Dr. Gold

This is a memoir excerpt about a doctor I suddenly had to flee under the cover of one night after seeing him for five years. I started to think he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I could no longer ignore his creepy behavior. This scene is our first meeting.

The second and last shrink I went to had an office on Sixth Avenue. Would a city doctor be on the ball? Dr. Gold was a real pill pusher. As soon as I arrived at his office, he wanted to switch me from the Stelazine to an atypical—a drug that could cause weight gain of upward of one hundred pounds—seriously. I had no symptoms, and his knee-jerk reaction was to tell me, “Everybody’s doing it.”

I felt like he wanted to experiment with me, yet what could I do? I refused his request. He took one look at me and said, “Oh, so you’re Italian. I don’t want to mess with you, right?”

At this point I needed a new prescription, so time was running out on finding a psychiatrist. Dr. Gold would do for now. He would see me every two months at 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday, so I had to take off from work. I had researched him via an online database and had found out he had been in practice since 1979.

Dr. Gold had a furry beard and wore a cheap white shirt and beige slacks. You could tell that his clothes were low rent, and I wondered why, considering that he was paid the big bucks. The intake was nothing unusual, and I began to rise from my seat when the visit was over. Or so I thought it was over.

Now he popped “the question.”

“Are you in a relationship?” he asked in his own version of a doorknob question. Only I was the patient who dreaded that he turned this knob. It was out of the blue, and I didn’t understand what he was getting at.

“Oh, no, I’m not.”

“You’re not in a relationship?” His gold-flecked brown eyes looked at me curiously.

“No. I fly solo now.”

“Don’t you think it would be good to be in a relationship?”

“I haven’t found anyone suitable.”

“You should consider it.”

I thought it odd that he cared about this yet let it be, even though as a devout feminist I was pissed off that he felt that being in a relationship was the only measure of my success. He had glossed over everything else I told him and instead focused on this.

“Wouldn’t you like to be in a relationship?”

“I’m busy with school right now.” I didn’t want to stare at him because his eyes glinted in a crazed way, so I looked at the exit door.

“Don’t you want to be in a relationship?

I wanted to tell him that I thought I’d better go, only he had yet to write out the prescription. He repeated the question (as if it mattered) a couple of different ways and finally gave up and took out his pad to write on.

Finally, I was able to snatch it from his oily fingers.

Once outside I noticed an Ann Taylor across the street and ducked in. I tried on a green lawn dress and imagined that I was a movie star. When all else failed, I believed in the power of good clothes to transform my life. With retail therapy so easy, I could tell it would be very expensive for me to continue seeing this shrink.

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Returning to School

I did not think that the course work was hard when I attended graduate school. I simply thought it was a lot of labor. It took a lot of effort yet I obtained a 3.89/ out of a 4.0 GPA. I always think that those of us with broken brains become “school heads” and throw ourselves into our studies as a coping mechanism for the hard time we’re having.

I followed through with my goal of going back to school even though I was unemployed.


Starting library school, I soldiered on in a purple mood: brave and sad. The insurance career may have failed, yet it was the only one I knew, so I wondered if maybe it was a mistake to go back to school. I felt like a tormented lover torn between staying with her sugar daddy because he was there and walking on to dare find a new love. I looked regretfully at the door that closed like a woman mourning the side of the bed where her love used to sleep.

The Pratt location in Manhattan was where I attended school.

An omen: I had to give a presentation for my Introduction to Libraries class, talking about an interview I conducted with the director of a library. My last name began with a B, so I was the second person to perform. I interviewed a librarian at the Jefferson Market branch in Manhattan.

After the class, a guy from the first row came up to me: “You had a booming voice. You were amazing.”

“Thanks.” I fobbed off this as a great feat even though I thought it was ordinary.

“Want to go for coffee at the Used Book Café?”

“Okay,” I dared say yes.

“I’m Adrian.” He led the way.

“Chris.” I slung my messenger bag over my shoulder. It was a Manhattan Portage canvas one whose red logo patch I removed when everyone in sight started carrying the same bag. I bought mine two years ago and wanted to be anonymous now.

The bookstore was on Crosby Street; you could get lost in the stacks. Oh, I was in heaven—the books, books, books were all cheap, and a lot were in new condition. Adrian ordered a latte. I chose the tomato soup. We sat at a table in the back. He was an Armani Exchange kind of guy who wore his dramatic clothes well. His own messenger bag was leather.

