Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Second Look: West Side Story (1961)

Ask anyone—I’m the first one to point out when non-Latino actors are in movies about Latinos (Meryl Streep, In the House of the Spirits; Marissa Tomei, The Perez Family) and am the first to trash these films to the ground. There isn’t a shortage of great actors of Hispanic heritage, only a shortage of industry folk who are willing to hire them. But something about the musical West Side Story holds a place near and dear to my heart.

Maybe it's because I saw it live on Braodway as a child (oh, I was such a privileged little girl!), or maybe it's because deep down in my core I am still a dancer, stage-fright be damned! Whatever the reason, this memorable Oscar winner deserved a second look.

It is the classic story of star-crossed lovers that Shakespeare wrote about in Romeo and Juliet, retold for modern audiences via Arthur Laurents' play about a good Puerto-Rican girl (Maria) who falls for a good white boy (Tony). Their love for each other transcends the hatred their family and friends have for either side. They just want to be together, bask in their love. But no one will understand that Maria and Tony don’t see each other’s differences. They are wearing rose-colored contact lenses. The only way out of or around it is by drastic measures (oh happy dagger…).

Set in the slummy West Side of 1950’s New York City, West Side Story also serves as a socio-political commentary as much as it is a love story. Puerto Rican’s have begun to emigrate en masse into an area already heavily populated by European immigrants. The Europeans have been there for a bit and feel a sense of entitlement to the neighborhood (the West 60’s, where Lincoln Center now resides). As is the case when you have too many people on top of each other living in poverty and thrust together with a new and unknown culture, the youth begin to reflect the prejudices of their parents and grandparents and become rebellious, take to the streets and claim their “turf.”

What makes this film work, even today when I am forced by societal norms to see how un-PC the movie is, is that it is still relatable. This could easily be blacks vs. Jews in 1980’s Crown Heights, or Italians vs. Chinese in Lower Manhattan—any number of groups. But strip away the social commentary that becomes the overarching conflict of the story, and there is still the beautiful compositions of Leonard Bernstein and the fluid choreography of Jerome Robbins, the visual candy that is the cinematography, and a great cast, regardless of race: Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn.

Immediately after the musical overture and opening credits, we close in on a bird’s eye view of Manhattan, and it’s like we’re in a time machine: New York City, 1950’s. The set design is filled with shades of grey- dull concrete colors to give you that gritty, there-be-no-streets-of-gold here feeling. We meet the Jets, and they can be any group of teens anywhere (except, maybe, they dance too much in public), doing anywhere teen things. Tamblyn’s Riff is their “leader.” Enter Bernardo (Chakiris), Head Puerto Rican in Charge, and his Sharks. They have dance-off fights (ripped off in Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video), and play pranks on each other, harmless in nature, but hateful just the same. The dislike these two groups have for each other is played out in a carefully choreographed dance, but you forgive the fancy-pants leaps and enjoy the movements.

The rest of the film gives way to peeks into each immigrant culture/mentality in lovely marriages of sight and sound. Tony (Beymer) anticipates something big in the alleyway while stocking the basement in Doc’s store; Maria (Wood) feels pretty in the dress shop she works in all day, Anita (Moreno) is “…queer for Uncle Sam” on the rooftop of her tenement. A Mambo dance-off exudes energy in the gym—neutral territory; Riff and Bernardo underestimate the power of peer pressure during the rumble; Anybodys (Susan Oakes) struggles with her identity as the first transgender teen I ever saw on screen, and Chino exacts a revenge in the heat of a moment. And through it all, you laugh, shed a few tears, yell back at the screen, and try to emulate a few musical numbers. I still get chills watching Maria run towards Tony’s body yelling, “Don’t...you...touch him!” to Lieutenant Schrank.

You forget that Natalie’s Puerto Rican accent is atrocious, and her dancing mediocre at best. You forgive that George is of Greek ancestry, and that Hollywood thought any olive-skinned ethnicity was that easily interchangeable. You ignore that the principle actors are not doing their own singing even when they can sing very well.

You only appreciate the core of the movie: the star-crossed lovers who just want to be together. At any cost.

*smooches...giving these fake Latinos a pass just this once*
West Side Story. 152 min. Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, written by Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents. Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris

Monday, July 30, 2012


Longtime readers know that I deal with my mood swings (read: probably some sort of mental illness docs would like to "treat" me for) everyday. It's a constant battle to have more rainbows and butterflies than gray skies and slow singing.

And while I don't mind telling you all about it in blog post after blog post, its a whole other animal to let you see me in the thick of it. Much like a dog that's about to die, I like to just find a quiet uninhabited piece of earth and let the sadness wash over me until it fades away. This weekend, however, an unfortunate soul had to witness it and there was nowhere for me to hide.

I usually like to wait a while before I let that side of me be known, and even then I rarely allow any witnesses to it. But I can't really control when it will hit, you know?

The anxiety that this emotional ambush caused me has no words. I was all "That's it, I fucked up. I'll never hear from this person again. Who wants to deal with a moody bitch?"

And even though I was assured that everything is OK I will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop, all because I showed my crazy too soon.

I hate when I do that!

*smooches...waiting for it to fade*
I only threw this Tom Waits cover by Sarah McLachlan because it was playing as I wrote this post and all of a sudden I remembered how much I loved it. You should love it, too.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Jadeds Go To Brunch: A Restaurant Review

Last weekend, I took K out to brunch to Rosa Mexicano (the Union Square location) for her birthday, thanks to an offer I received through MasterCard Priceless Table. I don't usually big-up places like this in an entire post, but the place was so beautiful, the food was great, the service was impeccable and we had so much fun that I had to write something and spread the word!

Special thanks to our waiter, Camilo, who helped the girls "Rock the Guac," and our chef, Ed, who came out to talk to us about the food, his recipes and even treated us to some shrimp empanadas on the house!

