Tag Archives: New York City

A Chance Encounter Leads to a New Book to Read

26 Feb



I felt a tug on my shoulder. Startled out of my morning fog, I turned around. There was a woman I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We had graduated from the same women’s college but in different years. “How are you?” she asked. Then she asked if I’d read a certain book. I hadn’t and she suggested we read it together and discuss over a meal. It felt serendipitous. It’s moments like this that make me love New York City even more.


Have a Slice of Espresso Cheese for National Coffee Day!

29 Sep


Happy National Coffee Day!

…Just don’t post a photo of your coffee or you might anger Rant Chic. Although, apparently there are coffeehouses that “print” your selfies into your latte with edible brown powder. The latte selfie is real!


I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season on Sunday. Oh how I love my Barnes & Noble Cafe discount!!

What I really want to tell you about, though is that I discovered espresso cheese!! I road tripped out in Connecticut with two of my very dear friends whom I’ve known forever and ever, and we went out to Stew Leondard’s. Have you been there? It’s amazing. Maybe it’s all my city living, but grocery stores in suburbs amaze me with their wondrous wide aisle lit with bright lights showcasing jalapeño potato chips and refrigerated dog food. This one was one was particularly exceptional. They have cupcakes shaped like cheeseburgers and animatronic butter.

IMG_2773 IMG_2774

The employees are all super nice too. One saw me pondering an espresso cheese. I was so curious, I immediately answered “yes” when he asked me if I’d like to try it, even though I normally bashfully say no because I don’t want to bother them or appear greedy. Let me tell you: I am so glad my eagerness betrayed me. Made by Sartori, Espresso Bellavitano is earthy and sweet, decadent, and complex. It’s the perfect cheese to impress guests. I’d pair it with red grapes, raisins, currants, and cherry chutney. A hearty red wine would go well with it.


Here are a few of my past coffee-related posts to celebrate @NationalCoffeeDay:::

The Coffee Habit of Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Opened a Million Coffee Bars

Caffe Reggio is one of my favorite coffeehouses in all of New York City. I recommended their cup in my Beat gift guide.

Places to drink coffee in Grand Rapids

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

What’s Your Coffee Personality? Get Greek-American author Dean Bakopoulos’ take

Not to be outdone by my Greek side… The Starving Artist Gulps Down Konditori’s Swedish Coffee

A habit I got from my mother.

Coffee not your drink of choice?

Stir up Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan

Or toast to Ernest Hemingway with a Daiquiri Recipe

Take a road trip to Monterey and visit Bargetto Winery for an apricot wine

Or hop on the subway and try the orange wine (not orange flavored!) at Brooklyn Winery

Go Greek with Pindar’s Pythagoras Wine

Speaking of lemonade… How ’bout some Champagne Pink Lemonade Punch?

Want something sans alcohol?

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

Holla for some Jalapeño-Infused Lemonade

Or if you’re a starving artist, Jazz Up Your Tap Water

Christmasy Photos 2014

4 Jan

I love New York City during the Christmas holidays. Everything just sparkles! I spent a lot of time walking around the city this winter, taking in all the shop windows. It’s just about time to tackle the new year, and I’m fully convinced 2015 will be a great one, but I couldn’t resist posting a few photographs from the holiday season.



xmas3 xmas6




What a Difference Five Years Make

4 Dec

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

~Lao Tzu


While looking for a receipt the other day, I stumbled across one of my old diaries. I knew better than to open it. Every time I clean or dig through my drawers to look for something, I come across a journal, a letter someone had sent me, or a box of old photographs and am quickly derailed. For the next hour or so, I was lost in the pages of my diary, caught in the past and thinking about the future.

I tend to start diaries on my birthday, and this particular one was from five years ago. It was a big birthday for me, both because it was a milestone birthday and because I was on the precipice of a new direction in my life.

The year leading up to it, I had spent an embarrassingly long time getting over a break up. I had also been quite ill for a long time, which made commuting from New Jersey excruciating. These two circumstances made me think a lot about where I was spending my time and where I wanted my life to go. I quit a bunch of low-paying freelance writing gigs and moved into Manhattan about three months before my milestone birthday.

