Six Degress of Something

June 16, 2015

As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.

– Proverbs 27:8

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Sky over Keeseville, NY 

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you probably know about the intense manhunt going on in upstate New York. Specifically, the two escaped convicted murderers on the lam from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

The dramatic events at Dannemora cannot help but bring to mind the road trip JC and I took in October 2014 in upstate New York.

A brilliant blue sky and skein of geese dappling the sheer of cirrus clouds is how I would prefer to remember the out-of-time, carefree days of our drive through the Adirondack Park Preserve, Champlain Islands, and state of Vermont.

But my recollections of abundant waterfalls, Slippery Elms and rolling acres of emerald green have been darkened by the you-can-run-but-you-cannot-hide reality of the escapees in upstate N.Y. and sorry fate of the sad-faced woman who aided and abetted them in their escape.

Below is a map pinpointing Keeseville, NY in Clinton County (see the southeast corner of the white area), where I photographed the heavenly sky above in an open field. Notice its proximity to Dannemora.

 clintoncnty

Our itinerant getaway took us all around the Adirondack Park Preserve. Through Elizabethville going north, through Keeseville, Schyler Falls, Eagle Bay, Lake Placid, visiting all the lakes (and there are many), and spending two nights in Saranac Lake, which we used as a departure point. Old school paper map spread across my lap (my favorite way to travel — I’m an explorer/navigator at heart), we covered practically all of the backroads — north, south, east and west inside the park.

AdirondacksField

On one particular day, riding Rte. 3 on the way to Plattsburgh, we passed to our left a sign for Rte. 374, the road that leads to Dannemora. Which, if you’ll notice, rhymes with Gomorra.

I was no stranger Dannemora. Not in memory, anyway. In my 20’s, I worked in a business office in Queens, NY bristling with crazy people. One Friday afternoon, Grace, our supervisor, another 20-something, a gum snapper from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, confided a secret to me, totally unbidden. We were not exactly office friends or friends of any kind. I didn’t know why she chose me as her confidant. Truth be told, her lacquered, spidery fingernails; large presence; long, straight, jet black, Morticia-like hair (her best feature); and “moldy elbows” kind of spooked me.

She whispered to me that she and her boyfriend, a guy from her neighborhood who was doing a stretch in Dannemora for armed robbery, were getting married that very weekend. In prison. She swore me to secrecy.

Dannemora

During the course my 4-year employment in that office, her secret spouse got sprung from prison. Immediately, Grace began planning a wedding reception, to be held in Bensonhurst. I was invited.

There would be no redundant ceremony, only a reception. About 100 guests convened at a catering hall (which looked like a reincarnated high school auditorium) for the reception. At one end of the vast space was an elevated stage. The heavy, carmine velvet curtains fronting the stage were closed. Tables were set up in the place where rows of auditorium seats used to be.

After cocktails, the guests were seated at their tables. Cued by a minor fanfare played by the band, the carmine curtains slowly parted. The happy couple, Grace and her shifty-eyed, ants-in-the-pants husband, were seated onstage in two respective thrones, kingly and queenly, overlooking their new kingdom. The house lights dimmed. Pinpricked with theatrical stars, the backlit domed ceiling flickered above our heads.

Grace’s husband carried off the mien of a crafty, sociopath without trying. If you squinted, he sort of resembled the older of the two escaped convicts from Dannemora; namely, Richard Matt, in his younger days — just another James Dean, Clyde Barrow, Pretty Boy Floyd, gangsta wannabe — except, the real thing.

MATT

A couple of weeks after the reception, Grace’s father telephoned her at work. In keeping with the time-honored Italian tradition of families and their offspring living in close proximity, sometimes under the same, roof forever and ever, Grace’s father lived right next door to her.

Grace raised her voice. She yelled into the phone. She swore into the receiver. “What!” she said. “I’m gonna f*ckin’ kill him!”

We figured out from Grace’s responses that she had just been informed by her papa that Mr. Shifty had arrived home with a strange woman in tow . Both of them were now inside her house.

