Phil Ochs’ Guitar
by Susan Petersen Avitzour
For years, I was convinced I was responsible for Phil Ochs’ death.
I conceived this belief six years before he died.
Friday, March 27, 1970
Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans at the end of the early British war
Carnegie Hall erupted into shouts of joy and wild applause. Phil was singing “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” and we were eating it up. We could almost forget the gold costume, the weird guitar, the Fifties-style numbers he’d opened with. “We came for Phil, not Elvis,” someone behind me had grumbled. But now the hall roiled with long-haired, tie-dyed children of the Sixties singing along, clapping, dancing in place. My sister Ruth and I rocked in our seats. What could be better?
I was fifteen, too young to truly belong to the decade that was now drawing to a close, but I fervently identified with its ideals. Peace, Love, Freedom for All Peoples. Look out, world, our songs said, we’re a-coming and you’re a-changing. This concert was meant to be our time, our place, our message. Though I hadn’t absorbed this from the Sixties generation; Ruth and I had inherited it from our father.
Daddy had died two months before the concert; it was he who’d introduced us to Phil Ochs. Our parents had separated when I was eleven and Ruth was nine, and a couple of years later we found pages of Phil’s lyrics and some poems on the coffee table in our father’s living room. “This young man is talking about the real issues,” he said. “Not like these other songwriters nowadays, who can think only about themselves and their own feelings.” The next day, Ruth and I went out and bought our first album.
The audience forgave Phil, but not for long. He transitioned into a set of country-rock-n-roll songs, some he’d written and some by Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Merle Haggard. None, not even his own, had a thing to do with change, any connection with repairing the world.
“What happened to Phil Ochs?” one man shouted.
“This is as much Phil Ochs as anything else,” Phil retorted, and launched into one of his new songs.
Fill ‘er up with love please won’t you, mister
Just the hi-test is what I used to say
But that was before I lost my baby
I’ll have a dollar’s worth of regular today.
Restless bodies shifted in their seats. Country music belonged to the enemy, they were saying, to those flag-waving, war-loving rednecks.
But I sat quietly, trying to piece together what Phil was trying to do. Not all his songs were political, I knew. Some were lyrical. Some were autobiographical. At that thought – just as the booing started – I leaned forward in my seat and listened closely to the lyrics.
I never should have left my home, never left the farm
But the city was exciting, it couldn’t do me any harm…
I held my breath. Phil was channeling my father.
Walter Martin Petersen always felt it was up to him to right the world’s wrongs. Born on a farm just before the Great Depression, he grew up watching his mother serve plates of beans to the starving hoboes who’d come knocking at their back door. In high school he joined the Young People’s Socialist League, eventually becoming National Secretary. He enlisted right after graduating, hoping to fight the Nazis, though his flat feet landed him in the Merchant Marine. After the war and three years of college, he worked for a time as a machinist in a rather romantic bid to join the working class. A few years later, he lost another job – with the Liberal Party, of all employers – for spending most of his time preaching Socialism and trying to organize the personnel. When Ruth and I were small he’d sing us to sleep with songs like “Union Maid” and “Which Side Are You On?” (“This side!” “No, this side!” we’d pipe up from our beds.)
One time, about two years after he moved out, he picked us up for our regular Tuesday visit and told us he’d be taking us someplace special. “It’s a surprise.”
We were certainly surprised when we got there. A supermarket?
“You’ll see,” he said, winking.
As it turned out, he’d collected contributions from his friends and co-workers to buy food for Biafra, a famine-stricken province trying to secede from Nigeria. The three of us rolled up and down the aisles as if it were a skating rink, piling can upon can until the cart threatened to tip over. I’ll never forget his pride – and ours – when we drove out to the harbor and delivered those cans to the Africa-bound aid ship.
But it was the war in Vietnam that truly galvanized him. As it did the troubadour of the antiwar movement, Phil Ochs.
The audience was beginning to heckle in earnest, but I barely registered the commotion.
I cannot face another girl, I believe I’ll turn to drink
So I won’t remember, so I won’t have to think
Tomorrow will bring happiness or, at least, another day
So I will bid farewell and I’ll be on my way.
Was Phil drinking? Was that why his voice was beginning to hoarsen, to crack? Maybe he was just having an off day.
