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  • Day 315: Happy New Year!

    Date: 2010.12.31 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 2

    We’ll be watching the fireworks tonight, New Year’s Eve, somewhere right near the above shot of the Hotel Negresco on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France.

    Update:  I haven’t blogged here for more than a month.  But I think that brought me crazy good luck.  After writing about my 3-4 weeks on the famed Dukan Diet, which I thought was a total bust since I only lost about three pounds, I flew off to New York.

    I was in New York for another three weeks where I briefly fell off the wagon (M&Ms) for a couple days but then found it easy to go right back to no sweets.  But I definitely didn’t stick with the Dukan diet.  But somehow it must have stuck with me in spirit, because I’ve lost ten pounds in the past month, without really watching my weight.

    I must admit to two slips:   I was buying a friend some gorgeous, expensive chocolates for Christmas (if I can’t have them I want to buy them for someone else!) and I was offered a sample of some tiny dark chocolate at the cash register. I had two.  Wow.  Like instant black heroin shooting through my body.  Delicious!

    Then had a friend over who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth but loves Haagen Dazs macadamia nut brittle ice cream.  So I bought it for her.  But then I had some!  We had decided to start watching the first season of Mad Men and it was all so fun and festive.

    And yes, I had two bowls!   I have to report this as I had a witness.

    I’m not proud that my Year Without Candy has not been 100% pure, but then again, I’ve been pretty damn good.

    What will I do after February 28, 2011 when I will have completed my Year?

    Hard to say.  But I’m afraid to go back to eating candy whenever I want.

    The revelation of these past ten months has been that – giving up my favorite sweets has not been that difficult.

    However, I am always divided on this one issue:

    One side says to me:  There’s no upside to eating sweets.  You’ve already eaten enough candy and dessert for one lifetime.  Stay away!

    The other side says:  We’re all going to die one day anyway.  Why deprive yourself of something you love?

    Who will win?  Devil or angel?

    I have a couple New Year’s resolutions.  One of them was inspired by my friend Antonia who has gone totally sugar-free for the last few weeks.  I’d like to try to go totally sugar-free as a way of celebrating my remaining two months of this year and this blog.   (Right now I still eat things that have sugar added to them, like peanut butter, ketchup, yogurt etc.)

    The other is to get up at the same time every day:  7 a.m.

    Will I succeed?   Will you?

    And how important is it?

    I’m just grateful to have had such an amazing year – and so many wonderful people in my life.  2010 was supposed to be a golden year for people born under my sign, Pisces, and in many ways, it was.

    But we’ve all had times when we felt:  This can’t be my life.

    My old friend, the singer-songwriter Ruth Gerson, who I profiled almost six years ago in The New York Times when we both lived in Manhattan, went through one of those periods in life when everything goes south, sideways and downhill.  It began when her marriage began to unravel a couple of years ago and she eventually got divorced.

    She was in a lot of pain and channeled it by writing new songs, sitting alone in a deserted office in Chelsea every morning.

    When she was done, she took off – and so did her life.

    She’s now living in San Francisco with her two daughters and is engaged to be married to a wonderful man.

    Ruth has always managed her career on her own terms, which has meant turning down big record labels who wanted to sign her.  I think she’s one of the most talented people out there.

    Last week, she brought down the house on Craig Ferguson’s late-night show with the title track of her new album that she wrote when she was sad and in despair: This Can’t Be My Life.

    Who can’t relate?

    And what’s better than when you get to celebrate your new life?

    Happy New Year!

  • Day 263: New York, New York

    Date: 2010.11.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 2

    Whenever I come back to New York City, where I lived for 15 years, it’s as if it’s 1995 and I never left.  I hurl myself full-throttle into Manhattan, including going to the opening of “Carmen” at the Metropolitan Opera (left) thanks to a former TV producer friend who now has a top job in management at the Met.

    And Manhattan responds by holding a knife to my throat, letting me know that you can’t just leave and expect to be the same person you were when you were living here.

    I used to keep up a furious pace while living here.  But after a few days back, I realize that years spent in a 500-year-old village on the Mediterranean have taken their toll.  I start to feel a little overwhelmed, tired even – which never happened when I was a full-time resident here.  Back then, this hyper-caffeinated island just fed my hyper-caffeinated soul.

    As William Wordsworth put it in Intimations of Immortality:

    There was a time when meadow, grove and stream

    The earth, and every common sight,

    To me did seem,

    Apparelled in celestial light,

    The glory and the freshness of a dream,

    It is not now as it hath been of yore;

    Turn wheresoe’r I may,

    By night or day,

    The things which I have seen, I can now see no more.

    I love Central Park, especially the 6.2 mile loop I used to run almost every other day. Whenever I’m near the park, I often look toward the interior – as if the 30-year-old me is still in there somewhere.