Enjoy this picture post of our yummy day in the City!

K learning to scoop out the avocado for the guacamole.

N mixing up the yummy guac!

The finished product was BEYOND delicious!

Ns dish; a shrimp salad. YUMMY.

Ks dish; crabmeat enchilada. Drool-worthy!

Ks bday treat- chocolate cinnamon ice cream!
I can definitely see myself returning to Rosa Mexicano, except next time I hope it's on someone else's dime. These girls have expensive tastes!! My wallet wept...

*smooches...eager to go back and eat some more!*
so listen, if anyone wants to treat me to dinner or something, now you know where to take me :D

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Excerpt From "Erasing Cedrick"

Dedicated to all the greats that inspired this haunting tale: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Joss Whedon and the TV movie "Devil's Food"

“So I just sign on the dotted line?”

“That's what it's there for. Just a few quick strokes of your pen. Two seconds of your time. Really not that much considering. And then the contract will be in effect.” His small, dark eyes glisten as he says this to me, and I can't be sure but I swear I see droplets of saliva escape the sides of his mouth.

“It's such a big decision, though. Can I have a day or two to consider it?” I get that itchy sensation in the palm of my hand that always appears when something is not right. Ever since I was a child I could sense when I was about to fail a test, get in trouble at home or have an accident. As I grew the feelings faded, but when they came they were prominent. It was a warning sign. Something was not right.

“Sweetheart, if you sign on the dotted line right now, you will have an eternity to mull it over.” He sits closer to me, holding up a round mirror with a gloved hand. The pungent smell of the leather attaches itself to my nose hairs as if the gloves were just made and sent overnight from Tangiers. I am brought back to my trip to Morocco, right after high school, something I did to try and find myself. It is a benefit of having parents raised in the Free Love era; carte blanc to piss off the real world responsibilities and extend adolescence for a few more years.

I stayed with the family of a friend I'd made while volunteering at the hospital. Bibiana Fernández was a medical student, and we became fast friends the moment I heard her being summoned by one of the nurses. “You have a beautiful name,” I told her when we had a spare moment in the break room. “Where are you from?”

“Tangiers. Morocco. And my name is not so beautiful; it is a burden.” Bibiana had a most interesting accent that I couldn't place having never before met a Moroccan on the streets of Bridgeport, Connecticut. “My parents, they named me after this actress they admire. She is a man.” That revelation hung in the air for a few seconds before she laughed an infectious laugh. “It is a joke! The actress and I have the same name by chance only.”

Bibiana's parents had meager accommodations, nothing like I was used to, but I immediately felt as one of their own. I barely noticed that my bed was uncomfortable, or that the stench of livestock was embedded into the textiles. Mr. Fenandez made leather all day for a couture label, and when he returned home at the end of the day he added many new malodorous layers to the house. Upon returning to Connecticut, I had to launder my clothes three times to rid myself of what my mother called “that dead carcass smell.” I hardly noticed it.

His gloved hand, ever so close to my nose, smells just like the Fernandez's house.

“Have you ever been to Tangiers?” I ask him out of sheer anxiety.

“I've been everywhere,” he responds in a low whisper. “And now I'm here. With you.” I am unsure if his last statement is meant to make me trust him, but it has the opposite effect. My palm itches so much at this point that it's almost painful, as if a small fire is brewing in my hand. “Look at that beautiful, smooth face,” he says, making sure to angle the mirror so that the lesion in front of my left ear is not visible. “You must drive the men wild with your smile, right? I just bet you do!”

I let out a chuckle despite myself, even though I am very aware of the chill that runs up my spine. I'd never met a man that repelled and attracted me at the same time before. “You have to say that.”

“Don't be coy with me, Lillian. It's not becoming. You know you are a stunningly beautiful woman. I mean, even I was taken aback when you walked in!” The combination of reprehension and admiration in his tone confuses me. I try to turn my face to the right, to see the thing that ruins my reflection, but he keeps my head still. “No, Lillian. No.” He sits even closer, and his full lips are pulled taut as he exhales hot breath on my neck. “Don't you want to keep this beautiful, smooth, young face the way it is?”

“Yes, but...”

He pulls away from me taking the mirror with him. “But what? I've written everything you asked for into the contract. What's there to think about?” He was soap opera handsome. The kind of man, if you could call him a man, that probably knows his way around a woman's body. His dark hair was perfectly coiffed to look carelessly tousled, and his eyes, his eyes were my favorite. They don't look at me, they look into me. It was the first thing I noticed when I walked in and faced the man behind the voice on the phone. They were cold eyes and yet, I didn't want them to stop looking at me.

“Forever. It's such a long time, I guess. It might be more than I bargained for, you know?”

He furrows his brow at my hesitation and I can tell his patience is waning. My chilled spine and burning palm send sensory alarms to my brain that all seem to yell run! But I cannot. Or, more accurately, will not. Part of me still wants to be here and sign the contract. It was me, after all, that sought him out. “Forever, my dear, is everything it promises to be and more.”

I take the hand mirror that he now slides over to me and hold it up in front of me. I do like my face. Very symmetrical, a painter on the streets of Manhattan told me once. After Tangiers I went to New York City to visit the son of a diplomat I met while staying in the Fernandez house. David. He was attending film school and invited me to crash with him before the term began. One night after a large seafood dinner in Little Italy, a middle-aged man stopped us as we turned onto Spring Street and he fixed his eyes on my face. He was carrying an over-sized blank canvas and an art case in one hand, and a computer bag in the other. His features were soft but dark, and I remember that it occurred to me David could be this man's son. He was what David might look like at age 50.

“Young lady, you’re beautiful!” he said. “Your face…it’s very symmetrical. Your fella is very lucky.” And just like that kept walking along Spring Street.

