The New Year has begun, and it promises to be not unlike the last one. War, hatred, many instances of climate distress; high unemployment, hard times for many around the globe, and let’s not forget, a United States Congress that has abrogated its duty to govern and/or lead.
The good news is: I’m still fabulous!! Like a piece of fruit that has been irradiated, my shelf life has been extended, and I look and sound better than I ever have before; a bright beacon of hope to all who want to live the beautiful life, but don’t know how.
This month I throw caution to the winds, and tell all you monkeys how I manage to maintain my equilibrium and my figure in these horrible times, despite all the firepower arrayed against me. You deserve it, having lived through 2013, as awful a year as I can remember, Miley Cyrus notwithstanding. I know I run the risk of torrents of disdain raining down upon my head, but so what? What’s life without risk? In 12 more years I will be 80, packing my Tumi for the trip across the river Styx. What have I got to lose??
So, here are 12 Steps - doled out one at a time, so stay tuned - for a more perfect “Miss M” sort of life. Print these out and post them prominently, where all can see how you are determined to commit or quit.
12) ACCEPT that you have a hole in your soul, but know that you are not alone. We all share the same burden. It’s the human condition. Nearly everything we humans have created was made to avoid thinking about this, so there is an upside. We humans have made a lot and destroyed a lot. It’s mostly men who have done it, although women, if they had been given the chance, probably would have done the same. There are an awful lot of people on the planet. I am not sure all their lives should be examined. In fact, when I look at “The Wolf of Wall Street”, I am pretty sure they should not.
11) FORGET “wash, rinse, repeat.” Total nonsense. Designed to make you use more shampoo so you’ll buy more...shampoo. You only have to wash your hair once for it to be clean.
10) HYDRATE. I believe many diseases are caused by not drinking enough water. You can tell you are dehydrated (or, as Chris Walken insisted on saying in “The Stepford Wives” de-hy-dray-ted) when you start licking your lips like Marco Rubio did that time on TV. On the other hand, you don’t need bottled water. Drink from the tap. It’s great, cheap, and you’re not polluting the planet by driving your water all the way from Fiji or France.
9) EXFOLIATE. Nothing says “ancienne” like gray skin. A good scrub, removed with a washcloth, will improve your look and your outlook instantly. Do it everyday.
8) NEVER EVER wear Crocs, unless you are a chef or a gardener. Additionally, no one over 15 should be allowed to wear Uggs.
7) NEVER watch or engage in anything dumber than you. Stupidity is contagious.
6) LOOK UP. Look at the stars. Or the clouds. Or the birds. They are highly entertaining. Stop looking down at your smartphone or your iPad; it’s an abyss. One link leads to another and before you know it, you have spent the whole night reading all there is to know about Toto, the band. Honestly, even with a profound admiration for David Paitch, is this putting your (limited) time to good use??
5) QUIT reading fashion, shelter and gossip magazines. They are an insidious poison, a constant parade of so many things you can never have; designed to stir desire, envy, self-loathing, and distress. Look at Proust. He had the right idea: Locked himself in a cork-lined room and never came out until dark. Ate at the best tables, never paid for anything, and then dissed everyone he met. In print. The power of the printed word cannot be overestimated. When you see the people he was actually writing about, you will not believe he could weave such spells around such potatoes.
4) DANCE, in a real class with real people or by yourself at home. Not in a disco, where you will have to contend with those who are not as elevated as you. Motion is lotion, as my tai chi teacher says whenever I accidentally run into him. And may I take a moment to beg you not to post videos of yourself dancing? No good can come of it.
3) FAST a couple of times a week. Yes, it works, you will lose weight, but more than that, you are showing solidarity with 50% of the planet, which endures some kind of food insecurity every day. Don’t eat more than your share, and for god’s sake, only eat real food. If you can’t figure out what i mean by real food, ask an old man or woman.
2) PUT DOWN the crackpipe, pills, bourbon and burgers, or whatever you are trying to fill that hole in your soul with. This stuff wreaks havoc on your skin, your hair, your attitude and your spirit. If you think you were depressed before you lifted any of that to your mouth, you will feel 50 times worse when you come down, and see how horrible you look.
1) FIRST FIRST FIRST, you must, must, must have a full length mirror. If you can get a three-sided mirror, bully for you. The mirror is your friend, and will not lie, and if you have half a brain you can learn to improve what you see. The trick is to see it as a process, not an end. Do not get discouraged. Identify what you need to work on and let the rest of it go. Yes, you look like a potato. But who doesn’t love potatoes?? Get over it.