    Instead, I walk part of the loop with my cousin Kathleen, who’s come to town to catch “Billy Elliot” with me, a Broadway show I’ve been meaning to see for years.  Kathleen and I have never lived in the same place but we have a history of connecting at key moments, often taking a walk wherever we are and talking about our family.

    Kathleen sometimes used to come to the city with her son T.J. Wagner, who loved Broadway shows.  We went to see “Cats” right before it closed. I expected it to be a bore-snore, strictly for blue-hairs from Iowa fresh off the Big Apple tour buses. Instead, I loved it and T.J. was inspired.  Today he’s a drama student at Ithaca College and Kathleen made me email the cellphone photo we took from the theater (left) to him at school.

    Those who have been reading this blog know that I spent three weeks on the Dukan diet, fully expecting to stay on it until I met my weight loss goal.

    Instead, I returned to the U.S. on Oct. 25th and promptly fell off the wagon. Not only did I go off the Dukan diet, I also ate some candy.  The Dukan diet is over. No way could I keep it going over here.  And I was horrified that I ate some M&Ms and some Kudos bars during my first week here.

    I have always been afraid that if I began to eat candy again, I would never be able to give it up again.  Instead, after just four days, on Oct. 31, I vowed to get back on the wagon.

    I haven’t had anything sweet since.  It hasn’t been difficult.

    I doubt I’ve had any more weight loss but it’s heartening to know that falling off the candy wagon for four days doesn’t mean I can’t get right back on track.

    I might re-start the Dukan diet when I go back to France, but it’s too difficult to stick with it in New York City.

    I’m also mindful of something a friend in France said to me a few days before I left for New York.  All this diet and weight stuff on your blog, she said, it’s not really you.

    What’s much more me is seeing live art like “Carmen” and “Billy Elliot.”  I am fascinated by people at the top of their game – and you don’t get much higher than the Metropolitan Opera or Broadway.

    The young boys who star in “Billy Elliot” amaze me almost more than the sopranos and tenors at the Met.  I can’t begin to fathom what it’s like to be 13 years old and in charge of carrying a Broadway show, complete with complicated balletic choregraphy and aerial stunts.

    But I do know that they get me out of my own petty head and inspire me, along with a memoir by Andre Agassi called “Open” with which I am currently mesmerized.

    Like people who reach the Met and Broadway, Agassi, of course, is a champion.

    I like what he writes on page 359 about how he continued playing and excelling at tennis, a sport literally forced on him by a domineering father:

    “I play and keep playing because I choose to play.  Even if it’s not your ideal life, you can always choose it.  No matter what your life is, choosing it changes everything.”

  • Day 243: Does Discipline Beget Discipline?

    Date: 2010.10.22 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 2

    If you’ve been reading A Year Without Candy for the past two weeks, you know that on Oct. 5th I began the Dukan Diet, a strict new diet sweeping France and which has become very popular in the U.K.    People report miracles of weight loss on it.

    I’ve eaten nothing but protein (meat and fish) and vegetables in the past two and half weeks.  Most people (just check out the voluminous Dukan diet forums online) report losing 10-12 pounds easily in the first three weeks. In contrast, I’ve only lost two pounds and my pants are still tight.

    Bitter?  I was a few days ago.  Especially that I’ve gone public not only with this blog but with friends and acquaintances. Therefore I am on the receiving end of helpful advice from all and sundry about my inexplicable lack of weight loss.

    What’s worse than suddenly developing a freakish metabolism impervious to the kind of diet that Gandhi might find challenging?

    Helpful advice from friends!

    Of course they mean well.

    A few days ago, pissed off, I decide to inform the truculent Universe that I was going to continue with the Dukan diet, despite Its mean league of gods clearly and deliberately trying to thwart me.

    Incredibly, I even thought, in cloying Pollyanna style, well at least I’ve lost two pounds!  That’s better than nothing!

    A funny thing happened.  The diet has become much easier.  The first week was a real struggle.  I had no energy, I had bad dreams when I wasn’t dreaming of french fries, and I never thought I’d make it two weeks.  And that was when I still thought I’d be losing weight!

    Almost three weeks in, I feel wonderful.  I do occasionally miss carbohydrates.  But I feel energized, happy, light, fired up.

    I always figured that giving up the sweets I love would be next to impossible.  Now I’m barely eating anything that I love, but I feel so much better.

    All I really eat is yogurt, eggs, chicken, fish, vegetables, steak and hamburger.

    Does discipline beget more discipline?

    Do you really need to eat as much as you think you do?

    Is this what happens when you push past disappointment and no results and keep going?

    Don’t get me wrong.  Feeling my pants still so tight after all this time is very discouraging.

    But at the same time, becoming more disciplined is cutting some of the extraneous fat from my brain, my character, my personality.

