June 2015

 Yes, I have no bananas, I have no bananas today, neither on my word-writin’ desk:


(Everybody say Oooooooooooooo)…and neither on my picture-making desk:


(Everybody say Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh). As clear as my desks are is as clear as my mind is. Nary a banana in sight. I am still getting used to the feeling of having no bananas, but all I can say is, I’ve never liked bananas and I can’t even stand the smell of bananas and I will gladly spend the rest of my life never eating bananas, so I am indescribably happy that I have not one, none, zip, zilch, no bananas today. Or ever!!

OK, enough with the banana metaphor. But everything I said holds true for real bananas. Simply can’t stand them.

I think I might have shown my Dear Readers the cover of the Chinese language version of my last book, Le Road Trip, when it came out in 2014:


WELL. Yesterday I got a surprise packet in the mail, from my publishers at Bloomsbury, that contained a dozen copies of ANOTHER Chinese language version of Le Road Trip:


I think this cover is very jaunty, in that I love the design but I am puzzled by the images that were selected to go on the cover. I mean, except for the wine glass, and the rather fetching self-portrait of me and Top Cat, do any of these images scream “FRANCE” to you? Yeah, me neither.

I am also curious as to why there is a new Chinese language version, because there was no note or letter enclosed with these copies. But that’s just par for the course.

Here is where I tell you all another insider anecdote about publishing: in finalizing the business stuff of the Damn Garden Book last month — LAST MONTH — I happened to notice a quirk in the paperwork that led me to ask of my publisher, “Where’s the copyright to Le Road Trip?”  Ha ha ha hahahahaha. Turns out that Bloomsbury, who published Le Road Trip on 2012, had never secured the copyright!!! OH, my, how I laughed and laughed at this delightful breech breach of contract! Yes indeed, I am exactly the kind of easy going, week-end, hobbyist for fun, trust-fund writer who would find this terribly, terribly amusing.

Actually, I was pissed. Capital P PISSED. But my agent explained to me that publishers were stretched very thin these days, being as print is a dying business, and it’s perfectly understandable that they would overlook such a minor detail as securing a copyright, which is just one of those pesky little things for which I give them 88% of every dollar earned from sales of Le Road Trip. What merriment, to know that I am part of an industry where such minor things as copyrights are, you know, just one of those things that people are too busy to deal with.

Oh well. The copyright to Le Road Trip is now done and got. And the Damn Garden Book is copyrighted as well, by the same people who send me Chinese language books with no update on what the hell is going on in China vis-a-vis a traveler’s journal of love and France.

Inhale, exhale. Peace unto me, Ommmmm, Om mani padme hum, as they say. As a matter of fact, when I want to get Zen here on the north shore of Long Island Sound I have just the place to go to and it’s not more than 4 miles from my house:


This, my darlings, is the labyrinth on the campus of C.W.Post college, made by students of the ceramics studio and installed sometime this century. I’m fuzzy on the details. Top Cat and I went there last night at the golden hour of 6:30 PM.


As you can see, walking the labyrinth at C.W.Post of a Summer evening is just about the most soothing venture there is, of a Summer evening. Ahhhhhhhh….the grounds are ever so serene:


And if you stroll down towards the horizon, lo and behold you come across a sunken garden…


…the likes of which are rarely seen outside of an Elizabethan courtyard:


Actually, many of the administration buildings of C.W.Post were built at the last turn of the century in painstaking imitation of Elizabethan structures (I hope I took pix of those structures that surround this adorable sunken knot garden):


In case you do not know, you can click on any image on this post and you will get a full-scale version (instead of these annoying tiny snaps)…


…and if you don’t get it at one click, just click again for the enlargement (this is for my Ma, who needs instructions in blog technology).


The finest thing about this sunken know garden is that, when you exit, you cross a brook with a small half-half-half moon bridge…


…which you might not notice has a weird box-like thing on raised feet (see foreground, left, above) which, I am happy to report, is a Winter shelter for the wandering campus CATS. I know!! How much do you love a college that cares for its feral felines in such a loving manner??? A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot….