That next year was one full of adventure and changes. What had seemed like a monumental move into the city turned out to be more of a convenience than a lifestyle change, since I’d been commuting for so many years from northern New Jersey and so much of my life was already there. Still, once I was there, I knew I could never go back to Jersey. My family had moved from New Jersey to Greece, and much of my vacation time up to then had been spent traveling to Greece to see them. Traveling is so fundamental to who I am that I decided that year instead to go to South Korea and Japan. That summer I also went to Minneapolis and reconnected with family, which made me understand myself better.

It was that year that I also recommitted myself to writing. It’s not that I had ever stopped writing. Far from it. I was always writing and even getting published in little publications here and there. But the writing wasn’t me. It wasn’t authentic to my voice. I decided to start writing for myself again. I began carving time out to write personal essays about growing up Greek American. I began reading the Beats again. I joined a writers group, where I learned the term MFA.

Then, right before my next birthday, I lost my job. I went to Florida for Christmas to escape and regroup. Being there was hard. It was the first year I’d been back to my grandmother’s place since she’d died when I was in college. Upon my father’s recommendation, I applied to only the best MFA programs (“anything less won’t be worth it”). While I wasn’t confident that I’d get in anywhere, I also didn’t realize just how difficult it is to get into the programs. I applied quickly to whichever programs were still accepting admissions and only later read how writers agonize over which essay to send and whom to get recommendations from. I ended up getting into the top creative nonfiction program in New York City. I also was rehired by my old company.

I often feel like one of those cartoon characters that’s running in place. You see the little puffs of clouds materializing under the feet, but they never seem to get anywhere. When you’re young, there are clear markers of time passing. You graduate from high school and then college. You get your first job. You rent your first apartment. And if you’re me, you go through a gazillion hairstyles. As you get older, there are fewer markers along life’s journey, and wildly changing your hair seems perhaps best left to young people and celebrities. Still, as someone who likes stability, I worry that I am too easily prone to falling into ruts.

Reading through my diary, I realized, though, how far I have come. I realized that change doesn’t always happen overnight, that many of the best accomplishments in life take time. However, the little choices we make today matter. They put us on a path.

Today is my birthday, and many of the dreams I wrote about five years ago have come true. The funny thing with dreams, though, is that they don’t always happen the way you think they will and they don’t happen without a few tears being shed. This past year has been another one full of change. I haven’t always embraced it. It’s been difficult and emotional. Great things have happened, but I’ve also faced challenging and sad circumstances.

I find myself again at a crossroads.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Friday Links: Best Indie Bookstores

22 Nov

Happy Friday! Flavorwire’s recently been doing an indie bookstore roundup, which has been fun to peruse. I thought I’d share those with you and also offer a few of my own picks, which are mainly Beat-related or New York City-bound.


Beat Bookstores

New York City Bookstores

What are the best indie bookstores in your neighborhood?

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

[2/12/14: edit made to this post to fix a spacing issue]

Friday Links: Breathe In, Breathe Out

8 Nov

Oh, what a week, what a week. It seems like so many people I know are going through difficult times right now, myself included. I think this weekend we could all use a little nurturing. Here are a couple links to take you into what is hopefully a restful and enjoyable weekend:

Iconoclastic Writer penned a post entitled “Memory Babe: a writing exercise inspired by Jack Kerouac.” It’s an old post, but I think being in tune with our senses and learning to write resonate detail can be meditative

Sometimes just looking at beautiful, far-off lands makes me feel like I can breathe a little more

In an effort to drink less coffee (and ahem stronger drinks) and more tea, I bought a delicious champagne rose tea from Mitsua in New Jersey a few weeks ago

I’m also excited to try the new Teavana that opened up on the Upper East Side — it’s one of Oprah’s favorite things!

My doctor recommended this Upper East Side restaurant to me

I’ve been missing my mom a lot lately, which has made me crave macaroni & cheese, both a comfort food and one of her specialties. I might have to check out one of these places

I’ve been embracing my homebody side these days and reading and rereading the interior decorating magazine Domino — I’m so glad they’re back!