“That was odd,” David muttered.

“What? Don’t you think I’m beautiful?”

“Oh no, I’m not falling for that classic trap.”

“No look at me. Am I beautiful?” I made him stop walking and look at me like the middle-aged man looked at me.


“Yeah. I want to know.”

“If I were casting a movie, honestly, you'd get the role of the best friend and confidant.”

“Are you for real right now?”

“What? That's not a bad thing! Sometimes we just want the girl next door. The one that's more accessible. The leading lady has too many suitors, you know? It's easier to go after her friend. The chances are better.”

I nodded after every sentence, quietly constructing a to-do list in my head of everything I needed to repack once we got back to his apartment. David took my hand and smiled, gently pulling me in the direction of his building. “Are we good?”

“Yeah. We're fine.” I thought it easier to leave in the morning after we'd had sex one more time and he'd gone to register for classes. I didn't bother to leave a note.

*smooches...dipping my toes in the genres*
this is another baby that keeps getting turned down ::double frowny face::

Creative Commons License
Erasing Cedrick by Raquel I. Penzo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Am I A Black Writer Or A Writer Who's Black?

Lately I've been indulging in classic episodes of Law & Order via Netflix, and the episode that spawned this post was a take on the Tawana Brawley case (NYers know the deal) from back in the day, which caused a lot of racially-charged moments in NYC and on this particular episode. Basically after A.D.A Robinette was called (yet again!) an Uncle Tom, he asked A.D.A Stone if he thought it was true. Stone replied, "That depends, do you see yourself as a black lawyer or as a lawyer who's black?"

CHILD. Deepness!

A.D.A Robinette had to deal with that a lot on the show, and I appreciate the Law & Order writers for keeping it real. When you're a colored person in a position of authority, especially in the legal system, it's just a given that Uncle Tom will be your new nickname. People are just ignorant like that.

But all of that got me thinking of me and my identity. We all know and accept that I'm a kick-ass writer, but am I a kick-ass black writer or just a kick-ass writer who happens to be black? Am I supposed to be the voice of a whole race, as well as one for my whole generation?!

I think of myself and my stories as universal. I truly believe you can change the names of the characters from Carmen to Callie and the essence of what I wrote would still be there. But I also write what I know, and for a long time much of my world was filled with more Carmens than Callies. Sure, there are certain stories that see things from the eyes of my very specific subset of human being: female, first-generation Dominican American, Brooklynite, Generation X, bilingual, raised Catholic, college educated, professional, mother, divorced, mentally ill. But I think all of that adds to the universitality (YEAH, I made up that word. DEAL.) of my storytelling ability. There's something for everyone.

I watch A.D.A Robinette struggle with his role in the (fake) NYC legal machine because there are all these black faces yelling "INJUSTICE!" "HELP US!" "FIX IT!" and I feel his pain. I'm also inundated with critiques about how many black faces are lacking in the literary world or on TV or in film, and I wish I had the power to fix it all. I wish I could yield a BLACK WRITER sword and set everything right. But unlike A.D.A. Robinette, I consider myself, first and foremost, a writer who happens to be black, and my first order of business is just to get words on paper.

I can always figure out the audience later.

*smooches...digging deep on a Wednesday*
even my bio reads: a writer from NYC. that's it. no more, no less. all that other shit is just gravy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We're Primal, Not Weirdos

Smarty P. Jones: What are you eating [for lunch]? Twigs n' berries?

ME: You know cavemen ate lots of meat, right?

SPJ: Of course they did.

ME: So you're confusing a paleo-friendly diet with those starving ass vegans. THEY eat twigs and berries. OUR food has parents.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Tuesday.

*smooches...clarifying shit*
I'm sure I'll be getting hate mail from the vegans any day now. or maybe not. only about five people read this blog...

Monday, July 23, 2012

JADED CONTEST: Are YOU The Master Of Movie Quotes?

There's one simple way to find out!

Below are 20 quotes from random movies of a variety of genres. You need to name the character who said it and the film from which it hails. And yes, spelling counts, as does the accuracy of the movie titles and character names. Email your answers to me at rpenzo@thejadednyer.net.

The FIRST email I receive with the MOST CORRECT answers is the winner. I can't stop you from googling the answers, but I should hope that you're trustworthy and that you'll answer off the top of your head with what you TRULY know. Please, for the sake of the contest, don't put answers in the comments. That would be #RUDE.

Your prize? Well, bragging rights, of course. OH, and a signed copy of my book My Ego Likes the Compliments...And Other Musings on Writing and a Jaded NYer T-shirt. That's some good swag, son!

Ready to play? OK... let's go!

1- "You'll stay up til this job shines like the top of the Chrysler Building!"

2- "I haven't got time for this Mickey Mouse bullshit."

3- "Liking both Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel is like supporting both the Israelis and the Palestinians."

4- "If Brooke Shields married Groucho Marx their child would have your eyebrows!"

5- "I can't go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands."

6- "I didn't bring your breakfast, because you didn't eat your din-din!"

7- "You want a lesson? I'll give you a lesson. How 'bout a geography lesson? My father's from Puerto Rico. My mother's from El Salvador. Neither one of those is Mexico!"

8- "You tell me where my suit is, woman! We are talking about the greater good!"

9- "Whether or not what we experienced was an According to Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved."

10- "There isn't a day in my life when I haven't felt like a fraud. I mean priests, doctors, I've talked to them all. I don't know anyone who hasn't felt that."

11- "Well, I see your hobbies include 'drinkin', smokin' weed, and all kinds of ill shit.'"

12- "The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

13- "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

14- "Maybe if you showed Dr. Zaius the proper respect, Dr. Zaius would stop showing you the POO!"

15- "I want to lie together without clothes on."

