Media & Journalism

5 1/2 Easy Steps to Writing and Delivering Great Speeches

Appeared on Montecito Journal (pg. 20), Apr 24, 2019

Article - Montecito Journal - AWW.png

The Cecilia Fund Saved My Life

Recovering from Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Appeared on The Santa Barbara Independent, Oct 12, 2017

I was a rich yuppie, an Emmy nominee, a brisk walker, and a yogini, plus a prolific songwriter and speechwriter. My sunny Santa Barbara home had five sets of French doors and three fireplaces, and I never saw a doctor except for annual checkups and flu shots. Then in 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare disease called chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS [also known as complex regional pain syndrome]). I could no longer walk, drive a car, bathe, cook, or even go to the bathroom unassisted.

CRPS attacks the hands and feet and spreads like a tsunami throughout the body. There is no cure. I was the CEO of two successful businesses, but as the illness progressed, the pain in my foot was so intense I could no longer do the creative work needed to make my clients happy. My mid-six-figure income plummeted to a few hundred dollars a month from Social Security.

I don’t have a family, and writing by myself at home is not a way to make friends, so I was totally alone. I took cabs to see every “ist” in town — orthopedist, podiatrist, physical therapist, and past-life regressionist. I called psychologists who were full, but referred me to therapists who were not taking new patients, who referred me to clinics with year-long waiting lists. Finally, there was an opening at a family-service agency. But the psychologist there, who had failed in musical comedy, told me to stop living in denial, get a wheelchair, and accept the fact that I would never walk again and that I’d be living with debilitating pain.

I contacted agencies to help with housekeeping, shopping, etc., but they wanted $30 an hour (four-hour minimum), so I placed Craigslist ads, which were answered by a parade of unemployables named Samantha, Fungus IV, Justin, and Dirt, all of whom gave “flakey” a bad name.

Meanwhile, over a period of 18 months, I lost my home and used up my retirement and most of my will to live. Suicide runs in my family; my father and two teenage cousins hanged themselves. For 556 days, I lay in a dark, vapid room, sobbing all day and searching online for ways to exit this excruciating world.

But lots of kind people were praying for me: a nun, a cantor, a music producer from Malibu’s Self-Realization Fellowship, and Lauren, a UCSB student I found on Craigslist. Every night I called Silent Unity’s toll-free prayer number.

And 323 days later, I got my miracle. An old friend I hadn’t seen since we took bat mitzvah lessons together called to wish me happy birthday. After hearing about my situation, she paid Lauren to drive me to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Howard Rosner, director of the pain clinic there, said that CRPS was an incorrect diagnosis. What I was actually suffering from was tarsal tunnel syndrome. (It’s like carpal tunnel, except affecting the ankle, not the wrist.) Dr. David Thordarson, the world-class surgeon, confirmed Rosner’s diagnosis and said the odds of him curing me were two out of three.

Lauren liked those odds. On the way home from L.A., we stopped for strawberry Twizzlers and parked under a budding jacaranda tree. Lauren said when it was in full bloom, I would be, too. I booked the surgery, but found out that although I had Medicare and good supplemental insurance, nothing covered my 10-day post-op stay in rehab. I smashed all my dishes with a hammer and was about to cancel the surgery when Ericka Dixon, my psychotherapist at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, hooked me up with The Cecilia Fund, a nonprofit that gives grants for medical and dental expenses to low-income Santa Barbara residents. It paid for my 10 days in rehab, which literally saved my life.

Now, nine months after surgery, I am back to me again. I still cry every time I sit in the driver’s seat of my car and push the ignition button. I’m writing love songs and speeches again, and have moved out of the dungeon where I was dying into a new house with eight skylights full of promises. Thanks to The Cecilia Fund, I made it home.

 Goin’ Postal, 90049

Appeared on Westside Today

The Brentwood Post Office on Barrington has been privatized. I won it in a crap game.
Starting next week, I will be open 24/7, with valet parking. There will be a two-tiered line system. For the first, you take a number. For the second, numbers are called as they are in Bingo.

Rather than texting rants about how few windows are staffed, you will distracted by rotating, volunteer, local gourmet chefs serving finger food, with selections from the four nutritional groups: Snickers, Snickers, Snickers and gum. Inventors and scholars from all disciplines who are campaigning for stamphood when they die, will work the crowd, chatting it up, while Postal Guests mark their ballots.

To keep assault weapons off the premises, celebs in our zip code ordered to do community service, will act like airport screeners. While the practice might initially seem invasive to one’s privacy, we can only pray that Colin Firth blows off traffic school and is assigned to 90049.

Outside, my people will not cite pet owners for leaving poop on the grounds, but will simply spray animal droppings with Bye Bye Do Do, which, according to my patent, makes fecal waste disintegrate and disappear.

With the money I’m saving on not having to dispense combat pay to my workers, I will be able to redecorate and landscape, making the mailing of your tax returns a destination event.

My next community project is Adopt-a-Pot-Hole.


Appeared on Westside Today

I was a healthy, active, independent yogini who took brisk, two-mile walks every day without blinking. Then I had a foot transplant.

