Saturday, January 16, 2010
If you've been looking for me and you didn't get my e-mail. Copy the new address and join me in my new endeavor.
Happy New Year and good luck with all you do.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
That is, unless you are among those who wait for the best shopping day of the year … December 26th !
There I was early this morning, trekking out to Walmart in South Florida, since I no longer go to Macy's on 34th Street or the Hallmark in the Paramus Mall, calculating how many boxes of this or rolls of that I would need next year.
Shameless hussy that I am, I also went to the on-line site for Current, the best decorating and wrapping place on the planet to order my food boxes and candy bags for next year.
Hey, don't laugh. Fifty-percent is fifty-percent.
It has been an interesting time, these days of nostalgia and remembrances of the ghosts of Christmas past.
Unofficially, Christmas came to an end this morning.
Officially, it comes to an end on January 6th or what I know as "Little Christmas."
What awaits me on that day is the long process of undecorating and after adding the new finds from today, re-storing, closing up boxes and stashing said boxes in said closets.
Having only a virtual "closet" for cyber space decorations and being a compulsively obsessed over-organizer, I have created a Word document with all but two of the Christmas blogs from this year.
No, you can't see them again. You don't expect poor Ralphie to run back and forth through the snow all year, do you?
I hope all those who visited enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
To my family, friends and whoever falls between the two, thanks for joining me during this month. For anyone who hasn't been following me, you missed out on a lot of fun.
I took out all but two days of this month which included December 19th ... so I must mention again ... Happy 40th Birthday Michael Paul Cronin ... you old curmudgeon you.
come to those who,
Friday, December 25, 2009
Today I am remembering Babes in Toyland and my sister-in-law, Teresa Edwards in Staten Island. It was her Christmas tradition to watch this movie each year. Sorry Teresa, I can't remember which one you watched.
My favorite was the one with Laurel and Hardy, but I am certain her favorite was the one with Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello. Somewhere, out there in TV-land they show one or both every Christmas day. Go find it and have fun. It is one of the classic, camp must-sees.
I wish to all
A Merry, Merry Christmas
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Now, Dasher! now, Dancer!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Slowly the days close
On another time
Of good cheer,
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Two things come to mind when I listen to The Four Lads, singing Standing on the Corner, my brother and his friends in the front parlor during the fifties and the boys under the streetlight doing their do-op routines later in the same decade. The names of groups change, the decade changes, still the basics remain.
This more recent "tune" brings only one person and event to mind. Jennifer next to me traveling down A1A to Key West.
From the forties and fifties big bands, early rock 'n roll, do-op and acapella on the street corner, to X-er's looking like the modern rendition of the Temptations or the Four Tops.
Music brings me the people I love, takes me to those times in my past, the places and events that are the signposts of my life, the fond or sad memories, all so good to hear.
Capture the muse,
Hold it for a moment.
Send it out to someone
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The second day of Christmas didn't even help!
Like the banner, many of the selections I post here are from a collection of stories of Sunset Park. Naturally, I have loved finding the various Brooklyn Blogs, and there are many, and the hand full of them dedicated to our old neighborhood.
A much needed voice for this all but forgotten piece of our history, I say goodbye to The Best View Blog. May all your endeavors be done with the same dedication.
Missing it today,
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
School was dismissed and the kids scattered. Some of them walked up the long hills and were never heard from again, many married young, birthing and raising a new generation.
It was a fresh start as the kids and their parents threw off the remnants of the yesterdays that defined them and embraced a vision of tomorrow they waited to realize.
For the kids who grew up in the areas surrounding Bay Ridge, the incredible vistas from a seven and a half mile bike path along Shore Parkway, adjacent to the Brooklyn Narrows, spanned these changing times.
It was in the ebb and flow of the waters, in the endless stream of people and traffic, the change began to define itself.
Dancing to a another beat, both parents and children had yet to learn, eventually everything old is new again.
The first day ...
She stood for hours lost in the steel gray colors of the bay smashing against the rocks until she could no longer feel her toes and at last gave in and went around the corner to the house and to her bed. Once again, sleep eluded her and at first light, she turned and looked at the clock on her night table.
She stood in her dressing room, half-awake and struggled into tight flannel long johns and then into jeans. All the layers and heavy socks in place she walked to the far side of her living room, opened the window and looked out at the Brooklyn Narrows. It was five in the morning. The lights on the bridge and the lights of the traffic shown against the dawn sky, guiding each traveler to their destination.
