Fractured Facade


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THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE -- A Short Story, is Free on Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Page Foundry and Tolino

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fishing in the Roanoke River

A sign spring is on the way -- Fishing in the Roanoke River along the Salem Greenway...









Monday, January 24, 2011

My Roanoke Bucket List



For the last couple of weeks a little ad icon kept popping up on the side of my Facebook page with the heading "Roanoke Bucket List - 365 things to do in Roanoke before kicking the bucket," or something to that effect. I laughed and asked if anyone had clicked on it because I really found it hard to believe there were 365 things to even do in Roanoke, never mind ones bucket-worthy enough. One FB friend of mine said she did click on it and naturally it was just a "bait and switch" ad but she felt there were 365 things to do. I laughed again, this time harder, and challenged her to provide me with some bucket-worthy adventures. She named a couple but to me they weren't anything I'd put on my list.

Having lived in Roanoke for almost 16 years (Damn, has it been that long????) I think I've pretty much hit everything I wanted, and never wanted to do. But then I thought about all the things in NYC I haven't done yet so maybe there are some treasures out there that I haven't uncovered yet. Sure, I've done all the expected Roanoke hot spots like the Mill Mt. Star, museums, farmer's market, etc. but what have I missed?

My friend and I spoke about creating some sort of site where people could list Roanoke must-sees but she was concerned about what might wind up on there...prostitutes and crack houses? I still want to know what I've missed so I've decided to make this blog post a clearing house, if you will, of what should be on the Roanoke Bucket List.

The first list will be things that I have yet to do to complete my bucket list. I was able to come up 8 things so far...that's 357 short of the goal.

The second part will be up to you guys to include in the comments things that you recommend. If I have already done them they will go under the heading My Roanoke Filled Bucket List.

If I haven't done them, but I don't think they're bucket worthy, I will place them under heading number three - Others' Roanoke Bucket List. Just place them in the comment section and then I'll edit them into the actual list.

Have fun and don't be afraid of what you might add...it might be bucket-worthy to me! Roanoke includes the entire Roanoke Valley, but not beyond.

*Note - To me Roanoke Valley includes Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Salem and Vinton.

My Roanoke Bucket List

1. Attend and possibly even perform on stage in No Shame Theatre.
2. Wine tasting event at Valhalla Vineyards.
3. Dinner at Alexander's.
4. Any meal at Sal's in Bonsack.
5. Visit Vinton War Memorial.
6. Visit Carvin's Cove.
7. Check out Green Ridge Rec Center.
8. Check out the Comedy Club.
9. Go to gay club The Park
10. Drive out to the Homeplace
11. Hike Dragon's Tooth
12. Hike to McAfee's Knob
13. Check out the Chef's Circle (and the Farmer's Market) on Saturday's in Salem during warm weather months.
14. Get an orange-ade, lemonade, limeade, or snowcone from Brooks Byrd Pharmacy in Salem (where they still hand shave the ice blocks that they make themselves using a machine that was made in the 1800's)
15. Go to the top of The Financial Tower
16. 4th of July Music for Americans
17. Art in the Alley held in Salem
18. Down by the River Music Festival

My Roanoke Filled Bucket List

1. Take a trip up to Mill Mountain Star & possibly the Zoo and trails around there.
2. Drive up the Roanoke Mountain Loop & other fun Blue Ridge Parkway stops - actually just pack a picnic and drive along the parkway, stopping often at interesting overlooks.
3. Go to a baseball game at the Salem Stadium
4. Visit any & all of the local Farmer's Markets
5. Spend an afternoon downtown, taking the Trolley around & wandering about, visiting the museums, the Market Building, the little stores, and all the other unique little spots, and also walking the bridge from the Hotel Roanoke & back
6. Check out the Hotel Roanoke, lounge in the lobby
7. Eat at Fork in the Alley (ignore the Bubblecakes)
8. Visit Tinnell's
9. Go see a band at the Coffee Pot, or just go to the Coffee Pot
10. Visit The Catholic Church
11. Walk the Greenway
12. Go to a gun show.
13. Eat a huge strawberry shortcake at the Strawberry festival.
14. Symphony With the Pops
15. Take in the Salem Museum
16. Take in the Roanoke HIstory Museum
17. Do a ghost walk
18. Visit the Transportation Museum
19. Sidewalk Art Show downtown
20. Gem & Mineral Show
21. A Visit to Thunder Valley on Apperson Dr.
22. Go see an unconventional/cult movie at the Shadowbox
23. Hike Mill Mountain (there are tons of trails, the easiest top-to-bottom trail is the Star Trail


