Tyvek /tˈvɛk/ is a brand of flashspun, high-density polyethyelene fibers, a synthetic material; the name is a registered trademark  of DuPont. The material is very strong; it is difficult to tear but can easily be cut with scissors or a knife. Water vapor can pass through Tyvek (highly breathable), but not liquid water, so the material lends itself to a variety of applications: envelopes, car covers, air and water intrusion barriers (housewrap) under house siding, labels, wristbands, mycology, and graphics.  (from wikipedia)


I live on a mixed block in Bed-Stuy.  It’s not a picturesque brownstone block.  The buildings here are either brand new with no personality or dilapidated without being charming.  My neighbors are Pratt students, yuppies who haven’t yet had their puppies, young guys with dreads who think they have a band, large Chassidic families, and an alarmingly jolly Texan who I’ve come to like a bit because he’s kind enough to knock and remind me when I’ve left my keys in my door.  There’s a playground next door to me and it’s shared by everyone—the school kids (mostly black) during their recess, Chassidic kids and their moms (and on Saturday night their dads), moms of color with their own kids in strollers, black families who BBQ for special occasions, and guys playing chess.   There’s a guy on my block who plays Soca music loudly during the day and then, in odd moments, vintage Amy Grant.  On his porch he has a huge cardboard cut out of some island destination.  A man on the street told me once that he drinks all the time.  My building super sounds like an extra from the Borat film. He hoses down our walkway everyday in the summer and keeps it clear whenever there is snow and wonders aloud why a woman my age, especially one with plants on her balcony, is single: “You don’t, you don’t, you don’t have anyone?  A man?  But the flowers up there.  Everyone talks how pretty they are.” Sometimes the Chassidic women smile shyly at me.

The Southern girl in me says hi to all of my elderly neighbors (the urban feminist does her best to avoid the invasive gaze of men), and they all say hi back.  Except for my neighbor across the street.  I say hi, she looks through me, or away from me, or around me.  On days when I’m off to campus she is always on her porch, and I can’t help myself from at least mumbling good morning.  The building she lives in, a two-story, single-family dwelling I think it’s called, is falling apart.  From the street you can see rotted wood planks under the eaves of a roof that needs replacing.  There are gaps between the boards.  The one window at the front of the house is covered by a large bush.  Her stoop is painted that same orange you see on construction cones and gates.  She sweeps it everyday.

As far as I can tell, she doesn’t do the stoop visiting that the other folks in my neighborhood seem to enjoy.

For the first two years I lived here, she lived next door to an empty lot.  I don’t know what was there before, but when I got here it was covered in grass, weeds, and bushes. You could see an old tire or three.   For a little while there was an abandoned car.   A wooden gate appeared one morning (and was instantly covered in graffiti).  From my balcony I could see people, men, going in from time to time and looking around. Some sort of small bulldozer came in one day and picked at the ground, gave up and went home.

They cleared the ground in earnest one weekend, and the side of my neighbor’s building was covered in Tyvek. I hadn’t noticed how far back her building went until they put the Tyvek up.  I also hadn’t noticed the chimney.  It’s a big building, and it’s all hers.  You never see anyone else go in or come out.  I know because I’m out here on my balcony all the time.  First thing in the morning, over lunch, late in the afternoon, and in the evenings playing on-line scrabble against my dad.

When I lived in Clinton Hill, just on the edge of Bed-Stuy, I fell in love with the brown lady brownstone owners.  I would see them here and there cleaning their front porches in the morning.  They are women of a certain age—maybe late 50s (it’s hard to tell with black folks)—and they remind me of my Dutch aunts who scrub their stoops every single day, without fail.  The brown lady brownstone owners have flowers and potted plants near the door. And the doors are all gorgeous and gleaming.  Right after my landlord told me I could no longer afford his building, I chatted for a bit with a woman sanding the front door of her brownstone. It seems she is remodeling it herself.

The building in the lot across the street, next door to my neighbor is going up fast.  The men arrive in two small waves—Hispanic men first, sometimes in a large van, and then white men in trucks.  They start early and this week they’ve started laying the brick layer by layer over the Tyvek.  They stand in a row and layer.  You can’t see them from street level, but I’m one floor up, so I can see it all happening.  So can the Chassidic children.  There’s a little guy who sits on his balcony and watches them for long stretches of time.  Sometimes his mother lets him peek in the gate.  Men in full orthodox gear stop by everyday to check the progress.

My neighbor has started sweeping more than her stoop.  She sweeps in front of the gate—on the sidewalk, in the street, around the construction gate.  She’s methodical about it and sweeps around the men as they show up for work.