I like to light a candle when I write, and I see that Bath & Bodyworks — my favorite place to buy candles — is having their candle sale

Paul and I are holding a contest where you could win a one-of-a-kind tape that Carolyn Cassady personally gave to Paul. You can find the details and enter (or just vote for your favorite) on the Facebook page for Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”



I’m Giving a Free Reading Tonight at KGB Bar

2 Nov


I’m reading at KGB Bar tonight! I’m super excited. I’ve been to a few readings here before, and it’s got a killer atmosphere. Not only that, but check out the impressive lineup:

With Professors:

Wang Ping

Miguel Algarin

Nancy Mercado

Carlos Manuel Rivera

Julie Patton

Everton Sylvester

At 6:30pm Professor Cornelius Eady reads and perform with his Rough Magic band’s guitarist Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate on the violin

And poets reading with or without acoustic musicians:
Carl Hancock Rux
Jeff Wright
Brian Omni Dillon
Ronnie Norpel
Susan Yung
Kate Levin
Sarah Sarai
Stephanie Nikolopoulos
R! on verse acoustic guitar & harmonicas

Und singing in German und mit monologue:
Leigh Martha Klinger

I’m listed as a poet, and I do in fact write poetry, but I was planning on reading an excerpt from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Specifically, I plan on reading about Kerouac’s Greek connection, his Lowell friend Sebastian Sampas.

The event starts at 6 and is free and open to the general public.

KGB Bar is on 85 East 4th Street (near 2nd Avenue)
New York, New York 10003

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Warby Parker Glasses for Halloween

31 Oct

alvie_small-900x620via Warby Parker

Happy Halloween! Though I tortured my sleepover guests with classic horror films when i was a preteen, I’ve never been real big into the scary stuff of Halloween. I do, however, think it’s a super fun opportunity to play dress and reinvent one’s identity for a day.

Then again, I’m a bit of a chameleon when it comes to my style and personality even on an average day. You know how in The Breakfast Club there was the jock, the princess, the brain, the basket case, and the criminal? Or how when you ride the L train you can always tell who’s going to get off at Union Square versus who’s going to Bedford Avenue? I’ve never really identified with one social group or another. One day I might dress preppy in pearls and a button-down shirt with a sweater over it and the next day I might wear lots of dark eye shadow and all black. Likewise, some days I wear glasses and some days I wear contacts. It would be fun to own multiple pairs of glasses to switch out depending on my mood.

Glasses are such a defining accessory/medical need. Certain glasses styles have become synonymous with certain celebrities. Think John Lennon’s little circles. Buddy Holly’s thick frames.

Warby Parker says, “There are plenty of characters to be channeled with the right pair of glasses.” They’re featuring costume ideas like Tootsie, and Dr. Strangelove, Alvie Singer (Annie Hall) on their blog, complete with the prescription glasses they sell. Oh sure it’s a gimmick to get you to buy their merch, but — and I’m not at all affiliated with them and not getting anything for saying this — it’s a rather clever idea. Because sometimes it’s fun to channel someone else for a day!

Also, I really like Warby Parker’s business model: for every pair you buy, they donate to someone in need.

Oh, and get this: their name is a Jack Kerouac reference! Here’s the story:

We’ve always been inspired by the master wordsmith and pop culture icon, Mr. Jack Kerouac. Two of his earliest characters, recently uncovered in his personal journals, bore the names Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper. We took the best from each and made it our name.

So what I want to know then is why they don’t have a blog post for dressing like Allen Ginsberg?! You can’t help but think of his glasses when you visualize him. Plus, with all the Hollywood attention on the Beats lately — characters based on Ginsberg or Kerouac’s alias for him appear in On the Road and Kill Your Darlings — you’d think he’d be a fun person to dress up as for Halloween.

Or maybe I’m the only nerd who thinks dressing like authors and literary characters is a perfectly normal Halloween costume?

And, for a story about the time Allen Ginsberg lost his glasses, check out Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It’s available as an ebook and paperback.


Shunning Cars … and Life

24 May

Last summer I relayed the news that Generation Y hates driving. Now it turns out, everybody hates driving.

According to the recent The Exchange article “Why More Families Are Shunning Cars,” the CNW Research of Bandon, Ore., reported that in 2012 the percentage of US households without a car was the highest its been in the 22 years they’ve been tracking this data. The percentage? 9.3%.

Citing a cultural shift, The Exchange says that people today don’t rely on cars as much because:

  • more people live closer to cities and public transportation
  • since they now don’t need a car on a daily basis, these people simply rely on car rentals, which have become more flexible
  • retirees now live in retirement communities that they seldom leave
  • teens prefer to keep in touch virtually than in person
  • the economy is still in the gutter

The economic factor is a fascinating one when it comes to the history of motor vehicles. I’ve been proofreading (what feels like) a lot of books on cars and motorcycles lately and also thinking about cars and road trips while writing Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and it’s been rather interesting to discover just how much the Great Depression and various wars have had on Americans’ driving habits.