Others' Roanoke Bucket List

1. Eat at Texas Tavern
2. Play a round of Frisbee Golf at Fishburn Park
3. Take the Smartway bus to Blacksburg.
4. Eat at the Roanoke Weiner Stand
5. Flying lessons at airport
6. Mountain bike at Carvin's Cove.
7. Into the Night 10K at Explore Park.
8. Hop a train out of downtown Roanoke. (That one's illegal but awfully cool.)
9 Take a longboard up and skate the Blue Ridge Parkway when it's closed off in the winter.
10.Stay out til 2 am in downtown Roanoke and then catch the after-curfew crowd at the Texas Tavern (More color than just a normal daytime visit.)
11. Run the Conquer the Cove trail marathon.
12. Go see one of the heated rivalry games between the Star City Roller Girls and NRV Rollergirls. Or go see either of those teams play when an out of town team comes to town, like Charlotte, Raleigh, Richmond or Fayetteville.
13. Camp at the North Creek Campground (site #13 has its own private swim hole)
14. Ride or run the entire length of the Roanoke River Greenway

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Three Memoirs and Baba Booey Too!

Over the last couple of weeks I've read three memoirs..."They Call Me Baba Booey" by Gary Dell'Abate, "The Birthday Party - A memoir of survival" by Stanley N. Alpert, and “The Hilliker Curse” - My Pursuit of Women, a memoir, by James Ellroy.

The most enjoyable read was "They Call Me Baba Booey."



Gary Dell'Abate has been the producer for the Howard Stern Show for years, which is probably why he got a book contract. With a built-in audience from Stern's show it's no wonder a publisher jumped on Gary's book. Gary might not have been able to throw a decent first-pitch across home plate at one of his beloved Mets' baseball games, but he did score a home-run with this book.



It's not just about the Howard Stern show but about Gary's life. I love reading books where I can relate to the person writing it as I did with Gary who is just two years younger than I am. Born into an Italian family, we both have the Bensonhurst connection so I enjoyed reading about his experiences during an era when I also grew up, touching on everyday routines, the "crazy" family, and ritual Sunday afternoon dinners.

From an early age Gary was always a hard worker who climbed his way up the success ladder until he settled into his "dream job." Like Gary's father said to him, I also say to my children, "If you find a job you love, you'll always be happy, and it will never feel like you're working."

His upbringing helped create the tough skin one would need to have on Stern's show and shaped who he became, which to me is who he always was, and who I hope he remains as he becomes more successful. Anyway, the book is written well with no need for long superfluous sentences that forces the reader to work too hard. Anyone who grew up in New York in the 70's and beyond will be able to relate to Gary's tales, especially his music lists. All in all, a fun, quick read.

The memoir I read before Gary's book, "The Hiliker Curse" was written by a more famous person, James Ellroy who is most noted for his books "The Black Dahlia" and "LA Confidential," both of which were made into movies. I haven't read either book, but was not a fan of either film.

"The curse" was uttered by Ellroy when he was a young boy towards his mom, "I wish she was dead." She died a couple of months later. Naturally Ellroy had some "issues" because of it, and spent his warped life looking for a "replacement" but not in the way one would think. It was pretty ho-hum overall. I wasn't crazy about his style of writing, but I'm sure fans of his will enjoy this book.

The first book I read was Alperts memoir, "The Birthday Party." The blurb on the jacket, "On January 21, 1998 federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert was kidnapped off the streets of Manhattan. This is the story of what happened next…" attracted me to check out the book. Out of the three, this was the most disappointing book. Even though it was a true story, it didn't ring true. The author seemed too concerned with being politically correct.

