Thursday, December 1, 2011


Kathryn the Intuitive Reader

In the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium, I took a 'leap of faith' and tried something different.  No longer stuck in the corporate world, I spent most of my time, blissfully shuffling Tarot cards and advising the callers, on my very own psychic hotline.  It was a situation I'd invented for myself to actually live the experience, first hand, and write a book about it some day.  

Instead of writing another 'how-to' book on how to read the cards, like a few of my friends have, I always thought it would be interesting to write about the callers, on the other end of the phone.  Who were these people?  What did they want to know bad enough to call someone all hours of the night, and pay them for a psychic reading?  My fantasy was that the front cover of this book would be a picture of me, with my crystal ball in one hand, my phone in the other, and with Tarot cards spread across the table.  

My husband, Ira, was okay with this little project, as long as I never told anyone about it.  He thought it was cheap and embarrassing -- probably, because it was.  And that's exactly why I loved it so much!

The switchboard was always blinking, and the price was the standard $100 dollars per hour.  Some paid with credit cards.  Some had accounts with me, and paid with monthly checks.  All of them made appointments well in advance, and I was usually booked solid.  Once business was out of the way, the ritual would begin.
Telephone Tarot Reading Ritual
Celtic Cross Spread

The white candle glowed behind the crystal ball, as I shuffled the cards and instructed the listener to close their eyes, take a deep breath, hold, and exhale, slowly.  Then, I'd say, "Think about your life right now.  Think about what you need to know about yourself, right now, in order to take your next step in evolution."  The cards would then be shuffled, cut, and laid out in a 'Celtic Cross' pattern.  Together, we discussed what the cards were saying, and decisions would be made, accordingly.  I didn't waste their time with too much lyrical stuff.  I was honest with them.  My honesty was the main building block that built such a large base of customers from all over the world!

Around Thanksgiving, our peaceful lives were interrupted by the dreaded wedding invitation of my husband's nephew, David.  It was the exact invitation of his sister, Michele, a few years before.  Ira said, as he was looking at the card, "Another sickening event designed by their mother.  I really don't know how my brother can stand being married to Trudy."

He observed that the wedding was to occur on the same annoying, inconsiderate date as Michele's, which was the day before Christmas Eve.  They would be married in the same temple in Long Island, by the same rabbi, and we could assume that there would be the same food, same flowers, and the same music played in the same sequence, by the same DJ.

The invitation itself was the same textured paper and silver print as Michele's.  The only thing different in all of this, was that instead of the names on the card saying, 'Marriage of Aaron and Michele,' it said, 'Marriage of David and Aliza.'  He said, as he read the card, "Aliza.  A-L-I-Z-A.  What the hell kind of name is that?"

On the second Friday of December, I appeared in person, as 'Kathryn the Intuitive Reader,' at the Sky Studio in Greenwich Village.  I was to read a combination of Tarot cards, and palms for the Christmas party of  DKNY, a clothing company owned by the fashion designer, Donna Karan.

There I sat, wearing a long, black velvet gown, with bright maroon lipstick, matching nails, shoes and jewelry.  My maroon hair was framed by a maroon turban, with a big maroon jewel dangling between my eyebrows, implying a 'third eye' -- giving me the title of an 'all knowing sage.'

At the dimly lit table with my white candle, crystal ball, and Tarot cards, shuffling away, I would start out by asking each person for his or her first name.  That way, I could hear their voices, and pick up their 'vibes.'   It was my way of 'breaking the ice.'  I spent the night reading cards, and palms, and the happy facial expressions of some of the most elegant people I've ever seen in my life!

With the exception of one very lovely, but very unhappy young lady, everyone was having a great time!  She waited patiently, for the chance to be read by me.  When I asked her for her first name, in the way that I started out my readings, she said that her name was Aliza, and that she was very sorry for 'bumming everyone out with her bad mood.'  She explained that she was 'freaking out' and couldn't have a good time.  Her wedding was two weeks away.  As sweet as her fiance was, she was angry with him and his family, because their entire wedding was planned without including any of her ideas.  She had no say in the arrangements of her own wedding.  Everything was the exact same as his sister's wedding a few years before, right down to the honeymoon.  She was worried that it was a clear indication that his family would be running her life if she married him.  She wanted to know if she should cancel the wedding while she still had the chance, and just cut her losses.  She said, "I really can't stand his mother!"

For some reason, I thought of Trudy.  I pointed at the crystal ball as if I could see her in it, saying, "I see her.  Yes ... I see her.  She's a ruthless bitch, with lines on her face, like a road map!"  As I acted out her obnoxious personality, I said, "This is her!"  I stuck my nose in the air and remarked how she justifies the fact that she always gets her way, by saying,  "Yeah, well -- I got good taste, and I know what I'm twalkin' about!" 

Aliza said, "Oh my God!  It's just like she's here!  Did you channel her spirit?"  I said, "No, you can only channel people if they're dead, and I don't deal with spirits!  I just see her taking over your life the minute you marry her son, unless you lay down the law, right now!

We stared at each other for a moment.  She began to panic, and asked me what I thought she should do.  I looked at the cards for more advice, and said, "Call him tonight!  Tell him that you're marrying HIM, not his MOTHER!  Otherwise, he can forget it!  Make sure he understands that you mean it.  Get a verbal 'pre-nup' out of him, and tell him that he better keep his promise.  She either stays out of your face, or you're gone!  He'll agree to it.  Don't worry.  He loves you."

With a big smile, she hugged me, and kissed me on both cheeks.  Joining the rest of the party, she left my table, as another happy customer!

