“Gleefully wacky and irreverent.”

–The New York Times

“Line by line, Mr. Rudnick may be the funniest writer for the stage in the United States today.”

–The New York Times

“Deeply funny musings and adventures elevate Paul Rudnick to the highest level of American comedy writing.”

–Steve Martin

“One of the funniest quip-meisters on the planet.”

–The New York Times

“Paul Rudnick is a champion of truth (and love and great wicked humor) whom we ignore at our peril.”

–David Sedaris

“Quips fall with the regularity of the autumn leaves.”

–Associated Press

Month: January 2014

January 19, 2014



While I know that it’s very hard to be an actress over forty, or even an actress under forty, I think that we should all take a moment to salute the most fragile species of all: the American male action hero.

I’m talking about the guys like Tom Cruise, Matt Damon and George Clooney. If you watch any entertainment TV news shows, you know that in real life these guys are rich and funny and pampered, but in their action flicks, they must convince us that they’re highly-trained killing machines, who are capable of slaughtering battalions of men in ski masks, disarming nuclear devices, running very fast down corridors, driving very fast in cars they’ve just hot-wired, and sometimes wearing a tuxedo and saving the world, usually within a 24-hour time frame. Plus, they have to do all of these things while delivering lines like “Good to go”, “Roger that” and “I’ve downloaded the coordinates for the possible target perimeter”, without sounding silly.

The new action hero in town is Chris Pine, who’s playing the title role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and maybe his greatest acheivment lies in not embarassing himself while appearing in a movie called Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The movie is the latest reboot in the Jack Ryan series, which is based on the many bestselling Tom Clancy thrillers, so the target audience isn’t pimply teenage boys, but paunchy white guys on airplanes.

Chris does just fine. He’s handsome, with bright blue eyes, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, especially when he’s drowning a bad guy in his hotel suite bathroom. Keira Knightly plays Chris’s girlfriend, and while she’s not all that persuasive as either an American or a doctor, she’s goofy, which helps.The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the main villain, who’s some kind of soulless Soviet zillionaire. Kenneth looks like the jolly logo for a fast-food chain called Burger Billy’s or Uncle Jack’s Steak-O-Rama, and I think that he’s had his lips either surgically removed or sanded off. After he’s finally vanquished, he also gives himself a nice long Hollywood close-up.

I didn’t really follow the plot of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit too closely, but this wasn’t important. The good guys kept racing around, trying to figure out where the terrorists would strike, and everybody acted surprised when the terrorists chose downtown Manhattan. Watching this movie was like spending a Sunday afternoon with my Dad, and listening to him compare the different James Bonds.Which is not a bad way to spend a January Sunday, if you ask me.

January 18, 2014

Bad Language


This is an adorable video of a cat and a squirrel clearly falling in love. But what really interests me is a comment from Teresa Jimison, who says, “Someone should edit the sound out of this the lady that took the video is annoying and she cusses.” In a later post, Teresa removes the audio and announces that the video is now “family friendly.”

At my Uncle Rudy’s funeral, my indomitable Aunt Lil put her arm around me and said, “Paul, your Uncle Rudy loved you very much. He didn’t understand why you needed to use that language, in your work, but he loved you anyway.” When Lil offered this advice, we were standing maybe two feet away from the coffin.

In a few of the prissier online reviews of my YA novel, Gorgeous, readers have complained of “too many F-bombs!”

When folks worry about bad language in books, plays, TV shows or movies, I always wonder: what world do these people live in? Have they ever met a teenager, or a child, or an adult?

I will confess that sometimes I’m secretly tickled, by the fact that a simple curse word still has the power to shock.

My Mom and I finally stood on equal footing, once she was able to swear at me. I was in my early twenties when she finally broke down and called me “a real shithead.” She giggled, and from then on, she felt free to call me all sorts of things. This was liberating for both of us.

