Month: April 2014

This Way Lies Madness

Make it stop!!!!

Make it stop!

That’s in the hallway outside my apartment.  It’s been chirp-shrieking for three days now.  Why, oh why, doesn’t someone with a ladder come and change the battery?

Little Incredibly Dumb Dog is afraid of the sound.  She spent all of Saturday quaking. She barks and jumps like a wee mop lunatic for me to pick her up every time we’re in the hall waiting for the elevator to go down for a walk.  By yesterday, she realized it can’t actually harm her through the door when she’s in the apartment, so she spent last night demonstrating her valor by growling and barking at the doorknob.  All. Night. Long.

I considered (for about the 29th day in a row) working on the short story I’ve been building in my mind. Nope, not yet.

Big Senile Dog is only bothered by the little one’s shenanigans.  I think his hearing is going, in addition to his kidneys.  Why yes, I did have to take him back to the vet for more testing, and spoke with her a while ago.  Renal failure.  We’re going to try to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.  The thing is, when you live in this world of medical mayhem I’ve been party to in the last ten years or so, part of your brain starts sifting through and throwing up memories of every one of these moments when you hear test results.  Fucked up as this sounds, I’ve dealt with much worse.  Sorry.  I love my beasts, but watching Husband turn blue?  Worse.  Art Child turn blue? No contest.

Big Senile Dog was a gift from my brother.  What an awesome gift, right?  None of us dreamed of the extent of  it until he became an unofficial but invaluable service dog for my daughter.  In the dog/people world, Big Senile Dog’s breed hasn’t been “just” a pet for very long.  They’re working dogs.  Bless his tired, scrawny body, he’s worked for us.  Gift isn’t the word, I don’t think there is one.

I didn’t cry when the vet told me, just asked questions about how best to keep him comfortable, and stressed that I don’t want him to suffer.  We should still have at least a couple of months with him.  I’ve been on the receiving end of bad news for people and critters I hold near and dear many times, and many lessons learned.  Among them, falling apart doesn’t mean you care more, not falling apart doesn’t mean you care less.  I will say, though, falling apart while speaking with a doctor makes it much harder to take in the necessary information, understand what they’re saying, and then move forward with what needs to be done.  This doesn’t mean I don’t feel, I’ve just become, I don’t know…judicious? in the when and where.  Try to be, anyway.

I’d like to say I’ve learned all these marvelous spiritual lessons, but in all honesty I can’t.  What I’ve learned is that all I don’t know, can’t control or predict, is vast– and there are no safe assumptions.  Not assuming medical science can treat all or even identify all.  Not assuming good writing trumps all.  Not assuming what I believe is everyone’s truth–or even my truth a year from now.

Nerd Child was home a couple of weeks ago, and sounded like shit.  His asthma and allergies were flaring, and I told him approximately 53,000 times how important it is for him to take care of himself.  In completely age appropriate teenaged boy spirit he told me, “Don’t worry, Ma.  I’m not dead yet.”  Flippant, sure.  But a good reminder to keep perspective, too.

So no, I’m not crying, but I need the musical equivalent of comfort food.

I am Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli Rabe (Photo credit: cbertel)

Maybe not me, but my writing.  I think.  Hell, maybe it is me.

Broccoli rabe, kalamata olives, vinegar, hot peppers, capers, just about any type of cheese–the stinkier the better.  I’ve never tasted anchovies.  When I was younger, no one I knew ate them, and by the time I realized they were probably a food I’d enjoy, I was long a vegetarian.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m a “foodie,” there are plenty of basic, simple comfort foods that make my list.  Oatmeal with tons of salt and butter, cheetos, pb&j.  Yes, peanut butter–the real kind–no additives.  I don’t know about your house, but in my house we go through gallons of it.  Nothing says comfort like a sammich.  Mrs Fringe ❤ bread.  But if I had to choose my two favorite sandwiches, one would be a lightly toasted extra sharp Irish white cheddar with sour pickle slices on sourdough, and the other would be chèvre, kalamata olives, fresh dill and sliced cucumbers on baguette.

Like anything else, these foods are only good if they’re fresh and prepared well.  Same with writing, words and stories.

I enjoy strong flavors, strong opinions, strong words.  Things that make my tongue and my brain tingle.  Not everyone agrees, not on their plates and not on their book shelves.

Not everyone likes the same books I do, the same authors.  Not everyone *gasp* enjoys my stories.  But those that do, really do.  Kind of like those that have a taste for broccoli rabe.  It doesn’t mean it’s a “flavor” that’s inherently bad or good, individual tastes vary.  It occurs to me as I type, this might be seen as a cryptic message about rejections.  Nope.  Still waiting, haven’t heard yay or nay on the fulls that are out.  Just flagellating myself while I wait.  Umm, I mean, thinking.  Just thinking.

It’s Friday, Friday Night Madness tonight.  Fatigue is coming over, we’ll have dinner, one beer each, and laugh.  Art Child will show him her latest sketches.  We’ll cluck and tear up and sniffle a bit as I give him the update on Big Senile Dog (kidneys–I’m waiting on more test results), and he’ll fill me in on the rapidly declining health of his Big Senile Dog, and then I’ll read him the next couple of chapters in Astonishing–it’s become our irregular routine.

You’re welcome to join us.  I’m thinking basic pasta tonight.  I make a mean puttanesca sauce–no anchovies.  If you don’t like it, I can order a pizza.  If you don’t like pizza, well.  Maybe Art Child will share her Easter chocolate.

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Oh, Those Twilight Years

Setting Sun

Setting Sun

Sounds so serene, tranquil.

For some, that’s what those last years seem to be, a gentle setting of the sun.  Soft shadows illuminated by fingers of watercolor light. For some.

For the rest these years often involve pain and indignities, menacing shapes refracting through cataract eyes, and confusion.

Not so different for our pets.

I spent this morning at the vet’s office with Big Senile Dog.  My poor beast is not watching a gentle sun.  He’s been miserable, lost more weight over the past couple of weeks, his crying went from the early morning wake up call to protracted through the morning ablution, to holy shit when will he stop? He cries, he paces, lays down and snores for a while and then starts again. He’s miserable, I’m miserable, we’re all miserable.

I actually asked the vet for a mild sedative for him, at least until we can establish if there’s something specific causing this latest decline, and the best course of action.  Yes, I already tried the plug in pheromones, the Bach’s Rescue Remedy, etc. I don’t know if this is “it” or not.  This dog has a strong spirit, twice before we’ve thought this is it, but he’s recovered.  Maybe a little more worn out, but recovered.

We’ll see.


Four Fingered Discount

Sometimes we all need a helping hand.

Sometimes we all need a helping hand.

I try not to blog about the kiddos too much on Mrs Fringe for two reasons.  One, this is my spot to be me–all of me, not just mamaing, but certainly being a mom is a big part of me.  Two, their privacy.  This week is my girl’s birthday, though.  And it’s a big one.  So we took a trip downtown and went to the art store.  A new one for us, haven’t explored it before.  Flower Child was given all the time she wanted to look at each pencil, eraser, and every other thing that I don’t know what they’re called or how they’re used, but she does.  And she saw the manikins.  I know they’re useful, but all these little things add up in price.  She saw this hand, missing one finger, and asked me if I thought they’d give it to us for fewer dollars because it had fewer fingers.  I told her to ask the manager.  She did, and he did.  Thank you!

Of course, she has a long list of things she would love for her birthday.  But…budget.  And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t summon a unicorn.  We do the best we can.  One of the things on her list was a name change.  She wants to be called Art Child here in Fringeland, instead of Flower Child.  I can do this, and I think I should.  Here’s a drawing she’s been working on for the past week.

I love this.  Not quite finished, but I say this definitely = a name change, don't you?

I love this. Not quite finished, but I say this definitely = a name change, don’t you?

I continue to be blown away by her developing talent.  She pours her dreams onto the sketch pad, uses her charcoals to smudge them into something visible, something tangible, something I can feel.

I’ve been thinking about dreams a lot these days.  How, as someone who writes, a wannabe, I take bits and pieces of what I see, hear, and feel.  I inhale them, taste them, smoosh them together, let them harden, and then tap them with the keys on my laptop until they crack and the cracks become stories. Written dreams that turn into personal dreams of connecting with readers, publication.  At this point in my life, dreaming isn’t enough.  A head in the clouds doesn’t protect you from the potholes under your feet.  Work needs to be done, mamaing needs to happen, life has to be lived.

When we left the art supply store we walked down 23rd St.  I looked at the old YMCA and wondered what happened to the dreams of the young men who stayed there years ago, before it became a trendy Crunch gym.

Yup, the one that inspired the song.

Yup, the one that inspired the song.

But for now, I want Art Child to dream.  I will watch out for the cracks in the sidewalk.

In Pursuit of…

Half empty or?

Half empty or?

Friday night I was on the couch watching Bill Maher–nothing unusual, I’m always watching him at that time, though I confess I often fall asleep before the end, and watch the rest in reruns later in the week.  Hey the weeks are long, and it’s my night to have a beer, I get sleepy.  In any case the interview was with two of the members of Pussy Riot, that kept me awake.  Brave women.

Then it was on to the panel discussion, and something something happy/happiness, and Ana Marie Cox (political columnist, commentator, and founding editor of the blog Wonkette) said no, she wants fulfillment, not happiness.  Maher said he wants to be happy, not just fulfilled.  I’m not sure I heard much else past that, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.   With the most cursory of research, using my buddy Google, I found this is not a new idea.  It seems like the current definitions involve fulfillment being more of a long term state of being, satisfaction, and happiness being short term, connected to a finite thing, experience, or emotion.

Makes sense to me.  We all know the studies, hear the platitudes, no one thing or person will make us happy.  As in permanent state of being happy.  I believe this.  On the flip side, I believe one thing (or lack thereof) or person can result in sustained unhappiness.  Unemployment, hunger, poverty, homelessness, a miserable marriage, these things can create long term unhappiness until and unless they change.

Tears of a Clown

Tears of a Clown (Photo credit: daybeezho)

The thing is, I also don’t think any of these achievements, relationships, resources, or experiences can provide permanent fulfillment.  We have to continue reaching out, working, experiencing, connecting.  When my children were young, I felt fulfilled.  There were still things I wanted, experiences I wanted and thought were coming, but overall, I was satisfied with life at that time.  Time passes, children grow, life happens, and I’m not so satisfied with where I am now, but I have no desire to go backwards, nor do I wish things had stayed the way they were.  The sometimes silly chaos of babies and nursing and giggles and every moment a discovery and but why and pleasefortheloveofGodgotosleep is not a state I’d want to live in forever.

Yeah, I’m in pursuit.  Of fulfillment, happiness, rainbows, I don’t know.  But I’m in pursuit.  Are you?

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Vintage: Not Frost Free

Vintage Refrigerator

Vintage Refrigerator (Photo credit: SanFranAnnie)

I’m in this strange in between space.  Between waiting and doing and deciding on the waiting and the doing and the deciding.  This leaves too much time devoted to thinking.  And remembering.

This morning I was talking with a friend about my love of the beach.  Now pretty much limited to summer time, when I was young I used to go year round.  In fall and winter I would sit on the rocks of that Brooklyn beach with my radio (and then walkman), spiral notebook and pencil, and write poor, angsty poetry.  Of course then I didn’t see it as poor or angsty.  But yeah, it was.

Strangely enough, though I don’t write much poetry anymore, when I do it’s still poor and angsty.  And when I do, I still enjoy the process.


a lousy poem, by Mrs Fringe

Unplug that old Frigidaire
with the frayed cord
and the rusted coils
Coffee, screwdriver, gin

Words of frost six inches thick
trap the right phrase
only the wrong fits
Flathead now an ice pick
   Chink clunk

Ice drips, words melt until
The pan overflows
with gray sentences
Seeping through
asbestos tiles


Happy Friday, everyone–and an extra special Friday it is, spring break starts this afternoon for my girl.

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Possibility: A Pseudo-Lesson on Defensive Living

Crossing a threshold, maybe

Crossing a threshold, maybe

Mrs Fringe and Husband were informed a 3 bedroom has opened up in the building.  We’re going for it.  Again.  Sounds good, right?

It may or may not come through.  We’ve been this close before a couple of times, and life happened.  There’s a little part of me that’s crying.  If it really comes through, and we take the apartment, it will cost us money, a lot of work, and acceptance that I’m not leaving New York anytime soon.

As I’m typing this, my little email notification popped up, there’s a new listing in Oahu!  Yeah, yeah, I can and do dream.  Why would I take this apartment if I know it takes me further away from leaving the city?  Because for whatever life hasn’t taught me, I’ve learned a few lessons well.  One of them is I don’t know what next year, next month, or even tomorrow will bring.  So if there’s an opportunity in front of me now, I need to take it.  Get it while you can and all that.  And hey, a 3 BR apartment in Manhattan that’s practically affordable–not to be taken lightly. Besides, I made my buddy Mrs Smitholini promise about a million times that when I die, she’ll take my ashes to Hawaii.  So eventually, in some form or another, I’ll get there.

I saw a neighbor earlier, she asked me if Big Senile Dog was still alive because she hasn’t heard him.  He is, but the truth is when I woke up this morning I thought he wasn’t.  As I’ve said before, he always wakes me up, cries until I get out of bed and go to the bathroom, and then he goes back to bed as soon as I start making my coffee.  This morning he cried, but then stopped.  All was quiet when I was in the bathroom so I went to check on him, and he was all curled up, not snoring, on his doggie-pedic bed. Still alive, but slowing down a little more each day.

Not perky, but still with me.

I swear his jowls are sagging.

Yup, good and bad, life happens.

Here, a little fusion jazz for us all.