(A year or so after the separation, our father had told Ruth and me that he’d “stopped drinking.” That was how we found out he was an alcoholic. “But I’ve been dry ever since I moved out,” he proudly proclaimed.)
As the audience jeered, I suddenly felt protective. Can’t they see he isn’t feeling well?
Then Phil started “My Life,” the song I’d always felt my father could have written. This one was a “real” Phil Ochs number, and the crowd quieted and listened.
My life was once a joy to me
Ever knowing I was growing every day,
My life was once a toy to me
And I wound it and I found it ran away…
I knew just what he meant by “toy.” During the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Phil had not only sung to the protestors, but had also inspired his admirers and enraged his detractors with antics like buying a pig for Abbie Hoffman to nominate for President. He seemed to be having so much fun that I was a little envious of him and his friends.
My father also always loved the comic, the unexpected, the outrageous. In high school he’d been entitled, as student council president, to use the public address system. One morning he went into the school office and asked for the mike. “My dear friends,” he said, “I have a very sad announcement to make.” The secretaries in the office stopped what they were doing and looked at him, eyes wide. Had someone died?
At the time, a joke was being whispered around the school. A mortician is preparing a man’s body for the funeral. He’s so impressed by the body’s huge member that he cuts it off and brings it home to show his wife. She takes one look, gasps, and exclaims – and my father announced, without any lead-in, over the intercom – “Schultz is dead!”
One of his favorite shticks was to throw a blanket over our heads when he was driving us somewhere in his old black Morris Minor. “Charlie,” he’d say in a hoarse gangster’s voice, “where d’ya think we should dump dese goils?” He’d then speak in a high, cracked whine. “In da river, where d’ya think, Pete?” “I dunno, I’m gettin tired a dat place,” he’d have “Charlie” say. He’d keep this up until Ruth and I were helpless with laughter.
But his sense of humor began to wither as anger and despair over Vietnam slowly engulfed him. Antiwar activity began to push all else out of his life; he talked about practically nothing else.
I can’t remember when I first became aware of his obsession. It was certainly in full bloom by the time he sat Ruth and me down – how old were we? eleven and thirteen? – and explained to us about napalm. Words couldn’t describe it, he said, so he opened the folder he kept on his coffee table. Ruth cried, I think, but I just stared at the photos of blackened skin, of shriveled limbs, of half-melted faces. They are with me to this day.
About a year before he died, he founded a committee to raise funds for North Vietnamese victims of American bombing. After that, movies, miniature golf, and walks in the park were gradually replaced with afternoons stuffing envelopes in his apartment or handing out leaflets in midtown Manhattan.
Once, toward evening on a hot June day, he opened a folding table on the corner of 59th and Lexington. Passing sedans gunned their motors, taxis honked their impatience, and buses spewed their exhaust as we stacked our flyers. The sidewalk boiled with men and women rushing to the nearest bus or subway stop without more than a glance in our direction.
Finally, a young woman took a page and stopped for a moment to read it. “Yeah, this friggin’ war is the pits,” she said, opening her purse, “and it’s just going on and on.”
A group of curious teenagers drifted over. “Hey, what’s happening?” one said.
“Collecting for victims of American bombing in Vietnam,” my father said. “Can you help?”
“No, man, I can relate,” said another of the kids, “but I’m broke.” They milled around for another couple of minutes before ambling off.
Ruth and I went back to work. I’d just gotten into the swing of things – step up to a likely-looking woman or man, smile, offer a leaflet, get rebuffed, say “Thanks anyway,” then step up to the next person – when a rough voice coming from behind startled me out of my rhythm.
“What are you, some kind of Commies?”
We’d attracted the attention of two brawny men in sweaty T-shirts and hard hats. Their fists were clenched at their sides.
“No, no,” my father said, “just against the war.”
“Against America, you mean.” One took a step toward the table.
My father held up his hands, palms out. “Now, let’s not start anything. No one’s looking for trouble here.”
The hard hats exchanged glances and sniggered. One hawked and spat. The other grinned, walked up to my father, and upended the table. “Fucking Commies,” he said, before strutting off with his friend.
My father stood still for a moment, then bent down and pulled the table upright. Ruth and I collected the leaflets from the sidewalk and re-stacked them neatly. Then we went back to trying our best to interest the uninterested.