    I have liftoff.

    One person wrote to this blog a few days ago that maybe this diet just isn’t working for me and since I don’t look heavy, I should just quit and try something else.  I totally understand her perspective.  And while I’m not heavy and have never had eating issues, I have gained at least 20 pounds in the last six years without changing any eating or exercise habits.

    Why embrace those 20 pounds?  I don’t want them.  I don’t know now if I’ll ever get rid of them but I’m not ready to just accept them.

    I also remembered something that may be further proof that I am an alien life form which explains my current metabolism issue.

    I have fair skin, being of Irish descent.

    One of my closest friends since college also has fair Irish skin.  Years ago, during our college years, we used to go to her grandmother’s spread in Palm Springs for Easter break.

    Cam and I would bake in the sun poolside for hours without an iota of sunscreen. Cam would always wind up lobster red.

    I remained white as snow, impervious to  searing, 100+ degree desert sun.  A few days later I might develop a slight tan.

    Cam could never believe it.  There was no explanation for it.

    Helpful advice, anyone?


  • Day 241: Bad News! Dukan Diet Two-Week Update

    Date: 2010.10.20 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 7

    So after one week on the Dukan diet, I lost four pounds.  Yay!

    Now, I did have the feeling just before I hopped on the scale for the two week weigh-in yesterday that I hadn’t lost much, maybe even nothing.

    However, I was not prepared for the devastating read-out:  I had gained almost two pounds.  Yes, you read that right.  GAINED.

    So let’s review:  two weeks of nothing but protein, some vegetables, fat-free/sugar-free yogurt and I lose a TOTAL of two pounds?

    As I wrote in all upper-case in a furious email to a friend:


    Yes, I’ve cheated.  I must admit this as I have witnesses, who’d rather not be identified on this blog…

    Do you want to know how I’ve cheated?

    I’ve had butter with my hard-boiled eggs and ketchup with my steak and hamburger. I use some olive oil in the pan when cooking the meat. (Butter and oil are banned on Dukan.)  I’ve had at the most two glasses of red wine with dinner on maybe two occasions.  Wow.  Call the Dukan police.  Bring the leg irons!

    Does the above cheating make you then lose one pound a week rather than the 5 to 6 pounds per week everyone else loses?

    I felt very discouraged.  To make myself feel worse, I called a friend who had effortlessly lost 22 pounds in three months on Dukan.

    “Poor you,” she cooed, with that awful tone as if she realized I was somehow not part of the Dukan winners inner circle  - and clearly have the unfortunate metabolism of an alien life form.

    She was just trying to be nice but just FYI, “Poor you” might be my least two favorite words in the English language.

    So what do I do?  Normally this is when I would quit.  But like the no-candy year, having this blog helps me stay straight.

    Because I went public with going on the Dukan diet, I’d rather not  bail on it.

    But even if I didn’t have this blog, I thought, what if I just continued – even though this diet doesn’t seem to be working for me.

    It’s a metaphor for many things in life.  You know, you try something and you work at it – and nothing happens. And you have to out yourself as not being successful (so far) at the venture.

    I have a friend on Long Island who loves men and loves being married.  But she had the worst luck with guys.  She was married three times and each marriage ended badly, with the guy often being a jerk and dumping her in a devastating way.

    I marveled at how she would talk about it openly, since it seemed to me the experiences were so humiliating.  She’d be upset, then get over it and literally get right back on the horse.  She’s now married for the fourth time, happily.

    So what if you acknowledge a certain type of failure with what you’re trying to do – and then continue it anyway?  What lies down the road?  More failure or eventual success?

    The second week of Dukan was easier psychologically and physically for me. I’ve had less bad dreams and more energy.

    So I’m now starting my third week on the Dukan diet.

    That’s the good news!

    Stay tuned,

  • Day 226: In Which I Up the Self-Denial Game

    Date: 2010.10.05 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 2

    Not being able to eat candy, cookies, ice cream and cake is too easy, I’ve decided.  I need to start sleeping on a bed of nails and wearing hair shirts.

    Let me explain…

    I haven’t been on an official diet since 1981 when my mother and I went on the Scarsdale Diet for fun and both lost five pounds in two weeks.   Just for a lark!  Good times!  I weighed 130 pounds at the time and I’m 5’8″.

    Fast forward a few years and, er, a few pounds.  The dirty little secret of my Year Without Candy is that I have not lost weight.  People are shocked, nay disillusioned, when I tell them.  I was talking to my beloved friend Lauren on the phone today in New York and I heard the dismay in her voice when I reiterated that I hadn’t lost weight.

    Part of it is that I never ate huge amounts of sweets, like some charter member of Overeaters Anonymous, which means my sugar addiction never translated into body fat.   I didn’t hide out in my bedroom, sucking down tubs of Ben & Jerry’s or bags of giant M&Ms and asking my Higher Power to save me.

