DELve ELIte

 

SUMMER

Issue 6

REMember way back in spring when I wrote DESign II would be the theme of the Summer issue? I lied. Truth is, it’s been a very short summer packed with work, vacations, food and libations… lots of libations. When presented with the options of relaxing with a drink at hand or pounding out a free publication, I’m choosing the former every time.  DELve ELIte is a way of fulfilling my promise of a Summer issue. The DELve editorial staff (me) chose some of our (my) favorite articles over the past year. This issue should more accurately be called DELve ELIte the PRN issue because all of the contributors are my former co-workers at PRNewswire (and only now my magazine’s title design becomes clear to me). While the cover phto is by me, the main photo was an outake from the previous issue and is by Eric Papa (DESigning Eyes, Issue 5). You will also find poetry by Meriel Martinez (WELcome/NEW, Issue 1), an article on surfing by Brian Tunick (LIGht and Dark Blue, Issue 2) and a look at the body by David Dowling (MINd, Body and Soul, Issue 4).  Not to be left out, I am including an article about my trip to Cape Cod (FRIends, Issue 3). Note, I originally made up the name “Roger” for my friend Ed Lanoue to protect his privacy, due to the sensitive elements of the story. Not long before its initial appearance, Ed said he didn’t mind me using his name. Since the piece was already written, I said I would keep the pseudonym.  He understood but had a major concern: “Did you at least give me a cool name?” Despite numerous objections, he relented and let me keep “Roger.”

Also included in this issue are some the staff’s (again, my) picks of  Cool A.F.’s (C.A.F.!), truly deserving of being repeated.

As the summer draws to its inevitable conclusion, sit back and enjoy the crème de la crème of  DELve’s past. DELve will be back in the fall, when DESign II drops (I am so hip). Until then: be about purpose, be about passion, be about love.

Love and Peace Always,

Steve

Editor-in-Chief

 

beer

 

C.A.F.!

This Is Us

this-is-us

To the non-watcher, This Is Us sounds just too hokey to be any good.  The show, which teleports from past to present, tells the story of a typical family of a father, mother and their triplets (one of which is Black – so maybe not triplets, but the children were all born on the same day). The writers are the stars here, each week they come up with compelling stories and deliver complex characters which makes you want to come back for more. I so didn’t want to buy into it.  Damn them, they sold me.

The Treatment

elvis

Former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell has been on the job for over 30 years. While film criticism has become somewhat of a dinosaur, Mitchell has been able to avoid obsolescence and remain fresh with each passing year. Case-in-point, The Treatment, his weekly podcast (which he has been doing for 20 years) in which he interviews filmmakers, pop-culture historians, musicians, authors and the like. Each program is an interview devoted to one topic (an idea we at DELve can support) featuring the artists behind the project. You come away from each podcast enlightened and wanting to know more. The shows aren’t just about film and music. On recent shows Mitchell’s guests included the multi hyphenated Sacha Jenkins discussing his Fresh Dressed documentary, GQ Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson discussing the magazine’s evolution, Mitchell’s Canadian counterpart, Cameron Bailey discussing his role as artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival and the festival’s history and Power creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, discussing its Shakespearean influences.

Meshell Ndegeochello

Meshell

Flying under the radar for over two decades, Meshell Ndegeochello is not a musician, she is an artist. Her bourbon-rich vocals (along with soulful bass playing) gives color to the canvas which are her lyrics. Ndegeocello’s debut album, Plantation Lullabies with its ballsy single If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)… which title needs no explanation, was one of the best albums of the 90s. Her follow-up album Peace Beyond Passion was almost as brilliant and contains not only a cover of Bill Wither’s Who Is He And What Is He To You but also the controversial Leviticus: Faggot. You’re not a true artist if you don’t cause a stir.

Levi’s

levi's

Jeans today can set you back several hundred dollars a pair with styles changing every season (we’re looking at you True Religion!). Levi’s are the complete opposite of the last statement.  Levi Strauss & Co. has been making jeans for 163 years and deserve the title of “Classic”.  Levi’s are comfortable, affordable and with so many styles to choose from,  pleasing to just about everyone. Besides, nothing says “grown up” more than the ability to pull off being well dressed in jeans no matter whether  you’re rocking them with a tee shirt or tie. You can wear these blue jeans almost anywhere.
https://www.levi.com

 

spring

The following is from the book God and Mambo: Truth, Rhythm and Verse/Ritmo, Verdad y Verso and is available through Amazon.

 SPRINGTIME

Piles of snow swallow the ground

Winds punish worn trees and old limbs

A swelling, familiar, possesses the clouds

Ice pellets choose targets at whim

With shovel in tow

I push through again

A dull, stunted spirit

Soul aching for spring

Take rest for a moment

Look up and I see

My vibrant sunflowers

Smile sweetly at me

In that honest moment

The cold disappears

No heartache, no worries, no sorrow, no fears

For bright-colored flowers

With eyes vivid brown

Shine sunlight eternal

Line silver the clouds

 

Blankets of snow still pile on the ground

Winds sting as they steadily climb

But I’m warm and I’m light and I simply don’t mind

‘cause my springtime is waiting inside.

 

chocolate-and-caramel

SOME DAYS

Some days

It’s already there when you wake

This deep warmth, this heat, pouring from your breast

A force you can’t disguise, control or contain

 

It heaves, your chest, as you picture him

His luscious skin, like chocolate

Sculptured to edible perfection

Or maybe caramel, drizzling where it will

 

It waters, your mouth, as you drown in him

Strong arms that take you in, captive

Collapsing under his imposing will

You willed it to be so

fire

Often

You delight in this ardent pleasure

His want, pulsating through your every inch

A force only he can ignite, extinguish and start

again

M.M.: Of Puerto Rican descent, Meriel Martínez was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She currently resides in Florida with her husband and two daughters.

 

Soul surfin’ in pretty blue waters, waitin’ for the day that I could just call her.

— Soul Surfin’, Kottonmouth Kings

 

sufcold

Cold Surf

By Brian Tunick

The ice-cold water burns my face.  Frigid saltwater flushes down the back of my suit, directly across my spine as a large wave twists my frame and holds me under.  The human body doesn’t deal well with freezing or drowning, and I have chosen the verge of both.

Stretching the damp and cold suit over my body doesn’t feel good, but it’s pretty benign compared to what’s to come.  A quick glance at the dimly lit room shows the vague outline of three dogs cuddled up with my wife in a warm bed.  Very little motion.  This is what people do on the dawn of a 19-degree day with at least 6” of snow in the forecast.  Not me though.  By now, my body heat has activated the insulation and I’m sweating in the suit.  When the garage door opens, the cold air hits my face and my body only needs the sensors that detect very hot and very cold.  There are no in-between temperatures.  I prefer in-between temperatures.  I affix the board to my bike and begin the 5-minute journey.  I know I can only ride the bike a short distance until the threat of slipping on ice forces me to walk.  Suits and boards are easily destroyed.  Still, even a little bit of distance on the bike means a little less walking on the frozen ground.  Seven millimeters of rubber seems like a lot until it becomes the only thing between you and a fresh layer of ice.  A distant thundering sound is offset by the sound of a neighbor slipping while attempting to scrape ice from his windshield.

By the time I get to the water there is enough light to see the vast blue.  Choppy.  Strong drift.  Waves that would be a little above my own six-foot body if I was standing perfectly straight.  Snow and ice line the boardwalk, the stairs, and the few hundred yards of sand that lead to the water.  The heat inside my hood causes itching, but the gloves prevent me from a proper scratching. I quickly spot a rip current and decide that will be my entrance.  Rip currents are usually considered dangerous because they can easily pull an unsuspecting swimmer out to sea.  To surfers, they are an ally, a passage, a conveyor belt that will allow for easier access to an intended destination.  I make my way towards the violent ocean, and as the slope of the ground becomes more pronounced, my walking becomes more of a controlled slipping motion.  A distinct feeling of dread grows in the pit of my stomach.  The feeling of dread always comes first.

My booties protect me from the initial shock of cold water and I get a good minute or so of uninterrupted paddling out, with the assistance of the rip.  As if on cue, a large set (several large waves) makes its way in and it’s time to speed up paddling, in hopes of avoiding the hopeless battle against crashing waves.  Surfboards are extremely buoyant, and a breaking or broken wave can only be dealt with by pushing the board underwater and then diving down with it.  You may be able to go under, but you can’t possibly go over.  The movement includes the lifting of one’s leg and looks much like the way a duck would go under, hence the term ‘duck dive’.  Duck diving is much easier on a smaller board, but in order to fight the strong current, I brought a bigger one (bigger board=more surface area=better paddling).  The first wave goes well, but I feel the water seeping in through my suit.  The second wave causes my suit to flush (cold water rushes in, down the back, along the spine).  I don’t really have the time to lament this because the third wave is about to drill me.  I feel my body thrown like a rag doll by elemental forces stronger than anything a human could possibly resist.  My open mouth is filled with icy salty water and my teeth immediately begin to hurt in a way most people can only identify with slushy drinks.  The cold in my suit does nothing to balance things out.  I scurry to get back on the board and paddle out past the last breaking wave.

Sitting in the calm zone past the breaking waves, I take a moment to catch my breath.  I can immediately feel the cold on the fingers of my right hand.  A minor annoyance for now, but I know it won’t be long until it becomes a brittle cold that radiates in set-waves of pain through my bloodstream.  This can’t be avoided, but paddling generates body heat, which can prolong the inevitable.  Looking back at the lights of Rockaway Beach, it’s pretty easy to see that the town is either still in bed or just waking up.  The thought of just how much I suffer for this obsession is never too far from my mind.  I could be in a warm shower or cuddled up with dogs under covers.  I could be somewhere with absolutely no chance of being drilled by a wave and drowning.  No chance of head injury, being hit with a rogue surfboard, being sliced by the fins of my board, or even the media-induced fear of shark attack.  No frozen fingers.  ‘Why would I do this?’ quickly morphs into excitement as I see the first in a set of very large waves coming my way.  I can’t really judge my positioning, but I am going to turn around and take off on the wave.  If all goes well, I’ll catch the wave, stand up and surf.  If not, bad stuff happens.  Commitment is key:  if I pull back at the last second, the drilling becomes exponentially worse, and committing to paddling while falling forward violates a number of human instincts.  I’ve been doing this a long time, and it still doesn’t come easily.

The moment goes silent.  My ever-present ADHD-ridden inner monologue shuts the fuck up and I take off on a steep, fast, large wave.  Standing up, a wall of blue forms in front of me and I am fly-gliding down it at high speed in slow motion.  I am in a good position to hopefully outrun the steepest part of the wave before it breaks.  It happens, and I feel my stomach quickly move to my mouth.  Every pleasure neuron in my body fires at once as the board accelerates.  I ride up and down the wave, noticing that it is significantly bigger than the head-high prediction.  I hear my voice scream with glee but I don’t remember commanding it to do so.  After a few soul-igniting turns, I get a little more aggressive and the world flips.  That’s what a high-speed wipeout looks like to a surfer, the brain is more comfortable perceiving changes to its surroundings than it is to accepting its lack of orientation.  So my mind is telling me that the world has just inverted, but hey, I’ve been doing this a long time, so I know better.  Slightly.

A few more great waves come and go and the hour I had to surf before work is almost up.  The wave that I had marked as my last ride in did not go as planned, somehow they never do.  Surfers use the phrase ‘just one more wave’ in the same way opiate addicts use the phrase ‘just one more hit’.  Most surfers would allow themselves to die of starvation before they would end a session on a bad wave.  Ten minutes later, a decent one comes and I ride it in, momentarily feeling like everything is right with the world.

The walk up the beach is slippery and I trip a few times.  To an onlooker, it must be pretty funny seeing a guy who can surf gracefully but barely walk a few steps without tripping.  The bike ride back isn’t much better, and by now both of my hands and feet are brittle and painfully cold.  The warm shower is not as nice as you might imagine – any water even remotely warmer than skin inflicts a severe punishment that is only made worse by the act of removing gear.  Twenty minutes later, my skin is red, the pain has seen its crescendo and no matter how badly the rest of my day goes, it’s pretty unlikely anyone will try to drown me or give me hypothermia.  No matter how boring my meetings are, I know that I had more excitement today than most people have in a year.  Most importantly, I answered a call that if missed would’ve been more annoying than any ‘missed call’ or ‘new voicemail received’ alert could possibly be.  The ocean has a grasp on me.  Losing myself in the blue is my obligation.  Also, I’m stoked to see that there are supposed to be decent waves tomorrow.

I am not alone.  Each year, more and more people learn to surf, and the addiction is overpowering.  Non-surfers always make the assumption that it is strictly a summer sport, but the summer usually produces the smallest and least-surfable waves.  New York is not known for having particularly good waves, even by East Coast standards.  To compound the problem, NY is prone to afternoon wind-shifts, making the form of even our best waves suck, so dawn is the best time to go and by far the coldest.  Surfers can choose to deal with cold temperatures or do without surfing, and once the addiction takes hold, they rarely choose the latter.

On any given morning when waves are present (maybe 3 days per week if we’re lucky), a handful of surfers can be seen.  Surprisingly, they aren’t all good surfers.  Beginners can be found making their awkward mistakes, but amateur mistakes (‘Kook moves’ if you want to be a dick about it) are more forgivable in the cold.  The dedication to learning is often respected by even the most callous and impatient of experienced surfer.  Surfing takes a long time to learn and more than a lifetime to master.  I’ve been at it for about 30 years.  I can’t do 360 aerial maneuvers.  I am not chasing 90-foot waves in Portugal.  As a younger and bolder man, I saw Mavericks, California’s legendary big-wave spot in person on a 25-foot day, and my own tears of fear were the closest I got to getting wet.  Although I’ve taught quite a few surfers, I’m not always kind to beginners who feel entitled to violate surf etiquette (or those who can’t be bothered to learn what surf etiquette is) .  Still, in sub-zero temperatures, I’m more likely to help a beginner than to tell one off.  I think it was in Rhode Island where I saw graffiti on a beach wall that said:

If we don’t see you in the winter, we don’t want to see you in the summer

Makes sense to me.

Since this probably sounds like the ramblings of a maladjusted asshole, I’ll mention friends.  Surf buddies.  When you spend hours waiting for waves together, you really get to know the people around you.  You come to trust some of these people with your lives.  I have a few very good friends that I try to surf with as often as possible, but also many more buddies and well-wishers.  Surfers can be aggressive, but we also make friends pretty quickly and although we can be clique-y, most of us would help another surfer in danger regardless of personal affinity.   Conversation usually flows pretty freely, and it’s common to hear about the deepest and most embarrassing problems of a stranger, either directly or over a shoulder.

 

coldsurf

 

Discussions with passersby on the way to the beach are pretty common.  Somewhere along the way, the non-surfing public was told that mimicking a Hollywood take on a surfers accent (this is NY for fuck’s sake, we don’t talk like that) is highly regarded.  It isn’t.  Still, others ask why I do what I do.  My mood and their posture determine the level of snark in my answer.  My common replies are:

‘Because the other option is not surfing’

‘The fun I have doing this is worth it.’

‘That guy on Craigslist swore it was a water-snowboard.  I knew that sounded wrong…’

I am usually quick to assure people that the act isn’t quite as physically taxing as it looks.  My more cutting answers are usually reserved for those who feel the need to remind me that what I’m doing is stupid.  I’m the one with the frostbitten toes, I’m well aware, thanks.

The type of people who surf in NY are not easily marginalized.  My own group of friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and sexual orientations.  Actually, not all shapes.  Surfers are almost always in good shape.  Most are in their late 20’s to mid 30’s.  All are well-educated, intelligent and self-sufficient.  All are well-travelled; for some reason, the wandering spirit tends to go pretty well with waves.  Most of us live in Rockaway Beach, a Queens town that has an easily accessible ocean and often produces a decent wave.  Even before the Ramones it was known as a surf town, but lately it has seen a growing population of surfers.  None of us are from here.  The town itself is very small (especially by NYC standards), and has a cross-section of surfing experience and ability.  Most of the older surfers are white men; it is pretty easy to see how much more diverse surfers have become in the last 10 years or so.

As seasons change, so does the gear.  In early summer, a thin suit with bare hands and feet is fine.  As temperatures drop, suits thicken and gloves, boots and hoods become necessary.  Getting in and out of a wetsuit in public without getting frostbite or an indecent exposure ticket is also an acquired skill.  The thicker the gear, the harder that is to do.  Also, pee breaks are not a thing, so surfers eventually just learn to use the suit (there is an upside to that water rushing in).  Surfer problems may be trite, but they are very real.  No discussion of surfer problems would be complete without mention of the nasal waterspout.  Water often accumulates in the nasal cavity (way more than you would expect).  This comes out when it wants to, and that usually happens later in the day and rarely when you would want it to.

People are usually surprised to see people carrying surfboards in New York City, and more so when temperatures drop below 80.  When snow is on the ground, most people I’ve spoken with assume that I am outright insane.  In reality, every surfer has a reason to do what he or she does, and there really are no bad ones.  It’s great exercise and loads of fun.  It soothes the soul.  It’s more therapeutic than the entire pharmacy.  Surfers tend to be outdoorsy, humorous, adventurous, loyal and well-cultured.  Groups of surf friends are often close in ways that only 80’s sitcom families could ever match.  Mind you, surfing is an addiction that can easily take over a life and at least one room of a home for surfboard storage (which I still insist is perfectly reasonable).  It would be nice to say that the only person whose winter plunge into the blue I could justify is my own, but in all honesty, I’m not even sure I can do that.  What I do know is that as long as the ocean keeps producing waves, and my body keeps working, I’ll be returning to that water.  I’d rather that it be during a freak swell in July when the ocean is warm enough to surf in boardshorts, but the fact is, this is still New York and the best waves don’t want to make my life that easy.

Brian Tunick, MHA, RRT-NPS is an Administrator at a New York City hospital and a Professor of Cardiopulmonary Diagnostics.  He lives in Rockaway Beach, NY with his wife and three dogs.  When there aren’t good waves, he works, teaches, bikes, skates, snowboards and races motorcycles.  When there are good waves, he will be in the water, regardless of pending obligation.

 

physique male

THE BODY

by David Dowling

The body is a source of sheer delight and immense disappointment. It is unique to each of us. It can be sculpted and it can change its shape without warning. We are its master and its victim.

Elle Macpherson was known as “The Body” after hers graced the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue again and again, meanwhile Jesse “The Body” Ventura used his on the battlefield, the wrestling ring, and the political arena.

The body of a newborn and its journey to the body of an octogenarian. The intricate systems of the body that keep it moving from start to finish, through shrieks of agony and pulsating electricity at the embrace of a lover.

It’s in scripture and strip malls. It’s in work. It is the one thing you know best and hardly at all. We stare at it in the mirror and we stare at others on the beach or in the gym. We covet it like a jewel.

Artists opine about the beauty of a body in masculine and feminine form. Scientists dissect it. Athletes push it to the limits. You and I touch it and sometimes invite others to do so as well. A pat on the back, a handshake, a different kind of shake, an embrace, a violent push. We adorn armor to protect it. We chose clothes that flatter its shape and keep it warm and safe from the elements. We shield it from the sun and bask in its rays. We manufacture a prosthetic to replace a piece that was once there or perhaps never at all.