“I work as a reference assistant at Forrester Bean Tate Reilly,” he rattled off a law firm.

What could I say? I had two part-time jobs: I worked in the second floor administration office at Pratt, answering phones two days a week, and I temped at McKinsey, doing word processing two days to bring in money.

I asked him what a reference assistant did, and he told me.

“You need to learn online searching. That’s where the money is.”

“How could I do that?” I was curious.

“Take the online database courses in law and business. That’s where it’s at.”

“I’m considering doing that,” I told him.

Adrian’s last name started with a G, so he would give his talk in a couple of weeks.

“I’m going with the big guns: a PowerPoint presentation.”

“Marvelous.” I was in awe of him. Did I sound like a drip?

He told me I should join the student association that was meeting next week at one o’clock after our class. This intrigued me, and I decided to risk going. The other students were a multi-culti crowd from countries around the world. I welcomed the chance to rub elbows with them and hear their stories about how they came to be at Pratt.

Adrian stared at me throughout our conversation, and I felt uneasy. Did I give off an odd vibe, or was he just the kind of person who acted like he was always at a cocktail party making deals?

“I’d better get going. I have to take the train to the ferry and then the bus on the other side.” I gathered up my bowl to take back to the counter.

“See you later,” he chanted in a dark voice.

“Ciao.” I sailed out the door into rain.


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The Lizard Lounge

The memoir excerpt below takes place just before my first pdoc lowered the dose of Stelazine to 2 mg.


Another moody winter arrived. Margot introduced me to her new boyfriend, Lizard, a strange Pisces. He was a perfectly cast grunge character who played bass in Cargo, a rock band that performed at SRO, a club on Bay Street.

I spent the weekends with her at his place because I had nothing better to do and nowhere else to go. We ordered in Mexican food—quesadillas and nachos—because we were too lazy to go to the store and get the provisions. He had enough beer in the fridge to outlast the next century.

In Lizard’s pad, everything new was old before it’s time: the slipcovers, the shabby worn arms of the overstuffed easy chairs, the going-down-behind-the-mystery surface of real life into the still waters of a placebo high.

They sat on the couch in front of the wall, and I sat on the chair under the window. Four milk crates topped with a mirror formed the coffee table. The living room had a disposable feeling.

Lizard liked to get high on weed, listening to Pink Floyd albums and spouting amber philosophies.

“Is that your favorite color?” he asked, pointing his Corona toward my purple shirt.

“Not exactly. I’m a red person.”

“It’s just a shirt,” I said, though I took care when I bought it. A shirt was never just a shirt to me: it reflected who I was—the face I presented to others. I felt that if I dressed in sharp fashion, people would think I was interesting and admire me.

“What face are you behind the face you show?” Lizard challenged.

“Excuse me?”

“You have a startling effect.” He stared at me.

He looked like a disheveled freak that you’d find riding a late-night bus. I ignored him and flipped absentmindedly through the pages of Mirabella, a women’s magazine.

“Let her be,” Margot said.

He finished the joint and placed another album on the turntable. She went to change into her kimono.

When the music was over, she said, “Later for you guys; I’m going to bed.”

At two in the morning, he crawled around looking, having forgotten where he stashed the Thai stick, and in the half-light of the kitchen, he was just another stoned Jesus working his jones like salvation.

“I kept it here, I know I did,” he muttered.

When he found the private reserve, it was rather skimpy. He was a daily pot smoker, and wouldn’t have enough left for tomorrow.

“That bum CR sold me out again.”

I continued to read the magazine as if he wasn’t there.

“Let’s knock on his door and make him pony up.”

Those stained clothes, the scruffy jeans; I didn’t know what Margot saw in him.

She walked in as if she wasn’t aware she came out of the bedroom.

“What are you saying? What are you saying?”

She continued: “It’s two in the morning and we’re not going to walk the street at this hour.”

Lizard: “Shit, what am I going to do?”

Margot: “You should have thought of that earlier.”

He waved his hands in the air. “Go find me a beer.”

My God, how did she stay in the relationship? The next thing I knew, she popped open a Heineken and poured it on his shirt. “Cool off.”

“Sick chick.”

“You know you like it that way.” She laughed. “Come to bed, darling.”