He was almost apologetic that he got kidnapped. When writing about his captors it came across as if he “felt bad for them.” At one point the lawyer who "fights big business" even railed against the evil Republicans and big bad oil companies more so than his captors. The dialogue between the kidnappers also did not ring true. I found it hard to believe they would refer to themselves as African Americans.

At one point Alpert recounts what one of the accomplices to the kidnappers said about Alpert, “I already knew from the get go that he was afraid. ‘Cause he’s by himself. They got all these bunch of black people there. The majority of white people, they scared of black people. You know that.” Alpert then declares, “I have a dream that someday we will live in a land where Ramos’s words will have lost all hint of truth.” Is he for real? Of course a white person who has been forced into a car at gunpoint, held captive blindfolded while the kidnappers clear out his bank account all the while threatening to kill him would be scared of black person, especially if the black person is a kidnapper holding a gun!

At the end of the book he writes how the experience has taught him in so many words, to live life to the fullest, buy what you want and not look for a bargain, etc. Okay, agreed, but then ruins it by writing how he bought a car, a Cabrio. “Naturally the Cabrio is fuel efficient and small. I wouldn’t take an SUV if I won it in a raffle.” Huh? His trying way too hard to appeal to a certain audience alienated me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Warranty Expires at 50

When I spoke to my cousin while he was recuperating from surgery in a hospital bed he said, "It's like once we turned 50 the warranty expired and everything broke." I couldn't agree more. The poor thing was groggy from undergoing surgery to repair his arm which he screwed up pretty bad after slipping in the shower and crashing through the glass doors. His house was built the same year as mine, 1957 and he had his original doors. We had them for a couple of years until we had our own "shower door incident." As my daughter was taking a shower one of them fell on her (don't even ask how that happened because we still haven't been able to figure it out.) She was stuck against the wall and screamed for us. When my husband rescued her he then ripped the doors and metal track off with his bare hands. "I always knew these doors would be a problem!" Luckily the glass never shattered on her and she escaped unharmed.

Safety glass was a thing of science fiction back in the 50's so when my cousin went crashing through his doors shards of glass sliced so deeply into his arm that he had to push his own bicep in. Standing over 6'7" he's not a small guy so it didn't surprise me that over a dozen EMT techs, police and firemen had to dislodge him from the metal frame that was keeping him prisoner. Only by the grace of God and his quick thinking to use a towel to make a torniquet to stop the massive bleeding is he still around today. One EMT told him, "With all the blood you lost, if you were a smaller guy you'd be dead right now." He has another surgery scheduled in a couple of days to have some nerves removed from his leg and placed in his arm so he could get feeling back in some of his fingers. "Did you ever think we'd be the ones saying, 'I've fallen and I can't get up?'" he joked. No, I never did.

The way I've been feeling lately I keep having visions of driving around in one of those motorized Hover-round vehicles you see on the commercial. Only difference is in my vision I gun the damn thing right over the edge of the Grand Canyon. I'm not enjoying getting "old." My mind is still sharp, I think, but my body won't do what my mind wants it to do. There are some days when my hands cannot hold three pound weights. I'm just waiting for the day my fingers slip open and have the weight crash onto the toes that hurt when stepping on the ground.

I've been working on a cross-stitch for my grandmother. The package says it's a "weekend project." Between my eyes blurring and my fingers stiffening it's already taken three weeks and I'm only half done. At the rate I'm going my grandmother will be 101 before I finish it. Yes, she's going to be 100, and still has all her faculties. Heck, she lived on her own until 95 and was still cooking Sunday suppers to whoever would go to her house. I got some of her genes, but I doubt I got the longevity one.

Typing and even texting is more of a chore now. While texting just a couple of letters in response to my daughter, "k, cya," my thumb hurts. As I massaged it I noticed the RA damage is starting to show. Damn, this is a quick-moving disease. I thought the methotrexate was supposed to stop the joint damage. Besides making me feel like I was hit by a truck two days out of the week, filling my mouth with a metal taste, possibly destroying my liver and causing me to stop self-medicating myself via alcohol, I'm beginning to doubt the chemo pills are doing any good like I thought they were. I fear my body has built up a resistance to it already. I've doubled up once already and dread my doctor will double it up again after he sees my lack of progress at my next visit.