    What, there isn’t a place in this world for someone who just eats candy every day?

    My theory – and I’m never at a loss for theories – is that my candy addiction functioned a bit like other people’s smoking, crack or crystal meth habits.

    It cut my appetite for the big fat stuff like bread and cream sauce and it jacked up my metabolism.

    A few years ago, way before I went off candy, my solid-gold metabolism ground to a halt.  Years after everyone else’s.

    For my whole life, it was like the evil body gods said, we’re gonna let you eat whatever you want for so long you’re gonna think you’re golden and immune to time.  Then WHAM! I gained 15 pounds in one year – 2005 – without eating one calorie more per day.

    Paging Queen Latifah!   Big girls don’t cry!

    Reader,  I tried so hard to get doctors to see my thyroid problem.  More than one blood test ensued.  There was no thyroid problem.  “Perfectly normal,” the doctors all crowed, despite cousins, mothers and close friends and Oprah getting the diagnosis and turning into whippet-like sylphs thanks to Synthroid.  Not me.  (OK, maybe not Oprah either.)

    What to do?

    Well, French magazines are chockablock full of stories about France’s Scarsdale Diet du jour:  the Dukan diet.

    The “revolutionary” Dukan diet is the brainchild of a French doctor, Pierre Dukan, and is said to be sweeping France.   Which may be true as my friends Terri and Ceriann here in France have been talking about it for months.  Ceriann (fabulous Welsh name) lost 22 pounds in about three months and now looks just as gorgeous as her college-age daughter.

    It’s not easy, though.  You start with an “attack phase” of anywhere from one to ten days in which all you eat is protein. No vegetables even – and that includes potatoes and ketchup.

    It’s like the Atkins Diet, said Lauren who lost 60 pounds on that, except you can’t even eat things like butter and cheese.

    Ceriann sounded very cheerful about it.  The Dukan website brags about how fantastic it is that you get to eat as much chicken and fish, say, as you want.   Oh yeah, that’s the ticket.  How many times has 10 p.m. rolled around and I download this week’s Two and a Half Men and think, I’m dying for a chunk of smoked salmon?

    Anyway, I started today.  It’s 11:30 p.m. in France as I write this.  I’ve stayed the course one day so far.  I wasn’t even going to write about it until I realized how little faith I had that I could continue.  And I remembered, oh yeah, the blog.  I’ll put it out there and my competitiveness and aversion to perceived shame  may keep me on track.

    I don’t know.  I’ve made it one day.  My plan is for the “attack phase” to last five days.

    So you see, I’m just using you.

    I’ll report back if I continue – and if I don’t.  I’m allegedly supposed to be at my target weight by Dec. 29, according to the esteemed Dr. Dukan.

    If that incredible event occurs – and I have no faith at this point – I will disclose actual figures.

    For now, I have one question:

    Does this water make me look fat?

  • Day 218: No Candy Weekend in the Camargue

    Date: 2010.09.28 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    The Camargue is only a three-hour drive from Nice but it’s another world – perfect for a 48-hour vacation.  It’s one of the least French places in France, a vast, triangular delta where the Rhone river meets the Mediterranean.

    The Camargue is known for its semi-wild white horses, who’ve been in this region since prehistoric times, pink flamingos – and bulls.

    We saw the white horses right after we drove off the main highway south of Arles and entered this slice of flat, wide-open France-meets-Big Sky Montana world.  The 1971 cult movie, Friends, was shot here.  Pink flamingos appeared on the watery marshes and black bulls lounged in pastures.

    Best were the mini Ponderosa-style ranches that dotted the horizon.  We stayed at one (below) where we woke up to the white horses and French cowboys called gardiens who work with them and herd the bulls.  Calling Hoss and Little Joe!   Except these gardiens were about a foot shorter and very compact.

    I slept like a baby on the little ranch.

    All the ranches are inland.  The seaside village of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is at the end of the highway that cuts down from Arles to the sea.  We walked along the seafront promenade overlooking the same Mediterranean I see every day in Nice – but it seemed wilder, more like the high Atlantic seas off Biarritz.

    Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer also reminded me of Plum Island, Massachusetts and the coastal towns of southern Maine.  So it was jarring to hear the people walking near us speaking, of course, in French. I kept looking around for saltwater taffy and fudge shops but there weren’t any.

    Vincent Van Gogh painted Street in Saintes- Maries here and Tori Amos wrote a song called “Marys of the Sea.”

    The town’s name refers to the three Marys who were said to have been the first witnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb – Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe.  According to French legend, they sailed from Egypt in the 12th century and landed here.  Their relics are in nearby churches.

