Nurse Jane, My Gorgon Neighbor


Matsys' Ugly Duchess Painting

She had taken me to court, so there was a distinct lack of cordiality when we ran into each other on the elevator. On the day after our adjudication, she got on at the fourth floor and I decided to try a pleasant overture: “Hello, Jayne,” I ventured, but she averted her eyes.  All right, I thought, if that’s how you want it.   Her complaint had been Unnecessary noise.         The judge, a woman, had asked me: “Mr. Meyer, is there any reason you have to play your piano after eleven in the evening?” I felt like saying, Look, Judge, you can’t schedule musical ideas to arrive before eleven pm. I’m a composer, and if I can’t work my ideas out on the keyboard I could very well lose them by morning.Two hundred dollars fine,” ruled the judge. “And if you come before me again, I’ll double that.” Jayne had found an ally in female solidarity. Though I doubted that being female was doing Jayne much good. She was in her mid-forties, stocky, with dark, bushy brows. Her face was set in a determined, I’ll-get-through-this, expression. I was reminded of the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland. I never saw anyone accompany her in or out of our building on West 57th street, certainly not any men. Jayne worked as a nurse at Roosevelt Hospital, just up the street on Ninth Avenue. Maybe she was warmer with her patients than she appeared on the outside. It was as if she was encased in a sheath of suspicion and negativity. How bizarre then, to come home at two-thirty one snowy January morning and find her sitting alone and vulnerable, in the corner of our small lobby. She seemed distraught; her hair, usually in a neat, black bun, was hanging over her face, and her eye make-up was smeared. Strangest of all, her naked calves protruded from beneath a navy bathrobe…and she was barefoot. “Jayne,” I cried, involuntarily. “What are you doing down here?” Bill, the night elevator man, threw me a significant glance. “She’s been like that since ten-thirty.” Jayne didn’t seem to react to the fact that we were talking about her. She seemed totally disoriented. “Jayne,” I said, kneeling before her, “what’s the matter?” She stared at me without seeming to recognize me. I couldn’t help thinking of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, floating in the stream. I held her blank but intense eyes for a few seconds, and then she said: “If you come upstairs, you can hear them.” “Who, Jayne?” “The rats.” Jayne’s eyes went funny with fear. “They’re in the walls.” I had a shivery moment. Rats in the walls. It was like something out of Poe. “How do you know, Jayne?” “I can hear them. They’re scratching.” Suddenly she stood up. “I’ll show you.” she said, reaching for my hand. “Come upstairs, you can hear them.” This was the first time she had touched me; I had the instinct to recoil, but at the same time a wave of empathy washed over me and, notwithstanding our courtroom hostility, I found myself feeling sorry for this suddenly helpless woman who had been victimized by…what? A chemical imbalance? Paranoia? An epileptic seizure? We stepped inside the elevator, Bill closed the door, drew the gate and we rose to the fourth floor. Her apartment opened directly onto the living room, just like mine. Boom, and you were inside. No foyer, no hallway, you were simply there. There was a standing lamp, two table lamps plus an overhead fixture, and Jayne had every light blazing. Bill stood respectfully outside the open apartment door as Jayne led me to the sofa and pointed to the wall above it. “Hear them?” she asked me. “Can you hear them? They’re in there.” I stayed motionless for a long moment, not daring to breathe. I couldn’t hear anything. I turned to Jayne. “Are they anywhere else? Maybe the kitchen?” “No, the bathroom, I heard them in the bathroom.” I let her lead me into the bathroom and stood by the tub. She pulled the shower curtain aside and gestured