Bite This

  • The Domino Effect (for Diana Fabbri)

    Posted: June 28th 2017 @7:40 AM

    The Domino Effect (for Diana Fabbri)

    I was a teenager when I fell in love with radio. It was the ’70s, and late one night when I couldn’t sleep, I heard a sultry-voiced DJ cooing, “The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Nightbird spreads her wings and soars above the earth into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird, at WNEW-FM until dawn.”

    I was hooked.

    I’ve taken every chance I’ve had to get on the airwaves ever since.

    While in pursuit of those airwaves in Provincetown, Massachusetts, I met a soft-spoken, kind-eyed woman named Diana Fabri.

    One of the countless magical things about Provincetown is its radio station, WOMR, which plays everything from folk music to punk rock to classical.

    I figured if they were willing to follow up The Clash with Beethoven, maybe they’d let me read some of my memoir on the air.

    I’d come to some notice as a chef and food writer, so pretty much every time I tried to get on the radio folks, wanted me to talk about food. I wanted to talk about my crazy family.

    I walked into WOMR in the fall of 2003 and asked to speak to the person in charge. The receptionist directed me to Diana who was the operations manager. I wasn’t sure what a radio station manager might look like but was delighted to find a cute, spunky, smiling woman sorting through albums as if each one were made of gold.

    “Oh I love this one, this one, too, and this one,” she practically sang.

    I told her I wanted to read my memoirs on WOMR. I thought she might roll her eyes and groan, but instead she shouted.

    “Good for you!”

    She agreed to submit my request.

    The powers that be (whoever they were) wanted me to do a show about food, not about my family.

    I offered a compromise: “What if I do both?”

    Diana said, “You have 15 minutes. That’s the longest one uninterrupted voice should be on the radio; people just have no attention span. Tell me how you want to fill it.”

    “I’ll read a memoir for 10 minutes then follow it up with 5 minutes of recipes. We can call it Bite Me!”

    “I like it! Let me run it to the top and see how it flies.”

    I was back in NYC cooking for a wedding when Diana called me.

    “I can’t seem to convince them.”

    “Okay…,” I groaned, “Thanks for trying.”

    She stopped me in the midst of my self-pity fest.

    “You’re giving up that easily?! Let’s talk them into it!”

    Diana arranged to have me call in an audition that she taped over the phone. I read a piece called “The Devil and Mrs. Goldstein.”

    A few weeks later she called sounding like she’d just won the lottery, “You’re in, baby!”

    There was only one small hitch, they felt “Bite Me” was too vulgar for public radio.

    “What if I change it to ‘Bite This’?”

    “Do it, baby!”

    I had a business to run in New York City, but it wasn’t an problem. Diana pre-taped my shows, whenever I came to town. From one of the many albums she loved she found me an upbeat little melody for my theme song.

    Sitting with Di Di, as I called her, for hours as we taped my shows, her kind eyes beaming as she smiled from ear to ear, was pure joy.

    How often in life do you experience pure joy?

    Thirteen years later, “Bite This” is still going.

    Knowing I had to come up with new shows every year kept me writing. The format of following a memoir with recipes became that of my first published book. The audition I read for Diana over the phone became Chapter 1. The book has been adapted for the stage and is now a play.

    I’ve had the honor of going all over the country on my book tour, from Naples, Florida, to Los Angeles to St. Louis, but nowhere was more special than in November of 2016 when I got to read in the event space at WOMR and look into the audience to see Diana’s face, once again, smiling ear-to-ear.

    The spunky powerful lady I met in 2003 had been weakened by pancreatic cancer, but she hadn’t let that keep her home that evening. I wanted to honor her while I still had time.

    I started thanking her for championing me and then was overtaken by the moment and went on to explain that if Diana had not gotten me on WOMR, I would not have written the book and if I had not written the book, none of us would be sitting there sipping wine and having such a lovely time. The crowd, (most of whom did not know about her cancer), gave Diana a well-deserved and hearty round of applause.

    She smiled and nodded, humble to the core, as always.

    After the show, Diana and I embraced. As sick as she was, she still managed to give me a killer hug.

    I thought of a radio show I used to listen to that started with, “Soft and warm the quiet storm.”

    I wondered if this would be the last time I saw her.

    It was.

    Diana and I made plans to get together this month when I was coming back to Provincetown, but she died two weeks before I got there.

    A few days after I arrived in Provincetown, I was staring out at the bay. It was a drizzly, hazy morning and the gray enveloped the bay like a soft blanket.

    I closed my eyes and heard Diana’s voice.

    “DO IT, BABY!”

    For you sweet lady, I will. I will.

  • Passover 2017 by Rossi aka Chef Rossi

    Posted: April 10th 2017 @9:34 PM

    power babes womens march IMG_9390

    And so there came upon the nation a great (not so great, really) and terrible Pharaoh.

    He promised the hungry that he would provide for them, but soon after he rose to power, he took the food from their mouths to feed his army.

    He named the earth, sky and water as his property, there only for the purpose of enriching his reign with black gold.

    He sought to enslave women by taking away their reproductive rights and health care. He boasted that they, too, were his property, to sexually assault at his leisure.

    The women rose up and marched in the streets crying out, “Women’s rights are human rights!” but Pharaoh was too busy making speeches to his followers, who were drunk on his lies as if they were fine wine.

    He removed the cloak of protection from children persecuted for being different, and sought to end artful pleasures for the people.

    He ordered his minions to build a pyramid along the southern border and paid for it by taxing the poor and the middle class. Neither the Pharaoh nor the wealthy would have to pay.

    He instructed his minions to close and lock every gate to the promised land.

