Thursday, June 30, 2011

His Ten Year Love Affair With A Keyboard


Even though we all knew Tom worked for the telephone company, he was a writer like the rest of the tenants in the building. Mostly rock and political criticism.

Then he retired from his day job. Dreams of writing all day instead of working all day floated before his eyes. "I had this plan," he said. "But things came up."

Like any writer facing any clock that counts seconds, hours, days and years, the desperation to finish something, anything was stronger than any interruptions.

Somehow, over ten years in between...

*family demands
*political upheaval
*political action
*the ebb and flow of laundry and shopping
*maybe in the evening
*sometimes in the morning
*when one of the kids moved back in
*when the kid moved back out
*with a few secretive trips to Ohio and Pittsburgh thrown in
*and skillful deflections of investigations from children and spouse concerned that a reenactment of The Shining was occurring in the little room off the kitchen,

....fingers found the keyboards to one of those big bulky computers and then to a laptop. And then a book got written.

But that's how it is in this building filled with writers, some with day jobs, some without, but all with fingers demanding keyboards no matter what the interruption. Like Tom said, "Here, you feel you're doing the norm by sitting and writing."

Tom's book, An Inconvenient Amish Zombie Left Behind The Da Vinci Diet Code Truth is now in the world. And in this building, a book is up there with a kitten being adopted and a baby being born.


An Inconvenient Amish Zombie Left Behind The Da Vinci Diet Code Truth

Goya? Bad Diets? Mud Hens? The Rapture? The War of 1812? Global Warming? Political Conspiracy? Violence on our borders? The lost history of Soft Rock?

Follow the non-stop action from the museums and cafes of Paris to the fast food rest stops and motels of swing state Ohio, as past and future collide to creat an apocalyptical present where people from all walks of life are pulled into a conflict that will determine the fate of the planet.

An Inconvenient Amish Zombie Left Behind The Da Vinci Diet Code Truth is a full length novel mash-up social justice response to the Left Behind series and pop culture critique of The Da Vinci Code with one eye on global warming and the other eye on every social trend and best seller in the last twenty years.

Amazon Kindle ($4.34)

Barnes and Noble Nook

iTunes for the iPad
etc ($4.99)

McNally Jackson Bookstore ($16)

Amazon paperback ($16)


Tom Smucker is a retired telephone Central Office Technician who has written for over four decades about pop culture and politics. See for a sampling. He served for many years on the board of Deacons and Elders of his church, and remains active in his union. This is his first novel.

His collection of poetry, Story Poems and Polemics, will be published in the fall.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When One Door Closes And You're Headed Toward The Next Door Opening...

... sometimes the hallway in between isn't that bad.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Posted while Florence was declining, I was in touch with the woman she had been in love with, involved with and in war with since they were teenagers. Today, with gay marriage now legalized, I wonder what their life would have been like if only the world had loved their love as they had.


All the other gay seniors rode. In the convertible, on the bus, in wheelchairs.

But not Florence.

She walked.

She was in her 60s. She had waited her entire life to walk down a street as who she really was. And she wasn't going to give up that walk for anybody or anything.

Sunday Memories: Reading, Writing and Arithmatic

Middle row, third from the left.

Yvon went to some school in Queens. I went to PS 110. We both can read and write, but I can't spell. Sometimes I can add. Subtraction, a bit more iffy.

Hanging out one windy afternoon on the benches by St. Marks Church, him sick of everyone on the MTA, me sick of my writing block, and both of us sick of his smoking, we started chatting with the occupant on the next bench over.

She went from school to school, teaching teachers to teach which meant kids were being taught. When did learning become fun?, I wondered. How come they didn't teach us that way? Why couldn't I go back in time and learn to learn all over again? All I remember was dread and well, more dread.

Except one time.

Mrs. Fass, who lived in the neighborhood, was my first grade teacher. I was out sick the day the first-graders got the first grade readers. Everyone started reading that day. When I came back to school, unable to decipher the words in this new book, I dove straight into misery and got more and more lost. Finally, Mrs. Fass sat with me and, other than the word 'squirrel', unlocked the mystery of reading to me.

For the next week, every day after school ended, I would walk up to Mrs. Fass's desk and thank her for teaching me to read.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Following In Florence's Footsteps

It's rarely a thrill to notice you have become just like your parents.

Usually it's during one of those not-so-flattering moments when you hear yourself say something or watch yourself do something and remember once upon a time you swore, swore, swore you'd never be like them but here you are be-ing just like them...