Many women draw the line at the “c word”, although I’ve never met a woman who, under stress, and usually when she’s truly angry at another woman, doesn’t use that word. My agent Helen Merrill was a German woman with a grand manner. When there was someone she didn’t care for, she would say, “That woman is what I call ‘the c word.’ You know, a cunt.”

I truly dislike euphemisms, such as “frigging.” They sound coy, and I’d rather have the author use “Smidgekins!” or “Fudge!”

In a movie, according to the MPAA ratings board, the characters are allowed any number of shits, hells and damns, and the film can still get a PG13 rating. Movies are allowed one fuck, and if there are any more, the film gets rated R. Screenwriters learn to choose their fuck carefully.

Profanity, unlike sports cars, gourmet cuisine or designer clothing, is available to everyone. It’s one of the few truly democratic pleasures.

I once had a meeting with Simon Doonan, the supremely witty author of such books as Beautiful People and Asylum; he also writes a column for Slate. Simon is every bit as droll and delightful in person. He’s also the Creative Ambassador at Large for Barneys, and we were discussing the upcoming holiday window displays.

There was construction going on in the store, and a rear, employees-only metal door had been temporarily nailed shut. A construction worker, unaware of this fact, was pounding on the door and cursing a blue streak: “Open this fucking door you fucking cunthead shitface motherfucking…”

Simon, who’s English, remained serene and turned slightly towards the door and said, in a tone combining the best of Miss Jean Brodie, Lady Bracknell and Martha Stewart, “Language!”

January 17, 2014



The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, and Oprah Winfrey didn’t receive a nod for her role in The Butler. This is a shame, because I thought that Oprah was terrific in the movie; she was funny and sexy and relaxed, and it looked like she was having a good time.
In honor of Ms. Winfrey, here’s the story of my one and only appearance on her late, great afternoon TV show.

My being asked to appear on Oprah didn’t make that much sense, but of course I was thrilled to be there. I was part of a panel on an episode entitled It’s Okay To Like High Culture.

Before I go any further, I should mention that the year was 1995. Oprah was taping two shows back-to-back. As I was sitting in the hair-and-make-up room, the verdict in the O.J. Simpson case was announced, on a nearby TV. Because of scheduling constraints, Oprah couldn’t discuss the verdict on the air. But there was a buzz, because this was one of the most racially divisive trials ever, and Oprah remains the most well-known and successful African-American woman in US history.

The first segment of the show had been pre-taped. It was a video of, if I remember correctly, Oprah taking a group of Chicago firefighters on a tour of a local art museum, to help them understand and appreciate all sorts of paintings and sculpture.

Then my segment began. When Oprah made her entrance, the audience went berserk. None of this was in any way phony or encouraged by the show’s staff. The love for Oprah was heartfelt, overpowering and impressive. For a moment, I realized that Oprah was in a very rare and at times difficult position: she had to both acknowledge this adoration and cut through it, so people would listen to her.

I know that at times, Oprah can seem regal, but that day she was warm and generous and charming. The panel consisted of the irresistible playwright Wendy Wasserstein; a woman who was then the style editor of Essence magazine; me and maybe a few other people – this was a while ago. Oprah knew all our names and resumes, and she was interested and encouraging. I’d already been a major Oprah fan, and now, well, I was in awe.

The panel discussed theater and dance and other cultural matters. The show’s final segment consisted of two amazing teenage Chinese contortionists, maybe from Cirque du Soleil, who could turn themselves into tables and boxes and God knows what else.

I’m still not sure what the contortionists had to do with high culture, but they were fun to watch. It would be easy to mock the show, but Oprah, as always, was coaxing her extremely mainstream audience along. Oprah was, and remains, invaluable, in educating and sometimes transforming America. I remember her having Klan members on her show, and she devoted many programs to gay lives, the AIDS crisis, transgendered people, her book club and, of course, every possible issue affecting women. She’s also used her wealth to do so much good, from opening her school in South Africa to helping the victims of Katrina and other natural disasters. Plus, she was very funny in her guest shot on 30 Rock, when Tina Fey over-shared with her on a plane.