The water wake
Holding a bit
Sunday, November 22, 2009
This is the steeple of St. Michael's Church. Like the park, the church was part of our lives for decades. From all three of us receiving First Holy Communion, to my wedding, Michael's Baptism and Communion, until the last time, my mother, Mary Fois' funeral mass and my niece, Laura singing Amazing Grace.
Sitting in the circle by the flag pole, watching the sun setting in the bay, the steeple rises like a beacon, showing us the way home.
From Sunset Park:
Seasons changed and changed again. Autumn leaves lined the long hills and pathways of Sunset Park. They blew in the wind and danced happily in the shifting currents, their golden, yellow bronze leaves spilling onto the narrow tree lined streets of the neighborhood.
Children rolled down the long slopes in the park, covering themselves with the colorful array of fallen leaves, breathing in the pungent scent, waiting for the long winter’s sleep.
I still have my copy of A Child's Book of Poems, my most beloved childhood book. I read from it to my son every night. This is the most beautifully illustrated anthology of poems by great poets, some famous and some not so well known (from William Blake to William Shakespeare) I have ever seen! I have so many of the poems memorized that I hardly have to look at the words, allowing me to soak up the fantastic artwork as I get lost in a wonderland of rhyme. It is a shame that this book is not still in print.
I know a funny little man,
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thoughts of those times and places and people we can no longer see. Those we never knew. All four of my grandparents died before I was born, so the mystique of grandma has always held a fascination for me. His was a sound, moving from the late seventies into the eighties. Revisited often by the R&B groups of today, a sound which can never be duplicated.
His deep mahogany voice, so often my only companion on a cold, lonely Saturday night. Here I am on a Saturday and I'm thinking of him, thinking of the ones who are gone, the one I never knew.
Grandma … the only one was my own mother and the touch of her hands wiping young tears, soothing night fears, remains … Grandma's Hands.
Her face greets me,
In my bathroom mirror
In the morning.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The desire to disappear to destinations unkown, to capture the child's dream. I bring a story from the Mid Hudson Valley in Dutchess County.
For this one glorious day, Betty Jean didn't feel her chest tighten or hear the sound of her heart beating in her head. The source of her fear would never find her in this holy place. Holier than the church or the place where the sisters slept, this was where she would come one day.
She loved to listen to Mr. Garfield and the many stories he told the children about working "the rails" as he called it. She longed to climb aboard one of the silver and black cars and go to faraway places. Once her mother took her in a bus to visit her aunt. Another time when her grandmother died her mother's brother took them by car to another town an hour from where they lived.
"I'm gonna leave as soon as I get to be eighteen. That's the age when they can't make you come back."
Chloe felt sad. She had no desire to leave the warmth of her mother's arms. She would miss the silver giggle of her grandmother and the soft mellow tones as the two women sat at canning time, singing the hymns from church.
They waited anxiously for the 4:20 from Albany, following the rails until they vanished around a bend in the river. Neither of them spoke. They didn't know it was the sounds of the wheels rolling over the rails that reached deep inside to capture their young imaginations and speak to them in dreams.
It was this magic that grappled their young minds and pushed them down the hills each time, long before the engine poked around the first bend of the journey heading out of Albany, heading into their station, and continuing to other towns and cities, connecting the map.
They watched as the first car made the turn down river, listened for the sounds of the engine, the long whine of the whistle, the burst of steam as it slowly pulled into the station. They loved to count the cars or the number of passengers getting off the train.
Often when they had the time, they went to another part of the river and waited for the long freight trains to pass over the high tressle bridge with its endless variety of boxcars.
Soon they saw the sun as it began to fall into the river and knew they had to leave or be late. Up the narrow hills, the walk home was longer.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Captive of its magic spell
Within this place, I am
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The building, in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn, was the last in a row of three houses, adjacent to the Greek Diner. These houses were cold flats where the current owners resisted installing radiators for heat or converting the old coal stoves to gas. The fronts of all three houses called “airy-ways,” were enclosed in ornate wrought iron fences. The windows looked out at a giant white factory across the street.
Across the trolley tracks, across the alley and reaching down three avenues, Bush Terminal Factory District spread like giant tentacles along the docks of downtown Brooklyn, creating jobs for thousands of blue-collar workers. The women sewing piecework in long lines on factory floors, heads bowed and backs bent. The men loading and unloading the countless ships from all over the globe arriving to the ports of New York, the longshoremen.
The docks and the Bush buildings remained for decades, abandoned like unwanted children, only to become the center of controversy. The center of a zoning battle to restrict the number of stories the developers can built up. The original plans would have blocked the beautiful vistas from Sunset Park and Owl's Head Park. The vista along the Narrows that stretches from downtown Brooklyn, adjacent to the Belt Parkway, under the Narrows Bridge and moving out to sea.