16- "When she jumped, she probably thought she could fly."

17- "Don't let them bury me! I'm not dead!"


19- "Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I'll be very unhappy."

20- "This whole baby thing baffles me, I mean you have it, you raise it, you basically screw it up, it resents you, feels guilty for resenting you and then it has a baby, which only perpetuates the vicious cycle."

How many did you know?

*smooches...feeling generous on a random Monday*
mostly because I didn't have anything else to write about!

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Edge Of Seventeen"

Today is Ks 17th birthday. I'm going to refrain from throwing myself on the floor and crying like a lunatic, yelling out "MY BABY!!!" but please know that that exact scenario is playing itself out in my head right now.

And this Stevie Nicks song doesn't really fit the occasion, but it has 17 in the title and is much better that the Sex Pistol's "Seventeen" which was incomprehensible, Winger's "Seventeen" which promotes pedophilia and statutory rape or Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" about ugly wallflowers with no friends. My baby is beautiful, fun, funny, has many friends and is just as kick-ass as classic rock songs like "Edge of Seventeen."

Now please excuse me as I throw myself on the floor dramatically, cry like a lunatic and yell out "MY BABY!!!" because dammit, she's not a baby anymore. She's an awesome young woman.

Look at those cheeks!
Such an adorable smile

Mari's little K-bear

She loves herself as much as we love her LOL!

One of her many headpieces; gotta love her!

*smooches...sad but happy*
it's life, right? I can't exactly stop her from aging, can I?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Reading Series Finds A Home In East Harlem

This Sunday is the first of my quarterly literary reading at La Casa Azul Bookstore and it would be grand to see many smiling faces in the audience. I'm going to try and be real positive about the turnout, even though you all have continuously disappointed me in the past. I'm just going to soldier on and do my thing. Still, the more people show up, the more likely I'll be able to get the space again. Don't fuck this up for me, people!

Be there. Thank you.

*smooches...looking forward to this new collaboration*
I'll have books available for purchase, too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm Strong When I Have To Be. We All Are.

The only good thing about staying up too late trying not to give in to a nasty bout of night-eating, is that once in a while you'll catch some good updates on The Twitter. There's something about the end of the day that makes us have these A-HA! moments, and for all the foolishness that happens online, sometimes twitter can provide some good food for thought, like the one listed below.

Because Shanelle's tweets were posted after 1AM, I don't know if many people were up to read them, so I'm posting them here (read from the bottom up; I'm too lazy to cut and paste everything in order for you!):

Everyone has had something to overcome in their lives; something that's made them put on their grown folk's drawz and put in work. To point a finger at someone who is taking care of their business, blaming them for others' insecurity, that's just counterproductive to the struggle. We're single because we're too strong and appear to not need a man? GET ALL THE WAY OUT OF HERE WITH THAT BULLSHIT. So if I were on public assistance, sitting at home desperately putting up sexy bathroom pics of me on Twitter and Facebook for attention, I'd be married by now? Honestly, I don't want a man who is attracted to that kind of woman, because clearly he's looking to take advantage of her somehow and possibly harm her and her children.

Yes, I pay all the bills at home, take care of my kids, have a good job, create great things as a side gig, am highly educated, opinionated and judgmental. My ideal guy will be all of that and then some, and appreciate those attributes in me. If that's not your scene, please, feel free to move the fuck on. You're blocking out the sun with all your hate.

*smooches...tired of ppl telling me why I'm single*
the fact is, I'm single because I CHOOSE TO BE. deal with THAT!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Something Different: A Healthy Jaded Post

So last week I showed you my ginormous belly that I hate with the strength of a thousand sumo wrestlers, but I've only taken baby steps to remedy the situation. That's OK, though, as long as I'm taking steps, right?

Anyway, I'm trying this 30-Day Cardio Challenge to help jump start my progress, because there will be progress, dammit. I'm visualizing the hell out of that progress. I see me in a bikini in DR come February. I see me certified to teach a fitness class, maybe Socacize, maybe in training to teach yoga. I see me on the playground helping my baby run her basketball drills. I see me entering my 40s in the best shape and health of my life. So this 30-day challenge is my tiny push in that direction.

This first step was the assessment.

::dramatic pause with stank side-eye::

Why was I almost killed during the assessment, though? My body is totally betraying me, son! Those crawl-down pushups? I did four. FOUR. Listen, fuck those crawl-down pushups and the horses they rode in on. Yes, the horses, too! But I did it, all of it, and my numbers were BLAH but the whole point is to start where you are with what you have and make it all better.

  • Run/Jog/Walk: (I walked a mile of the way to work...we're in a heatwave; fuck your run/walk!) 15mins
  • Crawl Down Push Ups: 4
  • Burpees: 8
  • Single Leg Toe Touches: 15
  • Dips (did the knees bent off a kitchen chair; I don't have a low bench to dip off of): 18
  • Hands Over Head Body Squat for 1 full minute?: Yes
I had N timing me and helping me keep count. She got a real good laugh at the struggle faces I kept making throughout; made me want to punch her in her perfectly-toned abs. But I didn't. Do I get extra points for that?

UGH. I'll check back in halfway through the challenge. Pray for me!

*smooches...already shopping for bikinis*
judging by the beached whales in two-piece swimsuits I saw at the beach this weekend, I could wear one now, but I have good sense...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dexter, Season 7: The Teaser

Since I shut down my entertainment blog you all will have to, for better or worse, deal with my meanderings about music, films, literature and television. DEAL WITH IT. And one show I've been obsessively watching since 2006 is Showtime's "Dexter" about a blood spatter expert/serial killer. And frankly, if you don't watch & love this show I truly have to question the validity of our friendship.