towards the pink tiles. “Keep still,” she said, “you’ll hear them.” Again there was nothing. “Jayne, I’m sorry –I don’t hear them.” Her eyes rolled wildly about the bathroom. “Scratch scratch, scratch scratch, they’re in there!” It was then I decided her condition was beyond any aid I could give. She needed professional help. I heard Bill’s voice come in from the hall. ”I have a call, I’m going down.” “Just a minute—“ I yelled. I turned to Jayne. “Where are your shoes?” She frowned. “What?” “Put on some shoes, Jayne, we’ll go and get help.” Her eyes fixed on me with a light of hope and then, suddenly obedient, she left the bathroom and disappeared into another room. I realized she’d been waiting for an authoritative voice to tell her what to do. It was ironic, given our history, that the voice should be mine. Jayne returned, wearing her bedroom slippers. She looked at me expectantly. “You have your keys?” I asked her. She nodded. “Okay then, let’s go.” I led her into the hall, where Bill had been waiting with the elevator door open. “I’ve got a call,” he repeated. “Two seconds,” I told him. “Lock up, Jayne.” Jayne turned the key in the top lock, the bottom lock, and we joined Bill. He gave me a quick, quizzical look as the car descended, but I couldn’t have answered his unspoken question. I had no idea what I was going to do with Jayne. As we reached the lobby, it hit me. I needed to get her to a doctor, get her some kind of sedation. Maybe she would need serious therapy eventually, but for tonight she had to conquer her irrational panic. I guided her through the abbreviated vestibule and stopped at the door. “Wait here,” I told her. I stepped out onto chilly fifty-seventh street. Three-oh-five in the morning, a lone taxi cruising slowly towards me on the wide, wet street, with its yellow light. I waved him to the curb and ran to the window on the driver’s side:     “I have a lady who needs to get to Roosevelt Hospital.” I said. “You know where the Emergency entrance is?” He nodded, and I ran back to the vestibule door to fetch Jayne. “Okay, Jayne,” I said, “we’re gonna get you some help.” It was slow going, Jayne would not be hurried. Twenty-five feet from the building to the street, it took an eternity. Shuffle, shuffle, one slipper-clad foot after the other, in the slush. I got in first, it seemed easier, but when Jayne was too disoriented to pull the door shut, I had to hop out and do it for her. “Are we going to the exterminator?” she asked me. “We’re going to get you some help.” Jayne didn’t appear to recognize the emergency room of the hospital in which she spent her work week. There was the usual complement of damaged New Yorkers slumped in their plastic chairs, awaiting treatment for knife wounds, drug overdoses, seizures. The woman behind the window asked us to have a seat and told us someone would be with us shortly. “This woman is one of your employees,” I told her. “Just have a seat.” I sat with Jayne for ninety minutes. Why am I doing this? I asked myself. This is a woman who took you to court and would’ve been glad to see you pay a heavy fine. She’d love to see you evicted, for God’s sake. You don’t owe her anything. Why are you sitting with her at four in the morning? Finally an intern in green scrubs called us from the doorway. I took Jayne’s arm and walked her over to where he stood. “This is Miss Harlan,” I said to him. “She’s experiencing a little disorientation.” I went back to the window to clear up the question of Jayne’s insurance. “It’s all right,” said the lady behind the glass. “I found her in our data-base. She’s covered.” She glanced at Jayne’s file. “What’s her problem?” Well, how to define this?    “She’s hallucinating.” “Are you a relative?” “No,” I said, “we live in the same building, that’s all. I don’t really know her.” “Really.” She looked at me for a moment. “She’s lucky to have a friend like you.” I smiled, thinking, You should have seen us in court.









