Category Archives: Miami

loving change, for a change

we say we don’t have seasons in miami, but we do. they are slight and they are lovely, and yesterday was our first fall day. the beach was windy and almost too cool, if not for the eager sunshine. lying on a thin blanket, my face hidden from stray drops of sea flying off the white caps through the wind, my toes hanging off the edge of the blanket digging happily in the warm, sun-baked sand, my soul reaching through the blanket and into the earth, thankful, for once, for change.
it is the best kind of beach day. it is the most serious we get around here. the reggaeton is drowned out by the waves pounding the sand and the party people picnic without overhearing. the change in the air is tangible. facing the roaring atlantic on a day like that with your eyes on the edge of the earth, and your body warmed by it, you feel grounded. it was a refreshing, glorious day that i was happy to spend with my dear friends, equally in need of a recharge. 

happy fall everyone. may the cool air warm your soul. 

Ten Things I Learned in 2015

 

1. You can give yourself away entirely and still be yourself entirely.

2. Women have infinite strength and patience.

3. Hormones play a brilliant and sadistic role in the function of human females, and test the strength and patience of their partners.

4. No matter how destroyed your body feels or looks, it can restore itself.

5. Consistent lack of sleep turns the human brain into a vast land of perplexity.

6. Sugar is sometimes the problem, and sometimes the solution.

7. Song can be stronger than pain.

8. Wine and a salt bath can make all the screaming and back pain dissolve.

9. It takes less energy to forgive and breathe than to hold on to anger or pain.

10. The harder life gets, the better the rewards feel.

 

best year ever

 

Here’s to 2016. Let it be full of peace and love.

 

.

When I’m 64 

My birthday week begins today. Seven days out of 365 that I am consciously aware of my life advancing in time. It’s extra acute this year  with the knowledge that roughly eight weeks from now time will move faster than I have ever experienced before.

I’ll be 32 years old this week and 32 weeks pregnant. A small delight for a person who revels in the coincidence of the numbers we find around us, such as myself. Not that I find meaning behind such numerical happenstance, but I do contend there is contentment to find in the sheer synchronicity of numbers lining up. This week points big to 32 – a number and age I had never guessed would have any large significance. And yet…there it is.

This is the first year I haven’t cared to celebrate in any grand or social way. I suppose that has something to do with the mens XL t-shirts and boxers which are my outfit of choice. And that the pregnancy hormones, apart from the tears, seem to insist I smell like the hippy I am, regarless of how hard I try to mask it. There is also this revelatory fact that it’s no longer just my life. I have this other life camping out inside me that deserves acknowledgement as well.

This brings me to a kind of consideration that leaves numbers behind. It begs for the measurement of time to disband, because this little life isn’t even here yet, and I already ache for endless time for it. And me. But we can’t, at least I can’t, even think of life without quantifying it. Will I still be here when you’re 32, little person? Will you still need me? It’ll be when I’m 64.

so happy birthday to me.

My mother’s endless love. 

The love of my mother has no prejudice.

The love of my mother is not blind. 

The love of my mother has no bounds.

The love of my mother is always kind. 

The love of my mother never pauses. 

The love of my mother simply searches

for ways to make you feel better inside. 

The love of my mother is relentless, 

whether you are a new friend or old. 

The love of my mother rings in her laughter.

The love of my mother is bold. 

The love of my mother is intense,

like the Miami sun that she adores.

The love of my mother is refreshing, 

like the Atlantic that to her heart calls

The love of my mother is inspiring, 

like the divinities that she knows.

The love of my mother sparkles, 

through her eyes and smile, she glows.

The love of my mother will never extinguish.

Though, the love of my mother I have tried.

The love of my mother knows no limits.

The love of my mother is always on my side.



Happy Birthday Mama!!! 

Thank you for teaching me how to live a life full of love. 

