Burrowing Boroughs (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week one of the Mama Kat prompts was: “Write a poem about your favorite place to be.”

I have been missing New York City so much lately. With that in mind:


I sit amidst my family, which I left you to create

Their arguments pervade my concentration, they need me to launder clothes and mend frayed emotions

They leave me wondering who I am and why I presumed so much about how my path would go once your skyline was out of my rearview mirror

In my mind, I go to the subway with a book (as my peripheral vision drinks in  the diversity of people surrounding me uttering a world’s worth of languages)

I walk across Central Park from the West Side to the East Side to worship in a place that has housed centuries of worshipers and nourishes my late 20th century soul

I walk ten blocks then ten more, remembering to look up, something the tourists don’t always know to do

I fall asleep with the sounds of traffic, sirens, urban calamities and celebrations and routines that merge into a calmness of tranquil dormant energy

I get pushed past on the sidewalk; griped at by people who assume they are far more important than me, stopped dead in my tracks by the first tulip bloom of spring

Now, I grieve who I was there, anonymous and uniquely me all at the same time

The boroughs burrow into my heart and mind deeper and deeper with every passing year I am back in the Sunshine State


Mama’s Losin’ It

Wordless Wednesday (Kung Fu Girl Edition)

On the last day of my September 2012 visit to New York City, I spent the afternoon here:

Where the guest was President Obama:

Then I saw this:

And I indulged in a favorite city pasttime, walking 20+ blocks back to my bed and breakfast:

I avoided getting my shoes soaked until the very last block:

But that was okay because there was one more delectable experience ahead, a glass of Kung Fu Girl Riesling:

And an enjoyable chat with Katie and her coworkers at Foragers City Table:

While enjoying this appetizer that deserves much more than the common name of “chips”:

(I don’t remember all the ingredients but there was meyer lemon zest and sage along with the potatoes.)

New York is such a delicious city, rain or shine!

Wordless Wednesday Hop

ps – gotta give a shoutout to @DaveMTheWineGuy. I don’t even know him (yet) but I tweeted him and said, “I had this great wine in the City and don’t remember the name. It was a Chardonnay, maybe from Washington State, involving martial arts and the word “boy” in the name.” Somehow his magic wine expert mind whirled into gear and he nailed the Kung Fu Girl Riesling (yeah, I know – not a boy, not a chardonnay) immediately! Thanks, Dave! (His blog can be found here.)

Wordless Wednesday (Salty Pimp Edition)

I am not proud to admit that I had forgotten that address numbers get larger the closer you get to the East River in New York City, but once a security officer pointed me in the right direction, I stopped walking around in circles and found my destination, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the East Village. I wanted to experience for myself what all the tweets from @biggayicecream had tempted me with for months.

A fun place…..

With fun toys…..

And fun boys…

Watched over by a glittery unicorn….

I got the Salty Pimp after asking, “if I only get to come here once, what should I get?” My mobile phone picture doesn’t really do it justice…

 But theirs will make your mouth water:

Photo Credit: Big Gay Ice Cream

And that is how I ended up wandering the streets of New York City licking a salty pimp at midnight. A combination almost as rare as a unicorn!

Wordless Wednesday Hop

Wordless Wednesday (Toloache Edition)

During last month’s trip to New York City, my friend and I followed a local’s tip and ended up at Toloache, a Mexican restaurant.

We were watched over by her:

While my friend ate this (Camarones Toloache):

 And I chose to pass on the Chapulines (Dried Grasshoppers!) and enjoy the pork tacos:

With a side of fried brussels sprouts with queso fresco (yum)!!!:

While I hydrated with this:

Thank you, Toloache, for delicious food and lasting memories.

Gracias, Toloache, por la deliciosa comida y recuerdos duraderos.

Wordless Wednesday Hop

Wordless Wednesday (Lunch in Bryant Park Edition)

 Delicious memories from a recent lunch in Bryant Park, NYC!

Come to think of it, why are French Fries French?

 Vegan Forbidden Rice and Black Eyed Pea Salad with With Grilled

Asparagus and Garden Vegetables.

Photos taken at the Bryant Park Grill Cafe.

Wordless Wednesday Hop

Verdigris Luck (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, random.org “chose” Mama Kat prompt number four for me: In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, write a poem about a time you felt lucky.
Verdigris Luck
Things I always wondered about Wicked:

Who was changed for good?

