Heimel's new collection takes up where her last one (If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet?, 1991) ended: In 36 short pieces previously published in Playboy, the Village Voice, and the Independent, the humorist parades the goofy, smart, obsessive-yet-perceptive persona that many downtown Manhattan- dwellers have come to identify with. But this time, she shows us a little more of her mature, maternal, responsible side before slipping in the news that she's defected for California to write for a sitcom. Maybe that's why she sounds happier and more relaxed. In five pieces that fall under the heading ``Feminist Rants,'' Heimel demonstrates her mastery of the endlessly thorny subject of men: ``A woman needs a man like a fish needs a net,'' she says, beefing up Gloria Steinem's flip 70's slogan that ``A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.'' Times are tougher now than they were in the 70's, and Heimel envies the easy confidence that she's seen lesbians demonstrate: ``I remember only once in my life feeling as content and confident as these women: It was 1979 and I was out of my mind on a combination of Quaaludes and cocaine. This method no longer strikes me as practical.'' But in short pieces on her brief stint as a welfare mother, and in the angry, zingy ``How to Be Creative,'' she tells us how she got tough enough to let her talent shine through, showing us the seatless toilets in the welfare office and all the twisted little jokes and reflections she had along her difficult way. And in many little pieces on shopping (including the buying of deliciously vengeful Christmas gifts) and on life in L.A., as well as in further thoughts on guys, Heimel demonstrates that a good writer can peer over the edge of middle-aged looniness without quite falling in. Funny and smart: a great way for beset urban women to chase the blues.