Posts Tagged ‘Rhode Island’

Protect and Serve

January 2, 2015

Cranston cops

On New Year’s Eve, we had dinner at our house with a couple of friends, and then the four of us piled into our friends’ car and headed out for our neighborhood bowling alley. A few minutes into the drive, we noticed  a weird rattling. Our friend pulled over and climbed out to investigate. Flat tire. So we all climbed out and set about changing the tire.

Easier said than done. First we had to pry the spare out of the trunk, and then we had to find the special tools, and then we had to figure out how to use them. It didn’t help that we were standing in the dark on a relatively high-speed through-street. Plus, it was cold.

We were huddled around the trunk, trying to read the instructions on the tool bag by the light of the tail lights and our phones’ flashlight settings, when a police car cruised by. Oh good, we thought. Help has arrived. And it had.

The cop angled his car protectively behind ours and trained his headlights on our work area.  We would have been grateful enough just for the light and the protection. But the officer – a slight, young white guy with a band-aid on his finger – didn’t stop there. When he realized that we hadn’t called a road service and that we were having trouble changing the tire, he pulled out his flashlight, studied the instructions, and went to work.

It didn’t take him long to get the car jacked up and remove the first couple of lug nuts. But neither he nor any of the rest of us had the strength to loosen the last lug nuts and get the flat off the car.

As luck would have it, a second police car came by. It parked up behind the first one, and the cop strolled over to see what was up. This second officer was taller and beefier than the first one. By jumping on the lug wrench a couple of times, he was able to free the flat tire.

What would we have done if the cops hadn’t come? What would we done if they hadn’t been so helpful? How could we thank them? We asked for their names so we could write a letter to their chief. But they waved the question aside.

“That’s not necessary,” the first cop said.  “Next time you get in trouble like this, you should call us.”

The second cop took a picture for the department’s Facebook page. “This will be great for community outreach,” he said.

We agreed. Those cops were good guys who do a difficult, dangerous and necessary job, and they went above and beyond what that job requires.

We all shook hands, wished each other a happy New Year, and went our separate ways. The first cop’s shift was almost over. The second one would be working until 8 the next morning. And we had a date with our local bowling alley.

___

We live in the Edgewood section of Cranston, Rhode Island, a relatively prosperous neighborhood of large, well-kept, owner-occupied homes between Narragansett Bay and Roger Williams Park. Like most of our neighbors, we and our friends are white, conservatively dressed English speakers. Our car was clean and – except for the tire – in good shape. And the four of us were old enough to be the police officers’ parents.

The bowling alley is less than two miles from our home. But to reach it from the block where we pulled over, we had to cross the railroad tracks and Route 95.  The bowling alley is on a busy street across from a discount grocery store, in a neighborhood where most residents rent. The other bowlers were all younger than us by at least two decades. They included people who had prominent tattoos, who weren’t white, and who weren’t speaking English.

Looking around, as we bowled through the last hour of 2014, I couldn’t help but wonder. What would the experience have been like if the flat tire hadn’t happened to us, in our neighborhood? What if it had happened to one of the other bowling parties at the alley? Would the cops have gone that extra mile? And how would we have felt, when that first cruiser pulled up, if we were younger, or less white, or if English wasn’t our first language? Would our first thought have been, Help has arrived?

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Oakland Cemetery

March 31, 2014

 

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Walking home from Roger Williams Park a few weekends back, David and I decided to explore a cemetery we’d passed by lots of times, but had never bothered to check out.

We like cemeteries – the artistry of the stones, the interesting old names, the epitaphs, the morbid semiology of angels, hands, and weeping willows. As an amateur photographer, I love the monochrome stones in their symmetrical rows, the play of light on the inscriptions, the marks that time and weather and human mischief leave on monuments that were meant to be immutable. And as someone who craves narrative, I like to read stories into the stones.

Oakland Cemetery doesn’t look like much from the road. Entering from the park, the first interesting thing you notice is how many headstones vandals have knocked down, and how much trash has blown in or been dropped and not picked up. No wonder Mark C writes on Yelp (who knew that Yelp carries cemetery reviews?), “This dump is an embarrassment…I wouldn’t bury my dog here.”

 

Most of the monuments are between 40 and 100 years old. Walk on, though, and you find a row of stones dating back much earlier.

 

Mr. James Brown Merchant who died Oct 4th 1775 aged 73 Years. He was born in England: a pattern of Industry and an honest Man.