But how about those other moments when you notice you have become just like your parents?

I remember one day years and years and years ago during a visit to Florence - she was in her late sixties - watching her, as she held a little notebook filled with instructive notes, mesmerize me with tapping I didn't know lived in her feet. Growing up in Fred and Ginger movies, she had always wanted to tap. She alluded that it was a challenge to go to that class - maybe because she was older than everyone, maybe because she was reclaiming a dream too late. But she went until she couldn't anymore.

Facing the rest of my fifties, I decided to do what I had always wanted to do. It wasn't Fred and Ginger I wanted in my feet, but salsa music, what I heard all my life drifting onto Broome Street from the tenements, filling the neighborhood's bodegas, or blasting out of big cars zipping under the Williamsburg Bridge.

So I started taking a weekly free salsa lesson in the neighborhood. I may be old enough to be the other students' mother, and yeah sometimes sitting and watching the guys ask elegant, beautiful, young women to dance feels like I'm back in a junior high school nightmare.

But I am like my mother. Gotta dance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some Like It Hot. Others Not So Much.

It isn't even that hot but the cat has already left to summer in his favorite spot.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Memories: New Appassionata

Ludwig comes to life! in Nancy's living room

The thing about growing up under a Steinway is that the music is as intimate as the air you breathe or the punches you exchange with any given sibling. It's just life.

But I didn't like that life that much and took much delight as a young adult corrupting any beloved piece of either parents by inverting its key. This meant a sober, sad sounding piece would at the turn of a single note become a happy beer-drinking polka, and the trolloping joy of a sonata or symphony would just as easy become a funeral dirge. This elicited rage and reprimands from both parents who revered the great works and the great composers. Such responses of course only elicited more delight from me.

However, at some point it's just not nice to piss off an old person, especially one you are related to. So I stopped messing with their music, and other than an occasional indulgence of PDQ Bach's play by play of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony I moved on to disco, funk, salsa and rock.

If only I had known there were others like me. Luckily, like almost all things in life, it is never too late to find kindred souls. One perfect sunny, windy, beautiful day, friends and strangers crowded into the small theater of Nancy's living room for a dress rehearsal and went on a wild ride with Ludwig van Beethoven as he attempted to right wrongs, settle the score with Mozart and terrorize a stage manager into being a cast of thousands.


June 30 to August 30

at the Seven Hills Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This Used To Be Normal

3 A.M.

I heard male laughter in between meandering banter, but unlike the party kids who wandered below my window these voice didn't go away. Then the cat thought it was time to play or feed him or do something vertical. That's when I realized there was unusual activity happening on the corner.

The oblong plastic shape at first looked like a body bag, but there was no police tape wrapped around the scene and the cops were way too relaxed. Then a head at the end of the oblong shape popped up and began arguing with the cops. People coming home from the 24 hour grocery store or back from a bar stepped around the trussed up man, trying really hard to be nonchalant, but dying to check out something they heard used to happen this neighborhood all the time years ago, but now only seen on crime drama tv shows.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In Honor of and with Gratitude for: The Carol Burnett Fun and Joy Project

I wanted to say thank you to Carol Burnett for everything I had gotten watching her show and singing along with the soundtrack from Once Upon A Mattress.

I told everyone: "She has been my role model (along with Madame Curie who died from radiation poisoning and Captain Kirk who is a fictional character)."

I also wanted to lighten the load of what we artists, every day, go through. Writing, auditioning, risking, attempting, and facing rejection over and over again, wears and tears. Every so often, we need to recharge and rejuvenate our spirit.

So I came up with the Carol Burnett Fun and Joy Party for Writers and Other Miserable Artist.

I put together a tea party and invited a bunch of friends to join me in some fun and joy and a chance to say thank you to Carol Burnett.

On Sunday, we gathered for the first one. No one really knew anyone except Yuki and Dizery but within minutes of dishing food and dishing dish we were all laughing and talking, sharing and learning, and eating tons of delicious foods we had all contributed to the table.

The best part was showing Dizery, who had never seen Carol Burnett's variety show, clips from the show, and laughing hard, describing to her and each other what the show meant to us.

Gathering together and sharing fun and joy was wonderful. I also asked that we all say thank you to Carol Burnett in a very easy, simple way.

