Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

New Website and Blogs – please visit!

January 28, 2013

DSC_0292-Eleanor_ppSwimming with Maya is now available as an eBook and paperback. To learn more, visit my new website, where you will find both of my blogs. I’m renaming this blog “That’s The Way Life Lives,” a saying of Maya’s when she was five years old. The focus will be on how grief and other life challenges make us stronger. My other blog, “The Cat Came Back,” humorous true tales of my two orange tabby cats, will be hosted on my new site as well.

Please visit, comment and follow the blogs, give my author page on Facebook a thumbs up, or otherwise get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the “That’s the Way Life Lives” blog:


Can Cancer be Funny?

October 8, 2012

Hell, yes! Tig Notaro, interviewed today by Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” proves you can laugh and cry instantaneously. In a now famous stand-up routine she delivered at an LA theater Largo, in early August just days after her breast cancer diagnosis, Notaro broke her cancer news in the opening lines of her monologue.

“Hi, welcome. Hello. I’ve got cancer. How’re you doing? I’ve got cancer.”

Audible gasps, uncomfortable titters, and downright belly laughs filled the room.  One woman broke into tears and Tig, not missing a beat, just kept saying. “It will be OK. You’ll be OK.”

It’s hard to explain why this is side splitting. You really have to listen to it. Its not so much what she says, but how she says it. Without a trace of complaint or self-pity. Notaro just puts it out there with vulnerability laced with irony in a way that makes you laugh and cry almost in the same moment.

And not just the fact that she has cancer – in both breasts. But that in the last four months she got a hideous bacterial disease, C Dif, that ravaged her intestines, then a week after she got out of the hospital her mother died. Completely unexpectedly and tragically. Then her girlfriend broke up with her. And three months later – boom – she has cancer.

She riffs on how God never gives us more than we can handle, one of the funniest parts of the bit, musing, “Really? God is insane.”

Louis CK, a friend and supporter of Tig’s, put the monologue on his website and you can do download it for $5. Best five dollars I ever spent.

Happily, Tig told Terry Gross that she only has a seven percent chance of a recurrence following her double mastectomy at Sloan Kettering hospital. She’s moving on with her life and her career, now more famous than ever because she took a huge risk and broke her cancer news onstage in real time to a group of (mostly) strangers.

I love so many things about this: humor in the face of death, resilience, trusting the creative process, being vulnerable and in the moment with a roomful of people you don’t know. Mostly I just love the way Tig talked straight to me on the download, just the way she talked straight to the people at Largo that night. And I love Louis CK for making this monologue available on his site and promoting his friend’s work.

Maybe our culture is really maturing in its attitudes about death. You think? When we can laugh about cancer, I say that’s progress. Swimming with Maya has little snippets of humor woven in, but it’s not what you’d call a funny book. Next time out, I’d like to to make readers laugh and wince at the same time.

Kudos to Tig Notaro. Long may she wave!


April 14, 2010

“You’re too vain,” my mother scolded everytime I’d obsess over a new hairdo I wanted to try, carefully copied from the pages of Seventeen magazine. I never looked liked the models, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I slept on brush rollers, pink sponge rollers with plastic clips, spoolies (anybody remember spoolies?) and – the ultimate dent in the scalp – orange juice cans. Ouch!

For many women, me included, hair is the pinnacle of vanity, the Everest of appearance. I hate admitting I’m that shallow. But when I own up to my hair fetish, it helps me acknowledge I’m human. I care how I look.

“Don’t cut the back too short,” I told my hair guy John at our 5:30 appointment this afternoon.

“It makes me look like a Planter’s peanut.”

He laughed.

John Sasso has been cutting my hair for 20 years. By now, he’s heard it all, but I love that I can still make him laugh. John has a studio in his home, a ten-minute walk from the Glen Park BART station in San Francisco. Every five or six weeks I show up on his doorstep practically panting I am so eager to get my  hair cut.

My hair is super thick and it grows really fast. For the first two weeks after a haircut I literally feel like a Planter’s peanut with an ungainly neck and huge ears. Then for about 10 days, it looks perfect, until suddenly, mysteriously, it’s gone gazinga! Until the next cut, my hair is completely out of control – shaggy, unruly, obstreperous. I look like the cartoon character Jughead. Every morning when I squint into the mirror, there’s a big pouf on the top of my head. Only generous dollops of hair gel and way too much hairspray keeps it semi-manageable.

John has a poster on his wall with a guy wearing an Elvis-style pompadour. It reads, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” I tell you, by the time I ring John’s doorbell, I am experiencing Sartori.

Today, I decided it was time for my spring hairdo – shorter, perkier, a little more daring. I’m still after that Suzanne Pleshette look, although it continues to elude me. I gave John careful instructions, including the part about not making it too short in the back, and away he went. We listened to Patti Smith, and Carole King. We talked about movies – we both loved The Ghostwriter and agreed that no matter what you think of Roman Polanski, the guy sure can make movies. We talked about travel, the last time we were each in Europe, and the geography of Switzerland relative to France – is Basel north of Paris? Yes, I insisted.

Before I knew it, an hour was gone, and my lap was full of reddish brown clumps of crowning glory.  So much hair! Where does it all come from? John wrapped it up in the crinkly material of the cape that covered me, and whisked it away. Then he spent five minutes sweeping up more of it off the floor. I felt light. I felt free. I ran my hands through my hair. I felt – oh my God – naked.

“I look like David Cassidy,” I said.

My hair is short, people. Walking to BART, I was surrounded by women with long, lush tresses. Pageboys. Ponytails. Flowing, blowing, feminine hair. Not an Audrey Hepburn or Suzanne Pleshette in the bunch. Just me, a gamine wannabe. I know it will grow back. I know probably no one will notice. I know that’s what I said I wanted. But gosh, I feel like a shorn lamb, or an ungainly guber with Dr. Spock ears. Or just a woman whose sacred perogative is utter dissatisfaction with her hair.

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