Thursday, September 30, 2010

GUEST ARTIST: It Was Her New York - Part V

A woman truly from Her New York, Joniwill be the Guest Artist for the next several weeks.


...and a wondering if it will be there next year.


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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

GUEST ARTIST: It Was Her New York - Part IV

A woman truly from Her New York, Joni will be the Guest Artist for the next several weeks.


A goodbye to summer at Coney.


These photos may not be used without permission from

Sunday, September 26, 2010

GUEST ARTIST: It Was Her New York - Part III

A woman truly from Her New York, Joniwill be the Guest Artist for the next several weeks.


Gertel's was rumored to have the best rugelach in the city. Finally got down to Hester one day with my friend but instead of Gertel's there was a hole. A big fat about-to-build-a-new-glass-condominium-for-people-who-could-afford-that-much-a-month-for-that-little-a-space hole. The guy in the fabric store across the street said the Gertel guy had sold for what he thought was a lot but then realized he shouldn't of still had to work and he had to start all over again in Brooklyn.


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

GUEST ARTIST: It Was Her New York - Part II

A woman truly from Her New York, Joni will be the Guest Artist for the next several weeks.



These photos may not be used without permission from

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

GUEST ARTIST: It Was Her New York - Part I

A woman truly from Her New York, Joni will be the Guest Artist for the next several weeks.


Florence and C.O. at Zafi's Luncheonette.


These photos may not be used without permission from

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Memories: The Geology Of A New Year

One knew me when I was born and Florence was a young woman, living in Knickabockavillage practicing piano in bare feet. A muse from the moment I could toddle down the street towards her, she let me know there was a world I belonged to beyond the limits of family and neighborhood.

The other knew me when I was still (theoretically) fertile and preparing for marriage and moving. On a night I could barely talk or cry, and in the midst of her own heartbreak, she came over to make sure I was ok and then showed up week after week after week, until the hardest goodbye could be said.

This pile-up of years, toppled constantly by changes - some sudden, some slow - brought the three of us together to break fast and begin a new year together at a place where the borscht hasn't changed in 35 years.

Shona Tova.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Maybe At The End Of It...

...there's a light. But first...'s one long-ass, dark....


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ride Home From Summer

It was on a train back from Coney.

I had been visiting someone half way there and when I got on I could smell the sun and the sea and the sand.

It was a mother and her two daughters and one of the daugher's daughter and that daughter's son. Three generations. Doing what I had done with my gramma. A day at a beach, bags of wet suits and empty sandwich and cookie containers and just like that little boy, the ride back lulling me to sleep, my head on a warm lap.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Memories: In Memory Of A New York And A New Year

I came of age the day I lied to my mother. I was 50 and holding her hand. She was 84 and dying. It was Rosh Hoshanah

Her bones were trying to suck in dark bedroom air. I pleaded “Let me take you to the doctor…”

Her next to last words, “No.”

Pulling out wishes from years ago ‘save me unless I’m really dead,’ pleading again “you are in such distress…” and then my lie, “I promise you I’ll bring you home after. I promise you you’ll come home…”

Her last words, “OK.”

Other than the ER doctors telling me to wake my sister in Brooklyn NOW tell her to come to the hospital NOW, holding my mother’s hand was like any other 3:00 a.m. medical emergency, only this time she wasn’t fighting, singing, charming and admonishing me about how it was all my fault.

She did not come home. She died where she didn’t want to die. But she did not die in pain or fear or loneliness. She did not die in a bedroom made with decades of misery and disappointment.

Because I lied, she died holding my hand while my sister and I talked like machine guns about something else in our mother’s life we didn’t understand, which is just about everything. No longer the child who had failed her, I stepped into morning air with knowledge only gotten from absolute endings, and became a woman who survived a decision.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New Year Encore: In Lieu of Flowers...

In Lieu of Flowers... was originally posted on October 1, 2008 as an obituary for Florence who had died the previous morning. Since Rosh Hoshanah appears in the English calendar differently each year, she in death has become as unpredicable as she was in life. Wouldn't have it any other way.

In Lieu of Flowers...

Tell the truth.

Tell yourself the truth.

Don't let your bullshit compromise either of the above.

Don't lie. Unless you're drunk. Then really don't lie.

Don't steal.

Accept hand-me-downs.

Look fabulous in your own clothes. They may have started out as hand-me-downs but they're yours now. Proudly recount their lineage. Never feel ashamed about that.

Never take a taxi.

Walk everywhere.

Don't wear a coat in winter.

Carry your own weight to the point of pathology. Better to err on independence than not.

Refuse to lose at the hands of cowardliness, mediocrity, stupidity, and the need to blend in.

Suffer aloneness at the risk of fitting in with any of the above.

Refuse to feel fear. If you do, ignore it and keep going. Just like Florence did that night during a World War II blackout under the Manhattan Bridge by the movie theater (now a Chinese market).

Always put your work first.
Always do your work.
Always put your work first.
Always do your work.

Rage against the Machine. Even when it looks like it's related to you.

Risk being laughed at by morons when you do something no one else is doing. Just like when Florence put on those roller skates in 1972 and skated up and down Grand Street and all those people laughed at her and then a couple of years every one had disco skates.

Start your entire life over at 60 like you were a 14 year old. Because on some level, you still are.

Fight back just like Florence did all the times someone mugged her or tried to mug her during the 1970's.

Don't EVER quit.

Know that that beer, that sandwich, those shoes, that jacket, those pants, that avenue, that movie house, that proper grammar, that street, that bar, that woman, that dance, that etude, that sonata, that scale, that subway, that bus, that hotdog, that boardwalk, that beach, that ocean is Your New York.