A few weeks later, we went to David's wedding.  Because I couldn't care less about the situation, or what I looked like, I wore the same long, black velvet gown with bright maroon hair, matching lipstick, nails, shoes and jewelry.  The only things I left at home were the turban, and the forehead jewel as my 'third eye.'

At the reception, David and Aliza came over to where we were standing.  He said, "We're so  happy that you both came to our wedding," and introduced us to his new bride.  The bride looked at me and said, "You look so familiar!  I know you from somewhere."  I told her that I was thinking the same thing about her, but neither one of us could figure out from where.

As we were leaving, we put ourselves through the final task of saying goodbye to Trudy, and to complement her on another wedding she so expertly arranged.  She said, "Yeah, well -- I got good taste, and I know what I'm twalkin' about."

As if she couldn't try to impress us enough, she gushed as she mentioned that her new daughter-in-law, Aliza, had quite the glamorous career.  She was a fashion designer, working for a clothing company called, DKNY, and she worked 'closely with the famous Donna Karan!'

Avoiding the bride and groom, I grabbed my coat and made a quick escape to the parking lot!  I've often wondered if Aliza ever made the connection.  So much for my secret psychic career.  If she tells on me, I'll tell on her!
Tools-Of-The-Trade for Fortune Telling and Reluctant Wedding Attendance

Friday, November 18, 2011


Holding a portrait of the THREE EVIL SISTERS

At this time every year, I go through a morbid depression.  I get so depressed, that I can hardly function.  This goes on from the first day of November to New Year's Eve.  It can't be helped.  It's just there.

It's probably not all that uncommon.  I think that when it comes to Thanksgiving, most of us have been wired to have that reaction from a very young age.  Almost everyone I know hates the holidays. Especially, when it comes to having to tolerate the relatives that they wouldn't otherwise speak to on the street.

1976 was the year that I became 'excused from the table' for the very last time.  The family members were seated at their usual places.  In our family, the seating arrangements were set by one's rank of importance.  I can honestly say, that I wouldn't know the experience of sitting at the same table with those who mattered.

My place was always somewhere in the next room, and I was always expected to supervise all the younger cousins.  That day was certainly no different, even though my life had changed so much from the last time I'd sat down with these people.

I had since the last time, eloped and moved to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, gave birth to my first son, moved to Stuttgart, Germany, gave birth to my second son, and, had my brains beat out almost every day that I was overseas.  I came back to the U.S. and moved to Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, and had my brains beat out almost every day that I was there. The last time my husband beat me, he convinced me that he was trying to kill me.  I escaped with my two sons, and with hardly anything else, but my life.

I made the mistake of going home to Ohio, and staying with my parents, and younger brother.  Although I was encouraged to go back to my husband, I made it known that it just wasn't going to happen.  If I did, I wouldn't be alive today.

So, two months after I escaped, it was Thanksgiving day.  It was the first time in six years that I'd sat at the table with all the kids, including my two little boys.  They were three and five years old.  I was back in the situation that I ran away from in the first place. You could say that I'd come full circle.  It was the first time, and the very last.

While everyone was well into eating, I stepped away from my table for a minute, to get something from the kitchen.  My mother's two sisters, Aunt Gale and Aunt Frankie, sprang up from their seats and walked past me, discreetly telling me to follow them.  One of them whispered that they wanted to have a 'word in private' with me.  I walked behind them, down the hallway, into the main bathroom, wondering to myself what this could be about.

After the bathroom door was shut and locked, they stood on both sides of me, like two fat, angry bookends.  In a very rehearsed and planned way, they started telling me that what we were about to discuss was not to leave the room.  I was to listen very carefully to what they had to say, follow their instructions, and not repeat it to anyone.  Ever.  

As Aunt Frankie said, "Katie, this is just between us."

Both of them started talking at the same time, saying pretty much the same words.  Their one-sided conversation went like this:

"Katie, Geraldine is our sister, and we have to protect her!"
"Yeah, Katie!  You're ruining her life!"
"Yeah, Katie!  Your kids are eating her out of house and home!"
"She can't afford to feed your kids!"
"They have their own bills to pay!"
"You have to pack up your kids, and get out of here!"
"Why are you crying? Stop it!"
"You better wash your face and get out there!"  
"They'll think something's wrong!"
"When you get out there, don't tell anyone that we've had this talk."
"It's nobody's business."
"Don't bother your mother with this, she's been through enough!"
"We're going back out there, now."
"You better get yourself straightened up, and get out there."
"Why do you always cry about everything?'  
"You were always such a sensitive kid."
"Stop crying, will you?"
"And you better not tell anyone about this."
"This had to be done!"
"Yeah, Katie!  Don't you say a word!"
"Now hurry up and get yourself together!"
"They're going to think something's wrong!"

Then, they unlocked the door, and went back to the kitchen table, sitting down with those of high rank.

I couldn't stop sobbing!  I could hear them talking on the other side of the wall, and I knew that they were talking about me.  I couldn't come out of the bathroom until I got the swelling down in my eyes.  What was said in the bathroom, after all, was supposed to be private, and I couldn't show that I was upset.  I took a wash rag, ran cold water on it, making a compress to hold against my face for a few minutes.  The swelling just wouldn't go away, and my eyes were blood red.  As hard as I tried, I couldn't stop crying.  I put more make-up on my face, but it was evident that I was upset.  I had to go out there and be among those people.  I couldn't leave my kids alone at the table for long.