Native

Across the sand
Bare feet
deep breath
dive in

calm, clear, teal
farther and farther
lungs scream
tiny schools

mermaid hair
soft sand
reflections
waves

tepid Atlantic
wraps around skin
hearts aglow
loyal sunshine

foggy brain
molecules cling
his presence lingers
dive deep

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Rewritten, Explicit.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, the ground floor of an old house
Had been converted into a piano bar, filled by many a louse.
Music and banter wound its way up the spiral staircase,
Melodies curled around a lady giving a sailor good chase.

Somewhere down some lane children slept in their beds
Visions of iPhone 6’s danced in their sweet heads
The avenue that divided the old house and the shore
Punctuated the season with lit palm trees and whores.

Headlights bound down A1A, his father’s Tesla he’d borrowed
High school sweethearts high on speed and dreams of the morrow
To the stars her eyes lifted through the open moon roof
It was then she saw a sled guided by many a hoof.

Slapping her beau frantically, she finally found her words,
“I saw Santa! That was Santa!” She said face towards
The sky, searching for more of what she had seen.
“That’s cute, Babe,” he said, and patted her knee.

“But,” she began, and knew it was useless.
I must’ve been seeing things, she resolved, quite hopeless
Back inside, the sailor was back at the bar
His date sipped champagne, flirting all the more.

The piano player banged out his version of Jingle Bell Rock,
A couple with more gumption than talent sang amuck.
No one heard the clatter that came from above,
Each patron was numbed by booze, lust or love.

They missed the sound of a sleigh landing with a crash.
Just one disbeliever had seen the flash
Too easily swayed was she from the magic,
“Can you believe it,” Santa huffed to his boys, “it’s just tragic.”

“Kids used to make it more difficult for us to fly about,”
“No one believes anymore, the stress is giving me the gout.”
At the piano the carolers had moved on to shots of whiskey,
Their song choices had slid from Christmas-themed to Bowie.

A third shot for his efforts sat atop the black polished grand.
As they counted down the Space Oddity, Santa’s bottom did land
On the floor of the chimney, soot splattered and rose
Landing softly on a couple necking, dotting her panty hose.

He brushed himself off and surveyed the room
More naughty than nice he suspected, still he pulled
Two presents from his sack, for the blokes behind the bar.
He couldn’t blame them for the rest, it was their house, after all

And while he happened to be in such an establishment,
He couldn’t resist the idea of just one little nip.
“Can you hear me, Major Tom” consumed the air;
Santa put back the shot that had been waiting there.

“Delicious,” he announced, his belly jiggling before him,
“George Dickel, good taste, maybe they are nice the lot of ‘em.”
With that he was off, more houses to tend to.
The singing finally ended, which brought their attention to

The empty glass sitting pretty right where they’d left it.
“Who took the third shot?!” lead carol singer called, indignant,
That someone would touch what was rightfully another’s
Unbeknownst to the lot, it’d been the ultimate gift-giver’s

Fair hand who had taken that nip of their bourbon
Santa took his seat, the reindeer launched the sleigh into mornin’.
Back in the Tesla’s she beamed, as she heard clear as day light,
“Merry Christmas to all, And to all a good night!”

IMG_4170.JPG

At Last

Sam walked down the long green entryway to her grandmother’s door gazing at the new orchids blooming in the courtyard. Her eyes wandered up into the mango tree and she wondered when the fruit would start to weigh heavy on the branches. The year before they had come in April, unseasonably early, almost two months before they should have. Global warming, Sam thought. The flavor of fresh off the tree mangos danced in her head teasing her tongue. She regretted skipping dinner the night before.

When she reached the front door Sam took a moment to straighten out her shirt and smooth down her dirty hair. She could smell that her grandmother had a fresh coat of paint put on the house since she had been there the week before and remembered hearing something about how old Rose’s handyman was getting.

A woman’s voice drifted smoothly through the afternoon heat when Sam opened the door, “At laaaast, my lo-o-o-ove has come along.” Sam smiled at the sound of her old friend Etta James.