Bistro Owner’s Death prompts Reminiscence


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He died last Thursday, Robert Treboux, the owner of a classic NY restaurant: It’s called Le Veau d’Or, the Golden Calf -one of Manhattan’s first Bistro’s. It was not a Destination Dining spot, you went there for dependably excellent cooking, when you didn’t need to dress up or be part of a Trendy crowd. Steve Gordon and I went in there one night, and sat down beside a tiny lady in her eighties at the adjoining table.  “Hi,” I said to her, being friendly, “we’re your in-flight companions for this meal.”   “Oh, isn’t this just the most wonderful place?” she replied. “I always have such good food here.” “What did you have tonight?” I inquired. “Let’s see,” she said, “I had the veal ragout, with those wonderful little carrot batons -no, wait -it seems to me maybe I had the sole meuniere with the garlic mashed potatoes.    I was thinking of the kidneys in red wine, but you know, organ meats aren’t good for you -too much cholesterol.” She paused a moment, considering. “Sometimes I have the bass en croute, but I don’t think I had it tonight, because I’m in the mood for a red wine…” The waiter approached: “Alors, Madame, “he said to her, “are you ready to order?”

red wine glass.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author’s Night in East Hampton


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Big tent -fancy h’ors d’oeuvres from name caterers. Quite a few impressive names: Robert Caro, David Baldacci, Dava Sobel -each had a new book to plug; I had a funny incident with Dan Rattiner, publisher of Dan’s Paper, a Hampton’s fixture for forty years: his book reviewer, Joan Baum, had given me a great pre-publication quote -which was printed on the back of my new thriller, Operation Ruby Slipper -so to say Thanks I showed him my only copy of the novel, which he grabbed and tried to appropriate, under the impression I was giving it to him. I had to yank it back, an embarrassing moment for both of us. I personally knew a couple of the authors -Robt. Klein, with whom I’d worked at the Improvisation, and Dick Cavett, who had featured Judy Garland on his show when I was with her. So we had a brief reminiscence, and my wife Suzanne got this photo. 

John Meyer and Dick Cavett

Oscar Petersen Dries Audrey’s Tears

This is a story Audrey Morris delivered as we were recording The Saturn Session in West Palm Beach. I’d corralled Charlie Cochran, Patti Wicks, William Roy and Audrey into a recording studio for an afternoon of song and anecdote and this is what Audrey told us -as I remember it. She said early in her career, she was entertaining in a  Chicago club where the piano was in a sunken pit, below a circular bar. Now Audrey is a superb singer/pianist who deserves anyone’s full attention, but at this club the crowd was ignoring her intimate stylings and simply chattering away above her. Audrey did a full forty-minute set and became increasingly frustrated and depressed as she offered these gems to an unheeding crowd: Rodgers and Hart, Jimmy Van Heusen, Cole Porter, her whole classy repertoire fell on deaf ears. And then, as she took a break, who should enter the room but Oscar Petersen, the great Canadian jazz pianist.

To many aficionados Petersen comes next in the pantheon after Art Tatum.   He was a musician of impeccable taste and invention -and a huge star in the world of jazz piano. Oh, Oscar, wailed Audrey, here I am singing my guts out and nobody hears a note; what am I doing wrong? Petersen smiled in sympathy. It’s not you, Audrey, he assured her, they’re simply not in the mood to listen now, and I’ll prove it to you -watch this: And he climbed into the pit, sat down at the keyboard and reeled off the most brilliant rendition of The Man I Love, with all his dazzle, taste and elegant brio.

And not one of the crowd paid the slightest attention. 

There are half-a-dozen more stories like this on the CD, The Saturn Session –along with some of the tastiest performing and unusual repertoire. Patti and Audrey come from a jazz background, Charlie and Billy come from the Broadway/Hollywood arena. Bobbie Horowitz and I come from cabaret.     You may sample all of us at

Various Artists | The Saturn Session


The Flickers: A Movie-Themed Bed & Breakfast


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English: John Lennon Deutsch: John Lennon