In spite of the careful plans and reliable caregivers I had in place to help me post-op, everything and everyone went south. Add the helplessness and relentless pain, and baby, this was one nasty writer.

But … then I discovered my neighbors….

God bless 85 year-old Frances-down-the-hall, who walks slower than I did, and still insisted on driving through the midnight rain for Tylenol. Mr. Rock ‘n Roll himself next door, heard me crying, asked for a grocery list, got everything on it plus an extra bag of M & M’s for emergencies, then refused to let me pay him.

Pilates women with cell phones in one hand and double espressos in the other, who drive roaring SUVs that would just as soon plow down Jesus than miss a light, stopped and smiled while I shuffled through nervous crosswalks. Restaurants delivered meals without minimum charges. The cute fire department opened heavy doors for me, and I honestly felt our community pulling for my healing.

It’s the last thing I expected. It’s the first thing I’ll remember.

Adopt A Block: A Plan to Fix Our Town’s Potholes

Appeared on Westside Today

Mayor Villaraigosa has made it clear the city doesn’t have money to pave or repair any streets in L.A., not even his.

In Santa Barbara, I lived on a private lane of eight houses. Private meant that when the road disappeared into a sink hole every March 3rd, each homeowner had to repair his own portion of the street himself. Since all the neighbors but me seemed to be in Witness Protection, it was easy to interest somebody’s brother-in-law twice removed, in borrowing gigantic yellow machinery from Casmalia, and uncovering leftover slurry from the city yard. All cash. Two days. Done.

Our Brentwood roads can be repaired the same way. Since the coral trees on San Vicente have been adopted, now let’s adopt the streets themselves. Block by block. Sidewalks and meridians, too. With plaques. Maybe badges. The paperwork would include maintenance agreements, and spark competition to be the most beautiful.

We could also auction parking meters, each of which could be decorated by a different, commissioned, local artist, and become a world-class installation like LACMA’s lamp posts, with the revenue going into the maintenance fund.

Slurry up, Brentwood. Somebody got a steamroller?

Brentwood Parking Pass

Appeared on Westside Today

There is no place to park in Brentwood.

Even though there’s an occasional empty blue space reserved for disabled drivers, we’ve all seen the yutz in the Maserati who roars into these spots, oblivious to the frail, walking-impaired motorist behind him, desperate for a space. Maserati Guy feels he has the right to stop wherever and whenever he wants, because his car has the most testosterone on the block.

Seeing the growing fleet of parking enforcement vehicles on San Vicente, staffed by uniformed workers who love their jobs more than anyone in America, I assume the City of Los Angeles makes most of it’s nut from citing selfish drivers who take disabled spaces. First offence: $250. Second: $500. Third time, toast.

However, I would hope the fine wouldn’t be the reason for observing the law. Nonetheless, someday, Maserati Guy is going to get a badly needed brain transplant, and feel the agony of every baby shuffle step he has to take, parking three blocks from CVS to buy morphine and a Fleet enema.

When it’s his turn for the walker with the yellow tennis balls, let’s see who’s upset at whom for taking his blue parking spot.

Segue to Segway

Appeared on Westside Today

My fifth white Lexus lease was ending. For eleven months, I searched for new transportation. Determined to be environmentally responsible, I started with the hybrids. Feeling like I was single-handedly rescuing all Polar Bears and ice, the reality is, seats in green cars trash my back.

I could have put a deposit on a round, cute convertible, and in ten months when it arrived, pay as much over sticker for that $24,000 vehicle as a Bentley.

Instead, I rode up and down, up and down Santa Monica and Wilshire, test driving 22 other automobiles. I rented many of them, all yellow, a day at a time, since car people only let me ride one exit on freeways, and confined my bump research to the single block in the County that’s been paved since FDR.

At the fancy dealerships, there were no cars on any lots, so I was caravanned to satellite garages. Descending three somber, airless levels into the bowels of the earth, salespeople with bad suits and matching flashlights weren’t authorized to drive anything under $85,000 up the ramps to daylight, but suggested I visit their URL’s for color swatches.

Danny, my lawyer and unhusband, suggested a scooter. But look for me ripping six on the 405, saving the planet, on my Segway.

Pick Up Your Trash!

Appeared on Westside Today

Brentwood is becoming a landfill of our own making. And the folks who used to pick up after us are gone. Living in a lean, green time, with the environment our priority, it’s heartbreaking to witness San Vicente Boulevard, the Grand Dame of our city, becoming a slum, as trash cans outside our many fine and fast food restaurants spill over onto the sidewalk.

Along the path surrounding The Brentwood Country Club, as graceful coral trees and stately eucalyptus sigh in disgust, joggers toss their bottles and snack packs into the bushes, as if keeping our city sparkling clean were someone else’s responsibility. Barrington Avenue is a waste dump altogether. Dog poop, soda cans and abandoned furniture make that street an embarrassment to all of us. But the alley stretching from Barrington to Montana should be cordoned off with yellow police tape. There, rotting food, plastic bags, coupons, burrito wrappers, condoms, cups, hats and human waste play a symphony of shame.

It is tantamount to a crime scene. Our whole town is. Let’s make Brentwood beautiful again. If we all pitch in, it’s done.

Pick up your trash.