Sam looked toward her grandfather’s office. It was empty. Hi, Grandpa, she thought, her eyes lingering on his study, I miss you. He had always played jazz while he worked. Colonel Sommerset had retired from the military years before, but never actually stopped working a day in his life. Everyone in Sam’s family had their addictions, at least his was profitable.

Sam had spent endless hours of her childhood lying on the yellow shag carpet in front of his desk, sifting through his records, playing them as she pleased. The variations of melodies that the trumpet hummed, the soul searching trills of the saxophone, the attention that keeping time with the symbols had required.

The Colonel would look up from his work and Sam would drop whatever else held her attention to stare up at him, fascinated by everything that he was.

“Where’d you get those eyes, Child?” her Grandpa asked.

“I don’t know,” Sam beamed.

“Come give your Grandpa some sugar,” he said and she was up in his lap in an instant. “There’s something about those eyes, Little Girl,” he said balancing her on his knee.

In a family of southern women with light hair and light eyes Sam’s dark features shone brighter than an orchid in the Everglades. Sam could say exactly what was on her mind with those eyes, without ever opening her mouth. The Colonel told her once that before Sam could speak, her eyes did the talking.

They had truly enjoyed the comfort of each other’s company, and hearing the trumpet softly blow reminded Sam of all the questions she had longed to ask about a time that she had missed, but hadn’t, for fear of disturbing her grandfather’s work. She scratched her stomach and it was like the ugly, old carpet, along with the questions she’d never asked, somehow still itched.

Sam wandered into the kitchen and saw Rose poised over the stove stirring a big pot and moving her shoulders to the melody of the saxophone. The smell of her grandma’s vegetable soup hit Sam’s nostrils and saliva gathered on the sides of her tongue.

The music was so loud that Rose hadn’t heard her granddaughter come in. Watching her, and knowing that she was all alone in that big, old house, hurt Sam’s heart. She knew how much her Grandma must miss him. Sam closed her eyes and Etta sang her into the fantasy of a memory.

She saw her grandparents dancing in an old jazz club. The women’s bright dresses were full. Their skirts swished back and forth, a variety of colors and flowers dancing together to the music. The men wore uniforms and smoked Lucky Strikes.

The tall, curvy woman standing at the old fashioned microphone had on bright red lipstick to match the flowers on her otherwise white dress. The spotlight touched her and her skin was like cocoa with thick cream. Her voice was nothing but soul. She was beautiful.

The song ended and the dance partners drifted off the floor. The smoke swirled around itself the way Van Gogh painted the sky.

“There she is,” Rose gushed. Sam opened her eyes out of the smoky night club and saw her Grandma’s pretty eyes twinkling at her. The music had been lowered to a comfortable volume.

“Hi,” Sam wrapped her arms around Rose. “There is no one softer in the world to hug, Grandma.”

“Hello there, Sunshine,” Rose said holding Sam at arms length, “Look at you in black on a Sunday afternoon,” she tisked.

Katherine Rose Tempelton Sommerset only wore black on two occasions: to a funeral or to a black tie affair, and she would wear navy or white to either if she could get away with it.

Sam smiled humbly knowing that Rose had commented on the black clothes she wore because it would have been unkind to comment on the black circles under her eyes. I have to remember to leave some concealer at Jake’s, Sam thought.

“Oh, Samantha!” Rose exclaimed seeing the lilies Sam had placed on the table. She walked to them and stuck her face right into the arrangement and took a deep breath. “How sweet!” she exclaimed and turned to Sam with a smile like cherry preserves. “Honey, they are beautiful. What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful grandbaby?” She came back for more hugs and kisses.

“Sorry, I’m so late,” Sam said and they sat down at the kitchen table, “Chrissie kidnapped me last night for girl’s night.”

“Oh, you know I don’t mind. I’ve just been bouncing around all morning getting things done here and there.” With this she was up and off to the refrigerator. “I have juice, tea, lemonade, milk, and water,” she paused, “Is it too early to share a beer?”

“Yes,” Sam barked, “I’ll have punch. Please.”

