June 26, 2015

Lucinda Williams Kills It at Celebrate Brooklyn

Cherish the experience, folks. Last night at Celebrate Brookyn, we caught more than a wiff of greatness. The sky was dripping tears (someone said it felt like spit) when Lucinda Williams thanked the audience for braving the forecasted rain. But it never turned into a full fledged sqaull. Instead, we got  genius.

For me, it was like seeing Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin or Nina Simone in the flesh. This is what a living legend looks like. And alive it was: ninety minutes with one of America’s greatest songwriters (it’s poetry, really) with a voice like fermented syrup mixed with heartache, disappointment, desire, and a hypervigilent mind.

Cherish the experience, folks.

I saw her in 1998 at Irving Plaza. It was a late show that started an hour late. I had to stand at that famously seatless club. She’d just released her masterpiece Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, an album that took six  years to make and she seemed a testy woman. A famous perfectionist, at one point during the show, she insisted on starting a song over again. She seemed angry with herself and tormented by a quest for transcendence.

That was then, this is now. She’s sixty-one with a plume of grey hair wearing tight jeans, a partially buttoned button-down shirt with a long-hanging gold cross. She’s bold, confident, poetic and badass. Her virtuosic four-man band perfectly  infused her songs with a rootsy authenticity.

The evening never felt nostalgic like a greatest hits roll-out. Never. A late-bloomer, Lucinda is a living, breathing artist who just put out one of her best albums, Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, written after the death of her beloved father, the poet Miller Williams.

The set touched on songs from a few of her albums but not all of them. She’s got a discography that would make the best drool and songs that are true classics of rock poetry.  Older and wiser, she keeps the perfectionism at bay—but make no mistake she strives for excellence while embracing a ragged spontaneity. She’s feisty and outgoing when she speaks up for a better world during the song “Foolishness” giving a shout-out to Bernie Sanders, thanking Obama for the Affordable Care Act, and sending condolences to the families of the victims of the Charleston hate crime “because that’s what it was,” she said.

For me, it’s her attention to language and unerring sense of line that is so thrilling. She writes poetic stuff but it doesn’t come across as precious or pretentious. I particularly enjoy her use of place names: for for me it’s southern geography in action. Here from “Lake Charles”:

He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles
He used to talk about it
He’d just go on and on
He always said Louisiana
Was where he felt at home
He was born in Nacogdoches
That’s in East Texas
Not far from the border
But he liked to tell everybody
He was from Lake Charles
Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear

She also writes beautifully about sexual longing and desire. Here from “Essence”:

Baby, sweet baby, bring me your gift 
What surprise you gonna hit me with 
I am waiting here for more 
I am waiting by your door 
I am waiting on your back steps 
I am waiting in my car 
I am waiting at this bar 
I am waiting for your essence

Her songs can be like daggers. Beware of spurning Lucinda. “One of the great kiss off songs,” said the man sitting next to me at the show of this song:

You talk about the junk you did,
Like you talk about climbing trees.
You look like a little kid,
With bruises on your knees.

You will never cop,
To the damage that’s been done.
You will never stop,
Cos it’s too much fun.

Now you want somebody to be your buttercup,

Good luck finding your buttercup

She opened with two songs I didn’t know and her voice sounded off: low octave and slightly off key. We noticed she was drinking from a cup of tea and figured she had a cold or had ravaged her voice from a year of straight touring. But by song number three, “Lake Charles,” she was in excellent form. “Drunken Angel” followed and from then on it clear we were in good hands with a performer expert at pacing her set lists.

Surprises? She did fewer ballads than I expected. I would have been up for a night of dark and delirious songs about suicide, sexual longing and people who died too young. Instead, we got an adventurous roster of roots rock, funk, blues, and raucous country. As her father wrote: “The world still doesn’t quite know what table Lucinda’s work belongs on. She doesn’t fit neatly into any of the established categories. She’s still a genre to herself, and always will be.”

Surprises? She did a slew of inspired covers, including Springsteen’s “The Rising,” The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and Neil Young’s “Keep on Rocking in the Free World” (Take that Donald Trump).

At moments during the show I thought of Patti Smith. The two remind me of each other in their dedication to language, authentic feeling and a kind of punk audaciousness. At the end of the evening, Lucinda shouted out: “Power to the people!” and then quickly amended it to “Or as Patti Smith would say, People Have the Power.”

Cherish the experience, folks. Last night at Celebrate Brooklyn, we were delivered a deluge of greatness. And it didn’t even rain.

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May 14, 2015

Edgy Moms Manifesto 2015

Edgy Moms 2015 was awesome. Here is the Edgy Moms Manifesto I read at the beginning of the event every year.

In 2006  I created Edgy Mother’s Day. I had sort of a vague sense of what that meant but it’s always been hard to articulate when people ask for, y’know, the quick elevator speech.
So what is an Edgy Mom?
She’s feisty and fun and a little bit zany. She whines to her friends and can be a bit of a martyr. She fantasizes about taking long trips without her children

And getting a room of her own on Block Island with a computer and a view of the sea.

She lets her kids have dessert before dinner,

Reheated pizza for breakfast.

And NEVER remembers to bring Cheeros in a little Tupperware container to the playground

Except when she does and then she feels VICTORIOUS

Her kids have seen her fight with their dad and yell at her mother and curse her sister on the phone.

They’ve watched her cry

She’s been know to throw away her children’s old toys and art supplies when they’re not around

And when they ask, she pretends not to know where they are.

But she can’t let go of their artwork even that sharp pointy wood sculpture her son made in pre-school back in 1993.

She loves when they sleep over at a friend’s house

Because the apartment is so quiet, so serene and so  terribly lonely.

She looks forward to her late afternoon glass of wine

And lets her kids miss school when she feels like sleeping in.

For years she didn’t own a First Aid Kit or keep children’s Motrin in her bag.

Sometimes she takes a bath when she should be making dinner

Or reads Ann Karenina when she’s supposed to be helping with homework.

She watches shows like Gossip Girl and discusses Blair, Serena, Chuck and Dan with her teenage daughter

Even if that’s not appropriates.

She doesn’t always know what is appropriate.
Sometimes she feels like the most boring person on earth.
Like someone’s mother and that’s all.

But who could ask for anything more on a good day?

She tries not to tell “my kids are so amazing” stories. Even if they are.

Or say to new moms: “Enjoy it, they’re gonna grow up fast.”  Even if it’s true.

She hates to sound like an old fart, an elderstates-mom or a know-it-all. Even if she is.

Or say:  “Do you mind if I brag?”

Even though there is SO much to brag about

Do you mind if I brag?

She’s made a lot of mistakes, some she would never ever admit to anyone.

She’s afraid she’s ruined her kids somehow. 
That everything is her fault

If only she’d followed those expert books

Or even read them.

And didn’t let her kids get away with murder.

She hates to watch them puke, or be in pain, or feel sad when they’ve had their feelings hurt.

She wants to kill anyone who hurts her child.

Sometimes she even wants to kill her child.

But just for a teeny tiny fleeting second

On a good day.

She tries to make eye contact when they haave a very long story to tell (even when there’s so much else she needs and wants to do).

And now that they’re in their teens and twenties she practically GROVELS for their attention, for those long stories she used to tire of.

She  loves her kids with a passion that makes her ache, moan, yell and scream, and feel all  gooey inside

Do you mind if I brag?

Oh Patron Saintesses of Edgy Moms: Lucille Ball, Erma Bombeck, Sylvia Plath, Alice Waters, Elastagirl, Lisa Belkin, Smartmom, Eartha Kitt, Morticia Addams, Toni Morrison, Lenore Skenazy, Tina Fey, Shirley MaClaine (in Terms of Endearment), Maya Angelou, Ayalet Waldman, Nina Simone, Cher (in Mask), Cher in real life, Josephine Baker, Susan Sarandon, Liv Ullman, Marge Simpson, Claire Dunphy, Gloria Pritchett and Cameron Tucker in Modern Family and Betty Draper on Madmen and so many more.

Bless this Edgy Mother’s Day and bless tonight’s readers and writers: Sophia Romero, Lisa Gornick, Julia Fierro, Sean Grover, Jennifer Michael Hecht and Stephanie Thompson: writers who embrace motherhood without sanctimony, without sugarcoating.

Edgy moms all: they are gonna rock you and shock you and make you laugh and make you cry and make you  look at motherhood in a whole mother way.

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April 30, 2015

May 12: Edgy Moms 2015

Brooklyn Reading Works presents: EDGY MOMS 2015 provocative writing about mothers and motherhood. Curated and hosted by Louise Crawford and Sophia Romero

Tuesday, May 12 at 8PM
at The Old Stone House, 336 Third Street in Park Slope between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.(718) 768-3195
Directions: F train to Fourth Avenue, R train to Union Street
A $10 suggested donation includes wine and refreshments

This Year’s Edgy Moms and Dad:

–Julia Fierro (Cutting Teeth)

–Lisa Gornick (Louisa Meets Bear, Tinderbox),

–Stephanie Thompson (Fearless Parenting)

–Sophia Romero (The Shiksa from Manila, Always Hiding)

–Sean Grover (When Kids Call the Shots)

–Jennifer Michael Hecht (Stay, The Happiness Myth, Doubt)

–Special reading of the Edgy Moms Manifesto by Louise Crawford

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April 16, 2015

Academy of American Poets: Steinem, Winger, Hunter and More Read Favorite Poems

Last night I attended Poetry and the Creative Mind, an event at Alice Tully Hall, an annual fundraiser for Academy of American Posts. What a special night it was.