The body is a tool to lay, move, gather, cook, hold, hit, drive, jump, stand, run…

The body is sexy. The curves of a woman in clothes that cling. The broad shoulders of a man drawing to a tapered waist. The body seeks other bodies and reproduces more bodies.

For those whose body has been dormant, push it. For those whose body has been sore, rest it. For those whose body draws attention, flaunt it. For those whose body is healthy, appreciate it. For those whose body won’t agree, convince it. For those whose body is laid to rest, may it rest in peace.

D.D.: The author maintains a positive image of his own body by consulting mirrors from the neck up and dimming the lights. Tricks he picked up in Hollywood while working as a body double’s chauffeur.

 

Ed
(from left to right) The author, Greg Michalowski and Ed “Roger” Lanoue

THE CAPE

by Stephen Holmes

Talk to me, old pal of mine, if you feel you can’t go on. Don’t you sweat, it ain’t over yet this bond we share is strong. Your welfare is my concern, you weigh less than you think.

— Friendship, Pops Staples

I can’t remember why Roger, a college friend  then  living on Cape Cod, called that particular day. I remember the perfunctory greetings and inquiries about family and life. I know we talked about politics and our society, because we always talked about those things. I even remember we agreed on some point and this was major because we never agreed on anything. The conversation went on for well over an hour before it began petering out. I could hear Roger inhale and letting out a “Well,” signifying the end of everything he had to say and an end to the call. I can’t swear what was said next, but I remember saying, “Roger, I can’t get myself together. I feel,” searching for a word, I settled on “lost.” The phone went silent, while Roger figured out what to say. He knew the basics, which we had covered earlier in the phone call; my dad’s death, dealing with his finances and bills from the nursing home, dealing with my finances, stress over trying to sell his house. We covered it all, but I tried to keep it normal and everyday. “It is, what it is.” “I’ll figure it out.”

“What’s going on?” Roger finally said. I told him everything we had already discussed but this time I confessed I didn’t see an out. I admitted to crying nightly. A guy never wants to admit to crying and he really doesn’t want to admit crying, to another guy. Everything I said, gave life to what I was feeling. Roger took it all in, he let me go on about everything.  When he finally spoke, his words said what I was denying.

 

“Stephen, I get what you’re going through, I’m having problems too.” I was thinking he was going to give me the litany of back pains and car troubles and not enough times in the day, which people tend to dole out in an effort to help you “feel better” about your situation.  I was fast-tracking Roger’s next words in my mind, “all you need to do is work with your hands… build something,” he’s that type of “I’m building a deck by myself” kinda guy. “I’m dealing with depression and I’m seeing a therapist. Maybe that’s what you need to do too.” Confused, I asked, “Who’s seeing a therapist?” I thought I missed him saying that one of his siblings or a cousin or a neighbor was seeing one, it never crossed my mind he was talking about himself. He laid it all out for me, what he had been feeling, all the things he was going through, all the doubts. The things Roger was going through was different from what I was experiencing, but we shared the same feelings. But a therapist, really? I had seen a therapist about a decade earlier concerning family issues. But it was for just a couple of visits and I never went back. Being honest, I chalked it up as being something for white people.

 

Roger and I talked for a couple more hours that night. I was still uneasy, after we had hung up. The tears still came, but so did the morning and I started my routine over again. Summer is not a good time for a teacher trying to keep himself from spiraling. Realizing that sleep was not going to happen anytime soon, I washed the white tear streaks from my face and went to the gym as soon as it opened. I still wasn’t tired when I came back home two hours later. Roger called to check on me before he had to go to work. He checked in on me every day for a week and each time he asked if I wanted to come up and stay with him, his wife and their kid. “You can stay as long as you need to.” The week following our conversation offered  little  change other than I began to sleep a lot less. I was getting maybe three hours of sleep spread out through the day. My doctor gave me a prescription for something that would help me to both sleep and be less anxious. It didn’t help. I was still not sleeping well and I was still dealing with the anxiety. I began to feel more desperate, maybe I should hang with Roger and family. I told him I would drive up the next day. In the hours that followed, I began to panic. The thought of spending all that time alone with just my thoughts scared me. Driving over bridges caused me to worry under normal circumstances, in my state of mind at that time, I would have lost it.

 

Roger and my political viewpoints have diverged drastically since we met in college. Not saying that  we were on the same page back then but it was a time when we could afford to be more accepting of one another’s differences. Had we met today, both of us changed by the world, we probably would not have become friends. We might have been acquaintances, but not friends. College was a time for “change the world” type thinking. Today, the two of us debate passionately about our beliefs. He’s always wrong, but I let him have his say.

 

There are many reasons  friendships end. We can never be sure what it will be, what line in the sand, that will cause an un-mendable break between friends. I can, however, pinpoint when Roger became something more than a friend. With six words, he became my “brother from another mother.”

 

“I can’t come. I can’t drive all that way alone,” I told him as I tried to control the panic. I imagined all sorts of wild scenarios of the trip. I imagined my car (followed by me)  breaking down, having another panic attack while driving over a bridge… losing control of my emotions and then the car. Most of all, I was afraid of thinking and driving. My fears made me willing to maintain the status quo.

 

“I’ll be there in three hours,” there it was, six words… ”I’ll be there in three hours.”  He didn’t even allow me say, “but.”

 

The ride to the Cape was filled with idle talk which dovetailed nicely with the silent moments when I thought  I was rying to find my words. In reality, I was trying to avoid words. City and waterscapes scattered behind us. One of the silent moments was broken by Roger’s observation about some actress who was popular at the time. Some things are so offensive they shouldn’t and won’t ever be repeated. Therapy, for me, started right then.

 

The Cape offered me opportunities to breathe, to take long walks, to break free from the grip of desperation. I drew and colored with Roger’s daughter. Mrs. Roger and I talked about our adventures with our students over the past year. Since my visit coincided with John McCain’s announcement that Sarah Palin would be his running mate, there were some intense political debates between Roger and myself. All of these activities came with a price, I was able to sleep for the first time in weeks.

 

Roger and I found ourselves on our own  and he told me more about his struggles to be happy.  How what was wrong wasn’t his marriage or home life and it wasn’t, necessarily his job. He knew what it wasn’t, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. I understood. There we were, two men having a serious conversation the way men do, full of stops and starts and you know’s and Idunno’s. Neither of us completely sure how this brand of intimacy works. How do men verbalize feelings of inadequacy when we are raised to “eat” our feelings? He told me about his therapy sessions and he wanted me to meet with her while I was there. It all sounded right, just not for me.

 

My issues were kept at bay during my visit, but it was just a visit and my time was coming to an end. Roger and his family helped me focus. I keep hearing people question motives and how  others are just out for themselves. How friends are as disposable as a razor. Roger showed true friendship and love and I will forever be grateful. But there is a truth I can’t ignore, I know that if I had opened up to any of my friends, they would have moved heaven and earth to see me through. I know some pretty good people.

 

Feeling like I could travel alone again, Roger and family loaded me on a train back to New Jersey.  Magazines and packed snacks, courtesy of Mrs. Roger, entertained me for most of the train ride home. The closer my journey came to my starting point, the more the panic returned. In spite of all of Roger’s confessed advances through therapy, I wasn’t yet convinced. It would be another month of steady decline from the euphoria of Cape Cod. It would be another month before my second panic attack.

SH: Editor-in-Chief of DELve Mag. He is a writer, educator and all around swell guy.

 

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DESigning Eyes

 

cropped-gov2.jpg

SPRING

CREative people begin their journeys with a vision. In their minds, they see the raw materials, with which they are tasked, as something other. Bolts of fabric, lumps of clay, words written on a cocktail napkin provokes a storm in the brain of an artist which often propels these pieces of lifeless matter into things greater.  This issue of DELve Mag is devoted to these individuals and their craft… the designer and his designs.

In Untold Stories & Forgotten History, the author (who chose to use the pen name Huge D. Monia… hey, I just work here!) shines a spotlight on a couple of “hidden figures” who, separately, were creators of two iconic designs.

Top Five Logos That Melt the Heart is not exclusive to DELve Mag. It was first on the Greenwich Melts (www.greenwichmelts.com) web site. The topic was so in keeping with the theme, I begged the author (through an intermediary, her husband David, a former DELve contributor), Jackie Dowling to use the piece. She was kind enough to let me republish her take on logos which evokes feelings of comfort to their viewers.

Up-and-coming fashion designer Tory Thompson is the subject of So Fresh!  The article, written by me, focuses on the designer’s influences, inspirations and his favorite pastime.

Two friends were asked to work on a project together. The result was Top Five: New York Style. New York-based architect Simon Kristak supplied a list of his top five favorite architectural designs around the city, while the multi-talented Eric Papa was charged with photographing the spaces. I chose the word “spaces” deliberately because some of Kristak’s choices aren’t necessarily thought of when it comes to New York architecture.

Please take note of the photograph which runs just above this opening. Papa took this picture, which seems like the Manhattan skyline is rising up from an open meadow, on Governor’s Island. It was chosen because this is the first time Papa, Kristak and I have worked together in many years. The three red Adirondack chairs (a design deserving of an entire issue) seem to be waiting for us to come chill and talk about the culminating of our collaboration.

It’s been a year (and a couple of months) since DELve Mag. was launched and I could not have done it without calling on my family and my family of friends. Thanks so much for the kind words, encouragement and contributions. Speaking of contributions, if anyone would like to contribute, word or graphics to DELve, drop me a line. Also, as an anniversary gift to my readers I will be giving out crisp $20 bills to any, and all, who suggest themes which end up being used. Already in the works are issues on food, faith, fitness, firsts, serving and protecting and the next issue, DESign II, so these are not included in the offer. You ain’t gonna get rich, but it’s something.

Other than a design-themed C.A.F. that’s about it for now. Until we meet again, always remember the words of Madonna, who sums up this issue best: “Beauty’s where you find it!”

Love and Peace Always,

Steve

Editor-in-Chief

 

 

 

C.A.F.

feudBJ

* Feud: Bette and Joan – The opening credit sequence for this latest show in the Ryan Murphy franchise is compelling. So much so, in fact, that when it was released just ahead of the show’s debut, it was yet another reason to watch the story of two aging actresses who had and intense dislike for one another (Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) played by two aging actresses (Susan Sarandon, playing Davis and Jessica Lange playing Crawford – I assume they got along). The trailer, designed by Kyle Cooper with music by Mac Quayle and produced by Alexis Martin Woodall was a slick homage to the opening movie credits of the 60s which is when the series is set. Animated cutouts glide across the screen detailing the filming of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” (the only film Crawford and Davis ever appeared in together), the manipulation at the hands of studio chief Sam Warner (of the Warner Bros.), the aftermath of the filming and the toll it took on both women. The award-worthy sequence tells the entire story in a just under 90 seconds.  Watch the opening here: Feud open

wutang

* Wu-Tang logo – Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with and this also encompasses their enduring logo. For over 20 years, the modified “W” logo has graced albums, clothing and sketch pads of many a young (graffiti and otherwise) artist. The design was created by DJ Allah Mathmematics on the floor of a construction site, on which he was working. The Wu Tang “W” (which morphs into different letters depending on the group member using it) has become iconic, standing alongside other musical logos like the Grateful Dead skull, Public Enemy’s target and The Rolling Stones’ lips.

 

 

wiley1* Painter and sculptor Kehinde Wiley has taken neoclassic art and given it even newer life. Unafraid of color and pattern, Wiley paints portraits of both ordinary and famous, mostly African-American people posed like modern royalty set against backgrounds of faunas, floras and patterns. wiley2As if not content with the status they were assigned, the elaborate backgrounds wrap around the focal point to become foreground, making for a kaleidoscope of color and design.

 

 

Untold Stories & Forgotten History

By Hughe D. Monia

A wise person once said, “History is a story about the past that is significant and true.” The history of things absolutely fascinates me. Thinking about and learning about historical things is a cathartic process I like to indulge in every now and then. I consider myself to be intellectually curious and I love learning new things.

The bottom line about history, for me, is that it informs us and even tells on us. Yes, history snitches on us and does so in a way that can be both brutal and liberating. It teaches. It inspires and it warns us. It comforts us and tells us the truth about the trials and triumphs others before us have faced and overcome and even succumbed to. It connects us to many of the long-forgotten innovators and pioneers whose life work and accomplishments have changed, inspired and improved our lives. Oh, and let’s not forget the infamous ones. The ones we don’t like to remember but we have to because they were just pure evil, like the Devil and Hitler. Yeah there’s a place in history for them as well.

And how about the lesser known ones we may have forgotten but who have impacted our lives nevertheless, like the person who caused the Northeast blackout of 1965, the person who invented shoe strings or Joseph Gayetty, the guy credited for inventing toilet paper.  Just think about that one for a minute.

Two untold stories I want to share with you today involve folks you probably never ever heard of but because of who they were and what they did, they have touched and continue to touch and inspire the lives of many today and their stories must be told.

Who are these two lesser-known historical greats you ask? One is Paul Revere Williams, who was born in Los Angeles on February 18, 1894 to Lila Wright Williams and Chester Stanley Williams and the other is Zelda Wynn Valdes who was born on June 28, 1905 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Now for those of you who recognize those names, congratulations, you get a cookie. But for the rest of us average folk, myself included, who used our inside voices to ask “Who in the world are these folk?”, allow me to just cut through the chase and break it down for you.

prwilliams

Paul Revere Williams, a black man who lived in early 20th century America, with roots in the Los Angeles, California area, was certified as a building contractor in 1915, was licensed as an architect by the State of California in 1921 and is responsible for the design of thousands of private and commercial buildings, including his claim to fame, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). He designed custom homes for celebrity clients and helped to design and create other notable buildings that are now considered landmarks, such as MCA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Palm Springs Tennis Club and Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building.

lax-airport-picture

 

zwvaldesZelda Wynn Valdes (1905-2001) was an African-American fashion and costume designer whose career spanned 40 years. Working in and around New York City, Valdes began her career as an assistant to her uncle in his White Plains, New York tailoring shop. In 1948, she opened her own shop on upper Broadway, and in the 1950s she moved her business to West 57th Street where, she had a boutique known as Chez Zelda. In the last chapter of her long career, she was the costumer for the Dance Theater of Harlem. She counted among her entertainment-world clients Josephine Baker, Mae West, Ella Fitzgerald, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, and Marian Anderson. She also designed exquisite dresses for the wives of famous black celebrities, including Nat “King” Cole and Sugar Ray Robinson. But her most well-known design was for Hugh Hefner. Valdes was the creator and designer of the iconic Playboy Bunny costume.

playboy bunnies

 

I know what you’re thinking, “How come I never ever heard of these folks?” Right? I know! That was my reaction at first too. But as I dug deeper into their lives and discovered some of the many things Williams and Valdes accomplished, I got real conspiratorial and concluded it had to be partly because of America’s original sin, racism and partly because I just never ventured deep enough into history to find out who these amazing people were on my own.

Now that you know and I know, let’s just think about a few things. And this is where it gets really, really good. What’s the big deal about knowing who these people are? There’s a whole generation of people who need to know!

For starters, they were both people of color and lived during a time when overt racism and prejudice was THE norm. Both dealt with a society that defined their value and place in relation to White folk. They discovered their passions and became experts of their individual crafts. Despite societal obstacles and challenges, they didn’t let it  stop them or limit them from being successful.  Their enduring legacies testaments hope, wonder, vision and offer hard proof that we all can do and be anything we desire if we let nothing throw a roadblock in the way of  our dreams.  This is especially true for people of color.

So back to that point about history and untold stories. Where we started this whole conversation in the first place. What’s the point? Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Let’s make a commitment to keep learning about our history, our origin and our culture so we can be deeply rooted. So we can thrive. So we can learn and share the untold stories of the many hidden figures who came before us.

 

Top Five Logos That Melt the Heart

By Jackie Dowling

Every successful brand needs a logo, a visual representation that is immediately identifiable to the brand. A captivating logo doesn’t need to depict what a company sells or creates, but it needs to be an accurate reflection of a company’s identity. What makes a logo outstanding? There are four elements that stand out and our top five logos embody them all:

It’s Memorable: Exceptional logos have an unforgettable quality about them. You see it once or twice and remember it, but more importantly, it will forever associate that image with that brand.

It’s Unique: A creative logo is one that is original and won’t be confused with any other brand (especially a competitor). Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but there’s no excuse for copycat branding.

It’s Timeless: A logo should stand the test of time. Forget trends – a brand’s logo should appeal to all ages and be relevant for this generation and the next. Coca-Cola has tweaked its logo over time, but that cursive writing has been its signature for over a century.

It’s Touching: There’s more to marketing than just data. When there’s an emotional component to a marketing campaign that touches you on a visceral level, when it has melted your heart, it has truly resonated.

Here are our top five logos you can’t help but love:

lego logo

  1. LEGO: The brand name in large, bold block letters. LEGO is one of America’s most beloved toy brands, and its logo is simple, easy-to-read and fun — exactly what a toy’s logo should be. They’re difficult to clean up and painful to step on, but LEGO is the most influential toy of all timeand its logo has put a smile on the face of creative builders for generations.

vineyard logo

  1. Vineyard Vines: A smiling pink whale. Is it preppy? Yes, but not in an elitist way. With its “every day should feel this good” mantra and coastal vibe, Vineyard Vines exudes the good life. The smiling pink whale exemplifies that. (Bonus: Its founders are Greenwich natives, so that warms this local’s heart.)

gerber logo

  1. Gerber: A cherubic baby face. Gerber was founded in 1927 by Dorothy Gerber, a mom determined to feed her baby healthy food. By 1928, she had created a growing business and needed a logo. A contest resulted in the iconic sketch of baby Ann Turner, forever to be known as “The Gerber Baby.” Seeing that face on Gerber jars immediately reminds you of feeding your own little ones. Capturing that sense of nostalgia is part of the reason it continues to be one of the top selling baby food brands.

black dog logo

  1. The Black Dog: A Black Labrador wearing a red collar. If you’ve spent time on Martha’s Vineyard (or anywhere in New England, really) you’ve seen The Black Dog logo. The tavern of the same name opened in Vineyard Haven in 1971, and the logo was created by a waitress. It’s one of the first images you see when your boat docks on the island, and it’s an indelible symbol of a Vineyard vacation. I went there for the first time more than 20 years ago and fell in love. Today, I have a black lab. He wears a red collar.

batman logo

  1. DC Comics – Batman: A bat with outstretched wings. The Dark Knight was first introduced to the world in 1939. He is Gotham’s Superhero without super powers. He’s mysterious, dangerous, tragic, just and strong. He’s the guy everyone roots for and the bat is his symbol. Through comics, television, film and collectibles, the Batman logo has had many variations over the years, but the basic image endures. That simple bat silhouette is able to excite fans young and old, an unlikely symbol representing the hero we all need.

J.D.: Editor of Greenwich Melts. She has 15 years of experience as a writer, copy editor, reporter and media strategist.