    Even as he ignored the cries of the children outside the gates, he threw hatchets at their oppressor to blind the people into further confusion.

    The people beat their chests, looked up to heaven and cried out, “Please deliver us from Pharaoh!”

    And so appeared not one but several prophets named Moses. Moses Warren, Moses Gillibrand, Moses Biden, Moses Yates, Moses Kennedy Jr., Moses Booker and Moses Winfrey.

    They held hands as they approached the palace crying, “Let my people go!”

    But Pharaoh was preoccupied writing his thoughts in 140 hieroglyphics or less, his proclamations bringing chaos in the angry crowds outside the palace.

    The many Moses raised their hands to the sky and sent out the first of 10 plagues.

    They filled the waters around Nordstrom Palace with blood until the Pharoah’s daughter floated out.

    Pharaoh was unmoved.

    So they persisted.

    They sent hordes of pink frogs chanting, “We want a leader, not a crazy tweeter!”

    Pharaoh ignored them and barred messengers from the palace, saying they brought him only “fake news.”

    They sent swarms of flying filibusters.

    Wild animals in “Not my President” T-shirts.

    Pestilence in the form of town halls causing the Pharaoh’s henchmen to hide in fear and shame.

    Boils on the face of Pharaoh’s most evil of henchmen – Bannon.

    Hailstorms of emails, letters, calls and post cards.

    Angry protesters, swarming like locusts.

    Darkness fell as the candles of Pharaoh’s support were extinguished one by one.

    His skin grew more orange. His bloated belly expanded so that he needed three thrones, but Pharaoh remained unmoved. When he might have been finding ways to help the people, he pretended to hit a tiny ball with a stick and counted his gold coins.

    It came to pass that Moses Winfrey raised her hands in the air and announced, “Since you clearly don’t need any experience for this job, I’ll be seeing you in 2020! Until then, it’s time for the 10th plague!

    She instructed all the sane and decent people to affix their doors with a Planned Parenthood or ACLU sticker.

    That night, the Angel of Death visited the land.

    Pharaoh awakened to the cries of the princess, not his wife, who preferred to live as far away from the Pharaoh as possible.

    “He is dead, he is dead!” she screamed.

    “Who is dead?” asked the Pharaoh, and sought to comfort his daughter, but stopped because he didn’t know how to comfort anyone but himself.

    “You’re dead. Your approval ratings and that of the party that supports you are in the murky mud of the swamp. You are the least popular Pharaoh in history, and the people wish to drive you from your palace.”

    Then Pharaoh said, “I like the swamp. I am the best at living in the swamp, truly,” then quickly ran to his West Wing bathroom throne and wrote his hieroglyphics for the people. “I am huge! Bigly!” Then he flushed, as if knowing the true value of those words.

    And Moses Winfrey spoke to the people.

    “You don’t need us to deliver you from this evil. … Vote, resist and speak out. Be your own Moses!”

    And the people did revolt, and Pharaoh took refuge in Russia.

    And so every year, to honor the self-empowering revolution when the people were freed from slavery by finding their own inner Moses, we celebrate by having our Passover Seder.

    We don our pink pussyhats and celebrate the moment in history when we found our power!

    Happy Passover. You are you own Moses!

  • Imagine

    Posted: February 1st 2017 @9:28 PM


    “Walk a mile in my shoes.” You’ve heard that expression before. But what if we really did that?

    Just for one day.

    Just for one hour.

    Just for one moment.

    What if we could truly imagine what it felt like to be someone else?

    Since election night, I’ve thought a lot about the coal miners in Kentucky who voted for Trump.

    I have no idea what it’s like to mine coal. Seems like it must be terrible. All that grueling claustrophobic work and black lung for your trouble. It’s hard to imagine this as the choice you must make to feed your children.

    But I do know what it’s like to do grueling work, to worry about how I will pay the rent, to not have enough money to buy groceries, to feel frightened of how I will keep the heat on if I can’t pay the gas bill. I don’t think you can ever forget the taste in your mouth of fear and hunger. From this place I have imagined myself in their shoes.

    I would be angry too.

    I might feel forgotten.

    I know a banker who votes solely based on his wallet. He is a numbers man. He votes Republican no matter who is running because “It’s good for the Dow” and because he wants to pay fewer taxes.

    He is a proud 1%-er.

    I have tried to imagine how it might feel to be him. To make a salary equivalent to ten times an average man’s and even more than that for an average woman’s. What does if feel like to care deeply about “less government.” To think Medicare is for “the others.” To think welfare is ruining America.

    It was a lot harder to imagine being him than the coal miners, but I tried. I imagined myself successful after years of education, interning and working my way up the ranks. I imagined feeling proud of my net worth and looking forward to an easy retirement, then resenting the government chipping away at my nest egg by raising taxes and adding Wall Street regulations to prevent another collapse in the economy.

    I imagined what it might feel like to be reliant on my income for my sense of self. This part wasn’t as hard to imagine as the other ones. Who doesn’t feel better when they are successful?

    I tried to imagine putting money before human rights. But I couldn’t stretch that far.

    I imagined what it might feel like to be a Muslim in America. This is perhaps the easiest for me to imagine. I thought about the years growing up when my family spent the summers in a town where we were the only Jews. When the word got out, “holy rollers,” as we called them, came to our door to sing the devil out of us. Another time, a gas station attendant inspected me for my “horns and tail.”

    We were “the others.” Surely there was something wrong with us.

    I grew up listening to the stories of my family who had been killed in the Holocaust and how it started with them having to wear yellow stars. I know what happens when government asks non-Christians to register.

    I imagine a Muslim in America right now might feel alienated, betrayed, angry and frightened.