My friend Ruda Dauphin was involved and she graciously  invited me to attend this festive gala meant to emphasize “poetry’s important place in our culture, and its impact on the lives of readers.” Her title at the Academy is Artistic Coordinator and she also curates events for Irish Arts Center.

Chip Kidd, considered one of the greatest book jacket designers, was charming and funny and a perfect master of ceremonies. Jennifer Benka, Executive Director of the Academy spoke briefly about the power of poetry. She mentioned the Academy’s online Poem-a-Day, which  presents original, previously unpublished poems by talented poets throughout the week and classic poems on the weekends and reaches 300,000 poetry lovers daily.

I know that’s the first thing I read in the morning on my iPhone.

The show kicked off with an impressive poem by Ashley Gong, a 16-year old selected as the 2014 National Student Poet by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The daughter of first generation immigrants from China, she is a student at Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. When she introduced her poem, “Preamble” as “an early poem” the audience laughed. “Well, relatively early,” she added humorously. Here’s an excerpt:

we the members (Hailie, Justin, and I) under this sagging tenement roof
the eaves drooping like disgraced willows on the cusp of giving in.

in order to form a more perfect family picture you know… the one that rests above the mantel its image darkened by soot and wilting from neglect (you know, every time I see that picture, with your hand holding mine, I want to laugh at my naiveté).

From there an illustrious and eclectic group of legendary actors, dancers, artists, musicians, and public figures got up to read their favorite poems.

Holly Hunter, yes Holly Hunter of The Piano and Broadcast News, did a wonderful reading of Mary Oliver’s “If I Wanted  A Boat” her sensuous southern voice thick with intelligence and comprehension. Here’s an excerpt:

What kind of life is it always to plan

and do, to promise and finish, to wish

for the near and the safe? Yes, by the

heavens, if I wanted a boat I would want

a boat I couldn’t steer.

Saying that she’d  rather dance the poems than read them, Judith Jamison, the former artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, did a beautiful reading of Conrad Aiken’s “Dancing Adairs.” 

Nick Cannon, host of MTV’s Nick Cannon Presents Wild ‘N Out and author of a new collection of poems for children, Neon Aliens Ate My Homework, read “Dreams” by Langston Hughes, a poem he said, he learned from his grandmother.

Anita Lo, an acclaimed chef and owner of Annisa, a restaurant in Greenwich Village, read three wonderful poems about food. Best among them was a real tour de force called “Fruit Cocktail in Light Syrup” by Amy Gerstler. Here’s an excerpt:

Fruit cocktail’s
colorlessness, its lack of connection to anything
living, (like tree, seed or leaf) seemed
cautionary, sad. A bowl of soupy, faded, funeral
fruit. No more nourishing than a child’s
finger painting, masquerading as happy
appetizer, fruit cocktail insisted on pretending
everything was ok. Eating it meant you embraced
tastelessness. It meant you were easily fooled.
It meant you’d pretend semblances,
no matter how pathetic, were real, and that
when things got dicey, you’d spurn the truth..

Singer/songwriter Sam Beam of Iron & Wine read poems by William Stafford and sang a beautiful self-penned song.

Debra Winger, the deep voiced and soulful actress, so memorably the star of Terms of Endearment, rocked the house with an indelible reading of “Freak-Out” by Lucia Perillo. Here’s an excerpt:

Mine have occured in empty houses
down whose dark paneling I dragged my fingernails—

Though big-box stores have also played their parts,
as well as entrances to indistinct commercial buildings

cubes of space between glass yellowing like onion skin,
making my freak-out obscure

Artist Julie Mehretun read Allen Ginsberg’s “Five A.M.,” She said that it inspired a group of drawings that represented a new phase in her artistic work. Here’s an excerpt:

The muses drawing breath for you? God?
Nah, don’t believe it, you’ll get entangled in Heaven or Hell –
Guilt power, that makes the heart beat wake all night
flooding mind with space, echoing through future cities, Megalopolis or
Cretan village, Zeus’ birth cave Lassithi Plains – Otsego County
farmhouse, Kansas front porch?
Buddha’s a help, promises ordinary mind no nirvana –
coffee, alcohol, cocaine, mushrooms, marijuana, laughing gas?
Nope, too heavy for this lightness lifts the brain into blue sky
at May dawn when birds start singing on East 12th street –
Where does it come from, where does it go forever?

Then it was Gloria Steinem’s turn to enchant the crowd. Clearly she is a great lover of poetry. She thanked the audience and the Academy for making poetry accessible to so many and went on to read Marge’s Piercy’s “The  low road,” which she called a great piece about “organizing.” Here’s an excerpt:

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.

She then read Alice Walker’s “New Face,” which she said she sends “to all my new lovers.” Here’s the poem in its entirety.

i have learned not to worry about love;
but to honor it’s coming
with all my heart.
To examine the dark mysteries of the blood
with headless heed and swirl,
to know the rush of feelings
swift and flowing
as water.
The source appears to be
some inexhaustible spring
within out twin and triple selves;
The new face i turn up to you
no one else on earth
has ever

Steinem ended with a poem by Robin Morgan, author of Sisterhood is Powerful, called “A Worm of Robins” about aging and death.

Vanessa Williams was also a crowd pleaser with her voluptuous and passionate reading of “‘What Do Wome Want'” by Kim Addonizio and Maya Angelous’ “Phenomenal Woman.”

The great Kris Kristofferson, songwriter, actor, winner of the Golden Globe for his role in A Star is Born—and one mustn’t forget his performance in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore—rounded out the night with a incredible performance of his song (and Janis Joplin’s hit) “Me and Bobbie McGee.” Wow.

The crowd responded, at the end of the 90-minute presentation, with a standing ovation. Sitting behind me was Saeed Jones, literary editor of Buzzfeed and author of an acclaimed 2014 collection called Prelude to Bruise,  a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Somehow that was perfect. The crowd was filled with many poetry luminaries, poetry lovers, and those who support the Academy’s mission to promote and appreciate contemporary American poetry.



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February 4, 2015

Friday, Feb 13 at 7PM: Short Pieces for Long Nights at PS Coop

On Friday, February 13 at 7, come upstairs at the Park Slope Food Coop for an entertaining evening of short pieces by Tomas Rayfiel and Susan O’Neill. The night is free and non-members are always welcome. Refreshments will be served.

Rayfiel will be reading his The Three Penny Review “Table Talk” pieces, super-short essays on varying subjects, mostly literary, akin to The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” department. The Three Penny Review recently published a best-of collection of its “Table Talk” department, featuring contributions by Leonard Michaels, Philip Levine, and others.

O’Neill will present her short, mostly funny essays, from “Calling New Delhi for Free.” They loosely deal with the way technology screws with our heads, covering everything from an attempt to get a Starbucks barista to leave the lid off her coffee, to being threatened with eviction from a Russian train, to say nothing of visiting an All-You-Can-Eat restaurant in the Midwest and spending a lot of money to go to Obama’s second inauguration and not see the President.

A discussion with the authors will follow the reading. Did I mention that refreshments will be served? Yes, they will!

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November 22, 2014

Goodbye Two Moon: We Will Miss You

With a name like Two Moon Cafe and Art House, it was easy to think of cafe owners Joyce Pisarello and Danielle Mazzeo as two beautiful moons illuminating a lonely stretch of Fourth Avenue to create a cafe and arts space that would inspire community and connection.

To say that they suceeded would be a vast understatement. Their cafe, which just closed after three years in business served coffee, wine, soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods. It was busy from early morning to late at night with activities as diverse as children’s music classes, Peace Corps meet-ups, life drawing sessions, open-mics for comedians, indie performers, folk singers, poets, writers, and wall space for artists of all stripes. And in recent times, they have become a bakery for their delicious Two Moon Artisanal Shortbreads in various flavors that include coconut and cardamon and, my favorite, rosemary and sea salt.

It was clear the first time I met them that they had just the right amount of humor and energy to sustain this adventure. Sure, the location was dicey but it had potential as developers were madly building co-ops, condos and rental high rises on Fourth Avenue and a Whole Foods was a-coming just a block away. Still, there was not much in the way of pedestrian traffic and another cafe had already occupied that spot and bailed out.

As impossibly young as they were (were they even out of their twenties yet?) Joyce and Danielle had already accomplished quite a bit in their lives and I knew they were up for the wild challenge. There were obstacles a plenty but with humor and resilience they dug in and made something very special in that space.

The two moons met while working in New York City politics  “where they learned they didn’t like shaping public policy as much as shaping dough.”

Before Two Moon, Joyce served as a Peace Corps volunteer and studied international affairs at Columbia University Danielle earned a degree in Anthropology and Religious Studies at Brown University. She also taught 3rd grade, working for Planned Parenthood, Women’s World Banking, the SPCA, and a progressive think tank.

