Cosmic Orchid
       curating integrative theatre
Carpe Diem Per Diem
My Journey to Becoming a Non-Smoker: Finding Humor in the Terminally Pathetic 12/10/2023

Let’s set some ground rules here. If you’re going to be an asshole and spout some nonsense about just “using willpower” or how “the only way to quit is cold turkey”, beat it. Don’t follow this series. I have enough shit going on here, I don’t need your negativity, judgement or your condescension. There will be more than enough self-deprecating humor to keep this thing balanced. I promise.


Ok. Now that we got rid of those tools, let’s get down to some truth-telling. If you want to scare the living fuck out of anyone in the medical profession, just answer the question: “How long have you been smoking?” with “Fifty years.” You can hear the alarms going off in their heads ala Meryl Streep in Silkwood when she steps into the radiation detection chamber.


Sooner or later, you realize it’s time. It’s been time for me for quite some time. Having been a dancer for a good part of my life, I have always believed that physical activity helps your body rid itself of any damage from smoking, actually from all toxicity. At least, it was that way for me. (Gross rationalization? So be it.) I know it’s astounding but many dancers were smokers, at least in my generation.


I didn’t start to feel the effects until my lifestyle became sedentary. The pandemic was the final straw. I know many people who continued physical activity during the lockdown: daily walks, zoom exercise sessions, counting steps, doing stairs. I wasn’t one of them. If I could turn back time, would I commit to daily exercise for both me and my roommate? Absolutely. I gained 30 pounds and he gained 60. But…spilt milk. We’re not looking back. We’re moving forward.


Without getting into a litany of what has transpired in the past seven months, suffice it to say I have been grappling with some medical issues - physical & psychological. It turns out that nothing is imminently life-threatening but there were a number of scares in that regard. Let’s put it this way: I have grown to loathe the expression “incidental finding”. What that means is they test you for one thing that’s ok (yeah) but then find two other things that aren’t (boo).


At the end of the day. I have to revert to what my orthopedist loves to say: “When your car has sixty-thousand miles on it….” Thank you for the smokin’ analogy. (Excuse the pun). Where do I get a tuneup?


Huge disclaimer (trigger warning?). There are likely to be descriptions of bodily functions, not necessarily graphic, but still.


So, it’s time. I have quit two or three times in these 50 years for a year, two years, who remembers? And one thing I can tell you is that, for me, the cold kick will not work. Were it merely the physical addiction to nicotine I was grappling with, no problem. But it’s the psychological - those associations deeply embedded in my psyche: after eating, have a cigarette; morning bathroom routine, coffee and a few cigarettes; talking on the phone needs a cigarette; basically any kind of concentration is enhanced with - you guessed it! A cigarette.


Therefore, the only effective way for me to quit is to dismantle the associations concurrent with overcoming the physical cravings - replace them with…something, anything. (Thank you, Todd.)


I’m wearing this string that came with a beautiful purple swing that was on the set of Hashtag. The card said wear this and when it wears away, your dream will come true. I put it on my wrist with the intention of quitting smoking as my wish. But I gotta tell you. It’s gonna be a snowy day in July before this thing disintegrates off my wrist. I’d better be a non-smoker long before this thing disintegrates. I’m now just using it as a visual reminder.


Why am I doing this? I suppose I am doing this for me - to help me maneuver this massive life change with at least a small modicum of dignity. I’m also holding myself accountable. I’m putting this out there in writing. So, I can’t pussy out.


I’ve been meaning to quit for quite a while now. And it’s been front and center these past seven months. You know the drill - when the pain of continuing to smoke is greater than the pain of quitting, that’s when you quit. Folks, we have arrived.


I’ve got tools - the Quit Smoking app Florin Penisoara sent me in August 2019. A Super Strength Quit Smoking CD replete with subliminal messages that I’ve had for decades, had gone missing and miraculously just reappeared. Now I have to start using them.


My latest deadline to quit is December 31, 2023. And good news! I have just spent the last three days sick as a dog with some kind of flu. I actually think it was a reaction to Easy-Off. I haven’t used that toxic crap in decades. Always have my cleaning lady clean the oven with vinegar and baking soda. But for some reason….