    I imagine myself as a Syrian refugee being denied access into the safe arms of America and I think of the “Voyage of the Damned,” the ill-fated 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis, filled with Jews trying to escape Germany. They were denied entry into this great and free country and ultimately sent back to Hitler. Many of the passengers lost their lives to the Nazis.

    I close my eyes and can hear my mother’s voice: “Has mankind learned nothing?!”

    I have tried to imagine myself as a black person in America. It was even harder, because no amount of imagining can really prepare you for what it’s like to live in a world in which you are not the privileged class after being raised as such.

    I imagine worrying if my son who went to the corner deli to buy milk might not come back. I imagine being stopped on my way to work because to someone, I looked like trouble.

    I think about men who say Planned Parenthood should lose funding. They think abortions should be illegal. One wrote on Facebook, “Women should take responsibility for their own actions!”

    Interestingly, this same man didn’t think the men who impregnate women should be financially responsible.

    I would like these men to imagine how it might feel to be a 16-year-old girl, a victim of date rape who finds herself pregnant. She is still in high school. Her whole life is ahead of her. Imagine that, and then tell me women don’t have a right to choose.

    I have known men who don’t seem to think women’s rights are human rights.

    I’d like these men to imagine how it feels to be a woman. To endure sexual harassment. To be paid less for the same work. To worry about getting pregnant. To worry about being raped. To be grabbed, belittled, treated like a second-class citizen, called honey, sugar butt, baby, and when they defend themselves, called bitch.

    I ask men to imagine how it feels to be a woman and have the man running for the highest office in the land say his power allows him to grab you by your genitals whenever he wants.

    Many, many heterosexuals voted for politicians and support Supreme Court judges who think that gays should be denied service in businesses, that gay sex should be criminalized, that gay marriage is an abomination.

    I ask them to imagine how it might feel to spend your life knowing that you can be jailed, murdered, beaten and humiliated for having the audacity to love whomever you love.

    Imagine laws being passed allowing blatant discrimination against you; imagine how you would feel being treated like a pariah for simply following your heart.

    The United States, land of the free and home of the brave, does not feel very free or brave or much like home right now.

    Maybe, just maybe, if we really could imagine what it might feel like to be each other then we really could make America great again. Right now all we are doing is making America hate again.

  • This is What Democracy Looks Like

    Posted: January 23rd 2017 @8:03 PM


    power babes womens march IMG_9390

    We knew it would be big; perhaps the biggest march of our lives.

    I got loads of advice.

    “Don’t carry a bag!”

    “Only bring what you can afford to lose.”

    “Write your emergency contact info on your arm with a Sharpie.”

    “Don’t drink water. Quench your thirst with dried apricots. “

    It was, thankfully, warm for January 21st in New York. But we would have come in a blizzard.

    I met my gal pals at a diner near the rally site.

    I saw Leslie and Adeena first, kissed them, and then screamed, “BATHROOM FIRST!”.

    “Smart!” Samantha (Sam) yelled after me.

    I saw Jose’ on the way to the bathroom line.

    “I’ve got two girls! I want them to be empowered and know their papa was part of it.”

    When I got back, I opened my jacket and dispersed two bags of dried apricots.


    “You’ll thank me later.”

    Then I presented Heike, Sam and Charmaine with pink “Pussyhats,” hand knit by my friend Mary Jane.

    They were ecstatic.

    “I can’t tell you what this means to me,” Heike sad politely.

    “She’s been wanting one all morning.”

    “Vagina power!” Charmaine screamed.

    I had two signs, one that read, “I’m with hers” and another that read “AUDACITY OF NOPE.”

    Sam happily volunteered to carry the NOPE sign.

    “I got my own!” Charmaine said proudly and showed off her poster on which was written, “Keep your little hands off my uterus!”

    We had registered for start times, meant to stagger the crowd based on your last name, but it very quickly became apparent that no one would be collecting tickets.

    I don’t know how many people they were expecting, but clearly there were more. Many more.
    We reached the rally at Dag Hammarskjold Park at 10:45 a.m.
    Charmaine led the charge as we weaved through the already immense and growing crowd to try to get within hearing distance of the speakers. We held hands so as not to lose each other.
    I heard Rosie Perez first. Her unmistakable voice needed no introduction: “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a very long time. I am so filled with love and hope,” she said.

    Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon spoke, “Remember that throughout history, when women organize, change happens.”
    We heard Whoopi Goldberg, Helen Mirren, and First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray.
    It was claustrophobic squished inside the crowd, but the breeze was strong and soothing. Everywhere I turned, a smiling face met me.

    After the rally, it took more than an hour to inch our way out of the park and onto Second Avenue. By the time we reached Second, our group had dwindled to 15. I don’t even know when we lost Jen.

    The plan was for the march to go downtown on Second Avenue to 42st, then head west to Fifth Avenue, then head uptown toward Trump Plaza.

    The map for the march was 24 blocks. I wasn’t worried. I regularly walk 30 or more blocks a day. But seeing how long it took us to go just a block on Second Avenue. I understood.

    “It will be hours before we reach Fifth Avenue,” Barbara said.

    Again, Charmaine led the charge: “We can do it!”

    I grabbed Liz’s hand. Gloria snagged Barbara.

    “Stay close!”

    Signs were everywhere.

    “There’ll be hell toupee.”

    “Orange you glad Putin helped you win?”

    “My body my choice.”

    “Equal Pay is the Only Way”

    “Dykes for Rights”

    “Free Melania”

    “The KKK are celebrating and we are resisting”

    “Grab HIM by the taxes.”

