Thursday, December 8, 2011


Every year, the biggest decision when attending the annual international Art Basel Exhibition in Miami Beach is whether to focus on the art or on the people. The cast of characters is feathered, tattooed, bejeweled, and otherwise sartorially splendid. The art fair offers one of the greatest shows on earth: more museum-quality art under one roof at one time than, probably, any time in history. Not to mention the city-wide satellite exhibitions. All of which draw thousands of artists, dealers, brokers, viewers, reporters, and party-goers. Last year I reveled in the great many exhibits of work by the 20th century American abstract landscape painter Milton Avery and a whole slew of Lucien Freud portraits. This year there were numerous 20th century female artists one seldom sees, like the ceramic artist and painter Beatrice Wood (who died at the age of 105 and lived on Hershey chocolate) and surrealist sculptor Leonore Tawney, as well as a few Alice Neel portraits. One year I discovered an gallery showing the work of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhove, the German-born Dadist and friend of Duchamp. Among my greatest discoveries this year was a Swiss gallery showing the work of Gitte Schafer whose small pristine framed assemblages moved me as much as the little Joseph Campbell box sculpture of five tiny wine goblets each holding a marble.

Among my favorite installations was a display of life-size, tunnel-headed costume sculptures by the Chicago artist Nick Cave made of thousands of iridescent buttons.  His work always combines high fashion, science fiction, and sheer beauty in startling ways.

Another of the crucial decisions  to be made each year about Art Basel is what shoes to wear. I’m known for being fascinated by my own feet — a childhood of running barefoot, decades of dance training in everything from ballroom slippers to tap shoes and jazz thongs, eras of wearing platforms and stilt-high heels, and, today, the omnipresent sandal (I do, after all, live in Miami). This year, by happy accident, I came upon the Croc store on Miami Beach’s famed Lincoln Road. There, aside from hideously wonderful signature slip-on that I do my gardening in, was, lo and behold, an entire selection of Crocs in an array of styles and all with the same springy, durable weightlessness that gives the brand its signature desirability. They resemble "jellies," the great plastic, candy-colored sandals of yore, and certain styles change color between shade and daylight. Enchanting! I chose a perforated ballet-slipper style with an open toe. Significant or not, I completed a series of paintings showing my feet in shoes — character shoes and ballroom open toes -- just before Art Basel opened,  The paintings, in gouache, were done over drawings I made in 1993 after photographs taken of me by the clothing designer and blues singer Judy Tampa in 1992. You can see them at:

Sunday, October 9, 2011


by Rhoma
crayon and pastel on paper

detail from "Connect the Dots" by Laura Cerwinske


photographer Unknown


photograph by Laura Cerwinske


painting by Laura Cerwinske


BOOKS: The memoir is not a novel, nor is it an autobiography. It is a selected moment or epoch or era of a life told by the one who lived it. Two such superior examples are newly published: THE LAST RESORT: Taking the Mississippi Cure by Norma Watkins is a recounting of girlhood and young womanhood in the deep South of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Watkins’ story is equally about family – that of her blood relations and of the black servants who raised her -- and her own coming to consciousness of racism and its inescapable contagion. Her daily struggle is with the knowledge that those she loves are filled with hate. Each page is filled with as much lush description as every family meal is with home cooking. Watkins’ flight from her world and its suffocation form an achingly unstoppable trajectory.


The antithesis to Norma Watkins’ memoir is LE FREAK: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny. Nile Rodgers, the brilliant musician and producer, grew up in bohemian 1950s New York, the son of a beautiful 14-year-old black girl and a percussionist who was obsessed with music. His step-father was white, Jewish, and “central-casting” handsome. They and their friends listened to Tony Bennet, Nina Simone, and Thelonius Monk, read Playboy for the articles, talked politics and poetry, and, most of all, loved listening to and making music. They were hipsters, true embodiments of the term “cool”, and they were junkies. Rogers maneuvers through this world of color, cool, and craziness with a sense of wonder and amusement, dazzled by the kindness and open-heartedness that came his way.