Last night I heard her voice for the first time in two years: she was yelling at some Chassidic kids who were pushing their toys on her sidewalk.  “Get away. Go away. Get. the. fuck away.”


For Julia, as she mourns

Dear Julia,
I don’t normally respond to these mass shootings.  I’m left too numb by them, feel too helpless.  I don’t think of myself as particularly cynical, but in many ways I am and moments like these bring that cynicism to the surface.  But you asked what I thought, and I do have some thoughts.  I don’t think they are helpful, that I have anything particularly useful to say.  But I suspect you just want to know what others are feeling.

So here it goes. My thoughts, like yours, are unedited and unvarnished.

Today I had a rare day away from the news (radio, television, the internet, social media).  I’ve had severe pain in my right arm and shoulder for the last few weeks, so I decided to cash in on a massage deal and went to the Village for the day.  My plan was to have a cream tea and then to treat myself to a massage.  I heard in the background this morning that there had been a shooting, but I’m numb to gun violence, so what little time I spent on-line today was spent reading about Cory Booker, reading Ta-Nehisi Coates and joking around with his readers.

I went to the Village and promptly got lost.

All of this is to stay that I didn’t know until about six o’clock about this new, all too familiar tragedy.

It was very strange to be so out of step with everyone (I usually watch news events unfold in real time).  I “returned” to the world, after roaming around the Village, having a one-hour massage, and then tea and scones to an e-mail from my mother and then a phone call telling me about the killings.

She is too sad to talk.

My twitter feed was a jumble of rage and mundane announcements.  My facebook timeline begged for gun control.

As I tried to catch up with the news (and maybe with the grieving), all I could really think about was the ritual of it.  We have rituals around everything, even the murder of innocents. I knew without watching exactly what happened while I was away.

“Breaking News” flashed across news channels
Pictures of a parking lot
People crying
Images of first responders

I knew that the president spoke and that what he said would resonate with most of us
I knew that Trayvon Martin and the other recently murdered would be mentioned
I knew that some group that speaks on behalf of communities of color would note the special mourning sparked by deaths of suburban white children while scores of poor black kids in poor black neighborhoods are only mourned on a national level

I was sure that NRA would dig in somehow and that defenders of gun ownership would make astonishingly stupid statements, dipped in paranoia:
Cars kill people but we still let people drive
We have to arm ourselves against the government
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
My cold, dead hands!

Most of us would rail against the NRA
Some of us would call for better mental health services
Someone would say “let’s not name the killer”
Pundits would say they shouldn’t opine about the situation.  And then opine about the situation.

Social media would be a twitter

Eventually, I will cry along with everyone.

And wait for the next cycle to begin.
Your friend
In solidarity,

For Nora and My Inner Sally

I sometimes feel sad when celebrities die, very sad, but I don’t join in public grieving. Even when great people pass, I am mournful but rarely feel bereft.* I lost interest in Ephron’s movies over the years. Her characters can’t bear the weight of my feminist-womanist-Marxist gaze. But when I saw she died I was crushed. I started crying immediately and called my mother. She has no idea who Nora Ephron is, but I called her anyway because that’s what you do when you lose a friend.

She certainly wasn’t a friend in the usual way, and I had no interest in meeting her, but her heroines—quirky, high maintenance, hopeless romantics—managed to get through my cynicism. And I don’t care if it’s a cliché to say it: I love Sally. Love that she is uptight and a bit of a know it all. That she orders so much on the side.

Sure I loved Claire Huxtable and Murphy Brown and Julia Sugarbaker. Still love their sass and their strength (sometimes I watch old clips of Julia Sugarbaker just to stiffen my spine). But just like there’s always been a part of me that is Mary Richards, there is a part of me that is Sally and that woman in “You’ve Got Mail” on the Upper West Side.

Especially in my closet.

When I see pictures of myself from the past, in men’s ties and hats and funky scarves, I know that Annie Hall seeped in when I wasn’t looking. That phase passed (along with my Birkenstock phase, thank the fashion gods), but Sally (and her iterations) has remained.

So when I heard that Nora died, I thought of the pearl gray dress I bought earlier this year and the linen skirt with the side pleat that needs to go to the dry cleaners. I’m drawn to clean lines and, for the most part, muted colors. Given a choice, I will always choose tea-length skirts and ballet flats. I venture out from time to time, but even my favorite, bright red linen dress looks like something that Sally might have worn—if she could pull off such a bold color. There’s a sweetness to that style that I’ve always been drawn to.