After much soul searching and brainstorming the two decided that hey wanted to open a cafe and provide a space for the arts on the funky west side of Park Slope.

Meeting with them just weeks after opening Two Moon, Daniel and Joyce were all ears about the ins and outs of Park Slope. I gave them a quick Park Slope 101 about the people, places and things that make this neighborhood tick. It was this curiosity and enthusiasm that made their cafe such a popular destination.

I was wistful and sad when I heard that Two Moon was closing. A plumbing disaster and an unhelpful landlord are just two of the reasons that inspired the two to move on (I don’t really know the story).  I won’t say they called it quits because these two are already plotting their next adventure. Heck, they’ve got an artisanal shortbread business to run and who knows what else they’ve got up their collective sleeves.

I want to wish the very best to Joyce and Danielle. Thank you for being our two moons and for illuminating the night and day on a now enlivened stretch of Fourth Avenue (thanks to you). I look forward to whatever lies ahead.  



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November 15, 2014

Nov 17: First Bite, One Page Only

This is a new event for me. It was started by one of my literary heroes, Lauren Cerand, who had the idea to do a monthly event that would bring together the authors of the seasons most anticipated and freshest new books.

In late August, Lauren presented Bridgett M. Davis, Atticus Lish, Emily St. John Mandel, Saeed Jones, Ronna Wineberg and Patrick Hoffman. In October poet Saeed Jones presented Timothy Liu, Anne Helen Peterson, Isaac Fitzgerald and Kevin Fortuna. Now it’s my turn.

Curated by Louise Crawford
84 East Fourth Street at Second Avenue

Come hear the first page of a few of fall and winter’s freshest and most-anticipated new books. There will be delicious food prepared by Contrada and you can kick back with a cocktail or a glass of wine and enjoy these literary treats.







Doors open at 6. Readings begin at 7. Free appetizers, cash bar and the opportunity to order from a small plates menu. Books will be sold and signed. You’re encouraged to introduce yourself to the writers, find out about their upcoming launch events, and, if you fall in love, buy a book or pre-order the book(s) from your favorite independent bookstore. The event is free. RSVP on Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/1sSIsRg

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November 7, 2014

Nov 7-9: Irish Arts Center PoetryFest


Less than a month ago, I was honored to be asked by Irish Arts Center to help spread the word about PoetryFest, a celebration of poetry from both sides of the Atlantic. I said yes, of course, because I am a poetry lover and I’m a bit of a specialist on getting the word out about literary events.

I also recognized more than a few of the luminaries listed on the roster. When I saw that Gerald Stern, perhaps one of the greatest living American Jewish poets was going to be there, I got excited.

I started collecting poetry books in the the seventies because I fell in with a crowd of poets and writers at SUNY Binghamton, now called Binghamton University. Poets like Milton Kessler, John Verson and Heather McHugh were teachers there. Many others like Tess Gallagher visited the school for readings.

In the 1980s, I discovered the Gotham Book Mart then on West 47th Street, the Diamond Exchange block. There was a sign above the door that said: Wise Men Fish Here. My father gave me a $100 gift certificate as a birthday gift and I decided to spend it all on poetry collections. At the recommendation of Flip, one of the greatest booksellers ever, a Gerald Stern book called Lucky Life, published in 1977. On the cover the poet as a young man walks in Pittsburgh with another poet. Years later I learned it was Jack Gilbert.

What a pleasure to find these words at the end of the title poem:

Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to.
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water.
Lucky you can be purified over and over again.
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone.
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life.
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.

Gerald Stern will be reading his favorite poem tonight at the opening night gala of PoetryFest, as will nine of the participating poets, including Robert Pinsky, Peter Fallon, Rita Ann Higgins, Kevin Young, Adam Fitzgerald and many more. Rosie Schaap, who writes the Drink column for the New York Times and is author of Drinking with Men, a popular memoir, will read a favorite poem, as will Lisa Dwan, who “astonished” in recent Beckett plays at BAM, and Joseph Mitchell.

I expect an ecstatic evening of poetrylove. There will be a gala opening party after. I plan to have shot of Irish whisky if it’s offered. PoetryFest goes on all weekend and includes readings, panels and opportunities for casual conversation with some of the greatest poets of our time. He will do a reading with Irish poet Peter Fallon on Sunday, November 9th at 5PM.

Who would want to miss this? For a full schedule of PoetryFest go here. 

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October 22, 2014

How to Get Over Your Ex Italian American Style by Rachel Russo

Remember Love American Style, that television sitcom from a few decades ago? The theme song was sung by The Cowsills. Well, fugetaboutit. This story is about love (or getting over it) Italian American style.

Last Saturday night I drove up to Bay Ridge, dropped my daughter and her friend off at Century 21 on 86th Street, and stopped by The Book Mark Shoppe to hear Rachel Russo read from her new book How to Get Over Your Ex: A Step by Step Guide to Mend a Broken Heart Italian American Style. 

Now, how could I resist such a title?

I walked to the back of the bookstore and found an attractive dark haired woman with extremely long legs and high stiletto heels sitting on a chair in the children’s section surrounded by a huge crowd of friends, family, fans, and local media.

Rachel Russo is, to put it succinctly, a how-to rock star.

For starters, she’s a dating, relationship and image expert with her own boutique coaching business. She’s also a matchmaker with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and a BA in psychology.  She’s got the goods.

Indeed, Rachel is a strong, empathic, frank, and funny gal. In her talk, she mentioned that she’d had a very rough breakup and that’s what motivated the writing of this book, which provides readers with a solid strategy for getting over your ex as efficiently and wholeheartedly as possible.

Badda Bing, Badda Boom.

Russo has a very direct, self-help approach but she also celebrates Italian-American culture and enjoys talking about her loving parents, Sunday night dinners at home in Bay Ridge, and being stubborn. She writes in the chapter titled: “Make a Case for Stubborness: Have a Head Like a Rock.”

“If you didn’t settle for any old job, you shouldn’t settle for any old relationship. You should be way too proud to go back to your  ex. Ideally, you’d be just as proud as the Italian American bella who’d tell a stunad to “go eff himself” and believe it with every fiber of her being. I know your ex and the breakup may have messed with your self-esteem…and you may not be super-confident. Whatevs. You can “fake it ’til you make it”.

In the book, Russo offers tips on being single and loving it, encountering your ex, action steps to take care of your body, mind and spirit, how to attract a better match, and what to do if a Mama’s Boy crosses your path(“your sex life may resemble that of a teenager”).

As you can imagine the book is a fun read. But it’s also practical and realistic. At the reading, Russo reminded everyone that getting over an ex takes time and a strong belief in the power of faith, family, food and fathers:

Father figures are an incredible source of wisdom. A father many not coddle you the way a mother would. He may not want to hear all of the details of the breakup but he can give you some unbiased advice. Since many men can be less emotional and more objective, they can really help you heal post breakup. You’ve already experienced enough emotion. If you want to see things from a more rational lens, go to your father. Chances are, he will tell it like its is.

In Russo’s opinion, the biggest threat to your emotional availability is an attachment to your ex. That’s why thinking you will never meet someone as special as your ex again is a no-no. “Sorry, your ex isn’t that special,” Russo writes.

I must say, I enjoyed Russo’s no nonsence style and her frank, in-your-face way of expressing herself. She doesn’t mince words in person or in the book. Here’s from the first chapter:

“Full Disclosure: How to Get Over Your Ex, does not provide an overnight miracle cure. Anyone who tell syou that you can get over a relationship faster than a New York minute is a liar or has never been in love.”

That said, Russo give readers a lot to hope for.

“The path to emotional availability starts with a commitment to seeking the truth about who you have been and who you want to be in your love life. You just have to be willing to go a little deeper to find the truth, as there is a deep reason why your relationship didn’t work out. If you look within and around to heal yourself, the answers will be revealed to you.”

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October 10, 2014

Oct 16: Holiday in Reality: Poetry at The Old Stone House


Brooklyn Reading Works presents the 4th annual “Holiday In Reality” Poetry Blast, with an all-star line-up of New York poet-heroes: legendary Edwin Torres, powerful Morgan Parker, brand new mom Julia Guez and Brooklyn bon vivant Pat Smith. Oct. 16, 8 p.m., at Park Slope’s Old Stone House, 336 3rd St. Suggested donation of ten bucks at the door for beer, wine, snacks and the delicious thrill of poetry on the tongue!
“And I taste at the root of the tongue the unreal of what is real.” Wallace Stevens,Holiday in Reality

Illustration by http://www.alice-wellinger.com/Life-courage

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September 21, 2014

Wide Array of Literary Talent and Ideas at Brooklyn Book Festival

Lots to do today at the Brooklyn Book Festival. Aside from the endlessly fascinating marketplace where established, indie and emerging publishers of all stripes display their wares, there’s an amazing array of authors and thinkers on panels and readings. Below I offer a taste. There’s so much more. Check out the schedule at the Brooklyn Book Festival website

Unbound: Daniel Kehlmann with Zadie Smith, presented by BAM and Greenlight Bookstore.
Borough Hall Courtroom
September 21, 2014

How to Write About a City
Brooklyn Law School Student Lounge
September 21, 2014
With Phillip Lopate (ed. Writing New York: A Literary Anthology), Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts (Harlem Is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America) and Edmund White (Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris). Moderated by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Leaving Brooklyn).

Losing and Finding Yourself: Comics of Heartbreak and Healing
Brooklyn Historical Society
September 21, 2014
Gabrielle Bell (Truth is Fragmentary), Mana Neyestani (An Iranian Metamorphosis), John Porcellino (Hospital Suite), and Anya Ulinich (Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel). Moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos, ed., Best American Comics. Featuring screen projection.

Jonathan Lethem and Jules Feiffer in Conversation
St. Francis College Auditorium
September 21, 2014

Ties That Bind, or Tear Us Apart
St. Francis McArdle
September 21, 2014
Kyle Minor (Praying Drunk), Darcey Steinke (Sister Golden Hair), Bill Hillman (The Old Neighborhood). Moderated by Beth Bosworth, The Source of Life and Other Stories.

The Hilarity of Death and Deadlines with Roz Chast,
Robert Makoff and Hillary Chute.
St. Francis College Auditorium
September 21, 2014

About Africa
St. Francis McArdle
September 21, 2014
Susan Minot (Thirty Girls), Dinaw Mengestu (All Our Names), and Bridgett Davis (Into the Go-Slow) discuss love stories, growing up, and the search for meaningfulness across the continent of Africa.

Animal Heroes
North Stage
September 21, 2014
Loyal, brave, sharing, protective, loving… from house dogs to military dogs…

So, Can You Judge a Book By Its Cover?
St. Francis College Auditorium
September 21, 2014
Graphic designers and book cover design icons Chip Kidd (GO! A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, Book One: Work) is joined by Riverhead Press art director Helen Yentus. Moderated by Brian Tate.


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September 5, 2014

Park Slope Art Classes for Children with Bernette Rudolph

My friend and neighbor Bernette Rudolph has been teaching art classes for children for many years. My niece Sonya took her class when she was younger and learned a great deal about painting, collage and sculpture. It was a really fun and playful experience and I know she enjoyed it a great deal.

Bernette is the real deal: a working artist who has lived in the Slope for many years. She has a masters of fine arts and has been an exhibiting artist, art teacher and art therapist for over forty years.

What can I say, if my kids weren’t so darn old they’d be taking art classes with Bernette. I can’t recommend her highly enough. About her own artistic practice she writes:

I work in my studio with music or silence depending on what I am creating. I close the door in my studio, which leads to my living quarters; I am alone with my work. I have worked this way for over fifty years.

The current inspiration for my work is the people I see on the streets and subways of New York City. My camera never leaves my side. I shoot without a flash or a camera click. I am rarely noticed, people are to busy with their own agenda to be aware of me. Occasionally I will ask someone if I can take their photo, some are flattered others object. I respect the wishes of my subjects.

Bernette will be participating in the Gowanus Open Studios Tour on October 18-19. At that time, feel free to visit her studio at 457 Third Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. That’s also where she teaches.

Here are the details about her art classes: 

Small art classes for children ages five and up.
Classes follow the school calendar.
Classes meet on Tuesdays 3:30 to 4:30.

Class fee is $30 per class paid one month in advance.
When the month has four weeks the fee is $120.
When the month has five weeks the fee is $ 130.
There is a $50 material fee paid once for the term paid the first month.
Basic mediums and skills will be explored thru varied Art materials.

Your child is invited to a trail class for $30.
If the child joins the class the fee will be added on to your first month.
Classes meet in the Art Studio/Gallery of Bernette Rudolph. You can reach her by email her at bernette@earthlink.net

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September 3, 2014

Great Women Wear Stripes


This is a photo of my mother on the right, age 88, and my Aunt Rhoda, age 92, taken just a few days ago on the roof of Aunt Rhoda’s apartment building in White Plains.

We had a wonderful day eating, talking, sharing news. So wonderful to see both sisters, Brooklyn born and bred, in their striped shirts, enjoying a special day.

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September 3, 2014

Sept 16 at 8PM: Hot and Bothered: Writers on Fire

Brooklyn Reading Works at The Old Stone House presents Hot and Bothered: Writers on Fire,  a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event. On September 16 at 8PM, acclaimed authors Lisa Gornick, Beth Bosworth and Marian Fontana come together to explore just what makes fire irresistible to us as writers, readers, and human beings. Gornicks’ Tinderbox speaks to the power of unearthing old secrets, and lighting a match to engulf a family in its own dark past. Marian Fontana’s memoir A Widow’s Walk addresses her marriage to a New York City firefighter. Beth Bosworth, author of The Source of Water and Other Stories, will read an excerpt from , “Sequoia,” about how a fire destroys one home and brings about another.

Each author will read from their work. There will be a panel discussion that touches on fire as subject, metaphor and literary device.

Painting by Wayne Visser


Beth Bosworth’s latest book The Source of Life and Other Stories was the 2012 winner of the Heinz Drue Award. She has a story coming out in Agni in 2014. She has taught at the New School for Social Research, CUNY’S NYC Technical College, and for many years at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, where she is also founding editor of the Saint Ann’s Review. Her publications include a novel, Tunneling, and a collection of short stories, A Burden of Earth. Her stories have appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Seneca Review, Forward, IMAGE, Hanging Loose, Guernica, and elsewhere.

Lisa Gornick is the author of two novels: Tinderbox (Sarah Crichton Books/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Picador) and A Private Sorcery, (Algonquin). Her stories and essays have appeared widely, including in AGNI, Prairie Schooner, and The Sun, and have received many awards, including Distinguished Story by the Best American Short Stories. She holds a B.A. from Princeton, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Yale, and is a graduate of the writing program at N.Y.U. and the psychoanalytic training program at Columbia. A collection of linked stories, Louisa Meets Bear, will be published June 2015, also with Sarah Crichton Books/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Marian Fontana has been a writer and performer for over twenty-five years. Her articles have appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Guardian and more. Her memoir, A Widows Walk was published by Simon and Schuster and was in the Top Ten Great Reads of 2005 by People magazine and the Washington Post’s Book Raves of 2005. She is currently on the board of the New York Writers Coalition, a not-for-profit that offers creative writing classes to some of the most underserved populations.

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August 22, 2014

Happy 10th Anniversary: Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival This Saturday

This Saturday will be the 10th annual Fort Greene Park Sumer Literary Festival sponsored by the New York Writers Coalition, one of the oldest and most inspiring community writing programs in the United States.

Killer stoop sales, the Brooklyn Flea, and the saucy return of Habana Outpost are just a few Fort Greene staples in summertime. But when it comes to a community tradition in this ever-changing neighborhood that readers and writers from all generations flock to, there’s very little that matches the power of NY Writers Coalition’s Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival.

Young writers from the NYWC summer youth workshops in Fort Greene Park will share their powerful poetry and prose alongside some of the city’s most beloved writers: Five Quarterly co-founder Vanessa Gabb; Lit Fest vets Danny Simmons and Sapphire; BlackGirl Mansionauthor Angel Nafis; and prize-winning poet and children’s author Willie Perdomo. The Master of Ceremonies is music journalist and WFMU deejay Gaylord Fields.

This event is free and open to the public and takes place at Fort Greene Park’s Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument on Saturday, August 23 at 2:00 p.m. (Rain Venue: BRIC Media House Ballroom at 647 Fulton Street). An after party will follow at 4:30 p.m. at Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton Street). Come meet the writers – and invite your friends!

August 7, 2014

Tom Martinez, Witness: Riding the Waves in the Rockaways


Click here to see more photography by Tom Martinez

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August 7, 2014

Marlene Weisman: Making the Mundane Marvelous

I ran into Marlene Weisman on the bus the other day and she told me about her show of collage, painting and assemblage  at The Brooklyn Public Library on view through September 21, 2014.

I met Marlene years ago at the Fifth Avenue Fair, when she was selling these cool make-up bags that said Greetings from Park Slope. I thought that was so great back then because nobody was using Park Slope or even Brooklyn on t-shirts or other accessories. The type was vintage-y and I think there was a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge—I still have it around here somewhere.

We encountered each other a few years later through my blog. She was also a regular at the PS 321 Holiday Crafts Fair where I’d annually buy a box or jewelry item with her signature surrealist/vintage style of collage.

Her show at the Brooklyn Public Library is beautifully titled: Making the Mundane Marvelous: Transformation in Mixed Media. I  plan to get over there soon to enjoy her unique and humorous way of reconstructing reality from pictures from old magazines, supermarket circulars, and other detritus from popular culture.

In her description of the show on the Brooklyn Public Library website, Marlene writes: “My work explores the roles of modern women today in an increasingly demanding world. My life experience as an artist, career person and mother has provided me with a great deal of subject matter for my art. I find inspiration in the everyday material of the past and present. By incorporating these ephemeral elements into my mixed media pieces, they serve as symbols that communicate what I am expressing.”

The show includes pieces from her great While I Was Stuck in the Supermarket: Homage Series. I love the one pictured below featuring author Zadie Smith. “The idea for the series came to me while waiting on line at the 9th Street C-Town supermarket. I wondered how women—or anyone, in fact—are able to achieve the balance between seriously important creative pursuits and the mundane chores of daily life. To honor the achievements of the iconic women I am inspired by, I decided to create the “Homage” series by using supermarket circulars as a base,” she writes.

Marlene Weisman began her career designing promotional graphics for the music industry. Her interest in pop culture led her to the NBC art department. From 1988 to 1995, she created on-air graphics, logos, and props for Saturday Night Live (for which her team earned an Emmy in 1993), Late Night with David Letterman, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Since 2009, she has worked out of her Brooklyn art studio, creating a variety of mixed media artwork that includes her current explorations in collage.


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June 17, 2014

Mrs. Sizzle: Brand New Art and Dog Blog

First things first: She used to live on Park Slope’s Third Street. So that’s a lot of cred right there.

Last week Suzanne Donaldson launched Mrs. Sizzle, what she’s calling a dog and art blog, a site for dog lovers who admire art and photography. With her unerring eye, Donaldson and her team will bring you gorgeous art, leashes and pet accessories, tips on training, and most importantly: a resource for dog rescue. In fact, any photos that Donaldson shoots for the blog will be with rescue dogs in the hopes of finding them homes. Quickly.

Donaldson is eminently qualified to run a super-duper blog. She’s been a photo editor for more than 20 years and is a woman of great taste and style. She’s worked at Glamour, Interview Magazine, Robert Mapplethorpe Studio, various Condé Nast magazines, and as the director of Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York City.


Needless to say she is obsessed with dogs (has three of her own) and photography so starting a dog photography and art blog was, like, a no brainer. Yay for photo lovers, yay for dog lovers everywhere and yay for me, a new blog to have on my bookmark tab.

Check out Mrs. Sizzle for posts about Cindy Sherman and her parrots, William Wegman and his iconic Weimaraners, and a cool seventies shot of a car and a dog by the brilliant William Eggelston. Most fun of all, you can send snaps of your pets to her Snap Paws section. You just might see your shot posted on Mrs. Sizzle.

Congrats to Suzanne for this exciting venture or should I say adventure.

Photo by Ines and Vinoodh, who post their dog Leo’s pic every day at @INEZVINOODH.  Find it on Mrs. Sizzle


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June 15, 2014

Talking About My Dad

I wrote this in September 2008 a few days after my dad died. 

So many people ask me to describe my dad. For those who weren’t at the funeral I say, read the eulogy. Yet, with each passing day, I come up with dozens of memories that were not included (I mean, it couldn’t be THAT long a eulogy).

Sometimes I feel like I say the same thing over and over:

He was a brilliant, intellectual man with a great sense of humor.

He skipped out on his college graduation at UC Berkeley to see a famous race horse run (Citation).

He wrote great concepts, copy and headlines when he was in the advertising business from the mid-1950′s to the late 1980′s (Aunt Jamima, what took you so long? Who Says a Newspaper Has To Be Dull? Quaker Oats: The Cereal Shot From Guns, Do It The French Way, Step up to Dutch Masters and smile brother smile, Quisp and Quake, Get Your Daily Dose of Dallas…to name a few).

He wrote a screenplay about the night Henry David Thoreau spent in jail, a Thoreau calendar, an opera based on Nixon’s Checkers speech, a suite of songs which can be heard on a terrific album by Bob Dorough called This Is A Recording of Pop Art Songs with lyrics based on a weather report, a Brooks Brothers collection bill, a traffic ticket, a laundry ticket and the Webster’s dictionary definition of love. There was also the bestselling book he co-authored called The Couple.

He loved to birdwatch, to read, and to look at his view of the lower Manhattan skyline.

He studied the New Yorker listings for art, theater, music, and films he wanted to see.

He loved his house in rural East Greenwich, New York. It was his 40 acres and a lake not too far from Saratoga Race Track.

He watched the towers fall on 9/11 and told me: “What was once the most beautiful view in the world is now the ugliest.”

He told fantastic stories. My son has them memorized but I will miss the way he told them.

He was a funny, funny man who had a magnetic personality. He was a tough critic and a great person to walk through a museum with though it could be intimidating. He loved the opera,  Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington and Sidney Bechet; he collected jazz and classical LP’s.

He was a loving and protective dad; I  remember he called the morning of Hurricane Gloria back in 1986 and told me to stay home and I did.

He reached for my hand when I crossed the street until I was well past 30; he almost didn’t let me go on a bike trip with two girlfriends from North Carolina to West Virgina when I was 16. Finally he relented; he wouldn’t let me take a semester off from college afraid I’d never return; he visited me every day when I was in the hospital with pre-term labor with Henry…

I cherished every word he wrote me in birthday cards. I especially loved his doodles of elephants and airplanes.

It was easy to take care of him the way we did at the end. Our love for him abundant and overflowing.

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June 15, 2014

My Father’s Library Book

I wrote this post in September 2008 soon after my father died. Since then I have read Middlemarch and it is one of my favorite books. Happy Father’s Day Dad. 

My father, always a constant reader, was reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, in the weeks before he died. He took it with him to his recent chemo therapy sessions and even to the emergency room on August 25th.

A huge book collector, my father always had a good selection of books out from the public library in Brooklyn or Glen Falls (depending on where he was spending his time). Middlemarch was a library book, which he took out from the Cadman Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

On Thursday I saw Middlemarch on the wine rack near the front door in his apartment and immediately knew that I wanted to take it back to the library. I even thought about reading it before returning it as a sort of homage to my dad.

I thought about that Raymond Carver story about the baker who is livid because a woman doesn’t pick up the birthday cake for her son, who is killed in a car accident. Unknowingly, the baker keeps calling the mother to come get it…

On Friday, I decided to drop the book off at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Library. I told the woman at the desk that I was returning it for my father. She said that there was a $4 fine on the book and another $3 outstanding fine (maybe another book still out?). She didn’t ask me to pay—I guess because I said I was returning it for my dad.

I wanted to tell her that my father died on September 7th. But I didn’t. Initially, I thought I would tell them to stop his library card just the way I stopped his AARP supplemental insurance and other things, too. On the phone, people offer their condolences and then take care of business. But to do it in person, it seemed too hard.

Besides, it felt too final to stop his card; he’s had a library card his entire life and I want that library card to go on forever.

There will always be an open library card for my dad. Why not?

We are encouraging donations in my father’s name, Monte Ghertler, to his favorite library in Glen Falls, NY:

Crandall Public Library,
251 Glen Street, Glens Falls
New York 12801

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May 27, 2014

Two Upper West Side Authors To Read at Book Culture on June 3 at 7PM

 Joanna Clapps Herman, author of No Longer and Not Yet and Esther Cohen author of Book Doctor will read at Book Culture on June 3rd at 7PM. Classical Singing in New York in June will be in attendance. They might even sing.

Come listen, schmooze, drink wine and enjoy the wit, wisdom, literary smarts and chutzpah of these tow acclaimed authors. Wine and refreshments will be served Books will be sold.  Located at Book Culture, 536 West 112th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.


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May 14, 2014

Jennifer Michael Hecht and More at Sexy Edgy Moms on May 16


Books at Babeland presents Sexy Edgy Moms on May 16 at 7PM. Provocative writing about sex, moms, marriage and Mad Men (and women) with poet/philosopher JENNIFER MICHAEL HECHT, author of Stay: The History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It; LYNN LURIE, author of Quick Kills, personal essayist KAREN RITTER, poet JENNY DOUGLAS, who runs the Brooklyn Cottage, LISA LEVY, performance artist and host.

Babeland Brooklyn, 462 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. 2,3 trains to Bergen Street. Any train to Barclays Center/Atlantic Center.

Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, historian, and commentator. She is the author of seven books, including three award-winning books of poetry. Most recent of these is Who Said, just out with Copper Canyon. Publisher’s Weekly called her second poetry book, Funny (Wisconsin, 2005), “One of the most original and entertaining books of the year.” Hecht’s history and philosophy books include the bestseller Doubt: A History (Harper); and her most recent book, an argument against suicide, is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, just out with Yale. She’s published in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and has been a guest on Hardball and other television, and on a lot of NPR and BBC. She lives in Brooklyn. Mother of Jessie and Max.

Lynn Lurie is the author of two novels, Corner of the Dead (2008), winner of the Juniper Prize, and Quick Kills (Etruscan Press, October 14), which Brian Evenson describes as “filled with quiet menace.” Her short fiction has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn. She lives in New York.

Karen Ritter has squandered decades in advertising, writing for clients as diverse as Dunkin’ Donuts and Weight Watchers. Persuading some people to gain weight and others to lose it eventually drove her to fiction. She is at work on a novel, The Other Ingrid Bergman. Karen has a 21-year-old son and is the edgy owner of a puppy. She feels as inadequate as a dog owner as she once did as a new mother: recently, a woman pointed out that her nine-week old was gnawing on a cigarette butt. Karen’s first humor piece is being published this month.