 

So Fresh!

by Stephen Holmes

tory

 

Often, as we age, we sometimes forget just how old we are. That is, until some yung’un comes along and provides you with a slap-in-the-face-reminder. Up-and-coming designer and photographer Tory Thompson was just that such slap for me. Driving to a photo shoot in Brooklyn, for which he was acting as photographer, Thompson, 28, mentioned how he likes to design clothes with little “surprises” which the wearer happens upon. Thompson’s statement sparked a memory of my beloved Triple Five Soul hoodie, which I’ve been wearing for at least 20 years. I mention the hoodie and the tiny pocket inside of the hoodie’s front pouch which I happened to discover.

“You mean the stash pocket,” Thompson offered.

I was suddenly Rip Van Winkle waking from a very long nap. My innocuous tiny pocket was meant to stash a dime bag-o-weed?  I try not to lead on to my blissful ignorance by continuing my line of questions.

Thompson, who was born and raised in the suburbs of New Jersey, debuted his Spring/Summer 2015 line during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York in 2014. Being a true artist, he felt the line was rushed and didn’t represent him to the fullest. Artistry aside, designing clothes was not his destination, “I was always interested in art and creating and initially when I went to school I wanted to be a fine artist but it’s not a field that makes a lot of money and I kept hearing that, so I did [studied] business forred wave cap about a year and then I stopped and asked myself what could I do that would allow me to still be creative but make money, so I did fashion merchandizing and that’s how I got into fashion in general.”

While design may not have been what he planned on doing, he felt a connection. “I always thought I had a sense of style. I liked to coordinate things. I always paid attention to details, looking back it was really tacky but now I see where I get the sense and drive as to want to do it.”

His denim collection is fresh and has elements of urban culture but one can’t help noticing the influences of Japanese designers who have been in the game for over half a century.  “I like Comme des Garcons [which, along with its founder, Rei Kawakubo, was the inspiration for this year’s Met Gala’s Art of the In-Between] and Yohji Yamamoto.  I do appreciate fashion history so I look at older designers and at archives.

“[By studying the archives] you see the influences from back in the day and where they came from versus now. You see a lot of bigger brands ‘trickling up’… looking to streetwear for their collections.redhead Back in the day you would see a lot more ‘trickle down.’  You definitely see more of a change now, especially with social media and how people [designers] can reach a broader audience. More people are willing to try something because they have that broader audience and have a quicker response to what they are doing, so if it doesn’t work out or if they aren’t really feeling it, they can switch it up.”

A designer for about six years, Thompson has noticed changes in the industry. He feels social media can also be a detriment. “People are looking at trends more. Fashion is real trendy now and that is something I try to stray away from, I never really liked trends I never really liked what other people liked, I always wanted to do my own thing and still get those viewers.

“As a designer, I’ve grown. When I started, I was strictly streetwear. I used to snowboard and skateboard everyday so that was my life and growing up, it was just streetwear brands like graphic tees and composition and placement and logos and that’s what I was heavily influenced by and that’s what I was doing. When I moved to New York City I would see fashion on a larger scale, I was actually living fashion. I could walk through the streets and see things I liked, see the people I would look at on the computer. I would say, ‘Oh, this is dope!’ It changed my idea of fashion. I look at fashion as a challenge. I want to challenge myself to stay relevant and produce things people will like… more on a timeless view. Fashion has definitely changed for me from when I started to now. It went from graphics to fashion design.”

The streets of New York don’t always offer Thompson inspiration. “You can lock eyes with someone and they lock eyes with you,” and silently acknowledge the person’s wardrobe. “The fit can be dope but if you don’t have the right shoes, it just doesn’t work.”

Thompson talks passionately about the elements of design but he is equally passionate about another subject. “I have a love for snowboarding.” Prior to beginning his career, Thompson would customize purchased clothes by tailoring them and adding appliques. “I wanted to make it [look] as cool as possible, something I could be proud of riding down the mountain.” He then began to design his own line for the slopes. “I tried to do technical stuff. I was trying to make snow pants, hoodies and tee shirts. I did a few pair of pants, they came out terrible,” confesses Thompson, “I still have them.” He goes on to explain that the Community College of Morris, which he was attending, made him take sewing courses. He thought to himself, “I don’t want to do this, I don’t like sewing. It’s too time-consuming, it’s not fun.” Sewing allowed him to get the desired fit for his snowboarding attire. “Overall, it was a good decision.”

Snowboarding is a sport not typically known to be popular among African-Americans youths. I wondered aloud why a nice Black kid from the suburbs of Jersey would venture into snowboarding. “Boredom,” he replied. “When I was younger we use to do bad things. One day one of the homies bought a snowboard out.

“I remember my first snowboard was a little plastic Walmart one. If you could get down the hill without falling out of it and breaking your ankle… that was snowboarding. From there it just grew.” He had to decide whether to go to Colorado and be a snowboard instructor or go to school in New York and be a fashion designer. “They [his parents] definitely wanted me go to school and continue my education but I really wanted to be a snowboard instructor.” Much, I’m sure, to his parents’ relief, Thompson opted to continue his studies at the Art Institute of New York.

Hoodie

“I mean I still want to ride all the time. There is nothing better to me than waking up and sun is shining or in a snowstorm. But waking up, they call it a ‘Bluebird,’ go up to the mountain and the sky is blue, no clouds (you’re above the clouds) and the snow is just fresh. It’s like the best feeling in the world.”

 

 

 

S.H.: Is a writer (among other things) whose words have appeared in GQ, the in-house publication Inside PRN, the online literary magazine NWDrizzle.com and the Huffington Post. Winner of several awards (none of which have anything to do with writing, but more so on his willingness to eat anything on a dare), Mr. Holmes is genuinely dumbfounded every year when he is snubbed on both People magazine’s “Most Intriguing” and “100 Most Beautiful” lists. While waiting for the world to recognize his intelligence (and beauty), Mr. Holmes can be found at home in New Jersey, where he has been known as a  photographer, chef and educator.

 

Top Five: New York Style

by Simon Kristak with photos by Eric Papa

Oculus – Santiago Calatrava

CALATRAVA outside

For all of the exoskeletal volume’s aggressive and protective spines and shell-like armor, the interior’s supple and adventurous configuration balances what could have been too brazen a statement for the hallowed site. White-on-white, the floors and walls reflect the ambient light that filters through the Oculus’s roof: a series of skylights framed by the awkward spines above. A cathedral to commerce and transit, ones eyes are drawn upward to the light, which gives you the feeling of being underwater, or within a world apart at least – as if walking inside of what one would imagine the innards of a white marble manta ray is like, the sinuous curves of gills as structure, and aquatic tendons as stairs and escalators.

 

VIA W57 – Bjarke Ingels

bj

 

For fans of the Danish design wunderkind Bjarke Ingels, the VIA W57 is a culmination of a number of builds elsewhere. Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) process is often described by ridiculously simple diagrams that carve Platonic solids – in this case a cube – into friendly human-centered forms. In the firm’s first New York building, structure, green space, and vistas are all parameters to be nudged and massaged – to the pleasure of The Durst Organization, wealthy home-seekers, and design followers alike – into a pyramid-like form with a void at its center. Despite showcasing a radical form, the appearance from most of Manhattan is obscured – the most striking views of VIA are from across the Hudson River, and as you drive north on the West Side Highway the building emerges as a shimmery slope, almost like the leeward side of a metallic sail. While BIG is known for exciting if not slightly saccharine propositions, here they managed to successfully walk a fine line between intriguing design solution and an overly formulaic product.

 

Vagelos Science Center – DS+R

vagelos

 

Diller Scofido and Refro (DS+R) is one of the storied firms of New York, with recent contributions to the High Line and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall adding to their notable resume. Their latest effort, the Vagelos Science Center, located in Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion zone.  DS+R has created a building of material oppositions: a cascade of concrete ribbons tumbles across the facade, the surreal structure punctuating the glass at each floor. The variable floor plates respond to the function of the spaces on the interior, often fitted with dark wood panels and planks interacting with inert white surfaces, much like the glass and concrete of the facade. At night, the sharp technological feel of the building is dampened – the building appears to be a haphazard stack of lanterns, the warm wood within breathing humanity into the buildings angular stance.

 

Beekman Hotel Restoration – GKV Architects

beekman inside

The Beekman Hotel is one of New York’s latest Instagram-worthy spaces.  While not a new (it was originally built as an early skyscraper, the Temple Court Building, in 1883) or particularly remarkable building, the Beekman’s interior space is a remarkable restoration of what was the first “Fireproof” building in New York City. This obscure distinction is something celebrated within the renovation by GKV Architects (Gerner Kronick + Valcarce Architects), with each detail of the soaring 8-story atrium attended to, from the cast iron railings and cantilevered floor supports to the terracotta tile and wood doors and moldings. If you make it to the top, you are rewarded with a crystal top reminiscent of the Burnham and Root’s contemporaneous Rookery Building in Chicago. In fact, the building’s rudiments feel more like another of Sillman and Fransworth’s buildings, the Morse Building a few blocks away – also one of New York’s earliest skyscrapers.

 

Governor’s Island Park – West 8

governors

Now that the ferries are once more making the jaunt across lower New York Harbor to Governor’s Island, it is time to enjoy one of New York’s most enchanting public spaces. The newly created park does what a number of great urban spaces do – allow you to feel an element of surprise by obscuring if not obliterating the relentless city. Creating this natural divide – and thereby a sense of distance and relief – is no easy task and the manipulation of earth by Dutch landscape firm West 8 is masterful as it moved rock and soil into a multigenerational exploration zone. The end of the island’s park is capped by the 70-foot Outlook Hill, where one can capture vistas across the harbor and back over the park to the lower Manhattan skyline.

 

E.P.: Is a photographer, filmmaker and location scout living in New York City. He has collaborated on 40+ feature films and TV shows to date and while doing so has wandered and explored countless mills of the City’s streets and landscapes, taking photos of the motions of everyday life, which transform into cinematic scenes, becoming beautiful still moments in a moving life. His work can be found on Instagram at:  e_papawashere

S.K.: Is Director of the New York studio of Billings Jackson Design. He graduated with a Masters in Architecture from the Pratt Institute, where he focused on digital design and fabrication techniques. Kristak worked as an architectural designer and as a writer and editor for various publication before joining Billings Jackson in 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SERiously Funny

 

WINTER

DELivering a funny line, telling a humorous story or making someone laugh until milk shoots out is not an easy task (especially the last one). A performer stands before his/her audience hoping what they wrote translates when spoken from a stage. Similarly, a writer hopes readers will be amused by thoughts written. Comedy in Real Time offers some incredibly talented performers (and the so-so me) a chance to explore what we have found funny in real life. Steve Strickland, serves up Mourning Laughs while DEL Harrison (c’mon, with a name like DEL, you knew she was gonna show up here sooner or later!)  is both humorous and poignant in Just Another Night in L.A. Fatboy and Me, gives a new writer a chance to display his talents.  In, You Can Quote Me, I’ve compiled some quotes from movies and television which had me pressing the << button repeatedly.  I had a long-distance chat with the super talented and funny comedian Sunda Croonquist on her family, career and race. The website, Texts from Last Night teaches some valuable lessons about drunk dialing. But first up, a special year-in-review CAF! 2016 was a very eventful year but there were some things that rose to the top (and one notable event which was entrenched in muck). Well, that’s all for now. If you are at all interested in contributing, please don’t hesitate to contact me at DELvemagazine@yahoo.com or however we usually touch base. The spring issue of DELve will be our DESign issue and celebrating our first year together. First year anniversaries are typically celebrated with paper. If you would like to show love, feel free to spend some paper on advertising. Just saying.

Until we meet again (and beyond), be vocal and be vigilant, not just on personal issues but issues that concern your neighbors and make them lose sleep.

— Steve

C.A.F.!

solange_-_a_seat_at_the_table

A Seat at the Table by Solange Knowles – This fascinating album causes you to contemplate the family dynamic. Taking nothing away from the Queen B and her ability to produce hits, but A Seat at the Table is as subtle as her sibling’s music is audacious. The much-used music/vignette has not been utilized this well since The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. You walk away from this ethereal album on a cloud of WOW!

 

brian-tyree

— There are many reasons to be watching the breakout hit Atlanta on FX, starring its creator, Donald Glover, and chief among them Brian Tyree Henry who plays drug dealer/rapper Paper Boi. His nonchalant attitude to the craziness swirling around him causes him to steal his every scene.  Henry is someone to watch for in the future.

cavs

cubs

— Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? And in 2016, both the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Cavaliers typified this story. The first couple of games against rivals, the Golden State Warriors looked like it was going to be a repeat of the previous year but the Cavs weren’t going to be dismissed that easily. In real-life storybook fashion, the team, lead by LeBron James, came from behind, tied and finally won its (along with the city of Cleveland) first championship ever. Clevelanders, still reeling from the Cavs victory, found themselves screaming with excitement when their beloved Indians found themselves in the World Series. And who were they pitted against? The equally-unlikely-to-make-the-post-season Chicago Cubs. Both teams went into the competition with two World Series wins. The Cubs, lead by Ben Zobrist, came from behind, tied [this sounds familiar]… goes ahead to nearly win it all in six games,  but the Indians weren’t going to be dismissed that easily [really, really familiar]. The Indians forced a game seven, but the cheering faded in Cleveland as the Cubbies win their first World Series in over 100 years. Gotta love it.

 

this-is-us

— To the non-watcher, This Is Us sounds just too hokey to be any good.  The show, which teleports from past to present, tells the story of a typical family of a father, mother and their triplets (one of which is Black – so maybe not triplets, but the children were all born on the same day). The writers are the stars here, each week they come up with compelling stories and deliver complex characters which makes you want to come back for more. I so didn’t want to buy into it.  Damn them, they sold me.

 

snl_logo__121127192010

Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon made Saturday Night Live great again. Chappelle returned to television to prove how much we missed him. He tore… it… up in a blistering monologue which touched on race, mass shootings, Black wealth and implored we give the then president-elect a chance and that, in turn, he should also give the “historically disenfranchised” a chance too. Chappelle on SNL was just one show. In order to fully understand why the entire show was relevant last year, you have to look at its take on the 2016 presidential election.  Baldwin as our new president and McKinnon as the perennial presidential bridesmaid, Hillary Clinton had us searching online for every unbelievably funny and accurate spin on the election (no matter what anyone may Tweet).

 

trump-campaign

— And, speaking of our new president, we have to give the devil his due. No matter if you like him or really, really hate him, Trump (or, more specifically the Trump campaign) was one of the most amazing things to witness but not in a good way. While Clinton pandered, Trump was able to build momentum based on boorish behavior, racism, cronyism and, am I forgetting anything… oh, yeah, taped sexually offensive conversations. The more virulent his attacks, the more his “Make American Great Again” took root. It became a game of the enthralled vs the appalled. President Barnum (I mean Trump) somehow convinced the electorate that his bluster was more appropriate to run the country rather than level-headed diplomacy.

 

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— Between This Is Us and SNL, NBC might be recapturing its “Must See TV” moniker. Last summer proved this point, not for an entire show but for one brief segment of the Today show.  During the Olympics, swimmer Ryan Lochte falsely reported to Brazilian police that he and teammates were robbed at gunpoint during a night out on the town. Lochte even went on to detail the alleged events with Billy Bush. But this is not the good part. After it was found out that he was lying about what transpired, Al Roker (of all people) was justifiably outraged… Bush, not so much. On air battle between Roker and Bush was un-missable. Looking like they were twinning in nearly identical plaid shirts, the two men sparred about the ethics of it all. Bush contended that it was just immaturity on the part of Lochte but Roker wasn’t having any of it. “He lied to you, he lied to Matt Lauer, lied to his mom. Left his teammates hanging while he skidaddled,” said Roker. The gif-worthy moment was only enhanced each time Roker stirred his drink. If we only could read your mind Al, if only!

 

— 2016 was clearly Mahershala Ali’s year. He was the conflicted political operative Remy Danton in House of Cards, a villainous Cottonmouth in Luke Cage and, along with Denzel Washington in Fences, was one of the most complex characters on screen last year. As Juan, the empathetic father figure to the character Little in Moonlight, his character was calm and loving, which was in contrast with the character’s occupation as a mid-level drug dealer. When it might have been more expected to be tough and aggressive, Ali’s performance (like the film itself) was subtle. A beautiful and powerful piece of acting.

 

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— While I didn’t love Moonlight (particularly the stereotypically negligent, drug-addicted, Black mother Paula, played by Naomie Harris… YAWN!!) I really enjoyed two things. In addition to Ali’s performance I thought the Moonlight poster (or one sheet as they call it in the industry) was seriously cool AF!  In case you are unaware, Moonlight is the story of three stages in a young man’s life told in three parts by a different actor in each act. The young man’s names (and the names of the acts) are Little, Chiron and Black. The poster, at first, looks like a close up of a young man colored in muted shades of blue and purple. Further inspection leads you to realize it is a composite of the three actors faces.

 

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Barack and Michelle Obama, we miss you already. With our country moving in a more exclusionary direction under new leadership, we have no choice but to go “high” while our leader and his minions go ever increasingly “low.” Thank you both for eight, great years of inclusion and respect.

YOU CAN QUOTE ME

— Chief Deputy Art Mullen: Someone in Harlan is going into the meth business in a big way.

Raylan Givens:  Or the folks in Harlan are really, really congested.

 Justified

 

— Florida, the penis of America.

Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock

 

— Jesus, it smells like old socks and pussy in here.

Gemma Teller, Sons of Anarchy

 

—  You want to manage a rapper but you can’t do business high?

Darius,  Atlanta

 

 — Hedley Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of  thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

Taggart:  God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a $20 whore.

Blazing Saddles

 

— Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions, Smokey.

Big Worm, Friday

 

— Mike Lowery: Hello?

Marcus Burnett: We’re your new neighbors.

Mike Lowrey: Don’t be alarmed, we’re negros.

 Marcus Burnett: Naw man, naw. There’s too much bass in your voice. That scares  white folks

Bad Boys

 

Reggie: You got a lady, Cates?

 Jack: Yeah.

Reggie: You know, the generosity of women never ceases to amaze me.

48 Hours

Comedy in Real Time

MOURNING LAUGHTER

By Steve Strickland

I went to a funeral, not too long ago, for a dear friend’s husband. Of course, I can’t name any names, but he was well known and loved. I get there a l’il late and as I walk to the front to hug my dear friend (who’s like a sister to me), she says….”Brother, don’t u start crying ’cause I’ll start crying.” I said, “Ok, ain’t nobody crying. I just came up here to see if y’all needed anything in the VIP section. If u need some Na’laters [Now and Later candy], I’ll be sitting in the back.”  She laughed and smiled, my job was done. Now here’s where it gets interesting. As people have taken their seats, a blind man walked in with sunglasses, blind cane…. the whole nine yards. He sits in my row for a few moments and then I hear him say to the woman next to him, “I wanna go view the body.” I’m thinking to myself, “I know I didn’t just hear this blind man say what I think he just said?” As soon as I have that thought, he gets escorted to the casket. While he’s up there I text the widow: “Why did the blind man just say he wanted to view the body?” She texted back: Brother, you so stupid. He’s partially blind.”  I replied: “Ooooooh. So, what PART of the body did he see?”