I see Quvenzhané Wallis is starring in the Annie remake. I thought I nailed that audition! What am I gonna to do with this red wig now?
I’ve made 30 or so albums in my career; some of them mean more to me than others, because of the circumstances surrounding them and the great (and no-so-great) memories they call up. You might enjoy getting some background on them, so every now and again I’ll post a few thoughts on what I was going through at the time…
Winter can be glorious, and it can also be a real drag. The best part of winter, if you’re like me, is to be snow-bound with some great books, great music, a fake fireplace, and a big cup of something to ward off the winter chill, while the elements blast away outside. The worst part is trying to get anything done that involves going outside, like going to work.
The last album I made for Atlantic Records had the title “Bette of Roses”, and it really is a winter album, one meant to be played with the wind howling at the window. It’s full of sad, rueful ballads, my favorite of which is Bed of Roses, by Bonnie Hayes. Allow me to quote a few lines:
Long, long ago, where the tall grass grows
and the still air is sweet with summer flowers;
in the shade by the stream I would lie awake and dream,
and in dreaming I would while away the hours.
Well, I wasted years,
all the useless, bitter tears.
If I'd known I'd have stopped it at the start.
I knew life was long,
and I knew life could go wrong,
but I never knew my life would break my heart.
To tell the truth, most of the songs on this particular record are pretty rueful ballads. To Comfort You, To Deserve You, The Perfect Kiss, all came into my life around the same time; some from friends and friends of friends, and maybe it was in the air that year, (1995) but they were all strong melodies with melancholy lyrics. For one of the few times in my recording career, I let them stand without larding them with uptempo tunes from other decades.
“Melancholy” is a beautiful word that doesn’t get used much any more. It’s so much more evocative and romantic than “manic-depressive”, no? You can just see the women in white floating through doorways looking for the laudanum.
I am fascinated by “Melancholia”, a disease of the nerves rampant in the 19th century; characterized by gloominess, sometimes called being in a “brown study”. Truman Capote called it “the mean Reds” and, of course, everyone knows “the Blues”, restlessness, sadness, discontent, dis-ease... I put forward “the winter whites”, and the salve for it is here in “Bed of Roses”. If you are going to wallow in regret, this is just the soundtrack for it. Excuse me, while I put mine back on the turntable, and pour us another...
Laughing, crying—occasionally dying; I love to act! Once I even milked a cow and sang at the same time – a feat that required great sensitivity and impeccable rhythm. I’ve had hits and misses, and now after 40 years or so, I’ve finally returned to the stage in “I’ll Eat You Last,” a one-woman show about one of the great Hollywood characters, Sue Mengers.
Look what I dug up! Some old snapshots and things I never put in the scrapbook but always intended to. I haven’t seen these in years, and neither has anyone else. They are personal and have never been published. Hmmm, I wonder what else I’ll find in that storage unit? You know I never throw anything out…
Plastic bags are the bane of my existence! And they are the bane of the whole planet, too, when you think of it. When carelessly disposed of, they immediately find their way into trees, bushes, waterways, and the bellies of marine animals. This hideous waste is especially unsightly in winter, when our beautiful trees are oh-so-naked and under siege like at no other time of year. But it’s not just plastic bags. You never know what you’ll see up in the branches—garbage ejected from a vehicle or dumped down a hillside, from raggedy clothing, construction debris, and those tragic deflated balloon bouquets that somehow manage to escape into the air.
Thankfully, there’s our trusty crew of Bag Snaggers at New York Restoration Project. Read all about them here. They pull trash out of trees in the city’s most under-resourced neighborhoods. Watch a video of the NYRP bag-snagging team in action. They’re my green superheroes!
My husband, the beloved Mutt, gave me a custom-made graphite bag snagger on my 50th birthday—and it’s a beaut. I keep it in the trunk of the car and put it into action whenever it’s safe to pull over on Riverside Drive, the FDR, or some of those wind tunnels in the Bronx. Truly, I am a fanatic.
You can be too! Plastic bags have got to go! Over five billion a year are given out, and who can account for even 1/4 of them?? Some progressive thinkers across the country are working to eliminate this scourge. There’s a movement afoot to ban plastic bags, from the corner bodega to the largest grocery-store chains. Read more about this valiant effort from our friends at the Huffington Post. You can join the fight right now by just saying “NO” to plastic when you shop. Better yet, keep a reusable shopping bag handy for your next trip to the market.