Spot, West Village NYC 2011

Spot, West Village NYC 2011

I was 25 when I first met Spot. The squatters on East 9th Street and Avenue D called him Magic. They called him this because he chewed all the wires in the abandoned building they lived in but never got electrocuted. I wondered if their building had electricity. They said he was 8 weeks old. He had 3 sisters they managed to find home for. But Magic, still in the dirty hand print laden Budweiser box hadn’t been so lucky. At least not yet.

At 25 I had a shaved head, not as a statement but from a bad dye job. I lived precariously in East Harlem, was performing in Macbeth at a Methodist church on West 4th, rehearsing for a Moby Dick adaptation, wrote pages and pages of colorfully erratic poetry, smoked a pack of Marlboro Reds a day, ate rice and beans for $2.00 accompanied by a 50 cent coffee for dinner. My apartment had no furniture. I worked as a barista in Gramercy Park and sometimes did the over night shift at a call messaging center in Chelsea. I lived on $5.00 a day. $15 if we hit the pub. I walked 80 blocks to work to save the $1.25 subway fare. I was by no means rooted, nor ready to be responsible for a life.

But here was that life. Curled up in a box, a ball of black silky fur, one white paw, ears that didn’t quite stand up, but didn’t lay down. His face and legs were brindle and when I picked him up he had a little pot belly and a white chest. He licked my face, moved his legs about in the air like a turtle just pulled up from the ground. The squatter with the dreadlocks showed me how to hold him appropriately. Spot and I looked at each other and in that moment I had no choice but to take him. He had made me his. And we would go on together from this point forward.

And go on we did. We made homes in East Harlem, Washington Heights, Midwood, Chinatown, Chelsea and the West Village. We would walk the Hudson River north from 155th Street up to the George Washington Bridge, passing the lighthouse painted red and white. Here he would run off leash, greeting the few fishermen we met, chasing squirrels, rolling in the unkempt grass. On the way home we would stop for  hot dogs, one for Spot and I to split and another for Mike, the homeless man who rescued us from a dog attack one August afternoon. And when Spot would lay at Mike’s feet, Mike would split his hot dog with him too.

In Chinatown we would sneak into the abandoned baseball field next to the Manhattan Bridge late night after I finished my shift at the bar. The chain and lock hung just loose enough for Spot and I to squeeze through. I would sip my coffee and let him run the bases. In the darkness I could trace him by his white paw as he ran. On occasion he would chase the rats from the dug out and send me running, squealing, around the bases myself. He and our rescue cats, Mercer and Charlie, and I all slept cuddled up in my twin bed. Spot would be in the nook of my bent knees, Charlie at my chest, and Mercer curled in a ball against Spot. Even when the heat was out in January, we were never cold.

When I felt like the world was crumbling beneath me, when my heart got broken, when I was lonely or scared, dark or blue, Spot would lay his head on my lap and watch me. He would let out a deep sigh as if to tell me he understood. And as much as I saved his life that hot July day of 1998, he saved mine multiple times. Every decision I made was based upon the fact that Spot waiting for me at home. I needed to be there for him, feed him, care for him, walk him. And thus I became rooted.

Spot clearly knew I needed him too. When off leash at the beach or on the Hudson, he never went beyond 50 feet from me. He would run up and back and around me over and over. And any time he was running ahead he looked back repeatedly to make sure I was still there. It was as if he was letting me know, “hey lady, I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you.” And he was right, we belonged to one another. In those first years together, bouncing from apartment to apartment, living on nearly nothing, Spot became my best friend.

In those early days of walking for hours before I headed out for work we made a pact. That when it was time for him to go, he would do so quickly. There wouldn’t be months of drawn out agony and pain. That when it was time, it would be time, no question about it.

14 years, marriage and 2 kids later, Spot told me it was time. He had been chasing his tail just weeks before, spinning in circles and falling down once he got a hold of it, then climbing back onto his feet with pride. We had already lost Charlie and Mercer. He now had the company of Skully, a gray tabby found on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx, and Scrappy, the beagle mix found in Tennessee. Spot came to me and laid his head on my lap as Superstorm Sandy raged around us. And 2 days later, once the generators were on at the vet, I took him for his last walk. There were no questions to be asked. He hadn’t eaten or drank in 2 days. He could hardly stand up. And his eyes told me it was time. I sat with him on the floor, his head on my lap, stroking that black silky fur. I thanked him for saving my life, for making me a better person, for teaching me how to love unconditionally. I thanked him for protecting me, for loving my children, for taking me on at least 15,330 walks. I told him it was ok to go. He looked up at me, listening as he had done thousands of times before, and let out one last deep sigh.