I didn’t get to talk to Oprah about the O.J. verdict, but I saw that she was conferring with her staff, about planning an upcoming episode.

I wasn’t paid to be on the show, but I was flown to Chicago and I received an Oprah mug, which my Mom treasured, and used to hold pens and pencils.

The Butler is both a very entertaining movie and a fascinating cultural artifact. Oprah’s presence reverberates, in a story about racial discrimination and racial progress. Oprah is a gifted actress, and the film somehow includes an awareness of her stature, and her role in American history. And while I’m sure that Oprah wouldn’t turn down an Oscar nomination, she doesn’t really need one. She’s Oprah.

January 16, 2014

Sugar Is The One True God and You Know I’m Right


People are either fascinated or apalled by my eating habits. The New York Times once interviewed me about them and the writer, David Colman, and I enjoyed an especially satisfying trip to the Hershey store in midtown, which is pretty much my church. If you’d like to read this piece, there’s a link to it in the Interviews section of this blog.

To summarize: I enjoy the diet of an independantly wealthy four-year-old orphan. I eat only want I want, which tends towards milk chocolate, certain breakfast cereals, baked goods and water. I’ve also written about this in my essay collection, I Shudder.

After the Times piece was published, the Hershey people sent me a delerious collection of wonderful treats, including a Hershey’s Kiss as big as my head, which was filled with a trove of regular-sized Kisses. It was a Hershey’s Kiss which gave birth. It was a hive.

I also received a Hershey bar so large that it arrived in its own gleaming silver tote bag, packed with dry ice. This Hershey bar knew how to travel.

hershey park 027

At the M&Ms store, across the street from the Hershey flagship, you can get M&Ms in custom colors, including khaki, magenta and silver. There used to be a mystical machine in the store, where if you stood on a circle embedded in the floor and held onto a lever, the machine would predict your personal M&M color. Can your therapist do that?
At another M&M store, which I think was in Vegas, you could buy a round dining room table and matching chairs, all shaped like M&Ms.

I feel towards the Hershey corporation the way some people feel about Walt Disney: if there’s a dark side to the empire, I don’t want to know about it.

Strangers who find out about my diet will sometimes approach me and in urgent whispers, confess similar habits. I encourage these people. I’m like a rehab counsellor who tells addicts, “You should really inject more heroin. It’s the best.”

I love that in marketing journals, candy products are referred to as “confections.” It’s a giddy, appealing word. Why would anyone want grains or beef or poultry, when they could have a confection?


While I try not to play favorites, I’m currently having a major Payday moment. Payday bars are clusters of salted peanuts cemented with something sweet and caramel-esque; I’m not sure precisely what this connective stuff is, but it tastes heavenly and makes the peanuts, and me, so happy.


The above photo is either a spaceship shaped like a Kiss, or a Kiss discovered on another planet, where it was rightfully worshipped.

Our family beagle, at an advanced age, died after leaping onto a table and devouring an outsize bar of unsweetened baker’s chocolate. While I know that chocolate is bad for most animals, I like to think that our dog died happy.

Of course, candy is an epic topic, and could never be covered in a single blog post. We’ll return to it.

January 15, 2014

Porn Stars of David


The other day I came across a list of the real names of several Jewish porn stars. They included:

Jenny Baxter – Jenny Wexler
Busty Belle – Tracey Prager
Barbara Dare – Stacey Mitnick
Tawny Pearl – Susan Pearlman

I also read an interview with the remarkably well-adjusted porn star James Deen, who was born Bryan Matthew Sevilla, and who said that, “In third grade at the Weizmann Day School we were talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up, so that we could do these personal book report projects. My response was that I wanted to do porn.” Deen went on to say that, “My parents are very good parents, and they are proud of their son for doing something he loves and for being successful at it.”