ANYWAY, season 6 left off in SUCH A CRAZY MANNER, and the Showtime gods hath blessed us with a 2-minute teaser trailer of the first episode of the new season (premiering in September... GRRR... so. far. away.).

It left me with mixed feelings: underwhelmed but curious like a motherfucker. Basically this trailer continues to evoke the same question I yelled at my computer screen after watching the season 6 finale last year: IS DEXTER GONNA HAVE TO KILL HIS SISTER?!?!

Dawg, shit just got real.

*smooches...waiting for September like you wouldn't believe*
this show makes my heart sing, like, for real!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Starting From Scratch: A Healthy Jaded Post

I'm not even going to come on here and list excuses or reasons why I fell off the wagon, nor am I going to apologize for it. I'm the only person I let down by not staying focused on my fitness goals; if you were hitching your horse to my wagon that was YOUR bad, not mine.

The point is, I'm not so far gone that I'm literally starting from the beginning, but it feels that way. As in, I'm sure if I tried to do a push-up right now it would kill me. But I can still walk to-and-from work (a total of five miles a day) without too many problems arising, so there's that.

And my body still communicates with me on a daily basis (which is how I know I've been going down a bad path), and on one particular morning I heard a crackling noise when I got out of bed and stretched my arms. And the pain in my legs and knees have started back up. Basically, all signs point to: My Body Misses The Workouts. In fact, I'd go so far as to say my body NEEDS the workouts because, well, it does. Everybody's body needs physical activity. I know walking counts but I need more because I got my body accustomed to more. I'm starting to think my body is addicted to working out, like working out is my crack. Leave it to my twisted ass to get addicted to exercise!

Anyway, there's also the food issue. BLAH. Need we go there? I've been out of control and feeding my feelings instead of nourishing my body with the proper fuel. Why? Why else- money (and health) woes. I know I was on the bandwagon of "It doesn't really cost that much to eat healthy" but when push came to shove and I only had $20 to feed two very hungry teens (and get around town), I had to put aside my penchant for organic and lean and fresh, and just buy the stuff that would go farther. I'm not proud of all the rice and pasta and bread (OH MY!) I've had to feed my girls these last couple of weeks but at least they ate something. Next week I can stuff them full of leafy green things again, and I can have more than just a bag of popcorn for dinner. Thank god for employment!

So I'm starting over once again. Consider this my new "before" picture.

183lbs of Halal food cart binging
And yet, still no booty to speak of. *sigh*
 I won't outline my plan, either, I'm just going to do what I have to do and get right. Besides, I have "appearances" coming up; I can't go around looking like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Woman!

*smooches...disappointed but ready to make it better*
turns out I AM human after all. who knew?!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lyrics To Love: "You're Gonna Leave" by Stephen Marley

Which way from here
I'm caught up in the pages of my mind
And it's not so clear
But it seems the hurt is way too much this time
Cause I see a vain look in your eyes
Tell me, do you see the same, same look in mine
Sand paper kisses, paper cut bliss
Don't know what this is, but it all leads to this
You're gonna leave, her
You have deceived, her
Ooh just a girl
Now here I go again
She said I'll break her heart again
She plays the fool again
She said I'll break the rules again
Though I disagree
She thinks she knows me more than me
It's so hard to see
What this voice keeps telling me
Ooh just a girl with featherweight curls
To expose all she knows you play like tease
Just a Girl with featherweight curls
To expose all she knows you play like tease
You're gonna leave, her
You have decieved, her
Ooh just a girl


This is a repost from an old, deleted blog, that I originally wrote in August of 2008. Not sure what made me gravitate to this song...probably another break-up with Mr. Baseball. Still, the lyrics are good.

But to get the full effect, here's the song:

*smooches...glad the man behind the memory is gone for good*
one bad vice down, 348 more to go!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Jaded Moment In History Presents: We Had Famous Dishes

Back in the day I was the BIGGEST "Beverly Hills, 90210" fan that ever lived, mostly because I had an enormous girl crush on Shannen Doherty. Oh yeah, I followed that brown-haired beauty from "Little House on the Prarie" to "Our House" to Heathers like a true stalker, and now there she was, on my TV every week.

While indulging on my newest nighttime obsession, I noticed that during an innocuous scene in the first season, the Walsh family HAD THE SAME DISHES MY MOM HAD JUST PURCHASED!! You don't even understand how much I cherished those plates. I wanted to dance in the streets and tell everyone that passed by, "Brenda Walsh and I drink from the same cup!!!"

(ffwd to 0:07 and you'll notice the mug Cindy Walsh hands Brandon is the pink/blue version of Mami's green/blue mug, as seen below. The Walshes were so cool they had the pink AND the blue set. I was so jealous!)

 Today, not many of those dishes still survive. I think Mami has all the mugs but only three or four of the plates. Every time I visit her and see them in the cabinet, I remember that special bond Brenda and I shared-the endless cups of cocoa and tea we had from our famous dishes as we chatted about that bitch Kelly and that backstabber Dylan. Oh what a time we had!

*smooches...realizing that my crazy started way back when*
I suppose I was just born nut-so!

ALSO, please ffwd to 2:58 in the clip to see my favorite Brenda/Dylan scene of all time. OF ALL TIME!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Excerpt From "Fighting Insomnia; A Relationship In Snippets"

No one seems to want to publish this poor baby. I've sent her out about eight times this spring and I do believe if I go onto my tracker I'll find she's been rejected for publication eight motherfucking times. Shit like that makes me rethink my entire reason for being.


Bad Nights

It all felt so real: his hands on my legs, caressing me from ankle to thigh; his whispers in my ear- soft, beautiful words; and kisses, delicate ones, all over me. But it was just another vivid dream jolting me awake. 3am again. Like clockwork.

It all felt like love, too, like the feeling one gets at the movies when the star-crossed lovers kiss and the butterflies flutter about and the music crescendos.