    Gypsies also come here every May to worship one of the Black Madonnas that are enshrined all over Europe.  The Black Madonna here is part of the cult of St. Sara, the patron saint of the Roma.  Sara is believed to be the dark-skinned servant who accompanied the three Marys to France.

    We went on an amazing three-hour safari on a Jeep into the heart of the Camargue.  I would have preferred to go out on horses but galloping is not recommended a couple weeks after an appendectomy.

    Our fabulously eccentric guide, Alan Jacob, a Frenchman who flew seaplanes in the US, travels to Iran once a month, speaks six languages including Farsi and Arabic, and who, I told him, must have worked for a spy service, made me glad we chose the SUV tour.

    Oh, and Alan said the Mary Magdalene legend was cooked up by locals in the 19th century to encourage tourism.   He doesn’t believe the parallel tale that she was actually Jesus’ wife, either. Qui sait?

    Alan is not a croyante, or believer, as they say in French.  But he did take us to see one of the bigger versions of the  Camargue cross, which consists of three emblems – an anchor, a cross and a heart – representing the fishermen and farmers of the region.

    We had lunch Sunday inside the stone fortress (in the Petite Camargue) that makes up the town of Aigues-Mortes, literally “dead waters,” which dates back to the 10th century. Louis IX of France rebuilt the port in the 12th century as an impregnable fort and it was a launch point for the two of the Crusades.

    And then it was back to what passes for the real world for me: Nice.  The highway is always the most dangerous place for me because every now and then you have to stop at the big, American-style gas stations/fast food restaurants.  It’s the only place in France where you see shelves of candy bars and displays of ice cream bars.  And when I’m on the road, I love eating candy.

    Not this time.  Not this year.

  • Day 144: Missing “Angie” – More Spy than Sweetheart

    Date: 2010.07.21 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Photos of Angelina Jolie at the premiere of her new spy-thriller Salt surfaced this week and I got nostalgic for Angelina’s big summer production of 2008.

    That was when she and Brad moved into Chateau Miraval just outside one of France’s prettiest villages, Correns, and she decided to give birth to her twins at Fondation Lenval,  a hospital right on the Mediterranean about 15 blocks from me. So thoughtful!

    “Salt” was a ways off  but Angelina conducted herself as an international spy when she was in the south of France – outwitting all the crazy press that stalked her. And looking good and delivering twins while doing it!

    I biked to work for the month that “Angie,”  which is what all the paparazzo called her, was at Lenval.  First she waited three weeks in the hospital to have her babies, then she kept them there a week.

    The eccentric paparazzo – I remember one German guy who drove in from Munich with a camper van and car attached and had two enormous dogs who slept in his car outside the hospital – entertained me during the long days when rumors flew about Angelina having her babies while we tried in vain to substantiate them.

    This was back when I was still eating sweets and my favorite Angelina-era dessert was the baklava in the Lebanese pastry shop kitty-corner from the hospital.

    Lenval is not in a nice area of town although it faces the Mediterranean and from the beach it looks like a blue and glass futuristic Bond lair.  The trannies come out at night.  A truly mad Englishman from the National Enquirer (who was thrown out of his hotel room for reasons that are still unclear) got in a fight one night with some trannies who sat on the hood of his ancient Mercedes, denting it permanently.

    Fluff story, you say?  Not really.  It was the biggest story of the year for People magazine and even though no one ever admits to reading People outside a dentist office, it’s the publication that arguably mirrors America more than any other one.

    Brad and Angelina arrived in the south of France in May 2008 and stayed here for more than four months.  I got to see how she operates by covering her while she was here, not to mention the crazy 24 hours during which her twins were finally born.

    The photographers who track Brangelina’s every move are odd ducks but they’re also a serious lot – since one photo of Angelina (like the one that made the cover of In Touch Weekly taken from a light plane of a very-pregnant Angelina standing outside her chateau) can net over $500,000.

    They’ve got Interpol scanners in their SUVs and contacts who give them private jet flight manifestos, the works.  Me, I only confirmed the birth of her twins (after In Touch incorrectly said she had given birth to two girls) by tracking down her obstetrician at home early in the morning. I found him through the French white pages.  Very low-tech I know.

    Angelina outwitted everyone, except the one photographer who got the big-bucks  In Touch photo and became a friend of mine. A fascinating guy himself and a match for scary-smart Angelina – who used a helicopter to land on the roof on Lenval when she arrived (no one found out for two days) and left in two unmarked vans late in the middle of the night.  It was all very Bourne Identity.

    Oh, and she arranged ahead of time (Angelina has no publicist and does everything with just her cell phone) to give the entire scoop about the twins birth to Nice-Matin. The lucky reporter then wrote a series of gloating stories mocking every other journalist who didn’t have full access as he did.  One day I even made one of his columns as he described me translating one press conference live from my phone to New York, pointing out that “this is the type of news Americans pay attention to.”