I came out of the bathroom, and went past the kitchen table where they were sitting.  I looked at them, first with embarrassment, hoping that no one would notice my face and ask me what was wrong.  I had nothing to worry about, there.  As I was walking past them, the conversation stopped, and they all stared down at their plates.

Seeing how not one person in the room would even look at me, I realized that the 'private talk' I had with Frankie and Gale wasn't exactly private.  It was an intervention.  They appointed themselves to have the chance to quietly throw me out of my parents' house. They did my mother's talking for her.  My feelings of being embarrassed, changed into rage and betrayal.  If she felt that way about me and my kids being there, why didn't she just say it to me, herself?  Why did she involve everyone that I ever loved in my life?  And, on Thanksgiving Day?

I started to make my way to the 'children's table.'  I stopped walking, and turned around to look at all of them, sitting there. They were whispering as I started to walk, but the whispering stopped when I turned around.

I stared at them all, too angry and hurt to utter a word.  I thought to myself, Oh, that's right!  That's why I left in the first place!"

I gave them one final look.  I needed one final image of all of them sitting together, so that I can refer to that memory as a family portrait, titled, "The Last Time I'll Ever Speak To Any Of You."
Geraldine, Aunt Frankie, and Aunt Gale
Thirty-five years later, that image is still very strong in my head.  It will remain there, for the rest of my life.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


The radio dial was on the 60's station, and there were plenty of magazines on the rack to choose from.  Down in the shampoo and manicure area, the chairs were filled with women getting work done. Paul was upstairs mixing hair dye to put in my hair.

I sat in the swivel chair, with a plastic cape draped across the front of me.  With a magazine as my shield, and the music as my helmet, I was prepared to avoid this room full of pretentious, self-centered, self-entitled, self-important bitches.  Experience has taught me to avoid them any way I can, like the Bubonic plague.

The woman in the chair to my left was describing her profession to her hairdresser.  She said, "I have a therapy practice, you know, and I'm working from home.  It's a great way to conduct business and keep an eye on my kids at the same time."  Applying dye to her hair, the hairdresser went along with the conversation, asking where the office was set up.  She said, "My office is in the garaaahge.  My clients have more privacy there."

After I heard that, I had to look at her.  There wasn't any other choice.  I looked up discreetly, and glanced at her face in the reflection of the mirror in front of us.  It was hard to imagine anyone being screwed up enough to go see someone in a garage for psychological help.  Let alone, having that awful woman sitting on the other side of the desk, taking copious notes, and telling you why you're crazy!

Looking down at my magazine, I tried to block her out of my mind by focusing on the music. Paul came downstairs and began sectioning my hair, applying dye, and wrapping each section with foil.

The women on the other side of the room were asking each other about this new politician they've just heard about, named, Obama.  One of them commented that he seemed to be very 'articulate.'

The hairdresser finished applying the dye on the therapist's hair.  She gave her a magazine to read while waiting for the color to develop, and went upstairs.  The therapist had no one else on our side of the room to bore, so she decided to bore us.

Paul started in about how Bill  Clinton probably messed things up for Hillary in the primaries, because of his fooling around. The women pleaded his case, saying that 'power is the biggest aphrodisiac in the world, and women throw themselves at powerful men, all the time.'  After much deliberation, they exonerated him with the idea that, since he was the most powerful man in the world, the temptation was simply an occupational hazard.

Paul grabbed my shoulders and said, "I bet you'd fuck 'em, wouldn't you, Katie!"  I said, "I would not!"  He said, "Oh, yes you would!  Anyone would!  I'd fuck 'em if he asked me to!"  I said, "You'd fuck anyone who would ask you to, Paul!"

He stepped over to the giggling women and said, "Ladies -- let me see a show of hands. How many of you would have sex with Bill Clinton if you had the chance?"

The therapist chimed in, by raising her hand like she was under oath, swearing that she would certainly do it.  I kept insisting that I absolutely would not do it, and she rolled her eyes.

Paul said, "Well, let me ask you this, Katie:  If there was a gun pointed at your head, and you had to fuck either Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush -- which one of them would you pick? You've got three seconds to answer the question.  Pick one!"

I said, "These are my choices?"  He started counting, "One! Two!  I've got the gun to your head -- what's it gonna be, Katie?"  I yelled, "Go ahead and shoot me!  I'm not gonna do it!"

The therapist said, "What's wrong with you? Why didn't you just say, 'Clinton?'  That's a no-brainer!"  I said, "I'm done with this conversation, and I don't want to talk about it any more." She said, "Oooh -- so, you must be a Republican!"

I said, "What's this?  You're doing your therapy on me now? I don't want to fuck Bill Clinton, so that makes me a Republican?"

Paul went to get more hair dye, and the other women followed him upstairs, to the styling area.  This left me and the therapist alone with each other.

Still fuming, she glared at me in the mirror.  I stared at my magazine, feeling her contempt.  She said with a mean, threatening tone, "Well, I think he's VERY attractive!"  I said, "Well good.  There's more for you then, isn't there?"

She was just about to react.   I was just about to stomp her ass in the floor, if she did!  Paul came back downstairs with another bowl of hair dye, to finish hilighting my hair.  The therapist kept her mouth shut, until her hairdresser returned.  A wise choice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Here's a word of advice on the all-important job interview.  Please be very self-aware of your body language when negotiating salary and benefits, once you've been accepted.

After going through countless applications and failing to find someone literate enough to fill the part-time cashier position, I gave up and tried a more 'face value' approach:

  1. Can I tolerate you enough to train you?  
  2. Are you aquainted with soap and water?  
  3. Do you have at least one front tooth?  