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Tail End of Sunrise

Somewhere between 6:30 and 6:45 this morning.

Somewhere between 6:30 and 6:45 this morning.

Looks like an impossibility, no?  I stood on the terrace drinking my cafè con leche, camera in hand and the blue and gray and pink and white of the sky made me feel inside out, upside down.  I could have been looking into an ocean as easily as up to the sky, if it weren’t for the water towers and smokestacks of neighboring buildings to orient me.

This morning’s sunrise was a surprisingly accurate reflection of how I feel as I’m reading The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud. So perfectly simple, natural, it’s a deeply complex piece written with such honesty it makes my heart stop every few pages.  The words and phrasing aren’t pretty but they’re beautiful (if that makes sense to anyone other than me). Her main character is pure in her anger– no coyness, no stereotypical qualifiers, I’m not reading into it, she tells us exactly how angry she is and how she sublimates that anger in order to function–much the way I know those deep pinks above, stunning as they are, represent a big storm on its way later.  I took the photos so I can look at this sunrise again tomorrow or next month or next year, but they won’t give the same wow they did when I stood there this morning.

There are many writers I admire, for craft, plotting, characterization, descriptions, but.  There aren’t many writers who have made me feel like I’m holding my breath, chest and head hurting but I’m afraid to exhale, afraid to keep turning the pages because then it gets me closer to the end.  I don’t want it to be over, and I also don’t want to find out if it was wrapped up in a neat and tidy package where everyone gets to live happily ever after because sales-marketing-feel good-life is a cabaret.

*this, by the way, is why I don’t write book reviews on the blog.  Not too many people looking to buy a novel want to know how a book made me feel, but the feelings are what’s important and memorable to me.

Some novels I read and know no matter how much I enjoy them, they aren’t my type of story to write.  Thrillers, horror, so fun!  My imagination doesn’t go in those directions.  Some novels I read and think yes, I should be querying and pursuing publication, my work is competitive.  This is a whole other category.

This is the type of book I will remember the name of, will recommend to friends and acquaintances for the next ten years.  I’m guessing there are a lot of people who won’t like it.  Anger, especially women’s anger, tends to make people uncomfortable. It’s also the type of novel that makes me wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing.  A strange feeling, hard to state clearly because it’s inspiring at the same time.  There’s a little back room in my brain where I’ve been drafting a character for another story, and he’s starting to knock, wanting to move forward.  As much as I’m loving The Woman Upstairs, feel it was money well spent, it also makes me want to stomp my feet and shake my fists because this is what writing can be, but my writing is not.  Cliche as it may be, the word that keeps coming to mind is heartbreaker.

Must mean it’s time to get the Led out before I get back to reading and before the rain comes.

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Walking Through Fringeland, Part II

Above were just a few of the hidden paths, nooks and crannies.  Central Park is 843 acres, there’re a lot of them.  The set below are from just outside the park, on my way home.

Snotting Against the Wind


It isn’t raining or gray and I’ve been so damned sedentary since I hurt my back that I needed to go for a walk this morning. Dropped Flower Child off at her art class, and headed into Central Park with my camera.  A nice day for a walk–you’ll all be relieved to know I wore my sensible shoes, with support, without heels.  Glad I had a hat and was wearing layers because it is windy out there. Just shy of cold when the sun goes behind a cloud.  As expected, it was crowded with bikers, runners, kids, dogs, bird watchers and photographers.  But one of the nice things about Central Park is how big it is, if you don’t go to the popular, touristy spots, you can still find some peace.

Except for the two runners who were stopped right where I wanted to take some photos of the newly seeded ball fields.  One even treated me to the sight and sound of her blowing her nose onto the ground.  You know, one finger laid across one nostril, lean forward and blow out the other one.  I’m sure someone will tell me how it’s necessary, you don’t carry tissues to go running.  You know what?  It’s fucking gross.  I’ll bet she had her cell phone tucked in somewhere, she could throw a few Kleenex into the case.  By the way hon, if you’re reading, you might want to get checked for a sinus infection.

I would love to photograph the playgrounds, but they’re rarely empty, and it’s creepy to stand there and take photos of other people’s kids.  I like to get shots of birds, but that rarely works out for me, I don’t have great photography skills.  If you’re a longtime follower, you might know I’m obsessed with trees, especially the patterns of the root growths, and this time of year, just beginning to bud, when you can see the shapes and shadows made by the branches.  Plus, I find trees to be cooperative subjects, they rarely blink or move at the moment I press the shutter.  I also shoot a lot of the various bodies of water.  They’re always moving, but that makes them interesting to me, even the blurs. I took a lot of pictures, I’ll probably break this up into two or three posts.

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