That was my cue to take solace in the spare bedroom. I was a night owl again. Too cold, I lay awake looking out the window to the backyard. It was three, four, and then five in the morning. You haven’t lived until you’ve made it to 3:00 a.m. eternal—when the sky is the silver-gray of a knife blade, and you feel that you’re the only one awake on earth.

Left of the Dial Amazon Page. It’s also available via special order at bookstores.

My First Stab At Employment

Yes: I’ve decided to return with another memoir excerpt to cue your interest in the narrative. I was able to find a short scene I could transcribe here. Will see if there are other scenes I could excerpt. For now I’m taking it week-by-week with the excerpts. I expect to do book signings more towards February and March and into the spring. Check the speaking engagements forum for details.

Here: the detour gets even more surreal. A scene from my first job in 1990. At a time when no one else with schizophrenia dared consider trying to find work.  Was I out of my league? I jumped out of the frying pan of a dismal mental health system into the fire of a typical job expected of a female: secretary.


Over the summer, Mr. Rock sent me on two interviews: the first one at American Express, where the woman reported to him that I had a “tense demeanor,” and the second at Crowley & Watkins, where I received a job offer. On my own, I interviewed at Simon & Schuster for an editorial assistant spot but it didn’t pan out.

Only three interviews and I got a job. I decided to take the sure thing instead of waiting to see if I’d get a publishing gig. I signed on at the insurance brokerage.

My boss, Brittany Moss, was the director of the telemarketing division, and I was to be her administrative assistant. She was forty years old and looked much younger. She wore tortoiseshell eyeglasses, had a wavy bob, and smoothed on sangria lipstick. Brittany was an anomaly at Crowley: a corporate superstar without balls.

My job consisted of typing up correspondence, formatting new client proposals, sending out direct mail letters, generating sales reports, and processing expense accounts. It was demanding work, and I often clocked in overtime.

As I settled into my routine, I observed the other women in the office. Dahlia, the receptionist, wore miniskirts. I wouldn’t ever do that. My justifiable excuse for buying sharp suits was to fit in with the corporate culture.

Before, I hid behind the Siouxsie mask; now I wore a different one, equally false. I presented this beautiful figure—what Italians call la bella figura: the stylized theatrics of putting on your socially acceptable face. If I wanted to succeed, I’d have to “act as if” I’d already arrived, even if I was just starting out.

It all came down to the clothes and the presentation. Yet I felt that demeanor is not just how a person looks; it is how he or she composes himself or herself in response to the trials of life. I hid my dirty laundry, determined that no one find out.

When Brittany saw me come back from lunch with yet another Casual Corner shopping bag, she laughed. “You have more clothes than I do, and I make triple the money.”

She was impressed and gave me new responsibilities. I was to call up the companies we had obtained from lists and ask for the correct names and titles of their risk managers so we could generate leads.

“Hello, I’d like to send a letter to the person who buys your insurance. Could you give me the correct spelling of his name and his title?” I dialed down the list. I spoke in an upbeat voice, and I got hundreds of names. It took me an hour or two every day.

It was hellish work. It was pushing myself further than I wanted to go right then, but it was my job, so I rose to the challenge. Ultimately, I was successful.

“You have a talent for this,” Brittany took me aside. “I’d like to develop a career plan for you. How about we talk about this over dinner? I’ll take you to Dish of Salt.”

It was nouvelle Chinese, located right across the street. It’d be good to get a free meal because I worked overtime and otherwise wouldn’t eat until late. She slipped into her DKNY jacket, and I zipped up my new coat as we headed out into the October night.

We shared shrimp and beef dishes as piano music wafted through the restaurant. Rude-faced waiters silently brought and cleared the plates. We dared to order thick, rich hazelnut fudge cake for a tempting dessert. We talked in the warmth of the restaurant as the rain poured down outside.

“I’d like you to do telemarketing,” she asserted. “I’ll give you your own leads, and you’ll get a bonus based on how many sales appointments you set up.”

The thought of calling up strangers and trying to convince them to meet with my boss left me cold. I twisted the napkin in my lap and twisted it again. “I’d like that.” I pretended to be interested because I wanted to keep my job.

My mouth felt like wool. I tried to speak. “When do you…want me…to start?”

“I’ll hand over the phone lists tomorrow.”

Brittany finished her last bit of cake and smoothed her lips with a napkin. She took a compact out of her purse and reapplied her lipstick. It was Lancôme.