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Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Steven Strickland is an actor, director, and host. He has performed in numerous theatrical productions and films. His latest projects, 15L Productions’ The Rhythm In Blue and Boxed Out Productions’ Mars & Venus: Operation Equilibrium are both set to be released in 2017.  
Strickland has directed five short plays, two short films, one web series, two fashion photo shoots, and co-directed an Off-Broadway play. In spring/summer 2017, he will be directing and co-directing another web series and film respectively. Strickland will soon be co-teaching an eight-week course “The Psychology of the Character” as an expansion of www.shiekstudio.com. His motto is:  “DO WHAT YOU LOVE. LOVE WHAT YOU DO!”

FATBOY AND ME

By Steve Holmes

I have multiple personalities and am ruled by them. Please, don’t think I’m crazy, because I realize their existence. This is how the conversation went this afternoon:

ME: I’m hungry
FATBOY: Me too!
ME:  Damn I didn’t bring lunch!
FB: Let’s go to KFC
ME: I could go for a two piece of grilled
FB: And by two piece grilled, you mean a three piece crispy?
ME: I said what I meant, but I am hungry. I’ll get the 3 piece but two pieces will be grilled and one piece will be crispy.
FB: Okay, but the breast better be crispy.

So I placed my order only to find out there is no grilled chicken. I’m back to the decision of whether to have two pieces or three pieces and should I get sides.

 Driving back to my favorite lunch spot (the parking lot at work, in my car, under a tree with windows open). I open the box of my crispy three piece with sides… and a Pepsi and begin to devour the food. At one point, gravy from the mashed potatoes was dripping down my arm and I think I licked it, everything is a little foggy right now. A colleague was heading for his car, saw me and looked frightened. I saw myself in the mirror and realized I looked like a zombie over a fresh kill.

 ME: Hell, I won’t eat the biscuit. I don’t like ‘em way!

 Fatboy was oddly quiet, when I heard another voice chime in, “Oh, you’ll eat that biscuit, you paid for it!” It was Bargain Bill, my inner cheapskate.

Jym Ratt has informed me we will be going all in at the gym this afternoon.

JUST ANOTHER NIGHT IN L.A.

By Del Harrison

On a late-night stroll to walk my dogs to the 7-11, a lady pops in with the friendliest smile, “hey everybody!”  “She’s awfully friendly for 12:38 a.m.,” I thought. Nonetheless, the rest of the patrons and I ignore her as we routinely do to anyone who seems as if they’ll be asking for change shortly after that kind of fantastic greeting. To my surprise, she was not outside the store when I left.

As I’m crossing the street to head back home, I noticed the back of a heavyset, chocolate-complexioned woman standing on the corner in booty shorts and spaghetti-strapped tank that severely showcased her muffin top. Sporting a sailor-looking hat and rope belt to match, she peered out into traffic in between finding the right songs on her iPhone. Her left arm was in the air as if she’s about to wave it like she didn’t care. As she was waving it, I could see almost a full butt-cheek sporadically dropping out of her shorts. It seemed she was soliciting her body to passersby. I didn’t want to think this, but why else could she be passing up several opportunities to cross the street when the light gave the pedestrians the right of way? What caught my eye though, was that this was taking place about 30 feet from a policeman sitting in his cruiser.  I thought to myself, “That’s weird, the LAPD not using a free ‘take-a-black-to-jail’ card this time of night.” Having black skin, myself, I kept it moving — even more swiftly, since Donald Trump had been elected.

Passing the woman, I noticed she’s the same woman from the 7-11. She had on headphones and it looked like her song was on. I wondered about this peculiar, underdressed woman?  Maybe she was one those  “stay turnt up” 46-year-old mamas from the hood, or a ”stay turnt up mini-Precious-looking daughters from the hood, that’s only 27 but looks 46 cause she’s been having kids since she was 14; or, maybe she was one of those new-aged plus-sized crackheads everybody keeps talking about and her last client dropped her off in the area? That last one was probably it. Whichever, she was clearly on the corner and destination-free. 

What tickled my funny bone about the whole situation was, the police never got out to investigate this woman, who I had never seen in the neighborhood before. He was wide awake in the car watching her stand on the corner, with her hands up in a position that looked like she was secretly flagging clients down: meanwhile, her titties signaled all the senior Mexican johns and that one-ass cheek falling out her shorts with every dance move indicating “it’s all good” to any potential white and black male truck-stop drivers in need of her “late-night services.”

“Police! Police!  You see this?”, I yelled (in my mind).  Yet, the hilariousness continued uninterrupted. What was the police doing? Maybe he was glad she wasn’t a protestor of the Trump fiasco or maybe he got a good hard-look her appearance and was like, “poor girl, she’s probably not gonna get any clients anyway.”

Now I know what that greeting in the 7-11 was about. When I think back on the patrons that were in line ahead of me, they were all her potential customers!  An old Mexican looking Chinese man, a burly-bearded fleece wearing white man, and a black man that looked like he was finally off crack for the last time but still working the graveyard shift. That “hey everybody” was probably code for “if anyone needs a little va-jay-jay for 40 dollars or so, I’ll be right outside… in my usual spot.”  I didn’t understand it at the time, but they knew.

delhar

DEL HARRISON created Another Sketch Comedy Show online and kicked it off by spoofing The Mo’nique Show (BET). The sketch was so hilarious that Mo’Nique personally called DEL and invited her to be on the show. Since then, Del has been featured on FOX’s Laughs (Season 1 & 2), TruTV’s Friends of the People, Wendy Williams and has starred alongside Peter Gunz, Angie Stone, Kelly Price and Al B. Sure in two live stage plays. We can go on about Del but Paul Mooney said it best,”This young lady has the IT factor.” Check her out at YouTube.com/DelHarrison and @iamdelharrison on social media.

 

     COMEDY POWERHOUSE SUNDA CROONQUIST:

Conquering Color, Conflict and Cooking

By Stephen Holmes

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Comedian Sunda Croonquist speaks so rapidly, hopping from one topic to the next, you begin to feel like you’re with Dorothy Gale on her trip from Kansas to Oz. As you try to comprehend what’s going on and which way is up, Croonquist has already landed and off on the yellow brick road headed for the Emerald City. You are forever trying to play catchup. This is why micro recorders are essential in interviewing. During our recent phone conversation, we covered a lot of topics including her husband and two daughters (who she refers to as Satan and Lucifer on stage), THE law suit, THE arrest, influences and other comedians.

DELve: How did you get your start?

SUNDA CROONQUIST:  I got started by a chance meeting with Jackie Mason at a party. People kept telling him how great he was and I started cracking on the people that were talking to him. “If you were so great, your TV show would still be on the air.” He thought I was a standup.

D: What was your profession at the time?

SC: After graduating Seton Hall I worked on probation and parole review, some undercover PI work and I was hired to go to parties… a model to go to parties. That’s where I met him (Jackie Mason). I met him for lunch and he said I should consider going into comedy seriously. He said, ‘You have it!’ My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time said, “If Jackie Mason says you’re funny… you’re funny.”

D: Where was you’re first gig?

SC: I did it with the American Comedy Institute, a workshop which was done with Stephen Rosenfield. My first show was at Don’t Tell Mama’s on Restaurant Row [in New York] and my first paid booking a few weeks after that. I’ve been working ever since.

D: How come female comics don’t get no respect?

SC:  I wouldn’t say ”no” respect, they get less respect than their male cohorts. Because it’s a boy’s club, that’s the way it started out. You have to be a strong personality to be able to take it. People have compared me to Carol Burnet and Whoopi Goldberg with the characters; Lucille Ball with the things that happen to me and Joan Rivers because I feel it’s nice for a woman to dress up. A lot of female comedians don’t dress for work. Hoodies and jeans on stage, I just see these things differently. I see that people paid money to come see a show and they get dressed up. That’s why I think I should get dressed up a little bit. Not many people agree with that.

D: It takes bravery to get on stage, even more so trying to get people to laugh. Other than Jackie Mason, what made you think, “I can do that!”?

SC: I’ve been in trouble since kindergarten, I’ve been class clown all my life. I couldn’t take the boredom [of going to Catholic school].

D: Why did you decide to go to Seton Hall if you had been in parochial schools from the start?

SC: I think I was just used to it. And I’m glad I landed there because that’s where I decided to become a Jew.

I had questions about Catholicism and you’re not allowed to ask questions. It use to frustrate me because I lived a different life than most of my classmates. I was the only Black kid, for the most part, in grammar school and I had questions about the Virgin Mary.

I had a cousin whose girlfriend was pregnant and that got the ball rolling with me getting in trouble. I thought that maybe this is a virgin birth and we don’t know about it and we’re all saying the baby was his. It was just my reality. I was in the first grade. I got busted over the head with a pointer stick… the stick broke. I thank God for those Catholic school years because those formative years were very important.

D: What was your home life like?

SC: It was very convoluted. My parents were divorced when I was very young. My mom was Black and my father was a Swedish Jew. I had an Italian step dad.

 At this point the topic turns to race. I comment about how incredibly diverse that background is and Croonquist says it’s only Black and White to her. “I am not ‘high yellow’” [a term used for light skinned African Americans].

SC: Most “yellow” people have a yellow father, yellow everybody. I have two completely different sets of parents

D: I’m glad we’re getting away from those terms…

SC: You think so? Well think again. You are very wrong and I’ll tell you where I hear it.

Croonquist tells a story of how she took her daughter to a dance studio run by a famous African-American dancer. It was there where she was reintroduced to the antiquated term when people at the studio used it to refer to her daughter.

D: Discrimination amongst ourselves is difficult to understand.

SC: That’s one of the reasons I don’t work the Black rooms [venues which cater to Black audiences]. I would love to do them, I started out in Black comedy. They [booking agents] don’t see that, they should see where I was born and they might think again. I’ve tried, but I’m not going to fight that battle. I’m not going to be told, “This is a rough crowd, you got to be able to roll with this crowd,” I came from Paterson… I got this.

D: You’re a very beautiful woman. Do you think this might not be a skin thing as much as they perceive you as something else?

SC: Maybe, but they don’t know me. I’ll give ‘em a one-two punch. I am not backing off.

D: You are bi-racial, former Catholic who…

SC: I am a Swedish and Black, redneck Jew!

D: Do you think all these things were preparing you for your career?

SC: Having all those experiences and all those relatives can’t help you but be prepared. You know when they don’t like you, cause you know how they act. I want to know how to say ‘nigger’ in every language just to be on the safe side.

D: Who’s meaner, a parochial school nun or a Jewish mother-in-law?

SC: Funny! I think that’s a funny joke. I think it would be the mother-in-law and I loved my mother-in-law. It’s too bad that happened.

D: She sued you, what the hell did you say?

SC: The same thing I said after I won that case, “They weren’t nice to me,” and sometimes you shouldn’t mess with comedians like that because you never know when you’re going to be in the act. Now, if she called me and said, ‘please, take me out of the act,’ I would have done so. But I don’t blame my mother-in-law nor do I talk ill of the dead. Some claimed it was a publicity stunt and far from it… it was real! I couldn’t sleep.

D: How did your husband handle it?

SC: It was rough, he had to represent me.

D: Really?

SC: He’s a great man.

D: You’ve been arrested too.

SC: I was taking a picture of a drunk girl lying on the street and the reason I took the picture was because she vomited but not on her Louis Vuitton, which you know I love. It was just an Instagram moment. Cop approached me, and it was a Black cop, and he hit me in my chest and said, ‘Get outta here!’  Me, having a background in criminal justice, I said, ‘You don’t put your hands on my person. Where is your supervisor?’ My husband, once again, advised me to walk away. Being from Paterson and having a degree in Criminal Justice gave me false courage. They kicked my ass to the ground. The White supervisor came and said, ‘Cuff her.’ They took me to the Tombs [common name for the Manhattan Detention Complex]. They beat and kicked me in front of my children.

The picture I had taken, and didn’t realize I had taken, showed them [the cops] all on their cell phones just standing over the girl, who was an under-aged drinker. I wasn’t taking a picture of that.

D: They threw your mother-in-law’s case out of court. What about the arrest?

SC:  They threw that out of court. They [the police] called me a dirty spic, by the way.

D: That sounds painful.

SC: I sued and won for an undisclosed amount.

D: Going back to comedians, who do you think is underrated?

SC: I liked Richard Jeni but he committed suicide. It’s very sad when a comedian dies [by suicide] because they brought laughter to your life, they made you happy. Whether it was Mrs. Doubtfire or Good Morning Vietnam, Robin Williams was a very special comedian.

Croonquist, contemplates whether Jeni might have still been reeling from a disastrous standup a week prior to his suicide. According to the website Smoking Gun, Jeni was involuntarily hospitalized three months prior to shooting himself and was diagnosed at the time with “suicidality, homicidality [sic], and depression” and “placed on 51/50 hold,” which allows medical officials to confine a patient for up to 72 hours.

SC:  He had a fantastic set a week later and killed himself the next morning.

D: Switching gears. Who do you think is overrated?

Croonquist tells of one comedian who she likes, “but not for an hour.” She takes exception with White comedians using the word “nigger.”

SC: The shock value is gone from using the “n-word.”  At the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada doesn’t allow the n-word to be said. That’s because of… what’s that fool’s name… Michael Richards.

D:  What was it like working with Jerry Lewis… two kids from Jersey!

SC: It was tremendous! I remember my family thinking I made it because I was working with Jerry Lewis and other comedians thinking I was dead because I was working with him. He hates female comics but he loves me! The Daily News said, “the only woman to make Jerry Lewis laugh…” I’ll take that! He taught me something. I was worried about the credits and he said, “Never mind about your credits, know your act.” When I’m hosting and comedians stress out about their credits, I think “I hope you’re funny, cause I can build you up but you got to stand up to that.”

D: You run L.A. School of Comedy

SC: I like to see people do well and I like having a hand in that without being meddlesome. Sometimes I meet people who are funny and I know they want to do comedy and they just can’t do it. They are so happy they met me because if I encourage them to get on that stage, they’re gone. Raphael Saviere is one guy who has taken off very nicely. Michael Ralph [actress Sheryl Lee Ralph’s brother] is doing well in comedy.

D: Not everyone is funny enough to appear on stage.

SC: That’s not the point. I think it’s, you can be funny in the living room but you have to have your set in order. If you want to go on stage, you have to know how to handle the mic… it’s technical. I teach stage presence, character, how to personify, how to tighten your act… how to get to the joke, brevity. Brevity is the key to comedy.

D: You also co-authored a cookbook, “Kosher Soul Food”

SC: Dedicated to my mother-in-law, she taught me that everybody can eat kosher but not everybody can eat non-kosher. I had never thought of it that way.

D: What made you decide to write a cookbook?

SC: I wanted everyone to have a good time at my house during high holy days and I wanted to invite whomever I pleased. If my family is there, why shouldn’t they have collard greens? You don’t have to use ham hock but you can use pastrami. I have collards in my matzah balls. People get afraid of food.

D: Who are your biggest influences?

SC: Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers. Phyllis got sued. Her case was the case that saved my ass. You know who sued her? Fang!

D: Fang, her husband?

SC: Yes. That was the precedence. I used my jokes to take away from the pain of being shunned by the family. Racism is painful in any way, shape or form, no matter if it comes from White people, Black people, Jewish people. When you’re turned away because of the color of your skin or you’re rejected or treated differently or a woman puts her purse away when you come in, if you don’t make light of it, you’re going to get sick because one thing Sunda does is try to find a silver lining. That’s the beauty of comedy.

D: Tell me a joke

SC:  A guy walks into a store and asks the pharmacist, “Can you help me, do you have cotton balls?

Pharmacist says, “What do I look like, a teddy bear?”

 Texts from Last Night

— I hear jingle bells and I can’t tell if it’s bc I’m feeling festive or just REALLY high

— You’re a hot mess, you know that?

At least I’m a FUN hot mess. Like a train crash full of pizza, fireworks and glitter. 

— Walked into the bathroom and saw a Minion eating out Harley Quinn so this Halloween will be hard to top

— I’m cooling my balls with a beer because I’m too cheap to turn on the AC

 

MINd, Body and Soul

 

DELtoid, according to Merriam-Webster, means “having a triangular shape.” While this month’s issue of DELve is not in the actual shape of a triangle, its theme MIND, BODY and SOUL definitely fits the bill.  In each issue, I invite guest artists to interpret that month’s theme (with very few guidelines). I may suggest certain people write on things they have personal knowledge of, i.e. being a new dad or surfing, but it is ultimately up to the individual. I’m taking time to explain this because this month’s guest writers David Dowling (The Body) and Jacynth Johnson (It Is Well With My Soul) tackled their sections without knowledge of each other or guidance from me other than, “Whatever you want!” While both are strikingly different in theme, each share similar pacing which makes them almost companion pieces. I then ruin the flow by including the final installment (Without Tears) on the time I was dealing with depression (I promise, the next issue will be much lighter). 

Guess what else… C.A.F.! is back. Well, that’s it… for now. In the last issue, I said I would be back in September but I’m a little late so I hope you forgive me. DELve’s next issue will be DELivering the FUNNY. If you are at all interested in contributing, please don’t hesitate to contact me at DELvemagazine@yahoo.com or however we usually touch base.

Until we meet again, may your mind take you places your body has never gone and may peace guide you in your travels.

— Steve

 

C.A.F.!

remorse

Survivor’s Remorse

Survivor’s Remorse has just ended its third (and best) season on STARZ. This show, whose executive producer is the red-hot LeBron “King” James, is borderline brilliant.  It tells the story of a rising basketball star Cam Calloway  and his family, navigating their way through the minefields of sudden fame and wealth and it accomplishes this without being “typical.” You go in expecting the Cam character to be some huge asshole and he does have those moments. But, most of his moves (good or bad) are done with a sense of conscience. He does what he does, for his family, his hometown and his community in general.

 

This season dealt with the sudden loss of a beloved family member, its aftermath and secrets from the past of one character which affects the present of another, making the show’s title even more relevant. Did I mention this was a comedy? And a damn funny one.  SR was amazing in its ability to deal with serious topics without condescending or losing its sharp comedic edge. Each member of the cast is perfection with special mention given to Erica Ash as M Chuck and Tichina Arnold as Cassie (M Chuck’s mama).

body
THE BODY
by David Dowling

The body is a source of sheer delight and immense disappointment. It is unique to each of us. It can be sculpted and it can change its shape without warning. We are its master and its victim.

Elle Macpherson was known as “The Body” after hers graced the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue again and again, meanwhile Jesse “The Body” Ventura used his on the battlefield, the wrestling ring, and the political arena.

The body of a newborn and its journey to the body of an octogenarian. The intricate systems of the body that keep it moving from start to finish, through shrieks of agony and pulsating electricity at the embrace of a lover.

It’s in scripture and strip malls. It’s in work. It is the one thing you know best and hardly at all. We stare at it in the mirror and we stare at others on the beach or in the gym. We covet it like a jewel.

Artists opine about the beauty of a body in masculine and feminine form. Scientists dissect it. Athletes push it to the limits. You and I touch it and sometimes invite others to do so as well. A pat on the back, a handshake, a different kind of shake, an embrace, a violent push. We adorn armor to protect it. We chose clothes that flatter its shape and keep it warm and safe from the elements. We shield it from the sun and bask in its rays. We manufacture a prosthetic to replace a piece that was once there or perhaps never at all.

The body is a tool to lay, move, gather, cook, hold, hit, drive, jump, stand, run…

The body is sexy. The curves of a woman in clothes that cling. The broad shoulders of a man drawing to a tapered waist. The body seeks other bodies and reproduces more bodies.

