Hibiscus Nectarine Tea: A Trip to Hawai’i in a Glass

4 Aug

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When I was attending college in LA I became friend with few ladies from Hawai’i. We were equally distant from home, each of us taking a six-hour flight to get to Scripps. More than just the physical distance, we felt culturally far from our origins. They were used to the slower and friendlier island life, where drivers rolled down their windows and signaled the shaka sign while saying “aloha” and everyone let them through. I was quickly pegged as a New Yorker thanks to my mostly black wardrobe, sarcasm, and the way I quickly walked through crowds, ignoring strangers who tried to engage me. I knew a hand gesture as well, but it was a lot less friendly.

One of my dear Hawai’ian friends had the corniest sense of humor. As we’d walk around campus, she would point to one of the beautiful blooms, and ask me, “Do you know what this was called?” She amazed me with the way she always seemed to know the name of every tree and budding flower, and I was glad to pass the test. “A hibiscus,” I answered. She pointed to another bloom just a little lower on the tree. “What is this one called?” I paused, confused. Was I missing something? This was surely the same flower. “A low-biscus,” she laughed. I groaned.

Summer calls for tropical drinks, and what’s more tropical than hibiscus? I decided to make a hibiscus iced tea infused with fresh fruit.

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea

This is not the sweetest of teas, so you may want to add sugar or honey.
Or, turn it into a festive summer punch by adding a splash of gin!
Brewing your own tea is a great money saver for the starving artist.
It’s also more healthy because it allows you to control the sugars and preservatives. Hibiscus is a natural source of vitamin C. It’s also believed to lower blood pressure. It’s like a trip to Hawai’i in a glass!

Please Touch the Art

3 Aug

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JEPPE HEIN: PLEASE TOUCH THE ART

If there’s one art event to check out this summer, it’s Jeppe Hein’s Please Touch the Art. Brooklyn Bridge Park brings art outdoors, making it accessible and fun for children and hipsters alike. Please Touch the Art is an experience. It’s a scavenger hunt of touchable art.

From the Brooklyn Bridge Park website:

Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s parkwide installation, Please Touch the Art, presented by Public Art Fund, features 18 playful sculptures designed specifically for public interaction. Jeppe, now based in Berlin and Copenhagen, studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and the Stadelschule in Frankfurt. His works have appeared all over the world. This exhibition includes three distinct bodies of work: Appearing Rooms, a series of “rooms” formed out of jets of water that appear and disappear throughout the day; a large Mirror Labyrinth, featuring evenly-spaced vertical elements of varying heights made from mirror-polished stainless steel that multiply the surrounding landscape; and 16 Modified Social Benches that upend the idea of a traditional park bench with their unconventional angled, curved, twisted, and bent forms.

Such fun! Definitely one of the most memorable things I’ve done so far this summer.

Texting as a New Yorker

30 Jul
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There’s a Kerouac aphorism that goes, “Don’t use the phone. People are never read to answer it. Use poetry.”
I love that. I always feel anxious making a telephone call. What if the person is in the middle of dinner? What if they’re out with somebody else? It would appear I’m not the only one who feels that way. Try to walk down sidewalk in New York City without having to weave around someone who has stopped in the middle of the pavement to answer a text or who is walking at a creeping pace because they’re trying to text and walk at the same time. So annoying.
I loved Thrillist’s “14 Texts Every Single New Yorker Has Received.” Meagan Drillinger nails it not just with the texts but with the reality behind the texts. It’s a bit of hyperbole. I certainly haven’t gotten all these texts. But then again, I’m not a millennial. Some, though, are just so New York:

“Where are you?” “Brooklyn.” [silence…]

Yeah, they’re not coming to meet you.

“Know anyone who needs a roommate?”

Whether you have a friend of a friend who is maybe possibly thinking about moving to New York, or your landlord just hiked your rent up a gajillion percent, someone is ALWAYS looking for an apartment. Usually this is a mass text.
Read them all here.
I think the text I most often get is: “Just got off the train.” It’s written to signal the person I’m meeting is on their way.

The Perfect Novel for My Personality … and Yours!

29 Jul
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Obsessed with Buzzfeed quizzes, I of course find Myers-Briggs types fascinating. Perhaps as a memoirist I’m always on the quest to know myself better. Or maybe it’s because I’m Greek. Wasn’t it Socrates who said, “Know thyself”? At times, the Myers-Briggs test seems to know me better than I know myself. It narrows in on aspects of my personality that I haven’t thought about before even though they’re true.
Maybe that’s because I’m an ISTJ, and “The ISTJ is not naturally in tune with their own feelings.” ISTJ means Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging, or “Introverted Sensing with Extraverted Thinking.” ISTJs are quiet, reserved, loyal, dependable, keep in line with the law, and like tradition. You can read the breakdown here.
When I came across Flavorwire recently published “A Classic Book for Every Myers-Briggs Personality Type,” I was curious what novel would be paired with my personality type. Would it be one of my favorites? Would it be something that resonated with me on a soul level?
Would it be Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?
Saul Bellow’s The Dangling Man?
Maybe Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way?
Perhaps Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ?
According to Flavorwire, the novel that best suits me is…
ISTJ: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
With interest in traditions and loyalty, and an ability to make a huge impact despite being quiet, ISTJs will appreciate Wharton’s masterpiece of manners.
I actually do love Edit Wharton’s writing. I even have a Pinterest board devoted to a make-believe puppy I created named after one of her characters.
The part about my supposed “interest in traditions” is interesting though, particularly when it comes to my reading habits. I do like tradition. I was the kid in the family who always insisted we HAD to have Christmas at our house and do it a certain way because it was tradition. But, I think sometimes we read to escape ourselves, to stretch ourselves, to live out in our imaginations the parts of our personalities that we are too rule-abiding, too anxious, too conformist to live out in our actual lives.
What personality type are you? Do you find it to be an accurate portrayal of yourself? What book would you pick for your personality?