Everything, every spoken word, every gesture of kindness, it all felt like real love. Even after only a couple of weeks of knowing each other. And especially now that it was gone.

I fought myself for another couple of minutes before I opened my eyes to the moon that peeked in through the bedroom window sometimes.

I sat up, ignoring the mess of clothes, broken glass, empty beer cans and plates of rotting food that decorated my bedroom, definitely not something that Martha Stewart would ever feature in her magazine. Depression chic, I called it.

Now that it was just me in the California King that we’d picked out together, tossing about in my sleep every night, and fighting his ghost at every turn, I decided it would be my last night in the room.

I grabbed my pillow and blanket and headed to the couch. I pushed aside the cushions we had once used in a playful pillow fight, and arranged a cozy, makeshift bed. 4am; the light from my neighbor’s window across the alley shone in my face. She was up already, making breakfast and lunch for her husband. The curtains on my window were dangling from the bent curtain rod I had thrown a boot at last week. Each day they slipped further down off the rod, and I guessed it had maybe two days before it fell in a heap on the floor.

That curtain was me, two weeks ago, on the phone with him.

“Nicholas? I’ve been calling you all week! What’s going on?”

“I know, Carmen, I’m sorry, I meant to call you before.” I could tell from the tone in his voice. I already knew what was coming next.

“Are you avoiding me?” I asked.

“I just…I’ve been thinking. We’re moving so fast.”

The Backslide

There was no mistaking those deep brown eyes, even if the hairline was farther back than I remembered. He was once the love of my life and now there he was- a face in the crowd waiting in line for the free concert at the park. And he notices me right away.

Although we give each other genuine smiles, the hug is stiff and awkward. The memory of the last time we saw each other was evidently still fresh in both our minds. I steal a quick glance at his hand, making sure he sees mine holds no ring as well.

The “what ifs” come racing back after so many years apart but I don’t let on. I do, however, fill up on his familiar scent. How can he still smell like that after all these years?

“What are you doing these days? Are you still in Brooklyn?” he asks, and his use of the word still makes me feel stagnant.

“I jut moved back a few years ago,” I say a little too defensively. I want to say, I DID move on, you know! I hardly think of you ever! but clench my jaw instead. “I finally opened my event planning company. You?”

“I’m actually up in Soundview now; found a place close to work. I’m still teaching up on the Hill.” He uses still again, I notice, but this time he made it sound permanent and consistent and responsible. Typical of him.

I don’t miss my chance to chide him, though. “Just teaching? Not department head? Or dean?”

He doesn’t miss a beat, either. “I’m head coach on the tennis team. It doesn’t leave too much time for anything other than a few classes a day. We’ve been city champs since I’ve been there, you know.” Checkmate.

“Yes, I remember.” Just like that, just seconds after I had held his cologne in my nose hairs for later use, he reminds me why we weren’t together anymore. Why I gave him back his ring. “So I didn’t know you were a fan of reggae music. What brings you back to the ‘hood?”

“My girlfriend is Jamaican; she’s been waiting for this concert all summer.”

Girlfriend. Girlfriend. He uses the G word in my face and doesn’t even flinch. I hope he doesn’t notice my stifled grimace. There really isn’t a way to come back from that so I don’t attempt it. “Well I hear they put on a great show so you’re both in for a treat. Enjoy it,” I say, walking away and waving at the man that was almost my husband, almost the father of my children. The man who held my hand at my dad’s funeral and helped me bail my sister out of jail. The man who encouraged me to go into business for myself long before I had amassed the courage to do it. I wave at him as if he wasn’t the one who gave me some of the most deliciously orgasmic nights of my entire adult life, as if he was an old co-worker that I’d run into while waiting in line for a concert. It was the only bit of ammunition I had left in my arsenal: indifference.

Two weeks later, he is in my bed. Naked. Sweaty. Burying his face between my thighs as if we’d never been apart. Jamaican girlfriend? What girlfriend? She didn’t exist in these sheets. He is in my bed, in my folds, in my arms, in my mouth.

“You still have the Santa Barbara I got for you in Venezuela?” I followed his gaze towards the tiny statuette of the famed saint on the night stand. She had dust particles caught in the crevices of her eyes, nose and mouth and it occurred to me that I hadn’t given her an offering since Nicholas was last here.

“Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know. Everything else of mine is gone, I guess I just figured she’d be gone, too.”

“It’s not Santa Barbara’s fault you’re an asshole. It wouldn’t have been fair to throw her away.”

We laid in silence for a few minutes long enough for me to construct a small poem to the rhythm of his heart:

We always
Meet here
In bed
In silence
And fuck
All night
Til morning
Then leave

“Why are you here?” I break the silence after my own heart-poem upsets me.

“What do you mean?” He answered my question with a question. Again. My number one pet peeve.

“I hate when you do that! You know what I mean. Why are you here?”

“I thought you wanted…”

“What? Your dick? Because that’s all you’ve offered me so far. In fact, that’s all you’ve ever offered me!” I find myself picking this fight for no other reason than me being upset about forgetting to offer tribute to Santa Barbara and that being Nicholas' fault somehow.

He lets go of me and slides over. I suppose it is rather stupid to continue spooning with someone who calls you emotionally unavailable.

“Are we really going to do this again?” His tone said it all. We were right back where we were three years ago when he left. Nothing had changed and I’d been too blind to see it.

“Get out!” I say, more angry at myself than at him. He was the same Nicholas he
always was and I was the same idiot I always was, who’d refused to see it.

“Carmen, you’re being…”

I put my hand up to interrupt him. “Nicholas I swear to god if you finish that sentence I’m going to smack the shit out of you. Just get out! Leave! Isn’t that what you do best anyway?”