But it was only when Charlotte moved in with him that his obsession with the war morphed into full-blown monomania. Ruth and I had liked Rita, his first post-separation girlfriend. She was like Mom, feisty and funny, and Ruth and I were sorry when they broke up. Still, we were prepared to accept a new woman in his life, and curious to meet this one.
It was a shock when he finally brought us to his apartment and introduced us to her. My mother and Rita were hardly model material, but both were trim, well-dressed, and well-groomed. Charlotte was short and dumpy, with uneven features and long, curly black hair streaked with grey. Flaky face powder did a very bad job of concealing her very bad skin; bright red lipstick strayed here and there from the outlines of her mouth. She was dressed in an oversized T-shirt and shiny black pants.
I really didn’t care about Charlotte’s looks, though; it was her behavior that got to me. I can’t remember her saying a single positive word. Ever. The country was run by reactionaries; the hypocritical liberals were no better; the media was in cahoots with the forces of evil.
Ruth and I didn’t escape her scorn. Once we walked into our father’s living room wearing buttons saying “End the War in Vietnam Now” and “War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things.” Charlotte looked at us and snorted. “These liberals,” she said through clenched teeth, “they think all they need to do is wear a button and they’ve done their part.” She stormed out of the room.
Another time, our father asked Ruth and me if we had any advice that might help Charlotte lose weight. We told him that when our mother was on a diet she’d sometimes dine on half a cantaloupe filled with low-fat cottage cheese. A couple of weeks later, Charlotte, flushed with anger, proclaimed that our “diet” was making her sick. It turned out she’d eaten nothing but melon and cottage cheese ever since he’d passed on our suggestion.
Part of what attracted my father to Charlotte was that she’d lived for some time in North Vietnam. He told us how she’d found Hanoi not to be the drab, grim caricature the American media painted of Communist countries. (At the time, I imagined life behind the Iron Curtain as lived literally in black and white.) Not at all; it was an Eden of beautiful public gardens and happy people who only wanted to be left alone to spread their bounty to their countrymen in the South. The summer after we met her, she told us to call her Lan, the Vietnamese name she’d taken when she lived there. Ruth and I learned this right after we returned from camp, where Ruth had woven her a beautiful lanyard bracelet spelling out C-H-A-R-L-O-T-T-E. She took one look and flung it back, saying only, “I don’t want it. That’s not my name.”
Charlotte/Lan also gave my father the chance to care for someone worse off than himself. She never leafleted with us, as she usually felt unwell. She was high-strung and sickly, he told us, because she’d been raised by a mother with a four-way split personality.
We were sitting in Prospect Park that particular spring day, eating sandwiches he’d quickly slapped together (she was resting; lunch in the apartment would make too much noise). Hoping to attract a squirrel, Ruth and I were throwing small pieces of bread to the sparrows and pigeons pecking around our feet.
“One of Lan’s mothers was almost normal,” he told us, “but she was almost never ‘out.’ The second was a nervous wreck who wouldn’t let her do anything, even go out to play. Number three was furious all the time, and used to beat her.”
I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. Was that a bushy tail flashing around that tree? Maybe if I threw a big chunk in that direction….
“The fourth personality,” my father said, “was so passive that she didn’t do a thing to take care of her own daughter.” He pressed his fingers against his eyes.
“So you see –” His voice broke. “So you see, she never really had anyone until she met me.” Tears glistened on his cheek. “I know you understand.”
I stole a glance at Ruth, who was busy shredding her bread. Then I nodded, turned quickly to the squirrel, and tossed it the crust I’d been clenching in my fist.
Toward the end of 1969, the sun seemed to come out again for my father. His face seemed lighter, and he smiled more often. He even took us one evening to Greenwich Village to hand out flowers. Holding armfuls of multicolored daisies and carnations, we waited for hippies to come and accept our offerings. When none turned up, we set out in active pursuit, wandering up and down the maze of streets until we finally got to Washington Square Park. Still no luck. So we gave the flowers to anyone who’d take them, mostly New Yorkers but also many tourists like the wide-eyed lady who came up to us and said, “Wow, are you real hippies?”
And he got funny again. True, some of this was “funny strange” – for one thing, he took to wearing an ascot and a beret, and using the word “groovy.” But, Ruth and I agreed, even the embarrassment of “groovy” was better than the bleak talk of the war that had been our fare for so long. And it was so good to laugh with him!