As a Jew, I’m always happy to see my people doing well. And here are some poltically reprehensible ideas for Jewish porn movies:

1. A Jewish man is waiting for his annual check-up. A beautiful, curvaceous nurse enters. She takes off her uniform and stands naked. The man says, “You’re very pretty, but I’m here to see the doctor.”

2. A Jewish man and a Jewish woman have wild, passionate, mind-bending sex, destroying the bedroom. As the man lies back, exhausted and ecstatic, the woman says, “That was terrible. So bland and vanilla and boring.” “That was terrible?” says the man. “So what’s your idea of really wild sex?” “Wait till we’re married,” says the woman.

3. A loving grandfather buys his grandson a prostitute as a bar mitzvah gift. The grandson says, “But I also get a new iPad, right?”

Last night I was at the movies, and I was sitting in front of two very nice, well-spoken, older Jewish women. So of course I eavesdropped. The first lady was worried about her granddaughter, who was attending a performing arts high school. “She sings and she dances and she acts,” the woman said, “and I wish she wouldn’t do any of them.”
The woman and her companion began discussing a movie they referred to as “The Wolf.” The first woman said, “So what did you think?” Her friend answered, “Fuck-shit, fuck-shit, fuck-shit. That’s what that movie was about.” “But Scorsese does that very well,” her friend said.

But mostly, of course, I really want to see James Deen’s third grade book report.

January 14, 2014

Gym Notes


I run very, very slowly, as a public service. So that when people pass me, including elderly women, obese people and children, they can tell themselves, “Maybe I’m slow, but I’m still faster than that guy.”

Straight men spend more time and effort coordinating their gym ensembles than anyone. I’ve seen guys with matching sneakers, shorts, layered tank tops, headbands, plastic watches and tote bags. Sometimes they look good, although when they’re wearing neon pink or orange I keep expecting to see a Dora the Explorer backpack.

If yoga is supposed to encourage balance and serenity, why do so many yoga fanatics, as well as yoga instructors, look so haggard, with sallow skin?

I admire those people who roll around on the floor, using foam cylinders to massage various parts of their bodies. They often appear to be enjoying intimate relationships with these foam cylinders. Sometimes they moan. I’d
like to see photos of these people with their foam cylinders, in the wedding announcements section of the newspaper.

My gym has a large, centrally located cafe. So members don’t have to wait until they get home to destroy the effects of their workout.

Even on the most attractive, in-shape women, flesh-colored work-out gear is never a good idea. They look like walking band-aids, or extra-large condoms.

I’ve seen celebrities working out, with their entourages. The use of bodyguards in a deserted gym always seems a little sad.

Every so often, someone at my gym dies, while working out. These people instantly become urban legends, presenting a complex moral quandary. What can these deaths teach us? What does it mean to die while wearing a heart monitor and a t-shirt from a charity marathon?

Men should not shave their bodies while standing naked in the locker room. Ever. Didn’t that image just make you go, “Ewww”?

I admire the confidence of people who can dance around at the gym, all by themselves, to whatever music is on their iPods. But these people should be aware: yes, everyone is staring at you. Is that the idea?

January 13, 2014

Safe and Sound

This video, from the duo Capital Cities, has been around for awhile,
but I keep watching it, maybe because it feels like a musical.
All I know about the two guys in Capital Cities is that they met on Craigslist.

This is a behind-the-scenes video about Safe and Sound.
Once you’ve watched the original video, it answers a lot
of questions.

I wasn’t able to watch the Golden Globes last night,
although like everyone else, I love Tina Fey and
Amy Poehler. I’m also a fan of the Globes, because
the ceremony always feels like it’s taking place aboard
the Poseidon.