Yesterday my husband, kids and I took a trip to visit a puppy. The people called her Angel because of the rescue circumstances. She is a shepherd/lab mix like Spot, but chocolate brown and tan with hazel eyes. He ears don’t quite stand up or lay flat. She is 16 weeks old and still a clumsy puppy. When you pick her up she licks your face and excitedly moves her legs through the air like a turtle. When we arrived at the house the foster dad was holding her, just as the squatter had held Spot. Our eyes met and she instantly made me hers. Only this time she got 4 humans, 2 cats, and another dog. And because of Spot she is getting a rooted owner, one with a family,  furniture in her house, and a business to run. She’s getting the Spot approved version of me, the one he shaped and made whole. We will call her Murphy. I fully expect her to save my life a few times. And I’m looking forward to no less than 15, 330 walks. I can’t help but feel Spot would be pleased.

Luv Furever Animal Rescue


Monmouth County SPCA

North Shore Animal League

Pet Finder

Jersey Shore Animal Shelter



Guns: Our Kids, Our Silence


My son is 7 years old. He is bright, funny, eager to please and kind. He loves baseball and basketball, performing with his sister in show choir, playing catch with is cousin Tommy and Beanie Boos with his cousin Maggie. He sings his heart out doing karaoke. He likes to run around outside with the Nerf guns passed down by a neighbor playing tag. He plays Wii, has built an intricate world on Minecraft, and readies for battle on Clash of Clans (both iPod apps.) He enjoys silent films (not kidding!), iCarly, and watching plays (also not kidding!) He also loves to play Black Ops with his dad. And here is where the inner argument lies. The thing that keeps me up on nights after a shooting like the one in Santa Barbara has taken place. Or the one much closer to home last year, where a 4 year old accidentally shot and killed his 6 year old neighbor in the head with his dad’s gun while playing war.

We have rules about Black Ops. 1. No volume. I don’t want him hearing what the other players are saying or talking about. 2. He can only play with his dad. Those are the rules. I’ll be washing the dishes when I hear him exclaim quite proudly “I got you in the butt!” I can’t bring myself to laugh. I had read an article in 1998 that stuck with me. This was pre-Columbine. The beginning of the “unthinkable” becoming the norm. The article interviewed instructors from West Point on desensitization of troops. It asked, how do you prepare young men and women for situations of war. Part of the response was video simulation. Basically playing a video game. When my spirited son shoots a bullet into the butt of his dad via Black Ops, I cannot smile or laugh. I worry. Will he be desensitized? Will he grow to be one of those young men who gets pissed off about something and decides snuffing out a bunch of lives would be easier and more fun? Witnesses in Santa Barbara say the shooter was smiling as he blasted people away.

I am not opposed to people owning firearms.  Although I have never held a gun, I have family in the military, police, FBI and CIA. They all have weapons. I have friends who hunt. They have weapons. One such friend, a former cop, told her son Black Ops and games like it are off limits. If he wants to shoot things up she and her husband (also a former cop) will take him to learn how to shoot a real gun. Show him the damage it does. Teach him of the responsibility and the risk. But doing it through a game? No way. Doing it with an military style assault rifle? No way. This from a gun owner.

If I am not opposed to people owning firearms, what am I opposed to? I am opposed to any civilian owning firearms meant for war. Opposed to any person owning firearms more sophisticated than the local beat cop. I am opposed to it being easier to get a gun than it is a drivers license or prescription refill. I am opposed to insurance companies dropping people’s policies for putting a trampoline in their back yard, but not for leaving firearms unsecured in the house. I am opposed to the federal government determining gun laws (just as much as I’m opposed to the federal government running schools and my health care.) I am opposed to it being “okay” to not report a lost or stolen firearm.

