Friday, December 16, 2016

some days

Some days, I stand in my kitchen balling my eyes out because the garbage can I just cleaned and sanitized to white perfection has tomato sauce all over the lid.

Some days, my To Do list is so long I want to jab my pen in my head and scramble my brain to mush.

Some days, I lie in bed at night marking, by coughs and groans, the slow death of two men.

Some days, I wonder if I no longer do anything will anyone love me.

Some days, I wonder if I can ever do enough to be loved.

Some days, I forget how to breath.

Some days, the air moves like a dance, twinkling lights draw me into vast galaxies, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary and lemons awaken my dna, a mournful, lyrical chord tightens my chest and my mouth yearns for a kiss.

Some days, I can’t even.

Some days, it’s all too much.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

In the Beginning

I like to travel. I want to travel more. I want to tell you all about it.

A big part of traveling involves what I take with me when I go places. I have a huge bag addiction. I have spent a fortune on briefcases, tote bags, messenger bags, suitcases, purses and backpacks. I have found it difficult to find perfection because I hate not having what I need with me when I need it. But, I also don’t like being encumbered by too much stuff. So, like with clothing, layering is the key.

My absolute minimum list of must haves:

Cell phone - I have the large Apple iPhone 6s Plus because it’s beautiful. I take pictures and videos, read, watch movies, write, check-in on all of my social media platforms, listen to music and books, and map out my routes
Cash and cards - good food and drink costs
IDs - drivers’ license, passport, medical card, etc.
Small notebook and felt tip pen - sometimes I just need to go old school
Lip balm - it’s not likely, but I might kiss someone (it could happen, I’m not dead yet, you know and travelers are a friendly bunch, so it pays to be prepared)
Tissues - speaking of being prepared: for napkins at dives, wiping away tears of joy and potty breaks on the side of the road
Contact cards - I’ve got to promote, market and connect
Keys - the Silver Bullet gets me there and everywhere (it’s a pretentious name for a minivan, but I live large in my head.)

After much trial and error, I found this bag. Whether it’s going to the grocery store or a two week trip to Europe, this leather Passport Wallet holds all of the above. Light-weight, small, sturdy and convenient, it’s a perfect fit and low cost. It has a very long and strong cord that adjusts for tucking in a jacket for security. I’ve used it everyday for several months and decided it’s a keeper.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

yin and yang

Emma kicked the marigolds that grew along the crumbling sidewalk. She scowled at the dandelions growing in her uncut lawn. They were half mustard yellow and half faded white. She plucked one up and crushed the head between her fingers.

The front porch screen door slammed as her daughter, Sara, struggled out with her suitcases. Her turquoise capri slacks caught on a protruding nail and ripped. Sara ignored the damage, dragged the luggage across the dirty planks of the deck and down the stairs, bumping and banging the bags as she descended.

He leaned against his beat up jalopy, smoking a cigarette. He called it a classic, but he drove it everyday to his minimum wage job - if it started. He threw his butt on the ground. He smashed it out with the toe of his worn boot so it wouldn’t light the trash on fire.

Sara tripped in a concrete hole. Emma held out a hand to steady her. Sara leaned in to kiss her other on the cheek. Emma turned away, eyed the peeling paint around Sara’s bedroom window devoid of curtains. Sara’s lips fell on flaccid skin. She turned away from her mother and towards him.

He popped the trunk jangling the tin cans tied to the car’s bumper. He got behind the wheel, cranked the motor several times before it caught and started blowing black smoke onto Sara’s shins.

Sara lifted her bags into the cavernous compartment and slammed the lid. She climbed into the passenger seat. She waved to her mother as he pulled away from the curb.

Emma watched her daughter’s reflection in the dirty windows across the front of the house. Her image grew smaller as she moved right to left, then disappeared at the corner.

~ ~ ~

Sunshine filtered through shear lace curtains glinted on crystal wine glasses, a set of silver ware for twelve and two china gravy boats. Emma sorted through the gifts, placing them in bubble wrap and totes so they could be taken to Sara and John’s new home when they found one. Sara had plenty of space in her family room to store the items while they looked.