Bang! Slam! Back! Grace grabbed her enormous purse and scooped up her brass ring sporting a hundred keys and a rabbit’s foot. She jangled past us in a huff, swearing to herself and was soon out the door.

Exciting as it was to work there, I made myself quit.

Notes From The Sofa

May 5, 2015

LifeInOurFastLane

When you’re laid up with a broken ankle, you spend a lot of time on the sofa reading.

Recently, I have spent some real quality time in horizontal mode reading the memoir H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. Sharply observed and deeply affecting, her elegant writing, unflinching honesty and depth of empathy captivated me throughout. She has a gift for metaphor that is astonishing.

Unknown

MacDonald, a falconer, naturalist and wordsmith, shape-shifts into the soul of the eponymous goshawk, the wild bird of prey she has endeavored to train, as a means of reconnecting with life after the sudden death of her beloved father.

The book is structured so that the story alternates, chapter by chapter, between MacDonald’s own memoir and that of author T.H. White. White’s memoir, The Goshawk (published in 1951), with its emotional complexity and tragic undertone, acts as both a ballast and guide for MacDonald as she teeters on the fulcrum of grief. This is an extraordinary book that left me spellbound.

It’s not often am I lucky enough to read 2 books back to back that I cannot put down.

allthelight

I have also finished reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Beautifully written and structured in an alternating style similar to MacDonald’s (chapter by short chapter), a style I’ve come to appreciate because I do most of my reading on the iPhone. I hate to pause in my reading before I’ve reached a good stopping point.

I found Doerr’s novel absolutely riveting. He is also a gifted, elegant writer and, in my opinion, very deserving of the Pulitzer Prize bestowed upon him in 2015. Set prior to and during WWII, the plotting is as intricate and dense as a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle on a rainy afternoon. I mean that in the best possible way.

The novel tells the story of a blind French girl paralleled with that of an orphaned German boy  drafted (unwillingly) into the Third Reich’s army as a radio engineer. Very well researched, Doerr weaves his details into the novel seamlessly, deepening the reader’s experience. His writing caused me to care deeply about the characters and their respective fates.

One small thing I have to mention, however. I have encountered the same thing in other novels (most recently, in We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas).

Doerr’s novel essentially has an “epilogue” — which disguises itself as the “final chapter.” After sailing through the novel, the last chapter left me with a nagging feeling of disappointment.

Epilogues work well in non-fiction and are often necessary (for example, to provide relevant information that comes to light after publication). In a novel, though, an epilogue never works. It’s merely a jump ahead in time that unfailingly reads like a cop out.

In my opinion, it’s always better to end the book. Your reader will appreciate it.

When you read Doerr’s novel (and I hope you do, because it is excellent), my suggestion is to stop reading after you finish penultimate Chapter 177, dated 1974, titled “Frederick.” I believe this is the perfect place to end this novel.

Try not to read: “Part Thirteen,” “Chapter 178,” which wraps up Doerr’s novel as the epilogue in disguise (the title is: “2014”).  At least, try not to read it right away. Allow yourself to bask for a while in the satisfied, wistful feeling bestowed on you by “Chapter 177.”

Epilogues are favorited by Hollywood filmmakers (rewatch Robert Altman’s brilliant satire on Hollywood, a film titled The Player, which drives this point home perfectly by making fun of Hollywood endings, specifically, the scene in the gas chamber with Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts).

ThePlayer

Until then…Happy Reading!

How To Break Your Ankle

April 13, 2015

FrozenPathCPGo for an early morning walk in Central Park on the first warmish morning of almost-Spring weather (low 40’s on February 21st).

Gingerly walking along a dirty frozen path (with just a hint of melt) will imbue you with the false sense of invincibility.

Life is beautiful (or soon will be).

GeesePoliceWave to the Geese Police in his van. He will wave back and hide his face (with shame). Not a good omen, crossing his path,  especially with respect to the warning on the back fender: Get the Flock Out.