Further along the path, we cross the half-half-half moon bridge and espy yet more feline lodgings:


I zoomed to make sure yo wouldn’t miss it:


By the way, on your exit you must take a moment to behold the century-old Elm Tree that still thrives on the campus of C.W.Post:


That is one majestic, nobel, historic, monumental tree. This is the kind of Elm we lost to the Dutch Elm Disease blight of the last century, when America lost 75% of our 77 million Elm Trees from New England to Minnesota.

But I did not bring you to this garden just to show you how the evening light gilds every leaf it touches yadda yadda yadda. As much as I love the effect of evening gamma rays alighting upon topiary, this is not a garden that I can paint…as is, that is. This is the June Eve shot:


And this is the June Rainy Afternoon shot:


Same place, different atmospheric conditions. I don’t think I have to explain how the cloudy, dim light illuminates shapes and structures so much better than the clear romantic light of vespers. Here are more rainy day shots of the same sunken know garden:






If i were to paint this lovely sunken knot garden for your viewing pleasure, I would take the rainy day pix and, with my artistic license, add just a touch of June Vesper to make it glow just a tad. I mean, my desks look awfully lonely, and I don’t want to get out of practice, and I haven’t had a Work of Art Give Away for my darling readers this whole year…

…this won’t be a Triscuit. This will be more like a piece of Arnold Whole Grain slice of bread toast. If anybody is interested in watching me paint this C.W.Post sunken knot garden, please meet me back here next Friday.

No bananas will be eligible to win next week’s Toast Give Away.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.


Read more



Last minute edits, changes of heart, epiphanies, and overlooked mistakes…it’s been a week of 16-hour work days for me but it was worth it. That neat stack of paper that you see on my dining room table is 184 pages of the Damn Garden Book layed out, pasted down, glued in, and numbered.

Dare I say it? When I meet my editor at Bloomsbury tomorrow (today — it’s 12:08am) my work is done. DONE.

Except for the proofs and whatever else pops up between now and when Barnes and Noble puts it face-out in the Gardening Section next Spring.

I’m so tired that it feels as if I’m typing this drunk. Thank you one and all for your Comments these past 2 weeks, which cheered me so much you can’t even know.

Well. I can’t let you head off into the week end without giving you something besides words…

…so, Dear Reader Casey asked if I would care to give you all a peak at an art work from the Rejects Binder, from the mountain of paintings I did that did not make it into the Damn Garden Book.

This is an old, old painting I did waaaay back, about 8 years ago.


As you can see, I chopped off the top section because that’s my old way of doing foliage (and the Grumbacher paints look pretty muddy to me now). This is what it looked like after I rescued it after 8 years of painting my brains out:


And then I didn’t have a place for it in the DGB. So as of now, it is orphaned with all the other pictures that don’t have a story.

THIS JUST IN: I got an early morning email from Casey, who asked me to do my tea bag thing for this pic, to show scale. So here it is:


You might also remember this:


This was my idea for the cover of the Damn Garden Book, before Bloomsbury showed me their much better idea.

You might be interested in how I re-purposed this. Yes?

SPOILER ALERT: I needed to put in poinsettias for narrative purposes. You’ll understand when you read the last chapter of the DGB.

Anyhoo, it now looks like this (call it “magical realism”, since it IS a portrait of a South American garden experience):


Feel free to discuss.

I can’t stay awake a minute longer.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Sweet dreams.


P.S. I will be out of my “office” until early afternoon, so I won’t be here to approve Comments. But please, send me your thoughts any way, and by tea time I’ll have your bones mots up!  (Auto correct. Bon mots. Serves me right for sticking in some French here.) Your good words. Merci.


Read more

Hello there! Please come in. This is very exciting for me, to be the subject of your . . . what did you say it was? Oh, right.  A  documentary. About Real Real Housewives of Long Island. Righty-ho. Just let me change into something more comfortable, something without sequins. I misunderstood your project. But I can do “real”, if that’s what it takes to get the cameras rolling.

There. I’m all for real, right down to my T J Maxx sneakers. But I’m still going to hold in my stomach. heh heh. Let’s not go crazy with the “real” stuff.

I’m working in my dining room today. . .


. . . same as I’ve been doing  yesterday, and the day before that, and the several days before that. I’ll probably be here tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and maybe a few days after the day after tomorrow. I’m making a Damn Garden Book. Calm down. I know this is mind-numbingly exciting, but we have hours and hours of me standing over a light box like this ahead, so pace yourself.