    I wonder what will happen to Angelina in the long run.  If you are inside her world, you know she arranges photo ops with her kids ahead of time with favored photographers.  Nothing is left to chance.  Someone who has covered her for more than 10 years characterizes her as “depressed.”

    Maybe she was depressed but maybe meeting Brad and having her six kids cured her of that.  Having the world believe she is the luckiest, most accomplished actress, lover, mother etc. probably helps her believe it, too.

    I tend to believe what she once said about always having had too much energy for the room and how sometimes that energy got turned back on her. Now she has such a big life, the energy just goes forward.

    I can’t help but admire her, because what she does requires so much intelligence, talent, stamina and derring-do. She’s even a licensed pilot and adheres to an amazing work ethic when it comes to making films on a regular basis, not to mention her humanitarian work.

    What I don’t admire is how much she talks about her kids’ personal lives and how she lets them be photographed.  During the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, Brad and Angelina brought Shiloh to the Bonpoint children’s clothing store in the center of Cannes and it was predictably mobbed.

    Shiloh was only 2 at the time and looked so small and vulnerable standing in this store with all the vultures outside.  I didn’t see why her parents thought it was a good idea to bring her into that chaos.

    Something that struck me, however, while covering Angelina at Lenval hospital was that she never had any girlfriends visit her.  She has a full-time assistant but, unlike Jennifer Aniston and her crack support team of BFFs, I’ve never seen references or proof that Angelina has women friends.

    Brad and the kids showed up every day (that’s them above arriving at Lenval one afternoon) and her brother, James Haven, visited a couple times.  But never any girlfriends.  I don’t have sisters, either, but I’ve made up for it with a ton of amazing women friends.  Angelina doesn’t seem to need them.

    Still, Angelina has the biggest, coolest life of anyone I know. And now she has three little girls who can be her friends.

  • Day 88: Are You as “Unique” As I Am?

    Date: 2010.05.26 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 4

    Today I was pronounced unique.

    How does that relate to being a candy addict?  Well Sheila said, “You are unique!” in reference to a choice I made that she thought was strange.  It was just a throwaway comment on Facebook.  (Not to be confused with a very early boyfriend who once called me an “iconoclast.”  The term somehow seemed very elderly Somerset Maugham for someone who was 23, and female, at the time.)

    Anyway, this brought to mind something another friend who’s an alcoholic and who is in his fourth month of not drinking once said.

    He said he drank because of the way the world is. The way sometimes you feel so alienated from other people, or they just bore you to death, or you just feel so so different. Or because you’re… unique?

    Is that why I’ve always needed something sweet to get through life?  Because when you’re unique maybe everyone else isn’t unique enough?

    The backstory:  Sheila made her Facebook status update a query asking everyone to say what their favorite song was: “the sentimental grand-experience-marker, from an earlier time in (your) life, when emotional and bohemian Romance were everything.”

    Sheila chose Laura Nyro’s Timer. For whatever reason, I read the question as being about a song that was your earliest favorite song, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have made the same choice as I did.

    I chose a song from 1970 called Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes.) Because I remember that song corresponding to one of my earliest crushes, like in second grade in Massachusetts. His name was Joey Frontiera.

    To me, elementary school was unbelievably romantic.

    Imagine choosing Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) for a favorite romantic song in response to a Facebook query by a sophisticated media friend in New York?

    Wait, does she know that Sugar, Sugar by the Archies is my idea of a perfect pop song?  What a coincidence, given my lifelong vice!

    In any event, when my friend responded to all of the comments – cool choices like Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row and Joni Mitchell’s River – she wrote that she couldn’t imagine my choice ever making such a list. You are unique! she wrote.

    So I looked into the band behind my unique song, Edison Lighthouse

    Below from the esteemed research center, Wikipedia:

    Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” was written by Tony Macaulay Barry Mason and  Sylvan Whittingham. Essentially they were a studio group with prolific session singer Tony Burrows providing the vocals. When the song became number one a group needed to be put together rapidly to feature on the popular TV show Top of the Pops.  Sylvan Whittingham found a group called Greenfields and brought them to the auditions a week before Top of the Pops. Once chosen and rehearsed non stop they appeared on the show as ‘Edison Lighthouse’ to mime to the fastest climbing no 1 hit record in history. Burrows sang the song on the program, which happened to be his third appearance on the same show with three different groups. It reached number 5 on US pop chart, number 3 in Canada, and number 1 on the UK singles chart for five weeks in January and February 1970.

    I was more intrigued when I checked out the lead singer, Tony Burrows, and found this interview entitled “The Greatest Singer Whose Name You Never Heard.” Burrows, it turned out, was the anti-Bob Dylan.  No huge talent coupled with peerless ambition and savvy careerism here:  Burrows was just the one singer in history to have four top 40 singles with four groups in a space of four months.

