Thinking about all we were taught about evolution, The Origin Of Species…

The breadth and exquisite variety of fish seem to belie the charge of survival of the fittest. There is a gorgeousness that seems to be an end in itself. Is it conceivable that beauty is also a force of nature, that it isn’t merely coincidental that we are thrilled by so much of the world around us – and particularly that which is under the sea?

Take a look, a close look, when you are next visiting an aquarium, or when a bit of documentary about the aquatic realm comes your way. The painter of color and shape clearly threw away all constraints and gave in to a sense of magic and wonder, producing a continuum of fearful delight.

My only wish is that I could talk to fish; that is, that they had bigger brains and the ability to express what it’s like to live as they do. I imagine their stories would be as transporting and fascinating as the most brilliant science fiction.

There are no fish on the upper west side. Except for those that didn’t make it (and are awaiting their final countdown). But I can imagine a world in which the boundaries of air and water, feet and fin are dissolved. I think that gives me inspiration…there might be a story to tell.


(I wrote this yesterday, and lo – today a taste of spring is in the air)

Here we are, in the full-on weeds of winter, end of February. To me, it seems like enough, already. Not only because winter is cold and unpleasant, but because some of us get a little extra nutty from being inside. My working theory is that part of the problem is the nasty dry heat produced by those radiators in so many older apartments. I think my brain becomes dehydrated. Where’s the fix for that?

Do we all talk to the television (and, yes, yell at it on occasion)? Please say “yes.” I’d rather not think I’ve gone over the edge alone. But I do see a decided uptick in that pastime. I guess my partner in crime is relieved that I’m not directing my displeasure toward him. The television doesn’t seem to mind. Are you getting worried about me yet?

Speaking of squirrelly, has anyone seen the nuts I’ve hidden? No, just kidding. I don’t hide nuts, just chocolate Easter eggs for the annual Easter Egg Hunt in my home. See how my mind is turning to spring? Ah, the fair season, the budding leaves, the chirping, the shedding of heavy clothing. I’m verging on waxing lyrical. And, as we know, a New York spring lasts about a minute, quickly devolving into summer. Hot, humid, smelly summer.

But spring is more than just benign weather, it’s a state of mind: one of promise and possibility. At present, I’m mired in the mud of limited vision, can’t see too far beyond my nose. It’s that closed-in sensibility that recoils back inside my brain, locating any of the missing marbles or loose screws. Speaking of marbles…(this, you must realize, is as close to stream of consciousness as I can permit myself)…

The other day I found a bag of marbles buried deep in an old toy box. I’ve put them in a tall glass canister and have them on display in my office. Do you think I’m sending the wrong message to my psychotherapy patients?

Irony alert: during this season of disequilibrium, I rely on my work to keep me more or less inside the bounds of the rational. So, you see, my patients are the source of my sanity. Mull on that for a bit.





The question is two-fold:

Are you talking about the weather again, Karen. Haven’t you blogged ad nauseam about that subject? And…are we still subject to the random vicissitudes of Mother Nature?

As far as “A” goes, Yes. I am. And, no. I’m not done with it. Who can be done with it as long as “B” is true?

So, what’s up, folks? We can split atoms (old news, yes) and we’re on the cusp of creating humanoid robots that can do everything we are loathe to do and who might just be able to do some stuff we used to do with other humans. But we are not on top of the crappy climate. We haven’t worked that one out.

You would think (at least, I would) that it would be on the top of the humanity to-do list. After all, people are tossed about like so much flotsam by wind and rain and snow and hail; they are fried and dehydrated and put at risk for skin cancer by the sun.

I know this is an election year. I know that ISIS is a big issue, as is health insurance, as is the economy, as is climate change. Can we move this topic of weather control to the head of the class?

How might our world be impacted – for the good, if entire villages weren’t being summarily washed away by typhoons, if families weren’t made homeless and destitute by monsoons, if the “elements” (a term suggesting an indestructible primacy) were being managed and mitigated by the standards of our well-being?

Let’s focus on THIS big picture, bringing the collective will and creativity to bear. Can I get an “amen?”


Huh, KK? Whuddaya mean?

What do I mean? Are you kidding me, Coolie?

Yep. I’m kidding you. But why are you being so bossy, KK? Wait a minute…are you my boss?

Well, Mr. Coolstein, in a manner of speaking, I guess I am. I made you up. And I can write the story however I want.

Not nice, KK. Don’t throw your author-muscle around. I’m a sensitive boy. I know you know that. After all, you’re the one who decided that’s how I should be.