    “Black Lives Matter”

    “Nasty Women”

    “Organize Agitate Educate”

    “United Against Hate”


    “This Pussy grabs back”

    “He Made America Hate again”

    “Made In Vagina”

    “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries”

    One little girl being carried by her mom pointed to a sign reading, “Grab Him By the Taxes” with male genitals drawn on it and asked, “Is that a butt?”

    “Yes dear. That’s a butt,” her mom said, laughing.

    As we turned onto 42nd Street, I began to comprehend the magnitude of this day. There were women cheering as far back as I could see and as far ahead. Some men were marching, too. People hung signs from windows and roofs. They packed the sidewalks, cheering us on.

    Two young women walked by by holding a sign that read,
    “Melania, blink twice if you want us to save you.” We all broke out laughing,

    We lost a few more of our group in the crowd surging in from Second Avenue and were down to eight. Somehow, we even lost Charmaine. Leslie was taking a photo. Adeena sent a text message, and like that they dissolved into the crush of women. We were six.

    We decided to keep hands on each other for the rest of the march. Sam, Gloria, Heike, Eric and me.

    An elderly woman stood on the corner of 42nd and Lexington, holding a sign that read, “Now you made Grandma angry.” We all cheered.

    A little girl inside a glass window at the Grand Hyatt pressed a piece of cardboard against the window on which was scrawled in childlike handwriting, “UNITE.” We all cheered as she waved at us.

    As we approached the Met Life Building Bridge over 42nd Street, we looked up and saw a crowd of photographers, young men and women in “Pussyhats” on the bridge cheering.

    A man hung over the bridge and yelled out to us.
    “Tell us what democracy looks like!”

    Thousands answered
    “This is what democracy looks like!”

    Of all the marching chants that day this was the one that I pulled at my heart the most.


    There were pink hats everywhere, women of all ages, shades and sizes. Everyone was cheering,

    Surely this was exactly what democracy looks like.

    I thought I had felt the enormity of this day, but then we turned onto Fifth Avenue and saw a seemingly endless sea of marchers.”

    We yelled, “Women’s rights are human rights!”

    “Black Lives Matter!”


    It took us more than 6 hours to march those 24 blocks.

    We hadn’t used the bathroom since the morning. Even with Sam’s yoga stretch instruction, our feet and legs hurt so much we could hardly walk.

    I didn’t notice the sun going down, but it was hard to miss how cold it got after it did. Even so, the cold and aching feet paled in comparison with the immense power of this day.

    “They just said 400,000 people are here and twice as many in Washington!” a young woman shouted.

    “They are marching everywhere! Los Angeles, Texas, Miami, Boston, Chicago, London, Copenhagen! We are all over the world today!!”

    We slowly made our way off Fifth Avenue toward a warm pub with food, friends and BATHROOMS. We passed a police van that had become a monument to human rights, decorated with the signs of the day. My eyes latched onto a pink sign that read, “Women Roar.”

    “Yes we do.”

    In that immense and overwhelming crowd, nobody pushed, nobody shoved, and nobody fought. Even the police seemed tranquil.

    “If this had been the men’s march, it would have gotten ugly,” Gloria said.

    “Oh yeah.”

    “We woke the world up today.”

    I could still heard the chanting crowd on Fifth Avenue. “This is what democracy looks like!”

    How often do you get to march into history?

  • When the Winners Lose

    Posted: December 1st 2016 @6:06 PM

    When the winners lose

    I’ve been taking an inventory of how our lives might have been different if Al Gore had won the presidency instead of George W. Bush.

    It’s on my mind because Al Gore was the last presidential candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election.

    Al was ahead by more than 500,000 votes. Clinton is ahead in the popular vote by 2 million and counting.

    What might have been different if Gore had been president?

    I don’t think there is any doubt that we would NOT have gone to war in Iraq. Thousands and thousands and thousands of people who were killed in that war and as a direct result of that war would be alive.

    The destabilization of the Middle East would not have happened.

    Would we have ISIS today? Would we even know that word?

    Even “9/11” might never have happened.

    President Gore, having had the experience of being vice president for eight years, after having been warned by intelligence of the threat (as Bush was), might have actually acted on the intelligence!

    The Patriot Act, torture at the hands of Americans that includes Cheney’s beloved waterboarding, all the annihilations of human rights that happened during the Bush/Cheney regime would not have happened.

    People around the world might not hate us so much.

    We would not have spent $2 trillion on the Iraq war and could have instead used $2 trillion to grow our economy, repair our infrastructure and stay in the Clinton/Gore surplus.

    Between being $2 trillion richer and the fact that Al Gore would certainly have not have instituted the Bush tax cuts to benefit the rich, the 2008 economic crash may well not have happened.

    The victims of Hurricane Katrina would have gotten a lot more help a whole hell of a lot sooner.

    Famous for his dedication to the environment, Gore would have left our planet a lot healthier today. Surely we would be eons further along on the path of alternative energy, not to mention all the jobs created on that path. Many more people would be driving electric cars and using solar panels. No one would be saying that climate change is just a theory.

    I could say “if only” forever. If only the popular-vote president had won. If only.

    Gore won the Nobel Prize. We won nothing.

    More than 2 million MORE Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.

    Since November 8, I keep hearing the phrase “America has spoken,” which is code for “shut up and get over it!”

    Yes, the voters have spoken, but you know what? We lost the election anyway. No one likes to lose, but losing when you won is a painful double whammy.

    I’m opening my ledger to start a new inventory of what happens when the winners lose in this country.

    I’ll keep you posted.

  • September 11th 2015

    Posted: September 11th 2015 @8:49 PM


    I had a wedding to cater in October of 2001.