For those whose body has been dormant, push it. For those whose body has been sore, rest it. For those whose body draws attention, flaunt it. For those whose body is healthy, appreciate it. For those whose body won’t agree, convince it. For those whose body is laid to rest, may it rest in peace.

D.D.: The author maintains a positive image of his own body by consulting mirrors from the neck up and dimming the lights. Tricks he picked up in Hollywood while working as a body double’s chauffeur.
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IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL
by Jacynth Johnson

Growing up, I would always hear the church mothers sing this old hymn, “It is well with my soul.”

“When peace like a river,

attendeth my way.

When sorrows like seas,

billows roll.

Whatever my lot,

Thou hath taught me to say.

It is well.

It is well, with my soul.”

The dark melodies of the verse contrasts the sweet harmonies of the hopeful chorus.

“It is well, with my soul.”

The soul is the seat of your emotions; the very essence of who you are.

Some work all their lives to obtain fame, fortune and promotions, but at the expense of their soul.

The soul is the depth and truest form of YOU.

There is no escaping your mind, body and soul.

Some have turned to promiscuous sex, drugs, and other destructive habits to numb the irritations of their soul.

Others have even gone as far as to commit suicide, to escape the torment in their mind that leaked out of their soul.

So, how do we begin removing the calluses and healing the scars of your soul?

  1. FORGIVING others and yourself for unknowingly and knowingly causing harm, is the best way to free your soul.
  2. Dwelling in REGRET only robs you of healing.
  3. Living in ANGER, makes crooked your path and jaded your perspective.
  4. Nursing an OFFENSE makes blind your eyes and blocks love from entering and exiting your heart.
  5. SELFISHNESS gives only limited supply of abundant life and true happiness.

While there are many more things in life, that I’ve learned through personal experience, that hinders the forward progress of a healthy soul, these are the five roots issues that bring life to all other emotions that eat away at our soul.

It’s never easy to confront and testify about the pain that has altered the condition of your soul, but it’s necessary.

May your journey to peace and happiness begin with the honest reflection of your soul.

Blessings on your journey.

 JJ: Was born and raised in Queens, New York to Caribbean parents and but currently resides in Plainfield, New Jersey. She was born on July 22, 1986 and is the youngest of three girls.

Currently she is an eight grade English Language Arts teacher at Hubbard Middle School in Plainfield, New Jersey. Ms. Johnson is currently studying an graduate degree in Educational Leadership at Kean University.

Ms. Johnson found her purpose in not only helping youth girls but also women. She founded the I AM RARE organization in 2012, out of her own struggles and pain with sex. To date, she serves over 1,000 worldwide through online platforms and workshops. She hopes to begin an after-school division (RARE Academy) for young girls. This program will offer mentorship, workshops and trips that focus on self-esteem and abstinence.

She is a member of the Abundant Life Family Worship Church and serves as a leader on the youth department and singles committee.

I AM RARE organization empowers women worldwide in their pursuit of abstinence.  www.rareiam.org

20150418_165113
WITHOUT TEARS
by Stephen Holmes

The times I found myself forcing smiles and faking social functions to avoid real social functions are distant memories, mileposts in my rearview. The emotions of that time remain crisp. In the month between my stay on Cape Cod and getting back to the routine of work, I talked with several therapists over the phone and actually went in to see one therapist, but I decided none of them were for me, but I did keep searching.  I began to settle into the same old… same old. Of course, complacency doesn’t last forever.   I remember the sweat and racing heartbeat of my second panic attack, which occurred during an assembly program not long after the start of the new school year.

Look at my pay stub, I realized that rent, car loan and insurance were due and I didn’t have enough money to cover them all. In addition, my father’s house (the one I was raised in) was in total disrepair and back taxes from before his hospitalization were also due. I was drowning in debt. I had no ideas on how to handle it all. I became dizzy and had to get out of that auditorium before I let the emotions stopped being internalized. It was time.

Charles Lopez, MA, LPC, called a few hours after my freak out. A week later I found myself in his Millburn, N.J.  waiting room, more than a bit anxious but ready to “feel better.” Our first meeting was cautious… how often do you open up to a stranger that’s not pouring you drinks? We did talk about general things, the awkwardness I was feeling and about my father and… his house. My attempts at selling the family home and dealing with what was owed to the nursing home were, to me, the two biggest issues I was having.

Over the course of our six years together, Charlie and I discussed things private and public. I saw a movie once where the main character described therapy as being like an onion, little-by-little layers are pulled away until the core is reached. The time discussing all that is “Steve,” Charlie never just sat there, taking in everything I said and saying nothing. Yes, we discussed how I felt like I somehow failed my father by placing him in a nursing home but Charlie helped me realize that I didn’t have a lot of options open to me. Through therapy, I learned to understand that the house and legal issues that seemed to consume me weren’t as big as my will and determination. I learned to take one step before I contemplated the next. I began to breathe differently. I took on disappointment, addressed it and let it go.

24 February 2014 (excerpt from my journal)

Today was my last day of therapy. It was the best session because Charlie and I talked about where I started from and how I go to this point.

Leading up to today has been so mixed. I knew it was coming and I didn’t want it to end yet but I knew it had to end. Because I was ready. The past couple of days made me reflect and it almost felt like I was getting depressed again… ALMOST! I felt strength in my decision to end this and strength in who I am as a person.

Charlie has helped me realize that I adapt and survive.

Today was a summary of our time together. It felt like the final episode of a really popular television show, one where we don’t know what’s going to happen to the characters but you feel they are going to be okay.

Fittingly, we ended pretty much where we started… Ashby [my father]! We talked about boys growing to men and how being a father is generational and that it is too bad that fatherhood hasn’t evolved as quickly as we would like. I told him I was glad to have the closure with Ashby before he died. I said it would have been nice to have had him “initiate” the closure but that the way it happened was organic. Thinking back now, it was a meeting of two men. Two men bonding over his recollections of war and racism. Two men, talking while flipping channels. Watching current events and old movies.

Charlie and I talked about… I kissed Armand [my nephew] on the forehead when he was in the hospital with a concussion. It’s not until just now that I realized I kissed Ashby the same way before he died. He and I never did that… closure.

I ended this final session by saying to Charlie about out time together, “And I did it without tears.”

SH: Editor-in-Chief of DELve Mag. He is a writer, educator and all around swell guy.

FRIends

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FELlowship, bosom buddies, pals, buddies, besties… all terms to describe friends and friendship and that’s what DELve is all about this month. It would be impossible for me to write about this subject without writing about my best friend, Rick. Now I am so fortunate to have so many great friend who are all awesome in their own ways and I (all caps) LOVE them but Rick’s my dude. I find it incredible that people say men don’t have lasting friendships, Rick and I have been friends since we were ten years old and we are faaaaaaaaaar from ten now and we’re still best friends. [NOTE: Rick tends not to maintain friendships and we probably would have never lasted if it were not for my stick-to-it-iveness. He has referred to me as a barnacle on his ass and often greets me with “You again.” I’m sure he means it in the nicest of ways. The picture, taken at our second home… a bar… any bar, shows that he is the cool, reserved one, while I am neither of those things]. He has a great heart but he’s an asshole.  I’m saying this because, 1. IT’S TRUE and 2. I can write anything I want about him because he will never see this. He has steadfastly refused to read DELve. I shouldn’t say he’s “refused,” he just says, “Yeah, yeah I’ll get to it!” Rick is the closest thing to a brother without sharing a parent. Nuff said.

 

I call my brother sun cuz he shines like one.

— Gambino, Wu Tang Clan

 

I had an idea for this issue and was so excited to pitch it to three writers who happen to be best friends.  I asked Donna Cusano-Sutherland, John Daidone and Susan Sweeney to write about their almost life-long lasting friendships with each other. As a challenge I asked them not to share what they have written with the other two until it is revealed in DELve.

Also, included in this issue is a piece by Brenna Gribbon (she happens to be the sister of photographer, Conor Gribbon who supplied the photo of the blue moon over Culver City in our last issue) who I gave carte blanche to write about whatever she wanted. What did the 19-year-old choose to write about, her two best friends, Sydney and Caroline.

Initially, I asked Diana Perez and her daughter Ashely Perez to respond to a Q&A about their special mother/daughter bond, after reading their funny and often moving account of their relationship, I realized that there was another story to be told. I asked my cousin (cousins, our first friends!) Tanya Arnaldy and nephew Armand Arnaldy to discuss their mother/son bond in an identical Q&A. Although they have never met, Tanya and Diana have more in common than giving their only children names that begin with the letter “A.” These ladies are fiercely independent with a tough, no-nonsense approach to life (and parenting), as you will read for yourselves.

As a follow-up to last issue’s Blue Thoughts, my account of the beginnings of my depression, The Cape deals with an unexpected trip which was the catalyst for my recovery. Towards the end of Blue Thoughts, I introduced Roger, a pseudonym for a friend whom I first opened up to about my depression. At the time I wrote it, the story was very personal and it was written without input. Since the second installment concerned “Roger”, I called him to let him know and asked if he wanted to see it before it was published. As a testament to what a true friend is, he said he trusted me and didn’t need to see it beforehand, even though he was (admittedly) a little apprehensive. He also said I could use his actual name, if I wanted. To keep things consistent, I opted to continue to use the pseudonym. Thank you, E.F.L.

Well, that’s about it for this edition… am I forgetting anything… oh, and C.A.F.! If you have any suggestions for future topics (or if you want to be a contributing writer, photographer or guest editor [ I could use a break!]), contact me at DELvemagazine@yahoo.com. I hope you all have a great rest of the summer filled with friends, family and grilled food. See you in September when DELve will be keeping in touch with the MIND, BODY and SOUL.

 

mel and carl
MELvin and Carl — Mark Seliger for Vanity Fair

 

C.A.F.!

Meshell

Flying under the radar for over two decades, Meshell Ndegeochello is not a musician, she is an artist. Her bourbon-rich vocals (along with soulful bass playing) gives color to the canvas which are her lyrics. Ndegeocello’s debut album, Plantation Lullabies with its ballsy single If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)… which title needs no explanation, was one of the best albums of the 90s. Her follow-up album Peace Beyond Passion was almost as brilliant and contains not only a cover of Bill Wither’s Who Is He And What Is He To You but also the controversial Leviticus: Faggot. You’re not a true artist if you don’t cause a stir.

 

michelle and james

 James Corden, the squishably affable host of “The Late, Late Show” on CBS has struck gold with his Carpool Karaoke. Every time a segment airs, the inevitable topic starter the next day is, “Did you see…?” Adele, Stevie Wonder, Gwen Stefani (with help from Julia Roberts and George Clooney), Justin Bieber and the FLOTUS herself, Michelle Obama have all Jumped into the passenger’s seat (actually, Wonder started his segment in the driver’s seat) with Corden to chat and sing along with the radio. Corden can more than hold his own against the pros. Makes you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that!”

 

Ain’t nobody fresher than my mothafuckin’ clique

— Clique, Kanye West, Jay Z, Big Sean

 

 

GIRLZ TO WOMEN: MY VIEW OF FRIENDSHIP

by Brenna Gribbon

You’re my best friend.

— You’re My Best Friend, Queen

 

If you were to look in the dictionary, it vaguely described friendship as “the state of being a friend; association as friends. However, I think that there is much more to it than someone you hang out with every now and then because you feel obligated, or just an association with someone. While I have friendships with people I work with, the bonds I’ve formed in childhood are the ones I value the most.

One of my best friends dates back to the first year of my life. When my parents moved into the house we still live today, I was just a few months old and she was three-and-a-half. Caroline was like my sister and still is today. I’m nineteen and living in North Carolina, she will be twenty-three this year and is living in Los Angeles and we still manage to keep our friendship a priority. Caroline knows just about everything about me, good and bad, and I count on her as my number one confidant I am so lucky to have crossed paths with her at such a young age.

Another person I consider one of my best friends is Sydney, who I have known since fourth grade. We have been going to school together up until this year, when we went to different colleges. Even though I do not see her as much during the school year, we still maintain our friendship. The time we spend together becomes more enjoyable because we know that, come fall, we’ll be back at school, and too busy studying. Even though we spent months away from each other apart, we fell back into our friendship quickly almost as if the separation never existed. She is my partner in crime, immediately when she arrived home from school we were back to driving around the town, perusing the mall and of course stopping into Auntie Anne’s for a pretzel, or getting snow cones or ice cream. I think half the fun of it is just driving around and listening to music, simply enjoying each other’s presence.

I’m lucky to have these friendships and hope everyone is able to have friends as good as mine. It is so extremely important to surround yourself with positive people because their energy is so beneficial. A person who is happy or positive usually radiates their joy, and that joy is contagious. People often overlook the importance of positivity and do not realize that once there is a change to reflect this perspective, they begin to live life to the fullest.

 

BG: Currently a college student and freelance writer, living in North Carolina.

 

 

 

John,Donna,Susan
(l-r) Susan, John and Donna

 

TIES THAT BIND

Gifts from God

by Donna M. Cusano

When I was five, and my best friend revealed that she was moving away, I was devastated. Who would I play dolls with?? Who would I share my secrets with?? Who would I relentlessly beat at Monopoly time and time again….??? The list went on and on. My poor mom had to endure my consistent, immutable whining—day in, day out. In all her infinite wisdom, she shared some advice: “Over your lifetime, people will come and go. When they are there, they are meant to be for a reason. If they stay, they are a gift from God.”

My best friend Joyce eventually moved. We stayed connected for a while—writing letters, talking on the phone. Then lost touch after about a year.  Time marched on.

Fast forward: 50 years. As I approach midlife, and I reflect on the many relationships I have had over the years, there have been those that have ”come and gone”, like Joyce, and those in that other category my mom spoke of: “The gifts”.

Very few friendships can compare to the unique bond I have shared over the years with two VERY special people in my life, John (a.k.a. Dayton) and Susan. Actually, they are not friends– they are, as we say in Italian, la mia famiglia—my family. Not just because we have that thing called “history”–they have shared my incredibly crazy and fun youth, and my journey through some significant life milestones… like the death of my parents, the birth of my only child, my divorce, single parenting challenges–and my adventure to a “far off land” to start a new life. Well, not that far off—the Philadelphia area. (Important Note:  In 1998, when I told them I decided to move, they cringed at the thought of me being “a whole hour and forty-five minutes away!”)

You see, you can share history with a lot of people. But, what is special about these two is the role they have played in devotedly supporting and mentoring me along the journey—figuratively holding my hand, and my heart, every step of the way. And the incredible support they always give me is, well, quite frankly, priceless.
There is a plaque  I bought a number of years ago at some hokey souvenir place at the Jersey shore.  It hangs very prominently in my bedroom. It reads: “I didn’t find my friends. The good Lord gave them to me.”

No surprise. Mom was right. She always was.

When I moved out to the Philly area almost 20 years ago, I left with the promise to these two wonderful people that I would move back some day to be closer to them. Well, although I own a home at the Jersey shore, I really never “officially” moved back. There really is no need to. For me, home is not a physical location. It is a place in your heart. These two wonderful treasures are my “home”. When we are together, talk on the phone, text, or instant message each other, all is good in the world. It’s a special place to be; a special bond to be had. Not many are so blessed.  I am so fortunate and am thankful every single day.
So, I say to them: Thank you John and Sue for all you have given me over the years. It has been, and will continue to be, an incredibly fun ride; priceless memories, endless laughs, sometimes tears, or frustration (after all, we ARE family). I treasure the last 40 years, and look forward to our next forty together. As my mom would say to me every night before bedtime: Love you with all my heart and soul. ❤

 

 

 

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I Got Your Back – by Mark Shalaby

 

 

 

Birth of The Louds

by John Daidone

Friendships often come about when there is a common interest, and for Donna, Sue and I, that bond is our love of writing and communications. I first met Sue and Donna in various classes at Irvington High School (they knew each other from grammar school), but it was Mr. Rich’s Journalism class that really brought out our friendship. We learned the trade writing for The Probe, the school newspaper, and called ourselves the “Big Cheeses.” Our senior year, Donna was appointed the managing editor, Sue became the news editor and I was the features editor.

Journalism became our favorite class, and inspired us to pursue careers in Communications, where we fantasized about going to college together. But alas, we took separate paths, with Donna going to Seton Hall, Sue to Glassboro and me to NYU. Despite this, we remained great friends throughout our college experience. By junior year, Sue had transferred to Seton Hall, and I became a regular at The Pub on Friday nights!

After graduation, Donna went to work for New Jersey Monthly, Sue was hired by Deloitte, and I went to work for a division of McGraw-Hill called the Product Information Network. Our careers have taken many twists and turns over the years, but we can all proudly say that we’re doing what we aspired to do when we first forged our friendship in Mr. Rich’s class. Sue has built a successful career in financial communications, Donna has excelled in pharmaceutical communications, and I discovered I had a knack for writing for the web back in 1996 and am currently working at Barnes & Noble in a digital communications role.

While our love of communications has been a common thread throughout our 40 years of friendship, there have certainly been many other reasons why we remain so close. I attribute a series of annual vacations we took to Beach Haven on Long Beach Island in the mid-80s as the impetus for our strong relationship. It was there that the “Louds” were born. The house we stayed in every year was on a very quiet block, but when we arrived that all changed. And thus the Louds were born. We all had Loud names – Sue was Mama, I was Junior, Donna was Baby, etc. Over the years there has probably been 15-20 members, but we remain the core Louds, to this day we still refer to our group as the Louds. We became the core Louds, along with a fourth who unfortunately we do not speak with anymore (the trauma of a friendship ending is perhaps a subject for another issue). You don’t truly know someone until you live with them, and those annual vacations helped us to learn all there is to know about each other (and we’ve got the pictures to prove it!).
Over the years, we’ve been there for each other through various life milestones. I came out to Sue, Donna and the former friend in 1988, a good six years before coming out to my sisters and stepdad. In fact our former friend came out a few years later, so I like to think that I helped with that process. If I had to explain the one thread that keeps our friendship thriving, it would have to be that we share the same values. We’re good souls who truly value the importance of friendship and being there for each other, in good times and bad. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trio to be a part of! And when I met my partner Dan in 1997, Sue and Donna welcomed him with open arms (well, after sizing him up first to make sure he was good enough for me!). Dan and I have had many fun gatherings with Donna and Sue at our Maplewood house over the years – so many that they have come to refer to it as “their country home.” Dan is probably as close to Sue and Donna as he is to his own friends, and that to me says everything.

 

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on

— Lean On Me, Bill Withers

 

Friendship

by Susan Sweeney

When I was asked what friendship means to me and what caused the bonding, I looked to a couple of people I have known for more than half my life and what brought us together and kept us close over these many years. I guess we usually find traits in friends that may be just like our own: We can share the same likes and dislikes, sense of humor, taste in style or politics.  I share a close and special friendship with Donna Cusano and John Daidone, who I’ve known since we were school mates. These two funny, talented and caring kids became a major part of my life at age 15 in our high school journalism class.

Although we’re well-beyond our teens, when we’re together we often retreat to being the kids we still are at heart.

How I knew we were bonded for life came shortly after we graduated from college and vacationed together. You never really know someone until you spend a week with that person, sharing the same bathroom. In working full time at our first “real” jobs, we finally had a little cash and took a beach house together at the Jersey shore. Think about it: What location would be more appropriate for Jersey kids to vacation?

