The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

The last few days have been very hectic -- hell the whole week was.  During my lunch hour on Tuesday, while shopping at Sephora in Times Square, to quote Carole King, I felt the earth move under my feet.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a man.  (Am snapping fingers) :)  I actually thought it was the subway that runs underground right where I was standing rumbling through the undeground tunnels.  It wasn't.  It was the tremors of the aftershock of an earthquake in Virginia. 

Unfazed and totally unaware, I walked back to my office and as I approached the turnstyle to the elevator, a young attorney who was one of my assignments at our old location urged me not to go upstairs.  He's always kidding around and I didn't believe him.  He just kept saying it wasn't safe.  I looked over at the security desk in the lobby and no one looked panicked or even in the least bit stressed.  I chuckled and got on the elevator, ignoring him.  When I reached my floor, I got off, waved my card before the card reader and swung open the heavy glass doors walking through them and heading in the direction of my desk.  I walked passed the large, glass enclosed conference rooms and as I turned the corner, I could hear urgent chattering.  It's an office filled with women, and I paid it little mind, till I reached an attorney who sits near me and asked her what was going on.  She told me all about it.  Stunned I walked to my desk and im'ed with my daughter.  She was confused as well, so she called me, saying she did feel it and wanted to make sure I was ok.  Reassured I was, she hung up to check on Dayne who was at the pool with his day camp.  Obviously, he was ok.

A few days later, a hurricane watch for Hurricane Irene was announced.  It was barreling down on the East Coast and heading right our way.  I spent the rest of the week preparing: stocking up my refrigerator, making sure I had everything I needed for both Bosco and I.  By Friday, I was exhausted.  I showered then sat down to watch a little TV, but crashed on the couch.  I awoke to Bosco's loud purring and the weight of him trying to get comfortable on my chest at 1 a.m.  So I got up, shut everything down and went to bed. 

Almost immediately I fell into a deep sleep having two successive weird dreams.  First, I dreamt I was on Park Avenue, turning to go up the hill to Mount Sinai Hospital.  Why was I heading to the hospital?  I don't know; I wasn't hurt.  I was just strolling.  That whole area holds many, many mixed memories for me.  I used to hang out just up the block from there with my ex-husband and friends.  We regularly held block parties on that block and I always cooked.  I used to get requests for certain dishes.  My daughter was born at Mount Sinai.  But there are also lots of bad things I experienced in that general area.  So, I'm walking up the block, and who do I see but Christopher Meloni, the guy who plays Elliot Stabler in the SVU series of the Law and Order franchise!  Yep.  Not only that, though that is who I see, in my mind, I recognized him as my girlfriend, Johanna's dad!  It gets better.  I'm even addressing him by the name of an attorney in my office!  PLUS, he and his wife, who in my dream is really Johanna's mother, are walking these two, humongous, tan dogs.  And, to top it all off -- I was having perception problems.  I felt like I would faint at any moment and worried about the pain I would feel once I hit the ground if I fainted.

3 a.m.  I awoke with a pounding headache.  I got out of bed, got some water, and crawled back in, falling asleep again quickly.  (Did I sleepwalk??)  This time I dreamt I was sitting in a fancy hotel bar that looked very much like the rooftop bar at 230 Fifth Avenue ... one of my favorite places to go to during summer evenings because it's so beautiful there.  In this dream, it was extremely dark and I felt lost.  I thought my daughter was there, I mean, I could sense her but I couldn't find her.  I looked around the room, noticing that everything seemed -- I don't know -- wavy.  My perception, again, was off.  My eyelids began to feel heavy and I couldn't keep my eyes open.  I had also begun to have a feeling of urgency to get to my daughter.  I spotted her exiting the bar and rose to go in the direction she was heading.  The closer I got, the further away she got.  Did she even notice I was trying to get to her? 

Finally, I'm out on the street, in the middle of the neighborhood where I was born, and though I recognized where I was, I couldn't get a grip on my bearings and my perception was now becoming multidimensional.  My head was pounding, but I had to get to my daughter, and I had to keep my eyes open which was becoming harder and harder to do.  I jumped in a car .. just some car with some people in it I didn't recognize.  But I absolutely had to get to my daughter and that was the only way.  My heart was pounding.  I knew I was dreaming but I couldn't wake up.  I don't know how, but when I finally did wake up, my head was pounding even more than it had been earlier. 

It was 5 a.m. and too early to call my daughter.  I hoped she, Dayne and her boyfriend, James were ok.  I made a pot of coffee and drank some aspirin.  About an hour and a half later my headache began to subside.  I sat down to read tweets, email messages, blog posts and made a list of things I still needed to get in preparation for the storm.  At 10:30 my daughter called.  Phew!!  She was checking on me.  I told her my dreams.  She started laughing, saying: "Ma!  You dreamed what I was experiencing last night." 

Apparently she had been at a Hookah Bar and it was very dark.  Hookah Bars are popping up all over the place here in NY now.  I haven't been to one, but it's on my to do list.  She said she was feeling a little disoriented because of it, and didn't have a drink.  I don't know if she used a hookah.  Some of you may be wondering if I was in an altered state.  Let me assure you, I did not drink last night.  I find the whole experience somewhat surreal.

Now, I'm preparing for Hurricane Irene.  I've got all the essentials and I'm wondering if it's really going to get that bad.  Watching the news is unnerving.  I've shut off the television set and I am hunkering down with my laptop and my imagination to write.

Back soon!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Next Project

I've begun working on my next project, a story I'm calling "Standing on the Precipice." (SotP)  I'm not done plotting it, but already it has had several incarnations! 

Originally, this story was going to focus on a woman -- a child of immigrants with fractured ideas regarding what her path in life ought to be.  I thought I would write it much in the same way that I wrote "Sinner's Ride" (SR) -- stream of consciousness -- you know, just let it flow and let the characters tell the story.  But that's not going to happen this time around.  I've decided to do something different with this project.  Although I had done some research for some of the scenes in SR, it wasn't as intense as the research I have been doing and will continue to do for SotP.  (Here is a link to one entry on my blog over at my publisher's website, The Indie Author's Press for your perusal:  While you're at it, please consider becoming a member.  It really is a cool site!)

Another consideration I had to bear in mind was that I wrote SR during one short month last year as part of NaNoWriMo.  I've decided not to participate this year as I anticipate demands at work that will not be conducive to writing the kind of story I want to write.  Yes, I understand that I don't have to finish the story in 30 days - I just have to get in 50,000 words in that timeframe -- but I am anal that way.  Seriously.  Once I get my mind fixed on something, I have to finish it and I don't want to put myself under that kind of pressure because I don't perform well under those conditions.  I want to really spend the time it takes to organize, create and become intimate with the characters of this story.  As with SR, I want to grab a hold of my audience and not release them until the final scene is over. 

So, with all of that in mind, I have began using The Marshall Plan (thank you Jorge :}), and for that reason, I believe this story will be much more organized.  The idea is to feature three main characters as well as a villain -- all of their lives interwoven with one another and all as psychologically different from one another as possible.  The story will incorporate surprising twists and turns including my now favorite thing to do -- which is to include at least one "shocker" event.

I expect this story will continue to change as it evolves, so I don't want to go into any further detail about it, lest I engender expectations that may either fall short or disappoint, but the intricacies of this story present a huge challenge for me and to those of you who know me, you know how I love a challenge!

If you like what you've read, leave a comment.  Let me know what your thoughts are!  I would LOVE to hear them!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

"You probably from Spanish Harlem if...."

All I want to do is sleep.  I've had only a few snatches of sleep since Thursday night.  I spent a restless night stressing over my daughter, worrying about her pending surgery scheduled for Friday morning.  Needless to say, everything went well.  She's in a lot of pain but she's still herself enough to crack jokes. 

I've been holed up at her place since Friday except for two hours yesterday when I went home to feed Bosco then left to return to  make a Spanish stew for her -- SANCOCHO!!  Sancocho is a traditional Puerto Rican stew made with green bananas, plantains and other vegetables, chunks of corn on the cob and either beef or pork chunks.  It is sometimes served with avocado and white rice. I only made the stew; didn't make the rice and forgot to pick up an avocado.  Still in all, it was DELICIOSO!!

Between naps, I picked up my blackberry to catch up intermittently on the latest on Twitter and Facebook.  It was during one of those catch up sessions that I came across a page on Facebook called "You probably from Spanish Harlem if...." (  I read some of the postings, looked at the pictures posted by some of the over 3,100 members taken over the years.  I was thrown back to my childhood.  People, (the famous Popcorn), places (La Marqueta) and things (Skellies, jelly shoes, click-clacks) that make up large portions of the story of my life. 

With my daughter wincing in pain across from me, I read some of the postings to her and she began to relate some of her memories of being born (Mt. Sinai) and raised in Spanish Harlem herself.  I requested membership and within a couple of hours I was accepted into this group that held the colorful threads of the fabric of my life. 

Reading all those posts made me think about people long gone but not forgotten, events that were markers in my life and what the future holds for a neighborhood that I have a love/hate relationship with. The area where I grew up is now so gentrified it is unrecogniziable to me.  Now, there are high rise buildings; expensive co-ops and all their trappings standing side by side with government run housing projects.  I grew up in those housing projects and the tenement buildings before them.  I wonder if hardworking people who came out of those very same housing projects would be readily accepted as tenants into any of those new high rise buildings?  I doubt it.  They/we are/were pre-judged as stupid drunkards who fought and had no aspirations.  New inhabitants of my old neighborhood now pat themselves on their backs and talk about how cool it is that they live in Spanish Harlem.  I would venture to say that they can now enjoy the history of that rich neighborhood because of what we and the people who came before me went through. 

Indeed, as I mentioned, I left that neighborhood when my daughter was 13 years old.  It was the early 90's and the crack cocaine phenomena had risen in my home town like a monster out of the cracks in the concrete that make up the sidewalk.  The very same cracks that I jumped over playfully as a little girl chanting:  "Step on the crack; you break your mother's back."  Who wants to break their mother's back?  Not I!  But I digress...

When I left my old neighborhood, my daughter had just turned 13. I was a single mother working at the Waldorf=Astoria's Executive Office (I was the first person of color to work in the famed hotel's Executive Office) and I was living paycheck to paycheck.  I didn't want her to get involved with the bullshit on the streets.  Rather than go on vacations, which we didn't do, I would take her with me to work at the hotel, and introduce her to worldly clients; people who had money; people who had travelled the world, in the hopes that she could see that there was so much out there to experience.  I believe this is why she is who she is today.  Why she can crack jokes; why, even while in bad pain she can see that it's really not that serious.  With the proceeds of part of a settlement with my ex-husband and my small savings, I bought a co-op in the West Bronx.  I wanted to live someplace where there was a mix of people, but I didn't want to leave behind that gritty-ness you feel when you live in a place like Spanish (East) Harlem.

I am Puerto Rican -- yes, but more than that, I am a proud NuYorican from East Harlem -- SPANISH Harlem -- with all the juicy-ness that brings.  If you want to know what it was like, how we made something out of nothing to accomplish our dreams, visit this page and see where my nostalagia is coming from.

I will never stop dreaming dreams and accomplishing them.