Stephen Rawson died March 14th 1773 in the 50th Year of his Age. He was of a noted Family of great Repute. His Life was Amiable and Strict Integrity with universal Benevolence justly marked his Character.

Alexander Black of the City of Coleraine in the Kingdom of Ireland. Merchant. He came to America in the Year 1748 and died in Providence Rhode Island on the 12th of Sept. 1767 aged 40 Years.

Mrs. Freelove Bosworth 2nd wife of Mr. Lewis Bosworth

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These much older graves seem out of place, and they are. Brown and Rawson and Black and Bosworth and half a dozen of their contemporaries were originally buried in West Burial Ground, in Providence. They were exhumed and reburied in Cranston in 1870, when West Burial Ground was dismantled to create Hayward Park, which was demolished in the 1960s to make room the I-95/I-195 interchange, which was torn down and rebuilt further south in 2013.

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But Oakland Cemetery isn’t only a place of neglect and displacement. Look a little farther and you see an unexpected jumble of colors cutting through the dead grass. These are graves from the last 15 years, lined up head-to-toe, like a traffic jam of the dead. Beneath the plastic flowers and the home-made crosses, the stuffed animals and miniature Christmas trees, the rosary beads and Red Sox caps, the votive candles and Hennessy bottles and last year’s dead leaves, you notice that the surnames are almost all Hispanic, and a shockingly high percentage of the dead are men between the ages of 18 and 30. Google the names, and another pattern emerges.

John Gabriel Espinal, a 20-year-old dental hygiene student, died in August, 2013 – shot dead by the new boyfriend of Espinal’s former girlfriend, the mother of his 2-year-old child.

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Luis Dominguez, 18, died in July, 2010 – shot dead by a friend who was messing around with a sawed-off shotgun.

 

 

 

IMG_7517Jacob Delgado, a 19-year-old artist, died in December, 2001 – shot dead during an argument that erupted after he jumped the line at a Broad Street chimi truck.

 

 

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Nairobi Acosta, 20, died in November, 2007 – shot dead as he was leaving an after-hours party.

Luis Abreu, 21, died in October, 2007 – shot dead shortly after midnight, as he was sitting in his black BMW outside his apartment.

Omar Polanco, a 19-year-old Walmart worker, died in September, 2008 – shot dead at 3:30 a.m. from a passing car, a few blocks from his family home. The day we visited Oakland, Polanco would have turned 21. Mylar birthday balloons bobbed over his grave.

IMG_7438Among these newer graves is a tall, granite monument carved with the figure wearing an ornate robe. He holds an orb with a cross in one hand, and raises the other hand in blessing. The portrait set into the corner of the stone shows a handsome man with a shaved head, bright eyes and a benevolent smile. Below is an inscription.

Beloved father, son, brother and friend

David J.Catagena

Apr. 13, 1971 – May 31, 2009

Being a streetworker – it’s like being a peacemaker. It’s the thing you want to be.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9.

Cartagena died at 38, in a three-car accident on I-95. A former member of the Almighty Latin King Nation youth gang, Cartagena had a history of hurting people and 15 arrests on his record. In 2005 he joined the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence, a Providence-based nonprofit dedicated to combating gang violence and youth crime. The Providence Journal described Catagena as one of the organization’s “most effective leaders.”

I’m sure there are more stories like these at Oakland Cemetery. But David and I only stayed so long. It was awfully cold out, and we felt self-conscious, walking around and taking pictures, especially when other people came with fresh decorations for their loved ones’ graves. When does honest interest become disrespect? What’s a public park and what’s a private shrine? What am I to make of that little leap of excitement I felt when I discovered Oakland Cemetery’s story?

I was just starting to consider these questions when the impersonal became intensely personal. David’s dad died. We dropped everything and flew to Colorado – an event still too raw to write about here. Back home two weeks later, I picked up what I’d been working on.

When I went back to check Yelp, I found that a new review had been posted while we were away. “My father was buried a year ago this past march 25th,” writes Juan V, “I went and visit the grave and set some flowers (Plastic from dollar store) and today, Saturday March 29, the flowers are gone, don’t guess me wrong but that only happens in the Dominican Republic, and I know who did it, the person is from that country, what a disgrace, I don’t even want to be part of that community anymore. I feel sorry that my father is buried there.”