I finally found a candidate, who I thought, fit this criteria.  His greatest asset was his pick-up truck.  I decided that he could at least load merchandise on the shelves and make sure that all the items had price tags on them.  I told him that I wanted to hire him, and we agreed on a date and time to meet at my store.

Randy came in to fill out the employee tax form and discuss the starting date.  Being too busy congratulating himself for having landed his vast career, he didn't bother to shave, shower, or brush the teeth he had.  He wore an ensemble of unwashed 'wifebeater' tank top,  cut-off sweat pants, and bright yellow flip-flops.

Someone must have advised him to make demands and stick to them. He mentioned my obvious need for a 'sales assistant,' and insisted that before he started to work for me, he was to get in writing -- a 'major medical benefits package,' and more money than what I had offered him during the first interview.

Mid-sentence, as if to stress a major point in his demands, he hiked up one leg, reached into the the front of his filthy grey sweat pants, and SCRATCHED HIS BALLS!

I stepped back and stared down at the floor, rethinking the situation. Clearly, this was a deal breaker!  All I could say to him was, "I'll have to give it some thought and call you later."  He tried to shake my hand.  I kept my arms crossed and said, "Oh, I don't shake hands."

He told everyone in this town that he was hired to work in my store. When I made it official that it wasn't going to happen, he spread rumors that my business was failing.  He said that I couldn't afford to pay him the salary he deserved, so he turned down the job. Even more disturbing, is that most of the people he told this story to,  believed him.

They were right about one thing:  He's the only person around here I've found who probably could have done the job.  In the last six years, no one else has come close to qualifying.

Perhaps I should consider the idea of lowering my standards.  Until then, I remain here at the check-out counter -- standing all alone.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


LOOKING FOR A WRITING GROUP TO JOIN?  Join our Wednesday Night LONG DISTANCE AUTHENTIC WRITING TELEPHONE GROUP! Write from the comfort and privacy of your own home!

The next session begins this week! 
Dates:  September 21st, October 5th, 12th, 19th, & 26th 
(We are skipping September 28th because of Rosh Hashanah) 
Time:  7:00pm to 9:30pm

As the saying goes, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."  

Fred Poole, founder of Authentic Writing does not teach you how to write.  He does something far more important.  He helps you realize your passion for writing!

Discovering this group is one of the best things that ever  happened to me!  No matter how tired I am on Wednesday night, I can't wait to dial the group number from the phone at my desk! It's like going to a party -- however, we're there to put words on paper, and read them to each other!

Writers of every level call in from all over the country!  The subjects we write about, and the emotions we feel are limitless.  I've learned a lot about writing just by listening to the others read their stories.  The feedback we give each other is always loving and encouraging.

For more information call Fred: 845-679-0306 or 212-332-0299
Fred's email: 
Fred's twitter: @realscenes

To join our group, click here, if you dare!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Mushrooms In My Back Yard

Ira bought me a camera for Christmas, two years ago.  It's a Canon Rebel T1i, and much too intimidating for a person like me to just take out of the box and start using it.  I'm not good with new gadgets.

In between customers, I figured out how to put it together and took a few pictures of the store.  The activity scared me for some reason.  I put the camera on a bookshelf, and it sat there until about a month ago.

I signed up for an adult education class, called, Introduction To Digital Photography.  The day the first class was to begin, I stood at the counter and worked with the buttons of the camera to remember how to turn it on and snap a picture.  It was the least I should know when I showed up to class that night.

When I got there, the room was packed with people holding their fancy cameras like a bunch of clueless big shots.  None of us had any idea how our cameras worked.

The first two classes, I sat in the back and spoke to absolutely no one, not even the teacher.  I listened to everything he had to say, and took copious notes.  This was the first time I'd heard any photography terms, like, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, depth of field, and such.  It's the same as learning a new language.  I wrote it all down with every intention to look all these things up on You Tube.

You Tube is a wonderful thing.  Everything I needed to learn was easily found there, including how to work all the buttons and knobs, on my very camera.

We were given our first homework assignment, to be done during Easter vacation.  We were told stand at a highway and take pictures of speeding cars.  We were to change the aperture and shutter speeds, or what showed up in my head, as turning the dials one notch, after each shot.  Once we've downloaded our photos, we could see how they've turned out.  Then, we were to analyze them, by taking notes of which modes the camera was on, when the shots were taken.  This way, we could get a good idea as to what our cameras can and cannot do.

I stood at the edge of my parking lot, and snapped pictures of cars going by, turning the knobs on my camera at every possible combination until I knew that I'd have enough material to bring back to class.

Man On A Motorcycle
Truck With No Wheels
Car With No Wheels
Speeding Truck

Then, there was the task of learning how to download the software that came with the camera, onto my Mac.  I'm not even good at using my new Mac, but I managed it.  From there, I had to figure out how to import the photos from my camera, to the new software.

After all of that, I had to learn how to find the photos that I'd want to print out.  Finally, I got the printer to work well enough to print out the 8 1/2 x 11 photos of my favorite shots, to show the class.

On the backs of each photo, I wrote out the combination I used to get each affect.  To get the information needed for that, I had to locate each photo on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.  It took a while to figure out how to get that info.  I couldn't find these details on the software.  I'm sure it's there's a way to find it, and maybe I'll learn how to do it some day.

I packed up my photos, and rushed out of the store.  Driving to class, I was very proud of what I'd figured out on my own.  There was so much new information in my head, that nothing was really clear to me about what I'd done.  But, it was my own invented way of learning how to start doing all of this stuff.