    I assumed like most celebrations planned in the early fall of 2001 in New York City, they might cancel or postpone.

    Who wanted to celebrate anything after that terrible morning on September 11th?

    The wedding I was supposed to cater at The Seaman’s Church in South Street Seaport in September was canceled. There was no running water or electricity, and 50 firefighters were sleeping on the dance floor every night.

    Billy and Dominic, the tough but sweet security guards at Seaman’s whom I’d come to adore over the many weddings I’d catered there, had helped to start a ragtag relief effort at the Seaman’s Church and at St. Paul’s Church at Ground Zero.

    Officials were apprehensive about letting in more civilians, but once Dom told them I was a chef, they handed me an ID and a bright yellow hard hat and had me hop a pick-up truck to Ground Zero. This was September 16th, 2001. I quickly lost my identity as Rossi the caterer and became the hamburger mama of Ground Zero.

    These days, I walk by construction sites all over Manhattan and Brooklyn. It seems like all the little pre-war buildings are being torn down to make room for glass skyscrapers. Soon New York City will be all glass, a million mirrors and no soul. The really big sites, like the Hudson Yards, take me back 14 years in one instant. All the dug out earth transports me to the collapsed towers at Ground Zero.

    It was only recently that I brought myself to open the chest I keep by my bed, dig under my mother’s college graduation cap and the pajama top that I swear still smelled like her 6 years after she died on, yes, a September night. Underneath Mom’s protective shield, I have my 9/11 box. It is filled with photos I took from my roof of the towers burning, then collapsed, then the huge smoke clouds that lingered like death for days and left their smell for weeks. That strange construction smell, with a hint of something oddly sweet and burned. I’ve always thought the sweet was from the souls who were taken that terrible morning.

    I think of the scream, not the jubilant screams from my roof less a year before on midnight of New Year’s Eve 2000, when we all got to move into a new century, but the scream that started when the impossible happened. When the first tower simply collapsed in front of us into a sea of silver cards and smoke. Everyone was screaming from the roofs, from the fire escapes, from the streets, from our televisions. Some sort of strange noise came out of my throat, a vibration … the word NO inside a tunnel that I have never felt before or after. NOOOOOOOOOO. NOOOOO!

    I realize now that after the first tower collapsed, wide-eyed and talking like I was on helium, I was in shock. We all were. It doesn’t seem as though anything shocked me after the first tower collapsed – not the second tower collapsing, not the strange, sweet smell, not the fighter jets buzzing overhead, not the mothers pushing their babies around wearing ventilation masks in my neighborhood. Even when I pushed a wheelbarrow filled with ice and Gatorade to the firefighter tent, so close to “The Pile” (the steaming shards of metal and wreckage that were all that was left of the towers) that I could feel the heat on my face from the still smoldering ruin, even watching those firefighters crawl into the wreckage risking burns and death to look for survivors, even then, nothing else shocked me.

    I am not sure when the shock of the first tower collapsing wore off. I am not sure it ever did.

    I wasn’t shocked but I was surprised when the bride and groom of the wedding I was to cater in October 2001 called to say their wedding would go on. The groom, a talented Jewish artist with a zest for life, had consulted the Talmud and looked up this ancient rule: “When a funeral procession and a wedding procession meet at an intersection, the wedding procession has the right of way.”

    He decided to embrace life, love and new beginnings.

    Their wedding, just a month or so after that terrible day, was filled with people so happy to have something to celebrate. The air was electric. Never have I seen so much joyful abandon on a dance floor.

    Every year on September 11th, I stop and listen to the names on the television and wait for the eerie twin lights at night. And every year, I wonder when will we reclaim this date. Should we reclaim this date?

    There are people walking around me every day, young people who were not born when 9/11 happened. There are thousands and thousands of people living in New York City who came here after 9/11. There is a Freedom Tower in the skyline where the towers used to be.

    The wound is no longer fresh, the scars have turned from pink to gray, and the world is climbing up all around that terrible morning.

    I have allowed myself to say things again like, “What a beautiful day,” on mornings in September without fear of jinxing us.

    I’m a nervous driver, and living in Manhattan, I’m always out of practice. My girlfriend tries to be supportive, but sometimes has to let loose.

    “Go! GO! You have the right of way!”

    “When a funeral procession and a wedding procession meet at an intersection, the wedding procession has the right of way.”

    Sometimes, having the right of way isn’t enough, but I’m getting there. Little by little.

  • The Rock and Roll Pride Ride and the Tomboy Queen

    Posted: June 28th 2015 @8:22 AM


    I was the queen of the TOMBOYS.

    I remember rough housing on the school play ground in the 1st and 2nd grade with the boys, playing in the dirt with TONKA trucks, trading horror comic books for models of GODZILLA.

    At the grand old age of seven, I was having a blast.

    I would join up with my best friend Ronny, a perpetually filthy red-haired little boy who loved war games in the dirt. We would set up our plastic army figurines or our cowboys and Indians (I was always the Indians) and go to war in the back alley.

    I was happy.

    My second grade teacher, Mrs. H. (oldest and meanest teacher in my Bradley Beach, New Jersey, grammar school) didn’t like the fact that I had all male friends, dressed like a boy, wore my hair short like a boy and acted like what she felt a boy should act like. After I got into a fight on the school grounds (I WON) with a boy, Mrs. H. told my parents to send me for a psychological evaluation for “gender confusion.”

    I called it “TOMBOY” she called it “gender confusion.”

    For 8 weeks, every Wednesday after school, I was taken to Miss O.

    Miss O. was a tall, pretty woman in her early 30s. She was the first adult I’d ever met who truly wanted to know what I was thinking and how I was feeling. She looked into my eyes when we spoke. She asked me about my dreams!

