The Pits: Bridge That Jack Kerouac’s Watermelon Man Walked Demolished

27 Jun

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The other day I talked about how “karpouzi” is just one of those words I always say in Greek and shared my recipe for watermelon-and-feta salad. Since I’m a big fan of tying things together, can I tell you about a connection between watermelon and Jack Kerouac?

In his novel Dr. Sax, Kerouac writes about a man who died while carrying a watermelon across a bridge in Lowell. My coauathor for Burning Furiously Beautiful, Paul Maher Jr., actually discovered the identity of the man the memory is based on. You can read Paul’s story about Kerouac’s watermelon man in Pop Matters

At last year’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival, the group visited the bridge where this took place (also known as the Textile Memorial Bridge, the University Bridge, and the Moody Street Bridge). Well, this February the bridge was demolished. In its place is the Richard P. Howe Bridge.

Maybe its a suburban thing but when I was a teenager, I used to hang out a lot at a bridge. Do you have memories of hanging out at this bridge or any other bridge?

The Starving Artist Eats Watermelon Feta Salad

24 Jun

Yesterday I shared that summer was all about karpouzi at my house.

The other Sunday, after church, I had my friend Sandra over for brunch and wanted to make something special. I decided to try my hand at a watermelon-feta salad. This isn’t something I ever grew up eating, but when I attended the GABBY Awards a few years ago, one of the passed meze they served at Ellis Island before the ceremony was cubed watermelon with feta speared with a toothpick. Since then I’ve seen delicious recipes for it watermelon and feta salads. I decided to make my own version, topped with an exquisite dark chocolate vinaigrette my friend Rori gave me as a housewarming gift.

Lomogram_2014-06-08_04-34-41-PMHere’s my super-easy, super-quick recipe:

  • Cut watermelon into chunks
  • Cut Feta cheese into chunks
  • Mix the watermelon and feta in a bowl and top with pistachio meat (meaning pistachios out of their shell)
  • Drizzle dark chocolate vinegar over the salad
  • Serve!

See how easy that is?! You can prep ahead by cutting the watermelon and the feta into chunks the night before, but I recommend waiting until you’re about to serve guests to mix the ingredients together so that they retain their individual flavors and so the nuts don’t get soggy.

The ingredients are, admittedly, a bit on the pricier side, but when you make it yourself you save a lot of money. This is part of a new series I’m doing called “The Starving Artist.” I used to do posts called “Tasty Tuesday,” but I’m switching it up a little now to focus on budget-friendly recipes for writers. You might also like these feta-inspired appetizers:

I’m looking to get more fruit in my diet this summer. If you have any unique watermelon recipes, please share them in the comments below!

 

It’s All Karpouzi to Me

23 Jun

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That’s me as a kid eating karpouzi!

Last week I wrote about Feta burgers and how my family used to BBQ all summer long. Our BBQs weren’t complete without karpouzi—watermelon—at the end of the meal, so this week is all about watermelon!!

Now I may have grown up in a mono-lingual household, only speaking English, but there were a few words that for whatever reason (probably because my mom knew them) we always said in Greek—to the point that it felt more natural to say them in Greek than in English. “Karpouzi” was one of those words. Even when I went off to college, that’s the word I used, and my friends picked it up and used it too—just as I picked up words like “haole” and “okole” from my Hawai’ian friends and learned “hella” from my Bay Area friends. Funny how even when you live in one country your entire life, and even when your friends are American, regionalisms and ethnic identities can influence your language.

Tomorrow I’ll share one of my favorite recipes for karpouzi!

In the meantime, I’d be curious to know if any of you switch in and out between languages or if you’ve picked up words from a language that isn’t your own mother tongue?

 

 

Friday Links: Summer 2014 Reads

20 Jun

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When I was a kid I used to participate in the summer reading challenge at my local library. I think I need to challenge myself to do something like that again. I want to spend a lot of lazy hours in Central Park with a book and some fancy French lemonade.

I decided to check out what’s on everyone’s summer 2014 reading list and share it with you:::

NPR came up with 12 summer reading lists by category — including a miscellaneous one about “drugs, dragons and giant peaches”

Goodreads is a good place to find good reads for summer

Flavorwire offered 10 Must-Read Books for June

Modern Mr. Darcy released the 3rd annual summer reading guide

The New York Times offered A Critic’s Survey of Summer Books

Or you could always take a cue from J. P. Morgan’s Summer Reading List

A summer 2014 reading list from TED

Add your own list in the comments section!

 

 

Join Us at the Redeemer Writers Workshop

18 Jun

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This upcoming Monday, June 23, 2014, I’ll be leading a writing workshop with my friends and fellow writers Nana, Maurice, and Jane at the Redeemer Offices.