“So, tell me about Chrissie. What’s she up to these days?” Rose asked taking out glass pitchers of orange juice and iced tea. “What was that man’s name that she was seeing?” She placed the pitcher of lemonade on the counter then turned to Sam and put her hand on her hip. “Karma?” she wondered aloud, “Clover? Something like that, right?”

“Dharma,” Sam said laughing, knowing her intentions. “And I liked him, but they broke up.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Rose said. She winked at her granddaughter pleased that Sam had laughed at her joke and then turned back to the punch. Having been married to a republican for more than fifty years; Rose could hardly help making fun of hippies, even if her own daughter had married one.

“Yeah and she dated a jackass after that.”

“Well, that isn’t very nice.”

“Neither was he.”

“Is she still with him?”

“No.”

“Good,” Rose said firmly. Aside from her joking she was a smart woman who had a heart big enough to defend the basic human rights of any person.

Sam watched her grandma mix the juice, lemonade and iced tea. No matter how many times she had sat right there and watched her grandma make her punch Sam still had never been able to get the portions right when she made it herself.

“What would I do without you, Grandma?” Sam wondered aloud.

Rose turned sharply and looked right at Sam. “You would get along just fine.”

“Maybe,” Sam smiled. Rose set the punch down in front of her, “but no one can make your punch.”

“You know who can?” Rose asked as she returned to the stove to stir the soup.

“Who?”

“Your daddy.”

“No.”

“It took him a long time, but I think he’s the only one who likes it more than you do.” Rose poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat back down. “So, where did you girls go last night?”

“Monty’s,” Sam said, “I’m still recovering.”

“Well, you just need a bowl of grandma’s vegetable soup!” Rose was up again in an instant gathering bowls, spoons, napkins, stirring the soup, and fishing for crackers. Sam was exhausted just watching her. “Did Annabelle go?”

“No.”

“Is she still sick?” Rose asked in that grandmotherly way that feigned ignorance.

“She’s not sick, Grandma,” Sam searched for words, “she’s….gone.”

“Oh, honey.”

“For some reason she has it in her head that we’re suddenly all out to get her and Chrissie refuses to talk about it like it’s just going to go away. Dee is the only one who Annabelle will even communicate with, but all she tells her are these angry delusions that she has formed. It’s like the Annabelle that we know and love is gone.”

“It sounds like she needs some time to herself.”

“No,” Sam said sharply, “Sorry, but I don’t think that is the case. Mental illness usually manifests in people in their early twenties. I’m afraid leaving her alone is exactly the wrong thing to do, but I’m the only one who seems to feel that way.”

“What do her parents think?”

“Nothing, at all. They’re in denial. They didn’t even meet my eyes when I went to talk to them. They think I’ve turned against their daughter, but I have no reason to! Just like she has no reason to have turned against me,” Sam’s voice trailed off.

“There’s not much you can do to change some peoples minds. You know, I was at the club the other day and this ignorant man…” Rose started on but Sam couldn’t listen.

It infuriated her the casual way people spoke about a person that she loved so much. Sam knew Annabelle inside and out, and knew that this wasn’t her friend. A switch had been flipped inside Annabelle’s head and Sam wanted to flip it back but no one would help her find it. Everyone seemed uncomfortable even looking.

She looked down into her papaya colored punch wishing it were a crystal ball. She wanted to see when she would get her friend back. Or when people would start admitting there was a bigger problem at play, at last.

Miami Life, Another Night

A fly’s wings fluttered against the glass as thunder shook the pane.

Drops pelted the roof of the car. The fly buzzed. Sam considered opening the window and letting him drown.

An ambulance siren howled in the distance. The rain masked the sounds of metal and rubber and the slick roads claiming its victims. The fly bobbled through space into the back seat.

Sam watched the rain fall on the windshield. The design reinvented itself with each drop. She hit the wipers and cleared the canvas. Her eyes found new patterns forming within the spots.

The leash that she called a cell phone rang. She resisted the temptation of throwing it out into the puddle beside her car.