LastSnow3.21.15

Rejoice on March 21st over what will be the final snowfall of winter in Jackson Heights. Extoll the wondrous snow covered trees, their enchanting beauty. Believe with cautious optimism you will not likely witness this snow globe for at least another 6 or 7 months (and that the use of a shovel in order to move your car will be banished for same).

Celebrate by taking a drive to the east end of Long Island with your very significant other. Specifically, to Watermill.

View the work of east end artists at the Parish Museum, specifically the work of Fairfield Porter, an artist with a deep understanding of color.

Ooh and aah. Love life.

FPorterParish

GreenApplesPorter

PorterTablejpg

Prolong the feeling of unfettered bliss that viewing art invokes. Enjoy the escape into nature so far from the city. Traverse the snow-covered grounds of the museum (where sirens;  honking horns and thumping car stereos are long out of earshot).

Regard a tree standing upright before  a deep blue sky of puffy clouds. Take a photo.

SoloTree

Notice the quartet of misshapen trees.

CrookedTrees(Take note of the red arrow on the left, above)

Heed the scrawny Charlie Brown tree beckoning to you (“culprit”).  Scale a low guard rail with your right foot to photograph sad little tree. Lose your footing. Skid down a 45-degree angle. Try to brake with your heel. Sharply descend toward the inverted point of a triangular trough, deceptively masked by snow cover.

Wrench your foot; twist your ankle. Succumb to immobilizing pain.

Break your ankle in not 1, but 2, places. Proceed to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead (ominously, where S.O. and I were transported by ambulance after a car accident in September 2012).

Welcome with gratitude the splint administered to foot and leg by caring staff; accept a gift of crutches and excellent pain killers. Elevate bad foot on the dashboard on the ride home.

Stop at Starbucks for chai latte and much needed sugar fix. Request to your S.O. for no sudden stops is duly noted.

Visit orthopedist in Manhattan on March 23. No plaster cast for you! Instead, foot is installed in heavy black foam and plastic boot (lint magnet), misnomered as “walking cast.” (Due to pain when boot touches ground; and heavy thick unstable rocker sole renders boot impossible to walk in).

Secure boot to leg with 5 strips of velcro threaded through respective rectangular hardware.

You must sleep in this boot. It weighs a ton. You must elevate your leg all day. You must remove boot for intermittent icing of the ankle and foot. You must continue this regimen daily until next doctor visit.

You must continue navigating the apartment on crutches.

Das Boot

BigBoot

Revisit orthopedist on April 6. Continue with daily regimen. Plan on 6-8 weeks to heal.

To stave off cabin fever:

You will read cover-to-cover January, February and March back issues of The New Yorker  (N.B., in March 9th issue – powerful story by Toni Morrison).

You will read Skeletons of the Zahara by Dean King (unputdownable, true story of survival that ends well for the main character).

You will continue with obsessively readable essay collection called Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio.

You will begin reading We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (set in your current environs of Woodside and Jackson Heights).

You will finish reading back issues of Poets & Writers magazine.

You will watch art films lasting over 3 hours (mostly Russian, Turkish and Scandinavian). You will watch Trip to Italy twice.

You will re-watch Swan Lake ballet DVD for the umpteenth time.

Plan to visit orthopedist on April 27 for a new x-ray.

Fingers crossed.

GOOD THINGS COME IN FOURS

February 15, 2015

This is a “meme” I found on the web. Adding my answers to a list of suggestions seemed like a painless way to re-enter the blog after a long hiatus. Nice to be back…

FOUR NAMES THAT PEOPLE HAVE CALLED ME OTHER THAN MY REAL NAME: 

1. Miss Mermaid

2. La Suzz

3. Lightning

redBolts

4. Soozie Doozie

FOUR JOBS I’VE HAD:

1. Newspaper columnist

2. Professional sales rep

3. Legal Secretary

4. Teacher

images         artteacher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR MOVIES I’VE WATCHED MORE THAN ONCE:

1. Chinatown

2. The Birds

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3. All About Eve

 

4. Rosemary’s Baby

220px-Rosemarys_baby_poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR BOOKS I’D RECOMMEND:

1. Into the Wild

2. Any novel by Elizabeth Strout (Amy and Elizabeth; Abide With Me; Olive Kitteridge; The Burgess Boys)

3. Wild

4. Anna Karenina

FOUR PLACES I’VE LIVED:

1. Brooklyn, NY

2. Hicksville, NY

3. Sag Harbor, NY

4. Sierra Madre, CA

FOUR MEMORABLE PLACES I’VE VISITED:

1. Florence, Italy

2. Grand Canyon, AZ

4. Moscow and Leningrad, Soviet Union

5. Katmandu, Nepal

FOUR THINGS I PREFER NOT TO EAT:

1. Meat

2. Nutella

3. Tofu

4. Tomato sauce that comes in a jar

FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS:

1. Pasta

2. Fish Lemongrass

Thai-style Steamed Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Potato Rajas Tacos (ala Border Grill in Santa Monica, CA)

4. Homemade soups (best minestrone ever)

FOUR SHOWS I WATCH:

1. BBC TV

2. Downton Abbey

3. Portlandia

4. Wolf Hall

FOUR THINGS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR:

1. Spring!!!!

 CherryblossomsTree

 2. David Vann’s new novel, Aquarium (March 2015).

3. To fully exploit the Merlin bird app on my iPhone

4. Updating my website with new art work

FOUR THINGS I’M ALWAYS SAYING:

1. Okay, whatever

2. There is nowhere affordable to live!

3. Are you kidding me?

4. Have you ever heard of a tissue??! Would you please cover your mouth when you cough??! (muttered to myself on the subway)

FOUR THINGS I DON’T REALLY WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ANYMORE: 

1. Cartoons depicting the prophet who shall remain nameless. Time to make fun of something else and call it art.

2. Snarky, clueless tweeters and their pathological lack of empathy and social conscience.

3. Shootings; guns; murdered people

4. Bruce Jenner

Zombie Commute

August 29, 2014

FTrainZombiesZOMBIE OBLIVION

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YankeeFanUNDEAD YANKEE FAN

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 ZombieLoveZOMBIE LOVE

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ZombieAndGhostHOW MUCH IS THAT ZOMBIE IN THE WINDOW?

A Cubicle Is A Cubicle Is A Cubicle

July 13, 2014

CubicleLife

My Work Space

“…the room where the walls come together…”

– E..A. Poe, The Pit and the Pendulum

No matter how management attempts to aggrandize their decision to relocate a hardworking, dedicated employee (moi) from 3 long years in a strangulating cubicle; to a 3-month tease in a vast open space; and back again to a strangulating cubicle, the end result is exactly as Bela Lugosi described it, above, in The Raven. 

Torture. Delicious torture.

In a Q&A appearing in the Business Section of the Times today, Paula Antonelli, Sr. Curator at MOMA, is asked about her office. Her response is the best description about life inside a cubicle I have encountered, outside of Poe’s and Lugosi’s.

This is what she says:

“I have my own office, and I am lucky to have it. It is better to have privacy, but if I were to choose between a cubicle and completely open space, I would choose open space.

The illusion of privacy is worse than no privacy. It bothers you; [whereas] a conversation between two people wouldn’t bother you at all.”

This is the 21st Century. You would never know it the majority of offices. Only in New York? Even in New York.

 

Where have all the employees gone?

Gone to cubicles, everyone.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

MY OLD FRIEND, THE BRISTLE BRUSH

June 22, 2014

Bristle8

I hadn’t picked you up in such a long while, No. 8. Why? I don’t know. Too many days elapsed between quality time at the easel? Probably.

Today, you saved my sanity, Bristle Brush. How could I have overlooked you for so long? It won’t happen again.

Weeks of working on this painting; never finishing; never satisfied; always needing more. But what?

The number 8 Bristle Brush!

TooHardToFly

THANKS, MERCI, DANKE, GRACIAS, also, to:

Wolfgang, Ludwig and Franz; Thelonius; Sinead; JAY Z & Kanye; Led Zeppelin; Black Sheep; Benny Goodman; the Klezmatics; Beausoleil; Steve Earle; Sister C’s fabulous C&W mix; and JC — for the music that enriches my life and nourishes my work; and for giving me the best day — a true gift — I’ve had in a while.