English: John Lennon Deutsch: John Lennon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Her name was Maddie, and she ran a Bed and Breakfast in Hyde Park that had classic Hollywood films as it’s theme -it was called Flickers. Maddie was a cheerful redhead -Irish, like a lesser Maureen O’Hara with a touch of Tessie O’Shea, and she had placed dozens of posters on the walls; Casablanca, of course, and Gone with the Wind, and assorted shots from other 40’s films.  I remember being surprised to see Ray Milland pictured in a still from The Uninvited. The accomodation was no better than usual, but what the hell, we were there, the price was right, and Maddie was glad to receive visitors who could talk the celebrity-sprinkled language she favored. “So you knew Judy Garland, did you? Well, did I tell you about my experience with John Lennon?” she inquired one night after we came home from dinner. I had the feeling she’d waited up for us specially, and had saved this story for our delectation. “No, Maddie,” I said, obligingly, “did you actually meet him?” “Well, not exactly,” she said (Anh hanh, I sighed mentally, I thought perhaps not). John Lennon“But just listen: my friend Seely and I went down to the Stratford, in Philadelphia, you know? Because the Beatles had appeared in town the night before, and next morning we ran down to their hotel before they checked out, we thought maybe we could cadge an autograph or somethin’, and of course there was about a hundred policemen protecting them -all around the hotel, oh, and wasn’t it packed with teenagers, all squealin’ their guts out doncha know -well, what none of us knew was that the boys had snuck out through the kitchen entrance hours before and wasn’t no way anyone was gettin’ an autograph or anythin’ else.” “Wow,” I said, just to keep her going, though I doubt anything could have stopped her. “So I says to my friend, ‘Seely,’ I says, ‘wait here, I’m goin’ round the back’ and I snuck in the kitchen entrance and grabbed an elevator, and took it up to the tenth floor and there was the maid, vacuuming up the suite, they were just beginnin’ to clean it, and I march in with great authority and I says to her, ‘This where John Lennon stayed?’ and she says Yes, and so, –cool as you please, I march over to the rumpled bed, -she hadn’t made it up yet- and there on the night table, in an ash tray, is a cigarette, like all squashed out. So quick as a flash I open my purse and scoop in the butt. I take a quick look around to see if maybe John’s forgotten anythin’ -like possibly a bedroom slipper- but no, there wasn’t nothin’; so I scurry out and when I get downstairs, Seely’s amazed, simply amazed. I showed it to her. And when I got back, I put it in a china bowl and I have it upstairs, now, if you’d like to see it.” “Well, Maddie,” I said, “thanks for the offer, but…what are you gonna do with it? I doubt you could sell it, a used cigarette butt.” Maddie looked at me as though I’d gone insane. “Don’t you see???” she hissed at me. “How valuable it’s gonna be? That little butt? Because after a few more years, when science has made the advance, I’ll be able to clone him. John Lennon. Because I’ve got his DNA -on that cigarette butt.”

Worth the entire trip.

Aboard Cunard’s QM2 and Holland-America’s Eurodam

Here I am boarding the QM2 to Southampton-a grin of anticipation on my face. Our first cruise together, my wife Suzanne and me, and I must say, We started at the top. Seven days aboard a floating luxury hotel; Suzanne, just in the process of switching from PC to MAC, was thrilled to find MAC classes among the activities. She even attracted an admirer who thought he might get lucky -imagine his displeasure when I was introduced. He masked it beautifully. CABIN: spacious enough that we weren’t cramped -and with a balcony that allowed a view of the ocean. FOOD: I’d call it BPlus -we paid a premium for Asian dining and it was the best meal we had onboard. All in all, a very well-run ship, with lovely personnel.  THE EURODAM                                                                                                   was also a lovely ship -top of the Holland-America line. Took us to the Baltic, with stops at Copenhagen, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and Berlin (actually Waarnemunde). I’ve posted elsewhere about these ports, but in describing the HA experience, it suffers by comparison to the Cunard ship. CABIN: was roughly equivalent. But…..FOOD: was erratic, though we stayed free of any premium options. Breakfast buffet was our favorite, with a large, boiling cauldron for poached eggs and an omlet station and a large array of cereals, waffles, pancakes etc. Service however, by a predominantly Indonesian crew was so smilingly obsequious and eager to practice their English, that it soon palled. One charming touch: our cabin steward fashioned little towel animals and left them on the bedspread. Here’s one:

Unfortunately, I spent all my energy in our first port, Tallinn, and was unable to attack the other stops with the same enthusiasm -a pity, as both Petersburg and Stockholm could’ve used more time.  TO BE CONTINUED


