May 24, 2023

Spring cleaning?? "Don't be Possessed by Your Possessions"

A wise octogenarian once said, "Don't be possessed by your possessions." Actually she said it last weekend, when she invited me to her new "stuff shop," a spot she had rented for a month to try to make a dent in the dispersal of her long-collected ephemera. She had lived in a beautiful house with lots of space, crannies and nooks, window seats, closets and bookcases. Plenty of room for accumulating stuff, creating new collections and storing old ones. There was always room for more.

"When I moved from my big house to smaller quarters, I put my extra things in boxes for storage," said Lisl Steiner, a native Viennese who photographed her way around the world as a freelance photojournalist for LifeTimeNewsweek and The New York Times. Her portfolio includes iconic black-and-white images of Pat and Richard Nixon, Fidel Castro, Pablo Casals, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and other jazz maestros of the '60s. Along with having an eye for capturing historic moments, Lisl was equally discerning about collecting, which is another way of saying that she has good stuff.

In her newly opened curio shop, there were stacks, crates, tables and shelves of paintings, pottery, porcelain, books, drawings, crystal, knickknacks and bibelots. In one corner was a custom-made wardrobe by an Austrian designer, crinkled espadrilles and well-worn Guccis. Stacked in another corner were boxes of china sets that could feed a cotillion. Strewn to the right was a plethora of perfect cashmere sweaters from Scotland. (Lisl was proud that not one moth had touched them while they were in storage.) There were crystal flower vases and pottery cups, dolls from Europe and artisanal objects from Mexico. Once-cool T-shirts were emblazoned with political messages like "Peace, Love, Flower Power," "No Nukes," and "World Citizen/Citoyen du Monde/Mond Civitano."

"After moving, I thought I'd be putting my things away for six months, and here I am, 16 years later at $400 a month and $60,000 in storage fees," said my friend as she sat in an old chair plunked amidst her stuff, wearing a pair of Clarke's desert boots that have been to Africa five times. "In the old days, people put their stuff in the attic. Now they use storage places."

"One of the favorite times of my life was when I was in my mid-20s," Lisl continued as she recalled a simpler period. "I lived in New York City during the beatnik era and had an apartment behind Washington Square in the West Village, right off of Fifth Avenue. It was a footman's apartment, like where one would imagine Henry James's footman to live."

"I had nothing: just cameras and books," she continued, almost misty-eyed (although perhaps it was from all the dust). "I had a bathtub with eagle-claw feet and a garden in the back. I had salons and would cook dinner in the fireplace for friends. The apartment cost me 90 bucks a month and I lived there for nine years. It was fantastic. It was a time of unburden. I had few things and was free.""And now I have all this," Lisl said as jetted from memory to present day. "There comes a point where possessions possess you and they're like an anchor around your neck. You forget what you've got. 

       The message I want to pass along is 'Don't be possessed by your possessions.'"

"I feel only disgust in seeing all of this," Steiner admitted as she continued sorting. "I could create 10 art exhibits from all of my collections. At 85, I have so many projects going on, it's revolting. I feel a bit like Virginia Wolfe, when she put on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones and walked in the River Ouse."

"There's an old Austrian phrase: 'The last shirt does not have any pockets,' which means you can't take it with you," she said.

Listen to Lisl: Do not put your things in storage. "It's the scourge of modern society." As you change your closets from winter to spring to summer, take a look at what you love and what you can live without. Haven't worn it in ages? Be scrupulous and pare down. Bequeath things you're iffy about to someone you love or get redemption from the Salvation Army. Make room. Create space. Free yourself from the burden of stuff.

"And one more thing," Lisl continued. (Note to readers: Always indulge an octogenarian.) "I hate giving advice, but since you asked ... tell anyone over 75 to use wheelchairs in airports. It makes it a lot easier to get around. Admit to yourself that you are of age. And if you want to be an elegant elder, use a walking stick."

"Then again," she added, "I don't want to tell people what to do. I only want to make suggestions."

April 9, 2023

A creepy-ass way to ruin Easter: HAVING A STROKE!


What a creepy-ass way to ruin Easter. Six years ago today I had a stroke. Can you believe I would do that on THIS day??!? 

