Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Sacred Holiday of Fleet Week

It’s Fleet Week again and a girl’s brain turns to sailors, Navy officers, and Marines everywhere you go. They’ll be in Manhattan and Brooklyn, in the parks, in the streets, in the subways and on buses!

Whether you love men (or women) in uniform, or just love the huge ships, Fleet Week is always a fun time to be in New York. 

Go to for beautiful photos from the Parade of Ships from May 2015

When we first moved to Bay Ridge / Sunset Park, I remember walking as far as the foot of the Verrazano Bridge, marveling at the parkway, and finding Owl’s Head Park quite by accident.

During my outings in the new neighborhood, a local told me in conversation that we could watch the parade of ships from the lawn or the parkway.

That was our first Fourth of July. We did a picnic on the park, watched the ships come up into the bay. We met neighbors and played with kids, hung out most of the afternoon, and had a lovely time. Later that evening, we moved up to the pier to watch the fireworks.
Best quote ever from Eleanor Roosevelt:
The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seenThank God for the United States Marine Corps!
The better parade of ships, bar none, is the one that takes place at the beginning of Fleet Week. You get an unobstructed view of the ships. It’s spectacular. Fleet Week is awesome experienced in Manhattan, but the parade of ships must be watched from Brooklyn.

If you are lucky, you’ll also get good weather (May is no guarantee it won’t be below 60-degrees).

Sadly, after we started developing allergies, we had to rethink it because between the grass and the trees, it is a perfect killer.

Still, whether we partake in the celebrations in the flesh or not, Fleet Week remains our second favorite holiday after Halloween! So if you run into a Marine, a sailor, or a Coastie: give 'em a hug. Say thank you. Buy them a drink!

For details, dates and schedules, ships to tour: go to

Friday, May 08, 2015

The Secret Language of Fans

Because our winter was brutal, I fully expect a summer with record setting, hellish temperatures. There’s no scientific evidence that one follows the other just because I said so, but that is what I expect nonetheless. In my mind, it's going to feel as if the entire Northeast is having hot flashes.

In the last few weeks, we have experienced psychotic weather patterns.

But this isn’t about scary things, this is about hand fans (I expect in the heat of the season many will see the light of day). This is about the secret language of hand fans. I always loved hand fans; they fascinated me as a child. The older ladies all had every day and fancy fans.

Then my great uncle Frank moved to Spain and every year – whether he came or sent a package – I’d get a beautiful mantilla and an abanico (always a hand-made, lacy Spanish hand fan).

I loved flamenco and even got my own castañuelas (my grandmother was not as thrilled by this). 

I also loved the Puerto Rican danza – a musical genre created in the island in the 19th century, a ballroom dance similar to a waltz.

Both these musical traditions use abanicos as part of the dance. It is only interesting to me that both my Latino as well as my Asian ancestry include fan dances (as the Chinese have beautiful and highly intricate routines).

Of course, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to create fluid and elegant movements with my fans – or at least the ones my grandmother allowed me to keep.

My grandmother and great grandmother would tell me these great stories (abuelita’s stories about the early part of the 20th century and my grandmother of the 1920s and ‘30s).

Their stories were replete with the secret language of hand fans.

A closed fan hanging from the left hand meant the lady was available, on the right hand indicated she was otherwise engaged.

An open fan, slowly fanning her chest meant the lady was free and willing to be wooed. A rapid movement over her chest, though, meant men ought to steer clear because she was already spoken for.

If the lady covered her mouth with an open fan and looked at a man suggestively (I suspect with batting eyelashes and all), it meant she was sending a gentleman a kiss, and sending that specific message to what would be an appreciative suitor.

It was positively Victorian and adorable, and because I was a little nerd, the idea that this was codified was fascinating to me. Sure, it wasn’t Enigma-class code, but perhaps it serves to explain how I treat stories about codices as romantic and damn any Gothic interpretation.

It probably started with hand fans and moved on to Semaphore (before the Village People bastardized the idea) … but that’s another story!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dreaming of Mattenklopper

The problem with keeping strange hours (or irregular hours for the non-Bohemian), is that dreaming seems like a fleeting thing. It isn’t, of course. Most of us dream every night and at different stages of sleep. 

For those who remember Psych 101, the most vivid and memorable dreams happen during the REM cycle.

We spend at least 2 hours dreaming each night, but in the last couple of weeks, I haven’t slept a full 8 hours end-to-end, as it were. If you catnap your way through sleep, dreams may happen in snippets, if at all.

Last night, my sleep was interrupted – and I awoke to edit and rewrite a story for an upcoming project – but I managed to get back to sleep and had a dream episode: vivid and colorful, and so deliciously strange.

I was riding the E train – thought I do not think I’ve taken that line more than … nope, never!

The E train was the JFK Express, not sure if it still goes that route...

I walked from the last, empty car to the penultimate car where there were more people. I was standing, as the car was soon almost all full. Across the train car, a man stood but had propped an open bag with about half dozen shovels. Protruding from the horde of shovels was a metal rug beater.