I may live in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, walk by a huge portrait of Jay Z every single day, and sign e-mails to my colleague-friends “Omar,” but I also wore a twin set to a Trinidadian Cooler Fete, a fact that makes everyone who knows what that must have looked like laugh out loud.

And just last week, when I was overcompensating because I’m fairly certain the afro I’m sporting these days makes me look like a boy and I tried to balance it out by putting on a mini skirt and heels, I didn’t feel a bit like myself. It didn’t matter how great my friends told me I looked, the outfit was just not me. Even if the skirt was seersucker pink, and I wore it with a pink cardigan.

Sometimes “You’ve Got Mail” will come on, and I’ll roll my eyes and change the channel, but I always come back to see the taupe and grey linen dress with the cardigan and the skimmers. It’s a sweet scene with Ryan and Hanks in some garden. There are flowers and a dog. And I can just about get past the horrible politics of the story.

I’ve wondered over the last few years, as I’ve settled more comfortably into the many different parts of me—the Mary Richards and the Omar Little, the Julia Sugarbaker and the Clare Huxtable—if I still feel such a strong connection to Nora’s women. Then I look in my closet and know that I still do.

*(exceptions include Etta James and Lucille Clifton)

one.three.twelve: Roberta’s

Although we had missed Lucali’s in April, our May adventure took us to Roberta’s in Bushwick and not back to Carroll Gardens. Our plan was to celebrate Karen’s birthday, so the choice was hers. It was Roberta’s she wanted, so it was Roberta’s she got! And it was quite an adventure to get there. Unlike the other pizza places we’ve visited this year, Roberta’s is not a “local” place; rather, it’s a place whose main clientele is made up of people who travel to Bushwick specifically to try their most excellent food.

You have to really want to get there, and it’s best to get there early. Even on a weeknight, the place was packed by 7:30. The friendly, funky folks only deal in cash.

We were all struggling with the woes of life, but Joan still managed to rock an adorable spring dress, Karen had on a lovely necklace that matched an adorable blouse, and I am enjoying my first summer as a “thin” person who can comfortably wear tank tops without feeling too exposed. It’s no small feat to look good when you feel bad, so color me impressed. Despite crankiness of all kinds, it was hard not to feel incredibly lucky to be on another pizza adventure.

What we ate


Spicy Mixed Olives

Bibb Lettuce (dried cherry vinaigrette, gorgonzola, roasted walnuts)


Margherita: mozzarella, tomato, basil

R.P.S.: tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, roasted red peppers


Shaker pie

The Reviews


After our April attempt was thwarted (venue closed for vacation), we decided to double up later in the year. Karen recommended this venue in Bushwick, a section of Brooklyn I almost never visit. This particular outing was remarkable for a few reasons: 1) it was a belated celebration of Karen’s birthday, 2) we chose a non-weekend day, and 3) it was freaking hot – I’m talking August heat!  It was also an occasion to which we all brought some collateral baggage – work drama, traffic jam frustration, a twisted ankle.  Add a non-air conditioned venue and no one felt like adding alcohol to the mix. In fact, this was the most scaled-down event so far – one salad and a dish of olives to start, two pies, and one dessert that was not shared (by mutual consent). Of course, we ordered a margherita (the standard by which all pizzas are judged) and a second pie with soppresata. The arrival of the pies elicited sighs of pleasure, followed by a deeply satisfying first bite. My initial reaction – the margherita had a better balance of sauce and cheese and dough than I had tasted on previous occasions. The sauce, in particular, really stood out for me. The crust was satisfyingly thin and crisp the way I prefer it, although it did not have enough flavor on its own to make me want to devour it naked.  The sopressata on the second pie was almost too salty – a little more spiciness would have added some complexity to the taste. However, that did not stop me from eating the last slice even though I was pretty full by that time. I was also extremely hot, sweaty and had a throbbing ankle, so that is probably what I will remember long after I’m able to recall the taste of the pizza.  Sometimes it’s not only about the pizza.


After vowing, in the same voice that Scarlett O’Hara uses in “Gone with the Wind,” that I will NEVER cross the Brooklyn Bridge between the hours of 4:00 and 8:00 again, I was very happy to meet my girlfriends for our delayed pizza night.  I wasn’t even daunted by the fact that I couldn’t find the front door without help.  I arrived late, tired, dragged down by problems at work and with a terrible headache, so Roberta’s had some serious work to do.

