New York City Blog: R. I. P. Karl Garlid (1944-2014)

Karl's Chair
Karl’s Chair

Karl Garlid died on May 1 at Lenox Hill Hospital. Mary Meyer, his wife, was with him. Shortly after they married thirty five years ago, I met them at Judson Memorial Church. I learned over the years that Karl was a person of fierce loyalty. He loved his wife,  Cambridge Place, the cats, his community, his college, Williams, and Italy. The evening of May 1st Mary and I sat on their deck, drinking wine and laughing and crying as we recalled the big guy. We then went to a nearby restaurant. Neighbors stopped Mary to hug her and offer condolences. At the restaurant the manager, upon learning the news, wouldn’t let us pay.  Cambridge Place was a beacon of hospitality to Judson folk, neighbors, the Long Island gang, college pals, members of the Hill publication, a local newsletter, and many a needy cat.


New York City Blog April 20 – April 26

Daffodils at Judson Memorial Church
Daffodils at Judson Memorial Church

Spring has arrived! These daffodils were on a table at Judson Memorial Church’s Easter service.

Detective Steve Kulchek hated reading until his Uncle Con (Retired NYPD detective) introduced him to John D. MacDonald. Steve’s parents were killed in a boating accident and his Uncle Con and Aunt Bess raised him. Why read sexy mysteries about boats when the kid’s parents died on one, you ask. Con thought it was a good idea to show the ocean’s beauty as well as its horrors. It worked. Steve loves fooling around on water skis and reads, mostly Playboy, Sports Illustrated and nonfiction with a little Michael Connolly and John D. MacDonald thrown in.
When retired detective, Con Haggerty, was a young cop he went to a Park Avenue apartment to pick up a man for questioning. The man’s wife told Con he was at the Frick. Con assumed the Frick was a movie house. This was in the days when the upper east side had movie houses. After casing the neighborhood, Con learned to his chagrin that the Frick was a private collection of western European and Renaissance art. He found the man in front of the Ingres. Case solved.
Ingres's Comtesse d'Haussonville
Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville

New York City Blog April 13 – April 19

One of my favorite characters in THE LEMROW MYSTERY, Wellington Chen, would have been intrigued by the Museum of Chinese in America. It’s in a small building on busy, chaotic Centre Street. I was especially interested in the The Lee Family exhibit. The Lee family have been in New York’s Chinatown since 1888. To this day, they have an important presence. After visiting the museum, I walked past Lee Insurance on Pell Street. It was painful to read and to see exhibits about the discrimination the Chinese endured. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 denied the Chinese the following: entrance into the country, testifying in court, owning property, voting, or marrying a non-Chinese. The Magnuson Act repealed the law in 1943.

 If you squint you can see Isabel Allende being interviewed by Amy Goodman at the Americas Society. The meeting was organized and run like a strict convent school or the est training, but the audience was good nature and docile. Isabel Allende is a spitfire. Dramatically, she explained that she was always a lousy journalist because she never told the truth. Pablo Neruda told her to get out of journalism and do what she did so well, story telling.
Isabel Allende and Amy Goodman
Isabel Allende and Amy Goodman
I got this recipe from Detective Steve Kulchek’s Aunt Bess. It was her way of getting him to eat vegetables. I call it mystery peppers because the mystery is how something so good can have only two ingredients: sweet peppers and sweet potatoes (or yams). Parboil the peppers for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, roast the sweet potatoes (not skinned) in aluminum until soft. After the peppers have cooled, stuff them with the sweet potatoes. Put this into the oven for about twenty minutes so that the two ingredients marry. Done!
Sweet Peppers filled with Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Peppers filled with Sweet Potatoes
Query:  Is it fair to have Wall Street close down on Good Friday?  Since when has Wall Street gotten religion?
For Easter let me quote W. H. Auden:
“Leave the dead concerns of
Yesterday behind us,
Face with all our courage
What is now to be.”

New York City Blog April 6 – April 12

Every time I stick my nose out the door, I’m walking in the shoes of one of my characters in my series.  On Thursday, at the Real Immigration Reform rally, a portly man in a tired suit announced to a friend and me that he had run for president and for mayor and he was thinking of running for governor. He pressed his card into my friend’s hand. It’s the sort of prop that’s gold dust to a mystery writer. The late Elmore Leonard would have loved this guy. His NY craziness and attitude were displayed on his card, loaded down with dubious credentials.I was thinking of a scene with him and my detective, Steve Kulchek. Steve is a tough, cynical New Yorker who has a soft spot for weirdos.
Judson Memorial Church
Judson Memorial Church
Usually, I hate rallies: the screaming into the squeaky microphone, the haranguing of a group that’s already on your side, the hustle and crowds, the awkwardness of holding a banner that’s caught in the wind. The Real Immigration Reform was different. The speakers were focused on Congress having let us down and Obama not following through on his campaign promises. The three hundred plus crowd had  African, Asian and Latino representatives as well as representatives from various unions, Cabrini and Judson Memorial Church. Judson has been in the vanguard of institutions protesting ICE (U. S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement) treating immigrants as if they were criminals and separating families.
A rally participant
A rally participant
Talk about caring. This is a recent mangled piece of mail received from our postal service.

Other side of envelope
Other side of package
Damaged package
Damaged package

New York City Blog: April 30 – April 5

I hadn’t been to the Union Square market in ages, but this past week when I returned, I wasn’t disappointed. This gentleman was not camera shy, nor was his dog.

A Union Square Regular and his Dog
A Union Square Regular and his Dog
On Friday I joined a friend for dinner at the venerable restaurant, Sevilla.Because of the gusty winds on Seventh Avenue, I thought I was a going to be blown to Spain along with the balloons and dog.
Balloons on windy 7th Avenue
Balloons on windy 7th Avenue
Lynn Rogers, a Staten Island woman who has made forgotten cemeteries her cause, gave an informative and amusing lecture at the Arsenal. Did you know that our parks department now owns at least three non-denominational cemeteries and has been responsible in restoring them?
During the Civil War many of the northern recruits were Irish fleeing the Irish Famine. As soon as the men and boys stepped off the boat they were given the choice: do you want to fight or do you want to fight. The lot of the immigrant has seldom been easy and theirs was no exception.In 1851 a New York newspaper wrote about the Marine Hospital being crowded to access with the numerous deaths of the starving Irish. Help Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries is now working on restoring Marine Hospital-Quarantine Cemetery (1799-1858).

New York City Blog March 24 – March 29


Ever been to the underworld? Ever read The Inferno? I’m feeling the afterglow of Sicily and all its classical illusions: temples to Persephone and to Heracles; churches that were once dedicated to Minerva.
Agrigento. Hercules's Temple
Agrigento. Heracles’s Temple
In NYC we’re lacking in classical ruins but we do have a version of the underworld and it’s called the Chelsea Market. Unlike Hades these are shops burrowed into the cavernous ninth avenue structure. Virgil would have had a field day. Chelsea Market’s dark, uneven, winding corridors are crowded with people milling about looking determined or lost. I was among the lost circling back and forth in the semi-darkness, searching for Buon Italia. As I passed the euphemistically called waterfall that resembles an open drain, I found it, finally. What a shop. With a low ceiling and no windows, packed with Italian delicacies and knowledgeable employees it seemed other worldly, a magical apparition. My quest was to find Sicilian goodies. Working my way through my 401K, I bought different cheeses:  Ainuzzi, caciocavallo ragusano, caciotta, canestrato vacchino, peccorino. I planned on serving them with different kinds of honey: Fiora Alpina, with the consistency of floor wax, Aneto, Mandarino, Cardo and mostardas such as pumpkin. The Sicilians often serve this instead of dessert. My final indulgence was a lovely serpent green olive oil.

New York City Blog March 17 – March 23

This time last week I was packing my bags in Agrigento and heading to Palermo. On March 17, wearing green earrings, I returned from Sicily having been there for two weeks.

The Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185
The Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185

I knew something was a foot (pace Sherlock) on my first day back in NYC at the Y pool. Our water exercise instructor showed up with luscious locks and wearing lipstick. Katie Couric was in the building!  We were going to  be filmed. We started stripping off shower caps that some wear in lieu of bathing caps. We practiced smiling. First, the advance person got into several huddles with our instructor. We, like kindergarten children, had been told to do a particular exercise to keep us busy. Then four men arrived. One was holding a sound instrument, another a pad, another a camera and, finally, one to give directions. Our instructor sprang into action. Exhorting us in a jolly way through a series of exercises while the Couric staff recorded this seemingly impromptu session.They weren’t required to take off their street shoes, unlike the rest of us.

It sure wasn’t Sicily.  Going back to Italy is stepping into a time warp. I lived there for eight years and have gone back and forth for years, dragging physical and mental baggage with me.

On March 3, four of us coming from different parts of the States, beat the predicted snow storm and arrived in Palermo. Our hotel had a cage like elevator with swinging doors that had to be adjusted just so before it chugged its way to our bed and board, run by a charming man who started the pensione because he couldn’t find work.This was a light motif of our trip: Sicily’s high unemployment.
We four had skills that dovetailed: one person who drove well and loved driving in Sicily, one who managed the finances fairly and efficiently and read maps well, one who kept us abreast of the historical significance of the sights and kept an eye on the wild flowers and one who spoke Italian.
We went to the Norman Byzantine twelfth century Cathedral of Monreale, outside of Palermo. In addition to the wonderful mosaics, it’’s possible to climb to the roof and look down at the cloister.
Monreale Cathedral is packed with wonderful mosaics
Monreale Cathedral is packed with wonderful mosaics
Catania was our next stop. The Roman amphitheater was one of the highlights. We drove to nearby Etna, covered in snow.
Etna covered in snow. No smoke in sight
Etna covered in snow. No smoke in sight
On to Enna, the navel of Sicily, which we stayed in to visit the Villa Romana del Casale, a hunting lodge built in 4 AD. The mosaics are evocative of a time long gone: charioteers, figures crowned with laurel, girls doing exercises, hunting scenes.
Aerobics, 4 A. D. at Villa Romana Del Casale
Aerobics, 4 A. D. at Villa Romana Del Casale
The Ortygia island is part of Syracuse. This is where we stayed, surrounded by water and history.
Out our hotel window in Syracuse on the Ortygia island
Out our hotel window in Syracuse on the Ortygia island


Remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux, Agrigento
Remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux, Agrigento


Agrigento was our last stop before heading back to Palermo and the States.

Have an espresso. You deserve it.

New York City Blog Feb. 23 – March 1


No service from Verizon has turned into a benefit. I’m up close with my cell and realizing I don’t need a land line, but what lousy service. There was the promise of a repair person who never materialized and no notification from Verizon. I have been without the land line since Feb. 23 and it won’t be restored until March 8, plenty of time to whine and plot an escape.

A watery scene at 34th Street

Isn’t Chris Christie interesting? He’s a hometown boy. Attended a local school and a local law school. He not only knows New Jersey, he knows how to manipulate it.
Are you tired of de Blasio’s photo ops of shoveling snow or shoveling earth at the building of a new school. What’s with hard hats? Why do politicians and billionaires love to wear them? The Honorable de Blasio claims to want to bring the two cities together. By appointing five new members who are sympathetic to renters to the Rent Guidelines Board he will have a golden opportunity.
Have you been watching 30 Days of Oscar on Ted Turner? The things you notice in movies. For instance, in Casablanca Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid didn’t go through one scene without a cigarette.
A contemporary entry, Her, has the voice of Scarlet Johansson. I thinks it’s a clever cheat. Her well known voice conjures a beautiful woman who looks like Scarlet Johansson. She’s also the infamous Scarlet Johansson, promotor of SodaStream, whose main factory is based in Mishor Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
 The four tiles are in Penn Station.

New York City Blog Feb. 16 – Feb. 22

Here’s an e.e. cummings’ poem, “maggie and millie and molly and may”.

maggie and millie and mollie and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and
millie befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were; and
molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.
I’m off to Sicily soon and have been brushing up on Greek and Roman myths. The myth of Persephone originated near the town of Enna. Playing in a field one day, she was abducted by Hades who took her to the Underworld. Her mother, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, refused to allow plants to grow as long as her daughter was kept captive. At last a compromise was reached. Persephone would spend some of the year in the Underworld (winter) and return to the earth and sunshine in the spring. I’m going to Enna in the springtime. The original shrine has been replaced by a race track.
And now a question about Artemis/ Diana. If I were a lesbian and had opened a  restaurant/bar/yoga-pilates center, I’d name it either the goddess’s Greek or Roman name. Artemis never wanted to marry and she was accompanied by fifty fleet maidens. Has she been embraced by the lesbian community?

New York City Blog Feb. 9 – 15

On Sunday I got out the sleigh and dogs and headed to the Frick for an all Schubert concert by Wolfgang Holzmair. The Frick Music Room is a circular space with brocade covered walls and a raised platform on which Holzmair and his piano accompanist, Russell Ryan, performed. I chose to sit and listen to the songs without aid of the provided text for fear of crinkling the pages and driving my fellow guests crazy. It was a warm, intensely melodious afternoon in snowy Manhattan.

Monday night my hiking friends and I celebrated Chinese New Year. One of our members does all the arranging with a mid-town restaurant. This year, while spinning the lazy susan, we were regaled with a brief history of the Chinese zodiac, courtesy of one of the servers. The dragon, the only mythical sign, is made up of four animals: the fish, the snake, the lizard and one other I can’t remember. Happy Year of the Horse!

Wednesday I was at the Arsenal, the building that predates Central Park, at 65th Street and Fifth Avenue. We met in the conference room that has the original 1858 c. drawing plan of Olmsted and Vaux. It won the design to expand the park.

There’s something mesmerizing about Chris Christie aka the prince of Port Authority. He reminds me of other hypnotic fat men: Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, Count Fusco in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White.