Ironic. We thought we grew up in a slum. Now progress has found the small row houses on 39th Street and the areas of Lower Sunset Park near the waterfront and wants to install fast food chains and factory outlets for cheap shopping.
Someone out there still believes we can shop our way out of this mess.
It was the Brooklyn Garment Center, the hubb of activities, the inside of an intricate bee hive, alive and buzzing, producing sweet freedom for thousands of immigrants. It was for decades the gateway to middle-class. With its demise we witness the end of an era.
Looking back to understand
Where we are going,
Monday, November 2, 2009
There was a girl, an amalgam of any other group of little girls. Her image remains small and tender and untouched, locked in a treasure box, with buttons and bows and ribbons for her hair.
I see her looking back at me from a photograph, her face still soft and innocent.
Time cannot be measured between the last days of innocence and the insinuation of adulthood.
Nor can anyone explain or remember where the shortest moments of their life, their childhood, vanished, or when they ceased to believe in magic.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I found a battered book we read each night that I received as a gift in 1970. That was fifteen years ago. I know it is in a box waiting to be discovered yet again. Then quite by chance two nights ago I found a sheet I had typed in 1976 with part of a poem I loved dearly from this book. Here it is in part …
Day Is Done
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and hearfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like a benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So much of the old ways are gone. Yet thanks to people like Peter Allen, Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis and other brave souls, some of our landmarks will remain. We will continue to enjoy the spectacle of The Radio City Music Hall and the splendor of Grand Central Station.
I watched in horror the day the wrecking ball took its first hit on the old Metroplitan Opera building in mid-town.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
My kids believe I began writing when people used this model Royal.
I might be technologically challenged, but I am learning to fly solo through cyber space and it's amazing!
Wherever you are on your journey with the "word" ... take heart there are thousands of others on the trip. Tap, tap, tap ...
I recommend taking a look at some of the author and industry blogs I am beginning to collect. If, like myself, you have made this madness your life, you will find solace, information and solid direction as to where it's all going.
Some believe publishing is going straight to hell and being unpublished in our industry today is akin to being a full time member of Actor's Guild and waitressing to pay the rent.
You'll find me at the edge,
Saturday, October 17, 2009
having a bowling alley
installed inyour brain.
According to family lore, I was the unexpected, late arrival, accident of my family. The two who had been around for years weren't sure if they were thrilled by this surprise event.
The story goes something like this …
My poor mother while seven months pregnant with me, journeyed in the sweltering heat, long and arduous hours from Brooklyn to the Shrine of St. Ann in Quebec, Canada.
There she said the stations to the cross and several Rosaries, on her knees, while seven months pregnant, in the sweltering heat. She purchased special Holy Water and crushed rose petals for insurance and to place in front of her statue at home.
St. Ann is the Patron Saint of Mothers, and mine wanted her last and most “unexpected” pregnancy to be a girl child. For as she told my brothers many times, a girl child is the only real comfort a mother can ever expect to have.
I can never be sure if these family stories are true.
I might have made them up.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
we dare not utter
in mixed company
mutter to yourself
faced with traffic jams
long lines in supermarkets
don't lose control
fall victim to
poverty of language
hold the phone
listen to canned music
get transferred for the third time
wait fifteen minutes
the person on the other end
can't get past
pronouncing your name
no politically incorrect adjectives
speaking to you from beautiful
there are worst things
in the world
the four letter word
To the dreaded
Ah, the injustice
to find me
fired up old teenager
Does she smile back
I see her
She snaps, "Get over it !"
I am Mad you know
mad as a hatter or a dog
or a woman
gone past 30 something
past “middle age”
gone past menopause
Friday, October 9, 2009
This piece of prose is a memory from 1952, written as a gift in 1975, kept and used again recently …
It was late and she was tired. The sticky August heat and the buzz of a mosquito kept her awake. She sat up waving her arms to ward off the attack. Exhausted, she fell back on her pillow and watched the shadows on her ceiling, worried the shadows would suddenly change and become demons.
Then slowly the sounds, soft and low, began to float through the air and into her room. The sounds of Andrew’s harmonica as he sat in the big parlor chair and played. Often Andrew would wait until the family was sleeping and the lights were out. Wait until only the rays of the streetlights lit the room, streaming through the tiny panes of the living room window, small, square like prisms catching the yellow light and bouncing it back against the parlor walls in a brilliant splash of color.
In the background she heard the faint rumble of a freight train, its whistle long and mournful as it sped through the night. She heard a tug boat out in the bay, its horn on and off in the summer fog, the sounds of a slow summer night, the clang of a trolley car passing by and the sounds of his soulful tune. The sweet liquid sounds of Andrew’s harmonica.