January 12, 2014

Take It Off

The NY Times has an article today, about the fitness regimens of the actors playing Spike in various productions of Chris Durang’s wonderful play Vanya, Sonya, Masha and Spike. These young guys have to appear in very skimpy underwear, which has started me thinking about the nudity in a batch of my plays. Here are some observations:

1. I would never ask an actor to remove his or her clothing during an audition, and there are most likely union rules and procedures about this. But sometimes actors have just begun taking off pretty much everything,
all by themselves.This can be fun to watch but also unnerving, because I can start to feel like the producer of a burlesque show, ogling the chorus cuties. I suddenly picture myself smoking a cigar.

2. My play The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told begins in the Garden of Eden, and in some productions the two male leads, Adam and Steve, are naked and sometimes they wear jockstraps; both options work. It’s interesting that so many Christian fundamentalists can be so prudish, when their favorite book starts with attractive, unmarried naked people having a good time.

3. During rehearsals, actors rarely take off their clothes. They usually get naked during the final technical and dress, or undress rehearsals. Everyone else involved in the production pretends not to notice this eventual nudity. There’s a kind of gracious nonchalance, as if the rest of us are saying, “Oh right, of course, there’s your penis. Very nice.”

4. As a playwright, I can use nudity for a simple sense of reality, or for a more oh-my-God-he’s-naked effect. There’s a locker room scene in Valhalla where the nudity is supposed to be shocking. Nudity is like swearing or singing; these devices will always get an audience’s often grateful attention.

5. Jeffrey is a play about sex and love, but it doesn’t include any full nudity. However, before each performance, one actor does have to get his pretty much naked body encased entirely in Saran Wrap. I truly believe that actors never get paid enough.

6. My play The New Century was produced at Lincoln Center. On the days that we were auditioning handsome actors for the role of Shane, a good-natured stripper, right across the hall the theater was auditioning singers and dancers to play sailors in a superb production of South Pacific. So for a period of time, the halls of Lincoln Center were filled with some of the best-looking, most in-shape guys I’ve ever seen in my life. I love my job.

7. My play The Naked Eye begins with one of the main characters, a deliberately provocative, Mapplethorpe-esque photographer, hanging naked on a cross. When this play was produced at the ART Theater at Harvard, we rehearsed in the basement of the divinity school, using our full-size, plywood rehearsal cross, but no one seemed to mind.
As the photographer was hanging on the cross, he delivered a five minute monologue, although as I told Neal Maffin, the terrific actor involved, “I don’t think anyone’s going to be paying attention to what you’re saying.”

8. I once saw a now-legendary play at the Public Theater, called Salonika. It featured a young and very well-built Maxwell Caulfield, whose character died naked on a sandy beach. Two truly great American actresses, Jessica Tandy and Elizabeth Wilson, had to clean Maxwell’s nude body with sponges, to ready it for burial. There might have been dialogue during this scene, but I certainly don’t remember it.
A gorgeous naked actor always wins.

I haven’t included any illustrations with this post, for a very good reason. And you should be ashamed of yourself.

January 11, 2014



“Her” is so wonderful that it made me fall in love with movies, Joaquin Phoenix, even with his scraggly moustache, and my iPhone, which I’ve decided to start calling Chad. In “Her”, which is set in the near future, Joaquin plays a sweet, nebbishy guy who falls into a passionate relationship with his new operating system, called Samantha. He carries Samantha around in the breast pocket of his shirts, using safety pins to give Samantha a boost, and allow her to see the world.

Of course, we’ve all fallen in love with appliances. Do you remember the first time you used a Water-Pik, or a wide-mouth toaster suitable for bagels, or a heated mattress pad? When I’m checking my emails on Chad, I can feel like I’m cheating on my husband Josh, but he’s usually curled up on the couch with his own phone, obsessively playing Candy Crush, although he always insists, “Her full name is Candy Crush Saga!”

In some of his other movies, not to mention his talk show appearances, Joaquin can get uncomfortably intense, and I sometimes picture him wearing grimy coveralls and stuffing something wrapped in plastic behind a dumpster. But in “Her” he’s completely charming, and I kept wanting to tell Samantha, “You’re a lucky device. Just stay charged and keep Joaquin away from the Apple store, because it’s like a high tech strip club.”