No matter the source, when I’m that kind of sick - fever, chills, body aches, weak - I just sleep. Drink tea, have some soup and sleep. This started on Thursday 1PM. I am now on the other side of it - just shy a seventy-two hour stint. Well, guess what! If you’re sleeping twenty out of twenty-four hours in a day, guess what you’re not doing? Smoking! I only had three cigarettes a day in these past three days. Therefore, I’ve got a huge jumpstart to the cutting down.


Also, I pooped with only coffee - no cigarette. That. Is. Huge.


Stands to reason that I am over the first hurdle on the physical craving side. But no. It’s like this knawing, edgy, metaphoric, incessant tapping on your shoulder…something’s missing, something’s wrong. Something’s missing something’s wrong.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that I am in recovery for thirty-one years. So, this is not my first time at the rodeo. Drugs, alcohol? A bitch, no doubt. But, as it turns out, this bull appears to be the strongest - and the most stubborn.


I know I will smoke more than three cigarettes today, now that I am vertical and among the living. But I will also manage the jones in a respectable manner. And if I don’t have this thing licked by 12/31, I’m not considering myself a failure. This may be fucking hard. But I am tougher.


I have always described myself as a tough bitch/earth mother - an intricate combination of the two - sometimes balanced, sometimes not. The dominance of one or the other reveals itself in necessary moments. I have always believed that there is this other Liz that I am - deep inside of me - one who doesn’t smoke. I suppose she channels a tad more earth mother. But right now, in order to fight this jones, I need tough bitch in the driver’s seat.

From Firenze to Florence


Once upon a time…


We got married in the Sala Rossa at Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze. We honeymooned in Venezia, Roma & Paris. Returned to NY for our wedding reception on the World Yacht. And our wedding cake was from Veniero’s.


I don’t remember the reason for the glitch, but the cake did not have the requested buttercream frosting. The lovely gentleman gave us a gift certificate to compensate.


I believe it was pinned to our bulletin board for a bit. I have no recollection of this. But it must be true, as there are pin holes on all four corners.


Over the years since, it has resided in our fridge, in and amongst the takeout menus. Yes, we keep our takeout menus on the fridge door. Where else would we keep them? They are, after all, if not food, a representation of it.


In the 24 years, 2 months, and 6 days that we have been in possession of said gift certificate, we’ve been through three refrigerators. Each time a new model arrives at the house, the contents are transferred, including the takeout menus and gift certificate.


Over the years, I have been to Veniero’s many times, though never in possession of the certificate. Last year, I unearthed the gift certificate, shot a photo of it, and posted about it. But it ended up buried, once again, in and amongst the menus.


As I have recently been working at Theater for the New City, I pass Veniero’s regularly. And as we are winding down the holiday season, I had dinner plans with friends on Twelfth Night, if you are a purist and count the days of Christmas to culminate on the Epiphany.


About a week ago, I was walking down First Avenue. I was thinking that I wanted to bring something to the dinner but, since I was going there directly from the theater, I didn’t want to cook something only to have it sit for hours.


Just then I saw Veniero’s and thought cannoli would be a good choice. My mind then went to the gift certificate. If not now, when? I made a mental note to bring the certificate with me the day of the dinner. For once, the mental note actually worked!


I arrived at Veniero’s on Friday, January 6, 2023, with a gift certificate dated October 31, 1998. In its customarily busy state, I cued up not certain how best to broach the encounter. I entered the exchange with; “Yes. I think I need to speak with the manager.”


Of course, one cannot make such a statement to a shop clerk without a corresponding explanation substantiating such a request. The young gentleman glanced at the signature on the gift certificate, exclaimed that it was Angelo who was the manager, and he was on duty. He proceeded to call Angelo down.


Since we are in the process of getting a beach apartment in Francavilla al mare, I recently attended an Italian class to augment the horrid combination of broken Italian and indiscernible dialect with which I have been getting by for most of my life.


