Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brooklyn Bridge Park

This was the first time I actually got out of a car (found a spot!) and was able to visit Brooklyn Bridge Park located near downtown. All I can say is...wow...what a change from 20 years ago...





A carousel! $2 rides.



Some sort of art installation made for some interesting shots...




Under the Brooklyn Bridge...no trolls.

Manhattan Bridge doesn't get the love like the Brooklyn Bridge does...



Remember these? It's called a bookstore...
Wonder if that's where the cannons were placed...

Waiting on line for pizza from Grimaldi's...must be tourists. New Yorkers only wait on line for Apple products.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Typical Italian Brooklyn Wedding

During Sunday's drive around town my friend and I stumbled upon a wedding being held at Regina Pacis church. This is where my mother's funeral mass was held.


Off to the side of the church is a small basilica honoring Mary where pregnant mothers go to pray for their unborn child. I knelt before her statue during both of my pregnancies and every time I go to Regina Pacis I stop in to say a prayer of thanks. Although I never have, mothers leave photos, notes, and mementos of their children after they are born.


What follows are pictures of what you can expect if you attend a typical Italian wedding in Brooklyn...they're a little different than the ones I've experienced in Southwest Virginia.

The bride and groom will ride in a Rolls Royce.  Parked in front of and behind the RR were two huge fully-loaded tour buses which will transport the guests to and back from the reception. This has become more in vogue since extravagant halls are fewer than they were in the past. Many couples now seek ones in Manhattan, Staten Island, New Jersey, or Long Island. The guests don't have to worry about driving their or home drunk...once they get in their car back at the church, well, that's another story.

The wedding party was taking their sweet time coming out of the church and these two coronet players kept tooting the same notes over and over. I began to feel like I was in a Bugs Bunny cartoon...Lo, the King approacheth! I wonder what these guys got paid.

Yes, those are live doves, but they were the stand-ins. These birds were the ones that were released...
There were six of them, I'm assuming/hope they are trained to go "somewhere safe."
Some of the grooms were out before the rest of the bridal party and it looks as if they were all given monogramed sterling silver flasks as a bridal party gift (we do that up north) which they were already partaking from. 

This bridal party was huge! There had to be at least 15 bridesmaids and grooms, and then a couple of flower girls too. The bride was radiant and those bridesmaids gown were ones you wouldn't be ashamed to wear again.

I bet this was one wild wedding.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Brooklyn Writer's Retreat

Today is the first day of my writer's retreat. I'm not in a cabin in the woods, but in my bedroom/office in Brooklyn. We arrived on Thursday and for the next two days we went to work to not only make the house more comfortable, but also more functional. While I concentrated on cleaning, my husband bid the heavy work which included hanging a clothes line, assembling a bistro, and building my desk. He did a wonderful job so at the end of each day he was rewarded with a meal at the restaurant of his choosing.

The first night we went down the corner to the Italian joint so he could have his baked clams and Veal Rollatine, both of which were excellent. The next day he chose to go to his favorite roast beef joint, Brennan & Carr's. Wow, what a disappointment. We couldn't put our finger on why the sandwich tasted so lousy until we realized they have done away with the cheddar cheese melt and instead put a slice of American cheese! WTF?! The french fries were barely cooked, cold and again the renown cheddar cheese was missing. Not only was the quality lacking, but they raised the prices. Makes no sense especially since they were recently highlighted on the Food Channel or Travel Network. Why screw with a good thing? The last night he was to be in town we went to Joe's Foccaceria of Avenue U. I had heard hubbub that it wasn't the same since the owner married a Russian woman. I had a craving for the Sicilian meatloaf that I love, love, love. Not any more! It came with brown gravy! That's not Sicilian!!! Totally different, and not in a good way. Our friends had the stuffed artichokes which they said were bland not the same. We also had an order of stuffed mushrooms...bland and cold. No "wise guys" were hanging around and now I know why. One thing Italian men know is good Sicilian food and I'm sad to say it could not be found here. Sniff. Sniff.