Last month when we met I walked away feeling so blessed and inspired. Even though I’m one of the leaders of the group, I get so much out of it. Everyone’s working in different genres and is at different places in their journeys as writers, which could make for an awkward workshop experience, but in actuality has turned out to be really great because people give and get such fresh insight. It’s exposed me to types of literature I wouldn’t normally choose to read on my own, stretching me to be more open minded. As a writing instructor, I’ve grown as I’ve thought more about how to encourage craft above genre and what makes for great writing. I’ve been surprised to discover I actually want to read more of genres I thought I disliked.

We don’t demand commitment to the group, but we’ve found that we now have a group of “regulars.” We’ve seen their work evolve and improve in such tremendous ways. Some people have started out with so much heart but less craft, and they’ve worked hard and brought revised pieces in that show how much they’re growing. Others are natural storytellers, and I’ve been blown away by how great their work is. There are some people in the group who are published authors. There are others who need to finish their manuscripts already because their works are funny and meaningful, and I want to see them get published.

Here’s the essential info if you’re interested in joining us:::

  • When: Monday, June 23, 2014
  • Time: 7-9pm.
  • Where: Redeemer Offices (1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room)
  • Bring:  Please bring 1 to 2 pages of your writing in any genre to share for critique
  • Cost: Admission is free.
  • Registration

What do you think makes for a good writing workshop?

The next Redeemer Writers Group after that will be July 21. For a full schedule of my workshops and readings, see the Appearances section of my website.
For more of my posts on writing as a craft and as a business, see Writing Wednesday.

The Starving Artist Eats Burgers on the BBQ

17 Jun

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Summertime was all about BBQing when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. (So much so that it even found its way into my memoir!) We spent many humid nights outside under a canopy of green leaves and stars, swatting away mosquitoes, as we ate food from the BBQ. Most of the year, my family didn’t eat dinner altogether too often because my father worked long hours and got home late—and because he didn’t eat the same “American” foods that the rest of us ate. In the summer, when it was too hot to turn on the oven, he’d fire up the grill.

Now maybe it’s a regionalism, but I recently BBQed with someone not from the TriState area and discovered that “BBQ” to them meant something entirely different. BBQ to them is its own separate category of food. It’s a big deal. An art. What I call “BBQ,” they think is just basic “grilling.” To my ears, grilled anything sounds like something off a health-food menu. As in, you order grilled chicken when you’re on a diet, even though what you really want to eat is fried chicken.

But grilling doesn’t have to be equated with flavorless meat topped with zero-calorie iceberg lettuce. Nope, we made stuffed burgers. We stuffed it with Fontina cheese and mushrooms and onions and peppers and so much deliciousness. Or at least it looked delicious to me. As a vegetarian, I made due with veggie burgers luxuriously slathered in Stubbs BBQ sauce. My skinny little soy burgers weren’t nearly as exciting as the juicy stuffed burger. Sigh.

I just came across a recipe for a Feta-Stuffed BLT Burger, and my Greek American heart skipped a beat. I may not be able to eat it as a vegetarian, but for all you Greek cheese-loving carnivores out there I thought I’d pass it along: Feta-Stuffed BLT Burger recipe. And for those of us who abstain from meat, I’ll offer this alternative Greek vegetarian burger recipe:

  • BBQ your favorite veggie burger (I like Boca burgers) per the directions on the box
  • Grill some onions
  • Lightly grill a piece of pita bread
  • Once everything is grilled, place the veggie burger in the pocket of the pita
  • Stuff the pita with the BBQed onions
  • Also stuff the pita with a salad of feta, tomatoes, and cucumbers soaked in olive oil and oregano

Eat and enjoy!

This is part of a new series I’m doing called “The Starving Artist.” I used to do posts called “Tasty Tuesday,” but I’m switching it up a little now to focus on budget-friendly recipes for writers.

I’m always on the hunt for vegetarian-friendly Greek foods for the BBQ, so if you have any suggestions please post them in the comments section.

Also, did you know Greeks have a whole holiday devoted to BBQed meat?

If you’re not a meat-eater, you might also like this Greek vegetarian BBQ idea.

 

Happy Bloomsday 2014!

16 Jun

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Doesn’t James Joyce look dapper?!

Happy Bloomsday!!