John moved the containers off of the table as Emma filled them. He smiled when Emma showed him items from her relatives: electric foot warmers from Uncle Bob, his and her back scratchers from Auntie Anne and yellow ducky sheets from cousin Mary. John held up a decorative figurine of the three monkeys. His brother Manny signed the accompanying card.

They took a break when the Timothy Mason longcase clock in the corner of the formal dining room chimed out three o’clock. They waited for the echo of fifteenth ring to still before the moved outside.

Sara brought warm chocolate chip cookies to them on the front porch after they finished their cataloging of the presents. They rocked in Emma’s chairs, inherited from her grandparents. Ruts marked the wooden slats. Sara sat on the swing like she always did.

A tear rolled down Emma’s cheek when she looked at Sara and John’s luggage stacked near the railing. Pink hearts covered Sara’s ID tag and smiley faces decorated John’s.

John handed Emma a crisp, cloth hankie. She blushed, got up and went to smell the coral tea roses growing by the stairs down to the sea shell covered path. Sara joined her, placed an arm around her mother and led her back into their ancestral home. John followed carrying the suitcases up to Sara’s childhood bedroom.

Friday, October 28, 2016

tightened up

Light flashed across my bedroom window. Magic bloomed.

Ectoplasm wafted over my naked feet. It formed a bat, larger than normal. It’s claws gripped and ungripped the wood of the foot board to the beat of my racing heart.

“Dracula greets the Green Witch.”

I touched my chartreuse hair. “What’s up, Drac?”

“The Beast bursts from the Netherworld.” Dracula took a breath. The air passed between his fangs and he whistled. “He hunts you.”

“Not new news, Drac.” I hefted my dead legs out of bed and touched the power points on the outside of each knee. Energy sizzled. I stood. When I faced Dracula, he appeared in his elegant vampire form.

“Gorgon fractured the prison of the House of Mirrors.” Dracula slashed his long fingers in the form of a “Z.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“He shocked his guards into oblivion.” Dracula stroked my white unicorn stuffed animal. “He captured Rust.”

Rust. The town of my birth. The place of my ancestors and my descendants. Ten generations in both directions.

My magically animated legs moved me closer to Dracula. I took the unicorn from his lifeless fingers. I touched the silver horn. It transformed. Ignis Fatuus, the sword of illusion, deception and confusion - Fool’s Paradise. I kissed the rainbow blade, slid it into its sheath. I rolled my shoulders, remembering its weight.

“He will crucify one person a day until you meet him in the mountains.”

“How do you know all this?”

Dracula blinked. There was no reason for him to blink. His eyes turned red, the black pupils fading to scarlet. Dracula wanted my blood.

“He sent me.” Dracula’s incisors elongated. He lunged in my direction. I thought of Rust. I moved a hair’s breadth in reality, folded space and time and flashed out of hiding.

the TWICE as LONG version

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fool's Paradise

What just happened?

A dog barked. Birds twittered. A cricket called from the other side of the wall.

Light flashed across my bedroom window. I lay on top of my blankets unable to sleep. I didn’t toss and turn, or tangle in the sheets. I was just too tired to sleep. I closed my eyes. Light strobed against my lids.

Magic bloomed.

A wisp of ectoplasm wafted over the foot of my bed, hanging over my naked feet. It thickened to form a solid bat, larger than normal. It’s claws gripped and ungripped the wood to the beat of my racing heart. Bats looked weird right-side up. Random thought. Not important. It ruffled its black, leathery wings, settled lower on its tail and spoke.

“Dracula greets the Green Witch,” Dracula said.

I touched my bright chartreuse hair. “Trite, baby,” I said. “What’s up, Drac?” I sat up, plumped my pillows.

“Dracula brings news of import.”

“Do tell.”

Talking to the vampire in his bat-form caused a stabbing pain behind my left eye. He slurred his words and had an accent.

“The Beast bursts forth from the Netherworld.” Dracula took a breath. When he converted to a mammal, he needed to breathe. Just one of those odd things about magical creatures. The air passed between his fangs and he whistled.

“He hunts you.”