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Sandy’s Tidal Surge

October 30, 2012

If you prepare for the worst and the worst doesn’t happen, does that mean your preparations were unnecessary? I don’t know.  But that’s our Superstorm Sandy story.

When Hurricane Irene came through Rhode Island last year, the silver maple beside our driveway lost a major limb, and our power was out for days. We wrapped quilts and blankets around our freezer, and eventually dropped in a box of dry ice we bought from a welding supply company. We played Scrabble by candle light and drove to David’s office to plug in our lap tops and charge our phones.

This year, as Hurricane Sandy was churning up the Caribbean, we filled our bathtub, and stocked up on gallon containers of drinking water. We put away our porch furniture and harvested the last of our tomatoes. We bought canned fish and beans, and sturdy produce like apples and carrots. We brought out our boom box and flashlight and bought an extra box of candles. We pulled down the storm windows and plugged a leaky door frame with cellophane and rags. We did everything we could think of doing. And then we waited, braced for the worst.

Here at our house, the worst turned out to be not so bad. While our family and friends in New Jersey and New York lost power and tree limbs and worse, and flooding from the tidal surge forced neighbors just a few blocks away to evacuate, we lost one tile from our roof, and some leaves from our trees. Somebody’s take-out coffee cup blew into our yard. Our electricity blinked twice, just long enough to force us to reset our clocks.

The rain and wind were supposed to continue through today. But the sun is out and the breeze is gentle. I took a walk, to see how the tiny corner of the world beyond our yard had fared.

At Stillhouse Cove, the ducks and swans grazed as if nothing unusual had happened. Never mind the orange construction drum that bobbed in the water, the fire extinguisher and tiki torch that had washed up—wittily—onto the same rock. The shell of a horseshoe crab lay in the middle of the street. A saw horse and caution tape warned passersby away from someone’s broken fence. And all along the shore, an undulating swath of debris showed how high the tide had risen.

I started taking pictures, as I always do. And that’s when I really saw what the storm had left us.

Marsh reeds and plastic drinking straws and scraps of wood were laid out together in perfect waves. The shape of the line recalled the flow of the watery waves that sloshed up and left them there, and revealed the contours of the land. Depending on the force and direction of that final wave, the obstacles it met and the topography beneath it, the line widened or narrowed, hugged rocks, formed piles, or snaked over the grass. Within the line, organic and plastic matter commingled  autumn leaves and cigarette box cellophane paired and positioned according to their shape and weight, and random happenstance.

Once I started looking, I could hardly tear myself away.

With schools closed and many offices shuttered, lots of families were out, doing the same. There was a quiet, holiday atmosphere—our gratitude for the unexpected day off, and for the fate the storm had spared us, tempered by our awareness of what so many other people are going through. Everyone was chatting, in the way people will—even strangers—when they have been through (or averted) a disaster together.

“How’d you do?”

“Not so bad.”

“Same here.”

“Guess we lucked out.”

“Sure did.”

“Finding anything good?” one guy asked me as I brought my camera close to a blade of grass wrapped around a tampon applicator.

“I’m just enjoying the way everything got left,” I told him. “Look at how that line squiggles over the grass.”

“Uh-huh,” he said. “I should come back with my metal detector.”

Home is where

June 24, 2012

Yesterday was the last Shabbat my good friend Joel spent as a rabbi at my synagogue. It was a sad morning. Sad to sit in my usual seat, going through the same order of prayers and rituals and readings – sit down, stand up, sing, listen – knowing that each predictable step in the service was bringing us that much closer to closure. I could only imagine how it was all hitting him, sitting up there in his chair beside the ark, looking out for the last time at the community that has come to love him in the four short years since he arrived.

By the time he had finished delivering his farewell sermon, half the room was in tears, including Joel.

But it was more complicated than that. Sure, the Seltzers are moving away. But they’re going to a place they know and love, and starting a new professional adventure.

They’re giving up a sure thing in order to grab a chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sort of like what David and I did five years ago, when we gave up our comfortable life in Vermont to try something new in Rhode Island.

Though, in our case, we weren’t going to a place we already knew.

I remember finding my way around my new neighborhood, taking it on faith that one day each storefront and house would be so familiar I would hardly notice them. I remember how proud I was the first time I managed to drive to the mall and back without making a wrong turn. I remember seeing two women chatting in a coffee shop, and telling myself, one day that will be you.