Walking down the hallway, and through the classroom door, I heard the teacher saying, "You know, you paid a lot of money for this class.  I can stand up here and give you verbal instruction until I'm blue in the face.  But, unless you pick up your cameras and try them out, I can't really teach you anything."  As I rushed to my desk at the back of the room, the looks on their faces told me that once again, I was the only person in the class that bothered to do my homework, just like the writing class.

We spent the next hour and a half discussing lighting, and different ways of using flashes, according to the affects the photographer would be hoping for.  The teacher looked at the clock on the wall, and said that we had thirty minutes left, and he had nothing else to say.  He asked us if anyone in the room had any questions, which no one did.

There was a woman sitting next to me with the same camera as mine.  I showed her the back of one of my photos, explaining to her how I got the effect, and showed her how to adjust the dials to do it.

The teacher came over to my desk, picked up my photos, and told the class that we were going to examine my work.  We spent the rest of the time in class, watching him hold up my photos and reading the backs of them, explaining what I did to get certain effects.  He said, "What are these little pictures you drew, here?  A tulip?  A running man?"  I said, "I don't even know the names of the symbols on the dial, yet, so I just drew them, so when I learn everything later, I'll know what I did."

Pet Country

When he held up the photo of the store, I said, "My camera was a Christmas present.  That's the first picture I've ever taken with it."  He said, "Class, what's wrong with this picture?"  A few of them said, "The snow is blue."  He went into an elaborate explanation as to how the reflection of the snow under the blue sky causes the blue affect, and how I could've done it differently to prevent that mistake.

Bee In Daffodil
Bee In Flight
Daffodils With Morning Dew Under Blue Sky

He held up the photos of daffodils -- one with a bee sitting inside it, and the other, of a bee flying around some daffodils.  The class really liked those, and asked me what mode my camera was on when I caught the bees so well.  While I was proudly explaining it, the teacher held up one of them and said, "By the way, does anyone have any comments about the composition?"  I said, "I wasn't going for composition!  I'm just trying to figure out how my camera works!  That's why I'm here."  He nodded his head, and agreed that the composition was not good.

Forsythia At The Edge Of My Driveway

As he kept going through my photos, telling the class what was wrong with each shot, and how I could've done it right, I felt that old familiar feeling come over me.  I watched the faces of the other students, who brought nothing.  They were taking what was mine, and looking for something wrong with it.  I thought to myself, 'There must be something in the water these people are drinking!  Once again, I'm the only person who's willing to do my homework, and show it to the class, and this is what I have to go through whenever I try to learn something!'  I wondered if anyone could tell how annoyed I was.

It was time to leave, and the teacher told everyone to do the homework that they were supposed to do during Easter, and bring it to the next class.  One of the women said, "Well, if you're going to pick on me the way you just did to her, I'm not bringing any of my pictures here!"

He put his hand on his heart, and said, "Well, it's just that I've been doing this for forty years, and I can tell an amateur right away.  For what she did with the limited skills she has, she did very well.  I'm going to help her become much better."

Thursday, April 21, 2011


We hadn't even moved in.  There were no beds, no hot water, and there was at least a foot of snow on the ground. And yet, the most important thing in the world for Jay and Liz to do, was to bring Nick, my three year old grand son, up from Florida.  They wanted him to experience snow, for the first time.

They came with their sleeping bags, and slept upstairs.  I slept on a mattress on the living room floor.  We were to camp out like this until Ira returned from Brooklyn, the following week.

After a few days of watching them in my backyard, sliding down the hill on the little sled I bought for Nick, I was exhausted.  I told them that I was going to lie down, and take a nap.  That's when Liz decided that her son should try an indoor sport, and we should go rollerskating.

While Jay was upstairs, getting dressed, she cornered me in the kitchen, and said, "Jay feels guilty about leaving you alone and going skating.  He thinks because he only sees you about once a year, that he's obligated to sit around this house with you all week and do nothing."  I said, "I didn't say I wasn't going with you."

We went to the Roller Magic Rink in Hyde Park.   It was early afternoon, and we were going to skate during the 'kiddie session.'  Liz went ahead of us to purchase the tickets at the admissions desk. We stood waiting, with the crowd of little kids and their parents.

Standing in line brought back memories of when I was a little kid, waiting to get my skates, the way they were doing. Knowing that I was probably the oldest person in the building, I wondered where all those years went.

Liz came back, and handed Jay his ticket.  I held out my hand, waiting for her to give my ticket to me, but she didn't buy me one.  She walked towards the skate rental desk without looking back.  I felt very out of place at that moment. Knowing the game for what it was, I snapped out of it very quickly.  I turned around and went back to the admissions desk, and bought my own damned skating ticket.

When I caught up with them, they were still standing in line at the skate counter, waiting to pick up their skates.  She looked back at me, seeing the ticket in my hand, and she said, "Oh, I didn't know you wanted to skate."  When I  realized how it bothered her that I had a ticket, I knew it was going to be an interesting day!

We went to a bench to sit down and put on our skates.  She took off Nick's shoes and put the skates on his feet.  When he stood up and tried to skate, he started crying an throwing a fit.  While he was well into his tantrum, Liz took out her camera and told him to smile.  He just kept screaming that he didn't want the skates on his feet.  We put our things in a locker, and headed for the rink.  Liz handed me her camera to hold until she was ready to take more pictures of Nick.

They took off, with Nick in the middle, each holding his hands, trying to get him to warm up to the idea of trying to skate.  I found a safe area on the side of the rink, where I could hang onto the rails, and practiced skating for a while.

