Life on the South Shore 2

I wandered around the south beach fishing pier this morning during my 70 minute sabbatical. It was lovely and serene by the water. A pretty stone jetty is nearby which I’d like to one day walk down.


And to the left is the verrazano. The pier has beautiful stonework with reliefs of local aquatic life. At the end of the pier I found myself the only woman in a gaggle of men all with poles set up in the water. Fish are smart enough to avoid a single lure so I wondered if any would venture toward multiple lures. I took a video here so you could hear the local vernacular. Note the mermaid comments starting 0:12- Staten Island men brim over with charm.

Once the power washer thing began roaring I just walked up and down the boardwalk for a while, then returned to the school and re-read the Fiji chapter of The Orange Robe in the parking lot.

I’ve taken the girls and my little guy to the beach twice so far this summer, once summer school is out I hope to get over more. Staten Island beaches have a bad reputation but I’ve always found them clean, sparsely attended and 80% of the time there’s no garbage or jellyfish in the water which is temperate, if murky and gray.



The Orange Robe: My Eighteen Years as a Yogic Nun

The Orange Robe was a random find. I was reading an article by Stephen Knapp in which he stated ‘Jesus wore an orange robe.’ Huh? There’s no mention I’m aware of that Jesus wore an orange robe. Purple or red, yes, but orange? Interestingly this is not the first time I’ve seen non existent facts or quotes pertaining to christianity referenced by hindus. J. P. Vaswani does it all the time, citing gospel references that simply don’t exist. In their defense, I’m pretty sure it’s innocent and the result of telephone-game style misinformation. I find it kind of cute.

Anyway just to make sure I googled ‘did jesus wear an orange robe’ and was brought to a few free chapters, courtesy of google books, of a book by the same name that has nothing to do with Jesus.

Orange Robe is the fascinating autobiographical tale of Marsha Goluboff Low, a young jewish woman who, in the early 1970s, joins the Ananda Marga cult founded by Prabhat Ranjar Sarkar. She spends the next 18 years in abject poverty and a borderline homeless state, wandering the globe at the behest of her new vedic creed, even trying to convert Orthodox Jews in Israel (ananda margas don’t technically consider it ‘conversion’ but you can imagine how the orthodox jews viewed it!). She works in Cairo, Istanbul, Israel, Fiji, Iran… just to name a few locales. She witnesses the deposing of the Shah and has any number of brushes with death and danger herself.

The tone of the book is frank and self expository, though not to the point of being overbearing. It reminds me of the beautiful autobiography Holy Hell where Gail Treadwell recounts her harrowing tale as a high level devotee of the Amma cult. Goluboff comes across as more fragile than Treadwell though arguably less shattered by the summation of her experience. And as with Treadwell, we get a front and center view of what life is like for a globe trotting hindu renunciant.

I purchased the kindle edition of the book this morning and am nearly finished, unable to put it down. I can officially decree I don’t like kindle editions over paper. The constant glare of the screen (even if adjusted) gives me a headache and I’d rather have the physical book to page through; the variable pagination of kindle editions makes me feel lost at sea. I’m one year into the kindle and am sad to report this. I really thought mr. kindle and I would hit it off.

The Orange Robe comes highly recommended, particularly if you have any interest in cults, judaism, 1970s geo politics, autobiographies, hinduism or religion in general. And if you’d like to read my review of Holy Hell on the old blog, it can be found here:

Life on the South Shore

For the past two weeks, and for the upcoming week, I have to drive my daughter to summer school. Her scofflaw homework habits finally caught up with her; she failed math.

The catholic school offering summer classes is all the way down on the south shore. For those of you who don’t know staten island, there’s north shore and south shore. Until recently the south shore was mostly white and new jerseyesque; the north shore was ethnically diverse and, at least in the prettier spots, forest hillsesque with puncuations of blight and housing projects.

Over the past few years the south shore has grown more diverse – lots of muslims and asians, some blacks and hispanics- while blighted areas of the north shore have grown gentrified to some degree.

Anyway this is all to say north shore people tend to stay on the north shore, and south shore people tend to stay on the south shore, not so much (at least not anymore) due to cultural hostility but because it’s a pain getting from one side of the island to the other. With traffic, ten miles can feel like driving to canada.

I’m not sure if the route I take (my own, not gps’s) is the most efficient but without traffic, and hitting green lights, I can get door to door in under twenty minutes. The return trip takes a little longer. And since my daughter’s class is only one hour it makes no sense for me to return home in between. Which means every morning I’ve got approximately 70 minutes to kill on the south shore.

What to do with myself? The first week I went to Family Fruit every morning and loaded up on 99 cent tomatoes, but the second week their sales were no good. One day I drove to the beach and walked along the water. Another day I wandered through shoprite- anything for air conditioning! Sometimes, like now, I just sit in my car with the AC purring. I read cookbooks, blogs, do my nails.

Do I sound nervous? Why yes I do… because this all feels like foreshadowing: in approximately 65 days my little guy, who turns 4 in november, starts full day prek. For the first time in 21 YEARS I’ll have a significant stretch of time with no young child to take care of. No more worrying about him whacking his head, walking into counter corners, no more endless line of snacks or peed in pants. At least for seven hours a day.

If I’m at a total loss what to do with myself for 70 minutes, what am I going to do with SEVEN HOURS?

I could go back to school. CSI has a pretty campus and is cheap. I wonder if non matriculated students have access to the swimming pool? I’m not sure what I would study… blogging?

I could write a book. Seven hours of quiet and no one stealing my laptop would be amenable to that. I have an idea for a young adult novel in the vein of roald dahl, about a girl raised in india whose family moves to the states and  enrolls her in catholic school. She thinks the holy trinity refers Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Later her bratty goth cousin Alice from england (yes a reference to that alice) moves in with them and steals the family butler’s time stopping device for her own demented purposes.

However, since the white family would have an Indian butler (although it turns out he is not a butler at all, but rather an immortal sadhu) this could be deemed egregiously politically incorrect. I don’t want to piss anyone off.

In the story the girl’s father has a vague but extremely important job as a bone collector. He travels the world collecting bones from various creatures and neatly collates them in his home office (my husband’s massive comic book collection inspired this) for future sale and use.

Or I could play World of Warcraft. With seven uninterrupted hours I could start a guild.









Earthly Possessions

My maternal aunt died one year ago today. Yes, she died on July 4. What a strange day to die. She lived for six years with an aggressive ovarian cancer that usually kills in months. A pathologist by trade, she kept doing stuff, hunting down doctors, switching hospitals, traveled to distant states. To the very end she was convinced she would land upon some experimental treatment that would save her. She did survive surprisingly long, and managed to do a tour of south america about seven months before she died, but her body finally gave out. The cancer had spread all through her, to her lungs, lymph nodes. Around 8pm a year ago I got the text from my mother. She was gone.

My aunt was an ever present fixture of my childhood. Unmarried and childless herself, my sister and I were her proxy daughters for holidays and occasional visits. And while never open about it, she associated exclusively with women of an alternative persuasion. I remember once, when I was about 12 years old- she brought me to a female friend’s house, and the friend’s ‘roommate’ was female. All the other women there were female with female ‘friends.’ There was a framed artistic photograph of a nude female torso and I inquired about it innocently to the group of ladies. ‘Well she won’t understand what THAT’S about,’ said one of our female hosts, and the entire group broke out in cackles of laughter.

About a year before she died she visited with a friend and gave me a huge box of 1970s costume jewelry. While an insanely hard worker, my aunt also loved to dress up and party. I remember her apartments filled to the brim with clothes, shoes, cabinets of makeup and trays of perfume. The first time I smelled my favorite perfume, shalimar, was at her behest.

Then came boxes of christmas stuff. She was ‘cleaning out’ and putting things in storage for her move to a new state and a new hospital where she hoped to enroll in an experimental trial (she was eventually deemed too ill to enroll). My kids went through the boxes of christmas paraphernalia with delight. I just felt dread.

When she did die there was a flurry over her estate, as she never wrote a will. My dad was posthumously furious with her for this. Eventually some retirement money went to my sister and me; there are still some unresolved sums but neither my sister nor I wish to pursue it. There was a massive amount of jewelry- real stuff this time- to sort through. My sister and I laid it all out and took turns selecting items. There was so much, and it took so long, by the end we were just randomly taking stuff. Why did any one human being need so many gold chains, many of them identical? Hundreds of bracelets, rings, pendants.

There’s one pair of earrings I wear regularly, one ring and one bracelet. And one 1970s style necklace I’ve worn once or twice on special occasion. The rest has gone untouched since the day my sister and I divvied it up.

But remember all that stuff in storage? Eventually that was divided between my sister and me, and movers delivered a roomful of furniture and boxes. A bookcase, a side table, endless boxes of kitchen gadgets, dozens of vases, piles of cookbooks, hundreds of empty picture frames (??). In another box my adult son and I found a package of unused birthday paper plates.

I kept putting it off but finally unwrapped all the furniture, neatly arranged it around my husband’s office, neatly arranged the vases on shelves and bookcases, interspersed all her dishes and kitchen gadgets with mine. Her earthly possessions are all through the house now and with them her interminable and not always pleasant- but not necessarily unpleasant either- spirit. The woman was a tour de force, and while death may not be the end, it is AN end, with all the sadness her needless suffering and premature departure entail.

Versailles Season 2

I finished the second season of Versailles earlier this week. I was disappointed; the pacing and plot remain interesting but two of the main characters- Madame de Montespan (the king’s mistress, played by Anna Brewster) and Madame Agathe (a psychic played by Suzanne Clement) are dull, not well acted and lack gravitas. Moreover King Louis XIV isn’t very likable himself in this season; he comes across as a changeable, arrogant dope. I love George Blagden but maybe he’s not supposed to be likable this time around.

The Duke d’Orleans (played by a man so handsome I might call him pretty, Alexander Vlahos) is still enjoyable as the king’s ever devoted gay brother, but he and his lover Chevalier de Lorraine (Evan Williams) just come across as two annoying gay guys this season.

D’Orleans new bride, the Princess Palatinate (Jessica Clark) is brilliant and her frank personality based on the historical personage. Hundreds of her letters have been preserved-some public domain volumes are available free online- providing funny, snide commentary on the french aristocracy and life in actual Versailles. I’ve read a number of her letters and remarkably, they come across as blog posts despite being written centuries ago!

Tygh Runyan is fantastic as the king’s sadistic chief of police. There could could be an entire spinoff based on him and the various crimes and threats surrounding the court.

Overall the season was good but season 1 is better. I’ll probably watch season 3 when and if it’s available on netflix, but I’m not biting my nails in anticipation. Season 2 is less racy than season 1 but still very much not child safe.

Lice and Mice

Yesterday my 16 year old was outside with my 6 year old when the older daughter came storming in and declared the younger daughter unequivocally had lice. She saw the bugs in her hair.

My first reaction was not to believe her because I do this daughter’s hair each day and hadn’t seen lice. But just in case I doused her with permethrin and went through her hair with the proverbial fine toothed comb. Well I’ll be damned, there they were. Dead bug after dead bug. Lice are so adept at survival – they can hold their breath for 8 hours and are expert at hiding and camouflage – you almost, barely, theoretically, want to let them live. These insects have more will to live than some humans.

Expletive, expletive, expletive. I was in a state of despair! Am I such a bad mom, is my brood so disheveled that we are once again cursed with lice? Did I do something wrong? With the last bout of lice I went full metal jacket, blasting everyone in sight with pesticides, making the girls sit under a hot hair dryer (heat kills the lice eggs) and roasting everything that touched their heads in either the microwave or clothes dryer. I went through their hair so many times I began dreaming about combing out lice.

Anyway as the 16 year old was freaking out on me over the renewed  lice population, what skitters over my foot but a little mouse! It hopped down the butler staircase then flew across the downstairs kitchen like a bat out of hell. That very morning my husband had killed a mouse with his bare hands, sort of. He was in his office when a mouse ran across the room and froze at his feet. My husband looked at the mouse, the mouse looked at him.

My husband being a vegetarian first gave the mouse a warning stomp but it remained unmoving. So he goes behind the sofa, picks up a glue trap and whacks it onto the mouse!

His bravery ended there. He went upstairs and sheepishly asked our adult son to do the rest, i.e. put it in the freezer then dispatched to the trash.

I’m feeling more optimistic today. I’m glad I live in a society where I have access to pesticides and hair dryers. What happens to street urchins in Calcutta? Do they just live with lice permanently?