This terrific comedy about Muslim/Jewish identity centers on a Muslim business owner iand family man in London who learns he was adopted as a baby from Jewish parents just as his son becomes engaged to the step-daughter of a fanatic imam. Iranian/British actor Omid Djalili may have the most uproariously expressive face and body ever to meet stage or screen. Surprise, surprise, Richard Schiff (of the West Wing!) plays a boozy Jewish cab driver who gets enlisted to tutor his reluctant new friend in such behaviors as the Yiddish shrug.

ARTISTS: STRANDBEESTS means beach animals. Dutch artist THEO JANSSEN has spent the past 21 years constructing giant “animals” (out of PVC pipes) that can walk on the beach strictly using wind. power. His complex creatures are made of interlocking networks of PVC pipe bleached bone-like by the weather. They look like a pre-historic scaffolding shambling across the sand. The idea for the beach beasts came as a solution to his concern over rising sea levels that might re-flood Holland reduce it size to what it had been in medieval times. He envisioned self-propelled creatures that would restore the balance between water and land, the way beavers so in Dutch marshes.

He cannot say if he is a sculptor or an engineer. ‘Mine is not a straight path like an engineer’s, it’s not A to B. I make a very curly road just by the restrictions of goals and materials. A real engineer would probably solve the problem differently, maybe make an aluminum robot with motor and electric sensors and all that. But the solutions of engineers are often much alike. Everything we think can in principle be thought by someone else. The ideas, as evolution shows, come about by change. Reality is very creative.” Theo says he envies the original Creator’s supply of countless millions of years for animal evolution and is “sure he could make perfect beach animals, given that much time.”

Watch this clip for a taste:
And then read the article by Ian Frazier in the September 5th issue of The New Yorker.

The French painter AGNES BOULLOCHE creates mystical world populated by turbaned dukes, sartorial dogs in pipe-smoking maidens in Renaissance-like settings. Her early childhood in Morocco filled her imagination with stories of djinns and otherworldly creatures. They appear throughout her work beautifully coutured. See her webiste at and a lyrical musical video at

The word animation dervies from the Latin meaning to spark with life. Watch this video by the artist
BLU to see grafitti images jump from walls and sidewalks into your imagination and back. <>


Monday, September 5, 2011


“When I was very little, say five or six, I became aware of the fact that people wrote books. Before that, I thought that God wrote books. I thought a book was a manifestation of nature, like a tree. When my mother explained it, I kept after her: What are you saying? What do you mean? I couldn’t believe it. It was astonishing. It was like—here’s the man who makes all the trees. Then I wanted to be a writer, because, I suppose, it seemed the closest thing to being God." Fran Lebowitz

"A novel is a chance to try on a different life for size." Marion C Garretty


ARCHITECTURE: BJARKE INGELS If you want to truly understand the meaning of the word visionary, take a look at the Ted Talk by the brilliant Danish architect Bjarke Ingels who not only develops astounding ideas and solutions for 21st century scenarios, but who has fun, yes FUN, doing it. His philosophy is, “Yes is more”, a response to Mies van der Rohe, the father of Modernism, who said “Less is more,” and Robert Venturei, the father of Post Modernism, who said “Less is a bore.”

ARTIST: JULIE HEFERNAN Fragonard meets Bruegel meets the pre=Raphaelites and Rousseau in this artist’s sinister, opulent kingdom of self-portraits. Be enchanted and cautious as you indulge her work and recognize the fearless beauty of her imagination.

FASHION: IRIS APFEL willfully disjunctive look, and the tart wit behind it, have been the subject of museum exhibitions, a coffee table book, and soon a documentary film. At the age of 90, she is fashion’s newest icon: “Straight people, gay people, students of art and social history, tourists and chattering adolescents, “even little kids,” she noted, gravitate to her lectures, blog about her and send her mash notes.”