Jalapeno-Infused Lemonade

28 Jul
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In the early 2000s, my sister and brother liked a stand-up comedian by the name of Russell Peters, who used to do a routine on children of mixed heritage. Growing up with a Greek father and a mother of Swedish ancestry, we’d often joked if we were Greekish or Sweek. One of Russell Peters’ jokes was what do you call a baby of Dutch and Filipino heritage? A jalapeno!
That joke rang in my head as I mixed up jalapeno-infused lemonade. Zesty and tart, it’s a trip for your taste buds. Here’s how to make it:
Slice a jalapeno into rings (the seeds are extra spicy so keep or toss the seeds according to your tolerance)
Drop the jalapeno rings (and seeds?!) into your favorite lemonade (I used Newman’s but you can squeeze your own if you’re not as lazy as me)
You can drink it immediately, but it’s even better if you muddle the jalapenos and let the flavors infuse the lemonade overnight.
Really want to go wild? Tequila does the trick. It cuts the tartness of the lemon and pairs well with the spiciness of the jalapeno.

The Trumpet of the Swan

27 Jul
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“Safety is all well and good: I prefer freedom.” 
~ E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan
We took the train out to Prospect Park and watched the swans paddling around the lake outside the boathouse. We watched the cygnets with their precious little wings fall in line, one after the other. Both their parents, elegant and regal, kept watch over them. Sitting under a tree, we talked about E. B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan.

Breena Clarke Interviews Me for the Festival of Women Writers Blog

22 Jul

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Novelist Breena Clarke — whose book River, Cross My Heart was an Oprah book club pick! — recently interviewed me for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers blog.

She asks:

Clarke: I’m of the generation that kind of took our counter-culture marching orders from the Beats. You’re a couple of thousand years younger than me. How did you fall under the spell of Jack Kerouac and the Beats?  

You can read my answer that question and her others here.

I’m super excited to be participating in the Festival of Women Writers again this year!

I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Festival participants at WORD bookstore in Jersey City (123 Newark Ave.) on August 18 at 7:30pm.

Then September 11-13, I’ll be returning to the Catskills to teach a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

The Starving Artist Jazzes Up Her Tap Water

21 Jul

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I might be the only person on the planet who likes humidity. It reminds me of being a child. Growing up in New Jersey, instead of blasting air conditioning, we’d cool off by swimming at night. The sky would be so dark you could see the Big Dipper as you floated on your back in the pool. The lights in the pool would attract moths that would flutter and hover above the surface of the water, occasionally taking a dip of their own. I can still hear the sound of my father’s repetitive splash as he swam back and forth, back and forth.

These days I don’t have ready access to a swimming pool, and in New York City the lights of skyscrapers are so bright that seeing even a single star is rare. Still, muggy nights bring back all the memories of childhood summers for me. Instead of cooling off with the rattling air conditioner by my bed, I drink a beverage that brings me back to my roots.

Behind our pool ran a small brook, and alongside the brook grew wild mint. This refreshing herb is perfect for jazzing up one of earth’s most precious resources, water. It’s easy to grow, but you can also purchase it at almost any grocery store. Here are a few super simple variations:::

  • Simply wash the mint, put it in your glass of water (with or without ice), and enjoy immediately
  • Muddle the cleaned mint in your glass of water and enjoy
  • Store a large batch of water with fresh, washed mint in your fridge
  • Freeze the mint in ice cubes and plunk into your water whenever you want — as the ice melts the mint flavor will become stronger
  • Try pairing the mint with other flavors such as fresh squeezed lime

It’s so important to stay hydrated, but water sometimes gets boring. Infusing water with mint is a great way to drink more water.

Starving artist might enjoy these other summer food posts:::

Daniel Radcliffe’s Looking Very Beat Generation-Era Again

20 Jul
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Though heaps of liberties were taken in the film Kill Your Darlings, I happen to have enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of a young Allen Ginsberg. It appears the Harry Potter actor is a bit of a trickster and has been inserting himself into photographs from the 1940s. Check them out.
Also, did you happen to catch Daniel Radcliffe rapping Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”? His girlfriend Erin Darke totally stole my dance moves.
Get the REAL scoop on the story behind Kill Your Darlings in my book, coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful
And find out when you can next hear me read from the book here.

Pictures from Allen Ginsberg’s Birthday Party at Poet House

18 Jun
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Allen Ginsberg would’ve turned 89 years old on June 3. The author of one of the most important poems of the twentieth century, “Howl,” Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey. While studying at the prestigious Columbia University, he met fellow student Lucien Carr, who introduced him to Jack Kerouac and William S. Burrough. It was the birth of the Beat Generation. Okay, we all know “Beat Generation” is just a convenient label for categorizing poets and novelists and letter writers and friends and fellow artists. Ginsberg is more than a so-called Beat poet. He touched so many people’s lives and influenced diverse thinkers and creators. Eighteen years past his death, he’s still making headlines. Most recently, a teacher was fired after reading one of Ginsberg’s poems to a class. It makes sense then that friends and people who have been inspired by Ginsberg still come together to celebrate his birthday.
And that’s just what happened on June 3 at Poets House. To celebrate the publication of The Essential Ginsberg, its editor Michael Schumacher presided over a fantastic night of poetry and performance featuring Lee Ann BrownEliot KatzAmy LawlessDawn Lundy MartinRyan Doyle MaySharon MesmerEileen MylesUche NdukaBob RosenthalSteven Taylor, and surprise guest Anne Waldman.