You’re so cute, the way you say “olden day”, but I assure you, a light box is very present-day technology. And so are my tools, as far as I know, but I don’t get out of the house much:


So this is how I spend my day. I turn on my light box which, as you see, has a piece of lined notebook paper taped to it:


My publisher, Bloomsbury, has sent me a stack of blank-ish sheets of paper . . .


. . . which have  a very pale blue line to indicate the “trim” of each page of the Damn Garden Book —  every bit of art work and text that I place on these sheets has to be composed within those pale blue lines. There are also tiny “register” marks in each corner for later, when the sheets are back in the Bloomsbury production department, so they are not my concern. Whew.


I place each sheet on my light box . . .


. . . and now you can see how that piece of lined notebook paper comes in handy! It’s how I know that everything I lay out will be on a straight line!


I print the text out right here at home, on my own $100 printer, because I’m the only person who has the VivoScript font, the type I designed myself that changes Times New Roman into my own handwriting. So I cut out the bits of text that I need for each page, and I tape it into place. I take the art work that I made for each page, and I glue it into place. Voila: a page of the Damn Garden Book is done! Well,in real life it does take a bit longer than one two three Presto!, but you get the gist of it.

I keep the original art work in plastic sleeves in binders:


The bottom binder is the art that I will actually be putting into the Damn Garden Book. The top binder is art that I won’t be putting into the Damn Garden Book, either because the illustration no longer fits into the narrative or because the piece  is an earlier or ugly version of a final illustration.

There you go again, with the “olden day” stuff. How about we just call my book-making process “artisanal” instead? Yeah, like the way they make beer in Brooklyn.

Anyway: Once I have the text and art properly placed, I take a sheet of heavy vellum — yes, I order it from afar and have it specially trimmed to 10 inch by 10 inch:


. . . and I place it on top of the page I just created.


The vellum protects the fragile watercolor, and it is a space where I or the ensuing production director can make notes. In this case, I am adding instructions for the production director:


I repeat this process over and over and over and over and etc. until I have 174 pages. I’m almost almost there!

So far, I have finished this many pages of the Damn Garden Book:


Yes, that’s six chapters DONE. Well, DONE-ish.

There are always last minute edits, such as changes in page order and cutting out digressions that seemed entertaining at the time but, in the final read-thru, aren’t. However, this far into the process, there are still  last-last-last-last minute changes or adjustments that need to be made, which is why I use pink Post-It flags to indicate where I’ll need to go back and fix. Yes, it does seem like making the Damn Garden Book will ever end. No, those are not tears in my eyes. There’s no crying in book-making!

Oh good, now you get why I have to have a glass of Piont Grigio always at hand.

Now, so far you’ve only seen the dining room fun stuff. Please step this way, where I can show you the den fun stuff. I’ve saved the best for last.


Yes, those are the final three chapters of the Damn Garden Book on my desk. Two of them need one last careful proofreading before I commit to printing them out on my own printer and laying them out; and one needs a whole page of new text because at the last-last-last-last minute it became heartbreakingly clear that the old text stank.

No! It’s won’t be boring at all! O.K., yes, you’ll probably shoot a lot of hours of me sitting still, staring at the computer screen,  cursing to myself; but once in a while I take a break to watch The West Wing on Netflix and that’s quite dramatic . . .

Oh well, I see you’re packing up. O.K., so my days don’t have a lot of action  in them. But I assure you that whatever my life lacks in liveliness is more than made up for in stress.

Still no?

Then can you at least let everyone know that the Damn Garden Book is available for pre-order?


Thank you! And Bye-Bye! Don’t trip over a cat on your way out! 


Read more


The back story: We shucked the first fresh Long Island – picked corn on the cob last weekend for our first true BBQ of the season, and Taffy took the time to haul, one by one, the husks of our freshly-picked corns on the cobs to his favorite spot in the backyard just so he could…


…dive into the joyousness of the moment.

Oh my DoG, I love that cat. And he wants me to tell you this:


It’s not all glamour being a Really Real Housewife of Long Island. Vivian’s whine about the burdens of HEROIC book-making in 90 degrees of Long Island swelter will follow. Stay tuned.

I will be back here later today with the whole story.