I knew this wouldn’t happen on its own, though. Sure, we’d managed to make friends in the other places we’ve lived. But this time it would be harder, especially for me. Our kids were already out of the house, so they wouldn’t be finding other children with parents we could bond with. And I didn’t even have a job to go to. How do you become a part of the community if all you do all day is sit at home, writing? This was one big reason why we started showing up regularly at synagogue.

And it worked. I remember looking around the sanctuary, being struck by how all those strangers seemed to know each other. Within a few weeks, we were recognizing people. Driving home, we would rehearse the roster of who had been there, identifying the different Rhode Islanders according to which Vermonters we had initially mistaken them for. (It’s uncanny how many people resemble other people.)

Soon we were attaching names and salient details to the faces. I started occupying myself during services by counting the number of people I could identify. Pretty soon, I realized I wasn’t just picking out the people I recognized. I could also tell who was new, or only showed up occasionally. Around that same time, I started forgetting to count.

Five years later, I’m still a newcomer here. And I still miss Vermont and our friends there very much. But this is home in a lot of ways. How? The perennials we planted are filling out. We have favorite beaches and restaurants. I don’t patronize the Stop and Shop on Warwick Avenue because it replaced a plant nursery I loved.

Most important, this is home because the people we used to identity by a few surface traits, and were able to recognize because they looked like other people, have become our friends. They’re people we share running jokes and disputes with. People we could call in an emergency. People whose celebrations and sorrows we have shared. People who look like nobody but themselves.

And now, as we wish Joel and Eliana good luck in their next chapter, there’s this. Home is the place where you stand when you wave goodbye .

Hurricane Theology

September 2, 2011

I hate how people invoke God during disasters. “God sent the storm to teach us to work together” isn’t nearly as offensive as “God sent the storm to smite the Sodomites.” But it’s really just a matter of degree. “God will get us through this” only works if you believe in a God who’s strong enough to pull you from the water, but either too weak or to mean to keep the flood from happening to begin with. “God set the laws of nature in place and then stepped aside” is an okay out. But why would you believe a God like that would care about whether the quarter cow in your deep freeze defrosts?

As it happened, God did care about the quarter cow in our deep freeze. The Almighty cared enough to give us advance warning, courtesy of those snazzy NOAA satellites, of when God was sending the big storm, how big it would be, and where it would hit. The Lord cared enough to plant within my atheist husband’s brain the forethought to bring a pile of quilts and blankets down from the attic so we could insulate the freezer if the lights went out. When the lights did go out, and then stayed out, God gave my non-believing life partner the idea of buying dry ice. That would have been enough. But then God went above and beyond by directing us to the welding supply house that was selling dry ice on a first-come-first served basis. We popped that cube of super-cold into our freezer, and the meat was saved. Go, God!

God sent the gust of wind that ripped the huge limb off our silver maple. But The Source of All Being cared enough about us, our house, our garage, our car, our neighbors’ cars, our neighbors’ house and our neighbors to make sure that limb landed safely on the lawn.

That same gust, by the way, or maybe one like it, pushed our tomato plants sideways. But The Ruler of the Universe cared enough about my Brandywines and Supersweets to spare all but a few of the fruits. (And later, when it was all over, God showed God’s good, salt-of-the-earth taste by giving us the idea of turning the tomatoes we doubted would ever ripen into super-delicious fried green tomatoes. Nice one, God!)

After the storm blew over, God wanted to make sure we knew what a bad ass The Big Bopper could be. So The Holy One sent us and about half our neighborhood out to admire the fruit of God’s wrath. We oohed and aahed over trees cracked in two, trees toppled from their roots, utility poles askew, electric lines dangerously sagging, boats wrenched from their moorings and blown ashore. Awesome, God! We’re seriously impressed!

Monday morning God got in touch with God’s gentle side. It might have been the most perfect day ever, weather-wise. And with the electricity still out and lots of cleaning up to do, there were all sorts of reasons to be outside. The Creator wanted us to love our neighbor, so God got us working together. The head builder on the ballroom project across the street brought his chain saw over. The neighbor whose house and cars God hadn’t crushed with that limb chipped in. By lunch time, the mess was cleaned up.

It’s really important to God that we celebrate the Sabbath by turning off the internet and interacting with friends and family without the mediation of a screen. It’s an appealing idea, but it’s been a hard sell. So HaShem decided to get us used to the idea by keeping our electricity turned off for an extra day.

