The Adventures of Coolie Coolstein: Episode 71

No one remembers whose idea it was – originally. But, before too long, on the day before New Year’s Eve, Coolie and his crew were hyped to the gills about watching the ball drop at midnight. Sure, Coolie has connections, and could have gotten access to the closest position with just a whoosh of energetic intervention by Mothership. But, you know our cool boy, he oh-so-earnestly wants to do things the regular way. He aspires to be one of the folks.

So, twenty-four hours before the big calendar flip, Mickey (armed with a full day’s supply of jellyfish), the illustrious Blue (decked out in some end-of-year shiny finery), and the savior usually known as Brownstein TTR (who had entered a special see all, feel all, know all trance of protection), accompanied a grinning and head-swiveling (there was lots to see) Coolie, as they became part of the huge but soon to be humongous crowd which was moving lemming-like toward 42nd and Broadway.

There were frequent pat-downs (which Blue pretended not to enjoy) and bag checks, and even an occasional flashlight down the throat and around the teeth check. After about five hours of slow inching, they arrived at their delineated space, replete with saw horses and tape and lots of juju eyeballs attached to uniformed and undercover cops.

Coolie was moved to say, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? (are we) Caught in a landslide? No escape from reality?” And, naturally, first the other three caballero’s, then an ever-widening group of miscellaneous celebrants-to-be, added their voices and sang out the rest of the truest of National Anthems, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Ah, you say, a fortuitous beginning. Not so fast.

In hour three of standing in place (there were still sixteen hours to go before the ball drop) Mickey began to feel the effects of the jellyfish. He had to pee. Luckily, since there were no obvious porta potty’s in sight, Brownstein was able to do a flash incantation which briefly covered Mickey in a small virtual stall. He thanked her profusely.

At midnight, the other revelers were amazed to see not just fireworks, but something totally new. Small star-shaped aliens in a rainbow of colors who flew faster than explosives in arcing and zigging patterns across the sky.  “Dreamy!” said Blue, and she spoke for almost everyone watching. There were several young children (or so it would seem) who had been schlepped along by well-intentioned (or so it would seem) parents. They wailed and screamed at that pitch that only very pissed-off children can achieve. It was very much like having knives inserted into every auditory nerve. Theirs was a tragic loss of faith in the universe, coupled with being short. Their misery became everyone’s misery.

But, it was New Year’s Eve, and all misery can be integrated in the service of the BIG CELEBRATION.

So, as they say in vilishvateki (the language and also the name of the homeworld of the tiny aliens), “Kombu, kombu, trici, wicki,” which loosely translates as “eat all your vegetables and keep your elbows off the table.” This, for the vili, is the most salutary and comforting thing to say.

And the world, as we know it, decided to continue for another year.



I don’t mind it (unless it’s in other people).

I spent many hours recently organizing my many blog entries into a coherent form, in order to try to create a book. In doing so, I came across certain things I had written which seemed to be at odds with each other. That is certainly true when it comes to two core issues: weather and children. My attitudes are all over the place and I don’t feel even a twinge of discomfort about that fact. I’m just fine with it.

Why shouldn’t I hold various positions at different times? Why should I be confined to rigid thinking or immovable belief? Flexibility of thought, a capacity to occupy opposing positions – these are, to me, indicators of lucidity and openness.

But, on the other hand, if a friend or relative, who I’ve pegged as (you can fill in the blank, but it would be something like) a morning person, a finicky eater, a hard worker, shows evidence of being a night owl, a gourmand, a sloth, I would be disturbed. The universe – my universe – would be out of wack. It is held firmly by the consistency of others. That seems to be necessary for me to be free. Paradox? Not quite. It’s just that feeling confident about external limits saves energy. I don’t have to be vigilant and I can redirect all that unused energy into the service of free-wheeling creativity.

Makes sense, right? But it’s inconsistent.

My Knives are Always Sharp.

This is a broad expression of appreciation for my Partner In Crime. There are so many things I don’t do…don’t have to do…because he just does them as a matter of course.

Like sharpening knives. Honestly, in all my life, it never occurred to me to sharpen a knife. And having sharp knives really makes the life of a cook (I am one) much easier.