    About my dreams?! Wow! I dreamt of being the Indian warrior on the horse with the bow and arrow, not his wife sitting home in the tee pee! Who would want to be left home in the tee pee?!

    She laughed, “NOT ME!”

    I was in love.

    After 8 weeks, my mother said that Miss O.’s evaluation of me was, “There is nothing wrong with your daughter. She is just overly creative and a little eccentric. Let her be.”

    Rock on!

    Except that I didn’t.

    That year, my brother, sister and I were sent to a private yeshiva filled with rich kids who all spoke Hebrew and had known each other since they were in nursery school. We were brightly colored Legos in a jigsaw puzzle box.

    I was told that not only did I have to wear a dress to school every day, but one that covered my knees. My mother sent me off in a maxi skirt that hovered below my ankles. The first time I tried to play kick ball with the boys, I fell flat on my face.

    My Indian warrior was dead. I was banished to the tee pee.

    When I was ten, my parents moved to Rumson, New Jersey, a very posh little town.

    After a ceremony that entailed tearing my old maxi skirt to shreds, I tried to go back to my Queen of the Tomboys ways, but I had lost my mojo. Plus being the new kid in school when your parents drive a Volaré and everyone else’s drives a Cadillac was not so easy.

    But the year I turned 12 something happened.

    Lindsay Wagner.

    Every Wednesday night, “The Bionic Woman” would come on television. There was nothing, nothing that could keep me away from that show. I would forgo ice cream, movies, and bribery. Lindsay was tall and pretty like Miss O., but powerful. She could jump over a building, beat up the biggest, nastiest guys. She was my hero.

    Once again, I was in love.

    By the time I got to high school, I had abandoned all pretense of fitting in, and for the first time since I played in the dirt with Ronny, the Queen of the Tomboys was back, only this time, I had discovered the power of being sexy.

    I wore jeans cut off just below the butt with California hiking boots, cut-up Blondie T-shirts, a coke spoon dangling from a strand of leather around my neck. I screamed the lyrics to the Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” as I marched down the hallways of Rumson Fairhaven High School.

    This was not gender confusion, I really wanted to be a girl, but I wanted to be a girl like Joan Jett not Julie Andrews.

    So yeah, I got in trouble a lot, my grades suffered, and my conservative parents didn’t know what to do with the wild child under their roof. They didn’t know that after years of suppression, I was exploding out of my cocoon. As Joan would sing, “Don’t give a damn about my bad reputation!”

    My folks tolerated the cigarettes and the apricot brandy, but after my best gal pal’s mother called to tell my mom, “Your daughter is trying to turn mine into a lesbian!” Mom hit the roof.

    It was bearable to have a juvenile delinquent under your roof, but a gay one?!

    Oy vey!

    I took a tip from The Runaways and ran away, but after a particularly loud party I threw landed me in the Long Branch, New Jersey, police station, my parents shipped me off to a Chasidic rabbi in Crown Heights Brooklyn who specialized in turning wayward Jewish girls religious.

    Once again I was forced to wear skirts below the knees, shirts below the elbows and above the collarbone. I was told not to sing in front of men, lest the sensual sound of my voice might distract them from being holy.

    I was also told not to touch a man, not even a handshake, until I was married. That wasn’t a problem. I didn’t want to touch a man. I wanted to touch Grace Jones.

    I could have run away again, of course, but I was 16, broke, in New York City in 1981 and didn’t want to wind up being a hooker or a dead body, so I bided my time. I wore the dreaded maxi skirts with my jeans underneath. I wore long-sleeved shirts in the summer with a Rolling Stones T-shirt over them.

    I was fighting to keep my power.

    The rabbi wanted me to get religious, get married and have 6 to 12 kids. The moment I was able to move out of his house and into my own apartment, I proceeded to get myself a girlfriend instead.

    New York City in the early ’80s was not a safe place.

    Unless you were on Christopher Street, walking down the street holding your girlfriend’s hand might get you stoned, and not in a fun way.

    But for one day a year on Gay Pride, it was as though we owned New York. For one day a year it was okay to be whoever you really were, to love whoever you really loved.

    I would linger on Christopher Street into the late hours, long after the parade was over and the crowds had dissipated to soak in every last bit of pride that thousands of people had left like breadcrumbs from the day’s festivities.

    I was there, sunburnt, sweaty, exhausted, filthy and smiling ear to ear, once again digging in the dirt with Ronny, the Queen of the Tomboys.

    Long may she reign!







    LOVE WINS!!!

  • Drawing the Line

    Posted: January 8th 2015 @12:41 PM

    With New Year’s Eve just passing us by, this little resolution seemed appropriate.

    I call it Drawing the Line.

    I remember taking my first and only trip (thus far) to Israel. I was told it would be a life-changing trip, and for many reasons that I can’t explain right now, it was, but the biggest impact the trip had on me was during the 13-hour flight back to New York.

    I love New York. I have done a good amount of traveling, but I’ve always felt happy to come home to the greatest city in the world. Except this time.

    Shortly after we took off, I realized I didn’t want to come home. I tried to shrug it off as a “Boohoo, my vacation is over” kind of thing, but it was more than that. I really truly didn’t want to come home.

    I couldn’t sleep – something about a screaming baby two rows back – but no matter. I used the time to ponder my reluctance to return to New York. The answer came to me mid-flight: It was because I didn’t have a home to come home to.

