Don’t Tell Me That I Live In A Bubble

Don’t tell me that I live in a bubble.

 

If I lived in a bubble, I might believe that Muslims were some terrifying alien Other that I see on Fox TV, coming to blow up my family and put the bits under Sharia Law, instead of being the co-workers who shared their Friday night Ramadan meal; or the man with the Halal cart, immigrant entrepreneur with a small business, living the American dream, taking a break to bow toward Mecca; or the neighbor walking her daughter to practice, with a soccer ball and a hijab.

 

If I lived in a bubble, I might believe that all blacks and Hispanics are like those rampaging animals I see on Fox News: welfare queens, young bucks, living in the cities, smashing windows, looting stores, selling drugs, living off the hard work of people like me.  Except for the ones who live in my town, dress exactly like I do, act exactly like I do, agree with everything I say.  They’re One Of The Good Ones, and they’re how I know I’m not racist.

 

If I lived in a bubble I might believe that there’s only one way to be a man, and that it’s been the same way since forever.

 

Or that 97% of the scientists in the world are just pretending to be terrified by climate change as part of a Chinese conspiracy.

 

I might believe that it infringes on my freedom of religion for an old woman to have the right to be at the side of the love of her life as the last few minutes of fifty years count down to the beeping of a heart monitor.  I might believe that I’m being persecuted if the law requires me to serve gay customers at my bakery or florist shop, and doesn’t allow me to turn them away like my grandparents turned black people away from the lunch counter; or that them damn queers have special rights if they can’t be fired or evicted just for what they are.  I might believe that The Gay is a thing that can be cured – or that needs to be.

 

I might think that three children, siblings, adopted out of foster care as a group so the family could stay together, should be taken away from the men they call “Daddy and Papa” because all gays are child molesters.

 

I might believe that impoverished, dying small towns (but hardworking and white!) whose industry left a generation ago were paying the bills for the vast and thriving cities, instead of the other way around.

 

I might even believe that whites, straights, Christians, and men are the only people still oppressed in America, because I have no perspective on pain.

 

I could live in a bubble if I wanted to.  I’m white, straight, male, middle-aged and middle-class.

 

I could collect my white-collar paycheck, enjoy my white-collar tax cut, cash in on my stock options while the market is high.  I could go to Broadway shows and movies at Alamo Drafthouse, eat meals at fine steakhouses during Restaurant Week, go to little places in Chinatown where the locals go, and not give a shit about the wider world unless and until it came for me.
Do I live in a bubble?  I don’t live in the neighborhoods where poverty and despair fill the air like the smell of garbage.  Where the criminals are the only ones with any money, and the City lets the streets crumble.  No, I follow close on the leading edge of gentrification, and when people like me move into a neighborhood, the City starts to care.

 

That’s the bubble I live in.  But it’s a bigger bubble than the one you live in, with a lot more people in it who are not like me.  So don’t tell me that I live in a bubble just because my bubble  isn’t the same as yours.

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An Excerpt from Neighborhood Witch

Neighborhood Witch is still available for free download through Thursday!  If you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:

“Dios mio, nena,” Celia gasped as she surveyed the wreckage of her daughter’s living room. “What happened here?”

“I was hoping you could tell me,” Aracelli answered as she righted an overturned bookshelf.  Celia didn’t envy her the task of picking up and re-organizing that big stack of books.

“Me?” Celia asked. “How would I know?”

“When I got home, Brian was lying in the middle of the floor,” Aracelli said as she picked up a few books and put them on the shelves. “He was burning up with fever and shaking like a leaf with the chills.”

Celia made a sympathetic noise, but otherwise said nothing.  Aracelli liked to build her case and present all the evidence before she said something that was hard to believe.  It was part of what made her a good cop.

“He was delirious, too.  Talking about how he’d been seeing things, hearing things…even smelling things.” She paused and took a very deep breath.  Her face looked calm, but Celia could see that she was gripping the book in her hands so hard that her knuckles were turning white.  It was one of Brian’s books, something about darkness and monsters.  Strange that such a gentle soul enjoyed reading about violence so much.

“Do you know what he said to me, mami?”

Celia shook her head.

“He said ‘God, love, I’m so scared.  I’m so scared.  How bad is it if I’m hallucinating?’  That’s what he said.”

Then she took another deep breath, relaxed her grip on the book, and put it on the shelf.

“After that, he went all delirious again, and he started raving.  Talking about seeing faces in the mirror and shadows moving in the corners.  About things flying around the room and sticking in the walls and food rotting in the fridge.”

That caught Celia’s attention.

“The food?” She asked.

“We got some nice steaks last night for our anniversary,” Aracelli answered. “They’re maggot meat now.  The vegetables look like they’ve been in the fridge for a month, and the milk is green.”