So back to Black Ops. My mom says it’s the video games. That’s what all this violence is about. Really? A good friend who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who spent a year in Pakistan, he plays Black Ops. He’s been playing video games since he can remember. He owns some serious firearms. When my family and I stayed at his house I discovered the guest room night stands were gun safes. The hall closet, the size of a bathroom, packed with another, much bigger gun safe. The big one, he says, needs both keys and combination. He leaves the keys at his government office. I felt safe with my kids in the house. Not because the guns were there, but because none of us could get to them (have you seen my Irish temper?) He plays Black Ops for fun. Gets online with a bunch of his friends and they shoot each other up, laughing the whole time, chatting about life over their head sets. Clearly, the game is not real for him. It’s a game. He’s unaffected by it. What he is affected by is his time at war. He once said, as my son, 3 at the time, played legos on the floor, that he wasn’t used to being relaxed around kids. In Afghanistan and Pakistan he learned to fear kids the most. They could end your life easier than a grown man just because you trust that a child wouldn’t be strapped with explosives. Sometimes they are. And what seems like an innocent kid coming to a soldier for help is actually a live enemy weapon. 3 years of that can change your view of kids. Changing it back, getting comfortable again, was going to take some time. Perhaps I should be less worried about the video game and more worried about my son shipping out at 18.

After the shootings in Santa Barbara and the ensuing media storm that has followed, we haven’t played Black Ops in my house. My son reads the newspaper. He sees the picture of Richard Martinez on the cover with the quote “When do we say enough is enough?” and he asks me, “Did that man’s son die?” Yes. By some kid with semiautomatic weapons and a grudge. But that kid was once a 7 year old boy. That kid has parents. And throwing around descriptives like “Aspergers” and “loner” do nothing to ease my worry for our children. The dreaded “unthinkable” is the norm. The statistics are devastating. 86 people killed by guns everyday. Higher than any other developed country in the world. After Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Santa Barbara, Tucson, we still can’t have a real conversation about guns in this country. We’d rather let our kids die, be it as victims of the shooter, or as the villainous shooter himself, who many times takes his own life  before the bloodshed ends. We let our politicians regress further into their partisan shells, bought off by the lobbies and corporations, refusing to speak to one another because doing so would mean less pay and fewer perks. The generation of people who changed the world with our technology and entrepreneurial spirit, our guts and willingness to work with those across the table, the generation who made nerds the most important people in the room, who refused to take no for an answer, the generation that aspires to do better and be better- we are sitting here letting the conversation stall and fall flat on its face. And we will suffer for it. We will lose kids to senseless violence. And we will wonder if we should have done more. We will ask ourselves if we should have forced the conversation. If that would have changed the outcome. We will be grasping for an easy answer: video games, mental health issues, social deviancy. And none of those easy answers will make us feel any better.

My son is 7 years old. He is a boy right now. Full of life and joy with scraped knees and a big bright smile. He likes to snuggle next to me as I read him Happy Fur Family and The Lorax. One day, I hope, he will be a man. I hope he will get through this life without experiencing a Newtown or Santa Barbara or Columbine. I hope he will not experience the realities of war. But the odds are against him. And they are stacking up higher with each moment I choose to let politicians, who do not have my son’s well being in mind, call the shots. It’s time to say enough is enough. To start talking. We all need to start talking.

Some Shooting Stats: 1994 – 2013



Memorial Day

My father is a tall man with a lean build. He has dark brown hair and matching brown eyes. His skin is always tan during the summer. He taught my three sisters and I how to play basketball and surf. He took us to the beach during the winter and got us hot chocolate with marshmallows. He would go for a run with me even after working a 24 hour shift at the firehouse. To my sisters and I he always appeared strong, slightly mischievous, honorable. He is all of those things. And this post is for him.

My dad and I were both born in Rockaway, Queens. A sliver of a peninsula that stretches out from Long Island between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The last stop on the A train. He grew up in a 1 bedroom apartment on the top floor of a large porch front house on Beach 130th Street with his parents and his brother John who was 1 year and 4 days older. They attended St. Francis De Sales together on Beach 129th Street, then Far Rockaway High School. They spent long hazy days atop their long boards waiting for and catching waves. They travelled to Puerto Rico, Surf City and Montauk together, long boards under their arms, creating adventures and memories bigger than any wave they ever caught. They were brothers and best friends.

