Thursday, October 01, 2015

Can You Taste Your Dreams?

We were watching "Listen", the Doctor Who episode whose subject is universal dreams came up (and by “universal” I mean common to a great many).

Research has identified over a dozen dream themes that appear across cultures and tend to share symbols and narratives that put universal aspects of the human experience in dream form: driving cars, being naked in public, falling, being chased…

The majority of these dreams are on the negative, based on fears and stress.

There are positive dream themes too, such as finding money, flying, or eating your guilty pleasures.

Of course, everybody also has recurring dreams – not always nightmares – and they fall within a relative arm’s reach of these themes, depending on how fertile your dream life may be.

I don’t quite remember my dreams anymore. Sleep apnea robbed me of dreaming; but after the surgery, I rarely remember any of my dreams. And I share some of these, except my naked dreams are of skinny dipping at El Escambrón at dusk; in my car dream, I am driving a tiny clown car from the back seat; and because I am a New Yorker, in my chase dream I get angry and turn around to chase my chaser. That bastard!

My recurring dreams include Star Trek dreams, where I get to fly in a spaceship and be a nerd. I have themes, friends and locations that exist nowhere but my dreams – including a beach area within walking distance of my (landlocked) childhood home that I experience only when I am sick and experiencing fever. The house takes on aspects of our home and a couple of other places that I associate with safety, comfort and love.

I also have a recurring dream where I cook, and last night I was dreaming I was making soup. In this dream, I am making stock with root vegetables and fish bones. As the stock simmers, I make these crispy fish balls with cod.

The end of the dream—after I have strained the stock to a pristine clear broth, added the fish balls, and delicately added a dollop of whipped sour cream and pinch of fresh dill—is the moment I serve the soup.

The best part is that as I prepare the dish to serve it, I hover over the plate and I take in the savory aroma that faintly reminds me of the smell of wet earth after the rain and the intoxicating aroma of the sea. 

Before I put the plate back down, I awake and am left with this overwhelming sense of contentedness and serenity and pure joy.

Apparently, the sense of smell inside a dream is not common, and it is reported at a higher percentage among women.
Smell is the sense most closely associated with emotional memory — just think about how evocative certain scents can be — and the one most closely tied to mental health and happiness. Positive and negative associations with certain smells are locked into our brains from an early age and stick with us the rest of our lives, and to lose that sense of smell is to, in effect, lose a part of our memory. It's the subtlest of the senses, but perhaps the most crucial in terms of our emotional connection to the world. (Mental Floss)

I have also had dreams where I make a pot roast, prepare stews, fry chicken, grill lamb chops, and make a paella. Soon, I expect I will be having ice cream making dreams!

Quite simply, the temperature in the apartment dropped below 70-degrees. It is officially fall! It is time for elaborate kitchen dreams because it is what my soul craves most: elaborate food production.

I can smell my dreams. One day I will make this soup in my own kitchen. It is my fantasy to someday have life imitate my dreams… and then I will also taste my dreams. Literally.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Oy With The Poodles Already!

We have spent the last couple of weeks streaming episodes of Gilmore Girls. We loved the show on its original run (at least five seasons, we were torn about season six, and pretty much hated the last season).

It was pure fantasy but with enough callbacks to life as we know it (my Mom and I were pretty close in age to Lorelai and Rory). We shared an uneasy relationship with the ‘rents – though we came to an understanding with Mami and her motives and actions.

I was not obsessed with Harvard, though. I was more interested in Princeton. Of course, the secret love of my college-bound days was NYU, though I knew we could not afford it so I stifled that fantasy.

Just like its first run, watching the show – between the pop culture references and the character archetypes – we find ourselves remembering people we’ve known in our collective travels, travels we’ve done in New England, good times and drama alike.

We still quote the show in ways that others may not understand. But we’ve been doing that since before the show hit the airwaves...

It’s whimsical and quirky, and funny with moments of melodrama: you know, like life at the Temple.

We don’t identify with the characters, that’d be silly. (Except for the coffee and chocolate thing, but that’s not weird!) We do see some points of comparison and that leads to great conversations, memories, laughter, and storytelling of our own. It was a bonding experience then as it is now.  

Besides, my Mom was always smarter, and more mature than Lorelai. Also, we are great friends, but she was always mother first. All that established she was always a cool Mom. Still is!

I did find it interesting that one of the millennials reviewing the series for its Netflix release could not understand why Lorelai was sometimes mean to Emily for “no reason at all.” She did not get the generational gap probably because there is a growing segment of the population that can’t have a generational gap when little over a decade separates each generation.