“You would’ve just ruined it anyway,” Celia said as she started to look around the room. “The things stuck in the walls?”

Aracelli put a hand on her shoulder and, when she looked back, pointed up.

Celia followed the finger.

Then she blinked.

Stuck in the ceiling were a butcher knife, a screwdriver, a variety of tableware, and a nail file.

“Connnnyo,” Celia breathed.

“When I got home, Brian was too weak to stand,” Aracelli said. “He was much too sick to, I don’t know, take the stepladder and pound those things into the ceiling with a hammer or something.”

Celia nodded in agreement.  That was not what had happened here.

“Can you think of anything you mighta done to make the spirits mad at you?” she asked.

Aracelli shook her head.  It might have been strange to some of her fellow cops to see her talking so matter-of-factly about spirits – that’s why she didn’t talk about it with them – but she’d seen her mother at work often enough that it wasn’t a question of belief or doubt for her: magic and spirits were as real as handcuffs and perps.  She just didn’t want to carry on the family business, which was something else they fought about.

“I thought that might be it,” she said. “I was trying to think of what we could’ve done…but then I saw the mail.”

Okay, this “building the case” business was starting to get annoying. “The mail?” Celia demanded. “What about the mail?”

“Here,” Aracelli said, picking up a package from a nearby table. “Take a look at this.”

Celia looked at her doubtfully as she took the package, then turned her eyes to the package itself.

Then her eyes went very wide.

She started to shout “conyo”, then corrected herself to “Ay, Dios mio!” It wouldn’t do to swear with this thing in her hands, and calling upon God might help.

She threw the package to the floor (something inside screeched in outrage), snatched a vial out of her purse and poured the contents all over it.  Billows of blood-colored steam rose from the package, and the thing inside it squealed and died.

Grimly, she turned to Aracelli, who was staring wide-eyed.

“Imp,” she said. “This was like a magical letter bomb.”

Aracelli went pale. “I could tell something bad was in there, but…wait.  What was that you poured on it?”

Celia held up the small, square glass bottle, which had crosses carved on all four faces.  “Holy water,” she answered.

“You carry holy water in your purse?”

“And this is why.”

“Good point.” Aracelli sighed and turned her attention back to the sodden package. “So how do I get some?  Do you have to buy it, or can you just take some out of the font, or – “

“Don’t worry, I got a bulk supplier.”

Aracelli looked at her quizzically.  “There are bulk suppliers for holy water?”

“I have coffee with Padre Sandoval every Wednesday, and he’s always glad to – “ She noticed that one of Aracelli’s eyebrows had gone up. “…what?”

“Coffee?” Aracelli teased. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

Coffee,” Celia snapped.  Aracelli immediately raised her hands in surrender, her face a picture of “if-you-say-so” innocence.

“I’m not sayin’ I wouldn’t do it,” Celia continued, mollified. “When he was young, he was a real Father What-A-Waste.  But he likes to follow the letter of the law, tu sabes?  Probably just as well.  Might mess up the holy water if he broke his vows.  Besides…” she gave a lecherous grin. “I like ‘em younger.  Nice young stallion, to ride all night.”

Aracelli made a face. “Ew, mother!”

“You started it.  Now…” Celia turned her attention back to the package. “Who did you piss off, that they would send you something like this?”

Aracelli just looked at the package and shook her head. “I’m a cop, mami.  I piss off people every day, most of them from this neighborhood.”

“And any one of them could have hired a bruja,” Celia finished. “Conyo.”

“Well yeah, but how many brujas even are there?  Real ones, I mean.  There can’t be that many.”

“Es verdad.” Celia rubbed one of her medallions as she thought. “Hmm.  It has to be someone en el barrio.  Someone who could get Brian’s hair or something – that’s the only way this could be hitting him so hard.  And it has to be someone who’s either smart enough to know that you’re too strong and too protected…or just plain mean enough to want to come at you through him in the first place.  Maybe both.  Hmm.”

It must’ve been in the way she “hmm”-ed.  Her daughter knew her too well.

“You know who it is, don’t you?” Aracelli accused.

“I got some ideas.”

“Good,” she said, turning toward the bedroom she shared with Brian. “Let me just get my – “

“No!”

Aracelli looked back. “No?”

“No gun,” Celia said. “You shoot somebody, you maybe go to jail.  That’s not winning.” Her face split in a broad and wicked grin. “The whole point of magic, when a gun is so much easier, is that there’s no way to test for it.  Now: did the attack ruin everything in your kitchen?”

Hurry on over and pick up a free copy before it’s too late!  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!

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Neighborhood Witch Is Available For Free Now Through Thursday!

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The story of the witch of 178th street and the kind of magical street fight that can only happen in the City is now available for free download on Amazon!

