First Time for Everything


Labor Day weekend, the last hoo-rah of summer.  I really, really wanted to squeeze in one more beach day, and not over the three day weekend, because the sand is impossibly crowded on these days. Greedy, right?  I have enjoyed quite a few beach days this summer, all of them lovely, was at the NJ beach for an afternoon earlier in the week and of course, an entire week of vacationing on the beach down south.  But, one more on “my” beach in Brooklyn sounded irresistible, especially because Man Child is here.  He hasn’t been able to enjoy many beach days over the last few years, and I’m enjoying spending some days with him before he flies off overseas.

Of course I noticed the clouds as Art Child, Man Child and I walked to the subway, but there was no hint of rain, nothing that seemed threatening, we had actually gotten out of the apartment by 10am (we’d get good spots near the water!) and when you’re lying on the sand a few clouds can offer a bit of respite from the sun.  And of course it was windy when we got off the train, but the weather is always a bit different when you’re actually on the beach.  Besides, I kind of like those days, where it’s just me and the other diehards.

Oh.My.God.  It was a fucking sandstorm on the beaches of south Brooklyn.  First, we teamed up and wrestled the wind to get our towels down. We laid them close together, so we could pool bags and flip-flops to keep them anchored.  Man Child’s went first, and by the time we secured all four corners, the towel was half covered in sand.  He didn’t even try to lie down, went into the water instead. Art Child and I threw ourselves down on our respective towels as soon as we got them down, in an attempt to keep them from flying away, and trying to block the sand from our eyes. I grew up on that beach, and I can honestly say I have never experienced this amount of sand pelting everything and everyone outside of a November pre-rainstorm.


At first it was kind of funny.  Go to the beach, she said, it’ll be fun, she said.  Man Child lasted about three minutes in the water, it was bizarrely cold for August. Give it a few minutes, surely it will blow over.  Art Child was huddled on her towel, shirt completely wrapped around her head, while Man Child and I laughed, chewed sand, spit sand, and waited.  Inside of 30 minutes, there wasn’t a centimeter on any of us that hadn’t been exfoliated, including my throat and eyeballs.  If you’ve never experienced it, crunchy contact lenses aren’t a rejuvenating sensation. Art Child was now shivering, so we decided it just didn’t make sense to stay, made a futile attempt to shake the sand off our stuff,  and packed up. Ten minutes waiting for the train, another hour and twenty minutes home.

We walk into our building, laugh with the security guard and super that it’s a good thing they didn’t come with us, go upstairs, and…can’t get inside.  For the first time in my entire life, I had locked myself out of my apartment.  If you’ve ever lived alone, you’re cautious about that kind of thing. I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 18? 19?, lived alone for years, and in those years, often worked a swing shift.  You cannot ring the super or landlady’s bell at 2am and ask for them to let you in.  I guess those habits get ingrained, so in all these years, I’ve never locked myself out.  I also gave up on making sure anyone else had a copy of my keys.  Apparently when we switched apartments last year, we didn’t give the super the new keys either. We live in a large, post-war but not new building.  This means there’s no jimmying the lock with a credit card, bobby pin, or other MacGyveresque maneuver to break in.  No external fire escapes on these institutional-style buildings to be climbed.  Sure we’ve got a terrace, but it’s 16 floors up, the terraces don’t begin until the fourth floor, and shockingly enough, I am not Spiderman.  Hell, even if there was a way to climb up, it’s rare that I can get the windows open from the inside.  From the outside? Hah!

Husband had gone to work.  In New Jersey.  Friday, of Labor day weekend.  No way he could run back home to let us in, and ludicrous to think of taking the bus to NJ and back in sand-filled bathing suits so we could pick up the keys. It would have taken 6-7 hours roundtrip in holiday traffic.  He was going to be home in another 8 hours anyway.  So we went to Mother-In-Law’s.  Thankfully she was home and a good sport about the whole thing, though I suspect she was done with us by about the 6th hour. Husband was a mere hour and a half late getting back into the city, and we were home by midnight.

Speaking of midnight, the moon put on quite a show over this past week, and I was able to get a few good shots.  If anyone knows why it was so red/orange, I’d love to know, but in any case it was beautiful.




Lousy Poem Wednesday

For whatever anyone (including myself) may/may not think of my writing, I am not a poet.  I love poetry, but don’t know anything about the various forms, never studied it or felt compelled to do so. Of course, when I was a teenager and young adult, I wrote plenty of angsty poems.  All free verse, because, of course, I didn’t know what I was doing.  Attempts at rhymes resulted in the love children of elementary roses-are-red and the man-from-Nantucket, and I abandoned poetry for short stories by the time I was in my twenties.