An all-too-brief history:

  • cars and motorcycles are relatively new innovations, and they were making leaps and bounds until the Great Depression
  • there was an economic boom following WWII and suburbs became more popular–think Levittown–so the car became integral to family life
  • during the Cold War, the emphasis on patriotism no doubt led to Greyhound campaigns like this one, featuring a veteran who after fighting for the USA wants to travel to see the entire country, and the tv show/extended commercial See the USA in Your Chevrolet

Life in America hadn’t really changed all that much from that time when the economy improved, people moved out to the ‘burbs, and cars became a fact of life.

Until recently.

There were, of course, recessions here or there after the Great Depression, but it wasn’t until December 2007 that the US experienced the Great Recession or the Lesser Depression, whichever ominous phrase you want to use.

The same day that I read–while I was on the subway, mind you–that more people are “shunning” cars, I also read a Newsday article reprinted in amNewYork as “A growth spurt in NYC” that said, “New York City had the greatest numeric gain in population between 2011 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates out Thursday.” Granted, the article seemed to be specifically comparing growth in cities (see this New York Times article as reference), but unless it’s indicating that people are simply moving from one city to another it seems to suggest that more people are taking to city life. And perhaps that’s the–ahem–driving force behind the decline in car ownership.

So… what do automotive trends have to do with literature?

Arguably the most popular of all authors who wrote about traveling by car and philosophized about the culture of his generation didn’t own a car: as I pointed out in my Hipsters Hate Driving post, Jack Kerouac was a hitchhiker, a bus rider, and a passenger, but rarely a driver, and yet he wrote the great American road-trip novel On the Road.

Now, let’s go back to that point The Exchange made that today’s generation–Generation Y, Millennial, whatever you want to call them–seemingly prefer virtual, rather than interpersonal, relationships. Here’s how The Exchange put it: “Teenagers using social media to keep in touch seem to feel less drawn to the open road than their parents did at the same age.”

The issue at hand is not that today’s generation doesn’t like driving or that they’re moving to the cities in droves. The cultural shift that needs to be more adamantly addressed for both the sake of our personal well-being and literature is that people prefer living life virtually than experiencing it first hand.

Kerouac lived life to the fullest. He famously told Steve Allen that he spent more time experiencing the content that would end up in his book than actually writing it:

ALLEN: Jack….How long did it take you to write On the Road?

KEROUAC: Three weeks….

ALLEN: Three weeks! That’s amazing! How long were you on the road itself?

KEROUAC: Seven years

Of course, as Burning Furiously Beautiful points out, it was only the scroll version on On the Road that Kerouac wrote in three weeks; it actually took him years to write the novel. But that doesn’t change the fact that Kerouac was out there living life, adventuring, experiencing, gathering tales to tell.

If today’s generation spends their life behind the computer screen or is too busy snapping photos for instagram to be present in the moment, that will shape our literature.

Brunch with Artists & Entertainers at the Lotos Club

7 May


Last month Scripps College invited me to attend a lovely brunch amongst friends and fellow alumni at The Lotos Club:

Alumnae Panel: The Arts and Entertainment Scene in NYC

Mitra Abbaspour ’99, Associate Curator, The Museum of Modern Art

Barbara Barna Abel ’84, Casting Director and Coach, ABEL intermedia

Elizabeth Robbins Turk ’83, Artist, 2010 MacArthur “Genius” Award Winner

Moderator: Veronica Gledhill ’06, Senior Fashion Market Editor, New York Magazine, Online and 2012 Outstanding Recent Alumna

with an update on the College
from President Lori Bettison-Varga

Oh, how I wish they’d do more of these. It was truly inspiring to hear these women tell their stories. They were so impressive yet so humble and honest in talking about their individual journeys as artists.



Elizabeth had secured The Lotos Club for the event, and I could’ve sat in that sumptuous library all day long. But I guess that was the point:

The selection of the name The Lotos Club was to convey “an idea of rest and harmony.” The spelling of Lotos comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lotos Eaters, two lines of which were selected as the motto of the Club:

 In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon

The endless afternoon setting provided the ideal atmosphere to indulge in creative and stimulating thought and conversation.

Of course, as a good Greek, I should point out that Tennyson’s poem was inspired by The Odyssey.

The circular staircase was breathtaking. I had to stop and take a photograph.


The Lotos Club has an impressive history and has counted amongst its members President Taft, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde’s brother Willie.