I began my interchange in Italian, quickly shifting to my go-to phrase: “Per favore, vorrei parlare in inglese.” I was careful to use “vorrei”, as I recently learned that the way I have been throwing around “voglio” over the past 35 years is considered both rude and pushy. Color me thoroughly embarrassed.


I suggested Angelo may need to sit down. I asked if there were any hidden cameras. And then I produced the gift certificate. Angelo was as elated to see the gift certificate as I was to give it to him!


It was from his first year working at Veniero’s. And there was no question he would honor it.


He queried me on the order because he felt certain he’d remember the details of his experiences that first year. Amadio. World Yacht. It seemed to be ringing bells in his head. When I mentioned getting married in Firenze, he beamed: “My daughter lives in Florence! I’m taking her to the airport tomorrow to go back.”


In the end, my order exceeded the value of the certificate. I had earlier joked that I wouldn’t charge him interest, but I ended up with pastries valued at the current dollar value of the credit - inadvertently adjusted for almost 25 years of inflation.


My only regret is not photographing the two (yes, two) pastry boxes that I left Veniero’s with. For one brief moment, I wanted to pay for the whole order, retrieve my gift certificate and place it back between the Chinese and pizza joint menus.


But I am learning to yield when a thing has run its course. I am learning to surrender.


Had I waited until October 31st, the silver anniversary of the gift certificate, I would have likely missed it. And then, Angelo’s daughter would not be needing a ride to the airport.


Florence brought that buttercream credit full circle. It bookended the life cycle of a gift certificate. Divine timing. All in divine timing.

But What If He Didn't Do It?

1.       The evidence points to his guilt. What evidence?


a. For someone who claims not to have/had a drinking problem, he spent an inordinate amount of time, not only on the topic of drinking but specifically, on his fondness for, and frequent indulging in, beer(s)* According to a few news agencies, he mentions it approximately 30 times.


b. His rendition of the social climate in High School/College is in stark contrast with what his peers describe, and to what is logically known to be commonplace in the “Beer(s)” culture.


c. He states: “Sometimes, I had too many beers.” When asked what that meant by the prosecutor (representing the Republican Senators), his response was: “I don’t know.... whatever the chart says.” Without consulting the chart, what would lead him to deduce he had “too many beers”, in the absence of a blackout or of getting sick? He attributed his getting sick to a weak stomach, and not to the beers. He also said he never passed out, but he did fall asleep.


d. His refusal to answer whether he ever had a blackout was trumped only by his rude retort. His response was: “I don’t know. Have you?” After a bit of back and forth, the Senator attempts to confirm his answer, to which he responds: “...Yeah and I’m curious if you have...”. He never fully articulates the answer. He echoes her response of not having a drinking problem with: “Nor do I.”


e. His refusal to answer whether he is Bart O’Kavanaugh is suspect and begs a review of the evidence. He even slips and says: “...I think he picked out names of friends of ours to throw them in as kind of, close to what...for characters in the book...”. Close to what - reality?


Were it merely Judge’s book, one could attribute the character to a wild imagination. However, consider this: Not only does he state in his yearbook entry: “Judge, have you boofed yet?”, Judge’s yearbook entry includes the mirror entry: “Bart, have you boofed yet?” Therefore, it is evident that, at the very least, Judge called him “Bart” long before he ever published his book. This leads to the next point.


f. He describes his relationship with Judge as: “...a friend of ours in High School...” (Who is this mysterious “we” that coincides with the possessive “ours”?) But the mirror yearbook entries support the likelihood of them being very good, if not best friends.


g. His retort to the Senator when he pressed the above (e.) question: “We could sit here and make fun of some guy who has an addiction...” was so off-topic, its purpose could only serve to do just that - steer away from the topic.


h. His referring to Dr. Ford’s experience as “may have had” is both minimizing and disrespectful. Why? His point was - it wasn’t him. So why not say I have no doubt that she “was”.


i. His incessant insistence that he is a proponent for women was overkill. Sorry but thou “doth protest too much, methinks”. Many misogynists hide behind the shield of being empathetic to women’s causes (like a pedophile who works at the local youth center).


j. His inclusion of his high school calendar, as being anything even remotely consistent with something a rational person would consider as evidence, is downright comedic. If I hadn’t seen the actual testimony, I would have thought it originated in the SNL skit.