The rest of the dream was a Benny Hill-like chase – minus Yakety Sax – of me trying to contact this homeless man and travel across New York City chasing after him to purchase the rug beater for Mom’s collection.

By dream standards, it may not be up there with my more production-heavy sci-fi dreams, but remembering more than an errant image from a dream amuses me and it brings me a certain level of happiness.

Not only does dreaming mean that I achieved REM Cycle, a good and healthy thing, but the imagery infects your day in different ways (creatively). I am not sure how I will end up using any of that in story-form, but it goes in the archive. Colors, sounds, bits of dialog, all of it. 

For the record, Mom does own a few carpet beaters (a couple wire but most wicker). As I told her about my dream she had only two questions: 1. “Where could you possibly be going on the E train?”, and 2. “Was the beater nicer than any of mine?”

What does it mean? Well, travel and shopping... I guess it all points to prosperity!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

My Friends Are Awesomeness

Friendship has been on my mind a lot lately. In fact, I wrote this last week:
One of the great blessings in life will always be having good girlfriends! They listen. They become virtual family and sisters in your journey. They give you perspective. And their love and friendship keeps you grounded. I am very blessed.
There is no value in cataloguing friendship or trying to define it or label it. There is no taxonomy of friendship. Friends, simply, are. Obviously, there are some things you can share with girlfriends that your male friends may not get, but generally a friend is a friend is a friend.

Granted, some friends are closer than others. There’s the best friend circle that encompasses from childhood friends to those who know where the bodies are buried, figuratively. There are friends that wander in and out of your life but whose emotional bond is so strong, every time they wander back in is as if they’d only be gone minutes.

I was feeling a little down and I had a wonderful chat with a friend. Not only was it lovely and fun, loving and enchanting, it provided a clarity that had been muddled because I wasn’t exactly myself.

It happens when you isolate yourself a bit. Despite your sense of self-sufficiency, it is your friends (and the virtual family you build beyond your blood relatives to be an integral part of your life) that help guide you when you are a little lost. They are the breathing, living part of your conscience, but only if you have shared of yourself freely with them, and it has been reciprocated.

I have been exceedingly lucky in that the friends that have wandered into my life are all extraordinary in different ways. Some people have been in my life since childhood and some are more recent, but they all bring value to my life and I hope that our relationships are as rewarding to them.

If someone had told a 16 year old me that I’d have friends for well over a decade whom I’d never meet but for interaction through computers and other electronic devices… (Well, I was into sci-fi, so I probably would have believed it!)

I’ve had friends from every inhabited continent. Some of my friends have become surrogate family and I love them with everything I’ve got.

Together, my friends and I, form a unique community, a virtual village of sages and jesters, and queens and princes. And on the rare occasion when I cannot find that silver lining or the beauty of the path I am on, one of these remarkable people holds my hand and brings me back.

A good friend sees your sadness, shares some of it, and then laughs at it, and laughter is contagious. My friends do this and more.

My friends are the best collection of awesomeness ever assembled, and I am humbled to be in their ranks. I am a very lucky woman and recognize it.

Whatever vicissitude life throws at me to test my mettle and sanity, I always know that my friends are the best support on the planet.

It feels inadequate to simplify my gratitude to just one word, but it is absolutely true: Thanks!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Die, Winter, Die!

This time of year used to mean Spring Break. That meant an escape from the cold, the snow, the ice and heavy layers of clothing.

During my college years, I spent spring break in Aruba, Barbados, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Venezuela. The allure was always sun and beaches, and little umbrellas on my drinks.

I never did Cancún or Ft. Lauderdale. The idea never was to be packed like sardines with lusty college students. The idea was a pretty, perhaps secluded beach, for relaxed days being lulled by the surf.

I studied for midterms at the beach. We shopped, visited historical sites, ate exotic foods, met international hordes of fun folks.

One of my favorite memories is of feeling the cool breeze wash over me, the sun, children frolicking in the background. I was on the sand, going over notes for my art history midterm, listening to music… The tide came up. It was shocking but still more fun than trekking through four feet of snow!

In my post-collegiate years, especially the lean ones, spring break instead means college basketball.

Neither of my alma maters have good enough teams to make the dance, but I love the game sufficiently not to care who has been invited. I just want to enjoy the beauty and excitement of the game. The athleticism, the sportsmanship, the utter joy!

In lieu of eating exotic foods at exotic locales, I prepare fun tailgate menus.

The bracket? It’s a challenge rather than a gamble, it reminds me of people who have passed through my life over the years and tournaments past -- from spectacular last second shots that won games, from post-game discussions with friends, to my former boss' anniversary and the story about his wedding. 

(I remember the first time he told me, I looked at him and said, "Who the hell plans a wedding during March Madness?!" Of course, being the groom, his only job was to show up. The image that will always stay with me is of one of the groomsmen listening to a radio transmission and gesturing to the men when Duke scored.)

In the awakening that is spring, it also awakens a creativity that has been dormant for part of winter because I am not a winter person. The promise of more sunlight and a warmer climate fills me with energy and sheer happiness.