I don’t mean to be pushy, Cools, but since you lost interest in The Shop, you haven’t been – how can I say this delicately – gainfully employed.

The conversation was interrupted by something that would have been considered a loud sound if it weren’t experienced primarily in the solar plexus. It was a combination of the most raucous snort that ever was, and a very definitive and ear-popping burp. It was Daddythebigdaddywhoseyourdaddy laughing. Not something he did very often.

Uh, Daddy?

Yes, KK (he bellowed in the kind of low register that causes tidal waves)?

Was there something wrong with what I said to The Coolest Boy In the Room?

Not exactly. But also, not not exactly.

(Oh, no. Here we go.) Well, what might exactly or not exactly be the problem?

I don’t mean to tell you your business  – HAHAHAHAHAHA (maniacal laughter ensued). But if you want a boy to work, don’t insist. Use a little reverse psychology. He will only resist, dontcha know?

So, you mean I should say, Atta boy CC Rider, never get a job. Don’t even think about it.

Now you’re catching on.

Is that what you’ve been saying to him?


How’s that been working (pardon the pun)?

Oh, I love me some puns. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of naming Coolie “Punstein.” So he would have been Punstein Coolstein. But at the last minute Mothership put her keel down.

So, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I think young Master Coolstein should get a J-O-B. It will be character building. And, since the reverse motivator hasn’t been successful, I’d like to be direct.

Direct? What a concept! I deeply trust you KK, as do we all (and by “all,” I mean the googleplex of entities in my “vicinity.”) Go forth and see if you can set that boy on the path of righteous work…

I will do my best, and I will be gentle. After all, he’s my boy too.

Oh, Coolie. I’ve got an idea for a new adventure…

And so it came to pass that Coolie J. Coolstein got a job at Barnes and Noble. He was quickly acknowledged to be the best bookshelf-keeper they ever had. This was to be the beginning, in fact, of a brand new, unexpected and very cool enterprise.


Life is a game of random intersections, set in motion by arbitrary choices. If you took the left fork last time, then all the possibilities that went with the right fork are gone forever. But are they? What if it’s all really an adult game of Chutes and Ladders? So, you can experience the ups and downs, but you may just wind up where you began.

Mercifully, we feel like we make progress (or the counterpoint – loss of ground); we live inside the linear illusion that keeps us efforting to get somewhere (to win? to get to the finish line…in a good way?)

Occasionally, the veil parts and we see our gerbil cage, and feel our feet running nowhere on the wheel. That always comes as a surprise: one which we can allow to subside, struggle harder to change, or – and here’s the big one – we can step off the wheel. It’s just a step, but it feels like it’s over a chasm.

Fear keeps us doing what we’ve always done. And that’s okay too. Remember, it’s really all just a game that we imbue with meaning. NO, NO!! you say. There’s real meaning. – That’s true, too. It’s all true and not true.

Yes, this is the aftermath of hanging around a hospital for six days; feeling fear, sadness, hope, and many more mundane feelings. One comes out of that a little more Zen, a little more jaded, a little more grounded…one or more of those seemingly disparate states of being.


Yes. I am the same person who has bashed hope all over town; the same person who wrote The DARK SIDE OF HOPE. But, as with most things, there’s another side to the story.

Hope is a haven. It’s a place of respite in the midst of the gray, ashen, and endless march toward nothing. (Dramatic? Why not?) I just caught myself feeling infused with hope, at the prospect of my partner in crime being released from the hospital earlier than I had anticipated. It was something his doctor had said, and my entire being ran with it – to the happy place that would replace the tight, managing but always feeling slightly adrift (at best) sensibility I have been walking around with since Wednesday last. For those few moments the world was a beneficent place. I was lighter and …well… hopeful!

I quickly told myself not to cling to that fantasy; replace it with a realistic and dimmer prospect.

But now I think I have to mitigate my harsh point of view. Why not enjoy the abating of tension, stress, anxiety, sadness? Where’s the harm? Yes, one might have to put back on that crappy suit. So? Will it be worse if you were without for a few moments? No. It will not.

In fact, my own experience just now is that after the hope itself abated, I was calmer, less twisted into the knot of dread. Will it return? Possibly. But for now, I’ve had my drink of the hope tonic and I’m better for it.

All the single ladies…

Here’s to you. I am not one of you. Even when I was single (and I was for ten years in between marriages) I wasn’t one of you. I felt like something was missing and I avidly pursued finding it.