Everything changes, and sometimes it's not for the good. One of my missions while I'm on my sabbatical will be to find us new joints to eat at. Of course the main mission is to at least get the first draft down on my Virginia story. I wrote the New York story in Virginia and now I seek to write the Virginia story in New York. It's not the "haunted" one, but another precautionary, modern tale which centers around the same family in my first book, Fractured Facade. Although this tale will not be about ghosts, I have to tell you since I've been in the house by myself I have heard my name called once -- it sounded like my dad -- and keep experiencing knocks on the wall, dresser, etc. Perhaps I may have yet another tale to tell by the time I leave here.

Anyway, I can't thank my husband enough for not only agreeing to my request to flee Roanoke, or to drive me here, or to complete everything on my honey-do list in two days, or to be at the ready if I decide I need to come home quickly, but for also holding down the house, business, family, and puppy in Virginia. I am so freaking lucky to have met a prince like him after a lifetime of kissing frogs, and I hope my efforts won't be in vain and that I will actually write something that will sell so I could help him out for a change.

This is my new "office."


As you can see my desk is nowhere near as grand as the one in Roanoke, but I'm hoping this change of environment will be what I needed to light that spark again. Too bad I have to wait for the cable company (they all suck, don't they?) to come so I can't get into my zone...yet. Maybe I'll create a photo blog of my Brooklyn tour from yesterday.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Hate Pumpkin Spice

pumpkin throwing up photo: pumpkin throwing up...eeeeww! 1366720440_m.jpg

The one thing I hate more than pumpkins is pumpkin spice. The mere thought of a pumpkin makes me want to puke. I can't stand the smell of them and the slimy innards make me gag. I would never think of buying or, GASP, making a pumpkin pie, and what's the point of pumpkin seeds? Even the dried-out salted ones are pretty useless. Damn, I even hate the color of pumpkin. Who looks good in moldy orange??? Yup, about the only thing worse than pumpkins is being subjected to the two month window of the "wonders" of pumpkin spice. The need to cash in on consumers' (not me) love of this offensive marketing malarky (what the fuck does "spice" even really smell like? -- I can name scores of spices and none of them smell like what is being shoved up our noses) has created some of the oddest and grossest "pumpkin spice" flavors and smells in every product imaginable, and some not imaginable. Why would you ruin chocolate?!

After a post on Facebook the other day complaining about my hatred of pumpkin spice my "friends" have been having a field day posting various pumpkin spice products on my wall. Go ahead check them out. I'll wait. My favorite one thus far is the Pumpkin Spice Tampons. I wonder if that one is true. I wouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, here's a list of 27 Pumpkin Spice Products That Make No Sense At All from Offbeat. The only one I would even consider trying is the nail polish and only if it doesn't smell like pumpkin spice!

What about you? Love it, hate it? What's the worst pumpkin spice product you've seen? And when does it end?!?!?!?!?!

Monday, September 15, 2014

10 Things I'll Miss About Roanoke

Just to be clear that I don't hate everything about Roanoke I thought I would join in the "fun" Roanokers are having on Facebook of listing ten things, or more, of what they love about Roanoke. Since I have a blog I'm doing it here and it's not so much what I love about Roanoke as it is what I will miss about Roanoke. Naturally, I don't hate everybody in Roanoke and the folks I do like already know who they are so I'm not going to list their names. For some odd reason some of my "likes" of Roanoke are not on the list of others...


1. The mountains. The Roanoke valley is beautiful and not a day goes by that I'm not awestruck by the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately too many of them are now dotted with cell towers and antennas. I hope the locals appreciate what they have, and fight for them. Had I lived on any of those mountain tops I would have fought tooth and nail to keep those horrible structures off. Ah, well...people love their cellphones too much to put nature in front of convenience.

2. The greenways. Roanokers are quite fortunate to be blessed with the rivers and creeks that cut natural paths through the valley. I love the Roanoke River for its beauty, attracting all sorts of wildlife like herons and turtles, and especially for its calming effect on me when I stroll along it. Of course, I would never, ever eat a fish from there. The greenways were a marvelous idea to get us folks up and walking. And Lord knows, with all the all-you-can-eat buffets and sausage and gravy biscuits, Roanokers need to walk more! The greenways themselves are a real plus to the valley. Wish I could say the same for the some of the people who utilize them. Too many high-speed bikers, dog walkers who insist on having their dog walk on one side while they walk on the other and then do not even pick up their dog's crap, parents who use strollers and insist on walking down the middle of the greenway, and finally, people who walk three or four abreast and then get annoyed when you try to pass them, make biking or walking on the greenways a challenge.

