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August 22, 2014
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Stories

A cigarette hangs from her lips; the burnt ash refuses to drop and she squints to protect her pale cornflower blue eyes from the smoke that rises behind her large frame plastic glasses. Wearing polyester pants with a button-up floral print shirt in a coordinating color, her shoulders slightly stooped, she moves with purpose and crosses the narrow kitchen. Feet encased in practical slip-on loafers complete the ensemble and are a required part of being dressed for the day.

Humboldt County, 1972

Excerpted from: “717 Hemlock Street: The Empiricist Conversation from Locke to Gödel,” a novel by Tommy Saxophone

John and I sat on the porch on attached movie theater seats John had rescued from an old East Bay movie theater just prior to its demolition. From tall glasses we drank hot coffee sweetened with condensed milk. John pointed west, towards a hilltop in the distance.  Read more

Mud is the New Little Black Dress

When I established full-time residency in this rustic rural area nearly five years ago, I didn’t take into account all four seasons. My lifelong acquaintance with Sullivan County never existed outside the summer familial retreat where we focused on boats, swimming, asiatic milfoil, waterskiing, kayaking and sunbathing. In other words, I was a typical cidiot visiting two months a year.

Needless to say, my first winter here was brutal. I lamented then, and come to think of it, the subsequent four winters, “Why didn’t anyone warn me?”  Read more

Grandpa’s Dirt

Grandpa knew dirt. The son of feudal farmers, he was born into it and was one with it. He knew its language and listened to what it asked for. He didn’t have words like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, but he could tell if the soil was healthy from its scent or how it felt in his hands. As a little girl I watched Grandpa in his garden gently turning the dirt so that it would loosen and breathe and graciously accept the seeds he left in its care. Grandpa knew when it was thirsty and the best time to let it drink, always before the sun or after the sun.  Read more

The Dirt

Although I’m in recovery now, I was glad I was still drinking the Thanksgiving Day after my parent’s divorce. My brother and I decided to invite them to a celebration at his house. We only did this because they swore to us that they would remain friends. Then our father walked in with a date. We know him well enough to see that this was meant as an intentional act to hurt our mother.  Read more

My First Garden

It would be nice to say that I began gardening as a little girl, pushing sunflower seeds into the dirt under the tutelage of a sun-weathered grandmother who’d been practicing the garden arts passed down from her mother, and her mother. But, this is not the case. I was raised in suburban New Jersey, just across Sandy Hook Bay from New York City, where it was against code to hang clothing on an outdoor line, much less roto-till your lawn for food.  Read more

Translating the Fables of La Fontaine: A Creative Linguistic Challenge

Everyone has an urge to be creative. It’s important, though, to recognize one’s proper medium. I’ve picked up paintbrushes, cameras and sketchpads. I’ve satisfied my brief obsession with quilting with the completion of one potholder. And I finally had to admit that my medium is words.  Read more

The Potency of Words

When I was involved in a cult they interrupted me constantly. “Enough with the story already. Just tell us in ten words what happened.”

I should’ve known better. In my life, nothing’s ever straightforward. One story is a skein from another, equally vital and germane. From there, I weave an intricate design, a pattern of words to provide a scenario, background and rationale to what occurred, what may occur and the importance of whatever I have to convey. To reduce a situation to ten words makes as much sense as Albert Camus’ character in “L’Etranger” who stated, “Au cause du soleil.”  Read more

How Real I Used to Be: A Journey with My Mother through the Strange World of Alzheimer’s

In 2003 my mother started to lose her memory. It was subtle at first. We would walk on Avenue U and she would fail to come up with the name of an acquaintance or two. Nothing alarming. After a while her shopping list started to look like an art project, with drawings of mushrooms and strawberries next to the words milk and bananas. Soon the drawings faded away. In the supermarket she would say to me, “I’m looking for those red things with a little green piece and they come all together.” Sometimes it was obvious what she wanted; other times we left without the crackers or the American cheese.  Read more

The Word is Yes

Verbatim conversation:

“Can you play the bongos?” I asked my daughter’s friend, Skye. He grunted in reply.

“I’m sorry, what was that? I just wanted to know if you can play the bongos.” He shrugged.

“Is that a yes or no?” I asked. He smirked, shrugged and then grunted.

Desperate to get around the words that weren’t happening, I placed a set of bongos in his hands and he instantly performed one of the most impressive solos I’d ever heard. When he stopped, he grumbled, “I really can’t play.”  Read more

Misunderstandings

When my grandson, John, was seven, he had a friend visiting who told him he was going to the libary later. John said “It’s not libary, it’s library.” Later, when my daughter wanted to know what flavor ice cream he wanted he said, “strawberry,” but then said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I mean strawbrary.”

My son runs his own business and once had an office cat, which didn’t create a problem until he hired a computer operator who was allergic to cats. His secretary said, “We’ll have to keep him outside.” The office manager replied, “But how can he operate the computer from out there?”  Read more

Out of the Mouths of Babes

“There is no conclusion; the story blooms.” — from “The Last Sunday in October” by Jean LeBlanc

We are all storytellers—you, me, all of us. At least one story waits in us all, waiting to be born, to make it free into the world, somehow, and change things or people, just a little bit. Perhaps children are the ones who know this best. I know I learned this from a child a long time ago...  Read more

Niqab

I did not know the girl behind the veil. I could barely see her eyes. Yet, I could feel her humiliation, her disgrace, her indignation. It stabbed at my heart to see her being treated as an outcast. These strangers treated her with contempt, simply because of her dress and her foreign tongue. A compulsion came over me. I needed to experience this persecution for myself so that I could better understand, so that I would never forget that an individual should be judged by their actions and values, not by their outward appearance.  Read more

Oh, Christmas Tree

There’s nothing like a holiday to remind us of the passing of time. And there’s nothing like a tradition to remind us of family.  Read more

Highland Farm: The Next Generation and Calkins Creamery artisan cheeses

According to author Jonathan Swift, the fare of a bachelor is “bread, cheese and kisses.” But the sound of that is delicious to just about everyone, and not in small quantities. The proof? In 2011, the average American consumed 30 pounds of cheese, an amount that has been steadily increasing since the 1990s. Our affection for artisan cheese, made in small batches from local sources, is growing at a pace that exceeds even the growth rate of general cheese consumption.  Read more

Shining Brightly Again: Bethany’s Mansion at Noble Lane

Enter through the decorative iron gates that are more than a century old. Wind along the regal drive lined with craggy Norwood maples dressed in their rich autumn reds and oranges. Ahead on the hill is the Mansion at Noble Lane, a 25,000-square-foot luxurious resort and spa that is the dazzling new face of a forsaken post-Gilded Age estate with a curious past.  Read more