Once in a while, though, like once every ten years, I have an urge.  I went to the beach with Art Child the other day.  Took the train out to Brooklyn to “my” beach, just beyond the shadow of the elevated train tracks.  Brighton Beach isn’t what anyone would call paradise, or even clean–truly, you have to shower off the layer of dirt and grime before determining whether or not you got any color– but I love it. It feels like home, what can I say.  When we were walking to the water, I noticed chicken bones scattered in the sand, probably rejected by seagulls.  Those bones, complete with bits of batter and gristle, stayed in my mind. image

Past the end

down and down the steps

up the ramp

splinters of before

push through


Sun soothes, empties the cells

Look Ma! No cancer, Vitamin D–

except skin

Pleats and furrows pulled taut by kelp flies

pores opened by the heat

for sweat to drown the fleas


wider to swallow

shell fragments

broken beer bottles

chicken bones


And the salt

taste it

on the breeze

in the water

against the scummy layer of coconut oil


Grains of could-be

meld into

Squishy mud of


and I dive.


Run Away


Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done in over 21 years. I went to the beach. By myself. Come to think of it, beach or not, I haven’t had a day by myself, no obligations, in over 21 years. I took my towel, my phone, my metrocard, my iPod, and a frozen bottle of water.

The beach was packed, the subway was nose to armpit jammed, and it was heavenly.

One of the best things about New York is the diversity. On the beach
I heard Russian, I heard French, I heard Chinese, I heard Spanish, I heard English, I heard Hebrew, I saw a family of Asian descent speaking Russian, I saw senior citizens swimming in their underwear, young studs in cut offs, young women in thong bikinis, old women in string bikinis, an orthodox man in his beard and black suit sitting on the sand so his little ones could have a day in the ocean.

I plugged my ear buds in and blasted all my old beach favorites–to the group three towels down, thanks for sharing your rap, but I was sticking to Cream. And Creedance and Kate Bush and Melissa Etheridge.

It’s true, the Brooklyn beaches aren’t the prettiest, that glint of green in the sand is as likely to be part of a beer bottle as seaweed, but yesterday it was bliss.

After about an hour, I realized I was free to enjoy another beach pleasure I haven’t indulged in years.


Why yes, I do think a beach towel is equivalent to a brown paper bag. I have to ask though, wtf is a nutcracker? Guys in heavy jeans and towels walk up and down the beach same as always, selling water, beer, and Newports out of black plastic bags. But now they offer nutcrackers too.

When I was young, there was nothing I wanted more than to get out of Brooklyn. But yesterday, I looked at the fancy newer condos along the boardwalk and thought, “not so bad.”


Hell, I looked at the ancient buildings on the side streets, the ones with wiring too old and fragile to support an air conditioner and lights at the same time–trust me, I used to live in one–and thought, “not so bad.”


If you called me yesterday, or texted or messaged or emailed and I didn’t answer, forgive me. I ran away. And Nerd Child, thank you. 

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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Bad Influence: A Feel Good Moment


friends (Photo credit: ROSS HONG KONG)

You may be surprised to learn this, but I don’t have a lot of friends.  I know, I know, it’s shocking.  But the friends that I have, I’ve had for a long time.

Two of my oldest friends are a married couple I’ll call Mr and Mrs Smitholini.  We met in Brooklyn, long before they were godparents to my children, before I was godmother to theirs, before they were Mr and Mrs.  Mrs Smitholini and I hit it off as soon as we met.  Me and Mr Smitholini?  Not quite as instant a friendship.

Mr Smitholini is old school.  One of those guys who was born old school–before it was skool.   He thought I was a bad influence on the future Mrs Smitholini, with my peasant skirts, tie-die jeans, and loose, wanton ways.  “Whaddya mean ya write poetry?  I’ll give ya a poem.”  We had fun, though–when we weren’t each trying to convince the other (s)he was being a bad influence on (the future) Mrs Smitholini.  A lot of fun.  I have two other friends I’ve known longer than Mr and Mrs S.  We’ve all spent a lot of time together over the years.  I was maid of honor at two of their weddings, they were bridesmaids at each other’s.  I, of course, was the hussy who got married in Vegas–no bridesmaids.  A lot of laughter over the years–most of it completely sober, too!  And yes, tears.  Weddings, funerals, christenings, baby showers, wedding showers, Sunday dinners, painting each other’s homes, changing diapers on each other’s children and general tomfoolery.

