In 2005, I wrote the following on Why I Can't Stop Smoking:

It was midnight on Halloween, known by the Wiccans as Samhain, or New Year's Eve. I killed them by fire, I killed them by earth, I killed them by water.
Or, in normaltalk, I tried to burn up the rest of my cigarettes but even with a bunch of wooden matches stuffed in they wouldn't burn (what IS that chemical?). So then I stomped on them. And then I was afraid they might still be burning so I poured water on them. Then I threw them in the trash. The ocean might have been more romantic for me ("and then I cast them into the waves, as a stone weighing down my life"), but probably not for the ocean itself, which has enough trash floating around in it already.
It hasn't been too tough to quit since, because I've been asleep. Happy Day of the Dead.
Why I can't stop: I will always be a smoker.

But, indeed ,I did stop smoking.  Except in my dreams, where I have a cigarette once in a while. Then I tried to stop drinking, which, like smoking, I have tried to do over and over. However, I mourned a friend dead of liver disease last night. And it is again Samhain. The time seems propitious.

More about Samhain.


on the train

This is what the world looked like as I took the train back into the city.
    And then the sun went down and a friend called, hysterical, and I learned about Elaine.
    There are times when it might be better not to have a cell phone.


elaine rivera

On her 50th. She was 54.

Elaine Rivera loved people: “Two eyes a nose and a mouth—and all so different!” She loved all kinds of people, from the flower lady in her Bronx neighborhood to the political operatives she covered as a classic New York City beat reporter. Well, that isn’t exactly true. She didn’t love intolerant people—was, in fact, downright intolerant of them. And despite (or maybe because of) her brief marriage and series of long-term lovers, she had her reservations when it came to men. Notably, however, she remained close with almost every one of her exes.
    I met her when she was working at Time magazine on stories like the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, and, less typically, covering celebrities like Christina Aguillera and John F.  Kennedy Jr.  Usually she was a crusader for the underdog, the poor, the victims of racism and hatred. And she really, really cared. She went to the Washington Post after Time, but DC was a bad fit. "I am so outta Virginia, baby. I'm never living in the south again—they can just kiss my Puerto Rican ass," she crowed as she drove back to the home of her heart. She resettled near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and worked as a political reporter for WNYC, leaving to take a journalism chair at Lehman College. The latter moves, trailing many scarves and bags, were particularly astonishing because Elaine’s major bugaboos were technology and bureaucracy.  “This job is kicking my ass,” she would say, no matter which job it was. Now I wonder if the reason she was so exhausted was the liver disease she must have had for years. The only exception, which her more recent journalist friends got very tired of hearing about, was her golden era as a staff reporter for almost a decade at New York Newsday. One wonders what time she had to get to work there, for Elaine was never a morning person.
    Elaine was a party person. She always brought the party hats, whether it was a birthday party—which she adored—or New Year’s or Fourth of July. Confetti, sparklers, flags, balloons, bought at the 99-cent store. Her stories, too, made her the life of the party. One favorite was about the time she was staying over at a friend’s apartment and, mistaking the hall door for the bathroom door, locked herself out of the apartment nude in the middle of the night. Wrapping herself in a rug, she got on the elevator to go downstairs to call her friend, who had slept through the pounding on his door. The elevator got stuck in the lobby. Elaine pressed the emergency button and a woman over the intercom said there was nothing she could do. Elaine, of course, asked her name. “Tookie, Tookie, I’m begging you!” wailed Elaine. “Please call my friend. I’m standing in the lobby in the middle of the night in a rug!”
     Elaine loved being surrounded by celebration and friends, of whom she had an inordinate number. She was always trying to mix them, with varying degrees of success. Well, we’re mixed now, along with her devastated family from Cleveland, in love and in loss. 

The tributes are pouring in:
From Newsday  and Huffington Post
Voices of NY


semisweet 16

Happy birthday, Madison!


last first light

Nothing to steal / not nothing no more
I got no TVs   / just close up the door
Don't bother with locks/ cause there's nothin' here
Once I have split the coast is all clear

Don't go looking for meds or hand guns or booze
Sheets on the beds all set for a snooze
Art on the walls and dishes on shelves
 Surfboards in halls, left to themselves
Wicker is all inside for a rest
Awaiting the butts of the next paying guest

What is the dearest thing I've got?
Maybe the Chemex coffee pot


who's in the truck?

So now there's a suggestion that it should be "who's in the truck" rather than "what's in the truck".
    It's based on a message from Dreamworld received last night by CBA, who dreamt that she and I and Warren Zevon and a movie star to remain nameless were caravanning cross-country with three semis full of stuff (must say it feels like it sometimes) and the Amazing Growing Salt-or-Freshwater Fish! Sounds like a traveling circus, which it ofttimes is. Then she located this riff she had never heard before by Warren Zevon about why he needs a truck—or several.


what should go in the truck?

Besides rosy sunset? As DR says, autumn has an elegiac (sp?) quality. And as Bo (or whatever name he's going by) points out, it's about inventories—evocative, and time-sensitive. The closing-up lists call for decisions, wondering whether to pack it away or leave it out for my spring self. Putting my affairs in order.
     The junk box in the bottom of the filing cabinet. Leave it out for Milla to play with? Single earrings given me by someone. The chop with my Chinese name , Tao Ling, from college. The tambourine jingles and shells on a leather thong I wore attached to my bellbottoms in Kauai, so I would make music wherever I go. Cloisonne jewelery crafted by my first New York City roommate. The combs I wore in my hair when I got married. The rainbow-striped socks I wore when I gave birth. And in more mundane mode, do I put the Block Island shampoo and hairbrush (!) away in case I'm not back to open up in the spring? Remind me to tell you about the hairbrush sometime.
   The sunsets are awesome this time of year, and you can't take them with you.


the still of the morning

For days (when someone wanted to take out the paddle board) the wind howled, but this morning the ducks floated on glass.
    Which reminds me, must order a new drip deflector for the glass shower door. And gaskets for the blenders and new director's chairs and cleaning products & etc. But that's for next year. Tasks remaining for this year: clean fireplace, unplug things, turn off gas, move in outdoor furniture and lawn mower, store paint in Johnny's cellar, put towels in front of leaky French door, clean grills, clean refrigerators, wash mattress pads, reserve on ferry. . . Everyone who stops by is at risk of helping me carry something.


little eva

 The wolf pup is just one of Eva's drawings. She wins  lot of prizes for them. Lately, she has been doing portraits of her friends (via selfies) and posting them on Instagram. Over the weekend she was working on a Halloween costume that required lots of cardboard boxes and paint, as well as posing in costume with friends (below).
Her favorite color, in case you were wondering, is green.


desert isle

I'm-Not-Telling But You-Can-Guess Beach
Sandy redistributed the, er, sand on the island, and after every storm the coastline changes. Now is the time to peep into the windows of the summer people and pick the last flowers from their gardens and steal their pears for tarts. We have the run of the place. The so-called Roll Call Dinner at the Harbor Baptist Church on Tuesday will prove who's left in residence. I will make it, but then will be closing up and headed for another, more populated island.


old friends

at Claudia's

at Hannah's

Shoulder season is visiting season, so in addition to our island family, the citifolk have been coming over. My friend Jed, author and former editor of the Times-Picayune, came out for a flash after a speaking engagement in Boston. We go way back to the startup of People in 1974 and Max's Kansas City and CBGB and even before, through mutual friends, during Harvard and Vassar days. He now resides in New Orleans and Patzcuaro, Mexico.
    And Hannah's grade school friend friend Zoe (holding baby), now a restauranteur and ever a New Yorker with a boat mechanic girlfriend (left) and a poodle named Cosmo.


last beach day

We all went to the beach. Then we came home and John foraged in the saltwater and came up with oysters and clams from the salt pond in back of our house and fresh caught tuna from a fisherman friend. He is very proud of his tableside cooking apparatus, which is a boat's propane grill now anchored in a piece of driftwood. The oysters, lightly roasted then doused with garlic and butter, were particularly awesome.


mothers of reinvention

I seem to remember diapers hanging on the line in Block Island—oh, about 31 years ago. Here they are again. But these are rediscovered, ecologically sensitive diapers with way cool diaper covers (not like those plastic ones we had years ago) and apparently they are the absolute latest in Mommydom. They trade for higher prices used than new and everyone is climbing on the bandwagon. Exhibit A: Hannah's blog: "Why I put shit in my washing machine." Oh yes, oversharing and self branding have also been reinvented for the digital age. We used to call it being honest and open or sharing our feelings (or, less kindly, ego tripping). Monetizing same online is a new invention.


gone baby gone

It's over. The planes are offloading people to the mainland, the ferries are on their last day of holiday schedule, the last Guests are packing up to leave Claudia's Surf City, and Block Island will be left to itself until Memorial Day. The weather today, of course, is perfect, now that everyone has to leave.


season's end

The boats will be plying the water this weekend, rains or no. And then—nothing. Cottagers will close up their houses, the last few restaurants and shops will be shuttered, and only the misfits will remain.


which baby?

Same sink. Same Mama. Same mouth. Same blue towel. So? Who is who? Boy baby/girl baby?


view not included

A passing interest. . .

. . .just the sofa and the fire hydrant and the sea
It is a comfy way to admire the ocean, which today is tumbling and foaming in a stiff NE breeze that makes the house rattle and roll. After putting this impressive item of furniture next to the road, we began to wait for the hoards to show up quarreling amongst themselves as to who would be the fortunate soul to make this domestic icon their own. So far, interested parties are mainly those whose companion animals have ripped their previous sofas to shreds.
    As of this ayem, the couch was still hitchhiking by the side of the road, awaiting a ride home. By 1:30 today, it must be gone or at the dump, for tomorrow it shall rain.

   Oh and, at 7:30 Thursday evening (oops) there is a live stream of a panel discussion by Women of Vision, a National Geographic exhibition including our own Lynn Johnson and Maggie Steber.

BREAKING NEWS. . . Couch taken. Let's hope it makes it through the door at its new home or it will be back!


into the wind

Two chairs faced out to sea. The wind picked up. It seemed like fall was here at last. Soon the chairs will have to come inside. Well, one of them will. The other is scheduled for the dump. Like the roof. . .


bite my—nose

Too exhausted from his transatlantic trip to unpack, Nosebite falls asleep on his luggage.
As some of you may know, cats are not my favorite creatures. When I caught pregnant Pepper scouting my house for a place to give birth, I threw her out. Unfortunately, CBA witnessed this procedure, which led to the following interaction with her lawyer (above).

Dear Madam: I have made an emergency transatlantic trip to defend Madame Pepper, who as you know is with children. Because Madame Pepper has confessed to eating your baby birds, we have decided not to bring suit against you at the present time. The young mother has agreed to stop the killing, provided you are willing to feed her something else.
Having been with child yourself, you know the importance of "eating for two.", as they say in your country. Consider that Madame Pepper is eating for as many as eight, so please provide a spread proprtionate to her needs.

 Or, if you prefer, in the original French.
Madame, j'ai fait un voyage transatlantique d'urgence pour défendre Mme Pepper, qui comme vous le savez est avec des enfants. Parce que Mme Pepper a avoué à manger vos oiseaux de bébé, nous avons décidé de ne pas porter plainte contre vous à l'heure actuelle. La jeune mère a accepté d'arrêter le massacre, à condition que vous êtes prêt à nourrir ses quelque chose d'autre.
Ayant été avec un enfant vous-même, vous savez l'importance de «manger pour deux»., Comme ils disent dans votre pays. Considérez que Mme Pepper mange pour autant que huit, donc s'il vous plaît fournir une propagation proprtionate à ses besoins.


fishy formation

Look, up in the sky! Is that a narwhal or a swordfish? Wait, there's a school of them!
And for those of you who don't look at Facebook, here's the loft apartment Hannah and Chris are leaving for their next life in Providence. You could start a new life there!



Before: Substandard
It's always a bit of  a shock to come back to see what has gotten rearranged over the course of the season. I'm thinking I may need to check in a couple of times. . .
I came Bearing Couch in Box. Today, I attempted to switch out safas. I managed to load the 159 lb. box from one porch onto the truck and onto the other porch. It did involve sliding up a board and almost 

During: A nailbiter
busting a gut. Then I had to call in Kitty Movers for an 
assist. We managed to get the old couch about halfway out the door before wedging it between doorframe and railing. We had to stop and think. And clear the deck. Literally. We shouted at each other during assembly of the new couch (it is Ikea), but in the end all was successfully installed. And not a moment too soon. Photo shoot for the Block Island Times and dinner for four tomorrow.
After: Have a seat!