He didn’t give up his activism, of course; in October he took Ruth and me on our first and only road trip together, to the big antiwar march on Washington. He couldn’t stop marveling at how many people had turned out – at least a million, and from all over the country! It had been forever since I’d seen him so optimistic.
Until his toy ran away too.
Phil got to the last verse.
My life is now a myth to me
Like the drifter, with his laughter in the dawn.
My life is now a death to me
So I’ll hold it and I’ll mold it till I’m born…
Suddenly a thought set my stomach prickling. If his life is now a death, then being born can only mean….
And the next line:
So I turn from the land where I’m so out of place…
A picture popped into my head: the cover of Rehearsals for Retirement, the album that included “My Life,” showed a tombstone:
Born: El Paso, Texas, 1940
Died: Chicago, Illinois, 1968
I’d thought this inscription was funny when the album first came out, but it no longer felt like just another of Phil’s outrageous jokes. And I knew, I just knew that I was the one person in the audience who understood exactly what he was saying.
What to do? And how?
Phil returned to his new program, and his fans to their complaints. Suddenly, in the middle of a Buddy Holly song, he stopped and walked quickly off the stage. The audience sat stunned. After a couple of minutes a man came on stage, announced that the show was over, and requested that we please leave the auditorium.
Inching with the crowd down the curved, carved grand staircase, Ruth and I speculated. Was Phil insulted? Couldn’t take the jeering anymore? Was he sick, his voice completely gone?
People around me began to mutter. What was this? The gold suit and the country-rock songs were bad enough, but cutting the concert short like that? The murmurs turned to open anger. “We paid good money for this show,” one fan said.
We found the marble and gold entrance hall packed, mostly with young men. Some were milling around. Others were sitting-in on the floor, demanding free entrance to the second show. Under one of the soaring arches that make Carnegie’s lobby look more like a cathedral than a theater, a group of scraggy bearded types had mounted a low side staircase and were exhorting the crowd: If the capitalists who own this place think they can cheat us, they’ve got something else coming. Power To The People!
Bored with their rhetoric, I looked around me – and there he was, just like that. Phil Ochs, out of his gold suit now, wearing ordinary jeans and a leather jacket, walking in from the back door. All eyes were on the orators on the staircase landing; no else one had noticed Phil. My heart picking up, I hurried over.
“Mr. Ochs,” I said. He glanced at me with agitated eyes. “Mr. Ochs, I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry for the way the audience acted during your performance. If you don’t feel well I underst–”
“Can you hold this for me?”
“Excuse me?” I could barely hear him over the shouting.
“Can you hold my guitar for me?”
My pulse throbbed in my neck. “Of course.”
I gathered the guitar into my arms and cradled it so its neck rested against my right shoulder, its body pressed into my middle.
Phil Ochs’ guitar. I imagined it as it must have looked nestled inside its black leather case, as I’d seen it onstage just a short time before. Dark, rich wood, its contours edged in a shiny white. Shaped like an electric, though he’d played it unplugged – a jazz guitar, I learned many years later. Its weight and bulk made it awkward to hold; still, I hugged it close, wondering for a second if I was dreaming.
But I didn’t have time to truly savor the moment, because here was my chance.
“You know,” I said, my voice shaking, “my father was just like you. He also –”
But Phil didn’t hear me. He turned away and began wading through the crowd toward the side staircase. Taking care not to damage my precious burden, I followed, catching up to him just as he mounted the self-styled revolutionaries’ podium. After speaking with them for a minute or two, he turned to me. “Can you say something to everyone for me, real loud?”
I nodded and climbed up beside him.
“Tell them,” he said, his breath ragged. “Tell them there’s been a bomb threat.”
I shouted out his words, to a chorus of boos.
“Tell them the threat turned out to be nothing. And I’ll let the management know that anyone who wants can come to the second show.”
“Listen,” he said to me quietly, taking back his guitar, “I’ll be around the corner at the –” He fumbled in his shirt pocket for a slip of paper. “This restaurant.” I read an Italian name. “If there’s any problem, you come tell me.”
I nodded and opened my mouth, but before I could say a word he was out the door.
Fifteen minutes later, I made my way to the restaurant. The theater’s manager had insisted it was up to him, not to Phil Ochs, not to any performer, to decide who gets into a show, and for how much, and certainly whether or not to let anyone in for free. And no way was he letting this mob in for free. The crowd had reacted predictably, and I’d left the lobby ringing with chants of Powerrrrrrrr to the People!”