The siren faded away. The humidity suffocated the fly. She answered the phone.

Paper Thin, Black and White, One-Sided, Insatiable, Insomniac Love

I am an intimacy junkie. Ask my boyfriend. I need it like oxygen.

The closeness, the familiarity, the private cozy friendship, the feeling that my feelings are shared. Without it I feel lonely, even in a room full of people. It has only recently occurred to me that the fault of this doesn’t fall upon my parents, or myself, not my sun sign or moon sign. Instead, I have Edith Wharton to blame. Along with Ernest Hemingway, Pat Conroy, Jane Austen and every other author who has written a story with characters so engaging that it became a world within and completely outside of my own.

Books define intimacy. They make you laugh, cry, blush, shiver, shriek, and tremble. You take them to bed with you again and again, and then, never again. They let you in. They show you their deepest and darkest secrets, the really sick ones, and the cheesy ones that just seem like bragging. They trust you. They let you love them. And then it’s over. So, you pick up the next one and hope to be satisfied. Or you stick with the same one, and you learn new things every time. As you grow, it changes, but the closeness is always there.

And, thanks to fabulous people like Mitchell Kaplan, and The Knight Foundation, and Miami Dade College, and everyone who continues to buy books – real, tangible books – this cycle of paper thin, black and white, one-sided, insatiable, insomniac love continues. Because, let’s face it, junkies need their fix.

So, as we welcome the big weekend of the Miami Book Fair International, here are some tips of the trade that I’ve gathered over the last few days to help you navigate the oddly cool and wet streets of Downtown Miami this weekend. Or to help you sound a little more industry savvy at your next book club.

 

1. Books are called “titles” as in, “Do you have the new title by Paulo Coelho?”

2. Published writers are called “authors” as in, “I prefer this author, to that one.”

3. If you are coming to the fair as a writer who is trying to talk to publishers about becoming an author, I’ve got sad news for you, there are not a huge number of opportunities for that. The publisher’s advice: get an agent. On the plus side, there are a huge number of writers wandering around to commiserate with, or to learn from on Writer’s Row.

4. People who work in book stores are called “book sellers.” These are the people who physically get the book into the hands of the public. Thank them, and be patient when they can’t get to you fast enough. There are so many of you, and so few of them.

5. This is the largest literary fair in the country. You should come. It’s only $8. Seniors and teenagers are $5. Kids are free. I assure you there is something for everyone. Like comic books, and funnel cakes.

Being naked.

“So,” says the darling person genuinely interested in my life, “what have you been up to?”
“Well,” I start, looking to whatever person or book I happen to be in public with for support, “I just finished editing my novel.”
And in that time, before they process how to answer this statement, I wonder: do they not believe me? does it sound as strange to them as it does to me? do they write best-sellers in their spare time?
I wrote a book, I remind myself. My third, and this one’s good, get it together. But I’m not published yet (and this destroys me).
“Wow,” they say, finally, “that’s great!”
And it is. They say.
But I haven’t sold it.
You haven’t read it.
So what is it, really?
It’s just a leap of faith, on your part.
You believe: 1. that I have actually written said book. 2. that I’ve done it well. and 3. that I’ll become successful enough, that you’ll know someone famous enough, to brag about.
Because that’s what this is, isn’t it?
The proximity to greatness.
I know, because I want it too. That light of genuine feeling that people relate to whole heartedly. The one that is pure. The one that shines so bright that basking in someone else’s is fine. Because it’s honest.
This is why I wince. Why this conversation is so uncomfortable for me, and why I hesitate to answer the question. Because in this scenario I am the one who will have made something great.
Or not.
Which is why I keep writing.
Because here, being naked isn’t just for show, it’s necessary.

The Gene Pool Lottery

#LikeAGirl  <– CLICK for Video

 

Genetics are dumb luck as far as I’m concerned. Throughout history, whether you were born into the working class or the aristocracy was your fate. These days, we live in a world where you can change your stars. That is, if you were born in a first world country, and you are provided education. I could’ve been born a girl in Pakistan or I could’ve been born a boy in Western Africa. I got lucky, though. I won the gene pool lottery.