“Not new news, Drac,” I said. “Gorgon has been grunting through the various planes of existence looking for me for several centuries.” I hefted my dead legs over the side of the bed and touched the power points on the outside of each knee. Energy sizzled and I stood. When I faced Dracula, his stood in his elegant vampire form.

“Gorgon fractured the prison of the House of Mirrors.” Dracula waved his elegant, long fingers in the form of a slashing “Z.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“He shocked his guards into oblivion.” Dracula lifted my white unicorn stuffed animal from my granny square quilt. He stroked the soft plush.

“Can you feel that?” I asked.

“You know I can not,” he said. “My skin has no nerve endings. None of my senses function in this form. I am dead.” He frowned.

“But, hey, you get to live forever,” I said.


“No one says that anymore.” Some old creatures had a hard time adjusting to current times.

“He has captured Rust.”

I stopped smiling. Rust. The town of my birth. The place of my ancestors and my descendants. Ten generations in both directions, past and future.

My magically animated legs moved me closer to Dracula. I took the unicorn from his lifeless fingers and touched the silver horn. It transformed into my sword, the metal of the blade a mother-of-pearl rainbow, the hilt wrapped in soft white leather. Ignis Fatuus, the sword of illusion, deception and confusion - Fool’s Paradise. I kissed the blade, slid it into the sheath that materialised on my back and rolled my shoulders, remembering its weight.

“He has imprisoned the entire town and will crucify one person a day along the perimeter until you meet him in the mountains.”

“How do you know all this?”

Dracula blinked. There was no reason for him to blink. His eyes turned red, the black pupils fading to scarlet.

I moved a hair’s breadth in reality and saved my life. Dracula was starving. I don’t know how he had hidden it from me. He wanted my blood.

“He sent me,” said Dracula. His incisors elongated. He lunged in my direction. I thought of Rust. I folded space and time. I flashed out of hiding.

Friday, October 14, 2016

i don't belong

The narrow opening sucked me in. Bricks in shades of cranberry, pomegranate and plum laid in alternating patterns of Flemish bond and herringbone paved the ground and curved up into walls and archways that cradled dark, tinted windows three stories tall to form a cul-de-sac canyon with a waterfall on the butt end. The air was heavy with moisture. Breathing the thick air slowed my movements. I strolled among empty tables covered in blazing white cloths.

I sat at the very back, my back to a vine-covered backdrop hiding wireless speakers. Aaron Neville crooned through lush, mottled leaves, “...Life is too short to have sorrow, you may be here today and gone tomorrow …” I smoothed my hands across the clean, linen surface in front of me. The stiff fibers scratched my fingertips. The bartender placed a Virgin Bloody Mary in the center of the circle, an open wound in perfection. Heat stung my tongue, as I sipped the sharp, bitter cocktail. Ice cold condensation soothed my irritated palms. I wiped the wet onto my jean-wrapped thighs.

Couples meandered into my secret garden. The women in white silk blouses and jeweled skirts, toes peeking from strappy sandals, hair sleek, unmade-up make-up. The men wore collared polo shirts and Palm Beach slacks. Wrinkle-free. Stainless. Relaxed. Nondescript waiters addressed the invaders by name. They chuckled at quips. They anticipated needs. They provided the usual. They waited. I watched while I ate butter-tender sea scallops and golden potato hash, I absorbed fluttering fingertips, deep-throated laughs, crossed ankles and slouched postures, arms that rested around shoulders, fingers that plucked at loose necklines, lips that brushed at wrists and cheeks and whispered into ears. They felt my stares. They glanced my way. Their eyes slid off to the pool on my right. The fountain with its dancing water didn’t hold their attention, either.

Friday, October 07, 2016

the cure

Cookie cutter, assembly line houses made the streets the same. Built white bread, white picket fence whitewashed. Strangers could not tell one lane from another. Strangers were not welcome.

Once an orchard, a dairy farm, a hay field or cornrows, Mr. Levitt purchased land dirt cheap from families too exhausted to keep going for Veterans and their families with The American Dream. This was a Levittown.