THE 21st CENTURY: THOMAS FRIEDMAN’s commentaries on our present moment in history are as visionary as Bjarke Ingels’s designs.It used to be that only cheap foreign manual labor was easily available; now cheap foreign genius is easily available,” he writes. This globalization/I.T. revolution is also “super-empowering” individuals, enabling them to challenge hierarchies and traditional authority figures — from business to science to government. It is also enabling the creation of powerful minorities and making governing harder and minority rule easier than ever. See dictionary for: “Tea Party.”

PUBLISHING: JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG describes the present moment in the publishing industry along the lines of Thomas Friedman’s perspectives. New Economics Rewrite Book Business:

Simultaneously, there is an interesting international bent to recent publishing acquisitions, among them editor of the Evening Standard Geordie Greig's BREAKFAST WITH LUCIAN, based on Greig's regular Sunday breakfasts with Lucian Freud; German author Bettina Stangneth's EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM, showing that the common view of Eichmann as 'just a cog' in Hitler's diabolical killing machine is incorrect; Nancy Kricorian's ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS, the story of an Armenian family's struggle to survive the Nazi occupation of Paris; Dr. Sheri Speede's DOROTHY'S CIRCLE, from growing up in working-class Mississippi to building a chimpanzee rescue center in the middle of Africa to raising her young daughter in the jungles of Cameroon; and Michael Moran's THE RECKONING, an account of the end of American global dominance, with a foreword by Nouriel Roubini.

Nothing except your thoughts can attack you.

Nothing except your thoughts can make you think you are vulnerable.

And nothing except your thoughts can prove to you this is not so.

A Course in Miracles, lesson 26

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Her Secret is Patience, an icon created by the American Artist Janet Echelman, suspended above the new two-city-block Phoenix Civic Space park in the middle of downtown.

ARTIST: Sculptor Janet Echelman receives calls from cities around the world asking her to make sculptures for them. She is my hero in this way and more. Her work is the most ephemeral embodiment of transformation imaginable…meaning that she weaves exquisite, monumental airborne forms that suggest space. In her TED Talk, Taking Imagination Seriously, she illustrates the evolution of her ideas beginning with the serendipitous event that changed her expressive arc from painting to sculpture and set her on her genius career.

ARTIST: Derek Jeter gave The Master of all Master’s Classes on July 9th when he hit his 3,000th home run in a game in which he also went five for five (hits for times at plate), and drove in the winning home run. The dean of baseball writers, Rogel Angell, muses that Derek “lit up the day and the record and the twenty-seven extraordinary players already within his élite new circle, and reminded the rest of us, fans everywhere, that what we come for is always the game, the game itself.” Read more @

BOOK: : Center of the Universe. Nancy Bachrach. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2009) Nancy Bachrach’s mother, Lola, was not only the quintessential Jewish mother (her voracious appetite for sex, notwithstanding), but the quintessential bipolar Jewish mother. Her dizzying, dazzling creativity and the inevitable, ever-growing list of flameouts make family life a tortured family circus – but a circus nonetheless. You could easily hear David Sedaris reading Bachrach’s words. As with Karen Russell in the recent Swamplandia!, Bachrach’s command of language is put to the service of a killer wit. And she never lets up. Just like her father, a hapless handyman doomed by his infernal jury-rigging. And just like her mother who refused to allow life to eliminate her universe and her place at its center.

TELEVISION: The serial drama Breaking Bad takes place in a universe “where nobody gets away with anything and karma is the great uncredited player in the cast.” It’s also, by turns, hilarious, macabre, and filled with “mordantly amusing ordeals.” The premise: After being diagnosed with lung cancer, chemistry teacher, father, husband and all-round solid Albuquerque citizen Walter White wakes from the slumber of an unfulfilling life to become a wizard at concocting the purest, most coveted crystal meth that local dealers have ever known. The fist show of the current (fourth) season on July 17 was truly grim, but trust that the cockeyed juxtapositions of previous seasons will return. If you haven’t caught it, dive in now (on AMC), but also treat yourself to a marathon of the earlier seasons.

URBAN DESIGN: “No tyrant can run a city. The city will talk back.” Three-quarters of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050. This brief video collects the thoughts of several eminent urban scholars as to what they think makes a city successful, with suggestions ranging from public transportation to ethnic integration to public spaces, to states of incompleteness.

