What I’ve Been Doing Lately…


My cover story in the May/June 2013 issue.


The Feh List. (No, That’s Not a Typo)

It’s Mock Friday!  You didn’t know it’s Mock Friday?  Perhaps that’s because I just made it up.  Now be quiet and read on.

You know who has the easiest job in the history of  journalism?  It’s Samantha Henig, who compiles The New York Times Magazine‘s “Meh” list.  So what exactly is “The Meh List”?  No one knows. Not even Henig.

But here’s how the Times’ culture editor and creator, Adam Sternbergh, explained it to The Boston Globe: “The column was meant to celebrate all those things in life that exist at the top of the fat middle of the bell curve of taste.”

The Meh List in The New York Times Magazne

Because “meh” is basically a disengaged shrug, the list can include ANYTHING.  Still, it’s such a complex task to narrow down such things that are “not hot and not not (yes, this is the revered New York Times Magazine), that Henig needs an assistant for extra reportage — someone named Libby Gery, whose finger is right on the meh pulse.  But that’s still not enough. The pair also has help from Twittter meh devotees, who are encouraged to submit their own suggestions (guilty!) at #mehlist.  Coming up with a list each week is extremely taxing for just two Times staffers.

I’m a journalist with only twenty years of experience, so it’s likely I’m not qualified, but I’m taking a shot at a meh  list of my own.  Only this one is called the “Feh” list because I’m ethnic. Also because I don’t want to run the risk of a lawsuit.  So here we go:

Have You Hugged a Freelance Writer Today?

Someone just posted on Facebook that it’s National Freelance Writers Appreciation Week. This is a thing?  Being a freelance writer, I wish someone had sent me the memo.  So I could prepare to be appreciated… Now I’m caught completely off guard, with not enough  time to get my hair did!

In honor of said celebration for my chosen profession, a colleague has compiled a list of where the world would be without us.  It includes —

“If it wasn’t for freelancers, magazines like Esquire, GQ, Vanity Fair, New York, Texas Monthly, Outside, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Readers Digest, Mother Jones, Ms., and countless others would never have been as great as they were or are.

If it wasn’t for freelance writing assignments, authors like Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Michael Lewis, Seymour Hirsch, David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Nora Ephron, Annie Proulx, Annie Lamott and Barbara Kingsolver would never have launched stellar fiction and nonfiction careers.

If it wasn’t for freelance writers, half the country’s trade magazines would have nothing to run between advertisements – I may be exaggerating, but not by much.”

Go read the rest and then find yourself a freelancer to hug.  (Not me, though. I’m busy doing laundry working on an important deadline.)

Have Ink, Will Travel! My Essay Reading Tour is About to Commence…

I’m producing a series of essay readings, a la David Sedaris, with a group of talented writers.  For details, take a look at the press release below and check out the sidebar here for upcoming event dates and locations.   And away, we go!


“Living, Out Loud: Writers Riff on Love, Sweat & Fears”

New York, NY (January, 2013) – A group of accomplished New York-based writers is banding together for a year-long original essay reading series that  kicks off on February 5th with an event at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

Themed, “Living, Out Loud: Writers Riff on Love, Sweat & Fears,” the reading series brings together a diverse group of professional writers who will read their works to literary audiences throughout venues in New York, Brooklyn and Long Island.

Taking a page from book readings, which usually involve an author reciting directly from a published chapter, this unique series features writers taking turns at the microphone, each reading an original essay.

Jerry Seinfeld, who still does stand-up comedy, was recently quoted in The New York Times Magazine about the need to perform for live audiences,” said the event organizer and writer, Claudia Gryvatz Copquin.  “He said, ‘We’re craving the non-digital even more these days, the authentically human interactions,’ a statement that is extremely on-point, particularly for writers who typically work in isolation.”

In addition to Copquin, a New York Times and Newsday contributor and the author of three books, participating writers in rotation include New York Times “Modern Love” writer and memoirist Paula Ganzi Licata, award-winning NPR humor essayist David Bouchier, two-time New York Emmy award-winning writer Iyna Bort Caruso, speechwriter and essayist Robin Bernstein, and Friars Club historian and head writer Barry Dougherty.

Some essays have been previously published in magazines and newspapers while others are never-before-seen.  “The topics run the gamut of the human experience — humor, relationships, love, death…And all offer a unique point of view that we know audiences will relate to,” Copquin added.