When you turn 50 and also become a great grandmother, you know you have redefined the role and the experience for all those involved.

I am curious about the guys who do a podcast, though I imagine it will be a different experience than binge-watching Battlestar Galactica and then immediately after watching the show, following it with the video commentary by Ron Moore.

As for “Oy with the poodles already,” we have been known to speak combinations of words, in a variety of languages, that confound those who insist on eavesdropping. Few are let in and given a clue, but not all are worthy to remain in the fold (sadly) -- for these we are ready wallow in tres leches, triple chocolate, triple coffee rum raisin ice cream and the Babes go on livin'.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school in New York City. Just a couple of hours ago, I was sitting in the front room watching the news and listening to the jackhammers fixing/breaking the road, sinkhole, and elevated highway. The noise is now so pervasive I tend to ignore it like ads in between Hulu programming. This morning, booming above the cacophony were giggles and squeals. The girls next door were going to school and they were happy and excited.

I always loved school. I’m not sure my peers ever understood that as we were growing up – but it gave me the opportunity to get out of the house, be near kids (even if we couldn’t always relate), learn new things, and have a whole library of books!

One of my biggest disappointments in my entire academic experience (up to and including grad school) was the outcome of my original Kindergarten interview. The teacher rejected me and put me on a waiting list. She claimed I was too young, and recommended a start date the following August.

I cried. I couldn’t understand it. I was brilliant!

My grandmother saw this as an opportunity to keep me close for another year and did not fight it, though I have always questioned the decision.

There were also political issues that did not belong in the classroom and are not important now; the teacher and I reconciled many years ago—trespasses have been forgiven.

But try to explain to a four year old that she can’t go to school, when she has been fantasizing about it for weeks, because she’s just “not ready”. I was heartbroken.

I could read and write; I knew my ABCs and my numbers, in English and in Spanish. (I admit I had some difficulty with the teen numbers in Spanish because they made no sense but she only asked me to count to ten.) She asked me to identify animals and shapes and colors.

Color is where things fell apart.

I wasn’t shy and the more questions she asked the bolder and more confident I was in my delivery. I knew my stuff!

She brought up a tacky little drawing and we did the colors of the rainbow. My grandparents – with their third and sixth grade education – pointed out colors and named them for me. I’d seen a rainbow but never studied it, as such. So I answered her questions as I perceived the colors in the drawing itself, not in the ROY G. BIV manner she expected. I was good with red, orange, yellow, green, blue… Then we hit indigo and violet.

In Spanish, purple as I understood it was violeta. Although phonetically púrpura made more sense, though I was more familiar with morado as purple. 

But none of these variations appeared on the image. Indigo meant nothing to me. It was either blue or purple. I made a judgement call and declared it purple, because in the drawing it looked like a royal purple. 

She told me I was wrong, in English and in Spanish so I got it.

The last color I simply did not know, and a push-pull battle of wits ensued.

Finally, she shook her head, and I remember thinking her caramel blonde beehive wig might come loose and candy might fall out of it, like some sort of funky piñata. 

Then she pointed to her dress, a lilac mini-dress, and said, “It’s this color. What color is this?”

I did not know, and I told her, “It’s like a pink but it isn’t pink.” Officially, that was the reason I couldn’t go to school for a whole year. Freakin’ lilac!

The following year, when I returned, to her simultaneous amusement and horror, I’d not only learned my colors, but I was bitter and picked up nuance. I learned shades. Because what Kindergarten teacher doesn’t enjoy a five year old going all color wheel on her?

I was determined not to be hit with another technicality for as long as I lived!

She knew she had a guerilla in her hands, but I do not know if she ever understood she was partly responsible for the transformation.

She may have lit the torch that predestined me to end my academic career as a violet.

Anyway, that's how I remember it. Happy school year!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Riding the Wave, Grieving as Metaphor

I know several people who are living in transition for a variety of reasons. Some have gone public with their pain; others share privately with loved ones or kindred spirits. The fact that we can communicate immediately across oceans doesn’t mean we all prefer to do it with every soul in existence. I try to respect people’s choices, even when I don’t always understand it.
This infographic was making the rounds on Facebook. It references a Reddit discussion thread from someone who had just lost his or her father and felt hopelessly lost. Below is part of one response from someone who has loved and lost, literally, and sees the scars of loss as a “testament of life.”