    My small catering business had grown into a bona fide company to be reckoned with. The phone was ringing off the hook. We were booked with events for 100 guests to 700 and often catered multiple weddings in a single weekend. I’d outgrown the warehouse kitchen in Long Island City that I’d shared with two other companies and built my own swank commercial kitchen in Lower Manhattan. There was much to be proud of, if I had the time to be proud.

    My kitchen was a 12-block walk; just a quick stroll. But to save time, I answered my business phone calls and emails from my apartment. I had an answering machine next to my bed receive all the forwarded calls from the office.

    In the morning, I would wake up, check my work emails for a few hours, and answer my work phone calls for another few hours. At about 2 in the afternoon, it would occur to me that my stomach was burning from hunger and that I was still in my underwear. So I’d down breakfast in two gulps, and then after having used up my entire morning and early afternoon working, I’d walk to work to meet clients and, you know, work.

    Late at night, as I drifted off to sleep, I’d hear the voices of bar mitzvah and wedding inquiries chatting away from my answering machine.

    I was getting fat and depressed, and my home was anything but my castle. It was just an outer office with a bed.

    I decided on that 13-hour flight to change all that. After I got home, I disconnected the Internet from my home, unforwarded my office phone and reclaimed my apartment.

    Mornings became my time to write, paint, stretch, think and have a proper breakfast that included this thing called chewing. The walk to work became a time to smell the air or a chance to cut through Tompkins Square Park and see the dogs playing in the dog run.

    I had thought that all those calls and emails waiting for me when I arrived would mean I wouldn’t get out of work until late at night, but oddly, my day got shorter. Something about getting “me” time, focused my brain so that I was far more efficient at work!

    At the end of the day, when I put the gate to my kitchen down, I left the phone calls, emails, proposals, bills and assorted mishegash at the office. No notebook in my bag, no calls to return later after dinner. DONE!

    At night as I went to sleep, I was not lullabied by Mrs. Horowitz from Long Island’s voice shrilly demanding “a kiddie bar with real-looking cocktails, not just Shirley Temples!”

    So that went OK … for a few years. Then my girlfriend asked that I install email in my apartment for personal things, like family or friends. So I did, promising myself that I would only check personal email while at home.

    That lasted about two days.

    I got an iPhone, promising myself that I would only check work emails in case of emergency. Yeah, that worked. … I knew I was in trouble when I caught myself two-finger typing a sample menu at midnight. Grilled flank steak, seasoned with insomnia, anyone?

    When I was flying home from a trip recently, guess what else came back? You guessed it: That feeling of not wanting to come home.

    I suppose I am a workaholic, or I’m a small business owner in one of the most expensive cities in the world, trying to keep up, or both.

    So I’m counting days again, as they say in recovery programs; no work emails at home, reclaiming my mornings to do things like write my column. I’m also reclaiming the evenings I am not supervising events. I have a gym membership, and I damn well plan on using it!

    Drawing a line between work and home gets pretty darn complicated when you are self-employed. Especially if you work from home. I am lucky enough to have another place to go. Not everyone does.

    I have an entrepreneurial pal who holds his meetings in a nearby hotel lobby, a professor pal who does her computer work from a local café. There are ways.

    I always banish work from the bedroom! Well, almost always. As I said, I’m counting days.

    I am grateful for that flight back from Tel Aviv that taught me that home is where the heart is, but it’s up to us how we fill that heart.

    Today I choose yoga (really bad yoga, but I get an A for effort) and writing to fill my heart.

    I choose oatmeal and bananas with almond butter for breakfast and enough time to enjoy the sweet banana flavor.

    It’s good to be home.

  • The Boss is Always Greener

    Posted: October 7th 2014 @8:50 AM

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    I took some zany jobs in my younger years. I was a barker at an amusement pier in Long Branch, New Jersey. I got on the microphone and called folks to throw down quarters, spin the wheel of chance and try to win A CARTON OF CIGARETTES! “Grab your girl, and give it a whirl! There’s nothing to it; you can do it!” I was 15. I thought the job was pretty darn glamorous. What I really wanted was my boss’s job. While I was sweltering with the gambling smokers, he was sitting in an air-conditioned office counting money.

    After I moved to NYC, I landed a job selling cosmetics at an outdoor market in SoHo. In the winter, when I was stamping my feet in the cold, trying to sell frozen lipstick as frostbite crept into my fingers and toes, I would look over at my boss, sitting in the van with the heat blasting and the windows fogged up and feel even colder.

    “One day I’m gonna be the boss!” I told the four-pairs-of-socks-for-five-dollars guy at the stall next to mine.

    “I’m too cold to talk,” he answered.

    When I decided that I wanted to be a chef, I took lots of jobs to learn while I earned. One outdoor supper club had me and seven guys sweltering in a trailer-turned-kitchen with no indoor plumbing, no sharp knives, not even a fan, while we cranked out food for a thousand yuppies a day.

    “Can we have sharp knives and a fan?” I asked the boss while his secretary counted what must have been a hundred grand on the table next to him.

    “You think you are suffering!” he shouted. “I was wounded in the war and had to stitch up my own wound! That’s suffering!”

    We sharpened our knives on a concrete block, wrapped ice in dish towels and put them around our necks and growled while the boss sipped iced coffee in his Jaguar.

    One summer, I allowed myself to be bused out to the Hamptons by a catering company that needed staff for its busy season of lux parties for the elite.

    “Ohhh, how swank!” a pal cooed into the phone when I told her I was being put up in a house in the Hamptons for a week.

    When I arrived at the house, which was also the kitchen, office and storage facility, I was led up the stairs and shown a ten-by-twelve-foot room filled with sleeping bags and mattresses.

    “Two knapsacks from the corner is your spot!” said the sous chef, a very tired-looking Chinese man.