They built four types of houses. Two kinds of one story houses: the little Kensington Rancher and the bigger Buckingham Rancher. Two types of two story houses: the smaller Cape Code called an Ardsley, and the larger Gramercy Colonial. Throughout the eight square miles of raped and ravaged land they built the same four houses. Rinse and repeat. Roads, sidewalks, lawns, and trees. Everybody lived in parks and the names of our streets started with the same letter or words as our home park. We lived in Garfield East and lived on Eastgate Lane which was just off of East River Drive. Ever clever.

The rules said, “No bushes or fences in the front yards.” It made it easier to play tag and kickball. We even got yelled at when our ball ended up on the neighbor’s front lawn. The old man actually came out his front door, all outrage and high dudgeon, tried to capture our ball before we could rescue it. When he beat us to it, he’d keep it until the next day. But since everyone had their own balls, we just kept playing.

In Winter, we built snowmen and igloos in our front yards, Dads competing as much as the kids. Snowballs flew over the top of cars slipping down the icy roads. It took hours and sometimes days for the plows to make it to all areas.

In Summer, we rode bikes with banana seats. When it rained and the sewers backed up at the end of our street, we waded in and swam in the flood waters. We drank out of garden hoses and ran through the sprinklers that wave back and forth like a liquid fan. We’d get called in for dinner and then be right back on the street. We stayed outside long after the lights came on.  

Not all was rosy and idyllic. We were infested with bugs. Maybe mosquitoes. Since we were kids, we didn’t know and we didn’t care. Not about what they were, anyway. All we cared about was the cure. All we knew was that we were lucky because we had a great game to play. On random afternoons, in the heat and humidity of a New Jersey Summer, the Bug Spray Truck would make its rounds. It was basically a large bug spray can on wheels. It would travel slow throughout the neighborhoods spraying huge, thick white clouds of poison and we would run behind it, laughing and sucking all of the noxious fumes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Sunday, October 02, 2016

blackout rules

Winter seeped into the stone walls, the thick wooden floors, the still air. We put our frozen mittens on the sill of the kitchen window. Ice clung to their woolen fibers. It only melted in the brief sunshine that hit the southern wall in the afternoon. The light through the thick panes of glass magnified a circle on the floor occupied by a dozing kitten. The war required blackout rules. No fires in stoves. No oil lamps lit. During the day, it was bright enough, especially with the sun bouncing off the snow, knee deep in the pastures, shoulder deep in drifts blown into corners.

We left a path from the woods. Footprints and evergreen needles alleviated the dull white on white landscape. Into the forest we went, early in the morning to take advantage of the light, to get our tree. We cut down the perfect Fir like we do every year. Only this year, there would be no candles on the tree. No sparklers allowed.

It stood center stage in the middle room. Tangy-sweet, rich evergreen scented our breath clouds. Hand-made glass ornaments, a Robin’s nest with three blue eggs and red ribbons tied in bows decorated its branches. I sat on the bed, wrapped in a feather quilt to keep me warm and stared at the tree while illumination still glinted on bulbs.

We gathered in the front room, close together. We ate liver, bread dumplings in a chicken broth. We ate in silence. Except for my Ur-Opa who snored in his back bedroom. We ate warm apple strudel drenched in honey. It had been a whole year since we had sweets. Normally, the honey from the combs in the orchard was sold for what little money we could get.

I layered several sweaters under my red wool coat. I slipped my reindeer boots lined with rabbit fur over three pairs of wool socks. My uncle Viktor brought the boots home with him from Norway after he had been shot in the left leg. His knee was shattered and he could no longer march so they sent him home. He felt a certain shame in not dying for the Fatherland but we were glad to have him back. My five other uncles all died on frozen battlefields in places that sounded like fairytale lands: Kursk, Westerplatte, Nibeiwa, Narvik, Gembloux.

We went out into the black night to see the stars, The Star, shining just beyond the reach of my fingers.

Christmas Eve in the dark.

We stood in the chamomile field, in the silent night. I wanted to sing. We always sang on this night. I opened my mouth. A buzz rolled through the mountain peaks. At first, I couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. It seemed to be everywhere at once and then I saw bright lights moving across the sky, a triangle of lights, a moving celestial tree. I clapped and laughed. My Ur-Oma grabbed my wrist, pulled me along behind her. I wanted to stay to see the Christmas spectacle.