Admit it, ladies.  There’s nothing like the relationships you have with your long term girlfriends.  Gab, gossip, and gorilla warfare over a pot of tea.  Or perhaps in the very, very distant past, banana daqueris.  But we won’t talk about that night.

There’s this amazing, mushy joy in seeing our children play, hang out together, and enjoy each other, as well as their “aunts and uncles.”

The four of us (Mr and Mrs S, Husband and I) are friends.  Not just got used to each other’s Mr/Mrs, but friends.  Mr Smitholini and I each saw what Mrs Smitholini saw in the other one.  So I’ve counted him as one of my friends for many years already.  And the Mrs?  I can’t imagine life without her.  We’ve lived close, we’ve lived far, our lives have changed.  Day to day for each of us is busier, we no longer spend hours on the phone every single day, but she’s still the first one I call.  We don’t get to see each other in person on a regular basis anymore, but when we do, it’s like we were together the day before.

Some of our running jokes have changed over the years.  At this point, Mr S busts my balls asking when I’m going to dye my hair (if I look old, well, that makes him…not as young–Mrs S has excellent, youthful genes that have produced remarkably few gray hairs), and I tell him I’ll go platinum blonde as soon as he gets plugs.

Husband and Flower Child and I went away this weekend.  We went North again, our timing as impeccable as ever, we missed the fall foliage, but what the hell, right?  Mr and Mrs Smitholini said they would join us.  We planned to meet at the motel, no plan to arrive at the same time.  Halfway up, we were caught in a major traffic jam.  Mr S called.  They were also stuck in a major traffic jam.  What road are you on?  Same road.  Where are you?  Turns out we were 2/10s of a mile behind them, same lane.  We had stopped for dinner, they had stopped for coffee and donuts.  We were wishing we had coffee and donuts.  They moved into the  lane next to us.  And shared.

Want one?

Want one?

Yup, Mrs Smitholini  passed the box out her passenger side window into Husband’s driver side window.  Turns out Mr Smitholini was right all those years ago.  I have been a bad influence on her.  She would never have done such a thing when we met, way back when.

What could have been a miserable trip filled with why-did-we-do-this, and we-should-have-left-earlier/later/yesterday never was instead a road trip of laughter, courtesy of our cell phones and mutual bad timing.

When we got to the motel, Mr and Mrs S went upstairs before us.  We got to our room, they were standing in the doorway.  The desk clerk had mixed up our room keys.  So while they waited for us to get upstairs, Mr S closed the window in the room so Flower Child wouldn’t be cold.  We swapped keys, and then had a midnight snack together, courtesy of Mr S.  Sparkling wine, red wine, cheese, crackers, other assorted goodies.  And then we laughed until 2AM.  The only time I’m awake for anything other than insomnia at 2am (in the past 15 years) is when I’m with Mrs Smitholini.  Maybe we’ve had it wrong all these years, and she’s a bad influence on me.



I can do a lot of dreaming looking at this photo, how about you? ~Mrs F

I can do a lot of dreaming looking at this photo, how about you? ~Mrs F

Late August.  Time for the annual panic, “oh no, the school year’s about to start.”  I’ve been walking around saying this summer has felt particularly odd because of the cool weather.  Lies.

Summer is just never long enough for me.  If it isn’t cool temps, it’s temps that are too hot, or too rainy, or too many obligations or too many deaths.  Just not enough, which is an old and familiar song for me.  The theme of much of my writing, the guilty chorus that whispers about my parenting, the peek at my word count at the end of each day’s writing session, the ever ready want of more.

The other day I went with Nerd Child and Flower Child to my godson’s Eagle Scout ceremony.  Induction?  I don’t know, scouts aren’t a big thing here in Manhattan.  My suburban friends reassure me that scouting exists here in the city, but I’ve never met any beyond a small, half hearted cub scout group when Man Child was in 1st grade, disbanded by Christmas.

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges

Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges (Photo credit: honus)


It was very sweet–though I know better than to use the word sweet in relation to an almost seventeen year old boy– and made me feel old and nostalgic.  We took the train to Brooklyn and the Scout’s grandmother, where I sat with my kids on her couch in the living room I spent hours in as a teenager.  Not too many people from my past have stayed in Brooklyn, let alone the same house, so it was very alternate reality feeling.  We met up with a friend and traveled the rest of the way to Long Island.  There I saw more friends, and watched my kids goof around with theirs, and felt the absence of a good friend’s son who passed away last summer.