I wished I had the confidence to do this kind of touch-up in public. I was too self-conscious to look at myself in a mirror when other people were looking. I felt twisted inside, like the napkin I compulsively twisted. I worried she’d find out I was nervous, so I forced myself to stop.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page

The Eternal Noontime

This is the last memoir excerpt I’ll post here for now. Left of the Dial is set to go on sale on amazon.com and bn.com on January 1st–New Year’s Day–in two days.

One day Jon and I ventured to Times Square to eat in Red Lobster yet again. It had become our constant meeting place. He liked it because everyone walked through its doors: black, white, Asian, Latino. The two of us were at home in this world and lingered there over our dinners.

We walked along the street as the night settled in. He followed me into Sephora and waited patiently while I had the makeup artist choose a new foundation for my face. It was NARS in a shade called Fiji in a refillable compact. I stayed there pushing up the tubes of lipstick and decided to buy Pigalle, a chocolate pink.

“Okay, glamour girl, let’s go,” he prodded me to get in the long line.

“How wonderful it must be to have a job where you get to wear pretty makeup and give other people makeovers.”

The women at the check-out counter wore hot-pink wigs, and the sole guy rang me up. “No wig?” I asked him, and he laughed.

We headed over to the restaurant and were seated quickly. It had a seaside lobster special that I ordered. Jon ordered the fisherman’s platter. Our waiter started calling him buddy, as in “I’ll get you that right away, buddy” when he asked for a diet soda.

I only drank the tap water when I dined out, and I refilled the glass numerous times. I took out my new pill box: a white oval one with a silver lipstick design on it and two inner compartments. I had collected numerous pill boxes recently. One was a blue ceramic one with the Starry Night scene on it. I also had two large boxes for traveling—the same one in different colors: with silver stars for the morning and with a black mock croc for night.

Truly creative, I felt choosing and using the pill box according to my mood or who I was dining with elevated taking the medication to an art form.

“I got you something.” Jon reached into his pocket and handed me a small box. I opened it and inside was a gold charm with the words: The Best. “You’re the best.” He smiled.

I wanted to wear this beautiful necklace around my neck when people came to view me at my funeral.

“Friends till the end?” he asked.

“Friends till the end,” I said as he crooked my pinky in his.

We tucked into our food when it arrived.

Jon asked me how the manuscript was coming along, and I told him.

“Left of the Dial will make people smile.” He laughed.

“I want it to inspire others. It’s not another hell-and-heartache story, so I don’t know if it will attract a publisher. There’s a name for that trend: misery memoirs.”

“I expect an autographed copy.” He returned to eating his food.

“How’s Sam?” I asked Jon about his fiancé.

“She moved in with me. I might have to move out.” He laughed again. “I have no closet anymore.”

I could understand because I was over at his apartment for a party, and it was cramped. My own apartment had one coat closet in the dining foyer and a small closet in the bedroom. That was the liability of New York City living.

“Do you women really need sixteen pairs of the same black pants?”

He got me, though I wanted to tell him that something always set them apart: the design on the back pocket or the boot-cut or flared leg.

“Would you like dessert, buddy?” The waiter was suddenly back at our table. “How about you?” He turned to face me.

“We’ll get the check,” Jon suggested.

We paid and exited the building into the twilight world. It was as crowded as if it were noon. I took the train with him one stop to Thirty-Fourth Street, where he continued, and I transferred to the F.

I reached into my tote and pulled out a book to read on the trip home. The secret to success on the subway was always having something to read. Oddly, I wasn’t the only one turning pages on the platform and heading into the train.

You put on your game face living with this illness. The other riders wouldn’t have the idea that you have a master’s degree or that you were a public service librarian. You were just another person trying to find your own city Zen.

I wondered about the other riders: what was that woman like under her Calvin Klein suit? Did the guy with a briefcase visit a dominatrix?

The advent of Carroll Street was always good news. I exited the downtown train with my Sephora tote bag and walked down the street like I had somewhere to go.


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Moving Out

I spent 29 months in a residential housing system from 1988 to February 1991. I recommend this option only as a last resort. I favor getting a job that enables a person to rent or own a free-market apartment outside of “the system.”

The memoir excerpts will continue here through mid-December. It’s my goal to have Left of the Dial go on sale in early January 2015.