His confused face angered me more than Santa Barbara’s dusty eyes. All I could think was, Why couldn’t he get it? “Yeah, you’re right,” he says, putting on his clothes, “but only because your specialty is pushing me away!” Nicholas stops to look me square in the face. “You think it was easy for me to walk away from us? You did that. You ended us. You threw my ring in my face.”

I slap him in that infuriatingly gorgeous face of his and waited for the sting of his retaliation to pulse through my own cheek. It didn’t.

“Fine,” he says, my hand print very visible across his jaw. “But this is the last time, Carmen. I mean it.” And I could tell by his tone…he meant it.

*smooches...headed back to the drawing board with this one*
I'm not sure why it keeps getting rejected *frowny face*

Creative Commons License
Fighting Insomnia; A Relationship in Snippets by Raquel I. Penzo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Tales From The Motherland, Part 2

In Los Mina missing Grandma
When I was little, I remember combing through Papi's record collection in awe. He had so much vinyl; artists and bands I'd never heard of but were clearly his favorites. Soon, a lot of them became my favorite, too, because every Friday, after a long, hard week of working at an envelope factory in Union City, New Jersey, Papi would play his records on full blast while polishing off at least a dozen tiny cans of Budweiser. No one said shit to him about it, either. This was his well-deserved down time.

When I visited him in April I was saddened to learn the fate of all those records. I spotted them, stacked (GASP!) in a corner of a shed in the back of the house, moldy, dusty and falling apart. If Papi hadn't been nearby replacing the gas tank on the house I would have sat there and cried. These records were such a part of my childhood and now they were gone.

The albums were pretty much indicative of the house, too. First time I'd ever seen it was when Grandma died, and it was your typical little Dominican "city" house, complete with full bars all around the property to keep thugs out, but it looked like home because it had all of my grandmother's furniture from NY in it. Even though we'd just come from her funeral it was as if she were going to walk into the room any minute to say dinner was ready; we were sitting on her sofa, where we usually waited for dinner, after all. The entertainment center was the same; our bunkbeds were in the third bedroom; Grandma's pots were on the stove.

This time around, I barely recognized the place. It was falling apart from water damage and it just had that "I don't want to touch or sit on anything" feel to it. I took into account that Papi lives there with his brother; two single men, who are used to women doing all the housework, could really give two shits about moping the floors. However it upset me to see the house this way and that this is where my Papi lives. And then the records...that was the last straw. All of it screamed: GRANDMA IS NO LONGER HERE.

And if I didn't know it before, surely I could no longer deny it when face-to-face with Papi's old records, stacked (GASP!) in a corner of a shed in the back of the house, moldy, dusty and falling apart.

*smooches...mourning all over again*
also, I need my successful writing career to arrive sooner rather than later because I'll be damned if I can't help my Papi live better, after all he's done for me!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Stopping To Smell The Roses

I came into 2012 with so much hope and promise in my heart, because I had already been informed that one of my stories was being published. It was an exciting time, remember? Oh the joy of knowing my hard work was finally going to pay off! I was also rocking a more svelte body and had done away with 90 percent of my foot, shin and knee pains.

It's already July and the confidence from that one published story and those 20 pounds lost snowballed into so many other great things. It's all kept me so busy--from starting Baobab Wellness to publishing a pocket book on writing--it's been non-stop for me since I got back from Vegas on January 2.

As I write this, however, amidst the demands of my 9-to-5, personal projects and current health issues, I'm suffering from the longest and most painful sinus headache I've ever had. This pain is reminding me that I'm doing too much. Oh, it's all great things and I love writing and blogging and working out and helping others along the way, but I'm wearing myself and my body out in the process.

In the last six months, there's not been a weekend where I've completely relaxed and read a book and taken care of myself and my personal needs or teetering mental health. I'm either being a mom or a friend or a daughter or a sister. And I don't regret any of it, because I love my friends and family dearly, but right now, as my left nostril refuses to let air in and I wince from swallowing and my head pounds, I'm thinking back to Papi's front porch in Los Mina, where I was able to read a whole book in one day because that day was so slow and sweet and endless. I didn't have internet access and my cellphone was turned off. I sipped a glass of water and just cracked open that book and before I knew it the sun had gone to bed and I was on the last pages of Danielle Evans' Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.

I'm taken back to that moment right now, when, after I had finished the book, the girls and I got a snack from the bodega and settled in to watch La Casa de al Lado before going to bed. It was a beautiful moment, one I could use right now.

Rest assured: I am thankful for everything that is going right in my life at the moment and everyone who is a part of all that rightness. But for right now, if you don't mind, I'm going to just play some Spanish boleros, sit back on my sofa for a minute, close my eyes, and make believe none of you exist.

Just for a quick moment.

*smooches...listening to my body's needs*
I have to make this a daily practice; as my career grows I'll need this 'quiet time' to keep me sane(ish)!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Excerpt from "In Defense Of Crack: A Love Story"

For those of you who missed my reading on Sunday at the Bodega Bar in WBerg, this is part of what I shared from my novel-in-progress, "In Defense of Crack: A Love Story". I wrote the opening paragraph five years ago in response to a comment made by an acquaintance stating that there was no defending the excusing of crack use in a relationship. I aim to prove him wrong in a novel :)


When Joaquin was a baby, his mother, Helena, let him sleep in the bed with her. Even if he was just going down for a nap, she would lay down next to him on her soft Queen-sized bed, a wedding gift from her father-in-law. His blue and white bassinet she used as a sort of storage basin where she kept his baby blankets, socks and one-piece pajamas. He never laid in it for even a minute.