Another opening. I figured Phil and I would walk back to the theater together.
In the restaurant’s muted light it took me some time to find him at a back table, where he sat with some other adults and a little girl. His daughter? “Rehearsals for Retirement” popped into my head.
Had I known the end would end in laughter
I tell my daughter it doesn’t matter.
I noticed absently that his daughter’s hair was dark blond and straight, like mine.
“Mr. Ochs,” I said, moving over to where he could see me, “you wanted –”
“Who are you?” Startled, I looked around the table. The voice belonged to an older woman. She looked about sixty. His mother…?
I looked at Phil. “I – I came because he wanted –”
“Can’t you leave him alone?”
“I’m sorry –”
“They don’t leave him alone for a minute,” she said to the table in general, then turned back to me. “Can’t you at least let him eat?”
“But he asked me to let him know –”
“Let him eat!” She glared at me.
“They won’t let people into the second show,” I said quickly.
Phil looked exhausted. He was pale, and his voice shook. “Tell them I’ll come in a little bit and talk with the management.”
OK, I was about to say, Enjoy your dinner, when a strident voice drowned out the soft background music.
“Hey, man, this really sucks.” I looked over my shoulder; a group of young men had apparently followed me from the theater.
I would speak with Phil once more. He’d return to the theater later that evening to keep his promise, only to find the box office closed. He’d smash a furious fist through its window, badly hurting his hand. So he’d borrow mine, and I’d take down the names of those who wanted to attend the second show.
But there would be no more moments when I might say what I wanted so much to say to him.
I’d missed my chance. Just as I had with Daddy.
Friday, January 30, 1970
I was hoping for snow, but it was an exceptionally clear night. My father had taken my sister and me to dinner, without Lan. He drove us home without saying a word, and I realized suddenly that he hadn’t cracked a joke all evening. It felt strange; I’d gotten used to laughing through meals with him again.
We arrived at Four Stuyvesant Oval at about nine-thirty. Our red-brown brick building stood waiting for us, dusky and impassive in the crescent moon’s light. Ruth and I got out of the car for the transition back to Mom territory. Usually we’d give him a quick kiss through his rolled-down window before he drove off, but this time he killed the engine and got out with us. I shivered a little in the frozen air as he looked at us intently, then bent down and clasped Ruth to him. Eyes closed, face unreadable, he held her a very long time.
I flashed on a photograph he’d recently given each of us. Daddy, receding hair freshly cut, tie carefully adjusted, glasses angled to minimize glare. Daddy, without the slightest trace of a smile. “So you’ll have a picture of your old man,” he’d said.
Now, watching him holding Ruth, something strange was going on in the pit of my stomach. Strange, but somehow familiar. What was it?
It came to me. The only other time I’d felt like this was that Saturday four years before.
We were sitting on the bare floor of our small bedroom, absorbed in a game of Monopoly. Sleet crackled against the steamy windowpane; the radiator hissed; the colorful bills rustled as we counted them out. Suddenly we heard our father clearing his throat. He stood in the doorway; his face sadder than I’d ever seen it. “Come to the living room,” he said. “Your mother and I want to talk with you.”
I thought, They’re going to tell us they’re getting a divorce.
I’d been almost right. Our parents weren’t divorcing, but they were separating. He was leaving the next day.
Now, as he held Ruth in that long embrace, my inner telegraph was signaling again. Daddy Is Going Away. He and Lan are surely moving to North Vietnam. We’ll never see him again.
As he put his arms around me and hugged tighter than I could remember him ever holding me, I cried out, Daddy, don’t go! Don’t leave us!
Except that the words stayed in my head.
He took me by the shoulders. There was pain in his eyes, as if he could see the scream in mine, as if he knew I knew. But he gave us each one last silent kiss, and drove away.
The next afternoon, Ruth and I came home from a day of volunteering at the Student Coordination Committee to End the War in Vietnam to find our living room overflowing with relatives and family friends. Our mother took us into our bedroom and sat us down.
I’d been almost right, again.