FASHION: Those feathery, flowery sculptures perched atop the heads of the royals and the friends at Ascot and the monarchal weddings are not called hats. They are referred to as fascinators. Take a look and you’ll agree the term is perfect.

“On this Earth where you exist,
the Divine is the host,
and you are the guest.
And in this body,
you are the host,
and the Divine is the guest.”
Prem Rawat/Maharaji

You’ll gasp, you’ll chuckle. It’s MR. SLICK.
Your FREE e-comic book from Laura:

Monday, April 11, 2011


"Only the human community has the idea

that we somehow live apart from the Earth,

that the Earth does not respond to our breathing,

to our thoughts, to our actions."

Caroline Myss

photo: Laura Cerwinske

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


“When Mom Was My Age” is an interview series between daughters and mothers that appears in the blog of writer/editor Jane Friedman. This interview appeared on March 14th.Photos: Evie and Bob in 1985 when she was 63, Evie, today at nearly 90 years old. Unbelievable!

When my mother, Evelyn Schwartz, was my age, in 1985, she was still working as a public elementary school reading teacher.

What was your typical day like?

I awoke at six-o-clock, went for swim, took a shower, dressed for the day, prepared Bob (my husband’s) breakfast and my lunch (a sandwich, tomato, and apple), carried my books, papers, and folders to the car, and drove to school.

I made sure to get there extra early so I could write the lessons on the blackboard before the kids arrived. (My students were difficult kids, the discipline problems and the underachievers. I couldn’t afford to turn my back on them when they came to school.)

After several hours of teaching, I had lunch in the teachers’ lounge, and when I returned to class, I would read or tell a story, complete the school day’s lessons, then stay after school to grade papers or go to faculty meetings.

I was always proud of my bulletin boards, and often stayed on to create the month’s newest theme. One of the nicest compliments I ever had was from the music teacher: he told me my classroom was the most creative of all he’d been in.

I usually brought home a lot of work because I couldn’t get much done in class. After preparing and serving dinner, I graded papers or contacted parents or whatever the school day required. I know I brought home more work than the other teachers.

If I had the energy, I’d watch TV with Bob before going to bed.

Laura: Evie is nearly 90 years old now. She still lives in the house that our family moved into in 1961 from our original house, where Rick and I were born and raised. The “new” house was/is her lifelong dream-come-true—open, sunny, custom built in a new suburb, with a pool overlooking a waterway and big rooms with sliding doors that open onto views of the waterway. Evie has lived here on her own since my father, Bob, died eight years ago, but she remains almost as busy she ever has been, teaching reading skills in her home office, attending her many literacy and Jewish organization meetings, and entertaining her beloved girlfriends and relatives. As a child, I found Evie’s list of professional activities and social obligations not simply daunting, but formidable—how was an introverted child with unconventional passions and a vast plague of insecurities supposed to find a place on it?

What did you worry about most?
My biggest anxiety in those days was what to make for dinner before I went grocery shopping on Friday. After growing up with the privations of the Depression, I learned to live life day by day, to say my prayers at night and hope things would work out well. Bob and I felt that everyone in the family was coping in their own way, handling their own problems, and seeming pretty independent. No one came crying on our shoulder.

What did you think the future held for you?
Who had time to think about it! I was always optimistic. Life takes you on its course: You finish one phase and move on to the next.

How do you look back on that age now?
I look back on all of it with satisfaction. We did the best we could do. Compared to the Depression years, the later years were not filled with anxiety because we had a steady income.”

From Laura
During this era, when Evie was 63, I was 37 and had recently (finally!) moved into a nearby house with my six-year-old son after our living with Bob and Evie for several years following my divorce.

This house (near enough that my son and my father could still see each other daily) was my dream house—dim and cozy, on an acre of pines, with a fireplace and cedar-lined closets. I’d always been a little house-mouse, reluctant to leave home or go out and socialize, and moving into this wooded nest was the perfect balm to my shredding confidence.