The first good thing I noticed is the way the space is organized with long tables that allow for chatting between groups of diners.  We shared a long table with a couple of guys, which made it a lot easier for me to ask whether or not the Shaker Pie was worth ordering.  The vibe is a mix of laid back but organized, and I suspect that on cooler days it’s quite pleasant to eat in the garden.  The heat and a pounding headache made me opt for water rather than wine, but the wine list looks promising, so when I go back (and I plan to), I look forward to trying it out.

I don’t eat olives, so I was happy to order the salad.  Bibb lettuce may replace arugula as my favorite salad green.  Okay, it won’t, but it comes in a close second.  This salad was perfect.  The dried cherry vinaigrette was tart and coated each part of the lettuce without being overwhelming. I hate pools of salad dressing.  While the salad was light (it’s a salad; that’s it’s job!) it also had enough substance to feel like a meal.  It was the best part of my experience.  I liked the pizza quite a bit, and I think the cheese was distributed perfectly so that each bite of each pie was a blend of wonderful sauce, cheese, and goodness.  My main quibble was with the crust.  The consistency was perfect but it lacked a certain kind of presence.  It seemed more like a vehicle for the toppings than part of the pizza, which is too bad because I could tell that it wanted to be part of the pie.  I’m thinking that it a little bit of sea salt would have made it perfect.

No one wanted to share dessert!  Let’s just all sit with that for a minute (well, I’m used to Karen wanting her own dessert, but I can usually count on Joan for a bite or two).  It was just me, the Shaker Pie, and a fork.  The Meyers lemons used for the custard needed a bit of zing, but you couldn’t ask for fresher tasting pie or flakier crust.  I just think a pinch of something (perhaps nutmeg?) would have given the dessert more personality.

I wouldn’t race back to Roberta’s, but, if someone else was driving I’d definitely go back to try out the rest of the menu…and the wine…and the garden.


Alas, pizza alone does not create joy.

It was the middle of a very difficult week for me when we hit Roberta’s, and my spirits were low.  Neither the charm of the low-key rustic interior — with long communal wood tables and a slightly rumpled-looking clientele tucked away inside a nondescript, industrial looking low cement building in the nowheresville of Bushwick – nor the charm of my upbeat and decidedly more fashion-forward companions could do much to uplift me or draw my conversation out.  And that’s a shame, because Roberta’s is really very good.

This pizza reminded me that in fact, it doesn’t have to be all about the crust after all.  Thin-crusted and adequately crispy on the edges, this pie was saucier and cheesier than any of the other brick oven varieties we’ve had in our journey so far.  The mozzarella and the marinara melded together and spread unapologetically over the top, with a mild tomato flavor punctuated by a few pungent bits of basil.  Each piece even flopped over in the middle the way a nice, wet slice joint wedge will do.  I enjoyed the sopressata pie, but wished we’d opted for the spicy version of the meat, which would have given it some much-needed zing.  Still it was tasty and satisfying, more real pizza than cuisine, slightly upscale but still saying: ‘Hey, you, you’re a New Yorker — you know how we do.’

Some spicy green and red olives to start – and they were spicy — and a Diet Coke (oh the shame) were my only accompaniments for this meal, making it a simpler, lighter, and dare I say quicker than usual meal for us, which was just fine since it was the hottest day of the year thus far but they’d decided not to turn the air conditioning on yet.  It’s  probably impolite of me to mention the bill since my companions very generously treated me in celebration of my recent birthday, but Roberta’s seems very reasonably priced.  But while my taste buds were pleased and my tummy pleasantly full, my heart still left a bit heavy.  Next time, I’ll remember to bring my own joy.

one. three. twelve: Lucali’s (strike one)

We had a plan. We knew what we were up against. And we had. a. plan. Get to Lucali’s early (what I think of the Senior Citizen’s Eating Hour), stand in line forever, and try some of their famed pies. I wore comfortable shoes! I should have known that it wasn’t going to work out when I found parking a mere block away from the restaurant. And then I couldn’t find it! Where were the lines? Where was the pizza smell?

Then I spotted Karen, standing all alone, in front of an empty Lucali’s. The handwritten sign simply read, “On Vacation April 22-28.”

Now I don’t want to begrudge working people time off, but…

So there we were in Carroll Gardens, wondering where to eat and wondering how a closed Lucali’s was going to alter the Saturday night dinner crowd. I was trying to figure out some sort of displacement theory, relieved that Karen had told people to go to Luna Rossa so that we could get a chance to get in somewhere.

Although we weren’t going to eat pizza, this didn’t mean we weren’t going to eat out, and so we headed out. The first place we went, Blue Napkin Something or Other was selling fried chicken at stupid prices and had a 90-minute wait, so we went over to one of my favorite places, Watty & Meg , and got a table right away.