In our little house on Beach 129th, the house where I was born, which sat just steps from the sand and sea, I would sometimes find my father quietly stretched out on his bed. I would climb up next to him. His tanned skin warm from a day of lifeguarding under the sun. I would cuddle in close as the cool night air drifted through open windows. His face was still, his eyes sometimes sad, sometimes smiling. I would watch him read the papers that came from the green metal box on his lap. I did this often, as he would be there often. I was perhaps three years old. I couldn’t read, and I didn’t dare ask him to read those yellowed pages to me. I just watched him. I listened to him sigh. I fell asleep nestled between his arm and chest. And when I awoke both he and the green metal box would be gone.

Dad lifeguarding in Rockaway.

Dad lifeguarding in Rockaway.


Several years later my dad took us for a ride in the car. It was the kind of bright sunny day in May where the blue of the sky and the yellow of the sun are so pure they don’t seem real. When the car came to a stop my sisters and I jumped out to find ourselves in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen at 7 years old. The grass was emerald green and cut perfectly in shaded rows. There were flowers in groups, perfectly spaced out from one another. There were grand trees with fresh spring leaves casting perfect shadows on the perfect grass. I can’t remember my dad speaking. I only remember following him across the grass, reading names as we went. I remember my sisters Tara and Erin, a few years younger than I, giggling with each other, playing games. And then I remember my dad on his knees, placing his own bunch of flowers, in front of a white stone that matched all the others in this magnificent place. Only this stone had my last name. This stone made my dad sad. And suddenly everything lost its color and magic. The beauty drained out. My strong invincible father was wiping tears from his face. And I remember, just like it was yesterday, that seeing him cry broke my soul. As we left I read the sign – Pinelawn Cemetery.

I get bits and pieces of my dad’s past. Bits and pieces of Johnny. Johnny was born on October 31st, 1947. My father was born November 4th, 1948. Dad and Johnny did everything together. Johnny was the leader of the two of them. He signed up to go to Vietnam. He wasn’t drafted. He was an MP and that he was killed on May 13, 1968 at 20 years old. My grandparents never recovered (even a child can see the sadness behind the smile, can feel the emptiness in a full room.) My parents met before Johnny left. Johnny promised my dad they’d go surfing in Hawaii when he got back. My dad went to Hawaii on his own, with Johnny’s longboard, after he was buried. Johnny’s board still hangs in the garage with my dad’s board, ready to catch some waves. This is what I know.

One warm May evening just before Memorial Day, 1994, my dad picked me up from my Williamsburg apartment to shuttle me home for a weekend with the family. We drove with the windows down, just the city noise breaking the silence. Suddenly my dad said this:

“When we were kids at St. Francis the entire school would go out to the basketball courts and practice our marching and formation for the Memorial Day Parade. We would march past Memorial Park where they planted trees for each of the Rockaway soldiers who died at war. One time during practice they had just put new black top down. As I stood there I noticed a shiny penny. It was brand new. Really shiny. I think I spent the whole time trying to dig it out with my shoe. Not sure what Johnny was doing.” There was a pause. We drove under the Cross Island Expressway. “I never thought I’d be marching all these years later in his memory, past a tree with his name on a plaque. It’s crazy, you know?”

Yes, dad. I know.


Johnny in Viet Nam

Johnny in Vietnam

In memory of John P. McGonigal MP, Vietnam; John P. McGonigal US Army, WWII; Bernard F. Levey US Air Force, WWII; Joseph Leavey US Navy, WWII; and all the men and women who have served our country. You are not forgotten.



Dreaming As Angels

When I was a child we would say a prayer before bed. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take.” As is typical with me, I thought soul was salt. And for some reason I did not question it. Didn’t God turn someone into a salt statue in the Old Testament? Or was that another story I misunderstood?

The thing about saying that prayer before bed each night was that as I drifted off to sleep, lulled by the sound of ocean waves hitting the beach, I was keenly aware that I may not wake up in the morning. The prayer said so. And so I always believed death must be like dreaming. That after we pass away we would exist as we do in dreams, hovering above our loved ones and neighbors and classmates, watching life unfold, unable to determine the outcome by making another choice or instituting change. It frightened me. In my dreams, especially the nightmares and night terrors I experienced often as a child, I would be full of anxiety and guilt and fear- dragged down by not being able to save my sisters or stop someone from hurting themselves. On nights where I could make myself up I would stumble into my parents room and wake my mother, telling her of yet another nightmare. She would ask me to tell her what I dreamt and then say the Hail Mary with me until I felt safe enough to drift off into sleep again.