It had been thirty-five years since I'd skated.  I never mentioned to Jay that I'd met his father in a skating rink a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday.  It was one of those war stories that I'd buried long ago, and never allowed myself to think about.

I skated over to the cafeteria section, and noticed that there was a big crowd of at least forty people having a birthday party for a little girl.  I skated around them carefully, rolling up and down the area until my balance improved.

The thought of getting out onto the rink still intimidated me.  It looked larger than I'd remembered, and would take a lot more energy than I'd had in years.  I'd forgotten how the vibration of the rolling wheels made the soles of my feet tingle when I skated.  I'd forgotten that I had to use all the muscles in my ankles to keep my balance.  But, I was slowly getting back to who I used to be, so many years ago.

About twenty feet  away from me, the sound of Nick screaming and crying came from the video game that he was hanging onto.  I watched Liz trying to reason with him, telling him that she'd payed seven dollars to rent his skates.  She said that he could play the video game later, but he had to skate, first.  His behavior got worse, and the people at the party were staring at him, getting annoyed.  They were trying to sing 'Happy Birthday' to the little girl, and his screaming was ruining the moment.

I pointed at Nick, and said to the women nearby, "You see that kid, throwing a fit over there?  That's my wonderful grandson, and that's how his wonderful mother deals with him."  Liz saw me, and gave me a signal that she wanted to take pictures of Nick.

They watched me as I rolled over to Liz, and handed her the camera.  Then, I put some quarters into the slot of the video game, and got it going.  Nick shut up, and started playing with it.

The next thing in order, was for me to get onto the rink, and skate.  As I was passing the party crowd, I yelled to the women who were watching me, "Here goes!"  One of them yelled back, "You go, Girl!"  That was all I needed to hear!  I gushed to myself as I got out there, "She called me a girl!" Those words made me feel young, again!

There I was, rolling around the rink with about fifty little kids and their parents.  I went around the rink a few times to get the feel of the wooden floor.  Watching other people around me skate, I copied what they were doing.  As they went around the curve, they crossed the right foot over the front of the left ankle.  Then, they stepped to the left, with the left foot, and pushed with the right one, to pick up speed.  I remembered that it was the thing to do, and dared myself to do it.  I saw Liz and Jay standing at the edge of the rink. They were looking at me, like they were worried that I was going to fall down and kill myself.

Through the loud speakers, the rocking beat of the song made me forget about being scared, and I started to dance!  I began to focus on the lyrics, and tried to sing along as if I knew the words.  In between the drums and the horns, men were rapping, and screaming the words:  "GO, MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO! -- GO MUCHAH FUCKAH, GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO!"

I thought about how inappropriate that song was, for the kiddie session, or any session in a skating rink, for that matter.  I wondered if anyone ever bothered to check the song list on the CDs, before they put them in the stereo.  I looked around to see if my grandson was listening, but he was still playing the video game.  No one else seemed to notice or care, either.  The guy in the middle of the rink, with the striped referee shirt and whistle in his mouth, the parents, and their kids, were all skating to the rhythm of the song.

As I rolled past the birthday party crowd, I heard clapping and cheering.  The women were waving at me, yelling, "Here she comes!  You go, Girl!"  I waved back at them, very excited!  I skated around, wishing I had a better song to work with, but then, again, I realized that the song fit the circumstances perfectly well.  I started singing, "GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO MUTHAH FUCKAH, GO!"  I spun around, did some fancy steps, skating backwards, dipping and swaying like the song was written just for me!

Every time I passed the party crowd, their cheers got louder and louder, yelling, "WHOOOOH!   Girlfriend's got it goin' on!" Flashes from Liz's camera blinded me for a few seconds, but I kept skating, hoping not to run over anyone.

Jay came out to the rink and joined me.  He started bouncing and doing steps, in time with the music.  I followed along, doing the same steps.  We joined hands and danced until the song was over.  We slowed down to rest, sweating and catching our breath.  Jay said, "Ma, you didn't tell me you could skate like that!"  I said, "You didn't ask."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


In 1968, I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and on the drill team of the Carlisle High School Marching Band.  Being that our sports teams were the 'Carlisle Indians,' our drill team was known as, the 'Indianettes.'  This meant that, not only did we march in parades, but, almost every Friday night, we would get on a school bus and be transported to other schools and march on their fields at football halftime.  It served as a guaranteed way to be out with my friends.

We had band practice every Saturday, marching for hours, all over the football field, and getting yelled at by our music teacher and band leader, Mr. Wyrick.  Before each practice would begin, Mr. Wyrick would tell us that when and if he had to call us out by name and yell at us, we were not to take it personal.  He assured us that he wasn't meaning anything by it, except directing us as to where we were supposed to be marching, or standing.  He said that we were 'working together as one big machine,' and when he yelled, he was just trying to get the machine to run smoother.  He gave us an analogy of 'keeping us oiled, and working out the kinks.'

While he stood on a bench on the edge of the field, he yelled and cussed us all out through a bull horn.  He would yell so hard that blue veins would actually pop out of is forehead!  At first, it scared me, but the older kids stood in the field and snickered while he referred to us as a bunch of 'losers and shit heads.'  He would call out the kids that laughed and said, "You can laugh all you want to, but you're still a big machine made up of a bunch of little-bitty nothings from the middle of nowhere, and that's all you're ever going to be!"

We quickly learned how to judge for ourselves what we were supposed to be doing, to save the poor bastard from stoking out.  When practice was over, he would have a big smile on his face and graciously thank us for our hard work, and point out the slightest improvements that any of us made.