Andrew’s music filled the room like smoke and fragrance and imaginings of catching a freight train to faraway places, sailing off into the horizon to find mystery and adventure.
Carefully, Antoinette went to the foot of her bed and peaked around the corner of the open doorway to watch him, holding her breath for fear he would see her and break the spell. Andrew’s eyes were closed and his head pushed back into the chair, fingers and palms wrapped around the bright silver instrument, the low moan of the harmonica filled the room. Slowly she slipped back into her bed smiling as he made another dark night pass without shadows or fears.
Whenever Antoinette heard the sound of a harmonica she thought of freight trains to faraway places and sailing off into the horizon, of mystery and adventure and hot sticky summer nights. The buzz of a mosquito and young girls wide-awake watching shadows dancing on the ceiling, and feeling safe. Antoinette was indeed content to have her family around her, but it was Andrew that made her feel safe. When he was away the house was too quiet.
first generation Italian child of an illegal alien.
For years as I plodded back and forth on busses and subways to school or work I would become lost with the movement and begin a story in my head. During this time I created an imaginary character to whom I gave my own middle name.
Once, I spent three years, on the Sea Beach Express, doing a soap opera in which she was the heroine who ended up in a coma, got kidnapped by dastardly villains, was shipwrecked on a deserted island with a handsome sailor, made ravenous love to countless men, married four times and recovered from an endless chain of deceases and injuries.
I collect the stories in my head, like a child collecting wild flowers in an open field. Soon, the child is joined by another or on the way back home she meets a stranger.
Frequently faces are called forward by the sound of music playing in the back of a room, the song on the radio on the way to work, or the album covers collecting dust in my closet. Each day as I walked along the streets, the back of a head, the scent of an after shave or perfume, the sound of someone laughing on the other side of a restaurant; each night shadows of images appear in a half dream.
We all do it.
We collect their images in photographs, save tattered cards or letters that remind us of one of them. We touch and stroke an old doll, a battered fire engine or the lovely vase they left behind. We dare not empty the trunk in the attic, the box wrapped with worn twine in the basement, the bags stuffed in the back of a closet.
Planning a plot or sub-plot, at least for me, doesn't work well. My stories usually begin with a line, an image or a sound, either remembered from a time in my life, or "stolen" from other sounds and images. You know the ones?
Your parents walked ten miles in the snow to get to a one room classroom. It went up hill, both ways. They ate dirt and were grateful to have it. They sacraficed so you could waste your time with loud music and boys.
These are a few choice phrases from my parent's generation ...
"A nickel is a nickel,"
They didn’t waste anything, turned lights off because we were not “Married to Con Edison,” used old bread for bread crumbs or for toast dunked in the morning coffee.
Every left over was consumed, made into creative omelets, or turned up in a lunch bag. In a kitchen draw they stuffed rubber bands, neat squares of washed wax paper or foil to be used again. And paper, especially brown paper bags of every size, were used to wrap packages going to “the other side,” to cover school books or to drain fried foods.
Everything was used again, and then again. They were the great-grandparents of recycling!
Backing into the edge …
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Our mother. “I have to hang the laundry for the love of heaven. Aren’t you done yet?”
The big one moaning. “How can anyone ever get anything done around here?”
It was my ninth birthday party and my two best friends and one cousin sat on the floor in front of the sofa.
The middle one, fourteen, sat on the sofa, deep into his James Dean persona, pretending to be disinterested in such nonsense as birthdays, birthday cakes, candy or presents, caught forever on film with a candy bar clenched in his fist.
The big one, a good immitation of James Garner, sat next to James Dean, with an early Romona the Pest, that was me, balancing on his knee, my eyes crossed, reaching back with my free hand to make devil horns on the top of the big one's head.
Our mother barked. “You stop that foolishness and don't cross your eyes. One of these days you’re going to remain like that.”
She tried again. “I can’t get this darn thing. Honey (our father), can you do this? I think I hear the pot boiling over.”
She handed him the brownie. Without looking, honey snapped the picture the way we were.
And wouldn’t you know it? She was right. Even to this day when I look at that picture, my eyes are crossed!
Good Lord sometimes they were more fun than Lewis and Martin!
Look at those old photos. You know the ones? The ones where your ears stick out like the flag on a taxi? That wonderful, painful and most comical stage when you were all legs and arms and your face had not grown big enough to fit the big nose in the middle of it?
Use them to fill in the landscape of the cursed black page.