Due to this I became an expert on “waking” in my sleep. I would become awake enough that I could re-enter my body or enter the dream and begin to make changes as to where the dream was going. In one recurring nightmare my youngest sister is dragged away by a wave and I would thrash about screaming her name, running my hands though the thick white foam that rushed in and out, over and over again. One night I re-entered that nightmare and made myself reach down to the left, instead of the right like I had in every dream. When I did, I got the back of her bathing suit and pulled her up. As soon as her head was above water I woke up completely. I wept into my pillow, full of relief and joy. Overcome by my ability to finally change the ending that haunted me for months. I never had the dream again.

Even with this skill of changing the outcome of my dreams, my thoughts about death never changed. When I would sleep and be in vivid dreams I swear I hovered with angels, who like me, where watching over the action. But the angels did not seem distressed by danger, or thrilled by excitement. It felt as though they were just there. Wise and silent. Half smiling, the type of serene and peaceful smile one has while watching a child preform a song or a friend get married. And as a child, this troubled me. How could they feel such peace with all that is unfolding beneath us?

Death visited an acquaintance yesterday. Snuffing out a life that was responsible to 3 children. A life that was full of talent and generosity, and as many are rightfully saying, genius. As I walked my dog through the melting snow of what seemed like a spring afternoon, I wondered about the angels, and of him. Had they been there, watching it unfold? Did they watch as they do in my dreams, serene and peaceful? And what of him? Had he slipped into a dream and is now watching from just above. Is he filled with sadness over the circumstances or is he at peace? Are the demons that haunt us in life disarmed and quieted once we enter death? And do those angels I sit with when dreaming acknowledge you once it’s no longer a dream?

I may be naive. And perhaps some will write me off as silly. But in all the years since childhood, all the dreams I entered and exited, I believe there is peace in that final dream. That the angels’ slight smile is a knowledge I won’t gain until I no longer get to exit the dream. And for all the pain we may meet while walking this earth, that last dream erases it, bringing sense and meaning, offering solace. And hopefully, just hopefully, allows us as angels to comfort the rest of us who will wake up to life, in all its glorious joy and pain and chaos, tomorrow.

Life’s Soundtrack

We had a hunter green rug in the living room of the house I grew up in. I would find a sunny spot during the winter and lay there soaking up the warm rays while listening to the radio. I heard stories of a girl with a horse named Wild Fire who ran away during a storm, a little boy who flew with a man on the moon wondering when his dad would come home, a mother asking Montana to give her child a home, California girls and Uptown Girls and the piano man. For me, the lyrics are what spoke to me before the rhythm and beat. They drew me in and sent my mind to places I had never been, evoked feelings I had never had, opened doors to lives so different from mine and, at times, was a mirror to my feelings and surroundings. On that green rug listening to those songs, my life’s soundtrack began being composed.

When my mom piled us into the car for the drive to visit Nana and Pop-pop in the Poconos she would have the radio on, same station as what was on at home. We passed the cement factory with the polka-dotted trucks and polka-dotted metal towers that clung to the edge of the upper Manhattan riverfront as I listened the story of a man who walked through the desert on a horse with no name. He was happy to be out of the rain. That memory is lucid in my mind and the song plays to the images I remember of slowly passing through the city to the George Washington Bridge.

I sat in the front seat of my parent’s van, my father in the driver’s seat. It was a rare moment of being alone with him (I am the oldest of four.) I can’t remember where we were going. We passed the remains of Playland Amusement Park in Rockaway and its rickety wooden roller coaster as we drove east. A graffiti covered A train lumbered slowly past us. John Denver’s ‘Leaving, On A Jet Plane’ wafted from the speakers. I sang the words with my dad as planes took off from JFK and, seemingly weightless, disappeared above us into the sky.

