Writing 101 – Serially Found

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Part two in a series. Part One told the story of loss and my neighbor Pearl.

Just about a month ago, Pearl’s co-op apartment went up for sale and her son Danny had an Open House. On the night of the Open House I left my building to go to the grocery store. There was a stuffed dog on the ledge in front of the side entrance to my building. It was in the exact spot where Pearl liked to sit sometimes.

I figured someone had left the stuffed dog and would return for it and continued to the store. About a half hour later, the dog was still there, in Pearl’s spot. It was now getting dark and cold and clearly no one was coming back for the dog.

I took a close look at it. It had a red bow with pink hearts around it’s neck, and was white and plush with black floppy ears. There was no way I was leaving this dog outside. It reminded me of my own childhood stuffed dog which I walked around clutching and took everywhere.

I brought the dog upstairs and gave him a quick sponge bath and put him on a shelf in my living room. I named him Snoopy.

The thing about Pearl is she always said she was an animal lover and preferred them to people. It’s sounds perhaps crazy but I do believe Pearl had something to do with me finding Snoopy. I do believe in ghosts and spirits and that the dearly departed can do small things on earth.

I may have lost Pearl, but I found Snoopy, and feel I have a piece of Pearl’s heart with me in Snoopy.

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Writing 101: Serially Lost

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Pearl – Part One

When I moved to Queens 9 years ago, the first neighbor I met was Pearl Fishbane. She was tiny, blond, with the prettiest blue eyes. She loved to chat when we met in the street or in the lobby. It was always her first question: “How are your little ones?” She meant my cats, Hamlet and Lucy. She would then tell me what a wonderful daughter-in-law I would be and ask why I wasn’t married.

I never could tell how old Pearl was. 75 maybe? I really didn’t care. I just liked her personality and we always agreed that we preferred dogs and cats to people. Often she mentioned her son Danny who lived in Westchester whom she adored. She had divorced quite young and never remarried and went to work as a receptionist.

I didn’t actually really become good friends with Pearl until April 2014. She had always invited me to her apartment for coffee or to chat, but I never thought I would visit her. One week I noticed that I hadn’t seen her in a while and decided to check in on her.

Pearl was so happy to see me. She had been feeling ill and was drinking Pepto Bismol. She asked me to go to Dunkin’ Donuts and get us some egg white wraps, and I left. So that’s how our friendship began, and while I didn’t realize it, Pearl was actaully 88 and gravely ill.

Stay tuned for part two!

Writing 101: Commit to a Writing Practice

Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Don’t Give Up, by Peter Gabriel is a song I listen to when I feel really depressed. It has made me cry because it actually is quite uplifting. I have sunken into deep despair and sometimes music is all I have.

in this proud land we grew up strong
we were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

no fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
but no one wants you when you lose

don’t give up
‘cos you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not beaten yet
don’t give up
I know you can make it good

though I saw it all around
never thought I could be affected
thought that we’d be the last to go
it is so strange the way things turn

drove the night toward my home
the place that I was born, on the lakeside
as daylight broke, I saw the earth
the trees had burned down to the ground

don’t give up
you still have us
don’t give up
we don’t need much of anything
don’t give up
’cause somewhere there’s a place
where we belong

rest your head
you worry too much
it’s going to be alright
when times get rough
you can fall back on us
don’t give up
please don’t give up

‘got to walk out of here
I can’t take anymore
going to stand on that bridge
keep my eyes down below
whatever may come
and whatever may go
that river’s flowing
that river’s flowing

moved on to another town
tried hard to settle down
for every job, so many men
so many men no-one needs

don’t give up
’cause you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not the only one
don’t give up
no reason to be ashamed
don’t give up
you still have us
don’t give up now
we’re proud of who you are
don’t give up
you know it’s never been easy
don’t give up
’cause I believe there’s a place
there’s a place where we belong

JR Richards recently released this acoustic version of his amazing song “Until I Wake Up.” JR says he wrote this during a deep depression while writing the second Dishwalla album. Their first album Pet Your Friends was a commercial hit, which I listened to a lot in 1996. Again, it’s a song I turn to when I’m sad but it makes me feel better because I feel like JR just gets what’s going on in my head and isn’t trying to make me feel better. It’s also just a gorgeous song, no matter what mood you may be in.