After several weeks of marching in the cold wind and rain, we developed some not-so-elaborate formations.  Some of us were bright enough to be bored with, and ashamed of them, especially when we marched on the football fields of other schools.

For instance:  One of our routines involved marching out onto the field to the tune of the jingle from the 'Excedrin Headache' commercial.  The first group marched in the form of a person's head.  Two lines, marching in single file was his throat, and a group of us marched closer to the bleachers, forming an oval shape, which was supposed to be a person's stomach.  At the end of the song, around the last six beats, and a drum roll, the drill team captain, Jeanie Shumaker and her best 'frenemy,' Vicki Carpenter, would appear on the field.  Each would be carrying a large, white, circular piece of cardboard, with a big letter 'E' on each of them.  They were supposed to be a couple of Excedrin aspirins.

Then would run past the kids that were supposed to be a pair of lips, opening as they ran through.  Then, they would run in the center of the two marching straight lines of the kids that were the throat.  When they finally reached the oval shape of us that were supposed to be the stomach, the cymbals clanged, and the trumpets and tubas would do a 'TA-DA!'

After that, everything stopped to a silent stillness.  The crowd in the bleachers would be sitting there, very perplexed.  At the same time, all at once, the whole town took one big deep breath and said, "Huh?"

As we marched off the field to a pathetic rendition of, "Winchester Cathedral," the feeling of disappointment among us kids, was so thick, that we couldn't march away fast enough!

The few times that I ever looked out at the crowd of people in the stands, they were pointing and laughing at us, and as I marched, I felt both anger and embarrassment.  There was never any applause.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In 1992, the morning rush hour commute from my stop in Brooklyn, to Mid-Town Manhattan took an average of an hour and a half.  On our bus, we worked as a team, to make sure that we sat together and amused each other on the way to our jobs.

At the last stop in Brooklyn, before we got onto the Prospect Expressway, we stopped a the 'check point,' where all the other busses came in.  Lots of passengers would transfer onto our bus, if we had available seats.

One of my 'bus buddies' noticed a behavioral pattern between two people and pointed it out to the rest of us.  The man would get off the Mill Basin bus, and wait for the woman to get off a bus that came in from the Canarsie line.  On the sidewalk, waiting to get onto our bus, they pretended to not know each other.  When they sat down at the seats right across from us, they got very cozy.

He was a greying, rather overweight man, with a mean face. His mis-placed ego was as large as he was.  Judging from his ultra-trendy clothes, he was obviously going through a serious mid-life crisis.

She was slender and much younger, with beautiful long, dark hair.  She never spoke much, but when she did, it was in the form of 'baby talk.'  That's what we named her, 'Little Miss Baby Talk.'

She always brought coffee and Danish from 'Dunkin' Donuts, for the both of them.  He provided the New York Times. During their breakfast, he did all the talking.  She hung onto every word, clapping her hands at everything he said, like a little baby girl.

He spoke very loud, as he went on and on about himself.  He bragged about his impressive career and his impressive life. Everyone listened, whether we wanted to or not.  When he showed her photographs from his family vacations, we craned our necks to see them.  We wanted to know if his wife was in any of them, and what she looked like.  She was in most of them.  Somehow, they managed to gloss over the fact that she existed.

Once breakfast was over, and we were well into a traffic jam inside the Battery Tunnel for the next 45 minutes, things would get even more interesting.

They would take the New York Times, and build a sort of 'tent' to hide from the rest of us.  Under their tent, they would make out all the way through the Battery Park and Wall Street areas.  By the time we weaved around and along the FDR, going north to Mid-Town, passing the Brooklyn Bridge, he would re-appear.  She, however, would be mysteriously missing!  

We looked around at her empty seat and asked each other where she went.  Finally, we decided that perhaps they had a basement in their little 'love nest,' and that's where she would go, unless she crawled through the floor and left the bus. Our group was amazed at his talent in making her 'disappear,' and so, we named him, 'The Magician.'

One day, 'Miss Baby Talk' was in the basement, and the 'Magician' was engrossed in the news article that he was pretending to read.  An old woman had just stepped onto the bus and payed her fare.  She was delighted to see what she thought was an empty seat, and she hurried down the aisle to claim it.  She sat down for a second, and sprang to her feet, very confused.  

'Miss Baby Talk' suddenly popped her head out of the newspapers and sat on the seat.  The 'Magician' was annoyed that the disappearing act was abruptly interrupted. The rest of us clapped our hands and cheered at the performance, yelling, "One plus one equals two, after all!"

At 'check point,' from then on, we saw them meeting to get onto a bus together.  They never bothered to ride our bus, ever again.

Friday, February 11, 2011


The first time I ever laid eyes on John Daly, was just before Christmas in 1989.  He was standing at the alter, waiting for my mother to march down the aisle and marry him.

I was sitting on a front row seat, next to my two brothers.  It was the first time the three of us sat together like that since our father's funeral, and the second time our mother got married since his death.  The deep level of sadness we were feeling, and the slow, droning organ music were the same on both occasions.  The flowers at the funeral were much more festive.

Looking up on the stage, trying to figure out who my next step-father was going to be, I saw John standing there, alone.  Hoping that my eyes were playing tricks on me, I shut my eyes tight for a few seconds, and said to myself, "Please, dear God, let him be the best man!"  I stared at him, thinking that maybe if I stared long enough, I could find something to like about him, but it didn't happen.

I leaned over and asked the person sitting next to me, "Is that him?"  and somebody nodded their head, 'yes.'  I said, "We've got a problem here."  I don't even remember who I said it to, but it doesn't matter.  No one ever disagreed with me on this one.