    His favorite of all his hit singles?  Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) of course.

    If you must know, my very favorite song of all time is Into the Mystic, by Van Morrison.

    But as much as I love that song, it doesn’t evoke the same “sentimental grand-experience-marker, from an earlier time in (your) life, when emotional and bohemian Romance were everything.”

    Not the way Love Grows (Where my Rosemary Goes) does.

    Am I also the only person who remembers the intensity of feeling you can have as a girl for another boy?

    Am I that unique? Is my freak flag flying that high?

    Can I say how much I love the people who totally get you and don’t think you’re unique? I can think of one right now.

    By the way, I came thisclose to buying a can of whipped cream tonight.

    C’est pas facile, cette vie.

    Pour a little sugar on it baby.

    And together we will float,

    into the mystic.


  • Day 78: Jennifer Hudson Inspires Us!

    Date: 2010.05.16 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Talking to Jennifer Hudson today at a seaside restaurant in Cannes was more than just another celebrity interview.  It was uplifting. Jennifer is only 28, she’s already won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Dreamgirls, had a baby last year and in two weeks will start the acting challenge of a lifetime:  playing Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie, in Winnie.

    She also lost a ton of weight for the new movie because the filmmakers asked her to, but she said she didn’t take it personally.  I told her about trying to give up candy and desserts for a year (78 days so far!) and she was all for it, except she said she could never do it.

    Jennifer lost all her weight on WeightWatchers but she’s now their spokeswoman and told me the company won’t let her say how much she lost.  I’m guessing about 40 pounds. She said she loves the WeightWatchers “points” system because she gets to eat enough and not feel hungry.

    We bonded over diet talk, what a girl cliche I know.  I told her I was glad she didn’t do the Beyonce and Gwyneth “master cleanse” that is so trendy and sort of scary, I think.

    Jennifer is one of the smart stars.  She talks to you as if you’re a friend; she’s funny and self-deprecating.  She’s TALL too;  at 5’9″ she was wearing four-inch stilettos that made her tower over me – and I’m 5’8″.  She says everyone is always amazed at how tall she is.  She looked like a supermodel today with her height and weight loss.

    So she’s not arrogant – but like a lot of truly talented people, you sense why she’s a star. From what I’ve seen over the years, it  takes more than just talent.  It takes ambition, a steely competitive drive and the desire to master things.  I’ve noticed big stars don’t ever seem to have much self-pity, even when bad things happen to them.  So many other people just give in.

    Jennifer’s mother, brother, and nephew were killed in a shooting in 2008 and she stayed out of the spotlight for three months afterwards. Her estranged brother-in-law was been charged with their murders.

    But then she had a baby – and now she’s learning a Xhosa tribal accent to play Winnie Mandela. She’s working with a Xhosa dialect coach.  She says she’s nervous, but you feel a calmness and determination radiating from her.   Love people who get right back up on the horse and don’t hesitate to start jumping again – first by having a baby, then by changing her body – and now portraying Winnie Mandela.

    Do we wish Jennifer Hudson the best?

    We do!


  • Day 70/71: A Sugar-Free Mother’s Day

    Date: 2010.05.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 4

    I’m resisting the temptation to write anything except a factual post today about my mother (on the far left, with her sisters) – and my memories stemming from our mutual love of sweet things. We had different tastes; she loved dark chocolate, like a European.  I’m a milk chocolate fan.

    The fact that she died in 2008 looms over writing about her but this is a no-sentiment zone today. I’m dispensing with the sugary stuff in my head as I have in my life.

    Also, a shout-out to Maria Shriver whose lovely eulogy to her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died almost a year after my mother, made my friends realize there was someone else in the world over the age of 2 who still called her mother “Mummy.”  It’s a New England thing.

    My mother, Louise, was no super-mother like Eunice Shriver but she was no slouch. She was a Vassar graduate, a reporter for newspapers and UPI and had her own radio show. But she had kids and eventually chose a more mother-friendly career in teaching.  She didn’t have the temperament for a major-league career and she knew it.  She liked her home, plants, cooking, reading and traveling.

    Also, she was tough and took no prisoners, which makes it hard to build a career, with all its requisite ring-kissing.  One day pretty late in life when she was mad at me about something, she growled like a prizefighter,  ”I’m not going to take this lying down.”

    My mother loved sweets but, unlike me, in moderation. She didn’t have an addictive personality.  She rarely had a glass of wine except when she threw her little dinner parties.

    We also had almost nothing in our medicine cabinet except aspirin. My mother was rarely sick so we never even had that over-the-counter stuff other people have, like Pepto-Bismol, or nighttime “cold relief” medicine.