During that week, we spent nearly every waking moment together.  Beach, cooking, happy hours, dancing at clubs, boating, grocery shopping, more cooking and more beach. Whether at a dance club, driving around the island or hanging out in the back yard of our little Jersey Shore getaway, we always had a good rock tune blasting. They say that the power of a song can trigger vivid memories that will transport you back in time. In fact, my earliest recollections of our friendship involved music, singing loudly to Boston, Bowie, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson, among others.

On one particular afternoon in the kitchen of that beach rental on Long Beach Island, Billy Joel’s “Italian Restaurant” came on the radio. The three of us naturally began singing with all of our hearts, and lung capacity. “Bottle of red, bottle of white ….” Keep in mind, this was long before Karaoke was a thing. Belting it out so loudly that when the song was over we heard someone clapping outside.

Yeah, a good friend is one who can talk your ear off or sit with you and just listen to your problems or accomplishments, but a truly lifelong friend is one who can belt out a song – even a little off-key – and not judge.

To this day I cannot listen to “Italian Restaurant” without smiling, recalling a carefree time when beach, dance clubs and relaxing were all that mattered. More importantly, it brings me back to one of many simple and endearing times with my closest, lifelong friends.

S.S.: Has more than 20 years of marketing communications, public relations, editorial and journalism experience, she leads marketing communications for a global technology company, responsible for media and analyst relations, customer communications as well as employee communications. Her communications and PR experience includes working in professional services, financial services and financial technology for domestic and global organizations. She holds a B.A. in communications from Seton Hall University. Susan’s free time is spent adventure travelling, reading anything she can get her hands on, enjoying the arts – music, theater and museums — and spending time with her friends and family.

 

 J.D.: Discovered his career niche – writing for the Web – in 1996 and has been working in the industry ever since, currently employed as Director of Content Management at Barnes & Noble, Inc.

 

D.C.: Has more than 30 years award-winning communications experience, both internal and external, in the financial services and pharmaceutical arenas.  She currently Heads U.S. Sales Communications at Sanofi Pharmaceuticals.

 Donna holds an M.S. in Communications Management from Syracuse University, and a B.A. in Communications from Seton Hall University. She also holds a graduate certificate in Organizational Leadership from Rosemont College.

 Donna enjoys yoga, running, fishing and rock climbing, and most of all, spending time with her lifelong friends, a.k.a The Louds, who she adores.

 

A GIFT SO GREAT:

Mother… Child… Friend

Build my world of dreams around you, I’m so glad that I found you
I’ll be there with a love that’s strong
I’ll be your strength, I’ll keep holding on

— I’ll Be There, The Jackson Five

 

Tanya and Mani
Tanya and Armand Arnaldy

 

 

diana and ashley
Diana and Ashley Perez

 

— DIANA PEREZ, a Registered Nurse at a level 2 trauma center.  I am recently divorced, after a 15 year relationship with a woman.  And, although I had a life partner, I raised my daughter as a single parent but in partnership with her dad.  Our parental roles were very distinct and often a source of frustration.  As the primary parent, I was responsible for the day-to-day aspects of child rearing which included: loving, teaching, advocating, motivating, disciplining and coordinating Ashley’s life.  Ashley’s dad was active in her life but got to enjoy her very differently.

— TANYA ARNALDY, 53 years old and a divorced mother of one son. I have worked in the retail industry for over thirty years. I enjoy spending time with the people that I love and hold dear.

— ASHLEY PEREZ, Human Capital Consultant for a Financial Technology company in NYC, Seton Hall University alumna. Currently living in Jersey City, NJ with my fiance (husband as of Oct.7th).

— ARMAND ARNALDY,  20 year old college student, studying Business Administration at Middlesex County College. I work  as a part time sales supervisor for a national high-end sunglass retailer. I started playing football at the age of seven and hung up my cleats after I suffered my second concussion ten years later.

 But I would not give you false hope

— Mother and Child Reunion, Paul Simon

1.  What was the biggest disagreement and how was it resolved?

DIANA PEREZ : Ashley and I haven’t had many disagreements that I can say have left an indelible mark or that may have changed the course of our mother-daughter relationship.  If I had to discuss one particular point of contention between us it was during her transition from home to college.  Here is some background  info to set the  stage. 

Ashley attended Seton Hall University on a full academic scholarship.  The scholarship came responsibilities and expectations in order to retain her status as a recipient (GPA of 3.5 or higher, intense community involvement and peer mentorship to name a few). I’ve always been an involved mother, not a ‘helicopter” mom but certainly a very present mom nonetheless.  I was acutely aware that I was preparing this young woman to be a self-sustainable, independent, strong and kind woman so I had to encourage her to spread her wings, get reasonable cuts and bruises, while “trying on life” for size and fit.  But I’ve never shied away from pointing out when she was not living up to her, and my, expectations in her personal and educational life.  Therefore, I often allowed room for her to challenge me when she thought I was being unreasonable but I always also retained my position as her mother, not her friend, therefore, at the end of the conversation we were going to do what I said, although I always let her believe she “decided” to fall in line all on her own.

The disagreement started when Ashley went to college and I agreed that it would be best for her to live on campus although we lived only 45 minutes away from the college.  As with many freshman, she did well but struggled to maintain the required 3.5 GPA.  So after one year of living on campus and many tears (hers not mine), I resolved that she wasn’t ready to assume responsibility for her grades and I packed that same U-Haul truck that delivered her to her dorm and brought her back home to teach her a valuable lesson and to continue coaching her a bit longer at home.  Ashley went from having the luxury of rolling out of bed to get to class to having to take a bus, then a train and then another bus to get to class, while maintaining a 3/5+ GPA she had committed to when accepting the scholarship.  Ashley disliked me for awhile, especially on those cold winter mornings when her commute was disastrous, cold, snowy and/or wet.  The intention wasn’t to cause her pain, however accepting the scholarship was the first step in a 4 year relationship with the Seton Hall program and she had to see it through or return the scholarship. Ashley learned that from that experience that she had to learn how to best manage her time to include: working hard toward her responsibilities and commitment in order to rejoice in the glory of her successes, while still managing an active social life. I truly believe that it was her first girl-to-woman lesson…  Life is a beautiful balance of hard work, discipline and good times, not one area is independent of the other. 

TANYA ARNALDY:  Our biggest disagreement came after Armand suffered his second concussion and wanted to play in his next game the following week.  As stubborn as he can be it wasn’t until we went back to his Dr. and he fully understood what the long term effects could be. His love for the game and his commitment was understood and showed the type of young man that he was becoming and while I was proud of that it was what was best for his health.

 ASHLEY PEREZ:  I can’t recall a disagreement that I still think of begrudgingly. I disagreed with most of the rules she had (that’s an instinct programmed into all teens), but looking back I have the life and career that I do now because she taught me the value of working hard and earning credibility. In my current role I partner with a lot of different business leaders across the organization and the feedback I always hear is “when she says she’s doing something it just get’s done.” The importance of credibility is not something you learn in college, it’s a value you learn at home. 

2. What challenges did you come across navigating the mother/friend waters?

 T.A.:  It has always been clear that I am his mother first. We really don’t define our relationship as parent or friend. This has always been my parenting style that as his mother I am open to any and everything. I am his biggest supporter and I will always be the one to stop and correct him when it is needed.

 

D.P.: My greatest challenge was navigating motherhood and friendship with my daughter. It was difficult learning how to negotiate the waters of motivating my daughter to trust in our friendship but to also understand that my mother role is ever present.  So we, as a family, come up with “the truth before anything else”.  In other words… The rule of thumb in the Perez household was “You can tell me anything and its open for discussion, without penalties ore persecution but if I found out about her indiscretions before she informed me the consequences were unavoidable and severe.  It didn’t always work but I believe she has told me many things that I’ve had the opportunity to counsel her on without punishing the behavior because of this agreement. It fostered many teachable moments between she and I. Some things that she was forthcoming about should have been things she should have been grounded for but my goal has always been to have a very fluid relationship with Ashley.  I may not have liked some of the choices she made as a teenager but I respected her because she often came forward and we were able to have discussions about them.

3. Did you ever wish you and your mom weren’t so close?

ARMAND ARNALDY: No I love the relationship my mother and I have.

A.P.: Not at all, I’m blessed to have someone that loves me as much as she does. Navigating through life is a lot less scary when you know there is someone always in your corner.

4. Do you live together? If not, how often do you see each other?

D.P.: Ashley and I had lived together until recently (25 years), when she got engaged and was ready to move into an apartment with her fiancé.  We see each other about once per week but speak almost every day, often more than once per day.  LOL  she’s a stalker.

A.P.: We don’t, I live about a mile a way. Coincidentally, on the same block where she goes to the gym, so sometimes I see her on my way into the city. We talk everyday, pretty much all day, and see each other frequently. 

A.A.:  Yes

5. Are there any topics off limits?

A.P.: Not at all.

D.P.: Yes!  We don’t talk about her intimacy sessions between the married couple to be.  Not interested! She has wonderful friends for that. I just want to know when she is ready to make me a Mama, Mima, Glam-Ma, grandma etc.  How it happens can be left out of the discussion.

T.A. No topic is off limits. There are times where it becomes a TMI situation but we listen and work through it.

 

6. Is there anything that has the two of you ROTFL every time it gets mentioned?

D.P.: HAHAHAHAHAHA, YES! One year I caught her drinking while under age and I threatened to take her to the police department myself for breaking the law but when she and I went to talk to my then partner, my partner was in the middle of rolling a joint and I lost my entire argument in a split second.  We tell that story and pee our pants often.

 

T.A.: There are so many things that cause us to ROTFL, the mention of a bus pass, the way a certain uncle wears his belt too high above his waist, events that occur at our annual Christmas Eve get-together. The list is endless.

A.P.: Most stories of me getting grounded when I was younger are pretty funny to retell. Let’s just say I committed misdemeanor level crimes and the sentence was always felony level or above. To be honest I was never a repeat offender though, so I guess it worked, but telling the stories to people is always hilarious.

 

7. Are there any traditions/rituals the two of you do together on a regular basis?

D.P.: Yes, a few.  Ugly Christmas PJs (I have photos), mother/daughter mother’s day outing, mother/daughter dinners, highlight/lowlight discussions.

A.P.: We do so much together I wouldn’t say there is one thing we do routinely. We do have a ritual of doing a new activity for Mother’s Day, which always turns out to be a lot of fun. She very much likes to be in charge, so planning something she has no say over leads to a really fun experience that she always loves even if she’s protesting the whole way there.

T.A.: We enjoy going out to dinner just the two of us once a month. There’s that one evening during the week when we just chill listening to music, watching a movie or our favorite TV shows. The end of everyday discussing the events of the day. Oh and during Football season every Sunday is Football Sunday spent with family.

 

8. What are you most excited about for the other?

A.A.:  I’m excited to make my mom proud and give her some grandchildren.

T.A.:  I’m excited to see where Armand’s journey takes him. The possibilities for him and his life are endless. Its amazing to watch him grow and evolve.

D.P.: I am excited that my beautiful baby girl is well on her way to the next phase of her life and is going to marry the most amazing man ever.  She has created such a beautiful life for herself and I know that if I were to leave this earth today my daughter would need for nothing because she is a self-actualized woman, kind, sweet but a force to be reckoned with.  If she weren’t my daughter, she would be my friend.

A.P.: She’s approaching the big 5-0 next year and I’m excited to see the next phase of her life as a nurse, a friend, and a grandparent (in 5+ years  lol). She’s knocked the first 50 out of the ball park, and I know she’ll do the same with the next 50.

 

9. Has there been any incident that has made either of you to put aside the “family” aspect and say, “I need you as a friend” or “I need to speak to you as a friend?

T.A.: Again, our relationship as mother and son is open. Armand has never looked at me as his friend. As explained earlier, our relationship has always been as mother and son and has never been defined as either or.

D.P.: Yes, during the end of my marriage.  Ashley gave me some much needed tough love by telling me how she saw my relationship with my then wife.  These were things so difficult to hear from your daughter but I knew that she loved me enough to be the one to say them.  Ashley had to remind me of who I was and what I had turned into for the sake of keeping my family together. She knew that my relationship had run its course, even if I didn’t want to accept it, and decided that she was not going to partake in it anymore. Therefore, I would have to have two separate relationships, one with her as mother-daughter and one with my wife that wouldn’t include her.  My daughter was such a beacon for me during the end of my marriage and I can’t imagine getting through that very painful time without her as my friend.

A.P.: I’ve always been able to confide in her as a friend. She always told me there is nothing we can’t talk about, even when I made poor decisions and had to face the consequences. My mom is always the person I can depend on to tell me the truth even if it might not be something I want to hear. It’s so important to have someone that will put things in perspective like that. 

 

10.   What was the last thing the other did that made you feel loved?

A.A.: When I was in the hospital for my second concussion my mom slept in a chair which had to make her uncomfortable and spent the night with me because I had to stay overnight.

T.A.: After a heart-to-heart discussion about my relationship with Armand’s father, he simply came over and hugged me.

D.P.: Ashley has never ever made me feel otherwise.  She and I show each other love daily.  But refer to question 9 for a concrete answer.

A.P.: Growing up we were always very affectionate and verbal about loving each other, so I wouldn’t say there is one example. As I continue to navigate through adulthood, I really value hearing that she is proud of the person I’ve become. She’s my compass and I love hearing that she feels I’m going in the right direction.

11.   What one thing (over everything else) has made you the proudest of the other?

A.A.: When my mom finally left her former company to go to Sunglass Hut as store manager, it made me happy because she was miserable at the other place. and went to a company that is highly recognized an  it brought her back into the fashion world which she is very passionate about. To see the smile on her face and the stories she comes in with makes me happy and proud of her.

A.P.:  She recently had to let go of a relationship that was no longer evolving. As my wedding day quickly approaches, and I think of the amazing six years I’ve spent with my fiance, I am constantly reminded of how strong she had to be to admit that the woman she spent 12 years building a life with was no longer the best partner to move forward with. She’s done so many wonderful things in her life, but it’s the situations that you never planned on facing that often unveil a better version of you. 

T.A.: During the time when we were trying to decide where Armand would go to college certain situations occurred and things did not go as planned but Armand’s strength and determination kept him going. Not once did he give up hope he simply adjusted and went with plan B.

D.P.: I am the proudest of Ashley’s ability to see the world as a perfect imperfection.  She is sound in her moral compass and to know her is to love her.  I am proud of the woman she has grown to be.

 

THE CAPE

by Stephen Holmes

Talk to me, old pal of mine, if you feel you can’t go on. Don’t you sweat, it ain’t over yet this bond we share is strong. Your welfare is my concern, you weigh less than you think.

— Friendship, Pops Staples

I can’t remember why Roger, a college friend  then  living on Cape Cod, called that particular day. I remember the perfunctory greetings and inquiries about family and life. I know we talked about politics and our society, because we always talked about those things. I even remember we agreed on some point and this was major because we never agreed on anything. The conversation went on for well over an hour before it began petering out. I could hear Roger inhale and letting out a “Well,” signifying the end of everything he had to say and an end to the call. I can’t swear what was said next, but I remember saying, “Roger, I can’t get myself together. I feel,” searching for a word, I settled on “lost.” The phone went silent, while Roger figured out what to say. He knew the basics, which we had covered earlier in the phone call; my dad’s death, dealing with his finances and bills from the nursing home, dealing with my finances, stress over trying to sell his house. We covered it all, but I tried to keep it normal and everyday. “It is, what it is.” “I’ll figure it out.”

“What’s going on?” Roger finally said. I told him everything we had already discussed but this time I confessed I didn’t see an out. I admitted to crying nightly. A guy never wants to admit to crying and he really doesn’t want to admit crying, to another guy. Everything I said, gave life to what I was feeling. Roger took it all in, he let me go on about everything.  When he finally spoke, his words said what I was denying.

 

“Stephen, I get what you’re going through, I’m having problems too.” I was thinking he was going to give me the litany of back pains and car troubles and not enough times in the day, which people tend to dole out in an effort to help you “feel better” about your situation.  I was fast-tracking Roger’s next words in my mind, “all you need to do is work with your hands… build something,” he’s that type of “I’m building a deck by myself” kinda guy. “I’m dealing with depression and I’m seeing a therapist. Maybe that’s what you need to do too.” Confused, I asked, “Who’s seeing a therapist?” I thought I missed him saying that one of his siblings or a cousin or a neighbor was seeing one, it never crossed my mind he was talking about himself. He laid it all out for me, what he had been feeling, all the things he was going through, all the doubts. The things Roger was going through was different from what I was experiencing, but we shared the same feelings. But a therapist, really? I had seen a therapist about a decade earlier concerning family issues. But it was for just a couple of visits and I never went back. Being honest, I chalked it up as being something for white people.

 

Roger and I talked for a couple more hours that night. I was still uneasy, after we had hung up. The tears still came, but so did the morning and I started my routine over again. Summer is not a good time for a teacher trying to keep himself from spiraling. Realizing that sleep was not going to happen anytime soon, I washed the white tear streaks from my face and went to the gym as soon as it opened. I still wasn’t tired when I came back home two hours later. Roger called to check on me before he had to go to work. He checked in on me every day for a week and each time he asked if I wanted to come up and stay with him, his wife and their kid. “You can stay as long as you need to.” The week following our conversation offered  little  change other than I began to sleep a lot less. I was getting maybe three hours of sleep spread out through the day. My doctor gave me a prescription for something that would help me to both sleep and be less anxious. It didn’t help. I was still not sleeping well and I was still dealing with the anxiety. I began to feel more desperate, maybe I should hang with Roger and family. I told him I would drive up the next day. In the hours that followed, I began to panic. The thought of spending all that time alone with just my thoughts scared me. Driving over bridges caused me to worry under normal circumstances, in my state of mind at that time, I would have lost it.

 

Roger and my political viewpoints have diverged drastically since we met in college. Not saying that  we were on the same page back then but it was a time when we could afford to be more accepting of one another’s differences. Had we met today, both of us changed by the world, we probably would not have become friends. We might have been acquaintances, but not friends. College was a time for “change the world” type thinking. Today, the two of us debate passionately about our beliefs. He’s always wrong, but I let him have his say.

 

There are many reasons  friendships end. We can never be sure what it will be, what line in the sand, that will cause an un-mendable break between friends. I can, however, pinpoint when Roger became something more than a friend. In six words, he became my “brother from another mother.”

 

“I can’t come. I can’t drive all that way alone,” I told him as I tried to control the panic. I imagined all sorts of wild scenarios of the trip. I imagined my car (followed by me)  breaking down, having another panic attack while driving over a bridge… losing control of my emotions and then the car. Most of all, I was afraid of thinking and driving. My fears made me willing to maintain the status quo.

 

“I’ll be there in three hours,” there it was, six words… ”I’ll be there in three hours.”  He didn’t even allow me say, “but.”

 

The ride to the Cape was filled with idle talk which dovetailed nicely with the silent moments when I thought  I was rying to find my words. In reality, I was trying to avoid words. City and waterscapes scattered behind us. One of the silent moments was broken by Roger’s observation about some actress who was popular at the time. Some things are so offensive they shouldn’t and won’t ever be repeated. Therapy, for me, started right then.