The organ music changed to the sickening one-note chord that signaled us to stand up and face the back of the church, to behold the blushing bride.

Wearing a long, beige, lace dress, and holding a bouquet of flowers, she stepped in time to, "Here Comes The Bride." The smile on her face was scary.  It wasn't a smile that reflected happiness.  It was more a 'performance' smile.  As she came closer and closer to the alter, the personae she adopted during her last husband, morphed into her concept of what she thought her next husband wanted her to be.  She was trying on that person, as she marched down the aisle, on her way to her new life, as Mrs. John Daly.

After the wedding, I politely introduced myself to my new step-father, and my two revolting step-sisters.

Months later, my mother gave me much more information than I'd ever ask for, by telling me what happened on their wedding night.  She said that they did not have sex at all.  He stayed in the bathroom half the night, throwing up, because he was so nervous.  I thought that it should've been the other way around.  She should've been the one throwing up at the thought of having sex with him.  In any case, it was an omen.

From the moment he said, "I do," John managed to ruin every family gathering that I ever attended.  Christmas, birthdays, funerals, you name it.  He put his own unique spin on making us understand that our family, as we knew it, was officially dead.  He ran the show, and it was guaranteed that we would only be miserable.  When it came time to leave, we left angry.

My brothers named him, "The Commander," because he made it his business to control every move we made.  It always took me at least two weeks to recover emotionally, from all the 'divide and conquer' tactics that he put us through, and got away with.

Geraldine's three kids wanted to keep a semblance of what once was our family, but it was too much for us to ask.  She completely ignored the fact that we were so profoundly unhappy.  After a while, I decided that it was time to start protecting myself from this abuse.  The last event I allowed myself to suffer through, was Christmas 1996.

Sometimes, Geraldine called me discreetly, from the guest room of their home.  I always recognized her voice, but I never knew who I was going to be talking to.  The conversations were never anything to do with who we really were, or what was really going on. That wasn't allowed.  It was always the superficially pleasant, one-sided mother-daughter chat.  She had this need to keep things wrapped up in a nice, neat little package, in order to live with herself.  Every word that came out of her mouth was a form of manipulation.  In between her false concerns, we'd go over how she'd re-invented herself, and how the rest of us were expected to play along.  She always ended the call with an insinuation that we had a close relationship, and she was a devoted mother.  It felt like anything but love.

Shortly after the call ended, and we hung up, the phone would ring, again.  When I picked up the phone and said, 'hello,' the person on the other end would listen for a few seconds, for the second 'hello,' and then hung up on me.  It didn't take long to notice the pattern.  It wasn't a stalker.  It was the heavy hand of John Daly hitting the 'redial' button to find out who she was on the phone with.

He probably didn't recognize my voice at first, because I'd be crying my eyes out by then.  I cried every time I talked to those people.  The truth of why I cried was too much of a burden for them to be bothered with.  To stop being a burden, I stopped talking to those people.  When I stopped talking to those people, I stopped crying.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Grandma Mary used to say, "I believe in romance, and I know I'll love, again.  Jesus is going to send the right man to me, when I'm ready."  And so, this match made in Heaven came to pass.

According to Grandma, she was working in her strawberry patch on a warm, sunny day, when she heard a truck pulling up in the gravel.  She said, "I wasn't expecting company, and couldn't imagine who it 'twas.  When I saw Floyd coming towards me, I asked him what in the world he was doing there. He said, 'Mary, I've got something to tell you.  I was in church, praying to the Lord for a new wife.  I heard the voice of Jesus tell me to come over here and ask you to marry me.'"  How could she argue with that?  She took his word for it and married him right away.

Grandma and Floyd assured their collective offspring that they weren't going to change their wills.  They just got married because they were in love.  With their inheritances protected, Geraldine and her two sisters gushed over their concept that Grandma owned half of Eaton, Ohio, and Floyd owned the other half.  Together, they had a 'family dynasty.'

When Chuck found out how Grandma got married so quickly, he called Geraldine to inquire if the old guy 'knocked her up,' and if they had a 'shotgun wedding!'

Things went sour when the two 'love birds' went to Florida for the winter. Grandma went down there to enjoy herself, but it never happened.  She was too busy cooking and cleaning for the constant company Floyd invited over.  He and his guests had to be talking and eating, all day, every day.  She didn't know them, and she didn't like them.  It didn't matter to Floyd, as long as he was the center of attention.  

She went along with his obnoxious behavior  until she just couldn't take it any more.  They returned to Ohio, much sooner than planned.  She said that she had to get back home, and away from him, before she died from exhaustion.  

My younger brother, Jeff, got the scoop on a more intimate level.  She answered a lot of unasked questions, when she told him that Floyd was always 'wearing her out in bed.' She complained that she was always tired, and her 'crotch was constantly irritated from having so much sex.'  I told him, "That's her way of bragging that she gets laid more than you do!"

Grandma had a bottle of prescribed pills, and doctor's orders to get bed rest.  While she was trying to recover from him, Floyd complained to her that she slept too much.  He said that if he knew that she was going to be so sick all the time, he wouldn't have married her, and he was getting bored.

One afternoon, she was knocked out from her pills, when Floyd packed up his belongings and moved back to his old house.  Grandma woke up and caught him going through her jewelry box.  He was taking back the engagement ring, and wedding ring that he bought her.

When she realized what was happening, she got out of her bed, to see what else that he took with him.  He took everything, even the toilet paper.  So much for 'Jesus as Matchmaker.'