Celia Rivera is a well-respected citizen of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. She runs her own little shop, and she’s respected by everyone from the old men playing dominoes on the corner to the young people who spend their days looking for trouble to get into. They respect her wisdom, her toughness…

Oh. And she’s a witch.

Celia Rivera’s shop sells more than candles and incense, and she keeps her little corner of the City safe for everyone. And when someone targets her family for magical retribution, it’s time for the kind of magical street fight that can only happen in the City.

Check out Neighborhood Witch‘s homepage, or just go straight to Amazon and download yourself a free copy!  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!

 

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Dreams of the Boardwalk is Now Available on Amazon!

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After a few days of technical difficulties, Dreams of the Boardwalk is ready to go!

Sarah Brannigan’s life has fallen to pieces at the age of forty-five. Her fairy tale marriage has ended, her job history has been a downward spiral since 2008, and she’s paying way too much rent to live in a tiny room in an apartment that she shares with five roommates.

To escape it all, she walks the streets of New York City, seeking out the hidden wonders of the City. And like many before her, she falls in love with Coney Island. Then one day, she falls asleep on a boardwalk bench after a long walk in the hot sun, and she falls into a dream. A dream that seems to reach into Coney Island’s past. A dream of everything she wished for when she was young. A dream whose effects linger even after she’s woken up.

Soon the dream begins to take over as Sarah uses it again and again to seek escape from her failed life. She’s getting everything she ever wanted: youth, love, and adventure. But as she goes deeper into the dream, she gets ever closer to nightmare.

For those of you who’ve read Sarah’s adventures before at this blog, remember: that was just the first draft.  There are still some surprises waiting for you here in the finished version!

So go check out Dreams of the Boardwalk‘s page at my author page, or just go straight to Amazon.  Available in Kindle, paperback, or free on Kindle Unlimited!  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!  If you like what you see, please leave a review!

Rated R.

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Bad News…and Good News!

Hey, all.

Sorry I had to take down the chapters of Dreams of the Boardwalk that I had posted.  It seems that Amazon doesn’t appreciate it when you try to sell something that’s available online for free, even if what’s online for free is a first draft that went on to be significantly revised.

But that brings us to the good news: Dreams of the Boardwalk is completed and going up this week!  Stay tuned – just a couple days until everything is ready, and then Dreams of the Boardwalk will be available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats!

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Neighborhood Witch Is Now Available on Amazon!

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A new story up on Amazon for the first time in far too long!  Here’s the Amazon blurb:

Celia Rivera is a well-respected citizen of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. She runs her own little shop, and she’s respected by everyone from the old men playing dominoes on the corner to the young people who spend their days looking for trouble to get into. They respect her wisdom, her toughness…

Oh. And she’s a witch.

Celia Rivera’s shop sells more than candles and incense, and she keeps her little corner of the City safe for everyone. And when someone targets her family for magical retribution, it’s time for the kind of magical street fight that can only happen in the City.

Check out Neighborhood Witch’s page over at my author site, or just go straight to Amazon and download a copy.  And as always, while you’re there, check out the rest of the library!

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Two Thoughts

Not Real America

It pisses me off when I hear people talking about New York City as if it’s not part of Real America.  Hell, lots of people actually use the name as shorthand for “Not Real America”: “Maybe they do things that way in New York City, but not around here.”

Here’s the thing: as of 2015, New York City had a population of 8,550,405 people.  As of 2016, the United States has a population of 323,127,513.  Do a quick calculation, and that gives you 2.65% of the total population of the United States.  In just that one city.  Nearly three out of every hundred Americans live in New York City, and those Americans are a true cross-section of this country.  Every race, creed, color, country of origin, gender and sexuality that calls America home lives in this City.  We are Real America.

 

Two Surprise Attacks

I have in mind two surprise attacks: Pearl Harbor and D-Day.

D-Day was just the first step in a larger plan.  On D-Day itself, many units had objectives to capture roads, bridges and towns that were instrumental to the overall invasion.  By the next day, the beachheads had become supply depots, moving troops, vehicles, fuel and materiel into the breach in Fortress Europe.

Pearl Harbor caused terrible damage (though less than it could have, by purest luck), but it had no plan for follow-up, and in the end it only enraged and mobilized the enemy: awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.

Trump and his cronies wanted their first few weeks in the White House to be D-Day.  But when you kick out the only guy who knows anything about actually running a government (however corrupt he might have been), refuse to attend briefings, issue proclamations as if the judicial and legislative branches (or even the affected departments) have no input as to whether or not your will be done, and generally fly by the seat of your Nazi Chief Adviser’s pants, you don’t get D-Day.  You get Pearl Harbor.

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