A parable

God on His golden throne looked down on the earth and sighed. He called unto Himself all the smartest people in Heaven and they came, trailing clouds of glory, to hear His will.

“I despair,” said the Lord. “I meant for humankind to be the pinnacle of my Creation. Yet behold, they choose for their leaders the most selfish and evil among them. They persecute and kill each other and they lay waste on all sides. If they continue on this course they’ll soon destroy the emerald planet I made for them. What shall I do?”

From the smart people came the chorus, “Smite them! Smite them!”

“No,” the Lord said. “Honestly, I could have thought of that without you all clogging up my throne room. But I promised humankind free will. They must be allowed to choose their fate but they must NOT be allowed to proceed as they are doing. You were all human once. You know how they think. Who among you can make a suggestion?”

Silence fell among the smart people. Until finally one spoke up.

“Well,” said Charles Darwin, “I have an idea.”

Social distancing? Gimme a break. We’re squirrels.

Neither of these guys is the baby, who comes as soon as I fill the feeder, before the bigger squirrels and the birds get here. I think he sits and waits. These two are siblings, two of the four born in the tree this year. Things were not this amicable for long. They kept whacking each other over the head and diving for the best seeds. They did share the feeder without actually chasing each other off, though. A big crow came to watch, but he clearly decided the whole thing was just going to be trouble, so he left. Bella practically lost her mind over the two squirrels, but she was a little intimidated by the size of the crow. So was I.

 

 

 

Putting your money where your, er, mouth is

NYC’s MOFAD – Museum of Food and Drink – has compiled a list  of food-, food-industry, and chef-related resources focused on communities and individuals of color.
And Ethnojunkie has posted a list
of black-owned restaurants and eateries in NYC.
Once we’re in Phase 2, you know where to go.

Proud to be a member

I’m reposting this statement from the MWA Board of Directors. Thank you, MWA.

A Statement from Mystery Writers of America

New York City, Right Now

A couple of people have asked if I’d write about what it’s like here in NYC these days. First, thanks for your concern, those of you who’ve asked if I and mine are okay. We are; I know what it looks like on the TV news, but this is not a war zone. I went to the Greenmarket this morning, on the north side of Union Square; the south side has been the staging area for the Manhattan protests. The farmers were selling produce and bread, people were shopping, folks were wearing masks and being orderly. Nevertheless, when I asked one of the farmers whether there’d been extra thought given to whether to come in today, she said no but they expected the market would shut down early as it had on Saturday to give people a chance to clear out before the protests started.

I’ve been hearing helicopters since Friday, sirens occasionally. I’m in the West Village, about a mile from Union Square itself and a mile from Soho, where a lot of luxury shops were hit hard. Near Union Square I saw three broken windows — a restaurant, where the bar had been looted, a Verizon store, and a sneaker store. Nothing else, though some stores are boarding up in anticipation of more to come tonight.

Will there be more tonight? I suspect so, but I also think the intensity will taper off. In normal times it would taper way off as people went back to work, but of course part of the problem is everyone’s been out of work for nearly three months.

I’ve seen videos of the looting at Gucci, at Dolce & Gabbana, and I’ve seen a lot of posts asking, “How does this help?” Also, photos of destruction with “I’ve never seen NYC like this!” captions.

First, for the NYC-has-hit-the-apocalypse crowd, I refer you to the 1970’s fiscal crisis, to AIDS, to 9/11 — oh, go look it up: the history of NYC. We’ve been here before. We’ll be here when this is over.

Second, and more important, for the “How does this help?” people, I suggest that’s the wrong question. For the record, nobody’s saying looting Gucci “helps.” But I’ll bet a lot of good upright citizens in 1773 asked, “How does this help?” when rioters seized 342 chests of tea from ships of the British East India Company — a private company — and dumped it overboard to protest government action. The rationale then was the same as now, and can be encapsulated into this: when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police killing black men, he was called a son of a bitch by the sitting President and he lost his job. Or this: the Tulsa Race Massacre, 99 years ago to the day today, when white Tulsa rose up and, burning, murdering, and rampaging, destroyed the most prosperous black community in the country. (Did you learn about that riot in school?) Or this: the NYC Draft Riots of 1863, when a group of white men, angry at being drafted into the Army by a white President to fight other white men, lynched black men and burned buildings, including the Colored Orphan Asylum, to the ground. (Did you learn about that riot in school?)

I suggest that instead of uttering a rhetorical gasp, people might  read Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Colson Whitehead, Attica Locke, Ta-Nehisi Coates; to listen to measured voices, which are speaking even now; and to ask the only question that can even begin to stop this endless repetition, which is: “How can I help?”

New Dining Spot Opens in Far West Village

Multispecies Dining and Entertainment, Extremely Ltd., headquartered at Rancho Obsesso on Long Island’s North Fork, has opened an outpost in a leafy backyard near Washington Street in Manhattan. Appropriately dubbed the Fire Escape Café (“Where the Tweet and the Fleet Meet”) this casually intimate eatery features easy access and a limited but well-prepared menu served in a wittily re-purposed frying pan. The proprietor is eager to please and the security staff is assiduous but unobtrusive. No reservations; we recommend arriving early, as once the day’s offerings are gone the proprietor pulls down the shade and the security staff takes a well-deserved rest.

Early morning diner

 

Patron waits for entry

 

Security staff in the break room

 

 

 

Hey, all you maskless joggers!

Yeah, you who go barreling barefaced down the paths in a crowded park, huffing and spewing. Are you telling me your lungs are too weak to suck in air through a couple of layers of cloth? Or is it your brain that lacks the ability to coordinate your hand pulling a mask down when you’re not near someone else and pulling it up when you are? If either of those things is true you shouldn’t be out running, you belong in an institution.

I know you feel fine and you’re young and you own the world. Here’s the thing. The mask I wear isn’t to protect me, it’s to protect you. If you wore one it would be for other people, too. Here’s the next thing. There’s a 100% chance some of you are asymptomatic spreaders. 100%! And here’s the last thing. When your loved ones get sick and die it will be because some non-thinking moron like you breathed COVID all over them.

So how about you man- and woman-up and start acting like actual adults instead of the fine physical specimens no one cares that you think you are? Get a goddamn mask!

And to the runners who went by me today masked, thank you. May your lungs grow ever more powerful and your legs never tire.

Six Word Stories Return From Retirement!

Based on a suggestion from the estimable Marjorie Tucker, the Six Word Story contest is coming out of retirement for the duration of the stay-at-home order in NY State. That is, the s-a-h order in NYS; the contest is available to anyone, everywhere.

How it works: you post a six word story in the comments here on the blog, or on either Facebook page unto which I will share this blog post when it’s done. No topic is required, suggested, or excluded.

Each week, based on criteria I will divulge to no one, I’ll choose a winner for the week’s contest. Every Wednesday I’ll start a new contest. That way, maybe at least once a week we’ll all know what day it is.

You may begin.

 

 

We interrupt the Cuba posts…

They’ll be back. But I want to talk about Assisi. Every time I say, “Hey, I’m teaching in Assisi this summer, come do a workshop!” some of you say you wish you’d known sooner, and some say, yes, you’ll come some year…

So here’s the thing. For you folks who wish you’d known sooner, it’s January and the program starts at the end of July! This is about as soon as I could tell you!

For you folks saying some year, I get it, I really do, but: Notre Dame will be under scaffolding for the next 20 years. Yes, I know that’s not in Italy. My point: if you’d been saying “some year” about seeing Notre Dame…

I understand if you can’t afford it. Though keep in mind that one, right now the workshop has an early bird 10% off special; and two, many organizations give in-service kinds of grants to help with this type of thing, especially if you’re an educator. The dollar is strong right now and flight prices are low.

But if something besides money is holding you back, let me entice you: the hotel is lovely (we all stay there, all classes are held there, we all dine together), the food is wonderful, the town is quiet and beautiful, and — your book isn’t writing itself!

COME TO ASSISI!

 

 

 

Havana domiciles, Part 2

First, I found you a photo of Monty’s apartment from the living room looking out to the terrace. Those chairs are where we had morning coffee, fruit, and bread, before embarking on the day.

 

Now: Monty and his nephew Sam, my traveling companions, have cousins in Cuba. The connection is through Monty’s mother, a Cuban who met and married an American in North Carolina (where I’ll be in a few weeks for the Crime Scene Mystery Bookfest in Fearrington, she says parenthetically) in the 1940’s. They weren’t living in Cuba when the Revolution came, but much of the family was. What happened was, if you supported the Revolution and stayed, and you owned a house, you could keep it, though if you also had rental properties the government took them and gave them to poor families — often those who’d been renting from you. If you left, whatever property you left behind was forfeit. (Thus the supply of gorgeous Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern furniture in the used furniture shops.)

The cousins, Olimpia and Carlos, believed in the Revolution and stayed — in fact Carlos, an economist, worked at the Cuban Consulate in Berlin for a number of years. They had a terrific Art Deco house and they have it still. It was built by an artist, and has a garden and a breezeway to a rear building that served as his studio, and now houses Olimpia and Carlos’s son Pepe and his family.

Olimpia and Pepe in front of the house.

 

Back house, interior. All original 1930’s.

 

Front house, staircase.

Front house, display nook under staircase.

 

Front house, secret bathroom behind display nook.

 

 

Cousins in the garden. Monty, my buddy and traveling companion, is in the white shirt on the sofa, and Sam is the bearded guy standing on the right. Standing with him are Pepe, Pepe’s sister Claudia, and one of Claudia’s sons. Seated are Olimpia, Claudia’s other son (he’s in the Army) and Carlos. Pepe’s wife and kids were traveling, and Claudia’s husband was working. The garden has four mango trees but it wasn’t mango season, sob.