Free falling off the edge.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I might do the unthinkable and reprint pieces of what has become a series of stories with the same name, Sunset Park and another series of stories about a small town in Duchess County.
I might use other pieces of the people and things I enjoy writing about. I've lived in some crazy places and intend to have fun with at least two of them. I began my life in a factory district, skirting the Brooklyn docks and ended the New York City part of my life in a crazy place called Washington Heights in Manhattan. I've met dozens of eclectic and marvelous characters, fodder so rich, how could I avoid using them?
I think of the disclaimer on The Naked City and Dragnet in the early days of television drama … the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
If you look on the copyright page of most fiction books you will see a similar statement. No resemblance to anyone living or dead I have ever known, now or ever, never, I do so swear.
Better leave them alone completely and write about someone else's family. It's safer and it prevents law suits or death threats.
If any of those persons, living or dead, see themselves in any of my characters, now and until the hour of my death, amen ... get over it.
My first homage is to Brooklyn ...
Sunset Park from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, from Forty-First Street to Forty-Fourth Street with its handball courts, huge pools and sloping hills. It was here that Toni loved to come for the namesake of the park, to watch the sun setting over the rooftops of the houses, the factories, heading down the long hills into the waters of the Narrows.
To the kids who grew up there with me ...
Sunset Park is where the kids grew up. Had they grown up in small towns or villages with funny sounding names like their parents, the kids might have known they came from the wrong side of the tracks. The families in the surrounding neighborhoods knew.
These kids lived on the wrong side, below the park and heading down to the Brooklyn docks, destined to find out later in life they were underprivileged.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
“So tell me, Miss Smart-aleck, did we struggle day and night to make you a better world
No Jewish mother could hold a candle to her when she got on a roll. When they researched eating disorders, they neglected to study the Italian/Jewish matriarch’s hold on a leg of chicken, a loaf of bread, a pot of stick-to-your-ribs stew or pasta fagioli.
Around and around they run in the hamster's wheel, stuffed into a trunk from the Belasco or the Majestic. Depression musicals, old black and white melodrama or the innovative and hilarious humor of comics and variety shows from fifties and sixties television.
Listen to them at lunch counters. Watch a husband and a wife, mid-seventy to eighty argue in a supermarket. "All right already, Ethel, get the damn brisket."
Hear that annoying couple as you stand on line at the movies. (Woody Allen's, Annie Hall)
From books you read, newspapers or magazines, a news flash or broadcast journals, early HBO Comedy shows, adult animation, early animation, the antics of Bugs Bunny or Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Bull Winkle or Natasha.
You're a kid, so no one listens to your opinion. What do you do? You zone out. I must have zoned out for about fifteen or twenty years.
The best part of being a neurotic is it's all in there. Like computer chips, the sounds and images never go away.
Characters are amalgams of all the people you've known, heard or saw somewhere. When the time is right, dig into the trunk, dust off the old costumes and have fun playing dress up.
Go naked to the edge.
This was, for a time, an interesting way for me to become a voyeur, peeking at those cute little graphics, those marvelous family photos and the endless threads of conversation.
Actually, reading the internet on any given day will give one the impression there is not a single soul on planet earth, including our new president, who does not wish to render themselves splayed out for public consumption.
It impressed some of the generation X kids that wandered through our rooms during the eighties. When a girl from my kindergarden class requested to be in my network, I realized my daughter had unleashed a beast I was not about to battle.
Who wants to hear from the kid whose braids you stuck in the ink well?How did you get here and why have you made the effort?
Threads end at the edge.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Today, I'd like to set the record straight. I have no idea how to find anything that fell off a truck and I am not sure how one could go about setting up a "hit" on ones enemies.
The family name Fois is not French and it is not pronounced "Fwa" … it is pronounced "voice" with an "f" … see didn't I tell you we would be better off spelling phonetically. I am Foice.
My father was from Sardinia, an Island off the Southern coast of Italy which volleyed between France and Italy for decades. Unlike Corsica, which is predominantly French in language and customs, the main island of Sardinia, is the resort place for wealthy Italians.
My mother's family was from Naples and her name Fieore, a name that sounds a bit more Italian. I was told by teachers and friends that my name cannot be Italian because it does not end in a vowel. Trust me, my dad was Italian and enjoyed being an anomaly, in name and in everything else.
The men and women of our childhood were dark and robust and hearty seaman and fierce women who came to find a dream. They infected us with the belief, this was the land to which people came to realize those dreams.
He told us often we were not a product of the huddled masses, but of an illegal alien who left his merchant ship one weekend and failed to return.
At the table we toast to La famiglia. I drink to them at the edge.