3. The library system. I have had good experiences with pretty much every librarian in the system, except for one or two nasty ones at the South County branch. I especially love the Salem branch where they are quite knowledgeable, have the oddest/interesting selection of films, and are on top of new books. If they don't have something you want, they will order it for you. The Virginia Room in the main branch of Roanoke's library have a great staff and a huge collection of reference material you can't find anywhere else. Unfortunately I have stumped even them on a subject I am working on. The one drawback is that the local newspapers have not been catalogued and put on film for their entire collections so searching for something can be quite time consuming. The libraries also have a lot of free classes and events, many of which are worth going to.

4. The weather. I love the four seasons of Roanoke. Winters aren't all that bad either. And a day after it snows either the streets are clear or the sun is out melting it so I never have been snowbound.

5. The parking. I love that parking is never an issue. I like coming home at night and knowing there is a spot for my car. I like going out and knowing there pretty much is a spot wherever I go. Even downtown, with all the complaints about parking, is still a "dream" compared to other major cities, especially Brooklyn and Manhattan!

6. DMV. Yes, the DMV. Unless you have been to a DMV in Brooklyn or Manhattan you probably think I'm nuts. The DMV in Roanoke county, even on its most crowded day, is still a million times more convenient, cleaner, and faster than a DMV in NYC.

7. Ross Dress For Less. Again you probably are thinking, huh? But, as a plus-size woman I love Ross. They are the only store that has decent clothes at reasonable prices for someone like me. I also get a lot of my hair products, doggie treats, housewares, shoes, etc. there. New York City does not have one Ross Dress For Less...boo hiss!

8. Doctor's visits. Although I may be unhappy with a lot of the doctors themselves, at least getting to the office or hospital, is not a major pain in the ass. I can leave my house a couple of minutes before I have to be there and not have to add a hour or two like I do when I'm in New York.

9. The Mail. Yup, I love that I don't have to leave my house for the mailman to pick up my mail. And when I do have to go to the post office, the longest I've ever had to wait is like fifteen minutes.

10. Wasabi's. I've come to the conclusion that Wasabi's is probably the only restaurant I will miss based on just two things -- the spicy tuna sashimi and the Sumo Roll. That's it. I have been to every single sushi joint down here and in my opinion, they all suck, except for Wasabi. I'm sure I will find some good sushi restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan so I probably won't long for Wasabi's too much. Other than El Rodeo on Peter's Creek Road, because they have the cold sangria carafe waiting for me before I even sit down at the table, I could not come up with any other single restaurant that I will miss in Roanoke.

Well, that was easier than I thought. I actually did find ten things I will miss about Roanoke!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Colonoscopy is Your Friend

Everyone says the worst part of getting a colonoscopy is the prep involved. And that may be true for most people, but for me it was convincing my doctor I needed to get a colonoscopy. You see, for the last 19 years I have lived in the Roanoke Valley and for some reason I have found that the women here are treated with less urgency, and taken less seriously by doctors than the men are. I also believe if a woman wants the best care she had better hit those books and hit the web to familiarize herself with her symptoms and become an expert on the best treatment she thinks would be best to help her and then convince her doctors to "give it a go." And if she doesn't like the doctor's response, she best find herself another doctor, and quick! Shit, if I hadn't I would still be on chemotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis, a disease I found out I never even had! But that's not today's post...today is all about the colon.