This horrible country killed me – as it killed Lan – by betraying and befouling every possible decent aspect of life here through the crucifixion of an innocent, harmless people, he’d written in his note to Ruth and me. The note to our mother explained that he and Lan had been planning to leave the United States for North Vietnam, where they’d hoped to make their home. Hanoi had rejected their application, crushing the only reason they had left to stay in this world.
And I’d done nothing to stop him from leaving.
Don’t kill yourself, I’d wanted to say to Phil Ochs. You have a daughter.
During the six years from that ill-starred concert until the day Phil was found hanging from a short rope, I thought many times – often at first, then gradually less so – of writing him a letter saying just that. But where would I send it? I had no address for him. I knew of no more concerts. There were no more albums, either, after Phil Ochs’ Greatest Hits, a collection of the Ochs songs the audience had booed that night. (Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, a live recording from that same concert, would be released in the United States only many years later.)
Time passed. Phil faded out of my life as I grew into it. I fell in love with my first boy, then the next, then the next. I finished high school, went off to college. I spoke about my father with one therapist, then another, then another.
It happened once or twice that a stranger approached me on a New York street and said shyly, almost reverentially, “Aren’t you the girl who held Phil Ochs’ guitar?” Uncomfortable with this derivative celebrity, such as it was, I simply nodded.
Pete Seeger came to Wesleyan toward the end of my senior year, a very short time after Phil’s death. When a friend had called me with the news about Phil, my heart had contracted. He did it. Just as I was afraid he would. He really did it. I’d been right once more. But I was busy with my senior thesis, and had few thoughts to spare for anything else. The raw fact – suicide – truly hit me only when the grandfather of folk and protest music sang one of Phil’s songs in his memory. “Changes,” I believe it was, one of my favorites. Thinking of words unspoken, I cried.
It was then that the vague and fleeting guilt I’d felt each time I contemplated that unwritten and unsent letter to Phil revived, took shape, and crystallized into the thought – irrational and illogical, I knew, but insistent nonetheless – that what I’d held in my hands all those years ago was not only Phil Ochs’ guitar, but his life.
Friday, June 24, 2011
It’s not often that Wikipedia changes one’s world. But that’s just what happens today, when I open the article on Phil Ochs. It describes his career, of course, and lists his albums. There’s even a separate sub-heading for 1970, which describes his gold-suited concert tour – Carnegie hadn’t been the only concert at which “his fans didn’t know how to respond,” as Wiki put it delicately – and the beginning of his sharp emotional and professional decline.
But I know most of that even before I open the page. And it’s hardly surprising to learn that Phil suffered from alcoholism, that he sometimes needed drugs to help him get through performances. The discovery that blows me away is that he was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
And other severe psychiatric problems. Wiki, again:
In mid-1975, Ochs took on the identity of John Butler Train. He told people that Train had murdered Ochs, and that he, John Butler Train, had replaced him. Train was convinced that someone was trying to kill him, so he carried a weapon at all times: a hammer, a knife, or a lead pipe.
Ochs’ drinking became more and more of a problem, and his behavior became increasingly erratic…. [His] friends tried to help him. His brother Michael attempted to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. Friends pleaded with him to get help voluntarily. They feared for his safety, because he was getting into fights with bar patrons. Unable to pay his rent, he began living on the streets.
After several months, the Train persona faded and Ochs returned, but his talk of suicide disturbed his friends and family. They hoped it was a passing phase, but Ochs was determined.
I take a breath and close my eyes. I see a girl standing in a crowded, chaotic theater lobby, clutching a guitar to her chest and brimming with a mission to save this man. I see this man, whose biology has already begun to betray him, whose brain will convince him in only a few short years that he’s been murdered, that his murderer has stolen his self.
Could any of his selves have heard her, then or ever?
Could my father?
Susan (Sara) Avitzour has published stories online and in the print anthology Israel Short Stories. Her full-length memoir, And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, chronicles her daughter Timora’s struggle to lead a normal life as she battled leukemia, and her own journey first with, then without her daughter after Timora died at the age of eighteen.
This year she will receive a Master’s degree in English and Creative Writing from Bar-Ilan University, and is currently working on her first novel.
Born in Brooklyn, Susan moved to Israel in 1980 and settled in Jerusalem, where she and her husband raised seven children. Over the course of her adult life she worked as a lawyer, mediator, grant-writer, and translator. At the age of fifty, she returned to school to become a clinical social worker, and now practices as a psychotherapist.