Whistling followed us into the hall. The walls vibrated and shook as we sheltered in a corner. The bombs landed high in the alps.

Friday, September 23, 2016

u no who u r

You start in earnest right after the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Once you see Santa arrive the season officially begins.

Of course, you were forced to start in September when the stores began mixing Christmas decorations in with the Back-to-School supplies. In October, you complained about the shining bulbs next to the Jack-o-Lanterns, red, blinking Rudolph noses in the same bin as green, warty witch beaks. November required that you stick your fingers in your ears as “Jingle Bells” clanged in your head and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” saw sixty sunsets.

Once you digest your turkey and purge all of that pumpkin pie, your good humor returns. Black Friday holds no shopping excitement for you. Instead, you have permission to sing hymns and carols at the top of your lungs. Your Christmas playlist is set on a loop, the same songs, sung by different artists, repeat repeatedly, but now they make you happy instead of making you want to barf.

You bring out the seventeen plastic bins containing all of the items that make the holiday special. You find the reindeer mantel hooks, place them on the ledge in the kitchen and attached the personalized stockings: the Grinch, Pink Princess, Mickey Mouse and the green, sequinned butterfly. The white ceramic angels, singing and playing instruments that you inherited from your mother and that made their appearances in your life every year of your life, get hidden a bit so they don’t get accidentally knocked over and broken.

The tree doesn’t get put up until the third Sunday of Advent. It really shouldn’t be until Christmas Eve morning but that’s too radically different from what everyone else is doing, so you bend a bit. You have also caved when it comes to live versus artificial. Falling needles make too much of a mess - you can never remember to put water in the stand so real trees dry out too quickly. Plus, spending all day searching for the perfect tree in lawn and garden store lots was never much fun for you. Some traditions deserve to die.

Each ornament you take from the boxes remind you of something. Decorating the tree takes you all day long. You have to find the perfect branch to put each on. You step back, assess, move, repeat. You take a break, have a hot chocolate (with a touch of liqueur because you’re an adult now and you can) then finish up with the little strawberries your mother gave you when you were in college. You spend the rest of the night, clicker in hand, flicking the tree lights on and off. You like the white fairy lights.

The manager goes under the tree. You plug the bulb that represents The Star into the tree lights. Mary and Joseph and the Angel Gabriel kneel around the empty crib, waiting, like you until the Baby Jesus miraculously arrives. Baby Jesus gets hidden in a cabinet until the bell rings. (Did you know bells ring when babies are born?) You put the cow, donkey and sheep in their stalls and you line up the three Wise Men from East to West. You place the shepherds randomly, so they, too, can keep watch.

Now, you wait until January sixth to take it all down and put it all away until next year.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

built like a brick house

Lancaster, PA, (pronounced LANK-aster with the middle part distinct yet said together by the locals) was originally called Hickory Town and is one of the oldest inland cities in the United States. The center of town, a single block of mostly brick buildings, is formed by King Street, Queen Street, Orange Street and Prince Street. These names hearken back to a time when we were still The Colonies.

The corner of King Street and Queen Street forms the bottom left corner of The Box, a square circle with a monument in the middle.

There is parking on the edges of the streets but those spaces were quickly taken. I parked in one of the convenient parking lots in the middle of the block. The price for my short Sunday stay was $6.00 for less than two hours.

I parked, grabbed my Shunk backpack filled with my iPad and notebook along with my camera and phone and headed for King Street where I picked one of the many restaurants in the area to have brunch.

I immediately found Steinman Park, a hidden garden created by the surrounding buildings. It’s a brick courtyard with outdoor seating for eating called The Pressroom. A beautiful fountain formed the base end with a bar off to the side. The fountain end had raised bar tables, the area closest to the entrance had regular height tables.

 When I got there around eleven am, only one outdoor table was occupied. I took pictures, found a table right near the fountain and settled in. I ordered a virgin Bloody Mary and coffee and Scallops and CornedBeef with a Poached Egg to eat (they forgot the corned beef, but I didn’t notice until I wrote this.) They were playing 70’s and 80’s music at just the right sound level. My Bloody Mary tasted like a shrimp cocktail. Perfect amount of horseradish.