Read more

Why, hello there! How nice of you to drop by! Just let me finish my ordinary everyday housewifely duties, won’t take a sec, and then we can sit and discuss your very, very flattering offer to have me star in your new reality series The Real Housewives of Long Island.

P1010410 copy 2

There now. I’ll make us some tea, but I’m afraid that my hand-picked Assam tea leaves that arrived from the Himalayas yesterday might not be quite il faut, not quite as dewy as I require, but not to worry, I  brighten up my brew by using water melted from the Lambert Glacier — I do hope you agree with me that water melted from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a cup of tea, don’t you think? That’s why I simply can’t allow West Antarctic Ice Sheet water in my house. Keep it simple, I say.

And yes, all my tea leaves have been blessed by the Dali Lama. But I’ve been hearing murmurs, you know, that the Dali is on the verge of becoming passé. Have you heard of this hot new guru, simply fabulous, the re-incarnation of Deepak Chopra even before Deepak Chopra has died? So cutting edge. I must check this out — I would hate to be stuck with Dali Lama-blessed tea leaves if it turns out that the re-incarnation of the not-yet-dead Deepak Chopra is the one that Gwenth Paltrow says is “The One” to bless tea leaves.

I’m very spiritual, you see.  I myself am the re-incarnation of Cleopatra’s 16th-great-great-grand-daughter’s once removed’s half sister’s friend who went to Vassar. Her spirit name is Pug Face. She’s why I am so smart. We’ve simply reams of wisdom between us.


You’ve noticed my  limp. It’s just temporary — I’m wearing a knee brace. Bad fall from my polo pony, you see, nothing serious. The pain pills pack a bigger whallop than any Quarter Horse, let me tell you. It’s like I’ve been tossed under a stampede of quilted-hoofed unicorns. Simply divine. Would you like to try one? No? You don’t know what you’re missing, my dear.

Oh, I see you’re looking at my record collection. Yes, I am quite fond of French pop music from the 1980s. A musical genre so vastly under-rated, don’t you think? Ah, the 1980s . . . I have fond memories of the 1980s when I was  in my thirties and going to my first rehab  just a child, really, with my family on the Cote d’Azur, lazing on the beach listening to Radio France on my Walkman. Good times. When I drive to the liquor store to my volunteer job with the nuns helping poor people, I often pop in a 1980s Johnny Halliday CD in my 10-year old Camry in my voiture and crank it up to 11. Yes, I sing along at the top of my voice, as I am familiar with at least half the words in the songs. French words, you see. Like they speak in Europe.

You might want to jot that down in your notebook: International lifestyle role model.

Now, where were we?

Oh yes, you want to know about my table flipping skills.

Indeed, I can flip a table if needs be.


But I must say, personally, for me, table flipping would be a last resort. I prefer to use my wit and superior language skills, rather than furniture, when I need to make a point at a diner party.

Just last month I was at a very exclusive dinner party, at a most exclusive restaurant, and not to name drop but a nephew of a well known Atlantic City bookie was there also, and, sadly, one of the ladies had tippled a little too much of the vino, if you know what I mean, and was holding forth a little too, too much of the veritas, if you know what I mean. Talk talk talk talk talk, good lord that lady could talk.

I believe she is in Real Estate, if I can remember the thirteen thousand times she mentioned it, and watches a lot of TV, if I can keep straight the white-water-rapids-stream-of-conciousness that flowed forth from her that evening.

And there I was, the most interesting person in the room, on verbal lock down. Mind you, it wasn’t for myself that I was bored, oh dear, no — it was all the other guests for whom I felt the most pity, for they were being deprived of my interestingness. I had a Marrakech cat story that would have blown the doors off any real estate chit-chat.

Well, someone had to find a way to break the conversational log-jam. And I felt that everyone was silently begging me, as the most interesting person in the room, to do it, as you know that I  am a  1/16th  of the world traveler and the re-incarnation of Pug Face.

So I turned to the chatterbox’s husband and I asked him, “Does she ever shut the fuck up?”

You see? Witty. Word play at its best.

And yes, now that you ask, it actually was the conversating equivalent of flipping a table, in so much as it engendered an abrupt change of atmosphere in the room. And the waiter went looking for Security.

What? Do you have to go so soon? But you just got here! I do hope you have everything you need to know about me, and my qualifications to be a Real Housewife of Long Island.

Thank you for your consideration.


Read more