Brooklyn Subway Shooting

As the day ends, I feel worse than I did in the morning when I first watched a Fox5 local news report of the subway shooting in Brooklyn.

At 8:24 a.m. a man wearing an orange construction vest and hardhat opened fire inside an N train rolling into the 36th Street station.

A person of interest was cited on the police briefing this evening.

As a lifelong city girl who was born in Brooklyn and lives there today, I won’t take the subway unless I’m forced to when there’s no other option.

What happened and where it happened is curious to me.

The 36th Street station on Fourth Avenue is in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

A neighborhood of immigrants on low incomes. Abogados and Mercados and Taquerias line Fifth Avenue from Fortieth Street to Sixtieth Street.

Curious to me it is why a gunman would shoot subway riders passing through a low-income neighborhood.

The crime was most likely planned down to each specific detail and every specific minute.

A key to a U-Haul truck was found at the crime scene. The gunman was thought to have boarded the train at the Kings Highway stop.

It’s one thing to drive a U-Haul truck to New York City and board a train right after.

I think the gunman must have had an accomplice parked in a van outside the 36th Street subway entrance.

How else could the shooter have escaped and not been caught yet?

A 9mm Glock was found at the crime scene. It had been fired 33 times.

We cannot engage in “guilt-by-association” of individuals that look like the person of interest shown on the news.

What’s the most terrible thing is that citizens will turn out to vote for Republicans they believe will crack down on crime.

In New York City a lot of us think bail reform has allowed people who commit minor crimes to remain loose on the street to commit bigger crimes.

What is the root cause of the violent crime that occurs in neighborhoods like East New York in Brooklyn?

The disintegration of families is thought to be a contributing factor to the unravelling of communities.

Living in poverty can’t be a shiny happy experience for young people either.

The person of interest in this shooting is 62 years old and not from here.

Today’s subway attack was the exception to the rule.

If you’re a tourist and have the cash to be able to vacation here, most likely you can afford to take a cab around this town.

I wouldn’t advise taking the subway if you can help it.

One night I was taking the train home. A stranger across from me (he was a strange man likely) started giving advice to two women sitting near him that he didn’t know.

Then there’s the drunks. And the flashers. The guy in a gray flannel coat lying on a seat like he’s sleeping in bed.

The panhandlers. A trio of Mariachi singers crooning for coins. A quartet of beggars belting out “Under the Boardwalk” in the summer.

The cold calculated attention-to-detail of the subway shooter today is what creeps me out.

This was no symptomatic person with a mental illness pushing a woman onto the subway tracks.

My goal when I retire from my job is to take cabs everywhere.

One thing isn’t talked about. I’ll be the only one talking about this now. Just like I’ve been the only one talking about other things.

If you ask me inequality comes down to geography. Geography often determines your biography.

On Staten Island where I used to live all the housing projects were located out of view and miles away from retail stores. Geographic isolation can’t be a good thing.

In 1987 in college, I took an Economic Geography course. My 18-page term paper talked about the effect of sanctions on apartheid in South Africa.

The fact that today’s gunman carefully planned and executed a shooting exactly where he carried it out says something.

Continuing to toss teenagers who commit low-level crimes into Rikers is not the Republican solution we need to halt this crime wave.

If your only role model is a Blood or Crip that doesn’t bode well for your future prospects.

I’ll end here with this: it’s not the crime itself that is the problem. It’s the societal ills that cause the crime that need to be rectified.

On Individuality

As I roll into another birthday all of this resonates with me:

How repressing our Self leads to ill health.

How what makes us different makes us beautiful.

How daring to be vocal about what’s not right in the world is not only necessary it should be expected when we reach mid-life.

My literary agent is working with me on a book proposal project. She edited one sentence. She replaced the word Visionary that I used and changed it to radical.

What I write is radical at times. I write things and talk about things that no one else is writing or talking about.

I’m often the first one–and the only one–doing this.

As 54 beckons, and I look around and see what’s happening outside around me I can’t help but think that courage is warranted.

We need to have the guts to stand up and shout about it when something’s not right.

We need to have the courage to stand tall when other people refuse to treat their fellow human beings with dignity.

It’s sad that acting true to yourself is seen as courageous.

It should be expected and accepted that every one of has the right to be ourselves.

This struck me more so as an inviolable creed after riding a crowded city bus one night.

I came home and realized that the way to live is to have no fear.

So I would like to tell readers of this blog: Dare to be You.

God broke the mold after he made you. God doesn’t make junk. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Whether you are Christian or not and whether you practice some kind of actual religion or not I trust you can understand the underlying theme:

Basing how you live–even so far as deciding how to dress–on fear of what people think, on fear of standing out, on any kind of fear is not the way to live.

The older I get with my life getting shorter I think:

“You don’t have time to waste trying to impress people who are cowards.

You’re the only one who has to accept and be impressed by yourself.”

It’s a fool’s errand trying to conform to what other people tell you is the only way to live, act, be, and dress.

Downtown Train

green coat

This is the coat that proves my point that fashion isn’t frivolous.

Wherever I go people compliment me on the coat. Even a homeless guy (I kid you not) told me: “That’s an attractive coat.”

It’s from J.Crew and was touted as peacock green. I used a 25 percent off coupon code to buy it.

The coat seems to put others in a good mood when I wear it.

I boarded the downtown train. Clutched the pole near the door because it was standing room only.

After two stops I felt a hand on my sleeve. I turned around thinking it was someone who knew me wanting to say hello.

A guy standing nearby motioned to a newly empty seat. “Thank you.” I sat down.

As soon as I arrived home I installed the Tom Waits song “Downtown Train” in my iTunes library. Waits’ gravelly voice is like no other.

I was touched that a stranger didn’t take the empty seat for himself. Such acts of human kindness restore my faith in the inherent goodness of people.

Is hate learned? I don’t think people are born hating. It comes from seeing others as competition. I talked about the American pie metaphor years ago in this blog: how everyone’s grabbing not just for their fair share, but bigger and bigger slices at the expense of allowing others to have their slices.

The scarcity mindset (Brene Brown wrote about it in one of her books) is alive and well. This mindset is reinforced when citizens are allowed to go hungry. When others are told they must compete to get into elite colleges. When any number of prerequisites are imposed for obtaining success.

There’s a better way. There’s a way out of the fear of not having enough or being enough.

It starts with practicing gratitude. It continues with having compassion.

As we head into the holidays I want to give some insight in this blog that I think can empower readers.

A quote goes like this: gratitude is when what you have is enough.

Especially at this time of year a lot of us can be depressed. My goal is to help readers feel good.

It comes down to slowing down and stopping to smell the American beauties of life.

Seeing the beauty in yourself and others is a way to feel merry and bright. Good people are out there. Kind people are out there.

In the next blog entry I’ll quote a star athlete who riffs on feeling good in the guest column she wrote in the New York Times this week.


Manhattan After Dark

Just Another Night on the Other Side of Town:

The driver took only thirty-five minutes to take me to Avenue A. Two hours early for the literary event I acted as a flaneur walking about the streets around St. Mark’s Place.

Live bands were performing in Tompkins Square Park. I sat on a bench in the park for fifteen minutes. A tall dude decided to sit on the bench right near me when the other benches were empty.

A woman joined him yet didn’t sit down. She circled around talking in front of us. Feared I looked like a turista with the Brooklyn, NY logo tote I carried. My shoes were Missoni Converse.

The secret to surviving in New York City after dark is to act weird. To put on your game face when you’re outside. I’ve figured out that no one will mess with you when your sneakers are Converse.

As I’m sitting on the bench I think: Might it have been unwise to wear a sterling silver necklace out on the street? It was a gift from my mother, she bought it in Mexico in the 1990s.

The tall dude is smoking a blunt next to me. In New York City there’s a new rule: people caught toking marijuana in public aren’t supposed to be arrested. They’re supposed to be let go. That fits with my Green Party mantra that non-violent drug users shouldn’t be sent to jail.

Only it’s not so great when you’re walking down the street and reefer smoke is invading your nostrils everywhere you go. You didn’t sign up to get a contact high just sitting on a park bench minding your business.

The tall dude asks a nearby guy: “Got a cigarette?”

“An American is seventy-five cents.”

The girl is still wandering around in front of us. She can tell I’m not a street person. My pocketbook is next to me on the park bench. She doesn’t try to shake me down, just stands there talking to the tall dude.

It’s a different city than the Manhattan of my youth.

Yet the people are the same walking down the street: wearing an autumn overcoat, or dressed all in black with white sneakers, or carrying a tragicomic backpack.

Fifteen minutes later I get up off the bench and go to my destination.

Yet I will forever remember this scene.



You want to be a writer? Sit on a park bench and observe people. Keep an open mind. Compose sentences like you’re filming scenes in a movie.




New York City Aubade

New York City has been overtaken by multi-million dollar high-rise apartments dotting once downtrodden areas like the Lower East Side.

You have to be rich to live here today. Like Patti Smith–one of my favorite artists–told newbies: Forget coming here.

I’m proud that I wasn’t ever guilty of gentrifying a neighborhood by moving into it. Mostly because the neighborhoods I’ve moved into no one else wanted to live in.

