Category Archives: Bleeps, Blooper and Outtakes

Coming of age …

does not happen but once in our life, but several times.

Not at those frequent crossroads … but at the turn of our internal clock … our life moving inexorably forward to a new … although perhaps … frightening new time.

Hormones spill over into our psyche and cause chaos or what the parent of a teenager might see as temporary insanity. Other bouts of insanity might occur during pregnancy or at the mid-life when hormones and other things are drying up.

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For today, I will concentrate on the first major female change of life … the first time girls realize their internal clocks are moving to midnight of a new day … the on-set of puberty. For each female this is different. And no one can predict how anyone will react.

For our little Antoinette, that new day came early.

Sunset Park-The summer of 1954 …

Carmela tossed and turned at night, grumbled throughout the day in two languages and could not stop the march of time and the effects it was having on her two younger children. More than ever they began to mirror each other in looks and actions, more than ever she was convinced she had given birth to Joseph’s twin when she delivered Antoinette.

Joey had passed his fourteenth birthday and in six months changed sizes two times. His “baby” fat was melting and for the first time in years he was one inch taller than his baby sister.

He was gone from the apartment for longer hours, defied his mother’s rule about being home before the streetlights came on and on three occasions Andrew woke in the middle of the night to find he was gone.

Carmela worried more than ever that he’d find a new brand of mischief; girls. The girls in the neighborhood and the girls in his new school started to swoon and each night calls came in at the candy store.

Five months short of her tenth birthday, Carmella began to notice changes in Antoinette. Subtle at first, her extroverted personality became melancholy. She brooded around the house, only leaving to go to school, begging Joey or Michael to do her errands. She cried for no reason, refused to eat and lost all interest in her skates, in her choir practice and even caused Mother Superior to have the school nurse take her temperature.

Andrew was on the phone at the candy store. “I got your message Mother, is there a problem with Antoinette?”

“Yes there’s a problem. She hardly participates in her classes. She’s lost all interest in her choir practice and not once in the last two weeks has she been on punishment for talking too much. I would say that’s a problem.”

The first week she ditched choir practice, Antoinette roamed down the long hills, listening to the sounds of the factories, the tugs, the foghorns, or traffic on the streets behind her. Factory machinery continued clicking off the hours until another day ended. Inside this cocoon she sat quietly for hours, watching and listening to her world.

When it was almost dusk, she’d head down to the docks walking past the Big Ben on the corner of Second Avenue, in front of the Brooklyn Savings and Loan. She’d wait to hear the long whine of the work whistles, announcing the end of day. Workers rushed from the factories, scurried towards the trolley stop and began the long walk up the hill to home or the Third Avenue Bus.

Other days she’d walk up to Sunset Park and sit on the brick wall at the highest spot watching the soft pastels of the sunset stretch their arms across the horizon.

Carmela and Angelina were sitting in the Gallucci front parlor. “I don’t understand what’s wrong. First she refuses to leave the house. Now she refuses to get home on time for supper.”

“You know what’s wrong.” Angelina smiled. “You have to talk to her about this.”

“I can take it with Joseph. He is fourteen and he’s a boy. But Antoinette doesn’t even turn ten until September.”

Angelina pointed to the window. “Call her up while there is no one else in the house.”

Antoinette was busy listening to Mr. Tafozzoli explain how his pigeons were going to compete the following weekend. “We’re going to get first prize this time.”

Then she heard the voice of her mother calling her. She walked through the French doors.  “Hi mom, did you call me?”

“Several times I believe.”

Angelina put her arm over Antoinette’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. “My you are heads above me child. You do grow like a wild flower.”

Antoinette blushed. Angelina didn’t call her a “weed” like so many of the adults in her world. And in her mind, she thought wild flower was a better fit.

Antoinette looked around. “What’s up?”

Carmela perched on the edge of the wing back chair and shook her head. Of course she knew her friend was right. It was time to have that talk. But how could such a thing be happening to her little girl? “I just can’t Angelina.”

“Oh fiddlesticks … of course you can.” Angelina took Antoinette’s hand. “Come and sit here on the sofa with me.”

Antoinette hesitated. What if one of the women saw her taking the trolley, something she was still forbidden to do without an adult or one of her brothers. What if Sister called and told Andrew she had skipped out on choir practice twice in one week?

“Is something wrong?” Antoinette asked.

“No dear … nothing’s wrong.” Angelina patted the sofa. “Your mom and I want to talk to you about something.”

She sat and asked, “Did something happen to Michael?”

Angelina laughed. “No, it’s about you. You complained to your mom about feeling sore near your underarm?”

She hunched forward, her arms holding her chest. In the bath she saw her chest looking like she had hives and her arms hurt. Too embarrassed to talk about her hives, she quickly commented, “Oh, that’s because I fell off my bike last week.”

Angelina smiled, “Don’t be afraid, sweetheart. I’m going to check. The three of us are alone.”

Angelina put her hands delicately over Antoinette’s chest, moving the palms up and down and then around and around on her thin summer T-shirt. She moved her hand to Antoinette’s underarm. “Does it hurt when I push on them?”

“Not that much.”

“Have any of the little girls in your school or your playmates talked about the ‘period?’”

“Well we have a free period on Tuesday to do our special projects. That’s when we’re allowed to go and borrow from the library.”

Angelina smiled. “No dear … not that type of period.”

“Oh Angelina, I can’t. She’s a baby.”

“Carmela, grow up. She’s a baby with boobs.”

Antoinette jumped off the sofa. “I don’t have those.” She pointed to her mother’s abundant breasts.

“They’re called breasts dear.” Angelina smiled pointing to her rather small breasts. “And yours are more like mine. You know, small?”

Carmela finally spoke, “It means you’re becoming a woman.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “My little baby girl.”

Antoinette and Joey loved puzzles. In her mind she was now connecting the pieces of this puzzle and she didn’t like the picture.

Angelina patted the sofa once again. “Sit down dear and let me tell you about your period.”

Three hours later, Joey found his sister sitting on the fieldstone wall in Sunset Park and called to her, “Waiting for another sunset?”

She turned her face away. “Go away Joey.”

He sat next to her and brushed a wisp of hair off her face. “Mom has sent the Calvary to bring you back.”

“I said go away.” She pushed his hand aside. “Tell her you didn’t find me.”

“You’re upset because Angelina told you about—”

“Don’t say it.”

He shrugged. “You are kinda young, though it sure explains a lot.”

“It’s rotten.”

She started to get off and he pulled her back. “It’s not something to feel rotten about. A little scared or confused … but not rotten.”

She turned to him. “Then why is mom crying like that?”

“Because she doesn’t want you to grow up. She wants you to stay a baby for a while longer. Like they mentally push on the top of your head, thinking they can stop you from growing.”

She looked down at her chest. “I don’t want to grow there.”

“Here, there … you’ll grow all over. And you’ll be dynamite. Aw …”

She was crying. He pulled his sister to him and held her tight. “Mom didn’t mean to make you upset. It’s not what you think. Something wonderful is going to happen to you and … well … it’s the type of thing that makes mothers cry.”

Joey pulled her off the wall. “Let’s go to Fifth Avenue and get an ice-cream soda. That should cheer you up.”

“Joey, it’s not funny.”

“Oh come on, we’ll talk while we walk to the ice-cream parlor.”

“Angelina thinks it’s wonderful too.”

“Well it is.”

By the afternoon of the next day, Antoinette had forgotten where or if she was growing and remembered it was that time of year. Time to do what she did each summer since she was born … go to the beach at Coney Island.

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Girls to women … women to girls …

Our little girl will adjust and continue to grow in Sunset Park.

What women do as they continue to grow is incorporate all the changes from without and within and use them to shape their world. Antoinette grows up to do this with her cameras … others do it with a paint brush and then there are those of us who do it with words.

As writers or mothers … as story-tellers or wives … as sisters and daughters … we use those words to carry a new day to others who can’t express what they are feeling.

The major gift of the misunderstood genre of women’s fiction … is women speaking to and for women. Women using their unique perception to tell the stories no one else can tell.

We are the care-takers and the nurturers of our world … and when we can mold and shape who we are into a story to comfort or entertain or to reach out to give a gal a hug … we are fulfilling our destiny.

What change in your life was most significant?

Did it carry you and someone else to a new day?

fOIS In The City

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Off seasons …

 

mazine at the beach

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This story for instance.

Summer rentals are closed, the winds have shifted, and the yearly craze of the Holiday Season is upon us.

Does anyone out there remember the Saturday afternoon movies with the main feature, a dozen cartoons, a travel log, The News of The Day, and for extra added pleasure, a second movie? Mostly they were cowboy movies with the likes of Gene Autry or it might have been a serial?

Yes, the serials where you had to go the next week to find out what happens to the damsel in distress. Does the train run her over or is she saved at the last minute?Will the dastardly villain defeat the hero?

The old cliffhanger, the familiar melodrama … that sense of suspense or what makes the “soaps” so popular.

You really want to know what happens next to our three friends?

Today-Sarah is waiting for Trudy to speak …

The waiter delivered three more martinis.

“Okay, I’ll bite.” I took a sip of my martini. “What is so monumental?”

“Jim’s mother has this thing about closing up the summer house on Fire Island. Has to be the week after Labor Day. What would the neighbors think and wouldn’t it be an eyesore all closed up during season?”

Trudy kept talking. Eileen added exclamations. I zoned out.

The last time we rented a summer house was the summer my ex announced he was leaving me for his latest conquest. And like that damn cat who sat on a hot stove, I had no intention of getting my bottom burned twice.

“I hate summer rentals.” I pushed Eileen’s hand down. “Stop poking me, damn it.”

“It was like what, twenty years ago?”

“This August it will be nineteen years, thank you.”

I looked at Trudy, at her impossible hypnotic blue eyes and her flawless ivory complexion and felt my stomach drop to my feet. “You’re going to tell me you rented a house on Fire Island for the summer.”

“Not a rental and not the whole summer.” She held up her hand. “Just hear me out, Sarah.”

“I hate Fire Island.”

Eileen huffed, “How the hell can you hate an entire island?”

“She doesn’t hate anything. Sarah, just listen for a minute.”

I tried to look away, to keep her from pulling me into her magnetic field. It didn’t work.

She talked faster, “The Weiss’ are traveling the month of August and called Jim to go out on the Friday after Labor Day to winterize the house, since she won’t give the codes and whatnot to the house help and wouldn’t he do this and save them having to go all the way out there when they will be so tired after traveling all month?  The problem is Jim will be gone most of that week.  So—“

“Oh Sarah you’ll love this.” Eileen did a little jig in her seat.

Trudy ignored Eileen and continued. “So, I called mother Weiss and told her we would winterize the house, but wouldn’t it be dangerous to leave the house empty for the whole month of August? And I volunteered us to stay in the house for the month to protect it.” She handed me my martini. “And you’ll have the whole place to yourself for the week of Labor day to close it up for us.”

“Are you deaf or stupid? Didn’t I just say I hate summer rentals and I hate Fire Island?”

“You don’t mean it and James can’t close up the house.”

I was the psychologist at our district high school and tried to use  my job as an excuse. “Are you kidding? I can hear Phil Goldstein now. ‘Sarah you know I need your help.’”

“I don’t get it. What good is being out of the classroom if you can’t take an extra week here and there?”

“Eileen, being out of the classroom means I have more responsibility not less. You two have really thought this out, haven’t you?”

“I’d gladly do it, but I promised Elvin I’d be back Tuesday.” Eileen curled an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “Not to mention he and Geraldine are going to be gone until the middle of that next week and he was already pissed I would be gone for the entire month of August in our busy season.”

“I get it. The deal is that if I close up, we get the place for the entire month? Does your mother-in-law know it will be all of us?”

“No, but they’ll be safely tucked away in a villa somewhere in Italy with his business partner.  And what they don’t know.”

I didn’t want to admit that I really loved summer rentals. They had been a yearly tradition with our three families, interrupted twice by Eileen’s two divorces and ended with mine. I also didn’t like to admit that I loved Fire Island. And after all … it had been almost twenty years.

“Okay, okay.” I sat back smiling, the images of long white beaches and longer afternoons basking in the sun dancing in my head, “Phil might go through the roof. But he can’t fire me. Make me miserable for the first month maybe, but then maybe not. I’ll ask Aunt Mabel to invite him for Labor Day Weekend.”

I held up my drink ceremoniously, “I’ll do it.”

“Well, it’s about time.” Eileen raised her glass, “Here’s to our summer vacation.”

##########

Suspense is built into books, movies, and used effectively in daily and weekly television shows. The popular six to eight week mysteries from the BBC are making a run here in the States. Programs where we wait weeks to learn who killed who, what suspects will be wrongly accused, whose life will be ruined, and will the bad guy (or gal) be brought to justice?

It was a popular weekly event on old radio and followed fans into the boob tube, finds them unaware between the covers of many popular suspense mystery books, and is the main stay of the Donald Maass school of mystery writing … to build excitement, heighten or kick up a notch on the old terror meter, and scare the living daylights out of us for pure fun. To end each chapter in suspense …

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Not that I want to make you crazy or frightened. In this story I just wanted to make you share the tale of three friends who take a summer rental and find … well what the heck do they find?

The answer to that could take a while. A while to learn what Sarah, Eileen, and Trudy do once they get to Fire Island and will the title of this old story, Jake Darling, ever makes any sense?

