Sunday, December 28, 2008


Okay, I gotta admit, it started with a crock-pot. I'd always wanted one, or thought I might, but it's so big that you just have to use it and if you don't you have to add on another bedroom for all the appliancesyou once thought you couldn't live without, like the clay pot cooker and the rice maker and the mini deep fry and the small, medium, and extra large George Forman grills. But for Christmas this year, Mike and Marissa (Mike works with Steve and is the most fabulous guy) bought me one. A real Crock Pot, and it looked so cool that I offered to make hot appetizers for Christmas Day. My sister told me all about her Swedish meatballs and kept telling me how easy they were. Lynn Biederman (co-author of the great YA novel, UNRAVELING) told me about these puff pastry/sausage thingys, sort of a fancy pigs in the blanket, and really, who doesn't love a pig in anything?

I got up Christmas morning a little hung over, and I was thinking that I should have had someone go to Sam's Club (I'm not a member and boycott it at all turns) and bought the 48 piece hot hor devours tray. But not me. I got to work shaping those tiny pork and turkey meatballs, which I shaped into perfect little balls, about the size of small Christmas balls. But there were literally hundreds of them. My sister told me I should use grape jelly and chili sauce and just put the whole thing in the crock pot for 8 hours.

But you know me--- if grape jelly is the easy way, then homemade peach jam might be better. And chili sauce from a jar? Wouldn't ketchup, fresh grated horseradish, some lemon juice, and a dash of freshly ground hot peppers be better? We almost had to evacuate because the horseradish and the peppers were so aromatically overwhelming, but after turning on all the fans and opening the doors, things calmed down a bit. No matter that it was 34 degrees.

By the time the meatballs were swimming in the sauce, I was exhausted, every dish in the house was filthy, and I had an attitude as big as Iowa.

But on to the sausage puffs. Lynn told me to buy a package of sausage and a package of puff pastry dough. Oh please. Went to Fleisher's butcher shop and got homemade sage sausage, on to Bread Alone to get fresh puff pastry. Lynn said it took twenty minutes to put together enough for a hundred and fifty pieces. It took me four hours to put together enough for 60 pieces. Then they had to be cut and frozen. By then it was four in the afternoon.

I was furious, and I didn't know who to lash out at. So I just pouted and went to Christmas dinner, itching for a fight. But my friends are nicer than I am and it was lovely. Everyone gushed about the great food I had made.

After two hours, I had to go home because I was too exhausted to stand. There I did another two loads of dishes. I called my sister to complain. "You made the meatballs?" she asked incredulously. "I use frozen."

And right then I got it--- my drive to be perfect made my holiday a nightmare. I could have used grape jelly and the frozen meatballs, and maybe people wouldn't have gushed, but they wouldn't have barfed either.

Why didn't anyone ever tell me what a pukey little control freak I am? Oh right, they probably did, but I stopped talking to them!

I am now a new girl. Next time you need hot appetizers, call me. I'll bring them straight from Sam's Club. I'll just throw them in the crock-pot! And you'll probably never know the difference. Or care.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


As if it wasn't just cool enough that Obama got elected (I'm still weeping with joy), the man loves poker! This makes me so happy. We need our president to have nerves of steel, the very first attribute of a good poker player. We need our president to know how to bluff--- think John Kennedy and the Russians in Cuba. We need our president to know how to kick back and relax. Yes, we need Obama, but the thought that he'll have friends over and play poker makes the White House seem like the coolest place to be next year. So I'm sending over a copy of Hats & Eyeglasses the minute the inauguration is over, and waiting for my invitation. Really, Mr President, I'd make a good addition to your game. Really I would.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


This is what's been going on lately--- everyone wants to tell me their secret. I don't mean little stories that they've been meaning to tell their best friend or their shrink or even their trainer--- those earrings they stole from a local store, or the co-worker they kissed at a holiday party, or the gossip they've been spreading about an office mate.

No, I mean full-on, BIG stories, huge secrets that they have never shared with a soul before. Stories about cheating and binging and lying and more. Stories about bags of stolen money stashed in the basement behind the boiler, or husbands that are secretly gay and having numerous affairs with married men, or obsessions that border on psychosis. Stories that make me blush, which is no easy feat. Stories that I will take to my grave, because that's part of why they're telling me--- because they know I will not tell a soul.

Because I was honest in my memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses, because I let it all hang out, and, most importantly, because I admitted that I had never told anyone about my own problem, people feel that they can share anything with me. So they email and tell me that they are staying up all night for 5 days in a row playing online poker and then walking into the operating room to do surgery, or that they have stolen their kids college fund and put it into a slot machine in the local casino. They stop me at the post office and ask if they can meet me for lunch. I can see the look in their eyes, the furtiveness, the tears welling up. And part of me wants to run away. I'm afraid that their secrets will overwhelm me, that I'll take on their problems as my own. But I listen, because I wish that when I was in trouble--- when I was playing poker online and lying and afraid all the time--- there was someone I could have opened up to. Do I think that would have changed the outcome? No, not at all. But I think that it might have moved things along, and that when people tell me their dirty little (and big) stories, it brings them one step closer to stopping.