When my husband turned 50 his doctor, the same doctor I have, hounded him to get a colonoscopy. It took him two years to convince my husband to get one. When I turned 50 there was no mention of a colonoscopy. Same at 51, 52. At 53 I brought up the colonoscopy but the doctor didn't respond, so I thought oh well, that's good. At 54, I brought it up again, still no urgency noted, so I let another year pass. Then when I hit 55, "my people" which is what I call my intuition, my guides, my guardian angels, you get the point, began to whisper rather loudly it was time to get a colonoscopy. They said, "You don't want to move to Brooklyn and find out you have colon cancer up there, do you? You know everyone that checks into Maimonides Hospital never comes out...remember your mom?" So I listened to them, and when I went for my next doctor visit I mentioned again that I still hadn't had a colonoscopy and threw in a by the way, my grandmother had colon cancer tidbit. To ensure the urgency I also told him that I planned to spend a good portion of my time up in New York and wanted to be checked out before heading up there shortly. He said he would send a referral and I would hear from the center. After hearing nothing for 10 days, I called the center and they said they had just received my referral that morning, so they conducted the pre-interview on the phone and we set up an appointment. When I requested the doctor my husband had had I was informed that my doctor's office didn't specify anyone in particular so she scheduled me with someone else. Ummmm, no. You see, I did my homework and I knew which doctor I wanted so I told them I would wait until I could get an appointment with the doctor I wanted. Heck, I waited 5 years, I could wait a couple more weeks! So I did and I had my first colonoscopy yesterday and wanted to share a couple of observations. I won't show pictures, but I actually did get some!

First off the prep...yup, it is as horrid as everyone says it is. You have to drink 4 liters of it broken up into two sessions. The first day, it's two liters, 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. Then the following day, or middle of the night, depending upon what time your procedure is, the rest of the 2 liters, 8 ounces every 15-20 minutes. I got three packets of flavoring to choose from, cherry, lemon & orange. Rather than mix the entire package in the jug I sampled each flavor by glass. They were all horrible so I ended up not using any of them. Since I'm really not a gulper, and am more of a sipper when it comes to any liquid, I was pretty much gagging trying to get each glass down. I tried using a straw but that didn't work. By the second liter I found something that worked for me. Before downing each glass I would swish a capful of RealLemon in my mouth and spit it out. Then I would try and drink the prep glass as quick as possible followed by another capful of RealLemon swished in my mouth. That really helped, but I will probably not be drinking lemonade any time soon. It is crucial that you drink the entire prep because if you do not cleanse your colon properly the test will not be accurate, or worse, they'll tell you you have to come back. You don't want that.

I couldn't get a morning appointment as everyone advised me to because I wanted that certain doctor. So that meant I was very, very hungry by the time 2:00pm came around. It also meant that the appointment would not happen at 2:00pm because the folks before me went past their 20:00 allotment time. If you get an early appointment you will not be as hungry and you will not have to worry about the back-log. On the negative side though, you will have to wake up at 1:00am and begin your second stage of prep. However, you will most likely be up already using the bathroom! I didn't sleep at all the previous night even though I didn't need to start my prep until 6:00am. So I would advise going for the early schedule.

When my daughter had her colonoscopy her doctor had it done at the hospital. She had to wait over three hours pass her scheduled time and the bill she received was astronomical. I did not want mine done at a hospital so I went to a local endoscopy center where all the talk was about Joan Rivers' death at an endoscopy center. I spoke with the anesthesiologist who I always consider the most important person in that room. My biggest fear of getting this test done was that I would not wake up. That's always my biggest fear. She assured me that wouldn't be the case and that the procedure should only take 20 minutes. My cousin had told me that by the time he counted to three he was under. Of course that was not the case with me. I could have counted to 100 and I still wasn't under. I think my body was fighting it the same way it fights when I try to get hypnotized...doesn't happen. The anesthesiologist kept asking if I was feeling tired yet. I kept talking. Finally she said, ok think of a happy place and gave that needle a deep plunge! I thought of my hammock on the beach, but when I awoke which felt like was a minute later, but according to the clock, was one hour later, I was dreaming of my son getting a new job. I said to no one in particular, "My son looked so happy, he just got a new job!" I hope that was a good omen.

I was a little groggy and gassy, which is normal, but I seemed to have all my faculties so I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I had survived the anesthesia! After I got dressed the doctor met with me and my husband. You will need someone to drive you home. He had a couple of sheets of papers with photos. Ewww, gross! He said it was a very good thing I had decided to get a colonoscopy because he removed four polyps, two were pretty large, 8mm & 6mm and the others were 3 and 2. He said he would send them out to get biopsied and would have his office call if there were any "problems." He explained how important it is to remove any polyps because they can turn cancerous and the sooner you remove them the better. If there were no problems with the ones he took out I wouldn't have to come back for three years. My husband doesn't have to go back for ten years. Hey, I finally found a doctor that takes my health seriously! I just received a phone call from their office and gulped when I saw their name on the caller-id. It was a nurse just following up to make sure I felt okay. It's too soon for the biopsies, but at least the office was concerned. My daughter's doc never called to see how she did the day after.

