Monday, January 19, 2009


What can I say about my cousin Keith? My earliest friend, my protector, the person who would kick the shit out of anybody who bothered me. Learned to swim with him, learned to kiss with him, learned to do drugs with him. He grew up to be a wild-haired pirate, a joker, a smuggler, the man who taught me to play poker. I spoke with him every single day of my life, and if he wasn't talking food, he was talking cards. He would call on his way home from the poker room to tell me how he'd done--- if he lost he would tell the truth, which is very rare among gamblers. He would share recipes with a glee that would make Julia Childs jealous. One of the funniest bits in Hats & Eyeglasses is when he calls to tell me about balsamic vinegar. I learned how to make lasagna from him, although mine was never as good.

His real name wasn't Keith, but I changed it in the book because he had been in jail and I didn't want to embarrass him. So what did he do? He had a shirt made that said, I'M KEITH.

I should have known that absolutely nothing could embarrass him.

He was crazy cuckoo wild for his wife, Barbie, and loved that she wore thick makeup and high heels every single day of her life. They were content with each other in a way that's very rare these days, almost a 1950's love story.

Everyone who ever met him remembers his easy laugh. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, he was walking down the street with a friend when he fell over, dead. A massive coronary.

I have been in shock since then, unable to think about it, as if it would go away if I didn't speak it aloud.

Then I dreamed about him all last night. In my dreams he was his hysterical self. I woke today with a feeling of such joy, such love for him, that I felt I could finally say it--- rest in peace my sweet man. The world is a far bleaker place without you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Writer Marion Winik is one of my idols. Winik, who is often heard on NPR's All Things Considered, wrote an amazing memoir, First Comes Love. It tells of her marriage to Tony, a fellow junkie, who is also a gay figure skater. Marion and Tony kicked their habits, slipped back, had two sons, fought, reconciled, split up, and then got back together when Tony got sick with AIDS. He came home to commit suicide. The amazing part of First Comes Love is that it's hysterically funny, which is no easy feat. The last book my mother read before she went blind was First Comes Love, and for years afterward she would say things like, "I wonder how Hayes and Vince are doing." When I would ask her who they were, she would sigh and say, "You know, Tony and Marion's boys." It was like they were our favorite cousins, and somehow we had lost touch.

Okay, so I'm on Facebook one day and I see Marion Winik's name. I friend her (why not?), and miraculously, she friends me back. I write and tell her the story about my mother, and Marion sends me back a really gracious note to say that she wishes we were real cousins.

I almost die, because when you email one of your idols, you really don't expect to get back a funny and open note. I tell Marion that I'd like to send her a copy of Hats & Eyeglasses, and she says she would love to see it. A week later, she writes this:

Martha--- I want to talk more about the book but here are just a few random things. The portrait of your mother is absolutely priceless, all your family members, really. Many times the humor reminded me of Anne Lamott. You must know her work. That sweet self-deprecating wisecracking with a touch of hyperbole. It was soothing to my soul. Thanks so much for getting in touch with me and making sure I read the book. If there is something you need -- though you seem to have all the reviews and blurbs a person could possibly want -- let me know. You made me (and everyone else I'm sure) slather to read your next book. Wish i was in woodstock today for a chat xox Mar

I almost fainted. She compared me to Anne Lamott, who is my other favorite writer. Then it gets better- Winik, who I now think of as Mar, writes and says that she is going to teach Hats & Eyeglasses as part of her MFA class in Obsession and Addiction in Literature at the University of Baltimore this semester, and that she wants me to come down there, speak to the MFA class, do a public reading that night, speak to her memoir class the next day, and stay over and play Scrabble.

I'm too embarrassed to tell Mar that I suck at Scrabble, so I'm sitting here with the dictionary, just looking up random words. I'm telling you now, Mar is going to have to evict me, because i will not leave voluntarily!

And for all you haters who say Facebook is a waste of time, well, you never know.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Although it wasn't the best sports story of the year, it was the best headline:
METS GET PUTZ. I don't care how he pronounces it, New Yorkers are gonna be all over set-up man JJ Putz (who says his last name rhymes with "foots"). He'd probably be better off if his name was Robert Bigballs. And then the putz admitted to the New York Times that all through high school he didn't even know that his name was a derogatory term! Where had he been living--- Schmuckville? Personally, I can't wait to read the New York Post after his first bad outing. PUTZ BLOWS... well, you get the idea.