2.       In the unlikely event that he is innocent, why is he still unfit to sit on the Supreme Court?


a. For a man who has spent his entire career practicing law, I was neither impressed with the content of, nor tolerant of the lengthiness of his opening statement, which was peppered with enough redundancy to choke a moose. It also contained irrelevant information (He wrote it; He showed it to no one.)


b. He displayed bravado & arrogance, weaving in and out of palpable anger, from his opening statement through the lion’s share of the testimony. Why the diatribe - because he was falsely accused? A judicial response would be to temper one’s outrage and channel it into a lucid, eloquent, dignified presentation.


c. His demeanor was far from steady or contained. He lacked composure.  He flipped through pages and drank enormous amounts of water, whilst sniffing incessantly.  He lacked the fundamental ability to follow directions.  He failed to answer yes-or-no questions with a yes or a no.  He answered questions by asking the question back to the person who asked and interrupted when questions were being posed.


d. He lacked humility, repeatedly reciting his own (impertinent) press releases. “I busted my butt...”


e. If he is innocent of the sexual assault but failed to truthfully answer all the questions, failing to provide an accurate representation of his drinking history, he has committed perjury.


All of this collectively amounts to him presenting as an immature, if not irrational man. One would expect a candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court to present an even-tempered reserve and dignity commensurate with the role for which he is being considered. He is expected to show sound judgment, and certainly not to perjury himself.


*Despite his prestigious education (prep school, Ivy League) and high-profile legal/judicial career, the fact that the plural of beer is “beer” continues to allude him. (The only time you add an “s” is if you were quantifying ex. 5 beers) And although it is acceptable to say: “too many beers”, it would be grammatically more effective to say: “too much beer”. 

If you find this confusing, let us use wine, as an example.  Would you say: “I had too much wine” or “I had too many wines”?  That linguistic choice is indicative of someone who is “counting” and is, in and of itself, telling.  It may be the biggest indication of his lack of candor, regarding his drinking.

Mexico Moves to Spain

In a shocking disclosure, Mexico has just announced their intention to defect from North America. "We're pulling up our country, lock stock and barrel, and bringing it back to Spain. Regardless of the tyranny we experienced under their rule, we feel it is the lesser of two evils."


"We could handle the natural disasters, but this incessant talk of wall-building has become intolerable.  We regret that our actions may leave our neighbors to the south in a lurch. But we need to reduce our stress level!"


The continent of South America immediately issued this press release: "We are happy to usher in all the displaced countries – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama - as their contiguous nature fast-tracks the process.  The application for inclusion is available on our website."  Sources familiar with the situation say that applications from at least three of the displaced nations are already being processed.  


When Spain was contacted for a response to the unprecedented move, they replied:  "Talks are being conducted behind closed doors.  That is all we can say at the moment.  Stay tuned for an official announcement."


One high-ranking Spanish official, who asked not to be named, was quoted as saying:  "We've always had a fondness for Mexico.  We can fit them nicely along our northwest border.  It's a daunting task but we're giving them all the support they need."  Concurrently, leaks of an image, depicting the geographic changes, were prolific on social media.


But the move may not go as smoothly as Mexico would like.  One EU official, John B. Little, was quoted as saying:  "First Brexit.  Now Mexicome.  We're not running a flop house here."


North America could not be reached for comment but one source close to the country has expressed anguish:   "Not only are we losing Mexico but seven other countries, as well.  We're a laughing stock - and why?"


Sources have confirmed that a North American email sent to all Mexican officials was found on an embedded server.  The email had no content, other than an ominous you-tube link.  Robust investigative journalism led our research team to identify the content:  a video of Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Stay".


When asked for comment, President Trump replied:  "I don't care where they move.  Mexico still pays for that wall."

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Cosmic Orchid is a fiscally sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Donations for the purposes
of Cosmic Orchid must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.