Helena told me this story when I first met her as I sat in her tiny living room in her tiny Pennsylvania house and thumbed through her family albums. She had volumes of pictures, meticulously documenting Joaquin’s life from the moment he was born. There were photos of him nursing in her arms; Joaquin in the baby swing, in the tub, in mid-crawl on their shag carpeting. Joaquin in the window of his seat on the school bus that took him to kindergarten and in his peewee baseball uniform.

Helena had recorded all of it, she told me, first with an old brownie camera, then a Polaroid, then an old Nikon EM SLR that she pulled off the shelf to photograph me sitting at Joaquin’s bedside on that very same day he brought me to meet her. Now I was to become part of the story of her son’s life. My rite of passage was the photograph.

By the time I’d met Helena on that rainy day in July, I’d been smoking meth for eight months. My looks were still intact and I could still feign a functional life to my family and friends back home in New York. I was able to keep my boss, an eccentric painter who worked from a studio behind his Pittsburgh home, happy, completing all the menial, trivial and occasionally bizarre errands he sent me to accomplish. His work sold all over Manhattan—paintings of juxtaposed disembodied limbs and national landmarks. Their meanings escaped me but the paychecks filled my pipe.

Joaquin, on that same rainy day, had just come down from his first encounter with crack cocaine. Helena thought he had a flu of some sort and tucked him into the same bed he slept in as a baby, with promises of tea and soup when he felt up to it. I had almost expected mother and son to cuddle up together in that bed for the rest of the night, banishing me to the living room with old photographs and vintage cameras and an urge to get high. But after pulling the duvet up to his chin and shutting the drapes, Helena motioned for me to follow her back into the living room. "He needs to rest. Pobrecito."


"I don’t know why you kids don’t protect yourself better from germs at that school,” Helena said to me after she had secured Joaquin in the bed. “And look at you— you’re so skinny! Are you hungry?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Ay, please, call me Helena. Ma’am makes me sound like an old white woman.”

“Okay, Helena. I don’t think I’m well enough to eat. In fact, can I lie down somewhere?”

“Si mi’ja. You can sleep in the old nursery if you don’t mind blue teddy bears on the wall.”

I did mind the creepy little fur balls on the wall but chose to say nothing. In a way I was glad that Joaquin shared his mother’s bed growing up instead of sleeping in this updated walk-in closet. The décor was overdone with cheap wallpaper and carpeting, and it all could have used a deep cleaning. Blue oozed from everywhere—the lamp, the baseboards, the windowsill—as if a pale smurf had exploded into the room and all of its kitchy innards where on display.

Still, the bed was a bed and it would do, even if what I really wanted was to get high and rest my head on Joaquin’s chest in the bed in the next room. Even in withdrawal I knew his mother wouldn’t go for it. I sat on top of the blue duvet, hugging my knees to my chest, watching the bears on the wall closely. “I won’t die by teddy bear,” I told myself until the familiar anxiety lulled me to sleep. “I won’t die by teddy bear in this awful, blue room tonight."

*smooches...giving you a taste of greatness*
maybe now y'all will come hear me read!

Creative Commons License
In Defense Of Crack: A Love Story by Raquel I. Penzo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

And NOW It's Officially Summer

Nothing reminds me of hot weather and the 4th of July more than the film Dazed and Confused, especially this scene:

Enjoy this midweek break, courtesy of our tax-evading founding fathers.

*smooches...wishing I had Wednesday off every week
I'd get so much work done, man...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Is Marriage For Women Or Men?

This weekend I had a friend comment that marriage only benefits women and the men always end up losing (you can already guess that this friend has a Y-chromosome *side eye*), and then I watched the latest episode of Kathy Griffin's talk show where Jane Fonda stated that men are the ones who need marriage, not women.

My friend's claim was, of course, based on what a woman gets after the marriage ends. Women (for the most part) are quick to get custody of the kids, home, etc and are entitled alimony and child support in many cases. I can see how men see themselves as "losing" in that scenario. But what if it's a marriage that doesn't end in divorce? Does he still lose?

What I understood of Fonda's comment, however, was that women tend to have these deep, meaningful relationships and networks with one another that last forever and tend to fulfill us, something that men don't necessarily have. Therefore they need marriage to feel that connection with someone else, something that us women already experience with our BFFs. So technically we don't need marriage to feel fulfilled. Fonda, of course, has been married three times and decided that was enough; she now lives with her longtime boyfriend with zero plans to ever wed again.

Interesting thoughts.

In my own experience, I'd have to agree more with Fonda than with my friend. I stayed married more for the kids than anything else. And then of course there's the fact that I had low self-esteem and felt I was nothing, etc, plus some lingering Catholic tendencies, so I had to make the marriage work. But once I picked myself up and saw that I could be my own person and do for myself without him, I didn't think twice about leaving, and the support I got from my friends was just what Fonda described. I knew I was going to be just fine.

My ex? VERY SHORTLY after our split he dove into a serious relationship and is now married, while the kid here gallivanted through life enjoying the City, new friends, travel and of course, my BFFs.

So you tell me- who does it really benefit?

*smooches...living my single life like it's golden*
until, of course, someone puts a ring on it; then I'll be singing a different tune lol

Monday, July 02, 2012

I Was That Kid Who...

...looked menacing but was not a fighter in any way

...no one knew lived in the neighborhood because I was never outside

...watched everything happen from the window

...preferred a book over a bike

...looked 18 when I was only 12

...wasn't rich but had everything

...hobnobbed with celebrities, unphased by their stardom

...had a best friend named Television

...never had to try hard to earn good grades

...could eat three servings at dinner and never gain an ounce...

...and then grew up to be an amazing writer.

What kind of kid were you?

*smooches...reliving memories as I watch my kids grow up*
I wonder how they will remember their childhood?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Jaded Photographs: July 2012 Edition

"Boystown, Chicago"

*smooches...welcoming you to summer*
everyone knows that a monkey in a tree is the official sign of the official start of summer.