 

The Cape offered me opportunities to breathe, to take long walks, to break free from the grip of desperation. I drew and colored with Roger’s daughter. Mrs. Roger and I talked about our adventures with our students over the past year. Since my visit coincided with John McCain’s announcement that Sarah Palin would be his running mate, there were some intense political debates between Roger and myself. All of these activities came with a price, I was able to sleep for the first time in weeks.

 

Roger and I found ourselves on our own  and he told me more about his struggles to be happy.  How what was wrong wasn’t his marriage or home life and it wasn’t, necessarily his job. He knew what it wasn’t, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. I understood. There we were, two men having a serious conversation the way men do, full of stops and starts and you know’s and Idunno’s. Neither of us completely sure how this brand of intimacy works. How do men verbalize feelings of inadequacy when we are raised to “eat” our feelings? He told me about his therapy sessions and he wanted me to meet with her while I was there. It all sounded right, just not for me.

 

My issues were kept at bay during my visit, but it was just a visit and my time was coming to an end. Roger and his family helped me focus. I keep hearing people question motives and how  others are just out for themselves. How friends are as disposable as a razor. Roger showed true friendship and love and I will forever be grateful. But there is a truth I can’t ignore, I know that if I had opened up to any of my friends, they would have moved heaven and earth to see me through. I know some pretty good people.

 

Feeling like I could travel alone again, Roger and family loaded me on a train back to New Jersey.  Magazines and packed snacks, courtesy of Mrs. Roger, entertained me for most of the train ride home. The closer my journey came to my starting point, the more the panic returned. In spite of all of Roger’s confessed advances through therapy, I wasn’t yet convinced. It would be another month of steady decline from the euphoria of Cape Cod. It would be another month before my second panic attack.

SH: Editor-in-Chief of DELve Mag. He is a writer, educator and all around swell guy.

LIGht and Dark Blue

 

BELieve it or not, it’s been one month to the day that I launched DELve! So far, I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback (it’s nice having friends who are willing to say nice things about you… in print, at least!). In this issue, you will find a truly AMAZING article, Cold Surf by Brian Tunick on one of his passions – surfing. DELve had and enlightening conversation with psychologist/talk show host/comedian James Harris. We discuss therapy, the state of comedy today and Robin Williams.

Since this issue’s theme is “Blue,” the cover photo is of an exhibit at the 9-11 Memorial in New York. Each patch of blue in the exhibit represents  various artists’ impression of the shades of blue in the sky that day.

On the weekend of May 21-22, there was a “blue” moon (as defined: The third of four full moons in one  season). Photographers Timothy Fox, Conor Gribbon and yours truly turned their cell phones skyward to witness this rare occurrence from three vastly different locals.

Finally, in Blue Thoughts we discuss depression. In the first of what is expected to be a three-part series, the early stages and realization of depression is explored. This is an issue close to me. Blue Thoughts is the actual account of what I went through during a very rough time in my life. SPOILER ALERT: I kicked depression’s ass… so far!

That’s a lot covered in this issue (and C.A.F.! is back too). I hope you enjoy (while it’s still free) and please tell your friends.  Like us on Facebook… I think there’s a Like button included. As always, positive feedback is always appreciated and so is CONSTRUCTIVE negative feedback.

Wishing you all nothing but blue skies until next time, when DELve looks at FRIENDSHIP.

Stephen

p.s.  Since Blue Thoughts was such intensely difficult piece to write, the second installment might not appear in the next issue. I may need a little time. Thank you for your understanding.

SH

Issue 2

Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band

— Tiny Dancer, Elton John

C.A.F.!

Levi’s

 k
Jeans today can set you back several hundred dollars a pair with styles changing every season (we’re looking at you True Religion!). Levi’s are the complete opposite of the last statement.  Levi Strauss & Co. has been making jeans for 163 years and deserve the title of “Classic”.  Levi’s are comfortable, affordable and with so many styles to choose from,  pleasing to just about everyone. Besides, nothing says “grown up” more than the ability to pull off being well dressed in jeans no matter whether  you’re rocking them with a tee shirt or tie. You can wear these blue jeans almost anywhere.
https://www.levi.com

Dr. Bronner’s:  Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

We know that this month’s theme is blue, but that’s not why we are recommending this soap with the blue label.  The reasoning has more to do with the fact that summer is coming. All of Dr. Bronner’s soaps allows you to wash dishes, cars, clothes and bodies with one product. Specifically, its peppermint is so cooling it’s like air conditioning for your skin. We don’t recommend it for use in the during winter in the north,  the tingling is too intense for colder months.
https://www.drbronner.com

The Avett Brothers

Avett Brother songs are like mini short stories (short short stories?!). The Mount Pleasant, N.C. band consists of brothers Scott and Seth Avett, Joe Kwon and Bob Crawford. They are a folk band with hints of bluegrass. Their songs are smart, funny and quite often touching. Two that fit in this last category are “I And Love And You” off of the album of the same name and “Murder in the City” off of The Gleam II album. Their latest album, True Sadness (their 19th),  will be released on June 24th.
http://www.theavettbrothers.com

 

 

Soul surfin’ in pretty blue waters, waitin’ for the day that I could just call her.

— Soul Surfin’, Kottonmouth Kings

 

sufcold

Cold Surf

By Brian Tunick

The ice-cold water burns my face.  Frigid saltwater flushes down the back of my suit, directly across my spine as a large wave twists my frame and holds me under.  The human body doesn’t deal well with freezing or drowning, and I have chosen the verge of both.

Stretching the damp and cold suit over my body doesn’t feel good, but it’s pretty benign compared to what’s to come.  A quick glance at the dimly lit room shows the vague outline of three dogs cuddled up with my wife in a warm bed.  Very little motion.  This is what people do on the dawn of a 19-degree day with at least 6” of snow in the forecast.  Not me though.  By now, my body heat has activated the insulation and I’m sweating in the suit.  When the garage door opens, the cold air hits my face and my body only needs the sensors that detect very hot and very cold.  There are no in-between temperatures.  I prefer in-between temperatures.  I affix the board to my bike and begin the 5-minute journey.  I know I can only ride the bike a short distance until the threat of slipping on ice forces me to walk.  Suits and boards are easily destroyed.  Still, even a little bit of distance on the bike means a little less walking on the frozen ground.  Seven millimeters of rubber seems like a lot until it becomes the only thing between you and a fresh layer of ice.  A distant thundering sound is offset by the sound of a neighbor slipping while attempting to scrape ice from his windshield.

By the time I get to the water there is enough light to see the vast blue.  Choppy.  Strong drift.  Waves that would be a little above my own six-foot body if I was standing perfectly straight.  Snow and ice line the boardwalk, the stairs, and the few hundred yards of sand that lead to the water.  The heat inside my hood causes itching, but the gloves prevent me from a proper scratching. I quickly spot a rip current and decide that will be my entrance.  Rip currents are usually considered dangerous because they can easily pull an unsuspecting swimmer out to sea.  To surfers, they are an ally, a passage, a conveyor belt that will allow for easier access to an intended destination.  I make my way towards the violent ocean, and as the slope of the ground becomes more pronounced, my walking becomes more of a controlled slipping motion.  A distinct feeling of dread grows in the pit of my stomach.  The feeling of dread always comes first.

My booties protect me from the initial shock of cold water and I get a good minute or so of uninterrupted paddling out, with the assistance of the rip.  As if on cue, a large set (several large waves) makes its way in and it’s time to speed up paddling, in hopes of avoiding the hopeless battle against crashing waves.  Surfboards are extremely buoyant, and a breaking or broken wave can only be dealt with by pushing the board underwater and then diving down with it.  You may be able to go under, but you can’t possibly go over.  The movement includes the lifting of one’s leg and looks much like the way a duck would go under, hence the term ‘duck dive’.  Duck diving is much easier on a smaller board, but in order to fight the strong current, I brought a bigger one (bigger board=more surface area=better paddling).  The first wave goes well, but I feel the water seeping in through my suit.  The second wave causes my suit to flush (cold water rushes in, down the back, along the spine).  I don’t really have the time to lament this because the third wave is about to drill me.  I feel my body thrown like a rag doll by elemental forces stronger than anything a human could possibly resist.  My open mouth is filled with icy salty water and my teeth immediately begin to hurt in a way most people can only identify with slushy drinks.  The cold in my suit does nothing to balance things out.  I scurry to get back on the board and paddle out past the last breaking wave.

Sitting in the calm zone past the breaking waves, I take a moment to catch my breath.  I can immediately feel the cold on the fingers of my right hand.  A minor annoyance for now, but I know it won’t be long until it becomes a brittle cold that radiates in set-waves of pain through my bloodstream.  This can’t be avoided, but paddling generates body heat, which can prolong the inevitable.  Looking back at the lights of Rockaway Beach, it’s pretty easy to see that the town is either still in bed or just waking up.  The thought of just how much I suffer for this obsession is never too far from my mind.  I could be in a warm shower or cuddled up with dogs under covers.  I could be somewhere with absolutely no chance of being drilled by a wave and drowning.  No chance of head injury, being hit with a rogue surfboard, being sliced by the fins of my board, or even the media-induced fear of shark attack.  No frozen fingers.  ‘Why would I do this?’ quickly morphs into excitement as I see the first in a set of very large waves coming my way.  I can’t really judge my positioning, but I am going to turn around and take off on the wave.  If all goes well, I’ll catch the wave, stand up and surf.  If not, bad stuff happens.  Commitment is key:  if I pull back at the last second, the drilling becomes exponentially worse, and committing to paddling while falling forward violates a number of human instincts.  I’ve been doing this a long time, and it still doesn’t come easily.

The moment goes silent.  My ever-present ADHD-ridden inner monologue shuts the fuck up and I take off on a steep, fast, large wave.  Standing up, a wall of blue forms in front of me and I am fly-gliding down it at high speed in slow motion.  I am in a good position to hopefully outrun the steepest part of the wave before it breaks.  It happens, and I feel my stomach quickly move to my mouth.  Every pleasure neuron in my body fires at once as the board accelerates.  I ride up and down the wave, noticing that it is significantly bigger than the head-high prediction.  I hear my voice scream with glee but I don’t remember commanding it to do so.  After a few soul-igniting turns, I get a little more aggressive and the world flips.  That’s what a high-speed wipeout looks like to a surfer, the brain is more comfortable perceiving changes to its surroundings than it is to accepting its lack of orientation.  So my mind is telling me that the world has just inverted, but hey, I’ve been doing this a long time, so I know better.  Slightly.

A few more great waves come and go and the hour I had to surf before work is almost up.  The wave that I had marked as my last ride in did not go as planned, somehow they never do.  Surfers use the phrase ‘just one more wave’ in the same way opiate addicts use the phrase ‘just one more hit’.  Most surfers would allow themselves to die of starvation before they would end a session on a bad wave.  Ten minutes later, a decent one comes and I ride it in, momentarily feeling like everything is right with the world.

The walk up the beach is slippery and I trip a few times.  To an onlooker, it must be pretty funny seeing a guy who can surf gracefully but barely walk a few steps without tripping.  The bike ride back isn’t much better, and by now both of my hands and feet are brittle and painfully cold.  The warm shower is not as nice as you might imagine – any water even remotely warmer than skin inflicts a severe punishment that is only made worse by the act of removing gear.  Twenty minutes later, my skin is red, the pain has seen its crescendo and no matter how badly the rest of my day goes, it’s pretty unlikely anyone will try to drown me or give me hypothermia.  No matter how boring my meetings are, I know that I had more excitement today than most people have in a year.  Most importantly, I answered a call that if missed would’ve been more annoying than any ‘missed call’ or ‘new voicemail received’ alert could possibly be.  The ocean has a grasp on me.  Losing myself in the blue is my obligation.  Also, I’m stoked to see that there are supposed to be decent waves tomorrow.

I am not alone.  Each year, more and more people learn to surf, and the addiction is overpowering.  Non-surfers always make the assumption that it is strictly a summer sport, but the summer usually produces the smallest and least-surfable waves.  New York is not known for having particularly good waves, even by East Coast standards.  To compound the problem, NY is prone to afternoon wind-shifts, making the form of even our best waves suck, so dawn is the best time to go and by far the coldest.  Surfers can choose to deal with cold temperatures or do without surfing, and once the addiction takes hold, they rarely choose the latter.

On any given morning when waves are present (maybe 3 days per week if we’re lucky), a handful of surfers can be seen.  Surprisingly, they aren’t all good surfers.  Beginners can be found making their awkward mistakes, but amateur mistakes (‘Kook moves’ if you want to be a dick about it) are more forgivable in the cold.  The dedication to learning is often respected by even the most callous and impatient of experienced surfer.  Surfing takes a long time to learn and more than a lifetime to master.  I’ve been at it for about 30 years.  I can’t do 360 aerial maneuvers.  I am not chasing 90-foot waves in Portugal.  As a younger and bolder man, I saw Mavericks, California’s legendary big-wave spot in person on a 25-foot day, and my own tears of fear were the closest I got to getting wet.  Although I’ve taught quite a few surfers, I’m not always kind to beginners who feel entitled to violate surf etiquette (or those who can’t be bothered to learn what surf etiquette is) .  Still, in sub-zero temperatures, I’m more likely to help a beginner than to tell one off.  I think it was in Rhode Island where I saw graffiti on a beach wall that said:

If we don’t see you in the winter, we don’t want to see you in the summer

Makes sense to me.

Since this probably sounds like the ramblings of a maladjusted asshole, I’ll mention friends.  Surf buddies.  When you spend hours waiting for waves together, you really get to know the people around you.  You come to trust some of these people with your lives.  I have a few very good friends that I try to surf with as often as possible, but also many more buddies and well-wishers.  Surfers can be aggressive, but we also make friends pretty quickly and although we can be clique-y, most of us would help another surfer in danger regardless of personal affinity.   Conversation usually flows pretty freely, and it’s common to hear about the deepest and most embarrassing problems of a stranger, either directly or over a shoulder.

 

coldsurf

 

Discussions with passersby on the way to the beach are pretty common.  Somewhere along the way, the non-surfing public was told that mimicking a Hollywood take on a surfers accent (this is NY for fuck’s sake, we don’t talk like that) is highly regarded.  It isn’t.  Still, others ask why I do what I do.  My mood and their posture determine the level of snark in my answer.  My common replies are:

‘Because the other option is not surfing’

‘The fun I have doing this is worth it.’

‘That guy on Craigslist swore it was a water-snowboard.  I knew that sounded wrong…’

I am usually quick to assure people that the act isn’t quite as physically taxing as it looks.  My more cutting answers are usually reserved for those who feel the need to remind me that what I’m doing is stupid.  I’m the one with the frostbitten toes, I’m well aware, thanks.

The type of people who surf in NY are not easily marginalized.  My own group of friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and sexual orientations.  Actually, not all shapes.  Surfers are almost always in good shape.  Most are in their late 20’s to mid 30’s.  All are well-educated, intelligent and self-sufficient.  All are well-travelled; for some reason, the wandering spirit tends to go pretty well with waves.  Most of us live in Rockaway Beach, a Queens town that has an easily accessible ocean and often produces a decent wave.  Even before the Ramones it was known as a surf town, but lately it has seen a growing population of surfers.  None of us are from here.  The town itself is very small (especially by NYC standards), and has a cross-section of surfing experience and ability.  Most of the older surfers are white men; it is pretty easy to see how much more diverse surfers have become in the last 10 years or so.

As seasons change, so does the gear.  In early summer, a thin suit with bare hands and feet is fine.  As temperatures drop, suits thicken and gloves, boots and hoods become necessary.  Getting in and out of a wetsuit in public without getting frostbite or an indecent exposure ticket is also an acquired skill.  The thicker the gear, the harder that is to do.  Also, pee breaks are not a thing, so surfers eventually just learn to use the suit (there is an upside to that water rushing in).  Surfer problems may be trite, but they are very real.  No discussion of surfer problems would be complete without mention of the nasal waterspout.  Water often accumulates in the nasal cavity (way more than you would expect).  This comes out when it wants to, and that usually happens later in the day and rarely when you would want it to.

People are usually surprised to see people carrying surfboards in New York City, and more so when temperatures drop below 80.  When snow is on the ground, most people I’ve spoken with assume that I am outright insane.  In reality, every surfer has a reason to do what he or she does, and there really are no bad ones.  It’s great exercise and loads of fun.  It soothes the soul.  It’s more therapeutic than the entire pharmacy.  Surfers tend to be outdoorsy, humorous, adventurous, loyal and well-cultured.  Groups of surf friends are often close in ways that only 80’s sitcom families could ever match.  Mind you, surfing is an addiction that can easily take over a life and at least one room of a home for surfboard storage (which I still insist is perfectly reasonable).  It would be nice to say that the only person whose winter plunge into the blue I could justify is my own, but in all honesty, I’m not even sure I can do that.  What I do know is that as long as the ocean keeps producing waves, and my body keeps working, I’ll be returning to that water.  I’d rather that it be during a freak swell in July when the ocean is warm enough to surf in boardshorts, but the fact is, this is still New York and the best waves don’t want to make my life that easy.

Brian Tunick, MHA, RRT-NPS is an Administrator at a New York City hospital and a Professor of Cardiopulmonary Diagnostics.  He lives in Rockaway Beach, NY with his wife and three dogs.  When there aren’t good waves, he works, teaches, bikes, skates, snowboards and races motorcycles.  When there are good waves, he will be in the water, regardless of pending obligation.

Blue Moon Over…

 Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for, you heard me saying a prayer for

Someone I really could care for

— Blue Moon, Billie Holliday

 

timothy
New Taipei City, Xichi Dist. (Tim Fox)

 

 

 

conor
Culver City, California (Conor Gribbon)

 

 

 

steve moon
Union, New Jersey (Steve Holmes)

 

 

Blues has got me, there is teardrops in my eyes.

Dark is the Night, B.B. King

 

Seriously Funny

by Stephen Holmes

James Harris is a psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles who also happens to have an interesting second career. Dr. Harris not only treats people from his office but he also does it from the stage. Harris has a dual career as a stand-up comedian. In addition, he is co-host  of the television show “James and Sunda” (Sunda being fellow comedian, Sunda Croonquist) on Jewish Life TV.  DELve was able to talk to Harris (via phone) about navigating the two fields, the state of comedy today and Robin Williams, among other things.

When asked which career came first therapist or comedy, Dr. Harris joked, “Growing up, I wasn’t providing therapy to my friends and teachers.  At that point in my life I was just making people laugh.”  Dr. Harris explained how comedy was the thing that guided him from grade school and beyond. “Once I got to high school, I could make my teachers laugh so things got easier,” prior to that, the structure of grade school forced him to stifle his comedic side. Eventually, Harris used stand up to partially pay for graduate school.  It’s up to the therapist to examine and dig as to why the patient is in his office and once you’re in front of the audience, you have to do the same thing. If it’s not working in either place, adjustments have to be made.

Sometimes comedians “go there” and are criticized for being too controversial or insensitive, especially when it comes to current events, but Harris thinks it’s all about timing.  The further away from the event the easier it is to make jokes.  Comedians do have to tread lightly. If comedians want to grow their brand, they can’t be too controversial. “We’ve seen what’s happened to Gilbert Godfrey,  he lost Aflac over things he said. Tracy Morgan came under fire too.”