I don’t have to take out the garbage. Let me tell you how I really feel about that one: HOORAY!!

He puts things together and sets things up – like the new TV we recently got. Doing that stuff is so far above my pay grade. It’s not that I’m unmechanical; I can put things together – if pressed. It’s just that I don’t like it. And, when it comes to anything electronic, it doesn’t compute.

I can understand complex philosophical concepts, follow winding and circuitous arguments, synthesize and draw (some might think brilliant) conclusions, write books; but I can’t understand anything that has a current running through it. And I don’t have to.

Because my PIC has a great streak of easy-goingness and acceptance, I can manage the vicissitudes of my moods without the extra dose of anxiety which a rigorous, controlling type would induce. For those of you who either don’t know me or haven’t yet divined the essential truth about me, I’ve got moods for days – and not always the good kind. He just works around my “issues.” He’s resilient, NEVER holds a grudge (can you believe that?), and greets every day happy to see me.

You can’t beat that with a stick.



What I mean is, are the holidays over yet? Am I Scrooge? The Grinch? A humbug? Or just a snarky old nay-sayer? Maybe.

But I know I’m not alone. I’ve heard quite a bit of carping and whinging about the Christmas/New Year season. There’s so much pressure: to have a good time, to get just the right presents, to get them there (wherever) on time; to celebrate. It can start to feel like that old forced march.

I’m taking heart because where halfway there. We did Christmas, the wrapping paper is in the trash; some wishes got filled and others are tabled for the time being. If you’re a television person, you may have overdosed on Christmas-themed drama, comedy, or music; and you may be in a depleted state – both financially and emotionally, as your bank account got overdrawn and you heart was broken over and over by the tragedies that were promulgated in order to motivate charitable giving. I’m exhausted.

So, as I mentioned: one down, one to go. Of course, there is an entirely different kind of pressure for New Year’s Eve. The directive is to GO WILD: have the most fun you’ve ever had, be outrageous, imbibe without limit, party till you puke. That last one is, at least, is an option that arises organically…shall we say.

I believe there are people (over the age of twenty-three) who relish the whole whoop-de-doo-ishness. Not too many in my karass, however. My partner in crime and I do have a special dinner out for the year-end. It tends to end, however, by ten pm. Can’t remember the last time I was anywhere else at midnight, other than one-eye-open in front of the television, wishing Ryan Seacrest a Happy New Year.

Post NYE, life will return to what passes for normal. Just the usual slings and arrows and a soupçon of outrageous fortune. Oh…in case I forget or pass out: I really do hope each one of you has a very healthy and productive year. I so appreciate the opportunity you afford me to share my words. More to come in 2016.  If not before.



We all rely on the basic laws of nature, which includes their application to our beloved cyberspace. Who hasn’t been daunted, confused, upset or even crazed (that would be an admission of my own response) when it…that is, the Internet and, particularly, email…fails to behave the way it’s supposed to?

I just spent the better part of an hour hunting for an email response that I a) believed I had sent; b) strongly felt I SHOULD have sent; and c) was assured (too personal, too human, I know) by an identifier in my email account, that I HAD sent. It was nowhere. And by that I mean IT WASN’T ANYWHERE. That includes every folder and the trash. I know there is that slimmest of possibilities that I double-deleted it and sent it into email purgatory; but I don’t think so. It was something I would not have wanted to even single-delete.

So…where is it? There is no answer, nor will there be one. It’s just one of those unknowables like: Where is the brand new earring I dropped as I was putting it into my earlobe? I was in the bedroom and now the bedroom has been searched within an inch of its life. It’s just gone. Girl.

Inanimate objects? Yeah, right. They all have evil little souls that can torture us…if they are so inclined. And no one and nothing is capable of greater maliciousness than email.

Did I ever tell you about the time I accidently (and I swear it was against my will) sent out a blank email to all the people for whom I have email addresses? Many, many of those folks were pissed to the point where they never spoke to me again. I had outed various people who did not want their email addresses to be shared (or, in the case of some of my psychotherapy patients, their relationship with me).

We are all in this together: trying to hold the line against the gremlins…the incomprehensible forces that act against those ballyhooed laws of nature. Chaos is far older than order, and I fear it will vanquish our best efforts to organize and categorize.