Who defied gravity?

Who wanted to help someone else be Popular?

September, 2009:

Heading north for a bat mitzvah

Take the plane

Get the rental car

Check in to hotel

Take the PATH train

Everything on time

Arrive at the Gershwin.

Beat deadline to enter Wicked Lottery

One slip of paper with my name, one with Tenley’s

Two sets of crossed fingers

Eat pizza

Freeze, surprised at the September chill

Buy I Heart NY sweatshirts


How to pay for tickets if we’re not lucky

For a show about green, we need our own


Absorb city smells, city noises, city heights, city frenzy

Return to the Gershwin
Hundreds of hopefuls wait

Fingers still crossed

Hear staff call “Tenley Kiger”

Sigh of relief! Jubilation

Pay $25 per person

Get a cool button
Sit in front row

Marvel at winning the Wicked Lottery

Happy in a way that defies gravity

Understand the Popular song now

Have heard “verdigris” as a lyric

Changed for good

Here is one blogger’s post about winning the Wicked lottery (it has some cool details!).
The official “scoop” on the Wicked lottery is here.

Beyond Six Words About NYC (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

In my Mama Kat prompt response last week, I wrote a Six Word Memoir celebrating New York  City. This week, Kat gave us the option to expand on the story behind these Six Word Memoirs. To give you a frame of reference, here’s mine:

Why New York? Why does it always beckon? As crazy as I am for the City, I not written much about it. I suppose I could trace back my first “I have to go there” sentiments to the production number in the Miss Union County High Pageant back when I was in 11th grade. We did a dance to “New York, New York” and the combination of the “little town blues” melting away and the idea that “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” planted a seed in my brain that would not go away.

In 1989, I broke up with my boyfriend (who is now my husband), sold my car, and boarded an Amtrak train to New York City. Without a job. Without a place to live. Immediately upon disembarking from the train, a guy took my luggage and cab “fare” and said he would get me to a taxi. I almost lost sight of him (and my luggage) but caught up and was rescued by a legit driver who made him give me my money back and delivered me to my temporary digs, the Allerton Hotel for Women (which at the time was an austere combination of welfare hotel and temporary housing for people like me but is now a luxury building … go figure).

For this post, I need to stick with the Cliff’s Notes version because I am in a time crunch. I got a job (as the Internship Coordinator at Fordham University in the Bronx), ended up living on the Upper East Side, then the Upper West Side, then finally with a relatively “permanent” roommate farther up on the Upper West Side, got another couple of jobs (Manhattan life was expensive), became a Methodist, saw Peter Paul and Mary in concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, learned why margaritas made of limeade, beer, and tequila are a very bad idea no matter what zip code you are in, watched the Macy’s parade floats be inflated from my apartment, paid to see a group of actors recreate a Brady Bunch episode (hilarious!), saw more than one individual urinate in public, discovered a “true” Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, did my laundry at 11 p.m. at a combination video store/laundromat, made lifelong friends, and ….. despite all of the frustrations of urban life knew that I was in a place where I belonged…

…..a place where, almost three years later, I ended up marrying Wayne at the Brooklyn Promenade before moving back to Florida. 

I go back to New York every chance I get. I don’t have to be doing anything fancy or official. Sit me down on a park bench for half a day or let me wander the streets, soaking up the city-ness of it all and I am good. My daughter Tenley (now 14) has been visiting New York City with me since she was 20 months old, and I have seen things through her eyes that I never scratched the surface of when it was just me: Harlem, Chinatown, the view from the Toys R Us Ferris Wheel, July 4 fireworks over Roosevelt Island, the Hello Kitty superstore, the Central Park carnival, those god-awful street purse vendors that she loves and I ….. don’t.

With all of its cacophony and frenzy, New York holds an appeal for me unlike any other place. Big Apple, save another bite for me!


Five Decades of Lessons

Whenever I read something that has “blogworthy” potential, I file it electronically.  My file is growing.

When I read Thursday’s Daily Good, published by Charity Focus, I immediately knew that the post’s “Be the Change” directive to “reflect on the greatest lessons from each decade of your life” was going to be my blog topic this week.

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Zora Neale Hurston
Decade One (1964-1973)
My family lived in three places within this decade:  Orange Park (because my dad was still stationed in the Navy at NAS Jacksonville; Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico (more Navy moving), and back in Orange Park as he completed his Navy obligation onboard the USS America, and retired toward the end of this decade.