Everlasting gratitude to my mother-- who gave me life, not once, but twice-- by grabbing the wheel on I-95 & crashing us into a guardrail. And to my good Samaritans, Joe Manno & Janie Parks, for stopping to help us.

Stay tuned for my book, "MY STROKE IN THE FAST LANE: A Journey to Recovery." (And what a journey it has been.)

April 3, 2023

American Heart Association Never Gives Up!!

I was honored beyond to be the featured speaker at the "Go RED for Women" event.  Thank ALL of you who support this awesome organization, who has spent over $5 Billion to support groundbreaking cardiovascular research and educational funding.

Without any of this, I would, literally, not be here celebrating the American Heart Association and all that they do.


March 21, 2023

Book Marks for "MY STROKE IN THE FAST LANE"!!!

I've never been more excited in my life than I am today making bookmarks for book events! I'll have them handy, too, for my appearance as a featured speaker at the upcoming American Heart Association fundraiser, "Go Red For Women" fundraiser on Thursday, March 30, 5:30-7:30pm, at Surf Club on The Sound (280 Davenport Ave, New Rochelle, NY 10805).

Side 1:

Side 2:

Side 1 + Side 2 = Some hotshot bookmark for "My Stroke in the Fast Lane."

Stay tuned!!


March 15, 2023

March 2020: Remember When the World Shut Down?

 Originally appeared in MEDIUM, Illumination

Remember When the World Shut Down?

Coronavirus Loomed

Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

It’s impossible not to think back to March 2020, when we were at the beginning of an international pandemic. The world was scared. Unknowing.

On my daily walk, I passed an empty hotel. Red tulips were in bloom at the entrance. I wanted to pick them but feared they’d bring COVID into my house.

Everyone was Zooming. Toilet paper was a commodity. In fact, the shelves of all paper goods were bare. And remember the video circulating on how to wipe off every surface of your groceries? And to leave packages outside for 24-hours before bringing them inside?

An article I wrote now seems so far away. Did this really happen?

CORONAVIRUS NEWS: Fashion Houses in Brooklyn Pivot to Make Isolation Gowns During COVID-19 Pandemic

Libby Mattern, Founder of Course of Trade / Photo by the Author

When Covid-19 hit, one thing was blatantly clear: the stockpile of PPE (personal protective equipment) was desperately low. Libby Mattern, production director at Malia Mills (swimwear and ready-to-wear designer and domestic manufacturer) is also founder of Course of Trade, a registered 501c3 dedicated to providing industrial sewing training to New Yorkers in need — no previous sewing experience necessary.

As the pandemic continued to spread, it was obvious that the time was right to revive the declining garment industry in NYC. The racks of Malia Mills swimsuits and clothing took a back seat so that Course of Trade could shift the company’s focus.

“Coronavirus is an important time for small businesses, large businesses, and the government to band together to help in whatever way we can,” Mattern said.

“This is what makes NYC manufacturing, and people behind sewing machines, so incredible — we can nimbly move to address the supply chain issues and bring goods to market rapidly.”

The isolation gowns are level one with very specific specifications and fabric secured by the Mayor’s office. Course of Trade is working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) who works directly with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to distribute the gowns to public hospitals across the five boroughs.

Along with Course of Trade, Mattern is managing five other garment factories in South Brooklyn on a contract that expires on July 1. The city is providing the materials and paying the factories for their work.

Together, Course of Trade and its cohorts are producing over 65,000 isolation gowns every week for front-line hospital workers in NYC.

Mayor DeBlasio and the Course of Trade team / Photo by Libby Mattern

Bill DeBlasio, Mayor of NYC, recently visited Course of Trade, where the sewing machines have been socially-distanced, and reinvigorated workers are hard at work, doing their part, to help protect those who protect others.

“Such a short while ago, you were a swimwear factory, right here on this floor, making swimsuits for the summer season,” the Mayor said. “Now you are a war-time factory making isolation gowns to protect health care workers.”

Photo by Libby Mattern

“None of us would’ve imagined that trying to find isolation gowns would be nearly impossible for our front-line workers,” the Mayor continued. “This is an amazing industry — the heart and soul of New York City.”

“We’re moving heaven and earth to get this done,” Mattern said.

The memory of the March 2020 panic is still so fresh.

Blog Archive