We had good wine (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre Yves Cheron ‘Les Dentelles’ 07 & Grignolono Luca Ferraris ‘Vigna del Casot’ 08), hamburgers and amazing french fries, and steak frites. For dessert we went to Sweet Melissa’s Patisserie. I don’t remember what everyone got, but I devoured my rhubarb&strawberry crumble miracle (my name for it) as soon as I got home and into my cozies (I warmed it up first!).

We’ll be back to pizza next month! Be sure to check in.

Hypocrisy on Film: The Grand Old Party on Medicare

For all that the press gleefully reports on how the leaders in the party of “family values” fail to live up to the standards they regularly hold others to, it’s this kind of hypocrisy that makes my blood boil. Preying on the fears of the elderly by claiming Obama’s health care plan will destroy Medicare is evil; preying on those fears as the party that has been trying to end Medicare for years is evil and disgusting.

The good folks over at Talking Points Memo have compiled the GOP, in its own words, on the subject.

Damon Weaver’s Success

I fell in love with Damon Weaver during the election when he interviewed Joe Biden, so I was thrilled to see that, after months of trying, he finally got to interview President Obama. The questions were good ones, and they really seemed to come from Weaver’s point of view, touching on topics from the painful to the adorable.

Seeing Weaver in his pants that are slightly too long seems like a perfect symbol of what his future could hold. He’ll grow into the suit and into his future…and maybe he’ll get better school lunches for his peers along the way…

Writing Retreat: Day the Second

This morning I wished I were a person practiced in the arts of yoga or Pilates. The sundeck seems the ideal place to stretch and meditate in the morning sun. I certainly have the yoga costume: yoga pants and a tank top (both in black). But, alas, I’m a pajamas-and-bowl-of Crispix-with-cranberries kind of girl, though I do enjoy starting the day doing stretches with my hand weights while watching “The West Wing” and reveling in the knowledge that Josh Lyman is really Rahm Emmanuel no matter what Lawrence O’Donnell says (the author is dead, indeed!).

Yoga or Crispix. It really doesn’t matter: I’m here to write, and it’s working. With no domestic duties beyond washing my cereal bowl (and to be honest, Karen did that for me), I happily walked the two minutes to a nifty café, Peaceable Market, run by a group of young, cool women. I spent the morning eating toast and reading Felicia Hemans’s poetry. I’ve taken a bit of a risk trying to work with Hemans in this way as I’m not as familiar with her as I am with Shelley, but a morning with her poetry makes me think my argument holds more than just water.

It’s a great little café—hardwood floors, lots of natural light, generous portions of peanut butter for my toast, and a view of the harbor from my window.

But there’s something here I hadn’t counted on. Men. Lots of them. Most of them H.O.T.

Maybe it’s because it’s spring, but I’m finding the Men of Newport very distracting. Anyone who knows me would explain that my “type” tends towards effete metrosexuals with hands made for playing piano. I tend to like handsome men over homely ones, but wit and creativity are more appealing than many other qualities and can turn an Urkel into a Chiwetel Ejiofor. I also have a thing for nerdy academic types, though six years as a professor has all but cured me of this unfortunate ailment (male academics are so much sexier from a distance than they are up close and personal). These guys are not at all my type, so it’s surprising that they have me looking up from my Hemans all too often. They ooze a kind of ease that I usually am not attracted to. Perhaps it’s all in the packaging. They all look like prototypes for Ralph Lauren glossy ads but not in a pretty boy, airbrushed way. No way. These guys are the real thing. They all look so healthy, as if they really do spend their time working or playing on the boats in the harbor. They all have great hair, and they move with an appealing masculine grace, walking easily along the narrow sidewalks of Thames Street. Good lord, I sound like some twenty-first Danielle Steele.

When I call my mother to ask if she’d like a sweatshirt from this charming town, I tell her about the fact that I’m amongst these beautiful men and she replies, without missing a beat, “what are you wearing?” I don’t have the heart to tell her I have on sweatpants and a faded yellow hoodie. Poor woman just plunked down a chunk of cash to buy me a summer wardrobe fit for a modern-day, mocha-colored Holly Golightly, and I’m in sweat pants and a faded yellow hoodie. At least the sweat pants aren’t baggy and the hoodie shows that I have a waist.

In other news, I’ve forgotten my book weight and realized that I have a serious internet addiction.

My writing afternoon session was less productive than my morning of reading and note taking. But the day is not over yet. Perhaps after a walk with Sadie (Karen’s adorable pooch), I’ll write some more. Writing about poetry really does feel like trying to nail Jello to the wall.