On a cold winter day, I drove around the island looking at apartments. A woman showed me a dark and dirty place in Westerleigh. A garden apartment in Dongan Hills was too far from the train. A basement room in Arrochar was the size of my childhood closet.

The last studio I saw was near the amusement park on Sand Lane. This apartment rocked. Light flooded the room from two big windows. A sink, stove, refrigerator, and cabinets lined one wall, which extended farther than the main area to create a dining nook. I took in the good-sized closet and the utility closet that I could have my father attach a rod to so I could hang more clothes. The bathroom was spotless. Mostly, the sunlight coming through clinched the deal.

“I’d like it,” I said, not aware that maybe the landlord had to decide if he wanted me as a tenant. “Great. It’s four hundred per month like I told you on the phone. I prefer to be paid in cash.”

“Could I come next Saturday with the deposit?”

“Sure. The lease will start February first, and the rent is due on the first of the month.”

“Great. I’ll be by in the morning.”

“See you then.” He closed the door.

When I returned to Holland Avenue, I raced into the office to see Viola. She had been waiting all day. “I can tell you found something. You have a glow.”

“Oh, it’s wonderful. The light streams through the windows. It has two big closets.”

“You deserve this success. You took what you were given and wouldn’t let it defeat you. I can only imagine that you’ll use that determination in whatever comes your way in the future.”

“Oh, I’m so excited; I can’t wait.”

“I’m confident that you have what it takes to fly solo.” Viola looked at her watch. “I’ll let you go now. I have to write up your discharge papers.”

When I got back to the residence, I sat at the dining table and wrote down a list of everything I’d need to do, buy, and secure: Change my address at work and at the post office. Get a sofa bed, dresser, and kitchen table. Hook up the utilities.

Wow, I’ve finally done this: I’ve recovered. It took just over three years, and I have found my way back.


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Christma Eve Blues

I lived in a street-drug-infested apartment complex when I was in my early twenties. I vowed to get out and stay out. My time in the community mental health system was the worst time of my life. This is why I recommend you research your treatment options with great care.


The holidays were here again, and Christmas Eve we celebrated at Aunt Liz’s this time around, again with lobster, shrimp, mussels and seafood salad, and angel hair pasta. The antipast’: caponata, artichokes, roasted peppers, provolone and mozzarella, olives, and baked clams. In our family there was the perpetual jockeying for the clams and the protest of who took the most clams—also the sneaky depositing of the empty shells in another person’s plate so it didn’t look like you went over the limit.

I was a woman, so I stood in the kitchen while my mother and my aunts cooked, even though I wasn’t cooking. The cousins and my father watched whatever show was on TV. Aunt Millie was banished to the couch because no one expected her to help out. My grandmother wandered into the living room too.

My cousin Fulvia recounted a Christmas Eve long ago when she was a child at our grandmother’s house. “The lobster was running after me,” she told us at every holiday. My grandmother used to clunk the lobsters herself at the time, and one of them escaped and was moving toward Fulvia. “I was only seven. The lobster was running after me.” She kept going on and on.

But we didn’t clunk the lobsters anymore; now my aunts went to Jordan’s Lobster Dock in Sheepshead Bay and had one of the employees there do the deed.

I loved lobster and was grateful we could afford this tradition. I always opted for a tail. My aunts had whole lobsters, the works, and used nutcrackers to crack the claws open. Marc got a tail too.

At dinner, we talked about Fulvia’s engagement to an outsider: he wasn’t Italian, he was French, and no one said anything about this because we had met him at my aunt’s birthday party, and he was a great guy. My grandmother loved him because she thought he was Sicilian. “Sici, Sici” she joked in a lucid moment.

I didn’t want the night to end because then I’d have to return to the low-rent apartment where there was no heat, and the cockroaches crawled in the dresser drawers. A mouse lived under the sink in the kitchen. You knew when he was feeling adventurous because you would see a dark shadow moving down the hall toward the bathroom.

At nine o’clock, my father drove me home. I quickly entered the lobby of the building, checked that the drug dealer wasn’t nearby conducting business, and got in the elevator. As I opened the door to my apartment, I heard a guy shouting “Give me the money!” in the apartment next to ours.

This is only temporary, I reminded myself. Suzy was in the living room smoking and watching TV. I made a beeline for my room and went straight to sleep.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page

Harbor House

The start of the long and winding road. In retrospect, as the memoir nears coming out, I’ve thought about this hard and long and wouldn’t recommend this road to any young person who had so much life in him or her to live. Residential. Housing. At its finest. Or not.