    I was then herded downstairs and spent the next 10 hours cooking in a stifling-hot, cramped kitchen with a slew of cooks who looked as though they were ready to collapse.

    At the end of the day, too tired to do anything but eat our communal dinner and crawl up the stairs, we took turns (12 of us for one bathroom) showering, and then collapsed onto our spots on the floor.

    I was the first to break the ice: “This sucks!”

    “Really sucks!” came a voice from a sleeping bag in the corner.

    “I thought all homes in the Hamptons had swimming pools.” a young redheaded woman called out.

    “One day, I’ll be the boss,” I chanted in my head as I drifted off to sleep.

    It took me a few years to start my own business, but every time I did an event, they told people, who told people, and thankfully, the word did get around.

    It’s been 26 years since I became “the boss,” and I have learned a whole lot about the price you pay for being the owner.

    After a day of cooking in my air-conditioned kitchen with knives that are professionally sharpened every week, having had a proper lunch break, after which staffers returned to their ample workspaces with a lot of appreciation and all the cold water, coffee or soda they want, my employees leave for the day.

    That’s when I take off my apron and put on my reading glasses and go into the office to start my other job: owner. Between answering emails, paying bills, returning calls, writing proposals, scheduling meetings and contending with the endless, ENDLESS, barrage of legal requirements to running a business, I’ll be lucky to get out for a late dinner.

    It’s a solitary feeling, looking over that mountain of paperwork at the hipsters running to the bar, the kids running to the park and the moms running after their kids.

    When I am finally ready to leave for the night, my stomach growling and my eyes red and blurry, it occurs to me that I work longer hours more days of the week, than I ever did working for a “boss.”

    So what’s the reward?

    Top of the list is having the power to be nice to the staff. It makes me happy to give them proper meals, a comfortable workplace, very decent pay and respect. All except for the executive chef. She can never do enough to please me. That job, of course is mine.

    I get to hang my own art in the office (monoprints of Provincetown Bay right now), take all the personal calls I want (when I have time, which is rarely), play the music I like (rock ’n’ roll, of course), eat when I want to eat (if I’m lucky), and I decide when I am done for the day.

    But my biggest motivation to plow through the endless haze of stress, is that I am completely and absolutely unemployable by anyone other than myself.

    My proper corporate meeting attire may well include a vintage T-shirt on which is scrawled “RAW.” While I insist that every bit of food I plate up is exquisite, I serve my clients the truth, regardless of whether it’s palatable. Once I asked a bridezilla to get laid so she could stop stressing everyone out. Thankfully, she did, and we all lived happily ever after, especially the groom!

    I also need a LOT of personal space. My kitchen is constructed so that the front table with the wall of spices separating it from all the other worktables is my spot, you could say it’s my emotional throne. From there, I make the sauces, marinades, and dips while my chef does the sea salt and caramel whoopie pies, my prep cooks grill the shrimp and fry the mac and cheese fritters as Led Zeppelin plays in the background.

    The Queen is making killer satay sauce from her throne!

    So yeah, being the boss is not for the faint of heart, but at least I get to make my own fun.

    Now I gotta go, I have a very important meeting. I have to dress up! Hmm, the hunter green T-shirt stamped “Rebel” with Levi’s shorts and a pair of biker boots will do just fine.

  • Pride

    Posted: July 9th 2014 @8:38 AM

    Gay Pride 2014

    I was standing in front of “The Duchess,” a lesbian bar in Greenwich Village. I had just moved to New York City. I was 17 years old. I had found the courage to leave home, but the courage to walk into the Duchess? My feet were frozen to the concrete.

    An androgynous woman wearing a leather jacket, her brown hair slicked back, stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. She looked at me and snickered as she sucked her Marlboro. I ran all the way to the Sheridan Square subway station.

    By the time I mustered up the courage to enter a women’s bar, the Duchess had closed. I went to “Peaches and Cream,” a friendly joint on the Upper East Side. I can’t describe the sensation of walking into a bar filled with gay women. It felt a bit like being lost in a candy store where I was too terrified to touch the candy. Thankfully, some of the older women in the bar felt a maternal instinct toward the terrified teenager and welcomed me heartily. It was like finding a family I didn’t know I had lost.

    Being gay was something I’d kept on the inside. Being hurt, ostracized, cat-called, or worse, those were all real possibilities for being “out” in the 1980s. But at “Peaches,” I felt free to be exactly who I was: a young woman who loved women.

    I grew up fast … joined in gay pride marches, fell in and out of love several times, took part in New York City’s first glamour dyke parties, and years later with my bodacious partners threw our own women’s parties. We called ourselves “Nasty Girl Productions,” and we sure were.

    Over those years, the world changed, too. I remember when walking down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand risked a gay bashing, now I see young happy women holding hands all the time. They don’t think about homophobia. The world is their oyster, and I’m happy for that. I am happy for them.

    Gay marriage has become legal in a boatload of states, including New York, and at long last gay marriage has gotten its well-deserved federal rights.

    Thank you, Edie Windsor!

    The gay pride parade is now less a symbol of overcoming oppression and more a great chance for advertisers to make Gay Money. A lot of my pals don’t even go to the parade anymore. “It’s too hot. It’s too crowded. We’re too old.” But I still go. Every year in Manhattan on the last Sunday in June, I love to cheer the marchers on and wave my handmade signs. “Gay caterers spice it up” was last year’s sign. This year, it was “Gay chefs sizzle!” I hoot and holler until I’m hoarse.

    All that joy is exhausting. For me this day, is not just about celebrating, or partying; it’s a family reunion for thousands and thousands of relatives I never knew existed.

    It’s our day.

    It is PRIDE.