Darned if I know. I  found this in a dusty old file and took her out for an airing. There’s no telling what might happen once the cold of the day hits my summer rental.

Tell me true …

do you wait patiently from chapter one to the bitter end?

Or are you one of those that skips to the last chapter 

because you couldn’t stand to wait?

fOIS In The City

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A lopsided love story …

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In another life, I sold real estate and ran my second craft business. I’ve done that you know … worked two ventures at once.

Those were what I call my dead years. The kids were gone, I began to hate every housewife I showed houses, and the crafts business bottomed out.

To fill in the time, I babbled in my second journal and played with short stories. I’d write something perfectly awful and email it to my real estate partner. He read each story and commented that I might want to consider going back into therapy.

What I also discovered during those years was the romance novel. Being hung up on mysteries and traditional types of books, I had never ventured into the romance genre. A good friend told me I needed to expand my horizons.

I went regularly to the Publisher’s Clearing House Catalog and ordered wholesale cases of Harlequin paperbacks for my mother and her eighty-year old girlfriends. Then I’d visit and get them smashed with a bottle of vodka and a quart of orange juice.

“Mom, you like that stuff?”

“Yes, I do. I love happy endings.”

So I gave it a shot. For six months I took out dozens of romance novels from the library and fell in love with Nora Roberts. I was hooked.

Jake Darling was the first time I attempted the three girlfriend scenario. Three girls at a crossroad take a summer cottage. Three sisters inherit their father’s business. Three woman meet and …

Well, you get the picture. Trilogies are the romance rage. It is also Nora’s specialty. No one can do the trilogy quite as well as she does. Three sisters own a bar in Ireland. Three wiccans live on an island. Three sisters break a two hundred year old curse handed down from their great-great grandmother.

For reasons, I can’t begin to analyze, even with the help of a therapist, I tend to save every damn thing I write. I’d still have some of my grade school essays if my mom hadn’t had one of her fits and sent them to the incinerator one weekend. “I told you a thousand times to get that stuff out of the hall closet.”

And if she were still here torturing her only baby girl, it is for damn sure, I’d never let her near my computer.

So without further delay … I give you Sarah, Eileen, and Trudy in Jake Darling.

It opens thus …

We were three girls of the fifties, the first, my mother would say proudly, of the baby boom generation, born in 1946.  Donning plaid skirts and over-sized sweaters, saddle shoes or Skippy sneakers and of course, pony tails.

It is a friendship that began in sixth grade.

Today, we were sitting at a seafood restaurant at City Island and I was expanding on my thoughts of true love.

“Being in love might be compared to seasonal allergies, hives, temporary insanity, or a train wreck depending on the duration and the major life threatening symptoms.”

Eileen shook her head. “Oh common Sarah, don’t you cry when you see ‘A Love Affair to Remember?’”

“Well of course I do.  I cry over love stories all the time, except that nauseating movie in the seventies. God I tried to watch it all the way through once and gagged.”

“You don’t mean with Ally McGraw and Ryan O’Neil?”

“That’s the one.‘Being in love means you never have to say you’re sorry.’ What tripe. Being in love means you’re sorry every damn day of your life.”

Eileen turned to Trudy. “She means Love Story . Don’t you just I cry every time you watch that one.”

Of course, Eileen cried every time she watched her soaps or the nightly news or read the tabloids. “Can you imagine a divorce after all these years?”  “Did you know Gretta Garbo had a love child she abandoned in the South of France?”

“My luck, if I were abandoned it would have been in the South Pole.”

Trudy tapped her martini glass with a spoon. “Would you two cut it out, we have important business to discuss.”

Trudy on the other hand was among the one percent on the planet who had a good marriage.  Trudy and James met in high school, got engaged at the senior prom and had been together for over thirty years. I was so jealous I could bite someone.

“I will concede you and Jim are the exception to the rule.”

Eileen raised her hand for the waiter.  “I think love is always possible. You never know anytime you might turn the corner—“

“And get hit by a truck ‘cause you were looking for love instead of looking at the traffic light.  Give me a break, Eileen.  Look when you’re a kid and you wake up after losing a tooth you find a quarter under the pillow—“

Trudy giggled. “A quarter, Sarah? Your mom only gave you a quarter?”

“Yeah, she probably told me the tooth fairy was having a year of losses. Under the definition of cheap there is a picture of my mom. Anyway, if you wake up at fifty and you lose a tooth you get slammed with a $1,500 dentist bill.”

“Poor tainted Sarah.” Eileen flagged the waiter and orders us another round of martinis.

“Don’t poor Sarah me. You still believe in Fairy Tales?”

“It’s not the absolute belief of anything you can touch and feel.  It’s the knowing of what can be.”

“Trudy, will you help me out here before she starts chanting.”

“Listen you two, cut it out. Either you believe in something or you don’t.” She craned her head. “Where is he with those martinis? Being with you two requires lots of drink.”

Our drinks arrived and we toasted to true love. After all, Trudy was happy with her marriage, Eileen was happy with her search for the perfect mate, and I seemed happy to. To what?

“Let me point out something Sarah,” Trudy interrupted my thoughts, “you are the one who collects love songs and mushy movies.”

“Yeah, and you read Nora Roberts.”

“Yes, but my favorite of hers are the romantic suspense. Mix a little murder and then the love part is more palatable.”

They went off on a tangent of the weekly sales at Saks and I became lost in reminiscences.

We had been friends since grade school. We went to drive-ins together, we flirted at the local diner together, and of course, went to all the high school dances together.  We were at a dance at Midwood High when Trudy met James. Damn if it wasn’t love at first sight.

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Eileen married a year after graduation and divorced after three children, several broken ribs, and a custody battle. She moved back in her parent’s house and still had her pink and white gingham curtains on the windows and her dolls on the bed.

She was divorced for one year and married again, and again after another child and filing bankruptcy she was back in her parent’s house. The last time I went to pick her up she still had the gingham curtains.

“Eileen, why don’t you change these, you’ve had them since high school.”

“I do every other year.  I just go out and get more gingham and make a new pair.  You see, I love the feeling of walking in the room and making believe I’m still sweet sixteen and never been kissed.”

Well Eileen had been kissed. Married twice, engaged three times and currently having a hot affair with a married man fifteen years her senior.  She and the kids went to therapy twice a week for ten years. She worked at a local real estate office, watched the soaps and was a Gold Card member of Parents Without Partners.

I took the middle ground.  Married, two kids and divorced all in five years.  No house, no bankruptcy, no parents to move in with and not enough money for therapy. I concluded the kids might as well stay screwed up.  It would give them more to talk about when they could afford therapy of their own.

My folks were under the impression I would come to my senses and go back to my husband and moving back home would make me too comfortable.  I was under the impression they were too cheap to help us out, so I rented the top floor from Trudy and James house, drove a re-furbished yellow Beetle financed by my Aunt Mabel, went back to college, and started teaching.

My mother on the occasion that I needed a sitter, “Sarah, has it ever occurred to you that your father and I need some time alone in the autumn of our life?”

“Yes it occurs to me every time I ask you to take the kids for one night. You and my father are spending your autumn, winter, spring and summer doing something more important.”

“Excuse me?  Did I tell you to get a divorce? Your father and I tried to convince you to work through your problems. Seems to me your generation could learn a thing or two about commitment.”

“Yeah, we’ve learned, you stay married too long, you end up committed.”

“And what stops you from getting married again? Tell me that? Do you even try?” She pushed her glasses to the end of her nose.

“Now take Eileen, she has herself out there in the mix.  She’s makes an effort.  How many times have we tried to introduce you to one of your father’s business associates?  How many dates have your friends tried to arrange? Tell me how many dates have you refused?”

“Ma, I’m too old for blind dates. What do you expect me to do, put my hair in a pony tail and go hang out at the diner?”

“Don’t be so cute.  Now she’s old. So what happened when you were younger, I ask?  Face it, you need to go out there and find a man. Your children have gone on with their lives and what do you do with your time?”

“Speaking of Eileen.  All a guy has to do is give her a half a smile and she’s getting engaged.”

“But she is out there trying. She’s a trouper.”

“No Ma, she’s a schnook.”

“I don’t like that you are alone. When your father and I die who will you have?”

“I’ll retire and move to Florida with Aunt Carol and her twenty cats.”

“I can’t talk to you.”  She pushed her glasses back up and flipped the pages of her newspaper.

I felt a sharp pain in my arm where Eileen had just pinched me. “Sarah, will you please come back to earth!”

“Ouch!” I rubbed my arm. “Gees I hate that. You know I hate that.”

“Well pay attention.”

“I was thinking about my mother.”

“God, don’t give me a rash.” Trudy leaned forward, her face open like she was about to burst at the seams. “I have monumental news.”

Tell the truth, don’t you just love a happy ending?

I mean if you had your druthers wouldn’t they all end with a kiss?

fOIS In The City

Gotta-Love-Maxine

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