I was supporting my son and myself (insufficiently) as a freelance writer while struggling with clinical depression, anorexia, extreme PMS, and migraines—the typical distress list of overwhelmed single mothers. In addition, my son’s attention span was as depleted as my income, and the school reports on his conduct and performance were mortifying. I could sense that his aggressive behavioral momentum was unstoppable, but I kept delving, seeking, applying whatever knowledge and strength I could garner to learn and simply cope. More than anything in world, I wanted to sleep.

As a kid, I truly hated school—the hours, the routine, the incomprehensible social structure, the fears of getting roughed up, the unbending authority, the monotonous texts, the patriotic pabulum, the unopenable windows. Being an honor student made no difference.

Each morning, Evie, the robust, unstoppable, perpetual motion machine, would wake me with a cheerful bedside recitation of: “Here is now dawning another new day. Think, woulds’t thou let it slip useless away!” Even then, the only place I wanted to slip was deeper under the covers.

I still sleep a lot. Evie still swims every morning. I survived public school, single motherhood, a parade of predatory men, and the vicissitudes of a writer’s career.

Evie flourished and continues to flourish among her books, students, Jewish philanthropies, literacy efforts, lifelong friends, and relatives. She loves the life she created for herself, and I have grown to love it for her. I praise her lists of plans and teaching activities as well as her extraordinary good health. What had been a cursed agenda for this daughter in youth is a blessing for that same daughter in late middle age.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


We can thank the ancient Romans for plumbing, paved highways, and the Julian calendar. But of all their contributions to Western civilization, the most important, as far as I’m concerned, is the introduction to Europe of the free-standing chair. Until approximately the seventh or eighth century BC, we were still tucking in on the floor with the animals. The utilitarian bench and stool and even the floor cushion may have raised us marginally off the floor, but it was the anthropomorphic free-standing chair that marked humanity’s elevation from subsistence to “civilized” living. With its articulated arms and legs and seat and back, the chair denoted our abandonment of animal habits and postures in favor of comfort and symbols of power.

The Pharonic Egyptians were the first to develop the chair – for ceremonial use. In the sixth or seventh century BC, the Greeks modified Pharonic proportions to create the most elegant chair in history -- the ineffable Klismos.. With its low, concave backrest shaped to the human body, and splayed legs that allowed the sitter to lean back, the Klismos is as sculptural as a Brancusi and as comfortable as a contour. As the Roman Empire spread across Europe, the Klismos became a fundamental part of the scenery for the theater of Western life. . .at least for a millennium or so.

Having climbed to such a pinnacle of civility, how, we must wonder, could humanity could return to a life of squatting. Indeed, if anything was dark about the Dark Ages, it was the return to eating off the floor. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD the free-standing chair was all but forgotten…and for more than a thousand years!

Not until the dawn of the 16th century, as the earliest domestic interiors of Europe’s town-dwelling bourgeoisie evolved, did houses began to fill again with rudimentary furnishings. These took the form of built-in and portable chests for stage, seating, and sometimes sleeping as well as stools, folding benches, and trestle tables for eating and working. The nobility traveled among their many residences carrying their portable tables and collapsible chairs with them (hence the words for furniture in Italian, French and Spanish are mobili, mobiliers, and muebles). The poor lived wretchedly in huts of mud and straw. But city-dwelling merchants and artisans enjoyed their relative degree of medieval prosperity in long, narrow, two-story townhouses where they combined living and working. Although they were still virtually camping inside, this proud population began to think about something resembling permanence and, equally astonishing, comfort.

The chair connoted stability, affluence, and religio/civic authority. The earliest free-standing examples were X-frame chairs made of an X-shaped wooden frame across which canvas, webbing or leather was slung as a seat and stretched as a back. (It was derived from the X-shaped folding stool.) By the 17th century, an increased control over materials and expanded expertise in production enabled furniture pieces to be used as part of the decoration of a room. Fabric and padding were customarily attached to a chair frame with nails, the fabric and nails lending ornament and the padding comfort. Furniture, for the first time since the Roman era, came to be considered a valuable possession.