At least that's what I tell myself.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Everyone has been emailing me about Aurelia Taveras, a lawyer and TV commentator who started gambling and eventually lost nearly a million dollars in the casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Unfortunately, some of the money belonged to her clients. Now she's suing the casinos that she lost in, saying they should have recognized her addiction and not let her play. She says she would spend days at the tables--- not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she didn't have to leave her seat. Her little dog was often at her side, and it made me wonder if she made the doggie wear disposable diapers or something. Somehow this is starting to sound like the crazy Astronaut.

People want to know if I think Taveras is in the right, because, as I tell in Hats & Eyeglasses, I also lost huge sums of money playing online poker, although all that money was my own. They've also been telling me about a guy in England who is suing his bookie for taking his bets when he was a constant loser.

What the hell? Why does everyone have to lob off their screw-ups on someone else? I'd like it better if Taveras had said, "Okay, I did this, it felt good at the time, I'm ashamed and mortified that it got so out of control, but there's nobody to blame but myself." If she said that, I'd send her twenty bucks for her defense.

Monday, February 25, 2008


What a week this has been. My memoir, Hats and Eyeglasses, was published on February 14th. Since then, I have gotten rave reviews in The New York Post, USA Today, Bloomberg News, The Times Picayune, AP, and half a dozen others. The New York Times ran an amazing piece by Joyce Wadler about me and my house in the Home section, and Tara Parker Pope blogged about Hats & Eyeglasses in her New York Times blog, WELL. I was on the Lenny Lopate show on WNYC, and did a standing-room-only reading at Barnes & Noble in Chelsea. This all seems an embarrassment of riches, but I'm remembering to enjoy the ride and not pooh-pooh the whole thing away.

And now, this college drop-out is heading to Harvard! Yup, leaving for Boston tomorrow for three days of TV (Wednesday morning's Good Morning Boston on Fox TV somewhere between 7:30 and 7:45 AM, and a half hour on BATV's Behind the Pages, which will be broadcast sometime in the next few weeks), taping Here and Now at WBUR, and capping it all off with a reading at the Harvard Coop Wednesday night at 7. So if you know anyone in Boston, tell them to come see me that night and to say hello. I love talking to the people who show up at my readings, and signing their copies of Hats & Eyeglasses.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Here it is, four days before my publication date. Things are going great. The New York Times did an unbelievable story about me--- the great Joyce Wadler wrote it for the Home & Garden section, and I must admit that she really got me, AP wrote a really nice review that got picked up by hundreds of papers around the country and in Canada, there have been raves in magazines, from friends, from people I don't even know (all the reviews are on my website,

So, why haven't I slept in two weeks? Am I going to become one of those writers who fret and never feel that they've reached their goal? Please, no. I hate that kind of thing. When I was reviewing books in the late 80's for DETAILS magazine, I listened to writers bitch and moan all the time. Either they were annoyed that other writers were getting more attention than they were, or they thought their editors had screwed with the essence of their book, or they were just miserable drunks who couldn't be happy because a cloud of nastiness and sadness hung over them.

A friend asked me last night when I was going to raise the glass of champagne, and I had a million excuses--- not til the book was out, not til my Amazon number broke ten thousand, not til I knew if it was a "Success."

And she laughed. "Isn't writing it, being honest about your addiction, and getting it published the "success"?

That really made me shut my mouth. Which, if you know me or not, is not the usual thing for me. But it did make me think that if I can't enjoy the journey, I'm screwed. This book is the most liberating thing I could have ever hoped to do. I hid my addiction from everyone I knew, and now they all know. And you know what? No one has turned away from me, no one is mad. My family and friends have embraced me in a way that I could never have imagined.

So here it is, four days before pub date, and I'm doing it--- I'm raising that freaking glass and toasting Hats and Eyeglasses. And I hope you will, too.

Friday, January 4, 2008


People are getting in touch with me, and with my publicists, because they want to interview me when my memoir, Hats and Eyeglasses, comes out. This is good news, as I worried that no one would even notice when it got published. But Shanta Small and Jen Levy at Tarcher/Penguin are doing a great job and now people are calling and emailing and saying things like, "I can't wait to sit down with you for an interview."

For someone like me, who has spent years behind the tape recorder asking the questions, this is a very scary proposition. Joan Didion said it best (and I paraphrase here), when she remarked that anytime a writer is in the room, it is not to your advantage.

And knowing what I know, which is that I used to do anything I could to make my subjects talk--- well, I'm getting nervous.

I'll give you some examples--- when I interviewed Leonardo DiCaprio, he was a nineteen year old who admitted that he had never had a girlfriend. I told him how I taught myself to French kiss by making a fist and sticking my tongue in between my thumb and pointer finger. I actually showed him my technique, and then he told me the greatest story about his first date and how the girl ate a roast beef sandwich and it creeped him out and he couldn't kiss her. People talked about that interview for years.

Once I told Jeff Bridges this story that I had never told anyone outside my family, about my "cousins" (really children of my parent's friends who I was really close with), and how they all became drug dealers and bookmakers. The next day I went out for dinner with Bridges and his agent, and the agent said something about my degenerate family. I yelled and carried on, and Bridges wound up taking me out again the next night to apologize. I wrote about all of it, and it was one of my most successful stories.

So what's going to stop me from saying things I shouldn't? I don't have a great filter on my brain, and although Hats & Eyeglasses is very revealing about certain things, I'd like to believe that there are other things that I would keep private. I'd REALLY like to believe that. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.