Meanwhile, opportunities present themselves and spring becomes about hope as well.

Any period that culminates in a sugar coma by way of chocolate has to be celebrated. This is especially true in a year where winter has been so brutal and punishing--it has taken far more than it had the right to! 

Though I am not sure I can explain what it does to your already fragile state of mind when the weatherman says things like, "On Friday, spring officially begins. We also expect some snow that evening..."

Seriously, enough already!

I'll be in a corner, waving my rainstick and rhythmically chanting for summer, rooting for teams with feline mascots, and eating copious amounts of chocolate. In protest, I'm not coming out until the temperature reaches at least my mother's age!

Friday, February 27, 2015

He Lived Long and Prospered

“Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy.” 
–President Barack Obama

Trekkies came to the franchise for a variety of reasons. Many assume it was Nichelle as Uhura that made me love it. She was, after all, a woman of color and something I could identify with.

But it was Mr. Spock that held my heart.

He was, in my opinion, the true leader on the bridge and the moral compass of the mission. He was cool and logical, smart and dignified, and there was something awfully sexy about his wisdom and serenity (even for the child watching).

But it was his genetic provenance that was truly earth shattering to me. He was half Vulcan and half human. His mother, who was human, was named Amanda (my middle name).

Being the product of a mixed marriage, the fact that Spock was as well made him just like me. That may sound irrelevant, but I was of a diversity that was still different enough at the time.

There was an inner struggle in being Spock, just as there was a constant necessity to assert his individuality among people who (even as they loved and valued him) brought up the things that made him distinct (sometimes accurately, more often wrongly).

Like me, Spock spent some portion of his life explaining away silly things others assumed because they did not bother to learn what made him different and, therefore, special. At the same time, it did not stop him. It did not hamper his success. There was solace in learning this from Spock.

He was a great source of information, but when he did not know something, he said so. He looked it up! He was flexible. He was a pacifist, but he could fight his way out of a bar brawl.

I loved Mr. Spock in a way I had not loved a fictional character because there was none other like him.

My freshman year at Stony Brook, I remember being in a room with two engineering students and a poli-sci grad student when the Star Trek: TOS rerun came on in one of the local stations. The boys started performing the lines, a la Rocky Horror Picture Show, and then at every commercial break they’d switch characters. They each wanted a chance to do Spock.

Of course, I loved the Star Trek universe in its totality – even for its flaws. I still do. Some of my best friends are Trekkies and Trekkers.

As for Nimoy, the man, he was a highly creative individual with a loyal fan base who respected the values he represented. He was a poet, a photographer, singer, actor and director, he even created a comic book series! He was generally a mensch. He supported the arts and the idea of young people being creative.

It took him time to reconcile the extraordinary force that is Spock because to him it was just a role – whereas to most of us the character represented such elemental and core values, he guided our identity, and reminded us that we had infinite potential, and that we could exist in a universe better than the one before us. Spock made us want to strive for a better world. 

That is serious power just from portraying a character!

From Leonard Nimoy's "The Full Body Project"
To me, what remains clear is an expert and emotional portrayal of a character that reached me deeply. His absence will be felt keenly. 

Good night, Ambassador.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bloody Trail of Disenchantment

I have been thinking about fidelity a lot, as a result of writing The Mistress. It’s about truth. Whatever truth defines a partnership determines what faithfulness is to those in it.

Not everybody will agree with me. We can’t, as a nation, even agree what “marriage” is! Agreeing on the elements that make a marriage is useless because I doubt there will ever be universal agreement about it either.

As a writer, a perfectly happy marriage doesn’t really hold a lot of fascination because there is no tension, no drama, and therefore no story to tell.

I have a few friends that have been married for decades and are, for the most part, happy. They will be the first to admit it is a balancing act, with ups and downs.

I have seen – witnessing first-hand and living with it for short periods – a happy committed relationship.

Mostly, what I remember are stories of bad marriages, or bad moments within relationships—because they were grand or funny or depicted great horrors or injustices. That was the eternal writer in me noticing scenes for future projects, surely.

But it is unfair to call something a bad marriage because our judgment is always made from the outside looking in.  

At any rate, after writing The Mistress*, I am left with questions, and I wonder how many stories of infidelity I can write. In the first one, the man was the adulterer and his wife took on a specific mindset about it.  But there are other ways to portray it, and I believe there may be an anthology in it, because broken vows lead to broken loves and delicious drama. Others can write of the romance to get people together, I want to explore the gore of the bloody trail of disenchantment. I think it makes for better copy.

In fact, the next anthology is going to be titled Bloody Trail of Disenchantment.

The next story may be based on this poem and, possibly, turn it on its head…

I Know I Am But Summer To Your Heart
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know I am but summer to your heart, 
And not the full four seasons of the year; 
And you must welcome from another part 
Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear. 
No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell 
Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing; 
And I have loved you all too long and well 
To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring. 
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes, 
I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums, 
That you may hail anew the bird and rose 
When I come back to you, as summer comes. 
Else will you seek, at some not distant time, 
Even your summer in another clime. 

*Check out the book page here: