Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


Thanksgiving is…


…fighting over2014 HB iPhone 849 the Holiday’s menu.

He wants to preserve the traditional dinner menu: turkey and roast beef, corn bread, pumpkin bread, green bean casserole, nut-berries salad, yam and mash potato, brownies, and three kinds of pies. It was well-rehearsed and fool proofed, mind you.

I want to try a brand new line of homemade concoctions that I recently assemble, inspired by a dozen cooking sites and Pinterest photos which I successfully “clipped”, incorporated into a three-course menu, complete with a comprehensive shopping list through the use of a cool site, Plan To Eat.

I imagine myself the successful hostess presiding over half a dozen long tables in coordinated tablecloths and skirts, each with a child-height center piece made from the flowers and grasses cut from our yard, each lavishly decorated and sumptuously decked with gourmet foods that not only look gorgeous and appetizing but also tasting delicious and surely generating a collective “Oooh” and “Ahhs” when the first bites are taken.

My side dishes will be pieces of arts, with artistically carved pieces of vegetable and fruits that are low salt and glucose-free, and no fat. No preservatives. No dyes. No artificial anything. All lovingly assembled by hand and if cooking is required, it will be done on the stove top or baked in traditional oven, not the microwave. No zapping. No zinging. Only licking with sanitized, oily but germ-free fingers.

My main dishes will be the same as his: turkey and beef, without which Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving. The vulgar-looking bird: big as a little pig, plain- and coarse feathered as the corpse devouring vultures doesn’t even sing or soar. It did not even originate from the New World; hence the name, I was once told. So what’s the big deal? I guess history is always filled with obscure deals like our turkey tradition. My turkey tradition? Since when do I have a turkey tradition? You see, it’s confusing!

Yet Thanksgiving is the season for loving couples to fight over dinner menus. The turkey is sure to get its central place, and the beef. Besides that, it’s war time. He wants to add tamales. “Made from scratch?” She immediately retorts. “Oh no, you don’t! Over my dead body.”

He isn’t going to lose points. “Carved appetizers for over fifty guests, some of them Indians, the majority of them Vietnamese who eat nothing but catered homeland foods from Little Saigon, and some of them a mixture of half this and that, hardened American souls who would not know the difference between cilantro and parsley, a salad fork from a pickax, and laugh if you call for chutney masala to put on your roast beef?”

Thanksgiving is that tender moment when they will all sit down together as one family. Many will say Our Father to ask for grace. Some will murmur “Bismillah….” Yet many others can’t wait to start in a defiant silence, believers and nonbelievers notwithstanding. And the dinner will consist of a hotchpotch of dishes from recipes collected over past seasons and Pin-ned recently, brought by relativesor store bought.

Peace out and Happy Thanksgiving!


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November’s Theme: Thanksgiving Is…

WCW FallPotLuck5
This is Thanksgiving to Mr. Whittier
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

What is it to you?


A Halloween Charade of Otherness

By Fran Syverson

Like a king on his throne, there sat our son. He was regally draped in a velvety-looking burgundy lap

robe, and wore a handmade crown of cardboard covered with gold foil. Proudly he reigned, a scepter in

his hand.

He oversaw his vassals roaming the gymnasium floor in the community center. What a motley bunch

they were—their regalia ranging from tattered rags to fancy top hats. Ballerinas in pastel tutus

pirouetted to the music. A giant, hairy, brown ape had great fun huffing and grunting as he prowled the

room, bent over so his arms nearly dragged on the floor.

Supernatural creatures were there, too, as befit the season. One needed no more than a bedsheet to waft

airily about as a ghost. A tall, conical hat and a broomstick—and, abracadabra! a witch! In a corner,

other witches presided over a cauldron—remember Hamlet’s “double, double, toil and trouble, fire

burn and cauldron bubble”? And at the cauldron, brave kids shrieked or giggled as they handled the

slimy eyeballs—a.k.a. peeled grapes.

All through the town, other youngsters in costume were plying their annual “trick-or-treat” ploy, filling

their baskets to brimming. To the horror of their dentists, no doubt.

But these “youngsters,” from tiny ones to some well into their 20s, 30s, and even 40s were enjoying

their Halloween party with their peers in the city’s rec center. As I looked out into the crowd, I was

touched at the thought that, perhaps, for these folks the Halloween masquerade took on a special

importance. For the evening, they each had a persona beyond that of their daily lives.

Camouflaged though they were, many could be recognized from their classrooms I’d visited. The hairy

ape with his arms hanging low did so in part because his daily stride lists to one side. He has cerebral

palsy. The pirate wearing the patch over one eye was cleverly disguising his blindness. A Tiny Tim

hobbled about adeptly with his cane. Why not?—he hobbles adeptly with it every day.

This was the Halloween Costume Party for more than a hundred children and youths with physical and

mental handicaps. Or, as we say now, people with “special needs.” And I like to think that one of their

special needs was being met at this party. Here they were able to be someone other than themselves for

a few hours. Here they flew away from their limits and lived a charade of otherness for a brief time.

Yet, were they really so different from the trick-or-treaters trekking the streets? Doesn’t everyone like

to inhabit a fantasy world sometimes?

Our son did. For a couple of hours each Halloween, he was King of the Hill, reigning over his kingdom

from his decorated throne: his wheelchair.


Haunting Memories

FullSizeRender (32)

Maid’s quarter in the background

It’s funny how your mind works, how it opens up to the, supposedly, triviality of life. A water pump, per example. Yesterday I wrote about my grandpa’s death and my father’s old water pump came up. It used to sit on a raised concrete platform that later, our housemaids turned into their day bed, a sleeping place large enough for three, topped with a bamboo mat, and overlooking a wall-sized window to a tiny inner courtyard that linked the kitchen and the maid’s quarter. It was an ideal place to take a nap, where your back against the concrete cement was cooled, and the platform itself was always chilled by the deep well below it with ten feet or so of cool air.

The pump was operated on and off during my toddler years. Rat ta ta, rat ta ta it went, like a motorcycle, rat ta ta against the whirring of a foot-pedaled sewing machine, black in color, emblazoned with the word Singer in gold letters. During its busy days the pump was a joy for me to look at. How its leather bell turned. How it shook on its four curved legs, like a hog wanting food. It sat high on the well platform that later was the maids’ bed, then, it turned silent and purposeless, only sputtered to life occasionally when my father wanted to show us how a pump worked. It needed engine oil in one of its hole—dark, sticky oil that looked like molasses.

In my teen years the pump was moved to the floor, next to the maids’ large wooden bed, a bed with wooden slats and larger than any other beds in the house, topped with two frayed bamboo mats. Three maids could sleep comfortably on it, and sometimes with me in their midst, when I wanted to change scenery and experience the life of helping maids. The squarish raised platform, with a squarish wooden lid in its middle, as I mentioned, would be another sleeping place. Now and then I would lift the lid up and looked down into the dark below. I sent my voice into it and heard it echoed back mysteriously, like another person’s answering teasingly, by imitating me, like I used to annoy my little brother, repeating words he said, on and on, until he was fed up and burst into tears. Sometimes I stepped down to the first few rungs of an iron ladder that led straight into the brimming dark surface, but never had enough courage to descend completely, not even dared to let my head disappeared inside the opening. It was this haunting idea: someone might close the lid and I would perish below unbeknownst to anybody else. They would not find me, and when they would, a few days later, I would be floating at the top of the dark surface like the cat I had seen, swollen and ugly.

Even with the well lid close, I could not bring myself to sleep on the platform alone. Somehow I was consumed by this idea that the bottomless hole beneath would one day swallow me live, lid or no lid. A skeleton’s hand would grab me.

“Dearly departed ghosts love to take little girls with them as brides,” my maid used to say. And they said that the ground on which my parents’ property sat used to be a cemetery, although before that it was swampland, with groves of bamboos and roaming cows. A bamboo thicket still remained by the red gate to prove their words. In my wild imagination I saw crosses where the trees stood, and in many moonless nights, the white kite stuck on the tall mango did wave its eyeless head and fleshless arms. And in my ears rang the echoing words from the well bottom, “Helloooo, hell Oooo….”


Death Came A-knocking

Coffin3I was only five when my paternal grandpa passed away. His death was the first human death I encountered. Before that I mostly experienced the smell of death and a few times its ungainly sight on animals—of dead mice when the cats left them decapitated behind some cupboards or inside closets, of the cat itself, one of the strays who roamed the rooftop and screamed morbidly many nights. My maids said that some toms were having cats and no one could ever catch them at the act. I vaguely understood that some cats eat fellow cats besides mice, rats, birds, and lizards.

The stench was horrendous. Then they found him, her, waterlogged and thrice its normal size, after it had been down to the bottom of the cistern as tall as the wall that supported the kitchen roof and up again, floating on the surface of the water that my father pumped up daily from our own well. It was years ago. I remember the sound of the pump going like I remember the cats’ fighting sound, their nightly screams, the chirping of mice behind some holes and their footsteps running on tiles. I cannot erase the smell of death from my memory.

The violent fragrance of the white tuberoses, the brown tea leaves that covered Grandpa’s dead body so he would not smell—I remember them all. For three days he lay in that coffin, and someone was always present so that no black cat would jump over him. Or else he would rise with the cat.

On the third day I was walking down the stairs of Grandparents’ house with my cousin when we heard a hammering sound. We both froze. It was getting dark outside and shadows dance inside the stairwell. On one wall was a deer head with two marble eyes. Next to it was a large painting of the last supper. My cousin flopped down on the stair step, pulling me after her.

“Grandpa,” we both said, stricken. The hammering became louder and urgent. In my mind I saw him trying to get out. Soon he would call like he used to bellow after me, “Hong-My. Come.”

My cousin covered both her ears and started howling. And I did the same, trying to block out Grandpa’s rapping on the wood of his coffin. Combined in force, our scream might have risen above the loud knocking and drowned them out. Or they stopped. To me, the sudden ceasing of the hammering sound was even more terrifying than their loud knocking. It meant only one thing: Grandpa was done fighting with the lid that held him inside. He had freed himself from the container. And he was about to come after two little girls.

My hysterical howling surpassed my shyer cousin’s. I screamed now for my life with all my might. Ah, ah…tongue knocking against teeth, teeth chattering inside skull, eyes closed to avoid seeing Grandpa walking up to us.

Cold hands wrapped my shoulders. Ah, ah. I was beyond myself. I tried to run away but my feet was two useless lumps of heavy rubber, which would collapse under me like a string-through toy snake.  Then my Grandma’s concerned voice, “Hong-My, what’s the matter? Why are you girls screaming like a possessed train?”

No, it wasn’t Grandpa, we were told. The undertakers were the ones’ hammering. They were nailing shut the coffin to take Grandpa to his final rest.

“Wipe your tears,” said Grandma softly. “Don’t be sad, Grandpa is in God’s hands.”


Has Anyone Warned Them About Halloween?

When we first moved to our house, the one WE owned, it was an adventure in learning all sorts of new things. We learned all about homeowner’s insurance, how to shut off the gas in case of an earthquake and, most importantly, what to expect during Halloween.

No, really. When we were first married and living in a rental for the first couple of years, we got maybe 4 or 5 kids on Halloween— tops. And we really didn’t decorate that much, since there weren’t that many trick or treaters.
September rolled around after we’d moved to our new place and we were at a neighborhood get together. We were talking about the latest neighborhood news when one of our neighbors said, “Hey, has anyone warned them about Halloween?” The hubby and I looked at each other and then to our new neighbors.

“Why, do you guys have problems on Halloween?” I asked.

“Oh no, no. Well, I guess it depends on what you would call ‘problems’.”

Another neighbor chimed in, “Oh, it’s just that we get a lot of kids on Halloween.”

Relieved, I said, “Oh, ok. So how many do you usually get? Like 50 or something?”

Apparently, I said something incredibly funny because everyone laughed.

The first neighbor responded, “Well, we counted the kids we had last year. It was around 600 or so.”

“WHAT?!” But then I thought to myself, “Oh that’s ridiculous, they’re just messing with the newbies.“ Yeah, that’s pretty funny,” I said, with just a hint of sarcasm.

“Nope. No joke. 600 last year. So make sure you buy enough candy.”

The hubby and I looked around at their faces and it didn’t SEEM like they were joking.

That night, he and I were discussing the conversation. “Do you really think they had that many kids or are they just pulling our leg?” I asked. The hubby’s attitude was “Let’s wait and see what happens.”

“Oh sure,” I told him, “On Halloween night I’m gonna send you out for another 500 pieces of candy while I have a mob of kids at our door, waiting. That sounds like a wonderful plan.”

Later that week, I seemed to have my answer. Visiting a neighbor’s house, I saw literally a MOUNTAIN of candy, at least 3 feet high, piled on top of their dining room table.

Eyes wide, I asked, “That’s your Halloween candy?”

“Yes. Have you started getting yours?”

“I will as soon as I leave.”

Even as we went shopping for what seemed like an incredible amount of candy, I was hesitant. Who has this many kids at Halloween? I’d never heard of it. But then as the month went on, I began to see many of the houses in our neighborhood getting pretty decked out in preparation for it. Most houses were decorated head to toe with spider webs, ghosts and any other Halloween appropriate scary stuff.

One house apparently had all the talented people. They actually set up a guillotine, complete with a “body” with its head waiting to be chopped off. When you walked by, you triggered a device, which in turn, released the blade at the top of the guillotine down to the bottom and chopped off the dummy’s head. I was impressed at the craftsmanship of the neighborhood’s Halloween animatronics.

With all the house decorating and animatronics, it seemed like there was a wee bit of competitiveness there, people checking out what new things others were putting out for Halloween and who was just staying with their old standards. We had bought some new stuff, but really nothing could compare with what our neighbors had. I was in awe.

In all our prior years of Halloween, we always did the same thing.  Sat in the living room, waited for someone to ring the doorbell and then answered the door, gave the kids their candy and then went back and to wait 15 – 20 minutes for the next doorbell ring. Our first Halloween night in our new house, the little kids started coming around 4pm. However, once it became dark, the flow of kids knocking on our door became incessant to the point where as we were giving out the candy to one group, we could see the next group coming up the walkway. We finally just sat on the steps outside the house and handed out candy.

The stream of parents and kids was so steady at one point, it almost looked like a line at Disneyland! One of our neighbors came to check on us and said, “Oh yeah, we should have mentioned, you might wanna get some comfy chairs since there’s no point in being in the house. We just bring our lawn chairs out and make a night of it.” This went on for five and a half hours. FIVE AND A HALF HOURS! My butt was numb from sitting on concrete steps all that time.

The kids kept coming. We had bought 650 pieces of candy and used every single one of them. We ended up having to turn kids away, saying “We’re all out of candy” and hoping we didn’t get “tricked.” What a night! Over 650 kids for our first Halloween in our new house. The hubby and I were exhausted after we got done. His advice? “Time to move. Especially if we have to do THIS every year.” Many years later we still haven’t moved, but the number of kids on Halloween has increased…last year one of our neighbors counted 1400 for that particular night.

It’s getting close, so time to start getting ready for the Halloween crowd!


The Acid Test


The Acid Test Life’s best lessons may come by surprise

I barely saw a yard away as I drove in the pouring rain to a writing class at UCLA, half a century late. I had just earned an Emerging Voices scholarship from PEN USA. The tapes engraved on my left brain were turned on full blast.

“What are you doing? Who do you think you are to write memoirs? At your age you should be sitting by the fire, knitting.”

By the time I found parking, the building, and the room I was half an hour late. I walked in, drenched to the bones, parading my misery all the way to the front corner of the class, the only seat available under the professor’s nose. No, she didn’t have a big nose, nor was she the literary giant I expected. She had a cute face and a tiny frame lost underneath a jungle of hair. She was like a spring ready to pop loose from her high chair any minute, nothing like your run-of-the-mill, be-spectacled, erudite professors who sport their white beards as proof of their wisdom. She had a sharp wit though.

“What’s your name?” she asked and jotted it down to account for my presence.

I looked around. What was I doing among these kids? The bright 20-year old on the first row particularly unnerved me. I could be her grandma!

The professor rambled on for a while. All I could hear was “what to put in, what to leave out” in a memoir. Easy to say. These young adults had not lived yet. I had a whole lifetime to squeeze into 300 pages. The recount of any five-year period in my life span would be longer than that.

“Before I put you to sleep let’s have some fun,” she roared to the class. “Get your pens and paper ready.” Everybody’s interest piqued. Nobody was snoring anyway.

“We’re going to have a fun exercise for ten minutes.” She held up a brown bag for all of us to see. “I will pass this bag around. Without looking in it grab an item and write about it from your stream of consciousness. This is just a warm-up exercise to stretch your memory. Don’t expect a masterpiece and don’t edit please, let it flow. Nobody is going to read it except you. Wait till everybody has picked an item.”

One by one we drew something: a comb, a logo, a key…. a lemon!

“Does everybody have an item? OK! Start!”

What could be exciting about my item? I pondered for a while. As time went by, under the teacher’s raised eyebrows, I became nervous. Was she considering me a failure already? “ A senior! What is she doing here occupying valuable space? If she starts her memoirs now when will she finish? ” I banned those negative thoughts from my mind for a more productive exercise:

“I picked out a lemon,” I wrote, “What else! This is the story of my life. I always end up with lemons.

When I was young I loved sucking on lemons. I dipped them in salt to further enjoy their acidity. I wish I had not. Those lemons predicted the future course of my life.

The first lemon was my ‘Simca’, the car I owned in Togo. I was transferred a month after I acquired it.

The second lemon I picked was my husband. Needless to say the marriage didn’t last long but it provided me with the lifelong custody of a child.

My third lemon was my Vega in Los Angeles. It guzzled gas, broke down quite a bit and was totalled at 40,000 miles. …”

I continued in the same vein, putting all my lemons in one basket, throwing in a job for good measure and a boss for dramatic effect. It was a catharsis of sorts, squeezing out from my system the frustrations of a lifetime. I was getting even in my own tacit way.

“You have one more minute,” forewarned the teacher, “wind it up.”

I wrote the last paragraph:

“I have a nose for picking up lemons,” and then elaborated on the “do’s and don’ts” of avoiding the acid test.


We put our pens down.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want a few volunteers to read what they wrote.”

Hey, this isn’t fair. Nobody will read it except you” she had said. Yes, what a distortion of meaning! My thoughts towards her were not favorably inclined.

In the absence of hands showing, the teacher concentrated her stare at me, since I was closest to the lectern, or was it age discrimination?

“Will you volunteer, Mary?”

Did I pick up a lemon of a class too? My stream of consciousness was not meant for public exposure. I was mortified to read the story of my life to these young students who probably did not have anything in common with me. Had I known ahead of time I would have held back some unpleasant details. Why corrode their lives with my “acid experience”?

Yes, I grew crimson with each sentence. I heard a few chuckles. Were they amused or laughing at me? I played hard at keeping my composure. The professor went on to others. She then elaborated on the use of humor in recalling memories. I sat there quietly, planning an honorable exit as soon as class was over. Instead, I found myself squeezed between two students at the door.

“I loved your lemons,” said one guy, a reporter for a major paper.

“You sure have a lot of juice,” butted in another, “hey, that was witty. I want to know more about it.”

Well, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. My self-confidence climbed a few inches. Their comments provided me with enough nerve to return the following week. It felt good to be among the younger folk. Actually, the median age was around 35. Besides, I never accepted my seniority anyway. I felt young at heart.

“How’s your lemonade, Mary?” yelled a student from across the hall, as I ventured into our second session.

“As tart as it can be,” I shot back. I felt like one of them.

It was the best lesson I learned in that class.


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September’s Theme: Back to School

back to school

“Call me sometime, when you have no class.”

– Thornton Melon

“A man must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings.”

– Albert Einstein

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
– Tom Bodett



Summer Vacations: The Best Times of Our Lives

About fifty years ago, after five years of college and coming to the end of my first year of teaching, I wanted my children to spend time with my mother and father, their paternal grandparents. If I could make it happen, my kids would get to know their grandma and grandpa and benefit greatly from being showered with their love. They would also meet and spend time with their east-coast aunts, uncles, and cousins. We lived in coastal California—my parents lived in a small, rural village in southern New Jersey where the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean converge, a popular vacation spot, 2,800 miles distant.

Along with being a teacher, I was also a journeyman mason, skilled at brick and block work and concrete placement and finishing, skills in high demand wherever construction was in progress. That year, in early June, my father told me there was lots of construction work in south Jersey. Although oceans apart, a plan for a summer-long visit with my folks was brewing. A working vacation for me, coupled with a summer-long visit to my east-coast family, was doable. My wife agreed, and plans were made. My kids would be spending the summer with grandma and grandpa. Hopefully, upon arrival at the Jersey Shore, I would find work.

On the last day of school, after signing out and turning in my keys, I headed home to finish packing the station wagon. At 10:00 PM, with the kids in sleeping bags and our luggage strapped on top, along with my surfboard and fishing rods, we headed east. To avoid the California desert heat and glare, I drove though the night while the family slept. They awoke in eastern Arizona and we later stopped for the evening in New Mexico

Although we drove long hours and through the nights, we made sure the kids had plenty of pool time at the motels. During the drive, I often lead the family in song. One favorite, while crossing the desert, was, Cool Water, by Roy Rogers and Sons of the Pioneers. Another was 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, great for long journeys because it had a repetitive format and took hours to finish. Although a long trip, we had fun. Coast to coast, the trip took four and a half days.

Upon arrival, I found work with a contractor I had worked for in the past. The first couple of weeks were difficult. Working as a mason, my body, soft from lack of physical work, was not ready for what was about to occur. The shock to my muscles resulted in two weeks of continuous pain. In addition, my coworkers, knowing I was a teacher, found my discomfort and inability to keep pace, a rich source of amusement. By the third week, I recovered. By the fourth week, I held my own. It wasn’t long before my fellow workers had a difficult time keeping up with me. By summers end, I had lost fifteen pounds and added muscle. I returned to teaching, tanned, lean, and fit.

My parents’ single-story, three-bedroom home was not large enough for a host of visitors. Several years prior, my mother said to my father. “You know our children will be visiting in the summers. We need more rooms to accommodate them and our grandchildren.” So, Dad built a second story, adding three more bedrooms and a bath. The upstairs became the sleeping area and in-house playground for my kids and their four cousins. In preparation for their grandkids, Mom and Dad stocked up on bicycles and beach toys.

It was a great summer for my children. Along with the constant barrage of hugs and kisses from their grandparents, they had lots of unstructured, unsupervised playtime in the small rural town, much like my own childhood. Part of my plan was for them to have that experience. It wasn’t unusual for my mother to pack them a lunch and send them off on their bicycles for a day’s adventure, admonishing them to be home for dinner. All of their daytrips included the beach. Upon their return, covered with sand, they required a rinse in the outdoor shower Dad had built for that purpose.

Weekends were my vacation time, with fishing or surfing on Saturdays and beach with the family on Sunday afternoons. Sunday morning was a time of devotion. Being a small town, there was no church. Every Sunday, fire engines were removed from the firehouse and an altar and chairs were set up. Voila! A place of worship! After services, there was a rush home to change into beach attire. A five-mile caravan to the beach followed, loaded with kids, buckets, shovels, blankets, towels, and beach chairs.

We enjoyed those summer vacations for years to come, with the dash across the desert and heartland of our country into the Mid Atlantic States and arriving at the family home. We did this for six years, until my body could no longer take the physical abuse of masonry work. Those were great working vacations. My parents loved my kids. My kids loved my parents. Ever since, both of my children have often said, “Those were the best times of our lives.” I agree.

To this day, even though my parents are long gone, I make the journey every year. The difference is, now I fly. My wife and I will make the trip in late September. My sisters will be there, as will some of their children and grandchildren. We will stay in the home that Mom and Dad built.


RWA and NYC Vacation


Our airplane landed in Queens, we hailed a cab, and got our first taste of New York traffic. Our driver was adept at weaving through the crush of vehicles, but someone kept beeping their horn. Irritated, Chuck called through his window, “Shut up! Where do you think you are, LA?”

Our driver said, “Oh, that’s me.”

We soon learned that horn honking is part of the cacophony of NYC.

The RWA Convention was at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. We had a view of that famous location from our room on the 37th floor. On television, Tames Square looks large and the crystal ball huge. In real life, to my disappointment, the square of concrete is squeezed between towering old buildings. The crystal ball and clock are tired looking. Rubin Johnson said this part of town used to be the worst section of the city. Now it’s full of people rushing up and down the sidewalks, miles of traffic, mostly yellow cabs, end to end in three lanes honking their horns.

Theaters line this street, Broadway. Chuck checked ticket prices for The Lion King. Per person is $250. We didn’t go. I’ll read the book.

Be careful where you eat. We stopped at a corner restaurant/bakery and bought cinnamon rolls. That evening we opened the bag in our room and prepared to enjoy our treat. They were so dry I suspect they were three days old. Their lunch and dinner menu looked inviting so we returned the next day for lunch and ordered a T-bone steak to share, staying away from the pastries on display. The T-bone steaks I’ve had in the past are served with the bone intact, the top loin strip on one side and the tenderloin on the other. Ours came without the bone and without the tenderloin. Cheated again.

On the other hand, Chuck’s nephew, Johnny Roller, took us to Grigino, an Italian restaurant on the Hudson River and the food was superb. Also dinner at the Marriott Marquis was marvelous.

Johnny lives in Bronx and for two days ushered us around town seeing spots we would have missed otherwise. The Cloisters Museum and Gardens in Manhattan. Art and Architecture of medieval Europe 12th and 15th Century featuring 5,000 works of art. Every block of stone hauled over from the old country and reconstructed onsite.

St. John the Divine, the magnificent fourth largest Christian church in the world. Designed in 1888, opened in 1941. We passed the Intrepid on our tour, drove through some of the Burroughs, viewed a Buddhist Temple, and visited a friend of Johnny’s who lives in a $2 million penthouse.

On our own we visited Central Park by bicycle, pedaled by a young man from Russia. Always pay in cash. We used our credit card and somehow an extra $100. was added to our bill. Chuck caught it and our bank erased the charge. We strolled into Strawberry Fields in the park funded by Yoko Ono and admired a mosaic lying on the ground titled “Imagine”. A young man was singing and strumming a guitar, the guitar case open for tips.

Toured the amazing and beautiful Grand Central Terminal. We embarked on a boat tour on the Hudson River (after being search like boarding an airplane) and had close-up views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Security was tight even on the water. Chuck saw a boat with guns drawn approach a pleasure boat when it got too close to shore. We drove by the Empire State Building, and also viewed the new Tower of Hope glistening in the sun.

The pools at the footprint of the Twin Towers are awesome. The area is landscaped with trees. One special tree was transplanted from the Twin Towers footprint. Two square pools have replaced the base of the Towers with a waterfall on each side of each square. On the parapet of the walls of the pools, 75 bronze plates are attached and inscribed with the names of 2,983 victims of the day the towers fell. (Wikipedia.org)

Oh yes, and the RWA convention. There were too many workshops to visit every one of them so RWA put them on a flash drive for a small fee. Also, after arriving home, workshops were offered online, pick and choose those of interest or missed and download. All in all, the convention was well organized and of value.

It was a wonderful trip and although we saw a lot, we missed even more. Go back? Maybe.