We played Scrabble by candle light, with a physical board and wooden tiles. We admired how many stars were visible without all that light pollution. We liked the quiet. We worked our way through the fresh mozzarella, the halal goat and the shrimp, thanking God for our gas stove. We had filled our bathtub and an enormous pot with water, but didn’t need either. We thanked The Big One that we don’t depend on an electric pump, and when we replaced our water heater we didn’t opt for the on-demand system. As darkness fell each night, we thanked The Lord for the gift of Shabbat and the big box of sturdy, scentless, long-burning Shabbat candles we keep for Friday nights.

It was all very romantic. It made us feel ever so strong and resourceful. But when the lights came back on, at around 2:30 Wednesday morning, my first thought was, “Thank God.”

Then I heard what had happened in Upstate New York, and I started seeing the pictures out of New Jersey, and the even more heart-wrenching images from Vermont, and I thought, “Yo, God. WTF?”

Opening the river

August 11, 2011

Big doings in Pawtuxet Village. They’re taking down the dam above the falls, where thePawtuxetRiverflows into the harbor, and from there toNarragansett Bay. The first dam was wooden, built in the 1700s. The current, concrete dam has been in place since the 1920s. Restoring the river to its pre-Colonial condition will allow herring and other fish to swim upriver and spawn. Better sex for smallish fish will mean better eating for bigger fish and birds.

I’ve been hearing that same story again and again this week – parents explaining it to their children, grown children explaining it to their elderly parents, neighbor explaining it to neighbor, as we all stand on the bridge watching the work going on below. Besides making a good story and providing a nice science lesson, the dam-removal project turns out to be a great spectator sport.

Three men wearing hard hats, safety vests, surfer bathing suits, and water shoes stroll across the dam like high-wire walkers, wade through the water, and sometimes swim as they move orange booms around, attach enormous chains to two-ton sandbags, or jimmy blue steal plates into position. A backhoe rolls like a tank through the water, up rocks and over rubble, tugs and lifts and lowers equipment into place, or scoops debris from the river bottom. When the gigantic pneumatic drill is attached to the arm, it drills into the concrete, breaking it up like a dentist’s drill shattering a rotten molar.

And all the while the river flows around the construction site, glassy-smooth above the dam, and white-water rippling below it. It makes a lovely sound. I’ve stood on this same bridge lots of times before. But until now I never realized how much the contours of the river – the amount of rock exposed, the speed of the rapids – changes with the tide.

The spectators chat, point, take pictures, line up to buy cones at the ice cream shop conveniently located beside the bridge. The atmosphere is festive, friendly, interested. Just about everyone seems to approve of the project. If it’s good for the fish, it’s fine with them.

Who knew you could generate so much excitement just by letting the river flow?

Lobbying for Love

February 14, 2011

You know you’ve become a part of the community when the woman you’ve been nodding hello to at the gym motions for you to take out your ear buds in order to say, “I just saw you on the news! You were at the Statehouse, right?”

That I was – and David, too, doing our bit for the forces of justice by rallying for marriage equality in Rhode Island, just as we did 11 years ago, for civil unions in Vermont.

That last time, the capital building in Montpelier was so packed the pros and cons –  conveniently identified by the color of our pinned ribbons – pressed up against each other. The teams were evenly represented, the atmosphere civil but tense. When we signed up to testify, we identified which side we were on and names were drawn at random, alternating between columns A and B. We stayed late into the evening. My name never came up, but David’s did. A video of him arguing for protection of the rights of the minority is part of the permanent exhibit at the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier.

This year, the capital building in Providence got so crowded the doors were closed and an overflow crowd of a few hundred rallied outside. But there was plenty of room to walk around inside, where the pros, conveniently identified by our red clothes and our rainbow signs, outnumbered the more demurely dressed cons, with their “1 Man + 1 Woman” signs hung around their necks, at least 10 to 1. At least while we were there, for the marriage equality rally.

We held signs. I got a hug from my surprised hairdresser. A white haired man told David he was all for same-sex couples being legally recognized, but was offended by the notion of calling such unions marriages. David replied, “Your attitude offends me,” and then went on to tell him, “You are on the wrong side of history, sir, and the wrong side of morality.”

We didn’t stay for the hearing, but climbed to the third floor so David could turn in written testimony, adapted from a decade-old letter. I’m not sure what he said in his message. If I had testified, I might have said something about how lucky I feel to have been so happily married these 29 years, and how the sanctity of my union will be strengthened when marriage is no longer the exclusive privilege of the majority.

