July 10, 2015


Because I am still recuperating from a broken ankle and I have missed Spring and 1/3 of Summer, I’ve been doing a lot of reading…

These are some the new books I’ve recently read:

Words Without Music – Philip Glass – I enjoyed his conversational writing style; instinct for survival; and down to earth POV; Glass has tried his hand at just about everything and studied music with the best. I admit, I speed-read over some of the more technical aspects of scoring.

Mink River – Brian Doyle – I enjoyed Doyle’s quirky voice, characters and imagination in this brief and engaging novel — however, this is yet another book of fiction where the writer felt the need to construct an epilogue. As a result, the ending, to my taste, is too neatly wrapped up.

The Good Nurse – Charles Grabber – Indulging in my guilty pleasure of reading true crime non-fiction, a chilling story of a psychotic nurse who got away with murdering patients for far too long; it is also an indictment of the corrupt network of hospitals that terminated, rather than investigated, this killer’s employment.

Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill – Most writers, if not all, like to keep notebooks for jotting down therein extraordinary facts and personal observations. Offill’s short novel reads like a compilation of such notebook entries crafted into a work of fiction. This is all well and good if the device is not obvious. For me it was just that — obvious — which hindered my enjoyment of the story and many times got in the way.

Blue Nights – Joan Didion – I love this author’s writing and found this memoir of her daughter’s untimely and tragic death honest, riveting and profoundly satisfying in its artistry and craft.

The Harder They Come – T.C. Boyle – I am a fan of Boyle’s writing and crackling, dynamic prose. I’ve read several of his novels and short stories. This novel has a bang-up beginning, which was what drew me to it, but soon after it loses its momentum.

10:04 – Ben Lerner – This is post-modernist meta fiction at its best. The book is brilliantly executed and masterfully structured (I was stunned and thrilled at how seamlessly he can weave the elements of fiction and metafiction into the writing, and my appreciation of it enhanced my reading experience even more). This luminous story is set in NYC around the time of  Hurricane Sandy and Occupy Wall St. The story’s narrator is diagnosed with a serious medical condition. At the same time, a close friend asks him to help her conceive a child. Lerner’s deft prose, poetry, wit and cleverness enthralled me page after page. This is just a great book. I know I will read again…

Click the link (below) to read a entertaining essay by Tim Parks in the NYRB blog about why we should re-read books:

Devil in the White City – Erik Larson – A thoroughly engrossing, thrilling page turner of historical non-fiction, told in alternating chapters, about the planning and development of the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1890’s (the innovation of the era is mind-blowing). The author pairs the aforementioned story with a parallel, horrific tale of a predatory serial killer at loose in the city.

Where I Was From – Joan Didion – Another masterwork of non-fiction by Didion, which retells the historic path taken by her ancestors as they traveled west to settle in the Sacramento area of California. The author guides the reader on a absorbing path of discovery and its attending idiosyncratic history. Filled with tidbits about California and related personalities: Jerry Brown, Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan, to name a few, the reader learns through immensely readable prose just how water in California has been routed and re-routed, and still is, to its final destination points and what brought the state to the crisis of severe drought it now finds itself in.

Of course, I had to re-watch Polanski’s “Chinatown” after reading this book!

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou – After the shooting in the South Carolina church, I realized, with chagrin, that I had never read Angelou’s most well known book. I’m rather glad I came to it later on because I am bringing life experience to the reading. The writing is achingly beautiful; the story heartbreaking and deeply inspiring. I can recall only a few books that have brought tears to my eyes while reading; this is one of them. But make no mistake about Angelou’s courage. She was not and had never been a pushover. I wish everyone would read this book. It is as timely now as it was in 1969, when it was first published. She gets my vote for placing her portrait on the $10.00 bill.

Another Country – James Baldwin – The main character, Rufus, a jazz musician in NYC, is a complex, tightly coiled, black man who dates white women and then slaps them around and hates himself for it. Confused, messed up, charismatic and full of self-loathing, still, you cannot bring yourself to dislike him in spite of his behavior (a sentiment also demonstrated by his close friends, the other characters in the book (n.b., I did not find the other characters as interesting in their own right). His friends always forgive Rufus. You feel his pain. When Rufus talks about music in the jargon of the time (1962), it is electric and captivating. You feel that too. So, why, at about 1/3 of the way into the book, does Rufus throw himself off the George Washington bridge…what?  At that point, the reader is left with the uninteresting supporting characters (his friends). I read some more of the book beyond the suicide event, but was disappointed. It was not as fun to continue on without the presence of Rufus. One day, I may go back to the book and try finishing it, if the spirit moves me…


After reading Maya Angelou’s book, race was on my mind. I recalled an incident concerning James Baldwin, which is why I picked up Another Country. Many years ago, I was lucky to have as an English teacher a progressive, liberal man named Mr. Goldfarb. Our class was assigned to read James Baldwin’s  Go Tell It On The Mountain, in which Baldwin dramatizes the story of the black migration from the rural South to urban North.

Published in 1953, Baldwin said of this book, Mountain is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.”

An important book.

A group of parents in our town got wind of the book Mr. Goldfarb had assigned. Our suburban town happened to be nick-named, “lily white” back then because not a single, non-white person resided there.

An emergency PTA meeting was called by parents to ban the reading of this book that frightened them so much. An emergency PTA meeting!

That was when I fully comprehended the power of literature.

In the words of Ray Bradbury:

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” 


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


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 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.


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.