I rest my head
Between the bed and sky
Download my dread
Disarm my mind, make it dry

Nothing in motion, and I’m satisfied
No disappointment ’til I wake up
Don’t want to wake up

Into clear space
Vivid vision, see her shape
At my bedside
Beam up my mind, please

Nothing in motion, I’m not satisfied
No disappointment ’til I wake up
Nothing in motion, and I’m not satisfied
No disappointment ’til I wake up
I don’t want to wake up

Nothing in motion, I’m not satisfied
No disappointment ’til I wake up
Nothing in motion, and I’m satisfied
No disappointment ’til I wake up
Don’t want to wake up, don’t want to wake up, no
Don’t want to wake up, don’t want to wake up, no


Most people don’t know that I once ran away to California. I had just finished high school and was 17, so basically I never made it to my destination of Venice Beach. LAX was as far as I got. Anyway, Joni Mitchell was Canadian, but felt California was her home. I have been to many cities in California and always it just felt like a place I could call home. Maybe someday…

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won’t give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

California I’m coming home
I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I’m coming home

I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you California

Oh California I’m coming home
Oh make me feel good rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m your biggest fan
California I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues
So I bought me a ticket
I caught a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said “How long can you hang around?”
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I’m going home to California

California I’m coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I’m coming home

Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?
Will you?

Writing 101: A Room with a View

*May 08 - 00:05*

Last week I went to a screening of John Hughes’s “The Breakfast Club” to celebrate its 30th anniversary. It was a cinematic time machine to 1985, the year I was a freshman at The Dalton School.

The last time I visited Dalton was June 2014, for a reunion. Our reunion took place in the 10th floor library, where I spent almost every day during high school. It has been renovated, but it still has two levels. I worked late hours in the upstairs enclosed glass room on our newspaper, The Daltonian. If it was a Saturday, the staff took over the library for cut-and-paste and played music, transforming a tranquil study space into our editorial domain. I would bring cassettes, and I remember playing The Bangles on repeat.

During the week, we had “labs” which were free time where you could study, go out for a bagel, sneak a cigarette around the corner. I was usually in the library, at a table, doing my homework. I also loved looking through the stacks of books and would often just end up reading sometimes sitting on the floor, next to all the books.

Dalton was a hard, competitive environment. I felt the pressure to get A’s and everyone’s goal was to get into the best possible colleges. Along the way, I navigated cliques, sat on the steps of the Met (If you’ve ever watched Gossip Girl, yes we really went there, but it was a nighttime meeting spot.) I had crushes on upperclassmen and revered my teachers. Mostly, I just wanted to survive high school and it was day-by-day a challenge. Vacations were capped by who had the best tan, fashion from Benneton and Guess ruled as we did not wear uniforms, and while it was and still is one of the top private schools in NYC, I often longed to go to what I would simply refer to as a normal high school. The library was always an oasis and I’m glad to revisit it last year.

Writing 101: Stream-of-Consciousness

Streaming 90s pop radio, triggers a memory of a hot New Paltz summer, of us, of him, painting houses, drifting into mine, of cuddling for hours, of sunbathing on rocks and watching the Real World on MTV. Our world was not real. A summer fling. It was supposed to be light and lovely, not passionately painful, not so that when he drifted away as he promised, he took something from me. Cause I am barely breathing (sorry, Duncan Sheik) and I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to go to class or even leave my room. Never before, nor since, has anyone made me feel like a drug addict but love was the drug, our drug. To be apart from each other was painful. To reunite was bliss. To share Ben & Jerry’s and sit on the back porch smoking cigarettes at night. It was light. It wasn’t hot or lusty even though just to touch him I felt everything melt. He was always steering though and said “I Love You” for the first and only time as he drove away from me. I shouldn’t have fallen apart. Over a summer romance. But I fell and there was no way out of the rabbit hole of my despair. I was bright, I had a future, I had friends, I had classes to go to. I was immobile. Stuck and sinking. And I never thought I would see him again, and at some point I recovered, and of course he had to come back. By then I was in New York City and said I couldn’t find the time. And then 9/11. And he asked me to come see him. And I was fragile and freaked out because I watched those towers fall and burn from my bedroom window. I had nowhere to go. So I went back there and it was all wrong. He bought me clothes and shoes and put me in a motel. What was I doing there? The last night I was there I sat up all night smoking and he watched tv and then called my mother to come get me. And this time we said goodbye.

