Friday, May 11, 2007


One of my earliest memories of my grandmom, Anna, was her Sunday
morning ritual of sitting upright and tense on the studio couch in her
bedroom watching "Meet the Press" moderated by Lawrence E.Spivack . For
my radical and highly political grandmother, television was an
interactive activity. She kept a running dialogue going, giving
positive shout-outs when she liked the politics of the guest and
hurling invective when she didn't. Her favorite epithet was "Rahk-shun-air", which I later figured out meant "Reactionary" in Yiddish.When she was particularly disgusted, she added a "Feh" or two. There is simply no English equivalent.

As a young child, I often cuddled up next to her and we watched TV
together. When I was in first grade (TV was still an exciting
innovation in 1953)the teacher asked us to tell our favorite show. At
the parent-teacher conference, Miss Bradley told my mom and dad, with
some concern, that while most of the kids had answered "Howdy-Doody", I had piped up with "John Cameron Swayze and the News"!

So it should come as no surprise that one of the things that my husband
David and I found out during our courtship,was that, especially during
election cycles, politicians appear in our dreams. I remember a whole
series involving George McGovern which was,as it transpired, the only
place that he did well.A few years ago I had a very vivid dream that
one of my best friends came to me all atwitter to confess that she had
embarked on a thrilling extra-marital affair. The amazing part was that
her paramour was none other than Michael Nutter. The more amazing part
was that this was even before he was running for mayor. In
reality,Michael Nutter is much too homely and nerdy to incite my friend
to break her marital vows ,and even in the dream I was surprised. Now,
just days before the Primary, I'm taking it as a sign that this was, in
some Freudian way prescient and that my man Michael will prevail. But
just in case, I will be working the polls!

And what a while ago might have seemed to be a dream, yesterday became a reality. My brother-in-law, Robert Greenwald
appeared before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations
Committee, testifying about the issue of war profiteering. Abe sent me a link
to a video clip of part of the hearing
[] so I got to
see a member of my family talking truth to power. I also got to see my
brother-in-law wearing a suit and tie; thank God, his glasses were
perched on his pate or I might not have recognized him.

Last night
I had a dream that I was watching CNN with a bunch of people huddled in
a gas station in the middle of nowhere. There was some sort of natural
disaster going on and the TV was showing a brand-new road being washed
out and this somehow,in that weird and unclear way of dreams, caused
some deaths. Several people in the crowd were yelling back to the TV,
something about this road being a boondoggle for rich concrete
manufacturers. A couple of tall frat-boys said that, hey, the
government has to help rich people make money and if some people had to
die, so be it. At this point I strode to my car and heard a disembodied
voice saying loudly "The truth shall set them free". I was declaiming
to no one in particular "This is the beauty of our democracy; we can
hear the truth". Then the voice said to me,"What difference does it
make if we can broadcast the truth if no one cares?" At this moment the
large poodle shifted at my feet and I awoke.

I wish I could tell Grandmom about the dream. She would probably hiss her most sibilant epithet, "KAHPITALEESSSSSTS". I found out that John McCain will be Tim Russssssert's guest on "Meet the Press" this Sunday. I can just hear her now. "Feh! If he the best thing the 'Repooblikahners' have to offer then we're in good shape for '08" According to Anna Miller,at least, THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Curly Girl

Until I turned thirteen and began to menstruate, my hair was poker
straight. When I was five years old, in the early 1950's, it was illegal for little girls to have thin, stringy hair, or at least this was what my mother had been led to believe. To rectify this situation before she was arrested by the fashion police, Mom decided to inflict a Toni home permanent on me. The end result made me look as if I had
stuck my wet finger into an electrical outlet. I refused to go to
kindergarten for three days and then only with the proviso that I be allowed
to wear my sundress with the matching hat that tied under my chin. The
perm eventually grew out and my hair got straight again until the onset
of adolescence.