My mother and father are the winged unicorn of married couples. They have been married over forty years, they still love each other, and they still like each other. They sing show tunes and “I Got You, Babe,” there’s a video of that that I will never post – you’re welcome. My father supports my mother in all of her endeavors. He shows me the same respect. He supported me through soccer and water polo and cheerleading, expecting me to do my best in each of them. My brother never cut me any slack. No one ever let me win and when I won, no one was surprised.

My paternal grandmother was a golf pro. Even after she won a fight with breast cancer, after a full mastectomy, she returned to the game, as a pro. If that isn’t tough, I don’t know what is. My maternal grandmother had four kids, an airline pilot husband who was off flying most of the time, and was a league tennis champ. These women were stylish and clever and strong, like a girl, so why isn’t that how the phrase is applied?

Only once in my house did I hear the phrase, “like a girl”. My neighbor and I were putting on our rollerblades. I had wrist guards and he didn’t. “Do you want to use these?” I asked. “No,” he shrugged, “you need them. You skate like a girl.” Later that day when my mom was about to take him home, I shut that boys fingers in the car door. We were about eight years old and I played it off like it was an accident. I’m not sure that he even correlated the two incidents, he was quite literally crushed. I cannot honestly say I didn’t feel a sense of victory in hurting him physically, for the way he had hurt my young and developing physicalness. I’m sure if I did something like that today I would be called a “psycho bitch.” And would you agree?

I bet you would. I was a child, and of course what I did was wrong. Even then I felt bad and apologized profusely. But here’s my problem. You don’t poke a lion and expect to walk away unscathed. You don’t insult a man and expect there won’t be repercussions. So why can you tell a girl that she’s doing something “like a girl” and not expect her to prove to you exactly what that means?

YES, I AM A GIRL. I am able bodied and smart, and I will retaliate against your sexism in one way or another. My brother and my father taught me to. My mother and my grandmothers told me that skating faster than him was enough, and not to rub it in. But I disagree.

I want to change the stars. I want young boys and girls to know that they can do and be anything without gender factoring in as a limitation on that. I want to speak my mind, and I want to do it proudly, like a girl. So tell me, why doesn’t “run like a girl” mean win the goddamn race?

 

 

 

 

A Love Letter to My Generation

A caustic compliment

From the curve of your lip

Matches your cruel beauty

Like satin ripped

 

The accidental truths

Dropped off your tongue

Are fallen angels slain

They are your demons undone

 

There is dissonance in those eyes

A freezing wind blows through your soul

No matter how many matches I strike

There’s no fire, just coal

 

Is there passion in this pain?

Where is the depth to the misery?

Like the stench of decaying flesh

You reek of apathy.

like a girl

“I’m not going paint balling,” said one TSA official to the other across the conveyor belt that had just delivered one of my boots.

“Come onnnnnnn,” the agent on the other side replied.

“Not gonna happen. It’s too cold out there.”

I watched the screen of the X-ray machine in the distance wondering if it was possible that this could turn into a washing machine eating my sock episode. I had just had those boots resoled and shined.

“You’re supposed to go paint balling in the cold,” he kept on, “that way you can run around and you ain’t sweaty.”

“Bag check,” the woman sitting at the X-ray screen called stifly.

“Fine,” he said, “but you sound like a girl.” He smiled and shook his head back and forth, then he picked up the bag to check. It was mine.

“I would go,” I said.

He looked at me. One boot, one tennis sock with leggings tucked in to it, a hoodie and a panda scarf, but I had my hair did and my eyebrow game was on point. I smiled.

“I would go paint balling in the cold,” I said. The X-ray girl smiled at me. “I would out run you, and get sweaty, and aim to fire. So don’t go calling him a girl, he’s nothing like a girl.”

He blinked at me and put the suitcase down.

“Do you think you could be a dear and find my boot now, please, like a girl?”