climb because you may have to hoist yourself up a really big step one second and then barely lift your leg at all the next.  There are small landings with stone benches along the way so winded people can rest if they need to.  The steps are all built right into the mountain and curve their way to the top.

The winding stairs mostly face south and west so even though it was the middle of February it was dry and hot.  I was happy to find gnarly shade trees at the end of my climb.  There were small pagodas, too, where people were leaving incense burning for the Buddhas inside, and walkways through the marble, where the mountain reaches even higher on both sides, lined with flowers and trees and smiling local people selling drinks and renting out flashlights.  Along the walls of the mountain were holes to walk through into cathedral-like caves and through the large caves, more holes to climb up even further.

The first one I entered was like a chimney, a vertical climb through a passageway just big enough for one person.    As soon as I approached it I understood why the bent and leathery old woman outside had insisted that I give her an American dollar and take a beat up silver flashlight with me, while gently grinning and speaking a language so fluid yet so indecipherable to me.  I had to find hand- and foot-holds to make my way up.  When I emerged there were more crumbling steps and rocks to climb, right up to the very top of the peak.

From one direction I could see the countryside, more mountain peaks thrusting up, here and there, through the sea-level rice fields, and downtown Da Nang.  From the other direction, towards the South China Sea, I found China Beach.  And Cham Island poking through the haze.  It was breathtaking.

After more climbing on steps, down and up and around the passageways, I found another cave that was bigger than a house.  The ceiling went up about 75 feet and there were two holes at the top through which sunlight filtered in.  The walls were moist from the fresh water that trickled down and dripped from the ceiling.  If there hadn’t been a tour group gathered inside there with me, I might have tried some noises to hear their echoes.  I’m betting the acoustics were intense.

That evening I went to dinner with some ex-pats.  We drove to Hoi An, the lantern center of Viet Nam.  There were shops on every block, selling incense, chopsticks, Buddha statues and hundreds upon hundreds of folding paper lanterns and silk lanterns of every size imaginable.  The restaurant we chose was right on the river, actually floating on the river, and we walked across a gangplank to reach it.  I ordered vegetable pho and a Tiger Beer.

Most of the ex-pats I met were originally there as soldiers during, as the Vietnamese call it, the American War.  Some had gone back to heal old wounds and do development work, building schools, designing hospitals.  Some were there chasing old ghosts, it seemed.  A few, perhaps, had survivors guilt.  Some had beautiful Vietnamese families.  Whatever their reasons, they were all very nice to me and incredibly interesting.  They could have been my older brothers or cousins.  I hope, by now, they have found what they were looking for.  Someday, I will take Lan and Dao, Georgia and Esther, to see their lovely country of origin.     Image

Image     Hello, I’m Kimberly and since I can’t seem to find a job in my field and I’m really tired of having no income, today I will be playing the part of your, um, dentist.  Yes, your dentist!  Come on in and get comfortable in the chair while I figure out what all these nice, shiny instruments do.  I’ll have you out of here in no time, what’s left of your teeth gleaming like the noontime sun!  No, that would never go over.  I’m not much of a sadist so I’m sure I’d be found out pretty quickly.  Hmmm….  Okay, hi, my name is Kim and today I’ll be your pilot.  Yes, I have logged many, many hours in the air.  Why, as a network TV stage manager I was sent literally all over the world for very cool and interesting gigs.  What?  Oh, you mean hours flying a plane?  Well, none, but I’ve seen all the Airport and Airplane movies and I’m sure I could do a better job than Charlton Heston or Leslie Nielson.  So, where shall we go today?  No dice?  Ooh, dice!  Hi, I’m Kimberly and I’ll be your croupier this evening.  Hey, look out!  Oh, I’m not supposed to throw these at people?  But, where’s the fun in that?
 
Think, Miller, think.  What do you do well?  You can control large groups of people.  You could be… an usher at Yankee Stadium!  A traffic cop!  An extras wrangler for Cecil B. DeMille movies!  Huh?  Dead?  Really?  Well, somebody must be still making those epic, Biblical films.  Eww, Mel Gibson?  Oh, no, I don’t think I could work with him without trying to kill him.
 
Let’s try this again.  Hi, I’m Kim and today I’ll be filling in for your… proctologist!  I think all I have to do is say, “assume the position” and then….  What?  Why the heck not?  My, my we’re a skittish prude aren’t we.  Your loss, buddy.  But, you see, I really do need a job.  It’s been 3 years since I’ve had steady employment.  I know!  Hi, my name is Kimberly and I’ll be grooming your dog today.  Pay no attention to the lawn clippers I have hidden behind the counter.  I promise to use them only if your dog tries to bite me.  Then my hands can be far away from the fur, see?  As long as your dog keeps absolutely still it should….  What’s that?  You want to see Candy, the regular groomer?  But I can do this, I know I can!  Nice doggie.  There, there.  No, I don’t mean PEE there!  Ahhhhhh!  Brutus, you go right ahead and relieve yourself wherever you would like.  I’ll go get Candy. Okay, here comes the elevator.  Wait for it, wait for it.  Deep breath and… go!  Hi I’m Kimberly and I’ve written this exceptionally awesome screenplay that I think you would love it’s called Nothin’ Doin’ and it’s kind of based on the story of my life and you should think The Jerk meets The Wrath of Khan with a little bit of Stand By Me thrown in and it’s really funny yet poignant and hey wait you pushed the button for the 27th floor and we’re only on 10 where are you going I didn’t get my full 30 seconds yet!  Ugh, freaking media moguls!
 
Come on, kid!  Think!  What else do you do well?  You tell celebrities where to go, don’t you?  Or, at least, you did.  With all that experience you could get a job as, maybe, the receptionist for a botox doctor on Rodeo Drive?  The recreation director at the Betty Ford clinic?  The bouncer for the back room at Spago!  No, I’m just not perky, sedate or burly enough to do any of those jobs.  But I’m very smart.  I could do just about anything I set my mind to.  Hi, I’m Kim and I’m your new philosophy professor.  Let’s see….  Plato was a sexist, Voltaire was paranoid and Diogenes dressed as a beggar, lived in a tub on the grounds of a temple and was called “the Dog” by his students.  Oh, hi, Dean.  Yes, I was just sharing some little-known information with my students.  Why are you laughing?  Sheesh!  These eggheads are a confusing bunch!  What?  You don’t want me to be your proctologist but it’s okay if I’m your dominatrix?  But I’ve already told you that I’m not enough of a sadist to be your dentist!  Get your act together, baby boy!  Heel!
 
Alright, time to get serious.  I really do need a job!  Let’s try this:  Hi, I’m Kim and I’m the stage manager.  Welcome to our studio.  Thank you so much for visiting with us today.  Coffee?  Sure, I can ask the stagehands to transfer your green room coffee into a show cup.  That way you can keep it for the interview.  Our host will be right in.  Why don’t you have a seat and make yourself at home?  Here we go, stand by please.  Yada, yada, yada.  Wow, that was really great.  I’ll be sure to take my kids to see your new movie this weekend!  Thanks again for coming in today.  Okay, crew, take a ten-minute break and when we come back we’ll do some promos.  You know, promos, like the one you just read.     Image