The great lesson(s):  It was good for me to live in Puerto Rico.  Although it wasn’t an exotic foreign locale, I was introduced to Spanish at a very young age (when it is easier to learn).  We also did not have English television in the daytime, so I had to go out and about.  I also vividly remember the spanking I got when I opened the Barbie I had been given, even though I knew it was a duplicate and I knew my parents planned to return it.  It was one of those seminal moments when I “got” the fact that my parents meant what they said.

Decade Two (1974-1983)
Saturday Night Fever to Big Hair.  Was that only one decade?  I lived two places in this decade:  Orange Park and Lake Butler (my parents’ hometown, where we moved in 1979).  I recall how much I learned about music the week I was thrown into band camp along with the advanced flautists.  This phenomenon would happen in the next decade when I was the only non-native Spanish speaker in an advanced class.  It is also the decade when an adult authority figure made unwelcome advances, and I found myself in a car full of people I didn’t know that well with a glove compartment full of marijuana, several towns away from my hometown.

The great lesson(s): Moving from a big place to a little place requires you to respect the history people share with each other; being the big fish in a small pond does not give you instant credibility, popularity, or status.  Secondly, that my parents believed me when I explained the inappropriate advances, and they took the phone call to come pick me up (no questions asked) when I did not want to partake in the marijuana smoking.  (It didn’t help that it was drivers’ ed summer and I had just been watching all those horrible, graphic driver education movies.)
Decade Three (1984-1993)
This decade involved being elected to the Homecoming Court at Florida State University, two “Challenge” bicycle/mission trips, the aforementioned challenging Spanish class, graduate school, almost three years in New York City, and getting married.  It ended on the worst of notes, when my sister in law Ann Kiger Paredes died in her sleep at age 30 (of Long QT syndrome, an undiagnosed congenital heart condition).

The great lesson(s):  Although I loved being on the Homecoming Court, I should not have actively campaigned for it.  Living in New York City taught me a whole different view of how  cultural background factors into people’s perceptions of who I am (I had never before been asked, “what are you?” as in “are you Greek/Italian/Irish/etc.?”).  It also taught me that in a city where people are literally from all around the globe, the basic things that make relationships tick among people are universal.  And …. when you total your car on I-95 and end up facing the oncoming traffic, it’s not an especially good idea to open your door INTO the traffic. 
Decade Four (1994-2003)
This entire decade, I have been working at Florida Healthy Kids Corporation.  I also gave birth to Tenley (1996) and Wayne (1999).  When I talked recently to a friend whose daughter has two young kids and doesn’t feel that she has time for “extras” because she is so laser focused on those kids, I explain how incredibly intense that period of parenting is, how physically, emotionally, and psychologically your entire self is given to those children. 

The great lesson(s): In the end, it really doesn’t matter that your children have the matching designer outfits and the perfect “everything.”  If I were raising a little child again, I would focus more on the sheer experience of spending time with him or her than on attempting to perfect the “look.”  I would also defer a little bit throwing them into activity after activity, letting their interests unfold in a more natural way. 

Decade Five (2004-present)

It amazes me that I am over halfway through this decade.  When I disclosed to my husband recently the fear (that I consider irrational) that I am going to die before I get to do the things I most want to do (like use my passport), he said “we all feel that way.”  By 2013, I will have one child a year away from college and another in high school.  It strikes me that by incorporating the things I love doing (writing, being involved in our local film school, running), I am somehow coming closer to my true self and therefore being more engaged with my family.  This has also been the decade of looking the debt monster in the eye and saying, “yes, we let you grow unchecked for far too long.  It is now time for us to slay you once and for all.”

The great lesson(s): This lesson, I suppose, has extended itself over three decades.  When Ann died, I had just the night before chosen not to call her.  We had been buying her old townhome, and Wayne suggested I let her know that it had been painted (one of the financing conditions).  I said, “no, it can wait.”  Would it have mattered that she knew the townhome was painted? No.  But it matters, in retrospect, that I didn’t talk to her that night.  Sometimes a phone call or conversation about “nothing” is the one that matters most of all.

The Daily Good pieces always start with a quote.  The quote on the day that prompted this blog was also a “keeper”:

The years teach much which the days never knew.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Is there something that years have taught you that “the days never knew”?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section! 
And I’ll “run” into you next week, readers!