With this consciousness, the medieval X-frame chairs grew into “chairs of estate” and achieved throne-like prestige with expanded proportions, luxe upholstery, and decorations of with fringes, tassels, needlework, and large ornamental nails. This macho opulence ultimately gave way, toward the end of the 17th century, to a refinement of line and form. As the frame grew graceful, the seat and back grew commodious and intimations of the Klismos appeared. Ultimately, the abundantly cushioned and graceful fauteuil, the classic French open armchair, grew so desired for its elegance and largesse, that it was sustained and copied in most European countries throughout the next century. During the 18th century, which was the pinnacle of chair design, the chair came to mirror fashion. In France, for example, chairs were created to accommodate the fabulous heights of ladies’ wigs or to accentuate the simply cut gowns of the favored Grecian style.

Regardless of its age or condition, a beautiful chair is a work of art. In my garden, a half-wooded, subtropical Giverny, a collection of old wrought iron garden chairs suggest a poetry of ruin. Although each chair possesses some arabesqued element – a scrolled armrest, a fanned backrest, a splayed foot -- they are more Giocommetti than Brancusi, skeletal and rusting into a deterioration of sculptural glory. Poised for visitation, their assembly begs curiosity – who and what are they waiting for out there in the elements as if in silent anticipation of a Quaker meeting.

Inside the house, my oval-back dining chairs are upholstered in a leopard pattern print on which my Bengal cats, curled in slumber, become almost indistinguishable. At the head of the dining table sits a Klismos-like armchair with silvered finish and ram’s-head finials. If such a thing were not oxymoronic, it could be considered a modest throne.

My friend, the illustrator Barry Zaid has an actual throne in his “sitting” room. It is one of only nine reproductions that exist in the world of a chair made for Sitamen, daughter of Tuya and Yuyu, aunt and uncle of the Pharoah Tutankhamen. The original was discovered when Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1903 and is now (we hope, still) in the Cairo museum. The modeled gesso and gilt decoration on the back panel of the chair consists of a winged sun disc below which appears a scene showing a dual image of Sitamen receiving gifts of gold necklaces from female servants. The accompanying inscription above the seated princess gives her name: "The eldest daughter of the king whom he loves, Sitamen." The text inscribed above the servants describes the offering of gold from "the lands of the south."

Barry bought his throne from an antique dealer in 1976. Today it sits in his South Beach apartment among his collections of mosaic urns and obelisks, glass globes, and examples of his own art. It looks right at home. His spotted Bengal cat Chitta and her companion Penny long ago claimed it for a napping spot.

You can read more about the Treasures of Yuya and Tuyu at

You can see Barry’s graphic design, illustration, and packaging art at

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Colors of White

Laura Cerwinske

If only white were only white, we might be fooled to believe that life could ever be -- black and white. But white -- the luminous sum of all color -- is the epitome of nuance. Think lime white, glacier white, honeymilk white, colorless chameleon white, and dove white. Imagine rich and glossy white "like the rooms in Gosford Park" and sharp, cool, clean enamel white.

Ten architects, interior and set designers, product designers, and color experts reveal their propensities in a to-the-point article about "choosing whites." Writer Elana Frankel confides that she "tends to use brighter whites higher up in a room and warmer whites down around eye level." My conclusion: There's nothing black and white about white.

Take a look:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the geographic and historic mix grows all the richer

On Christmas day I flew to Tampa to visit the blues/rock musician and funked-out-elegant clothing designer Judy Tampa ( and her ex-husband with whom she lives, the Mack Truck scion David Hall. We’ve all known each other since art school at the University of South Florida in the late 1960s and various subsequent episodes in San Francisco, Miami, and New York. Judy sings with her band Bunko Squad and their first CD, "Tainted" is killer.