I have been with my husband for 31 years, so you can imagine that I am not easily adjusting to my new temporary singleton status. He’s in the hospital for a few days (yes – that was yesterday’s reference), and to say that I am at loose ends would be putting a positive spin on things.

My mom has been a single lady for about 18 years – since my father died. She kicks single lady ass: she’s out and about and virtually never in the kind of emotional slump I am currently wallowing in. She is social and still into learning and experiencing. I’m occupying the shadow zone without my partner in crime. I don’t think I have my mother’s genetic makeup.

I was talking to one of my psychotherapy patients about how much he needs to be with his wife, and how hard it is to be without her. Boy, could I relate. It was all I could do not to jump up and down, shouting, “ME TOO!!” So…I’m working and keeping on keeping on. But I keep having to frequently corral my mind which wants to take me on a whining, poor me escapade.

 I’m pretty sure I take after my father in this. He was a tough, ex-Brooklyn street kid; full of piss and vinegar (he would attest to that in a heartbeat). But if you scratched his rugged surface, the far softer man who deeply needed my mother would appear. He would swipe at anyone who dared suggest his vulnerability. But I knew and I know that we are cut from the same cloth.

 So, I may be a little snivelly for a little while; until my best buddy and beloved husband is back where he belongs.


Into each life some hospital stay must befall us. And so it has been, on occasion, for my family. Aside from the more obvious issues that arise during these experiences, we have become quite severe assessors of the comparative status of various New York hospitals. We might even be considered…perhaps…hospital snobs.

Waiting rooms, the quality of the food, the general “energy,” all are issues we take into account when making our “best” or “not quite as good as” hospital pronouncements.

Most recently, one of our number visited for a few nights at what I will always think of as Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. (Its actual current name is New York Presbyterian.) We are not fans. Despite the excellent medical care, the pleasant demeanor of the nurses and all around competence, the poor choice of food in the cafeteria and the difficulty (for me) of getting there (it’s 63 blocks from my home!) barely earned it a “C” rating.

Now Mt. Sinai – that’s my idea of a hospital. Great cafeteria, an easy trip across town. Despite the more than apocryphal story told to me by one of my oldest friends, about how her elderly father was lost in the bowels of Mt. Sinai for three days before anyone could locate him, I rate it number one – for uptown hospitals.

Onto the more essential issue: How hospitals manage their charges (that would be us). With drugs, silly. Notice how free they are with anything that might tranquilize? In the outside world, you need a signed note from your mother and a special dispensation from the Governor or the Pope, before you can get any form of sedative prescribed. Not in the hospital; they practically throw them at you. It’s their way of saying: we don’t want any trouble.

I recall fondly how, in the olden days (30 plus years ago), some of my more irascible family members would act up during hospital stays, causing scenes and making their voices heard through an entire hospital wing – when there was a perceived breach in “service” or a lapse in the ideal care. A scurry of nurses would follow the noise, trying to soothe and soften, hurrying to accommodate.

Now, as a patient, one tends to do more languishing, having been de-energized and chemically modulated. The loudest noise I heard during a recent visit was the metal lid of a food plate clanging on the floor. That, and the inevitable snoring of my relative’s roommate. I do think there is an intentional spreading out of the snorers. Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense match them up with each other? I guess it’s just hospility (no – not a misspell; I do mean to create a new word – the institutional hostility systemically interwoven into hospital policies.)

The moral of this story is one I don’t have to tell you. You already know. If at all possible, stay out of the hospital; once fallen into the morass of “care,” one is subjected to a kind of demoralizing powerlessness that can break the spirit while the body is being healed.


The Adventures of Coolie Coolstein: Episode 76

It’s just two letters, but the difference couldn’t have been greater. As Coolie was shlunking around one Sunday (his least favorite day of the week – something about transitions to come…) he came upon a young man. Quite young. Almost 15, but not quite.
“Hey,” said Coolie, in his friendly but not that related voice.

“Hey,” said young Cole, in a well-modulated tone that gave nothing away. He had been out exploring this neighborhood that was new for him, while his parents visited with cousins – one of whom they strangely referred to as Kaysquared. Cole had put in a good hour of polite sitting and answering the ten thousand questions that adults always asked. He was then, mercifully, relieved of duty and – accompanied by one of the cousin’s dogs: one charming but scruffy Brownstein – he was able to escape.

At the end of the long block that Kaysquared lived on, he rounded the corner onto Columbus Avenue and all but crashed into a not quite as youngish (as he) man who was standing, elbows akimbo, looking rapidly both up and down the street. The expression on this guy’s face was just this side of stunned, but – nevertheless – it aroused Cole’s curiosity.