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 teeming with crazy people. One Friday afternoon, Grace, our supervisor, a gum snapper from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, confided a secret to me, totally unbidden. We were neither office friends nor friends on any level. I didn’t know why she chose me as her confidant. Truth be told, her spidery, lacquered fingernails; formidable presence; jet black, Morticia-like hair (her best feature); and “moldy elbows” kind of spooked me.

She told 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.


How romantic!

During my 4-year employment in that office, her secret spouse had been sprung from prison. Immediately after his release, Grace began planning thei wedding reception, which would 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 resembled a reimagined high school auditorium). At one end of the vast space was an elevated stage. The carmine velvet curtains fronting the stage were closed. Tables were set up where rows of auditorium seats used to be.

After cocktails, the guests were seated at their tables. The wedding band played a what passed for fanfare as the curtains slowly parted. The newlyweds, Grace and her shifty-eyed, ants-in-the-pants husband, were seated onstage in separate thrones, kingly and queenly. The house lights dimmed. Pinpricked with theatrical stars, the backlit domed ceiling flickered above our heads.

Grace’s husband looked like a gangster. 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 wannabe — except, he was the real thing.


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 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 been informed by her papa that Mr. Romance had arrived home with another woman on his arm. Both of them were now inside of her house.

“Son if a bitch!” she screamed and slammed down the phone.

She grabbed her enormous purse and brass ring of a hundred keys and a rabbit’s foot and jangled out of the office a muderous rage.

Guess what happened next. D-I-V-O-R-C-E. What a surprise.

Not too long after that, I quit this mind numbing job when our married general manager, who was about 30 years older than I and who, when I was first hired, called me on my office phone and offered to buy me an expensive new wardrobe if I would only go out with him (to which I declined, mortified), was arrested and convicted of mail fraud.

Ha ha.



Notes From The Sofa

May 5, 2015


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

Recently, I spent real quality time in horizontal mode reading the memoir H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, a sharply observed and deeply affecting book. Her writing is elegant and her honesty unflinching. Her gift for metaphor is astonishing.


MacDonald, a falconer and naturalist,  shape-shifts into the soul of the goshawk, the wild bird of prey she has set out to train, as an attempt to assuage her deep sadness over the sudden death of her 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 emotionally complex memoir, The Goshawk (published in 1951), with its tragic undertone, acts as a dubbing rod for MacDonald’s maneuvering through her labyrinth of grief.

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


I have just finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Beautiful prose and structured in alternating chapters similar to MacDonald’s book, it’s a style I’ve come to appreciate because I do most of my reading on the iPhone. I’d rather not put lay down a book until I’ve reached a good stopping point.

Doerr’s novel was riveting. He too is a gifted, elegant writer and, in my opinion, deserving of the Pulitzer Prize bestowed upon him in 2015. Set prior to and during WWII, the plotting is as intricate, colorful and dense as a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

The story of a blind French girl is paralleled with that of an orphaned German boy who was drafted (unwillingly) into the army of the Third Reich as a radio engineer. Doerr has done his research and weaves detailed information  into the novel seamlessly.  The reader comes to care deeply about the characters and their respective fates.

There is one thing I want to mention. Something I have encountered in other novels (most recently, in We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas).

Doerr’s novel has an “epilogue” — in the  guise of a “final chapter.” After sailing through the novel, this last chapter left me disappointed.

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 does not work for me. In fact, I hate epilogues! An epilogue merely jumps ahead in time that yo me reads like a cop out.

I think it is better to end the book. There’s nothing wrong with an “open-ended” conclusion to a novel. It can set the reader’s imagination on fire.

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 iwouldchave been the perfect place to end this novel.

Try not to read: “Part Thirteen,” “Chapter 178,” which wraps up Doerr’s novel (the title is: “2014”). Permit 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).


As Billy Holiday famously sang, “Don’t explain.”

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.


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 S.O. Specifically, to Watermill.

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

Ooh and aah. Love life.




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.


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 backwards into a ditch at a 45-degree angle. Try to brake the fall with your heel. Wrench your foot severely. Sharply descend toward the inverted point of a triangular trough, deceptively masked by snow cover.

Twist your ankle unnaturally. 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 of car 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 sharp pain when boot touches ground; legs now at unequal lengths due to heavy, thick unstable rocker sole rendering boot impossible to “walk” in).

Secure boot to leg with 5 strips of velcro threaded through their 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 at daily intervals until next doctor visit.

You must continue navigating the apartment on crutches.

Das Boot


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 a tome 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.

You will plan a to visit orthopedist on April 27 for a new x-ray.

Fingers crossed.


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…


1. Miss Mermaid

2. La Suzz

3. Lightning


4. Soozie Doozie


1. Newspaper columnist

2. Professional sales rep

3. Legal Secretary

4. Teacher

images         artteacher










1. Chinatown

2. The Birds


3. All About Eve


4. Rosemary’s Baby















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


1. Brooklyn, NY

2. Hicksville, NY

3. Sag Harbor, NY

4. Sierra Madre, CA


1. Florence, Italy

2. Grand Canyon, AZ

4. Moscow and Leningrad, Soviet Union

5. Katmandu, Nepal


1. Meat

2. Nutella

3. Tofu

4. Tomato sauce that comes in a jar


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)



2. Downton Abbey

3. Portlandia

4. Wolf Hall


1. Spring!!!!


 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


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)


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








A Cubicle Is A Cubicle Is A Cubicle

July 13, 2014


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?

Cosmic Joke

June 13, 2014









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



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.


Looking for a fantasy place to live?

May 26, 2014



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.


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…


View from the gazebo

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


…and chill out.

Ahhh. Next October…