Jenny Douglas is the founder and curator of The Brooklyn Cottage, an arts salon that champions the unleashing of our most radically unique selves–through storytelling evenings, meditation gatherings, cooking classes, art receptions and workshops of all kinds. A commitment by Jenny to pen a haiku a day for all of 2014 led to the unplanned eruption of a “haiku memoir,” now slated for publication by Saddle Road Press in early 2016. Born in Montreal and raised in Tokyo, Jenny is a longtime liver and lover of Brooklyn–and shares a Prospect Heights brownstone with two teen daughters, an aging dog and cat, and the various friends and travelers who pass her way. Jenny really likes Babeland.


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May 3, 2014

May 8, 2014: Edgy Moms 2014



On May 8, 2014 at 8PM Brooklyn Reading Works Presents EDGY MOMS 2014: Provocative Writing about Mothers and Motherhood with hosts Louise Crawford and Sophia Romero

This year’s Edgy Moms are: Joanna Clapps Herman, author of No Longer and Not Yet; Michele Zackheim, author of Last Train to Paris; Nicole Caccavo Kear, author of Now I See You; Karen Ritter, humorist; poet/essayist Marietta Abrams Brill; poet Alex Beers,  and Laura Elizabeth Nelson, author of “A Bright Eyes Song Ended My Marriage,” published on XO Jane.

May 8. 2014 at 8PM at The Old Stone House, 336 Third Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11215, 718-768-9135. F train to Fourth Avenue, R Train to Union Street.  A $5 donation includes wine, refreshments and gift bags from Babeland and The Modern Chemist.


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April 19, 2014

Tonight at Barbes: Sanda Weigl Sings Gypsy Songs

Tonight at Barbes at 8PM Romanian-born Sanda Weigl sings gypsy songs with musicians playing Romanian flute, fiddle, accordion and bass. Weigl has had a tumultuous—and fascinating—career, first as a singer for the popular east-german rock band Team 4, then as an imprisoned dissident and finally as a New York -based musician who has collaborated with such luminaries as Robert Wilson and (the late) Pina Baush.

Her latest album, Gypsy in a Tree, is dedicated to the Romanian Gypsy songs of her childhood. Don’t miss Weigl in one of her rare Brooklyn performances at Barbes located at 379 Ninth Street at 6th Avenue.

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April 11, 2014

Small Wonder is a Small Wonder

It has been interesting to observe my 22-year-old son Henry since January 20th when he released Wendy, his album of seven songs loosely based on Peter Pan. My son, whose solo musical project goes by the name of Small Wonder, seems to be walking with a spring in his step these days. He has a newfound confidence born of completion and validation. Within hours of Wendy’s release on Band Camp, a digital music site, he was “discovered” by Gold Flake Paint, an influential blogger in England. Without reading it first, he read the following review aloud to us in the living room:

“I don’t really know anything about Small Wonder. There was another full-length back in 2011 but nothing since. “Small Wonder is henry crawford and vice versa.” is all that the album bio tells us and while it’s not much to go on, I don’t need any more than that. All I need to know is laid out across a record that just hit me, instantly. It makes me want to sob. It makes me want to hug everyone I’ve ever loved and apologise to all of those that I’ve let down. It makes me want to crawl in to the one I love now and hold her for longer than I ever have before. I feel connected to it. I feel like I grew up with it; like it knows all of my secrets and fears and hidden memories. I feel like it was made only for me. I feel like maybe it was made by me.

And this is where my new-found problems come in, because I’ve yet to tell you anything about Wendy. You don’t know what it sounds like, which genre it falls in to, which of the seven tracks is the most catchy, where the hidden secrets are to be found – but you know what? I’m ok with that. There are times when I don’t want to pull a record apart in that way, to deconstruct it to its roots. Sometimes I just want it to be there and to exist and hope that when someone reads the way it affects me, as a person rather than a magazine, they’ll take a chance on it anyway.”

In a stunned silence, we took in what we’d just heard. Then my husband spoke in characteristic understatement.

“I think that was a good review,” he said.

After that astonishing rave, there were more reviews of my son’s gorgeous song cycle about the difficulties of growing up. There were reviews from music bloggers in Greece and Italy. A French blogger compared Wendy to the films of Spike Jonze.  Leor Galil in the Chicago Reader wrote: “Small Wonder main man Henry Crawford calls his music “agnostic gospel,” and that tag well fits his band’s new album Wendy; the kitchen-sink indie-rock songs have nothing to do with religion (or gospel music for that matter), but they’ve got an otherworldly spiritual energy that’s got me hooked.” In NME, a British music weekly, the reviewer wrote: “Small Wonder is anything but inconsequential. Henry Crawford’s project is grand and intricate.” Just yesterday Wendy was mentioned in Stereogum: “Album highlight “Clearly Again” frames those concerns in a fragile yet expansive indie-rock ballad.”

Within a day of its release, the album was picked up by a distributor called Father and Daughter Records. The album is available on iTunes and can be purchased as a tape cassette or LP. Don’t look for a CD, CD’s are, not surprisingly, done for.

Which isn’t to say that I needed a bunch of music bloggers,  reviewers or an influential indie distributor to tell me that my son had created something special.  I’ve listened to the album almost daily since January 20th because I am fascinated by its lyricism, its slow building musical epiphanies, and its searing instrospection. The album is intricately based on the imagery of Peter Pan. In songs with names like Ball Lighning, Clearly Again, Patron Saint of Pretty Faces and Lost at Highway, Small Wonder describes the inner landscape of a young man transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood with a hyper-vigilant sense of awe and apprehension.

I am so proud of my son because he has not only created something complex and beautiful but he finished it, named it and put it out there for the world to hear. That is brave and strong. For someone who writes about his fears of growing up, I can’t imagine a better example of it.

A word about the drawing of Henry on the cover (and on this post). It’s by the extremely talented Susannah Cutler.


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April 11, 2014

The Soul of the World: An Exhibit of Photography by Tom Martinez

In his dual career as a minister and photographer, Reverend Tom Martinez is drawn to images that reflect New York’s interfaith diversity, its unexpected natural habitats, and the spirit of protest and volunteerism that’s all around. He also documents art on the ever-changing canvas of the City’s streets and walls.

The Soul of the World is an exhibition of his photography at the James Memorial Chapel at Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway at 121st Street, and it will run through May 5, 2014.

Tom is no stranger to readers of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. Since 2007, I have been proud to publish his work on this blog. His photographs of Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy, are especially powerful, as are his shots of Occupy Wall Street, Coney Island, Red Hook, his Kensington neighborhood and the Children of Abraham March, an annual  interfaith walk for peace in Brooklyn.

At the core of his work is a deep sense of humanity and an appreciation for those who seek to fix what is broken in the world. The photograph above was taken in the weeks after Sandy, when Occupy Sandy was running a relief center in  The Church of St. Matthew, St. Luke’s, an Episcopal church in Bed Stuy. About those weeks after Sandy, Martinez writes,

“Shooting its aftermath reminded me of being in New Orleans after Katrina. It was also a reminder of the powerful resilience of the human spirit, evidenced in the way the Occupy Wall Street movement morphed into Occupy Sandy.  Having successfully survived “off the grid” during the Wall Street protest—bringing in food and generating energy—after the hurricane, Occupy activists seamlessly re-directed the flow of resources outward to those most in need, setting up distribution hubs wherever they could.”

Martinez’s photographs of nature, particularly his virtuosic shots of hawks flying over Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park, convey an innate comfort and connection to the natural world and a true sense of wonder.

In 2003 Martinez became minister of All Souls Bethlehem Church in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood, an unusual house church with a diverse congregation. Tom graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 2000 and subsequently completed a three-year stint at Christ Church in Summit, NJ. With the Christian Peacemaker Teams, he spent two weeks in Baghdad in an effort to promote a human connection with the Iraqi people and alternatives to war. He is the author of the book, Confessions of a Seminarian: Searching for Soul in the Shadow of Empire.  He is the co-founder of Switch to Manual, which offers camera workshops and photo walks. His photographs have been published in the Staten Island Advance, the Brooklyn Paper, Tikkun, and, of course on this blog.

The Soul of the World: Photographs by Rev. Tom Martinez

Union Theological Seminary

3041 Broadway at 121st Street

NY NY 10027

The show will be up through May 5th.

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December 31, 2013

The 2013 Park Slope 100

Here it is: The 2013 Park Slope 100, the  seventh annual alphabetical list of 100 people, places and things that make Park Slope a special place to live. 100 Stories, 100 ways of looking at the world.

This year we had help from OTBKB readers, Facebook friends, and our colleagues at Park Slope Stoop, who will be running this list simultaneously. Much gratitude to Liena Zegare and Mary Bakija. 

For me, it’s about the people around here who contribute in some way large or small or even teeny tiny to the greater good. Who made you feel good this year? Who did something kind, something smart, something creative, something interesting?

Something inspiring?

A few things on this list divert from that but for the most part that’s what it’s about.

Please send your comments, your typo and bad link discoveries, your fact checks and your comments to louisecrawford@gmail.com.

Wow, seven years of the Park Slope 100. If you combine them, that’s 700 people, places and things to know about, think about, be inspired by.

Here goes…

His Honor the Mayor of NYC Bill De Blasio: Park Slope’s mayor. Now and forever.

 Lawrence Abdullah, the good Samaritan who helped police catch an alleged groper; as Council Member Brad Laner said, “he’s a “model citizen hleping to ensure the safety of his neighbors here in Park Slope.

Swati Argade for bringing ethical, yet still fashionable, clothing, jewelry, and more to her new shop, Bhoomki.

Jennifer Jones Austin, named co-chair of Bill de Blasio’s transition team, she has an impressive resume filled with public service, but that’s not all. A few years back, she had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. It was difficult to find a donor but she did it. Her energy amazes…

Barclays Center. Love it or hate it: it’s here with Jay Z, Beyonce, Streisand, Bieber, Rihanna, Miley, McCartney, Billy Joel, Bruno Mars, Cold Play, Depeche Mode, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Leonard Cohen, Alicia Keys, and the Video Music Awards. Oh yeah, and the Nets!

The BEAT Festival with its immersive art all over Brooklyn, including Dispatches from Sandy, reflections from relief volunteers at the front lines of Hurricane Sandy.

The Benches that have appeared throughout Park Slope, courtesy of the Department of Transportation as requested by diligent members of the Park Slope Civic Council.

Bklynr, Props to Raphael Pope-Sussman and Thomas Rhiel who produce journalism about all of Brooklyn. Twice a month, BKLYNR publishes stories that cover the political, economic, and cultural life of the borough. Each issue contains three pieces, which is designed to look beautiful on your computer, tablet, or phone. Subscribe.

Sarah Brasky, who runs Foster Dogs NYC — she lives in the neighborhood, and has not just placed a lot of dogs not just with foster families (many in the Slope), but has found lots of them forever homes. Plus she organized a great scavenger hunt over the summer!

Bogata Latin Bistro for the food, the service and the atmosphere. I always feel welcome, well taken care of and well-fed there. Gracias.

Brave New World Repertory because of their site-specific performance of “Street Scene,” a 1929 Elmer Rice play, using real residential buildings as an interactive set on a Park Slope Street.

Breaking Bad at the Gate. Again. Another summer with Walt, Jesse and the BB gang plus great bartenders, and a hushed crowd at Fifth Avenue’s best dive bar.

Brownstone Dreams, Kevin McPartland’s gripping novel about growing up on the mean streets of Park Slope in the early 1960s. It took five years to write, ten years to publish and a lifetime to live it.

Ann Cantrell of Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store, for bringing a sense of fun for both kids and grown-ups to 5th Avenue. We could stop in every day for a piece of candy, alone.

Dr. Cao at South Slope Pediatrics for creating such a warm and loving practice. They totally succeed in making their patients feel more like extended family members than names on a chart.

Ken Carlton for his self-published novel Food for Marriage. The Big Chill meets delicious food and juicy secrets and lies.

John Ciferni longtime owner of Tarzian Hardware, where we go when we need anything.

Citibike because biking is an awesome way to get around this city.

Sammy Cohen-Epstein: “Sammy was a remarkable kid. We heard heart-wrenching, beautiful stories at the funeral, and from kids and adults all around the neighborhood, about his young wisdom (some in his class called him “the philosopher”), his compassion and his smile, his skills as a soccer and trumpet player, and the rock-solid support he gave as a sibling and friend. His bar mitzvah was going to be November 16th,” wrote City Councilman Brad Lander in remembrance of this son of Park Slope who died. RIP.

Jill Cornell because she used her corporate and theater background, street smarts and network of friends to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.”


The Dolphin that found its way into the Gowanus. The borough watched as this seven foot long mammal turned up in the filthy headwaters of the Superfund canal, more than a mile from the harbor, and struggled for a day before he died. RIP.

Chiara De Blasio because she bravely shared her story about depression and substance abuse. It can’t be easy to be in the spotlight. Bravo.

EidolonPark Slope’s original indie design boutique since 1999 is closing. A fifth Avenue treasure for 14 years, Eidolon  was a cooperative venture with Andrea’s clothing designs, Yukie’s handbags, Mimi’s jewelry and Amara Felice’s own variety of clothing and accessories plus all of the designers who have consigned their goods to the store. Big closing sale in January.

Lucy Farrow, the South Slope 3-year-old who is showing cystic fibrosis who’s boss.

Marc Russ Federman, author of the marvelously entertaining and appetite inducing book “Russ and Daughters”.

The 5th Brooklyn Scouts at the Brooklyn Pride Parade. The group is committed to providing an appropriate alternative and community-oriented Scouting experience. They welcome everyone and provide a positive learning environment within the context of democratic participation, social justice, mutual respect and cooperation. Photo by  Tom Martinez. 

Forever Brooklyn, a short film by Francesco Paciocco 

Martha Foley, archivist at Congregation Beth Elohim, who is uncovering and preserving CBE’s rich history and the history of the people and families, many of them Park Slope residents, who have been part of that vital community

Fourth Avenue. Block by block. Rising to it’s potential.

Friends of Park Slope Library, a wonderful community of neighbors created to support the Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Gail Ghezzi for her blog and exhibition at Jalopy  Birth, Death, Repeat, an art/writing project featuring the shadow boxes of the Brooklyn designer Gail Ghezzi. Ghezzi’s shadow boxes are meditations on mortality that use antique artifacts and found objects she acquires at antique fairs, online and on her sidewalk. Each box imagines the final moments of a fictional character, and then surrounds that character with the detritus of a life.

Good Byes: Mindy Goldstein and Charlie Libin, longtime Park Slopers who are leaving for greener pastures in Greenpoint; Sweet Melissa decided to call it a day. And what a loss to  someone who loves fine baking and Saturday morning coffees with her sister (who could that be?). Two Boots: Where do we begin?

Katie Goodman for Sh*t Park Slope Parents Say (and continuing to be funny after that).

Martha and Gary Goff for their work on climate issues and with Brooklyn for Peace.

The Greed and Avarice that exists among commercial building owners and landlords on 7th Ave…leaving storefronts vacant for years at a time. Shame.

Chris Hennessy has Multiple Sclerosis but that doesn’t stop him from being a serious athlete and fundraiser for the disease.

Jennifer Kahrs, who co-founded Project Amelia to help friend and neighbor Ameilia Coffaro after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Reverend Cheri Kroon for her work organizing fast food workers and her ministry at Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.

Caroline Hitshew and Tali Biale, of the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and Barclays Center Greenmarket, respectively, for organizing great food events and finding creative ways to get us to taste new fruits and veggies every week.

Pam Katz because as co-screenwriter of Hannah Arendt (directed by Margarethe Von Trotta), she was nominated for a Lola, the German Academy Award. The film was selected as one of the top ten movies of 2013 by AO Scott in the New York Times: “Those who complain that movies can’t think don’t really know how to think about movies. This one, focusing on the controversy surrounding its subject’s 1963 book “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” brilliantly dramatizes the imperative at the center of her life as a writer and philosopher, which was to compel the world to yield to the force of the mind.” 

Madelyn Kent and Peggy Stafford for their Sense Writing Workshops that enables those who wish to write to let go of their inhibitions and writer’s block and write.

The LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park’s new skating center!

Dr. Larissa Litinova, compassionate, kind MD with a holistic approach.

The Mayoral Forums in Park Slope. Lively.

The Maurice Sendak School (PS 118) at 4th Ave and 8th Street). Love the name. Love the school.

Chirlane McCraine, because she will always be OUR first lady. 

Kimberly McCreight for her excellent debut novel Reconstructing Amelia. 

Steve McGill for documenting the city in photographs — especially the birds in Prospect Park.

Kevin McPartland, author of Brownstone Dreams, a gripping coming of age tale about growing up on the mean and violent streets of Park Slope in the 1960s. It took 5 years to write, ten years to publish and a lifetime to live.

Josh Miele, as reported by the New York Times. forty years after an acid attack by a neighbor in Park Slope, he is productive, forgiving and inspiring.

Miss America is a Park Sloper. Mallory Hytes: You go girl!

Naidre’s for creating the best breakfast taco known to man.

Nemo Hits Brooklyn: Snowy Backyards in Park Slope (Photo by Sophia Romero).

New BBQ restaurants (Dinosaur, Morgans. YUM.)

Connie Nogren, long time incredible teacher at P.S. 321, volunteer at P.S. 10 and peace activist. Pictured above right. Photo supplied by Renee Dinnerstein (pictured above left).

Major Owens (RIP) Member of US House of Representatives from 1983-2007, representing Park Slope

 The continued expansion of the Park Slope Historic District, the largest historic district in New York City, containing the most significant contiguous swath of protected buildings in the entire city.

Park Slope Street Safety Partnership for getting neighbors started with actions to help make our streets safer for everyone.

Park Slope Veterinary Center for working so hard to find families for the neighborhood’s homeless dogs and cats.

Prospect Park, the book about Olmstead & Vaux’s Brooklyn masterpiece by David P. Colley with photographs by Elizabeth Keegin Colley out from Princeton Architecture Press. Available at the Community Bookstore. 

Lou Reed (RIP) born in Brooklyn…

Frank Renda at Superior Auto Care for keeping local cars running (and dogs fed with treats) for more than 20 years.

Sale of a certain building on Seventh Avenue (and the potential for it’s renovation). Mazel Tov!

Krista Saunders and Jill Benson for opening Ground Floor Gallery, bringing so much great art, fun events, and opportunities for local artists already in its first year.

Chris Schneider and Ryan Powers for putting on such a badass holiday light show every year.

Dree Schultz, the talented local drummer who spearedheaded Back to Class, a collaborative album to benfit the music programs of the Detroit Public Schools.

Shavuot Across Brooklyn: A consortium of Brooklyn’s minyanim and synagogues, who  came together for an all-night celebration for the holiday of Shavuot commemorating the giving of the Ten Commandments. It started at 8PM with services and cheesecake and ended with a sunrise service at 5AM. They are surely gonna do it again and you can come for all or part of the night and enjoy a program of learning, singing, and dancing as some of Brooklyn’s finest teachers gather.

Bruce Shearhouse of American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) because not only he is one of the soccer guys but he collects equipment and school supplies for poor kids

Josh Shneider Love Speaks Orchestra. New LP, lots of airplay. A 19-piece big band for god’s sakes. And the music makes you feel glorious.

Sock Monkey Press, started by Scott Adkins and Erin Courtney, publishes strong literary works that have a visual focus, using e-platforms for distribution in addition to printed books.  Recent publications include Terence Degnan’s The Small Plot Beside the Ventriloquist’s Grave, Martin Kleinman’s Home Front, and  My Apocalypse, an anthology. Coming soon: Nicole Callihan’s debut book of poetry SUPERLOOP, Hardcover with fabric case binding.

South Slope Flea, finding a new home after losing their home of 27-years at PS 321. One might say they were kicked out to make room for the Brooklyn Flea. Check it out on 20th Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.

Patrick Stewart and… 

The Patrick Stewart Tumblr.

Paula Tarzian just because.

Matthew Taub,  lawyer, OTBKB contributor and now Local Write Up, his new venture. 

Teddy Bears on Prospect Park West put up by 13-year-old Alison Collard de Beaufort after she found out that Sammy Cohen-Eckstein, one of her classmates at MS 51,  had been hit by a car and killed in October.

Terrace Books for taking over Babbo Books and keeping a bookish presence in Windsor Terrace.

Two Boots: Goodbye with love.

After 24 years, Two Boots Brooklyn is coming to a close; our last day will be November 10.

It’s been our very great pleasure to have been a part of your lives, and to have had you in ours.

Piper & Andy Wandzilak, the current operators, will be continuing on in this space as their partner, John Touhey, Two Boots co-founder, retires.

Piper & Andy will be renovating and making big changes over the next two months and are hoping to re-open sometime mid-winter.

They plan on having the same warm welcome and relaxed party atmosphere, with much of our same happy staff and management.

We all thank you for your loyalty and support all these years.

For us, this place has been like a second family and a home away from home, and we know it’s been the same for many of you.

We’re heartbroken to be saying goodbye, but we hope to see you again for our re-birth!

Most sincerely and gratefully,

Piper & Andy & John

Jeanne Theoharis for her book The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks published this year and just nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Biography/Autobiography.

Ugly Duckling Presse located in the American Can Factory building on Third Street for its support and publication of POETRY, experimental and otherwise.

Unparallel Way, Emily Weiskopf’s bright yellow median scupture on 4th Avenue between 3rd and 5th Streets.

Andrew Violette, former PS 321 teacher, Hillard-trained composer and pianist, organist and music director at St. Augustien Church.

Ned Vizzini, a precocious son of Park Slope, he was writing for the New York Press and New York Times while still a teenager. He is the author of four books for young adults including It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which NPR named #56 of the “100 Best-Ever Teen Novels” of all time. It was made into a film. RIP.

War/Photography Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath” continues through Feb. 2, 2014. Image by Ron Haviv.

Marlene Weisman for her feminist/surrealist collage series, While I Was Stuck in the Supermarket displayed at Powerhouse on 8th in Park Slope. A graphic designer, Marlene created graphics, sketch titles, visuals, and props at Saturday Night Live from 1988-1995.


What My Daughter Wore, a blog you’ve just got to see for its artistry and casual hipness.And I love that blogger Jenny Williams uses Blogspot, my beloved first blogging platform.

Whole Foods! Yes.

Miles Wickam, graffiti artist, teacher and person who inspires.  From an interview with Creative Times: “First, I believe we all have creative abilities, and we need to discover and refine them. Some of us grew up without the proper support to know this about ourselves. Remember that graffiti, like all other skills, take LOTS of experience, lots of hours of practice, to refine to a level to where you know you are good. There can and probably will be LOTS of frustration and disappointment on the path. Don’t give up on yourself.”

William Butler School, PS 133, brand new school at corner of 4th and Baltic. Beautiful school.

Avra Wing, author of a wonderful young adult novel called After Isaac

The Wooden House Project, where Elizabeth Finkelstein provides some much-deserved attention for the neighborhood’s wooden houses.

Candace Woodward, promoter and advocate of all good things in Park Slope.



December 30, 2013

Accepting Park Slope 100 Nominations: NOW

I am now compiling the seventh 2013 Park Slope  100, 100 people, places and things that make Park Slope a special place to live. 100 Stories, 100 ways of looking at the world.

Have a look at the 2012 Park Slope 100 for an idea of what we’re looking for. Think of people you love in Park Slope who contribute in some way large or small or even teeny tiny to the greater good. Who made you feel good this year? Who did something kind, something smart, something creative, something interesting.

Help me make this a great and inclusive list. Email me: louisecrawford@gmail.com and THANKS. The deadline is TODAY. I know that’s no notice at all…

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November 25, 2013

Dec 7: Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair with Paul Auster Reading “Auggie Wren”

Some of you may remember the inaugural Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair last year at The Old Stone House (organized by Honey & Wax Booksellers). In the afternoon, Pete Hamill read the great O’Henry story “The Gift of the Magi” and one  of his own from “A Christmas in Brooklyn.”

On December 7th from 11AM until 5PM,  independent Brooklyn bookshops and antiquarian booksellers will fill Park Slope’s Old Stone House with rare, vintage, and out-of-print books in a celebration of the borough’s rich history of printing, reading, and writing.

Building on the success of last December’s inaugural fair featuring Pete Hamill, this year’s event includes an expanded range of local booksellers, from general-interest open shops to specialized private dealers, and will conclude with a public reading by Paul Auster of his Brooklyn holiday classic, “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story.” He will be reading at 4PM. The organizers are expecting a big crowd, so arrive early to shop and see Auster.

That’s right. Paul Auster will be reading his classic story. I’m excited. Super. Here’s a list of the booksellers included in this wonderful fair—just in time for Christmas. You know, books are so easy to wrap.

2013 participants include:

Brooklyn Books

Enchanted Books

Freebird Books

Honey & Wax Booksellers

Joe Maynard, Bookseller

Open Air Modern

P.S. Bookshop

Singularity & Co.

Terrace Books

Tom Davidson, Bookseller

Unnameable Books

Full Disclosure: Honey & Wax Booksellers is a client of my company Brooklyn Social Media. But I’d be excited about this anyway. Very.

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November 8, 2013

Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell: A Woman of Heart and Mind

Happy Birthday to Joni Mitchell who turned 70 yesterday. She was my songwriting guru back in the seventies when I played her record Blue until it got scratched and cackly and wrote songs about my own life and loves with weird guitar tunings.

What a kaleidoscopic artist. A Canadian art school folkie, she moved to Laurel Canyon and defined the Los Angeles songwriting scene at its best (she was, after all, a lady of the canyon). She painted Van Gogh-esque portraits of herself. By the age of 30, she’d written such iconic songs as “Both Sides Now,”  “Chelsea Morning,” “The Circle Game” and “Woodstock.” But it was albums like Blue, Court and Spark and Hejira that established her as a musical and poetic force and an artist of the highest degree. Later, smitten by the work of jazz bassist Charles Mingus, she brought the idiom of jazz into her work with serious attention to jazz modes and melodies. Herbie Hancock dedicated an album to her songs called River: The Joni Letters. 

Oh we love Joni for her strength of character, her refusal to be marginalized as “just another girl singer,” her determination  to be recognized as a major 20th century musical innovator, even her exasperating quotes and grandiosity. She IS “a woman of heart and mind” and a powerful influence on American popular music.

Poet Patricia Spears Jones writes: “You want vivid details in your poems, study the lyrics of Joni Mitchell—she can go from yearning to seduction and dejection in like a nano second. Happy birthday to the great pop music contrarian.”

In honor of Joni Mitchell, I am producing Court and Spark Turns 40 on January 16, 2014 at 8PM at The Old Stone House in Park Slope, a concert performance of the entire album with many performers. Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us will be there and will share her thoughts on Joni Mitchell and the making of that particular album.

Click on the link below for more information about this incredible event: https://www.facebook.com/events/536216586463886/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar

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