CC Sabathia is going to be a great addition to the New York Yankees. But I doubt AJ Burnett will, be unless he finds a Stay Healthy pill that's not illegal. And while I'm not convinced yet that Joba is a starting pitcher, I'm not as pessimistic as the naysayers who think he's risking his life and career by throwing a ball in the first five innings.

Last year, when my memoir Hats & Eyeglasses came out, there was a big hoo-haa on some of the blogs because I had the audacity to question whether some online poker sites were on the up-and-up. Last month 60 Minutes and the Washington Post came out with a big investigative piece about how Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet had cheated some of their players out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems a former employee had cracked the software code and knew everyone else's cards at the table, which certainly gives you, oh, like a hundred percent edge. Sheesh, you just never know.

This Week in Sports:
Although the University of Oklahoma Sooner's quarterback Sam Bradford won the Heisman trophy this year, his team was beaten in the NCAA BCS Championship by the Florida Gator's, whose quarterback Tim Tebow who won the Heisman last year…

Pitcher John Smoltz (41), who has played twenty-one years for the Atlanta Braves, was signed by the Boston Red Sox…

Four NFL head-coaches were fired after their teams failed to make the playoffs. They include Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli (his team went 0-16 this year, a league first), Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel, New York Jets coach Eric Mangini and Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. The only one to find a new home is Mangini, who is going to the Cleveland Browns…

The Boston Celtics, the best team in basketball, is on its first losing streak in a long, long while.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Am I the only one who thinks these holdiays have gone on for what seems like forever? I just took down the Christmas stuff, which I love, although I do have to ask myself again and again what a nice Jewish girl like me is doing with a perfectly trimmed tree that I set up on Thanksgiving Day. Okay, the tree is only three feet high and it's not real, but still... I agonize over which ornaments should go where, I turn the tree on the minute I walk into the house (white lights or colored? I can never decicde, so I switch from year to year) and I move the glass snowman from the left side to the rihgt, this Yankee's snow globe from right to left, from the minute I put it up til I take it down on New Year's Day.

But this year it seemed like the holidays just dragged. Maybe it's because the paperback of Hats & Eyeglasses is coming out in 5 weeks and I feel like there's so much to do.

But then I thought this.... why do Christmas and New Year's have to piggy-back on each other? Why can't we move New Year's to the spring solstice? Wouldn't that give us something to really celebrate? Wouldn't we be in better moods if the New Year really was about a new beginning? If you live in the Northeast like I do, this is the bleakest time possible. But spring... well, New Year's with crocuses popping though the snow would make us all feel so much better.

I'm gonna start a facebook group about this and see if I can get a movement going. Happy New Year to all.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I can't stop wondering if people judge books by their covers.

I know you're not supposed to, and some might be embarrased to say they do, but I'll admit that I am drawn to certain books because they look like fun or because they look sexy.

When I first saw the hardcover jacket for Hats & Eyeglasses. I began fretting that it was too foreboding, too dark, too... well, hats and eyeglassy. I worried that women, who are my target audience, would be put off by it. I started emailing and calling my editor every five minutes to suggest changes. Can't we make the water bluer? Can the hat (which was originally a fedora) be a woman's sunhat instead? Can the glasses be more retro or feminine or 1950's or something? Can we turn the hat around? To say she had it up to here with me is akin to saying the Beatles played a little rock music.

When she called to tell me the paperback was going to have a completely different look, I was ecstatic. But then I started fretting anew. I held off until I could no longer.

I called her a few months ago. "Isn't it getting to be that time when we need to see the new cover?" I asked sweetly.
"Yes," she groaned.
"Do you have it already?" Now I was excited.
"Yes," she admitted.
She was loath to send it to me because we had had such to-do's about the last one.
"Does it have a person on it?" I asked.
"Does it look like fun?"
"Is part of it green?"
Now she hesitated. "Yes," she finally said, "but what would make you ask that?"
"I don't know, but I always thought a little of the cover should be green."
So she sent it. And when I opened the file, I started crying. It was everything I thought it should be and more. And I knew that if I saw it at the bookstore, I would buy it. Because the cover spoke to me. I am so over the moon.