I sometimes think my biggest mistake was "cleaning up" years ago. Thanks kids! All I know is that when I was staying out til all hours and partying, other than a brief hang-over, I felt fine. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and still remained thin, had luxurious curly hair, was never tired, and felt healthy as a gazelle running from a lion. And I never ever went to doctors. Those days are long gone. Now I feel like the the gazelle that has become feeble and is left behind by the pack, just waiting to be devoured.

I wish someone had offered me the extended body warranty...for a change I would have taken it.

life alert Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, January 14, 2011

Paranormal Investigation Documentary

My daughter produced, wrote, shot, edited and narrated this ten minute mini documentary on paranormal investigating for her media class. She rocks...



*If you're interested in having a residence or other location investigated for free, contact me directly, NOT "Spirit Watchers!"*

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Year Was 1988

The year was 1988. I still had one more year to go before I could no longer look in the mirror and be able to trust myself. The closer I got to 30 the less I sang, "I hope I die before I get old." I took a page from my ancestors and danced along the rim of a volcano only my Pompeii was the Lower East Side.

There I met and fell in lust, I mean love, with a "famous" Danish author. When he dedicated his most recent published book to me I succumbed to his love letters, poetry, guitar-strumming Lou Reed voice and married him on a whim. Within two months I realized I may have made a huge mistake. He didn't have two Kroner to rub together and he began to put down America. I didn't want to live in Copenhagen, and there was that little language problem. Besides, the bar he set for "fame" was not as high as mine. How famous could one really be if the publisher misspelled your name on the book jacket? Other than the love letters I received I really had no idea how great of a writer he was since the only part of the book I could read was my name in the dedication. When he decided he needed to go on a book tour of Denmark I decided he would do that alone. The annulment was even quicker than the marriage.

I picked up the pieces of shattered marriage number two along with a video camera to help a friend complete her college thesis on the squatter movement in the Lower East Side. Rushing downtown from a good paying job in the upper East Side of Manhattan, I spent many hours in scroungy bars, on the streets, in Tompkins Square Park, questionable art galleries and abandoned buildings, aka squats. I once rescued a friend from crashing three stories down when her leg fell through a flimsy rotted- out floor as she videotaped. I've dodged getting pounded by the flailing arms and legs of exuberant punks as they moshed in the dance pits while I taped bands. I spent hours, days, weeks, months editing on 3/4" tape a documentary on squatters, a montage from an art gallery show entitled Attack Art and an early punk music video for a band called Public Nuisance. Editing was different than. We went machine to machine. When you wanted to change a shot, if it didn't fit exactly in the same time frame, you'd either have to lose a generation of quality or start from scratch. I watch in amazement my daughter edit on the computer. Move this, take that out, add this, add natural sound, music, voice-over, titles? No problem. It's almost too easy.

Anyway, the documentary was shown again two years ago up in NYC during another art show my friend curated commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Tompkins Square riots. The gallery was broken into, many pieces of art, along with the dvd player which had my documentary in it, was stolen. I cannot find my copy of it. Luckily the Attack Art video and Public Nuisance video survived only because someone posted it on YouTube. It's primitive by today's standards but in the mid-eighties it was cutting edge. Here it is...



What were you doing in 1988?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Top Of My Head

I'm still here, just haven't been--->here. My priorities have had to shift a wee bit...more on that another time. Tonight I am allowing myself five minutes just to type off the top of my head...

The two latest books I read were "The Birthday Party - a Memoir of Survival" by Stanley Alpert and "The Hiliker Curse - My Pursuit of Women" by James Ellroy. Both were, just eh.

I had to put "Antony and Cleopatra" down because "They Call Me Baba Booey" just came in. Howard Stern fans will know who I'm talking about. I've read the first two chapters and discovered Gary Dell'Abate aka Baba Booey was born in Bensonhurst, just like me.