What’s the appeal then of living here? Listen to the song “New York Cares” to understand why those of us who fell in love with Manhattan when we were young are committed to staying.

For a mere $10 dollar cover you can attend a poetry reading.

The host of one event told me: “You look good. You have a tan.”

Actually, I wore Lancome Teint Idole foundation in 260 Bisque N. I have ghost skin and don’t understand the appeal of getting a tan. I have ivory skin with a pink undertone. It’s the foundation I bought after getting the latest Sephora makeover.

You have a 5-minute time limit during the open reading. The clapping is thunderous before and after you read.

The featured readers at the poetry events always want you to buy their books.

I showed up in one of my mod skate park outfits: a cotton black-and-white stripe tee shirt dress, black leggings, and hot pink Converse. I wore a pink bandanna as a head wrap.

As I walked down the street before the event a guy who was a stranger who saw me coming said: “I like your head wrap.”

“Thanks.” I smiled at him and walked on by.

This time of year in New York City is magical and unforgettable. Street vendors sell their wares at tables in the West Village. With a little time before ducking in to read I struck up a conversation with a guy selling jewelry.

“Sterling silver. Not nickel. Don’t take it off when you wash your hands.” He referred to a ring I tried on.

That was good to know as I’ve lost too many rings taking them off in public restrooms and forgetting them. Keep your ring on your finger when you’re washing up. Simply avoid the area where the ring is if it’s a stone like turquoise.

Life is too precious and material things are just temporary joys. They won’t last forever, so wash up with your ring on your finger and be okay with this.

“Are you Italian?” The vendor asked after I paid him.

“Si.” I nodded “Have a great weekend.”

After the event I exited into the cool night. My Levi jacket draped across my shoulders as I hailed a cab.

The chapter titles of my memoir Left of the Dial are actually song titles from the early era in my life when the city was a wonderland.

One chapter “Cotton Crown” was misspelled because the actually song title I believe is “Kotton Krown.” The song is by Sonic Youth and it’s the 1980s anthem to New York City.

The song lyrics talk about mystery and chemistry. As a person who takes medication I was always entranced with the idea of taking control of the chemistry.

New York City will forever hold an allure for us rebels, beautiful dreamers, and creative folk drawn to the undiluted pockets of energy on side streets teeming with cafes and restaurants.

Here and there you can still find vestiges of the Vanished New York. They’re harder to find as For Rent signs dot the landscape where mom-and-pop stores used to be.

Yet walking down the street and being cheered on for wearing a head wrap reminds me that it’s true:

Your dreams aren’t ever too crazy here, they’re beautiful and so are you.

Wearing a Cross on Halloween

cross halloween

It’s time to fight the hate.

I urge you:

Act with love.

Speak with kindness.

Wear your hijab.

Confirm your sexual identity.

Walk down any street in America.

Wear your cross.

The first time I ever wore this featured cross in the photo out in public was yesterday. It was Halloween in America. Wearing a cross was a brave act considering that a guy driving a truck killed 8 people in my hometown of New York City.

He has been indicted on charges as a terrorist fueled by ISIS propaganda.

Thus it seems strangely bold and daring that I wore a cross out in public yesterday.

As a Christian wearing a cross, I could’ve been targeted.

It feels like a perverse synchronicity (unbeknownst to me on waking in the morning). I had no idea that later in the day a terrorist act would happen.

I had no idea that wearing the cross would have any significance beyond making a fashion statement.

I pray that haters–in society, in the world, wherever they are–come to their senses and choose love instead of bombs and compassion instead of killing.

Right now wearing a cross could’ve gotten me killed. I had no idea that wearing a cross would turn out to be an unwitting political statement.

People come here from other countries to have rights.

Women come here from the Middle East so they can drive a car. Can you imagine not being allowed to drive a car because you’re a woman? In 2017?

This is why good people come here to raise their sons and daughters.

They’re American now and don’t want to be subjected to “guilt-by-association” any more than I do.

New York City is famously touted as “The Greatest City in the World.”

In all my time here (I was born here and still live here and won’t ever leave) I must have interacted personally one-on-one with thousands of Muslim Americans. I’m confident when I say thousands not just hundreds.

We must stand together now in solidarity to tell the haters:

We will not tolerate your crimes against fellow human beings.

We will not condone your hate. We will not live in fear.

We will live together as one human family on earth.

We will uphold the rights of everyone living in America–and I do mean everyone–regardless of color, creed, sexual preference, mental health diagnosis, and any other thing that has historically marked us as different from each other.

Now you see: why I dare to live my life Left of the Dial.

Why I dare to identify with other people who have mental health challenges.

There can be no shame in being who you are. There can be no shame in living and acting true to yourself. There can be no shame for any of us.

New York City is my hometown. Everyone is welcome here.

It particularly saddens me that 5 tourists–college buddies–from South America were killed.


bracelet purse

This quote sums up to me the 1980s and that era in music and fashion:

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T. S. Eliot

The other day I ducked into an Urban Outfitters store.

This was a cheaper bracelet purse I found. What’s not to love about cheaper?

Are they solely a New York City thing? Or throughout America?

Browsing Urban Outfitters reminded me of shopping in Unique Clothing Warehouse in the 1980s.

Remember Zoot? Antique Boutique? Trash and Vaudeville?

All were clothing stores in New York City in the 1980s.

They vanished like Manhattan over the years.

Now there’s a Starbucks on every corner.

What’s sad is that Tom Petty died. There was a tribute to his music on a WAYO show.

For a burst of music reminiscent of the 1980s you can go on WAYO FM.

The Sunday afternoon show streamed live via their Internet website features songs like the B-52s “Give Me Back My Man.”

Kate and Michael host the show. They’re two great disc jockeys.

The radio station broadcasts from Rochester, NY.

As of today, I’m writing a second memoir. I’m keeping its contents under wraps like a pashmina. I hope to publish this second memoir later in my fifties.

Just to say here it will be a version of Left of the Dial in overdrive.

With music, clothes, and boys.

Winter in New York

The tourists are now out clogging the streets of our fair city. I’ve always loved the tourists even though others joke about them.

Whenever you go there Times Square is as crowded as if it’s noon. With the fluorescent lights it’s like an eternal noontime on 42nd Street. Even at nine o’clock in the evening it’s bustling and bright with people and lights.

I dipped into Sephora and bought Fresh Sugar lip scrub. This beauty emporium played alternative holiday music. You’ve got to love Sephora.

Ten of us took our seats in the theater. The words quickly popped out of my mouth as I eyed the women in the seats in back of us.

“We’re the opening act.” I laughed as my family coordinated where to sit. You need to have a sense of humor about things.

We saw Circ du Soleil perform Paramour and the play was exceptional. It featured the amazing acrobatics and a great story.

I recommend seeing Paramour if you’re a tourist in New York City. Even if the cost of the tickets will set you back a pretty penny.

Winter in New York IS a magical time.

Here’s to you, Verna from South Bend, Indiana!

All-American Social Club

July 9, 2016

All-American Social Club

This was my America inside the club:

A dreadlocked Adonis in Nike trainers chatted up a chica.

An Asian woman in Breton striped danced with a lightning-haired guy.

An African American woman in a purple shirt danced magnificent with a white woman to the cover band.

This is the America I know: free souls at the social club choosing to buck the system that divides us.

We keep on rockin’ in the real world.


A Tale of Two Citizens

The events I talk about below are as different as night and day.

They point to the reality that stereotyping people isn’t the way to go.

Late One Summer:

I’m standing on a street corner in an Orthodox neighborhood talking on my cell phone. A guy in his black suit walks by and turns to look at me:

“Have a Great Day Miss–it’s a beautiful morning–a Great Day to you!” He smiled.

“Have a great day too!” I smiled back and marveled at the guy’s sunny good humor to want to welcome an outsider like me.

This stands in contrast to 15 years ago. In an Orthodox neighborhood I’m closing a building and the last guy is leaving. It’s another summer and he’s wearing his black suit too.

“Are you Jewish?” he asked me. “No.” “So you’re Italian.” He figured it out. “Yes.”

“Well you don’t hate us yet you don’t like us,” he continued.

I hadn’t ever met this guy before in my life and within five minutes he was accusing me of being anti-Semitic. I always remembered this.

It reminded me of the Depeche Mode song “People Are People” from the 1980s. Their lead singer crooned that he didn’t understand what could make a man hate another man.

To stereotype another person is not something I want to do. It would be like changing my eyes from brown to blue–impossible.

As an author I’m entranced with difference–with the passions and peculiarities of human beings that make good characters in a book as well as in real life.

Days later “It’s a beautiful morning” kept ringing out in my head. I can see that cheerful man even now telling me: “Have a great day miss!”

I urge readers to understand that hate is not the way to go–violence is not the way to go–killing is not the way to go. Not even in response to hate racism or any other stigma.

Does it really feel good to simmer in a stew of anger? Is that how we should live our lives–hating and attacking each other?

As a writer if I were going to write an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times I know what I’d write about: compassionate people making a difference.

In this life I know who impresses me more: the guy with a heart as big as the Montana sky.