One fall day as warm as mulled apple cider, I moved to Apt. 2L at Arlington Terrace. Suzy was to be my roommate. She wore leopard pants and a pink fluffy sweater. Her hair was in curlers like a science experiment. Suzy sat on the couch and chain-smoked, watching Columbo on the TV, which was turned up loud.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I followed in my car as Brett drove my stuff over in the Lake House van. My new counselor, Viola, met us outside the lobby with the keys.

As I waited for the elevator, I saw a beefy guy palm a bag of crack to a stringy-haired woman.

I unpacked my sole suitcase, which was crammed with everything I owned in this new life. Brett installed my stereo in the living room. My bedroom had a walk-in closet, and as I inspected it, my new counselor nearly killed my joy.

“You’re to keep your meds in the tin box in the dresser,” Viola told me. Always rules. Always restrictions. I dumped my supply in the box. I wanted to live life on my own terms.

Brett left shortly after to go back to Lake House. I was glad he let me stop off at the Key Food so I could get something for dinner. I made macaroni and cheese with broccoli because it was easy, and I had no energy to cook.

Viola chatted with me at the dining table for a while. I took in her doe eyes that seemed interested in me and her perfectly coiffed bob. I wondered what she heard about me through the staff grapevine. I did my best to impress her, though I worried she wasn’t impressed. I wore boyfriend jeans and a rough sweater and sport shoes—my casual classics now. The new clothes were kind of a uniform that I hoped protected me from her scrutiny.

“I hear you were a disc jockey.” She smiled. “What kind of music did you play?”

My reputation was an open book. I wondered what else she knew about me. “Oh, modern rock,” I deferred.

“Wynton Marsalis is more my speed,” she confessed.

I realized I couldn’t go wrong as long as I kept things innocuous and spoke in a pleasant voice. She seemed satisfied after twenty minutes and left.

The living room was a cloud of smoke, so I stayed in my bedroom after I was done eating and straightened up. I stored my sweaters in the dresser. I arranged my clothes in the closet by color, type, and season. By ten o’clock, I was exhausted, so I peeled off my jeans and sweatshirt and sunk into bed.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page

A Butterfly In The City

Tumbling down the hole. Not realizing I would be set up for the perfect detour years later.

An excerpt from Left of the Dial.

As I neared my twenty-fourth birthday, I wanted to book out of the day program fast, so I was willing to change my tune if it meant that Abby would refer me to OVR—the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. This New York State agency trained people with disabilities for jobs or sent them to school. If I could learn word processing, I’d get a job in publishing.

Browsing magazines, I saw that all editors had a look: barely any makeup except foundation, a dark slash of eyeliner only on the top lash line, and brownish pink or pinkish brown lips. I wanted that look, and I knew I had to get it.

“Kiddo, come on, I want to treat you for your birthday,” Zoe suggested. Her gift was a makeup session at the Prescriptives counter. She had gotten a job as a music therapist at a day program in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and had the money to burn.

“Okay,” I couldn’t resist, and so I drove us in my Mustang to Macy’s.

The woman in her black smock “color printed” my cheek to determine the exact shade of foundation, like my skin’s signature. “Fresh Peach” she pronounced, and she placed the round glass bottle aside. I was an “R/O,” so she found the perfect lipstick: Fado for work. She swiped Pompeii blush—a deep apricot—on my cheeks and finished off with Espresso eyeliner. A dramatic quad of eye shadow completed the look with four colors, all variations of brown.

The transformation was subtle, as if I was sun-kissed, and I looked healthy, not like the undead with my black hair and pale skin. “Time for an Italian lover.” Zoe laughed. “I could imagine you in a villa in Tuscany.”

“Oh, please,” I shrugged her off, though it felt good.

“You look mahvelous, dahling,” the counter woman sang and handed me the green tote bag with my goodies. My gift-with-purchase was a sample of Calyx perfume.

“Let’s go shop,” Zoe said, and so we walked out into the mall.

I wanted to get a pair of pants and a shirt for when I had the appointment with the OVR counselor, who, if I was lucky, would send me for testing, and I’d come back approved. You had to be screened for a training program, and I wanted to give myself every advantage.