I don’t even mind that tomorrow is Monday.

Cosmic Joke

June 13, 2014

HotDog

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WHAT DID THE BUDDHIST MONK SAY TO THE HOT DOG VENDOR?

monk“MAKE ME ONE WITH EVERYTHING.”

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THE VENDOR PREPARES THE HOTDOG AND HANDS IT TO THE MONK.  THE MONK GIVES HIM A TWENTY.

THE VENDOR POCKETS THE MONEY AND TURNS TO HELP THE NEXT CUSTOMER.

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monk “BUT WHERE IS MY CHANGE?” says the monk.

 

HotDogBank “CHANGE,” says the vendor, “MUST COME FROM WITHIN.”

A Shout Out To My Sister

June 3, 2014

 

ME&CON

My favorite picture of us, my sister and me, taken at the wedding of my oldest younger brother.

As you may notice on the sidebar of this blog page, I recently reactivated my twitter account.  Twitter is a good place to post great sentences discovered inside the many, many books I’ve read.

But not everything fits in 140 or fewer characters-limit of Twitter.

So here is a very funny, longer  passage I discovered a couple of years ago in Nathan Englander’s short story collection,”What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.” It is taken from a story titled, “Camp Sundown.” (Camp Sundown being an “elder hostel”)

“I don’t know why they call his book ‘Les Miserables’,” she says, leaning into the circle, as if sharing a secret. “As you will discover, this book is not less miserable. It is more miserable than you can imagine.”

This laugh is for you, Connie.

ganesha

Looking for a fantasy place to live?

May 26, 2014

BoicevilleYellow

BOICEVILLE, NEW YORK

Earlier this month, on an extended weekend away in Tompkins County, we drove by a cluster of brightly painted cottages nestled in this make believe setting. The brilliant hues seemed more at home in the Caribbean than upstate New York. Someone less jaded than I, at first glance, might think: how charming, how cute.

My initial reaction was CULT. Or extremist Mormons.

VioletHouses

I googled Boiceville, NY to find out what this settlement was all about. The results yielded the following information:

Inspired by the Barbara Cooney illustrations in “Miss Rumphius,” a children’s book he read to his daughters, Bruno Schickel designed and built Boiceville Cottages beginning in 1996. Bruno utilized his experience with Schickel Construction, a company he founded in 1985 and continues to run, to design an interior that was complementary to the charming illustrations of seaside cottages that inspired the exterior shape of the Boiceville Cottages.

Okay, it’s a little scary to re-imagine real life as a storybook…

I must confess, the amenities offered by this too-close-for-comfort housing set up are envy-inducing.

The cottages are furnished with a washer/dryer (what I wouldn’t give to have my own washing machine again); fridge; stove; even a dishwasher for goodness sake — not to mention a 5′ x 10′ garden box to plant your own organic vegetables.

And if you attend Cornell, the university is 15 minutes away. However, there is no partying in Boiceville, where even pets are well behaved. Boiceville is life in the Quiet Car.

By the way, rental rates are not listed on their website. So it may be a case of if you need to ask, you can’t afford it.

Yet the other amenities: no fire truck horns blaring at the traffic light (no traffic lights!), no ambulance sirens (no hospitals nearby!), no mega bus engines (no subway stations to commute to!), no thumping car stereos to disturb your sleep…are also very attractive.

My present state of mind could be described as one of longing. Longing for the peace and quiet of Rosebarb Farm, where we stayed in Caroline, NY, earlier this month, about a 10 minute drive from the mythical Boiceville.

Wouldn’t I love to be sitting in the gazebo at the farm right now…listening to bird songs and sonorous ringing of wind chimes…horses whinnying in the barn…drone of spring peepers (teeny little frogs) from the fields…

ViewGazebo

View from the gazebo

…and later on take a drive up to Trumansburg for NYC pizza…

Trumansburg

…and chill out.

Ahhh. Next October…


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