Samantha’s voice is provided by Scarlett Johanssen, so who could resist? The movie goes for long stretches focused on just Joaquin’s face and Scarlett’s voiceover, but I barely noticed, because the story is so captivating. The notion of a guy falling in love with his computer could sound like a bad idea for a Jim Carrey movie, but “Her” just keeps unfolding and getting more heartbreaking and dreamy; it’s the perfect date-night movie to see alone.

Spike Jonze, who wrote and directed “Her”, is not only incredibly talented, but when I’ve seen him interviewed, he’s smart and adorable, like a visionary Muppet. He photographs all of the women in “Her”, including Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde and Rooney Mara, to look like goddesses, maybe so they’ll provide some decent alternatives to Samantha. But it’s impossible to resist a smartphone with Scarlett’s raspy purr. I’ve got Chad in my pocket right now. He’s the perfect man, because he has no problem waiting while I browse, he not only likes all of my friends but he remembers their contact information, and he’s great at calculating tips. He’s my “Him”, if you ask me.

January 10, 2014

Embarrassing Moments in Gayness


I once saw a mini-van with the license plate MISS DAD. This probably meant that the family who owned the van had a father in the military, or maybe even a dead father. I immediately thought it was the father’s drag name.

When I was 12 years old, my parents allowed me to choose the wallpaper for my bedroom. I selected an oversize, high-gloss neon yellow and orange houndstooth check, with coordinated orange shag carpeting. This decision combined an embarrassing moment of gayness with proof that I was born in New Jersey.

I was once all by myself in a house on Fire Island. Where I compared the original cast recordings of two different versions of The Wild Party. A helicopter should have descended and taken me away to a gay penal colony. But of course, I was already there.

I went with a friend to Radio City to see a touring production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Weber, starring Michael Crawford, who didn’t make his grand entrance until the end of the first half. My friend and I could not stop dissecting the entire event in detail, until an usher came over and rightly told us that if we didn’t shut up we would be thrown out.

One summer I worked as an assistant to the genius costume designer William Ivey Long. I was so incompetent that eventually William wouldn’t let me do anything, and I had to sit in the corner and make pillows for my apartment.

I once wrote a paper for a college seminar in which I insisted that Bette Davis should have made a movie of Hedda Gabler.

When I saw a recent announcement of a new play called Camp David, I instantly assumed it was about a gay teenager being bullied over the summer. It’s about Jimmy Carter.

A dear friend once asked me to help him choose between two shirts, as he put it, “The teal? Or the slate?” When I chose the teal, he stared at me and declared, “You obviously don’t know a thing about my coloring.” A modified version of this moment later found its way into my play Jeffrey.

I actually love the people in the photo above, and I think they look great, although it took me a moment to realize that they were dressed as crayons. I also love the folks in the photo below, because it couldn’t have been easy or cheap to assemble all of those scooters.


January 9, 2014

New Lies


The classic Big Lies include “The check is in the mail” and “I won’t come in your mouth.” Here are some updates:

1. “I love your new haircut. It’s different.” Translation: “I didn’t know there was a fourth Stooge.”

2. “I don’t even own a TV.” People say this to prove their technological and moral superiority, but I’m sorry, if you’ve been bingeing on Big Bang Theory reruns on your iPad, you’re watching TV.

3. “I don’t care what other people think.” If you really don’t care what I think, then why are you spending so much time telling me about how much you don’t care?

4. “I won’t come on your Ralph Lauren exploded damask 400-thread-count euro-sham.” But if you don’t want me to, then why do you have so many decorative pillows on your bed?

5. “I’ve been sober for almost eighteen days.” If you’re a marginal celebrity and you announce this on a talk show and receive heartfelt applause, what you’re really saying is, “Wait, sober doesn’t include pot or prescription stuff, does it?”

6. “I don’t care about the Kardashians!” Then why do you know so much about Chloe’s divorce?

