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Carl Reiner Told the Truth (1922-2020)

I’m so so so sad Carl Reiner has passed over. His impact on TV, film, and comedy was legion and it was legendary. He worked with everyone from Neil SImon to Lily Tomlin to Steve Martin to Ruth Gordon and made them all funnier–better, really. His CV included Your Show of Shows, All of Me, and Where’s Poppa?–tons and tons of waggish staples. Even in his 90s he was still showing up on screen in the Ocean’s 11 franchise and on page as an author. Even yesterday he still shone such a bright light that he was tweeting what we all thought about 45. Not to mention that Mel Brooks will feel SO ALONE.

Their model of male love–their decades-long commitment to each other and to laughter–hurt my heart in the greatest way. They represented the very best of my tribe (the Jews!) by understanding that being tough and smart didn’t preclude being silly, soft-hearted, and socially just. Really, I wanted Mel and Carl to become the 2,000 Year Old Men. Or at least to live to see Trump leave the White House in handcuffs. (If you’ve never listened to The 2,000 Year Old Man, do yourself a favor and download it. Growing up I listened to it every day after school and it never failed to crack my shit up.)

In work he joyously played second fiddle–even in his masterwork, the Dick Van Dyke Show, modeled after his own family life in New Rochelle, he ceded the central role to Van Dyke whom he generously deemed a “better actor.” Top billing never mattered as much to him as top form because he knew to love long and love well. Thus he remained happily married to the brilliant Estelle from 1948 until her 2008 death. Thus he spawned the brilliant Rob Reiner and a long line of other comical, kind humans. Thus he died at 98 in top form, true to form.

Carl Reiner was a mensch. He was a mitzvah. He will be missed.

How Venus and Mercury Retrograde Raise Us

As readers of this blog are well-aware, I’ve been felled by a UTI that bloomed into my kidneys and retriggered intergenerational trauma. While I’ve been trying to heal, I’ve been laying low in terms of my “business.”

Until recently most of us used social media to promote our businesses or a version of our selves–so much so that I’ve been privately advised I should keep discussions of my illness to a minimum.

It all boiled down to the same thing: our brand, even if we didn’t admit it.

But somewhere between Covid-19 and our country’s substandard response to it, between the righteous rising of the Black Lives Movement and an institutionalized white supremacist rebellion, “brands” stopped being an appropriate presentation. Because this moment is not about ego, the “I.” It is about the “superego”—the collective conscience.

So what’s the connection between my inflamed urinary tract and the greater unrest in our country? The shared reality that we can only filter so many toxins before we break down. Just consider how health and justice has been disrupted by generations of institutionalized harm. If you are, as I am, the descendent of Polish Jewish immigrants, that impact is powerful. If you are a BIPOC person in America, it is legion. And it’s no coincidence that this massive dis-ease has been happening during Venus Retrograde.

This period demands we examine how love and care is disrupted. The good news? We needed the recalibration. And I’ve come to believe that healing is not about getting “better” so much as positive transformation. Consider the dual definitions of “utopia”—“no place” and “perfect place.” The point is to continue striving.

We may never achieve perfectly equitable, institutionalized care in our economy, courts, streets, schools, and whole selves. But we must always perfectly try.

Today Mercury Retrograde begins in caretaker Cancer, and it will help us continue to express our support for each other. So let your words be love spells and shape-shifters—assents and ascents. Because healing is not linear. It is a spiral staircase on which we revisit blocks from an ever-higher frequency.

In the 1960s, great upheaval ushered great changes. Now we may rise again by re-raising ourselves and each other.

(To those who’ve kindly inquired, Ruby Intuition sessions can be booked again starting in July.)

Split at the Root, Part II

This is the second installment of my tale about Ute. You can find the first here.

By 1998, I was finally on my own after a decade of living off men after leaving my parents’ house—frying pan, meet fire. I was living alone in a ridiculously affordable Prospect Heights floor-through with a backyard, rotating through a series of lovers, free-lancing as a copy editor, working out at least once a day, and writing the occasional magazine article about holistic health. Back then you could make grownup money as a journalist but working full-time in a magazine would’ve cramped my yoga girl lifestyle so I resigned myself to pitching articles that would earn me coin while I learned about something that already interested me. Getting paid a buck a word to take a vacation where anorexic me could manage the food always felt like a good call.

The magazines I wrote for were mostly the kind of rich-people vanity projects that were long dead by the time everything crashed in 2008, and their editors were usually inexpert enough that they were desperate for my “boho girl” ideas. So when I pitched a raw foods spa I’d read about, they bit though back then nobody ate raw; my friends thought it meant I’d be eating steak tartare by a pool.

I don’t exactly know what I was expecting—spa treatments and beautifully arranged greens and fruit, probably–but it wasn’t what I encountered. The Hippocrates Health Institute was located in West Palm Beach, which is a lot grittier than Palm Beach. Think gravel and gutted strip malls instead of white sand and perfect vistas. Founded in the 1950s by raw foods advocate Ann Wigmore, it was in definitive decline by the time I showed up—all peeling pink stucco, diseased palm trees, unfilled pools, moldy wall-to-wall carpeting; pale people with insipid smiles and desperate eyes.

Shit was bleak.

At the orientation meeting, laminated folders were passed around and my heart sank. Our diet was to consist solely of raw cabbage, spinach, pea shoots, watercress, wheatgrass and cucumber juice, and sprouted grains. In between meals we would be learning about the diseases we’d apparently already incurred from eating cooked food, and submitting to regular fasts, enemas, rigorous tests of our organ function, and electromagnetic and infrared therapy to draw out the many toxins impeding our body’s “natural processes.”

There wasn’t so much as a massage table on the premises.

As our guide—40ish and clad in 70s cult whites—droned on about the benefits of eating raw I gazed around the circle sitting cross-legged on the dirty floor. These were the people with whom I’d be spending the next month of my life, and everyone looked lumpy and wan. The only other person under 40 was a blond woman with angry eyes wearing a long-sleeved floor-length dress though it was 90 degrees in the meeting room, air conditioning apparently counter-indicated for cleanses.

This woman of course was Ute, and though I could usually take people in without them noticing, she looked up and met my gaze hawkishly before I got a chance to register more than a general dislike for her. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy