Dear Chicks on the Right: You Talkin To Me?

A few photos from 23rd Street, just a bit east of where the explosion took place Saturday night.

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I had never heard of the Chicks on the Right before, and I’m pretty much the left leaning filthy hippy they rail against, perhaps even the “landbeast” or “moon bat” so charmingly defined in their chicktionary.  But hey, I don’t live in an echo chamber and don’t want to, and these are apparently two middle aged women putting themselves and their beliefs out there in the blogosphere.  I want to support that, wanted to find out more about them, being another middle aged woman who puts herself and her beliefs out there.  Imagine my surprise when I actually read the post I had seen linked in my Facebook feed this morning.  Now I’m sure they don’t know or care who Mrs Fringe is, I’m barely a spit bubble compared to the success of their big pink bubblegum blowing blog, but I’m a New Yorker, after all, and if you’ve got questions/thoughts/incorrect assumptions about life in the Big Apple, I’m your gal.

So let this cliched middle aged broad clarify a couple of things for you.  I have a passionate love/hate relationship with this city, but when you’re born and raised here, you’re a New Yorker for life, even if you’ve long since moved to Timbuktu.  I have never been to Indianapolis (the area these “chicks” appear to be from), so I don’t know what it’s like there.  The only tv show I can think of that was set there is One Day at a Time, pretty sure that isn’t an accurate reflection.  I, and all eight million of my neighbors, are indeed tough and resilient.  What we aren’t is a hive mind.  That’s the beauty of New York.  Diversity.  Is that a dirty word for your blog? Sorry, it’s the one that fits.

Not just diversity in faith, skin color, gender/gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, but diversity in thoughts and beliefs, including political.  Yeah, we’re a blue city in a blue state, but there are enough right leaning people here–and even more independent thinkers– that we’ve had a Republican mayor or two.

This isn’t my main issue or yours, not what spurred me to respond.  The emergency text blasted out to all NY cell phones, identifying the name of the suspect wanted for the explosion that had taken place in Chelsea a few days earlier.  For the record, I’m not a big Twitter user (though I think I will send you gals a tweet so you see this post), I hadn’t seen any of the ones you posted, let alone tweeted about it myself.  That said, yeah, receiving that text falls under what I like to call icky-squicky-this-can’t-be-right.  Not because I didn’t want the person responsible captured and prosecuted, but because it feels more than a bit Big Brother-ish.  I’m a little confused, aren’t conservatives the group that complains about government overreach?  I know you disagree, and I’m sorry for being dense, perhaps you can explain it to me.  Simply, seeing as I’m a slow-witted New Yorker who doesn’t understand what’s in my best interests.

I was also taken aback by your expanding and clarifying statement, “Not only that, but these delicate snowflakes cried that something like this could lead to the Supreme Evil of racial profiling.”  Sorry for causing more eye rolls, but my experience as someone who lives in this great diverse city means that yup, I’m also against racial profiling.  Why?  Because my neighbors, friends, children’s friends/classmates, family members, are a diverse (oops, there’s that naughty word again) bunch.  Getting up and living their lives each day, I imagine much the way you do, and being profiled, stopped, too often falsely accused and arrested just doesn’t seem to represent the land of the free to me.  Profiling isn’t “suddenly” bad.  Perhaps you weren’t aware of it as an issue until recently.  That’s ok, you don’t know what you don’t know.  You know the nice part of being older?  I’ve learned to stop and think; listen to the other side of issues, take the time and put in the effort to learn the subtleties.  America is a big place, encompassing many different people, beliefs, and lifestyles.  What works in a small town in Montana wouldn’t make sense in New York–and that’s okay.  Damn I hope I don’t melt, being a snowflake and all, it’s hot in the city today.

But what really got my fingers itching to respond?  “New Yorkers have traded in their traditional toughness for a safe space of politically correct social justice.”  Here’s a bit of New York reality for you, our world has changed.  We’ve made trade-offs, some I agree with, some I don’t, but yeah, I’ve changed.  I assume you weren’t here in New York on 9/11/01.  I was.  I haven’t forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten the fear of trying to figure out what was going on.  I haven’t forgotten running to get my son from school, finding a stream of parents flowing in and out of the school trying to get their children, the hushed panic of whispers about parents who worked in which towers.  I haven’t forgotten my gratitude for the incredible calm and order the school staff had going.  I haven’t forgotten the horrible, unnatural quiet in the streets.  I haven’t forgotten trying to reach people I loved with no answer for hours that felt like decades.  I haven’t forgotten watching the towers burn and the smell of smoke and the ash settling over EVERYTHING.  I haven’t forgotten the first aid stations that were set up so efficiently that looked like not quite perfect movie sets–where are the extras?– because they were so empty.  I haven’t forgotten the thousands of people staggering up Broadway like zombies, covered in layers of white gray ash made up of things we didn’t want to think about.  Wondering if we were breathing in people.  I haven’t forgotten the many, many people who didn’t get to go home.  I haven’t forgotten being trapped on this island of Manhattan, no one other than emergency/official vehicles in or out. I haven’t forgotten the nausea and heart stopping this-will-never-be-the-same first time I saw clusters of armed guards in the subway, on the streets and by the bridges and tunnels.  Not something to watch on a tv screen, not theoretical, but my city, my friends, my neighbors.   Perhaps you think I should be embarrassed to admit this day changed my life and my city forever?  That there is fear that didn’t used to live in my gut?  Nope, not embarrassed at all.


Chicks on the Right, you have every right to disagree with my political opinions.  You have every right to voice those opinions, vote for the candidates who agree with you, protest the decisions that go against your belief systems and values.  You can join the millions of non-New Yorkers who are quick to lay claim to our city but have no clue what it is to live here, live side by side with all kinds of people, no idea how to make peace and have respect for those who live differently.  But unless you were sitting next to me on the train yesterday, on my way to pick my daughter up from school, underground when the train stopped, vague announcements about a problem ahead, then listening to the announcement that all service had been suspended and thereby wondering if someone had fallen onto the tracks, or jumped, or if there had been another attack, trying to send a text to the school and your child not to leave the school because you were going to be late and you didn’t know how late, feeling the gratitude and relief when the car doors opened so you could run off the train, up and out of the subway and wait behind 342 other people trying to grab cabs on the same corner, knowing you were still on the wrong side of the UN and the President was here to speak there, enough of a New Yorker to then argue with the cab driver about the best route to take so you could get to your child, establish they and your city are safe, knowing you’ve got to get back on those trains to get home, do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, you don’t get to tell me how tough and resilient I and my fellow New Yorkers are not.

Playground Politics

We're missing the train

I seem to have missed my train

Hello all.  Yes, yes, it’s been a while.  You know when more time than usual passes in between speaking to a friend, you keep thinking you should call, but the more time passes the harder it becomes to make that call?  Yeah.  First I was in a bit of a funk; there’s nothing to say, no one cares what I have to say, blah, blah, blah. Then, in the past few weeks, there’s been so much going on I couldn’t decide where and how to jump in.  Nothing has happened to me/mine personally, it’s been wonderful having Man Child home, he has a good job, Nerd Child is in the last stretch of high school–drove north and saw his final production the other day–that young man is an excellent director! Art Child is well, Husband is well, Incredibly Stupid Dog continues to forget which end is supposed to be on the pee pad when she lets loose…all good in Fringeland.  But the world around me?  Prince died, which I took more personally than I have any right to. North Carolina has decided genital checks are in order because thinkofthechildren.  The Bernie movement has faltered (to say the least), and Donald Trump has won the GOP nomination.

After two weeks of pretending that last tidbit couldn’t be real, I have to accept it.  I have to get on the train. Not the train car supporting him, of course.  I feel like it’s rush hour and the car open in front of me is suspiciously empty.  If you’ve ever been a subway rider, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, let me give you a tip.  When a crowded train pulls in, if the car you’re about to get on is miraculously empty with several open seats, there’s a reason–and that reason usually involves a stench so foul even the most weary and unsteady travelers would prefer to be squashed nose to armpit in the next car.

Yesterday I was having a conversation about this nightmare with a friend of mine, and I referenced playground politics.  For me, this sums it up.  Because it doesn’t feel like a train.  I’m an adept rider; pains, nerve damage and all, I can keep my balance, squeeze into the most narrow space between two man-spreaders if it means a seat, and throw myself through the closing doors without getting my purse caught.  This is more like a throwback to childhood, a concrete lunchtime playground where girls have cooties and with a choice between splintered seesaws, dodgeball, and a cement water fountain that dribbles rust.  So here we are, this cycle of American politics where might makes right and he who spreads the most outlandish, the most vicious rumors wins.  Where is the lunch aid?  Where are the teachers?  Where are the grown-ups?

As I’ve said previously, I like Bernie.  I never thought he was a perfect candidate, and I had questions, but I thought he was the best choice.  For a moment, I thought he had a real shot.  That moment is over.  I don’t love Hillary.  I have a lot of questions and reservations about her that I don’t want to have.  (I’m a feminist ferchistssake, a woman for President? Yes, please.)  But I’m not hesitating to support her, especially when I look at the alternative.  The alternative isn’t Bernie Sanders, it’s Donald Trump.  A man whose positions take us from an unsupervised playground to Lord of the Flies.

While I wasn’t blogging, I did more reading than I’d done in a while.  I even decided to read Infinite Jest, it’d been on my to-read list forever, and it seemed like the perfect time.  I got about 600 pages in, and spent a good 500 of those pages feeling certain that I’m an idiot, because I didn’t get it.  Not that I wasn’t able to follow the storyline, I was.  Not that I didn’t notice and appreciate some lovely sharp prose, I did.  But I really, really don’t understand the how/why this novel became the lauded, prized bestseller that it did.  So I gave up, once again determined to accept that I’m just not that smart, and clearly incapable of understanding the publishing industry.  If a friend had written it and given me the manuscript to beta read, I’d have suggested cutting about 500 of the 1200 pages.  But the timing of my attempt to read this was perfect for today’s political climate, because today is when we are living the backstory of Infinite Jest.  If Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, we will slide right into Subsidized Time, and tomorrow will become the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.  I may not be smart enough to slog through all 1200 pages, but I’m smart enough to know I don’t want to live inside them.

You’re frustrated?  Me too.  You’re broke?  Me too.  You’re tired of the status quo?  Me too.  But my eyes are open.  And what I see is hideous.  A circle has gathered around the combover playground bully.  The circle is growing, gathering legitimacy and support, and it’s feeding on greed, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and wishful thinking.  I know some people speak of idyllic childhoods and pine for their lost youth.  Me?  I was glad to leave the playground behind, and I don’t want to return.  The lunch aid isn’t coming.  We have to turn away from the childish blowhards telling us might makes right, get on the train before it derails completely, and be the grown-ups.  We may or may not be in the gifted program, but we’re smart enough to recognize the stench of fresh shit.


This pair has been hanging out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

This pair hung out on the water tower across from my apartment all morning.

The crows seem to enjoy today’s fine flurries.  They stuck around, cawing and calling and circling until the flurries stopped.


It’s that time.  That time of year, when I start thinking about how nice it would be to get away by myself.  Still haven’t done it (not since I had children, anyway), but I think about it.  A little while ago I even looked up writer’s retreats for 2016.  They lose their appeal after about 3 minutes of web surfing.  Wooded settings, steep price tags, set meal times, and evening conversations with strangers.  Feel me shuddering through the keyboard?  Creating my own retreat, though, that would be lovely.  Just a few days.  Coffee, tea, salad, and Cheetos should cover all the necessary meals/food groups.  Maybe some salt and vinegar chips.  On a beach, because if I were to be overcome by the glory of uninterrupted alone-time and therefore not get any writing done, I’d still be happy.

It’s also that time when I’m thinking about writing.  A lot.  I know myself, what it means when I can’t stop thinking about a poem, a photograph, a song…and I know what’s next; obsession with the next manuscript.  You know when you hear women talk about nesting in the later stages of pregnancy? I never did that.  I do it before getting serious about a manuscript.  Why? I dunno.  It isn’t like baking or being caught up on laundry and grocery shopping beforehand makes a damned bit of difference by the time I’m a month in, but I do it anyway.  Feels like dropping down to a low gear in order to drive up a steep hill without stalling or getting caught at the red light at the top.  Not that it works, life provides red lights with regularity, and god knows I stall out all. the. time. while I’m writing, but that’s what it feels like for the moment.

So I’ve been thinking about Emily Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody.”  I always loved this one, no matter how many times I’ve heard and read it.

I’m Nobody! Who are you? 
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one’s name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
I’ve never been Somebody, from my vantage it seems like there’s power in it.  But there’s freedom in being Nobody, do you think?  Maybe not, maybe it’s just one of the not-so-little lies we tell ourselves, along the lines of poor-but-happy.
A few weeks ago I took this photo on one of the (thankfully) few bitter cold days we’ve had this winter.
Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

Lost? Forgotten? Abandoned?

The flowers, this photo, a complete story by itself.  But which one?  My first thought for a caption was something like, “Screw you and your cheap-ass bodega flowers!” Such a frigid morning though, maybe they dropped from fingers so numb the person carrying them didn’t realize they lost them until they were fumbling for their Metrocard two blocks later.  The neighborhood where I took this shot is a busy one, home to a large social security office, a few social service agencies, and several thrift stores. Maybe they fell from the cart of someone’s wheelchair, or the little basket that sits across the top of a walker.  Maybe they were dropped as someone late for a date grabbed the first available cab they’d seen in twenty minutes, or maybe, maybe, maybe.  So many possibilities, and those are just a few of the more mundane ones.
I stopped halfway through putting this post together to go pick up the girl.  In Grand Central, when you walk through the tunnel connecting the tracks for the shuttle and the 4/5/6, there are several abandoned “windows.”  I can’t remember if there used to be stores behind them, or what they were originally for, but now they’re lit empty boxes, good for backlighting the various street performers and religious groups that stop in front of them. Today I was walking past and saw this.
MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

MTA worker with dreams of being a display artist?

Clandestine spy code?  Pre-arranged tableau signaling the all clear for a passionate liaison between an engineer and a station inspector?  I think, if I were writing this into a manuscript, I’d have to add a crow.

Living in the Real World?

City Streets

City Streets

The internet is aflame with gun arguments right now, impassioned and extreme on both sides.  On one site I’m a member of, I read a comment in defense of private citizens keeping themselves armed (without stricter regulations) to the effect of for those of us who don’t live in ivory towers…live in the real world…danger…needing a weapon…and a few cities were named, to make the point that (s)he was not referencing bucolic pastures or suburban houses made of ticky-tacky.  That specific comment really struck me, because as a city dweller I’ve always thought of this as an issue for those who don’t live in cities.  People living in wide open spaces who don’t have police and police stations within spitting distance, and of course, visions (fed by the media, no personal experience) of compounds populated by paranoid folks who don’t trust the commie gubmint.  Obviously there are criminals with guns here in the city, law enforcement officers, and those who work in the Diamond District, but nope, I don’t know of any neighbors who are campaigning to keep legal arsenals.

Several of my online friends who aren’t American have been asking me questions, all pretty much boiling down to a blend of what-the-fuck? why? guns? and America?

I touched on this in my last post, but I want to talk about this a bit more, and hope readers will join the conversation.  You’re welcome to agree or disagree with me, but no personal attacks or blanket slurs.  While Americans have a common bond by definition, our experiences of life in America–what constitutes the “real world,” varies greatly, and that plays a huge part in individual stances.

Maybe you grew up with inappropriate jokes about those who lived in the Bronx.  Or Detroit, or Chicago.  I grew up with inappropriate jokes about places in big sky country (is that a nickname for an actual place or an idea?), where the men were men and the sheep were nervous.  Shouldn’t we be past all that now?

You all know Mrs Fringe is a New Yawkah; born here, raised here, guessing I’ll collect social security here too.  I ride the subways every day.  I’m not wealthy, never have been.  When I was younger, I worked in downtown Brooklyn, when it was very, very different from the artsy, hipster paradise it is today.  Our office was next to the Brooklyn Arms Hotel, and every day on my way from the subway station, I’d feel the crack vials crunch under my feet while I rushed past the Brooklyn Arms Hotel (a particularly notorious welfare hotel) and hoped I didn’t get clipped in the head by something flying out a window–’cause that happened regularly.  Of course, I wasn’t first starting my day when I went into the office, that was after three hours of “field work,” which involved walking through neighborhoods that weren’t part of any tourist attractions, and visiting clients who weren’t particularly happy to see my smiling face at 7am.  Sometimes I was walking those streets at 1am, because of a late shift or an emergency–and trust me, this was long before New York was spit shined and spiffed up.  I’m not trying to glorify life in the city or America, there’s crime, there are problems, and yes, I’ve had a moment or ten where I’ve been frightened.

I don’t live in the roughest neighborhood, it’s one that’s been “gentrified.”  I’m not young, I remember when it wasn’t.  Gentrified in (most of) NY means there’s still a good mix of everyone–race, culture, and economics–sharing the same block and the same public schools.  Three kids, three elementary schools, and two of those elementary schools were classified as Title I schools.  Title I means there’s a high percentage of children who come from low-income families who qualify for free/reduced lunch.  If you’re unfamiliar, trust me, your income has to be pretty damned low for your kids to qualify for free lunch, and yes, here in Fringeland, we’ve had many years where our kiddos qualified because life.

On my block there are a mix of residences.  Google tells me one brownstone is on the market for $6 million dollars, average for the block and neighborhood.  Next to it is a housing project (yanno, the projects), there’s a small building that I think is a co-op (a very NY thing, you buy your apartment, but technically you own shares in the building, not your apartment, so everything you want or do–including the purchase of the place–has to be approved by the co-op board, generally a bunch of residents who take pleasure in agonizing over awning colors and making residents jump through as many hoops as possible), and there’s my building, which is part of a program from the 60’s/70’s designed to keep working class people in the city.  One block over starts the SROs and a couple of shelters.  Wikipedia says SROs are for one or two people, but I know plenty of families that live in those one room dwellings.  Regardless of which address they live in, I recognize most of the long term faces on the block and immediate neighborhood, and they recognize me, too.  We smile, nod, maybe say Happy Holidays. My family’s experience of America is quite different than that of the family in a brownstone up the street, and different again than that of a family in the projects.

Even if I only look within my building, there’s a mix of skin colors, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds; I know of at least ten different languages spoken within these bricks, twelve different religions, atheists–likely more, this is NY, we don’t talk personal religion all that much.  Multicultural is a fact of life here, not a talking point, and definitely not something that strikes fear in my heart.  So what’s my point?

We’ve got a lot of questions that need to be discussed and examined, but more guns can’t possibly be the answer.  If your experience of America is different than mine, that’s part of what makes America what it is.  It doesn’t invalidate my experience any more than mine invalidates yours.  Let’s talk about what’s real, what it is to live in x city, x suburb, x town; talk about it based on real life experiences, not phantoms of what could happen based on shadows and misdirection.  Maybe you’d be afraid if you found yourself on a subway platform at 1am and saw a few of my neighbors waiting for the 2 train.  I’m pretty sure I’d piss my pants if I found myself faced with a bear in the woods.  Hell, I run into the house when I’m visiting friends in New Jersey and a deer steps into their backyard.  But my world is still real, thankyouverymuch.  Real city, real New Yawk, real America.  There have been quite a few times where I wished I had cab fare, but I never wished for a gun.

Holy Papal Visit, Batman–Gotham’s a Mess!

Look up, look down, but whatever you do, don't make eye contact.

Look up, look down, but whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.

In case you’re an American who doesn’t know because you’re oh…dead and buried in a hidden cave, Pope Francis is in town.  Now, I like this pope, I like the things he says, I like the things he does even more, and I think he’ll make great strides worldwide with his emphasis on humanity, compassion, and service.  I’m happy for those who are thrilled for the opportunity to see him and hear him speak.

But for the love of all, could you learn how to train before you walk into the subway?  The stations and the train lines are all packed, overflowing with papal tourists and delays.  This morning I think I saw every  outer borough character I’ve ever written.

On the Shuttle:

“Mary, there’s a seat, go sit down.”

Mary clamps her lips together and shakes her head so hard her pin curls are quivering.

“You don’t like that seat? I’ll sit instead of you.”

“I don’t want any seat, Timothy, not just that seat.”

Timothy turns to the man in the seat next to him. “I only ride the train once every ten years or so, what about you?”

Man next to him lifts one side of his headphones, “Every day.”

“You must have a lot of extra time on your hands.  What does it take you, hours to do your hair like that every day?”

Man touches his dreadlocks, looks across at me (guess I’ve got the stamp of a regular subway rider tattooed on my face), and laughs. “I do it while I’m on the trains.”


On the platform:

“Steven!!  Get away from the edge, you’re going to fall in!”


“Oh my GAWD, is that a rat?”


“Is it always so hot in here?”


On the 2:

Group of senior women in their very best rhinestone studded Juicy Couture, talking at a young man in workout gear. “I’m tellin ya, they’ve got the best pizza on 18th Avenue, you’ve gotta go to Brooklyn.”

“Uh, ok, thanks.”

“Whaddya telling him that for, Rosemary? Don’t listen to her, honey, you’ve gotta go for the clams at Campagnoli’s.”

Pained nod from the young man.

All four lean in to him before they get off the train. “With spaghetti!”


There’re two things regular NYC subway riders get every day, and one of those is religion.  Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to be the most organized, tables set up and staffed at many stations, 3 in Grand Central, politely waiting for those who appear interested. Many different Christian denominations can be found with signs and pamphlets.  Every so often, outside the stations there’ll be a group of Orthodox Jewish men, offering…baptisms? conversions? in trailers.  Last week there was a group of off-key Hare Krishnas singing and soliciting donations, bright marigold robes practically glowing in the tunnels.  Then of course there are those there to alert us to Armageddon.

What exactly is a whoremonger, anyway?

What exactly is a whoremonger, anyway?

The other thing you get in the subways daily? Music.  Often great music.  I’ll admit, I’m not into the guys who’ve made instruments out of saws and violin bows, but they have their followers.  And it would be fine if the trumpets would hold off until, say, 10am.  But yeah, music is the perk of a sizable commute on and around the trains.

I love when these guys pop in.

I love when these guys pop in.


Yes indeed, that's the back of a one-man-band.  An optimistic one, with a 5-gallon Home Depot bucket for a tip jar.

Yes indeed, that’s the back of a one-man-band. An optimistic one, with a 5-gallon Home Depot bucket for a tip jar.

IMG_6326 IMG_6328 IMG_6330 IMG_6331

I know, I know, for most visiting today it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, an honor.  Couldn’t they have scheduled this for one of the two days off the public schools had this week?

Happy Friday, Fringelings.


Chugga Chugga Chugging Along

Blur of colors, faces, and heat inside the train.

Blur of colors, faces, and heat inside the train.

No more denying, this year has begun.  I know, for most the year begins in January, but for me, as a parent and summer worshiper, the year begins in September along with the public school year in New York.  Nerd Child went back to school first, Art Child began last week, and Man Child left for Italy two days ago.

Art Child has begun high school.  I think the fact alone confirms I’m in my dotage, but in case it’s questionable, I’ll assure you I feel it. By the end of last week–three days of school–I had taken approximately 43,000 trains and climbed 9 billion subway steps bringing her to and from.  By Friday, she and I both fell asleep on the couch before dinner, and she was already trying to fight off some kind of virus/cold.

Surely I'm trapped inside this cement mixer.

Surely I’m trapped inside this cement mixer.

Ahh, the stresses of mamahood.  Man Child will be away for six months.  Very exciting for him, and quite strange for me.  Before he left, I guess he was feeling a bit nostalgic, because he was talking about and requesting the dishes that were staples when he was younger.  I made a huge batch of basic tomato sauce, we had spaghetti one night, baked ziti another, he made a simple (and delicious) rice and beans with roasted chicken, and he and Mother-In-Law baked an early birthday present of Dominican Cake for me–guayaba filling, of course.  The apartment felt very quiet once he left; he’s a young man with great energy, both of my boys laugh easy and often, and by yesterday morning I was already missing the seemingly constant simmer of something on the stove.  I still had a container of sauce left, was feeling a little nostalgic myself–not to mention envious of the foods and flavors Man Child will certainly be experiencing, so Art Child and I went to the store to purchase an eggplant.

Between time constraints, dietary restrictions, generally fewer people at the table, and a shrinking capacity for standing, most of what I cook these days is a healthier and quicker variation of the dishes I used to prepare. But what the hell, one old-school dinner to kick off the start of the new school year.  I purged the eggplant.  Purging is slicing, salting, and weighing down the slices to draw the bitterness out–then rinse, pat, and begin your dish.

Eggplant Parmigiana


I season the flour with a little garlic powder (granulated, not the stuff that gives clouds of garlic dust) and fresh ground black pepper.  Some people add their seasonings to the egg, but I find it adheres better to whatever you’re coating when in the flour, instead of sinking to the bottom of the bowl.

After a light flouring, a quick dip in the egg/water mix.

After a light flouring, a quick dip in the egg/water mix.

Then into a panko/parmigiana mix.

Then into a panko/parmigiana mix.

Use your hands and get your fingers dirty.  Panko crumbs make for a lighter, crisper coating than regular breadcrumbs, but need a little help to make sure you get a nice mix on each slice, not just the grated cheese.

Fry (yes, I said it, fry) in olive oil.  Not a super light extra virgin, something heavier that will hold up.

Fry (yes, I said it, fry) in olive oil. Not a super light extra virgin, something heavier that will hold up.

I like to get them a nice gold color, about 2 minutes on each side.  Yes, my stove is dirty, I have no shame. Probably what tipped the scales to have me make this–it needed to be cleaned anyway.

I had one zucchini in the fridge, so I dredged it and added it to the eggplant.

I had one zucchini in the fridge, so I dredged it and added it to the eggplant.

As they finish, layer the slices on a paper towel lined and layered plate to absorb excess grease. Now try not to eat all the eggplant before you make the casserole.

A little sauce on the bottom of your casserole/baking dish.

A little sauce on the bottom of your casserole/baking dish.

Good quality cheese is everything, and fresh mozzarella is so much better than the dry, yellow, pre-packaged stuff.

Good quality cheese is everything, and fresh mozzarella is so much better than the dry pre-packaged stuff.


Start layering.  Eggplant, mozzarella, sauce, and then a little fresh grated parmigiana or romano.  I prefer romano for this step.


Repeat the layers two or three times, depending on the depth of your dish.  There should be enough sauce so every bite has some, but too much will leave the whole thing kind of gloppy and you won’t taste the eggplant at the end.

Bake.  Not for too long, everything is pretty much cooked already.  350 or 375° for twenty minutes covered with foil, then uncover and bake another 10 minutes.  Done.



You Move Too Fast

Just kickin' down the cobble stones

Just kickin’ down the cobble stones

Feeling groovy yet?

Last week was hectic for me.  Lots of running back and forth combined with crappy weather. The cherry on top involved the delays and rerouting of the train Saturday morning while I tried to get Art Child to her art class.  On time was blown by the time the train arrived, it was a scramble and bonus cab fare to get her there before her class left for their field trip. Luckily it started snowing after I did my shopping, so by the time I walked into the lobby of my building, the handles of the grocery bag tore off.  I didn’t really need the entire dozen eggs, did I?

I declared yesterday a day of rest.  For me, anyway.  Prepped breakfast the night before, and Husband ordered and picked up a birthday cake for Man Child’s girlfriend.  Also, the night before.  If you haven’t ever had Dominican cake, I recommend it highly.  Extra heavy, often sold in terms of how many pounds (as opposed to inches) and yet delicious.

Over the top in every way, but worth it.

Over the top in every way, and so worth it.

These can be found and purchased in certain neighborhood bakeries, but the best ones come from an abuelita’s kitchen.  The drawback to this is they often aren’t available in the summer–these little inner city kitchens get hot, and you’re getting whatever decorations and colors they feel are appropriate.  Oh yeah, sometimes they don’t have anything to contain it.


Did I mention the icing is not so much frosting as it is meringue?

Did I mention the icing is not so much frosting as it is meringue?

Yup, Husband walked in Saturday night with a 7 pound, 26″ round frilled and frosted cake. No box. I don’t have a container large enough.  I checked the cake domes, my Tupperware cupcake transporter-thingie, I even checked the Thanksgiving roasting pan. Needless to say, it sat on Husband’s desk overnight, and I encouraged an early cake cutting in the morning.  “Hurry up and finish your hash browns, Miss Music–it’s time for your cake!”  

The best part is the guayaba in between the layers. Some misguided souls think pineapple is an acceptable alternative.  Trust Mama Fringe, guava is the way to go.

I stayed in pj’s for most of the day, consumed enough sugar to get me off the couch and down to the laundry room–did only enough laundry to be sure clean underwear can be found this week. A perfectly slow Sunday crowned by the divine absurdism of Shameless.  Appropriate, no?

Dear Spring,

A view of a vineyard just before the spring cy...

A view of a vineyard just before the spring cycle of the growing season kicks in with budbreak. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where are you?  It’s been much too long since we last saw each other.

I’m hoping you’re about to show up for a leisurely visit.  Though I can’t decide if it will be a surprise or not.  You’re overdue, but Winter has been here for so long I suspect he will never leave.  I tried getting a restraining order, but I’ve yet to find a judge willing to sign it. This rat bastard has his icy fists punching through every pothole, frozen toes doing the tango up and down my spine, and a steel wool beard that has turned my skin into stucco.  And that’s just the physical.

The constant sub freezing temps have done a number on my psyche.  I’ve even gone back to my yoga routine, in an effort to get myself to feel better.  No, of course I’m not contorting myself into a mangled pretzel just to catch Summer’s eye.  Maybe it is true that part of me is concerned I won’t fit in my overpriced bathing suit that’s only two years old, but honestly, that’s just a byproduct.  I’m doing it for me, because Winter has sucked the soul out of me.  Not only that, he’s been playing footsies with the 1 train.  At least 50% of the rides I’ve taken since November that train has been a mess of frozen tracks.  Late to arrive, slow to move, stopping between stations, evicting passengers for no apparent reason, and sometimes not showing up at all.

I’d rather be with you, Spring.  Truly.  At least until beach season.

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Thank You Internetz

and the Coca-Cola company.  For turning over the rock, and allowing light to shine on the racism that is alive and all too

Statue of liberty

Statue of liberty (Photo credit: rakkhi)

well in America.

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, didn’t see the commercial that caused waves in our amber GMO enriched grain until this morning.  If I was a gambler, I’d put money on the idea that many of the same people shitting themselves over a Coke commercial featuring people of color! language other than English!  would consider me suspect, not a real American for the simple fact that I’m not a football fan, not a sports fan at all.

That’s what America’s all about, right?  The Pilgrims came here so they could chase a ball and drink beer without any pesky brown people, or hearing anything other than the dulcet tones of English.  Such a pure language, developed in a magical place without any influences from any other nasty, discordant languages.  Mmm hmmm.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not too highbrow for football.  I was annoyed there was no new episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta last night–I assume because they didn’t think they’d get enough viewers.  I know, I know, RHoA, more brown people.  Black women.  If it makes you feel better, dear racists, I found that out after eating a slice of apple pie.  My dessert, after a dinner of arroz con habichuelas.

At this point, I don’t know if I’m more angry, sad, or disgusted.  I do know I wish we were a smarter country.  Smart enough for everyone here to understand we are a nation built on the backs of immigrants, after stealing the land from the Native Americans already living here.  Guess they didn’t count, since they didn’t speak English.  Guess what?  You, in your racist spouting household probably have traditional meals included in your pure American Thanksgiving dinner that are actually throwbacks to your family’s heritage.  Potato salad?  German.  Pasta?  Italian.  Butter cookies? Norwegian.  Corn?  Beans?  Squash?  The three sisters are Native American, and you should stop serving all three because Native Americans certainly aren’t what you mean when you talk about real Americans.  And I’ve got another little surprise for you, all the rhetoric you’re spewing, about these Mexicans/Domincans/Haitians/Koreans/fillintheblankins, you know, the crap about not learning English, not becoming American enough for your taste, their strange foods, the way they’re taking your jobs and your wimmenz…not original or new.  The same tired fearful and fear mongering lines have been spouted for two centuries of immigration.   I’m very sorry to tell you, the good old days weren’t what you think they were.

English: A Turkish immigrant in New York (1912).

English: A Turkish immigrant in New York (1912). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish we were smart enough to understand that we are not an isolationist nation and never were.  I wish we were smart enough to understand that instead of trying to fit everyone into a cracked mold that’s a figment of stultified imaginations, we need to move forward, leave this nonsense behind.  I wish we were smart enough to understand that the affordable air travel, internet and cell phones have brought us more than resort vacations, Candy Crush, and sexting.  We are living in a global economy.  Guess who’s going to get ahead in a global economy?  Those who are able to respect cultures other than the one they grew up in; those who speak more than one language, those who aren’t terrified by the sight of someone who has different skin color, eye shape, hair texture, religious beliefs, clothing or customs than their own.   Those who don’t vomit hatred because their sacred game has been tainted by nothing.

That’s right, I said it. Nothing.  You’re up in arms because the ridiculously priced commercials selling shit you don’t need during a game dared to show America as it is, not your fantasy of what it should be.

I just got off of the train.  On the subway I hear English, spoken with a broad number of American accents.  I hear English spoken with accents from Ireland, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, Guyana, Australia, South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Papa New Guinea.  I hear Spanish, Italian, French, German, Hebrew, Arabic, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tagalog, Portuguese, Hindi, Vietnamese, Yiddish, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, languages from Scandinavia and languages from Africa.  I don’t know who was born here, who’s an immigrant–documented or undocumented–who’s a tourist here to pump thousands of dollars into our economy.  Shocking though this might be, I don’t care.  It’s beautiful to my ears, part of being an American in New York.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in New England, including the more rural areas where it’s truly rare to see a person of color or hear a language other than English.  Also beautiful, also part of America.  I’ve spent time down South, where outside of the major cities you don’t hear as many different languages, but still a few, and see many people of color.  Beautiful.  I’ve spent time in the Southwest, where there are more Native Americans, and I heard bits of languages rarely if ever heard in NYC.  Beautiful.  Time in the Pacific Northwest, where I heard more Norwegian words and influences than I hear in the east, heard languages and saw faces originating from Alaskan Native cultures.  Beautiful.  To me, that’s what makes America.  It’s vast, our population is huge and mixed, influences from all over the world are seen, heard, and felt in our in language, music, food, and clothing.  My America isn’t more or less American than yours.

I want to be clear, when you say things like “I don’t mean you,” you do.  You mean my children, my family, my friends, my neighbors.  When my kid is chosen for a job over you or yours, it isn’t and won’t be because of looks or last name.  It will be because he has always and continues to work his ass off, speaks three languages, knows how to be respectful and appreciative of all cultures and focus on commonalities in our global economy.

I’m not a politician, not a sociologist or anthropologist, not an academic, not in marketing or advertising.  I’m not a mover or shaker in any circle, no impressive degrees, haven’t traveled the world, really not that smart.  A plain old gal living on the fringe.  But I know  the commercial  that prompted this latest round of bullshit has nothing to do with anything you’re whining about.  It’s about the Coca-Cola company wanting to reach the broadest possible audience, so the next time you’re in front of a display in the store, choosing between Coke and Pepsi, you spend your dollars on Coke.  And I will. Or I would, if I drank soda–or pop, or coke, depending on what region of the US you’re in.

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Breaking News: Cold in NY, in January

Yeah, I know, this is more than the usual cold.  Pretty sure the meteorological term is fucking freezing.  Or en español,  frio con cojones.  But first it was strangely warm, and we saw a spectacular sunset as the temperature plummeted yesterday evening.

The view facing east, sun reflecting off of the buildings.

The view facing east, sun reflecting off of the buildings.

This being NY, nothing stops for weather (-12 windchill be damned) so it was school and business as usual today.  I had an appointment that I expected to take about an hour.

Bring on the leeches!

Bring on the leeches!

After a quick consult, I was sent to the lab.  Except the usual lab was closed for renovations, so I had to bundle up and head outside to walk closer to the river, and then register to wait.  To register insurance info.  And then wait for a broken printer which wasn’t fixed.  And then register for the actual lab part of the lab.  And then wait.  And wait.  Free entertainment, something broke on an upper floor causing flooding, and I was treated to an hour of alarms and flashing lights.  This is a hospital and lab that is crazy crowded under the best of circumstances.  Add in sub freezing temps outside (lots of accidents, illnesses, and people just looking for anything that will get them out of the cold), the second lab of the hospital being closed, and chaos on another floor, and well.  Sigh.

I’ll admit, met a nice bunch of folks all talking about (surprise!) the weather.  One reminded me of one of my mother’s friends, very elegant older woman there with her daughter for pre-op fun.  I started to worry that I wouldn’t make it home on time to pick up Flower Child.  I said this out loud (why?) and the group prodded me to go into the lab and tell them.  When the lab tech came out and called my name, I stood up and this small group cheered for me.  Not kidding.  NY is never more wonderful than when faced with a challenge/crisis–be it natural or manmade.

I felt worst for the phlebotomist, the inner rooms of the lab were so cold, my hand was literally blue as she took my blood.  I was only in there for five minutes, I can’t imagine how that woman was keeping her hand steady in the middle of an 8 or 12 hour shift.  Thank you! After a mere four hours, I was on my way to the subway.

The show might go on, but the streets are strangely empty today.  No one is loitering outside, everyone is bundled up and hurrying to be indoors.  The streets along the hospital are usually lined with panhandlers/homeless.  I didn’t see one today, and I’m glad, it means they’re all inside somewhere.  Even the pigeons are suspiciously absent.

IMG_0279 IMG_0282 IMG_0283


Just about everyone is as bundled as they can be and still navigate the steps down to the station.  I saw two exceptions.  One, a woman running to the train this morning in a short skirt and heels, no tights at all.  Umm, honey, I know bare legs are awesome, but no one was admiring your daring.  And another on the train, sure she was cute in her short peacoat and no hat.  Young women always look good.  But psst,

you would have looked just as cute in boots.  At least put a pair of socks on.

you would have looked just as cute in boots. At least put a pair of socks on.

I took note of the empty benches in the street and waiting for the light to change when I noticed this:

Sometimes I really don't want to know.

Sometimes I really don’t want to know.

I’m just ready to be done for the day, and join Big Senile Dog on his tempurpedic.

Warm and cozy.

Warm and cozy.





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