“Have you seen Blue?” asked the man who had not yet identified himself.

Cole, who was at heart a bit of a philosopher, said, “I’ve seen a great deal of blue in my life. Did you have anything specific in mind?”

With that, Coolie sort of came to, realizing that this new person didn’t know him and didn’t really know what the hey he was talking about. “Oh, I’m Coolie Coolstein.” He extended his hand, which Cole shook cautiously but firmly.

Now, it is surprising but true, that Cole had already heard that name bandied about. Kaysquared had been going on at some length about a fictional series she’d been writing; Cole was certain the main character’s name was Coolie Coolstein. This kind of freaked Cole out, but he kept his demeanor unrevealing.

“Nice to meet you.” Cole had been raised well.

“Have we met?” asked Coolie. But, before Cole could answer, he realized that this stranger was talking to the dog. And, speaking of strange, the dog answered.

“Hey, Coolie, it’s me Brownstein TTR (to the rescue – for those who don’t know the back story).”

“Brown, you’re omnipresent!” This was a word Coolie had just learned and he was proud as punch to find an opportunity to actually use it in a sentence.

Cole really had to speak; things were getting way past weird. “My cousin mentioned you – but she said she made you up…you know, in a story.” Cole was blushing just a little as he heard his own words. After a good five years of being affirmatively cool, this was getting quite a bit off the reservation.

As if she had read his mind (which she had), Brownstein said, “Don’t let the interspacial refraction get you down. We’re just in a fact/fiction time/no time intermediary zone. This will begin to feel normal in about sixteen farflungs (that’s about twenty minutes).

Taking a little pity (what we often like to call “rachmunis”) on the lad, Coolie began to explain: “Blue is my girlfriend. She’s really pretty and very smart – most of the time. But she does, occasionally, forget where she’s going. I think I might have lost her at my last stop – which was Joon’s Fish Store. We were trying to get some jellyfish for my best friend Mickey Mental.”

As you might guess, Coolie’s explanation didn’t add any clarity; rather, Cole began to feel as if his head was going to explode.

Not quite giving up, but aware that life as he knew it was changing rapidly, Cole sat down on one of the randomly placed seats that the good mayor De Blasé had installed for just this unknowable purpose.

“Okay,” said Cole with a little bit of remaining good humor, and a great swirl of tiny question marks dancing before his eyes. “Tell me, please, who Mickey is and what the jellyfish thing is all about, and anything else you can share that might help me understand what is going on here.”

Coolie looked at Brownstein. Brownstein hopped up on the chair next to Cole. He noticed how bright her eyes were and that her mouth wasn’t exactly moving. But, what followed was a completely edifying explanation of every question and confusion that Cole was harboring. Their communing (for want of a better word) went on for some time. In actual fact, in went on for sixteen farflungs. At the end, Cole felt strangely comforted and also connected to these two new people (Brownstein had to be thought of as a person, too). Strange was now the new normal and he had crossed the threshold.

From afar, Mothership looked on and kvelled just a little. She silently spoke to her partner DaddythebigDaddywhoseyourDaddy. We’ve got a new boy in the family! Our little Coolie and the lovely Brownstein… haven’t they done well!

Counterforce needed!

After yesterday’s post, I’m certain there is a need for something along a more positive line. Hmmm. What have I got in my bag of tricks? I’ve got a little gratitude…

It’s nothing too complex: I’m just glad to be warm. It’s frickin’ freezing around these parts. North Pole cold.

Here’s what the California contingent said: “It’s New York in the winter; what do you expect?” Those west coast folks are a little too smug, it you ask me.

Part of the joy of living in New York is complaining. We are all past masters of the bitch and moan. It’s a skill that is practiced and prized in the city of many colors. We whine – in the most articulate way, of course; we bemoan our fate (the same fate we have encountered every winter without fail).

Don’t you feel sorry for us? We have to wear coats! and hats! and gloves! Oh no, what a trial.

Wait a minute…this was supposed to be a positive post…

Yes. Here goes: My apartment is cozy. I work from home. And Fresh Direct delivers. I’m a lucky girl. When the deep freeze eventually thaws, there will be the particular joy of watching Spring bloom. As a neighbor recently said to me: It’s why we live in New York, so we can have all the seasons.

Now I know all about the age-associated migration to Florida. But that’s not for me. I’d rather stick around and grouse. In truth, I can’t imagine anyplace else I’d rather be than NYC.