So on the day that I officially became a woman and my hair went wavy,
curly hair was out and straight was back in. [I will not digress into a
philosophical discourse here about Life and Its
Eternal Unfairness; I really would like to do so, but I am painfully aware that
there are several more important issues with which to concern myself such
as the ongoing war in Iraq and getting Michael Nutter elected mayor of
In the throes of a totally Freudian repetition compulsion, I continually threw myself at the mercy of a series of sadistic
hairdressers and submitted to their torturous procedures and put-downs. I would often
go to bed with my lacklustre locks wrapped around large empty orange
juice cans which would "straighten" out the curls; by mid-morning, my
head would be a frizzy mess and there would be a kink in my neck from
attempting to sleep on
large metal cylinders.Once one of the girls in my dorm actually
ironed my hair. It's a miracle I'm not totally bald.
On my wedding day I went to a psychopath at the monumentally snotty salon at Henri Bendel's and he declaimed to his colleagues, as if I were not actually present, "Does she expect me to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?"

To reduce the possibility of re-triggering trauma, I will fast-forward from my 20's to the decade of my50's (fast coming to a close). I think it was my daughter Anna who
turned me on to the Curly Girl book and the salon called Devachan in SoHo ( A whole philosophy had emerged, which encouraged embracing one's inner curly girl; along with the philosophy came a number of expensive products to nurture one's curls. There's NoPoo and LoPoo and AnGell and SetItFree. I was an instant convert. I began taking the Chinatown bus to New York to go to the mother church of curl cutting. I sounded like a true believer and proselytized anyone with curls who would listen.
Alas, I am simply a congenital atheist. It transpired that once my kids and their significant others moved out of New York, I abruptly stopped my quarterly treks to SoHo. I guess it was the lunch with the kids (and the Jack Russell) at Spring St. Natural after the haircut that really drew me in and not the Curly Girl mecca after all.[I once had a Unitarian friend who was married to a Jew. For a while, they took their kids to both houses of worship. She told me ruefully that her kids ultimately chose the Temple because the Oneg Shabbat had better cookies.]
Now that Anna and her gorgeous head of curls moved to Philly, we've been on a quest to find the next great curl stylist. We tried the guy on 19th St. who proclaims himself the curly king by means of a storefront-sized blowup of a newspaper article about his skill with the scissors. Our haircuts were fine but neither of us could bear his bombast. He simply couldn't or wouldn't shut up,and his prices rivalled New York's. Now I am a Philly chauvinist and all, but I still bristle at someone in CenterCity charging like Manhattan.
Recently I went to see Fiorella at Oggi. She was clearly appalled as she ran her fingers disdainfully through my overgrown frizzy hair. She immediately bombarded me with her strong stance on curls; it was total apostasy. "NEVER,NEVER,NEVER use conditioner. ALWAYS comb through your curls." I felt like a devout Catholic finding out that the Pope was suddenly advocating abortions for priests' wives!I tried to defend CurlyGirl but she dismissed my interlocutions with an imperious wave of her shears. I sat, abject and silent, admiring my new haircut, but wondering if I could stand to come back again. After all, I had gone to my favorite dentist for 30 years even though he was a rightwing fundamentalist Christian. On the other hand, he had never once tried to convert me AND he did his own periodontia.
Anna chose her latest stylist cause he was cheap. Since her hair would look good if it were cut by a riding mower, I can't really go by her recommendations. She mentioned in passing she didn't like her guy either. David,eavesdropping on our conversation,proclaimed that we never like any of our hairdressers. It seems unlikely that a man, follically-challenged or not, could even begin to appreciate the complexities of the relationship of a woman to her stylista. We didn't even try to explain.
In a month or so, when I'm looking shaggy again, I can always check out one of the million or so salons in Center City. I still have the audacity of hope that there is someone around here who can do wonders with my hair and do it quietly. In the meantime I will be working the primary on the 15th and after that I'll be impeaching the president. Excuse me while I spritz my curls with SetItFree; THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!