Later in life the soundtrack was more one of my choosing. Sitting on the bus on the way home from cross-country practice, walkman in hand and headphones on, listening to Blondie, New Order, Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Tribe Called Quest, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others. I remember crying during the song ‘Enola Gay’ by OMD as I sat in the way way back of a station wagon on en route to Great Adventure watching the lush green trees blur into the bright blue cloud speckled sky through my tears; Destroyed by the story of a soldier returning home to his wife to find he is a ghost. I remember singing ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ by the Go-Go’s with half the track team on the way to a Fordham University invitational meet and meaning every word of that song. “Pay no mind to what they say, it doesn’t matter anyway. Our lips are sealed.” And I remember belting ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll’ by Joan Jett and the Black Hearts on our way back from a performance of Annie, windows down and the cool November air flipping through our hair.

Once I was in New York music took on another form of soundtrack. At the Fulton Street Station of the 4 & 5 trains I could clearly hear the drum beat of the Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Breaking the Girl’ as trains pulled into the station. BUM-bada-dum BUM bada-dum BUM bada-dum BUM BUM BUM “twisting and turning your feelings are burning you’re breaking the girl….” I heard that song every day for the year I stood on that platform waiting for the train to my coffee shop job.

There were the smoky cafes playing Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, the bars with the jukebox blasting ‘Sweet Caroline’, book stores playing Natalie Merchant and Tracy Chapman, record shops playing the oldest Sex Pistols LP or the newest Nine Inch Nails release. And then there were the coffee shops like Heaven where I worked with a girl who introduced me to Ani Difranco and Elliott Smith. I returned the favor introducing her to Billy Bragg and Fugazi. I remember the first time I heard Ani Difranco’s ‘Not A Pretty Girl’. The smell of blueberry muffins, nearly finished baking, filled the room and the espresso grinder hummed as I prepped a latte. “…and imagine you’re a girl just trying to finally come clean, knowing full well they’d prefer you were dirty and smiling.” The smells and sounds of that moment will forever be associated with that song for in that moment the story she told changed me and became part of my story.

As I drove home last week with the mid afternoon winter sun bouncing off the snow, NPR’s Studio 360 was doing a story on Nirvana. Instantly I was transported back to Tower Records on Broadway and East 4th Street in the early 90’s. I remember flipping through the rows of CD’s as Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ blasted through the store. The song seemed to define my mindset, and perhaps the mindset of most of my friends who were thumbing through CD’s with me. It was pure, raw emotion and the story was not an easily understood story, which pretty much summed up my emotional state at the time. Now, hearing Nirvana on NPR as I drove to grab my kids from school, I was reminded how much of my life’s memories are scored to their own extended soundtrack- an eclectic diverse collection spanning decades and genres, involving countless numbers of people who knowingly or unwittingly became part the music. A musical soundtrack that is sometimes dark and deep, sometimes dance worthy and sometimes just a ton of fun. 

City Girl in the ‘Burbs

The first several years of my life were lived a few yards from the thundering Atlantic ocean on Beach 129th Street in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Wildlife came by way of seagull, pigeon, the occasional crab and sometime dolphin. The rest remained under the surface of the sea. At 18 I moved to Manhattan and spent the next 21 years living apartment life. Dogs were on leashes except in dog parks. Cats were indoors except for those being rescued by an animal rescue organization. Rats were poisoned and mice met their fate in  a snap trap. Even those animals living in the Central Park Zoo lived the city life, returning to their comfy indoor shelters at night. In the city it is light even when it is night. There are no darkened streets. When it snows the plows and neighbors armed with shovels begin removing it before it is over. And when the snowfall has ended  big snow melters are used to melt the large snow piles on the corner. When it is hot the AC blows from every business and apartment building door. You need sweaters for August shopping trips. Even the subway cars seem chilly after a long mid-July ride.

In other words, I have not spent much of my life in nature. Or even suburban nature. As such, there are some stories to share. Here I give you two.


Each December, just before Christmas, my children’s school erects a stable. It is small, with only a back wall and 2 half walls and a roof that really is the width of the awning outside Left Bank Books in the West Village. (Anyone who has ever sought shelter under that awning in a rainfall or snowstorm quickly discovers it is useless.) Then a bunch of stable animals arrive, a goat, some sheep, a donkey. It is all in preparation for Christmas and the quite lovely live Nativity the children put on during an evening of caroling.

Well, I pull up one blustery morning with cold rain falling and flurries on the way. I see the animals standing there and can’t decide if they are bored or freezing. And then I realize that the office probably doesn’t know it is raining and windy. So I march into school and announce to the secretary “It’s raining and flurries are  on the way! Would you like help putting the animals away?”