In 1973, Judy and I “received Knowledge” from Guru Maharaji, known then as “The 16-year-old Guru” and “Lord of the Universe.” He dazzled my artist/dancer/writer/soul-starved wanderer self (contrary to every intellectual Jewish fiber of my being). Today I am still an artist/writer/teacher, but my self is no longer soul starved, and Maharaji, now known as Prem Rawat, is still dazzling me. (

At Judy and David’s Christmas party I ran into (with champagne in hand) their lifelong friend the juggler/filmmaker/art historian Stuart Lippe who I met in 1967 on the FSU art program in Florence, Italy and who I’d not seen since. We delved into a psychedelically cluttered reminiscence that included Stuart’s mention of the Rubenesque and brilliant academic Helen Hennessey with whom he had recently become reacquainted. I remembered her as my roommate and frequent photography model at USF after our return from Florence.

The next day Judy Tampa and I drove to St. Petersburg to visit Fred Tirabassi, owner of the legendary eatery Kopper Kitchen. Fred and I had known each other since 1973 when he was the head of Maharaji’s Miami ashram. Judy and I followed him down a yellow brick path on a tour of the 1920s Spanish Mediterranean house he’d remodeled. Once uninhabitable, it is Fred’s homage to the casual beauty of Old Florida.

For New Year’s my friend and boss the architect Bernard Zyscovich ( held a dinner for a few friends including his partner, architect Suria Yaffar (native of El Salvador), Vlad and Ludmilla Wasserstein (natives of Russia), Camille and Ron Sppmno (who grew up in St. Petersburg and whose brother turns out to be a long time friend of Fred Tirabassi), Pam Blum (a South African-born Israeli and my dearest friend from the kibbutz I lived on in 1968) who is the mother of Maayan Blum who is married to Joe Clark (an Israeli Cherokee) who works for Zyscovich, Inc.

Yes, a glorious tangle. And the holiday is not yet over. After New Year’s my dear, sartorially superb octogenarian friend Bob Watters, known for his generosity – and popularity -- as “the rock star of AA,” held a birthday luncheon for the octogenarian stud and furniture maker/artist Les Cizek and his wife, the renegade belle of Mississippi whose memoir is to be published this summer, Norma Watkins. Joining us was architect Suzanne Martinson, for whom Zyscovich partner Suria Yaffa used to work. Suzanne’s former husband, the architectural photographer Steven Brooke (, and I produced the first architecture and design books on Miami (, many of which included the work of Bernard Zyscovich. Suzanne Martinson met Bob Watters through me, I met Bob through Norma Watkins, and Norma and I met through a friend of Fred Tirabassi’s.

I regard this tangle of place and time, these unexpected collisions that re-unite and re-ignite former and present selves, to be the art of living. Out of it I am learning to transform the image I am too often shocked to find in the mirror (lower lighting, ever lower lighting, please) into the brave, gregarious girl I remember. This occurs as I experience myself more and more from the inside out: When I look into Pam’s eyes/mouth/face, I am 19-years-old again and ready to climb the peach trees, prune the plum trees, and take on whatever was next in our uncharted lives at that unique moment of hope for Israel. With Judy Tampa I am the languid bohemian, lounging at the lake-house-in-the-orange-groves just as I am the brittle, exhausted twenty-three year-old, screaming her primal brains out in a freezing cold New York apartment. The primal therapist led us to Maharaji. With Fred I am the girl sitting in a tree behind the ashram, dazzled by the height of the sprawling banyan, the intensity of Fred’s devotion, and our novitiate spiritual grandiosity. When I am with Bernard, we are still pioneers.

“If you want to know your destiny, look around at your friends,” says my godfather, the ever wise Oba Ernesto Pichardo. Likewise with self-regard: in whose eyes do you choose to see yourself? I’ve been looking into Maharaji’s eyes for 38 years as he has been looking back into mine.

Today, I had a meeting with prospective editorial clients whom I had never met before -- Benny Mizrahi (a third generation Israeli) and Farouk Gongee (a native of Lebanon) -- who want to write a book together on Maharaji. Farouk was among Maharaji’s first devotees in America and had been sent to Beirut to propagate Knowledge. He had preceded Fred Tirabassi as director of the early Miami ashram.