    My mother’s only addiction was reading, which she did in an armchair in the living room. It was the last thing I got rid of in her house after she died; it had an imprint of her upper body on the left side of the chair.

    My grandmother also loved candy – in moderation.  However, it was clear early on I was not Ms. Moderate – at least with sweets.

    One of my earliest memories is of riding my bike to to buy only-in-New England candies like Necco Wafers, Sky Bars and Boyle’s Mallo Cups.

    My mother figured out early that I liked candy a bit too much.  Ours was not a household where you could put out a dish of Brach’s milk chocolate stars in the living room and hope there’d be any left by nightfall.

    So my mother would buy candy for the family – and hide the bags from me because she knew I’d gobble the contents right up.  I’d hunt for them to no avail.

    It’s a fact is that when your mother dies, that’s the end of eating her desserts.  I’ve made some of them from her recipes but it’s like when I blow out my own hair instead of going to a hairdresser.  It’s never quite as good.

    She made excellent lemon meringue pie with a creamy, not Jello-y, filling that I have never seen made by anyone but her.  I don’t even like regular lemon meringue pie.

    The cake I asked her for most often was a very simple vanilla cake with mocha icing.  We had a cake cookbook with pictures of novelty cakes – a hat cake, an igloo cake etc. – and I chose one every year for her to bake on my birthday.

    She made excellent chocolate chip cookies with toffee bits.  She made a blueberry pie with blueberries she and her friend Charlene picked at a nearby park.

    She also had the simplest fudge recipe in the galaxy – which was made by mixing white sugar, butter, unsweetened baking chocolate, milk and a dollop of vanilla in a saucepan on a stove.  Then she’d pour the mixture into a glass pie dish and it would harden.

    I preferred downing it while it was simmering on the stovetop. In fact I have a scar (fudge war wound) on my hand below my left thumb from where a scalding spoonful dripped down.

    She wasn’t fanatical about sweets but loved dark chocolate peppermint patties and nonpareils (at left.)

    She spent the last months of her life in a nursing home, the result of a bad fall that accelerated the personality-altering dementia I didn’t even realize she had.

    I’d buy her favorite dark chocolate molasses chips down the street from the nursing home in our hometown at Stowaway Sweets, a candy shop which counted Katharine Hepburn among its clients.

    Very strangely, my mother and I had a lot of fun at the nursing home – especially during mealtime. This makes no sense, because it’s supposed to be depressing to see your strong, independent mother rendered relatively helpless and drugged up.

    I think it was because she was so funny.  She never lost her killer sense of humor and never forgot who I was (I specifically asked her not to.)  Nor did she lose her lumberjack-style appetite, at least around me, which always cracked me up because she was so small compared to me.

    We’d joke together in the dining room and I’d marvel at how much food she’d put away – especially dessert. Three weeks before she died she’d always ask me to get her a second cup of the strawberry ice cream at dinner and finish every last trace of it.  I’d peer inside the bare cup after she was done and look at her incredulously.

    I rarely saw other nursing home residents with their relatives but when they were there, they looked grim and ignored me and my mother.  I understood, but it was almost as if we were going against the rules of life by joking and laughing, like if your parent or spouse is in a nursing home you have to be morose.

    As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that when it came to the end, my mother was different from me.  There was something salty she loved even more than candy.

    During my last visit with her, before I had to return to France, we talked about everything. She had a kind of dementia that is increasingly common; she was both very out of it, declining rapidly, and yet sometimes knew exactly what was going on.

    At one point, I told her that it was OK if she wanted to go. She didn’t have to stay on my account or anyone else’s if she didn’t want to. I knew it wasn’t any life for her.  I also knew that while she was very much her own person, she sometimes relied on me for what she called “sensible advice.”

    She was not someone who liked being trapped.  Once we were on a boring, rainy vacation with friends of hers in Canada.  My mother wasn’t having a good time so she cut the trip short by taking me and jumping on a plane to go back home. She didn’t think twice or worry about how it might look.

    So I told her that she could do whatever she wanted – but I let her know there was a helicopter waiting on the roof of the nursing home to take her away when she was ready.

    This is also factual. I could see the helicopter on the roof very clearly in my mind.  I told her the helicopter would be loaded with Cheez-Its, which in fact were her favorite food.  Even more than the sweet stuff.

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This American candy addict/journalist in France writes about quitting candy – and all desserts – for at least one year beginning Feb. 28, 2010. Follow my progress – or relapses – as I delete candy corn, moelleux au chocolat, peppermint patties, Carambars, tarte tatin, After Eights, crème brûlée, Nutella, tapioca pudding, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Haribo Polkas, M & Ms and more from my life. Learn about the evils of white sugar and its effects on mood and health from my interviews with experts and friends! Let the sugar fog lift!

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