Carol Burnett's daughter, Carrie Hamilton died of cancer. A theater space in the Pasadena Playhouse is named after her and the Playhouse has a program dedicated to at-risk youths. I asked that each one of us send IN THE AMOUNT OF OUR LAST TAKE OUT OR ORDER UP OR WHAT WE SPENT FOR THE TEA a check to:

The Pasadena Playhouse


The Salk Institute

and put on our checks "In honor of Carol Burnett/ Carrie Hamilton".

And now I ask all of you, dear readers, to do what I did.

  • Gather your friends who know or don't know one another
  • fill with wonderful fun food a table or a picnic blanket or any other place a potluck or meal could happen
  • laugh and share and connect to what brings joy into your life
  • At the end of your gathering, IN THE AMOUNT OF YOUR LAST TAKE OUT OR ORDER UP OR WHAT YOU SPENT FOR THE GATHERING write a check to:
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
10010 North Torrey Pines Road,
La Jolla, CA 92037

Pasadena Playhouse
Campaign Manager
Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101

And after your own gathering ask each person there if they would go home to their friends and family and put on their own celebration and send their own donations to Salk or Pasadena.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if from table to table across the land, we said thank you to someone who shared her fun and her joy and lightened our load as we went through the wear and tear of our days?

Pass it forward and then send me a picture of your table or your friends or anything you want to share from your own gathering.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Memories: The Door

I didn't know the youth center was named after a verse in the new testament. When, in 1972, I called their hot-line off a card someone had handed me, all I knew was I had a bottle of aspirin in my hand and was thinking that if I took all of them, something would give.

Once there, all I knew was that from 4 or 5 in the afternoon until 10 at night it was the best hangout in the world - cute guys from every neighborhood in the city, plus runaways from like other states none of us New Yorkers knew anything about, but who cared because did I mention those boys were cute? For a thirteen year old girl from the Lower East Side, it was heaven. Only in hindsight, years later, did I understand how this youth center kept me out of serious trouble, both from myself and from others.

The youth center got bigger and moved from 12th Street and Fifth Avenue (now Gotham Bar and Grill) to 18th Street and Sixth Avenue (now Bed, Bath & Beyond) and from there to Broome Street. By that time I had aged out.

Still, before I turned 22, it was this place that made sure I stayed healthy with free medical, got fed dinner four nights a week after I was on my own but didn't know how to cook and more important than anything, made sure that when my landlady tried to illegally evict me, I got legal help and was able to keep my lease and my home.

Thirty-nine years later, I get to walk through my door now because there was a Door to walk through then.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"...Just Like I Pictured It"

In another state of mind and place, a little glass snapshot of New York was packed up and sent back to the view from whence it came. Its creator was leaving the center of the country and returning to her original home where new views await.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

True Love Takes Wing

See, I thought that camera lens meant there must be someone really famous nearby. So I asked who it was.

It was the most important celebrity in the world and he lived right across the street.

"Why do you do this?" I asked the photographer.

"Love," he answered.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday Memories: Encore: In The Still Of The Night The Sound Of Silence Revisited

original post: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It started as an unconscious homage to Florence.

During the hot days, she, like many of our neighbors, would prop open her front door and let whatever breeze existed waft in from the stairwell's window.

With so many opened doors our different lives would also drift up and down the stairs, the sounds and smells and conversations, the T.V. going, all weaving in and out making a village out of thirty-five apartments.

One night, decades later in a much smaller apartment building, I opened the door during a non-stop heat wave, and a breeze blew in and as it came in, the cat ran out, the cool of 100 year old marble floors and walls too much to resist.

And soon that door, like Florence's, stayed open as the cat and I, wandering the stairs in the middle of the night, listened to our neighbors sleep, hummed along with all the air conditioners in the air shaft and sat in the still and the silence.

I miss the normalcy of open doors during hot days and sleepless nights, and when my door is closed because the neighbors are awake, I miss my mother.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another Escape

When the night got too hot Florence or Seymour or their neighbors or friends or the whole neighborhood would escape to the roof or the fire escape or even the park and sleep. I know they dragged the mattresses onto the fire escape and sometimes the roof, but how did they sleep in the park? Or did the cool breeze mitigate the concrete ground?

These days, parks close before midnight, roofs are locked and alarmed and it's against the law to be on a fire escape unless of course you are escaping a fire. Quiet cool escape becomes creative. Like for instance the gym of the university Seymour went to because it was one of the few that would accept Jewish students. There, an hour before it closes, and empty of healthy young people who don't fume at a lack of stomach muscles, escape beckons on fancy machines that make heated worries of the day steam off.