The group’s first reading event is on Tuesday, February 5 at 7:30 pm at Guild Hall’s Naked Stage, in East Hampton, NY.  Admission is free (guildhall.org).  Upcoming readings will be held at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor (April 6), The Half King in New York City (April 29), Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington (April 14), The Nassau County Museum of Art (June 2) in Roslyn, and other venues.

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2012: So THAT happened.

While I was forced into it, I realize now that one of the best features on Facebook is the timeline, where I am reminded of stuff that happened in 2012 that I completely forgot about.

So by way of a public service blog post, let’s take a stroll down memory lane:

For example, do you remember all those “Sh*t librarians, fat girls, skinny girls, entrepreneurs, Jewish mothers, techies, gay men, New Yorkers Say” viral videos?   Good times.

How about the long-anticipated Van Halen reunion album, Tattoo?  Yeah, I didn’t remember it either.

Due to a distracted navigator, the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship in Italy, hit a rock and toppled over, killing 32 passengers.  Like a partially beached whale, the massive ship is still stuck in the waters near Giglio Island, on the Western coast of Italy.  This catastrophic event prompted a note to self.  Something about never stepping foot on a luxury liner again in my lifetime.  Ever.

My book, “The Neighborhoods of Queens,” was mentioned once again in The New York Times as an authority on the borough.  That made me smile.  Researching and writing that book took four years.  It’s now a resource for New York residents, newspaper reporters college professors and whatnot.  Not too shabby.

Remember the KONY Campaign to capture head of the Lord’s Resistance Army guerrilla group in Uganda?  Ten days after the video peaked at some one hundred million views, it’s creator, Jason Russell, went bonkers, running wild through the streets of San Diego buck naked.  The good news is that a top commander of Kony’s was captured, although the main man is still being sought by authorities.

On a lighter note, we all learned how to sing in French about kisses, thanks to this:

In case you missed the really big news, I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Ohio where I learned that what happens in Dayton, well, no one really cares.  After writing an article about old ladies who tap dance, I signed up for classes.  And Howard Stern refused to be interviewed for my Newsday article about Roosevelt, Long Island, his childhood neighborhood, which all of his childhood friends participated in.

Something called “Honey Boo Boo” …  Oh, yes, and I turned fifty shades of green with envy at the meteoric success of that dreck about fifty shades of off black.

But then that bitch Sandy stormed into town, a hurricane that wrecked so much havoc here on the east coast that we’ll feel it’s effects for years to come.

For 2013, I’m hoping that this guy —

— will stop this from ever happening again…

Dec. 14, 2012 Frightened children file out of school after shooting massacre.

That is all.  I bid us peace in the coming year, y’all.

John Lennon? Oh, No He Didn’t…

“Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”  Yes, I love that quote too, but guess what?  John Lennon didn’t pen it.

To find out who did, take a look at my feature on The Huffington Post.  And  remember, it’s always something.


Where Howard Stern Grew Up…

“This town was a horrible place to live,” Howard Stern said in a 2006 “60 Minutes” profile while revisiting his childhood neighborhood. “It was a nightmare,” is a sentiment he reiterated in his book “Private Parts” and often on the air, where he’s projected his childhood in Roosevelt as a miserable experience.

By the time Stern started high school there, he was just one of a few whites still left.  And he recalls living in fear, repeatedly tormented and beaten up by black students while the teachers turned their backs.  This is in stark contrast to how his old friends remember Roosevelt, at least, the Roosevelt of the early 1960s.

It was idyllic.  That’s how Jerry Dikowitz, currently of Plainview, remembers his Long Island childhood.  Back then, his one-square-mile town appeared to be the quintessential middle-class neighborhood:  neat suburban houses, tree-lined sidewalks.  From his home at 45 Meyer Street, young Jerry would run out and meet up with his friends, including Howard Stern, on nearby Hausch Boulevard and Pennywood Avenue.  They’d play ball, listen to rock and roll records, or walk over to the five and dime on Nassau Road, the main commercial strip, where there were also restaurants, a toy store, supermarkets, a bowling alley and a movie theater.

This was Roosevelt just before the NAACP called for the desegregation of all of the neighborhood schools, two of which at the time were all black and all white.  Soon after that, the ‘hood became a dumping ground for welfare families and blockbusting.  Whites moved out in droves, except of course, for Stern’s family.

It’s a shame, because he’s seemed to black out the good parts of his childhood, which I’ve captured in my Newsday cover story today.

Howard, if you’re reading this, I hope it brings back memories of better days…