Obviously more goes into the Eagle Scout thing than I understand, Godson and parents were very, very proud. Local politicians and reps attended and gave brief speeches and congratulations.  A snapshot of a lovely moment.

I also missed Man Child.  Between boarding school and college he’s been away a lot, and I did get to see him this summer, but he’s already back in the dorm.  This is the first time he hasn’t come home to be “home” over a break, and it’s damned weird.

Kind of maudlin today, aren’t I?  Did get to the beach with Flower Child yesterday, which felt good, but didn’t quite recharge me in the way I had hoped.  A family of three, two parents and a little girl of about 4 years old settled next to us.  I couldn’t believe the amount of shit they had with them for two hours at the beach.  Six towels, two large shade umbrellas, three huge bags of toys, sunscreen, and snacks: three people.  The little girl was covered neck to calves in one of those bathing suit/lycra sun coverall things.  I swear Flower Child and I saw bathing suits that looked just like it in the museum last year, what women wore at the turn of the twentieth century. This was not a fair skinned family, but you would think they were albino (am I politically incorrect, is there a more current term?) with the amount of sunscreen they slathered on.  I’m not going to mention their little disagreement with the lifeguards about the safety of their sweet pea, and the rule against life jackets/swimmies in the ocean.  I know it seems counterintuitive to the Backyard Pool crowd, but really.  Big waves, riptides, small children, you don’t want them at all out of reach and where they can’t safely stand.

I know we’re all so much safer than previous generations, fewer kids will find themselves in the dermatologist’s office with a skin cancer diagnosis, but widespread Vitamin D deficiencies weren’t a thing when I was using baby oil and iodine instead of SPF 8000, either.

Listened to Creedance Clearwater Revival on the way home, remembered when that was my favorite beach music.  When I had to turn the tape over it was time to flip and freckle my other side.  I used to work odd hours, at the time I lived in South Brooklyn and worked in either Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn.  In the summer, if I was working overnights I’d leave work and head straight for the beach, get a few hours of sleep and sun before heading home to eat, nap, and go back to work.  Swing shifts, I’d get up early, get on the train and go back to sleep on the beach, leaving just enough time to shower before work.   Thinking a lot about those days as I work on Astonishing, tapping into those old work experiences and certainties that I would, when I was ready, be a published author.

It’s ok, you can laugh, there was no internet then to tell me that isn’t how it works.

It Makes Me Wonder

stairway to heaven

stairway to heaven (Photo credit: Cromo)

Last night, when Husband got home from work, we watched the clip of Heart performing Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center. It was an amazing performance,  Ann Wilson’s voice strong and pure; I can’t imagine a finer arrangement to play homage to Led Zeppelin.  And let’s be honest, tell me it didn’t/doesn’t make you smile to see Michelle Obama grooving in her seat.

It brought me back. The hours and hours spent listening to them. I never saw Led Zeppelin live, though I did see the Honeydrippers, and Robert Plant again on a solo tour.  I don’t remember where either concert was held, but I have a clear picture of being so far from the stage at Plant’s show that I was glad one of the friend who were with me smiled and chatted with the guys next to us, so we could share their binoculars. I can’t remember if Husband and I saw him together, and neither could he, but I suspect not. Somehow Husband always got decent, if not excellent, seats.

A mesh of memories were triggered, not just the concerts.  Like being wrapped in a worn quilt with an old and stinky lobster trap over it. The overriding memory was of sitting on the edges of a Brooklyn park at night, a few friends and a guitar. We used to do that a lot, get a bunch of kids together in a park or on the beach, and remove ourselves from the world and the city with music. I was never a musician or a singer, but I always wrote, and like every other angst filled teen saw myself as the next Sylvia Plath. So sometimes there’d be a real effort, a real plan (ha!) to the night, one of the more talented guitarists would sit with me, and he or she would throw some chords together while I and whatever other writers were there would come up with lyrics. All terrible, I’m sure, all forgotten by morning. There’s a certain amount of noise that goes with living in the city at night, and the level considered acceptable was a lot more in those days than now. I grew up across the street from one of those parks, which really weren’t parks at all, but concrete playgrounds and yards attached to elementary schools. You could tell the time by the sounds you heard. Little ones shrieking, before 4 pm, basketballs thumping, “foul!” “fuck you, go home if you don’t like it!” 3-8 or 9pm, thwok-“shit!” were the handball players, between 7 and midnight, music, shouts, firecrackers, and “shut the fuck up, man!” between 10pm and 2am, waking to the thwop-thwak of the paddleball players at 7am.