After he turned in his statement, we stayed on the top floor, peering over the balustrade to watch the spectacle below. The speakers’ words echoed unintelligibility off the marble walls, the garbled addresses periodically punctuated by cheers and applause. Grim groups of antis clasped hands and bowed their heads, their eyes squeezed shut in silent prayer.

Across the rotunda and one flight down, I watched a drama in pantomime. Two young men stood facing each other. One took the other’s hands in his. Gazing intently into his friend’s eyes, he delivered what was clearly a carefully rehearsed speech. His friend’s mouth opened in thrilled amazement. He took his hand away long enough to accept a tissue from a bystander and, laughing, wipe the tears from his eyes. He gave his response. They hugged, then kissed, then hugged again. A white ring box was produced, a ring slipped on a finger. More tears. Another long, swaying embrace as the cheers from the rally rang around them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recalculating

June 25, 2010

Relocating isn’t easy. My first day at college, a friend of my brother’s dropped me off in front of my new dorm on his way to work. When the people arrived to unlock the building, they found me waiting with my suitcases and boxes. By the time the other students showed up with their parents and started carrying in their stuff, I had already pretty much moved into my single (singles are the norm at Hampshire, even for first-year students). Freaked out at being away from home by myself for the first time, and too afraid to speak to anyone, I shut myself in my room and cried.

Moving to Rhode Island three years ago was almost as scary as those first hours of college. I was long past 18 and hardly alone, and in the intervening years I had successfully relocated several times. But any time you move to a new place, it’s a challenge. You have to find your way around, figure out where you’re going to buy your food and get your hair cut, sort the good guys from the bums among the local politicians and, most importantly, make new friends.

After three years, I can find my way around well enough to turn off the GPS before we reach the reconfigured highway interchange and it starts furiously recalculating. I have not one but several grocery stores: the one where I buy bread and bagels, the one that carries fair-trade coffee and happy meat, and the one I go to for pretty much everything else. I’m not totally thrilled with the guy who cuts my hair, but he’s nearby and fun to listen to. Local politics is easy: our state senator and local rep are good guys; everyone else belongs in jail. We’ve made lots of friends, in large part through the synagogue we joined right away. (Those first few months, when I was supposed to be praying, I’d be sitting in my pew, silently counting the number of my fellow congregants about whom I could state at least one fact. When I lost interest in the game, I knew I had arrived.)

But there’s one aspect of my life here that still makes me feel as self-conscious as a newly-minted college student. Unlike when I moved to Pittsburgh and L.A., in Rhode Island I’m not in school and I don’t have a job. And unlike when I moved to Burlington, I don’t have any kids in tow. For the first time in my life, I’m free to do what I had always wanted to do: write fiction full time. When I first arrived, the prospect was as terrifying as it was thrilling.

It wasn’t the thought of spending my days writing that worried me. I had been working on my novel one day a week for about eight years, and I was looking forward to finally giving it my full attention. But without the convenient cover of student, librarian or mother, I would be presenting myself to new acquaintances with my embarrassing, audacious secret identity unmasked. And what do you do? They would ask. And I would have to answer I’m a writer. And sound as if I meant it.

(Sure, I had written stuff before. I had even visited schools and library conferences and so on as a Visiting Author. But before now, writing had always been what I’d done when I wasn’t doing real things, like shelving Papal encyclicals in my Catholic high school library or making tuna melts for my kids.)

As with the other aspects of starting this new life, I have managed. First I learned how to say I’m a writer with a straight face, and then I came up with a sound bite to answer the inevitable follow-up question, What is your novel about? (My sound bite: “It’s two parallel stories: one tells what happens to three adult children after their mother dies, and the other is a fanciful story about how their grandmother came to America. It starts off as separate threads, but by the end they come together. It’s called LITTLE GRANDMA’S MIRROR.”) For long time, I would tell people I was still trying to finish it, and then I would say I was looking for an agent.

Now that I have an agent, the process is pretty much out of my hands, and my job is to write something else. I’m working on it. Which means that for many months now I have been diligently writing every day, having new ideas and starting new projects, losing interest and starting new ones, then returning to the old ones, all the while hoping that one will take. It’s not an easy place to be. But all I can do is keep plugging away and look forward to the time when I’ll feel as comfortably ensconced in my new work as I do when I’m exiting onto 195 and I tell the GPS, Don’t bother recalculating. I know where I’m going.