Woody Allen’s Latest: IMO

In any Allen film there are nuggets of humor -and sometimes poignancy- that are so knockout they reward one’s sitting through some of the misfires and repetitions of which he’s so often accused. To Rome With Love, the latest, has two such narrative threads: the first shows us a (Roman) mortician with an incredible operatic tenor; trouble is, he can only sing in the shower. This idiosyncrasy leads Woody -as a one-time producer of classical concerts- to stage an entire La Scala-sized production of Pagliacci, with the tenor performing under a shower-head in the midst of the full cast. That Woody takes this incredible comic conceit as far as he does is a mark of his brilliance. He’s also so right-on about human relations: he has Ellen Page, as a narcissistic self-promoter who’s learned how to push the right intellectual buttons (Camus, Levi-Strauss) to impress guys into giving her what she wants. She’s coyly manipulated her best girl-friend’s fiance (Jesse Eisenberg) into desiring her. But in their apartment, alone w/Jesse, when he tries to come on, she demurs: oh, I couldn’t, how could I, she’s my best friend…and certainly not in her own apartment, no never, NEVER here in her own apartment…How about we go downstairs to my car? he suggests. All right, she says, you can fuck me in the car. And her reading is so matter-of-fact, so accepting of the new parameters, that it’s perfect. Yay Woody, keep ’em coming.

Celeste Holm -An Encounter


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Cropped screenshot of Celeste Holm from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Celeste Holm from the trailer for the film Gentleman’s Agreement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Celeste Holm had a floor-through apartment on Central Park West…with a grand piano. I was asked to play for her at a party and went there to rehearse the day before. She was reticent, it seemed to me, displaying no star persona. Well, I thought, she’s ninety-two. But no, I soon came to feel it was because her husband, Frank, was in the room, and she felt she had to defer to him. He was dictating the routining, the tempi, obviously in charge here…and she was simply marking the numbers, displaying little energy or verve. I’M JUST A GIRL WHO CAIN’T SAY NO/   I CAN’T BE PRISSY OR QUAINT –it was a number that required energy and personality, the number she’d introduced in Oklahoma sixty years ago, and here was this pale, pallid rendition coming out of her. Frank’s cell-phone rang, and he walked out of the room to take the call. Getting to Know Youlay open before me on the piano. “Shall we have a go at this?” I asked her. She was sitting listlessly beside me on the piano bench. “All right,” she replied. I began the vamp into the verse:                                                    IT’S A VERY ANCIENT SAYING/BUT A TRUE AND HONEST THOUGHT– all at once there was life, vivacity, intelligence behind the song –THAT IF YOU BECOME A TEACHER– whoa, what a difference. With Frank out of the room, she seemed to flower and become the radiant personality we all knew. And a few nights later, at a packed house-party, she brought the room to it’s feet. For me, a bittersweet memory. So long, Celeste.

Celeste Hom taken at 60th Academy Awards 4/11/88

Celeste Hom taken at 60th Academy Awards 4/11/88 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Stockholm II

Towel Stingray

On the river

Can’t say enough about this charming town, STOCKHOLM – the place has a buoyancy of spirit that seems to crest on the waterway that serves as an avenue to the various quartiers. You hop on and hop off the little ferries. One ferry line has headphones at your seat jacked into a central system that will deliver info in any of six languages – just choose your channel! A small-town ambience that mixes with a cosmopolitan awareness. Waiting to board this ferry at one of the stops, a young man offered me his tickets -“I can’t use them,” he said. “If you want them, they’re yours.” A generosity of spirit that seems endemic to the people. The office buildings have turrets on them, and they’re pink! A touch of Fairyland!

Stockholm ShipAnd here’s my shot of the fabulous VASA, the warship that’s been salvaged, restored and hung from the ceiling in a three-story museum. It sank in 1628 -was dredged up in 1960.  Wow. (that little construction at the top of the page is a stingray made from a towel; the cabin stewards put one of these on the bed every night.)