5 Stories 5 Photos B&W Challenge – Best Friends

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This was taken during high school circa mid 80s. I was taking a black & white photo elective although I did not actually take this photo. It’s part of a series from a Homecoming sports day against our rival school Fieldston. All of my friends and I went to the event.

In this photo are Micol and Mindy. Mindy and Micol were best friends. Micol was my best friend and remains one of my fondest friendships from high school.

No one tells you when you are young that the friends you make in high school and junior high school will be the best friends you will ever have connected with. I was just chatting at a high school alumni event with my high school friend Roberta and we completely agreed on the subject.

This was a nice day. Fall, on a beautiful campus, with best friends.

5 Stories 5 Photos Black & White Challenge

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I am taking on the 5 Stories 5 Photos Black & White Challenge. I was nominated by the lovely DesleyJane’s blog http://musingsofafrequentflyingscientist.com/

I nominate John who writes an amazing travel blog https://gianluca8675.wordpress.com/

It was the first day of 5th grade for Giovanni Cassini Ricci and he held his mother Sarah’s hand tightly as they walked up the steps to the front door. Sarah leaned over to kiss his cheek. He didn’t stop her. Cassini, she whispered, it will be okay. The other boys and girls will like you. Don’t call me that, Mommy! He pulled his hand away abruptlly. My name is Joey. Why can’t you call me Joey? Okay, go, Jooooh-eeeee she mocked as he went through the school door. Sarah laughed and continued to her job at the high school where she taught French and Astronomy.

Joey Ricci had learned early in his American elementary school experiences that no good will come when you are asked your name and you reply Giovanni Cassini Ricci, in Dallas, Texas. No one could ever pronounce Giovanni. Joh-vannie, the teacher would say in a southern drawl. He hated it. Cassini was what his mother called him. Giovanni had heard the story too many times of how he came to be named Giovanni Cassini. For now he insisted on the name Joey, because he heard it on the tv show “Friends.” There was an Italian character he liked on the show named Joey Tribbiani. He was handsome, a bit slow, but could charm the girls. So he picked Joey for his name when he entered 4th grade after moving to Dallas from Chicago.

Secretly, Joey actually liked his middle name Cassini. When he arrived at college in New York, Joey told everyone his name was Cassini Ricci. It was a new city, a new school, and girls in his class would light up when he introduced himself. Of course he faked an Italian accent when he said it, but the girls ate it up. Joey had been born in Chicago and then lived in Dallas and had a strange combination of both regional dialects when he spoke. So, Presto! Joey became Cassini Ricci, born in Milano, a distant relation to fashion designer Oleg Cassini.

It wasn’t until he met Lila Jane Cohen that he let the charade fall. Lila was an Astro-Physics major and met Cassini in the library, one very cold night in October. October 15, 1997. He would never forget that day.

Lila was a sophomore and saw a very handsome freshman from her dormitory floor. She wanted to meet him and they met cute that evening in the library. Lila asked him if she could borrow a pen. Hers had run out of ink.

What’s your name, Lila said. Cassini, he poured the accent on real smooth. You’re kidding, she laughed. No, I’m not. He folded his arms in front of his chest and stood back against the wall. She knows I’m a fraud, he suddenly thought. She knows I’m Joey from Dallas.
He was so wrong.

So you know what tonight is, right, Cassini? Lila asked. He had no clue. Lila explained that the Cassini-Huygens unmanned spacecraft was launching tonight and being sent to Saturn. Lila went on to explain to him who Giovanni Cassini was. He smiled. His mother had told him all about him. He liked Lila, so he let her tell him the story behind his namesake.

Giovanni Cassini, she explained, was a famous astronomer and engineer born in Italy in 1625. He later moved to Paris and set up the Paris Observatory while becoming the official astronomer and astrologer to Louis XIV, The Sun King. He spent the rest of his life in Paris and became known as Jean-Dominque Cassini. He died in 1712. The Cassini-Huygens space probe launched successfully, as did the relationship between future husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Giovanni Cassini Ricci.