Original, longer version available at
Of course, everybody grieves differently, but I was touched by the imagery. This is the most poetic and accurate description of what I have felt when I’ve lost some very important people.
What this describes is an almost crippling grief that unravels your soul. It’s unlikely you’ll feel this for a third cousin twice removed.
No one can dictate or even predict how you will grieve for a loved one. Sometimes we don’t immediately recognize the value of someone in our lives, or even our own emotional attachment; and it takes losing them to understand what we’ve lost.
Nor is loss always to be strictly defined as death. Breakups, divorces, and other terminal separations elicit an emotional response. (And I suppose that if you are a Browncoat, another senseless cancellation from Fox also applies, but that’s really a different discussion.)

The Kübler-Ross model gives you a roadmap to five stages of grief. For those of you not familiar with the concept, the stages – after the initial shock – are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

To some, it’s a full circle. Others depict it as hurdles to jump over to get to some proverbial end of a race… Some see rings of fire to jump through. Some chart it as an inverted bell. The stages do not always fall in order, and sometimes repeat. Sooner or later, though, you will experience some of it before you regain normalcy. Just know you can regain it.


The problem is that it was meant to be broad. Knowledge of it does not prepare you to experience the emotional rollercoaster. Its purpose was to allow psychiatrists to treat people dealing with terminal illness, and then expanded to include other forms of loss. Its value, for therapists, is to move the patient along toward acceptance and being functional or at least stable.

But everybody experiences and perceives pain differently, and when it comes to grieving, that pain manifests in different ways: from overwhelming melancholy to actual physical pain.

To me, the metaphor of a giant wave works perfectly; and if you’ve been tossed around like a toy by a wave, pushed to the sand, and dragged out to sea, left petrified and breathless, you’ll grok it too.

There is a moment, when you catch your breath and you reorient yourself, and see the shore, that feels like triumph over death and all the sadness in the world. You forget that fleeting moment (that just seconds ago felt like an eternity) when you feared you would die of it, and you push towards life and living.

Soon, the memory of it remains but the fear, pain, and sadness ... these are replaced by the story of the journey and tied to a memory of love--of life, of self, of others.

Yes, love hurts, life hurts!, but it also helps you grow. Understand the pain, embrace it and let it pass, you’ll come out on the other side. It's just a journey and some passages are treacherous. But think Big Kahuna: if you ride the wave eventually you’ll hit the shore. 

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! 
But you gotta keep moving or things that kill you will catch up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sinkhole Update and Alternate Reality Perspectives

Sinkhole update: the hole is still there and we have rotating crews working day and night replacing the old pipes, and eventually filling it up and leaving us a lovely, new road by mid-November.

Work is going on 24/7 and so far the only inconvenience was no water overnight (but with advance warning) a week back.

Sanitation is coming three-quarters of the way into the block, picking up garbage, and then backing out slowly.

The block is closed but not inaccessible – as was evident when an ambulance was needed next door or when delivery of a large appliance was made to another neighbor. So there's hope for delivery pizza and FedEx--though maybe not UPS.

The media and curious onlookers have quickly lost interest as other more exotic sinkholes appear. A sinkhole in Florida that tried to swallow a condo! Hungry sinkholes that swallow trucks and buses, and one in Wisconsin that swallowed a couple of cars. Then there was the tragic sinkhole collapse in Kentucky that tried to swallow the Corvette Museum – an event that would have been the nail on the coffin of Sam “Mayday” Malone.

Of course, it's all over the moment you insert a sinkhole with a British accent, even if it's a Manchester accent. That's a game changer! You just can't compete with BBC sinkhole...

As we grow accustomed to the industrious clanging noises coming from Fifth Avenue (can’t say the same about the house shaking), every once in a while, I imagine all these ridiculous alternative realities to amuse myself. If this had happened in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Woody Allen would've written synopses in his head about a neurotic little man who lived underground and whose hermitage is disrupted by the sinkhole, and is then forced to interact with the world of street-dwellers and city workers trying to fix it.

I’m getting silly but then, it’s 98° F in this apartment and I am ready to faint. This, of course, makes me feel bad about these poor guys working up the block in this heat, some immersed in the guts of our mythical city. I envy them not at all.

Here's hoping for Indian summer right into Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Mythical Massive Sinkhole

I have been referring to the place I call home the “Mythical Borough of Brooklyn” for decades. Certainly, I fell in love with Brooklyn and it enchanted me as if it embodied magic itself. (All the magic!)