The topic turns to Robin Williams, who straddled both worlds.  Williams is not the only comedian to either die by suicide or die from drug abuse, these people seem to be prone to addiction and depression. “His (Williams) suicide received lots of attention, and it was a terrible tragedy.  People in show business, in general, have their struggles and are faced with unique challenges that can overrun a strong and healthy psychological immune system.”  Harris goes on, “Now, you do have to be a little nutty to go on stage, but not in a clinical sense.  There is a thrill and it’s risky.  I think a lot of risk takers go into comedy.”

Racy or “blue” comedy was once reserved smoky lounges  back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Lenny Bruce and Redd Foxx were leaders in this type of comedy and Bruce was arrested several times over his act.  What do you think  was the turning point where racier topics became more accepted?

“If you wanted to get on ‘The Tonight Show’ comedians had to be able to do five to seven minutes of clean material.” Harris goes on to say, “ Then, HBO came along and comedians had an entire program to fill and had more freedom to say what they wanted. Things are changing still because of cell phones. Comedians have to be more careful what they say because of them.  Look what happened with Michael Richards.”

Do you think there could be a Don Rickles today? “He has amazing intuition, he would still have a career if he started out today.”  Harris believes that Rickles knew when to dial it back.

Finally, who’s funnier, Freud or Jung?

“Freud… he was Jewish.”

 

You’re left forever blue.

— Forever Blue, Chris Isaak

 

clouds

Blue Thoughts

by Stephen Holmes

The beginning stage of depression is like a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. You spin around until you’re dizzy then you attempt to blindly pinpoint the problem. Unlike the game, I wasn’t sure what was happening or even how to play. Issues flew at me and I became adept at swatting them away but eventually, my arms got tired. The barrage of problems started attaching to me and weighing me down.

 

One of the catalysts for my emotional nosedive was my father. Not that I was still nursing some long-harbored resentments from childhood (I had come to terms with and was moving past those). We weren’t locked in a battle for the family fortune (there was none). In short order he was diagnosed with dementia, admitted to a nursing home and died, all within five months. While, I was grateful for those months, a time we had to connect and I could see him in a kinder light, it was  the beginning of my slide. Power-of-attorney, nursing home decisions and bills, lawyers and funeral arrangements pressed down so heavily on me that I didn’t feel I could move my head enough to even attempt a search for solutions. In addition to everything else, just days before my dad’s death, the hospice worker met with my sister and me to discuss the inevitable — not IF, but WHEN. We weren’t able to grieve at the appropriate time, we were forced to mourn  before the actual event. In a haze, I shakily signed what was basically an end-of-life edict. I felt like I just let things happen. I felt like I failed.

 

No one can fully understand the contempt I had for myself. I couldn’t get my act together.  Every minor thing someone would say to me in passing would cause me to doubt myself and crush my spirit. Male ego kept telling me to stop bitching, I could get through this. When I finally figured out things weren’t changing, I heard my grandmother and thousands of Black grandmothers telling me to “pray over it,” because that is what we were raised to do… leave it in God’s capable hands. My faith never waivered, but the solutions never completely developed.

 

Searching the internet you can find the signs and symptoms of depression. They all say, if you have five or more symptoms, lasting more than two weeks, you should seek help.
  • Sad, anxious, excessive crying [check]
  • Reduced/increased appetite [check]
  • Persistent physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment (headaches, chronic pain, etc.)
  • Irritability/restlessness [check]
  • Decreased energy/fatigue [check]
  • Feelings of guilt/worthlessness/helplessness/hopelessness/pessimism [check X5]
  • Sleeping too much or too little [check]
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities [check]
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions [check]
  • Thoughts of death or suicide [?]

       — Mentalhealthamerica.net

 

As long as I kept active, things were fine. Preparing for work, working, going to the gym — I functioned normally. I did everything needing to be done. When my day started to wind down, the panic would settle in like it had a long, grueling day and I was the reward, its comfy chair. It took such possession that I didn’t want to talk to anyone; eating caused a knot to grown in my stomach that stretched to my throat. The worst part, the nightly crying sessions.

“Why can’t people see me?” – If I was hurting this badly, why didn’t anybody else see what was going on?

“Why can’t I get anywhere?” – Every time I thought I was making headway, something kept bringing me back to the exact spot I stood.

“God, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this!” —  I said this in reference to what I was feeling and the person I had become.

“I can’t stand being around me!”

“I need to get out, I need to go somewhere!” – I wanted to move away, get a fresh start but since everything I did kept me locked in one place, I couldn’t run (as if that was the solution).

These are some of the things I whispered to myself  in the dark, tears flowing from my eyes. I am thankful for the distractions of those whisperings because if I stopped, if I paused to listen, I knew other thoughts were forming.

I wasn’t alone in my misery. People all around me were suffering through trials of their own. I wanted them to be what I wasn’t… okay. I wanted to be the one they counted on. It’s not that what was going on with me wasn’t important, it was just a way for me to forget. Their problems was my anesthetic. Besides, I’m not a dude who finds it easy to talk about himself. I was much more comfortable listening. That’s why, when Roger called, I couldn’t believe the words I found myself suddenly saying, “I feel… lost.” It was the first time I said it out loud.

 

WELcome

cropped-cropped-delph2.jpg 

 

DELve is an idea I’ve been working on for over a year now. As with most things, the final product doesn’t really resemble the initial concept.  Initially, I wanted to create an e-zine… blog… whatever, which delved into different topics with a point-counterpoint approach. Another intention was to write a monthly written entirely by me.  This concept was jettisoned with a quickness when the self-realization hit that I am a slack-ass who can’t commit to that much time.

I wanted DELve to be so many things that the focus was getting lost. The one thing I was sure of was that I wanted it to reflect my beliefs of being open-minded and inclusive. I also wanted the DELve experience to be topical. So I’ve kept these three things in mind when compiling this e-zine (yeah, e-zine… I like that). So I reached out to my friends to contribute. Starting with the beautiful photograph of Blue Delphiniums by Steve Dzaba (FrozenRopePhotography.com), to Michael Stengel’s take on the birth of his first child, to a Q&A with Randy and Marge who were recently married (not to each other) and ending with the new and amazing voice of poet Meriel Martinez and poems from her book God & Mambo, the contributors offer unique takes on their lives and crafts. I am also including a section that I am calling C.A.F.! (Cool As Fuck!) – things I find cool and interesting.

Being a writer, I like word play. It starts with the name itself (which insiders will understand) and continues with my declaration of wanting DELve to be “topical”.  It’s not going to be a news-oriented or political zine, so don’t always think that’s what you’re going to get (but you will, on occasion).  Each edition will be dedicated to one theme and what better way to get things rolling than focusing on all things New. I am launching this in the spring, a time for new beginnings (the reason for the cover photo).  In this issue, in addition to the articles on newlyweds, new dads, new voices and new things, you’ll also find some first issue magazine covers and a very special tribute. I hope you enjoy and come back for our next issue, which will focus on Blue (not all themes will rhyme). People be prepared, I might be recruiting you soon.

Stephen

Newness here’s the Anthem
Put your hand up that you shoot with, count your loot wit’
Push the pool stick in your new crib, same hand that you hoop with
Swing around like you stupid

— Made You Look, Nas

Dawn of the Dad

By Michael Stengel

August 1st has always been special to me, it’s my birthday. Last year, that date became extra special as my first child, Hayden Max, was born (four days earlier than expected).

Needless to say, my life has changed. From the moment my wife, Julie, told me we were having a baby, I was very excited, scared and nervous all at the same time.  I was overcome with feelings.  As the pregnancy progressed, some of those feelings grew stronger and some went away. Nothing could prepare me for how much life would change on my birthday last year.

When you bring a child into this world, you have to make many sacrifices.  I struggled with this at first.  Luckily I have a very loving and supportive wife that has made this much easier on me.  I am an avid gym enthusiast and love to work out six days a week, that had to change.  I became less self-motivated. Hayden comes before everything else in my life.  There have been many adjustments since his birth.  Everyone kept telling us, “Oh, you’re having a baby? That’s great… prepare yourself to never sleep!”  I never paid much mind to this.  Boy was I wrong.  I have learned to operate on minimal sleep.  I had to take charge of night feedings as my wife was still recovering from the aftermaths of labor.  I adjusted but realized that I wasn’t sleeping as much as napping. It all pays off when I walk into Hayden’s room and see his beautiful, innocent face waiting for me to come rescue him from hunger. Hayden’s sleep has gotten better but I have also become more adept at operating on minimal sleep.  Luckily, I have a job with pretty flexible hours allowing me to take care of him and making sure he is cared for when my wife and I are at work.  Unfortunately, he has to go to daycare.   Every morning, I get him up, dressed,  fed,  and drop him off before heading to work.  My wife takes care of the pickups.  Daycare, itself, has been an experience for our family, as this poor baby has come down with more sicknesses in his brief existence than we ever anticipated.

All-in-all, being a dad is the greatest.  You have to roll with the punches and improvise in many situations.  There is nothing that can prepare you for the many different things that come up on a daily basis.

A Long Island-raised, New Jersey resident, Stengel is the 31-year-old father of Hayden (and husband of Julie). He (Michael not Hayden) is an avid Crossfiter who loves the outdoors, cooking and spending time with the fam.

 EBONY  November, 1945 (photographer, Gordon Parks)

 

C.A.F!

Minoritees

minoritees_year11_bltl

Minoritees, according to the website, has been around since 2004 but it’s not a household name… yet. The afro-centric tee shirt line, which has a logo (on most of the line) of a pic-sporting afro head. The tees  have been worn by the likes of singer Brandy, actor Daniel Sunjita and Ms. Jackson… Janet, if you’re nasty. The designs are inspired often incorporating materials like foil, vinyl and rhinestones.

Order online at Minoritees.com

Andra Day

Andra-Day-B

The biggest surprise of the past holiday season was the Apple commercial starring Stevie Wonder. A young woman strolls confidently into frame, begins singing Wonder’s “Some Day at Christmas” and it was love. Looking like a mash up of Rihanna and Eartha Kitt, Day actually sounds like a (dare we say it) black Amy Winehouse. The San Diego-based singer’s debut album, Cheers to the Fall was released on Warner Bros. Records and Buskin Records last year.  The album, produced by Adrian Gurvitz and Raphael Saadiq features a stellar group of artists, like QuestLove and James Poyser of The Roots, the Dap-Kings and DJ Jazzy Jeff.  A solid album throughout.  Individually, Rearview, pushes the boundaries of how an extraordinary vocal should sound.

The Treatment

elvis

Former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell has been on the job for over 30 years. While film criticism has become somewhat of a dinosaur, Mitchell has been able to avoid obsolescence and remain fresh with each passing year. Case-in-point, The Treatment, his weekly podcast (which he has been doing for 20 years) in which he interviews filmmakers, pop-culture historians, musicians, authors and the like. Each program is an interview devoted to one topic (an idea we at DELve can support) featuring the artists behind the project. You come away from each podcast enlightened and wanting to know more. The shows aren’t just about film and music. On recent shows Mitchell’s guests included the multi hyphenated Sacha Jenkins discussing his Fresh Dressed documentary, GQ Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson discussing the magazine’s evolution, Mitchell’s Canadian counterpart, Cameron Bailey discussing his role as artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival and the festival’s history and Power creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, discussing its Shakespearean influences.

Jessica Jones

netflixJJ

Netflix is quickly becoming the new HBO, a place for high-quality and intriguing series. Jessica Jones is one of the MANY shows in this category. The always fascinating Krysten Ritter plays Marvel’s damaged  titular character. Jones is a tougher than leather private detective with a drinking problem and a very fucked up past. We’ve seen it all before, but the writing, acting and production in general makes this show playout like a modern-day Chinatown.  It’s dark and, at times, funny with a villain (Kilgrave, played by David Tennant) so slimy he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Frank Booth and Hannibal Lecter.

I’ll pretend I’m jealous of all the fellas
And if that don’t do
Then I’ll try something new
— I’ll Try Something New, Smokey Robinson

Newlywed Game

While the laws surrounding marriage in the United States have changed drastically this past year, the dynamics remain the same, boy meets girl… girl meets girl… boy meets boy.  It’s the same old story, they fall in love and want to commit only to each other. The couples profiled are (technically) newlyweds, having put a ring on it in 2014. Marge and Randy were asked about their individual marriages. Two years in, DELve is asking, “Why did you get married?”

Randy and Brandon (m. March 31, 2014). Randy, a teacher and his husband Brandon, a passenger service agent for an international airline have been together for four years. “We met while I was teaching in Korea. The other English teacher at my school introduced me to her friend, who was friends with Brandon.”

Marge and Alice (m. June 30, 2014). Marge is a nurse who has been a school nurse for the past 15 years and wife Alice who has been a nun, teacher, principal, lecturer and senior editor who is currently working for a national hardware retail chain have been together for 23 years.  “Alice and I met on an LGBTQ religious retreat.”

DELve:    It all starts somewhere, who made the first move?

RANDY:   I like to think he did. However, when I went to China on vacation, I brought him a small souvenir back and that started all the magic.

MARGE:  I think I did.  Alice was a little reticent since she hadn’t signed herself out of the convent quite yet.

D:  What is the coolest part about being married?

M: Waking up next to each other every morning, raising a large family.

R:  Having someone in your corner that you can count on. Knowing that someone will always be there for you, and having someone        to wake up when you have those crazy nightmares.

D:  What is the craziest part, the “I didn’t sign on for this” kind of stuff?

R:  There are some cultural differences that are challenging to manage. They are things that do not surface until particular situation happen. It is challenging to process the difference in responses and expectations. (On a lighter note, I am very particular as to how the apartment is kept, while he is… not as particular)

M:  Can’t think of a thing

D:  Why is marriage important or relevant?

R:  Marriage is important because there is a sense of commitment, loyalty and responsibility to one another. We have to be accountable and supportive in the sense that we are now functioning as a unit, as one entity. We need to support each other. It creates a bond that goes beyond being in a committed relationship.

M: To be a sign and a witness that Covenant keeping is possible with the grace of God.

D:  Here’s one that is always asked of newlyweds, do you want or have children? If so, how many?

R: We got a dog, so for now, he is enough. Yet to be determined.

M:  We have two legally adopted kids, one from an orphanage in Romania, the other a DYFS foster baby who came to us at 11 days old. Our second foster baby, James, just turned 18.  He is not legally adopted, but he is ours.  We have had at least 25 children/young adults live with us. Some were with us for a few weeks, most have been with us for many months or years.  Right now we have two young men who have been with us for some time.  “Z” was our daughter’s boyfriend who was homeless and very malnourished.  Marlon asked to live with us about five years ago.  His mother “threw him away”, as did Z’s mother.

D: What was the last thing your spouse did that made you feel loved?

M: Alice rubbed my head last night because I had a headache.  She often rubs my feet at night.

R: Snuggling while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. It is the small things that have the biggest impact. Cooking dinner when I’ve had a late night, or picking up flowers on a special day, or random texts just to check in and say “I am thinking of you.”

D: How would you finish this statement, “I am most concerned about… “

R: Finances. Being burdened with student loans creates a very challenging situation as we are trying to lay the groundwork for our future. We live in NYC and know that it is an expensive city; however, as an inter-racial, same-sex couple with strong ties to the Korean immigrant community, we need to be in a big city. That being said, we have a challenging time focusing on the future when we have to be so focused on our current financial situation.

M:  We are both concerned about our kids.  They all have special challenges.

D: So, why did you get married?

M: Really, for our family and Community to be able to celebrate the joy of love

R: Fist, we love each other and want to be in a committed relationship. Being married is our way of showing each other, and the world, our dedication to each other.  Second, so we can be together. When I moved back from Korea, Brandon moved to Canada to be closer to me. I decided to go to graduate school near Canada so we could be closer. At the end of the year, we both had to return to our respective homes, mine in the states and his in Korea. We were apart for a year and were not sure as to how we could be together. With the repeal of DOMA, we were able to begin the immigration process and had an opportunity to spend the rest of our lives together like any other loving and committed couple.

tvguide
April, 1953

 

SPRINGTIME
by Meriel Martinez

Piles of snow swallow the ground

Winds punish worn trees and old limbs

A swelling, familiar, possesses the clouds

Ice pellets choose targets at whim

 

With shovel in tow

I push through again

A dull, stunted spirit

Soul aching for spring

Take rest for a moment

Look up and I see

My vibrant sunflowers

Smile sweetly at me

 

In that honest moment

The cold disappears

No heartache, no worries, no sorrow, no fears

For bright-colored flowers

With eyes vivid brown

Shine sunlight eternal

Line silver the clouds

 

Blankets of snow still pile on the ground

Winds sting as they steadily climb

But I’m warm and I’m light and I simply don’t mind

‘cause my springtime is waiting inside.

SOME DAYS

by Meriel Martinez

Some days

It’s already there when you wake

This deep warmth, this heat, pouring from your breast

A force you can’t disguise, control or contain

 

It heaves, your chest, as you picture him

His luscious skin, like chocolate

Sculptured to edible perfection

Or maybe caramel, drizzling where it will

 

It waters, your mouth, as you drown in him

Strong arms that take you in, captive

Collapsing under his imposing will

You willed it to be so

 

Often
You delight in this ardent pleasure
His want, pulsating through your every inch
A force only he can ignite, extinguish and start
again

M.M.: Of Puerto Rican descent, Meriel Martínez was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

 

george
September, 1995

Prince’s music has sometimes left me scratching my head wondering if he was trying to recreate the sounds of a whale in labor. His music could be maddening to us mere mortals. But, like a true Artist, he wasn’t afraid to try something different… to go into some new direction. His misses were as amazing as his hits and they only got better with time.

The longevity of musicians seem to depend on them falling into two categories, those who remain comfortably in their genre and those who chase trends. The former guarantees they keep their core fans and the latter, makes the musician seem desperate. The Artist Prince did neither and it kept him viable among new fans and music’s new guard. Fan and musician alike, he has left us standing at the altar of his greatness.

On April 21st, we lost this magnificent enigma. We are relegated to watch him forever jump, spin and split on video. Thank heaven for video, because how do you explain Prince to future generations? His sound was only part of the story. An androgynous figure in thigh-high heels and mascara who had no problem dating unbelievably beautiful women. In spite of where his religious beliefs had lead him prior to his death, Prince started out relishing his non-conformity. He was fine with controversy.

I knew how much Prince meant to my friends and myself, we would talk about past concerts with the same importance as we spoke of weddings  and reunions but the outpouring of emotion from around the world caught me off balance. I thought he belonged to my generation. I thought he was destined to play sold-out concerts to aging purple-clad fans.  Since his untimely death, a day hasn’t gone by that we haven’t heard something by His Purple Badness. He is eternal. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that he will be forever in my life.

What is this new exaltation
that I just can’t explain?
What are these new inspirations
That I can’t get out of my brain?
— The Word, Prince

 

 

BE
August, 1979

 

delph2
Blue DELphiniums

S.D.: New York denizen Steve Dzaba (rhymes with Jaba as in Jaba the Hut) is a writer who is equally adept at photography. His photos can be seen on FrozenRopePhotography.com