Archive for SJ’s Photos

I Love New York

It’s not uncommon here to see plastic bottles and aluminum cans left beside trash containers, for street people to collect and redeem for the nickel or dime. People often place them carefully so they won’t blow away. This, however, was new to me: a pile, worth a couple of bucks, with its own handy carrying bag. I love New York.

It’s my birthday, and I’ll buy if I want to

But I don’t want to — I want YOU to. What I want for my birthday is for each and all of you to rush out and buy yourself a copy of this fabulous book. Then buy one for a friend, as an early, or belated, birthday present. Available wherever fine books are sold.

Why, you ask? Because it has heartbreaking, or funny, or breathtaking stories by such writers as Alice Walker, Walter Mosley, Paul Theroux, and well, ME. Not enough, you say? It has art by folks like Eric Fischl, Art Spiegelman, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. More, you want? We, the writers and artists, do not get the profits; nor does Simon and Schuster, who published it. Who does? The ACLU!

So — get yourself, and a friend, or many friends, a great book (and yes, it comes in e form), make a contribution to the ACLU, and celebrate the fact that I’m a year older.

Well, someone has to celebrate it. Not me. But get this book!

Bella the Cat

Here is Bella the Cat taking a drink. Note the balletic posture, left shoulder up, right paw crossed over and down for balance as she prepares to stick her snout into the H2O. Shocked, you ask yourself: what evil cat owner would make it this difficult for a kitty to get at her hydration?

Well, here’s the thing: this is not her water dish. Her water dish is an ignored object on the kitchen floor. It sits beside her food dish and is refilled every morning with the same fresh water as is in this. THIS is for the plants, to help humidify them. The previous cat, The Late Great Fugazy, never gave it a thought.

But from the moment — three days into her residence here — when Bella finally crawled out from under the bed to explore her surroundings, she found the water in this bowl much tastier than the water in her dish.

In reality, this is what I think is going on: Bella was a foundling. She was adopted as a kitten by some folks who wanted a friend for their aging cat. Bella, though, was too aggressive — in fact she was so pushy they named her after Bella Abzug. (Now that’s a real NY story, huh?) Finally the older cat was so terrorized she stopped eating, and they decided Bella had to go. So she came here.  I think she must have survived on the streets until her adoption by a combination of aggression and sneakiness. Even now she doesn’t like to eat while I’m in the kitchen — if I come in while she’s eating she’ll run away. Otherwise she never avoids me (quite the contrary, e.g. she’s on my lap right now) but while she’s eating she wants to be alone. I think this water ballet business also has to do with making sure those other cats whom she used to have to fight for food on the street can’t sneak up on her while she’s stealing water from the out-of-the-way puddle. I also bet that if I put a food dish up there, that would be her dish of choice, too. Too bad that’s not about to happen.

Snowy Owl!

Despite the 17 degree temps when we left in the morning, I went out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve with the intrepid Keith Michael in search of Snowy Owls, which Keith had seen out there last week. And look!

According to another birder we met out there, this one is a juvenile — you can tell because it’s not pure white. She — I don’t know how he knew, but he kept calling it “she” — was just snoozing on the marsh. The above photo’s a zoom-in; she was a  dot from where we were and we wouldn’t have seen her except the guy had a massive camera on a tripod pointed right at her.

She’s the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen (yay!) and following the Urban Birder’s Owl Protocol, which I only learned about yesterday, I’m not supposed to say exactly where she was so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by gawkers while she’s trying to sleep, owls being nocturnal creatures and birders mostly diurnal ones. But she was at Jamaica Bay, so you intrepid birders, dress in your five thermal layers and get on out there!


Ursula K. le Guin, RIP

The death of Ursula le Guin earlier this week hit me hard. She was a personal hero, a writing hero, a political hero. I first read her in college — I remember I’d gone to a conference in Toronto, some political thing, and someone gave me ROCANNON’S WORLD. I read it there, and then read everything else I could get my hands on, despite, or because of, the fact that ROCANNON’S WORLD made me cry. So did LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. le Guin had an enormous, compassionate heart, and a genius for following an idea to its logical, but startling, conclusion; sometimes that conclusion was not the end of a story, but the starting point for one. (See “The Word for World is Forest.”) She was also a great writing teacher. STEERING THE CRAFT is a book I still use when I teach, and I recommend it to all my students. (And what a title!)

Ursula le Guin, goodbye, godspeed, and thanks.

Hey, woild!

That’s what my mother used to yell when she was about to tell a secret. This isn’t a secret but I wanted to give her a shout-out because she’d have loved it. Seems I’ve been nominated for an Edgar! The nominee is my short story, “Chin Yong-Yun Stays at Home,” published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’s Jan.-Feb. 2017 issue. The narrator is Lydia Chin’s mother. For whom my mother always insisted she wasn’t the model. And she wasn’t, either… Thanks to Linda Landrigan and AHMM for taking it, thanks to the committee, and HEY, WOILD!



One day to go in the year. One degree F, with windchill, at the river this morning. One dogwalker. One jogger. One bag lady, though she was bundled in three coats. One other person, like me, just walking. One seagull overhead.

Never have I seen my neighborhood so empty. The weather (it snowed yesterday), a lot of people taking this week off, and the fact that it’s Sunday, have combined for the winter quiet of an actual village, not the usual bustle of Greenwich Village. You could park a Mack truck on my block, even if you aren’t good at parking Mack trucks.

In this kind of sunny quiet I can feel hope for the future riding on the wind. So, despite all the disappointments of the past year, I send you all good wishes for 2018. Be kind, be productive, and #Resist!


December is here, and just in time for your holiday shopping, so are the 2018 SJ Rozan Calendars! This year there are three: FAKE BIRDS, with some of the year’s best fake bird photos; FOOD, and need I say more? And now, for her many fans, BELLA THE CAT.

Get yours (and everyone else’s) today!




The Thanksgiving Adventures of the Five-Berry Pie

I bought a pie — blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, and cranberry — on Wednesday, to take to my sister’s house in Philly, where I was headed for the holiday. The Greenmarket where I got it is near the Rubin Museum. I was going there, but I went to the market first, to make sure I got what I wanted. Then I went to the Rubin, but I didn’t want to endanger the pie by carrying it around the museum. So I took it to the checkroom, giving the coat-check guy a chance to add “May I check my pie?” to his list of Sentences I’ve Never Heard Before.  All well and good, unchecked the pie and took it home when I was done.

Next morning, the plan was to head down to the Staten Island Ferry and meet the illustrious JL on the other side, then drive to Philly, which is how we do it every year. Since I was planning to go to the gym without going home first when I got back Friday, I packed up the pie and detoured to the gym Thanksgiving morning to drop off some stuff I’d need. Then the pie and I took the subway to South Ferry.

When we got to the ferry terminal, however, I got a phone call from the illustrious JL: he was sick as a dog, could not go! I wished him well (he sounded awful) and thought, Uh-oh, what now? Here I am at South Ferry with a pie and the need to get to Philly, no plan to get there and it’s Thanksgiving Day.

I walked over to a picnic table, settled the pie, and started searching buses online. Amtrak, I was sure, would be sold out and cost a fortune besides, but they were my next plan. But lo, Megabus had a few seats left on the 2:45. I grabbed one up.

And now there I was at South Ferry at 10:15, on a gorgeous day, with four hours to spare before my bus. I could go home, but the weather was too spectacular. I could walk up to the bus, though that’s a little farther than I was prepared for, carrying the pie. I could walk partway, and then sit and have a cup of tea. Before I decided, though, I needed a bathroom. I started back to the ferry terminal, but a thought hit me: the Smithsonian’s NY branch of the National Museum of the American Indian is right there. All Smithsonian branches are open 365 days a year — this one too, yes?

Yes! The pie rode the conveyor belt through the X-ray machine. That museum used to have lockers, so I thought I might be able to check the pie in a second museum — surely a first for any pie — but no lockers any longer, so after the trip to the ladies’ room, where I sat it on the window sill, the pie and I went to the “Transformers” exhibit, which I’d wanted to see anyway.

After the Museum, I started to walk uptown. How far I’d go. whether I’d have tea, was still undecided, when I ran into Diane Fusilli. We exchanged hellos, and she told me her husband and granddaughter were upstairs — we were right outside their building. So I went up to visit with Jim Fusilli. I walked in and said, “I brought a pie, but it’s not for you.” Jim and I had a cup of tea and caught up, played with the adorable granddaughter, and then I picked up the pie and walked on. I took the A train to 34th St., thinking maybe I could go standby on the earlier bus.

The walk from 8th Ave. to almost the river, where the bus leaves from, is very long, but the day was still beautiful. Since Jim’s tea had been herbal, I bought a cup of caffeinated tea from a food truck on 10th Ave. and sat on a park bench to drink it, the pie beside me. Then I went on, and when I got to the bus stop I asked the guy whether I could stand by on the 1:50. It was only 1:20 so I figured I was in plenty of time. Haha– the 1:50 wasn’t running that day.

Now, I’d had Jim’s tea, and the other cup, too. No way I was going to wait in the cold for over an hour for my scheduled bus. So the pie and I hiked back to 9th Ave., to use the facilities at the diner. Then we hiked back. The pie sat on the sidewalk with me next to it, waiting for the bus.

The bus pulled up right on time. I settled in, and when we left, the bus wasn’t full, so the pie had its own seat beside me. The bus ran late getting out of NYC because the Thanksgiving Parade spectators and participants were leaving at the same time. For awhile, trying to get into the tunnel, were were behind a float of snow-covered hills and a mountain goat.

The pie and I finally arrived at my sister’s house at 6:00, having left my apartment at 9:00. Dinner was waiting, warm and welcoming, as were my relations.

And I must say, the pie was delicious.


Last year this time, many of us were still in shock at the election results. The frightening, threatening pictures brought forth by the idea of this vile man and his cynical cohorts taking power in our country made it hard to be grateful for anything but the most personal and immediate: family, friends, a place to live, a place to share our fears.

Many of those fears have proved accurate, but over the past year, our strength and determination to #Resist has clearly not only stayed steady, but grown. This year, in addition to family and friends, I’m very grateful to you all, who in ways large and small, still fight. I hope you have, and take, time in this season to reflect on the work we’ve all accomplished, and what still needs to be done. Thank you.