As a side note...A very good friend of my husband's underwent treatment for what started as colon cancer over the last two years. He is 80 years old and never had a colonoscopy. The polyps he had were so large they blocked his colon and had turned cancerous. This in turn trickled down to a host of other ailments. Although he is alive, his quality of life will never be the same. A friend of mine posted on Facebook what one month of treating her cancer (not colon) cost her...over $135,000! Crazy. Colon cancer is one of the most treatable and preventable cancers there are. I urge you to not be afraid of the test. Yeah, the prep sucks, but once you're done you'll forget about it. Better to be pro-active than re-active. And if your doctor doesn't take you seriously, insist that he does. Patient, especially if you're a woman, heal thyself!

colonoscopy photo: roadside colonoscopy roadside.jpg

Monday, September 1, 2014

You Can Put Your Pitchforks Away Roanoke

Well Roanoke, you did it. After beating me down for 19 years, you've gotten your wish, I admit defeat. Put a fork in me...I...am...done. This last year has been hard, and the last couple of months particularly brutal. Details are forthcoming, but not on this blog.

This valley has sapped my strength and suffocated my soul to the point I can't write, can't create, shit, I can't even blog any more. I can barely live day to day. My only glimmer of hope is knowing I will be getting away from here and going back home. And a cheer arises from Roanoke.

I was never accepted, and have become so hated, that twice in the last two months someone, a mother of one of my daughter's drugged-out "friends," has tried to get me arrested. Both times for doing what a mother should do...watch out for her child. Neither time was successful, but the last one came with a price, a very heavy price, and not monetarily.

Too bad the cops failed to catch the "hot-headed, crazy, Italian from Brooklyn" in any crime. I think that one particular ignorant cop thought he was going to have a mafia arrest under his belt, I mean all Brooklyn Italians are in the mafia, right? After waking me up after midnight, and then insulting me, he followed with, "I'm Southern, and we do things differently around here." Well that shows just how fucking stupid and racist some of the people can be if you are not born and bred here. By the way, after believing a false report, checking my husband and I for bruises and abrasions on our hands, and refusing to even entertain the thought that there were crimes committed, but not by us who weren't even in town when they occurred, and that possibly he was being irrational and being used as a car service, if he meant "wrong" when he said "differently," then yeah, Southerners do do things "differently" all right.

It's all going to come out, all of it, and it's going to be stuff I never thought I would write, nor wanted to write, but I have to. Once again, I live in a fucked-up, bizarre story, and will tell the tale in hopes that someone else will not find themselves in the same position. But I won't be writing it from here. I'll be writing it from home, Brooklyn. And yes, that means I'm leaving the family behind, but not forever. I will be commuting back and forth. There are some people, and a puppy, who do still love me, but they see my misery and know if I stay here full-time I will sink into the pit of despair. I am grateful that my husband finally understands, but heartbroken that it had to come to this latest debacle before he finally got what I've been saying all along.

So, dear Roanoke, you'll have to find someone else to...stop your cell-towers from radiating your children, take your elderly in, care for them and check on their well-being, make sure the neighborhood pedophile doesn't hang out in the park near the elementary school, stop the commercial trash from being picked up in the wee hours of the morning, make sure your electricity stays running when those trees threaten to take the wires down, clean up the dog shit on the greenways, leave cookies for the mailmen and sanitation workers, report dangerous intersections, stop your neighbor from burning down the forest with their defective fireworks, fight with your cable company until they find the broken wire down the road so your service is not interrupted constantly, speak up for you at your Board of Supervisors meetings, and whatever else I've done to try and make this valley a better place to live. So put your pitch-forks away, this Frankenstein is leaving the village idiots.



Yup, you won't have me to kick around much longer...and I'm counting down the days.

P.S. Not every person I've come into contact over the last 19 years has sucked, just most of them. And I do want to thank the few folks who have been kind to me and/or took pity on me. Sorry if I was such a burden...

frankenstein photo: frankenstein2 11349__frankenstein_l.jpg