It Was Hers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I still write because I am inspired and fired up by Ela Thier's workshops (I've taken several and each time my work gets better and better and better).

Otherwise, the joy from knowing how to build a story would have withered away from lack of knowledge.

If you want to attend a FREE evening workshop, then see below:


How do you structure a story while enjoying the creative process and allowing for fresh surprises? Ela Thier's unique approach to writing joins craft and structure with inspiration. Forget plot points and page numbers. Regardless of your level of experience, in the course of this evening you'll unleash a creative flow and gain new insights into the craft that will ease and improve your writing life for years to come.

Thursday, September 9

Doors open at 6:30
*No late-comer admitted past 7:15

University Settlement Community Center
184 Eldridge St, Manhattan, NY

Reservations are required.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer Vacation Encores: Former Posts With Florence-Part III

My Private Coney is on a brief summer vacation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The Sweet Spot: More Snapshots from Deep Waters

You curve yourself onto that soft edge between your back and your belly, and like paint from a Matisse brush pouring into a reclining woman you glide on the sweet spot toward home, home being the other side of the pool. Or maybe a place that only looks like the middle of the bed but is just the beginning to some place buried in her heart where love buoys her to the other side of some deep waters.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Memories with Summer Vacation Encores: Former Posts With Florence-Part II

My Private Coney is on a brief summer vacation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008
Sunday Memories - "Not Coney. Coney Island."

Florence is 62 in this picture from the mid-1980s.

Now she is not only refusing to get out of bed, she is refusing visitors anything but her back. K., the recreational therapist managed to get Florence to turn to her by playing a sonatina badly on her portable electric keyboard. Annoyed by sloppy playing, Florence rolled over to K., corrected her mistakes and then rolled back into her little corner. K. didn't give up. She began mispronouncing composers' names. It worked. Florence faced her and thus began a lesson in how one is required to speak.

A couple of days later, finished with my swimming lesson which actually went... swimmingly (in other words, I did not drown), I looked down from the glass balcony at the gym's pool filled with bodies going back and forth, and recalled a recent conversation with her former girlfriend who had loved her since they were teenagers ("Your mother was a great swimmer, your mother could swim anywhere, your mother....").

Years ago before we knew her memory had begun step behind closed doors to hide her accidents and mistakes, I got her to talk into a microphone about the place she loved more than her piano.

(See Daughter Of Coney at )

Perhaps wondering if I too could coax Florence to roll back into life, I called.

"Hello Florence, I just finished another swimming lesson!"

"I used to go swimming. I swim," Florence said.

"I know. In the ocean." (I had to shout this because she had forgotten how to hold the phone up to her ear and my cell phone in a cavernous gym wasn't helping.)

"Right. And then you sit on the boardwalk, watch the people and they see you alone and they try to strike up a conversation."

"Get out of bed and I'll take you to Coney."

"NOT Coney. It's Coney Island. Coney ISLAND."

"Get out of bed and I'll take you to Coney ISLAND."

"OK. Maybe tomorrow. Don't eat too much. And lie down."

And with that she clicked off to roll back into her resting spot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Vacation Encores: Former Posts With Florence-Part I

My Private Coney is on a brief summer vacation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Swimming Swimming In A Swimming Pool* -
Snapshots From Deep Water

Florence said that after Gramma died, she started going to Coney “to make things right” and swim in honor of her mother.

Water was not a foreign entity on the Lower East Side. Not everybody swam but everybody got wet -  Coney or Pitt Street Pool or, in my aunts' and uncles' days, the East River.

I thought I had Pitt Street Pool conquered until one day the four feet of water wasn't four feet anymore and I found myself flailing.  Either one of the bigger kids or my big sister or a life guard pulled me out. The Educational Alliance day camp pool lessons taught me to float in case that happened again.

The 14th Street Y had a pool and a teen program. At the age of 13, in a rare fit of acting my age, I badgered Florence for a bikini.  It wasn’t just the money which was always tight; it was also her slow fade into private desires and secret regrets that made it risky to interrupt her.

But there was this boy and I was this girl and somehow I understood a bikini was part of the deal I wanted to happen.

She caved and with $20, I headed off to A&S in Brooklyn. I don't remember the color, the style, the stripes, the dots.  All I remember is rushing to the pool, seeing the boy I liked and jumping into the pool to say hello.

No one told me that, as I stood in freezing water trying to impress the object of my affection, the top of my bikini had slipped off my adolescent breasts.

Florence sewed the straps tighter but I never wore it again.  I also refused to return to the Y for years and years.  And when I did, this time as an over-sized overall-wearing tax-paying adult, even then, I shook with humiliation.

Then one day Gramma died and Florence got on the F train to Coney and dove into the ocean.  I continued to stay dry with only a couple of interruptions here and there, like at the 100 year old City College pool or the elite NYU pool or some tiny hotel pool or a rare ocean vacation (but only up to my knees for fear of sharks).

Not sure why, but as Florence began to swim in a haze of NPR and sheets of pee liner pads - occasionally coming up for air to say she hurt and was unhappy - I enrolled for maybe the fifth time in 25 years for beginner swimming lessons after work in a big indoor pool.  There was even a sauna waiting for me at the end of an hour of breathing water up my nose.

When I told her I was learning to swim, rare delight, passion and determination flooded her face. "Oh. You must."
*a little song we used to sing on the Lower East Side with accompanied hand dance:

Swimming swiming
In a swiming pool
When it's hot and when it's cold
In a swiming pool
Right stroke
Breast stroke
Fancy diving too
Wouldn't you like to be in a swimming pool?