Kevin, my waiter/bartender, was friendly, efficient and attentive without hovering.

After dining, I walked around the block filled with quaint shops and plenty of eateries.

Lancaster is definitely worth a re-visit. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

it happened in the blink of an eye

The bell on the microwave dinged. The light went out and the humming of the motor stopped. Jason pressed the button on the bottom, right, front of the oven, depressed it into the plastic and metal box. The machine slid across the grey, laminate counter. It stopped when it reached the back wall, chipping the natural stone tile. The door popped open.
Jason reached in with his left hand and grabbed the plastic bag containing his mixed vegetables.  He pinched the hot, air bloated sack with pointer finger and thumb. He pulled on it, bringing it out. It hung in the air for a second. A burning sensation reached the pain center of his brain. Jason shook his hand. The packet of scorching pre-processed produce flew across the kitchen, landing six feet away in front of the brushed aluminum refrigerator.
Blowing on his fingers, he walked across the green, tile floor and grabbed a pear and apple decorated towel hanging from the oven’s handle. He bent and picked up his so-called healthy diet items with a swaddled right hand.
Using his teeth, he ripped a corner of the food pouch. The escaping steam scalded his lips and cheek. He dropped the open bag. Various vegetables of equal size but in assorted colors reminiscent of Autumn rolled and tumbled across the floor. Jason cursed. He stepped forward to wipe up the mess. His naked foot landed on some peas and carrots, smooshed them into a slippery mess, lubricating the space between skin and floor.
He flew backwards, flapped his arms, cracked the end of an ulna on a sharp corner, smacked his skull on the metal handle of a strawberry blonde cabinet, and landed on his sweat pants covered bony ass. Jason laid on the floor and stared at his knotty pine paneled ceiling. His stomach growled.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Revena's Revenge ~ this stinks

~ random scene from my novel ~
By the time she reached their neighbors' holdings, her feet were numb and her legs were tired. She stepped out of the creek where the women came to wash their clothes. She needed to find somewhere to hide herself very soon. The sun would be breaching the horizon soon. She would hide in the wash house.
The smell of the aging urine would be strong enough to mask her smell. A day of discomfort would be a small price to pay for her freedom.
Revena crept up to the building. There was no lock on the door because no one would want to steal anything in the building as it only contained barrels of urine fermenting in the building with no windows. While the liquid was valuable for bleaching the woolen garments everyone wore, it wasn't valuable enough to take. Not to mention the foul stench. Revena almost threw up when she first went in.
She covered her mouth and her nose with her shawl. She made her way to a back corner and scrunched down behind a large covered barrel of piss. There was enough room for her to lie down. She rested her head on her bundle. It was warm in the shed so she needed no cover. Despite the horrible smell, Revena fell asleep from her exhaustion. It was Sunday, so she knew no one would come here today to do any washing. Only the most necessary work was done on Sundays and washing was not one of the chores that needed to be done. She slept all day, not stirring until a mouse ran over her outstretched hand resting in the straw covering the floor.
She couldn't bring herself to eat in the shed. The smell was too bad and made her stomach queasy. Revena squinted through the boards of the building and saw no light outside. She rose from the floor and crept through the dark room. She knocked into one of the barrels and a wooden bucket fell to the floor. Revena stood still, holding her breath for several heartbeats. When she heard no other noises she continued more cautiously towards the door. When she reached it she edged it open and looked out.
Full night was upon her and no one was about. All was quiet and still. She left the shed and went around the corner and stepped into another body. She was grabbed around the waist and a hand was clamped over her mouth. She couldn't see the face of her captor but she could tell the person was a man who was much larger than she was.

She was dragged back to the bleaching shed, and pulled inside. She struggled to free herself but only ended up getting herself thrown to the ground, the wind knocked from her lungs as the body of her captor covered hers, his hand never leaving her mouth. Revena attempted to kick the man or knee him in the groin but he wove his legs around hers so she could not move. She tried to open her mouth enough to bite his hand but his hand was so large it kept her jaw closed shut. He was so heavy upon her she could not breathe.