Month: August 2014

Not So Great Escape

I left this view,

Bricks, bars, and concrete, just a hint of green.

Bricks, bars, and concrete, just a hint of green.

and this mourning pup

If she could, she'd be dressing herself in black from head to tail.

If she could, she’d be dressing herself in black from head to tail.

And spent a couple of days looking at this view



Ok, maybe it’s true that an overnight in the suburbs with Art Child isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I imagined a vacation this summer, but I take what I can get.  I needed to get out of the city, away from the waiting and waiting to hear about the apartment, because I’m a peasant.  And apparently peasants aren’t worthy of timely responses, regardless of how much money is involved. And a couple of days of laughter with friends are always a good thing.  Besides, look what I got to snack on while poolside



once I valiantly fought off this guy

Ok, I waited for him to finish and fly away, but I was still brave.

Ok, I waited for him to finish and fly away, but I was still brave.

I floated in the pool, felt my freckles multiply, and watched Art Child turn blue having a great time


Don't be silly, I don't sub skate, but it makes an excellent flotation device.

Don’t be silly, I don’t sub skate, but it makes an excellent flotation device.

Mr and Mrs Smitholini and I had dinner outside, and had a visit from a neighboring family.

Mr and Mrs Tick dropped by

Mr and Mrs Tick dropped by

with their children, Lyme and Disease

with their children, Lyme and Disease

The four legged members of the household were particularly happy for the company.

She let the guests know exactly where they should go

She let the guests know exactly where they should go

while he watched her

while he watched her

and he wished they would both stfu and let him enjoy his massage.

and he wished they would both stfu and let him enjoy his massage.

Later in the evening, Mr. Chic–artist and model extraordinaire, third born of the Smitholinis, about to return to his art college– gave Art Child a trim.  Her bangs are now perfect, she is beyond thrilled, and all is right with the world.

The following morning, I tried to snap photos of the bluejays chasing each other from tree to tree, but they were too damned fast.  IMG_1885 IMG_1905On the way home, we stopped in a new to us fish store, where Mrs Smitholini and I drooled over the gorgeous and healthy fish and coral.  They even had frag tanks with very reasonably priced pieces (“frags” are fragments of coral reef colonies, a more budget friendly option than buying entire colonies for your tank, not to mention the thrill of watching a tiny frag thrive and grow into a colony in your very own slice of the ocean).  I had a long chat with the manager about the latest in LED fixtures for the best coral growth, and then, in the back, I found they had the tank of my dreams.  THE tank.  80 gallons of shallow reef goodness.  I inspected the glass, the silicone, inspected the cabinet under the tank, climbed a ladder and peered into the back chambers.  Mrs Smitholini stopped me from actually climbing into the tank.  She’s always been my voice of reason.


And I Splutter While Crying

From The Grange, home of Alexander Hamilton

From The Grange, home of Alexander Hamilton

The above quote is from over two hundred years ago.  Think about it, two hundred years.  So why am I sitting here wondering who this American world is made for?

If you follow Mrs Fringe, you know I indulge in the occasional political rant.  Generally, I try to limit myself to rants directly related to women, both because I’m not a political scientist and because it’s exhausting and ultimately ineffectual to be angry about everything all the time.  I didn’t intend to blog about Ferguson, there are many others doing so who are better informed and  more eloquent.  Yesterday I was watching an interview with Al Sharpton about what’s happening in Ferguson.  One of the most, if not the most, polarizing people of the country.  I found myself agreeing with every word coming out of his mouth.  Reverend Al, voice of reason?  Has he mellowed?  Have I become more radical?  Or is what’s happening so egregious he is exactly the right person to speak for We The People?

The segment kept cutting to clips of interviews with others, and on the whole, it didn’t seem meant to be an inflammatory piece one way or the other.  Until I saw/heard someone representing the authorities of Ferguson, and he said they just wanted to keep order (good), not allow looting (excellent, the thugs who take advantage of these situations should not be allowed to profit, or take the focus off of why people are protesting), and make sure the people gathering don’t become a large crowd (huh?).  What the fuck was that?  I don’t follow every news story around the world every day, but I’m pretty sure I’d have heard if the First Amendment had been ratified to revoke the right to protest.

The death of Michael Brown is a tragedy.  For him and for his family, something no family should have to experience.  But I believe it isn’t solely a private and personal tragedy.  Because his death and the clusterfuck that’s been happening since represents something much larger that’s been happening in this country, and impacts all of us.  Fear, racism, loss of liberties.

Individual police officers/forces acting as judge and jury?  I’m not sure how new that is.  Fact or fable, I remember hearing stories when I was younger about neighborhood pedophiles being “taken care of.”

Also not new, authorities pushing back against protestors, breaking out tear gas, swinging batons, turning on fire hoses, protestors being beaten and swept into “paddy wagons” (is there a more current term for these?) for mass arrests.  Those halcyon days of yore weren’t quite body to body peace and free love.  Anyone else have an ear worm of Kent State?

The world has continued to change.  America has continued to change.  People have not changed.

Our police forces around the country are growing ever more militarized.  I’m all for reusing and recycling.  But that extra military equipment, armaments being handed to local PDs?  Doesn’t make sense to me.  At all.  This equipment is designed for war.  War.  Soldiers are trained in how to use/not use this equipment.

More than anything, technology has changed.  Weaponry available is well beyond anything our forefathers could have imagined.  Freedom of the press now means the ability to see and hear exactly what is happening with instantaneous recordings and distribution.  All this change, and yet the question is the same as it was two hundred years ago.  Who is this America for?  Maybe it’s time to evolve and grow, not just react to change.

Second Hand Life: unsolicited advice

Coat/Wardrobe rack

Coat/Wardrobe rack

Yes, messy apartment, try to ignore the clutter–I do.  Everyone knows I’m waiting to hear about the larger apartment.  In the meantime, I know it will need some work before we can move in, and that means paying on two apartments.  Obviously, I want to minimize the hemorrhage of funds.  I’m not buying anything (what if it doesn’t come through?), but my current place is hung with paint swatches and little floor samples scattered in different lighting.  My kitchen table won’t fit in the new space, and Art Child needs new furniture, so we’re cyber-window-shopping.  We like to look at the web sites for the out of budget stores, and get ideas from those.   One thing we saw that we both thought was a great idea was a wardrobe rack for her bedroom.  The site we saw this on is charging $300. For a coat rack! It’s ok, we aren’t buying anything, just looking.

Yesterday afternoon we splurged and went for tea at our favorite place, lots of fun.  Afterwards, we made our way to the thrift store.  I rarely find anything in there, I think you have to be more of a shopper to do well.  But then, there it was. A perfectly good coat rack.  $30.  How could I not? It’s on wheels, so we walked it home.  Of course, those wheels aren’t meant for city streets, so we lost two screws by the tenth block, and the bottom rack was now perpendicular to the top.  Five more blocks, found a hardware store, where the manager got us two new screws and fixed it. $1.19

Between the find and a conversation with a writing friend, I’m thinking about this second hand life.  For the record, I’m a big supporter of recycling and reusing.  In its way, Astonishing is recycled.  Do you know it’s my fourth completed manuscript?  I want to kick myself, each and every day, feeling like I wasted so much time.  First I felt like I had plenty of time ahead of me to sit down and write that Great American Novel.  Then I started, but practicality (also known as fear and insecurity) had me write romances first.  Romance isn’t easy, or an easy market, but it is a larger market, a bit more open to newcomers.

When I wrote Wanna Bees (third manuscript) it was an attempt to blend my two loves, reefing and writing.  It was also my first experience writing something close to magical realism.  I loved it.  Sent a small number of queries, a couple of requests–rejected–and realized I didn’t care enough.  So I recycled.  Both Wanna Bees and Astonishing begin with the death of a mother (within one year, I lost my mother and learned of the death of my birth mother.  Writing may not be as effective as traditional therapy, but it’s easier on the budget.) both open in New York, both main characters have sisters they’re close with, both have magical realism.  But very, very different books.  I had fun writing Wanna Bees.  I love Astonishing.

Will it get published?  I have no idea.  Is is good enough? Good enough is the underlying theme in all of my manuscripts.  I think so, but I have researched enough, listened to and had enough conversations with the pubbed and unpubbed, agents and editors, to know good enough isn’t always enough.  There are other considerations.  Some of the mistakes I’ve made are part of the process, the only way to learn (unless, maybe, you go the MFA route, have real life mentors and such, but even then I suspect those craft mistakes need to happen).  But waiting so long to take myself seriously?  Avoidable.  Waiting even longer to write a manuscript I really wanted to write?  Avoidable.  This is where I can and you should say, “that Mrs Fringe is a hard-headed woman.”  It’s okay, Husband says it all the time.

Everyone who writes has their own process, what works for them.  Personally, I don’t believe in writing only for yourself if you’re interested in publication.  I write with an eye/ear towards what I think would be interesting to others, intrigue them enough to keep reading.  But if  you want to do this writing thing, if you want to be published–be just hard-headed enough to do it.  Don’t wait for the right time, don’t write what you think is the more practical choice–just because it’s more practical.  Writing fiction isn’t exactly practical.  I saw plenty of items in the thrift store that were still impractical and out of budget, second hand or not.  But when it’s in budget, right in front of you? Grab it and fix the wheels when you get it home.

Look At Me, I’m A Person!

Party of one

Party of one

This is my morning.  Every morning.  I begin each day on the terrace with my coffee and my phone for a morning email check in with a friend–“ready?”– who lives many states away.  Whichever of us is awake first sends the first email and cybercup.

But there’s a new and important difference to this little tableau.  Can you guess what it is?  Until yesterday morning, I didn’t have a real grown up sized chair, or this cute table.  That’s right, for the past seven years I have woken up anywhere between four and six AM, gone onto the terrace, and sat down with my coffee and phone, pretty much on the floor, no table.

What do I mean by pretty much on the floor?  This.

See the difference?

See the difference?

Yes, I’d been using the low-slung reject beach chair–rejected for the beach because the back can’t be adjusted/reclined.  Why, Mrs Fringe, wasn’t your butt cold sitting on that in the winter months?  Yes, yes it was.  Mrs Fringe, didn’t that aggravate your back over the past year, when you’ve been dealing with the back pain from Satan?  Yes, yes it did.  When I first moved into this apartment, a little patio set went on the list.  But yanno, the list is long, and things like a real outside chair for myself fall way down to the bottom of the list of needs and wants that never stops growing.  We’re still waiting for an official *go* on the larger apartment, but it seems like it is going to come through, and this would push a patio set that much further down the list.  Because budget.

Initially, I didn’t really mind.  First of all, how could I complain when I actually had an apartment with a terrace?  And you all know how much I love the beach, so I would sit in my little chair, close my eyes, and pretend I was on a beautiful beach somewhere else.

When Mr Smitholini first saw this, years ago, he laughed and told me he was going to bring me the sandbox from when his kids were younger, so I could really live the dream.  Not a bad thought, really.  It became a running joke, every time I spoke with Mrs Smitholini on the phone, every time they came to visit.  They don’t come very often.  Let’s face it, driving and parking in the city sucks, we are 8000 people and creatures in a two bedroom apartment, and their family of seven squished around the dining room table in addition to my family of five creates an, ummm, cozy dinner.  They have a spacious and beautiful home in the suburbs, so it’s more frequent that we go to visit at their house.

Until about two weeks ago, it had been a couple of years since they were here.  Life, work, twelve people’s schedules…not so easy to coordinate.  But then they were here, in dress clothes because they came over after a family function.  Mr Smitholini wanted to sit on the terrace to have his cigar, and I, the hostess with the mostest, offered him the beach chair.  He was a good sport about it, Mrs Smitholini and I sat on the ground, but, ummm, suit + beach chair + middle aged bodies + middle of Manhattan = not so fun.  We went to visit them two days ago, and Mrs Smitholini had this present for me.

A real, grown-up patio set.  Two (matching!) chairs and a table.  One of her kiddos even put it together for me before we got there.  Squee! It isn’t just the furniture that’s a gift, the past two mornings have been a gift to my back, as I settled with my coffee and phone, watching the sun rise.

I don’t consider myself an outdoorsy gal, but I need to start my days like this.  Sun, rain, or snow, I have to be outside.  My beach house will remain a fantasy, but I figure out what I can to get my imagination there with the pesky reality of my body being here in the city.  Time on the terrace, forever friends,  and soon I hope, another little slice of the ocean in a glass box.

So here I sit, on a grown-up chair, like a real person on the terrace.  My laptop even fits comfortably on the table, coffee cup to the side.  Are you ready for coffee?


Mrs Fringe Grows a Pair


If you’re a Fringeling, regular subscriber, or occasional reader, you know I have a completed novel looking for a home and champion, ASTONISHING.  In the meantime, I’ve decided to post Chapter One here on the blog.

This is the story where I’ve allowed myself to go the furthest with the concept of what-if.  It’s weird, the protagonist is an unreliable narrator, and if you’re looking for romance or happily-ever-after this ain’t your story.

It’s magical realism, my riff on what could happen if someone existed who was indeed a magnet for all the broken in our world–addicts, unmedicated and uncontrolled people with mental illness, those you don’t want to find across from you at the dinner table.  So we’ve got these broken who’ve been flocking to Christina, but she can’t help them.  Twenty-five years of this.  By now she’s more fucked up than they are.

If Christina feels familiar (or for those newer to Mrs Fringe who are interested) “Miserosion”–the story on the page labeled Fiction– takes place 25 years before Astonishing, introducing Christina.  Completely unnecessary to read to understand the novel, but it was a fun twist for me to write, and the original story idea that became the novel.


It wasn't falling, I shot it for a strange angle.

It wasn’t falling, I shot it for a strange angle.

The other night Husband and I went to a concert.  This is the first concert I’ve been to since we went to see Robert Cray in 2002 (smaller venue).  Sure I’ve seen Fatigue sing and school performances, but these aren’t quite the same as a big, all out ARE YOU READY performance.  In all honesty I didn’t feel like going, my thoughts were with Big Senile Dog.  But Husband had already purchased the tickets several weeks ago.  And frankly, I’m fairly certain that if I had died and Husband had tickets to see Pat Metheny, he’d have been in seat 118 that night. We’ve both seen him quite a few times.  Long, long, long ago.

If you’ve never seen him live, I recommend doing so.  He’s an amazing guitarist and composer, and I can’t think of anyone else who could get onstage and play a 42 stringed guitar and not have it be a “look at me playing a 42 string guitar!”  Nope, just beautiful and passionate music, as always.  Bruce Hornsby (w/Sonny Emory) opened for him, which was incredible.  I say opened, but not really, it was more like they joined together to add another 53 dimensions to the show.

Did I mention it’s been a long time since we we went to a big concert?  Ok, not Madison Square Garden big, but big enough.  Seems like some things have changed since back in the day.  No cloud of grass, puddles of beer, and squeals of excitement to guide you from the parking lot to your seat.  Orderly lines of well dressed men-and-women-of-a-certain-age smiling and strolling to their seats clutching plastic (covered) cups of wine with straws stuck in them.

Bruce Hornsby has aged well, he sounds better than ever and looks fantastic.  Pat Metheny seems to have found the fountain of youth, he hasn’t aged at all.  Seriously, he looks exactly the same and his god-like fingers haven’t slowed at all.

There was one shocking difference in the then and now of this show.  No, I’m not referring to the way my salt and pepper hair and Husband’s bald pate blended right in with the other heads in the audience.  People were continually getting up and walking in and out of the theater.  To go to the bathroom, I assume.  Come on, people.  I know we’re all older, bladders and prostates aren’t what they used to be, but for fuck’s sake, cross your legs and hold the wine!  It was like being in a musty bar with a mediocre house band playing.  Sure, Bruce Hornsby puts everyone in mind of the Grateful Dead shows of yesteryear, but this wasn’t a nine hour show where two thirds of the audience is tripping on acid and don’t know whether they’re inside the arena or out.

I had taken the bus to get to NJ and meet Husband, cutting it close in terms of time.  It was hot in the station, and I wanted an iced tea.  Guess what? I didn’t get one, because I knew if I did, I would surely need to pee halfway through the concert. Don’t tell me all these people couldn’t hold it.  If this had been a Broadway show, it would’ve been a very similar crowd.  I didn’t see dozens of people drifting in and out of Les Mis, holding the theater doors open while they chatted with the ushers.

PS: To the woman sitting in front of me, your boyfriend/companion/husband didn’t forget where his seat was (you don’t forget when you’re in the second to last row).  He ditched you for a better seat.

Cross The Line

And hit the wall.

and hit the wall.

Because I’m more than a bit out of focus.  I think about lines a lot.  Don’t cross this line, don’t cross that line, balance on that one over there.  Sometimes I feel like the lines shift, but do they really, or is it my perception–and oh! is that line on a fucking hill?

The line I’m thinking about this morning is, of course, writing and publishing.  There’s a small group I’ve been spending some online time with.  All talented and writing varied genres, all filled with optimism and hope.  Different stages of pursuing publication, a couple who are self pubbing with thought and intention. Needless to say angst and self-doubts are part and parcel of writing, querying, and submitting, everyone takes turns pumping up whoever needs it most on any given day.  Most of the members of this group are young, those who aren’t young are relatively new to the process.  I don’t mean new as in still learning basic storytelling, but new as in less than 5 years of seriously pursuing publication.

I’m not young.  Or new.  At the moment I’m not writing or submitting.  I still have several requested fulls out, but at this point any responses that come from them will be unexpected.

Am I the fly about to be captured, the trap that can only wait for food, or the blackened trap that needs to be removed before fungus sets in?

Am I the fly about to be captured, the trap that can only wait for food, or the blackened trap that needs to be removed before fungus sets in?

I don’t want any pep talks.  I’m not angsting, thinking my words and stories truly suck.  They don’t.

To me, worse than limping along to the battle cry of “I coulda been a contender” is the nonagenarian still waiting for their big break. Yes, I see/hear it.  New York.  Not that I’m ninety, or qualify for the senior discounted Metrocard, but still.  I have to figure out if I’ve crossed the line from being patient and persistent to delusional.

There’s a part of my brain that will always be taking notes for future characters,  will see that one moment, hear that one phrase that begins a story in my head.  I will probably always write.  I love blogging, I’ve enjoyed the experience of posting a couple of stories here on the blog, and suspect I will continue doing so every so often.  But full length novels?  Querying?  Submitting?  There’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot over the past ten years or so, maybe it was always there and didn’t come across my radar before, I don’t know–return on investment.  Writing full length manuscripts, querying, submitting to the paying lit mags, these are things that require a lot of time, energy, work, and focus.  I can’t help but wonder at this point if it’s a poor use of limited resources.

I Got It Bad

My toes want to be in that surf.

My toes want to be in that surf.

While nothing is official yet (which means plenty of room for something to go wrong) it’s looking likely we will get the larger apartment.  Please don’t shout hooray and tempt the fates yet.

Wonderful news, right?  Of course it is.  What I’ve wanted forever, right?  Of course.  But there’s that part of me that keeps whispering, “suckerrrrrr!”  Because getting and moving into the bigger apartment moves my dream of living by the beach from the category of infinitesimal to bwahahahaha.  Which in turn leads me to I want a big tank again.

I miss reefing.  I miss Sadie the fire shrimp and Gloria the glorious yellow tang. I miss my electric blue crocea clam and my florescent green hydnophora colony.  I miss stinking of low tide and vinegar from doing tank maintenance. I miss playing God in a glass box, having my own little slice of the ocean.  And I really miss having a big tank.  I’ve been thinking this for a few months.  Several months.  OK, since the first time I heard the larger apartment was a possibility.  Hearing Big Senile Dog’s diagnosis of kidney failure turned the thought into a rumination.  (There’s a limit to how many creatures with significant needs I can take care of at once, and setting up a new tank is a lot of work.)

The other day I was at a friend’s house.  Her tank is currently a mess, choked with cyanobacteria.  I stared into those waving reddish snot flags and thought, “I miss my tank.”  Yeah, I got it bad.  My hands were itching to get into that water.  Bizarre, because the skin on my hands and arms is in better condition than it’s been in for years because I’ve been tankless for a while.  If I had been able to find her turkey baster I would have started doing some manual removal for her.

Part of what made keeping up with a big tank unmanageable would be much easier in the larger apartment.  Because there’s an extra half bath, I could set up an RO/DI unit, mix my own saltwater and not have to buy and lug distilled or RO/DI water from the local fish store.  Or be begging Husband or boys to pick it up for me.

My tanks have always been my beach house, my fantasy measured in gallons.  At this point in my tsunami of downward mobility, I’m thinking eighty gallons sounds about right.

reef life 1

reef life 1 (Photo credit: Raven_Denmark)