James Joyce set his rambling modern novel Ulysses on June 16, and today literary lovers around the world celebrate the iconic Irish author with marathon readings (it is about 265,000 words long!) and pub crawls. The raucous literary holiday takes its name from the central character of the novel: Leopold Bloom. The title of Joyce’s book, on the other hand, comes from the Latin version of Odysseus. Apparently, this is because he discovered the story of The Odyssey through Charles Lamb’s children’s book adaptation, Adventures of Ulysses. Just like that cunning Greek Odysseus embarked on adventure that introduced him to a wide variety of characters, Leopold Bloom traversed Dublin and met characters that paralleled those found in The Odyssey.

I thought it would be fun to share a few beautiful and provocative quotes from James Joyce’s Ulysses:

  • “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”
  • “People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them was a bite from a sheep.”
  • “She would follow, her dream of love, the dictates of her heart that told her he was her all in all, the only man in all the world for her for love was the master guide. Come what might she would be wild, untrammelled, free.”
  • “The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”
  • “A region where grey twilight ever descends, never falls on wide sagegreen pasturefields, shedding her dusk, scattering a perennial dew of stars.”

Those last two quotes remind me of one of my favorite lines from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”

I’ve written about James Joyce’s influence on Jack Kerouac a few times before so today in celebration of Bloomsday, here are the links:

For Bloomsday activities around the globe, check out The James Joyce Centre Dublin. I want to highlight a few that I found particularly relevant to the themes I write about:

  • In Athens, there will be a free screening of a poetical film based on Joyce’s Greek notebooks.
  • In Manhattan, Symphony Space is putting on an event that features Malachy McCourt, Colum McCann, Cynthia Nixon and others.
  • In Brooklyn, there will be a pub crawl.
  • In St. Petersburg (the Florida city where Jack Kerouac died), there will be readings and performances.

Have you ever participated in a Bloomsday event? What is your favorite quote by James Joyce?

Happy 120th Birthday, Mark Van Doren

13 Jun

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren was born on this day in Vermilion County, Illinois.

In 1920 he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University and joined the faculty. Among his students was Lionel Trilling, who would also go on to teach at Columbia. They both taught Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Trilling also taught Robert Lax, whom Kerouac later got in touch with.

Trilling won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1940 for Collected Poems 1922–1938.

Celebrate his birthday by reading some of his sonnets here.

Happy 88th Birthday, Allen Ginsberg!

3 Jun

ginsbergAllen Ginsberg at the Miami Bookfair International on November 7, 1985. Photo by MDCarchives via Wikipedia.

 

Today would’ve been Allen Ginsberg’s eighty-eighth birthday, and in honor of the Jersey-born poet’s powerful and beautiful work we asked people on the Burning Furiously Beautiful facebook page what their favorite Ginsberg poem was. I’ve loved hearing the results! So far we’ve heard:

My favorite is “Sunflower Sutra,” in which Ginsberg writes about Kerouac and him sitting under the shadow of a train as the sun set and spying a dried up sunflower amdist the machinery. The line “when did you forget you were a / flower?” slays me every time.

What’s your favorite poem by Allen Ginsberg? Leave it in the comments below or on the Burning Furiously Beautiful facebook page.

Want to read more about Ginsberg on his birthday?

And if you’ve ever been curious about how Allen Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac in the first place, you can read all about the early origins of the key people who came to represent the Beat Generation but who are all really so much more than that in Burning Furiously Beautiful.

 

I’m Reading from My Memoir at The Penny Farthing

29 May

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I’m super excited to share with you that I’m reading this upcoming Monday, June 2, 2014, with one of my favorite groups and venues!

That’s right — I’m reading at Beyond the Mic, a C3 Storytellers event, hosted at The Penny Farthing (103 3rd Ave., downstairs in the speakeasy), right here in New York City.

The C3 Storytellers have been supportive of my writing for awhile now. The first time I read with them back in 2012, one of the other poets literally made up a poem on the spot about my memoir. You can read it here. Then the next time I read with them, I read from the Kerouac biography I was coauthoring that hadn’t yet come out. C3 Storytellers’ and The Penny Farthing’s support earned them a place in the acknowledgments of Burning Furiously Beautiful. Needless to say, I’m grateful for welcoming groups like C3 Storytellers and artist-friendly venues like The Penny Farthing.

I’ll be reading a different section from my memoir-in-progress again this time around. I’m just one of many people who will be sharing work. I’ve always been very inspired by the other artists as well so you’ll be in for a treat hearing them. Doors open at 7pm. The event is free, though there’s usually a basket for donations (no, they don’t go to me); and you can purchase food and drinks. I’d love to see you there!

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My memoir is still a work in progress, but you can purchase the Kerouac biography here.

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Check out the appearance section on my website for other upcoming readings and workshops. I love giving back and encouraging other writers, and I co-lead a free writing workshop once a month through Redeemer (the next one is June 23). If you’re interested in having me give a reading or writing workshop, contact me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.