I didn't know the library is now closed on Sundays, bah!

"The Black Swan" is the most overrated movie of the year.

I cannot stop listening to The National. Can't believe I just "discovered" them this year.

I figure as long as music still moves me I will forever remain "young" no matter what my stinking bones try to tell me.

This time of the year sucks if you're a small business owner...taxes, forms, accountant, numbers, numbers, numbers...did I mention numbers?

I always devote the beginning of January in getting rid of "junk" and "dead weight" in my life, and this sometimes includes people.

I feel like I'm starting from ground zero again in shedding some weight after my holiday binge, although after five days of no sugar I did lose three pounds.

"Walk with Joyce Vedral" has got to be the worst exercise DVD I ever bought. The woman is in worst shape than me. She has an annoying voice, wears a sweat-stained tight shirt that keeps rising up her belly and she continually counts to twelve throughout the entire low-impact, really no-impact, "workout." I endured fifteen minutes before tossing the DVD in disgust across the room.

My grandmother is turning 100 years this year. For Christmas I had a tree planted in her name and now am scurrying trying to complete a cross-stitch I hope she will like. My husband is making her a beautiful wooden church that plays "Ave Marie" when you open the door.

I love my new camera but hate that it didn't come with a hard copy manual. I may never figure out all its features.

My husband bought me a Food Dehydrator as one of my Christmas presents. It's still sitting in the box on a chair. I probably will never use it.

When I got my Chinese hair cut up in Brooklyn the stylist used a straightening and cutting comb on me. I finally found one and it's the best $6.98 I have spent on my hair.

One of our favorite restaurants raised all the prices and cut down on the portions. Another one closed down. Don't you hate that?

Another of our favorite restaurants has a carafe of sangria brought to the table as soon as we walk in without us having to ask for it. Don't you love that?

It saddens me that our president did not call a fallen soldier's parents to express his condolences yet found the time to call the Philadelphia Eagles to thank them for giving Michael Vick a "second chance."

My stepson has 51 more days in Afghanistan before he heads back to the states. He hates it there.

I know it really just began, but damn it, I am over winter!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My 2011 Roanoke Wish List




My Roanoke Wish List for 2011, in no particular order:

A daily newspaper that I can subscribe to and enjoy with my morning coffee. My husband requests one that has a decent sports section, which offers more than high school and college sports and doesn't ignore professional teams which are not the local favorites. Every time I get back from New York I lament that I don't have the "luxury" of reading three daily newspapers (two tabloid-sized ones, my preference) before my day begins. I read them on-line, but it's just not the same as getting newsprint on my fingertips.

A bakery. A real bakery, not a seedy looking storefront that has a refrigerator with drinks in it instead of dough, one burnt crescent roll on its shelf, and nothing in its glass case, yet has the nerve to put the word bakery on its sign. When you "sell out" so early in the day, you bake more. You're a "bakery"...you should bake. This is what in the inside of a bakery should look like...it should be warm, inviting, filled with the aroma of baked bread, cakes, cookies and pastries...



By the way, it's been my experience that most if not all the cakes, pastries and cookies that look so pretty in the filled glass cases of the local supermarkets, even the "upscale" one, pretty much stink.

A real/good, hey I'll settle for decent, Chinese restaurant that delivers, haha! Or not. Buffet, buffet, buffet is the life-blood of most popular local Chinese restaurants. Recently I sampled one in Salem whose Chinese specialties included pigs in a blanket, mini corn cobs, dried fried chicken wings and mussels the size of my fist with melted American cheese on them. I almost threw up just looking at them. There were no vegetables except the mini cobbettes floating in dirty water, or the wilted broccoli smothered in sweet, thick sauces in the meat dishes. No matter what meat we sampled it all tasted the same. The slop they laid out was gross, but it's been around awhile and the locals seem to love it. I will never eat at Die Nasty again. This is what made to order Chinese dumplings with homemade sauce (not just a packet of soy sauce) and freshly fried noodles looks like:



A diner. Just a diner. Not a buffet. Not a pancake or waffle house. Not a psuedo-coffee shop. Not a pretentious and tasteless cafe. Just a diner. And one that's open after midnight, at least on weekends.