Every discovery became an adventure, and Brooklyn – as the largest city in the Big Apple – has plenty to discover if you are willing to explore. My fascination and its charm grew deeper as I read “Winter’s Tale” the first time (and the second, third, fourth, etc.).

Some people don’t quite buy it because their vision of Brooklyn comes entirely from Law & Order episodes or Spike Lee films or any number of one-sided portrayals of a place that is not that easily labelled once you recognize the massiveness of our Kingdom.

The point is that they might start taking me a little more seriously. We have our own Hell Mouth, much like Sunnyvale.

Located at the top of my block, a few hundred feet from my bedroom, the sinkhole is trending on Facebook and has made international news. 

The event has brought firefighters, police, as well as engineers, scientists and bureaucrats from Environmental Protection and every utility.

The thing is gigantic and I am sure it will take some time to fix. There will be more people on this block in the next few weeks than have walked through and lived on it for the last 30 years. 

At 20 feet deep by 20 feet wide, the first question that comes to mind is what escaped from there?! (Gimme a break, I'm a writer!) My weapons are ready, in case I have to go on slayer mode. 

In the meantime, our hell hound protects the Temple as he gives the workers and media people the evil eye…

Seriously, though, we are fine (thanks for the emails, texts, and calls). We don’t have to vacate, and we’re already used to hearing the racquet from work being done across our bedroom windows on the BQE. More work will not affect us that much, not even 20 tons worth of refilling. (Well, except we’ll have to clean more often because there’s going to be a lot more dirt flying in the air.)

My deep love for Brooklyn will not be affected by the appearance of a Hell Mouth. I will remain ensconced in Brooklyn, probably binge watching old episodes of Buffy in between freelance projects, research and writing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Big Ball of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

In the moment, it always feels as if there is never enough time. But time is relative or rather our perception of its passage is. If you’re having fun, it never feels like it is enough time. If you are in the midst of solving a crisis, it always feels as if you will not have enough time. Horror makes time stand still.

Only sorrow seems interminable and an affront to time itself as it viciously threatens to last forever. Of course, sorrow lies.

Time, however, marches on with or without you. Sometimes, in the process of living, you lose track of time, but it has always been there. Constant. Moving forward. And then, before you know it: OMG!

I was thinking that a year ago, I was laid out in the hospital, and we didn’t know what was wrong. Fear registered for a moment, but it did not take over. In fact, some of it wasn’t too bad. I lived in each moment to get through to the next.

Mom went for her yearly mammogram this week and ran into one of the four roommates I had while hospitalized. We shared a lot of laughs and made the situation so much better for each other, moment by moment.

As throwbacks go, I realized that I have passed the 10-year mark in writing this blog. It was always meant to be an exercise to keep myself writing, a way to clear my head, rant and vent (free therapy!), and a conversation starter with friends. That the conversations have remained private is a minor miracle, but precious to me. More than anything, the blog has been a way to document the passage of time for future reference.

Certainly, 10 years have seen a lot of change.

It started following a disastrous period of Biblical proportions that began on the summer of 2001 and did not let up until the spring of 2005. It was positively Dickensian: Laid off, starting grad school, terrorist attack, financial roller coaster…

In that decade, I managed to get a great job, become fluid again, and I travel a little bit. Some of the people who shaped me and showed me love have passed, and some of them I miss extraordinarily. I’ve written one eulogy too many, but I accept that this is a function of time. Most of my extended family (the one I picked and chose from the four corners of the world) is still with me, and that alone makes the journey worth it!

I beat sleep apnea and brought myself back to my old normal—though I am sad that I ca no longer sing nor properly pronounce challah. There was nerd training. I restarted my freelance practice. I reconnected with old friends. I met new (mostly great) friends.

I’ve made mistakes. Two. One I refuse to regret—though it was a worthless experience. The other, well, the other came with chocolate – so despite the waste, I accept my own failings in the whole sordid thing because chocolate. I'm sorry. Truly. It was good chocolate though.

I wrote, published, and sold books! Still exciting and satisfying, even as I get stuck in storytelling and must regroup and restart.

The last year has been challenging, but the last 10 have reminded me that I never lie down in surrender nor let time beat me down. I always manage to ride it like battle beast. Sometimes at a gallop, sometimes gliding like a Pegasus, and sometimes as if we were but simple companions to a Time Lord!

I may be on survival mode right now, as I work towards getting myself back on top, but I roll with time and look forward to the next decade and all the adventures, new friends and experiences, new job (it is coming! I feel it!!), new creative tricks, new recipes, new books, and more words to share with you.

Thank you for sharing in the journey.