7. “I’m not doing hot yoga/a cleanse/three spinnning clases a day/lipo to lose weight, I just want to be healthy.”

8. “I’ve almost finished your book and I’m loving it!” Translation: “Hold on, did you write a book?”

9. “Let’s just agree to disagree.” Because you’re stupid.

10. “I never read reviews.”

11. “I’m not wearing makeup.”

12. “I did wash my hands.”

13. “I only watch documentaries.” Well, I guess a porn video is sort of a documentary.

14. “This only looks like your leather jacket.”

15. “I texted you! The party was last night!”


January 8, 2014

At Home

If you could choose, would you rather die at home or in a hospital?

When my Dad was dying, my mother was adamant about keeping him at home. She rented a hospital bed, and hired health care aides. She wanted my Dad to have familiar surroundings and because she loved him so much, a part of her believed that if he was at home, he’d never die. But as cancer continued to ravage him, this was no longer the best idea. It can be very difficult to administer pain medication at home, and my Dad was also, at times, highly agitated. When my Mom surrendered, and moved him to a nearby hospital, the situation improved. The doctors were able to keep my Dad far more comfortable, although one doctor did worry that my Dad might become addicted to morphine. This seemed odd, because if you’re dying and in pain, a morphine addiction seems like not such a bad thing. The drugs made my father both more restful, and allowed him what looked like some very pleasant hallucinations.

When my Mom was dying, years later, she was eager to stay in her Manhattan apartment. At first she didn’t want to rent a hospital bed, I think because she felt that hospital equipment would make her feel sicker. She came up with a plan, which she had me research, to install two matching recliners in her apartment. These recliners would allow her a more agreeable sleeping position, and she wanted a pair so that her health care aide or a visitor could be comfortable as well. Before I could move forward with the recliner proposal, her condition worsened, and I got her a hospital bed, which she ended up liking very much, once she realized that it allowed for a range of sleeping options. She liked most of her aides, whom she would instantly advise on their love lives and reading choices. My Mom also decided that she needed an oxygen tank, but once she had one, she realized that the nasal tubes don’t really give you a satisfying gush of air, and since she hadn’t really needed the tank to begin with, she abandoned it.

My mother liked being in charge of her own treatment, and she especially enjoyed bringing my partner John and my cousin Carl, both of whom are doctors, along with her when she went to see the oncologist. This made her feel like Jewish royalty, or the grand marshal of a medical parade.

One morning my Mom called up all of her closest relatives and announced that she was going to die that afternoon. We all hurried over, and that was when my Mom discovered that you can’t just decide to die. She wasn’t in pain, and she didn’t need morphine, but she was a very organized person, so she’d picked a date. When she didn’t die, she looked frustrated and disappointed, but then she decided that there were still some TV shows she wanted to watch.

A few days later my Mom became woozy, but she still wasn’t in pain. I was having a conversation with my Mom’s beloved relatives at her bedside, when my Mom, in a gleeful response to whatever we were all talking about, uttered what was most likely her last word: “Bullshit.” She died a few days later, in her apartment.

My friend Jay died three months ago, at the home of Bernard, his extraordinary and devoted partner. Jay had suffered from ALS, which is a particularly vicious disease. Over a period of years, he’d become unable to walk, speak or move without a great deal of assistance. Jay, like Bernard, was an interior designer, and they both had truly great taste. During his illness, it gave Jay pleasure to see certain paintings and objects. Jay was an opinionated guy and even after he couldn’t talk, he was still able to let visitors know exactly what he thought, on a variety of topics.

Jay died at home, soon after a friend had sent him a photo of some of Jay’s favorite flowers, which had just bloomed in the friend’s garden, a continent away.

Getting to choose where one dies is, of course, a luxury. People die on battlefields or at busy intersections or beneath avalanches.

Where would I like to die? I haven’t decided, but I’d definitely like some decent pillows. And maybe an orchestra.