I found the black slacks and white button-down shirt in Paul Harris, where they had petite clothes, yet I’d still have to hem the sleeves and pant (I’m that short). For five weeks I’d saved ten dollars a week, so I had enough money for the items.

Zoe looked at the outfit when I came out of the dressing room. “You are so going to be an editor, baby. I can see you in a little convertible zipping down the road.”

Oh, I lived for that dream. It propelled me. I would do whatever it took to make that happen. I changed back into my regular clothes and took the new items to the register.

Next we went to the food court to get lunch. We ordered salads at the vendor where you could get a fresh salad tossed on the spot. I always bought the spinach with bacon and egg.

We gossiped about famous people who were supposed to have bipolar.

“Tracey Ullman and Carrie Fisher,” she outed the comedian and actress.

“Sure, it’s cool to be hypomanic,” I suggested. “You buy twenty pairs of Manolos, and everyone thinks you’re the life of the party.”

“Hey,” she cut into me. “It’s not hip to be bipolar. Can you imagine the effort it would take to coordinate all those shoes in your closet?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Some of us are mostly depressed. I tried once. It almost happened.”

“All I’m saying is that if you’re Tracey Ullman, you can brag. I don’t see any celebrities with schizophrenia touting the benefits of being cracked up,” I insisted.

“You got me,” she said.

“So, do your coworkers know?”

“No way,” she told me. “I don’t have twenty pairs of the right kind of shoes.”

“Sylvia Plath was rumored to have bipolar.”

“That proves my point,” she argued. “I read all her poetry books when I was in college.”

This surprised me.

“Well, she’s a poet and a well-regarded one. The only people you hear about on the six o’clock news with schizophrenia are killers on the loose,” I told her.

“Be careful. Promise me you won’t tell anyone. I would hate to see your chances at getting a job go up in smoke.”

I said I understood that I would have to live in hiding. She said it was like we lived in the world and outside of it at the same time. When I was younger, I felt like an outsider looking in at the other teen girls’ charmed lives, and this feeling was only intensified now.

We finished eating our salads.

“Let’s shop some more.” Zoe got up with her tray to dispose of it, and I followed with my tray. “Baby needs a new pair of shoes.”

We went to Parade of Shoes and looked around. I told her that we’d have to cut it short because I had to go back to the house and cook dinner.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page

Hospital Life

I expect my memoir Left of the Dial to go on sale at the latest on December 1st of this year.

As the date nears I will excerpt scenes from the memoir here. Today’s is a glimpse of life on the ward, a place I hope no one has the misfortune to land in.


By my third week, my lipstick was worn down to a blunt slope, and I had the goal of leaving before the tube was empty. Zoe came into my life in a drop-dead segue between despair and hope. She arrived on Monday and made herself known. A wild earth kind of woman with manic depression, she was a fireball, igniting the other patients, and then flaming out on herself.

Caught up in her frantic good humor, I coasted along with her whims. Lucia, the recreation therapist, decided to take the patients bowling at Knotty Pines. I was reminded of the Camper Van Beethoven song “Take the Skinheads Bowling” that I played on my radio show. I liked the music, not the sport.

“Come on, we’ll have fun at the Nutty Pines.” Zoe didn’t skip a beat.

“Okay.” We lined up together to be escorted out. She gave me a pair of sunglasses (she had two) so we could cover up in case our friends saw us on the outside.

“I got a couple pairs from Jimmy. He has a case of them in his room,” she said. How did she know this?

The van rattled down Forest Avenue towards the desolate section of town. Truly, I hated bowling and wanted an excuse to escape. Once inside, I eased into a size five shoe and selected a ball that weighed the least. The tobacco-color interior was glum; the stench of cigarette smoke lingered. Lucia kept score.

“Darn, a gutterball.” I watched it slide down the side.

“Gutterfuck.” Zoe laughed.

Lucia told her to watch her language.

We ended ten frames and started again. Fidgety, I wanted to end it all so threw the bowling ball down the alley with careless conviction.

Lucia said, “Be patient. Don’t rush.” Zoe got a lucky strike and won the game.

After, we went to Pal Joey’s for pizza. We wore our sunglasses indoors.

“What are you, the Blues Sisters?” Lucia laughed.

I imagined our protest would go down in our charts.

“We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time,” Zoe chuckled.

If only we could’ve stayed outside a little longer. I missed the freedom of blue skies. Too soon we returned to Veronica Lane.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page