This one night was perfect, magical to my teenaged self. I can’t remember who I was with, not names or faces, just the shadows next to me, the splintered wood of the bench under my butt, acrid smell and bitter taste of the luke warm, green bottle of Heineken, and a sweet female voice singing Stairway to Heaven. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, no clue how to get there, or even where there was, but I believed I could.


handball (Photo credit: gt8073a)

A Helluva Town

the business of garbage

the business of garbage (Photo credit: David 23)

On my way to pick up Flower Child from school, I was hungry and stopped to grab a slice of pizza.  Hey! It’s a long walk, don’t judge me. I didn’t have time to sit,  I added a heathy six ummm, three, three shakes of red pepper flakes and ate as I walked.  When I was growing up, this was a common sight, but not so much anymore. Is it Manhattan vs Brooklyn, or just different etiquette with the years? Husband always wants to sit down when he eats.  Not me; what’s the point of street food if you have to stop to eat it? Then again, I always liked to stand and walk when I was eating, my mother used to tell me I was going to get fat toes.

As I walked, I ate my slice, hopscotched around the tourists on their way to the museum, and let my mind wander.  Walking through crowded streets is a good time for mind wandering. Like being in the shower, only more reflective than creative. I remembered an incident I was going to blog about a little while back, goosed to the back of my brain by medical mayhem.

A cream Afghan Hound.

A cream Afghan Hound. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had been walking a dog through Central Park, and it was a crappy late afternoon. Cold, sporadic drizzle, one of those days where gray becomes a temperature and a barometer, something you feel in your bone marrow.

Central Park

Central Park (Photo credit: Image Zen)

I heard a small motor coming up behind me, and turned to see one of the golf cart thingies used by the Central Park Conservancy for driving along the paths, reaching different sections of the park for clean up and or maintenance.  The cart stopped just when the dog stopped to pee. The maintenance worker pulled himself out from behind the steering wheel, and grabbed a trash stick from the back.  I don’t know what they’re actually called, but it’s a long wooden stick with a sharp point or nail at the end for picking up loose trash or papers without having to touch anything nasty.

Not a glamorous job, for sure.  Then again, neither is picking up dog poop. But this guy was pissed off, stomping and muttering and then glaring at me like I represented all wrong in his life that had left him stabbing moldy juice boxes for eight bucks an hour. My writer’s mind took a stroll. If he were my character, why would he be so angry?  Big plans thwarted by having to work late? A gardener who had been demoted for poisoning pigeons? Girlfriend dumped him for some bozo with a shiny suit and a desk job? He spiked exactly one piece of paper, tossed the stick in the back of the cart, and started moving again.  By this point, I was walking again, dog veering left where the path forked. I hoped the maintenance guy would be turning right, or straight ahead towards the reservoir. No such luck, this thing was behind me again, and of course this is exactly where the dog needs to stop and poop. I’m now quite certain it wasn’t my imagination, the guy really was glaring at me.  I then began seeing the scene as an episode of Law & Order, roped off with sunshine yellow crime scene tape and the trash pick planted in my sternum.  Mrs Fringe must have been looking swell, maybe I remembered to brush my hair that morning, since he seemed to think I was someone I’m not.

Cover of "Christine (Special Edition)"

Cover of Christine (Special Edition)

Part of my mind was now hearing this cart behind me like it was Christine, Stephen King’s possessed Plymouth Fury.  Yanno, the part of me that was noticing no one else was within spitting distance. Part of me wanted to reach out and make peace? a connection? “Hey, buddy, this fancy dog isn’t mine, and I sure as heck don’t live in one of those apartment mansions across the street.” Another part of me was getting pissed off and resentful.  Fuck him. Who was he to make assumptions about who I was and what I was doing? Your life sucks? Pffft. Get in line, my friend.

I said none of the above.  I did however, begin talking to the dog, and let my Brooklyn out.  There are all levels of socioeconomic class throughout this city. Poor, destitute, working class, middle class, wealthy, and filthy rich. All can be found throughout the five boroughs.  But certain accents there’s no mistaking.  Clear as a tramp stamp, my accent says Brooklyn peasant.

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever (Photo credit: Wikipedia)