*On second thought...After the last couple of weeks of unabashed indulgence ignited by New York City's edible offerings resulting in added pounds, I probably should be grateful that my wish for a bakery, Chinese restaurant/delivery service, and diner will go unfulfilled.*

Tolerance and Respect. Even if we don't agree politically there's no reason why you have to be rude about it. I disagree politically with a good portion of my New York City friends and it means nothing to either side. We've been friends forever and will continue to be. We might "tease" each other once in a while but that's it. And then...We let it go. We don't "defriend" each other over it. We have respect and tolerance for our individual stances. It doesn't matter who we like politically...we still like each other personally.

Less Religion. It should not matter where, or even if, I go to church. In New York, my friends are from various religious backgrounds, or, not at all. I don't care. They don't care. In fact our religious preferences never even come up so why does it here? Why do Baptists run away when they hear we are Catholics, and not even "good" ones at that? It's not like we have a hotline to the Pope. I've seen boys break up with my daughter as soon as she answers the dreaded but inevitable religion question, and have had grown women recoil in horror from me. Too little tolerance of people who have different, or no, religious beliefs.

Less Damn Yankee talk. Yes, I am sick of it. The Civil War is over. The south lost. Get over it. Again, up north we never spoke about it in daily conversation. If someone had an accent different than ours we didn't snarl and make a rude Confederate comment about the rednecks taking over and ruining our city. We never said, "That's the way we've always done things here...if you don't like it, leave." Just because "that's the way it's always been done here" doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. Stop being so close-minded. And by the way, my ancestors had nothing to do with the Civil War. They were too busy dancing on the rim of a volcano in Naples or getting conquered in Sicily.

A Local Writer's/Arts Group. I miss the camaraderie I've had in the past up in New York with creative folk who shared their work and welcomed feedback. E-mail has coldly replaced the across-the-table, and on-the-couch personal interaction. Placing an emoticon after a sentence does not invoke the same response as looking into someones eyes or watching their hands move as they speak. We didn't have to wait minutes, hours or even days for a response. It was spontaneous, instantaneous and sparked the creativity. One idea led to another to another to another. We were more interested in content than form. Most importantly, we all supported each other's craft. Phone calls went returned, e-mails were responded to. When someone had a show or event we all attended. When a friend succeeded we felt like we succeeded. It also helped that our tastes in literature, art and music were similar. We "got" each other. Here? Not so much.

Friends. Real friends. Not acquaintances. Not cliques. Not smile in your face while stabbing you in the back, bless her heart, friends. I know I was not born here. I know I am and will forever be an "outsider" but doesn't it get boring just associating with like minded individuals? I don't want to work so hard in making and keeping friends. I am thankful I do have a handful of true friends here, but can only count them on half of one hand. Maybe that's enough. Funny thing is that most of them weren't born and raised locally. When I do make a friend with someone they usually leave to follow a job. Roanoke is very transient. The only ones that stick around are the ones that were born here. I've tried for years but it's time I realized it's just too hard to break through that local wall so it's time I give up. I'm too old now and just don't have the luxury of time. For my part I am going to become more patient with people, not change who I am, and just lower my expectations so I won't be so disappointed in people so many times.

Passenger Rail Service. I think I would like living in Roanoke more if I was able to escape Roanoke more. I imagine taking weekend trips with my daughter to DC and NYC via riding the rail. It would be so liberating to be able to hop on a train on a spur of the moment whim. I don't want to drive to Lynchburg for years to come. Not just for my selfish desires, but Roanoke really needs passenger rail service. We have to make it easier and cost efficient for businesses, performers, tourists and students to be able to get to and from Roanoke. It's absurd that Roanoke doesn't have passenger service...She was built on the rails! Better accessibility = growth.

Here's hoping 2011 reflects a Year of Growth, for all of us...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Birthday 2011

2010's light has been blown out...



Happy Birthday 2011...



1/1/11 - I like the way that looks.