The whole office went silent. “Excuse me?” the secretary asked. “I’m not sure where you put them, but I’m happy to help get them inside.” I say, thinking they didn’t really hear me or were perhaps stunned that a city girl like myself would be so willing to handle the farm animals. Then she and the other secretary and some women I hadn’t met yet began laughing.

I learned then that they stay outside. Under that awful half roof next to the sorry bale of hay. And they are apparently very happy about it (if not bored) and are not at all freezing to death. As I left I stopped by their double fenced pen and whispered “The animals get indoor houses in Central Park.” I’m pretty sure the donkey thought I was an ass.


Everyone who has never lived in New York City thinks those that live there must be very familiar with crime. I enjoy stating that I have lived in every borough other than Staten Island and very rarely witnessed crime at all. I was never mugged (knock on wood) and pretty much just skated by. I figure people either knew I had nothing or thought I was too crazy to bother with. Either way, I came out of my nearly whole life of city living quite unscathed.

You can imagine my dismay driving through my sister’s Jersey Shore neighborhood in early December to see nothing but one slaughtered Christmas lawn ornament after another. Just the night before they were all lit up and inflated, bobbing in the wind, looking like those punching bags you can’t knock over. One neighbor’s lawn featured Santa going down the chimney. Another a snowman. And several had penguins and reindeer and even a Snoopy & Woodstock display that took up much of the property.

But today, they all lay there, crumpled up and splayed out. And I was aghast. Who would do such a thing in this neighborhood? Clearly these suburban children have way too much time on their hands. Teenagers in NYC are still trying to figure out the subway and 2 bus routes to class each day coupled with getting past the metal detector when you have you ear, nose and throat pierced. City kids would never run around slaughtering Christmas decorations! What is wrong with these kids? Don’t they know their neighbors own guns?!

I got to my sister’s house and promptly announced the mass slaughter to her police officer neighbor who I saw had his own Frosty slaughtered as well. “I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed. At this he responded by plugging in Frosty. Which promptly shot up and began dancing in the breeze. “No one slashed the decorations, Alison. We just unplug them during the day.” I believe he thought of me the same as the donkey. What an ass!

Unsubscribing…I hope.

I spent 4 hours unsubscribing from countless email lists on Sunday. These included everything from clothing retailers to furniture retailers, gardening sites to President Obama. And each time I pushed the unsubscribe button I got taken to a page that asked me to enter in my email address (really?), take a short survey and on many occasions asked me to explain why I was leaving (double really?)

Seriously- most of these servers started emailing me without my conscious consent. It just happened. I forgot to check the right box when buying something or tried to stay away from the BPA toxins on those receipts by having them email it to me. Or it could be all those donations I make to the ASPCA or Defenders of the Wildlife, but I don’t think so- wolves and dogs and cats rarely sell email addresses. But damn, however you got me, you got me by way of nearly 100 emails each day in an already cluttered inbox.

And then, like the boyfriend who just doesn’t get it, you have to go and draw it out, make it difficult, ask a bunch of questions. Haven’t you caused enough strife and frustration already?

Over the course of 4 hours I answered your ridiculous questions as if we had a relationship and was honest about it (sort of, I didn’t want to hurt the server’s feelings). I just get too many emails. And those offers you mention, or that bill that needs passing, well- your email isn’t convincing me to buy or vote or donate another $5.00 (Note to the Democratic National Party– Please stop asking me for another $5.00. I’m not giving any of you $5.00 until you and your fellow Republican/Democrat/Tea Partying/Independent politicians take a pay cut and get the same health insurance you’re peddling to me.)

I did all of this on Sunday. It is now Wednesday, a full 3 days later, and many of them are still emailing me. Loft, Ann Taylor, Michael Moore,, MyHabit- they just don’t seem to get that we are really over.

J. Crew on the other hand left me alone immediately. Kudos to them! When I exchange the sweater I received for Christmas I may just buy something extra for their complete understanding that our email affair was over when I said it was.

And for all you email servers out there pondering a possible digital romance with my inbox- please don’t. It will be a waste of both of our time. You’d be much better canoodling with a girl in possession of a credit card, or at least a decent credit score. Just don’t ask her for $5.00. It’s a turn off.