As my sainted father used to say: “nov shamov kaput.” It doesn’t mean anything but it always worked to end a conversation.


The Adventures of Coolie Coolstein: Episode 70

I’ve been hearing a sort of soft whooshing…but only when I turn my head to the right. No. I don’t think this is the full-on psychotic break some have been anticipating. I can sort of make out a word or two:

Karen. I’m here. Talk to me.

Yes. It’s Coolie. But why is he just a disembodied voice? I thought he was in Roumania. I’d better give this my full attention.

We’re sort of stuck. That would be me and Mickey. We’re betwixt.

Where are you stuck? And who uses the word “betwixt?”

Now is not the time to get snippy with me, Karen. We got stuck trying to get home. We’re in between “here” and “there.”

Now, I have to say – and that’s to you, the “audience” – that I know exactly what that feels like. And I bet you do too. I think we all have spent way too much time being neither “here” nor “there.” But let us let Coolie tell it…

After the really good meal and the close encounter with some rough trade, it seemed like Junior Year Abroad had run its course. So, we went back to the dock and waited for the next ship to take us home. I could have called Mothership, but I’m really trying to be independent. And, anyway, I knew she was having a visit with Chauncey Gardner, her other favorite son/nephew.

Hours passed and it started to get cooler. Not a bad thing. It’s my sweet spot, right? But then cool turned into cold, and Mickey – who likes to be warm – started to whine.

“What the hey, Cool, where’s our ship? Do you have a sweater? Should I eat some jellyfish? Can we just undo? Where’s our ship?”

He was starting to loop, and that’s never a good sign, so I decided that we should probably start to swim. That way, we could meet our ship and get on board sooner.

[I hear the groans. I know there is much eye rolling. Let’s remember: he’s just a boy. And not the brightest boy, either.]

Of course, we didn’t want to get our clothes wet. So, we folded them neatly and placed them on a conveniently located rock. Also, conveniently, there were two old-fashioned, circa 1890’s swimsuits, which we donned. [Donned?]

That was about 62 hours ago and we’ve been swimming and swimming. We’ve taken water-treading breaks and we’ve eaten a lot of jellyfish. (I’ve got to say, YUK, I don’t know why Mickey likes them so much; they fight you going down.) We’re not starving or anything like that, just really, really tired. And I’m kind of scared; cause I don’t know where “here” is anymore.

Do you think you could help me?

This is my ultimate challenge. I’ve got to help our boy, right? But, up till now, I was just making everything up. It seems as if reality has slipped inside my fiction. What to do?

WHOA! That was loud and fast. You all said the same thing. “Keep making it up, Karen. Now is not the time to get realistic.” Okay.

Hey, Coolie, don’t you fret, I’m sending Shtew to save you. He is, among other things, the king of the beach.

And just like that (no, really – just exactly like that), Shtew apparated about three yards from the water-logged boys, replete with a  top-of-the-line raft and outboard motor.

With their last bit of energy, Coolie and Mickey scrambled on, and away they went, heading rapidly for a very certain “there.”

As usual, TBC…


Double rant


It used to be that you could tell the cuckoos at 20,000 paces. Growing up, I recall being highly aware of the neighborhood wackos. They were obvious, primarily because they talked to themselves out loud.

Well, things have changed. As I walk the streets or ride around town, there is a veritable tidal wave of folks who are apparently having one-sided conversations. Complete with grand gestures, and using their outside voices (to say the least). I continue being nonplussed, because it is still true that some of them are nutsos. But which ones? Some of them have those in-ear phones that aren’t obvious. I am confused: to whom do I give my traditional wide berth? And, of course, there is the question of crossover….Just because someone is really having a phone convo, doesn’t mean they aren’t also crazy.

I would wish for a new custom: Hang a colored tag from your ear if you are talking on a mobile phone. Don’t you think that would be a good idea?


Both my partner in crime and I suffer from the same – shall we call it – malady? Quirk? Or character trait? Wherever we go, no matter when or why, I am early (as is he).

This, you might think, is a good thing, not a problem. Well, sure, but think about how many collective minutes, hours, days (weeks? months?) of my life have been spent waiting. Not only for the appointed time to arrive, but for the often-late other.

