NYMysteries May 6 – May 12

@Generation Women shared secrets on April 25. It was  story telling by women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. Each participant had seven minutes  to tell her secret and the fun began at 7 pm. It was at the Caveat Theatre, a  New York speakeasy, on 21 A Clinton Street. 

See my performance on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/-NejHvdUcOE

Read it here.

Generation Women  is an organization founded and run by Georgia Clark.

April 25 My Biggest Secret performed at Caveat 

There are those secrets we tell our ten best friends. For example: I just signed with an agent. Please don’t tell anyone.(Dear Reader, This is a figment of my imagination.)  Or, after a glass of wine or two, Did I ever tell you about the times I went to Plato’s Retreat?  Plato’s Retreat was a 1970’s sex club. When I submitted what I thought was my final draft of My Biggest Secret to Georgia Clark, she assumed it was a partial draft. Oh, yeah? Our Georgia wants details about Plato’s Retreat. Those Australians… all sex crazed. Dropping the Plato’s Retreat name among the elderly is a fun secret that makes your friends envious of your long ago dissolute life. How innocent my boyfriend Seymour and I were. In the late seventies he phoned Plato’s Retreat, landline, and asked if we should bring bathing suits. A guy with a very NY accent snickered and said, “Well, if you want.” So we arrived at the Ansonia Hotel located between West 73rd and West 74th Streets and went to Plato’s Retreat in the basement. This was the late Seventies. Something called gay cancer was spreading through the city. My neighbor, a gay man, had purple blotches on his face. 47 year old Conductor Thomas Schippers died after a brief and mysterious illness. Seymour and I were unaware of how deadly this plague was. It was later called AIDS.  

Meanwhile, in order to seem hip and not reveal our nervousness at entering Plato’s Retreat, Seymour had fortified himself with a little booze and a lot of pot. I had fortified myself with a lot of booze and a little pot. Did you know that sex clubs, at least this one, were very quiet? Aside from moaning, groaning and women having a loudest orgasm competition, the place was silent. Somewhere there was the dripping of water from the waterfalls but who cared. We didn’t wear our bathing suits.

But my biggest secret is in the shame and anger and embarrassment category. 

I avoid the word, family. My secret is I don’t have a family. The word I hate is mother. I didn’t have one. I had a younger or older sister, depending on the mood of the woman who gave birth to me. She hated and was afraid of other people. That included her three sisters and two brothers all of whom died alone. Therefore, there was no family creation. My father died when I was two. My mother never mentioned him. I never saw my mother kiss or hold hands with another man.  My father had worked on the New Orleans paper, the Times Picayune, moved east to work with Dorothy Day and in World War II his merchant marine ship was torpedoed. Every year I make a pilgrimage to the Merchant Mariners’ Memorial in Battery Park. My father died at 37 in 1942. He was a socialist and my mother was a social climber. I’m a combination of the two.     

You know how it is: when you don’t have something, it’s always there. If you’re poor you hear only the word, money. If you’re hungry, it’s the word, food. It’s the same thing with the word, family. I don’t hate Paul Ryan because he’s a Republican. I envy him because he’s surrounded by family. 

Every day remarks such as, “My kids keep me posted about Facebook. I never go on it myself.” Swamp me with visions of successful, beautiful/ handsome millennials texting mom.  Another example is, “I had to fly home. We had an intervention for my cousin who’s in and out of drug rehab.” How cool is that? An intervention, relatives with the same last name all in the same room.

I created a fantasy family following literary protagonists who have no family such as the early Harry Bosch, Cornelia in the PD James mysteries and Sneaky Pete. 

Sub-secret Number 1: I was going to include more literary names, racking my brain for the lack of family in Virginia Woolf or Zadie Smith. Any way to get away from my shameful secret, the longing for a family. 

I have written two police procedurals. My lead detective, Steve Kulchek, has a shaky family life: one beloved daughter, one divorced wife and his uncle in Florida, a retired cop. I enjoy writing from a man’s point of view. Maybe it’s because I can make him the guy I want. 

Secrets are the heart beat of most mysteries. They are cause and effect in fiction and in life. Do secrets breed phobias or vice versa? 

Sub-secret number 2: Since childhood I was afraid of being trapped in an elevator and no one would rescue me. Living in NYC and in Rome it was a problem for me and a nuisance for others. I’d watch a stranger go into an elevator or come out of one and I’d feel a chill. Being alone in a moving box? Worse still, what if it stops? Like a wild animal, when I had to take one, I was aware of mechanical sounds and speed, as if they were out to get me. I had a great companion who was getting tired of my out bursts after refusing to get into an elevator. You know how shame and fear equal anger and losing your temper. I didn’t want to lose him so I found a clinic at St. Roosevelt Hospital. A wonderful social worker dealt with anxiety. There was a woman who couldn’t be alone. Her fiancé was waiting for her outside. There was a woman who said she would welcome be trapped alone in an elevator for the rest of her life. Two of us were afraid of elevators and took over the sessions. Every session the social worker would trot us out to the elevator and try to convince the other woman and me to get into it. He, the social worker, explained that there were some theories about not trusting a parent that contributed to this fear.  No kidding. Thanks to this wonderful man and the fact that I moved into a Stuyvesant Town apartment on the twelfth floor, I got over the elevator phobia. Never mind the fact that for the first three months I climbed the twelve flights. 

I have a surrogate family that consists of my super friends in NYC and Portland, Oregon. My longing for family gets played out in my detective procedurals. So there! Into my seventies, bloody but unbowed. 

Graphic Lessons: Recent thirty-five-year-old widow Millie Fitzgerald applies for a private school teaching job, faints on a stabbed and dying man in the school kitchen, deals with the only witness to the stabbing – a troubled nine-year-old, develops a crush on a NYPD detective and her dog dies.

Graphic Lessons: Nine-year-old Dana is the only witness who overhears a person fighting with George Lopez, the soon to be stabbed Windsor School kitchen worker. Who can she tell? Her mother who never listens or accuses her of lying? Her father who’s started a new family in Singapore? She tells Millie. 

Graphic Lessons: NYPD Detective Steve Kulchek is assigned a murder case at the  prestigious Windsor School. What’s bugging him? His partner being stabbed while Kulchek was buying cigarettes? Escaping an attempted car bombing?  His hated boss, Captain Dick Holbrook, being a trustee of the Windsor School?  Losing his girlfriend to Holbrook?