Doctors, as we know, have no compunctions about ignoring their time appointments. But so do an extreme number of others.

“So, sorry. I was running late…” trips ever so lightly off the tongues of most folks.

And that’s supposed to be that. The wait-er is supposed to summarily forgive the wait-ee. I’ve been swallowing the frustration for way too long; I’m ready to take a stand. I recall that there was a rule in college (Brooklyn College). We would wait for a professor for 15 minutes. If he didn’t’ show, the class would disband. I’m going to apply that same system.

Once again, I invite others to join me…others who find themselves twiddling their thumbs until their friend or colleague or other random person breezes in with the standard apology… Let’s give them the 15-minute cure. Maybe we can start a revolution?


I watched a middle aged woman nonchalantly step out of her car, motor running, on a steeply inclined ramp out of her garage on W. 95th street. All I could think of was, THAT CAR’S GONNA SLIDE BACKWARDS, but she was cool. When you’ve tamed your particular lion, he’s not so fearsome.

Here in New York City, we take our lion-taming for granted. The dashing in and out of traffic is a skill that is aquired by the age of ten – if you live in Manhattan. Cab-hailing, dodging pop-up sidewalk obstacles – from a tantruming two year old who’s flailing on the street, mother near to apoplectic, to the state-of-the-art construction site that requires you walk a narrow (but unsafe) strip of loosely held-together boards, in order to get from here to there. There are crowds that can turn ugly at any moment (and some of them are just hanging out in front of a theater waiting for admittance); there are contagious looking “street” people who are committed to sharing their madness with you.

On the subway, you have to negotiate  random acts of indecency while trying to muscle your way out the door when you get to your stop (without inflaming any murderous passions). Wait, I’m tired just thinking about it all. I’ve got to take a drink of water.

Do I dwell on these things on a regular basis? Do you? Not if this is the beast you know. You just hop to the right, boogie down when necessary, and throw your darts of displeasure with your eyes-only (and only when you deem it to be safe to do so).

Acts of Kindness

I noticed that just keeping the question of my pledge in mind has changed my way of being in the world substantially. As the taxi I hailed earlier today came to a stop in front of me, I saw a clearly harried dressed-for-work fortyish woman reveal her frustration at not snagging the cab. I called over to her, and then held the door open for her as she got in. Her face was alit with surprise and probably her first smile of the morning. I felt great and the next taxi was only a couple of minutes away.

A patient told me of a fairly alarming incident which occured while he was on his way to my office. He passed out on the subway platform. We explored what was going on – most of which he needed a medical doctor to sort out. But the issue of being hydrated arose as a contributing factor. After the session, as he was about to leave, I asked him if I could give him a bottle of water. He accepted it and then shook my hand. I saw the appreciation in his eyes.

Back in a taxi, I made an effort to converse with the driver. They often try to engage me, but my default is to resist and just sit in silence. But, here I was, asking him about his driving and his plans for the holiday. Who am I? And what happened to that slightly standoffish person I know myself to be. Confession. When I got out of the taxi, I felt a greater sense of well-being. Perhaps I’m on to something.


If I were a good person, I would have stopped, put down my groceries, and helped the older (older than me) man who was struggling to stand up from the low concrete flowerbed he had sat down on at the edge of the sidewalk. But, as you can tell, I just passed up that opportunity to act from my higher self.

I’d like to take a quick poll: How many of you out there do so…act in a consistently benevolent or helpful fashion? That’s what I thought. We’re not such a great bunch. We esteem ourselves too highly (when we are not doused in low self-esteem). We speak of our “humanity,” but it’s often a cloak we keep hung in the closet. We would rather not see that as a matter of course we are a bunch of selfish little rat-bastards. (Am I too harsh?)

Why is that? Should we collectively wonder why? I’m sure it’s a bit of the season talking, but perhaps we can do better. Perhaps I can do better. Ultimately, it comes down to each person making that choice, doesn’t it? We can’t legislate it, or shame others into it; we have to take it on as our own personal mission.

Okay. Here’s my pledge (feel free to join me in it):

I pledge to perform (at least) one act of compassion or kindness or helpfulness each day.

Simple. I’ll let you all know how it goes.